By Marcina Zaccaria
Right on time for the holidays, Adrienne Haan brought sparkle to the stage in White Christmas at the Triad, and the music of Irving Berlin sounded grand. For those profoundly moved by the songs such as “I’ve Got My Love to Keep Me Warm,” “Happy Holiday,” and of course, “Blue Skies,” this selection of music from 1911 – 1954 was off-the-chart.
Brilliantly accompanied by musical director Richard Danley, this 90 minute evening included a visit back to Russia, a spin through the military tunes of WWI and WWII, a journey to Old Hollywood, and finally, a glimpse at some of the favorite love songs and holiday songs that have kept Irving Berlin’s music on people’s piano stands throughout the years.
For this journey, Haan chose, as a song partner, Bart Shatto. Shatto (War Paint, Les Misérables) has a soothing open tone and a reassuring way of taking in the room. While The Triad is a compact space on the second floor, Shatto fills the stage, giving a lasting sense to each phrase. With a bit of soft shoe, choreographed by Melanie LaPatin, Steppin’ Out with My Baby provides a fine stride forward, setting the stage for comedic potential and duets to remember.
Tall, glamorous Adrienne Haan is a skilled storyteller, tying together this courageous musical journey with an address to keep in mind – 17 Beekman Place. This residence was treasured not only by composer Irving Berlin, but also, the current owner, the Government of Luxembourg. Luxembourg, the tiny country situated between Belgium, France, and Germany, becomes a centering point of the discussion led by Haan. A stately, muscular woman, with a self-conscious, faint European accent, Haan looks like the right person to fill us in on all the details.
In a long red dress, and short, shiny black jacket, Haan calls upon the work of Laurence Pierron; the stories of diplomacy cut through the visual reminders of war. Finding moments of humor, looking everything like a USO entertainer dressed in a short military suit, Haan asks Shatto to wind us through patriotic songs like “Oh How I Hate to Get Up in the Morning” and “How About a Cheer For The Navy.” Highlighting the severity of war, before clearing the way for the 50’s musicals and holiday songs, Haan and Shatto prove to be one smart team.
Next up was “The Hostess with the Mostess’ On the Ball” from Call Me Madam. It’s a bright, bubbly tune before “Lichtenburg” and Hollywood classics like “Cheek to Cheek.” Hearing the songs from Berlin’s Hollywood period re-affirmed my belief that popular music matters. Our consciousness is shaped by the melodies that can change the world, and with his songs on Broadway, in the movies and, of course, on the radio, Irving Berlin was a master at keeping the music flowing.
The evening ended with love songs and holiday tunes, combining humor with bliss. “They Say That Falling in Love is Wonderful” was performed before “Snow” and, of course, the most popular, “White Christmas.” What a conclusion to a splendid evening at the cabaret!