by Matt Smith
As she steps onto the stage at the intimate Feinstein’s/54 Below, comedienne Christine Pedi — radiant in a Christmas-y red — purports: “There’s no magic like snow magic / The whole world seems to glow.”
Whether or not you agree with that statement — Pedi admits there are some that think the opposite: “there’s good reason [to complain],” she sings, “it’s cold as hell” — you’re sure to find the room is aglow and buzzing with excitement with every word Pedi says or sings, throughout her fantastic cabaret evening, aptly titled, There’s No Bizness Like Snow Bizness.
As one would expect from the comedienne, given that it’s her trademark bit, the evening is chock-full of ROFL celebrity impersonations. Backed by the brilliant Matthew Martin Ward on piano, Pedi knocks each one out of the park — from age-old divas like Betty Davis, Ethel Merman, and Billie Holliday, to more contemporary favorites like Sarah Palin, Oprah Winfrey, and Paula Deen. (Being an avid Modern Family fan, my favorite was undoubtedly Sofia Vergara singing, “All I Want For Christmas is My Two Front Teeth,” and I have to say, her Eartha Kitt was downright uncanny — right down to the rolling of the ‘R’s… just like she was right back in the room with us!!) With Pedi delivering the laughs at a mile-a-minute, you’ll find yourself in stitches throughout the evening, getting bang for your buck and receiving what you came for.
But you’ll also receive what you may not have come for — or at least, expected to come for — and that’s the surprising amount of honesty and heart that came from Pedi herself, Yes, “the woman behind the wisecracks” pulled back the curtain and got deep with the audience, at one point sharing a personal story about how a surgery to correct a detached retina almost cost her the opportunity to perform for a sold-out house at Feinstein’s/54 Below last year. “One woman had bought 40 tickets for her birthday,” Pedi explained, detailing why she felt she couldn’t miss the show. “It really is at moments like that when you realize that people like you invest in people like me… and I appreciate it. It means a lot to me.” When later discussing the generosity of her fans — “there’ve been so many kindnesses I’ve been a recipient of,” she’s legitimately brought to tears, and the room immediately shifts.
We become aware that we’re really watching a human being — she’s not “performing,” per se, she’s talking with us. Letting us know how she feels. She opens up, and invites us in — and I mean, really invites us in — and it makes all the difference in the world.
To that end, I really enjoyed that she sang some numbers “out of character,” so to speak. Pedi killed with a jazzy, toned-down rendition of “Sleigh Ride” (sung just to be sung, and not to be spoofed), and moved the room by singing stories with a message — “Count Your Blessings” and “Laughing Matters,” — again, dropping the facade of her many characters to emphasize the importance of the message. (Spoiler alert: it works!)
But again, Pedi being Pedi, the evening wasn’t short on the laughs. Pachelbel Canon became “Taco Bell Canon” (with the entire audience chanting, “Guacamole” and “Fajita” because, again, why not?), she peppered the somber moments with witty banter and lighthearted remarks “Nothing redeeming about the fashion from the ’70’s” was one of my favorites — and her signature finale, “The Twelve Divas of Christmas,” featuring LuPone, Merman, and Stritch, among others, undoubtedly delivered in spades.
So, essentially, you’ll come for the laughs (and you’ll get ‘em) but you’ll leave forever changed by the performer’s unapologetic ability to be real. You’ll be changed for good. And that’s why, no matter your feelings about that pesky, flaky winter precipitation, you’re sure to be shouting, “Let’s go on with the snow!” all the way through to the final blackout. And take it from me… you’ll be all the better for it. Happy holidays!
Christine Pedi’s There’s No Bizness Like Snow Bizness played Feinstein’s/54 Below (254 W. 54th Street) on December 14th, and will return to the venue December 28th. For tickets and more information, please visit 54below.com.