By Brian Scott Lipton
New York has so many ways to get you in the holiday spirit – the tree at Rockefeller Center, skating in Central Park, the store windows at Barneys – that “Home for the Holidays,” the Vegas-style revue of Christmas music at the August Wilson Theatre, hardly seems necessary. Indeed, whether you decide to spend your time and money on this essentially harmless, 90-minute show will depend mostly on your fondness for reality show stars.
Indeed, four television personalities make up the majority of the seven-person cast (excluding the excellent nine-piece band): former “Bachelorette” Kaitlyn Bristowe, who makes a few brief appearances as the show’s host (and who seems remarkably uncomfortable on the stage); “America’s Got Talent” season 1 winner Bianca Ryan; Josh Kaufman, the undeniably talented season six winner of “The Voice”; and the big-voiced Candice Glover, winner of season 12 of “American Idol.” Supporting them are the charismatic and ultra-tuneful husband-and-wife YouTube sensations Peter and Evynne Hollens, who deserve much more stage time, and the great actor Danny Aiello, who lends an avuncular presence to the proceedings, tells some charming stories about his childhood, and does a nice bit of crooning as well.
The show is made up of over two dozen holiday songs – traditional and pop – such as “Come O Ye Faithful,” “Do You Hear What I Hear,” “The Little Drummer Boy”, “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)” and “My Grown Up Christmas List.” Unfortunately, too many of these are crammed into medleys or shared among the performers, lessening their impact. For example, I would have much preferred to hear Glover’s excellent take on “Merry Christmas Darling” (a hit for Karen Carpenter) and Kaufman’s equally fine rendition of “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” separately rather than sung in some weird kind of counterpoint. Indeed, the extremely gifted Glover often dazzles whenever the show’s director, Jonathan Tessoro, gives her the chance; and I think it would have been more effective to give Glover all of the gorgeous “O Holy Night,” than split it among the three headliners.
As for Ryan, who is admittedly ill-served by the show’s arrangements, the best I can say is that she was a lot more fun to listen to at age 11 than at age 23; still, there’s no denying how catchy her signature hit “Why Couldn’t It Be Christmas Every Day” remains. Finally, it’s no surprise that the show’s highpoint is when Kaufman gets to rock the heck out of Mariah Carey’s now-classic “All I Want for Christmas” — all by himself!
If all you want for Christmas is a truly polished 90-minute show, head over to Radio City Music Hall and see their aptly named Christmas Spectacular, but if glitz, glamour and a lot of tunes are your thing, you might consider the August Wilson a suitable home for a short visit.
Photos: Carol Rosegg
Home for the Holidays continues at the August Wilson Theatre (245 West 52nd Street) through Saturday, December 30th. Visit www.telecharge.com for tickets.