Kelli and Matthew: Home for the Holidays

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By Brian Scott Lipton

 

Christmas carols, Chanukah anthems, a touch of Broadway, two great stars, one fabulous orchestra, a superb chorus, and, yes Virginia, even Santa Claus came together on the stage of the legendary Carnegie Hall for the New York Pops’ annual holiday concert on Friday, December 19. It would be hard to imagine a more festive or musically satisfying evening.

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The show’s official title, “Kelli and Matthew: Home for the Holidays,” referred to the presence of the Pops’ celebrated guest stars, former “Light in the Piazza” castmates Kelli O’Hara and Matthew Morrison. O’Hara’s quasi-operatic rendition of “O Holy Night,” was the show’s unquestionable highlight, earning the Tony-nominated star a prolonged ovation. She also shone (vocally and visually) on the lovely “I Wonder as I Wander,” and paired up gorgeously with Morrison on a perfectly sung “Tonight” (from “West Side Story”), an inspired “Believe” (from “The Polar Express”) and a delightful “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” complete with dance moves!

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get-attachment-2.aspxFor his part, Morrison – who was making a much-belated Carnegie Hall debut — showed off his effortless charm and sweet crooning on a pairing of “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” and the Hawaiian holiday tune “Mele Kalikimaka.” (He spent much of his teen years singing back-up for Don Ho, and is currently married to model Renee Puente, who hails from Hawaii.) He later teased the crowd about performing shirtless before serving up a lovely take on Rodgers & Hammerstein’s “Younger Than Springtime,” but his fans (straight and gay) had to settle for Morrison simply undoing his bow tie.

The excellent Essential Voices USA chorus, under the direction of Judith Clurman, were on hand again, lending their glorious harmonies to Jerry Herman’s joyous “We Need a Little Christmas,” and Edward Pola and George Wyle’s “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year”, as well as Stephen Paulus and Alan and Marilyn Bergman’s beautiful “Wishes and Candles,” and a 10-minute suite of music, entitled “Songs of Freedom: A Celebration of Chanukah,” led by baritone Arlo Hill.

Last, but certainly far from the least, were the effervescent Pops themselves, under the direction of maestro Steven Reineke. Whether they were playing something as traditional as “Carol of the Bells” or as relatively modern as “Jingle Bell Rock,” these musicians were always in the holiday spirit.

If you didn’t leave Carnegie Hall with a smile on your face, then a big “Bah, humbug” to you!

(Note: The concert was repeated on Saturday, December 20).

Photos: Magda Katz

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