Richard Holbrook: Christmas In New York

 

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Reviewed by Joe Regan Jr.

 

On Sunday night November 29th at Don’t Tell Mama, Richard Holbrook, dressed in black tie, with prominent golden studs and cufflinks, once again presented his annual Christmas show to a full house of fans and admirers.

 

Holbrook, who is singing and acting better than ever, was again backed by the exceptional Tom Nelson Trio with Nelson on the piano, Tom Kirchmer on bass and Peter Grant on drums and percussion.  The act was flawlessly directed by Richard Barclay.  Barclay advised me that he and Holbrook rehearse the songs as poems without music, much as Sinatra learned his lyrics before singing and the result is emotionally a gift  for us.

 

Yes, Holbrook did repeat some of his favorite selections, but with fresh introductions: the opening medley of “Silver Bells” and “I Happen To Like New York” (with special additional lyrics by Holbrook,) the pairing of  “Use Your Imagination” and “Pure Imagination,” Sondheim’s “Old Friends,” reaching out and touching audience members, a defiant and dramatic “Children Will Listen,” and Portia Nelson’s “Confessions of a New Yorker (Hate-Love New York,” honoring Nelson as one of his great friends (after mentioning the loss of Julie Wilson and Jan Wallman this year,) the three sets of lyrics to “Glow Worm” (which he originally learned as a child in a children’s chorus), Steve Allen’s “Cool Yule,” Carleton Carpenter’s tender “Christmas Eve,“ and the Burton Lane-Dorothy Fields’ “Let’s Make It Christmas All Year Long.” He also repeated his idol Mel Torme’s Christmas medley that begins with “Jingle Bells.”

 

New this year was a trunk song by Rodgers and Hammerstein entitled “Happy Christmas. Little Friend” which Holbrook found while researching his very special Richard Rodgers show this year.  It’s a wonderful song, filled with Oscar Hammerstein’s humanity and special knack of writing lyrics of hope, love and optimism resulting in a stunning rendition. Describing the Nativity, Holbrook introduced “Little Drummer Boy” with “The Little Road to Bethlehem,” by Margaret Rose and Michael Head, about a young boy appearing at the birth of Christ in the manger. Adding to it was strong accompaniment by Nelson, Grant and Kirchmer on this dramatic tour de force.

 

After thank you’s (including Sidney Myer, Don’t Tell Mama’s booking manager who first booked him twenty five years ago,) the encore was again the champagne toast directed to the audience, “Here’s To Us” from “Little Me,” enhanced with special lyrics.

 

If you want a break from the congestion of the shoppers, tourists and the fear of what has happened in Paris, there is no better tonic that Richard Holbrook’s “Christmas In New York 2015” which repeats on Monday, December 30 at 7 PM.  Reservations are strongly recommended.  Call Don’t Tell Mama after 4 PM at (212) 757-0788 or go online at wwww.dontellmamanyc.com

 

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