by Lisa Reitman-Dobi


The lights dimmed, the music rose and Richard Holbrook took the stage. I scribbled the following: “Starry eyed as boy xmas, child’s sense of wonder, look at his face, bottle that!” The latter refers to the way his eyes twinkled, his countenance lit up and fifty years went poof. I’d buy 100 bottles. (Yes, I wrote “twinkle” and I use it in the most literal sense. I saw it happen.) Richard Holbrook does something magical.

“Richard Holbrook: The Many Moods of Christmas” is a beautifully curated foray through time and the times we’ve had. This is the season when reminiscence is at its height; “The Many Moods” is like sitting before the fire with a box of snapshots, each one brimming with snow-scapes of our “thens:” the awe-struck youngster, the dreamy teen, the carefree lovers and the wistful muse. Cabaret loves Christmas. There’s a sugarplum for everyone, but Holbrook’s performance is a sweet-scented cup of wassail served with Proust’s madeleine.

Richard evokes the wonder we felt, and the feeling we have, wondering where it all went. The holidays are rich with memory, and memory and melancholy are well acquainted. There are times that the sparkle of our youth seems within our grasp, and every Christmas reignites the light in our eyes. And there are times when it’s all we can do to grasp at what light we remember. “The Many Moods of Christmas” illuminates.

Opening with “I Happen to Like New York,” Richard sets the stage with Manhattan humor and impeccable delivery. His selections demonstrated a marvelous array of Broadway melodies (Harold Arlen, Leonard Bernstein, Lerner and Loewe, Cole Porter to name a few); Paramount memories (Ray Livingston and Ray Evans, James Horner, Barry Mann and Cynthia Weill); Christmas songs by Ronny Whyte; the classics we love including “Silent Night;” and a terrific performance of one of my favorites, Kander and Ebb’s “Colored Lights.”

One of the many wonderful hallmarks of Richard Holbrook’s shows is his vast knowledge of the history of the music he performs. The anecdotes he shares are relevant, fascinating and original. Often, a good singer will shortchange his or her show by stringing together the selections with forced, inauthentic banter. Never is this the case with Richard Holbrook.  With evident joy, he gives us glimpses into the lives and inspirations of our top tier composers and lyricists. He included wonderful picks that showcased such collaborations as Harold Arlen and Truman Capote’s “I Never Has Seen Snow” from the 1954 Broadway musical House of Flowers. What an interesting partnership. Richard’s stories are priceless additions to a perfectly executed show.

Backed by the Tom Nelson Trio, the music was rich, smooth and unified.   Pianist and musical director Tom Nelson has an easygoing manner and seamless, upbeat communication with drummer Peter Grant and Bassist Tom Kirchmer. This is an ensemble that exudes enjoyment. Theirs is a delicious sound that I could listen to for hours. The late, incomparable Richard Barclay directed the show. It is dedicated to his memory.

Richard Holbrook’s sublime voice and Broadway stage skills combined with his boyish charm and classic Hollywood features are a rare treat: imagine a performer who radiates with utmost sincerity the golden age of Porter and The Great White Way.

No, don’t imagine. See it.


“Richard Holbrook: The Many Moods Of Christmas” is slated two more performances at Don’t Tell Mama, 343 West 46th Street, NYC

Sunday, December 11 at 7 p.m. and Sunday, December 17 at 8:30 p.m.

$20. Cover with a two drink minimum, $15 for MAC members

For reservations and additional information, call Don’t Tell Mama at 212-757-0788 after 4 p.m.