By: Jordan Cohen
With a mixture of humor and warmth, Christine Pedi delivered a Christmas cabaret that had the sold out crowd at Feinstein’s/54 Below laughing and crying, and often cry-laughing, especially when the celebrity divas emerged for their yuletide cameos.
In case you’ve been living under a rock for the last twenty-odd years, Christine Pedi is the indomitable, Drama Desk nominated star of Forbidden Broadway, NEWSical The Musical, Chicago on Broadway, and a host of concerts and cabarets. She also has two Broadway themed radio shows on Sirius/XM satellite radio, one of which she hosts with Seth Rudetsky.
Her celebrity impersonations are uncanny – close your eyes while she does Elaine Stritch and you’d think Ms. Stritch was back from the dead. But don’t actually close your eyes or you’ll miss her spot-on physical realizations of Liza (arms flailing in controlled-chaos, eyes askew), Bernadette (lips puckered, breasts-a-shimmyin’), and so many others.
Despite having undergone eye surgery less than twenty-four hours before hitting the stage, Ms. Pedi’s vocal dexterity was on full display, nailing every persona she took on. But she always goes a few steps beyond imitation as she brilliantly amplifies the quirks and trademarks that define these legendary divas. It’s this enlargement, combined with her commanding presence and fine vocal abilities, that raises Ms. Pedi to diva status in her own right.
The title song, “There’s no Bizness Like Snow Bizness,” came early in the night and charmed audiences with up-to-the-minute lines like “Although a balmy 61, must do the title song.” But the divas quickly emerged, and reappeared several times throughout the evening, first in Ms. Pedi’s “Celebrity Holiday Special Segment.” Her full-throttled Cher and insanely good Liza impersonations (imagine Liza straining to remember the reindeer’s names in the opening of “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer”) elicited roaring laughter across the room. Sophia Vergara made a memorable cameo, with a brief and in your face rendition of “All I Want For Christmas Is My Two Front Teeth.”
The real show stopper comes at the end, though, when Ms. Pedi performs her signature “12 Divas of Christmas,” a delirious mash-up of Barbra Streisand and Julie Andrews, Angela Lansbury and Eartha Kitt, and even some non-singers like Fran Drescher and Maggie Smith. Her seamless patchwork of personalities and voices all woven into one song is as impressive as it is funny.
Ms. Pedi is equally strong when singing in her own voice. Her performance of “Happy Non-Specific Winter Celebration” was a gentle and amusing send up of the holiday PC police (think, “ban Santa from the malls and kick a reindeer in the balls”). She dedicated a beautifully introspective performance of “Count Your Blessings” to her eleven year-old nephew, in attendance, and then sang “I’ll Be Home For Christmas” and “A Place Called Home” for her parents, also in the room. The mood was nostalgic and Ms. Pedi communicated a serene sense of contentedness and gratitude with every note.
With her long time music director Matthew Mark Ward providing stellar accompaniment and support, Christine Pedi proved once again why she has remained a staple of the theatre and cabaret scenes, and why she is sure to grace the Christmas season with her comedy, class, and sass for many years to come.
Christine Pedi: Snow Binzess
December 12 and 26, 2015
254 W. 54th St., Cellar, New York, NY 10019
Or call: (646) 476-3551