All About Eve: Two Tuneful Things on The Night Before Christmas | chelseanow.com

All About Eve: Two Tuneful Things on The Night Before Christmas

 

Cabaret’s must-see Christmas dream team convenes at Birdland Jazz Club. Photo by Bill Westmoreland.

Dec. 2225: A SWINGING BIRDLAND CHRISTMAS | Snow on the ground would certainly be nice, but its absence isn’t enough to quash the deal — but Christmas without the three cool cats sporting plaid scarves and warm smiles in the above photo? That’s non-negotiable — and for good reason. What began as an affectionate tribute to old school showbiz TV holiday specials of yore from the likes of Andy Williams, Bing Crosby, and Carol Burnett has sung, danced, joked, and otherwise amiably wormed its way into the very heart of Midtown Manhattan’s Christmas consciousness. Now, the trio with triple-threat-talent-to-burn is back at Birdland Jazz Club for another run of the holiday-themed show we once said (having attended multiple times) is “dripping with sophistication and refreshingly free of cynicism.” But don’t take our archived words for it.

“Klea, Billy, and I are overjoyed to bring our ‘Swinging Birdland Christmas’ back to the stage of our favorite music room for the eighth year in a row,” said Jim Caruso, in an email to this publication’s arts editor. As host of Birdland’s weekly lines-out-the-door “Cast Party” open mic shindig, Caruso knows how to sell an act to the audience (but had to be prodded for this quote, modest chap that he is). “It seems fitting to present feel-good, old-school entertainment during these anxious times,” Caruso continued. “It’s become a happy tradition for lots of audience members, to say nothing of our own family and friends!”

Joined by his frequent musical collaborator Billy Stritch (no grounds for impeachment when these two collude), Caruso trades quips and pitch-perfect sustained notes with the brassy, tack-sharp, beyond-likable Klea Blackhurst. Swinging, Stritch-penned arrangements of tunes including “Christmas Waltz,” Kay Thompson’s “Holiday Season” and “Sleigh Ride” give this cabaret feast its cheeky goose — but it’s the camaraderie and charisma that will make your season bright, and send you out the door well-insulated from any Scrooges you might encounter on those busy city sidewalks dressed in holiday style. Bonus track: For these December shows, the trio will be joined by Steve Doyle on bass and Daniel Glass on drums. Easter Egg: Dec. 28, 6pm at Birdland, Billy Stritch is joined by Tony Award-winning actress/singer Christine Ebersole for their “Snowfall” show, set to rain down classic seasonal material, new songs, and lively chatter.

“A Swinging Birdland Christmas” happens at 6pm, Fri.–Mon., Dec. 22–25, at Birdland Jazz Club (315 W. 44th St., btw. Eighth & Ninth Aves.). For reservations ($30 cover, $10 food/drink minimum), visit birdlandjazz.com or call 212-581-3080. A CD based on the show, of the same title, is available on Birdland Records, via the Birdland website or iTunes. Artist info at jim-caruso.com, billystritch.com, and kleablackhurst.com. For these December shows, the trio will be joined by Steve Doyle on bass and Daniel Glass on drums.

Sing along as The Rob Susman Brass Quartet plays traditional carols, Dec. 24 in Washington Square Park. Photo by Trevor Sumner.

CHRISTMAS EVE CAROLING | What a year for freedom of assembly in Washington Square Park. That setting saw crowds gather to refuse fascism, support the rights of women, workers and immigrants, and protest a tidal wave of Trump-prompted federal policies that fly in the face of the public park’s well-earned reputation for progressive politics. So it’s no accident that the Washington Square Association’s press statement promoting their Christmas Eve caroling event included this tactfully understated chestnut: “The words are in the songbooks distributed by the Association, but many will know them by heart; ‘Peace on Earth, Good Will to Men’ resounding with special meaning this season.”

Taking place in the shadow of a 45-foot Christmas tree located just south of the iconic arch (its usual resting place, displaced this year by Ai Weiwei’s public art installation), this annual tradition gives you one last chance to “fa-la-la-la-la” before Santa completes his annual trek across the globe, and visions of New Year’s Eve revelry begin to dance in heads previously preoccupied with sugarplums. As always, The Rob Susman Brass Quartet provides the instrumentation — and you, along with friends and convivial strangers, will, the Association heartily asserts, “lustily sing out the familiar tunes.” Bonus holiday treat: The tree will remain lit for the season, between 4 p.m. and 1a.m.

Free (songbooks provided). Sun., Dec. 25, 5pm near the Washington Square Arch (at the foot of Fifth Ave., one block south of Eighth St.). For info, visit washingtonsquarenyc.org or call 212-252-3621.

—BY SCOTT STIFFLER