DECEMBER 2021 | Volume 210
Cast of A Broadway Holiday. Photo by David Cooper.
The last of the Lower Mainland’s major theatres to return to live performance, Gateway has opted for a short run of a musical revue for the week before Christmas. Christopher King and artistic director Barbara Tomasic have put together a feel-good concert of seasonal songs from Broadway musicals, presented by seven delightful, attractive singer-musicians. Although their wholesome scripted banter is banal and sometimes cringeworthy, and the songs take a while to warm up the audience, by the end of the 80-minute show everyone was into it.
Lined up across the stage from audience left to right, led by musical director Jenny Andersen on piano, Catriona Murphy and Gabrielle Rutman play violins, Tim Howe is on banjo, guitar, and other stringed instruments, Devon Busswood and Sean Hara play guitars, and Alexander Nicoll plucks and bows his stand-up bass. On some songs they exchange their strings for percussion.
Each number begins with a solo singer, but nearly all of them end up being sung chorally. It’s very much an ensemble show—no real stars—although Rutman and Andersen have some impressive musical intervals on violin and piano. Beautiful choral harmonies and some excellentarrangements brighten things up.
The song list includes some of the usual mellow suspects: “White Christmas,” “It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas,” “I’ll Be Home for Christmas,” “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.” But the best Christmas numbersleave the mellow behind:a finger-snapping, scattingarrangement of “Santa Claus Is Coming to Town,” done by the trio of Murphy, Rutman and Busswood, and Andersen’s jazzy “Sleigh Ride.”
The very best energy is generated by non-Christmas songs: “Be Our Guest” from Beauty and the Beast, the title tune from The Sound of Music, and “Do-Re-Mi,” in which Busswood leads the audience in a COVID-safe gesture-along with the ensemble.Evening shows continue this Tuesday and Wednesday, with a 1:00 pm matinee on Tuesday. The show is also available online through Dec. 23.
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