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Morose over being stuck in the city during the holidays? Tired of seeing those same old perennials like the Radio City Christmas show or The Nutcracker? If you answered yes and wish to throw yourself even further into seasonal depression, there’s a new show on Broadway that’s just the ticket. Expertly recalling the sort of entertainment you’d experience on a cruise ship or in a low-rent Las Vegas casino, Home for the Holidays is a Christmas show only Ebenezer Scrooge could love.
This limited-run revue features a cast tailor-made for an internet and TV reality competition generation: American Idol winner Candice Glover, The Voice winner Josh Kaufman, America’s Got Talent winner Bianca Ryan; Peter and Evynne Hollens, billed as “YouTube sensations”; Bachelorette star Kaitlyn Bristowe; and veteran Oscar-nominated actor Danny Aiello.
Wait, Danny Aiello? What is the 84-year-old Aiello, featured in such iconic films as Moonstruck and Do the Right Thing, doing sharing a stage with a bunch of singers who weren’t even born when he started acting? Right now, he’s probably asking himself the same thing. “I was somewhat apprehensive about doing this show,” the actor admits at one point in the torturous evening. His instincts were correct.
Tellingly, the program lists no writing credit, which seems appropriate considering the inane drivel spouted by Bristowe, who serves as the show’s host. She informs us that she’s fulfilling a lifelong dream by appearing on Broadway, but her hopelessly stilted delivery only goes to prove that one person’s dream is an audience’s nightmare.
We’re breathlessly informed that we’ll be hearing holiday songs “sung by a cast unlike any ever assembled before,” which at least has the virtue of being true. Similarly, the production has the distinction of being one of the cheapest-looking shows to hit the Great White Way in many years. It features the performers cavorting on a stage decorated with wan, cardboard-cutout trees of which Charlie Brown would be ashamed. Parachutes have been removed from the ground with more gracefulness than the curtain that drops to the floor and gets dragged offstage.
Aiello, establishing his New York City bona-fides by dressing in black and wearing tinted shades (the various scarves he wears are kinda cool), joins in on several numbers, proving that as a singer he’s a fine actor. He also delivers sentimental anecdotes about his holiday-season experiences as a youth, from waking up as a child to a surprise Christmas tree that he admits might have been “pinched,” to walking past Radio City Music Hall and hearing Bing Crosby sing the title song from The Bells of St. Mary’s. But he mostly looks deeply embarrassed.
The song list ranges from holiday staples like “O Come All Ye Faithful,” “Silver Bells,” “The First Noel” and “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” to such pop numbers as “All I Want for Christmas Is You” and “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)” to newer songs like Ryan’s bland original, “Why Couldn’t It Be Christmas Every Day?”
The renditions are instantly forgettable, although Glover displays impressive pipes and Kaufman a nicely low-key vocal style. Ryan comes across like a desperate Mariah Carey wannabe, while the married Hollenses demonstrate that YouTube popularity is an unreliable indicator of talent. Ironically, the competent eight-piece band and backup singers do a better job of connecting with the audience than the so-called headliners, who come across like they’re performing in front of a mirror. Judging by the glazed response from the audience, they might as well be.
Venue: August Wilson Theatre, New York
Cast: Candice Glover, Josh Kaufman, Bianca Ryan, Kaitlyn Bristowe, Danny Aiello, Peter Hollens, Evynne Hollens
Creative & musical director: Jonathan Tessero
Lighting designer: Jason Kantrowitz
Wardrobe stylist: James Brown III
Sound designer: Bruce Landon Yauger
Presented by Chart Breakers Live! and Michael J. Guccione
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