Just Do Art! Dec. 19, 2013

Photo by Bill Westmoreland, Graphic by Todd Johnson Cabaret’s Christmas Dream Team, live on the Birdland stage.

Photo by Bill Westmoreland, Graphic by Todd Johnson
Cabaret’s Christmas Dream Team, live on the Birdland stage.

“A SWINGING BIRDLAND CHRISTMAS”
Timing isn’t everything in the world of entertainment — but it’s definitely on a short list that includes skill, sincerity and a keen sense of showmanship. So it’s appropriate that our review copy of “A Swinging Birdland Christmas” arrived just a few hours before cable channel AMC ran back-to-back screenings of “White Christmas.” With a score by Irving Berlin and its polished take on the old let’s-put-on-a-show plot, the 1954 crowd-pleaser has the precise kind of irony-free sentiment and glitzy presentation that makes the “Birdland” CD a natural selection for repeat listening.

Citing beloved holiday TV specials of yore as the inspiration for their collection of recorded songs (and annual stage show), the sweet and cheeky trio with world-class pipes — Klea Blackhurst, Jim Caruso and Billy Stritch — tear into searing arrangements of classics like “It’s The Holiday Season,” “The Man With The Bag” and “Let It Snow” with enough charm and verve to rescue these chestnuts from the fire of a million lesser interpretations. Happily, the trio is home for the holidays — poised to land at West 44th Street’s Birdland Jazz Club for five live performances of “A Swinging Birdland Christmas” (the 10-track CD is from last year’s Christmas Eve show).

If you can’t make these upcoming gigs, the Stritch/Caruso charisma is on display throughout the year, at Birdland’s weekly Monday night “Cast Party” — where crooners, Broadway legends and virtuoso musicians gather for a raucous open mic night that’s pure cabaret bliss.

The CD is available for purchase at birdlandjazz.com. “A Swinging Birdland Christmas” is performed Dec. 21-25, at Birdland Jazz Club (315 W. 44th St., btw. Eighth & Ninth Aves.). All shows 6pm, except Sat., at 5:30pm. Cover: $30, plus $10 food or beverage minimum. For reservations, call 212-581-3080 or visit birdlandjazz.com. Jim Caruso’s “Cast Party” happens every Monday night at Birdland Jazz Club. Doors open at 9pm, show at 9:30pm. $25 cover, $10 food/drink minimum. For info, visit jim-caruso.com and birdlandjazz.com.

Photo by Eric Harvey Brown Francine “The Lucid Dream” and friends focus on the powerful presence of music, in the work of David Lynch (Dec. 27, at The Kraine Theater).

Photo by Eric Harvey Brown
Francine “The Lucid Dream” and friends focus on the powerful presence of music, in the work of David Lynch (Dec. 27, at The Kraine Theater).

THE PINK ROOM:  DAVID LYNCH BURLESQUE 
It began in February of 2011 as a tongue-in-cheek, hand-in-pants way for Downtown burlesque performers weaned on “Twin Peaks” to mark the anniversary Laura Palmer’s death. It quickly earned a cult following of its own, for onstage antics every bit as strange and compelling as the “she’s filled with secrets” prom queen whose murder sparked a national obsession when the surreal soap opera premiered in 1990. Part tribute and part satire, with a sexual vibe all its own, host Francine “The Lucid Dream” has since broadened the horizons of her “Pink Room” show to include nights whose themes echo, reflect and riff on everything from “Wild at Heart” and “Lost Highway” to “Inland Empire” and “Dune.”

For one show only on Dec. 27, the “David Lynch Burlesque” crew relocates from their usual haunt (the Twin Peaks Roadhouse & Bookhouse, aka the Parkside Lounge) to the Kraine Theater (transformed into a sultry venue reminiscent of Club Silencio in “Mulholland Drive”). A featured evening in Horse Trade Theater Group’s Winter Burlesque Blitz, this installment is all about mood — as Francine channels “Blue Velvet” nightclub singer Dorothy Vallens, for a celebration of Angelo Badalamenti’s haunting musical contributions to the Lynch canon. Matt Knife does hosting duties, welcoming to the stage Amelia Bareparts, Anja Keister, Iris Explosion and Satanica.

Fri., Dec. 27, at 11pm. At The Kraine Theater (85 E. Fourth St., btw. Bowery & Second Ave.). For advance tickets ($20), visit smarttix.com. For info: francineburlesque.com.  

Photo by Eric Arenas The trio headed by John Lander (pictured) pays tribute to Vincent Guaraldi’s iconic “A Charlie Brown Christmas” soundtrack.

Photo by Eric Arenas
The trio headed by John Lander (pictured) pays tribute to Vincent Guaraldi’s iconic “A Charlie Brown Christmas” soundtrack.

Design by John Lander It’s “Beethoven Christmas Music” — and more, when the John Lander Trio performs on Dec. 21, at Greenwich House Music.

Design by John Lander
It’s “Beethoven Christmas Music” — and more, when the John Lander Trio performs on Dec. 21, at Greenwich House Music.

THE JOHN LANDER TRIO PLAYS VINCENT GUARALDI’S “A CHARLIE BROWN CHRISTMAS”
The seasonal depression storyline of its main character is what makes “A Charlie Brown Christmas” such an effective antidote (or at least companion piece) to the annual onslaught of schmaltz that all but commands us to be of good cheer — often, at the expense of more complex emotions. Using bass lines, brush strokes, a Hammond organ, now-iconic piano riffs and the occasional children’s choir, Vince Guaraldi’s soundtrack to the 1965 TV special manages to convey multiple shades of holiday sentiment.

If you’re the type who’s just as happy contemplating blue notes as you are staring at bright bulbs, this evening from The John Lander Trio and Caffe Vivaldi is a must. They’ll be playing, in its entirety, Guaraldi’s classic “A Charlie Brown Christmas” album. Afterwards, they’ll put their own interpretive spin on holiday favorites (including “Winter Wonderland” and “Sleigh Ride”). By the end of the night, if you find yourself embracing the one you’re with and declaring that this is “what Christmas is all about,” it just might be more than the eggnog talking.

Sat., Dec. 21, 8-10pm. In the Renee Weiler Concert Hall, at Greenwich House Music (46 Barrow St., one block West of Caffe Vivaldi). Tickets: $20 general admission, $10 for kids under 12. VIP front row seats, $30. Admission includes a complimentary glass of beer or wine for adults and juice for the kids. For more info, visit the events page of caffevivaldi.com. Check out John Lander’s presence on YouTube, SoundCloud and ReverbNation.

AMORE OPERA PRESENTS: “PAGLIACCI” & “THE CIRCUS PRINCESS” 
Amore Opera goes to the circus, in the form of a double bill that has more sights, sounds and action than a three-ring…well, you know. Come for “Pagliacci,” Leoncavallo’s famous tale of jealousy, deception and revenge — and stay for “The Circus Princess,” Kálmán’s rarely  produced musical romp. Gregory Ortega conducts. Nathan Hull directs. The New Year’s Eve Dinner & Gala performance promises a memorable night on the town for couples, while the Dec. 27, 28 & Jan. 4 production of Humperdink’s “Hansel and Gretel” is custom-made for families. Coming up in 2014, the Amore Opera company presents “Madama Butterfly,” and their Opera Academy presents “The Mikado.” The double bill of “Pagliacci” and “The Circus Princess” plays through Jan. 5, at the Connelly Theatre (220 E. Fourth St., btw. Aves. A & B). The theatre is wheelchair accessible, and special areas can be reserved for wheelchair viewing. Please email boxoffice@amoreopera.org for more info. To order tickets ($40) and see the performance schedule, visit amoreopera.org or call 866-811-4111.

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One Response to Just Do Art! Dec. 19, 2013

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