SOUND ADVICE

UNDER THE RADAR

Perhaps you've heard about this next show as a live event at some point over the last few years, as it has been performed in different cities. It has now been captured on disc with its original cast. It's a rather quiet release for a CD that's anything but quiet.

 

 

If you've had too much Christmas, or too much show biz, this is the perfect antidote. But Judy's Scary Little Christmas is too good to waste on Scrooges. It's a very clever satire of celebrities, forced holiday cheer and TV specials with that old scripted banter meant to sound "natural." Judy is Judy Garland, with many of her sung and spoken vocal quirks expertly absorbed by Connie Champagne. She gets a lot out of the word "marvelous" and has sharp timing - plus vibrato she can apparently turn on at will. The more you know Garland's repertoire (including her 1963 television Christmas show) and that of Ethel Merman, the more you'll appreciate the bits of songs and stylings woven in so well. Merman is played by Lauri Johnson, doing a Hawaiian number that's way, way over the top - but so is the whole show.

Guilty pleasure? Sure, but a well-crafted one by songwriter Joe Patrick Ward who knows his musical ghosts of Christmas Pastiche. Song standouts are the deliciously rich-with-cliches "Back in Christmas Town" and the very Judyesque "Angel Star." The included dialogue by James Webber and David Church is equally on target, and the targets are some of the most parodied stars. To mine new laughs from the likes of Joan Crawford and Richard Nixon is quite a feat. Besides the talent, what makes this work is an affection for the show tunes and showy personalities (well, maybe not so for Nixon, but the idea of him in his Vice President period reluctantly duetting with Lillian Hellman is a cute hoot). Eric Anderson and Jan Sheldrick do the dishonors.

The writers know their subjects and every embellishment, adding some of their own. Ward's music and lyrics show he has done his homework. Musical quotes from the trademark songs abound, and his own orchestrations are further evidence of that and wit. I'd be on Santa's naughty list if I gave away the punch lines and inside jokes, but I think if you love or hate the original articles, you'll have a good time. This is camp, but camp with brains.

The Liberace and Bing Crosby bits aren't as strong as the others and our Bing works gamely but doesn't sound much like the star. But you can't get everything you want for Christmas. I'm feeling merry enough with most of this CD and it even has a surprisingly touching moment near the end, thanks in part to the acting of Dustin Strong. The finale probably goes on too long, but I think that's sort of the point. You'll find out a lot more from the show's website www.judyschristmas.com. If this kind of material is your cup of egg nog, I think you'll find yourself laughing out loud a lot - with a hearty ho, ho, ho.

Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night of music. Where the treetops glisten, and children listen to hear sleigh bells in the snow, I'll be listening for you as well.


-- Rob Lester

 

Copyright 2005, 2012 James Webber, David Church & Joe Patrick Ward