Pictured: The ensemble of CHRISTMAS IN SONG. Photo by Larry Levenson.
By Abigail Trabue
Growing up in Kansas City I always loved the holidays. The warm and festive atmosphere, the hope of snow on the ground Christmas morning, the lights of the Plaza and the warmth of evenings spent with family and friends. Even after I moved away, and began fostering new traditions in Chicago, nothing compared to Christmas in Kansas City. And it was with those fond childhood memories swirling around that I walked out onto a seasonably warm evening in the Quality Hill neighborhood recalling some of my favorite moments from the festive and glorious production of CHRISTMAS IN SONG.
CHRISTMAS IN SONG is everything that Quality Hill Playhouse does well. Stellar artists, a warm and welcoming atmosphere, and Producing Artistic Director J. Kent Barnhart at the piano guiding us through an evening of stories and exceptional musical arrangements sprinkled with just the right amount of humor.
Given the amount of music celebrating this time of year, it’s amazing Banhart was able to put together a set list that keeps the show around two hours and strikes just the right balance of old and new, secular and sacred. And in the hands of Joseph Carr, LaTeesha McDonald Jackson, and Sarah LaBarr, all of whom display incredible vocal versatility and musicianship, the evening joyously clips along.
While Act One was by far the more vocally and musically superior — comprised of traditional carols such as “Carol of the Bells,” sacred solos like “Gesú Bambino” and featuring a beautifully moving piano solo from Barnhart — Act two’s modern choices had a few surprising additions, such as Carr and Jackson’s heavenly rendition of “I Believe/Ave Maria” and the moving number “One God.” You also have to hand it to anyone who can find a way to bring Jason Robert Brown into an uplifting Christmas cabaret.
CHRISTMAS IN SONG delivers holiday music in spades, and with four incredibly talented and diverse artists celebrating the most wonderful time of year, you’ll most certainly find yourself dreaming of a white Christmas, and fa-la-la-la-laing all the way home.
CHRISTMAS IN SONG runs through December 24th. For more information visit qualityhillplayhouse.com.