#Real Joy– A We-Can-Get-Through-the-Holidays Show

Last year vocalist Meg Flather wasn’t feeling festive around the holidays. “…and I texted this one (Lisa Viggiano) and she was feeling the same way.” Still, despite commercialism, domestic chaos, and a death in one family, the two were able to find joy and decided to do a show about it. Warm, full voices open with the title song (minus hashtag). We must be all right, they sing facing one another.

Flather performs “My Favorite Things” like she means it. (Richard Rogers/Oscar Hammerstein; Rick Jensen-excellent arrangement.) The number takes on different meaning when delivered by a mature woman. Despite experience, simple pleasures achieve importance. The artist imbues it with substance.

Meg Flather

“I’ll Be Home for Christmas” (Kim Gannon/Walter Kent) oddly sandwiches “Hard Candy Christmas” (Carol Hall). Viggiano’s voice effectively breaks during the first well known lyric epitomizing Norman Rockwell warmth. Flather credibly follows on its tail with a dark point of view… Fine and dandy/Lord it’s like a hard candy Christmas/I’m barely getting through tomorrow…Explain pairing those two.

“A Miracle for Christmas” finds Viggiano extolling the emotional health benefits of Welbutrin, Lexipro, and Xanax during the holidays while removing pill bottles from a giant stocking hung at the side of the stage. Appearing bouncy and increasingly stoned, the performer (purposefully) misses a cue. “Hello! Lisa, you’re on stage,” Stark calls out. Droll.

Flather offers “my own medication, a Jerry Herman medley” (from Mame). An exuberant “It’s Today!” soars through the room like a Disney wind. To the barricades! she seems to exhort, We can make this a happy time. Gestures are infectiously on point. “You all know this,” she declares, encouraging a sing-along “We Need a Little Christmas.” Most of us do, of course.

Lisa Viggiano

“Christmas Time is Here” is sweetly performed by Viggiano, hands at her sides, channeling feeling into the lyric. (Lee Mendelson/Vince Guaraldi from A Charlie Brown Christmas.) Richard Maltby/David Shire’s “Stop Time” from Big is invested with so much maternal emotion we know the artist has children.

“I was born a wasp, raised by two very liberal Unitarians, Flather tells us. “ We really didn’t give the Virgin Mary much thought.” At 37, one of her mentors gifted the singer a rosary and image of Mary in classic powder blue. “You can talk to her about anything,” she was told. “Even boys.” Viggiano, on the other hand, grew up “surrounded by rosary beads.” The mother of a young boyfriend first gave her a Rosary, “….then told me where to find condoms.” Each to her own experience.

“Powder Blue” (Meg Flather/Vicki Genfan) and “Meet Me at Mary’s Place” (Bruce Springsteen) follow. Tracy Stark weaves traditional carols into accompaniment making it a bit dense. During the second song, Viggiano’s vocal sounds like Lesley Gore, while Flather’s sustains her own robust alto with neatly vacillating octave. Turn it up, turn it up, turn it up…the collaborators gleefully sing. Stark’s own “Perfect Christmas” doesn’t hold up to previous efforts.

Tracy Stark

“During holiday season, we can’t help being aware of those no longer with us. This is the first Christmas without my mom,” Flather shares. “I got to thinking about things and missing her, so I wrote this.” In essence, “Like a Sunday” says, I don’t mind being melancholy for awhile if it means feeling closer to you. It’s respectful, loving, tender, grave. Dona nobis pacem, pacem…

Shawn Colvin’s “Climb On” denotes the partners’ friendship, in fact, good will to men. Vocal arrangement is swell. The show closes with Jane Siberry’s “Calling All Angels” and Adolphe Adam’s’s classic “Holy Night.” Both arrive earnest.

Lennie Watts’ direction is expressive without overtaking.

Photos by Stephen Hanks
Opening: Lisa Viggiano, Meg Flather

#Real Joy
Meg Flather, Lisa Viggiano
Tracy Stark- MD/Piano/Vocals
Director-Lennie Watts
Don’t Tell Mama   December 2, 2018
Venue Calendar

About Alix Cohen (1053 Articles)
Alix Cohen is the recipient of nine New York Press Club Awards for work published on this venue. Her writing history began with poetry, segued into lyrics and took a commercial detour while holding executive positions in product development, merchandising, and design. A cultural sponge, she now turns her diverse personal and professional background to authoring pieces about culture/the arts with particular interest in artists/performers and entrepreneurs. Theater, music, art/design are lifelong areas of study and passion. She is a voting member of Drama Desk and Drama League. Alix’s professional experience in women’s fashion fuels writing in that area. Besides Woman Around Town, the journalist writes for Cabaret Scenes, Broadway World, and Theater Pizzazz. Additional pieces have been published by The New York Post, The National Observer’s Playground Magazine, Pasadena Magazine, Times Square Chronicles, and ifashionnetwork. She lives in Manhattan. Of course.