We Love the Winter: Songs of the Season– Delightful!

Holiday shows are notoriously corny. This delightful presentation replaces cliché with style and wry humor wrapped in heart. Directed with a light hand  by Jeff Harnar, music directed by Jon Weber, the piece is sincere without skewing Hallmark, jaunty not camp, and thoroughly entertaining. Stacy Sullivan, KT Sullivan, Todd Murray, and Jeff Harnar create an appealing soundscape of solos and revolving back-up vocals relating to one another with obvious affection. The opening medley is effervescent.

Stacy Sullivan’s “Christmas Morning” (Heather and Tim Sullivan) is a 1969 prayer for peace inspired by two of eight Sullivan siblings then eligible for the Vietnam draft. Though specifically detailed, it’s a song to which so many families will relate, alas, even today. Later, Sullivan’s emotionally translucent “O Holy Night” is joined in graceful solemnity by the company. (John Sullivan Dwight/ English lyrics Adolphe Adam)

Stacy Sullivan and Todd Murray

“Baby, It’s Cold Outside” (Frank Loesser), labeled ‘politically incorrect’ as a song about female coercion, is interpreted by Sullivan and Murray with droll original lyrics: “Ok, you’re free to go” escalates to “What part of leave don’t you understand?” and “I know how to spell harassment!” Ridiculous censorship is met with brio, both artists charmingly embodying characters.

Murray’s version of “Blue Christmas” (Billy Hayes/Jay W. Johnson) continues in a satirical vein with ersatz Elvis embodiment. Hips swaying, he whips out a neck scarf. “T-Bone!” Harnar calls out ostensibly swooning. His rendering of “Do You Hear What I Hear?” (Gloria Shane/ Noel Regney), on the other hand, is stirring and resonant. Deep, vibrant baritone finds its way palpably into one’s chest.

Jeff Harnar

The clever “Hanukkah in Santa Monica”…Wearing sandals, lighting candles by the sea! (Tom Lehrer) is performed aptly deadpan by Harnar. A tandem “In the Window”/“Light One Candle” (Peter Yarrow) follows, poignantly blanketing the room with stillness: “Don’t let the light go out/It’s lasted so many years…” Amen.

“Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer” (Randy Brooks) is subversively funny in the hands of KT Sullivan who, though formally dressed, dances, mimes and mugs with yee-haw abandon. In duet with her sister Stacy, the Sullivans, holding hands, then turn with skill and sympathy to lonely single women singing “Merry Christmas to Me” (Addy Fieger/ Danny Apolinar) and “Hard Candy Christmas” (Carol Hall), first rueful, then resolute.

Stacy Sullivan and KT Sullivan

The second part of this program consists of a buoyant, condensed version of the classic 1954 film White Christmas (Rosemary Clooney, Vera Ellen, Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye). Accompanied by the marvelous Irving Berlin score, these four multi-talented, eminently game artists, with Harnar acting as witty, commenting narrator, bring an entire film to sparkly light. (Harnar wrote the script.) Movement is engaging, expressions irresistible. Weber stands in for Colonel Waverly and oh! the ostrich fans deployed in “Sisters,” first by Rosy/KT and Vera/Stacy, then by lip-synching Bing/Todd and Danny/Jeff. A hoot.

Jeff Harnar and Todd Murray

Hopefully this holiday tonic – a gently shaken recipe of talent, aplomb, and smiley zest – will return, as well as find itself elsewhere next year.

We Love the Winter: Songs of the Season
Jeff Harnar, Todd Murray, KT Sullivan, Stacy Sullivan
Directed by Jeff HarnarMusic Director/Piano- Jon Weber

54Below   
254 West 54th Street
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About Alix Cohen (1686 Articles)
Alix Cohen is the recipient of ten 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, TheaterLife, 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.