Holiday music is not everybody’s cup of tea; some love it, others would rather flee the room then be forced to listen, but the market for such albums is undeniably large.
With that in mind, musicOMH’s Richard Patterson gives his verdict on some of the more seasonally appropriate releases.
Lovely Way To Spend Christmas – Kristin Chenoweth
Sony BMG Masterworks
The one word that best describes Kristin Chenoweth’s new holiday album is “cute.” The veteran Broadway performer serves up a mix of traditional and new songs, with some interesting surprises, like Christmas Island. It could hardly be touted as essential, but what holiday album could, really?
Still, it’s a pleasant addition to any CD collection, Chenoweth’s clarion clear soprano is as glistening as ever. If her voice and personality seem a bit schizo throughout – oscillating between cutesy braying and earnest crooning – this also allows for a fairly broad variety of styles and sentiments throughout.
My guess is that few will be converted to Chenoweth fandom from this disc, but it’s a must for those who love her already. Highlights are Christmas Island and Do You Hear What I Hear?
Irving Berlin’s White Christmas the Musical – Original Cast Recording
Currently on Broadway, Irving Berlin’s White Christmas the Musical, originally a film, is full of joyful music. This recording features a studio cast different from the original Broadway cast but includes essentially all of the music (including some Berlin songs that weren’t in the original film).
In the end, there’s no reason to listen to this recording over the original Bing Crosby-Rosemary Clooney-Danny Kaye version, but the cast is still sunny and proficient and the orchestra is more than capable.
The strongest selections are those originally included in the movie (Sisters, The Best Things Happen While You’re Dancing, Snow). Brian D’Arcy James, currently starring in the Broadway staging of Shrek, is a vocal highlight, taking on the Bing Crosby parts with definite finesse.
So, if you’re thinking of catching the musical or want to remember your experience in the theatre, this one’s worth a listen. Highlights: the aforementioned plus the title song, White Christmas.