Regional Reviews: San Francisco
A Delightful Evening with
Also see Richard's review of A Queer Carol
Ms. MacKay has been delighting audiences in the Bay Area for many years with her wonderful velvety voice. Billy Philadelphia, who recently returned to performing after heart surgery, is one of the best pianists around and has a unique voice that borders on a Hoagy Carmichael style. Both captivate the audience with their stylized songs. Billy Philadelphia readily admits at the beginning of the two-hour concert that Cole Porter wrote no Christmas songs, unless you want to change the title of "Night and Day" to "Silent Night and Day." The couple inserts Christmas songs by other composers.
Meg MacKay starts the evening off with the lovely and dramatic "What is This Thing Called Love?," sung with wonderful theatrical resonance. Her theatrical training gives extra meaning to each song. This artist shines on such Cole Porter tunes as "Night and Day," "Begin the Beguine" and the exquisite "In the Still of the Night." Meg shows a certain sadness in her renditions of these songs.
Billy Philadelphia comes into his own playing and singing with natural grace "The Tale of the Oyster" (written by Cole in honor of a dinner hostess in Venice. The actual tale was of shrimp however it was changed to an oyster). Billy takes off on an Elvis Presley song written by Houston Person and Melvin Sparks called "It's Christmas Time, Baby." He excels in the comic song "Let's Do It" by Cole Porter and sings all three verses.
Meg and Billy's duets are sublime, especially "Baby, It's Cold Outside" (Frank Loesser) and a sparkling arrangement of Leroy Anderson's "Sleigh Ride."
Meg MacKay's rendition of the Gertrude Lawrence classic droll song from Porter's Nymph Errant, "The Physician," has an extra dimension through her acting ability. She does the same with "I Hate Men" from Porter's Kiss Me Kate. Meg's arrangement of Joan Javitz, Philip Springer and Tony Springer's "Santa Baby" is an entirely different spin than the Eartha Kitt rendition. In a lighter vein, she croons the Carpenters' "Merry Christmas Darling" and segues into a delightful take on "Mrs. Claus," written by Berkeley lyricist Nancy Schimmel and composer Candy Forest.
Billy does a little homage to Alan Sherman, who wrote many song parodies. One very interesting choice is a witty take-off on the traditional New Year's Eve anthem; he sings about an old man who has a sign put up titled "Old Lang's Sign" (ouch).
Meg ends the session with what is now the number two Christmas song on ASCAP'S annual list of the most performed holiday songs, Hugh Martin and Ralph Blane's wonderful "Have Yourself A Little Merry Christmas," made famous by Judy Garland. [The number one song according to ASCAP is "The Christmas Song, Chestnuts Roasting on an open Fire".] It is beautifully sung with thematic resonance. Billy completes the concert with Porter's "Well, Did You Evah?" from High Society. At the end of the concert Meg and Billy sing "White Christmas" with the audience.
Once again, the "Royal Couple of San Francisco," as the San Francisco Chronicle calls them, entertains the audience as they impeccably intermingle an ever-changing setting of emotional highs and lows in the songs they sing.
A Little Cole In Your Stocking runs through December 30th at the Aurora Theatre, 2081 Addison Street, Berkeley, Ca. For tickets please call 510-843-4822 or visit www.auroratheatre.org.