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‘Holiday Follies’ at Signature Theatre by Doug Poms

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If it is holiday cheer you seek this week, look no further than Signature Theatre’s Holiday Follies. The cabaret features four of the Washington area’s most talented performers, Eleasha Gamble, James Gardiner, Bobby Smith, and Rachel Zampelli, along with talented musicians Rachel Zampelli,(on piano as well as musical director) and Steven Walker (on guitar). In a fun twist, the show is divided into 14 individual numbers, each represented by a card in a holiday stocking on stage. The audience is allowed to choose the order in which the songs/skits are performed by screaming out numbers, after which the performers choose the number heard the loudest and then perform the musical event described on the card in the corresponding numbered stocking.

‘The Holiday Follies’ cast: Rachel Zampelli Jackson, James Gardiner, Bobby Smith, and Eleasha Gamble. Photo by Christopher Mueller.

Holiday Follies, directed by Walter Ware III, features a nice variety of songs and skits to keep things lively and not just another typical holiday concert faire. What I really like about this holiday cabaret is that many of the selections are rather obscure holiday (yet still delightful) songs with which I was not familiar. These included the sassy “Surabaya Santa” by Jason Robert Brown sung by Zampelli, the wonderful and very funny “Christmas in the Trailer Park Again” by Antsy McClain, and the mellow “Winter Romance,” originally sung by Dean Martin and performed ably by Smith in the show.

Of course, the show offers up some holiday classics including “Baby It’s Cold Outside,” sung beautifully by Gamble and Smith (with a little assistance from the audience) and “Frosty the Snowman,” humorously sung by the guys (Gardiner and Smith, together with musicians, Mangiante and Walker). For the Jews in the audience, the foursome does a terrific version of the Hebrew Hanukkah ballad, “Maoz Tzur.”

The four singers are all top notch and are in excellent voice, both separately and together in various harmonies. The show’s style of presentation is very relaxed with a lot of audience participation so that the show has a nice homey feel to it. There are a few humorous sketches including the hysterical “Ugly Sweater” sung by Gardiner and apparently discovered on YouTube.

In addition to holiday songs, the cabaret offers up some seasonal music, including “Winter” by Tori Amos, sung tenderly by Zampelli and Joni Mitchell’s classic “River,” sung by Walker. The show finishes with a strong finale (Adam Gwon’s “My Gift for You”) and an upbeat holiday encore that everyone is sure to recognize.

Give yourself a nice break from the shopping and holiday preparations and head over to Signature Theatre for this delightful holiday show.

Running Time: 75 minutes with no intermission.

Holiday Follies plays through Sunday, December 23, 2012 at Signature Theatre – 4200 Campbell Avenue, in Arlington, VA. For tickets, call the box office at (703) 820-9771, or purchase them online.

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