Monday, December 23, 2019

"Holidays with Bing" at Old Log Theatre

I grew up listening to Bing Crosby‘s Christmas album - the actual record played on an actual record player (this was before listening to records became hip, it was just how we listened to music in the old days). Bing Crosby had a long and varied career, but he’s perhaps most associated with Christmas music, specifically the movie White Christmas (one of my faves), specifically the song "White Christmas." So when C. Ryan Shipley debuted his spot on Bing Crosby impression this summer at Old Log Theatre's Tenderly: The Rosemary Clooney Musical, it was inevitable that we would get a full Bing Christmas show. Which brings us to December, and the sold out shows every Sundays at 6:30. Judging by the reception from the multi-generational crowd, Ryan may be stuck doing his Bing show for years to come, which is a Christmas gift to us all. Holidays with Bing is like that iconic Bing Crosby Christmas record come to life, full of all those warm and comforting feelings of nostalgia for those of us who grew up with it.

The show is structured as a 1940s war time radio broadcast, before the movie White Christmas came out in 1954. An announcer, played by Eric Morris, introduces Bing and periodically interrupts the show with radio ads for things like cheese and deodorant. Bing sings all of our old Christmas favorites (from "Adeste Fideles to "White Christmas") as well as some less familiar tunes. Ryan has transformed his usual singing voice into one almost uncannily similar to Bing's, with that warm rich familiar tone. He also captures Bing's easy going conegenial personality that perhaps is what made him so beloved.

the cast of Holidays with Bing (photo courtesy of Old Log)
Bing is joined by special guests the Andrews Sisters ("Jingle Bells" and "Mele Kalikimaka") and Ella Fitzgerald ("Marshmallow World" and "Silver Bells"), conveniently played by four actors currently performing in A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder on that very stage - Emily Scinto, Suzie Juul, Sharayah Lynn Bunce, and Deidre Cochran. Even Bing's new friend Rosemary Clooney makes an appearance to sing one of my faves, "Count Your Blessings," played by Gracie Anderson who so beautifully portrayed her in Tenderly.

Bing and friends are backed by an on stage three-piece band (I'm assuming culled from Gentleman's Guide as well), bringing that swinging jazzy mid-century sound. They're surrounded by Christmas trees and large wrapped boxes, dressed in festive evening wear, creating a charming picture under Gentleman's Guide's proscenium arch.

One show remains on Sunday the 29th, followed by two New Year's Eve dinner-and-a-show performances at Cast and Cru. And if you haven't seen Old Log's fabulous regional premiere of the Tony winning musical A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder yet, make sure to get out to Excelsior before it closes on February 15. Excelsior is lovely this time of year, with all that snow, and you can make an evening of it by dining at Cast and Cru (in the same building as the theater) or any of the delicious restaurants in downtown Excelsior a few miles away.