Theatre Review by Howard Miller - November 21, 2017
Home for the Holidays Creative and musical direction by Jonathan Tessero. Wardrobe stylist James Brown III. Lighting design by Jason Kantrowitz. Sound design by Bruce Landon Yauger. Music coordinator John Miller. Cast: Candice Glover, Josh Kaufman, Bianca Ryan, Kaitlyn Bristowe, Danny Aiello, Peter Hollens, Evynne Hollens.
This is one of those "it is what it is" events, a 90-minute package of Christmas songs (the title notwithstanding, it is all Christmas all the time), a mix of traditional and more contemporary numbers. It features Candice Glover, winner of "American Idol" Season 12; Josh Kaufman, winner of "The Voice" Season 6; and Bianca Ryan, winner of "America's Got Talent" Season 1. For followers of these competitive shows, nuff said. Go and have yourself a merry little Christmas concert. For the uninitiated but curious, it is an opportunity to hear these decidedly talented singers, each with a different performance style, backed by a snazzy nine-member onstage band and joined by married couple Peter Hollens and Evynne Hollens, both of whom are best known for their respective YouTube channels.
Of the three lead singers, Josh Kaufman comes off as the most assured, with a style that comfortably encompasses traditional carols as well as some more uptempo songs for which he eases into a surprisingly jazzy-soulful mode ("All I Want for Christmas Is You" and "That's What Christmas Means to Me"). Kaufman did a brief turn on Broadway as the lead in Pippin at the end of its most recent revival, and based on his engaging performance in Home for the Holidays, he might do well to consider returning to the musical stage.
Candice Glover, who is noted for having auditioned three times before making it on "American Idol," has a big gospel-tinged R&B voice that shines best when she is allowed to let it belt to the rafters ("Joy to the World"). She and Kaufman are the strongest of the performers throughout, while Bianca Ryan, with her quieter Christian/country sound, struggles to keep up (her recent vocal surgery may be a contributing factor).
In truth, sitting in the audience at Home for the Holidays is rather like being present for the taping of a TV special, not just because of the backgrounds of the performers, but by virtue of the production itself. The stage is adorned with modernized versions of Christmas trees; there are lots of costume changes; and there is generous use of overhead spots and uplighting. The only thing missing is the TV cameras. Danny Aiello contributes by telling short anecdotes about his childhood Christmas memories and occasionally lending his voice to a song. The program also incorporates a "host," Kaitlyn Bristowe, best known from Season 11 of "The Bachelorette." Her role is a puzzle. She seems rather like one of those Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade announcers who lead into the commercial breaks. It did make me wonder whether Home for the Holidays will be taped and turn up later as a Christmas special.