Remember that time you went to a great holiday party with fun, festively-dressed people and you all gathered around the piano and sang Christmas carols, wine in hand? No? That’s the life you wish you had? Well, you’re in luck! You can go to Matt Conner’s Christmas at Signature Theatre.
Conner, one of Signature’s artists-in-residence, leads a fun cabaret Christmas show (with Kwanzaa and Hannukah thrown in) in their swanky black-box space in Shirlington, Virginia. The cast is full of talented voices and comic actors like Chris Mueller, Kara-Tameika Watkins, and the washboard-strumming Stephen Gregory Smith.
As emcee, Conner—very sassy and Southern in a leopard-print Santa hat and pants—leads this group of cool young people in a cheery, if a little cheesy, cabaret show with original songs from upcoming musicals by Conner coupled with holiday classics like “O Holy Night,” and a rousing “Children, Go Where I Send Thee.”
Audience members sit both in traditional seats and at café tables on the theatre floor and interact with the cast like old friends. If you’re lucky, you’ll answer a quiz question right, and get a prize (!) tossed to you from stage—cookies, homemade ornaments, CDs, and posters. “I feel like Ellen!” Conner crowed, as he signed a poster for a musical he wrote for Signature, Crossings, and handed it to a woman in the third row.
…a great holiday party
Some reflective solos were a little over the top, reminiscent of Disney’s Prince of Egypt and Adam Pascal in all Rent-like musicals, but they were redeemed by Stephanie Waters’ soulful “Ave Maria,” and a beautiful “Let There Be Peace on Earth,” from the whole cast. The most irreverent—and hilarious—parts of the show are excerpts from Conner’s work-in-progress musical with the sarcastic “Christmas Balls” by Jamie Eaker and the wacky “Pageant of Peace,” an adult Nativity pageant what includes a lawn goose, a coffee table dressed up like a cardboard donkey, and lots of ill-fitting fake beards on men and women alike.
With cello, violin, drums, guitar, a little mandolin, and a peppering of Conner’s excellent piano, Matt Conner Christmas is a treat for adults looking to take a night off, hear some music, laugh, and sing some distinctly non-pop Christmas carols.
Running Time: One hour and 20 minutes with no intermission.
Advisory: Material in this show is not appropriate for children.
Matt Conner Christmas plays through December 15, 2013 at Signature Theatre 4200 Campbell Ave, in Arlington, VA. For tickets, call the box office at 703-820-9771 or get them online.