José and I were lucky enough to be invited by a wonderful blog reader to Maureen McGovern's Christmas-themed cabaret show Home for the Holidays at 54 Below (254 W. 54th)—and we left with our stockings stuffed with McGovern's lovely voice, great food and another delightful story of how horrible people can be.
I'd never been to 54 Below, which is the cellar part of the old Studio 54 nightclub. As such, it was exciting to be ushered in with no velvet-rope hassles. Eat your heart out, Bianca Jagger.
We had a prime seat right off the stage, which gave us a spectacular view of McGovern in front of us as well as of an over-the-hill strumpet behind us. The strumpet brought enough cheek filler to share with the class and spent the entire evening loudly chatting with/macking on her even further over-the-hill mark, who looked like a straight Roy Cohn. They were near enough that we could hear their every comment and disturbing slurp, but too far away for me to effectively shush them, so we just had to shut them out. Nobody else in the room made a peep all night.
But enough about them.
McGovern drowned them out with her command of the stage. I'd been expecting a staid Christmas program but we got anything but that—the 63-year-old diva was able to swing back and forth between expected standards (an a cappella "I'll Be Home for Christmas") to lesser known gems (José and I suspect a few others teared up over the powerful, religious-themed "Mary, Did You Know?") and right on over to charmingly goofy novelties like Tom Lehrer's "Hanukkah in Santa Monica".
Her voice is as pure as it was 40 years ago, when her first single "The Morning After" was released, hitting #1 and winning an Oscar. She has such a supple range and isn't afraid to scat, end a phrase with a sweet little yip and play with arrangements, demonstrating a thorough appreciation for and understanding of each song she's selected to perform.
The show ended with one of her great, too-brief stories about a song leading into a performance of it—this time "The Christmas Song" by Mel Tormé and Bob Wells—and then a rousing chorus of "Auld Lang Syne". The latter, paired with an earlier take on "The Morning After", gave us just enough of The Poseidon Adventure without rolling the ship.
After, we went upstairs to greet Ms. McGovern, who was just as nice as could be. She had quite a few admirers waiting to see her, among them Andrea McArdle, but she made time for everyone. Classy lady with great pipes.
If you're at all into Christmas music, try to see his one.
Maureen McGovern is at 54 Below now through December 23