The Seventh Annual Mama Alto Holiday Special – Butterfly Edition (Mama Alto)
The Butterfly Club
Like just the short-lived “The Judy Garland Christmas Show” from which it draws its inspiration, “The Seventh Annual Mama Alto Holiday Special” has an appealing, organic feel as guests drop in on gender transcendent diva, jazz singer Mama Alto for a sing-a-long (with musical director William Elm at the piano).
Immediately there is a welcoming feel to the intimate show. Even the poinsettias are glittering in seasonal celebration at the seventh annual now not Christmas, but holiday, special. (But don’t even get her started about the conservative media). Intelligent and witty between-song banter is warmly conversational, meaning that the experience feels like it is over in the shortest time.
The beloved yuletide tradition starts in characteristic Mama Alto style with Ella Fitzgerald’s divine ‘What Are You Doing New Year’s Eve?’, dedicated to its first recording artist, the days earlier passed Nancy Wilson, which showcases the talented cabaret artiste’s exquisite sound in its hushed longing.
Music is inextricably intertwined with Christmas and there is much for connoisseurs to enjoy in the program with Elvis’ ‘Blue Christmas’, Bing Crosby’s ‘I’ll be Home for Christmas’ and Nat King Cole’s iconic ‘The Christmas Song’ all making appearances. It’s not all snow and mistletoe lyrics though; the eclectic but nicely-curated set list includes a Hannakah Dreidel song singalong and a lovely ukulele-accompanied ‘Feliz Navidad’ with self-declared ‘cabaret deviant and really bad drag queen’ Six Inches Uncut. Other highlights include duet with Bianca Bruce in stunning share of the Judy Garland/Barbara Streisand mashup duet ‘Get Happy/Happy Days Are Here Again’, a much sort after standard since the first holiday special and an inspired operatic mashup of ‘Auld Lang Syne’ and ‘Purple Rain’ in duet with Piera Dennerstein. Then there is also Bradley Storer’s soaring share of Conchita Wurst’s Eurovision-winning Bond-esque power ballad ‘Rise Like a Phoenix’, with its message of acceptance and unity.
If you love the holidays, vintage songs and the deliciousness of life’s ironies, this Christmakah cabaret (to also steal the “Orange County” show’s trademark term) is certainly for you. It not only celebrates the ideas of inclusion and community that make the holiday season such a joyous time of year, but it shows the regard in which Mama Alto is clearly held in the industry, given how many fellow performers are willing to share the stage with her for just a few minutes each.