Local actors get in the Christmas spirit with ‘Holidazzle Act II’ release
RICH LOPEZ | Staff Writer
2.5 out of 5 stars
HOLIDAZZLE ACT II
DFW Actors Give Back
Two years ago, local actors, musicians and other theater folk banded together for Holidazzle, a CD of Christmas music that featured some amazing voices in town while benefiting the charity Jonathan’s Place. It was a win-win for carol-loving Dallasites.
Now another, bigger chorus of actors is back with a healthy collection of holiday tunes. Holidazzle Act II is filled with heart, but not without a few bumps.
The disc opens strong with “That’s What Christmas Means to Me” featuring Denise Lee, Jeff Kinman, Susan Mills and Darius-Anthony Robinson and impressively displays a crisp production value — from the percussion to the vocals, the sound is crystal clear. It’s a promising start as the music is layered well but with a nice simplicity. And Kerry Huckaba’s bass ends up as a star here.
I have to admit I was worried about their take on “You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch,” especially after reading that Jim Johnson, K. Doug Miller, Gregory Lush, B.J. Cleveland and David Coffee were all doing vocals. We’ve all heard it with the signature deep voice, but these guys pull off a great jazzy rendition with different but appropriate personalities for the tune. It’s really hard to get through this one without a smile.
“Snow” from Irving Berlin’s White Christmas movie soundtrack should win over die-hard fans, but at first, this version seems to have too many voices; they eventually come together in a beautiful, cheery mix. The added chorus gives it an old-fashioned, charmingly seasonal touch. This is what you want to hear while gleefully shopping at Macy’s without a care in the world.
The group knocks it out of the park with the hilarious “Twelve Daze of a Theatrical Christmas.” It may sound inside-jokey, but clever lyrics by Miller make this a viable comedic piece. If you think you’ll be over the repetition of the usual lyrics, don’t worry. They give the song as many twists as possible and they all work.
They also succeed in “God Rest Ye, Merry Gentlemen/We Three Kings.” While practically a carbon copy of the Barenaked Ladies/Sarah McLachlan version, it works so well one could easily listen to it over and over.
But the album is not without misses. The cover of Celine Dion’s “The Prayer” has a personal tone but with six voices doing the work, it derails into a mess. While the harmonies are beautiful, the song’s intention is flooded over. Then there’s “Silent Night.” It’s a carol everyone wants to put their stamp on, but it’s also the one listeners tend to want to hear a traditional version of. The chorus here is a bit too chipper; “Night” needs a more Zen-like feel, and the harp challenges the voices rather than working in agreement with them. Even if they wanted to continue in this tone, the song is not audibly smoothed out.
Other tracks lack the lead-in’s excellent production quality. Gary Floyd, Sonny Franks and Todd Hart do sublime a capella work on “I’ll Be Home for Christmas,” but the voices get tinny in the mix at times. Julie Johnson gives an ideal performance in the fun “Christmas Eve,” but the turned-up bass distracts. The Patty Breckenridge–Ashley Puckett-Gonzales duet works well for the dramatic “Where are You, Christmas,” but the music begins to overrun their voices despite Scott Eckert’s emotional arrangement and direction.
Despite these issues, the album as a whole works magic. There is enough tradition here to appreciate the songs with added freshness on other tunes to make it interesting.
Holidazzle Act II is on sale in local theaters during the holiday season or available online at DFWActorsGiveBack.org.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition November 25, 2011.