Crossroads Theatre

Sinatra-style Christmas a Swingin’ Success
By Pat Craig, Contra Costa Times
Monday, December 6, 2004

Forget your roasting chestnuts – what this bash needs is a two-drink minimum.

Walnut Creek’s Crossroads Theatre has been many ingenious things over the past several years, but right now, the small theater on Boulevard Way has been turned into a high-above-Manhattan, narrow-tie, ring-a-ding-ding, ‘60s-vintage cocktail lounge.

Not only does the joint put you in a martini state of mind, but it's
a perfect location for “Christmas My Way,” a Sinatra-style celebration of the season. But don’t get the wrong idea. This show, a holiday sequel to the successful “My Way” Sinatra piece, isn’t about melancholy holiday, crying in your eggnog, set ‘em up, Joe, sort of Christmas.

It’s a joy to the world from the very top floor celebration, featuring an incredible trio backing a quartet of excellent singers delivering mostly Christmas songs, performed at one time or another, by the Chairman.

And OK, pally, they toss in a few non-seasonal tunes, too. But if you’re going to complain about “Come Fly With Me” or “That’s Life,” then get on the bus with Clyde over there and go see Wayne Newton.

This show is strictly for ‘60s-style swingers (or those who yearn for the decade, whether they were around for it or not) who want to be grabbed by the narrow lapels of their slim-cut Italian suit and fired on a rocket ride over the North Pole.

Here, though, instead of Frank, Dean, Sammy and Joey, you get Todd Carver, John Haithcock, Emily Saxe and Leah Tandberg-Warren. They’re singing to the music of Andy Dillard, Paul Sterling Arendsee and Erick Wilson at a party that offers much musical material.

The harmonies, which are absolutely stunning. It’s kind of strange how well the tunes harmonize, because most of them are typically solo pieces.

You will recognize most of the nearly 30 tunes performed during the speedy show. Most are either holiday favorites or old friends from the Great American Songbook. What is more amazing is the enormous range of composers whose works are included in the piece. You get your Gershwins and Arlens and Kander and Ebbs, but you also get Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, who knocked out the lyrics to “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day,” and Ol’ Blue Eyes himself, who is listed as one of the composers on the opening number, “Mistletoe and Holly.” (“Oh, by gosh by golly it’s time for …doesn’t sound like Frank, but at least once he said gosh and golly in the same sentence.)

Musical wizard Joe Barnett, no stranger to this kind of show, directed the piece, and he gave it a casual elegance befitting the formal dress and posh setting, which gets huge points for setting a properly sophisticated holiday mood. Not that it is all tuxedos and formals – one of the most charming moments in the piece is a projection of holiday home movies that is as sentimental as it gets, and quickly draws both smiles and wistful tears.

Once again, designer Jean-Francois Revon came through with an incredible skyline/cocktail lounge design that is amazing in its own right, but downright astounding if you know what the stage space at the Crossroads theater looks like in real life.

There’s plenty of holiday entertainment being offered around the Bay Area, but you really should give this little show some serious consideration. Not only do you get a sleigh full of stunning songs. But it even snows a couple of times in the place, too.

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