A Swinging Christmas
The holiday Music of Tony Bennett
Created by David Grapes & Todd Olson
Arrangements by Vince di Mura
From the team that created My Way and I Left My Heart comes a jazzy new holiday revue, A SWINGIN’ CHRISTMAS – a tribute to the season by the man Sinatra called “the greatest singer in the world,” Tony Bennett. Audiences will fall in love with the songs of the season intermingled with his top-40 hits, torch songs, film scores, all the way to his now infamous Duets series, which introduced him to a whole new generation of listeners.
A SWINGIN’ CHRISTMAS promises to be an unforgettable journey through snowy New York City and features 18 classic holiday tunes plus the standards that made Bennett famous, like “I Can’t Give You Anything but Love,”“With Plenty of Money and You,” “The Best Is Yet to Come,” “I Wanna Be Around,” “The Good Life,” “Rags To Riches,” and his signature “I Left My Heart In San Francisco.”
At a time of year when theatregoers think they have seen it all, A SWINGIN’ CHRISTMAS promises to be that new favorite that rings in the holiday season with classics from the Great American Songbook!
A Swinging Christmas – Musical Numbers
It Came Upon a Midnight Clear
This Could be the Start of Something Big
O Christmas Tree
Deck the Halls Toyland
Santa Claus is Coming to Town
THE BENNETT STANDARDS
Fly Me to the Moon
Boulevard of Broken Dreams
They Can’t Take That Away from Me
Lullaby of Broadway
CHRISTMAS IN NEW YORK
Christmas in Herald Square
When Do the Bells Ring for Me?
The Best is yet to Come
With Plenty of Money and You
Sing You Sinners
It Don’t Mean a Thing
FINAL SONG LIST IS SUBJECT TO CHANGE
SONGS BY THE FIRE
Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas
I’ll Be Home for Christmas
THE GOOD LIFE
The Good Life
Make Someone Happy
Because of You
CHRISTMAS – PART 2
A Child is Born
LET’S SWING HOME
I Wanna Be Around
Rags to Riches
I Can’t Give You Anything but Love
Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas
I’ll Be Home for Christmas
ENCORE AND BOWS
I Left My Heart in San Francisco
Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas
FINAL SONG LIST SUBJECT TO CHANGE
Man #1 Tenor
Man #2 Tenor
Woman #1 Alto
Woman #2 Alto
The Setting -The setting should be “Bennett-esque,” which is to say part club, part concert hall, part recording studio, part Las Vegas, and part New York City. So, as for literal setting, the set for A SWINGING CHRISTMAS can and should be inspired by those things. Places in which Bennett would have thrived and felt at home are the best choice. We think that the most important question to ask is this, “would Bennett have done a gig here at any time in his life?” If the answer is yes, then it is the right choice. Once you have your basic design in place then add lots holiday decorations and accents to put the audience in the spirit of the season.
Costumes – You only ever see Bennett in one of two things: a tux or a suit. In the premiere, Act 1 was the tux (which resonated with “Top Hat White Tie and Tails”) with of course many variations: actors always found the perfect time mid-act to work without the coat, without the tie, etc., inevitably redressing for a sharp ending to the act. Act 2 was the same way, only with beautiful Italian suits, each one – like these performers themselves – slightly different from the other. Bennett’s signature move of loosening his tie (which they all did) usually happens in the quietest section of Act 2, when it was simply a single singer alone in a lighting special, at the piano, working as closely with the accompanist as a singer can. The woman should be dressed in stylish and elegant cocktail dresses or gowns. Feel free to add dashes of holiday colors to the costumes and accessories.
Stage Properties – A black or white baby grand piano
Four functional retro (Sony) 50’s microphone on a stand center stage with long cord
Four handheld wireless mics that live on the piano center but can travel anywhere
Four bar stools
Some water with three clear glasses
Sound – Sound is THE MOST IMPORTANT TECHNICAL ELEMENT of A SWINGING CHRISTMAS. The purity of the human voice mattered to Bennett and it will matter to your audiences. The cast sings 40+ vocal selections and it is vital that we hear the words and phrasing clearly without having to strain our ears. Bennett was a true master in the art of using a microphone in performance; have you ever seen a picture of him in performance NOT using a handheld mic? Therefore, like MY WAY and I LEFT MY HEART, A SWINGING CHRISTMAS is intended to be performed using microphones as sound reinforcement. Depending on the size of your theatre, you may also want to reinforce the piano or stand-up bass. Our recommendation is to start sound rehearsals as soon as possible and locate the best sound engineer you can find to mix the show during each performance.
Lighting – The design should be romantic, sensual and moody. The production lends itself easily to the use of dramatic specials, gobos and break-up patterns. We prefer a white cyc in the background, which can be changed to various saturated colors. All lighting should be more theatrical than realistic and evoke mood rather than place.
Pianist/Musical Director – This will perhaps the most important hiring decision to be made for the production. This person controls almost everything about the production (tempo, style, energy, etc.). The perfect player would be an EXCELLENT sight reader, who not only has played musical theatre productions, but is in their soul also a jazz player. Much of the music is orchestrated in a jazz grammar. In many ways, this person becomes the fourth character in the production, so look for a great musician who also has an interesting stage personality. It is our intention that this musician also serve as Musical Director and conduct the stand-up bass player, and drummer from the piano during performance.
David Grapes and Todd Olson – 2021
Tony Bennett is not just a terrific singer, but an astoundingly great musician as well. His vocal range, sense of rhythm and time, and amazing instinct as a re-creative artist, is beyond compare. Though not a composer himself, his recording legacy as an interpreter of the American Popular Songbook is both original and wonderfully respectful to the composer’s intentions. It is this standard that I tried to hold to and defend as I constructed the arrangements and transcriptions for this show.
The vocal parts reference Bennett’s style and his rhythmic and melodic treatment of the music he sings. He gives little stress to the downbeat and always phrases as though bar lines did not exist. All songs are in his keys, tempos and formal structure.
The rhythm section pays a debt to the Count Basie Orchestra and to Ralph Sharon (Bennett’s Musical Director) and his trio; though the piano part itself is a bit more original to my own style of comping and counter voice leadingFor this reason, it is imperative that musical directors become familiar with Bennett’s jazz and swing collaborations via the recordings. The style and traditions of all the wonderful pianists he worked with are honored here.
In the context of the songs in this show and our choice of material, Bennett is a jazz singer and these arrangements are constructed for jazz musicians. That does present a dilemma since “A Swinging Christmas” is being offered as a work for the theatre and will be confronted by theatre musicians who may not be adept at jazz practice. In the interest of providing producers with all the tools needed for the successful production of our work, we have created a version of the show which is realized in standard notation but can also be used by those musicians who are trained in jazz as a discipline.
Which leads me to the most important issue of all. We created a show that ultimately respects Mr. Bennett and have provided a score, which is authentic and complete to his vision, talent and sublime musicality.
Thank you Mr. Bennett for all the years of lovingly created music.
Vince di Mura – 2021
David Grapes II
David is an Emeritus Professor of Theatre at the University of Northern Colorado, where he served as the Founding Director of the School of Theatre Arts and Dance and Producing Artistic Director for The Little Theatre of the Rockies for 15 years. An award-winning director, actor, drama critic and playwright, David has provided administrative and artistic leadership for a wide variety of theatrical institutions including two professional regional (LORT) theatre companies. An active member of SDC and AEA his work as a stage director (250+ productions) and actor has been seen at major regional theatres across the United States. As a DGA member, David is the creator or co-creator of eight original musical revues, six plays and numerous adaptations (www.summerwindproductions.com), which have enjoyed over 500 productions worldwide. David holds a BA from Glenville State College and an MFA in Acting/Directing from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.
Todd is the Supervisor of the Historic Palace Theatre in Crossville, TN. Before that he was Artistic Director at American Stage Theatre in St. Petersburg, FL. Todd has directed over 150 plays, musicals, and operas, including My Way (which he co-created) at the Actor’s Theatre of Louisville, and I Left My Heart (also co-created) at Milwaukee Repertory Theatre. Original works include Lysistrata, Casa Blue, the last moments in the life of Frida Kahlo, and Joe Corso Re-Enters from the Wings, which won the 2012 Holland New Voices Playwright Award at the Great Plains Theatre Conference. His new musical Section 60, the New Ghosts in Arlington enjoyed a reading at the Florida New Musical Festival, and his most recent ALTHEA & ANGELA will receive a reading at WordPlayers in Knoxville in the Spring. Todd received his M.F.A. from The University of North Carolina at Greensboro, and is a graduate from the Institute for Advanced Theatre Training at Harvard.
Vince di Mura
Vince is a composer, arranger, jazz pianist and musical director; appearing on concert stages and theatres throughout North America, Canada, Europe and Latin America. He is currently the Resident Musical Director and Composer for the Lewis Center of the Arts at Princeton University, where he has served since 1987. He has conducted theatre seasons and fulfilled numerous compositional commissions at theatre across the U.S. His arrangements for Summerwind Productions include “My Way,” “Christmas My Way,” “Simply Simone” and “I Left My Heart.” Mr. di Mura is also the author and curator of “A Conversation with the Blues:” A 14 part web instructional series on improvisation through the Blues, Produced by Soundfly Inc. Vince has 6 CDs on the market including his most recent release, “Meditations on the Sacred Heart.” All of which are available at CDBaby.com and any number of internet outlets.
PROGRAM CREDITS FOR TITLE PAGE
Created by David Grapes and Todd Olson
Original piano/vocal arrangements by Vince di Mura
Dr. K. Dawn Grapes
A Swinging Christmas – Audio – Coming Soon
Summerwind Productions, LLC – Box 430, Windsor, CO 80528 Email: Summerwindprod@hotmail.com