What would Christmas be without music? And live music in particular? It can enhance the experience, or be reworked into a startlingly new creation. Recently, I got to experience both sides of the coin.
When I stepped onto the concourse of T-Mobile Park for Enchant Christmas (where “A world of Christmas wonder awaits”) I loved being greeted by the sound of real live human voices — not a recording — caroling away with gusto. They were festively attired in Dickensian-era finery, delivering such classics as a robust “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen,” a tuneful “Silent Night,” and a spirited “Hallelujah Chorus.” The group was on a raised stage facing the main entrance which features rotating live entertainment. Hearing them on arrival set the tone for the rest of the evening.
Enchant’s world of Christmas wonder includes a Christmas market (even Ye Olde Curiosity Shop had a booth), foodstuffs, a cinema showing excerpts of classic holiday fare, an ice rink, and Santa. But the main draw is the elaborate 90,000 square foot lighted maze that covers the field. And it really is spectacular; oversized trees, ornaments, reindeer and other trappings of the season, all drenched with a dazzling array of lights. I especially enjoyed the passageway with mirrors on either side and dangling lights hanging in between; try to navigate that in a straight line. And look — isn’t that a moon glowing in the distance? Not to mention the artificial snow falling gently around us.
Musically, we were promised (as per the press release), “maze roaming carolers and local busking-style musicians throughout the venue.” But they seemed rather thin on the ground on the night I attended, possibly because it was a Tuesday, and I’d guess weekends draw a bigger crowd. They would’ve added much to the overall conviviality of the evening. Instead, we were treated to a live DJ, mixing a nice array of vintage and current fare, keeping spirits bright. Overall, I’d describe Enchant as a classic Christmas evening with a modern twist. (Runs through December 29; more info here).
The “Christmas special” is an American tradition, from Perry Como to Judy Garland to Andy Williams to Pee Wee Herman. Ah, but The Dina Martina Christmas Show, now running at ACT Theatre, is in a rarified category of its own.
Dina’s new show delves deeply into the venerated Christmas canon of song: “Winter Wonderland,” “The Most Wonderful Time of the Year,” “Is That All There Is?” What? You didn’t know that “Is That All There Is?” was a Christmas song? Well, you’ll find that it is, once Dina’s reworked it in her inimitable style. I’ll never hear it the same way again. That’s meant as a compliment.
“Paint It Black” was also unexpectedly transformed into a holiday tune. It was part of a sidesplitting medley that also saw Jesus making random appearances in various classic holiday tunes, such as “Here Comes Jesus Christ (Down Jesus Christ Lane)” and “I Saw Mommy Kissing Jesus Christ.” You couldn’t accuse Dina of not remembering that Jesus is the “reason for the season”! In one of her rambling anecdotes we also learned that our Lord and Savior has a preference for Stoli and cran.
Dina’s singing was as delightfully off-key and off-kilter as ever, the high notes having a tendency to linger in the back of her throat and become a kind of giggling rasp. Like the best musicals, you have to pay attention to the song lyrics, in order to catch all the surprising detours; in “the Most Wonderful Time of the Year,” for example, you don’t get “Marshmallows for toasting” but rather “Spouses for swapping.” And her between songs chat is a surreal series of non sequiturs, as when she exclaimed that taking the gold foil off an Almond Roca candy was “like undressing a lover. Or so I’ve heard.”
Most of Dina’s Christmas shows have been held in the raunchier atmosphere of Re-bar, but don’t worry boozers, you can take your beverages into the auditorium at ACT. The theater did allow Dina to indulge in a more upscale set. Only one original commercial was screened, but it’s a doozy; I guarantee it’s the best campaign ad you’ll see this political season (and that’s no malarkey). Dina’s costumes were also as eye popping as ever. She first came out in what appeared to be a large red sweater (with a touch of shimmer), pulled off of one shoulder, toga-style (an epaulet was glued on the bare shoulder), with a hemline well above the knee. Act II featured the kind of billowing green velvety dress that Scarlett O’Hara might waltz around in. She donned silver for the encore.
The encore at first struck a more melancholy note, with the focus not on Dina, for a change, who sang to an accompanying slide show of notable Seattle structures that are no longer with us: the UA 70/150 Cinemas, Clark’s Round the Clock restaurant, the Food Circus at the Seattle Center, the viaduct, Two Bells tavern, and many more (people sighed when their favorite establishment came up). Happily, Dina ended the show with a livelier number, sure to send you home with a smile on your face. Special mention should also be made of the piano accompaniment provided by the ever-stoic Chris Jeffries.
Brava, Dina! One request; please finish that Christmas song set to the tune of “Hotel California.” The show only unveiled one verse!
The Dina Martina Christmas Show runs through December 24; ticket info here.