Once again, 'tis the season, and a new installment of Broadways Carols for a Cure puts me in the festive mood. The latest in the series, volume 14, boasts big names like Ricky Martin and Cyndi Lauper using their talents to support this worthy cause, as proceeds benefit Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS.
Martin and his castmates from Evita sing "Los Tres Reyes Magos," while Lauper joins the cast of Kinky Boots on "Blue Christmas." The cast of Bring It On contributes an energetic version of "Angels We Have Heard on High" while members from Rock of Ages deliver the '80s-inspired anthem "NYE @ the Venus Club." There is plenty of humor, as witnessed on "Good Queen Wenceslas" and "Hark! The Herald Angels Sing." Even gossip columnist Perez Hilton chimes in with "A Perez Hilton Christmas." Carols for a Cure makes a great gift and can be ordered at www.broadwaycares.org .
Also showcasing goodwill, Chicago Theatre Artists unites for the compilation Season of Carols. Here, stars of stage in the Chicago area remake 18 holiday numbers, with all of the proceeds going to Season of Concern. The tight vocals on "The First Noel" and "Got My Love to Keep Me Warm" make this set stand outfor all of the right reasons. Season of Carols can be purchased at www.seasonofcarols.com .
The beloved seasonal film A Christmas Story is now a Broadway musical. The personality of the original is captured in numbers "Counting down to Christmas," "Red Ryder Carbine Action BB Gun" and "Somewhere Hovering over Indiana." Clarke Hallum is portraying the lead character, the loveable, bespectacled Ralphie Parker. Tony nominees Tom Wopat and Liz Callaway are playing Jean Sheperd and Mother, respectively. The cast recording is out now via Masterworks Broadway.
Canadian electronic trio Dragonette takes a biting approach toward the holiday season with the one-off track "Merry Xmas (Says Your Text Message)." Here, frontwoman Martina Sorbara keeps her cute, playful style as heard on favorites "Hello" and "Live in This City." But this is very much a kiss-off ditty as Sorbara coos, "Merry Xmas says your text message / But you're late by a day or two / So mine says thanks a lot and fuck you." Good luck finding that in a Hallmark card. "Merry Xmas" is available as a digital download in an edited version as well.
Need another alternative to caroling? Tracey Thorn releases Tinsel and Lights on Merge Records, where she favors material previously recorded by the likes of Dolly Parton, Joni Mitchell, Low and Sufjan Stevens. The end result is a noteworthy, yet mellow album of 10 covers plus two newly penned cuts and that gorgeous voice.
The pair consisting of M.Ward and the loveable Zooey Deschanel shines on She & Him's A Very She & Him Christmas. Heartwarming spins on "I'll Be Home for Christmas" and "Silver Bells" will leave listeners smitten. Even "Christmas Wish" and "Rockin around the Christmas Tree" are bubbling over with the twosome's sense of hipster coolness.
In what seems like a spin doctor's plot, John Travolta comes out with a collection of yuletide-themed duets with Grease co-star Olivia Newton-John on This Christmas. The 12-track set opens with "Baby It's Cold Outside," with the "Physical" singer taking on the male lines and the Scientologist actor handling the female parts. Schmaltzy best describes the teary-eyed takes of "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" and "The Christmas Song." At best, the medley of "Auld Lang Syne / Christmas Time Is Here" is a knock off of the gay icons Judy Garland and Barbra Streisand singing "Get Happy / Happy Days Are Here Again." This Christmas is as trite as the gaudy, laughable album cover art.
Singer-songwriter Colbie Caillat offers a fun, light-hearted affair with Christmas in the Sand. Sure the expected standards are present, but she keeps her charming, breezy style throughout the set.
Cee Lo Green puts forth a fun, camp effort with CeeLo's Magic Moment. His distinctive voice adds humor to classics like "White Christmas," "Mary, Did You Know" and the superb "Please Come Home for Christmas." Fellow The Voice judge Christina Aguilera joins him on "Baby, It's Cold Outside" and The Muppets guest on the showstopper "All I Need Is Love."
Acclaimed duo Beckie Menzie and Tom Michael will have two holiday upcoming concerts. On Thursday, Dec. 13, the cabaret act will be at The Driehaus Museum, 40 E. Erie St., and on Thursday, Dec. 20, a show is scheduled for The Park Ridge Library, 20 S. Prospect Ave., Park Ridge. For more information, visit www.tommichael.net .
As a follow-up to last year's Ultimate Christmas Collection, saxophonist Dave Koz issues his first live album, Live at the Blue Note Tokyo. Here, he sets a romantic mood with "What You Leave Behind" and "It's Always Been You." The album has its more upbeat moments, like "Put the Top Down" and "Honeydipped."
This year marks the 15th anniversary of his Dave Koz & Friends Christmas Tour, which comes to The Chicago Theatre, 175 N. State St., on Saturday, Dec. 8. Performing alongside Koz on this trek are pianist David Benoit; the winner from The Voice, Javier Colon; percussionist Sheila E.; and singer Margo Rey.
Spanning the last 30 years of performances, the Chicago Gay Men's Chorus is hosting a series of dates for "Make the Yuletide Gay." The show's hilarity will make the biggest Scrooge laugh like a jolly Santa. For a complete schedule and tickets, go to www.cgmc.org .