Just Do Art! Dec. 18, 2013

Photo by Bill Westmoreland, Graphic by Todd Johnson Cabaret’s Christmas Dream Team, live on the Birdland stage.

Photo by Bill Westmoreland, Graphic by Todd Johnson
Cabaret’s Christmas Dream Team, live on the Birdland stage.

“A SWINGING BIRDLAND CHRISTMAS”
Timing isn’t everything in the world of entertainment — but it’s definitely on a short list that includes skill, sincerity and a keen sense of showmanship. So it’s appropriate that our review copy of “A Swinging Birdland Christmas” arrived just a few hours before cable channel AMC ran back-to-back screenings of “White Christmas.” With a score by Irving Berlin and its polished take on the old let’s-put-on-a-show plot, the 1954 crowd-pleaser has the precise kind of irony-free sentiment and glitzy presentation that makes the “Birdland” CD a natural selection for repeat listening.

Citing beloved holiday TV specials of yore as the inspiration for their collection of recorded songs (and annual stage show), the sweet and cheeky trio with world-class pipes — Klea Blackhurst, Jim Caruso and Billy Stritch — tear into searing arrangements of classics like “It’s The Holiday Season,” “The Man With The Bag” and “Let It Snow” with enough charm and verve to rescue these chestnuts from the fire of a million lesser interpretations. Happily, the trio is home for the holidays — poised to land at West 44th Street’s Birdland Jazz Club for five live performances of “A Swinging Birdland Christmas” (the 10-track CD is from last year’s Christmas Eve show).

If you can’t make these upcoming gigs, the Stritch/Caruso charisma is on display throughout the year, at Birdland’s weekly Monday night “Cast Party” — where crooners, Broadway legends and virtuoso musicians gather for a raucous open mic night that’s pure cabaret bliss.

The CD is available for purchase at birdlandjazz.com. “A Swinging Birdland Christmas” is performed Dec. 21-25, at Birdland Jazz Club (315 W. 44th St., btw. Eighth & Ninth Aves.). All shows 6pm, except Sat., at 5:30pm. Cover: $30, plus $10 food or beverage minimum. For reservations, call 212-581-3080 or visit birdlandjazz.com. Jim Caruso’s “Cast Party” happens every Monday night at Birdland Jazz Club. Doors open at 9pm, show at 9:30pm. $25 cover, $10 food/drink minimum. For info, visit jim-caruso.com and birdlandjazz.com.

Photo by Eric Harvey Brown Francine “The Lucid Dream” and friends focus on the powerful presence of music, in the work of David Lynch (Dec. 27, at The Kraine Theater).

Photo by Eric Harvey Brown
Francine “The Lucid Dream” and friends focus on the powerful presence of music, in the work of David Lynch (Dec. 27, at The Kraine Theater).

THE PINK ROOM: DAVID LYNCH BURLESQUE
It began in February of 2011 as a tongue-in-cheek, hand-in-pants way for Downtown burlesque performers weaned on “Twin Peaks” to mark the anniversary Laura Palmer’s death. It quickly earned a cult following of its own, for onstage antics every bit as strange and compelling as the “she’s filled with secrets” prom queen whose murder sparked a national obsession when the surreal soap opera premiered in 1990. Part tribute and part satire, with a sexual vibe all its own, host Francine “The Lucid Dream” has since broadened the horizons of her “Pink Room” show to include nights whose themes echo, reflect and riff on everything from “Wild at Heart” and “Lost Highway” to “Inland Empire” and “Dune.”

For one show only on Dec. 27, the “David Lynch Burlesque” crew relocates from their usual haunt (the Twin Peaks Roadhouse & Bookhouse, aka the Parkside Lounge) to the Kraine Theater (transformed into a sultry venue reminiscent of Club Silencio in “Mulholland Drive”). A featured evening in Horse Trade Theater Group’s Winter Burlesque Blitz, this installment is all about mood — as Francine channels “Blue Velvet” nightclub singer Dorothy Vallens, for a celebration of Angelo Badalamenti’s haunting musical contributions to the Lynch canon. Matt Knife does hosting duties, welcoming to the stage Amelia Bareparts, Anja Keister, Iris Explosion and Satanica.

Fri., Dec. 27, at 11pm. At The Kraine Theater (85 E. Fourth St., btw. Bowery & Second Ave.). For advance tickets ($20), visit smarttix.com. For info: francineburlesque.com.

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