Award winning cabaret performer Sharon McNight has been performing her very special Christmas cabaret act on the West Coast and some other cities for several years but has rarely braved the December New York City weather to grace us here with this hysterically funny, bawdy and, at times, very moving show. She just completed a marathon schedule of performing it from San Francisco, Oakland, Los Angeles and Palm Springs. Luckily, McNight opened Twisted Xmas: A Druid’s View of the Holidays Monday night at Don’t Tell Mama after doing a guest shot at Ruby Rims Teddy Cares benefit Sunday and it’s her gift to us that we have her in our midst. Ably supported by the accomplished Ian Herman on the piano, McNight, decked in a Christmas red top, opens aggressively with “No Chestnuts,” a wonderful special material song by New York’s Barry Levitt and Peter Napolitano during which she quotes and runs the gamut of the usual songs featured in a Christmas cabaret concert (“Deck the Halls,“ Silent Night,” “Little Drummer Boy,“ etal.) and lets us know she is definitely not going to sing them and that this is going to be a very different show. A small but very enthusiastic audience (she was competing with the annual MAC holiday party) was won over right away and stayed with her throughout the entire program.
Yes, she does bring up that she has sung in the past two MAC Award Shows winning songs written by Mary Liz McNamara, the crazy “Bacon” and the one she did tonight, “Christmas in Michigan” about being stranded at a disastrous family reunion during the holiday in the bleak winter. And she sings a Craig Carnelia rarity “Come On, Snow” and David Friedman’s “My Simple Christmas Wish,” but we also get a funny, funny Bette Davis impressions and a wonderful Mae West impression and I’m not going to spoil your surprise by describing those songs! The Mae West is entitled “I Know Just What You Want For Christmas” by Kay Martin. You can imagine what the lyrics imply but you must see this performance to believe it! She confesses that her next book musical is going to be about Mae West!
Early in the act there is a funny mean song about what she does with all those gifts her true love gave her when Christmas turned out to be a disaster, “Twelve Days After Christmas.“
There are two real standouts in this fabulous act. One is Tom Waits’ sad and beautiful “Postcard from a Hooker” and the other is the group sing-along about Santa Claus, “Santa Lost A Ho” by Dan Hicks. Consummate actress that she is, McNight will have you in the palm of her hand on the first one and then lead you in group hilarity on the second one!
I must mention that McNight tells us that she also teaches young children music in public schools and she tells us that she was surprised when one young girl came in with a song from a Broadway show she recorded in 1979! Her final number is the sweet “Home” from The Wiz.
All in all, Sharon McNight’s Twisted Xmas is just the holiday show to get you out of the Christmas blues. We’re lucky that she is doing several performances this week before going to Chicago to present it for a Leather Rubber benefit! Miss it at your own peril!
Sharon McNight’s Twisted Xmas: A Druid’s View of the Holidays repeats at Don’t Tell Mama, 343 West 46 Street, New York, New York Wednesday, December 12 at 7 pm, Thursday, December 13 at 9:15 pm, Friday, December 14 at 9:15 pm, and next Monday, December 17 at 7 pm. Reservations are strongly recommended. Call Don’t Tell Mama at (212) 757-0788.