HOLIDAY SPIN, Theatre BAM, at Voltaire. It's hard to imagine that the folks who brought us the stage version of Schoolhouse Rock would actually follow up that evening's worth of songs about grammar and math with a show even sweeter and shallower. But that's what they've done in Holiday Spin, the silly, utterly forgettable, but entertaining Christmas special currently playing at Voltaire.
Basically a cabaret act, the show features five strong singers. The twist is that they never know, from one show to the next, which of the 19 songs in their repertoire of Christmas, Hanukkah, and New Year's tunes they're going to do. Instead--in a gimmick lifted from the Neo-Futurists--the show's selections are randomly determined, here by a turn of the wheel of fortune, the "holiday spin."
But the wheel really adds nothing to the show. Scott Ferguson's cast are so personable they don't need any such cheap tricks. And Jack Short's musical direction and arrangements are so strong and free of cliches they make even overdone standards like "I'll Be Home for Christmas" seem fresh. I'd willingly trade spinning the wheel for an extra tune or two from the impressive list that Ferguson and Jonathan Abarbanel have compiled for the show, ranging from unfamiliar airs like Benjamin Britten's "Wolcum Yole!" and the spiritual "Children, Go Where I Send Thee" to carols so well known, like "Sleigh Ride," they set my teeth on edge. --Jack Helbig