Regional Reviews: Phoenix
Jane Lynch's A Swingin' Little Christmas
The concert featured many well-known holiday hits along with a half dozen original, well-crafted compositions by Guerrero with arrangements that made them sound similar to the classic Christmas songs from decades ago.
Lynch and Flannery are probably best known for their roles on the hit TV shows "Glee" and "The Office," and while the roles they played in those shows were comical, they both also have wonderful singing voices. Their undeniable likability, sharp coming timing, and playful joking around with each other, along with their genuine awe for Guerrero and Davis' musical abilities, makes A Swingin' Little Christmas feel like an evening where close friends get together to perform songs in an intimate setting. While the theme for this show is clearly focused on the holidays, the hilariously inappropriate nature of many of the numbers and some of the jokes makes it fresh and fun and not what could have been a stuffy concert that only features traditional holiday tunes. Guerrero created the excellent musical arrangements for all of the numbers in the show and he and his quintet are also exceptional musicians.
Lynch and Flannery first met many years back when they both got their start in Chicago's Second City troupe and also toured in a live theatrical version of The Real Live Brady Bunch. Lynch worked with Davis on "Glee" where he did the vocal arrangements for all of the songs. The close friendships the three have are evident from their natural interaction with each other. The trio, along with Tony Guerrero and his quartet, have been touring this concert for several years now and for 2023 the tour included dates in Boston, New York City, Las Vegas, and California.
Highlights of the concert included a lovely, upbeat version of "We Three Kings" that featured tight harmonies, a funny take on "Good King Wenceslas" that Flannery sang as "Good King Whatshisface," with Lynch continually reminding her that she doesn't think those are the lyrics to the song. The Tony Guerrero Quintet played a few solo numbers that gave each member of the group a moment to shine, including such holiday tunes as "Blue Christmas." While the concert featured seasonal songs, there was one musical theatre song included: Flannery's solo of "I'm Shy" from Once Upon a Mattress, which featured some serious belting.
Davis' rich baritone and serious nature helped to balance the clowning antics of Lynch and Flannery, which included Lynch's dry humor and Flannery's shameless antics. The well-rehearsed audience banter, the jabs that Jane and Kate give each other, and several very funny jokes may have occasionally bordered on feeling too rehearsed and less spontaneous, but it was still very fun. Even the encore had a great joke, with Lynch commenting that instead of exiting the stage and hoping the audience would applaud for them to come back and sing another song, they'll just stay on stage and sing the song in case they don't get any applause.
Throughout, the tone for the entire show was offbeat, adult, and very funny. Lynch and Flannery clearly have great chemistry, love and respect for each other, along with an admiration for Davis, Guerrero, and the members of the band, and the expert musicianship and tight harmonies, along with the mocking and making fun of themselves and each other, made A Swingin' Little Christmas a sassy, eclectic, charming, and warm holiday show.
Jane Lynch's A Swingin' Little Christmas performed at the Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts on December 14, 2023. Information for upcoming concerts at the SCPA can be found at www.scottsdaleperformingarts.org.