The Alliance Theatre is known for its annual mainstage production of A Christmas Carol, but in the smaller venue of the Hertz stage comes a new cabaret concert, Courtenay’s Cabaret: Home for the Holidays.
Courtenay Collins, a local actress dressed in her finest gowns, welcomes the audience with open arms into the living room-style set designed to resemble a house party at any elegant home. Accompanied by a band and bar, audience members are encouraged to purchase refreshments, making the theater smell of wine and good cheer in anticipation for a night of songs, cookies, crafts and a little witty holiday banter to tie together the package.
Showing Dec. 2 to 24, Home for the Holidays tailors to an adult crowd. Even with crafts during intermission, most of the jokes and wisecracks would pass over a young child such as one that exposed “Santa Claus is Coming to Town”’s lyrics like “he sees you when you’re sleeping” as more perverse than endearing.
Accompanied by conductor and keyboardist Amanda Wansa Morgan, bassist Scott Glazer and drummer Quinton “Q” Robinson, Collins takes charge of the party. Every performance also features a guest appearance from a local celebrity (e.g.,Baton Bob, a well-known Atlanta baton twirler who dances in his famous eccentric drag costumes composed of heels, earrings and a sparkling corset).
Collins, who may be familiar to a regular Atlanta theatergoer due to her other local appearances, including Alliance’s The Prom, is a more than welcoming hostess to this grand Christmas gathering. However, while her voice is warm and fulfilling, her facial expressions and appearance when singing can be rather unfortunate, appearing uneasy or apprehensive. Her acting strengthens outside of song, when she carries the good-natured ribbing with ease.
The song list breaks out of the ordinary holiday classics with melodies such as Joni Mitchell’s “River” and “My Favorite Things” from The Sound of Music. The show includes a sing-along, inviting the audience to chime in, with songs from around the world that celebrate the winter months. The song list is no grandmother’s album of older classics; the evening unfolds with a catchy twist on modern tunes.
Sometimes bordering on cheesy, the production becomes personal when coming to a close. Collins discusses her childhood Christmas traditions and her Christmas away from home last year, hitting a more intimate note. Nevertheless, the show stays true to what it is advertised as — a cheery and friendly evening of holiday music and community.
With small surprises unfolding throughout the two-hour gathering, Collins serves you some drinks, and you might leave having been set up with a New Year’s date. Catering to an older crowd, it makes for a pleasant time, yet there’s no need to write Courtenay’s Cabaret: Home for the Holidays on your Christmas wishlist.