Adrienne Haan consistently displays a sense of fun and high spirits in her cabaret shows, and Bart Shatto is a good match for her, as evidenced in their “White Christmas” show at the Triad Theater (Dec. 5 and Dec. 10), a celebration of the life and music of Irving Berlin. Shatto, a Broadway veteran, not only has a strong voice but exhibits the kind of show-biz playfulness that makes for enjoyable Haan-Shatto teamwork.
Unlike in some of her other shows, which also feature a male performer, in this one Haan made Shatto a thorough partner in which they generally sang together as well as soloed. The result was a lively production, enhanced by the piano accompaniment by Haan’s long-time musical director Richard Danley, who also got his chances to piano solo.
As I looked over the huge song list of Berlin numbers to be performed, I thought it impossible to cover so many songs without spending the night. But lo and behold, through slick pacing and medleys, the territory was entertainingly covered in a way that reflected Berlin’s remarkable output and range. (During his 60-year career, Berlin, who lived until the age of 101, composed some 1500 songs.)
Haan first appeared in a black fringed skirt with a white furry wrap, then turned up in military uniform for Berlin’s military songs, and later in a red gown with a black furry wrap, looking great in all three get-ups. When Shatto emerged in a tux, Haan sexily quipped: “I like men in tuxedos; I like them even more without them.” Shatto got in a remark of his own, saying he had performed on Broadway with divas whom he named. “But this is the first time I’ve performed with a chanteuse.” Haan customarily peppered her commentary with references to Luxembourg, of which she is a citizen.
The Berlin tone was launched at the start with “There’s No Business Like Show Business,” “Alexander’s Ragtime Band,” and “Let Me Sing and I’m Happy.” Throughout Haan interjected information about Berlin’s life, tracing his Russian roots to his immigration here as a youngster, emphasizing his origins with a number Berlin did not write. She poignantly sang the Yiddish “Ofyn Pripetchik” (music and lyrics by Mark Warshawsky). Haan and Shatto stressed Berlin’s life-long appreciation for America with their joint rendition of Berlin’s “Give Me Your Tired, Your Poor.”
Berlin’s military songs were highlighted, including his “Oh How I Hate To Get Up In the Morning” and “This is the Army, Mr. Jones,” with Haan tenderly singing the lesser-known 1943 “Take Me With You, Soldier Boy.”
There was a section of Hollywood songs, including “Puttin’ On the Ritz,” “Blue Skies,” “Cheek to Cheek,” “I’ve Got the Sun In the Morning” and “Counting Your Blessings Instead of Sheep.” Anther section featured love songs, including the enormously popular “Always,” which Berlin gifted to his wife on their wedding day, and an enticing medley of famous Berlin romantic tunes.
As expected, the show climaxed with Berlin’s holiday songs, highlighted, of course, by his iconic “White Christmas.” For an encore Haan and Shatto led a very willing audience in singing Berlin’s anthem “God Bless America.” Running but an hour and a half, the show had covered, by my count, some 37 numbers, At the Triad Theater, 158 West 72nd Street. Phone: 212-279-4200. Reviewed December 11, 2019.