Last year, Tony Award winning singer/actress Lillias White made her cabaret debut in a show that didn't do justice to her talents. This year, she's back with a brand new show, and there's nothing standing in her way now. Whatever mistakes in judgment might be found here are simply overwhelmed by all the things White does right. Richly titled Lillias White in Wonderland, the act is a combination of a holiday show and a celebration of the music that fills White with wonder.
From Rodgers and Hart to Stevie Wonder (another "Wonderland" reference), there is something under Lillias White's musical Christmas tree for everyone. The gifts begin to be unwrapped early in the evening when she sings "Watch What Happens" (by Michel Legrand and the Bergmans). Then she launches into a medley of more than half-a-dozen Stevie Wonder hits, performed with a joyful exuberance. These songs aren't the most demanding that White has ever sung, but she so fully relates to the material that she suffuses it with her own personality.
At mid-show, White takes a deliciously bawdy turn with a fresh reading of "Teach Me Tonight", following up with the hilariously vulgar "I Want a Big Fat Daddy." By this point, she is in complete control of the audience, managing to segue from the salacious to the sublime as she slides into her Christmas medley with "Through The Eyes of a Child." She's both naughty and nice during this segment--and the naughty is much nicer. In our experierence, White's "Santa Baby" is the only take on that tune that compares to Eartha Kitt's famous rendition. Touching on a couple of other holiday favorites, White comically bends some of the lyrics into a modern urban vernacular; for instance, in the classic "Winter Wonderland," she sings "but you can hook us up when you're in town." The spin not only gets laughs, it helps make the song her own.
A lot of theater performers don't know how to be themselves on stage, but Lillias White has no such problem. Arci's Place, which is already a buoyantly colorful venue for cabaret, is made all the more inviting by White's vivacious personality. She continues to perform their nightly, Tuesdays-Saturdays, through the end of this month.