THEATERMANIA: There's a huge wealth of Christmas songs. How did you and the Steven Reineke, the Pops' conductor, narrow down the choices for this program?
BRIAN STOKES MITCHELL: We stayed with some of the favorites. I did a concert with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir two years ago that was aired on PBS last year. As a result, I ended up with a lot of charts and a lot of different songs I love, and I'm doing some of those here because I actually haven't had the opportunity to perform them in New York yet.
TM: There's also a Hanukkah medley in the concert. How did that come about?
BSM: One of the reasons that we wanted to do a Hanukkah Medley is because so many of the supporters of the Pops are Jewish. You know, that's part of a tradition that they're part of and they seem to be getting short-changed a little bit. So it seemed the right thing to do for all of us.
TM One of the songs in the program is "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas." Do you have an early memory of that song?
BSM: That's always been one of my favorite songs. I actually did a recording of it after my mom passed away -- when I was in my twenties. That Christmas, I found all these old home movies. So as a present for everybody, I had the film edited with all these family Christmases with my mom in them and then I did an arrangement in my home studio of "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" and added it in. It's actually the same arrangement that I'm doing for this concert, except the difference is this time, I'll be singing it with a huge orchestra. Still, I'll be thinking of my mom when I sing it.
TM: What made you choose "I'll Be Home for Christmas"?
BSM: I've never sung that one actually. It's another song that seemed really appropriate with so many people away on military duty. It just seemed like the perfect way to remember the men and women who are not with their families. I'm sure that everyone in that audience, even if they don't have a family member in the service, they know somebody who is serving overseas. World War II was when the song was originally written for those soldiers.
TM: On Saturday afternoon, you're also doing a special concert version of The Grinch Who Stole Christmas. How excited are you about that?
BSM: Steven Reineke and I were talking about it the other day, and I guess nobody has ever done it before. I thought that would be a piece that was done in concerts at Christmas time all over the country constantly. I get to be the narrator, which is the part everybody knows. We've also got Camp Broadway kids who will be singing, and there's a mime group doing movement. It's going to be really fun for everyone.
TM: I've seen you do everything from singing with a trio in clubs to Broadway orchestras to orchestras like the Pops. What is it like singing in front of the Pops as compared to anything else?
BSM: It's so great. It's very rare to get the opportunity as a singer now, unless you perform with the Pops or one of the other symphony orchestras around the country, to get to be able to ride on that wave of sound and color. And of course, the best musicians are in New York City and to be able to perform with them and this great chorus, the Essential Voices, that we're going to be having on stage with me -- it doesn't get better than that as a musician.