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Holly Jolly Christmas Folly

Christine Pedi shows off her brilliant gift for mimicry in her sometimes effortless, occasionally random holiday-themed cabaret show. logo
Christine Pedi
There's a fine line between effortlessness and seeming to have made insufficient effort. Christine Pedi crosses it in the wrong direction just a few times during her otherwise delightful one-woman show Christine Pedi's Holly Jolly Christmas Folly, running various dates throughout December at the West Bank Café's Laurie Beechman Theatre.

Where she's gloriously effortless in her 70-minute show is where she's always been just about perfect. Whenever she slips into her acclaimed vocal impersonations of legendary divas, she gives the impression she's logged on to some incredible hidden celebrity archive. Few other performers can sound so much like Katharine Hepburn one second, Bette Davis the next, Joan Rivers the next, and, then even more eye-poppingly and ear-poppingly assume the aural guise of Judy Garland before switching to the quasi-Garlandesque tones of Liza Minnelli.

Wisely, Pedi confects a few opportunities to take on those memorable ladies. At the top of the show, she has several of them warble parts of traditional seasonal songs and carols. Hepburn, for instance, chants "O Holy Night" in her shaky way. Barbra Streisand goes Brooklyn on "Do You Hear What I Hear?" For Pedi's grand -- and it is grand -- finale, she sends a helper through the room with a hat so that patrons can pick a name from it. Upon hearing the famous moniker called, she runs one-by-one through the accumulating "12 Days of Christmas" verses. It's a tour de force that puts many another tour de force in the shade.

Whether Pedi is able to do an entire turn built on her astonishing mimicry isn't clear, since she doesn't try. Instead, she offers several songs, using her own zingy voice. She gets sultry on "Santa Claus Is Coming to Town, " puts on a Russian accent for the tipsy-turvy "Vodka," and plays it straight in lesser-known seasonal ditties like "The Perfect Year" (from Sunset Boulevard) .

But too often, the show begins to feel a bit randomly assembled. Pedi also frequently consults very supportive musical director Matthew Ward about where she is supposed to be routine-wise, or she turns to papers on which she has evidently scribbled her catch-as-catch-can agenda. For example, one moment it hits her that she should give out some prizes by prodding audience members to answer a few trivia questions about It's A Wonderful Life -- never mind that the audience may not be as conversant with the 1946 flick as she is, having seen it "52 times." Indeed, Pedi's entire show has the feel of a fun holiday party during which, every once in a while, the lady of the house inadvertently reveals her party-giver nerves.


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