In the middle of Saturday night’s show, Chris Shaw explained, “People don’t like their traditions messed with.” And, dangling participle be damned, he’s right.
So a lot of this year’s Mountain Snow & Mistletoe show relied on the tried and true – from Bridget Ball‘s rousing rendition of the ever-hopeful opening and closing number “Light a Light” to Shaw’s masterfully understated tale of the Christmas that almost wasn’t and the generosity that saved it, “Ten Dollar Christmas” – a song that still makes me weep with joy every year when I hear it.
If Ball and Shaw act as the good, homespun parents and ringleaders of this musical family, the members of the Mountain Snow Orchestra are well aware of their roles in this “pageant,” and they over the years they’ve brought more and more to their parts. Kevin McKrell plays the black-sheep bad boy always ready with a quip. Percussionist extraordinaire Brian Melick plays the endearing clown. And John Kirk, well, plays just about every musical instrument with strings on it.
There are plenty of laughs in the show – some of them scripted, but many of them off-the-cuff improv. The McKrell-Melick interpretation of “Twas the Night Before Christmas” is an absolute classic. It’s the best Marx Brothers routine that the Marx Brothers never did, with Mckrell playing a mix of wisecracking Groucho and straightman Zeppo, while the bug-eyed, puppy-dog-eager Melick channels Harpo with amazing accuracy.
Some of the other highlights included Kate Wolf’s “Give Yourself to Love,” a lovely Ball-Shaw duet that they dedicated to a couple who had gotten married earlier in the day; Shaw’s nostalgia-laden (but not sentimental) rendition of Beth Neilsen Chapman’s “Years”; McKrell’s yearning bluegrass ramble through “The Road That Leads Me Back Home to You,” featuring some fine fiddling from Kirk.
Ball and Shaw have been serving up one variation or another of Mountain Snow & Mistletoe annually since 1989, and after more than a decade in Troy, this year was the show’s first at The Egg. It’s a perfect fit for the intimate Swyer Theatre, and hopefully it will be back there again and again for many years to come.
MOUNTAIN SNOW AND MISTLETOE SET LIST
Light a Light
O Come All Ye Faithful
The Little Drummer Boy
(Uncle Walt story) (Shaw)
Some Children See Him
Give Yourself to Love
The Cherry Tree Carol
‘Twas the Night Before Christmas (McKrell and Melick)
Children Go Where I Send Thee
At Our House on Christmas
The Road That Leads Me Back to You
I Heard From Heaven Today
(Bridget’s round-robin story) (Ball)
Ten Dollar Christmas (Shaw)
When a Child Is Born
Light a Light
Walking in a Winter Wonderland