Paula Dione Ingram: Holiday Sing and Bling

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Paula Dione Ingram

Holiday Sing and Bling

Metropolitan Room,  NYC,  December 18, 2016

Reviewed by Elizabeth Ahlfors for Cabaret Scenes

Paula Dione Ingram
Paula Dione Ingram

Most holiday shows are just that: generic shows reflecting the season with pop favorites, evoking memories, trying to include various religions. Paula Dione Ingram is a performer for all seasons, but recently at the Metropolitan Room she presented a purely Christmas show with diverse songs and some that summed up her personal feelings about the holiday. She has a sublime voice that weaves the humor and sparkle of the holiday with deeply felt family traditions, coloring the season with honesty, substance and spirit. She shared stories about herself, her family, her faith, emotional varieties familiar to everyone.

A seasoned singer and actress, Ingram is a rich lyrico-spinto soprano who commands opera and musical theater stages and, with her innately warm geniality and truthful musical interpretation, captured a cabaret audience.  The multi-talented Kay Thompson’s hit for Andy Williams, “It’s the Holiday Season” introduced a confident delivery of swing, jazz and pop.  This joyful opener was followed by “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year” (Edward Pola/George Wyle). The two were featured together on The Andy Williams Christmas Album of 1963, his first super-hit LP.

The upbeat holiday opener gave way to the core of Christmas for Ingram, which combined faith and tradition, friends and family. Musical Director and pianist Alex Rybeck proved his songwriting talents with the lovely “Christmas Eve (Could Not Ask for More)” with lyrics by Carol Hall, a song of memories, fleeting time and gratitude. Ingram included “Do You Hear What I Hear?” by Gloria Shayne [Baker] and Noel Regney, a then-married couple who wrote it as a plea for peace during the Cuban Missile Crisis. “Who Would Imagine a King?” (Mervyn Warren/Hallerin Hilton Hill) was originally recorded by Whitney Houston for the soundtrack of The Preacher’s Wife.

I was most touched by Ingram’s beautiful rendition of “Sweet Little Jesus Boy” (Robert MacGimsey)— written in 1934, but reminiscent of an older African-American spiritual.

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Her impeccable vocal control with Adolphe Adam/John Sullivan Dwight’s “O Holy Night” caught my breath with its purity, enhanced by Jean-Pierre Perreaux’s elegant lighting on her face.

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In her family memories, Ingram referred to her father’s talent for songwriting and she offered “You Are My Friend,” a touching tribute to her husband, Gregory H. Coleman, with lyrics she wrote to her father’s melody.  Grabbing a mock boa, she sashayed to “Santa Baby” and talked of decorating the Christmas tree with her five children to Motown recordings of “Santa Claus Is Coming to Town.” Playfully, she urged sing-alongs with the audience to George Fredrich Handel’s “Hallelujah Chorus” (not much for us to contribute there).  Special guest Cynthia Clarey performed the Mel Tormé/Robert Wells standard, “The Christmas Song,” and Ingram’s soprano joined Clarey’s mezzo for a stunning harmony of “Silent Night” (Joseph Mohr/Franz Gruber).

With “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” (Kim Gannon/Walter Kent) and “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” (Hugh Martin), this show celebrated Paula Dione Ingram’s Christmas memories but, again, she is a performer for all seasons. For a whole different side to this talent, I’m looking forward to seeing her show, Dark Legacy: Bright Lights of Black Broadway.

Elizabeth Ahlfors

Born and raised in New York, Elizabeth graduated from NYU with a degree in Journalism. She has lived in various cities and countries and now is back in NYC. She has written magazine articles and published three books: A Housewife’s Guide to Women’s Liberation, Twelve American Women, and Heroines of ’76 (for children). A great love was always music and theater—in the audience, not performing. A Philadelphia correspondent for and InTheatre Magazine, she has reviewed theater and cabaret for the Philadelphia Inquirer and Philadelphia City News. She writes for Cabaret Scenes and other cabaret/theater sites. She is a judge for Nightlife Awards and a voting member of Drama Desk and Outer Critics Circle.