Dean Christopher: A Classic-Vegas, Rat-Pack Christmas

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Dean Christopher

A Classic-Vegas, Rat-Pack Christmas
Blue Strawberry, St. Louis, MO, December 6, 2019
Review by Chuck Lavazzi

Dean Christopher

I think I’ve found a way to lower my energy costs. I just need to figure out how to hook up my house to Dean Christopher’s A Classic-Vegas, Rat-Pack Christmas show. I’d never have to pay an electric bill again.

Basically a holiday version of the “Rat-Pack” tribute Christopher has been performing with great success in and around St. Louis for many years, this evening’s show was a tribute to the kind of flashy, mid-1960s Las Vegas nightclub show perfected by legendary performers like Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, and Sammy Davis, Jr. It was also 90 minutes of rock-solid, raucous entertainment

Make no mistake: A Classic-Vegas Rat-Pack Christmas was one of the most creatively assembled, perfectly paced, and brilliantly performed acts I have seen on a cabaret stage in quite some time. Christopher is a powerful singer and an amazingly talented impressionist; captured the stage personas of the core members of the Rat Pack as well as period celebs. His “Santa Claus Is Coming to Town” in the wildly oversexed style of Tom Jones, for example, was as hilarious as it was accurate, and his take on the Mel Tormé/Robert Wells “The Christmas Song” in the style of Johnny Mathis did a neat job of straddling the fence between parody and affectionate tribute.

The pinnacle of that aspect of the show was undoubtedly his version of “The Twelve Days of Christmas,” which he admits is the Christmas song he hates the most, as it might have been performed by a dozen legendary actors plucked from Turner Classic Movies films. With only a few changes in vocal quality and body language, Christopher rapidly shifted among personalities as diverse as John Wayne, Boris Karloff, Walter Brennan, Paul Lynde, and Henry Fonda. It was a remarkable piece of theatrical prestidigitation.

The core of the show, though, was the long central section in which Christopher recreated a Rat Pack Vegas show with such fidelity that you’d have sworn Frank, Dean, and Sammy were all on stage together. His Dean Martin was especially impressive, completely nailing the singer’s vocal quality and “drunk act” shtick with a set of lethally funny PG-rated parodies of classic holiday tunes. The Rat-Pack set concluded with another theatrical tour de force in which his Jerry Lewis joined the rest of the Pack to sing “Winter Wonderland.” The ease with which he changed characters with each verse is truly impressive.

The evening wasn’t all impersonations, though. Christopher opened with high-voltage performances of “The Most Wonderful Time of the Year” and Leroy Anderson and Mitchell Parish’s “Sleigh Ride” that overflowed with energy and panache. He also joked and interacted with the audience in true Vegas style. The night I saw the show, some of those audience members had apparently been hitting the wine list a bit too enthusiastically, but Christopher handled it all with aplomb.

Backing up the singer was a seven-piece combo that delivered classic mid-’60s big band arrangements under the skilled direction of pianist Joe Dreyer (a familiar figure on the local theater and cabaret scene). The members of the band (all of whom had solid solos) were Randy Holmes and Chris Miller on trumpets (with Miller doubling on flugelhorn), Larry Johnson on sax, Jim Owens on trombone, Kevin Gianino on percussion, and Glenn Smith on bass. 

Chuck Lavazzi

Chuck Lavazzi is the producer for the arts calendars and senior performing arts critic at 88.1 KDHX, the host of The Cabaret Project’s monthly open mic night, and entirely to blame for the Stage Left blog at He’s a member of the Music Critics Association of North America and the St. Louis Theater Circle. Chuck has been an actor, sound designer, and occasional director since roughly the Bronze Age. He has presented his cabaret show Just a Song at Twilight: the Golden Age of Vaudeville, at the Missouri History Museum and the Kranzberg Center.