Jane Lynch’s A Swingin’ Little Christmas

Jane Lynch’s A Swingin’ Little Christmas

Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts, Scottsdale, AZ, December 14, 2023

Reviewed by Lynn Timmons Edwards

Tim Davis, Jane Lynch, Kate Flannery

It seems that if you are a multi-Emmy winning television star, you can surround yourself with brilliant musicians, and that’s what Jane Lynch did. She shared the stage with The Tony Guerro Quintet; Tim Davis, one of the best music arrangers and he can also croon; and another television comedienne and character singer, Kate Flannery. Together they have created a successful tour. The near-capacity audience at the Scottsdale Center was there to see Lynch, who is famous for her roles as Sue Sylvester in Glee and Sophie Lennon in The Marvelous Mrs. Mazel and is also the two-time Emmy Award-winning host of NBC’s Hollywood Game Night. However, the real star of the show was Tony Guerro (trumpet/piano) and his band consisting of Matt Johnson (drums), Mark Visher (sax/flute), Dave Siebels (keyboards), and David Miller (bass). At least six of the songs were Guerro originals from the 2016 holiday album that has the same name as this show.

The show opened with a fine jazz rendition of “Blue Christmas” followed by “Winter Wonderland,” which included Guerro’s best Louis Armstrong voice. The musicians took their turns at soloing, each one seeming better than the previous one. The band members also took their turns on “Silent Night” and “Santa Baby,” that latter used a Latin beat.

Lynch is not primarily a vocalist, but she held her own in all the tight three-part harmonies that delighted the audience, including the holiday classics “Up on the Housetop,” “The First Noel,” “We Three Kings,” and “Jingle Bells.” Guerro’s originals were belted out by the trio in the title song, which they sang at the start and the close of the show as schtick after pretending to sing something slow and solemn. (After a few bars, Lynch announced “we have to pick this up!”) Other originals from their 2016 recording included “We’re Going Caroling” and “It’s a Sentimental Christmas.”

Kudos to Davis for his arrangements for the three-part harmonies; the sound they created was greater than the sum of its parts. Davis soloed on Guerro’s tune “Christmas Is My Favorite Time of Year” and on “I’m Doing My Christmas Dreaming a Little Early This Year” (Irving Gordon/Lester Lee). Davis hails from Flagstaff, Arizona, and he that mentioned he had graduated from Northern Arizona University as a business major. That made him golden to an Arizona audience who ate up his mellow baritone. Davis had met Lynch on Glee, for which he had arranged 800 songs over the show’s six seasons.

Flannery is best known for her nine seasons as Meredith the drunk on NBC’s The Office and more recently for her run on ABC’s Dancing with the Stars. Lynch and Flannery had met during the 1980s at Second City. They took on Hollywood at the same time and had  their hit television shows cancelled at the same time. Flannery joined with Lynch as her side kick in what they call “the anti-cabaret” Jane Lynch Sings, which has played at NYC’s Joe’s Pub, the Kennedy Center, and in 30 cities across the U.S., including Scottsdale. She stars alongside Lynch in their newest cabaret, Two Lost Souls. Flannery is loud and brassy and full of energy, so “Shy” from Once Upon a Mattress works for her; it was the only Broadway song in the show. She delivered a comedic “Good King Wenceslas” with a bits of “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” and “O Come, All Ye Faithful” thrown in for good measure. Her account of growing up in a large Irish-Catholic family desperate for attention was the perfect intro to Guerro’s “Hey, There Santa,” which she performed in a kid’s character voice. She also has all the funny lines in the trio’s take on “It’s a Sentimental Christmas.” Lynch and Davis sang about fuzzy Christmas memories, but Flannery focused on the dark side of holiday memories: Mom drunk on the floor and Dddy kissing Santa.

Lynch used her comedic star power to ensure that the audience would stay for their encore, a jazzy version of the “Hallelujah Chorus” (also from their CD). The Scottsdale Center’s stage was decorated with six Christmas trees, some poinsettias, and this show, all of which put the audience into the holiday spirit.

Lynn Timmons Edwards

Lynn writes and performs themed cabaret shows based on the songs of the Great American Songbook throughout Arizona. She has had three short plays produced in the Theatre Artists Studio Festival of Summer Shorts and is working on a full length play, "Fairy," based on the life of Mary Russell Ferrell Colton, a founder of the Museum of Northern Arizona. In addition to writing and singing, Lynn plays bridge and tennis and enjoys traveling with her husband and artistic companion, Bob. Born in Ohio, Lynn is a graduate of Denison University (BA), Arizona State University (MPA) and has lived in Arizona since 1977.