Dallas — Bringing a Broadway star into town to sing with the local symphony has long been a way to draw new audiences. Bring two certifiable Broadway stars, throw in some Christmas classics and you have A Holiday Evening with Megan Hilty and Cheyenne Jackson. The pair start the concert with a swinging version of “Jingle Bells.” From the first song on you know that these performers are seasoned professionals who love singing with a full orchestra. Lawrence Loh is the guest conductor leading the Dallas Symphony Orchestra. There is one performance to go, at the Sunday matinee.
Megan is best known for playing Ivy Lynn in NBC’s musical drama Smash, the musical 9 to 5, and the recent TV movie Patsy and Loretta (read our interview with her here). She sang a lovely swing rendition of “A Christmas Song,” made famous by Nat King Cole. A running bit throughout the evening is that every time Megan goes off stage she comes back in another beautiful gown. The night was also a night mix of classic Christmas songs and jazz standards. Cheyenne returned to the stage and they did a sweet version of “Me and My Shadow.” Their duets display an ease and chemistry that lets you know that not only are they great singers but close friends as well.
Cheyenne Jackson is probably most famous for his roles in 30 Rock and Disney’s Descendants, but I loved him in the Broadway musical Xanadu.
Cheyenne Jackson then did “Feeling Good,” which is a true crowd pleaser. One thing I enjoy about hearing Cheyenne sing is that he doesn’t go crazy showing off with needless runs or vocal gimmicks. His confidence pours from the stage. He sang “Besame Mucho” with a sensual swagger that made me wish they were serving cocktails in the hall itself. The first act ended with Cheyenne belting out “O Holy Night” and “The Most Wonderful Time of the Year.”
Hilty starts the second half of the evening with her showstopper from Smash called “They Just Keep Moving the Line.” While I have heard many divas warble through this number, Megan practically owns this song, as the cheers and applause when she finished confirmed. A highlight for me was her take on the Joni Mitchell classic “River.” She starts the song in pure acapella, and then adds the piano; when the orchestra comes in, the pain and sadness of the song are gripping. She is in complete control as she shows us the loneliness and melancholy that are all too often a part of the holidays.
Back on the upbeat side, she performs a sexy “Santa Baby,” a number made famous by Eartha Kitt. The song in a way is a Christmas anthem to greed, yet Megan transforms it into a guilty pleasure.
Jackson returns to perform a song he wrote after the loss of his father about growing up gay in a small town. The lyrics in it are touching with two lines that particularly struck me as especially meaningful for a Christmas show, “It’s OK that you are gentle, it’s OK that you are kind.”
The show is a wonderful mix of Christmas songs and standards and the Dallas Symphony Orchestra at home at the Meyerson sounds sublime. The DSO choose wisely bringing Megan Hilty and Cheyenne Jackson to Dallas to close their Christmas Concert Series. The audience was on its feet at the end of the night with many humming Christmas songs on the way out.