Sandi Patty, the five-time Grammy and 40-time Dove award winning singer, recording star and author, is no stranger to the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra’s annual “Duke Energy Yuletide Celebration.” Hosting for the sixth time, Patty demonstrated on opening night Friday just why she is regularly chosen to headline the ISO’s yearly holiday extravaganza (this is its 28th) which runs through Dec. 23.
Leading the first-class ISO was Principal Pops conductor Jack Everly who created the Broadway-style production, the largest of its kind in North America, in collaboration with “Yuletide” executive producer, Ty Johnson.
Patty was joined by The von Trapps, four great grandchildren of the Captain and Maria von Trapp, ISO concertmaster Zach De Pue, and a large ensemble of singers and dancers in a program of pop and classic holiday tunes.
Though known primarily for her huge success in the Christian music arena, Patty proved her worth as a Broadway performer in her 2011 “Broadway Stories” album and as the irrepressible Dolly Levi in a 2012 ISO concert version of “Hello Dolly.” Here, in a show that rivals the theatrical spectacle seen in the holiday show at NYC’s Rockerfeller Center, thanks to set designer Gregory Hill, there was no question that Patty can hold her own in this musical genre.
Patty, not only possesses a distinctive vocal range and flexibility that has earned her the title of “The Voice” by her fans—she also has a stage personality that is affectionately warm, engaging and reflective of a performer who doesn’t take herself too seriously. Those traits, expressed in scripted banter with the audience, perceptively written by David Levy, combined with her vocal prowess, made her ideal for this family friendly show that appeals to young and old.
With its mix of audience favorites, such as “’Twas the Night Before Christmas” and the always popular tap dancing Santas in “Santa Claus is Coming to Town,” the most satisfying, not to mention inspiring, of all of the “Yuletide” numbers were those in which Patty and ensemble wore costume designer Clare Henkel’s sumptuous clothes. They included “O Come, All Ye Faithful” and “Oh Holy Night”—both notable for their grandeur.
Sofi, Melanie, Amanda, and August von Trapp showed wholesome appeal as they harmonized to “So Long, Farewell” and others from “The Sound of Music," the music that will forever be associated with their famous ancestors, whose musical talents they have obviously inherited.
Spectacular. That describes the exciting performance of violinist and ISO concertmaster Zach De Pue, bathed in designer Stuart Duke’s gorgeous lighting effects, as he thrilled the audience with his dynamic rendition of “Good King Wenceslas.”
Patty also showed off her comedic and character acting skills playing Mrs. Claus in a clever skit titled “The Sanitizer,” during which elves enter a machine that transforms them into Santas, making it possible for children all over the globe to receive presents simultaneously on Christmas Eve.
The most entertaining segments in the entire show were those that showcased the impeccable choreography of Jacob Brent and Jennifer Ladner and vocal direction of Greg Andrews. One was “A Motown Special” featuring two charismatic young performers named Keirsten Hodgens and Marcus Terrell, whose distinguishing vocals really made them stand out. Then Patty, who was clearly in her element, along with the ensemble, erupted into an unexpected, uber-spirited, rollicking Gospel rendition of “Jesus, Oh What a Wonderful Child” that turned the venerable Hilbert Circle Theatre into an old-timey country church.
It’s expected that approximately 32,000 people will see “Yuletide” before the end of its run so it’s recommended that you purchase your tickets sooner than later. To do so, call the Hilbert Circle Theatre box office at (317) 639-4300 or visit www.indianapolissumphony.org.
Do you wish to become a regular reader of this column? Receive e-mail alerts when new articles are available. Just click on the “Subscribe” button above. Also, "Like" Tom Alvarez on Facebook and follow him on Twitter.