Reviewed by Lynn Ruth Miller for For All Events
Gary Williams is a beautiful singer with a special voice that makes for wonderful listening, but his real art is in his warm and welcoming performance. I have seen him sing for crowds of every size and no matter how large or small, he makes each person in his audience feel that he is speaking directly to him. He is currently appearing at Brasserie Zedel with his annual welcome to the holiday season, “A Swingin’ Christmas” continuing nightly until December 23, 2016..
The venue itself is exquisite. Guests sit at tables enjoying a wide variety of drinks and nibbles while they participate in the program on stage. Williams gives us old favorites and new and encourages his audience to sing along with him. Throughout the evening, he walks through the audience to welcome each one who has come to hear him. Indeed, the evening feels more like an intimate party than a staged performance.
The program however is deceptively orchestrated with the perfect balance of old and new, sentimental and fun with sparkles of humor throughout. Williams includes seasonal favorites from Andy Williams, Elvis Presley, Perry Como and Frank Sinatra, including the all-time holiday classics like “Let It Snow, ‘Jingle Bells”, ‘Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas’ and many more.
The set was simple: a microphone, and, at the piano, Matthew Regan, as much a part of the show as the audience and the man at the microphone. There were no special costumes or holiday frou-frou other than Santa hats for both performers for their finale.
Williams appeared on stage in a business suit and tie, no red and white glitter and holiday tinsel for him. He is the real, unadorned spirit of Christmas standing before us, filling us with anticipation for the beautiful season ahead. He opened the show singing “The Most Wonderful Time of the Year” followed by “How Do You Do” and then welcomed his audience to join him in his very special world of song, hope and love. The music continued with the first of several sing-a-longs, “Mistletoe and Wine” and went on with “Nigel Farage’s favorite song”, a tongue in cheek parody: ”I Hate Paris.”
The first act ended with the all time classic Christmas song, “White Christmas.” During the break, Williams circulated through this audience welcoming each one and making them feel like they were guests in his home rather than ticketholders for a holiday concert.
The second half of the show began with “Jingle Bell Rock” and included one favorite after another with the audience on their feet singing together for “The Twelve Days of Christmas”, ending with a rousing rendition of Jingle Bells and a standing ovation from an enthusiastic and delighted crowd. The encore was the moving “When a Child was Born” when Williams reminded them that we are all one, each a unique and vital part of a beautiful and diverse world. In a time when there is so much uncertainty and political turmoil, his simple message was like medicine to wounded souls. The audience left the concert feeling as if they had spent a memorable evening among friends under the magic spell of a gracious and welcoming host.
Gary Williams does not just perform; he offers his heart and soul to people who have become his dear friends. He fills us with renewed hope that we really can achieve peace, love and understanding that will last throughout the year and not be just a temporary fix for the holiday season. Both Williams and Regan make it obvious that they, too, are having as wonderful a time as the audience, enhanced by each song they present.
Gary Williams’ Swingin’ Christmas is neither saccharine nor sentimental. It rekindles a belief that a beautiful reality is possible where people care about one another and a helping hand is a way of life. This is an inspiring show. Do not miss it.