Dec 21 2014

Mariah Carey Basks in Christmas Chart Reign at NYC's Beacon Theater: Concert Review

(The Hollywood Reporter)

Few musicians settle into and succeed in the Christmas season like Mariah Carey. Despite her underperforming album releases over recent years, come each December, she reliably reclaims the holiday chart's top spot with her original pop track, "All I Want for Christmas Is You." The upbeat seasonal love song released twenty years ago has now held the top spot for a record fourteen weeks — and counting.

It's an opportunity worth seizing, which Carey finally has — with a sold-out, six-show residency at New York City's Beacon Theater, ornamented with a red curtain covered in tinsel and snowflakes and topped with an illuminated "MC" wreath. Compiling an 85-minute set list from her 1994 album Merry Christmas and her 2010 follow-up Merry Christmas II You (as well as a few non-holiday hits), Carey decadently delivered all the (very, very) high notes of her many holiday favorites, leaving the audience wishing to Santa for more.

Though the concert run comes two weeks after her widely scrutinized, televised performance earlier this month of her signature hit at the Rockefeller Center tree-lighting ceremony, ticketholders eagerly shed their coats and scarves (but kept on their "MC" Santa hats) for her third show on Thursday. After a little girl in a pink tutu began the show with a short "Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy" ballet, Carey was revealed in front of Christmas tree and framed by oversized snowflakes, wearing her first of three sparkling mermaid gowns with deep necklines, and powerfully belted the first of fourteen favorites into her gold microphone — each time, meeting the vocal demands she recorded two decades ago. The crowd cheered after every complicated run and ceiling-scraping note, as her right hand (dressed in a fingerless glove) either mapped out her notes, pushed her ear shut or held the hand of one of her dancers while traversing the oft-crowded stage.

During Carey's wardrobe changes, audiences were distracted by kid-filled skits and songs, including a "Santa Claus Is Comin' to Town" tap dance and a "I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus" duet, as well as Broadway Inspirational Voices' choir performances of "Carol of the Bells" and "Jesus Oh What a Wonderful Child" — the latter led by Carey's notable backup singer Trey Lorenz. Her stage was occasionally stuffed with too many acts at the same time — at one point, audiences found themselves watching aerial acrobats, hip-hop dancers, kids and the choir — and pulled out every festive stunt (a dancing snowman, a gift-tossing Santa Claus and choreographed reindeer all clock in throughout). And some scripted pre-song banter fell relatively flat in comparison to her fun, candidly-sung comments of affection to her band and audience — though seemingly introduced like a duet, Debbie Allen randomly appeared to only inform of her current chart reign, and during a chat about what Christmas feels like, Carey asked one child to "do it like we did in rehearsal."

Whatever the minimal missteps, they were very quickly forgotten whenever Carey began another beloved track — usually from her first holiday album. She shined brightest on the choir-assisted "Silent Night" and "Joy to the World," and hit the show's highest note while nearly alone and simply standing still for the octave-jumping "O Holy Night." And though she comically shut down the first few bars of "Heartbreaker" — "That's the wrong show, come on!" she laughed — Carey told her fans that someone instructed her, "Mimi, emancipate yourself to sing one or two" of the old ones: "Emotions," "We Belong Together" and a freshly-phrased "Hero." She, of course, closed the heartwarming show with "All I Want for Christmas Is You," complete with every single dancer onstage, plus metallic confetti and fake snow. Because besides the holiday season altogether, dominating a tally for fourteen weeks (out of eighteen total) — and reminding everyone that you actually haven't missed too many beats over the past twenty years — are definitely cause for decadent celebration.

Set list:
Hark! The Herald Angels Sing/Gloria (In Excelsis Deo)
Charlie Brown Christmas
Oh Santa!
Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)
Silent Night
Joy to the World
When Christmas Comes
Here Comes Santa Claus (Right Down Santa Claus Lane)/Housetop Celebration
Christmastime Is in the Air Again
O Holy Night
We Belong Together
All I Want for Christmas Is You

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