31 Days of Holiday Cheer Exclusive: Melissa Errico Sings a Holiday-Themed Sondheim Parody Medley

This post was originally published on Playbill - Features

Written by: Talaura Harms

Holiday Coverage

31 Days of Holiday Cheer Exclusive: Melissa Errico Sings a Holiday-Themed Sondheim Parody Medley.

Every day this December, Playbill will be getting into the spirit of the season with 31 Days of Holiday Cheer—sharing some of our favorite music videos from Broadway stars. Check in daily for classic tunes and new songs about Christmas, Hanukkah, and New Year’s. And we even have some surprise new, original Playbill videos to share.

To many people, Christmas and Sondheim tunes don’t go together. After all, the late maestro never wrote a holiday song in any of his shows. According to Tony-nominated actor Melissa Errico, the composer was “a a notable holiday grouch.” But that hasn’t stopped Errico, who loves the holidays and Sondheim with equal measure, from combining the two. Above, in a video provided exclusively to Playbill, she sings a holiday-themed Sondheim parody medley.

Here, she puts a yuletide twist to some classic songs: “Send in the Clowns” becomes “Let’s Send It Back” (referring to the lackluster gifts received at Christmas), and “Losing My Mind” becomes a lament about assembling toys and furniture for your kids. So it’s not so much holiday cheer as holiday tears.

Errico was most recently seen on the New York theatre stage in Dear Liar at Irish Rep, where she is a frequent player. She is also releasing a new Sondheim album, called Sondheim in the City, next year (which will come with a series of promotional concerts).

Below, Errico discusses how many notable holiday songs are written by Jewish writers and how she did Holiday Inn on Broadway while caring for three toddlers.

Your holiday shows include storytelling about holiday songs, like how Christmas songs are often written by Jewish songwriters. Would you be willing to share a taste of one of your stories here?
Melissa Errico: I think it’s hilarious and delightful that so many of the greatest Christmas songs—from “White Christmas” to “Silver Bells” to “The Christmas Song”—were written by the great Jewish songwriters, from Irving Berlin to Mel Torme. One of my favorite and unique things in my Christmas show is a new parody version, written for me, of “The Christmas Song,” with lyrics by the New Yorker writer Adam Gopnik, dramatizing that the song, like so many Christmas songs, was actually composed and recorded in the sweltering heat wave of a Los Angeles summer! Did you know Robert Wells was so hot and sweaty, he sat down in July 1945 and wrote the opening lines down, he said, “to cool myself off.”

I always add parodies and “specialty” material to my holiday shows just to surprise. Last year we did a special set of Christmas songs as if Stephen Sondheim, a notable holiday grouch, might have written them. [Which you can watch in the video above].

It seems like holiday music is heard on the radio earlier and earlier each year, and the bounty of holiday songs is endless. Why do you think holiday music has become such a tremendous genre that resonates with so many people? I think it’s because the holidays—all of them, even if they have a religious basis (which I try to honor, I love to sing Chanukah songs!)—are the one time of year when people feel free to express their strongest emotions: love for family, a sense of the passing of time, the urge to keep faith with one another and with our ideals. In our busy lives, we may not have time to stop and take stock of our emotions, but at the holidays we do. And what better thermometer of our hearts is there than music?

And it’s a time of wistful feelings, too…a time of longing, which is an emotion I love to share with people, as in the beautiful, broken-hearted Broadway song “Hard Candy Christmas.” This year’s holiday show was titled “White Christmas & Other Colors”—an attempt to fill out the whole palette of Christmas feeling, all of the many red and green and golden tones.

You earned widespread acclaim starring as Betty Haynes in a Broadway revival of White Christmas! This show has such a long history. How was it living in that Christmas classic for an entire run, and are there any favorite memories from this show that you’d like to share?
Well, it was an honor to appear in that show, and I loved the charming Christmas costumes (especially the famous fur-trimmed gown known as “Big Red”) and the old-fashioned story and above all the Irving Berlin songs. Irving Berlin can sometimes seem like the simplest of the great songwriters—but it’s filled with emotion and meaning. “How Deep is The Ocean” and “Blue Skies” from that show have become part of my standard set list. And Berlin’s “How Deep Is the Ocean” became the lullaby I sing to my three daughters.

Speaking of…the thing I recall most about that show is that I was caring for three daughters, all under the age of three, if you can imagine, while I was appearing every night on Broadway! My two-and-a-half-year-old daughter had a multi-level Barbie dream house in my dressing room so she could play while I worked. A joyous but exhausting time!

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