With a red scarf draped over the shoulders of his all-black attire, the magnetic, 84-year-old Mr. Aiello is physically limber as he reminisces about his improvised New York City childhood, sings “Silver Bells,” and dances during the finale. Aiello’s smooth, old-time crooning and authentic persona that combines pugnaciousness and gentleness is an antidote to the hollow proceedings.
The Bachelorette’s Kaitlyn Bristowe is the event’s nominal host. No writer is credited for the saccharine patter between the numbers.
American Idol winner Candice Glover, The Voice’s Josh Kaufman, America’s Got Talent’s Bianca Ryan and the attractive, married couple Peter Hollens and Evynne Hollens, who are popular on YouTube, comprise the youthful cast. They all bulldoze their way through more than 20 classics. The vocal grandstanding is matched with overly expressive gestures and grimaces that invariably crush the meanings of the songs.
“Do You Hear What I Hear,” “O Come All Ye Faithful,” “O Holy Night,” “All I Want for Christmas Is You,” and “Joy to the World” are among the perennials that get brisk and overblown treatments. There are also medleys and an original song.
The beauty and sadness of “The Little Drummer Boy” is egregiously obliterated by its characteristically, heavy-handed rendition sung by alternating cast members.
Wardrobe stylist James Brown III has the company change from formal, to red to glittery outfits.
Creative and musical director Jonathan Tessero and the band realize the familiar roster with liveliness and lush sentimentality. Luke Stafford on tenor saxophone and Addison Evans on baritone sax have some showy solos and a fun duet battle. Enrique Sanchez on trumpet, Justin Rothberg on guitar, Winston Roye, on bass, Rodney Howard on drums, Justin Jones on percussion and Jacob Yates on cello are the rest of the accomplished troupe.
Mr. Tessero’s creative direction is a straightforward concert-style presentation of efficiently moving from one song to another, configured as solos and group numbers. The basic scenic design of some large, white cut outs of Christmas trees and projected snowflakes on curtains is all an appropriate, festive visual accompaniment.
Bruce Landon Yauger’s sound design ably and loudly enhances the histrionics. Jason Kantrowitz’s lighting design proficiently conveys cheeriness and wistfulness with brightness and muted hues.
Depending on one’s sensibilities Home for the Holidays could be pleasant, seasonal fare or bring on a headache.
Home for the Holidays (through December 30, 2017)
Chart Breakers Live! and Michael J. Guccione
August Wilson Theatre, 245 West 52nd Street, in Manhattan
For tickets, call 877-250-2929 or visit http://www.holidaysonbroadway.com
Running time: 85 minutes with no intermission