REVIEW: SLT Stars Sparkle in Wintry Mix Spectacular

Simone Mack-Orr

Concert venues and theatres in Spartanburg may be temporarily closed but arts organizations are not allowing Covid-19 to Bah Humbug the festive yuletide season. Spartanburg Ballet’s The Nutcracker, Spartanburg Philharmonic’s Twas the Night Before Christmas, and now Spartanburg Little Theatre’s Wintry Mix: A Sparkle City Holiday Sampler are all available in virtual editions.

This eclectic 10-song collection features 17 performers and musicians, many who have been associated with the company for years and starred in the theatre’s most popular plays and musicals.

First of all, let me say this release – available as streaming video, audio download, or CD pre-order – is a top-notch and professionally-produced endeavor recorded right here in Spartanburg at the state-of-the-art Studio 101, owned by the Guthrie musical family. And the entire recording process is documented in the video stream.

David and Lori Guthrie both contribute songs on this compilation and son Ian is engineer.

Starting off the track list is the one and only Anna-Elyse Lewis – Belle in Beauty and the Beast and Maggie in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof – with her smooth, sultry jazzy vocal stylings in Man with the Bag, the newest modern holiday classic in the holiday songbook by hip-hop artist Jessie J. Wow! If you’ve never seen Anna-Elyse in non-Broadway musical fare, this is your chance. Not all performers can switch up genres, but she is one of the finest vocalists in the Upstate.

Lori Guthrie (Steel Magnolias, Ring of Fire) chooses more traditional fare with her pitch perfect rendition of Dolly Parton’s Hard Candy Christmas, while husband David (Guys and Dolls), astounds in his gruff yet tender performance of Mary, Did You Know?, the Christian hit has been covered by artists such as Carrie Underwood and Pentatonix.

Jessie Cantrell (Xanadu) delights with = the slow feel-good ballad Merry Christmas Darling by The Carpenters’, LeRoy Kennedy (frequent music director and wearing a gorgeous sweater) nails it with The Christmas Song.

Logen Hall (The Hank Williams Story) covers Have Yourself a Merry Christmas, with a slight, new-country drawl.

Cooper Wolfe (Smokey Joe’s Cafe) closes out the album with Dan Folgelberg’s solemn Same Old Lang Syne with longtime music Director Ben Chumley on the keyboard. And this version is sweet and as good as the original.

There are two incredible duets featured on this compilation: Caroline Foster and Adam Sanders in I’ve Got My Love to Keep Me Warm and Simone Mack-Orr (Memphis) and K. Ray Jones (The Rocky Horror Show), who maintain an incredible simpatico beaming and blending their parts in the Leslie Odom, Jr. And Cynthia Erivo version of Winter Song.

But BJ Hollis (with backup vocals by Lyndora and Terry Walker) steals the show – so to speak – with their breathtaking spiritual You Are The Living Word. WOW!!! JUST WOW!!

Longtime musicians Josh Tennant on bass, Chumley, Shawn Allen on guitar, Kevin Heuer on drums are shown in the video performing with the vocalists and all of the singers say a few words about what Christmas means to them before each track.

Video production is by Ian O’Donnell and Brian Smith.

Wintry Mix: A sparkle City Holiday Sampler is available as a digital download or CD pre-order. Visit spartanburglittletheatre.com for details.

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