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MUSIC | Linda Eder comes "Home for the Holidays" to the Pantages Theatre
As I sit to write this review, I'm noshing on a friend's first attempt at homemade lefse, which was wrapped in a Winnie the Pooh Christmas baggie. She made this sweet effort as it's the first year her very Norwegian mother can't make it herself. This juxtaposition of traditional taste presented in an oh-so-sweet but Disneyfied package resonates with me as a metaphor for the recent Linda Eder "Home for the Holidays" concert at the Pantages Theatre.
The concert featured lovely, traditional, familiar music sung with slightly over-the-top styling (it's abundantly clear that Judy Garland and Barbra Streisand are two of Eder's heroines), but the performance was strong, sincere, and sweet. I'm having a second helping of the lefse, and I'm sure that many audience members will be returning to Eder's show next year, too.
Eder sang with spirit, an abundance of talent, and the experience that, one supposes, only performing on Broadway can give you. (Or appearances on The Late Show with David Letterman, The Rosie O'Donnell Show, and Live with Regis and Kathie Lee.) Upon entering, the usher gushed to us that he specifically asked to work that night just to hear Eder perform, and her fans were saying, "This was the best show I've ever heard from her," upon exiting.
The solo show opened to big, big applause and an extraordinary seven-piece band. A simple stage background with slightly annoying light-filtered "snowflakes" and other winter elements accompanied the entire performance. Ms. Eder took the stage wearing a black velvet jacket and thigh-high boots. She looked terrific (she's 29, right?!), and led the show off with a campy and sassy "Here Comes Santa Claus."
Ms. Eder often sang the holiday and Broadway selections in medleys, using a jazzy interpretation to move between numbers like "I'll Be Home for Christmas," "Let It Snow," and "Silver and Gold." Clearly she has a defined style, and she wore it well: proud to soften melodies as needed yet belt them out when she liked. Big applause again when she sang some of the Broadway tunes she's known for, including Judy Garland hit "Almost Like Being in Love" and "Someone Like You" from Jekyll and Hyde.
Throughout the evening Eder made conversation with the audience and acknowledged her family sitting front and center. Considering the name of the show, it was endearing to know that she's well loved and supported here at "home." There were some unrehearsed moments including missed introductions (at one point she began singing one song while her pianist began playing another—oops!), made-up lyrics for forgotten lines, and stories that needed more interesting story lines. But all that added to a charm that did make you feel as if you were in Eder's home during the holidays. She shared her passion for hanging Christmas lights as medicine to chase away any holiday blues, and expressed true empathy for those who find frustration with the season. She's a heartfelt and sincere performer, and based on her on-stage musings, a sincere person as well.
She gave a stellar perfomance of "The First Noël" that left me breathless, and a "Silent Night" overture was epic. I think I still have goosebumps. A strong ending incorporating "All By Myself" seemed fitting. And the ovation performance of her hit "Vienna" left the crowd cheering.
A treat was the addition of a chorus composed of high school theatre performers who are part of the SpotLight Music Program, a Hennepin Theatre Trust program supporting high school musical performers; Eder just signed on as the program's spokeswoman. Eder stepped in as conductor as the chorus sang, and clearly enjoyed herself, which was refreshing to see as it's a great thing when a "local talent" succeeds under the bright lights of Broadway and still has time to return to her roots and support young talent.
Eder's voice is now a Minnesota legend, and her Home for the Holidays show will most likely be one, too. Like the eighth floor auditorium show at Dayton's—er, Macy's—Eder's voice has staying power whatever the presentation might be.
©2011 Jay Gabler