Ahead of their Feinstein’s/54 Below concerts, Tony Award winner Beth Leavel (The Drowsy Chaperone), Tony nominee Norm Lewis (The Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess), Broadway alum Christine Pedi (Chicago), and The Band Visit’s associate director Seth Sikes shared their favorite holiday traditions with Playbill.
“I’m a Christmas freak!” Leavel confesses. “I can’t get that tree up fast enough.”
Pro tip: Leave the former Prom star alone if you see her sniffing Christmas trees on the sidewalk. “If someone comes up and asks, ‘Are you alright?’ I’ll be like, ‘Shhhh, don’t talk to me.’” She loves her fans, of course, but the aura of Christmas is her happy place, and won’t want interruptions.
Leavel even drove to a mall to look at the Christmas decorations after she found out that she’d be playing Miranda Priestly in The Devil Wears Prada on stage. “I felt so overwhelmed and joyous! I had to look just walk around. It makes me feel wonderful.”
Her upcoming solo show It’s Not About Me (January 14–20) at the midtown cabaret venue will most certainly offer holiday songs as well as showtune staples from the roles in her career. In fact, Leavel wants the audience to be involved—she wants her set list to be rooted in requests. Leavel’s music director will prepare everything the performer ever sung. So if you ask for “There is a Santa Claus” from Elf, don’t be surprised to hear the Tony winner say “Hit it!”
The performer returns to Feinstein’s/54 Below for the fifth year running with his show Naughty and Nice. He enjoys laying low at home this time of year. “There’s so much good chaos going on, I’m usually traveling to do Christmas shows and concerts, so my quiet time is very important,” he says.
The holidays are the Broadway star’s favorite time of year, but it’s important that his music isn’t just about Christmas. It might sound cliché (his words), but The Norm Lewis Christmas Album features songs that also embody the spirit of the holidays like “Home” and “My Favorite Things.”
As for the show itself, Lewis says, “It’s like you’re coming to my house—it’s a hang out.” He plans to embody the vibe of his heroes like the Rat Pack and Johnny Matthis. One particular song the Broadway star is excited to sing? “I Want to Be Home For Christmas” by Marvin Gaye, who features heavily on the soundtrack to Spike Lee’s upcoming film Da Five Bloods starring the Tony nominee and others.
In her colo concert Snow Business (December 20 & 29), Pedi will offer holiday fair but in the voices of stage favorites. Think Liza Minnelli singing “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.” Of course, the Chicago alum has plenty of traditions all her own.
At home, she relishes mounting an incredibly overpriced table-top Christmas tree. “I carry it home like Meg Ryan in When Harry Met Sally.” Then, she covers her door with red tin foil and puts a bow on it. Once the decorations are set, it’s time to start baking. Filled with dried apricots, plums, cherries, currants, golden raisins, and chocolate chips, this is not your typical fruit cake. “After it’s made, you pierce holes and pour port wine over it every morning and evening for days. It is the most moist and delicious thing!”
On top of that, Pedi builds a Dickensian holiday village with her mom and enjoys singing carols by Fred Waring and the Pennsylvanians—the latter of which audiences will her at her Snow Business performance.
Sikes can usually be found wrapped around the piano at a bar on New Year’s Eve, so his concert at Feinstein’s/54 Below won’t be much different.
“When they asked me to do it, I realized it was it was going to be 2020,” says Sikes. “It’s perfect because I’ve been wanting to do a ‘20s revue show for a while now.” Known for his takes on songs by female chanteuses—from Judy Garland to Benadette Peters—the crooner will tackle Josephine Baker, Ethel Waters, Sophie Tucker, and more.
Before that, though, Sikes will celebrate the holidays by traveling home to Texas, as he does most years, to sleep late, watch A Christmas Story, and exchange gifts with family. “My mom makes decadent Martha Washingtons, which are balls of coconut and nuts dipped in chocolate! And my grandmother makes dessert Christmas wreaths, which are green marshmallowy cereal chunks topped with red hots. They look like real little wreaths and they make your mouth green all day.”
With so many different traditions to share, audiences are sure to find whatever suits their palate.
For more information and tickets, visit 54Below.com.