There were no Santas, reindeer, leggy Rockettes or mangers on the Palace stage to celebrate the holiday season. Instead audiences settled in for a generous serving of glamour and gloss in the person of savvy legit star and recording artist Vanessa Williams. Hawking her new Lava Records CD, “Silver and Gold,” and getting a plug in for the February release of a love-song collection. In her four-day Gotham stand, Williams sang pretty for the people.
The singer put a funky new spin on traditional hymns and Christmas tunes — if that’s possible — from the calypso-flavored “Mary’s Boy Child” and the old English carol “What Child Is This?” to “The Little Drummer Boy,” braced by the assist of a spirited gospel choir.
Keeping nostalgic chatter to a minimum, Williams, gorgeously gowned and coiffured, recalled her youth, dotted by home movie clips.
A decided December delight was “Winter Weather,” a 1941 swing tune by Ted Shapiro that was introduced by the Benny Goodman band with his promising young singers Peggy Lee and Art Lund. Change of pace found Irish duo Cormac Breatnach and Martin Dunlea on penny flute and guitar, respectively, backing Williams for a fireside union of “The Holly and the Ivy.”
Thrush threw in a couple of her chart toppers, including “Save the Best for Last” and doing exactly that, Williams broke loose with a torrid dance, bookended by hunks Edgar Godineaux and Christian Perry. She unleashed considerable body heat and her formidable intrinsic sexuality turned feverish to the delight of the aud.
Encore was a sedate benedictory “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,” a warming sentiment that was first sung by a woman who made showbiz history at the Palace a half-century ago, Judy Garland.
Guitarist Rob Mathes fronted the small band with some vigorous acoustic guitar punctuation and the full-bodied string section of the orchestra provided a velvety cushion for the more reverent offerings.
A starry lighting design framed Williams distinctively throughout.