With the scope and scale of a Vegas lounge act and the square wholesomeness of “The Lawrence Welk Show,” the bland wassail of the Geffen Playhouse’s “Broadway Holiday” seems intended for the whole family but will mostly appeal to the grandfolks. The musical eggnog ladled out by producer-musical director-pianist Neil Berg, backed up by drums and bass, isn’t spiked.
Five thesps off duty from long-run Gotham service knock off a string of show tunes in act one, mostly overdone standards and only a few with any seasonal flair. “You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch” and “Hard Candy Christmas” are downers, while that holiday perennial “Cell Block Tango” from “Chicago” gives moms and dads a chance to explain to the kiddies what’s meant by “No. 17, the spread eagle.”
The season is better represented in act two, with tips of the Santa hat to Christmas religious (Ivan Rutherford’s “O Holy Night” is lovely) as well as Christmas secular (“Carol of the Bells”), not to mention Marc Kudisch’s cheeky reminder from “South Park” about being a “Lonely Jew” at this time of year.
But Broadway still predominates. Rita Harvey, whose outlandish “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” is neither merry nor little, delivers a solid “Think of Me” from “Phantom,” while Carter Calvert’s “Memory” almost makes you think you’re hearing this old chestnut for the first time.
Hoofer Jeffry Denman is always welcome, though he deserves a better showcase than recycling Gene Kelly’s overfamiliar “Singin’ in the Rain” moves.
The little concert is flanked by some beautiful trees, and you’ll wish you had wrapping paper as pretty as the rear projections.