Theatre Review: ‘Courtenay’s Cabaret: Home for the Holidays’

Photos by Greg Mooney

Atlanta and Broadway actor, singer, and entertainer Courtenay Collins is bringing her holiday cabaret back to Atlanta at the Hertz Stage of the Alliance Theatre. She delighted audiences there in 2016, and it is certainly a welcome time for an encore. “Courtenay’s Cabaret: Home for the Holidays,” directed by Susan V. Booth, will run through Dec. 24.

You may be thinking, “Oh, I’m so rushed and frazzled that I don’t have time for a show—even if I know it will raise my endorphins.” You must squelch those grinch thoughts right now; this show is exactly what you need.

Courtenay (she’s on a first-name basis with her audience) will welcome you into her beautiful parlor, designed by Kat Conley. As Ms. Booth mentions in the program, we need some joy in the world now, and it so happens that joy is Courtenay Collins’ speciality.

This is a completely charming evening of music, patter, and surprises that you will not want to end. Of course it doesn’t hurt that Ms. Collins is an accomplished performer: endearing, funny, magnetic, and blessed with a lovely, flexible singing voice. The emphasis is on popular, seasonal songs, with a couple of esoteric numbers thrown in.

Ms. Collins also welcomes and chats with a mystery guest or two each night, including various celebrities, musicians, and fellow performers. The night I saw the show Courtenay welcomed Atlanta actor Eric Mendenhall, costumed for “A Christmas Carol,” playing upstairs; then she greeted the terrific jazz pianist Joe Alterman, who performed two numbers; he was sensational. You’ll find that Courtenay knows a lot of people.

Director Susan Booth further says, “All you have to do is spend a few minutes in the orbit of Courtenay Collins and you get so impossibly infused with light that you startle yourself. Your heart does that grinch thing where he breaks the magnifying glass.” Yet Ms. Collins knows that there are many who feel lonely or depressed during the holidays, and she tellingly addresses the situation—and is herself an excellent remedy for holidays blues.

She also asks her audience to seek unity in a time of much national unease and division—and on top of that she has elves dispense cookies to all her guests! She entertains audiences with a mix of scripted and improvised holiday cheer. She is the very definition of charm and poise.

But she doesn’t do it all alone. She has three trusted musicians assisting her; they’re part of the show. They are Jo Lynn Burks (also music director), Scott Glazer, and Quinton “Q” Robinson. Lighting design is by Liz Lee; sound design, Clay Benning.

And as members of the audience, we are Courtenay’s guests, and guests definitely participate in the party. That’s all I will say on this subject, except not to worry: Any audience participation is both easy and voluntary. Unless you’re wearing an ugly Christmas sweater, that is; then you may have a problem. (I’m kidding; although Courtenay does do some fun holiday sweater schtick.)

I would strongly suggest you spend an evening in Ms. Collins’ opulent parlor, enjoy some excellent music, and let yourself be entertained by a professional, radiant singing actress. If you have any trace of holiday daze, “Courtenay’s Cabaret” may wipe it all away.

For tickets and information, visit alliancetheatre.org.

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