‘Rockabilly Christmas’ in Manhattan is worth the trip

These days, I am very particular on which events I attend, and I sure am glad I chose to attend the Original Rockabilly Christmas for its premier Nov. 26, a live performance from vocalist/entertainer Shea Arender at the Swing 46 Jazz and Supper Club on West 46th Street in New York City.

I honestly did not know what to expect other than this was going to be a show with upbeat Christmas songs. Much to my surprise, it was upbeat Christmas songs, indeed; however, it was mostly songs from Elvis Presley’s Christmas catalogue.

For me, that meant Christmas came early.

Every Christmas, my entire life, all that was and is still heard is Elvis Christmas music. This was the perfect way for me personally to kick off the feeling of Christmas. The club itself is notoriously famous for hosting legends such as Liza Minelli, the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra and even Don Most from “Happy Days.”

The atmosphere was pure old time jazz club with a speakeasy feel and extremely comfortable. Smack dab in the middle of Restaurant Row in NYC, you can enjoy many entertainers with a delicious meal but on this night, it was Shea Arender.

The Girl Behind the Curtain Productions and Arender himself, put together this wonderful ensemble of a seven-piece band and two female background vocalists, which sounded much fuller than you would expect, and the sound quality was pitch perfect. Not only do you get to enjoy great music in this blast from the past atmosphere, but with the purchase of your ticket, you get a three-course meal — and the food was delicious.

The show was powerful and constantly moving.

Arender, of course, threw in Elvis moves and you could see he had no control of what he was doing. The music itself took over his body. It ran through him and just moved him to every beat of the drum and every note played.

Arender took us through a walk of the history of Rockabilly. Hailing from Louisiana, Arender spoke of the Louisiana Hayride, which Elvis himself had performed on in the early days of his career. Rockabilly is one of the earliest styles of rock, but to get more details on it, you will love how Arender explains it. He not only tells the story of Rockabilly, but he does it with music.

Along with this orchestra were Arender’s extremely talented backup singers, Sarah Hayes and Jade Litaker. Both took a few solo spots but were always filling the background on key and making the vocals even more powerful.

Not only will you hear classic Christmas songs at this event, you will also hear some early good old rock/rockabilly songs such as “Blue Suede Shoes,” “Boppin in the Blues,” “Great Balls of Fire” and more.

Arender’s vocals were impeccable, specifically when doing the Elvis tunes. When Arender is not performing in New York for The Original Rockabilly Christmas show, he is an American Symphony producer, vocalist, arranger and songwriter, entrepreneur, Broadway producer and is the CEO/owner of the Las Vegas Symphony Orchestra.

Since July 2013, he has been executive producing Harold Arlen’s Broadway Estate musical “The Wonderful Wizard of Song” musical, first taking the show to New York City for a two-year off-Broadway run and a one-year Broadway touring production.

The Harold Arlen 550 song catalog is one of the largest music catalogs in American music history, and he is most proud of this work keeping one of the greatest songbooks alive and in Broadway theaters around the world.  When not performing on stage and producing around the world, he partakes in his love for the Rockabilly era by recording the classics of Sun Studios era and collecting vintage items like the mint condition, original 1957 Pink Cadillac previously owned by the King himself.

The show currently has a limited engagement and runs through Dec. 3. If you are going to see the tree in Rockefeller Center and take in the Christmas scene, start the evening off with great entertainment to get you in the Christmas mood and enjoy a wonderful meal while enjoying great music.

You may catch the show Thursdays and Friday at 6 p.m. For tickets and to receive a 10% discount, go to www.rockabillychristmasnyc.com and enter the code: rockabilly10.

To hear more about Shea Arender, please listen back to my interview with him on www.applauseradioshow.com. You may also listen to my interview with singer/songwriter Lisa Panagos Nov. 30 at 9 p.m. to win tickets to see singer Amy Grant.




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JoAnn Barton | Special to The Observer

Jo-Ann Barton is a singer/songwriter and musician for the past 25+ years who contributes entertainment-related stories to The Observer. Her last CD, 'POP and CIRCUMSTANCES,' spawned a number one hit song at college radio stations throughout the United States, including Hawaii, in 2001. She is the host of the Applause Radio Show, a platform JoAnn brings to an ever-growing audience tuning into listen to their favorite celebrities.