New West melts hearts with Christmas spirit

If  Christmas cheer could melt  ice and snow off winter roads as well as it could melt an old Grinch’s heart, New West Theatre could make a fortune.
According to me,  anytime before Dec. 24 is too early to celebrate Christmas, but ‘Christmas Melodies,’ happening  Dec. 1-5 at  the  Dec. 1-5 run  at College Drive Community Church (2710 College Drive South), was almost enough to make me change my mind. Scott Walker, Erica Hunt, Mark Nivet and Kathy Zaborsky reheaerse. Photo By Richard Amery
 Backed by the Lethbridge Big Band, a 20 member orchestra  Erica Hunt, Mark Nivet, Kathy Zaborsky, Scott Carpenter and Big Band singer George Gallant, all took turns taking solos and turning heads.
The orchestra included including the Herb Hicks Jazz trio and New West Theatre music director Paul Walker.
The cast, the girls dressed in red dresses and the guys in black tuxedos supplied beaming smiles, jokes and hair-raising vocal harmonies.
 Some highlights were Mark Nivet’s high notes on “All I Want for Christmas is You,” which included a strong R and B feel. And Erica  Hunt brought a sexy vamp to “Santa Baby.” George Gallant’s version of “Christmas Blues” was moving and one example of the singers being drowned out by the band.
The band itself was superb, they got to show off on the instrumental “Skyliner,”  and the Herb Hicks Trio showed off their improv skills ands Scott Carpenter, knocking down Erica Hunt  in the process, got an audience  member to pull a song title out of a brown paper  bag for the band to come up with an arrangement of “Autumn Leaves” on the spot.
Another impressive vocal feat was between Carpenter and Nivet, doing the Bing Crosby-David Bowie’s “Little Drummer  Boy” and “Peace  On Earth,” with  Carpenter singing ‘Drummer Boy’ and Nivet simultaneously singing “Peace on Earth,” but alternated in the middle of the number.
The cast changed outfits for the second set, with the girls dressed in black dresses and the guys in red.
Kathy Zaborsky was the highlight of this set with “The Man With The Bag” and her soprano voice stood out in an impressive four part harmony of “I’ll Be Home for Christmas.”
Everyone got together for a well done medley of about a dozen Christmas standards to wind up the show, which included a percussion solo during “Jingle Bells.”
The show begins at 7 p.m. each night with an additional 1 p.m. matinee on Saturday.
— By Richard Amery, L.A. Beat editor