Maureen McGovern: Putting Our Hands Out in Time for the Holidays

Written by Doug Strassler on . Posted in Arts & Film, Music.


It’s been forty years since Maureen McGovern launched to pop stardom, the singer admits close to the beginning of “Home for the Holidays,” the seasonal cabaret performance running through Saturday at 54 Below. That was when her first hit, “The Morning After,” the theme from The Poseidon Adventure, won an Oscar and earned her a Best New Artist Grammy nomination. McGovern recounts that year’s roster included the odd mix of Eumir Deodato, Marie Osmond, Barry White, and eventual winner, Bette Midler.

The honey-voiced singer recalls that and other highlights from her career as she songs of the season, exhibiting an attitude that is grateful not just for her success for the collaborators and fans that have made it so. And so the evening is full of chestnuts both somber and comedic. She delivers a powerful rendition of “Mary, Did You Know?” and scats her way through “Caroling, Caroling.” She brings the house down with such staples as “Here Comes Santa Claus” and “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” – the latter of which gets an assist from bassist Jay Leonhart as Santa Claus himself, arriving at the airport and awaiting his own limousine.

Audience members will also be reminded that McGovern’s voice is rich enough to lend itself to radio play as well, as she reads two novelty cooking songs once performed on Garrison Keillor’s show, “Mrs. Fogarty’s Christmas Cake” and “The First Nouvelle,” about two different sets of unappetizing Christmas treats. The humor extends to Tom Lehrer ditties like “I’m Spending Hanukkah in Santa Monica” as well, and “Santa Chopstix.”

Other numbers included a cover of Barbra Streisand’s “Ordinary Miracles” as part of a tribute to the late Marvin Hamlisch and “The Christmas Tree,” co-written by accompanist Jeffrey Harris (with Judy Bowen). McGovern does sing “Morning After,” as well, as an inspirational, but that’s about it for her catalog of hits. Another song from Harris and Bowen, “Another Woman in Love,” goes mentioned but unsung. “Can You Read My Mind,” her love theme from Richard Donner’s first Superman movie, never even gets a mention.

McGovern concludes with one other familiar standby: “Auld Lang Syne,” at which point I reminded my date that the passengers chorusing to this in The Poseidon Adventure didn’t fare so well. But those at 54 Below had no reason to worry. McGovern remains in ship shape.

Maureen McGovern performs through Saturday at 54 Below, 254 West 54th Street, (646) 476-3551, www.54below.com.

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