What a year. What a year for the arts x 100.
“There are those of us who make our livelihood when people gather on mass. Those of us who share that, which we have created with anyone willing to occupy the same space.”
Shoshana Bean’s powerful opening to Sing Your Hallelujah reflects this sentiment and then some.
In 2018, Broadway star and Billboard #1 recording artist, Shoshana Bean began a holiday tradition of performing sold-out shows at Harlem’s iconic Apollo Theatre. She continued this concert in 2019 and had no choice but to adapt it for 2020…you know, given, the times. Though this year’s concert event certainly looked different, the warmth felt the same. Actually, I would argue the entire show resonated deeper.
This year’s event, which premiered on Saturday December 12th, 2020 at 9 pm EST through Stellar (a new premium streaming service designed for live performances) was impressively directed by Amy Segal (Schitt’s Creek: Best Wishes, Warmest Regards) and produced by For The Record and David Haring. Throughout the course of the 85 minutes, Shoshana Bean takes us on a holiday musical celebration that highlights the positives of art and togetherness, even in a year that has looked so bleak for many people, especially artists.
Bean was in stellar (no pun intended) company throughout the evening. She was joined by Tony and Olivier Award Winner Gavin Creel (Hello, Dolly! Hair, Thoroughly Modern Millie), Broadway, TV, and film star, Jeremy Jordan (The Last Five Years, Newsies, Supergirl) Britain’s Got Talent’s Connie Talbot, recording artist Shayna Steele, and Tony nominee Daniel J. Watts (Tina, Hamilton). All featured artists brought something unique and thrilling to the special, making the audience yearn for live theatre, but also helping to fill a void and bring the arts community together.
In many ways, Sing Your Hallelujah felt like an ode to finding light in the darkest of situations. The imminent situation being the entire year of 2020 and all that it symbolizes for the arts and theatre industry. Shoshana’s vision of reflection and celebration of the arts, really shined throughout the special and gave the audience hope for an artistic renaissance post Covid-19. Her view of spirituality and its connection to performance is fascinating, positive, and one could say holy, regardless of what or who you believe in. Her ability to choose and perform selections from all religions, belief systems, and holidays felt secular and inviting. Days later, I am still thinking about her moving performance of Hatikvah (Israeli National Anthem) as well as Jared Grimes’ mind-blowing tap routine. Daniel J. Watts’ spoken word performance is one that exuded power and meaning.
Notable shout-outs to musical director, arranger, and pianist, David Cook as well as Richard Hammond on bass, Rob Macatangay on guitar, and Matt Musty on drums. The renditions of these holiday classics felt revitalized while tugging on the heartstrings of nostalgia. Shoshana and Jeremy Jordan’s “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas” duet was warm and delightful and was exactly what we needed to hear during this bizarre and trying holiday season.
I would be remiss if I didn’t highlight and celebrate the venue and show appreciation for the fact that this special was shot at The Apollo Theater during a time when theatres are seeing no business. The Apollo Theater has been a cultural New York landmark since 1914, hosting iconic artists such as James Brown, Aretha Franklin, and so many more. It’s a staple of Black history and vital to continue to give artists opportunities to perform there, especially during these times. Personally, I also loved that they showed footage from the day they shot the special, which happened to be the day that Joe Biden and Kamala Harris secured the 2020 General Election. The power of art and empathy knows no bounds. Producing Sing Your Hallelujah at The Apollo connected the performance to the audience even further. It felt like theatre fans were being invited home.
Sing Your Hallelujah is available on-demand on Stellar through January 2, 2021. It will bring joy and music into your homes and hearts. For more information, please visit: https://www.singyourhallelujah.com/