By Michael “Buzz” Buzzelli, ‘Burgh Vivant
Take an old-fashioned Perry Como Christmas special, replace the Canonsburg native with WQED’s Rick Sebak and set the whole thing in Pittsburgh and you have, “Yinzer Yuletide: Pittsburgh Lights and Legends.”
“Yinzer Yuletide: Pittsburgh Lights and Legends,” like those Perry Como Christmas specials of yore, have special guest stars pop in and out while Sebak, staying true to his brand, tells tales of Christmases long, long ago. Meanwhile, Nick Stamatakis tickles the ivories (and plays additional instruments).
Side note: Pittsburgh is offering a plethora of Christmas shows this season, with “The Carols,” and “The Santaland Diaries,” just don’t get “Yinzer Yuletide” mixed up with “Yinzer Scrooged” running at the Bricolage, or go to both shows!
In “Yizner Yuletide: Lights and Legends,” actual Pittsburgh legends like Lenora Nemetz and Etta Cox stop over at the top of the show. Then, we get Victory Brinker, fresh out of the box, literally and figuratively. The seven-year-old singer lights up the stage with operatic renditions of Christmas favorites, including a lovely song, written by Pittsburgh’s biggest and brightest star, the legendary Mr. Fred Rogers (who’s having a bit of a resurgence these days).
Josh Verbanets (Meeting of Important People, Josh & Gab Show) stops by for a lively rendition of the Kink’s “Father Christmas.”
We are also treated to Ben Prisbylla who plucks his ukulele to “Mele Kalikimaka,” and O’Ryan “the O’Mazing” Arrowroot who juggles some Christmas ornaments.
Sebak shows a few clips from his various TV specials that amp the nostalgia factor to an eleven. We get a behind-the-scenes look at the Kaufmann’s Christmas window display and a tour of the most decorated homes in Pittsburgh.
Note: While the clips ran, I spent the majority of my time counting the times Yinzer’s said, “Haas” instead of “House.” It’s hilarious.
Nemetz does a spectacular job singing, especially her breathless version of “Jingle Bells.” Cox is always amazing. But Brinker is clearly the star to watch. The child has a powerful voice and a fantastic addition to the Pittsburgh pantheon of legends.
Verbanets has a boyish charm, even when he’s rocking out to the Kinks. If you’ve never seen Meeting of Important People or the Josh & Gab Show, you’re missing another one of Pittsburgh’s hidden treasures.
Stamatakis stands out here. He is more than your average pianist. He is lively, charismatic and provides a great deal of the humor. Plus, Nemetz and Cox each gift him with silly accoutrement to wear throughout the show.
Verbanets, Stamatakis and Prisbylla (the world’s hardest-to-spell trio) perform a beautiful version of “We Three Kings” while wearing sparkly crowns. There is a joy and effervescence to the music they make.
“Yinzer Yuletide: Lights and Legends” is a lot like a Primanti’s sammie. Elements like Capicola, cheese, French fries and Cole slaw are disparate items to fill two thick slices of Mancini’s bread, much like a child opera prodigy, ukulele player, and a juggler seem like unlikely acts for a Christmas show, but, like the sandwich, it all works. Sebak adds thick slices of cheese. “Yinzer Yuletide: Lights and Legends,” much like a Primanti’s sandwich, is quintessentially Pittsburgh. Yinz should go n’nat.
P.S. Check out the windows in the O’Reilly on the way in. They are an extra special holiday treat to go with this show.
“Yinzer Yuletide: Pittsburgh Lights and Legends” runs until December 22 at the O’Reilly Theater, 621 Penn Avenue, Pittsburgh, PA 15222. For more information, click here.