A WIZ BANG PRODUCTION OF RAEF’S “HELP IS ON THE WAY XII HOLIDAY GALA.

A GREAT PRODUCTION of RAEF’s “HELP IS ON THE WAY XII HOLIDAY GALA

Rating: ★★★★★

“Help is on the Way for the Holidays” is always a must see event during the holidays. The sparkling revue is presented by the Richmond/Ermet AIDS Foundation whose mission is to raise funds, which are then distributed to a variety of AIDS services organizations. The Positive Resource Center and Maitri Compassion Care were the beneficiaries of the December 9th show.

This year holiday show featured such great celebrities as Davis Gaines, Jason Brock, Debbie Boone, Tim Hockenberry, Sharon McNight, Kim Nalley, Carly Ozard, Jai Rodriguez, Shawn Ryan, Ceci Sammy and funny man Bruce Vilanch. The glitzy show played at the Marine Memorial in San Francisco

The ritzy show opened with a great bang with Jason Brock and Jessica Coker rocking the house with “Winter Wonderland” and seguing into “Let it Snow”. Carly Ozard followed belting out “All I Want for Christmas” from “Nunsense” by Dan Goggin.

Petite 14 year old Veronica Powers did a bouncing arrangement of “Jingle Bell Rock”. Comic Bruce Vilanch came onto the stage saying “Hello I’m Carrie Underwood” to the amusement of the audience who must have seen Cariee in the TV version of “Sound of Music”. His patter was of course about San Francisco and also a great story of Noel Coward and the opening of the musical “Gone with the Wind” at the Drury Lane Theatre in London which I invested in this turkey” (“Noel Coward said of the young girl who played Bonnie in the second act. “There are two things that must be cut in the musical. The second act and the young girl’s throat”)

Following Bruce’s gig it was time for some serious singing and what better then Debbie Boone poignantly singing that lovely song “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” by Hugh Martin & Ralph Blane. Emmy Award television host and Broadway singer/performer Jai Rodriguez sang David Foster’s “My Grownup Christmas List”. Eight male members of the cast from “Book of Mormons” came onto the stage to beautifully sing “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” Four members of the cast stayed on stage to sing what is usually a song for a sexy female vocalist. One cast member backed by the other three sang in a high tenor voice Joan Javis and Philip Springer’s “Santa Baby”. I am sure Ertha Kitt would be jealous of the young man.

The wonderful Sharon McNight came onto to the stage to sing the hilarious “Santa Lost a Ho” with the audience joining in with those same words. The first act ended with Jason Brock returning to the stage to sing Scott Frederickson’s “I Believe I Can Fly” backed by Jessica Corker, Jennifer Corker, Sukuna Ueda and Michelle Ianiro.

During intermission an auction there occurred some dandy offerings. “Book of Mormon” package with a back stage tour plus two tickets to see Chita Rivera at the Venetian Room went for $800. A holiday cocktail tour with Liam Mayclem at the Ritz Carlton went for $600. A Six Night African Safari was split between two audience members who paid $4000 each for the tour. The final offering was a Puerto Vallarta Luxury Vacation that went for $2500.

The second act opened with the delightful cast of “Avenue Q” which is appearing at the New Conservatory Theatre Center. They with the enchanting puppets sang “It Sucks to be Me”. Cece Sammy who has been described as “The UK’s Vocal Whiz” did an unusual arrangement of “O Holy Night”. Following her was semi-finalist Tim Hockenberry who with his smoky voice sang George Harrison’s “Give Me Love”.

Kim Nally with her vibrant voice rocked out “Joy to the World”. Bruce Vilanch came back on stage to complain all of the songs so far were “Christian”. He said how about the Jews. Why are no songs about Hanukkah so Kim obliged by singing Tom Lehrer’s “Hanukkah in Santa Monica”.

Davis Gaines who performed the title role in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s “The Phantom of the Opera” over 2000 during his run on Broadway and Los Angeles powerfully sang David Friedman’s “We Can Be Kind” this was followed by Shawn Ryan dressed as a Christmas tree hilarious singing “Who put the Stump” with back up by Jessica and Jennifer Corker. Debbie Boone returned to the stage to heartrendingly sing Joseph Brooks’s “My Christmas Song”. The final performance was by Tom Lowe who starred in London West End productions of “Les Miserables” and “CATS” in the role of “Marius” and “The Rm Tum Tigger” singing Jeffrey Cornell’s “Christmas Lights”. The whole cast returned to the stage singing Irving Berlin’s “White Christmas”.