One fun couple’s Christmas cabaret

‘Naughty & Nice: A Meg and Billy Christmas” — this week’s holiday fare at the Aurora Theatre — refers to Bay Area artists Meg Mackay and Billy Philadelphia, who are presenting highly eclectic music by Sondheim, Arlen and Gershwin and,  appropriate to the season, Christmas songs.

Mackay, a multiple award-winning singer, is particularly fond of the old Appalachian folk song “I Wonder as I Wander,” which she hasn’t sung since childhood.

The song, based on music John Jacob Niles found in the 1930s in North Carolina, is “a great curveball, an odd duck, something you weren’t expecting,” says Mackay.

She’ll also sing “Mrs. Claus” by local artists Candace Forest (music) and Nancy Schimmel (lyrics).

Schimmel, Philadelphia says, happens to be the daughter of the late, great Malvina Reynolds.  He says, “Nancy and I have written a couple of tunes together and she is working on a biography of her mom.  I’ve been doing ‘Mrs. Claus’ for years in the hope that someone famous will hear it and want to record it.”

The pair are making sure there is a judicious limit to the nice elements of the show.

“I love working with my husband and doing the married schtick,” Mackay says, “We always try to mix it up with a healthy variety of songs and styles, with plenty of humor thrown in. Since it’s Christmas we’re doing some holiday tunes, but not enough to make you nauseous.”

Philadelphia, a busy pianist in the Bay Area for more than 25 years, says at three points during the show, an audience member is asked to spin the wheel with “Worst Christmas Song Ever” entries on it.

After recordings of the selections are played (no more than 20 seconds, Philadelphia promises), the audience votes to pick the worst.

The couple, which returns to the stage where they presented their Cole Porter Christmas show some five years ago, calls this year’s presentation “a smorgasbord, a little nosh, a melange, with a good dose of the Great American Songbook, some comedic songs, an original or two, some witty banter and boogie woogie.”

The program includes everything from the Kander-Ebb “Cellophane” through the Mercer-Arlen “Come Rain or Come Shine” to Tom Lehrer’s “A Christmas Carol,” Rogers & Hammerstein, Steve Martin’s “Atheists Ain’t Got No Songs” and Irving Berlin’s “White Christmas,” with a dozen other numbers in-between.


IF YOU GO

Naughty & Nice: A Meg and Billy Christmas


Where: Aurora Theatre, 2081 Addison St., Berkeley

When: 7:30 p.m. Friday-Saturday, Dec. 21-23 and Dec. 28-30

Tickets:
$25

Contact: (510) 843-4822, www.auroratheatre.org

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