By: Gordon K. Smith
If last night’s snarky Kelly Clarkson’s Cautionary Christmas Special is any indication, the classic Christmas musical variety show of television past, the kind that featured Sinatra, Hope, Crosby or Andy Williams, is an endangered species. But here’s a way you can relive that experience live, up close and personal, with Dallas crooner Ricki Derek’s “A Merry Little Christmas Show”, celebrating its fifth year with two performances on Saturday, December 14th at Dallas’ historic Lakewood Theater. The show combines holiday traditionals with some originals and comedy breaks. We chatted with Derek at The Lakewood, one of the few surviving palace-style theaters in Dallas.
A longtime devotee of Frank Sinatra (his mother saw Ol’ Blue Eyes onstage, solo and with The Rat Pack), Derek left the film production biz after Sinatra’s death and opened Scat Jazz Lounge in Ft. Worth. “I put together an act more like a New York supper club, where I would talk to people, sing, do a whole bit, and have fun..bow tie, cigarette, martini…after Sinatra passed, people have a longing for that sound. I’m going to be true to it. I sing in the same key and manner. I teamed up with talented North Texas jazz people, guys who could help me get it done. The rest is history, there was no going back once I teamed up with educated musicians. We built this place with the help of Sundance Square in Ft. Worth. This show’s been sold out for two weeks there…In Ft. Worth, it’s more of a nightclub show. In Dallas, it’s a little trickier, old style glamorous. I got props – a door, a fake fireplace, more like the Bing Crosby show. We do a matinee show that’s a little more family oriented, and then we do the night show, which is a little more grown up, shall we say.”
The matinee show has become a big hit with kids, who last year spontaneously jumped out of their seats, came down to the front of the theater and started dancing to “Santa Claus” and “Holly Jolly Christmas”.
“I love that!”, Derek grinned. “They are little critics. I’m editing the matinee more than any other show. Let’s just cut to the chase! These kids don’t care about being sentimental, they want the goods. They have their own little riot! The matinee is a little more streamlined, but you get the same thing basically, including our female singer Rosanna Eckert, my buddy Nick, who does the comedic stuff, and other surprises.
That warm fuzzy feeling this time of year is just so much fun. At some point, it always hits me. I just lost my brother, and when I do the show this weekend it’s going to be very therapeutic to let my feelings come out through the music…it took me a few years to find this is what people want, this is what feels right, this is what I should do.
I’m a Lakewood guy, have been for awhile. My dream is to have this show be a tradition, a thing you do annually. And you can bring Grandma if you come to the night time show. You’re not going to hear anything near what you’d hear on most prime time TV shows!”
“A Merry Little Christmas Show with Ricki Derek” performs Saturday, December 14 at Lakewood Theater, with a 4pm Family Matinee and an 8:30pm nighttime show. For ticket info go to www.lakewoodtheater.com.