Spreading good cheer and great tidings is just a thing that actor-comedians Jane Lynch and Kate Flannery do.
For Lynch, laughs come mostly from her longtime role as Sue Sylvester in the Fox Network musical comedy series “Glee,” as Sophie Lennon in the still-running Amazon streamer “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel,” and as a dry humored ensemble member of director-writer Christopher Guest’s mockumentaries such as “Best in Show” (2000), “A Mighty Wind” (2003) and “For Your Consideration” (2006).
For Philadelphia-born, University of the Arts-grad Flannery, renown comes mostly from her boozy portrayal of Meredith Palmer on the NBC series “The Office,” as well as guest shots on network programs “New Girl,” “Young Sheldon” and “Dancing with the Stars.”
Together, however, along with provoking laughs from Lynch’s Christmas album “A Swingin’ Little Christmas,” the pair is on the road – with “Glee” vocal arranger Tim Davis – singing and swaying to Claus-conscious music, with a two-show stop at downtown Philadelphia’s City Winery on Sunday. Lynch has made her holiday vocal showcase something of a tradition in the cabarets of New York City, so to bring it out, and air it around, is as fun for her as it is for her fan base.
If you don’t think that serious comics Lynch and Flannery can pull off the big croon, check out Lynch’s folk music leanings throughout “A Mighty Wind” and Flannery’s high voltage lounge lizard vocalizing as ‘Lady Puff,’ on Mono Puff’s album, “It’s Fun to Steal.”
“One of the things about this show, COVID or no, is that it’s a real toe-tapper,” Lynch told Vanyaland. “It’s Christmas, it’s fast-moving, you’ll recognize all of the music. But the wonderful thing about our music and the reason we wanted to make a Christmas album is because our favorite Christmas stuff — and everybody’s favorite Christmas stuff that we play over and over and over again — is music from the late ’50s or early ’60s. You know, the Bing Crosby stuff, the Perry Como, the Rosemary Clooney, the Andrews Sisters, that style of music that’s a little bit on the big band side, kind of jazzy, and swingy. That’s kind of Christmas to America, I think. That’s American Christmas music. That gets the toes tappin’ and it fills the heart with joy.”
When I got a hold of Lynch for a brief chat, the first thing I wanted to know was how she, Flannery and Davis got together in the first place for some Yuletide singing and swinging. Historically, the pair know each other from the Chicago stage scene, the Annoyance Theater and its legendary production of “The Real Live Brady Bunch,” where Flannery played Alice, the maid, and Lynch played mom Carol Brady.
“Kate, Tim and I had been touring together with the Tony Guererro Quintet for about two years when we decided to make a Christmas album,” says Lynch. “We all love that late 50s, early 60s musical vibe, kind of like big band and swing. We put together the album and then figured we might as well take it on the road! We’ve been touring this Xmas Show since 2016.”
Talking about the furiously funny folk roots that make up the whole of “A Mighty Wind,” Lynch says she was enthralled with being a part of that musical experience, both on film and its ensuing live tour with fellow film collaborators such as Harry Shearer and Michael McKean. “I was thrilled to be a part of A Mighty Wind, not just because it was another Christopher Guest movie, but because I love focusing on harmony vocals so much. And I love part-singing. I got to be a soprano for the new Main Street singers. My co-star John Michael Higgins is a genius and he arranged all the vocals. The music from this Christmas show we’re doing in Philly is also an ensemble effort and I love it. Tim, Kate and I sing very tight harmonies while the Tony Guerrero Quintet swings behind us.”
And while Metro doesn’t want to give away all of the secrets of the Swingin’ Little Christmas setlist, we can confess to knowing that its host of composers are all part of the Tin Pan Alley/Great American Songbook.
“I don’t know that the American composer songbook suits me best, but it is the music that I know best,” says Lynch. “That is the music that my dad loved and was some of the first music I ever heard and loved. It goes all the way from Irving Berlin to Cole Porter to Joni Mitchell to James Brown.”
A Christmas with James, Joni, Irving, Cole, Tim, Kate and Jane sounds as seasonably soulful and funky as it does sweetly swinging.