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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Seasonal showcase

Vocalists bring favorites, nonstandard fare to pair of holiday shows on the Bing stage

This weekend, the Bing Crosby Theater is offering up two holiday-themed vocalist showcases just in time for Christmas: “Harmony for the Holidays,” which stars tenor Jonathan Mancheni and soprano Isabella Ivy, and “Christmas at the Bing,” a night of music hosted by Douglas Webster and featuring performances from several vocalists, including locals Krista Kubicek and Max Mendez.

“Harmony” is a sort of two-hander featuring Mancheni and Ivy, trained opera singers who have been dating for a little over a year. The program is a mixture of standard Christmas classics (“O Come All Ye Faithful,” “White Christmas,” “Baby, It’s Cold Outside”) and less traditional picks, such as “Let’s Drink from the Joyful Cup” from Giuseppe Verdi’s opera “La Traviata” and “Lonely House” from the 1946 musical “Street Scene.”

Mancheni, 26, is a Spokane native and a Mead High School graduate, and he’s currently pursuing his masters in vocal performance at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. He is also a member of the administrative staff at the American Institute of Musical Studies in Graz, Austria.

“Music is hard, because it’s kind of like you’re a nomad,” he said. “The music department (at UNLV) is relatively small, but I’ve got a fantastic teacher. And that’s what kept me there to get my masters, for sure.”

After he finishes his degree, Mancheni hopes to move to the East Coast, or back to Europe, where he will be auditioning for young artists programs. “Five years ago, I was saying, ‘I want to be singing at the Met,’ ” Mancheni said. “I haven’t made it there yet, but I’m still working on that.”

As for working closely with his significant other, Mancheni says performing with Ivy has been rewarding. “You’d think that two musically minded people would butt heads a lot, but we really work well off one another,” he said. “It all comes down to taking healthy criticism, and we both can take each other’s criticisms.”

Variety show

“Christmas at the Bing,” which takes place Saturday night, is a similar affair to “Harmony for the Holidays.” It’s a night of yuletide standards hosted by Douglas Webster, who has performed on Broadway in “Les Misérables.” Webster says he stepped in as emcee as a favor for his friend Jadd Davis, the new artistic director the Coeur d’Alene Summer Theater, who put the program together. “It’s really the vision of Jadd Davis, mixing a perfect party of performers, and I trust his instinct,” Webster said.

The participating vocalists – alongside Mendez and Kubicek are Krista Curry, Jenny Shotwell and Chelsea LeValley – selected the songs they’ll perform; Webster will take the reins on “O Holy Night” and “Believe,” an Oscar-nominated ballad from the 2004 film “The Polar Express,” and will lead a rendition of Irving Berlin’s “White Christmas.”

“It’s a number of really fine vocalists who are sharing their own personal songs,” Webster said.

It’s like a holiday variety show, and Webster said that part of the appeal of a program like “Christmas at the Bing” is its informal nature. “It should be a relaxed evening,” he said. “I got the specific note to leave my tux in the closet. So I’ll be coming out in my favorite Christmas sweater.

“And as soon as I read that,” Webster added, “I immediately thought of the television shows hosted by Perry Como and Andy Williams. It’s going to be some really lovely high-level singing but with a down-home charm.”