REVIEW: SHOSHANA BEAN CELEBRATES THE HOLIDAYS AT THE APOLLO

Shoshana BeanAt one point during her annual holiday concert at The Apollo on Monday, Shoshana Bean described how she first came across and became a member of the Broadway Inspirational Voices. She was looking for a spiritual outlet that paired with her insatiable love of singing. Though she’s Jewish, joining Broadway’s first gospel chorus brought her closer to God than she ever felt before. She described the experience as cracking open and finding a previously untapped source of healing and spiritual meaning.

It’s no surprise to hear how deeply Bean—who will absolutely win a Tony Award this year for Hell’s Kitchen (you heard it here first!)—feels her music. The musical theater goddess cracks her audiences open the same way the Broadway Inspirational Voices did for her years ago. When she performs, her soul commands her stunning voice in a way that makes her a truly singular talent. Her audiences feel every note in their bones as Bean always delivers a vocal masterclass, all while in an array of beautiful Christian Siriano gowns.

Headlining Harlem’s World-Famous Apollo Theater for the sixth time, Bean opened the show with Mariah Carey’s “All I Want for Christmas Is You,” delivering the only cover of the classic song with vocals that rival the original version. She mashed it up with Darlene Love’s “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home),” kicking off the evening with high-octane festivity and holiday cheer.

When the Broadway Inspirational Voices came onto stage for a full-circle moment to sing “For Every Mountain” with the songstress, the audience was quite literally taken to church. Bean lay her soul bare on the stage as the choir enhanced her impassioned performance. It was an unforgettable highlight in an evening full of showstoppers and flawless singing (even despite numerous technical malfunctions).

Throughout the evening, Bean sang Christmas standards such as “Jingle Bells” and “O Holy Night.” She also featured a few Hanukkah songs in the program, including “Rock of Ages,” “Ocho Kandelikas” – sang in Ladino, the language of Bean’s ancestors – and the Stephen Schwartz-penned “We Are Lights” featuring guest performer Kristin Chenoweth.

Shoshana Bean

During their duet, the Wicked alumni both wore Chenoweth’s signature Glinda pink and held hands as they exclaimed their mutual love for one another. Chenoweth’s high G at the end of the song reverberated through the historic venue long after the iconic soprano left the stage. When Bean was first sent the song by Chenoweth to listen to, she told her friend “This sounds like my people.” The hopeful and moving song emphasized the call for peace, joy, and love that Bean spoke to while describing what it feels like to be Jewish in today’s world. It’s a theme that came up several times and made the encore performance of “Someday at Christmas” especially impactful.

A surprise guest who joined Bean on stage was country musician and Waitress star Jennifer Nettles. The duo performed the arrangement of Kenny Loggins’ “Celebrate Me Home” that appears on Nettles’ To Celebrate Christmas album. Their belt-off at the end of the song was next-level, and the sound of their two unique styles blending was a decadent treat for the audience.

Shoshana Bean

Another guest performer that joined Bean for a duet was popstar Betty Who. Currently starring in Broadway’s Hadestown, Who played piano and the two of them sang a stirring and ethereal rendition of Joni Mitchell’s “River.” While Shucked star Alex Newell was slated to perform with Bean as well, the Tony Award-winner unfortunately came down with an illness. Instead, he cheered his friend on from the audience and promised to join her at next year’s show. In Newell’s place, legendary dancer Savion Glover took the stage for an astounding tap routine set to “My Favorite Things.”

Shoshana BeanBean closed the evening with “Your Hallelujah,” the song that also lent itself to the title of her live 2020 album and docu-concert, Sing Your Hallelujah (recorded from an empty Apollo stage during the pandemic). The soaring anthem showed off every ornate tone of Bean’s unmatched vocal prowess. It’s a powerful and euphoric ballad that felt like it was injected directly into your veins as Bean brought the house down one final time.

It’s not hard to see why so many fans consider Bean’s Apollo concert a must-attend annual holiday tradition. Though it’s a gift to see her perform live in any capacity, it’s clear that this specific theater and evening feels like home to her. She’s most in her element in the center spotlight the Apollo provides, singing her heart out and delighting audiences with her warm and lush interpretations of holiday classics. Bean is the type of performer that after seeing her once, you’ll want to see everything she does moving forward. She’s truly one of the most masterful and gifted vocalists you can see live today.

Don’t miss Bean when she inevitably returns to The Apollo next holiday season. In the meantime, click here to purchase tickets to catch her in Hell’s Kitchen, the new musical with music and lyrics by Alicia Keys, opening on Broadway spring 2024.

Shoshana Bean

PHOTOS | JENNY ANDERSON

About ALEX KELLEHER-NAGORSKI 171 Articles
Alex has been writing for PopBytes since 2011. As the Theater Editor, he focuses on all aspects of Broadway, Off-Broadway, Regional Theater, and beyond. Alex lives in Western Massachusetts and can be found on Twitter at @AlexKNagorski.