Michael Londra’s “Celtic Yuletide:” A Great Night’s Craic, at Marines’ Memorial Theatre through January 1, 2012
“Craic” is a Gaelic word with no exact English translation but, for the Irish, it’s synonymous with good fun. And good fun, great music and holiday spirit are plentiful in “Celtic Yuletide,” a wonderful performance of song and music featuring internationally renowned Irish tenor Michael Londra (of Riverdance on Broadway fame) currently at Marines’ Memorial Theatre in San Francisco. Londra performs a mix of traditional heartwarming Irish carols like “Winter, Fire and Snow” and Gaelic versions of Christmas songs, including “Silent Night” (“Oiche Ciuin”) and “The Wexford Carol.” The evening also features songs Celtic songs of a new Ireland, such as Londra’s popular crossover song “Beyond the Star,” which has been recorded by choirs the world over and Sting’s “Fields of Gold” and the signature ballad “Danny Boy.” Accompanying Londra are an 11-piece orchestra and Irish band that incorporate a bodhrán (the national drum of Ireland) and the plaintive uilleann pipes (Irish bagpipes) to produce rhythms, low whistles and haunting intonations that infuse a mix of tunes ranging from frenetic reels to heartbreaking ballads.
Londra is accompanied by some of the world’s finest Celtic musicians including Sephira, the fiery red-haired Irish sister duo Joyce and Ruth O’Leary, whose hauntingly beautiful voices and mastery of their violins are mesmerizing. They slayed the house with a piercing rendition of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” (1984).
Celtic Yuletide also showcases some of the best Irish stepdancers in the world, including featured dancer Owen Barrington, the 2008 Senior Men’s World Irish Dance Champion and Riverdance alumnus. It’s a pure adrenaline rush just watching these young dancers in varied formations execute precision footwork and high kicks in perfect sync with one another without appearing to move their upper bodies. The costumes too are gorgeous–colorful and ornate dresses in a variety of styles and dress shirts and black trousers for the men.
Afternoon Yuletide Tea and Celtic Menu: For an even more authentic Irish feel, The Marines’ Memorial Club Leatherneck Steakhouse and Lounge (located in the same building as the Marines’ Memorial Theatre) offers special Celtic holiday menus during the show’s run. Celtic menu additions include Guinness braised short rib with barley risotto and roasted winter vegetables, Shepherd’s pie (lamb stew with peas, carrots and whipped potatoes), potato crusted salmon with oyster stew and braised kale with bacon, and a special Bailey’s Irish Creme cheesecake. An Afternoon Yuletide Tea, offered on Wednesdays and Saturdays from 4 – 6 p.m. after the matinee performance and on Sundays from noon – 1:30 p.m. prior to the matinee performance (Christmas and New Year’s Eve excluded), includes an assortment of savory tea sandwiches, lemon tarts, a variety of tea cookies and scones as well as tea or coffee. (415) 673-6672 ext. 254.
Details: “Celtic Yuletide” plays through January 1, 2012, at San Francisco’s Marines’ Memorial Theatre, 609 Sutter Street., 2nd floor. Tickets: $35 – $70. Premium tickets, Celtic 4-packs and family matinee specials are available at the Marines’ Memorial Theatre box office (415) 771-6900 or www.marinesmemorialtheatre.com