This holiday season, Jane Lynch is traveling across the country spreading Christmas cheer. Instead of climbing into a sleigh like “you-know-who,” the Emmy and Golden Globe Award-winner is sharing a tour bus with her bandmates to bring her A Swingin’ Little Christmas album to the stage in a larger-than-life holiday showcase.
“We’re doing a huge tour now and going all over the country in a tour bus. We hang out in airports, we hang out in hotel diners,” she says. “We know each other pretty well, and we’re all over 50, so there’s not going to be any crazy partying. It’ll be a lot of fun, but we’ll probably be in bed by 10.”
A Swingin’ Little Christmas featuring Lynch with Kate Flannery and Tim Davis backed by the Tony Guerrero Quintet pulls into town December 17th at the Ritz Theatre. (www.ritzjacksonville.com) With 10 classic carols and five originals penned by bandleader Tony Guerrero, the production is a nod to the nostalgia of the holidays with clever jazz arrangements, tight vocal harmonies, and a variety of instrumentation including a five-piece jazz quintet, a full big band,, and lush string orchestrations.
Lynch has toured over the last five years with the Tony Guerrero Quintet as part of her cabaret act See Jane Sing. Kate Flannery, known for her work on “The Office,” and Tim Davis, who served as the vocal arranger on “Glee,” helped round out the lineup. When the idea for a holiday album came up, Guerrero not only arranged a collection of existing Christmas songs, he wrote four original tunes for good measure.
“When we created this great album, it did very well, so we decided let’s go on tour with it. We’ve been touring with this album, and it turned into this wonderful Swingin’ Little Christmas show,” says Lynch, “The thing about a Christmas album is it lives forever. What’s wonderful about this music that we’re doing, we’ve arranged it so that it sounds like it came from the late ’50s and early ‘60’s when most of the Christmas music that endures anyway was recorded. We’ve got some full orchestrations and some of it with just the quintet. It’s a throwback to the old days.”
Christmas is all about traditions and nostalgia, and the show is reminiscent of the holiday variety shows of the ’50s and ’60s with big musical numbers and comedy sketches in between. “It’s like one of those Christmas specials from when I was growing up like Andy Williams or the Bing Crosby, Rosemary Clooney or Judy Garland, any of those specials. That’s what you’re going to feel like. It harkens back to that era,” she says. “It features music from the album, and, of course, you get more than that. In between the numbers, we have our buffoonery together. You get us live, and you get us goofing around and having fun. It’s a blast. We love doing it.”
Lynch and Flannery are both well known for their comic chops. A veteran of stage and screen, Lynch is most recognized for her iconic role as acerbic cheerleading coach Sue Sylvester on “Glee.” Flannery portrayed the memorable Meredith the Drunk on “The Office,” a role Lynch says she was destined to play. Together, the pair delivers plenty of genuine musical moments with several lightheartedinterludes, fun sprinkled in as well.
“The great thing about Kate Flannery and Jane Lynch is that Kate is spontaneous. She’s a wild card. I never know what she’s going to do. She’s inappropriate. And I am precise and keeping everything in line and appropriate, so those two things really work. We have a really nice little thing going on with Kate just being her wild, crazy drunken self, which is funny because she doesn’t drink at all. But she acts like a drunk, and I’m more the taskmaster.”
Lynch’s relationship with Davis dates back to all six seasons of “Glee.” Having worked with huge shows from Pentatonix Christmas to Barbara Streisand’s 2017 tour, Lynch says he’s the kind of guy you want to bring in to arrange the vocals for a big, splashy Christmas production. Davis, who also served as musical director for See Jane Sing, helps add to the sentimental flavor of A Swingin’ Little Christmas.
“As we’re working together with Kate, I said ‘Tim you have to do the third harmony,’ so he became a part of that show, and now we can’t get rid of him,” laughs Lynch. “He arranges all of our tight, three-part harmony vocals. He’s handsome, and he’s got the most beautiful crooner voice you’ve ever heard, so it goes perfectly with the music. And he’s the guy who introduced me to the Tony Guerrero Quintet. They are a throwback to the late ’50s and early ’60s. They dress it, they play it just like a jazz quintet back in that era. If you can do that, you can play anything.”
The tour winds down December 23rd in Nashville, and Lynch will be home just in time for Christmas. She is looking forward to enjoying a simple holiday at home surrounded by family, friends, and maybe even a little music.