CHICAGO TRIBUNE features 12 Dames
Singer brings '12 Dames of Christmas' to life at holiday show
Angela Ingersoll is bringing the golden age of Christmas music to Elgin this weekend. The Chicago-based singer and actress brings her show "The 12 Dames of Christmas" to the Blizzard Theater.
She premiered this show last year and since then has worked out the kinks — she nixed the backing tracks and is now supported by a six-piece band. Also, she took out some numbers that didn't quite "land" last year.
"I'll be sacrificing Mariah Carey this year. I'm not going to sing 'All I Want for Christmas is You,'" she said. "I sang it last year and I was like, 'Well, I don't think people like this song as much as I thought they did.' That song just didn't go over like I thought it would."
That hole just leaves more room for the classics, like songs by her muse, Judy Garland.
"This whole idea actually came from … wanting to do a Judy Christmas show of some sort," she said.
Once she hit upon the title — "12 Dames of Christmas" — she knew she had a winner.
"I've always been a mimic as a singer," she said. "As a kid, I learned to sing by singing along with records from the library. Sharing some of my favorite singers and what I've learned from them as women, as artists, and as vocalists is exciting for me. And what a wonderful way to celebrate my own personal family traditions for the holidays."
Some of the "dames" represented include Garland, Brenda Lee, Eartha Kitt, Edith Piaf — "I do a French version of 'O Holy Night'" — Julie Andrews; and, as a curve ball, Janis Joplin.
"While she doesn't have a Christmas song, I give her one," she said. "I give her what I think she would sing for Christmas. So while some are recognizable hits, like Brenda Lee's 'Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree,' others are a bit of fun with our imaginations — what if Janis had a Christmas song? We might be singing along with something that rocks."
She stands just short of calling herself an impressionist, she said, because there is no parody. The show is her homage to these singers, she said.
She noticed while going through the Christmas catalog that a majority of the classics are from men. That didn't feel like the right fit; she was looking for the female voices that spoke to her as a child.
"It became fun researching the music and finding more appreciation for these women's voices," she said. "Because I realized how unique they were in a sea of standard singing by men. What woman do you think of as a standard in your mind singing 'White Christmas?' Not many. Even though there are hundreds of versions of the song. How many are female voices? Not many. It makes me appreciate even more that I'm able to shine a light on the artists individually themselves."
While there isn't a narrative running throughout, Ingersoll does tell a lot of stories from her childhood.
"I grew up in the Midwest in the '80s, in a rather blue-collar family," she said. "It was fancy to go to Grandma's house on Christmas Eve. We would spend all night playing penny poker 'til we took all of Grandpa's money. I try to relate funny stories about my own family's Christmas traditions as well as tying them into my introductions to these artists and some fun facts about them and their lives."
For example, she talks about Judy Garland filming "Meet Me in St. Louis" — where the song "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" comes from — and Garland's experiences on the set of that movie.
Speaking of songs, audiences will definitely hear that one, plus others like "Santa Baby," "Rockin' around the Christmas Tree," "My Favorite Things" and a group sing-along of "Silent Night."
"It's a lot of good, Christmassy fun," she said. "Hopefully as funny as it is tender. I certainly hope that audiences sing along. Christmas is the one time of year we all agree to listen to the same radio station, darn it. And we do have common songs in our heart. Christmas music is a great equalizer.
"We culturally all can sing along together to something like 'Jingle Bells.' Even though we're coming from different places and different points of view, this is our common heritage. That gets me really excited. I think people can experience a little bit of togetherness in a time where we've had a lot of focuses on our differences. We're all on the same team, so let's sing some Christmas songs."
Cover Photo: Artists Lounge Live