It seems like an unusually long year ago when Camille Metoyer Moten was singing her Christmas in My Heart concert online after a spike in pandemic hospitalizations cancelled the live performances.
Now she’s back in person with friends singing along at the Omaha Community Playhouse, backed by a super-smooth four-man jazz combo. The title comes from the more familiar show on the Hawks Main Stage where Scrooge, transformed by the spirit of the season promises to “honor Christmas in my heart” and keep it all the year.
Unless you are a newcomer to Omaha, you’ve likely heard Camille sing as Evita or Funny Girl and many other roles at the Playhouse and other venues. And many have heard her with the guest artists joining her on the more intimate Howard Drew Theater: Beth Abjornson, Rebecca Noble and Kathy Tyree, all described as Camille’s “sister-friends.”
If you have any doubts about the prospect of seeing them all together again just check the many credits and honors cited in all their bios. I’d seen Camille in many starring roles and even when she’s enlivened a Rotary luncheon, but never in a concert setting with Camille front and center fully airing her versatile voice.
Her friends first stroll on the stage and greet the audience before Camille arrives in a bright red gown and sings a jazz-backed version of “O Come, O Come Emmanuel” before turning to the likes of “Do You Hear What I Hear?” and “Mary Did You Know?” Then Becky and Beth add solos before joining Camille on “Santa Baby.”
In other words, while Camille says her “first love is singing for the Lord,” she also includes such non-sacred favorites as “The Christmas Song,” “Sleigh Ride” and “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.” After a song list that includes “Joy to the World” and Kathy Tyree singing, “O Holy Night”, Camille closes with the one popular song voted America’s favorite of the 20th Century. (If you don’t know its name, here’s a hint: It’s the one wondering why we can’t fly like bluebirds.)
All these songs are backed by David Murphy on piano, Chad Stoner on sax and clarinet, Doug Montera on percussion and Mark Haar, introduced as “the world’s tallest bass player.”
Director Susan Baer Collins summed it all up in these words: “Though we each have our own beliefs and express them in our own way, we can’t help but benefit from witnessing Camille’s personal faith, which (as someone who has known her for more than 30 years) is unmistakable and unshakable.”
A Christmas in My Heart runs through Dec. 23 in the Howard Drew Theater with performances Thursdays-Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m. at the Omaha Community Playhouse on 6915 Cass St.
Please note: there is also one Wednesday performance on Dec. 22 at 7 p.m.
Tickets from $35 to $45 are available from ticketomaha.com or by calling 402.553.0800.