They’re not quite the Four Seasons but Tonic Sol-fa incorporated more than a few new moves in their latest holiday show.
Playing at the Orpheum Theatre Friday night (after cancelling last week due to weather), the four gave songs like “A Little More Conversation” full-on choreography that, frankly, looked pretty good.
Newcomer Theo Brown moves with more than purpose but Greg Bannwarth more than held his own. Bannwarth also got lead on several songs – a switch from past years – giving front man Shaun Johnson a break here and there.
The 2018 edition mixed holiday favorites with country, R&B and pop tunes.
A new arrangement of Chris Stapleton’s “Tennessee Whiskey” was a keeper that should find its way on the a cappella group’s next CD. Johnson said the four are testing songs for that release, which meant the new stuff was eclectic at best.
The holiday offerings hewed closer to the past.
The exception: Bass Jared Dove doing his rendition of “Frosty the Snowman.” While he carried the freight, Johnson and Bannwarth served as groupies, giving him a scarf and hat and a bottle of water. It was a cute bit and a good alternative to “Mr. Grinch,” which came out in the second act.
Moves aside, Tonic’s newest ingredient -- Brown – gives the veterans fresh appeal, particularly since he’s great on a host of percussion instruments. The addition makes familiar sounds worth a second listen.
Johnson excelled on “Cry Me a River,” which let him play the song’s range and toss in his signature moves.
While the four are dressing a bit more sedately than they have in the past, they didn’t ignore their evergreens – the tights – or Plastic Santa.
Both figured into the second act and gave them a chance to showcase Bannwarth’s sense of humor.
A funny, funny guy, he should be given more opportunity to talk and tell stories. Johnson tried with one about driving to Sioux City but it didn’t quite have the bandwidth to reach Bannwarth’s frequency.
To prove they’re still an a cappella group (and not a lead singer with sound effects), the four got great mileage out of “Holiday Road,” the “National Lampoon’s Vacation” theme.
Oddly, audience banter wasn’t as sharp as it has been. (Could that be because Tonic Sol-fa is in the early days of its tour?) Still, Friday’s event was bittersweet. Johnson said the quartet won’t be back next year because it’s hitting other parts of the country during the holidays.
More upbeat? Plastic Santa’s news that Doug, his sidekick, got out of a Turkish prison. That’s reason alone to rejoice.