Broadway veterans Marty Thomas (Wicked, Xanadu, The Secret Garden) and Marissa Rosen (Kristin Chenoweth: For The Girls), drop their debut duet album today – a rollicking, rambunctious mix of music and comedy, The Award Winning Holiday Album.
Widely known as ‘Broadway best friends,’ the dynamic duo has been performing together for close to ten years. They met performing in the off-Broadway musical The Big Gay Italian Wedding and parlayed their natural report into a very successful nightclub act.
Pairing comedy with holiday bops, The Award-Winning Holiday Album takes the listener on a (mainly) upbeat musical journey via big band (“Everybody’s Waitin’ for) the Man with the Bag”), groovy 60s pop (Sia’s “Puppies Are Forever”), R&B/Blues (“Please Come Home This Christmas”), and Broadway (“There Is A Santa Claus” from Elf).
Marty and Marissa close out the set with a perfectly pensive and heartfelt “Hard Candy Christmas” from The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas. The duo are joined by guest stars Christina Bianco, Diana DeGarmo, Melinda Doolittle, Rachel Potter, Alysha Umphress, and Jessica Vosk.
Beginning with their appearance (wink wink) at the “World Holiday Music Awards,” the new collection is a fun musical frolic perfect for making your holiday season bright.
Instinct chatted with Thomas about the genesis of the project, choices in making the collection “inclusive” of more than just Christmas, how chemistry comes into play when collaborating, and more.
Instinct Magazine: Congratulations on The Award Winning Holiday Album. You’re already ‘award winning’ before being released! Most recording artists take their holiday albums straight on down the ‘music lane,’ but you specifically bring the comedy here. How did you come to that approach?
Marty Thomas: All that we’ve had to keep us company during this pandemic is art, hope, and humor. The concept of this album has been an inside joke all year and Marissa and I finally figured out that it was a joke that might be funny to someone else too! The whole award show approach developed organically as we were curating the album. My boyfriend says I laugh at all of my own “dad jokes” more than the rest of the world. If that’s true, I guess I’m okay with that.
IM: The track list is an eclectic mix of holiday tunes. How did you choose the songs?
MT: We definitely wanted to try and steer clear of the same 10 tracks every artist releases on their debut holiday album. We also wanted to represent our individual backgrounds and our love of cabaret and musical theater. We poured through so much music and put a lot of care into narrowing the setlist.
It was very important for me to represent Marissa’s family and their celebration of Hanukkah as well as my celebration of Christmas. There really aren’t a lot of Hanukkah bops out there so I was determined to arrange a disco Hanukkah anthem to get the party started. I found a song by Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings, tailored it to fit Marissa’s strengths and it quickly became my favorite track on the album.
Six of our besties from around the country all signed on to record remotely and I was able to create my dream arrangement of Dolly Parton’s “Hard Candy Christmas.” This album was incredibly joyful to create.
IM: You’ve been ‘Broadway best friends’ for so long. How does that rapport come into play when you’re creating something new?
MT: Marissa is one of the hardest working, most creative people I know. I often have to “sell” her on my stupid ideas, but she is always open to putting in the work and creating. We can sort of read each other’s minds musically, and hilariously sound almost identical when singing backup vocals.
We weren’t able to enlist any studio singers for the record because of the pandemic and recorded the entire thing in the corner of my studio apartment. All of the vocals you hear on the record are just the two of us. Our long history of working and singing together really came into play nicely. Also, it was just really nice to get to hang out together, like the good old days before Trump gummed up the works.
IM: After a lot of fun upbeat tunes, the final track on the album is “Hard Candy Christmas” from The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas. The sentiment is a bit melancholy but definitely forward-looking. It feels like that was a conscious choice to end on?
MT: That’s awesome to hear because that’s exactly what I was going for. I imagined it as a very welcomed zoom-call style catch up with our friends from around the country. I’ve always seen that song as a sad, yet still hopeful message. I wanted it to musically represent us comforting each other, supporting each other, and encouraging a bright future. Positivity and vulnerability are hot commodities these days. Marissa and I truly hope someone else out there can relate to the tune.
IM: This whole album could be a cabaret act in itself. Have you considered turning The Award Winning Holiday Album into a live performance?
MT: ABSOLUTELY! What’s the point of waking up in the morning if the process can’t eventually be turned into a cabaret act!? Lol. I love creating old school albums, intended to be listened to, from beginning to end. My hope is to do a new holiday album and a holiday concert/party annually. If anything positive came from this window of time 2020 gave us, possibly it was the drive and the time to begin a new joyful journey with my best friend.
Take a listen to the terrific ‘finale’ for the album, “Hard Candy Christmas,” below.