Ruben & Clay’s First Annual Christmas Carol Family Fun Pageant Spectacular Reunion Show: Review by Robin Gorman Newman


Kicking off with a nod to Star Wars (scrolling type), followed by an homage to Broadway musicals and a battle of blingy blazers between Ruben and Clay, the tone was set for a warm ‘n witty two hour holiday show featuring the best bud duo of Ruben Studdard and Clay Aiken.

Having met on “American Idol” and bonding for the last 15 years, Ruben and Clay both rib and support each other and exhibit an earnest rapport, as they make their way (at times awkwardly) through a host of comedic skits and running gags…some better than others.  But the real treat here is when they sing.

Ruben has a velvet tone and unassuming air.  Clay is more the belter showman who eggs Ruben on, but they balance each other.  Some of their duets are simply lovely, and they had many fans in the audience eagerly cheering them on.

Act 1 has the tone of a gag fest, replete with a “Laugh-In” style curtain with heads peeking out cracking jokes.  It grows a bit weary, and might have benefited from a dose of personal reveal.  Perhaps a bit of reminiscing about their American Idol days might have proved a welcome touch.

Act 2 makes up for that in spades.  It kicks off with a heartfelt brief video about the National Inclusion Project.  It is later explained that a portion of the proceeds from ticket sales are being donated to the organization.  Though they don’t say…..it is a charity Clay co-founded in 2003, with Diane Bubel, to advocate and increase opportunities for children with disabilities to be included in extracurricular activities (such as summer camps and after-school programs) with their non-disabled peers.

Act 2 also takes a deeper turn when videos of Clay and Ruben are shared, offering a bit of insight into their backgrounds and attitude toward the holidays.  Ruben’s tribute is especially poignant as he introduces us in the video to the beloved older brother, Kevin, who he lost in May 2018 at age 44, and who would have been thrilled to see him on Broadway with Clay.

Written by Ken Arpino and Jesse Joyce, Ruben & Clay’s Christmas Show is directed by Jonathan Tessero, with musical staging by Lisa Shriver and music direction by Ben Cohn.  The design team includes Rob Bissinger (scenic), Paul Miller (lighting), James Brown III (costume), Bruce Landon Yauger (sound), and Jason Lee Courson (projection design).

Rounding out their first annual Christmas show is the likeable and capable Farah Alvin, Ken Arpino, Julian Diaz-Granados, La’Nette Wallace, and Khaila Wilcoxon.

The show could stand a trimming (and not of the Christmas tree type).  If it were 90 minutes, no intermission, with a focus on doing what they do best, this singing duo might evolve over time into a slick holiday crooning team.

Ruben & Clay’s First Annual Christmas Carol Family Fun Pageant Spectacular Reunion Show is produced by Jeffrey Chrzczon, Side Effects Include, and Josh Pultz/Amplified Entertainment.

Tickets, from only $39, are available online at Telecharge.com, by phone at 212-239-6200, and in person at the Imperial Box Office.

This limited engagement continues through December 30th. Visit rubenandclay.com

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