“It’s my favorite time of the year,” pop superstar Mariah Carey coos in her husky speaking alto, and the crowd, as is always the case at these things, goes wild. Chalk it up to fangirl fever, a working bar at The Beacon Theatre’s storied Art Deco lobby or just good ol’ yuletide spirit, but that certain je ne sais Christmas quoi had everyone zeroing in on that larger-than-life figure on stage right. “What’s your favorite thing about Christmas, Tristan?” She drawls, ever the showgirl, engaging one of her little co-presenters for the evening, a.k.a. her proverbial tiny tots—just in case the 20-foot Christmas tree, giant snowflake cutouts or advent “MC” garlands festooning the hall weren’t enough to get the point across. The enraptured audience, with their eyes all a-glow, happily volley back, like giddy parents at a school play.
Such was the emancipation—and anticipation—of Mimi and all her signature trappings, who, clad in a sparkly white serpentine gown (the first of several and boasting a tongue-waggingly svelte figure), had managed to bring the house down before it had barely started. Without missing a beat, the company segues into “Oh Santa!” and a succession of holiday hits from both her Christmas albums, 1994’s Merry Christmas and 2010’s Merry Christmas II You.
The singer kept the show from veering into after-school-special territory by mixing up her traditional intensely vocalized carols with her sexier, after-hours-by-the-fireplace offerings like “When Christmas Comes,” complete with tuxedo-clad hunks at her beck and call.
Past viral videos of pitchy live performances and a personal rollercoaster of a year have left some to speculate on Mariah’s impending professional decline, but as the Imperfect Angel playfully quipped between songs, “I go all out this time of year—the 10-foot tree, and yes, real reindeer!” Self-conscious chuckling all around, and then: A half-step into the intro of “O Holy Night” and we’re again all squirming in our seats, goosebumps on the ready for that famous tear-jerking soprano reminder of what a Christmas concert—and any other concert, for that matter—was made for.
Not one to forget her roots, she immediately throws in a quick “best of” medley—“Emotions,” “We Belong Together” and the eerily apt “Hero”—before bringing the house down, gold confetti from the rafters, with the titular crowd-pleaser “All I Want For Christmas Is You.” New Yorkers may have seen it all, but real reindeer or not, this season MC definitely knows the place to be.