The best thing about going to every single night of Mariah Carey’s All I Want For Christmas Is You concert series is that by the third round on this holly-strewn rodeo, you really, truly savor the details. One night in and you’re fully aware of Mariah’s vocal might. Two nights in and you appreciate the thought that went into presenting this holiday spectacular, from the choreography in the holdover numbers to the inclusion of “Christmas Time Is Here” solely based on the fact that Mariah loves Charlie Brown. Three nights in and the periphery characters — the kids in the ensemble, the gospel choir, the dancers, the exceptional band — start to really make their presence known one Christmas tune at a time. It doesn’t matter what kind of training you had or if Juilliard’s on your résumé: if you can’t do the robot in a nutcracker suit and bring that very particular set of skills to Mariah’s grand finale, you have no business — no privilege, really — of playing a part in Mariah’s holiday universe. And if you’re the dude who’s tasked with sporting a plush Frosty the Snowman costume, complete with gigantic, nightmarish, top hat-topped head, you. Better. Work.
But let’s start at the beginning. My butt had barely touched the seat at the Beacon when a handful of plastic, light-up fairy wands got shoved over my shoulder: “Take one and pass it?” I shrugged and, being a total Scrooge of a human, neglected to take one, but did my part in pushing them towards the front of the room anyway. The curtain went up, Mariah stood there in her gleaming white gown, and we were off, again, with “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing.” As we progress on this ten-day journey, it’s clear that opening night may as well be counted as a formal dress rehearsal: Mariah just gets better with every passing show and is increasingly more comfortable walking around in her sky-high platforms, even if she’s assisted by by a dapper gent whose sole job is to loop an arm around her waist and guide her from a platform to her mic stand. (Mimi would later kick off said heels for the Greatest Hits portion of the program, only to have another dapper gent help her put them back on, Cinderella-style. It’s good to be MC.)
Mariah paused to “acknowledge” her lambs, especially the ones who flew in from out of town, and this is when I realize that Mariah loves the word “acknowledge.” You can picture Mariah clad in the most sumptuous of robes thumbing the textiles in her zillion dollar wardrobe as she stops to “acknowledge” each work of couture, or run a perfectly manicured hand over the cushions of her Moroccan room (love u miss u MTV Cribs) to “acknowledge” their comfort. She “acknowledged” the members of her band, “acknowledged” the gospel choir, “acknowledged” the fans losing their blessed shit in the front row. One such group of fans, it turns out, would be responsible for the light-up wand things that would proceed to drive me bonkers for the ensuing hour and fifteen minutes: Mariah’s Chinese fans bring them to shows to let her know they’re present, I guess, and if that wasn’t brought to my attention via Instagram, the giant “CHINA” LED sign someone hoisted when she shouted out her Chinese crew certainly did the trick. It’s one thing to ride a local train from South Brooklyn to the Upper West Side to see Mariah, as I had done. It’s another to grab your passport and pack a goddamn lighting operation (and accessories) in your carry-on before flying across the world to prove your devotion, so my hat is off to you, Chinese lambily members. That’s some serious dedication.
Those who were besides themselves in the front row took advantage of the lull during Mariah’s banter, too: They caught her attention with their rousing cries of “QUEEEEEEEN OF CHRISTMAAAAAAAAS!” only for Mimi to stop dead in her sequined tracks and correct them. “I can’t take that title! I’m not Mary!” More screaming: “QUEEN LAAAAAMB!” “Queen Lamb? I’ll take that.” More screaming. Everyone is screaming. This woman can rally the merciless force of a thousand banshees with the bat of an eyelash, and all in the name of love for that beat in “Oh Santa!” Which brings me to another unintentionally under-appreciated aspect of Mariah’s show the two nights prior: her band was visibly enjoying the hell out of themselves during Night Three, and her bassist gets extra points for providing the beat of the whole operation in a stellar way. Going into this, I figured that the tried-and-true standard, “All I Want For Christmas Is You,” would be the track I’d leave the venue humming every night. Nope. “Oh Santa!” is what sent me to Spotify earlier this week and what I’ve been singing to myself on the subway like a crazy person. It’s largely thanks to that bass line, so props, Mr. Bass Man, for forcing the hand of my newfound Mariah nerdery in public.
The “Carol of the Bells”/etc. interlude for Mariah’s final costume change — into a scarlet number that sparkles with the splendor of Dorothy’s ruby slippers, if they were hewn by Louboutin himself — was just as beautifully performed by the dancers with their ethereal, white silk-draped ballet, but again, the details came to the forefront in a way that they hadn’t on the first two nights. Before Mariah reemerged, I thought back to something my friend Natalie had said on the second night of the run: What if Mariah didn’t wear the same three dresses every night, but different versions of the same three dresses every night? What if these immaculate gowns, crusted with crystals and perfectly tailored to the slopes and curves of her torso, were done up and discarded to keep the perfection of the first wear intact? This is a completely and totally nuts thing to assume about Mariah, that her diva status is so intense that she could dispose of evening gowns the way some do Kleenex. But this is the kind of thinking Mariah inspires: She’s a mythic kind of fabulous, and sometimes that gets the imagination going. I have no clue if those are the same dresses she’s wearing every night, but there’s a part of me that secretly hope she’s working her diva cred for all it’s worth and filling one of the dressing rooms at the Beacon with racks of the same damn dress. I have no idea where this part of me comes from. I just know that this voice of delusion wasn’t piping up five days ago.
Those Only-Mariah-Can-Hit-‘Em notes seemed to multiply on night three, and “Emotions” was nothing short of a religious experience as a result. “All I Want For Christmas” was super fun, only improved by the total absurdity of her grand finale, which features the aforementioned Frosty. Remember when “Hotline Bling” came out a few weeks ago and it got memed to death? The one reimagining of Drake’s latest that came to mind mashes him up with that ridiculous turtleneck-sporting/CW-employed pumpkin. Mariah’s Frosty — who she called out for being “a little dramatic” on Night Two — is more or less that Pumpkin with a giant nightmare circus snowman head. With this in mind, I didn’t spend “All I Want For Christmas Is You” focusing on Mariah, but losing myself in a giggle fit that couldn’t be stopped. Every time Frosty shrugged or flailed his not-so-frozen limbs, I guffawed. Laughter = endorphins. Endorphins = positive vibes. Even down to the unintentional comedic play, Mariah knows what she’s doing.
My only complaint so far: Every time she teases the crowd with the “Fantasy” intro only to brush it off with a “No, no, that’s the wrong show!” before launching into “Oh Santa!,” a part of me dies. The three-song stretch of the show that focuses on Mariah’s non-yuletide tracks could use a nightly shake-up — she’s got 912 greatest hits, show some more some love! — and if we go through all eight nights without a breath of “Fantasy,” “Heartbreaker” or “Always Be my Baby” I’ll be disappointed. Still, it’s hard to feel gypped when “All I Want For Christmas” complete with Bizarro Frosty is involved, so here’s hoping Night Four brings more unintentional hilarity in spades.