Pippin's John Rubinstein Loves to Spend Christmas with Charlie Brown, Nat King Cole, His Kindle & More

News 12/17/14

It's time to put on the ugly sweaters, hang up the mistletoe and spike the egg nog because the holidays are here again! The holiday season is the most special time of the year, so we thought it would be fun to find out some favorite holiday things and traditions from one of our beloved performers: Tony Award winner John Rubinstein, who’s currently starring as Charles in the national tour of Pippin. Ranging from A Charlie Brown Christmas to Amazon’s Kindle, here are a few of John’s favorite things:

When do you begin watching holiday movies?
I wait for Thanksgiving to be over, and my own birthday, which is in early December. I hate seeing all the Christmas decorations already up all over town when I take my kids out trick-or-treating on Hallowe'en!

What's your favorite holiday movie?
If it's Christmas we're talking about, by far and away my favorite is A Christmas Carol, directed by Brian Desmond Hurst and starring Alastair Sim. A classic, beautifully acted, adapted, and shot; and I always look forward to it. Many favorite scenes, but I always am knocked out by Sim's acting when he wakes up a changed man on Christmas morning. His giddiness and glee are incomparable. My favorite line? I love when he orders bread, and they're out of bread; instead of just saying nothing, he gloomily orders again: "NO more bread!"

What's your favorite holiday TV special?
A Charlie Brown Christmas still holds sway after all these years.

When do you start listening to holiday music?
Not until a week or so before Christmas. But one gets such a powerful dose at the stores, starting earlier and earlier. Overkill.

What are some of your favorite holiday albums?
Benjamin Britten's "Ceremony of Carols" in A Robert Shaw Christmas: Angels on High; Chris Botti's December album; Nat King Cole's "The Christmas Song;" He is Christmas recorded by Take Six; GRP Christmas Collection, Volume II with the New York Voices.

What's your favorite holiday song?
"Good King Wenceslas." Nothing else close.

What’s the hidden-gem holiday song you wish more people knew about?
"Christmas and the Beads of Sweat," written and performed by Laura Nyro.

And what is the one holiday song that you cannot stand?
"It's A Holly Jolly Christmas"

What are your favorite holiday-themed books?
Not to be repetitive, but nothing holds a candle to Charles Dickens's A Christmas Carol. And as far as a short story goes, Dylan Thomas' "A Child's Christmas in Wales" remains as engaging and moving and hilarious as when I first read it.

Do you have special food or drinks that you make or bake only during the holidays?
My Polish mother was a fantastic cook, and would always make a jellied carp at Christmas. I do not make it myself, but to me, that dish epitomizes Christmas dinner, along with some big bird. I always have Christmas Eve carol-singing at my house. A big party of family and friends, many of whom happen to be good singers. So we sing, and cook a big ham with all the trimmings.

What's your favorite memory of the holidays as a child?
Going to Williamstown, Massachusetts, when my sister Eva and her then-husband, William Sloane Coffin jr., lived there. To be up in New England in a big old clapboard house in the deep snow with my tiny niece and nephew running around the Christmas tree, felt like what Christmas ought to be.

What's your favorite memory of the holidays as an adult?
There are two—being in London at Christmas one year, shooting a film. That city really does Christmas right! And being in Zürich, Switzerland another time, and eating a huge roast goose in the hotel dining room under a gigantic Christmas tree. Sneaking the presents into my children's room after they were asleep. The snow, the food, the mountains all around. Unforgettable.

Let's talk gifts! What's on your wish list this year?
I'll be in Washington, DC at Christmas this year. On tour with Pippin. My wish list would be complete if I could perform some magic while I'm there to make the Congress start working for the interests of the actual working people of this country, instead of almost exclusively for the very rich and for the corporations that more or less have our government in their very deep pockets. That would be a merry Christmas indeed, if that could all change.

I'd also be very grateful if the Dodgers won the pennant.

What are your favorite holiday traditions?
Singing the carols, watching the children's excitement on Christmas morning.

How do you like to spend New Year’s Eve?
Calmly at home with my family.

What’s your New Year’s resolution this year?
Try to make it to the next New Year.

If you were to make a list of "favorite things"—like Oprah for example—what would be on your list?
Oprah's list is based on her vast knowledge of new hot items for sale. I am not that well-informed about what's on the market. So this is not terribly cutting-edge, but I am a big fan of e-books. I have a Kindle, and the whole idea of having a virtual library of literature in one small portable "book" is miraculous and wonderful.

I also advocate the immediate purchase for every family of a Steinway piano. I think the government should actually cause the huge corporations to pay taxes commensurate to what, say, I have to pay...and with that enormous amount of new revenue, after they've organized food for the poor and shelter for the homeless, and affordable health care for everyone; after they've improved the roads and bridges and sewers and national parks throughout this country; after they've assured all military veterans of prompt and full medical attention and remuneration for their service; I believe they then should supply every single home with a Steinway. The benefits would be huge, and fantastic. And perhaps Oprah could work out a discount for everyone like she does on her "favorite things" list. I'm just saying.

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