Pianist Jim Brickman promises to bring the joy –– along with holiday tunes and plenty of laughs –– to Atlantic City with his Christmas show.
“It’s really a great variety,” says Brickman, who will perform “A Joyful Christmas” at 7 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 16, at Ovation Hall at the Ocean Resort Casino.
“What most people say after the show is that they’re surprised it’s as fun and funny as it is. There’s lots of surprises and lots of personality.”
Best known for his new age-style pop piano interpretations, the classically trained Brickman may seem like an unlikely showman.
With his 2017 release “A Joyful Christmas” providing the framework, he promises a full evening of entertainment that will also feature two vocalists –– including his regular stage cohort and longtime friend Ann Cochran –– and electric violinist Tracy Silverman.
“I always want to give people something familiar and yet unexpected,” he says. “The show has the elements of an old-fashioned TV special like Perry Como or Andy Williams. I act as master of ceremonies and guests flow in and out. There’s a lot of humor and a lot of interaction, and there are a lot of tender moments as well.”
Since Brickman only performs occasionally in Atlantic City, he also plans to fill about half the set list with non-holiday tunes.
“Because I’m known for other things, there’s an expectation that I would play the hits as well,” he says. “I like that because I feel like it’s the antidote to a big, loud production type show.”
Brickman tries to read his audiences to see where to take each show.
“One of the things that’s so great about the simplicity of not having a band is that you don’t have to follow any sort of set list to keep people on track,” he says. “I would do something different in Atlantic City than in Wichita, because I play Wichita every year.
“There’s a larger part of the audience that’s never seen me before. Because of the advent of streaming with instrumental music, it exposes the music to more people, as opposed to a hit on the radio.”
Those who haven’t been to a Brickman concert –– or aren’t aware that he’s penned tunes and recorded with Martina McBride, Carly Simon, Lady Antebellum and Michael Bolton, among others –– may not realize he also can sing.
“When I start to sing, I think at first it takes people by surprise, and then they get in the spirit of the show,” he says. “Most people don’t expect it if they’re just used to listening to my music on Pandora for relaxation purposes.”
Brickman also can draw from his weekly radio show, which is syndicated in about five dozen markets around the country.
“So much of that is improv, it also helps to hone my skills and humor with storytelling, because it’s so verbal and also because there’s an ensemble with the radio show,” he says. “I do well with a monologue, but do even better when I have a foil or an interview subject.”
As any performer will tell you, sharing the stage is all about the chemistry –– and Brickman says he has plenty of it with Cochran, with whom he grew up and performs regularly.
“There’s a noticeable dynamic between us and rapport that the audience can sense,” he says. “It’s very honest and authentic and lively and funny. People love that –– it’s become a tradition for a lot of people.”
Next year, Brickman plans to celebrate the 25th anniversary of his debut recording, “No Words,” by making a greatest hits album, featuring his vocals, followed by a singer/songwriter-style tour.
“I always believe it’s important to challenge myself and also to evolve,” he says. “When you’re the songwriter and then you sing one of your own songs, it has a very authentic quality.”