Review: ‘Mannheim Steamroller Christmas’ By Chip Davis at Strathmore

A large, stylish Christmas crowd was on hand Sunday night as Mannheim Steamroller “steamrolled” into Bethesda’s Music Center at Strathmore to perform Mannheim Steamroller Christmas By Chip Davis, giving a performance that left the audience enthralled and inspired a standing ovation.

Mannheim Steamroller’s unique sound immediately got the audience into the lively Christmas spirit. It’s close to impossible not to tap your feet during the show. Even usually slow Christmas songs get an infusion of energy and drums in the capable hands of the Mannheim Steamroller musicians as they inject warmth and pizzazz into Chistmas songs.

Mannheim Steamroller was founded in 1974. The band’s name came from Mannheim, Germany where Mozart lived. “Mannheim Steamroller” is an 18th century musical technique. This is Mannheim Steamroller’s 32nd annual Christmas tour and the 42nd anniversary of the first release of their Fresh Aire series.

The show started with a video compilation showcasing their success with clips from The Today Show, performances for Presidents Bush and Clinton and images showing them at top of the charts. The video is inspiring as it relates how Manheim Steamroller creator, founder, producer, and Grammy Award winner Chip Davis has sold over 40-million records after being told it was career suicide to perform Christmas music.

This year’s show featured songs from several of Mannheim Steamroller’s albums, including Mannheim Steamroller Christmas, A Fresh Aire Christmas, Christmas Extraordinaire, and Christmas in the Air.

Currently there are two touring Mannheim Steamroller orchestras, one on the East Coast and one on the West Coast. Strathmore enjoyed the Red Tour cast which consisted of: Chuck Pennington (piano, synthesizer, conductor), Anna Lackaff (harpsichord, synthesizer), Mark Agnor (Violin), Joey Gulizia (percussion, recorder), Glen Smith (guitar, bass), and Tom Sharpe (drums). They all wore beautiful, red Christmas outfits.

The Red Tour ensemble exhibited immense talent. Drummer Tom Sharpe blew the crowd away with his drumming skills. He doesn’t just bang on the drums, he becomes one with the drums, his enthusiasm and skills are exciting to watch.

Anna Lackaff expertly tackling the harpsichord and synthesizer, playing the lead on “Carol of the Bells.” I enjoyed the “Christmas Lullaby”as it is military themed and was a salute to our military. On “Faeries,” I enjoyed Mark Agnor’s violin playing as well as the bass line. “Toccata” also had some beautiful violin work. I also enjoyed “Greensleeves” which featured Chip Davis’ daughter Elyse Davis.

The piano solos were gorgeous on “O’ Little Town of Bethlehem.”

The company did a great job with added visual effects. Videos complemented all the songs and fake snow falling from the ceiling during “Catching Snowflakes on Your Tongue” caused “oohs” and “aahs” from the audience.

Mannheim Steamroller is a national treasure. They always deliver and their Christmas Show is always breathtakingly joyful!

Running Time: Two hours, with a 15-minute intermission.

Mannheim Steamroller Christmas by Chip Davis played on Sunday, December 11, 2016, at 4:00 PM at The Music Center at Strathmore – 5301 Tuckerman Lane, in North Bethesda, MD. For future events, check their events calendar.


The First Set
-Aire on a G String (Intro)
-Deck the Halls
-We Three Kings
-God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen (rock)
-Traditions of Christmas
-O’Little Town of Bethlehem
-Angels We Have Heard on High
-Pat a Pan
-Christmas Lullaby
-Catching Snowflakes on Your Tongue
-Faeries from the “Nutcracker”
-O Tannenbaum
-O Holy Night
The Second Set
-Greensleeves (featuring Elyse Davis, daughter of Chip Davis)
-Chocolate Fudge
-Pass the Keg (Lia)
-Four Rows of Jacks
-Come Home to the Sea
-The Steamroller
-Little Drummer Boy
-Good King Wenceslas
-Carol of the Bells
-O Holy Night

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Marlene Hall
Marlene Hall grew up an army brat and has lived all over the world and in Washington, DC where she was constantly exposed to theater and music. Marlene graduated from the University of Virginia where she wrote for the Cavalier Daily interviewing musicians. Commissioned as an Air Force officer, she served 8 years. She now works as a realtor with eXp Realty. In addition, Marlene dabbles in improvisational comedy and has taken classes at the famed iO Theater in Chicago and the DC Improv. She is very active in the DC charity and social scene and contributes her time to veterans’ organizations Team Rubicon and Team Red, White, and Blue. She also was a supernumerary in the Washington National Opera’s Carmen with opera singer Denyce Graves. She loves the music and theater scene in DC and goes to as many concerts and shows as possible.


  1. This show was just a huge disappointment to me. Hokey, outdated, five old guys and one overly dramatic woman with what I am guessing was some sort of background tape beefing up the performance. Yes, there was a small cadre of violins but no way did the group make that sound. Cheesy Christmas scenes displayed on a small screen I guess was supposed to distract and for me it did as I thought someone might introduce them to a Macbook. Just outdated. If you love Burl Ives as Frosty the Snowman, this is the concert for you! They called it in. The soloist (brought to us via film) sang from another concert. The drummer gave little balance to the rest of the group just banging away as they stood on their “marks” never attempting to liven it up with movement. I never thought much of the 70’s fashion-wise and this concert solidified those feelings. At the 4:00 p.m. show some people did stand but then, they were baby-boomers and I suspect hearing impaired. At $100. a ticket (times two,) this baby-boomer felt robbed.

    • My sentiments exactly. Not what I was expecting from Mannheim Steamroller. Very distracting, and often irrelevant seeming, videos on large screen behind the orchestra. The only musician we could really watch was Tom Sharpe, the percussionist, and the keyboard player. Couldn’t see most of the musicians due to the video and very irritating light show. We also wasted $200.

  2. we saw them last evening at Kent State Performing Art Center in New Philadelphia Ohio. They were amazing…even when late in the second act there was a tech problem they continued to play and entertain the audience until it was fixed about 5 minutes later. They did not disappoint their audience. We loved it and the entire audience gave them a standing ovation. They deserved it. Highly recommend to all our friends and family to see them.


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