‘Swinging the Holidays’: Linda Purl teams with Rob Stoneback for big band concert of season cheer
An actress and singer known for her roles on iconic television series “Happy Days” and “The Office” joins the Lehigh Valley’s own Rob Stoneback Big Band for “Swinging the Holidays with Linda Purl and the Rob Stoneback Big Band,” 7:30 p.m. Dec. 21 at Miller Symphony Hall in Allentown.
Linda Purl joins Rob Stoneback and his band for a mix of Christmas music, American standards and swinging jazz in their first collaboration.
Purl, who is best known as Fonzie’s fiancée on “Happy Days” (1974-1984), Matlock’s daughter Charlene on “Matlock” (1986-1995) and Pam’s Mom and Steve Carell’s girlfriend on “The Office” (2005-2013), returns to her singing roots for the concert where she will sing holiday favorites like “Winter Wonderland,” and “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,” along with songs from the Great American Songbook like “S’wonderful” and “Pick Yourself Up.”
Purl met Stoneback in 2001 when she was in the Broadway musical “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer” with his brother Ric Stoneback. Purl played Tom’s Aunt Polly to Stoneback’s Attorney Gideon Temple in the short-lived musical based on Mark Twain’s classic book.
She says Rob Stoneback came to see her sing with the Diva Jazz Orchestra at 54 Below in New York City and invited her to sing with his band.
“I always liked singing,” Purl says. “I started missing musicals once I was doing television in Los Angeles. So I started doing cabarets and it became a big part of my life.”
Purl was born in New York but raised in Japan where as a girl, she met actors and singers.
“My parents loved the theater,” she says. “A lot of performers came through Tokyo, and my family often hosted artists, so it was very much a part of our lives.”
Purl has starred in more than 45 made-for-TV movies and recently has been seen in recurring roles on the TV series “Homeland” and “Designated Survivor.”
She also has appeared in Broadway’s “Getting and Spending,” and off-Broadway in “The Baby Dance.” She also has been touring in Joan Didion’s play, “The Year of Magical Thinking.”
She has released four solo albums, including “Alone Together,” “Out of the World,” “Midnight Caravan” and “Up Jumped Spring,” and has sung with the Glenn Miller Orchestra, Naples Philharmonic and Colorado Springs Philharmonic.
“Because I’m an actress and a singer, I prefer to do songs with lyrical content,” she says. “They are like one-act plays that tell stories and are melodically so pleasing.”
Purl promises the concert will have a jazzy holiday feel.
“I never get tired of Rob’s arrangements,” she says. “They are so good. They’re fun and they swing, It’s a really exciting sound.”
Purl says there’s “a lot of Christmas music” in the concert with songs including “Santa Baby,” “White Christmas” and “Happy Holidays.”
Stoneback is a trombonist, composer and arranger who cut his teeth performing with nationally-known big bands, including the Glenn Miller, Tommy Dorsey, Jimmy Dorsey, Harry James, and Gene Krupa orchestras.
He started the Rob Stoneback Big Band in 1979 and since then the band has recorded with Bill Watrous and has performed at Lincoln Center and all over the Mid-Atlantic region, including New York, Philadelphia, Atlantic City, Wilmington, Baltimore, and most of Pennsylvania and New Jersey.
The band includes 17 instrumentalists and two vocalists who collectively, have played with Frank Sinatra, Frank Sinatra, Jr., Natalie Cole, Johnny Mathis, Aretha Franklin, The Manhattan Transfer, Rosemary Clooney, Lou Rawls, Olivia Newton-John, The Temptations and The Four Tops.
The band specializes in hits from the Big Band Era and adds a twist with arrangements of standards and more contemporary music.
For Purl, there’s nothing quite like it.
“Big band music is so much fun,” she says. “There’s nothing quite like singing for a live performance. It’s a little dangerous because anything can happen. The energy is so exciting. You just have to catch the wave and go with it.”
Tickets: Miller Symphony Hall box office, 23 N. Sixth St., Allentown; millersymphonyhall.org; 610-432-6715