Ana Gasteyer 2023I bought the tickets months ago but had no idea what to expect from Ana Gasteyer. I knew her from her six seasons on Saturday Night Live, and I saw her perform as Elphaba in a production of Wicked. But I have not followed her career since. Would she tell jokes? Would she sing? Would she dance? Would she tell stories?

It turns out that she did all the above Saturday night at Evanston's SPACE. Mostly, she sang. And mostly, she sang Holiday songs - or, as she called them, "secular seasonal songs."

Tonight was a homecoming for Gasteyer, who graduated from Evanston's Northwestern University. Her daughter (a current NU student) was in the house.

Midway through the show, Ana brought out a bucket of airline-sized bottles of Fireball cinnamon whiskey to hand out to selected audience members.

Many numbers came from the American songbook and featured winter or holiday themes - "Let It Snow," "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas," "Sleigh Ride," and "I've Got My Love to Keep Me Warm." Ana altered some of the lyrics for comic effect. In "Let It Snow," she celebrated the departure of party guests who overstayed their welcome with the line: "They finally said 'good night.'" She also mixed in many originals, such as "Nothing Rhymes with Christmas," "Secret Santa," and "Sugar and Booze." She drew many songs from her 2019 Christmas album "Sugar and Booze."

Backed by a solid six-piece band (piano, bass, guitar, drums, woodwind, and percussion), Ms. Gasteyer performed for over two hours. Most songs featured jazz arrangements led by musical director Julian Fleisher.

She closed with a rousing version of "You're a Mean One, Mr. Grinch," followed by a moving rendition of "Children, Go Where I Send Thee."

I came home with a feeling of holiday contentment and a couple of tiny bottles of Fireball.