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Natalie Doliner's "The Christmas Zone"

Natalie Doliner performs in 2021 at Savoy
Bonnie Sprung
Natalie Doliner performs in 2021 at Savoy

Does it seem sometimes that the Christmas season passes in a blur?

That maybe everyone’s sooooo holiday-happy, it could be a little…weird?

And what does NPPR – North Pole Public Radio – have to do with it all?

Well, Central Florida’s own queen of the cabaret Natalie Doliner may have the answer this year in her new show, “The Christmas Zone.”

Natalie Doliner: So every year, I swear that I'm not going to decorate for Christmas. I'm really just going to do a nice low key thing. And every February I absolutely mean it because it takes me that long to put everything away. And I'm so fed up that I'm like, No, that's it. One tasteful tree, one research done. And then I come to sometime in February. And I look around, and I have like five trees in my house. And I've done a Christmas show. And my the outside of my house looks like the Griswolds. And I don't know how it happened. And so it occurred to me that there might be some other worldly thing making that happen. Because I noticed that it happens as soon as I hear my first Christmas song, whether that's on the radio or in a store, like something makes me want to start decorating. And I noticed it's impossible to avoid it. I mean, I can be listening to a reggae station and steal Christmas music. And I thought, maybe it's coming from you know (hums “Twilight Zone” theme) is sort of happening against our will. And I noticed, it's not just me, you know, radio station, start playing things that you wouldn't expect them to. And the next thing you know, everyone's decorated. And so that's sort of where the show came from. And we just fall down that rabbit hole. We meet the station manager for NPPR who takes over all stations all the time, no escape. Don't bother to change the channel. We're on every station. Don't bother to turn us off. We will play this music in your head.

Nicole Darden Creston: Oh my! I saw on the internet that folks are talking about trying to avoid the Mariah Carey Christmas song, and the Wham Christmas song…they call it Whamaggedon.

Natalie Doliner: Yeah, can't be done. Can't be done. I was in a store last year. And not only did they play that song…and usually I have a rule if I hear that song I leave no matter how much I have in my cart. I put it back and I leave. I just don't want to hear that song. They think you know what, it's getting late. I'm just gonna do it. And you know, the second song that came on was another version of that same song. Yeah, you can't avoid it. It's beyond our control, hence the Christmas Zone. So we have a full-on Rod Serling character and, of course Mr. And Mrs. And some elves including Elf on the Shelf, and lots of music.

Nicole Darden Creston: So this is not just you singing, there is a whole cast.

Natalie Doliner: My one woman show has 11 people in it. Well, you know, I started that, you know, years ago, I used to do cabarets for groups like to raise money for theater groups. So I would go and I would write a show. And just like Well, Jake, tell me what shows you've done. And I would write them a cabaret with jokes and things for people. And then in the last, I don't know, six or seven years, I started doing have arrays that were more one woman shows that had stories. And then over the last few years, I just had other stories to tell. And so it started expanding. But the Christmas shows are always a little different. You know, my birthday is on Christmas. So this is like my birthday present to myself.

Nicole Darden Creston: I was gonna ask you what that was like, did you get fewer presents growing up? Because you didn't get your birthday presents separate?

Natalie Doliner: So I'm Jewish. That's why this whole thing is so weird. I didn't grow up with Christmas music. I grew up going to a school where everybody was Jewish. We didn't play the songs at home, we certainly didn't play them in Hebrew school. So I would think in my head since I was a kid, I'd be like, “Oh, Christmas is coming. Oh, but I'm Jewish. Oh, but it's my birthday.” Every year.

Nicole Darden Creston: It's getting more and more Christmas Zone-y as we speak.

Natalie Doliner: It gets worse! So I have my own life is sort of Christmas Zone-y. Every year when I'm opening up the ornaments, I'll find some Christmas miracle…which is really strange, but like it literally happened today. I was planning to tell you isn't it ironic? I'm doing this hall show about Christmas decorating but because I have a show coming up. I didn't decorate except I did. And I thought I'm just going to spend an hour this morning just putting a few things out and I looked around and like I have two Christmas trees up there isn't an inch of this house that doesn't have something Christmassy in it. And I took out one of my favorite collections which of these blown glass angels and years ago I had given away the blue one and just a couple of years ago I was thinking how sad I was that I didn't have a blue one because it's my favorite color. And I opened up the boxes and there's a blue one in there.

Nicole Darden Creston: No kidding.

Natalie Doliner: Maybe I bought it at the end of last year and was in that decorating trance and don't remember it and put it away…but I don't remember doing it. There was my little Christmas miracle this year.

Nicole came to Central Florida to attend Rollins College and started working for Orlando’s ABC News Radio affiliate shortly after graduation. She joined WMFE in 2010. As a field reporter, news anchor and radio show host in the City Beautiful, she has covered everything from local arts to national elections, from extraordinary hurricanes to historic space flights, from the people and procedures of Florida’s justice system to the changing face of the state’s economy.
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