At the northwestern tip of Brooklyn, in a rambling space that once must have manufactured something, a gorgeous stage awaits a holiday celebration. White fairy lights dot black curtains, making for a twinkly, festive feel.
White trees, potted white poinsettias and huge wreaths set the stage for NBC's "A Michael Buble Christmas," airing Tuesday, Dec. 6.
Buble, the Canadian singer who would have been quite comfortable in the Rat Pack, rehearses for his first TV special. He jokes with the a cappella group Naturally 7, which tours with him. He teases the audience and tells a barely off-color joke that he loves.
On a mild day in early November, those who secured tickets to the taping file in wearing holiday party clothes. The teens, wearing short skirts and teetering on heels, shriek when the warm-up comedian mentions the name Justin Bieber.
Yes, the teen idol is among the guests, each singing a song in the one-hour show. Kellie Pickler, Thalia and the Puppini Sisters also join Buble.
However, the guest who blows him away, Buble reveals as he takes a break in his dressing room, is Oscar the Grouch. Caroll Spinney, the human behind Oscar, visited earlier in the day. Buble is thrilled that Spinney suggested a change to the script, which he's keeping in.
Buble is having a blast. He loves Christmas so much, and during the special, photos of him as a kid sitting on Santa's (his dad) lap are shown. Selecting songs for this was difficult because he's so fond of so many.
"I picked my favorites," he says. "It's a fast-paced network show. I didn't want the special to be all music. As a viewer I wanted it to be infused with humor."
In addition to the "Sesame Street" curmudgeon, Ed Helms and Tracy Morgan have bits. Buble's songs are Christmas standards, many of which would have been at home on a special from the 1960s. He understands that there is something inherently and terminally cool about donning a sharkskin suit, white shirt and skinny black tie. A major flirt, Buble loves to sing and have fun. It's pretty impossible to remain immune to his charms.
A couple of hours before Pickler takes the stage -- this part of it set with red and white furniture and a fireplace -- she relaxes in her dressing room. Clad in jeans and a camouflage print thermal T-shirt, with her face bare of makeup, Pickler looks like a pretty high-school kid.
"As far as today goes, it's easy to get into the Christmas spirit," Pickler says. "The fireplace, the trees. You cannot be around Michael and not be in a good mood.
"I was curious what he and I would sound like together," she says. "We come from two different formats."
She recalls being surprised when asked to perform with him.
They sing "White Christmas" together. Pickler wears an elegant white chiffon gown, strapless and draped, with Louboutin heels covered in Swarovski crystals.
"I just want people to watch the show and make them happy," Pickler says. "Sometimes Christmas is not pleasant for everyone."
Pickler then rehearses with Buble. She travels with just her manager; Bieber arrives with an entourage of 12. He changes into skinny black jeans, which he wears extremely low, a black sweater, white button-down shirt and black bow tie. He then takes the stage to sing "Mistletoe," from his same-named CD that debuted at No. 1.
The rehearsal happens in the middle of the paternity accusation, and Bieber is not talking or joking around with the crew.
Buble, however, goofs around with his fellow Canadian and manages to lighten the mood.
"Soon Canadians will take over," Buble says. "We have saved up all our hockey pucks and slingshots, and we are going to take over."
Buble meshes well with each guest. Thalia, who sings "Feliz Navidad" with him, says, "Michael is such a cutie-pie, his spirit, his life, his voice." She notes that she particularly likes that she sings in English and he in Spanish.
The Puppini Sisters harmonize on "Jingle Bells" with him, and Buble sings classics from his new CD, "Michael Buble Christmas." On the special, the singers perform in front of a 36-piece band, which swings.Buble acknowledges 10 Marines in their dress uniforms in the audience. Among his numbers is "I'll Be Home for Christmas."
Later in his dressing room, Buble reflects on the Christmas songs that became popular during World War II.
"It started to have a life of its own, the way that song kept them connected to home," Buble says. "As I get older, I realize what I wimp I am and what sacrifices people make. Those songs were heavy stuff. They didn't know if they would see their families again."
With Buble's easy banter and variety of guests, the special has a sweet, old-fashioned feeling yet seems fresh.
"I hope it brings families together and maybe laugh," Buble says. "And to get excited for Christmas, like I am."Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun