The 2015 musical revue at the Timbers Dinner Theatre in Mt. Gretna pays homage to three of the greatest record labels of all time.
The show, "Say It With Music," which opens Tuesday, July 14, and runs through Labor Day weekend, includes more than 30 hits from the Motown, Sun Records and Columbia labels. And that's just Act One. In Timbers' tradition, Act Two will feature a storyline with singing, dancing and comedy as the audience meets the characters of the fictitious Timbers Dew Drop Inn.
The brand-new show was created by director/choreographer Sharon Miller and music director Andy Roberts. The pair come up with a fresh and completely different show each year.
"We were tossing around different ideas at the end of last summer, and I said, 'how about record labels?'" Miller said during a rehearsal last week.
Motown, Sun Records and Columbia were as different as three labels could be. Motown, of course, blended soul, R&B and pop and launched the careers of many great African-American artists. Sun Records discovered Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis and others, and infused early rock, country and rockabilly.
Picking the songs for the Columbia segment of the show was a challenge.
"Columbia was kind of the toughest because the other two are pigeon-holed in their genres," Roberts said. "But Columbia has everything from pop to Broadway standards."
"We picked the songs together," Miller said. "The Columbia label produced a lot of Broadway show songs. I didn't realize that."
The show opens with a medley of eight Motown songs and flows into a medley of seven Sun Records' songs. Then comes the Columbia segment, where well-known pop tunes are interspersed with Broadway show tunes.
It makes for some interesting transitions, but it works. From Barbra Streisand's "Evergreen" and "I'm Five," the latter sung in a child's voice, the men in the cast break into Burt Bacharach's "This Guy's in Love With You."
Another example: the cast performs '70s hits "I'm All Right" by Kenny Loggins and "Piano Man" by Billy Joel, then segues into Broadway classics "Let Me Entertain You" from "Gypsy," "The Surrey with a Fringe on the Top" from "Oklahoma," and "If They Could See Me Now" from "Sweet Charity."
A big reason it all works is a talented cast of seven performers, most of whom are recent musical-theater graduates. The cast has been rehearsing eight-plus hours a day since arriving in Gretna two weeks ago.
"The challenging thing for them is, they don't know the songs when they come in because they're so young," Roberts said.
Both Miller and Roberts said they have been very impressed by how quickly the young performers have learned the material.
In Act Two, the musical selections pay tribute to four legendary composers: Rodgers and Hammerstein, Cole Porter, George Gershwin and Irving Berlin. The music is tied in to a humorous skit involing the Timbers Dew Drop Inn.
"It's got a real '40s feel to it," Miller said.
"It's a lot of swing music," said Roberts.
Following is a brief look at the cast:
— Lauren Adkins is from Lancaster County and is a freelance photographer when she's not performing. Her favorite past roles include Celeste/Betty in "Sunday in the Park with George" and Sally Simpson in "The Who's Tommy."
— Lindsey Grimble, also from Lancaster County, is sharing the role with Adkins. She is a graduate of the American Musical and Dramatic Academy in New York City. She has worked on several equity readings, workshops and commercials in New York, Los Angeles, Branson, Mo., and Pennsylvania.
— Eileen Cannon is a recent grad of The Hartt School, where she received a degree in musical theater. She has appeared in "George M!" and played Arista in "The Little Mermaid."
— Madison Tinder is a recent grad of Otterbein University, where she received a degree in musical theater and dance. She played Charity in "Sweet Charity," and was recently seen in the New York premier of "Wild Women of Planet Wongo."
— Jeremiah Light earned dual degrees in musical theater and acting from the University of Northern Colorado. His credits include "Gypsy," "A Year With Frog and Toad" and "A Midsummer Night's Dream."
— Jared Miller has completed his freshman year at The Boston Conservatory, where he appeared in "The Pillowman" and "What About Cal."
— Aaron Mor is the only member of the cast who's performed on the Timbers stage before. He is a graduate of the Juilliard School's vocal division, where he appeared in opera classics "Cosi Fan Tutti," "Don Giovanni" and "The Marriage of Figaro."