Sunday, October 30, 2011

Show & Tell: Three Phantoms in Concert

The Fox Valley Symphony's Three Phantoms in Concert delivered and exceeded the expectations promised by Craig Schulman. One could envision every show as the three Broadway tenors Craig Schulman, Brad Little and Ted Keegan took us on a magical journey with songs from some of Broadway's most popular musicals. 

Signature songs from My Fair Lady, Camelot, Les Miserables, Jesus Christ Superstar, Phantom of the Opera, and others brought cheers of “bravo” and thunderous applause from the audience. You could close your eyes and recall Richard Kiley’s performance in Man of La Mancha, when Ted Keegan sang the “Impossible Dream.” 

It was an enjoyable evening for all including the three tenors as they entertained everyone with their humor, stories and songs. Following their performance of “Music of the Night,” they received a standing ovation that did not end until Craig Schulman asked the audience to be seated. There were no sets or costumes, but Broadway came alive at the Fox Cities Performing Arts Center last night backed by the full orchestra of the Fox Valley Symphony.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Show & Tell: Straight No Chaser

A few years ago, a student of mine asked if I had heard of Straight No Chaser. I was so disappointed to think she was asking me about a drink! I was suspicious when she told me it was a music group. How could a group with that kind of name be any good? Then she played "The 12 Days of Christmas" for me.

I was hooked! I became their biggest fan. I am amazed at the versatility and musicality of the group. I recently discovered they have a website. (Ok, so, I can be a bit slow with this whole social networking thing.) The website has their music right there to listen to - FREE! And, what do you know, I found more music to love. I mean, "The 12 Days Of Christmas" is amazing, but there's even more!

By having access to their website, one would think that would satiate my enjoyment of their music. Not so! When I heard on P.B.S. that Straight No Chaser was coming to the Fox Cities P.A.C., I immediately said, "I want to go!" (I think there was a dance with that comment. I believe the comment was stated more than once, with quite a bit of urgency.) But with life being crazy busy, I didn't get tickets until Thursday afternoon. I think these tickets were meant for me. I think they were the best seats in the house. But, then, there really isn't a bad seat in the Fox Cities P.A.C.

I am so glad I went to the concert! The minute the lights went down, and the "turn off your cell phone" announcement came over the PA system, I knew I was in for a different experience. The announcement was interrupted by the group saying, "Please DO take lots of video and pictures and upload them to facebook and YouTube." I promptly got my phone out and proceeded to try and figure out how to do just that.

I had so much fun at that concert. There was something for everyone. There was a mashup of songs from the '50s, and '60s, (hmm, I don't remember the '70s), the '80s, and a nod to Michael Jackson and Justin Bieber. "We just sang 'BABY' nine times." It was all with good, clean fun.

It was all there.Musically, they were excellent. The harmonies were tight, tuning was amazing, and entrances and cutoffs were clean. I love how they exploit the fact that most pop music is made up of three chords and mash up several songs into a medley. Yet, they still add their own lush harmonies to keep it interesting. Their choreography was fun. Perfect? No. But, fun. I loved that they poked fun at themselves as they choreographed different songs. I was able to laugh along with them. It was just ten guys who were onstage having a blast.

As I have been known to say, "There is nothing better than a good men's choir." I enjoyed being part of that fun. Now I have to figure out how to get those videos from my phone to facebook.

Posted on behalf of Show & Tell Reviewer Lori Maves

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Show & Tell: Fox Cities Choral Music Festival – An Evening of Joyful Noise

My first Show & Tell Reviewer assignment this year was the Fox Cities Choral Music Festival – a performance that I had heard about for all of the years of its existence (this was the eighth year), but had never attended. So I was much looking forward to seeing the high school students from Appleton West, Chilton, Freedom, and Neenah at the Fox Cities Performing Arts Center on October 25, 2011.

I was definitely not disappointed. I took a friend of mine along as my companion, and she enjoyed the production greatly also. So the show got two big “thumbs ups” from us.

The first part of the show was performances by the four individual high school groups in the order listed above. Each group performed several numbers under their individual directors. My friend and I were both struck by the fact that each of the groups included songs that had African roots – very cool! Three of the four directors were women – my personal favorite being the director from Chilton, who wore a sparkling sequined top and bright red shoes!

After intermission, we were treated to the combined choirs singing under the direction of Dr. Jerry Blackstone from the University of Michigan School of Music, Theater & Dance. What an awesome sight it was to see the massed choirs giving their full attention to Blackstone, who played the group like a fine violin. In addition to his work at the University of Michigan, Blackstone received two Grammy Awards in February 2006.

All in all, this was a GREAT evening of choral music, showcasing four of the many fine high school choral groups that exist in our area. My best endorsement is that I plan to attend again next year. Throughout the evening, I kept thinking that the groups were definitely providing “joyful noise” as is described in Psalm 100. The young people and the Boldt Arts Alive Series are to be congratulated for this wonderful performance!

Fox Cities Choral Music Festival Leaves a Lasting Impression

Yesterday’s Eighth Annual Fox Cities Choral Music Festival left a lasting impression on everyone involved. Choral students from Appleton West, Chilton, Freedom and Neenah high schools spent the early part of this week rehearsing with the Center’s guest conductor, Dr. Jerry Blackstone from the University of Michigan before their performance last night.

Following the concert, we caught up with Dr. Blackstone and Lori McNamara Maves, choral director at Freedom High School, to get their perspectives on a Fox Cities tradition.

Were you a proud parent or a part of the choir? Tell us about your experience with the Fox Cities Choral Music Festival and read some great reviews from the Show & Tell Reviewers.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Show & Tell: Eighth Annual Fox Cities Choral Music Festival

"America’s Got Talent," move over. Appleton’s Got Talent and it appeared tonight as over 200 voices from Appleton West, Chilton, Freedom and Neenah High Schools joined together at the Fox Cities P.A.C. for the Eighth Annual Fox Cities Choral Music Festival to share in song with the community. The Festival provides the young vocalists an unparalleled opportunity to perform in a professional venue both as an individual choir with their respective director as well as a combined group under the direction of the two-time Grammy award-winning conductor and director, Dr. Jerry Blackstone.

If you’re like me and haven’t attended a choral concert in years (or decades), clearly a lot has changed. While a few choral standards were performed, what struck me most about tonight’s performance was the number of modern pieces and the variety of languages in which the music was performed including Gaelic, Hindi, Latin, Swahili, and Haitian Creole. Concert choir of my childhood it was not, and delightfully so.

The night began with Appleton West’s Kantorei taking the stage conducted by Dr. Kevin Meidl. Their four Celtic songs composed by Michael McGlynn, showcased a range of choral styles which demonstrated the broad talent within their choir. “Fionnghuala” with its rapid diction, was a perfect start to the Festival of song.

Chilton’s Concert Choral under the direction of Joy Paffenroth followed onstage to perform three diverse pieces. Their first song was a classic American-style gospel arrangement followed by a traditional American choral piece. In stark contrast, their final number was the fast-paced show tune recognized by most, “Jai Ho,” from "Slumdog Millionaire."

Without missing a beat in the energy that filled the venue at this point, Freedom’s Green Sing Gold Choir directed by Lori McNamara Maves, stepped onstage and continued to enliven and invigorate the audience with “Baba Yetu,” a Swahili adaptation of “The Lord’s Prayer” from Lion King. They concluded with two pieces whose origins were in prose and later set to music. One sung in Latin, the other in English.

Neenah’s Chamber Choir then took the stage directed by Amy Westcott and captivated the audience with their opening number, “Twa Tanbou,” written by Sydney Guillaume, a Haitian immigrant. Their final two pieces, similar to Freedom’s choir, were poetic conversions into song.

The Festival’s format of each school performing individually afforded the opportunity to see the various choral styles and talents within the school before uniting them under the direction of the illustrious Jerry Blackstone to sing Lauridsen’s, “Sure On This Shining Night,” and “Alleluia.” These two songs yanked at your heart for the simplistic beauty of watching so many young, local vocalists perform onstage with profound professionalism and talent. What I was quite sure of by the end of the evening was that my night was certainly shining from the beauty through song in which they shared and that I would surely return again next year to see the next installment of Appleton’s Got Talent.

Monday, October 24, 2011

The Fox Cities Performing Arts Center - Where the Arts Come Alive!

Today, nearly 200 high school choir students spent the day rehearsing with expert guest conductor Dr. Jerry Blackstone from the University of Michigan right here at the Fox Cities Performing Arts Center. Tomorrow, they will perform at their best in the Eighth Annual Fox Cities Choral Music Festival

When you see (and hear) moments like these, you know the Fox Cities Performing Arts Center is where the arts come alive!

If you want to support moments like these, vote for the Fox Cities Performing Arts Center in the 25  for 25 Charity Challenge. It’s easy. Just click and cast your vote for the arts!

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Show & Tell: In The Mood

In 1940, the song at the top of the American charts was Glenn Miller’s “In the Mood”, and today, Bud Forrest’s concert extravaganza by the same name is successfully crossing the country in its eighteenth international tour. In the Mood presents audiences with a full program by the String of Pearls Orchestra in collaboration with the In The Mood Singers & Dancers.
In just the first act, the performers showcased a variety of classic tunes, both upbeat and sentimental, which portrayed the time period beautifully and captured the whim of the audience. Despite minor technical issues, the instrumentalists and dancers performed with great energy and the interspersed narration assured a smooth flow between numbers. The singers and dancers were very engaging and even involved audience in “Hey! Ba Ba Re Bop”. Unexpectedly the String of Pearls Orchestra also participated in some of the visual performance aspects of the show, as they “danced” along with their instruments and marched through the audience.
The second act focused on the war taking place in the early ‘40s, and had a bit of a story woven through to keep the songs cohesive. An air of entertainment was certainly kept up, as humorous songs like “What Do You Do In the Infantry” and the crowd-pleaser “Say That We’re Sweethearts Again” were interjected between more serious numbers. One portion of the show was dedicated to honoring current and former members of the United Sates military, as the orchestra and singers performed the anthems of the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard, while recognizing the respective members of the audience.
Overall, the singers, dancers, and musicians celebrated America with patriotic entertainment and without a doubt got the audience in the mood!

Show & Tell: In the Mood

Well, hi-dee-ho! I had the privilege of heading to a real humdinger of a show last night.

In the Mood transported its audience to another time and place. From the moment I walked in the Fox Cities Performing Arts Center and viewed the simple and traditional bandstand set to its last soulful notes, it was as if I had stepped back in time to the 1940s. The performance was filled with historical references, '40s vernacular, as well as a wide variety of gorgeous, relevant costumes. Throughout the show, I could almost see a family in 1940, circled comfortably around their radio, enraptured by the smooth sounds of swing and jazz and interspersed with the mellow voice of the announcer. In addition to being an era when our country was united by the passions and fears of war, it was the last decade that the United States was also united by their love of the same music style.

The thirteen piece band brought a lot of fun to the performance and were astoundingly talented, even occasionally switching instruments from song to song. And really, who can't fall in love with a band that includes a stand-up bass? Each musician was given their chance to shine, but the audience seemed especially smitten with the drummer, who wowed the group with his stellar drum solos and jazzy riffs.

The singers and dancers were wonderful as well. Their harmonies were "heavenly", just as the MC promised us from the beginning. Each one was also more than capable of standing on their own to solo. Their performance included more than one laugh-out-loud moment, and at times they left the audience in stitches. But they weren't just pleasing to the ears, their swing dancing was fun to watch and performed with incredible skill. The cast could Charleston and jitterbug with the best. A few minor technical difficulties with their mics didn't phase them at all, and their professionalism shined through.

In the Mood covered a wide variety of the decades songs and styles, including Latin rhythms, country, polka, and patriotic numbers. Some of my personal favorites were "At Last", made most famous by Etta James, performed as a tender duet; "Hey! Ba Ba Re Bop", which the audience was invited to heartily participate in; "Say That We're Sweethearts Again", which had the entire audience rolling; and, my favorite swing song, "Sing, Sing, Sing", always a hit. But the most touching musical moment of the night was definitely when the cast honored service men and women in the audience by having them stand and singing the anthem of each branch of the United States military.

As an enthusiastic member of the audience, I have to include the fact that I appreciate In the Mood filling in unexpectedly after an unexpected schedule change. I don't think anyone in the audience was sorry for the switch!

In the Mood was a fun and refreshing look back in time. If it makes its way through the Fox Cities P.A.C. again, make your plans to attend. It will really flip your lid- and how!

Monday, October 17, 2011

Vote for the Fox Cities P.A.C. Today!

Dear Friends,

The Community Foundation for the Fox Valley Region, Inc. has posed a challenge to community nonprofits, and we need your help!

Vote for the Fox Cities Performing Arts Center in the 25 for 25 Challenge. For ten days, October 16-25, your vote online with a valid email address will decide which organizations will receive $187,500 in grant money.

The Center is a place where inspiring moments happen every day, touching people from all walks of life. Whether a person is captivated by a Broadway show, a family learns about the world around them with a Boldt Arts Alive! performance or a student sees classroom lessons come to life onstage – the Fox Cities P.A.C. is making a positive impact in our community every day!

Vote today!

Best regards,
Maria Van Laanen
Executive Vice President

P.S. Add the 25 for 25 Charity Challenge to your calendar today!

Congrats to the Les Misérables Trivia Winners

Over the past five days, the Fox Cities P.A.C. has been testing your knowledge about one of this season’s most anticipated Broadway titles, Les Misérables. Thanks for playing along, and if you took a guess, find out if you were right!

Day 1: Who wrote Les Misérables and created artwork that’s included in the new 25th Anniversary production?
    Answer: Victor Hugo wrote Les Misérables

Day 2: How many loaves of French bread appear in Les Mis each week?
    Answer: 8 loaves

Day 3: How many people will perform with the cast of Les Misérables November 15-20 at the Fox Cities Performing Arts Center?
    Answer: 38!

Day 4: How many Tony Awards has Les Misérables won?
    Answer: 8 Tony Awards 

Day 5: For what crime does Jean Valjean become prisoner 24601?
    Answer: Stealing a loaf of bread

Congratulations to
 Karie Mindock
 Jeanee Martens 
Jennifer Woldt (aka Badgerjen2002) 
Joy Fritz Paffenroth 
Peg McEwen

The five winners above, selected at random, will receive a copy of “Les Misérables Live! The 2010 Cast Album New 25th Anniversary Production.” Prizes can be picked up in-person at the Fox Cities Performing Arts Center ticket office!

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Les Mis Trivia #5

Here's the last Les Mis trivia question! Take a guess and check back Monday to find out if your name was picked for an official cast album.

For what crime does Jean Valjean become prisoner 24601?

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Les Mis Trivia #4

Want to win a cast album from the 25th anniversary production of Les Misérables? Take a guess - how many Tony Awards has Les Misérables won?

Winners will be selected at random on Monday!

Friday, October 14, 2011

Les Mis Trivia #3

How many people will perform with the cast of Les Misérables November 15-20 at the Fox Cities Performing Arts Center? Your guess could win a 2010 Cast Recording. For details, visit the contest post.

Broadway Buzz: The New Witches on Broadway

Last February the Fox Cities P.A.C. welcomed two talented witches to the stage in the musical WICKED, and now they have made it to Broadway! Jackie Burns and Chandra Lee Schwartz took the Broadway stage September 27 as Elphaba and Glinda in New York at the Gershwin Theatre. The ladies will be joining Kathy Fitzgerald as Madame Morrible and Tom McGowan as the Wizard.

Congratulotions Jackie and Chandra on landing Broadway roles!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Les Mis Trivia #2

How many loaves of French bread appear in Les Mis each week? You could win a cast album with your best guess! 

For details, visit the contest post.

In The Mood for Soup?

The weather forecast for Saturday, October 15 looks like it will be perfect for Appleton Downtown, Inc.’ annual Soup Walk. Are you in the mood from some tasty samples?

From noon until 4:00 p.m., spend your day on College Avenue trying all of the latest creations. Then, vote for your favorite soup October 15-19 for a chance to win two tickets to In The Mood, a heartwarming 1940s musical revue at the Fox Cities Performing Arts Center on Friday, October 21.

For more information on In The Mood, visit!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Les Misérables Trivia #1

Who wrote Les Misérables and created artwork that’s included in the new 25th Anniversary production?

Win a Les Misérables Cast Album!

Les Misérables is just around the corner November 15-20 at the Fox Cities P.A.C. Dream the dream with a cast album from the 25th anniversary production of Les Misérables! Watch for trivia questions this week, and respond with your best guess.

On Monday, we’ll select 5 winners at random and announce them here on the Center's blog!

*Limit one entry per correct trivia answer posted to the Center's blog, Twitter or Facebook Page. Prize must be picked up at the Fox Cities Performing Arts Center.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

A New Kind of Musical - Online!

Les Misérables is a just over a month away, but with the fall colors starting, I’m ready for the Center’s 2011/12 Season to get into full swing with a Broadway show. If you’re anything like me, you’ve already listened to all of your favorite cast recordings. Looking for something new? Look no further than your browser, and try something a little different – musicals online!

Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog

Web musicals got their start back in 2008 during the infamous writers’ strike, when director Joss Whedon (“Dollhouse,” “Buffy the Vampire Slayer”) and a group of his friends including Neil Patrick Harris (“How I Met Your Mother,” “The 2011 Tony Awards”) and Nathan Fillion (“Castle”) came together to work on an independent project exclusively for the web. With a shoestring budget, they set to work on a musical in three acts. Would-be villain Dr. Horrible (Harris) hopes to gain acceptance to the Evil League of Evil despite musical run-ins with his archenemy Captain Hammer (Fillion). And you thought Spider-Man was the first singing sci-fi superhero! Download it on iTunes, stream it on Netflix or track down the DVD – complete with musical commentary from the creators.

Perks The Musical
Perks’ pilot episode was released in June and shows all the potential of the first season of “Glee.” Josh, a high school student whose arts education includes Guitar Hero and “High School Musical 3” sets to write an original musical with his best friend to win over the girl he loves (but has yet to talk to). Will it live up to its pilot? Depends if the cast can find time in their busy schedules to finish the series. Stay tuned at

The Online Musical
If production quality isn’t an issue or you’ve always wanted to weigh in on the next song or plot line, you should check out The Online Musical. Originally a 10 part musical influenced by viewers input on YouTube, its expanded it include short musical vignettes – the latest of which is titled “Where’s Waldo? The Musical.”

Have I missed one of your favorites? What do you think of musicals online rather than onstage?

Content Disclaimer: The online musicals mentioned above contain mature content and humor and may not be suitable for all audiences.