Monday, January 30, 2012

The Cast of Million Dollar Quartet will be Live at Lunch Next Tuesday!

Set down that sandwich and move away from your computer. 

The cast of Million Dollar Quartet is live at lunch Tuesday, February 7 performing a free 20 minute set from their smash-hit Broadway show. Head to City Center Plaza in Downtown Appleton at 12:15 p.m. and enjoy music from Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins and Jerry Lee Lewis. You deserve a break and a chance to win 2 tickets to the show!

What’s Million Dollar Quartet about?

Well, it all began the night Sam Phillips booked a recording session for Carl Perkins on December 4, 1956. Perkins was there to try out some new tunes with the hopes of recreating the recipe for success he'd found earlier that year. Thinking that Perkins' sound needed a slight update, Phillips had brought in one of his newest artists, the young pianist Jerry Lee Lewis.

While many of the details of the rest of the day's events are still in dispute, this much is known: Perkins and Lewis were later joined by Elvis Presley and Johnny Cash, and they held an impromptu jam session. It was a reunion for Cash, Perkins and Presley, who had toured the South together in 1955.

The recordings of the session – later released in a series of albums beginning in 1981 – show all of the men, particularly Presley, at ease with the music and generally just having a good time jamming.

Now the Million Dollar Quartet (as the session came to be called) is the subject of a hit Broadway show headed to the Fox Cities Performing Arts Center February 7-12. For details, visit or call the Center's ticket office at (920) 730-3760. 

Friday, January 27, 2012

Show & Tell: Swan Lake

Grace. Beauty. Fluidity.

These three words sum up a night at the ballet this evening at the Fox Cities Performing Arts Center.

This is my last scheduled review for the Show & Tell program this year. When I started the season as a Show & Tell blogger, I wanted to experience things that I might otherwise not attend. “Swan Lake,” performed by the State Ballet Theater of Russia was just such an event. My 15-year-old daughter, who had last taken a ballet class about 7 years ago, was my escort for the evening.

From the opening scene with Prince Siegfried celebrating his 21st birthday and learning that he has to choose a wife, to the climax after the ball in his honor, I was struck by the athleticism and stamina of the dancers. Prima Ballerina, Svetlana Noskova, spent more time in the air and on her toes than on her heels. Her seemingly endless series of twirls at the close of Act 3 was amazing. Mikhail Negrobov’s portrayal of Siegfried’s friend Beno added a bit of humor and agility to the beautiful display throughout the evening.

Thanks to an enlightening pre-show discussion by Jeanette Makaroff of the Makaroff Youth Ballet, I was able to better follow the story line and was prepared for some of the key scenes of the evening. As a novice to the ballet, her presentation was extremely helpful. We learned that this story has been handed down through the generations, with moves passed from teacher to student to performer. Watching the performance unfold, I kept in mind that we were watching something which had been composed and choreographed over 115 years ago.

While most of the focus of the evening was on the principle performers, I was struck by the beauty and synchronization of the ensemble as a whole. The simple set and crisp costumes effortlessly set the background for the solos. One of my favorite moments involved four members of the ensemble dancing arm in arm in perfect unison with each other while performing very intricate footwork.

I have often said that three hours at the Fox Cities Performing Arts Center can never be bad, and tonight proved no exception. As we walked to our car through the fresh falling snow, I again felt privileged to live in an area that offers such a broad variety of cultural options.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Show & Tell: Dailey & Vincent

Last night I had the pleasure of attending the Dailey & Vincent concert at the Fox Cities P.A.C. It wasn't one of my scheduled shows to review; I filled in last minute for another reviewer who was sick. As a result I didn't have the normal prep time before I would usually have before a show. I took a few minutes to check out a few websites so I knew what I was walking into. The websites and reviews didn't do the show justice. I must say, I sort of liked not knowing exactly what I was going to experience, I think it made it that much more enjoyable.

If you aren't familiar with Dailey & Vincent, they are award-winning bluegrass entertainers. And entertainers are exactly what they are! Aside from being fantastic musicians, the group uses just the right amount of humor and improv to keep their audience engaged. One of my favorite aspects of the show was how the entire group - but especially Jamie Dailey and Darrin Vincent - personally connected with the audience. Before the performance, Jamie and Darrin were available for a question and answer session. Sitting in on this extra session gave the audience the chance to ask questions in a very casual setting. Dailey and Vincent talked about preparing for their performances, the songs that they sing, members of the group, and the act itself.

Once they were onstage they continued to connect with their audience in many ways. They sang a special anniversary song to a couple in the audience, took song requests and at one point, Joe Dean, the banjo player even sat in the audience with an adoring fan.

Aside from their larger-than-life personalities, the members of Dailey & Vincent all possess amazing musical talent. I was especially impressed with Jesse Stockman on the fiddle and Joe Dean on the banjo. I never realized fingers could move that fast! Christian Davis and his beautiful bass voice was also a treat to listen to. He entertained the audience effortlessly with his low voice that actually made my belly rumble! I loved the rich sound of the Statler Brothers style quartet music, and I was amazed by the musical talent of every member of the group. It's no wonder they had their fans on their feet multiple times throughout the evening.

Thank you to all the members of Dailey & Vincent, I had a toe-tapping, hand-clapping good time. You most definitely have a new fan in me!

Friday, January 20, 2012

Broadway Buzz: From Broadway to a City Near You

Before we know it, the 2012/13 Season will be underway. Many of last year’s Tony® Award-winning plays and musicals will be launching national tours, and my fingers are crossed that a few will stop at the Fox Cities P.A.C.! Are any of these titles on your must-see list?

Tony Award winner for Best Revival of a Play, The Normal Heart, will begin their national tour in Washington, DC this June. A quarter-century after it was written, this gripping play chronicles the politics of the AIDS crisis in New York.

Get out your carrots and oats, Joey the horse will be galloping across the country to present War Horse beginning this June in Los Angeles. Have you been to the movies to see the amazing story on the big screen?

Ding-dong! It’s the Tony Award-winning musical ready to tour the country. The Book of Mormon is kicking off a national tour on August 14 in Denver and also launching a production in Chicago this December.

All aboard for a story that takes you out to sea on a luxury cruise ship. A Tony winner for Best Revival of a Musical, Anything Goes plans to visit 25 cities after launching their national tour in Cleveland this October.

The real-life story of con artist Frank Abagnale Jr. will be “Live in Living Color” this fall beginning in Providence, Rhode Island.

Deloris Van Cartier is bringing disco back this fall with a North American tour of Sister Act. Deloris will be a “nun-on-the-run” all across the country!

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Top 5 Places You Have Heard Ladysmith Black Mambazo

With a career spanning more than 40 years, Ladysmith Black Mambazo has worked with some of the greats. Their Grammy Award-winning music is known for combining South African rhythms and harmonies with the spirit of gospel music to create a sound that “gets into the blood.” Even if you don’t have their albums, they have probably graced your TV or playlist more than once.

Ladysmith Black Mambazo will be performing at the Fox Cities Performing Arts Center on Wednesday, February 1, so we thought it would be fun to mention some of their other work.

Top 5 Places You Have Heard Ladysmith Black Mambazo

#5: Performances with Popular Musicians
Ladysmith Black Mambazo has collaborated with a wide spectrum of recording artists from Stevie Wonder to Dolly Parton and Ben Harper to George Clinton, just to name a few.

#4: Lifesavers Commercials
Search for it on YouTube, and you'll instantly recognize it. “Lifesavers… Yum.”

#3: Movie Soundtracks 
If you have kids, you’ve probably heard Ladysmith Black Mambazo on “Disney’s The Lion King Part II.” Their music can also be found in movies like “Coming to America” with Eddie Murphy and Sean Connery’s “League of Extraordinary Gentlemen.”

#2: Paul Simon’s “Graceland” 
Working with Paul Simon on “Graceland” helped launch Ladysmith Black Mambazo to worldwide fame.

#1: Sesame Street's African Alphabet”
Obviously, Ladysmith Black Mambazo is comprised of people rather than puppets, but this performance with Kermit is one of the most commonly requested “Sesame Street” segments.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Catch Million Dollar Quartet Fever!

Million Dollar Quartet won't arrive at the Fox Cities Performing Arts Center until February 7, but there have already been some Elvis sightings in the building. 

The photo above is an iconic shot from the famous night in 1956 when Elvis Presley, Carl Perkins, Johnny Cash and Jerry Lee Lewis came together for one of the greatest jam sessions of all time. Inspired by the show, we thought we'd ask our Center staffers to join in on the fun with "rock bands" of their own.

You can see the staff photos and vote for your favorite shot in Million Dollar Quartet Fever for a chance to win two tickets to opening night of Million Dollar Quartet on Tuesday, February 7. Like the Center's Facebook page, follow us on Twitter or visit and click on the Million Dollar Quartet Fever banner to select your favorite Fox Cities P.A.C. rock bands. A winner will be chosen at random on Friday, January 13!

Congrats to Lisa Comber! She's been randomly selected as the winner of Million Dollar Quartet Fever and has won 2 tickets to opening night!

Lisa, check your email for details on how to claim your prize or email for more information.