Chorus gives island a touch of Broadway this weekend
The Jamestown Community Chorus will celebrate its annual “Spring Fling” concert with a salute to Broadway this weekend. The program will feature songs from classic Broadway musicals including “West Side Story,” “Paint Your Wagon,” “The Sound of Music,” “Fiddler on the Roof,” “Sweeney Todd” and “The Man of LaMancha.” There will also be songs from more contemporary musicals like “Rent” and “Wicked.”
Music Director B.J. Whitehouse was interested in doing a concert version of “South Pacific” for the last JCC production, but ran into problems getting permission from the Rogers & Hammerstein Library. As a result, the chorus presented Gilbert and Sullivan’s “Pirate of Penzance” instead. So when the idea of a production based on songs from Broadway musicals came up, he was happy to include songs from “South Pacific” in the program.
“We [only] had an eight-week rehearsal period, so I couldn’t do anything really difficult,” Whitehouse said. “We tried to make it a lighter spring. Broadway came up and there’s a medley from ‘South Pacific,’ so it just made sense to do a little bit of lighter fare. And we got a little bit of ‘South Pacific’ in anyway.”
The JCC program will consist of songs that are — for the most part — very familiar to people. They include “They Call the Wind Mariah” from “Paint Your Wagon,” “Old Devil Moon” from “Finian’s Rainbow,” “Heather on the Hill” from “Brigadoon,” “Defying Gravity” from “Wicked” and “Seasons of Love” from “Rent.”
There will also be a six-song medley from “West Side Story” that includes beloved tunes like “Tonight,” “One Hand, One Heart” and “America.”
The list of soloists who will perform as part of the program includes Cynthia Flagg, who will sing “Something Wonderful” from “The King and I.” Also, Terry Horsely will perform “Heather on the Hill” and Denise Johnson, Pam Watters and Judy and Blaine Stickney will be featured soloists in some of the musical medleys.
Whitehouse himself, in a rare appearance, will perform “Old Devil Moon” as a duet with his wife Christine Ariel.
As an added attraction, the program will include audience participation.
“We always have a singalong session,” Whitehouse said. “We’ll be singing a number of songs as sing-alongs. But I have every belief that everybody is going to be singing along with all the songs anyway. People are going to be humming in the audience. How can you not hum along with ‘The Impossible Dream’ from ‘Man of LaMancha?’ These are super high-quality songs; everybody loves these. There will be a great deal of smiles and familiarity with the music.”
Whitehouse traces his love for Broadway music back to his childhood. “A lot of this music I can take back to my childhood. My parents loved Broadway. They loved ‘South Pacific’ [and] they loved ‘Brigadoon.’ I got involved with musicals as a teenager.”
When the time came to choose the songs for the “Salute To Broadway,” Whitehouse turned to a reliable source. “The person I checked with for some music was my mom. I called her and asked her for some of her favorite songs. She and my sister put together a list of about 50 songs. I used part of that list. It’s kind of cool because it’s going to be Mother’s Day.”
After taking what Whitehouse describes as a “nice break,” the JCC will present their annual talent show on the third Thursday in August. “It’s a big fundraiser for us and it’s always open for auditions for anybody,” he said. “We’ve had absolutely spectacular stuff over the years.”
After the talent show, it is on to the annual Christmas show. “While everyone is enjoying the [Fourth of July] fireworks, I’ll be planning the Christmas show,” Whitehouse said while laughing.
The Jamestown Community Chorus was founded in 1949 by Rita Murray together with the Exchange of Topics and Crafts Club, a Jamestown women’s group. Since that time more than 800 people have sung with the chorus, under four directors. Whitehouse has been the chorus director for more than 20 years.
The chorus welcomes all singers for its winter and spring shows; there are additional appearances at various events throughout the year as well. No auditions are held. About half of the members are from Jamestown, while others come from nearby communities.
“Spring Fling: A Salute To Broadway” will be presented by the Jamestown Community Chorus on Saturday, May 7 at 7:30 p.m., and Sunday, May 8 at 3:00 p.m. Both performances will take place at the Central Baptist Church.
Tickets are $10 for general admission and $7 for senior citizens. They can be purchased at Baker’s Pharmacy, Jamestown Hardware and the Secret Garden. There will also be tickets available at the door or by calling 423-1574 for reservations.