Draper Arts Council salutes the Big Band era in Draper Amphitheater showAug 02, 2021 12:51PM ● By Katherine Weinstein
Accompanied by Riverton Jazz Band, audience members enjoy the dance floor at “Dancing In The Stars: A Big Band Tribute” at Draper Amphitheater. (Photo courtesy Valaura Arnold/Draper Arts Council)
By Katherine Weinstein | [email protected]
Between the swinging music and the singers and dancers in period dress, a time traveler landing at Draper Amphitheater on Aug. 20 or 21 might think they had arrived sometime in the 1940s. On those evenings, Draper Arts Council will present “Dancing In The Stars: A Big Band Tribute.”
Singers and dancers, accompanied by the Riverton Jazz Band, will perform a variety of songs from the “Great American Songbook.” Audience members are encouraged to get up and dance as well. “We usually have people who dress up and come to dance,” said producer Shauna Call. “We reserve the dance floor for the audience.”
“Dancing In The Stars: A Big Band Tribute” has grown in popularity over the years. The show is “a coalition of singers, dancers and the band,” explained singer and director Valaura Arnold. “This is all of us, creating together.”
“The Big Band Tribute has turned into something I’m so passionate about,” Arnold exclaimed. “I love Big Band and that era of music. These songs just speak to people.” She noted that the music has an appeal that spans generations.
Kerrie Neu, pianist and president of Riverton Jazz Band, looks forward to the opportunity to “share our appreciation of jazz and Big Band standards. We want to foster that love of music with younger people.” Neu also spoke of how the music invites older folks to take a trip down memory lane. “They might remember dancing, get a glint in their eye,” she said. “It brings back memories.”
A record number of people auditioned for this year’s production. “Between the band, singers and dancers, we’ll have about 100 performers,” Arnold said.
The production team has changed things up this year to accommodate the number of singers. “We’re going to do more of a pre-show with people singing with pre-recorded tracks,” Call explained. The pre-show performances will begin at 7:30 p.m. and go on while audience members are arriving.
Additionally, there will be more group numbers than in years past. “We have so many artists, we can do lots of trios,” Arnold said. The music of the Andrews Sisters is ideally suited to this production. “We’re doing ones that bring back patriotic feelings, like ‘I’ll Be Seeing You’ and ‘Boogie-Woogie Bugle Boy,’” she added.
The singers and dancers will be costumed in 1940’s-style outfits. “They will be dressed to the nines for whatever the song requires,” Arnold said.
The program will also include Big Band hits such as “In the Mood” and “Sing, Sing, Sing,” and Broadway classics like “My Funny Valentine” and “Almost Like Being In Love.” More recent songs, “It had Better Be Tonight” and “Feeling Good” by Michael Bublé, will be performed as well.
Some of the songs will be given new interpretations. “We’re doing a new arrangement of ‘Sing, Sing, Sing,’” Kerrie Neu said. “We’re excited to be able to showcase that one this year. When Valaura sings ‘Feeling Good,’ that’s very fun!”
Neu has been performing with Riverton Jazz Band for 13 years. She mentioned the organization’s nonprofit status and noted that each musician is a volunteer. As with so many other performing arts groups, the pandemic prevented the members from practicing and performing together. “I am just so grateful for the dedication of the band members,” Neu said. “We’re so excited to get the ball rolling again.”
“We hope that people are just ready to get out and enjoy live music again,” said Shauna Call.
Draper Arts Council will present “Dancing In The Stars: A Big Band Tribute,” Aug. 20 and 21 at Draper Amphitheater. The pre-show begins at 7:30 p.m. Draper Amphitheater is located at 944 Vestry Road. Tickets go on sale two weeks prior to opening night. For more information, call 385-351-9468 or visit the Draper Arts Council website at www.draperartscouncil.org.