By MIKE CHAIKEN
Pull out your Beatles wigs, practice your “Yeah, yeah, yeahs,” crank up that Merseybeat sound, and prepare to zip back to the Swinging Sixties when the annual OM Variety Show tackles “The British Invasion” later this month.
The annual variety show, which is the oldest in the country, will be presented April 19 and 20 at St. Paul Catholic High School.
Allen Stone is returning this year to direct the event, commonly referred to in Bristol as “The OM Show.”
Stone explained this year’s theme, “The British Invasion,” is actually a continuation of a theme begun two years ago.
“I actually thought of the idea for the show when I saw the ‘Glee’ cast perform our opening number ‘Hello Goodbye’ on the TV show. When I was choosing music for the 2011 show, ‘OMtv,’ I came across sheet music for ‘Hello Goodbye’ and thought that I need to visit this idea next year.”
But Stone said it made more sense to follow the 1980s’ theme with 1970s theme, thus last year’s “Studio 54.”
Finally, the time seemed right to slip back into the 1960s.
When Stone started looking for what songs to include the show, he was looking for numbers that worked well as choral pieces and also worked well with the individual ensembles that make up the evening. “I was able to meet with my assistant director, Jena Doolittle and music director, Sally Kish to make the decisions for what we would use as the main chorus songs. We were able to choose four songs for the kids’ choruses, as well as a song for a men’s vocal specialty group, a girls’ vocal specialty group, and an adult vocal specialty group.”
“All of the songs we picked in that meeting are so well known, they are songs that define the music of the era,” said Stone.
Stone was too young to witness the British Invasion first time around, he was born in 1965. But he said,”I remember these songs because I grew up hearing them on the radio…. I do remember knowing who the Beatles were… I love so many of the Beatles songs so having all of these great vocal arrangements to choose from made picking music easy.”
Lest you think this is an evening of just songs that pay tribute to the “loveable Moptops” the world knew at the beginning of the British Invasion, Stone said, there are other acts represented as well including Herman’s Hermits, The Foundations, Brian Poole, The Kinks, Donovan, The Tokens, Manfred Mann, Freddy and the Dreamers, and of course The Rolling Stones. Some of the featured singers also will tackle songs by Lulu and Dusty Springfield.
The show’s theme has helped to bring in some older performers to the 2013 cast, said Stone. “We have so many new cast members this year because of the show theme, people who love this music era.”
As for the youngest cast members, many of whom may never even heard the music, said Stone, “It’s always fun to work with the kids in the cast, especially the youngest ones. They are always the first to know all the words to the songs and have so much fun learning the tune and the choreography. Music is music, and these songs have very catchy hooks to them, so it’s easy for kids to learn them.”
And Stone said the younger performers are given a little bit of historical perspective to the music they are performing for “The British Invasion.”
“The interesting thing about music now is that we are going through a second form of British Invasion, with bands like One Direction and The Wanted and solo artists like Adele and Ed Sheeran making huge hits. I have been talking about how these groups from the ‘60s were generating the same excitement back then that today’s British bands are generating now.”
And he explains, “So much of the music from those ‘60s songs are still influencing artists today, the music is multi-generational.”
When he did shows on the 1980s and the 1970s, Stone tried to weave a story line through the evening to tie the songs together. He said he is doing the same again this year. “I plan to use an actor to help tie a story line into the show. What was big in the ‘60s? How were so many of the British bands gaining popularity? Well, there was this great TV show that ran for many years in the days of the black and white television, long before the remote control, when we actually had to get off the couch to change the channel. Not many people changed the channel when the Beatles did their first performance in America though.”
And as people get ready to buy their tickets for April 19 or 20, Stone urged to come out.
“First and foremost, this is the longest running variety show in the country. This will be the 72nd consecutive year the OM show will be performed. Second, it is the largest fund raiser of the year for the Older Members Association of the Bristol Boys and Girls Club. It is for a great cause. Third, with a cast of around 100 people, you may know a friend or family member in the show who has been working hard since the beginning of the year on this show.”
“Ultimately,” said Stone. “It will be a fun and entertaining evening or afternoon out in Bristol. The audience will be taken back to this great influential music. The show will have a nice mix of upbeat and mellow grooves and is fully choreographed.”
“The British Invasion” show dates are Friday, April 19 at 7:30 p.m.and Saturday, April 20 at 1:30 and 7:30 p.m.
Tickets can be purchased at the Bristol Boys and Girls Club, 105 Laurel St., Bristol or at www.oldermembers.com