September 30, 2010 News
Port Performers Wow Audience In “Moments to Remember” Revue By Martha Knight
Friday night’s maiden effort by Port Allegany’s new Port Performers ensemble was aptly named “Moments to Remember.” And not just because the numbers included in the revue were well chosen for maximum nostalgia. The performances that writer-director Paul Herzig strung together and skillfully drew from local amateurs were memorable for their quality.
The Performers hardly put a foot or a tonsil wrong as they danced, sang and clowned their way through the nearly two-hour revue.
The revue was written by Herzig for a 2009 performance by a Coudersport-area troupe in the Coudersport Consistory. Herzig adapted the production in keeping with the change of venue and the special purpose behind the decision to do Moments in Port Allegany.
Some of the performers have worked together in the past, as members of various area groups. But the impetus for building a new, combined, enlarged ensemble sprang from the Class of 1960—that of Port Allegany High School, that is.
The 1960 alumni were coming up on their 50th anniversary this year, and would celebrate at the annual All-Alumni Dinner, traditionally the fourth Saturday night in September. Special-year classmates often get together Friday night or Saturday, for their own special festivities and reminiscences. This class wanted to broaden their celebration to include many other people, some other activities, and some sort of benefit for their home community.
Catalysts included local CPA and guitarist, whose musical activities have put him into collaboration with Herzig before. As Herzig wrote in program notes, “I was a little hesitant to put on another musical revue until I knew it would benefit the Port Allegany Library, and I was asked by Joel Anderson. I cannot turn down a request by Joel.”
Anderson and his wife Dottie have long been active in support of the Samuel W. Smith Memorial Public Library and Bookmobile. Dottie Anderson is a longtime library board member and officer, as well as a member of the Friends of the Library.
Program notes also state, “Much hard work has gone into producing this show with a two-fold goal of having fun and raising money for the new library building.”
The fun part was evident throughout the program: there was nothing forced about the broad smiles of the players, and the high energy level exhibited by all bespoke enthusiasm.
Earlier, in rehearsals that began months ago and intensified this past month, determination was evident too—the kind it takes to do it over and over, until an exacting producer-director, a musical director (bandleader Jack Krone) and choreographer (local dance instructor Sandy Johnson) say it’s right. Even with all the effort, and long, sometimes exhausting practice sessions, the players kept saying they were having a great time, and learning a lot, thanks to the caliber of direction they received.
Jack Krone’s band provided stellar support, as did sub-sets of the instrumental forces.
For some players as well as audience members, Moments brought back music they listened to on the radio, played on juke boxes, bought records (vinyl! 45s!) of, watched on American Bandstand, danced to, and maybe fell in love to, in the decades spotlighted by the revue. “Moments to Remember” is subtitled “Music from the 50s, 60s and 70s.”
For other ensemble members, previous knowledge of that music was from hearing oldies, and mentions by their elders—perhaps parents and grandparents. The age-range of the cast ran from teen-agers to those 40-, 50- and 60-year alumni.
The generational bridging brought Mary Rosenswie to the ensemble and to a soulful duet with Jacob Stehle, “Hey There.” Both are in their teens. Mary’s mother, Ursula Haskins Rosenswie, later belted out the Tina Turner version of “Proud Mary,” bringing the audience to its feet in one of several spontaneous “risings” of the evening.
Like the other players who did solo, duet and small-group turns, the Rosenswies did back-up singing in other numbers, and danced as needed.
Another female solo show stopper was Barbara Headley’s “I Will Survive.” Like all the performers, she had changed costumes repeatedly, displaying the attire typical of each era and type of song (thanks to Cheryl Brown and Anna Fair’s costume designs). But when tall, slender Headley strode from the wings in her long, clingy, blue sequined gown, there were loud whistles and yells of approval.
“That’s the pastor’s wife!” scolded Herzig, from his MC’s lectern. He referred to Randy Headley, another Port Performer, and pastor of the United Methodist Church.
There was no doubt of Barbara Headley’s survival, as she commanded the stage and belted out the woman’s liberation anthem.
A key element in the success of the production was the inclusion of locals whose usual roles in the community are in obvious contrast with their on-stage shenanigans. Thus Paula Moses, teacher, became a convincing teen-ager to sing “My Boyfriend’s Back.” As she warned another ensemble member, standing in front of the stage, he was “gonna be in trouble,” and he affected bravado, local bank exec Marty Moses strode onstage to join her, dressed in leather jacket and pants. The would-be swain retreated, to the mirth of the audience.
Local couple “of a certain age” Dawn and George Baxter did “Wild Thing,” looking for all the world like janitorial crew, passionately smitten with each other’s charms.
The ensemble rocked the house and filled the stage with superbly choreographed performances of the American Bandstand theme, “Dancin’ in the Street” and “Age of Aquarius.”
Herzig came front and center and led “What a Wonderful World,” joined by the ensemble and the audience.
No reunion tour by original groups from the cited eras, no reconstructed or impersonating groups of today’s young musicians and vocalists could have created the effect of the Port Performers, nor pleased this again! If not this show, other ones—but the Port Performers can’t stop now.”
As for the library building fund, beneficiary of the proceeds, the packed aud represented well over $5,000 in ticket sales.
CONQUEROR - Barbara Headley commanded the
stage with her authoritative declaration, "I Will
as part of the Port Performers "Moments to Remember" revue. The group
played to a wildly enthusiastic crowd at the sold out performance Friday
night in the Port Allegany High School auditorium, raising an estimated
$5,000 or more for the building fund for the new library. The PAHS Class
of 1960 helped sponsor the event, as part of their Alumni Weekend
celebration and a gift to their hometown.
Martha Knight Photo/Story
VERSATILE PLANNER - Mike Roche, left, McKean County and Airport economic development director, and Sara Andrews, Bradford economic and community development director, presented community commission-ers Judy Church, Joe DeMott and Al Pingie, with reports concerning planned developments in their respective venues, Friday morning. Here commissioners are examining the planned Bradford west end streetscape and other improvements. Friday evening Roche, a Port Allegany resident, was on stage for the Port Performers' library building fund benefit, in another community development effort. Martha Knight Photo/Story
BLOCKED - Port Allegany blocks the PAT attempt following Elk County Catholic’s final score of the evening. The Gators fell to the Crusaders 27-20 in a closely contested game. The Gators will be back in action at home October 2 as they host the Terrors of Otto-Eldred for Homecoming weekend. Pat Crants Photo/Story