One of the most celebrated movie directors in history grew up in Delaware, but that fact and the director's identity aren't often recognized.
Gregory Patterson is trying to change that -- and his first attempt will be through a musical tribute to Vincente Minnelli.
Arena Fair Theatre will perform the musical revue at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 3, along the waterfront at the Greenwood Lake Conference Center pavilion, 340 Lake St.
"I've been shopping around the idea of a tribute to Minnelli for years, and I figured if I didn't get it off the ground when we have the best local talent, then it may never get started -- and I think it's important that we do it, because we want to bring awareness about his connection to Delaware," said Patterson, Arena Fair Theatre's artistic director.
Minnelli was born in Chicago and later gained fame in Hollywood, but in the years between, he and his family called Delaware home.
A Willis Junior High School graduate who wanted to follow in his parents' vaudeville footsteps and work in the performing industry, Minnelli headed to Chicago in the late 1920s and became a set designer. He often found himself working on shows in New York City and eventually became a stage director at Radio City Music Hall. He directed a number of shows in the city that caught the eye of Hollywood executives, and in 1940 he was recruited by MGM.
His credits include An American in Paris, Brigadoon, Kismet, Gigi, Strike up the Band, Cabin in the Sky and Meet Me in St. Louis.
The latter film was a turning point in Minnelli's life and in Delaware history. On the set of Meet Me in St. Louis, Minnelli met his first wife, Judy Garland, who gave birth to their only child, Liza Minnelli. The Victorian homes that were used as a backdrop in the musical were inspired by the memory of Minnelli's grandparents' home at the corner of North Washington Street and West Fountain Avenue in Delaware.
In 2008, the home was designated as a historical site by the Delaware County Historical Society and a plaque was placed outside the home, which is now up for sale by its owners.
"You won't find a lot of information online about his life in Delaware, but I've read a lot of books that said Minnelli spoke very fondly of Delaware," Patterson said.
The musical tribute will feature six performers, including Patterson and his wife, Sharon, singing 30 songs from Minnelli's most well-known works. Listeners likely will recognize Thank Heaven for Little Girls, Baubles, Bangles and Beads, Nice Work if You Can Get It and Our Love is Here to Stay.
"I just went through the list of movies that he directed and there were so many great songs that I've known through my life that just jumped off the page at me and screamed for the inclusion in this musical tribute," Patterson said.
Concertgoers are invited to pack a picnic for the free outdoor concert. Donations will be accepted to help fund future shows.
Patterson said every year from now on, one of those shows will include some sort of tribute to Minnelli, whether it's a film festival or a staged version of one of his famous movies.
"We're the first arts organization to acknowledge of his Delaware roots," Patterson said, "and I'd like to make an annual tribute to Minnelli in one form or another."