Vaud-Villities members excited about Diamond Jubilee show

For its Diamond Jubilee, the Vaud-Villities troupe will pull out some of the stops, but not all of them.

Going all-in would mean a production that's more of a trip down memory lane, replete with inside jokes of interest primarily to the people in the show, but not to those in the audience, music director Johnny Steiner said during a recent rehearsal for performances scheduled for April 20-23 at the Northland Performing Arts Center, 4411 Tamarack Blvd.

The biggest challenge in preparing for the 75th anniversary, Steiner said, was in deciding what had to be included because of traditions and what was needed to make the show fresh for people new to "the longest-running variety show in America."

"I thought, we can't do a show that is patting ourselves on the back," Steiner said. "I wasn't interested in doing Vaud-Villities' greatest hits. I wanted to pick songs that dealt with legacy, with family, with time passing."

He said the shows will include the troupe's signature song, "Hi, Neighbor," and, by an overwhelming vote of the members, the finale will be the cast of 150 singing "New York, New York."

"People instantly know that song," Steiner said. "That song is so optimistic. That's a great theme for this organization."

Everyone in Vaud-Villities is pumped about being involved in the anniversary and carrying on the tradition that was launched in 1942, said Scott Gettinger, current board chairman who's in his 49th year with the organization.

"I hate to use the old term, 'It's really cool,' but it is," he said. "It's quite exciting."

"It's a big deal," said Russ Coffman, who is directing the anniversary production. "We've got probably 20 people who have come back who have been out for a number of years."

Mary Lynn Lucas of Eagle Point, Oregon, is coming back to attend the show. She was born into a family that was deeply involved in the organization. Lucas started singing in the girls' chorus for spring shows in the 1950s and was part of the cast from 1962-69.

"I think it had such an influence on my life because from the time I was little, things were going on in my house that were kind of involved in Vaud-Villities," Lucas said. "It was just an unbelievable experience. I still sing. I still perform. And my daughter, when she was in high school, she was part of the music program.

"It was so exciting to be a part of it. I could hardly wait for spring."

Selene Carpenter of northwest Columbus is a relative newcomer to Vaud-Villities, having joined the cast in 2013.

"The people are great," she said. "It's like a family. Once the show is over, we're all disappointed. Then the next show rolls around and it's like a reunion.

"I think it's amazing that it's been around so long. Things don't last that long any more. It's still going strong. There are people who are in it, and now their kids are in it, and now their grandchildren are in it."

Showtimes for the Diamond Jubilee production are 7:30 p.m. April 20, 8 p.m. April 21, 2:30 and 8 p.m. April 22 and 2:30 p.m. April 23.

Tickets cost $25 for adults, $20 for senior citizens, $15 for students and $10 for children ages 6-12. Children ages 5 and younger are admitted free. Group rates are available.

For information or to purchase tickets, visit vvshows.org or call 614-262-7469.

kparks@thisweeknews.com

@KevinParksTW1