GREEN BAY, Wis. (WFRV)
Darren Johnson comes out as “Elton Johnson” – sparkly hat, pink-rimmed eyeglasses, frilly boas and all.
It’s a sight gag, a tease, a for-the-fun-of-it burst.
He breaks into the energized “Don’t Go Breaking My Heart” with his wife, Shelly Johnson, turning up the heat just as much as he.
And then… and then Darren Johnson does one of his turns of character on a dime – a persona with a soul, just like Elton John.
Darren Johnson puts away the flashy eyeglasses and relaxes his body as he pours his voice into “Your Song.” It’s the one that starts, “It’s a little bit funny, this feeling inside, I’m not one of those who can easily hide” and ends, “I hope you don’t mind, I hope you don’t mind that I put down in words, How wonderful life is while you’re in the world.”
Meantime, the distinctive band behind Darren Johnson adds colorful hues to the musical painting.
These are moments from the latest Daddy D Productions show, “The Decades,” which has two more dinner theater performances in Riverside Ballroom.
The show is end to end hits from somewhere in the popular music vapors. The stated concept: Wandering through the radio dial and stopping at songs you like.
The unstated execution: Finding arrangements or creating adaptations that include violin, saxophone, clarinet and flute – in other words, touches of class.
It’s all quite entertaining.
+ The band taking on “Chariots of Fire,” a nifty instrumental built for flair rather than flash… with visual touches by lighting/sound man Dan Collins.
+ Pianist Nate Kinzel singing “When I’m 64” and leading the perky steps of the band.
+ Alicia Michelle and Kevin Van Ess adding color all over the place on violin and saxophone and clarinet, respectively.
+ A sequence that starts with the musicality of Darren Johnson, Shelly Johnson and Angela Thielke-Zuidmulder weaving comfy lead and harmonic singing in “Ventura Highway” and ends like this: The Johnsons leave, and Angela Thielke-Zuidmulder remains seated on a stool for a lovely solo (band adding flavor) in “True Colors.”
+ Anna Snyder three ways. One. “Me and Bobby McGee,” building layers of intensity. Two. “Piano Man” adaptation with fun Packers-related lyrics. Three. An honor spot in delivering the troupe’s traditional military/first responders salute, “So Far Away.”
+ Shelly Johnson radiant as she jokes around in a deer hunting comedy bit and in delivering “You Light Up My Life” with growing levels of intensity.
+ Darren Johnson doing “My Way” his way and having a knack of putting shows together with personality, humor and an ear.
Company: Darren Johnson, Shelly Johnson, Anna Snyder, Angela Thielke-Zuidmulder, Cody Borley (drums), Nate Kinzel (keyboards), Alicia Michelle (violin), Ginni Schmidt (keyboards, flute), Ryan Sette (guitar), Kevin Van Ess (saxophone and clarinet); Dan Collins, light and sound
Running time: Two hours
Remaining performances: Nov. 8 and 15 (6 p.m. dinner, 7 p.m. show)
“We Gotta Go” – Darren Johnson
“Wild Thing” – Darren Johnson
“Hang on Sloopy” – Shelly Johnson, Anna Snyder, Angela Thielke-Zuidmulder
“Top of the World” – Angela Thielke-Zuidmulder
“Yesterday Once More” – Shelly Johnson
Magic boom box skit
“When I’m 64” – Nate Kinzel
“Hey Jude” – Darren Johnson
“Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da” – Anna Snyder, all
“You Don’t Bring Me Flowers” – Shelly Johnson, Darren Johnson
“You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me” – Angela Thielke-Zuidmulder
“House of the Rising Sun” – Band
Darren Johnson/Shelly Johnson deer-hunting skit
“I’m Too Sexy” – Darren Johnson spoof
“You Light Up My Life” – Shelly Johnson
“Me and Bobby McGee” – Anna Snyder
“Chariots of Fire” theme – Band
“My Way” – Darren Johnson
“Ventura Highway” – Darren Johnson, Shelly Johnson, Angela Thielke-Zuidmulder
“True Colors” – Angela Thielke-Zuidmulder
Elton Johnson skit
“Don’t Go Breaking My Heart” – Shelly Johnson, Darren Johnson
“Your Song” – Darren Johnson
“I’ve Got the Music in Me” Anna Snyder, Shelly Johnson, Angela Thielke Zuidmulder
“Piano Man” to the lyrics “Sing us a song you’re a Packer fan” – Anna Snyder, Shelly Johnson, Angela Thielke Zuidmulder
“Just the Way It Is” – Nate Kinzel
Traditional military tribute: “So Far Away” – Anna Snyder
“Don’t Stop Believing” – Angela Thielke-Zuidmulder, all
NEXT: Christmas shows, six locations.
THE VENUE: The spacious Riverside Ballroom Crystal Ballroom is the heart of the 1936 Art Moderne building on Green Bay’s east side. Performances are on a raised stage on which rock ‘n’ roll legends Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and the Big Bopper performed a famed concert Feb. 1, 1959, the night before they died in an airplane crash in Iowa. In the lobby is a special display, a living remembrance, of color photographs from that night at the Riverside along with Holly memorabilia that captures the era. Seating is at round tables on the ballroom floor. The ballroom features high, sweeping, laminated wood beams with streamlined, curved decoration at the base of each beam. Hanging from the ceiling are Czechoslovakian crystal chandeliers. The building is on the National Register of Historic Places. Imagine the Green Bay Packers holding practice inside the ballroom. That happened a few times, according to a Packers Heritage Trail plaque outside. Nearby flows the East River, thus the Riverside Ballroom. The Riverside has been the “home court” for Daddy D Productions in recent years.