GREEN BAY, Wis. (WFRV) – Entertainers sometimes make up things as they go along. Like Sunday night, when Daddy D Productions put on a rare Sunday show at the Riverside Ballroom – and then something astounding happened in it.
In a chat beforehand, leader Darren Johnson said his troupe was initially booked to perform privately for a group coming through Green Bay on its way to Niagara Falls on the Canadian side by way of Fantasy RV Tours of Las Vegas. He said he decided to open the show to the general public, and a bit of a crowd added to the core of RV adventurers from coast to coast. I spoke to a woman from Florida and a man from Oregon.
True outsiders were taking in Daddy Ds, which has been entertaining in the area for 16 years.
How did the show go over with the strangers? It didn’t take long for an answer.
To introduce the third song in the show, Darren Johnson playfully asked a woman in the front row, “What would you say if I told you ‘I love you’?”
In a flash, the man seated next to her who appeared to be her husband shouted, “TAKE HER!”
The place was totally disarmed. It exploded in shocked laughter.
The man laughed heartily. The woman seemed to go along with the power of giant waves of laughter.
Angela Thielke-Zuidmulder composed herself to pour emotion into “You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me,” a hit for Dusty Springfield.
And the connection didn’t quit.
For the rest of the show, every time a song included a reference to love or a relationship, the singer would look, nod or gesture toward the woman or man.
It’s rare for a show to catch fire spontaneously with a theme. The atmosphere will be different in the coming three performances, but plenty of other entertainment is at hand.
Darren Johnson has a way of working an audience and of shaping songs like an artistic sculptor with clay, notably in his powerful version of “I Can’t Help Falling in Love with You.”
It’s fascinating to hear Shelly Johnson’s timbre being close to young Michael Jackson’s in “I Want You Back.” Plus, she shifts gears and fires up body language in the rousing “Proud Mary,” a staple of groups in the time when Green Bay had 30 nightclubs doing six nights a week of live entertainment. (Really. Life was different before cable TV).
Michael Blair does everything from a magic routine to hitting the high notes of “Rag Doll” or connecting with the audience in “Sweet Caroline.”
Angela Thielke-Zuidmulder delivers comedy in which Ernestine the telephone operator/troubleshooter teases Elvis on the line with his song titles and delivers the soothing love of “Moon River” with Ryan Sette laying soft jazz groundwork on guitar.
Two instrumentals are special. From “The Sound of Music” is “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious” performed by Emily Sculliuffo on keyboards and Alicia Michelle on violin, with notes rising higher and higher and higher. From “The Lawrence Welk Show,” complete with a mini-history is “Stranger on the Shore” performed on clarinet by Kevin Van Ess, which rhymes with finesse.
If the atmosphere of Sunday’s concert could be captured and bottled, it would be labeled, “Elixir of Entertainment.”
Running time: One hour, 55 minutes
Remaining performances: June 15, 16 and 17 (6 p.m. dinner, 7 p.m. show)
Company: Shelly Johnson, Angela Thielke-Zuidmulder, Michael Blair, Darren Johnson, Steve Seitz (drums), Ryan Sette (guitar), Emily Sculliuffo (keyboards), Kevin Van Ess (saxophone), Alicia Michelle (violin), Jeff Engelbrecht (bass) and Dan Collins (sound and lights)
“Gimme Some Lovin’” – Band
“December 1963 (Oh What a Night)” – All
“You Say It’s Your Birthday” – All
“You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me” – Angela Thielke-Zuidmulder
“My Eyes Adored You” – Shelly Johnson, Darren Johnson
Magic routine to recorded “Lightning Striking Again” – Michael Blair
“This Magic Moment” – Michael Blair
“I Love How You Love Me” – Shelly Johnson/“In My Room” – Darren Johnson, all
“Surfin’ USA” – Michael Blair, all
Letters humor routine
“I Want You Back” – Shelly Johnson
“It’s in His Kiss” – Angela Thielke-Zuidmulder
“Sweet Caroline” – Michael Blair, all
“Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious” – Emily Sculliuffo, keyboards, Alicia Michelle, violin
“Stranger on the Shore,” Kevin Van Ess, clarinet
“Mustang Sally” – Darren Johnson
Ernestine/Lily Tomlin comedy routine – Angela Thielke-Zuidmulder
“We’ve Only Just Begun” – Shelly Johnson
“Downtown” – Angela Thielke-Zuidmulder, all
Skit – ’60s theme jokes – Darren Johnson, etc.
“California Dreaming” – Darren Johnson, all
“Pretty Woman” – Michael Blair
Diary routine leading into “Camp Granada” – Darren Johnson
“Moon River,” – Angela-Thielke Zuidmulder with Ryan Sette, guitar
“Proud Mary” – Shelly Johnson
Military salute: “I Can’t Help Falling in Love with You” – Darren Johnson
“Rag Doll” – Michael Blair, all
“Who Loves You Pretty Baby” – All
NEXT: Drive-up show in Riverside Ballroom parking lot, followed by The Cougars, July 31.
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. Much was donated by Gregory J. Kochiss. 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.