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Warren Gerds/Critic at Large: Review: ‘Lost in the ’50s’ finds an eager audience in Green Bay

Critic At Large

Daddy D Productions

Daddy D Productions in action May 13, 2021, in Riverside Ballroom. (Warren Gerds)

GREEN BAY, Wis. (WFRV) – If moments could be bottled…

At the end of a show Thursday night, pent up emotions and frustrations release in a poignant sequence.

The momentum starts with “When You Walk Through a Storm” with three singers taking turns leading the thoughts that continue to “hold your head up high and don’t be afraid of the dark.”

With the momentum flowing, a fourth singer begins “God Bless America,” and shortly after “land that I love,” the audience rises of its own accord.

Some of the singers well up and hold their hearts.

The audience is asked to join in, and the feeling of “stand beside her” is palpable.

Thoughts of the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic and a whole lot more are set free and salved.

Such spontaneity can only happen in a live, in-person performance.

It happened in Daddy D Productions’ “Lost in the ’50s” at the Riverside Ballroom.

The audience filled the hall, though placed at socially distanced tables. Completing an illusion of fullness were responses to many of the numbers on the program.

Leader Darren Johnson dedicated “Love Me Tender” to his mother, and embraced a gentle feeling.

Shelly Johnson poured care and control in to her featured songs, starting with “In the Still of the Night.”

Angela Thielke-Zuidmulder created auras, notably in the yearning of “I’ll Be Seeing You.”

Michael Blair caught a rhythm train in his numbers, starting with “The Banana Boat Song” and including “Yackety Yack” with Darren Johnson.

The band more than ably supplied the finesse and the heat, with two solos especially exciting listeners. On violin, Alicia Michelle opened a section with the haunting “Sleepwalk” and then delivered “Flight of the Bumblebee” with dizzying, dizzying, seemingly impossible even more dizzying speed. On saxophone, Kevin Van Ess owned the action-driven fire of “Jailhouse Rock.”

Jokes and little stories were scattered through the show, and the place had a presence. A famous concert took place in the Riverside Ballroom in 1959, and that was referenced three ways. Michael Blair donned a Buddy Holly look to sing “It Doesn’t Matter Anymore.” Darren Johnson sang “Boney Maroney,” Ritchie Valens’ opening song on that night. Shelly Johnson and Angela Thielke-Zuidmulder teamed for a giggly “newscast” with such tidbits that gas cost 25 cents a gallon at the pump and the average income was $5,400 a year.

Shelly Johnson said $5,400 was about what the troupe earned in 2020.

In many ways, the night said, “It’s good to be back.”

***

Company: Michael Blair (vocals), Dan Collins (sound and lights), Darren Johnson (leader and vocals), Shelly Johnson (vocals), Alicia Michelle (violin), Emily Sculliuffo (keyboards), Steve Seitz (drums), Ryan Sette (guitar), Angela Thielke-Zuidmulder (vocals), Kevin Van Ess (saxophone and clarinet)

Running time: One hour, 58 minutes

Remaining performances: 6 p.m. dinner, 7 p.m. show May 14 and 20

Info: daddydproductions.com

Musical selections

Act I

“The Happy Organ” – Band

“At the Hop” – All

“Get a Job” – All

“Day-O (The Banana Boat Song)” – Michael Blair, all

“In the Still of the Night” – Shelly Johnson

“You’re 16” – Darren Johnson

“I’ll Be Seeing You” – Angela Thielke-Zuidmulder

“Corrina” – Michael Blair

“Sleepwalk”/“Flight of the Bumblebee” – Alicia Michelle, violin

“Love Me Tender” – Darren Johnson

“All Cooped Up” to “All Shook Up” – Darren Johnson and Shelly Johnson

“Why Do Fools Fall in Love” – Angela Thielke-Zuidmulder

“Book of Love” – Michael Blair, all

Act II

“Jailhouse Rock” Kevin Van Ess, saxophone

“Only You” – Darren Johnson

“Yackety Yack” Michael Blair and Darren Johnson

“Where the Boys Are” – Shelly Johnson

“Everybody’s Somebody’s Fool” – Angela Thielke-Zuidmulder

“Put Your Head on My Shoulder” – Michael Blair, all

“Boney Maroney” – Darren Johnson

Lost in the ’50s News Desk skit – Shelly Johnson and Angela Thielke-Zuidmulder

“It Doesn’t Matter Anymore” – Michael Blair

“Tennessee Waltz” – Shelly Johnson and Angela Thielke-Zuidmulder

“Rebel Rouser” – Ryan Sette, guitar

“When You Walk Through a Storm” – Shelly Johnson, Angela Thielke-Zuidmulder and Michael Blair”

“God Bless America” – Darren Johnson, all

***

NEXT: “Country Legends,” Aug. 5-6.

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.

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