Sunday, March 19, 2017

“Sisters of Swing Musical History of the Andrew Sisters" in Bigfork

The Andrews Sisters were a WWII era musical trio that brought close harmony music to stages in the U.S. and around the world entertaining armed forces throughout the war. Their story and music is brought back to “life” by the performance of three very talented singers in a show titled  “Sisters of Swing The Story of the Andrews Sisters.” The original sisters were from Mound Minnesota and are considered by many as the most successful female singing groups of the first half of the 20th century. This show includes their story,  and 20 plus hit songs like “Don’t Sit Under the Apple Tree” and “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy.” At The Edge Center in Bigfork on Saturday April 22nd at 7PM. This musical is suitable for all audiences. Ticket prices are $10 adults and $5 children.

The “Sisters of Swing The Story of the Andrews Sisters” program features the Andrews Sister’s music of Laverne, Maxine, and Patty, played by Cat Brindsi, Kati Hahn and Jen Burleigh-Bentz (above). Also in the show is the very talented Jake Elders, who plays Lou Levy, Danny Kaye and Bing Crosby. The show is brought to the stage by The History Theatre on Tour a St. Paul based organization that is a three time IVEY award winning theater that produces new and existing works which explore Minnesota’s past and the diverse American experience.

In conjunction with the performance there will be an opportunity for visitors to share remembrances of the WWII veterans to whom the show is so closely connected (above period photo). There will be a Wall of Heroes display in the gallery which will consist of letters, photos, and memorabilia from WWII service men and women, brought in by Edge Center patrons.

The Andrews Sisters and their close harmony music were a product of the “swing and boogie-woogie eras.  The sisters were, singing “contralto”, LaVerne Sophia (1911-1967), singing “soprano”, Maxine Angelyn (1916-1995), and, singing “mezzo-soprano”, Patricia Marie “Patty” (1918-2013).  The group throughout their career sold over 75 million records, which was the last official count by MCA Records in the mid-1970s.  Their harmonies and songs are still influential to the industry today.  The group was inducted into the female group hall of fame in 1998.  

Lead singer. Patty, was only seven when the group was formed and only 12 when they won their first prize at a talent contest at the local Orpheum Theatre in Minneapolis. LaVerne played piano accompaniment for silent films at the Orpheum in exchange for free dancing lessons for herself and the rest of her sisters. They went on the road entertaining to support the family after her father’s restaurant failed.

At first they made their career by imitating an earlier 1930s group called the Boswell Sisters. They sung with dance bands and toured in vaudeville with various groups. As one might expect in the 1930s, the big break for the Andrews Sisters was radio. National attention was brought to the group via a major Decca record hit, “Bei Mir Bist Du Schon".  It was a Yiddish song that became popular with English lyrics but retained its Yiddish title (above).

It was songwriter Sammy Chan, who heard a performance of the song in Yiddish, had it “reworked” into a swing rhythm number, got rights to it and convinced the still unknown Andrews Sisters to perform it.  It was recorded in 1937 and became the sisters first major hit. This song has an interesting history by it self. If you want to read more go to:

After that there was no one to compare the group with and they became huge stars. The song earned them a gold record, the first ever to a female vocal group.  It became a world wide hit.

During the war they were everywhere with Allied Forces. America, Africa, and Italy saw a lot of the trio. They worked at the Hollywood Canteen and News York’s version Side Door Canteen.  They recorded a series of Victory Discs for distribution to allied forces, often treating random service men out to dinner and were dubbed the “Sweethearts of the Armed Forces Radio Service” for their many appearances on shows such as “Command Performance”, “Mail Call” and “G.I Journal”.  For more background:

This activity is made possible by the voters of Minnesota through a grant from the Minnesota State Arts Board, thanks to a legislative appropriation from the arts and cultural heritage fund, and a grant from the Blandin Foundation, and with operating support made possible from a grant through the Arrowhead Regional Arts Council.

The above is just the surface of the Andrews Sisters career.  To get a singing introduction to them and their work, come to the Edge Center and get more. Edge Center in Bigfork on Saturday April 22nd at 7PM. It is the “Sisters of Swing The Story of the Andrew Sisters.” This musical is suitable for all audiences. Ticket prices are $10 adults and $5 children.

Friday, March 17, 2017

“Adam’s Rib” is the April Film Classic in Bigfork

For the fan of the Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn duo in romantic comedies in films, the April movie classic, "Adam’s Rib” (1949), is a perfect one to see on the big screen of the Edge Center in Bigfork. It was written for the two playing opposite each other and was the sixth time they teamed up in movies of that era.  It’s about two married lawyers who represent opposite sides in an attempted murder trial because the accused wife shoots and wounds her cheating husband. Hepburn's character believes the wife was justified.  “Adam’s Rib” is the April Classic Movie shown at  the Edge Theatre in Bigfork by Jack Nachbar. It will be accompanied by Jack’s presentation providing a better understanding of the time period of the movie.  Date: Thursday April 13th. Time: 6:30PM. Price: free of charge.

Since Tracy's character believes she did not have the right to try and kill him regardless of his infidelity the two lawyers end up opposing each other in court where we see all the sparks and action you might expect.  It’s a great movie and gives the two stars a wonderful opportunity to show their talents.   

It is not just the stars doing their regular great performances in a movie that makes this one stand out, but the story behind the concept remains current.  The “are the sexes equal?” question is taken head on by the attempted murder.  Not saying that anyone one’s mind will be changed by this film, but you certainly will be given a lot of things to think about by seeing it. That is kind of what many of the great classics have in common. Add to that, the film, written by Ruth Gordon and Garson Kanin, was inspired by a real life case.  The movie was nominated for an Oscar for best story and best screen play. In 1992, the film was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being “culturally, or aesthetically significant.  It is on AFI’s 100 years…100 Laughs list at number 22 and AFI’s top 10 best Romantic Comedy Films at number 7.

Spencer Tracy insisted on top billing for this film, and when the producer asked if he ever heard
of “ladies first”, Tracy responded, “This is a movie not a (blankiey-blank) life boat.” ,

Katharine Hepburn (1907 -2003) was known for her fierce independence and spirited personality. She was a successful leading lady in Hollywood for more than 60 years and played virtually every kind of character you can imagine. She won four Oscars for leading actress (which is a record) and in 1999 was named by the American Film Institute as the greatest female star of classic movies. Her outspoken personality and lifestyle set the norm for today's "modern" woman.  In her film career she did a total of nine films opposite Spencer Tracy and he was her companion for a quarter century until his death. During filming, Tracy and Hepburn always stayed in separate houses, as was their habit when traveling, thereby helping to keep their decades long relationship out of the press.

 Spencer Tracy (1900-1967) was a major star during Hollywood’s golden age.  Always knows for his versatility, he appeared in 75 films. He was nominated for nine Oscars and won twice. His first film with Hepburn was in “Woman of the Year” (1942), and his last film was “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner”(1967), again with Hepburn which was finished just 17 days before his death. In 1999 the American Film Institute ranked Spencer as the ninth greatest male star of Classic Hollywood Cinema.

One film critic’s opinion of the movie is what Bosley Crowther of The New York "Times" who had to say about the movie on December 26th 1949 ."Our first thanks should go to the authors of the script, for they are the chief one responsible for the pleasures of ‘Adams Rib.” It is their delightful improvising on a nimble and fragile little tale of a violent courtroom rivalry between a lawyer-husband and his lawyer-wife that makes this current picture bounce and spin with thorough glee…”

Come and see this highly thought of romantic comedy at: The Edge Center for the Arts, Bigfork. Date and time: Thursday April 13th at 6:30PM. It will be worth going to Bigfork, because Jack will provide you with background about the movie and a cartoon of the period. An appropriate snack will be served courtesy of Jack and his wife/projectionist, Lynn.