The Villages Swing Band took a sentimental journey Monday from Old Gold to Rheingold — and it was a lot more fun than cigarettes and beer.
The Swing Band, under the direction of Jean Butler, made long gone radio days come alive with music and memories in the Savannah Center. The production was called the “Swingin’ Spring Fling Radio Show.”
It featured music mostly from the big band era during the golden 1940s and early ‘50s. Singers like Doris Day, Mel Torme and the McGuire Sisters dominated the record charts along with bands led by Tommy Dorsey, Glenn Miller and Benny Goodman.
“That music will never die,” said Kent Schroeder, who played the role of announcer on stage. In addition to introducing songs, Schroeder was also doing commercials, hustling such bygone favorites as Old Gold cigarettes and Rheingold beer.
Like many in the audience, Schroeder retains a strong attachment to the music of his youth and a big part of that bond was radio.
In the days before television, the Internet and smart phones, radio was the dominant media force.
“It was a different time and radio was so different when we were growing up,” Schroeder said. “When you listened to radio, you had to visualize things in your mind. You had to use your imagination.”
The band and guest performers turned Savannah Center into a radio time machine. The stage was designed as a radio studio.
Jill Marrese brought back memories of Doris Day in front of the band, singing “I Only Have Eyes For You.” The ever-versatile John Rogerson then made like Mel Torme on “Almost Like Falling In Love.”
Later, Marrese and Rogerson teamed up for a comical duet on “Let’s Call The Whole Thing Off.”
Donna Francis, Jo Gagne and Gloria Muratore joined forces to play the McGuire Sisters. The three women showcased some sweet harmony on the swinging “Sugar Time.”
George Delmonte was all over the place, announcing songs, introducing singers and doing commercials. He did take time to offer a stirring rendition of “You Make Me Feel So Young.” And he closed the number with personal musical message to his wife: “Carole,” he sang, “you do make me feel so young.”
Harmonica man Phil Caltabelotta dazzled the crowd with a jazzy version of “Peg o’ My Heart.”
Joan Teets and Mike Randell provided a comedy break near the middle of the show. They stepped on stage to do a routine as George Burns and Gracie Allen. And when Randell told Teets to “Say good-night Gracie,” she of course responded: “Good-night Gracie.”
The real stars of this night, though, were the members of The Villages Swing Band. Butler had these musicians really cooking on such instrumentals as “Canadian Sunset,” and “Sentimental Journey.”
Jill Van Syckle performed an extraordinary trumpet solo on “My Way.” Joe Mankowski, piano; Rich Roeske, drums; Hershal Chapman, guitar and Dave Hines on bass kept the beat moving all night long.
The rest of band includes saxes: Leon Jurczyszyn, Rollie Symicek, Jim Feltham, Eunice Williamson, Jim Cassara and Bob Wile.
Trombones: Tad Thompson, Bill Herrick, Mary Lund and Mark Moore. Trumpets: Jim Staggers, Dave Olshanski and Dave Olson.
Also in the cast were Irv Butler as stage manager and radio station techs Pat Kronk and Chris Wile.