Two Illinois institutions are celebrating golden anniversaries this year, and they'll be doing so together this Saturday when The Other Guys present their 50th anniversary reunion concert at Krannert Center in Urbana.
Set your wayback machine for 1969: Woodstock. Vietnam. Neil Armstrong on the moon. And on the UIUC campus, as a brand-new Krannert Center for the Performing Arts opens its doors, another Illini tradition is being born — a men's a cappella group calling itself The Other Guys. As the group's website tells it: "Members of the Varsity Men's Glee Club first performed as a newly minted offshoot ensemble in a spring 1969 concert at Foellinger Auditorium, treating the crowd to barbershop tunes, a bit of The Beatles and an arrangement of Johnny Mathis' 'That's All.'" In the five decades since, the octet in its iconic "Block I" sweaters has made a name for itself with catchy arrangements, nearly 20 recordings and a rather famous ode to the UI's Morrow Plots.
Saturday's show, set for 7:30 p.m. in Krannert's Foellinger Great Hall, will feature nearly 100 alumni, performing by era, from the group's half-century of music-making, all crescendoing to "a massive all-Other Guys grand finale." Ahead of that special night, I was fortunate to connect with The Other Guys' music director, Simon Tiffin, who offered me this sneak preview:
"The various Other Guys alumni will be performing in mostly 'decades' groups and will be representing their decade of Other Guys. The first group is 1969-1978 and will feature the original members of the group as part of the ensemble. Notably, Bruce Johnson, founder of the group, will be present in the group. They will be singing 'The Way We Were' and 'The When You And I Were Young, Maggie, Blues' ...
"I think people should be excited to hear our two combined numbers, 'Momma Look Sharp' from the musical '1776,' and 'Leader of the Band.' 'Momma Look Sharp' was arranged by Bruce Johnson, and 'Leader of the Band' was written by a U of I alumni, Dan Fogelberg. The two songs have become standards of the group over time, and the group performance of the two tunes will be something truly communal and beautiful!"
That's the ticket!
Want a preview of this summer's hottest night at the Champaign County Fair? Thursday. The City Center. Be there.
Rising country music star Dylan Scott is promising to "kick it up a notch" at Thursday night's concert in Champaign with guest Cash Campbell. That should only serve to raise the bar for his July 26 show at the Champaign County fairgrounds in Urbana alongside Dustin Lynch.
But months before then, the red-hot Louisiana native is "winding down" his nearly sold-out "Nothing to Do Town Tour 2019" at The City Center. Doors open at 7 p.m. Thursday for the 8:30 p.m. show. Tickets for the age-19-and-over event are $20 to $35.
With more than 600 million on-demand streams and sales topping 4 million stream equivalent songs, Scott's brand new single, "Nothing to Do Town," is obviously generating buzz for the April 26 release of his EP "Nothing to Do Town" from Curb Records. He also recently garnered his first career nomination for Best New Country Artist at the 2019 iHeartRadio Music Awards.
All this on the heels of his breakout self-titled debut album in 2016, which delivered two consecutive Top 5 hits with gold-certified "Hooked" and his first No. 1, platinum-certified "My Girl." He'll be joining Chris Young's "Raised on Country Tour 2019" in May. But you don't want to wait till summer to catch him "live." This guy's hotter than a summer barbecue right now.
Raise the curtain
Illinois Theatre's "Because I Am Your Queen (A Feminist Fantasia)" premieres tonight at Krannert's Studio Theatre
Written by playwright Mina Samuels and directed by Barbara Pitts McAdams, this unique production asks the question: What would Queen Elizabeth, Mary Stuart, Shakespeare's Hermione, Medea and other queens of stage and screen say and do if they all got together at a day spa? And what if that spa existed in a mysterious universe, run by some seriously feminist cosmetologists?
Illinois Theatre is presenting the premiere of this devised performance, created using the "Moment Work" method developed and directed by Tectonic Theater Company master teachers McAdams and Samuels. The theatrical method involves improvisational collaboration among the play's participants — including Illinois Theatre students — to create the narrative's "fast, funny, wicked take on power, sex and sisterhood."
Performances are scheduled for 7:30 p.m. today, Friday, Saturday, March 28-30 and April 2-6, and 3 p.m. Sunday, April 7, in Krannert Center's Studio Theatre. Tickets are $25 each; $24 for senior citizens or retired UI faculty and staff; $15 for non-UI college students; and $10 for current, full-time UI students and youth high school and younger.
What I'm watching this weekend
There's nothing like seeing a local product make good on the big screen, but such an opportunity presents itself this weekend when cinematographer and producer Ryan Suffern returns to his alma mater for a pre-release screening of his new musical documentary, "Satan & Adam."
Suffern, a UI graduate, Class of 1999, and now head of documentaries for The Kennedy/Marshall Co., will be releasing "Satan & Adam" in theaters in April. Before then, the UI Department of English is hosting a screening and reception, both free and open to the public. The reception starts at 7 p.m., and the screening's at 8 p.m. with Q&A to follow, in Knight Auditorium, Spurlock Museum.
The doc chronicles the unlikely pairing of legendary one-man-band Sterling "Mr. Satan" Magee and harmonica master Adam Gussow, starting in Harlem in 1986 and covering their relationship over 30 years.
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