By Bob Evans
Judging from the opening night crowd, mostly baby-boomers filled the Chestnut Fine Arts auditorium for an evening of old and really old folk music and drew the crowd to its feet, even before artistic director could make closing comments and begin the final song.
Act 1 featured music from America’s past and a selection of well known songs mid-century AM radio songs. And, the best part. “Blowin’ in the Wind’ is a sing-a-long show with the audience encouraged from the first notes to join in as the show progresses. As Samantha Agron said, Folk Music needs folks to make it happen…and, the audience obliged.
Four talented singers/musicians lead the show with their guitars, banjos, and specialty instruments. Val Fagan strummed and plucked away on guitar and banjo while Joel Morrison and Tim Scott accompanied the music on guitar. Samantha Agron demonstrated her virtuoso skills on maracas, tambourine, kazoo, and coconuts to audience delight. But, it wasn’t instrumental music, down home, folk songs, old and new filled the bill.
The talents of Brad Zimmerman on piano and Brian Padavic on bass added to the strings and filled the auditorium with acoustical music of America’s past. Act 1 featured: “Blowin’ in the Wind and If I Had a Hammer” to open the show and set the tone. The show followed with “L’il Liza Jane,” “I’ve Been Workin’ on the Railroad,” “Clementine,” “Shenandoah,” “The Erie Canal,” “The Battle of New Orleans,” “Tom Dooley,” “Worried Man,” “Church in the Wildwood,” “Shall We Gather at the River,” “I Saw the Light,” “I’ll Fly Away,” “Tumblin’ Tumbleweeds” and several others.
As the crowd sang along with the performers on the more well-known songs, the Gospel music got the most audience participation. As a reviewer, intermission provides the best opportunity to get the reactions, and not a contrary word was mentioned about the music. Several were perusing the Act II songs in anticipation.
Act II brought the crowd to a more current and familiar place with the music that developed and evolved after Woodstock and the current trend of Folk Music. Peter, Paul, and Mary and the music of Bob Dylan lead the movement, followed by some songs of Cass Elliott and the signature group, The Mamas and the Papas.
“M.T.A,” opened the set. That was followed by Peter, Paul, and Mary medley, “The Lion Sleeps Tonight”(with Brad Zimmerman singing the lead in his clear falsetto voice), “Monday, Monday,” “Dream a Little Dream of Me,” “California Dreaming,” “Where Have All the Flowers Gone?,” the Joan Baez classic, “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down,” Simon and Garfunkle’s “Feeling Groovy,” “The Sounds of Silence,” “Cecilia,” “Bridge Over Troubled Water,” “Mrs. Robinson,” and then the finale.
Act I warmed the crowd; Act II drove the music home. After “Mrs. Robinson” the patrons started rising to their feet and clapping. Smiles and loud applause signaled to the talented on-stage performers that they had a hit. Opening night drew a second standing ovation after the finale. As each performer made final bows, the audience could tell that they enjoyed the show and the crowd reaction. That’s good to hear on opening night of any production’s run.
The show continues through June 25. For tickets, go to the Chestnut website.
Tags: Chestnut Fine Arts Center, Olathe, “Blowin’ in the Wind,” “Kansas City Arts & Entertainment, Kansas City Performing Arts, Kansas City Theater, Kansas City Music