Series set to swing Saturday evening

Mar. 07, 2013 @ 06:27 PM

The Side Street Strutters will present the group’s newest production, “Shiny Stockings,” with the help of vocalist Meloney Collins on Saturday at 8 p.m. in the Vance-Granville Community College Civic Center in Henderson.

An energetic and diverse performance is anticipated.

“It’s great music and it’s exciting arrangements — and I will compliment the band — it’s great musicianship, great vocals and great stage presence by Meloney,” said Robert Verdi, the band’s tenor saxophone. “She’s just winning over everybody’s hearts.”

Featured performers at Disneyland for more than 20 years, some members of the group were cast in a show at the park with Collins in the lead role about four years ago.

“I was honored to be asked,” said Collins. “There were quite a few musicians who performed in that show at Disneyland, but the musicality and musicianship — Rob Verdi and Vince Verdi, Paul Johnson stood out. And I noticed that right away.”

Two years later, Vince saw her performing at another show and approached her about doing something with the Strutters, setting in motion the groundwork for “Shiny Stockings.”

“It got its name from a popular song that was written and performed in the 1930s and ’40s, so this whole show focuses around the swing era music of the 1930s and ’40s,” he said. “You talk about names like Glenn Miller, Duke Ellington, Tommy Dorsey, Benny Goodman, Count Basie; and singers, like say Ella Fitzgerald — this is what we’re focusing on and so that’s what folks are going to get. And they’re going to get an eight-piece swing band which is going to come straight at them.”

The band will be switching between vocal numbers (all handled by Collins) and instrumental pieces, with a variety of styles and tempos.

The first performance by the group (with Collins in tow) came about a year ago. They’ve got about a dozen behind them now. And improvisation remains integral.

“It’s really gelled now to exactly the right pacing and the right songs,” Verdi said.

In addition to varying her delivery, Collins also stressed the importance of body movement to her performance.

“I was a theater major in college,” she said. “So, even when I’m singing jazz, the lyrics from a lot of these jazz songs from the ’30s and ’40s Big Band era are just so expressive. So, I approach it as an actress as well. Sometimes it requires me standing still and really emoting and being very direct, like with ‘At Last.’ And sometimes I get to move around and have fun. Like, I do ‘Secret Love’ with just a rhythm section, and so I wander over to the piano, I wander over to the bass and I wander over to the drummer.”

However, engaging the audience is also important to her.

“I would say that the one constant is that I’m always relating with the audience. I think it’s a give and take. We’re sharing. I’m giving something, they’re receiving it. And they give it back to me with their smiles and their cries, and you can see them nodding their head and they’re recognizing a tune.”

And that recognition is growing.

“You do a thing like ‘Sing, Sing, Sing,’ if you’re familiar with that, it’s a classic,” said Verdi. “Of course, an older audience would definitely recognize it but even younger audiences — the younger folks are getting hipper to this music and they’re embracing it.”

“I’ve seen people from age 90 all the way to age 7 and they’re all smiling asking for an autograph,” Collins said. “So, I think that’s a pretty good sign.”

Including a 15 minute-intermission, the show runs just under two hours. Afterward, the band will hold a meet and greet. CDs and an in-concert DVD will be available for purchase.
Admission is only for season ticket holders. More information is available from the Henderson Community Concert Association at (252) 492-1726.

Contact the writer at dwilson@hendersondispatch.com.