Music in Van Wert
By: Paul Hoverman
Do you remember those happy days of growing up in the 1970s, sitting around the television as a family, watching and laughing to shows like “Happy Days”? For over a decade, from 1974-1984, the Cunningham family came into our living rooms and helped lighten our day with laughter. Based in Milwaukee, the show introduced us to Richie Cunningham (the grown up Opie from Mayberry,) his friends Potsie, Ralph Malph, and, of course, Arthur Fonzarelli, better known as “The Fonz.” Many others starred in the show as well, but each week you could count on seeing Richie, Potsie, and Ralph sitting in a booth at Al’s Diner.
Starting on Thursday evening, September 29, and on through Saturday, October 1, we are turning Van Wert into Milwaukee and the “Happy Days” scene. Potsie (Anson Williams) and Ralph Malph (Donnie Most) will be in town making appearances all over in preparation for their show “Happy Days Live!” at the Niswonger on October 1 at 7:30 p.m.
Some people may be wondering exactly what this show will be like. I have been talking with the show’s producer and even with Anson and Ralph to find out exactly what to expect. You will see special never before seen clips of the “Happy Days” TV show and hear first-hand from Ralph and Potsie about the behind the scenes episodes and stories. This tandem of troublemakers will make you laugh once again as we all re-live those happy days of our youth. And when I say our youth, I am actually talking about two generations: those from the ‘50s and ‘60s, when the setting took place, and also from the ‘70s and ‘80s when it aired on ABC.
Now what you may not know is that both Potsie and Ralph are quite accomplished singers. If you recall, Potsie would occasionally sing on the show; usually to his girlfriend, Richie’s sister, Joanie, played by Erin Moran. So part of the show will also include some of that great Rock & Roll music from the era of the ‘50s and ‘60s. They will be backed by a band they are bringing with them from New York. I’ve heard Donnie Most sing with this big band and they are extremely polished and a lot of fun to hear.
So now you know about the show, I want to see you there! As an added surprise, you will also see some Van Wert area celebrities strutting their best moves on stage to a Rock & Roll song especially for them. Our celebrities (who might actually steal the show) are VWHS Principal and former football coach Bob Priest, Lincolnview Superintendent Jeff Snyder, Municipal Court Judge Jill Leatherman, former Parkway band director and current director of the Van Wert Area Community Band Richard Sherrick, and even a ringer: Kim Hohman of Kim Hohman’s DanceWorks. There may even be another surprise guest.
You can still get tickets at the Niswonger box office or even that night at the door. Remember, it’s Saturday, October 1, at 7:30 p.m. The whole evening will be filled with joy and laughter as we recall the happy days which are yours and my happy days! I invite you to come and laugh with me and all my friends at the Niswonger with “Happy Days Live!” Potsie and Ralph are really looking forward to seeing you soon.
This Sunday kicks off our 10th season at the Niswonger Performing Arts Center: “Ten Years of Wow!” The season is filled with so many different events, but we get started on Sunday with two performers you still see quite regularly on PBS broadcasts of “The Lawrence Welk Show”. Guy & Ralna are a singing duo who appeared regularly in millions of homes for 12 years on the very popular Welk show.
Their show will be filled with many styles of music and will include the wholesome, family entertainment so many experienced each week on their TV. And I say experienced, but millions still do because “The Lawrence Welk Show” is the most popular rebroadcast show on PBS.
Guy & Ralna will be performing with a big band filled with outstanding musicians from throughout the Midwest. This concert is the start of our Community Concert Series, which also includes Doc Severinsen, the flashy trumpeter from Johnny Carson’s “Tonight Show” for over 30 years, and his Big Band. This concert is on October 23. Also later in the season, the series includes Broadway & Beyond, featuring J. Mark McVey of Les Miserables fame, along with the talented Heartland Vocal Singers, in a concert developed specifically for our Niswonger audience.
That concert will be followed up by the zany Mutts Gone Nuts & Robert Post Comedy Theater — an afternoon of lots of laughs. The series concludes with The Hitmen, legendary performers from Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons, Tommy James, Elton John, Paul McCartney, Chicago, and many more.
You can still purchase this entire series for as little as $75 or you may purchase individual tickets. Either way, don’t miss our kick-off concert this Sunday afternoon starting at 2 p.m. Single tickets for Guy & Ralna may be purchased from the box office in advance or immediately before the concert. Single tickets range from $15-$35.
Showing our concern for the heroin/opium epidemic. which affects communities all over the U.S., including our very own Van Wert County, we team with Westwood Behavioral Health Center for a free event on September 20 at 7:30 p.m. Sam Quinones, a Los Angeles-based freelance journalist and author, will be speaking of his experiences covering the growing situation. A panel of professionals will also be on hand answering questions. The public is invited to learn more about this dangerously growing epidemic, which affects so many.
The following Saturday, September 24, features two outstanding jazz musicians: Jonathan Butler and Gerald Albright. If you have seen Butler when he performed at the Niswonger as part of the Dave Koz & Friends concert, you know what you are in for. Butler literally stopped the show in the middle with a standing ovation of his performance.
This time he teams with saxophonist Gerald Albright, fresh off a world tour with Phil Collins. If you love jazz, if you love music, if you love inspiration, you won’t want to miss this concert.
Phew! That’s a jam-packed opening to our “Tenth Season of Wow”! We look forward to seeing you at the Niswonger real soon!
This past Sunday evening, I took the opportunity to attend and experience a great local church tradition in Venedocia: Gymanfa Ganu. This strange name is the name given to a Welsh tradition of hymn singing by a congregation in four part harmony and usually led by a conductor. It is a wonderful tradition that Salem Presbyterian continues each year, packing their sanctuary with members, family members, friends, and visitors. Singing many traditional Welsh hymns, those gathered raise the roof in singing their beloved hymns of the Welsh heritage.
This year, the chosen conductor was Christopher Uhl, son of Don and Faye Uhl, who still reside in Van Wert and have been longtime members of Van Wert’s First Presbyterian Church. Their family has a Welsh heritage which made Christopher a perfect choice as conductor of the hymn festival. Christopher has also gone on since graduating from VWHS in 1978 to become a much respected sacred choral and orchestral conductor and organist.
As I was sitting in the Salem Presbyterian Church in Venedocia this past Sunday evening, Uhl recognized his one-time organ teacher who not only taught him the art and craft of organ playing, but also the love of church music. That person would be Gloria Wendel, who is still the organist at First United Methodist in Van Wert. As Christopher credited Gloria for inspiring him in music, it made me think of how many lives this lady has touched over her years of music service. I realize this because I have had the privilege of working with her at First Church for the past 23 years. But when Christopher mentioned it, I started thinking even more about just how far her musical branches have reached.
Not only is the Van Wert area filled with organists who learned the art of organ playing from Gloria, but the entire country is also filled with accomplished organists who were once her student. Many of them have gone on to fill very respectable church music positions. I am sure there even more than I am aware of.
The reason I want to share this with you is not just because Gloria has been and still is a very fine organist and teacher, but it’s also because of the person she is. She grew up in rural Convoy and attended Ohio Wesleyan as well as Ohio State University. Following college, she married Larry Wendel, also a Convoy native who returned to the area to teach. He would eventually own his own construction business and then become executive secretary of The Van Wert County Foundation.
One thing led to another and the Lord opened the door for Gloria to become the church organist at First UM in Van Wert. I have no doubt that Gloria could have moved on to higher paying church jobs, but she became committed to First Church and has remained there for well over 55 years.
Working with Gloria, I have appreciated the commitment, love and zeal she has for music, and church music in particular. One of my choir members has called her an angel on the organ bench. She sings as she plays and knows more songs by heart than I know from a hymnal. We take her ability (she also was blessed with perfect pitch) for granted. Although she is an accomplished music reader, she can go from one song to another with ease and without music. We witnessed this in Portland, Oregon when at General Conference, she pitch-hit at the last minute to play the perfect selection of hymns during the procession of the United Methodist bishops to start General Conference. You would have never guessed she didn’t have any music in front of her. This might have been her crowning jewel as the service was broadcast throughout the world!
So, yes, Christopher Uhl, you were the recipient of a great teacher and inspirational person, but for those of us lucky enough to work with and hear Gloria each week, we continue to be blessed!
Much of my day today has been talking about and planning for two speakers who will be presenting at the Niswonger Performing Arts Center. On Tuesday, September 20, Sam Quinones, a Los Angeles-based freelance journalist and author will be speaking about the opium epidemic that has affected, not only our area, but the entire country.
We are teaming with Westwood Behavioral Health Center in Van Wert to put this community awareness event together. We think it does not affect us because many of us don’t really know someone who deals with this addiction. In speaking with Mark Spieles, director of Westwood Behavioral Health Center, he informed me that, just last year, we had three people in our community die from heroin overdose (the drug heroin is a derivative of opium). Many more are dealing with the addiction and have a very difficult time overcoming it.
Mark went on to explain how heroin actually changes your mental state and completely changes one’s behavior. Those of us who have not been affected by this, don’t really have the compassion, let alone the understanding we should.
Sam Quinones basically went to the Mexican border and lived among the trafficking activity and gangs most responsible for bringing this terrible drug to small-town America, as well as the large cities. During his 10 years of living in and writing about this epidemic, he gained knowledge and exposure none of us have or really care to have. But we cannot ignore this any longer.
Because Westwood fights with this on a regular basis, the Niswonger has teamed with them to bring Quinones to Van Wert to draw awareness to everyone in the area who wants to learn more about the subject. Like I said before, it could just be a matter of time before someone you know is affected. It’s good to have knowledge and understanding so we can attempt to fight this terrible epidemic. And Mark mentioned that it’s not just kids being affected. He said they have seen 65-year-old men trapped by heroin addiction.
This Tuesday, September 20 event is completely free to everyone. We will plan on holding it in the First Federal Lecture Hall unless the response is such that we need to move it to the Saltzgaber Music Hall. It will start at 7:30 p.m. Here’s hoping we move into the Music Hall!
Following Quinones talk, selected local law enforcement officers, medical doctors, treatment professionals, judges, and possibly state representatives will serve on a panel to discuss their perspectives and take questions from the audience. It should be a very informative and eye-opening evening. I’m glad our Speaker Committee suggested this subject and that Westwood Behavioral Center has been so cooperative and excited to team with us.
A second speaker event will be Sunday, October 2, at 7 p.m., with extremely popular author and motivational speaker Jon Gordon. Gordon is so amazing that our sponsor, Central Insurance, is having him speak to all their employees the next morning! Two of Gordon’s books: The Energy Bus, and Training Camp, were chosen by our speaker committee as a community read. The Brumback Library in Van Wert has several copies you can check out and read. They are fast and easy reads, but also very inspiring.
Gordon has spoken to Fortune 500 Companies as well as collegiate and professional sports teams. He will speak about team work and inspiration in our lives. He also has a strong faith component that helps direct his life. This will be a Sunday evening event and tickets may be purchased at the Niswonger Box Office. We have businesses, school staffs, school sports teams, and individuals already attending from all over. Don’t miss Jon Gordon!
We are getting ready to kick off our Tenth Anniversary Season at the Niswonger. It all starts with Guy & Ralna, a popular singing couple who gained notoriety from their 12 years on the Lawrence Welk Show. Tickets for this season opener on September 18 are currently available too. Ten Years of Wow in entertainment, inspiration and awareness education are just around the corner. Get ready!
Oh yes … and dare I say, “Go Falcons!” as my alma mater tries to knock off the giant of Ohio this Saturday in Columbus at the “Big House.”
As we enter the 10th season at the Niswonger Performing Arts Center, it’s interesting to look at the top 10 selling concerts thus far. Now granted, we have four weeks before the start of the season and things can, and probably will, change. As example, today was the release of single ticket sales for the Christmas musical, Elf. It just jumped from No. 7 to No. 2!
Selling trends are always interesting and helpful to learn from and analyze. We talk considerably about how we think a certain show or concert might appeal to buyers as we are planning a season. The proof is always in the pudding, or shall I say ticket sales.
I know many of you who have purchased tickets are oftentimes interested in how certain events are trending. For those who have not yet pulled the lever, it may prompt you to make your move soon, before getting shut out as result of a sell-out. So, as of Wednesday, here are the top 10 ticket sellers at the Niswonger.
- Andy Williams Christmas featuring the Osmonds and Lennon Sisters — Saturday, December 10, at 7:30 p.m.
- Elf the Broadway Musical — Monday, November 21, at 7:30 p.m.
- Diamond Rio — Saturday, October 29, at 7:30 p.m.
- The Hit Men — Saturday, May 6, at 7:30 p.m. (note: this is part of the Community Concert Series, but can also be purchased separately).
- The Time Jumpers featuring Vince Gill — Saturday, February 4, at 7:30 p.m.
- REO Speedwagon — Saturday, April 29, at 7:30 p.m.
- Doc Severinsen and his Big Band — Sunday, October 23, at 7:30 p.m. (also part of the Community Concert Series, but can be purchased individually).
- Mutts Gone Nutts with Comedian Robert Post — Sunday, April 30, at 3 p.m. (also Community Concert Series).
- Broadway’s Rain-A tribute to the Beatles — Monday, March 6, at 7:30 p.m.
- Guy & Ralna from “The Lawrence Welk Show” — Sunday, September 18, at 2 p.m. (yet another Community Concert Series event).
What we are seeing is there is a logjam of many concerts. Those not making the top 10 are not far behind. A few of these will probably switch over to sellouts before long.
The juggernaut event of the year is likely our gala concert featuring Bernadette Peters with the Boston Pops Orchestra. It has not yet been released, and was not included in our Grand Series or available for Select Series purchases. There are some very special considerations we need to take care of. During the month of December, groups or individuals who either helped build the Niswonger and have been regular supporters throughout our 10 years will have early buying options.
If you want to make sure you do not miss this concert, you might want to talk to the box office about becoming a member of the Niswonger, guaranteeing early buying options. Any remaining tickets will go on sale beginning January 4 for those interested in seeing the concert of the decade featuring Bernadette Peters and The Boston Pops. We wish we could fit everyone in the Van Wert County Foundation Saltzgaber Music Hall, but we are limited to 1,200 seats.
By the way, I just took a peek at Bernadette Peters’ performance schedule. It reads: Royal Festival Hall in London, Manchester Opera House in Manchester, Edinburgh Playhouse in Edinburgh (all three in the United Kingdom), San Diego, California, Charleston, South Carolina, Mesa, Arizona, and a few others before reaching the Niswonger Performing Arts Center in Van Wert, Ohio. That’s pretty good company!
We are humbled, honored, and indebted to you for the support you have given the Niswonger. Help us spread the good news of Van Wert’s crown jewel to all your friends, neighbors, and family members. We certainly have something to be proud of: “Ten Years of Wow!” at the Niswonger Performing Arts Center!
All you have to do is walk outside and you know things are heating up. I just stepped outside my office and the thermometer downtown said 94. But even as the days heat up, the evenings have cooled quite nicely.
So it is with our concerts in Van Wert. As our concerts in Fountain Park come to a cool end this Friday night, things are starting to really heat up with our “Season of Wow!” at the Niswonger Performing Arts Center.
This Friday, believe it or not, we hold the final concert of Van Wert County Foundation sponsored concerts in Fountain Park. We have kept our biggest concert of the summer for the final one. “The McCartney Years” is a great production and concert of the memorable music of Paul McCartney with the music he made famous with Wings, as well as the classic mega-hits with The Beatles.
There are many Beatles tribute bands, but this one has a unique twist to it. Led by Canadian musician Yuri Pool, this group has been hailed by Sid Bernstein, the guy who brought The Beatles to North America, as “the best on the scene today!” I’ve actually heard these guys and, as I’ve said before, I didn’t want them to stop playing. I knew every song and they sounded so much like the music of Paul McCartney! Yuri and his band is one you are sure to enjoy.
Plan on coming early and staying late as we sing into the night the songs many of us grew up to and many others you still hear today, regardless of age.
The Red Cross of Van Wert will be serving up food and a special opportunity will be given to donate to a group of civic volunteers interested in making Fountain Park a holiday spectacular this Christmas season by adding decorations to the park. Bring your spare change and bills so we can make Van Wert an even better place to live and visit.
If we should be so fortunate to do a rain dance and bring in showers that last all day on Friday, the concert will definitely be moved into the Niswonger Performing Arts Center. A passing shower would not necessitate a move. An all-day or evening rain event could change our plans. I hope we get to celebrate the end to a summer of fun in Fountain Park, but either way, we win!
Actually, the music in Fountain Park will continue as the Van Wert Area Community Concert Band will perform a bonus concert on August 19. So don’t forget this concert too! These talented volunteer musicians work hard to put on an entertaining concert of all kinds of band music. You’ll enjoy them too.
Plans are heating up for the new season at the Niswonger. My staff, board, and our loyal army of volunteers are gearing up for a huge 10th season. Twenty-six concerts, shows, and outstanding speaker events will kick off this September. We are cleaning, decorating, and making plans for our best season ever! It will culminate with our gala on April 1 with award-winning singer-actress Bernadette Peters and THE Boston Pops Orchestra.
Check out the season at NPACVW.ORG or pick up a catalog and select your tickets now. Several concerts and shows are starting to fill up. It will be an exciting 10th “Season of Wow!” and we don’t want you to miss it.
Packages come wrapped in all kinds of shapes, sizes and colors. Musical packages can also come in all kinds of musical flavors, sizes and styles. When it comes to the Tenth Season of Wow! at the Niswonger Performing Arts Center of Northwest Ohio, you can create your very own musical package. It will give you something to look forward to as we enter the season of autumn and even, dare we say, winter!
Allow me to suggest a few packages that might tempt your musical entertainment taste buds. If you like the variety pack, you might like the Community Concert Series which offers five concerts for one very economical price, starting at just $75 for all five. Your package price has been made available to you at such an economical price in part by Okuley Unverferth Dentistry, which is the Presenting Sponsor.
In this package you will enjoy Guy & Ralna, who many enjoyed (and still do) from “The Lawrence Welk Show”, appearing from 1970 to 1982. They will present a wonderful America-inspired concert on September 18, accompanied by an 11-piece band.
And speaking of bands, you just can’t miss the opportunity to hear one of the finest big bands of all time and its flashy entertainer and leader: trumpeter extraordinaire Doc Severinsen. His big band and vocalist will be in town October 23.
We then move to musical friends of mine, J. Mark McVey and the Heartland Singers, in a show developed just for our Niswonger audience. It’s called “Broadway & Beyond” and will premiere on March 18.
Following a recent popular appearance on ABC TV’s “The View”, Mutts Gone Nuts will bring its zany cast of critters and be joined by comedian Robert Post to perform April 30 of next year.
The package ends with one of the top selling shows of our season, The Hit Men. It should not be surprising this concert is leading most others because of the talented cast of musicians and the music they perform. From the golden era of the ‘60s, ‘70s and ‘80s, The Hit Men are the ones who actually made the music of Frankie Valli, Tommy James, Carly Simon, Jim Croce, Barry Manilow, and many others so popular. They conclude this package by performing on May 6 of 2017.
Now, if you need/want more, then you might want to consider a package of Country music that includes Diamond Rio, The Time Jumpers with Vince Gill, and why not throw in a little Rock with REO Speedwagon? If you love the theater and want some Broadway right here in Van Wert, then choose the package of “Elf: The Broadway Musical”, 42nd Street, and “RAIN: A Tribute to the Beatles”. This package has a lot of glitter and sparkle to it, and is so big it will fill the entire stage!
If you enjoy big bands with the excitement and power of the horns and voices with songs you really enjoy, I suggest “Happy Days Live!”, which features Ralph and Potsie not only singing great songs with a big band, but also lots of laughs from the famous TV show they co-starred in. Also in this big band package would be Doc Severinsen and his big band, along with John Tesh’s “Big Band Christmas”.
If you want an inspirational package, we have a super one for you consisting of Sandi Patty’s “Christmas Blessings Tour”, along with super-tenor David Phelps for a Good Friday concert. Your third part of this package could be anything from Christian Contemporary artist Colton Dixon to Guy & Ralna, and/or Andy Williams’ Christmas Extravaganza, which is selling real well.
Don’t forget to be inspired and entertained by our speaker series, consisting of Jon Gordon, Sam Quinones, and Cincinnati Reds Hall of Fame announcer, Marty Brennaman.
Gordon is an exceptional speaker of inspiration, while Sam Quinones will talk about a topic that affects our community very deeply — heroin addiction — and Marty will tell us why this one has belonged to the Reds for so many years.
Every Christmas party has a package that no one knows exactly what to expect of it. Then someone selects it and you wish you had, because it’s filled with something you would have really enjoyed. That’s what I’ll call this last package. In it you’ll find jazz greats Jonathan Butler and Gerald Albright, Vocalosity, and “Artrageous”. You may not know what’s in the package, but I guarantee you, you’ll be glad you selected it once you see and hear it
So, there you have it; a number of packages to select from. Package your own creation and receive discounts. Call the Niswonger box office at 419.238.NPAC (6722) Tuesday through Fridays, noon-4 p.m., and let them help you select a package you will be happy with the whole year through!
There will not be a concert in Fountain Park this Friday, but we’ll look forward to seeing you the following week on August 12 as we finish another great season off with the “McCartney Years”. It’s a show I know you’ll love because you will know nearly every song from one of the greatest pop composers of all time — Paul McCartney.
This Friday night, regardless of whether it rains or not, we are going to turn the brown grass of Fountain Park to Bluegrass … compliments of Feller and Hill & the Bluegrass Buckaroos. Formed in 2012, Tom Feller and Chris Hill follow in the tradition of such legendary duos as Flatt and Scruggs and the Osborne Brothers. Their music is also heavily influenced by classic country greats Buck Owens and Ray Price.
In 2014, their release of Here Come Feller and Hill … Again! reached No. 2 on Sirius XM”s most played list. They are joined on stage by Bluegrass veterans, Mark Poe and Bobby Davis to create the Bluegrass Buckaroos. Their latest release is a Southern Gospel recording from Tommy Hillpicker records entitled “I firmly promise you.” It is receiving rave reviews in the Gospel Bluegrass circles.
For those who have been waiting for Bluegrass to return to Fountain Park, your wait is over. If we can’t have green grass in the park, we can at least create some Bluegrass in the form of music. Bring your lawn chairs and enjoy a beautiful evening with Feller and Hill & the Bluegrass Buckaroos this Friday night. Phi Beta Psi will be dealing up the food, so I encourage you to support this non-profit organization of ladies who do many good things throughout our community.
I can’t remember having such rave reviews and comments as I had after last Friday’s performer, Chris Higbee. Although we had a good audience, the weather forecast must have scared a few from attending. The evening was actually very pleasant. The heat was an issue for those setting up in the afternoon, but by the start of the show, the sun was setting behind Eggerss Stadium and it became a perfect night for a concert in Fountain Park. If you did miss it, you literally missed seeing a fiddler on the roof in Fountain Park!
This Friday could be another hot day, but pleasant evening. If you enjoy Bluegrass, Country and/or Gospel music, then I invite you to join your neighbors, friends, and visitors to Fountain Park. It all starts at 7 p.m.
The next week is a bye week for us on August 5. The Van Wert Area Community Concert Band has chosen to perform on August 19, while August 12 is our big summer finale and it features an outstanding concert all ages should enjoy: “The McCartney Years.” You will hear music from Paul McCartney and Wings, as well as the many memorable songs Paul wrote as a member of the Beatles.
If you are still looking for a fun event in Van Wert this weekend, you might head to the fairgrounds on Saturday or Sunday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. for the Railroad Heritage Days. Model trains and other interesting items will be on display all over the fairground buildings.
Larry Webb just stopped by to pick up some summer concert brochures and told me they have grown to three buildings now at the fairgrounds. This 13-year celebration got its start when we presented the “Singing Trainmen” in Fountain Park. I’m glad the VW County Historical Society has continued this wonderful event. Check them out this weekend if you get a chance!
The box office at the Niswonger is still busy as people are packaging three or more shows and concerts and selecting their seats early. There are a number of events leading the ticket sales right now. The Hitmen are a surprise leader in ticket sales, followed by the Andy Williams Christmas Extravaganza, REO Speedwagon, The Time Jumpers with Vince Gill, and several others. Although a few of the earlier concerts have released single tickets to the public, you can purchase any of the 26 by bundling them with two others.
The Gala concert featuring Bernadette Peters opens to the general public on January 4. Members, Sponsors, and Grand Series supporters will have the opportunity to purchase during December. Check the catalog or online at NPACVW.ORG for those dates.
The interesting aspect of the Boston Pops performance in Van Wert is that it is the only performance of their tour where you will have the opportunity to see Bernadette Peters with the Pops. Their tour throughout the major cities of the Midwest is the Boston Pops by themselves. To help make our gala extra special, we have combined these two dynamic performers to create a night of “wow!”
There is much to look forward to this year. Some of it will finish up soon in Fountain Park, but then continue in a major way as we celebrate “Ten Years of Wow!” at the Niswonger Performing Arts Center of Northwest Ohio.
Last January, I met for the first time a person I had grown up watching on TV. I imagine you are like me and also watched TV’s “Happy Days”. It ran from 1974 through 1984 on ABC and was one of the highest rated shows for many of those 11 years. You remember the gang of Richie Cunningham, Potsie, Ralph Malph, and The Fonz, among others. They depicted the typical American family growing up in the 1950s and ‘60s.
“Happy Days” was so popular that it launched a number of spin-offs you might recall, such as “Laverne & Shirley”, and “Mork and Mindy” as well as others. The setting was Milwaukee, Wisconsin: not your typical TV setting of today. The theme song “Happy Days” actually replaced the original opening song of Bill Haley’s “Rock Around the Clock.”
For 11 years, “Happy Days” ruled the airwaves and made us laugh. Many of those laughs came from the “three amigos” of Richie, Potsie, and Ralph. Richie was obviously played by Ron Howard, Opie to most of us when he started on TV. Ralph was played by Donnie Most and was often quoted for saying boastfully, “I’ve still got it!” Potsie was played by Anson Williams and could often be heard singing on several episodes.
Back to last January: I was in New York City going from booth to booth looking for talent to bring to the Niswonger and I just happened to come to a booth of one of my agent friends, Tom Fowler of Capital Productions International. Tom said, “Hey, I want you to meet a friend of mine, Anson Williams.” Well, it didn’t take me long to see that I was shaking hands with Potsie himself! We shared a few pleasantries and I told him thanks for all the happy days on TV. My, how he made my dad laugh! I would love to hear my dad laugh again. Many of you know what I mean. Well, I had the wits to ask Potsie for a picture. The results are what you see above.
Anson was a nice, down-to-earth man and was very approachable. He told me about the stage show he was starting to take on the road with his old friend, Donnie Most (Ralph Malph). He said they have a great time sharing stories and watching film cuts of “Happy Days”, as well as performing music from that era. Ironically, although it was Potsie who sang on the TV show most often, it’s Donnie who has gone on to perform the most (no pun intended) since the TV show went off the air.
Donnie, or Don Most as I think he now prefers to be called, is a very good big band singer and will be accompanied on their stage show with a big band as he and Anson sing music from the ‘50s and ‘60s.
Anson convinced me we should bring this fun show to the Niswonger and now you have the opportunity to see these guys and relive those happy days on our stage come October 1 at 7:30 p.m.
Wouldn’t you know as I was walking out of the Hilton in Manhattan after meeting Anson, who should I see but Don Most standing alone in the lobby? Well, I just had to take the opportunity to meet him, too. So I walked up to him and said I hope to see you in Van Wert, Ohio, next year. He was a bit more timid than Anson, but said, “Thanks, I’ll look forward to it!” We’ll see if he remembers our chance meeting come October 1.
Many tickets have been bought up already through Grand Series and Select Series purchases, but now you can purchase individual tickets for “Happy Days Live!” beginning today (July 20). We still have some great seats available, with tickets starting at just $20, and they can be purchased by calling the box office, stopping by, or online at NPACVW.ORG. Come October 1, I’m sure you’ll want to say, “Goodbye gray skies, hello blue” and get some laughs at the Niswonger with “Happy Days Live!” Potsie and Ralph will be expecting you!
This Friday night in Fountain Park will be an exciting and fun one. Country fiddler Chris Higbee (formerly of Poverty Neck Hillbillies) and his band will entertain. He has been referred to as a young Charlie Daniels. One thing for sure, he will fiddle up a storm; and there could be some real surprises come Friday night! I’m just sayin’. Come and find out. Music begins at 7 p.m. and Portal 2L20, a new non-profit teen center, will be serving the food.
After a week off for Van Wert County Foundation sponsored concerts in Fountain Park, we return this Friday with a tribute to one of Rhythm & Blues’ all-time greatest singer and songwriters: Stevie Wonder. Natural Wonder is a tribute to Wonder’s music in a re-creation by Gabriel Bello and his band. Although there are other impersonators of Stevie Wonder’s music, Natural Wonder is the real thing, with all live music created by guitar, bass, drums, keyboards, horn section, and rhythm section.
Growing up in Massachusetts, and later Florida, Gabriel honed his musical skills and love for music singing in church choirs. Following what Bello says was a miraculous healing from cancer, he began using his talents in churches as a choir and worship leader. He still is quite involved today in church music when he is not touring with Natural Wonder.
As a solo career, Gabriel was a finalist to be “American Idol” alumna Carrie Underwood’s music director, as well as being approached to be Kelli Pickler’s music director. One thing led to another and, in 2012, Gabriel formed the band Natural Wonder as a tribute to one of his favorite performers of all-time: Stevie Wonder.
Fountain Park will be filled with the sounds of Stevie Wonder (and) you will recognize song after song as they are re-created by the “Ultimate Tribute” to this American iconic singer/songwriter.
Bring a lawn chair or blanket or just mill around the park to the sounds of Stevie Wonder this Friday night beginning at 7 p.m. We’ll trust the weather forecast and say it will be a beautiful evening with clouds and sun and temperatures in the low ‘80s. After all, the weatherman is never wrong! Right?
Appropriately so, Youth for Christ will be serving the food in the park this Friday night. Come and support this very important youth ministry in our community and enjoy a meal before or during the concert. YFC should be ready to serve you by 5:30 Friday evening.
Thank you all for getting us off to a tremendous start of ticket sales at the Niswonger. We just opened up Select Series sales last week and tickets have been flying out of the box office. Buy 3-5 concerts and receive a 10 percent discount or buy six or more and take 15 percent off your purchase. Either way, you select what you want to attend in the upcoming “Season of Wow” at the Niswonger. This also allows you to reserve your seats now before open sales begin. So many good concerts and shows to choose from!
Take a look at our menu of entertainment in our catalog or go online at NPACVW.ORG and browse electronically. We can’t wait to welcome you back to the Niswonger as we celebrate our “Tenth Year of Wow!”