4493_CWC 2014_140119_D800_

Performers for the Citizens Who Care production of “The Broadway Song Book of 1977” are seated, from left, LuAnn Higgs, Lisa Derthick, Martha Dickman, Lenore Sebastian and Gwyneth Bruch. Standing, from left, are Stephen Peithman, Paul Fearn, Joe Alkire, Bob Bowen. Todd & Barbara Photography/Courtesy photo

Local News

Citizens Who Care concerts have a new sound

By From page A1 | February 13, 2014

In the know

What: Citizens Who Care concerts

Where:  Veterans’ Memorial Theater, 203 E. 14th St.

When: 8 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 22, and 2 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 23

Tickets: All seats $35

Info: Call 530-758-3704, visit www.citizenswhocare.us or stop by CWC’s office, 409 Lincoln Ave. in Woodland

The year 1977 was pivotal on Broadway, and 2014 may be the same for the Citizens Who Care annual benefit concert.

Citizens Who Care is a nonprofit agency in Yolo County, dedicated to providing social support programs and respite services for the frail elderly and their family caregivers. This is the 22nd year for the popular concert, which is one of Citizens Who Care’s largest fundraisers.

Past concerts have featured the works of such composers and lyricists as Rodgers and Hammerstein, Cole Porter, Harold Arlen, Hoagy Carmichael, Rodgers and Hart, and the music of performers like Bing Crosby, Peggy Lee and Frank Sinatra, just for starters.

“The show has traditionally been attended by people for whom the music had been a part of their everyday lives,” said Stephen Peithman, who writes the show and serves as its narrator. “We wanted to try to make sure that we were going for a broader audience this year,” he added, noting that ticket sales for the traditionally sold-out concerts were a bit down last year. “Since it is a fundraiser for a worthy cause, we want to interest as many people as possible.”

Peithman explained that the success of this year’s concert may determine whether a different sort of fundraiser should be considered for next year.

“We have to look at our audience and see what type of show will work best,” he said. “The audience has changed. We’ve been doing this for 22 years. You have to avoid same ol’ same ol’ thing. Want to keep these shows fresh. You want to please the audience you have but also want to get new audiences.”

With that in mind, Peithman looked to the year 1977 as a time when the look and sound of Broadway musicals began to change. In the early years of the Broadway musical, composers and lyricists wrote songs with catchy tunes and memorable lyrics with the idea that the audience would leave the theater humming the tunes and wanting to buy the sheet music or a recording. Those “big songs” then would get radio play and that would drive more people to buy tickets to see the show.

The top 10 charts of hit tunes contained songs from Broadway musicals well into the 1950s.

But by 1977, that era was past and composers were looking at how to write musicals from a different perspective, not to write commercial hits, but to write songs that made sense within the context of the plot.

The 1970s rock era had come and was well established, and the folk song era had come. Broadway was rethinking how it might change things, so 1977 was a pivotal year looking both backward and forward. There were hits about present day (“A Chorus Line” and “I Love my Wife”) and others that were new musicals that looked back to the ’20s and ’30s like “Chicago” and “Annie,” with stories that were up to date and modern, but somewhat nostalgic musically.

“That’s what made this idea so intriguing to me,” said Peithman. “1977 offered us the opportunity to showcase new musicals and at least two reviews — ‘Bubbling Brown Sugar,’ about the Harlem renaissance of the 1920s and ’30s and ‘A Party with Comden and Green,’ where the pair (lyricists Betty Comden and Adolph Green) took the stage for a whole evening and sang their own songs.”

Audiences who have been coming to Citizens Who Care shows for years will be familiar with songs like “Ain’t Misbehavin’,” “Sophisticated Lady,” “Make Someone Happy” and “New York, New York” but this year also will showcase newer music from great hit shows like “Annie” (“Tomorrow,” “Easy Street”), “Chicago” (“All That Jazz,” “Razzle-Dazzle”), “A Chorus Line” (“What I Did for Love,” “One”), “Godspell” (“Day by Day”) and “Pippin” (“Extraordinary,” “Love Song,” “No Time at All”).

“One of the shows we’re doing, ‘I Love My Wife,’ has a great score by Cy Coleman. The songs are just wonderful. We’re having fun with the razzmatazz style,” Peithman said with a chuckle.

“It’s a cliché but there really is something for everyone in this show,” he added. “We’ve worked hard to come up with songs that tell the story of a year on Broadway. That’s the glue that holds it all together with so many different styles that people of different tastes in music will like.”

Will this be the final year for this particular kind of concert? Peithman doesn’t know. A lot depends on how ticket sales go this year.

“We’re looking at different options for next year,” he admitted.

Should it be different kind of concert? Feature different kinds of music? “It’s one of those ongoing conversations,” he said.

The most important thing is that whatever the group decides, it needs to serve a purpose.

“The important thing is raising money for Citizens Who Care, which has benefited so much from these concerts,” he said.

The concert will be presented at 8 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 22, and 2 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 23, at the Veterans’ Memorial Theater, 203 E. 14th St. All seats are $35. Easy-access seating is available on request for theatergoers with limited mobility.

For tickets and information, call 530-758-3704 or go to www.citizenswhocare.us. Tickets are also available at the Citizens Who Care office, 409 Lincoln Ave. in Woodland.

Bev Sykes

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