By MIKE CHAIKEN
After tackling the 1980s, 1970s, and the 1960s in previous years, the annual OM Show reaches back to the days when we liked Ike, poodle skirts, leather jackets, and Elvis this weekend.
On Friday and Saturday night, the 73rd Annual OM Show, “The Happy Days,” comes to St. Paul Catholic High School.
Dan Checovetes takes over in 2014 as director of the show. We caught up with him via email to speak about the latest edition of the nation’s longest running variety show, which is renowned for putting its focus on local talent, young and old.
Observer: This year’s theme is the 1950s for the OM Show. In past shows, there has been a kind of “through plot” to tie the songs together. Are you going to do that again?
Dan: The ‘50s holds a wide variety of different types of music, and I wanted to be able to capture a number of these types in the show this year. We’re tackling Elvis style rock and roll, doo wop, ballad love songs, musical theater, etc. I didn’t want to limit the songs we could perform to cram it into a script or loose plot in order to allow us maximum ability to showcase multiple aspects of 50s music.
O: The ‘50s rock and roll era did have a lot of diversity. You had the rockabilly sounds. You had the doo wop groups. You had the raucous rhythm and blues. And so on. What do you like about the music of that particular era and why do you think it still has that timeless quality?
D: The variety of the types of music is really what I like best. The stories that the music tells, whether about life, love, death, or anything in between, still applies today, and that’s what makes the music so timeless.
O: How did you go about choosing the music… did you reach for the tried and true or did you also opt for some “deep tracks” that might not be as well known but help showcase the talent of the show?
D: A little bit of both. There are a few standards that most people will know and love… and there are different arrangements of other classics that most of the crowd will never have heard before. The talent level in the group of performers is so high that there isn’t much we couldn’t throw at them that they wouldn’t be able to successfully perform.
O: Do you have any favorite numbers…? If you don’t want to give away the “secret,” what kind of hints will you give audiences as to what to expect?
D: I don’t want to give away too much, but let’s just say in addition to the core group of performers, we have some “special guests” that the audience will just love.
O: Let’s touch upon the cast… what do you like about what the cast brings to the table in terms of making this show come alive?
D: This is an easy one… the “togetherness” of the cast, along with their individual talents, will really make the show pop. By themselves, each cast member is so darn talented, and a lot of them already know each other from previous years, so there is already a “family” feel to the cast. They were also very welcoming to the new talent in the show this year. Having the advantage of working together previously, the bonding part of the rehearsal process came very, very quickly, which only adds to the quality of the show.
O: The youth ensemble is always a tradition for the OM show… what do you like about these kids? And how are they reacting to music that probably was listened to by their great grandparents?
D: These kids are a blast to work with, and are always full of energy. The songs we chose for them to perform are really fun and upbeat, and the kids took a liking to them right away. While most of the kids had not heard of the songs they were singing and dancing to, this did not stop them from getting into the spirit of the process right away, by learning their music and choreography right off the bat.
O: Dancing also is part of the OM show… who’s handling the choreography and what kind of direction did you give them in terms of what you’d like to see on stage?
D: Two of the three choreographers this year have worked on the OM Show in a previous year, while one is new to the show. I have had the privilege of working with all three previously in other shows, so I was well aware of their talent and abilities. Knowing this information, I gave them full rein to shape the choreography as they saw fit, as long as it fell in the theme of the 1950s.
O: Of course, there is music in the show. Talk to me about your music director, what he brings to the table?
D: The musical director this year, Dan Porri, is someone who I have worked with before on countless other shows throughout the state. His talent and professionalism is really unmatched, and I knew he was someone I wanted to work with again on this project the moment I was hired. In addition to playing the roles of musical director and performer at a variety of theaters in Connecticut, he also teaches music in the Litchfield public school system. There is no one better to take on the major responsibility of playing musical director to the OM Show, as I no doubt you’ll see within the musical quality of this show.
O: Why do you think audiences young and old will enjoy this?
D: As we previously talked about, the music of the 1950s really is timeless. Even people that did not grow up during this time have no doubt heard some or most of the songs we’ll be performing, and the ones that know these songs inside and out will love the different arrangements that are being performed.
The 73rd annual OM Show, “The Happy Days,” will be performed Friday and Saturday at 7:30 p.m. and Saturday at 1:30 p.m. at St. Paul Catholic High School, 1001 Stafford Ave., Bristol. Tickets are $20 for Friday and Saturday evening. For the matinee, tickets are $15 for adults and $10 for children 12 and under.