Dignity is overrated.
More than 400 friends and neighbors had fun on stage last weekend in the 2013 Ashland Musical Variety Show, “Ashland’s Bandstand,” at Randolph-Macon College’s Blackwell Auditorium.
Folks of all ages and skill levels hammed it up to entertain audiences (and each other) and to raise money to improve the roof at the Hanover Arts & Activities Center.
Lorie Foley and Sue Watson returned as co-directors and co-producers, with Carter Flippo and Fred Horn providing the musical direction. Karen Lynne choreographed several numbers.
The result was as entertaining as ever, and each of the 26 numbers was a highlight in its own way.
Local public officials received their biennial dose of humility. School board, town council, and board of supervisors members sang a song together, just like their counterparts do in all those other towns with variety shows.
Schools superintendent Jamelle Wilson belted out “Personality,” while Ashland Police Chief Doug Goodman played the cowbell with aplomb.
Previous variety shows lacked a certain something, and now we all know what. Yes—synchronized swimming.
In a bit worthy of “The Muppet Show,” groups of teenage boys and middle-aged and senior men adorned in multi-colored swimming caps pranced onstage and dived into some “water.” James Lynn, who also served as the evening’s announcer, solemnly sang “Con te Partiro” while these gentlemen swam through the imaginary pool, flipping their legs up in perfectly choreographed harmony.
The little girls charmed audiences with “Itsy Bitsy Teeny Weeny Yellow Polka Dot Bikini,” though they were ultimately scared off the stage by three “women” to whom none of those adjectives apply.
This year’s show may have seemed lighter on the cross-dressing, but, pound for pound, this number attempted to make up that deficit. Steve Chidsey, Fred Hodnett, and Phil Robinson were great sports for putting on those ridiculously obese fat suits.
Hanover Idols past and present were all over the production, including 2012 Junior Idol Faith Gitchell heading up the “Jackson 5” with “I Want You Back.”
The Variety Show is, to its benefit, reliably inclusive. The Jackson 5 was more like the Jackson 5 Squared, thereby resulting in fun cubed.
In case all those Jacksons weren’t enough, Elvis Presley and Elton John joined in on the excitement. Three Elvises (Elvi?) sang “Burnin’ Love,” and Max Cook and Andi Fornel performed “Don’t Go Breaking My Heart.”
The first act concluded in proper fashion with the Community Gospel Chorus.
Lenora Davis directed. Michael and Deborah Shannon provided the solos. A stained-glass window danced in the background right near the large jukebox. Precisely how it should be.
The second act began with a tribute to the late Ira Andrews, a former R-MC dean of students who had been involved with the Ashland Musical Variety Show since it began in 1982. He died of cancer last year.
He was part of the show’s barbershop quartet with Jay Pace, Barry Foster, and Brent Douglass for many years, so the 2013 show featured a barbershop song in his memory using a number he had selected for the 1985 show, “The Girl That I Marry.”
A unique artist treated the audience to an original song. George Dennehy, born without arms, played the guitar with his feet as he sang “It’s a Gift.”
Even attempting to follow such an act is such a tremendous feat that it requires a minimum of two Hanover Idols.
Fortunately, 2010 Idol Ammie Mines-Derricott and 2012 Idol Lindsey Coggins were available to lead a chorus in a mash-up of “Bridge Over Troubled Waters” and “Lean on Me,” a pair of songs that were clearly destined to go together.
When you think of Ashland, what’s one of the first several hundred-thousand things that spring to mind? Exactly. Gangnam Style. Never underestimate an Ashlander’s skill at riding invisible horses.
Broadway made its obligatory appearances throughout, with songs from “Hairspray,” “Mame,” and “Smokey Joe’s Café.” So did several oldies, including “Rock Around the Clock,” “At the Hop,” and “Wipeout.” More recent songs, like “Brick House” and “Sexy Lady,” were also in the mix.
So, there was something for everyone.
The production ended the only way possible, with a group sing-along of “Ashland, Ashland.”
Any town that builds community spirit through a biennial variety show has earned the right to such a song.
View a multimedia slideshow of the Variety Show here.