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West Orange Times & Observer Wednesday, Mar. 2, 2016 2 years ago

Garden Theatre to host Garden Encore!

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Three artists will perform this weekend as part of the Garden Theatre’s Garden Encore! For the artists, the theater and regional theaters like it hold a special place in their hearts.
by: Jennifer Nesslar Reporter

Three performing groups will take the stage this weekend in support and celebration of the Garden Theatre.

Garden Encore!, which expands to three days this year, is the theater’s annual fundraiser. In addition to the concerts, the theater also will reveal its 2016-17 season during a red-carpet reception Saturday evening.

MAUREEN MCGOVERN

Maureen McGovern loves antiques.

The vocal-performing artist gets her penchant for the old from her great-grandfather, who salvaged wood and other supplies from Victorian homes that were being torn down to build new homes. As someone who did marquetry work, he would use the supplies to create something new.

“He saved all these wonderful old things and gave them a second life,” McGovern said. “So I like vintage things as well as current things. It’s kind of in my DNA.”

McGovern, who performs March 5 at the Garden Theatre, thinks performing in a regional theater is a special experience — particularly if the theater has been rescued and revitalized by the community as the Garden Theatre was, just like an antique. And as someone who has performed in a range of venues, McGovern finds the sound and the beauty of a theater crafted so long ago to be unmatchable. 

“So much of society today is ‘get rid of the past and move on,’” McGovern said. “But when you think of all the people who have been there — theaters are living organisms to me, almost. You can feel the presence of all those who’ve been there before you.” 

That philosophy even extends to McGovern’s music, as she molds the old into something relevant in modern times. 

“I love taking older songs, songs people have heard a million times, and just really turning them inside out and finding what is relevant about them,” she said. “I don’t do museum pieces. I do what’s relevant about these songs still today.” 

McGovern’s performance at the Garden Theatre is called “Sing, My Sisters, Sing,” which celebrates women singer-songwriters such as Ella Fitzgerald, Joni Mitchell and Carole King. The performance also gives a nod to women poets of the late 1800s. 

“Theaters are living organisms to me almost. You can feel the presence of all those who’ve been there before you.” — Maureen McGovern

McGovern is currently working on a spiritual album she hopes to release in May called “You Raise Me Up: A Spiritual Journey,” and said she may choose to perform a few songs from the new work at the Garden Theatre performance. 

She tries to give all her performances an intimate feel, whether she is performing alongside a symphony or just one other person. In Winter Garden, she will be accompanied by Jeff Harris on the piano.  

Performing with Harris gives McGovern flexibility to adapt the show as she is performing. 

“The two of us think as one mind when we’re up there,” she said. 

It will be McGovern’s first time performing at the Garden Theatre.

JOHN CHARLES

John Charles was performing at a retirement community in Tampa the night before a hurricane was projected to hit. In the middle of his show, Charles’ guitar pedal stopped working. He decided to unplug the pedal. When he plugged it back in, the guitar started working again. 

He looked up at the audience and said, “I believe I can cure a rainy day.”

A woman in the audience yelled, “Come back tomorrow!”

“You never know when some brilliance is going to come out of the audience,” said Charles, whose shows combine improv, comedy, music and audience participation. Because of this, he plans little of the show before his performances.

Charles has worked with Disney during his career. He sang in the choir that celebrated the opening of Cinderella Castle and has written much of the motivational material for Disney resort properties at Disneyland Paris, Walt Disney World and Disneyland in California.

About six years ago, he attended “Joseph and the  Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” at the Garden Theatre. The visit made him realize it would be a good experience to perform at the theater, and he has been performing there ever since. 

Charles performs mostly at corporate shows and on the Disney Cruise Line, so performing at the theater gives local fans a good opportunity to come see him.

“They’re pretty good fans,” Charles said. “I think they’d come watch me knit for an hour and a half.” 

VOX AUDIO

For Shalisa James, the West Orange area always has been home. 

James, one of the founding members of Vox Audio, attended West Orange High School through her junior year, transferring to Dr. Phillips High School when it opened for her senior year. 

At West Orange High School, James was part of the dance core and drama department, playing Gladys in “The Pajama Game.”

“Some of my best, formative memories were there, performing,” said James, now a Gotha resident.

Vox Audio is a contemporary a cappella group that helped to define the genre of music. 

In 1998, the members of the group were performers at Universal and Disney. They assembled into Vox Audio, wanting to dabble in experimental styles of singing a cappella where they created an interactive show starring the human voice. They attended the Orlando Fringe Festival, and the group was born. 

Vox Audio, comprising members Jeff Williams, Jeremy James, Michelle Mailhot, Paul Sperrazza and James, incorporates sketch comedy into their routines and even spent several months in 2004 performing Off-Broadway. They now tour regularly.

So for James, performing at the theater is always special.

“It’s always great to play the hometown, and the Garden Theatre is like family to us,” James said.

Contact Jennifer Nesslar at [email protected]

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