“Singing the Stories of America” Throws it Back to 1953

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By Holly Vasic

Independence day is here with family traditions (new and old), parades, fireworks, barbecues and more. Why not make a new tradition this year and celebrate America with an old fashion 1953 live radio broadcast? Utah Lyric Opera (ULO) is presenting “Singing the Stories of America,” a retro show with music, stories and a sing-along. Whisk back into the past for a family-friendly, patriotic evening.

Writer/director Elizabeth Hansen came up with the idea, and according to a longtime friend and the storyteller of the show, Lora Schmidt, “At Christmas time she just pulled the trigger. It was so much fun for everybody that we’re doing it again.” Schmidt was referring to ULO’s first annual Christmas radio broadcast style show they produced in December, “Singing the Stories of Christmas.” Hansen explained “Singing the Stories of America” is an off shoot of that production. Schmidt and Hansen hit it off when they ran into each other as students at the University of Utah around 40 years ago, and they are thrilled to work together.

“What I love about this show … it’s patriotic at a core level. Fun and serious. It really gets down to the essence of who we are as Americans and what it’s about to be an American without waving a flag and putting it on our sleeve and hitting you over the head with it,” Hansen said.

“It’s just downright fun. I just think people used to have a lot more fun in the era of live radio” said Scott McDonald, the actor who plays the radio announcer.

McDonald met Hansen last summer when she played his wife during a production of the “Music Man.” It wouldn’t be a radio show without commercials, and McDonald really enjoys the faux advertisements for meats and other products he presents as the announcer.

The cast also includes Korianne Orton-Johnson, Kelsey Mariner and Lisa Zimmerman as the singer sisters.

“The singers are so wonderful. The singers are not sisters, but they sound like sisters. They blend so beautifully,” Schmidt beamed.

The show is recommended for kids eight years old and up, but if a child is mature and younger, they are welcome. Content is not designed for children and one reading, the letter of Sullivan Ballou, may not be appropriate for them. Ballou wrote a letter to his wife during the Civil War right before the battle of Bull Run in which he passed away. This piece is favored by almost all the cast members as it reflects true patriotism and real sacrifice. Though, Schmidt said, “The thing about a storyteller is any story they are telling at that moment is their favorite.” Considering the passion this show has been discussed with, that may be the case for the audience as well.

Performances will be held at 7:30 p.m. on July 3, 7 and 8 at St. Mary’s Episcopal Church, 50 West, 200 North in Provo. General admission tickets are $10 in advance, and they are available at www.smithstix.com, or they are $15 at the door. Students have the opportunity to purchase $5 rush tickets 15 minutes prior to curtains up the day of show.

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