By JB Funky
It has been a little bit over ten months since I saw a Welk show, and that was "Four Wunnerful Women," but by the time March rolled around, my second oppurtunity to see a live Lawrence Welk show had arrived! The Live Lawrence Welk Show, produced by Rocklands Entertainment, were slated to perform a Saturday matinee at the Stranahan Theater and I was excited to say the least. With everything prepared, such as my ticket, camera, and autograph gear in tow, on March 29, 2003...I was off to see the show!
The Stranahan Theater in Toledo, Ohio
Only a handful of my friends from Welknotes were able to attend, so that meant that I would represent myself on behalf here in Toledo. The show began with Ralna English, Mary Lou Metzger, Dick Dale, Jack Imel, Henry Cuesta, Ava Barber, accordinist Tim Padilla and Russian dancers Pasha and Ilona taking the stage with "That's Entertainment." From that point on...I knew this was going to be a great show.
The Musical Family on the Toledo stage
A lot of the numbers were from "Four Wunnerful Women," since Ava, Ralna and Mary Lou were part of that incarnation....and few of the examples were Ava's "Ya'll Come," with the help of two male audience members joining her on stage. I thought about doing it myself, but I was shy when it comes to singing on stage so I stayed in my seat. That number was a hoot...very exciting, as well as Mary Lou singing "Oh Johnny," in a really high voice, as well as "Ma! He's Making Eyes At Me!" Ralna English also looked sterling and spectacular with "How Great Thou Art," "Tangerine," and "Wind Beneath My Wings." Those numbers are so great and well done, I never get tired of listening to them. One note about "Wings," personally I prefer Ralna's version over Bette Midler's. Tim Padilla, accordinist from the Champagne Theatre in Branson, MO...looks like a young Lawrence Welk if you look closely, and plays the squeezebox just like him...especially when he did a polka with Branson mates Pasha and Ilona dancing, and those two are just as great as Bobby and either one of his dancing partners! Dick Dale took the stage with "There Will Be Some Changes Made," which he sang on the "Milestones and Memories" show, and for a fella his age....he still looks great, and sounds great, he is in my terms, eternally youthful....just like Lawrence himself.
Henry Cuesta took the stage with his fine workmanship on the clarinet....and still knows how to dazzle an audience.
Jack Imel is still an versitile ham onstage, playing his marimba and tap dancing to "Bye Bye Blues." I swear that with the effort he puts into his routine that he is going to kill fact he mentioned jokingly to the audience that if he were going to kill himself performing on stage, he would do it to us folks at the Stranahan, and that was good for a laugh and a rousing applause. He also did a nice dance routine with Mary Lou, bringing back fond memories of the old show....and speaking of the show, it had a nice 12 piece orchestra complete with a bubble machine! I am just glad the bubble machine didn't malfunction, which would be something straight off a Stan Friedberg comedy album.
Ava and Mary Lou signing autographs
Timmy opened up the second half of the show warming up the audience, and just like Lawrence himself...
he has alot of onstage charisma! He mentioned a number of birthday kids in the audience, one who is 86 and another who is 105! Timmy also mentioned a couple's wedding anniversary, celebrating their 68th that is. That was pretty heartwarming which deserved some applause. The second part of the show featured many band numbers, and alot of patriotic numbers from "God Bless America." Everyone appreciated it, and appreciated the fact that the USA is still the best country in the world, in either peacetime or wartime. Ralna led the whole band and the audience in a rousing number of "God Bless America," which was a fine way to end today's concert. Then, just like in the television show, the boys and girls of the Musicial Family capped it off with LW's signature tune, "Adios, Au Revoir, Ah Fetershein." And then just like at intermission, it was off to the lobby for autographs, pictures and chatting...which to me was the best part of today's show.
I was able to take full advantage of the situation, getting nice autographs from Timmy, Ralna, Mary Lou, Ava, Dick and Jack. Ralna and Mary Lou were impressed with my ever-expanding collection of Welk collectables as they looked through the archives. With Mary Lou, I presented her, on behalf of all the folks at Welknotes, a congratulatory greeting card for everyone involved with the show for a performance well done....she appreciated it very much. I also was able to get a picture with Ralna and Mary Lou just before I left, and considering the number of people at the show wanting to meet them, it was a good test of patience but like the old saying goes, "Good things comes for those who waits."
I had a fun time, getting ready for when the next Welk show comes to town.
Jack Imel and Dick Dale, meeting their public