If You Go
What: “In the Mood”
When: Wednesday at 7:30 p.m.
Where: Stambaugh Auditorium, 1000 Fifth Ave., Youngstown
Tickets: $15, $25, $35 and $45 at stambaughauditorium.com and by phone at 330-259-0555
By GUY D’ASTOLFO
After nearly a quarter-century, audiences are still in the mood for the one show that brings back the music, the look, and the spirit of the World War II era.
“In the Mood” – named for the famed 1939 Glenn Miller Orchestra song – will return to the area Wednesday for a performance at Stambaugh Auditorium.
The act features a 13-piece big band and six dancer-singers who bring back the clothing and moves of the years before and during the war.
“In the Mood” was created and launched 24 years ago by Bud Forrest, who still leads the show as conductor and pianist. It is on tour about 20 weeks a year.
Forrest compiled the greatest songs from the swing era into a revue that demonstrates the influence of the upbeat music, which was a morale booster during some dark times.
Each performance includes a tribute to those who fought in World War II, as well as all veterans.
“During World War II, there were only 130 million Americans, and 16 million were involved with the war one way or another,” said Forrest, explaining the cohesiveness of the era during a phone interview. “It really was an endemic part of our world, so the idea of honoring those who served is an important one.”
“In the Mood,” he said, is like a piece of living history.
“My goal is to give people an idea of what it would be like to hear a big band coming in to Youngstown,” said Forrest.
The show has brought Forrest to 28 states, Canada, Europe and Australia. In fact, after the current North American leg ends, the company will take a break and then head back to Australia and New Zealand, where the show is as popular as it is in the states.
“It’s a celebration of American music that goes around the world,” said Forrest.
The late Vic Schoen created the musical arrangements for “In the Mood,” and Forrest credits him with capturing the sound of the era. Schoen was a chief architect of the big band scene, having created the musical arrangements for the legendary Andrews Sisters. He also was music director for both Universal and Paramount Pictures, and wrote the score for many movies of that decade.
“In the 1940s, everybody was listening to big bands,” said Forrest, who called it the pop music of its day. “It was the last time that all Americans were listening to the same kind of music. My hardest job is deciding what songs to leave out.”
A few songs are staples in every performance; others are rotated in and out.
“The music is the story of ‘In the Mood,’” said Forrest.
But the lively dancing that swing engendered is every bit as important as the music, and “In the Mood” choreographer Alex Sanchez, a Broadway veteran, aims to replicate it.
“He teaches [the singers-dancers] to be 1940s, even though most of them were born in the 1990s and don’t know how to walk with that poise and posture,” said Forrest. “We try to make the show as authentic as possible but still entertaining. It’s a combination of theater, swing music and dance, and the band is on stage the whole time.”
Few groups epitomize the swing era like the Andrews Sisters, and Forrest said “In the Mood’s” singers are pretty close to the iconic vocal harmony style on songs such as “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy.”
The number of people still alive who are old enough to remember the war era is rapidly diminishing. But “In the Mood” has bridged generations during its run and has created new fans in the process. “I get emails from [grandparents] who say they took their daughter and their grandchild to the show, and when they got home, they talked about what the music meant to them,” said Forrest. “They start telling stories about what it was like to be alive at that time. When you hear a song, you might remember a place or a time, or maybe you danced to it or fell in love to it. Soldiers overseas listened to it, and it reminded them of what they were fighting for.
“One of our slogans is ‘It’s the music that moved a nation’s spirit.’”