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‘Somewhereville Station’ revisits the 50s and 60s
In early 2015, Ephrata native Paul Stober had an idea. The member of the men’s Red Rose Chorus thought it would be swell to join with the all-female Red Rose City Chorus from Lititz for a combined show featuring musical numbers from the good old days.
The chorus members all agreed. Stober — with the help of Irene Hershey and Liz Danielski, both members of Red Rose City Chorus — sat down and penned “Somewhereville Station,” which will be performed one time only, on Sunday, April 24. The physical somewhere in “Somewhereville Station” is the stage of the Dutch Apple Dinner Theatre, but the emotional somewhere is rooted in nostalgia, and it marks a milestone in the histories of the two choruses who will make their combined premiere on the Lancaster landmark stage for “Somewhereville Station.”
“We have come together in the past for Christmas shows at the Ware Center,” said Stober. “Those were well received, so I thought — because I go to the Dutch Apple Dinner Theatre — it would be fun to have a combined show at such a wonderful venue. It’s a 50s and 60s music show we put together around the story of a couple looking back to when they first met.”
“Somewhereville Station” chronicles the simple life of a small-town guy named, Bobbie (Tyler Hart). He’s a ticket taker at a rural train station and lives vicariously through the fascinating travelers making connections. The show is narrated by Bobbie’s older self, who now goes as Robert (Scott Schmittel). From outside of the now dilapidated station, Robert recalls the great music of the 50s and 60s, and how he even ran into a few performers traveling from town to town.
One day, as a young man, his heart is struck by a beautiful and sophisticated lady with a fancy hat. In his dreams he calls her Peggy (Kayla Ressler). Every day he looks for her. After a few years they make acquaintance. Her life has been exciting, and remembers him as the “handsome young man she met in ‘Somewhereville Station.’” But, will this be their chance to find love?
Filling out the cast of actors are Tom Peck (announcer), Mary Jeanne deGroot as Lady, and Jo Lund as Josephine, the wise-cracking train station cleaning lady. The entirety of both choruses — all 63 members — will take part in the show.
“Somewhereville Station” will feature a total of 23 musical numbers highlighting the era. Some familiar tunes include “Mr. Sandman,” “Calendar Girl,” and “Blue Velvet.” Most songs will feature either the Red Rose City Chorus or the Red Rose Chorus, but some songs will be performed by specialized quartets.
The often covered “A Fool Such as I” will feature the stylings of Stober, Jennifer Seymour, Don McElroy, and the Ephrata Review’s own Melissa Hunnefield; the quartet is otherwise known as Sum of Each, and just last weekend they were crowned the mixed harmony quartet champs of the Mid-Atlantic District of the Barbershop Harmony Society.
“Somewhereville Station” includes seven quartet pieces intermingled with the story.
“We are the only two barbershop choruses in the county,” said Stober.
The Red Rose Chorus was chartered in 1949 behind the efforts of John Neimer and Dick Bisalski and the first meeting brought out more than 100 interested applicants. The Red Rose City Chorus consists of approximately 41 singers of all ages from the surrounding five counties.
Regularly directing both choruses, and “Somewhereville Station,” is Lori Jo Whitehaus. She joined her first Sweet Adeline — the name of the international organization of female chorus singers — sanctioned group 38 years ago after graduating from Millersville College. She started singing as a hobby and is “now deeply involved in this art form,” said Whitehaus. While singing with the Greater Harrisburg Chorus in 1994, she was asked to direct the ladies of the Red Rose City Chorus.
“Nine years ago the men needed a director, and they contacted me to see if I would consider directing them, too,” said Whitehaus, who at the time was a full time school teacher in Harrisburg and mother of two. “Shortly after that I started directing my church choir.”
Whitehaus is a member of the chorus, but as director is also a paid independent contractor responsible for running rehearsals, choosing music for performances along with her staff, teaching singing skills, and educating the public about barbershop music.
“The director is not like a [theater] director; it’s more like a teacher,” said Whitehaus.
Rehearsals for “Somewhereville Station” took place weekly in Lititz (for the women) and Lancaster (for the men), with only a handful of joint rehearsal close to opening night. During the rehearsal period, the Red Rose City Chorus won first place in their size division, and third place overall at an annual regional competition and convention in Hershey. The score was the highest in the chorus’ history, and propelled director Lori Jo Whitehaus to master director status within the Sweet Adelines. Now she is refocused on the upcoming show.
“This has been a lot of fun … For the two groups in Lancaster County to do something together is [rare],” said Whitehaus.
“Somewhereville Station” shows on Sunday, April 24, and begins with a buffet luncheon at 11:45 a.m. If you haven’t been to the Dutch Apple Dinner Theatre in a few years, you should know they have improved upon their food service; but, that is a bigger topic for another story. After lunch, the show opens at 1:15 p.m. with both choruses performing “If There’s Anybody Here from Out of Town,” a vocal standard once recorded by Bing Crosby.
Tickets for “Somewhereville Station” are $39 for adults, $25 for those who are 25 years old and under, and can be purchased on the Dutch Apple website at dutchapple.com or by calling 898-1900.
Michael C. Upton is a freelance writer specializing in arts and leisure. He welcomes comments at firstname.lastname@example.org and facebook.com/SomebodiesProductions.