To complement the Chicago Blues Museum exhibition Motown vs. Chi-Town on display at the South Shore Arts Gallery in Munster, Theatre at the Center is bringing back the popular performance of The Signal: A Doo Wop Rhapsody. The Signal: A Doo Wop Rhapsody recounts the story of show creator Henry Farag’s experiences growing up amidst this exciting musical chapter in Gary, Indiana’s history. The live jukebox musical presents 21 popular Doo Wop hits intertwined with recreations of radio broadcasts that will transport the audience back to the romantic times of the 1950s and 1960s. This special performance will be presented at Theatre at the Center in Munster on Thursday, December 29 at 7 p.m.
The Signal: A Doo Wop Rhapsody features a cappella groups Stormy Weather and The Spaniels, along with Grammy-award winner Willie Rogers performing Doo Wop favorites. Many of the performers represented were discovered singing under the streetlamps in Gary, not far from Farag’s childhood home. Street corner groups were part of the fabric of the neighborhood back in those days. Popular songs that are featured in the show include “My Girl,” “Big Girls Don’t Cry,” “Goodnite Sweetheart Goodnite,” and “When I Saw Her Standing There.”
Local deejay Vivian Carter was also just getting started in her career in the 1950s. While continuing to work at the local radio station, she opened a record store in Gary. She and her husband James C. Bracken also started a record label called Vee-Jay Records. Vee-Jay released records by The Spaniels, The Eldorados, The Dells, and Blues legend John Lee Hooker. One of their biggest hits was by The Four Seasons, the first white act featured on the label. Vee-Jay was also the label that originally introduced the Beatles to American audiences with “Please, Please, Me” and “Ask Me Why” released on 45 in 1963 – one year before the Ed Sullivan Show appearance. Carter passed away in 1989, leaving behind a great musical legacy.
A ticket to The Signal also includes admission to The Chicago Blues Museum exhibition Motown vs. Chi-Town on display in the South Shore Arts Gallery in Munster. The exhibition explores the rich history of the music scenes of two great cities from the 1950s through the 1970s, with stories told through historic photographs, rare video footage and original artifacts. The exhibition showcases the many Blues and R&B legends that began their careers in Chicago and Detroit, including several from northwest Indiana. Amazing photographs and videos depict dozens of Blues legends such as Buddy Guy, Muddy Waters and Dinah Washington. One highlight of the exhibition is an original booth from Chicago’s legendary Blues spot, the Checkerboard Lounge.
A special section of the exhibition explores Northwest Indiana’s connection to the music scene. Vee-Jay Records and their artists are highlighted as one of the earliest African American-owned record companies in the country. Vee-Jay went on to become a major R&B label. A spotlight is also shown on the origins of a better-known aspect of Gary’s history, The Jackson 5, who first opened for soul greats James Brown and The Chi-Lites, and whom Gladys Knight brought to Berry Gordy’s attention prior to 1969, when they became hits as Motown artists.
The exhibition was created by the Chicago Blues Museum which was founded by Gregg Parker in 1991. Stefanie Mielke is the exhibition curator. Motown vs. Chi-Town will be on display through January 29, 2017.
Individual ticket prices for The Signal are $30, and student tickets are $20. Ticket includes admission to the exhibition Motown vs. Chi-Town presented under the same roof at the Center for the Visual and Performing Arts in Munster. To purchase individual tickets call the Box Office at 219-836-3255. For more information on Theatre at the Center, visit TheatreAtTheCenter.com. Theatre at the Center is located inside the Center for Visual and Performing Arts at 1040 Ridge Road in Munster, Ind. 46321.