God Bless America special at Lawrence Welk Theatre

by Shirley Curtis, Lifestyle Editor, Harrison Daily Times, Harrison, AR, Wednesday, August 28, 2002

BRANSON - "Lawrence Welk: God Bless America", one of the most dramatic patriotic music specials ever produced for public television, will be presented nationally in March, 2003. This all-new, two-hour PBS special pays a musical tribute to America's freedoms, its leaders and its veterans, and to the patriotism Lawrence Welk held dear as part of the classic American success story of his life.

This special will be taped before a LIVE audience at the Welk Champagne Theatre in Branson, Missouri, on Friday, August 30 at 7 p.m. and again on August 31 at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m.

The premiere of this special marks the 100th birthday of Lawrence Welk, who died in May, 1992. Because his lifetime spanned most of the 20th century, "Lawrence Welk: God Bless America" looks at our nation's history through the eyes and experiences of this bandleader who achieved "The American Dream."

 

"It is a real honor for me to be involved in this special," said Ralna English in a telephone interview Tuesday. "It is a great tribute to the American people, their perseverance and their strength and a tribute to our boss Lawrence Welk who pursued and achieved the American dream. Hopefully it will give people a feeling of solidarity in our country, knowing that we live in the greatest country in the world.


"It has been like old home week here in Branson this week with all the other performers that are involved in this show. We are just so proud of this show and very excited about doning it. We only hope the American people love it as much as we do," stated English.

"Lawrence Welk: God Bless America" features 18 stars from the Welk Musical Family, including Anacani, Elaine Balden, Bobby Burgess, Jo Ann Castle, Henry Cuesta, Dick Dale, Ralna English, Joe Feeney, Myron Floren, Guy Hovis, Jack Imel, The Lennon Sisters, Mary Lou Metzger, Tom Netherton, Bob Ralston and Norma Zimmer.

The special is co-hosted by Mary Lou Metzger and Tom Netherton and also features The Welk Champagne Music Makers under the direction of conductor John Bahler.

Act One of "Lawrence Welk: God Bless America" highlights 1900-1935, as Lawrence Welk and thousands of new Americans try to survive the hardships of World War I. Highlights of this act include the entire cast singing Irving Berlin's rousing "This is a Great Country." Guy Hovis performs "Coming to America" and Mary Lou Metzger, Jack Imel and Bobby and Elaine dance to a Cohan Medley. The Lennon Sisters sing, "My Man," and Ralna English belts the Gershwin's classic Broadway song, "Strike Up the Band." Myron Floren and the Champagne Music Makers end this act with "The Battle Hymn of the Republic."

Act Two swings its way through the Big Band Era, World War II and the Fabulous '50s. The Lennon Sisters salute World War II with "Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy" in 'Andrews Sisters style.' Jack Imel performs "St. Louis Blues March," and Bobby and Elaine jitterbug to "American Patrol." Jo Ann Castle plays an exhilarating "Maple Leaf Rag" and "Pine Top Boogie" on the piano. Myron Floren conducts a salute to the men and women who serve in our military with "Armed Forces Medley."

Act Three looks at 1961-1981 as America faces tragedy at home and in Vietnam. Tom Netherton sings "You'll Never Walk Alone," and Guy and Ralna perform their acclaimed duet of "Let There Be Peace on Earth." Anacani sings "From a Distance," Dick Dale sings "Tie a Yellow Ribbon" and Joe Feeney performs an emotional arrangement of "Born Free." The act ends with a dynamic piano duet as Jo Ann Castle and Bob Ralston play, "Stars and Stripes Forever."

Act Four begins with Lawrence Welk's retirement in 1982 and takes the audience into the present time of a national resurgence of patriotism. This act includes many heartfelt songs and readings, including "Ragged Old Flag" and "Let the Eagle Soar" by Guy Hovis, "The Pledge of Allegiance" by Mary Lou Metzger, "America the Beautiful" by Norma Zimmer, and "The Impossible Dream," by Bob Ralston. Ralna English sings a heart-rending, special arrangement of "Amazing Grace."

The finale features an emotional performance of "God Bless America" performed by Ralna English and the entire Musical Family, and accompanied by the Welk Champagne Music Makers.

For ticket information, call 417-336-3575.

 

 

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