- Welk star promises 'wunnerful'
WEEKEND: CONCERT PREVIEW
- By ALESIA I. REDDING
Tribune Staff Writer
- Friday, March 12, 2004
- For fans such as Thelma Smith, "The
Lawrence Welk Show'' was more than wholesome entertainment, more
than polkas and accordions.
- It was like family.
- For this reason, the New Carlisle resident,
who began tuning in to the show early in her marriage, especially
enjoyed the Christmas shows.
- "They'd bring all their families
on. Each year we could see how much they'd grown. The younger
ones would have children,'' says Smith, who still watches reruns
of the show on local PBS station WNIT Television, Channel 34.
- "You sort of grew up right along
- That sort of sentiment is echoed by singer
Ralna English, an original cast member from the Welk show, during
a recent telephone interview.
- For English, touring with the live "Lawrence
Welk Show,'' that travels to South Bend this weekend, the long-running
program created special relationships.
- "We're all friends,'' says English,
who joined the show in 1969. "After 35 years, we're a family.
We truly are really close. We've gone through a lot of illnesses
and deaths and a lot of happy times.''
- Many of those happy times came onstage,
where the show, fronted by the renowned bandleader, featured
plenty of music, singing and dance numbers. To its legions of
devoted followers -- many of them families who gathered around
the TV set to watch, it was truly "wunnerful.''
- English, who had a nightclub act and sang
commercial jingles before joining the Welk show, says the bandleader
was the key to the show's success.
- "From him I learned respect for the
audience. His main goal was to please the audience,'' she says
of Welk, who died in 1992. "He was extremely charismatic,
believe it or not. It was hard to see on TV. ... There was a
reason he lasted so long.''
- The show lives on today in a live stage
version that is similar to the show that Welk took on the road
many years ago.
- "They (audiences) can expect a great
two-hour fast-paced entertaining show,'' English says, including
tap-dancing and marimba-playing Jack Imel, Welk's favorite dancing
partner Mary Lou Metzger and, English notes, a "great new
- "I grew up in Texas,'' the Lubbock
native says, "so I've got country in me.''
- And the country segment isn't the only
thing that's new about the show, English says.
- "We'll have new material and dance
routines. We don't like to get stale.''
- Though many of the audience members at
these live shows are older people who have fond memories of "Welk,''
there are plenty of younger fans there as well, English says.
- "There are kids who grew up with
the show and have kids of their own,'' she says.
- English recalls a recent trip to an upscale
department store where the manager, who was in his 30s, approached
- "He said, 'You're Ralna, aren't you?'
He said, 'I'm from Indiana, and I watched the show with my parents.
It was a ritual.'
- It was so heartwarming to think that I've
been doing this and people have received such pleasure from it.''
- 'The Lawrence Welk Show'
3 p.m. Sunday at the Morris Performing Arts Center, 211 N. Michigan
St., South Bend. Tickets are $41.50, $37.50 and $34.50. For ticket
information, call (574) 235-9190 or (800) 537-6415.