Summer by the Numbers

41 different songs (plus some bits and pieces)

10 concerts

9000 people in the audiences (give or take a couple of thousand)

9 cities

96 lines of memorized patter

62 pages of script

2 duo-piano accompaniments I had to play

3 actual dressing rooms

9 gowns

2 elephants...and lions, tigers, and bears 

...Oh, My!  And here I thought I was going to have time to chalk-paint my dining room chairs this summer.  But it was a wonderful one, nonetheless, and I'm overwhelmed by gratitude for all the new people I got a chance to meet along the way and the chance to sing a lot of Garland tunes and a gaggle of new songs, too, including "Tomorrow" (proving that it's never too late for the sun to come out) in a concert with the Cleveland Pops at Playhouse Square promoting their upcoming seasons.  

But more about that in a moment.  First off, here is a photograph and a video clip from outdoor July 4th concerts with the Cleveland Pops and guest conductor Jason Seber — such a pleasure to work with him for the first time:

Joan Ellison & Jason Seber with the Cleveland Pops at Twinsburg's Rock the Park Concert

Joan Ellison & Jason Seber with the Cleveland Pops at Twinsburg's Rock the Park Concert

Joan Ellison sings "Singin' in the Rain" with the Cleveland Pops conducted by Jason Seber

The trip out to the west side of Chicago for a Garland concert with the Wheaton Symphony followed. Conductor Kevin McMahon and the whole orchestra couldn't have been more welcoming, and singing with a 42-member string section at my back was definitely an experience I hope to repeat very soon.  I was hearing so many inner voices in the arrangements that I'd never really heard before!  It was also my first go-'round performing the concert in two unbroken sets with patter that Mark Flanders & I co-wrote.  Here's a sampling, with the lead-in to "The Man That Got Away" and then the song:

Joan Ellison sings "The Man That Got Away," by Harold Arlen and Ira Gershwin, with the Wheaton Symphony conducted by Kevin McMahon

Five days after our return, Mark and I, along with pianist Jason Aquila, debuted our rewritten theatrical show, Love Finds Judy Garland, to a full house in Rocky River, then were up with the larks the next morning to make a rehearsal with the Lakeside Symphony in Lakeside, Ohio.  That was five WWII-era arrangements that were new to me and the concert was a few hours later, but it all came off without a hitch and after an early morning walk (I never can sleep much after a concert) and a gargantuan breakfast overlooking Lake Erie, we were on the road home.  

A few more concerts with the Cleveland Pops followed, with varying programs. Here is a photo from the benefit at the Cleveland Zoo (hence the aforementioned lions, tigers, and bears) and it was the most relaxed gig all summer.  In fact, it felt like we were all back at music camp:

Cleveland Pops Goes to the Zoo!

Cleveland Pops Goes to the Zoo!

Carl Topilow was at the helm, back from his summer with the National Repertory Orchestra. After singing "Moon River" and "Rainbow," I even sat in for an unplanned "What I Did For Love" as the evening advanced — only for Carl, who knows how to bring out my zany side.  (This is the man who trusted me to lead off my first-ever orchestra-soloist gig at Severance Hall with Sondheim's tongue-bending, mile-a-minute "Getting Married Today.")

And he once again nudged me out of my comfort zone by programming "Dancing Queen." Here are a couple of photos from a rehearsal at the State Theatre at Playhouse Square:

Rehearsing "Dancing Queen" at the State Theatre at Playhouse Square

Rehearsing "Dancing Queen" at the State Theatre at Playhouse Square

Carl joining me for some ABBA

Carl joining me for some ABBA

This concert was supposed to be outside under Cleveland's new gargantuan chandelier, but I may have been the only one delighted for the rain-out.  First of all the theatre was a 3200-seat 1920s marvel.  Secondly, the sound was state-of-the-art.  When they handed me a Sennheiser microphone with a Neumann head, I knew it was going to be a good day.  Thirdly, when the lights came on, it was magic — to me theatre lights have always meant magic!  And when you add-in getting to sing "Over the Rainbow" on the same "Loew's State Theatre" stage that Judy Garland once trod, well, it seemed like I'd clicked my heels three times and gotten my wish.  Here's the video: 

And here are those heels:

The next weekend it was off to the Performing Arts Center at Kent State Tuscarawas for a sold-out reprise of Love Finds Judy Garland.  The terrific production staff headed up by an old friend from our days doing musical theatre, Dave Glowacki, and the Steinway D made it even more enjoyable. Meeting some students afterwards who are huge Turner Classic Movie devotees was the cherry on top.  Here's a production photo: 

Love Finds Judy Garland  with Joan Ellison & Jason Aquila

Love Finds Judy Garland with Joan Ellison & Jason Aquila

Thanks for reading and stay tuned for forthcoming production videos of the show before we take it to Naples, Florida in February!  Next up: a series of posts about preparing to play '60s-era Judy Garland in The Boy From Oz.