Reviewer: David W. Oppermann
Venue: State Theatre
Nostalgia was well served Sunday when the Bijou Orchestra took its audience back in time….to another Oct. 13, the one in 1929.
Eleven days before the stock market crash that changed everything.
To quote its multi-talented artistic director and pianist Catherine McMichael, “It was a giddy time, optimistic, hedonistic, playful, still innocent and fun.”
The musical selections recreated that enthusiastic mood to the delight of the audience at the State Theatre in Bay City.
And there were some non-musical bonuses: the mostly upbeat tunes were accompanied with actual films and photos from those early days, shown on a full screen behind the orchestra on stage.
They were introduced by former TV-5 anchor and historian Eric Jylha as emcee, with vocals provided by local community theater stalwarts Rebecca Smith and David Bowden (who received enthusiastic applause for his solo on “Old Man River”).
Jylha was able to find vintage visuals from the 1920’s, including the Bay City Floral Parade, Water Carnival, Beauty Pageant and James Clements Airport.
Among the musical selections were songs with lyrics or music written by local talent: national hits “Sleepy Time Gal,” “Toot Toot Tootsie” and “I’ll See You In My Dreams,” as well as “Meet Me In Bubble-Land” and “Bay City Is Second to None.”
The Bijou is a 13-member orchestra, founded by the late Leo Najar..
It is modeled on the orchestras found in American theaters in the first part of the 20th century.
Its core repertoire is composed of the thousands of arrangements that were created between 1890 and 1935 for use by the pit bands of legit, vaudeville and silent movie theaters across the country.
In addition to the classics, there is an immense catalog of American popular music that begins with the marches of Sousa and Pryor, extending through Ragtime, the songs and dances of Tin Pan Alley and jazz.