by TJ Lewis
Get ready to SH-Boom all night long with this season’s Winter Cabaret opener, Unchained Melodies, a celebration of male harmony groups. Our talented lineup of versatile vocalists will take you on a musical trip down memory lane beginning with doo-wop and continuing through some of the smoothest sounds of the 1950s and ‘60s. Featuring hits such as “Baby I Need Your Loving,” “Walk Like a Man,” and “Shop Around,” Unchained Melodies will give your old vinyls a run for their money.
Doo-wop’s iconic four-part harmony didn’t just blend voices. It also blended cultures. While R&B music was popular among African American communities, doo-wop, and other subgenres like it, caught the attention of a more widespread audience. Everyone wanted in on the action by the mid-’50s, as vocal groups sprung up left and right, vying for a spot in the spotlight. Among the first to find that spotlight were The Drifters, followed by Dion and the Bellmonts, The Four Seasons, The Four Tops, and countless others who changed the music industry forever.
One of the aspects of this new sound that made it so widely popular and accessible across ethnic divides were its lyrics. Verses were simple, and easy to pick up. They centered mostly on universal ideas and everyday themes such as love—even when it hurt. “What is pervasive in all of the music featured in the show (even the songs about heartbreak),” said cast member Nathaniel P. Claridad, “is a sense of unwavering optimism.” Famous lyricists such as Carole King, Holland-Dozier-Holland, Berry Gordy Jr., and Bob Gaudio made complex, layered topics more accessible with their memorable, simple, and entertaining lyrics. Roll those lyrics in with some smooth soundtracks and the right combination of soulful vocalists, and the hits just kept on coming.
“Unchained Melodies celebrates an era of music where voices sound like finely tuned instruments,” said Associate Artist and show Director Catherine Randazzo. “The songs featured in the show are like mini musicals that tell a range of stories, like being young and in love or just trying to make a living. They make me want to dance and sing.”
Aside from the tight harmonies and soaring melodies, what cast member Nick Anastasia loves most about the music in the show is its ability to transport you to a completely different time and place. “I was born and raised on the Jersey Shore,” said Anastasia, “and even still today when I hear ‘Under The Boardwalk,’ I’m immediately taken back to those childhood summer days in the sun with my family.”
Anastasia was last seen on the FST stage in 2017 for the Summer Mainstage production of Burt and Me where he took on the role of Jerry, he was also seen in the 2015-2016 Winter Cabaret Laughing Matters Vol. 5.
While seasoned FST performer Nick Anastasia is thrilled to return to Sarasota’s Contemporary Theatre for his third apperance, cast members Nathaniel P. Claridad, David Marmanillo, and Micah Jeremiah Mims are excited to make their FST debut in Unchained Melodies. Claridad has appeared Off-Broadway at Webster Hall and The Public Theatre, as well as regionally at The Kennedy Center, the Folger Theatre, and Barrington Stage Company. Marmanillo has played ‘50s rock legend Ritchie Valens in Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story several times in addition to having regional and touring credits. Mims’ credits include both regional and Off-Broadway productions, and off stage he has appeared on the Showtime series Homeland. On the keys, is Co-Developer and FST favorite Jim Prosser.
Unchained Melodies by Richard Hopkins, and Rebecca Hopkins, with arrangements by Jim Prosser begins October 3rd in the John C. Court Cabaret. We look forward to welcoming you for a night of heartwarming harmonies and unchained melodies!