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Thursday, November 5, 2015

The Hit Men a hit

Wow, another great night of entertainment at the Woodlands Auditorium. This time I enjoyed the Hot Springs Village Concerts Association’s presentation of The Hit Men. Alongside me last night were the KVRE crew of Annie Dyer and Scotty Mack. The concert was a Mecca of hits from the 60's and 70's, just what Scotty Mack plays on his KVRE show. We were joined by my husband Lee, Annie’s husband Monty and the Dyer’s out of town guests. Every one of us had a great time and thoroughly enjoyed the music of The Hit Men.

The Woodlands was chock o’ block full of bopping heads, smiling faces, snapping fingers, clapping hands and feet that couldn’t stay still in their confined spaces. Some audience members just couldn’t take it any longer and had to jump up and dance toward the end of the show. Oh, What a Night in so many ways.

The five Hit Men were Lee Shapiro, Gerry Polci, Jimmy Ryan, Larry Gates and Russ Velazquez. All five have been a part of famous groups, backed up famous musicians in concert and in the studio and have paid their dues performing boomer rock music since day one. These are the coolest group of grandpas on the planet. They are still fit, have the moves of the time and sound just like they did 40 years ago. What a walk down memory lane.

Lee Shapiro was one of Frankie Valli’s Four Seasons, part of the original performances of Oh, What a Night and Who Loves You. He was also one of Tommy James’ Shondells. Shapiro plays keyboard with The Hit Men and lends his vocals to many of the tunes. He has a very impressive resume` working with and for the who’s who of the music world.

Gerry Polci became part of Frankie Valli’s Four Seasons in 1974 and his was the lead voice in the original recording of Oh, What a Night. One of the very coolest parts of the show was when Polci was back on his drums playing and singing Oh, What a Night while his younger self was singing and playing on film footage right behind him. His drumming was extraordinary and heavily featured in solo on Grease is the Word.

Jimmy Ryan was originally lead guitarist for The Critters, composing the hit Don’t Let the Rain Fall Down on Me. Ryan worked with many, many stars as lead guitar and vocalist over the years. The Hit Men performed many of the songs the musicians helped make famous by other artists including Carly Simon, Jim Croce, Elton John and a who’s who of boomers rock. It was a thrill to see Ryan get down on his knees to show he still had it on lead guitar. Smooth.

Larry Gates provided bass guitar and lead vocals for a number of the songs last night. He is also a great storyteller because he had great stories to tell, all five did. Gates is a composer and lyricist and worked with Janis Ian and Rick Derringer. He is best known for television jingles such as Toys R Us. He added his vast vocal talents to many of the numbers last night.

Rounding out the group is Russ Velazquez, my goodness this man has boundless energy as well as a deep well of talent. Velazquez is known for his work with Carol King, Sting, the Ramones, Luther Vandross, L.L.Cool J, Korn and Paula Abdul. He is also known for his work on Sesame Street. He had a number one children’s song 2BA Master.

The Hit Men are a very cool group of vastly talented men that have continued to work in the music business not just as performers but as composers, producers and arrangers. After retiring from The Four Seasons Polci went back to school and got his degree in Music Education and has been a teacher since 1995 in addition to his gig with The Hit Men.

Also taking the stage last night were three very talented local musicians, Hal Thompson, David Laubach and Jonathan Van Houten providing the horn backup for The Hit Men. All did a very respectable job and looked like they were having the time of their life on stage. Do I see a tour in their future?

The Hit Men will be in the Village at the Woodlands Auditorium for three more performances through November 7. For tickets call 922-4231, buy online at or stop by the will call table in the lobby and beg for an opportunity to see this non-stop good-time show.

The 24th season of the Hot Springs Village Concerts Association is not over yet. Remaining this season are Phil Dirt presents Surf’s up! A Tribute to the Beach Boys February 16 - 19 and Live From Nashville March 15 - 18. Become a Concerts Association member now if you’ve been sitting on the fence. But, most importantly, don’t miss The Hit Men.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Duck continued again

Once again Kevin Duck's trial has been continued. Duck is accused of murdering Hot Springs Village Police dispatcher Dawna Natzke over the Christmas holidays in 2011.

The Duck trial was scheduled for the week of November 16 through 20. The trial has been continued to the week of March 28 through April 1, April Fool's Day.

Duck is currently in the state prison system for probation violations in a previous conviction.

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Young Frankenstein is a don't miss

I loved Young Frankenstein The Musical

I don’t know how many times I can say adorable, hilarious, fantastic, cute and oh so much fun without sounding insincere, but quite sincerely director Jerry Davis’ version of Mel Brooks’ Young Frankenstein the Musical is all of the above and then some at the Woodlands Auditorium in Hot Springs Village. The show runs through a matinee on Sunday and if you want to be good to yourself and escape the rainy weather get over to the theater and treat yourself to a heck of a good theater experience.

First off, it was wonderful to have a live orchestra at a Woodlands’ musical after several years absence. I know it is more affordable to use canned music but there is nothing like a live orchestra to get you going. The orchestra is far more responsive than canned music can ever be and music director Sarah Stankiewicz Dailey had the difficult task of parring down the musical numbers to entertain the Woodlands’ audience without losing one member of the audience to leg cramps, overactive bladder or boredom. Thank you orchestra members for doing such a fine job, Norm Morton, Lee Beach, Jacob Dowdy, Matthew Mentgen, Sotonya Gordey, Rafael Powell, Dale Grimm, Alan Burns, Chris Hold and Kathy Ogilvie. Welcome home. But, most of all thank you to producer Melissa Sonnen for finding the money to bring the live music back.

Without exception the entire cast of Young Frankenstein is superb but as good as the men were, and they were very good, the women stole the show. I am still laughing at Ruthe` Korelitz’ Elizabeth singing Don’t Touch Me. Holly DeSambourg brings the lusty Inga to life in Roll in the Hay and Cathy Kraus is hysterical as Frau Blucher singing He Was My Boyfriend. It has been said that Young Frankenstein does not have a particular tune that you leave the theater humming after a performance but I disagree. These were but a few of the songs that are still with me a day later. I suspect they will be with me for some time to come. All of the ladies have superb singing voices that made the songs more memorable.

The men were excellent at bringing their characters to life, Anthony Nicolosi as the ever expressive Dr. Frederick Frankenstein, that’s Fraaankensteen; Herm Dobscha as the bipolar Monster and the adorable Jack Iafrate as the Marty Feldmanesque Igor. They were magnificent at bringing the familiar characters from Brooks’ original movie to the stage. I appreciated Ken Silver’s perfect diction as Inspector Hans Kemp, he kept the narrative moving and I could understand every word. Bill Lamoureux was terrific as the lonely Hermit.

The entire cast was very good including the minor characters and the very talented chorus used in a number of roles. Cathy Cady’s classic choreography was much appreciated. I loved the tap number with the Chorus Line finish. The unsung heroes rounding out the cast included Norm Martin, Bill Jervis, Matthew Pulscher, Karen Feckler, Cheryl Robertson, Rylynn Wheeler, Melissa Romero, Chloe Bayer, Marlene Davis, JoAnn Dobscha, D.K. Edwards, Debbie Holiday, Liz Miller, Mary Lou Neiswander and Lynn Petti. They were all adorable and although not the main characters they performed with heart and happily shared their talents.

Young Frankenstein required a large support staff to make this show run smoothly and make even the set changes entertaining. Everyone gave their all and the audience was like putty in your hands. Again, it was a great theater experience and one I highly recommend.

In a stroke of genius, there were unexpected cameo appearances by several community leaders. Look for Michael Dollar, David Twiggs, John Weidert, Stephanie Heffer and the very dear Donna Aylward. They were an added hoot and who knew Donna Aylward could act and sing?

There are still a few seats available. For tickets to the Saturday night or Sunday afternoon show call 922-4231 or go to or stop by the box office a half hour before the curtain and throw yourself on the mercy of the harried volunteer. Tickets are just $15 each. Whatever you do, don’t miss this show.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Ricky Skaggs a world class performer

The audience was revved up last night for Ricky Skaggs and the Kentucky Thunder at the Woodlands Auditorium in Hot Springs Village.

It was the biggest Tuesday night audience I've seen in years. Some of the crowd was so excited they couldn't help but yell out partial conversation with Skaggs, "we love you, Rickey, way to go, Ricky."

They were enthralled from the moment Skaggs took the stage till the last encore. Be prepared, there is no intermission. It's straight through bluegrass with a little gospel thrown in.

You know Ricky Skaggs was fabulous, his reputation is well-earned and he is a folksy entertainer audiences lap up like a kitty's bowl of cream.

So, let's take some time to talk Kentucky Thunder, six good looking men that are incredible musicians. Skaggs gave them warm praise and an opportunity to feature their mad skills.

As they took the stage last night, Andy Leftwich was to the left. He is the ultimate musician, but then again, they all are. He plays two different fiddles, one with a really warm tone, and shows off his mandolin skills in at least one number. I never grew tired of watching him coax his fiddles.

Cody Kilby was up next with his guitar. There is a reason why he is a national flatpicking champion. He was breathtaking when featured on solo playing. I can't believe how fast his finger slide back and forth on one hand while the other is frantically picking away.

Scott Mulvahill and his upright bass was hidden a little behind Leftwich and Kilby. Hidden, but never forgotten because he is the percussion leader for the group, laying down the beat. His singing was featured on one song and he has a great voice, mellow and warm. You'll enjoy watching him play, he is obviously enjoying himself.

Skaggs is front and center providing a running patter, keeping the show going during tuning lulls. The audience was awed by his skills with the mandolin and guitar, his sweet tenor and his accessibility.

To the right of Skaggs was Eddie Faris. His smiles are few and far between but when he is really pleased with his guitar skills, his face light up. Another masterful musician with a steady strum and dexterous fingers. He lends harmony to Skaggs lead.

Paul Brewster has been with Skaggs the longest. He sings the high harmonies with Skaggs. He is another extraordinary guitarist. His vocal talents are featured in one solo but his voice is heard all night long, one with bluegrass in his blood.

Last but not least is banjo player Russ Carson. He has been with Kentucky Thunder for a little over a year and has been playing the banjo for many years belying his baby face. Again another vastly talented musician demonstrating his manual dexterity.

I knew I like bluegrass from long exposure but last night I fell in love. Ricky Skaggs and Kentucky Thunder will be in the Village for three more nights through Friday, October 23.

There are three concerts left in the Hot Springs Village Concerts Association 2015-16 schedule. The Hit Men, November 4-7, Phil Dirt Presents Surf's Up! February 16-19 and Live From Nashville, March 15-18. Go to for more information.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Deadly car accident in Village.

Chief Ricky Middleton of the Hot Springs Village Police Department announced a fatality accident occurred on Friday, August 28 in Hot Springs Village. At 10:22 p.m. officers responded to Balearic Road near the RV Campsite Road to a report of a single car accident. The victim was 67 year old Lynda J. Bounsall of Hot Springs Village.

Garland County Coroner Stuart Smedley arrived at the accident site and pronounced Ms. Bounsall as deceased.

Hot Springs Village Fire Department also assisted at the scene.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

More fun at the Five Star Theater

Yakov Smirnoff is now appearing at the Five Star Theater in Hot Springs. Audience members came out in droves to see the Russian comedian last night. He doesn’t look much different from the Smirnoff we remember from the 70's, 80's and 90's when he was a favorite on The Tonight Show, the movies, television and the comedy club circuits.

Smirnoff’s mastery of the English language and all of its foibles was and is still fodder for his hilarious brand of comedy. The things we loved about him then are still there but now Smirnoff has morphed into a favorite college professor, one that teaches life’s lessons with a laugh. The class that always has a wait list. The professor whose message you always remember.

Smirnoff’s admitted goal is to make his audiences happy and he succeeds beyond reason. Lesson one, the word yep translates to the word sex in Russian and who can’t laugh every time you hear yep in perverse context.

Lesson two, to sustain a successful relationship you must give gift, an acronym for give, importance, fun, time. The lecture was enjoyable, the lesson will be remembered and hopefully implemented.

Smirnoff talked of his family and shared many sentimental stories. There were lots of laughs but also damp eyes. Be prepared to laugh and cry, ponder love and life.

When not trying out new material on the road, Smirnoff has a theater in Branson where he continues to perform but he also has pursued education. In 2006 he returned to college and received his Masters in Psychology from the University of Pennsylvania. Today, at age 64, he is pursuing his Ph.D. in the neuroscience of laughter, this from a man that came to America 37 years ago not speaking a word of English. He is the American dream.

Smirnoff will be bringing his philosophy and humor to the Five Star Theater in Hot Springs tonight, Saturday night and an added Sunday matinee at 3 p.m. For reservations, call 318-1600.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Loved the show at the Five Star last night in Hot Springs

Annie and I had an opportunity to attend the George Dyer concert at the Five Star Dinner Theater last night and it was fun.  Both of us have extensive musical backgrounds and we enjoy hearing musicians new to us and kicking around what we thought of the performance.

We were both glowing with satisfaction as we left the Five Star last night. George Dyer, his wife Clarisse and his daughter Kassidy gave a high-energy, non-stop performance that we both thoroughly enjoyed. Dyer came to us from Branson. He regularly performs at the Dutton Theater there. A polished professional with a family first flair.

In Branson you get the five piece band experience. At Five Star it was canned music but after the first few strains of music and the forceful personality of Dyer you completely forget about the computer driven accompaniment. All of his accompaniment is perfect for Dyer, musical keys that enhance his full tenor voice verging on baritone. The repertoire matches his vocal range and keeps the show moving.

His show ran the gamut of big band tunes, Broadway, opera and patriotic. He got a breather when his wife and daughter took the stage.  One of my favorite female-Dyer pieces was the female duet from Lakme, The Flower duet. Clarisse’s soprano and Kassidy’s alto tones filled the air with pure beauty.

Dyer doesn’t shy from getting out in the audience and interacting with the crowd. Annie was mortified, but I thought it was a nice touch. He tends to sparkle when he sings and that’s not a bad thing. Dyer is just as at home with a contemporary love ballad as with a centuries old aria. His duets with his wife were a nice break from his solo deliveries. His breath control was stronger than hers but that didn’t present a problem.

Of course, I loved the opera part of the evening best of all. For you non-opera musical types, this was just one of several components of the show, a nice exposure to popular tenor arias without putting the neophyte to sleep. To me, it wasn’t until La donne e mobile that Dyer’s true voice began to soar and you could appreciate his top notes.

Dyer’s patriotic section of the show used modulation to kick up the excitement level in the theater.  He also did not hesitate to have the audience sing along and become invested in the show.

There were lots of women in the audience, a few men. After all, Dyer is a handsome man that doesn’t hesitate to show off his flirting skills. Everyone jumped to their feet in appreciation of Dyer’s opera section and his finale. Even the men had a good time. Overall it was a very good show.

If you take in the Dyer show in Branson, you may catch more of the Dyer family. His sons Mitchell and Garrett and his other daughter Kendra perform with the show when life allows.

Dyer will be back at the Five Star Dinner Theater in Hot Springs tonight. If you would like tickets, call 318-1600. I give the show my all out recommendation. There is something for everyone, good show.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Boys and Girls Club in financial trouble

Despite the fact Paul Bewie Boys and Girls Club director Dennis Brown declared yesterday in an on-air interview with KVRE morning host Tracy Simpson, "the Boys and Girls Club will not re-open after its annual maintenance week because of a financial short fall," he still has a job.

Following an emergency board meeting last night, board president Scott DeBoer said Dennis Brown will be staying on with the club. DeBoer said "Brown has an impressive resume and was hired as a short term director bridging the gap and leading the way for a long term director with more energy."

Employees at the Paul Bewie Boys and Girls Club heard they no longer had a job over the radio. Yesterday several members of the staff walked out. Prospects looked gloomy.

But, following the emergency board meeting, DeBoer said, "we are in a significant financial pinch but we believe the club can go on. Realistically, we need $15,000 in the next couple of days, $35,000 to get us through September. We have good volunteers and a community that wants the club to succeed."

DeBoer said earlier in the day the staff has done a fantastic job with what they have but are hampered because the club cannot give them what they need to do the job.

DeBoer added the budget has significantly dropped over the past few years. The club needs more than just financial help, it needs to step up programming to do the best for the children.

DeBoer is confident the club will come up with the money it needs. The National Boys and Girls Club is sending a representative to meet with club officials today to investigate and give advice as to the direction to head.

This is not the first financial jam for the Paul Bewie Boys and Girls Club. The summer of 2012 the club found itself in similar circumstances. The staff had not been paid consistently. Survival was measured day by day.

In 1991, Bewie, then district governor with Kiwanis International and a resident of Hot Springs Village, saw a critical need for a safe place for children to go after school as their parents were still working. Bewie motivated dedicated parents, civic clubs, churches, business representatives, and local residents to join together in a cooperative effort to raise over one million dollars in cash and in-kind donations to create "The Positive Place for Children" in the North Garland County area. In the fall of 1991, 35 acres of land was purchased on Highway 7, just north of Hot Springs Village, and the North Garland County Youth Center was organized.

After affiliating with the Boys and Girls Club of America in 1994, it became the North Garland County Boys and Girls Club, the only rural club in the state of Arkansas. It was cited as the number one rural safe place for children after school in 1998 at the Arkansas Governor's state summit on volunteerism. Following Bewie's death in 2004, the name was changed to the Paul Bewie Boys and Girls Club. Today, the club's official name is the North Garland County Youth Center doing business as the Paul Bewie Boys and Girls Club.

To give today, call 984-6996 or see a club board member.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Taffeta's smooth as silk at the Five Star Dinner Theatre in Hot Springs

If you enjoyed girl singing groups in the 50's or currently enjoy listening to the music of that era, The Taffeta's are making their last two appearances at the Five Star Theatre in Hot Springs and you don't want to miss them.There is a show on Saturday at 7 p.m. and a matinee Sunday at 3.

This fun romp into the past is skillfully directed by the Village's Elaine Bankston. The concept of a one set musical adventure featuring a baby grand piano and five artful women singers with their male accompanist was created by Rick Lewis. The show features non-stop music.  I was amazed at how many hits from the 50's are included in whole or in part.

The cast is delightful. Doug Lackey is the accompanist and boy singer lending support to many of the songs is superb.  He was tireless and made me want to get up there and join in the fun.

The female cast included Janice Maddox, Ersella Hughes, Miranda Hood Brewer, Marcie Danae Acker, Sherry Rowlett.

Miranda Hood Brewer plays Taffeta sister Kaye, the one with the light brown hair.  She has an unusual contralto voice with lots of power.  It is a shock the first time this big voice booms out of this slender figure.  Miranda kept the show moving at a good pace as the most used moderator.

Marcie Danae Acker is the tall sister with lots of rock and roll attitude, Peggy. She's the sister with auburn hair. Marcie did a good job with her solos and added a little pizzazz with each of her featured numbers.

Sherry Rowlett plays the mom and is a delight.  Her voice is lush and warm and she doesn't hesitate to take the stage and show her four daughters how a song is sold.

Ersella Hughes is the youngest sister in the cast, the blonde, Cheryl. She plays the boy-crazy sister to perfection.  Her songs are giggly and over-dramatic. Ersella has loads of stage presence.

Janice Maddox plays the kookie sister with the brown hair and glasses, Donna. She has the best voice of the four sisters and I would have enjoyed hearing even more from her.

The costumes are just perfect, the music is stylized and the cast is a delight. This is a do-see show with a few opportunities this weekend.  Call 318-1600 for reservations at the Five Star Theatre.