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Show blasts off Arts Council season

It was a star-spangled, high-energy kick-off to another Greenville Area Arts Council season on Tuesday night as six talented singers/dancers took the stage in &uot;Red, Hot…and Blue!&uot;

The song-and-dance revue, which took the large and enthusiastic Ritz audience on a musical journey from the ragtime era to the rockin’ 60s, featured no less than 17 costume changes for its amazingly energetic cast.

Jitterbugging, the Charleston, tap and swing dancing, not to mention the &uot;Monkey&uot; and the &uot;Swim&uot; were all performed on stage – and some audience members even got to &uot;boogie down&uot; with cast members during the 2-hour show.

Attendees April Sherling and Susan Andrews found themselves being serenaded during the 50s segment by performer Josh Sassanella, crooning that old standard, &uot;Only You.&uot;

Tom Braxton, always game for some fun, got to dance to the 60s hit, &uot;Twist and Shout&uot; with one of the lovely female dancers – though he admitted it almost did his back in. &uot;But – hey, it was a lot of fun,&uot; he noted with a grin afterwards.

While the show’s music was on tape, there was no doubt the soaring harmonies were all sung live (unlike many of the pop performers on tour these days).

Classic songs like &uot;In The Mood&uot;, &uot;Just A Gigolo&uot;, &uot;Stormy Weather,&uot; &uot;The Birth Of The Blues&uot; and &uot;Rock Around The Clock&uot; were just a few of the tunes enjoyed by the Ritz audience on Tuesday night.

After a difficult days dealing with the destruction caused by Hurricane Ivan, the lively show seemed, as GAAC members had hoped, the perfect tonic to lift sagging spirits.

&uot;Wow, what a lot of energy…very enjoyable,&uot; said attendee Gene Hardin following the show.

&uot;All-American Ambassadors…&uot;

&uot;Red, Hot…and Blue!&uot; originated in Branson, Missouri where it opened on July 4, 1996. It has since become one of the area’s most popular attractions.

It has, in fact, been voted &uot;Best Vocal and Dance Group&uot;, &uot;Best A.M. Show&uot; and &uot;Best Costumes of the Year&uot; numerous times during its eight seasons. The cast of &uot;Red, Hot…and Blue!&uot; has also appeared on Holland America, Princess and Disney Cruise Lines.

Critically acclaimed as &uot;All-American Ambassadors of Entertainment&uot;, the show hits the road six months each year, visiting cities and towns across the nation. The cast’s motto: &uot;You don’t have to be a BIG name or have a BIG theater to be a BIG deal!&uot;

‘We prefer small theaters’

&uot;Red, Hot…and Blue!&uot; cast members Jennifer Brillhart, Sarah Ramsey-Duke, Chadd Ruden, Nancy Schofield and Josh Sassanella joined Producer/Director (and fellow cast member) Christopher Tucker at the after-show party for GAAC members and cast.

Chris and Leitha Boutwell hosted the gala event, held in the lovely formal gardens and at poolside at the Boutwell’s College St. home. On the front lawn, GAAC member Pete Hamilton was on hand to serve liquid refreshments to the guests.

Red and blue splatterwear lanterns, patriotic bunting and trees decked with white fairy lights set the perfect tone for the al fresco party. A buffet of delicious hors d’oeuvres and delectable desserts prepared by GAAC members were enjoyed by the guests, especially the well-deserving cast members, who had worked off plenty of calories during their performance.

&uot;We really can eat pretty much anything we want,&uot; commented Tucker, who said making it through the "all-singing and dancing" show without suffering from sheer exhaustion was simply a case of "building endurance".

When asked if it was a big adjustment performing in a small theater such as the Ritz, Tucker replied, &uot;Not at all. We actually prefer small theaters. We are closer to the audience, it’s a more intimate experience…and we don’t have far to go for our costume changes.

&uot;We don’t make it down to the dressing rooms, we do all our changes in the wings…with those seventeen costume changes, we just don’t have time," Tucker explained.

Performer Josh Sassanella commented on what good sports those Ritz audience members who found themselves (unexpectedly) part of the show had been.

&uot;We really appreciate that…you know, some places we go, people are like, ‘Oh, no don’t come near me." You guys were great," Sassanella said. The hard-working cast members said their next performance destination was Daphne, South Carolina.

Ritz audiences will next be treated to a magical evening when husband-and-wife team the Spencers present their &uot;Theatre of Illusion&uot; on Oct. 19 at 7 p.m.