Northwest Florida Daily News
January 19, 2007
EMERALD COAST’S ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY
EMERALD COAST CONCERT ASSOCIATION PRESENTS
Musical bio celebrating “The March King” John Philip Sousa
Show highlights life, music of Sousa
By Angie Toole
The Emerald Coast Concert Association is hoping that school band programs
throughout the area will be inspired to use their Jan. 27 production, “Oh
Mr. Sousa!”, as a learning experience.
The organization is offering discounts to student music programs, hoping to generate interest in the musical, which frames a concert performance of some of the best known works of John Philip Sousa’s long and prolific career. The show is at 7:30 p.m. at The Arts Center, Okaloosa-Walton College in Niceville.
An eight-person cast slips in and out of 37 roles, narrating Sousa’s life. The show is in two acts and also features a 22-piece concert band.
Writer/director Ken Malucelli created the 24-number musical biography of the man professed to be the “King of American Music.” He admits being fascinated with Sousa since he was “a kid. It punches my buttons.”
Malucelli, among his many accomplishments, also has written and directed Savoy Express’ nationally touring Gilbert and Sullivan revue, “G&S: The Aspects of Love.” Malucelli shares an interest in Gilbert and Sullivan with Sousa. He saw his first G&S performance, HMS Pinafore, as a 4-year-old when his mom sang in an amateur production in San Francisco.
“I guess performing is just in my blood,” he said. “I sing, dance, write, direct, produce... I’ve pretty much done it all at one time or another.”
Malucelli started out after high school performing with the world-reknowned G&S troupe, the Lamplighters. “And G&S was one of Sousa’s biggest influences,” Malucelli said. “He wanted to be the American Gilbert and Sullivan, but never could find a lyricist as good as W.S. Gilbert.”
“Oh Mr. Sousa!” was originally created by Malucelli for “The March King” ’s 150th birthday in 2004. The musical will make its debut in the Southwestern United States in Niceville.
Malucelli points out that Sousa’s life makes interesting material for a show in and of itself. Sousa was born “in the shadow of the Capitol dome” in Washington, D.C., just before the Civil War.
At age 10, Sousa began violin lessons, later studying music theory and composition. By the time he was 13, he could play a number of band instruments and already was conducting his own 7-piece orchestra.
At the same time, his father, John Antonio Sousa, himself a musician and concert trombonist, enlisted him in the United States Marine Corps Band to keep his son from running away to join a circus band.
He ended up serving 12 years in the White House as leader of the Marine Band, serving under five presidents: Hayes, Garfield, Arthur, Cleveland and Harrison.
Sousa composed much more than just his 136 signature marches, and died in 1932 at the age of 77, right after conducting “The Stars and Stripes Forever,” which in 1987 became the official national march of the United States of America.
He also wrote 16 operettas, 28 fantasies, 24 dances, 5 overtures and 70 novelty songs, besides authoring 7 books. Sousa co-founded ASCAP, and was sole composer of all the numbers in the first Columbia Records catalog.
He was also an aficionado of ragtime and jazz in its heyday, and introduced ragtime to Europe in 1900.
His composition, “The Washington Post,” commissioned by the newspaper of the same name and for which he was paid $35, started an international dance craze, the “Two-Step.”
“It will make a man with a wooden leg get up and dance!”, a direct quote of Sousa’s that Malucelli incorporated into his musical.
“I was able to do that a lot,” he said. “Much of the dialog comes right out of Sousa’s mouth...quotes from his autobiography and the great biographies of Paul Bierley.”
Malucelli doesn’t just write about the music. He also tells the story of Sousa’s marriage to Jennie.
The singing actors performing in the production are from the San Francisco Bay Area while the instrumentalists are from the Pensacola Civic Band.
Tickets are $25 in advance for adults and $12.50 for students under 19. ECCA is also offering discounts to local middle and high school band students. Tickets are available at the Okaloosa-Walton College box office by calling 729-6000.