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Make a night "ding" at the Skylight Music Theatre in the Broadway Theatre complex! The Company’s original percussion and piano production Things That Go Ding opened last weekend to standing ovations for the passionate performances of Michael Lorenz, Jamie Johns and Ray Jivoff.

An audience will completely succumb to a performance’s thrill whenever musicians play an entire evening with such consuming passion. Passion combined with wild and crazy fun that blings, dings, pings, sings and rings with Johns’ piano and approximately 170 (per the Skylight Staff) modern and vintage percussion instruments at Lorenz’s finger tips and visible on the set. Throughout the zany evening this trio of performers changed hats almost as fast as Lorenz changed instruments, which added to the stage excitement experienced right before the audience’s eyes.

Whether Lorenz is clinking wine glasses, clashing cymbals, tinkling pots and pans or tooting his horns, Lorenz amazed the audience with his exceptional ability and energy. In fact, he made playing these instruments appear so easy that his stage presence hid how proficient Lorenz remained after more than 100 performances at the Skylight Theatre. This statistic omits the hundreds of other venues where he's valued for his percussion. Milwaukee’s Jamie Johns presented the same persona. He is so masterful at tinkling these ivories the audience becomes so focused on the entertaining humor in the production while each person’s incredible theatrical gifts eventually fade into the background. 

This phenomenon occurred when the production offered a screening of a 1931 silent Tom and Jerry cartoon titled “Wot A Night.” To recreate the 30’s movie theater, the cartoon ran on the stage while Johns and Lorenz completed all music and sound effects. One forgot that the two played in perfect sync while viewing this delightful animation from the past.

Jivoff interspersed more comic relief and narrated the show with his own unique personality. He immortalized childhood favorite Mr. Rogers by dressing in a green cardigan and singing several songs from the award winning television series to showcase a keyboard called a Celeste. (A Celeste sounds like bell chimes.) His songs visibly touched one woman so that her throat knotted up with memories when she said softly, “I was born in the ‘60's. I loved Mr. Rogers.”

Another incredible moment came in the second act when Lorenz performed a personal composition on the Caisa, a hand pan drum or steel drum a musician can play by touching it with his palms. His mesmerizing music for wind chimes and the nine-note hand made Caisa literally took one’s breath away in this fabulous tribute to the exotic instrument and Lorenz’s talent.

One will think of any ding in a completely different way after watching these three performers. Go to the Skylight’s incredibly magic production. Laugh and sing (they do encourage this at times) and listen to every ding a ling while admiring this vast array of percussion instruments. Then remember that this evening with Lorenz, Johns and Jivoff may linger in musical memory forever.

The Skylight Music Theatre presents the fabulous Things That Go Ding only through May 6. Their next production Sunday in the Park with George begins May 18 with lyrics and music by Stephen Sondheim, and book by James Lapine. For further information or tickets, please call: 414.291.7800 or click the link to the left.    by Peggy Sue Dunigan 


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