Valley Revue Saturday to feature local talent

Gretchen Mensink Lovejoy

“This is supposed to be performed reminiscent of the old celebrity variety shows or TV specials.  Everyone comes up to the microphone in their glitziest attire and sings in the spotlight to rave reviews of their standard hits…think Dean Martin, Carol Burnett, etc.,” described Katy Schleusner, speaking of the upcoming Wits’ End Theatre “Valley Revue.”

The revue, a “string of singing performances backed by a fabulous trio of piano, bass and drums showcasing Broadway favorites of past and present,” takes the stage at the Chatfield Center for the Arts’ (CCA) Potter Auditorium this Saturday, Feb. 22.  Schleusner, Chatfield High School’s band instructor, has chosen to reprise the revue after a sabbatical from the stage. 

“The ‘Valley Revue’ was my brainchild back in 2011, when I was on the Wits’ End board of directors and actively participating in their summer shows,” she said. “I envisioned a performance that would give singers who loved Broadway music a chance to perform something that they’d usually not get the opportunity to sing.  In theater, you must look the part, or be within normal age and gender guidelines to land specific roles.  Maybe a performer even fits that criteria, but there is always that star talent who seems to nab every lead part.  There are a variety of reasons why a person wouldn’t have an opportunity to sing a song that they are passionate about.  This revue breaks that mold and gives anyone an opportunity to sing their favorite show tunes.”               

She produced three revues through 2013, but decided to take a step back from Wits’ End Theatre to spend more time with her family.  The revue went on for two more years under a different director who has since moved on to larger projects in Rochester. 

“As I have begun to help Wits’ End again with choreography, when board members approached me about bringing back the revue after the event went a few years without a producer, I figured it would be a great way to get my theater fix without the huge time commitment.  I love organizing large events, and this is right in my wheelhouse, as I have a passion for both theater and music,” Schleusner said.   

The event is open to people of all ages from anywhere in the southeast Minnesota area, although mostly Chatfield residents.

“This year, we have a good mix of performers.  As it’s mostly Chatfieldians, it’s yet another production to showcase what awesome talent your neighbors have.  The youth, in particular this year, shine brightly.  They are so musically mature,”  Schleusner said. “The lead-up to this event is created to be easy for both me as producer and director and all of the musicians involved.  They were told through our audition announcement to come prepared with their favorite tune performance-ready.” 

The only rehearsals are a 15-minute artistic practice with the musical trio – Robyn Loewen on piano, Casey Saunders on bass and Randy Wilson on drums – and a two-hour tech rehearsal to get sound and lights in place.  Performers are expected to already be at their best and need no individual practice on their parts, beside what they can prepare on their own. 

“This makes the entire process very easy and enjoyable for all involved.  The trio is responsible for the majority of work in that they must learn all of the music for all performers,” she said.  “As musicians, we love this part of it.  The variety of new music to be learned is a challenge, but so fun and rewarding.  I’m so lucky to work with such talented, caring musicians.  They’ve been so much fun throughout the process.  On my organizational end, this isn’t my first rodeo for the Valley Revue, so all my files were ready to go.     

“I love it because there is natural excitement surrounding the revue as every part of this event showcases people who are enthusiastic and deeply love what they’ve chosen.  Because of that personal nature, we get a wide variety of music from a diverse group of musicals, and the singing is top-notch because everyone is at their best and happiest.  I love giving people who normally wouldn’t get their time in the limelight on a particular piece the chance to let loose and shine…just singing in a spotlight, all dressed up for a night on the town.” 

The 2020 Valley Revue is set to take the stage at the Chatfield Center for the Arts in Potter Auditorium this Saturday, Feb. 22, at 7 p.m.  Tickets are $10 at the door, with no advanced sales available.  Attendees can enter the main Potter Auditorium doors. 

“It’s well worth your time to attend.  It’s a great way to beat the mid-winter blues.  It’s fast-paced, a one-hour event that’ll have your toes tapping and heart singing.  Everything will be incredibly enjoyable.  Consider participating in the future, and support local theater,” Schleusner said.