The Wisconsin Singers held their annual performance at the Overture Center this past Friday night and Sunday afternoon.
The Sunday performance showcased two high school groups as the opening acts. The show choir from Marshall High School initially took the stage and sang “The Scientist” by Coldplay and “Hello, Goodbye” by the Beatles. The Brodhead High School Guys and Dolls followed and sang several songs, including “Find My Way” and “Keep The Faith.”
After the first half-hour of the show, UW-Madison Professor Mike Leckrone took the stage and introduced the Wisconsin Singers. He informed the audience that the Wisconsin Singers have raised over a million dollars in scholarship money for UW students and annually play for about 40,000 people. Choreographers from Broadway in New York composed the show. The staff in New York helps a tremendous amount in shaping and organizing the performance and its theme.
“The student staff kind of brainstorms some songs that can go into that theme,” Abby Kennison, UW-Madison Senior and Company Manager, said. “Our director and choreographers out in New York kind of get ideas and artistic background on it and see what they can pull together.”
The most memorable acts in the performance included these specific artistic settings. The cast sang each song for about one or two minutes and quickly transitioned into the next song. The Wisconsin Singers performed 73 songs, making it impossible to list the details of every act. However, some were particularly unforgettable.
The seventh song in the show was “Come Sail Away” by Dennis Young. During this act, the cast used a long piece of blue glittery fabric that they danced around. Other cast-members flowed the fabric to make it appear like the waves of an ocean. The glittery fabric later returned as a prop during the song “Three Little Fishies” by Saxie Dowell. During this act, three females wore fish hats and danced behind the fabric. The scene quickly transitioned into The Beatles’ “Yellow Submarine” as four males danced behind a submarine prop.
The performance also consisted of acts with no singing and just instruments. A trombone, a piano, a guitar, and drums accompanied the Beach Boys’ hit, “Kokomo”. “Welcome to the Jungle” by Guns N’ Roses soon followed with a jungle and a waterfall projected in the background.
The Wisconsin Singers incorporated Badger spirit into the show. This act, titled “The 5th Quarter,” was the most memorable part of the show. The entertainers were all decked out in red. They sang “Teach Me How To Bucky” and the Wisconsin mascot, Bucky Badger, appeared on stage and danced with the cast. The female singers ran with cheerleading pom-poms throughout the aisles. During the 5th Quarter, they performed the Camp Randall classic “Hey, Baby!” by Margaret Cobb. The female singers danced and held hands with those in aisle seats.
Interaction with the audience is a very crucial component of the performance. “We want to make sure that they feel like they kind of know each one of our performers after they go home at night,” Kennison said. “It’s not just someone up there. It’s someone that they can kind of relate to.”
The singers sang UW-Madison’s “Varsity” and the audience rose and waved their hands in the air just like they would at Camp Randall Stadium. The 5th Quarter act ended with an excerpt from “Jump Around” and the singers and everyone in the audience danced to the beat.
The Wisconsin Singers are more than just pure entertainment. According to Kennison, they haven’t received funding from the school in the past 19 years and have fundraised 50,000 dollars a year to keep the program alive. Additionally, they do a lot of charity work. Specifically, they work with students with disabilities in Jamesville, Wisconsin and have performed with them on stage.
“Seeing them light up is one of my favorite moments every year,” Michael Dowden, UW-Madison Graduate and Dance Captain, said. “This year, for the very first time ever, we are going to be working with Habitat for Humanity in Lacrosse and raising dollars for them.”
According to Kennison, the Wisconsin Singers participate in a two-week production camp in August and rehearse for 16 hours a day. They learn all of the choreography and songs for the show during this time. Then, throughout the semester, they practice every Sunday for eight hours. During the second semester, they go on the road and do one to three shows a weekend. They travel mostly throughout Wisconsin, Minnesota and Iowa. Additionally, they venture down to Florida for Spring Break.
The Wisconsin Singers are very passionate about their work and their efforts leave them with a great feeling of reward. “We get to try and make people smile at the end of the day and just bring joy,” Kennison said. “That’s really what this program is about to me is having fun and bringing a light into someone else’s life.”
To find out more details about the Wisconsin Singers, visit their website at www.wisconsinsingers.com or like their Facebook page.