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Well known songs taken to new heights in TGR’s “Forever In Blue Jeans” A tribute to the iconic classics of Neil Diamond!
ByBarbara Yoresh

Some pop singer-songwriters attain a meteoric rise to success and then, like a shooting star, blaze away into oblivion. And then there is another – like Brooklyn, NY-raised Neil Diamond – who has literally lit up the sky and music charts for more than a half century and at age 76, still tours to sold-out crowds.

And so it was to another sold-out and wildly appreciative opening night crowd of nearly 100 people that Diamond’s iconic music was presented by Jon Putzke’s Theatre-Go-Round Dinner Theatre (TGR) in a memorable music retrospective entitled “Forever in Blue Jeans.”

The show features 14 of Diamond’s top hit songs sung by cast members Brendan Wenger, Gregory Harris, Beth McKenzie-Shestak, Caitlin Harris and Shane Frampton appropriately clad in – what else? – blue jeans.

According to Putzke, the show’s initial run through mid-September is nearly sold-out in an obvious testament to the popularity and quality of TGR’s shows and the gourmet meals presented by Chef Kurt Runge at The Quilted Giraffe Restaurant in Vero Beach.

When a singer-songwriter writes material for himself to sing, it is solo artistry. And while vocal icons such as Frank Sinatra or Barbra Streisand hardly needed anyone else’s help, there was an added sense of fullness and dimension when they sang duets with others.

Jon Putzke – a true impresario described by one TGR patron as “the Flo Ziegfeld of Indian River County” – has a life-long sense of what works musically and theatrically. He is a visionary and what he has produced with “Forever in Blue Jeans” is nothing short of genius. He has taken material Diamond wrote for himself to sing and incorporated five voices resulting in unique harmonies. The result is pure magic.

“The challenge of this show was how do you take a songwriter who wrote songs for one person to sing and now put it in five-part harmony?” Putzke said.

But Diamond is a personal favorite of Putzke and wife Marg who came of age in the ‘60s and ‘70s and Putzke was more than up to whatever challenges there might be.

“I did this show for me,” Putzke said with a smile.

Judging from the audience’s enthusiastic response, it was evident he did it for them as well.

On opening night many in the audience were singing along with cast members with such precision that cast member and TGR musical director Greg Harris noted from stage that one gentleman named Bob seemed to know every word to every song and could come up to help if cast members faltered in any way.

Not surprisingly, they did not! These five are a seasoned group of performers whose voices perfectly blended to present Diamond’s material in a whole new way.

“Solitary Man” is a song Diamond has said described himself in the early days of his career and TGR male voices Harris and Wenger individually and harmoniously took a well-known hit song to new heights with an ingeniously crafted arrangement and presentation.

And McKenzie-Shestak’s treatment of “I Am, I Said” left the audience literally hooting its approval.

TGR will celebrate its 10th anniversary with the commencement of the 2017-2018 season.

Barbara Yoresh attended Boston University and became a staff writer for a group of Palm Beach County newspapers, both daily and weekly before moving to Vero Beach 10 years ago. Since then, Yoresh has written countless feature stories, previews and reviews in the arts and entertainment field for Hometown News, Vero Beach 32963, The Press Journal and the Vero Beach Newsweekly.


Theatre-Go-Round Dinner Theatre production pays tribute to Neil Diamond
Angela Smith, Special to TCPalm

Paying tribute to an artist such as Neil Diamond is no easy task, but the performers behind Theatre-Go-Round Dinner Theatre are up to the challenge.

In its newest production, “Forever in Blue Jeans” at the Quilted Giraffe Restaurant, the group of five singers deliver a glittering show while performing some of Diamond’s most iconic songs.

Hits such as “America,” “Sweet Caroline” to “Forever in Blue Jeans” and many rare ones are included in the show, which is full of history, excitement and energy from the beginning to the end. 

What really makes the production work well is the dynamic duos, trios and solos sung by cast members, Gregory Harris (vocal director), Beth McKenzie-Shestak (choreographer), Caitlin Harris, Shane Frampton, and Brendan Wenger.

With Shestak’s solo of “I am, I said,” Caitlin Harris’s rendition of “Play Me” and the men’s performance of “September Morn,” everyone creates nostalgia for the good old day when Diamond’s songs topped the music charts.