A warm, bluesy piano intro beckoned the crowd’s attention in Shippensburg University’s H. Ric Luhrs Performing Arts Center on Saturday night. The audience came to travel back in time – the performers, to send them there.
A group of experienced performers from renowned bands and Broadway alike performed “So Good for the Soul.” The repertoire was a mashup of various pop songs from various Motown groups.
The group was composed of a pianist, a guitarist, a bassist and a drummer who supported the main singers: Four men and three women. Director Gary Kupper led the ensemble from behind the grand piano.
The group’s dynamic was unique to its identity. While the concert jumped between different artists, it had a very cyclical nature to its arrangement. The male and female vocal parts had a call-and-response rhythm and shuffled on and off the stage to give each other a chance to take the stage alone.
The singers all had high-pitched and lofty voices that gave way like angels. Sometimes the men led the show, while the women supported them in a manner reminiscent of the “Muses” from Hercules. In other spots, the men took a backseat while the women shone in the spotlight.
The cast was energetic and driven — each member sang with conviction and emotion. During one of the numbers, a male lead dropped to the ground in a split during a pause in the music. His fellow singer called down to him, “Get up, man!” in a humorous exchange. The crowd roared in laughter.
“That’s not in the act,” one audience member remarked jokingly.
The concert was also a strong focal point for the community. During the intermission, people got out of their seats and talked to others that they knew. Some even struck up conversation with strangers.
Few SU students attended the concert, and many of the seats were filled with an older crowd that had grown up with Motown. Some people stood up and grooved to the music mid-concert, while others sat back and enjoyed the blast of nostalgia. Perhaps the most heartwarming part of the evening was during the mushier numbers. Couples everywhere grinned fondly and sought each other’s hands in the dim auditorium.
As the company performed “Uptight” by Stevie Wonder, one singer was led onto the stage wearing shades and a beanie while sporting a Jamaican-esque beach shirt. He began the song facing backwards, a nod to Wonder’s blindness, but a castmate helped the actor turn around for the song. “Wonder” stood up on the stage and sang along to the music in a way that did justice to the legacy of the blind prodigy.
As people began putting on their coats to leave, the girls strutted onto the stage in stunning red dresses to end the show. They screamed joyous harmonies to a re-arrangement of “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough,” for which they received a standing ovation.
The group performed one final act – a mashup of several Jackson 5 songs, which bounced from “Shake Your Body to the Ground” to “ABC.” At this point, the entire audience was standing and grooving along with the performers onstage. The closure also featured solos for all of the instrumentalists, including the pianist who improvised scat into the microphone.