Jessica Gold, Miranda Catsambas, Amanda Lotwin, Lindsay Feldstein and Michelle Ahn.
American Bandstand—the TV show that legitimized rock and roll, turned new artists into household names, and made the iconic Dick Clark famous—will be celebrated this December by Winston Churchill High School’s Blast 24: American Bandstand. The production will include memorable music from all aspects of the American Bandstand era. The show ran from 1957 through 1987 and became the longest running variety show on television with an estimated audience of 50 million.
The show was popular for many reasons. It created a youth culture. It introduced recording personalities such as Ike and Tina Turner, Smokey Robinson and the Miracles, Stevie Wonder, Talking Heads, Paul Anka, Simon and Garfunkel, Frankie Avalon and many more vocalists and groups to national audiences. Blacks and whites performed on the same stage — and the live audience was desegregated. The show originally took place in South Philly and then moved to Los Angeles. Couples who danced daily became teen idols — and afforded America’s teenagers and pre-teens the opportunity to learn the latest dances. Dick Clark, sometimes referred to as “America’s Oldest Teenager” was able to present rock and roll to parents in a non-threatening style.
Blast 24: American Bandstand at Winston Churchill High School on Friday and Saturday, Dec. 7, 8, 14 and 15 at 7:30 p.m. and on Sunday, Dec. 9 at 2:30 p.m. Tickets can be found online at www.wchsarts.com or in the lobby box office outside the Bish Auditorium, 11300 Gainsborough Road, Potomac. Tickets are $20. The box office will be open one hour before each performance.
When Dick Clark died in April 2012, Carlos Barillo, Churchill choral director and Blast director, knew immediately what he had to do this year for Blast. “I am excited that we can bring American Bandstand to the stage and pay tribute to Dick Clark’s vision,” said Barillo. “It’s really my love letter to the parents because American Bandstand holds a huge place in the hearts of so many.”
“This show is also a history lesson for my students,” said Barillo. “Some students have no idea who Clark was—or that American Bandstand even existed. They had never heard of some of the songs, nor did they know that this was an era where dances had names—the mashed potato, the twist, the locomotion, the hop. This show is a history of pop culture. It spans very important, yet controversial times in U.S. history—and the music reflects all that was taking place in these changing times. The ‘50s were a simpler time for everyone, but life quickly became more and more difficult and complicated in the ‘60s and ‘70s.”
The show will include songs from “Teen Idols” such as Ricky Nelson, Shawn Cassidy, Dion, Connie Stevens, Leslie Gore and others, “It’s All Relative” (Everly Brothers, the Jackson 5, Beach Boys, Osmond Brothers and more), “Girl Groups” (Chiffons, Supremes, Pointer Sisters and others), “Color-Blind” (Commodores, Dionne Warwick, Stevie Wonder, James Brown, Temptations, Whitney Houston, etc.), “The British Invasion” (Dusty Springfield, Lulu, The Who and more), and “The American Revolution” (The Village People, The Mamas and The Papas, Melanie, Jefferson Airplane, The Doors, etc). The American Revolution includes music about the War on Drugs, the War on War, Women’s Rights, Civil Rights and the Sexual Revolution. Another segment will include dances of the era or as Barillo calls them—“dances with names.”
Senior Chani Wereley has performed in Blast for the past three years. She will be singing several songs that she was not familiar with: “To Sir With Love,” “House of the Rising Sun” and “The Greatest Love of All.” She said, “I love these songs now. I’m glad I had a chance to learn and sing them. My mom loves all of them and is happy that I know them now.”
It takes 175 students to produce Blast. Besides the students who sing in dance in the production, the technical crew builds the set, operates the microphones and the lighting and works “behind the scene.” Other students perform in the band, help with publicity and the business end of the production. Some choreograph; others help with the costumes. Seniors Evan Cook and Emily Potter are the technical directors for Blast. Both plan to major in technical theater after graduation. “Being involved with tech direction at Churchill truly changed my life,” said Cook. “I want to study sound design—and I have gained real-world experience here at Churchill. Blast required a lot of dimensions that we had to figure out—without a lot of time.”
Potter explained that the design of the set was all about balance: “We made the set asymmetrical to make it more interesting. We also have to be careful not to over-shadow the performers but to show them off. We also had to keep in mind that this is a very dance-centered production.”
Barillo said, “This show is wholesome, makes you smile, and is just fun. It takes me back in time—and reminds me of the age of innocence.”