by Paulanne Simmons


People who were born into the digital age may not fully appreciate the importance of records to the growth of the music industry. For those people, On the Record – A Tribute to the Great Vocal Groups of the Twentieth Century will be a real eye-opener. To everyone else, it will be an exciting show filled with interesting information and great songs beautifully rendered.


Written and directed by four-time MAC Award and three-time Bistro Award-winner Bill Daugherty, the show also features Paul Kropfl, Amanda Savan and Deborah Tranelli, backed by a four-piece band (musical director Doyle Newmeyer on piano, John Loehrke on bass, Chip Fabrizi on drums and Zak Gross on guitar.)


On the Record traces the evolution of the music, the complexity of the arrangements, the technical innovations and, most of all, the fascinating personalities that played such a huge role in the music industry. And it all revolved around the record, whether it was a 78, 33 1/3 or 45 rpm.


Just a few of the revelations: “She’s all right, if you like perfect pitch,” Frank Sinatra said of Jo Stafford, his backup when he was singing with the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra. According to Patty Andrews of The Andrews Sister, one could predict Bing Crosby’s mood by the tilt of his hat. The two male singers in Babs and Her Brothers (a.k.a The Smoothies), were actually brothers – only not hers. And fans of The King Family might be interested to learn that the original group was made up of six prolific sisters.


This hour-and-a-half show features over two dozen songs. Some, like “Don’t Sit Under the Apple Tree,” “Don’t Fence Me In” and “Tumbling Tumbleweeds” are old classics. Others, like the Beatles’ “In My Life,” are modern classics. Still others, like “Breathless” are little known novelty songs. Pictures and videos projected on a screen behind the performers complete the picture.


What makes this show truly unique, however, is the terrific harmonies these four vocalists create. And these harmonies vary according to the style of the songs and the singers who made them famous. In addition, some of these harmonies are particularly tricky as they were created by groups of siblings: The McGuire Sisters, The Andrews Sisters, The Mills Brothers, The King Sisters.


From the early days of acoustic recording to the use of reverb and doubling, from The Andrews Sister and The Mills Brothers to The Bee Gees and the Beatles, it’s a wonderful journey back to the past and up to the present.


On the Record – A Tribute to the Great Vocal Groups of the Twentieth Century. Saturday at 3pm and Sunday at 6pm, Oct. 26 & 27, Nov. 2, & 3, Nov. 9 & 10. Nov. 16 & 17. Stage 72 (The Triad) at 158 West 72 Street.