A "barbershop musical" on June 16 at Tybee Post Theater, helmed by the 13th Colony Sound, is a transformative concert that will take patrons on a stroll through a quaint 1950s Savannah.
Formed in 1968, Savannah's 13th Colony Sound has been on a brief hiatus. Their last full production, a number of years ago, celebrated Savannah. Richard Towns, one of only two remaining original members, went to a show at the newly restored Tybee Post Theater recently and thought the venue would be a great place to revive an abbreviated version of the barbershop choir’s last production.
“This is going to be all about Savannah,” Towns said.
The show, which Towns wrote and directed, opens in a barbershop in downtown Savannah. The classic setting allows for a number of great opening tunes, including a quartet of boys, representing the elders' sons in the show, singing traditional music.
“We’re going to talk our way through it,” Towns said. “We’re going to start off in a barbershop downtown and describe how the men would meet on Saturday mornings and get their haircut and bring their sons and they’d get haircuts. They’d talk about sports and news of the day. That’s also where barbershop singing got started in America. We’re going to have a youth quartet sing something simple like ‘A Wild Irish Rose.’”
Two of the choir's headlining quartets, Four-closure and the Driftaways, will handle a number of classic pieces, including “Georgia On My Mind” and “Hello Mary Lou.” From the barbershop, the men will take a walk past Leopold’s Ice Cream.
“In fact, we’re going to say, does anyone out there know Johnny Mercer’s favorite ice cream?” Towns said. “He used to go to Leopold's. We have a fella in the chorus that used to dip there when he was a young man and he’ll answer the question.”
The fabled procession will then head to Johnny Harris Restaurant, where Mercer used to compose in the back booth, according to Towns. They’ll sing Mercer tunes to close out the show’s opening act.
After a break, the 22-person choir returns for a trip down U.S. 80 toward Tybee. On the way, they’ll stop at Islands Church for a number of spiritual tunes before heading on to Tybee for some traditional doo-wop and beach tunes.
“Four-closure is going to sing ‘Only You,’ which was the No. 1 song in ’56 by The Platters. The whole chorus is going to sing ‘Yesterday’ by The Beatles and ‘Tybee Island Baby,’ which is a fun song. It used to be ‘Coney Island Baby,’ but we changed it to ‘Tybee Island Baby.’”
The entire production, which includes even more music, will wrap up with an Irish blessing. An afterglow is scheduled as well, with members singing on the front porch of the theater. Towns had a simple goal in mind while putting the show together.
“I wanted it to be simple and fun,” Towns said. “I wanted it to be songs everyone knows because if you know the song, you’ll tap your foot along with it. If we do a good job on a song you’ve never heard, it’s just OK. You get a polite applause. If it’s something you’ve heard before, then it becomes a fun song.”