BADGER BAND GOES OVER THE RAINBOW
Dorothy's tornado will touch down in Madison this spring and transform the Kohl Center into the Emerald City when the Badger Band celebrates "The Wizard of Oz" at its annual Varsity Band Concert April 16-18.
"We're saluting the classic MGM movie, which had its 75th anniversary this school year," says conductor Mike Leckrone. "The world premiere was here in Wisconsin, in Oconomowoc, at the Strand Theater."
Besides songs from the film, the band will perform selections from Oz's witty Broadway prequel, the smash hit "Wicked." To get in the spirit, the band has put together a YouTube video with Leckrone as the Wicked Witch of the West.
Adding to the fun of the family-friendly event, the first 500 kids to arrive at the concert each night will receive the band's new coloring book.
The band's 300-plus members perform at football, hockey, basketball and other UW-Madison sports events. They'll present hand-clapping Badger ballads during the 41st annual concert, including signature favorites such as "On, Wisconsin!," "If You Want to Be a Badger," and many more.
Part circus, part pep rally, with pyrotechnics, aerial stunts and state-of the-art electronic displays, "the concert has always been like a visit to Oz," says Leckrone. "To go along with our theme this year, 'There's No Place Like Home,' we're spotlighting some phenomenal musical professionals who just happen to make their homes in Madison. I think a lot of people don't realize how fortunate we are to have so much talent here."
Guest artists and some of their credits include: vocalist Amanda Poulson, who's performed with Smash Mouth at Radio City Music Hall; trumpeter Jon Schipper, who's performed with Cheap Trick, The Temptations and Sly and the Family Stone; and trombonist Mark Hetzler, who's toured internationally.
"If you've never been to the concert, you have no idea how big it is," says Leckrone. "It's like an indoor Fifth Quarter, and we have plenty of seats for everyone."
Why MGM premiered "The Wizard of Oz" in Oconomowoc is unknown. Oz buffs theorize that it's because Meinhardt Raabe, who played the coroner of Munchkinland, was a native of nearby Whitewater. He later became the first "Little Oscar," a diminutive chef who rode in the Oscar Mayer Wienermobile. Raabe graduated from the University of Wisconsin in 1937. He died in 2010.
The 2015 Varsity Band Concert will be held at 7:30 p.m. Thursday through Saturday, April 16 through18, at the Kohl Center. Tickets are $23. Group rates are available. UW-Madison student prices are available for the Thursday performance. For more information or to order tickets, call 608-265-4120 or visit badgerband.com.
Ticket holders who make a $50 donation to the band can meet Leckrone immediately after the concert (space is limited). Cameras are welcome.
The concert is made possible in part by sponsors including Baird Financial Services, WISC-TV, Channel3000.com, the University Book Store, the Wisconsin State Journal, The Badger Herald and Holiday Inn at the American Center.