“Drumline Live” is bringing the spirit of college campus stadiums to the stage of Wichita’s Orpheum Theatre on Sunday.
An animated cast of 29 versatile musicians and dancers will bring the experience to life with a high-energy, eclectic mix of sounds. An offshoot of the 2002 film “Drumline,” the act is in its fourth touring season. This will be its first Wichita show.
“It’s a lot of energy, a lot of excitement, and a lot of crowd interaction,” show producer Reginald Brayon said. “Just like at a game, the fans are part of this. For an hour and a half plus, there’s not a boring moment. We take you on a beautiful journey with us and try to infuse that feeling of excitement in everyone.”
Audience members can dance in the aisle and even join the cast in a New Orleans-style parade into the theater lobby.
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The performance is rooted in a music history birthed at historically black colleges and universities. Show-style marching bands began as support for college football teams, with Florida A&M University becoming a preeminent school for such ensembles. Since their inception more than 50 years ago, marching bands have grown into a sport of their own, with high-stepping jazzy dance rhythms and a colorful music catalog that ranges from classical to Top 40.
That artfulness was a prime factor in the birth of this production, which Don P. Roberts, executive band consultant for the film “Drumline,” conceived.
After the movie debuted, Brayon said, interest in marching band-style music grew.
“It really is an art form in itself,” he said. “Nationwide, after the movie came out, there was an interest in the style, but most people had never seen it live. Most people won’t have an opportunity to see it live because it’s more of a regional thing in the southeast region of the states. We were thinking of a way to really expand this. If they liked the movie, just imagine what they’d think if they had a chance to see it live.”
“To be in this production, you must not only be an excellent musician, but also a great dancer and play multiple instruments,” Brayon said. “Most of our cast members play at least two instruments. Many are also vocalists. You have to play, dance and march at the same time. It’s a unique skill set. The biggest challenge is finding the talent that can perform. We’re always looking for more.”
He said there would be something for everyone to appreciate in terms of music, including big-band sound, R&B, soul and hip-hop. It’s a combination of the old and new, including tributes to Michael Jackson, James Brown and Tina Turner, as well as a rendition of the recent Gangnam Style sensation.