Johnny Mercer is expected to ‘return’ to Tybee Island for one evening only this month as the beloved musician’s spirit, stories and recollections come to life once more thanks to Tybee resident Jim Wann. The Broadway actor/writer/producer will host “Johnny Mercer on Tybee,” an evening of music, storytelling and images of Mercer, emphasizing his connections to Tybee Island and his fondness for “outdoor” songs.
The popular and successful songwriter, who was known to draw upon his Georgia heritage for inspiration and ideas, was born in Savannah but had well-established ties to Tybee. Legend has it that as a youth, Mercer could be found sneaking bootlegged liquor with his older brothers and cousins at Tybrisa, and attending dances on the beach.
The original show is set for 7:30 p.m. Friday, April 21, 2017 at the Tybee Post Theater, which just received a new roof after Hurricane Matthew badly damaged the historic structure only a year after its extensive renovations and grand reopening.
Featured singers in this special program include Savannah’s own Claire Frazier and Patti Kelly, with various approaches to Mercer classics. Tybee’s American Songbook keyboard ace Steven Bryan will lead the onstage ensemble, which includes Ryan Kelly on bass, Matt Fallin on drums, Larry Golden on sax, Bobby Hanson on harmonica, and Wann on guitar. In addition to the music and storytelling from sources who knew Mercer years ago, archival footage of Mercer on talk shows, variety shows and interviews will be shown.
Wann, who lives on Tybee for part of each year, is a renowned composer, lyricist and performer who supports and participates in a number of Savannah musical organizations, including the American Traditions Competition and the Savannah Philharmonic. He has served as a judge and board member for the ATC, and in 2015, the Philharmonic performed one of Wann’s songs, “Christmas in Savannah” at the annual Holiday Pops concert. In New York, Wann’s professional feats include composing and performing Broadway and off-Broadway hits, such as “Pump Boys and Dinettes”; “Diamond Studs: The Life of Jesse James, A Saloon Musical”; “The People Vs. Mona”; and “King Mackerel & The Blues are Running.” “Pump Boys” was nominated for a Tony Award for Best Musical, 1982, and has since played across the country and around the world.
A self-described Mercer fan for many years, Wann said he’s honored to present Georgia’s favorite son onstage, before many longtime Coastal Empire residents who personally knew and loved the famed songwriter. He’ll read excerpts from books by Mercer friends and historians Julius “Boo” Hornstein (“Sites and Sounds of Savannah Jazz”) and Polly Wylly Cooper (“Tybee Days”). Archival video of Mercer’s TV appearances will be shown, courtesy of Friends Of Johnny Mercer.
“I was very excited to be asked to develop a Mercer show by the Tybee Post Theatre and I think the audience will really appreciate the mix of Johnny Mercer tales, music, pictures and other memories we’ve put together to pay homage to one of the best songwriters of the 20th century,” Wann said. “It’s highly entertaining, thoughtful, lighthearted and personal. I’m eager to treat Mercer fans to this glimpse back to the time he spent on Tybee, and I hope those who love Mercer will tell all their huckleberry friends!”
Reserved seating tickets to “Johnny Mercer on Tybee” cost $20 for adults. Premium seats cost $25 for adults, and children’s tickets are $10 each. In addition, special $10 student tickets will be available to attract young audience members. For more information on the show or to purchase tickets, please visit https://tybeeposttheater.showare.com/.
From Broadway to the Beach! Broadway innovator Jim Wann, a part-time Tybee resident, will host a lively holiday concert to benefit the Tybee Post Theater, now in need of a new roof after Hurricane Matthew. Also performing will be popular standards and gospel singer Kim Polote, and Savannah’s “premier Soul and R & B Band,” Tradewinds, accompanied by Steven Bryan, formerly with Little Anthony And The Imperials, all bringing holiday songs, beach music, and dancing in the aisles!
Proceeds will go toward helping the theater, a one-of-a-kind local music and movie venue for Tybee, Savannah and the rest of the Coastal Empire. The 1930s theater reopened last year after a long community fundraising effort to restore the historic movie house into a performing arts and movie theater.
This special musical variety show will have two performances: Friday, Nov. 25 at 8 pm and Saturday, Nov. 26 at 4 pm. Tickets are available online at http://tybeeposttheater.org or by phone at 912-472-4790.
Jim Wann was lead composer and leading man of the Broadway hit “Pump Boys and Dinettes,” (Tony Nominee for Best Musical), the first Broadway show to put musicians on stage as major characters, now a popular style. Pump Boys remains a favorite in American theatres and has been performed all over the world. His collaboration with Bland Simpson and Don Dixon, “King Mackerel & The Blues are Running: Songs And Stories Of The Carolina Coast,” was presented as a fundraiser to help restore Tybee Post Theater in 2002 and 2006, on a stage outside the Lighthouse on Tybee’s North End, produced by his wife Patricia Miller.
“Patricia and I love the Tybee Post Theater, and have always supported its restoration,” says Wann. “Now’s the chance to continue, in a concert with some of my favorite Savannah artists, to celebrate Tybee, the holidays, and give thanks at Thanksgiving time, that we can make music in this wonderful venue. It’s all about neighbors coming together and celebrating our community, which the Tybee Post Theater embodies so well.”
Recently honored as the 2016 Artist of the Year by the Sonata Music Association, Polote is still the only native of Savannah to win the gold medal in the American Traditions Vocal Competition. From performing with Al Green, Harry Connick Jr, Charlie Daniels, singing for President Jimmy Carter at his church in Plains Georgia, to cooking and singing on the Food Network with her friend Paula Dean, our internationally renowned songstress inspires and unites through the gift of music and sometimes historical portrayals. In the documentary, Savannah and the Civil War, the character of Susie King Taylor is reenacted by Ms. Polote. The Saint Vincent’s Academy graduate recently released her latest Nashville recording entitled “Change”. Other recording projects include a CD saluting Johnny Mercer, “I Thought About You,” and also a Christmas CD “Seasons of Love”.
The Tradewinds Rhythm and Blues Band has been bringing its crisp verve and energy to parties, weddings, hotels and nightclubs in and around Savannah for over 20 years. Voted Savannah’s Best Band, this local institution of Soul, R&B and Motown hits also performs Jazz, Blues, Beach, Pop and Easy Listening favorites. Tradewinds band members have performed as sidemen with Rock and Roll and R&B legends including Little Richard, Sam the Sham, the Coasters, Dee Clark, Mitch Ryder and others. The four member core group can expand to seven for the maximum layered, powerful sound.
Keyboardist Steven Bryan has toured throughout the U.S. and Europe with national recording artists “The Coasters,” and with Little Anthony’s Imperials. A Savannah native and Tybee resident, Bryan has served as musical director/sideman for numerous jazz and rock groups nationally but is currently freelancing.