I believe that music is a special gift given to us humans to help us get through our everyday lives. Songs we grew up with, songs that we fell in love to, songs that made us cry and songs that bring back such sweet, sweet memories that it feels as if they have transported us to a different place and time. Music has the power to sweep us off our feet and plunge us down memory lane.
Wouldn’t it be cool if someone was able to pull out those old favorite records and play them for you while showing you clips of your life? It would be fun to reminisce about days gone by. It would be beautifully nostalgic to recall images of summer afternoons and sitting in your mom’s basement spinning records on the old turntable.
Well, a bunch of talented guys have gotten together in Branson and produced a show that does just that. Forever Young will touch your heart, make you tap your feet, probably make you cry and for sure will leave you with the sound of memories; your memories. The six young men that take the stage at the Music City Center tell a story in a very creative way and the best part is that some of the story they tell, is actually your story. Yes, the show highlights the guys as young teenagers listening to records down in their mom’s basement and takes you on a journey of their lives, going to college, getting married and having their own kids. But, with each song they sing, the music takes the members of the audience back to their childhoods, proms and important life moments. The show is written and performed in such a way, that it stops being just another show and starts being something downright magical.
I attended opening night with friends and I expected the usual first night jitters and technical glitches. There might have been some, but if there were, I was completely oblivious to anything other than the music, the performers and the feeling. The show started off casually with each guy coming down the stairs of the 70s styled basement and in those first few seconds, each cast member connected with the audience and showed a little of their individuality. Each one put a different record on the old player and that gave us all a glimpse into the character and his personality. It was a brilliant opening that gave us just a hint of the magic to come.
O.N.E. Productions brings this uniquely styled show to stage with a creative story idea and a very talented cast that is made up of both Branson and non-Branson performers. Tony Turner, Evan Bosworth and two of the cast, Justin and Josh Sassanella started the production company last year with the idea to bring something new to the Branson stage. This show is good enough to tour nationally and I have a feeling after their season run at Music City Center, they might do, just that. The entire show was professional, entertaining and one of the best shows I’ve seen.
In addition to Justin and Josh Sassanella, the group is made up of, Ryan Appleby, Avilla Martin, Steve Parish and Chadd Ruden. Each one of them brings something different to the stage, but what they all bring is believability. As they take you through the playlist of your life, you identify with them, want to dance with them, want to cry with them and lastly, you just plain feel wonderful. The show isn’t just about dancing and singing some great songs with heavenly harmonies, it’s about touching our human hearts in a very personal way.
Some of the guys stood out for their voices, Ryan Appleby in particular. From the first note out of his mouth you realize how good he is and it didn’t surprise me to find out that he’s a professional and polished performer with credits that include Mama Mia and the Grandbury Opera House. Another favorite voice of the night was Chadd Ruden. He brought soul and realness to some of the rock n roll songs and he’s another very hard working Branson entertainer that appears in more than one show around here. He’s a very talented guy and I can see why he’s in high demand around these parts. All the guys were good on their own, but when they did something that had them joining in “Perfect Harmony” (which, of course they did), it was as good as anything I’ve heard anywhere.
The choreography of Forever Young was professional, on point and not over the top, considering it’s all testosterone on stage. Avilla Martin leads the troupe in the dancing department and it was a pleasure watching him dance and sing. He sang a serious, quiet song while sitting on the edge of the stage that simply melted my heart. Avilla has been performing since the age of four and has appeared with such greats as Celine Dion and Josh Groban. Yeah, he’s that talented….and likable. All the guys did a great job with the dancing, singing and entertaining. But, what they did beyond that was to make you feel something extraordinary.
There’s a segment of the show that highlights Justin Sassanella and through song, he tells you the story of him playing professional baseball. While I was watching the show, I assumed that all parts of this show are scripted, fiction and not based on truly real events. Then, I did a little research and found out that at least that part of the story is based on Justin’s real life experience into the world of the New York Mets. The story isn’t just about baseball, it was also about how he felt while going through that period in his life and it made everyone in the audience feel the emotions of a young man while he struggles through life. Goose bump moment when I realized that one of the reasons this show works so well is because it’s authentic.
Forever Young tells a story with songs from our pasts and in doing so, it makes you remember your own story. Your own songs and memories and snapshots of life. Forever Young is a poignant, insightful and powerhouse of a show that is a must see.