Letters 11-23-2015

Cheering From Petoskey While red-eyed rats boil fanatically up from the ancient sewers of Paris to feast on pools of French blood, at the G20 meeting the farcical pied piper of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue thrusts a bony finger at the president of the Russian Federation and yells: “liberté, égalité, fraternité, Clinton, Kerry--Obamaism!”

The Other Mothers And Fathers Regarding the very nice recent article on “The First Lady of Yoga,” I have taken many classes with Sandy Carden, and I consider her to be a great teacher. However, I feel the article is remiss to not even give acknowledgement to other very important yoga influences in northern Michigan...

Drop The Blue Angels The last time I went to the National Cherry Festival, I picked the wrong day. The Blue Angels were forcing everyone to duck and cover from the earsplitting cacophony overhead...

Real Advice For The Sick In the Nov. 16 article “Flu Fighters,” author Kristi Kates fails to mention the most basic tool in our arsenal during Influenza season... the flu vaccine! I understand you might be afraid of being the victim of Jenny McCarthyism, but the science is there...

Keeping Traverse City in the Dark Our environment is our greatest asset. It sustains our lives; it drives our economy. We ignore it at our peril. Northern Michigan Environmental Action Council (NMEAC) has submitted letters of concern to both the city commission and planning commission regarding the proposed 9-story buildings on Pine Street. We have requested an independent environmental assessment with clear answers before a land use permit is granted...

All About Them Another cartoon by Jen Sorensen that brings out the truth! Most of her cartoons are too slanted in a Socialist manner, but when she gets it correct, she hits the nail on the target! “Arizona is the first state to put a 12-month lifetime limit on welfare benefits.” That quote is in the opening panel... 

Unfair To County Employees It appears that the commissioners of Grand Traverse County will seek to remedy a shortfall in the 2016 budget by instituting cuts in expenditures, the most notable the reduction of contributions to various insurance benefits in place for county employees. As one example, the county’s contributions to health insurance premiums will decrease from ten to six percent in 2016. What this means, of course, is that if a county employee wishes to maintain coverage at the current level next year, the employee will have to come up with the difference...

Up, Not Out I would like to congratulate the Traverse City Planning Commission on their decision to approve the River West development. Traverse City will either grow up or grow out. For countless reasons, up is better than out. Or do we enjoy such things as traffic congestion and replacing wooded hillsides with hideous spectacles like the one behind Tom’s West Bay. At least that one is on the edge of town as opposed to in the formerly beautiful rolling meadows of Acme Township...

Lessons In Winning War I am saddened to hear the response of so many of legislators tasked with keeping our country safe. I listen and wonder if they know what “winning” this kind of conflict requires or even means? Did we win in Korea? Did we win in Vietnam? Are we winning in Afghanistan? How is Israel winning against the Palestinians? Will they “take out” Hezbollah...

Home · Articles · News · Music · Judy Harrison
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Judy Harrison

Rick Coates - August 10th, 2009
Judy Harrison gets Theatrical
Singer helms Williamsburg Dinner Theater

By Rick Coates 8/10/09

Dominic Fortuna has been the host of The Williamsburg Dinner Theater since its inception, but last fall Northern Michigan’s “Showman” landed the role of Vince Fontaine for the Broadway version of Grease. The show did so well on Broadway that the producers decided to take the road, so Fortuna remains busy touring the country, leaving some to wonder about the future of the dinner theater.
As they say, the show must go on.
“It is the same format, with a great dinner from Chef Dan Kelly and his staff,” said Judy Harrison. “It is a song and dance review type show with songs from the ‘40s to the ‘90s. It is called ‘Encore’ and we perform two sets with dessert served during the break.”
Harrison, who auditioned the cast, choreographed and is directing the show in addition to performing in it, is no stranger to the entertainment scene in Northern Michigan. She has two bands, Judy Harrison and High Impact, a country/rock band that performs all over the state; and Judy Harrison and Swing Shift, a 10-piece big band.
Last year, Harrison launched SwingShift and The Stars, a dance competition featuring six local celebrities partnered with six area dance experts. The competition took place throughout the fall and raised nearly $40,000 for area charities. Harrison is currently putting together the 2009 version that will kick off October 2.

But for now, her focus is on the Dinner Theater, and she’s concerned that with Dominic gone and all that is going on throughout Northern Michigan this summer, many have overlooked what has been happening at the Williamsburg.
“We have assembled an incredible cast of entertainers from the area,” said Harrison. “I’ve really been enjoying working with all these young energetic performers. I’m as old or older than most of their parents. In fact, the keyboard player (Trent Hibbard) has been best friends with my twin sons since first grade. The three of them started a band in fourth grade that is still going. It’s crazy to think I am now working with him as a young adult. The cast works hard performing the show as well as being the waiters for the evening’s guests.”
Dan Kelly, owner of The Williamsburg Dinner Theater, is pleased with what Harrison has put together for the summer.
“I get asked: is it as good as what Dominic does? The answer is yes,” said Kelly. “They both have their own styles and audiences have left raving. We all love Dominic and he will be back, but Judy has been a refreshing change and the young talent she has on stage with her is the best I have ever seen.”
So does Harrison feel any sort of pressure trying to fill Dominic’s shoes?
“Dominic Fortuna asked me to fill in for him while he is on the road with ‘Grease,’” said Harrison. “Dominic and I first worked together about 16 years ago when I hired him for a show I was doing for the American Heart Association in Grand Rapids. We sang together a few times after that and have always remained in touch throughout the years.”

As for the theme, Harrison says they are all over the board, musically.
“We have eight-year-olds and 84-year-olds in the audience that love it,” said Harrison. “We perform several standards and one of the highlights of the show is the trivia we play with the audience trying to guess the TV theme songs.”
Harrison, in between it all, remains busy on the Interlochen Arts Academy faculty where she has worked since 1998 teaching dance for musical theater. She also choreographs the student theatrical presentations and if that isn’t enough to keep her busy she makes several TV and radio commercials around the state and her voice appears on several corporate training videos.

The Williamsburg Dinner Theater presentation of “Encore” starring Judy Harrison runs weekends through the end of August with a possible extension into the fall. It is $45 for the full evening of dinner and the show. Dessert-only tickets are $20. Doors open at 6 p.m., with dinner beginning at 7. Reservations are necessary and may be made by calling 231-938-2181.

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