New variety show highlights local history, regional artists

Pictured is the historic Calumet Theatre. (Photo courtesy of Bill Fink)

MARQUETTE — There is a new old-time radio show on the air and it’s based out of Calumet, Michigan.

The Red Jacket Jamboree, produced by Real People Media, is a variety show sharing stories, songs and history from Michigan’s Keweenaw Peninsula.

“About two years ago the idea of doing a variety show at the Calumet Theater arose, and it so happens that Main Street Calumet had done a once-a-year radio show at the Calumet Theater from 2009 to 2013,” Rebecca Glotfelty, executive director of Real People Media, explained.

Real People Media — a 501(c)3 non-profit organization with the mission to help people share their stories through literary, visual, performing and media arts — was able to build on what the economic development agency Main Street Calumet had developed and produced: The Red Jacket Jamboree.

“What makes us unique is that we are a variety show that shares storytelling and history, which is rare,” Glotfelty said.

Mean Mary performs “Jam Jam Jam” at The Red Jacket Jamboree with the house band The Copper Cats at The Calumet Theatre in June. The Red Jacket Jamboree, produced by Real People Media, is a variety show sharing stories, songs and history from Michigan’s Keweenaw Peninsula. (Photo courtesy of Daniel Norwood)

The show features humorous sketches and jingles from fictitious companies by The Red Jacket Radio Actors with musical accompaniment by the house band The Copper Cats. Lena Dorey, a documentary producer, hosts the Jamboree with help from Red Jacket actors Martin Achatz, poet laureate of the Upper Peninsula, and Ralph Horvath, emeritus professor at Michigan Technological University. Music Director Jerry Younce plays guitar in The Copper Cats with renowned musician Bill Carrothers on piano, Harry South on bass and Carrie Biolo on percussion, vibraphone and sound effects.

“It’s been a really great opportunity to learn about the Keweenaw and the history of the U.P. in general and it’s also just really nice to go and visit the Keweenaw and perform up there,” said South, who lives in Marquette.

The show is performed and recorded in front of a live audience at the historic Calumet Theatre.

“We are reading a script, but we try to make it as performance-like as possible,” Glotfelty said.

Actors dress up in period-appropriate costumes during sketches. Guest artists often perform in the show or write new material for that episode.

“It’s a fun and unique challenge. It’s also been a great way to meet different artists from around the great lakes region,” South said.

The Copper Cats learn the songs of the visiting musicians.

“Even if you have heard any of these guest artists before, you are hearing them in a totally new way,” Glotfelty said.

Recently WNMU aired a couple of The Red Jacket’s holiday episodes and Glotfelty hopes they will pick up more. Episodes have aired on Interlochen Public Radio and according to Glotfelty new episodes will be ready for broadcast in late winter or early spring.

“Even if listeners don’t live in the U.P. or Copper Country there is a great interest in that area. It appeals to people all over,” Glotfelty said. “You don’t have to know anything about the Keweenaw Peninsula to enjoy the show.”

Live show tickets are $19.50 for adults and $14.50 for college students with an I.D. Children under 18 with an adult can attend for free. The Red Jacket Jamboree is made possible with a grant from the Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs and the Leo S. Guthman Fund, private donors, Michigan Humanities Council, and the Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs. For more news and information on The Red Jacket Jamboree, visit Redjacketjamboree.com.

Corey Kelly can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 243.


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