Wednesday, January 19, 2022

American Jukebox Brings Hits to the Marriott

The “American Jukebox” musical revue lives up to its name with its genre-spanning mix of hits from the ‘50s through today blended with selections from recent Broadway and movie favorites.

A recent four-performance run at the JW Marriott Marco Island Beach Resort marked the show’s world premiere. It also marked the second consecutive year that Paradise Production debuted one of its creations at the hotel, having presented their “Broadway on the Beach” review there in December. However, this year, the concerts were held in the hotel’s newly opened, 17,000-square-foot Banyan Ballroom.

As with that show, “American Jukebox” featured the vocal talents and performance skills of Chicagoland residents Patrick Mulvey, Conner Meinhart and his wife, Rachel Meinhart. Mulvey’s wife and fellow accomplished actor, Marika Engelhardt, is again the show’s producer.

“When the JW Marriott approached us again about doing a show around the same time, we just thought it was a good fit to start things off the way we did last year, as did our executive producer Marika Engelhardt,” said Mulvey. “She’s the boss and when she says we go, we go.”

The foursome has strong ties to Marco, having vacationed here many times. Mulvey and Conner Meinhart are cousins and their grandparents have had a home on the island since they were children. All four have impressive theatrical and musical backgrounds, including appearing in movies and on TV, and collaborated in creating “American Jukebox.”

“Broadway on the Beach” featured Broadway and jazz standards, stories and humor presented cabaret style. However, “American Jukebox” focuses, primarily on pop hits that once ruled the airwaves, many of them that pre-date the “thirty-something” foursome and their uber-talented band.

The roughly one-hour-long show’s set list included such classics as Jerry Lee Lewis’ “Great Balls of Fire,” the Aretha Franklin version of Carole King’s “Natural Woman,” James Taylor’s “Fire and Rain,” Johnny Cash’s “I Walk the Line,” and Bruce Springsteen’s “I’m On Fire.” There was a sampling of Broadway, with the “Guys and Dolls” medley performed by Mulvey and the Meinerts serving as one example.

Joining them on stage were pianist Colte Julian, drummer Jeremy Gentry, Michael McCracken on bass and Nicholas Davio on guitar.

As with Mulvey, Engelhardt and the Meinharts, their resumes also bast an impressive list of credits. Julian, Gentry, McCracken and Davio also took the mike to sing lead on several occasions, highlighted by McCracken’s rousing rendition of Neil Diamond’s “Sweet Caroline,” which saw him jump offstage, mike in hand, to cavort with audience members.

Last year’s “Broadway on the Beach,” tour lasted for about three weeks, but Mulvey was unsure how long “American Jukebox” will be performed. He had to return to Chicago immediately after the final show in late November to return to shooting the hit NBC TV show, “Chicago Fire,” where he appears as Dr. Jim Shaw.

He was thrilled with how “American Jukebox’s” opening night unfolded.

“We had a great crowd here on Marco,” he said. “I think a lot of people came from different cities, like Bonita Springs, Naples and Fort Myers. So it was a great crowd with some great energy.”

That enthusiasm was shared by the audience, who were often singing along during the evening.

“They’re all extremely talented people; very versatile and a show for all ages,” said vacationer Kristin Fritts of Chicago, who attended with her husband, Troy. “We didn’t know that they’re all from Chicago until we read about them, so of course, we loved them already.”

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