Joan Ellison Wows Ariel-Ann Carson Dater Performing Arts Centre

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As sad as it is, there are likely few millennials aware of Judy Garland.

Those born after 1990, especially, might — at best — associate the name with the delicate, red-locked actress who plays Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz.

She was much more than that, and the music that she recorded over the course of her tragically short life outshines the incessant march of time. When Joan Ellison, professional vocalist, instructor of popular voice at the Cleveland Institute of Music, and expert in vintage musical compositions took the stage at The Ariel-Ann Carson Dater Performing Arts Centre in Gallipolis, OH on Saturday night, she more than proved the timeless quality of Garland’s many recordings. Performing alongside The Ohio Valley Symphony, Ellison achingly brought back to life songs that some of us may have sadly forgotten.

The night’s show started with The Ohio Valley Symphony’s take on “The Wizard of Oz Orchestral Suite,” in doing so spinning a thick web of gorgeous vibration throughout the historic concert hall. Perhaps it could be said that the 1939 classic film from which the suite is taken is a part of the collective American consciousness — somewhere deep down we emphasize deeply with Dorothy lost in a land she doesn’t know, dreaming of what she could find over the next rainbow. Sufficient to say, that it’s hard to hear music from the film without getting a little teary eyed.

Ellison came out onto the stage following the first suite of songs, head-to-toe in retro wear, a sky blue taffeta dress and sparkling golden kitten heels. She kicked off her portion of the show with a rendition of “Zing! Went the Strings of My Heart,” a song that Garland famously performed for MGM when she was barely a teenager and that resulted in her receiving a contract with the studio. Originally penned in 1934 by James F. Hanley (during the last years of his career, although the song would live on to be one of his biggest hits), the song is a simple one, at least in theory. It tells the tale of the first stinging tendrils of infatuation, the gobsmacked feeling of falling deep into love with someone, unexpectedly. Ellison’s voice is tender and sincere, completely capable of the stunning vocal athleticism for which Garland is remembered.

Keeping much with the chronology of Garland’s career, Ellison then sang “Dear Mr. Gable/You Made Me Love You,” which Garland sang as a young actress to esteemed golden age of Hollywood superstar Clark Gable during one of his birthday parties. The song further cemented Garland’s rising star, which would only travel further upwards as she made her way through her teenage years. “Singin”” In the Rain,” “Johnny One-Note” and “But Not For Me” were a few other tunes from the early portion of Ellison’s performance that some might know, having been mad popular by films such as 1952’s Singin”’ In the Rain (although Garland sang it before the movie, in 1940) and 1948’s Words and Music.

The show then had a brief intermission, followed by Ellison’s stirring rendition of Irving Berlin’s classic “I Got the Sun in the Morning” from Annie Get Your Gun, and Harold Arlen and Ira Gershwin’s “The Man that Got Away,” from 1954’s A Star Is Born. The audience was treated to two additional vintage styled outfits on the part of Ellison, the second being a steamy red sleeveless number with a skirt made up of delicate layered scalloped tiers; and the third a dreamy midnight-blue gown with a beaded bodice. During her outfit change, The Ohio Valley Symphony treated the audience to the “Palace Medley,” made up of tunes that Garland would have sung over and over at her signature showbiz vaudeville center, The Palace.

Ellison closed out the night with an achingly beautiful version of “Over the Rainbow,” making for a heart-stirring end to a night mad cup of amazing audial feats.

The next performance at the Ariel will take place on April 22, featuring homecoming vocal talent Philip Armstrong. Tickets are available now at this link.