Up until October 7th, I was completely unaware of who Garrison Keillor is. Well, after his memorable performance at the Garde Arts Center in New London, Connecticut, I sure won’t forget who he is, nor where he is from which is Minnesota. The popular radio host to a Prairie Home Companion and humorist brought out a crowd to watch him.
While walking into the lobby I noticed the ushers were receiving their final instructions as the doors had already opened to the public. With an audience of about twelve hundred, this show was going to be one that was huge. As many of the patrons walked in they looked at posters for the upcoming Christmas shows like Cherish the Ladies on December 1st and Melissa Etheridge on December 15th. Some people stopped to inquire about the tickets for each of these popular upcoming shows.
While in the lobby many patrons were admiring the works of art created by members of Riverside Park. From October 1st until November 5th sketches and paintings are put on display from the talented artists who are part of Riverside Park. Some patrons were even making inquiries as to how to buy certain pieces.
Once the doors, there was a rush into the theater as there was much excitement to the show. With a stage set with three microphones, two guitars, and one banjo the show was sure to be a hit. When the lights dimmed Steve Sigel walked on stage to welcome the audience and announce future events like Michael McDonald featuring Mark Cohn on October 15th and Girls Night: The Musical on October 27th.
When he finished Garrison Keillor walked on to a thunderous applause before leading the audience in singing “My Country Tis of Thee” and “I Can’t Help Falling In Love with You.” After making jokes about Connecticut, New England, and of course his home state of Minnesota he welcomed on stage his two good friends Robin and Linda Williams. All three of them had been working together since his radio days. Calling them true southern people they made jokes about what it was like growing up as a “church person” and how they got started in the business.
Garrison Keillor sang along with them and the audience was encourage to sing along to hits like “Under the Boardwalk.” While reminiscing about their days in the studio they remarked on the hit 2006 film A Prairie Home Companion, which starred Garrison Keillor as himself, and featured songs by Robin and Linda Williams as a cutaway.
Soon intermission came, but that did not stop Garrison Keillor from singing along. All the way through intermission he stayed on stage and encourage the audience to sing songs like “America the Beautiful” and “We Shall Over Come.” Then there songs like “John Jacob Jingleheimer Schmidt” that brought laughter to the audience.
When intermission was over he went back to his comedy act. Remarking on his days as a child in Minnesota when he was in high school trying to impress the girl of dreams to his college days when he was writing poetry to impress other girls in college. There seemed to be nothing that could keep him from causing the audience to laugh, even as he admitted there were people who did not believe his stories that he shared on the radio.
As the show started to close he invited Robin and Linda Williams on stage to sing a final song with him. When they finished they closed out the show with singing that the audience was encouraged to participate in. As the lights came back on they were on stage singing “Happy Trails to You” before taking a final bow to a standing ovation.
As they patrons walked out they were commenting on how they hadn’t laughed like they had in a long time. Many of them walked out humming, whistling, or singing to the tunes that Garrison Keiller and Robin and Linda Williams had encouraged them to sing along to. In the end, it was a magical night at The Garde Arts Center in New London, CT.