REVIEW: Dicks and Janes: “A Family Dinner”

Ahoy! This be the logo!

The lights went down and a sharp-looking a cappella group, half boys, half girls, danced onto the stage in a blend of black and teal. They got right to business and sang a beautiful rendition of Bjork’s “Who is it?”

I have to admit that at first I was disappointed by the program because I had been to the fall concert and had heard 7 of the 11 pieces. Couldn’t they learn new songs? Wouldn’t people remember them? Wasn’t the point of performances to enjoy new music?

But I quickly learned that I found a comfort in hearing the pieces again. They are DJ classics for a reason – because they are SO good at singing them! Each time you hear a song, it is indeed a different song. You, the audience member, have changed since last concert and might interpret the message of the song differently. You might pay attention to new aspects of the song. You might follow a certain singer through the piece’s journey or perhaps watch the group’s explosive body language, focusing in on how they move in sync and make the stage undulate with their shimmying shoulders. Plus, the singers changed up who was the soloist in many of the pieces, which shows how one song can differ depending on the style of the soloist. Some voices are soft and jazzy, while others are pitch perfect belts that ring out to the back of the auditorium and pierce our ears with pleasurable tickles.

My Highlights of the Night:

– Helena Ratté’s arrangement of The Beatles’ “Happiness is a Warm Gun” was such a great mix of nostalgic rock and soul. Danny Hensel’s performance was a true showcase of his spectacular range from the depths of baritone caves to sky-high falsetto.

-Kait Mulder’s sultry performance of Etta James’ “At Last.” I felt like I had been transported back to a club in 1960. The romantic calm made me close my eyes and I think we all sort of fell in love with the beauty of that piece.

-Mason Van Gieson was my pick for the star of the night. She had such stage presence and was such a joy to watch. You could tell that she was enjoying every minute up there, which really was communicated through her performance of Mister-Wives’ “Reflections.”

One thing that is really fun about the DJ’s programs is that they provide the OPB (Originally Performed By) information. I personally was not familiar with many of the pieces sung that night, so it was helpful to go on Spotify the next day and listen to the original piece. I was pleasantly surprised to find that I fully preferred the DJ interpretations of every song than the original! What an accomplishment – to improve on successful, published songs!

Oh, and what was that about a family dinner, you ask? Every two or three songs, a few of the singers performed short comedic skits that always centered around awkward family dinner gatherings and ended in horribly, ‘I-can’t-believe-I’m-laughing-this-is-so-bad’ punch lines. Yes, they were probably unnecessary (save for the one where they included a DJ marketing ploy), but the skits added a certain familiarity to the concert. We almost felt more of a connection to the singers – because of the shared awkward experience of a bad punch line or just because it lightened the mood and kept us engaged.

All was a fantastic concert. The Dicks and Janes never fail to get your foot tapping and your mouth curling into a smile. They make you feel like, yes – even you Audience Member, are part of the family.