2011-08-20 / People

Glenn Seven Allen Brings Broadway To Mackinac with WWII Songbook

By Lauren Gibbons

Glenn Seven Allen, a singer, actor, and teacher, will be bringing a World War II Songbook performance to Mackinac Island. ( 
Photograph courtesy of Glenn Seven Allen) Glenn Seven Allen, a singer, actor, and teacher, will be bringing a World War II Songbook performance to Mackinac Island. ( Photograph courtesy of Glenn Seven Allen) Glenn Seven Allen has performed in front of thousands of people in many famous cities, but the Mackinac Island community continues to be his favorite audience.

“I love the Island a lot, and the people, as well,” he said. “These people are like my extended family.”

Mr. Allen spent most of his summers on Mackinac as a child and young adult, living in a summer cottage owned by his family. Thursday, August 25, the singer, actor, and teacher will return to the Island to perform a World War II Songbook, a collection of musical pieces from the 1940s.

During his career, Mr. Allen has appeared on Broadway and other major concert and opera venues such as The Kennedy Center, The Lincoln Center, Wharton Center/Lansing Symphony, and Music Hall in Detroit, to critical acclaim, receiving a nomination for the Helen Hayes Best Actor Award for his performance as Clifford Bradshaw in “Cabaret” at Arena Stage in Washington, D.C. In 2011, he will perform in several leading roles in the opera circuit, including Don Jose in “Carmen” at the Buck Hill/Skytop Music Festival, Ernesto in “Don Pasquale” with Hubbard Hall Opera Theatre, and Il Duca in “Rigoletto” with the Queens Symphony.

Mr. Allen received a bachelor’s degree in musical theatre from the University of Michigan, and a master’s in acting from the University of Washington. He also is a teacher, operating a voice studio where he has taught students who later played leading roles on Broadway, including Matthew Morrison, who now plays teacher Will Schuester in the television show “Glee.”

Mr. Allen has been bringing his performances to the Island for several years, and last year, he and Broadway singer and actress Janine DiVita performed a Rodgers and Hammerstein songbook, featuring pieces from the musicals “South Pacific,” “Carousel,” “The Sound of Music,” and “Oklahoma!”

This year’s performance will take place at 8 p.m. Thursday, August 25, in the Grand Hotel Theater. Tickets are $20 and will feature performances of famous songs from the World War II era, such as Andrea Marcovicci’s “I’ll Be Seeing You,” “Praise the Lord and Pass the Ammunition” written by Frank Loesser, “Buddy on the Night Shift” by Kurt Weill, “You Will Never Know” by Vera Lynn, and Frank Sinatra’s “Five Minutes More.”

Joining Mr. Allen for the performance will be musicians John Dale Smith and Janine Novenske Smith.

Mr. Smith is a pianist, conductor, and musical producer from Lansing. He is the executive director of BoarsHead Theater in Lansing and has directed musicals at Lansing Community College, Michigan State University, Riverwalk Theatre, Peppermint Creek Theatre, and Lansing Civic Players. He recently retired from a position as conductor of the Lansing Symphony Big Band and retired from an administrative position in the arts at Lansing Community College in 2003, and is now the director of music, communications, and special events at Lansing’s Plymouth Congregational Church.

His wife, Janine Smith, is a singer and actress based in the mid-Michigan area, and has been the female vocalist with the Lansing Symphony Big Band for the past 10 years. She has performed in several theater productions, and is an adjunct music faculty member at Lansing Community College and the director of choirs at University Lutheran Church in East Lansing.

Mr. Allen said he’s very excited to work with the talented pair during the World War II Songbook performance on Mackinac Island.

World War II veteran William Porter and Little Stone Church pastor Vince Carroll, a veteran of the Vietnam War, also will speak at intervals during the show to talk about their experiences with war and what it was like to be involved in the conflicts.

The World War II Songbook show strikes a personal chord with Mr. Allen, because his namesake was involved in World War II. Mr. Allen’s grandfather, also Glenn Seven Allen, was one of the legal advisors to General George Patton, wrote many letters during his tenure as a soldier. Mr. Allen will be reading some of the letters, as well as showing some of his grandfather’s keepsakes from the war, during the performance.

The era is fascinating for Mr. Allen, partially because the war situation of the 1940s is so different than the American wars of recent years.

World War II “was a very clear good guy, bad guy war. The entire world was working together to bring down the rise of fascism. The current war we’re in is so much more complicated,” he said. “It’s not even a war, it’s so ugly.”

Tickets for the show are available at the Mackinac Island Community Foundation office and at Grand Hotel. A cash bar will be available, and proper Grand Hotel dress code is required to attend the show.

Mr. Allen has collaborated with the Mackinac Island Community Foundation for this performance and other performances in the past to secure venues and raise money for various causes. All funds raised from the performance will be donated to the foundation’s music fund, said Mackinac Island Community Foundation Director Robin Dorman.

Mr. Dorman said the experience always is a pleasant one when Mr. Allen returns to the Island to share his musical talent with a community he’s had ties to his whole life.

“It’s always a pleasure to help bring quality music to the Island,” he said. “We’re looking forward to a wonderful performance.”

While Mr. Allen now lives on a very different, much larger island

– Manhattan – he loves coming back to Mackinac because said he can “have a connection to every single person on the Island.”

He hopes the community and the audience will enjoy his performance of the World War II Songbook as much as he does.

“I try to bring a lot of culture to the Island when I can,” he said. “They really love what I do, and it seems like a mutually beneficial situation.”

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