By Kevin Coughlin
The Wellington International Ukulele Orchestra is big on audience participation.
So when Sheri Alexander got word that this zany act was coming to Morristown, she knew there was only one place to be:
The Mendham guitar instructor and an assortment of her high school students and friends are scheduled to perform with the Wellies tonight, Thursday, March 10, 2016, at the Mayo Performing Arts Center.
“I think they’re fantastic!” Alexander said of the New Zealand orchestra. “I’m honored and thrilled to have an opportunity to share the stage with them.”
Alexander’s ensemble is slated to perform Jessie J’s Price Tag during the second half.
They also plan to welcome patrons with a few numbers before the show. Look for them outside MPAC about 45 minutes before the 8 pm concert.
The Wellington group provides some beginner’s ukuleles for occasions like this. But Alexander decided to up the ante, outfitting her band with sweet little instruments she found on sale at a guitar store.
Although she studied guitar at Boston’s famous Berklee College of Music, and won fans on the coffeehouse circuit in North Jersey and New York City in the late ’70s (performing as Sheri Becker), Alexander became smitten with the ukulele during a Hawaiian vacation three years ago.
“I just want to show people how much fun it is to play the ukulele, and that you can really make wonderful music with the ukulele,” Alexander said, after a rehearsal in her living room.
“Tiny Tim made a farce of it. But then Iz [Israel Kamakawiwo’ole] came along with Over the Rainbow [nearly 13 million views on YouTube] and it changed the perception of what a ukulele is for me. And it’s so much easier to travel with than a guitar!”
Alexander teaches at Gill St. Bernard’s School in Gladstone and volunteers on a fundraising committee for MPAC. Cathy Roy, education director for the theater, asked if she could round up some local uke players for the Wellington gig.
Finding a lead vocalist was easy: Alexander’s daughter Samantha, a junior at West Morris Mendham High School, sings with MPAC’s Performing Arts Company.
Rounding out the ensemble are several recent ukulele converts, recruited from West Morris Mendham High and Gill St. Bernard’s. They include Samantha Barker, Samantha Alameda, Claudia Ferrer, Lachlan Wright, Paul Kruger and Anna Zockoll.
This “Mayo Domestic Ukulele Orchestra” also may showcase some front-of-house talent — MPAC staffers Erin Pach and Carolyn and Jack Zybura — along with Christy Segale, an art teacher at Mendham’s St. Joseph’s School who plays in a band called The Dirty Blondes.
The plinkers might even include a couple of Uke-A-Likes from last month’s Morristown Onstage competition.
The Wellington International Ukulele Orchestra comes to the Mayo Performing Arts Center, Thursday, March 10, 2016, at 8 pm. Colorful attire is encouraged!!! Tickets: $19-$49. At 100 South St. Call 973-539-8008.