The hardest job for Bud Forrest, creator and conductor of the big-band revue “In the Mood,” is deciding which songs to leave out of the 2-hour, 20-minute show.
“There are so many great ones,” Forrest said last month, riding the bus between gigs at Penn State University and Lowell, Mass. “In the Mood” arrives Wednesday at the Orpheum for two shows, at 3 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.
Forrest and his 13-piece String of Pearls Big Band Orchestra, plus six vocalists, tour nationally for nine weeks each fall and another nine in the spring. They perform the music of Glenn Miller, Tommy Dorsey, Artie Shaw, Benny Goodman, Harry James and the Andrews Sisters — the signature music of the late 1930s and early 1940s.
While every show is likely to include some standards — “Chattanooga Choo Choo,” “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy” and, of course, “In the Mood” — Forrest changes up the song list each year, depending on the musicians and singers he hires.
This year he's got a red-hot saxophone section, so he added “Four Brothers” by Woody Herman's orchestra. Also new to the playlist: “Goody Goody,” “More Than You Know” and “Leapfrog,” the latter a Les Brown tune.
Vocal arrangements are by the late Vic Schoen, who arranged for the Andrews Sisters, and high-energy swing choreography is by Broadway veteran Alex Sanchez.
Forrest's base is Washington, D.C., where he was accompanist for the Air Force's Singing Sergeants in the early 1970s. He later formed an act that performed the hits of the Andrews Sisters, which gradually grew into the show touring today. Its second half is a tribute to those who fought in World War II.
“It's very emotional for those who lived through the era,” he said. “I like to say it's a family show for kids from 8 to 88.”
“In the Mood” has played Council Bluffs, Lincoln and Kearney, but this is a first for Omaha, Forrest said. This is the show's 19th year on the road, and it has traveled to 48 states, plus Europe and Australia.
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