Ukulele Craze Hits OKC

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Ukulele Craze Hits OKC: Uke Orchestra to Perform at OCCC

By Mindy Ragan Wood

Ukuleles are no longer just for the luau-themed poolside party or Tiny Tim.

Apparently, there’s a “uke” craze in the U.S. with reports of growing sales in recent years. So, it’s appropriate that Oklahoma City residents will get a chance to experience the sounds of the instrument when the Wellington Ukulele Orchestra from New Zealand performs 7:30 p.m., Jan. 23 at Oklahoma City Community College’s new Visual and Performing Arts Center.

As many as 17 ukulele strummers perform pop covers and original music all with the backdrop of comedic banter. They are a crew of exceptional singers as well, vocalizing with the skill of carefully executed harmony and high-octane solos.

Lemuel Bardiguez, director of OCCC’s cultural programs, said the show is a delight.

“It’s a very, very fun show. It’s kind of a tongue-in-cheek, very engaging act with lots of audience participation, but done very well musically. Technically and artistically it’s a very high quality production,” he said.

Four albums take listeners through a range of moods: “The Heartache EP,” “A Little Bit Wonderful EP,” “The Dreaming EP,” and “I Love You…EP.” Regardless of the song they perform, the Wellington Ukulele Orchestra brings a touch of humor with all of their selections and a creative stage presentation. Everyone is dressed out with a touch of eccentricity, as they perform often surrounded by suspended lampshades luminously hanging all around the stage.

This is the crew’s first tour in America and OCCC is the only Oklahoma venue. It’s just the act that Bardiguez said he was looking for.

“We look for shows that are unique, that no one else is presenting in Oklahoma City. They’re very popular in Europe,” he said.

The Visual and Performing Arts Center Theatre at OCCC is a worthy venue for class acts. The Sarkey’s Atrium features floor to ceiling glass walls for a clean, sleek modern design. State of the art audio and visual technology suits a variety of live performances or video presentations and a rock-solid stage floor accommodates performers who would never have been able to perform at OCCC before.

“A study found there was a real need for this kind of theatre,” Bardiguez said. “People on the south side wanted an assembly that they could have a civic center experience, without having to go downtown.”
The 1,000 seat auditorium was designed to warp around the stage without sacrificing a great view.

“There’s really not a bad seat in the house,” said Bardiguez. The performing arts center also has a full service concession stand and coat check.

The prices for performances at the theatre are also affordable.

“It’s a show we were able to include as part of our performing arts series and still be able to keep our price under $50. We have tickets at every price point, from $15 to $45. There’s plenty of room for parking and it’s free to park.”

Bardiguez said there are a few reasons the “Uke” trend is growing in popularity.

“I don’t know where it got started but there’s a big Ukulele community. I think YouTube has gone a long way to kind of ignite that because, there’s lots of Ukulele instructional videos and the instrument itself is not terribly difficult to learn to play. It’s a really affordable instrument. You can get into an entry level Ukulele for under $40 and it only has 4 strings. It’s easy to carry around and easy to play.”

The Performing and Visual Arts Center Theatre is located at 7777 S. May Avenue in Oklahoma City. For more information call 405-682-7576 or purchase tickets online at www.occc.edu

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