The IV Tenors
IV + CCXX + XC = music, music, music.
That is the formula that makes the unique show, The IV Tenors, click. Four guys singing 220 songs for 90 minutes. The “CCXX” may be a bit of an exaggeration but it stands for the number of songs touched upon in a IV Tenors show, as in “a lot”—and about as diverse as you could imagine. No other show of which we are aware presents Puccini next to Meatloaf; “76 Trombones” next to One Direction; or Freddie Mercury next to Vaughn Monroe. The IV Tenors show does.
“When people think ‘four tenors’, they’re probably thinking four classical, high brow guys, but we’re very funny, very entertaining guys singing an eclectic mix of songs,” says Brian Damson, who along with Michael Scott Brooks, Morgan James and Ken Nielson comprise the quartet. “We’re not sure about what other groups are doing, but we are four very different guys. We have a rock and roll tenor, an Irish tenor, a classical-country tenor, and there’s me, the musical comedy theater tenor.”
How do four guys with such talent come together? This isn’t your typical garage band background.
Well, The IV Tenors is not just a group of guys who decided to make music but rather is a production show created by Greg Thompson Productions. If that name is familiar to long time readers of this publication it is because Thompson has produced many shows which have landed in Laughlin. Together with Sonny Thompson, they selected their cast of four singers to fit the demands of such a musically ambitious show. They found their guys in Damson, Brooks, James and Nielson.
“Greg and Sonny know us all pretty well and the songs are tailored to our strengths,” says Damson. “Everyone in this show sings with everything they’ve got.”
Collectively, they’ve got a lot. When you take tight harmonies, where everyone is in the zone and in perfect pitch, it makes for a huge sound unlike any other. Individually talented voices separately is always nice, but combine them to create one powerful musical force that stands out, is something even better. That is the essence of the IV Tenors.
Sure, it’s a production show geared for the casino crowd (that’s why there is music from all quarters) but it’s one unlike any other in that it is all about the music. No smoke and mirrors. No fireworks, no leggy dancing girls in feathers. It’s four guys singing to original musical arrangements set down on tracks specifically for them. And those arrangements, created by Sonny Thompson, are definitely unique in selection.
“We start the show singing beautiful arrangements of old country standards like ‘Ghostriders In the Sky, ‘Shenandoah,’ and ‘They Call the Wind Mariah,’” explains Damson. “Opening the show that way lets the audience know, ‘Okay, you guys know what you’re doing,’ before we break out into our solos.”
The string of “westerns” also helps explain the cowboy hat motif in their advertising. But, in a way, that is misleading. They are much, much more than a prairie opera.
“Morgan does ‘Phantom of the Opera’; Michael sings ‘You Raise Me Up’; I do ‘New York, New York’ in a comical way unlike anybody’s done before,” explains Damson, a veteran of Greg Thompson shows since 1990.
“If you don’t like something, wait about 40 seconds and there’s a good chance there will be something you do like. We do a medley of all the famous groups from the ’20s right up to One Direction, which is kind of funny—40-something-year-olds doing One Direction. We come back with a big Broadway section that has selections from such shows as ‘Music Man,’ ‘On the Town,’ ‘Rent.’ We end that segment with ‘Jersey Boys’.
“The one comment we hear after just about every show is ‘you guys sing everything!’ It is a lot of music. We really should be the ‘IV Blockbuster Tenors’ because we bring it with every song.”
So which songs do they always hit a home run?
“We knock it out of the park on “They Call the Wind Mariah,” says Damson. “We recently blew the roof off the Powerhouse Theater in Seattle with that one. We sing our asses off on pretty much all of the songs.
“One of the highlights is we do ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’, which is entertaining and funny because I’m singing Freddie Mercury’s part.”
Another element that helps make this show work is the genuine fun the tenors exude from the stage.
“We get along, which is truly amazing considering there’s about a 30-year difference between the youngest and oldest guy in the group,” says Damson. “We have fun together and I think that comes across. We’re serious when we’re singing, but we’re having a lot of fun.”
They not only like each other, they respect each other and work well as a team.
“At times, we’ve been doing the show and something hasn’t gone right,” explains Damson. “We just fix it or change it right then. We don’t say anything to each other, we just keep going. That’s because we know how we work.”
According to Damson, the harmonies are a strong suit of the show. That, and the ability to be themselves and interact with the audience make this a hit with audiences.
“All I can say is come see our show,” Damson said. “We’re different from anything else you’ve ever seen.”
A little background music…
•Brian Damson—educated at the Cincinnati Conservatory of Music and the University of Kentucky; a Grand Award winner for Best Actor in a Musical for his performance of “Sweeney Todd” and George/Albin in “La Cage Aux Folles”; an inductee to the Musical Theatre Round Table Hall of Fame; voted Best New Performer by the Los Angeles Theatre Critics; and has his own critically acclaimed one man show, “Mid-West Side Story”.
•Michael Scott Brooks—awarded International Young Singer of he Year at the Eistedffod Festival in Wales and was the Michigan State Solo and Ensemble Festival finalist; has been a musical director, composer, arranger, accompanist and tenor soloist with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra Chorus; vocal director of The IV Tenors; musical director of the acclaimed Nocturne Trio.
•Morgan James—soloist with the Roger Wagner Chorale; Reno Philharmonic Orchestra, and UCLA Men’s Glee; appeared in numerous Branson and Greg Thompson productions and in movies such as “Finean’s Rainbow,” “Paint Your Wagon” and “A Place to Grow”
•Ken Nielson—sang in the Mormon Tabernacle Choir; worked with Walt Disney Productions; starred in off-Broadway productions of “Grease” and “Brigadoon”; has been the voice of Michael Bublé on dozens of in-studio karaoke recordings; and is the resident “rocker” in The IV Tenors show, singing the hits of Elvis, Maroon Five and Bon Jovi.
THE IV TENORS
Saturday, February 15. 7 p.m. (See Showtimes for tickets)