Be Transported Back To The Late 1930s With Judy Garland

Joan Ellison Comes to the Academy Theatre

Just in time for Mother’s Day, the Academy Theatre is hosting performance ensemble Circa 1939 and their show Joan Ellison; A Date with Judy on May 11 at 7:30pm at 275 Chestnut Street in Meadville.  Tickets are $20.50 and available at or by calling 814-337-8000.

Ellison is no stranger to the Academy Theatre and Meadville.  She was last seen in December 2011 performing with the Erie Philharmonic in their annual Holiday Show.  Due to numerous audience requests, the Academy Theatre is excited to be able to bring her back to our stage for her acclaimed Judy Garland performance.

The show consists of the music of young Judy Garland from her very first radio performance to her twenty-first birthday, as Meet Me In St. Louis was going into production for M-G-M.

It’s a radio show from Cleveland, Ohio, station WCLE on April 22, 1944.  Radio personality Mark Flanders and girl singer Joan Ellison do the honors, and there’s also a surprise for Joan on the air:  a reunion with the rest of the girl trio that first started on Iowa Barn Dance Frolic, The Melody Maids.  It’s a celebration of the world of Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland, the delights of being young in Hollywood in the late thirties, and small-town America in a world at war.

The show stars Joan Ellison, with Mark Flanders as your radio host, pianist Jason Aquila, and The Melody Maids Jodie Ricci and Lauren Emily Jones. 

The Plain Dealer wrote: “With her period gown and canny physical inflections, Ellison draws the listener deep into the emotions being portrayed…[Ellison] brings a keen blend of vocal splendor and verbal crispness to every musical moment. She inhabits the texts as if living them anew.”

Circa 1939 was founded by Mark Flanders and Joan Ellison, and features collaborations with several Cleveland-area musicians. The troupe creates shows highlighting authentic recreations from vintage recordings, bringing back classic American songs from radio, Broadway, and talking pictures as they originally sounded. Their roster includes A Date With Judy! The Songs of Young Judy Garland, Gershwin On the Air (with duo-piano accompaniment), Your Hit Parade of 1939, The Valentine Radio Hour, and The Christmas Radio Hour, with past performances at venues including Stages @ the Cleveland Play House, Kalliope Stage, Nighttown, and historic theatres throughout the midwest. 

An Oberlin Conservatory graduate, Joan Ellison made her Severance Hall debut in 2005 as a headliner with the Cleveland Pops Orchestra, and has played leading ladies of the Rodgers & Hammerstein canon to critical acclaim. Recent theatrical roles include Julie in Carousel, Nellie in South Pacific, Lizzie in 110 in the Shade, Claudia in Nine, and Eliza in My Fair Lady (in-concert). When she isn’t arranging or performing with Circa 1939, she enjoys singing repeat engagements with the Pops and the Erie Philharmonic; a concert of Garland songs with orchestra, called Get Happy, is in the works. An adjunct professor of voice in Baldwin Wallace Conservatory’s music theatre program and at the Cleveland Institute of Music, and visiting guest artist with the Case Western Reserve University/Cleveland Play House M.F.A. Acting Program, she is a member of Actors’ Equity Association.

Mark Flanders has plied his art as a thirties-style song-and-dance man at the Palace Theatre at Playhouse Square, the Ohio Theatre, the Statler Hotel, the Silver Grille, Cain Park, and as a Shakespearean actor with Great Lakes Theatre Festival and with Shakespeare & Company in Washington, D.C. He was working toward a Master’s degree in dance at George Washington University when he saw a Fred Astaire film festival at the Kennedy Center. He spent the next decades destroying wooden floors with his tap shoes, as well as playing over forty roles in Cleveland- and D.C.-area theatres, from Biron in Love’s Labors Lost to Tulsa in Gypsy.

Pianist Jason Aquila holds a Master of Music degree in Collaborative Piano and Chamber Music from the Cleveland Institute of Music. He spent ten years as Coordinator of Accompanying at Western Illinois University and has also presented concerts in Indiana and Florida. Jason is currently teaching private piano lessons, coaching chamber music and serving as a staff accompanist at the Baldwin Wallace Conservatory of Music, and was the assistant music director for their recent production of La Boheme. He serves as organist and bell choir director at Church of the Redeemer in Westlake, Ohio.

Trio member Lauren Emily Jones has been involved in theater since she was a little kid in the chorus of community theater shows. This passion followed her into college at Ohio Northern University where she is very involved with the theater program and still juggles her Early Childhood Education major all while pursuing her certification as an intervention specialist. She discovered her passion for the jazz/big band style (and the 1940s era in general) when she was the lead singer for her high school jazz band. She has continued to polish this style of singing through her first 3 years of college and is very excited to be involved with this group.

Trio member Jodie Ricci’s experience includes music direction at Cain Park (Sweeney Todd, Harold and Maude, Oliver, and Kiss Me Kate) and the Beck Center for the Arts (Grey Gardens). Jodie has performed as a rehearsal accompanist and orchestra member at the McLeod Theater Company, Baldwin Wallace Conservatory, Berea Summer Theater, The North Star Players and the Butler Musical Theater Guild. Her teaching experience includes instruction in piano and music theory at the Baldwin Wallace. She is currently a member of the performing arts faculty at Hawken School in Lyndhurst, Ohio.

This roster of talented artists brings an awe-inspiring and nostalgic show to the Academy Theatre.  A perfect Mother’s Day gift or wonderful evening out with friends.  Back by popular demand, don’t miss Joan Ellison as she graces the Academy stage once again, this time with Circa 1939.

The new payment options this season are still available at the Academy Theatre.  Gift cards are perfect any time, and the Academy’s Select Card option gives you the flexibility for savings on your perfect season.  The Select Card entitles you to eight tickets to Academy Theatre shows for $80 (some variations apply, call the Academy Theatre for details).  Use all eight tickets for one show, or spread them out over multiple shows.  It’s up to you!

For details about membership and sponsorship, and their benefits, please contact the Academy Theatre at 814-337-8000 or online at  Any and all help is appreciated in allowing the Academy Theatre to continue bringing great entertainment to Meadville, be it from around the country or around the corner.

For tickets and more information about A Date With Judy, please call 814-337-8000 or visit  For more information or to hear clips from Circa 1939’s debut CD, A Date With Judy (available on itunes) and their upcoming Gershwin release, please visit

Comedy, drama, family fun, and of course, music; it’s all on stage at The Academy Theatre.


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