Judy Jones has written a compelling memoir which has been turned into an exciting evening of musical essay. First performed at the Rehoboth Beach Country Club in September and December under the sponsorship of the Rehoboth Beach Writers' Guild, the longer-form memoir essay reading is the brainchild of dynamo RBWG Executive Director Maribeth Fischer.
After the wildly successful Delaware readings with audiences of 100 each time, Jones was invited by the University of Nevada Las Vegas to give the musical essay Jan. 12 in the Lied Library.
Titled "Dreams: That Crazy Mixed up Shallow Soul Hungry Henry Miller Life We Led," the performance piece is accompanied by local musicians Stuart Vining and Amy Felker. The essay in four parts covering the years 1958 to 1964 is interspersed with musical selections that illustrate the young writer-dancer's dreams of Paris, of world travel, of the writing life.
Her tales are of the golden era of Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr., Judy Garland and others, bringing that time fully alive. The former Copa Girl shows that era in the land of Las Vegas as she tells stories of the strip, of the high life, of what it was like backstage. It's a full picture of an earlier time – and what a time it was, when all dreams were as fresh and as new as the young Judy's.
Stuart & Amy often appear with the Rehoboth Beach Writers' Guild, but working with Jones, they don't just provide background music to the writing, but become a seamless part of it. The result is not an essay interspersed with songs; it becomes one single performance woven together like a rich tapestry tightly bound together in 45 minutes. As Jones completes a sentence, the music softly slides in under her words to blend the essay with music as the singer begins, illustrating the story in a tour de force performance. Some songs include Roy Orbison's "Sweet Dreams Baby," Peggy Lee's "Fever," and the Everly Brothers' "All I Have To Do Is Dream."
Jones takes her audience right along with her on the unlikely journey of an 18-year-old Texas girl trying to get herself to faraway Paris, France, and the many and varied stops along the way. One could hear a pin drop as the audience followed Judy's journey. Auditioning for a contest to become a dancer at the famous Sands Hotel in Las Vegas. Will she make the cut? Will she ever make it to Paris? Where does that crazy, mixed-up, soul-searching life take her?
After a standing ovation, a lively discussion followed with a Q&A that could have lasted longer had Maggie Farrell, dean of University Libraries, not needed to turn out the lights. The 100-person audience was made up of UNLV students, faculty and staff, as well as family and friends, including 14 from the Rehoboth area who traveled to Las Vegas for the special occasion.
The musical essay chronicling that golden era 50 years ago was the initial entry for the Special Collection & Archives of the UNLV as it celebrates its own golden anniversary in 2018. There could be no better precedent-setting performance than that of Jones accompanied by Vining and Felker. It is safe to say that Jones has a shining future as she reveals her past.