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August 30, 2014, 10:20 am

‘Drumline Live’ marches to Merriam Theater

“Drumline Live” kicks off its fourth U.S. tour bringing the American marching band experience to the Merriam Theater Oct. 17-18.

With musicians who are fast with their sticks and just as fast with their feet, Don P. Roberts, the show’s director and creator says, “We’ve taken the excitement of an HBCU football game halftime show, increased the intensity by a thousand watts, and created a musical journey that will touch every emotion.”

Roberts was the executive band consultant for the 2002 nationally and internationally acclaimed hit movie, “Drumline,” nominated in 2003 by the NAACP as Most Outstanding Motion picture, and American Choreography Award for Outstanding achievement in Feature Films. Roberts was responsible for training the actors, writing precision drills and rehearsing the band.

“At the time I was a high school band director in Georgia and had the idea that this would be great on stage as well as on film,” said Roberts. “In the beginning, however, nobody had any idea how to put a marching band on stage, and it took me until 2008 to get it all together and prove I could.”

Since then Roberts has proven himself a musical force to be reckoned with. Today, his vision has not only become reality but a huge success, featuring, he notes, “a large cast of vivid and exciting performers from America’s top historically Black colleges and universities in a true family-oriented show that will appeal to people of all ages.”

The show’s program features a musical blend of soul, funk, gospel jazz and rock with songs by the legendary Earth Wind & Fire and Tower of Power. As with the music of marching bands everywhere, it also features heavy doses of drum riffs, cadences and funky footwork.

“You can’t be in this show if you’re not a good musician and your dance skills are not up to par,” Roberts says. “We look for extremely good musicians in our auditions and they have to have extremely good coordination.”

According to Roberts, the most difficult part in doing this show “is touring with a cast of 31 as well as a technical crew. But now we’ve got it down to a workable system with everyone functioning like a family. I also think the greatest thing about this show, and what makes it so successful, is that everyone loves what they’re dong. There’s no acting on stage. Everyone’s just being themselves.”

The appeal of “Drumline Live” is palpable, even when touring overseas.

“We brought the show to Japan and Korea three times,” said Roberts, “and were warned that the audiences were very different from American audiences, that they would not be showing much emotion.

“But within five minutes of the show’s beginning, everybody in Japan was standing on their feet,” Roberts continues. “This is a very high energy show and the response we get from our audience, no matter what country we play in, is wonderful. I’m not bragging, but I feel like we’re one of the best shows out there right now.”

He adds that the show will, “touch every emotion in your body. We’re going to make you laugh, sing, cry and applaud. If you’re not feeling good before you get to our show, you’re going to be feeling better during and afterward.”

Roberts is admittedly not a trained Hollywood director.

“I was simply a band director who somehow got involved in all this,” he said. “But this whole experience was and still is a dream for me. And I just don’t ever want to wake up!”

For times and ticket information, call (215) 893-1999.