About 16% of The Villages metropolitan statistical area population is made up of veterans. About 37% of the next month’s entertainment in The Villages is patriotic. Upcoming USO-Style variety shows at Savannah Center, a special event featuring Gary Sinise’s Lt. Dan Band on Lake Sumter Landing Market Square, live music, theater and even a five-day military film festival at Old Mill Playhouse are planned to help celebrate the community’s large veterans population for Veterans Day. Johnny Wild and the Delights kick things off Monday night with the Stars & Stripes Variety Show, and there is much more scheduled leading up to Veterans Day and throughout November. About 19,000 veterans call The Villages home. In Sumter County, 15.7% — roughly 1 out of 6 — of the residents age 18 or over served in one of the armed forces, according to census data released this month. A census report in 2018 showed Sumter had the second-highest concentration of veterans in the U.S. among communities that do not have a military base nearby. Camaraderie among these veterans has helped make American Legion Post 347 in Lady Lake the largest post in the world, with 6,790 members as of October 2019.
Johnny Wild’s Stars & Stripes Variety Show
Local favorite Johnny Wild and the Delights will bring a new show to the Savannah Center stage at 5 p.m. Monday.
“Johnny Wild’s Stars & Stripes Variety Show” is a USO-style show that Andy Matchett (a.k.a. Johnny Wild) said is the group’s largest and most ambitious stage show ever.
The show will include a whole new set list of patriotic tunes like “Born in the U.S.A.,” “Courtesy of the Red, White and Blue,” “This Land Is Your Land” and many more. There also will be several guest performers who will do comedy and impressions of icons like Sam Cooke, Ray Charles and Marilyn Monroe.
Matchett said that a patriotic show has been highly requested by the group’s fans for a long time, and this one is sure to be a crowd-pleaser.
“It’s a whole new take on patriotic shows,” Matchett said. “We’re covering a lot of different aspects of American culture, and we wanted to focus on diversity, civil rights, women’s liberty and good, old-fashioned American fun. We’re looking at all sides of America and celebrating all of it.”
Tickets range from $25 to $35 and can be purchased online at thevillagesentertainment.com or at any Villages Box Office location.
John & Jen
Another patriotic show is going on now, and there’s still time to see it.
Catch The Studio Theatre’s season four opener, “John & Jen,” before it closes Oct. 27.
“John & Jen,” a musical about the relationship between a brother and sister and a mother and son, is set in America’s changing political climate from the ’50s to ’90s and has proven to be a nostalgic show that hits home for many audience members.
Tickets are $40 and can be purchased online at thevillagesentertainment.com or at any Villages Box Office location.
Gary Sinise & The Lt. Dan Band Take on Lake Sumter Landing
After appearing in The Villages for a recent book signing, Gary Sinise, known for his role as Lt. Dan in “Forrest Gump,” was thrilled with the community and decided to bring his band to The Villages for a free event and concert from 3 to 9 p.m. Oct. 27 at Lake Sumter Landing Market Square.
The Lt. Dan Band performs music of all genres and has entertained troops on military bases around the world.
“He’s known as the new Bob Hope and is really, really loved by veterans,” said Marie Bogdonoff, president of Villagers for Veterans. “People are thrilled that they’ll get to see one of his concerts.”
Scooter the DJ will open the event at 3 p.m., and a Forrest Gump impersonator will entertain the crowd, according to Bogdonoff.
“He looks, sounds and acts like Forrest Gump,” Bogdonoff said. “People really get a kick out of him.”
The event also will include food trucks, drinks and Lt. Dan Band merchandise.
Later in the evening, there will be a performance of the national anthem and a flag-opening ceremony presented by members of various veterans organizations.
At 7 p.m., Sinise and his Lt. Dan Band will come out and perform.
“We hope that attendees are reminded of the gratitude our country has for veterans and that their sacrifices are appreciated and will never be forgotten,” said Ricardo Chavira, marketing and communications director with the Gary Sinise Foundation. “By providing an uplifting concert experience, our goal is to raise morale and celebrate our veterans and their families.”
Military Film Festival
Old Mill Playhouse will host a military film festival from Nov. 6 through 10 in conjunction with Villagers for Veterans.
The festival will open with a red carpet and special screening of Lionsgate’s “Midway,” two days before its national release Nov. 8.
Throughout the festival, military-themed films like “Sgt. Stubby: An American Hero,” “Wings,” “The Deer Hunter,” “Last Man Club” and more will play.
There also will be various workshops and Q&A sessions throughout the festival.
“I think The Villages is an ideal place to host a military film festival,” Bogdonoff said. “The idea behind the film festival is to educate civilians on all of the challenges the military faces and to honor them for their sacrifices.”
Tickets now are available at the Old Mill Playhouse box office.
VIP tickets, which include a cocktail hour on the festival’s opening day and an award dinner at Angler’s Club on the festival’s closing day as well as an unlimited pass to every film featured in the festival, are $100.
Tickets that include access to all of the films but not the cocktail hour or dinner are $50.
For $25, patrons can select three movies of their choice.
Tickets for individual movies are also on sale.
Home of the Brave
The Tommy Dorsey Orchestra is teaming up with the Swing Sisters for a patriotic show at 5 and 8 p.m. Nov. 9 at Savannah Center.
The show, “Home of the Brave,” will be a USO-style show with Tommy Dorsey hits like “Song of India,” and “Swanee River.”
The Swing Sisters will perform songs by the Andrews Sisters and other popular music from the World War II era.
“We’re really excited about performing with an orchestra of the caliber of the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra,” said Shalisa James, creative director of the Swings Sisters. “They’re just so well renowned, and in this time, it’s so wonderful to be patriotic and honor people who served our country.”
Terry Myers, conductor of the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra, said the show will be immensely enjoyable.
“Even though this music isn’t at the top of the charts anymore, it’s still music that has a validity for a wide audience if they get a chance to listen to it,” Myers said. “There are a couple generations of folks who haven’t had this as an integral part of their musical tastes, but when they’re exposed to it, they like it very much.”
Tickets to the show range from $25 to $40 and can be purchased online at thevillagesentertainment.com or at any Villages Box Office location.
A Salute to the Military
The patriotic spirit will be carried past Veterans Day with more performances.
The Villages New Horizons Band will take the audience through the Civil War, two World Wars and wars in Korea, Vietnam and Afghanistan with a musically powerful performance at 7 p.m. Nov. 19 at Savannah Center.
“A Salute to the Military” will include songs like “Thank You, Soldiers,” “At Dawn They Slept” and “Reflections from the Wall.”
“This is our way of honoring the community’s veterans,” said Ward Green, director of New Horizons Band. “I think they’ll really enjoy the show. There is some powerful music in it.”
Tickets are $20 for one or $30 for two and can be purchased online at thevillagesentertainment.com or at any Villages Box Office Location.
Swing! Swing! Swing!
Resident vocal group the LaLiPops is joining forces with resident big band Shades of Blue for a performance of ’40s and World-War-II-era music at 6:30 p.m. Nov. 22 at La Hacienda Recreation Center.
The LaLiPops, made up of Villagers B.J. Odendahl, Melody Gardner and Donna Francis, have become known for their three-part harmony and have been in high demand since their conception about a year and a half ago.
Proceeds from the show will benefit Operation Shoebox.
Tickets, which are $20 for residents and $25 for the general public, are available online at thevillagesentertainment.com or any Villages Box Office location.
Veterans will have early access to tickets for an upcoming Broadway-caliber production next year.
The Tony award-winning musical “Bandstand” is coming to The Sharon L. Morse Performing Arts Center for shows at 7:30 p.m. Feb. 7, and 2 and 7:30 p.m. Feb. 8. Tickets, which range from $45 to $95, go on sale to the public on Nov. 20, but veterans can purchase tickets on Nov. 11 for Veterans Day.
This special presale for veterans can only be done in person at any Villages Box Office location. Veterans purchasing presale tickets will have to show their military ID.
“Bandstand” is a musical about six soldiers who return from World War II and find a place to call home.
Additionally, staff at The Sharon are creating a digital gallery on Facebook to honor local veterans and encourage veterans and their family members to submit pictures to be featured in the gallery.
Submissions should be messaged to The Sharon’s Facebook page, @TheSharonL.MorsePerformingArtsCenter,and should include the veteran’s name, branch, rank and time of service.