Things That Go Ding!, a highly theatrical musical revue, had modest beginnings. It first appeared as an after-hours cabaret act. However, it was such a hit that the creators conspired to produce this expanded, two-hour production.
An unseen announcer now opens the show by referring to Things That Go Ding! as “not good enough for the main stage, but too loud for the street.” Well, it may not be Shakespeare, or Mozart, but Ding! certainly surpasses such modest claims.
Michael “Ding” Lorenz, working up a sweat as he sprints from percussive instrument to instrument with the swiftness of a hummingbird, shows off his gleaming, priceless collection of rare and antique percussive instruments. In addition to numerous xylophones and marimbas, the collection of “Ding’s Dynasty,” as it is known, includes cow bells, industrial sound effects equipment, a trap drum set, gongs, bongos, timpani, chimes and a cap gun. A modestly clad rubber chicken also plays a part, as do a set of tuned taxi horns.
In the spirit of Spike Jones, Lorenz and James, on piano, perforate some of history’s most cherished classical music pieces, such as the “1812 Overture” (with a cap gun substituting for a bass drum), Bizet’s “Carmen” and the “Hungarian Rhapsody.” Since this show is produced by Skylight Music Theater, Milwaukee’s home for Gilbert and Sullivan, three of Gilbert and Sullivan’s most famous productions also get skewered during the evening.
But that is not all. In one sequence, Jamie Johns and Lorenz do an exquisite job of creating the soundtrack for a 1930’s black-and-white cartoon. This part of the program pays tribute to the countless number of professional musicians who once performed alongside “silent” pictures in movie theaters across the country.
Before the night is over, the audience has laughed its way through a PG-rated version of “Mr. Rogers Neighborhood” (starring Jivoff as Rogers), and a spirited rendition of the “Amadeus Polka” (with Jivoff “impersonating” Mozart). Later, Lorenz pauses to go into the audience while holding an odd instrument that looks like the dented top of a Weber grill. As he begins hammering away on the instrument, Lorenz’s hands are soon flying at hypersonic speed, his fingers literally blur as they strike each note at exactly the right moment.
Things That Go Ding! is two hours of joyful entertainment, an homage to the days when novelty sounds were made without punching the button of an electronic machine. During the shenanigans, it is easy to forget what talented artists these three performers are. But talent cannot be denied, and all three men find moments to shine.