WBTT's Soul Crooners performed to a sold-out crowd at Sarasota's Ed Smith Stadium May 18.
Ed Smith Stadium was bursting with energy Saturday night, but rather than cheering for the Baltimore Orioles, the sold-out crowd was moving and grooving along to the music of Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe’s '70s Soul Party.
The performance was a part of the Orioles’ Art in the Ballpark series, which offers accessible, family-friendly arts events. Performing were WBTT’s Soul Crooners, a five-man ensemble and a five-piece band dedicated to celebrating male rhythm and blues songs of the 1970s.
The event was a long time coming said Nate Jacobs, WBTT founder, artistic director and first tenor of the Soul Crooners. After five years of talking with the organizers of Arts in the Ballpark, Julie Leach, the theater’s executive director, said that the performance was perfect timing for the theater as WBTT’s is undergoing renovations.
Whether the group was dancing through the crowd or grooving across the stage under the blue and pink lights, the ensemble had the crowd up on their feet as they sang along to hits from artists such as Al Green, Stevie Wonder and Marvin Gaye.
Earley Dean, the master of ceremonies, riled up the crowd as he announced songs like Stevie Wonder’s “Signed, Sealed, Delivered I’m Yours” and Earth, Wind & Fire’s “September” before turning the mic back over to the Crooners to serenade the audience.
While the night was filled with high energy, Jacobs took the fast-paced performance down a step to set the mood for his ballad, “A Song For You,” by Donny Hathaway. Addressing the audience, he said he and WBTT are entering a new and exciting place as they break ground on their new 200-seat theater.
He also thanked the 3,000 member audience for spending their evening with the Soul Crooners.
“Look at this, (it’s WBTT’s) first time out to do this event and you came out to show us all this love,” Jacobs said. “So I'm going to do my best to give you a little love back.”