‘Big Band Meets Art Deco’: Stay in May holds show at historical museum

Lance Shearer

Resort areas such as Southwest Florida have a concept called “shoulder season.” Tourism marketers use the term to describe the edges of the traditional visitor season, when seasonal residents could decide to leave, or they could … stay.

“Stay in May” is a local organization dedicated to keeping the “snowbirds,” (and their dollars) in the area during the shoulder season. The group puts on a lineup of various activities and performances throughout the area from late April through the first half of May, tempting travelers to tarry with tantalizing tableaux of taste.

Malenda Trick works on her canvas of an antique French poster. "Stay in May" came to Marco Island for "Big Band Meets Art Deco" Wednesday evening at the Rose Auditorium adjacent to the Marco Island Historical Museum.

Wednesday, the roadshow came to Marco Island.

With an eye to their target market, the evening was a retro-fest, featuring music and visual art from decades long ago. Billed as “Big Band Meets Art Deco,” the show was built around a performance by the Naples Big Band. This 14-piece ensemble, plus singer Amy Bright on vocals when called for, played a string of hits including “String of Pearls,” along with swing era standards such as “Stormy Weather,” “Satin Doll” and, to get the audience in the mood, Glenn Miller’s “In the Mood.”

While the band played on, Marco artist Malenda Trick set up her easel to one side, turning out a canvas that was a reproduction of a 1920s-era poster. It touted an appearance, nearly a hundred years ago, by the French dance duo “Rena May et Gerardy,” who were, said Trick, the “Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers of France” during the Jazz Age. With her in a floor-length sheath and him in flawless evening attire, the piece exudes the elegance of “gay Paree” between the two world wars.

This was a return appearance for Stay in May and for Trick, said the group’s director of development Claudia Polzin.

“Last year, we did a French cabaret, and Malenda did a Toulouse Lautrec painting,” she said. About 90 patrons sat in the Rose Hisory Auditorium adjacent to the Marco Island Historical Museum, their chairs grouped around tables – almost like the Stork Club back in the day – where the Big Band enthusiasts sipped wine from the open bar, conversed and nibbled on light hors d’oeuvres. Tickets cost $32.

A few couples, including Alan and Linda Sandlin and Marco Island Historical Society executive director Pat Rutledge and her husband Ron, got up and danced to what is, after all, perhaps the quintessential dance music.

“It’s a wonderful privilege to have such talented performers coming to the island this late in the year,” said Pat Rutledge. The historical society sponsored the show in conjunction with Stay in May.

Stay in May, said Polzin, was patterned after Charleston’s Spoleto Festival, and offers a wide variety of events to attract audiences of eclectic tastes. Thursday evening saw a “pipe crawl – like a pub crawl without the beer,” she said – during which lovers of the pipe organ made the rounds of churches with the largest and presumably most melodious organs in Naples, hosted by longtime NPR “Pipe Dreams” host Michael Barone.

The series concludes Saturday evening with “One Night in Memphis,” another take on the famous evening in 1956 when Elvis, Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins and Jerry Lee Lewis got together at Sun Records studio for a once-in-a-lifetime jam session.

The Stay in May organization receives no funding from Collier tourism efforts or the Collier County Convention & Visitors Bureau.