Singing is their thing. Whether it’s a classic ballad, such as “Everybody Loves Somebody Sometime,” a Motown hit like “I Can’t Help Myself (Sugar Pie Honey Bunch),” or a Broadway favorite like “Don’t Rain on My Parade,” the Penguin Players love to sing great songs. And Racine’s company of veteran musical performers will carry on their tradition of sharing those songs with the community April 27, when the Penguin Players open their spring show at the Eagles Club Ballroom.
Called “Sing Penguins Sing,” the cabaret-style revue will feature tunes spanning from the 1940s through the 1980s, according to director Bonnie Baillie Konsinowski. The company of 14-20 performers — who range in age from 26 to, well, older — will do a little dancing and fit in some comedy along the way. But what they love to do most is sing.
Each one brings a different background and experience to the stage. Some have formal vocal training, while others have natural ability and have been singing their entire lives. “Some read music, some don’t,” Konsinowski said. “They all have a talent for singing.”
And Konsinowski — who also directs the Academy of Dance studio on Sixth Street — has her own talents, not only for leading the company, but in choreographing the shows and creating the costumes. She’s in her 17th year of doing all of that and more with the Penguin Players, and she still loves it.
“It is what we all love to do,” she said.
For Arne Arnold, who has performed with the Penguin Players for the past eight years, is it also a chance to stretch his vocal “wings” a bit and have some fun. A life-long singer who performs at weddings and is a church cantor, Arnold said if he was left to his own devices he’d probably stick to singing “schmaltzy” songs. But, as a Penguin Player, he gets a chance to sing many different kinds of songs, including the solo he’ll perform in the spring show, “Unchain My Heart.”
“It is a song I’d never go out looking for myself,” he said. Yet, it is one he really enjoys singing.
Arnold also likes being part of what he described as “a good group of people.”
“People really care about each other and I’ve never seen a jealous fit, or anything like that,” he said. “The camaraderie is at least 50 percent of what keep us coming back.”
Some of the players have been with the company since its earliest days, and some go back even further to the two performing groups that led up to the Penguins’ formation — the Kilties Kapers and the Cardiac Capers.
Being a Penguin Player is a lot of work — each show requires performers to learn between 15 and 18 new songs, and give up three months of their time for rehearsals. The end result, however, is worth it, Arnold said.
“It is like a self-induced high to do well on a good song.”
In addition to the three songs mentioned at the beginning of this story, “Sing Penguins Sing” will offer listeners classics such as “Tennessee Waltz” and “On the Street Where You Live,” as well as more recent hits like “Soul Sister” and “Got to Get You Into My Life.”
Songs for all of the Penguins’ shows are chosen in a collaborative process, with input from all of the players, as well as the audience. And, because they know that country music is a favorite among their fans, every third show the Penguins do has a country music theme, Konsinowski said.
“We try to offer a little bit of everything to keep our audiences happy,” she said.
The players will also be joined on stage by the Academy Performing Arts Company Troupe, from the Academy of Dance, for some of their numbers. Beverage, snack and waitress services will be available during the show.
“It’s a good, clean, fast-paced, entertaining night out,” Arnold said. “People get to see their neighbors on stage and tell them ‘I never thought you could do that kind of stuff.’ ”
If You Go
WHAT: “Sing Penguins Sing,” a spring show by the Penguin Players.
WHEN: April 27-29 and May 4-6. Show times are 7:30 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays and 3 p.m. Sundays. Doors open 45 minutes before showtime.
WHERE: Eagles Club Ballroom, 319 Hamilton St. Seating is cabaret style and first-come, first served.
COST: Tickets are $8 in advance and $9 at the door. Advance tickets can be purchased at the Academy of Dance, 710 Sixth St.; Hugs & Kisses, 3215 Douglas Ave.; Magic Scissors Beauty Studio, 3716 21st St.; Nelson’s Variety Stores, 4636 Douglas Ave. and 3223 Washington Ave.; and Sew ‘N Save of Racine, 3701 Durand Ave., and the Eagles Club.
Penguin Players History
Founded in 1990 by Ron Tiegland, the Penguin Players made its debut at George’s Tavern with a Christmas show. Two years later, they returned to the stage with additional shows, and the Penguin Players have been entertaining audiences in Racine ever since.
The company moved its productions to the Eagles Club in 1994 when its audience grew too big for George’s.
And the following year, Bonnie Baillie Konsinowski took over its direction.