‘Try a Little Tenderness’ a tribute to great American music

After starring in the hit jukebox musical “Jersey Boys” and being a founding member of the retro-rock sensation Under the Streetlamp, Michael Ingersoll is fronting a show rooted in nostalgia.

Artists Lounge Live (artistsloungelive.com) presents “Michael Ingersoll: Try a Little Tenderness” Nov. 7 as part of Freedom Hall’s Matinee Theatre series in Park Forest.

“It’s a feel-good experience where you’re going to recognize every song and be able to sing along,” said Ingersoll via phone from his home in Skokie.

“The songs I chose are by these strong masculine figures in pop music that aren’t afraid to show their softer side, which is why I’ve pulled from James Taylor, Billy Joel, Elton John, Sam Cooke, Otis Redding and more.

“I do a mash-up of two different Ray Charles recordings — ‘Georgia on My Mind’ into ‘America the Beautiful.’ The way that Ray Charles did it was particularly soulful and beautiful. That’s my favorite moment of the night.

“I’m also telling stories about what was happening in the lives of these artists when the music was being made and my own stories from ‘Jersey Boys’ and being a PBS star.”

Ingersoll’s love of classic tunes started early.

“I grew up listening to music that my parents had on in the house,” he said, recalling being influenced by the oldies radio station. “My grandfather was also a career jazz pianist so it’s been in my family.

“I began my career in the Chicago market in earnest when I played Nick Massi, of the Four Seasons, in ‘Jersey Boys’ during that first two-year run here. I was actually only the second person to play Nick Massi in the world.

“I was on the first national tour outside of New York before this became this multi-continental hit. During that run I performed on ‘The Oprah Winfrey Show’ in Chicago, ‘The Tonight Show’ and the Emmy Awards. That was my entrance into singing this great nostalgic music of the 1950s and 1960s.”

Ingersoll racked up more than 1,300 performances of “Jersey Boys” in front of sold-out crowds in Chicago, Los Angeles and San Francisco.

“Seeing that many audiences on their feet really drove home that people still want to hear this music done live,” he said.

“They like when it’s done by younger people because it lets them know that this music is going to be carried on to other generations, not only for them to enjoy but also for future generations to enjoy.

“After ‘Jersey Boys’ I founded a group called Under the Streetlamp. Under the Streetlamp is a doo-wop group that makes specials for PBS. We made four PBS specials and toured all over the country for the past six years. Each one of those specials was broadcast to over 100 million households.”

After being on tour six months a year for 10 years, Ingersoll left Under the Streetlamp approximately six months ago.

Now he runs the production company Artists Lounge Live, which presents concerts featuring popular music of yesterday performed by talent of today such as “Unforgettable: Falling in Love with Nat King Cole” starring Evan Tyrone Martin at 7:30 p.m. Feb. 2 at Freedom Hall.

“It’s our mission to pay respect and pay tribute to this great music that is an indelible part of American culture and to keep it alive for generations to come,” Ingersoll said.

“Even more than that, it’s to put something joyous out into a world that really needs it right now in particular.”

Jessi Virtusio is a freelance reporter for the Daily Southtown.

‘Michael Ingersoll: Try a Little Tenderness’

When: 11 a.m. Nov. 7

Where: Freedom Hall, 410 Lakewood Blvd., Park Forest

Tickets: $25

Information: 708-747-0580; www.freedomhall.org

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