Scranton’s Theater at Lackawanna College puts a quarter in the Postmodern Jukebox

By Gene Axton - [email protected]
Postmodern Jukebox performs at The Theater at Lackawanna College on Saturday night. - Sean McKeag | Times Leader
Joey Cook (left), Von Smith and Aubrey Logan perform as part of Postmodern Jukebox at The Theater at Lackawanna College on Saturday night. - Sean McKeag | Times Leader
Postmodern Jukebox performs at The Theater at Lackawanna College on Saturday night. - Sean McKeag | Times Leader

SCRANTON — Scott Bradlee’s Postmodern Jukebox already has a lot going for it. Their musical renditions of today’s hits cover songs from artists like Britney Spears, Iggy Azalea and Meghan Trainor in a fine coating of nostalgia by reimagining them in the context of lounge, swing, big band and other genres left behind by the passage of time. The premise makes for a performance that offers something that a wide range of age groups can appreciate, and that was evident at PMJ’s Saturday, Nov. 7 performance at The Theater at Lackawanna College presented by Community Concerts at Lackawanna College.

YouTube provides musicians with a new tool to reach audiences, which has resulted in the rise of a unique community full of niche projects. After their first post went viral thanks to a mention by comic book and novel author Neil Gaiman, PMJ’s weekly video posts continued to garner millions of hits. Some of their most popular videos are covers of Lorde’s “Royals” and Radiohead’s “Creep.” the latter of which found its way into Saturday night’s set.

A small band led by pianist/musical director Todd Schroeder switched between genres (and sometimes instruments) on the fly while singers Aubrey Logan, Joey DeAnn Cook, Von Smith and Haley Reinhart took turns collaborating and performing solo pieces. Highlights included Cook’s take on Britney Spears’ “Womanizer,” Reinhart’s mesmerizing performance of the aforementioned “Creep” and Smith’s vocal domination over Guns N’ Roses’ “Sweet Child of Mine.”

The night’s host, LaVance Colley, pulled double duty as a performer. In addition to providing backing vocals for a number of pieces, Colley also hit the highest notes of the night when he was featured during an impressive performance of “My Heart Will Go On” by Celine Dion.

In addition to the band and singers, a number of the night’s selections were accompanied by tap dancer Sarah Reich (who’s feet banged out some of the best percussion solos of the show) and a tambourine-packing hype man who encouraged audience participation. That participation crossed into inclusion when Isaac Charleson of Scranton was brought on stage to take part in a tambourine duet.

“I sing and act, so just getting to go on stage with them was an honor,” Charleson said. “I’ve been a fan for awhile and it was absolutely amazing. I’ve been to a lot of concerts but Postmodern Jukebox was the best one I’ve been to.”

Scott Bradlee’s Postmodern Jukebox already has a lot going for it, but the alluring premise of PMJ was elevated by the stellar talents who brought the videos to life on-stage. The night was capped by an all-inclusive performance of The Postal Service’s “Such Great Heights” in the style of The Jackson 5, an eclectic mash-up that epitomized PMJ’s ability to be complex yet accessible. PMJ’s final bow was met with a standing ovation at The Theater at Lackawanna College, and for good reason—the night translated PMJ’s wide online appeal to the stage beautifully and any return engagements have earned a spot on my must-see concert calendar.

Postmodern Jukebox performs at The Theater at Lackawanna College on Saturday night.
https://www.timesleader.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/11/web1_TTL110915Postmodern11.jpgPostmodern Jukebox performs at The Theater at Lackawanna College on Saturday night. Sean McKeag | Times Leader

Joey Cook (left), Von Smith and Aubrey Logan perform as part of Postmodern Jukebox at The Theater at Lackawanna College on Saturday night.
https://www.timesleader.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/11/web1_TTL110915Postmodern21.jpgJoey Cook (left), Von Smith and Aubrey Logan perform as part of Postmodern Jukebox at The Theater at Lackawanna College on Saturday night. Sean McKeag | Times Leader

Postmodern Jukebox performs at The Theater at Lackawanna College on Saturday night.
https://www.timesleader.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/11/web1_TTL110915Postmodern31.jpgPostmodern Jukebox performs at The Theater at Lackawanna College on Saturday night. Sean McKeag | Times Leader
YouTube sensations reimagine modern hits in an early 20th century style

By Gene Axton

[email protected]

Reach Gene Axton at 570-991-6121 or on Twitter @TLArts

Reach Gene Axton at 570-991-6121 or on Twitter @TLArts