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Sound Circuit

Vocalosity’ gets personal


Des Moines Performing Arts is wrapping up its 2015-16 Spotlight Series this week with its presentation of “Vocalosity,” a new a cappella stage show from “Pitch Perfect” musical director Deke Sharon.

Vocalosity plays at the Des Moines Civic Center on Sunday, Jan. 24.

Vocalosity plays at the Des Moines Civic Center on Sunday, Jan. 24.

The show combines many of the elements that make “Pitch Perfect” or “Glee” popular with the visceral interactivity of a live performance.

“It’s a bunch of people being themselves on stage,” said “Vocalosity” mezzo Nicole Weiss in a phone interview. “We’re telling really personal stories on stage, then there are times when we’re singing really campy songs that everyone knows. It’s unlike anything else that anyone has seen live.”

It is the inclusion of those personal stories — anecdotes culled from the real-life stories of the cast — that give “Vocalosity” its “Glee”-like draw, and what the show’s performers and crew feel sets the show apart.

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“We have these moments interspersed in the show where individuals come forward, telling their story,” Weiss explained. “The rest of the cast is in the background watching. It can feel really powerful, because it is so personal and real.”

Sharon has made a career out of making a cappella cinematic and vibrant, which performers like Weiss feel is an important part of keeping the art form relevant. Every decade or so, a cappella seems to recapture a portion of the popular imagination, and Weiss thinks that feeling of zeitgeist is why.

“Every time it resurfaces, whomever is putting it in the forefront, it’s really capturing the feeling of ‘now,’ ” she said. “So, at this time, with “Pitch Perfect” and “Glee”, it’s all about capturing pop music with the modern technology. It’s also the novelty of hearing human voices make sounds that you didn’t necessarily know they could make. With the combo of that amazing sound and great lighting, you really do feel like you’re watching a movie.”

But, just like with your favorite “Glee” characters, what really will draw you in to “Vocalosity” will be those personal moments.

“When Deke told us that he wanted us all to submit a personal story revolving around how singing had changed our lives, we didn’t really know how that was going to affect the show,” Weiss admitted. “Then one day at rehearsal, we read them out loud to each other for the first time. I think that was a really important step in the process. Even if it does feel really vulnerable to tell it, there’s going to be someone in the audience who will identify with it.” CV

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