From flappers to Prohibition, from the opening of the Grand Ole Opry to the first Walt Disney cartoons and the stock market crash of 1929, the 1920s were a decade of decadence and history.
For singer/songwriter Beth Tinnon, it was a decade ripe with material for a new, original stage show. For Atlantic City, basking in the spotlight of the “Boardwalk Empire” craze, the timing couldn’t be better.
“I had a lot of experience from working in Nashville,” recalls Tinnon, well known in the area for her popular headlining act at the former Top of the Trop lounge inside Tropicana Casino and Resort. “I was involved in a show at Opryland … doing four shows a day, all year long. You tend to learn a lot of things doing that … how a show comes together, how the crowd responds. You have a certain formula, you know? And I thought, ‘You know, I can do this. I can write my own show.’”
So, Tinnon did just that.
“A Night at the Speakeasy” first premiered at Atlantic City’s Dante Hall Theater in June 2009. The show — rescheduled from an October date following Hurricane Sandy — will return to Dante Hall 8 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 12. The show runs about 75 minutes.
Tinnon, who describes her sound as a soulful mix of country and jazz, has toured with country greats such as Kenny Rogers and worked alongside stars such as John Rich of Big & Rich and Lonestar. She also appeared in the off-Broadway version of “Always, Patsy Cline.”
Now, as Tinnon, who also directed “A Night at the Speakeasy,” prepares to take the Dante Hall stage yet again, she is reflective on what brought her to this point.
“I did the show at Dante Hall about three years ago, and I loved the music of the ’20s,” Tinnon says. “Being from Nashville, I already knew about the Grand Ole Opry opening in the 1920s. So, that kind of spiked my interest (in creating a stage show). When I recorded my CD, I did a couple of Cole Porter tunes. It all inspired me ... and then after ‘Boardwalk Empire’ on HBO, people began getting more interested in that era. It was really weird how it all fell into place.”
“A Night at the Speakeasy,” Tinnon says, is a chronological journey through the decade, touching on each major event while weaving in what was happening in the country musically. The show walks the audience through a bit of a 1920s history lesson — in an entertaining way — touching on everything from the introduction of Mickey Mouse, the first films with sound (known as “talkies”), the first Ford Model T and the fashion styles and dance crazes of the era, including the Charleston. The show also includes a tribute to Duke Ellington, performed by Tinnon’s live, four-piece band. Throughout the show, a 74-photo slideshow can be seen in the background, with images Tinnon researched and put together.
“It just wrote itself, really,” Tinnon says of the show. “I did a lot of research. I went back and went online and found slides that go along with what I was writing about.”
The show, Tinnon says, is fun and fast-paced. The best part, she says, is that audiences will walk away not just entertained, but learning something.
“And here’s the great thing too — it’s family friendly,” Tinnon says. “Yes, I do touch on Prohibition briefly … but yet, in between, it’s a very educational show.”