“Sweet Caroline,” “Cracklin’ Rosie” and “Coming to America” will blast out the door of the Lewiston Civic Theatre Saturday, but the hits won’t be coming from Neil Diamond’s mouth.Cherry Cherry, a Neil Diamond tribute band, will play an LCT benefit show to raise money for maintenance and improvement projects, such as a red-carpet redo and a new paint job, said LCT Executive Director Beth Larson.
Although the band is Seattle-based, many band members travel from out-of-town for shows, and six of their players have Lewiston-area ties.
Lewiston trumpet player Doug McIntosh travels to play for Cherry Cherry several times each year, while alto saxophone player Brad Howey and baritone saxophone player Shawn Bowman stem from the area. Band member Jeff Adam graduated from the University of Idaho while guitar player Doug Plemmons has family in the Valley.
Horn section leader “Skinny” Lynn Cook was part of LCT productions, such as “Oliver,” before the theater had a permanent location and graduated from Lewiston High School in 1975, where he had been president of the drama club.
“To go to any kind of out-of-state event that draws a crowd is great,” Cook said.
“But at the Boomers’ (Garden) event in 2010, we were to be able to go home and show off for my hometown crowd. They were wildly receptive. People that I hadn’t seen (in years) came up afterwards and reintroduced themselves. I remember everybody.”
Lead vocalist Steve Kelly recalled another Boomers’ Garden performance years ago before Cook was a Cherry Cherry member. A train slowly approached the venue while Kelly was belting “Cracklin’ Rosie” into a wireless microphone. Passing through a gate, he looked at the conductor and hopped on.
“I was singing it out the window of the train as it was going by Boomers’ Garden,” Kelly said.
Kelly said another memorable moment was at a Minnesota show. After a flight cancellation and van rental, the crew had to complete a six-hour drive in five hours to make the show.
“We were driving as fast as the law would allow, maybe a little faster,” said Kelly, who arrived with the band at the lakeside concert venue. “We got there right when we were supposed to perform … The mosquitos were the size of birds. It was 100 degrees and we were soaking wet. … We were like the hamburgers on a grill.”
Now dubbed the Mosquito Fest of Minnesota, Kelly looks back on it and laughs.
“It was like a cartoon,” he said.
Hoping to make new memories, Cherry Cherry made the request for Diamond fans to bring nonperishable food to the show, which will then be donated to the Lewiston branch of the Idaho Food Bank.
The LCT event is all ages and Kelly said grandparents, parents and children often attend their concerts.
“When we play ‘Sweet Caroline,’ (grandmas’) faces light up like they’re 3 years old even though they’re 80 years old,” Kelly said.
Kelly invites people who aren’t Diamond fans, either.
“After the show, they show up — the husbands of the wives that wanted to go,” Kelly said of the audience members who sit with their arms crossed at the beginning of a concert. “The non-believers become believers by the end of the show.”
With more than 60 top-100 hits, Kelly said they never run out of Diamond songs.
“No matter how long I play a show, it’s never long enough to play all of them,” said Kelly, who can cover almost 40 songs in 2½ hours.
Tickets can be purchased at the LCT box office from 12-6 p.m. Tuesday through Friday or by phone at (208) 746-3401. Advance tickets for general seating are $15, while day-of tickets are $20. Doors open at 6 p.m. and the show starts at 7 p.m.
“I have a theatrical interest,” Cook said. “And pair that with the music and the opportunity to come back and help the theater. (That) is special to me.”
Treffry can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (208) 883-4640.
->if you go:
WHAT: Cherry Cherry, a Neil Diamond Tribute Band, performs an LCT benefit show
WHEN: Doors open at 6 p.m. Saturday. Show starts at 7 p.m.
WHERE: Lewiston Civic Theatre, 805 Sixth Ave. Lewiston
COST: $15 advance, $20 at the door