CALUMET - Oren Tikkanen, Kris Kyro-Johnson and Dave Bezotte huddled in Bezotte's studio in Houghton Tuesday afternoon, plucking the banjo and singing tunes from the early 20th century.
Most passersby may have thought the trio was just having a little fun, but they were actually preparing and rehearsing to take the Calumet Theatre back to an earlier time.
The third annual Red Metal Radio Show will take place at 7 p.m. tonight, as Tikkanen, Kyro-Johnson, Bezotte and others take audience members on an entertaining trip through Copper Country history. This year's version is entitled "The Keweenaw according to Mac," and is based on the book "Keweenaw Character" by the late historian and storyteller David "Mac" Frimodig.
"Kris and I have been working for the past couple months on getting the script written," Tikkanen said. "We're focusing on just a few portions of the book, like his description of the communities of Centennial Heights, Ahmeek and Gay, and we also have one of his characters sketches about an immigrant named Francis Jacker, who was involved with the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community for all of his adult life."
The show is running concurrently with Calumet's Heritage Celebration, which is focusing on Ojibwa culture.
"We have also included an Ojibwa legend on how the porcupine got his quills," Tikkanen said.
While the past two versions of RMRS have focused on just one year, because "Keweenaw Character" jumps around chronologically, so will the radio show.
"We talk about the whole history of Gay as a mill town," Tikkanen said. "We talk about silent movies in Ahmeek; it's kind of a cross section of Copper Country culture from around 1911 until just after World War II."
Although the production will be a touch smaller than in previous years, there will still be plenty of entertainment for audience members and radio listeners alike.
"What people are really going to like about this show is the way it's all put together," Kyro-Johnson said. "There's the narration and the music, and for people listening ... you can picture yourself there, with all that's happening.
"Listeners should pay close attention because during the narration, things may be happening in the background," she continued. "There's definitely going to be humor, history, music and it all wraps up into a very entertaining package. People will not be disappointed."
Music will play a large part in the show, with numerous musicians taking part. Bezotte will be playing the piano to accompany the narration and will also sing. The stage band will be Bob Norden's Parade Band featuring Benjie Brotherton on trumpet, Debra Zei on clarinet, Sherrie Pellegrini on drums, Roger Laub on tuba and Bob Norden on trombone. Special guest musicians Doug Bacon and Melissa Lewis also return from past years.
"In the past, we've relied heavily on ethnic music from different ethnic groups, and while we have some ethnic music as part of the incidental background, the music that the band will be featured on is more all-American music from the early 20th century," Tikkanen said. "The songs that Kris will be singing include an Irving Berlin song, 'Alexander's Ragtime Band' that came out 100 years ago."
The vast amount of history is also a drawing point for the Red Metal Radio Show.
"There's a lot of information that even a lot of natives don't know," Kyro-Johnson said. "So this is an opportunity to sit in one of the most gorgeous theatres in the country and learn about it."
Those attending the live performance at the Calumet Theatre are asked to plan on arriving at 6:30 p.m., when the musicians will begin performing. Because the show will be broadcast live on WCUP-FM 105.7, no one will be admitted after 6:50 p.m. Ticket information can be obtained by calling the Calumet Theatre at 337-2610.