Five By Design returning to Missouri Theatre Center for the Arts

Wednesday, June 18, 2008 | 6:52 p.m. CDT; updated 4:21 p.m. CDT, Tuesday, July 22, 2008

COLUMBIA — Sheridan Zuther of the nationally known vocal quintet Five By Design says she is looking forward to returning to Columbia this week, not just to perform but to grab some slices.

“I fell in love with Shakespeare’s Pizza,” said Zuther, who has performed in Columbia twice before. “It’s one of the main things I look forward to.”

If you go

What: “Radio Days” by Five By Design When: 7:30 p.m., Friday Where: Missouri Theatre Center for the Arts, 203 S. Ninth St. Admission: $20 to $25 and can be purchased at, at the box office, or by phone at 875-0600

On Friday, as part of the Missouri Theatre Center for the Arts’ Hot Summer Nights Music Festival, Five By Design will perform “Radio Days,” one of its three period productions.

This will be the Minneapolis group’s third time performing at the Missouri Theatre but the first time since the theater was restored. Previous performances, in 2005 and 2006, were sold out; as of Wednesday afternoon, a few tickets for Zuther’s show were still available.

“Radio Days” is a musical retrospective of the World War II radio era featuring a radio drama called “Inner Sanctum,” a recreation of a soap opera, a show called “Mail Call” that was once broadcast to troops overseas, and a number of popular songs from that era.

“Our goal is to make it be as if the audience is sitting at part of a live radio broadcast,” said performer Kurt Niska. “We want to bring back the music of the era with as much respect as we can. We try not to leave our fingerprints on it.”

Five By Design is first a singing group, Niska said, and members focus on harmonious singing. But showmanship is also an important part of its shows. The group has been creating what they call “concept productions” such as “Radio Days” for more than 15 years.

The theater’s Executive Director David A. White III said the decision to invite the ensemble again was based on its past success in Columbia.

“As we prepared for the grand-opening season, we wanted to bring back folks we’ve had in the past,” White said. “We knew they had a fan base in Columbia. We wanted folks that worked real well with the community.”

Five By Design has a knack for bringing a sense of novelty to the stage because its members do not merely present a concert, but rather have a sort of variety show, he said.

“It’s unique because it’s not just music. It has a story line and costume changes,” White said. “It’s a fun, different approach to presenting a concert.”

For Zuther, returning to the Missouri Theatre will be a sort of homecoming; she attended the University of Missouri-Kansas City and has relatives in Jefferson City.

“I really miss the weather,” Zuther said. “It’s so cold up here (in Minnesota). In Missouri, it’s nice and hot and humid.”

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