The ELO Tribute Band will Headline Show at Delmar Hall on Thanksgiving Eve Nov. 23

By Lynn Venhaus

Majestic splendor.

That’s the sight, sound and the vibe of Mr. Blue Sky, the St. Louis-based Electric Light Orchestra tribute band that makes sure every multimedia production is authentic.

With its 10 bandmates and dazzling visual imagery taking the audience both back in time and into the future, their intricate harmonies and musicianship stand out.

When Mr. Blue Sky takes the stage at the Delmar Hall on Nov. 23, the third time’s a charm for they have sold out that venue twice before (Hint: get tickets now, for the night before Thanksgiving is considered the biggest night out of the year. Tickets are available through Ticketmaster (see link at end of article). Doors open at 7 p.m., show starts at 8 p.m. Delmar Hall is at 6133 Delmar Boulevard.

Local legend Steve Ewing from the Urge (and Steve’s Hot Dogs) will open the show with his duo.

This special night will be different from their triumphant appearance at the Chesterfield Amphitheater two months ago (where they drew 1,500 people), for they like to mix it up for every appearance.

Veteran St. Louis musician Jeff Faulkner, who assembled the tribute band three years ago, said the Nov. 23 show will feature two new songs and a different setlist.

Jeff Faulkner of Mr Blue Sky

“We do all the hits — 22 top ten hits, we always play those,” Faulkner said. “Then we’ll play deeper cuts like ‘Face the Music,’ we play some Traveling Wilburys. We played the ‘Discovery’ album in entirety when we were at The Wildey.”

He enjoys introducing the symphonic rock icons to new fans and reminding longtime fans of their legacy.

“It’s really great music. I think Jeff Lynne is one of the best singer-songwriters in the history of rock ‘n roll,” he said. “He is a musical genius.”

Besides Faulkner on lead guitar and vocals, their all-star line-up includes Dave Watkins on lead guitar and vocals; Anastasia Hamilton, vocals; Abby Stahlschmidt, violin; Jessie Youngblood, violin; Jake Brookman, cello; Stephen Winter, keyboard and vocals; Charlie Brown, keyboard and vocals; Steve Bunck, drums; and Ben Moyer, bass and vocals.

The group’s musicians have performed with local heavyweights Pavlov’s Dog, That 80s Band and the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra. And have toured with The Who and Weird Al Yankovic.

Besides Delmar Hall, they’ve sold out shows at The Pageant, The Wildey Theatre, The Duck Room, and Ballpark Village. They recently performed in the Chicago area, at Impact Fuel Room in Libertyville, to a rocking crowd.

“A fair percentage of people that we’re playing for are familiar with ELO’s music – even if they don’t realize it. Probably 90% of them know ‘Mr. Blue Sky,’ Faulkner said. “They’re used in so many movies, so many commercials. Even if you don’t think you know ELO, you know ELO.”

Faulkner fell in love with the English rock band at an early age. Their fusion of modern rock and pop with classical overtones intrigued him.

ELO was formed in 1970 by songwriters and multi-instrumentalists Jeff Lynne and Roy Wood with drummer Bev Bevan, and following Wood’s departure in 1972, Lynne became the sole leader, arranging and producing every album – and wrote nearly all their original material.

Lynne disbanded the group in 1986, but Bevan formed his own, ELO Part II, which later became the Orchestra. Apart from a brief reunion in the early 2000s, ELO wasn’t active again until 2014, when Lynne reunited with Richard Tandy as Jeff Lynne’s ELO.

During their original 13 years of active recording and touring, they sold more than 50 million records, and had 15 Top 20 songs on the Billboard Hot 100. Their most successful album, the double album “Out of the Blue” in 1977, was among their top 10 albums in the ‘70s and ‘80s. They had a disco-inspired album “Discovery” in 1979 and a science-fiction themed “Time” in 1981.

In 2017, Bevan, Lynne, Tandy, and Wood were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Faulkner discovered that there wasn’t a tribute band in St. Louis, so he decided to go in that direction.

“It hadn’t been done before. With the strings and the orchestral sound, ELO is just different. That’s what makes it unique. We have a three-piece string section,” he said.

He is very proud of the work that the band has put into capturing “the majestic splendor.” “It’s taken a lot of work to get it there, but we have gotten it there,” he said.

To hear our podcast with guest Jeff Faulkner, co-hosted by Carl “The Intern” Middleman and Lynn Venhaus on March 11, here is the link:

Take Ten Q&A with Jeff Faulkner:

1. Why did you choose your profession?

“It’s what I’ve been most passionate about since I was 11 years old.”

2.  How would your friends describe you?

“Outgoing, and a big sense of humor.”

3.  What do you like to do in your spare time?

Traveling, seeing live music and theatre

4. What is your current obsession?

Rufus Wainwright

5. What would people be surprised to find out about you?

“I’m 9-1/2 years sober.”

6. Can you share one of your most defining moments in life?

“When my son was born.”

7. What do you admire most?

“Kindness, and humility.”

8. What is at the top of your bucket list?

“Going back to Europe and visiting Germany and Italy.”

9. How were you affected by the current pandemic years, and anything you would like to share about what got you through the pre-vaccine part?

“It shut down my industry completely for three months. I spent a lot of time hiking various trails, and binge-watching sit coms.

10. What is your favorite thing to do in St. Louis?

Hanging out in the Loop, Forest Park, and going to Blues hockey games

11. What’s next?

Mr. Blue Sky has great shows coming in 2023!

Mr Bue Sky

More to Know About Jeff Faulkner:

Age: 47
Birthplace: St. Louis
Current: Brentwood, Mo
Education: 2 years of college
Day job: Musician
First job: Dishwasher
What you like about what you do: I love everything about being a musician
Dream job: I have it
Awards/Honors/Achievements: Mr. Blue Sky has finished as a finalist for best cover band in St Louis Mag the last two years
Favorite quote/words to live by: Carpe Diem
A song that makes you happy: “Mr. Blue Sky”

For tickets, go to this link:

For more on the band, visit:

Mr Blue Sky

By Lynn Venhaus
With the nostalgic glow of scrapbook memories, the toe-tapping and hummable “Smokey Joe’s Café” opened The Muny’s eagerly anticipated 103rd season.

In this spirited localized production of the longest-running musical revue in Broadway history, the creative team imagined a soulful stroll down memory lane, intersecting a generation’s familiar soundtrack with Gaslight Square, one of the city’s most iconic neighborhoods.

And just like that, the U.S.’s oldest and largest outdoor theater demonstrated why it’s an essential part of St. Louis summers.

It had been over 700 days since we were last gathered under the stars in Forest Park – at “Matilda,” to be exact, which ran Aug. 5-11, 2019.

Nobody does what the Muny does, and did we miss it! On Monday, warm-and-fuzzy feelings energized the crowd of 5,956, who collectively exhaled and shared a glorious moment, sprinkled with pixie dust, during a pleasant July evening.

“You’re here. You made it through!” exclaimed Mike Isaacson, executive producer and artistic director, with palpable joy.

One glance at that expansive stage and we were home.

Photo by Phillip Hamer

The impressive scenic design by Edward E. Haynes Jr., who was responsible for the bright and playful fantasy world of “The Wiz” in 2019, included realistic facades of Crystal Palace, Jack Carl’s 2¢ Plain (a New York-style deli), Annadel’s Olde-Fashioned Ice Cream Parlor, Smokey Joe’s Grecian Terrace and a Sinclair service station built into the streetscape.

That bygone-era theme continued in Kevan Loney’s video design and Rob Denton’s lighting design, which bathed the nightclub scenes in neon and stardust.

In its heyday, Gaslight Square was the entertainment district in St. Louis – located between Olive and Boyle in the eastern portion of the Central West End. Attracting bohemians, hipsters and the well-heeled, it was known for comedy, dining and dancing. Such rising stars as Barbra Streisand, Lenny Bruce, Woody Allen and The Smothers Brothers appeared in venues there. By the late ‘60s, urban decay took over and people were flocking to the suburbs.

Astute observers will be able to pick out “Easter eggs,” those clever nuggets from the past that mean something to fans — and a major find is shopping bags with the Stix, Baer and Fuller logo. There’s a Sealtest Dairy ad on a back cover – and more blasts from the past.

Never underestimate the emotional connection shared by a live audience, listening to a talented mix of performers sing their hearts out.

As we are all aware of how a global coronavirus pandemic disrupted our lives during the past 16 months, The Muny had been forced to cancel its 102nd season in 2020 – for the first-time ever – and moved five shows to this year, which received the green light when it was deemed safe to do so. Isaacson noted that the performers hadn’t been able to “do what they do” either.

Enter an eclectic cast of nine (five guys, four women), who could be classified as “acting singers” – and their strong interpretations created easily identifiable vignettes during musical numbers. All but three were making their Muny debut.

Photo by Phillip Hamer

Robust ovations began early, even before they harmonized in the first number “Neighborhood,” and continued through the enduring catalogue of prolific lyricist Jerry Leiber and composer Mike Stoller, for a total of 39 songs, mostly hits from the 1950s and 1960s.

Mutual fans of rhythm-and-blues, Leiber and Stoller collaborated on a pop-rock sound known as “crossover” music back in the day. Their catchy melodies and tender ballads are thread together without a storyline or a chronological order.

From the dance party that is “Baby, that is Rock and Roll” to the classic Drifters’ chart-climber “On Broadway,” the songs vary in mood and tempo.

For the most part, they reflect a more innocent time, especially the amusing novelty songs heard on transistor radios — golden oldies “Charlie Brown,” “Yakety Yak,” “Poison Ivy” and “Love Potion No. 9.”

The assembled artists are a balanced group of pros with Broadway and national tour credits. By the time they united for a moving finale of “Stand by Me,” each performer had a knockout rendition.

First-timer Charl Brown. who was nominated for a Tony for his portrayal of Smokey Robinson in “Motown: The Musical,” showcased his smooth style and wide register with “There Goes My Baby” and “Young Blood.”

Immediately, the audience reacted to Christopher Sam’s rich, deep baritone, and his silky delivery wowed on “Spanish Harlem,” “Loving You” and “Dance with Me.” It’s easy to picture him as Mufasa in “The Lion King” on Broadway.

Photo by Phillip Hamer

Belter Tiffany Mann was sensational with “Fools Fall in Love” and “Hound Dog,” soaring with the gospel tinged “Saved,” which closed the first act with a flourish. Mann, quickly a favorite, was in “Be More Chill” and “Waitress” on Broadway.

The charismatic Mykal Kilgore brought the house down with a passionate “I (Who Have Nothing).” He was Annas in the Muny’s 2018 “Jesus Christ Superstar” and part of the NBC live television concert version earlier that Easter, and also in the network’s live “The Wiz.”  

Excellent dancers Hayley Podschun and Michael Campayno stood out with “Teach Me How to Shimmy.” Podschun, the dance captain, starred as Dainty June in the Muny’s 2018 “Gypsy,” and touched with her sweet solo “Falling.”

Campayno, who played opposite Tony winner Stephanie J. Block in “The Cher Show,” channeled his inner Elvis Presley to lead a peppy “Jailhouse Rock,” and charmed with “Ruby Baby.”

Podschun teamed with Nasia Thomas on a sassy “Trouble.” Thomas, who was in the 2015 “Hairspray” Muny ensemble and played Little Eva in “Beautiful: The Carole King Musical” on Broadway, sang “Don Juan” solo.

In a take-note debut, Dee Roscioli, a long-running Elphaba in “Wicked,” showed versatility in “I Keep Forgettin’” and “Pearl’s a Singer.”. The females all have frisky fun in “I’m a Woman.”

A Smokey Joe’s veteran, expressive Jason Veasey paired with Thomas on “You’re the Boss,” and lead the men in the burlesque homage, “Little Egypt.”

Mykal Gilmore sings “I (Who Have Nothing)” — Photo by Phillip Hamer

Many of the lyrics, being from a different time decades ago, feature sexual innuendo and set society roles. That means it is preferable for more mature audiences, not the wee ones.

Music Director Abdul Hamid Royal, a Tony Award nominee and NAACP Image Award winner for “Five Guys Named Moe,” nimbly conducted the skilled musicians placed on stage, initially behind a storefront and then in plain view during the second act.

Choreographer Josh Walden designed the movements based on original choreography by director Marcia Milgrom Dodge, with whom he has worked before. He wove in the buoyant Muny Teen youth ensemble with aplomb.

Dodge, a frequent Muny collaborator, had helmed “Smokey Joe’s Café” in Chicago, winning a Jefferson Award. Her vision here added oomph to the characters’ stories, and the ensemble seamlessly slipped into specific archetypes.

Costume designer Sully Ratke created characters’ backstories with a keen eye for vintage wardrobes, and the retro apparel captured their personas, especially snazzy hats. Their looks were accented with spot-on wig design by Kelley Jordan.

The sound design by John Shivers and David Patridge was crisp and did not have any noticeable issues.

At an estimated run time of two hours, 11 minutes, the Tony-nominated musical from 1995 zipped along in swift fashion.

Those who like a beefier story with their musical interludes will not be satisfied by the structure, but if you expect a concert-type experience, then you know what is in store.

What is surprising is how the elements all came together to elevate a conventional revue into a more layered theatrical experience. By expanding on what’s considered routine entertainment, the show — directed and performed with verve — is a cut above the ordinary.

Projecting genuine affection for the material and each other, this cheerful cast and splendid creative team achieved its shining moment. And voila! A community was reborn and welcomed back.

I will never take this tradition for granted ever again.

A Muny premiere, “Smokey Joe’s Café” opened July 26 and runs through Sunday, Aug. 1 at 8:15 p.m. on the outdoor stage in Forest Park. Emerson is the 2021 season sponsor.

For more information, visit For tickets, visit or call (314) 361-1900 ext. 1550.

To stay connected virtually and to receive the latest updates, please follow The Muny on their social media channels, including Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

Jack Carl’s vintage postcard of Gaslight Square.

Muny Photos by Phillip Hamer.