Eight is Enough: Gentleman's Rule, minus two, ready for new tour and PBS TV special

2013-11-07T00:00:00Z 2013-11-14T21:38:05Z Eight is Enough: Gentleman's Rule, minus two, ready for new tour and PBS TV specialBy Philip Potempa philip.potempa@nwi.com, (219) 852-4327 nwitimes.com

It was a year ago when Gentleman's Rule, a new a cappella group with a unique style, sound and youthful look, launched to a legion of audience fans during their two-week successful run at Royal George Theatre in Chicago.

But the brainstorm that gave birth to the group's formation remains based in Northwest Indiana.

Established in 2012, the group is managed by the team effort duo of Charlie Blum, president/CEO of Star Plaza Theatre in Merrillville and creator of the a cappella group Under the Streetlamp, and Dan Ponce, reporter/anchor for WGN-TV, radio host on WLS Radio (890 AM) and founder of the hit group Straight No Chaser.

Ponce, who is also a former member of Straight No Chaser, is the son of WTTW's "Chicago Tonight" host Phil Ponce, a native of East Chicago.  brilliantly come together to take a cappella to a whole new level!

Blum credits the founding of Gentleman's Rule to Ponce, who was also the first music director of Straight No Chaser.

"These outstanding young vocalists received rave reviews from critics and concertgoers alike during their two-week run at the historic Royal George Theatre in Chicago," Blum said.

"The group then went on tour across the country as the opening act for Under The Streetlamp."

Having released their debut album, "Act Accordingly," on Arena Child Records, Gentleman's Rule has been in rehearsal the last two weeks at Star Plaza Theatre in Merrillville for their first PBS television special, set to air in March 2014.

The show taping happens at 8 p.m. Saturday at Star Plaza Theatre during the group's live concert, which has already been sold out for weeks.

"Because of the obscured sight lines and seating lost because of what's needed to stage a television taping, we were limited in how many seats we could devote for the audience," Blum said.

"The 1,200 tickets we did have moved very fast. But for anyone who isn't able to attend Saturday, a major spring tour will follow and those details will be announced soon."

On Monday, the members of Gentleman's Rule were busy with promotional photo shoot with Crown Point photographer Edda Taylor for brand new publicity photos. Originally consisting of 10 members when the group began a year ago, Blum said Gentleman's Rule has been streamlined now to eight singers, all from the original launch and now consisting of Will "Willielock" Lockhart, Brent Mann, Luke Mechling, Holland Nightenhelser, Jasper Smith, Jesse Townes, Andrew Morstein and TJ Breen.

"Dan and I met through a mutual friend at WTTW who put the two of us together and we basically bonded," Blum said.

"He knows music and I know the business so we became fast friends."

He said both he and Ponce are happy to bring this vibrant group to the musical forefront. With this project, Blum added that Star Productions continues to expand its reach beyond the Star Plaza Theatre.

"Currently, Star Productions produces and presents shows in numerous markets across the country," Blum said.

Ponce said the members of Gentleman's Rule are a great group of guys with a solid and creative musical background.

"All the guys are graduates of IU [Indiana University] and all are former members of Straight No Chaser," he said, explaining the singers were part of the undergraduate Straight No Chaser which is affiliated with the school and not the professional touring entity. IU's Straight No Chaser was recently renamed Another Round.

Ponce said while Straight No Chaser is a "trailblazing" group, the members of Gentleman's Rule also stand out for their vocal talents and energy.

"I'm blown away by the star soloists that are in Gentleman's Rule," Ponce said, adding that the group itself has a young sound.

Added Blum, "They bring a younger vitality and a wider music selection. It's a different look" from other groups such as Under the Streetlamp and Straight No Chaser.

Ponce said that with a cappella, "there's nothing to hide behind" vocally.

The group's first album, "Act Accordingly," contains a mix of tunes. Ponce and Deke Sharon produce and write the group's vocal arrangements.

"They do a great variety of music," Ponce said. Everything from contemporary tunes to old school hits are tackled by the guys.

Blum and Ponce agreed it's been rewarding working together and they admire one another's past accomplishments.

"Dan's success with Straight No Chaser is well-known," Blum said. "He's taken that strength and genius and applied it to Gentleman's Rule."

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