Will Tony Orlando tie a yellow ribbon around Johnstown?

With the help of a special, seasonal guest, Tony Orlando will perform a mix of his hit songs and a variety of Christmas music through the years during his "Great American Christmas." (Courtesy photo)
With the help of a special, seasonal guest, Tony Orlando will perform a mix of his hit songs and a variety of Christmas music through the years during his “Great American Christmas.” (Courtesy photo)

By Jessica Benes

Tony Orlando is well-known for hit songs such as “Tie a Yellow Ribbon Round the Ole Oak Tree” and “Knock Three Times,” both of which he performed with the band “Dawn.”

Expect to hear those songs, as well as holiday standards, when Orlando brings his “Great American Christmas” to the Candlelight Dinner Playhouse in Johnstown Dec. 15-16.

Orlando used to perform the Christmas show at the Yellow Ribbon Music Theater in Branson, Mo., and he always wanted to take it on the road. So he is excited to be spending all of December traveling with the show.

“The show finds itself on a journey through our Christmas music,” Orlando said during a recent phone interview. “It contains not only traditional songs but also has a magical moment with sharing the true meaning of Christmas. That is, the birth of Christ.”

During the show, Santa Claus is actually the guide who leads the audience to the true meaning of Christmas in the show, Jesus.

“The show has been so overwhelmingly successful so it’s a joy to bring it on the road,” Orlando said.

The performance is meant to be a beautiful Christmas experience but without the predictability of Christmas-scarf-wearing ice skaters in other shows, he said.

Besides the Christmas songs, Orlando said he will be singing such hits as “Sweet Gypsy Rose” and “Candida,” as well as “He Don’t Love You (Like I Love You),” “Knock Three Times” and “Tie a Yellow Ribbon Round the Ole Oak Tree.”

The latter, which was written by Irwin Levine and L. Russell Brown, became particularly well-known in the 1970s and 1980s as a song that embodies homecoming, hope and renewal, especially for military men returning from war, Orlando said.

He said the yellow ribbon exploded as a symbol in 1980 during the Iranian hostage situation in which 52 American diplomats were held for 444 days (the inspiration for the film “Argo”) and that yellow ribbons have welcomed home troops from Desert Storm, Iraq, Afghanistan and more.

In the mid-1980s, Northern Colorado residents tied yellow ribbons around trees and prayed for the safe return of Colorado State University professor Tom Sutherland, who was kidnapped by Islamic Jihad near Beirut in 1985 and held until 1991.

“It has been a journey that you wouldn’t believe,” Orlando said.

He recently returned from an Asian tour and stopped in Manila, where he learned that late Philippines president Corazon Aquino used “Yellow Ribbon” as her theme song.

“It represented a brave lady who lost her husband to a terrorist and then became president. I wasn’t aware of how huge it was in that country,” Orlando said.

He said his 54 years in show business has been a wild ride. He has performed for seven presidents, been inducted into the Hollywood Walk of Fame and won three Grammys and three American Music Awards.

“And I’m two years younger than Paul McCartney,” said Orlando, 70. “I’m so happy to be two years younger than a Beatle. Us old guys are still doing great things.”

Jessica Benes: 970-669-5050 ext. 530, jbenes@aespotlight.com, twitter.com/jessicabenes.

If you go

What: Tony Orlando’s “Great American Christmas”

When: Monday, Dec. 15, and Tuesday, Dec. 16. Seating at 6 p.m., dinner service at 6:15, concert at 7:30

Where: Candlelight Dinner Playhouse, 4747 Marketplace Drive, Johnstown

Tickets: $54.50-$84.50

Info: 970-744-3747 or coloradocandlelight.com

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