He whipped Packers into 'Pitch Perfect' shape

Kendra Meinert
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Deke Sharon, often considered "the father of contemporary a cappella," worked with the Green Bay Packers players for their role in "Pitch Perfect 2."

It didn’t take Deke Sharon long to figure out the best way to work with the Green Bay Packers while making “Pitch Perfect 2” was to take a page out of their own playbook.

In other words, some serious joking around.

Sharon has been called "the father of contemporary a cappella” for an impressive body of work that includes producer of NBC’s “The Sing-Off,” coach on current Lifetime reality series “Pitch Slapped,” artistic producer of "Vocalosity," the new touring show playing Friday at the Weidner Center, and the on-site music director, vocal producer and arranger for both “Pitch Perfect” movies, which is where the Packers come in.

Sharon worked closely with linebacker Clay Matthews and offensive linemen David Bakhtiari, T.J. Lang, Josh Sitton and Don Barclay for their riff-off scene in last year’s sequel to the 2012 surprise a cappella comedy smash.

Packers muscle their way into 'Pitch Perfect 2'

“The great thing about the guys is they laughed the entire time, even before we had them in Baton Rouge, where we filmed ‘Pitch Perfect 2,’” Sharon said. “We’d get them on the phone and they’d be teasing each other all the time and giving each other a hard time. So I was like, ‘All right, I get the idea. I see how this is going down.'"

When on of those calls came to a close, one of the Packers asked whether there was anything else Sharon needed. Just one thing, he said: “We just need to figure out which one of you guys is wearing the tutu?”

Dead silence on the other end.

“And then one of them said, ‘The tutu?’ I said, ‘Yeah, you guys didn’t get the latest script?’ And they said, ‘No.’ Then I said, ‘Ah, just messing with you!’ And they all started laughing.

“Basically, the rest of the time we were all together it was constantly people teasing each other and laughing a lot and making fun,” Sharon said. “It was just so much fun.”

"Pitch Perfect 2" a cappella coach Deke Sharon said the Packers players "had a blast" shooting their scenes for the movie.

Sharon had only about 48 hours to whip the players into vocal shape for their part. He did an arrangement for their scene with the Bellas, which has the guys singing “Bootylicious,” and sent them the parts they could learn by ear. Once in Louisiana for filming, Sharon did a quick rehearsal with them and sent them straight to the studio to record.

“Then they went out and had a nice big steak dinner, and the next day, bam, they were on the set,” Sharon said. “What you hear in the movie is 100 percent Green Bay Packers. Completely guaranteed.”

Sharon, who has produced a cappella albums for acts such as Straight No Chaser and performed for President Bill Clinton with House Jacks, the “rock band without instruments” he founded, is used to working with vocalists who have had some type of training. NFL players were a whole new ballgame, but not the challenge you might think.

“Music, fundamentally, is communication. What the guys brought to the role was a commitment and a joy. ... Sometimes trained singers take things for granted,” Sharon said. “These guys were on point the whole time. The focus was on making sure they sang the right notes, but everything else just fell right into place, because they were just completely committed to what they were doing. They know how to focus and get a job done, obviously, because that’s what being a professional football player is all about.”

What the Packers might have lacked in formal vocal training, they made up for in their knowledge of all things “Pitch Perfect.” They told Sharon they would frequently sing along to the soundtrack of the first movie when they were bench pressing or working out. They knew it so well they could perform the entire finale.

“They even gave us a little demonstration of it,” Sharon said. “It was amazing. Amazing.”

As much fun as the Packers had being part of the movie, Sharon found the experience to be a bit life-changing for himself — but in a way he could never have predicted.

A San Francisco native, Sharon has been “a dyed-in-the-wool” 49ers fan his whole life. But when Bakhtiari, who spearheaded the efforts for he and his teammates to land a cameo, offered to hook Sharon up with tickets to the Packers-49ers game last October, he took him up on it.

“It was the only time in my life I’ve ever rooted against the 49ers, because it was my friends out there playing. They’re like buddies,” Sharon said. “Of course, they did me right.”

kmeinert@pressgazettemedia.com and follow her on Twitter @KendraMeinert

The touring singers in "Vocalosity" will perform songs by everyone from Ed Sheeran to Led Zeppelin Friday night at the Weidner Center.

4 Things to Know About "Vocalosity"

Artistic producer Deke Sharon launched new a cappella touring show "Vocalosity" last week, with Friday’s performance at the Weidner Center just the fourth stop. Here’s what he had to say about the show that features some of biggest songs of the past 50 years, musical theater numbers and even Gregorian chant. 

1. What is it? “It’s really a celebration of the human voice. The medium we’re using is contemporary a cappella. We’ve got 12 fantastic, world-class singers up on that stage. Each one of them a soloist in their own right, each one of them very successful on their own, performing on Broadway, doing national tours, being on television shows like ‘The Sing-Off’ and ‘The Voice.’ But I’ve pulled them all together to create something that’s larger than the sum of the individual parts.” 

2. No instruments, no pyro. “How many times does a big singer go out there on the road and they’re actually just lip syncing to their own track. They’ve got flame pots, and they’ve got these video screens and they have to all these bells and whistles to try to create something that is exciting for people, when in fact, what people really want is they want their hearts touched. They want to be moved. They want to listen to something meaningful and powerful and exciting — something that changes their lives in a really positive way. Sometimes it’s not the big act that comes through town. Sometimes it’s the little coffeehouse performance. Sometimes it’s some kids singing carols outside of your house during the holidays. Those are the kind of moments we’re creating in 'Vocalosity.' Real moments with real people singing music and not relying on all the technology and synthesizers and fake tuning and all the things that are really the backbone of popular music today. We’re trying to bring music to what it was before all that.”

3. If you like the “Pitch Perfect” movies, you’ll like "Vocalosity." “A cappella is best live. There’s an energy, there’s a power, there’s an experience that happens in the room when you hear sound coming out of people’s voices and nothing else going on, just them creating the music. It’s breathtaking. It’s almost spiritual in its power. As much as people love watching the movie ‘Pitch Perfect,’ when they see a great group live it’s even more powerful. And that’s why I had to go create 'Vocalosity' and put it on the road.”

4. It appeals to all ages — really. “Some dad may get dragged along, thinking, ‘Oh, it’s not that great, and then we’re going to launch into a Led Zeppelin tune with distorted guitars and his jaw is going to hit the floor. ... We’ll do an Ed Sheeran tune or Bruno Mars and then some teenager may say, ‘Oh Mom, you made me come to the show. Oh whoa, that was awesome.’ There literally is something for everyone in the show.”


What: "Vocalosity"

When: 7:30 p.m. Friday

Where: Weidner Center, UWGB

Tickets: $24 and up; ticketstaronline.com and (800) 895-0071

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