‘Such a Night’: One man’s dream becomes community-building tradition

Annual fundraiser for WYSO and other local organizations pays tribute to iconic concert and film.



Jeff Opt had a dream. The Daytonian wanted to organize a one-off performance recreating the Band’s final concert in 1976 and the Martin Scorsese film documenting the star-studded occasion. “Such a Night: The Last Waltz Live” was so successful it became a popular annual fundraising event, being presented by Opt and WYSO-FM (91.3) at Victoria Theatre in Dayton on Wednesday, Nov. 22.

“It has been an amazing ride,” Opt said. “If you had told me 10 years ago when we first kicked off this crazy idea that it would become a Dayton tradition that had raised tens of thousands of dollars to support WYSO and other local organizations I would’ve been like, ‘Wow, really?’ Our intent was to do one really good show.”

Homegrown talent

“Such a Night” has been quite a journey for Opt, who also helped start Yellow Cab Tavern and the annual arts and music festival Sideshow. The concert has been in different venues, including Gilly’s, Dayton Art Institute and the Masonic Center. There have been different opportunities such as a Schuster Center performance with the Dayton Philharmonic Orchestra in 2018. Some of the production’s participants have changed, but many of the local musicians have been involved since the beginning.

Regardless of the changes, the concept has remained the same: to mount a show where more than two dozen local luminaries pay tribute to an iconic concert. The group of Dayton musicians in the core band include Jimmy D. Rogers, Patrick Himes, Rich Reuter, Trey Stone, Phil Caviness and Steve Phelps. Guest vocalists include Paige Beller, Matt Byanski, Brian Hoeflich, Khrys Blank and Seth Gilliam.

“It’s great to have such heavy hitters from the past like Sharon Lane, Gary King and Jimmy Rogers interacting with this younger group of musicians just coming up,” Opt said. “We’ve gotten people together that never would’ve encountered each other. I figured out we probably have three generations of Dayton music on stage at any one time. I’ve also become better friends with more of the musical community through doing this.

“What’s interesting with having done ‘Last Waltz’ for 10 years, is it has been a very organic process,’ Opt continued. “It all started because I had a stage and a PA at Yellow Cab and this crazy idea. I was like, ‘Hey, who wants to come down and try this?’ I had enough friends who joined in and they invited people. Ten years on we’re all a little bit different from where we were when it all started but every year it has just occurred organically.”



Behind the scenes

Opt is being a bit modest. He works throughout the year on logistics, which includes coordinating with WYSO, venue staff and organizations the concert supports like Adventure Chicks. There is Reuter and Phelps overseeing the musical side, which includes pre-production, securing talent and organizing rehearsals.

“It feels good to do this,” Reuter said. “I’ve been involved since the beginning. I did the Clapton role the first few years and then slipped into the core band when a spot opened so it’s been 10 years. It’s a nice tradition to return to and it’s great people are coming back year after year. Last year was a bit different in that we were knocking the rust off after a few years off for COVID.

“I was a little more stressed trying to get that going,” Reuter continued. “This year we have 2022 under our belt and everybody is back up on the material pretty well. It’s always a lot to pull together that many musicians and try to get everything hashed out but it sounds really good.”

There is also the ongoing support from WYSO, which has been involved since the second concert.

“WYSO is a very strong supporter of us doing this every year,” Opt said. “Like me, they see it as a community event as much as a concert. It’s an opportunity for everyone to get together and see old friends, make some new friends and have some good music along the way.”

Reuter agrees.

“What I will take away from this show is that it was really key for me meeting so many people in the scene,” he said. “I might not have crossed paths with them otherwise and they’ve become a regular part of my musical and personal life. The camaraderie and collaboration have always been really great. It has been a great nexus for local musicians.

“Jeff has created something that people have made a big part of their lives year after year,” Reuter continued. “People have parties around this show. I know people that have been married for five years that had their first date there. It has become a significant thing for a lot of people and it’s really nice to be a part of that.”

Another venue change

This is the first time “Such a Night” has been presented at Victoria Theatre.

“We’re really looking forward to doing it in the Victoria,” Reuter said. “That’s something we always wanted to do but didn’t think was feasible. As soon as we reached out, they’ve been great about making this happen and accommodating us and being really communicative. It’s going to be a very positive experience for both us and the audience.

“Victoria is the size we need now that we’ve grown like we have,” Reuter continued. “It’s great to be in a nice historic venue that has that ballroom theater feel the movie has.”

That appeal wasn’t lost on some savvy ticket buyers.

“When we put tickets on sale, there were 20 people outside the Schuster box office,” Opt said. “They were lined up to get their tickets as soon as they went on sale because they wanted to be in the front row. It’s amazing to me we have built such a community that continues to support us year after year. We’re able to bring holiday joy to people and give them something to look forward to.”



Creating new ripples

With a decade of work behind him, Opt is working to map out the concert’s future.

“The interesting next phase of the show will be making it more organized,” Opt said. “We may build a nonprofit corporation so it can be self-sustaining and hopefully even provide an outlet for other productions. One of the big things working with YSO has afforded us is their nonprofit status. They’ve been willing to handle the bookkeeping and backend stuff for us. Maybe it’s time for us to grow into that ourselves.

“It’s interesting, I’m sitting here thinking about the possibility of growing an organization out of a one-off event,” Opt added. “But that’s how Sideshow started and we built it in such a way that it’s still going. From that came Garden Station and Yellow Cab. From Yellow Cab came ‘Such a Night.’ It’s a story of little movements that create bigger ripples.”

Contact this contributing writer at 937-287-6139 or donthrasher100@gmail.com.


What: WYSO & Jeff Opt present Such a Night: The Last Waltz Live

Where: Victoria Theatre, 138 N. Main St., Dayton

When: 7 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 22

Cost: $23.50 to $43.50

More info: www.suchanight.org

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