Thursday, September 20, 2018

Candlelight's "Brigadoon" Enchants and Delights


By Charles "Ebbie" Alfree, III

Candlelight Theatre opens its 50th season with Lerner & Loewe’s classic musical, Brigadoon. As the legend goes, a village called Brigadoon awakens every 100 years in the Scottish highlands and remains awoken for only one day.

Director Bob Kelly does a fine job of bringing this magical story about two current day Americans (Tommy Albright and Jeff Douglas) who are exploring Scotland and happen to be visiting on the day Brigadoon comes to life. They get pulled into the mystery and romance that surround the residents within the fantasy village. 

Brigadoon is whimsical, but the story is slim…it’s the typical boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy gets girl in the end. The twist is that the boy (Tommy) has to make a decision within a day…is he willing to give up everything for the girl (his newfound love, Brigadoon citizen Fiona MacLaren). 

According to the laws of Brigadoon, a person can only move into the village if it’s for true love. Once a person comes to Brigadoon, he/she can never leave because if a resident should leave it would cause the village to disappear forever.   

However, the timeless score written by Alan Jay Lerner (book and lyrics) and Frederick Loewe (music) soars through the historic barn and into your heart. Songs include The Heather on the Hill, Almost Like Being in Love and my personal favorite, Come to Me, Bend to Me.

Kelly has assembled a magnificent cast, that do a great job using a Scottish accent. Sophie Jones is absolutely delightful as Fiona. She has a stunning voice and brings a sweetness to the character that would make a man fall in love with her within 24 hours. The man (Tommy) is played by the handsome Andy Boettcher. With his matinee idol looks and beautiful voice, it’s easy to see how Fiona would be wooed by him.

They are supported by a wonderful cast, that includes Analisa Wall as Fiona’s friend Meg Brockie and Jared Calhoun as Tommy’s friend Jeff Douglas. Both Wall and Douglas bring comedic fare to the show, especially when Meg recounts the many loves of her life to Jeff during her tongue-in-cheek number, The Love of My Life.  

The show also boasts both exuberant and passionate dance numbers by choreographer, Jody Anderson. Deirdre Treacy as Maggie mesmerizes in her solo dance to mourn the death of a Brigadoon resident who accidently dies while trying to leave the village. Her subtle and exquisite moves express the love and sadness felt by all the villagers.

Tara Bowers has created gorgeous period costumes that allow the dancers and cast to move freely on the beautiful set by scenic designer, Jeff Reim. Bowers’ tartan patterns on the wool clothing perfectly compliment Reim’s stoned outlined set with a sumptuous Scottish landscape that sits in the distance.

I say treat yourself and your family to an enchanting night at Candlelight Theater and see Brigadoon before it disappears on October 28. 

For tickets visit www.candlelighttheatredelaware.org or 302.475.2313. 

DTC Presents A Bruce Graham World Premiere in "Sanctions"


By Charles "Ebbie" Alfree, III

The Delaware Theatre Company (DTC) opens its 40th season with Sanctions, a World Premiere play by Bruce Graham. This timely piece touches upon controversial topics discussed daily in the news.

Graham focuses on the darker side of college football — revealing the questionable business decisions that occur off the field and behind the scenes.  It’s a gritty inside view of the challenging choices that some people make to ensure a successful team, regardless of the cost.

Catharine K. Slusar and Edward O’Blenis in Sanctions.
Photo by Matt Urban.
Graham has written a gripping play with four layered characters challenged by ethical and moral dilemmas about gender, race, and sexual assault. The superb cast features Catharine K. Slusar, in a terrific DTC debut, as the tenured English professor Claire Torrance, who is not only a great fan of the university’s football team, but is also the players’ educational supervisor.

While Claire has recently lost her beloved father, with whom she attended football games throughout her life, and is grappling with a personal scandal in her marriage. Now, she faces a choice of what is more important  the love of the game, educating students or protecting the welfare of the student body.

Slusar gives a textured performance. She’s able to bring a vulnerability to the strong role, delivering a completely formed character. The superb supporting cast includes Susanne Collins as the na├»ve freshman; Abby Barton, who works for Claire’ tutoring program, but also befriends Clair; Kimberly S. Fairbanks as the stern head of Claire’s department; Tonya Mann, who is not phased by Claire’s previous accomplishments, but is concerned about her current actions and comments; and Edward O’Blenis as the university’s go-getting recruiter, Ronald Hitchens, who works closely with Clair.  

O’Blenis is quite engaging as the ruthless Ronald, who will stop at almost nothing to form a winning team. He and Graham’s interactions intensify to a point that is easily palpable.

The stirring cast is led by director (and DTC Producing Artistic Director) Bud Martin who has created a pace that never lulls but continues to reveal unexpected twists and turns. He’s able to do this with the help of the exquisite set by Dirk Durossette, which provides the scenes for Claire’s and Tonya’s offices; seats in the stands; and Claire’s living room, and the play moves seamlessly without having to move sets and reconfigure the stage.

Graham has done a fine job of capturing the senstive issues and themes around the #metoo movement and university scandals that have recently and sadly continue to make headlines.

Sanctions closes on September 30 2018. For tickets, visit delawaretheatre.org or 302.594.1100.

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Concerts on Kentmere: 10 Years IN & Stronger Than Ever

This post appears courtesy of inWilmDE.com...
By Christine Facciolo

The Delaware Art Museum INvites you to join in celebrating the 10th anniversary season of its’ Concerts on Kentmere series, featuring performances by Pyxis, Wilmington’s premier piano quartet.

The ensemble — Luigi Mazzocchi (violin), Amy Leonard (viola), Jennifer Jie Jin (cello) and Hiroko Yamazaki (piano) — will perform three concerts during the 2018-19 season, the final event featuring a commissioned work by David Schelat.

Commissions are playing a greater role in the Museum’s offerings. “That’s something the Museum is doing across all programs, trying to respond in the moment to art and to current times,” said Jonathan Whitney, performance & community engagement manager at the Museum. “So we’re bringing Pyxis in on that because they’re one of our ensembles.”

The milestone season will also see a closer relationship between Pyxis’ repertoire and the exhibits.

“We met with all the curators last spring before we planned our season because we wanted to see what we had to work with,” said Leonard.

The first concert which takes place on September 27 provides the musical response to the work of conceptual artist Hank Willis Thomas. The commissioned exhibit — “Black Survival Guide, or How to Live Through a Police Riot” — tells the lesser-known stories of the 1968 riots and occupation of Wilmington through a series of fourteen retro-reflective prints drawn from the photographic archives of the Delaware Historical Society and The News Journal. Viewers become “activists” when they apply light to the prints revealing hidden images.

Pyxis will complement the exhibit with a performance of Alfred Schnittke’s Prelude in Memoriam Dmitri Shostakovich. “There are many layers involved and secret meanings and things that aren’t immediately apparent,” said Leonard. “And we’ll be performing it in a very kinetic way, spreading ourselves out in the space.” The program will also feature a performance of Debussy’s cello sonata, a work written as the composer struggled under the physical and psychological oppression of terminal cancer.

The artistic accomplishments of women will be the focus when Pyxis performs on January 10, 2019. “The Feminine Mystique” honors the work of pre-Raphaelite artist and mid-19th Century feminist and women’s rights activist Barbara Bodichon. Leonard and company will offer a musical response with works by such trailblazing composers as Germaine Tailleferre, Rebecca Clarke, Dora Pejacevic and Gwyneth Walker whose “Letters to the World” reflects on the poetry of Emily Dickinson.

“Tailleferre was the only female member of the group known as Les Six and Rebecca Clarke was one of the first women to play in a symphony orchestra,” said Leonard.

Pyxis’ final concert on May 2 will explore the relationship between color and sound. The ensemble will perform vibrant works by Brahms (Piano Quintet in F minor featuring guest violinist Dara Morales of the Philadelphia Orchestra) and Beethoven (the String Quartet in E-Flat Major nicknamed the “Harp” for its use of pizzicato).

The concert will also feature a newly commissioned work by David Schelat. Leonard doesn’t know much about it yet but hopes it’s challenging. “I hope it’s really hard and that he gives us plenty of ‘crunchy’ harmonies.”

Concert dates: Thursdays, September 27, January 10, (Snow date Sunday, January 13), May 2. Prior to each concert, the museum's curator will offer a brief personal insight.

Curator talks begin at 7:30 p.m. Performances begin at 8:00 p.m.