Monday, January 31, 2011

Delaware's God of Love Takes on Oscar!

Congratulations to Delaware native Luke Matheny, whose short film God of Love has been nominated for an Academy Award for Short Film (Live Action)!  Luke, who grew up in Wilmington, is the writer, director and star of the comedy about a lovestruck lounge-singer with impeccable aim.  You may have seen it in October 2010's Fringe Wilmington Festival, during the Film Brothers Festival of Shorts, where it won the Grand Prize.

Click Here to check out God of Love on DVD!

The Mysterious World of Cats at the NCT

The Full Cast. Photo: NCT
As a teenager in the '80s, my high school drama class took regular trips to New York City to see Broadway shows. This was at the height of Cats fever -- and yet, I never did see it on Broadway, probably because we always bought discount same-day tickets shorty before the show, far too late to land Cats tickets. I wasn't bothered, since there was no shortage of cool shows to see. Still, I was always curious about the much-loved show. When I saw it was showing at the New Candlelight Theater in Ardentown, I had to cover it.

The Broadway run of Cats ended in 2000, having survived through the early '90s pop culture backlash against visual feasts. By the time Disney took Broadway by storm with The Lion King in '97, Cats, I suppose, didn't seem so modern anymore. What's funny, though, is that with mega-spectacles like Lion King, Cats, once the most commercial show in the world, looks almost avant-garde -- especially in the NCT's relatively small room.

Andrew Lloyd Webber composed Cats based on T.S. Elliot's poems in Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats, a poetic guide to the sociology of the domestic cat. The show takes place over one night, when the cats leave their owners to have an annual gathering. Cats are humanized and humans are felinized with singing and dance, and it's all lots of fun to watch.
Cory Wade Hindorff as Rum Tum Tugger

NCT's production, directed by Dann Dunn, looked as spectacular as I'd imagined growing up. Jeff Reim's  set design of an outdoor alley with a distinctive backlit moon overhead was beautifully done. The costumes, designed by Timothy Lamont Cannon, who also plays the patriarchial Old Deuteronomy, and the makeup were just right. A visual feast.

Of course, it could be pretty as can be, but without real talent on stage, the production would fall flat. The cast has it. This is professional theater, Delaware, you don't have to wait for touring musicals to hit the DuPont. Highlights include Lindsay Mauck as Jennyanydots, Kaylan Wetzel as Bombalurina, David Synder as both Bustopher Jones and Gus, Erica Scanlon Harr as Grizabella the Glamour Cat, Ryan Blackson as Mr. Mestoffelees and the scene-stealing rebel Rum Tum Tugger, awesomely played by Cory Wade Hindorff. The show has a large ensemble, and it's all good.

As always, the NCT serves a dinner buffet (included in the ticket price) and has a cash bar featuring wine, beer and themed cocktails. Cats runs through March 20th, 2011, and will be followed by their spring production, The Full Monty.

The New Candlelight Theater

Behind the Scenes: Interview with Cats Director/Choreographer Dann Dunn

Art Fusion: Contemporary Music & Art Come Together in Wilmo

Next Friday night, while you're out and about on Wilmington's Art Loop, make a point to stop at Shipley Artist Lofts at 701 Shipley Street.  A multi-genre expression of art awaits you there, in a stellar example of artistic collaboration and clever cross-promotion.

The Delaware-based five-piece Baroque/contemporary ensemble Mélomanie and composer Mark Hagerty are each releasing new CDs next week (entitled Florescence and Soliloquy, respectively), and they have partnered with visual artist Kevin Bielicki for a party of the contemporary Arts, adding even more flair to the February 4 Art on the Town.  Mélomanie presents their annual concert series in downtown Wilmington at Grace Church (their next performance follows on February 19).  Mélomanie's CD features 5 local composers including Ingrid Arauco, Christopher Braddock, Mark Hagerty, Chuck Holdeman and Mark Rimple as well as local musicians Fran Berge, Lynne Cooksey, Donna Fournier, Eve Friedman, Douglas McNames, Kimberly Reighley and Tracy Richardson.

While Mélomanie and Mark Hagerty party it up on the lower level of Shipley's Chris White Gallery---with complimentary food & drink, CDs for sale, composers and musicians on hand to meet & greet, and the CD music played throughout the night---Bielicki will present a mixed media exhibit on both floors.  And attendees are encouraged to mix and mingle: music fans can discover Bielicki's sculpture and acrylic works, and visuals arts buffs can enjoy fantastic modern music by local musicians and composers.

Don't miss it!

Saturday, January 29, 2011

A Trip (Musical) Centuries in the Making

Last Sunday, blogger Holly brought me up to speed on this performance by two local musicians.  We couldn't resist passing along the info to you, even if a bit late!  The program, Centuries of Song, featured Jessica Graae, providing her talents as soprano and guitarist, with pianist Margaret Darby.  The artists led their audience on a musical journey through the ages, right up to now.
The tour began in the late 1700s with two pieces by Mozart in Italian, In Uomini and Una Donna, both of which are arias from Cosi Fan Tutte. The next segment featured four turn-of-the-20th Century pieces by Gustav Mahler, all dark German pieces (Holly's favorite: Um Mitternacht). 

Delaware's always edgy and exciting composer, Chuck Holdeman, was there to introduce three of his pieces: A Ring, Into the Cloud, and At the Bend, all based on works by poet Laureate W.S. Merwin.  Chuck read Merwin's poems in the New Yorker and decided to set them to music, which he then mailed to Merwin in Hawaii.  This was the first performance of these songs east of Texas, so again, Delawareans are very fortunate for the wealth of Arts experiences available in our state!

After this contemporary segment, Jessica switched to guitar and played three beautiful Renaissance-era lute transcriptions in English by Thomas Campion, John Dowland and Francis Pilkington.

As its titled suggested, the recital definitely took us on a journey through time (though not in chronological order, which Holly said she particularly enjoyed ). The mood ranged from bold to haunting, with the main themes of love mixed with cynicism and hope.  Having seen these two performers in the past, I can say that they are a great pairing.  Jessica can shift languages, genres and tone effortlessly and beautifully, and Margaret is her perfect complement.  Their energy feeds one another, and you can see that they enjoy performing together. 

The Sacred Heart Oratory, at 917 N. Madison, has more shows coming up in February and March, including February 20, Knights of Columbus Choir; Alan Henderson, Director and March 20, Holy Cross Chamber Ensemble; The Light and Mercy of God: Music for Lent.  All performances are at 3:00pm and cost is a freewill offering that benefits the Oratory.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Meet Lucy at the DTC

Vivian is a woman who has journeyed to far off lands as an acclaimed anthropologist, but her journey with her 13 year-old daughter, Lucy, takes her -- and the audience -- to places more intense than the most exotic locale.

Damien Atkins' "Lucy," in only its second U.S. performance run, is visually, sonically and emotionally stunning. The first thing you notice, even before the play begins, is scenic designer Alexis Distler's striking set, an almost life-sized outline of a house. The design is sleek and stylized, almost evoking a child's drawing. When the actors are on stage, the set melts away, and its as if you're peeking in on a real family rather than watching a play. The script, directing and the acting, of course, makes this happen. All of the actors, under the direction of David Stradley -- Kate Eastwood Norris as Vivian, Andrea Green as Lucy, Charlie DelMarcelle as Lucy's father Gavin, Karen Peakes as Vivian's assistant Julia and  Ross Beschler as Lucy's therapist -- fit into their roles extremely well.

The script takes on the challenge of looking into the mind of an autistic girl by having Lucy speak to the audience as the play's narrator. Out of narration mode, she's written with the traits common to autism -- rocking, repeating phrases, recoiling from being touched -- a character that Atkins had researched with autism experts for more than two years.

This is about Vivian's journey more than anything else, though. When her ex-husband Gavin approaches her about helping to raise Lucy, Vivian is on an archaeological dig and hasn't seen her daughter in years. She initially refuses to take charge of Lucy's care and therapy for a year while Gavin establishes a new marriage, but eventually gives in. Back home, she seems out of place, and she is thoroughly overwhelmed by Lucy. With the help of Julia and Lucy's therapist, she attempts to deal with her new life. Desperate to find answers, her once sparse home becomes filled with books as she searches for the reason Lucy is the way she is. Then something clicks (or snaps, depending on how you look at it). It's no longer Vivian's journey alone, but a journey she takes with Lucy. The result is alarming at times and exploding with emotion and visual surreality.

"Lucy" brings forth different theories about autism, some you've likely heard before, and one in particular that is far from mainstream thinking, but it doesn't really "sell" any theory so much as it gives the viewer a lot to think about.

"Lucy" runs through February 6. In addition, the gallery at DTC features the work artists Jermaine "Jerry" Williams, Bess Lumsden, Louis Middleton and Tony Labate. The Baltimore-based studio arts program supports emerging artists with disabilities. A nice companion to the play, the art show stands on its own and is worth spending some time with while you're there.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Mélomanie Lights Up with FireDance

As always, Mélomanie takes the audience to new horizons. The ensemble’s winter concert included works by Louis-Gabriel Guillemain, Diane R. Jones, J.S. Bach and Bohuslav Martinů.  The concert began with a lovely, airy quartet by the French composer, Louis-Gabriel Guillemain. Kimberly Reighly played the baroque flute, with Donna Fournier on viola da gamba and Douglas McNames on baroque cello and Tracy Richardson on harpsichord.

Diane R. Jones described to the audience how she was inspired to write FireDance, commissioned by Mélomanie, as she sat outside her house, watching the fire at night. I realized how lucky we were to hear a composer talk about her work. So often we must delve into history books, hoping musicologists have understood the hearts and minds of composers. In writing the piece, Jones became fascinated with the idea of crafting a modern work for period (baroque) instruments.

FireDance lives up to its name. The first movement, Sparks has short bursts of melody, with one instrument beginning and another taking over. Reighly (baroque flute) and Elizabeth Field (baroque violin) are so skilled at matching their tones that the melody flows effortlessly. The second movement Embers starts out with only strings. We can picture the fire being ignited, as instruments are added. Jones gestures to early music in the third movement, Flames. It begins with a violins solo, followed by sections of imitation and sequences-staples of baroque composition.

Douglas McNames tackled Bach’s Suite in E flat minor. On a Landophi instrument (built in 1750), strung with steel strings, instead of gut, and resting on a modern endpin, he played with precision and passion.

The Martinů Promenades for flute, violin and harpsichord is a jewel. Here, Elizabeth Field showed off some of her sweetest violin playing. The piece exploits the harpsichord’s nasal tones in a quirky way. Typical of many European composers from that period, Martinů drew on a rich store of folk music, infusing his works with colorful melodies and rhythms.

Be sure to check out the release party for both Mélomanie’s and Mark Hagerty’s CDs at the Shipley Lofts in downtown Wilmington on Friday, February 4, from 5:30-8:00pm!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

New Ark Chorale Announces Mid-Season Auditions

For its upcoming April 9 "Mass of the Children" concert, New Ark Chorale invites vocalists to audition to join as guest singers in the performance.

All singers are required to attend three of the four rehearsals, held March 8, 15, 22 & 29 at Newark United Methodist Church in Newark from 7:30-9:30pm, and attendance at the dress rehearsal on April 5 is mandatory.  There is a $20 participation fee. 

Auditions will be scheduled on an individual basis. Contact Michael Larkin at 302.475.5658 or or Joanne Ward at 856.371.6371 or

Rutter's Mass of the Children with Delaware Children's Chorus & chamber orchestra
Saturday, April 9, 2011, 7:00pm
Newark United Methodist Church, 69 E. Main Street, Newark
The Chorale and the DCC collaborate in this program which will benefit Camp New Hope of Delaware Hospice.
Tickets $15 · $12 Seniors · $5 Students · Children 12 & under admitted free.
Purchase at the door or reserve by calling 302.368.4946 or purchase online at