Wednesday, December 18, 2013

A Christmas Tradition Continues with Carols in Color

Photo: Eleone Dance Company


Few holidays shows are as inspiring as Carols in Color, a Holiday Dance Music Celebration, performed in Wilmington by Eleone Dance Theatre and presented by Christina Cultural Arts Center and Revive the Village. For 22 years, the show, a spectacular telling of the Biblical Christmas story with an African American Gospel flavor, has graced area stages. Whether the show is performed in a high school auditorium or a big proscenium theater, it always delivers. This year, the Wilmington show was performed at The Grand Opera House downtown to a packed room, including many local children and families, some of whom were gifted with tickets through CCAC.

That generosity is part of Eleone Dance Theatre Artistic Director Shawn-Lamere Williams' mission. "We must invest in our children," he said after the show. "There's a saying, 'It Takes a Village to Raise a Child.' Today it takes a World to Raise a Child."

Funds raised from Carols in Color and its sponsors, including United Way of Delaware, Delaware Division of the Arts, AstraZeneca, Black Heritage Education & Theatre Group, Center Wilmington Early Learning Readiness Team, and Delaware Office of Early Learning, help to support Christina Cultural Arts Center Education Programs.

For the uninitiated, Carols in Color is an original production of the Eleone Dance Company in Philadelphia, conceived by the company's founder, E. Leon Evans, II. It combines modern dance and a live Gospel chorus, as well as music from various gospel artists, to tell the Christmas story starting from Gabriel's first visit Mart?. Several local students of Christina Cultural Arts Center? also participate in the show.

The first act of Carols in Color focuses on the confusion, helplessness and hardship Mary and Joseph faced as they dealt with her very unexpected pregnancy. Most of the first act is comprised of beautiful solo dances -- performed this year by Anthony Rhodes as Gabriel, Dara J. Meredith as Mary, Matthew Thomas as Joseph and A'aliyah Khan as the Angel of God -- with their voices sung by Jeremy Isaac, Tina Finks/Germaine Downing, Kairi Guinn and Tia McNeil, respectively. Songs include "What Shall I Do," "Bridge Over Troubled Waters" and "No Place To Go."

The second act opens with "Go Tell It On The Mountain," as Mary presents the baby Jesus, played by little Dakota Meredith. The celebration continues with "Hallelujah" from Handel's Messiah: A Soulful Celebration, "The First Noel," "Silent Night," with "Angels We Have Heard On High" finishing the show with the entire cast of dancers and singers on stage.


If you missed this year's celebration, be sure to catch it next year, when the company will continue the tradition for the 23rd year. For more information on how to support Christina Cultural Arts Center and Carols in Color, go to ccacde.org and eleonedance.org.


Friday, December 13, 2013

DCCA Call for Solo Exhibition Artists

The Delaware Center for the Contemporary Arts (DCCA) is now accepting applications for 2016 Members' Solo Exhibitions. The DCCA is a non-collecting museum that functions as a kunsthalle for temporary exhibitions. Previously a railroad car factory, the DCCA is situated in the growing Riverfront area adjacent to downtown Wilmington.

Download the printable PDF application here or call 302.656.6466 for more information.

To apply for a solo exhibition scheduled in 2016, you:
* must be a current DCCA member at the time of the postmark deadline.
* must not have exhibited in a solo show at the DCCA in the last two years.

Postmark Deadline January 31, 2014.  Late entries or works not conforming to these guidelines will not be reviewed. No application materials will be returned. If you have questions, please contact J. Gordon, Curatorial Associate, at jgordon@thedcca.org, or by calling 302.656.6466, ext 7112.

Mail all materials to: Delaware Center for the Contemporary Arts, 200 S. Madison Street, Wilmington, DE 19801
Attention: 2016 Members’ Solo Exhibition Review

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Let City Theater Company Entertain You!

Karen Murdock and Nicole Hemphill
When an excerpt of the 1957 memoirs of the stripper Gypsy Rose Lee was published in Harper’s Magazine, it caught the attention of both producer David Merrick and theatre star Ethel Merman.  Merman refused to have an unknown composer (Stephen Sondheim) write the music, so they got Jule Styne to create the rather complex and busy score of Gypsy.  Michael Gray produced this musical for the City Theater Company to celebrate their twentieth anniversary and created a lively production that is every bit as sharp and poignant as I remember from the giant Broadway production of a few decades ago.

The orchestra started quietly and then warmed up with superb cues and panache as they bumped it with great trumpet from Bob Baronio from the small pit orchestra seated in the middle of the courageously raised rectangular round walkway.  The spaces behind the seats were also used for stripping, teasing and other exciting burlesque.  Men had their heads rubbed, shawls draped over them and 'Mr.Goldstone' was drafted without notice from the audience. (Watch out, gentlemen — you may find yourself on stage!)  The only complaint I could make about the stage setup was that if you sit across from the spotlights, you will be blinded.
Dylan Geringer and Zachary Chiero
Mama Rose was an unstoppable train as Karen Murdock played the role with a vengeance.  Her stage motherness was palpable and she built to a crescendo her desire for fame and success.  Murdock’s singing is truly moving, and she took it to the Merman-esque growl with perfection.  (Totally different from her tear-jerking solo of Send in the clowns in CTC's 2011 production of A little night music, which is still in my head). 
Another brilliant move was placing the three Junes and three Louises together to show their physical growth, which Mama Rose never wanted to recognize.  Kerry Kristine McElrone used some sort of magic to evince the horror she felt when Mama Rose wanted her to go beyond entertainment to survival. Her small gestures were so dramatic and yet subtle as she remembered her youthful self (appearing on stage) and swallowed it while moving on.
And Nicole Hemphill, a veteran child actrress, was a treat as the perfect baby June — following the masterful choreography (designed by CTC longtime choreographer, Dawn Morningstar) of Zachary Chiero’s Tulsa as if she had been waiting for a leader.  Dylan Geringer was also excellent at bumping her ballet up to a fine femme fatale.  And you ain’t seen nothin’ 'til you see Mazeppa bump it. It is hard to tell whether his instant costume change or his outrageousness is more impressive!
The production is about the bawdy, but I recommend it as safe for the whole family as the message is much more about love and ambition than anything else.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Things to “Artify” Your Holidays

The holidays are a time to celebrate, make memories and give a little back. We’ve compiled an arts-centric list so you can do just that. Happy (Arty) Holidays from Delaware Arts Info!  

1. Shop the Arts
There’s nothing like finding that perfect, one-of-a-kind holiday gift — and nowhere better to find it than shopping with the Arts!  The Delaware Center for Contemporary Arts’ Alternatives Museum Shop Holiday Craft Show on December 6 & 7 features more than 20 artists’ work in jewelry, ceramics, woodworking and fun accessories.
www.thedcca.org

That same weekend, the Delaware Art Museum’s Winter Art Fair on December 7 & 8, features museum Studio Art instructors and their works. Plus, 25% of proceeds benefit the museum’s education department.
www.delart.org
 

 And also this weekend: Rehoboth Art League Holiday Open House on December 7, offering plenty unique gift options, art demonstrations, activities for adults and children, refreshments and maybe even a visit from Santa! www.rehobothartleague.org
 

Barry Schlecker and friends certainly know how to throw a Fest. And, they're doing it again on December 6 with Taste of the Holidays, at the Delaware Center for Horticulture. Not only can you find great arts & crafts for gifting, you can sample yummy holiday sips (beer, wine & spirits) and hear some great live music!  Taste of the Holidays  

2. Support an Artist and Her Cause
Sarah Davenport is a designer, a photographer, an ardent supporter of the Arts…and a sufferer of chronic late-stage Lyme disease.  Her fundraiser — FEARLESS: A Fight Against Chronic Lyme Disease — will help defray the cost of her extensive treatment and raise awareness for the disease. On December 7, the event features a mix of music, art and charity, including a silent auction of some fantastic objet d'arts.
Tickets available at http://fearless.brownpapertickets.com/

3. Go “Nuts” with Dance

It’s a holiday tradition, and Delaware provides plenty of chances for you to experience The Nutcracker. Take your pick:

  • December 7 & 8 with the Delaware Dance Company at John Dickinson High School
  • December 7 with New Castle Dance and Music Academy's Ballet Company at the Smyrna Opera House
  • December 7 & 8 with Diamond Dance Company at Milford Senior High School
  • December 13 & 14 with Mid-Atlantic Ballet at UD
  • December 21 with First State Ballet Theatre at the Grand Opera House December 21 with Wilmington Ballet Academy of the Dance at the Dupont Theatre
Details: www.inwilmingtonde.com or  www.delawarescene.com

4. The Greatest Story Ever Told…Through Music & Dance

Christina Cultural Arts Center and Eleone Dance Theatre present Carols in Color.” CCAC brings back this powerful show, based on the gospel according to St. Matthew, on December 15 at the Grand. “Carols in Color” re-tells the story of the birth of Christ through exuberant dance, contemporary music and powerful narration. www.ticketsatthegrand.org


5. Rejoice in the Voice(s) of the Holidays

There’s plenty of holiday chorale music this time of year; here’s a sampling of the voices you’ll hear exalting the season:

Celebrate Christmas with the Mastersingers on December 8. The celebrated Mastersingers, organist Marvin Mills, conductor David Schelat and orchestra provide some of the greatest Christmas music of all time. www.marketstreetmusicde.org

The Music School of Delaware ensembles partner with neighboring synagogues for a stunning performance in Winter Reflection: Winter Choral Concert on December 15. The program features the Delaware Children’s Chorus, the Delaware Women’s Chorus and choirs of Congregation Beth Emeth and Beth Shalom.www.musicschoolofdelaware.org


The “Singing Ambassadors of Wilmington” bring their annual performance and amazing talent to the masses with the Wilmington Children's Chorus Candlelight Holiday Concert on December 13 & 14.www.wilmingtonchildrenschorus.org
 


6. Laugh Your Way Through the Holiday
Need a good laugh to brighten your Blue Christmas? Head to World Café Live for The Second City's Nut-cracking Holiday Revue on December 5. The troupe that bore many SNL faves brings you magic and mayhem of the season with original songs, new sketches and classic favorites.
queen.worldcafelive.com 


7. Love Live & Local Holiday Tunes
Local and national musicians get into the holiday spirit with these awesome seasonal sets:

TOMORROW, December 4, Lunasa: Christmas from Ireland comes to the Grand, with a blend of homey nostalgia, rollicking high energy and what The Irish Voice calls “the hottest Irish acoustic group on the planet.” www.ticketsatthegrand.org

Market Street Music presents the Cartoon Christmas Trio on December 5.  Celebrate with a nostalgic repertoire of classic cartoon themed-music including Vince Guaraldi “Peanuts” music. www.marketstreetmusicde.org

Our very own favorite DOCK-ROCK power duo, HOT BREAKFAST!, release their single, An Idiot for Christmas, just in time for your holiday party playlist! Get it here: https://soundcloud.com/hotbreakfas.../an-idiot-for-christmas

Celebrate New Year’s Eve with the David Bromberg Quintet. Bromberg’s played with everyone, toured everywhere, and now hosts a New Year’s Eve bash at the Queen just for Delaware fans on December 31.
queen.worldcafelive.com

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Governor and First Lady Markell Perform "Love Letters" for DTC Fundraiser


It's not every day that you get to see your governor and first lady perform on stage, and even rarer for such an event to be a dramatic piece, and not a political skit. And that's exactly why Carla Markell's idea to stage a reading of the two-person play Love Letters with her husband, Delaware's Governor Jack Markell, was such a great fundraising idea. Who wouldn't want to see that? The 80-minute reading of 50 years of letters between the fictional Melissa and Andrew was mesmerizing -- the novelty wore off quickly, and the characters came to life. The fundraiser included performance samplings from the Totally Awesome Players, Barbara Willhide of the Ingelside Retirement Community Playwriting Residency, and Dan Jones of the Delaware Young Playwrights Festival.

This was a special one-night event, but Love Letters will be returning to the Delaware Theatre Company next fall, starring Michael Learned and Ralph Waite (best known as Olivia and John Walton of TV's "The Waltons"). For more information on upcoming shows, programs, and events, see delawaretheatre.org.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

The Wilmington Community Orchestra opens season with Mozart and Stravinsky


The Wilmington Community Orchestra has grown so much that they could hardly fit anyone else on the stage at the Music School of Delaware, but that growth is due to the patience, enthusiasm and energy of Dr. Timothy Schwarz, who has been conducting the orchestra since 2007. 

The first program of their 2013-2014 season began with Mozart’s Horn Concerto No. 2 in E-flat Major, K417 played by Music School of Delaware faculty member Dr. Anna Skrupky.  Dr. Skrupky, whose inspiration to study music started in her public school music classes, played entirely from memory.  She is young and quite petite, but her sound on the horn is robust and lively.  The orchestra was able to lower their dynamic level easily and smoothly for the horn solos and the ripieno parts where the orchestral horns joined in were also quiet and controlled – but when full orchestra was called for, they also had a strong and well-intoned response.

 After the spritely Mozart came the tough nugget of the concert version of Stravinsky’s Petrouchka, a ballet which is based on a traditional Lenten character of Petrouchka,  the puppet who is made of straw, but comes to life.  Petrouchka falls in love with a beautiful ballerina puppet and contends with the Moor puppet for her affection.  An evil charlatan spices up the mix and this gives Stravinsky license to compose all sorts of musical scenarios like wild spring fairs, contrasting rhythms and harmonies and dueling clarinets, trumpets, contrasting chords and other musical innovations which the orchestra played with gusto – quite a feat for an amateur orchestra. 

 Having guests Mark Livshits, a doctoral candidate from Temple University on the piano and Elizabeth Morgan-Ellis, a Temple graduate, on the harp provided great musical anchoring for the performance which brought the Wilmington Community Orchestra to a new level of achievement. 

Thursday, November 7, 2013

News from the Delaware Division of the Arts

Information reposted courtesy of The Delaware Division of the Arts Arts E-News Email.
New Deputy Director at Division of the Arts
The Division of the Arts is pleased to announce the appointment of Kristin Pleasanton as the new Deputy Director of the Division of the Arts, replacing Susan Salkin who retired at the end of October.

DelawareScene.com: 5 Years of Promoting Delaware Arts
The Division’s website of arts and cultural events launched in October 2008. The site provides search options by date, discipline, location, and key word for events happening state-wide. Sign up to receive the Scene Stealers e-newsletter published every other week featuring highlights happening over a two-week period.

Updated DDOA Artist Roster Now Available
We invite Delaware performing, visual, literary and media artists to join the artist roster by visiting http://www.delaware.gov/artistroster/ and applying to this free marketing tool. Artists can add their biographies, resumes, artist statements, documents, and links to YouTube videos, articles, social media, and websites.

State of Delaware Employee Art Exhibition
DDOA is working with The National Arts Program to exhibit the artwork of State of Delaware employees and their families. This year the exhibition will be held at the Arts Center/Gallery at Delaware State University in Dover from February 24-March 15, 2014.

Sussex Arts Organizations: Dogfish Head Offers Awards
Dogfish Head’s Beer & Benevolence program is accepting entries from nonprofits in each of three categories – art, community, and the environment.Organizations must be nonprofits based in Sussex County, and provide an executive summary along with a one-minute video. Entries are due by November 15, 2013. For details and how to apply, read more at Dogfish.

Tourism Office’s Video Contest: Great Way to Showcase Delaware Arts!
Amateur and professional videographers alike are invited to enter the Delaware Tourism Office’s inaugural Video Contest, a competition to highlight Delaware’s appeal. Entries accepted  through December 31, 2013. For more information, go to www.visitdelaware.com/videocontest.

NEA Funding Opportunities Available
Our Town Grant Program
Organizations may apply for creative placemaking projects that contribute to the livability of communities and place the arts at their core. Matching grants range from $25,000-$200,000.
Deadline: January 13, 2014
Notification: July 2014
Earliest Start Date: September 1, 2014

See more at: http://arts.gov/grants/organizations-apply#sthash.8179exld.dpuf

The Big Read, 2014-2015
The Big Read is accepting applications from non-profit organizations to develop community-wide reading programs between September 2014 and June 2015. Organizations interested in applying should visit The Big Read website for guidelines and application instructions.
Application procedure: Submit applications electronically via eGrant
Application deadline: Tuesday, January 28, 2014 at 4:00 p.m. (CST)

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

The Delaware Symphony Chamber Series

The Saint Paul’s Suite is a joyous collage of folk tunes which Gustav Holst wrote to express his gratitude for a soundproof studio provided by his employers at Saint Paul’s Girls School. The string chamber ensemble of the Delaware Symphony Orchestra (DSO) made it a glorious celebration of sound — from the dancing Jig to the exciting dance of the second violins in the Ostinato, the popping pizzicato of the Intermezzo and impressive first violin solos by Erika Miller to the resounding echoes of Greensleeves against the Dargason in the Finale. A great piece in the hands of great musicians is a treat.

Jeffrey O’Donnell was in top form playing the Ralph Vaughan Williams’ Concerto in A minor for oboe and strings.  Although I heard many recordings in preparing for this review, I felt Mr. O’Donnell produced the most rounded tone, smoother than any of the recordings I found. Ralph Vaughan Williams wrote the piece for oboe virtuoso Leon Goosens and left little space for the oboe to rest.  Mr. O’Donnell seemed to have no trouble with the demanding part and even made his sound have a punchier and more reedy character for the Minuet and Musette, calling to mind a bagpipe. The seventeen-member chamber orchestra was perfect for the balance, the room and the piece. The ensemble and soloist had plenty of energy and power left for the effervescent Finale.

The Serenade in E Major for string orchestra, op. 22 by Antonin Dvorak was yet another style of composing with folk inspiration. The composition is a wonderful canvas on which to illustrate the great strings of the DSO. The audience could experience the fine bass playing by Daniel McDougall and Arthur Marks and get the full thrust of the viola section as rarely heard so clearly in full orchestra. The high notes of the three celli alternating with the violins seemed effortless. The flexible response to Maestro Amado’s ritardandi in the Scherzo and the sheer joy of the performance convinced me that the donations by those who would save the DSO have been well worth the investment — and the large audience indicates the investment will benefit us all.

See delawaresymphony.org.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Celebrating the Spooky Holiday with Shakespeare & Poe

By Guest Blogger, Bradford Wason. Brad is the Founder and Director of 23rd & 5th Design Group and currently works with DMG Marketing in Greenville. He is also on the faculty of Delaware College of Art & Design, and is an ardent Wilmington Arts & Culture supporter.


DSF's actors add the appropriate "flair" to
the macabre tales by Shakespeare & Poe.
As fall fast approaches, the nights grow colder, and with it we enter the Halloween season. Traditionally, Halloween means ghosts and ghouls, masks and candy, or hayrides. But if you're looking to experience an intimate evening in the dark side of theatre, the Delaware Shakespeare Festival (DSF) has all the mirth and matter you'll need this season. Ghosts, spirits, witches and haunting stories are included, in this mash-up of William Shakespeare plays and poems and short stories of Edgar Allen Poe. This format uniquely blends the two together in one fascinating macabre journey, as narrated by DSF veterans Caroline Crocker (A Midsummer Night's Dream and The Two Gentleman of Verona), Adam Darrow (The Two Gentleman of Verona), James Kassees (A Midsummer Night's Dream and The Two Gentleman of Verona), and a newcomer to DSF, Clare O'Malley.  

After its debut hit in 2012, The Shakespeare/Poe - A Night of Readings from The Dark Side returns, traveling to the gothic halls of Rockwood Mansion, the galleries of the Newark Arts Alliance and the grandeur of the Read House & Gardens in Old New Castle. As DSF Producing Artistic Director David Stradley said, "Our summer Festival audiences come from all over the area; so this year, we decided to share this fun evening in venues throughout New Castle County. I think each will bring its own interesting energy to the night."

I couldn't agree with him more, having thoroughly enjoyed the 30-seat, sold-out performance Saturday night at the Read House. The evening of readings runs just over an hour, which made for a excellent late dinner and conversation to follow.

The readings are compiled and directed by Stradley, who does a masterful job weaving the works into a continuous piece. The evening ebbs and flows, from dramatic delivery by James Kassess in The Fall of the House of Usher (Poe) to the "excited sensations" narrated by Clare O'Malley in The Masque of the Red Death (Poe). Not to be outdone by the dark short stories and poems of Poe, Adam Darrow and Caroline Crocker bring to life the juxtaposition of Poe's The Masque of the Red Death in an excerpt of Macbeth (Shakespeare), Act 3, Scene 4, where the tortured Macbeth is visited by the ghost of Banquo.

I appreciated the narrative notes and short quips added by the cast to lighten the mood and provide background. Although the evening is rooted in macabre storytelling — such as an excerpt from Shakespeare's Titus Andronicus, or Poe's The Raven — it provides more humorous moments, such as the Hamlet/Raven Mash-up read by the Ensemble. The audience gave a good chuckle to fill out the room as the evening ended with Caroline Crocker's narration of the Caliban Monologue – Act 3, Scene 2, from The Tempest (Shakespeare).

"Be not afeard. The isle is full of noises,
Sounds and sweet aires that give delight and hurt not."

If you're looking to enlighten and indulge your senses, this short, intimate evening by the Delaware Shakespeare Festival is not to be missed! ONLY at www.delshakes.org.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Newark Symphony Orchestra aims high


The Newark Symphony Orchestra played the Double Concerto in E Minor, Opus 88 for clarinet, viola and orchestra with Vincent Marinelli, clarinet and Timothy Schwarz, viola as solosits at the Independence School in Newark on Sunday.  The clarinet and viola exchanged voices easily and their ranges are remarkably complimentary.  Dr. Schwarz and Mr. Marinelli each brought out their solo lines with ease and the result was a wonderfully flowing duo with vivid dynamics and a wide range of tone.  Although the orchestra was sometimes louder than I would have liked, the soloists were heard above the orchestra most of the time, including the beautiful passage in the second movement when Dr. Schwarz’s viola had the top voice of the final cadence.

Maestro Tartaglione has been pushing his orchestra to tackle more and more difficult pieces (as has Dr. Schwarz for the Wilmington Community Orchestra), but this time, the Wagner Ride of the Valkyries was just too much of a challenge for the French horn section, which has worked so hard over the past few years and has had some glorious performances.  But in Sunday’s concert, the Overture to Der Freischütz by Carl Maria von Weber had some horn passages which suffered from tuning issues and insecure attacks, although the orchestra in general had a steady performance with a very strong cello section and a great solo clarinet part played by Michelle Webb.

The other three Wagner preludes came off well.  Laura Grass’s solo entrances on trumpet was beautifully controlled and quite effective in the Rienzi Overture – her quiet entries and well-controlled crescendos deserved applause -  and the horns sounded good as they did in Siegfried’s Rhine Journey.  The Meistersinger Overture was a triumph for trumpet, horn, trombones and tuba, although the drums and percussion resound in the hall at the Independence School, so perhaps they could have brought it down a notch.

The concert was quite moving and having the musicians strive for a higher level of playing has paid off in the vast improvements they have made under Maestro Tartaglione.  But shouldn’t the director include at least one easier piece in every concert?

 
See www.newarksymphony.org

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Fun and Farce with DTC's Lend Me a Tenor

Jonathan Silver and Sarah Litzsinger
 Delaware Theatre Company follows its darkly comic season opener Any Given Monday with the decidedly lighter comedy of Ken Ludwig's Lend Me a Tenor, a show business farce packed with slapstick comedy and more actors than the stage has seen since last season's South Pacific. The larger cast isn't the only thing Tenor has in common with DTC's fabulous South Pacific production -- the two productions share three major-league talented actors, with John Plumpis, Jonathan Silver and Sarah Litzsinger returning to Wilmington stage.

Under the direction of Bud Martin (who, as Executive Director of DTC and stage director of the biggest shows of the last couple of seasons, deserves more than a little credit for bringing the Theatre to its impressive new level), Lend Me a Tenor is an old-fashioned comedy of errors (and triumphs), filled with sexy humor and absurd misunderstandings. Some of the comedy is dark, including the use of a "dead" body as a prop, and some may come off as a bit dated, but the laughter is pretty much non-stop.

Howie Brown, Marcia Hepps, Eileen Cella
Tenor is the story of a young opera company assistant named Max (Silver) who has taken on the duty of handling world-renowned Italian Tenor Tito Merelli (Plumpis) as he arrives for a special performance in 1930s Cleveland. Max is in love with the General Manager's daughter, Maggie (Eileen Cella), who has a crush on Tito and craves a wild romance before she settles down. Max tries to keep the General Manager, Saunders (Tony Braithwaite) calm as they await Tito's late arrival. When he finally shows up, he's accompanied by his fiery-tempered wife, Maria (Tracie Higgins), who finds Maggie in a closet of the luxury suite and, sick of his philandering, leaves him. This sets of a wild chain reaction, as Tito becomes despondent and falls into a deep sleep from an accidental double dose of tranquilizers to calm his nerves; when he won't wake up just before showtime, Max assumes he's committed suicide. But this is the kind of comedy where no one stays dead (or without love) for long, and the second act is full of plots, coverups, and mistaken identities, as well as some over-the-top Othello costumes.

While Tenor is not a musical, it has a couple of brief operatic interludes that could easily be lip-synced by the actors. But not here. Both Plumpis and Silver have beautiful voices, making the operatic moments soar even in their brevity. And both are skilled comic actors, matched by the excitable Braithwaite as Saunders and Howie Brown, who also does some singing, as an enthusiastic bellhop.

The women offer plenty of laughs, too, with Litzinger as vampy soprano Diana, Marcia Hepps as the seductive Chairman of the Cleveland Opera Board, and Cella's Maggie alternating between sweetly flirtatious and adorably goofy. As Maria, Higgins commands attention -- from Tito and the audience.

By the end of the escapade, everyone is where they should be, and everyone is happy. But while it's a light and silly play, its themes of perception and hope leave a lasting impression.

Lend Me a Tenor runs through November 3. Visit delawaretheatre.org to purchase tickets.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Art News from New Wilmington Art Association

New Wilmington Art Association (NWAA) — the collection of contemporary artists responsible for bringing edgy, exciting works to Wilmington's visual arts scene — is back and excited to begin a new season! They’re already preparing for their first show. 
 
NWAA also welcomes four new co-directors who will head up the organization: Anne Yoncha, William Slowik, Jessica Taylor, Brian Scatasti.

Please note the email address for NWAA has changed: new.wilm.art@gmail.com to contact them & submit work for the DEBUT 2014 SHOW — FREE and OPEN TO ALL.
 

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

J. S. Bach and His Circle - Market Street Music Festival Concert

Market Street Music Director David Schelat
My sneak preview of David Schelat’s upcoming organ recital was a trip through the world of Johann Sebastian Bach through examples of the music Bach heard as a young man, the composers he influenced and the late works of the great composer himself.

The recital opens with a Praeludium in C Major by Dieterich Buxtehude, a composer and artist whom Bach admired greatly.  This large work is as grand as any organ work of Bach, and to hear the varied registrations chosen by Mr. Schelat for the Gabriel Kney organ is a moving experience. The second composer whose music influenced Bach was Georg Böhm.  The chorale prelude shows a contrasting style of French influence. 

Mr. Schelat then played the compositions of three of Bach’s students.  Two of the three preludes Mr. Schelat chose by Johann Christian Kittel sounded as if Mozart had gone backwards in time to write a few operatic songs for organ, but what we really see is how Bach sowed the seeds of the Classical era.  The third prelude is a large and exciting prelude in D minor which calls to mind the great master’s toccata and fugue in the same key.

The second Bach student may not be as well known, but has a large catalog of compositions.  Gottfried August Homilius’ Dearly I love you, O Lord is in trio form and the registration Mr. Schelat chose maintain a brilliant contrast with the two manuals and pedal all in distinctive voices. 

The Fantasia and fugue in F Major by Johann Ludwig Krebs reveal another intersection of styles as Bach’s student tries a wildly rococo fantasia and a more baroque full fugue.

The final works — those of the great master Bach — start with one of his six trio sonatas, Sonata in C Major (BWV 529).  Wilmington is lucky to have an organist who can play such a challenging work with the rich sound of the organ at First and Central.  The other two pieces, the chorale prelude Deck thyself, my soul, with gladness and the Prelude and Fugue in C Major (BWV 547) complete the tour.  In a little more than an hour, Mr. Schelat takes the listener to hear what Bach heard as a young man, how his students interpreted his teaching and how the mature composer created some of the most complex and intriguing works for organ which are still fresh today.  The concert — Bach and His Circle — is at First and Central Presbyterian Church on Rodney Square on Saturday, October 19, at 7:30pm.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

DAM Presents American Moderns, 1910 - 1960: From O'Keefe to Rockwell

Green, Yellow and Orange, 1960, Georgia O'Keefe
Organized by the Brooklyn Museum and co-curated by Karen Sherry, Margaret Stentz, and the Delaware Art Museum's Dr. Heather Campbell Coyle, American Moderns, 1910 - 1960: From O'Keefe to Rockwell asks the question "what is American modern art?" -- then proceeds to push the definition beyond the expected. Covering the first half of the 20th Century, the exhibition focuses on the early defining moments of modern art in the United States, with work that precedes the Digital Age.

The mix of artists, from big names such a Georgia O'Keefe, Grandama Moses, and Brandywine Valley superstar N.C. Wyeth to important but less recognized artists such as Marguerite Thompson Zorach and Ernest Crichlow, encompass a broader spectrum of American Modern artists, showcased in several categories. Visitors move from Cubist Experiments, with its Pablo Picasso influence; Still Life Revisited, where new techniques were applied to an old style; Nature Essentialized, celebrating nature often with the help of modern technology such as air travel and photography; Modern Structures, capturing and reflecting images of modern urban and rural life; Engaging Characters, with a focus on "the human spectacle"; and Americana, which asks "What makes America America?" through styles such as folk art and illustration.

Manhattan Mosaic, 1947,
George Copeland Ault
Where American Moderns pushes through the barriers of modern art is with its inclusion of popular illustration artists such as Norman Rockwell and Wyeth; such respect for illustration artists is nothing new for the Delaware Art Museum, but it's a respect, especially in the Modern Art world, that is still just starting to catch on.

The inclusion of folk art, such as Morris Hirscfield's "Girl with a Dog," by contrast, brings a style of art not found in DAM's permanent collection.

The exhibition, which runs through the holidays and closes on January 5, 2014, is a must-see for American Art lovers, Modern Art lovers, and anyone interested in learning more about either.

Friday, October 11, 2013

OperaDelaware Delights with L'Elisir d'amore

Opera fans have a lot to be excited about with OperaDelaware's production of L'Elisir d'amore (The Elixir of Love), Gaetano Donizetti's comic two-act opera, with two performances at The Grand on October 11 and 13. Conducted by Maestro Jerome Shannon, with a truly stellar cast of performers, including rising star tenor William Davenport, nationally-known soprano Sharin Apostolou, and Metropolitan Opera baritone Trevor Scheunemann, L'Elisir d'amore will not disappoint those who already love the genre.

William Davenport as Nemorino. Photo: Mark Garvin 


For those who find the idea of the opera intimidating, L'Elisir d'amore is also the perfect opera for new fans, because it's just really a lot of fun, with fast pacing, a clear storyline, romance and lots of laughs. Of course, the music is stunning, with Davenport and Apostolou leading the story of a young man and woman playing the game of love.

The tale centers around Nemorino (Davenport), and Adina (Apostolou), who have known each other since childhood, though Nemorino is poor and Adina is from a higher class. Adina loved Nemorino as a little girl, but young Nemorino blew it when he found himself distracted by a baker passing with fresh pastries. That fateful doughnut would follow him to adulthood, when beautiful Adina, all grown up, shows little interest in him -- or anyone in particular, really. When she is courted by the flashy soldier Belcore (Scheunemann), Nemorino confesses his love to her, she tells him that true love doesn't exist, and he should be like her and date around. A scammy traveling salesman, Dr. Dulcamara (Stephen Eisenhard, basso buffo), sells Nemorino a phony love elixir. His behavior after drinking the elixir starts to intrigue Adina, she decides to make him jealous, leading to a comical chain of events as the couple tries desperately to get the other to fall in love with them.

Scheunemann, Apostolou, Davenport. Photo: Mark Garvin


Don't worry if you don't speak Italian -- the opera is subtitled on screens on either side of the stage.

Every aspect of the opera, from the magnificent stage sets to the lush costumes, come together to create an experience that's as magnificent visually as it is to the ear. Bring the family, bring your friends, but don't miss this one-weekend-only event.

For tickets, go to operade.org.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Celebrating 20 Years of CTC with the Epic Jesus Christ Superstar

Photo: Joe Del Tufo

In its 20 years of existence, City Theater Company has established itself as a top provider of live theater in Wilmington, while staying just as edgy and cool as it was when it was a burgeoning company. It still calls Opera Delaware's tiny Black Box Theater (one of my personal favorite theater spaces) home. I remember my first visit to a CTC show at the Black Box in the '90s -- I'd recently moved back to Delaware from Philly, the show was Assassins, if I recall, and it was the show that convinced me that you really don't have to go to the big city to see the kind of intimate, offbeat theater that excited me. It was a pretty big deal.

In the past few years, it's been rare that I've missed a CTC show. Remember Reckless? Cruel, Calm and Neglected? Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson, Bat Boy and Xanadu? Good times.

For its 20th birthday CTC decided to go big: a birthday celebration and fundraiser concert at World Cafe Live at the Queen, featuring Andrew Lloyd Weber and Tim Rice's epic 1970 rock opera concept album Jesus Christ Superstar in its entirety. Having spent my own slightly-past 20th birthday this year with Ted Neeley (who played Jesus in the 1973 film and on stage for decades) in concert at Delaware Theater Company, I was not about to miss this.

CTC's special Superstar live concert was produced and conducted by Joe Trainor, who also -- get this -- sang the part of Judas. Simultaneously. Judas, if you don't know, is the lead, along with Jesus. As soon as I saw Righteous Jolly's name in the lineup in the promo materials, I knew he was going to be Jesus, and I knew he was going to pull it off. CTC fans will remember that Jolly played Andrew Jackson in Bloody Bloody. As Jesus, he stayed in character, bringing the presence the part demands, even as a concert.

The remaining parts, many of which have featured solos, were filled by some of the best local talent, including CTC regulars Kerry Kristine in the female lead role of Mary Magdalene, Adam Wahlberg as Pilate, T.S. Baynes as Simon, Steven Weatherman as Herod, Lew Indellini as Annas, Frank Schierloh and Troy Shaeffer as Priests, and Bill Wilmore, whose bass delivery of Caiaphas was as good as any I've ever heard. The Chorus, made up of Dylan Geringer, Petra Deluca, Emma Orr, Clayton Stacey, and Dana Michael did a standout job, too -- you can't underestimate the importance of a good chorus. Along with a tight 5-piece band, Trainor's production was everything I'd hoped it would be. The only bad thing? It was a one-night-only-event. I'd see it again, no question.

The good news is, Season 20 starts up in December, with CTC's version of Gypsy, followed by The Best of 2.0 Ten-Minute Play showcase, and Bomb-itty of Errors in the spring. For more information, go to city-theater.org.



Sunday, October 6, 2013

Musicals Go 'Bootless' in Wilmington

By Guest Blogger, Christine Facciolo
Christine holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees in Music and continues to apply her voice to all genres of music.  An arts lover since childhood, she currently works as a freelance writer.


Take two hip writers, four zany characters and a theatre company notorious for its quirky productions, and what do you get?  A whole lotta fun.  Bootless Stageworks opened its 2013-2014 season with a production of Rockwell and Bogart’s The Musical of Musicals: The Musical which is a parody on — what else? — the musical.  

This side-splitting satire romps through 70 years of musical theatre history taking affectionate pokes at various masters of the genre.  The basic plot: June (Elizabeth Holmes) can’t pay her rent and is threatened by her evil landlord Jitter (Michael Gamache).  She turns for advice to Abby (Roseanne DellAversano). But will the handsome leading man Willy/Billy (Mark Dixon) save the day?

The concept is summed up on the front page of the program: Five musicals, one plot.  The variations are a Rogers & Hammerstein version set in Kansas in August — complete with a dream ballet; a Sondheim version featuring the landlord as a tortured artist who slashes the throats of tenants who fail to appreciate his genius; a splashy star vehicle a la Jerry Herman; an Andrew Lloyd Weber rock-musical featuring themes “borrowed” from Puccini; and a Kander & Ebb speakeasy set in Chicago.

The jokes are clever and continuous. The Rogers & Hammerstein segment opens Act I with a strapping cowhand singing “Oh, what beautiful corn!” and declaring “I’m in love with a wonderful hoe.”  The Sondheim segment follows, taking aim at songs like Green Finch and Linnet Bird, The Ballad of Sweeney Todd, and No One is Alone, punning several song titles as well. In Dear Abby — the Jerry Herman parody — an overly optimistic protagonist descends a staircase while her co-stars offer send-ups of Hello, Dolly!, If He Walked Into My Life and It’s Today.  

Act II opens with the Andrew Lloyd Weber takeoff, Aspects of Junita, which allows the cast to caricature some of the stars of his works.  Finally there’s the Kander & Ebb parody, where the host encourages patrons to “Drink up, ‘cause life’s a cabernet.”  The actors slink and strut in Bob Fosse-style singing takeoffs like Cell Block Tango, Liza with a Z and My Coloring Book.

The staging is efficient and the performances spot on.  Holmes is a versatile singer who can seamlessly transition from Broadway belter to operatic soprano.  DellAversano’s Abby delivers just the right amount of world-weary cynicism and a lusty singing style.  Mark Dixon is as charming a leading man as any ingénue could want.  Michael Gamache’s comedic talents fit nicely into the role of the bumbling — and sometimes demented — landlord.

Rockwell and Bogart are skillful writers and if you get the jokes, the show is funny.  Problem is some of the puns are so “inside,” that they can go over the heads of even the most ardent devotee of musical theatre.  And the constant cleverness does weary after a while.  Still a great evening of family entertainment. The show runs through October 19 at The Black Box at OperaDelaware Studios.

See www.bootless.org.  

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Changes in venue for Mélomanie

Mélomanie is opening their twentieth season with great fanfare at the Delaware Center for Contemporary Arts.  This local ensemble has been commissioning new works and pairing them with baroque music for two decades and they are just about to launch a pairing with a hip arts center.  After playing for many years in historic Wilmington churches with great resonance and reverberation, the group is going to play in a venue which is more like a public center – a place to meet and greet.  This will present a less formal side of the ensemble and will draw attention to the fact that this group has been a prime mover in commissioning music in this area – an itinerant Delaware center for contemporary music.

The concert on Friday was at the Gore Recital Hall at the Roselle Center for the Arts – an intermediate-sized hall with a modicum of reverberation and, unfortunately, a very powerful and resonant air conditioning system.  Some of the audience who had been used to hearing the group play in stone churches felt that something was missing, yet the clear sounds of the articulation and ornaments in Tracy Richardson’s harpsichord playing was enhanced by the reduction of echo.  Her pristine performance of the Chaconne from Henry Purcell’s opera Dioclesian and the rapid ornaments in the French Suite in B Minor, BWV 814 provided a smooth beginning to introduce the world premiere Michael Stambaugh’s The machine comes to life for solo harpsichord, which Stambaugh introduced with comments on how the harpsichord differs from the piano in both mechanism and sound quality.  He did indeed do his homework for his harpsichord piece,  showing many features, including the harshness of the buff stop on Richardson’s Kingston harpsichord.

Kim Reighley, modern flute and Doug McNames, cello played Michael Colquhoun’s Three for two as one: a suite for flute and cello.  The use of percussive sounds, multiphonics, whistle tones and the weaving of parallel movement made this work particularly striking. 

And if there were any doubts about the acoustical possibilities in Gore Hall, they were dispelled after the intermission with the incredibly wide range of dynamics Christof Richter could produce on baroque violin.  At the beginning of a phrase, the sound was so soft that Mr. Richter’s bow moved before the audience could hear the sound swell in the Sonata in B Minor, BWV 1014 for violin and harpsichord by Johann Sebastian Bach.  And the colors of the sound Donna Fournier produced in the Carl Friedrich Abel Prelude and Allegro from the Suite in D Minor for viola da gamba were so rich and varied that a more resounding hall may have hidden some of those subtleties. 

Jennifer Margaret Barker introduced her world premiere of Le Passage du Temps as a re-composition of the third Bach French Suite which we heard in the first half of the program.  Her inventiveness in weaving the themes of Allemande, Courante, Sarabande and Gigue into an intricately orchestrated re-voicing of the beautiful solo keyboard work was a treat and an exemplary work by one of our local composition professors.  

Let us see what the sound at the Delaware Center for the Contemporary Arts does to recast this concert on Sunday afternoon.   

See www.melomanie.org.

Monday, September 30, 2013

The DSO is back…and kicking!


The Delaware Symphony Orchestra boldly began their new 2013-2014 season with a new piece and three exciting works from the standard orchestral repertoire. But nothing is standard about the analysis and pre-concert lectures by Maestro David Amado. His wit, vocabulary and inquisitive mind make his talks on music well worth a hurried supper. He did not disappoint with his thesis that Igor Stravinsky took the theme from Debussy’s Prelude to the afternoon of a faun for his Firebird Suite. The audience and I were perplexed by this comparison of a raucous ritualistic dance being the same as an impressionistic daydream, but on closer examination one can see it. Would that the Maestro had once again let the orchestra open their season with the version of the Star Spangled Banner for which the composer was arrested, but the audience happily sang along for the standard version from the Arthur Luck collection. 

The DSO’s  Music Committee was courageous in choosing a new piece to begin the concert and they made a safe choice: Robert Ward’s Festive Ode is a marvelous mix of extremely well-orchestrated American music which allowed each section of the orchestra to be highlighted and it was a fun homecoming experience. 

Misha Dichter took command of a beautiful Steinway grand which had so much horsepower that he managed to overshadow the orchestra for a while, but pulled back with his sensitive yet untrammeled version of the famous Variation 18.  The percussion section was magically energetic with the dies irae theme, hats off to the glockenspiel! 

Mr. Dichter played a clean, but quietly expressive Claire de Lune as an encore and Maestro Amado and the orchestra surprised him after that by playing Happy Birthday to honor the day.  (Mr. Dichter seemed pleased and surprised by the gesture.)

Mr. Amado had the orchestra illustrate the themes of the Prelude to the afternoon of a faun by Claude Debussy. The soft colors of the orchestra told us that none of the players had lost any luster in the rough and uncertain past year.  The dynamics were so soft, especially with Katy Ambrose’s delicate horn entrance on a whisper. What a woodwind section the DSO has as well!


After the impressionistic pastels came the thunderous Firebird Suite.  The strings outdid themselves with a super soft beginning and eerie harmonics.  The clarinets took the magic jazzy, klezmer lines and played them as if they were easy as pie.  The Infernal dance had that unleashed wildness led by  Donna Battista on piano and some great percussion on xylophone.  Jon Gaarder played a smooth and controlled lullaby solo before the thunderous finale. 


Welcome back to the Grand, Delaware Symphony Orchestra!

See www.delawaresymphony.org.

The 6th Annual Film Brothers Festival of Shorts

Good news for those who missed this year's Film Brothers Festival of Shorts at Theatre N (which was held in tandem with Fringe Wilmington for the past few years) -- the popular film festival has one more run at the Delaware Art Museum on October 5. In the past, The Festival of Shorts has screened films that have gone on to do big things, most notably Delaware native Luke Matheny's God of Love, which won the Academy Award for Live Action Short Film in 2011.

This year, there are eight films from all over the world, including Cracker Jack Rises by Delaware's Indie Frame Films, an entry in last year's Fringe Wilmington Film Festival (aka the "Super Noodles" festival -- the challenge being to include certain noodle-related footage in the film somehow). I would have liked to have seen a Delaware film with fewer limits, but Cracker Jack Rises is a funny and entertaining film.

The standout films for me were 30% Women in Politics in Sierra Leone, a UK film by Anna Cady and Em Cooper that blends oil painted animation with live-action footage and interviews of three women running for Parliament in post-conflict Sierra Leone. The title derives from a bill that would require the government to have a 30% quota of women representation. Even if you prefer lighter fare in film festivals, this film will engage you from beginning to end.

Another favorite does qualify as "lighter fare": a romantic, comic film called Cataplexy by Los Angeles filmmaker John Salcido. It's the story of a guy who orders a call girl, only to find that the woman they've sent is an old high school friend. Embarrassed, he explains that he has an unusual disorder, and they spend the evening catching up instead of following through on the "date." You'll probably see the punchline coming, but it's a very well done little film.

The full list of films are after the jump:

Take a Trip to Avenue Q — "Q" Stands for Quirky & Quite Funny


We were drawn to the Wilmington Drama League by the intrigue of what a pal described as “…an adult version of Sesame Street.” How could we pass that up?

Avenue Q: The Musical — book by Jeff Whitty and music and lyrics by Robert Lopez and Jeff Marx — opened off-Broadway in March 2003 and subsequently won Tony® Awards for Best Musical, Best Score and Best Book.  In short, it’s the story of a dysfunctional mix of people and puppets who whine, curse, say racist things, drink, surf the ‘Net for porn, and have puppet sex.  But it’s also a tale of friendship, community, relationships and the love that holds it all together.  Welcome to Avenue Q, a place where humans and puppets live in hilarious harmony and Gary Coleman — yes, Gary Coleman — is the building Super.

As the show begins, we meet Princeton (played splendidly by Jason Tokarski, who gives the puppet a boyish, naïve charm), a recent college grad who moves to the big city. Since he’s an English major without a job, he can’t afford to live anywhere but the apartments on Avenue Q.  Here, meets his new “family” — an entertaining array of human and puppet neighbors including Brian (Shawn Kline) and Christmas Eve, his Asian-American therapist fiancée (Suzanne J. Stein); roommates Rod and Nicky (Ernie-and-Bert types played by Jim Burns and Anthony Vitalo, respectively); Trekkie Monster (Nick D’Argenio) and his friend-maybe-more Kate Monster (no relation to Trekkie; not all monsters are related…what are you, racist?). Their lives' complexities ensue, as they all try to find their ‘purposes’ in life.

Kate Monster (Regina Dzielak) is a gentle, compassionate creature that longs for career success, to fulfill her dreams and to find love. Dzielak plays her with humor and vulnerability, her voice sweet and lovely as she sings about Princeton’s “Mix Tape” and the place between friendship and love in “There’s a Fine, Fine Line.”

There were highlights aplenty for me, including Burns’ role as Rod, the impossibly-uptight-possibly-gay-Republican roomie to Vitalo’s Nicky. Burns’ performance — especially in “If You Were Gay” and “My Girlfriend, Who Lives in Canada” — was ROFL funny.  Also delivering side-splitting laughs is Nick D’Argenio as Trekkie Monster, with inappropriate interjections and his performance in “The Internet is for Porn.”  He’s every guy’s guy in a Cookie Monster form.  And, stealing more than one scene are Katie Brady and Chrissy Stief as the Bad Idea Bears — they’re cute, they're cuddly, they’re pure evil and they’re funny as hell.

Tommy Fisher-Klein has a solid comedic performance as “Gary Coleman,” sliding in and out of scenes with quick-witted jabs and reactions that make you laugh out loud. He gives us another highlight (and set-up to the aforementioned puppet sex) with “You Can Be as Loud as the Hell You Want (When You’re Making Love).” The entire scene had the audience hooting.

As mentioned, the cast is a mix of real-life actors and actors, dressed in black to minimize “obstruction,” maneuvering large-scale hand puppets.  At times, it was a bit challenging for me to shift between watching the puppets versus the actors themselves.  However, the performer who made it most seamless was Shelli Ezold as Lucy the Slut.  Ezold does an incredible job in her movement and manner, placing your focus on Lucy’s, um, assets while delivering a power-packed sexpot of a character with her gorgeous, sultry voice.  

Directed by Wayne Meadows, the show is accented with “Sesame-like” multimedia features, as well as fun audience interaction, and I was pleased to see that Meadows chose a live orchestra for music.  The first act moves quickly with the most raucous songs and activity; the second act is a bit slower but still enjoyable.  We sat in the front center row, but I don’t recommend it for everyone…I think the sightlines are a bit better further back in the theater. (Although you’ll miss getting picked on by the cast, which was a riot.) 

While I don’t necessarily wish I lived on Avenue Q, I absolutely loved visiting with its quirky residents, who made me glad that my life doesn’t suck as much as theirs.  Decide for yourself — the show runs through October 6!

See wilmingtondramaleague.org.