Monday, July 29, 2013

Folks, Get Your Tickets...Annie's Got Her Gun!

Annie &Frank. Photo courtesy of The Brandywiners.
Danielle Rice is Executive Director of the Delaware Art Museum. She and her husband, Dr. Jeffrey Berger, are theater and music lovers and support all of the arts in Delaware.
It certainly didn’t hurt that the weather was absolutely perfect, but we were thrilled to finish off a busy week with dinner and a show al fresco. The Brandywiners that energetic community theater group that has been staging summer shows at Longwood Gardens for 60 years  this year arranged a special 15% discount for theater-goers with local restaurants. So we gladly started our evening with a relaxed (and discounted!) dinner at Buckley’s.

We arrived at Longwood with half an hour to spare and we spent it strolling amidst the glorious gardens. There’s nothing better for washing away the stresses of the workweek! We were delighted to see that the outdoor theater was almost full to capacity with a diverse and enthusiastic crowd, and, of course, we always love seeing the illuminated fountains that serve as curtains while we wait for the show to begin.

Annie Get Your Gun is based on the remarkable true story of Annie Oaklely, the first major American entertainment celebrity. Born in poverty in rural Ohio, Annie supported her family with hunting and trapping and at age 15 she defeated Frank Butler in a shooting match but won his heart. The two were married and enjoyed a long relationship and partnership in Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show.

The Broadway musical, which opened at the Imperial Theatre on May 16, 1946, was written specifically for Ethel Merman, with music and lyrics by Irving Berlin from the book by Herbert and Dorothy Fields. It was the biggest Broadway hit of Merman's career. The 1999 Broadway revival, which showcased Bernadette Peters, was updated for modern times. Not only did Peter Stone make revisions to Herbert and Dorothy Fields's original book (the story is now a show within a show, namely Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show), but there have been revisions to Berlin's original score as well. It is this version that The Brandywiners are staging at Longwood Gardens this summer.

The show opens with that old time favorite, There’s No Business Like Show Business which becomes the recurring theme (and of course we all go out humming it to ourselves). Other recognizable tunes include That Girl That I Marry, You Can’t Get a Man with a Gun and of course, the absolutely delicious Anything You Can Do, which will have your kids singing for a long time to come! The Brandywiners’ production features clever sets that roll in and out of the hedges and dazzling costumes. Rebecca Buswell Kostifas gives us an adorable and energetic Annie who blasts out her numerous songs with confident gusto. Robert Welch is cast as Frank Butler 
 the man that Annie has to figure out how to win over after winning over him with her shooting. While a bit stiff as an actor, Welch has a lovely voice that pairs beautifully with Kostifas’.

It took the large cast a bit of time to get into the swing of things and the first act dragged a bit, but the second act was sheer delight. The Ballroom Scene was exquisite in the unadorned garden setting and the choreography was tight and effective. The dance performed by Winnie (Carolyn Peck) and Tommy (Ricky Rotandi) was exceptional. And of course, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the delightful children’s ensemble and in particular Jessie (Alie Weldon), Nellie (Nicole Hemphill) and Little Jake (Misha Teixido) who perform a show-stopping Doin’ What Comes Natur’lly in the first act.

All in all, Annie Get Your Gun marks another ambitious success for The Brandywiners, and it is well worth seeing. Be sure to check out all the area restaurants that are offering the discounted dinners throughout the run of the show.

Get tickets and additional information at: but please, leave your guns at home!

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Delaware Artist Profile: Kevin Bielicki

The first thing you notice when you enter Kevin Bielicki's Shipley Lofts studio-slash-apartment in downtown Wilmington is the upside-down bonsai. Of course, it's not just an inverted tiny tree, it's a sculpture called "Liminality," part of a series of works using natural bonsai trees juxtaposed with other media such as steel. Just as the piece incorporates the natural beauty of the tree and industrial steel and screws, the series incorporates his art with his horticultural work with The Kennett Collection Bonsai Garden, and will be featured in an exhibition at the Brick Lane Gallery in London this November.

"Liminality" by Kevin Bielicki

Bielicki, a DCAD graduate with a BFA from the University of Delaware, moved into Shipley Lofts three years ago, during his final year at UD. Chances are, if you live in New Castle County, you've seen his work, in the Delaware Art Museum's Centennial Exhibit or on display at the English Language Institute in Newark (you can't miss it -- it's a 19-foot tall bright red piece from his Coral Reef series; a "mini" version that stands about six feet high is on display in his living room).

Another series -- the one that DAM featured -- is the three-dimensional "Rings" series that transforms tree rings into swirled visual illusions that play with light and shadow.

"Rings" by Kevin Bielicki

If you're sensing a recurring nature theme, it will come as no surprise that Bielicki's next Delaware show, opening Friday, August 2, will be at The Delaware Center for Horticulture in Trolley Square. The show, "Connections and Investigations," also features Jeffrey Long, and will explore the connection between the beauty of the natural world and modern humanity.

"Rings" by Kevin Bielicki

Meet the artists and experience "Connections and Investigations" from 5:30 - 8:00 pm at the DHC on Friday, August 2, as part of Wilmington's Art on the Town.

The Delaware Center for Horticulture

1810 North Dupont Street 
Wilmington, DE 19806-3308 

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

The Rainbow Chorale of Delaware is BUSY BUSY BUSY!

The Rainbow Chorale of Delaware's schedule in the coming month is quickly filling. Starting with an Open Call for singers on September 9 & 16 and rehearsals already under way for the epic performance they're presenting with local supergroup IN THE LIGHT — a stellar night of music by QUEEN at World Cafe Live at the Queen on Friday, September 13 (see details below).  Get your tickets for this one, soon, folks.  If In the Light's previous performances are any indicator, this will be sure sell-out! 

In The Light performs an evening of Queen at “The Queen”
featuring The Rainbow Chorale

Friday, September 13, 2013
World Cafe Live at The Queen
• 500 N. Market Street, Wilmington, DE
Doors: 7:00pm • Show: 8:00pm • TICKETS: $20
Buy today at World Cafe Live website

Out-of-this-world Wilmington rock band, IN THE LIGHT, will perform two full sets of Queen's music, giving full tribute to Queen’s rich orchestral-rock sound. The Rainbow Chorale will be prominently featured throughout the show. Song selections include, I Want It All, Who Wants to Live Forever, Killer Queen, The Prophet's Song, Fat Bottomed Girls, Somebody to Love, and of course, Bohemian Rhapsody plus many more.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Newark Arts Alliance Wants YOU...(to Provide Works for Its Newest Exhibit)!

Post information courtesy of The Newark Arts Alliance
The Newark Arts Alliance is presenting a “Community Art Gallery” from Tuesday, August 13, to Saturday, August 24.  The local community is invited to bring in works of art that they own and love for display in the Newark Arts Alliance’s Terry Foreman Gallery.  Works can be submitted from Friday, August 9, to Sunday August 11.  Participants should also bring a brief statement (200 words or less) on why they chose their piece for submission.  Works of art need not be original.  

This exhibition offers a chance for art lovers and collectors who are not necessarily artists themselves to participate in an exhibition.  However, artists are welcome to submit their own creations as well.  Only one work can be submitted per participant.  Submitting a work is free of charge, and works will not be offered for sale.

The Newark Arts Alliance’s Exhibition Committee will select as many works for display as space will allow.  Hanging works should have a tight hanging wire across the back.  Central hanging devices (e.g., rings and saw-tooth hangers) do not work with the Newark Arts Alliance’s hanging system.  The Exhibition Committee reserves the right to decline works, including works that are not properly prepared for hanging or display.

The Newark Arts Alliance will celebrate the “Community Art Gallery” with a reception on Saturday, August 24, from 6:00 to 8:00pm.  This event will be free and open to the public.  Drinks and light refreshments will be served.  Participants whose works are on display will be able to take their art home that night.  If unable to attend, participants should pick up their work as soon as possible following the end of the show during regular hours.


Saturday, July 20, 2013

Enthralled by "Two Gents"...of the DelShakes Variety!

Guest Blogger Tizzy Lockman is a near lifelong Wilmingtonian — taking breaks in her teens & 20s to study and live abroad. She has a BA in film and linguistics from New York University, and works as a media producer and nonprofit program manager. While raising an active daughter, Tizzy's hobbies include working with local schools, youth work, nonprofit board service and various community activism and events. She LOVES live music and theatre, but never gets to see as much of it as she would wish.

Balmy midsummer evenings are chockfull of outdoor offerings for culture seekers, alongside our neighbors and those giant dragonflies. And during this theatrical off-season, amidst such a variety of concerts and music festivals to choose from, the Delaware Shakespeare Festival (DSF) has emerged as summer's un-missable entertainment option.  Now in their 11th year, it seems DSF has hit their stride, adeptly combining old classical ways with their own traditions, professionalism with a refreshing spirit that meets the needs of mid-July crowds of Shakespeare lovers.

The Two Gentlemen of Verona may be unlikely to rank in the Top Ten of the casual Shakespeare fans most familiar titles — I know that, for me, it was a play I'd never seen or read before last Saturday’s opening night. And this lack of expectation is likely to give the performance a bit of an edge for audience members similarly new to the story.  One of Shakespeare's earliest comedy works, the play is surprisingly light and accessible, while managing not to spare any tricks of adventure, humor or depth.

DSF brings Two Gents to life with a cast that is remarkable in its youthfulness and professionalism. Allowing the language of Shakespeare to slip off their tongues with natural tones as if it were the latest slang, and their physical characterization to keep every word understandable to the modern ear.The four romantic leads in particular (Adam Darrow as Proteus, Brandon Pierce as Valentine, Clare Mahoney as Julia, and Emilie Krause as Silvia) are perfectly suited to portray the story of the frivolity of young men and women at crossroads, about to launch themselves towards their futures. Centered around a pair of charming best friends — the ambitious Valentine and the romantic Proteus — we meet them as the two are taking steps in different directions, the latter focused on love and the former on establishing his status in society.  But being a comedy, wires are soon to be crossed...

The comedy itself isn’t Shakespeare’s most perfect — some of the twists late in the plot beg a forgiving audience — but the cast has done such a fine job of shaping the characters they play throughout the early scenes, that makes it easier to take the leap with them and accept the surprising and outlandish decisions that make up the final act. It is a play devoted to themes of betrayal and infidelity, the foibles and madness of youth.  The four primary characters develop over the arc of the performance, at great credit to the actors. Proteus and Valentine change the most remarkably. Proteus transforming from a guileless youth to calculating deviant, and the initially cynical Valentine becomes the lost and lovelorn one. In the end, both are stronger for their evolution. Instead of seeming ridiculous, you can read their actions, such as Valentine forgiving Proteus for his plentiful indiscretions, as heroic and instructive.

Where there are gentlemen (and women) there must be servants, and the show provides a Downton Abbey-esque parallel set of players in these roles. Far from standing in the shadows of their masters, these character are broader, and the standout comedians of the night.  In particular are Speed (Max Cove), Launce (Griffin Stanton-Amiesen) and Lucetta (Caroline Crocker). They move along the action and give us breaks from it; and the inclusion of Crab the dog (played during my performance by the scruffy Prince) brings with it levity and familiar sweet laughs (along with the tension of having an animal on the live stage).

The simple staging, unadorned apart from a bouquet of colorful umbrellas, allows these performances to shine. Different this year from the past several is the flipping of the theatre — the Rockwood house to our backs, the audience is gazing down into the park, with trees as a backdrop, and entrances visible at the periphery. When the sun set at my showing, the footlights brought the set into vibrant color and cast the well-blocked figures' shadows large against the backdrop of the trees.  It was enchanting. The sound system was clear as a bell — a notable improvement from past years for which they deserve to be praised.

The Delaware Shakespeare Festival has used its past decade to develop some great traditions: Entrances from the crowd that make you feel as if you've happened upon the action, and the cast makes a hasty exit from their bows to line the path where the audience exits. It’s a reversal in which the audience feels it is being given the utmost respect by the stars they’ve spent the past hours watching.

All in all, a charming cast portraying a fun story in a bucolic setting — our local Shakespeare seems to get better with each passing year. The large and appreciative audience at my show seemed to agree; a third had attended three or more DSF performances, and more than half were brand new to the experience. One mutual happiness, indeed!

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Pegasus Trio Makes Milford Musical This Week!

Pegasus Trio (L-R): Chris Braddock, guitar;
Mindy Bowman, flute & Jeanmarie Braddock, violin.
As part of Milford's popular Third Thursday art & music events, Pegasus Trio returns to Mispillion Art League in Milford to perform music of Bizet, Handel and Joplin as well as traditional Irish songs, Dixieland classics and the trio's own original compositions! Pegasus Trio — Chris Braddock, guitar; Mindy Bowman, flute; and Jeanmarie Braddock, violin — have been popular musical guests at Mispillion previously as well as many other Delaware venues. 

When not performing live, Chris Braddock and Mindy Bowman enjoy busy schedules as faculty members of The Music School of Delaware, which has a location in downtown Milford. Chris is also the Guitar Department Head of the Music School and the director of the school's bluegrass ensemble the Matson Run Pickers. Jeanmarie Braddock is also a music instructor with the Brandywine School District in New Castle County. 

Enjoy the sounds of the mighty Pegasus [Trio] this Thursday, July 18, 6:30pm at Mispillion Art League, 5 N. Walnut Street in Milford. The event is free and family friendly. I also recommend trying out Dolce, a wonderful coffee shop and bakery on Walnut Street as well!