Saturday, January 31, 2015

The Warmth of Winter Winds

The Music School of Delaware took a defiant leap and presented a delightful menu of winds – which, in spite of the chilly title and weather, attracted quite an audience. The programming was surprising, refreshing and delightful and unexpected like an amaryllis opening in the middle of winter.

The first piece was Wind quintet No. 3 in F major by Giuseppe Maria Cambrini.  Although Cambrini did not make it to the standard repertoire as did his contemporary and teasing competitor, Wolfgang Mozart, his style is evocative of that era in its light classical lilt.  The interweaving themes and Mozartian style were a great vehicle for combining the dark sounds of horn (Anna Skrupky) and bassoon (Chuck Holdeman) and the filigree of clarinet (Jared Eastridge), oboe, (Susan Ritter) and flute (Melinda Bowman).

The Three Irish Songs by john Corigliano with Jessica Graae, soprano, and Lynn Cooksey, flute presented and intriguing combination with some harmonies that were rather surprising, but this could be due to the small auditorium and the big sound of diminutive Ms. Graae’s surprisingly strong voice.

And when was the last time you heard kettledrums in a chamber ensemble?  The Nightwatch: a dialog for horn, flute and kettledurms by Ellis B. Kohs was an amazingly delicate morsel.  The flute starts with a birdsong, the horn follows with a frog call and the kettledrum provides a beat and drone and then the flute and horn move into a duet and the kettledrum joins for a trio.

The Sonata for flute, oboe and piano by Madeleine Dring,  a British composer (1923-1977) --who,  by the way,  sounds surprisingly like Francis Poulenc-- is a fun romp.  Ms. Ritter and Ms. Bowman played the wild cadenza beautifully. 

Ms. Cheng, piano, was the backbone of the second half with her collaboration.  The Dance from “Ballade, pastorale, and dance” by Eric Ewazen for flute, horn and piano and the Tarantella for flute, clarinet and piano, Opus 6 by Camille Saint-Saens profited from her expertise.

The Concertino pour flute, opus 107  by Cécile Chaminade showcased a very talented student of Mindy Bowman,  Genevieve Hahn whose technique and poise were outstanding. 

The concert was topped off by the Sonata for horn, trumpet and trombone by Francis Poulenc which was played in a no-holes-barred romp by Anna Skrupky, horn, Katelynn Griess, trombone and Malcolm McDuffee, trumpet. 

Even on that grey winter evening, the winds warmed up the smiles in the audience.  Music School Dean Cheri Astolfi created a fantastic event to show off her wind staff.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Smokey Joe’s Café Ignites the Wilmington Drama League Stage!

By Charles "Ebbie" Alfree, III

Smokey Joe’s Café -- with songs by Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller -- is a toe-tapping, hand-clapping stroll through a bygone era. The show doesn’t have a plot like most jukebox musicals of late; instead, Smokey Joe’s Café is a musical revue including 39 of Lieber and Stoller’s classic rock & roll and rhythm & blues songs, spanning the 1950s and 60s.

Director and choreographer Dominic Santos stages a seamless production that easily flows from one song to the next. Instead of depending on many set pieces, Santos uses projections by AV Designer Tony DelNegro to create atmosphere. He also houses the show’s outstanding band on the stage (led by Musical Director Anthony Vitalo), which enhances the exuberant performances.

The nine-member cast (Tonya "TS" Baynes, Tommy Fisher-Klein, Lauren Hope Gates, Corey Kelly, Chelsea Miller, Lyndie Moe, Mr. Santos, Dan Urdaneta and Jacob Bauer Zebley) gives electrifying performances. From the smooth four-part harmony of Fisher-Klein, Kelly, Santos and Urdaneta singing "Keep on Rollin’" and "On Broadway" to the take-charge attitude of Baynes, Gates, Miller, and Moe singing "I’m a Woman" to the rollicking good time of Bauer Zebley performing "Jailhouse Rock" (I LOVED his Elvis moves), there are no dull moments in the two-hour show.

Of course, there are few ballads sprinkled throughout the revue, such as "Spanish Harlem" and "I (Who have Nothing)," respectively performed Urdaneta and Fisher-Klein. While Urdaneta performs a gorgeous rendition of "Spanish Harlem," Moe dances the part of the girl who is on his mind. Fisher-Klein bares his soul and finds the anguish and sadness of the haunting "I (Who have Nothing)."

I can’t finish my review discussing ballads, so I have to mention the scantily clad Baynes' captivating performance of "Don Juan." The lady knows how to turn up the heat! She amazingly sings the seductive tune and works a boa like a true temptress!

Smokey Joe’s Café is great nostalgic fun. The show runs through February 1 at the Wilmington Drama League. Visit the website or call 
302.764.1172 for additional information and tickets.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Hot Breakfast Serves Up Two Exciting New Partnership Dishes

Some content courtesy of Hot Breakfast eNews...

    Delaware's favorite "dork-rock power duo" HOT BREAKFAST! (insert obligatory fist pump here) has some exciting news to share. Sure they release hilarious video, play to packed-house crowds and win beloved Homey Awards, but now they're adding to their musical menu. What better completes the most important band in your day than MILK(MEN) and FORKS(with DORKS). Read on...

    BREAKFAST with MILK(MEN)Hot Breakfast is recording with the legendary DEAD MILKMEN this weekend, Saturday and Sunday, January 17 & 18. How did two Delaware dorks get asked to record with one of their favorite bands of all time? Apparently, it's a long story.  Nonetheless, Jill is contributing her vocals (and vocal arrangement skills) and Matt his acoustic guitar-playin' to a new Milkmen track, as part of the Weathervane Music Organization's Shaking Through series, an ongoing documentary about the guerrilla recording and producing process. 

    The Dead Milkmen
    And, the recording sessions are being filmed --- you can watch live from the comfort of your couch! You can even write comments and ask questions during the session. And when the song is completed, you'll be able to download the completed song, but you'll also be able to download all of the separate tracks in the song and make your own remix. It's a music-dork's dream! Click here on Saturday, January 17, and click here on Sunday, January 18. Both sessions run from 11am - 8pm EST. You can also join the Facebook Event page to stay up-to-date. Or read more about it on the HOT BREAKFAST blog.

    BREAKFAST with FORKS(and DORKS)It was likely inevitable that the Breakfast Duo appear on a podcast named "Dorks and Forks." They'll hang and chat with hosts Brian Wild and Dan Sanchez and guest Corey Osby over beer, wine and breakfasty nosh by Chef Tim of Harry's Savoy Grill. Oh, they'll also perform a song live. 
    The podcast will air Monday/Tuesday of next week, January 19-20. Check out the Dorks and Forks Facebook and Twitter pages to get the final word. 

    Now I'm hungry...for an omelet and some good music. 

    Thursday, January 15, 2015

    Seven Student Playwrights Selected: DTC's 2014-2015 Delaware Young Playwrights Festival

    Post content courtesy of Delaware Theatre Company

    Delaware Theatre Company is pleased to announce the six finalist plays in the 2014-2015 Delaware Young Playwrights Festival (DYPF):
    • Cutting Strings by Sam Stewart, William Penn High School 
    • Darkness: a Happy Sappy Extravaganza! by Dylan Lang, Cab Calloway School of the Arts 
    • Ed and Coop by Hannah Biener and Charles Teague, Charter School of Wilmington 
    • Letting Go by Mitali Patel, St. Elizabeth High School 
    • Transcendence by Anastasia Hutnick, Padua Academy 
    • The Wheel of Fortune by Anna Smith, Padua Academy 

    The finalists will participate in a series of playwriting workshops with professional theatre artists from Delaware Theatre Company to further refine their writing and ready their works for a public showcase performance on February 24, 2015 at 7:30pm on the DTC stage.

    This year's DYPF began with a kickoff workshop for Delaware high school teachers and students in September. From there, 41 plays written by 49 students representing eight different Delaware high schools were submitted for the first round. Each playwright received personal feedback about his or her play from a teaching artist of the Delaware Theatre Company staff. Student playwrights had the opportunity to revise their plays. Participating schools were then invited to resubmit their top five plays for the second round, also known as the "competition round." From these entries, the six finalist plays were selected for additional development under the guidance of Delaware Theatre Company's team of theatre artists and educators.

    Now in its fourth year of the relaunch of this acclaimed program, DYPF invites high school students to write a play based on a theme inspired by one of Delaware Theatre Company's productions. This year's theme was inspired by a quotation from NORA, written by Ingmar Bergman, produced and presented by DTC in February 2015. The quotation used was, "If I ever hope to learn anything about myself and the things around me, I've got to stand completely on my own." Through the use of a standards-based writing rubric, students created and shaped their original plays with regard to characters, conflict, dialogue, theme, and other dramatic criteria.

    Tuesday, January 6, 2015

    Dewey Shares an Open Casting Call for Dogs!

    Dewey the Art Dog happily shares this info with all the talented and arts-loving pooches out there!

    The Delaware Children’s Theatre (DCT) is seeking to cast the role of “Toto”, Dorothy’s beloved dog, in its upcoming sequel to The Wizard of Oz.  This potential canine star should be Toto-like, calm and well behaved. If your pet is chosen, he or she will be featured in DCT's original musical,  Welcome Back to Oz: Dorothy Meets The Patchwork Girl,  written and directed by Donna Marie Swajeski.

    DCT is actively looking for a special dog, small to medium sized, who captures the spirit of Toto.  Our new Toto's lucky owner must be available to escort this 'star' to a few rehearsals in February and be present  at all performances Saturday and Sunday afternoons in March.  “Calling all Yorkies, terriers,  Malteses, and adorable mutts. I've worked in dog rescue and know there are many fantastic dogs out there who may just steal this show. Good behavior skills a must but no acting experience required. Pay, non-negotiable, is in dog treats," states Donna Marie Swajeski.

    Interested dog owners can submit photos of their dog to the Delaware Children’s Theatre via email at or on Facebook. Please submit a line or two about "Why your dog would be the perfect Toto."  Dog and owner will practice with the cast and perform in nine shows from March 7-29.  The deadline for submission is January 23, 2015 at noon.  Calls backs will be held in late January.  “Toto” is the last role to be cast.    

    Welcome Back to Oz is part of a series of original musicals produced, written and directed by Donna Swajeski, an Emmy winning writer and the Artistic Director at DCT.   “For decades, The Wizard of Oz has been a children's book that families have embraced. It's an inspiring story with wonderful life lessons and in this sequel, we get a chance to see what's happened to the Lion, Tin man and Scarecrow now that they have their gifts from the Wizard. In its day, The Wizard of Oz was so popular that Baum was asked time and time again to write new stories featuring Dorothy and Toto – that's what we are bringing to our audience.” states Donna Marie Swajeski.  All the characters return in this sequel. Dorothy, Toto, Tin man, Lion, Scarecrow along with new heroines in Ojo, a loveable Munchkin and Scraps, her rag doll come to life. Dorothy leads her friends on an exciting quest to help Glinda stop the last remaining Wicked Witch from practicing Forbidden Magic.

    Friday, January 2, 2015

    More Delaware's Best ArtStuff of 2014!

    By Guest Blogger, Alex del Tufo
    Alex is a high school student attending Wilmington Friends School with an interest in journalism as a major. She is an editor for her school newspaper, has served as an intern at Out and About magazine and has written for WXPN’s website. Alex hopes to expand her love of music and writing through helping with our blog.  

    Narrowing down my "Best Delaware Arts Experiences of 2014" is an excruciating feat. There are numerous concerts, shows, and performances that can be distinguished as some of the best the Delaware Arts Scene has to offer.

    A concert that stands out in my mind was Run River North, who performed an incredible set at the Baby Grand in the Grand Opera House in July. The group is categorized as a Korean-American indie folk-rock band, but that doesn’t even begin to describe them. Among the six members, they can probably play any instrument imaginable, including violins, guitars, drums and of course, vocals. The sextet is impossible to squeeze into any one musical genre. I think their performance was breathtaking and has me hoping Delaware will see much more of them in the future.

    My second 2014 Delaware Arts moment is not strictly 2014, but the annual Spring Standards Boxing Day Event at Arden Gild Hall. For seven years, the day after Christmas has been dedicated to witnessing the religiously enthusiastic and talented trio, The Spring Standards, light up Arden. Just steps away from my house, the Gild Hall is home to not only our annual favorite but also welcomes several foreign acts. We Were Promised Jetpacks, a Scottish indie rock band, graced the stage in March. I first heard their music in the indie film, The Kings of Summer, and couldn’t stop listening. I hope that the Gild Hall can welcome them to be a part of their list of regular performers alongside The Spring Standards.

    A Delaware music moment that cannot be overlooked is the 3rd annual Firefly Music Festival in Dover. This summer event started as a relatively small outdoor concert but quickly erupted into a musical extravaganza hosting around 100 bands and welcoming tens of thousands of festival fanatics. Firefly 2014 brought in performers from Foo Fighters to our local group, New Sweden. My favorite show had to be the energetic indie pop duo, twenty one pilots. Four days of non-stop music and good company was a weekend never to forget, and never to miss again!

    A change in pace from the many excellent bands that hit Delaware in 2014, is the outstanding performance of James Joyce's The Dead by City Theater Company. They served up nine performances of at The Black Box at OperaDelaware Studios, where they turned the space into a working Irish "pub." The show was an excellent combination of intriguing dialogue and beautiful musical pieces. The plot simply followed a group of family and friends in their house in Ireland, and the family conflicts that can arise in the comfort of one’s home. The intimate performance space of the show sparked a connection between the actors and the audience that is hard to beat.

    2014 brought too many more outstanding concerts and shows to list — and I have faith that 2015 will do much the same for Delaware!

    Holly's Top 10 Picks of 2014

    It was another great year for the arts in Northern Delaware -- Here are my 10 Best picks for 2014, in categories I made up, and in no particular order:

    Best Small Production: Bootless Stageworks’ Venus in Fur. Starring Sean Gallagher and Kelly Warne, this might have been the most underrated production of the year. Opening night had way too many empty seats, but the two actors put on a show worthy of a packed house. Now that Bootless has a permanent home in St. Stephen’s Church on Broom Street, hopefully theater fans will be able to find them.

    Best Musical: It’s going to be The Candlelight Theater, it’s just a matter of which show. If you love musicals, you should really have a season pass, because that’s almost all they do, and they do it well. It was between Fiddler and Always… Patsy Cline, but the edge goes to Always... Patsy Cline because it marked the return of Erica Scanlon Harr to the Candlelight stage.

    Best Youth-Oriented: This one’s a dark horse (for me at least, since I’d never seen one of their productions before): Reedy Point Players’ The Outsiders. There probably isn’t a production that works so well in a library gymnasium in Delaware City. And that’s not a backhanded compliment, it was actually the perfect setting. The strong cast was well-led by Middletown High’s Brandon Dawson.

    Best Classic: Wilmington Drama League’s To Kill a Mockingbird did justice to the classic Depression-era story of injustice, featuring a standout performance by Tomorrow Jenkins, Assistant Principal at Kennett High, making her stage debut as Calpurnia.

    Best Production Featuring Actors who are Famous Outside of Delaware: It’s hard to pass over Love Letters with Michael Learned and Daniel Davis (aka the iconic Butler from “The Nanny”), but the big surprise in star-powered theater in Delaware in ‘14 was DTC’s Rest, in Pieces, featuring Donna Pescow of Saturday Night Fever fame and Lenny Wolpe, the Wizard in Broadway’s Wicked.

    Best Production I Wouldn’t Normally Cover: Made an exception to the “no high school productions” rule to check out Wilmington Christian’s Sunshine on Leith, the first ever production of the Proclaimers’ musical outside of the UK or Ireland. I’m glad I did. While the kids on stage were great, the general theater etiquette at high school productions will not have me changing my policy any time soon, though.

    Best Dance Production: First State Ballet’s Irene was written and choreographed by Delawareans Shaun Dougherty and Alex Buckner. It’s a ballet set in the vampire underworld. No way this wasn’t going to make the list.

    Best Holiday Show: While I credit Candlelight's A Christmas Carol with getting me into the holiday spirit in November, my top pick for best holiday show is City Theater’s James Joyce’s The Dead, just a great story and a great show, a grown-up holiday production where The Black Box was converted into an Irish pub for the audience.

    Best Non-Theater Event: Underground Comic Con, Jabaar Brown and Eric Cooper’s scaled-down version of the comic book convention (which have evolved into ridiculously expensive spectacles that seem more about meeting celebrities than anything else) is fun, diverse, family-friendly, and free, making it accessible to everyone. I hope this event keeps on coming back.

    Local CD I Can’t Stop Playing: I don’t listen to a ton of Classical, but Melomanie’s Excursions is so addictive that for a while I’d come back for it if I left the house without it (hey, driving music is important). I’m very partial to the back half, a multi-part piece called “The Nobility of Women” by Philadelphia composer Kile Smith. Really great CD. (I don’t get a lot of local CDs/digital albums to be honest -- if you think your CD is Best of ‘14 (or ‘15), send it to me for possible review via