Thursday, March 24, 2022
Saturday, March 19, 2022
Theater reviewer Mike Logothetis grew up in North Wilmington, performing in school and local theater productions. He lives in Newark, but you can find him wherever the arts are good.
City Theater Company (CTC) returns to the Wings Black Box during its residency at The Delaware Contemporary (TDC) with the World Premiere of Blues In My Soul: The Legend and Legacy of Lonnie Johnson, a new play by David Robson.
|Joe Beckett as Lonnie and Righteous Jolly as Chris in Blues In My Soul. |
Photo by Joe del Tufo/Moonloop Photography.
Blues In My Soul features CTC alumni Righteous Jolly (Chris) and Christopher Banker (Irving), while musician Joe Beckett (Lonnie) makes his CTC debut…and what a debut! Although not much is known about Lonnie Johnson’s personality and demeanor, Beckett gives a realistic portrayal of a man who’s weary of where his former talents led him in life.
After a chance meeting, Beckett was informed by Jolly that he was the perfect person to portray Johnson in this production. Beckett agreed to audition and ended up landing the gig.
“That’s when my nerves went through the roof because I’d never acted before. They sent the script and it’s a two-man play, so it’s just me and Righteous through the whole play,” said Beckett. “Again, I have no experience whatsoever.”
Some of those nerves matter on stage and some don’t. Beckett’s and Jolly’s characters verbally spar, but they end up making beautiful music together. And that’s what this show is about: Music. Specifically, The Blues. Playwright Robson thankfully included over a dozen abridged songs by Johnson so the audience can appreciate the talents of the legendary bluesman.
But to really experience The Blues, the performer has to dig down and bring the music up with him through his instrument and voice. In that realm, Beckett delivers wholeheartedly. With songs like “See See Rider” and the titular “Blues In My Soul,” we see both Johnson’s and Beckett’s significant talents.
Jolly is no slouch either as the idolizing Chris, a dedicated DJ driving to put The Blues he loves on the Philadelphia airwaves. Chris is a devotee of Lonnie and is overjoyed to play music for and with his hero as he argues his case to share Johnson’s musical legacy with the world. Jolly shows his chops playing “Tomorrow Night” and Beautiful But Dumb” for Beckett’s Johnson. “Two-Tone Stomp” and “Blues For Chris” are standout Beckett/Jolly duets which capture the true joy of complementary performance.
But while the music soars, the dialog lost me at points. Perhaps it was opening night jitters or the difficulty in compressing a man’s life and career into verbal vignettes between songs, but a little tightening up would improve the flow of the show.
By no means should that minor script detail stop you from making time to see this production. Director Joe Trainor puts his two principal actors front and center, but makes sure the music is the real the star. While Lonnie laments that the music industry is a contest he “can’t seem to win,” this play is definitely a winner.
As Beckett said in an interview with the Lower Bucks Times: “I hope what people get out of this show is that music is just music. Music brings people together.” Amen.
|Playwright David Robson.|
Photo by Sonja Robson.
Robson echoes that sentiment: “As an artistic partner, CTC can’t be beat. As a long-time supporter of my work, their creative team has been instrumental in helping me nudge the play forward by asking the right questions and encouraging my efforts to hone the piece. Their belief in this story honors my work and the life of the great Lonnie Johnson.”
Blues In My Soul runs for only four performances through next Saturday (March 18, 19, 25, and 26). Curtain is at 8:00pm, and the show lasts just under 90 minutes. City Theater Company’s new home at The Delaware Contemporary is located at 200 South Madison, Wilmington, DE 19801.
Come share in the magic of rediscovered music. As Lonnie Johnson would say about The Blues: “You can have ‘em, but you can’t own ‘em.”
Thursday, March 17, 2022
Delaware Arts Info reviewer Charles "Ebbie" Alfree III discusses the new composition Flamingos with John Lilley, Brent Edmondson and Daniel Gallery of JBD MusicWorks.
The Wilmington Community Orchestra will perform Flamingos along with two other pieces as part of their Romantic concert on Sunday, March 20, 2022, 3:00pm at The Music School of Delaware's Wilmington Branch. The performance will also feature Miles Brown, bass soloist. Tickets are a suggested donation of $10/person and may be reserved at the Music School's website.
The Wilmington Community Orchestra is an ensemble of the Music School and is led by Music Director Joseph Hodge. This accomplished amateur ensemble performs standard symphonic and concerto repertoire in 3-4 performances each season at the Music School.
About the piece, Gallery has previously noted: "Flamingos represent and symbolize balance, grace and beauty, and pink flamingos are considered a symbol of innocence and teach us to have confidence. This piece reflects the beauty of this innocence as they take their first flight."
For information about the artists and for tickets to the performance, visit https://jbdmusicworks.com.
Tuesday, March 8, 2022
|(L-R): Charnette Batey, Jamen Nanthakumar & Bonnie Milligan star |
in Other World. [Photo by Matt Urban, NüPOINT Media]
With a book by Tony nominee Hunter Bell, and music and lyrics by Jeff Bowen and Ann McNamee, Other World takes the audience on a journey beyond what most would expect from a musical. Add visionary director, Adrienne Campbell-Holt, and the cutting-edge choreographer, Karla Puno Garcia, and the show becomes a video game spectacle!
The musical begins with a group of gamers playing the widely popular Other World video game. The players are in their respective homes around the world and have never met in person but have created a friendship — a 'cybercommunity' devoted to the game. This bond is threatened when the company behind Other World decides to cancel the game with only a 48-hour notice. One member of the gamer's community Sri, played by Jamen Nanthakumar, has a special relationship with Other World: Besides being his favorite video game, his deceased mother also co-created it when he was a child.
Although Sri has isolated himself in his home for the past three years, working remotely and only playing Other World, the cancelation of the game has driven him to leave his home and visit the man with whom his mother co-created the game. When Sri arrives at the man’s house, he is greeted by Lorraine, played by Bonnie Milligan, the co-creator’s daughter. She explains to Sri how the two met when they were younger and that her father has passed away.
She invites Sri to explore her father’s workroom in the garage and talks of her dislike of the game. Rather, she enjoys going out with friends and watching reality shows. While in the garage, Sri stumbles upon the computer used to build Other World and it opens a portal that transports Sri and Lorraine into the actual game. Now the two must face the game’s challenges to open the portal home before Other World ends forever.
Once in the game, Sri and Lorraine meet and befriend Other World characters, including the game’s host/guide, Temula played by Charnette Batey and the cyborg, 1011, played by Seth Rettberg. Temula, 1011, and additional Other World characters assist the humans in the challenges created to open the new portal. The challenges lead to the final battle with the wicked Antagon, played by Ryan Andes. Antagon wants to open the portal for himself and take over Earth.
Mr. Nanthakumar beautifully manifests Sri’s shyness and fears of the outside world — a feeling that many can identify with since the beginning of the pandemic in 2020. He’s able to peel the layers of his character and make him a hero that wins over the audience. Ms. Milligan charms as the sassy Lorraine. Besides having a gorgeous singing voice, her timing is perfect for the funny quips Mr. Bell has written for her character.
Ms. Batey and Mr. Andes are fierce in their respective roles. She brings down the house with the final song of Act One, "My Journey Begins." She moves effortlessly while not only singing the inspiring song, but also performing a very precise battle scene. Mr. Andes exudes fear as the maniacal villain, always standing above the action and eliminating anyone who tries to stand in his way.
Ms. Batey and Mr. Andes, along with most of the Other World characters wear magnificent, futuristic costumes conceived and designed Tilly Grimes and Wētā Workshop. Cassie J. Williams perfectly matches the costumes with her stunning wigs, hair, and makeup designs.
In addition to the costumes, Wētā Workshop, along with Achesonwalsh Studios and the Other World production team — Mary Hamrick, scenic design; Grant Yeager, lighting design, Hidenori Nakajo, sound design; Lucy Mackinnon, projection design; and Rebekah Tisch, art director — have designed the incredible puppets and effects that delight throughout the show. Their collective talents bring the magnificent video game and its inhabitants to life.
Ms. Campbell-Holt has done an amazing job staging Other World. The show is a technical juggernaut, but at the core is a story about people wanting connection, being a part of the world, and finding their inner strength. She does such a great job balancing the fantasy and humanity aspects of the show.
Ms. Puno Garcia’s transcendent choreography incorporates Filipino martial arts in the extraordinary fight scenes, some disco hustle to one of the video game’s dance challenges, and even modern dance when two of the video game characters slink onto the stage.
Mr. Bell’s book could have easily become a total fantasy story and relied on the technical aspects of the production, but he has created complex characters who evolve as the story progresses. Matching his book with Mr. Bowen and Ms. McNamee’s thrilling and passionate score, the three artists have written an intriguing piece about family, connection, and love with the backdrop of a video game.
Other World a great show for the whole family to enjoy. See it before it closes on March 20!
For information and tickets, visit www.delawaretheatre.org.
Sunday, March 6, 2022
Delaware Arts Info reviewer Charles "Ebbie" Alfree III caught up with playwright David Robson to discuss his latest play (with music) about blues and jazz legend Lonnie Johnson.
Blues in My Soul opens on Friday, March 18, at City Theater Company’s new home at The Delaware Contemporary.
For information and tickets, visit https://city-theater.org.
Tuesday, March 1, 2022
Raw’s performance will tell the story of a boy returning to Africa after 400 years of separation, greeting his ancestors and indigenous heritage. The performance will feature poetry, storytelling and African dancing with appearances by Ile Igoke Temple and stage design by The Stylistics. Raw will premiere songs from his forthcoming album Orisa Soul Music.
“We welcome the Wilmington community to join us at The Queen for this much-anticipated new performance,” says Saralyn Rosenfield, Director of Learning and Engagement at the Delaware Art Museum. “Richard Raw’s commission aligns with the Museum’s work to connect people with art and to highlight the strength and legacy of artists working in our city.” Shades of Excellence continues DelArt’s series of commissions supporting the creation of new art and performance by national and local artists of color over the past 5 years.
Richard Raw combines soul with hip-hop and invigorating, thought-provoking lyrics. He works as a community activist, using his lyrics and performances as tools to inspire and educate the next generation. Raw was awarded a 2021 Established Artist grant by the Delaware Division of the Arts for his music. Once Iz Balleto, Community Engagement Specialist at the Delaware Art Museum, heard about the student-centered Blackout Experience, he identified the opportunity to bring in Richard Raw and the Word Warrior Band to amplify Black excellence. This format supports the Museum’s mission, creates a new partnership between Freire and DelArt, and aligns with Richard Raw’s artistic practice.
"Freire Schools is thrilled to be extending the reach of our annual event honoring Black History Month by partnering with the Delaware Art Museum," said Freire Charter Wilmington Co-Head of School Nate Durant, "Every day we are preparing our students for college and beyond, and that happens both inside and outside of the classroom. When students are afforded opportunities like this Blackout Experience to elevate their voice, celebrate their history, and join with their community to advocate for what they believe in, it is transformative, not just for our school but for our whole community. We look forward to welcoming Richard Raw and the Word Warrior Band and celebrating the many "Shades of Excellence" that shine daily at Freire Wilmington and in our city.”
Tickets for this show are $15 and can be purchased at www.delart.org.