Showing posts with label Musical Theatre. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Musical Theatre. Show all posts

Sunday, August 1, 2021

Sister Act Provides a Joyous Return to the Theater!

By Charles "Ebbie" Alfree, III

Seeing a live show again is such a joyous experience after theaters were closed for the better part of 2020 and this year. And, what better show to see than The Choir School of Delaware’s boisterous production of the Broadway musical, Sister Act!

Although based on the 1992 hit film, the musical changed the setting to Philadelphia during the late 1970s, where Deloris Van Cartier, a struggling disco singer, witnesses a murder committed by her thug boyfriend, Curtis. After reporting the incident to the police, she is sent to live at a convent for her protection. Reluctantly, she puts on the habit and the shenanigans ensue as she brings new energy to the parish’s fledgling choir.

Amioluwa Balogun-Victor shines bright as the wannabe disco diva, Deloris. She lights up the stage with her strong vocals and comedic timing. It was hard for me not to dance while she performed the electrifying opening number, Take Me to Heaven. Nashon Colon is delightful as Deloris’s old school friend, Officer Eddie, who is working on her case. He hits all the right notes and delights with his big number, I Could Be That Guy. Lex Bowers delivers a frighteningly funny performance as Curtis, and Olivia Drumbore is stunning as the stern Mother Superior who unwillingly accepts Deloris into her parish. Olivia’s beautiful voice soars throughout the sanctuary of Grace United Methodist Church.

The late 19th Century church’s beautiful stained-glass windows and exposed organ pipes provides the perfect setting for the production. Director Thomas Emerson is able to make the large space work well for this musical spectacle. Choreographer Amber Rance has the cast gettin’ down --- whether in gold lamé or in habits --- to the dance-infused score by Alan Menken and lyrics by Glenn Slater. Conductor Arreon Harley-Emerson has assembled an outstanding band to support the stellar cast.

Unfortunately, Sister Act was a one-night-only performance. However, the Choir School has plenty of other programs planned for this year and into 2022. 

For example, the organziation is offering a musical Bootcamp, running August 23-26, 2021.
Interested youth from the Greater Wilmington area in Grades 2-12 can enroll in the FREE 4-day camp, focusing on music education and choral singing. The camp runs Monday-Friday, 9:00am-5:00pm and includes breakfast and lunch. Students can enroll by August 19 online at  https://choirschoolofdelaware.org/bootcamp/.


Visit choirschoolofdelaware.org or call 302.543.8657 for additional information.

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.  

Monday, September 30, 2013

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.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Snowfall Affords Us Sweet Notes in the Spring

We were lucky Westminster Presbyterian Church held its “Greatest Hits” concert a second time so that Wilmingtonians trapped indoors by the winter’s crippling snowfall could get another chance to hear some fabulous singing.


The excellent acoustics of the church caressed the lovely tones of these very experienced singers. The program was a mix of favorite Broadway songs, operatic areas and ensembles. On the organ and piano, Music Director Paul Fleckenstein was flawless accompanying the singers in this repertoire, quite different from standard “church music”. The large choir was dynamic and enthusiastic, enjoying every moment on and off the stage. I sat next to a chorister who whispered excitedly to me of the soloists, “We get to sing with them EVERY Sunday!”


Justin Gonzalzez’s Italianate tenor served La Donna è Mobile (Rigoletto) perfectly. The crowd -- many of them congregants and choristers -- loved his showmanship and bravado. With his full, clear baritone, Brian Carter did an excellent job with his rendition of Si può from I Pagliacci. Mezzo-soprano Ruth Bailis handled Tchaikovsky’s Podrugi milyye from Pique Dame beautifully, and was touching in Evening Prayer from Hansel and Gretel. Soprano Barbara Winchester as the Sandman made an adorable, pixie-like appearance in the scene and sang her part sweetly.


As always, I was bowled over by Diana Milburn. Her pianissimos are so elegant, her presentation so moving. Hers is a sound that harkens to a bygone era of true Bel Canto singing. In Donde Lieta Usci from Puccini’s La Bohème, her deep understanding of Mimi’s character was evident, and her command of the style was impeccable.


Wilmington needs more opera! Kudos to the singers, directors and organizations who make it happen. Check out Westminster’s website for more concert information.

See www.wpc.org.