Showing posts with label The Playhouse on Rodney Square. Show all posts
Showing posts with label The Playhouse on Rodney Square. Show all posts

Wednesday, November 18, 2020

Not Your Grandmother’s Nutcracker: Wilmington Ballet Announces Virtual Nutcracker Experience

Information in this post comes from a press release from The Wilmington Ballet Academy of the Dance.

While COVID-19 and socially distant restrictions have shut down the majority of arts organizations around the world, the Wilmington Ballet have been pirouetting full force into the new – a new philosophy, new staff, and a new way to bring the holiday tradition of The Nutcracker to families across Delaware for the 53th year. 

From December 7-12, sugarplums will dazzle, mice and soldiers will battle, and snowflakes will swirl as the Wilmington Ballet presents their completely virtual Nutcracker Experience. This five-night, online event will feature a mix of pre-recorded and live videos. The ballet will be performed in venues across the Greater Wilmington area, including The Delaware Art Museum and The Playhouse on Rodney Square.

Viewers can expect to be blown away by this year’s guest stars:
 Akua Parker - Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, Academy of the Dance alumna
 Georgina Pazcoguin - New York City Ballet Soloist
 Lateef Williams – Royal Ballet of Flanders, Wilm Ballet Alumni
 Amanda Smith - Dance Theater of Harlem
 Anthony Santos – Dance Theater of Harlem
 The Voloshky Ukranian Dance Ensemble

“We really had to test our creativity this year and expand the performance to fit the current times we find ourselves in,” said Benjamin Cannon, Wilmington Ballet’s new Executive and Artistic Director. “It was important to us to keep this tradition alive for our community. Now more than ever, a sense of ‘normal’ and familiarity is so needed, and our hope is that by presenting The Nutcracker in a new and innovative way, we can help families hang on to a holiday tradition they may have otherwise had to forego.” 

This year’s ballet will be presented virtually on new virtual events platform Markee – created locally in Downtown Wilmington. Since quietly launching in June 2020, Markee has hosted more than 100 events, including the New Castle County Chamber of Commerce Annual Dinner, EasterSeals Delaware and Maryland’s Easter Shore Annual Caregiver Conference, and an event for The Future Party.

Other local organizations involved in this year’s production include:
 DelawareArt Museum
 Pieces of a Dream Academy of Dance
 McAlleer-Paulson School of Irish Dance
 Stage Lights Dance Academy
 The Playhouse on Rodney Square

“Including and becoming more a part of our local community was imperative to us,” said Christopher Davis, the ballet’s Associate Artistic Director. “We were floored when we were introduced to Markee and could not sign up fast enough when we learned it was built just a mile from our studio! The Delaware Art Museum has been an incredible partner, and we fully intend to include as many community organizations as possible in our programming going forward.”

Cannon and Davis, both with impressive backgrounds featuring Broadway and professional dance companies, are hoping to use this year’s performance as an introduction to the new Wilmington Ballet and Academy of the Dance. The long-term plans for the dance company include adding more diverse class options, community programming, extensive building updates, and an exciting rebranding project with local branding agency BrandSwan.

The Tuttleman Foundation Presents: The Nutcracker Experience
• Monday, Dec. 7 – Wednesday, Dec 9: 7pm
• Thursday, Dec. 10: 8:30pm (Special presentation in conjunction with Delaware Art Museum)
• Friday, Dec. 11: 7pm
• Saturday, Dec. 12: 2pm (Special matinee with guest stars from the historic Playhouse on Rodney Square)

Tickets ($75 per single household) are on sale now at

(The Wilmington Ballet asks that viewers continue to follow the Delaware State of Emergency guidelines that have been put in place. They have priced tickets per household to encourage social distancing. Once purchased, ticket links are unique and cannot be shared.)

About The Wilmington Ballet at the Academy of the Dance
Founded in 1956, as the Academy of the Dance, Wilmington Ballet has the longest-standing tradition of excellence in dance training in the region. Wilmington Ballet’s professional faculty is dedicated to providing exceptional ballet training to students of all ages. Wilmington Ballet students have advanced to the world’s top companies, including American Ballet Theatre, New York City Ballet, Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre, Martha Graham Company, Royal Ballet Flanders, Boston Ballet, Dance Theatre of Harlem, as well as Broadway and more. Since 1967, the annual performance of The Nutcracker at the Playhouse on Rodney Square has provided our students the opportunity to perform with world-class professional artists and live orchestra. Wilmington Ballet is conveniently located in the Trolley Square neighborhood at 1709 Gilpin Avenue. The Wilmington Ballet is supported, in part, by a grant from the Delaware Division of the Arts in partnership with the National Endowment for the Arts.  More Information:

Friday, February 8, 2019

The Playhouse Takes a Family on Magical Trip to 'Neverland'

By Guest Bloggers Erin, Ellie & Maggie Lacey
Erin is a mom of 4 kids and works as a Business Processor for Point to Point Wealth Management in Wilmington. When not at work or home, she can usually be found costuming her kids' shows at the Delaware Children's Theater. Ellie is an 8th Grade Vocal Major and Maggie is a 7th Grade Piano major at Cab Calloway School of the Arts.

As a working mom of 4 kids, my evenings generally consist of the usual rush of carpools, dinners and mountains of homework, so I was thrilled to have a rare weeknight date with my girls, Ellie (age 14) and Maggie (age 12) to see Finding Neverland at The Playhouse on Rodney Square. In the Lacey house, music is a sport, and seeing musicals are like going to see your favorite team play. 

I had never seen Finding Neverland, but Ellie had when she was nine, having attended a Broadway Dreams Workshop with The Imagination Players. During that trip, they spent the afternoon with a cast member who taught them to sing and dance to Believe, one of the big ensemble numbers. 

After her trip, she was thrilled to have seen a real Broadway production, but was a little fuzzy on details, as nine-year-olds often are. I was interested to see the show for myself, and to hear how Ellie's perception of the show would change now that she was five years older.

Finding Neverland tells the story of J.M. Barrie, author of Peter Pan, as he struggles to write a new play after a flop. He goes to Kensington Gardens to try to find inspiration outside and meets a group of young boys and their mother, Sylvia. Their joy in their imaginary game is contagious and Barrie finds himself leading the boys in a game of pirates and realizes that his imagination is being reawakened by play. 

His closeness with the boys and their mother creates friction in his marriage, and his wild imaginings inspired by the boys are ridiculed by his producer and his actors. It is when all is darkest that he must decide if he will fall in line with societal expectations, or will he follow his heart to Neverland.

"Little boys should never be sent to bed. They always wake up a day older." 

This line from Peter Pan, said by J.M. Barrie in Act 1, was the first time I welled up during the show, but it definitely wasn't the last. There were multiple times when I was reminded of when the kids were younger and we could play make-believe games for hours. The interaction between the four young actors was believable as brothers, and I wanted to scoop the youngest up and bring him home with me. 

I was totally ready to enlist in Captain Hook's crew by the end of Stronger and the Gaelic-inspired Play was a joy to watch. There were some lovely quiet moments between the two leads, Barrie and Sylvia, even in times when the rest of stage was full of dancing. They would be focused on each other in the way that two people in love usually are. 

But it was a look between a Sylvia and her mother during Neverland Reprise in the second act that went all the way into my heart. Because of course, to parents, our children never do grow up. Instead, when you look at them, you see them at every age, as if you have your own personal Neverland.

It's a fairly low-tech show, as far as effects, but I found the simplicity sweet and engaging. My daughters loved it as well. Ellie did indeed have a much different impression of the show at age 14 than at 9. She particularly enjoyed the message of Stronger and said that she liked how Barrie faced his "haters" and did what he knew to be right. Maggie loved We're All Made of Stars, and really loved the interactions of the boys. She said that their make-believe games made her wish it was summer so they could get back to playing all day.

There were a number of opening-night glitches with set pieces and sound, but it didn't take away from the overall 'glowy' feeling of warmth that this show conveys. By the end, you will know that your imagination is powerful and love is the best magic of all.

Finding Neverland continues at The Playhouse at Rodney Square through Sunday, February 10. Tickets range from $40-95 at

Thursday, May 3, 2018

Reliving the Magic of Wilmington

"The Supremes" in MOTOWN: The Musical.
Photo courtesy of The Playhouse on Rodney Square.
By Carol Van Zoeren
With powerful voices and a rockin’ five-piece pit band, the current show at The Playhouse on Rodney Square is a raucous good time. The show follows the history of the Motown record label from its early precursors in the '50s, growth into a major force in the recording industry and evolution in the face of competition and a changing pop landscape.

Motown’s founder and driving force, Berry Gordy, had a gift for identifying and bringing together musical talent, and carefully managed his artists' public images, making Motown a major national and international success. Eventually, many of Motown’s stars chafed under Gordy’s tight control (or were lured away by bigger paychecks) and the label lost its prominence. But the immense catalogue of nearly 15,000 songs lives on.

I was curious whether MOTOWN: The Musical would follow the jukebox musical format, where well-known songs are woven into the plot narrative. Or, would the songs simply be performed stand alone, as they were in Motown’s heyday. Turns out, it’s a bit of both. The show includes 55 Motown hits. 

To squeeze it all in, many are excerpts  snippets long enough to be recognized but not a full song. Often, these are combined into expertly crafted medleys and mash-ups. A highlight is the Jackson 5’s medley, which keeps the audience in anticipation of what’s next.

The show also include three songs written specifically to serve the narrative. Most notable, Kenneth Mosely as Berry Gordy gives a tour de force performance of Can I Close the Door. In this, Gordy struggles to reconcile his disappointment that his stars have deserted him with the knowledge that they still share a great deal of love.

There are a lot of fun and funny moments. Diana Ross (American Idol alum Trenyce) gets the audience singing along with Reach Out and Touch. The developing romance between Ross and Gordy is touchingly sweet. The friendly rivalry between the Temptations and the Four Tops in the opening scene is great fun. And as the young Michael Jackson, the talented Chase Phillips is a delight.

Because Motown had such a deep bench of artists, each ensemble member gets a chance to shine. These include Devin Holloway as Jackie Wilson, Quiana Holmes as Mary Wilson, Erick Patrick as Rick James, and Cartreze Tucker as Stevie Wonder. I must also commend Rob McCaffrey on his hysterical, over-the-top Ed Sullivan.

If I had one quibble, it’d be that reproductions of some of the iconic performances could have been tighter in both vocals and movement. Not that these were not well executed, but it’s hard not to compare to what we’re familiar with from television or YouTube. I also thought juxtaposing the difficulties at Motown with the wrenching societal upheavals of 1968 was a bit heavy-handed.

The costumes by Emilio Sosa 
— both glamorous stage costumes and everyday wear effectively evoked the time. And there were a lot of them...the dressers backstage must have been very busy! The action moved seamlessly thanks to moving panels and excellent projection design by Daniel Brodie.

In all, I thoroughly enjoyed MOTOWN: The Musical and highly recommend it. Not just for those of us of a “certain age” who grew up with this music, but also to introduce this great era in music to the younger set.

See The Playhouse on Rodney Square.

Thursday, April 5, 2018

"Dirty Dancing" Down Memory Lane at The Playhouse

By Charles "Ebbie" Alfree, III

Dirty Dancing – The Classic Story on Stage opened Tuesday, April 3 at The Playhouse on Rodney Square to a very excited audience! Based on their reaction, I assume most (if not all) had seen the movie and knew the story of Frances "Baby" Houseman’s romance with bad-boy dancer Johnny Castle, during her well-to-do family's vacation at a resort in upstate New York. 

"Baby" & "Johnny" have the time of their lives in
Dirty Dancing  – The Classic Story on Stage.
Photo courtesy of
The Playhouse on Rodney Square.
Assuming they knew the movie, that also meant they knew the soundtrack. I think anyone who was 4 or older in 1987 probably knows at least one or two of the songs by heart! (I recall those songs playing constantly on the radio 'back in the day.') 

Dirty Dancing, the film, was a phenomenon. Let’s face it: Most people going to see the stage version are looking to recapture the memories of a blockbuster movie of the 1980s. From what I overheard of people exiting the theater at the close of the show, it did the job! I heard many recounting the first time they saw the movie, comparing the stage actors to the original characters in the film.

Yes, this Dirty Dancing stays true to the film. You’ll recognize the dance moves, the music (with a few period songs added), the characters and every famous scene from the movie (you can probably guess them all). Minor changes have been made to this production — including a subplot about the Freedom Riders — but for the most part it, the original tale stays intact.

Although some may long for the film actors, I think most will be pleased with many of the actors in this production, especially Aaron Patrick Craven as Johnny Castle and Anais Blake as Penny Johnson. Both are incredibly strong dancers, and it was hard to keep my eyes off them as they recreated those iconic dance moves on The Playhouse stage. 

Christopher Robert Smith as Dr. Jake Houseman (Baby’s father) brought a youthful feel to his character that was refreshing and that made him a little more relatable. Erica Philpot, who sings many of the famous anthems from the film, has a beautiful voice and brought new depth and feeling to the memorable songs.

I admit, like most others in the theater that night, I became a little nostalgic watching the show. It took me back to being 13 years old and seeing the movie for the first time with my family. It was nice to "relive" my youth and the fun of the 80s…even though the show is set in the 60’s!

Come relive the time of your life while Dirty Dancing – The Classic Story on Stage is at The Playhouse on Rodney Square through April 8. For tickets, visit or call 302.888.0200.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

A Wilmington Holiday Tradition Gets Thumbs Up from Young Arts Fans

Wilmington Ballet Academy of the Dance presented
The Nutcracker at The Playhouse on Rodney Square.
Photo courtesy of Wilmington Ballet.
By The Good Girls
The Good Girls appreciate the rich arts scene in Wilmington. Brenda is passionate about volunteering, food, the outdoors and learning tennis. Brynn, a 4th Grader, enjoys horses, traveling, singing and learning to crochet. Brynn's friend Madison joined us for her first theater experience. She is a 1st Grader who likes dancing, playing outside and solving math problems. 

The Nutcracker was presented at The Playhouse on Rodney Square on Saturday, December 2, and Sunday, December 3, by the Wilmington Ballet Academy of the Dance in its 60th anniversary year featuring the choreography of Artistic Director Jorge Laico. 

Based on Alexander Dumas’ The Story of the Nutcracker as adapted from E.T.A. Hoffman’s The Nutcracker and The Mouse King, the production featured the familiar, lively scores of P.I. Tchaikovsky. 

Our seats in the balcony provided a perfect perspective as the story was brought to life on stage in a feast for the eyes, ears and imaginations of children and adults alike.

Brenda enjoyed the warm, nostalgic holiday gathering and dancing of guests in their period garb at the Stahlbaums’ home, where the nutcracker toy was presented to young Clara. After her brother, Fritz, breaks it, Uncle Drosselmeyer bandages it and returns it to Clara, who falls asleep as her dreams unfold before the audience. 

Brynn and her friend Madison pose by the
life-sized gingerbread house in the Hotel du Pont.
The fierce Mouse King and his menacing yet musing minions of dancing mice arrived to fight the Nutcracker. The victorious but exhausted Nutcracker turns into a dashing prince who is transported with Clara to the magical Land of Snow. Madison exclaimed to us that, "...the dance [of the Snow Queen and King and their Snowflakes] was beautiful, and the ballerinas were Hallelujah good!"

Brynn found it challenging that there were no speaking parts (a departure from her prior theater experiences) but appreciated that "...all the kids must have worked so hard to perform the dances so well." Her favorite character was the funny bearded man on stilts in a big dress!

Intermission allowed a visit to the gorgeous, life-size gingerbread house in the Hotel DuPont lobby, intoxicating for the nose and eyes. Mmmmmmmmmm....

As the story resumed, Clara and the Nutcracker arrive in the Land of Sweets, where theater-goers enjoyed the real treat when the iconic Sugar Plum Fairy commanded a festival of dance. Beautiful costumery immersed us in exotic dance numbers from around the globe. Madison said, "...the music gets a thumbs up --- very, very good." and the audience obviously agreed, as they enthusiastically clapped a rhythm for the Ukrainian Trepak dance. Brynn fancied the Waltz of the Flowers with their beautiful floral wreaths. 

Soon, Clara and the Nutcracker Prince are sent on their way and Clara reappears sleeping at home by the Christmas tree. Was it all a dream?


Thursday, November 16, 2017

A Family Trip Down the Playhouse's Yellow Brick Road

By Guest Bloggers Hannah, Emily and Alyssa Tagle and their future stepmom, Gabrielle Reichert. Hannah is 10 years old and likes math, Legos, Minecraft and reading; Emily is 13 and loves to draw and write; Alyssa is also 13, and she loves science and cheerleading. They and Gabrielle live with their father, Dan, in the 40 Acres neighborhood of Wilmington. 

The Tagle sisters pose in the lobby of
The Playhouse on Rodney Square before seeing
The Wizard of Oz
Hannah's Review
In The Wizard of Oz, Dorothy runs away because she is about to lose her dog Toto. She wanted to be far from home but instead gets caught up in a twister. She wakes up in Oz with Glinda the Good Witch. The only way Dorothy can get home is to follow the yellow brick road. 

Along the way, she meets the Scarecrow, the Tin Man and the Lion. They all help her find her way to see the Wizard of Oz. Once they meet the Wizard, he agrees to grant their wishes but first they must bring back the broomstick from the Witch of the West. Unfortunately, they are captured by the Witch's evil monkeys so the Witch can figure out how to take the ruby slippers off of Dorothy’s feet. 

Dorothy is saved by her friends the Scarecrow, the Tin Man and the Lion, but the Witch finds them and sets fire to the Scarecrow. Dorothy throws a bucket of water at her, not realizing that the Witch will melt. Everyone cheers! Dorothy and her friends take the broomstick back to Emerald City, and the Wizard grants all of their wishes, including sending Dorothy back home to Kansas. But unfortunately, the hot air balloon he has to take Dorothy home floats away without her. Glinda returns to tell her she can still return home by using the ruby slippers. Dorothy wakes up back in Kansas with her family and Toto. 

I think the most beautiful costume was the Good Witch – it was so sparkly! My favorite actor was Toto. And I really liked the song Off to See the Wizard. But, I didn’t like the high-pitched screaming of the Witch and the monkeys. I would recommend it to other kids my age. The singing and dancing was amazing. And the ruby slippers were bright, red and sparkly. The Wizard of Oz is my second play I’ve seen and it might be my favorite!

Emily's Review
On Tuesday, November 14, 2017 I went to The Playhouse on Rodney Square to see The Wizard of Oz. I liked the dancing because everybody was included in the choreography. I did not like how the actor, Emily Perzan, was so loud as the Wicked Witch of the West, but it was cool that she could play the role so well. 

Victor Legarreta, who played the Lion and Zeke, stole the show, as always. He did an amazing job. My least favorite part was when the boy munchkins and the jitterbugs came out. I did not like their costumes. But overall, the costumes for the rest of the performance were amazing. You forget they were actors on stage and really came together to tell the story to the audience. 

My favorite song was Over the Rainbow. Dorothy, (played by Kalie Kamann) did an outstanding job with her role in every scene. I would definitely suggest this play to others but maybe not little kids (age 7 and under). The show started at 7:30 but didn’t end until 10:30 (which was past even my bedtime on a school night). In all, it was a fantastic show!

Alyssa's Review
The play The Wizard of Oz is a wonderful play. I saw it opening night and it was fun, happy and joyful. Dorothy (Kalie Kaimann) is a wonderful singer and actress. Her dog Murphy (aka Toto) stole the show with his overload of cuteness! 

In the beginning, Dorothy and Toto are just playing and then Miss Gulch (Emily Perzan) wants to take Toto away. Dorothy tries to run away, but Professor Marvel (Kirk Lawrence) tells Dorothy that Auntie Em (Ashleigh Thompson) is sick (but she isn’t). 

Dorothy runs home just in time to get inside before the twister hits. She falls asleep and before she knows it, she’s meeting Glinda the Good Witch (Ashleigh Thompson) and the munchkins in MunchkinLand! One thing I did not like was how loud it was from the Wicked Witch, the munchkins and the monkeys. I had to cover my ears!

Gabrielle's Review
I can’t remember the last time I watched The Wizard of Oz, so I was excited to see the performance. The set design was incredible, really felt like you were part of the story. The mix of back screen, stage and front screen gave life to each act. 

The munchkin flowers were incredibly detailed and very vibrant. And I loved the winged monkeys – not so scary in this performance! Of course the Lion stole the show, but a close second was Toto...Adorable and so well-behaved! 

The only thing I didn’t like was how long the show ran. Three hours even with teenagers is tough, let alone the little ones. While the first half was strong, I felt like there was ‘filler’ in the second. The dance in Emerald City (without any of the main characters) I felt was long and unnecessary, as was the Jitterbug. But the singing, costumes and actors were fantastic. 

I would recommend this show for your families, but you might want to keep the littler ones at home. 

Friday, October 13, 2017

The Grand Celebrates One-Day Ticket Sales Record

This post content courtesy of an October 10 press release from The Grand Opera House...

Photo courtesy of The Grand Opera House.
The Grand staff and board, under the Executive and Programmatic leadership of Mark Fields and Stephen Bailey, is excited to announce that the performance arts company has set a one-day ticket sale record, selling over 6,000 tickets on Monday, October 9, 2017.

“We are bowled away by these results,” says Mark Fields, “it is another example of how The Grand’s quality programming has attracted new and returning patrons to this beautiful building.”

Currently, The Grand has over 70 shows on sale, ranging from America’s Got Talent finalist TAPE FACE (10/14), to long-time comedy icon SINBAD (12/15), music mavens STRAIGHT NO CHASER (11/29), and Broadway’s finest like THE WIZARD OF OZ (11/14-11/19) and MOTOWN (5/1-5/6).

“I highly encourage you to look at our new and improved website at to see all of our offerings this season!” says Fields. “The Grand’s website, newly launched on October 1, is much faster and user-friendly than our previous.  It is mobile friendly, removing the need for our Grand Smart Phone App, and it provides search capabilities never before offered to our patrons.  Even better – it combines the two separate sites that were previously The Grand and the Playhouse – providing patrons the ability to buy tickets across our Music & Variety and Broadway series.”

Tickets can be purchased online at, by phone at 302.652.5577 or by visiting The Grand’s Box Office at 818 North Market Street, Wilmington, Delaware.

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Once Takes Playhouse Theatergoers on Heartfelt Musical Journey

By Jenna Montgomery
Jenna is a property manager and ardent patron/volunteer in the local music, art & theater community.

For one weekend only, a Dublin pub is nestled in the heart of downtown Wilmington with Once, the Tony award-winning Broadway musical, taking audiences on a captivating journey with touching songs and heartfelt performances.

The show's tagline – "His music needed one thing. Her." – perfectly encapsulates the storyline of a brokenhearted street musician and Czech-immigrant muse. Sam Cieri and Mackenzie Lesser-Roy brilliantly play the lead characters simply named Guy and Girl, who demonstrate such incredible emotional vulnerability as they struggle to move through life and their own complex, unlikely connection. The tender moments and songs they share bring to life the universal themes of moving past fear and embracing one's destiny.

Unlike typical Broadway musicals, there is no pit orchestra. Instead, every instrument is performed on stage by the talented musician actors. It's literally music in motion as the guitars, mandolins, accordions and more all get swept into the choreographed dances.

As a novel bonus, theatregoers are invited to come onstage as pub patrons during both pre-show and intermission. Many of the cast's musician actors treat them to a rollicking live jam as they enjoy their drinks.

Several notable cast members include John Hays – who brings welcome comic relief as Billy, a raucous but endearing piano store owner – as well as 9-year-old Lily Caputo, a Brandywine Valley resident making her Broadway debut, who brings sweet, youthful energy to her role as Girl's daughter.

While 13 cast members dazzle onstage, the character without program recognition is Dublin itself. The Irish capital comes to life through the storyline and its characters, highlighting Dublin's incredible diversity and energy. A particularly poignant line, "You can't have a city without music," underscores this point.

Falling Slowly is the show's signature song with soaring melodies and vocals. It's the Oscar winner for Best Song from the 2007 indie film, upon which this musical is based. Ranging from a cappella songs, solo numbers and rousing group performances, the music in this show delivers an emotional wallop with earnest lyrics and beautiful melodies, written by Glen Hansard and Markéta Irglová, stars of the original film.

Once incorporates many clever elements in its minimalist staging and storytelling, which includes inventive scene changes, dramatic lighting and original use of subtitles to illustrate the private exchanges and lively debates between Czech-speaking characters.

While the national tour sadly ends soon, fortunately new licensing rights will allow regional theaters to begin staging their own productions of Once. But in the meantime, this is a top-notch unconventional and romantic musical worth experiencing immediately.

Once runs through April 2 at The Playhouse on Rodney Square. Tickets range from $65-$85 and discounts are available for seniors, groups of 10 or more and children ages 12 and under.


Friday, March 10, 2017

Pippin Arrives Larger Than Life at The Playhouse

By Guest Blogger Alessandra Nicole
Alessandra is a writer and photographer-at-large and proud supporter of the local arts community.

It is amazing to realize that this larger-than-life show could possibly be contained on our home turf here at The Playhouse. Pippin questions its own existence in a wonderfully tongue-in-cheek way — there are balancing acts, air suspension and gravity-defying flips that left us astonished. The fact that the show's lead Housso Semon as the "Ring Leader" effortlessly dances on high-heeled shoes for lengthy numbers left us feeling a bit lazy in our seats. 

The Cast of Pippin. Photo courtesy of The Playhouse on Rodney Square.
Catchy, interactive songs moved the quirky plot along with honesty and good humor, which also employed subtle (and not-so-subtle) sight gags and double-entendre (that is probably not suited for all ages, although perhaps with the show's sleight-of-hand, such humor wouldn't register with more innocent eyes and ears in the audience).

Director Diane Paulis has garnered several awards for her direction on this dazzling touring production of Pippin, and it's easy to see why — but perhaps the proverbial spotlight should be on this show's stunning lighting design. Kenneth Posner has been nominated for the Tony Award for Best Lighting Design 10 times for various productions including Wicked and Hairspray. His work for Pippin has accentuated the captivating Fosse-esque choreography by Chet Walker, which is easily the number one reason to see Pippin — the energetic and physical feats of acrobatic and dance excellence!

Favorite players that had us talking on the ride home afterward:

  • Brendon Schaefer (King Charlemagne) — for his candor, mannerisms and frivolous-yet-mature attitude on ruling a kingdom that could only come from a lifetime of experience. 
  • Erica Lee Cianciulli (Fastrada) — for her devious allure and personality in stage movement where she truly made it an extension of her character.
  • Rachael Britton Hart (Berthe) — for her pointed, wicked wit and charm; a seasoned flower that gives the newer kids on the block a run for their money. 
  • General ensemble cast — for their remarkable adherence to complex choreography and overall magic and verve. 
Flawless accompaniment provided by the company's orchestra worked seamlessly to tell the story within a story of an idealistic boy prince who comes of age while having his life expectations jettisoned for something not only more realistic, but more meaningful than he ever imagined. It is a storyline with which all ages can connect — frustrations and disappointments that come with high ideals in life, landing on the uplifting message to keep imagination alive while accepting and stoking the sparks of love in the day-to-day of this modern life. "True greatness" is rarely in the fiery blaze, more often it is in the quiet whispers of the seemingly mundane, where even the average life is rather extraordinary if only we stop to take stock of it. 

Pippin runs through March 12 at The Playhouse on Rodney Square Tickets range from $40-85 and discounts are available for seniors, groups of 10 or more and children ages 12 and under.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

20 Years of a Gravity-Defying, Gasp-Inducing Dance Phenomenon

Photo by Rob McDougal.
By Guest Blogger, Ken Grant
Ken Grant has worked in Delaware media, politics and marketing for 25 years. He and his Lovely Bride enjoy Wilmington's arts and culture scene as much as they can.

There's a reason more than 25 million people have come out to see Riverdance over the past two decades. This show brings dance, music, story and song together in a way that leaves the audience with goosebumps, smiles and questions about physics.

The show, featuring a troupe of more than 40 dancers and musicians, started in the mid-90s and centers on the rich tradition of Irish dance with a mix of Russian, Spanish and American tap.

Some statistics about Riverdance since it started in Dublin in 1995:

  • 11,000 performances
  • Performed in more than 467 venues, 46 countries, 6 continents
  • Holds the Guinness World Record for “Longest Riverdance Line” with 1,693 participants
  • 2,000 Irish dancers
  • 20,000 Dance shoes
  • 15,000 costumes
  • 400,000 gallons of water consumed
  • 75,000 gallons of Gatorade consumed
  • 16,250 guitar, bass and fiddle strings replaced
  • 60 marriages between company members
  • 88 Riverdance babies born (so far)
  • 17,500 hours of rehearsal on tour
  • 6,000,000 pounds of dry ice used
  • 70,000 pounds of chocolate consumed by the cast (for energy)
The production is set up as a seamless series of scenes, each with its own mini-storyline. There's expressions of joy, community, flirtation, fun and friendly competition throughout the show. Mostly though, there's a display of dancing ability that leads the audience to gasp in amazement.

One audience member noted that the way the dancers’ legs moved reminded them of marionettes, as if the joints were connecting the thigh and shin in a way that allows the feet to fly in any direction.
The musicianship demonstrated in Riverdance deserves special recognition. The drums, Irish fiddle, saxophone, low whistle and uilleann pipes combine to create a soundscape that carries the audience from the Irish countryside to the city streets of America and back again.

This is a remarkable show that provides quality entertainment for everyone. You don’t want to miss your chance to catch this experience at The Playhouse this week.


Sunday, February 12, 2017

A Fairytale Updated, but Still Captivates...with Glass Slippers

By Guest Bloggers "The Good Girls" – Brenda Joy and Brynn. Brenda is the Executive Director of Friends of Wilmington Parks and enjoys all things outdoors, too much food and Wilmington's diverse and plentiful arts offerings. Brynn is a 3rd Grader in a Spanish-English immersion program and enjoys arts, crafts and cereal.
Hayden Stanes, Tatyana Lubov and the company of 

Rodgers + Hammerstein’s CINDERELLA. © Carol Rosegg

The company of Rodgers + Hammerstein’s CINDERELLA. © Carol Rosegg
Sitting in velvety seats of The Playhouse on Rodney Square, young 8-year-old Brynn exclaims “5 stars!” for this wonderfully refreshing new take on the beloved classic. The plot of Rodgers + Hammerstein's CINDERELLA has been modernized, keeping us guessing with its unexpected twists, yet maintaining the endearing elements of the tale we all cherish. 

The scenery is enchanting, and the musical numbers – which are excellently executed – weave the story through fascinating choreography and captivating costuming.

Many little Cinderellas were spied throughout the audience, beaming in their fancy dresses and sparkly tiaras. None could resist the bright bouquet of ball gowns waltzing in a delightful display across the stage or the glimmering horse-drawn coach or Cinderella’s dazzling Venetian glass slippers.

We were treated to moments of pure magic as instantaneous, inexplicable rags-to-riches transformations took place before our very eyes!

With its lovable and embraceable cast of characters, this production is a pleasure for young and old.

The Magical Rodgers + Hammerstein's Cinderella enjoyed a run at The Playhouse on Rodney Square through Sunday, February 12, 2017.


Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Need a Lift This Season? Get into Kinky Boots!

The touring cast of Kinky Boots. Photo provided.
By Guest Blogger Scott Frelick
Scott is a native of Wilmington and has been involved with Wilmington Drama League, The Brandywiners and OperaDelaware. Currently, he is a member of of City Theater Company's Board of Directors. He is also an interior designer, visual artist and Realtor.

There is much uncertainty and craziness in the world today. On top of that, the pressure of holiday shopping – how do we keep our sanity? Go see KINKY BOOTS! If you need to escape into an evening of pure fun, energy and great music, this is your prescription. Kinky Boots – created by Harvey Fierstein and music icon Cyndi Lauper – is showing at The Playhouse on Rodney Square through December 18, 2016.

Kinky Boots has won every major Best Musical Award and is represented around the world with the Tony Award-winning Broadway Company now in its fourth year. Inspired by true events, Kinky Boots explores the relationship between sons seeking acceptance from their fathers. It also delivers a great lesson on accepting all people for just who they are.

Charlie Price is struggling to live up to his father’s expectations and continue the family shoe company, Price & Son. The company in Northampton, England is on the brink of collapse unless Charlie can figure a way to save the business. In an unlikely turn of events, his life’s path is crossed with the ever-glamorous and dramatic Lola. With the factory’s future hanging in limbo, Charlie and Lola take a huge gamble on fashion boots made for female impersonators. These sturdy new stilettos are a fabulous success and save the day.

The Kinky Boots touring cast features Wilmington's very own Collin Jeffery playing Young Charlie. The two main characters – Charlie played by Adam Kaplan and Lola played by J. Harrison Ghee – do a wonderful job, but Mr. Ghee is the clear star of this show and steals every scene in the most glorious way. Another true standout in the cast is Lauren, played by Tiffany Engen. Not only is her singing voice superior, she also brings a special touch of comedy to the show with every appearance. Her timing in something as simple as a hand gesture brings laughter to the audience.

This is definitely the kind of show one leaves feeling happy, lighthearted and okay with the world. The best show I have seen at The Playhouse on Rodney Square in a while. A must see!

See (The Playhouse on Rodney Square)

Saturday, November 26, 2016

The Holiday Show for the Whole Family to Enjoy!

Broadway Christmas Wonderland: The Holiday Show at The Playhouse on Rodney Square is a true holiday treat for the whole family! From dazzling sets to sparkly costumes, the Christmas musical revue enchants both the young and the young at heart!

The show is full of holiday classics from all eras, including jovial songs like Jingle Bells and Santa Clause is Coming to Town to sacred Christmas hymns like Oh Holy Night and The First Noel. 

Five amazingly talented vocalists (Daniel Dewes, Chris Giordano, Hannah Grover, Kadejah One, and Browyn Whittle) are backed by a singing and dancing chorus that bring the beloved carols to life. The talented cast high kicks us through a true winter wonderland that not only includes traditional holiday music, but also gospel and a Glenn Miller tribute, as well as an emotional rendition of God Bless The USA. This powerful number brought the audience to its feet.

A couple highlights include Jing, Jing, Jing, a highly energetic song the chorus sings sitting on the edge of the stage and performing a fast-paced patty-cake style dance and Smile With Santa, a sassy little number with the chorus performing a Fosse inspired routine.

Get into the holiday spirit by seeing Broadway Christmas Wonderland: The Holiday Show before it closes on November 27th! For more information and tickets, visit   

Thursday, November 17, 2016

"Gentlemen's Guide" Worth "Perusing" at The Playhouse

By Guest Blogger, Ken Grant
Ken Grant has worked in Delaware media, politics and marketing for 25 years. He and his Lovely Bride enjoy Wilmington's arts and culture scene as much as they can.

If you start with Agatha Christie and Downton Abbey, add in some Monty Python and Benny Hill, then mix it all thoroughly with fun music, talented performers and one of the most versatile sets to grace a stage, you'll get A Gentleman's Guide to Love & Murder, running now at The Playhouse on Rodney Square

The Tony Award-winning play -- based on a 1949 film, which was based on a book published in 1907 -- is a delightful comedy centered around one young man's attempt to woo the woman of his dreams while systematically knocking off one relative after another to gain a title, a mansion and the family wealth.

Photo supplied by The Playhouse on Rodney Square.
Monty Navarro is played playfully by Kevin Massey, who seems to embody a young Danny Kaye as he moves around the stage, especially in a scene involving two doors, two women and an attempt to make sure the two women do not meet.

John Rapson delights the audience playing nine (yes, nine) members of the D'Ysquith family -- young, old, men, women -- Rapson changes costumes, make up, accents and personalities in seconds and as each family member is dispatched in a different way, we find ourselves curious as to what the next family member will look and sound like.
Kristen Beth Williams and Kristen Hahn play the dueling love interests of Monty with angelic voices and remarkable comic timing.

Rapson is not the only cast member who gets to play multiple roles: An ensemble of talent play townspeople,  wedding guests, mourners, servants, law enforcement and more throughout the play.

During intermission, several audience members expressed amazement at the innovative set, which takes everyone from church steeples to frozen lakes to gardens and at least a dozen other locations with the help of a giant video screen.

In the midst of the wit and fun of the production, there seems to be some subtle commentary on class divisions and how out-of-touch the wealthy and priveleged can be, but since the play is set more than a century ago, we can rest assured that simply applies to that era, not modern times. ;)

If you're up for a fun, engaging and delightful dish of entertainment, you'll want to reserve your seat for A Gentleman's Guide to Love & Murder.

A Gentleman's Guide to Love & Murder is at The Playhouse on Rodney Square until Sunday, November 20. Order your tickets HERE


Sunday, October 30, 2016

Has It Really Been 525,600 Minutes...Times 20? RENT Celebrates a Milestone at The Playhouse.

Julia Mason is the Marketing Manager for The Buccini/Pollin Group. Her additional passions include her website,, making homemade ice cream and the great outdoors.

Rent 20th Anniversary Tour by Jonathan Larson at The Playhouse on Rodney Square is the revival of Larson's 1996 Broadway landmark that encompasses social issues and unveils the dark realities individuals face through powerful music and dance. Although a serious premise, the audience will definitely experience a few chuckles throughout the thought-provoking musical.

The production opens up with Benny — Mark and Roger’s previous roommate — purchasing the building in which the two, along with a unique group of close-knit homeless people, reside. Benny secured funding for the building from his wealthy father-in-law, to fuel his desire is to build a high-tech cyber-arts studio on the property.

Benny’s first step toward his goal is ensuring everything goes smoothly, but the residents are not about to leave without a fight. Maureen, Mark's former girlfriend, is happy to be in charge of the protest. Benny offers a deal to Mark and Roger: Stop the protest and they can remain rent-free. However, things do no go as planned, and chaos erupts (which Mark videotapes). From there, everyone is locked out of the place they once called home.

I should note that this was my very first time seeing Rent, and I’m so grateful I was able to experience it at the historical Playhouse on Rodney Square. Throughout the performance, what stood out most to me (besides the powerful music) was the stage décor and the lighting; it really brought the musical to life and was much more interactive than plays I have seen in the past.

My favorite character by far was Angel, played by David Merino. His voice, energy and dance skills were incredible, and you could feel is love for the character radiating throughout his performance. A newcomer to the theatre scene, Aaron Harrington, who played Tom Collins, has a deep, beautiful voice that also stood out among the extremely talented cast.

Overall, the play was wonderful, and it engulfed the audience, getting them to interact a few times. The person that joined me (who chooses to remain anonymous) even became unusually teary-eyed!

There is only one day left of this performance, tonight (October 30). Don’t miss your chance to see it — even if you have seen Rent in the past — this cast will make it a memorable experience!


Thursday, May 12, 2016

Jersey Boys – Oh What a Night!

Mary Ellen Hassett has lived and worked in Delaware since 1996 as a paralegal and attorney.  She and her husband Keith enjoy Wilmington arts and culture and devote a lot of volunteer time to Delaware Humane Association. 

The Playhouse on Rodney Square is closing out their Broadway season with Jersey Boys, a Tony Awardwinning musical about four blue-collar kids from Newark, NJ.  This story is told thru the eyes of each of one of the four Jersey Boys from their perspectives at different times in their 40-year relationship. The talented group of musicians that starred in this rendition of Jersey Boys were amazing. This musical has it all – Jersey accents, mafia undertones, fantastic sets, a great storyline and lots of laughter. Whether old or young, this musical contains songs that everyone can enjoy. 

Jersey Boys is the story about Frankie Valli (that’s Valley with an “I” because everyone knows Italian names must end in a vowel). Frankie (Aaron De Jesus) with his unique voice is discovered at age 16 by Tommy DeVito (Matthew Dailey). As everyone knows, show business is not an easy road, especially in Jersey. Along the way  in addition to playing gigs on street corners, various bars, night clubs and bowling alleys the group is involved in some rather nefarious activities and Tommy ends up in the slammer.    

While Tommy is away, Frankie and Nick Massi (Keith Hines) continue to perform. When Tommy returns, the group auditions young hotshot writer Bob Gaudio (Drew Seeley) and the Four Seasons is born! Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons are a smash, starring on the Ed Sullivan show and hitting the pop charts 40 times in the 1960s.  

However, Tommy could not leave his gambling Jersey ways behind and eventually found himself owing over $162,000 to the mafia and $500,000 in back taxes for the group. Tommy is bought out by the other three in the group and moves to Vegas. Nick leaves shortly thereafter and Frankie Valli and Bob Gaudio continue as a duo – Bob writing and Frankie singing. Frankie and Bob to this day have never had a contract; they had a gentleman’s agreement – a handshake. The Four Seasons reunite a couple of times and they are inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1990.  

Although you have your traditional hidden orchestra, musical director Taylor Peckham, did a phenomenal job in moving the drummer(s) off and on state to enhance the night club scenes.

The musical arrangements of Walk Like a Man, Can’t Take My Eyes Off You and Working My Way Back to You were just a few of the highlights. And my favorite of the night – December, 1963 (Oh What a Night) – as that basically sums up this fantastic performance!

I must say, The Playhouse saved the best for last! 

Jersey Boys will be playing at The Playhouse thru May 15. Wednesday and Thursday evening performances are at 7:30pm; Friday and Saturday evening performances are at 8:00pm, and Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday matinees at 2:00pm.  Ticket prices range from $50-$135 and discounts are available for groups of 10 or more.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Head to 42nd Street – And Dance, Dance, Dance!

Photo courtesy of The Playhouse on Rodney Square.
Mary Ellen Hassett has lived and worked in Delaware since 1996 as a paralegal and attorney. She and her husband Keith enjoy Wilmington arts and culture and devote a lot of volunteer time to Delaware Humane Association.

The musical 42nd Street – The Song and Dance Fable of Broadway – opened with the full cast tap dancing to Audition. This high-intensity performance engaged the audience from the beginning and lasted the entire show.

Director and co-author Mark Bramble with choreographer Randy Skinner did a magnificent job in casting, directing and bringing to life the story of Peggy Sawyer (Caitlin Ehlinger), a young dancer from Allentown, PA who came to New York to audition for her first show, Pretty Lady. Peggy gets her chance to shine when the lead in Pretty Lady breaks her ankle and Peggy is asked to step in by the director Julian Marsh (Matthew J. Taylor). You'll definitely recognize several of the hit songs from this performance like We’re in the Money, I Only Have Eyes for You and 42nd Street.

All of the dancers were phenomenal, but you definitely do not want to miss the lead male dancer who plays Billy Lawlor – Blake Stadnik. Although blind since age seven, Blake led the dance routines flawlessly and captured the audience with his smooth style, charisma and charm.

Enough cannot be said about the great choreography and costuming for this performance. The full cast is used in most scenes, and it was amazing to see how they were able to fit this large group onto the small stage and execute the dance sequences with such grace and excitement. The costumes were colorful and unique and added a lot to the overall presentation.

The staging for this show is rather simple, but with all of the great choreography, costuming and dance, there is no need for anything more!

Although a musical, this performance has many comical highlights that the audience fully enjoyed. If you want to see one of the best musicals that has come to Delaware this year, come and see 42nd Street!

The show runs at The Playhouse thru April 24 during the following times: Wednesday and Thursday evening performances at 7:30pm; Friday and Saturday evening performances at 8:00pm; Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday matinees at 2:00pm. Ticket prices range from $40-$90, and discounts are available for groups of 10 or more.