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

Tuesday, May 24, 2022

Glowing Goose Productions hosts a 24-hour Musical Extravaganza!

Delaware Arts Info reviewer Charles "Ebbie" Alfree III discusses No Sleep ‘Til Theatre: A 24-hour Musical Extravaganza with Lacey Eriksen, Executive Director of Glowing Goose Productions, and Sarah Nowak, Artistic Director of Glowing Goose and director of the 24-hour musical extravaganza!


For additional information or to purchase tickets for No Sleep ‘Til Theatre: A 24-hour Musical Extravaganza on June 4 and 5 at 6:00pm, at Theater N in downtown Wilmington, visit www.glowinggooseproductions.org.

Saturday, March 19, 2022

City Theater Company Celebrates a World Premiere and Honors a Legendary Bluesman

By Mike Logothetis
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.

Playwright Robson admits that “...Blues In My Soul has been a labor of love for me – a chance to grapple with past wrongs and find a place of connection and community through music.”

Joe Beckett as Lonnie and Righteous Jolly as Chris in Blues In My Soul. 
Photo by Joe del Tufo/Moonloop Photography.
Based on a true story, Blues In My Soul reimagines a fateful meeting between guitar legend Lonnie Johnson and music historian Chris Albertson. In 1959, Johnson was working a low-wage job at a Philadelphia hotel, his past long forgotten. When Johnson is identified and engaged by Albertson, the two men start to discuss issues of authenticity, injustice, and legacy as they work their way through a catalog of great blues tunes – performed here with the blessing of the Johnson estate. It’s obvious that Johnson – a musician who influenced the likes of Bob Dylan, Elvis Presley, T-Bone Walker, Django Reinhardt, Charlie Christian, B.B. King, and Eric Clapton – is wary of a potential return to the industry that exploited and segregated his work before casting him aside.

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.
Artistic Director Kerry Kristine McElrone says, “Blues In My Soul came along at exactly the right time for CTC. We have been lucky to work with David throughout our history. …The incredible true story of this encounter between Lonnie and Chris was instrumental in creating a ‘second act’ for one of the greatest musicians of the 20th Century. This is a tale about the need for connection and the impact that art – in this case, music – can have on individuals who on the surface seem to have nothing in common, yet find community in each other through a beloved art form. ...And the process of making this play ready for an appreciative audience was very in line with our commitment to new work and involving the creator in that process.”

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. 

Tickets ($30-40) can be purchased at the box office or online. Special ticket pricing is available for military personnel and students. Visit city-theater.org for more details and COVID-19 protocols/policies.

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.”

Tuesday, March 8, 2022

Another World Premiere in Delaware with the Fantastical "Other World" at DTC

By Charles "Ebbie" Alfree, III

(L-R): Charnette Batey, Jamen Nanthakumar & Bonnie Milligan star
in
Other World. [Photo by 
Matt Urban, NüPOINT Media]
Something rare is occurring at the Delaware Theatre Company…an original musical is making its World Premiere. In an age when most musicals being produced are revivals (including the reinvented versions) or shows based on a musician’s or band’s catalogue, a popular book, or film, or on a historical figure, the Delaware Theatre Company is breaking from trends with their production of Other World.

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

David Robson's "Blues in My Soul" Makes Its World Premiere at City Theater Company

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.



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.