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.


Thursday, February 9, 2017

Mélomanie Premieres Local Composer's Work, Features Violin Duos in February Performance

By Christine Facciolo

Mélomanie opened the second half of its 2016-17 season with an eclectic program that showcased the talents of two virtuoso violinists and featured the World Premiere of a commissioned work by organist/conductor David Schelat.
Violinists Daniela Pierson and Christof Richter. Photo by Tim Bayard.
The ensemble welcomed Daniela Pierson, principal violist with Philadelphia’s Tempesta di Mare and conductor of that city’s Musicopia String Orchestra. In addition, she has performed on violin or viola with many early music groups including New Society, New York Collegium and Washington Cathedral Baroque Orchestra.

Pierson teamed with Melomanie resident violinist Christof Richter to perform selections from Bela Bartok’s 44 Duos for 2 Violins, which were interspersed throughout the program. Although the composer never intended these pedagogical exercises to be played in concert, these fine artists performed with a style and accuracy that helped to reveal composer’s limitless imagination and his ability to write in the historic styles of Eastern and Central European ethnic groups.

Pierson said the duo chose to perform the selections on Baroque violins rather than modern instruments because, as she explained in an interview during the concert, that’s probably the way the composer heard the original folk melodies.

Pierson and Richter also delivered an outstanding and refined interpretation of Les Folies d’Espagne by the Italian Jean-Pierre Guignon, who brought that country’s musical style to Paris via the famed Concert Spirituel.

Pierson and Richter were joined by Tracy Richardson on harpsichord and gambist Donna Fournier in a performance of Archangelo Corelli’s Sonata de Chiese in A Major, the last of the set of twelve published as Op. 3 in 1689. Though modest, the music of this Italian composer-violinist was key to the development of the modern genres of sonata and concerto, in establishing the preeminence of the violin and in the coalescing of modern tonality and functional harmony.

Pierson and Richter engaged in a lovely duet in thirds during the second movement. Fournier provided heroic support, confidently executing demanding semiquavers. The piece concluded with three short Allegros, the last of which an attractive fugue in gigue form.

By far, the lengthiest work on the program belonged to Couperin’s well-known La Piemontoise, the fourth Ordre from Les Nations, his masterful dictum on the merger of the French and Italian styles. The concert opened with the Italianate sonata of the ordre and closed with its elaborate French dance suite. Mélomanie executed the ornamentation crisply and with ease, and did a beautiful job with Couperin’s harmonic color.

Just a Regular Child for flute and harpsichord by organist/conductor David Schelat added a charming levity to the program. Schelat introduced the work by explaining how he took inspiration from growing up as a regular kid in a regular home in a regular town in Ohio. The work consisted of three movements. “Rough and Tumble” and “Full of the Old Nick” conjure up the delightful — and sometimes misguided — energy of a very active and curious child while the loping melody of “Dreaming” catches him in his quieter moments.

Schelat wrote to flutist Kimberly Reighley’s amazing virtuosity, and she did not disappoint. Reighley executed the first and last movements with a pearly lightness and purity of tone while rendering a gauzy quality to the middle movement. Richardson supplied the contemporary harmonies which gave the work a mischievous quality.


Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Powerful Show, Powerful Message from DTC

By Guest Blogger, Mike Logothetis
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.

White Guy on the Bus proves to be a bold step forward for Executive Director Bud Martin and the rest of Delaware Theatre Company (DTC). While DTC has tackled difficult themes over the years at its cozy theater on the Wilmington Riverfront, this play deals with several serious and challenging topics. In 2016, the Delaware Theatre Company began actively pursuing a path to make the theater a more welcoming place where all stories can be experienced. 
Robert Cuccioli and Danielle Leneé. Photo by Mobius New Media.

Simply put, this is a story that you should experience.

Philadelphia playwright Bruce Graham shines a harsh light on problems in our society –race, class, poverty, privilege, violence, crime, retribution, public education and marginalized lives – in his latest play White Guy on the Bus. Graham’s fearless and incisive play takes a no-holds barred look at hidden and no-so-hidden racism within all of us. Martin’s forthright direction paired with Paul Tate DePoo’s simple yet effective set design subtly complement the actors and story.

The play opens with a middle-aged married couple talking about their respective jobs and the people they deal with on a daily basis. Ray (Robert Cuccioli) is a well-to-do financial manager while Roz (Susan McKey) teaches English at a public school in a blighted neighborhood of Philadelphia. They appear to be a nice, cultured, white couple living on the Main Line with few major worries and an eye toward early retirement.

Their surrogate son Christopher (Jonathan Silver) and his recent bride Molly (Jessica Bedford) join them to sip wine casually on the patio until Roz talks wryly about the racial hostility in her predominantly black school. Students often call her a “white bitch” to her face, which shocks Molly. Meanwhile, Christopher is eager to expound on his doctoral thesis concerning male African-American images in television advertising. He is an outsider looking in, but truly feels he can turn his thoughts on race portrayal by the media into a meaningful doctoral project.

This opening conversation is relatively light, but the subsequent scenes grow deeper, darker, and more complex. We get background information like how Christopher became part of the older couple’s life, how Ray takes pride in his analytical skills (he’s a “numbers man”), and how Roz is helping a 10th-grader learn how to read. But each scene between the four white characters delves into racial discussions where differing opinions and theories are debated.

Sandwiched between these suburban episodes are scenes aboard a city bus where Ray befriends a young black woman named Shatique (Danielle Leneé). She is a nursing student and a single mother who is barely surviving life, but has hope for the future. Ray and Shatique strike up a rapport on their weekly bus rides together. But where exactly are they going?

It is gradually revealed that their destination is a prison where Shatique’s brother is incarcerated. So why is Ray riding the bus?

The plot twist that comes in the closing scene of the first act is alarming. Simply put, the audience is shocked into a new reality. What has transpired to this point must be reevaluated and fully processed before the story can reach a meaningful conclusion.

The drama is intensified in the second act where the story and the dialogue focus on human nature and racial prejudice:

Ray: You know what the problem is with the death penalty in this country?

Shatique: It’s disproportionately given out to black folks?

Ray: Yep. I’m serious. We target the wrong people – wrong crimes. If they had dragged Bernie Madoff into Central Park and hung him from the neck till he was dead – and broadcast it live on CNN in high def – we wouldn’t need the SEC. Nobody’d get out of line on Wall Street ‘cause they’d be scared sh*tless.

White Guy On the Bus
 aims for social realism and will take you out of your comfort zone with its topics and language, but it is not difficult to follow or watch. Graham’s pithy and direct dialog allows the excellent cast to address the issues head on. There are no metaphors or complex symbolism. What the audience sees is five actors speaking their characters’ minds with conviction and, at times, bravado. They believe what they say because they’ve lived it – or observed it from their unique perspectives. Idealism, appearance, and reality mix. Ray is perfectly gentlemanly until he suddenly isn’t. Shatique has moral sensibility until an indecent proposal is proffered.

The play grants the audience a poignant ending, but one not wholly satisfying to each character. The story begs for post-viewing discussions and the Delaware Theatre Company wisely prepared for that.

The DTC staff had undergone an intensive equality, diversity, inclusion and social justice training prior to this production. The training examined issues of privilege, allyship and diversity with the lens of better providing the staff with the necessary tools to run the Community Discussions that follow every performance. DTC encourages patrons to reflect on White Guy on the Bus after the curtain lowers. These open forums offer an opportunity for the audiences to discuss and relate their experiences to each other. Attendees can feel safe asking difficult questions about the topical references that can be made in their life or community.

There will also be a special Panel Discussion on Race, Equality and Education co-sponsored by DTC and Teach America on Saturday, February 11, at 4:30pm.

The performance schedule of White Guy on the Bus is: Wednesdays (2:00pm), Thursdays (7:00pm), Fridays (8:00pm), Saturdays (2:00 & 8:00pm) and Sundays (2:00pm) through Sunday, February 19. Tickets are $20-65 for both evening and matinee performances. White Guy on the Bus runs approximately 2 hours with one 15-minute intermission. Delaware Theatre Company is located at 200 Water Street in Wilmington.