Friday, September 28, 2018

The Music School of Delaware Honors Supporters with a Musical 'Thank You'

This post content comes from a release from The Music School of Delaware...

The Music School of Delaware welcomes a new concert season with its first Music Masters performance, Opening Night - The Magic of Music! A Thank You Concert, on Wednesday, October 3, at 7:00pm at its Wilmington Branch at 4101 Washington Street in Wilmington.

The musical event is a thank-you performance for its families, faculty and donors, with an 'all-star orchestra' of its distinguished faculty as well as guest artists from regional ensembles and orchestras. They will perform noted works by Rossini (String Sonatas #2 in A Major and #3 in C Major), J.S. Bach (Concerto for Oboe and Violin in C Minor) and Mozart (Eine Kleine Nacht Musik). Soloists on the program are violinist Christof Richter and oboist & Meredith Hite-Estevez, who are both on the faculty of the Music School.

The complete orchestra also includes Violins: Amos Fayette, Kate Ransom, Stefan Xhori, Julianne Ruiz, Lionel Thomas and Lingchin Liao; Violas: Maria Rusu, Nina Cottman, and guest Marka Stepper; Cellos: Jennifer Stomberg, Eric Coyne and Lawrence Stomberg; Bass: Arthur Marks; Harpsichord: Tracy Richardson.

Tickets for the event are only $10 or $5 for students and seniors and may be purchased at

The Music School boasts of busy fall of performances, both student and professional. Additional Wilmington Branch professional concerts will feature the music of the 1930s; the 50th anniversary of Woodstock; and an annual Martin Luther King, Jr. celebration. Additionally, faculty recitals at both Wilmington and Milford Branches will be presented throughout the season. The Wilmington Community Orchestra, under the baton of Tiffany Lu, will perform works from Mozart to Mahler. Alumni return to share their musical stories in concert. 

And, the school continues to host its Classical Cafe sessions (complimentary coffee and donuts included) where attendees engage in lively discussion with faculty on music-related topics. The Music School also hosts and presents events from classical to rock, including Open Mic Nights, a monthly Bluegrass Jam, and jazz and rock ensemble performances.

It is the mission of The Music School of Delaware to provide excellence in music education, training and experiences for people of all ages and levels of ability. Founded in 1924, The Music School of Delaware is a nonprofit organization that reaches thousands of new people from Delaware, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Maryland through its instructional programs and over 100 public performances each year. The Music School is the only nationally accredited program of its kind in Delaware and is the only statewide accredited community music school in the nation. The Music School offers standard-setting instructional programs for all ages and has a faculty of nearly 100 expert artists and educators with branch locations in Wilmington and Milford and over 20 satellite and outreach sites statewide. 

For more information, please call the Wilmington Branch at 302.762.1132, the Milford Branch at 302.422.2043 or visit the website at

Monday, September 24, 2018

Cuckoo for Chapel Street's Latest Production

By Carol Van Zoeren

In the program’s Director’s Message, Brian Touchette states his objective is to immerse the audience in the world of the play. He begins even before the play starts by cleverly presenting the curtain speech as a letter from Nurse Ratched, welcoming the audience to participate in this “group therapy session” while also reminding us to turn off our cell phones. 

The cast of Chapel Street's Cuckoo's Nest.
Photos by Peter Kuo.
He furthers this with a gorgeous set that evokes a decaying industrial setting, rusty, dirty and dented, with incongruously cheery Christmas lights in the “Control Room”. He pairs Chief Bromden’s monologues with mechanical imagery and sound that augment the Chief’s terror of the destructive machines that consumed his family, his tribe and his sense of self.

Touchette more than succeeded in immersing me in the world of the play. Yes, I was fully invested, but was also especially gratified that these elements highlighted many themes of the play that I might have otherwise missed.

For those unfamiliar with the play, or the 1975 movie starring Jack Nicholson and Louise Fletcher, a brief plot synopsis: Randall P. McMurphy is committed to a psychiatric ward after “a couple of hassles down at the Work Farm and the Court ruled that I’m a psychopath.” The ward is ruled by Nurse Ratched. A war for control ensues between McMurphy and Ratched, with both tragic and uplifting results. But this plot is merely a vehicle for deep examination of how institutions can destroy, how power can corrupt, and how one can both lose and win at the same time.

OK, enough of the English 101 essay. This is a community theater review, so let’s talk about the performances.

Scott F. Mason is a talented actor with whom I have shared the stage, and I was delighted to see him play McMurphy. Mason portrayed the bravado that has carried McMurphy through every hardship, and also well conveyed moments of doubt when he realizes the power of the forces aligned against him. My only quibble with the entire production is the choice for him to use a deeply gravelly voice throughout. This was distracting, at time made his lines difficult to understand, and generally detracted from the authenticity of the character.

As Nurse Ratched, Shelli Haynes embodied the iron fist beneath the velvet glove (thinking of the cheery Christmas lights in the Control Room). Ratched’s highest priority is control and power. Haynes expertly played Ratched’s repertoire of tools  sing-songy comfort, intimidation, emotional blackmail, flat-out baiting. In the context of Touchette’s design, I realized that Ratched intentionally sacrifices her most vulnerable patient so she can goad McMurphy into an attack that will secure her victory over him. Power corrupts. Yes, it was there all the time. But without the rusty set, I might have missed that.

As Chief Bromden, Arthur D. Paul broke my heart. As mentioned above, the video and sound accompaniment helped reveal the deeper meaning of his poetic monologues. So too did his demeanor  frightened and confused, yet hopeful. In the Act II scene between Chief and McMurphy, when Chief reveals that indeed he can hear and talk, it was simply beautiful to see genuine affection develop between these two flawed men. It set us up to accept Chief’s final act of kindness, not to let his friend live as a vegetable. And, again thanks to Touchette’s overall concept, It is not lost on me that Chief escapes after shorting out the power of the machine, thereby reclaiming his own strength.

In direct contrast how Ratched beats people down to service her need for total control, McMurphy is all about building people up. It is touching that Dale Harding (Alan Harbaugh) eventually finds the courage to convince Chief to leave.  McMurphy convinces the excruciatingly fearful Billy Bibbit (Stephen Ross Ashby) to embrace life, even though this leads to both of their downfalls.

The other patients  Scanlon, Cheswick, Martini (Josh Pelikan, Frank Newton, Andre Wilkins)  are clearly delineated with their own individual quirks, but also serve collectively as a kind of Greek chorus. This was notable in group therapy scenes when the three moved and reacted in sync, and most poignant when they try to convince themselves that the lobotomized McMurphy is just a mock-up, a dummy, and the real McMurphy escaped.

This all sounds like a very depressing evening. Indeed, that was what I expected. So I was pleasantly surprised at how funny the show is. The cast expertly plays up the comedy and was rewarded with raucous outbursts of laughter from the sold-out opening night audience. Coupled with the uplifting elements in otherwise dire circumstances, Chapel Street’s Cuckoo’s Nest offers a deeply satisfying exploration of the worst, and best, of humanity.


Thursday, September 20, 2018

Candlelight's "Brigadoon" Enchants and Delights

By Charles "Ebbie" Alfree, III

Candlelight Theatre opens its 50th season with Lerner & Loewe’s classic musical, Brigadoon. As the legend goes, a village called Brigadoon awakens every 100 years in the Scottish highlands and remains awoken for only one day.

Director Bob Kelly does a fine job of bringing this magical story about two current day Americans (Tommy Albright and Jeff Douglas) who are exploring Scotland and happen to be visiting on the day Brigadoon comes to life. They get pulled into the mystery and romance that surround the residents within the fantasy village. 

Brigadoon is whimsical, but the story is slim…it’s the typical boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy gets girl in the end. The twist is that the boy (Tommy) has to make a decision within a day…is he willing to give up everything for the girl (his newfound love, Brigadoon citizen Fiona MacLaren). 

According to the laws of Brigadoon, a person can only move into the village if it’s for true love. Once a person comes to Brigadoon, he/she can never leave because if a resident should leave it would cause the village to disappear forever.   

However, the timeless score written by Alan Jay Lerner (book and lyrics) and Frederick Loewe (music) soars through the historic barn and into your heart. Songs include The Heather on the Hill, Almost Like Being in Love and my personal favorite, Come to Me, Bend to Me.

Kelly has assembled a magnificent cast, that do a great job using a Scottish accent. Sophie Jones is absolutely delightful as Fiona. She has a stunning voice and brings a sweetness to the character that would make a man fall in love with her within 24 hours. The man (Tommy) is played by the handsome Andy Boettcher. With his matinee idol looks and beautiful voice, it’s easy to see how Fiona would be wooed by him.

They are supported by a wonderful cast, that includes Analisa Wall as Fiona’s friend Meg Brockie and Jared Calhoun as Tommy’s friend Jeff Douglas. Both Wall and Douglas bring comedic fare to the show, especially when Meg recounts the many loves of her life to Jeff during her tongue-in-cheek number, The Love of My Life.  

The show also boasts both exuberant and passionate dance numbers by choreographer, Jody Anderson. Deirdre Treacy as Maggie mesmerizes in her solo dance to mourn the death of a Brigadoon resident who accidently dies while trying to leave the village. Her subtle and exquisite moves express the love and sadness felt by all the villagers.

Tara Bowers has created gorgeous period costumes that allow the dancers and cast to move freely on the beautiful set by scenic designer, Jeff Reim. Bowers’ tartan patterns on the wool clothing perfectly compliment Reim’s stoned outlined set with a sumptuous Scottish landscape that sits in the distance.

I say treat yourself and your family to an enchanting night at Candlelight Theater and see Brigadoon before it disappears on October 28. 

For tickets visit or 302.475.2313.