Local musicals include Annie, Cline tribute and Book of Mormon
By Denny Dyroff, Staff Writer, The Times
There is a big difference between “having the blues” and “hearing the blues.”
If you have the blues, you feel bad. If you’re listening to the blues — especially if they’re being played by a top-flight blues musician — you feel good.
If you’re a fan of blues music, you can feel really good this weekend by attending the 2014 Riverfront Blues Festival which is being held August 1-3 at Tubman-Garrett Waterfront Park (Water and South French streets, Wilmington, Delaware, 302-576-2139, http://riverfrontbluesfestde.com).
Three of the top acts on the festival’s roster are Alligator Records recording artists — Tommy Castro and the Painkillers, Jarekus Singleton and Marcia Ball.
Castro will be the headline act on the Main Stage on August 1 at 8:30 p.m. The music will start at 5 p.m. with Popa Chubby. At 6:45 p.m., Southern Hospitality featuring the Damon Fowler Band & Victor Wainwright and the Wild Roots will take the stage. The Second Stage will feature Second Chance Blues Band at 6:15 p.m. and the Billy Walton Band at 8 p.m.
“We played this festival a few years ago and had a lot of fun,” said Castro, during a recent phone interview from his home in San Rafael, California. “It’s a great place to play.”
Castro has released 14 albums in the last 20 years. His most recent “The devil You Know” was released earlier this year.
“I’m coming in with basically a new album,” said Castro. “It’s a slightly different configuration of my group. I started the Painkillers about two years ago. The plan was to get a new record out for that group.
“Randy (McDonald), who has been my guitarist for 25 years, and I wanted to do something fresh and exciting — somewhat modern and somewhat traditional — and really rocking.
“Basically, it’s more guitar-driven. We worked really hard on getting the right drum rhythms and grooves but it’s not a rock record. It’s more of a contemporary blues record. My music isn’t so much about guitar as it is about songs. I’m probably more a singer than a guitar player. I like a good hook and I want songs that people remember.”
Castro and his band are on the road a lot. After they play in Wilmington on August 1, they return to California to perform at the Art and Soul Festival in Oakland, California on August 2. They have shows in the Netherlands and Belgium on August 14 and 15, five shows in New England and eastern Canada from August 17-23 and then back to California for the Sausalito Art Festival on August 31.
“It took awhile to make the album because we were touring so much. It came out in January. And, we took time to try things out and change them if we weren’t happy. We spent the time needed to make it right. Then, we hit the road and we’ve been touring ever since.”
The roster of performers for the Main Stage on August 2 at the Riverfront Blues Festival includes Jimmy Pritchard Big Band, Curley Taylor & Zydeco Trouble, Carolyn Wonderland, Paul Oscher, Kinsey Report and James Harman’s Bamboo Porch Revue.
The acts on the Second Stage on August 2 will be Kenny Jones & The Jaded Angels, Gary Allegretto, James Day & The Fish Fry, Crabmeat Thompson and The Billy Pierce Band. On August 3, the line-up includes Lower Case Blues and Mikey Junior.
On August 3, the Main Stage will feature Jarekus Singleton at 12:30 p.m., Wayne Baker Brooks Band at 2:30 p.m. and Marcia Ball at 4:30 p.m.
Singleton, a young guitarist from Clinton, Mississippi, is one of the brightest new talents in the world of blues music. He released his debut album “Heartfelt” in 2011 and followed with his new disc “Refuse to Lose” earlier this year.
“I grew up with gospel,” said Singleton, during a recent phone interview from his home in Mississippi. “My uncle taught me how to play bass guitar when I was nine. He needed a bass player for his church music at the True Gospel Church of God in Christ in Jackson.
“My grandfather would preach and play guitar at the same time. He got older and got arthritis. So, he came to me and said you’ve got to play guitar. We had this thing called ‘testimony service.’ Anyone could testify or sing a song. Older women would sing slower songs and younger people did faster songs. So, I had to learn to play in all different keys and tempos.”
Back then, music was never Singleton’s first love. It was basketball and the sport loved him back.
“Basketball was my main thing growing up,” said Singleton. “I was named the number one high school player in Mississippi in 2002 and I went to University of Southern Mississippi on a basketball scholarship. I played there three years and then they changed coaches.
“So, I transferred to William Carey University, a NAIA school that was also in Hattiesburg. I was the National Player of the Year and was ranked number one in scoring with a 25 point-per-game average and number five in assists with 6.3 per game.
“After I graduated, I played pro ball overseas. Then, I came back to the states and had tryouts with the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Indianapolis Pacers. But, I tore my ankle up and that ended my basketball career.
“I came back home on crutches. Lying in bed with my foot in the air, I started writing music and doing some soul searching. The blues has been a big-time healing process for me. For that, I’m really grateful to God.”
Basketball’s loss has been blues music’s gain. In 2009, he formed The Jarekus Singleton Blues Band and quickly built a reputation as a tremendously gifted musician and performer. He was named a “star on the rise” by Blues & Rhythm magazine in the UK and Guitar Center named him the 2011 King of the Blues in Mississippi.
Every once in awhile, blues musicians get the blues on a personal level. It just happened again a few weeks ago.
The Philadelphia Rock ’N’ Blues Fest was slated to be held at the Keswick on August 5 featuring Johnny Winter Band, Edgar Winter Band, Pete Rivera (of Rare Earth), Vanilla Fudge and Savoy Brown’s Kim Simmonds.
Unfortunately, the unexpected death of Johnny Winter two weeks ago forced the cancellation of the tour. Winter had been voted one of the Top 100 Guitarists of All Time by Rolling Stone. He also produced three Grammy Award-winning albums for Muddy Waters and was inducted into the Blues Foundation Hall of Fame in 1988.
During a phone interview two weeks ago, Edgar Winter spoke about the tour and the opportunity to be on the road with his brother again.
“I’m really looking forward to touring with Johnny again,” said Edgar Winter in the interview from his home in Southern California. “The last time I toured with him was about five years ago.
“I always love playing with Johnny. It brings back memories of the gold old days when we were growing up together in Texas. Johnny is my all-time musical hero. He just has such a deep love and appreciation for the blues. I think he’s the last living exponent of that traditional slide style.
Less than 12 hours later, his brother passed away in a Zurich hotel room at the end of a European tour. Johnny Winter was 70, had emphysema and was recently diagnosed with pneumonia.
On July 31, the World Café Live at the Queen (500 North Market Street, Wilmington, 302- 994-1400, www.queen.worldcafelive.com) will have Roomful of Blues and the Porkroll Project on the Downstairs Stage and Tauk and the Big Something on the Upstairs Stage.
On August 1, the Downstairs Stage will host Stand Up for Fair Lending and Rock with DCRAC (Delaware Community Reinvestment Action Council, Inc.) featuring Club Phred. Fred Mascherino, an internationally-acclaimed rock musician, grew up and still lives in Coatesville.
Other shows scheduled for the Upstairs Stage at the World Café Live at the Queen over the next week are the Lovebirds and Katie Armiger on August 1; Mutts, Modern Inventors and Widowmaker Social Club on August 2; and 4W5 Blues Jam on August 6.
“Always…Patsy Cline,” which is based on the story of Patsy Cline, is running now through August 24 (Fridays and Saturdays, food service starts at 6 p.m.; Sundays, food service starts at 1 p.m.) at the Candlelight Theater (2208 Millers Road, Arden, Delaware, 302- 475-2313, www.nctstage.org).
Tickets, which include a tasty buffet dinner, are $59 for adults and $33 for children (ages 4-12).
The Brandywiners, Ltd. will perform the award-winning musical “Annie” at Longwood Gardens (Route 1, Kennett Square, 610-388-1000, www.longwoodgardens.org) on 31 and August 1 in Longwood’s beautiful Open Air Theatre.
Tickets for the Brandywiners, Ltd. production include admission to Longwood Gardens beginning at 9 a.m. on the day of performance as well as a spectacular fountain display immediately following the show. Tickets are $30 for adults, $25 for students (ages 13-21) and $15 for children (ages 12 and under).
Theater fans actually have a lot to look forward to in the next few weeks.
Three years ago, the “Book of Mormon” made its debut at the Eugene O’Neill Theatre. During its first year, the show was consistently one of the top five best-selling shows on Broadway and it set 22 new weekly sales records at the O’Neill.
The show, which was seven years in the making, met with immediate critical acclaim and won numerous theater awards including nine Tony Awards (including Best Musical) and a Grammy Award for Best Musical Theater Album.
Finally, after a long wait, the hit musical is making a visit to this area. “Book of Mormon” opened this week and is running through September 14 at the Forrest Theatre (1114 Walnut Street, Philadelphia 866-276-2947, www.kimmelcenter.org/broadway) as part of the Kimmel Center’s “Broadway Philadelphia” series.
A review in the New York Times called it “the best musical of this century” while the Associate Press said “‘The Book of Mormon’ manages to offend, provoke laughter, trigger eye-rolling, satirize conventions and warm hearts, all at the same time.”
By all accounts, it is one of the funniest shows to hit the stage in years. Area fans have been waiting and now they’re ready to laugh.
The talent-laden cast features KJ Hippensteel as Elder Price, Alexandra Ncube as Nabulungi, Grey Henson as Elder McKinley and Stanley Wayne Mathis as Mafala Hatimbi.
“This show is humorous,” said Ncube, during a phone interview last week from a tour stop in Ottawa, Canada. “People start laughing right from the beginning. I love that it’s so well-written. Sometimes in comedy, you tend to push for laughter. With this show, it comes naturally. It’s just so well-tailored.”
“The Book of Mormon” tells the story of two young and inexperienced Mormon missionaries who are sent to Africa. It is set in a remote village in northern Uganda. In the village, which is about two hours north of Uganda’s capitol Kampala, a brutal warlord is threatening the local population.
“The primary antagonist is the General,” said Ncube, whose Zimbabwean name is pronounced “Noo-Bay.” “He has superstitions.”
Obviously, the General does not like the missionaries and he views them as a threat. Nabulungi becomes the missionaries’ ally and even agrees to be baptized in the faith.
“I love that Nabulungi is so genuine and optimistic,” said Ncumbe, who has a degree in theater from Arizona State University. “She trusts people unless they give her a reason not to be trusted. She puts her whole heart into everything she does.
“This show is controversial. It has people talking about it. It pokes fun at the Mormon faith. But, there hasn’t been a negative response. In some cities, there are Mormon missionaries outside the theater answering questions about their religion and inviting people to tours of their temple.
“The show has a wonderful message of community and you see how religion is formed through storytelling. The narrative is wonderful. It’s perfectly linear. And, it’s educational. We even read directly from the Book of Mormon. I like being part of a show that makes a statement.”
Ticket prices ranges from $67-$277. In Philadelphia, the production will conduct a pre-show lottery at the box office, making a limited number of tickets available at $25 piece. The wildly-popular lottery for the Broadway production has attracted as many as 800 entries at some performances.
The producers generously offer low-priced lottery seats for every city on the National Tour. Entries will be accepted at the Forrest Theatre box office beginning two-and-a half hours prior to each performance. Two hours before curtain, names will be drawn at random for a limited number of tickets.
For those who prefer live music to musical theater, there are a lot of options.
The Flash (102 Sycamore Alley, Kennett Square, 484-732-8295, www.kennettflash.org) will feature Hot Breakfast, Todd Chappelle and Melissa Bernard sharing the bill on August 1 at 8 p.m. while the 8 p.m. show on August 2 will have No Stringz Attached as the headliner and the Cle Younger Band as the opening act.
Tickets for either show are $16 in advance and $20 at the door. On August 3, there will be an Open Mic night at The Flash beginning at 7 p.m. and hosted by Sam Kwietniak. Tickets for this event are $4 and there is a BYOB fee of $4.
On August 5 at 7 p.m., the Eagleview Summer Concerts on the Square (Wellington Square, Exton, www.ineagleview.com) will host a free concert featuring Lera Lynn and The Wallace Brothers.
On August 1, Steel City Coffee House will feature Fooling April and John & Brittany ay 8 p.m. On Gust 2, the coffeehouse will host John Eddie and His band for two concerts — 7 and 10 p.m.
Chaplin’s (66 North Main Street, Spring City, 610-792-4110, http://chaplinslive.com) will present a show on August 1 featuring Somebody’s Problem and Anthony Piergiovanni. Tickets for the 7 p.m. show are $10 in advance and $12 day of show.
On August 2, Chaplin’s will host an evening of music with The Rescue, An Honest Year, Modern Suits and The Escape. Doors open at 6:30 p.m. and tickets are priced at $10 in advance and $12 at the door.
Bryn Mawr Twilight Concerts series (9 South Bryn Mawr Avenue, Bryn Mawr, 610-864-4303, www.brynmawrtwilightconcerts.com) will have David Wilcox as the headliner and Danny Schmidt and Carrie Elkin as the openers on August 2 at 7 p.m. Tickets are $12.
On July 31, the Ardmore Music Hall (23 East Lancaster Avenue, Ardmore, 610-649-8389, www.ardmoremusic.com) will present Ashley Leone and Friends (Josh Dutton, Dry Reef, Ju-Tuan, the Sofa Kings and a special surprise guest. Showtime is 7 p.m. and tickets are $15.
On August 1 at 8 p.m., the Keswick Theater (291 N. Keswick Avenue, Glenside, 215-572-7650, http://www.keswicktheatre.com) will present R&B singer Jeffrey Osborne, the five-time Platinum and Gold Record winner who is best known for “On The Wings Of Love.” Tickets are $39.50 and $49.50.
The Sellersville Theatre (24 West Temple Avenue, Sellersville, 215-257-5808, www.st94.com) has a busy week with the Ed Palermo Big Band on July 31, ST94’s The Local Connection: Jeff Thomas’ All-Volunteer Army, The Peace Creeps & Adam Travis on August 1, Exile on August 2, Nellie McKay on August 3 and Gina Sicilia on August 4.