On Stage: Don’t call it a ‘Phantom’ sequel, but…

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By Denny Dyroff, Entertainment Editor, The Times

Love Never Dies

There’s a show running this week that is part of the Kimmel Center’s Broadway Philadelphia series at the Academy of Music (Broad and Locust streets, Philadelphia, 215-731-3333, www.kimmelcenter.org) that is a sequel and, at the same time, not really a sequel.

The show could be considered a “Broadway Preview” but, at the same time, it is not officially a “Broadway Preview.”

The show, which runs from October 2-8 at the Academy of Music is Andrew Lloyd Webber’s “Love Never Dies.”

At one point, Lloyd Webber was quoted as saying, “I don’t regard this as a sequel – it’s a stand-alone piece. For me, a great story is the catalyst — that’s why I have taken so long to come up with this.”

Later, he was quoted as saying, “Clearly, it is a sequel, but I really do not believe that you have to have seen ‘The Phantom of the Opera’ to understand ‘Love Never Dies.’”

The show is now in the National Tour stage with plans to bring it to Broadway.

“Love Never Dies’ had its debut in London’s West End in 2010-2011 and then had a run in Melbourne, Australia from 2011-2012. The hit musical has played Denmark (Copenhagen, 2012-2013, Austria (Vienna, 2013), Japan (Tokyo, 2014) and Germany (Hamburg, 2105).

It started its U.S. National Tour in September 2016. The current cast features Philadelphia native Sean Thompson in one of the major roles — Raoul, Vicomte de Chagny.

“We started rehearsing last August,” said Thompson, during a phone interview last week. “It had its first preview in Utica, New York in late September. We’ll be out for a little more than a year and close on December 2 in Austin, Texas.

“The producers are looking at Broadway. That’s no secret. They’re also looking at Asia and another National Tour. This tour has put the numbers up. I don’t think they expected it to do as well as it’s done.

“It was planned for Broadway a few years ago but it didn’t do so well in the West End. That’s when Andrew Lloyd Webber decided to close the West End show.

“Then, Simon Phillips took it to Australia and created a brand-new show. He came up with new ideas. Still, this is Andrew Lloyd Webber’s baby. He had the entire score composed on electric piano. Its success on this tour has been impressive. He was bawling with tears at the Detroit opening.”

The love story from “The Phantom of the Opera” continues in “Love Never Dies.” The year is 1907 — 10 years after the Phantom disappeared from the Paris Opera House.

“You never really know what happened at the end of ‘The Phantom of the Opera,’” said Thompson. “The Phantom goes into his throne and disappears. All that is found is his mask.

The Phantom has escaped to a new life in Coney Island, New York, but has never stopped yearning for his one true love and musical protégée, Christine Daaé.

Daaé, who has become one of the world’s finest sopranos, travels from Paris to New York to perform at a renowned opera house. Her marriage to Raoul is suffering because he has developed gambling and drinking habits and they desperately need the money she can make by performing in America.
In a desperate attempt to win back Daaé’s love, the Phantom lures her, Raoul, and their young son Gustave, from Manhattan to the crazy world of Coney Island. The plot then features a swirl of intrigue, obsession and romance.

“Andrew Lloyd Webber thinks that it’s important for people to know that this show can be a stand-alone piece,” said Thompson, who graduated from Archbishop Ryan High in Northeast Philadelphia and then majored in theater and English at Temple University.

“But, it has the Phantom, Christine, Raoul, Madame Giry and Meg Giry, so it definitely is a sequel. A lot of time in the show is spent talking about things that happened 10 years in the past.

“There are a lot of really good things regarding ‘Love Never Dies.’ It’s an interesting story. And, there are great songs in this show like ‘Devil Take the Hindmost’ and ‘’Til I Hear You Sing.’

“I’m from Philadelphia so I’m super excited to be playing the Academy of Music. It will be my first time to do a show there. It’s pretty awesome.”

Video link for “Love Never Dies” — https://youtu.be/KwYEXyxwDHQ.

The show will run from October 2-8 at the Academy of Music. Ticket prices range from $25-$144.

If you’re looking for musical entertainment in Philly on October 2 and want something other than Opening Night at the Academy of Music, there are several good options at clubs in downtown Philadelphia – a power-pop band from Los Angeles, a metal band from New Orleans or a singer-songwriter from Minneapolis/L.A.

Dreamers

Dreamers, a band with good hooks and solid songwriting, will be headlining a show on October 2 at the Voltage Lounge (421 North Seventh Street, Philadelphia, 215- 964-9602,www.voltagelounge.com).

The power-pop trio — Nick Wold, lead vocals, guitar; Marc Nelson, bass, backing vocals; Jacob Lee Wick, drums, backing vocals – came together as a band in 2014 and released their eponymous debut EP in November 2014.

Wold moved from Seattle to New York at the age of 18 to study jazz saxophone at New York University. In New York, Wold was the lead singer and guitarist in the grunge band Motive, along with drummer Chris Bagamery, a longtime friend of his from Seattle. Following the dissolution of Motive, Wold was living and writing songs in a Brooklyn rehearsal space. He and Bagamery met the bassist Marc Nelson (commonly known only by his surname), and the three teamed up to form Dreamers.

Their first single, “Wolves (You Got Me),” was released in July 2014 and was included on their self-titled debut EP. In February 2015, Dreamers signed a deal with Fairfax Recordings. Drummer Jacob Lee Wick joined the band at the end of 2015, replacing Bagamery after the group relocated to Los Angeles.

“We started the band in New York,” said Wold, during a phone interview last week from a tour stop in Atlanta, Georgia. “It actually started as a band called Motive and morphed into Dreamers.

“I was living in my practice space in Brooklyn. The brick warehouse used to be a brewery. It was just a cinderblock room with no windows, no bathrooms. I wrote over 100 songs at that time. I met Nelson and we were like-minded.

“The reason we moved to L.A. was that we got signed to a record deal in L.A. and then got on satellite radio. We wanted to be near the action.

“We made demos over the course of two years. They were all fully demo-ed out. We had 50 songs after two years that we liked. Then, we had to whittle it down.”

The songs became part of a project that features the band releasing three related EPs. The first EP, “Launch,” was released in July. The middle EP, “Fly,” was just released and the third will be released at a yet-to-be-determined time.

“We had four songs on the first EP and five on the second,” said Wold. “I don’t know how many will be in the third – at least four and probably not more than six.

“Ever since our ‘Sweet Disaster’ single came out, we’ve been thinking about this project. We decided that it would be more fun to tell the story in three episodes – beginning, middle, end. It’s about breakups – breakups and changes. All of us in the band have gone through a lot of life changes in the last year.

“We also talk a lot about space and the cosmos. As dreamers, we like to think about cosmic experiences. You only get one life – and it’s short.”

Video link for Dreamers – https://youtu.be/9G9D9noRuqw,

The show at the Voltage Lounge, which also features Weathers and Morgxn, will start at 8 p.m. Tickets are $13.

Cane Hill

Cane Hill, which is headlining a show at Kung Fu Necktie (1248 North Front Street, Philadelphia, 215-291-4919, kungfunecktie.com) on October 2, is a heavy metal band from Louisiana.

The band — vocalist Elijah Witt, guitarist James Barnett, bass guitarist Ryan Henriquez, and percussionist Devin Clark — formed in New Orleans in 2011.

“We were all in different metal bands in New Orleans,” said Witt, during as phone interview last week from a tour stop in Nashville, Tennessee.

“We all grew up in the local scene – but in different bands – and then melded together as Cane Hill. We started with five members and, at one point, had a different drummer. This line-up is the real Cane Hill. The others are irrelevant. This line-up has been together four-and-a-half years.

In 2015, the group signed to Rise Records and released its debut EP, “Cane Hill.” The band released its debut full-length studio album, “Smile,” in July 2016. In January 19, 2018, Cane Hill’s sophomore album, “Too Far Gone,” was released via Rise Records. “Too Far Gone” reached Number 1 on Billboards Heatseakers Chart.

“We recorded the album in the summer of 2017 in L.A.,” said Witt. “A lot of stuff has been happening since then – including non-stop touring.”

Cane Hill is now on the road in the middle of its first-ever headline North American tour next weekend. In advance of the tour, Cane Hill releases the live album “Cane Hill: Live From The Bible Belt” in September 14.

“With the live album, we recorded those shows specifically for the purpose of as livre album,” said Witt. “The entire intention was to reward the people who come to our shows – and to show that we’re a good live band.

“Live recordings offer things you don’t get from listening to a studio record. This live album was a limited pressing. It’s only available until it runs out. Right now, there is a very limited supply. We wanted to make it incredibly special.”

Cane Hill is a powerful act – on stage or in the studio.

“Our influences are Metallica, Pantera, Megadeth, Godsmack and a lot of post-grunge,” said Witt. “The heaviness definitely comes from 80s and 90s thrash. A few of us like the industrial side of metal, but I don’t believe a lot of our influences come from that realm.

“We just write whatever we want to write without focusing on influences. We call ourselves metal or hard rock. If you listen to all three of our records, you’ll hear a lot of different styles – all of them heavy.

“When I listen to heavy music, I want ti to punch me in the face. With our music, we like to be as blunt as we possibly can be. There’s no fun in being vague.

“This is our first headline tour. It’s awesome not having to figure out what to play in a short set. A 30-minute set is challenging. Now, we can play 60 minutes or more. It’s relieving to be able to give our fans a full table of Cane Hill music.”
Video link for Cane Hill — https://youtu.be/BHTtXjc4Utk.

The show at Kung Fu Necktie, which has Tallah, Afterlife and Sharptooth as opening acts, will start at 7 p.m. Tickets are $13.

A lot of young musicians leave their hometowns and move to Meccas of modern music such as Brooklyn, Los Angeles, Austin and Nashville.

Minneapolis native Caroline Smith left Minneapolis and relocated to Los Angeles after signing to Pulse Recording.

Your Smith

But Smith, who will be headlining a show on October 2 at Johnny Brenda’s (1201 North Frankford Avenue, Philadelphia, 215-739-9684,

www.johnnybrendas.com), did more than just change her zip code – she changed her name. Her new moniker is Your Smith.

“I’ve lived in L.A. for a couple years now,” said Smith, during a phone interview last week from a tour stop in New York City. “I started working for a publishing company – Pulse Recording – and was flying there a lot from Minnesota. So, I moved there three years ago.”

In August, Smith released a new EP “The Bad Habit,” which was her first music effort as Your Smith. Released on Neon Gold Records, “The Bad Habit” EP features collaborations with Tommy English (BØRNS), Stint (Gallant, Aluna George), Nicky Davey (Internet, Syd) and more.

“The new EP is the first thing I released as Your Smith,” said Smith. “It’s a new chapter that I wanted to focus on. When you’re making music as long as I have, you want a clean slate. You want to start a new chapter.”

As Caroline Smith, the singer/songwriter/rocker has four album releases dating back to 2008.

“I’ve always had a proclivity for music and songwriting,” said Smith. “I was influenced a lot by artists such as Paul Simon, Carole King, and Aretha Franklin. It’s always been songwriting or R&B/funk that I’ve been attracted to.

“I first started playing out at The 400 Bar, a club near the campus of the University of Minnesota. I was a freshman at the university and I’d play at The 400 Bar on Wednesday nights.

“I never graduated. Instead, I figured out how to play live and ended up going on the road. I started touring when I was 20. I always looked up to touring artists. Still, I didn’t take it seriously until about five years ago when I was 25. Now that I’m in K.A., I’ve been playing live a lot.

“I’m touring with a full band of L.A. musicians – Nylo on keyboards, Lib on bass and Steph on drums. I didn’t specifically look for an all-woman band. I just looked for the players that were the best.

“Generally, my music is like alt-pop – 70s songwriters mixed with Minnesota soul. It’s always lyric-forward. I want to be as honest as I can be.

Video link for Your Smith — https://youtu.be/dIOxq6jgBaE.

The show at Johnny Brenda’s, which has Baum as the opening act, will start at 8 p.m. Tickets are $12.

Illiterate Light

On October 3, Illiterate Light brings its distinctive sound to the area for a show at Boot and Saddle (1131 South Broad Street, Philadelphia, 215-639-4528,www.bootandsaddlephilly.com).

Patrons at the bar outside the listening room probably think that a full band is on stage when Illiterate Light performs. If they venture in to the performance space, they are amazed to realize that such a full sound is coming from just two players — Jeff Gorman on guitar and synthesizer and Jake Cochran on drums.

Gorman and Cochran have known each other for more than a decade.  As Illiterate Light they transcend expectations of typical rock music through their limitations as a duo.  Gorman elevates his gritty guitar melodies and honest lyricism by stomping out thunderous synth bass with his feet as Cochran layers lush vocal harmony and explodes with convulsing energy around his minimalist standing drum kit.

“I grew up in Towson, Maryland and Jake grew up in D.C.,” said Gorman, during a phone interview last week. “We met in 2010 in Harrisonburg, Virginia when we were students at James Madison University.

“We played together in different bands there before graduating in 2012. Jake moved away after he graduated but I convinced him to come back in 2015. That’s when we started Illiterate Light.

“Right now, we just have one single – ‘Better Than I Used To’ – and another one coming out on September 29 – ‘Growin’ Down.’

“We just recorded an album with Adrian Olsen in Richmond, Virginia. We mixed it with Vance Powell in Nashville. The album will be coming out next spring.

“Vance Powell got this gig – a film company is pitching this show about Sun Studio artists from the past to Sun Records. So, we’ll be going back to Nashville to work with Vance and choose a Sun song to record for the project. I’ve spent the past few weeks listening to a lot of songs from Sun Records’ archives.”

Still, Gorman’s main focus is on Illiterate Light.

“The band came into existence in November 2015,” said Gorman. “We were playing six months prior as a trio. Then, we became a duo in November. Our sound really developed over the course of the next year.”

Better Than I Used To” was featured in NPR Music’s “Heavy Rotation: 10 Hot Summer Songs” column.

“Now, we’re ready to release a new album,” said Gorman. “It’s already mixed and mastered. These first two singles are songs from the album – a preview of what’s to come. Right now, we’re just waiting for the record label deal.”

Video link for Illiterate Light – https://youtu.be/vhcIZd9gUvQ.

The show at Boot and Saddle, which also features The Sleepwalkers and Not Fur Long, will start at 8:30 p.m. Tickets are $13.

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