On Stage: Newsies hit Philly

Stray Birds, Adrian Belew top music acts on tap this weekend

By Denny DyroffStaff Writer, The Times


Newsies, The Musical, celebrates an era when newspapers were still printed, and opens Oct. 28 at the Academy of Music in Philadelphia.

Sometime in the future — maybe even the very near future — kids will be unfamiliar with newspapers just as today’s younger generation has a hard time comprehending dial telephones with party lines, typewriters and mimeograph machines.

Even now, there aren’t many people familiar with newsboys — kids who stood on street corners or other favorable locations and sold newspapers. For the longest time, it was the first paying job available to young teenagers.

In 1899 in New York, there was a newsboys’ strike. The newsboys started their strike to force the publishers of the city’s major newspapers to better compensate them for their work. It lasted two days and caused Joseph Pulitzer’s paper New York World to cut its large circulation (more than 350,000) to around a third of that total.

“Newsies The Musical” is running October 28-November 2 at the Academy of Music (Broad and Locust streets, Philadelphia, 215-731-3333, kimmelcenter.org/broadway). It marks the opening of the 2014-2015 Broadway Philadelphia season, which is presented collaboratively by the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts and The Shubert Organization.

The high-energy production is a Disney Theatrical Productions stage musical based on the 1992 film “Newsies,” which was inspired by that strike in 1899. The six-day stay at the Academy is also the opening run of the National Tour. Tickets for the show start at $25.

Known for its spectacular music and dance, “Newsies” won Tony, Drama Desk, and Outer Critics Circle Awards for Best Score (Alan Menken) and Best Choreography (Christopher Gatelli).

The show received eight Tony nominations and one Grammy nomination. It broke seven theatre house records during its Broadway run at the Nederlander Theatre and was the highest-grossing show from the 2011-12 Broadway season.

“We did two weeks of tech and one week of preview performances,” said Zachary Sayle, during a phone interview last week from Schenectady, New York. “The show is coming together nicely. I’m excited to open.”

Sayle plays the role of Crutchie, a newsboy who needs a crutch to walk.

“Crutchie’s right leg is dead due to polio,” said Sayles. “He uses a crutch the entire show. For some of the dance numbers, I do the easy choreography. I become part of different groups. I find things to do.

“This show is challenging physically and vocally. We’re singing our faces off. The leg thing is a big challenge. Playing Crutchie is tough physically because I have to have my left leg carry my weight for two hours.

“Before the show, I have to do a lot of stretching. Post-show, I have to do counter-stretching. I already am noticing that I’m starting to lean to my left side.”

Sayle’s role has him playing one of the most endearing characters in the cast.

“I love how Crutchie is so optimistic,” said Sayle, who has been acting since an early age. “He’s the most upbeat character in the show. He’s poor. He lives on the street. He got dealt a bad hand but he stays positive. Everyone loves him. He has a great spirit.”

Sayle also has a great spirit.

“I was born in Hoover, Alabama and did local theater there,” said Sayles. “My parents let me move to New York when I was 14. My dad and me left home and moved to New York.

“By age 16, I was on my own because my two younger brothers in Alabama needed my dad. I was home-schooled online and graduated a year early. I did a year at of musical theater at CAP21 Conservatory and then I booked this job.”

The young actor knew from the start that this show is a winner.

“The thing that makes this show so special is the energy,” said Sayle. “It’s based on a true story but it is also a fun, exciting show. The dance numbers are spectacular. Audiences really like that it is a true story where a bunch of kids who got no respect stand up for their rights.”

Two other hit musicals are also having runs locally.

“The Addams Family” is running now through November 2 at the Media Theatre (104 East State Street, Media, 610-891-0100, www.mediatheatre.org. Tickets for the show are $42 for adults, $35 for seniors and $25 for children. Evening performances are at 8 p.m. Wednesdays through Saturdays. Matinees are at 2 p.m. on Wednesdays and Saturdays and 3 p.m. on Sundays.

“Fiddler on the Roof,” which is one of the all-time favorite American musicals, is running now through November 2 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).

There is also a lot of great live music on tap in the area over the next week.


Lancaster natives The Stray Birds perform Oct. 23 at the World Café Live in Philadelphia.

The Stray Birds, who are performing on October 23 at the World Café Live (3025 Walnut Street, Philadelphia, 215-222-1400, philly.worldcafelive.com) and October 25 at Tellus360 (24 East King Street, Lancaster, 717- 393-1660, http://tellus360.myshopify.com), have their roots in nearby Lancaster County.

The trio, which features Charlie Muench, Maya de Vitry and Oliver Craven, has its musical roots in acoustic music — Americana, folk and bluegrass. The band has released two albums and two EPs. The new album “Best Medicine” was released this week on Yep Roc Records.

“We’re all from Lancaster County,” said Muench, during a phone interview Wednesday afternoon as the band was travelling to a gig at Bucknell University. “Maya and I went to Hempfield High and Oliver is from Ephrata.

“Maya and I were in a middle school orchestra together. Oliver and I met through mutual friends. About four-and-a-half years ago, Maya and Oliver were making an EP together in a basement in Lancaster and I played bass on a couple tracks.

“At the beginning of 2012, it became a three-piece band full time with Maya and Oliver as the songwriters. The band formed around playing their songs along with some traditional Americana, bluegrass and fiddle tunes.”

There musical styles aren’t usually embraced by musicians of high school and college age.

“I got into bluegrass when I was in college,” said Muench, who graduated from West Chester University in 2011 with a degree in musical education. “It started with listening to the Grateful Dead and that led me to Jerry Garcia’s other band Old and In the Way.

“Maya has been playing old-time music with her family for a long time. Oliver was in a family band playing fiddle since his early musical days. The family-oriented nature of the music is great. Before there was recorded music, people would sit around and sing together.”

The Stray Birds recorded “Best Medicine” earlier this year in rural Virginia.

“We recorded it in Leesburg with Stuart Martin at his Stone Bridge Studios,” said Muench. “It was nice to be secluded. The atmosphere of the place definitely had an effect. We recorded it live in the studio.”

“We play 170 shows a year. When we did previous recording, we weren’t really getting the sound we wanted to hear by tracking individually. So, we set up the microphones in the room and just did what we do onstage because that’s what the people like and that’s what we like. We had played most of the songs live already.”

On the same night, the Upstairs Stage at World Café Live will feature a show headlined by Nalani & Sarina — twin sisters who have tapped in the soul of R&B and merged it with today’s sound.

belew 3

Legendary rock guitarist Adrian Belew and the Adrian Belew Power Trio play the World Cafe, Oct. 24.

On October 24, the World Café Live will host one of rock’s legendary guitarists — Adrian Belew. He will be performing with the latest incarnation of the Adrian Belew Power Trio. Tickets are $25 and $28.

Belew, who is also a guitarist with the Bears and with King Crimson, is a strong fan of the power trio format that was popularized by Cream and the Jimi Hendrix Experience in the late 1960s.

“In terms of creativity, the trio format is best for me,” said Belew, during a phone interview Wednesday afternoon. “It allows me to run free on guitar. I like the energy of it.

“My idea of a power trio — three people and they each share the responsibility for the music playing together as a band. In a power trio, you’re on the front line all the time. I’ve been in a lot of situations that were great like with Frank Zappa and with Robert Fripp.  I love all these situations but I love power trio the best.”

The Adrian Belew Power Trio features Julie Slick, a Philadelphia musician, on bass and Tobias Wolff on drums.

“A few years ago, I did a seminar for Paul Green’s School of Rock in Philadelphia,” said Belew, who worked with such artists as Frank Zappa, David Bowie, Sara Hickman, Nine Inch Nails and Talking Heads.

“Paul knew I was looking to start a trio and introduced me to Julie and Eric Slick and said they were the best young musicians around. I heard them jam on Frank Zappa’s ‘City of Tiny Lights’ and I was really impressed. Julie was 20 at the time and Eric was 19.

“I was hesitant at first. I thought the age difference could be a drawback. I didn’t want to look like an old man. Instead, playing with them took me back to my young days when music was alive and fun. I was impressed by their maturity.

“Their ability to play was beyond their years. Even as young as they were, they had been playing music by Zappa, Bowie and King Crimson. They were playing the kind of music that only a select bunch of older musicians can play.

“I brought them to my studio in Nashville. When they came down, I gave them a long list of songs to learn and they ran through it in the first afternoon. Soon, we were playing shows. Quickly, they became seasoned travelers and world-class musicians.”

Then, the Power Trio has gone through one line-up change since then.

“Eric stayed in the band four years and then joined Doctor Dog,” said Belew. “Tobias was the best replacement I could think of. He plays very much like Bill Bruford (drummer for Yes).

“We’re a trio and we’re tackling music that was made for a six-piece band. We’re also doing a lot of improv. I love this band. I think it’s been rejuvenating me since the very beginning and it’s never gone away. I’m having a lot of fun.”

Belew, who is also a painter, has another major project going on. Called FLUX, it’s a groundbreaking app where songs are never played the same way.

“FLUX is a new artistic platform that I’ve been developing for about five years now. I had a vision on how I wanted music to be perceived. It’s something that never happens the same way twice. Normally, you hear a portion of a song and then it gets interrupted.

“With FLUX, there can be interruptions which I call snippets. A snippet is any sound or moment of music. With FLUX, they can last from three second to 10 seconds. They really serve to surprise everything and then glue it all together.

“And, there are also visuals with FLUX. They never line up with the music the same way every time either. And, you can tough the screen and move the images. Also, I use a content management system (CMS) and that lets me change anything any time I want.”

Another artist who has gained success both as a musician and as a painter is Annie Haslam.

The British native and Bucks County resident is the lead singer and creative force behind the band Renaissance, which will be performing on October 25 at the Keswick Theatre (291 N. Keswick Avenue, Glenside, 215-572-7650, www.keswicktheatre.com).

“I started painting in 2002,” said Haslam, during a phone interview Wednesday afternoon. “I wound down my solo career because it was time to move on. I knew something was coming but I didn’t know what. Then, a voice came to me that told me that I should be painting.

“I started with a flower and realized that I’m not a flowery person. When I started painting, I felt something was guiding me. I don’t do any paintings intentionally. It’s almost as if I’m channeling. My third painting was of a UFO over an ocean.

“In our live shows, I have a painting for each song and it is displayed on the stage’s backdrop while we’re playing the song. And, the dress I wear for the show has the cover of the new album painted on silk. It is a painting I made especially for the cover.”

The versatile artist, who was born in Bolton, Lancashire, first gained world-wide recognition when she was asked to become the lead singer of Renaissance, a band formed by Keith Relf after he finished his stint as vocalist for the Yardbirds.

While still a member of Renaissance, Haslam recorded her first solo album “Annie in Wonderland” — a highly-acclaimed disc that was a collaboration with (and produced by) Roy Wood, a founding member of both The Move and ELO.

Renaissance’s latest album is “Symphony of Light,” which was released in a slightly different form last year and titled “Grandine il Vento.”

“We initially put the album out ourselves,” said Haslam. “Then, nine months later a company in New York offered us a distribution deal. But, we had to do new artwork, change the title and add three bonus tracks.”

One of the bonus tracks is a new song written as a tribute to Michael Dunford. One of the band’s creative forces, Dunford passed away last year after suffering a major cerebral hemorrhage.

“We wrote the song ‘Renaissance Man’ as a tribute to Michael,” said Haslam. “We still can feel him around. He definitely visits. Just like Leonardo da Vinci, Michael was a Renaissance man.”

The show at the Keswick starts at 8 p.m. with Al Stewart as the opening act. Tickets range from $39.50-$69.50.

Like Adrian Belew, Kasim Sulton is a musician you’ve heard play a lot — even if you’re unfamiliar with his name. The versatile bass guitarist, who will have an acoustic show at the Keswick on October 29, has a list of names on his musical resume that looks like the “Who’s Who” of the world’s best rock musicians.

Todd Rundgren is headlining the show which is billed as “An Unpredictable Evening with Todd Rundgren.” Tickets for the show are $29.50 and $39.50

Sulton is most known for his work with Rundgren’s Utopia and on a number of other projects with Rundgren. He also has spent a lot of time over the last few years playing bass for Blue Öyster Cult.

The long list of acts he has worked with includes Mick Jagger, Bon Jovi, Meat Loaf, Hall & Oates, Cheap Trick, Patty Smyth, Patti Smith, Richie Sambora, Lulu, Rick Derringer, Indigo Girls, Joan Jett, Bonnie Tyler, Steve Stevens and Eileen Ivers.

Sulton has been involved with the making of well over 100 albums — including three of his own. His most recent album “3” is set to be released on October 28.

“I’ve been working with Blue Öyster Cult a lot but now I’m making more time for my solo shows,” said Sulton, during a phone interview Wednesday afternoon.

“I love Blue Öyster Cult but it’s not my band. I’m basically a hired sideman. I’ll also be going out with Todd soon on a tour that has 23 shows in 32 days. My solo tour starts Sunday and continues until November 26.

While Sulton is in high demand as a session musician for recordings by other artists and as a sideman for live shows, his own work sits atop his list of favorite things.

“On my own, I have a new record coming out this week,” said Sulton, who back in the 1980s sang lead on “Set Me Free,” Utopia’s only Top 40 hit in the United States.

“I usually perform all 11 songs from the album in my current live shows. My solo shows are just me on guitar and piano. In my opinion, if it’s a good song it doesn’t need a full band. It should work with just guitar or piano.

“I started making the record in 2010. I take a very long time between projects. I just had the idea I wanted to make a record — that it was time to make a new one. The long time between records usually is because of all the work I do with other people.

“With the writing process, once you start, you have to figure out where the album is going. It’s a journey. The album takes on a life of its own. I took my time — no shortcuts or anything.

“This time, I didn’t move on with a song until I was totally satisfied with the recording of it. I had about 15 musicians come in and play on it which was different. Usually, I do everything myself. This time, I asked a bunch of friends to join me in making the album.

“It would be nice to take a band on the road with me but it is so cost-prohibitive. I’d give my right pinky to have a full band. But, I also really enjoy solo shows. I like interacting with the audience in a small venue. I like the intimacy.”

Intimacy also is a factor in shows by Ryanhood, a duo that plays intricate acoustic music.  Ryanhood, which features Ryan Green and Cameron Hood, will be in the area on October 29 for a show at Burlap & Bean Coffeehouse (204 South Newtown Street Road, Newtown Square, 484-427-4547, www.burlapandbean.com). Showtime is 8 p.m. and tickets are $10.

“We’ve been together for about 12 years,” said Hood, during a phone interview Tuesday afternoon. “The record we just made was celebrating the 10th anniversary of our first album — following the thread back to who we were when we began.

“Looking back, we learned about two guys who were making music 10 years ago. Some musicians are embarrassed about their earlier stuff but we aren’t. We made that album and realized it was good. Looking back, it’s O.K. We realized that it’s O.K. to be young and O.K. to be older.”

Ryanhood’s first album in 2003 was “Sad and Happiness.” Since then, they have released five additional albums — the most recent of which is “Start Somewhere.”

Named “Best Group/Duo” in the 2014 International Acoustic Music Awards, Ryanhood got its first break more than a decade ago as street-performers at Boston’s Quincy Market.

“We both grew up and went to high school together in Tucson,” said Hood. “We played in different bands in high school and became friends. Then I went to the University of Arizona and Ryan went to Berklee in Boston,” said Hood.

“We had bands in college that broke up when we finished school. Ryan asked me to move to Boston so I did. We’ve been writing and recording together ever since. We write in different ways. My favorite way is with Ryan writing the melody and then I add lyrics to it. We both sing lead and back-up.

“Our live concerts show a lot of personality. We look everybody in the eye and deliver our tunes. We do a lot of storytelling and sing songs about hope and optimism. And, we do it with a high degree of musicianship and harmonies.”

Other shows over the next week at Burlap & Bean Coffeehouse feature 3 Stories High with Meg Hutchinson on October 24 and Kris Delmhorst with Rusty Belle on October 25.

keys n krates 3

Keys N Krates will be at District N9ne in Philadelphia on Oct. 29.

One of the most popular — and creative — groups in the EDM (electronic dance music) scene is Keys N Krates. The Toronto-based trio continually produces great music but in a way different than most electronic acts.

Keys N Krates features Adam Tune on drums, David Matisse on synthesizer and keyboards and Jr. Flo (Greg Dawson) on turntables. On October 29, the trio will play at District N9ne (460 North Ninth Street, Philadelphia, 215-769-2780, http://districtn9ne.com). Showtime is 9 p.m. and tickets are $20.

Their first release was the “Blackout” EP in 2103. Since then, they have released three more EPs — “Lucid Dreams,” “SOLOW” and the recently-released “Every Nite.” There also have been four official singles — “Treat Me Right,” “Dum Dee Dum,” “Keep It 100” and “Are We Faded.”

“We dropped the ‘Every Nite’ EP in mid-September,” said Dawson, during a phone interview Wednesday evening. “We were working on it since the beginning of 2014 — from January until July.

“All three of us are always digging for samples, sounds, melodies, chord progressions. Whatever we all get inspired by is what we work with. Then, we all collectively start attacking it — turning it into something we like.

“Sampling is wide open for us. We have no qualms about what we sample. It all comes down to — is it something that sounds like what we want? But, getting clearance to use samples can sometimes be a real pain in the ass.

“Sometimes, we get commissioned to do re-mixes for other artists. We’re doing less of that lately so we can concentrate on our own stuff. We’ve also commissioned friends to re-mix songs from our new EP. We won’t re-mix something ourselves unless we feel that it is original. It has to really feel like a Keys N Krates record.”

While many EDM acts use laptops exclusively to produce the sounds, Keys N Krates have a more organic feel — more of a band feel.

“We started off as a band before we were actually producers — simple drums, basic keyboard and simple turntables,” said Dawson. “We played like a band but replicated songs in a different way. Once we started playing live, we figured out how to evolve from a band to producers who were playing their productions 100 per cent live.

“We’ve been really surprised at how fans have noticed and appreciated what we’re doing. Our core base of fans is super-attracted to it. What we do gives them more of a concert experience. It’s not just a major laser show.”

For the most part, calling someone “loopy” means that that someone is silly or crazy. Such is not the case with current musicians.


Angela Sheik will be at Melodies in Ardmore, Oct. 25.

Angela Sheik, who is performing at Melodies Café (2 East Ardmore Avenue, Ardmore, 610-645-5269, www.melodiescafe.com) on October 25, could be described as a loopy musician and it wouldn’t be a slur but rather an accurate description.

In the world of modern music, a loop is a repeating section of sound material. Sections of music can be repeated over and over to create patterns and generate harmonics. Sheik is a master of using loops to create the foundation for her songs. She has been described as a multi-faceted, trip-hop and electronic-infused folk-pop indie artist.

“When I was just out of college, I stumbled on The Chemical Brothers,” said Sheik, during a recent phone interview. “I was also listening to bands such as Sneaker Pimps and Portishead. I looped on the side for a long time.”

Sheik has been melding her singer/songwriter influences with electronic experimentation ever since the release of her debut EP “Songs from the Red Box” in 2011. Some of her honors are Grand Prize winner of the BOSS Loop Station 2011 U.S. National Finals, winner of the Philadelphia Songwriter Project Competition and twice voted Female Artist of the Year by WSTW Hometown Heroes. Her rendition of “Can’t Help Falling In Love” was nominated for Best Cover Song by the Independent Music Awards.

“I was at an electronic music festival and a guy told me to check out the Boss Loop Pedal rc-50,” said Sheik, a Delaware resident. “I got one and it’s been great. For me, it opened up being able to do songwriting with loops.”

In addition to singing, Sheik’s music includes loop pedal, flute, synthesizer, autoharp, theremin and keyboards.

“The autoharp came after I started looping,” said Sheik. “I wanted a smaller instrument. And, it has a nice optimistic sound. I picked up a theremin when I learned I was a finalist in a looping competition. At first, I used it to control an effects pedal. Now, I play it traditionally.”

Sheik is now playing live dates in support of her new album “Home Before Dark.”

“I started working on the album about a year ago,” said Sheik. “Most of the songs were written in the summer of 2013. There is also one old song and one cover.

“When I’m writing songs, I usually have a seed of a lyric that the song builds around. Another part is the sound. But, I’m a poet first before a musician. I’ve written poems my whole life. Anymore, I can’t write a poem without it becoming as song. Writing is easy for me. I probably write 200 per cent more than what people see.”

Tickets are $10 for Sheik’s show which is slated to get underway at 8 p.m.

The Brandywine Ballet has established a Halloween tradition of its own with an annual late-October program featuring ballet performances based on the life of Dracula.

This year, the Brandywine Ballet will present three performances of “Dracula” at West Chester University’s Emilie K. Asplundh Hall (700 South High Street, West Chester, 610-692-6402, www.brandywineballet.org) with shows listed for October 25 at 2 and 7:30 p.m. and October 26 at 4 p.m. Tickets range from $25-$40.

The production features original choreography by Resident Choreographer Nancy Page, who was a Brandywine Ballet student prior to her professional career with such companies as the Sarasota Ballet, the Pittsburgh Ballet and the Tampa/Colorado Ballet.

The piece has been choreographed with both classical and contemporary styles, including a number of pas de deux and solos featuring the principals. The production features elaborate sets and a grand finale with 40 dancers on stage together.

The Flash (102 Sycamore Alley, Kennett Square, 484-732-8295, http://www.kennettflash.org) will present Countdown to Ecstacy, a Steely Dan tribute band, on October 24 and Joe Scheller with Tiff & Linds opening on October 25,.

The schedule for the Steel City Coffee House (203 Bridge Street, Phoenixville, 610-933-4043, www.steelcitycoffeehouse.com) includes John Flynn’s “CD Release Party” on October 24, Larry Friends & Family with Emily Neblock on October 25 and Thrifty Count DJs on October 26.

Chaplin’s (66 North Main Street, Spring City, 610-792-4110, http://chaplinslive.com) will have Chelsea Berry, Emma Cullen and Dylan Jane on October 24 and the “Bacchus Boys — Old Goats Tour” on October 25.

The Ardmore Music Hall (23 East Lancaster Avenue, Ardmore, 610-649-8389, www.ardmoremusic.com) presents Terrapin Flyer with Melvin Seals & Mark Karan on October 23 and David Uosikkinen’s In The Pocket on October 24.

Colonial Theatre (227 Bridge Street, Phoenixville, 610-917-128, www.thecolonialtheatre.com) will host a concert by Mary Black, one of Ireland’s best known and loved singers, as part of her “Last Call Tour.”  Tickets range from $32.50-$44.50.

The World Café Live at the Queen (500 North Market Street, Wilmington, 302- 994-1400, www.queen.worldcafelive.com) will have The Ocean Blue on October 23, Box of Rain on October 25, Tommy Castro and the Painkillers on October 26, Joe Ely on October 28 and Cabinet on October 29 on its Upstairs Stage. Acts scheduled for the Downstairs Stage are the “Kalin and Myles Chase Dreams Tour” on October 23 and The Bad Plus on October 25.

The line-up for the Sellersville Theatre (24 West Temple Avenue, Sellersville, 215-257-5808, www.st94.com) includes Matt Schofield on October 23, The Greencards on October 24, Southern Culture on the Skids on October 25, The Tubes on October 26, Maria Muldaur on October 28 and Justin Hayward from the Moody Blues on October 29.

The Grand Opera House (818 North Market Street, Wilmington, Delaware, 302-652-5577, www.thegrandwilmington.org) hosts the Milk Carton Kids with Sarah Jarosz on October 23 and Frank Vignola and Vinnie Raniolo on October 24.

The Chameleon Club (223 North Water Street, Lancaster, 717-299-9684, http://www.chameleonclub.net) will present the Misfits on October 23, the Regan Years on October 24, Beth Hart on October 25 and the Dead Milkmen on October 26.

   Send article as PDF   

Share this post:

Related Posts

Leave a Comment