What To Do: Need we say more? Chocolate in Kennett Sq.

Also: Fosse shows Chicago, Pippin come to area

By Denny Dyroff, Staff Writer, The Times


Once again, the United Way of Southern Chester County holds its annual Kennett Chocolate Lovers Festival at Kennett High School, Feb. 21.

Every year, when February rolls around, the United Way of Southern Chester County holds a special event to celebrate chocolate. On February 21, the organization will present the Kennett Chocolate Lovers Festival (Kennett High School, 100 E. South St., Kennett Square, 610-444-4357, www.unitedwayscc.org).

The event, which is a chocoholic’s dream come true, will feature hundreds of chocolate treats for attendees to sample, including brownies, candies, cakes, cookies and cupcakes. Making it even sweeter is the fact that the festival is being held as a benefit for the United Way of Southern Chester County.

Culinary professionals from around the area as well as a number of amateurs will be presenting their finest chocolate creations and vying for the right to claim being the best in Southern Chester County.

Contestants will compete for awards in the following categories — student (ages 12 up), amateur and professional/catering/chef (income derived from baking/cooking). Last year more than 200 entries were available for tasting by the public. The event is scheduled to run from 1-4 p.m.

Connoisseur ticket holders will be admitted at noon while those with general admission tickets can enter at 1 p.m. Connoisseur tickets are $25 for one and $45 for two. General admission tickets are $10 and include six tastings. Additional tastings are available for $.50 each. Additionally, there is a parking fee of $5 per car.

The weather might create a “good day to stay at home” situation but for active people and parents with active kids, there is also a need to get out of the house and do something.

Fortunately, there are ways to accomplish both at the same time.

Attending a theater with a real stage and real actors beats watching a move by a lot. Going to a live show gets you out of the house and then puts you back into a comfort zone for a few hours of interesting entertainment.

This is a good time to think about visiting a theater to see a live stage show with a menu  of area shows that includes “Chicago,” “Pippin,” “The Very Hungry Caterpillar,” “Spamalot,” ‘Beauty and the Beast,” “To Kill a Mockingbird” and “Sense and Sensibility.” And, you also have the option of catching a live performance of Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus.

chicago 1

Chicago comes to the Playhouse on Rodney Square this week.

The show “Chicago” has a lot of history. It has been made as a film three times and has been mounted a number of times on stage — as a musical and as a comedy. Adding to its history, the story is based on actual murders.

Now, the musical version of “Chicago” is out on a national tour — a tour which will run from February 23-28 at the Playhouse on Rodney Square (10th and Market streets, Wilmington, Delaware, 302-888-0200, www. duponttheatre.com).

The two lead female roles are Roxie Hart and Velma Kelly. Roxie’s character is based on 23-year-old Beulah Annan, who was accused of the murder of Harry Kalstedt — a man she alleged entered her apartment and tried to make love to her. Velma’s character is based on Belva Gaertner, who was accused of murdering Walter Law while he sat in her car.

The trials of the two women, which took place in 1924, were covered extensively by the Chicago press. The original play version of “Chicago” was written as a comedy based on the trials and premiered in New York in 1926. The first movie version was a Cecil B. DeMille film released in 1928.

The musical version of “Chicago” has everything that makes Broadway great — a universal tale of fame, fortune and all that jazz; one show-stopping song after another; and the most astonishing dancing you’ve ever seen. The show has been honored with six Tony Awards, two Olivier Awards, a Grammy and thousands of standing ovations.

The last time a national tour of “Chicago” visited the area, it played the Academy of Music in Philadelphia with television star Jerry Springer playing the role of lawyer Billy Flynn.

The current touring production, which includes choreography by Bob Fosse and Ann Reinking, features Dylis Croman as Roxie Hart and Tara C. MacLeod as Velma Kelly.

“I’ve been dancing since I was three years old,” said Croman, during a phone interview last week from a tour stop in Detroit. “I found my passion early in life and continued to do it all my life. When I was young, I couldn’t wait for the next dance class.

“I’m from Dallas and I graduated from Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts. Booker T. formed me — got me ready for the big time. My main focus was on dance but I was also into singing. I moved to New York when I was 17. The day after I graduated from high school I was on a plane to New York.

 “My mentor Ann Reinking took me under her wing when I was still pretty young — when I was 14. I started getting glimpses of this musical theater thing. I danced with a ballet company in New York for two years and then made the leap to theater. I found my niche.

“I played Philly before when I was in ‘Fosse’ and also when I was in ‘Movin’ Out.’ I did ‘Chicago’ and ‘Movin’ Out’ in 1998. ‘Chicago’ had just won the Tony. I played Mona and was the understudy for Roxie on Broadway. I also did Roxie on and off on the National Tour back then.”

Croman’s other Broadway and National Tour credits include “In Your Arms,” “A Chorus Line,” “Sweet Charity,” “Oklahoma,” and “Thou Shalt Not.” On television, she appeared in “Guiding Light” and “Smash.”

“I learned a lot from Ann Reinking,” said Croman, referring to the actress/choreography who played Roxie — and won a Tony — in the Broadway Revival. “She’s been in my life so long. I’ve had a lot of chances to watch her perform.

“The beauty of this role for me is that there is such a freedom of bringing your own spirit to the role. It has that kind of openness. I trained with Gwen Verdon (the original Roxie on Broadway in 1975) as well as with Ann.

“Roxie goes through a journey. The more I play the role, the more confident I get — and that has allowed me to bring more Dylis to Roxie. I share a lot with her. She’s very joyous and playful — almost child-like.

“She sees the glass as half-full not half-empty. I connect with Roxie in a lot of ways. I’m always finding something different about her — something new. She’s fun. By the end of the show, I’m exhausted by the emotional and physical journey. But, playing this role is more fun than hard.”

The original Broadway production opened in 1975 and ran for 936 performances until 1977. Following a West End debut in 1979 which ran for 600 performances, “Chicago” was revived on Broadway in 1996 and bought back a year later in the West End.

The Broadway revival holds the record as the longest-running musical revival and the longest-running American musical in Broadway history, and is the second longest-running show in Broadway history.

“Audiences love this show because the music and lyrics are brilliant,” said Croman. “There’s nothing like it. The story line was written so long ago and it still holds true. It’s a classic. Fans never get tired of hearing the music. Audiences also love it because it has sexy performers and an off-the-cuff feel.”

Video link for “Chicago” — https://youtu.be/raoxna4wgEg.

The show at the Playhouse on Rodney Square will have evening performances Tuesday through Saturday and matinee performances on Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday. Ticket prices range from $20-$95.

Usually, the Broadway shows that go out on national tours are either relatively recent shows that have garnered awards and generated attention from social media or classics in semi-permanent touring rotation such as “Annie,” “Phantom of the Opera” and “Rent.”

gabrielle mcclinton -- pippin

Gabrielle McClinton is currently starring as the Leading Player in the 1st National Tour of “Pippin” which comes to the Academy of Music in Philadelphia this week.

“Pippin”, which runs from February 23-28 at the Academy of Music (Broad and Locust streets, Philadelphia, 215-731-3333, www.kimmelcenter.org), does not fall into either category. Despite winning Tony Awards both with the original production in 1972 and the Broadway revival in 2013, “Pippin” has not spent much time in national tour mode.

The last time tours of “Pippin” visited this area were 2006 at the DuPont Theater in Wilmington and 2007 at the Forrest Theatre in Philadelphia (with former Monkee Mickey Dolenz in the role of King Charlemagne).

One thing you should know is that the title character in the stage show has nothing to do with “The Lord of the Rings”. The Pippin in this show is definitely not Pippin – one of the names used by Peregrin Took in Tolkien’s tales. The Pippin in “Pippin” is Pippin, the son of Charlemagne (King Charles).

“Pippin” is Broadway’s hit musical known for extraordinary acrobatics, wondrous magical feats and soaring songs from the composer of “Wicked.” This elaborate new production, which is part of the Kimmel Center’s Broadway Philadelphia series, was the winner of four 2013 Tony Awards including Best Musical Revival.

“Pippin” opened 44 years ago on Broadway and ran for just under 2,000 performances. The hit musical features music and lyrics by Stephen Schwartz, book by Roger O. Hirson and is based on “The Story of Pippin, Son of Charlemagne”. The “Leading Player” narrates the story of Pippin as he embarks on his quest for self-discovery.

Gabrielle McClinton is currently starring as the Leading Player in the 1st National Tour of “Pippin” after recently playing the role on Broadway. Previously she traveled the US in the National Tour of Green Day’s “American Idiot.”

“On Broadway, I was in the ensemble and was the understudy for Leading Player,” said McClinton, during a phone interview last week from a tour stop in Boston. “I went on a lot in the role of Leading Player.

“I was really familiar with the show before I joined the cast. I saw it in high school and watched a lot of clips on YouTube. I saw it on Broadway when I was younger and I was amazed.

“I thought it was the best thing I had ever seen. It incorporates acting and dancing — and has an inspiring message. I definitely saw myself in the role. I thought to myself — I want to do that role. Once I started playing the role, it felt so natural.”

The well-written script uses the premise of a mysterious performance troupe, led by a Leading Player, to tell the story of Pippin, a young prince on his search for the meaning of life.

“I like how in charge she is,” said McClinton, who graduated from Carnegie-Mellon University with a BFA in theater. “She really takes charge of everything — and she’s really confident. Playing this role has made me more in control of my life. She’s a ringmaster — a showman. She’s really strong and very passionate — and she cares a lot. She is also a perfectionist. She is a strong woman — physically and mentally.”

In the original Broadway production, Ben Vereen played the role of Leading Player. He brought the house down every night with his spirited performance and won the Tony Award for “Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Musical.”

“I have a lot of shared traits with Leading Player — being strong, being in control and having a passion for acting,” said McClinton, who grew up in Los Angeles. “From a very young age, I’ve always felt I was a leader.

“The main challenge in playing Leading Player is the bigness of the role. She’s so much larger than life. She also has a darker side which is different for me because I don’t.

“The biggest question the show asks is what it means to be extraordinary — and that there is no right way or wrong way. Audiences love the show because it’s so thought-provoking. People also come for the Fosse style and the music. They expect to see a razzle-dazzle spectacle.”

Video link for “Pippin” — https://youtu.be/hyhcVNnD8sA.

Tickets for the six-day run of “Pippin” range from $20-$120.

hungry caterpillar

The Very Hungry Caterpillar.

On February 21, the Kimmel Center is presenting a special performance by the Mermaid Theatre of Nova Scotia — a mesmerizing production of “The Very Hungry Caterpillar and Other Eric Carle Favorites.” The other two stories are “Little Cloud” and “The Mixed-up Chameleon.”

This hour-long production, which is part of the Kimmel Center’s Family Discovery Series, will have a morning performance and an afternoon show at the Merriam Theater (250 South Broad Street, Philadelphia, 215-731-3333, www.kimmelcenter.org).

The Mermaid Theatre showcases three beloved stories as they are retold on stage through the magic of black light and whimsical puppets. Each unique performance retells the imaginative tales created by Eric Carle that have enchanted several generations.

 “The Very Hungry Caterpillar” follows the adventures of a very tiny and very hungry caterpillar who eats his way through a wide variety of foodstuffs before pupating and emerging as a butterfly.

The book, which has won numerous literary awards and a major graphic design award, has sold more than 30 million copies worldwide. It has been described as “one of the greatest childhood classics of all time.”

“Little Cloud,” who resides high up in the sky, transforms himself into various creatures including a sheep, an airplane, shark, and more in this entertaining performance. “The Mixed-up Chameleon,” who is bored with his predictable life of changing color, goes on an adventurous trip to the zoo where he attempts to emulate beautiful animals he sees before figuring out that he too has his own distinct and wonderful value.

This production is adapted, designed and directed by Jim Morrow, with music by Steven Naylor and narration by Gordon Pinsent.

 “Mermaid Theatre has been in existence since 1972,” said Morrow, during a phone interview Monday morning from his office in Windsor, Nova Scotia. ‘We’ve been doing touring performances around the world for little children since then.

“We base all our plays on storybooks children are reading — those that are popular, beautifully written and beautifully illustrated. A big part of Mermaid Theatre is to promote literature and reading.

“There are three things we want to do — make productions that honor story, language and visual imagery, provide good theater for children and present puppetry as an art form. We have two companies out now. The other is ‘Goodnight Moon & The Runaway Bunny.’ We have a third show in rehearsal that will be heading to Singapore.”

The Mermaid Theatre staff knows that to have a good show, it has to start with a good book.

“The book is the primary source of our inspiration,” said Morrow, a native of Newfoundland. “It’s a tactile experience the child has with the object — the book.

“It creates opportunity in a child’s imagination to play. We do that in theater by providing them the opportunity to vocally participate. It’s about liberating their imagination and allowing it to happen naturally.”

The performances are scheduled for February 21 at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. Tickets are available and start at $17.50.

Now through February 28, the Candlelight Theater (2208 Millers Road, Arden, Delaware, 302- 475-2313, www.nctstage.org) is featuring a stage production of “Monty Python’s Spamalot.”

The lively comedy was the winner of three Tony Awards in 2005, including Best Musical and Best Direction of a Musical, and the 2006 Grammy Award for Best Musical Show Album. The Broadway success spawned a national tour — a tour that visited Philadelphia in 2007 and returned to Philly in 2008.

“Spamalot” is a musical comedy that is billed as being “lovingly ripped off from the film classic ‘Monty Python and The Holy Grail’.” It features a book by former Monty Python member Eric Idle and music and lyrics by the Grammy Award-winning team of Idle and John Du Prez.

The outrageous musical farce tells the tale of King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table as they embark on their quest for the Holy Grail. Most audience members will know to be on the lookout for flying cows, killer rabbits and taunting Frenchmen.

Performances are Friday and Saturday evenings (doors 6 p.m./show, 8 p.m.) and Sunday afternoons (doors, 1 p.m./show, 3 p.m.). Tickets, which include dinner and show, are $59 for adults and $33 for children (ages 4-12).

If you want to catch a performance of “Disney’s Beauty and the Beast,” you only have a few chances left. The Kimmel Center’s Broadway Philadelphia series is presenting the hit musical at the Academy of Music (Broad and Locust streets, Philadelphia, 215-893-1999 or www.kimmelcenter.org) only through February 21.

 “Beauty and the Beast” is a traditional fairy tale that originated in France several centuries ago — the classic story of Belle, a young woman in a provincial town, and the Beast, who is really a young prince trapped in a spell placed by an enchantress.

In 1991, Disney produced “Beauty and the Beast” as a musical animated film. It won Academy Awards for “Best Song” and “Best Original Score” and was the first animated film to be nominated for an Academy Award for “Best Picture.”

 Video link for “Beauty and the Beast” — https://youtu.be/bnAOuqX9Kzo

Performances are scheduled for February 19 at 8 p.m.; February 20 at 2 and 8 p.m.; and February 21 at 1 and 6:30 p.m. Tickets range from $26.50 to $101.50.

This weekend will also be your final opportunity to see a performance of Harper Lee’s “To Kill a Mockingbird” at Media Theatre (104 E. State Street, Media, 610-891-0100, mediatheatre.org).

Performances are scheduled for 8 p.m. on February 19, 2 p.m. on February 20 and 3 p.m. on February 21. Ticket prices are $42 for adults and $35 for seniors. Tickets are $25 for children at the matinee shows only.

People’s Light & Theatre (39 Conestoga Road, Malvern, 610-644-3500, PeoplesLight.org) is performing “Sense and Sensibility” now through March 20.

The production of the play by Jane Austen, which is a regional premiere, has been adapted for the stage by Joseph Hanreddy and J.R. Sullivan. The show is being directed by Joseph Hanreddy.

Tickets for live adaptation of Austen’s classic novel drama range from $27-$62.

Footlighters Theater (58 Main Avenue, Berwyn, 610-296-9245, http://www.footlighterstheater.com) will close out its run of “doubt (a parable)” with performances on February 19 and 20. Then, the theater will present “Broadway in Berwyn” on February 26 and 27.

Tickets are $16 for adults and $10 for youth. The theatre’s next production will be “Anything Goes,” which will run from April 15-May 7.

The Rainbow Comedy Theatre (3065 Lincoln Highway East, Paradise, 800-292-4301, http://www.rainbowcomedy.com/) is presenting its new production “Nana’s Naughty Knickers” now through April 2.

Video link for “Nana’s Naughty Knickers” — https://youtu.be/Tdc2IzdTpBc.

Matinee performances are every Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and selected Saturdays with an 11:30 a.m. lunch and a 1 p.m. curtain. Evening performances are every Friday, Saturday and selected Thursdays with dinner at 6:30 p.m. and the show following at 8 p.m. There will also be “Twilight Performances” on selected Sundays with dinner at 2:30 p.m. and the show at 4 p.m. Ticket prices range from $30-$55.

Other local theater companies worth looking into are Delaware Theatre Company (200 Water Street, Wilmington, Delaware, 302-594-1100, http://www.delawaretheatre.org), Players Club of Swarthmore (614 Fairview Avenue, Swarthmore, 610-328-4271, http://www.pcstheater.org), Spotlight Theatre (129 Park Ave, Swarthmore, 610-328-1079, www.spotlighttheatrepa.org), Theatre Horizon (401 DeKalb Street, Norristown, 610-283-2230, www.theatrehorizon.org), Sight & Sound Theatre (300 Hartman Bridge Road, Strasburg, 800-377-1277, http://www.sight-sound.com) and Hedgerow Theatre (64 Rose Valley Road,Media,610-565-4211, www.HedgerowTheatre.org).

ringling bros

Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Presents Legends.” ends its run at the wells Fargo Center Sunday.

Now through February 21, the Wells Fargo Center (Broad Street below Pattison Avenue, Philadelphia, 800-298-4200, www.ComcastTIX.com) is hosting “Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Presents Legends.” 

Ringling Bros. has searched the globe to find the most skilled circus masters for “Legends” and found majestic animals, exotic performers from faraway lands, fearless daredevils and the funniest clowns around.

Video link for “Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Presents Legends” https://youtu.be/izrgjP2MRjs.

Attendees can enjoy the “All Access Pre-Show” free with a ticket purchase. The pre-show, which begins one hour before show time, gives fans the opportunity to meet the cast of performers and get up close to the animals. Tickets for the show range from 15-$115.

The Greater Philadelphia Expo Center (100 Station Avenue, Oaks, 484-754-3976, www.phillyexpocenter.com) is hosting two special events this weekend — the Greater Philadelphia Pet Expo and the Endurance Sports Expo.

If you’re a pet owner or just a lover of pets in general, the Greater Philadelphia Pet Expo, which is running from February 19-21, is an event for you.

The Expo features a huge number of vendors offering virtually everything pet-related including pet food, supplies, training, pet hospital information, treats and lodging. There will also be booths operated by humane groups and rescue services.

Admission is $12 for adults and $5 for children (ages 4-12). As an added attraction, Friday night is “Family Night” with all children under 12 admitted free.

The 2016 Endurance Sports Expo, which will be held February 20 and 21, is an event geared for the endurance sports athlete. It will feature the latest running gear, the hottest road and mountain bikes, the newest triathlon-related products and free advice from experts in the industry.

Billed as “the largest cycling, running and triathlon expo in the country,” the Endurance Sports Expo will feature over 200 national and local vendors, brands, events, and endurance sports personalities.

National brands and local retailers will be on hand to help attendees find the right equipment and offer deals on top products. Cyclists, runners and triathletes will be able to find a great event to train for and a club to do it with.

One-day admission is $10 and a weekend pass is $15. Admission for children 12-and-under is free.

Greenberg40th-xsmThere will be a lot of model trains and a lot of toys on display and for sale when Greenberg’s Train & Toy Show visits the area for a two-day stop at the Chase Center on the Riverfront (815 Justison Street, Wilmington, Delaware, 630- 279-4087, www.greenbergshows.com).

The show, which is scheduled for February 20 and 21 from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. both days, will have a wide variety of toys for sale — space toys, Thomas the Tank Engine items, dolls, collectible bears, Barbie, Matchbox, action figures, die-cast models, wrestling stars, Pokemon figures and much more. And, there will be an amazing array of toy trains including more than 300 tables of trains for sale.

The event will feature a number of operating train displays, including First State Model Railroad Club’s HO Scale Layout, East Penn Traction Club’s HO and O Gauge Layout, New Jersey Southern N-Trak’s N Scale Layout, and Northern Delaware Model Railroad Club’s HO Scale Layout.

Other special attractions will be the “Roaming Railroad”, which is a riding train for kids and adults, Roaming Raceway’s “Interactive R/C Car Racetrack”, which is one of the country’s most advanced model racing tracks.

This weekend’s show will also offer free clinics on a wide variety of topics, including track work, using accessories and using a digital command control. There will be a large number of dealers with toys, trains, accessories and hobby publications. Other features include hourly door prizes.

Tickets for adults are $9 and are good for both days. Children (12 and under) are admitted free.

If you’re considering projects that deal with working on or around your house — doing repairs, renovations, improvements or expansions, you should visit this weekend’s 35th Annual Philadelphia Home Show, which is running from February 19-21 at the Pennsylvania Convention Center (12th and Arch streets, Philadelphia, 215- 418-2003, www.phillyhomeshow.com).

The popular annual show features a large number of exhibits representing the home renovation and decorating industry. Featured products and services include roofing, windows, flooring, decking, landscaping, spas, contractors, designers, water, swimming pools, doors, gutters security systems, cabinetry, entertainment systems, appliances, furniture, vacuums and more.

This year’s event will feature celebrity appearances by John Gidding of HGTV’s “Curb Appeal,” Alison Victoria of  DIY’S “Crashers,” Jeff Devlin of  DIY’S “I Hate My Bath” and HGTV’S “Spice Up My Kitchen,” and Jason Cameron of  DIY’S “Desperate Landscapes.”

Tickets are $10 for adults and $3 for children (ages 6-12).

The Hands-on House Children’s Museum (721 Landis Valley Road, Lancaster, 717-569-5437, http://www.handsonhouse.org) is hosting a special series running now through the end of March that it calls its “POP-In” programs.

The museum’s classroom is open for these programs that are “packed with play!” Adults and children can participate and learn together — and they can “POP-in anytime during the scheduled time.

Upcoming “POP-in” events are “Art-rageous” on February 21, “Little Chef: Tiny Tot Pop-In” on February 26, and “Chill-Out” on February 28 and March 1 and 2.

The event is free with regular admission to Hands-on House and no pre-registration required. Admission to the museum is $9.50 for adults and children.

Longwood Gardens (Route 1, Kennett Square, 610-388-1000, www.longwoodgardens.org) is hosting its popular “Orchid Extravaganza” through March 27.

The celebration of the orchid species features thousands of orchid blooms along with a variety of displays and special exhibits throughout its four-acre conservatory. “Orchid Extravaganza” will also feature stunning displays of orchids in planting beds, containers and innovative exhibits.

Approximately 5,000 colorful orchids hang from baskets, create inspiring arrangements and adorn unique forms throughout “Orchid Extravaganza.” Two of the most interesting exhibits are an oncidium waterfall display and an orchid meadow.

Video link for Orchid Extravaganza — https://youtu.be/RALz1zgg8yU.

Admission to Longwood Gardens is $20 for adults, $17 for seniors and $10 for students.

Linvilla Orchards’ (137 West Knowlton Road, Media, 610-876-7116, www.linvilla.com) “Fore! The Planet” is a highly interactive and playful museum exhibit created by the Academy of Natural Sciences in Philadelphia. This exhibition pairs important environmental issues with the fun of miniature golf. 

It features 18 unique educational holes on a variety of topics — butterfly metamorphosis, a tropical rainforest, evolution, dinosaur extinction, food chains and more. Kids of all ages can enjoy playing miniature golf while learning about our environment on every hole.

Video for “Fore the Planet” — https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cpvV0OVrv5Y&list=UUcFK4FqIn0TGKhXt09cFrvQ.

The mini-course is open daily from 9 a.m. -5 p.m. Tickets are $6.95 (ages 11 and over) and $4.95 (ages 10 and under).

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