On Stage: WC’s Fitzgerald makes mark in Kinky Boots

By Denny DyroffStaff Writer, The Times

Ian Gallagher Fitzgerald

The stars have lined up nicely for aspiring young actor/dancer Ian Gallagher Fitzgerald and produced a celestial role and a heavenly opportunity for him.

Fitzgerald, a resident of Thornton and Bayard Rustin High graduate, got cast in the National Tour of “Kinky Boots” before he even graduated Marymount University in Manhattan back in the spring – landing a role as one of the show’s “Angels.” Now, he gets to come back to the area when “Kinky Boots” visits the Playhouse on Rodney Square (10th and Market streets, Wilmington, Delaware, 302-888-0200, www.duponttheatre.com) for a six-day run from December 13-18.

“The timing of the tour stop in Wilmington is perfect,” said Fitzgerald, during a phone interview Monday from Waterbury, Connecticut.

“We finish on the 18th and then have the following week off for Christmas break. So, I’ll be able to head back to my mom’s place in Thornton for the holidays. And, with the venue so close to West Chester, a lot of friends and family will be able to come to the show.”

Some of Fitzgerald’s fans heading to Wilmington to see “Kinky Boots” will be his former teachers from Crane Performing Arts School in West Chester – especially Joyce and Bram Crane.

“I studied dance at Crane’s ever since I was little,” said Fitzgerald. “Joyce Crane was a great teacher. A lot of what I’m able to do is because of her. My sister Paige used to dance there too. I’m also so lucky to have had Bram Crane as my main teacher. I even danced for a while in one of his companies – A.S.H. II.

“I graduated from Marymount in May. As part of our course, we had to audition for Broadway shows and tours. I did the audition for ‘Kinky Boots’ and got a couple call-backs. Then, I received a call from the producers in March that I had the job. The show went on break over the summer, got revamped and started up again in August. I started in Cleveland. The whole directing team was there to revamp the show.”

“Kinky Boots” is a Broadway musical with music and lyrics by Tony, Emmy and Grammy-winner Cyndi Lauper and a book by Tony-winner Harvey Fierstein. The Broadway production opened in 2013 and scored well at the Tony Awards — 13 nominations and six wins, including Best Musical and Best Score for Lauper.

The inspirational story, which is actually a true story, tells the tale of a shoe factory owner facing bankruptcy who works to turn his business around with help from Lola, a fabulous entertainer in need of some sturdy stilettos.

“Kinky Boots” is based on the 2005 British film of the same name which was inspired by a 1999 episode of the BBC2 documentary television series “Trouble at the Top.” It followed the story of Steve Pateman, who was struggling to save his family-run shoe factory from closure and decided to produce fetish footwear for men.

The show is lively, colorful, fast-paced and highly entertaining. The touring production showcases stellar young actors who can sing, dance and nail their roles. And, it is fueled by an evening’s worth of great songs by Lauper.

“I saw ‘Kinky Boots’ on Broadway when I was in school,” said Fitzgerald. “It was one of the first times I pictured myself being onstage in a Broadway musical. I definitely saw myself as an Angel. I’m 6-3 – 6-7 in the heels – so the role fits my body style. And, I’m able to use my dance training.

“Audiences really like ‘Kinky Boots’ because it’s such a beautiful show. It has such a beautiful heart. It’s just such a great message of love and acceptance. Then, after they leave the theater, people love that they get to apply in their own lives what they had just seen on stage.

“And, the costuming is amazing. It’s stunning. As an Angel, I get to wear a lot of outrageous costumes. The costumes for the final number alone cost thousands of dollars. Another thing about his show, the staging is just lovely. The whole show is colorful, lively and a lot of fun.”

Video link for “Kinky Boots” – https://youtu.be/uV-dW9MHVFM?t=3.

Showtimes at The Playhouse are Tuesday-Thursday at 7:30 p.m., Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m. with matinees at 2 p.m. on Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday. Ticket prices range from $40-$90.

The Mavericks

It’s hard to think of many American rock bands that have the staying power — or the tradition of consistent excellence — exhibited by The Mavericks.

The Mavericks, who are performing in December 10 at the Grand Opera House (818 North Market Street, Wilmington, Delaware, 302-652-5577, www.thegrandwilmington.org), came together in Miami more than a quarter-century ago and immediately built a strong following with its eclectic mix of rock, country, Latin, rockabilly, standards and cowpunk.

Despite personnel changes, financial difficulties, internal conflicts, a few periods in limbo and a variety of other challenges, The Mavericks are still going strong more than 25 years later.

The current line-up of The Mavericks includes founding members Raul Malo (vocals) and Paul Deakin (drums). Jerry Dale McFadden has been the band’s keyboardist since 1994 and guitarist Edie Perez joined in 2003.

Last year, the group just released its eighth studio album “Mono” (The Valory Music Co — Big Machine Label Group) and has spent most of the time since then touring in support of the new disc.

The show in Wilmington this weekend will be different. It’s The Mavericks’ “Sleigh Bells Ring Out!” holiday show.

“Raul did a Christmas album a few years ago,” said McFadden, during a phone interview last week from a tour stop in Washington, D.C.

“He had done some Christmas shows on his own and said they were fun. So, back in April, we toyed with the idea of doing some Christmas music. Then, we got in the studio and ended up making a whole new record of Mavericks’ music.

“We did record a couple Christmas songs. We recorded ‘Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)’ with a choir and also cut a new song by Raul. He said that when people come to shows on this tour, they’re coming for Christmas songs and Mavericks favorites.”

The Mavericks just released their latest album “All Night Live: Volume 1” back in October and already have a new one titled “Brand New Day” ready for release early next year.

“It’s just like any other Mavericks album – it’s all over the place,” said McFadden. “We recorded most of it in Nashville and did two tracks at Capitol Studios in L.A. At Capitol, Raul got to sing through the microphones that Frank Sinatra used to sing through. We usually record things pretty quick and we did most of it live in the studio.”

After releasing an eponymous album in 2003, the band did a support tour and then split up. From 2006-2010, Malo built a strong solo career and released several albums on his own.

The Mavericks may not have had a chart-topping hit back in their initial incarnation but they still racked up a lot of impressive accolades — Academy of Country Music Awards’ “Top New Vocal Group” (1994) and “Top Vocal Group” (1994 and 1995), Country Music Association Awards’ “Vocal Group of the Year” (1995 and 1996) and Grammy Awards’ “Best Country Performance By A Duo Or Group With Vocal” (1995).

In 2011, a reunion, which was eagerly anticipated by fans, took place and The Mavericks have been on a roll ever since.

“I was kind of shocked when the reunion happened,” said McFadden. “It never seemed like something that could happen again. But, old issues fell away and we decided that it would be fun to do it again.

“We got back together. We didn’t rehearse. We just immediately went into the studio and recorded the ‘In Time’ album. It came out great. It was a lot of fun. We have very loyal fans who have stayed with us and we’re loving every second of it.”

Video link for The Mavericks — https://youtu.be/yfnA4XAvLk4?t=5

The show at the Grand on Saturday will start at 8 p.m. Tickets prices range from $46-$55.

The Wizards of Winter

It’s a sure sign that the Christmas holiday season has arrived when the entertainment calendar features a show by Wizards of Winter.

On December 10, Wizards of Winter will perform their 2016 holiday show at the Scottish Rite Theatre (315 White Horse Pike, Collingswood, N.J., http://www.collingswood.com/entertainment/theater-and-ballroom).

The Wizards of Winter are an eclectic group of musicians from the Metro NY, NJ, PA region with strong classical and progressive rock influences. In 2010, this group of talented performers joined together with the intentions of faithfully reproducing the music of the Trans- Siberian Orchestra (TSO) and present it in a more intimate setting.

It should be noted that the Wizards of Winter are not a TSO tribute band. But, they do have two of the original members of TSO – vocalists Tommy Farese and Guy LeMonnier – in their current line-up. While their music is similar to TSO in its style, the Wizards original material is unique unto itself. The Wizards now perform a few of TSO’s greatest hits but most of the concert features Wizards of Winter original music.

The touring group features Scott Kelly- Director, Keyboards; Greg Smith- Bass; Tommy Ference- Percussion; Sharon Kelly- Vocals, Flute; Fred Gorhau- Guitar; TW Durfy-Guitar; Mary McIntyre- vocals/keys; Jenn Hamilton- violin/vocals; Vinny Jiovino- vocals; and Shawna Marie- vocals – along with LeMonnier and Gaynor.

The Wizards of Winter were formed in 2009 by Scott Kelly, Sharon Kelly and Steve Ratchen as a way to give back to the local community. A holiday concert was held to support a local food pantry. They continued to give back the community through several successful holiday music performances in 2010. In 2011 the band embarked upon writing their own Christmas rock opera, “Tales Beneath a Northern Star.”

“This whole project actually started out as a charity thing for local churches,” said Gorhau, during a phone interview Tuesday from a tour stop in Tarrytown, New York. “During the first and second year, we got request for where to get our CD. So, we made a CD and decided to go on tour. Now, we have a couple CDs and this is our sixth year of touring.”

The Wizards of Winter released their own self-titled Christmas rock opera album based on entirely original material in 2014. The following year, they released their latest album, “The Magic of Winter,” which includes their single featured on Yahoo Music “The Spirit of Christmas.”

“We spent seven months writing sand recording the album,” said Gorhau, who lives on Old Bridge, New Jersey. “Scott comes up with ideas working with his wife Sharon. Then, I’ll sit down with him. I can usually hear a pulse right away.

“We initially started as a TSO tribute band and several members of that band heard what we were doing and said they liked what they heard. It brought more attention to us. Also, having Guy and Tony in the band adds more legitimacy.

“In our live shows, we do 20-21 originals and a few Trans-Siberian Orchestra songs. It’s a two hour and 20-minute show with two sets. It’s a modest show. We don’t have a light show and laser effects like TSO. It’s not a huge production with millions of dollars of equipment.

“The theme for our show is that it takes place inside a snow globe – with the narrator shaking the snow globe. The whole production falls between a rock opera and a Broadway show.”

Video link for Wizards of Winter — https://youtu.be/WZqGpNkIv9k?t=2

The show at the Scottish Rite Theatre on Saturday will start at 8 p.m. Tickets are $29, $35 and $45.

Jessy J

Jessy J, who is performing a December 11 matinee at the Sellersville Theater (24 West Temple Avenue, Sellersville, 215-257-5808, www.st94.com), is a multi-talented instrumentalist, singer and composer. She introduced herself to the contemporary jazz world in 2008 with Number 1 Billboard hit for eight consecutive weeks.

The engaging young artist claims classical music as her primary love but draws inspiration from everyone from Billie Holiday, Sarah Vaughan and Sergio Mendes to Snarky Puppy, Bruno Mars and Ed Sheeran. In a genre dominated by men nearly twice her age, Jessy J has carved out a niche for herself by remaining true to her own unique vision and sound.

Jessy J recorded her debut album “Tequila Moon” in 2008 and has released four more studio albums since then – “True Love” in 2009, “Hot Sauce” in 2011, “Second Chances” in 2013, and “My One and Only One” in 2015.

Six weeks ago, Jessy J released a new album “California Christmas” on her Changi Records Label. On her debut holiday recording, Jessy J brings a California twist to the season with an upbeat, jazzy, bluesy tropical collection of her favorite Christmas songs.

“I really enjoy Christmas,” said Jessy J, during a phone interview last week from Anaheim, California. “It’s my favorite time of the year. I love everything about Christmas so I’ve wanted to do a Christmas album for a long time. I wanted to take the songs into different sonic modes.”

Jessy J produced “California Christmas” and asked longtime collaborator Paul Brown to mix and also guest star on “Silent Night”, playing one of his blistering trademark electric guitar solos. Also featured on the album are contemporary jazz greats, such as keyboardist Jeff Lorber (who also produced three tracks), guitarist Steve Oliver and vocalist Maurice Smith.

Jessy J also used a variety of other talented musicians including guitarists Michael Thompson, Michael Nomad Ripoll and Michael Angel, keyboardist Norman Jackson, pianists Jay Rowe and Ruslan Sirota, bassists Oskar Cartaya and Frank Abraham, percussionists Ronnie Gutierrez and Richie Gajate Garcia, and drummers Dave Hooper, Trever Somerville, Iajhi Hampden and Gary Novak.

“I’ve been into music since I was really young,” said Jessy J. “I started learning piano when I was four. I fell in love with sax when I was in fourth grade. We had an elementary school jazz band and I wanted to play flute in the school band but there were already a lot of flute players. So, my teacher suggested sax.”

Soon, Jessy J and the sax found true love with each other.

“I was listening to great players like Charlie Parker and Cannonball Adderly,” said Jessy J.  “I really enjoyed the process of improv – the complexity and challenge it holds – the creative spontaneity. I enjoy the freedom of composing in jazz – and the chemistry in the studio. And, jazz is the American art form.

“When I first started playing sax, I was still little and it was a huge instrument — too heavy for me to carry around all the time. But, I stayed with it. I like the sound of the sax. It’s really pleasing to the ear and I like the way you can bring nuance to the notes. I played alto sax through high school. Now, I also play tenor sax, baritone sax, soprano sax and bass clarinet.”

When Jessy J started her career as a professional musician, success quickly followed.

In addition to scoring back-to-back hits, including a #1 Song of the Year and #1 Billboard Contemporary Jazz Album, she has toured with smooth jazz greats like Jeff Lorber, Gerald Albright, Euge Groove and Peter White on several all-star Guitars & Saxes tours as well as her solo concert tours.

Jessy J has also performed on the hit television competition shows “American Idol” “The Voice” and “Dancing With the Stars.” The year Steven Tyler was a judge on “Idol,” he was so impressed with her performances he invited her to play on Aerosmith’s 2012 album “Music From Another Dimension.” She has also worked on recording sessions with artists such as Michael Buble, Jessica Simpson, The Temptations and Michael Bolton.

“For me, ‘California Christmas’ is special for many reasons,” said Jessy J. “It will give listeners the feeling of being in a warmer, sunnier climate during the holiday season. And, most importantly, I get to share the holidays musically with all my fans for the first time.  Christmas is my favorite time of year and I am so grateful for all of my blessings. Feliz Navidad!”

Video link for Jessy J – https://youtu.be/I330tfa1UkY?list=PL-21kadY7f-GYAnPBfVSfr5fpMjs0tVvU&t=3.

The show at Sellersville on Sunday will start at 1 p.m. Tickets are $21.50 and $30.

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