On Stage: Candlelight celebrates the best of its performances

By Denny Dyroff, Entertainment Editor, The Times

The Candlelight Theater (2208 Millers Road, Arden, Delaware, 302- 475-2313, www.candlelighttheatredelaware.org) is presenting its brand-new mainstage production – “The Best of the Candlelight Theatre” – now through October 31.

The original production is just what its name implies – a series of arranged and choreographed numbers that were featured in Candlelight productions over the last decade or so.

A “Director’s Note” in the show’s playbill program offered a good introduction – “Hello and Welcome to the Candlelight Theater’s presentation of ‘The Best of Candlelight.’ We thought it might be fun to put together a show that would not only incorporate some of the many standout numbers from past productions but would also celebrate the return of live theater on Broadway and around the country. In order to keep it from getting out of hand, it was necessary to limit what was originally a very longlist of favorite moments. We hope that many of yours are represented tonight. If we missed any, then we will do our best to rectify that next time.”

There are songs in the show that everyone knows such as “Maria” from “West Side Story,” “There Is Nothing Like a Dame” from “South Pacific,” “Don’t Rain on My Parade” from “Funny Girl,” “Easy Street” from “Annie” and “Holding Out for a Hero” from “Footloose.”

One of the most famous songs is “I Could Have Danced All Night” from “My Fair Lady,” which is sung by Candlelight veteran Julia Kershetsky. In the first act, she also sings lead on another timeless classic – “Almost Like Being in Love” from “Brigadoon.”

“‘Brigadoon’ was my first audition at Candlelight years ago,” said Kershetsky, during a phone interview Monday afternoon.

“The piece in our show also features Andy Spinosi and Cody Palmer. ‘Almost Like Being in Love’ is one of those songs people automatically know. And I love doing it with Andy and Cody.

“‘I Could Have Danced All Night’ – it’s one of my Julie Andrews dreams. It’s an easy and repetitive song. I just float around the stage.”

Kershetsky, who has turned in a number of standout performances in Candlelight productions, was a natural for this cast.

“Bob (show director Bob Kelly) emailed me in the summer and asked if I’d be interested,” said Kershetsky. “Bob sent some ideas of what he wanted me to do. I’m happy to be involved with anything Bob wants.”

The Candlelight Theater has built a strong reputation for presenting quality productions that are as good or better than nationally touring non-Equity shows.

The theater also is known for having a core of top-flight actors who appear regularly including Anthony Connell, who majored in theater at DeSales University; Tori Healy, who receiver her B.F.A. in Drama at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts; Julianna Babb, who is the Director of Education at Music Theatre Philly; and Tiffany Dawn Christopher, who studied theater at Howard University.

Other Candlelight veterans whose lists of appearances at the theater are in double figures are Lindsay Mauck, Rosemary Benson, Erin Waldie, Cody Palmer and Timothy Moudy.

The Director of “Best of the Candlelight Theater” is Bob Kelly, who has the Candlelight in his DNA. The current show is the 34th production he has directed at the comfortable theater in northern Delaware. He has won numerous “Barny Awards” for his work at the Candlelight.

“I really love working at the Candlelight,” said Kershetsky. “It’s like family. And I love talking to the patrons.”

Kershetsky is another multi-show veteran at the Candlelight Theater. She has recently played Diana in “Lend Me a Tenor” and Sarah Brown in “Guys and Dolls.”

“‘Guys and Dolls’ is a wonderful show,” said Kershetsky. “It’s a show you know well – almost subconsciously. Everyone knows the movie so well with Marlon Brando and Frank Sinatra. I’ve been familiar with it for a long time because I grew up listening to old musicals.”

Kershetsky graduated from Boyertown High School, where she was involved in theater productions as well as playing varsity field hockey and lacrosse.

She then got a degree in classical vocal performance at Penn State University.

She followed with a graduate degree from New York University in musical theater and vocal pedagogy and has worked as a professor at Molly College’s Molloy/CAP21 Theatre Arts Program. She also has put together a string of sparkling performances at the Candlelight Theater – including “Best of Candlelight.”

Video link for “Best of Candlelight” — Best of Promo on Vimeo.

The Candlelight Theatre’s production of “Best of Candlelight” is running now through October 31. 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 $67.50 for adults and $33 for children (ages 4-12). There will also be an 11 a.m. performance on October 20 and an 8 p.m. show on October 28.

Boney James

When Boney James headlines a show at Scottish Rite Auditorium (315 White Horse Pike, Collingswood, New Jersey, scottishriteauditorium.com) on October 15 as part of his first post-pandemic lockdown tour, he will be treating fans to some new music – some songs from his most recent album, “Solid.”

James is a saxophonist, songwriter, record producer – and one of America’s most popular soul, jazz and R&B saxophonists.

When James released his new album last year, he flew in the face of convention – in the middle of most unconventional times.

Most music acts balked at the idea of releasing an album in the middle of a pandemic – knowing that the requisite album support tour would be virtually impossible while COVID-19 was still closing down all aspects of daily life.

“I recorded ‘Solid’ in 2019,” said James, during a phone interview Wednesday afternoon while doing his laundry at a midtown Manhattan laundromat during a tour stop in New York City.

“I made most of it at my home studio in my backyard in L.A. I also recorded some of it at Sunset Sound Studio in L.A. A lot of it I can do at home. I also played some keys on the record.

“It took about a year to make it. It was supposed to be out in April 2020 on Concord Records. Then, my record label pushed it back a couple months because no-one wanted to release an album at the start of the pandemic. It finally came out in June 2020.

“Then decision to release it then was made by my label and myself. People were stuck at home, so it gave the fans something new to listen to. I have a pretty good fan base. I had more than 1,000 viewers on each of my Facebook sessions.”

James finally is able to get back to performing live shows.

“I really missed playing live,” said James, a four-time GRAMMY nominee with four RIAA Gold records and career sales topping three million units. “I usually play 60-70 shows a year. Last year there was nothing. Most of the shows I’m doing now were scheduled for April 2020.”

James handled the layoff well.

“I put out a record and it did pretty well,” said James, a two-time NAACP Award nominee and a Soul Train Award winner who was named one of the Top 3 Billboard Contemporary Jazz Artists of the Decade.

“I practiced a lot. I exercised. It was nice to be home for a while with my wife, who is a television director.

“I also did a bunch of Facebook live mini-concerts. I did one a week on Fridays for about 30 weeks. I’d chat with fans and then play a few songs. I called the mini-concerts ‘Solid Friday’ because the new album is titled, ‘Solid.’ Each session was about 20 minutes long.”

According to James, “This record really flowed at an unusually quick pace. There was a lot of positive energy in making this music. ‘Solid’ feels like a very upbeat record. As I was writing them, these songs put a smile on my face.

“When it was released, it was a Top 10 Pop Album on Billboard’s charts. It was Top Two on the jazz chart because it was the same week Norah Jones’ new album was released. I’ve released 17 albums and have had a lot of Top 10 Jazz albums – including 11 Number Ones.”

James is touring with a five-piece band including a keyboard player from Memphis and a bassist from Raleigh (NC). The guitarist, the drummer and James are all from L.A.

“The current live set has four songs from the latest record,” said James. “For this tour, I’ve dusted off a lot of stuff I hadn’t been playing in years. There are songs I haven’t played live for 20 years such as ‘Creepin’,’which is from ‘Trust,’ my first album back in 1992.

“With 17 albums, there is a lot to choose from. Some of the must-play songs are ‘Sweet Thing,’ ‘Grazing in the Grass’ and ‘After the Rain.’ I’m always trying to pay my homage to R&B. At the same time, I just try to make my music individual to me.”

Video link for Boney James – https://youtu.be/E77pGGD1Tx0.

The show at Scottish Rite Auditorium will start at 8 p.m. Tickets are $39.50, $49.50 and $65.

Delvon Lamarr Organ Trio

Delvon Lamarr Organ Trio, which hails from Seattle, Washington, has been together for about seven years but is just now playing its first shows in Pennsylvania.

After a gig last week in Pittsburgh, DLO3 will perform on October 14 at the World Café Live (3025 Walnut Street, Philadelphia, 215-222-1400, www.worldcafelive.com) and October 15 and 16 at Lancaster Roots and Blues 2021 (25 S Queen Street, Lancaster, lancasterrootsandblues.com).

The band features organist Delvon Lamarr, a self-taught virtuosic musician, with perfect pitch who taught himself jazz and has effortlessly been able to play a multitude of instruments. On guitar is the dynamo Jimmy James who eases through Steve Cropper-style guitar, volcanic acid-rock freak-out lead playing, and slinky Grant Green-style jazz. From Reno, Nevada is drummer Dan Weiss (also of the powerhouse soul and funk collective The Sextones). Weiss’ smoldering pocket-groove drumming locks in the trio’s explosive chemistry.

“My professional career didn’t start until DLO3,” said Lamarr, during a phone interview Wednesday afternoon from New York’s Greenwich Village.

“Music has always been around in my life. When my brother was 15, he was into hip hop and had a home studio. He’s four years older than me. He also had a lot of vinyl. I listened to his records – all kinds of music…soul, R&B, jazz.

“I started playing music when I was in seventh grade. I had to take an elective music class so I picked up baritone sax. I was able to play it right out of the gate even though I never had any lessons.

“I migrated to other instruments in the school’s music room. I ended up with trumpet and drums when I was around 22.”
Originally a drummer and trumpet player, Lamarr switched to organ at the age of 22. He said he picked up the instrument naturally by observing organist/keyboardist Joe Doria.

“That’s when I discovered the Hammond B-3,” said Lamarr, a native of Seattle who now lives with his wife in Pullman, Washington.

“I listened to Joe Doria and never heard anyone play like that. He called me to fill in for the drummer in his band McTuff. That band had a residency every Wednesday at Art Bar in Seattle.

“One day, I sat down on the Hammond B-3. I was 22 and played it like I had been playing it my entire life. That was 21 years ago.

“I became a side guy. I never really had a band. People just called me to play when they needed someone with my skills. Then, I had an organ trio called Riffin’ Chicken.”

Delvon Lamarr Organ Trio was founded in 2015 and originally consisted of keyboardist Delvon Lamarr on Hammond B-3, guitarist Colin Higgins and drummer David McGraw. Soon after guitarist Jimmy James (Williams) replaced Higgins. All members had been active instrumentalists in the Seattle music scene.

With the help of Lamarr’s wife, Amy Novo, acting as manager and booking agent, the group was solidified.

“The whole Delvon Lamarr Organ Trio thing was my wife’s concept,” said Lamarr. “She told me — get some dudes together and write music and I’ll do the rest.

“Our first gig was in May 2015 with Collin on guitar, David on drums and me on organ. They played on the band’s first two albums. Amy got us a weekly residency at a club called The Royal Room. In October 2015, Collin left for other projects, and we got Jimmy James hitting on guitar.

“We self-released our first album ‘Close But No Cigar’ in 2016. Then, Amy got us signed to Colemine Records and the album was re-released in 2018. Our second album, ‘Live at KEXP!’, was recorded in May 2017 and came out on Colemine in 2018. Our latest album, ‘I Told You So,’ is also on Colemine.

“We started recording it in November 2019. We used Blue Mallard Recording Studio – the same studio we used on our first album. It was self-produced using analog and digital. It was all done live with us playing in the same room.

“It was originally supposed to come out at the beginning of 2020 but got pushed back to October 2020 because of COVID. It was a hard decision because we couldn’t tour. But we had to get the music out – and we sold a lot of units.”

“Close But No Cigar” reached Number One on the U.S. Contemporary Jazz Albums chart and Number Three on the U.S. Jazz Albums chart. “Live at KEXP!” reached Number 10 on the Jazz Albums chart. “I Told You So” debuted at Number One on the Contemporary Jazz Album chart, Number Three on the Jazz Album chart, Number Four on the Tastemaker Album chart, and Number 12 on the Heatseeker Album chart.

The Hammond B-3 is Lamarr’s instrument of choice. Two of his main influences have been Jimmy Smith, a native of nearby Norristown, and Booker T.

“Jimmy Smith was one of the first cats I heard on Hammond B3,” said Lamarr. “He’s so great. There is no-one like him on the Hammond B-3.

“With our current lineup, me and Jimmy have similar tastes. I was deeper into jazz, and I know R&B and soul. Jimmy is deep into Motown and Stax, while Dan is more into reggae and dub – and also Tower of Power.

“Our styles are different, but they work together. People want to call it soul or jazz or blues or R&B or soul-jazz. We just like to call it ‘feel good music’ because it makes people feel good when they listen to it.”

Video link for Delvon Lamarr Organ Trio — https://youtu.be/jhicDUgXyNg.

The show at World Café Live on October 14 will start at 8 p.m. Ticket prices start at $20.

Other upcoming acts at the World Café Live are Marielle Kraft on October 15, Christian McBride’s New Jawn on October 17, Eilen Jewell on October 19, and Arooj Aftab with Emily Wells on October 20.

The set by DLO3 at the Lancaster Roots and Blues 2012 is scheduled for October 15 at 10:30 p.m. at the Grande Ballroom @ Holiday Inn Lancaster (26 East Chestnut Street, Lancaster) and October 16 at Tellus 360 (24 East King Street, Lancaster, 717-393-1660, www.tellus360.com). Tickets are $64 for a one-day festival pass, $120 for a two-day pass and $170 for a three-day pass.

Other acts scheduled for Friday and Saturday in Lancaster are Davy Knowles, G. Love & The Juice, Clarence Spady & The Electric City Band, Joan Osborne, Tommy Z, Cody Tyler & Gypsy Convoy, The Martini Brothers, Dillweed, Little Leroys, Nielsen Family Band, John Nemeth, Bobby Gentilo, Benjamin Vo Band, Arlen Roth, Charlie Musselwhite, Ray Fuller & The Bluesrockers, Roosevelt Collier and Red Rose Soul Club.

The roster also includes Buckwheat Zydeco Jr. and The Legendary Ils Sont Partis Band, Johnny Long, Lil’ Ed and The Blues Imperials, Gary Hoey, Mystic Alpacas, Chris Cain, Gabe Stillman Band, Jontavious Willis, Billy Price Charm City Rhythm Band, Flapjack Jones and the Benders Brohs, The Kilmaine Saints, Lower Case Blues, Bjorn Jacobsen w/ Robin Chambers, Davina and The Vagabonds and Hinton, Bower and Jones.

Uptown! Knauer Performing Arts Center (226 North High Street, West Chester, uptownwestchester.org)  is hosting Comedy Explosion with comics Jonas Barnes, Rob Maher and Freddie Ricks on October 15 and Studio Two on October 16.

Coco Montoya

Kennett Flash (102 Sycamore Alley, Kennett Square, 484-732-8295, http://www.kennettflash.org) will host Coco Montoya on October 16 in a Rooftop Series show and Robbie Fulks on October 20.

Jamey’s House of Music (32 South Lansdowne Avenue, Lansdowne, 215-477-9985, www.jameyshouseofmusic.com) will host Kelly’s Lot on October 14, Tom Craig Band on October 15, and Stevie and the Bluescasters on October 16.

The Ardmore Music Hall (23 East Lancaster Avenue, Ardmore, 610-649-8389, www.ardmoremusic.com) will present Moon Hooch on October 14, Pink Talking Fish on October 15, Bill Frisell Trio on October 16, Splintered Sunlight on October 16, The National Reserve on October 17 and Nostalgia Personified on October 20.

The Living Room (35 East Ardmore Avenue, Ardmore, https://thelivingroomat35east.com) will present Lizanne Knott, Craig Bickhardt and Jesse Terry on October 15 and Marshall Crenshaw on October 16.

Sellersville Theater (24 West Temple Avenue, Sellersville, 215-257-5808, www.st94.com) will have The Outlaws on October 14, Craig Shoemaker on October 15, Lisa Loeb on October 16, Lights Out on October 17, Spirit Of ’76 Tour with Angel & Richie Ranno’s Rockstarz on October 19 and Davy Knowles on October 20.

The Grand Opera House (818 North Market Street, Wilmington, Delaware, 302-652-5577, www.thegrandwilmington.org) will host David Sedaris on October 15.

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