On Stage: Channeling the spirit of Robin Williams

By Denny Dyroff, Entertainment Editor, The Times

Roger Kabler as Robin Williams

While Halloween and El Dia de Los Muertos are still a little more than a week away, there will be a visit from a departed person this week.

The spirit will be the spirit of Robin Williams and its destination will be the Candlelight Theatre (2208 Millers Road, Arden, Delaware, www.candlelighttheatredelaware.org).

More specifically, the spirit of the revered late comedian will visit comedian Roger Kabler when he performs his “Robin – The Ultimate Robin Williams Tribute Experience” at the October edition of the Candlelight Comedy Club.

“There are moments in the show when there is a real spirit onstage,” said Kabler, during a phone interview Monday from his home in suburban Boston.

“It’s part conjuring. I walk like him. I talk like him.”

Kabler’s show goes to great lengths to respect Williams’ memory and celebrate his legacy — hilarious and emotionally powerful at the same time. For everyone around the globe confused about his unexpected departure, this tribute offers a form of closure and a chance to laugh with Robin one more time.

Kabler is a true renaissance man.

“I was a child actor,” said Kabler. “The first time I did stand-up was when I was 18. I was inspired by Robin Williams and Cheech & Chong. I was a performance artist and was always big on impressions.

“There was a show called ‘The Kopycats’ that I watched a lot. I started doing Rich Little. I started doing Columbo and drove my mother crazy.

“When I was 20, I moved to New York to be an actor. I also lived in L.A. for a while before coming back to the East Coast.”

Along with being one of the top comedy impressionists in the country, he is a talented actor and portrait artist. Kabler has served as the spokesman for Zima in national television commercials.  He was a regular on the last Carol Burnett series in 1991.  He has also starred in his own NBC sitcom, “Rhythm & Blues.”

“Rhythm & Blues” was a sitcom television series created by Jordan Moffet, that aired on NBC for five weeks in September and October 1992. The show was heavily criticized for relying on traditional black stereotypes for its humor and was cancelled after only five weeks because of low ratings.

In early 1990s ads, Kabler was known as the fedora-wearing “Zima Guy.” Aside from the fedora, his gimmick involved replacing “S” sounds with “Z” sounds, reinforcing the slogan “Zomething different.”

When Williams died in 2014, people asked Kabler to do a tribute, but he adamantly refused.

“I had done stand-up and television,” said Kabler. “I had a failed sitcom and that crushed me. I got into drugs and alcohol.

“After five years, I got clean. This is a story of recovery from a downward spiral.

“I had to get out of show business. I could do the work, but I couldn’t do the trip. Show business was toxic for me. So, I became an artist. I’m 20 years sober now.”

The catalyst for Kabler’s return to the stage was Williams’ death.

“At one point, I felt Robin’s spirit,” said Kabler. “I was really crushed by his death, so I decided to write a tribute show to perform as Robin.

“It’s not just a show – it’s a séance. Cindy Williams saw me perform and said she felt Robin.

“The show is exhausting. You be Robin Williams for five minutes and you’ll see.

“He had super-fast comic mind that would envision a funny scenario or character, and then suddenly it would manifest in his face body and voice. In my show, I channel Robin and its exhausting and exhilarating.”

“Robin – The Ultimate Robin Williams Tribute Experience” has been a positive for Kabler and for Williams’ fans.

“Like I said before, it’s not just a show, it’s a séance,” said Kabler. “It’s not just humor. I go to places where a lot of people don’t go.

“There is a progression in the material. It’s more like a Robin Williams concert. I just do a comedy show as Robin.”

Kabler also has done a film about Robin Williams – “Being Robin.” The movie will have its premiere on October at the Regent Theatre in Arlington, Massachusetts.

According to Kabler, “Images of Robin kept flashing in my mind. He showed up in dreams. And then he was talking to me, in my head. At moments I felt possessed by him — felt his presence strongly, and sometimes I involuntarily behaved like him. Alone or in front of people, with no warning, Robin would leap out and comment on what was going on, from my mouth, taking over my body, sometimes hilariously and inappropriately.

“And I felt him having experiences through me. I felt him pulling at me, urging me to help him, saying – ‘I need to get back to work’.”

In response, Kabler created a stage show as a tribute — that Robin should be remembered for his spectacular wit, genius and humanity. Kabler said he wrote it together with Robin and held rehearsals in the woods. The show toured America for several years. Thousands of people saw it. Many said they felt Robin’s presence during the show, including Robin’s friend, Cindy Williams.

So Kabler decided to tell his story in a film using footage from the live shows and reenacting events around it. He called it “Being Robin.” He raised money and hired a crew to shoot it. Then COVID hit, and they couldn’t finish. During that time, Roger decided to wrap the footage they had with narration to fill in the gaps. He then spent two years editing. “Being Robin” has elements of a documentary, with re-enactments of events, and a bit of fantasy.

According to Kabler, “You will see actual footage of events as they happened, caught on camera, including a TV interview where Robin took hold of me in front of countless viewers. While filming the movie, as onstage during the show, I felt Robin so strongly, I often fell into wild improvisational riffs that only Robin could create.”

Video link for “Robin – The Ultimate Robin Williams Tribute Experience” — https://youtu.be/qWclnhvhdLw.

The show at the Candlelight will start at 7:30 p.m.

Tickets are $40.

The Candlelight Theatre has reached the penultimate weekend of its fifth production run of 2022. The lively musical “Memphis” is running now through October 30.

“Memphis,” which was inspired by actual events, is about a white radio DJ who wants to change the world and a black club singer who is ready for her big break.

The play looks at their incredible journey to the ends of the airwaves and is filled with laughter, soaring emotion, and roof-raising rock-and-roll.

Winner of four 2010 Tony Awards including Best Musical and two 2015 Olivier Awards, Memphis features a Tony-winning book by Joe DiPietro and a Tony-winning original score with music by Bon Jovi founding member David Bryan.

“Memphis” takes the audience back to an era that really wasn’t that long ago — 60 years — but now seems like light years away.

It has only been a few decades since popular music depended on AM radio and not MTV or the internet. In the 1950s, disc jockeys on AM radio determined what songs would be hits (often through the help of payola…but that’s another story). And AM radio was definitely segregated.

The musical “Memphis” is set in that era. The show, which won four Tony Awards (including 2010’s Best Musical), is loosely based on the story of Dewey Phillips, a Memphis disc jockey who was one of the first white DJs to play black music on AM radio back in the mid-1950s.

In the show, Huey Calhoun is the deejay who breaks the color line by playing back songs on a white radio station. The kids love the music and the advertisers like the increased business. But there is also a major backlash from the racist element which was so prevalent in the South 50-60 years ago.

“Memphis” is also a great history lesson. It’s set in the 1950s on Beale Street in Memphis. It shows the difficulty of trying to be in an inter-racial relationship during that era — an era when African American men in the South were lynched for showing interest in white women.

The production at the Candlelight Dinner Theatre is directed and choreographed by Devon Sinclair with Hallie Berger as co-choreographer. The vocal director is Garrick Vaughan.

“Memphis” is running now October 30 at the Candlelight Dinner Theatre.

Tickets, which include dinner and parking, are $65.50 for adults and $33 for children (ages 4-12).


Echosmith has existed as a family band for more than a decade and has performed in the area several times over the last five years including shows at the pavilion on Camden’s Waterfront and the World Café Live in Philadelphia.

The Sierota siblings — Sydney (vocals/keyboard), Noah (vocals/bass), and Graham (drums) – grew up in Southern California in a musical household and shared a love for playing instruments and listening to bands as varied as Coldplay, The Smiths, U2, Joy Division, and Fleetwood Mac.

In February 2020, Echosmith played World Café Live when it was touring in support of its sophomore album.

The band released its debut album, “Talking Dreams,” in 2013 on Warner Bros. Records. On January 10, 2020, Echosmith dropped its sophomore album, “Lonely Generation,” on its own label, Echosmith Music LLC.

When the “Lonely Generation Tour” touched down in Philly, it was one of the band’s final shows prior to the pandemic shutdown.

“We finished that tour on March 6,” said Noah Sierota, during a phone interview Wednesday afternoon while walking the streets on Manhattan.

“We were lucky. We were able to finish that tour before COVID shut everything down. That was our only tour for ‘Lonely Generation.’

“We have a lot of new material. Usually, when people tour it’s to support a new album. For us, more than anything, this tour is about reconnecting with people around the country and having conversation with fans. It’s just to get back and remind people that we’re still here.”

On October 13, the multi-platinum alt-pop trio embarked on “The Hang Around Tour” – a 25-date cross-country tour.

Echosmith is returning to the Philly venue where it left off. The L.A.-based group will headline a show at the World Café Live (3025 Walnut Street, Philadelphia, www.worldcafelive.com) on October 22.

While the band has no new album to tour and support, it has stayed busy.

“We took a little break and have been spending a lot of time in the studio,” said Sierota. “We released a couple singles – ‘Hang Around’ in June and ‘Gelato’ two weeks ago.”

Echosmith also recently released a brand new, reimagined version of their triple-platinum hit “Cool Kids.” The track sheds the glossy pop production of the original and was created with a more alternative feel and a new bridge, reflecting what the song would sound like if the band wrote it today – nearly 10 years later.

According to Sierota, “We spent a lot of time working on older songs and revitalizing them – and a lot of time working on new songs.”

“Gelato” is a shimmering piece of left-of-center pop that channels a mood of dreamy intensity. The song acknowledges that life can be heavy sometimes, but we have to make a conscious choice to enjoy ourselves and appreciate the people around us.

“The song ‘Gelato’ means a lot to us,” said Sierota. “I thought of the title, and we kept working on the song. It represents a current moment – and it’s an extremely energetic song.”

Echosmith view music as a way to care for souls, and their mission is to spread love and positivity. For the band, music is a vehicle to understand themselves better and discover joys, fears and a whole spectrum of emotions that can lead others to make discoveries for themselves and open up conversations that can foster love, understanding, and kindness.

“A lot of people come because they appreciate what our songs have to say,” said Sierota. “I’m really excited.

“With every record, we’ve learned to be more introspective. There is more authenticity written down. I think the fans will appreciate all the work that goes into every lyric.

“We started recording about a year ago when we wrote ‘Hang Around.’ I have a studio in my house. My brother has a studio in his house, and we use a studio in L.A. – Meet Market Studio.”

Even before Echosmith released the debut album “Talking Dreams” in 2013, the Los Angeles alt-pop band had been gaining popularity at an amazing rate. The Sierota siblings grew up in Southern California in a musical household and shared a love for playing instruments and listening to bands as varied as Coldplay, The Smiths, U2, Joy Division, and Fleetwood Mac.

As soon as they could hold instruments, the Sierota siblings began playing music together as kids. They traded the living room for farmers markets and open mic nights, while quietly honing their songwriting chops.

“Our dad was a musician and songwriter,” said Sierota. “He played piano and drums. We all got to learn everything – bass, guitar, upright bass, synthesizer. And we all play drums. It makes songwriting sessions more fun.”

“Talking Dreams” earned a prestigious RIAA gold certification, yielding the double-platinum breakout smash “Cool Kids,” which notched a quarter-of-a-billion Spotify streams, and the platinum-certified “Bright.”

In 2014, Echosmith was named both an MTV “Artist to Watch” and a VH1 “You Oughta Know” Artist. They have performed all over national TV, from Ellen and The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon with “Cool Kids” to Live!

Along the way, the trio has garnered over 1 billion streams, captivated crowds worldwide, toured with twenty one pilots, Pentatonix, and Owl City, collaborated with Steve Aoki, Zedd, for King & Country, Audien, Hunter Hayes, and Mat Kearney, earned major media praise, and performed on numerous national TV shows including Live with Kelly & Ryan, TODAY, Late Night with Seth Meyers, The Late Late Show with James Corden and Artists Den.

“We did our first recording when we started having a studio at our house,” said Sierota. “Eventually, we got on YouTube. But nothing worked until we got signed to Warner Bros. We did a free concert at Warner Bros. pretty soon after we got signed.”

Another step in the band’s development was playing on the Warped Tour in 2013 and 2014.

“The Warped Tour is a tough tour – but it’s a fun tour,” said Sierota. “There’s nothing like it. Every single city – it’s the hottest day. But, you learn that to work in the music industry, you’ve got to grind it out.”

Now, Echosmith are touring veterans with more than a dozen national tours on their resume. The current one promises to be the best.

“We created a show that’s very musically complex,” said Sierota. “We make this show a whole experience. The fans can feel the message of these songs.”

Another sibling band is the opening act.

Band of Silver

Nashville-based Band of Silver features the Silvernagel siblings – Evan, Alex and Avery. The just released their new EP, “Something Stronger.”

They may be a band from Nashville, but there’s nothing country about Band of Silver. Specializing in addictive, arena-ready anthems that blur the lines between rock, 80’s new wave, and modern pop, the breakout three-piece has built a reputation for explosive, electrifying performances that hint at everything from Def Leppard and Madonna to Weezer and Panic! At The Disco.

The band went to Los Angeles to record their upcoming singles and teamed with celebrated producer Mike Green (Paramore, All Time Low) to create a bold, brash sound that’s all their own.

Confident and self-assured, the new music showcases Band of Silver’s youthful exuberance, while at the same time reflecting the trio’s remarkable maturity and restraint. The songs tackle heartbreak and disappointment with hope and perseverance, offering up timely testaments to the power of faith and the unbreakable bonds of family.

Like the Sierotas, the three siblings’ music goes back to very early in their lives.

While the Silvernagel siblings officially started Band of Silver in high school, their musical roots stretch back far deeper. As a youngster, Evan picked up the drums, while his brother Alex played any instrument he could get his hands on. Avery joined a little later, when she discovered a passion for singing during her teenage years, and the three quickly began writing original material and performing across the country.

Video link for Echosmith — https://youtu.be/JWaHko0PWOc/.

Video link for Band of Silver — https://youtu.be/5DLLWfJNnbw.

The show at the World Café Live, which has Lostboycrow and Band of Silver as the opening acts, will start at 7:30 p.m.

Tickets are $40 — $25 for standing room.

Other upcoming acts at World Café Live are Ibibio Sound Machine on October 20, Jerrod Carmichael on October 21, and Twin Princess, Dresage and Tiger Darrow on October 26.

We Were Promised Jetpacks

We Were Promised Jetpacks, which is headlining a show on October 26 at The Ardmore Music Hall (23 East Lancaster Avenue, Ardmore, www.ardmoremusic.com), is a Scottish indie rock band featuring Adam Thompson (vocals, guitar), Sean Smith (bass), and Darren Lackie (drums).

“The band started back in 2004 when we were in school,” said Thompson, during a recent phone interview.

Since then, We Were Promised Jetpacks, have released four albums – “These Four Walls” (2009), “In the Pit of the Stomach” (2011), “Unravelling” (2014), “The More I Sleep the Less I Dream” (2018) and “Enjoy the View” (2021). The two most recent LPs are on Big Scary Monsters while the label for the first three was Fat Cat.

Scotland has two major cities and four major football teams. There is Glasgow with Celtic and Rangers and Edinburgh, the capital city, with Hibernian (Hibs) and Heart on Midlothian (Hearts). While Glasgow has produced music acts such as Franz Ferdinand, Donovan, the Fratellis, Bert Jansch, Al Stewart and Primal Scream, Edinburgh’s list of notables includes Ian Anderson of Jethro Tull, Garbage, Bay City Rollers, Incredible String Band, the Proclaimers – and We Were Promised Jetpacks.

Thompson, Smith, Lackie and guitarist Michael Palmer formed the band in 2003 while attending an Edinburgh high school, where they won a battle-of-the-bands contest with their very first gig. After graduation, We Were Promised Jetpacks relocated to Glasgow, and their sound matured as well, moving from simple song structures and clean guitars to a more ambitious, anthemic approach.

“We released a 10th anniversary edition of ‘These Four Walls’ in 2019 but did no touring,” said Thompson.

“We were doing some shows in the U.K. Then, everything went into lockdown, and we started working on the new album.

“We thought that maybe we’d be able to tour again – but it didn’t happen. We had a European tour cancelled four times and a stateside tour cancelled three times.”

The pandemic hit hard.

“I got married and we live in New York,” said Thompson. “The other guys still live in Scotland. Edinburgh is where we’re all from. We’re a close-knit group.

“When the pandemic arrived, I went back to Scotland. I thought it would be a month or two, but it ended up being eight months. We didn’t see each other for four months.

“When we started recording, we sent files back-and-forth to each other. It was the first time we did that. Usually, we record with live guitars and drums.”

It was a whole different M.O. for the Scottish lads.

According to Thompson, “Writing together this way meant we had to stay in near daily contact to talk about the songs and what we were individually and collectively trying to achieve with them. Even though we were unable to be in the same room, this way of working allowed us to continue to create together and communicate perhaps more directly and efficiently than normal. Having music to focus on during lockdown only reinforced how much we enjoy being in our band together and how important it is that we do it for as long as we can.”

Michael Palmer’s departure also had an effect on the band.

“The whole thing with the new record is that Michael left,” said Thompson. “What he brought to the band; we didn’t have anymore. The new music is a little lighter – a lot more keyboards and synths.

“It was definitely different. I wish it was a little heavier. But I’m glad we went down this path. It allowed us a different way to do recording and we’ll take what we learned. The next one will be heavier.

“Our live set is made up of everything – stuff from all our albums. It’s definitely time to play the new stuff live.”

Video link for We Were Promised Jetpacks — https://youtu.be/uRaQJkIVb_Q.

The show at The Ardmore Music Hall (23 East Lancaster Avenue, Ardmore, www.ardmoremusic.com) will start at 9 p.m. with Frankie Rose as the opening act.

Tickets are $20.

Other upcoming shows at the Ardmore Music Hall are The Sheepdogs on October 20, Kitchen Dwellers and Daniel Donato on October 21, Splintered Sunlight on October 22, Billy Cobham on October 23 and Kevin Mobry on October 25.

Jamey’s House of Music (32 South Lansdowne Avenue, Lansdowne, 215-477-9985,www.jameyshouseofmusic.com) always presents great folk, jazz and blues music every Thursday through Sunday.

The “Thursday Night Jazz Jam” and the “Sunday Blues Brunch & Jam” are regular features on Jamey’s calendar while Friday and Saturday night shows feature national and regional acts.

The headline shows on the weekend nights always draw appreciative crowds.

The show this Friday features Jill Salkin & Friends.

Salkin is a Philadelphia-based singer and songwriter whose earliest music influences include Motown, Joni Mitchell, Bonnie Raitt, Jackson Browne, and Steely Dan. Writing poetry at age 14, led to songwriting and performing, accompanying herself on piano and guitar. Her music studies at Temple University gave Salkin the opportunity to be a member of the jazz vocal ensemble, where she found the joy of scat singing and being a concert soloist. At this time, Salkin was invited to be one of the lead vocalists in a band that played in clubs in South Jersey, where she sang the music of artists such as Linda Ronstadt, Renaissance, and Heart.

When Salkin moved back to Philadelphia, she continued on the path of writing songs about her life and continued to play them at her solo gigs. “Heart’s Desire,” was the title of her first CD, a compilation of her original songs. At the same time, she was singing a large repertoire of jazz standards.

Coming full circle, “The Very Thought of You,” Jill’s second release, was played on Temple’s jazz station, where Jill was interviewed several times. Songs from this CD were featured on other jazz stations in the U.S., and on the web, and can be heard on Pandora Radio.Her most recent album, “What the World Needs Now,” has a mix of jazz, blues, classic pop, and original songs.

Video link for Jill Salkin — https://youtu.be/vcryWR1SLMU.

This Saturday evening’s concert showcases Cincinnati native Erin Coburn.

Coburn is known for her prolific songwriting and modern approach to American Rock and Roll. Her relatable lyrics and soul gripping vocals are a striking compliment to scorching guitar solos and infectious riffs.

Coburn’s list of influences includes BB King, Stevie Ray Vaughan, the Rolling Stones, Alice In Chains, Arctic Monkeys, and Nothing But Thieves.

Writing songs since a young age, Coburn released her debut album, “Chaos Before Conformity” in 2015 when she was 14. Her lyrical output focuses on the theme of not fitting in with societal norms — being a misfit. With the release of her second and third albums, “Queen of Nothing” (2017) and “Out from Under” (2019), she has grown a national and international fanbase.

Not only is Coburn a talented vocalist, lyricist, and multi-instrumentalist, she is also a proudly endorsed artist for Strandberg Guitars, Bad Cat Amps, DR Strings, Westone Audio and Gravity Picks.

Video link for Erin Coburn — https://youtu.be/tpklZQXSoxo.

The shows at Jamey’s on Friday and Saturday will start at 8 p.m. Tickets for either are $25 in advance and $30 at the door. Sunday’s “Blues Jam” will feature

Uptown! Knauer Performing Arts Center (226 North High Street, West Chester, www.uptownwestchester.org) is presenting Lili Anel on October 20, Let’s Hang On on October 21, ELO Tribute Show on October 22, Bad Animals on October 28, 7 Bridges on November 3, Kung Yang Lin Dancers on November 5, Better Than Bacon on November 11, Miche Braden & The Aaron Graves Jazz Ensemble on November 12, Sherry Wilson Butler & the Hot Saints of Jazz with dancer Lauren Putty on November 13, The Cartoon Christmas on December 6, and The Last Big Band Holiday Show on December 20.

Kennett Flash (102 Sycamore Alley, Kennett Square, 484-732-8295, http://www.kennettflash.org) is hosting The Collingwood on October 22, Katie Barbato on October 29, Jazz Jam on October 30, Sonia on November 5, Angry Young Band on November 11, UZO on November 12, Antje Duvekot on November 18, The D Corridori Project on November 19, Jazz Jam on November 27, Dead Flowers on December 3, and Bryan Tuk Project on December 10.

The Sound Bank (119 South Main Street, Phoenixville, www.soundbankphx.com) will have Smooth Riders on October 21, The Nocturnal Jocks & Perlin Noise! on October 22, Ouroboros on October 15, Michael Sarian on November 3, Haywood Trout on November 4, Lower Case Blues on November 12, and E Street Shuffle on November 18.

Phantom Power (121 West Frederick Street, Millersville, www.phantompower.net) will have Comedy Night with Zach Rushing, Dustin Sims, and Jesse Peyton on October 23, Green Jelly on October 27, Big Fat Meanies on October 29, She Wants Revenge on November 2, Tigers Jaw on November 3, Animal Magnetism on November 5, Dancing Bears on November 12, Couch on November 18, Brass Monkeys on November 26, Local H on December 3, Maya de Vitry on December 9, and Aunt Mary Pat on December 29.

Colonial Theater (227 Bridge Street, Phoenixville, thecolonialtheatre.com/events) is hosting Bruce Hornsby on November 16 and Jessica Lynn on December 9.

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