On Stage: Three options to see ‘The Nutcracker’

By Denny Dyroff, Entertainment Editor, The Times

Brandywine Ballet Company

There are many holiday activities which have become yearly rituals for area families – decorated houses, exchanging presents around the Christmas tree, holiday parties with cookies and eggnog, listening to Christmas carols and, of course, shopping at malls (or Amazon).

Another popular family favorite is attending a live performance of the classic ballet, “The Nutcracker.”

“The Nutcracker” has been an annual tradition for the Brandywine Ballet Company (www.brandywineballet.org) since 1985.

It’s back again for another run this weekend from December 16-18 at West Chester University’s Emilie K. Asplundh Concert Hall (700 South High Street, West Chester).

Audiences are invited to celebrate the season with Tchaikovsky’s timeless score and be transported to the magical Land of Sweets. There, they can join Clara and the Sugar Plum Fairy on the journey of a dream.

This performance, which is one of Chester County’s signature holiday events, features original, traditional choreography by David Kloss and Donna L. Muzio.

The impressive choreography has been integrated with new choreographic elements by Resident Choreographer, Nancy Page and Tim Early.

Brandywine Ballet’s five-performance run of “The Nutcracker” has continued to delight audiences each year for more than four decades with a tour de force of beauty and elegance.

The ballet is based on the timeless tale “The Nutcracker and The Mouse King” and set to a score by Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky. With its familiar music and energetic dance numbers, “The Nutcracker” is a show that appeals to audiences of all ages.

The Brandywine Ballet’s “The Nutcracker” is a professional show that features skilled dancers, lively choreography, colorful costumes and sparkling sets.

The show will run now through December 18 at West Chester University’s Emilie K. Asplundh Concert Hall (700 South High Street, West Chester, 610-696-2711, www.brandywineballet.org).

Performances of the ballet are scheduled for December 16 at 10 a.m. and December 17 and 18 at 11 a.m. and 5 p.m.

Tickets are $25, $35 and $45.

First State Ballet Theatre

The Grand Opera House (818 North Market Street, Wilmington, Delaware, 302-652-5577, www.thegrandwilmington.org) is hosting five performances of “The Nutcracker” by the First State Ballet Theatre this weekend.

“The Nutcracker” is a ballet in two acts that had its premiere on December 18, 1892 at the Mariinsky Theatre, St. Petersburg.

The First State Ballet’s “The Nutcracker” features music by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky and choreography by Lev Ivanov, Pasha Kambalov and Kristina Kambalov.

“This is the First State Ballet’s 20th anniversary at the Grand Opera,” said Joan Beatson, the company’s Director of Advancement.

“It’s our version. We tweak it every year with the dancers we have. This year, there are 21 company dancers and 35 students from the company’s school.”

In the ballet, the Stahlbaums and their children Marie and Fritz are hosting their annual Christmas party. The mysterious Herr Drosselmeyer enters and entertains the children.

Drosselmeyer later appears disguised as a magician and presents a puppet show, followed by three life-size dancing dolls, to the delight of the guests.

The children begin to open gifts and Drosselmeyer presents his gift of a beautiful nutcracker to Marie. Marie admires it more than all the other toys. Fritz wants to play with the new doll; he pulls it away from Marie and throws it on the floor. Marie is heartbroken, but Drosselmeyer quickly repairs the nutcracker.

As the evening grows late, the guests depart and the Stahlbaum family retires for the evening. Marie comes downstairs to steal one last glance at her nutcracker under the Christmas tree. She falls asleep.

In a dream she sees the drawing room. A mouse scurries out of a hole, and then mice scamper out from everywhere. The mice try to take the nutcracker from Marie until the Mouse King enters. Marie is terribly frightened and hides behind a chair.

Suddenly her nutcracker appears life-size. Overcoming her fear, she runs up to him. The Nutcracker leads a regiment of soldiers to defend Marie. The Mouse King is defeated and disappears with his army.

Drosselmeyer transforms Marie into a lovely maiden and the Nutcracker into a handsome prince. Together, they set off on a journey to the Land of Snow where they are welcomed by dancing snowflakes.

In Act II, Marie and the prince arrive in the Land of Sweets and the festivities begin. First comes Chocolate, then Coffee and Tea, followed by Honey Cake, Marzipan and Gingerbread, Gumdrops and the Waltz of the Flowers. Marie and the prince dance merrily with the rest.

At last the wonderful dream is over and Marie awakens.

Video link for First State Ballet’s “The Nutcracker” — https://youtu.be/FuZ4u4NdXI4.

Performances are scheduled for 7 p.m. on December 16, 2  and 7 p.m. on December 17 and 2 p.m. on December 18.

Ticket prices for the shows at The Grand Opera House range from $19.99-$57.

The Philadelphia Ballet

The Philadelphia Ballet’s annual production of “George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker” is one of the most cherished—and longest running—family holiday traditions for families in the region.

For many, a visit to Philadelphia to enjoy the lavish presentation by the world-famous Philadelphia Ballet is an integral part of the holiday season.

This year’s production, which is running now through December 28 at the Academy of Music (Broad and Locust streets, Philadelphia, 215-893-1999, www.philadelphiaballet.org), is in the fifth decade of staging of the classic ballet.

The ballet is based on E.T.A. Hoffman’s tale “The Nutcracker and The Mouse King” and set to a score by Peter Ilych Tchaikovsky.

Featuring lively dances, colorful costumes and elaborate sets, “The Nutcracker” is a production that appeals to audiences of all ages. The original version of the timeless classic was first presented in Saint Petersburg, Russia in 1892.

The ballet is performed under the guidance of artistic director Angel Corella. The ballet is based on the choreography of George Balanchine.

Born in Madrid, Spain, Corella joined American Ballet Theatre in 1995 and was quickly promoted to principal dancer. In his 17-year career with ABT, he established himself as one of the greatest male dancers of his time.

Corella has also appeared as a guest artist with the Royal Ballet in London, the Kirov Ballet in Russia, and New York City Ballet. From 2008-2014, he served as director for his own company, the Barcelona Ballet.

“I was born in Spain and there is not a tradition of ‘The Nutcracker’ in that country,” said Corella.

“The first time I danced in the ballet was with the American Ballet Theater when I was 19. I thought it was the most beautiful ballet I had ever seen.

“I still feel that way. Mr. Balanchine said dancers are showing the music. The dancers make the music visible.

“The challenge is to keep it fresh. But, no-one would dare to change the choreography.”

Balanchine’s choreography plays a major role in the Philadelphia Ballet’s annual production of “The Nutcracker.” The company has been doing both acts by Balanchine for the last 30 years.

George Balanchine, who was named Giorgi Balanchivadze when he was born in Russia in 1904, was one of the last century’s most celebrated choreographers.

He was a primary developer of ballet in the United States in his position as co-founder and ballet master of New York City Ballet. Balanchine created his version of “The Nutcracker” for the New York City Ballet in 1955.

The Philadelphia Ballet’s production of the ballet features more than 100 performers and has an annual audience attendance of more than 50,000. The company’s production is big, colorful and elaborate. And, it is staged in one of the most beautiful performance halls in the country.

The version of “The Nutcracker” performed by the Philadelphia Ballet features everything audiences associate with the timeless ballet—a cast of 19th-century families celebrating Christmas Eve, a little girl’s dream of her Nutcracker Prince, the Prince’s toy soldiers battling a fleet of mice led by the Mouse King and the crowd-pleasing second act of dances in the land of the Sugar Plum Fairy.

“Right now, we’re still doing Balanchine’s ‘Nutcracker’ because it works,” said Corella. “Balanchine’s ‘The Nutcracker’ is one of the best in the world.

“The whole process makes it feel like it’s Christmas. There is hot chocolate. It’s snowing outside. The whole family is there and time seems to stop. It goes back to a certain place and time that everyone seems to recognize—being able to re-connect and share.”

Video link for Philadelphia Ballet’s “George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker” – https://youtu.be/ypfQQ2duYS0.

Ticket prices start at $25.

The Crossing

The Crossing has two upcoming area performances of “The Crossing @ Christmas” — December 16 at Church of the Holy Trinity (Rittenhouse Square, Philadelphia) and December 17 at the Presbyterian Church of Chestnut Hill (8855 Germantown Avenue, Philadelphia).

The Crossing (www.crossingchoir.org) is an American professional chamber choir based in Philadelphia. The Crossing is conducted by Donald Nally and dedicated to new music.

It is committed to working with creative teams to make and record new, substantial works for choir that explore and expand ways of writing for choir, singing in choir, and listening to music for choir.

Many of its nearly 90 commissioned premieres address social, environmental, and political issues. With a commitment to recording its commissions, The Crossing has issued 19 releases and received two Grammy Awards for Best Choral Performance (2018, 2019), and three Grammy nominations in as many years.

This year’s “Crossing @ Christmas” presents new works by Caroline Shaw and Mason Bates and features Scott Dettra on organ.

Shaw’s new work, “Ochre,” one in a series of recent works relating to soil, “obliquely references how we consider and care for the ground beneath our feet – our Earth, our sense of the scale of our lives in the context of geological history,” framed in an exploration of the sensation of music as color.

Focusing primarily on timbres and vowels, it draws on fragments of poetry framing human existence with metaphors of geologic time, iron ore, and rock; Goethe, for whom a common mineral in ochres is named; and a lament of Renaissance composer Josquin des Prez. Essentially mournful, “Ochre” maintains a sense of joy and wonder regarding our planet.

“This is the East Coast premiere of ‘Ochre,’,” said Nally, during a phone interview last week. “It premiered in November in San Francisco.

“It was commissioned for The Crossing, Cantori New York, Notre Dame Vocale, and Volti.

“It is really beautifully simple. It has veiled reference to soil underneath and each movement is named for a mineral.

“It’s a 25-minute piece with seven movements. It’s pretty calm. It leaves a lot of space for listeners to reflect.”

The second piece is also thought-provoking.

Mason Bates’ “Mass Transmission,” with Scott Dettra at the organ and sound design by Paul Vazquez, explores how the advent of radio technology brought us closer, yet magnified our distances and loneliness, drawing on early radio-wave communications between parents in the Netherlands and their children on Java, sent there to work for the Dutch government.

“The piece looks at how, as the world got smaller, we got more distant,” said Nally.

“A young girl from the Netherlands got sent off to Java in 1928. The girl and her family are talking with each other through wireless communication – through the first wireless communication the world knew.

“They were allowed six minutes a week. It led to how people communicate with each other today

“The piece is really energetic with organ and electronic pre-recorded sound files. It’s exciting and has a lot of color.

“The program opens and closes with two pieces by David Lang – ‘Make Peace’ and ‘Sleeper’s Prayer.

“Both are about peace. In ‘Sleeper’s Prayer,’ sleepers ask for peace when they go to sleep and wake up.”

Video link for The Crossing – https://youtu.be/HeRU3iKonhM.

The concert at Church of the Holy Trinity will start at 7 p.m. Tickets are $30.

The concert at The Presbyterian Church of Chestnut Hill will start at 5 p.m. Tickets are $35 general admission, $25 seniors and $20 students.

The Sellersville Theater (24 West Temple Avenue, Sellersville, 215-257-5808, www.st94.com) will shift into holiday mode when it hosts a show by vocalist extraordinaire Annie Haslam.

On December 17, the theater will present “Annie Haslam & Friends…In the Spirit of the Holidays.”

Begining in 1999, Haslam has performed a Christmas show each year called “In the Spirit of the Holidays” — originally at the Upper Tinicum Lutheran Church, and then at the larger Sellersville Theatre in Sellersville, Pennsylvania, since 2006.

The Christmas show has been held every year except 2012, because of the death of her friend and colleague, Michael Dunford, in November of that year. Haslam stated that “there was just too much sadness at the time.”

“I started the holiday shows a long time ago,” said Haslam, during a phone interview Wednesday evening from her home in Bucks County.

“I first did the show at the church here in Upper Black Eddy. What I did – I included vegetarian Christmas food in the price of the ticket. It was really different. It was wonderful.

“After a few years, the pastor moved to Kansas. Then, I started doing holiday shows at the Sellersville Theater. It was a perfect place.”

Included in the program are secular, and religious Christmas carols, as well as her own compositions, and some Renaissance songs.

Haslam, Renaissance’s lead vocalist, has become a heralded solo artist and a gifted painter. She’s graced the most prestigious world stages with her five octave voice, including London’s Royal Albert Hall with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and NYC’s Carnegie Hall with the New York Philharmonic Orchestra.

In recent years she has been recording and touring with Renaissance which has taken her to Japan, Brazil, Argentina, UK, Belgium, Portugal and Israel.

Renaissance is a band with a rich history as progressive rock pioneers that rose from the ashes of the Yardbirds, a blues-influenced British rock band known for introducing three of rock’s greatest guitarists — Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck and Jimmy Page.

Acclaimed for its unique blending of progressive rock with classical and symphonic influences, Renaissance’s long and successful career has been spearheaded by the five-octave voice of Haslam and the masterful songwriting skills of Michael Dunford.

Renaissance had a Top 10 hit in the U.K. with the song “Northern Lights.” In October and November 2017, the band debuted its “Symphonic Journey” tour.

We did four shows with the 10-piece orchestra – an orchestra that featured strings, woodwinds, brass, and percussion,” said Haslam. “One of those shows was at the Keswick Theatre in Glenside. We filmed the show.”

Haslam, 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 left the Yardbirds.

According to Haslam, “I joined the band New Year’s Day 1971. Now, more than 50 years later we are still performing and bringing our unique style of music to more and more fans all over the world.

With Renaissance, Haslam was the lead vocalist on seven studio albums during their classic period (1972–1979), four studio albums from 1981–present, and a number of live albums.

In 1977, Haslam began her solo career with her album “Annie in Wonderland,” produced by Roy Wood (who was a key member of The Move, one of England’s best rock bands in the late 1960s). Wood played most of the musical instruments.

Haslam has since released eight studio albums, three of which were released through her own record label, White Dove. She has also collaborated with Steve Howe of the prog rock band Yes, on a number of projects.

From the year 2002, Haslam has developed a parallel career as a visual artist, producing paintings on canvas, painted musical instruments, and giclées.

“I’m still painting a lot,” said Haslam. “It was hard during the pandemic. I didn’t start painting again until 2021.”

Haslam will be selling some miniatures of her art paintings at the show on December 17.

“For the holiday show in Sellersville, we’ll have a young lad – Garrett Garner, who starred on ‘The Voice,’” said Haslam. “He opened for me in 2019. He’s opening again and then will join me later in the show.

“The show will open with some Renaissance songs like ‘Captive Heart’ and ‘I Think of You.’ I don’t want it to be a Renaissance show so I just touch on it.

“I’ll be singing a lot of Christmas standards – ‘Silent Night,’ ‘Silver Bells,’ ‘Joy to the World,’ ‘Oh Holy Night,’ ‘It Snows in Heaven,’ ‘White Christmas,’ and ‘The 12 Days of Christmas.’”

Video link for Annie Haslam – https://youtu.be/MeB82QmGa1Q.

The show on December 17, which as Garrett Garner as the opening act will start at 8 p.m.

Ticket prices start at $35.

Other upcoming shows at the Sellersville Theater are Dave Hause and Will Hoge on December 16, the Cowsills on December 18 and Anthony Nunziata on December 18.

If you like Christmas music but would like to hear something other than the same old traditional songs done the same old traditional way, there is a show for you this weekend. If you want to enjoy the traditional songs and rock out at the same time, plan a trip to Lansdowne.

On December 16, Jamey’s House of Music (32 South Lansdowne Avenue, Lansdowne, 215-477-9985, www.jameyshouseofmusic.com) is hosting a concert billed as “A Very Cheadle Christmas.”

Whenever Cheadle plays the area, it seems that she has a special theme for that particular show.

When the powerful blues/jazz/rock singer played Jamey’s back in December 2021, it was a concert billed as “A Very Cheadle Christmas.”

On February 11, Cheadle came back to The Living Room in Ardmore and presented “Laura Cheadle Sings The Sexy Valentine Blues.”

“The Valentine show was actually a release party for my new album on Sony Orchard — a preview of all the songs that are going to be on the album,” said Cheadle, during a phone interview Wednesday from her home in Philadelphia.

“I’ve been doing a lot of singles. The first was ‘Reverberate’ and the second was ‘Lust In Between.’ I just released a new Christmas single – ‘On This Christmas Night.’”

Christmas shows and Christmas albums are nothing new for Cheadle.

“I signed a deal with Sony Music,” said Cheadle. “I just released a Christmas album with Sony on their Orchard label, and I’ll have a new album coming out on Sony in early 2023.

“I’ve been in the studio a lot. I hadn’t written in four years. When the COVID shutdown arrived, I started writing and couldn’t stop. I just relaxed and enjoyed it.”

One of the results of her writing outburst was her 2021 holiday album, “Let’s Get Together for Christmas.”

“It was a family affair,” said Cheadle. “I recorded it at my dad’s studio with my brothers and him. My dad was the producer.

“I did a Christmas album before – in 2010. It was more of a jazz album. This one is definitely bluesier.

“It’s a Christmas album but it’s a real sexy, sultry album – very R&B. I really got a chance to showcase my voice.

“The music on my upcoming album is also very R&B-based. I just wrote another song the other day. Songs keep flying out.”

The holiday show at Jamey’s features Laura Cheadle and her band. Cheadle has a band that features blues, soul, funk – and a lot of Cheadles.

Her four-piece group features her brother Jim Cheadle on guitar and her father James Cheadle on keyboards along with Ben Smith, the only non-Cheadle, on drums.

James “Papa Cheadle” has played and recorded with Don Cornell, DJ Jazzy Jeff, The Four Aces, Grover Washington Jr., The Soul Survivors, Jaco Pastorius and Peter Erskine.

Cheadle has played with her family ever since she was a young girl.

“My father has influenced me so much,” said Cheadle. “He’s a seasoned jazz musician who used to be a music professor at Rowan University. So, I’ve always been involved with music

“He has his own recording studio in South Jersey called the Swedesboro Music Studio and he records a lot of different people. He and I are both devoted to music. His influence on me is blues and jazz – but I make it modern.”

Cheadle’s music career began when she was four years old. Her father created the “Appreciation Choir” for the Persian Gulf War troops in the early nineties and created a music video that was aired on VH1 and MTV. Along with her two older twin brothers and various other children, Cheadle toured around the United States singing for audiences.

When she was 11, she enlisted her father to teach her how to play drums. From her “tween” to “mid-teen” years, Cheadle was in a band with her brothers called Sibling – a pop group that played at local restaurants, churches, music venues, private parties and parades.

“I’ve been in the Philadelphia/New Jersey music scene for quite some time,” said Cheadle. “I’ve been doing acoustic stuff since I was 16 and then put my band together later. Sibling was a blend and I morphed into my music. Songwriting comes very naturally for me. Sometimes, I wake up with a melody in my head. It’s just there.

“I’ve always been a super fan of old soul. My biggest influences are Aretha Franklin, Tower of Power, James Brown and Stevie Wonder. I love real drums and all the organic instruments. Some of my songs are rock. Some of them are blues. It’s hard to classify me – maybe pop/rock with soul influence. I just do what I feel.”

The Cheadle Family has built a strong reputation nationally.

“We were on an NBC television show called ‘The Next Great Family Band’ in 2013,” said Cheadle. “That got us a lot of interest in being booked for tours. They actually came to our place in Swedesboro. The exposure was great.”

Fans will get plenty of Cheadle’s music – old and new, R&b and holiday – this Friday night at Jamey’s.

Video link for Laura Cheadle – https://youtu.be/Ro-JwppZkJM.

The show at Jamey’s on December 16 will start at 8 p.m.

Tickets are $25 advance and $06 at the door.

This weekend, Jamey’s will also present The Azures on December 17 at 8 p.m.

Tickets are $15 in advance and $20 at the door.

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 “Thursday Night Jazz Jam” on December 15 will feature Denise Montana.

Uptown! Knauer Performing Arts Center (226 North High Street, West Chester, www.uptownwestchester.org) is presenting “The Last Big Band Holiday Show” on December 20 – a jazzy festive holiday show featuring a 17-piece big band.

It will mark a return appearance by The Last Big Band under the direction of saxophonist/bandleader/vocalist Erich Cawalla.

The line-up will also showcase a special guest saxophonist. Philadelphia’s legendary Larry McKenna will join the band with some original arrangements.

Cawalla, a native of Reading, released his first-full length solo album at his hometown Berks Jazz Festival in front of 700 people on March 30.

The album featured a 26-piece band and orchestra performing songs in The Great American Songbook along with one original composition.

According to Cawalla, “As a sideman, while watching other bandleaders, I realized the importance of breaking down the barrier between the audience and the musical act.

“I wholeheartedly remembered this once I became a bandleader and solo artist. By personalizing it to even one particular member of the audience, I realized my calling –not only to play music but to engage in the art of entertaining.

“That is my biggest and most fulfilling mission on this earth – to make others happy and to allow the audience to forget their woes, sorrows and worries.”

Larry McKenna is one of the world’s finest jazz saxophone players. He is known for his gorgeous, velvety sound, the unparalleled beauty of his balladry, and his fluid, bebop-inspired improvisations.

McKenna has played and recorded with legendary artists such as Woody Herman, Clark Terry, Buddy DeFranco, Tony Bennett, Rosemary Clooney and Frank Sinatra.

He also is one of the most sought-out saxophone and jazz theory teachers in Philadelphia. He has taught at West Chester University, University of the Arts, Temple University School of Music, and Widener University.

In addition to being a frequent guest on recordings by other top jazz players, McKenna has released three CDs under his own name to widespread critical acclaim.

Music arranged by McKenna has been performed on “The Tonight Show” with Johnny Carson and in the Nicholas Cage movie “Birdy,” in which Larry played and appeared.

Video link for Erich Cawalla – https://youtu.be/YfxFwLbOu_A.

The show at the Uptown Knauer on December 20 will start at 7:30 p.m.

Tickets are $35 in advance and $40 at the door.

Vanessa Collier will be saying hello and goodbye with a pair of local shows this weekend.

Collier will say hello to The Living Room & Cricket Cafe (35 Ardmore Avenue, Ardmore, livingroomardmore.com) with concerts on December 16 and 17. It will mark the first time the highly acclaimed blues/jazz sax player/guitarist performs at the venue.

It will also be a goodbye of sorts for the versatile musician who spends a lot of time touring nationally.

“This will be my last local show for a while,” said Collier, during a phone interview Wednesday afternoon..

“We finish here on the 17th and the first gig of the new year will be on January 11 in Boston. From there, we’ll be on the road until April – going all the way out to Oregon and California, back through Texas to Florida and then back up through the South.”

The tour finishes on April 23 in Asheville, North Carolina and then Collier will remain in the Carolinas.

Collier, who lived in Kennett Square for a while until recently moving to the Fishtown section of Philadelphia, is moving to South Carolina.

“I’m moving on Sunday to Columbia, South Carolina,” said Collier. “My mom got s job down there and I like to stay close to her and my sisters.

“Plus, the cost of living is a lot cheaper. I’m getting my own place which has a big backyard for my three dogs. I’m planning on putting a studio there.”

These are busy times for Collier.

“I’m on my way to mix my live Blu-Ray DVD,” said Collier. “This is the second session of mixing. We recorded it live at The Power Station in New York. We did three shows in two days. The CD portion was released in September 2022.

“We didn’t do any new material in the shows. We recorded my second album with a label and some songs didn’t come out the way I wanted. And, they’ve grown on the road. This is the representation of the songs as I want. I also did some songs from my first record.”

Collier released her latest album “Heart On The Line” on August 21, 2020 – an album that has received rave reviews from music critics and fans alike. Still in her mid-20s, Collier has toured all over the world numerous times and has released three solo albums. With searing saxophone solos, soulful vocals, and witty lyrics, her songwriting features a blend of blues, funk, rock, and soul.

Collier’s impressive vocals and stinging saxophone work saw her light up stages as part of Joe Louis Walker’s band in 2012 and 2013.

In 2014, her debut album “Heart Soul & Saxophone” won her accolades as a “Best of 2014 Blues Breaker.” In March 2017, she released her sophomore album “Meeting My Shadow.” Collier’s third album “Honey Up” was released on July 6, 2018.

Collier is primarily a sax player, singer and songwriter but is also well-versed in playing clavinet, flute, electric organ, and percussion.

“When I was little, I really wanted to play piano,” said Collier. “I don’t know why. I started taking piano lessons but didn’t like the teacher, so I quit after six months. I saw someone playing sax on television and fell in love with it. We rented a sax for me when I was in fourth grade. That was in school. Then, I studied with a private instructor for a few years.

Then, I took lessons with Chris Vadala, who played sax with Chuck Mangione. I studied with him for seven years – classical, jazz and funk. He started me doubling on flute and clarinet. I still play those instruments. Mainly, I play sax — tenor, some soprano and some baritone.” 

Collier’s previous album “Honey Up” was nominated for Blues Music Award (BMA) Contemporary Blues Album of the Year.

That album did well right from the start,” said Collier. “It was a Top 5 Billboard Blues Album and was well-received by radio deejays.” 

Collier was nominated in 2017 for a Blues Music Award in the “Instrumental — Horn Player of the Year” category. She also won first place in the “Lyrics Only” category of the 2017 USA Songwriting Competition. In 2018, Collier was nominated in two categories at the Blues Music Awards – “Contemporary Blues Female Artist of the Year” and “Instrumental — Horn Player of the Year.” 

In 2019, she was again nominated in same two categories at the Blues Music Awards – “Contemporary Blues Female Artist of the Year” and “Instrumental – Horn.” She claimed first place in the “Instrumental – Horn” category. 

Honey Up,” which had a three-month residency on Billboard’s “Top Blues Albums Chart,” provides a good look at Collier’s influences. 

With jazz, the first person I was turned on to was Cannonball Adderley,” said Collier. “Other major influences were John Coltrane, Junior Walker, and Maceo Parker. Vocally, I started with Etta James, Ella Fitzgerald and Sarah Vaughan and that morphed into Norah Jones and Bonnie Raitt.” 

Collier also is a music teacher and has been involved in various “Blues in Schools” programs. 

I grew up in Clarksville, Maryland and then graduated from the Berklee College of Music in Boston,” said Collier, who earned a dual degree in performance and music production, and engineering.

The shows this weekend will be with a full band – but no keys,” said Collier. “I want more space. It will be a powerhouse band with drummer, guitarist, bassist and me on sax, guitar and vocals.”

Video link for Vanessa Collier — https://youtu.be/iHsau_hj4FE


The shows at the Living Room & Cricket Cafe will start at 8 p.m. each night. Tickets are $35 and $45.

Other upcoming shows at The Living Room & Cricket Cafeare Marshall Crenshaw on December 15 and “A Jolly, Jazzy Christmas-Featuring Greg Farnese and Calli Graver” on December 18.

In addition to all the music shows, there are several top-quality holiday-themed stage shows be presented at theaters around the area.

Uptown! Knauer Performing Arts Center (226 North High Street, West Chester, www.uptownwestchester.org) is bringing live theater to its stage with a rarely seen production of “The Butterfingers Angel.” The show is running now through December 23.

Created by William Gibson (The Miracle Worker), one of America’s major dramatists, this touching, funny and highly imaginative retelling of the Nativity story is presented from a fresh and richly creative point-of-view.

The action follows a free-spirited Mary who had decided that men and marriage were not for her, a suddenly cautious Joseph who contends that he is too old for his intended, and a flustered boy-angel who directs each scene from a prompt book and can only manage to get the most strangled, bleating sounds from his trumpet.

Enhanced by a talking tree, sheep and a donkey, along with traditional Christmas music, this wholly original theatre piece is both secular and sacred – often antic, but the spirit of reverence, joy, and the true significance of the occasion is never lost.

This story is an original, funny and heartfelt retelling of the greatest story ever told. A fumbling young Angel announces to Mary that she has been chosen to become a mother. But Mary is a free spirit, and her plans do not include marriage, or motherhood. Once a bewildered Joseph is won over, an antic pageant of Tree, Sheep, Donkey, Cow, Kings, and others set off on the road to Bethlehem.

Video link for “The Butterfingers Angel” – https://youtu.be/de1ihz8FvZo.

The show will run now through December 23.

Ticket prices start at $40.

People’s Light (39 Conestoga Road, Malvern, peopleslight.org) is presenting “Alice in Wonderland: A Musical Panto,” which is running now through January 1, 2023.

Each year, the People’s Light holiday panto transforms a beloved children’s story into a musical extravaganza filled with outrageous characters, toe-tapping original music, slapstick comedy, and topical humor for both kids and adults.

The beloved holiday tradition returns to People’s Light with the world premiere of “Alice in Wonderland: A Musical Panto.” The show, which is directed by Bill Fennelly, features book by Jennifer Childs and music and lyrics by Alex Bechtel.

People’s Light has adapted the theatrical form of British pantomime into its own unique brand of holiday hilarity. Audiences of all ages gather to partake in the songs, dances, topical jokes, and jovial camaraderie of this longstanding tradition.

The People’s Light panto is entertainment for the entire family, and the audience is part of the action.

The show at People’s Light will through January 1. Ticket prices start at $47.

1812 Productions (1812productions.org) is dedicated to creating theatrical works of comedy and comedic works of theater that explore and celebrate our sense of community, our history, and our humanity.

1812 Productions was founded in 1997 by Jennifer Childs and Peter Pryor, two long-time friends and artistic collaborators, with a dedication to comedy, theater, and Philadelphia artists.

1812 Productions is the only professional theater company in the country dedicated to comedy and was the recipient of an honorary citation from the City of Philadelphia for outstanding work and commitment to the Philadelphia arts community.

This weekend, 1812 Productions is presenting their popular political satire, “THIS IS THE WEEK THAT IS.”

A celebrated part of the Philadelphia theatre season for the past 17 years, the show delivers sharp satire and content that changes with the headlines. This year’s production will run now through December 31 at Plays & Players Theatre, which is located at 1714 Delancey Place in Philadelphia.

“The first act is mostly songs and sketches,” said Childs. “They are evergreen sketches that look back on 2022. There are 2022 versions of holiday classics such as ‘A White Christmas’ and ‘It’s a Wonderful Life.’ The second half features weekly – and sometimes daily – changes.”

Show times are December 8 at 7 p.m., December 11 at 2 p.m., December 15 at 7 p.m., December 16 at 8 p.m., December 22 at 7 p.m. and December 29 at 7 p.m.

Ticket prices are $40-$45. Select performances are mask-required.

Now through December 23, The Candlelight Theatre (2208 Millers Road, Arden, Delaware, www.candlelighttheatredelaware.org) is presenting “Irving Berlin’s White Christmas.”

The successful song-and-dance act of army buddies Bob Wallace and Phil Davis follow a duo of singing sisters en route to their Christmas show at a Vermont lodge, which just happens to be owned by Bob and Phil’s former army commander. Filled with laughter, romance, spectacular dance numbers and the unforgettable songs of Irving Berlin, it’s clear to see why this is a holiday favorite for the whole family.

The American Music Theatre (2425 Lincoln Highway East, Lancaster, www.AMTshows.com) is presenting its annual Christmas production “The 2022 Christmas Show: Home for the Holidays” now through December 30.

This live, original musical experience features a new cast delivering the same high-quality, Broadway-caliber performances as in years past – and it all begins the moment you arrive!

Inspired by the warm, cherished memories of family Christmases spent together with loved ones, “Home for the Holidays” opens on the joyous gathering of family and friends who celebrate with a rich tapestry of song, dance, and holiday traditions. Next, we take you to Santa’s Candy Factory where you’ll be transported to a dream world of bright colors and Candy Elves! Finally, you’ll join us at a “midnight” candlelight service for some songs of worship, traditional carols, and the powerful, harmony-filled rendition of “O Holy Night.”

Ticket prices start at $23.

Kennett Flash (102 Sycamore Alley, Kennett Square, 484-732-8295, http://www.kennettflash.org) is hosting Better Than Bacon on December 16.

Phantom Power (121 West Frederick Street, Millersville, www.phantompower.net) will have Nick Cove on December 16, Negative Steel on December 16, Hexbelt on December 17 and Ron Gallo on December 21.

The Ardmore Music Hall (23 East Lancaster Avenue, Ardmore, www.ardmoremusic.com) will present Hoots and Hellmouth on December 15, Splintered Sunlight on December 17 and Marky Ramone on December 18.

118 North (118 North Wayne Avenue, Wayne, www.118northwayne.com) will host The 99s on December 15, Eric Mintel on December 18 and Diamond Eye Jack on December 20.

The Xcite Center at Parx Casino (2999 Street Road, Bensalem, https://parxcasino.com) will present Michael Carbonaro on December 16 and Tony Orlando on December 17.

The Keswick Theater (291 N. Keswick Avenue, Glenside, 215-572-7650, www.keswicktheatre.com) will have Jim Breuer on December 15, Real Diamond on December 16, American Celtic Christmas on December 17 and Big Bad Voodoo Daddy on December 18.

Johnny Brenda’s (1201 North Frankford Avenue, Philadelphia, www.johnnybrendas.com) presents Chris Pureka on December 15 and Don McCloskey on December 16.

The Kimmel Cultural Campus (Broad and Spruce streets, Philadelphia, 215-731-3333, www.kimmelculturalcampus.org) will present Sun Ra Arkestra on December 19.

The Queen (500 North Market Street, Wilmington, 202-730-3331, www.thequeenwilmington.com) presents Montana Wildaxe on December 17 and Pam Tillis on December 18.

Zoetropolis Zoetropolis (112 North Water Street, Lancaster, www.zoetropolis.com) hosts Street Beans on December 16.

   Send article as PDF   

Share this post:

Related Posts

Leave a Comment