On Stage: Two very different musicals come to the Delaware Valley

By Denny Dyroff, Entertainment Editor, The Times

Book of Mormon

There are two national tours of Broadway hit musicals that are making return visits to the area this week – one which is definitely not geared for children and one that is geared for an audience that can look at the show through the eyes of a child.

The show that is basically “for adults only” is “Book of Mormon” which is running from March 10-12 at The Playhouse on Rodney Square (1007 North Market Street, Wilmington, Delaware, www.thegrandwilmington.org/venues/the-playhouse/).

In 2011, “The Book of Mormon” made its debut at the Eugene O’Neill Theatre. During its first year, the show was consistently one of the top five best-selling shows on Broadway and it set 22 new weekly sales records at the O’Neill.

The show, which was seven years in the making, met with immediate critical acclaim and won numerous theater awards including nine Tony Awards (including Best Musical) and a Grammy Award for Best Musical Theater Album.

After a long wait, the hit musical is made its Philadelphia debut in 2014 at the Forrest Theatre. The hit musical returned to the Forrest in 2015 for another sold-out run and then repeated the feat in 2019 at the Academy of Music.

Now, “The Book of Mormon” is coming back to area again for a brief run in Wilmington.

When “The Book of Mormon” opened on Broadway, a review in the New York Times called it “the best musical of this century” while the Associate Press said “‘The Book of Mormon’ manages to offend, provoke laughter, trigger eye-rolling, satirize conventions and warm hearts, all at the same time.”

By all accounts, it is one of the funniest shows to hit the stage in years.

The talent-laden tour cast features Sam McClellan as Elder Price, Berlande as Nabulungi, Sam Nackman as Elder McKinley and Lamont J. Whitaker as Mafala Hatimbi.

“We’ve been on the road since September, except for a break for the holiday” said Berlande, during a phone interview Wednesday afternoon from a tour stop in Easton, Pennsylvania

“This is my first time with ‘Book of Mormon’, but I had already seen it a few times on Broadway. I auditioned for the role of Nabulingi last March.”

Performing in “Book of Mormon” was already on Berlande’s radar when she was a theater major in college at SUNY-New Paltz.

“When I was in college, I made a list of parts I wanted to play. One of them was Nabulungi. I also wanted to do Lorell in ‘Dreamgirls” and Lorraine in ‘All Shook Up.’ And I’ve now done all three.”

Berlande played Lorell Robinson in the international tour of “Dreamgirls,” and Lorraine in the national tour of “All Shook Up” as well as Vivienne Kensington in the national tour of “Legally Blonde The Musical” and Ronnette in the national tour of “Little Shop of Horrors.”

“I first started in plays back with after school programs in elementary school,” said Berlande. “Theater stuck with me all through high school and college. I was a theater major at New Paltz.”

“The Book of Mormon” features book, lyrics, and music by Trey Parker, Robert Lopez, and Matt Stone. Parker and Stone were the creators of the animated comedy “South Park.” The musical comedy tells the story of two young, inexperienced Mormon missionaries who are sent to Africa. It is set in a remote village in northern Uganda.

In the village, which is about two hours north of Uganda’s capitol Kampala, a brutal warlord is threatening the local population. The primary antagonist is the superstitious General, who does not like the missionaries and views them as a threat.

The show has a wonderful message of community and demonstrates how religion is formed through storytelling. The narrative is linear — and it’s educational. It is a very well-constructed musical – written very well. It’s a religious satire but people aren’t offended by it. Nothing is off-limits. Like “South Park,” it’s equal opportunity offensive.

“When ‘Book of Mormon’ came out, it was an immediate success. The biggest fanbase was my generation – the South Park generation back in 2011,” said Berlande.

“With this show, I give people the warning – it’s satire. If you walk in accepting that it’s satire, you’ll be all right. I always encourage folks to do their research.”

Berlande also did her own form of research.

“I did do my research on Uganda,” said Berlande. “I also researched the Mormon characters. For example, back in colonial times, people believed that the cure for STDs was to have sex with a virgin.”

In “Book of Mormon,” the primary antagonist is the General. He has superstitions. The General considers the missionaries as threats to his domination. Nabulungi becomes the missionaries’ ally and even agrees to be baptized in the faith.

“When we meet the missionary characters, they are very downtrodden,” said Berlande. “Nabulungi sees the hope. She makes the community and them come together.

“As I get to know her more, I see a lot of similarities between us – like we’re both Pisces. Every night, I find a new moment. I’m also a community-oriented person. I want better for myself and for people around me.

“Is the role physically demanding? It is and it isn’t. I’m not dancing in six-inch heels. The most demanding is the parts as a singer. I still go through vocal exercise training every day.”

This show is controversial. It has people talking about it. It pokes fun at the Mormon faith. But there hasn’t been a negative response. In some cities, there are Mormon missionaries outside the theater answering questions about their religion and inviting people to a tour of their temple.

While Berlande loves touring, there4 is one big drawback.

“I don’t like being separated from my dog Maya,” said Berlande. “I really miss her when I’m out on tour. But, she stays with a friend of mine in New York. And I talk to her a lot on Facetime.”

Video link for “The Book of Mormon” — https://youtu.be/yIFLMF_jdZI.

“The Book of Mormon” is running from March 10-12 at the Playhouse on Rodney Square. Show times are 8 p.m. on Friday, 2 and 8 p.m. on Saturday and 2 and 7:30 p.m. on Sunday.


Perhaps only in Istanbul do cats have numbers comparable in a way similar to those amassed by Andrew Lloyd Webber’s hit musical “Cats.”

Istanbul, a major city in Turkey that straddles Europe and Asia across the Bosporus Strait, is home to more than 40,000 stray cats. A popular saying in the city notes “If you kill a cat, you need to build a mosque to be forgiven by God.”

In the hadith, the collected sayings and actions of Muhammad, there are numerous examples of the Prophet’s fondness for cats.

By one account, the pet cat of Abu Hurayrah saved Muhammad from an attack by a deadly serpent. Muhammad purportedly blessed the cat in gratitude, giving cats the ability to always land on their feet. Cats were considered guardians in other respects for the Islamic world — they defended libraries from destruction by mice and may have helped protect city populations from rat-borne plagues.

The cats in the show that the Kimmel Cultural Campus’ Broadway Philadelphia series is bringing to Philly for a six-day run from March 14-19 at the Miller Theatre (250 South Broad Street, Philadelphia, 215-893-1999, www.kimmelculturalcampus.org), are street cats of a different breed. Not just stray cats, they are Jellicle cats who sing, dance and tell their own stories in the record setting musical.

Numbers associated with “Cats” are also very impressive.

“Cats” is a sung-through musical based on “Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats” by world-famous poet T. S. Eliot. The musical tells the story of a tribe of cats called the Jellicles and the night they make the “Jellicle choice” — deciding which cat will ascend to the Heaviside Layer and come back to a new life.

Directed by Trevor Nunn and choreographed by Gillian Lynne, “Cats” first opened in the West End in 1981 and then with the same creative team on Broadway in 1982. It won numerous awards, including Best Musical at both the Laurence Olivier Awards and the Tony Awards. By 1994, the musical had grossed over $2 billion worldwide. The London production ran for 21 years (1981–2002; 8,949 performances) and the Broadway production ran for 18 years (1982–2000; 7,485 performances), both setting new records. As of 2018, it is the fourth-longest-running Broadway show and the sixth-longest-running West End show.

The national touring production has been revived for a new generation.

In this tour, Tayler Harris plays Grizabella, Hank Santos plays Rum Tum Tugger, Sam Buchanan plays Macavity, Brian Criag Nelson plays Mungojerrie and Erica Lee Cianciulli plays Bombalurina.

“We started rehearsals in the summer of 2022 and then opened in Modesto, California in September,” said Cianciulli, during a phone interview Tuesday afternoon from a tour stop in Johnson City, Tennessee.

“I auditioned for the first round last season. I made it all the way to the finals but didn’t get it. After everything stopped for COVID, I auditioned again and got the role.”

Cianciulli has roots — deep roots in theater and dance and heavy local roots.

“I grew up in Harleysville and attended Mount Saint Joseph’s Academy (Flourtown),” said Cianciulli. “My mom – Catherine Cianciulli – had a music/dance studio and children’s theatre there.

“We moved to Eagleville, and she now has studios in Worcester and Eagleville. She and my dad are also building a new children’s theater.

“I did a lot of music, dance and theater with her. I have three brothers who were also involved a lot. One of then – Jason – is now with the Pittsburgh Ballet.

“I went to Point Park University as a theater major. I auditioned for the national tour of ‘Pippin’ in 2017 and booked it in the middle of my junior year. So, I took a leave of absence from school.”

“Cats,” which has maintained a high level of popularity, is easy to enjoy but not really that easy to figure out.

It’s an understandable situation because “Cats” doesn’t really have a plot. Audience members can see “Cats” several times and never really know much about the show except for the costumes, the actors’ athleticism, the popular songs – and the elaborate sets.

Audience members who have seen several productions often gain familiarity with the different cats in the show and their diverse personalities – the cocky Rum Tum Tugger, the mischievous Mr. Mistoffelees and the wise Old Deuteronomy.

There are also several lesser-known cats in the show – all with their own distinct personalities. There is Victoria, the little white kitten; Cassandra, the aloof brown-and-cream Abyssinian queen; and Alonzo, the young male who is just beginning to assert himself.

Bombalurina is a flirty and confident red queen. She is best friends with Demeter and the two share an intense hatred for Macavity.

“When playing Bombalurina, a lot of technique and stamina is required – the movement is very adaptable to sauciness,” said Cianciulli, who previously played in “Dirty Dancing” and “Spamalot.”

“It challenges me to stay in the show for a full two-and-a-half hours.

“Each cast member receives three words. The words for Bombalurina are generous, voluptuous and frank. I’m 5-foot-9 and voluptuous. I’m flirtatious and frank. I even dyed my hair bright red when I was a sophomore in high school.”

Coming to Philly to perform in “Cats” is full circle for Cianciulli.

“The very first Broadway show I saw when I was young was ‘Cats’ when it played the Forrest Theater in Philadelphia,” said Cianciulli.

“Cats” draws audiences because of the music, dance and costumes – not for its virtually non-existent plot.

“While there is no plot, there is a story line,” said Cianciulli. “The story line is redemption – redemption for Grizabella.”

Video link for “Cats” — https://youtu.be/DYmryQkHdXM.

“Cats” will run at the Miller Theatre from March 14-19. Ticket prices start at $40.

In a few days, the main color will be green when St. Patrick’s Day arrives. Prior to that, there is an event tonight that features a huge array of colors – and music.

On March 9, the Baby Grand (www.thegrandwilmington.org) will host “Festival of Colors,” which is Red Baraat’s annual Holi celebration tour. The tour had its debut in 2012 and has since expanded to a major annual tour. Each year, bandleader and dhol player, Sunny Jain curates a vibrant night of music and art highlighting the South Asian Diaspora in America and beyond through a diverse range of styles and mediums.

Holi is a Hindu holiday marked by public gatherings of families, friends, and strangers rejoicing in song, dance, and the exchange of “colors.” The holiday signifies the victory of good over evil, the arrival of spring, an opportunity to meet others, play and laugh, forget and forgive, and repair ruptured relationships.

It is celebrated at the approach of vernal equinox on the Phalguna Purnima (Full Moon). The festival date varies every year, per the Hindu calendar, and typically comes in March in the Gregorian Calendar.

The Hindu festival of love, color and spring is one of the most joyous celebrations of the year. It’s a time when people don simple, inexpensive clothes and take to the streets to drench each other in clouds of colored powder and buckets of water. People smear gulal and other colored powders on each other and some colored water on each other via ‘pichkaris’ or buckets that don’t hurt.

There are several dance numbers everyone dances to, and it is also about a lot of specific food items that are made on this day. Dahi bhalla to bhaang spiked thandai and sweets like gujiya and more are served on this colorful festival.

Red Baraat and Holi form a perfect partnership.

It is safe to say that there is no other band in America like Red Baraat.

Brooklyn-based Red Baraat is a Bhangra band — and a whole lot more. Bhangra is party-style folk music from the Punjab regions of India and Pakistan.

Red Baraat’s founder and leader is Sunny Jain, a New York jazz musician of Indian descent whose main instrument is the dhol (a double-headed drum from India).

“I had been playing drums and tabla before I started playing dhol,” said Jain, during a phone interview from his home in New York.

“One time when I was in India, I was in a shop buying a tabla. I saw a dhol there and decided to buy one. I took lessons in New York and instantly fell in love with it.

“It was a great feeling because I wasn’t confined to a drum set. And, with the drum hanging at your gut, the sound resonates through your entire body.

“My family are Jains from Punjab, so I grew up listening to music that had dhol in it. I did a lot of learning how to play it by watching dhol performances on YouTube. I also listened to old recordings — especially Pappa Saen, who was a Sufi dhol player.”

The band’s influences extend beyond bhangra and include jazz, Latin, funk, brass band and Bollywood.

“I wanted to play something that was upbeat and joyful,” said Jain, who is a respected drum and percussion player in the New York jazz scene.

“It was just another project of mine — drums and a brass band with no guitar and no electric instruments. That changed when we added Jonathan Goldeberger on guitar.

“I wanted horns, drums and sousaphone. I didn’t want jazz musicians. I didn’t want it to be perceived as a jazz project. I wanted smaller, tighter songs. And I wanted it to be mobile so we could get down into the audience and play there too.”

Red Baraat has released seven albums. The most recent is “Sound The People.”

“We’re doing nine ‘Festival of Colors’ shows on this tour,” said Jain. “We’re doing some Holi songs, changing it up with Bollywood fare and playing some originals.

“It’s a seven-piece band – trumpet, soprano, trombone, guitar, sousaphone, drums and dhol. We have 18 songs in the ‘Festival of Colors’ repertoire and usually do 12 of them. It depends on whether people can dance at the venue.

“The bottom line is that — in clubs, we’re a dance band. The Delaware show will be a more simplified version. There are no projectors there so I couldn’t do the visuals.”

Despite this being a Holi week show – Holi takes place on March 8 this year – there will not be a lot of colors flying around inside the small comfortable theater in Wilmington.

“We’ve never done colors because of our tech gear,” said Jain. “We’ve never powdered our shows. The expression of colors is in the music.

“Spontaneity and improvisation are at the heart of playing our music, but moreover, the energy of the crowd is something we feed off. The purpose of Red Baraat is to bring joy and togetherness — to take people on a journey and let our music fill the room and do all the talking.”

Video link for Red Baraat – https://youtu.be/pF0tyMppVe4.

The show at the Baby Grand on March 9 will start at 8 p.m. Tickets are $39.

While attending “Book of Mormon” or “Red Baraat’s Festival of Colors” requires a trip to Delaware, music fans can enjoy a Pennsylvania show by one of Delaware’s top musicians when IVA performs at 118 North (118 North Wayne Avenue, Wayne, www.118northwayne.com) on March 12.

IVA has more layers than an onion.

Born Emily Tepe, IVA (pronounced EE-vah) established herself as a strong classical singer who was well-versed in opera and performed with Opera Delaware when she was just nine.

A graduate of Wilmington’s Tower Hill School and Princeton University, IVA, whose ancestry is Swedish, also studied at Juilliard and the Manhattan School of Music.

Later, after graduating from Princeton, IVA began to play the New York clubs and Off-Broadway venues.

Almost two decades ago, she was awarded a Fulbright Scholarship and went to Stockholm to study Scandinavian classical music. It was in Sweden where IVA embraced her opera side and quickly found herself singing with the Royal Opera of Stockholm.

Now, IVA is focusing her energy on being a singer-songwriter crafting and singing smart, intelligent contemporary music. In that capacity, IVA has just released a new EP titled “Nobody’s Woman.”

“The EP just came out last Friday,” said IVA, during a phone interview Tuesday from her home in Greenville, Delaware. “We play all of it in our live shows.

“It’s a new world in the recording industry so we just put the EP out on our own label. Right now, it didn’t make sense to do a full album.”

IVA’s most recent prior release was the “Traitor” EP, which was released in November 2018. In January 2022, she released a single titled, “Run.”

“Traitor” was recorded with her band at the time — The New Young (Jaron Olevsky, Ross Bellenoit, Matt Scarano and Sam Nobles).

“Jaron Olevsky produced ‘Traitor’ and then I also had him work as the producer on ‘Run’,” said IVA. “The single was during the pandemic, so I recorded the vocals at home. I also worked with Nick Krill on the single.

“I decided to do the new record with Ross Bellenoit. We’ve played together a long time.”

For “Nobody’s Woman,” IVA and her team headed to one of Philly’s legendary recording venues – Turtle Studio in South Philadelphia.

“Turtle Studio is a really nice studio,” said IVA. “It has a lot of energy. We had Ross as producer and Doug Raus doing the engineering and mixing. I used my band from many years, and we brought in horns for the song, ‘Oh, Christian.’”

The songs on “Nobody’s Woman” deal with heartbreak, addiction, friendship, and the dissolution of a long-term, abusive romantic relationship – all laced with confessional lyrics and soaring, ethereal vocals

The players on “Nobody’s Woman” were Ross Bellenoit, guitar, piano, bells; Sam Nobles, bass; Jaron Olevsky, keys; Matt Scarano, drums; Mark Allen, sax; Arnetta Johnson, trumpet; and Michael Spearman, trombone.

According to IVA, “Working with Ross was like coming home. We’ve played together for several years, but this was the first time he’s helmed the recording process. He is a beautiful human and ingenious at playing just what is needed on multiple instruments.

“After lockdown, it felt like family to coming together with the full band and recording songs we’d been playing live before COVID took us all inside. Ross was keenly sensitive and had gentle command of the sound and musicians. There was a feeling of trust and love among all who worked on the album.”

It took the EP a long time to see the light of day.

“We started in October/November 2021 and wrapped up in March 2022,” said IVA. “The single ‘Run’ was doing well on radio, so we held back on releasing the album.”

IVA explained how Emily Tepe became IVA.

“I wanted my artist name to be something that was inspiring – something that would and push me to go farther than classical,” said IVA. “Iva (Iwa) was my music teacher in Sweden. IVA sounds like a woman standing on a mountaintop.

“I had an opera voice from a young age — loud and focused. A friend got me involved in children’s productions at Opera Delaware. I studied classical music, and it suited me. I was also doing Sancta Lucia Fests at Old Swede’s Church in Wilmington ever since I was little, and I was Sancta Lucia when I was a senior in high school.”

During her several years abroad studying, writing and performing music, IVA returned to the States where, thanks to an appearance on “Late Night with Conan O’Brien,” she caught the ear of bandleader Max Weinberg.  Weinberg liked her voice, and she was invited to return to the show multiple times as a singer and actress.

“My friend Joshua Bell introduced me to Maneesh de Moor, a producer of ambient electronic music whom he knew from Sony Classical,” said IVA. “Maneesh produced my first album ‘IVA’ which was more ambient electronic sound. On my second album ‘Ivalution,’ I worked with an excellent team of songwriters and producers in Sweden.

“I had been writing songs with other people in Sweden so the album, which came out in 2006, had more singer-songwriter songs. Then, I started writing my own songs. I was singing with the Royal Opera of Stockholm at the time.”

In July of 2015, the Vasa Order of America named IVA Årets Svensk Amerikan (Swedish American of the Year” for her contributions to cultural exchange between the two countries. The roster of past honorees includes E-Street Band member Nils Lofgren, actress and singer Ann Margaret, lunar astronaut Buzz Aldrin, and Chief Justice William Rehnquist.

“I’m the youngest person to ever win the award,” said IVA. “It was a great honor.”

Video link for IVA — https://youtu.be/8f4JeZ54wCU.

The show at 118 North on March 12 will start at 7 p.m. Tickets are $20.

Other upcoming acts at 118 North are Soraia on March 9, Concrete Charlie on March 10, Melt With You on March 11 and Vinnie Paolizzi on March 15.

Not far from Chester County, which is known for its horses and hounds events, veteran singer/songwriter James McMurtry will be performing songs from his latest album, “The Horses and the Hounds” at the Ardmore Music Hall (23 East Lancaster Avenue, Ardmore, www.ardmoremusic.com) on March 15.

“The Horses and the Hounds,” which is McMurtry’s first full-length studio album in seven years, was released August 20, 2021 on New West Records.

“My inspiration is just playing with words,” said McMurtry, during a phone interview last week. “I’m a fiction writer who likes to make stuff up. I get a line and then envision the character. I don’t want to write about me — I’m not interested in me.”

“The Horses and the Hounds,” which is McMurtry’s debut album on genre-defining Americana record label New West Records (Steve Earle, Rodney Crowell, Lucinda Williams), is a reunion of sorts.

McMurtry recorded the new album with legendary producer Ross Hogarth (John Fogerty, Van Halen, Keb’ Mo’) at Jackson Browne’s Groove Masters in Santa Monica, California, a world class studio that has housed such legends as Bob Dylan (2012’s “Tempest”) and David Crosby (2016’s “Lighthouse”) as well as Browne himself for “I’m Alive” (1993) and “New Found Glory, Coming Home” (2006).

McMurtry and Hogarth first worked together 30 years ago, when Hogarth was a recording engineer in the employ of John Mellencamp at Mellencamp’s own Belmont Studios near Bloomington, Indiana.

Hogarth recorded McMurtry’s first two albums, “Too Long in the Wasteland” and “Candyland” (both on Columbia Records) and later mixed McMurtry’s first self-produced album, “Saint Mary of the Woods” for Sugar Hill Records. Another veteran of those three releases, guitarist David Grissom (Joe Ely, John Mellencamp, Dixie Chicks) return to work on the latest McMurtry album.

“We started tracking in 2019,” said McMurtry. “We did all the basics in L.A. Then, Ross Hogarth, the producer, got busy. So, we did the overdubs later. And then Ross suffered macular separation. There were a lot of obstacles. We finally mixed it in late 2020.”

McMurtry’s most recent album prior to “The Horses and The Hounds” was “Complicated Game” in 2015. In between albums, he released a powerful single titled, “State of The Union.” His razor-sharp sociopolitical commentary turned heads.

The song hits hard right from the opening lines — “My brother’s a fascist, lives in Palacios, fishes the pier every night. He holsters his Glock in a double retention. He smokes while he waits for a bite. He don’t like the Muslims. He don’t like the Jews. He don’t like the Blacks and he don’t trust the news. He hates the Hispanics and alternative views. He’ll tell you it’s tough to be white.”

According to McMurtry, “Every region of the United States seems to have its own way of Anglicizing, or rather, Americanizing Spanish names. There’s a town called Palacios on the Texas coast. Texans pronounce it ‘Palashuss,’ which just happens to kinda rhyme with ‘fascist.’

“While there’s usually at least one in every town, I don’t know for a fact that there’s even one actual fascist residing in or near the town of Palacios, Texas. This song, like most of my songs, is a work of fiction. Any resemblance of any of my characters to actual persons, living or deceased, is just plain lucky.”

McMurtry is always writing – in parts if not in full songs.

“I have a big scrap pile,” said McMurtry. “It was really big until I lost a laptop off the top of my truck. We had a gig in Denton (Texas) and I was loading the truck. I set the laptop on top of the truck under a canoe and then forgot about it. The laptop was gone but I remembered a lot of the scraps. Still, parts of it will be gone forever.

“I just write the lyrics down and then get chords and melodies in my head. Going into the studio for the last album, I had about 14 songs ready, and we recorded 10.

“I’m already thinking about doing another album. I’ve been talking to Don Dixon about doing an album with him. I have plenty of songs ready to be recorded.”

McMurtry tours year-round and consistently throws down unparalleled powerhouse performances – solo and with a band.

“This is a solo acoustic thing,” said McMurtry. “I’m flying out March 13 and I’ll be doing shows in the Northeast for about two weeks. When I’m not on the road, fans can hear me play at the Continental Club in Austin every Tuesday and solo every Wednesday at the Continental Club Gallery.”

Video Link for James McMurtry – https://youtu.be/HPYWcdrQPxg.

The show at the Ardmore Music Hall on March 15 at 8 p.m. Tickets are $25.

Other upcoming acts at the Ardmore Music Hall are Talib Kweli on March 9, Krasno/Moore Project on March 10, Modern Bliss on March, The Smithereens on March 16, Steal Your Peach on March 17, Aretha on March 19, Countdown to Ecstasy on March 23, Quinn Sullivan and Veronica Lewis on March 24, Splintered Sunlight on March 25, Dustbowl Revival on March 29, Avery Sunshine on March 30 and Shawn Mullins and Larry Campbell & Teresa Williams on April 1.

Now through March 19, People’s Light (39 Conestoga Road, Malvern, www.peopleslight.org) is presenting a riveting play called “Thurgood.”

Thurgood Marshall was an American civil rights lawyer and jurist who served as an associate justice of the Supreme Court of the United States from 1967-1991. He was the Supreme Court’s first African American justice.

Prior to his judicial service, he was an attorney who fought for civil rights, leading the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund. Marshall was a prominent figure in the movement to end racial segregation in schools.

Marshall won 29 of the 32 civil rights cases he argued before the Supreme Court, culminating in the Court’s landmark 1954 decision in Brown v. Board of Education, which rejected the separate but equal doctrine and held segregation in public education to be unconstitutional.

President Lyndon B. Johnson appointed Marshall to the Supreme Court in 1967. A staunch liberal, he frequently dissented as the Court became increasingly conservative.

Marshall has a strong connection to Chester County. He was a graduate of Lincoln University.

Lincoln University is a public state-related historically black university (HBCU) near Oxford. Founded as the Ashmun Institute in 1854, it has been a public institution since 1972 and is the second oldest HBCU in the state after Cheyney University of Pennsylvania.

Born in Baltimore, Maryland, Marshall attended Lincoln University and the Howard University School of Law. At Howard, he was mentored by Charles Hamilton Houston, who taught his students to be “social engineers” willing to use the law to fight for civil rights. Marshall opened a law practice in Baltimore but soon joined Houston at the NAACP in New York.

“Thurgood” was written by playwright George Stevens, Jr. The play is directed by People’s Light Associate Artistic Director Steve H. Broadnax III. and the title role is played by Brian Marable. In this one-act play, Marable captures Marshall’s signature poise, wit and storytelling skill.

First appearing on Broadway in 2008, “Thurgood” explores the historic life of Justice Marshall. From watching trials at the Baltimore courthouse with his father as a child, to winning all but three of 32 civil rights cases he argued in the Supreme Court as an NAACP lawyer, Justice Marshall is credited with paving the way for young African American leaders. The play is a testament to the hard work and dedication that earned Marshall his Supreme Court nomination in 1967 and how his legacy still resonates today.

Before the show, attendees can also enjoy scratch cooking and theatrical sensibilities in the laid-back atmosphere of the Theatre’s newly renovated on-site restaurant, The Fern & Fable. Located just steps away from the Leonard C. Haas Stage, the restaurant occupies three rooms of a 1700s farmhouse, complete with two working fireplaces and plenty of historic quirks.

“Thurgood” is running now through March 19. Ticket prices start at $47, including fees.

Kennett Flash (102 Sycamore Alley, Kennett Square, 484-732-8295, http://www.kennettflash.org) will present Bacon Gives Back on March 9, Belfast Connection on March 10 and Captain Dawg on March 11.

Uptown! Knauer Performing Arts Center (226 North High Street, West Chester, www.uptownwestchester.org)  will present the annual Future Stars Benefit “Why We Tell the Story” on March 11.

Jamey’s House of Music (32 South Lansdowne Avenue, Lansdowne, 215-477-9985, www.jameyshouseofmusic.com) will have the Khadijah Renee Trio on March 10 and the Mike Montrey Band on March 11.

The Living Room & Cricket Cafe (35 Ardmore Ave, Ardmore, www.livingroomardmore.com) will present Chico Huff on March 9, Hungry Like the Wolf: ’80s New Wave Dance Party w/ DJ Mike on March 10, Ronstadt Revue on March 11 and Bet Williams on March 12.

The Sound Bank (119 South Main Street, Phoenixville, www.soundbankphx.com) will host Pure Jerry on March 10 and sam Schmidthuber on March 11.

The Sellersville Theater (24 West Temple Avenue, Sellersville, 215-257-5808, www.st94.com) will present The McKrells on March 9, Angel on March 10, Broken Arrow on March 11, The Large Flowerheads on March 12, Haley Reinhart on March 15, Glengarry Bhoys on March 16, Barleyjuice on March 17,Wishbone Ash on March 18, Church of Cash on March 19, Chastity Brown and Sawyer Fredericks on March 21, Bob Schneider on March 22, The Furious Bongos on March 23, Boris Garcia on March 24, Mikey Junior on March 25, Hotel California on March 28 and 29, Marcia Ball and Tinsley Ellis on March 30, Spyro Gyra on March 31, EXTC on April 1, Leo Kottke on April 2 and Chris Knight on April 4.

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