On Stage: Chesco’s Zell among headliners for Ladybug Festival

By Denny Dyroff, Entertainment Editor, The Times

Nicole Zell

It’s time once again for the Ladybug Festival (Market Street, Wilmington, Delaware, https://theladybugfestival.com) – a free festival held on Market Street in downtown Wilmington.

The popular annual event will be staged on June 2 from 5-10 p.m.

The 2023 festival will feature more than 30 different female-fronted bands, duos, and singer-songwriters performing simultaneously at four indoor venues and on three outdoor stages on the 400 and 500 blocks of Market Street.

West Chester’s Nicole Zell is one of the headliners at this year’s festival along with “A Southern Gothic’s” Adia Victoria (who was recently nominated for two American Music Awards and a 2022 Emerging Act of the Year and Album of the Year Award) and Nitro Nitra.

Some of the other acts for Friday night’s events are Tynisha, Gretchen Emery Band, Diamond Swing Band, You Do You, Brandi and the Alexanders, Madhavi Devi, Andrea Nardello, Brittany Ann Tranbaugh, Lauren Mendelsohn, Meet The Bug, Air Devi, MONTE, KJ Wild, The Flying Vees and Velvet Rouge.

Zell’s songwriting achievements are equally as impressive as her extensive track record as a live performer. She has honed her craft by writing hundreds of songs, co-writing and collaborating globally, and working in numerous genres spanning from pop, indie, alt rock, country, folk, soul, funk, spoken word, to rap. She continues to make music in a band format, as a duo and as a solo artist.

In 2014, Zell released the EP, “Take Heart,” followed by 2016 single, “Heart Open Wide,” which premiered on Fuse TV.  Zell also has experience as a radio host personality. She has been the host of local music radio show, SoundStage, on WCHE 1520.

When America screeched to a halt in March 2020 in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, everything was turned upside-down and inside-out. Nothing was the same.

The music industry got slammed. Venues closed and tours got cancelled. Recording sessions were put in limbo. Album releases got put on hold indefinitely.

The shutdown was bad for the entire music world, but the timing actually could have been much worse for Chester County musician Zell and her band THRILLCHASER.

“We finished making our sophomore album in 2019 and were looking at a release early in 2020,” said Zell, during a phone interview.

The usual pattern for bands is to release an album and then follow with months and months of touring – playing live shows to support the album and introduce the songs.

Had THRILLCHASER’s album dropped just before the bottom dropped out it would have been a worst-case scenario.

Zell refused to get frustrated.

Instead, she began working on a solo album.

After touring nationally with American Wolves, fronting THRILLCHASER, and receiving acclaim from numerous press outlets such as Billboard, Fuse TV, and TODAY with Hoda and Jenna, Zell finally found her own voice on debut solo album, “Asleep To My Own Magic.”

Undoubtedly Zell’s most mature, enlightened work yet, the album starts with “7 Years,” an apology for not believing in her younger self, and then embarks on a journey of confronting childhood abuse, religious trauma, generational cycles, toxic relationships, and more.

The album culminates with self-worship song “Magic,” which powerfully proclaims: “I am safe, I am loved, I am healing, I am light… because I am the magic.”

The album was recorded in several studios along the East Coast and released on November 11, 2022.

The line-up of musicians on the LP included: Zell –Composer, Primary Artist, Co-Producer, Vocals, Guitar; Rod Pires — Composer, Recording Engineer, Producer, Programming, Mixing Engineer, Vocals, Bass, Guitar (Electric), Drums, Percussion, Electric Piano, Keyboards; Marcus Fogle — Studio Assistant; Tom Conran — Co-Recording Engineer, Co-Mixing Engineer; Tim Ferguson — Group Vocals Recording Engineer; and Randy Merrill – Mastering.

The group vocals on the album were performed by Nikki DiGiorgio, Rob Perna and Lauren Kuhne, who is also Zell’s manager.

For Zell, pursuing a career in music was natural. Born into a musical family, she grew up singing, songwriting, and playing instruments from an early age. Since then, she has established a successful career for herself as a solo artist – as former guitarist for alternative rock band, American Wolves – and as guitarist/vocalist for THRILLCHASER.

Zell’s songwriting achievements are equally as impressive as her extensive track record as a live performer. She has honed her craft by writing hundreds of songs, co-writing and collaborating globally, and working in numerous genres spanning from pop, indie, alt rock, country, folk, soul, funk, spoken word, to rap.

DJ Shadylady will be spinning from 4-5 p.m. at the free pre-party in Willingtown Square next to the recently opened boutique hotel – The Quoin Hotel and at the official after-party at Stitch House Brewery, from 10:30 p.m.-12:30 a.m.

Video link for Nicole Zell – https://youtu.be/zKPv166p_ho.

Zell will also be one of the headliners at “The Ladybug Garden Crawl” at Mt. Cuba Center (3120 Barley Mill Road, Hockessin, Delaware) on June 9 from 5:30-8:30 p.m.

The Ladybug Music Festival is a celebration of women in music taking place annually in both Wilmington and Milford, Delaware. Started in 2012 by Gable Music Ventures, the idea was to offer an alternative to the Firefly Music Festival that was focused on local independent artists, and free for the community to attend.

Michael and Debbie Schwartz, owners of the popular Shops and Lofts at 2nd & LOMA, engaged the company to throw a live music block party for their tenants shortly after Firefly was announced. Gable used the timing of the request to put on the first ever “Ladybug Festival”, featuring an all-female lineup of artists local to the Wilmington/Philadelphia music scene.

From 2012 through 2017 the event grew to be one of the most popular in Wilmington, with attendance doubling every year. At the 2017 event, the Mayor of Wilmington made a Mayoral Proclamation of Ladybug Day.

As the event has grown, Gable Music Ventures has become even more inspired to make an impact for women in the music industry. The Ladybug Festival not only exclusively hires female or female-identifying fronted bands, but also attempts to hire as many women as possible for available positions on festival staff.

In 2018, the event expanded to add a second location in Milford — about 75 miles south of Wilmington. Both the Wilmington and Milford events in 2018 exceeded all expectations. In 2019 the Wilmington event featured 100 artists over two days, and Milford featured over 40 artists. In 2020, the event was hosted virtually over two days.

In 2022, The Ladybug Music Festival returned to its roots and was staged on the 2nd & LOMA blocks where the event first began. The Milford Ladybug Music Festival also returned to the streets of Downtown Milford.

Attending a show by a tribute band can be a risky proposition as the quality can range from acceptable to downright dreadful. There is a big caveat.

It’s especially risky if it’s a major act from the 60s or 70s as much of the audience has only been exposed to live performances by the act on YouTube videos – rarely live in person. In many instances, the tribute act has never even seen the original act perform live.

But anyone heading to the show on June 2 at the Uptown! Knauer Performing Arts Center (226 North High Street, West Chester, 610-356-2787, www.uptownwestchester.org) need not worry.

The headliner will be Kiss the Sky — Jimi Hendrix.

Kiss the Sky

Kiss the Sky is the real deal.

Led by Jimy Bleu, who has the age and the experience to look and sound like Hendrix, Kiss the Sky does an amazingly great job of recreating a Hendrix concert – both with the Jimi Hendrix Experience and The Band of Gypsies.

Through meticulous-detailed reproductions in every aspect of look and sound in recreating Jimi Hendrix’s most classic concert and landmark stage show performances, Kiss The Sky presents the world’s most historically-accurate Jimi Hendrix tribute show ever. The band is fronted by Bleu, a virtuoso guitarist and former Columbia recording artist, and backed by a cast of world-class touring musicians from the NYC metro area.

Kiss the Sky is the only Hendrix tribute wearing custom made 60’s wardrobes that Jimi and his bandmates actually wore at his most historic concerts and the only Hendrix tribute with stage sets of replica gear and backline rigs accurate to Jimi’s most classic concerts – stacks of Marshall amps, Ludwig drums, and Fender Stratocaster guitars.

When it comes to being exposed to Hendrix’s music and live performances, Bleu has “been there and done that.”

“I’ve been doing a Hendrix tribute since 1968,” said Bleu, during a phone interview from his home in New York City.

“I was attending The School of Performing Arts in New York back in the 60s – the school that was featured in ‘Fame.’ Jimi and Buddy Miles used to hang out on the steps at the school because Buddy’s daughter was dating a student there.

“I was doing a James Brown tribute show. I was a James Brown guy since I was in junior high. A girl came to school one day with a big Jimi Hendrix Fan Club button. I wanted to get closer to her, so I joined the fan club.

“Fan club members would get in free at all of Jimi’s East Coast concerts. Soon, we started chasing him around the country. Before I got into Jimi, my favorite guitarists were Jeff Beck and Grand Funk Railroad’s Mark Farner.”

Being a New York music fan, Bleu also got to see Hendrix play at many of the legendary late-night/early-morning post-show jam sessions at Steve Paul’s The Scene – a popular music venue that frequently was the site of amazing jam sessions featuring the best rock musicians from the U.K. and the states.

Decades have flown by, and Bleu is still nailing it with his presentation of Hendrix’s music and live performances. Kiss the Sky was named by AXS-TV as the “World’s greatest tribute to Jimi Hendrix.”

“My manager Mike Gotch and I have the same vision of presenting Jimi,” said Bleu. “It’s our mission. It’s like being in a Broadway play production. Nothing this intense has ever been done by a tribute band. I do the music, live shows and even lectures on Jimi Hendrix.

“It’s the longest-running tribute artist show. We’re the best in authenticity. When fans come to the show, they’re shocked. It’s hard to get the Jimi Hendrix sound live because he had problems himself onstage.”

It’s a fact.

The first time Jimi Hendrix Experience – Mitch Mitchell on drums, Noel Redding on bass and Hendrix on guitar – played Philly was at the old Electric Factory in February 1968. The music coming out of the band’s wall of Marshall amps rattled the woodwork. It also buried the needles on the venue’s soundboard and that added to the trio’s already heavily-distorted sound – at times unintentionally hyper-distorted.

“We’re the only show using authentic replica costumes and the same musical gear Jimi used in the 1960s,” said Bleu, “We are the only show that can faithfully reproduce three of Hendrix’s most historic concerts – 1967’s Monterey Pop Festival, 1969’s Woodstock and the 1970 Band of Gypsys’ show at the Fillmore East in New York. We’ll be playing stuff from all three at this show.”

Fans of classic rock and 1960s guitar gods should also enjoy the show’s opening act – “Heavy Cream – the Ultimate Tribute to Cream.” An evening of Hendrix and Clapton – it doesn’t get much better for those wanting to hear the guitar music that shaped the future of rock for the following half-century.

Video link for Kiss The Sky – https://youtu.be/f2947jUwtAw.

The show on Friday will start at 8 p.m. Tickets are $45.

Another upcoming show at the Uptown! Knauer Performing Arts Center is One Alternative on June 2.

On June 1, Chris Ruggiero will make a return visit to the Sellersville Theater (24 West Temple Avenue, Sellersville, 215-257-5808, www.st94.com).

The last time he played the venue was a Christmas show in December followed the next day by his first national TV appearance performing on Good Morning America with Rock & Roll Hall of Famer and music legend Darlene Love.

Ruggiero’s music and performance style is an anachronism. The 23-year-old singer takes his audiences on a journey through the golden age of rock and roll, breathing new life into the timeless music of the 1950s, 60s and 70s. He has been described as an “old soul”, a millennial whose approach to his concert appearances is more in line with that of a bygone era than it is the artists of his generation.

Ruggiero just released a Christmas album – “Christmas with Chris Ruggiero.” He has four prior album releases – “Time Was,” “I Am Chris Ruggiero,” “Quiet Nights,” and “Duets.”

“Two years ago, I decided I wanted to be a professional singer,” said Ruggiero, during a phone interview.

“I was watching Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons singing and I saw the audience so happy. When I perform, I try to sing every song with a touch of class that reminds the audience of a time when entertainers put their heart and soul into their songs and delivering an exceptional concert was really important.”

No stranger to live audiences and television audiences in the Northeast, Ruggiero first came to national attention when he performed in concert on one of PBS-TV’s coast-to-coast broadcast specials, which still airs to this day. Since then, he has been traveling around the country delivering his unique brand of vintage rock and roll and sharing his passion for the classics.

According to Ruggiero, “When I’m on stage singing a classic love song and I look out into the audience and see that twinkle in their eyes, I know they’re thinking about a special time and place in their life – or maybe their first kiss. It’s magic.”

Ruggiero grew up in Somers, a small town located in northern Westchester County, New York.

“I went to college in West Chester County and majored in finance,” said Ruggiero. “Looking back, I wish I hadn’t done that. I should have started singing earlier. The first time was a PBS special when I was 18. That was my first time playing with a live band.

“Now, I perform with my own six-piece band that includes two horns and me singing. I got invited to do a second PBS show in August. The show will feature pop, doo-wop and soul.

“When I decided I was going to be a professional singer, it was March 2020 – two days prior to the COVID shutdown. On the positive side, the shutdown gave me a chance to work on singing and performance. I spent a lot of time working on my own show. I spent a year-and-a-half on stagecraft and finding my own voice.

“Before that, I was just doing covers. Then, I discovered my own voice and had time to work on my show. Working with legendary arranger Charlie Calello really helped.

“I sang with my own voice telling my own stories. My repertoire is full of vintage rock-and-roll – a lot from the 1950s and 1960s and some 1970s. I like singing songs about love.

“Some of the ‘must play’ songs in my live show are ‘Unchained Melody,’ ‘Can’t Take My Eyes Off You,’ ‘My Cherie Amour’ and ‘Betcha By Golly Wow.’ I grew up listening to this music and nothing else from when I was 12 until now.”

It’s easy to see why Ruggiero has been described as an “old soul” whose approach to music is more in line with that of a bygone era than it is to the artists of his generation.

Video link for Chris Ruggiero — https://youtu.be/0DMc_CubxT8.

The show at the Sellersville Theater on June 1 will start at 7:30 p.m.

Tickets are $39.50 and $47.50.

Other upcoming shows at the Sellersville Theater are Chris Smither on June 2, Natalie MacMaster and Connell Leahy on June 3 and One Night in Memphis on June 4.

If a rock band has survived for more than two decades, it has accepted the fact that there will be roadblocks and diversions along the way and has learned how to overcome obstacles.

Three years ago, HumblemanBand, one of the Philadelphia area’s longest-running rock bands, released its most recent album, “Beautiful Day.” The album officially dropped with a “HumblemanBand CD Release Party” at Rittenhouse Soundworks in November 2018.

On November 2019, HumblemanBand played a special area show at its favorite local haunt — the Mermaid Inn in Germantown. Little did they know it was to be their last show for an extended period of time.

Now, after a long layoff caused by COVID-19, HumblemanBand is resuming live performances. On June 2, the band is performing at Pocket Park (6168 Ridge Avenue, Philadelphia, www.facebook.com/humblemanband).

“The HumblemanBand was formed in 1999,” said guitarist/songwriter/vocalist/founding member Charlie Cooper, during a phone interview from his home in Germantown.

“We have been writing music, recording and performing for many years in Philly area, mostly in the Northwest section of the city. Our songs are mostly original ones we’ve written ourselves. In any given show we’ve also included covers by artists such as Gil Scot Heron, Amy Winehouse, Sade, Isley Brothers, Lake Street Drive, the Clash and others. Our songs can be heard on Bandcamp and the usual online locations.”

In February this year, HumblemanBand released its newest video – “Homo Sapien.” Last August, the band released an EP, “Ruff Ups,” which included “Two Fires Burning,” “Summer 2020 (The Other Side of This)” and “Homo Sapien.”

Cooper talked about the band’s early days – almost a quarter-century ago.

“I was in a band with our drummer Buck Buchanan,” said Cooper. “Three of us were living near each other in South Philly and we gradually picked up people.

“The third guy was bassist Bruce Koch, who just died two years ago from a stroke. That was a real loss – as a friend and as a bandmate. We weren’t sure we were going to pick up the pieces. We were using hired hands to fill in. We then added a permanent bass player – Boz Heinly, who lives in Plymouth Meeting.

“Now, there are five of us in the band and we get along really well musically and as friends. We have a lot of respect for each other.”

The band also has had respect for COVID-19.

“When COVID shut down things, we shut down,” said Cooper. “I was just laying low – playing guitar. We started up again in September 2021, but that didn’t last long because of omicron.

“I went through a dry period during lockdown. Then I got introduced to ‘The Artist’s Way.’ You have to do writing exercises every day and it helped. I ended up writing three new songs.”

“The Artist’s Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity” is a 1992 self-help book by American author Julia Cameron. The book was written to help people with artistic creative recovery, which teaches techniques and exercises to assist people in gaining self-confidence in harnessing their creative talents and skills. The program is focused on supporting relationships in removing artistic blocks and fostering confidence.

“Things were chugging along and then our previous vocalist Kim Epson decided she wanted to do things elsewhere,” said Cooper. “So, we got a new singer.”

The band’s current lineup includes Wain Ballard on guitar, Katie Tuner Drake on vocals, Heinly on bass, Buchanan on drums and Cooper on vocals and guitar.

“We seem to have a cycle of putting out an album every five years,” said Cooper.  “We put out an album a few years ago called ‘Least Bad of Humbleman 1984-2009.’ That album was a 25-year compilation starting with our days in 1984 as a punk band called The Proles.

“Our most recent previous album was ‘Late Bloom’ in fall 2015 was self-produced – and mostly D.I.Y. “‘Beautiful Day’ was also self-produced – and also mostly D.I.Y. We recorded the album ourselves in our rhythm practice space and then did solos and vocals in my living room. For our previous album, we used CakeWalk. This time, we used REAPER.”

REAPER is a complete digital audio production application for computers, offering a full multitrack audio and MIDI recording, editing, processing, mixing and mastering toolset.

“After finishing recording it ourselves, we sent it out for the mixing,” said Cooper. “We had Scoops Dardaris do it. We were extremely happy with the mixing.

“We mastered it at Rittenhouse Soundworks in Germantown. Jim Hamilton, a percussionist and tap dancer from the Kensington area of Philly who toured with Boyz II Men, put the studio together. He’s a terrific talent – and he knows an amazing amount of people in the music world.”

HumblemanBand, a rock quintet that is socially conscious, features songs that band members have written and arranged – songs with lyrics inspired by current events.

“We went out to Standing Rock (Indian Reservation) in North Dakota,” said Cooper. “That inspired a brand-new song – ‘AIM ’21.’ The title stands for ‘American Indian in the 21st century.’

“On ‘Beautiful Day,’ Kim wrote two songs, we did two covers, and I wrote the rest. The two covers were songs by the late Gil Scott-Heron – ‘Lady Day and John Coltrane’ and ‘Alien.’ Gil Scott-Heron was a very influential voice in music and activism and most-known for his song ‘The Revolution Will Not Be Televised’ and his poetry.

HumblemanBand, like Scott-Heron, has consistently delivered social commentary and positive messages, often with humor and a light touch, using spoken word lyrics, and generally delivered with dance beat arrangement. His influence upon the band has been strong.

Video link for Humbleman Band – https://youtu.be/q5eNAM8OuJg.

The free show at Pocket Park, which is located next to the New Ridge Brewery, will start at 6 p.m. on Friday night.

Back in February, The Sisters of Mercy announced their first US tour in over 14 years. For over four decades, The Sisters of Mercy (TSOM) have been an iconic force in underground music; defining, defying and denying numerous subgenres of rock and roll.

The tour will touch down locally on June 3 at Fillmore Philadelphia (1100 Canal Street, Philadelphia, www.thefillmorephilly.com)

The band’s unique blend of punk-psychedelia, metal, dance beats and guttural growls have mesmerized the masses for several generations – and for many fans in the US, this will be their first ever opportunity to catch the band live.
In November 2022, TSOM announced their first live appearance on American soil since the second Bush administration with a headlining spot at the Sick New World Festival in Las Vegas. Their Midas touch continued with a concert announced for May 23 at the Palladium in Los Angeles, selling out within 48 hours. Less than a week later, TSOM announced two additional dates – a headline in Las Vegas following Sick New World and a second show in the City of Angels.

In 1980, TSOM formed in Leeds – home of one of England’s venerable football squads. The Sisters of Mercy,  while named after a Leonard Cohen song, took inspiration from such luminaries as Bowie, Slade and The Velvet Underground. But their closest sonic bedfellows are The Stooges, Motörhead and Suicide, the influence of which imbued the band with a distinct sound of their own when compared to others in the post-punk era.

1987’s “Floodland” was a massive breakthrough for the band, featuring epic tracks such as “Dominion,” “Lucretia My Reflection,” and, of course, 10+ minute opus “This Corrosion,” all three of which can still be heard on dance floors to date. 1990’s “Vision Thing” featured a harder, more metal-influenced sound, yet retained their trademark drum machine pummel and lyrical ambiguity.

The disingenuous nature of the music industry in the ‘90s left Andrew Eldritch with a distaste for the record business, shifting his focus to performing live in lieu of releasing recorded music. Yet, while TSOM have not released an LP since “Vision Thing,” their popularity and impact has only grown stronger over time, with their erudite rock and roll cacophony influencing countless bands over their tenure.
Recent live reviews have championed the show as the band’s strongest in years, with Eldritch supported by the stellar performances of Ben Christo, Dylan Smith, ‘Ravey’ Dave Creffield and, as ever, Doktor Avalanche. Add to this a cinematic light show and a set list of huge hits, deep cuts and acclaimed new tunes and you’ve got the recipe for a killer night.

Video link for Sisters of Mercy – https://youtu.be/sTPbnbubl-k.

The show at the Fillmore on June 3 will start at 8 p.m.

Tickets are $49.50.

Other upcoming shows at the Fillmore are Hippocampus on June 1 and Rosie on June 2.

If you’re looking to hear jazz or blues music live, head down to Jamey’s House of Music (32 South Lansdowne Avenue, Lansdowne, 215-477-9985,www.jameyshouseofmusic.com). The Delaware County venue is a prime destination to hear folk, jazz and blues music every Thursday through Sunday.

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

On June 1, “Jazz at Jamey’s” will feature a performance by Andrea Carlson.

On June 2, there will be an album release party by The Get Right Band for its new album “iTopia”

The Get Right Band is a psychedelic indie rock power trio committed to honest self-expression, to whatever excites them and pushes them into unexplored territory and to capturing some version of truth. American Songwriter writes that the Asheville, NC based group, “filters 60’s/70’s psychedelia and 90’s alternative rock through a modern lens — as if Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, and Nirvana co-wrote an album produced by Danger Mouse and Dan Auerbach.”

Video link for The Get Right Band — https://youtu.be/6agNLmIar6g.

The show on Friday will start at 8 p.m. Tickets are $20 in advance and $25 at the door.

The show at Jamey’s on Saturday will be an “Open Mic” Night — open call, any genre.”

Kitchen and Happy Hour start at 6 p.m. and showtime is 8 p.m. There is no Cover Charge

Kennett Flash (102 Sycamore Alley, Kennett Square, 484-732-8295, http://www.kennettflash.org) will present Solar Federation on June 2 and Sonia from disappear fear on June 3.

This is also a good weekend for theater fans with topflight productions running in Philadelphia at the Academy of Music, and Arden, Delaware at the Candlelight Dinner Theatre.

The Academy of Music will feature “Beetlejuice.”

“Beetlejuice” is a lot of different things.

Most obviously, it is a 1988 American fantasy horror comedy film directed by Tim Burton and starring Alec Baldwin, Geena Davis, Jeffrey Jones, Catherine O’Hara, Winona Ryder, and Michael Keaton as the titular character.

“Beetlejuice” was an animated television series that ran for four seasons on CBS and Fox. “Beetlejuice” was also the action hero in a series of video games in the early 1990s.

Most relevantly, “Beetlejuice” is a Broadway musical that is now out on a National Tour – a tour that will sit down in Philadelphia now through June 11 at the Academy of Music as part of the Kimmel Cultural Campus’ Broadway Series.

The plot revolves around a recently deceased couple – Barbara and Adam Maitland — who, as ghosts haunting their former home, contact Beetlejuice, an obnoxious and devious “bio-exorcist” from the Netherworld, to scare away the house’s new inhabitants.

Based on Tim Burton’s dearly beloved film, this hilarious musical tells the story of Lydia Deetz, a strange and unusual teenager whose whole life changes when she meets a recently deceased couple and a demon with a thing for stripes.

“Beetlejuice” has been described as “one of the cheekiest shows on the 2022-23 Broadway season, with a visually spectacular set and over 100 special effects, optical illusions, and pyrotechnics.”

The National Tour features Justin Collette in the title role.

“I really liked the script,” said Collette, during a phone interview last week from a tour stop in Boston. “I was surprised at how fresh and funny it was – how it was updated. It’s so funny – and so smart. I don’t think it bends the original story – it expands it.

“It’s focused more on the Maitlands’ story – and on Lydia. And there is some really good music from the movie. Eddie Perfect’s music is perfect.

“The Maitlands are strait-laced so it’s more like musical theater. Beetlejuice’s music is all over the place while Lydia’s music is gothic and punk. It’s fascinating how he has pitched the music to the character.

“The show is complicated. It’s not just a musical. There are magic tricks. It’s really dense. There is a lot to it. And the fourth wall brings the audience in.

Video link for “Beetlejuice” – https://youtu.be/JJGpcb41Ckw.

The show will run now through June 11 at the Academy of Music.

Ticket prices start at $20.

Every season, the Candlelight Theatre (2208 Millers Road, Arden, Delaware, 302- 475-2313, www.candlelighttheatredelaware.org) presents mostly musicals with just one non-musical in the season’s schedule. That show this season is “The Musical Comedy Murders of 1940,” which is a murder mystery. The action takes place on an estate in Chappaqua, New York in December 1940.

An eccentric heiress has invited a group of theater people to her home on the pretense of holding a backer’s audition for a new musical. The creative team for this new project was also involved in a recent Broadway flop that closed abruptly when three of its showgirls were mysteriously murdered.

As the mayhem at the mansion unfolds, murders begin to pile up and everyone’s a suspect. The zany show features a lot of slapstick comedy along with blizzard conditions, secret passageways and musical snippets.

The play was first performed at the Circle Repertory Company in New York and later moved to Broadway in April 1987 at The Longacre Theatre. Both productions were directed by the playwright and shared the same cast. The play is said to have been based on several 1940s mystery movies, including The Cat and the Canary, one of Bob Hope’s first films.

Bernice Roth is a perpetually thirsty lyricist and alcoholic. She is Roger’s partner. Bernice is very odd and emotional, frequently losing her composure and screaming. When Marjorie fails to respond to the second act opening number of “White House Merry-Go-Round,” Bernice is hugely offended, despite the fact that Marjorie was dead at the time. She spends the entire second act attempting to “fix” the play, even when she is held hostage.

The production at Candlelight features a standout cast of Susan Giddings, Chelsea Paradiso, Susan Wefel, Henry Glejzer, Walter Todd, Chris Fitting, Sarah Mackus, Robert Gene Pellechio, Samantha Ricciuti and Shaun Yates.

“The Musical Comedy Murders of 1940” is running now through June 25. Performances are Friday and Saturday evenings (doors 6 p.m./show, 8 p.m.) and Sunday afternoons (doors, 1 p.m./show, 3 p.m.). Tickets, which include dinner and a show, are $71.50 for adults and $33 for children (ages 4-12).

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