On Stage: The Sound of Music at Candlelight

By Denny Dyroff, Entertainment Editor, The Times

The Sound of Music

If you’re one of those music fans who never get tired hearing the songs from “The Sound of Music” and would love to hear them performed in a live setting, you’re in luck this month.

On Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays now through August 27, the Candlelight Dinner Theater (2208 Millers Road, Arden, Delaware, 302- 475-2313, www.candlelighttheatredelaware.org) will be presenting its latest offering of the 2022-2023 season  – “The Sound of Music.” The show stars Sophie Jones as Maria Rainer and Paul McElwee as Captain Georg von Trapp.

There are many classic musicals over the years that have been ensconced in the elite layer of all-time hit musicals – shows that have won numerous awards and set attendance records on a regular basis.

Not surprisingly, these productions have generated an amazingly large list of songs everyone recognizes (even if they’ve never seen any of the shows).

Some of those musicals are “My Fair Lady,” “The Lion King,” “Beauty and the Beast” and “Phantom of the Opera.”

In the NFL, there are many teams which have had a large number Hall of Fame players – Green Bay Packers, Pittsburgh Steelers, New York Giants. But none can match the Chicago Bears.

There is a parallel situation in the musical theater world.

When it comes to sheer volume of songs that have lodged in everyone’s subconscious, no show can come close to “The Sound of Music.”

Is there anyone out there who doesn’t recognize at least one of these songs — “The Sound of Music,” “Maria,” “My Favorite Things,” “Do-Re-Mi,” “Sixteen Going on Seventeen,” “Climb Ev’ry Mountain,” “Edelweiss,” and “So Long, Farewell”?

On Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays now through August 27,

The Candlelight Dinner Theater’s production of “The Sound of Music” runs through the last Sunday of the month. The show stars Sophie Jones as Maria Rainer and Paul McElwee as Captain Georg von Trapp.

This is a show that is carried by Maria Rainer. The story is her story and most of the “killer songs” are her responsibility.

“People expect the gorgeous score,” said Jones, during a recent phone interview. “That’s really what people go to see ‘The Sound of Music for — Rodgers’ and Hammerstein’s score.”

Jones is no stranger to carrying a show — or to performing at the Candlelight.

“This is my seventh or eighth show at Candlelight,” said Jones. “In 2017, I was working at the Pennsylvania Renaissance Faire at Mount Hope.

“A friend of mine was coming to Delaware to audition for ‘Camelot’ – and it was right at the end of my contract in Mount Hope.”

Jones was hired to play the pivotal role of Guenevere from the time she was Lady Guenevere until the time she was Queen Guenevere.

Jones grew up in Mankato, Minnesota. She graduated from the University of Minnesota-Mankato summa cum laude and valedictorian of her department with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Musical Theatre.

After graduation, she travelled east to Pennsylvania. Jones also travelled back in time – initially to the 16th century and then to the fifth and sixth centuries.

“I got cast in the Pennsylvania Renaissance Faire at Mount Hope,” said Jones. “I spent the summer through November living in Manheim and working at the Faire.”

Jones then left central Pennsylvania and relocated to South Philly. It was then that her career path took her to the theater in Arden, Delaware.

“I saw a Theatre Philadelphia page posting about auditions at the Candlelight,” said Jones, who now lives in New York. “I figured – why not audition? I did the usual audition and then Bob (Kelly) asked me to come back a second time.

“I had never seen the show, but I was familiar with some of the songs from back when I was taking voice lessons. When I was auditioning for the BFA Musical Theater program at the University of Minnesota-Mankato, one of my main songs was ‘The Simple Joys of Maidenhood.’”

Jones has had many interesting roles in Candlelight productions including Paula Abagnale in “Catch Me If You Can,” Fraulein Kost in “Cabaret,” Silly Girl/Napkin in “Disney’s Beauty & the Beast” and Fiona MacLaren in “Brigadoon.”

“With ‘The Sound of Music,’ the audience wants to hear a live performance of Rodgers’ and Hammerstein’s score,” said Jones, who has performed Off Broadway as Celine in “Finding Madame Curie. “We succeed. We have a ridiculously talented cast. I’m really lucky to be part of it.

“The biggest challenge playing Maria is that she’s so unbelievably sincere in everything she does. I have to find her sincerity and her energy.

“The first act is a marathon for me. It’s all Maria – right from the meeting in the abbey. Finally, Maria gets a break at ‘Sixteen Going on Seventeen.’ It takes a lot of stamina.

“I was actually in ‘The Sound of Music’ in 2015 in South Dakota. I also saw the show was in 2012 at my college.”

“The Sound of Music” is a musical with music by Richard Rodgers, lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II, and a book by Howard Lindsay and Russel Crouse. It is based on the 1949 memoir of Maria von Trapp, “The Story of the Trapp Family Singers.”

Set in Austria on the eve of the Anschluss in 1938, the musical tells the story of Maria, who takes a job as governess to a large family while she decides whether to become a nun. She falls in love with the children, and eventually their widowed father, Captain von Trapp.

He is ordered to accept a commission in the German navy, but he opposes the Nazis. He and Maria decide on a plan to flee Austria with the children.

“There is a lot of similarities between the mid-to-late 1930s and what is happening in the world now – especially with Jews and gays,” said Jones.

The original Broadway production, starring Mary Martin and Theodore Bikel, opened in 1959 and won five Tony Awards, including Best Musical. The first London production opened at the Palace Theatre in 1961. The show has enjoyed numerous productions and revivals since then. It was adapted as a 1965 film musical starring Julie Andrews and Christopher Plummer, which won five Academy Awards, including Best Picture.

“Whenever anyone says, ‘The Sound of Music,’ the first reactions are Julie Andrews,” said Jones. “It’s solidly cemented in pop culture. Even if you’ve never seen the film, there are so many references in pop culture.

“For me, it’s how do I make people feel that it’s their first time to see this story come to life. I want to pay homage to the movie and the legend Julie Andrews has created. But I don’t want people to leave the theater thinking – I could have just watched the movie.

“It’s been a balancing of presenting Maria as she is in the show with what audiences expect. It’s a good challenge to try to find my portrayal while keeping true to Maria.”

Jones’ career travels have taken her from Mankato West High School, through University of Minnesota-Mankato and eventually to a variety of East Coast locations including Manheim, Arden and Philadelphia – with New York City as the final destination.

“I always knew my career was going to take me to New York,” said Jones. “I’ve already been in a show on Theater Row at the Create Theater.”

Video link for Sophie Jones — https://youtu.be/PdX3SNkqnfU

Performances of “The Sound of Music” are scheduled for Friday and Saturday evenings (doors 6 p.m./show, 8 p.m.) and Sunday afternoons (doors, 1 p.m./show, 3 p.m.). Tickets, which include dinner and show, are $69 for adults and $33 for children (ages 4-12).

This month, the theater is also hosting “Candlelight Quizzo” on August 21 at 6:30 p.m. and “Candlelight Comedy Club” on August 17 at 7:30 p.m. featuring Sheba Mason with Allan Fuks and Joe Murdock.

Jamey’s House of Music (32 South Lansdowne Avenue, Lansdowne, 215-477-9985, www.jameyshouseofmusic.com) continues its tradition of presenting top quality blues music this weekend.

Area music fans know that Jamey’s House of Music is a primo spot to hear folk, jazz and blues music every Thursday through Sunday.

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

Clay Melton

On August 4, the headline act will be The Clay Melton Band.

Anyone who has crafted their own Top 10 list for blues guitarists is almost guaranteed to have at least one or two from Texas on that list – maybe even five or six.

In the last half-century, Texas has blossomed as a breeding ground for blues guitar greats with a lineup that includes Johnny Winter, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Jimmie Vaughan, T-Bone Walker, Freddie King, Albert Collins and Billy Gibbons.

Now, there is another blues guitarist from the Lone Star State waiting in the wings to join the illustrious list – Clay Melton.

Blues-rock prodigies are a special breed.

They live and breathe the fiery swagger of electric guitars and the irresistible allure of rhythm-soaked sounds. That’s Clay Melton’s musical calling in a nutshell.

Just 28 years old, the Louisiana-born and Texas-based blues-rocker has already spent 15 years performing live. His powerfully raspy voice and wicked guitar licks leave no doubt he’s grown up in the school of barroom blues-rock.

Melton’s 2022 release, “Live in Texas,” which includes 10 original songs and one cover, received serious airplay in the U.S. and abroad.

His riveting cover of ZZ Top’s, “Jesus Just Left Chicago,” climbed to the Number 1 song in the world on the Roots Music Blues Rock chart in June 2022. The album boasts production and engineering credits by five-time Grammy winner Malcolm Harper (The Black Keys, Mary J. Blige, Keith Urban and many others) as well as Melton himself.

“Live in Texas” is Melton’s follow-up to 2021’s critically acclaimed release, “Back to Blue,” where the title track also climbed to the Number 1 song in the world on Roots Music Blues Rock chart while the album reached the Number 9 position. “Back to Blue” is Melton’s follow-up to 2017’s critically acclaimed, full-length debut, “Burn the Ships,” which climbed the charts to Number 5 on Billboard Heatseekers.

“My first exposure to music was when my dad gave me his cassettes – Willie Nelson, ZZ Top, classic rock,” said Melton, during a recent phone interview.

“When I was 10, he played me Jimi Hendrix’s ‘All Along the Watchtower.’ I vividly remember the slide solo.

“I got my first guitar when I was 11. I was listening to ZZ Top and Stevie Ray Vaughan.

“That’s when I started getting into players from an earlier generation. Buddy Guy was one of the first I really got excited about. My dad was nice enough to take me out to a blues jam when I was 13.

“Early on my listening was pretty blues heavy. I wasn’t listening to what was popular on the radio. I was listening to Robin Trower, Albert Collins, Freddie King and Wes Montgomery.”

Melton’s more straight up blues playing reveals him to be a fiery, inventive player that also shows off an introspective and reflective side of his personality.

“When we lean into the rocking side, it’s because of Zep,” said Melton. “We’re a trio. We keep trying to push the envelope with the three of us.

“My drummer Zach Grindle has been with me for nine years. I’ve been friends with my bass player Zachary Cox since middle school. We played together in a hard rock band in high school.”

Melton is currently working on a new album. The first single, “Alive on a Wire,” was released back in February and the new one, “Runner,” came out recently.

“We’re looking at a spring 2024 release for the album,” said Melton. “We’re working in a different way.

“Our previous albums were done in a studio with a producer present. On this one, we’re using our home studio – no fancy mics but it sounds great. We still work with our producer remotely.”

Video link for Clay Melton – https://youtu.be/B0_AtUi4xHU.

Tickets for the show on August 4 are $20 in advance and $25 at the door. The show is also available as a secure streaming event for $15.

The headline act on August 5 will be The Neighbors.

The Neighbors are Karen on bass and Mayo on guitar and vocals. They have performed at locations in New York, Florida and points in between and they are currently performing in Philly.

The music is eclectic and varied covering rock, pop, blues, reggae, Latin rock, punk and more. All music is delivered in an energetic and fun way. They like to engage the audience so come prepared to sing along. Karen has been playing bass since 2009, and Mayo has been playing and performing since 1969.

The band also features Ms. Noni Rene on vocals and Paul Albrecht on drums.

Tickets for the show on August 4 are $20 in advance and $25 at the door. The show is also available as a secure streaming event for $15.

Jamey’s features a popular “Guest Singer Series” on Thursday featuring many of the best singers in the region performing a set from 7-8 p.m. with the backing of the Dave Reiter Trio and occasional guest musicians.

The Dave Reiter Trio lays down the backing for some out of this world jazz to happen, and you never know who might show up to join in. Reiter is a long-time jazz pro and is equally at home on the seven-string guitar, Nord keyboard or the venue’s top of the line Hammond organ setup. Bill Marconi is on drums; his name is known to jazz aficionados around the world. Holding down the bottom is first-call Philly bassist, George Livanos.

The “Guest Singer” for this Thursday is Starlene Bey.

Doors open at 6 p.m. on August 3 will perform from 7-8 p.m. followed by an “Open Mic Jazz Jam” from 8-10 p.m. There is a $10 cover charge.

The “Sunday Blues Brunch & Jam” is scheduled for every Sunday from noon-3 p.m. with the host band’s set from noon-1 p.m. followed by an open mic from 1-3 p.m.

The first, third, fourth and fifth Sunday sessions are hosted by the Philly Blues Kings while the hosts for second Sunday sessions are the Girke-Davis Project.

Uptown! Knauer Performing Arts Center (226 North High Street, West Chester, www.uptownwestchester.org) will look to draw a younger audience over the next few days.

From August 3-5, the theater will present “The SpongeBob Musical,” which is billed as “a stunning all-singing, all-dancing, dynamic stage show.”

When the citizens of Bikini Bottom discover that a volcano will soon erupt and destroy their humble home, SpongeBob and his friends must come together to save the fate of their undersea world. With lives hanging in the balance and all hope lost, a most unexpected hero rises up. The power of optimism really can save the world.

According to the website, “An exciting new musical featuring irresistible characters and magical music, this deep-sea pearl of a show is set to make a splash with audiences young and old. The future is bright, the future is bold, the future is The SpongeBob Musical.”

Show times are 7 p.m. on August 3, 1 and 7 p.m. on August 4 and 1 p.m. on August 5.

Tickets are $15.

On July 27, Kennett Flash (102 Sycamore Alley, Kennett Square, 484-732-8295, http://www.kennettflash.org) is presenting “Winslow: An Evening of the Eagles” on August 5 as part of its “Rooftop Series.”

The Eagleview Summer Concerts on the Square at Eagleview Town Center (Wharton Boulevard, Exton, www.ineagleview.com) will present Miko Marks with special guest Brittany Ann Tranbaugh on August 15 and Mellow Fever on August 29.

Bryn Mawr Twilight Concerts (9 South Bryn Mawr Avenue, Bryn Mawr, brynmawrtwilightconcerts.com) will host Livingston Taylor on August 5, Terrance Simien & The Zydeco Experience on August 12, Susan Werner on August 19, Dar Williams on August 26, Carsie Blanton & Marielle Kraft on September and Jon McLaughlin on September 8.

King Of Prussia’s live outdoor music series Concerts Under the Stars (Upper Merion Township Building Park, West Valley Forge Road, King of Prussia, concertsunderthestarskop.com) has Don McCloskey and Hoots & Hellmouth on August 5, Donna the Buffalo on August 12, Start Making Sense (Talking Heads tribute), Al Stewart & The Empty Pockets on August 26, Splintered Sunlight (Grateful Dead Tribute) on September 2, and Easy Star All‐Stars on September 16.

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