On Stage Extra: Briscoe brings a bit of Texas to Philly

By Denny Dyroff, Entertainment Editor, The Times


Get ready, Philly – here come a pair of “Good Ole Texas Boys” – make that “Good Young Texas Boys.”

Briscoe, which is headlining a show on September 27 at World Café Live (3025 Walnut Street, Philadelphia, www.worldcafelive.com), is making it area debut.

Briscoe is Truett Heintzelman and Philip Lupton.

Briscoe traces its roots back to a fateful day long ago.

“We met at a summer camp in Texas hills country,” said Heintzelman, during a three-way phone interview from San Diego last week. “That was 10 years ago.”

When Lupton first met Heintzelman, it was as if he were looking in a mirror that wasn’t there.

“We looked like identical twins,” said Lupton, who was in Telluride, Colorado during the interview. “We’ve stayed friends ever since.

“I was a year older than Truett in school. We always hoped we’d end up in the same place.”

That place turned out to be Austin, Texas – at the University of Texas.

“I’m from San Antonio and I was only looking at universities in Texas,” said Heintzelman, who got his degree in management and entrepreneurship.

“UT made sense in a lot of ways. Its business school is one of the best in the country.”

Truett, a native of San Angelo, Texas, also stayed in his home state when it was time to make his college decision. He majored in hydrogeology.

“When I got my diploma, I put it in a frame and left it in a closet. Then, it was off to be a musician.”

Both were drawn to similar music — from golden-era folk duos like Simon & Garfunkel to 21st century torchbearers like the Avett Brothers.

“At UT, we were both learning guitar and learning how to play in front of people,” said Lupton. “Our voices are different, but they blend well together.

“We did our first show in Spring 2019. It was in College Station – at the Pavilion. There were about 40 people there.”

Both were songwriters, vocalists, and multi-instrumentalists, and they formed a highly capable duo, playing house shows and backyard parties as a two-piece act before selling out venue after venue after expanding their lineup into a proper band. They strummed acoustic guitars, plucked banjos, stacked their voices into harmony, and built each song around cinematic, cathartic hooks.

In Austin, Briscoe quickly went from college gigs to selling out Antone’s and the Continental Club Gallery. As the duo continued to perform and grow their fanbase, a wider audience began to take notice.

“We hooked up with ATO Records in 2019,” said Heintzelman. “We had met our manager Brian Mattson and made a two-to-three-year plan. We pitched our music to a few labels. Some said later. ATO was in from the get-go. They’ve been awesome to work with.”

Signed by ATO Records while still pursuing undergraduate degrees, the duo wrote the songs for their debut album, “West of It All” as graduation approached slowly.

“West of It All” features a raw, rugged blend of classic and contemporary influence. The musical partners built each song around cinematic, cathartic hooks, stacked harmonies, acoustic guitars, and plucky banjo, accumulating in a sound that draws from the golden era of folk, rock, and pop. With contributions from drummer Matt McCaughan (Bon Iver) and multi-instrumentalist Phil Cook (Megafaun, Hiss Golden Messenger), “West of It All” offers a singular version of genre-fluid folk music.

“The album came out last week (September 15),” said Heintzelman. “We recorded the album in Durham, North Carolina at our producer Brad Cook’s studio in Spring 2022. We also did some recording at Sonart Studio in Hillsboro.”

Grammy nominee Brad Cook is a producer who has made records for Bon Iver, Waxahatchee and Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats.

“We love Brad,” said Heintzelman. “He’s a great producer. He just happened to be managed by our manager.

“We were still in UT for that first recording. We do most of the writing independently and then bring the songs to each other. We’ve been writing a ton.

“We did some pre-production when we were still in school and then tracked everything in two days at Sonart.

“Now, we’re on an album release tour. This is the first time we’re playing a lot of the songs in front of people. It’s also our first headline tour – and the first time we’re playing in Philadelphia.”

Video link for Briscoe – https://youtu.be/yEUrcsny2XA.

The show at World Café Live on September 27, which has Elison Jackson as the opening act, will start at 8 p.m.

Tickets are $15.

Fans of live theater are in for a treat this fall.

There will be several major touring Broadway shows presented by the Kimmel Cultural Campus – including “Mean Girls, which opens October 3 at the Miller Theatre, “Wicked” at the Academy of Music and “Company” at the Forrest Theater. The Playhouse on Rodney Square in Wilmington has “Pretty Girl,” “Menopause the Musical” and “Million Dollar Quartet” on its fall schedule.

This week, theater fans can enjoy two productions locally – “Bonez” at People’s Light and “Into the Woods” at the Candlelight Dinner Theatre.

This weekend, People’s Light (39 Conestoga Road, Malvern, www.peopleslight.org) is celebrating the opening weekend of its 2023-2024 season.

From September 22-October 15, People’s Light (39 Conestoga Road, Malvern, www.peopleslight.org) opens the new season with the world premiere of “Bonez” by acclaimed actor, director, and playwright Steve H. Broadnax III.

An Associate Artistic Director at People’s Light, Broadnax brings the social horror genre to the stage in this chilling investigation of masculinity, intimacy, and childhood demons. “Bonez” is also directed by Broadnax and features stage and screen actors Elijah Jones (“The Crowded Room”), Eric Robinson Jr. (“They Cloned Tyrone,” “New Amsterdam”), John Clarence Stewart (“Zoey’s Extraodinary Playlist,” “P-Valley), and Keith A. Wallace (“The First Deep Breath”).

In “Bonez,” “The Bruhs” Derek, Remello and PJ gather for an evening game of dominoes at their friend Trey’s new “deluxe apartment in the sky.”

Over beers and “bones,” the players laugh, place bets, and swap stories. As drinks flow, dominoes are drawn, the bets escalate, and the game intensifies. At the same time, a mysterious banging from next door grows louder and louder.

Before long, childhood demons emerge, and the four men begin to question what they think they know about masculinity, intimacy, and what makes a man.

Broadnax’s latest play was inspired by a series of gatherings that acted as a safe haven where Black men could peel away societal masks and share about everything from sexuality, intimacy and sports, to harrowing tales of police brutality. It was a space where the laughter of shared childhood memories coexisted with somber debates on masculinity, challenging stereotyped definitions of manhood.

According to Zak Berkman, Producing Artistic Director at People’s Light, “From the moment Steve shared his idea for ‘Bonez,’ I was all in. “Lurking underneath a raucous domino party is an interrogation of longstanding myths of masculinity and power that not only possess these individual men, but also grips one generation after another in our society.

“What better way is there to open our 49th season and welcome the Halloween chill in the fall air than to conjure a new kind of theatre that delights and disturbs in equal measure?”

“Bonez” will run now through October 15 at People’s Light.

Recommended for ages 16+ due to strong language and mature themes.

Tickets start at $42, including fees.

“Into the Woods” is a comedy-driven musical with a cast of crafty and funny characters. It is a little challenging for audiences – until they realize that trying to follow four fairy tales blended together is useless.

“Into the Woods,” which is running now through October 29 at the Candlelight Dinner Theater (2208 Millers Road, Arden, Delaware, 302- 475-2313, www.candlelighttheatredelaware.org), is a comedy-driven musical with a cast of crafty and funny characters with music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim and book by James Lapine.

The musical premiered on Broadway in 1987, winning three Tony Awards including Best Score and Best Book. It has since been produced throughout the world and was adapted into a major motion picture in 2014.

Following a sold-out New York City Center Encores! run in May 2022, the production transferred to Broadway as a limited engagement beginning July 2022, marking its first time on Broadway in 20 years. Following tremendous critical acclaim and audience demand, it was extended twice and concluded its Broadway run on January 8, 2023.

The musical intertwines the plots of several Brothers Grimm and Charles Perrault fairy tales, exploring the consequences of the characters’ wishes and quests. The main characters are taken from “Little Red Riding Hood,” “Jack and the Beanstalk,” “Rapunzel,” “Cinderella” and several others.

The musical “Into the Woods” debuted in San Diego at the Old Globe Theatre in 1986 and premiered on Broadway on November 5, 1987, where it won several Tony Awards, including Best Score, Best Book, and Best Actress in a Musical in a year dominated by “The Phantom of the Opera” (1988).

The musical has since been produced many times, with a 1988 US national tour, a 1990 West End production, a 1997 tenth anniversary concert, a 2002 Broadway revival, a 2010 London revival, and in 2012 as part of New York City’s outdoor Shakespeare in the Park series.

James Lapine and Stephen Sondheim take everyone’s favorite storybook characters and bring them together for a timeless, yet relevant, piece… and a rare modern classic. The Tony Award-winning book and score are both enchanting and touching.

The story of “Into the Woods” follows a Baker and his wife, who wish to have a child; Cinderella, who wishes to attend the King’s Festival; and Jack, who wishes his cow would give milk. When the Baker and his wife learn that they cannot have a child because of a Witch’s curse, the two set off on a journey to break the curse.

Everyone’s wish is granted, but the consequences of their actions return to haunt them later with disastrous results. “Into the Woods” is a musically sophisticated show with the opportunity to feature actors who are adept at dark comedy.

“Into the Woods” is running now through October 29 at the Candlelight Theater with shows on Friday and Saturday evenings and Sunday matinees.

Tickets, which include a buffet meal, beverages, dessert, and free parking, are $71.50 for adults and $33 for children.


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