On Stage: A bit of romantic music for Valentine’s Day

By Denny Dyroff, Entertainment Editor, The Times

Corinne Mammana and Erich Cawalla

Valentine’s Day is just around the corner. That means love is in the air and, as expected, special Valentine’s Day concerts are scheduled at a variety of venues around the area.

One of these Valentine’s Day concerts is scheduled for February 11 at the Sellersville Theater (24 West Temple Avenue, Sellersville, 215-257-5808, www.st94.com).

That could cause a problem – a serious conflict of interests — because February 11 is also the day of Super Bowl LVIII.

Fortunately, the concert at the Sellersville Theater featuring Corinne Mammana and Erich Cawalla is a matinee.

Their show – “A Sunday Kind of Love” – is scheduled to get underway at 2 p.m.

The romantic Valentine weekend jazz performance of “A Sunday Kind of Love” will feature two popular artists performing jazzy classic love songs, standards and duets backed by a world-class trio. The Sunday show will feature songs from Cawalla’s national charting debut album, “The Great American Songbook” (#1 RMR Top Crossover Jazz) and tunes from Mammana’s three critically acclaimed albums.

Mammana, who just finished her first Christmas U.S. tour, is a staple of Sirius XM’s Real Jazz Holiday, and is currently producing her next single and video, “Tickled Pink,” which is scheduled to drop this spring.
Cawalla’s style is old Vegas meets new R&B, while Mammana is an old soul whose music features tradition fused with a modern style. Both have performed countless shows in top jazz clubs (City Winery, Birdland, Deer Head Inn), festivals (Northwest, Musikfest), and venues (Carnegie Hall, MGM Grand). Collectively, they have supported major acts (Cyrille Aimée, Stacey Kent, Emmet Cohen, Marie Osmond, Jeff Dunham), and appeared on CBS, ABC, NBC, and WFMZ TV.

“Erich and I have known each other for years but this is the first time we’ve performed together,” said Mammana, during a phone interview Wednesday afternoon from her home in the Lehigh Valley. “Our styles are very similar, and a lot of our fans are the same.”

Mammana grew up in Plymouth Township and graduated from Plymouth-Whitemarsh High. Cawalla is from Berks County – the same Pennsylvania county that gave the world Taylor Swift – and is a graduate of Governor Mifflin High School.

“I’ve been doing Valentine’s Day shows for years,” said Mammana. “And we both know a lot of love songs.

“We rehearsed a lot and we’re getting together with the band this week. We have a great trio backing us — Patrick Kerssen on piano, Bennie Sims on bass, and Marko Marcinko on drums.

“At Sellersville, we’ll be doing jazzy romantic love songs. We both already had a lot of love songs in our repertoires, so it was easy to put together a set of romantic songs.

“Some of the songs we’ll be performing are ‘My Funny Valentine,’ ‘L-O-V-E,’ and ‘Almost Like Being in Love.’ I also do ‘Love Son’, which was recorded by The Cure.”

In August 2022, Mammana was invited to headline the Northwest Jazz Festival alongside jazz icons Stacey Kent and Emmet Cohen. In April 2022, she brought her popular “Disney Songbook Concert” to the Sellersville Theater. Mammana has performed at Birdland Jazz Club, the Metropolitan Room and the Duplex Cabaret Theatre. She has also performed at Philadelphiaʼs Chrisʼ Jazz Cafe, the legendary Deer Head Inn, JazzForum’s Summer Concert Series (NY), Shanghai Jazz Club, Scranton Jazz Festival, and Jazz on Main.

Now living in Easton, Mammana holds a Bachelor of Music degree from James Madison University where she was classically trained in voice. She performed in professional theaters for many years before discovering her passion for jazz music. Mammana studies privately with world-renowned voice teacher Dr. William Riley (Celine Dion and Whitney Houston’s coach). Mammana is also an educator and teaches private voice and piano lessons.

“I started doing plays and school concerts when I was in high school,” said Mammana. “At P-W, I played the role of Sandy in ‘Grease’ and that’s when I got the acting bug.

“I did several shows with great actors at the Media Theater, including Jennie Eisenhower. We both went to the same voice coach in Norristown – Bill Riley. At JMU, I was a music major with a concentration in musical theater. I also was in shows at Busch Gardens in Williamsburg, Virginia.

“I moved to the Lehigh Valley 10 years ago. That’s when I got introduced to jazz. I’ve done three records so far – ‘Under August Moon’ in 2016, ‘Yes, No, Next’ in 2020 and ‘In the Christmas City’ in 2022. And I have a new single that I’m recording now and will be released in the spring.”

Video link for Corinne Mammana — https://youtu.be/M10LrSEP-go.

Videl link for Erich Cawalla – https://youtu.be/SYHHr7Jq08Y.

The show in Sellersville on February 11 will start at 2 p.m.

Ticket prices start at $25.

Other upcoming shows at the Sellersville Theater are The Kody Norris Show on February 8, On A Winter’s Night featuring Patty Larkin, John Gorka, Lucy Kaplansky & Cliff Eberhardt on February 9 and John Westford on February 10.

Mary Fahl

There is a voice that is the perfect fit for Valentine’s Day musical odes to love – the voice of Mary Fahl.

Once you’ve heard Fahl sing, you have her voice etched permanently into your memory bank. From that point on, if you hear a song by Fahl, you immediately know who is singing.

On February 10, Fahl will be singing songs of love in a special holiday concert at the New Hope Winery (6123 Lower York Road New Hope, newhopewinery.com).

“I’ll be back at the New Hope Winery for my annual Valentine’s Day Show on Saturday February 10 at 8 p.m.,” said Fahl.

“It doesn’t fall on a Saturday this year. But who cares… I get to sing some love songs.”

Fahl has honored her favorites by making an album of special tunes — a collection of songs that she calls “essential” to her development as an artist.

The album, which is titled, “Can’t Get It Out of My Head,” was released on July 22, 2022, on her own label, Rimar Records.

“I made it in Syracuse with my band and my producer Mark Doyle,” said Fahl, during a phone interview Tuesday. “We finished it in early 2022. We mixed and mastered it in March 2022 and then released it in July 2022.”

These are the album’s 10 tracks and the artists who made the original versions — “Can’t Get It Out Of My Head,” ELO; “Ruby Tuesday,” Rolling Stones; “Tuesday Afternoon,” Moody Blues; “River Man,” Nick Drake; “Got A Feeling,” Mamas and Papas; “Don’t Let It Bring You Down,” Neil Young; “Comfortably Numb,” Pink Floyd; “Since You’ve Asked,” Judy Collins; “Beware Of Darkness,” George Harrison; and “The Great Valerio,” Richard and Linda Thompson.

According to Fahl, “On top of all the madness that was happening in the world, I was grappling with the loss of my mother and sister this past year and was feeling completely rootless. In an effort to find an anchor, a link to the past, a sense of home, I began to immerse myself in the comfort of music from my youth.

“These were such essential songs for me… like old friends… my musical home in many ways. I fell in love with each of them at the quintessential coming-of-age moment when music goes straight into your heart with no filter and these songs became part of my musical DNA… I learned to play guitar with several of them – especially the early Neil Young songs.

“Most of these covers come from the first albums I ever bought using one of those Columbia House ‘get 12 free albums for a $1’ mail order programs. I played these records endlessly… and the lyrics on many of these songs still have a powerful resonance for me.”

Fahl knew exactly where she was going.

“I wanted to make a record that was special to me,” said Fahl. “I wanted to live in a place with all the music I grew up with. I learned guitar with Neil Young albums. I learned songwriting with Richard and Linda Thompson songs. Each song on this record has a very special meaning to me.

“I lost my mother and my older sister in the same year – lost a link to the past. I chose these songs because I still sing them and love them. They are part of my musical family. They got me out of a funk.”

The songs provide a comfort level for Fahl and her fans.

“The best compliment that I’ve been getting is that it brought people a lot of joy,” said Fahl.

“People really like my cover of ‘Tuesday Afternoon.’ That song gets the best audience response of anything I’ve done.

“I still like singing these songs — and the band loves playing them. It’s more rock and roll. It gives the boys in the band an opportunity to rock.”

In 2011, Fahl recorded her own version of one of rock’s all-time classics — Pink Floyd’s “Dark Side of the Moon.” Fahl re-interpreted the songs on an album she titled “From the Dark Side of the Moon.”

Many of Fahl’s fans have been with her ever since her time with October Project which lasted from 1993-1996.

For many artists, the task of re-inventing songs from an album as iconic as “Dark Side of the Moon” could have been too much of a challenge. Not so for Fahl who crafted a disc that honored its roots but established an identity all its own.

“After making the Sony classical album (“Classics for a New Century”), I wanted to do something that was fun,” said Fahl. “An independent filmmaker I knew wanted to use me in a performance piece. I wanted to do something that I didn’t have the ability to write.

“That’s when I decided to do the ‘Dark Side’ recording. It’s like a classical piece of music. I did not intend to make a cover record. It’s my version and it doesn’t sound at all like Pink Floyd’s version. But a lot of die-hard Pink Floyd fans have responded well. They like the album — and my live versions of the songs.”

Fahl has written and performed songs for several major motion pictures, including the lead song (“Going Home”) for the Civil War epic “Gods and Generals.” Her music can also be found on the original soundtrack of the 2003 movie “The Guys.”

Fahl is a singer, a guitarist and a songwriter. More than anything, she is a performer.

“Performing is my primary form of self-expression,” said Fahl. “When I do a show, I want to take you on a complete journey. I want to transform you.

Video link for Mary Fahl – https://youtu.be/8AOaV5Af2ZM?list=OLAK5uy_lhTOW8-IiA3wOw4iwXFbd5OVj46vjfNEw.

The show at the New Hope Winery on February 10 will start at

Ticket prices range from $45-$60.

Jamey’s House of Music (32 South Lansdowne Avenue, Lansdowne, 215-477-9985,www.jameyshouseofmusic.com) has a pair of attractive main stage shows on tap for this weekend.

On February 9, the Delaware County venue will host Khadijah Renee.

Renee is a jazz songstress in the vein of the Great Ladies of Jazz. Her resonant tones remind you of the ladies who paved their way through the male dominated syncopated instrumental ingenious sounds of Be-Bop and Classical Jazz from as early as the 1950′s. If you close your eyes while listening to her, you may hear reminiscent echoes of Sarah, Ella, Billie, Nancy, Dinah and Gloria.

Renee is a contralto whose range is deep and sweet at the same time. She has been performing jazz since the late 80’s in and around the Tri-State area. Khadijah is always accompanied by the best musicians the area has to offer. She has been recorded live at the East Coast Jazz Festival now called the Mid-Atlantic Jazz Festival in Maryland and heard on WRTI 90.1 Jazz Radio.
Born and raised in Chester, Renee currently lives and works in Philadelphia, where the jazz audiences there accepted and adopted her as their own.

A former member of the Delaware Council of Jazz Advocates, she recently graced the stage of their tribute to Clifford Brown at the Delaware School of Music with a rendition of Sassy’s “September Song.”

Renee is also a Reiki Master Teacher.

Video link for Khadijah Renee — https://youtu.be/c74l3jLvyNQ.

Showtime is 8 p.m.

Tickets are $20 in advance and $25 at the door.

The show on February 9 is billed as “Old, New, Borrowed & Blue.”

It features Craig Bickhardt with Tommy Geddes and Larry Ahearn.

Bickhardt is one of the most widely respected songwriters between Philly and Nashville with his songs recorded by nearly everyone who is anyone in the upper spheres of country music, a jam-packed career, and a beautiful and loving family at home. Bickhardt has made his annual Valentine’s concert at Jamey’s a tradition for lovers young and old, transfixing them with his gorgeous voice and flawless guitar work while embarking on a musical journey, special to this day, celebrating the beauty of love and life.

Showtime is 8 p.m. and tickets are $25 in advance and $30 at the door.

Every Sunday, Jamey’s presents “SUNDAY BLUES BRUNCH & JAM” featuring the Philly Blues Kings or the Girke-Davis Project. Another weekly event at the venue is the “THURSDAY NIGHT JAZZ JAM” featuring the Dave Reiter Trio.

This weekend, Uptown! Knauer Performing Arts Center (226 North High Street, West Chester, www.uptownwestchester.org) will continue its pattern of presenting concerts by tributes acts.

On February 10, Uptown! Knauer will present “First Ladies of Rock and Soul” and Bill Haley Jr. and the Comets.”

The “First Ladies of Rock and Soul” show will appeal to the audience with timeless songs by the Supremes, the Ronettes, the Shirelles, the Chiffons, the Crystals, the Vandellas, Mary Wells, Aretha Franklin, Dionne Warwick, and others.

Bill Haley Jr. and The Comets is a high-energy five-piece combo performing a rousing, crowd-pleasing set of songs first recorded in the early and mid- 1950s by the legendary Bill Haley and The Comets.

It seems that everybody is familiar with “Mrs. Doubtfire.”

“Mrs. Doubtfire” is an American comedy-drama film that was one of the most popular films in the 1990s – especially because of the comedic brilliance of Robin Williams.

The movie won the Academy Award for Best Makeup and the Golden Globe Award for Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy. Williams was awarded the Golden Globe Award for Best Actor in a Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy.

The film grossed $441.3 million on a $25 million budget, making it the second highest-grossing film of 1993.

“Mrs. Doubtfire” has remained a fan favorite for more than three decades – because it is a really funny story and because of the comedic acting by Williams.

In 2021, “Mrs. Doubtfire” had its Broadway premiere. The show closed on Broadway in May 2022 and then embarked on a National Tour in September 2023 – a tour that is the middle of a two-week run in Philly.

Ensemble Arts Philly and The Shubert Organization are hosting the First National Tour of “Mrs. Doubtfire” at the Academy of Music (Broad and Locust streets, Philadelphia, ensembleartsphilly.org) now through February 18 as part of its 2023-24 Broadway Series.

“Mrs. Doubtfire” is a musical based on the 1993 film Mrs. Doubtfire, which in turn is based on the 1987 novel Alias Madame Doubtfire by Anne Fine.

“Mrs. Doubtfire” follows a recently divorced actor who disguises as an elderly female housekeeper to be able to interact with his children. The film addresses themes of divorce, separation, and the effect they have on a family.

Out-of-work actor Daniel Hillard will do anything for his kids. After losing custody in a messy divorce, he creates the kindly alter ego of Scottish nanny Euphegenia Doubtfire in a desperate attempt to stay in their lives.

As his new character takes on a life of its own, Mrs. Doubtfire teaches Daniel more than he bargained for about how to be a father. This is a hysterical and heartfelt story about holding onto your loved ones against all odds.

Philadelphia local, Rob McClure, is reprising his Tony Award® nominated dual roles of Daniel Hillard and Euphegenia Doubtfire alongside his co-star and real-life wife, Maggie Lakis, who plays Miranda Hillard in the U.S. National Tour.

Another member of the cast with local connections is ensemble member Alex Ringerwho was a student at the University of the Arts.

“This is a great family show,” said ringer, during a recent phone interview. “It doesn’t go blue and there is not a lot of harsh language.

“It speaks to families – especially the ending speech. It shows that families can still be families after divorce.”

Video link for “Mrs. Doubtfire” – https://youtu.be/jco5i0plzRo.

“Mrs. Doubtfire will run now through February 18 at the Academy of Music. Ticket prices start at $20.

The name of the current production at People’s Light (39 Conestoga Road, Malvern, www.peopleslight.org) is the same as the availability of tickets remaining – small.

“SMALL,” which closes on February 11 at People’s Light, is a one-man show that look at this man’s life from playground to paddock, from playhouse to publishing…to People’s Light.

“SMALL” is written and performed by stage, film, and television star Robert Montano (“Cats” on Broadway, “Barcelona” at People’s Light).

Bullied for his size, a boy from Long Island finds purpose and respect atop a racehorse in this wild autobiographical ride,

As the young jockey starts to literally outgrow his childhood dream, he resorts to more and more extreme measures to remain “small” before ultimately finding freedom in a new path. From Belmont Park to Broadway stages, Montano’s vivid and highly entertaining coming-of-age story explores the complex realities of pursuing a dream at all costs.

Montano tells his coming-of-age story about Bobby, a teen from Long Island who enjoys musical theatre but becomes fascinated by the world of horse racing and aspires to be a jockey.

“It’s a one-man play – and a very physical play,” said Montano, during a phone interview from the theater in Malvern.

“As a jockey, there is movement with me riding — along with an amazing sound design that Brian Ronan and I brought together.

Ronan, the show’s sound engineer, supplies the nearby racehorse whinnying. I’m portraying 24 different characters – all with different voices.”

The story starts with a young Montano.

When only entering his teenage years, Montano, known to his family as Bobby, fell in love with “West Side Story” and, in particular, with the character of Bernardo. He was stopped in his youthful ambition by his size. Just over five feet, he had retreated into timidity as a response to being regularly picked on at school.

Behind his father’s back, his mother took him to Belmont Park. Montano started regularly going to Belmont Raceway with his neighbors who worked there.

“I had a newspaper delivery route with the L.I. Press,” said Montano. “At one of the houses, I talked to the people about the mulch they were using. They said it wasn’t mulch – that I was probably smelling the horse manure from the car’s tires.”

His newspaper customers were Bob and Sue Duncan, who were major figures at Belmont Park.

“I begged them to take me with them to the track,” said Montano.

At Belmont Park, Montano was confronted by jockeys, especially by Robert A. Pineda. Impressed at the powerful Pineda presence, Montano switched from wanting to grow to wanting to remain small so he could pursue a career as a jockey.

Montano became determined to become a jockey. Eventually, Pineda became his mentor.

Unfortunately, his dreams of remaining a jockey blew up. Montano continued to grow physically – from 5-foot, 4-inches to 5-8 and 110 pounds.

The day before riding Sow & Reap in a major race, Montano weighed in at 116 pounds. He had to shed 12 pounds overnight. What he had to do to accomplish is a main part of the plot.

“I did all kinds of things to keep my weight down – black beauties, coke, flipping food on daily basis,” said Montano.

By the time he was 18, Montano had outgrown his silks.

“When I couldn’t make it as a jockey, it was ‘small’ because I’m not,” said Montano. “When I couldn’t ride anymore, I didn’t have anything to do with my life.

“I had to transfer disciples from jockey to dance. I knew I had to work – and I had to work hard.”

Montano had dancing skills he developed when he was young, so he decided to delve further into dance. He applied to Adelphi University’s dance department at age 20 without any prior training. He was accepted and offered a full scholarship.

“One week before graduating, I got a role in ‘Cats’ on Broadway,” said Montano. “I had the role of Pouncival and was the understudy for Mr. Mistofelees. I did that for four-and-one-half years.”

His career was successful from the start, and he worked with great directors and choreographers such as Hal Prince, Rob Marshall, and Jerome Robbins. He has also worked with Chita Rivera in “Kiss of The Spiderwoman, sang and danced with Peter Allen in “Legs Diamond,” and starred as Ozzie in “On the Town” (directed by the legendary George C. Wolfe).

“SMALL,” which is directed by Jessi D. Hill, is celebrating its area debut with the run at People’s Light’s Steinbright Stage – and the first date of its 2024 national tour.

“This will be my third show at People’s Light,” said Montano. “The first was ‘Fallow’ in 2012 followed by ‘Barcelona’ in 2012. I really enjoy working here at People’s Light.”

Video link for “SMALL” – https://youtu.be/DlzN88yAn8o.

“SMALL’ will run now through February 4. Tickets are $47.

There are just three weeks left to catch a performance of the Candlelight Theatre (2208 Millers Road, Arden, Delaware, www.candlelighttheatredelaware.org) production of “Hello Dolly!”

The musical adaptation of Thornton Wilder’s play, “The Matchmaker,” which is a comic and romantic story of the exploits of Dolly Gallagher-Levi, a matchmaker and “woman who arranges things,” will run now through February 25.

It seems that everybody is familiar with “Hello Dolly!” in one form or another – especially the Academy Award-winning film and the hit Broadway musical.

It’s hard not to be familiar with the song, “Hello Dolly!”– at least with the tune’s opening lines… “I said hello, Dolly; Well, hello, Dolly; It’s so nice to have you back where you belong.”

The cast at Candlelight features Rebecca Schall as Dolly Gallagher Levi, Johnny Fernandez as Horace Vandergelder, Jared Calhoun as Cornelius Hackl, Neena Boyle as Irene Molloy and Shawn Weaver as Barnaby Tucker.

“Hello Dolly!” tells the story of widow Dolly Gallagher Levi, a strongminded matchmaker who arrives in New York to “help” Horace Vandergelder, a curmudgeonly and very wealthy widowed shop owner, find a new wife — while secretly plotting to marry him herself.
Meanwhile, two of Vandergelder’s comedically enriched employees leave the shop abandoned and head out to the city in an effort to find adventure. Often referred to as “Broadway’s Greatest Musical”, “Hello, Dolly!” features sweeping dance numbers, hilarious missteps, endearing chaos and, of course, love.

Schall gives a spellbinding performance in the title role – exhibiting the vocal chops and acting skills to capture the spirit of Dolly. Weaver, a Lincoln University graduate, and Calhoun sparkle in their roles as Vandergelder’s store employees from Yonkers who experience the Big Apple for the first time.
“Hello Dolly!” became one of the most iconic Broadway shows of the latter half of the 1960s, running for 2,844 performances, and was the longest-running musical in Broadway history for a time.

Over the years, “Hello Dolly!” has featured many of Broadway’s top leading ladies, including Carol Channing, Mary Martin, Barbra Streisand, Pearl Bailey, Tovah Feldshuh, Bette Midler and Betty Buckley.

“If anything, we’re still focused on the stage version rather than the film version,” said Schall, whose television credits include “Boardwalk Empire,” “Marvelous Mrs. Maisel,” “In Case of Emergency,” “Julie and Julia,” and “Petuna.”

“There definitely is a difference between stage and film.”

Audiences love the character Dolly, and Schall offers her take on why.

“Dolly is happy, exuberant and effusive,” said Schall. “She knows what she wants, and she goes for it. She’s a bundle of energy – and a good person.

“I bring a sense of quirkiness to the role. I agree one thousand per cent with her passion for helping others – for helping other people get better.

“One reason audiences love the show is the music. They know all the songs. The music is unbelievable – and the script is very well-written. This show is fun. It’s just a beautiful show.”

“Hello Dolly!” is running now through February 25 at the Candlelight Dinner Theatre.

Tickets, which include dinner, beverage and free parking, are $70.50 for adults and $35 for children (ages 4-12).

   Send article as PDF   

Share this post:

Related Posts

Leave a Comment