Thursday, December 16, 2010

Moon & Stars Align with REP's "Midsummer"

Dear Tom Carper, Chris Coons (the luckiest politician in DE), John Carney, Jack Markell, Beau Biden (the UNluckiest politician in DE), UD Pres Patrick Harker and Vance Funk, Mayor of Funkytown,

(In one of the hundreds of jobs Aisle Say has had over his career, one was a news picker for a politician. Whenever the boss's name appears in print, the 'picker' must diligently cut and paste and place said article for further review.)
So, now that I have the attention of these esteemed gentlemen, let me humbly suggest one institution in the state which truly makes us 'World Class' – the UD REP Ensemble.
Aisle Say has had the privilege of seeing all but 3 of their productions in the 3 years of their existence. Relative to what trod the boards pre- REP, their body of work is inspiring.
Producing Artistic Director Sandy Robbins told me The Roselle Center for the Arts sits a few miles outside of the perimeter of the prestigious Philadelphia-based Barrymore Awards. Pat Harker, hey bro, you taught at Penn. Make a phone call, dude. That glass case in the theatre lobby soon would be brimming.
I travel to Philly frequently. While The Walnut stages musicals and The REP stages classics, every minute detail of the latter's work is superior. REP shows would be winners on Broadway.
As a writer, I absolutely wretch at the phrase “can't put it into words,” or when an athlete says, “it hasn't sunk in yet.” Yet, one could attend ' A Midsummer Night's Dream' multiple times and still not absorb all the nuances of this spellbinding and bewitching entertainment.
There were as many stars in this show as those in the midsummer night.
Scenic design is by Takeshi Kata, who takes her cue from the omnipresence of the moon in Shakespeare's most popular tale. Kata's moon not only emits light but serves as a lair for the delightful and intimidating Hippolyta/Titania (Jasmine Bracey), who like many of the leads, play two roles.
Puck (Ben Charles) worked assiduously at turning events preposterously. He is not only a skilled actor but an astonishing (and brave) athlete, gracefully flown over the Kata's moon by Foy, the same firm that harnessed Mary Martin and Cathy Rigby.
Theseus/Oberon (Mic Matarrese) was regal in both roles. Grandiloquent of voice and grand of poise, posture and presence.
The four lovers Hermia (Sara Griffin), Helena (Caroline Crocker), Demetrius (Mathew Simpson), Lysander (Cameron Knight) were gleeful and sensuous and, by the by, great comic artists.
And now to the Mechanicals, in what was the most outrageous Pyramis & Thisbe scene Aisle Say has ever witnessed. Poor Quince (Steve Tague) in that ridiculous wig trying to keep control of the out of control Bottom (Stephen Pelinski). The laughs kept cascading as sure as the rhythm of incoming waves. Pelinski has affected this 'who me?” look plastered on his malleable mug and the audience gladly submits their collective will to Bottom's mayhem.
The phantasmagoric fairy costumes created by Martha Hally have never seen an equal on a Delaware stage. I would request the name of the hallucinogen she took so that I could be half as creative.
The fairy platoon was so very concise in their movements, owing to the playful choreography of Joann Browning.
This show will be imprinted in the mind of the audience for a lifetime.
Through December 12. 302.831.2204

Delaware's only professional ballet company keeps throwing their creative net around the state. Longtime (and passionate) President of the Board Robert Grenfell and Artistic Director Pasha Kambalov hauled in a leviathan for this year's performances; The Delaware Symphony.
Heretofore, Tchaikovsky's music was pre-recored. Having our live symphony in attendance will energize not only the dancers but also the audience.
David Amado has shown a propensity in the last two years to broaden DSO's reach. He is making his troupe more accessible and the rewards are plentiful. Aisle Say attended a recent concert by Natalie Merchant. I felt the symphony was many times more exciting than this one note artist.
Just this past weekend DSO backed up Gary Brooker of Procul Harem, in concert for the Grand Gala; a spectacularly great party.
And, the orchestra was recently nominated for their first Grammy, a Latin dominated CD entitled Interchange. On a podcast by the DE Division of Arts, Exec Director Lucinda Williams pointed out that their label is from the most prestigious producing company of their genre.
Says Amado,”Collaborating with FSBT is thrilling for us. Normally we partner with other musicians. This new 'conversation', i.e. between the dancers and the orchestra is totally different. Both sides are energized and we become a living breathing organism. I think the audience senses this as well.”
Adding to the coup of partnering with DSO, First State Ballet is adding to this embarrassment of riches by inviting the Wilmington's Childrens Chorus to sit on either balcony sides and sing at appropriate times during the ballet. As Grenfell quips,”the music will be surround sound stereo!”
At The Grand Opera House Dec 17 @ 7pm; Dec 18 @ 2pm and 7pm; Dec 19 @ 2p Tix: 302.652.5577

Merry Xmas to Christine O'Donnell, DelDot and Pervert Priests

Aisle Say's Annual Christmas Paean to Delaware, Small Wonder
“O Christine O, O Christine O”
( to the tune of “O Christmas Tree”)
O Christine O, O Christine O!
Our state you so embarrass
O Christine O! O Christine O!
Republicans you so harass
Your only job is candidate
Your resume is pure bull...&*%
O Christine O, O Christine O!
Have you a gray cell working?

O Christine O, O Christine O!
No pleasure thou can'st give me;
You say that mice have human brains
“Pleasure oneself?” “One must abstain!”
O Christine O, O Christine O!
No pleasure thou can'st give me.

O Christine O, O Christine O!
I wouldn't walk in your shoes
O Christine O, O Christine O!
You made the R's sing the blues
In early years you tried witchcraft
No wonder they all think you're daft
O Christine O, O Christine O
I wouldn't walk in your shoes

O Christine O, O Christine O!
You were a TV talking head
O Christine O, O Christine O
I watched debates with fear and dread
You say your funds were misconstrued
Your former staff got really screwed.
O Christine O, O Christine O
You were a TV talking head

O Christine O, O Christine O
You cursed the State for bailin'
Don't want no mini Palin!
Seasoned pros with Mr. Coons
You had the nerve to call them goons
O Christine O, O Christine O
You cursed the State for bailin'

O Christine O, O Christine O
You say a Witch is not your case
O Christine O, O Christine O
Please leave our state without a trace
Your money came from out of state
Your ethics you do abdicate
O Christine O, O Christine O
Please leave our state without a trace

“Deck the State with DelDot Land Deals”
(to the tune of “Deck The Halls with Boughs of Holly”)
Deck the state with DelDot land deals
Fa la la la la, la la la la. 
Tax money gone and NO appeals
Fa la la la la, la la la la. 
Ruthann jets with Greg Tigani
Fa la la, la la la, la la la. 
A sweetheart deal in secrecy
Fa la la la la, la la la la. 
Years away this Sussex bypass
Fa la la la la, la la la la. 
DelDot deals a legal morass
Fa la la la la, la la la la. 
See the barren acreage before us
Fa la la la la, la la la la. 
Pay their's so egregious!
Fa la la la la, la la la la. 
The rich grow rich in merry measure, 
Fa la la la la, la la la la. 
“Screw those hicks, increase our treasure!”
Fa la la la la, la la la la. 
A full accounting, Secretary Wicks
Fa la la la la, la la la la. 
Disclose in full and no more tricks
Fa la la la la, la la la la. 

“O Come All Ye Acolytes”
(to the tune of “O Come All Ye Faithful”)
O Come All Ye Acolytes
Trusting and religious
O come ye, O come ye to Wilmington.
Come and believe him,
The priest that gives you succor;
O come, let us denounce him,
O come, let us detest him,
O come, let us despise him,
The pervert priest.

O Sing, unwarned parents,
Sing in exultation,
Sing that your son was deemed a ''chosen” one.
Car rides and many ... overnight vacations;
O come, let us recant him,
O come, let us renounce him,
O come, let us revile him,
The pervert priest.

And now, 40 years later
A chance to gain some closure
Who to pay the price for this sad shattered life?
The parish?, the diocese?... roads lead to Vatican City!
O come, let us distrust him,
O come, let us mistrust him,
O come, let us adore him?
The pervert priest

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Yikes, it's Wanda Sykes at The Media Theatre

A guest artist with a national profile brings great celebrity to a regional theatre. I am a great fan of Wanda Sykes on 'Curb Your Enthusiasm', the chief reason being that she cuts the irascible Larry David no slack.
Those on Media Theatre's email list were reminded almost daily of Sykes' star power.
While admittedly I witnessed the first preview before an audience, Sykes as the dastardly drunk Miss Hannigan came across as comfortable on stage as Tiger Woods in his first news conference after his marital sturm und drang.
She loosened up a bit during 'Easy Street', sung and danced with the entertaining and energetic – while nefarious - twosome of Rooster (Reggie Whitehead) and Lily St. Regis (Janet Rowley). What is normally an over the top show stopper devolved into a boilerplate production number, eliciting but courtesy chuckles from the audience of family and friends.
Aisle Say's overall impression was that Sykes was under rehearsed.
I will leave this flailing in the hair vest with one final comment; she should talk-sing her one solo 'Little Girls'. This is an effective device for non-singers made famous by Rex Harrison in “My Fair Lady”. (Sykes is on hiatus during the run of the show and the role will be taken by popular and experienced Philly actor Mary Martello.)
Annie (Tori Heinlein) fared well with the iconic 'Tomorrow' and even better with 'Maybe'. (At ten years already an Equity card carrier!) Her constant attention to her red wig was distracting and the strong chemistry that should be evident between she and Warbucks (Paul Jackel) registered a 'luke' on Aisle Say's 'warm' index.
Overall, the production lacked pace and energy. Rhythm was off by a half step. The scenes with the orphans and any time Rooster (Whitehead) was on stage created much anticipated and appreciated energy. Whitehead's credits include the character of Sportin Life in Gershwin's 'Porgy and Bess', America's first opera. He brought that same Sammy Davis, Jr.-type dynamics to this role.
The singing star was Grace (Eliza Matthews) performing back to back shows at Media. She was last seen as Emma in their sizzling 'Jekyll & Hyde' . At that show Aisle Say gushed over her light lyric soprano / soubrette like an expectant school boy at the sophomore prom. Matthews has no solo in this production but is is evident her control is as tight as the spiral from Michael Vick to DeSean Jackson.
One of the most creative aspects of the show was delivered by scenic designer Robert Klimowski. He used very descriptive Depression era images on a rear projected screen; an inexpensive yet effective vehicle to create mood. As a result, we were embraced with the atmosphere of that difficult time in American history.
Through January 16. 610.891.0100

For those of you who remember my Delaware's Best of Broadway, we are returning to Bella Vita at Cavaliers Country Club on February 17 at 1:30pm and February 18 at 8pm. My professional singers will be performing a cabaret/concert of Broadway's show stoppers, including tunes from Les Mis, Phantom, Carousel, Showboat, etc. Buffet and two hours of entertainment. Carl Immediato of the iconic 3 Little Bakers Dinner Theatre is Marketing Director at the venue. Group rates. 731.5600.