Friday, April 22, 2011

NCT bares ALL in Full Monty

In the Americanized stage version adapted from the British film of the same name, 6 unemployed Buffalo steel workers, low on both cash and prospects, decide to present a strip act at a local club after seeing their wives' enthusiasm for a touring company of Chippendales. One of them, Jerry, declares that their show will be better than the Chippendales dancers because they'll go 'the full monty" - strip all the way.
As they prepare for the show, working through their fears, self-consciousness, and anxieties, they overcome their inner demons and find strength in their camaraderie.
From last month's fully clothed “Cats” to half naked men, NCT continues to stretch both boundaries and – in “Monty” – waistlines.
Performing this show in your hometown takes prodigious chutzpah. Some of the actors might benefit from a Y membership. To quote Cary Grant in the classic Rudyard Kipling movie, “You're a braver man than me, Gunga Din”
David Yazbek created both music and lyrics. The latter especially was clever by two, reminiscent of the wit and playfulness of the wittiest and most playful composer ever, Cole Porter. (The Brandywiners is staging his most famous...”Kiss Me Kate”...this summer.)
Double entendres are dispatched as speedily as shirts are stripped. The strong ensemble is led by NCT veteran Paul Goodman as Jerry. His singing voice evokes the pathos and despair that comes from a husband's and father's inability to provide for his family. I do wish that Director Chris Alberts and he would discuss the poignant scene in which Jerry's young son gives his Dad the money to rent the hall. It was all over too quick in relation to the heartstrings that could have been pulled and the eyes that could have moistened.
Doffing one's clothes does bond a cast. This carries over to the mellifluous harmonies as well in “The Mill”. Peter Briccotto (Malcolm), Andre Dion Willis (Horse...please, please don't ask me why) and Patrick O'Hara (Harold), Method actors all, created defined characterizations of those who would risk all to do what they felt was the right thing.
The Full Monty lasted on Broadway for 770 shows not only because it was a truly outrageous idea, but also because it spoke directly to our insecurities. NCT translates that for us in a triumphant manner.
And, ladies, not to fret. Even dear sister Liz, her program at the ready to shield her cute baby blues, never had to look away!
Running to May 22. 475.2313

Great Ideas for Delaware. Our first initiative
Jayne Armstrong, District Director of the SBA
Small businesses are the big winners in the recent passage of the federal Small Business Jobs Act. The landmark economic recovery legislation supports a number of new initiatives designed to expand access to capital and export markets.
The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) launched its Community Advantage and Small Loan Advantage loan programs to help undeserved markets access loans under $250,000. Small Loan Advantage loans are offered through SBA preferred lenders and feature a two-page application and approvals in a matter of minutes through the agency’s electronic E-Tran system.  Community Advantage loans expand SBA’s lending network by targeting Community Development Financial Institutions, SBA’s Certified Development Companies and SBA non-profit micro lenders.
Companies impacted by maturing mortgages and balloon notes can now refinance their commercial real estate under SBA’s 504 Refinance Program. The SBA also introduced dealer floor plan financing up to $5 million for dealers servicing the auto, boat, recreational vehicle, motorcycle and manufactured housing industries.
The legislation also expands export opportunities for small businesses. The SBA’s State Trade and Export Promotion grant program provides $90 million over three years to fund state export initiatives.
For more information, contact the SBA Delaware District Office at (302) 573-6294 or visit
If you have a Great Idea for Delaware,

Opera Delaware and UD REP Ensemble

The time and energy expended for 3 performances. The professional casts, the orchestra, the sets, the costumes, the lighting, the rehearsals, the EGOS, the DIVAS!
More than a job, staging these impressive productions year in year out is a labor of love for those at Opera Delaware. In decades past, when Aisle Say was actively involved with community theatre, I never auditioned for a show that did not run a minimum of two weekends. All that effort for a couple shows? No thanks. Yet Opera Delaware continues to achieve superb reviews, not only locally but from national publications.
Lee Kimball has a visionary eye, a talent as mysterious as the hairline of Donald Trump. He sees and hears qualities in people who will go on to even greater heights internationally. Laura Pederson, the very wealthy and ergo, very merry widow, has performed in various divertisements at Carnegie Hall. Kimball picked her out as Musetta in OD's La Boheme. Now yet another stepping stone in the soprano's career.
So many operas end with unrequited love, sturm und drang and yes, daggers plunging into assorted beating breasts. In 'The Merry Widow', there are more sanguine expectations.
The government needs Hanna's money to stay in their impoverished country. The politicians wish her to marry Danilo to ensure the same. Aha! It emerges that the two were in love before her marriage, but his uncle interrupted their romance because Hanna had absolutely nothing to her name. Circumstances have changed. Although they still love each other, Danilo refuses to court Hanna because of her fortune and Hanna vows she will not marry him until he says "I love you". Let's get this straight...three little words and the country remains solvent? Get with the program, Danilo!
Long time friend Joan Goodfellow plays Olga. In the '70's Joan was in a movie with Jan Michael Vincent and Robert Ryan entitled 'Buster and Billie'. Jan Michael was Buster, before “Airwolf”.Joan was Billie. Check it on You Tube.
(Rely on Aisle Say for institutional theatrical knowledge!) May 1, 6 and 7. 800.37-GRAND

U of D REP Ensemble premieres “O Beautiful”. An Aisle Say Exclusive!

The REP Ensemble -sans doubt the best theatre in Delaware – is diverging from its norm of classics from the Masters: Shakespeare, Shaw, Miller, Moliere, et al.
Three years in existence, Producer/Director Sandy Robbins mounts a new show, “O Beautiful” by Theresa Rebeck. Aisle Say has missed but a few of their offerings and has become friends with some of the passionately committed actors.
This will be an interesting piece for the audience and a watershed for the Ensemble. Not only must the piece reach the classically high standards of Sandy Robbins, but the play was written exclusively for them and their talents. A wonderfully intriguing challenge to succeed.
The production has been in a one year evolution. The author worked with the Ensemble actors over this time and asked for their input. It was re-written 7 times before rehearsals began. As a writer who has been there, that is a mix of both omniscient opportunity and unadulterated drudgery.
Robbins knows this show will be controversial. (But, then, what else is theatre about?) Quotes Robbins,” is comic, it is dramatic. It is thought provoking. In this era of divisiveness, it is a call for compassion and debate. The resolve is working together.”
Through May 15. 831.2204

Sunday, April 10, 2011

World Cafe Live opens in Wilmington

World Cafe Live at The Queen Opening

Wow.!!! That was a party...the likes of which downtown Wilmington has not seen since the '70's rehabilitation of The Grand Opera House. The scintillating atmosphere reminded Aisle Say of the time he sneaked into NYC's legendary Studio 54 during its heyday in the '70's.
Energy of the packed house for the opening of The Queen on April 1 could very well have levitated the building. The guests were expectant of how this was to reinvent the former – the emphasis on former - urban equivalent of Death Valley. Euphoria overwhelmed developer Chris Buccini. There had been legions of naysayers on this project. He proved them wrong in a manner befitting royalty. This weekend was transformative for the city and the state.
The hallowed Queen, for decades a dilapidated and dank cavern reaching from Market to King Sts, has been transmogrified into a state of the art hall for music, food, drink and meetings. The pathways to the various spaces reminds one of the Roman catacombs, quickly opening up to a destination of an intimate bar or tricked-out conversation space. The interior design has retained the most interesting aspects of its original stature from over 100 years ago. The oversized original murals are so very cool. The meeting spaces on the 3rd and 4th floors look out over Market Street through 10 foot clerestory windows.
While sold as a VIP night (which one must question for I was allowed in without a disguise), I can testify that I recognized only about 25% of the assemblage...and I'm a native!. Considering this will open Wilmington to completely new audiences, that's a very good thing!
Our city has never seen such diversity in live programming as is promoted on their web site. Saturday mornings are devoted to children's events. All told, over 200 gigs have already been booked. Timidity is not in the vocabulary of this organization: jazz, blues, bluegrass, open mic, classical, folk, new world, you name it. The seating is flexible to cater to both large and small groups of guests at an event.
While The DuPont Theatre's mission does not conflict with World Cafe Live, there is overlap with The Grand. I would hazard a guess and suggest that the latter's demographics are a bit older. The artists at The Grand enjoy more national and international cachet, but that does not suggest that World Cafe is nothing if not Tonto with his ear to the ground listening for new talent. (Not many have heard of Josh Ritter, the entertainer at last week's donors-only soirée. That man is a pure poet and Aisle Say has a Pandora station dedicated to his music. It was announced that evening that philanthropist Tatiana Copeland gave $1 million in matching funds).
My point is regarding the bigger picture. Over one weekend World Cafe is the new elephant on Market Street. It is absolutely essential that the World Cafe and The Grand work together. The powers that be should have weekly powwows. In the past, Mayor Baker has trumpeted “world class city” for Wilmington. Until this weekend, that was all smoke and mirrors. Now we can make that phrase reality.
The Grand and The Queen have historic interiors, great acoustics, centuries old tradition and strong and passionate leaders. The mission must be to complement. Everyone benefits with a coordinated plan; the institutions, the musicians and most assuredly all Delawareans.

Aisle Say wishes to thank Jayne Armstrong, District Director of the SBA for her “Great Idea For Delaware. We will run it next week. If you have a Great Idea, let everyone else know it.

Elephant Man/ 1st State Ballet

WDL's “Elephant Man” compelling yet uneven
John Merrick was an English man in the late 1800's with severe deformities who was exhibited as a human curiosity. He began to develop abnormally during the first few years of his life. His skin appeared thick and lumpy, he developed an enlargement of his lips, and a bony lump grew on his forehead. One of his arms and both feet became enlarged and at some point during his childhood he fell and damaged his hip, resulting in permanent lameness. When he was 11, his mother died and his father soon remarried. Rejected by his father and stepmother, he left home. He had no formal education.
His true story is one not of bitterness toward the life thrust on him, but redemption of the soul.
Rookie director Andrew Chambliss fortunately surrounded himself with a few community theatre veterans to produce a drama as variegated as Merrick's own skull. His pacing was a bit slow. Theatres, to reduce set costs, are employing slides back lit on screens to create the period feel. Chambliss' choices were good but projecting them on the walls of WDL took away from the action on stage. While I have no doubt the director researched the original novel thoroughly, neither I nor my companion could understand the relevance of the two “Pinhead” girls to the plot.
Merrick (Craig Stump), sans makeup, was excellent in his portrayal; exhibiting anguish, pain, heartbreak and humility. Frederick Treves (Edward Emmi) displayed his character's hypocrisy with panache and a consistent accent. Mrs. Kendal (Nance Weber) can always be counted on for a strong performance.
Til April 2. 764.11172

World Premiere at The Barnstormers in Ridley Park

Aisle Say has til now never ventured just two exits into PA from 95 to visit Barnstormers, but it has long been a venue for many accomplished Delaware theatre people.
We all like Shakespeare's prose. Even more than that, we all like to make fun of trailer parks and their stereotypical inhabitants. (Though never willing to admit this in any watering hole in Greenville, Aisle Say has been fascinated with women in spandex, hair curlers, chewing 4 sticks of gum while decimating the English language out of one side of their mouth. )
The collision of this irresistible force and immovable object occurs with the World Premiere of “Shakespeare in the Trailer Park.” Veteran Director Marsha Amato-Greenspan leads a cast with Delaware ties, including the much-too-cute-for-her-own-safety Dina Bogina, Cindy and Bill Starcher, Tim Sheridan, Nancy Kersey and Karyn Fry.
Til April 10. 610.461.9969

First State Ballet to stage The Adventures of Pinocchio at The Grand

Contrary to opinion from Aisle Say's two ex's, he will not be dancing the title character in 1st State Ballet's current production.
On April 8 and 9 on the main stage of Wilmington’s Grand Opera House, First State Ballet Theatre, Delaware’s professional ballet company, will present, The Adventures of Pinocchio, another FSBT world premiere by internationally acclaimed choreographer Viktor Plotnikov.
Based on the famed children’s story by Carlo Collodialso made popular as a Disney classic children’s moviePlotnikov’s Pinocchio is set to exciting and familiar opera highlights including the works of Donizetti, Gounod, Rossini, Verdi and others. The 60 plus person cast will wear spectacular new Plotnikov-designed costumes now being created in Russia. 877.37 GRAND