On Stage: Bullets Over Broadway opens in West Chester

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By Denny Dyroff, Entertainment Editor, The Times

Some things are a laughing matter – some are not.

The Resident Theatre Company (RTC) at Uptown! Knauer Performing Arts Center (236 North High Street, West Chester, http://www.rtcwc.org) was very serious when it began presenting shows last spring.

Now, over the next few weeks, the RTC is wrapping up its first full season with its third production and it’s a laughing matter.

From March 30-April 15, the company is presenting the musical comedy “Bullets over Broadway.”

“Bullets over Broadway” began as a 1994 American comedy film written by Woody Allen and Douglas McGrath and directed by Woody Allen.

It starred an ensemble cast including John Cusack, Dianne Wiest, Chazz Palminteri, and Jennifer Tilly. The film was nominated for seven Academy Awards and Wiest won Best Supporting Actress for her performance.

The show got its second incarnation a few years ago when Allen and a production team mounted the show on Broadway at the St. James Theatre. It had its third incarnation is as a national tour two years ago.

Now, “Bullets Over Broadway” will have a 14-performance run at the comfortable new theater in the heart of West Chester.

“The way we put the season together was to start with a smaller musical in the fall,” said RTC Artistic Director Kristin McLaughlin Mitchell, during a phone interview Monday afternoon from her office in West Chester.

“Then, we had a holiday-themed show in December and we’re finishing with a big, fun comedy musical in the spring. We did the same thing last spring with ‘Spamalot.’

“With this show, we wanted something that would feel great as the spring comes in. Audiences will love it because it’s a lot of fun. There are a lot of familiar characters. It will get people out of their winter hibernation.”

That’s great news because no-one wants to be sitting around this week singing “I’m dreaming of a white Easter.”

The show is about a young playwright whose first Broadway play is financed by a gangster. The score consists of jazz and popular standards of the years between World War I and 1930 by various songwriters.

“I had always loved the movie,” said Mitchell. “With the stage show, audiences enjoy going backstage. They can see what’s going on.

“Even though the show takes place in the 1920s, there are lot of things that are relevant now. It’s a very broad comedy. And, there a lot of ensemble numbers – a lot of highlights with our dancers.”

The show has a very talented cast featuring Jennie Eisenhower (Helen Sinclair), Michael Judson Berry (David Shayne), Vincent A. D’Elia (Nick Valenti), Bailey Seeker (Ellen), Robert Anthony Jones (Warner), Karis Gallant (Olive Neal), Tyler Hatch (Cheech), Paul Weagraff (Julian Marx) and Maggie Griffin-Smith (Eden Brent).

Eisenhower is a highly-acclaimed actress and director based in the Philadelphia area. She is a two-time Barrymore Award winner – for “Forbidden Broadway” at Walnut Street Theatre (Best Actress), and “Wild Party” at Media Theatre (Best Supporting Actress).

Eisenhower also is an adjunct professor at Temple University. Additionally, she is the great grandchild of President Dwight D. Eisenhower and the grandchild of Richard Nixon.

“Jennie is fantastic in this show,” said Mitchell. “We hired a top-flight casting director and had really big auditions locally and in New York. As a result, we have an unbelievably good cast. And, we have Dann Dunn as choreographer and Amanda Morton as Music Director.”

RTC has also put together an award-winning design team for the biggest show of their season. The team includes renowned set designer Mary Hamrick, costume designer Kayla Speedy, lighting designer Mike Inwood, sound designer Lucas Fendlay, and props designer Angela Kozinski.

As the Director, Mitchell came into the show with a clean sheet.

“I didn’t get a chance to see the show on Broadway,” said Mitchell.

“Actually, I like it that way. I don’t have the Broadway show playing in my head. It’s the first time in a long time that I didn’t have a script that is a blueprint. We feel like we have something that is really fresh.”

“Bullets Over Broadway” will run from March 30-April 15. Ticket prices range from $25-$53.

A lot of people are off from work on Friday and ready to get their holiday weekend going on Thursday night.

A good way to jump-start the weekend – and to get jumping to the music – would be to attend the concert by Remember Jones at the Ardmore Music Hall (23 East Lancaster Avenue, Ardmore, 610-649-8389, www.ardmoremusic.com).

The rocking music venue in Ardmore is hosting “Mad Dogs & Englishmen: A Revival of the Joe Cocker & Leon Russell Concert Experience with a 20-piece Band.”

Remember Jones is the stage name of Anthony D’Amato, a singer/songwriter/actor from North Jersey. It is also the name of his live touring music project.

“We’re opening this show with an original set by Remember Jones, which is my 12-piece soul band,” said D’Amato, during a phone interview Monday from his home in Asbury Park, New Jersey.

“We spend quite a lot of time on the road and we have two albums so far. We have a horn section, backing vocalists, keyboard players – it’s a big group. The band is about three years old. It’s been moving really fast.”

Remember Jones is a one-of-a-kind soul/pop singer, storyteller and bandleader with a throwback vibe and authentic energy that bring audiences to another time and place.

Collaboratively supported by a double-digit sized band centrally from Asbury Park, Remember Jones has packed popular venues such as The Stone Pony and The Saint.

D’Amato has also directed and debuted as Hedwig in “Hedwig and the Angry Inch” and has produced, music directed, and supported many local acts, rock musicals, and touring bands.

D’Amato also fronts another tribute project – “Back to Back to Black,” a recreation of the entire Amy Winehouse album with an orchestra ranging from 5-25 musicians.

“The Winehouse project has been my biggest success,” said D’Amato. “We recreate the album and I sing the vocals.

“The Cocker show means a lot to me personally. ‘Mad Dogs & Englishmen’ has always been one of my favorite records. That’s probably why I have a 12-piece band. I love the energy of it.

“The ‘Mad Dogs & Englishmen’ album is really challenging to recreate. For the last eight years, I’ve been touring with Glen Burtnik’s ‘Summer of Love Experience’ and doing Cocker’s songs in that show.

“So, I decided to do my own Cocker show. It’s a 20-piece band with some guests and we do a two-hour set. We have an authentic sound that allows us to be in the moment.”

Video link for Remember Jones – https://youtu.be/DwU19sUmaT8.

The show at the Ardmore Music Hall will start at 8 p.m. Tickets are $20.

Other upcoming shows at the venue are The Soul Rebels with special guests Talib Kweli + GZA on March 30, and Wyclef John along with George Stanford on March 31.

Jared & the Mill

Jared & the Mill — Jared Kolesar, Michael Carter, Larry Gast III, Chuck Morriss III, Josh Morin – play indie rock with a western flair. They all look natural wearing cowboy hats and their music has a freshness all its own.

On March 29, the young band from Arizona will perform in Philadelphia for the fourth time and pay a return visit to MilkBoy Philly (1100 Chestnut Street, Philadelphia, 215- 925-6455, www.milkboyphilly.com)

“We’re five best friends from Arizona,” said Kolesar, during a phone interview last week from a tour stop in Washington, D.C.

“We came together naturally. Me and the banjo player Michael have been really good buddies since seventh grade. A friend introduced me to Larry. We asked him if he wanted to start a band. He invited a couple of his friends and we developed into a group of dudes who played music together. I had been playing for a while. So, I taught them my songs and we started playing those at the beginning. The same guys from the beginning are still in the band. We get along really well.”

The band’s first album in 2013 was “Western Expansion.”

“That album was mostly my songs,” said Kolesar. “We put the songs together before we went into the studio.

“Our second record was ‘Life We Choose’ and I wrote most of those songs too. We used producer Tony Burke, who was like a guru. We learned a lot from that record.

“The next was the ‘Orme Dugas’ EP. That record featured a lot of experimentation. We wanted to delve into a new sonic shape.”

Now, Jared & the Mill have a new album ready to be released very soon. To make the record, the boys from the Sonoran desert went to another desert – to Joshua Tree in southern California.

“We recorded the new album in September at Gato’s Trail Studio with producer Ethan Allen,” said Kolesar. “We went to that studio because Ethan wanted to record there. He feels inspired when he’s out there – and we did too.

“We definitely did a lot of writing when we were out there. We put it together out there in the desert. We were there for about a month-and-a-half.

“I’m not sure when it’s going to be released. We just put out ‘Soul in Mind,’ which is the first single from the album.”

Kolesar talked about the evolution of the band’s music.

“It’s braver,” said Kolesar. “There are more risks taken. Musically, we have some much harder rock-and-roll elements. It just sounds more mature.

“It would make sense if you listened to our records in order. The new one has a bit of everything. You can hear elements of the past along with new exploration.

“We’re from the desert. We’re very much shaped by the environment we come from. If I had to give our music a name, I’d say western indie rock.”

Video link for Jared & the Mill – https://youtu.be/R-GXWwqqk78.

The show at MilkBoy Philadelphia, which has Tucker Hill Band and Homestead Collective as openers, will start at 8 p.m. Tickets are $15.

Other upcoming shows at MilkBoy Philly are Ill Fated Neighbors on March 30, Caleborate on March 31, In Tall Buildings on April 3 and Patrick Richards on April 4.

The African Children’s Choir

The African Children’s Choir, which is performing March 30 at the Community Bible Fellowship of Roxborough (6035 Ridge Avenue, Philadelphia, 215-482-1489), has a great story behind it.

In 1984, in the midst of Uganda’s bloody civil war, human rights activist Ray Barnett was called on to help the many thousands of orphaned and starving children, abandoned and helpless to feed and protect themselves.

Realizing the enormity of the task, Barnett and his team came up with a unique approach. The only way to make a meaningful difference was to impact the lives of these children — one child at a time.

The first Choir was formed in 1984, selected from orphaned and vulnerable children in the Kampala and Luwero areas of Uganda. After the Choir was trained to perform and readied for living in new and different cultures, the children travelled from Uganda to tour amongst the North American Church communities.

The youngsters immediately impressed audiences with their vibrancy and outstanding musical talent. And, they quickly became a mouthpiece for the plight of the many thousands of vulnerable children like them in Uganda.

The proceeds of the first African Children’s Choir tour also funded the building of an orphanage back in Kampala from which a second African Children’s Choir was selected.

In the early years they would tour principally in United States, Canada and the United Kingdom. The proceeds of their tours, and the sponsorship support they would attract, funded a growing program of establishing literacy schools to enable the very neediest children to get a foot up into proper education.

Meanwhile, the continuing care, education and development of returning Choir children was assured through the proceeds of Choir tours and the generosity of sponsors and donors.

Music for Life (parent organization for The African Children’s’ Choir) works in several countries in east Africa as well as South Africa. MFL has educated more than 52,000 children and impacted the lives of more than 100,000 people through its relief and development programs during its history.

Music for Life’s purpose is to help create new leadership for tomorrow’s Africa by focusing on education.

“We’re trying to educate as many children as we can,” said choir manager Tina Sipp during a phone interview Monday afternoon.

“We’re working on education projects in Uganda, Kenya, Rwanda, and South Sudan – mostly in east Africa.”

The African Children’s Choir inspires audiences through their unique blend of cultural song and festive dance. Members range from ages 7-10 and are survivors of the devastation of war, famine and disease.

“We have 18 children in this touring choir — eight boys and 10 girls,” said Sipp. “The members of this choir are all from Uganda – from Kampala and Luwero.

“This is the program’s 34th year and we have one choir performing in America right now. This one is Choir 48.

“It’s an 80-minute show straight-through. It’s pretty equal between African worship music, gospel and contemporary Christian music.

“There probably is a little more emphasis and more time devoted to the African music with dancing and a drum ensemble. All the songs are sung in Luganda.”

Video link for choir – https://youtu.be/UIgTww3TQ-s.

The show in Roxborough will start at 7 p.m. No tickets are required and donations are appreciated.

Dear Boy

It comes as no surprise when music fans think that Dear Boy is a pop band from the United Kingdom.

The four band members — Ben Grey (vocals/guitar), Keith Cooper (drums), Austin Hayman (guitar) and Lucy Lawrence (bass) – look British. They dress like Brits at times.

The main reason the band, which is performing at Underground Arts (1200 Callowhill Street, Philadelphia, http://undergroundarts.org) on March 30, projects an Anglophile vibe is its music.

Formed in Los Angeles a few years ago, Dear Boy wrote its debut EP in Vauxhall, London.

Tracked by Chad Bamford (Spiritualized) and mixed by Michael Patterson (Trent Reznor, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club), the “Dear Boy” EP was released in autumn 2013. Propelled by the single “Oh So Quiet,” Dear Boy built a devoted live following, headlining L.A. such as the Troubadour and The Bootleg Theater.

The band also added to its popularity with, along with performances at SXSW in Austin, TX and a national tour supporting Kitten.

“We’re all from L.A. – all from the San Fernando Valley,” said Grey, during a recent phone interview when the band was in Barstow, California. “Now, the drummer lives in New York and the rest of us are in California.

“We were all friends before we started this band. We met in our early 20s. I met the bass player in a coffee shop. This is the first time I’ve ever been in a band with my best friends.

“We really didn’t start the band until we moved to England. We had an opportunity to move to London. I had a friend who was a booking agent in London. He said – move here and I’ll get you work permits.

“We started writing and recording in a little flat in Putney – and we all got day jobs. We kept getting evicted from these little flats when the landlords found out there were four of us living there. It was truly a bizarre experience.”

The band started recording its music in what was an unlikely excuse for a studio.

“We were in England for six months,” said Grey. “We did all our demoing in our shower. “We couldn’t have the light on because it made too much noise. And, our music frightened the neighbors.

“We didn’t start the actual recording until we came home. But, the shower stuff made it to all our recordings. We did all the proper recording here in L.A.

“We played our first show here in 2013 and then released our first record in 2014 – a seven-inch called ‘Hesitation Waltz.’”

“Hesitation Waltz,” which was produced by Doug Boehm (Girls) and mixed by Gareth Jones (Depeche Mode, Wire, Merchandise), was recorded in part at the legendary Sunset Sound Studios in Hollywood.

“In 2016, we put out an EP called ‘Parts of a Flower.’ We recorded it at Sonora Recorders in Atwater Village. In January, we released a single – ‘Love Interest.’

“We have another EP that we’re just finishing now at Boulevard Studio in Hollywood. It’s our favorite experience. It feels like it’s haunted by a lot of great artists.

“We have another week of recording and ten the five-song EP will be out in late spring. It finally sounds like the record we wanted to make.

“We’re sitting in 40 songs. We’ve been entombed by demos. It’s only been recently that we’ve been able to get the songs out.”

When asked to describe Dear Boy’s sound, Grey said “It’s a blend of late 70s/early 80s post-punk, early 90s Brit-Pop asnd guitar jangle.

Video link for Dear Boy – https://youtu.be/JXyfT1CklIo.

The show at Underground Arts, which has Rouge Wave as the headliner, will start at 9 p.m. Tickets are $22.

Other upcoming shows at Underground Arts are Queen of Jeans on March 31 and Knocked Loose on April 1.

Darlingside

It has been less than one month since Darlingside released its new album “Extralife” and the band is already is out on the road touring in support of the new disc.

On March 30, the tour will touch down locally when Darlingside — Don Mitchell (guitar, banjo, vocals), Auyon Mukharji (mandolin, violin, vocals), Harris Paseltiner (guitar, cello, vocals), David Senft (bass, kick drum, vocals) — headlines a show at Union Transfer (1026 Spring Garden Street, Philadelphia, 215-232-2100, www.utphilly.com).

“This is the beginning of the second leg of the tour,” said Paseltiner, during a phone interview last week from his home in Boston, Massachusetts.

“We have a hometown show tonight in Cambridge and then we’re out on the road again. After this, we’ll be heading to the U.K. soon. We’ll tour through May and then play a bunch of festivals this summer.”

“Extralife” was not a project that came together quickly for the Boston-based quartet.

“We started recording the album almost a year ago,” said Paseltiner. “The songs came together last winter. In April, we went in and tracked it at Dimension Sound Studio in Jamaica Plain.

“Then, we took the tracks back to Dave’s house where he has a studio. We did experimental overdubs and vocals. We like to do a lot of experimentation on our own instead of using time in the studio. It gives us the ability to play with the sound.

“We went back to Dimension Sound in mid-summer to do the final tracking and experimenting with effects. Picking and choosing and editing is a big part of our process. It we send enough pellets toward the target, hopefully one will hit the bulls-eye.”

The four veteran musicians had plenty of time to get acquainted with the songs.

“Some of these songs have been floating around for a long time – as long as a decade,” said Paseltimer. “We usually have a round 100 melodies to work with and the lyrics start to coalesce later.

“We were in the studio around the same time as the election. We usually write at home but at the time, we were on tour with our last album. We had to find the time to write.

“We also had to look at what was going on in the country — and the mayhem in the world in general. All the big questions were slamming us at the time. Those themes infused themselves on our lyric sets — what do we feel right now?

“We tracked 26 songs and then whittled it down to those we used for the album. The theme started to develop as we whittled down. It was very late in the process.

“A lot of themes people say we’re tackling are things that are dealing with the world outside ourselves rather than the personal themes we had on ‘Birds Say,’ which was our album before this one.

“Still, to me, the new album feels very personal. It also feels like it’s really dark and really light at the same time.

“In our live shows on this tour, we’re playing half the new record along with songs from our previous records – ‘EP1,’ ‘Pilot Machines,’ and ‘Birds Say.’ It’s a good healthy mix.”

Video link for Darlingside – https://youtu.be/wvAEI0zpO84.

The show at Union Transfer, which has Twain as the opening act, will start at 8 p.m. Tickets are $16.

Other upcoming shows at Union Transfer are Drive-By Truckers on March 31, Wild Child on April 2, Cigarettes After Sex on April 3, and Superchunk on April 3.

Monkeephiles

Kennett Flash (102 Sycamore Alley, Kennett Square, 484-732-8295, http://www.kennettflash.org)

Monkeephiles – A Tribute to The Monkees on March 31.

The Colonial Theatre (Bridge Street, Phoenixville, 610- 917-1228, www.thecolonialtheatre.com) will host “Point Entertainment presents An Evening with Acoustic Hot Tuna” on April 2 and “Point Entertainment presents Billy Cobham’s Crosswinds  Project” on April 4.

Chaplin’s (66 North Main Street, Spring City, 610-792-4110, http://chaplinslive.com) will have Mangled Bones, Outlast the Echo and Raymond Short on March 30 and The Gene Smith Band and Alexandra March on March 31.

The Academy of Music (Broad and Locust streets, Philadelphia, 215-731-3333, www.kimmelcenter.org) is presenting “School of Rock” now through April 1.

The Keswick Theater (291 N. Keswick Avenue, Glenside, 215-572-7650, www.keswicktheatre.com) is presenting “Jesus Christ Superstar” now through March 31.

The Sellersville Theater (24 West Temple Avenue, Sellersville, 215-257-5808, www.st94.com) will have Marshall Crenshaw & Bottle Rockets on March 29, The Land of Ozz on March 30 andJohn Gorka and Lizanne Knott on March 31.

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