On Stage: Michael Allman doesn’t drift too far from family roots

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By Denny Dyroff, Entertainment Editor, The Times

Michael Allman

There will be a lot happening on May 19 at the popular annual “Chestnut Hill Home + Garden Festival” (Germantown Avenue, Chestnut Hill, (Chestnut Hill Home + Garden Festival – Chestnut Hill). The event, which will run from 11 a.m.-5 p.m., was originally scheduled for May 4 but was postponed because of inclement weather.

Actually, the best part of the festival will probably be a post-festival event.

On May 19 at 7 p.m., The Venetian Club (8000 Germantown Avenue) will host a concert by the Michael Allman Band.

If you looked at the name of the headline act Saturday, you would likely draw two conclusions – the music will be Southern Rock and the act will feature a musician who is part of the Allman Brothers musical family.

And you’d be right on both accounts.

This Saturday night, Michael Allman is returning to the area to treat listeners to an evening of straight-ahead rock – with a lot of Southern Rock in its DNA.

Allman is the son of the late Allman Brothers Band guitarist Gregg Allman. The son of the guitar great was destined to be a rocker.

Surprisingly, he didn’t know either until he was six.

Allman was born in 1966 and his mother was Mary Lynn Sutton. In his earliest years, Michael Sean Allman was known as Michael Hendrick, using the name of the man his mother married to legitimize his birth. Sutton and Hendrick never lasted, and she went on to wed Daniel Green, the man Allman originally believed was his father.

“I always wanted to be a pilot,” said Allman, during a phone interview Wednesday afternoon from his home in New Port Richey, Florida.

“My stepfather was a pilot. He was one of the top Learjet pilots in America. He was moving toward being a pilot for the Blue Angels and an astronaut for NASA.

“But he died in a Learjet plane crash when I was six years old. I was crying about his death and that was when my mom told me who my real dad was – that his name was Gregg Allman.”

It was quite an intense ride on an emotional roller coaster for the young Florida boy – this is your dad…your dad just died…your dad is alive…the guy who died was your stepfather…your dad is one of the most famous rock musicians in the world.

“It took me a long time to figure it all out and accept it – years to make sense out of it,” said Allman. “It really seemed that I had lost my father in a plane crash.”

When Gregg Allman died in May 2017, he left behind five children from different mothers — Michael Sean Allman, with former waitress Mary Lynn Green; Devon Allman, with ex-wife Shelley Kay Winters; Elijah Blue, from his marriage to Cher; daughter Delilah Island Allman, with ex-wife Julie Bindas; and daughter Layla Brooklyn Allman, with girlfriend Shelby Blackburn. Delilah Island Allman is the only one who is not a musician.

“Gregg Allman is my father,” said Allman. “I can guarantee you there are 10 or more people who can say the same thing and be telling the truth. Call him the father of our country – a kid in every state.”

Michael Allman had a rough childhood and ended up in a military academy when he was 15. Two years later, his mother was diagnosed with breast cancer. When she was hospitalized for treatment, Allman moved in with his dad.

After high school, Allman drifted into the music world – working as a bartender, a sound board guy in clubs and a DJ. One gig as a DJ had bad consequences.

“I was working in a club in South Carolina,” said Allman. “Three drunks got thrown out of the bar. They came back and started shooting. I started chasing them and I got knifed. I got stabbed a lot, went to the hospital and needed 300 stitches to patch me up. I was in the hospital for a month.”

Allman also had to deal with testicular cancer in 2002. Surgery was a success, and he is still cancer-free.

In the next musical step in his story, Allman began singing with local bands.

“Steve Perry was my idol – and my inspiration for my vocals,” said Allman. “That was the voice I had for a long time – until I discovered whiskey and cigarettes. I had my own band in the late 80s and most of the 90s. I also had two sons and wanted to have a good married life. So, I left music behind and worked in construction.”

Allman split from his first wife, went back to music, and then remarried. At his new wife’s insistence, Allman again traded the life of a rocker for the life of a working dad.

“After a while, it was driving me crazy,” said Allman. “I felt trapped – trapped by family life. I gave up music for her. I will never do that again. I stayed with her for 10 years and we never had any kids.

“When she left, I said – nothing is stopping me now. I found my old manager’s phone number. I re-connected with him and soon we were in the studio making a record. The album came out in 2009.”

That album was “Hard Labor Creek.” In 2020, Allman recorded his sophomore album, “Blues Travels Fast.” Unfortunately, things did not go as planned because of COVID.

“I had 36 shows lined up and they all got wiped out by COVID,” said Allman. “That would have been a great year, but the album sat in dry dock. It’s out now – CDs, online, YouTube and, as a special thing, 100 vinyl copies from a German company.

Just as it was at his show in Sellersville a few years ago, Allman will be backed by The Mile High Club, a Philadelphia-based band featuring John McNutt (guitar), Marc Iezzi (drums), A.J. Hager (bass) and Tim McKinstry (keyboards).

“I’ve been playing with these guys since 2015,” said Allman. “In previous shows in your area, we had Tommy Zamparelli on guitar, but he left to join Get the Led Out. Our new guitarist is Tim Smith. He’s really good.

“It gets better every year. Our set list for this show is about 70 per cent Allman Brothers Band and 30 per cent Michael Allman songs — and each Mile High guy does a solo.”

Video link for Michael Allman – https://youtu.be/CD70M1nQ77Q.

Joe Matarese

Another artist who turned in a brilliant headline performance at the Sellersville Theater recently years is comedian Joe Matarese.

On May 16, Matarese will headline a show at the Candlelight Dinner Theater (2208 Millers Road, Arden, Delaware, 302- 475-2313, www.candlelighttheatredelaware.org) in its monthly edition of Candlelight Comedy Club.

If the Sellersville Theater books a comedy act to headline a show, you can be fairly sure it will be a top-flight performance.

Matarese, who grew up in nearby Cherry Hill, New Jersey, has played the theater in Bucks County before and they keep inviting him back.

Matarese is touring his new standup show that is a nostalgic reflection of the life he had growing up in the 80’s compared to today’s disconnected staring at phones and computers all day and night. Matarese knows both generations having lived through one more than three decades ago and having a 14-year-old son and an 11-year-old daughter dealing with life in 2020.

The name of the show is “Mullets and Mixtapes” – things that are very familiar to those who came up through the era when MTV ruled the airwaves.

“It is a show all about the 80s,” said Matarese, during a phone interview from his home in New Rochelle, New York.

“This is a show for no-one under 40 or over 60. It looks at the 80s. And it’s also all about raising kids now.”

According to Matarese, “My objective is to create thought provoking original dramatic and comedic projects that weave the two genres together.”

Matarese grew up across the river in South Jersey during the days when Emerald City was a rock club in Cherry Hill that booked amazing acts (Alice Cooper, the Ramones, Beach Boys, Buzzcocks, Badfinger and lots more) and the Admiral Wilson Boulevard was a two-mile drive through Sin City.

“I graduated from Cherry Hill East High School and then went to Camden County Community College,” said Matarese. “I started doing standup around the same time I was failing out of college.

“I began doing standup full-time when I was 19. I started in Philly doing open mics at places like Comedy Works and Comedy Factory Outlet. I was in Philly for four years and then moved to New York.”

In New York, Matarese upped his game to a whole new level.

“Back then, there were a million gigs – bar gigs in New York and New Jersey,” said Matarese.

“I quickly broke into New York’s main comedy shows. I got a lot of spots. It was like a training ground.

“I was doing showcase clubs – Caroline’s on Broadway, Gotham Comedy Club – along with road gigs. I got booked on MTV for Spring Break in Panama City in 1995.”

Since then, Matarese has made appearances on the most sought-after TV and radio shows, performing twice on The Late Show with David Letterman, five times on The Late Late Show with Craig Kilborn and Craig Ferguson, four times at the Montreal Comedy Festival, and receiving a standing ovation on America’s Got Talent in 2014.

According to the AGT website, “Joe Matarese was a stand-up comedian act from Season 9 of America’s Got Talent. He was eliminated during Judgment Week. Joe’s completely autobiographical act pokes fun at his subtly dysfunctional Italian family, his own neuroses, life with a five-year-old, and a baby daughter, and his marriage to a psychologist (his perfect match).”

Matarese’s audition in Episode 906 consisted of joking about topics such as signs of feeling old, pretending to care as a dad, and easily having a good time when away from his kids. Howard Stern, Heidi Klum, Mel B, and Howie Mandel all voted “Yes,” sending Joe to Judgment Week. After his performance, his kids (ages 6 and 1) joined him on stage to hug and congratulate him.

“Doing that show was a lot of fun,” said Matarese. “When I did ‘America’s Got Talent,’ I had little kids recognizing me.”

Matarese has been a guest on The Howard Stern Show, WTF with Marc Maron, and Chelsea Lately, had his very own Comedy Central Presents half-hour special, and currently has two one-hour specials on Amazon Prime – “Medicated” and “The Poster’s Wrong.”

He has recorded seven standup albums that are currently in rotation on SiriusXM, including “Quiet Please,” “Fixing Joe,” “Disconnected,” “When A Comedian Attacks,” “Medicated,” “The Poster’s Wrong” and “Completely Present.”

The veteran comic performed in front of 18,000 people at the Wells Fargo Center alongside Bill Burr and Sebastian Maniscalco, as well as with Artie Lange at NYC’s Carnegie Hall. New audiences are currently discovering his comedy on Tik Tok.

If you attend Matarese’s show Sunday at the Sellersville Theater, you’ll be treated to a sneak preview of “Mullets and Mixtapes.” And, despite what Matarese says, you’ll be allowed into the show even if you’re under 40 or over 60.

Video link for Joe Matarese — https://youtu.be/iZO-GXJxO5I.

The show will also feature Justin Gonzalez and Maureen Ferguson.

Gonzalez, who is the glue that holds it all together, is a stand-up comedian and magician. He is also an independent musician based in Philadelphia who travels throughout the Tri-State area and beyond.

Gonzalez, who began performing professionally at the age of 11, now performs with a repertoire that includes classical, big band, Broadway and opera. Most recently, he added a new genre when he assumed the role of lead vocalist for “33 1/3 LIVE’s Killer Queen Experience.”

“I’m originally from Northeast Philly,” said Gonzalez. “I went to school in South Philly at GAMP.”

The Girard Academic Music Program (GAMP) is a college preparatory school for students in grades 5 through 12 that provides a unique educational environment, focusing on college and career readiness, while allowing all students to pursue music as a major subject.

“I was at GAMP for eight years,” said Gonzalez. “I studied voice and instruments starting with lower brass. Voice was a large chunk of it. I got my first professional performance in Europe.”

At the age of 13, Gonzalez was asked to join a chorus as a soloist on its two-week tour of Germany and France. On that trip, he had the opportunity to perform in many castles, mansions, and historic houses of worship. The most memorable moment for him was singing in the Cathedral Notre Dame in Paris, France.

“It was amazing,” said Gonzalez. “I was 13 and I was singing at the Cathedral Notre Dame. I was just a poor Puerto Rican kid from North Philly, and I was singing in places like a castle in Germany and a cathedral in Berlin.”

After years of laying the groundwork for a promising career as an opera singer, Gonzalez was diagnosed at the age of 18 with Multiple Sclerosis, an autoimmune disease. One of the symptoms of MS is memory loss. His opera career was over just as quickly as it began.

“It affected my brain’s ability to memorize,” said Gonzalez. “I still sing classically at venues around the East Coast and on Broadway.”

Today, 20 years since that first tour, Gonzalez is still a sought-after classical music soloist. He is also a practitioner of the American Song Book and the music of Broadway. He uses all of this music to entertain, educate, and share his story.

“I also have several music projects,” said Gonzalez. “There is the Little Big Band Lounge Revival, which does lounge and popular standards along with classic love songs, and the Justin Gonzalez Jazz Trio, which is a pop trio that uses classical instruments. There is also ‘33 1/3 LIVE’s Killer Queen Experience.’”

The comedy aspect is the most recent.

“About eight years ago, I was doing a weekly cabaret show with Julia Scotti – ‘Julia Scotti’s Comedy Test Kitchen,’” said Gonzalez. “She said I should tell my stories when performing. That allowed me to just be funny.”

Video link for Justin Gonzalez — https://youtu.be/kNtcF4Z5aqQ.

Tickets are $30. The show will start at 6:30 p.m.

The Candlelight’s mainstage production, “Moon Over Buffalo,” opened on May 11 and is running through June 16.

“Moon Over Buffalo” is a 1995 comic play by Ken Ludwig set in Buffalo, New York in 1953. This play marked the return of Carol Burnett to the Broadway stage after a 30-year absence.

This madcap comedy by Ken Ludwig centers on George and Charlotte Hay, fading stars of the 1950s playing Private Lives and Cyrano de Bergerac in rep in Buffalo, New York. On the brink of a disastrous split-up caused by George’s dalliance with a young ingénue, they receive word that they might just have one last shot at stardom.

Frank Capra is coming to town to see their matinee, and if he likes what he sees, he might cast them in his movie remake of The Scarlet Pimpernel.

“Moon Over Buffalo” relies heavily on situation comedy for its humor, as well as some sexual innuendo and a little slapstick. The actor who plays George, in particular, must be able to deliver a highly physical performance. George engages in a mock fencing match with Charlotte, a wrestling match with Howard, and a stunt fall into the orchestra pit.

The action and dialogue are fast paced, as the characters are constantly bickering or frantically trying to resolve some confusion. It bears numerous similarities to Ludwig’s previous farce, “Lend Me A Tenor” — period timeframe, Northeastern city, drinking-and-womanizing male star, justifiably jealous wife, young stage manager desperately trying to keep things together, important person(s) in the audience, at least one character who has passed out and is believed missing, non-actors forced to go onstage, etc.

Performances are Friday and Saturday evenings (doors 6 p.m./show, 8 p.m.) and Sunday afternoons (doors, 1 p.m./show, 3 p.m.).

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

Ensemble Arts Philly – the new presenting brand of the Kimmel Cultural Campus and The Philadelphia Orchestra – in partnership with The Shubert Organization, Sadler’s Wells, and Universal Music UK, present “Message In A Bottle,” a new dance theatre production by Sadler’s Wells Associate Artist Kate Prince, set to the music of 17-time Grammy Award-winning artist Sting.
The show will run now through May 19 at the Miller Theater (250 South Broad Street, Philadelphia, www.ensembleartsphilly.org). Philly is one of only 10 cities in North America that have been selected to present this tour.

“Message In A Bottle” sees a village alive with joyous celebrations suddenly come under siege. In the chaos, three siblings – Leto, Mati and Tana – are separated from their parents. They undertake a perilous journey to new lands and set out on their own extraordinary adventures.

Songs include “Every Breath You Take,” “Roxanne,” “Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic,” “Walking on The Moon,” “Englishman In New York,” “Shape Of My Heart” and “Fields Of Gold.”

On stage, gravity-defying lyrical hip-hop dance and breathtaking music combine in a moving story of humanity and hope.

The brilliantly recorded soundtrack to “Message In A Bottle” also features new vocals by Sting and new arrangements by Grammy and Tony Award winner Alex Lacamoire (Hamilton, The Greatest Showman), with guest vocals from award-winning actress and singer Beverley Knight MBE and Lynval Golding (The Specials).

“Message In A Bottle” made its world premiere at Sadler’s Wells’ West End Venue, The Peacock Theatre, on Wednesday, February 19, 2020.

NOTE: “Message In A Bottle” contains some scenes of an adult nature. These are all told through dance and are appropriate to the storyline and setting of the show. There is a short moment representing sexual violence against a female character in Act One. After the interval, there are some depictions of drug use at the beginning of the second half.

Video link for “Message In A Bottle” — https://youtu.be/vC05Py1BqFY.

The show will run now through May19.

Ticket prices start at $46.

Now through May 19, People’s Light (39 Conestoga Road, Malvern, www.peopleslight.org) is presenting the regional premiere of the Obie Award winning play “Hurricane Diane” by Pulitzer Prize finalist Madeleine George.

The comedic romp with a mythological twist is a hilarious parable of climate reckoning and liberation set in an unassuming Monmouth County, New Jersey cul-de-sac.

Directed by People’s Light Associate Producing Director Molly Rosa Houlahan, “Hurricane Diane” features actor Rami Margron in the lead role, performing alongside Suli Holum, Teri Lamm, Shauna Miles, and Julianna Zinkel. The play runs through May 19 with 21 performances presented on the Leonard C. Haas Stage, a 340-seat performance venue housed in an 18th-century stone barn.

“Hurricane Diane” made its world premiere at Two River Theater in Red Bank, New Jersey, in 2017, then went on to run off-Broadway at New York Theatre Workshop in 2019.

The play centers on Diane, a permaculture gardener with swaggering charm. She also has supernatural powers thanks to her secret identity: the Greek god Dionysus. After settling in a modern-day New Jersey suburb, Diane sets out to recruit the mortals for an environmental revolution that would restore Earth to its natural state.

George’s Obie Award-winning comedy is a hilarious story that blends ancient myth, climate revolution, and Real Housewives of New Jersey drama.

Tickets start at $42, including fees.

On May 18, SRUTI (www.sruti.org) will present a Grand Carnatic Vocal Music Concert featuring NJ Nandini (Vocal), B. Ananthakrishnan (Violin), Sri. Murugaboopathi (Mridangam), and Sri. Guruprasad (Ghatam) at 4:30 p.m. at West Chester Fugett Middle School Auditorium (500 Ellis Lane, West Chester, www.sruti.org).

SRUTI, The India Music and Dance Society is a non-profit, volunteer-run organization. Every year, around 10 or more world class music and dance recitals are presented during the Spring and Fall seasons by SRUTI in the Greater Philadelphia area.

NJ Nandini is a vibrant young vocalist from Trivandrum who has captured the ears of ardent Carnatic music listeners across India.

Hailing from a family of rich musical heritage, granddaughter of late Vechur N Hariharasubramania Iyer, she has been nurtured over the years by her eminent gurus — Padmasri Parassala B Ponnammal, Prof. P R Kumarakerala Varma, Dr. S Bhagyalekshmy and Dr. M N Moorthy.

Endowed with an enviable comprehension and a rare insight into Carnatic music’s various depths and facts, she brings out music in her own ravishing style, which is rooted in tradition.

Nandini has composed music for various creative concepts. She has performed Jugalbandi with flute virtuoso Shri. Kudamaloor Janardanan and composed many musical pieces for dance. Nandini has also served as guest lecturer in Sree Swathi Thirunal Govt. College of Music, Trivandrum.

Vidwan Shri. B. Ananthakrishnan hails from a reputed musician family. He has accompanied many legends of Carnatic music and continues to share the stage with senior artists. He has performed in every major Sabha including The Music Academy Madras, Sri. Krishna Gana Sabha, Shanmukhananda Sabha (Mumbai). He has also had concert tours in Europe, United States and Australia.

Sri. Murugaboopathi hails from a family of musicians and artists of several generations and had his initial training under Sri. T R Srinivasan (Mridanga Vidwan and Lecturer) at the Tamil Nadu Music College Chennai. Sri. Murugaboopathi was conferred the “Vadya Visharada” with distinction by the Music College.

Over the past decade Sri. Murugaboopathi has been traveling extensively to countries like USA, Scotland, Australia, South Africa, New Zealand, U.K., Germany, Italy, Switzerland, France, Spain, Belgium, Turkey, Middle East, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand and Hong Kong for concert performances, lecture demonstrations and teaching assignments.

The show at Fugett Middle School on May 18 will start at 4:30 p.m.

Tickets are $35 for adults, $25 for seniors and $50 for premier seating.

Kennett Flash (102 Sycamore Alley, Kennett Square, 484-732-8295, http://www.kennettflash.org) will host Three Ton with special guest New Savage on May 18.

Jamey’s House of Music (32 South Lansdowne Avenue, Lansdowne, 215-477-9985,www.jameyshouseofmusic.com) will host Bobby Messano on May 17 and The Settlement Music School Jazz Night on May 18.

The shows at Jamey’s House of Music will start at 8 p.m.

Tickets are $25 in advance and $30 at the door on Friday and $20 in advance and $25 at the door on Saturday.

Both shows will also be available as a pay-per-view at $15 each.

“Jazz at Jamey’s” will be presented every second and fourth Thursday, and “Anything Goes” every first, third and fifth Thursday.

Every Sunday, Jamey’s presents “SUNDAY BLUES BRUNCH & JAM” featuring the Philly Blues Kings. On the second Sunday each month, the featured act is the Girke-Davis Project which features club owner Jamey Reilly, Roger Girke, Glenn Bickel, Fred Berman and Colgan-Davis.

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