On Stage (Extra): The King and I returns to Philly

By Denny DyroffStaff Writer, The Times 

The King and I

“The King and I,” which is running from March 22-April 2 at the Academy of Music (Broad and Locust streets, Philadelphia, 215-731-3333, www.kimmelcenter.org) as part of the Kimmel Center’s “Broadway Philadelphia” series, is one of the all-time great American musicals.

Based on Margaret Landon’s 1944 novel “Anna and the King of Siam” and derived from the memoirs of Anna Leonowens, governess to the children of King Mongkut of Siam in the early 1860s, the show was the fifth musical by the team of composer Richard Rodgers and dramatist Oscar Hammerstein II.

Set in 1860’s Bangkok, the musical tells the story of the unconventional and tempestuous relationship that develops between the King of Siam and Anna Leonowens, a British schoolteacher whom the modernist King, in an imperialistic world, brings to Siam to teach his many wives and children.

The timeless musical is a great show — an incredible romantic story. It also speaks to culture clashes — how people are polarized — and that’s something that is still relevant today. All the themes are enduring. Somehow, Rodgers and Hammerstein’s themes always stay timely.

 “The King and I” also is responsible for a number of songs that have become standards – familiar tunes that bridge generation gaps such as “Hello Young Lovers,” “I Whistle a Happy Tune,” “Shall We Dance?” and “Getting to Know You.”

What makes this national tour special is the talent of the actors playing the two main roles — Laura Michelle Kelly as Anna Leonowens and Jose Llana as The King – and the fact that it is directed by Bartlett Sher.

Kelly just recently completed a year-and-a-half run playing Sylvia Llewelyn Davies in the Broadway production of “Finding Neverland.” Llana has returned to the role of “The King of Siam” after two starring engagements in the Tony-winning Lincoln Center revival of “The King and I.”

“One of the reasons I really wanted to do this show was because Bartlett Sher was the director,” said Kelly, during a phone interview Friday afternoon from a otur stop in Houston.

“Then, when I found out that Jose Llana was playing the King, that was the icing on the cake.

“Working with Jose has been a blessing since day 1. He brings something new to the show every day. He doesn’t just do his lines the same way every time. I’m the same way. We’re both spontaneous and free with our performances.

“The story is crazy – that his governess would have such an influence. It’s an incredible tale. Rodgers and Hammerstein really developed this story and made a genius dialogue musical out of it.”

Performing the role of such an iconic character as Anna could be almost overwhelming for some actresses – but not Kelly. In her brilliant acting career, she has portrayed many of theater’s high-profile females, including Belle (“Beauty and the Beast”), Mary Poppins, Eliza Doolittle (“My Fair Lady”), Eponine (“Les Miserables”) and Nellie Forbush (“South Pacific”).

“These roles are fun,” said Kelly, who is making her first national tour after years of performing on Broadway and London’s West End. “I don’t see them as challenges. It’s normal for me. I’ve been on stage since I was 11.

“Anna is a great role. I like that she has a passion for teaching because that’s something I would like to do someday. I like that she’s authoritative. She won’t take no for an answer. And, she wears beautiful costumes.

“The real Anna was ahead of her time. In the play, she says – I believe that women are just as good as men, just as intelligent as men and just as important as men. That’s a feeling that was important in the 1950s and important today.”

Video links for “The King & I” – https://youtu.be/zp0gUMykOO4 and https://youtu.be/TGPdfosMrqc.

BANG

The show will open on March 22 and run through April 2 at the Academy of Music. Ticket prices range from $20-$125.

BANG, the hard-rocking trio that plays Kung Fu Necktie (1248 North Front Street, Philadelphia, 215-291-4919, kungfunecktie.com) on March 19, has a band history that looks as if it were written by a Hollywood screenwriter.

The band was started by a pair of friends who began playing together when they were 15. They played shows locally, got popular on a wider scale and got signed to a major label.

Fueled by promotion from the record company, they released several moderately successful albums in the early 1970s. Then, they got dumped by the label and disbanded a short while later.

Fast forward to 2016. A van went to each of their respective nursing home residences and took them to a rehearsal space where their instruments awaited them. Adrenalin started flowing again and BANG began playing shows around the area.

Actually, the nursing home part is false but the rest of the story is true.

The trio of “forever young” rockers — Frank Ferrara (vocals, bass), Frank Gilcken (guitar, harmony vocals) and Tony Diorio (drums, lyrics) – reunited and have returned to the stage…rocking as loud and as hard as they ever did.

“We just want to play,” said Ferrara, during a phone interview Wednesday from his home in Delaware County. “We want to do the best we can and hopefully get back on the horse. Success is doing what you love. For us, playing music is such a great thing.”

Back in the spring of 1972, heavy rock trio BANG was being touted as the proverbial “Next Big Thing.” A few months after signing with Capitol Records, the band released a single, “Questions,” that was taking off in the Billboard Hot 100.

With the enthusiastic support of Capitol, the band’s debut album “BANG” was also climbing the charts. They were opening shows for a lot of major bands, including their favorite group Black Sabbath.

“Me and Frankie went to grade school together,” said Ferrara. “When we were 15, we started playing clubs in Philly. A couple weeks after Woodstock, we found a drummer. We rehearsed for 18 months in Claymont (Delaware) and then took a trip to Florida.

“We talked ourselves into opening for Small Faces and Deep Purple in Orlando. 72 hours after we left Claymont, we were playing in front of 15,000 people. We became a stoner rock band called BANG.”

Somehow, though, it didn’t quite work out. Even as “Questions” was charting, a corporate shakeup at Capitol saw the band’s supporters moving on and replaced by A&R men who had their own signings to promote. With the band’s producer, Michael Sunday, also leaving the label, BANG’s support system was crumbling.

The group’s new producer engineered a change in personnel that led to drummer/lyricist Tony Diorio’s departure. Meanwhile, the label insisted that BANG develop a more mainstream, pop-oriented sound. Trying to keep the dream alive, they changed management companies.

With a much more commercial approach, the group released a third album, “BANG Music” in 1973, which contained some very good songs but failed to chart. By 1974, just a couple of years after their initial success, a tired and disillusioned BANG had lost its direction, momentum and self-belief. The three members went their separate ways.

Despite the relative briefness of their career, BANG left behind a powerful recorded legacy — four albums (including the unreleased 1971 concept album “Death Of A Country”), as well as a trio of non-album tracks that were recorded as singles when the deal with Capitol was about to expire.

In 1996, much to everyone’s surprise, BANG reunited. In 1998, the band recorded and released a new album titled “Return to Zero” and followed with the more metal-oriented album “The Maze” in 2004.

“When we got back together, we sat down and just started writing music – writing like it was yesterday,” said Ferrara. “We found that we could still write music and the music sounded good.

“We started doing gigs and found that we had a presence in stoner rock. We’re not a metal band. We’re a rock band. We’re not about shredding. We’re more about songs.”

Video link for BANG — https://youtu.be/MY2ca23B0dM.

The show at Kung Fu Necktie, which has Weed Is Weed, Green Meteor, and Laura Lawless as the openers, will start at 8 p.m. Tickets are $15.

Candlebox

On March 19, another musician from the Philadelphia area will be playing a local show as part of a duo that is an acoustic version of a band that got its start in Seattle, Washington.

On Sunday night, the Sellersville Theater (24 West Temple Avenue, Sellersville, 215-257-5808, www.st94.com) will host Candlebox Acoustic, featuring Brian Quinn, a guitarist from Philly, and Kevin Martin, lead vocalist and only remaining founding member of Candlebox.

Candlebox Acoustic does not mean that Candlebox is breaking up – or even slowing down slightly.

“Candlebox hasn’t stopped touring since I joined in the summer of 2015,” said Quinn, during a phone interview Tuesday morning from a tour stop in Cleveland, Ohio.

“I picked up in the middle of a tour and we really haven’t taken a break since. We’re doing shows with the full band and we’re also doing this acoustic thing with Kevin and me.

“About three or four years ago, Kevin decided he wanted to go out and do an acoustic treatment of Candlebox songs. Occasionally, he’d do a duo with the bass player. When I joined the band, he pulled me in to do the acoustic thing. For the last two years, I’ve been doing all the acoustic shows with him.”

The duo has been doing an acoustic tour this winter to support the latest Candlebox release “Disappearing in Airports,” which debuted at number 9 on the Top Rock Album charts the week of release.

Candlebox recently wrapped up a six-week European tour in February and Quinn quickly departed for the acoustic tour with Martin. 

In the late 1990s, Quinn moved from his hometown of Pittston (PA) to Philadelphia. Soon after arriving, he co-founded the Philadelphia-based rock band Octane (2000-2005). During this time, Quinn was named “Best Guitarist” in the Philadelphia region by the Philadelphia Music Awards in 2001 and 2004.

After five successful years with Octane, Quinn left the band to found a blues-based hard rock band that would later become known as Fosterchild. Then, Quinn joined Candlebox a few years ago when the band needed to replace its guitarist.

“Kevin and I were labelmates when I was with Fosterchild,” said Quinn, who now lives in King of Prussia. “We met at a label showcase and stayed in touch after that. I played on two tunes with his side project Le Projet. When personnel changes started with Candlebox, he asked me to join the band.”

The acoustic shows reflect a different side of Candlebox.

“It’s very much like a storyteller’s situation,” said Quinn, who is a graduate of West Chester University. “It’s interesting for me – especially not being an original member. Their first album came out when I was in high school and I was a big fan.

“The acoustic show has its own feel. With electric guitars and amps, there’s a lot to hide behind. With an acoustic show, there isn’t. It really showcases the integrity of the writing.”

Video link for Candlebox Acoustic — https://youtu.be/FsrXbuPVKAM.

The show in Sellersville, which has Gifthorse as the opening act, will start at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $29.50 and $45.

Another option for live music on March 19 will be when The Foundry at Fillmore Philadelphia (1100 Canal Street, Philadelphia, 215-309-0150, www.thefillmorephilly.com) presents José James’ “Love in a Time of Madness” featuring Nate Smith.

Jose James

James, who was born in Minneapolis, is a singer best known for his seamless vocal blending of two current styles of music – hip-hop and modern jazz. He has frequently been described as a jazz singer for the hip-hop generation

On his new album “Love in a Time of Madness,” James is reborn as a powerful voice in contemporary R&B. Now, he is taking the album on tour with Nate Smith.

“It’s just two people – me and Nathan,” said James, during a phone interview Tuesday afternoon from his home in New York’s Lower East Side.

“This is a full contemporary production with visuals and Ableton Live. We did a preview tour in Europe last fall without the visuals and it sounded great.”

“Love in a Time of Madness” is James’ fourth album for the world-famous Blue Note label. Working with an international group of writers and producers, James crafted a new sound and style inspired by influences such as Frank Ocean, Usher, Miguel and John Legend, and extending the R&B and hip-hop thread that has run throughout much of his work.

“I wrote it with a lot of different people who all have their own ways of writing,” said James. “At one point, we were doing three songs at the same time. I know what I can do as a songwriter. I feel it’s more interesting to collaborate with other people.

“It’s R&B. A lot of artists don’t necessarily call themselves R&B but there is a new bedrock for African-American music. I think it’s pretty exciting.

“There’s a resurgence of something I haven’t seen since the 90s or 00s, when hip-hop, R&B, and pop were converging in really thrilling ways through folks like Tribe, Erykah Badu, or D’Angelo. There’s a whole new generation now that’s unafraid to blend it all together. The world is ready for this kind of thing again.”

James’ new album has a lot of influences – and a lot going on.

According to James, “I’ve always had R&B in my work going all the way to my first albums. Tracks like ‘Blackeyedsusan’ on ‘The Dreamer’ and ‘Made For Love’ and ‘Blackmagic’ with ‘Flying Lotus.’ Working with Robert Glasper, Chris Dave and Pino Palladino on ‘No Beginning No End’ was amazing too. This album takes it to the next level.”

James initially planned on “Love in a Time of Madness” being a double album. One side would be about love, and the other about societal madness—a response to the systemic and often physical violence perpetrated on U.S. citizens of color.

But things changed. He said — “As I worked on the music, I began to feel that the madness part was getting out of control. The murders kept happening and it became overwhelming and depressing.”

So, instead of rehashing the pain, James doubled down on the part of the album that could provide healing. This is an album where romance isn’t always romantic. James wanted to tell love’s whole story.

“I looked at love as the antidote to the madness,” said James. “I thought it would be more productive with love songs healing. I was working on both at the same time and it seemed like the love songs flowed more freely”

Video link for José James – https://youtu.be/-Jqs-9DUoIg.

The all-ages show at The Foundry, which has Cory King as the opener, will start at 8 p.m. Tickets are $20.

Bestial Mouths

Bestial Mouths, which is playing a show March 20 at the Barbary (951 Frankford Avenue, Philadelphia, 215-634-7400, www.facebook.com/thebarbary), has a band name that sounds aggressive and more-than-a-little threatening and unnerving.

Not surprisingly, the same description fits the music the popular electro-gloom-industrial-goth trio makes.

The leader of Bestial Mouths is vocalist Lynette Cerezo. She is joined by Eddie O on keyboards and visuals and Brant Showers on percussion. They are touring in support of their new album “Heartless.”

“Bestial Mouths started in L.A. where I was living at the time,” said Cerezo, during a phone interview Monday afternoon from a tour stop in New York. “I grew up in Orlando, Florida and then was in L.A. for seven years. Now, I’m based in Germany – in Berlin.

“I chose Berlin because it’s amazing. In the music scene here, there is a lot of focus on dark electronic music. There is also a resurgence of punk and a great Gothic scene.

“Eddie O lives in New York and Brant lives in San Diego. When we started working on ‘Heartless,’ we were sending digital files back-and-forth.”

The bi-coastal/international effort resulted in a powerful, cohesive and intense album.

According to the band’s bio, “This is the sound of creation, birthed naked-raw and shrieking. This is the song of a world split wide by bestial mouths.

These words gather in about you like a shroud, encasing you in cold certainty. Vision and voice, ecstasy and agony — a breaking crescendo of majesty painted in embracing limbs and whip-sharp fractals of hair.

The aura of these aurals speaks a language hewn from the language of vigilant systems caught forever in a whirl of suffering. These are not cries of victims, however, but of strength. The faces you see moving about in flashes of white light enrapture the mind with the words they spit upon reality’s stage. They stalk like sentries, mighty in their agony.

The echoes of their edicts rebound across the psyche long after; not nightmares, but the jagged stain of bitter memory cloaked in a caress. There are other things said upon their stage, other worlds born and obscured in an eclipse of horrific intent—but we will not speak of them here. These words are to be heard by you only.”

“The new songs are very personal to me,” said Cerezo. “It shows in the name of the album and the video. It’s a very intense album. It was very cathartic to make and is also very cathartic when I perform it.

“My live performances are very important to me. I always do things very intensely and I hope people can relate to it. People have told me that it has helped them through their darkest time and they thank me for it.”

The bio’s description of the music is “The instruments of these Bestial Mouths are cacophonous: hammering percussion and industrialized synthetics wrapped in the lyrics of euphoric dread. The shapes they form—crumbling mythologies, voided personalities and the clenched-fist orgasmic crush of lost desires—are as immediate as they are intimate, glimpses into the world that these three inhabit.”

Cerezo’s lyrics and vocals sound like what could be the offspring if the music of Johnny Rotten and the music of Diamanda Galas had sex and reproduced.

“The songwriting usually starts with lyrics and then cut-up,” said Cerezo. “A phrase pops out and I work off it. Other times, it’s like automatic writing. Sometimes, there are times that there are things happening and I write them down. And, there are times that the music comes and I follow the theme.

“I write constantly. I have a book of cut-ups that I go to. I have been doing more recording lately – working on demos. In our live show, half the songs are from ‘Heartless’ and half are older ones.”

Video link for Bestial Mouths – https://youtu.be/rLKtCQ_0fWo?list=RDzPWa41URb_U.

The show at the Barbary, which has Leisure Muffin as the opener, will start at 8 p.m. Tickets are $10.

On March 22, the World Café Live (3025 Walnut Street, Philadelphia, 215-222-1400, www.worldcafelive.com) will present an act from the other side of the world — and the opposite end of the rock music spectrum.

Anuhea

Anuhea is a singer-songwriter from Kona on Hawaii’s Big Island whose music is folk-pop with heavy influences of Hawaii-style reggae. The music is soft and light …lilting with a warm island feel.

With a delicate balance of fragility, strength and sass, Anuhea blends engaging lyrics, acoustic soul, pop, rap and reggae into a style that has earned her a reputation as Hawaii’s top female artist. Anuhea’s signature guitar rhythms, sultry vocals and honest song writing weave acoustic soul, R&B, jazz and hip hop with pop appeal,

“I’m in the studio right now working on my next album,” said Anuhea, during a phone interview last week from a recording studio in Los Angeles. “I’m halfway done. This is the last day for this session and I fly back to Hawaii tomorrow.

“I’ve been working really hard – recording in LA. with producer Ross Vanelli. He is an amazing producer and songwriter. I got introduced to Ross and he came to my show at the Troubadour in L.A. After that, we came to his studio and everything clicked.

“This is a new kind of sound for pop-reggae. It’s a new sound right now with island rhythms. I have a lot of reggae influences such as Bob Marley, Gregory Isaacs, Barrington Levy, Steel Pulse, Third World and Black Uhuru.”

Anuhea’s full name is Rylee Anuheakeʻalaokalokelani Jenkins. She was born and raised on the island of Maui.

Music has been in Anuhea’s family for generations, so it was inevitable that her seeded passions would reflect the same. Anuhea’s father is from the North Shore of Oahu in the surfing culture of Haleiwa.

His younger sister, Nalani is a founding member of the most popular female group in the history of Hawaiian music — Na Leo Pilimehana. Anuhea’s mother, an Oregon native, comes from a musical family as well. Her father is a popular country guitarist.

“I grew up always watching musicals and Disney movies,” said Anuhea. “I started doing summertime musicals when I was young. It wasn’t until I began having crushes on boys in middle school and high school that I started writing songs. I went to a boarding school in Honolulu and my roommate had a guitar.”

After attending film school in Orange County for a year, Anuhea realized she wasn’t heading in the direction she was most passionate about — music. So, she abandoned her scholarships and embarked on a soul-searching odyssey to Australia for three weeks. She returned to the islands and immediately got into the scene.

“By the time I was 21, I had gathered a collection of songs and was playing at local coffeehouses,” said Anuhea. “I was a waitress at Charley’s in Maui that had big acts play there. Willie Nelson played there a lot. I put my band together and played there on off-nights.

“I started posting videos in YouTube and MySpace. That’s how I met my manager. My first album ‘Anuhea’ was on a small label. After that, we released my albums on our own label.”

Her debut “Anuhea” was released on April 21, 2009. Her second album, “For Love,” was released on February 14, 2012. Her third album “Butterflies: Anuhea Live,” was released on September 17, 2013 through Mailboat Records, a record label started by Jimmy Buffett.

“I released an EP in 2016 called ‘Shoulder’ and I also released a Christmas EP,” said Anuhea. “The album I’m working on now will be on SONO Records, which is based in Connecticut.

“I was in Philadelphia for an acoustic show at the World Café Live last September. This time, I’m coming with a full band. We have guitar, bass and drums and me on vocals, guitar and ukulele.”

Video link for Anuhea – https://youtu.be/tT2a0GANopY?list=PL043P9X0zYuwUqCWo7NvGfla7sLeOKcW0.

The show at the World Café Live, which has Boy Wonder as the opener, will start at 8 p.m. Tickets are $20.

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