On Stage (Bonus): Chesco natives shine in Cabaret

By Denny Dyroff, Staff Writer, The Times

Kelsey Beckert graduated from Bishop Shanahan High and then headed to Montclair University in North Jersey in 2008.

Ryan DeNardo graduated from Downingtown West High and then headed north to Ithaca College in 2006.

Now, both of them are headed down to Philadelphia in April 2017 – with Berlin as their final destination….Berlin in 1931 when the Nazis were first rising to power.

Both Beckert and DeNardo are cast members of the National Tour of “Cabaret,” which is running from April 4-9 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.

“I’ve been with the show since the beginning of the tour,” said Beckert, during a phone interview last week from a tour stop in Madison, Wisconsin. “We started rehearsals in December 2015. The show opened at the end of January 2016 in Providence, Rhode Island.”

Finally, the tour of “Cabaret” is arriving in Philadelphia.

“I’m one of the swings,” said Beckert, a West Chester native who attended East Bradford Elementary School and Peirce Middle School prior to attending Bishop Shanahan.

“There are four of us – two girls and two guys. I’m also one of the players in the Kit Kat Klub Band. All of us are in the band every night.

“I play the entire show every night. All the ensemble members play their own instruments. We’re on the bandstand the entire show – for 25 songs.”

Beckert plays clarinet and DeNardo, who plays the dual role of Hans and Rudy, plays saxophone. Both started with their instruments when they were very young.

“I started playing trumpet in middle school,” said DeNardo, during a phone interview last week from in Madison – a town that was still amped up in March Madness after the Badgers’ upset of top-ranked Villanova in the NCAA tournament.

“I was terrible so the band director switched me to baritone sax. My older sister Tara had been playing tenor sax in the school jazz band. I asked my parents if I could take private lessons in alto sax when I was 10. From there, I really fell into enjoying the instrument.

“In this show, Hans/Rudy is in the Kit Kat Klub Band so I do a couple sax solos. The most substantial is in the second act – a solo on alto sax. I also play some featured tenor sax in the show.”

Beckert said, “I play clarinet in the band. I started playing clarinet in fourth grade because my mom played clarinet. I took private lessons from John Driza in West Chester.

“I think it’s really funny that playing clarinet helped me get a theater role. I never thought my band geek life would help my acting career.”

But neither acting nor music were Beckert’s main artistic activity when she was young – Irish step dancing was.

“I started step dancing when I was really young and did it for a lot of years,” said Beckert. “I started with the McAleer School of Irish Dance in Kennett Square.

“I competed nationally and internationally and went to World Championships a number of times. The first time was in Ennis, England when I was eight years old.

“Later, I took acting lessons in Philadelphia and West Chester. I auditioned for a bunch of colleges and chose Montclair. It’s just so close to New York. It was great. I got a good feel for New York before I moved there.

“This isn’t my first tour. I did a small tour with ‘Seven Brides for Seven Brothers.’ We played Reading but not Philadelphia. I also did some shows at Dutch Apple Dinner Theater in Lancaster.”

DeNardo said, “This is my first national tour so it’s exciting to be coming to Philadelphia. When I was younger, I did local productions at Barley Sheaf Players in Lionville and Dutch Apple in Lancaster.

“I joined this tour in July. I had been in callbacks for the Broadway production. When a person on the tour decided on leaving, they called me to fill the role.

“I had already auditioned eight or nine times – so, I was on file. And, I had done a regional version of the show in Jupiter, Florida with our director BT McNicholl. On the tour, I play the role of Hans/Rudy – two characters who are co-joined.”

This tour of “Cabaret” is part of Manhattan-based Roundabout Theater Company’s 50th anniversary season.

The Roundabout Theatre Company took the show — Sam Mendes and Rob Marshall’s Tony Award-winning production of “Cabaret” – direct from Broadway.

Set in the infamous Kit Kat Klub, the show features some of the most well-known songs in theater history – songs such as “Cabaret,” “Maybe This Time” and “Willkommen.”

The Kit Kat Klub featured Sally Bowles, the Emcee, and a rousing ensemble known as the Kit Kat Klub Band. Their invitation to audiences was to come to the Cabaret and leave their troubles outside.

The story focuses on Cliff Bradshaw, a young writer from America, and his relationship with the English cabaret performer Sally Bowles.

A sub-plot involves the doomed romance between German boarding house owner Fräulein Schneider and her elderly suitor Herr Schultz, a Jewish fruit vendor.

The Kit Kat Klub and its activities serve as a metaphor for the gloom-portending political scene in Weimar Germany in the early 1930s.

“Cabaret” premiered on Broadway in 1966, and won eight Tony Awards including Best Musical as well as the New York Drama Critics’ Circle Award and the Outer Critics’ Circle Award.

The initial revival of “Cabaret” first opened on Broadway in 1998 and won four Tony Awards — including Best Revival of a Musical. It ran on Broadway for six years.

The show returned to Broadway at Studio 54 in March 2014, with Alan Cumming reprising his Tony-winning role as the Emcee. It played 423 performances through March 2015.

“This production is a dark re-imaging of the original concept of ‘Cabaret’,” said DeNardo, whose wife, Laura Sheehy, is also in the show. “It’s edgy and provocative.

“It feels totally relevant to our political landscape today – especially politics and state of the world — that lends itself to the audience connecting to it. The show just continues to be more relevant.”

Beckert said, “This show is gritty and it’s real. That’s what I really like. And, the choreography is amazing. Also, I think the music is beautiful – and very iconic.”

Video link for “Cabaret” – https://youtu.be/hWNEQ0sA4UY?list=PLugacF8gXLxLDr2uhl1r2oUBG7rqM8buV.

The production of “Cabaret” will run from April 4-9 at the Academy of Music. Show times are 7:30 p.m., April 4-6: 8 p.m., April 7; 2 and 8 p.m. April 8; and 1 and 6:30 p.m. April 9.

Ticket prices range from $20-$100.

Son Volt

Son Volt is off to a busy 2017.

The band’s album is out.

Now, the band is out.

Son Volt is out on a two-month tour that brings it to the area for a show on April 5 at the Ardmore Music Hall (23 East Lancaster Avenue, Ardmore, 610-649-8389, www.ardmoremusic.com).

The band is touring in support of its new album “Notes of Blue,” which was released by Thirty Tigers on February 17.

Son Volt has always been the musical vehicle for Jay Farrar – when he is in band mode. He formed Son Volt in 1994 after the breakup of Uncle Tupelo. Farrar is the only remaining member from the original quartet.

Farrar put Son Volt on hiatus in 1999 after releasing three albums on Warner Bros. Records. After several years performing solo, Harrar reformed Son Volt in 2005 with a different line-up.

Curerently, Son Volt features Jay Farrar (vocal, guitar, harmonica), Andrew Duplantis (bass, backing vocal), Jacob Edwards (drums), Chris Frame (guitar), and Mark Spencer (keyboard, steel guitar).

“I took a hiatus to do some solo work and then reformed in 2005 with Chris and Andrew,” said Farrar, during a phone interview last week from a tour stop in Madison, Wisconsin.

“Son Volt had always been a vehicle for the songs I’m writing. The trajectory is that it will always be there for the songs I’m writing.”

After the period as a solo artist, Farrar knew it was time to go back to a band format.

“The songs on ‘Notes of Blue’ are more conducive to a band setting,” said Farrar, a native of St. Louis, Missouri. “I wanted to get back to playing more electric guitar.

“With the new album, I wanted to use alternate tunings to open a new acoustic path. I used it as an opportunity to work in new tunings I has never used before. On ‘Cherokee Street,’ I used Skip James’ tuning – open D-minor.

“On ‘Promise the World,’ I used C-based tuning that was inspired by Nick Drake’s ‘Pink Moon.’ On ‘Sinking Down,’ I played in the style of bottleneck slide great Mississippi Fred McDowell.

“This album definitely was focused more on the blues. As a kid picking up guitar for the first time, I was listening to the Stones and the Yardbirds – bands that were very influenced by American blues artists.”

“Notes of Blue” has a blues vibe but also retains Farrar’s musical style that blends country, Americana, folk and alt-country. And, it has that feeling of “real music” that Farrar is known for.

“We recorded it at Red Pill Studio in St. Louis with Jacob Detering. “He did a good job getting the fundamental sound. I used an old amplifier – a Webster-Chicago amp.

“We had a lot of analog equipment that we used making this album. They have an old Trident Series 80 board and a lot of good old compressors. It was a good mix of vintage gear.

“But, we didn’t record to tape. I always recorded to tape until my last two albums. It became hard to find tape. So, we used ProTools – by default. The fundamental set-up was just myself and the drummer. Then, we added other instruments later on.”

Video link for Son Volt – https://youtu.be/G0VGM9uCNcc.

The show at the Ardmore Music Hall, which has Anders Parker as the opener, will start at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $20.

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