On Stage: Spackman returns to Phoenixville for Planned Parenthood benefit

By Denny Dyroff, Staff Writer, The Times

Anna Spackman

Anna Spackman, a talented singer-songwriter whose career has bicoastal roots, played many shows in her formative years at Steel City Coffee House in Phoenixville.

On July 27, Spackman will be performing in Phoenixville again.

Laura Keen is hosting a benefit for Planned Parenthood’s West Chester Health Center in West Chester at her home at 154 Sixth Avenue, Phoenixville.

The event will feature performances by Spackman and Hurricane Hoss.

Born and raised in Chester Springs, Spackman first started hosting and performing at open mics when she was 17 and quickly started headlining at venues such as Seven Stones Cafe in Media and the Steel City Coffee House.

Spackman lived in Portland, Oregon from 2008-2014, where she started, hosted, and featured in a monthly variety show called Art Anon at The Waypost. She also was featured several times at the Portland Poetry Slam.

During her last two years in Portland, she worked as a MusicRx specialist at the Children’s Cancer Association, where she played music with hospitalized kids and teenagers with a variety of medical conditions.

Spackman moved back to the East Coast in the fall of 2014 to complete her third album, “House on the Sea,” with her brother/producer/drummer/bassist Donnie Spackman at Great Time Studios.

“My parents were music lovers,” said Spackman, during a phone interview Monday. “My mom sings and plays guitar. I started taking piano lessons when I was five or six and guitar lessons when I was 11.

“I began playing at open mics when I was in high school. My influences were classic folk-rock singers from the 60s like James Taylor and Joni Mitchell. Queen was also a big influence with how complicated their songs are. In high school, I also really got into Ani DiFranco.”

Spackman attended high school at The Westtown School.

“My mom taught at Westtown,” said Spackman. “I graduated in 2008. I was influenced by the Quaker values there.

“Every week, we’d have a meeting for worship which was done in silence. My songwriting process comes from sitting and seeing what emerges.

“After Westtown School, I went to college at Lewis and Clark College in Portland, Oregon. I studied psychology and played music in clubs. After I graduated, I lived in Portland for six years.

“A lot of factors brought me back to Chester County. My family is all here. I grew up on my family’s farm in Chester Springs.

“Within a year of being back, I met my fiancé Shawn Cephas at Steel City. He plays bass and keys and we play in each other’s bands.”

Spackman’s return to the East Coast also allowed her to record her third album in comfortable and affordable surroundings – her brother’s studio on the family farm.

“I made my first album ‘Skin and Bones’ in 2008 when I was still in high school,” said Spackman. “My second album ‘Her Voice’ was done in Portland in 2011.

“I recorded my latest album ‘House on Sea’ when I got back to Pennsylvania. I cut it at my brother Donnie’s studio – Great Time Studio.

“Donnie is an engineer and he has a great studio here on the farm. We’re working on a new album now. The bare bones for each track is there.

“Songs are my way of working through things. I’m fascinated by people and interested in helping people. With my songwriting, I’ll be messing around on guitar and find a chord pattern I like.

“Then, a lyric or two will come to me. Sometimes, I’ll have an issue in mind but usually, it starts with one or two lines. I like seeing where the song takes me.”

The charity event on July 27 will have an artisan marketplace featuring crafts and other items from local vendors including Chakramama Creations, Bad Chicken Photography, ReallyCoolNotebooks, and The Design Grove.

Additionally, there will be a silent auction featuring donated items including a dress from vocalist Gwen Stefani, an autographed photo and guitar pick from singer-songwriter Ani DiFranco, and original artwork from numerous renowned artists.

This is the sixth charity event that Keen, a professional photographer, has hosted since she moved to Phoenixville in 2011. She chose Planned Parenthood this year due to impending budget cuts and potential cuts to health insurance coverage.

Video link or Anna Spackman – https://youtu.be/JncbMps4MzQ.

The event will run from 6:30-9 p.m. at 154 Sixth Avenue, Phoenixville. Tickets are $20.

On July 28, Spackman’s fiancé Shawn Cephas will perform at the Steel City Coffee House (203 Bridge Street, Phoenixville, 610-933-4043, www.steelcitycoffeehouse.com) under his stage name Street Greek. He will share the bill with Petite Sketches.

Other upcoming shows at Steel City are Jeffrey Gaines on July 29 and “Magic!” on July 30 with magicians Al Angello, Steve Friedberg and Vince Mendoza.

Green jobs have been growing in popularity in recent years and there was even a Green Jobs Act in 2007 to help generate employment that focused on energy efficiency and more environmentally-friendly practices.

Now, green jobs are beginning to disappear — and may dry up completely — if the current administration has its way.

Wicked

But, there is one “green job” that is safe – as long as the smash musical “Wicked” is on Broadway or out as a National Tour. The “green job” is the part played by the actress in the role of Elphaba, the show’s infamous green witch.

Now through August 27, Elphaba and her cast-mates from the show will be in Philadelphia when “Wicked” touches down for a five-week run at the Academy of Music (Broad and Locust streets, Philadelphia, 215-731-3333, www.kimmelcenter.org).

“Wicked” is based on the best-selling novel by Gregory Maguire. A winner of 15 major awards — including a Grammy Award and three Tony Awards — the show features the music and lyrics of Stephen Schwartz.

The ultra-popular show depicts what the witches of Oz were doing before they encountered Dorothy and how they got to be the way they were.

“Wicked”, which carries the subtitle “the untold story of the witches of Oz”, tells the story of two girls who meet in the Land of Oz. The one born with emerald green skin is smart, fiery and misunderstood. The other is beautiful, ambitious and very popular.

The show tells the tale of how these two unlikely friends end up as Elphaba, the Wicked Witch of the West, and Glinda, the Good Witch.

Isabel Keating, whose Broadway credits include “Hairspray” and “It’s Only a Dream,” plays the role of Madame Morrible in “Wicked.”

Madame Morrible is the headmistress of Shiz University’s Crage Hall, which Elphaba and Glinda attend. Elphaba and her friends suspect Morrible to be responsible for the murder of Doctor Dillamond.

At one point, Madame Morrible proposes that Elphaba, Galinda, and Nessarose become future behind-the-scenes rulers in Oz, a proposal that they never willingly accept.

Elphaba suspects that Madame Morrible has at least some magical powers, and may have indeed controlled the fates of the three women. It remains unknown whether Elphaba murdered her or if she died of natural causes minutes before Elphaba’s attempt.

“What do I like about Madam Morrible? – Everything,” said Keating, during a phone interview last week from a tour stop in Boston.

“I like the fact that she’s looked at as being despicable while I think she is just misunderstood. She is an interesting character. Her award-winning costumes are delicious to wear and she has fantastic wigs.”

It may be a fun role to play but it is not without challenges.

“The role was created for Carole Shelly,” said Keating. “She’s a powerful actress. I found it a little intimidating to step into such enormous shoes.

“Another big challenge is to make Madame Morrible relevant to the story.”

Keating, who has a solid film career including “The Nanny Diaries” and last year’s “Indignation,” is a relatively new addition to the cast of the National Tour.

“I joined the company late last year,” said Keating. “I started in mid-November in East Lansing, Michigan. This current tour of ‘Wicked’ is the only tour of the show.

“It’s been out for seven years and it’s still going strong. Some of the ensemble members have been with the tour the whole time.

“I was on Broadway doing ‘The Boy from Oz’ with Hugh Jackman when ‘Wicked’ opened on Broadway in 2003. I played Judy Garland and Stephanie J. Block played my daughter Liza Minelli.

“Stephanie had played the role of Elphaba in the development of ‘Wicked’ and I got to see her in that. I loved the story and the music.

“When I saw ‘Wicked’ on Broadway, it never occurred to me that I would be in the show’s cast someday. It wasn’t until much later that I thought I could be a part of it.”

But, Keating did know back then that “Wicked” was something special.

“I loved the story of the friendship between Elphaba and Glinda – these two very special girls,” said Keating. “I also loved the message of acceptance of other people’s differences.

“I was impressed with how funny the play was – how relevant it was to the times back in 2005 and how relevant it is now.

“We get people who come to the stage door and ask us if we changed the script to align with the world the way it is now. In reality, not a word has been changed.

“Elphaba is a girl who is green. That speaks a lot to racial divide. There is such a unifying element to the play. There is a real strong message of acceptance.

“There are people who have seen this show more than 100 times. They always find something new in it. We make it fresh every time.”

Video link for “Wicked” – https://youtu.be/0joZAGUHatA.

“Wicked” is running now through August 27 at the Academy of Music. Ticket prices range from $39-$109.

Another Broadway classic – one with a much longer history – is being presented now at the Candlelight Theater (2208 Millers Road, Arden, Delaware, 302- 475-313, www.candlelighttheatredelaware.org)

The show, which is running through August 27, is the hilarious Neil Simon play “Barefoot in the Park.”

“Barefoot in the Park,” which opened on Broadway in 1963 and was nominated for three 1964 Tony Awards, tells the story of Corie and Paul Bratter – the story of what transpired in the first few days in their lives as newlyweds.

For their first home, they live in an apartment on the top floor of a brownstone in New York City.

During the course of four days, the couple learns to live together while facing the usual daily ups-and-downs. Corrie tries to convince Paul to become more easygoing – not an easy task.

Dave Polgar does a fine job in his portrayal of Paul Bratter. Sarah Robertson does an outstanding job of playing Corie Bratter. Her sense of timing, pretty face and unbridled perkiness makes it seems as if Simon created the role for her.

“I think I’m a lot like Corie in real life,” said Robertson, during a phone interview Wednesday morning from her office in Wilmington.

“I like to make other people happy. I like to have fun in life. When I auditioned for the role, I just tried to be myself.

“Corie is so vivacious. She enjoys life as much as she can and doesn’t let things get her down – there’s a hole in the ceiling…I’ll light the stove. She’s ready for whatever life throws at her.”

Even though she is outrageously suited for the part, the role still presents her with some challenges.

“One of the big challenges is all the lines,” said Robertson, a native of Mount Gilead, Ohio. “Neil Simon is such a good playwright. Learning the exact pacing he has written is hard — but very important.

“Corie is a very strong person – incredibly confident and strong-willed – so I had to pull that out. Also, Paul and I have to remain likeable throughout the show. She gets angry but she’s still a lovable person.”

Robertson graduated from Ohio State University in 2011 with a major in history and a minor in theater.

“A liberal arts education is really important for an actor,” said Robertson, who also studied at the American Theater Wing.

“I moved to Delaware after I finished school and now work for a digital marketing agency.

“This is my third show in Delaware. Prior to this show, I did two shows with the Delaware Children’s Theatre. In Ohio, I worked in a lot of regional theater productions.

“I always wanted to do ‘Barefoot in the Park.’ I saw a stage version at Ohio State. I also saw the film and loved it.

“I really enjoy reading plays so I read the script of ‘Barefoot in the Park’ a number of times. It’s a great show for anyone who has ever been in a relationship.

“‘Barefoot in the Park’ is a hilarious show. It’s sweet. It has a lot of heart and a lot of characters who are very likable. And, the show has so many great one-liners.”

Video link for “Barefoot in the Park” (original movie) – https://youtu.be/rY-uQehpXf0.

“Barefoot in the Park” is running now through August 27 at the Candlelight Theater. Tickets, which include a tasty buffet dinner, are $60 for adults and $33 for children (ages 4-12).

Tom Segura

Tom Segura, who is performing on July 28 at the Grand Opera House (818 North Market Street, Wilmington, Delaware, 302-652-5577, www.thegrandwilmington.org), is a veteran comedian who also has a number of films to his credit.

The show Segura is bringing to Wilmington is billed as his “No Teeth No Entry Tour.”

“This tour kicked off in January,” said Segura, during a phone interview last week from his home in Los Angeles. “60 cities – it’s a pretty big tour. It’s mostly a theater tour but I do play some clubs.”

Segura, who is a native of Cincinnati, Ohio, is well-known for his Netflix specials “Completely Normal” and “Mostly Stories” as well as his appearances on “Conan,” “Workaholics,” “Happy Endings,” “The Late Late Show,” “How To Be A Grown Up,” and “Comedy Central.”

“Comedy is always something I was drawn to do,” said Segura, who has performed at many of the top comedy festivals in the world, including Montreal’s “Just For Laughs Comedy Festival,” “The Melbourne International Comedy Festival” and “The Comedy Festival — Las Vegas.”

“I came to L.A, and thought I’d be an actor. I took improv classes and friends told me that I should go into comedy.

“I hosted a talent show in high school – it was a version of stand-up – and I got off on it. So, I thought it made sense to be a comedic actor.

“The first time I did stand-up was in 2002 at Goodbar on Sunset Boulevard. I lied to the bouncer and said I was a stand-up comedian. So, I did the show and that was the start of it.

“With live shows, most of it is your set. It’s set and you run through it. The show is always evolving.

“The attraction of stand-up is the immediacy. You can just be yourself and you get an immediate reaction. Keeping fresh is a challenge. But for me, it always feels like the norm.”

Comedy had a boom several years ago. It peaked and has been working hard to hold its own ever since.

“Every time you book a gig, it’s just one gig,” said Segura. “Just getting paid gigs is a mountain to climb. Also, there are worries about making money. It’s a grind. It takes years to get over that. The first threshold is hard to get past.

“When I started, there were comedy club everywhere.  I came up during the comedy boom. Comedy is still doing well. It’s a great time to be a comedian at a club level. Obviously, it’s very competitive. But, there are a lot of places out there.”

Segura regularly appears on XM radio comedy channels and fan favorites such as “Bennington Show.Segura has been a regular guest on some of the most downloaded podcasts in the world of comedy such as “The Joe Rogan Experienceand “WTF with Marc Maron.”

Additionally, Segura’s well-received podcast, “Your Mom’s House,which he co-hosts with his wife, comedian Christina Pazsitzky, was a finalist for Best Comedy Podcast at the Stitcher Awards and profiled by VICE.

“A big part of my success was getting a couple Netflix specials,” said Segura. “Also, podcasts have brought good results. Between television specials and podcasts, my audience has really grown.

“Why have I been successful as a comedian – it’s almost a philosophical question. I have a way of saying something people are thinking. I think it’s like-mindedness.”

Video link for Tom Segura – https://youtu.be/0kM7aXofMC4.

The show at the Grand will start at 8 p.m. Tickets are $32, $36 and $39.

Warchild

Kennett Flash (102 Sycamore Alley, Kennett Square, 484-732-8295, http://www.kennettflash.org) will host Raymond the Amish Comic and Chris Coccia on July 28 and Warchild – A Tribute to Jethro Tull on July 29.

The Ardmore Music Hall (23 East Lancaster Avenue, Ardmore, 610-649-8389, www.ardmoremusic.com) will present

Band From Mars (David Bowie tribute) and Jonathan Scales Fourchestra on July 27; Brian Collins and Sonia Leigh on July 28; and Splintered Sunlight (Grateful Dead tribute) and Steal Your Peach Is The Band (Performing A Mashup of The Allman Brothers and The Band) on July 29.

The Sellersville Theater (24 West Temple Avenue, Sellersville, 215-257-5808, www.st94.com) will host The Drunken Hearts and Grant Stinnett on July 27, Gary Hoey and Craig Kelley Band on July 28 and Mary Fahl on July 29.

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