On Stage: Pa. Ballet opens with Sleeping Beauty

By Denny Dyroff, Staff Writer, The Times

The Pennsylvania Ballet’s opening production of its 2017-2018 season is “The Sleeping Beauty,” which is a bit ironic considering that the company has been anything but sleeping in recent years under the guidance of Artistic Director Angel Corella.

“The Sleeping Beauty” opens on October 12 and runs through October 22 at the Academy of Music (Broad and Locust streets, Philadelphia, 215-731-3333, www.kimmelcenter.org).

“‘The Sleeping Beauty’ is one of the most popular ballets in our repertoire – and it has some of the best music,” said Corella, during a phone interview Thursday afternoon from the Academy of Music.

“I wanted to open the season with something very recognizable and good for the whole family. A great way to open the season is to open with a production that is good for the entire family. It’s a fairy tale that everybody recognizes and it’s a great show for the dancers.”

When “The Sleeping Beauty” was first performed more than a century ago, it was called “Спящая красавица” (Spyashchaya krasavitsa) – the ballet’s title in Russian.

The ballet, which has a prologue and three acts, was first performed at the Mariinsky Theatre in St. Petersburg, Russia in 1890.

The music was composed by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky. The original scenario was conceived by Ivan Vsevolozhsky, and is based on Charles Perrault’s “La Belle au bois dormant.” The choreographer of the original production was Marius Petipa.

This full-length ballet, which was originally choreographed by Marius Petipa in 1890, takes on new life as Corella stages the choreography of this classic tale.

“Our production is based on the choreography of Petipa,” said Corella. “But, dance has evolved a lot since then – dancers have evolved. They jump higher, turn more and lift their legs higher. We incorporate this into our choreography.”

Audiences at the Academy of Music will be able to follow the journey of Princess Aurora as she is put under an evil curse that can only be broken by a true love’s kiss.

Beautiful costumes, lavish set designs, new choreography and the mesmerizing Tchaikovsky score will draw audiences into this beautiful journey to happily ever after.

“There are 300-something different roles in this ballet,” said Corella. “It is very comprehensive. Everyone gets a chance to shine. It’s a really fast, energetic ballet – and it’s easy to follow.

“It’d almost like a Broadway show. We’re trying to reach people who think ballet is old-fashioned and boring. This is like a Broadway show without the singing. Everything else is there.”

Video link for “The Sleeping Beauty” — https://www.facebook.com/pennsylvaniaballet/videos/10154994028795382.

The schedule of performances is: 7:30 PM | Thursday, October 12; 7:30 PM | Friday, October 13; 2:00 PM | Saturday, October 14; 7:00 PM | Saturday, October 14; 2:00 PM | Sunday, October 15;  7:30 PM | Friday, October 20; 12:00 PM | Saturday, October 21; 5:00 PM | Saturday, October 21; and 2:00 PM | Sunday, October 22.

Ticket prices range from $35-$149.

Tommy Castro

Award-winning guitarist/vocalist Tommy Castro and his band The Painkillers will return to this area for a show on October 12 at the Sellersville Theater (24 West Temple Avenue, Sellersville, 215-257-5808, www.st94.com).

“We’ve played the Sellersville Theatre a number of times and always had a lot of fun,” said Castro, during a recent phone as he traveled from Kent, Ohio to a show in New York City.

“It’s a great place to play. We’re looking forward to it. It has good sound, good food and great audiences. We always had good shows there”

Tommy Castro & The Painkillers are currently on tour in support of their latest album, “Stompin’ Ground.”

“I wouldn’t dream about coming out on tour without something new,” said Castro. “I started working on the album before the last tour and then scheduled the album for release this fall.

Guitarist, vocalist and songwriter Castro and the Painkillers outdid themselves. Each song on “Stompin’ Ground” shows a slightly different side of Castro’s multifaceted musical personality.

On “Stompin’ Ground,” Castro opens windows both into his past and his always-evolving musical future.

“I recorded the album in May and June,” said Castro. “I had ebeen working on songs since the beginning of the year and I had this little window of time.

“I gave Kid Andersen a call. I wanted to make the album at Andersen’s Greaseland Studio in San Jose. I felt that Kid could help me make a good blues record.

“The main thing about Greaseland was Kid. I knew him well. And, I knew his ability as a guitarist. I know he’s coming from a good place. His knowledge of music is really deep. It was a really good match.

“The studio has lots of vintage guitars and amplifiers – and a baby grand piano in the kitchen. Everything there is vintage but we did user ProTools rather than tape. We had a blast. The production is really great on the album.”

“Stompin’ Ground” includes 12 tracks featuring seven originals and new versions of songs Castro learned and played as a young up-and-comer.

“It’s part of my story when I was growing up – what it was like growing up in San Jose, California,” said Castro.

“It’s a tribute to the music I listened to when I was growing up –Elvin Bishop, Taj Mahal, Delaney & Bonnie. I thought I should pay homage to the artists that influenced me. I didn’t want all covers so I split it up.”

Castro has released 16 albums in the last 21 years. His most recent albums have been released on Alligator Records – the label he has been with since 2009.

Over the course of his four-decade career, Castro, who is a six-time winner of the prestigious Blues Music Award-winner, has played thousands of shows to hundreds of thousands of fans.

Castro, one of San Francisco’s veteran music acts, has put together a top-flight band. The Painkillers feature bassist Randy McDonald, keyboardist Michael Emerson and drummer Bowen Brown.

“I started the Painkillers about four years ago,” said Castro. “Randy (McDonald), who has been with me for over 25 years. My music isn’t so much about guitar as it is about songs. I’m probably more a singer than a guitar player. I like a good hook and I want songs that people remember.

“The opening act for the show is Ronnie Baker Brooks and his legendary R&B Review. He’s one of the greatest guitarists who ever lived. And so was his dad – Lonnie Brooks.”

Video link for Tommy Castro — https://youtu.be/JG2y7yEd3us.

The show in Sellersville, which has Ronnie Baker Brooks opening, will start at 8 p.m. Tickets are $29.50 and $45.

Other upcoming shows at the Sellersville Theater are Barleyjuice and Karmic Repair Company on October 13, The Diamonds on October 14, Red Molly on October 15, Nick Lowe and Cut Worms on October 16, The Bobs: Farewell Tour on October 17, and Wayne Hancock and No Good Sister on October 18.

Christian Lopez

Christian Lopez, who will play a show with his band at the Barbary (951 Frankford Avenue, Philadelphia, 215-634-7400, www.facebook.com/thebarbary) on October 12 may look young – but he certainly doesn’t sound young.

Lopez is a 22-year-old with the soul of a 65-year-old Appalachian mountain musician hidden away inside — steeped in the roots of his West Virginia upbringing on the shores of the Potomac River in the Eastern Panhandle of the state.

On his debut album “Onward,” he emulated the sound produced by the region’s resident pickers and strummers and wrote all but one of the songs on the disc. Some of the key tracks are “Leaving It Out,” “Seven Years,” “Morning Rise” and “Oh Those Tombs.”

In September, Lopez released his sophomore album “Red Arrow.”

“I toured ‘Onward’ from the moment it came out all the way until the new record came out,” said Lopez, during a recent phone interview from his home in Martinsburg, West Virginia.

“It was pretty constant. It’s the only way to keep the momentum going – and to keep gas in the tank. It was really grass roots. Being a young dude with an indie album in Americana, I worked really hard to build a fanbase.”

For his first album, Lopez connected with Grammy-winning producer Dave Cobb in Nashville. Two years later, Lopez decided to explore different paths for his sophomore project.

Over nine months, he tempered the intuitive approach he had cultivated for “Onward” with a more measured process, beginning with the careful selection of producer Marshall Altman.

According to Lopez, “It was almost like a science experiment. But that’s what I thought recording would be like when I was a kid — a work of art rather than just throwing together a bunch of songs.”

The songs, too, were different. His recent works reflected a more perceptive view of the world as well as a greater self-awareness.

“I started writing songs for ‘Red Arrow’ about a year after ‘Onward was released,” said Lope. “I also had a few songs that had been in my pocket for a while.

“I spent time in Nashville and made some good friends – and that led to some co-writing. I started pre-production for ‘Red Arrow’ in October 2016 and started the actual production side of things in February 2017.

“I finished making the album in May. I recorded the album at Blackbird studio and with producer Marshall Altman at his studio – the Galt Line Studio.

“There are 11 tracks on the album. Two were solely written by me and nine with collaborators. In our live show, we put at least eight in every night. We also play a lot of songs from ‘Onward.’ The tour cycle for the new album began two weeks ago.”

Lopez is young but has been making music for a long time.

“My mom started me on piano when I was five years old,” said Lopez. “But, I didn’t really get into music until my dad gave me his classic rock album collection when I was 13.

“He knew I loved music and they were sitting in a storage unit not being used. That music started to really hit me. I grew up a crazy AC/DC fan and Creedence fan. I was into a lot of 80s bands a lot of hair metal.

“At the same time, I loved The Band. They made me pick up acoustic guitar. I was also into Willie Nelson, the Outlaws, Johnny Cash and Waylon Jennings. I was on a folk rock/country/folk path.”

Before long, Lopez was making his own music.

“I was around 15 when I started to write songs,” said Lopez. “I always sort of had a band in my head when I was writing the songs.

“Joe Taxi was my first band. We started to travel and get some gigs. We even got a spot on the Warped Tour. Later, those two guys left and I put together the Christian Lopez Band.”

Video link for Christian Lopez Band — https://youtu.be/mAbQdoPzke4.

The show at The Barbary, which also features Apache Trails and Jesse Ruben, will start at 8 p.m. Tickets are $10.

Victoria Healy of “Funny Girl.”

If the only thing you know about “Funny Girl” is Barbra Streisand’s all-time classic hit “People,” then you owe it to yourselves to check out the current production of the musical “Funny Girl” at the Candlelight Theatre (2208 Millers Road, Arden, Delaware, 302- 475-2313, www.candlelighttheatredelaware.org).

The comfortable dinner theater just over the state line, which is known for its high-quality productions and its gourmet dinner buffet, is presenting “Funny Girl” now through October 22.

“Funny Girl” is a 1963 musical that opened on Broadway in 1964 and featured a book by Isobel Lennart, music by Jule Styne, and lyrics by Bob Merrill.

The semi-biographical plot is based on the life and career of Broadway star, film actress and comedian Fanny Brice featuring her stormy relationship with entrepreneur and gambler Nick Arnstein. Its original title was My Man.

The musical was produced by Ray Stark, who was Brice’s son-in-law via his marriage to her daughter Frances, and starred Barbra Streisand. The production was nominated for eight Tony Awards. The original cast recording of “Funny Girl” was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 2004.

The talented cast is headed by Candlelight veteran Victoria Healy in the role of Fanny Brice.

Healy has played major roles in many of the theater’s well-received productions, including Tzeitel in “Fiddler on the Roof,” Penny in “Hairspray,” Frau Blucher in “Young Frankenstein,” and Olive in “Spelling Bee.”

None of them has been as big – or as important to the production – as Fanny in “Funny Girl.” Healy’s comedic skills shine in the funny-yet-touching musical.

“This is one of the most awesome roles I’ve ever had,” said Healy, during a recent phone interview from her home in Wilmington. “Audience reaction has been great. It’s overwhelming – in a wonderful way.”

The show revolves around fanny, who is rarely off the stage. It’s a situation that can put a lot of pressure on the actress playing the role.

‘It’s the largest role I’ve played,” said Healy, who is a theater teacher at Tower Hill School and a field hockey coach at her alma mater Ursuline Academy.

“But, I wouldn’t say I feel pressure. I’d say there is a responsibility for me – a responsibility to stay healthy and focused.”

“Funny Girl” is something new for Healy.

“I had never seen the show before,” said Healey. “I did watch the movie to get ready for the audition. I was familiar with some of the music because it’s classic.

“Watching Streisand in the movie was good to see – her energy and her comedy. But, the movie is quite different from the show. I watched the movie once and that was it.”

Healy had no trouble relating to Fanny Brice.

“There are bits of Fanny that are like me,” said Healy, who received her B.F.A in Drama from NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts.

“I like her drive. She’s very determined. Like me, she doesn’t look like other actresses so she used comedy to get accepted. She’s very energetic.

“I love the dramatic aspect of the show and the fact that she grows up throughout the shop. And, I like the ending. I like that they stuck to what happened in her life – and that, at the end, she still has the determination.”

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 $59 for adults and $33 for children (ages 4-12).

People in this area should be fairly familiar with punk rock – unless they’re over 50 and have never had kids or grandkids.

People in this area are probably not familiar with cumbia – unless they are of Mexican-American lineage or have spent time in the Southwest or Southern California.

Cumbia is a dance-oriented music genre popular throughout Latin America. It began as a courtship dance practiced among the African population on the Caribbean coasts of Colombia and Panama.

Thee Commons

It later mixed with Amerindian and European instruments, steps and musical characteristics and then spread throughout Latin America. Cumbia has grown to be one of the most widespread and unifying musical genres to emerge from Latin America.

If you want the best of both music styles – with a little bit of psychedelia thrown in – then you should take a listen to the music of Thee Commons.

Thee Commons, who are playing on October 12 at MilkBoy Philly (1100 Chestnut Street, Philadelphia, 215- 925-6455, www.milkboyphilly.com), are a critically-acclaimed East L.A. psychedelic cumbia-punk trio.

The group features brothers David and Rene Pacheco on guitar and drums, respectively, and bassist Jose Rojas. The trio’s music blends the “CHICH-chich-a-CHICH-chich-a-CHICH” of cumbia with the crunching guitar and bass of punk rock.

“David and I have been jamming out since before we could even play instruments,” said Rene Pacheco, during a phone interview Tuesday afternoon.

“We were just banging on pots. Later, I got my own drum kit and we started playing in a couple bands together. We played our first show as Thee Commons in February 2102 – even though we didn’t have the name yet.

“It’s always been a three-piece although in later years we’ve added a horn for some gigs. When we started, we played mainly in East L.A. and neighboring areas like Orange County and Echo Park.”

The band’s name used “Thee” as a tribute to Thee Midniters, the groundbreaking ’60s Chicano rock band from East L.A., and to ’70s Latino street gangs. The “Commons” part of their name is “an area in which we share a musical palette of sounds.”

“We wanted to reach out to different audiences,” said Pacheco. “Musically, we started as garage-punk. Then, we heard this album ‘Roots of Chica,’ and that created a big stir. It was Peruvian chica with guitar and organ – very dramatic. We were riveted by this album and tried to emulate it. Then, our dad told us we should check out cumbia music from Mexico. We really liked it. I stared to translate the organ sound from cumbia to guitar. We grew up with Mexican music. It was the soundtrack to our childhood. We also liked Orange County punk shows in D.I.Y. spaces. At first, when we started to play thee, we were outcast a little because we hadn’t fully developed our sound. It took us about three years tpo formulate our sound to translate to both communities.”
Thee Commons are now touring in support of their recently-released album “Paleta Sonora.”

“We recorded the album in January,” said Pacheca. “Since then, we’ve already recorded another album. We recorded ‘Paleta Sonora’ at One Take Studio in san Pedro. We recorded 18 songs in four days.”

Video link for Thee Commons — https://youtu.be/qmyHdQPQ738.

The show at MilkBoy Philly, which has Suburban Sensi as the opener, will start at 8:30. Tickets are $12.

Other upcoming shows at MilkBoy are Andy Frasco & The U.N. on October 13, Andrew Belle on October 14, MC Lars + MC Frontalot on October 15, and The Weeks on October 18.

The Flamin’ Caucasians

Kennett Flash (102 Sycamore Alley, Kennett Square, 484-732-8295, http://www.kennettflash.org) will present Better Than Bacon Improv Comedy on October 12, The Flamin’ Caucasians & Bill Currier – CD Release Party on October 13, Hello, I Must Be Going! – A Tribute to Phil Collins on October 14, and Open Mic with Matt Sevier on October 15.

The Steel City Coffee House (203 Bridge Street, Phoenixville, 610-933-4043, www.steelcitycoffeehouse.com) will host Gabrielle Louise with guest Cindy Alexander on October 13 and Julian Velard with Nick Nace on October 14.

Burlap & Bean Coffeehouse (204 South Newtown Street Road, Newtown Square, 484-427-4547, www.burlapandbean.com) will present Eliot Bronson and Caleb Caudle on October 13 and Katherine Rondeau and The Show with Chikabiddy on October 14.

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