On Stage Extra: W. Chester native actress featured in new PTC production, ‘The Tattooed Lady’

By Denny Dyroff, Entertainment Editor, The Times

The Tattooed Lady

With this being Halloween Weekend, it is the perfect time for the staging of a world premiere of a new musical about a woman who is visited by ghosts.

The Philadelphia Theatre Company (Suzanne Roberts Theatre, 480 South Broad Street, Philadelphia, www.philatheatreco.org) is about to bring the stage alive with the rock musical that celebrates empowering women and their autonomy. It is also a show that features an actress who grew up in West Chester.

“The Tattooed Lady,” which runs October 29-November 20, is a new musical by Obie Award-winning playwright Erin Courtney (Map of Virtue), Lortel-winner Max Vernon (KPOP on Broadway, The View Upstairs). It was developed and directed by Drama League-winner Ellie Heyman (Space Dogs) and choreographed by Mayte Natalio (How to Dance in Ohio). 

The story of this new musical highlights one of sideshow’s biggest stars, the fictional Ida Gibson, in a moving tale that reveals the generational chasms and connections between Gibson and her granddaughter Joy. A parade of beguiling characters returns from the dead on a mission to liberate Gibson from her self-imposed exile and help Joy find freedom through forgiveness. The musical celebrates the resilience of women whose choices have the power to liberate them.

For casting, PTC has assembled an all-star line-up of New York stage and screen veterans including Jackie Hoffman as the fictional famed Tattooed Lady Ida Gibson, Grace Slear (Jagged Little Pill), Kim Blanck (Octet), James Dybas (Pacific Overtures), Ashley Pérez Flanagan (The Great Comet of 1812), Anastacia McCleskey (Caroline, or Change), Jessie Shelton (Hadestown), Katie Thompson (Oklahoma!), Sophia Ramos (Party People), and Maya Lagerstam.

“The conception for this show started about five years ago,” said Slear, during a phone interview Monday afternoon. “I started getting involved this summer. I got an audition in my inbox. Prior to that, I knew nothing about the show.

“I listened to the demos of the music, and I was instantly hooked. I thought – I must be in it. I also love the story. I auditioned in early summer and got a call back in July. That’s when I met the team and sang to them. We started rehearsals in September. We just finished two weeks of tech. We’re getting there. It’s really exciting to get there.”

Slear, who grew up in West Chester and now lives in New York, graduated from the Center for Performing and Fine Arts through the Pennsylvania Leadership Charter School. They play Lady Viola and recently made their Broadway debut in “Jagged Little Pill.”

“I was born and raised in West Chester,” said Slear. “I went to the Center for Performing and Fine Arts in West Chester from sixth to 12th grades. I went to college in Boston at the Boston Conservatory. Then I went to New York for work and have been there ever since. I’m now living in the Clinton Hill section of Brooklyn.”

Slear most recently celebrated their Broadway debut in Jagged Little Pill in which they understudied the role of Jo. Grace’s theatrical credits also include Urleen in Kennedy Center’s Footloose directed by Walter Bobbie, the Stephen Brackett led New York workshop of Refer Madness, and developmental readings of new musicals A Girl and a Boy Dance by Marshall Pailet, and Black Box by Matthew Lee Robinson and Scott Morris.

At home with large and intimate audiences, Grace has recently appeared in concert at 54 Below and Green Room 42. As part of performing arts training organization Broadway Dreams, Grace has served as an international Teaching Associate, having been mentored by their many industry leaders including Founder Annette Tanner and Emmy-nominated choreographer Spencer Liff.

“This show is about the tattooed ladies of the 1800s and 1900s,” said Slear. “They were the only people in freak shows that chose to be in a freak show. They weren’t born different. They chose to get tattoos on their bodies.

“Ida is the oldest living ‘Tattoo Lady.’ She retired from being in freak shows and became a Christian woman living in suburbia.

“The show is set in the 1800s/1900s and Ida is in her 70s. The ghosts of tattooed ladies from the past visit her. They come out of a sideshow trunk.

“Ida hid from her past. She covered it all up and denied it was true. The ghosts are mad because she is dishonoring their past. For them, to have one of their own turn her back on them is horrific.

“It all takes place in Ida’s living room. The ghosts transform her living room into a stage. The music is a spin on a rock musical – with some techno.”

Video link for “The Tattooed Lady” — https://youtu.be/EJEryefSr14?list=TLGGpB7KqEUyeFAyODEwMjAyMg.

“The Tattoed Lady” is running now through November 20. Ticket prices start at $25.

Steve Kimock

A few weeks ago, Zero, featuring guitarist Steve Kimock and drummer Greg Anton, celebrated the 30th anniversary of the recording of their breakout song and album, “Chance In a Million” with a show at the Fillmore Auditorium in San Francisco. The performance featured songs from the album, several covers and a selection of Zero’s more contemporary material.

Now, Zero is taking it on the road.

Zero’s “30th Anniversary & Vinyl Release Tour” featuring Steve Kimock, Greg Anton, Pete Sears, Spencer Burrows, Hadi Al Saadoon, Ron Holloway and John Morgan Kimock will visit the Ardmore Music Hall (23 East Lancaster Avenue, Ardmore, www.ardmoremusic.com) on October 29.

“I don’t know if you’d call this a resurrection of Zero,” said Kimock, during a recent phone interview from his home in the Lehigh Valley. “It depends on who you ask. One version is that Zero is always there but not super active.”

Early in 1980, Kimock joined former Grateful Dead members Keith and Donna Jean Godchaux’s Heart of Gold Band, which already happened to have Greg Anton as its drummer. Godchaux was injured in a car accident and the Heart of Gold Band went away, but the connection that Kimock and Anton shared has endured.

The duo immediately recorded an album of new music which would be released decades later, then started a band.  Having gone through many, many names, Greg asked Steve how many were left on the list to consider: “Zero” was the answer, and Zero became the quintessential jazz/rock psychedelic band, a pioneer of the “jam” band scene.

They went years without vocals, creating such instrumental-only gems as Here Goes Nothin (1987) and Nothin’ Goes Here (1990), albums so good that Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab re-released them, and then Go Hear Nothin’ (1991).  Along the way they played with some of the Bay Area’s greatest talent:  John Cipollina, John Kahn, Banana, Martin Fierro, Hadi Al Saadoon, Bobby Vega, Nicky Hopkins, John Farey, Vince Welnick, Merl Saunders, Tony Saunders, Liam Hanrahan, Chip Roland, and Steve Wolf.

A casual conversation with Grateful Dead lyricist Robert Hunter in the early ‘90s sent the band in a new direction, and they added vocalist Judge Murphy.  In 1992, when Zero gathered for three nights at the Great American Music Hall to perform their new songs with Hunter lyrics, they had Grateful Dead sound director Dan Healy on board to record them, and the result was the brilliant and beloved Chance in a Million.

After reenlisting a potent lineup of some of the Bay Area’s most revered instrumentalists, including Nicky Hopkins (The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, The Who), Vince Welnick (The Tubes, Grateful Dead), John Kahn (Jerry Garcia Band), Pete Sears (Jefferson Starship), Bobby Vega (Santana), John Cipollina (Quicksilver Messenger Service), and Martin Fierro (Quicksilver Messenger Service, Legion Of Mary), Zero received positive feedback with their improvisation-fueled performances. It was the precursor for the modern jam band scene.

Now, the Bay Area jam legends have released a new album, “Naught Again,” via Omnivore Recordings.

“Naught Again” features a legendary performance recorded at San Francisco’s Great American Music Hall in 1992. A set from the same run of shows was released in 1994 on the album, “Chance In a Million. Now, 30 years later, this previously unheard recording, which includes covers of The Who, Jimi Hendrix, and more, has been newly mixed by Emmy®-nominated engineer Brian Risner from the original multi-track tapes recorded by Dan Healy and Don Pearson (Grateful Dead).

“The impetus for this album – we had material still in the can from 30 years ago,” said Kimock. “They were great sessions – so well recorded and the quality was insane.

“I’m not usually impressed by live recordings, but the quality of these recordings was great. I thought about remastering it. Brian Risner agreed to do it. Greg went back and listened and said – O.K., let’s work on it. We were a pretty good stoned jam band and then we got all these songs with vocals.

“With the remixing, the raw footage had extraordinary quality. But I’m glad mixing and mastering is not my job. Riz (Brian Risner) is the wizard. I’m not that good on that side of recording. I’m more into arranging, plating and getting onstage.”

Kimock’s signature sound is marked by his ability to articulate crystal-clear tone, melody and emotion into music crafted with technical brilliance. He always seems at his best when he is performing live.

If you had to pick a genre for Kimock’s music, it would have to be “rock” or, even better, “rock plus.” Over the past few decades, Kimock has explored various styles based on where his head was at the time — blues, jam, funk, jazz, gypsy, prog-rock, traditional American, boogie, folk, psychedelic, or world fusion.

Kimock grew up in Bethlehem and then moved to northern California in the 1970s. About 17 years ago, Kimock departed California and ended up back in Pennsylvania. Later, he changed coasts and, more recently, has come back to the Lehigh Valley.

“I’m back in Pennsylvania,” said Kimock. “I have kids that are teenagers and I like the school system here.”

Over the years, Kimock has built a legion of fans through touring and recording. His musical resume includes jamming with Jerry Garcia (the Grateful Dead guitar legend who, shortly before his death, called Kimock his “favorite unknown guitar player”) and playing with musicians from the now-defunct Grateful Dead.

Kimock has performed with Bob Weir in Kingfish, with Vince Welnick in Missing Man Formation and with Phil Lesh in the Phil & Friends. He has also played in the Heart of Gold Band with Keith and Donna Godchaux and has toured with Merle Saunders and Bruce Hornsby.

He also has recorded with a number of his own bands, including Steve Kimock Crazy Engine, the Steve Kimock Band, Praang and Steve Kimock & Friends and Zero.

Video link for Zero – https://youtu.be/RF0to-7JRHI.

The show at the Ardmore Music Hall will start at 8 p.m.

Tickets are $30.


The musical stage show “STOMP” has been playing to packed houses for almost 30 years and its popularity is showing no signs of waning. This weekend, “STOMP” is visiting The Playhouse on Rodney Square (1007 North Market Street, Wilmington, Delaware, www.BroadwayInWilmington.org) for a limited performance engagement on October 29.

The stage show “STOMP” has its origins in busking, a British custom that dates back hundreds of years and features street performers. The show’s creators Luke Cresswell and Steve McNicholas updated the tradition and created a theater piece that is very loud and very intense.

The structure is always there but approximately one-quarter of each performance is improvised. The cast of the national tour has the versatility — and the experience with the structure of the show — to keep it fresh and new for every performance.

“I joined “STOMP’ in 2016,” said Jordan Brooks, during a recent phone interview from New York. “This tour is just starting. We’re in York for tech, rehearsal, and a couple shows. Then, we come your way.

“The tour ended in June, so we had a nice couple months break. The flagstaff production is running in New York, and I performed a week fill-in with it in August.

“STOMP” is the winner of an Olivier Award for Best Choreography (London’s Tony Award), a New York Obie Award, a Drama Desk Award for Unique Theatre Experience, and a Special Citation from Best Plays. Other honors include an Academy Award nomination, four Emmy nominations and one Emmy Award for their acclaimed HBO special “Stomp Out Loud,” noteworthy TV appearances including The London 2012 Olympic Games Closing Ceremony, The Academy Awards (produced by Quincy Jones), Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, and a series of award-winning international commercials.

“STOMP” is not your typical touring stage show.

“STOMP” is a wordless show featuring a 12-member cast with energy to burn — a cast that creates beautiful music and sly humor with found objects such as Zippo lighters, push brooms, wooden poles, hammer handles, garbage cans, inner tubes, matchboxes and even the kitchen sink. It is a journey through sound, a celebration of the everyday and a comic interplay of characters wordlessly communicating through dance and drum.

“STOMP” runs for just over an hour-and-a-half with no intermission. It features non-stop intensity, lot of movement and a whole lot of noise. To get an idea of what’s happening in the show, picture a group of athletic dancers acting like a group of young kids left unsupervised in a kitchen after drinking a 16-ounce glass of Jolt (a soda that pre-dated energy drinks and boasted “all the sugar and twice the caffeine”)

The cast characters are Ringo, Particle Man, Doctor Who, Cornish, Mozzie, Sarge and Potato Head.

“We have eight characters in the show,” said Brooks. “One is comedic. The other characters are dance driven with big movement.

“I’m the rehearsal director and a lead performer. My primary role is Sarge. He’s the first character that comes onstage. Sarge sweeps the stage in the iconic broom number.

“Sarge also has a lot of audience interaction. When I first joined the show in 2016, I came in as Potato Head. Most of my background is in drums and percussion. My skills translated easily into the show.”

Brooks, a native of Dallas, Texas, attended Berklee College of Music where he double majored in Percussion Performance and Contemporary Writing and Production. He later went on to receive his master’s degree in Percussion Performance at New York University. In 2012, Brooks came to the Santa Clara Vanguard as a tenor drum transfer from the Blue Knights of Denver, CO. The next year he served as tenor section leader within the drumline and went on to receive the Mike Laporta Percussion Award before aging out at the end of the summer.

“I grew up in a household where my dad played drums and piano,” said Brooks.

 “They put me in piano from age 5-14. When I was around 12, I realized that I’d really just like to be a drummer. I put all my musical effort into drums.

“I was in marching band and jazz band in high school. Then, I got into drumline. I studied percussion and arranging at Berklee and then got my master’s degree from N.Y.U. Being a part of ‘STOMP’ is great. I love theater because of the real time aspect.”

 Video link for “Stomp” — https://youtu.be/a6X_idq-lyM.

“Stomp” will play The Playhouse on Rodney Square on October 29 at 2 and 8 p.m.

Ticket prices start at $40.

In contrast to the plethora of music shows the Sellersville Theater (24 West Temple Avenue, Sellersville, 215-257-5808, www.st94.com) presents, the number of comedy shows it hosts is relatively small.

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

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

On October 30, Matarese will headline a show at the theater with promising newcomer Shannon Fiedler as the opening act.

Matarese is currently 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 Tuesday from his home in New Rochelle, New York.

“I’m doing shows in Portsmouth, New Hampshire and Sellersville this weekend and then Fairfield, Connecticut next weekend. Then, I’m filming the show for a comedy special on November 11 at the Emelin Theater in Mamaroneck, 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 has 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 with (108K followers) and growing daily https://vm.tiktok.com/TTPdYV4RrD/.

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/yyiKCpaX4vw.

The show at the Sellersville Theater on October 30, which has Shannon Fiedler as the opener, willstart at

Tickets are $25 and $39.50.

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