On Stage: Wax Idols go high concept

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By Denny Dyroff, Staff Writer, The Times

Wax Idols

Wax Idols, one of four acts playing Fillmore Philadelphia (1100 Canal Street, Philadelphia, 215-309-0150, www.thefillmorephilly.com) is a band featuring Hether Fortune, Rachel Travers, Peter Lightning and Marisa Prietto.

In reality, Wax Idols is Hether Fortune (a.k.a. Hether Fedewa).

“I started the band in 2009,” said Fortune, during a phone interview last week from her home in Oakland, California. “At first, it was just me making demos in my home.

“I put them on MySpace and soon people wanted to join the band. I’ve had a lot of band members come and go – always on good terms. This line-up of four we have right now has been together for two years and Rachel has bene with me for four years”

So, in reality, Wax Idols is Hether Fortune — and a lot more.

“Rachel has devoted four years of her life to this project so she deserves a say,” said Fortune. “It’s her band too. Peter and Marisa expressed their desire to be included equally. Prior to these three, I didn’t have the commitment from players in the band.

“Initially, we were taking a minimal party-rock approach – pretty straight-forward. Now, the band has taken on a life of its own. It’s more expansive sonically.

“We’re an aggressive goth-pop band played from a punk perspective. On the new album, there are no ballads – no slow songs – and that’s a first. We also play house and jazz – all types of stuff.”

The band’s new album is “Happy Endings,” which will be released later this year on Fortune’s label Etruscan Gold Records.

According to Wax Idols’ press release, “‘Happy Ending’ is a concept album exploring the posthumous consciousness of a fictional protagonist who can still fully perceive the world around herself. “In a grave, just for you,” Fortune sings with a certain slyness, exploring the abstraction & finality of death from both philosophical and personal perspectives. She also sees this album as a way to process increasing anxieties and fear within the current sociopolitical landscape.”

Fortune and her bandmates found their focus.

“Lyrically, it’s very compact – and pretty conceptual,” said Fortune. “There is the guilt of losing someone – and the guilt of someone who is lost.

“We started working on it last year and then got hit with personal tragedies that halted the process. We had hoped to have it out by now. Instead, we’re still going back to rework some of the stuff.”

But, Wax Idols does have something new out right now – sort of.

Wax Idols’ critically-acclaimed album, “American Tragic,” was reissued digitally on March 10 with limited-edition alternate cover on purple cassette via the band’s label Etruscan Gold Records. The reissue includes an exclusive remix of “Deborah” by Peter Lightning.
“‘American Tragic’ was out third album,” said Fortune. “It came out in 2015. We just reissued it because we started our own label and there are no copies of the original album left.”

Video link for Wax Idols – https://youtu.be/nYXZjELUoM0.

The show at the Fillmore, which also features Thursday, Touche Amore and Basement, will start at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $28.

Other upcoming shows at the Fillmore are The Menzingers on March 31 and Steel Panther on April 5.

James McMurtry

James McMurtry is back home in the states and currently in the middle of his “East Coast Stateside Solo Tour,” a tour that includes shows at legendary listening rooms such as the Birchmere in Alexandria, Virginia; World Cafe Live in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; and New York City’s City Winery.

According to McMurtry, “Nothing makes you miss Waffle House like a couple of weeks in Europe. The term ‘Continental Breakfast’ is an oxymoron. And I haven’t heard Spanish in nearly a month. I sure miss the States.”

McMurtry’s East Coast Stateside Solo Tour” started on March 24 in Winston-Salem, North Carolina and will conclude on April 6 in Fall River, Massachusetts. On March 31, it will make a local stop at the World Café Live at the Queen (500 North Market Street, Wilmington, 302- 994-1400, www.queen.worldcafelive.com).

McMurtry took time from his break between tours for a phone interview last week.

“I’m driving through Dripping Springs (Texas) on my way back from Junction (Texas),” said McMurtry. “I was on a hunting trip to Junction trying to get an Axis deer.

“I just did a month of touring in Europe and now I’m back home in Austin. I’ve been living here for 28 years. This tour I just finished was my first time to tour Europe since 2009.”

In the eight years since that tour, McMurtry has released just one album – 2015’s “Complicated Games.”

“Complicated Games” is McMurtry’s latest collection of narratives and another display of his astute writing. It covers personal and political topics delivered in McMurtry’s inimitable style.

“I try to avoid writing like the plague,” said McMurtry. “I don’t really start with a topic. Usually, I get two lines and a melody together. It’s — O.K., who said that? When I find a character, I start to build the story.

“Once I find the character, I step into his shoes. The biggest thing is to not break character.

“For example, the song ‘Carlisle’s Haul’ is written from the view of commercial fishermen. They want no government regulations. I’m against that stance – but I’m not pulling my living out of the bay. I can’t break character and give my opinion.

“With the songs on ‘Complicated Game,’ some are old and some are new. ‘You Got to Me’ started 20 years ago while ‘Ain’t Got a Place’ took 15 minutes. For my set list, I play whatever works. Some songs work and some don’t.”

McMurtry will making this tour without his band.

“This is a solo tour and there’s stuff in my set list from every one of my records. I can’t get my band to the East Coast because I’ve already used up the route since we put the record out.

“We toured the whole country in a van — starting in Texas and working our way around the country. I can’t fly my band east just for a couple shows.

“It used to be that we toured an album to promote record sales. It’s changed a lot. We don’t make money on records. Royalties don’t pay very much. Now, we make records to promote our tour dates.”

Video link for James McMurtry – https://youtu.be/9wWZ9NSLdIs.

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


The emotional musical “Once” was a huge success when it made its Philadelphia debut in the fall of 2013 with a two-week sold-out run at the Academy of Music. The next time the hit show returned to Philly was for a three-day, five-show run from at the same venue in January 2106.

Now, the Grammy-winning musical is coming back to the area for another three-day, five-show run – this time at the Playhouse on Rodney Square (10th and Market streets, Wilmington, Delaware, 302-888-0200, www. duponttheatre.com). The show will run from March 31-April 2.

The main characters are a busker from Dublin who is identified only as “Guy,” a young woman from the Czech Republic identified only as “Girl” and “Girl’s” mother Baruška.

The show opened on Broadway in February 2012. It received 11 Tony Award nominations and won eight — including Best Musical. It also won the Drama League Award for Distinguished Production of a Musical for the 2011-12 season. “Once” also was the winner of the 2013 Grammy Award for Best Musical Theater Album.

“Once” features an ensemble of actor/musicians who play their own instruments onstage.

It tells the tale of a Dublin street musician who is about to give up on his dream and the chemistry that takes place when a beautiful young woman takes a sudden interest in his haunting love songs.

Over the course of a concentrated one-week period of time, their unexpected friendship and collaboration evolves into a powerful but complicated romance that is intensified by the raw emotion of the songs they create together.

One of the key members of the cast is Alison Rose Munn who plays the role of Baruška.

“I’ve been with ‘Once’ since September,” said Munn, during a recent phone interview from a tour stop in Wichita, Kansas. “I didn’t audition. I was asked to come on.

“I got an email telling me to send in a video of me doing a monologue in Czech accent, singing a song and playing some accordion. I rented an accordion for the audition. It was one-and-a-half weeks from then until my first rehearsal.

“For the Czech accent, I initially learned by listening to a podcast of a Czech person teaching Czech to English teachers. After I joined the show, we had a dialect coach come in. What I found most interesting was that he gave us different Czech accents based on each actor’s age.”

The story and the music of “Once” were all new to her.

“I had never seen ‘Once’ because I was working so much – I was on tour,” said Munn,” who grew up in Northern California and earned a Bachelor of Music degree from New York University.

“I’ve worked continuously throughout my career. I was a singer in ‘Jubilee’ in Las Vegas and was in the national tour of ‘The Taffetas.’  I’ve played regional theaters all over the place – including the Dutch Apple Dinner Theater in Lancaster and the Bucks County Playhouse in New Hope.

“I never saw the movie of ‘Once’ either. I didn’t have anything to relate to when I became involved with this show. I’ve found out that it’s a wonderful show. It has great music. And, I love the script.

“I also like Baruška. She’s very feisty. You can’t tell her what to do. It took a bit of work at first to get to know her. But, overall, I was able to find her pretty easily.”

Theater patrons all across America and throughout Europe have embraced this musical.

“People like the show because all the characters resonate with the audience,” said Munn. “Despite all their flaws, they are still good people. The show really draws people into the characters.”

Video link for “Once” – http://oncemusical.com/about.

The show at the Playhouse will have evening shows on March 31 and April 1 and 2 with matinee performances on April 1 and 2. Ticket prices range from $40-$85.

The final night in March 2017 will be a busy night all around on Wilmington’s North Market Street.

In addition to the McMurtry concert at the Queen and “Once” at the Playhouse on Rodney Square, March 31 will also feature Kim Russo performing at the Grand Opera House (818 North Market Street, Wilmington, Delaware, 302-652-5577, www.thegrandwilmington.org).

Russo, also known as Kim The Happy Medium, has been able to see the world of spirit since she was a young child.

“I was around nine years old when it started to happen,” said Russo, during a phone interview. “I just remember having a crowd at the foot of my bed. There were men in black suits and fedoras and women in long black dress with laces on their heads. They had distinct faces — and distinct positions where they stood every time.

“My sister and I shared a room. There was a street light outside our room that allowed me to see these apparitions. My sister never saw them but she said she did feel a presence. That house was in Ozone Park in Queens (NY).

“Then, our family moved to Long Island. What was weird was that the spirits followed me. They were with me during the day. I could feel them with me when I walked to school. During my teenage years — the older I got, it was getting less and less.”

But, it was a case of gone but not forgotten.

“I never thought much about it during my dating years,” said Russo, who has appeared on A & E’s hit shows “Paranormal State” and “Psychic Kids” and The Biography Channel’s “Celebrity Ghost Stories.” “During my child-bearing years, it was as quiet as can be.

“My husband and I moved back to that original house in Ozone Park and there were no spirits. Then, we moved to Long Island. After I had my third child, spirits came back — but not the same group. There were all kinds and they were insistent.

“I saw an apparition of a 13-year-old girl — not solid but I saw everything. She didn’t speak but I heard what she was telling me. She was from New Jersey and had died in a house fire. She said — you need to tell my parents I’m O.K. Then, when she turned, I saw that her whole face was charred on one side.

“From that point on, there have been floods of people. I don’t see them all but I hear them all. I learned a lot about apparitions and did a lot of research.”

Since then, Russo has been put through a battery of tests and has become a Certified Medium by The Forever Family Foundation and The Windbridge Institute for Applied Research in Human Potential. This foundation is dedicated and committed to proving the existence of life after death by integrating mediumship along with scientific studies.

“In my shows, I do readings,” said Russo. “I can look at people and find the conduit. I might have to use an alternate but I rarely have trouble connecting. I interview the spirit and give the person getting the reading something to identify with. At times, I connect with someone they’re not expecting.

“I go out onstage and warm up the audience to get the vibration up. The work that I do depends a lot on trust. I talk about whatever moves me that day. I don’t ever plan it. It’s always different. Once I get the audience comfortable, I take the microphone and walk through the audience.

“I allow the person getting the reading to stand up. I want the audience to know that there is no way Kin could have known about that family. If I weren’t authentic, there is no way I could pull it off day-in and day-out. It’s a demonstration of spirit communication.”

Russo has been given insight into what transpires on the other side.

“Time is not linear in the other world,” said Russo. “There are several levels and dominions where souls go after they leave the body. Most of the energies I discover are earthbound.

“There are some who haven’t gone in the light. A lot of time, spirits are earthbound and it’s of their own doing. But, most people do go into the light. I’ve studied a lot about near-death experiences too.”

Video link for Kim Russo — https://youtu.be/tvu8NbIXMTA.

The show at the Grand’s Copeland Hall will start at 8 p.m. Tickets range from $32-$39.

Delaware also is the place to go for another entertaining stage presentation on March 31.


The show, which is based on T.H. White’s novel “The Once and Future King”, made its Broadway debut in 1960 and received four Tony Awards. It has been revived several times on Broadway and was made into a film in 1967.

“Camelot” tells the story of the legend of King Arthur who rules his kingdom with new ideals — with the intention of bringing peace to a troubled land. But when the two loves of his life — his beautiful new Queen Guinevere and his most trusted knight Sir Lancelot — give in to their passion for one another, troubles develop.

One of the most fabled love triangles of all time starts to take shape. At the same time, Mordred, King Arthur’s illegitimate son, sees these troubles and realizes that it is a kingdom in chaos. He attempts to take advantage of the situation and destroy all that is Camelot.

The show not only tells a great story, it also features a celebrated score that includes such classics as “If Ever I Would Leave You,” “The Simple Joys of Maidenhood” and the title song “Camelot.”

The production at the Candlelight is being directed by Bob Kelly. It features Sophie Johnson in the pivotal role of Guenevere from the time she was Lady Guenevere until the time she was Queen Guenevere.

Johnson grew up in Mankato, Minnesota. She graduated from the University of Minnesota-Mankato in spring of 2015 with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in musical theater.

After graduation, she travelled east to Pennsylvania. Johnson also travelled back in time – initially to the 16th century and then to the fifth and sixth centuries.

Her journey to the 16th century took place in the middle of last summer.

“Last year, I got cast in the Pennsylvania Renaissance Faire at Mount Hope,” said Johnson during a phone interview Tuesday afternoon from her apartment in South Philadelphia.

“I spent the summer through November living in Manheim and working at the faire. I was an apothecary – an apothecary selling mints.”

Johnson then left central Pennsylvania and relocated to South Philly. It was then that her career path took her to the theater in Arden, Delaware.

“I saw a Theatre Philadelphia page posting about auditions at the Candlelight,” said Johnson. “I figured – why not audition? That was back in mid-November. I did the usual audition and then Bob (Kelly) asked me to come back a second time.

“I had never seen the show but I was familiar with some of the songs from back when I was taking voice lessons. When I was auditioning for the BFA Musical Theater program at the University of Minnesota-Mankato, one of my main songs was ‘The Simple Joys of Maidenhood.’

“The hardest part about paying Guenevere was finding a way to toe the line between being a strong woman who doesn’t take a lot of guff and still have her be vulnerable – a strong leader and an emotionally vulnerable woman.

“I like this show – especially how inclusive the cast is. We all get along really well. It’s like a family. It’s a great environment to work in.”

Audiences also really like “Camelot” – now and for the last 57 years.

“I think audiences like ‘Camelot’ because it’s reminiscent of the Golden Age,” said Johnson, whose resume includes “manual transmission and motorcycle experience” and “stage combat experience.”

“This show is so idealistic – honor and loyalty and commitment. And, there is the whole legend of Camelot. It’s a fantasy.

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 $60 for adults and $33 for children (ages 4-12).

Kennett Flash (102 Sycamore Alley, Kennett Square, 484-732-8295, http://www.kennettflash.org) will present “Stand Up at The Flash” with Todd Chappelle, Steve Ziegler, Buddy Harris, and Marc Staudenmaier on March 30, “An Evening with Mike Keneally & Beer For Dolphins” on March 31, Seventh Sojourn on April 1 and “Open Mic” with guest host Karter Jaymes on April 2.

The Steel City Coffee House (203 Bridge Street, Phoenixville, 610-933-4043, www.steelcitycoffeehouse.com) will host House Plant with Side Band on March 31 and Beaucoup Blue with the Greg Sover Duo on April 1.

Livingston Taylor

The Colonial Theatre (Bridge Street, Phoenixville, 610- 917-1228, www.thecolonialtheatre.com) will host Livingston Taylor and Susan Werner on April 1.

Chaplin’s (66 North Main Street, Spring City, 610-792-4110, http://chaplinslive.com) will host Moon Roof, Quasi Choir and Gina Zo on March 31 and CPTime, Tell R, Axe and dpoole non April 1.

The Ardmore Music Hall (23 East Lancaster Avenue, Ardmore, 610-649-8389, www.ardmoremusic.com) will host “In Memory of Butch Trucks: A set of ABB Music w/ members of Les Brers, Butch Trucks & the Freight Train Band and more” on March 30, Brass-a-holics and West Philadelphia Orchestra on March 31, Don’t Call Me Francis with special guest AM Radio on April 1, Glennfest 2017 with Vilebred, GRiz, and Walking Dead on April 2, and Son Volt with special guest Anders Parker on April 3.

Burlap & Bean Coffeehouse (204 South Newtown Street Road, Newtown Square, 484-427-4547, www.burlapandbean.com) will host Antje Duvekot and Natalia Zukerman on March 30, Mark Erelli with Allison Polans on March 31, and Hope Country with No Good Sister on April 1.

The Keswick Theater (291 N. Keswick Avenue, Glenside, 215-572-7650, www.keswicktheatre.com) presents Bob Saget on March 30, “Girls Night: The Musical” on March 31, and The Beach Boys on April 1.

The Sellersville Theater (24 West Temple Avenue, Sellersville, 215-257-5808, www.st94.com) will have David Lindley and Mike “Slo-Mo” Brenner on March 30, Rodney Crowell and Joe Robinson on March 31, The McCartney Years on April 1, James McCartney and Jessy Tomsko on April 2, Mark Hummel’s “Blues Harmonica Blowout Tribute To Sonny Boy Williamson” featuring Sugar Ray Norcia (of The Bluetones) & Magic Dick (of J Geils Band) along with James Day & The Fish Fry on April 3, Miles Nielsen & The Rusted Hearts and Glim Dropper on April 4 and Davina & The Vagabonds with Andrea Carlson on April 5.

Boot and Saddle (1131 South Broad Street, Philadelphia, 215-639-4528, www.bootandsaddlephilly.com) will have The Courtneys, Jay Som, and Little Junior on March 31; Phantasm, The Tea Club, and Something Like A Monument on April 1; Stop Light, Observations, and Shark Tape on April 4; and Kolars with Sammy Brue on April 5.

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