On Stage: Holly Miranda at City Winery, Nov. 30

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By Denny Dyroff, Entertainment Editor, The Times

Holly Miranda

The schedule for music concerts gets a little light over the Thanksgiving holiday. It’s hard for music acts to compete with Thanksgiving dinners, family gatherings and homecoming parties.

Fortunately, there is a great show on tap for November 30 when Holly Miranda headlines a show at City Winery (990 Filbert Street, Philadelphia, citywinery.com/philadelphia/).

Miranda is touring in support of her most recent album, “Mutual Horse,” which was released on Dangerbird Records. Her previous albums are “High Above the City: Evolution,” (2004), “The Magician’s Private Library” (2010), “Holly Miranda” (2015) and “Party Trick” (2016).

“For the show in Philly, I’ll be playing a lot of stuff from my last few records,” said Miranda, during a phone interview Thursday from a tour stop in New York City.

“I’ll also be playing a few covers. I’ll be playing piano and acoustic guitar. I will also be doing some looping.”

Miranda grew up in the Midwest and the South.

“I moved to New York in 1998,” said Miranda. “I grew up between Detroit and Nashville. And can’t remember a time when I wasn’t singing.

“I’m from a religious family so there was a lot of singing in church. I started studying classical piano when I was five or six. When I was 14, I taught myself to play guitar and started writing songs.”

Miranda has been writing good songs ever since – including a bunch of new ones.

“I’ve been working on a new record,” said Miranda. “I wanted to take a break now and play some solo shows. I haven’t played much in the states in recent years.”

Miranda has been spending more time in Spain and has been living in Ibiza.

“Lately, I’ve been writing and starting to record,” said Miranda. “I’ve been spending a lot of time in Spain and I’ll be recording there. I do a lot of stuff on Logic and take that into a studio. I prefer to do my own production.

“When making an album, your surroundings always influence what you’re doing. But I think the direction of the new record is not set yet. I’ve been spending most of my time in Ibiza. The people here know how to take pause and live in a way that makes sense. The siestas always make it for me.”

There will be no napping for anyone when Miranda is on stage at City Winery.

“In the Philly show, I’ll play a lot of new songs,” said Miranda. “Some of them are more political. And I’ll be playing some Spanish Leonard Cohen songs.”

Video link for Holly Miranda – https://youtu.be/9XmBEYwhTzE.

The show at City Winery will start at 8 p.m. Tickets are $18.

Other upcoming shows at City Winery are Dwele on November 30, Dave Hollister on December 1 and David Benoit on December 3.

“Merry Christmas Darling: Carpenters’ Christmas,” which will be presented on December 1 at the Upper Darby Performing Arts Center (Upper Darby High School, 601 North Lansdowne Avenue, Drexel Hill, www.udpac.org), is a concert show celebrating one of the most successful recording acts of all time with their classic Christmas repertoire and a full complement of their biggest hits.

Michelle Berting Brett

This production features Michelle Berting Brett singing the songs of the Carpenters. Berting Brett takes center stage accompanied by her Nashville band directed by Harry Sharpe.

A natural off shoot of the show, “We’ve Only Just Begun: Carpenters Remembered,” this concert is geared for the fans of holiday music.

The Carpenters sold over a hundred million records in just over a decade and still hold the record for the most consecutive top-ten singles. The dynamic combination of Karen’s voice and Richard’s compositions and arrangements created Grammy winning magic and won them a worldwide legion of loyal fans.

The Carpenters released two classic Christmas albums as well as two Christmas-themed television specials. Their holiday music is played every season and their Christmas records still top “Favorite Holiday Album” lists every year, even charting on the Billboard Top 100 as recently as 2015.

“Our first Christmas show was in 2013,” said Berting Brett, during a phone interview last week from her home in Connecticut. “We have a regular Carpenters show and this is a natural extension.”

Originally from Saskatchewan, Berting Brett trained in opera and theater on scholarship at Dickinson State University in the U.S. and is an award-winning graduate of the Music Theatre program at Sheridan College in Ontario, Canada. Berting Brett began her career performing in musical theater. 

She also performed in murder mysteries, corporate industrial shows, with an improv troupe, as a background vocalist in studio and on tour, and as a voice-over artist. BertingBrett has toured the world performing the American Songbook and jazz repertoire in her own cabaret shows.

Then, she found her true calling as a vocalist who could accomplish the difficult task of singing Carpenters’ songs just like Karen Carpenter sang them.

Ironically, Berting Brett’s journey into recreating Carpenters music started with a holiday song.

“I was doing pop shows and people told me that I sounded like Karen Carpenter,” said Berting Brett. “Then, my husband Mark (producer Mark Brett) heard me singing ‘Merry Christmas Darling.’

“I told him I always had a dream of doing a Karen Carpenter show and he said — let’s do it. I tried it out at a small show in Toronto and it was a great success. We definitely thought we were on to something.

“The song ‘Merry Christmas Darling,’ was the catalyst. It is a favorite Christmas song for so many people. And, it was a big hit for the Carpenters.”

It didn’t take long for the musical couple to turn the dream into a reality.

“We started searching around for a music director,” said Berting Brett. “The Carpenters’ sound was very special, so we knew we had to find the right person to be the music director. We found Harry Sharpe, who is based in Nashville.”

Sharpe’s career in Nashville began years ago when he toured with Eddy Raven playing piano and singing background vocals.  He did the same with Tanya Tucker and Donna Summer. Sharpe was Wynonna Judd’s music director for six of the 11 years he worked with her.

“Mark, Harry and I hand-picked this wonderful group of musicians,” said Bering Brett. “For the last three years, we’ve travelled all across the country doing shows. One of the most exciting shows was the one we just did in Downey.”

Singing Carpenters’ songs and nailing them every time is no easy task for any vocalist.

“What Karen Carpenter does vocally is tremendous,” said Berting Brett. “She makes it seem so easy, but it is very difficult. She sang without any affectations. There were no tricks. It was always about that rich, warm tone. She had such a great gift.”

Video link for Merry Christmas Darling: Carpenters’ Christmas — https://youtu.be/4h18WcwaH0Y.

The show at the Upper Darby Performing Arts Center will start at 3 p.m. Tickets are $40 and $45.

When “Mean Girls” played Philadelphia in the last two weeks of November as part of the Kimmel Center’s Broadway Philadelphia series, it was a show that a lot of its audience – fans ages 18-35 – grew up with.

Now, the Kimmel Series’ next production is a show that a much larger demographic “grew up with.”

The Spongebob Musical

The show is “The Spongebob Musical,” which is running from December 3-15 at the Forrest Theatre (1114 Walnut Street, Philadelphia, 215-893-1999,www.kimmelcenter.org).

“The Spongebob Musical” — the 2018 Tony-winning musical and 2019 Best Musical winner of the Drama Desk and Outer Critics Circle Awards — is making its Philadelphia premiere this month. The show is inspired by the long-running Nickelodeon TV program, “SpongeBob SquarePants.” But the actors are not dressed as costumed cartoon characters, but rather actual “human” actors on stage.

The production features an original pop and rock-infused musical score by a legendary roster of Grammy Award-winning songwriters including Steven Tyler and Joe Perry of Aerosmith, David Bowie and Brian Eno, Sara Bareilles, Lady Antebellum, The Flaming Lips, Cyndi Lauper and John Legend among many others.

“We started this tour on September 22 and we’ve been going strong ever since,” said Beau Bradshaw, during a phone interview last week from a tour stop in Dayton, Ohio.

Bradshaw, a native of Buffalo, New York, plays the role of Patrick Star, a starfish that is SpongeBob’s good buddy.

“I went to see the show on Broadway a year ago with my mother,” said Bradshaw. “ I liked the role of Patrick and my mom said – you have to play this role…it’s perfect for you.”

As it so often happens in life, what mama says turns out to be true.

“I auditioned back at the beginning of March,” said Bradshaw. “It was a long audition process. I had six callbacks and then found out in June that I had the part. I was very confident about getting the role. It was just a gut feeling.”

Bradshaw was very familiar with Patrick long before it became a Broadway hit.

“I was a big fan of ‘SpongeBob SquarePants’ when I was growing up,” said Bradshaw. “I used to watch it all the time. Everybody I knew loved the show.”

Enough people have loved “SpongeBob SquarePants” over the last decade-plus that the show has remained popular enough to now be its 13th season on television.

SpongeBob SquarePants” is an American animatedcomedy television series created by marine science educator and animatorStephen Hillenburg for Nickelodeon. The series chronicles the adventures and endeavors of the title character and his aquatic friends. It is the highest rated series to air on Nickelodeon and Viacom Media Networks‘ most distributed property.

“SpongeBob SquarePants” has won a variety of awards including six Annie Awards, eight Golden Reel Awards, four Emmy Awards, 16 Kids’ Choice Awards, and two BAFTA Children’s Awards. In 2011, a newly described species of fungus, Spongiforma squarepantsii, was named after the cartoon’s title character.

In the show, a square yellow sponge named SpongeBob SquarePants lives in a pineapple with his pet snail, Gary, in the city of Bikini Bottom on the floor of the Pacific Ocean. He works as a fry cook at the Krusty Krab. During his time off, SpongeBob has a knack for attracting trouble with his starfish friend, Patrick.

“Patrick is SpongeBob’s best friend,” said Bradshaw. “He is a simple sea star. At the end of the day, his biggest goal for the day is to have a good day with SpongeBob.

“A lot of people think Patrick is dumb. He’s not. It’s just that with Patrick, there is no hiding his emotion.

“In the musical, we’re not playing as cartoon characters but rather as real people. We look like people. This show is an homage to classic music theater.”

Video link for “The SpongeBob Musical” — https://youtu.be/H61m5CNGpKs.

The musical will run December 3-15 at the Forrest Theatre. Ticket prices start at $39.

On December 4, The Jacks are coming to the area for a show at Kung Fu Necktie (1248 North Front Street, Philadelphia, 215-291-4919, kungfunecktie.com).

Don’t be confused.

This is not The Jacks Band from Vero Beach, Florida. It is not the 1960s Japanese psychedelic band Jacks. And it is not The Jacks, a cover band from the Bristol area in Wales.

The Jacks

This band is The Jacks from Southern California—a rocking band from Los Angeles. It is a band that recently released its self-titled debut EP on Edgeout Records, a new label exclusively distributed by Universal Music Group.

The Jacks’ line-up includes Jonny Stanback (lead vocals/rhythm guitar), Tom Hunter (lead guitar, vocals), Scott Stone (bass guitar, vocals), and Josh Roossin (drums/percussion).

“Scott and I went to high school together at CDM (Corona del Mar) High in Orange County,” said Hunter, during a phone interview Friday morning.

“We played together in a cover band in middle school and kept playing together in high school and college. We met our lead singer at an open mic night.

“Me and Scott and Johnny all went to USC (University of Southern California. We played a year with our original drummer. He left and we found Josh who was playing in another band in the area. Our first show together as The Jacks was in May 2017.

“Edgeout saw us play early in Costa Mesa and they were keeping tabs on us. We submitted music to Edgeout’s Tony Guanci and then we signed with the label early this year.”

There is a definite bonding agent for the band’s members.

“We all had reverence for the classic rock bands – The Beatles, Led Zeppelin, The Who and the Rolling Stones,” said Hunter. “We also have the drive to do something new.

“We want to keep the same vibe as those bands but play music like what those bands would have sounded like in 2020. It’s more like the Stones, Beatles, Zep and Oasis along with Portrait of a Man, Black Keys and Cage the Elephant.”

According to the band, “We are not a rock band, we are a rock n’ roll band.”

“We’re pretty collaborative with the songwriting,” said Hunter. “Most of the time, it’s Johnny coming up with the initial chorus or melody. It’s usually always Johnny or I and then the band collaborates.

“We track live as a band. We recorded our first EP with producer Matt Wallace at Sunset Sound’s Studio 2. We did our second EP at Sunset Sound’s Studio 1 with Joe Cicarelli. The second EP is finished, and it’s scheduled to come out in March.”

Video link for The Jacks – https://youtu.be/mSN0JRtnW3U.

The show at Kung Fu Necktie, which also features Wade Cota, will start at 8:30 p.m. Tickets are $20.

Other upcoming shows at Kung Fu Necktie are Spellbound on November 29, Out of Service on November 30, Mega Ran on December 1, Vanum on December 2, Elijah the Boy on December 3.

Livingston Taylor

Kennett Flash (102 Sycamore Alley, Kennett Square, 484-732-8295, http://www.kennettflash.org) will present “The Rock Orchestra performing Genesis’ “The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway’” on November 29, Livingston Taylor on November 30, Open Mic with guest host Felicia Berrier on December 1 and The Levin Brothers featuring Pete and Tony Levin on December 3.

The Ardmore Music Hall (23 East Lancaster Avenue, Ardmore, 610-649-8389, www.ardmoremusic.com) will host Break Science on November 29, Cabinet on November 30, Sun Ra Arkestra on December 1 and Golden Gate Wingmen on December 4 and 5.

The Living Room (35 East Lancaster Avenue, Ardmore, https://thelivingroomat35east.com) will have Mark Evans Band on November 29 and Tree Rats on November 30.

118 North (118 North Wayne Avenue, Wayne, www.118northwayne.com) will have Melt With You on November 29.

The Keswick Theater (291 N. Keswick Avenue, Glenside, 215-572-7650, www.keswicktheatre.com) presents “The Machine Plays Pink Floyd” on November 29 and Chris Isaak on December 3.

The Sellersville Theater (24 West Temple Avenue, Sellersville, 215-257-5808, www.st94.com)

Joe Louis Walker on November 29, Gary Hoey on November 30, Enter The Haggis on December 1, Christmas with the Celts on December 2, and The Levin Brothers featuring Pete and Tony Levin on December 4.

The Locks at Sona (4417 Main Street, Manayunk, 484- 273-0481, sonapub.com) hosts Francis Dunnery on November 30.

MilkBoy Philly (1100 Chestnut Street, Philadelphia, 215- 925-6455, www.milkboyphilly.com) presents Andorra album release, Vital Stats and Jamie & the Guarded Heart on November 30.

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