On Stage: Miranda brings his ‘Freestyle Love Supreme’ to Philly

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By Denny Dyroff, Entertainment Editor, The Times 

Lin-Manuel Miranda

Lin-Manuel Miranda has the “Midas Touch.”

He is a Pulitzer Prize, Grammy, Emmy and Tony award-winning songwriter, actor, director and producer. Most notably, he is the creator and original star of Broadway’s Tony-winning “Hamilton” and “In the Heights.”

Other Broadway honors are “Freestyle Love Supreme” (2020 Special Tony Award recipient), “Bring It On: The Musical” (co-composer/co-lyricist, Tony nomination for Best Musical) and “West Side Story” (2009 revival, Spanish translations).

The Kimmel Cultural Campus (Broad and Spruce streets, Philadelphia, 215-731-3333, www.kimmelculturalcampus.org) previously hosted a long run of “Hamilton” at the Academy of Music. This week, the Kimmel Cultural Campus is presenting “Freestyle Love Supreme” at the Miller Theater – with a special Miranda bonus.

On June 10, Miranda will make a special guest appearance for one show only. As an added attraction, “Hamilton” alumni James Monroe Iglehart will make special guest appearances from June 7-11 and Christopher Jackson on June 11 and 12.

Freestyle Love Supreme is an improvisational hip-hop (also known as freestyle rap) comedy musical group started by Miranda and Anthony Veneziale in 2004 and directed by Thomas Kail. In 2022, the group completed a Broadway musical run at the Booth Theatre.

The critically acclaimed improv sensation was conceived by Philadelphia native Anthony Veneziale and created by Thomas Kail, Miranda, and Veneziale. It is a show that features talented performers providing non-stop action throughout a fast-paced evening — spinning suggestions from the audience into humorous bits, instantaneous songs and riffs, and fully realized musical numbers. Every night is different: no two shows are the same.

The touring company includes Morgan Reilly AKA “Hummingbird,” Andrew Bancroft AKA “Jelly Donut,” Simone Acosta AKA “Sims,” Richard Baskin, Jr. AKA “Rich Midway,” Jay C. Ellis AKA “Jellis J,” Mark Martin AKA “Mandible,” Kaila Mullady AKA “Kaiser Rözé,” James Rushin AKA “Shifty Hills” and Dizzy Senze AKA “Dizzy.”

“‘Freestyle Love Supreme’ is unlike any other show,” said Reilly, during a recent phone interview from a tour stop in Denver, Colorado.

“It has elements of music, hip hop, rap, music theater, rock and freestyle rap. It’s more freestyle rapping than anything.

“We start every evening with an MC check. He introduces us and then asks for a verb. The audience has already used a QR code in the program to send the words to the stage. It goes into a blue bucket. Then, we pull a word out and rap about it.”

Reilly did not arrive at this show from the music world. She graduated from Parkland High in Allentown and then got a degree in theater from Muhlenberg College.

“The first time I did freestyle in front of an audience was when I auditioned for this show,” said Reilly. “It’s a joy learning to freestyle.

“I’ve been performing since I was three. Then I got into songwriting. I’ve been writing songs all my life. When the pandemic hit, I moved back in with my parents. Then a friend suggested I try out for ‘Freestyle Love Supreme.’”

The rest is history – history that is being rewritten every night with a different story.

Video link for “Freestyle Love Supreme” — https://youtu.be/dBBJPvhpQA4.

“Freestyle Love Supreme” is running now through June 12 at the Morris Theater. Ticket prices range from $45-$134.

One of the timeless – and most popular – musicals in Broadway history is “Fiddler on the Roof.”

Fiddler on the Roof

Now through June 12, The Grand is presenting the 2022 National Tour of “Fiddler on the Roof” at the Playhouse at Rodney Square (Wilmington, Delaware, BroadwayinWilmington.org).

The show, which is part of the Broadway in Wilmington series, is one stop on the national tour of the Tony Award®-nominated Broadway revival of “Fiddler on the Roof.”

A beloved theatrical classic from Tony-winner Joseph Stein and Pulitzer Prize-winners Jerry Bock and Sheldon Harnick, this critically acclaimed production is directed by Tony Award®-winner Bartlett Sher (“To Kill a Mockingbird,” “South Pacific” and “The King and I”) and choreographed by the acclaimed Israeli choreographer Hofesh Shechter.

“Fiddler on the Roof” is the heartwarming story of fathers and daughters, husbands and wives, and life, love and laughter. This classic musical is rich with Broadway hits, including “To Life (L’Chaim!),” “If I Were A Rich Man,” “Sunrise, Sunset,” “Matchmaker, Matchmaker,” and “Tradition.”

The cast features Israeli theatre and film star Yehezkel Lazarov as Tevye joined by Maite Uzal as Golde, Andrew Hendrick as Lazar Wolf, Brooke Wetterhahn as Yente, Kelly Gabrielle Murphy as Tzeitel, Ruthy Froch as Hodel, Noa Luz Barenblat as Chava, Daniel Kushner as Motel, Solomon Reynolds as Perchik, Jack O’Brien as Fyedka and Jason Thomas Sofge as Constable.

The original Broadway production of Fiddler on the Roof, which opened in 1964, was the first musical in history to surpass 3,000 performances. The show won the 1965 Tony Award for Best Musical in addition to eight other Tony Awards that year. This acclaimed revival proudly introduces a new generation to the iconic musical adored across the globe.

“The tour, which is a bus-and-truck tour, started in 2018 and I joined in 2019,” said Brooke Wetterhahn, during a phone interview Monday from a tour stop in Columbia, South Carolina.

“The pandemic hit, and it stopped. We had been out for seven months and then it shut down in March 2020. Since then, it’s been in phases. We were off for a long period of time – more than a year-and-a-half.

“Luckily, we were able to go back on the road on October 2021. Now, we travel with a lot of COVID protocols including a COVID Compliance Officer. We’re all vaxxed and boosted and masking is in force. We’re happy to do it so we can bring this art form to the people.”

The show is about Jewish people, but it really is a universal story about families. It’s a very timeless, identifiable story no matter what religion people are.

The show features a talented cast, lavish orchestra and stunning movement and dance from Israeli choreographer Hofesh Shechter and is based on the original staging by Jerome Robbins.

“This production is based on the 2015 Broadway revival,” said Wetterhahn. “We have the original choreographer Hofesh Shechter. He’s taken some of the classical dances and modernized them. It’s more updated.”

Wetterhahn grew up in Calabasas, California and then moved east to go to college in New York City.

According to Wetterhahn, “I am a Southern California native who grew up with Turner Classic Movie nights, ‘Wurlitzer Weekend’ organ festivals, and the piano/conductor’s score of ‘Fiddler on the Roof.’

“I became a New York transplant in the fall of 2013, pursuing my B.F.A. in Drama at New York University, Tisch School of the Arts under the New Studio on Broadway for Music Theatre & Stonestreet Studios for Screen Acting.

“In May 2017 I graduated from NYU Magna Cum Laude with Honors in Theatre & a double minor in Producing and Business of Entertainment, Media, & Technology! I was also humbled to be named Tisch Drama’s Artist & Scholar Award recipient, recognizing excellence in artistic and scholarly achievement.”

Wetterhahn has remained on the East Coast.

“Moving to New York from a small town in the San Fernando Valley was somewhat of a culture shock,” said Wetterhahn. “New York is more a melting pot of culture. For me, it was a lovely change.”

“Fiddler on the Roof,” which is based on Sholom Aleichem’s short story “Tevye’s Daughters,” is set in 1905 in Anatevka, a small Ukrainian Jewish village in Russia. It tells the story of Tevye, his wife Golde and three of their daughters — Tzeitel, Hodel and Chava.

It is about Tevye, a poor milkman, and his struggle to preserve family values and traditions in a world where persecution and poverty have taken over. It tells the story of Tevye’s attempts to maintain his family and Jewish religious traditions during challenging times.

His three older daughters are headstrong and willing to challenge tradition with their choices of husbands — Tzeitel with a poor young man from the village, Hodel with an idealistic freedom fighter and Chava with a Russian soldier.

The show ran for a record-setting total of 3,242 performances. In 1965, “Fiddler on the Roof” captured nine Tony Awards and was the winner of the 1965 New York Drama Critic Award for Best Musical.

Over the years, the play has had numerous national tours and runs in New York — and was also turned into a movie. Four actors have become permanently identified with the role of Tevye — Zero Mostel, Herschel Bernardi, Topol and Theodore Bikel.

Even though the show has been around for more than a half-century, it surprisingly is still topical — still in line with things going on in the world in 2022.

“Just doing ‘Fiddler’ now in the world’s current political climate, it’s become more topical,” said Wetterhahn. “It was set in 1905 Russia and based in what is now modern-day Ukraine.”

Video link for “Fiddler on the Roof” — https://youtu.be/KfovEgpIFRw.

The shows at the Playhouse on Rodney Square will start at 8 p.m. on June 9, 10, and 11 and also at 2 p.m. on June 11 and 12.

Ticket prices start at $48.

The Legendary Ingramettes

The Legendary Ingramettes, who will perform on June 10 outside at the Arden Gild Hall (2126 The Highway, Arden, Delaware, www.ardenconcerts.com) have been singing gospel music for 65 years.

While their music is steeped in African American culture, their family history reflects the lives of African Americans in the American South over the last six decades.

The Legendary Ingramettes were founded by Maggie Ingram (who passed away in 2015) as a way to keep her family together through hardship and taken up by her daughter Almeta Ingram-Miller as a way to continue Maggie’s legacy.

Born July 4, 1930, on Mulholland’s Plantation in Coffee County, Georgia, Maggie worked in the cotton and tobacco fields with her parents.

“They were working as sharecroppers,” said Almeta Ingram-Miller, during a phone interview last week from her home in Richmond, Virginia.

“My mom met and married my dad when she was 15. We moved to Miami where my mom worked as a domestic and my dad worked mowing lawns. He had a job mowing lawns at the old Orange Bowl Stadium in Liberty City, Florida.

“One day, he gets up to go to work and said it was too much for him with my mom and five kids. He left for work one day and never came back.

“We were very young. My mom’s goal was to keep the family together. We had family members who wanted to help but that meant splitting us up. She insisted on keeping us together.

“So, she prayed. We’re a very faith-based family and our faith is what sustained us.

“She prayed to God and he said – what do you have? She said – five children. God said to her – teach then to sing.

“We lived in a tenement in Dade County – in Coconut Grove. She’d sit us in a circle. She’d pull a stick off a tree and beat time to teach us to sing. She was familiar with the style of male gospel quartets and used that.”

When God tells you to sing, a good place to start us in his house.

“We sang in church – Wells Temple Church of God in Christ,” said Ingram-Miller. “We stayed in Miami and then the doctors told my mom to move because of the heat.

“God told her to move to Richmond, Virginia. So, we moved to Richmond. She acted purely on her faith in God. She was an amazing woman of faith.

“On December 23, 1961, she loaded us up in her car – as green-and-white Chevy Belair — and we headed north. We went all the wat up Route 1 and Route 301 – an area where there were ‘whites only’ signs everywhere.”

In Richmond, Maggie worked in the home of Oliver W. Hill, the prominent civil rights attorney who represented the Virginia plaintiffs in the landmark Brown v. Board of Education case. The family joined Love’s Temple Church of God in Christ and began singing in and around the city.

With her children, Maggie also began a prison ministry, partnering with the Mount Gilead Baptist Church in the 1970s to institute programs like family day in Virginia prison camps.

“We started at Camp 13 Prison,” said Ingram-Miller. “We’d be on the back of a flatbed truck singing our gospel songs. Eventually, we got the prisons to have ‘family day’ so families could get together.

“Mom started writing most of the songs we sang. She wrote about things that were going on in our lives. She became a Civil Rights activist. She just wanted to do the right thing.”

The Ingramettes are truly gospel legends in Richmond, where they are known as the “First Family of Gospel Music.”

Maggie earned many awards, including the prestigious Virginia Heritage Award in 2009 and a doctor of music degree from Virginia Triumphant College and Seminary in 2011. The Virginia Folklife Program’s production of “Maggie Ingram and the Ingramettes: Live in Richmond” received the Independent Music Awards fan’s choice award for Gospel Album of the Year in 2012.

The Legendary Ingramettes bring roof-raising harmonies and explosively powerful vocals, all driven by the voices of women backed by a rock-solid house-shaking rhythm section. A live show from The Legendary Ingramettes is a house-rocking affair, with audiences literally getting whipped to a gospel fervor.

“Everything our mom did, she did because it was the right thing to do,” said Ingram-Miller, “And that’s how we have continued.”

Video link for the Legendary Ingramettes – https://youtu.be/rwTLcm98F34.

The outdoor show in Arden on June 10 will start at 5:30 p.m. Tickets are $20 at the gate.

The quaint village of Arden has two sections that straddle Grubb Road. The Arden Gild Hall is located in the southern section.

More good entertainment can be found this weekend in the northern section at a comfortable dinner theater.

The Candlelight Theater is in the middle of its third production run of 2022. “Clue On Stage” is running now through June 26.

“Clue: On Stage” is adapted from the Paramount Pictures film written by Jonathan Lynn and the board game from Hasbro, Inc. written by Sandy Rustin.

It’s a dark and stormy night, and you’ve been invited to a very unusual dinner party.

Each of the guests has an alias, the butler offers a variety of weapons, and the host is, well . . . dead. When their host turns up dead, they all become suspects. Led by Wadsworth the butler, Miss Scarlett, Professor Plum, Mrs. White, Mr. Green, Mrs. Peacock, and Colonel Mustard race to find the killer as the body count stacks up.

The play is a hilarious farce-meets-murder mystery that will leave both cult-fans and newcomers in stitches as they try to figure out…WHO did it, WHERE, and with WHAT!”

“Clue On Stage” is a madcap comedy that will keep audiences guessing until the final twist.

“Clue On Stage” is running now through June 26 at the Candlelight Theatre. Tickets, which include dinner, beverages and dessert, are $65.50 for adults and $33 for children (ages 4-12).

Mary Gauthier

Mary Gauthier is a woman of many talents. She is a Grammy-nominated folksinger, a highly acclaimed songwriter and a celebrated author.

Her songs have been covered by a multitude of artists including Jimmy Buffett, Dolly Parton, Boy George, Blake Shelton, Tim McGraw, Bettye Lavette, Mike Farris, Kathy Mattea, Bobby Bare, Amy Helm and Candi Staton.

The Louisiana-born Nashville resident has won multiple awards, including at the International Folk Music Awards, the Independent Music Awards, and Americana Association Awards.  She has released a dozen albums starting with “Dixie Kitchen” in 1997.

Gauthier is currently on tour in support of her new album “Dark Enough to See The Stars” – a tour that will make a June 10 stop at the World Café Live (3025 Walnut Street, Philadelphia, 215-222-1400, www.worldcafelive.com).

In 2021, Gauthier released her first book, the inspiring “Saved By A Song: The Art and Healing Power of Songwriting.” The book received critical acclaim and was included in Rolling Stone’s “Best Music Books of 2021.”

“Dark Enough to See The Stars,” which was just released on June 3 via Thirty Tigers, is the follow up to her highly praised 2018 release “Rifles & Rosary Beads,” which was co-written with U.S. veterans and their families. The album received a Grammy nomination for Best Folk Album.

“Some of the songs on the new album have been kicking around for a while,” said Gauthier, during a phone interview Tuesday from her home in Nashville. “The title track was written for my ‘Trouble And Love’ album but it wasn’t quite right for that album.”

That album was released in 2014.

“My co-writer and I found it during the pandemic,” said Gauthier. “It’s a reflection on grief and loss – not because of relationship stuff but because of peopler dying. So many people that meant a lot to me have passed away.”

Like a fine red wine, the song just needed to age.

“I’m the red wine,” said Gauthier. “I had to mature and write smarter. I kept the melody and changed the song’s lyrics. It started to be about relationships and changed to be about dying.”

On her website, Gauthier wrote, “How do you sing about the wonder and glory of falling in love, while also simultaneously losing dear friends and mentors during a global pandemic? How do you write about the shock of sudden loss and the richness of new love, while knowing that grief and love are sisters, interwoven and inseparable?

“My new record ‘Dark Enough to See the Stars’ was born of these questions, a collection of songs that reflect a complex emotional journey. Many of the songs were written with longtime co-writers and dear friends during the pandemic years. Love and grief are the dominant themes, joy and sorrow, the dominant emotions. A happy sad record, moreover, a record about what it means to love. I am proud of these songs, and grateful for the help of all my collaborators. I hope you like it.”

When the music world screeched to a half for two years, Gauthier kept writing songs.

“Most of the songs were written during the pandemic,” said Gauthier. “Many were written when I got together with my current partner, Jaimee Harris. This is our fifth year together. We write songs together. We travel together.

“To be able to lean onto someone and have it feel right – getting into a solid relationship as an older woman (Gauthier is 60) – it all makes a positive difference. I feel lucky that there are a lot of women older than me blazing the trail.”

Harris co-wrote songs with Gauthier and sang harmonies on the album.

“Jaimee and I are touring together,” said Gauthier. “She opens the show and then later joins me for some songs in my set. The two songs that we co-wrote on the album were ‘Amsterdam’ and ‘How Could You Be Gone?’

“We recorded the album with producer Neilson Hubbard, the same producer we used on the last album. Dylan Aldridge was the engineer, and we used his house studio. We cut the album live in four days – mostly in one or two takes. That’s my style. Anything more than four takes and I’m acting.”

Gauthier will perform with as band occasionally, but she prefers to go it alone.

“I’m mostly a troubadour by nature,” said Gauthier. “I like the freedom of performing solo – spotlight, stool sand bottle of water. I like to stay spontaneous and real.”

Video link for Mary Gauthier – https://youtu.be/pWTyAgWLNtc.

The show at the World Café Live on June 10 will start at 8 p.m. with Jaimee Harris as the opening act.

Tickets are $25.

Other upcoming shows at the World Café Live are Willie Porter on June 11 and Andy McKee on June 15.

If you like your music with a southern vibe – especially music with its roots in the myriad of styles found in New Orleans – then you need to check out Marcia Ball’s show at the Sellersville Theater (24 West Temple Avenue, Sellersville, 215-257-5808, www.st94.com).
Ball is still touring her latest album, “Shine Bright,” which was released late 2018 on Alligator Records and produced by Los Lobos’ sax player Steve Berlin.

“In 2019, we toured all year,” said Ball, during a phone interview last week from her home in Austin, Texas. “We were out the whole month of February in 2020.

“The first week of March, I was in Jamaica. My husband was calling me every day to come home because of the pandemic and what was happening.

“I came back because I didn’t want to get stranded in Jamaica. I got home February 9th. I did a gig on the 11th and then everything shut down completely. Prior to the shutdown, I had steady work – almost 100 shows a year.”
With no concerts on her calendar, Ball found other things to do during the pandemic shutdown.

“We got a dog during the pandemic – a dog named Shady,” said Ball. “We did a lot of home maintenance. We did a lot of walking around our neighborhood in Austin. And I built a boat with my grandson.

“I also did quite a bit of streaming. I would get called to do a song for an event – like the Boogie Woogie Festival in Cincinnati – and to do songs for different fundraisers.

“I also wrote a lot of songs for a musical. The author is Lawrence White. It’s a play, a book, a musical and a podcast. It’s tentatively titled ‘Mr. Texas’ and it’s about Texas politics. It’s a comedy and it’s a tragedy.

“When it looked like it was opening up in sprung 2021, I booked shows for the fall – and then had to cancel them. We went out in October 2021 on a co-billed tour with Tommy Castro. That was really our breakout. It’s been pretty steady since. We’re still doing songs from ‘Shine Bright.’”

“Shine Bright” was produced by Steve Berlin, sax player for Los Lobos who graduated from nearby Abington High School.

“We recorded part of it in Louisiana and did eight songs in Austin,” said Ball.

“I’ve known Steve for a while. He was at an event in Austin, and I thought – if he’s coming to Austin, maybe we can get together and do some recording. He did have some time and he was happy to do it.”
According to Ball, “With ‘Shine Bright,’ I wanted to make the best Marcia Ball record I could make. It is a ridiculously hopeful, cheerful record.”

In doing so, she has put together the most musically substantial, hopeful and uplifting set of songs of her five-decade career. “Shine Bright” contains 12 songs (including nine originals), ranging from the title track’s rousing appeal for public and private acts of courage to the upbeat call to action of “Pots and Pans,” a song inspired by renowned Texas political writer and humorist Molly Ivins.

“In Louisiana, we recorded at a studio called Dockside Studio in Maurice,” said Ball, who was named Texas’ “State Musician” this year. “It’s a legendary studio. It’s where B.B. King recorded ‘Blues on the Bayou’ and it’s also where Buckwheat Zydeco made a lot of records.”

Over the years, there have been several stellar piano players from Louisiana who have made the region’s blend of blues, soul and swamp boogie famous around the world. The list is mostly male-dominated — Fats Domino, Huey “Piano” Smith, Dr. John, Allen Toussaint, Professor Longhair — but also includes Marcia Ball.

Ball’s music has always been able to blend Gulf Coast blues, New Orleans R&B, swampy Louisiana ballads, and jumping, Tex-­‐Mex flavored zydeco into a one­‐of­‐a­‐kind musical gumbo — a sound she has been perfecting over the course of her legendary career.

Ball received the 2014 Blues Music Award (BMA) for the Pinetop Perkins Piano Player of the Year. She has now won a total of 10 BMAs and has received a whopping 44 nominations. Ball recently received a 2015 Living Blues Readers’ Poll Award for Most Outstanding Musician (Keyboard) and now holds nine Living Blues Awards in all.

She was inducted into the Gulf Coast Hall of Fame in 2010 and into the Louisiana Music Hall of Fame in 2012. This year, she was inducted into the Austin City Limits Hall Of Fame – along with Los Lobos and Ray Charles.

Ball released her first album in 1972. Her career is still going full-tilt 46 years later and her popularity continues to grow.
It was back in the early 1970s when she immersed herself in the music of the great New Orleans piano players — especially Professor Longhair. Her solo album debut was a country-rock album called “Circuit Queen” that was released in 1978 on Capitol Records.

Before long, Ball developed her own sound which was much more in line with the sweat-drenched music played in clubs in the Texas-Louisiana border region than with traditional country music. She released six critically acclaimed albums on the Rounder label during the 1980s and 1990s.

The Louisiana vibe became more pronounced when she moved to Alligator Records in 2001. She has recorded seven albums for Alligator, including “Roadside Attractions”, which received a 2011 Grammy Award nomination in the Best Blues Album category.

Ball and her band members all have roots in the Louisiana/Texas music scene.

“I grew up in Louisiana,” said Ball. “I was listening to New Orleans music, Fats Domino, Little Richard, Jerry Lee Lewis. I also listened to a lot of blues musicians who did gigs in Baton Rouge. I have a lot of R&B in my background along with the great legacy of Delta music.”

It’s now been a while since Ball has been in the recording studio.

“The studio is one thing I haven’t done since the pandemic,” said Ball. “I wrote all these songs for the musical, but I haven’t written any for myself. I have started writing. I have the hooks. Now, I have to get the grooves.”

Video link for Marcia Ball – https://youtu.be/kqB8PqOORls.

The show at Sellersville on June 10 will start at 8 p.m.

Ticket prices range from $29.50-$45.

Other upcoming shows at the Sellersville Theater are Steve Forbert on June 11, The McCartney Years on June 12, and Tim Snider on June 14.

Kennett Flash (102 Sycamore Alley, Kennett Square, 484-732-8295, http://www.kennettflash.org) is hosting Sugar Lime Blue on June 10, A Concert for Dennis on June 12, and Tony Vacca’s World Rhythm Ensemble on June 15 (at Anson B. Nixon Park).

The Ardmore Music Hall (23 East Lancaster Avenue, Ardmore, 610-649-8389, www.ardmoremusic.com) will present Craig Shoemaker on June 9, Unlimited Devotion on June 10, and Splintered Sunlight on June 11.

118 North (118 North Wayne Avenue, Wayne, www.118northwayne.com) will host The Great Unknown on June 9, Wayne Music Fesival on June 11 with Melvin Seals with JGB, Yellowman, Jade Bird and Tommy Conwell, John Kadlecic on June 12, and Leigh Nash on June 12.

Bryn Mawr Twilight Concerts (9 South Bryn Mawr Avenue, Bryn Mawr, brynmawrtwilightconcerts.com) will present the Merion Concert Band on June 10.

Jamey’s House of Music (32 South Lansdowne Avenue, Lansdowne, 215-477-9985, www.jameyshouseofmusic.com).

Jamey’s House of Music will host Ross Osteen Band on June 10, Breuce Katz Band on June 11, THURSDAY NIGHT JAZZ JAM featuring Phyllis Chapell on June 9 and SUNDAY BLUES BRUNCH & JAM featuring the Philly Blues Kings with Maci Miller on June 12.

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