On Stage: In The Mood celebrates greatest generation

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Also: Barnum & Bailey Circus gets more Xtreme

By Denny DyroffStaff Writer, The Times

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In The Mood has a pair of performances at The Playhouse on Rodney Square (formerly the DuPont Theatre) on Feb. 5, saluting the music of World War II.

World War II lasted from 1939-1945 so, not surprisingly, many of the people who were adults back then have since passed away. According to statistics released by the Veteran’s Administration, our World War II vets are dying at a rate of approximately 550 a day. This means there are approximately only 1.2 million veterans remaining of the 16 million who served our nation in World War II.

Obviously, those veterans and their sacrifices will always be remembered. Fortunately, the culture of that era is being kept alive also — especially with shows such as “In the Mood,” which is visiting the former DuPont Theater which is now known as the Playhouse on Rodney Square (10th and Market streets, Wilmington, Delaware, 302-888-0200, www. duponttheatre.com) for a pair of shows on February 5.

“In The Mood” celebrates that generation through the music of Glenn Miller, Tommy Dorsey, Artie Shaw, Benny Goodman, Harry James, Erskine Hawkins, The Andrews Sisters, Frank Sinatra and other idols of the 1940s.

The show took its name from the song “In the Mood,” which was a big band era Number 1 hit recorded by American bandleader Glenn Miller. It topped the charts for 13 straight weeks in 1940 in the U.S.

The touring production “In the Mood” revisits America’s “Swing Era” and recreates defining moments from the 1930s and 1940s — from the happy-go-lucky era before WWII to the end of the epic conflict.

Bud Forrest, who is they producer, artistic director, conductor and pianist of “In the Mood” began touring this production in 1994.

“It started with three young ladies doing the songs of the Andrews Sisters,” said Forrest, during a recent phone interview from a tour stop in Dallas, Texas. “I added musicians and by 1993, we got invited to perform on the steps of the National Archives in Washington, DC.

“Folks from the USO approached us and soon the show became part of the official entertainment for the World USO’s 50th commemoration of the WW II events. We started travelling in 1994.

“This is our 21st year of touring. It’s very unusual for any show to last that long. It evolved over five years to become the show that we have now. The show is more a theatrical presentation than a concert. There are 13 musicians and six singer/dancers.”

Forrest compiled the greatest music from the swing era into a revue about the big band era and the influence of this music before, during and after the WWII years. The second act is a moving tribute to those who fought in the war and to all of America’s military veterans.

“Every year, I go to New York to audition singers and dancers change about 25 per cent of the music,” said Forrest, a Juilliard-trained musician who served as accompanist for the Air Force chorus The Singing Sergeants. “Alex Sanchez is the choreographer. He comes in every year and whips the kids into shape.

“I give my audiences the flavor of what it was like in 1940. There is no story but the music is the story. It’s like a variety show from that era. The singers are all in period costumes. The men wear double-breasted blue blazers, cream-colored pants and two-tone spectator shoes.

“The music is very nostalgic — Glenn Miller, Frank Sinatra, Gene Krupa. It’s the music loved by people who lived in that time. The first part of the show is music from before the war. The second is wartime music. The songs may be 70 years old but they are still valid today. We get a lot of different generations at our performances.”

“In the Mood” will be presented at 2 and 7:30 p.m. at the newly-renamed theater in downtown Wilmington. Tickets range from $20-$59.

Because of increased exposure on television in recent years, people have become familiar with extreme sports — sports with a high level of excitement and an equally high level of inherent danger. There is even the Extreme Sports Channel which focuses on skate, surf, snow, BMX, FMX and mountain bike action.


Yes, the clowns are still there, but this year’s edition of the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus is more “Xtreme” as it opens a run at the Wells Fargo Center, Feb. 11.

Now, the ‘extreme’ influence has moved into a new arena — the circus arena.

From February 11-16, the Wells Fargo Center (Broad Street below Pattison Avenue, Philadelphia, 800-298-4200, www.ComcastTIX.com) will host “Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Presents Circus XTREME.” The show, which is the brand new Red Tour production, is the 145th Edition of the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus.

“Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Presents Circus XTREME” brings performers who exemplify the “extreme” aspect by with never-before-seen “XTREME” thrills together with traditional circus acts such as exotic animals, clowns and original performances.

The new edition of the ultra-popular circus features a 300-member cast and crew — including high-wire wizards, powerful strongmen, BMX trick riders, trampoline daredevils, inconceivable contortionists, a high-flying human cannonball and a bungee aerial skydiving display.

“We started working on it in January 2014,” said Performance Director Michael Schwandt, during a recent phone interview from his home in Los Angeles. “It was a year in creation. Then, we had a seven-week period in November and December doing full rehearsals.

“It started in one place and ended in another. It was born with this steam punk idea and how we could make it kid-friendly. We realized that steam punk, Jules Verne and other epic ideas would lend themselves to the circus. It’s colorful and there was the whole idea of a journey — a quest.”

Schwandt was not a circus veteran when he accepted the job of creating a radically new show for Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus.

He is a graduate of the University of Texas’ Radio, TV and Film Department who has an extensive background in television, commercials, corporate industrials, music videos and live special events. Schwandt has worked with such acts as Katy Perry, John Legend, Train, Sheryl Crow, Trace Adkins and the Beach Boys.

“I started looking at extreme sports when I was thinking about the circus,” said Schwandt. “I came up with BMX, parkour and slackline.”

BMX stands for bicycle motocross — a bicycle competition. Slacklining is similar to tightrope walking but different in that the line, while under tension, is not held rigidly taut. The line stretches and gives the person on it the feeling of bouncing on a long and narrow trampoline.

Parkour is a discipline that focuses on moving from one point to another in the most efficient way possible using only the human body and the surroundings for propulsion. It can include running, climbing, swinging, obstacle courses, vaulting, jumping and rolling.

“Slacklining is very big in Brazil,” said Schwandt. “Parkour has this massive popularity among the youth. But, you can’t find it in a show — same with BMX.

“I got interested in these ideas of extreme and came up with the idea of blending traditional circus elements with these new elements. When I was researching parkour, it was difficult to find because no-one had done this before. Crossing over was something entirely new.

“BMX and parkour guys are fearless. They just go out in the street and figure it out. For them to have a set with the same footprint every night opens up a whole new world. And, we have a human cannonball presented in an entirely new way.”

“Circus XTREME” also features clowns, highwire artists, beautiful Bengal tigers, two-humped camels ridden by brave Mongolian women, impressive horses and magnificent Asian elephants, which are regarded as the most popular members of the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey family.

“The clowns are wonderful,” said Schwandt. “I wanted to integrate them to propel the story forward. They are major catalysts for the story. We also have a Mongolian contortionists and a Hungarian group that does trick riding on camels.

“There are a lot of elements in this show that are really relevant to the children of today. And, there is an amazing 15-minute finale. Nothing like it has ever been done before.”

Show attendees can enjoy the “All Access Pre-Show” free with a ticket purchase. The pre-show, which begins one hour before show time, gives fans the opportunity to meet the cast of performers and get up close to the animals. Tickets for the show range from 15-$115.


Red Baraat

It is safe to say that there is no other band in America like Red Baraat.

Brooklyn-based Red Baraat, which plays a show on February 7 at the Ardmore Music Hall (23 East Lancaster Avenue, Ardmore, 610-649-8389, www.ardmoremusic.com), is a Bhangra band — and a whole lot more. Bhangra is party-style folk music from the Punjab regions of India and Pakistan.

Red Baraat’s founder and leader in Sunny Jain, a New York jazz musician of Indian descent whose main instrument is the dhol (a double-headed drum from India).

“I had been playing drums and tabla before I started playing dhol,” said Jain, during a phone interview last week from his home in New York.

“One time when I was in India, I was in a shop buying a tabla. I saw a dhol there and decided to buy one. I took lessons in New York and instantly fell in love with it. It was a great feeling because I wasn’t confined to a drum set. And, with the drum hanging at your gut, the sound resonates through your entire body.

“My family are Jains from Punjab so I grew up listening to music that had dhol in it. I did a lot of learning how to play it by watching dhol performances on YouTube. I also listened to old recordings — especially Pappa Saen, who was a Sufi dhol player.”

Red Baraat is an eight-piece band featuring dhol, drumset, percussion, sousaphone and five horns. The band’s influences extend beyond bhangra and include jazz, Latin, funk, brass band and Bollywood.

“I wanted to play something that was upbeat and joyful,” said Jain, who is a respected drum and percussion player in the New York jazz scene. “It was just another project of mine — drums and a brass band with no guitar and no electric instruments.

“I wanted horns, drums and sousaphone. I didn’t want jazz musicians. I didn’t want it to be perceived as a jazz project. I wanted smaller, tighter songs. And, I wanted it to be mobile so we could get down into the audience and play there too.”

Red Baraat has released five albums. The most recent is “Gaadi of Truth,” which was just released in January. “Gaadi” literally means “train” in Hindi, though it can also mean “car,” “vehicle” or “journey.”

“For us, it means the journey of truth,” said Jain. “There are journeys the band has taken us. There are eight of us — all intelligent — and there have been great dialogues. The only absolute truth is that there is no absolute truth.

“Musically, we keep expanding the sonic territory. We’re expanding the palate of what this band is. Where we’re headed is opening up more sonic explorations. We play bhangra, Indian jazz, Punjabi music and so much more.”

The show at the Ardmore Music Hall will start at 9 p.m. with Kuf Knotz as the opening act. Tickets are $16 in advance and $20 at the door.

Other upcoming shows at the venue are Pink Talking Fish and opener Aqueous on February 6 and Robert Earl Keen with Bonnie Bishop on February 8.

The 2015 SnoCore Tour, which makes a stop on February 8 at the Chameleon Club (223 North Water Street, Lancaster, 717-299-9684, http://www.chameleonclub.net), will feature Flyleaf as the headline act. The bill will also include Adelita’s Way, Framing Hanley and Fit For Rivals.

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Flyleaf, a metal band from Texas, features Kristen May (vocals), Sameer Bhattacharya (guitar), Jared Hartmann (guitar), Pat Seals (bass) and James Culpepper (drums). The band recently released its fourth album “Between the Stars.

The album, which includes the hit single “Set Me On Fire,” reached Number 1 on Billboard’s “Top Current Alternative Albums” shortly after its release. It was the first Flyleaf album to feature May, who replaced the band’s original vocalist Lacey Sturm.

“I was the lead singer of a band called Verdera,” said May, during a recent phone interview. “The band broke up and I was hanging out in Kansas City. My booking agent told me that Flyleaf was looking for a new singer.

“They had auditioned about three or four singers that didn’t work out. Prior to my audition, the only Flyleaf songs I knew were ‘I’m So Sick’ and ‘All Around Me.’ But, it felt really natural when I got there.

“I wasn’t expecting to be in a band again. I was going to do a solo project because I love writing songs. But, they asked me to join Flyleaf so I did. November 2012 was my first show with them. At first, it was going to be a trial. In 2013, they asked me to officially join the band.”

May had to learn Flyleaf’s back catalogue. Then, she was fully onboard for the recording of the new album.

“I was involved in all the writing for ‘Between the Stars’,” said May. “Sameer and Pat come in with the songs and we all work on them together. I did ‘Head Underwater’ and ‘Sober Serenade.’ Sameer did ‘City Kids’ and ‘Platonic.” Pat did ‘Blue Roses.’ All the rest were total collaborations.

“This is a different Flyleaf than the band with Lacey. Certainly, it’s going to change when you replace your singer. I’m not Lacey. But, the core of the music has stayed the same. That’s not something that had to change. On ‘Between the Stars,’ the music still sounds like Flyleaf — but different.

“Some people say that Flyleaf is a Christian rock band but Flyleaf has never been about fitting into any specific genre. For us, the songs have to stand on their own. We want to make sure the music is hopeful. It’s more about the human condition than being particularly Christian. We want to play music for everyone.”

When Flyleaf takes the stage on the Snocore Tour, there will be music for all the band’s fans — whether they’ve been with the group since its inception in 2002 or if they discovered the band a month ago.

“In our current live show, we do seven songs from ‘Between the Stars’ and we do a little from every previous album,” said May. “When we do old songs, it’s a mix of original arrangements and how we sound now. I think it’s still evolving. I have to be true to myself but I also pull from the way they were performed in the past.”

The Snocore Tour is an all-ages show that is scheduled to get underway at 5:30 p.m. Tickets are $20.

Other upcoming shows at the Chameleon Club are Tom Green on February 5 and  the Lancaster Roots and Blues Festival featuring Kelly Bell Band, Eli “Paperboy” Reed, Jay Farrar and DC and Company on February 6 and Nikki Hill, Jeff Thomas’ All Volunteer Army, Dana Fuchs and Popa Chubby on February 7.

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Paper Diamond

It’s ‘Monsoon Time” for Paper Diamond, one of the bright new names in the world of EDM (electronic dance music).

From January through March, Paper Diamond will be making it rain on schedule on his national “Rain Drops Tour,” an experience that will feature an entirely-custom speaker system by PK Sound along with an innovative stage design by Paper Diamond and his crew.

Paper Diamond will visit the area for a show on February 7 at District N9ne (460 North Ninth Street, Philadelphia, 215-769-2780, http://districtn9ne.com).

The man behind Paper Diamond is Alexander Botwin. He performed under his own name when he played bass and produced the band Pnuma Trio and then used the moniker Alex B when he moved on to a solo career as a DJ.

“I’ve been working on the ‘Rain Drops’ EP for about a year,” said Botwin, during a phone interview last week from a tour stop in Boone, North Carolina. “I write songs every day — EDM, hip-hop, electronic, rap, guitar — I write all the time. ‘Rain Drops’ has my favorites from the last year.

“Anytime you release music, you’re married to that music. Six months ago, I decided to do this tour and I picked the artists I wanted to work with. Then, we started making art. We decided how we wanted the show to feel — not only how you hear it but also how you see and feel it. I want people to feel something.

“It’s definitely the largest production rig I’ve ever toured with — bigger and better. We have 72 LCD panels. My visual artist is on tour with me and the art has been made to coincide with the music. It’s a visual state of mind. I grew up with Pink Floyd and I’m doing stuff like that — trying to create the same feeling.

“I’m just trying to create different feels, vibes and emotions — different for each piece of music. We want to take people on a journey. I want people to have an experience at my show. For me, music is my escape and I want to share that.”

Botwin’s music has been continually evolving.

“I’ve been playing music my whole life,” said Botwin. “After Pnuma Trio, I went with Alex B for my own enjoyment. Then, Paper Diamond came out of that.”

Pretty Lights Music Company offered Paper Diamond a recording contract and Botwin recorded and released the “Levitate” album in 2011. Paper Diamond also has two other EPs — “Wavesight” and Paragon.”

“There has been steady growth since I started Paper Diamond,” said Botwin.

The show at District N9ne, which starts at 9 p.m., also features Antiserum, Imposter, Lindsay Lowend and Rich Fellow. Tickets are $20.

The Flash (102 Sycamore Alley, Kennett Square, 484-732-8295, http://www.kennettflash.org) will host the Amish Comic on February 6 and Dan May with Rob Robinson on February 7.

Chaplin’s (66 North Main Street, Spring City, 610-792-4110, http://chaplinslive.com) will present a “Bluegrass Jam” on February 5 and a show featuring Bees in a Bottle and Mr Fuzzy and the Barbarian on February 7.

Burlap & Bean Coffeehouse (204 South Newtown Street Road, Newtown Square, 484-427- 4547, www.burlapandbean.com) will feature Gleeche of February 5, Anne McCue with Aaron Parnell Brown of February 6, Jeffrey Gaines with Kelli Scarr on February 7 and Anthony D’Amato with Michaela Anne on February 11.

Melodies Café (2 East Ardmore Avenue, Ardmore, 610-645-5269, www.melodiescafe.com) will present Joy Ike, Katie Barbato and Beth Goldwater on February 6 and Brianna Nelson with Josh Howard on February 7.

The Keswick Theatre (291 N. Keswick Avenue, Glenside, 215-572-7650, www.keswicktheatre.com) will have Jason Isbell on February 5, the Spinners on February 6 and “Who’s Bad?’ on February 7.

The Sellersville Theater (24 West Temple Avenue, Sellersville, 215-257-5808, www.st94.com) will have the Karp Foley Band on February 5, Boris Garcia and the Mighty Manatees of February 6, Minnie Driver with Jesse Ruben on February 7, Samantha Fish with Wild Adriatic on February 8 and “International Guitar Night” on February 11.

The World Café Live at the Queen (500 North Market Street, Wilmington, 302- 994-1400, www.queen.worldcafelive.com) has a Downstairs Stage schedule that features Phillybloco on February 7, Tom Green on February 8. The schedule for the Upstairs Stage includes Mo Lowda and the Humble along with Forest and the Evergreens on February 5 and Scott Pemberton on February 6.

Tellus 360 (24 East King Street, Lancaster, 717-393-1660, www.tellus360.com) will have Carsie Blanton on February 5, Lancaster County Roots and Blues Festival shows on February 6 and 7 and Corty Byron on February 8.

The Candlelight Theater (2208 Millers Road, Arden, Delaware, 302- 475-2313, www.nctstage.org) is presenting “The New Mel Brooks Musical Young Frankenstein” now through February 22. Tickets, which include a tasty buffet dinner, are $59 for adults and $33 for children (ages 4-12).

Three of the main roles in the show are Dr. Frankenstein, Igor (pronounced EYE-gor) and The Monster. Chris Trombetta, a Unionville High graduate from Pocopson, has the role of Igor.

The show tells the story of Frederick Frankenstein, a New York doctor who is ashamed to be a Frankenstein. In Transylvania, Dr. Frankenstein becomes involved with a variety of zany characters including the hunchback Igor, the yodeling lab assistant Inga, the mysterious Frau Blücher and, of course, The Monster.

The Rainbow Dinner Theatre (3065 Lincoln Highway East, Paradise, 800-292-4301, www.RainbowDinnerTheatre.com) is presenting its new production “Squabbles” now through March 21.

Matinee performances are every Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and selected Saturdays with an 11:30 a.m. lunch and a 1 p.m. curtain. Evening performances are every Friday, Saturday and selected Thursdays with dinner at 6:30 p.m. and the show following at 8 p.m. There will also be “Twilight Performances” on selected Sundays with dinner at 2:30 p.m. and the show at 4 p.m. Ticket prices range from $30-$55.

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