This is Country Music

This is Country Music

Brad Paisley takes tour to Mohegan Sun Arena with Lindsey Ell, Chase Bryant

Canadian-born musician Lindsay Ell always admired Brad Paisley’s guitar skills. She event worked through the guitar solo of “Old Alabama” on repeat until she could play it perfectly.
“If you told me I would be standing on stage trading licks with Brad Paisley, even a few years ago, I wouldn’t believe it,” Ell said.
The Grammy Award-winning country superstar strums his way into the Mohegan Sun Arena at Casey Plaza tonight with support acts Ell and Chase Bryant for a show chock-full of country music and spectacular guitar performances.
“People can definitely expect surprises throughout the show,” Ell, 27, said. “It’s a really cool concept. … We were talking backstage, and (Paisley) mentioned that it would be so cool to have a tour of just guitar players. I mean, who else has done that before? It’s a really special lineup. People can definitely expect to be well-entertained for the show.”
Paisley, 44, captured the nation’s attention after releasing his first album and receiving the Academy of Country Music’s Top New Male Vocalist of the Year award in 1999. Since then, the singer-songwriter added three Grammy awards, two American Music Awards, 13 Academy of Country Music Awards and 14 Country Music Association Awards to his shelf.
For Ell and Bryant, the chance to tour with Paisley immediately shot to the top of their favorite memories as musicians.
“We’re all nutcases on stage,” Bryant said. “If you’re not, it’s not fun. Most of my stuff is all high-energy on stage. We give people what they came to see.”
Like many musicians, Orange Grove, Texas, native Bryant, 23, grew up in a musical family. His grandfather played piano in Roy Orbison’s first two bands and later for Waylon Jennings, while his uncles co-founded the country group Ricochet.
“As a songwriter, going out every night, hearing the fans sing back to you and getting to play some of your favorite songs, including stuff you haven’t written, it’s always a fun thing to do,” Bryant said. “Playing songs that inspire you on a daily basis is great.”
Randy Bachman, founding member of the Guess Who, discovered Ell when she was just 15. Although she picked up the guitar at 8, she said Bachman truly taught her how to play it. Her musical tastes changed from country to jazz and blues during this time, but her style reverted back to her country roots after moving to Nashville eight years ago.
Now, the artist is working toward finishing her new record with Kristian Bush of Sugarland.
“I feel like I have been writing this album for the last 15 years,” Ell said. “The way we are putting this record together, I feel like I’m finally finding me and recording it in concrete.”
Although neither Bryant nor Ell experience true nerves when performing, they both agreed that the rush of adrenaline that comes from walking on stage is beyond thrilling.
“I feel very grateful to wake up every morning and do what I love,” Ell said. “To write about my life and have people connect with it — that’s a crazy concept to imagine, let alone live it.”
— charlotte l. jacobson

 

If you go
What: Brad Paisley with Lindsay Ell and
Chase Bryant
When: Tonight, 7:30
Where: Mohegan Sun Arena at Casey Plaza, 255 Highland Park Blvd., Wilkes-Barre Twp.
Details: Tickets start at $39.50, available at the box office, 800-745-3000 and ticketmaster.com.

Dietrich Film Festival looks to open viewers’ eyes

Dietrich Film Festival looks to open viewers’ eyes

Dietrich Theater’s second Winter Fest transports viewers through reality and fiction with its selection of independent and international movies.
The festival curators assured they would open audiences’ eyes to some lesser-known films while also presenting several Oscar-nominated pictures among the 14 films the Tunkhannock theater will screen from Friday, Feb. 17, through Thursday, March 2.
“We want to serve the community with the art and independent films that they are looking for,” assistant general manager Ronnie Harvey said. “By doing (festivals) seasonally, we are able to give people the product we may have not gotten to, that they would have missed out on seeing in theaters.”
The festival features Oscar and Golden Globe nominees, including “Hell or High Water,” “Moonlight” and “Loving.” Other festival films include “The Beatles: 8 Days a Week,” “The Brand New Testament,” “Denial,” “The Dressmaker,” “The Eagle Huntress,” “Embrace,” “Harry & Snowman,” “Peter and the Farm,” “Queen of Katwe” and “Seasons.” Tickets for matinee and evening screenings are $8.50, excluding the opening night gala and preview day, and do not require reservations.
“I’m personally excited about all of the films because I pick them, let’s be real,” Harvey joked. “But what we try to do with the film festival is to mix in a lot of different genres and a lot of different subject matters to appeal to a broad swath of people. There is something here for everyone.”
The gala kicks off the festival Friday, Feb. 17, at 6 p.m. and includes beer, wine, hors d’oeuvres and screenings of “A Man Called Ove” and “Loving,” with dessert during intermission. Tickets are $25 and must be reserved in advance.
A post-festival film discussion takes place Friday, March 3, at 1 p.m. and gives people a chance to discuss the films with other movie enthusiasts. Harvey will facilitate the discussion.
“I think what I like most is just seeing the reaction from the audience,” he said. “It validates that we’re doing the right thing and we’re giving them what they want. That’s why we’ll continue to do these festivals. They not only help us financially but also benefit the community.”
— charlotte l. jacobson

If you go
What: Winter Fest
When: Feb. 17 to March 2; opening-night gala is Friday, 6 p.m., and $25 (advance only)
Where: Dietrich Theater, 60 E. Tioga St., Tunkhannock
Details: Tickets for matinee and evening screenings are $8.50. Call 570-996-1500 or visit dietrichtheater.com for more information.

Saturday, Feb. 18
Noon: “Harry & Snowman”
2 p.m.: “Peter and the Farm”
4 p.m.: “The Eagle Huntress”
7 p.m.: “The Beatles: 8 Days a Week”
9:45 p.m.: “Hell or High Water”
Sunday, Feb. 19
Noon: “Queen of Katwe”
2:30 p.m.: “A Man Called Ove”
5 p.m.: “The Beatles: 8 Days a Week”
7:45 p.m.: “Denial”
Monday, Feb. 20
Noon: “Seasons”
Noon: “Peter and the Farm”
2:15 p.m.: “The Dressmaker”
2:30 p.m.: “Harry & Snowman”
5 p.m.: “Hell or High Water”
7:15 p.m.: “The Brand New Testament”
Tuesday, Feb. 21
Noon: “The Eagle Huntress”
Noon: “A Man Called Ove”
2 p.m.: “Loving”
2:30 p.m.: “The Beatles: 8 Days a Week”
5 p.m.: “Embrace”
7 p.m.: “Harry & Snowman”
Wednesday, Feb. 22
Noon: “Peter and the Farm”
2:30 p.m.: “Loving”
5 p.m.: “Queen of Katwe”
7:30 p.m.: “The Dressmaker”
Thursday, Feb. 23
Noon: “Harry & Snowman”
Noon: “Embrace”
2 p.m.: “Denial”
2:15 p.m.: “Moonlight”
4:30 p.m.: “A Man Called Ove”
7 p.m.: “Queen of Katwe”
Friday, Feb. 24
Noon: “The Beatles: 8 Days a Week”
Noon: “The Dressmaker”
2:30 p.m.: “Loving”
2:45 p.m.: “The Brand New Testament”
5 p.m.: “Seasons”
7:15 p.m.: “Hell or High Water”
9:30 p.m.: “Moonlight”
Saturday, Feb. 25
Noon: “Peter and the Farm”
2:15 p.m.: “Embrace”
4:15 p.m.: “The Eagle Huntress”
7 p.m.: “A Man Called Ove”
9:30 p.m.: “The Beatles: 8 Days a Week”
Sunday, Feb. 26
Noon: “Moonlight”
2:30 p.m.: “Queen Katwe”
5 p.m.: “Loving”
7:30 p.m.: “The Dressmaker”
Monday, Feb. 27
Noon: “The Brand New Testament”
Noon: “Hell or High Water”
2:15 p.m.: “The Beatles: 8 Days a Week”
2:30 p.m.: “Denial”
5 p.m.: “Peter and the Farm”
7 p.m.: “A Man Called Ove”
Tuesday, Feb. 28
Noon: “Seasons”
Noon: “Loving”
2:30 p.m.: “The Dressmaker”
2:45 p.m.: “Harry & Snowman”
4:30 p.m.: “The Eagle Huntress”
7 p.m.: “Embrace”
Wednesday, March 1
Noon: “Moonlight”
2:30 p.m.: “Denial “
5 p.m.: “Queen of Katwe”
7:30 p.m.: “Hell or High Water”
Thursday, March 2
Noon: “A Man Called Ove”
Noon: “The Eagle Huntress”
2:15 p.m.: “The Brand New Testament”
2:30 p.m.: “Seasons”
4:30 p.m.: “The Beatles: 8 Days a Week”
7:15 p.m.: “Loving”
Friday, March 3
1 p.m.: Post-festival discussion

Metalcore band cuts teeth in NEPA but looks beyond

Metalcore band cuts teeth in NEPA but looks beyond

Toothless didn’t take its name from the main character of “How To Train Your Dragon,” but the band rolls with the link.
After connecting through Luzerne County Community College’s music recording technology program, the five-piece metalcore band from Shavertown found its groove to play in and around Northeast Pennsylvania.
Toothless gained local fame through its reach across subgenres of metal, pulling influences from various hardcore and mathcore national acts. And despite its name, the band put some serious bite in its music, proven by its Steamtown Music Award win for Metal Act of the Year in 2016.
Now the quintet — made up of Travis Antoniello on vocals, Eric Novroski on guitar and vocals, Brian Zannetti on guitar, Scott Wood on bass and James Slattery on drums — expands its shows to reach past NEPA to Philadelphia and Maryland.

Q: How did you each get involved in music?
James Slattery: My dad bribed me to take drum lessons with “Star Wars” toys when I was 4. I hated it at first but eventually grew to love it.
Scott Wood: Musical family.
Brian Zannetti: My dad had guitars around the house, and I started bugging him for guitar lessons when I was 10.
Eric Novroski: I started playing drums when I was 6 and picked up guitar when I was 13. My dad is a guitar collector, so it was easy to pick up a guitar when I wanted.
Travis Antoniello: I picked up my dad’s bass when I was around 9. He started teaching me some chords, and I eventually got my own, little, mini acoustic.

Q: What do you remember about the first time you performed together?
TA: Our first show was at the Otherside in Wilkes-Barre. James bled everywhere, Eric was wearing short shorts, Scott was wearing Daisy Dukes and knee-high socks, I was wearing an ugly Christmas sweater (not for long), and Brian hadn’t joined yet.

Q: What is the process for writing music?
SW: Eric and James yelling at each other.
EN: It is a lot of back and forth. We like to work together as a team to have all of our creative minds come together in a song.

Q: How have you changed as a musician?
TA: Being involved in concert and marching band throughout high school helped me learn a lot of music theory and things I otherwise would’ve been oblivious to. Being able to apply all of those skills has been extremely helpful.

Q: What are some of your favorite memories?
EN: It’s hard to narrow it down. There are so many good memories I have from this band. At one of our shows, James ended up wearing a gigantic Trump mask, and we had a Trump “wall of death.”
TA: One of our fans hand-hammered a steel battle shield with our “T” logo on it. It’s awesome.
SW: Playing Halloween shows, collectively dressed as Lt. Dangle from “Reno 911.”
BZ: During a show, I tripped over a cable and almost fell into Eric’s rig.

Q: How has the NEPA music scene changed?
JS: Over the past 10 or so years, it seems like there are just less and less bands popping up or sticking around. It wasn’t uncommon 10 years ago to go to a local show and consistently see 50 to 100 kids coming out. It seems as time goes on, there is just less and less interest in the local scene in the area, both with forming bands and coming out to shows, which I think has a lot to do with the constantly decreasing number of venues that support original, local music. With that being said, there still are some awesome bands popping up and a solid group of people dedicated to keeping the scene alive, at least in this genre of music.

Q: What are your future goals for the band?
TA: We are striving to make this our career. Being on the road and playing shows as much as we possibly can, seeing the world doing what we love to do, meeting new people and experiencing new things.
— charlotte l. jacobson

Meet Toothless
Founded: December 2015
Based out of: Shavertown
Members: Travis Antoniello, vocals; Eric Novroski, guitar and vocals; Brian Zannetti, guitar; Scott Wood, bass; and James Slattery, drums.
For fans of: Norma Jean, Every Time I Die and the Dillinger Escape Plan
Genre: Metalcore, with hardcore and mathcore influences
Online: toothlessbandpa.com, toothlessbandpa.bandcamp.com, Toothless Band PA on Facebook, @toothlessbandpa on Instagram and Twitter

Maniscalco brings observational comedy to the Kirby Center

Maniscalco brings observational comedy to the Kirby Center

Sebastian Maniscalco began his career in comedy by sharing stories around his childhood kitchen table.
“I was never a class clown, but I was always an observer of people’s behavior,” he said. “So I’d relay them to my family.”
The 2016 Laughs’ Stand Up Comedian of the Year brings his “Why Would You Do That?” tour to F.M. Kirby Center for the Performing Arts for two performances on Saturday, at 7 and 9:30 p.m. Tickets start at $42.75, and Maniscalco will donate $1 from each ticket sold to his charity, “Tag You’re It,” which supports research in Alzheimer’s disease, children’s education and the U.S. military.
Pulling from influences ranging from Jerry Seinfeld and Johnny Carson to Eddy Murphy, Maniscalco said his on-stage persona mirrors his true personality, but amplified.
“Off stage, I’m just kind of mellow and laid-back,” he said. “But on stage, I like to be animated and act out some of my bits. People enjoy that part of my act. But it’s a heightened reality.”
After moving from his working-class family home in Chicago to Los Angeles in 1998, the comedian said, he “hit the ground running.” Maniscalco worked as a waiter in the Four Seasons hotel while simultaneously trying to build a name for himself as a legitimate comedian.
Eventually, he caught the attention of actor Vince Vaughn, who cast him in “Vince Vaughn’s Wild West Comedy Show.” And from then on, Maniscalco has worked non-stop.
Some of the comic’s standout moments include doing an episode of “Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee” with Jerry Seinfeld, appearing on “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno” and traveling to places around the world.
One of the challenges that remains true for Maniscalco is the ability to keep people coming back to watch him, even now after a nearly 20-year career.
“You don’t want to come out and have a bad show,” he said. “I keep writing new material, keep it current, keep it fresh. That’s the challenge. With YouTube and Netflix, the audience wants to see new stuff when they come to see you. I’m always writing.”
But certain aspects of his life come as a blessing when it comes to writing. Maniscalco and his wife are expecting a baby in May, so on tour he talks through his experience as a soon-to-be father.
“The more relatable it is for the audience, the more they enjoy it,” he said. “I’m not the type of guy that writes stuff on a piece of paper. I’ll re-enact a story that hopefully relates to the audience.”
In order to reach a wider audience and “broaden (his) creative juices,” Maniscalco said, he hopes to appear in more television and movies in the future. Also, his podcast with Pete Correale, “The Pete and Sebastian Show,” recently moved to Sirius XM radio on Friday nights.
“There’s nothing better than making a room full of people laugh,” Maniscalco said. “It’s an energy you feed off of, almost a teeter-totter of laughter and performance.”
— charlotte l. jacobson

If you go
What: Sebastian Maniscalco — Why Would You Do That? tour
When: Saturday, 7 and 9:30 p.m.
Where: F.M. Kirby Center for the Performing Arts, 71 Public Square, Wilkes-Barre
Details: Tickets are $42.75 to $253 (with meet-and-greet), available at the box office, kirbycenter.org and 570-826-1100.

Punk Rock Flea Market

Punk Rock Flea Market

Local art, vintage goods available at Punk Rock Flea Market

Iterations of the punk rock flea market popped up in cities across the country, from Philadelphia and Seattle to Asbury Park and El Paso, for many years. So it’s no surprise that Northeastern Pennsylvania wants to join the trend.
The inaugural NEPA Punk Rock Flea Market takes over Wyoming Hose Company No. 2 on Sunday for an all-day event touting dozens of art vendors, live music and more. Entry is $2, and a portion of the proceeds will be donated to support the Walk to Cure Arthritis in New York City.
Although the idea may be recycled from similar events around the country, Mike Campas said the initial response overwhelmed him and fellow event organizer Mike Vee. What started out as a small flea market to be held in Campas’ Larksville glassworking studio quickly grew too large for both that location and Coal City Tavern, the second proposed venue.
“There was immediately a much larger interest than we ever imagined, and the interest continues to grow,” Campas said. “Venue changes have been the bigger challenge. Challenging, but fun and rewarding as well.”
For the first NEPA Punk Rock Flea Market, patrons can expect a wide variety of goods from art and handmade pieces to vintage wares, vinyl records and crafts, among other vendors. Beverages for adults and children, as well as baked goods, will be available for purchase.
Scranton artist Ariell Stewart plans to sell her custom mandala art under the name Mandalas by Ariell. Stewart creates hand-painted mandalas primarily on wood but also on wine glasses, mugs and keychains. She also offers do-it-yourself kits for people to create mandala art on their own.
“I’m always thrilled to be part of the art community and be involved in events like the Punk Rock Flea Market,” Stewart said. “I think any time a group of artists and artisans come together to show their work and skills is amazing.”
Campas, a self-taught glass artist, also intends to set up a booth to sell his glass pieces, including borosilicate glass marbles.
Live entertainment is scheduled throughout the day, including balloon animals for the kids, magician and illusionist Alister Black, music by Janson Harris and comedian Elliott Elliott.
“The best part has been the large interest and response from the local community,” Campas added. “Personally, I’ve reconnected with some old friends, which is great. I love that this started as an idea and manifested into something physical without large expense. Motivation and focus go a long way, and this is an example of such.”
For now, the duo hopes to hold this event on a semi-annual basis, with the next one a two-day market for Memorial Day weekend.
“This event’s focus is creativity and community,” Campas said. “Anyone and everyone is encouraged to engage.”

— charlotte l. jacobson

Stand Up Guys

Stand Up Guys

Jeff Foxworthy, Larry the Cable Guy take comedy tour to Wilkes-Barre

The first time Jeff Foxworthy performed in Northeast Pennsylvania, he noticed the people resembled those he grew up around.
“It’s funny. As a guy who grew up in Georgia, I think back to the early days when I was doing the ‘You might be a redneck…’ bit,” he said. “And I thought we had exclusive rights to (rednecks) in the south. Then I went to Pennsylvania and thought, ‘They are kind of like we are. They have them, too.’ And it’s not a bad thing. They’re no different than who I grew up with.”
Foxworthy and fellow Blue Collar comic Larry the Cable Guy take their dynamic comedy tour, “We’ve Been Thinking,” to Mohegan Sun Arena at Casey Plaza, Wilkes-Barre Twp., on Friday night for a double-header.
For the stand-up veteran, touring with Larry remains just as fun, even a decade after the conclusion of the “Blue Collar Comedy Tour,” which featured both performers plus Bill Engvall and Ron White.
“I’m having as much fun as I’ve had since the ‘Blue Collar’ tour,” said Foxworthy, 58. “And we just enjoy each other. We make each other laugh. I think that’s why the ‘Blue Collar Comedy Tour’ was a success — people could tell we liked each other.”
In order to create a reminiscent but fresh iteration of those shows, both Foxworthy and Larry went back to their roots and began performing again in small clubs to come up with new material.
The Wilkes-Barre show kicks off the second leg of the duo’s tour following a holiday break, and Foxworthy said he is ready to get back out on the stage. Each comedian does a 45-minute set before coming together for a lights-up question-and-answer session.
“We’re so lucky,” Foxworthy said. “Most people don’t stay in stand-up very long. They use stand-up as a springboard to movies or TV. But we’ve been doing stand-up for 30 years, and we still love doing it.”
Looking back on his childhood, Foxworthy recalled saving up his allowance to buy comedy albums and listening endlessly to the recordings of Bob Newhart, Flip Wilson and Bill Cosby. But it wasn’t until after he began a job for IBM that he realized he might want to pursue a different career.
“Now looking back, I think I was born to do this,” he said. “I learned early in life that little magic power of being able to make people laugh. I didn’t know you could do that for a living. I thought you had to have real job.”
After several of his friends at work entered Foxworthy into a comedy contest, he was hooked.
“I had no idea what I was doing,” he said. “I remember that first night on stage, I was scared to look at people. But I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, this is what I want to do.’”
Today, Foxworthy remains one of the largest-selling comedy recording artists in history, with multiple Grammy Award nominations to boot. He starred in his namesake sitcom as well as hosted popular TV shows such as “Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader?” and “The American Baking Competition.”
“I never got into stand-up thinking this would get me a sitcom,” Foxworthy said. “The frustration of sitcom is that I had a room full of writers that didn’t necessarily want me in the writing room. … (With stand-up) you get to talk about the things you want to talk about and have your own viewpoint on them.”
And after a lifetime of achievements, including performing at the White House for presidents and appearing on five iterations of “The Tonight Show,” Foxworthy continues to enjoy bringing laughter to people across the country.
“It’s very satisfying,” he said. “There is a lot of satisfaction even at this point, to be able to work on new stuff and that people still like it. And at the end of the night, Larry and I get standing ovations. We just kind of look at each other and giggle like, ‘We’re still getting away with this.’ Thirty years in, we still do our jobs well. It gives me that kind of lucky feeling that, golly, I still love what I do. And that’s pretty stinkin’ cool.”
— charlotte l. jacobson

If you go
What: Jeff Foxworthy and Larry the Cable Guy’s “We’ve Been Thinking” comedy tour
When: Friday, 7:30 p.m.
Where: Mohegan Sun Arena at Casey Plaza, 255 Highland Park Blvd., Wilkes-Barre Twp.
Details: Tickets are $22 to $59.50, available at the box office, 800-745-3000 and ticketmaster.com.

The Pallbearers

The Pallbearers

Actor Tim McDermott likes to be challenged when it comes to taking on a theatrical piece, and Gaslight Theatre Company’s latest production does just that for him.
“I keep finding things about my character, like certain lines or the way he says things,” McDermott said. “It’s more than just jokes. The more I read it, the more layers I find for me and the other characters.”
Audiences can discover the layers of the black comedy, “The Pallbearers,” beginning tonight at 8 p.m. in the East End Centre, with performances through Jan. 29.
The play, written by Miners Mill native B. Garret Rogan, takes place amidst the country’s opiod epidemic, with a bit of gallows humor sprinkled in the mix. It explores the lives of a group of high school friends and their struggle to connect with a drug-addicted classmate in a cynical manner.
Director Dave Reynolds warned that the production is suitable only for mature audiences, but that should not alienate people from attending based on taste.
“I would want people to come see the show because, A) it’s funny, topical and unique to NEPA. Well it’s not unique to here; actually, it’s an epidemic,” Reynolds said. “It certainly seems like everyone is touched by (addiction). I haven’t seen or read anything that treats this subject matter the way this does. … I love (Rogan’s) writing. He’s extremely funny in a dark way. It’s very irreverent, but poignant.”
“It’s funny, funny, funny — then he hits you with a profound truth, and you’re like, ‘Oh, I didn’t think of it that way,’” McDermott added. “So I think that will appeal to audiences.”
Gaslight Theatre Company gives local playwrights the chance to produce their shows in front of an active audience. Rogan wrote for Gaslight’s “Playroom” series previously, but this is his first full-length play to be performed there.
Anne Rodella, who plays Clara, said she was most excited to be part of the show’s original cast.
“I don’t know that I was ever in an original piece before where no one had performed it yet,” Rodella said. “Bringing a show that the area has never seen, where a local writer worked on (it), is neat. Our parts are ours. If this is done somewhere else and they cast someone as Clara, I still played Clara first.”
The last few weeks of rehearsals coincided with the release of an NBC News article identifying heroin as a major cause of unhappiness in Wilkes-Barre and the surrounding region.
“Addiction in general, it’s like people get off one and hop on to another,” McDermott said. “Everyone has that need to fill the void.”
For Reynolds, Northeast Pennsylvania’s influence was clear.
“The show is not blatantly set in NEPA, but it’s definitely set in NEPA,” he said. “It’s very here, with a church and a bar on every corner.”
Having the area as the background created an easier connection for the actors, most of whom grew up in and around the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton region.
“This character is the most similar to me,” Rodella said. “A lot of it rings true from what she says to what she does, and what people say about her. Clara is like the audience, because she’s an outsider. She comments the most on other people and learns about them at the same speed as the audience.”
In addition to guaranteed belly laughs, the play is structured to speak to its viewers to force them to think more deeply about the context.
“Gaslight thrives on shows that don’t really end at the end of the performances,” McDermott said.
— charlotte l. jacobson

If you go
Where: Gaslight Theatre Company, 200 East End Centre, Wilkes-Barre Twp.
Dates: Jan. 19 to 29; Thursdays to Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m.
Details: Tickets are $15 for adults and $12 for students and seniors, available on ticketfly.com or at the door. Visit gaslight-theatre.org or the group’s Facebook page for more information.

Scranton band E57 looks to next goal after releasing EP

Scranton band E57 looks to next goal after releasing EP

The guys in four-piece rock outfit E57 grew from highly musical backgrounds, from families full of musicians to “stealing” their parents’ cassette tapes. So ending up with instruments in hand, writing their own music, never seemed like a stretch of the imagination.
Now the quartet — made up of Johsua Zurek on vocals and guitar, Michael “Duds” McDonald on lead guitar, Chris Sheerin on bass and A.J. Lanieski on drums — performs all over the region and released an EP, “Ep57.” The record is a mix of upbeat, happy songs with funky tunes and some “straight-up rock” the group performed over the years. It is available on iTunes, Spotify and Amazon Music.

Q: Where did your band name come from?
Joshua Zurek: Well, Duds and I were hanging out one time… My old car had a display above the rear-view mirror that read what direction the car was facing and what the temperature was outside. I remember asking him, “Well, we’re never going to come up with a name, so do you just want to use that?” as I pointed to the display reading ‘E57.’

Q: Tell me about “Ep57.” How long have
you guys been working on it? And what is the sound like?
Chris Sheerin: “Ep57” is a compilation of songs new and old that we’ve been playing during our time as a band. Songs like “Pinch Better” and “Angels” are older songs Josh and Duds wrote before I joined the band. Then we have newer songs like “Say My Name” and “Tomorrow’s Too Late.”
A.J. Lanieski: For the time I’ve been with them, it’s been energetic, and they’re all dedicated to the music. The sound is a nice blend of Josh’s catchy vocals and rhythm mixed with Mike’s awesome leads and solos, topped off with great bass lines rolled out by Chris. Everybody works well together, and it shows in the music.

Q: How have you changed as a musician over the years?
JZ: I like to believe I’ve become more open-minded to music I listen to and music we write. Back in high school, I listened strictly to heavier music and tried to force myself to write heavier stuff myself. Now, I don’t try to force myself to listen to anything or to write a certain way. I listen to whatever I’m in the mood for and play whatever I’m having fun with.
Michael “Duds” McDonald: I started out just learning classic rock tunes and playing for family. When I started playing original music, I naturally went for a fast solos, shred vibe. Playing with E57, I’ve learned to not go overboard and really write what fits better musically, and adds to the song, rather than what sounds fancy.
AL: I started out with classic rock, grunge, thrash metal and punk. Music of that nature. As time went on, I branched into a slower style… E57 brings a lot of energy and makes it a lot of fun to play, allowing me to mix all the styles I’ve enjoyed and be creative and wild as possible.

Q: What are some of your favorite memories as a part of this band?
JZ: There are a lot of favorite memories I have from this band. We were nominated for best local alternative act in the Scranton Music Awards this past summer, which was surreal.
MM: Seeing the growth of the band has been really exciting. From jamming in a bedroom to opening up for the Ataris at the Leonard (Theater) — it’s a great feeling to see our progression.
CS: Recording the EP at JL Studios was definitely a highlight, especially with how well it came out. Getting to play the FuzzFest Battle of the Bands this year was another great memory. We didn’t win, but we got to play with all these great local bands like Black Tie Stereo and Jung Bergo for a chance to open for Weezer.
AL: Hanging out and laughing at stupid stuff is a great time aside from playing. Opening at the Leonard Theatre for the Ataris was a wild experience. And the following gigs introduced me to some awesome bands and people.

Q: How has the Northeast Pennsylvania music scene changed over the years?
MM: I’ve only been a part of the scene for about two years, but the talent is endless. The support for local musicians is growing.
CS: I think it’s gotten bigger and better in a lot of ways. When I was growing up, the local scene was much smaller, and the vast majority of bands were either pop punk bands or screamo/hardcore bands, but now there are so many different bands and genres. I would only say there’s one downside to the local music scene, and that is that the shows and venues aren’t as big as they used to be. There used to be a lot more all-age venues and places for bands to play, which helped bring a larger, more diverse crowd.

Q: What is the biggest challenge you have faced as a musician?
JZ: Back in the summer, I started wondering if I should give up music. I won’t get much more into it, but it was definitely one of the hardest decisions I’ve had to make. I’m glad I didn’t give it up; that would have been a huge mistake.
MM: Believing in my abilities.
CS: Just keeping up with it. Balancing my work life, social life and band life is a challenge.
AL: Balancing life, fighting existential dread. It’s not easy to make your own way.

Q: What are your future goals for the band?
JZ: Some of our goals are to definitely get more shows, get bigger shows and to do our best to expand our music out and get it heard.
CS: Releasing our EP was a big goal of mine that I’m happy we accomplished. Next big goal would be to record and release a full-length album.
— charlotte l. jacobson

Meet the band
Founded: 2014
Based out of: Scranton
Members: Joshua Zurek, vocals and rhythm guitar; Michael “Duds” McDonald, lead guitar; Chris Sheerin, bass guitar; and A.J. Lanieski, drums.
For fans of: A Day To Remember, Say Anything, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Blink-182
Online: facebook.com/E57Band,
reverbnation.com/e57 and @E57Music on Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat

North East Skate Crew marks 20 years with film

North East Skate Crew marks 20 years with film

When T.C. Harding, Brent Postupak and Jason Pearce created North East Skate Crew in 1996, Postupak chose purple as its color.
In celebration of the group’s 20th anniversary, Harding went back to its roots to co-produce the skate crew’s latest film, “Purple.”
“It has multiple meanings,” he said. “We’re honoring where it started, honoring Brent (who died in 2010). Hopefully we’ll be around for another 20 years.”
The full-length skateboard video screens at a premiere party at Downtown Arts, Wilkes-Barre, on Thursday, Dec. 29, with doors opening at 6 p.m. and the film airing at 8:30. Tickets are $5, and a portion of the proceeds benefit the local chapter of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.
“Purple” is the 12th skate video produced by North East Skate Crew, or NESC, with Harding and co-producer Jonathan Borthwick at the helm. It is a compilation video of nearly 25 skaters, with footage from Boston to Florida, California and Colorado that also pays homage to the prior films and the group’s lasting success.
About 50 people helped create the film, including skaters, videographers, photographers, editors, volunteers and those organizing the premiere.
“(The film) is a celebration of skateboarding,” NESC member James Gidosh said.
For its first film, NESC hosted the premiere in a private home. When 150 people showed up, the members realized that was the last time they could host an event on their own.
From then on, they held many premieres at the now-shuttered Cafe Metropolis, and even over-sold the largest theater at R/C Wilkes-Barre Movies 14 with 580 guests.
“We know how to throw an event,” Harding said with a smile. “People do show up, for whatever reason. It’s not just about skateboarding, but also about the creative landscape of NEPA.”
Local bands Sucker and Royal Hell will perform during the pre-party, and photography and other art by NESC members will be displayed. A bake sale and raffle basket drawing also will take place to benefit the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.
“We’ve had some people from the crew succumb to the disease, so it really hit home for some of us,” Harding said of their beneficiary. “It’s also a big issue in the area for kids in general. With the power of the internet, people can be bullied 24/7. And it’s something people don’t want to talk about.”
NESC also will collect coats to donate to the Clem-Mar House, which helps people suffering from addiction.
Although the public’s love for skateboard culture hasn’t improved much in 20 years, the NESC founders found it important to create their own organization for an activity they held so close to their hearts.
“There was so much politics with parents and coaches in (organized) sports, but with skateboarding you and your friends dictated everything,” Harding said. “We were taking a stance against people telling us skateboarding was bad, because we all had a passion and love for it. And the proof is in the pudding; here we are 20 years later and still going.”
For many, NESC is a close-knit brotherhood. The 30-somethings of NESC, like Harding and Gidosh, paved the way for the younger generation by supplying a support group of like-minded people. Gidosh said he never envisioned the positive influence they would have on some of the younger members, but he is happy for it.
And the all-ages aspect of the sport is apparent during “Purple,” with featured skaters ranging in age from 17 to 40.
The Other Side in downtown Wilkes-Barre will host the film’s after party, with local DJ sets from Conscious Pilot, Poison Thorn and Fantasy Camp plus a surprise guest DJ. Tickets for the 21-and-older event are $5 or $2 with the ticket from the video premiere.
“Skateboarding has always been there for me in the toughest of times and in the best times. It’s always helped me,” Harding said. “There were definitely points when I thought I was too old to be skateboarding, but when skateboarding isn’t in my life, it seems I’m at my worst, and when it is in my life, I’m at my best.”
— charlotte l. jacobson

 

IF YOU GO
What: NESC presents “Purple”
When: Thursday, Dec. 29, 8:30 p.m.; doors open at 6.
Where: Downtown Arts, 47 N. Franklin St., Wilkes-Barre
Details: The pre-party starts at 6 p.m. with local bands Sucker and Royal Hell performing. The film airs at 8:30. Tickets are $5, and a portion of the proceeds benefit the local chapter of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.
What: After party
When: Dec. 29, 10 p.m.
Where: The Other Side, 119 S. Main St., Wilkes-Barre
Details: Tickets are $5, or $2 with film ticket from the premiere. The event is 21 and older.

A Cabinet Holiday

A Cabinet Holiday

Cabinet takes Kirby main stage with Holiday Show

Cabinet grabs a bigger spotlight than usual when it returns to Northeast Pennsylvania for its annual Holiday Show.
The Scranton-based roots, folk and bluegrass band booked Wilkes-Barre’s F.M. Kirby Center for the Performing Arts for the show the past three years, but this time the group graduates from the Chandelier Lobby to take over the main stage. The concert, which also includes a performance by pianist Holly Bowling, starts at 8 p.m. Friday, and tickets are $20 in advance and $25 the day of the show, plus fees.
“It’s fantastic,” singer and mandolin player J.P. Biondo said of moving to the main stage. “I’ve gone to see many a show at the Kirby, and I just love it. We’re super excited and proud and honored.”
For the past decade, Cabinet has played across the country in venues of all sizes, even at large music festivals. It developed its sound locally, though. After high school, Biondo began playing with friends at open mics as the rest of the band began to fill in. Through writing songs on guitar and mandolin — not fully understanding the genre of music they were creating — and performing semi-regularly at River Street Jazz Cafe in Plains Twp., Cabinet turned out to be a unique, Americana-blended group.
And the landscape of Northeast Pennsylvania seemed to influence the group when it came to writing its multi-genre music.
“When we first started writing, we were writing based on experience in our lives around this area,” Biondo said. “The landscape, more so than anything. Some would be relationship-based, but mostly the landscape really inspired us. It wasn’t really like any other music from around here, but just the lay of the land created us. How it’s just home.”
So it only makes sense that the septet returns each year for the ongoing tradition of performing back home. Biondo credited the region’s fans for boosting their popularity and embracing the group, claiming it “wouldn’t have been possible” without them.
“I always feel very lucky to be playing with this band with the guys, I do,” he added. “Beyond that, I think our fan base really drives this part of it home — we’re good people, too. We just like to have a good time and share some smiles, hang out with friends. At the end of the day, we’re just regular dudes, and that point gets across to our fans. They hold onto that pretty strongly. … They know that when they come out and see a Cabinet show, they are going to be having a good time with friends and like-minded people.”
In addition to Biondo, the band consists of Mickey Coviello, guitar and vocals; Patrick “Pappy” Biondo, banjo and vocals; Dylan Skursky, bass; Todd Kopec, fiddles and vocals; and Jami Novak and Josh Karis, drums and percussion.
While the group works to create a fun atmosphere at its concerts, writing new music on tour is difficult. But for now, J.P. Biondo said, the group is focused on enjoying its upcoming shows, both
at the Kirby Center and its New Year’s Eve concert at the Theatre of Living Arts, Philadelphia.
“We have the greatest job in the world,” he said. “Once you’re on that stage, there’s nothing else like it. You get to express your art and yourself, and do it with your friends. We play some fun awesome music and get paid for it. For me, that’s not even part of the job; getting in the van and driving for eight hours is the job. Playing on stage is all gravy.”
— charlotte l. jacobson

If you go
What: Cabinet Holiday Show, featuring Holly Bowling
When: Friday, 8 p.m.
Where: F.M. Kirby Center for the Performing Arts, 71 Public Square, Wilkes-Barre
Details: Tickets are $20 in advance and $25 the day of the show, available at the box office, 570-826-1100 and kirbycenter.org.

Rock the Halls

Rock the Halls

NEPA Holiday Show a homecoming for bands

What started out as a way to get friends together around the holidays turned into an annual performance.
The NEPA Holiday Show, curated by Scranton natives the Menzingers and Tigers Jaw, hits Scranton Cultural Center at The Masonic Temple, 420 N. Washington Ave., on Saturday, Dec. 17, at 5 p.m.
This event grew rapidly in size over the past six years, from the first show at Keyser Valley Community Center to, later, the Leonard Theater, and now at the cultural center for the second year in a row.
“I think it was something that we always wanted to happen,” Menzingers singer and guitarist Tom May, said. “(The growth) has been really surprising. We didn’t take it for granted, but we really pushed it until it happened.”
The Menzingers headline the all-ages show with Tigers Jaw with support from locally started bands Captain, We’re Sinking; the Swims; Three Man Cannon and Petal.
Tickets cost $20 in advance and $25 at the door and are available at www.nepaholidayshow.com. Proceeds benefit the Arts Alive program, which introduces children in kindergarten through 12th grade to a range of artistic avenues.
ec08_menzingers_tt07holidayshow_1_webSeveral band members from the show’s lineup went through Arts Alive during grade school and hoped to help the community program that helped them as they got their feet wet, May explained.
“A couple of us became moderately successful,” he said. “So we wanted to do the best we could to foster some sort of positive arts scene in the area. The best way to do that is to give the artists resources.”
May and his bandmates credit much of their sound and experiences to growing up in Northeast Pennsylvania, from connecting with other musicians from the area and being able to joke about the etymology of “heyna” to the way they write their songs.
“There’s a nostalgic approach that is definitely dreamed up by growing up in this area,” May said. “It’s a very honest, genuine music scene. There’s not much to take advantage of, which sounds like a negative approach. But really, everyone was happy to be involved, everyone was more open. There wasn’t as much to do, so we played with every kind of band. It was a very open and accepting scene where everyone wanted the best for each other.”
The Menzingers recently announced a national tour for this winter to coincide with the release of the band’s newest album, “After the Party,” which hits stores Feb. 3 via Epitaph Records. According to May, the album leans toward a new, more focused sound.
“We have a new producer, and we spent a lot more time writing this record,” he said. “We took the end of winter and all of spring off to write and record. It’s been a whole lot of time doing it, and we’ve been really focused. It was a great, positive experience. We toured so long after ‘Rented World’ came out, we were a little bit disconnected from home. This was the longest we’ve been home for eight years.”
Local fans can pre-order the album on Kings Road Merch or wait to pick it up at a free record release party at Gallery of Sound, Wilkes-Barre, on Feb. 4, which includes a meet-and-greet with the group.
—charlotte l. jacobson

IF YOU GO
What: NEPA Holiday Show
When: Saturday, Dec. 17, 5 p.m.
Location: Scranton Cultural Center at The Masonic Temple, 420 Washington Ave.
Details: Tickets are $20 in advance and $25 at the door, available at the box office, 888-669-8966 and nepaholidayshow.com.

Country Christmas

Country Christmas

Singer Kacey Musgraves celebrates season with festive tour

Country star Kacey Musgraves spreads Christmas cheer on the road this season.
To coincide with her new holiday album, “A Very Kacey Christmas,” the Texas-born singer launched a nine-city mini tour, which includes a stop Friday at F.M. Kirby Center for the Performing Arts in downtown Wilkes-Barre.
“It’s a really, really incredible and great group of musicians coming with me on the tour,” Musgraves said. “This tour is different than the normal ones. It’s a bigger production musically with new instruments. There’s a string section with a cello and two violins. We have bass drums, an accordion, bass sax, bass clarinet and a piano. It all really makes the Christmas season come alive.”
In order to get into the holiday spirit during its July recording sessions, the band decorated the studio with paper snowflakes, a Christmas tree and stockings for each musician, all the while drinking ample amounts of cider.
The two-time Grammy Award-winner, meanwhile, wanted to shake up things and create her own sound for the traditional holiday songs, citing sounds ranging from Western twang and classic pop to Hawaiian and traditional mariachi moments.
“I feel like Christmas music lends itself to being as creative as you want it to be,” Musgraves said. “The traditional arrangements are there. If you copy those, it’s not the worst thing in the world; we’ve all grown up with those versions. But I wanted to do something different. We worked on chopping up the traditional arrangements and making them our own.”
She introduced four originals to the batch of classics, with special guest Willie Nelson on “A Willie Nice Christmas” and Leon Bridges in “Present Without A Bow.” The Quebe Sisters also feature in “Let It Snow.”
Musgraves said her favorite tracks from the 12-song album are “Feliz Navidad” and one of her originals, “Christmas Makes Me Cry.”
“Growing up in Texas, I heard ‘Feliz Navidad’ a billion times, so I wanted to create a version that would stand up to the classic one,” she said. “I love Spanish music and culture, so that was really fun to play with. … ‘Christmas Makes Me Cry’ touches on the sadder side of the holiday. As a songwriter, I wanted to include that sentiment. It’s not always trees and presents and happiness for everyone.”
The experience of creating a Christmas album was enriching for the 28-year-old artist, and the fun of creating the album should be apparent during the live show, she said.
“When you’re really in the moment, connecting with people through music and seeing them really enjoy themselves, that’s a really cool thing,” Musgraves said.
— charlotte l. jacobson

Kacey Musgraves
When: Friday, 8 p.m.; doors open at 6:30.
Where: F.M. Kirby Center for the Performing Arts, 71 Public Square, Wilkes-Barre
Details: Tickets are $29.50 to $49.50, available at the box office, 570-826-1100 and www.kaceymusgraves.com.

Jingle Bell Rocker

Jingle Bell Rocker

Melissa Etheridge dishes out ‘a little Christmas flavor’

From what Melissa Etheridge remembers, the people of Northeast Pennsylvania like to rock and roll — and she looks forward to returning to the rocking region.
But this time, she’s here for the holidays.
Etheridge plans to wow audiences at F.M. Kirby Center for the Performing Arts on Sunday, when she will weave through hits plus holiday classics off her 2008 album, “A New Thought for Christmas.” The show starts at 7:30 p.m.
“I haven’t played these songs in six to eight years, so I have a bit of work to do,” she said during a recent phone interview from her Los Angeles home. “The funny thing was that when I thought about this … little did I know that this would be more of a healing time and an opportunity to talk about peace on earth and goodwill toward men. To have that spirit dictate the show. Now I’m glad I thought of this.”
The 55-year-old broke into the music scene with her eponymous album in 1988, but she hit her commercial stride with the 1993 record, “Yes I Am.” Three Top 40 hits came from that album, “I’m the Only One,” “If I Wanted To” and “Come To My Window,” which earned her a Grammy Award.
From dozens of Grammy nominations and an Academy Award to a breast cancer diagnosis and even a recent stint on Broadway (in “American Idiot”), the Kansas native has been through it all. After nearly 30 years of touring, Etheridge still finds it hard to leave her family, but luckily she can take her wife on many of the tours.
In October, Etheridge released a Memphis tribute album through Stax Records called “Memphis Rock and Soul,” on which she covered Stax R&B legends such as Sam and Dave, Otis Redding and Rufus Thomas.
Recently, she flip-flopped between touring with her trio over the summer and playing with a 10-piece band for the Memphis album. But for her Wilkes-Barre show, she’ll be back with the trio, mixing together music with “a little Christmas flavor,” she said.
“When you write, everything influences you, everything is your inspiration,” Etheridge said. “When I write songs, I have to start from inspiration, which can be a thought about an emotion or a melody or it’s the words or the rhythm — it just starts with something.”
She hasn’t written a new song since June, when she crafted “Pulse” in reaction to the deadly Orlando nightclub shooting.
“I really put everything into that,” Etheridge said. “It was a shock and such a sorrow to me that the instant creating of the song — that very day I found out — was very healing and very cathartic. I haven’t put pen to paper much since then. … I can’t help but be influenced by where we are now, the humanity of our country and looking at people and the fears that are guiding us through this dark night. I will probably write from that more because it is very rich and something that needs to be written about and chronicled.”
And when asked if she looks forward to anything in the future, she gave a simple response: “Everything.”
— charlotte l. jacobson

American Babies scatters sound across genres

American Babies scatters sound across genres

There’s something special about creating music unlike anything people have heard before, according to Tom Hamilton.
Citing his parent’s eclectic taste of music that he grew up listening to, the Philadelphia native recalled hearing Eric Clapton, the Beatles and the Grateful Dead along with blues and outlaw country music. So it is no wonder Hamilton pulls in influences from all genres of music when writing for his band, American Babies.
Local music fans have a chance to see the chameleonic group — which includes Scranton-based guitarist Justin Mazer — at River Street Jazz Cafe this Friday, as a part of its “An Epic Tour from East To West.” The show starts at 10 p.m., and tickets are $10.
Categorizing American Babies stumps many. From Americana to psych-tinged indie and classic rock, the group has played it all. Each of its four albums exemplifies its scattered sound, with its most recent release, “An Epic Battle Between Light and Dark,” varying from glam-funk, jazzy cabaret, vintage country and zoned-out psychedelic grooves.
“It’s an evolution,” said Hamilton, a multi-instrumentalist and the band’s founder. “Every record is pretty decidedly different than the last, just because I think part of being a musician or creative type is constantly trying to get better, explore yourself and explore the human condition. There’s an unquenchable thirst for creation and knowledge. We’re always different, always pushing in some sort of uncomfortable area that I haven’t explored before.”
And Hamilton is far from a newcomer to the music scene, what with having a rock musician for a father and a pianist and cellist for
a mother.
“I didn’t know any differently,” the 37-year-old said. “I just assumed that’s what everybody did, everybody played, had it in their household and played with their siblings. There were always band practices going on in my basement. It was a thing that I always thought that’s just what you do.”
Hamilton has pumped out the music since graduating high school. In addition to creating music as the guitarist and lead singer for American Babies, Hamilton performs with Brothers Past, Grateful Dead tribute band Joe Russo’s Almost Dead and Electron.
American Babies’ live show sticks to its concept of remaining different. Instead of following to the same set list each night of the tour, Hamilton said, the band likes to switch up the tracks and mix in the new songs with the old.
“We go off of the model of the Dead,” he said. “We present a unique concert experience every night … and shuffle the deck as much as possible. We like to keep everything fresh, everybody on their toes, keep the fans guessing as to what is coming next. And it keeps us as a band fresh and inspired.”
It’s important to bring an original point of view to all of his music, Hamilton said, while still making something people can connect to.
“That’s just my thing or my mission statement,” Hamilton said. “I may never be as popular as Radiohead or something, but the bands that I love — Radiohead, the Grateful Dead, the Beatles — they were all innovators. There wasn’t anything like them before, and there’s not much that can compare (to those bands) since. That’s what I’m going for.”
—charlotte l. jacobson

 

IF YOU GO
What: Tom Hamilton’s American Babies
When: Friday, 10 p.m.
Where: River Street Jazz Cafe, 667 N. River St., Plains Twp.
Details: Tickets are $10. For more information, visit americanbabies.net

College stages light up with new shows

College stages light up with new shows

Blood-sucking plants and businessmen scrambling for stand-in wives don’t seem to share similarities, but this weekend local theater lovers can see both stories on college stages.

The horror comedy musical “Little Shop of Horrors” will rock the Wilkes University theater, while “Whose Wives Are They Anyway?” will leave audiences in stitches at King’s College.
When choosing the farce, “Wives” director Sheileen Godwin wanted to pick a show that wasn’t “overdone” in the region.
“I don’t remember how I stumbled upon ‘Whose Wives Are They Anyway,’ but when I read it, the pure ridiculousness of the show gave me a lot of crazy ideas I could incorporate,” she said. “As farce is extremely difficult to direct and perform, I knew it would be a challenge, and that is an absolute must for me.”
Michael Parker’s play follows the story of two vice presidents of the Ashley Maureen Cosmetics Co. on a weekend vacation to relax before their new CEO arrives. With both of their wives on a shopping spree in New York City, the duo checks into a country club. When their new boss unexpectedly shows up at the club insisting on meeting their wives, the two scramble to produce partners to introduce to the CEO.
In order to grasp the components of farce, surprise and sight gags, Godwin workshopped the cast throughout its rehearsal process.
“What many don’t understand is that farce needs to be played seriously,” she explained. “Farce needs actors who can play tragedy, but also they must have the technique, the stamina, the precision and the dexterity that farce demands. Farce is teamwork. You can’t have selfish actors pulling attention at the wrong moment. The characters must be believable.”
Meanwhile, students at Wilkes University have rehearsed the Alan Menken musical about a hapless florist who raises a plant that feeds on human blood and flesh. The show is based on the low-budget 1960 black comedy film of the same name, with added music in the style of early ’60s rock and roll, doo-wop and early Motown. Some well-known tunes include “Skid Row (Downtown),” “Suddenly, Seymour” and “Feed Me (Git It).”
“The script is pretty clear on what the point of the play is — don’t feed the plants — which is the key,” director Teresa Fallon said. “What are the plants though? My feeling is that it is a story of what happens to good-hearted people in a cruel world.”
The cast of 16 students worked tirelessly on the family show to create a snappy and fun production anyone could enjoy. Aside from technical challenges with the plant, props and costumes, Fallon said the group had a blast working on the show.
“I have to say thank you to the cast; they have done a tremendous amount of work and done an amazing job with it,” Fallon said. “I think it’s because they’ve enjoyed it. If the people on stage are having a good time, it’s easy for the audience to enjoy it.”
And the cast of 10 over at King’s College certainly enjoyed its time with creating a perfect farce, Godwin said.
“The laughter that resonates when things go right, when things go wrong or when we don’t even know what happened,” she added. “When you have students who will run around and risk looking ridiculous and acting ridiculous without giving it a second thought, you know you have something special.”
— charlotte l. jacobson

Little Shop of Horrors
When: Nov. 11 to 20; Fridays and Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays 2 p.m.
Where: Dorothy Dickson Center for the Performing Arts, Wilkes University, Wilkes-Barre
Details: Tickets are $10 for general admission, $5 for students and seniors and free for Wilkes students and staff. For more information, call 570-408-4540.

Whose Wives Are They Anyway?
When: Nov. 10 to 19; Thursdays to Saturdays, 7:30 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m.
Where: George P. Maffei II Theatre, King’s College, Wilkes-Barre
Details: Tickets are $12 for general admission, $7 for senior citizens and $5 for King’s alumni and non-King’s students. Call 570-208-5825 for more information.