‘Disney on Ice’ glides into Mohegan Sun Arena for eight performances

‘Disney on Ice’ glides into Mohegan Sun Arena for eight performances

Believing is just the beginning when it comes to dreams.
Catch “Disney on Ice: Dream Big” when it glides into Mohegan Sun Arena at Casey Plaza, Wilkes-Barre Twp., starting Thursday, Jan. 11, for an eight-performance run over five days.
“The show is for everyone,” skater Nelson Sanchez Leemet said. “There is an acrobat team that is flying, literally. There’s even a fire-breathing dragon. Honestly everyone will enjoy this show.”
With her magic pixie dust, Tinker Bell takes audiences on a journey through beloved Disney tales — focusing on princesses such as Ariel, Belle, Cinderella, Rapunzel, Tiana, Jasmine, Aurora and Snow White — as they embark on adventures, determined to make their dreams come true.
Each Disney film has its moment to shine on the ice as the characters twirl, leap and glide around to favorite movie songs, from classics such as “Under the Sea” from “The Little Mermaid” and “Be Our Guest” from “Beauty and the Beast” to newer crowd-pleasers such as “Let It Go” from “Frozen,” “Down in New Orleans” from “Princess and the Frog” and “At Last I See the Light” from “Tangled.” One of the most popular portions of the show follows sisters Anna and Elsa and loveable snowman Olaf from “Frozen” as they learn that true love is the greatest magic of all.
Sanchez Leemet — who portrays Hans in the “Frozen” segment — hails from the Dominican Republic, so the idea of ice skating and winter were foreign to him when he moved to Montreal. After watching an ice show in Canada, he was hooked and signed up for lessons the following day.
“I get to travel the world and do my passion at the same time,” he said. “It’s not even a job, even though it is a job. Just going out there and performing, seeing all of the kids and families, and smiling and enjoying and being involved in the show is the best. I love being a part of this production that makes people have a good time.”
Although it may make her seem biased, Alexe Giles, who portrays Elsa, said the “Frozen” portion sticks out to her the most.
“‘Let It Go’ and the reprise are definitely up there,” she said. “The blizzards created with all of the snow, it’s so magical. There are lots of special, dazzling effects. I think it’s one of the best segments in our show. I definitely have a little soft spot in my heart for it.”
Giles grew up in a skating family in Colorado, and she always believed “Disney on Ice” would be a huge opportunity for her to take. So when the chance came to follow her dreams of joining the ice show, she didn’t hesitate to take it.
“Disney carries from generation to generation,” Giles added. “Everyone becomes happy (at Disney). … It’s always transforming itself to the new technology and adding the new movies so it doesn’t die out, and it’s not stagnant. It’s always new and exciting.”

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If you go
What: “Disney on Ice: Dream Big”
Where: Mohegan Sun Arena at Casey Plaza, 255 Highland Park Blvd., Wilkes-Barre Twp.
When: Thursday, Jan. 11, and Friday, Jan. 12, 7 p.m.; Saturday, Jan. 13, 11 a.m., 3 and 7 p.m.; Sunday, Jan. 14, noon and 4 p.m.; and Monday, Jan. 15, 2 p.m.
Details: Tickets start at $18 and can be purchased at the box office, online at ticketmaster.com and by calling 800-745-3000.

Up Close & Personal – Justin Bradley

Up Close & Personal – Justin Bradley

Justin Bradley is a business account executive with Verizon, where he oversees health care-related businesses and nonprofits. He also is a property manager for his company, JWB Property Group LLC. He is a native of Susquehanna County and a graduate of Blue Ridge High School and Keystone College, where he earned a degree in corporate communications. He and his wife, Rae, have two children, Jackson, 5, and Vivian, 3. They live in Archbald.

Meet Justin Bradley…

Tell us a little about your work at Verizon.
I’ve been there almost 14 years. I work with health care-related businesses on any technology project that is going to help with efficiency, cellular connectivity and mobilizing their staff, employees, home health organizations and, now, even their landline business phones. As long as it involves technology, I can most likely point them in the right direction.

And what about your work as a property investor and property manager?
That’s a real passion of mine. It takes up a lot of my spare time, in that I love the thrill of the hunt. Whether it’s a distressed property, or maybe someone that’s maybe had some down luck and they need to get rid of their property fairly quickly, I can help and take it over. Or, obviously, with a distressed property from a bank foreclosure, sheriff’s sale or tax sale, you can find a property fairly cheap and, with a few bucks, turn it around and maybe make a few bucks. For me, I like the rentals. I like renting the properties, whether it’s a duplex or a single-family home. I was recently told that the neighbors must love me, where I’m buying properties, because they’re not low-end properties. They’re kind of mid-range. And in a way, to some degree, it’s revitalizing Scranton. I would never want to be a slum lord. Investing a few bucks into these properties and then having a quality rental that’s going to last a long time is what I’m looking to do. 

At left, a submitted photo by Bradley shows the property in its very early stages of renovation. At right, the property is about a month away from completion.

What do you enjoy doing in your free time? 
A few years back, I took part in a boot-camp type of CrossFit program, and I learned a lot. I lost 50 pounds, stuck with it and joined CrossFit Vertex in Olyphant. Great community. Great owners. It’s one of those things where the camaraderie and the folks that are there kind of keep you accountable to keep coming back. And CrossFit is one of those things that keeps me coming. Going to a local gym and working out on your own, you don’t necessarily have that same motivation and drive to keep going back and working harder. This has a little bit of a different environment, which is appealing to me. The other thing that I like to do in my spare time, obviously, is to spend time with my kids and use my GoPro. My Instagram is “gopro_hero_dad,” which is just daily activities of me being a dad. It’s all of the cool things that I do with my family and kids, from a dad’s perspective. And my other account is “gopro.hero.wods.” And “wods” stands for workout of the day, which I use for CrossFit.

Any hobbies? Are you a collector?
Giants memorabilia. I love New York Giants football, and my basement consists of signed jerseys and special moments that I remember as a Giants fan. Everything is signed, authenticated and framed.

Favorite music?
I grew up on Breaking Benjamin. I’ve been a longtime fan. The day I turned 21 … I went out to Tink’s and saw them play, and a lot of the members of the current band are now friends of mine. I also like Motionless In White.

Favorite city?
I frequent Philadelphia, primarily because of work. So I’ve gotten to know the city fairly well. And I’m an old skateboarder at heart, and some of the concrete parks there are places I frequent. Even as an adult, I’ve taken my skateboard. Love Park is a place that I’ve visited, and I’ll just skate around the block and try to take it in, because they’re all monuments, as far as skateboarding history is concerned.

Favorite place to vacation?
Ocean City, Maryland. Every other year, my wife’s family has always gone to Ocean City. I never really went anywhere as a kid like that as a family, and so to marry into a family that likes to stay close-knit is nice. Now we take our kids, and it’s definitely enjoyable as a dad.

Favorite thing about NEPA?
All of my friends and family are here. I went to school here. There are lots of great things to like about Scranton. The La Festa Italiana is one of my favorite things. Parade Day was one of my favorite things to do in my 20s. There’s always something going on. And the people are hard-working, the people are artistic, and the people are passionate about what they do. And that’s something I can always appreciate.

Favorite food?
Pizza.

Favorite holiday?
These days, with a 5-year-old and a 3-year-old, it’s got to be Christmas.

Favorite movie?
“Boiler Room.”

Favorite TV show?
“Sons of Anarchy.”

Favorite book?
“Property Management for Dummies.” (Laughs)

Favorite quote or catchphrase?
“Where there is no struggle, there is no strength.” I actually have it tattooed on my leg.

Biggest pet peeve?
Quitters.

Guilty pleasure?
Watching “Teen Mom.”

Is there anything about you that might surprise people?
I had a tough period, growing up. I was in foster care when I was in middle school, around sixth and seventh grade. I was also run over by a lawnmower when I was 14 months old. I lost a finger, and I had numerous surgeries throughout elementary school through high school. To this day, I have a big scar and a plate with four screws in my forearm. So I’m at a disadvantage at the CrossFit gym. (Laughs) But again, what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. 

Have you had a defining personal moment, or something that has really helped shape you into the person you are today?
Because of struggles that I had as a child, and the way I grew up, what’s defined me as a person is knowing what I don’t want to be as a parent, or as an adult. I want a better life for my kids. I don’t want to see them struggle through life. That’s something that’s important to me.

 

Photos by Emma Black

American dream  Tony winner, Hamilton’s Odom brings smooth, crisp sound to Wyoming Seminary stage

American dream Tony winner, Hamilton’s Odom brings smooth, crisp sound to Wyoming Seminary stage

Leslie Odom Jr. follows his passion. The man is non-stop.
The Tony Award-winning performer has been on a whirlwind since he rose to fame as Aaron Burr in hip-hop Broadway musical juggernaut “Hamilton.” Odom earned critical acclaim and several accolades including a Tony Award, for his portrayal of the charismatic, vulnerable and complicated founding father.
When he left the show in 2016, Odom kept pushing further, pursuing a solo career and touring to spread his love of performing to fans around the country.
He brings his multifaceted solo show to the area on Wednesday, Jan. 17, at 7:30 p.m. when he performs at Wyoming Seminary’s Kirby Center for Creative Arts, 260 N. Sprague Ave., Kingston.
“I’m kind of lucky I get to bring as much of myself in able to into the work,” Odom said during a recent phone interview, enroute to travel from Los Angeles to Indianapolis. “It’s all deeply personal to me, touring and connecting with fans in a more open way. … I’m up there telling the stories about my life and singing songs I love.”
Since 2016, Odom put out two albums: a self-titled work of jazz standards, showtunes and originals he released just before his exit from Broadway and “Simply Christmas,” which is full the performer’s crisp, smooth take on seasonal classics.
These works can be expected during his stop in Kingston, but Odom promised fans that’s not all. He doesn’t believe in people leaving disappointed after a concert and will perform some songs from “Hamilton” plus selections from other work he’s known for, including NBC’s musical television show “Smash.”
Many of these songs take on different meanings for Odom during his concerts. When performing “Hamilton” songs, like “Dear Theodosia,” a ballad Burr and Hamilton sing about their children, or “Wait For It,” on Burr’s undying determination, he’s singing these as himself, which transports the music into a different realm.
“Songs from the show are really nice to perform out of context,” he explained. “Bringing it in to a concert, you get to color outside the lines. Some songs take on new meaning when it’s not Aaron Burr singing it.”
In between making music and touring, Odom’s kept busy acting, like appearing in last year’s “Murder on the Orient Express” alongside Daisy Ridley, and continues to pursue different avenues. His book, “Failing Up” is due out in March and is written in the style of a commencement speech. The narrative details how Odom’s greatest successes came from his greatest risks and how he allowed himself to be open to defeat.
“The better part of it is the story of how everything in my life turned around the first time I gave myself permission to fail,” he said. 
Odom worked as an actor on stage and television before landing his big break but admits it was a challenge. He kept working toward his goal and what made him feel alive but success didn’t happen immediately.
“That can be the biggest eye roll, ‘Yeah, but you had ‘Hamilton,’ but I didn’t know that seven or eight years ago, struggling, trying to get jobs,” Odom said with a laugh. “I didn’t know that the role of a lifetime would come to me. I was just following my passion and my heart. … and eventually found my way to ‘Hamilton.’”
Odom’s advice to young people finding their path echoes his own life. He encourages anyone to surround themselves with what makes them happiest. Whether it be a career in performing arts, math or medicine, keep moving toward it and be open to where it takes you.
“Read about, talk about it, learn as much as you can about it. Follow your passion and those things will love you back,” he said. “Keep walking toward those things that light you up. … I didn’t know take this step, then take this step. I just loved it, you know? I loved it and found a way to dream myself into the world I loved so much.”
Odom took the holidays to unplug and clear his mind and is coming into the new year feeling refreshed, focused and balanced. He’s ready to continue to challenge himself and to reach as many people as he can through his passion.
“(It’s) the fact that I got to express myself in such a way that felt total and complete and now get to sort of be the architect of the rest of my journey and go where my inspiration leads,” he said. “It’s that I get to go around the country and meet fans and people who didn’t have a chance to see the show and some that may never get to go to New York (City) to see the show. We get to bring it to them.”

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If you go
What: Sem Presents! featuring Leslie Odom Jr.
When: Wednesday, Jan. 17, at 7:30 p.m.
Where: Wyoming Seminary’s Kirby Center for Creative Arts, 260 N. Sprague Ave., Kingston
Details: Tickets are $35-$70 and can be purchased online at wyomingseminary.org/arts/sempresents.

Deathcore bandmates form bond in childhood

Deathcore bandmates form bond in childhood

Melodic deathcore band With Words Unspoken began with two band T-shirts.
Guitarist Matthew Pilch and vocalist Jordan Teixeria were in third grade when they each wore a Kiss shirt to school, and “we were friends from then on,” Pilch said. “Music has given us a bond like a brotherhood.”
The melodic deathcore group also includes drummer Ryan Hargrave and guitarist Zachary Miller. The group will release its first EP on Tuesday, Jan. 16, and continue to write music and perform in and around Northeast Pennsylvania.

Q: Where did your band name come from?
Jordan Teixeria: The name comes from being about what you do, not what you say, because as the saying goes, “Actions speak louder than words.” We’re hoping our actions speak and bring heavy music back around and make people move the way it was meant to be.

Q: How did you each get involved in music?
Ryan Hargrave: I got into it from my dad playing older heavy music, and I myself started getting into Danzig, Misfits, Strength for a Reason, Bury Your Dead, amongst other hardcore and death metal.
Matthew Pilch: I think I can say Kiss was definitely a start to myself and Jordan’s music lives. For us, they had everything that appealed to us: the amazing stage presence, the anthemic feel of the music, and the image stuck out for sure. I remember Jordan and I had gotten our faces painted as Kiss members back when we were young kids.
Zachary Miller: I can say for sure Avenged Sevenfold and Slipknot (were) a big influence, and especially Rings of Saturn and Bullet for My Valentine. They got me playing the heavy yet melodic type of music.

Q: What do you remember about the first time you performed?
JT: Our first show as this group was a train wreck. Although it was a small hardcore house show, it was still a big deal to us as our debut. Our old drummer booked the show, didn’t tell us until after, and we only had three songs, so we needed to write at least a couple more in a very short amount of time. When we did, and it was show time, he backed out on us day of the show. Being that we weren’t going to trash our name because of his actions, we kept our word on showing up. Our guitarist Zach filled in on drums, and we played as a trio. It sucked, but as they say, the show must go on.

Q: What is your songwriting process like?
ZM: I usually just go over (to) our vocalist’s house. We just fool around with a few riffs together and feed off of each other going part by part. Then since Ryan and I are close, I go over, and the song starts to take form.
JT: For lyrics, I try to focus on real-life experiences as a vent for the struggles I go through that I know others can relate to as well.

Q: What are some of your favorite memories?
JT: We can all say that what stays in our heads is seeing people move and get into the music we play. It makes every dollar and second we put into it worth it. One show we played with a few comedians — we were the punchline to their jokes. Then at the end of our set, the same people joking about us were the same people coming to shake our hands.

Q: How has the NEPA music scene changed?
JT: As a whole, we think it’s gone down, but right now it’s at a perfect time to be revived. There was a time where all-ages shows were everywhere every weekend, in a bunch of towns. Now all the venues we knew when it was booming for us around 2008 or so are closed, so it gets harder just playing at bars since it’s age-restricted. We as a music community are very diverse, and it’s amazing to see. We’ve got it all in NEPA. … We as a music community have grown tremendously, but our venue choice has diminished, sadly. Hopefully people notice the growth of the music underground and start bringing all-ages shows back.

Q: What music do you listen to?
JT: We diversify in taste greatly, but at the same time, bond in heavy music, which brought us together. I know I can go from Dixie Chicks to Carnifex in the same five minutes. Matt varies with the Doors, the Dead, Wu Tang Clan and just as soon jams some Fit for an Autopsy. I know Ryan loves his old punk and hardcore and listens to some real ’90s rap when it actually had substance, and Zach I know loves classic rock as well as heavy music.

Q: Have you faced any major challenges?
JT: Just getting ourselves out there and accumulating a bigger fan base.

Q: What are your future goals for the band?
JT: I would like to see us perform more all-ages shows, get to play with some bigger heavy bands and hopefully see more of the world while playing our tunes for people across the nation.
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Meet With Words Unspoken
Members: Jordan Teixeira, vocals; Ryan Hargrave, drums; Zachary Miller, guitar; and Matthew Pilch, guitar
Based out of: Pittston
Established: June 2017
Genre: Deathcore
Online: With Words Unspoken can be found on Facebook.
Up next: Saturday, Jan. 13, at 8:30 p.m., Irish Wolf Pub, Scranton

Frozen festivity ShiverFest features kayak race, Thaw Party

Frozen festivity ShiverFest features kayak race, Thaw Party

Recent sub-zero temperatures could have kayakers shivering even more than usual at an annual wintertime race down the Lackawanna River.
That is, if they can even get down the river at all.
As long as ice that has built up along the Scranton section of the river breaks, the annual ShiverFest Extreme Kayak/Canoe Race will go on as planned on Saturday, Jan. 13, said Bernard McGurl, executive director of Lackawanna River Conservation Association, which runs the event. This month’s cold snap froze parts of the river, putting kayakers in danger of getting tossed into the water if they hit ice and then getting washed under the solid surface, but he said warmer temperatures expected this week could melt it.
“We’re going to hold judgment until the morning of the event,” McGurl said. “People will show up, and we’ll scout the whole course.”
Should the weather cooperate, the race will begin at noon at the Parker Street landing, travel 3 miles down the river and end around 12:35 or 12:40 p.m. at Sweeney’s Beach, about 1,000 feet downstream of Poplar Street, where the association will have a bonfire.
The race is “mostly for fun,” McGurl said, but the association does time it and give out prizes to the top three finishers. Each participant this year will receive a clear plastic, waterproof bag they can use to keep their cell phones dry while on the water. 
Racers must be at least 18, wear a personal flotation device and bring their own kayak or canoe. Helmets are not mandatory, but the association strongly suggests racers wear wetsuits.
“If you’re just coming out in casual fall attire like blue jeans or something like that or a Polartec sweater, it’s not going to cut it,” McGurl said. “You’re going to be dead in 10 minutes.”
The $30 race fee also includes a ticket to the Thaw Party, which runs from 1 to 4 p.m. at Backyard Ale House, 523 Linden St., Scranton, and features music from DJ Jack Martin, food, beer and other activities. Watching the race is free, and non-racers can pay $20 to attend the party.
Racers can register in advance on the association website, lrca.org, or at the launch site that day. Should the association cancel the event, those who registered in advance will receive refunds unless they want to attend the Thaw Party, which will go on no matter what the weather.
Proceeds from ShiverFest benefit the association and the work it does to support the Lackawanna River.
“If you are a kayaker and you’ve done some wintertime kayaking, it’s a great opportunity to enjoy some camaraderie with a larger group of people who are so inclined,” McGurl said. “We have several family groups that come, and the cultural aspect of costuming themselves with all kinds of accoutrements and masks. … It’s pretty colorful site for some of the participants.”
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If you go
What: ShiverFest Extreme Kayak/Canoe Race
When: Saturday, Jan. 13, noon
Where: Parker Street landing to Sweeney’s Beach on the Lackawanna River, Scranton
Details: Racers must be 18 or older, wear a personal flotation device and provide their own kayak or canoe. Wetsuits are strongly recommended. Proceeds benefit Lackawanna River Conservation Association.

What: ShiverFest Thaw Party
When: Saturday, Jan. 13, 1 to 4 p.m.
Where: Backyard Ale House, 523 Linden St., Scranton

Tickets
Race entry is $30 and includes a ticket to the post-race Thaw Party. Watching the race is free. Tickets for the party only are $20 and include food, drinks and entertainment. Proceeds benefit Lackawanna River Conservation Association. Visit lrca_shiverfest2018tickets.eventbrite.com for tickets. For more information, call 570-347-6311 or visit lrca.org.

Tunkhannock native shoots for stars on  ‘Vanderpump Rules’

Tunkhannock native shoots for stars on ‘Vanderpump Rules’

Like many 20-somethings, Adam Spott works several jobs.
The Tunkhannock native living in Santa Monica, California, acts and models, appearing in short films and print campaigns. And with Circle 8 Productions, Spott also works on the production side of things, including lifestyle TV shows in the Los Angeles area.
Though, TV viewers might know him from his side gig as a bartender at West Hollywood hot spot SUR restaurant and lounge, the setting for Bravo reality show “Vanderpump Rules.”
Named for SUR owner and “Real Housewives of Beverly Hills” cast member Lisa Vanderpump, the show, now in its sixth season, follows the lives of the staff members as they build their futures. Spott said many service industry workers in Los Angeles are aspiring actors, models, singers, writers and directors, and “Vanderpump Rules” follows cast members outside of work as well. There, relationships between employees and staff members often come to a head.
“They definitely picked a good (main) crew to follow if they wanted drama,” Spott said, laughing, during a recent phone interview. “It’s always entertaining, that’s for sure.” 
Spott’s first foray in the service industry came far away from the cameras and lights. As a teenager in Wyoming County, Spott worked at StoneHedge Golf Course in Factoryville and went on to nab jobs and internships at other country clubs, including Glen Oak County Club in Clarks Summit.
A 2007 graduate of Lackawanna Trail Junior-Senior High School, Spott headed to Florida State University to pursue a degree in hospitality management. In Florida, Spott waited tables, bartended and worked other jobs throughout college. He also interned at The Club at Las Camapnas in New Mexico in supervisor positions.
“I always wanted to work in the service industry (and) wanted to do that kind of work,” Spott said.
After college, Spott bounced around the southeast, from Jacksonville, Florida, to Orlando and, finally, Atlanta, where he worked as a pharmaceutical sales representative. When a regional magazine picked him as one of Atlanta’s most eligible bachelors, an Atlanta-based modeling agency approached him about signing a contract, and he started to book print and commercial work.
Soon after, Spott signed with modeling agency Wilhelmina Models nationally and knew he wanted to make the leap to Los Angeles to pursue an acting career.
“I figured I always wanted to be out here, and if there was ever a time to go after what I wanted to do, might as well strike while the iron was hot,” he said. “That’s more or less what sent me 3,000 miles across the country.”
Los Angeles’ schedule was a shock to Spott. For someone aiming for a career in the entertainment industry, no work is guaranteed, and Spott quickly had to find a different way to make money with the flexibility to pursue his dream.
“I was so set in a 9-to-5 (schedule), being on salary; that career path was what I was used to,” he said. “I learned pretty quick how expensive (the cost of living is), how people have so many different avenues of income. I needed a part-time job, with the ups and downs of modeling and acting.”
Spott said he didn’t know what “Vanderpump Rules” was initially, but he was aware of SUR and was confident in his service experience to apply to be a bartender. He was selected and sent to bartending classes in the city to hone his skills. He began as a barback and worked his way up to bartender after a few months.
His position at SUR placed him in good company to further his entertainment career, too. Spott’s good friend and fellow employee (and original cast member of “Vanderpump Rules”), Scheana Marie, introduced Spott to his gig with the production company. Restaurant staff know Vanderpump encourages her employees to pursue careers outside of SUR. 
“She’s always looking out for you, and she knows how difficult it can be to move to a city like L.A. with no connections,” Spott said. “She always has her employees’ best interests in mind. She’s very intimidating, and she will tell you to button up your shirt and stand up straight, but she is one of the most kind-hearted people I have ever met.”

Adam Spott, with SUR owner Lisa Vanderpump, called his boss one of the most “intimidating yet kindhearted” people he’s ever met.

As a popular Los Angeles hotspot, SUR is a hub for power players in the entertainment industry. This atmosphere offers employees the chance to make connections and advance their careers.
“You meet so many people in the entertainment industry,” Spott said. “That’s what so cool about here. You can shake the right hand, and the next thing you know, you’re working your dream job.”
Pursuing a career in acting or another sector of the entertainment industry can be draining, but Spott attributes his drive to his parents, Sandra Spott and Matthew Spott, and his hometown.
“I love where I was born and raised. That will always be home to me,” he said. “It’s rare to have a blue-collar work ethic in a place like L.A. I am very grateful for that.”
Spott acknowledged that sometimes those who live in small towns find it hard to leave to pursue their dreams. While Spott, who loves to be in front of the camera and hopes to make it to the movie screen someday, set his sights on big dreams in big cities, he knows his small-town roots imparted in him the determination to get there.
“There was a quote I saw, and it always resonated with me: ‘I have loved the stars too fondly to be fearful of the night,’” he said. “If you want something so bad and you love it, you can’t be afraid of failure. You can always go home, in my opinion. There’s nothing to be scared of.”

 

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Meet Adam Spott 
Residence: Originally from Tunkhannock, Spott lives in Santa Monica, California.
Family: Parents, Sandra Spott, Factoryville, and Matthew Spott, Tunkhannock; brother, Matthew and wife, DeAnna, Philadelphia
Education: Graduate of Lackawanna Trail Junior-Senior High School and Florida State University
Claim to fame: An actor and model, Spott also works in the service industry and is featured on this season of Bravo reality show “Vanderpump Rules.”

If you watch
What: “Vanderpump Rules,” featuring Tunkhannock native Adam Spott
When and where: Mondays, 9 p.m., on Bravo

Year Ahead

Year Ahead

Festivals
Whether for food or fun, a number of festivals take place around the region each year. Enjoy the wonders of the Lackawanna River during Shiverfest on Saturday, Jan. 13, then head to Dietrich Theater, 60 E. Tioga St., Tunkhannock, for two film festivals featuring foreign, independent and art films. Winter Fest runs Friday, Feb. 16, through Thursday, March 8, and the Spring Film Festival then takes place Friday, April 13, through Thursday, May 3, with special activities on each opening night. There will be special previews on Thursday, Feb. 1, and Thursday, March 29, and free post-festival discussions Friday, March 9, and Friday, May 4.
Join one of the biggest events in downtown Wilkes-Barre, the annual Fine Arts Fiesta on Public Square, in May. Celebrate a Midvalley tradition, St. Ubaldo Day and Race of the Saints, in Jessup over Memorial Day weekend.
The region celebrates its love of food with the annual Edwardsville Pierogi Festival, June 8 and 9, Plymouth’s annual Kielbasa Festival, held the second weekend of August, while the Pittston Tomato Festival takes place the third weekend in August.
Labor Day weekend offers the chance to commemorate the area’s rich locomotive history during Railfest at Steamtown National Historic Site and its Italian heritage at La Festa Italiana on Lackawanna County Courthouse Square.

Kids and family
Children can learn through a series of free stage shows geared toward grades three to eight at F.M. Kirby Center for the Performing Arts, Public Square, Wilkes-Barre: “Four Score and Seven Years Ago” on Wednesday, Feb. 21; “Harriet Tubman & the Underground Railroad” on Friday, March 16; and “Huck & Tom and the Mighty Mississippi” on Tuesday, April 24. The Kirby Center also will host family-friendly fare such as “Disney Junior Dance Party On Tour” on Friday, April 27; animal expert Jack Hanna on Saturday, April 28; “Peppa Pig Live: Peppa Pig’s Surprise” on Tuesday, May 15; and the free “The Greatest Pirate Story Never Told” on Saturday, May 19.
At Mohegan Sun Arena at Casey Plaza, 255 Highland Park Blvd., Wilkes-Barre Twp., families can catch “Disney On Ice presents Dream Big” from Thursday, Jan. 11, through Monday, Jan. 15; AMSOIL Arenacross Series on Saturday, Jan. 20, and Sunday, Jan. 21; “WWE Live” on Friday, Jan. 26; Monster Jam Triple Threat Series from Friday, Feb. 9 through Sunday, Feb. 11; the Harlem Globetrotters on Saturday, Feb. 24; and “Marvel Universe Live! Age of Heroes” from Thursday, May 3, through Sunday, May 6.
In Scranton, families can get into the Irish spirit with the city’s 57th annual St. Patrick’s Parade, set for Saturday, March 10, while Wilkes-Barre sees green with its parade on Sunday, March 11.

Theater
Broadway Theatre League of Northeastern Pennsylvania has five more shows coming to Scranton Cultural Center at The Masonic Temple, 420 N. Washington Ave., in the new year: “A Chorus Line,” Friday, Feb. 23, through Sunday, Feb. 25; “The Illusionists Present Adam Trent,” Friday, March 2; “Kinky Boots,” Friday, March 16, through Sunday, March 18; “Chicago,” Friday, April 13, through Sunday, April 15; and “Beautiful — The Carole King Musical,” Tuesday, May 8, through Sunday, May 13. Ticket costs vary. 
Five Broadway vocalists — Jeanna De Waal, Jennifer DiNoia, Kara Lindsay, Kevin Massey and Jon Peterson — will perform hits from throughout the Great White Way’s history on Saturday, Feb. 3, at the Theater at North, 1539 N. Main Ave., Scranton. “Broadway Spotlight,” also includes behind-the-scenes stories and a question-and-answer session.
At F.M. Kirby Center, theater fans will find “Dirty Dancing — The Classic Story on Stage” on Wednesday, Jan. 31 and Thursday, Feb. 1; “Baskerville: A Sherlock Holmes Mystery” on Wednesday, Feb. 7; “The Wizard of Oz” on Friday, April 13; and “Cabaret” on Thursday, May 17.
The region’s numerous amateur and student theatrical troupes will present shows throughout the year as well.

Comedy
Laugh throughout the year with comedy events all over the region.
Residents have the chance to see Jim Breuer at Gypsies Lounge inside Mount Airy Casino, 312 Woodland Road, Mount Pocono, Saturday, Jan. 13. Gypsies also hosts Bob Saget on Saturday, Feb. 3; Tracy Morgan Saturday, March 3; and Vic Dibitetto, Friday, April 6.
Breuer makes another stop in the area Wednesday, Feb. 28, at F.M. Kirby Center for the Performing Arts, which then hosts “Blue Collar Comedy” star Ron White on Thursday, March 8. Jerry Seinfeld will deliver two performances there Friday, April 6.
Kevin Hart brings his Irresponsible Tour to the region Friday, March 16, at 7 p.m. at Mohegan Sun Arena at Casey Plaza, Wilkes-Barre Twp. Crowds also can catch live comedy shows weekends at Wisecrackers Comedy Club inside Mohegan Sun Pocono, 1280 Highway 315, Plains Twp.

Concerts
Music fills Pavilion at Montage Mountain, 1000 Montage Mountain Road, Scranton, through the summer, with Camp Bisco gliding into the venue Thursday, July 12, through Saturday, July 14, and Peach Music Festival hitting the mountain, Thursday, July 19, through Sunday, July 22. Vans Warped Tour plays Scranton for the final time on Thursday, July 26, according to its website, although a venue was not announced. 
Mohegan Sun Arena also will host a couple big-name concerts, with country act Little Big Town, joined by Kacey Musgraves and Midland, coming Thursday, Feb. 22, and Judas Priest playing Tuesday, March 13.
Wyoming Seminary will host “Hamilton” star Leslie Odom Jr. for a concert Wednesday, Jan. 17, in its Kirby Center for the Creative Arts, 260 N. Sprague Ave., Kingston.
At F.M. Kirby Center in downtown Wilkes-Barre, concert highlights include the inaugural Snow Show featuring Dashboard Confessional, presented by Alt 92.1 on Sunday, Jan. 28; Tedeschi Trucks Band, Thursday, Feb. 8; “American Idol” star Scotty McCreery, Saturday, Feb. 10; America, Thursday, Feb. 15; Blues Traveler, Wednesday, Feb. 28; Alice Cooper, Saturday, March 10; the Beach Boys, Saturday, March 24; Christopher Cross, Wednesday, April 4; the Drifters, Saturday, April 14; and Yanni, July 31.

By Gia Mazur and Caitlin Haney West

Fab 5 – January 4, 2018

Fab 5 – January 4, 2018

1. WVIA Ski Day

Glide down the slopes as WVIA holds its annual members’ Ski Day at Elk Mountain Ski Resort, 344 Elk Mountain Road, Herrick Twp.
Participants can check in at the Susquehanna County ski slopes from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. The day ticket is good from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., and the twilight ticket works from 12:30 to 10 p.m.
Each ski package includes a lift ticket and ski rental.
Members of the public media station receive tickets based on their donation level: $40 for one ski package; $70, two ski packages; $120, four ski packages; and $250, eight ski packages. For more information or to become a member, visit wvia.org.

2. ‘Dog Sees God: Confessions of a Teenage Blockhead’

Act Out Theatre Group will present a Peanuts parody, “Dog Sees God: Confessions of a Teenage Blockhead,” from Friday, Jan. 5, through Sunday, Jan. 14. Shows run Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 3 p.m. at the theater, 408 N. Main St., Taylor.
The “unauthorized parody” of the popular comic strip characters — Charlie Brown, Sally and the rest of the gang — shows them as teenage degenerates dealing with issues such as drug use, eating disorders and sexual relations. Parental discretion is advised because of the show’s adult themes.
Tickets are $15, available by emailing actouttheatre1@gmail.com or calling 717-504-0829. For more information, visit the event’s Facebook page or actouttheatre.com.

3. The Menu

Eat, drink and learn at the next edition of the Menu.
Set for Monday, Jan. 8, at 7 p.m. at Scranton Cultural Center at The Masonic Temple, 420 N. Washington Ave., the monthly culinary event will include food from city venues POSH at the Scranton Club and the Colonnade plus a related discussion.
Doors open at 6, and seating is first-come, first-served. Tickets are $12 and available at the box office, ticketmaster.com and 800-745-3000.

4. Notre Dame Chorale

Hear a wide range of music straight from the University of Notre Dame at a concert on Tuesday, Jan. 9.
The Notre Dame Chorale, the university’s official concert choir, will perform at 7 p.m. in St. Robert Bellarmine Theater at Scranton Preparatory School, 1000 Wyoming Ave., as part of its annual winter tour. Admission is free, but donations are accepted and will benefit the chorale’s May trip to Ireland.
Sponsored by the Scranton Notre Dame Club, the concert will include a mix of classical, contemporary, seasonal and Notre Dame songs. For more information, visit the event’s Facebook page.

5. ‘Harry Potter’ movie and trivia

Test your knowledge of a beloved series when Abington Community Library hosts the “Harry Potter” Movie and Trivia event Saturday, Jan. 6, from 1 to 4 p.m.
The library, 1200 W. Grove St., Clarks Summit, will show the film “Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix,” the fifth film in the series, followed by trivia. Participants can win prizes. The free program is geared toward adults 18 to 34. For more information, call 570-587-3440 or visit lclshome.org/abington.

Mid-East Feast-Downtown Scranton eatery prides itself on serving authentic Middle-Eastern cuisine from original family recipes

Mid-East Feast-Downtown Scranton eatery prides itself on serving authentic Middle-Eastern cuisine from original family recipes

Hamid Azizi turned to family recipes passed down among generations when he opened the Gyroz Club earlier this year.

Originally from Afghanistan, Azizi came in 2003 to Scranton, where other family members had settled. He works full-time as a supervisor at Americold in Gouldsboro but decided to open a restaurant after noticing a lack of options for people seeking kosher and halal foods locally.

Azizi and his family members have experience working in restaurant kitchens and have several cousins who own their own eateries around the country. He added his own to the fold in February when the Gyroz Club opened at 111 Wyoming Ave., the former spot of Curry Donuts.

“I saw this place was empty, vacant, for a while, and it was downtown, so it was a good opportunity,” Azizi said.

His wife, Nazifah Shah; his brother-in-law, Habib Mirzaye; his brothers and other family members all have full-time jobs, some in the medical field, but pitch in at the restaurant whenever and wherever they can, from the kitchen to the front counter. The dishes come from family recipes passed down from one generation to the next, making for a true Middle-Eastern taste that customers would find Azizi enjoying at home.

“It’s family-run, authentic,” he said. “Everything is homemade.”

The menu includes beef and chicken kabobs that all come with basmati rice he buys specially — customers can have the meat skewered or served over the rice — along with a garden salad, bread and white sauce, which Azizi calls “magic sauce.” He makes it with cucumbers, yogurt and other “secret ingredients” for what he described as a tasty, healthy combination. A Family Platter of kabobs serves four people.

On the gyro side, customers can pick from beef, chicken, vegetable, and a chicken and beef combo, all served in grilled pitas Azizi gets from a specialty store in New Jersey. They come with tzatziki, white and hot sauces, lettuce, fries and a drink.

Sandwiches, meanwhile, come with fries and a drink and include a Kabob Sandwich (marinated beef or chicken served on a pita with fried onions, grilled tomatoes, lettuce and tzatziki sauce) as well as more traditional American fare, such as the Philly Cheesesteak, Hot Wing Sub, Cheeseburger, Chicken Tenders and Hot Dog.

Customers can add on sides of rice in two sizes or fries, and then finish their meal with baklava.

Azizi shops at local grocery stores each morning to gather ingredients for the day’s dishes. The restaurant marinates its meats overnight and then slow-roasts it on a spit, shaving it off as it cooks.

“Everything is fresh,” Azizi said. “It’s not frozen or cold.”

He said he keeps his prices reasonable and serves the food fast. People from around the region have dined there, and the restaurant already has several regulars, including a family that told him they used to travel to New Jersey to get food like his. Now, they walk from their home in South Scranton.

“It gave me pride to give back something for the community,” Azizi said.

He made a few upgrades to the property when he took over, adding televisions and artwork his uncle made. Beyond the food, he and his family emphasize their heritage through music playing in the restaurant and art depicting their village back home.

The restaurant has booth seating for customers dining-in, and Azizi said it pulls in the downtown work crowd for weekday lunches and lots of families at dinner. It also offers takeout and delivers to Scranton and Dunmore with a $20 minimum order. The restaurant offers catering, too.

Azizi plans to make a few more upgrades inside the restaurant and hopes to expand to more locations one day. He has received positive feedback so far.

“The quality talks itself,” he said. “We try to keep it that way. (The food) is a bit different.”

His brother, Abdul Azizi, a nurse and former chef, described his brother as someone who embraces the community, from offering food to a homeless person who came by to a few moments of warmth inside the restaurant for people attending events downtown. Starting the business took a lot of courage and dedication, Abdul Azizi said, and his brother’s customers are there to support him.

“The guy’s got a heart of gold,” he said. “A lot of people won’t do that.”

Scranton is his home now, Hamid Azizi said, and a great place to raise his two young daughters, who’ll one day learn those family recipes.

“It’s our duty, our responsibility, to pass it on to the next generation,” he said.

Mountain of a Musical

Mountain of a Musical

Northeast Pennsylvania will be alive with “The Sound of Music” next week.
A new touring production of the classic Rodgers & Hammerstein musical comes to F.M. Kirby Center for the Performing Arts, Wilkes-Barre, for shows Wednesday, Dec. 20, and Thursday, Dec. 21, at 7:30 p.m.
The story follows Maria as she takes a job as a governess to a large Austrian family while contemplating whether she wants to become a nun. She falls in love with the seven children and, eventually, their widowed father, Captain von Trapp, as the family struggles with Nazi Germany’s impending hold over Austria.
“What’s different with ‘Sound of Music’ on stage is that you kind of get more of the story,” said actress Keslie Ward, who plays the eldest von Trapp child, Liesl. “I feel like there is something about seeing live theater than watching the movies. Everyone loves Julie Andrews, but you get to know these characters more, and it’s relatable to all ages. Seeing it live is such a different experience.”
Many of Oscar Hammerstein II’s songs from the 1965 film version appear in the stage show, such as “My Favorite Things,” “The Lonely Goatherd,” “Do-Re-Mi” and, of course, “The Sound of Music.”
“I love my scenes with the actor who plays Rolf, Chad P. Campbell, and I also adore the numbers with all of the kids,” Ward said. “Particularly, ‘So Long, Farewell.’ It’s always so fun being on stage with all of the kids.”
Although many people have seen the film starring Andrews or a different iteration of the stage show, Ward encouraged people to attend this production because of the cast and company, calling it “an experience within itself.” She explained that she, and many of the other actors, found their own ways to interpret their roles in new and unique ways, while staying true to the characters at the same time.
“When you’re doing a piece so iconic, sometimes there can be a bit of pressure to exceed those expectations,” Ward said. “I think for me, as long as I read the script and stay true to the lines, the words and the lyrics, it works out. I try to incorporate myself into Liesl, to make it my own, and I feel like I can say that for Maria and Captain. They are not cookie cutter versions of the movies.”
Although Ward is a few years older than her character, the rest of the children in the show range in age from 6 to 12. For many of the kids, this production also is their first national tour. But the strong themes of family and music within the show reflect onto the cast during their travels, allowing them to feel comfortable with one another, much like a family would, Ward said.
“I think (the show) touches all generations,” she added. “It’s a fun thing to bond over. All generations, in a way, have grown up with the ‘Sound of Music.’ … I think the biggest theme is obviously music. Music definitely brings the von Trapps together. It helps the captain; it essentially helps the family escape from the concert (near the end of the show). … There are also themes of family and doing what’s right and then the political overtones, which are very relatable to what is happening nowadays. I think this musical has come at a good time. It’s a good escape from what is happening around us lately.”
The musical experienced waves of popularity over the years, beginning with the original Broadway production in 1959 and followed by the 1965 film, which won five Academy Awards. It surged in popularity again when NBC aired a liv eversion in 2013, the first live television production of a musical in more 50 years. More than 44 million people watched that telecast.
“I think the best part for me is traveling to all of these different cities,” Ward said. “We go to larger cities that are used to these grand productions and Broadway tours. But sometimes we go to theaters and this is the only (musical) they’ll get in the year, and they enjoy it so much. … Watching ‘The Sound of Music’ is kind of like a rite of passage.”
_____________________________________________________________________________

If you go

What: “The Sound of Music”
Where: F.M. Kirby Center for Performing Arts, 71 Public Square, Wilkes-Barre
When: Wednesday, Dec. 20, and Thursday, Dec. 21, 7:30 p.m.
Details: Tickets range from $45 to $65, plus fees, and can be purchased at the box office, by calling 570-826-1100 or online at kirbycenter.org.
Online: thesoundofmusicontour.com

Electric City Best Of 2017

Electric City Best Of 2017

Simply The Best

It’s time to announce Electric City’s Best of 2017 Readers’ Poll winners.
Each year, we highlight the fantastic people, places and things we love in Northeast Pennsylvania. Voters registered online at www.the570.com, created a user profile and filled out their online ballot. Each category started completely blank, and users entered the names of nominees in each category. Once a name was entered, it became part of the ballot. Voters then cast their ballots for favorites within nine categories: Love and Romance, Eats and Drinks, Goods and Services, Arts and Entertainment, Nightlife, Media, Health and Recreation, and Superstars. We also wanted our readers to let us know their WTF Moment of 2017. Online voting kicked off early in the morning on Nov. 9, and the votes kept coming in until noon on Nov. 22.

And now the results are in.
Congratulations to all the winners and a sincere thank you to all of the readers who took the time to cast their votes.
We hope to see you at our annual Best of Bash, taking place Wednesday Jan. 10, at 7 p.m. at The Backyard Ale House, 523 Linden St., Scranton. It’s always a legendary party with a room packed full of winners celebrating the best of the best our area has to offer.
Keep on reading Electric City every week as we continue to provide you with exclusive features, photo galleries, columns, a broad calendar of local events and much, much more.
— Tom Graham, managing editor

Love & Romance

Best Flower Shop
McCarthy Flowers

Best Limo Service
Feel Good Limo

Best Place for a Bachelor Party
Mohegan Sun Pocono

Best Place for a Bachelorette Party
Maiolatesi Wine Cellars

Best Place for a First Date
Maiolatesi Wine Cellars

Best Place to Buy an Engagement Ring
Steve Pronko Jewelers

Best Place to Buy Lingerie
Mirage Lingerie

Best Wedding Gowns
The Darling Dress

Best Wedding Registry
Live With It By Lora Hobbs

Best Wedding Venue
Scranton Cultural Center

Arts & Entertainment

Best All Ages Venue
Scranton Cultural Center

Best Art Venue
AFA Gallery

Best Casino
Mohegan Sun Pocono

Best Concert Venue
Electric City Winner: The Pavilion at Montage Mountain
Diamond City Winner: F.M. Kirby Center for the Performing Arts

Best Dance Company
Dave Ragnacci School of Dance

Best Local Band Name
The Wanabees

Best Local Festival
La Festa Italiana

Best Movie Theater
Iron Horse Movie Bistro

Best Museum
Everhart Museum

Best New Event
Underground Microphone at the Scranton Cultural Center

Best New Local CD
“DoYOU” — Black Tie Stereo

Best Ongoing Cultural Event
First Friday Scranton

Best Open Mic
The V-Spot

Best Original Band
Graces Downfall

Best Party Cover Band
Black Tie Stereo

Best Place to Shoot Pool
Eagle Billiards

Best Theater Production
“The Diary Of Anne Frank,” Dramatized by: Frances Goodrich and Albert Hackett

Eats & Drinks

Best Ambiance
POSH @ The Scranton Club

Best Bakery
Lynn Sandy’s Bakery

Best Beer Menu
Backyard Ale House

Best Boneless Wings
Nina’s Wing Bites & Pizza

Best Breakfast
Glider Restaurant

Best Brunch
Radisson Lackawanna Station Hotel

Best Cheesesteak
Steve and Irene’s Hoagies

Best Chinese Restaurant
New China Star

Best Chocolate
Gertrude Hawk and Dunmore Candy Kitchen TIE

Best Coffee Shop
Northern Light Espresso Bar and Cafe

Best Cup of Coffee
Zummo’s Cafe

Best Deli
Abe’s Kosher Delicatessen

Best Desserts
AmberDonia Bakery

Best Diner
Glider Restaurant

Best Doughnuts
Krispy Kreme Doughnuts

Best Food Truck
Peculiar Culinary Company

Best French Fries
Five Guys

Best Frozen Yogurt
Manning Farm Dairy

Best Hamburger
3 Jacks Burger Bar

Best Hoagie
Cara Mia’s Delicatessen

Best Hot Dogs
Coney Island Lunch

Best Ice Cream
Manning Farm Dairy

Best Italian Food
Sibio’s Restaurant

Best Italian Ice
Rita’s Italian Ice

Best Japanese Restaurant
Osaka Restaurant

Best Liquid Lunch
State Street Grill

Best Long Lunch
Bar Pazzo

Best Lunch on a Budget
The Loading Dock Bar & Grill

Best Lunch on the Go
Amendola Deli-cious

Best Mexican/Southwestern Restaurant
La Tolteca

Best New Restaurant
3 Jacks Burger Bar

Best Patio Dining
Thirst T’s Bar & Grill

Best Pierogies
Plumpy’s Pierogies

Best Place to Eat Organic
Terra Preta

Best Potato Pancakes
Jones’ Potato Pancakes

Best Restaurant
Cooper’s Seafood House

Best Romantic Restaurant
Bar Pazzo

Best Round Pizza
Andy’s Pizza

Best Salads
The Loading Dock Bar & Grill

Best Sandwiches
Carmella’s Italian Deli & Pastries

Best Seafood
Cooper’s Seafood House

Best Service
Market Street Bar & Grill

Best Soup
Cooper’s Seafood House

Best Square Pizza
Alfredo’s Cafe

Best Steakhouse
Ruth’s Chris Steak House

Best Stromboli
Kay’s Italian Restaurant & Pizzeria

Best Sushi
Osaka Restaurant

Best Thai Restaurant
Thai Thai Scranton

Best Vegetarian Menu
eden-a vegan cafe

Best Wine Menu
AV Restaurant & Lounge

Best Wings
Electric City Winner: Haggerty’s Tavern
Diamond City Winner: Town Tavern

Goods & Services

Best Animal Hospital Veterinarian
Dr. Paws Inc.

Best Barbershop
Serge’s Barber Shop

Best Bicycle Shop
Strive Multisport

Best Boutique
The Daisy Collective

Best Car Dealership
Toyota of Scranton

Best Car Wash
Wizard Car Wash

Best Cigar Shop
Big House Tobacco

Best Comic Book Store
Electric City Winner: Comics on the Green
Diamond City Winner: Rubber Mallet Comics

Best Dry Cleaner
Mercury One-Hour Cleaners

Best Farmers Market
Co-Op Farmers Market

Best Garden Store
Corky’s Garden Path

Best Hair Salon
Sanderson Place Salon & Spa Scranton

Best Health Food Store
Everything Natural

Best Jewelry Store
Amendolaro

Best Local Brewery
Electric City Winner: Iron Hart Brewing Co
Diamond City Winner: Susquehanna Brewing Company

Best Men’s Clothing Store
The Haberdashery

Best Grocery Store
Catalano Importing Co.

Best Pet Supply Store
Stately Pet Supply

Best Pipe Shop
Headdies Pipe & Vape Shop

Best Place to Buy Beer
Electric City Winner: Backyard Ale House
Diamond City Winner: Sabatini’s Bottleshop & Bar

Best Place to Buy Music
Joe Nardone’s Gallery of Sound

Best Shoe Store
Scranton Running Company

Best Ski Shop
The Ski Corner

Best Store for Music Equipment
Magdon Music

Best Tanning Salon
Ado Salon

Best Tattoo Parlor
Electric City Tattoo

Best Unique Gift Shop
Electric City Winner: On & On
Diamond City Winner: The Strange and Unusual

Best Vintage Clothing Store
On & On

Best Winery
Nimble Hill Vineyard & Winery

Best Women’s Clothing Store
Freedlove

Nightlife

Best Bar in a Restaurant
Ale Mary’s at the Bittenbender

Best Bar You Can Smoke In
The V-Spot

Best Bike Night
Thirst T’s Bar & Grill

Best Cocktails
AV Restaurant & Lounge

Best College Bar
The V-Spot

Best Corner Bar
The Bog

Best Drink Specials
Nosh

Best Gay/Lesbian Friendly Bar
The Keys

Best Happy Hour
3 Jack’s Burger Bar

Best Happy Hour Food
Market Street Bar & Grill

Best Jukebox
The Bog

Best Karaoke
Poor Richard’s Pub

Best Looking Bar Crowd
The Bog

Best Margaritas
Italo’s Restaurant

Best Martinis
AV Restaurant & Lounge

Best New Bar/Club
Crotti’s on Ash

Best Place to Shake It
Panked! Dance Party

Best Pub Trivia
Electric City Winner: The Bog
Diamond City Winner: Bart and Urby’s

Best Sports Bar
Happy Valley Sports Bar

Best St. Patrick’s Day Parade Bar
The Bog

Best Strip Club
The Grandview

Best Venue to Hear Live Music
The Keys

Best Young Professionals Bar
Bar Pazzo

Media

Best College Radio Station
Marywood VMFM 91.7

Best Local Website
The570.com
Best Morning Radio Show
Prospector in the Morning

Best Radio Station
Rock 107

Health & Recreation

Best Bowling Alley
Electric City Winner: South Side Bowl
Diamond City Winner: Chako’s Family Bowling Center

Best Gym/Health Club
CrossFit Scranton

Best Pilates
Melt Hot Yoga

Best Place to Picnic
Nay Aug Park

Best Place to Go Camping
Lackawanna State Park

Best Skiing
Montage Mountain Resorts

Best Trip Just an Hour Away
Knobels Amusement Resort

Best Yoga
Mission Yoga

Best Zumba
Rhythm Fitness LLC

Superstars

Best Bartender
Conor McGuigan

Best Bouncer
Rich DePoley

Best Caterer
Constantino’s Catering and Events

Best Chef
Gene Philbin

Best Dentist
Dr. Andrew Brown

Best DJ
EJ the DJ

Best Doctor
Dr. Mark Frattali

Best Local Actor
George Conrad

Best Local Actress
Marnie Azzarelli

Best Local Author
Margo Azzarelli

Best Local Blogger
Rich Howells

Best Local Comedian
Sam Falbo

Best Local Dancer
Eryn Sullivan

Best Local Filmmaker
Bob Savakinus

Best Local Radio Personality
Prospector

Best Local TV News Personality
Joe Snedeker

Best Local Visual Artist
Allison LaRussa

Best Mechanic
George Rushin

Best Newspaper Reporter
Chris Kelly

Best Nip/Tuck
Dr. Ira Krafchin

Best Pet Groomer
Fetching Grooming Salon & Pet Boutique : Meredith Miner-Reese

Best Piercer
Rob Orta

Best Solo Musician
Christian Gratz

Best Stylist
Autumn Grace Osborne

Best Tattoo Artist
Electric City Winner: Vinny Worden
Diamond City Winner: Ryan Ashley Malarkey

Best Travel Agent
John Madden

Best Wedding DJ
EJ the DJ

Best Wedding Photographer
Under the Willow Photography

Best Wedding Planner
Kelly Trapper/Alicia Carey at Constantino’s Catering & Events

Best Wedding Singer/Band
Picture Perfect Band

WTF Moments of 2017

The top WTF Moments in Electric City’s Best of 2017 Readers’ Poll cover a very wide range of heated topics.
On the local front, the top moment was when state Auditor General Eugene DePasquale not only spanked The Scranton School District for its reckless budgeting, health insurance missteps and many more flubs, but he also recommended the Scranton School District board and the staff to “start acting like responsible adults, and to be blunt, get their heads out of their asses and focus their energies on doing what is right for the district’s 10,000 students and thousands of taxpayers.”
Several gasps could be heard from the audience after DePasquale’s suggestion.
Other WTF moments that swept across the nation and hit home include the growing list of President Trump’s policies, tweets and sound bites; the controversy surrounding NFL players kneeling for the national anthem; and the recent tidal wave of sexual harassment claims finally seeing the light of day.
These are the topics that made Electric City readers think, “WTF?!?” in 2017.

 

Fab 5 – December 14, 2017

Fab 5 – December 14, 2017

1. A Musical Celebration of Christmas
Head to Clark Summit University, 538 Venard Road, South Abington Twp., for “A Musical Celebration of Christmas” this weekend in its historic Murphy Memorial Library.
Presented by the university’s Department of Music, the Christmas concert takes place Friday, Dec. 15, at 7 p.m. and Saturday, Dec. 16, at 3 and 7 p.m. The school’s choirs, vocal soloists and instrumentalists will perform a wide variety of musical genres and styles under the direction of Adam Schwamb and Dr. David Harris. The audience also can sing along with Christmas carols.
Tickets cost $8 and are available in advance at clarkssummitu.edu.

2. Theater at North concerts 

The Theater at North, 1539 N. Main Ave., Scranton, presents a weekend of music with Twelve Twenty-Four on Friday, Dec. 15 and the Northern Appalachian Wind Symphony on Saturday, Dec. 16.
Established in 2002, Twelve Twenty-Four is a Christmas-themed rock orchestra, featuring a six-piece rock band, multi-piece string section and a variety of vocalists. The group presents a massive, high-energy performance of favorite holiday music and original holiday pieces.
Made up of 45 woodwind, brass and percussion players from across the country, the Appalachian Wind Symphony has planned an evening of Christmas and wintertime cheer, featuring appearances by guest singers, Santa and more.
Both performances begin at 7 p.m. Tickets are $20 for Twelve Twenty-Four and $16 for the symphony and are available online at thetheateratnorth.com.

3. Scranton Cultural Center events 

Scranton Cultural Center at the Masonic Temple, 420 N. Washington Ave., hosts a pair of Christmas events on Saturday, Dec. 16, with a free screening of the movie “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” and the NEPA Holiday Show.
Starting at 11 a.m., the 2000 adaptation of the classic Dr. Seuss story stars Jim Carrey as the Christmas-hating Grinch, who plots to ruin the holiday in the town of Whoville.
Starting at 6 p.m., the Menzingers, Tigers Jaw, Captain We’re Sinking, Three Man Cannon and the Hill You Die On will perform in the annual concert. Tickets are $20 in advance and $25 the day of the show. Doors open at 5 p.m. Visit the box office or scrantonculturalcenter.org or call 800-745-3000 to reserve tickets.

4. Running of the Santas
Go for a jolly jog with Santa Claus on Saturday, Dec. 16, at 1 p.m. in downtown Scranton.
Participants are encouraged to wear Santa costumes for the Running with the Santas 5K, which steps off at and returns to Ale Mary’s at the Bittenbender, 126 Franklin Ave. Registration runs from noon to 12:45 p.m., and a post-race celebration follows at the restaurant.
Registration is $30 the day of the race. Participants who registered in advance can pick up their packets Friday, Dec. 15, from noon to 7 p.m. at Scranton Running Co., 3 W. Olive St.
Proceeds benefit Catholic Social Services and St. Joseph’s Center. For more information, visit runsignup.com/santa.

5. ‘A Royal Affair Tea Party & Revue’
The Creative and Performing Arts Academy of NEPA, 222 Wyoming Ave., Scranton, will host a family-friendly tea party with live entertainment this weekend.
“A Royal Affair Tea Party & Revue” takes place Saturday, Dec. 16, at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. and Sunday, Dec. 17, at 1 p.m. Guests are encouraged to dress up for the program, which includes a tea party catered by POSH at the Scranton Club, and can meet, dance and take pictures with princes and princesses.
Tickets are $22 in advance, available at showtix4u.com, and $25 at the door. For more information, call 570-252-4156 or email Dana at danab@capaa.org.

Bassist joins multi-instrumentalist for Kirby Center show

Bassist joins multi-instrumentalist for Kirby Center show

Keller Williams often performs as a one-man jam band, looping multiple instrumental segments during live performances.
But when the songwriter plays F.M. Kirby Center for the Performing Arts this weekend, he’ll sing a different tune.
“I’m very proud and so excited to say Danton Boller will be joining me in Wilkes-Barre,” Williams said. “We’ll be playing acoustic, and I am so excited to go so many different places in the acoustic realm. The upright bass is a whole different beast; it is really difficult to make that thing sing the way it needs to be sung. Danton Boller is a master at this instrument.”
The Friday, Dec. 8, concert starts at 9 p.m. as part of the Kirby Center’s “Live from the Chandelier Lobby” series. Tickets cost $25 in advance and $30 the day of the show, plus fees.
Williams began performing in the early 1990s as a solo artist in restaurants and bars. When he realized many people weren’t paying attention to the single guy in the corner of the room, the idea of looping various instruments struck him.
“I wanted something more organic, so I create the samples on the fly in front of the audience,” he explained. “That lead to more exposure and to playing solo around the country, which also lead to me being able to afford humans for projects. And I guess that’s where we are now — doing projects and solo work, with a little more focus on solo these days. I’ve done so many projects that the solo act gets left behind.”
While Wilkes-Barre will see the Keller Williams Duo this weekend, Williams’ other projects include KWahtro, Keller Williams Trio, More Than a Little, Grateful Grass, Keller & the Keels and Grateful Gospel, among others.
On top of creating music and touring with these projects, Williams has released over 20 albums, all with one-syllable titles. One of his most recent albums, “Raw,” is more representative of his upcoming show as an entirely solo, acoustic record.
“The ‘Raw’ album started in 2011 as a concept record of 12 songs on 12 different guitars,” Williams said. “I didn’t like it. I scrapped it. I found myself on a co-bill with Leo Kottke, one of my mentors and heroes, and it was going to be in nice theaters and performing arts centers. I didn’t have anything to represent that solo, acoustic music, so I pulled four of my favorite tracks off that, recorded six different ones and, voila — we have a record done in three days.”
As a musician, Williams views his entire career as a success without much to complain about.
“I wish I had known that I was going to do one-syllable titles to have the foresight to maybe make some really interesting run-on sentences with these words,” Williams joked. “But seriously, I followed my dreams, and I got really lucky. I don’t really have a lot of regrets.”
More than anything, Williams expressed how much his fans enabled him to follow each of his projects and goals without worrying about losing their interest. As a genre-hopping artist, Williams continues to change his style and create new projects while still keeping an ever-growing fan base. He is finishing his first instrumental album, which he filled with songs he played over the years that never had drum or bass lines, Williams said.
“To folks that are listening, they’ll be recognizable, but with a new twist,” he said. “I think they’ll dig it.”

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If you go
What: The Keller Williams Duo
Where: F.M. Kirby Center for the Performing Arts, 71 Public Square, Wilkes-Barre
When: Friday, Dec. 8, 9 p.m.; doors open at 7:30
Details: Tickets cost $25 in advance and $30 the day of the show, plus fees, and can be purchased at the Kirby Center box office, by calling 570-826-1100 or online at kirbycenter.org.

Sounds – December 7, 2017

Sounds – December 7, 2017

GRIZZLY BEAR — ‘Painted Ruins’ 
THE GOOD: Brooklyn indie rock outfit Grizzly Bear returns with its fifth album (and first in five years).
THE BAD: Just like the band’s previous sets, “Ruins” won’t grab hold immediately. You must give the record a few spins, pick it apart slowly and notice all its nuances gradually. It’s not “bad” — it just takes a little work.
THE NITTY GRITTY: Bassist Chris Taylor once again handles production duties as subtle changes occur on “Ruins” with the guys continuing their logical progression. The beats are more pronounced this time, the melodies bolder. Arrangements still bring together layers of cinematic sound with changes in tempo; that combination of gentler indie pop and prog-rock bombast stays intact.
Frontman Ed Droste guides the tunes (sometimes gentle, sometimes soaring) over backdrops that either seamlessly glide or boldly march forward. Keyboard flourishes add splashy bits of color at times combine with sharp guitars to bring about all-encompassing, multi-dimensional settings. Honestly, Grizzly Bear has never made an album this INVITING before. It’s gorgeous stuff.
BUY IT?: Sure.

THE DEARS — ‘Times Infinity Volume Two’
THE GOOD: Canadian indie rockers the Dears come back with their seventh album.
THE BAD: High concept? A SEQUEL? Not necessarily.
THE NITTY GRITTY: Recorded at the same time as its predecessor (“Volume One” came out in 2015), “TIV2” simply is another Dears collection on its surface. The husband-and-wife team of vocalist/guitarist Murray Lightburn and keyboardist/vocalist Natalia Yanchak leads its crew and churns out a smart mix of dark, lyrical imagery and delicate, haunting melodies. It’s damn near impossible to avoid comparisons to the Smiths. Echoes of groups such as Elbow and Stars also are not far behind.
Whether you recall “Volume One” or never even heard it is irrelevant. “Volume Two” is exquisite, stirring and soulful all on its own. From the guitar pop bliss slathered over “Of Fisticuffs” to the Baroque strains and delicate strings coloring “I’m Sorry That I Wished You Were Dead” to the cloudy gray enveloping the somber “End of Tour,” the new record is an emotional tour-de-force — as expected.
BUY IT?: Yep.

THE NATIONAL — ‘Sleep Well Beas’
THE GOOD: Ohio indie rockers the National return with a sprawling seventh album.
THE BAD: Nothing.
THE NITTY GRITTY: At its core, “Beast” is standard National fare. Frontman Matt Berninger wraps all the distinct melodies in his warm baritone. The moody, guitar-soaked backdrops remain steady, always drenched in shadows and fog.
Yet, this time, the guys allowed themselves the luxury of working within their own studio for some of the sessions and experimenting. Different sounds weave their way into the murky tapestry. The occasional drum loop or synth burst adds color. Some understated and intimate orchestral arrangements bring a much-appreciated warmth. Tempos and emotions run the gamut from frazzled and rollicking (“Turtleneck”) to tempered and introspective (“Dark Side of the Gym”).
Twelve tracks clock in at almost an hour, but the album never feels stagnant or bloated. The band keeps the proceedings unpredictable, and the writing as always is very assured. “Beast” ends up another gem in an already accomplished catalog.
BUY IT?: Definitely.

Annual Festival of Trees embraces 1920s theme

Annual Festival of Trees embraces 1920s theme

Branch out into the holidays with an exhibit that promises to be the bee’s knees.
The annual Festival of Trees exhibit kicks off this weekend with a Roaring ’20s theme, and people and groups from across the region decorated or created from scratch Christmas trees befitting of the Jazz Era.
This year’s exhibit runs from Friday, Dec. 8, through Friday, Jan. 12, in the former Abercrombie & Fitch store in the Marketplace at Steamtown, 300 Lackawanna Ave., Scranton.
Exhibit admission is free except during the Dec. 8 opening reception, which runs from 5:30 to 8 p.m. and costs $20. Guests can nibble on hors d’oeuvres and listen to music from Gypsy Jazz Quintet. Proceeds from the show and reception benefit the Marine Corps Reserve Toys for Tots program.
“It’s great that organizations, big and small, can come together for such a good cause and celebrate the season,” said Alysia Scazafabo, volunteer chairwoman of the festival. “Everyone gets the chance to come to the (marketplace) and see their creativity, too. This is a great event.”
Headed by Lackawanna County’s Office of Arts and Culture and its event-planning committee, lots of local organizations, volunteers and more all get together to brainstorm ideas and pull off this annual event, Scazafabo said. She described the 1920s as an important era of both social and political change and said organizers encouraged festival participants to use jazz, flappers, dance halls and speakeasies, Prohibition, airplanes, automobiles, film and more as inspiration from the pioneering decade.  
“The theme works out. Feedback has been great, and the trees so far has been pretty interesting,” Scazafabo said, adding that participants range from local schools to Leadership Lackawanna to women inmates of Lackawanna County Prison. “We crossed paths with some amazing people, and they’re very excited about the opportunity to show off their creativity.”
This year, guests can don their feathers, fringe, pinstripes and other pieces of ’20s fashion during the opening reception’s fancy dress contest. The winner will receive bragging rights as well as a $100 gift certificate for the Marketplace at Steamtown.
“It’s a fun excuse to get together and dress up,” Scazafabo said. “It will be exciting to see everyone dressed in that time period and embracing that style.”
Changing the theme each year adds a unique twist to keep an annual event like Festival of Trees fresh. Though, it’s participants’ imaginations that make the event a regional mainstay.
“The exhibit is about ‘Christmas trees,’ but some people are just so creative with how they interpret that along with the theme,” Scazafabo said. “You never know what you’re going to get.”
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If you go
What: Annual Festival of Trees
When: Friday, Dec. 8, through Friday, Jan. 12; opening reception and 1920s dress contest, Dec. 8, 5:30 to 8 p.m.
Where: Marketplace at Steamtown, 300 Lackawanna Ave.
Details: Tickets for the opening reception are $20; admission for remaining dates is free. Proceeds benefit the Marine Corps Reserve Toys for Tots program. A Toys for Tots drop-off box will be inside Electric City Trolley Museum, 300 Cliff St., Scranton, during its hours of operation.