On Stage (Extra): Lawrence offers two shows in one

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By Denny Dyroff, Staff Writer, The Times

There once was a series of commercials for Certs mints that features this slogan — “It’s a breath mint…. it’s a candy mint…. It’s two, two, two mints in one!”

A take-off on that slogan could be used for shows on April 1 at the Broadway Theater of Pitman (43 South Broadway, Pitman, New Jersey,www.thebroadwaytheatre.org, 856-384-8381) — “It’s a Vicki Lawrence show…. it’s a Mama show…. it’s two, two, two shows in one!”

“We’ve been doing a version of this show since 2002,” said Lawrence, during a phone interview last week from her home in long Beach, California.

“It’s morphed over the years. I try to keep it topical. I’m pushing that crazy old lady into this world. She can actually have an opinion that Vicki can’t. Audiences love her.

“It’s a great part-time job for me. I don’t know that I’d ever call it a tour. I can do two weeks a month – two weekends actually. It’s fun for us.”

Audiences love Vicki Lawrence and they really love Mama.

“Mama has been around since I was 24 so that’s 40-some odd years,” said Lawrence. “In this show, I open for her. I know how everyone loves her. They especially love seeing her live.

“The Vicki half of the show is largely autobiographical – talking about questions people ask. I used to do talks. Now, it’s more. When you get old, you’ve earned the right to not mince words. I put the first half of the show together that way – especially talking about how Mama happened.”

Lawrence’s long and varied career provides a lot of subject matter to discuss.

From 1965-1967, Lawrence sang with the Young Americans musical group and, also, appeared in the feature film “The Young Americans,” which won an Academy Award for Best Documentary.

During her senior year of high school, Lawrence sent Carol Burnett a letter which included a local newspaper article mentioning their resemblance. She She invited Burnett to the local fire department’s “Miss Fireball Contest” in which she was performing. Burnett came to the event and the rest is television history.

“The Carol Burnett Show” premiered in the fall of 1967 with Lawrence as a key cast member. It was this show that saw the origin of the Mama character. After the Burnett show ended, Lawrence went on to star in her own TV series, “Mama’s Family.”

“The Mama character was written by two of the writers on the Carol Burnett Show,” said Lawrence. “They wrote this beautiful homage to their messed-up families.

“Carol didn’t want to do Mama. She wanted Eunice. First of all, the writers were very upset that Carol didn’t want to play her. They were doubly upset when she said she wanted me to be Mama. They were even more upset when she said ‘Southern.’

“Carol said – I think if you take some of the sketches from the show, I think it would be a great experience to do it perfectly straight the way it was written and then turn it on its ear with accents.”

The Mama from the Carol Burnett Show morphed a bit when it was time to be Mama from “Mama’s Family.”

“When it went to a sitcom, they had to change her from this hateful woman. In a sitcom, you can’t expect people to keep watching this cranky old woman.

“Harvey (Korman) was responsible for Mama becoming the character she became. She became fun. That’s the character people love. Actually, young people don’t even remember the cranky old lady.”

After “Mama’s Family” ended, Lawrence continued to add new projects to her versatile career.

She became one of the few successful, female game show hosts when she took on the daytime network-version of “Win, Lose or Draw” and then had her own daytime talk show for a few years in the mid-1990s.

Lawrence also took to the stage and appeared in numerous productions, including “Carousel,” “Send Me No Flowers,:” “No, No, Nanette,” “Hello Dolly,” “I’m Getting My Act Together and Taking It on the Road” and “Annie Get Your Gun.”

Other TV credits of note include playing Greg Warner’s mother in a recurring role on “Yes, Dear” and,playing Miley Cyrus’ grandma on “Hannah Montana.”

Additionally, Lawrence travels all over the country speaking to women’s organizations about her life and career, women’s health, and being a woman in a man’s world.

Still, the most significant entry on her resume is her part in the success of “The Carol Burnett Show.”

“‘The Carol Burnett Show’ was just such a well-oiled machine,” said Lawrence. “It ran perfectly. It had all the right people in the right positions. It was very close to the Golden Age of Television.

‘I just did a small part on a sitcom called ‘Great News.’ It was produced by Tina Fey and it will premiere on ABC on April 25.”

There also is another facet to Lawrence’s multi-tiered career as an entertainer.

Do you remember the hit single “The Night the Lights Went Out in Georgia”?

Lawrence received a gold record as a recording artist for the international hit single “The Night the Lights Went Out in Georgia,” which was released on Bell Records in November 1972. It sold over two million copies and was awarded a gold disc by the Recording Industry Association of America in April 1973.

And, if you’d like to revisit “Mama’s Family,” the show airs on the MeTV cable network Monday through Friday during the 6 p.m. hour.

Video link for Vicki Lawrence and Mama – https://youtu.be/VCVz7RnCrXo.

The shows at the Broadway will start at 2 and 8 p.m. Tickets are $40.

There is a Broadway show touring across the states right now that has a strong local connection.

Lily Caputo

Chadds Ford’s Lily Caputo is a cast member of the Grammy-winning musical “Once,” which has a three-day, five-show run through April 2 at the Playhouse on Rodney Square (10th and Market streets, Wilmington, Delaware, 302-888-0200, www. duponttheatre.com).

Caputo, a nine-year-old actress who is the daughter of Pat and Alicia Caputo, has been on tour with “Once” since September. Now, she will be able to sleep in her own bed in Chadds Ford for a few days.

Alicia Caputo has been on tour with Lily and her 10-year-old brother Kevin. The touring production, which is playing mostly split-weeks and one-nights, has already touched down in 52 states since September.

Lily Caputo has been a dance and musical theater student at the Anna Marie Dance Studio in Wilmington under the tutelage of actor-choreographer Sonny Leo. In “Once,” she plays the role of Ivanka, the daughter of the lead female character ‘girl.’

“Once” features an ensemble of actor/musicians who play their own instruments onstage.

It tells the tale of a Dublin street musician who is about to give up on his dream and the chemistry that takes place when a beautiful young woman takes a sudden interest in his haunting love songs.

Over the course of a concentrated one-week period of time, their unexpected friendship and collaboration evolves into a powerful but complicated romance that is intensified by the raw emotion of the songs they create together.

Video link for “Once” – http://oncemusical.com/about.

The show at the Playhouse will have evening shows on March 31 and April 1 and 2 with matinee performances on April 1 and 2. Ticket prices range from $40-$85.

There is a special show being presented by the Kennett Symphony (http://kennettsymphony.org/) on April 1 – and it’s no joke.

The show’s title is “Mendelssohn, Mimosas, and More.”

The Kennett’s Symphony’s description is – “The show is a brand new, informal, hour-long concert event. Seated in the round, you will experience the music and the orchestra as never before.

“With fascinating musical insights, and food and drink available during the concert, it will be a relaxed and engaging event — perfect for all who want a fun new symphonic experience.”

The Kennett Symphony’s Conductor and Music Director Michael Hall will lead the orchestra in a performance of Felix Mendelssohn’s “Symphony No. 4 Italian.”

With a full title of “Symphony No. 4 in A Major, Op. 90,” the orchestral work by Mendelssohn, which premiered in London on March 13, 1833, was named “Italian” because it was intended to evoke the sights and sounds of Italy. Its final movement uses the rhythms of Neapolitan dances.

The event will get underway on April 1 at 1 p.m. in the Grand Ballroom of the Mendenhall Inn (Route 52, Mendenhall). All seating is General Admission and seating at the Mendenhall Inn is first-come, first-served.

Video link for Kennett Symphony — https://vimeo.com/210340185.

The show on April 1 will start at 1 p.m. Tickets are $25 in advance and $30 day of concert with $10 tickets for students up to age 18. Ticket price includes your first mimosa and hors d’oeuvres with cash bar available on site.

Meghan Cary

Meghan Cary usually performs a lot but this month only has two shows on her schedule – one of which is April 1 at the Mermaid Inn (Germantown Avenue and Mermaid Lane, Chestnut Hill, 215-247-9797, www.themermaidinn.net).

There is a very good reason why Cary is not spending much time on the road.

“I’m working on a new album right now,” said Cary, during a phone interview last week from her home in Erdenheim, Pennsylvania.

“We’re totally immersed with this record. We did this acoustic trio EP the summer before last. Now, we want to capture this full band flavor with Analog Gypsies.

“The ‘Sing Louder Festival’ EP was a trio with Stacy Weather on banjo, Bob Beach on harmonica, flute and vocals and my husband Peter Farrell on keyboards and vocals. The full band has five people.

“We’ve been playing together a long time. We have a signature sound. We went into the studio with a bunch of new songs. It’s the next phase. The subject matter is different – more universal…speaking to the times. I’m not going to sing about my heart getting broken at a party on a Saturday night.

“The song ‘Sing Louder’ is a fan favorite – and very uplifting. The song that feels like it is the heart of this album is ‘River Rock.’ It’s more a social statement than a political one.”

Cary has chosen a good path to follow in recording the album – a path that leads to Morning Star Studio in East Norriton.

“We’ve been recording the album at Morning Star with producer Glenn Barratt,” said Cary. “Glenn’s input on production is amazing.  We even used a gospel choir while making the album.”

Most of the time, when Cary spends an evening entertaining her fans, it’s as a singer-songwriter — a talented guitarist/vocalist with a pleasant voice and interesting songs.

Recently, there have been times when Cary has taken the stage in a different role — when she has entertained audiences as an actress performing a one-woman play she wrote called “On the Way to the Waterfall!”

This autobiographical play with music was originally created as a short piece for E.A.T.’s One-Woman Standing play festival in NYC in 2013, and was developed into a full-length play this past summer by Hypothetical Theatre Company. In September, she performed it in the Boulder International Fringe Festival and received overwhelmingly positive feedback from the both the audience and the critics.

“When I lived in New York, I used to help this playwright Tina Howe,” said Cary. “She heard me playing my music and told me — you have to write a play. I didn’t know how to do it.”

The play she was about to write was based on a personal tragedy.

While performing in the musical “Pump Boys and Dinettes” years ago, Cary met and fell in love with Matthew Black, one of the show’s musicians. Cary performed with Black as his backup singer with occasional solos. The pair became engaged and things were going great. But, Black died suddenly in 1995 and Cary’s life path took another unexpected twist.

“Music carried me through that time period,” said Cary. “Matthew and I made music together. When he died, I lost everything I had for the future. Music was something that I could keep. I wanted to keep making music. But, I was writing songs with no intention of ever playing them for anyone.

“When I thought about the play, I knew had already written the story in songs. I had written music as a way to heal through this traumatic experience. The play is about going through the same thing — getting knocked off-course and ending up somewhere else.”

When Cary graduated from Hershey High a few years back, she headed off to Duke University to major in biomedical engineering. But, the path of life goes through many twists and turns and that’s why Cary now wears a guitar instead of a lab coat. She switched majors at Duke and finished with a bachelors’ degree in drama.

“I thought I wanted to be a biomedical engineer,” said Cary. “I looked at Cornell, but it was freezing up there so I chose Duke instead. I was on a pre-med track and then got interested in theater. I finished Duke with a degree in drama with a minor in chemistry. Then, I got my MFA (Masters in Fine Arts) in acting from Florida State University.

“I realized back then that I wanted to perform. When I started, I wanted to do regional theater. I also did Off-Broadway shows and I’m a charter member of New York’s Actor’s Shakespeare Company. I love Shakespeare’s work. I love the way he used words.”

Now, Cary has established herself as a singer, actress, songwriter, and playwright. She is also the mother of two musical kids who have already participated in making music with their family.

“Being a mom of two kids in elementary school – Clara in fifth grace and Quinn in second grade — means I inhabit two entirely different worlds in a given week…or day,” said Cary. “And, I was thinking how important it is for me to have both.

“It’s no surprise that sometimes trying to figure out the business of music can be pretty anxiety provoking – you know, how to afford to make records, if and how to sell records, and (most important for me) how to get the music out there so people fall in love and want to connect to and be a part of the music.

“And, for me, even the creative part of music-making can be less than peaceful at times. I sometimes suffer from writer’s block, lack of inspiration, over self-editing or just plain self-doubt.

“But I’ve been blessed (challenged?) with this other side of life that balances it all out. When I’m with the kids and just being and doing whatever it is we’re doing together, the drama that can be a part of the DYI musician’s world seems really inconsequential.

“So, the fact that both of our kids are musical and inspired to make music is really a gift. It means I don’t have to keep the two parts of my life so compartmentalized.

“I got this bug just the other day to start working up songs with Clara that we could sing and play together. She has a strong voice and a great ear, and she can play just about anything she hears on the keys.

“So, when Ernie Tokay asked if I could work up a song from ‘Tea for the Tillerman’ to perform as part of a set he’s hosting at his backyard festival we’re playing, I thought: that’s where we’ll start. So Clara and I are working up our very own version of ‘Wild World.’

“Meanwhile, Quinn has been working his butt off on the drums because he wants to join us on stage behind the kit. And the truth is, he’s almost there. He started playing last August. He’s just got rhythm in him. We don’t have the multi-colored bus, and we don’t have enough of us to be the Jackson Five, but we are printing up t-shirts.”

Video link for Meghan Cary – https://youtu.be/4JNEBzl5i1Q.

The show at the Mermaid Inn, which also features Sarah and the Arrows, will start at 8:30 p.m. Tickets are $15 (suggested donation).

Mayflower Madame

The Norwegian band Mayflower Madame recently announced its debut US tour – a tour that kicked off on March 31 in Providence, Rhode Island and touches down locally on April 2 at Kung Fu Necktie (1248 North Front Street, Philadelphia, 215-291-4919, kungfunecktie.com).

Specializing in a dark and haunting blend of post-punk, shoegaze and psychedelia, the Oslo-based band’s debut album, “Observed in a Dream,” received praise from international press earning them comparisons to The Jesus & Mary Chain, Bauhaus, The Gun Club and A Place To Bury Strangers.

Mayflower Madame — Trond Fagernes – vocals, guitars; Petter Gudim Marberg, bass; Håvard Haga, guitars; Bjørn Marius Kristiansen, drums (tour drummer); Ola J. Kyrkjeeide, drums (studio/live drummer) — was formed in Oslo during the winter of 2010-11.

They started rehearsing in a desolate industrial building where they had to share the space with a carwash company. Amidst the gritty surroundings, they instantly found their dark, post-punkish sound and soon recorded a four-track demo.

“We met at a party and discovered a mutual love for Sonic Youth and a Norwegian band called Motorpsycho,” said Tagernes. “And we were all looking to form a new band, which was pretty amazing. That was all that we needed to realize that we were meant for each other.”

Early career breaks were winning the award Unsigned Band of the Week on one of Norway’s biggest radio channels and performing at the Norwegian Wood Festival.

“NRK P3, one of the Norway’s biggest/most popular radio channels, honored us as best unsigned band. Playing at the Norwegian Wood Festival was kind of like a ‘quality stamp’ from the music industry people. First and foremost, it helped us to get booked for bigger/better shows.

“We recorded it ourselves in our rehearsal space in 2011. I would describe it as post-punkish shoegaze. Or as shoegazers trying to play post-punk.

“The ‘Into the Haze’ EP was also recorded by ourselves in our rehearsal space. We like to be in control of everything and not worry about studio rent etc. It was recorded the same year it was released — in 2013.

“We sent the ‘Into the Haze’ EP around to some record labels and Custom Made Music jumped at the bait. Then, ‘Lovesick’ was our first true “radio single.’ The inspiration for the song was experiencing love as a drug — o sometimes vice versa. We still play it — unless we are in a bad mood.”

Now, Mayflower Madame is touring in support of its new album “Observed in a Dream.”

“When we were making the new album, we just did the ‘our thing’ – just as we did with ‘Into the Haze.’ We did not have a predestined plan or anything. I guess it was just the result of a gradual development. We also recorded the album ourselves.

“We recorded it in Norway and it certainly has its own vibe – a dark and haunting vibe, sometimes ecstatic and noisy, yet always indulgent to the soothing charms of melody.

Our major influences are extracts from late 70’s/80’s post-punk, 90’s shoegaze and newer neo-psychedelia – and Syd Barrett and George Michael…together they would be dynamite.”

“Our band’s sound is a dark and distinctive blend of post-punk, shoegaze and psychedelia. Now, we’re touring America for the first time. It’s exhilarating and a bit scary at the same time. We are not sure what awaits us.”

Video link for Mayflower Madame — https://youtu.be/e_GxuOfy74U.

The show at Kung Fu Necktie, which also features Heavy Flow, Hidden Lights, and Tannins, will start at 8 p.m. Tickets are $7.

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