On Stage: Craig Robinson headlines at Parx

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By Denny Dyroff, Entertainment Editor, The Times

Craig Robinson

For comedian and actors – especially comedians – timing plays a big role in the overall scheme of things.

Both need the timing to be in the right place at the right time as their careers evolve. Comedians also need timing on stage – knowing how to maximize moments to make people laugh.

Craig Robinson, who will perform on April 7 at the Xcite Center at Parx Casino (2999 Street Road, Bensalem, 888-588-7279, https://parxcasino.com) as “Craig Robinson & the Nasty Delicious,” has shown the knack for good timing.

When the television comedy “The Office” took off about 10 years ago, Robinson was onboard – making people laugh in his role as Darryl Philbin.

Robinson has also performed in more than 30 movies since 2001 including starring roles on “Knocked Up,” “This is the End,” “The Hot Tub Time Machine” series, and “Morris from America” (for which he won a Special Grand Jury prize for acting at Sundance in 2016).

And then there is “Ghosted,” an American supernatural sitcom that premiered on Fox on October 1, 2017. Robinson plays the role of Leroy and also is one of the show’s executive producers.

In addition to being a well-respected actor, Robinson is also a highly-acclaimed comedian.

“I’ve had a long career in entertainment and stand-up has always been a part of it,” said Robinson, during a phone interview last week from his home in Los Angeles.

“I start a stand-up tour in a week and I’ll be performing every other week throughout the summer. Even when I’m shooting, I like to go out and get up onstage.

“When I was in college at Illinois State University, I got the bug to do comedy. I was the night manager at the residence hall. I’d just trip out and trip people out. People came back with my bits.

“I was playing music in college. I majored in music, but comedy took over. I taught K-8 in Chicago schools. I incorporated comedy into teaching and used the students as my audience.

“After I graduated, I started taking acting classes. I spent two years with the Second City Theater in Chicago. I felt that sitcom would be a natural thing. So, I came to L.A.”

Like all good comedians, Robinson knows how to adapt his show to the audience in front of him.

“The show depends on the audience and the connection,” said Robinson. “The dream would be to do a totally improvised show.

“I have my routine – but I also work the crowd. There is always new stuff I’m working on. When it’s time, I use it on stage. It’s add-and-subtract.”

For his Philly area show, Robinson will also be performing with his band – The Nasty Delicious.

“People who come to my show there will be laughing – and they’ll be singing and dancing and having fun,” said Robinson. “I’ll have The Nasty Delicious with me, so you can expect some rocking funk music – a lot of funk.”

Fun and funk – that’s a hard combination to beat.

Video link for Craig Robinson – https://youtu.be/A44F9kMA_h4.

The show at the Xcite Center at Parx Casino on April 7 will start at 8 p.m. Tickets are $35, $45 and $55.

Some rock acts from the past made pop music that was truly timeless. A shining example is the Everly Brothers.

The brothers — Don and Phil Everly — had their own style of country-influenced rock that featured the kind of tight harmonies that only brothers can produce.

The Everly Brothers made their last recording as a duo in 1998. On January 3, 2014, Phil Everly died of lung cancer — 16 days before his 75th birthday. Don, 81, is living in Nashville.

Everly Brothers Experience

Fortunately, there is another pair of brothers intent on keeping the Everly Brothers’ music alive — Dylan and Zachary Zmed. Using the name Bird Dogs, the Zmed Brothers are on the road constantly — touring with their “Everly Brothers Experience” show.

The tour will bring them to the area on April 8 for a show at the American Music Theatre (2425 Lincoln Highway East, Lancaster, 800-0 648-4102, www.AMTshows.com).

Fans of musical theater may recognize the name Zmed.

The boys’ father is Adrian Zmed, a noted movie, television and stage actor. He is most known for playing Danny Zuko in “Grease” — on Broadway and on several National Tours.

“My brother and I grew up together and we always sang with each other,” said Dylan Zmed, during a phone interview Friday evening as he travelled from Shelby, North Carolina to a gig in Virginia.

“My dad was an actor. With ‘Grease,’ we got exposed to that era of music. At a young age, we got very moved by it. Seven years ago, we started singing as a duo and trying to figure out which music would be best for brothers’ harmony.

“We thought about Simon and Garfunkel and the Beatles and then realized they all had the Everly Brothers as their big influence. We realized there was something special about the Everly Brothers.

“Another reason we wanted to do the Everly Brothers — we’re in our late 20s and most people our age don’t know who the Everly Brothers are. But, if you play them a song by the Everly Brothers, they recognize it. We feel a sense of responsibility to keep the music alive.”

The young Zmeds are old rock-and-rollers at heart.

“Both our mom and our dad were always into the era of music — the Everly Brothers, Eddie Cochran, Bill Haley & the Comets, Little Richard, Chuck Berry,” said Zmed, who grew up with his family in the Los Angeles area.

“My brother had a band and I joined right after I got out of college. About four years ago, we started focusing on super harmonies. We played tons of bistros, wineries and bars.

“Two years ago, we ended the band. We realized that no-one who was young was doing an Everly Brothers tribute. We started doing this project at the beginning of 2016 at Suncoast Casino in Vegas.

“Researching the Everly Brothers is a never-ending process. We’re submersing ourselves in their history — lots or archive performance and interview footage. We have about 35 of their songs down. We have their big hits — and we go to the deep cuts.

“Every day, we’re learning new things about their history. We travel and have first-hand experience with people who knew the Everly Brothers during their career.”

The Zmeds also went to another family that had a great influence on the Everly Brothers – the husband-and-wife team of Felice and Boudleaux Bryant.

“They’re both dead now but we’ve become friends with their son Del,” said Zmed.

“Felice and Boudleaux Bryant wrote hundreds of songs, including ‘Rocky Top,’ the state song of Tennessee. The Everly Brothers recorded 30 of their songs – all of which charted.

“We also spent time in Shenandoah, Iowa where the Everly Brothers lived for a while when they were kids. We got to perform there and donate to a scholarship the Everly Brothers started there in 1986.

“All that we’ve been learning has informed our show. We recently put together a multi-media part to our show. We go more in depth into the history of the Everly Brothers and tell their story. We’ve committed our lives to this.”

Video link for Bird Dogs — https://youtu.be/rMfLbL5CgxE.

The Bird Dogs’ “Everly Brothers Experience” show at the American Music Theater will start at 3 p.m. Tickets are $26.

On Your Feet!

“On Your Feet!,” which is a jukebox musical fueled by Latin music, is being presented now through April 15 at the Academy of Music (Broad and Locust streets, Philadelphia, 215-731-3333,www.kimmelcenter.org).

Many jukebox musicals start with the music of an artist or a genre and tie the songs together with a loosely-knit story.

This is not the case with “On Your Feet!”

“On Your Feet!” is a jukebox musical that played on Broadway at the Marquis Theatre. Based on the lives and music of 26-time Grammy Award-winning husband-and-wife team Gloria andEmilio Estefan, the musical has a book written by Alexander Dinelaris.

The score is built around the Cuban-fusion pop music made famous by Gloria Estefan – songs such as “Get on Your Feet,” “Conga,” “1-2-3” and “Rhythm Is Gonna Get You.”

It also features an original song called “If I Never Got to Tell You,” with lyrics by Gloria Estefan and music by her daughter, Emily Estefan.

Directed by two-time Tony Award® winner Jerry Mitchell (Kinky Boots), with choreography by Olivier Award winner Sergio Trujillo (Jersey Boys) and a book by Academy Award® winner Alexander Dinelaris (Birdman), this show features some of the most iconic songs of the past quarter-century.

“A lot of jukebox musicals are popular but not always great,” said Debra Cardona, during a phone interview Friday from a tour stop in Chicago, Illinois.

“Our scriptwriter Alex Dinelaris is just wonderful. He also wrote the screenplay for ‘Birdman.’ Our show is great at integrating songs into the plot. It’s the best jukebox musical for having a plot. It works really well.”

Cardona plays one of the key roles in the show – Consuelo, who is Gloria Estefan’s grandmother.

Other major players are Christie Prades as Gloria, Mauricio Martinez as Emilio, Nancy Ticotin as Gloria Fajardo, Jason Martinez as José Fajardo and Amaris Sanchez as Little Gloria.

“I auditioned for the show exactly a year ago,” said Cardona, a Nuyorican actress who last played at the Academy of Music a few years ago in the National Tour of “Mary Poppins.”

“I had just finished doing a production of ‘In the Heights’ at the Fulton Theater in Lancaster. The tour went out in September and almost the entire cast from the Broadway show continued their roles in the National Tour. Alma Cuervo, who was playing Consuelo, left the tour and they called me.

“I had seen the show on Broadway. And, I grew up listening to Gloria Estefan’s music. That was the music I danced to went I went to clubs when I was in my twenties. Now, the Miami Sound Machine is our onstage band.”

While not Cuban, Cardona understands the culture of Cuba because of the similarities between Puerto Rico and Cuba.

“Growing up Nuyorican helped me with the culture and the music,” said Cardona. “I was born in Spanish Harlem and then lived in South Bronx and Queens. The first 10 years of my life I was living in Latino neighborhoods.

“This music brings me home. It’s great to do theater that can show people where you came from – to dig back and say, ‘this is me.’ Three of my four grandparents were Puerto Rican.”

For decades, there have multitudes of people who shake their butts on the dance floor to “Conga” and “Rhythm Is Gonna Get You” yet couldn’t point to Cuba on a map or tell you anything about the island country.

The infectious rhythms of the Estefans’ music make it so that none of that matters.

“Gloria Estefan’s music transcends cultures,” said Cardona. “It appeals to everybody. Gloria and Emilio were able to cross over and prove their music was for everyone.

“The audience for this show covers a wide demographic. There are tines when you know more Latinos are in the audience – especially by the response to some of the jokes.

“This show appeals to all ages. It transcends nationality, culture and age. It really is a show for everyone – and a show that everyone loves.”

Video link for “On Your Feet” – https://youtu.be/0O4ArwynatM.

The show will run now through April 15 at the Academy of Music. Ticket prices range from $20-$140.

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