On Syage: BBMak is back

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By Denny Dyroff, Entertainment Editor, The Times

BBMak

Back in 2000, BBMak was one of the hottest pop bands in the United Kingdom. The group’s popularity quickly spread around the world.

What set BBMak apart from the other “boy band” groups of the era was that the versatile threesome won over young audiences with its music — not with flashy choreography and unlimited hype.

It didn’t hurt that Mark Barry, Christian Burns and Stephen McNally were all handsome enough to be teen mag cover boys – which they were.

Still, BBMak’s main selling point was its musicianship and the soaring harmonies created by three lads, each of whom could be a lead singer.

The multi-platinum selling group sold more than three million albums and had hit singles worldwide between 1999 and 2003. Best known for self-penned, guitar-driven hits “Back Here,” “Out of My Heart” and “The Ghost of You and Me,” BBMak was one of the few bands from that genre with singers who played their own instruments.

BBMak got its start in Liverpool — the home of another top-selling band with great harmonies.

“We were all in different bands in Liverpool,” said Burns. “We were mostly playing pop and rock with some soul music thrown in. We were doing different club gigs and we met when our bands shared bills. After we met, playing together as a band was just something that evolved.”

After a four-year career that saw the trio from Merseyside release a pair of albums – “Sooner Or Later” in 2000 and “Into Your Head” in 2002 – BBMak called it quits.

Last year, after a 16-year gap, BBMak rose like a Phoenix. The trio has been recording and touring ever since. The band’s current tour brings it to the area for a show on May 9 at The Queen (500 North Market Street, Wilmington, 202-730-3331, www.thequeenwilmington.com).

During the decade-and-a-half hiatus, Burns and McNally remained in the music industry, while Barry went into personal training.

“We’ve remained friends and stayed in touch all these years,” said Burns, during a recent phone interview from his home in Los Angeles.

“Last year, we got together and jammed. We hadn’t picked guitars and played together in 15 years. We then realized that we really enjoyed it – and that we missed it.

“We got our guitars out and played for a while. For fun, we posted it on Facebook – and it went crazy. It got two million views in a couple days.”

One thing led to another and soon the band had a few gigs lined up.

“We did four shows last year – the Cabin Club in Liverpool, the Gramercy in New York, the House of Blues in Chicago and a show here in L.A.,” said Burns.

“Before we started, we wondered if anyone was going to show up. The shows all sold really well. Everyone was singing along to the singles – and to the album cuts.

“When you’re playing live with only three vocalists and three guitars, there’s nowhere to hide. It’s great to see that people genuinely love the music. We got messages on social media from fans who said that our music meant a lot in their lives.”

The three friends started writing together again for the first time in 15 years and immediately found their groove.

“We really missed us,” said Burns. “We’ve got so much music in us. We’re doing it ourselves – and we’re doing it our way. We just finished making a new album and it will be out in a few months.

“In our live shows now, we’re doing mostly the old stuff – the songs the fans really want to hear. And, we’re also dropping in some songs from the new album.”

Video link for BBMak – https://youtu.be/CbGegNlgJdE.

The show at The Queen will start at 8 p.m. Tickets are $29.50.

Other upcoming shows at The Queen are Elena Brokus Productions’ “Future Stars Show” on May 10, Of Mice and Men on May 10, and Julian Marley on May 12.

On May 9, there will be a show at another midtown Wilmington venue just a few blocks down Market Street from The Queen.

BBMak’s music might seem like it’s been around a long time – approximately two decades. The other show features songs that have been performed onstage for six decades.

The Sound of Music

From May 9-12, The Playhouse on Rodney Square (10th and Market streets, Wilmington, Delaware, 302-888-0200, www.duponttheatre.com) is presenting a brand-new production of “The Sound of Music.”

The new touring production of “The Sound of Music,” is directed by Matt Lenz, based on the National Tour’s original direction by three-time Tony Award® winner Jack O’Brien and continues the celebration of the 50th anniversary of the acclaimed film.

Original choreography by Danny Mefford (“Dear Evan Hansen,” “Fun Home,” “The Bridges of Madison County,” “Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson”) has been recreated by Jonathan Warren, with music supervision by Andy Einhorn (“Hello, Dolly!,” “Bullets Over Broadway,” “Rodgers + Hammerstein’s Cinderella,” “The Light in the Piazza”).

The production features music by Richard Rogers, lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II, and a book by Howard Linsay and Russel Crouse.

The touring cast features Jill-Christine Wiley playing Maria Rainer, with Mike McLean as Captain Georg von Trapp, Lauren Kidwell as The Mother Abbess, Jake Mills as Max Detweiler, Kate Turner as Elsa Schraeder, Lauren O’Brien as Liesl and Hunter Brown as Rolf Gruber. The von Trapp children are played by Ethan Douglas Cutillo (Kurt), Riley O’Kane (Marta), Jenna Seasholtz (Louisa), Emily Strugatsky (Brigitta), Quinn Eden Titcomb (Gretl) and Edward Turner (Friedrich).

The spirited, romantic and beloved musical story of Maria and the von Trapp Family will once again thrill audiences with its Tony®, Grammy® and Academy Award® winning Best Score, including “My Favorite Things,” “Do-Re-Mi,” “Climb Ev’ry Mountain,” “Edelweiss” and the title song.

This show, which has been a family favorite through generations, enjoyed extraordinary success as the first live television production of a musical in over 50 years when “The Sound of Music Live!” aired on NBC in December 2013 and was seen by over 44 million people. 2015 marked the 50th anniversary of the film version, which continues to be the most successful movie musical in history.

“I started with the tour in August 2017,” said McLean, during a recent phone interview as the company traveled to a tour stop in Roanoke, Virginia. “We had a few months off last summer. Then, we got mostly new cast in October 2018. We’ve been on the road ever since and we’ll finish it up in about a month.”

McLean’s resume includes National Tours of “Guys and Dolls” (Benny), “Saturday Night Fever” (Frank Jr.) and several productions Off-Broadway including “Ziegfeld’s Midnight Frolic” (Jack Pickford), and “90210 The Musical” (Dylan Mckay u/s).

“This is my second time to perform at The Playhouse,” said McLean. “I was here a few years ago with ‘Guys and Dolls.’

“When I first auditioned for this show, I didn’t think I was right for the part of Captain von Trapp. I thought I was a little young to be the father of seven children.

“A day after the audition, I flew to Hawaii for my mother’s 60th birthday. I got a call back the next day. I asked if I could just make a video for them. They agreed and said they wanted to see me when I came back to New York City.

“It was my mom who introduced me to ‘The Sound of Music.’ A lullaby favorite for me was ‘My Favorite Things.’ It’s interesting how things come around in a circle.”

“The Sound of Music” is a musical based on the memoir of Maria von Trapp, “The Story of the Trapp Family Singers.” Set in Austria on the eve of the Anschluss in 1938, the musical tells the story of Maria, who takes a job as governess to a large family while she decides whether to become a nun.

She falls in love with the children, and eventually their widowed father, Captain von Trapp. He is ordered to accept a commission in the German navy, but he opposes the Nazis. He and Maria decide on a plan to flee Austria with the children.

The original Broadway production, starring Mary Martin and Theodore Bikel, opened in 1959 and won five Tony Awards, including Best Musical. The first London production opened at the Palace Theatre in 1961.

It was adapted as a 1965 film musical starring Julie Andrews and Christopher Plummer, which won five Academy Awards. “The Sound of Music” was the last musical written by Rodgers and Hammerstein; Oscar Hammerstein died of cancer nine months after the Broadway premiere.

“‘The Sound of Music’ is an iconic show,” said McLean. “We’re based on the original Broadway show – not the movie. People learn something new when they come to this show. Just going to live theater is a magical experience. The audience is part of the energy of the show.

“Audiences love the show because it’s a story of self-discovery. There are some meaty subjects here.”

Video link for “The Sound of Music” — https://youtu.be/Pin0BUUazgg.

Performances at The Playhouse on Rodney Square are scheduled for May 9 at 7:30 p.m., May 10 and 11 at 2 and 8 p.m. and May 12 at 2 p.m.

Tickets prices range from $40-$95.

Another top-flight production that is running from May 9-12 is the Pennsylvania Ballet’s current show at the Academy of Music (Broad and Locust streets, Philadelphia, 215-731-3333, www.kimmelcenter.org) that concludes its 2018-2019 season.

DGV: Danse à Grande Vitesse

Pennsylvania Ballet’s final program of the season is a trio of high-energy ballets starting with Christopher Wheeldon’s “DGV: Danse à Grande Vitesse.”

Set to Michael Nyman’s “MGV (Musique à Grande Vitesse),” this ballet commemorates the French Train à Grande Vitesse and conveys the sense of movement and momentum of the high-speed train. Wheeldon has been hailed as, “the best thing to happen to ballet for 50 years” and “DGV: Danse à Grande Vitesse” is a prime example of why he has generated so much excitement.

Created in 2006 for The Royal Ballet, Wheeldon’s “DGV: Danse à Grande Vitesse” is set to Nyman’s score, which was composed to commemorate the 1993 inauguration of the north European line of the French train á grande vitesse, more commonly known as the TGV.
A tour de force for 24 dancers with four couples at its core, the work propels the dancers through shifting physical and emotional landscapes, paralleling Nyman’s division of the score into five regions. While a travel motif is never literal, a sensation of momentum and surging progression infuses the ballet.

This weekend’s shows feature the final performances by one of the Pennsylvania Ballet’s all-timer favorite principals – Ian Hussey. The versatile veteran has been with the company since 1993.

Over the years, Hussey has danced many of his dream roles, his favorite being his debut as Romeo in John Cranko’s “Romeo and Juliet.” At the time, Ian was still a young corps de ballet member, and Arantxa Ochoa, his childhood dance idol, was his Juliet. After the performance, then Artistic Director Roy Kaiser came out onto stage and promoted Ian to soloist in front of an appreciative audience — one that included his mother, Joan.

“I’m down to my last few weeks of rehearsals,” said Hussey, during a recent phone interview. “May 9-12 will be my final Pennsylvania Ballet shows.

“My husband has his own business and lives in Brooklyn. We’ve been together five years. Now, I want to move to New York to be with him and start a family.

“I’m dancing my best right now. I was looking for a right time and knew that my move to New York would have to happen soon. I’ve been with the Pennsylvania Ballet 15 years – seven as a principal. I’ve gotten to dance every role I wanted to dance. It was a moment. I knew it was the right time – time to go out on top and go out on my own.

“I’m involved in all three works in this weekend’s show. I danced ‘DGV’ once before – in 2015. I also saw New York Ballet do it after I had performed it.

“It’s about a 30-minute piece with four movements and a finale. There are four principal couples and eight corps couple. It has a beautiful set – panels of floor are laid vertical in shapes that move around. I do the third piece which is a beautiful and exciting. ‘DGV’ is an epic journey and the music is really grandiose and driving.”

The second work on the bill is the world premiere of “Trigger Touch Fade” by Jorma Elo, who is known for his focus on speed, difficulty, athletic ability and physicality. Elo’s ballet will feature spectacular choreography and a central, beautiful pas de deux. The piece is set to music by Joseph Haydn (Violin Concerto In G) and Johann Sebastian Bach (Violin Concerto #2 In A, Violin Concerto #2 In A minor, Concerto For Violin, Strings And Continuo in D Minor).

The third piece is “Glass Pieces” by Jerome Robbins. The company premiere remains a fresh and contemporary piece more than 30 years after its debut. It is set to music by Philip Glass – “Rubric” and “Façades” from his 1981 work “Glassworks” and “Funeral” from his 1983 opera, “Akhnaten.”

Video link for the Pennsylvania Ballet — https://youtu.be/iVE9pYhWfVA.

Performances at the Academy of music are scheduled for May 9 and 10 at 7:30 p.m., May 11 at 2 and 8 p.m. and May 12 at 2 p.m.

Ticket prices range from $35-$154.

Alice Wallace

When Point Entertainment presents a show at Dawson Street Pub (100 Dawson Street, Philadelphia, http://www.dawsonstreetpub.com/), featuring Alice Wallace, it will be a “first” – but not a “first” for the Point putting on a show at the Manayunk venue.

“I’ve never played Philadelphia before,” said Wallace, during a recent phone interview from her home in Los Angeles.

“I was born in L.A. My mom grew up in Hollywood and then our family moved to St. Cloud, Florida. I moved back to L.A. 11 years ago. They came out before me and I followed. When I got a job to teach full-time, I moved home.”

Wallace’s extended stay in Florida came about because she was a journalism major at the University of Florida and then a writer for the Gainesville Sun

Wallace quickly established herself as a talented artist in the genre known as “California Country.”

“My parents are the reason I started playing music,” said Wallace. “When I was growing up, they were listening to Gram Parsons and Emmylou Harris. My tastes were formed by my parents’ tastes – Gram, Emmylou, Linda Ronstadt, Led Zeppelin and The Who.

“I didn’t pick up guitar until the Lilith Fair era. Then, I went back to my parents’ music – especially Linda Ronstadt. It was nice coming to California to really feel my influences – to play the Troubadour and other L.A. country rock clubs.”

Now, Wallace is touring in support of her new album “Into the Blue.”

“Into the Blue” is Wallace’s fourth album and her debut on the new Rebelle Road label, a record company formed by three women dedicated to the California Country music community.

“I recorded ‘Into the Blue’ at the beginning of last year in L.A. – at Steve Berns’ home studio in the Valley,” said Wallace. “The album was co-produced by Steve Berns and Rebelle Road’s KP Hawthorn. We also did some tracking in Malibu at Dragonfly Creek Recording Studio. We went there because the drummer and the session musicians wanted a big live room.”

The studio band on “Into the Blue” featured drummer Jay Bellerose (Bonnie Raitt, Elton John, Aimee Mann), bassist Jennifer Condos (Jackson Browne, Graham Nash), guitarist Tom Bremer, and pedal steel guitarist Jeremy Long (Sam Outlaw).

“I couldn’t believe how good my songs sounded being played by these great musicians,” said Wallace. “All but one of the songs were originals

“The first single from the album was ‘Santa Ana Winds,’ a song about the forest fires here in Southern California. I really enjoy my songwriting. My journalism education helped me with the storytelling aspect.”

Wallace’s songs will be delivered in their purest form in her Philly show.

“I’m doing a solo show,” said Wallace. “It’s more of a storytelling set.”

Video link for Alice Wallace – https://youtu.be/UAjqZDUc2Eo

The show at Dawson Street Pub, which also features The Empty Pockets, will start at 9 p.m.

Other upcoming shows at the Dawson Street Pub are Seth Aaron Band with Emily Drinker Band, Randy Scott Caroll and Adam and Parker on May 10 and Satans with E.D.O, E.J Simpson and Todd Young on May 11.

Allman Brown

Another talented solo artist who will be putting his work on display on May 9 is Allman Brown.

Brown, a London-via-Hong Kong folk pop singer/songwriter, will be headlining a show Thursday night at Boot and Saddle (1131 South Broad Street, Philadelphia, 215-639-4528, www.bootandsaddlephilly.com).

On the following day, Brown will release his new album “Darling, It’ll Be Alright.” It is the follow-up to his acclaimed 2017 debut album “1000 Years,” which earned him a huge following on Spotify (83 million-plus streams, 1.3 million-plus monthly listeners) and led to organic buzz here in the United States.

Born and raised in Hong Kong before moving to London, Brown arrived in 2013 with the hit single, “Sons & Daughters” (performed with Liz Lawrence). The track proved a Spotify smash, with 10 million worldwide streams thus far as well as featured placement on multiple TV soundtracks.

“Hong Kong was an exciting place,” said Brown, during a phone interview last week from his home in London’s Ealing district. My mom is from Singapore and my dad is from the U.K. I was around 12 when we left Hong Kong.

“Music was one thing I knew I was good at. I was always singing. It was the one thing I really enjoyed. I did ‘Sons & Daughters’ single in 2013 and it got 10 syncs – placements o TV shows – in a year. That was a turning point for my career.”

Recorded in January 2019 with longtime collaborator Ian Barter (Amy Winehouse, Paloma Faith), “Darling, It’ll Be Alright” marks an immense evolution in Brown’s artistry. Fueled by Barter’s insightful production, its bold sonic approach provided the ideal backdrop to Brown’s distinctive lyrical vision.

“I was writing for ‘Darling, It’ll Be Alright’ all last year,” said Brown. “I made it at Ian’s studio in Reading. It’s a studio with a lot of cool stuff. We did the whole thing in about a month. I don’t like to take a long time to record. I’d rather work fast.

“Its all analog. Ever single instrument is live except the drums. It was a conscious decision on my part. I wanted a soundscape with vocals.”

Strong music passages, emotive vocals and insightful lyrics proved to be a winning combination for the promising young musician.

According to Brown, “My heart is on my sleeve, really, in my songwriting. My strength is not in esoteric melancholy. This is a really positive record.

“The world is in a state these days but there are still incredible things happening. A lot of people are speaking out and coming together. There’s this counterforce to the endless tide of negativity we see every day. I wanted to feed into that, offer my own counterweight. So, this record is about reassurance — about me putting some positive energy into the world.”

Video link for Allman Brown – https://youtu.be/tGbjj8PH6Js.

The show at Boot & Saddle, which has Aisha Badru as the opener, will start at 8 p.m. Tickets are $13.

Other upcoming shows at Boot & Saddle are Kevin Devine and John K. Samson with Shannen Moser on May 10 and 11, Júníus Meyvant on May 14, and Bars of Gold on May 15.

Steph Termini

Kennett Flash (102 Sycamore Alley, Kennett Square, 484-732-8295, http://www.kennettflash.org) hosts Yarn on May 9, “The Steph Termini Stand Up Comedy Show with performances by Alyssa Al-Dookhi, Cassandra Dee, Lump Hamilton, and Steph Termini” on May 10, and Sin City Band on May 11 and 12.

The Steel City Coffee House (203 Bridge Street, Phoenixville, 610-933-4043, www.steelcitycoffeehouse.com) will host Jeffrey Gaines on May 10 and “Sisters of Song – Anna Spackman, Cynthia Hopkins and Esther Hermiz” on May 11.

Chaplin’s (66 North Main Street, Spring City, 610-792-4110, http://chaplinslive.com) will present “Liv* Live — A Musical Event for Suicide Prevention” on May 10.

The Ardmore Music Hall (23 East Lancaster Avenue, Ardmore, 610-649-8389, www.ardmoremusic.com) will host Colter Wall and Kacy & Clayton on May 9, John Paul White and Erin Rae on May 10, Start Making Sense (Talking Heads tribute) and MINKA on May 11, Beatles for Kids! Mother’s Day Celebration Presented by The Rock & Roll Playhouse on May 12, and Lissie and Christine Irizarry on May 15.

The Sellersville Theater (24 West Temple Avenue, Sellersville, 215-257-5808, www.st94.com) will present The Black Lillies on May 9, Felix Cavaliere’s Rascals on May 10, The Dream Syndicate on May 11, When Swing Was King: The Benny Goodman Tribute on May 12, Richard Thompson (Solo Acoustic) on May 12, Adia Victoria on May 14, and Michael Martin Murphey on May 15.

The Locks at Sona (4417 Main Street, Manayunk, 484- 273-0481, sonapub.com) will host “Scot Sax performs Wanderlust’s classic “Prize”, solo acoustic” and Jackson Howard album release on May 10, The Mommyheads and Cliff Hillis on May 11, Rose Cousins with special guest Jacob Colin on May 12, and Citizen Cope – solo on May 14.

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