Unionville’s Litzenberg in ‘Sister Act’ at DuPont

Also: Ex-Byrd flies into area for solo gig

By Denny DyroffStaff Writer, The Times


Unionville High School graduate Kristin Litzenberg performs with the national touring cast of ‘Sister Act,’ which opens Oct. 14 at The DuPont Theatre in Wilmington.

When “Sister Act” touches down at the DuPont Theatre (Hotel DuPont, Market Street, Wilmington, Delaware, 302-656-4401,http://duponttheatre.com) for a six-day, eight-show run from October 14-19, a lot of the seats throughout the week will be filled by people from the Unionville area — for good reason.

One of the main actresses in the national tour’s ensemble is Kristen Litzenberg, a 2009 graduate of Unionville High School. Her father Scott Litzenberg is a teacher at Unionville High and the director of the Indians’ marching band.

“Both my parents are music teachers,” said Litzenberg, during a phone interview last week from a tech rehearsal stop in York. “I performed in musicals every year in high school and was Dolly in ‘Hello Dolly’ in my senior year.

“I was also a member of the marching band. And, I played soccer for 12 years but eventually realized that I like theater more.”

After graduating from Unionville, Litzenberg attended AMDA (American Music and Drama Academy) and had a bi-coastal undergraduate education on her way to a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in music theater.

“AMDA has schools in New York and Los Angeles,” said Litzenberg, whose credits include “Children of  Eden” (Eve/Mama Noah), “The Secret Garden” (Martha) and “I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change (Woman 2).

“I spent the first two years in New York and then took a year off to do regional theater and summer stock. I spent the last two years in Hollywood.”

It was in L.A. that Litzenberg and “Sister Act” first crossed paths.

“Last April, I auditioned for the show in L.A.,” said Litzenberg. “I had two callbacks in L.A. and then one final callback in New York in June. It was really great.”

The show’s run in Wilmington will feature two “firsts.”

It is the opening show of the current tour of the Tony Award nominated musical, which is based on Whoopi Goldberg’s 1992 hit movie of the same name. And, it is Litzenberg’s first-ever national tour.

“Sister Act” differs from the movie in several ways. The movie was set in the early 1990s while the Broadway musical is set in the late 1970s — at the height of the disco era. And, the film was set in Nevada and San Francisco while the play has the nuns living in Philly.

The story has stayed the same. It tells the tale of Deloris — how her gangster boyfriend wants to kill her because she witnessed a murder, how she enters a convent as part of a witness protection program and how she and the nuns transform each others’ lives.

“The music is demanding for the female ensemble,” said Litzenberg. “In addition to playing nuns, we play a lot of different roles. In the show, I’m a nun and I’m also a hobo. I didn’t have any experience with nuns but I did some research. The costumes are exact down to the minute detail.

“I saw ‘Sister Act’ on Broadway in 2009 with the original cast and it was wonderful. When the auditions came to L.A., I knew I had to go for it. I had also seen the movie. It was handy when I was auditioning.”

“Sister Act” opened first in London and ran for almost a year-and-a-half in 2009 and 2010. It had its Broadway debut in March 2011 and received multiple Tony Award nominations including for “Best Musical”, “Best Actress in a Musical” and “Best Featured Actress in a Musical.”

“I love the nuns’ sisterhood,” said Litzenberg. “We really do enjoy being sisters who go through a joyless situation to being able to have fun. In the song ‘Raise Your Voice’ you see the transformation.

“Audiences like the show because it’s such a universal story — trying to spread love, happiness and joy.”

Tickets for the show range from $35-$85. Performance times are 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday, 2 and 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday, 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, 8 p.m. on Friday, 2 and 8 p.m. on Saturday and 2 p.m. on Sunday.

This is bonanza time for area theater fans.

The hit musical “The Addams Family” is running now through November 2 at the Media Theatre (104 East State Street, Media, 610-891-0100,www.mediatheatre.org. Tickets for the show are $42 for adults, $35 for seniors and $25 for children. Evening performances are at 8 p.m. Wednesdays through Saturdays. Matinees are at 2 p.m. on Wednesdays and Saturdays and 3 p.m. on Sundays.

Live theater is also alive in northern Delaware. “Fiddler on the Roof,” which is one of the all-time favorite American musicals, is running now through November 2 at the Candlelight Theater (2208 Millers Road, Arden, Delaware, 302- 475-2313, www.nctstage.org). Tickets, which include a tasty buffet dinner, are $59 for adults and $33 for children (ages 4-12).


On October 11, Chris Hillman, a founding member of The Byrds, and his musical partner Herb Pederson will perform together at the Ardmore Music Hall.

Over the next week, there will be concerts in the area featuring two musicians who were key members of some of rock’s all-time best (and now departed) bands — Chris Hillman, who was the bassist for the Byrds, and Ian McLagan, who was guitarist for the Faces.

On October 11, Hillman and his musical partner Herb Pederson will perform together at the Ardmore Music Hall (23 East Lancaster Avenue, Ardmore, 610-649-8389, www.ardmoremusic.com). Hillman is one of the trailblazers who led the way to the development of country rock.

He was one of the original members of the Byrds — a band formed in Los Angeles in 1964 that went on to be ranked at number 45 on Rolling Stone magazine’s list of the “100 Greatest Artists of All Time.” He also was a founding member of several other influential bands — the Flying Burrito Brothers, Manassas and the Desert Rose Band.

Herb Pedersen, who was Hillman’s bandmate in the Desert Rose band, is aguitaristbanjo player and singer-songwriter who has established himself as a top-flight player in a number of genres including bluegrass, folk rock, country, folk and country rock.

“This is the last grand hurrah for awhile,” said Hillman, during a phone interview Wednesday from his home in Ventura, California. “Herb and I are doing a three-day weekend in the East starting in Long Island.

“We play each year from March to November 1 — usually about 10 shows a month. It’s very rewarding. I feel like I’m really lucky that we’re still working — and that people still love it.

“Herb and I have known each other for 52 years now. He grew up in Berkeley and had a bluegrass band there. At the same time, I was learning mandolin when I was in high school in San Diego. We met up in L.A.

“Back then, music was just a passion for me. I never expected to make a dime. We met in 1963 and that was the first year that we both got paid for making music. He stayed in bluegrass and I got an offer to join the Byrds.”

The initial Byrds’ line-up featured Roger (nee Jim) McGuinn, David Crosby, Gene Clark, Michael Clarke and Hillman.

“We had all come out of folk music,” said Hillman. “Then, we all plugged in to our amplifiers and made a great band. It was a great band. It has stood the test of time. We found a way to make folk music danceable. There were three bands that really did a good job of combining folk and rock — the Lovin’ Spoonful, Buffalo Springfield and the Byrds.

“By the time we had a hit with ‘Eight Miles High,’ we had become a very interesting band. We were listening to Ravi Shankar, a sitar player from India, and jazz artists like John Coltrane, Miles Davis and McCoy Tyner. It definitely influenced our music.”

In 1968, the Byrds released their country-influenced “Sweetheart of the Rodeo” album — an album that served as a template for the hundreds of country rock bands that followed over the next 46 years.

“I really did love the first two Byrds’ albums,” said Hillman. “‘Sweetheart of the Rodeo’ wasn’t my favorite record. But, it did open the floodgates.”

After awhile, Gram Parsons, who had joined the Byrds prior to the ‘Sweetheart of the Rodeo’ album and was influential in the country flavor of the disc, and Hillman left the band.

They joined together with steel guitarist Sneaky Pete Kleinow and bassist Chris Ethridge to form the Flying Burrito Brothers and later added former Byrds’ drummer Michael Clarke.

Hillman parted ways with the Flying Burritos after a few albums. Then, a phone call from old friend Stephen Stills set him on a new musical journey — the band Manassas, which had two albums in the early 70s. Hillman’s next band after that was called Souther-Hillman-Furay, which had two albums in the mid-1970s.

“Manassas was a great band,” said Hillman. “Stephen Stills was on his game then. He’s a great player. Souther-Hillman-Furay was a good idea — but it didn’t come off. I don’t do any songs from those two albums.”

The next group for Hillman was McGuinn-Clark-Hillman — a band that released three albums from 1979-1981. After that, Hillman joined the Desert Rose Band with Pedersen, John Jorgenson, Bill Bryson, Steve Duncan and JayDee Maness.

“The Desert Rose Band had a number of country hits,” said Hillman. “Our song ‘Love Reunited’ reached Number Six on the country charts. There were great musicians in that band — and no baggage. That’s why it lasted as long as it did. We’ve all remained close friends.”

Now, Hillman is back to performing as part of a duo with Pederson — and playing a lot of tunes from his previous bands.

“Herb and I are both 70 years old,” said Hillman. “But, as long as we can sing and play — and people want to hear us — there is no reason we can’t keep doing this.”

The show has a 7 p.m. start time with tickets priced at $30 in advance and $35 day of show.


Ian McLagan, the former guitar player for The Faces, offers a solo show at The World Cafe at Queen in Wilmington, Oct. 15.

Ian McLagan may have turned 69 in May but the veteran English rocker is showing no signs of slowing down.

On October 15, he is performing at the World Café Live at the Queen (500 North Market Street, Wilmington, 302- 994-1400, www.queen.worldcafelive.com). On October 16, McLagan is performing at the Sellersville Theatre (24 West Temple Avenue, Sellersville, 215-257-5808, www.st94.com).

“My show in Sellersville will be fun because they have a Steinway (piano) there,” said McLagan, during a phone interview Tuesday from his home in Austin, Texas. “And, I’ll be playing with my band — the Bump Band — which is Jon Notarthomas on bass and vocals, Scrappy Jud Newcomb on guitars and vocals and Conrad Choucroun on drums and vocals. In Wilmington, it will be just a duet with me and Jon.”

In 1965, McLagan signed on to play keyboards for the British hit-making band The Small Faces.  In 1969, after Steve Marriott left the Small Faces and Rod Stewart and Ronnie Wood joined, the band changed its name to Faces. After the Faces split up in 1975, McLagan worked as a sideman for the Rolling Stones — both in the studio and on tour — as well as various Ronnie Wood projects.

The line-up of  music luminaries that McLagan has toured and/or recorded with also includes Bobbie Womack, Bonnie Raitt, New Barbarians, Bob Dylan, David Lindley, Ronnie Wood, Rod Stewart, Bruce Springsteen, Taj Mahal, Paul Westerberg, John Hiatt, Billy Bragg, Keith Richards, Patty Griffin, Warren Haynes, Jennifer Nettles and Lucinda Williams,.

“I was in the Small Faces from 1965-1969 and the Faces from 1969-1975,” said McLagan. “Then, in the late 70s, real musicians couldn’t get a gig. It was all synthesizers and drum machines.”

The Small Faces had hits with songs such as “Whatcha Gonna Do About It,” “Sha-La-La-La-Lee” and “Itchykoo Park.” They also made a studio masterpiece drenched in psychedelic vibes. It was titled “Ogdens’ Nut Gone Flake” and came in a round tin cover designed to resemble an antique tobacco tin.

The Faces — the band that served as Rod Stewart’s springboard to fame — had a number of  hits including “Stay with Me,” “Had Me a Real Good Time,”  “Cindy Incidentally’ and “Pool Hall Richard.”

“There are some Small Faces songs that I still perform in my current shows,” said McLagan. “I do ‘All or Nothing,’ ‘Get Yourself Together’ and ‘Whatcha Gonna Do About It.’ I also play a few Faces songs.

“With the Bump Band, I write all the songs. I usually write on guitar but for the last few years I’ve also been writing on piano. I used to not write on piano because I ended up playing too much.

“Song ideas come from anywhere and everywhere. Right now, I have 50-60 songs that are beginning or are halfway done. And, new songs keep coming up.”

McLagan has released seven albums since 2000 with the most recent being “United States,” which was released on Yep Roc Records earlier this year.

“This is my first album for Yep Roc,” said McLagan. “I’m glad I’m with a record company that cares. I also am still doing some session work. I just played on Lucinda Williams’ new album (“Down Where the Spirit Meets the Bone”). It’s a very fine album.”

McLagan has also written a book titled “All the Rage.” In the promo for the book, he wrote — “If you want to know the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth from the horse’s mouth, read my book. It’s opened a few wounds, made some people grin, and shone a light into the goings on behind the curtains, in the dressing rooms and between the sheets of the short and stylish, and the famous and the infamous!”

McLagan’s show at the Queen is scheduled for 8 p.m. on October 15 with tickets listed at $20. His show with the Bump Band will take place at the Sellersville Theater on October 16 at 8 p.m. Tickets are $25 and $40.

The Sellersville Theater hosts the California Guitar Trio and the Montreal Guitar Trio on October 9, Phil Vassar on October 10, Jars of Clay on October 11 and Herb Alpert & Lani Hall on October 15.

Other shows over the next week at the World Café Live at the Queen are “Superbad! A Tribute to James Brown Tribute” on October  10 on the Downstairs Stage while the Upstairs Stage presents Divers and Satellite Hearts on October 9, Butch Zito and the Prine Time Players on October 10 and RKVC’s Annual Birthday Bash with Maggie Gabbard,  Nalani & Sarina and Danielle and Jennifer on October 11.

Nalani & Sarina, one of the East Coast’s brightest new acts to emerge in the last few years, will also be performing at the Tin Angel in Philadelphia on October 9 and at Philadelphia’s World Café Live on October 23.

The duo features Sarina Bolton and her twin sister Nalani Bolton — both of who are multi-instrumentalists, solid songwriters and great singers. With roots based in rhythm-and-blues, soul and rock, the sisters create vocal harmonies that only twins can make.

“We’re sonically alike and there is this telepathy,” said Sarina, during a phone interview Wednesday afternoon from their home in Flemington, New Jersey.

“We’ll be singing a new song and when one of us gravitates to a harmony, the other knows exactly where to go. We’ve been singing together ever since we were three. Being twin sisters, there was nothing else to do. We started singing professionally when we were 15.”

Nalani said, “We’re identical twins. We graduated early from Hunterdon Central High a few years ago and we’ve been doing music ever since. Actually, we both started playing classical piano when were six and then studied operatic vocals when we were in sixth grade.

“Classical music and opera provided good basics for us. We also did musical theater. That was fun but we stopped because we didn’t want to take on other people’s characters. We always want to be ourselves..

“Our mom was a folkie so we listened to a lot of folk music when we were young — great songwriters like Leonard Cohen and Bob Dylan. We joined a folk band in our early high school years. And, we’ve listened to a lot of classic rock. We do a lot of hard rock covers — Led Zep, AC/DC, Ramones — but we do it on ukulele.”

Nalani & Sarina list acoustic guitar, piano and ukulele as their main instruments.

“Lately, we added electric guitar and mandolin — and we just bought a Hammond B-3 organ with big Leslie speakers,” said Sarina, who is older by 15 minutes. “We both play all the instruments. We can switch at any time — even in the middle of a song — and we do.

“We started writing our own songs about six years ago and really started to delve into soul music two years ago. We love all the Stax artists — Sam & Dave especially. We sang a ballad with Sam Moore — ‘When Something is Wrong with My Baby’ — and it was the greatest experience.”

The sisters have released one album so far — “Lessons Learned.”

“We recorded the CD a year ago,” said Nalani. “We cut the album at Carriage House in Connecticut and at Julian Herzfeld’s studio in Wayne. We mixed it at Milkboy in Philadelphia. Now, we’re working on a new EP.”

In Tagalog, the language of Nalani & Sarina’s Filipino mother, the sisters’ sound would be described as “magandang musika,” which means “good music.”

Some of the upcoming shows at the Ardmore Music Hall are the Black Lillies and Mason Porter on October 9, Loudon Wainwright III on October 10 and Splintered Sunlight on October 11.


Lucy Wainwright Roche and her dad — Loudon Wainwright III — discovered they’ll be playing gigs this weekend only a few miles apart Oct 10: Roche is at Burlap & Bean Coffeehouse, while her dad is at The Ardmore Music Hall.

Earlier this week, Wainwright and his daughter Lucy Wainwright Roche spoke on the phone and made an interesting discovery.

“I was talking to my dad and I told him that I was playing a show in suburban Philadelphia on Friday night (Oct. 10),” said Roche, during a phone interview Tuesday morning from her home in Brooklyn.  “He said — so am I.”

Roche is performing at Burlap & Bean Coffeehouse (204 South Newtown Street Road, Newtown Square, 484-427-4547, www.burlapandbean.com). The venue is 7.5 miles southwest of the Ardmore Music Hall.

“I’m hoping to catch the end of his show on Friday evening,” said Roche. “Maybe I’ll even be able to do a song with him.”

Roche is part of a musical family that has created many successful acts and a lot of records.

She is the daughter of singer-songwriters Loudon Wainwright III, a 2010 Grammy Award winner, and Suzzy Roche, who, along with her sisters Maggie and Terre Roche, were in the Roches. Roche is also the half-sister of singer-songwriters Rufus Wainwright and Martha Wainwright (whose late mother Kate was half of the Canadian folk duo Kate and Anna McGarrigle).

“Last year, my mom and I did a duet album together and we’ll be touring together later this year,” said Roche. “It’s really rewarding when you work with someone new one-on-one. It brings out different things.”

Most of the time, Roche is a solo artist who entertains fans with her voice and her guitar. She has released two EPs — “8 Songs” (2007) and “8 More” (2008) — and two albums — “Lucy” (2010) and “There’s a Last Time for Everything” (2013).

After a childhood that was heavily influenced by music, Roche got bachelors and masters degrees in education and began teaching school in New York City.

“I didn’t see myself as someone who wanted to be interested in the music industry,” said Roche. “I loved kids and teaching. I moved away from the family business and then realized I missed it a lot.

“In 2005, my brother (Rufus) brought me out on the road to sing with him. After that, I started back making music and began recording songs. My latest album ‘There’s a Last Time for Everything’ came out a year ago.

“I recorded it eight or nine months before in Nashville. I have a friend there named Jordan Hamlin. I had gone to her house to do a couple-song demo in her studio. Instead, we recorded the whole album in eight days.

“It was overwhelming but amazing. I had never recorded outside New York before. It was totally different. A couple of the songs were written then when I was in Nashville. There was something about the pressure cooker time frame that really kept us focused. A lot of great things came out of it.”

There is a $15 cover for Roche’s show with Jesse Rubin as the opening act. On October 11, Burlap and Bean will present Marc Erelli with Charlie Rose as the opener.

Fans of folk music will have a hard time deciding which direction to travel on October 10. Just over 20 miles to the west of Burlap & Bean, The Flash (102 Sycamore Alley, Kennett Square, 484-732-8295, http://www.kennettflash.org) is hosting a show by veteran folkie John Gorka.

Gorka, a New Jersey native who got his start musically at venues in the Lehigh Valley, released his first album “I Know” in 1987 on Red House Records. His next five LPs were on Windham Hill/High Street Records.  He returned to Red House in 1998 and put out six more albums. The most recent is “Bright Side Down,” which came out earlier this year.

“I started recording the new album in fall 2012 and finished it a year later,” said Gorka, during a phone interview Tuesday from his home in Minnesota. “It was my first time to do it this way — working a little bit at a time — seeing how the songs stand up to time.

“I think I recorded 17 and 12 made it to the record. The others will come out in some form. I just have to find the right setting.”

Many singer-songwriters get wrapped up in the stories behind the song which at times can stretch the length of the song. This was something Gorka wanted to avoid when making “Bright Side Down.”

“I wanted this album to be an album that people could listen to in one sitting,” said Gorka, whose songs have been recorded by internationally-acclaimed artists such as Mary Chapin Carpenter, Nanci Griffith, Mary Black and Maura O’Connell.

“One of my favorite artists is Tim Hardin. Some of his songs were under two minutes and they were still great. I wanted to write songs that were fully realized in the smallest amount of time possible. The main thing was to have beginning, middle and end and have it feel complete.”

The new album features guest vocal appearances by Red House labelmates Lucy Kaplansky, Eliza Gilkyson, Claudia Schmidt and Michael Johnson. But, the focus is clearly on Gorka’s vocals and guitar work.

“Since people see me playing solo live, I wanted to have that on record — build around vocal and guitar performance,” said Gorka. “I had a similar approach on this one and my last one (”So Dark You See”) — focus on guitar and vocals.”

In 2010, Gorka also released an album on Red House Records with Kaplansky and Gilkyson under the name Red Horse.

“We still are working as Red Horse,” said Gorka. “One of my shows this summer was at Longwood Gardens. It was an open-air show and unfortunately got rained out for the second half of the show. This time, I’m playing a few miles away — but with a roof over my head.”

The upcoming schedule for Chaplin’s (66 North Main Street, Spring City, 610-792-4110, http://chaplinslive.com) features Charles Preston, Jake Currie and Jiggley Jones on October 10, Syphe Dublin on October 12 and Random Holiday, Brosef Gordon Levitt and Home Again on October 13.

The Steel City Coffee House (203 Bridge Street, Phoenixville, 610-933-4043,www.steelcitycoffeehouse.com) will host Ben Arnold & His band on October 10. The show on October 11 will feature Don Henry, Buddy Mondlock and Craig Bickhardt.

The Keswick Theater (291 N. Keswick Avenue, Glenside, 215-572-7650, www.keswicktheatre.com) presents Tim and Eric & Dr. Steve Brule on October 10, Kathleen Madigan on October 11 and Jeanne Robertson on October 15.

The Grand Opera House (818 North Market Street, Wilmington, Delaware, 302-652-5577, www.thegrandwilmington.org) will have Hass Kowert & Tice on October 10, The Golden Decade of Disco Divas on October 11 and The Birds of Chicago on October 12.

The American Music Theatre (2425 Lincoln Highway East, Lancaster, 717-397-7700, http://www.amtshows.com) hosts Englebert Humperdinck on October 10. On October 12, the stage will belong to the Golden Boys — Philadelphia’s 1950s teen idols Frankie Avalon, Fabian and Bobby Rydell. The venue will also present “Music of the Night: Songs of Andrew Lloyd Webber” on October 9 and 11.

The Chameleon Club (223 North Water Street, Lancaster, 717-299-9684,http://www.chameleonclub.net) will present Holy Ghost Tent Revival on October 9,

Agent OrangeThe Architects and Trio Agave on October 10, Periphery, The Contortionist, Intervals and Toothgrinder on October 11 and Alter Bridge,California Breed and Like A Storm on October 13. The venue will also hostIcon for Hire on October 10 in its Lizard Lounge.

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