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Cirque Du Soleil Tea w/Bruno Armagnac of ‘Varekai’

“Deep within a forest atop a volcano, exists an extraordinary world, where anything is possible: Varekai… From the sky falls a solitary young man, and the story begins. On this day at the edge of time, in this place of all possibilities, begins an inspired incantation to life rediscovered.”

In other words, get ready Philly and the entire tri-state area because that pulsating phrase above that describe Cirque Du Soleil‘s truly incredible production of Varekai which will no doubt be captivating audiences at the Liacouras Center for a special engagement beginning tonight through this Sunday, November 26th.

And while we may not know just what spectacular stunts and aerial wonders lie in store for us thanks to Cirque’s legendary and delightfully unpredictable entertainment prowess, we can all get a little closer to the wondrous truth by getting tickets right here and by also getting to know Bruno Armagnec, the mega-talented artistic director of this truly incredible show. 

Mr. Armagnec was kind enough to stop by Philly Mixtape for an exclusive chat where he spilled about his role in the production, the show’s most important elements and just where, oh where they find the incredible athletes and acrobats that are guaranteed to make your dreams come alive all week long. 

And it all begins….right now. 

Kicking off our spill, and I truly thank you for taking the time to chat with Philly Mixtape, tell everyone about your role in the show and ho you keep it all together! I’m the artistic director of Varekai. [I’m the] person with the artistic team who is in charge of the artistic quality of the show. And everyday we have to make sure we have the best possible show. I started on Varekai a little bit more than a year ago and I look after all of the artists with what they do on stage with their rehearsal. In collaboration with the head coach, we are a circus [whose stories] are told through acrobatics so we need a specialist, someone who knows acrobatics. I’m coming from dancing so my background is completely different. I actually consider myself the nanny of the show making sure that everybody’s happy and that they have what they need. There are 48 artists traveling together [spread among] thirteen different nationalities, if I’m not mistaken. So you have to make sure that everybody lives in good harmony and I must say that in Varekai, that’s the case. It’s good. Also, when there is a new artist joining the troupe I make sure that this person is well-integrated in the group and the act that [they] to do. And in case of a last-minute change or there might be someone sick or an injury, I must be able to rearrange the show and coordinate with everybody. It’s all so that at the end of the day, we have a good time and that we’re all on the same page. 

How do you personally do with the danger element of the show? I can imagine that it’s a grand task. There is no improvisation because things can go wrong. It’s [not like] when actors miss a line, everybody will be safe. Here there is the danger aspect which is very important and powerful for the show that we must absolutely control. I must make sure that’s the case all of the time! 

Do you feel a lot of pressure doing a show of this caliber? I can’t say there is lots pf pressure. But we do have meetings before each show. And in these meetings, the therapists, who are part of the artistic team, tell us who can do what. That gives us two hours to reorganize the show. Varekai is a production which is fifteen years old. So, there have been lots of times to put in place many different versions. If someone is missing, okay, we know what to do. Each main character has a backup in the cast. So, let’s say that the female lead character calls out, there is another female lead who is trained to do this part and who can jump in at anytime. We are ready for every possible scenario and that makes the pressure a lot lighter when you know you always have a “Plan B.” 

I can imagine that team work is also a key factor in bringing it all together…. It’s immersed. As I said earlier, we all have to be on the same page. Let’s say if the left hand didn’t know what the right can do, then that’s we can have accidents. And when I say everybody, that’s when I mean everybody from the artists on stage to the technicians to the riggers to the light technicians. The team work is on going and we all depend on each other. 

I just have to ask, what’s the “audition” process like for Varekai? Of course, it depends on which type of artist we are recruiting. It’s not the same process as singers and musicians. For [them] it’s kind of the classic way to audition. For acrobats, a lot are coming from the sport world from competition. We have a group from Montreal who go to the different sport competitions and look for people and athletes. They approach them and see if they’re interested in working in show business. It’s very, very different–sport and show business. For those who’re interested, we bring them to [our headquarters] in Montreal and from there it can take a few months, but we teach them how to perform their skills with emotion because that’s what we want to do. Yes, we are a circus and yes, we are using acrobatics, but each person on stage is a character and must be able to show and express this character. So, the athletes [we recruit] are going through workshops, classes, dancing, music and miming so they can deliver their artistic skills. And yes, the process can be longer or shorter for some and when they are ready we send them onto the show! And it can take some time to integrate them into the act because it is a big shift in their way of thinking because when you are doing sport competition, you have to be excellent at one moment. Here at [Cirque Du Soleil], they have to perform everyday. It might not be the same level of risk, but there has to be consistent and real artistic expression. 

So, how does someone of your caliber like to relax during down time? I read. Reading is my thing. And physically, I used to be a dancer so I still have a certain discipline about that and still do different exercises and stretching. I do my own thing by mixing all that I have learned in my life including yoga and dancing. I mix up my own “cuisine” of exercise, I should say. 

One last sip, what is the one thing you hope the audience will take away when they come see Varekai this week?  Varekai is a show which tells a story but we don’t use words. So, it leaves a door open to everyone’s imagination. And a child, an adult or a senior are not going to understand the story the same way….and this is what I like. When everybody leaves the show happy and having the feeling they’ve seen something exceptional, but in each of them it triggered something different. For me, that’s beautiful. 

For your tickets to go witness Cirque Du Soleil‘s Varekai in all of its high-flying glory, go right here, right now. And you better hurry because it’s only here until Sunday and this is one show you and the whole family do not want to miss out on!! 

Cover photo courtesy of leeds-list.com 

 

 

 

 

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‘Off Broadway’ Tea w/Doreen Taylor

Oklahoma!…….The King & I……..State Fair.……South Pacific.…….Carousel.…….Carmen Jones.…..The Sound of Music 

Yes, those are just a few of the award-winning productions of the dearly departed Oscar Hammerstein II, a theater legend (and former Doylestown resident ) whose extraordinary entertainment legacy will certainly last long after we’re all gone.

There’s simply no denying that Hammerstein was a true genius who not only delivered show stopping pieces of life, but he also gave hope for all future show guys and gals of the world. 

In fact, one of those Hammerstein dreamin’ gals has now turned into everyone’s favorite award-winning leading local lady, Billboard Adult Contemporary Artist, Ms. Doreen Taylor.

And guess what? In just a couple of weeks (Dec 8th-Dec 17th, to be exact) she’s about to bring all of that Broadway magic to life once more with AN ENCHANTED EVENING: A NIGHT WITH OSCAR HAMMERSTEIN II, a riveting new doc-musical that will be taking over the 777 Theatre at the Roy Arias Theater Center for what’s already shaping up to be a truly special engagement. 

Not only will fans get treated with the window/soul shattering gifts provided by the vocal prowess of the red-hot chanteuse, but we’ll also get to peak into some personal stories and rarely seen videos of Hammerstein‘s private life. This is certainly thanks in part to Taylor’s budding creative relationship with Oscar’s grandson, William Hammerstein (which he absolutely loves the show, by the way), all to give the audience an intimate glimpse into the late creative mastermind’s magnetic force that will certainly never be reckoned with.

Did we mention that renowned Broadway star, Davis Gaines, whom some of you (okay…all) know from show-stopping performances in Phantom of the Opera, Sweeney Todd and Man of La Mancha? Yes. 

But what makes this show truly special (as if getting “Oh What A Beautiful Morning” stuck in your head once more isn’t enough), is that Taylor has also teamed up with The Oscar Hammerstein 11 Museum & Theatre Education Center for her new venture.

Together they’ll be raising funds to help save Highland Farm in Doylestown, a legendary piece of local property where Hammerstein resided for nearly twenty years and created some his most magnificent work. He even schooled a young Stephen Sondheim who was once and famously spilled, “In one afternoon at Highland Farm, I learned more about songwriting and musical theatre, than most people learn in a lifetime.” 

Unfortunately, the historic lot is being threatened by a sub division, and it’s Taylor’s mission with this show to not only restore the Hammerstein house for tours and prospects for a museum, but she wants to remind all of us with those extraordinary pipes of hers just how magical Hammerstein’s body of work will continue to be and how it can still move you to do extraordinary things…just like she’s doing with her already stunning new entertainment venture. 

And If you would like more information about Highland Farm and the legacy of Oscar Hammerstein II, you should absolutely check this out. 

But absolutely first…..take a lovely seat and warm up with a hot cup of Off Broadway tea because Ms. Taylor stopped by the Philly Mixtape table to spill about it all, including how her new project came to light, how she’s made it through an icky year for all of us, and most importantly…why everyone in the world should go see An Enchanted Evening

Which you absolutely should and you can get tickets right here.

Now, let’s spill. 

Okay, so……first order of business in our little Off Broadway tea………how the hell are you feeling as you’re leading up to the big opening night in just a couple of weeks!? Gotta say, It’s still pretty surreal. There is so much work that goes on behind the scenes that it is hard for me to just sit back and think about how huge this all is. Maybe that is good- I don’t have time for doubts or nerves!

Break a couple of tea mugs for everyone about how this soon-to-be extraordinary show came to glorious light. And also, what does doing this show mean to you personally?  I first met Will Hammerstein (Oscar Hammerstein’s grandson) and his family at my “Unstoppable” music video premiere in March of 2017. We started talking and I learned that Highland Farm in Doylestown, PA (where Oscar lived and wrote all the Rodgers & Hammerstein musicals) was being threatened by a four lot subdivision and on the verge of being torn down. Long story short, I came up with the idea to create this new show “An Enchanted Evening” to not only help raise awareness, but to also help raise the necessary funds to save the farm and subsequently turn it into a place where Oscar can be remembered (a museum) and also a place where young artists can be mentored (Theatre Education). I started my career in opera and musical theatre and this is an extremely important cause to me.

I can imagine this show is a lot of pressure and maybe quite a bit of nerves for you. What do you personally do calm your nerves before each moment in the spotlight? Sometimes the smaller, more intimate things freak me out more than the big performances. I don’t have a secret formula to calm the nerves- I just typically spend about 5 or 10 minutes alone in my dressing room before a show, warm up a little both vocally and mentally and I say a little prayer before hitting the stage. At the point I hit that mark on stage, I let the hours, weeks, months and years of practice take over and I just let the art take over.  

So, there’s an elephant in the room that we just can’t avoid……2017. In the words of Ms. Annie, it’s certainly been a hard knock year for all of us. As a creative artist, what did you personally do to get through these shitty times that have seemed to plague us the last almost 365 days? Professionally I have to say that it has been a very good year from me. I don’t like to dwell too much on the negative because by doing so, you give it the chance to take over and derail you from your real purpose in life. I think that is the key- we all struggle, but we have to find a way to find the positive in every situation that is thrown at us. We have to realize that no matter how shitty life may be at this very moment, there are always more people who are in a much shittier place.

I just have to know……..have you had a chance to sit down at all this year? No, not really! Like a lot of the people out there, I have a hard time decompressing–especially when there is so much going on. I do TRY to set aside some “me” time but to be honest, I simply love what I do and although on the surface it appears to be “work”, to me- it is therapeutic at times. Confucius said, “Choose a job you love and you’ll never have to work a day in your life”- and I have to say, that is spot on…..even if it does sound like a bad fortune cookie! 

We also can’t deny that the holidays are, like, here, and I’m sure you’ll be playing some of your favorite grooves! What are some holiday albums you can’t live without?  Gotta say, I am really not much into the Christmas spirit yet. I think it has a lot to do with corporations pushing Christmas earlier and earlier each year. Thanksgiving has almost become the new pre-party to Christmas and it’s lost all meaning. I know everyone wants to make money- and to that end, I will have to say that my original song “My Christmas Wish” is my favorite holiday groove. How’s that for shameless self promotion?!!! 

So…just a few more sips….with one being–why should everyone in the whole entire world go see your spectacular new Off Broadway show? Why not? It’s a wonderful, new innovative musical experience that has creatively combined curated historical content (video footage, interviews, photos, etc) into a spectacular visual presentation that is then interwoven with over 30 reimagined musical performances of Oscar Hammerstein’s greatest songs highlighting his journey to become musical theatre’s greatest lyricist of all time. Not only is the audience thoroughly entertained, but they also leave the theater learning something too! So far it seems very well received from theater-goers and critics alike. Plus, we are playing in the heart of Broadway and it benefits the Oscar Hammerstein II Museum and Theatre Education Center to help save Highland Farm! Win, win….win!

Lastly…..describe it all in just one word. One-of-a-kind! It’s hyphenated so I am sticking to that! 

For much, much more with the lovely Doreen Taylor, get down to her official website right here. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Thanksgiving Week Entertainment Groove

First order of business……

GO BIRDS! 

Second, here’s to a happy, healthy holiday to all filled with lots of love, and of course, heaping amounts of turkey. Also, if you’re planning to par-tay this Wednesday night, please be f#$king safe and responsible. We have Uber and Lyft for a reason, kids. 

Happy Thanksgiving! 

Sing Your Life Karaoke w/ Sara Sherr  All of that family time got you buggin’ and ready to scream it all out? Well, you’re in luck because chances are the always colorful Ms. Sherr has everything you need for your inner Alanis at any one of these fab Philly locations listed below all holiday week long! Gobble, gobble!! Sun, 9-2 Bob and Barbara’s, 1509 South Street Tues, 9-2 12 Steps Down, 9th and Christian Fri, 9-1 Southhouse, 2535 S. 13th St. Saturday, 9-1:45 Les & Doreen’s Happy Tap,1301 E Susquehanna Ave

*You and your pipes can also join Sara this Thanksgiving Eve night at Bridget Foy’s Annual Karaoke Thanksgiving Eve Party, where all of us will certainly be feeling the love after the famed Philly restaurant’s tragic fire last month. As per the event’s official Facebook page….”The bricks may be smokey but our voices are loud and strong.” Let’s do it. Wednesday/Mustard Greens/8 pm/622 S. 2nd St. 

ANNIE   For the love of all things “Tomorrow,” there’s simply no denying that it’s been a hard knock year for all of us, so what better way to relax for a day with the family and go see this forever cherished Broadway musical while it’s in town through the Philly holiday season! There’s really nothing else to say here except get those tickets and Daddy Warbucks, Ms. Hannigan, Sandy and everyone’s favorite ginger curled cute, Ms. Annie, will be waiting for you! Tonight-Jan 7th, 2018/Walnut Street Theatre/Various ticket prices & showtimes/825 Walnut St.

Finding Neverland It looks like our holiday entertainment wishes are coming true early this year because there’s no words to describe the magic that will take over our souls when this favored musical flies into Philly this week. Actually, there’s quite a few as TIME magazine spills that the stunning show “captures the kid at heart” and VOGUE stated that “it’s a must-see you’ll remember for years to come!” So, if you’re looking to get into the spirit while rejoicing in the origin story of our favorite storybook character, Peter Pan, then get those tickets right here, right now before it all flies away like Tinkerbell this Sunday. Academy of Music/Tuesday-Sunday/various showtimes and ticket prices/240 S. Broad St. 

Stay Blue in November Looking to kick off your holiday week in a most fabulously charitable way? Well, then head over to UBar tonight for a fantastic event benefitting Fox Chase prostate cancer research! Dress it up a little and get ready for a healthy happy hour featuring a photo exposition, silent auction, raffle, snacks, tasty cocktails and maybe one or two boys who’ll be ready to mingle! Plus, you know you’re just dying to get out there and keep spilling about P!nk’s performance during the American Music Awards last night. Be there, kween! Tonight/U Bar/6pm-9 pm/1220 Locust St. 

Mister E.’s Shock Show   Just in time for the holidays, your worst nightmares are about to come true. And no, we’re not talking about spending time with that that family member you absolutely cannot stand, it’s the delightfully cray Philly entertainment troupe Dead Flowers’ hosting their second installment of one of their hit Gayborhood show! So, if you’re looking for an evening full of  danger, defiance, stupid human tricks and unpredictable weirdness (prior to Thanksgiving, of course), this is the event for you. Oh, yas, there’s also going to be a gong that will definitely be used a $150 cash prize for the one contestant who’s just truly fucking out there. Don’t miss this one, kids!   Tuesday/Tabu/9 pm/200 South 12th St. 

The Chris Paterno Band  If you’re looking to skip the clubs this Thanksgiving Eve night but still want to get a little rowdy in a most right way, then you must jump on over to World Cafe Live where the bombastic beats of Philly’s very own Chris Paterno Band (for more tea on this one-of-a-kind local ensemble, check this out) will be warmed up and waiting just for you. Presented by 9x (!!) Grammy Winner Joe Nicolo and hosted by Kiki Vodka, get snazzy and brace yourself for a night full of fun, great company, deliciously themed cocktails and music…lots and lots of god damn music. Now, what could be better than that? Absolutely nothing.   Tickets/Wednesday/7 pm/World Cafe Live/3025 Walnut St. 

Cirque Du Soleil presents Varekai  Deep within a forest atop a volcano, exists an extraordinary world, where anything is possible: Varekai… From the sky falls a solitary young man, and the story begins. On this day at the edge of time, in this place of all possibilities, begins an inspired incantation to life rediscovered.” Yes, those are the words that describe this truly incredible show which will no doubt be captivating audiences in Philly for a special engagement this week. And while we may not know just what spectacular stunts and aerial wonders lie in store for us thanks to Cirque’s legendary entertainment prowess, we can all get a little closer to the wondrous truth by getting tickets right here because this is a show that absolutely no one from any age should miss out on. Let’s fly. Wednesday/Nov. 22nd-Sunday Nov. 26th/Various showtimes and ticket prices/Liacouras Center/1776 N. Broad St. 

Macy’s Christmas Light Show Not that this beloved Philly holiday spectacle needs any introduction since you’ve been oh, so patiently waiting for it all year long, but the stunning lights shall begin warming your holiday spirit high atop the Grand Atrium at Macy’s Center City beginning this Thursday, November 25th through December 31st beginning from 10 a.m to 8 p.m every two hours. Who’s ready? Everyone…even The Grinch. Happy holidays!  Macy’s Center City/1300 Market St. 

Ledisi First, play this delightful groove on repeat. Then get those tickets to see Ms. Ledisi slay alongside Kirk Franklin at the Tower Theatre this Friday night. It’s that simple.  Friday/730 pm/Tower Theatre/19 South 69th St.

Mariah Carey Although she canceled the Sands Bethlehem Center stop on her All I Want for Christmas Tour for tonight, there’s no telling if the “Obsessed” diva will make it to Saturday’s show in Atlantic City. Saturday/The Music Box@The Borgata/730 pm/One Borgata Way 

Drag Your A** to Brunch Just when you thought it was safe to grab that last drumstick, here comes the always vaginally challenged Brittany Lynn and her Philly Drag Mafia gals ready to serve you with a Thanksgiving Spectacular at Bourbon & Branch this Sunday that’s about to put the Stove Top in your stuffing. So, join Mizz Lynn along with Navaya Shay, Crystal Electra, Larissa Karan, Dj PIIMB and very special guest Joey Martini for a show that will definitely put the gaaaay in your holiday in so many ways. Get those tickets right here, right now…and hurry, kween because they will sell out. Now, go. Sunday/Bourbon & Branch/12 pm/705 N. 2nd St. 

Looking to hit the Philly dance floors this Wednesday night? Then you might want to check out…….

Cloud Nine w/ DJDJ, Hashland &Eltrain@Tavern on Camac(9 pm, 243 S. Camac St.)…………Blasterjaxx @NOTO(10 pm, 1209 Vine St.)…………A Decade of Dubfire @Rumor(9 pm, 1500 Sansom St.)………..Double Down DJ Takeover @Coda(10 pm, 1712 Walnut St.)……….Thanksgiving Eve@Howl at the Moon(7 pm, 258 South 15th St.)………Jive Turkey Party@Trestle Inn(8 pm, 339 N. 11th St.)………

Also on the local and legendary entertainment decks for your………….

Monday/11/20 

ODESZA/KASBO@Electric Factory(8 pm, 421 N. 7th St.)………….American Football@Union Transfer(7 pm, 1024 Spring Garden St.)……….Atomic Blonde@Balcony Bar@The Trocadero(8 pm, 1003 Arch St.0………FINAO BOOGz@Voltage Lounge(7 pm, 421 N. 7th St.)

Tuesday/11/21 

The Lighthouse and The Whaler @Milkboy Philly(8 pm, 1100 Chestnut St.)………….Nikka Costa@World Cafe Live(8 pm, 3025 Walnut St.)………Kool Keith@Kung Fu Necktie(8 pm, 1248 N. Front St.)………….Kitten@Boot & Saddle(830 pm, 1131 S. Broad St.)………….Tiara Thomas@Union Transfer(8 pm, 1024 Spring Garden St.)………….Drunk Piano@Underground Arts(9 pm, 1200 Callowhill St.)

Wednesday/11/22

Basement@The Fillmore(8 pm, 29 E. Allen St.)…………Carach Angren@The Trocadero(8 pm, 1003 Arch St.)……………Sadistik@Kung Fu Necktie(8 pm, 1248 N. Front St.)…………The McLovins@Milkboy Philly(8 pm, 1100 Chestnut St.)………..Jerome Jennings@South(7 pm, 600 N. Broad St.)……Stars Apart@Boot&Saddle(8 pm, 1131 S. Broad St.)………..Erica Corbo@Connie’s Ric Rac(8 pm, 1132 South 9th St.)………..Freaks@Kung Fu Necktie Upstairs(9 pm, 1250 N. Front St.) 

Thursday/11/23 

Happy Thanksgiving!! 

Friday/11/24 

Hoodie Allen@Union Transfer(8 pm, 1024 Spring Garden St.)…………..Balance & Composure @Electric Factory(645 pm, 421 N. 7th St.)……………Sheppard@The Foundry(8 pm, 29 E. Allen St,)…………..AC Slater@Coda(11 pm, 1712 Walnut St.)…………..Jason Ross@Rumor(11 pm, 1500 Sansom St.)………….Deadfellow@Johnny Brenda‘s(9 pm, 1201 Frankord Ave)………….Danceteria@The Dolphin Tavern(10 pm, 1539 S. Broad St.)………DJSC@Kung Fu Necktie(10 pm, 1248 N. Front St.)

Saturday/11/25 

Kamasi Washington@Union Transfer(830 pm, 1024 Spring Garden St.)…………..Hatebreed/Code Orange @TLA(7 pm, 334 South St.)………….Figure@Disctrict 9nNe(8 pm, 460 N. 9th St.)………..Pierce Fulton@The Foundry(7 pm, 29 E. Allen St.)…………Guordon Banks@Coda(8 pm, 1712 Walnut St.)………..Poppy@Kung Fu Necktie(7 pm, 1248 N. Front St.)……….The Politik@NOTO(10 pm, 1209 Vine St.)………..Holy Trinity @The Dolphin Tavern(9 pm, 1539 S. Broad St.)

Sunday/11/26 

Pianos Become the Teeth@TLA(730 pm, 334 South St.)…………..Laurel Halo@PhilaMOCA(531 N. 12th St.)………….Joanna Pascale@South(9 pm, 600 N. Broad St.)……….Nakir Tasi@Bourbon & Branch(6 pm, 705 N. Broad St.)…………….TIk Tok@Kung Fu Necktie Upstairs(8 pm, 1250 N. Broad St.) 

Cover Photo Courtesy of Palms Realty Costa Rica 

Happy holiday week!!