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‘The Color Purple’ Tea w/Adrianna Hicks

Powerful…..spiritual…..riveting…….timeless……relevant….and 2016 Tony Award winner for Best Revival. 

And let’s not leave out an evening of pure entertainment fronted by a truly all-star cast (get to know them right here) of some of the Great White Way’s boldest and fiercest performers. 

Yes, those are all of the completely accurate words and phrases to use when it comes to describing the box office owning national tour of the smash Broadway wonder, The Color Purple, in which all of Philadelphia and the tri-state area will be getting to witness first-hand when it takes over the Forrest Theatre for a very, very special limited engagement beginning tonight through this Sunday, December 17th.

And when it comes to describing the incredibly lovely Adrianna Hicks whose been garnering grand reviews for her pulsating portrayal of lead Purple heroine, Celie?

Well, there’s just not enough adjectives in the world to describe her grace, poise, sense of humor and truckloads of sensational and scorching talent.

But you’ll be able to get to know all of it and then some before she owns the Philly spotlight as Ms. Hicks was gracious enough to stop by the Philly Mixtape entertainment tea table, where the red-hot superstar broke mugs about the tour, her favorite holiday records, why this show is just so important for all of us in these crazy times, and of course, her relationship with the original Celie herself, Ms. Whoopi Goldberg.

Read on…and then get those tickets

Hey, Adrianna! Thank you so much for taking the time to chat with Philly Mixtape. I truly appreciate it. Okay, so kicking off our little spill, how are you feeling leading up to the big opening night in Philly? I’m feeling so great. The tour has just been truly amazing. My experience has been something greater than I could have ever imagined…I’m really enjoying myself! 

On to the show! Would you say that you’ve had different audience reactions traveling from city-to-city with this tour? Absolutely, which I think is really awesome. It keeps things fresh, it keeps things new. We are doing eight shows a week and after a while things can get repetitive–not in a bad way–but just going from place-to-place and allowing the audience to desire anything that they want to experience with what we give out has been truly rewarding and very freeing.

Is it tough going in not knowing what the audience reaction will be given the deep and powerful material in this show? It’s good to go in not knowing what to expect because I never want my performance to come out of something that I’ve already previously experienced. [I like] to go in as true as I can without having expectations like, “Oh, they’re going to laugh here, or their going to do this here,” because it totally takes me out of the story that needs to be told in the moment. It’s where I am in the present that has absolutely helped me to grow as an artist on this tour. 

What have been some of your favorite tour stops so far? I really have loved Boston, Detroit was a lively crowd! It’s also great to get to perform in cities that I had no idea about..like Des Moines, Iowa! They were wonderful! 

Let’s talk about the iconic lead role of Celie, which of course was made famous by Ms. Whoopi Goldberg in the Oscar-winning 1985 film adaptation of Alice Walker’s timeless novel. I have to ask, have you met Ms. Whoopi before? Side note…I have no shame in saying that I’m an avid watcher of ‘The View’  Yes! Whoopi is amazing. She’s a wonderful human being. We met on the Broadway production I guess about two years ago now. Talk about a remarkable woman. The fact that she has her mind and opinion on things, she just knows what she wants to say, which I really honor that about her. Every time we hear her speak it’s like she’s truly thought about what she has to say. It’s not something she pulls from the air…she’s processed things from the world and has an incredible perspective on the topics that affect us. 

Speaking of which, a lot of those topics stem from what a crazy year it’s been for all of us. So, what words of strength and wisdom would you say to somebody who may be skeptical about the future after the dizzying direction we all seem to be locked into these days? The first thing that comes to mind is to keep going. I have to say, after performing Celie–and it hasn’t been a majority of the time yet–but seeing how this woman goes through so many trials and tribulations that would really bring down someone…just break you down with all of the valid reasons. I just have to say that if Celie can get up and even forgive the very people who have put her through so many things, then there’s nothing that we can’t do. It’s great to know that there’s a sense that we can do the impossible–or what might seem like the impossible–in the mist of chaos and all of these things that there’s order to be found. 

And the show couldn’t be traveling the country at a better time right now……The cast always says that we’re here at such a time as this……and that’s what makes The Color Purple such a timeless and priceless story. Also in the fact that we’ve been able to visit and see multi-cultural audiences in every person–black, white, male, female–all of these people are able to walk away with a spiritual experience. The show does highlight specific groups, however, but the fact that Celie goes through things that every person on this planet has gone through. as far as insecurities, questioning, wondering and blinding hoping in things. Not necessarily blinding hoping, but hoping that heaven last always and whatever that’s in their minds, people are able to really gleam from that. It’s something I can’t express how much joy it brings me to see an upper class white man walk away in tears. Or to see a little black girl in the front row watching the show screaming with joy…it [makes me certain] we’re doing our job. 

Okay, onto a bit lighter topic for a moment…music!! What are some of your all-time favorite records? And maybe the first record you ever bought? For me, I have to say the Boyz 11 Men Legacy album is awesome. They had that classic sound [back then] that was kind of lost as far as these boy groups that didn’t quite have it. I remember my Mom also playing a lot of Luther Vandross. And of course, Mary J. Blige….Share My World…yes! I was just jamming out to that recently….because it’s still just so good. And my very first album that I bought was actually the Backstreet Boys  Millennium

How about any favorite holiday records? I don’t know about you, but I feel like the Destiny’s Child holiday record is stalking me lately…I’ve been hearing it everywhere I go. Ha! I used to love that song…”On the first day of Christmas”..it was so good! My favorite Christmas album…ooh..I immediately went to Luther’s Christmas album..cause it’s really dope. But really, there’s nothing like Mariah. That album was revolutionary….I fully believe that. And I also love Pentatonix second Christmas album. I was actually living in Vienna, Austria at the time [that] album came out and I just remember it really touched my soul. I just have so many memories of connecting that album to living overseas…and overseas they know how to do Christmas! 

One last little spill…..describe The Color Purple in one word. Revival. 

And there you have it.

For your tickets to see the incredible Adrianna Hicks take on the legendary role of Celie in The Color Purple while it’s in town through this Sunday, December 17th….you must absolutely go right here, right now because this is one spectacular night out to that you absolutely should not miss out on this week…or ever.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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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.