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Table Talk w/J. Daughtry of ‘Miss Saigon’

What’s to say about the legendary Tony Award winning Broadway extravaganza that will always and forever be Miss Saigon besides, well, everything??

Claude-Michel Schönberg and Alain Boublil‘s (see also Les Miserables) powerful musical about an extraordinary Asian woman named Kim and an American G.I, Chris, who’s also the father of Kim’s child, Tam, Miss Saigon is the absolute reason why we must put all of our troubles aside and head to the Academy of Music while the national touring production is in its final week of Philly domination until this Sunday, March 31st. 

Oh, yeah, there’s also a helicopter that flies onto the stage, a feast of pearl clutching dance routines and straight up life moments you’ll never forget, so you should get those tickets just to see…all of that. And yes, that actual image in your head of a helicopter flying onto the Academy of Music stage at this very Broadway moment in time is most likely accurate..so, grab everyone you know and go. 

But of course, a brilliantly incredible cast is another reason–if not the reason–to fly away with Miss Saigon while it’s still here, and this tremendously talented (and, like, so much more) cast is no exception as they truly gel and groove on stage together while taking the audience on an explosive entertainment ride of a lifetime. 

One of those esteemed cast members (you can meet them all right here) is fine Broadway actor J. Daughtry, whom some of you may recognize from Motown the Musical and The Color Purple. However, all of us certainly know him now from this riveting traveling production (it’s the last one, too!!) thanks to his powerful (and that voice!!) turn as Chris’ best friend, John

Mr. Daughtry was recently kind enough to take a grand seat at the Philly Mixtape tea table, where he broke Miss Saigon mugs about his humble banker-to-actor beginnings, why positive energy and light is crucial in the entertainment world, and why being part of an iconic show such as this one truly a big deal….because it really, really is. 

So, get those tickets while you can…but first, get to know the finely tuned and talented Mr. J. Daughtry right..now. 

Kicking off our spill, break some mugs for everyone on how you got your start on musical theater…. It actually goes back to when the banks crashed…I was a banker before I did this. So, when [they] crashed, things went crazy and the only fallback I had was my love for the theater. So, one thing led to another and I was in New York doing Broadway a little bit down the road. 

From banker to actor…that must have been one hell of a transition… It was rough! It took a couple of years for me to actually transition, I was living in DC and I was working for what was then Wachovia bank, which turned into Wells Fargo. I was a small business banker and our quotas went crazy and people were doing all kinds of illegal stuff to just stay afloat. So, I decided to leave the bank and not do any illegal stuff….but didn’t have a new job to fall back on. [After}, I started teaching music theory at a private Christian school in Maryland. While I was there, the music teacher passed away, so the principal of the school came to me and asked me to cover the chorus class until [they] found somebody. I said yes and began teaching it…and it was a lot of work to be doing! So, one day the principal came in just to check on the class and saw me teaching and said, ‘Mr. Daughtry, can I talk to you?” I thought I was getting fired!! She then said…’You’re really good at this…good to the point that this is what you should be doing.” Then she said that she would give me three days a week off and would bring in a substitute for me but made me promise her that I would use those three days to go to New York and audition. So, that’s what I did for an entire summer and from there it’s pretty much been job after job! 

I’m always one to say..funny how life works out even in the most unfortunate circumstances… Life had to get me into a position to be aligned in order to allow a flow to happen for things to just start coming! Sometimes I look back at the things that I’ve done and just think how it’s important to do a good job in that moment. Focus on what you’re doing now, make sure you’re doing a great job and consider that to be a seed and then it will pay off in the future..it has to pay off in some way. 

And getting back the vibes that you put out is always key… Everything is energy and it will return to you in whatever way that you give it. Even in relationships..the way we treat each other. The energy that you’re giving to somebody is going to be returned to you in some type of way..you have to be mindful of all of it. 

Okay, let’s talk about…this show. How does it feel to be a part of, well, this show?? So, this is the last time Miss Saigon will be on the road with this production team..this is the last go around! It’s a big deal to even be considered to even play the role of John because I knew that it was the last showing. [The producers] really wanted people who could really tell the story the way they envisioned it to be. Even now because the show is such a big show, when you’re on the stage every night you still feel how grand this moment is and how just to be a part of something so big is really important….and is really a big deal!

Speaking of big deals, Miss Saigon is certainly just that and some as it’s completely taken a hold of the city now starting in its second week. How do you and the cast maintain the energy every night during a lengthy run like this versus a week-long showing? In any show, it really depends on the cast. This cast in particular is passionate about this show and of their ow work, so they bring that to the stage every night and it keep it all going. No person is left behind, so to speak…we’re all giving it everything we have each and every night. We all completely throw ourselves into these roles and that’s truly what keeps the show alive no matter the length of the run. It’s also going back to the energy you give out and each cast member brings what they have and we just bounce the energy off of each other. 

Last but not least…please tell me the cast will have a little time to check out the city during your run…There are some rehearsals during the day, but they’re only for a few hours so we do get to experience every city that we’re in…including Philly! 

And there you have it, kids. For much more with the incredibly talented J. Daughtry…get those tickets to see Miss Saigon during its final week at the Academy of Music this week..right here, right now

For much more Philly loves Broadway truth and beyond, own the spotlight with Philly Mixtape right here and here

J. Daughtry cover photo courtesy of Kimmel Center 

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6 Reasons Why Everyone Should Experience ‘The Nutcracker’ This Philly Holiday Season

Oh, George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker..….where do we truly begin? 

How about with right around this time tomorrow night (and through New Year’s Eve!) that magnificent curtain will rise up at the Kimmel Center’s Academy of Music and give way to what’s sure to be another annual dazzling display of this acclaimed production presented by the astounding, Pennsylvania Ballet

While the reasons listed below are served up as a fine case as to why kids from one-to-ninety-two should experience the magic of lots (and lots!) of sugarplums dancing around their heads all month long thanks to this beacon of a show, but what it truly comes down to are four little-yet-gigantic words….

………support the local arts! Because it all truly doesn’t get any better or magical than what you’re about to get lost in when The Nutcracker takes over our Philly holiday lives once again.Ready? 

Oh, and here’s a few more words…..get those tickets. But first, a delightful, tip-toeing journey through all of the reasons why you absolutely should. 

1.It’s a delightful holiday tale as old as time…..     Considered the most famous stage take of Tchaikovsky‘s historic 1892 ballet, this version ofThe Nutcracker also adapts the story of E.T.A. Hoffman’s tale, The Nutcracker and the Mouse King, which you can actually show to the kids right here before you go! While the equally legendary Mikhail Baryshnikov‘s production is the most recognized television version (really, how can we ever forget?), it is Mr. George Balanchine’s story that has not only been taking over stages (and selling out the holiday box office) for nearly 65 years, but will always be thought of as a groundbreaking production that made ballet famous in America. And it’s for that very reason that we must show our respect, lace up those slippers and tip-toe right to those glistening tickets. 

2.All of the incredible local talent on fine display….  While it’s easy to go on-and-on about just how incredible the Pennsylvania Ballet will always be (those incredible kids work really, really hard, folks), it’s better to just get to know it all right now by gliding to their official website right here. And once you’ve entered the land of extraordinary wonder, you’ll be able to meet the Ballet, see how their spreading the Love throughout the community, find out about future spectacular events, and of course, you’ll get all access to tickets for ‘The Nutcracker.’ There’s nothing more to say here except attack it like you’re Natalie Portman in ‘Black Swan.’ Go. 

3.It’s a must to keep those Philly holiday traditions alive and glowing….    Macy’s Light Show.…the Christmas Village……going to all 75 tree lightings around the city…..Miracle on 13th Street….the ice skating (and carousel!!) at City Hall, and of course, The Nutcracker. Yes, these are all delightfully frosty Philly holiday traditions that have kept alive and glowing all of these years. And you know why? Because us Philadelphians know how to do it holiday-style. So, if you haven’t checked your tradition list twice yet, now is the time, because, you-know-who is watchin’ and makin’ sure you and the whole phamily do it all this year and have the best holiday yet. 

4.It’s a fantastic way to expose your little loved ones to the arts…..  Oh, the holidays. A time when young ones’ minds are at their very inquisitive and you may hear such questions as….what time is Santa coming? Why is Rudolph’s nose so bright? Where do babies come from? How would you like not to answer that not-so-elusive third question, well, at least until January, hopefully. Take them to The Nutcracker and they’ll be so immersed in everything that’s going on in front of them (the dancing! the prancing! the stage! the lights!) that it will take their young minds away from that question and straight into an obsessed world of every sensation of the arts. And if you’re really lucky, maybe they’ll take one of the many aspects of this show and roll with it to see what happens in the future. Now, that’s the true magic of the holiday season. 

5.Speaking of the Arts one more time…….So, there’s this thing happening….perhaps you’ve heard….schools across the country are cutting funding to arts programs..yes, clutch those pearls because it’s true. And guess what? It must be stopped right this very moment as young ones will lose their escape from, well, it all. While we may not be able to change what’s already been done, we can still show just how important the arts are for everyone, everywhere and the Pennsylvania Ballet’s production of this enchanting tale is as fine of a local arts fever as you’re going to get. So, let’s show them we mean business and get out there and support those arts! Besides, GQ just named Philly the City of the Year.…let’s keep the vibes up, shall we? Yes. 

6.Because it’s been a year for us all…    One last sip of holiday tea…let’s talk about 2018. Okay, enough about that…it’s time to get those tickets because if you’re looking for one last escape and capture a truly unforgettable moment as we close out this year, it’s certainly right here. Happy holidays, everyone…and may you dance into the night like nobody’s watching all season long and beyond. 

Cover photo by Pennsylvania Ballet. Media clips courtesy of YouTube, CBS3 and Pennsylvania Ballet. 

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5 Reasons Why There’s Something Very Special About ‘Something Rotten!’

If there’s one thing that you should absolutely do in Philly this week, it’s go see the Broadway smash–and Tony Award winning!!–Something Rotten!, which kicks off its week-long run at the Academy of Music tonight through this Sunday, March 4th. 

Set in 1595, the story trails along with Nick and Nigel Bottom, two brothers who hilariously struggle to find success in the theatrical world, competing with the likes of their contemporary frenemy, William Shakespeare. A roaring romp from start to finish, Something Rotten! has acquired praise from across the globe with the Gazette spilling, “You couldn’t ask for a sillier more satisfying show for theater nerds and anyone who loves shows packed with elaborate dance numbers, double entendres and energy to spare.”

And there’s even some that are saying (perhaps the actors themselves?) that Something Rotten! “….is the funniest show in over 400 years.” While it’s easy to go on and on about Broadway’s daring Tony darling of a show, you must see it for yourself at the Academy of Music this week. 

But first, here’s 5 reasons why–along with some truly fabulous clips!!–as to why there’s just something very, very special about Broadway’s Something Rotten! 

Now, get those tickets. 

1. It was destined to be a hit right from the very beginning…. Originally conceived as an idea conjured up by brothers Karey and Wayne Kirkpatrick in the 1990s, the Broadway bound siblings eventually teamed up with composer John O’Farrell to write a few songs and a produce a stage treatment, which soon made their way to acclaimed producer Kevin McCollum in 2010. Although Something Rotten! was expected to have a pre-Broadway trial in Seattle in spring 2015, McCollum felt confident enough that he had a bona fide smash on his creative hands that he opted to open the show without the Seattle tryout when a Broadway theatre became available.  And well, the rest is certainly stage history as the show officially opened in NYC on April 22nd, 2015 to rave reviews and of course eventually…..all of those Tony nominations (10to be exact) with the national tour soon following two years later. And the continuing of the Rotten journey is the reason why you should absolutely catch this wonderful show while it’s in the city until this Sunday. 

2.The cast is all about the Broadway and Philly love…and marriage!  Perhaps one of the best parts about the national tour of Something Rotten! (besides, well, all of it) is that three of its leads are all critically acclaimed theater connoisseurs along with being featured on the show’s original Broadway run. Yes, Rob McClure (Nick Bottom), Josh Grisetti (Nigel Bottom) and Adam Pascal (Shakespeare) have taken the Great White Way by storm and are guaranteed more than ready to serve Philly with their tremendous talents all week-long.

And as lucky love would have it, Mr. McClure gets to be married to lead Rotten actress Maggie Lakis (Nick’s equally hilarious wife, Bea) both on and off the stage! And you’re going to love this…..both Rob and Maggie are from Philly and got engaged right on stage at the Forrest Theatre back in 2008! And while we may not know just how they make it all work since marriage is also a high-profile job in itself, but we’re guessing the hijinks that ensue in this Mr. McClure’s hilariously helmed backstage video might just have something to do with it. Check it out and then get those tickets…now. 

3.It’s got all of the delightful Broadway tunes you need in your life right now….    From the jazzed up opening number, “Welcome to the Renaissance” to “God, I Hate Shakespeare” to fan favorite, “A Musical,” not only does this spectacular stage spectacle have all of the eardrum grabbin,’ toe tappin’ music you could ever want from a Broadway show, but it all adds up to what’s sure to be a fabulous night out in Philly for you and yours this week.  No further statements. 

4.Or how about…..  that time “Hard to Be the Bard” took over the White House?? Priceless. 

5.Do you really need another reason after that? Absolutely not! So, get those tickets (right here!) before you feel absolutely rotten about missing the critically acclaimed Something Rotten! at the Academy of Music this week. 

Okay, here’s one more. See you there! 

Cover photo courtesy of The Kimmel Center for Performing Arts