Table Talk w/Coleman Cummings of ‘RENT’

How many ways are you still totally in love and obsessed with Jonathan Larson’s Broadway/life defining rock musical, ‘RENT‘?  

525, 600 ways, perhaps?

Most likely, it’s waaaay more than that. There’s simply no denying that the dearly departed Mr. Larson’s powerful, poignant story about about an incredible group of depleted young artists struggling to create their own stories living in Lower Manhattan’s East Village while looming under the shadow of HIV/AIDS in the late ’90s is still changing the way we think about, well, life in general today.

That’s actually just one of the many, many reasons why we can’t wait for the the 20th anniversary tour of RENT to make its second run this year at the Merriam Theater (go here for whatever is left of those tickets!!) beginning tonight through this Sunday, October 20th

Of course, another reason we all love RENT is for that dear, sweet precious music

Ask yourself…how many times have you sung “Seasons of Love” either in high school choir or feelin’ a little tipsy at a piano bar? Or maybe belted out “Light My Candle” with your bestie so much that it drove your Mom and your cat crazy? Or maybe you wished that you could be as truly fabulous every day as Ms. Angel?

Then let’s also not forget the way that RENT just moves us to be better people, better thinkers, better ponderers in the oh, so small cubicle that is life. Yes, this show is still just as deep…and it seems like we all need it more than ever so that we can keep breaking those pesky stigmas that surround us all the time. 

One fine theater actor who is certainly playing his part (literally) to make that happen is Mr. Coleman Cummings, who’ll be owning our RENT lives as Roger Davis, a once-successful-but-now-struggling musician turned junkie who is now dealing with his newly HIV-positive status. 

Being that Coleman has already tackled deep subject matter for the ages with his portrayal of Gabe in the mental health exploring Broadway standout, Next to Normal (another one you should absolutely go see), he should have no problem reeling us into every song he has to sing and listening to every word he has to say.

Plus, he’s also a really nice guy!! Before Mr. Cummings moves the stage at the Merriam this weekend, he was gracious enough to take a seat at the table, where he smashed mugs about what playing Roger means to him, why we need to focus more on self-confidence away from social media, and most importantly…what’s he being for Halloween? 

You can find all of this out right Let’s take a seat…and get those last few tickets for RENT this weekend while you can before you can’t! 

First up on our little spill, what does playing Roger mean to you personally? To me, playing Roger has been a huge emotional journey. He is such a damaged character. I’ve had to reach into the darkest corners of myself to find connections with him. But it has almost been a therapeutic experience to bring those darker sides of myself out.

Moving on to…this show. Why do you think RENT is just so damn important for everyone to see even decades later?  [This is] a show about the human experience and is certainly still relatable today. It’s a story that connects people from all walks of life going through their own personal challenges. RENT has loss, betrayal, friendship, family, disease and everything in between. Those themes are always going to be a part of the human experience.

Just to spill some good ol’ fashioned music tea, what are some of your favorite records that have changed your perspective on your own entertainment journey? Growing up, I listened to almost exclusively musical theater. I was constantly searching for the latest soundtrack to be released, or searching for other things that were less well known. But Next to Normal was a soundtrack I found in high school. It’s a moving story that had a character that I could sing and relate to. It became a dream role of mine. Right after I graduated from college, I went and auditioned for it. When I was cast, it all became such a full circle moment for me.

Just to keep it real with that traveling life for a moment, what’s maybe the best part of being on a national tour, and what’s maybe one downside? The best part is getting to travel. I have performed in some incredible theaters and I have gotten to go to some amazing cities that I otherwise probably wouldn’t visit. One of the hardest parts is being in a relationship. Finding time to talk and keeping things positive about where we are and when we will see each other has been very difficult for me.

Okay, so what advice would you give to today’s social media heavy world on how to get out there and gain some natural self-confidence? Being a confident actor, what do you think it takes these days? I think it’s so important not to use it as a way to seek validation. That’s the biggest mistake and trap. Being confident online doesn’t transfer to real life. I think the most important thing to remember is everyone is on their own journey and no ones is better or worse just different. You can’t waste your time looking to the side, you have to always look forward and focus on your path. Good things don’t happen overnight, but patience, hard work, dedication and consistency will get the job done and get results. Once you see progress of your hard working paying off, you’ll naturally be more confident! 

So….the whole world wants to know…what are you being for Halloween?I haven’t!! I am so indecisive and do not plan ahead well when it comes to Halloween!

Last mug break…..define the ‘RENT’ experience in one glittery word or phrase…. Give in to love, or live in fear!


For much, much more with the 20th anniversary touring cast of RENT, check all of this out. 
For many more fall local and legendary entertainment shenanigans with Philly Mixtape, check all of this and this out. 
RENT media clips provided by Kimmel Center 


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, 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 

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 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 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 


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.