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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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Aladdin Tea w/Clinton Greenspan

If there’s one thing that we can all most certainly agree on, it’s that the magic of Disney’s Aladdin will remain as timeless as the summer sun.

From its thrilling storyline to its underlying messages of love, hope and family to the many, many classic tunes that will always bring the Genie out of our musical bottles….it’s always here and so much more

Just ask yourself…..how many times have you belted out “Friend Like Me” in the shower? And we just have to show our music love to the Kleenex grabbing, Oscar-winning ballad, “A Whole New World.” A gleaming piece of ’90s music which not only holds its place in the film and musical versions, but on the Billboard charts as well, where it became a number-one hit in 1992 thanks to the magical pairing of Regina Belle and Peabo Bryson, with lyrics by the one-and-only, Tim Rice. 

And of course, we just can’t wait to see what Guy Ritchie does with his take on Aladdin when it hits theaters next summer with Philly’s own Will Smith taking on the big, big role of Genie…yes. 

With all that being said, the city should feel so incredibly lucky that we get to have a chance to see the critically acclaimed traveling tour of Aladdin while its gracing its presence at the Academy of Music until July 1st. Of course, that also means that you should waste no time in grabbing those tickets to experience what all of the red-hot buzz is about. Really, why would you not want to when it comes to this show?

But before you set forth on a wild entertainment magic carpet ride (and that you will), get to know Aladdin himself–the most fabulous Mr. Clinton Greenspan. Not only is this Texas born actor a true first class (and highly talented) gentleman, but he straight up took over Philly Mixtape for a ridiculously fun chat about Moms, the Ab Roller, walking into doors after auditions (don’t we all?) and of course, all that it takes to slip into the role of Aladdin every night. 

Get to know Mr. Greenspan below…you’ll be glad you did….and then go see this show!! 

Kicking off our little chat, what inspires you to get into the role of Aladdin every night? I’ve already done the show with this cast for a year as a [Aladdin’s] understudy, so I’ve had moments here and there where I’ve got to go on and experience a little bit of what it’s like to get into the role. I started to use my mother as a huge inspiration for the show [of course] one of the main points in the show is that Aladdin is trying to prove himself and show his family that he can do more. So, I’ll use that before every show and either text my Mom or write a little note out on the dressing room mirror.

Not going to lie, I love that. Although they challenge us on the daily, Mom always knows best…..  .Yes, they certainly do! But you just have to appreciate it. 

Moving on to your background, what made you jump into the world of acting? I was actually more engaged in gymnastics–I did them for about six years. But [I remember] I would go over to my grandparents house and they would always have classic music playing on vinyl or have some musical playing-something featuring Gene Kelly, or Julie Andrews, or opera even. I was always interested in that form of art. But it actually took me a bit longer than other stories may tell. My first actual show was in 8th grade..I did Peter Pan outside the school at a community theater and I just fell in love with it all. I asked if I could do improv classes and basic dance classes and it just grew on me. Each year I learned a lot of new things and kept improving and kept it growing in my heart and I just fell in love with it more and more.

Okay, so….this show. Besides being absolutely mind-blowing, it looks–or it certainly is–very demanding physically. How did you adjust to..it all? I think the biggest challenge was building the stamina for it both vocally and physically at the same time. A lot of the numbers that are going on with me and most of the cast, actually, you’re doing some intense dance or movements while you’re singing, so building the stamina was probably one of the crazier challenges of the show.

Any warm up secrets you do verify each show that you can spill for everybody? I do some basic conditioning, tons of vocal warm ups and I actually try to get at least fifteen minutes of cardio in, as well as simple core workouts before I head on over to the show. I also have one of those things–I don’t know what it’s called but it’s just like a wheel.

I think it’s called the Ab Roller…I think they sold those on T.V. You know what….as self explanatory as it is…that makes perfect sense. Yes! 

Let’s break some music mugs…..who’s rockin’ your world these days? I’m always weak for Red Hot Chili Peppers…they’re my go to band. I love those guys. Actually, I try to stick to some older Motown vibes or some funk, some grooves. I like to listen to a lot of Earth, Wind and Fire…they just kind of get me in the mood, whether I’m just trying to wake up or get into a positive attitude before the show. And I also love me some Fleetwood Mac.

All of the above, my man. So, one question I like to ask all of my tea patrons is what words of wisdom would you give to any performer who decided right this second to slide into this crazy entertainment business? Have patience and understanding and not have any self-doubt. This business can get hectic and scary and you can get a little lost but you need to remember why you’re doing what you’re doing and why you want to go further in what you’re doing. I like talking to the youth about this if I go visit a school or talk to people outside the stage door because even if it doesn’t seem like there’s an impact from our side, they might remember just like a ten second moment of us telling them just keep fighting, just keep working on it and don’t give up. Because as basic as it may sound, it’s so true. It’s a rough business, but if you have the passion for it and you love it you just gotta keep fighting through and never lose sight of why you’re doing what you’re doing. 

Before we part ways….any totally embarrassing audition stories you’re up for sharing? Actually….one of the auditions I had for Aladdin is. I had a little boo-boo on the lyrics and then afterwards when they had me read and said thank you, I headed towards the door and I for the life of me could not open the dang door..literally could not get out of the room. Any performer knows that after you hit that final note, you want to get out of there. So, the fact that I struggled so hard to pull the handle down was the most embarrassing thing for me…and they were all just laughing. And to this day, I still struggle with doors a little bit. 

Don’t we all. Okay, one last sip……describe Aladdin on one word…… Unbelievable. 

Get those tickets. 

Cover photo courtesy of Playbill 

 

 

 

 

 

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‘The Sound of Music’ Tea w/Jill-Christine Wiley

If there’s one thing that remains true in today’s rapidly changing (and a tad bit crazy) world, it’s that The Sound of Music will remain as timeless as they come. 

A huge Broadway smash thanks to the talents of the incredible Mary Martin and the legendary production prowess of playwrights Rodgers & Hammerstein, the show would also go on to find phenomenal success on the big screen as well (hey there, Ms. Julie Andrews), raking in $158 million in 1965, which adjusts to a whopping $1.3 billion in today’s dollars.

Let that pop culture fact just blow your mind for a moment….

Based on matriarch Maria von Trapp‘s autobiography, The Sound of Music, tells the tale of a rather sugary sweet story involving nuns, Nazis, seven ridiculously cute children, and of course, lots and lots of fabulous hills. However, there’s just something about that dear sweet music when it comes to this ever lasting show, and with such classic tunes as “Climb Every Mountain,” “My Favorite Things,” “Do-Re-Mi” and “Sixteen Going on Seventeen,” you know you’re going to be more than ready when all of these numbers come alive inside the Merriam Theater beginning tomorrow night through this Sunday, April 29th. 

But perhaps even more grand than all of the Music magic that will be taking over the City of Brotherly Love this week, are the many, many talents of leading actress Jill-Christine Wiley–dancing! singing! acting!–and she was gracious enough to stop by the Philly Mixtape entertainment tea table to spill about it all before she dazzles the city with her take on the iconic role of Maria. 

Of course, it may come pretty easy for Jill being that she’s already has a portrayal of another cherished character on her impressive resume–that of Belle in the national tour of Beauty of the Beast. So, now that you’re completely convinced to take the whole entire family to go see The Sound of Music while it’s in Philly this week, get those tickets right here……

…………but first get to know the lovely Jill Christine-Wiley below as she breaks mugs about, well, it all

Hey, Jill, thanks so much for taking the time to chat with Philly Mixtape! Kicking off our little spill, how does it feel to be playing the iconic role of Maria in ‘The Sound of Music?” It’s truly been the most wonderful experience! Getting to step into Maria’s shoes each night is such a privilege. Of course there have been so many talented women who have portrayed this role, such as Mary Martin, having originated the role on Broadway, to Julie Andrews in the film, not to mention the two other incredibly talented women who have led this tour before me. I think it’s also important to remember that Maria was a real person – the first thing I did was go right to her autobiography. I wanted to “get to know her” as best I could. I’m not only storytelling on stage each night, I’m “truth-telling.”

How many times have you seen the original? I think, having grown up watching the film it’s safe to say that I’ve lost count. It’s been a few months (dare I say even more) since I last saw the film….when you’re “living” it each night, it isn’t the first film you go to watch while out on the road…maybe this summer I’ll watch it again for fun!

Moving onto the stage for a moment, what are some personal rituals you do to relax and dive into each show before every curtain call?  I have a pack of Daily Affirmation cards – each card as one word to serve as an “intention card.” Before each show, I will draw a card and use that word as my intention for that performance. Last night, I drew the word, “truth” so I use that performance to really focus in on being truthful. Having that word intention set each night really helps keep me grounded and focused in my show.

There’s simply no denying that we’re in some really truly tough times right now, so we need those future entertainers more than ever!! What words of wisdom would you give to any aspiring actor or actress who decided right this very second to step onto that stage for the very first time? Embrace the mistakes. As performers/artists, we are always evolving, and no work is ever a finished product. Try not to self-edit or judge your work too harshly. We are in an industry where we are always looking to better ourselves – keep working, keep learning, keep growing.

Okay, let’s spill about the show! What can Philly fans expect from this production of ‘The Sound of Music?’ This is a classic and, at the end of the night, you’re going to leave the theatre humming the tunes you all know and love. This story has so much depth, it’s a story for all ages. It’s about the love of family, love of music, finding new love, the political aspects and fighting for what’s right and what you believe in.

How would you sum up it all up in one word? CAPTIVATING!

One last sip…..who are some of your favorite music artists that you simply can’t live without?  I can’t seem to get enough of The Civil Wars, Sara Bareilles or Damien Rice. Pre-show tunes, I can always go for some Barbra Streisand, Nat “King” Cole, Whitney and of course my personal favorite, Celine Dion!

For much more tea with the fabulous Jill-Christine Wiley, check this out…..

……and to get your tickets to relive and revel in ‘The Sound of Music‘ while it’s here in town until this Sunday, follow those hills to the box office right here.

Cover photo courtesy of the Kimmel Center






 

 

 

 

 

CAPTIVATING!