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Songbird Spillage/Broadway Week

Broadway or Bust….turns out to be the later. With more twists, turns, highs, and lows than a Rocky Mountain highway, last night’s show was more Broadway flop than Broadway showstopper.

Yes, I’m back! After a 2 week hiatus I sat at the table as a clean slate, well rested, and with fresh eyes on the contestants.
And so I ask….What the hell happened while I was away?! Frontrunners in the bottom 3, lackluster performances, and almost everyone trying to be something they are not. Is it the mid-competition blues? Is it the lure of the Great White Way tempting people to stray? I don’t know and I don’t care….time to steer this ship back on course!

We opened with perennial favorite, Larisa Bunch, slaying “I’ll Cover Your (Reprise)” from RENT. Moving the crowd to join in as a fierce back-up chorus, Bunch showed all the performers how it should be done. Did you miss it? Well, you can still catch her at the Haddonfield Ritz’s production of RENT as Joanne.

Last week’s puzzling bottom 3, Tait Gehman, Keely, and De’Soul took to the stage to learn of their fate. Tait took the crowd vote leaving De’Soul to go up against powerhouse Keely, which almost seemed unfair. Singing “Sail,” Keely once again proved that she is not going anywhere anytime soon and then De’Soul did something wonderful. With a look in his eye that showed he was well aware of what was to come, De’Soul delivered the swan song of the century, Whitney Huston’s “I Look to You.” With lyrics that matched perfectly to his journey in this competition, I could not help but get a little choked up. Although we said farewell, I am still so very proud of how far he has come as a performer. Seeing a singer breakout of their shell and start to truly blossom on stage is the greatest joy that a judge/mentor can have. We were all very hard on him this season because we truly believe in his talent and soaring voice. I can’t wait to see what De’Soul will do next (and I hope you are reading this De’Soul….you are wonderful!)

Ok- now on to the show. Jesse Braff did a fantastic job with “The World Goes Round” from New York New York, a song well-known through its performance by Liza Minnelli. A solid way to start. Rob Anthony attempted “Let Me Be Your Star,” a delightful little ditty from Broadway-adjacent TV show and One-Night event SMASH. Swing and a miss! With the Broadway genre now spanning many decades and countless styles, I just can’t understand why performers can’t find the right song. Anything from Rock of Ages, We Will Rock You, In The Heights, etc would have been ideal….but he goes for SMASH. Tait Gehman, fresh off his save, boosted up the energy with “I’m Alive” from Next to Normal. A solid “good” on this one. Dan Callahan continued to be a shining star, as he should be with this week’s theme, when he absolutely blew us out of the water with “As Long as He Needs Me” from Oliver. Still and poised with every last ounce of emotion radiating from his face, Dan gave a pitch perfect, technically astounding, silky smooth performance that would make Judy Garland or Titus Burgess shake a finger and say “YASSSSSSS”. PS- he wins the week! Brianna Roth had the unfortunate task of following that with “Look At Me Now” from the Wild Party. High energy, yes, but a track that just gave away any flaw in her notes while dancing around the stage.

Intermission….and boy I needed it. Broadway week was quickly turning into esoteric Broadway show tunes week. Would I get some Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, The Sound of Music, Matilda, Book of Mormon, or Pippin in the second act? Not so much. But if you want to see these shows and more, go right here for more details. Groups or 10 or more SAVE! (Shameless plug, but dear God that was happening all last night….time for me to get my due!)

Katie Mae nailed it while opening the second half with “Get Out and Stay Out” from box office stinker, 9 to 5. Chali stepped outside of her normal style with “Hello Young Lovers” from the King and I. Bringing a sexy undertone to a very humble piece and breathing wherever the hell she felt like it, Chali left me puzzled. She was able to silence the audience with a ballad, but I’m not quite sold that they were silent in captivation or puzzlement…..”Is a puzzlement” (quote from The King and I…look it up). Keely continued the awkward Broadway babies with “The Light in the Piazza” from the show of the same title. Singing somewhere in-between her cool jazz sound and Broadway operatic tone, I ask- WHY?! Did she enjoy the rush of being in the bottom 3? Beautiful, HAIR (which she was already dressed for), If/Then, ONCE….any of these shows have a million gems that would have come soaring out of her. Although she did well, I think this is a moment where we are seeing artists start to stray from who they are to try to fit a style….or are just getting tired of pumping out winning number after winning number week after week.

Brittany Marie was “The Life of The Party” as she tackled a technically difficult number from The Wild Party. Really…anyone want to do WICKED? Krista Starr battled for the spotlight with her guitarist as she did an R&B rendition of “Summertime” from Porgy and Bess. However, I give Ms. Starr major credit. She keeps staying true to herself despite the week’s theme. Lisa Parks closed out the show with “Bless The Lord My Soul” from Godspell with a chorus of sway and clap challenged friends behind her. A very fun way to end the night, but not her best vocals to date.

Following her mom- Ellie Parks, from season one, was our guest closer for the evening with “Ain’t No Other Man”….Ain’t no other Ellie is more like it!

So Broadway week was what it was. What else can I say?

The contestants lined up to learn of their fate. Dan Callahan won the night, hands down, and took home a pair of tickets to Matilda the Musical at the Academy of Music (Nov 17-29)….and then the reaping commenced. One by one saved until the bottom 3 of Chali, Rob Anthony, and Brianna Roth were left.

~TWIST~

Do you remember when I wrote in one of my early posts that Chali won the Songbird Save? You don’t? Oh well…she did.
This grants her the opportunity to erase the bottom 3, save those folks, and have the judges pick again. And you know what she did?… Yup…she used it.

Well, the songbird save is now gone, never to be used again. Chali, Rob Anthony, and Brianna Roth are all safe and us judges went back to work. Krista Starr, Lisa Parks, and Keely formed the new bottom 3. What a twist. What a night. What a mess.

Winner- Dan Callahan

Bottom 3– Keely, Krista Starr, Lisa Parks

For all of the Songbird Spillages, get your tweet on right here. 

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Music Tea w/ Cory Wade

Whether he’s singing, acting, working the runway or just being an all around fierce local diva, there isn’t a role that Mr. Cory Wade doesn’t simply own. Best known for placing third on the 20th cycle of America’s Next Top Model, the extraordinary local entertainer has attracted a massive following and is quickly becoming known for his efforts in the LGBT community, as well as for a red-hot Philly fashion sense that’s truly one-of-a-kind and all his own. 

Tomorrow night, Cory will begin his strut into owning another role, this time taking on the part of Angel in the popular Jonathan Larson musical RENT at the Ritz Theatre Company in Oaklyn, New Jersey, which is a role that is near and dear to his own heart for many reasons. Philly Mixtape had the esteemed chance to break some music tea mugs with Cory and ask him why he’s so devoted to Angel, just what he thinks of Adele’s return, and of course, we just had to spill about Ms. Tyra’s final season of Top Model

Show some local music love below to Mr. Cory Wade…you’ll be glad you did. 

PM-Kicking off our little spillage, are you read to get your Rent on, Mr. Cory?  

CW-Yes! We just had our first run through last night. It’s coming together. I’m always very nervous whenever I work on this show because it’s so important to me and to so many people. You know, RENT is very heavy and I want it to be as effective as possible and I’m always just so nervous because I want people to be on the journey with us and I want them to feel it.

PM-Tell everyone a little bit about your RENT character, Angel…

CW-Angel is a gender-fluid street performer that’s living with HIV. Basically, she knows that her time could run out at any moment’s notice, so her response to that is to live each day to the fullest. She’s really the living light of the show and she’s actually inspired me in my own life because on the daily we tend to take the little things for granted and sometimes forget to express gratitude towards the bigger picture. I think Angel is a reminder to us all to cherish each moment and live life to the fullest. Just like the show says, no day but today.  

PM-Why is playing this role so important to you personally?

CW-I actually got to play Angel when I did RENT at the Byham Theatre in Pittsburgh and that was the first time I was ever celebrated for being myself and expressing my femininity on stage. In theatre school, I was pressured up to butch up and that I would never be able to make a career in the performing arts because I was to fem. So, to do this role again that’s sparked my confidence and courage, it’s just really special. For me to revisit this role it really teaches me to be fierce and to just be myself. It’s like I’m revisting my younger self so it’s really cool.

PM-Now, there’s no denying that RENT has certainly made its mark in theatre history. What do you hope people will gain from the show, maybe those coming that maybe have never seen it before? 

CW-RENT has a timeless message that anybody can relate to. I think the biggest thing for someone who doesn’t know the show to walk away with is just that gratitude for life. You know, they ask the question ‘how do you measure your life?’ in the song, “Seasons of Love”. The show really shows you how to be grateful for what you have and how to measure your life in love.

PM-Moving on to break some Tyra tea mugs…how are you feeling now that America’s Next Top Model is saying goodbye in a few weeks? 

CW-Well, as you know, this is the last season of Top Model after 22 cycles! I’m proud to say that the cycle I competed in, 20, was the first to feature all male competitors. It actually boosted the ratings and kept the show alive a lot more than people anticipated and I was honored to have been asked back the next year! This season, they chose not to bring me back and then it got canceled! I’m just kidding! Unfortunately, they didn’t ask me back for this season, but they did bring back a few Top Models from previous cycles–Whitney Thompson, who was their first plus-sized model, as well as Don Benjamin, who was the sexy bi-racial boy from my season. I’m still close with a lot of people who ran production on the show and I still keep in touch with Tyra. I have a great relationship with everyone and I wish nothing but the best for them. I feel so grateful for them having been involved with me to the extent that they have. But I do think it’s time to say goodbye to the show after a very respectable run. I never thought in a million years I would be on America’s Next Top Model and I’ll be forever grateful.

PM-One last sip….how about that new Adele song….

CW-I love it! Everything she does is just so beautiful. I don’t know if it’s the same relationship she’s singing about over and over again, but whatever it is, it’s amazing. I’ll never get tired of her voice. And can we talk about how beautiful she is?!

To check your RENT life and to see Cory on stage starting tomorrow night, go right here

Also, Cory and his band are coming to Philly for a night at Tin Angel! Get your local music truth on right here for more info.

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Songbird Spillage/Hip Hop Week

Hip hop week…..my week off, or so I thought. Filling in for Larisa Bunch, I was treated to an evening of some of the most exciting performances all round! Now, hip hop is not my area of expertise (and the same thing for a handful of the Songbirds), but I know something good when I see it, and these folks rose to the challenge.

Songbird alum, Teena Handline, kicked off the night with some Demi Lovato “Stone Cold” full-belt realness. A nice little pop ballad to begin an evening of hip hop… whatever, it’s Songbird. We do what we want! Then on to the bottom 3. De’Soul, Katie Gin, and Rob Anthony battled it out in the online vote all week, but De’Soul proved to be the victor and secured his spot in the show. Katie Gin, back to herself with guitar in hand, tackled Adele while Rob Anthony let us all know what it would be like if he were our boyfriend…and we couldn’t resist. De’Soul and Rob moved on to show us their best while we all said a fond farewell to Katie.

Dan Callahan began the competition with a little TLC “Waterfalls,” complete with left eye glitter and man-midriff. Chali took us to yoga class with Janelle Monae’s “Yoga.” Starting the number with a back-up yoga practitioner covered in glitter and unfurling a yoga-mat-glitter-bomb she had the audience from moment one! Killing the number, Chali set the bar for the week. Lisa Parks traded in her backing track for a live band consisting of Songbird favorite Darleen Hudson on the cajón (a very difficult percussive box). Although we loved the artistry that the band allowed Parks to explore, “Killing Me Softly” with some hip hop motifs thrown in landed her in this week’s bottom three. Then De’Soul stepped on stage.

Now, it has not been a secret that the judges were tired of De’Soul’s lack of performance and presence. This note has come week after week as we tried to impart the huge disservice that he was doing to his phenomenal vocals. Rising like a phoenix from the bottom three ashes, De’Soul woke the hell up. Sporting dark sunglasses and taking his grounded stance at the mic, he began to sing “Can’t Take My Eyes Off Of You,” a rather funny juxtaposition with his eyewear, but then something wonderful happened. De’Soul owned the stage. Finding his presence he worked the audience while giving Darleen a chance to sing along with him. Tearing off the glasses, he took off to sing to the crowd in the back of the house. I was floored. Vocals spot on, De’Soul killed it. Was it the best of the night…no, but it was a personal best for him in this competition and I hope this is just the beginning. Super proud of De’Soul. Welcome back to the competition.

OK- back to the show. Rob Anthony proved that this was his week with (what I am told is called) “Bitch Don’t Kill My Vibe,” and continued the trend of the evening- The bottom rising to the top! Lobstar Bisque, clearly out of her style, did what a true artist should. She made it her own. Looking ravishing in a black and red corset ensemble, Bisque served up a sultry jazz-burlesque version of “No Diggity.” Game is on kiddies! Justine closed out Act 1 with a “Where Ya At?” mash-up that left us feeling a bit underwhelmed. Although a totally versatile performer, in a competition of overwhelming numbers and stand out artists underwhelming is a one way ticket to the bottom 3.

Keely Sibilia stared off the second half right with Drake’s “Just Hold On We’re Going Home” in her cool jazz way while Katie Mae stressed over Jennifer Hudson and Iggy Azalea’s “Trouble” for no reason what so ever- she did great. Tait Gehman pulled out all the stops with a “Feelin’ Myself/Pony” mash-up complete with shirtless twinks in sweatpants a la Magic Mike. Brianna Roth rounded out the bottom three this week with her third-choice-song “Are you That Somebody?”…clearly not so much. Brittany Marie brought the Broadway sub-text to hip hop and sold her song, “Pursuit of Happiness,” with a little help from hottie-on-the-guitar Sean and Jesse Braff, wearing skin-tight pleather pants with a bow on his jock-stapped butt, is clearly in it for the win with his performance of “Get On Your Knees.” Braff, Bisque, Chali, and Rob Anthony were all neck and neck for the win of the night…then Krista Starr took the stage. Armed with a hip hop mega mix spanning the decades, Starr slayed! Bringing the crowd to an uproar, she sang, danced, and worked us all to a frenzy. It was just amazing. It was clear that Krista was aching for a win and she earned it this week!

Judge, Eric Jaffe, closed out the night’s performances with his perfect ukulele mash-ups, bedazzled outfits, and messages of loving yourself. He’s sexy and he’s feelin’ himself, feelin’ himself…and we couldn’t agree more!

In true Schonewolf fashion, the winner of the week received a few special prizes. Not only is Krista Starr safe this week, but next week also. But we are not done yet! She received a pair of tickets to Bullets Over Broadway at the Academy of Music this weekend, and in an Oprah-esq moment host R. Eric Thomas took to the stage to announce that all in the audience will get a pair of tickets as well! Many thanks to our friends at the Kimmel Center! You just never know what is going to happen at Songbird!

Winner– Krista Starr
Out– Katie Gin
Bottom 3– Justine, Lisa Parks, Brianna Roth

For all of the Songbird truth, go right here.