Category Archives: Events

“Summer: The Donna Summer Musical” brings Disco to DPAC

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Dan’yelle Williamson (Diva Donna) and the Company of SUMMER
(Photo by Matthew Murphy)

If you have ever been to a wedding, you have heard “Last Dance” but I didn’t realize just how many Donna Summer Songs I knew until this past Tuesday night when Summer: The Donna Summer Musical opened at DPAC in Durham. I also didn’t know that Donna Summer also wrote most of her hits or that she faced so much sexism and adversity in the music business as her fame grew while she simultaneously tried not to be pigeonholed as just the “Queen of Disco”.

With over two dozen iconic Donna Summer songs in this hour and forty-five-minute production with no intermission, in many ways this show is more of a concert, but between the musical numbers they do a good job of capturing the highlights of Summer’s life story in the form of a career retrospective starting from her early years growing up sing in her church choir to the time she dropped out of high school to perform in a touring production of Hair in Germany to the apex of her musical career as queen of 70’s.

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Steven Grant Douglas (Bruce Sudano), Alex Hairston (Disco Donna) and the Company of Summer
(Photo by Matthew Murphy)

The show starts off with and is narrated by Dan’yelle Williamson who portrays “Diva Donna” representing her later years. The story bounces through time throughout with glimpses of milestones and hits throughout her career with Alex Grayson playing her mid-career years as “Disco Donna” and Olivia Elease Hardy playing the young “Duckling Donna”. All three of these actors do an amazing job channeling the spirit of Summers and their powerful soaring voice are truly the highlight of the show.

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Katherine Roarty, Brooke Lacy, Tamrin Goldberg, First National Tour of SUMMER: The Donna Summer Musical
(Photo by Matthew Murphy)

There are a limited number of speaking roles among the rest of the company with the majority of the cast serving to provide spirited dance numbers as the backdrop for each number. Actually casting is really streamlined in this show with a predominantly female both Williamson and Hardy playing dual roles as Summers and other family members in her life.

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Dan’yelle Williamson (Diva Donna) and the Company of SUMMER
(Photo by Matthew Murphy)

The costumes are everything you would hope they would be in a show rooted in the 70’s Disco scene. I do have one minor quibble with the set and how it was so minimal. The opening scene with a lone stereo turntable a symbolic start, but the majority of show is set to an empty black backdrop occasionally populated with some moving video panels that don’t add a whole lot to the scene. I think it is a missed opportunity to capture some of the magic and unique 70’s vibe. Still It is the music that makes this show so great and it is jam packed with it from start to finish.

For some this show may be a fun stroll down memory lane to the exciting and uncertain times of the 70’s while for others it offers a glimpse into a storied past they’ve only heard about but never experienced. Either way Summer is a widely entertaining show about a music legend that empowered women in the industry for years to come and that is a story everyone should see.

The touring production of Summer: The Donna Summer Musical performs at DPAC through Sunday, March 2nd. For tickets and more information visit https://www.dpacnc.com/events/detail/summer-the-donna-summer-musical

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Sassool Cafe Announces “Sisters vs. Sisters Battle” Against Food Bloggers, Soul-Full Sisters

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Photo courtesy Stacey Sprenz Photography

This sounds like a fun foodie throwdown! Earlier this week the sister owners and managers of Sassool Cafe, Simone Lawson and Noelle Scott,  announced the date for a Sisters vs. Sisters Battle against food bloggers, Paten Carlton and Quinn Bostic from Soul-Full Sisters. This special event will be the first of its kind and will take place at 1705 East located at 1705 E Millbrook Road in North Raleigh.  The sisters will faceoff in a cooking competition, using recipes derived from their grandmothers for an epic battle that will benefit the Lucy Daniels Center. The event will take place Thursday, April 2, 2020 from 6pm-10pm.

The competition will be a full sensory experience where the sister duos will tell the stories of their biggest food influences —their grandmothers —through food. The Sisters vs. Sisters Battle pits Lebanese family recipes against Southern home cooking. Each pair of sisters will be preparing 4 courses each to be voted on by the diners. Between each course, the dishes will be explained with heartfelt stories for why that particular dish was chosen. The winner will be announced after the final course.

Tickets available for purchase: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/sisters-vs-sisters-battle-tickets-94533972657

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Photo courtesy Stacey Sprenz Photography

About the Lucy Daniels Center
The Lucy Daniels Center was founded in 1989 to provide mental health services to children and families in the Raleigh, N.C. area. They serve nearly 700 children and their families each year. The Lucy Daniels Center believes that the earlier a child’s challenges are addressed, the better the chance to help that child develop socially and academically. Their founder, Dr. Lucy Daniels, noted author and psychologist, founded the Lucy Daniels Foundation, a non-profit organization dedicated to fostering emotional and creative freedom through education, outreach and psychoanalytic treatment and research; and the Lucy Daniels Center for Early Childhood, now known as The Lucy Daniels Center, to promote the emotional development of young children and their parents.

About the Sassool Sisters:
We are Noelle and Simone, and we run the three Sassool restaurants.  We both share the passion for our roots and “Sassool’s standard,” ensuring that the tradition will continue.  We could not be more opposite, but we have learned a lot working together and have found a synergy. Nothing and no one is left unattended, just like Grandma “Taita” Cecilia would insist. We know the restaurant inside and out, having started working since the age of 15 with our father when he was at Neomonde.

About the Soul-Full Sisters:
We are Paten and Quinn, and we are sister food bloggers and storytellers who just really love food. It all started with us watching, listening, and tasting. We were brought up with the divine instinct that food must be appreciated in its most simplistic form. The dishes we loved the most were the ones with the shortest ingredient list you’d ever seen. We were taught to appreciate fresh food in season. We promise to bring our deep roots and unique flavor combinations to help create long lasting memories and leave your palate comforted and full of soul.

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‘RENT’ Brings Heart & Nostalgia to DPAC – January 28th – February 2nd

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Aiyana Smash & Coleman Cummings – RENT 20th Anniversary Tour (photo by Amy Boyle)

It is a little hard to believe that RENT first hit Broadway back 1996. I’ve seen this musical three times since then. First in New York almost 17 years ago, and twice on tour now at DPAC. While the story remains unchanged, the energy of each performance has been a different each time as each cast puts their stamp on their character. I am still struck however by how this story about a year in the life of a group of young artists dealing with addiction, love, and AIDS in 1989 New York City remains as relevant today as it was more than two decades ago. RENT ‘s powerful message still resonates after all this time. In the face of fear, it reminds us to celebrate joy and measure our lives with the things that truly matter, friendship and love.

Mark (Cody Jenkins) and Roger (played by Coleman Cummings) are both struggling artists that can’t afford to pay the rent for their old apartment that coincidentally doesn’t’ have heat or electricity. But their friend and landlord makes them a deal, they can continue to live in the apartment for free if they can stop Mark’s ex-girlfriend, Maureen, from holding a protest in opposition to his redevelopment plans for the block.

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The Company of RENT 20th Anniversary Tour (photo by Amy Boyle)

The highlight of the first act is when audiences are first introduced to Mark’s ex-girlfriend Maureen (Kelsee Sweigard) who arrives on stage via motorcycle and delivers a hilarious (and intentionally overacted) protest song “Over The Moon” in the form of performance art that left the audience rolling. Aiyana Smash as equally impressive as Mimi, Mark and Cody’s drug addict neighbor who works as a dancer. She plays the love interest of Roger as the two struggle with opening up about the fact they each have AIDS. She truly shined during her signature number “Out Tonight” that was filled with energy as she kicked and danced along a platform high above the stage without missing a beat.

Other Standout performances include Shafiq Hicks who does a magnificent job and brings warmth to the endearing character of Tom, an HIV positive professor who falls for Angel, a drag queen and street musician suffering from AIDS, played by Joshua Tavares. This is Joshua’s first national tour, though you wouldn’t know it by his solid performance of this iconic character. In fact, I think I enjoyed his portrayal of Angel the most out of the three times I’ve seen the show. The chemistry between Angle and Tom is palpable throughout the show in comes to head during the sad but moving number “I’ll Cover You” in the gut-wrenching second act.

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Shafiq Hicks & Joshua Tavares – RENT 20th Anniversary Tour (photo by Amy Boyle)

It’s difficult to believe this show started its journey more than two decades ago, but Rent remains a timeless musical with a few doses of nostalgia that hark back to it’s early 90’s origins. RENT serves as a reminder that the strength to endure and the compassion and support of our friends and loved ones is what can help us maintain that unbreakable spirit that flows through each and every one of us as we travel through life – as long as we focus on what counts.

RENT plays at the Durham Performing Arts Center through this Sunday, February 2nd. For more information and to order tickets visit https://www.dpacnc.com/events/detail/rent-1

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“Come From Away” at DPAC Will Restore Your Faith in Humanity

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Everyone has a story about where they were that day. September 11, 2001 was a day none of us will ever forget and for many it still evokes raw emotions. Even now, almost twenty years later I tend to shy away from movies and stories about that day. I am however drawn to stories that show the good in people and their ability to come together as a community and show the very best of humanity in the face of the worst. That is exactly what the musical Come From Away is all about. Going into the show at DPAC this past Tuesday I wasn’t sure exactly what to expect. I purposely had done very little research about the show beforehand so I could go in with an open mind. What I experienced that night was a wonderful uplifting performance about the power of community and strength of human spirit. Yes, the backdrop of this story are the attacks, but its focus is on the good born out in response and not the dark.

“Come From Away” is the inspiring story about how a small town in Newfoundland that unexpectedly finds themselves host to over 7,000 stranded airline passengers from 38 planes diverted to their small airport in the wake of the terrorist attacks that day. The musical opens by introducing us to the residents of the small town of Gander played by twelve actors who tirelessly perform nonstop on stage for over an hour and a half with no intermission as they use small wardrobe changes to seamlessly transition from portraying local townsfolk to stranded plane passengers. There isn’t an actor on stage who doesn’t find themselves playing at least three different parts.

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I can’t say enough nice things about this cast as each and every one of them knocks it out of the park for each character they play. They are each wonderful in their own way as they capture the anxiety of the plane passengers starving for information as they wait stranded on the tarmac. And they bring a wit and humor to their roles as residents of Gander as they struggle to deal with the logistical issues that come with the sudden influx of people from around the world in their small town.

The set is simple and modest with just a few tables and chairs to quickly change scenes between the plane and shelters throughout the town. Set designers make clever us of a rotating stage to create motion and the transition of time as the passengers and locals slowly come to terms with unfolding events as the stranded passengers settle in to the town over five days amid local scrambling for supplies to provide for them and the new arrivals struggle to come to terms with what happened and connect with their loved ones in the United States to let them know they are alright.

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A few of the standout performances for me we delivered by Marika Aubrey, who plays Captain Beverly Bass, the first female captain of an American Airlines plane. She has a wonderful solo, “Me and the Sky” that captures her lifelong desire to fly and her dismay at the use of the things she loves as a weapon.  Chamblee Ferguson is delightful as Nick, a Brit who finds himself falling for a fellow passenger named Diane (played by Jenny Ashman) from Texas. It isn’t all laughs however as some of the harsh realities of the events that day impact some of the passengers directly. Hannah, played by Danielle K. Thomas reminds brings levity to the story as she anguishes over not being able to reach her son who is a New York firefighter. In the end the passengers and the townspeople all lean on each other to help one another cope with the unfolding events of the day.

I also need to give a quick nod to the amazing musicians in this production. They are on stage hidden behind a few trees on the set, and simply put they are FANTASTIC and bring a special energy to the show. I am so glad they have their moment to shine during at the final curtain!

At its core this show is about how even during the darkest times people will open their hearts and their homes to help strangers in a time of need. You will experience the full range of emotions seeing this production, but I promise you will come out smiling and feeling optimistic about humanity. This show is not to be missed. Truly one of my all-time favorite performances at DPAC.

“Come From Away” has performances at DPAC through Sunday, January 19th. For tickets visit https://www.dpacnc.com/events/detail/come-from-away.

 

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Norse Brewing Company Now Open in Downtown Wake Forest

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Norse Brewing Co. is located at 203 Brooks Street in Wake Forest
(photo courtesy Norse Brewing Co.)

You now have another another great reason to visit downtown Wake Forest. The folks behind the Triangle’s latest brewery, Norse Brewing Company, announced this week that they will open to the public on Thursday, December 19th at 4pm and they are ready to welcome family, friends and fellow beer lovers to join them on their first night serving! The new brewery is located at 203 Brooks Street in Wake Forest (just down the street from one of my favorite coffee shops – Black & White Coffee Roasters).

Since they are just getting started it will take a few more weeks to fill their tanks with their own beers, but in the meantime they will be serving beer from the collaborations they’ve been working on over the last couple of months with other talented Triangle brewers. The official grand opening celebration for the brewery will take place in early 2020.

Fore information about the brewery check them out on facebook and Instagram.

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