For under 30 bucks – that’s including a drink from the bar – I enjoyed a weekend of exceptional arts in Wilmington. I’m surprised (and thrilled!) about how easy and affordable it is to find great entertainment in this city, and this weekend was a prime example of that.
Last week, Town Square Delaware posted about the annual Delaware All-State Theatre’s show (this year Spamalot) and a new jazz residency program’s Sunday finale performance at the Queen. One’s been around for a while; one was a first-time event. Both are worth marking in your calendars for next year.
Show 1: Monty Python’s Spamalot
With a $20 ticket, I sat in the Laird Performing Arts Center’s front row at Tatnall School for Monty Python’s Spamalot. After the curtain call, the conductor in the orchestra looked at his players and said, “That was a good one.”
He was right. Granted, this is a Monty Python production (based off the Holy Grail movie, which follows the quest of King Arthur and his knights for the elusive cup), so nothing is sacred. But the actors made their parts so believable – as believable as the world of Spamalot can be – that it was hard to remember they’re still in high school. They delivered hilarious scene after scene with unwavering British accents, seamless timing and remarkable choreography.
Observations: Keep an eye out for Lyndie Moe, the ultra-talented Cab Calloway junior who had the lead female role of Lady of the Lake. She played the consummate diva— attitude and singing chops included. And keeping a straight face while yelling inventive insults in a French accent is no easy feat, but Keelin Reilly, a junior at Archmere Academy (Sir Lancelot/ French Taunter), had the audience in stitches.
The facial expressions of Kennett High School senior Duncan Smith (Sir Galahad/the Black Knight) were on point, and Julian Manjerico (Sir Robin/Guard 1/Maynard), a senior at Elkton High, nailed the melodramatic stage tune, “You Won’t Succeed on Broadway.”
I’d be remiss without mentioning the acting and singing prowess of King Arthur, played by Cab Calloway junior Jameson May, and his coconut-tapping sidekick Patsy, played by Will Rotsch, a Salesianum junior. I can’t name them all, but the cast, crew and musicians were outstanding. Bravo.
Show 2: Boysie Lowery Living Jazz Graduates’ Concert
On Sunday, I headed to the Queen Theater for a free (almost 2-hour) jazz concert, where I was joined by at least 100 people.
Before the performances, Tina Betz, executive director of the Light Up the Queen Foundation, warned the audience their socks were about to get knocked off. I wasn’t wearing socks, but if I had been after that concert, they would’ve been blown away.
Broken up into performances from two quartets and a quintet, the 13 Boysie Lowery Living Jazz residents played 13 of their own original compositions— mostly without sheet music and wholly with heart. These residents learned an incredible amount of music in just two weeks, and it all flowed so well that it was impossible to tell what was practiced and what may have been improvised.
I’m not jazz-literate enough to distinguish the specific types I heard, but they were varied—guitarist resident Bennett Atwater, a senior at Tatnall School, said there were reggae fusion, gypsy and ballad styles, and I believe him.
- “Longboard,” composed by drummer Sebastian Chiriboga, was a mesmerizing hit that took the audience out to sea. Watching his facial expressions during the four performances he played in was also great—he was feeling the jazz!
- Pianist Quentin Walston was exceptional on the piano.
- “Anthem for a Honeybee,” composed by guitarist Julian Jayme, fantastically buzzed with the rhythm of jazz-infused guitar.
- Each composition was commendable, but “Nothing But the Truth,” composed by drummer Dominic Palombi, brought down the house. If there’s such a thing as rock ’n’ roll in jazz, this was it. One woman felt the beat so strongly she got up from her seat to dance. If I had it on iTunes I’d probably play it every morning as a pump-up song.
I don’t know what musical the Delaware All-State Theatre plans to do next year, nor do I know if next summer’s jazz residency concert will be free. Regardless of either, count me in—it’ll be a lot of fun, and well worth it.