Saturday, May 25, 2013

Sassy "Chicago" At The James F. Dean Theatre In Summerville Razzle Dazzles

Chicago blew into Summerville this week with obscenely riotous results-A packed James F. Dean Theatre and a standing ovation once the two leading ladies of the show, Kelly McDavid(Velma Kelly) and Lindsay Marie(Roxie Hart), made their final appearance. After seeing Chicago advertisements plastered on billboards throughout the area, I went into this with high expectations. I wasn't disappointed.

Many may not know that the two main characters of this musical were based on the true life 1924 trials of murderesses Beulah Annan and Belva Gaertner. A reporter by the name of Maurine Dallas Watkins was assigned to cover these trials for the Chicago Tribune. Her resulting sensational columns documenting these trials proved so popular she decided to write a play based on them. "Roxie Hart" was patterned after Beula Annan and "Velma Kelly" after Belva Gaertner. Lawyers William Scott Stewart and W. W. O'Brien were models for the character "Billy Flynn". Both ladies were acquitted of their murders just weeks apart and Chicago was born.

The Flowertown Players presentation of this highly acclaimed and sizzling Broadway hit with its Academy award-winning film version was nothing less than spectacular for Summerville's intimate theater venue. I was thoroughly captivated by Kelly McDavid's rendition of Velma. Her body language was convincingly brash and facial expressions definitively sassy, exactly what you would expect from a cabaret singer accused of murder. Her portrayal was unshakably confident and her dance routines were executed with audacious swag.

On the other hand, Lindsey Marie exuded the appearance of innocence, a dead-ringer for Roxie, and that's no play on words. Lindsey's scene with Brendan Kelly as Billy Flynn portraying Roxie's press conference turned into a ventriloquist act with Billy dictating a new version of the truth to the press while Roxie mouthed the words was executed impeccably and one of the more engaging highlights of the play, in my humble opinion.

John Black played timid Amos Hart, Roxie's husband, a.k.a. 'Mister Cellophane should have been my name. Mister cellophane cause you can look right through me, walk right by me, and never know I'm there'. The scene where John sang this song was another highlight of the night as was Kristen May's(Mama Morton) execution of "When You're Good to Mama".

From "All That Jazz" to the "Finale" the whole cast put on a highly energized performance with know let up. The punch lines were delivered successfully. The stage was simple, but appropriate. The live orchestra with trumpet, trombone, saxophone, and percussion added to the realism and jazziness. Victoria Malone and Linda Wills accompaniment on the keyboard was superb(It's not easy to play simultaneously on the same keyboard and stay in sync.) Congratulations to JC Conway and the production team for a successful, razzle dazzle evening.

Thank you to the Flowertown Players for my front row seats, I was up close and personal-close enough to smell the perfume and see the sweat. Go see it-purchase tickets. "What can I say, it's Chicago."

Friday, May 24, 2013

Spoleto and Piccolo Spoleto Festivals Showcase Charleston's Charisma and Charm-Pick Your Event

It's Spoleto time in historic Charleston. Charleston showcases its charisma. The Spoleto Festival and its complement, Piccolo Spoleto, begins May 24th. The Spoleto Festival is patterned after a yearly festival held in Spoleto, Italy called the Festival of Two Worlds.

Charleston was chosen by the festival's founders as the perfect counterpart of Spoleto because it mirrors the classic charm of Spoleto as well as its wealth of preserved architecture, intimate theaters, natural beauty, churches and other charming performances spaces. Although compact in size compared to other U.S. cities, Charleston's closeness allows for the entire city to be submerged into the festivities, yet it is cosmopolitan enough to provide an enthusiastic audience.

The main difference between the two festivals-Spoleto concentrates on international artists where Piccolo Spoleto concentrates on artists of the Southeast. Other standout features of Piccolo Spoleto-It provides access to the festival for every person, especially children and half of its events are admission-free. Some examples of free outdoor concerts include the Sunset Serenade concert behind the U.S. Custom House featuring the Charleston Symphony Orchestra, the Children’s Festival, the Memorial Day Concert, and the Piccolo Spoleto Finale at Hampton Park.

A favorite of mine is the Piccolo Spoleto’s Sand Sculpting Competition. You can enjoy the natural beauty of one of Charleston's barrier island beaches and express your appreciation for art.

At times, I have been known to dig around in the sand to see what my imagination could come up with. Once, while vacationing on  Estero island, I conjured up a sand sculpture of a man buried in the sand. An older couple passing by asked me if I sculpted for a living and thought I worked for the resort. Come and try your hand for the fun of it or just come on down and see what creative minds and talented hands can do with the shaping and sculpting of sand. Isle of Palms, Front Beach is the place. June 1 from 9am-12noon is the time. Admission is free. Hopefully the rain stays away.

Two Spoleto events I have been eyeing are Rosanne Cash at the TD Arena at College of Charleston June 2 at 7:30pm and The Red Stick Ramblers at Middleton Place, June 9 at 8:30pm. Rosanne Cash's music career has spanned three decades. She has a sound that blurs the lines between country, rock, roots, and pop. Eleven number one singles, a Grammy and nominations for twelve more, and three books including the bestselling Composed are among her achievements. Recently, her endeavors have turned toward the South, her ancestry and the people. The finale at Middleton Place features the Red Stick Ramblers known for their unique hybrid of Cajun, honky-tonk, and swing. Enjoy craft beer at the Finale Beer Garden located at the Pavilion and sample the food. A spectacular post-concert fireworks display will bring the Festival to its traditional celebratory close.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

A Beer Tasting, A Beach Party, And Third Thursday-An Eventful Week All On Video

The weather was beautiful this past week. It was summer warm and summer sunny. Finally got in some laps in the pool and some suntan soaking. A busy week. It began with the Holy City Beer Tasting at Coastal Coffee Roasters, followed by Third Thursday and then Party at the Point at the Charleston Harbor Resort.

It has been written, "A picture is worth a thousand words." With that been said, I will let the pictures and video tell the story. They are a collection of smiles and good times I shared with the friends and visitors of the Lowcountry.

Summerville hot spot, Coastal Coffee Roasters, hosted the beer tasting - the second in two months. It was a sell out once again. Holy City Brewing provided the brews, five to be exact. Of the five, two of them were standouts for me, Chucktown Follicle Brown and Manuel Fantastico Barley Wine. But if I were to pick a favorite between the two, I would lean toward Fantastico. Famulari's provided the pizza and did a great job matching the right pizza to each brew. Joseph Tedesco and his friend Dano provided the musical entertainment.

Third Thursday is Summerville's monthly, premier event. I almost never miss it. Its mission is promoting and supporting the businesses of Summerville. The restaurants and establishments were overflowing with residents and visitors. Busker provided the musical entertainment on Short Central. I spent most of the evening overseeing the sound for Busker, so I did not get around to the other highlights around town. The special unveiling of the first BIRDS statue took place at Town Hall. There was an open blue grass jam on Hutchinson Square and blue grass groups located at various locations throughout historic downtown Summerville.

The Party at the Point is a family friendly event hosted at one of the hottest beachfront properties on the Charleston Bay. It has it all. Water, sand, and Charleston for a backdrop. The Blue Dogs entertained the party crowd. It was my first exposure to this Charleston based band. I arrived when the opening band, Adalya, was on their last song. So, I didn't get any video of their performance. The gathering is a great opportunity to meet new friends from the Charleston scene.

Friday, May 24th, the Dave Matthews Tribute Band will jam at the Party at the Point, kicking off the official start to summer in Charleston. It all starts at 5:30pm.

Thursday is Open Mic Night at Coastal Coffee Roasters, 7-9pm. Talented musicians from all over the area come and share their gifts. Saturday at 7-9pm, T. Champagne will delight the crowd with his love of funk, roots rock, and island grooves into a danceable blend of music that utilizes percussive phrasing and catchy lyrics.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Crafty Homegrown BrewHouse In Summerville-It's All About The Right Beer

Today, beer is the most consumed alcoholic beverage in the world. No surprises in that bit of trivia. That being no surprise, this bit of trivia may surprise you: Beer was one of the most common beverages drank in colonial America. George Washington was a beer lover. He concocted his own beer recipe and had a brewhouse on his estate at Mount Vernon. In fact, virtually everybody, of all ages and social classes at Mount Vernon drank beer as a matter of course during this time period. My first experience with beer was when I was 4 years old. It involved running with my Grandfather's beer bottle and a trip to the emergency for stitches in my hand.

I have never been a huge beer drinker. I seldom drank beer at home. That being said, I did crave the idea of consuming a thirst-quenching, cold beer, especially after working up a frothy sweat on a hot day. Sporting events, weddings, parties, dining out and fishing trips were times I was likely to indulge in a couple of brews. I still seldom purchase beer for home consumption since moving to South Carolina from Ohio, but I have come to appreciate the craft brews available in the Charleston market and will make it a point to attend beer tastings at my favorite nighttime hangout, Coastal Coffee Roasters of Summerville. But there is a new beer kid in the town of Summerville by the name of Caleb Taylor and the Homegrown Brewhouse.

Homegrown Brewhouse is passionate about everything local. Their goal is to have every South Carolina brewery represented on their wall of taps. At present, it has 40 taps pouring the finest beer from the South Carolina market with an impressive selection representing Charleston. If you are not sure about a particular selection you would like to try, they offer a 4 ounce sample to tantalize your decision making brew-buds. Once you have decided, you will be ready for the 12 ounce pour.

At the Homegrown Brewhouse, they go a step farther. The beer selection needs to be paired with the right glass to get the full experience of aroma and taste, which has to do with inducing a suitable foam head. Under each tap, the appropriate glassware is listed. It is all a part of the science behind the perfect pour.

On my last visit to Homegrown Brewhouse, I learned more about beer in one hour than all the previous years I have been drinking beer. My bartender gave me a quick lesson on the types of beers and the importance of a frothy head. It releases the beers aromatics and adds to the overall presentation. An ideal head should be 1" to 1-1/2", but the size of the head depends on the type of beer. The intent of my visit that day was to sample a peppermint beer I heard about in an earlier conversation with Caleb, but it was sold out. Somewhat disappointed, I surveyed the menu for an alternative. They were offering Mobius for $2. My server gave me a sample, which I tried, but I was looking for something with a higher ABV. I chose the Bell Ringer with a 8.5 ABV. It did not disappoint.

The decor was very simple-a long black bar, with a wooden bar top and swiveling seats. A few round tables were scattered about. The floors were a one-time-tiled cement black. A product shelf in the far corner displayed beer growlers and t-shirts. On the walls, chalkboards bearing pertinent information like "Famulari's pizza now offered." Hey, it is all about the beer here.

Caleb plans on installing a brewhouse of their own in the near future to brew up their own unique concoctions. They will use products from local farms in their seasonal brews to continue the theme of buying local and drinking local.

I hope you enjoy this little jingle I came up with based on a old, popular beer song(100 Bottles of Beer on the Wall) in honor of the Homegrown Brewhouse.

"40 taps of beer on the wall, 40 taps of beer. If one of those taps you should happen to pick, there will be 39 left to choose off the wall."

Not bad, huh. If you are looking for a place to relax with your beer buds and enjoy one of your favorite beer suds, this is your place. Located at 117 South Main Street, Summerville, SC.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Touching A Heart With A Message In A Bottle-A True Charleston Story

Message In A Bottle is a 1999 film based on a novel bearing the same name written by Nicholas Sparks. It is about a woman who finds a mysterious, intriguing love letter in a bottle in the sand. She is fascinated by the message and comes in possession of two more, which leads her on a search for the originator of the released bottles. She finds him, befriends him, and the two of them get involved, but she is not totally honest with him, hiding the fact their meeting was not accidental and she possesses the letters he wrote a deceased wife he has not been able to let go of. The story has a powerful but sad ending.

The use of a message in a bottle has been a form of communication going way back in antiquity. The first recorded messages in bottles were released around 310 BC by the ancient Greek philosopher Theophrastus as an experiment attempting to prove the Mediterranean Sea was formed by the inflowing Atlantic Ocean.

A message in a bottle recovered east of Shetland in 2012 is believed to be the oldest message ever found at 98 years. It was one of 1,890 bottles released on June 10, 1914 by a scientist from Glasgow testing undercurrents around Scotland. The previous record was 92 years and 229 days also released in 1914 and found on December 10, 2006. It contained longitude and latitude coordinates placing its release somewhere between Scotland and Denmark. It was discovered by a fisherman around Shetland, Scotland. The farthest traveling message in a bottle was recovered on a beach near Dubrovnik, Croatia on April 17, 2013. It was tossed into the ocean 28 years earlier from the shores of Nova Scotia, Canada. It traveled around 4,000 miles.

The saddest story involving a bottled message dates all the way back to September 9, 1914. The bottle was discovered in 1999 by a fisherman while pulling in his nets. Inside the eroded bottle were two letters. The first note requested the finder to forward the second note, a love letter, to his beloved wife named Elizabeth Hughes. He was headed for France to fight in the Great War. The fisherman was moved by the letter and set out to deliver it. It had been 85 years since the letters were written. His search led him to the couples daughter living in Auckland, New Zealand. He found out Thomas Hughes was killed in battle shortly after releasing the bottled messages. Thomas never got to see his wife again and never met his daughter, Emily.

Breech Inlet and the H.L. Hunley Bridge
I have made it a practice to release wine bottles with a message from time to time into Charleston's coastal waters. The messages are lines of poetry I have written about life and dealing with its struggles. An email address is included. Charleston's coastline offers a variety of places for an entry point for a bottled message. My favorite drop-in point is the outgoing tidal currents of Breech Inlet accompanied by a strong off-shore breeze. I have sent out three and so far received one response. It is a unique story. Not as dramatic as the film, but it demonstrates the power a message from a bottle can have.

Isle of Palms beach
It was a month from the time I set this particular bottle afloat on the ocean currents to the time of its discovery. It was discovered on the Isle of Palms. So, in the one month period, it did not travel any great distances. It possibly floundered around offshore until an ocean wind brought it in. A woman found the bottle while walking the beach, something she does often to cope with a loss in her life, she informed me. Following is the original email I received:

"I found your message in a bottle.....a green bottle on the shore. Where did u release it? If u don't mind me asking... I lost the love of my life 3 years ago in aug. and I walk that beach for therapy to deal with losing him. I have released a balloon there once with a message inside, and was touched by your poem...It was a cool thing to find. Take care."
Sent from my iPhone

I was glad to hear the right person found the bottle and the message.

My next message ready for release
Charleston is surrounded by coastal waters and rivers. It is rich in stories associated with its long maritime history. I have not read any stories about messages in bottles being discovered in the Charleston area, but I am sure some do exist. Someday you may be walking on one of the beautiful beaches of Charleston and to your surprise see the top of a corked bottle sticking out of the sand. Upon pulling the bottle from its final resting place after its solitary journey on the ocean currents, you discover there is a message within. Maybe, it could turn out to be a record breaking message in a bottle dating back hundreds of years or it could turn out to be one of mine. I look forward to hearing from you.

The closest thing to the message in a bottle I know of in Charleston involves the Vendue Inn. It is a custom for people staying there to leave messages in some of the bedposts, or so I heard. I sent an email to Vendue Inn to verify that, but as of yet have not received an answer.