It’ll be a grand night for singing when “Holiday Pops! 2012” comes to town. Featuring guest vocalist Capathia Jenkins, The Pops Festival Chorus, the Philadelphia Boys Choir, the African Episcopal Church of St. Thomas Gospel Choir and organist Peter Conte, the show is set for Dec. 7-22 in Verizon Hall the Kimmel Center.
In keeping with what Philly Pops Artistic Director Peter Nero calls “a holiday celebration for everyone in the family,” Jenkins says she’ll be singing songs like “Santa Claus Is Coming to Town,” “All I Want For Christmas,” “Joy to the Worldand other holiday classics.
Brooklyn born and bred, Jenkins admits she always wanted to be a singer, growing up in her church always singing in the choir.
“But when I was in the third grade, my music teacher told my mother that I had real talent and that she should nurture that talent. Which she did.”
Jenkins began studying the classics, developing technique in high school and eventually finding her way to Temple University, enrolling in the jazz program there. Later, she made her Broadway debut in “The Civil War,” where she created the role of Harriet Jackson. She then starred in the off-Broadway revival of “Godspell,” where her stirring rendition of “Turn Back O Man” can still be heard on the original recording. She returned to Broadway in “The Look of Love,” and later created the role of “The Washing Machine” in “Caroline or Change.”
Jenkins recently retired from her role as Medda in the hit Disney production of “Newsies “ on Broadway.
She said, “I never saw myself on Broadway until I was there. And because of that, today I like to describe myself as an actor/singer. I say actor first because even though on the surface, when you look at my career, you see I entered as a singer. But I believe in order to be a good singer you have to be a good actor in order to tell the story realistically. To me, the lyrics always come first. I think like an actor and I’m the happiest when I’m on stage. I feel like I’ve been given a divine gift and I have to share it with people all over the world.”
She’s happily displayed some of those acting talents in such TV shows as “30 Rock,” “The Practice” and “The Sopranos.”
On the concert stage, she’s appeared with orchestras around the globe. She has appeared with the Philly Pops before and says she’s happy to be retuning.
“For me, the best thing about what I do is meeting such wonderful people along the way,” Jenkins volunteers. “I’ve worked with the Pops before, so it’s nice to revisit with some of the colleagues I’ve known from before, but it’s also nice to meet some of the new people too, and then be able to get up on the stage and create beautiful music together.”
Making it look easy, Jenkins says people who would want to get into this business have to realize it certainly is not. “The trick is to make it look easy but it’s actually very hard work. By the time you see me on the Broadway stage, I’ve auditioned ten times and been rejected nine times. So be prepared for that and just work as hard as you can. And remember that training is paramount to your success.”
For times and ticket information, call (215) 893-1999.
Casting directors for the “Real World,” the longest running reality series on television, will be holding an open call for the show’s 27th season on Saturday, Sept. 24, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. at Fado Irish Pub, 1500 Locust St.
“We look for characters from real life; people with strong personalities who are unafraid to speak their minds,” say Jonathan Murray, Executive Producer of “The Real World.”
According to Bunim/Murray Productions, creators of “The Real World,” the success of the show can be greatly attributed to the diversity of the cast each season. This season casting directors will be on the lookout for applicants who have challenges living an everyday life that most take for granted; struggling with weight issues, affected by a natural disaster, products of home or alternative schooling, followers of unrecognized or non-mainstream belief systems, elite athletes, recent graduates affected by the economic downturn, those involved with goth, emo, or punk subculture, members of a pro-abstinence organization, those who are recently single due to a tragedy, someone who has recently gotten out of the foster care system, and individuals who want to bring the spotlight of “The Real World” to a cause, condition or social issue they care deeply about or are personally affected by. They are particularly interested in cast members who have had to work hard to support themselves and move ahead in their lives.
These qualities however, are not a requirement. The show is interested in anyone with a great personality and a willingness to share their life with the world. Most of all, producers are looking for “surprising and unusual life stories that have yet to be told on television.”
Applicants are asked to bring a recent picture of themselves (which will not be returned) and photo ID. You must be age 20 or older, and appear to be between the ages of 20 and 24. For those who cannot attend the open call, applications are being accepted via email. Visit www.bunim-murray.com/rwcastig for complete details on how to apply.
With the seasonal splendor of the “people’s house” of full display, HGTV’s popular coverage of the “White House Christmas 2011” returns on Sunday, December 11 at 8 p.m.
Designer Genevieve Gorder will offer viewers an insider’s look at how more than 130 volunteers work with the White House staff to implement this year’s décor theme, “Shine, Give, Share,” as well as an exclusive look at the decorations in the official residence of Vice President Joe Biden.
“HGTV is privileged to continue its longtime tradition of sharing the special holiday décor and festivities of the White House with the American people,” said Freddy James, senior vice president, program development and production, HGTV.
HGTV fans who have enjoyed seeing the holiday traditions at the White House come to life for more than 12 years, will be “inspired” by the tour of the 2011 décor and festivities. According to the network, the one-hour special features President Barack Obama and his family lighting the National Christmas Tree and highlights the work of 136 volunteers as they adorn the White House in only a few days.
During the special, Gorder chats with volunteers and White House staff about how they interpreted the décor theme. Many of this year’s decorations feature “First Dog” Bo, including a life-size replica and additional miniature figurines interwoven throughout the majestic mansion. Also, new this year is a Gold Star tree, designed to honor the service men and women who have fallen while serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. In the kitchen, Executive Chef Cris Comerford showcases the holiday menu, while Executive Pastry Chef Bill Yosses displays a magnificent white chocolate replica of the White House and other holiday pastries.
As the awards season begins in earnest, CBS presents the “People’s Choice Awards 2013, airing live from the Nokia Theatre in Los Angeles on Jan. 9 at 9 p.m.
Hosted by Kaley Cuoco of “The Big Bang Theory,” the awards of “People’s Choice Awards 2013” were determined by fans who cast more than 93 million votes to pick new categories and determine the nominees for the annual awards show that celebrates fan favorites in movies, music and television. Fans were invited to cast their votes via PeoplesChoice.com, Facebook and Twitter as well as the People’s Choice mobile site, using their Android and iOS devices.
Justin Bieber is the top individual “People’s Choice Awards 2013” awards nominee with five music nods. Other nominees of note include Will Smith, who received nominations for “Favorite Movie Actor” and “Favorite Action Movie Star” for the feature film “Men in Black 3,” which was nominated for “Favorite Action Movie.” “Dexter,” starring Idris Elba, received the nod for “Favorite Premium Cable TV Show,” while Michael Strahan and Steve Harvey both received nominations for “Favorite New Talk Show Host.” “Guys with Kids,” starring Anthony Anderson and Tempestt Bledsoe made the cut in the “Favorite New TV Comedy” category, and ironically, “Last Resort,” the Andre Braugher vehicle that was recently cancelled, was among the nominees for “Favorite New TV Drama.”
Nominees in the music categories include Chris Brown, Usher (“Favorite Male Artist”); Drake, Flo Rida, Jay-Z, Nicki Minaj and Pitbull (“Favorite Hip Hop Artist”) as well as Beyoncé, Bruno Mars, Rihanna, Usher and Alicia Keys (“Favorite R&B Artist”).
Keys, a two-time People’s Choice Award winner, as well as a 14-time Grammy Award-winning singer, songwriter and producer, is also slated to perform at the popular awards show, as are Christina Aguilera and Jason Aldean. “The caliber of performances we have planned for this show is beyond compare,” said Executive Producer Mark Burnett. “Alicia is an undeniable vocal powerhouse, and combined with Christina Aguilera and Jason Aldean, we are going to have one epic show. They are three of music’s biggest talents. I am simply ecstatic to have them all joining us this year.”
According to the network, the “People’s Choice Awards,” now in its 39th year, continues to be the only major awards show voted on entirely by the public for fan favorites in movies, music and television. The “People’s Choice” official website at www.PeoplesChoice.com houses the voting platform where fans determine the categories, nominees and winners for the annual awards show.
As a young man, Cleveland native Keith Randolph Smith wasn’t quite sure what career path he should follow.
“First I thought I might like to be an athlete, but by the time I went off to college I decided to major in broadcast journalism. And then came that first play I ever did, and that changed my mind forever,” says Smith, who followed his dream and ultimately went on to study in New York at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York.
Today, after amassing an extremely impressive resume, Smith is appearing as Le Bret in the Arden Theater Company’s production of “Cyrano,“ running on the F. Otto Haas Stage March 8 through April 15.
This version of Edmond Stand’s “Cyrano” is a new version translated by Michael Hollinger and co-adapted with director and Arden co-founder Aaron Posner.
Says Smith, “I think this translation is wonderful. Hollinger and Posner worked together on it, and came out with a clear, contemporary work without seeming overly modern. It’s witty, funny and really poignant. It’s a lovely story about love.”
The story revolves around Cyrano’s love for Roxanne. But will Roxanne fall for handsome Christian’s dashing good looks or Cyrano’s daring poetry in this passionate romance full of wordplay and swordplay that’s been an inspiration to writers and lovers for centuries.
Smith’s role as Le Bret is the man who befriends Cyrano and tries to talk sense into him. “He is the captain of the guard that they are both part of, and is Cyrano’s best friend and confidant. He’s kind of a leader, an authority figure, but very human at the same time.”
In the play, Smith explains that he becomes a sort of narrator, speaking directly to the audience. “And something like that always creates somewhat of a challenge for an actor. It’s always a challenge to find the right tone, the right rhythm, and the ability to make personal contact.”
But Smith has obviously found what it takes to win roles on Broadway in such productions as “Fences,” “King Hedley II,” “Piano Lesson” and others. Off-Broadway credits include “”Jitney,” “Midsummer Night’s Dream,” “Before It Hits Home” and more.
In addition to many regional productions, Smith has also appeared in film and on television in “Law and Order,” “The Cosby Show,” ”One Life to Live,” “Malcolm X” and much more.
“I’ve enjoyed it all, but I would have to say I most enjoy appearing on stage,” Smith volunteers. “I love the theater and I would have to say that’s truly an actors medium. It’s where you start with Act I, Scene I, and go straight through. Whereas in film and TV it’s mostly done out of sequence and so it doesn’t feel quite the same.”
Sometimes, with an ability to cross the color line, Smith admits he often feels very fortunate to have friends in the right places. He says, “I’ve been in a lot of shows that were not necessarily written for African Americans and enjoyed it. But, at the same time, there are designated roles that are meant for certain actors. I’ve just gotten acclimated to how that works and it hasn’t bothered me not to play certain roles but to play others because they all seem challenging and fun in their own right.”
He adds that over the years he’s become familiar with directors who appreciate his ability rather than his color, and are willing to cast him in roles they feel would be right for him. “Honestly,“ he concludes, “there are directors who know that I can bring something interesting to a role they have in mind, and so look well beyond the color barrier.”
For times and ticket information, call (215) 922-1122.
Esteemed veteran actors Laurence Fishburne and Andre Baugher will be among the nominees vying for top honors when the 63rd Primetime Emmy Awards air live from the Nokia Theatre in Los Angeles at 8 p.m., Sunday, September 18 on Fox.
Celebrating the year’s best television programming, the 63rd Primetime Emmy Awards will be hosted by Emmy Award winner Jane Lynch, best known for her breakout role as the abrasive cheerleading coach Sue Sylvester on the Emmy-winning comedy series “Glee.” “I am tickled pink to be hosting the Primetime Emmys on Fox,” says Lynch. “I’m looking forward to singing, dancing and sporting my finest tracksuit.”
“Jane Lynch is one of the most gifted and entertaining actresses in film and television today, and we are thrilled she will be hosting the Primetime Emmys on Fox,” said Mike Darnell, president of alternative entertainment, Fox Broadcasting Company. “With her background in improvisation, her incredible comedic timing and a worldwide fan base that spans all ages, Jane is the perfect person to help us make this year’s show absolutely unforgettable.”
Television’s biggest night will begin at 7 p.m. with ”Countdown to the Emmys,” the official live pre-show hosted by Emmy Award-winning entertainment reporter Nancy O’Dell, Emmy-winning television reporter Mark Thompson and television reporter Amanda Byram.
According to the network, the live one-hour special will capture the star-studded arrivals of Primetime Emmy nominees, presenters and special guests. O’Dell, Thompson and Byram will set the stage for the night’s festivities as they interview the stars on the red carpet and “get the inside scoop on the fashion, the nerves and the excitement.”
The notable list of nominees includes:
— Supporting Actor, Drama
Andre Braugher, “Men of a Certain Age” (TNT)
— Actor, Miniseries or Movie
Idris Elba, “Luther” (BBC)
Laurence Fishburne, “Thurgood” (HBO)
— Actress, Miniseries or Movie
Taraji P. Henson, “Taken From Me: The Tiffany Rubin Story” (Lifetime)
— Guest Actress, Drama
Loretta Devine, “Grey’s Anatomy” (ABC)
Scheduled presenters for Sunday’s ceremony include Don Cheadle, Melissa McCarthy, Kaley Cuoco, Rob Lowe, Lea Michele, Ian Somerhalder, Will Arnett, Amy Poehler, Ashton Kutcher, Sofia Vergara, Zooey Deschanel and Julianna Margulies.
In a celebration to be held from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. on Wednesday, Nov. 30, at the Philadelphia Clef Club of Jazz & Performing Arts, the Unity and Community Center of Camden, N.J., will honor Philadelphia musician and arranger Leon Mitchell, who inspired the center’s comprehensive music program, and taught children who were involved in its various activities how to write and compose music. Admission is free, but heart-felt cards and donations to the honoree are encouraged.
“He’s like a Philadelphia legend, with the Uptown and Georgie Woods,” said Robert Dickerson, founder and director of the Unity Community Center. “He’s one of the original musical arrangers at the Uptown and at all the music scenes in Philly. He is responsible for a lot of musicians in Philadelphia and in the Camden School District. The reason why I say the Camden School District is because when I moved from North Philadelphia to Camden back in 1975, my wife and I, in ’83, started a non-profit organization called the Unity Community Center, and then out of that organization we started African dance programs, karate programs and music programs.
“The music program started April of 1984 on the advice of Mr. Leon Mitchell. He said, ‘Bob, if you put all your children into music, it’s a universal language. It will advance their academics.” He was one of the original people I ever heard say that. You hear so many other people saying it now — how music and the arts give the children a personal identity to love, because we grow up in homes, especially in African-American communities, where the family might be one parent and there might not be enough love. So the arts and music give them something to appreciate and to love. Because of Mr. Leon, everybody who’s in our African dance and drum ensemble, they can read and write music, all of them are musicians, and all of them are high level karate practitioners. If it weren’t for his advice, the organization that we have today would never even have happened, to be honest with you.
“So like they say, ‘Give them their flowers while they’re living.’ He’s getting close to 80 and he did so much for Philly and Camden and musicians in New York and all over this country and in different parts of the world that he never gets his true recognition.”
The evening will feature performances by jazz vocalist Ella Gahnt, saxophonist Nasir Dickerson, Subito Sound and the Little Jazz Giants of the Unity Community Center.
“Thanks, and I was glad to be able to give it back,” Mitchell said in response to the upcoming celebration. “It’s great with me, because it’s like a first, almost, in all these years” During the event, Mitchell’s colleagues, friends and fans will be given an opportunity to publicly express personal sentiments and offer congratulations. The Philadelphia Clef Club of Jazz & Performing Arts is located at 738 S. Broad at Fitzwater Street. For information, call (856) 365-4817, (215) 893-9912 or at (215) 763-2819.
Although I am a huge fan of the show, I have to say that the last installment of "The Amazing Race" was — there's no other way to put it — boring. Yes, it was still fun and exciting to see different countries and cultures around the world, but the contestants were completely flat and uninspiring. Just a few months removed, I can't name even one of them, in sharp contrast to previous seasons that featured Kevin and Drew, Charla and Myrna, Oswald, and Danny, and Harlem Globetrotters’ Big Easy and Flight Time.
Maybe the producers of the show got a universal memo about last season, because for the new season of "The Amazing Race," which premieres at 8 p.m., Sunday, on CBS, they're kicking things up a notch.
This season, which marks the 21st race around the world for the series, will introduce a new twist to the game that will raise the stakes for the entire season. If the team that wins the first leg of the season can outrace the other 10 teams and win the final leg of the race, they will double their money and win a $2 million grand prize instead of $1 million.
According to the network, teams will travel through three continents, nine countries and cover more than 25,000 miles, where they'll be faced with a 10-story rappel in Los Angeles, frying an egg on their heads in Indonesia, working as "rat collectors" in Bangladesh and revisiting one of the race's most infamous roadblocks in the Netherlands in this season's "Switchback." Historically, siblings have done well in the competition, so watch for 26-year-old identical twins Natalie and Nadiya Anderson of Edgewater, N.J. Natalie is a physical therapy student, and Nadiya is a project coordinator at Bridge2Peace.
Hosted by Phil Keoghan, "The Amazing Race" recently won its ninth Emmy Award for "Outstanding Reality — Competition Program."
Cassandra Wilson’s a deferential diva on “Another Country” (eOne Music).
In fact, she lets her guitarist steal the show.
Fabrizio Sotti co-produced the album with Wilson, and he gives the set its sizzle with lyrical, inventive playing on acoustic and electric guitar. Sotti’s jazzy solos are filled with fanciful flight a la Pat Metheny, and when he backs Wilson’s singing, his radiant tone beautifully complements her smoky alto.
Sotti also played on Wilson’s 2003 album, “Glamoured,” which he produced, but he enjoys a more prominent performing role here. Credit Wilson for her generosity: Two of the album’s 10 cuts even feature Sotti playing solo instrumentals.
Wilson’s at her best on “Almost Twelve” and the title cut, both delivered over a bouncy Latin beat, and on the slow “No More Blues.” But she’s no Three Degrees singing “When Will I See You Again,” which is undermined by her shaky intonation. The same issue plagues the languid “O Sole Mio,” and her lead vocal merely detracts from the charming children’s choir on the closing “Olomuroro.”
CHECK THIS TRACK OUT: The excellent opener “Red Guitar” has Wilson telling us that colors dance, and Sotti’s solo makes it happen. — (AP)
Composer Cynthia Cozette, a Pittsburgh native now living in Philadelphia, presents her first one act opera titled “Adea,” which plays for one performance only at 3 p.m., Sunday, October 9 in the Lutheran Church of the Holy Communion, 2110 Chestnut Street. There is no charge for admission and a free will offering will support the church’s community outreach programs. A reception will follow the performance in Merz Hall.
Cozette, who earned a master’s degree in music composition from the University of Pennsylvania, wrote the music and the libretto for “Adea.” In addition to directing the piece, she will accompany the fully-staged production on piano. The costumes and scenery were designed by Cozette’s sister, Hazel Lee.
Written in English, “Adea” (pronounced Ah-day-ah) is “a life drama about a small family coping with the complexity of poverty and crime.” The story is about Adea Johnson, a woman who guides her family through difficult times with her belief the life is filled with hope. “I’m a modern composer, but I do write melodies and harmonies, so that makes it unique,” Cozette said in a recent interview.
The cast includes dramatic soprano Hazelita Fauntroy, who appears in the title role, as well as lyric soprano Evette Jones, who sings the roles of Peaches and Mrs. Jones; lyric tenor Richard Smith, who appears in the role of Scoopy; George Braxton, basso profundo, sings the role of Eddie the loan shark; and lyric tenor, Barry Currington performs the role of Andre.
Cozette, who is inspired by the work of contemporary composer Gian Carlo Menotti, is excited about the opportunity to work with Fauntroy, a well known artist in the Philadelphia area.
“I’ve known her professionally now since 1977, when I met her the same evening as Menotti. She was professionally trained at the Academy of Vocal Arts, and not only can she sing, but she is an excellent actress. There are opera singers who have beautiful voices, but are really not that great of an actress. Hazelita has both talents. She’s not only a singer, but she’s an actress, and I need someone with both for this production of ‘Adea.’”
Cozette has definite goals for “Adea,” stating, “Ultimately, I would like to see it staged by a professional opera company if possible. It is a concert honoring my mother also. She also gave to charities and everything through her lifetime, so every year I’ve been trying to have a memorial event for her. So I decided to take my first one-act opera and perform that. Her name is Grace Garner Lee.”
For opera lovers, and particularly for first time opera-goers, “Adea” is an excellent choice for a Sunday afternoon of entertainment and culture. “It’s a rarely told story with African Americans,” Cozette said in conclusion. “Yes, there are other contemporary composers that have written operas. I’m sure you’ve heard about “Margaret Garner,” but opera is still a rarely told story when it deals with African-American themes. Here we have two of the foremost singers in the area to have Barry and Hazelita in the lead roles — this is an historic event!”