A year after graduating from Western Carolina University, Tyler McKenzie is Broadway-bound. McKenzie is in the ensemble and understudy for two roles in the current national tour of “Mamma Mia!” and will be in the show on Broadway this summer. The tour featuring the music of ABBA is making a return run at the Durham Performing Arts Center for five shows over three days – May 30 through June 1.
McKenzie was born in Long Island and his family moved to Charlotte when he was in high school. He’s based in New York City now, but life is mostly on the road. After high school graduation, he went to Western Carolina and received his bachelor of fine arts degree. McKenzie said he loved the mountains. After graduation, he got a job at a Pittsburgh theme park.
After putting her choir through those paces familiar to anyone who has ever sung in a group – scales, vocalizations, diction exercises – Scott Hill works on musicianship with members of the Durham Children’s Choir. Rehearsing a piece titled “Jabberwocky” by composer David Brunner, Hill tells her students to sing a passage “forte, but not screeching.”
This particular piece also has some choreography (also called “choralography”), that Edie Sanders helps to coach at this rehearsal. When the students reach a difficult rhythmic passage, Hill stresses that the lyric and movement must be “on the same beat.”
Durham’s annual Bimbé Cultural Arts Festival, once held downtown, is in a new location this year. The 45th annual festival that celebrates African and African-American culture will be held Saturday at Rock Quarry Park, 701 Stadium Drive, near the Durham County Stadium. The event is free and will be held held rain or shine.
The headlining performer this year is longtime hip-hop DJ and rapper Biz Markie. Previous Bimbé headliners have included Markie collaborators like DJ Kool. The festival is held from noon to 8 p.m. with performances and activities all day. Taking the stage at 6:45 p.m. will be Nice & Smooth, Da Brat and Biz Markie.
About 15 minutes before curtain time Tuesday night at the Durham Performing Arts Center, one guest was greeted with a shower of colorful confetti. It was opening night of “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” and also DPAC’s celebration of its 2 millionth customer since it opened in late 2008. Cheryl Pettiford of Raleigh, who had also just attended two concerts in the past week, was surprised and excited as DPAC staff presented her with a giant ticket, a new seat in a balcony side box, an invitation to the cast party and $1,000 toward future DPAC shows.
The energy of the evening continued with “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat,” a colorful, energetic show laced with humor and a little bit of camp.
The Rolling Roots Revue always ends its shows with an invitation for audience members to participate in an on-stage jam session and sing-along. There is a standing joke among revue members that goes with the invitation, said Jack Radcliffe, who leads the group. If you bring a recognizable musical instrument to the concert, then hop on stage. But if you bring an instrument that is unfamiliar, hop on the tour van.
No one has hopped on the van yet, “but there’s always a first time, and we are prepared for it,” Radcliffe said in a phone interview from New Bedford, Massachusetts. The anecdote reflects the philosophy of Wepecket Island Records, the music label Radcliffe heads, and Rolling Roots Revue, the annual tour of label artists that comes to the ArtsCenter in Carrboro today.
Ace Young knows a little about what it means to be one of many brothers. The actor portrays the biblical figure Joseph in the Broadway tour of the musical “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat,” coming to the Durham Performing Arts Center May 13-18.
“Joseph is the one brother wanting to make everybody happy,” Young said in a phone interview from the tour stop in St. Louis, Mo. “Me having four older brothers, as the runt of the litter it was my job, too, keeping everyone happy.”
To say the NC Youth Tap Ensemble’s got rhythm would be an understatement. In its recent show,” Listen In,” its members ARE rhythm. Their energy crackles like lightning and connects with the audience, judging from the response Sunday in the Carolina Theatre.
Further proof may be found by the fact that when I got home, their energy made it all the way to my feet and some tapping on the kitchen linoleum floor – steps that in no way resembled my rudimentary delivery during childhood dance recitals. I mean my feet moved with a flurry and out to the sides; I lunged forward with one hand and extended one foot backward. Nothing like they did, of course, but still. … Such was the influence of this talented group of dancers led by artistic director Gene Medler and assistant director Rachel Teem.
How could you hear 38 tap dancers tapping? You could walk by the Carolina Theatre Saturday night or Sunday afternoon. Or better yet, you could be in that theater when the North Carolina Youth Tap Ensemble performs their new show, “Listen In.”
Former ensemble members, Michelle Dorrance and Jason Janas, who are stars in the tap world, will appear as guest artists. Janas is on both programs while Dorrance appears on Sunday only.
Duke Performances will present the annual summer Music in the Gardens series in collaboration with Merge Records, which is celebrating its 25th anniversary as a Durham music label.
Among the Merge artists slated to play headlining concerts in Baldwin Auditorium are Lambchop – performing their album “Nixon” – along with William Tyler, Mount Moriah, Stephin Merritt, and Mark Eitzel.
The annual Bynum Front Porch Friday Night Music Series begins today when Steph Stewart and the Boyfriends play at 7 p.m. at Bynum General Store.
This four-piece string band from Chapel Hill fuses the music of Appalachia with Americana. The summer lineup also includes bluegrass, jazz, old time music, rhythm and blues, gospel, West African traditional music and other styles.
Organizers of Saturday’s Southern Durham Blues & Heritage Festival say they want the event to spur greater appreciation for Durham and the Piedmont’s deep connections to the blues.
The event will be held Saturday at Papa Mojo’s Roadhouse, with stages inside and outside the restaurant. All proceeds will benefit veteran guitarist and bluesman John Dee Holeman, who also will perform at the festival.
The best things in life, as they say, are free. In Durham this summer, the best things are also free. Summertime – or late spring, really – ushers in a cool wave of free music series in the Bull City. From downtown to the malls, there are enough concerts to fill your calendar from now to Labor Day.
First, two big anticipated Durham events. The 45th Annual Bimbé Cultural Arts Festival sponsored by Durham Parks and Recreation always draws well-known names in rap or hip-hop. This year Biz Markie will take the mic, along with Da Brat and Nice & Smooth. This year’s festival will be held from noon to 8 p.m. May 17 at Rock Quarry Park, 71 Stadium Drive, near Durham County Stadium.
Bimbé is a family-oriented event that celebrates African and African-American history, culture, art and traditions. Along with the concerts there will be food, arts and crafts, and a children’s area. If you want to sit down, make sure to bring a chair. No alcohol or coolers permitted. Bimbé will happen rain or shine, and shut down temporarily if there are storms.
The Durham Bulls Athletic Park will host the All-Star Game and celebrate with two parties in one day. On July 12, the All-Star Fan Fest will be held from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the DBAP. For fans, there will be batting practice, games, ballpark tours and fun stuff for kids. Then after a midday break, the All-Star Block Party begins at 6 p.m. that day on Blackwell Street next to the ballpark. There will be food trucks, beer tents and a headlining concert by The Baseball Project, a band that includes members of R.E.M. For information, visit www.durhambulls.com.