Best Bets: Flying Circus gets Led out at Smyrna Opera House

The Flying Circus plays the music of Led Zeppelin Saturday night at the Smyrna Opera House. The name of the band comes from a 1975 bootleg recording made at Madison Square Garden, which is considered one the finest live recordings ever made. (Submitted photo)

A chef for many years, Mutt Naughton is all about plate presentation.

“When it looks pretty on the plate, it tastes even better,” he says.

So too is it with his Led Zeppelin tribute band The Flying Circus, for which he serves as the lead singer. It’s all about the look, which makes the music sound even better.

The stage setup and the appearance of the band creates the feeling of the legendary band in its heyday.

“I have a wig that’s maybe a little too poofy. It’s like Shirley Temple on crack,” said the Robert Plant stand-in

“We’ve taken the imagery of The Flying Circus and combined The Red Baron, Monty Python and Led Zeppelin and put it all together to form this band and it’s been awesome.

“We’re trying to do a true live Led Zeppelin show. Although we don’t do the hip huggers or the half shirt. I might scare the kids.”

The Flying Circus, based in the Philadelphia area, will play the iconic British group’s hits and more Saturday night at the Smyrna Opera House.

The Flying Circus, named after a 1975 bootleg of Led Zeppelin in Madison Square Garden, which is considered one of the best recorded live performances of all time, started about four years ago when Mr. Naughton and another musician were coming up with some songs and did a version of Led Zeppelin’s 1971 tune “Four Sticks.”

“We realized how good it sounded and got to thinking that putting together a Led Zeppelin band might be another avenue for us,” Mr. Naughton said.

“Then I started realizing how many tribute bands there were and I was finding everything from midget Led Zepplin to Ethel Merman Led Zeppelin. But we’re just normal guys without too much of a schtick.”

His original partner left the band about a year after it started but his replacement, guitarist Mike Margiotta, has been an able substitute in that all-important Jimmy Page role.

“He truly filled the bill,” Mr. Naughton said. “In the grand scheme of things, I couldn’t ask for anything more. I always say ‘It’s different but exactly the same.”

Bass and keyboard player Donny Rockett and drummer Scott Fredericks complete the quartet.

“We all get along very well and that’s rare. There is always that one person that everybody hates. But we are really closer than a real family,” Mr. Naughton said.

A typical Flying Circus show pretty much covers the entire span of the rock band’s career.

“We haven’t pulled anything off of Coda. But we’ve touched on everything else,” he said of the 1982 rarities compilation album.

“When we play out, the audience expects to hear certain songs, like ‘Rock and Roll,’ which we do. But we’ve also started running through ‘Achilles Last Stand,’ which is this epic piece. A lot of the lyrics I have no idea what he’s talking about but we’ve done it twice live.”

He said the band has a setlist of about 12 songs that they start each show with and then they can deviate from there.

On many of Led Zeppelin’s classic songs, Robert Plant goes through a series of vocal gymnastics. That hasn’t been a problem for Mr. Naughton, who has a five-octave range.

“I don’t warm up before going on stage. I do a couple of quick stretches and that’s about it. I can sing every night constantly. I was always into voices as a child, people like Mel Blanc. But I’ve learned about all different parts of the throat that can produce different sounds,” he said.

“Throughout the years, I’ve sung all different types of music — Queensryche, Metallica, Bon Jovi. We’re tuned down a half step and that has probably helped. But I’ve never had a problem with my voice.”

Led Zeppelin has a 50-year history, officially disbanding in 1980. The original living members have played together occasionally since, the last time in 2007 at England’s O2 Arena with Jason Bonham, son of the late original drummer John Bonhan, sitting in.

“They were a combination of rock ‘n’ roll and blues that you don’t see so much anymore. There were no frills, no synthesizer,” Mr. Naughton said.

“It was the beginning of rock ’n’ roll. The Beatles played happy rock ’n’ roll. The early 70s came around and it was still happy. Then the mid-70s came around and it was still happy but concerned. You had the option of not being happy.

“A song like ‘Kashmir’ starts off very calmly and then there is this amazing amount of acoustic dynamics coming in and it starts to lead to heavier things that reflect the time period.”

He also noted that Led Zeppelin had a varied sound, which is also rare these days.

“With a song like ‘Stairway (to Heaven’) they slowed things down and put it into a different realm. Today, you just have a lot of one-trick ponies. Every song sounds the same. Everything has to sound the same. The engineers and producers think the public is stupid and they won’t know what band is playing if one song doesn’t sound like the last one. It wasn’t like that back then.”

The Flying Circus plays many area bars and nightspots but Mr. Naughton said there’s something special with a theater like the Smyrna Opera House.

“I seem to come alive at bigger venues and sort of come out of my shell. It’s the same with our bass player. It’s a fun vibe,” he said.

Tickets for Saturday’s 7:30 p.m. show are $20 general admission; $16 for Smyrna Opera House members, senior citizens (65-plus) and military; and $10 for children (ages 12 and under).

To purchase them, visit SmyrnaOperaHouse.org, call 653-4236 or visit the box office at 7 W. South St., Smyrna.

Citro at Old State House

Friday, Delaware Friends of Folk will present the next event in their 2019-20 Old State House concert series, inside the Old State House on The Green in Dover.

This month’s show features pianist, singer/songwriter Lori Citro. A New Castle County native, she left her day job at DuPont Co. in 2001 and has forged her career ever since as a singer/songwriter along with teaching piano and voice. Pursuing her dream has led to a Delaware Division of the Arts fellowship, ASCAP Plus awards and a 93.7 WSTW Hometown Heroes “Homey Award.”

Lori Citro will perform at the Old State House on The Green in Dover Friday at 7:30 p.m.

Along with these accolades, she was recently included on Grammy-winning producer Kevin Mackie’s “Action Moves People United” CD, a benefit album for UNESCO-USFUCA. She also has a song included on the 2018 independent movie “The Reprogramming of Jeremy.”

This is the sixth season in the series which is produced in cooperation with the First State Heritage Park and is supported by a grant from the Kent County Fund for the Arts. The concert is free and open to the public. The one-hour performance will begin at 7:30 pm. Seating is limited.

Havrilla at Sunroom

On Sunday, award-winning Philadelphia-area native Christine Havrilla will perform for the Sunroom Songwriters Series in Dover.

Ms. Havrilla released an album with her band, Gypsy Fuzz, called “Sunless Escapade” in March.

She previously released a series of “Live Sessions” in 2014-2017, which included longtime fan favorites as well as new songs with Gypsy Fuzz. Recorded in numerous settings such as venues, living rooms, a recording studio with an live audience, an old church, etc., these volumes captured her aggressive, raw, trash-style guitar playing and looping.

She has 12 albums, three EPs, and over 15 years of touring under her belt.

After a time of being based in Portland, Oregon, she is once again back in the Northeast and frequenting such venues as World Café Live, Steel City, Godfrey Daniels, Jammin’ Java, Burlap and Bean, John and Peter’s, Rockwood Music Hall and The Tin Pan.

Doors open at 2:30 p.m., light refreshments provided. Suggested donation is $15 -$20, all money goes to the performer.

To RSVP and for directions, email nmaliwes@icloud.com.

Milton Theatre to stage ‘13’

The Milton Theatre will perform their in-house production of Broadway’s “13: The Musical” with a cast composed of regional all-teenage talent from the Northeast.

“13” is a coming-of-age musical about discovering that “cool” is sometimes where we least expect it.

Showtimes are today at 7 p.m., Saturday and Sunday at 2 p.m. and Sunday at 7 p.m.

Tickets are $19-24. Purchase them online at www.MiltonTheatre.com, via phone by calling 302-684-3038 or at the box office at 110 Union St.

Hamilton sings Mitchell

Also at the Milton Theatre, Natalie Hamilton explores and experiments with the compositions of Joni Mitchell for a performance at the Milton Theatre on Nov. 9 at 8 p.m.

The audience will hear note-by-note transcriptions of Ms. Mitchell’s compositions, combined with newly imagined guitar and piano arrangements

Ms. Hamilton, will be joined by special musical guest Karen Hogg.

Tickets are $22-$27. Purchase them online at www.MiltonTheatre.com, via phone by calling 302-684-3038 or at the box office at 110 Union St.

Now Showing

New this weekend in theaters is “The Shining” sequel “Doctor Sleep,” the romantic comedy “Last Christmas,” the war film “Midway,” the John Cena comedy “Playing With Fire” and the horror-fantasy film “The Lighthouse.”

On DVD and download starting Tuesday is the comedy “Good Boys,” the comedy-drama “The Farewell,” the animated sequel “Angry Birds 2” and the thriller “47 Meters Down: Uncaged.”

Reach features editor Craig Horleman at chorl@newszap.com

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