Best Bets: Foster pays tribute to Carole King at Milton Theatre

Michelle Foster brings her Carole King tribute “Sweet Seasons” to the Milton Theatre Sunday night at 7.

When Michelle Foster takes to the Milton Theatre stage to pay tribute to the songs made famous by legendary singer/songwriter Carole King Sunday night, she wants to make one thing clear.

It’s not a tribute show in the most common sense of the phrase.

“I don’t really like to call it a ‘tribute’ because I’m really not impersonating her. I mean i guess I am paying tribute but I feel like most tribute bands come with this information that I’m going to dress like her, sound like her and there is no sounding like Carole King. She has a very distinct voice that she has her own opinions about and there’s just no recreating that,” Ms. Foster said.

“Sweet Seasons,” which will make its theater debut Sunday night at 7 at the Milton Theatre, will encapsulate Ms. King’s career in song, covering tunes that she had hits with, including “I Feel the Earth Move,” “It’s Too Late” and “So Far Away,” and also songs she wrote that were made famous by other artists including Aretha Franklin’s “(You Make Me Feel Like a) Natural Woman.”

In coming up with this show, Ms. Foster said it was eventually an easy choice to focus on Ms. King.

“I kind of wracked my brain for female artists that would work for me and it was always an obvious choice. It just wasn’t the first choice I made. But the more I started to study her, the more I wish I did this one first because I’m having so much more fun with this one and feeling like I’m just expanding my range in quite a few ways,” she said.

“I do sing more in the style of Carole King or like a Karen Carpenter or someone like that. It just kind of made sense and the more I’ve studied her, the more I’m like Wow I wish I did this one first because this is probably going to be the one I’m holding onto for a while.

This is Ms. Foster’s second “tribute” show. Last year, she produced, created and starred in “Broadway 2020,” an original musical review of Broadway hits old and new. The show premiered at The Ritz Theatre in New Jersey and is being booked for the 2021-2022 season.

While that show highlights her signing, piano playing, dancing and drama skills, “Sweet Seasons” is just her and the piano accompanied by Dave Antonow on guitar, bass and saxophone.

The intimate show, Ms. Foster, points out, is a lot like recent shows that Ms. King has done in folks’ houses where it’s just her and the piano.

“We will scale it up and I would love to do it with a bigger band and have it be a whole big thing. But for the current times I think it’s much more fitting to have this and I think it’s more challenging too because I can’t hide behind, you know, a second keyboard player. I’m playing every single song and singing every single song. I have some harmonies from my guitarist and that’s about it,” Ms. Foster said.

A recent college graduate, Ms. Foster did not grow up on the music of Carole King.

“I say that in the beginning of the show. I did not grow up on Carole King. I think my icons were like, Hannah Montana, for God’s sake, Disney Channel. With some music people, their parents play instruments or they teach music and they were raised in this gorgeous household of music. For me, that really wasn’t the case. I just literally out of the blue one day said, ‘I wanted to start taking singing lessons’ and, my mom had made me study piano,” said Ms. Foster, who was raised in South Jersey.

“I knew maybe like ‘It’s Too Late,’ ‘I Feel the Earth (Move).’ I knew them and probably had heard them around but I didn’t know anybody who was talking about this music. It was really not until the (Carole King) musical ‘Beautiful’ came out,” she said.

Ms. Foster has been touring and performing professionally since the age of 14, when she was chosen to perform as a soloist at Disney’s Hollywood Studios for their “American Idol Experience” show.

She is also a regular keyboardist with Gloria Gaynor’s musical director, Mark Baron, and a keyboardist/vocal soloist with legendary doo-wop group, The Duprees. In the summer of 2019, Ms. Foster was cast in her first professional musical “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” at the Axelrod Performing Arts Center in New Jersey.

While musical theater has been a constant, she went to college for something quite different.

“I was actually a biology major in college, but I was still working on my craft. I was in a pharmacy program so I was going to just go be a part-time pharmacist, and then do music on the side but I couldn’t come to terms with it so I never started pharmacy school and stayed in the New York City scene,” she said.

Milton audiences should already be familiar with Ms. Foster from her stage appearances with singer Terry Barber, who has had a few shows play the theater over the last couple of years. She was last seen with Mr. Barber in August on his tribute to Andrew Lloyd Webber.

It was her association with Mr. Barber that brought her back to the Milton Theatre in her own show.

“(Executive director) Fred (Munzert) knows I have my own solo shows because Terry is very gracious. When I do a show with Terry, I don’t just accompany him. He’ll have me singing on like half the show with him and this is a chance to do one or two things from my own repertoire and my own shows,” Ms. Foster said.

“So I followed up with Fred and he said ‘You know I would love to do the same with you.’ I knew I was going to do the Carole King thing. I had been working on it. But we just got up the Broadway one in December, and then COVID hit. So I had been wanting to do this Carole King one but hadn’t had anywhere to do it so I told him, I can do this Carole King thing. He was like, OK, what would it look like? And then I called my guitarist and asked ‘Can we do this with a month’s notice?’ and I’ve been doing the research but where was the incentive back in March? So that gave us that kick in the butt.”

Ms. Foster is gratified that the Milton Theatre is staging live shows in this uncertain time.

“I’m so thankful to the Milton that they’re taking one for the team on a lot of levels, just to keep the arts alive,” she said.

Ticket availability is limited for social distancing measures. Audience size is limited to 30% of capacity.

Tickets are $24-$26 and can be obtained by calling 684-4236, visiting MiltonTheatre.org and the box office at 110 Union St.

Rehoboth memories

Staying down in the area, members and friends of the Rehoboth Beach Historical Society have been treated to a series of video programs over the past four months on topics ranging from the history of Funland to the passage of the 19th Amendment.

Titled “Conversations on History,” these programs, hosted by program manager Marge LaFond, have been posted on the museum’s YouTube channel. The recorded videos can now also be accessed on the Society’s web page at rehobothbeachmuseum.org. under the “Video/Audio” tab at the top of the home page.

Other topics include “Religious Congregations of Rehoboth,” “Rehoboth Beach during the Railroad era,”

“Ferries, Trains and Automobiles: Getting to Rehoboth Beach before the Bay Bridge” and “30 Years of CAMP Rehoboth: A Photographic Retrospective.”

Each program lasts about 50 minutes and can be watched at any time of any day. While there is no charge to view the programs the society appreciates donations, which help us continue these programs.

Donations can be made and memberships purchased on the website as well. Members of the public may call (302) 227-7310 with questions about programs or email info@rehobothbeachmuseum.org.

Sea Witch memorabilia

The Rehoboth Beach-Dewey Beach Chamber of Commerce recently announced that Sea Witch memorabilia packages are now available.

While the plan was to wait until 2021 to disassemble the original Sea Witch parade balloon, with the uncertainty that the original balloon will stay airborne, the chamber decided to spread a bit of Sea Witch cheer this year.

Ken Moody, the artist and creator of the original 25-plus-year-old Sea Witch balloon, will be designing and producing an exact replica of the iconic Sea Witch to be flown in the 2021 parade. Fans of the festival will be able to watch the new Sea Witch balloon creation process online during the month of October.

The original parade balloon will now be disassembled in November after the completion of the brand-new one. Authenticated numbered pieces of the original balloon will be sold in 3-inch by 3-inch squares as part of the new Sea Witch memorabilia packages.

Preordered and prepaid Sea Witch memorabilia packages are available online through the chamber’s website beach-fun.com and at the chamber’s office at 306 Rehoboth Ave,, Rehoboth Beach. Packages will include a numbered and authenticated piece of the original Sea Witch balloon, a limited-edition Sea Witch® cloth face mask, a youth -or adult-sized 2021 Lobster Monster festival shirt, and a 20/21 festival pin.

Packages retail for $150 and include all shipping and handling costs. Packages will be shipped in early December. Individual festival shirts, pins and masks can also be purchased online at beach-fun.com.

This year’s Sea Witch Festival has been canceled due to concerns over the coronavirus.

Sundance success

CAMP Rehoboth took a chance on the fact that the community would embrace their annual Sundance event, even without the in-person dance or auction that has been at the center of the event for more than 30 years. The United in Love celebration, fundraiser and community-building experience held Labor Day weekend not only provided a multitude of innovative ways to connect and celebrate, but also succeeded in raising more than $140,000 with the help of nearly 900 sponsors, supporters, hosts and auction donors.

The funds will support the nonprofit organization’s programs, outreach, and work to promote human and civil rights.

“My heart nearly bursts when I think about the success of Sundance,” says Murray Archibald, Sundance chairman and CAMP Rehoboth’s co-founder.

“In the middle of a pandemic, the community came out to support us and our partner organizations in a remarkable way.”

It was the first Sundance for David Mariner, CAMP Rehoboth’s executive director, who joined the group in October 2019. “When we began the process of turning Sundance into a virtual event,” said Mr. Mariner, “I was concerned about our ability to attract Sundance sponsors, supporters and hosts for a virtual event, but they did not let us down. For little more than a T-shirt, names on a list, and our eternal thanks, their generosity was amazing.”

Part of the event’s success was the broad range of socially distanced in-person events and virtual experiences. Sundance-at-Large nights at local restaurants followed all COVID guidelines and provided opportunities to safely dine out or carry out and still support CAMP Rehoboth and local restaurants in the area. The organizers also created a Party in a (Virtual) Box for attendees to enjoy in their own homes and at small-group watch parties. For those who missed it, the free package of games and Sundance music for home parties can be found under the Sundance page at camprehoboth.com.

Both the Sundance Kickoff and Experience videos are still available on CAMP Rehoboth’s YouTube page. The videos include messages from Sundance chairs and CAMP Rehoboth staff, entertainers (Carson Kressley, Christopher Peterson, Miss Richfield 1981 and Magnolia Applebottom), and Delaware political leaders (U.S. Sens. Tom Carper and Chris Coons and US Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester).

For more information about CAMP Rehoboth and its programs, go to www.camprehoboth.com.

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