Best Bets: Smyrna Opera House excited for new season

Brian Hill took over as managing director of the Smyrna Opera House in March. (Delaware State News/Marc Clery)

There is something for everyone in the new season at the Smyrna Opera House. And that’s just the way managing director Brian Hill wants it.

From a magician to a psychic medium to tributes to Led Zeppelin and Queen to classical and jazz, the upcoming group of shows should appeal to a wide range of audiences.

“We needed to have more shows and more variety for people to come and watch. We’re trying to grab different groups of people,” said Mr. Hill, who took over the position in March.

“I’m trying to bring new types of things to the Opera House in the upcoming season. So we’ll have things like Dueling Pianos. We’ve never had a magic show before. We’re trying to have more things for the kids to enjoy and more family-oriented programming in general.”

Although the season officially kicked off Thursday night with a Happy Hour Preview Party of the upcoming schedule, the season actually began in August with three shows that attracted a great deal of attention.

“Normally we start in September but this year I took a chance and added some August shows. Usually we kind of lay back when people are normally on vacation but the shows worked out very well for us. We had three highly attended shows,” Mr. Hill said.

Performances featuring the national gospel artists The Isaacs and a tribute show to Johnny and June Carter Cash sold out while Lee Alverson performing a night of Elton John Music nearly sold out the 280-seat theater.

The season will continue with Alter Eagles — The Definitive Eagles Tribute Band Sept. 14 at 7:30 p.m. The six-member group from Tampa, Florida has performed more than 1,000 shows, making them one of the most prolific tribute acts today.

The multi-instrumentalists play all of The Eagles classics, as well as songs from the newer albums and band members’ solo careers.

“I thought they were a great group to bring in because they cross over so many generations. The Eagles have been popular for so long. That was the determining factor for that group,” Mr. Hill said.

A production called “The Curse of Jessica Fletcher: A Golden Girls Mystery Dinner Theater” set for Sept. 28 is already sold out.

“We didn’t even do too much advertising for it and the tickets were already gone,” Mr. Hill said.

Continuing the mission of having more children’s programming, the two-man Cutting Edge Dueling Pianos show will have two performances on Oct. 12. One at 3 p.m. for kids and one at 7:30 for adults.

Psychic medium Deanna Fitzpatrick will hold court at the Smyrna Opera House Oct. 26 as part of its upcoming season. (Submitted photo)

The all-request show will feature songs for the little ones early and then everything from the ’50s to the current day and even country and rap later at night.

“During the children’s show they will play a lot of Disney songs. They said the target age range is from 6 to 12 years old, so elementary school children. It should be a fun time for the kids. It will be free for children (12 and under) and then adults will be admitted for 10 dollars,” Mr. Hill said.

“And then it will be the normal Dueling Pianos show in the evening.”

In a show that Mr. Hill said has already attracted a great number of tickets sold, psychic medium Deanna Fitzpatrick will present An Evening with Spirit on Oct. 26.

In 2001, she visited a hypnotherapist for assistance with weight loss. That evening, after the hypnosis was complete, she began to see Spirit. She says that she helps the living come to know that their “people in spirit” are very much still a part of their lives and to know that we continue on beyond our physical existence.

“That show will be the Saturday before Halloween so we wanted to tie that into Halloween time,” said Mr. Hill, who added that a second block of VIP tickets were just put on sale.

As has been the custom for many years now, a classical piano concert by University of Delaware piano students will take place Nov. 1 followed by a jazz show with classics from the Great American Songbook with the group 5th Avenue set for Nov. 2.

The Led Zeppelin tribute band The Flying Circus will play the Opera House on Nov. 9.

“This gets back to that diversity that we really want to strive for,” Mr. Hill said.

“The same crowd who came to see the Johnny Cash show may not come out to see this one and vice versa. So we’re always looking to bring in different audiences and different genres of music.”

Illusions by Vick on Nov. 16 is a show that Mr. Hill is particularly excited about. Vick, from the Baltimore area, has been performing for the last 19 years.

“He really fits the mold of this theater. His act is from the turn of the century. He’s a mentalist who does illusions and all kinds of things,” Mr. Hill said.

Illusions by Vick will perform a magic show at the Smyrna Opera House on Nov. 16. (Submitted photo)

“I thought he would be a great act to have. I’m going to get some brochures out to the elementary schools and see if the kids will have their parents bring them to the show. He is very well thought of. I was pleased by what I saw on the videos he sent. He will be doing brand new tricks that he will do for the first time.”

Finally to wrap up the season, the Smyrna Opera House will be bring back 33 1/3 Live’s Killer Queen Experience that packed the place in March.

The band faithfully recreates not only Queen hits but they also do the band’s classic album “A Night at The Opera” in its entirety.

“They were such a huge hit in March. So many people have asked to have them back. There was a waiting list for that show. People wanted tickets but couldn’t get one,” Mr. Hill said.

Mr. Hill is also already working on shows coming in 2020.

They include Lights Out, a tribute to Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons; a songwriters conference during the day, which will be followed by another edition of the popular Songwriters and Storytellers series featuring hit Nashville songwriter Jimmy Yeary, local musician Sol Knopf and others; and the return of Mr. Alverson. This time around, he will do songs from the early rock ‘n’ roll days during the first half and then a second half full of tunes from Billy Joel.

Mr. Hill, a Smyrna native former Clayton police chief, has a long history with the Smyrna Opera House. His parents were both longtime members of the board and he was on the board for five-and-a-half years before moving into his most recent position.

“I’ve been involved since the beginning. And the older members kind of left it to us to keep it going and that’s what we are trying to do. Be good stewards of the Opera House.”

For tickets and more information, visit SmyrnaOperaHouse.org, stop by the box office at 7 W. South St. or call 653-4236.

First Friday

Loockerman Street in Dover will again feature a multitude of foods, brews, vendors, live bands, and visual arts for First Friday.

Activities will begin at 5 p.m. when Party Fowl will take the stage.

From 5 to 7:30 p.m., artist Ray Ewing will demonstrate his unique watercolor/pastel “combo” at the Dover Art League. This is the third in a series of demos preparing artists for the Oct. 4 full-day Paint Dover! plein air event and competition. Mr. Ewing’s demonstration is free, though space is filling and pre-registration is recommended through Tinyurl.com/DoverArt or by calling 302-678-2940.

A portion of sales will benefit Autism Delaware through the DDP’s First Friday Gives Back program. Last month, $385 was donated by merchants and Destination Downtown Dover to the Nemours Children’s Health System. For a list of participating merchants, visit TinyUrl.com/DoverFirstFriday.

Artist Ray Ewing of Lewes will provide a watercolor/pastel demonstrations during free First Friday activities in downtown Dover tonight.

At 6:30 p.m. the Dover Public Library will feature classic ’70s rock by Kategory 5 outdoors at Loockerman Way Plaza and in case of poor weather, the concert will be held at the library. Attendees are invited to bring their own chairs or a blanket to these events.

Throughout the evening, additional music will include:

• Singer/songwriter Tom Hench at House of Coffi playing guitar/harmonica and offering a mix of folk type story telling with a variety of humorous to serious overtones

• Darin O’Neil on keyboard featuring acoustic pop music from the ’90s at Grey Fox Grille and Public House, along with a DJ beginning at 9 p.m.

• Singer/songwriter/guitarist Leilani Wall at the Delaware Store and Parke Green Galleries presenting quiet ballads to classic rock to table-thumping Irish drinking songs.

• Singer/songwriter Rick Hudson at Simaron Steak Shop playing guitar and harmonica with a focus on blues, old time country and contemporary pieces.

The Biggs Museum of American Art on Federal Street will hold an opening reception for “Biggs Body Winners,” where 60 artworks selected from over 400 competition submissions featuring human and animal figures in all visual media will be showcased.

Artwork from selected artists from throughout the Mid-Atlantic region “successfully interprets, evokes and responds to the body.” Refreshments will be served. The exhibition opening is free for members, Students with ID and Active Military; non-member tickets required: General $10, Seniors (60-plus) $8. RSVP online at BiggsMusium.org or by calling 674-2111.

Most activities will take place rain or shine. Visit Destination Downtown Dover on Facebook for updates.

Cole Swindell Friday

Also Friday, country star Cole Swindell will perform at Hudson Fields at Del. 1 and Eagle Crest Road in Milton with special guest Blanco Brown.

General admission tickets at $53 and party pit passes at $73 are still available.

He recently premiered the video for his hit single “Love You Too Late” on-air at CMT and online at YouTube Music.

Gates open at 5:30 p.m. and tickets can be purchased at HudsonFields.com.

Wheels & Wine

To benefit the Home of the Brave Foundation, the First State Corvette Club will hold a Wheels & Wine Festival Open Car Show on Sunday at the Pizzadili Vineyard and Winery in Felton. Rain date is Sept. 15.

This event is free to the public. There will be vendors at the vineyard, and the SPCA will feature an adoption event.

Pre-registration of cars is $10, and day of show entrants is $15. Gates open at 8 a.m. and trophies will be awarded by 3 p.m. Dash plaques to the first 150 cars. There will be top 25 trophies, best in show, most club participation and Home of the Brave Award. There will be a military and first responder display at noon.

Music in the pavilion will be by Cocktails at 3 and DJ Jennifer Tunis will have music on the grounds.

For vendor space information, call Pete at 302-384-9463. For car show information contact Chatty at 302-678-9897. Pre-registration forms are on www.firststatecorvetteclub.net.

Now Showing

New this weekend in theaters is the horror sequel “It: Chapter Two.”

On DVD and download starting Tuesday is the live-action Disney film “Aladdin” and the “John Wick 3: Parabellum.”

Reach features editor Craig Horleman at chorl@newszap.com

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