Schwartz to come ‘Alive!’ with inspirational musical

The musical "Alive! 55+ and Kickin' " will play the Schwartz Center in Dover Sept. 24. The 3 p.m. show is sold out but tickets are still available for the 3 p.m. performance. (Submitted photo)

The musical “Alive! 55+ and Kickin’ ” will play the Schwartz Center in Dover Sept. 24. The 3 p.m. show is sold out but tickets are still available for the 3 p.m. performance. (Submitted photo)

In life, much like theater, second acts can often be better than the first. The musical “Alive! 55+ and Kickin’ ” sets out to prove that.

Schwartz Center for the Arts audiences will get a chance to see for themselves when the production hits the Dover stage for two shows Sept. 24. The 3 p.m. show is sold out but tickets remain for the added 7 p.m. performance.

“Alive!” features singers of all backgrounds, races and religions, talking and singing about their life experiences as they reach their 50s through 80s.

For many, this show is the first time they have performed on stage.

“There are so many people in that age category who are still vibrant and talented. Somewhere along the line, their lives took a different direction and they couldn’t explore their natural gift and weren’t able to follow their dream,” said the show’s co-creator Vy Higginsen.

“This show gives them the opportunity and the access to do something they have always wanted to do.”

The production is in its fourth year in Harlem, New York, and has traveled all over the country. Dover audiences will see the original cast.

Performers range from ordained ministers to housewives and ex-convicts to secretaries, all with a story a tell and a renewed passion for the stage.

Ms. Higginsen’s husband, Ken Vydro, a noted theater producer and the other creator of the show, said the idea started when the pair was producing the show “Mama, I Want to Sing,” which has become the longest-running all-black production in off-Broadway history.

“There are two roles for older people — a minister and his wife. We would periodically audition for those roles and would be amazed at how many talented people in their 50s, 60s and 70s would audition,” he said.

“They would tell these stories about their lives and we realized that these stories were really the story of the second half of the 20th century.

“From Vietnam to Roe v. Wade to desegregation, we came to the realization that these stories are hardly ever told anymore.”

The show features original music plus standards by artists such as Mahalia Jackson and Ray Charles in genres which include Negro spiritual, jazz, soul, gospel and pop.

“The music is really the soundtrack of our lives with songs that were written when the lyrics meant something,” said Ms. Higginsen.

Best Bets logo -NEWWhile the music is important to the show, the performers’ individual testimonies are also a powerful part of the whole experience.

“The show is really a celebration of life. Sometimes life knocks you down and you have to pick yourself up. The show is testimony to the power of music and truth. When you speak the truth, true stories become all that more powerful and emotional,” Ms. Higginsen.

Barbara Cooper, box office and sales manager for the Schwartz Center, said she saw the show in New York.

“We are really excited about this event. I went to see it in New York last October and I knew that I wanted to bring it to Dover and that this was exactly the type of show the Schwartz needed,” she said.

“While I was there, I spoke to both Vy and Ken about the possibility of bringing it here. I knew the demand for it was high and people were taking buses from everywhere to New York to see it. So I thought, if we bring it to the Schwartz, people won’t have to travel all the way to New York to see it — especially, the people in the D.C,. Baltimore, Philly and Virginia area.

“Well, the rest is history. Buses are coming to Dover from Baltimore, D.C. and Philly. The first show, which was supposed to be the only show, sold out so quickly and the demand so high, that we added the second show, which is over half sold out also.”

The production got a boost in early 2015 when “60 Minutes” produced a piece about the show.

“It started to receive national and international acclaim. People came from Denver, Kentucky, Sacramento, San Diego and on into places such as Bermuda,” Ms. Higginsen said.

“There is something about this show that brings people together.”

“We have a very diverse audience,” added Mr. Vydro.

“Nothing ever works out the way you think it’s going to work out. There are detours and setbacks you have to overcome throughout your life. That’s true for every race and religion. We did a show in Wayne, New Jersey, for a Jewish audience. They loved it and thought it should play in every synagogue in the country.”

If you miss the show next weekend, the production returns to Harlem on Saturdays at 1 p.m. starting Oct. 8 through Dec. 3 at the Dempsey Theater, 127 W. 127th St. For more information on the New York shows, call (212) 280-1045.

An audition was done in Dover last month to find senior singers who would join the show at the Schwartz and had interesting stories to tell. Four locals will be featured, two before the first act and two before the second.

They are Jeanette Wilmore of Wilmington and Dulcena Kemmerlin, Deborah Finney-Green and Jeanette Henderson, all of Dover. They range in age from 55 to 80.

“We hope the people of Dover will come out and support their local talent as well,” Mr. Vydro said.

Ms. Higginsen said the power of the show works two ways.

“If we operate on the principle that you can be healed just by being heard and our shared experiences are not to be ignored, then I think the performers are helping to heal the audience while they are simultaneously healing themselves,” she said.

Tickets for the remaining 7 p.m. show are $40 to $55 and can be purchased by visiting schwartzcenter.com, calling 678-5152 or visiting the box office at 226 S. State St. Tuesday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

‘Angry Men’ starts tonight

As we told you last week, another area stage will be busy these next couple of weekends as the courtroom classic “Twelve Angry Men” comes to order at Kent County Theatre Guild’s Patchwork Playhouse on Roosevelt Avenue in Dover.

The show is a story of 12 jurors coming to grips with deciding the fate of a 19-year-old man accused of fatally stabbing his father. Tensions run high and prejudices and character flaws are exposed.

The show stars James Muzzy, Jeff Bellon, Luke Siler, Steve Caporiccio, Kevin Smith, Jose Bernard, Larry Mola, Purcell Dye, Bruce Leister, Michael Forrest, Mike Polo, Paul Janiga and Art Paul.

The curtain rises tonight, Saturday and the following Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m. and this Sunday and next at 2 p.m.

Tickets are $18 for adults, $16 for seniors, military members and students and $10 for students 12 and younger.

To purchase them, visit kctg.org, call 674-3568 or email kctginfo@kctg.org.

End of Summer Bash

Also tonight, the Harrington American Legion Post CKRT No. 7 will hold the End of Summer Bash featuring Mike Hines And The Look.

It starts at 5 p.m. with Mike Hines and the Look starting at 8.

Tickets are $10 each or $16 per couple at the door.

Food and beverages are available with cash bar. Patrons are advised to bring their own lawn chairs.

The post is at 17448 S. DuPont Highway south of Del. 14.

For more information, call (302) 398-3566 or Ken at (302) 450-0108.

‘Rosedale Revisted’

On Saturday, the Mispillion Art League in Milford will host its major fundraiser of the year with a tribute to a bygone era in Delaware History, “Rosedale Revisited.” This event will bring to life the music and memories of Rosedale Beach Hotel and Resort once located on the shores of the Indian River Bay near Millsboro in Sussex County.

During the pre-integration era of the 20th century, there were very few places for people of color to go for entertainment and hotel accommodations. Because of this, Rosedale Beach became a destination point for many people along the East Coast.

Well-known artists such as Louis Armstrong, Count Basie, James Brown, Ray Charles, Fats Domino, Duke Ellington, Ella Fitzgerald, Aretha Franklin, Billie Holiday, Stevie Wonder and James Brown all played at the resort.

“Rosedale Revisited” will be held at the Milford Senior Center, 111 Park Ave., at 5 p.m. Tickets are $45 and are available at the Mispillion Art League. For information, call (302) 430-7646.

Now Showing

New this weekend in theaters is the horror sequel “Blair Witch,” Renee Zellwegger reprising her role in “Bridget Jones’ Baby” and Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Edward Snowden in “Snowden.”

On DVD and download starting Tuesday is “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows,” the comedy “Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising” and Matthew McConaughey in the Civil War drama “Free State of Jones.”

Reach features editor Craig Horleman at chorl@newszap.com

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