Philly Eagles, rock icons, gaming headline Delaware Theater season

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Delaware Theatre Company’s ‘Other World: A Musical’ will focus on gaming. (Photo taken from previous show video).

After going dark because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Delaware Theatre Company will return in October with a season that includes productions about the Philadelphia Eagles, a computer game musical and the memoirs of an actress who thought dieting was the key to living large.
The Wilmington theater also will finally see the debut of “Million Dollar Quartet,” which was poleaxed when COVID hit in March 2020 but will become DTC’s Christmas show.
Winding up the season will be audience favorite “Brighton Beach Memoirs” in May.

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The official line-up is  Eagles-oriented “Tommy and Me,” Oct. 6-17; “Million Dollar Quartet,” focused on the Sun Records session of Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Johnny Lee Lewis and Carl Perkins, Dec. 1-19; “Other World: A New Musical,” about game players magically entering the game, Feb. 23-March 20; “My Life on a Diet,” featuring actress Renee Taylor; and “Brighton Beach Memoirs,” May 11-22.

Theater management is keeping an eye on the rise of COVID-19 cases caused by the Delta variant, which appears to be preying largely on the unvaccinated, to see how if affects plans for indoor performances in the fall.
“But what’s the alternative?” asks Matt Silva, DTC’s managing director.  “The alternative is to not do anything and just sit on our hands and not continue to do the thing that we do.”
Silva said the pandemic closures and restrictions showed how Delaware Theatre and other arts organizations could be nimble and creative about finding ways to entertain people safely.
 “No matter what happens, we’re going to find a way to bring people entertainment in a way that is safe and comfortable and entertaining for them,” he said.
The theater, like so many other businesses, is facing an unexpected problem: Many performers and technicians went on to other jobs, often earning more and with better hours to boot.
One of the actors slated for “Million Dollar Quartet” returned to his job as a union plumber, for example. He hopes to work out a way to do both, Silva said.
“This is an industry people get into because they love it. There’s a deep passion for art, whether you’re performing, directing, designing costumes or building sets,” Silva said.
He said most theater workers expected to go back to work within a few months after but when it became apparent the world was in for a long haul, many turned to other jobs.
“I think in a lot of cases they’re finding that the passion might not be there as much, but there’s less stress and more work-life balance, and they’re really enjoying that,” Silva said.
He said Delaware Theater management has taken a hard look at what that means.
Theater is often a six-day work week. When a show is in the works, it’s has not been unusual for DTC to schedule what’s called a 10 out of 12, meaning that people work a 12-hour day with two hours of that as a break.
“We’re eliminating the 10 out of 12,” Silva said. “We’re trying to get down to a five day work week, for the most part, to make things a bit more more equitable and still get the work done … You know the old ‘show must go on.’ Yes, the show must go on, but do we need to be pushing people as far as the industry does all the time?”
Here’s a run-down of the shows.

‘Tommy and Me’

The four-actor autobiographical show, which includes multimedia projections, follows author Ray Didinger’s love of the Philadelphia Eagles and in particular wide receiver Tommy McDonald. McDonald played for the team from 1957 to 1964 and helped the Eagles beat Vince Lombardi’s Green Bay Packers. Ultimately, sports commentator Didinger helped get McDonald into the Hall of Fame.

“It’s really a lovely, heart-warming story that’s about support and joy, amplifying the accomplishments of those around you,  really diving into your passion and making sure that you keep your eyes on what you’re passionate about,” Silva said.

It will be directed by Joe Canuso and run Oct. 6-17. Talk-backs with cast members and others will occur almost every night.

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‘Million Dollar Quartet’ will finally hit the stage in December at the Delaware Theatre Company.

‘Million Dollar Quartet’

Silva, who will direct the show, said he’s “beyond ecstatic” to finally get it on a stage. The show about one of music’s greatest jam sessions has been a hit worldwide and had been set to premiere at DTC last spring.

“It was selling like hot cakes before the pandemic and we were a week away from starting rehearsal, and then the pandemic hit,” Silva said.

At first, everybody thought they’d just push the show back a few weeks, “and then it became clear the theater was going to be shut down for quite some time,” he said. “So it’s thrilling to be able to bring such an exciting show into Wilmington.”

The actual recording happened in December 1956 in Memphis and includes “Blue Suede Shoes,” “Fever,” “Great Balls of Fire,” “Walk the Line” and “Hound Dog.”

It will run Dec. 1-Dec. 19.

‘Other World: A New Musical’

The season’s third show is a new musical that played once at a Bucks County, Pennsylvania, theater before the pandemic closed performing venues.
With a book by Hunter Bell and music and lyrics by Jeff Bowen and Ann McNamee, the musical focuses on avid gamer Sri and non-gamer Lorraine, who are magically transported from a garage into Sri’s favorite game, “Other World,” which is set to be shut down.
The 21-actor show show will be directed by Adrienne Campbell-Holt and feature costumes and set design by the Weta Workshop, which won an Academy Award for its work on “The Lord of the Rings” and “Avatar.”
Sri and Lorraine have to beat the game to stay alive. The show has a lot of themes, including how the gaming world connects so many people of so many diverse backgrounds and abilities, pulling together to create change.
“It’s becoming more and more timely every day in the sense that it’s really about reconnecting, or even connecting,” Silva said.
So many people have spent the last 15 months at home alone or spending hours socializing via a screen.
“The message is just really strong right now, and timely, about togetherness, working together and creating our families, both online and offline,” he said.
The special effects include characters created as puppets, digital mapping, projections and incredible costumes that help create the avatars that are people’s gaming characters.

‘My Life on a Diet’

This one-woman comedy will bring actress Renee Taylor to town in a show originally directed by her late husband of 52 years, actor Joseph Bologna.
She will look back on a life full of memorable roles in Hollywood and on Broadway “and just as many fad diets.”
Calling herself a “diet junkie,” she says in the show that she once thought that if she ate like a star, she would look and live like one. The show includes anecdotes about, and weight loss tips from, Hollywood legends Joan Crawford, Marilyn Monroe and Barbra Streisand.

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‘Brighton Beach Memoirs’ will be one of Delaware Theater’s 21-22 offerings.

‘Brighton Beach Memoirs’

This coming-of-age comedy also had been scheduled for last spring and was selling the best of that season’s shows. It features seven actors and a big budget.
“There was a lot of excitement about that show, and so we felt we owed it to our patrons to say we’re still going to come back and do this,” Silva said.
The show follows 15-year-old Eugene Morris Jerome in his Brooklynn neighborhood in September 1937 and is the first of a trilogy about Eugene by Neil Simon. It will be directed by Delaware Theatre Company executive director Bud Martin.
“Neil Simon is really a timeless writer, I think,” Silva said. “His characters are the most human of any writer I’ve ever encountered. And I think that’s something that’s really important and special right now.”

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