Gillian Abbott’s Advice to Young Performers: “You Are Enough”

Gillian Abbott Header

Dirty Dancing fell in my lap. It never was on my radar.”

That’s what the multi-talented Gillian Abbott told me when we started chatting about her role as Frances “Baby” Houseman in the movie-turned-musical headed to the Academy of Music at the end of March. Abbott is a classically trained dancer, a graduate of Juilliard, a former Cirque du Soleil performer (she signed on when she was 17), recently made her Met Opera debut in their epic production of Prince Igor, and starred in several independent films. Clearly, she has a performer’s spirit; that was evident during our time together where we talked about Dirty Dancing, her training, and two injuries that, if anything, progressed Abbott’s performance evolution.

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Broadway Philadelphia at the Kimmel Center Announces 2015-2016 Season

The Broadway League estimated that the 2013-14 Broadway Philadelphia season brought $100 million in revenue for local businesses. That’s no chump change, and speaks to the importance of Broadway touring productions on Philadelphia’s economy. Lucky enough for the city, the 2015-16 Broadway Philadelphia season features 11 productions, many of which are making their Philadelphia touring debuts, plus the epic return of the smash Philly hit The Book of Mormon. Read more »

Meet the Man Who Trained the Four-Legged Star of Annie

William Berloni

William Berloni

“I’ve seen more young actresses who play Annie pee on stage than dogs who pee on stage.”

That’s William Berloni‘s answer when I ask him the question everyone wants to know: How does the Tony Award-winning theatrical animal trainer control his loving, furry crew from having an accident while performing on Broadway?

“Honestly, if [Annie] hasn’t taken a break to pee, that poor thing will explode when she’s in that red dress at the end of the show.” Read more »

Our Q&A With Adam Trent, the Justin Timberlake of Magic

Adam Trent

Adam Trent

Imagine taking David Copperfield and fusing him with a boy band member who can jump through huge LED screens without shattering them (or himself). That’s pretty much Adam Trent, the 29-year-old entertainer who was once named by U.S. News and World Report as one of the “Top 10 Most Influential Youth in America.” Trent, who has been performing since he was nine, joined the cast of The Illusionists, the hit sophisticated magic show coming to Philly, at the Sydney Opera House in Australia. He was such a hit, that the producers have since asked him to take the show to Dubai, Broadway, and now across the country. We sat down with the multi-talented Trent to discuss his special brand of magic and what drew him to show business.

I know you started performing as a kid. Did you always do magic or were you into other things?
I was always kinda doing everything. I started out wanting to being a musician after seeing Michael Jackson videos, so I did impressions of him and other singers. Then, I moved on to drums and instruments. Then I started magic, and that was it for me. I actually sold my drum set for my first illusion kit. I needed $500 for something, so the drums had to go! This is my twentieth year in entertainment: I started when I was 9 and now I’m now 29.

How was your experience performing on Broadway?
Amazing. It’s the thing that we performers always aspire to do, right? We were there for six weeks.

The promos for the show say you “shatter stereotypes and bring a new generation of magic to fans fusing technology illusions, dancing and comedy with classic techniques.” Break all that down for us … 
It’s a cocktail of different art forms: there’s dance in it and some of my illusions use technology. One of my acts uses giant LED walls—I clone myself and smash myself into it. Then, there’s a whole act I do with a camera hat on my head, so the audience gets to see what the magician sees. It’s a totally new perspective in a fun, fresh way.

What performers have inspired your brand of magic?
David Copperfield has been one of the big ones for me. I saw him when I was 8 years old and it changed my life. I also really admire Penn and Teller and how fast they create original material and how thought provoking it always is. Music wise, there’s Justin Timerlake—and Michael Jackson was one of the first pop performers who I saw who shook my world up. I watch The Kings of Comedy all the time. Any artist can go watch any art form and think, “Wow, this is so great,” and there’s always inspiration that you can incorporate into your own work.

Why do you think The Illusionists has been such a success?
Magic is something that had a market but there hasn’t been anyone who could put together a large-scale touring show that is high-end evening entertainment. This isn’t some little $5 show where you get popcorn before it starts. It also helps that the show has been presented as part of a Broadway series at theaters across the country. Sometimes when presenters or promoters think of magic shows, they want to automatically include it as family theater or children’s theater, but this show isn’t that. When ticket prices start hovering around $100, it isn’t a show totally aimed at kids anymore. Don’t get me wrong. We see kids all the time, and kids love it! David Copperfield was a “real deal” show, and my parents brought me to see him. I have a feeling that this show will have the same impact on our younger audiences that Cooperfield had on me.

The Illusionists runs February 24 through March 1, 2015 at the Academy of Music. For ticket information, click here. Adam also loves Twitter followers: check him out @AdamTrentMagic.

Undie Rock Band The Skivvies to Make Philly Debut

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It won’t be your typical night at the Kimmel Center: When cheekily named “undie rock” group The Skivvies take the stage, they’re naked (well, minus their skivvies) before they finish singing their first number.

But they aren’t the only ones to strip down during their shows. They’ve had Laura Benanti, Lena Hall, Matt Doyle, Andy Karl, Perez Hilton, Orfeh, and Alice Ripley perform in their underpants. Now, the notorious rock group are on the way to Philly for a Valentine’s Day weekend extravaganza at the Kimmel Center’s SEI Innovation Studio, February 12th through 14th. Read more »

WATCH THIS: See a Man Get Cut in Half at Philly’s The Illusionists

You’re about to see Kevin James, one of The Illusionists on the way to Philadelphia to play the Academy of Music, saw a man in half:

If the video freaked you out, imagine what it’ll be like in person. The Illusionists are coming to Philadelphia February 24th through March 1st. The show, which played Broadway this past holiday to nearly sell-out audiences, highlights mouth-dropping magic and contortion acts from seven of the world’s greatest performers.

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Tie-the-Knot Tuesday: Jesse Warren-Nager, of Motown: The Musical and Jacob Warren-Nager

Jacob Warren-Nager and Jesse Warren-Nager

Jacob Warren-Nager and Jesse Warren-Nager, by Brent Dundore Photography

Every Tuesday, we feature a gay or lesbian couple who have walked down the aisle. Today, we have special guests: Broadway’s Jesse Warren-Nager, currently starring in Philly’s Motown: The Musical, and his husband, Jacob Warren-Nager, share the story of their wedding day.

Names: Jesse Warren-Nager and Jacob Warren-Nager

How long have you been together as a couple before you got married?: We were together a little under two years before we got married.

When did you get married?: We got married February 12th, 2010. It will be 5 years this year.

Describe the experience of your wedding. Where did you get married? Who was there? What was the most memorable part?: Our wedding was very small: just Jacob, myself, and my mother. It was in an old colonial home in Connecticut, a few blocks form the town hall where the paperwork was done. The most memorable part were the vows. Even though it was pretty much just Jacob and me, saying how we felt outright and our goals to make each other happy was pretty profound.

You can catch Jesse in Motown: The Musical at the Kimmel Center through January 18. Check out our interview with him here.

Want to be featured in a future Tie-the-Knot Tuesday? If you’re a gay or lesbian couple married in Pennsylvania, we want to hear from you. Take our brief survey!

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