Dylan Birthday Celebration in Knoxville
Old high school chum Steve Horton is putting on his annual "Forever Young" -- a concert celebrating Bob Dylan's birthday, Wednesday, May 24th in Knoxville Tennessee, at the East Tennessee History Center Auditorium, 601 Gay Street, corner of Clinch and Gay, directly across from the Tennessee Theater. Concert starts at 7:30 p.m. and benefits cultural programming at the Knox County Public Library. This year's event features Maggie Longmire and Free Soil Farm, Slow Blind Hill, Will Horton w/ Cooper Hardisson, Band of Humans, Steve Horton and Y'uns, and Jack Rentfro, emcee, all performing Bob Dylan songs. Maggie's band includes Jay Manneschmidt and Chris McMahon. Y'uns features Danny Gammon on fiddle, Don Cassell-mandolin, David Lovett-banjo, Stan Turner-bass, and special guest vocalist, Nancy Brennan Strange (another long time pal of mine!)
The premiere production of "Lunch at the Piccadilly" at Cape Fear Regional Theatre concluded March 26th. We ended with a bang, full houses all weekend and a virtual lovefest amongst cast, crew and audience. I have experienced such an esprit du corps only once before, and that was with the premiere production of RADIO GALS at Arkansas Rep in l993. I consider myself wildly fortunate to have had even one such exquisite collaborative and communal experience in my life. Two will certainly spoil me. I guess there is just something about new shows and births and new beginnings.
"Lunch" opened March 11th. Reviews posted below. Stacy Peterson says the show "hits you in the gut with some of the most meaningful and well-written songs I’ve heard in a musical in a long time." Of course, I really like hearing things like that! We had a great time opening night. Clyde came with 20 friends and Bo had really done up the theatre for the premiere, complete with attractive young women dressed as nurses passing out medicine cups full of M&Ms. Also champagne, hors d'ouevres, midget Tootsie Rolls and lots of wonderful well-wishers welcomed us after the show and fun was had until a very late hour.
The production featured CFRT stalwarts Bo Thorp who played our heroine "Lil" so heartfeelingly, Phoebe Hall (as the delightful nudge Beatrice -- Phoebe was also our Hazel in CFRT's RADIO GALS), the marvelous Patricia Cucco (Clara), Greg King(a lovable Carl), Vivian Wade-Banks (a very sweet Carrie) , Libby McNeill Seymour and Rob Summers (as the comically evil Ballard University "villains"), Mayon Weeks (a very able and evangelistic L-Ray) and myself (as Eli Greyson). Our one true out of towner was Miss CoCo Sansoni of Colorado and New York whose vim and vigor as social worker Anna Guthrie was a great asset. The band was solidly led by Amy Jones on piano, with subtle Rick Starling on percussion and myself on keyboards and guitar. Joe Newberry replaced me for three performances as I had a previous engagement out of state.
Steve Umberger, founder of Playworks, a Charlotte NC based theatre group, heroically directed and streamlined LUNCH for its first production at the Cape Fear Regional Theatre in Fayetteville, NC. Bo Thorp is the artistic and managing producer. Amy Jones was an excellent musical director and band leader, old pal Linwood Taylor designed the "tourist home" style set and David Casteneda did light design.
Clyde Edgerton adapted this staging from his 2004 novel LUNCH AT THE PICCADILLY, and Clyde and I have written 23 songs for it. We are calling it a "play with music". The poster at left says "based on the novel by Clyde Edgerton, with lyrics and music by Mike Craver" -- that is true but Clyde did the adaptation and also wrote and/or inspired many of the lyrics and some of the music too. At this point three of his songs from the novel will be in the show: "Safety Patrol", "Ain't Got No Problems", and "Baloney Bacon and Beer". Clyde and I have recorded eleven of the songs from the show which is now available online (see above).
Clyde and I did several songs from the play Feb. 25th with the Wilmington Symphony Orchestra's "Classics and Pops" concert at Kenan Auditorium on the UNC-W campus. The conductor, Steven Errante, scored our songs for the Symphony, and he did a stellar job, particularly on his setting of Clyde's hymn "Walking Across Egypt". The first part of the concert featured Roy Harris' Symphony No. 3, Beethoven's 1st Piano Concerto in C Major, and Schumann's Piano Concerto in A minor. Then after intermission it was "Clyde and the Rank Strangers" (Matt Kendrick on bass and Jack King on guitar, and me on piano.) I sang two songs from Piccadilly: "Home Is Where The Heart Stays" and "Lunch at the Piccadilly". It was especially thrilling to hear a whole string section sawing along to quotes from "Theme from a Summerplace", and "Peter Gunn"!