Saturday, July 16, 2016

Return of Sam Miltich and Charmin Michelle to the Edge Center

There will be a return to the Edge Center in Bigfork by Sam Miltich on guitar and Charmin Michelle’s vocal talents with their versions of the roaring 20s Hot Club and Jazz music. This performance will also include Evan Price on violin, Matthew Miltich on upright bass, and Jay Epstein on drums. This all-star cast of musicians will celebrate the music of Duke Ellington and Adelaide Hall. This will be something new for the Edge with the performance being on Thursday July 28 at 7PM. Prices $10 adults and $5 children.

The last time Sam and Charmin were at the Edge it was with Mathew Miltich on bass (above). This will be a wonderful return with these three plus the talents of Evan and Jay added.

Duke Ellington and Adelaide Hall were major figures in the Harlem Renaissance during the 1920's, embarking on a decades-long professional collaboration and headlining together at New York's famed Cotton Club.  It was during her tenure with Ellington that Hall pioneered the vocal technique of emulating instrumental improvisation, a style that became known as "scat."  

Vocalist Charmin Michelle (above) who summons the spirit of Hall, blends the power and soul of the legendary Adelaide Hall with her own modern-day sense of swing and sophistication. Bandleader Sam Miltich continues his rise as a star of the Minnesota jazz community, originally appearing on the scene as a musical prodigy in the "hot club" style of famed guitarist, Django Reinhardt.  Miltich's virtuoso guitar sensibility is perfectly complimented by violinist, Evan Price, a longtime member of the San Francisco Hot Club and Turtle Island Quartet.  The group is supported by a masterful rhythm section of Jay Epstein on drums and Matthew Miltich on bass.

When asked about the inspiration for this particular show, Miltich states that "I grew up with Ellington's music.  It was played in my home as a child, and Duke in our house wasn't just The Duke, he was 'The King' as far as my father was concerned. This the music I grew up with. Playing it is like coming home for me."

Grand RapidsMinnesota native, Miltich prides himself on cultivating a thriving jazz scene in northern Minnesota. His devotion to jazz runs deep.  "I want people from all walks of life to appreciate jazz, our great American music," notes Miltich.  " It doesn't get as much exposure in rural America, yet it is quintessentially our music.  All people in our nation should know about it, and I feel proud to present this great art to audiences all across the country."  When asked what audiences can expect from this particular ensemble, Miltich enthusiastically responds that, "we are all on the same page in terms of feel. Simply put, everyone in this group swings like mad."
In addition to fronting his own band, the Clearwater Hot Club, Sam records and performs extensively with Minneapolis-based jazz singers, Connie Evingson and Charmin Michelle; legendary Twin Cities saxophonist Dave Karr; and Dutch swing violin maestro, Tim Kliphuis.  In addition to a busy touring schedule, Sam also hosts a weekly Jazz at the VFW night in his home town of Grand Rapids, MN.

"Taste and understatement. Swing and savoir-faire. Grace and grooves. Intimacy and panache. Singer Charmin Michelle delivers all of the above and more. This is what the Minneapolis Star/Tribune had to say about this charismatic chanteuse whose conversational style recalls the late Billie Holiday and other legendary ladies of jazz. And, yet, her music is free of tiresome camp and easy nostalgia. She's a savvy songstress and, while putting her own imprint on a melody, is always respectful of those who first inhabited it.  Born in Birmingham, Alabama, Charmin moved to Minnesota while still a child and has called it home ever since. Though based in Minneapolis, she is no stranger to life on the road and began touring internationally in 1986. She has performed at jazz festivals throughout Europe with pianists Mulgrew Miller and Kirk Lightsey, and saxophonists Harry Allen and Grant Stewart, among others.    

Evan Price is one of the world's most confident voices in extra-classical string playing. A native of Detroit, MI, his musical background includes a variety of genres.  Evan's college career included stints at both Cleveland Institute of Music and at Berkley College of Music, and he has served as a member of the music faculty at Wellesley College, The California Jazz Conservatory, and the university of California, Berkley.   Evan is a ten-year veteran of the world-renowned, paradigm-shifting jazz ensemble, the Turtle Island Quartet. Since 1998, Evan has been a member of The Hot Club of San Fransico. An accomplished composer, Evan has contributed compositions and arrangements to the repertoires of HCSF, Turtle Island Quartet, Quartet San Fransico, Irish fiddler Lizz Caroll, San Francisco Girls' Chorus, River Oaks String Quartet, the The New Century Chamber Orchestra, under the direction of  Nadia Salerno-Sommberg Chanticleer, and the International Space Orchestra, for which he also serves as musical director. He lives in Mill Valley, CA, with his wife and daughter.  

Jay Epstein is one of the Twin Cities' most in-demand drummers boasting a professional music career that spans over five decades. A native of Winona, MN and Bridger, MT, Jay is currently a member of the Tall Tales Quartet and the Andrew Wallace Plus Nine ensemble.  Epstein was inducted into the Mid-America Hall of Fame upon the release of "Easy Company" with pianist, Bill Carrothers and bassist, Anthony Cox.

Bassist Matthew Miltich is one of ten children and comes from musical parents, both of whom were musical graduates from the University of Minnesota. After his military service, he began performing with his brothers Anthony and Paul and others, but had limited opportunities to play jazz.  His career as a jazz bassist began in earnest when his son Sam began to perform professionally and asked his father to accompany him.

Matthew has played jazz in a variety of venues, as far away as Japan, and as close as his hometown of Grand Rapids, Minnesota.  He’s performed in jazz clubs and toured with vocalists in Canada and from as far east in the U.S. as Eastport Maine, west as Puget Sound, in pubs and coffee houses and concert halls.  He holds four college degrees (two Bachelors degrees, two Masters degrees) in language, literature, and writing, but as a bassist is essentially self-taught.

Sam Miltich and the Clearwater Hot Club featuring Charmin Michelle and Evan Price perform on Thursday, July 28 at 7:00 PM at the Edge Center located next to the Bigfork School. Prices $10 adults, $5 children.

Saturday, July 2, 2016

“Annie Jr.” in Bigfork Musical Live on Stage at the Edge Center

Once again the Stages Theater Company from Hopkins MN brings a special treat to Bigfork for the young and young at heart to enjoy.  “Annie Jr.” will be on the Edge stage with lots of music, singing, great sets and a wonderful cast of 20 young people and two adults to entertain the audience.  “Annie Jr.” is one of the many adaptations evolved from the 1977 Tony Award winning Broadway musical "Annie".  “Annie Jr.” features many of the same songs and based on the same beloved story of an orphaned girl, her dog, mean-hearted orphanage head, Miss Hannigan,  and “larger than life” rich grown-up, Oliver Warbucks, who helps her through the trials of her tough life. The story will melt the hearts of audiences of all ages. ‘Annie Jr.” will be on stage at the Edge center in Bigfork this July for a treat aimed at the hearts of audiences of all ages.  “Annie Jr.” will be in Bigfork Friday through Sunday July 15 through 17 at The Edge Center in Bigfork. Performances are on Friday and Saturday 7PM and Sunday 2PM. Prices $10 for adults and $5 for children. 

This is a Stage Theatre Company’s production and is this year’s special treat for our community.  The Broadway Tony Award winning hit “Annie” and all of its adaptations are based on the “Little Orphan Annie” comic strip by Harold Gray. The Broadway musical opened in 1977 and ran for six years. That set a record, at that time, for the Broadway Alvin Theater. The musical resulted in many productions in numerous countries. The play’s two most popular songs “Tomorrow” and “it’s and Hard Knock Life” are just two of the songs that helped it to the top. 

The version Stages will present is one designed for young actors while keeping all of the appeal of the complete show still in tact. (See photos in this blog) 

About “Annie Jr.” artistic Director and CEO of stages, Sandy Boren-Barrett (above) says “Annie is a family favorite, and is one of the highest selling summer productions in our history.  The songs are so memorable, that families will leave the theatre singing them. The show has also had a revival on Broadway, as well as an updated movie in the past couple years." (more photos below)

"I think there are so many times in our kids lives when they look to the negative.  The message of this show, is still so valuable for kids, and that is to try to remain positive, to realize that sometimes your outlook on a situation can make a big impact on your journey.  Sometimes at the end of the day, just realizing that things are bound to be better ‘Tomorrow’ CAN make you feel better, as corny as that sounds.”
“Annie Jr.” is the Music Theatre International (MTI) shorter version of the full Broadway musical that has been adapted for a younger cast and made appropriate for an audience of all ages. From the MTI web site, Annie Jr. is described as being with an “With equal measures of pluck and positivity, little orphan Annie charms everyone's hearts despite a next-to-nothing start in 1930s New York City. Annie is determined to find the parents who abandoned her years ago on the doorstep of an orphanage run by the cruel Miss Hannigan. (above) Annie eventually foils Miss Hannigan's evil machinations, finding a new home and family in billionaire Oliver Warbucks, his personal secretary, Grace Farrell, and a lovable mutt named Sandy.

This production of Annie Jr. in Bigfork is produced by the Stages Theatre Company (STC) which was founded in 1984 and since then has grown to become one of the largest professional theatres for young audiences in the country. STC engages young artists with themes relevant to their lives and produces work, which features young people in significant and meaningful roles. It annually serves more than 130,000 young people and their families. STC has been producing these young people’s productions in Bigfork for a number of years and the productions have become part of a summer entertainment traditions at the Edge Theatre.

Sandy says that, “ The cast is made up of 20 youth and 2 adult actors.  Both of the adults, Marilee Mahler (Miss Hannigan) and Bruce Rowan (Daddy Warbucks) have been to The Edge Center with previous Stages Theatre Company summer shows.   The youth in the cast are a diverse group of talented actors ages 10-17, about half the youth in the cast will be making their first trip to Bigfork to perform. This is the third time I have directed this show, and frankly I am as excited about it this time, as I was the last time.  This is a timeless tale that still has relevance today.  The real separation or difference between those that are wealthy, and those that are not, lie is how much ‘stuff’ they have, not in how they feel, they all want to be loved, and to love.  You see that in the orphans, and you see that in Warbucks, and even in Miss Hannigan.  Daddy Warbucks says it himself, when he says without someone to share it with it simply doesn’t matter.  This is so valuable and so true.”

Find out what happens when Annie is invited to stay a week with billionaire Oliver Warbucks. We can tell you that after winning her way into his heart, Warbucks offers to adopt her. Annie wants to find her real parents, so Warbucks begins a nationwide search, offering a large reward. We can also tell you that the orphanage's Hannigan hatches a plan to kidnap Annie and steal the money. Come and see how this all ends at the Edge Center in Bigfork on stage Friday through Sunday July 15 through 17 at The Edge Center in Bigfork. Performances are on Friday and Saturday 7PM and Sunday 2PM. Prices $10 for adults and $5 for children.