Saturday, July 13, 2024

Li’l Friday: ‘The Prom,’ Keller Williams, Eric Johnson

“The Prom” will be staged for two weekends at Thalian Hall. (Photo by Bryan Putnam,

WILMINGTON — Li’l Friday is a weekly roundup of events in art, music, theater, comedy, pop-up markets and more.

All events featured were scheduled as of Thursday; however, it’s wise to check in ahead of attending any one. Inclement weather, changes in schedules and unforeseen circumstances may shift for organizers at the last minute.

Thursday, Sept. 7

The Prom’ 
Thalian Hall, 310 Chestnut St. • Tickets: $35

Opera House Theater Company is opening a musical that debuted on Broadway in 2018 and thereafter moved into the hands of film and TV writer Ryan Murphy (“American Horror Story,” “Pose”). “The Prom” debuted on Netflix in 2020. 

The musical has not had a stage performance in Wilmington yet and marks the end to Opera House’s season this fall.

“It is such a fun and poignant show,” OHTC executive director Justin Smith told Port City Daily earlier in the year. “Great music, fun choreography.”

Yet, “The Prom,” a Drama Desk winner in 2019, also comes with a message of inclusion. It follows four Broadway actors who travel to Indiana to offer advocacy and help to a lesbian student who is banned from bringing her girlfriend to the high school rite of passage. The local PTA members cancel the prom when they hear a same-sex couple wants to attend.

Smith has cast Wilmington actor Jeff Phillips as Barry Glickman, whose character in the play has won a Drama Desk Award and is “a narcissistic Broadway actor,” Phillips described. It’s his first time returning to the stage since he performed in “La Cage aux Folles” a month-and-a-half before the Covid-19 pandemic shuttered productions.

Phillips said he was drawn to “The Prom” because he loves its humor. The show was written by Chad Beguelin and Bob Martin — the latter of whom is behind “The Drowsy Chaperone,” which Phillips performed in years ago.  

“The story is funny and touching,” Phillips said. “The music is great and the dancing will be awesome. I am so excited to be working with our director, Carson Rudisill Hobbs.”

It will mark the directorial debut of Hobbs for OHTC. She has toured with Broadway productions including “Wicked” and has TV credits such as “One Life to Live.”

Smith said the show homes in on one of the season’s main focuses: diversity.

Also starring in the show are Sydney Smith Martin, Heather Setzler, Erin Sullivan, and Jon Tyler Berry.

It will be staged Sept. 7 through 10 and Sept. 13 through 17; times vary and tickets are $35, both available here.

Tedeschi Trucks Band — Jacksonville, Florida’s blues rock group is returning to Wilmington for a night of fun. Taking the big stage at Live Oak Bank Pavilion (10 Cowan St.), the show will start at 7:30 p.m. Formed by guitarist Derek Trucks and singer-songwriter Susan Tedeschi about 10 years ago, the husband-and-wife duo have evolved into a 12-person supergroup. The band released its fifth studio album, “I Am the Moon,” last September. Tickets start at $35. 

Friday, Sept. 8

Eric Johnson 
Kenan Auditorium, 515 Wagoner Drive • Tickets: $29-$40

This Grammy Award-winning rock ‘n’ roll guitarist is bringing his talents to the UNCW Kenan Auditorium. 

Johnson is a maestro on guitar, working on numerous effects pedals to add fuzz and other distortion to his sound. He performs a wide variety of music from rock to blues, jazz to country, and more. 

Touring for more than four decades, Johnson’s influences include Jimi Hendrix, Django Reinhardt, Bob Dylan and Eric Clapton.He has created hit songs including “Cliffs of Dover” and “Manhattan,” across more than a dozen albums, released since the mid-’80s. 

The 69-year-old last released “The Book of Making” and “Yesterday Meets Today” in 2022; the two records were created during the pandemic. 

Summer Fest — Legion Stadium plans to host an end of summer party with an afternoon jam packed with music, vendors, and good memories. Social media influencer and pop artist Sommer Ray is headlining the event. A number of other artists — Chasewater, Krispee Biscuits, Showah, Quay, Chandler Sinclair, Clothekids, Bobby Zee, and Jah, will take the stage throughout the day as well. The concert is being hosted by PX Events, behind Splash Fest in 2022 and Fright Fest in 2021. Tickets start at $20. 

Joyelle Nicole Johnson — This weekend Dead Crow Comedy Room will bring Joyelle Nicole Johnson, a Brooklyn-based standup comedian, writer, and actress, to the stage. Johnson made her debut performing on “Late Night with Seth Meyers” and has performed twice on the ”Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon.” She was nominated for a critics choice award for her first stand-up special titled “Love Joy,” executive produced by Jimmy Fallon, now on Peacock. Johnson’s comedy covers a variety of topics, including her move from Brooklyn to Georgia — “to save the democracy … and to buy a gun.” The transformation has been eye-opening, according to her standup on “The Tonight Show”: “It’s weird because the South is a true dichotomy; I’m hard, I’m a gun-owner, but I’m also soft and say ‘Good morning.’ … Want to scare a New Yorker? Smile, look them in the eyes, and say good morning.” Tickets to her show this weekend, 7 p.m .and 9:30 p.m. both Friday and Saturday, are $18 to $28. 

Fall Plant Sale — The Hobby Greenhouse Club is hosting its annual fall plant sale this weekend. For over 50 years, club members — $12 a year — swap skills and knowledge and come together for an affordable sale of unique plants grown by members. A portion of the profits are donated to scholarships for local community college horticulture students. The event is free and open to the public from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday, though bring cash or checks for plant purchases. The sale is located at 2318 Metts Ave. 

Judah & the Lion — Nashville-based alternative rock and folk band will take the stage Friday night at Greenfield Lake Amphitheater (1941 Amphitheatre Drive). Consisting of members Judah Akers and Brian Macdonald, the duo combines powerful vocal harmonies with acoustic instrumentation. Upstarted in 2011, the band has been bringing electric energy to venues all over the country and released its fourth studio album, “Revival,” in June 2022. Tickets are $35. 

Saturday, Sept. 9

Keller Williams’ Grateful Grass ft. The Hillbenders
Greenfield Lake Amphitheater, 1941 Amphitheatre Drive • Tickets: $27

Often described as a “one-man jam-band,” Keller Williams combines elements from a wide variety of music, including bluegrass, folk, rock, and more. 

He began his musical journey in his home state of Virginia, playing solo gigs at 17 years old. Fast forward to 2023, Williams is selling out shows across the United States. 

Williams has been coming to Greenfield Lake Amphitheater for years. Saturday night he will take the stage with Missouri-based bluegrass group The Hillbenders. The show will feature Grateful Dead covers and other songs; it gets underway at 7 p.m.

Tickets are $27 here

Second Saturday Night Market — Crofton’s Pretzels at 17th and Market streets will host its night market at 1620 Market St. with multiple vendors. On site will be Monkey Morgan Kreations, Michelle’s Boutique, DouCharms, Liberty Wooden Flags, Unprohibited Mobile Bar, Nana Anna Crochet, Wired! by Talia, Everything Taylor Made, Rudnik Pottery & Gifts and more. The market takes place from 3 p.m. to 8 p.m.

Curated on Castle — A few blocks away on Castle Street, the annual outdoor vintage market takes place the second Saturday every March through November, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. This weekend it will be set up in the lot at Sixth and Castle streets, across from Michael Moore Antiques and adjacent to Luna Caffe. Vendors include Second Skin Vintage, Gravity Records, and Jess James + Co., as well as up to 20 local independent vintage collectors selling clothing, records, home decor and more. Free to attend, items priced to purchase.

Cape Fear Conversations — WHQR is hosting a community gathering for people to come together to discuss housing and homelessness across the region. Topics will include root causes and challenges, as well as solutions, featuring a panel of experts: New Hanover County Social Work Supervisor Katelyn Mattox, Hope Recovery Church Pastor Meg McBride Stuart, Good Shepherd Center Executive Director Katrina Knight, Intracoastal Realty realtor Clayton Hamerski, and Physician Alliance for Mental Health ACT Team Lead Karen Garcia. It’s free and takes place at Waterline Brewing (721 Surry St.) from 12:30 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. RSVP with name and number attending to

Brad Heller and the Fustics — Wilmington Americana rockers Brad Heller and the Fustics will play Waterline Brewing Co. (721 Surry St.) at 7 p.m. The band has released five albums including 2019’s “The Sentence,” which continues to tackle topics of personal and social justice. 

Jerry Joseph and the Jackmormons — The Palm Room (11 E. Salisbury St.) will welcome a revered singer-songwriter, who is often touted as one of the most underrated rock, pop and Americana artists Saturday evening, 10 p.m., performing with local Americana artist Travis Shallow. The Portland, Oregon, musician Jerry Joseph has been inducted into the Oregon Music Hall of Fame and performs more than 150 shows a year, stateside, into the Middle East, Europe and Central America, often with his band the Jackmormons. Joseph got his start with a reggae rock band, Little Women, in the ‘80s before it disbanded and he formed the Jackmormons, which grew a following in the mid-’90s, with many of Joseph’s songs recorded by Widespread Panic. He’s been hailed as a “triple threat” by singer-songwriters Jason Isbell and St. Vincent. Joseph also has a nonprofit, Nomad Music Foundation, a School of Rock-type program for displaced teenagers in areas of conflict — Kabul, Afghanistan, and Sulaymaniyah. The band takes to the stage at 10 p.m.; tickets are $15.

N.C. Songwriters in the Round — Live at Ted’s this Saturday will be four North Carolina songwriters coming together to share stories and music. Featured will be country-rocker Sam Foster, alternative Americana artist Chris McGinnis, rollicking troubadour Jack Marion, and country artist Nick Shanahan. Doors are at 7 p.m. and tickets are $10.

Tracing Gesture — A dance performance by Karola Luttringhaus — best known as the founder of Alban Eleved Dance Company — will present a choreographic and academic project, “Tracing Gesture.” It will be held at Cameron Art Museum at 2 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. and is free with admission. The performance goes deep into the meaning of art in a piece titled “Gestures of Love.” According to the artist, the “gesture serves as the basis for dance, and dance is a form of language.” Thereafter, a question-and-answer will take place in the exhibit for “Love,” on display at CAM, with Luttringhaus. She also will invite guests to explore their own unique gesture of love.

“Two Jews, Talking” has one more weekend run at Thalian Hall’s Ruth and Bucky Stein Theater. (Courtesy Big Dawg Productions)

Sunday, Sept. 10

‘Two Jews, Talking’
Thalian Hall Ruth and Bucky Stein Theatre, 310 Chestnut St. • Tickets: $36

After hosting nine sold-out shows of this first Off-Broadway run for Big Dawg Productions in the spring, the theater company is bringing back the funny drama, “Two Jews, Talking.”

Big Dawg secured rights to the show from MarMaxMedia back in March and has secured rights to two more Off-Broadway shows for next season: “Pay the Writer” and “Windows” by best-selling author Tawni O’Dell.

ALSO: ‘Business side of theater’: Big Dawg secures first rights, royalties to 2 Off-Broadway shows

“Two Jews” originally ran Off-Broadway with Tony Award-winner Hal Linden (“You People,” “The Samuel Project”) and Bernie Kopell (“The Love Boat”) as the leads.

The premiere for Wilmington — written by Ed Weinberger (“The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson,” “The Bob Hope Special,” “The Bill Cosby Show”), a Peabody, Golden Globe, and Emmy award winner — was a smash. The play consists of two one-acts — one follows the story of Lou and Bud in the Biblical past, and the other features Phil and Marty having a chat in modern-day Long Island. 

“I’m always looking for new shows to add to future seasons, especially shows that might appeal to more diverse audiences,” Big Dawg artistic director Steve Vernon told Port City Daily in the spring. 

The Big Dawg production, directed by Holli Saperstein, stars Jamey Stone and Lee Lowrimore.

“It’s not just two guys talking,” Stone explained. “It’s discussions on belief, faith, religion, philosophy, love, sex, loss, and loneliness, tackled in both hilarious and serious ways.”

Aside from the humor derived in it, the show can be a reminder for others to learn how to overcome divisive world views in civil conversation. It’s something Stone said the Jewish people he grew up around managed to perfect.

“They had a way of debating and arguing that could be both simultaneously combative and hilarious, but somehow often ended up in mutually begrudging respect,” Stone explained. “What happens when you engage in discussions with someone you don’t have anything in common with or may not even agree with on everything? Occasionally, you might be surprised by how much less distance there is between the two of you than you originally thought.”

The show is dialogue-heavy, something Stone approached before with “extreme terror.” Challenges have risen in the conversational loops, one piece eventually connecting back to another — phrases and themes constantly on repeat. Yet, Stone admitted the cues are similar in numerous places to help the actor stay on track.

“Zone out for a millisecond and you’re hopelessly lost in the wilderness, like Moses in the desert!” he quipped.

Previous iterations of “Two Jews, Talking” have cast men in their 90s; Saperstein has gone with younger talent just over 50. As the acts take place 3,000 years apart, she said the fact the Jewish characters still manage to struggle with the same questions is hopeful. 

“[They cover] timeless subjects each of us look at in our own lives, especially as we get older,” she said in the spring.

“There’s a saying, ‘history doesn’t repeat itself, but it rhymes,’” Lowrimore added. “That’s what happens with these two one-acts. You’ll be going along talking about Mt. Sinai, and suddenly you think, ‘Am I talking about the mountain or the hospital?’”

Tickets to the show can be purchased here; it takes place over the next two weekends at 7:30 p.m. Thursday through Saturday and on Sunday at 3 p.m.

Music Bingo for Pediatric Cancer Research — Good Hops Brewing in Carolina Beach welcomes Bingo enthusiasts to the facilities to play music bingo. It’s free, but donations are encouraged to benefit Reelin for Research. The nonprofit fundraises year-round to benefit the UNC Children’s Hospital and childhood cancer research. Music Bingo will be hosted by Xandria at 3 p.m., 811 Harper Ave.

Blush and Blooms — Looking to sip through a Sunday afternoon of various wines and collecting flowers? The Second Glass and Beauty and Bloom can help in the South Front District. For $55 per person, guests can sample eight types of rosé from Second Glass, each paired with pink blooms from Beauty and Bloom. A flower is added to the collection at each tasting station, so by the time the tasting is over, a bouquet can be enjoyed at home. Light snacks will also be served. There are two slots for tasting: 4 p.m. and 4:30 p.m. Sign up here and head to 1540 S. Second St. to participate.

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Shea Carver
Shea Carver
Shea Carver is the editor in chief at Port City Daily. A UNCW alumna, Shea worked in the print media business in Wilmington for 22 years before joining the PCD team in October 2020. She specializes in arts coverage — music, film, literature, theatre — the dining scene, and can often be tapped on where to go, what to do and who to see in Wilmington. When she isn’t hanging with her pup, Shadow Wolf, tending the garden or spinning vinyl, she’s attending concerts and live theater.

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