Dayton’s very own live version of ‘A Christmas Story’ is happening now

Published: Tuesday, December 12, 2017 @ 3:45 PM
Updated: Wednesday, December 13, 2017 @ 12:19 PM

A group of young actors from the Miami Valley will perform in “A Christmas Story” at the Victoria Theatre. The show is presented by the VTA and produced by The Human Race Theatre Company. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO BY RON VALLE
Staff Writer
A group of young actors from the Miami Valley will perform in “A Christmas Story” at the Victoria Theatre. The show is presented by the VTA and produced by The Human Race Theatre Company. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO BY RON VALLE(Staff Writer)

Ralphie Parker’s memorable quest for a Red Ryder BB Gun is back in the spotlight as the Victoria Theatre Association presents the Human Race Theatre Company’s excellent production of “A Christmas Story” through Sunday, Dec. 17 at the Victoria Theatre.

Here are five reasons why you should catch this entertaining showcase, adapted by Philip Grecian based on Jean Shepherd’s book “In God We Trust: All Others Pay Cash” and the iconic 1983 film of the same name.  

IF YOU LOVED THE MOVIE, YOU’LL LOVE THE PLAY 

Set in Hohman, Ind., in 1938, the play smoothly balances the endearing sentiments of Shepherd’s book with the kooky situations/images from the film.

But let’s face it – you’ll want to see the play because of what you remember from the film. Thankfully, you won’t be disappointed. The flagpole, the leg lamp, Ralphie’s Little Orphan Annie decoder pin, Randy’s oversized winter gear, the legendary Scut Farkus Affair, the tire fiasco, and the department store slide are all here just to name a few.

Director Igor Goldin even ensures you’ll hear a snippet of the infamous rendition of “Deck the Halls” from the Chinese restaurant.

But the play also provides some refreshing moments such as a jungle expedition fantasy, Esther Jane’s big crush on Ralphie, Randy’s inability to control his bladder, and a funny bit of living room stage business between The Old Man (Race resident artist Tim Lile) and Mother (Teri Clark Linden) centered on the leg lamp and a sandwich.  

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Who can forget this iconic scene from “A Christmas Story?” The live comedy will be on stage at the Victoria Theatre. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO BY RON VALLE(Staff Writer)

OUTSTANDING NARRATION 

Charming Wright State University alum Greg Mallios truly shines and engagingly connects as Ralph Parker, narrating the proceedings with great warmth and enthusiasm.

Tapping into Shepherd’s extremely colorful vernacular is a huge challenge, but Mallios winningly steps up to the plate. For instance, when Ralph reminisces about his intimidating time with Santa (hilariously voiced by Lile), he spins the line “dazed in the presence of divine celebrity” into comic gold.  

GREAT KIDS

Casting is everything when it comes to a character-specific show like this, but an array of talented youngsters absolutely fit the bill.

The principal actors include admirable Eric Pettit (Winthrop in Wright State’s outstanding 2016 production of “The Music Man”) as Ralphie, Alex Glen as Randy, Jason Caldwell as Flick, energetic Noah Rutkowski as Schwartz, a wonderfully imposing Jack Lockwood using his physicality very convincingly as bully Scut Farkus, Danika Márquez as smitten Esther Jane, Reese Hornick as Helen, and ensemble members Emery Kimmins, and JaBreayle Lyle.

Featured opposite the kids, Race resident artist Katie Pees is an absolute hoot as Miss Shields and an overworked Higbee’s elf.  

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“A Christmas Story” is based author Jean Shepherd’s collection of short stories. Pictured: Flick’s triple-dog-dare-ya. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO BY RON VALLE(Staff Writer)

TERRIFIC SET

Scenic designer Dick Block, a Dayton native, supplies another terrific set for the Human Race. Block’s revolving, snowglobe-esque design fuels the show’s fluidity as the action goes back and forth between the Parker household, the school, Higbee’s, and more.

His previous Human Race credits include “The Full Monty,” “Avenue Q,” “Gem of the Ocean,” “Lend Me a Tenor,” and “The Tempest.” 

HEARTWARMING NOSTALGIA 

Although the Red Ryder BB Gun is of utmost importance, the nostalgic beauty of this show, this heartwarming story, is in its potent reminder of what the Christmas season is all about: family, friendship, forgiveness, love, and hope.

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WANT TO GO?

What: “A Christmas Story,” a Projects Unlimited Star Attraction presented by the Victoria Theatre Association and produced by the Human Race Theatre Company.  

When: Tuesday, Dec. 12, through Sunday, Dec. 17. Performances are at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday through Friday and 2 and 7:30 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday.  

Where: Victoria Theatre, 138 N. Main St., Dayton  

Tickets: Prices range from $30 to $60. Purchase online at www.TicketCenterStage.com, at the Box Office, or call (937) 228-3630 or 888-228-3630. Group, military and student discounts available.  For information: www.victoriatheatre.com

Dayton Philharmonic offers special ‘Bernstein Songfest’ at DAI

Published: Saturday, January 20, 2018 @ 12:00 AM


            (top from left) Soprano Olivia Yokers, mezzo-soprano Noragh Devlin, (bottom from left) tenor Michael Anderson and bass-baritone Alexander Harper are the Dayton Opera Artists-in Residence joining the DPO for Bernstein Songfest Jan. 28 at the Dayton Art Institute. CONTRIBUTED
(top from left) Soprano Olivia Yokers, mezzo-soprano Noragh Devlin, (bottom from left) tenor Michael Anderson and bass-baritone Alexander Harper are the Dayton Opera Artists-in Residence joining the DPO for Bernstein Songfest Jan. 28 at the Dayton Art Institute. CONTRIBUTED

The Dayton Philharmonic Orchestra continues its celebration of the 100th anniversary of influential composer Leonard Bernstein’s birth with a Chamber Series concert fittingly titled “Bernstein Songfest” Sunday, Jan. 28, at the Dayton Art Institute.

Under the direction of DPO Associate Conductor Patrick Reynolds, the program will encompass various selections from Bernstein’s illustrious repertoire, which spanned the realms of Broadway and opera to symphony halls around the world. In addition to the Prologue from “West Side Story,” slated works include compositions such as “Two Love Songs” (“Extinguish My Eyes” and “When My Soul Touches Yours”) and “La Bonne Cuisine: Four Recipes for Voice and Piano” in addition to selections from “On the Town,” “MASS,” “Trouble in Tahiti” and “Candide.”

“I will be forever grateful to have grown up in the ‘Bernstein Era,’” said Reynolds. “For me, he was an inspiration, a hero and role model. He was an almost unimaginable genius. I admired him so much. I didn’t have any rock stars as a kid, so for me, he was my rock star. He was a lot of people’s rock star.

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“I met him once, after a concert he conducted with the Vienna Philharmonic in 1987. We spoke briefly and he signed my program. I have never ever seen eyes that shined more brightly than his. There’s been no one like him since.”

Reynolds is excited about the programming as a whole but anticipates two numbers in particular.

“I am thrilled to be conducting three excerpts from his timeless one-act opera ‘Trouble in Tahiti,’ and the beautiful ‘Candide’ finale “Make Our Garden Grow.’”

Accenting the concert will be the Dayton Opera’s Artists-in-Residence consisting of soprano Olivia Yokers, mezzo-soprano Noragh Devlin, tenor Michael Anderson, and bass-baritone Alexander Harper.

“This is the fourth year of participation in this Chamber Series by the talented singers of Dayton Opera’s Artists-in-Residence program,” said Dayton Opera Artistic Director Thomas Bankston. “It is truly one of the most fulfilling and enriching parts of their residency to be featured in this concert and to be able to perform in collaboration with the musicians of the Dayton Philharmonic.”

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The quartet will be accompanied by musicians including Joshua Nemith on piano, Rebecca Tryon Andres on flute, John Kurokawa on clarinet, Deborah Taylor on double bass, Timothy Anderson on trombone, Donald Donnett on timpani, and percussionists Michael LaMattina, Jeffrey Luft and Gerald Noble. Joining the Philharmonic musicians will be pianist Carol Walker, Dayton Opera Music Director of the Artists-in-Residence Program.

Also, the first half of the concert will briefly focus on brass with selections from Bernstein’s “Brass Music” performed by the Dayton Philharmonic Brass Quintet, commonly known as Carillon Brass. The troupe consists of Charles Pagnard and Alan Siebert on trumpet, Chad Arnow on trombone, Aaron Brant on horn, and Timothy Northcut on tuba.

“In the last three of these (Chamber Series) concerts we have turned to more traditional composers of the chamber music repertoire,” Bankston reminded. “This year, however, we focus on one composer, and what better one could that be than Leonard Bernstein, as we honor his life and works in the 100th anniversary year of his birth.”

WANT TO GO?

WHAT: “Bernstein Songfest”

WHERE: Renaissance Auditorium of the Dayton Art Institute, 456 Belmonte Park North, Dayton

WHEN: 3 p.m. Sunday

COST: $14-$22; Seating is general admission

TICKETS: Call Ticket Center Stage (937) 228-3630 or visit www.daytonperformingarts.org

FYI: Larry Coressel from Discover Classical WDPR 88.1 will give a pre-concert talk beginning at 2:30 p.m.

Dayton Theatre Guild’s ‘Stella and Lou’ emphasizes change, connection

Published: Saturday, January 20, 2018 @ 12:00 AM


            (from left) Adam Clevenger (Donnie), Amy Taint (Stella) and Geoff Burkman (Lou) appear in Dayton Theatre Guild’s production of the relationship dramedy Stella and Lou through Sunday, Feb. 4. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO BY CRAIG ROBERTS
(from left) Adam Clevenger (Donnie), Amy Taint (Stella) and Geoff Burkman (Lou) appear in Dayton Theatre Guild’s production of the relationship dramedy Stella and Lou through Sunday, Feb. 4. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO BY CRAIG ROBERTS

Bruce Graham’s “Stella and Lou,” the tale of a South Philadelphia bar owner and a divorced nurse pondering a future together beyond mere friendship, receives its local premiere courtesy of the Dayton Theatre Guild through Sunday, Feb. 4.

Reflecting on loneliness in one’s twilight years, the play addresses the desire for connection and meaning even when life feels hopelessly stagnant.

“Hopefully audiences will respond to the basic thrust of the show (owing to the fact) that we’ve all got our crosses to bear,” said Geoff Burkman, who portrays widower Lou and finds the layered script reminiscent of Terrence McNally’s two-hander “Frankie and Johnny in the Clair de Lune.”

“We deal with those crosses as best we can, and when we do it with kindness and a consideration for each other’s fallibility, more often than not we’ll make each other’s lives a little more bearable. The show puts this mostly in the context of later life, but the themes are, of course, ageless.”

Amy Taint, portraying bar regular Stella, particularly enjoys her character’s willingness to step out of her comfort zone and change course. “I admire her moxie,” said Taint, seen last season in Dayton Playhouse’s “The Women.”

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“It takes guts to identify what you want from life and follow through, leaving the easy and familiar behind,” she said. “What my generation knows and generations before it knew is although the body ages, the heart and soul remain mysteriously inviolate. Romance, love, a sense of adventure and other joys are craved whether our legs can carry us there or even cross the street. Stella believes in her dreams even more than when she was young because she now understands why they are important.”

“I have a hard time imagining anyone coming away from this show unmoved by its humanity,” added Burkman, who notably appeared at the Guild last season as Carr Gomm in “The Elephant Man.”

“Stella and Lou” is directed by Gary Thompson and also features Adam Clevenger as Donnie, a young bar patron.

Performances are Fridays at 8 p.m., Saturdays at 5 p.m., and Sundays at 3 p.m. at the Dayton Theatre Guild, 430 Wayne Ave., Dayton. Tickets are $13-$20. The play is performed in roughly 90 minutes without intermission. For tickets or more information, call (937) 278-5993 or visit daytontheatreguild.org.

TOWN HALL THEATRE PREPARES ‘GIVER’

Town Hall Theatre in Centerville presents Lois Lowry’s drama “The Giver” through Sunday, Feb. 4.

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Adapted by Eric Coble, the thought-provoking play concerns Jonas, struggling in a community that prides itself on sameness. Assigned as a memory keeper for his community, he must ultimately decide if sameness is worthwhile. Hannah Collinsworth and Christine Orr share the role of Jonas.

“The Giver” marks a departure from Town Hall’s standard fare. Organizers are hoping to select more mature works to build interest among its teenage core.

“In the past, our shows tended to be younger-spirited and there was a definite lack of including teens,” said Town Hall Artistic Director Chris Harmon, who began his new position last month after years of serving the troupe as a director and scenic designer. “We tend to lose our teen talent once they enter high school because they simply want to do their high school shows. We encourage ages 8 to 18 but by the time some kids turned 14 or 15 they would leave. So, my goal is to possibly do more mature shows throughout the season. I’m excited to see what the future holds. I also hope to make Town Hall more of a financial success. We do 10 shows every season and I hope to pack the houses for every show.”

Performances are Fridays at 7 p.m. and Saturdays and Sundays at 3 p.m. at Town Hall Theatre, 27 N. Main St., Centerville. There is also a 7 p.m. performance on Saturday, Jan 27. Tickets are $10-$15. The play, which runs 75 minutes, is recommended for ages 12 and older. For tickets or more information, call (937) 433-8957 or visit washingtontwp.org.

WRIGHT STATE GRAD WINS KLEBAN PRIZE

Composer/lyricist Christian Duhamel, a 2005 Wright State University acting/musical theater graduate, is among the recipients of this year’s Kleban Prize, awarded annually to promising musical theatre writers.

The award is given under the auspices of the Kleban Foundation established in 1988 under the will of Edward L. Kleban, Tony and Pulitzer Prize-winning lyricist of “A Chorus Line.” Librettist of “My 80-Year-Old Boyfriend,” Duhamel joins lyricists Alan Schmuckler (“Diary of a Wimpy Kid — The Musical”) and Amanda Yesnowitz (Somewhere in Time”) in receiving the $100,000 prize.

In 2016, Duhamel participated in the developmental world premiere of his new musical satire “Miss Mayor,” co-written by Ellie Margolis with concept and additional book by Greg Hellems based on Henrik Ibsen’s 1869 political play “The League of Youth.”

The shows you shouldn’t miss in January

Published: Tuesday, January 02, 2018 @ 6:00 AM

Dare to Defy Productions presents the legendary rock opus The Who’s Tommy Jan. 12-20 in the Mathile Theatre of the Schuster Center. CONTRIBUTED
Dare to Defy Productions presents the legendary rock opus The Who’s Tommy Jan. 12-20 in the Mathile Theatre of the Schuster Center. CONTRIBUTED

Happy New Year! Begin 2018 by checking out this slate of shows familiar and new to the area including three symphonic concerts.

Cast of 'The Tutors.' From left to right: Ryan Grissett (Milo), Jenna Gomes (Heidi), A.J. Breslin (Joe), Boyang Zhang (Kwan), Skyler McNeely (Toby). PHOTO CREDIT / KNACK CREATIVE(Knack Creative)

THE TUTORS

Jan. 4-7, Schuster Center

Playground Theatre supplies local premiere of Erica Lipez’s dramedy about a group of friends longing to change the world with a social networking site while tutoring to pay the rent. Mathile Theatre of Schuster Center, Second and Main streets, Dayton. Thursday at 7 p.m., Friday at 8 p.m., Saturday at 2 and 8 p.m., and Sunday at 2 p.m. $15-$20. (937) 228-3630 or www.ticketcenterstage.com.

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HELLO, DOLLY!

Jan. 11-14, Victoria Theatre

Muse Machine presents Jerry Herman and Michael Stewart’s classic 1964 musical comedy about a meddlesome New York matchmaker re-evaluating her life in a joyous and hilarious pursuit of love and happiness. Victoria Theatre, 138 N. Main St., Dayton. Thursday at 7 p.m., Friday at 8 p.m., Saturday at 3 and 8 p.m., and Sunday at 2 p.m. (937) 228-3630 or www.ticketcenterstage.com.

THE WHO’S TOMMY

Jan. 12-20, Schuster Center

Dare to Defy Production’s takes on the classic 1969 rock opus about an inspirational pinball-playing whiz whose physical limitations do not hinder him from overcoming adversity. Mathile Theatre of Schuster Center, Second and Main Streets, Dayton. Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. There will also be a 2 p.m. matinee on Jan. 13. $16.50-$25. (937) 228-3630 or www.ticketcenterstage.com.

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ONE SUNDAY IN BIRMINGHAM

Jan. 15, Xenia Area Community Theater

Writer/director Joyce A. Barnes tells the dramatic story of 15-year-old Ruby Watson who joined thousands of other young people in the 1963 Children’s March in Birmingham, Alabama. Weaving together historic characters of the time including Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Bull Connor, this multimedia presentation pinpoints the struggle for equality during the Civil Rights Movement. Monday at 3 and 7 p.m. Xenia Area Community Theater, 45 E. Second St., Xenia. $9-$10. (937) 372-0516 or www.xeniaact.org.

BEEHIVE: THE ‘60S MUSICAL

Jan. 19-Feb. 4, Dayton Playhouse

This musical revue pays tribute to female singers of the 1960s such as Leslie Gore, Janis Joplin, Aretha Franklin, and Tina Turner. Songs include “It’s My Party,” “To Sir With Love,” “Proud Mary,” and “My Boyfriend’s Back.” Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m. at the Playhouse, 1301 E. Siebenthaler Ave., Dayton. $16-$18. (937) 424-8477 or www.daytonplayhouse.com.

STELLA AND LOU

Jan. 19-Feb. 4, Dayton Theatre Guild

In this local premiere by Bruce Graham, a South Philadelphia bar owner and a regular patron ponder a future together beyond mere friendship. Amy Taint and Geoff Burkman play the titular roles. Fridays at 8 p.m., Saturdays at 5 p.m. (with the exception of the Jan. 20 performance at 8 p.m.) and Sundays at 3 p.m. at the Guild, 430 Wayne Ave. $13-$20. (937) 278-5993 or www.daytontheatreguild.org.

BRAHMS: FIRST AND FOREMOST

Jan. 19 and 20, Schuster Center

Dayton Philharmonic Orchestra spotlights three of the great first symphonies by Johannes Brahms, Joseph Haydn and Leonard Bernstein. The second movement of Bernstein’s biblical-themed work (“Jeremiah”) will feature guest soloist Layna Chiankas who has performed many leading roles with Dayton Opera. Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m. at the Schuster Center, Second and Main streets, Dayton. Tickets are $15.45-$64.30. (937) 228-3630 or www.ticketcenterstage.com.

SOPHISTICATED LADIES

Jan. 26 and 27, Schuster Center

Ohio native Steven Reineke, a graduate of Miami University and music director and conductor of the New York Pops at Carnegie Hall, guest conducts this Dayton Philharmonic SuperPops concert saluting African-American female jazz artists such as Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughan and Billie Holiday. Broadway powerhouses Montego Glover (Tony nominee for “Memphis”), N’Kenge (“Motown”) and Capathia Jenkins (“Newsies”) serve as guest vocalists. Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m. at the Schuster Center, Second and Main Streets, Dayton. Tickets are $29-$79. (937) 228-3630 or www.ticketcenterstage.com.

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BERNSTEIN SONGFEST

Jan. 28, Dayton Art Institute

2018 marks the 100th anniversary of Leonard Bernstein’s birth. Celebrate with the Dayton Philharmonic as selections from “Candide,” “West Side Story,” “On the Town,” and more are featured along with the Dayton Opera’s four Artists-in-Residence. Sunday at 3 p.m. at the Dayton Art Institute, 456 Belmonte Park N., Dayton. Tickets are $14-$22. (937) 228-3630 or www.ticketcenterstage.com.

Why these Wright State graduates are getting noticed abroad

Published: Monday, December 18, 2017 @ 6:00 AM

WSU alumna Nicole Scherzinger (seen here as Julie LaVerne in 1998s Show Boat opposite Michael Mueller as Pete) received an Olivier Award nomination as Grizabella in Cats. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO
Contributing Writer
WSU alumna Nicole Scherzinger (seen here as Julie LaVerne in 1998s Show Boat opposite Michael Mueller as Pete) received an Olivier Award nomination as Grizabella in Cats. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO(Contributing Writer)

If you’re heading to New York City, it’s no secret that Wright State University’s Theatre Department is well-represented.

In fact, Law Terrell Dunford (Javert in 2014’s “Les Misérables”) is in the ensemble of Broadway’s hit musical “Waitress” and Jon Hacker (Curly in 2013’s “Oklahoma!”) portrays Joey in the newly remounted off-Broadway production of “Jersey Boys.” But across the pond, three alums have particularly taken London’s West End theater scene by storm.

WSU alumna Heather Douglas (seen here as Cassie in 1990 s A Chorus Line ) is a London-based choreographer who had leading roles in such West End productions as Chicago, Cats and The Producers. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO(Contributing Writer)

Heather Douglas, the Department’s first Distinguished Alumna, portrayed Velma Kelly in “Chicago,” Bombalurina in “Cats” and Ulla in “The Producers” to name just a few. Her film contributions include “De-Lovely” (starring Kevin Kline) and “The Producers” (she was Uma Thurman’s body double). She credits Suzanne Walker, former WSU dance instructor, for nurturing her artistic gifts.

“The craziest thing in the world is that Suzanne Walker gave me the opportunity to choreograph the 1991 spring musical in my final year at Wright State,” Douglas said. “I never fully understood at the time why she had such faith in me. It was the last show of the year, ‘Gypsy,’ and a big subscriber audience. Boy, did she have some serious insight to know that I would later go on to choreograph in the West End and internationally in opera, cabaret and musical theater.

“I feel truly blessed to have worked with such greats as Tommy Tune, Cy Coleman, Susan Stroman, Mike Ockrent, Frank Wildhorn, Anne Reinking, Gwen Verdon, Gillian Lynne, Mel Brooks, Mitzi Gaynor, Julie Andrews, and my mentor Suzanne Walker.”

Douglas currently choreographs gala events and shows throughout England. Her most recent assignment was a project for P&O/Cunard/Carnival Cruise Lines about Dusty Springfield. She remains grateful for the instruction she received at WSU.

“I could not have imagined any better training than the training I received at Wright State,” she said. “One of the greatest things I talk about to this very day is how my training taught me versatility. All of my tutors stressed the importance of this. I realize how lucky I was to learn different styles within each discipline and not just in the execution of the style, but the history and importance of it in every decade that was being taught.

“Most drama colleges do not have the time or staff to be able to cover such things as well as Wright State. The staff I had throughout my time there was exceptional. I owe so much of who I am as a professional to my tutors. Of course every experience working after college helps you to grow and learn, but Wright State really prepared me for ‘the business we call show.’”

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WSU alum KJ Hippensteel currently stars as Elder Price in the London production of The Book of Mormon. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO(Contributing Writer)

In addition, KJ Hippensteel, a Tom Hanks Scholar seen in 2005’s “Uncle Vanya” and “Ragtime,” stars as Elder Price in “The Book of Mormon.” He also performed on Broadway in “The Book of Mormon” and toured the U.S. in “Wicked.”

“The show has an open-ended run at the Prince of Wales Theatre,” said WSU artistic director W. Stuart McDowell. “When I saw it last year the place was packed to the rafters (and Hippensteel) received a standing ovation.”

Lastly, Grammy-nominated pop star and reality TV judge Nicole Scherzinger, dynamic in 1997’s “Chicago” and 1998’s “Show Boat,” was nominated for the 2015 Laurence Olivier Award (the London equivalent of the Tony Award) for her portrayal of Grizabella in the revival of “Cats.”

“I was blown away by her performance,” McDowell noted. “Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber has called her one of the best singers he’s ever heard.”