It seems writer-director Kevin Ramsey is becoming the king of musicals about music. Having presented “Fire on the Bayou” and “Sam Cooke: Forever Mr. Soul” at Delaware Theatre Company over the past few seasons, he has returned with “Chasin’ Dem Blues: The Untold Story of Paramount Records.”
“Chasin’ Dem Blues” tells the story of Paramount Records, a label that started in Grafton, Wisconsin, early in the 20th century to record and distribute so-called “race” music, which we know as blues and jazz. It’s a perfect subject for Ramsey, who grew up in no less a musical city than New Orleans.
It was in New Orleans that, as an adolescent, Ramsey was introduced to theater as a way to overcome his stuttering. He has since added a few TV shows to his acting resume (check his demo reel at youtube.com/watch?v=bGGmNqluHP4), as well as the musicals he has written and directed.
“Chasin’ Dem Blues” originated while he was working on “Sam Cooke” in Milwaukee, where a board member of the local theater company told him about Grafton. Ramsey says he was fascinated by the idea of a small, all-white rural town becoming the home of a record company dedicated to black music.
At DTC, you’ll hear some of that music performed by The Blues Executors: singers Doug Eskew and Jannie Jones, guitarist Eric Noden, percussionist Mike DeCastro and pianist Nate Buccieri. Tunes such as “Let the Good Times Roll” and “St. Louis Blues” should be familiar to any armchair musicologist. Paramount’s heyday, with such big names as Ma Rainey and Blind Lemon Jefferson, lasted from the 1920s into the early 1930s, when several factors, including The Great Depression, conspired to force its closure in 1935, though many of Paramount’s recordings have been re-released by the Jazzology Record group—just in case you want to study up before the show. See it at Delaware Theatre Company until May 1, 200 Water St., Wilmington. For more, call 594-1100, or visit delawaretheatre.org.
Who doesn’t love Longwood’s famed fountains? Mark your calendars now for the summer’s Fireworks and Fountains Shows May 29, June 18, July 3, July 23, August 13 and September 3. Entertainers will fill the gardens with music while the fountains are lit in vibrant colors. A special ticket is required ($8-$18). Longwood Gardens is at 1001 Longwood Road, Kennett Square, Pa. For more, call (610) 388-5200, or visit longwoodgardens.org.
If you’re not familiar with the Milton Theatre’s financial woes, they amount to this: The bank has threatened to foreclose, so there hasn’t been a show there in months. That hasn’t stopped its indomitable board and friends from trying to save the sorely needed cultural landmark. This week, popular Abbott’s Grill in Milford comes to its aid, with an art show and sale, Spring Fever, which will run through May 24. Twenty percent of proceeds from art sold during the event will benefit the Save the Milton Theatre Campaign. Have a bite. See fine photography by local artists April Abel, Bob Connelly, Joseph Mullan, Libby Zando and others. Help the theater. Meet the artists during a special reception Thursday, April 21, 5 p.m. till 7 p.m. on the patio. Abbott’s Grill is at 249 NE Front St., Milford. Phone 491-6736. For more about the theater (107 Union St., Milton), call 684-3400, or visit miltontheatre.org.
Wondering what the Rehoboth Summer Children’s Theatre has in store for the season? See its production of “Peter Pan” on Saturday, April 26, at Epworth United Methodist Church, 19854 Holland Glade Road, Rehoboth Beach, at 1 p.m. Peter, Tinkerbell and the children challenge Captain Hook and Mr. Smee in this classic. It’s just a glimpse of the company’s season, which includes “Snow White” and “That Fabulous Franklin.” Shows are staged at Epworth, The Baycenter in Dewey Beach and The Rehoboth Beach Theatre of the Arts. Tickets for the preview of “Peter Pan” are $9. For more, call 227-6766, email firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit rehobothchildrentheatre.org.