Soulful Maui vocalist back on island for gigs

Valley Isle’s Gretchen Rhodes takes break from Rock and Soul Revue tour

Gretchen Rhodes performs with The House Shakers at 7 p.m. tonight, Jan. 17 and Jan. 24 at Fleetwood’s on Front St. She will perform with Mick Fleetwood, Eric Gilliom and The House Shakers at 8 p.m. Tuesday, and with Fleetwood, Willie K and The House Shakers at 8 p.m. Jan. 22. Tickets for shows with Fleetwood start at $95. For more information, call 667-6425 or visit www.fleetwoods onfrontst.com. Photo courtesy the artist

The dawn of 2019 has been a busy time for Gretchen Rhodes.

After singing with Willie K while opening for Steven Tyler at the Maui Arts & Cultural Center on Dec. 27, she joined Mick Fleetwood on stage for New Year’s Eve in Lahaina. Invited by Tyler to sing with The Loving Mary Band, she performed at the Jan. 3 sold-out Janie’s Fund benefit at Fleetwood’s on Front St., and she just rocked at Willie K’s BluesFest on Saturday.

Often performing with Fleetwood Mac’s legendary drummer when he’s on island, this soulful Maui vocalist has lately been touring with British rock star Dave Mason as a member of his band.

“It was really because of Mick (Fleetwood),” Gretchen explains as to how she joined Mason. “Working with Mick over the last 14 years, honing my craft, really helped. Dave would sit in with us at Fleetwood’s periodically, and he liked my harmonies and energy. He called and asked if I would be available. From there it’s ballooned.”

In interviews, Mason has been talking up his new bandmate.

Scarlett Strallen (in photo) and Hugh Panaro join the Maui Pops Orchestra at Sunday’s “Broadway Pops” concert at the Castle Theater.

“We have a young girl singer, Gretchen Rhodes, who’s just killin’ a couple of songs, like ‘Try a Little Tenderness,’ “ he told New Jersey Arts.

Since the summer, Gretchen has also been part of the Rock and Soul Revue, which has teamed Mason with veteran Stax Records’ guitarist Steve Cropper. A former member of the seminal Booker T. & the MG’s band, Cropper co-wrote hits with soul icon Otis Redding.

With the Revue, she’s been wowing Mainland audiences with rousing versions of Redding’s “Try a Little Tenderness,” Sam & Dave’s “When Something Is Wrong With My Baby” and the Traffic classic, “The Low Spark of High Heeled Boys.”

“They’re both amazing,” she enthuses. “I’ve spent so much time with them, I’m morphing into a 70-year-old dude. But that’s OK because they are super cool, and I’m able to hang around that greatness and musicianship and hear their stories. To be featured on songs with them and record songs with them — I’m super grateful. And Dave’s band is insane; they’ve worked with some of the greatest people on the planet.”

A live album from the tour with Gretchen onboard is available online at www.davemasonmusic.com and features soul classics like “In the Midnight Hour” and “(Sittin’ On) The Dock of the Bay,” along with some of Mason’s hits.

Hugh Panaro

“It’s called 4Real Dave Mason and Steve Cropper featuring Gretchen Rhodes,” she reports.

Gretchen will head out in mid-February for another leg of the Rock and Soul Revue, beginning in Florida and ending a month later in Oregon. Until then, she is booked for various gigs at Fleetwood’s.

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Late into the Willie K & Friends BluesFest at the MACC on Saturday, Willie K collapsed on stage while Gretchen was singing “Gold Dust Woman.” Kept overnight in the hospital, Willie posted a couple of videos on Facebook from his hospital bed announcing, “I’m still alive! I’m doing good, I just had a little relapse because I was dehydrated.”

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Known for its legendary high-energy shows, Big Bad Voodoo Daddy has been hailed as one of the greatest swing bands in the world. The last time they played the Castle Theater, the dance floor was jammed all night long.

“We try and play places where there is a dance floor,” says the band’s founding drummer Kurt Sodergren. “People tell us they have a really hard time sitting still.”

Performing a vibrant fusion of classic American jazz and swing with a taste of New Orleans, Big Bad Voodoo Daddy’s core lineup includes Scotty Morris (lead vocals and guitar), Dirk Shumaker (double bass and vocals), Andy Rowley (baritone saxophone), Glen “The Kid” Marhevka (trumpet), Karl Hunter (saxophones and clarinet) and Joshua Levy (piano and arranger). Joining them on the road are Anthony Bonsera Jr. on trumpet and Alex Henderson on trombone.

Formed in Ventura, Calif., in 1993, the band took its name from an autographed poster made out to Morris by blues legend Albert Collins. Following a concert, Collins signed it to “Scotty, the Big Bad Voodoo Daddy.”

Their primary influences included the music of legends such as Benny Goodman, Cab Calloway and Louie Jordan, and the contemporary retro swing of the Brian Setzer Orchestra.

“We used to go see the Royal Crown Revue at the Derby (in L.A.),” Sodergren recalls. “We were seeing contemporary bands, and we obviously loved Wynton Marsalis, and we would go to New Orleans’ Preservation Hall.”

One of their first big breaks came when the cult film “Swingers” included two of their songs on the 1996 soundtrack. Releasing the Grammy-nominated, self-titled “Big Bad Voodoo Daddy” album in 1998, a year later they performed at the halftime show at Superbowl XXXIII, along with Stevie Wonder and Gloria Estefan.

Drawing from classics of the 1930s, ’40s and ’50s, their repertoire includes original compositions and interpretations of more recent songs like Randy Newman’s, “It’s Lonely at the Top,” featured on the album “Rattle Them Bones.”

Some of their acclaimed recordings include the tribute to Cab Calloway, “How Big Can You Get?”

Their most recent album, “Louie, Louie, Louie,” celebrated three jazz greats.

“It’s a celebration of a lot of our big influences — a tribute to Louie Armstrong, Louie Prima and Louie Jordan,” says the drummer.

• Big Bad Voodoo Daddy plays the MACC’s Castle Theater at 7:30 p.m. Saturday and will feature a dance floor. Tickets are $15, $45, $55 and $85 plus applicable fees. For tickets or more information, visit the box office, call 242-7469 or go online to www.mauiarts.org.

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The Maui Pops Orchestra’s annual “Broadway Pops” concert is one of the highlights of the year, and coming up on Sunday the Pops will present two stars of the New York and London stage, Scarlett Strallen and Hugh Panaro, serenading the audience with popular songs from “My Fair Lady,” “The Wizard of Oz,” “Ice Castles, “Phantom of the Opera” and more. 

Best known for her work in musical theater productions on Broadway and in London’s West End, English actress Strallen has received two Olivier Award nominations for her portrayal of Josephine in Gilbert & Sullivan’s “HMS Pinafore,” and for her role in “Singin’ in the Rain.” Strallen has also played the role of Mary Poppins in the musical’s London and New York productions.

The U.K. Telegraph asserted: “The new Mary Poppins, Scarlett Strallen, brings a sense of otherworldliness to the role — she doesn’t so much walk as glide — and beautifully captures the poignancy of a character who is ultimately excluded from the loving happiness she has largely created.”

Her starring role in “The Pirates of Penzance” prompted the New York Times to hail her as, the “fabulous Scarlett Strallen, who plays the ingenue Mabel,” while The ARTery praised her “luxurious, classical range.”

Strallen’s notable London stage roles have included “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang,” “Mamma Mia!”, “The Witches Of Eastwick” and “Peggy Sue Got Married.”

Making his Broadway debut as Marius in “Les Miserables,” Panaro has been described as “the leader of Broadway’s dwindling supply of great leading men.” He has played the title role of the Phantom in “The Phantom of the Opera” on Broadway four times.

Also on Broadway, Panaro was seen as Gaylord Ravenal in the Harold Prince revival of “Show Boat,” and he created the role of Buddy Foster in “Side Show.” Additionally, Panaro played the title role of the seductive vampire in Elton John’s musical, “Lestat.”

Reviewing “Lestat,” the New York Daily News noted: “One of the show’s greatest assets is Hugh Panaro. His singing of ‘Right Before My Eyes,’ which begins high in his gorgeous tenor voice, is beautiful and dramatic.”

In the summer of 2007, Panaro was one of four Broadway performers who joined Barbra Streisand on her first European concert tour.

“Only baritones and bassos are supposed to be described as rich sounding, but Hugh Panaro’s soaring, gorgeous tenor voice is like a newly minted $1,000 bill,” reported actor/poet Rod McKuen.

• The Maui Pops Orchestra presents a “Broadway Pops” concert with Scarlett Strallen and Hugh Panaro at 3 p.m. Sunday in the MACC’s Castle Theater. Tickets are $22, $35, $50 and $60 (plus applicable fees), with half-price tickets for students 18 & younger except for the $22 seats. For tickets or more information, visit the box office, call 242-7469 or go online to www.mauiarts.org.

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