Reviews

DCP's 'Sherlock Holmes' an epic, sprawling adventure

Sherlock Holmes is a superhero. His superhuman ability of deductive reasoning and intelligence have delighted readers for generations. The triumphs and travails of bringing a superhero like this to life on stage are as mighty as they are many, so cheers to Dutch Country Players for succeeding in an adept excecution of such deceptively difficult source material.  Rightfully and vigorously, they were applauded for their fine work during the crowded matinee performance I attended on Sunday the 6th of November. What remains for us here, dear Watson, is a listing of the causes of this success.

That there is a degree of difficulty in presenting Holmes live on stage is owed first to the nature of Holmes' unique superpower: his power of instantaneous deduction is so perfect, so never wrong as to be a forgone conclusion. This infalliable assuredness, however, threatens to rob live theatre of its vital essence: the excitement of dramatic conflict that rises during uncertain circumstances. With Holmes, nothing is uncertain but for the amount of time it takes the world and the audience to catch up to him.

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CKP at IceHouse Tonight: We All Win With This “November”!

Friends, are you as tired as I am of the current political season, with its sub-ground level Presidential campaigning? 

So where’s a political junkie, or even just a civic-minded gal or guy, to go these days for a breather and a few laughs? Luckily, I have the perfect answer.

Take yourself and cohorts the the Ice House on Sand Island in Bethlehem, while you still have five more chances to see David Mamet’s “November”, a searing political satire about a hilarious presidential campaign and the lengths to which its candidate will go to win.

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Stuck on 'Crazy Glue'

Touchstone Theatre’s latest presentation is not one of their original productions, but it is a lively representation of the rituals of courtship and marriage.

Crazy Glue, based on a short story by Etgar Keret, was created and performed by Single Shoe Theatre Productions, the off-spring of Filipa Tomas and Bradley Wayne Smith in partnership with The Nursery Theatre, Blue Elephant Theatre, OvalHouse, Marine Theatre and The Pleasance Theatre with support from the National Lottery through Arts Council England. The show has toured in the UK, Germany and Bulgaria and is currently roaming the United States

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Compelling rendition of 'The Miracle Worker' at Pa Playhouse

Set in the hazy countryside of post-Civil War Alabama, William Gibson's classic story about Helen Keller and her teacher, Annie Sullivan, is sure to warm the heart. Pennsylvania Playhouse’s production of Gibson’s script does not fail to deliver.

The play depicts the turmoil of a family in need of a miracle – both for their seemingly-unreachable daughter, and for their own tired, worn-down selves. What they do not bargain for, however, is when this miracle shows up on their doorstep in the form of a stubborn, tenacious young woman intent on teaching Helen to speak for herself.

Both Hannah Kurczeski as Helen and Jenna McBreen as Annie are extremely well cast. The prolonged physical struggles between the two characters and their efforts to physically communicate are fascinating to watch, not to mention (I’m sure) challenging to portray. One of the best scenes in the play is a long segment between the two characters in which McBreen (Annie) attempts to get Kurczeski (Helen) to remain seated at her place at the dinner table and to use a spoon to eat her dinner; almost no words are spoken throughout the entire scene, but every intention is clear. It is at these moments that the play really comes alive, and we begin to “see” the world from Helen’s point of view. Our sense of verbal communication as primary falls away, and we begin to understand meaning in different terms. One could say that by the end of the play, the audience finds their own “miracle”: as Helen learns to understand the concept of communication in words, we begin to understand the concept of communication without them. Read more...

APT's 'Robin Hood'--- timelessly riveting tale, committed performances, dare-you-to-look-away pacing

In the fleetest hour you're ever likely to spend at a show, Allentown Public Theatre's "Robin Hood" will whisk you thousands of miles and hundreds of years into the dark past and mythical land of Sherwood Forest. 

In the cozy and convincingly transformed basement assembly hall of St. Luke's Lutheran Church on tree-lined North Seventh Street in Allentown, PA, this tiny but mighty production company more commonly called 'APT', under the direction of Anna Russell, has created the look, the mood, and the feel of quintessential children's theater, combining a timelessly riveting story, utterly committed performances, and dare-you-to-look-away pacing.

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Musical Reviews

PA Playhouse's ''1940s Radio Hour" a delightful holiday treat

What could possibly be entertaining about watching a group of entertainers put on a radio show set in 1940's America?

Everything!

“The 1940's Radio Hour” currently at the Pennsylvania Playhouse takes the audience back to the days when “entertainment” was more than just CGI or the latest vlog on Youtube. From the moment you step into the lobby of the theater one is surrounded by both the warmth of holiday decorations and posters from the era reminding you to “Buy War Bonds For Victory!” Read more...

'The Producers' a raucous, riotous evening at MunOpCo

It's not often you get to enjoy a horrible play.

But that is exactly what the cast and crew of Munopco's “The Producers” strive for with their production of Mel Brook's hit musical “The Producers” currently playing at the Scottish Rite Cathedral through September 25th.

If you are a fan of the 1968 Mel Brooks' movie (which I am) the musical will seem familiar to you – but this does not detract from the amusement and pure joy the actors on stage put into every aspect of the show.

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At PA Playhouse, musical version of “Big” is as charming as the movie

The musical version of “Big” is as charming as the movie, and the production at the Pennsylvania Playhouse is filled with the same wit and humor.

What the show lacks in the huge “spectacle” which seems necessary in Broadway shows today it more than makes up for in the development of characters and a string of songs which range from sweet (“Stars”) to funny (“Fun”) to showstopping (“Cross The Line”)

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"Growl!" an effervescent concoction presently on tap at Muhlenberg Summer Music Theatre

One of the many endearments of "Growl!", the effervescent concoction presently on tap at Muhlenberg Summer Music Theatre, is the full extent of its contrast to this outstanding and long-running festival's 'adult' presentations.

I'm talking theater space, choreography, singing, musical accompaniment, and the dreaded category of 'production values'.

While shows in the splendid and heavily appointed Baker Hall inTrexler Pavilion for Theatre and Dance are routinely breathtaking, this very small but highly kinetic playlet in the definitive black-box space called The Studio Theatre is thoroughly rejuvenating.

Eight seemingly tireless twenty-somethings fill this modest room with a kind of dancing, a smattering of slap-schtick, various forms of highly creative puppeteering, along with more-than-commendable singing and playing of any number of silly but endearing ditties.

More adults than tots littered the theater during yesterday's 1PM performance, and I honestly can report that their response was even more enthusiastic than the youngsters'. And, trust me, the tykes were getting their money's worth of giggles and often outright guffaws at the non-stop onstage antics of this fine assembly of actors.

The admirable conceit of the play is in its inventively eye-popping retelling of the familiar and dead-tired tale of 'Goldilocks and the Three Bears'.

Let's not waste any time or column inches on a synopsis of the plot.

Just allow me to say that there is nothing wearying about this iteration; I am willing to bet that, unless you're under ten years of age, you won't be able to keep up with its relentlessly sharp turns and witty reinterpretations of the story you thought you knew.

The show runs one hour to the precise tick of a finely wound watch, with nary a child nor grandparent nor nanny showing signs of distraction for even a second, and it was preceded by a determined and seemingly spontaneous pre-show warmup and immediately followed by a child-friendly workshop (re: debriefing).

The show is the offspring of the Brooklyn-based company, Doppelskope, and was coceived and written by founder Christopher Scheer and Ora Fruchter. Scheer, a Muhlenberg alumnus, also heads the fine ensemble that includes Sabrina DeWeerdt, Jordan Elman, Ellen Herschel, Helen Laser, Patrick C. Smith, Nikk Tetreault, and Kiera Ryan, many of them fellow alumni.

I am obliged by the theater gods to quibble with whoever was responsible for scarring the cheeks of these lovely performers-- all clearly capable of strong vocal projection--- with completely unnecessary and silly looking black wireless microphones even though the cast seldom ventured more than ten or fifteen feet from the first row of their rapt audience. (Lose those lizards, people!)

Adopt a child, or reunite with a nephew or niece, and do both of you a happy turn by visiting this very engaging little show.

Growl! is playing through July 20, 2016 at Studio Theatre, Trexler Pavilion for Theatre and Dance, 2400 W Chew St, Allentown, PA 18104. For tickets, call 484-664-3333 or visit http://www.muhlenberg.edu/main/academics/theatre-dance/smt/growl.html

"In the Heights" at Muhlenberg: “Muy bueno!”

“In The Heights” at Muhlenberg Summer Music Theater

“In The Heights” won the Tony Award for Best Musical in 2008 and is a funny, clever and totally enjoyable show set in the Washington Heights neighborhood of Manhattan, New York about the Latino population who live, work and struggle to make ends meet on a daily basis.

I therefore believe it unfair to bill “In The Heights” as “from the creator of Broadway's smash hit Hamilton.”

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Stage News

Winners announced in Original Playwright Series contest

Each year the Shawnee Playhouse encourages local playwrights to submit their original and unpublished works for a chance to win our annual Shawnee Original Playwright Series contest.

This spring, each submission was read by volunteer actors over several weeks. The public was invited to listen to the readings of the original plays and had a chance to vote and comment on each work. When our Executive Committee reviewed the ratings, the tabulations revealed that three plays scored closely, so it was decided all three full length winners as well as the six short play winners would be produced and performed by Worthington Players in 2016. Read more...

Shawnee Playhouse readings of contest entries

Each year, Worthington Players produces and performs an original work at Shawnee Playhouse by an area playwright, chosen by our Executive Committee from among submissions received in an open contest.

Stage readings are held in the playhouse to help determine the winner.

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Crew Calls

Call for Director Applications at Pa Playhouse

Pennsylvania Playhouse is accepting applications for director of their 2017 Christmas show "The Happy Elf" by Harry Connick, Jr.

Performances are scheduled Dec. 1 through Dec. 17, 2017.

To apply to direct please forward your contact information and a resume of your theatrical experience (particularly directorial experience) to Beth Breiner at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

Deadline to submit applications: Oct. 27, 2017.

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Upcoming Shows

Touchstone Theatre kicks off its 2016-17

Bethlehem, PA – Touchstone Theatre kicks off its 2016-17 season with international theatre company Single Shoe Productions in their critically acclaimed production of Crazy Glue, a two-person show following a husband and wife through their rollercoaster of a romance. Crazy Glue plays October 6-9, 2016.

Inspired by the physical comedy of Buster Keaton and the madcap absurdity of Looney Tunes, Crazy Glue blends vocal sound effects, quirky humor, and an evocative 1930s soundtrack, celebrating the mad, messy, sticky side of love. Without the use of words, the piece combines clown, dance, and mime into a universally accessible 65-minute performance. A brief talk-back with the performers will follow each show.

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Touchstone's Annual Holiday Revue is Back!

Bethlehem, PA - Touchstone Theatre presents the latest in their Christmas City Follies series, the theatre's annual holiday vaudeville, filled with jolly mischief, merry melodies, and holiday cheer. Christmas City Follies XVII runs December 1-18, 2016 at Touchstone's home theatre at 321 East Fourth Street in Southside Bethlehem. Read more...

Allentown Public Theatre unveils a playfully dark fantasia of woman-warriorship.

SHOWS FRIDAY 730PM, SATURDAY 200PM/730PM, SUNDAY 200PM $20 & $15 students/museum members

RECEPTION SATURDAY 345PM no admission charge

VISIT http://allentownpublictheatre.com/

ALLENTOWN: This past September, Allentown Public Theatre staged the world premiere of the new play Then Athena as part of the 2016 Philly Fringe Festival. This November, the show will make its Lehigh Valley debut at the Allentown Art Museum of the Lehigh Valley.

“Then Athena is brave and brazen, campy and critical,” said one Philadelphia critic. Devised as a raw collaboration between five different professional theatre artists, Then Athena intercuts stories of fourteen women characters – some historical, some from pop culture, some completely new – as they confront the fraught identity of “heroine” in modern American mythologies. “The four creators deliver compelling performances throughout, each managing to find moments where they individually shine brightest,” said one Philadelphia reviewer.

Now, the five artists return to their home to perform the piece in Allentown.

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Reading Civic Theatre presents premier of Harry Connick Jr.’s The Happy Elf.

Reading Civic Theatre is happy to announce their upcoming production of the area premier of Harry Connick Jr.’s 'The Happy Elf.' 

This production will take the stage December 10 and 11 and marks RCT’s return to the Santander Performing Arts Center after a six year hiatus.

The show, written by the Grammy Award-winning and Tony Award-nominated composer and lyricist, Harry Connick, Jr., follows Eubie, the happiest elf at the North Pole.

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'The Down of a Thistle', CKP's acclaimed Christmas comedy/melodrama coming to Unicorn Theatre

Crowded Kitchen Players will be presenting the Lehigh Valley premier of their critically acclaimed Christmas comedy/melodrama, 'The Down of a Thistle'.

'The Down of a Thistle' will be playing at Unicorn Theatre in Catasauqua, Pa, December 9 through December 18, 2016, site of their sold-out Irish comedy, 'Pints, Pounds, and Pilgrims' last February.

'Thistle' is the tale of a wealthy man and eight women--- his family, guests, and servants--- who are terrorized in his snowbound Adirondack Mountains lodge on Christmas Eve.

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Muhlenberg College ‘New Visions’ Festival showcases directorial talents, Nov. 30 – Dec. 4 Plays by Oscar Wilde and Sam Shepard take center stage, presenting challenging ideas about identity and desire

Allentown, PA (Nov. 15, 2016) — Two talented Muhlenberg College senior directing students will present their work in Muhlenberg Theatre & Dance's "New Visions Directors' Festival: Falling," Nov. 30 – Dec. 4.

The evening includes 19th century playwright Oscar Wilde's "Salome," based on the biblical tale of the beheading of John the Baptist, and 20th century playwright Sam Shepard's ominous exploration of Cold War anxiety, "Icarus's Mother." Read more...

PA presents 'The 1940's Radio Hour'

The 1940’s Radio Hour opening December 2, 2016 at Pennsylvania Playhouse is the perfect holiday show for the entire family with something to offer all generations.

Directed by Beth Breiner with musical direction by Lucille Kincaid The 1940’s Radio Hour depicts a broadcast of the fictional Mutual Manhattan Variety Cavalcade on December 21, 1942.

The show features numerous musical classics from the swing era including “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy”, “Blues in the Night”, “That Old Black Magic” and “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” as well as comedy routines, jingles and an abbreviated version of A Christmas Carol highlighting sound effects as done on radio.

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