Reviews

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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PSF's 'Blithe Spirit'--- Mix-ups ensue and twists abound with perfect comedic timing.

'Blithe Spirit' is not to be missed.

As the guest of Pennsylvania Shakespeare Festival’s 'Blithe Spirit' opening night, I was treated to an enchanting departure from reality as I was whisked back to the 1940’s in a most humorous way.

Noel Coward, the English playwright known for his biting wit, wanted to present an evening's entertainment that was simply fun in order to relieve, for a bit, the daily tensions and terrors of WWII.

The result---?

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“Look Out”! Life is unravelling at the Ice House with the Crowded Kitchen Players

At opening night this evening I watched the lives of four groups of people hurtle past me at breakneck speeds and at various points in time, all summoning the courage and the will to survive for one more tomorrow in Brian McDermott’s disarming play about lives unfolding. I was told the play was originally a series of one acts, now combined into this vignette of blended glances at four couples on various modes of transportation: Read more...

'Casa Valentina' a funny, sad, touching, and extraordinarily painful play

"Cafe Valentina is a funny, sad, touching, and extraordinarily painful play about what happens when a group divides into us vs. them," the Rev. Laura Thomas Howell wrote to me following Friday evening's performance of 'Casa Valentina' at Charles A. Brown IceHouse in Bethlehem.

I had encountered Reverend Howell at the show's opening night reception in the IceHouse lobby where she and her husband, David, joined other highly pleased audience members in the fine art of back-slapping and hand-clasping cast members while drinking wine and chattering about Selkie Theatre's gracious production of Harvey Fierstein's 2014 show.

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“There's A Burglar In My Bed” a winner at Shawnee Playhouse

“Farce” by definition is “a comic dramatic work using buffoonery and horseplay and typically including crude characterization and ludicrously improbable situations.”

Farce is not intended to make sense or have any logical plot. It is intended to throw characters into interesting – and ultimately exasperating – situations they must connive their way out of or resolve some issue without everyone else finding out the truth. The situations are inane, the excuses implausible and motivations are typically thinner than a strand of angel hair pasta. Read more...

Musical Reviews

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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"Gypsy" at Muhlenberg is compelling, lyrical, heart-rending

I've grown so accustomed to seeing the Muhlenberg Summer Music Theatre stage crammed with lightly skipping, long-legged women and furiously spinning, chiseled young men who effortlessly toss one another off balconies to the beat of brassy, thunderous orchestrations that I found myself surprisingly and happily transfixed by the reedy calm of the music and economy of the dance in their interpretation of the American stage classic, 'Gypsy'.

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"City of Angels": A wonderful show to behold

“Three million people in the City of Angels according to the last census, easily half of them up to something they don't want they other half to know.”

It is this level of gritty and intelligent wordplay which is one of many reasons “City of Angels” is such a wonderful show to behold.

The Tony Award winning production currently on stage at the Pennsylvania Playhouse never falters in it's presentation of this “behemoth” show - the cast, musicians and crew present the show with such energy and vitality that three hours of intense cardio would seem like a “warm-up” compared to what these people are doing on the stage at PPH.

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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

MunOpCo Music Theatre Seeks Theatre Directors

MunOpCo Music Theatre—Allentown's oldest community theatre—is seeking directors for the remainder of the 2015-2016 season (Sept. 2015-Aug. 2016) and the 2016-2017 season (Sept. 2016-Aug. 2017) to direct its premier performances, as well as several potential fundraising shows throughout the year. Read more...

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Upcoming Shows

Pale Moon presents “Plain & Fancy” at Lehighton Borough Annex

Carbon County – June/July 2016: The Pale Moon Players, in conjunction with the Lehighton Sesquicentennial Committee, are proud to announce their upcoming production of “Plain & Fancy” this June and July at the Lehighton Borough Annex! Join the Pale Moon Players for an evening of musical comedy!

“Plain & Fancy” tells the tale of two New Yorkers who venture to Bird-in-Hand, Pennsylvania to negotiate the sale of a farm with the local Amish while an arranged marriage begins to get complicated. This classic and hilarious musical romp features the music of Albert Hague and a book by Joseph Stein and Will Glickman. Tickets are $10 general admission, $8 for senior citizens and students. Read more...

'Third Mask Theatre Company' to Perform "The Addams Family Musical" in July!

Performances will be held at Northeast Middle School (1170 Fernwood Street Bethlehem, PA 18018) on July 28th, 29th, 30th at 7pm and July 31st at 2pm. Tickets are available at www.ticketor.com/thirdmasktix or by visiting www.thirdmask.com

The Addams Family features an original story, and it's every father's nightmare. Wednesday Addams, the ultimate princess of darkness, has grown up and fallen in love with a sweet, smart young man from a respectable family - a man her parents have never met. And if that weren't upsetting enough, Wednesday confides in her father and begs him not to tell her mother. Now, Gomez Addams must do something he's never done before - keep a secret from his beloved wife, Morticia. Everything will change for the whole family on the fateful night they host a dinner for Wednesday's 'normal' boyfriend and his parents.

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Muhlenberg Summer Music Theatre and Doppelskope will complete the "Grilogy" with another new show, "Growl!"

Allentown, Pa. (June 17, 2016)—For the past two seasons, the theatre company Doppelskope has created world-premiere musicals for young audiences at the Muhlenberg Summer Music Theatre. In 2014, they presented "Gruff!" a troll's eye view of the story of the three billy goats Gruff, and last season it was "Grimm!" a tale of the storytelling Brothers Grimm and their quest to chase down their escaped stories with the help of a rambunctious little girl.

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“Singin’ in the Rain” premieres at the Pines

Allentown, Pa. – The Pines Dinner Theatre, 448 N 17th St, Allentown, will be presenting Singin’ In The Rain July 9 through August 21.

The "Greatest Movie Musical of All Time" is faithfully and lovingly adapted by Broadway legends Betty Comden and Adolph Green from their original award-winning screenplay in Singin' In The Rain. Each unforgettable scene, song, and dance is accounted for, including the show-stopping title number, complete with an onstage rainstorm! Hilarious situations, snappy dialogue, and a hit-parade score of Hollywood standards make Singin' In The Rain the perfect entertainment for any fan of the golden age of movie musicals.

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Allentown Public Theatre Presents an Action-Packed Robin Hood Rollicking tale of heroism and mischief opens July 22 at St. Luke's Church in Allentown

ALLENTOWN, Pa. – For two weekends, July 22-31, Allentown Public Theatre (APT) will transport audiences to Sherwood Forest for an adventure with Robin and his Merry Men. Suitable for audiences of all ages, Robin Hood by Greg Banks brings the classic story to life with athleticism and slapstick humor. APT's fourth annual family-friendly production is being hosted, as in past years, by St. Luke's Lutheran Church in Allentown.

For her first production for children and families as APT's Artistic Director, Anna Russell chose Robin Hood, she says, because she fell in love as a child with the “charm, wit, and pure fun of the seemingly endless exploits of Robin and his contemporaries. There's something eternally delicious about the idea of a band of noble outlaws living in the forest, ready to swoop to the aid of those in need.”

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'In the Heights' brings Latin rhythms, stories to Muhlenberg Summer stage

Allentown, Pa. (July 1, 2016) — Lin-Manuel Miranda's Tony Award-winning musical "In the Heights" — the precursor to his blockbuster Broadway hit "Hamilton" — runs July 13-31 as the second production of the Muhlenberg Summer Music Theatre season.  The show tells a story that many of its cast hold close to their hearts: the story of families and cultures that have been transplanted from far away.

Many of the show's 20 actors and dancers can tell you a story about their families coming to the mainland United States from Puerto Rico, or Cuba, or the Dominican Republic. For some, that story is not so long in the past. Wilma Rivera, for example, is a professional actress, a Muhlenberg College alumna, and a first-generation American. She says "In the Heights" is the story of her family.

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