Reviews

"Down of a Thistle" is layered, twisted, and deliciously funny.

If you are looking for an alternative form of Christmas entertainment, you can do no better than The Crowded Kitchen Players' production of "The Down of a Thistle" appearing at The Unicorn Theatre in Catasaqua.

How many times can can a human being listen to Paul and Linda McCartney warble through "Wonderful Christmastime?"  How about watch the same holiday movies over and over again every year?  Spoiler alert, Clark Griswold gets the lights on and Bill Murray gets his Christmas spirit back.

This being a murder mystery,  set in an Adirondack Mountains lodge on Christmas Eve, you won't get many plot points out of this reviewer. It would be a heinous disservice.

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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...

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

"Lucky Malone's Not So Lucky Night" at Pines in Allentown

"Lucky Malone's Not So Lucky Night" is coming to Pines Dinner Theatre in Allentown, PA.

Pines' press release announces, "The Speakeasy is open!   Lucky Malone has it all: lots of money, a beautiful doll on each arm, and an incredibly successful speakeasy. But, all that is about to change one fateful night. Come along for the adventure in this interactive comedy that will have you rolling in the aisles, as you experience an unforgettable night at Lucky's nightclub, where anything can, and will happen! This show is rated PG-13!"

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Muhlenberg's 'Master Choreographers' concert in February

Allentown, Pa. (Jan. 11, 2017) — The Muhlenberg College dance program will showcase two iconic re-stagings and one original piece from three world-renowned choreographers, as well as four world-premiere works by accomplished returning contributors, in its annual "Master Choreographers" concert, Feb. 9-11.

This year's "Master Choreographers" features restagings of "Radical Severance," choreographed by Cristina Perera, and "When We Fly," choreographed by Orion Duckstein. The concert also features an original balletic piece, "Without Words," by Trinette Singleton, as well as new works by four Muhlenberg dance faculty: Heidi Cruz-Austin, alumna of the Pennsylvania Ballet; Shelley Oliver, director of Shelley Oliver Tap Dancers; Randall Anthony Smith, répétiteur and assistant to choreographer Donald McKayle; and Jeffrey Peterson, former dancer with Danny Buraczeski's Jazz dance.

"This concert presents a spectacular evening of dance," says Karen Dearborn, founding director of Muhlenberg's dance program, and the concert's artistic director. "We are thrilled to showcase new work from Trinette Singleton and guest works by Cristina and Orion, as well as our fabulous faculty choreographers."

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Touchstone Theatre presents Jakopa’s Punch Bowl A concert fundraiser in support of its upcoming summer street theatre spectacular

BETHLEHEM, PA – Touchstone Theatre presents a new concert fundraiser entitled Jakopa’s Punch Bowl on Saturday, February 18 from 7-10pm at the Charles A. Brown Ice House. This Mardi Gras-themed evening of eclectic music by three local bands, New Orleans-style lite fare, beer, and wine supports Touchstone’s upcoming The Jakopa’s Punch Processional, an outdoor, free-to-the-public, spectacle-based performance premiering summer 2017.

The Jakopa’s Punch Processional summer show—a part circus, part rock concert, part parade, and part puppet show outdoor spectacle—follows the musician characters from the Jakopa’s Punch band in a traveling performance running along the South Bethlehem Greenway behind Touchstone’s home theatre. The Processional premieres July 14-15, 2017 and promises to be an adventure unlike any other.

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'The Explorers Club' coming to Pa Playhouse

Press Release on 'The Explorers Club':

"What do you get when you mix a club full of headstrong men in the pursuit of pseudo-science with a female explorer and a group of deadly monks and angry Irishmen? 

"You get The Explorers Club, opening January 27th at the Pennsylvania Playhouse. 

"The Nell Benjamin farce, directed by Gary Boyer, takes place in 1879 London at the prestigious Explorers Club.  Phyllida Spotte-Hume, an intrepid explorer, has discovered the lost city of Pahatlabong and is seeking membership at the heretofore male-only club.

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