Reviews

Players of the Stage's 'Doubt' is a beautifully underplayed triumph

Players of the Stage's production of John Patrick Shanley's 'Doubt', which ran for three days recently at Relevant Church in Allentown, PA, rose and raced but never tripped on the cassock tails of Brian Wendt's beautifully drawn and infinitely disturbing portrayal of Father Flynn, a Bronx parish priest whose private interactions with a young male student furrow the brow of Sister Aloysius, principal at the St. Nicholas School over which Flynn presides.

The never-seen child under discussion happens to be the first black schoolboy admitted to St. Nicholas, and his presence seems to have unleashed all kinds of inhospitable behavior in pupils and staff. His purported effeminacy has even resulted in a beating from his father, much to the heartbreak and helpless anger of his mother.

The staunchly traditional educator, Sister Aloysius, however, sees in the child's suffering, and in the attention paid him by the priest, an opportunity to ward off what she perceives as Flynn's overly progressive mandates.

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"12ness" fascinating play about the nature of art

Crowded Kitchen Players' "12ness" on stage at the Bethlehem Ice House through June 18 is a fascinating debate about the nature of creating art, framed as a discussion between a serious Austrian classical composer and one of the most popular composers for stage and screen at the time.  Easton musician, composer and playwright Charlie Barnett is premiering  his new play and has created a completely believable encounter between George Gershwin and Arnold Schoenburg built on a real friendship and periodic tennis matches between the men in 1936 and 1937 in Hollywood.

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"Blood Brothers" features strong cast, emotional performances at Pa Playhouse

Strong performances elevate Pennsylvania Playhouse's "Blood Brothers," a particularly British show that feels more like a play with music than a traditional musical.

The Willy Russell tuner delves into similar territory as his non-musical plays "Shirley Valentine" and "Educating Rita" - exploring the effects of the English class system.

In "Blood Brothers," which takes place during the economic downturn of Thatcher-era Britain, explores what happens when a pair of twins are separated and one is brought up in a struggling working class family, while the other enjoys a privileged upper-class upbringing.

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Torchlight outwrestles LaBute with sassy 'Some Girl(s)' at Unicorn Theatre

"Some Girl(s)", now playing at chummy Unicorn Theatre in Catasauqua, is a reedy, often tedious, seldom funny, but ultimately irresistible comedy staged with unbridled presumption and  panache by Torchlight Players, one of the many newer troupes to raise its curtain in the Lehigh Valley.

One can think of no good reason any company's selection committee would choose this particularly sordid Neil LaBute tale to showcase its foolhardy young cast.  The play is relentlessly wordy, redundant, and monophonic.  Its lead character is utterly unsympathetic.  The entire affair is doggedly misanthropic.

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Act 1's "Young Frankenstein" hilariously raucous romp

'Young Frankenstein," Mel Brooks' comedic retelling of the Frankenstein story, gets a wickedly funny retelling on stage by Act 1 at Desales University in Center Valley.

This raucous musical goes for the funny bone rather than the jugular with stage-filling production numbers, hilarious characterizations and an accidentally dropped squishy brain that gets tossed to a "lucky" audience member.

There is no doubt part of the pleasure of watching the musical that is based on Brooks' 1974 cult classic film, is hearing the familiar references and seeing the familiar scenes skillfully re-created in homage to Brooks' film. Fans of the film will recognize the scene with the revolving bookcase and the double entendre about huge knockers, among as many others. Since the musical takes a lot of material directly from the movie, a lot of the humor is somewhat sophomoric.

But all audiences, whether familiar with the source material or not, will enjoy the saucy and silly "Young Frankenstein" on the main stage through May 7.

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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.

Exclusive interview with '12ness' playwright Charlie Barnett

'12ness', a new play by Charlie Barnett is being premiered at The IceHouse through June 18, 2017. Call 610-395-7176 for ticketing or visit www.ckplayers.com

LVS: What is “Twelveness”?

CB: It is a word I made up, sort of the opposite of the academic/psychological term dodecaphobia, which means fear of the number twelve. Arnold Schoenberg was obsessed with the number twelve: The twelve-tone row and serial composition was his life’s work. So “twelveness” is a kind of obsession with or affinity for that number.

LVS: Tell us how you came to write 'Twelveness'. What drew you to the subject?

CB: I heard the short and true story of George Gershwin and Arnold Schoenberg having a regular tennis match in Los Angeles. Like others, I was amazed to hear that these two seeming opposites could share the same court. I looked into it and luckily for me there is virtually no information about their conversations during these matches. That made me feel free to make up my own account of their relationship. And as I was writing, I realized it was the perfect platform to discuss some ideas on the act of artistic creation that were bouncing around my brain at the time.

LVS:Your play is primarily a series of conversations between two people at a time. Why did you choose that way to tell your story?

CB: I wish I knew the answer to this. One thing I have learned about my “process,” whether it is in writing music, or writing a play, is that I start with only what is absolutely necessary and expand only when I must. In this case, I started with just Arnold and George. After all, it is very difficult to have a tennis match with only one person on stage. But with just two characters, there was simply not enough tension between them, even though their views on music and life were quite divergent. The tension was only philosophical. Adding Gertrud (who is exactly George’s age) and Ginger gave this play sexual tension that I thought was needed.

LVS: To what extent is the play based on historical fact?

CB: The fact that they played tennis together is true, as is the fact that Gershwin was ill and nobody knew it. In fact, most of the biographical details are accurate: Gertrud really was Gershwin’s age, and Gershwin really did help Schoenberg get his professional footing in the U.S. after he fled Europe. And Gershwin really did date Ginger Rogers! But the conversations the characters have are only based on my own imagining of how they might have gone.

LVS: Why did you choose to set the debate at the heart of the show between two historical figures instead of creating two entirely fictional ones who were perhaps based upon real people?

CB: I toyed with using fictional characters. But using the real people gave me a shortcut to some of the key philosophical positions they take. If I had made up characters, I would have had to spend an undue amount of time giving them lives, motivations, back-stories etc. This was so much easier. An ultimately I think it is more effective.

LVS: Short of giving us a class in music theory, can you explain what 'Twelve Tone' means?

CB: There are twelve different tones in a musical octave, if you count all the sharps and flats. Schoenberg believed each tone should have an equal weight in a composition. He would devise a “row” of twelve non-repeating notes that would become the basis for an entire composition. This philosophy is every bit as rigorous as the traditional approach to musical theory that Bach gave us. And as Mark Twain supposedly said of Wagner’s music, “It’s not as bad as it sounds.” Though to modern ears a Schoenberg piece can sound harsh and impenetrable, there is a depth and a beauty there beneath the surface.

During the first half of the twentieth century, Schoenberg was a musical god. He was the poster child for modern-sounding music. Weirdly, he is now nearly forgotten in the public consciousness. You can listen to classical radio for weeks at a time without hearing any of his music. I think he is due for a comeback.

LVS: Why the tennis? Why that particular field of battle?

CB: Well, that is where this idea started. And it is a match of one against one, which seems appropriate for an argumentative play like this. Also, I suspect that both of their large egos led them to think that they were much better athletes than they really were. I found that idea amusing.

LVS: Tell about dance and its role in 'Twelveness'.

CB: In reality, Schoenberg had a lot of experience with the theater. I mean, one of his best-known works, Pierrot Lunaire, is based on characters from commedia dell’arte And he surely knew a lot about dance. In this play, however, I made Arnold more awkward about dancing than he probably was. It suited the central argument of the play. Like I said, when it comes to the interactions between the characters, this is complete fantasy.

PA Playhouse seeks director applications

Pennsylvania playhouse is now accepting applications for directors for our 2018 season. Deadline to submit applications is Tuesday, July 11, 2017. Our 2018 season includes:

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Upcoming Shows

Muhlenberg Summer Music Theatre embarks on 37th theatrical season Summer lineup includes 'Hair,' June 14 – July 2; 'My Fair Lady,' July 12-30; 'Wild' circus performance, June 28 – July 29

Allentown, Pa. (April 13, 2017) — Muhlenberg Summer Music Theatre at Muhlenberg College announces the lineup for its 37th summer season. The season will feature the revolutionary rock musical "Hair," the classic "My Fair Lady," and "Wild," a new modern circus production for all ages.

"Hair" opens the season, running June 14 – July 2. A celebration of freewheeling 1960s youth counterculture, "Hair" commemorates the 50th anniversary of its original Broadway run.

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Celebrate the Silver Screen at the Pines with "Puttin' on the Ritz"

Allentown, Pa. – The Pines Dinner Theatre, 448 N 17th St, Allentown, will be saluting the Golden Age of Movies with "Puttin' On The Ritz" playing May 26 through July 2, 2017.

Pines Dinner Theatre welcomes audiences in grand style in their brand new music review "Puttin' On The Ritz."  Featuring all of the songs and dances synonymous with classic films, this show will delight all ages as it showcases and celebrates the golden ages of movies!  "Puttin' On The Ritz" explores the silver screen with everything from silent films and Charlie Chaplin, the songs that made us fall in love, the great movies stars such as Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers as they danced their way into our hearts, a celebration of the great patriotic songs that embraced America in the early 1920s, "Puttin' On The Ritz" as well as and many, many more.

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Two Touchstone presentations coming in June and July

Dapooch: The Story of Poochie’s Three Hundred and Seventy Second Birthday AND How the Hunga Munga Mugna SAVED HIS LIFE!

June 20, 2017 at 11:00am

Join master storyteller and Touchstone co-founder Bill George in the amusing and thrilling tale of Poochie’s eventful birthday, how the animals helped him, and how, sometimes, what you fear the most can be your salvation.

Tickets: Pay-What-You-Will

Box Office opens at 10am, or call in advance to reserve your spot.

The morning’s activities:

10-11am — Build Your Own Puppet in the Touchstone cafe! You’ll also get to meet the actor, Bill, and his friend, Poochie. The cafe will remain open the entire morning for coloring and BYOS (Bring Your Own Snack).

11am — Bill will give everyone an Introduction to the Theatre. Join onstage or watch from the audience.

11:10am — Enjoy a sensory-friendly performance of DaPooch.

11:45am-12:15pm — Puppet Performance Workshop in the Touchstone Cafe! After the show, try out your puppet with help from the Touchstone artists.

* Feel free to join us for all or some of the morning’s activities!

The Jakopa’s Punch Processional

July 14 & 15, 2017 at 6:30pm (run time 60 minutes)

Join the adventure with Touchstone Theatre on their latest epic, outdoor, free theatricade on the South Bethlehem Greenway! Audiences will walk alongside the action and encounter an aerialist, stilt walkers, and larger-than-life puppets. Featuring a score of original music by Touchstone’s house band, Jakopa’s Punch, the play promises to be part circus, part rock concert, part puppet spectacular. Warning: this show contains pirates, robots, and goat men, but is appropriate for all ages

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All-ages circus production 'Wild' to premiere at Muhlenberg Summer Music Theatre, June 28 – July 29

ALLENTOWN, PA. (June 13, 2017) — The circus is coming to Muhlenberg Summer Music Theatre this summer — but don't expect any elephants.

"That's not what circus is really about anymore," says Noah Dach with a laugh. "It's about telling a story. And it's about doing spectacular, amazing things like juggling, aerial acrobatics and magic."

Dach is the writer and director of "Wild," a world premiere all-ages circus production opening June 28 at Muhlenberg Summer Music Theatre. The hour-long show tells the story of a young boy who runs away on an adventure through the unknown, through acrobatics, clowning, juggling, dance, and magic. The cast of ten (only eight perform in any particular performance) are all Muhlenberg students and alumni, veterans of a growing circus movement on campus. Read more...

'101 Dalmatians Kids' coming to Shawnee

(Shawnee on the Delaware, Pa)- When it comes to classic and beloved musicals, it’s safe to say that Disney is one of the first names that pops into mind. To kick off the 2017 children’s theatre season, the Shawnee Playhouse starts strong with a Disney favorite, 101 Dalmatians Kids.

Based on the 1956 animated film, and its predeceasing novel, the musical follows the story of Dalmatians Pongo and Perdita, who have just welcomed a new litter of puppies to the world. When villain and fur-connoisseur Cruella De Vil sees these puppies, she devises a plot to steal the puppies in order to use them for a new coat.

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Sing for America Presents 'Once On This Island' at Zoellner

From the creators of Broadway's 'Anastatia', 'Ragtime' and "Seussical', Sing for America will present the eight-time Tony nominated 'Once on this 'Island' through July 2017 at Zoellner Arts Center, Bethlehem, PA.

ONCE ON THIS ISLAND is full of unpredictable gods, island magic, and joyous dance numbers. 

The production is directed by Taryn Gilbert, with musical direction by Angelique Knecht , and costumes by innovative young designer, Teara Gilbert.

In almost non-stop song and dance, 'Once on this Island' follows the story's young heroine, Ti Moune, on her quest to prove that love is more powerful than the forces of prejudice, hatred and death.

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Sing for America presents: 'Madagascar: A Musical Adventure' from Sing for America

Take a journey out of the zoo and onto the stage with your favorite crack-a-lackin’ friends from the blockbuser Dreamworks film. The full-scale musical production featuring professional actors alongside amateurs. Special daytime performances and special pricing for children’s groups, only $12/ticket.

What: MADAGASCAR: A Musical Adventure TYA

Where: Zoellner Arts Center 420 East Packer Avenue, Bethlehem, PA

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