Reviews

Audience warmly embraces DCP's 'Miracle on 34th Street'

The only character missing from the 'Miracle on 34th Street' motion picture that we've all seen countless times on cable during the holiday season over the years is that figure in the white vestments who climbs into the pulpit on Christmas eve and reads verses from Isaiah Chapter 9.

But nevertheless you are unlikely to hear a more blatantly Christian sermon than this engaging parable of an eccentric man in a white beard who seems to believe good will and acts of kindness still have currency in our grubby little world.

Although it's challenging ever to top the devilish lack of charm of that department store Santa in Jean Shepherd's insistently secular 'A Christmas Story' who plants his heavy black boot squarely on little Ralphie's face and propels the crestfallen child down the fateful chute of glittery capitalism, this play is a safer and more reassuring gamble for those who understandably choose to cling to the promise of faith, hope, and charity.

Actually, you won't be gambling at all when you see DCP Theatre's stage adaptation of 'Miracle', if the audience huddled together in that cozy, rebuilt auction house in Telford, PA for this enduring little tale last Friday evening is a fair barometer of its appeal. 

Packed is a more telling word than 'huddled' because that place seems never to lack row after vacuum-sealed row of enthusiastic and devoted patrons who had no trouble expressing their simple pleasure and unbridled joy from the first minute of the show.

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Munopco's 'White Christmas' a merry, foot-tapping celebration of all things right and good

Munopco's production of the stage adaptation of Irving Berlin's "White Christmas", currently playing at Scottish Rites Cathedral in Allentown, PA, is a merry, foot-tapping celebration of all things right and bright about our regional musical theater scene.... hordes of seasoned singers and enthusiastic dancers thundering, with novice performers firmly in tow, across an expansive, colorfully lit stage while lobbing nothing but good cheer into a house of 700 clapping hands, 350 smiling faces, and an equally respectable number of genuine laughs.

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Harry Connick Jr.'s jazz-flavored musical "The Happy Elf" comes to colorful life at Pa Playhouse

Harry Connick Jr.'s jazz-flavored musical "The Happy Elf" comes to colorful life on stage at Pennsylvania Playhouse.

The Grammy-winning singer-songwriter wrote the song "The Happy Elf" in 2003 which became the inspiration for his musical comedy which debuted in 2012 at Pennsylvania Youth Theatre. Bill Mutimer who directed that first production, is back for the show's return to the Lehigh Valley.

The show features a backing track with Connick's voice as the narrator and accompaniment by Connick's band. Unfortunately the night we attended there were technical problems with the recording towards the end, but the cast gamely sang acapella.

The story follows Eubie, the titular happy elf who wants to be part of Santa's sleigh team and help deliver presents. When he discovers everyone in a town called Bluesville is on the naughty list, he decided it will impress Santa if her can bring them over the the nice list.

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"Peter and the Starcatcher" at DeSales University is a wildly inventive production

Act 1's "Peter and the Starcatcher" at DeSales University is a wildly inventive production filled with whimsical performances that provide non-stop laughs.

The play with music is based on based on the 2004 children's book "Peter and the Starcatchers" by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson, which was a prequel to J.M. Barrie's "Peter Pan."

James "Bo" Sayre steals the show as the pirate Black Stache, who will one day become Captain Hook. Sayre plays the character in a hilariously over-the-top fashion,  complete with an outrageous oversized stuck-on mustache. His stentorian delivery commands the stage and he gets many of the funniest lines, which he delivers with glee.

The show relies heavily on word play for much of its humor and it ranges from sophisticated to juvenile. Puns abound and Black Stache habitually mispronounces words to humorous effect. He is ably aided by his partner in crime "Smee" played with great comedic timing by Kailey Edwards.

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Cedar Crest's delightful "Charlotte's Web" faithful to the book

"Charlotte's Web" is a beloved childhood story and Cedar Crest College Performing Art's production of a full-length play last weekend, stays true to the original 1952 book from which it is adapted.

The enchanting tale about an unlikely friendship between a little pig and a spider has touched hearts over the years and this production continues that tradition.

Kiana Clarke hits all the right notes as Charlotte the spider "who is a true friend and a good writer," making her gentle, kind and clever as she moves quietly and smoothly around her web in the barn.

Alexis Macatangay is her physical opposite as a boisterous, playful and fun-loving Wilbur. Macatangay embodies the little pig from enthusiastic grunts and snorts to running energetically around the pen.

Giselle Tavarez is determined and heartfelt as Fern, the little girl "up before dawn, ridding the world of injustice" who saves the runt pig from her father's hatchet. Read more...

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.

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!”

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'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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"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

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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"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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Upcoming Shows

Touchstone presents Happenstance Theater in their original show BrouHaHa

Bethlehem, PA - Touchstone Theatre kicks off 2018 with award-winning guest company Happenstance Theater from Washington, D.C. Their show, an absurdist romp entitled BrouHaHa, plays on Touchstone’s stage February 1-4, 2018.

The existential escapade of BrouHaHa follows a troupe of six clowns walking the precipice at the end of the world with pathos and levity. Along the way, they sing, tumble, serve drinks, and find moments of connection. This original show devised by the actors of Happenstance takes its inspiration partly from the dark comedy of Irish playwright Samuel Beckett, famous for his play Waiting for Godot, and from Italian filmmaker Federico Fellini’s late Neorealist-derived film about circus performers, La Strada, as well as Greek mythology, images of fleeing refugees, and Victorian-inspired aesthetics. The show runs 75 minutes with no intermission and will include a brief post-performance talkback with the performers.

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Pocono Mountains Theater Company announces new venue partnerships for performances of Jessica Dickey's "Row After Row" in May in Bethlehem

Mountainhome, PA (1/12/2018) – Pocono Mountains Theater Company has confirmed three performances of Jessica Dickey's "Row After Row" have been booked at Red Stag Pub in Bethlehem. Performances at the Red Stag pub will be Tuesday evenings at 7 PM, May 8th, 15th and 22nd. Row After Row will be the 1st production of PMTC's 2018 season. Red Stag Pub is in addition to the previously announced performances at Siamsa Irish Pub in Stroudsburg. Other venues in Milford, Delaware Water Gap, and Buck Hill Falls are in Development.

Row After Row tells the story of two hard-core Civil War re-enactors who have their traditional post-Gettysburg beer interrupted by a woman with her own battle scars. Straddling 1863 and today, Row After Row is a dark comedy about choosing your cause and finding your courage.

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