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.

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.

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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:

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'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.

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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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