Monday, September 29, 2014

‘Three Viewings’ makes my Top Ten favorite play list




Julia Hager, Ruth Martelli, Steve Reazor and director Lisa Uliasz pose for a photo after the show.
By Cheryl Thornburg

I was curious and intrigued as I headed to Feeney Funeral home in Reading for my most unusual theater experience ever. I had never heard of Jeffrey Hatcher's “Three Viewings” and only knew what I had read in in a press release from Reading Community Players.  It involved three monologues in which someone is dealing with a corpse.  I expected to be amused, or pleasantly surprised by it, since I was familiar with all the actors in the play. But it was even better than that – I was blown away by witty dialogue, clever plots and memorable performances and it has moved into my Top Ten  favorite Plays.
Ruth Martelli delivered the performance of a lifetime. Her interpretation of Virginia Carpoletti, a sweet and naïve widow whose husband was a “wheeler and dealer” who left her nearly destitute, was so real that I almost forgot I was watching a play as I sat in the parlor of the funeral home. Hers was one of the best performances I’ve ever seen – and I’ve seen hundreds of plays.
Steve Reazor created a charming , love-sick funeral director who can never express his feelings to the object of his desire – a successful real estate agent who attends lots of funerals and seems to end up making commissions as a result. Reazor has impeccable timing and an engaging comedic style that seems to come naturally to him.
The third monologue features Julia Hager as one of the more unique characters I’ve come across in my theater-going days.  She plays a beautiful drifter from Los Angeles who makes her living stealing jewelry from corpses.  Hager is a talented comedic actress but also can add layers to what could have been a cookie-cutter character.
Director, Lisa Uliasz picked the perfect cast to bring these delightful characters to life.
There couldn’t have been a better place to stage this production than  Feeney Funeral Home in  Reading and as a bonus, guests could tour the mansion after the show.
Unfortunately “Three Viewings” ran for just one weekend, so at the moment, there’s no opportunity to see it – but – Martelli said if someone has a facility that could be used as a venue, they’d love to resurrect it.
For more information on Reading Community Players, visit the website at www.readingcommunityplayers.com

Tuesday, June 10, 2014


Genesius Theatre's 'Altar Boyz' is an uplifting and hilarious 90 minutes of musical comedy 


The cast of Genesius Theatre's "Altar Boyz" gets the crowd groovin' and laughing. 
 
 
If you’re in need of an upbeat, uplifting and uproariously funny evening out, Genesius Theatre has the answer. “Altar Boyz” is an off-Broadway hit filled with catchy pop-style tunes that takes a loving look at organized religion and boy bands.
“Altar Boyz” was created by Marc Kessler and Ken Davenport with a book by Kevin Del Aguila and music and lyrics by Gary Adler and Michael Patrick Walker. The show premiered in 2004 at the New York Musical Theatre Festival and opened at off-Broadway’s New World Stages in 2005. It won the 2005 Outer Critics Circle Award for Best Off-Broadway Musical and was nominated for seven Drama Desk Awards, including Best Music, Best Lyrics, Best Book and Best Musical and 2007 Broadway.com Audience Favorite Award.
The “Boyz” are Matthew, Mark, Luke, Juan and Abraham (He’s Jewish as he quickly points out.) The Christian boy band is giving its last performance on its “Raise the Praise” tour to “rock the masses of all denominations by spreading the good news and soothing the troubled souls of Greater Reading through the glory of sweet pop music.”
Director Zach Frantz, who also plays Mark, cast his net and found the perfect group of guys to join him on this delightful, 90-minute journey. They can sing, they can dance and they are hilarious!
Each of the “boyz” has a distinct personality and gets a turn to shine in the spotlight.
Particularly unforgettable is Brandon Kegerize as Luke, the bad boy of the group. Kegerize has got the moves and has perfect timing for both dancing and comedy. The audience really gets drawn into the “Rhythm In Me,” a hand-clapping, feel-good number.
Not to be outdone, Caleb Seip as Juan (The Latin Lover,) gets everyone groovin’ with “La Vida Eternal,” another number that sticks with you after you leave the theater. Juan’s over-the-top personality is a scene-stealer and Seip makes the most of it.
He’s not the only one to deliver this memorable song, however. When Juan is unable to continue singing, Abraham, played by Nick Moore, steps in and finishes it with a flourish. Moore’s character is subdued compared to the flamboyant Juan, but Moore picks up the vocals with ease and surprises the audience.
Ben Long plays Matthew the charismatic leader of the group. He delivers the classic boy-band ballad, with sincerity even when he sings lines like “Girl You Make me Want to Wait.” How he keeps a straight face is beyond me.
Last, but certainly not least, is Frantz as Mark, the sensitive one. Frantz has been tireless behind the scenes at Genesius for years, but just ventured into the spotlight in the past year — to the delight of local audiences. A talented comedian, he also gets to show off his vocal skills in a ballad, “Epiphany,”
Together, like their boy-band counterparts, they produce some really nice harmonies.
The lyrics are contemporary with a touch of humor — “Jesus called me on my cellphone/No roaming charges were incurred/He told me that I should go out in the world/And spread his glorious word.” The songs also have an underlying positive message, such as “Everybody Fits.”
The show also pokes fun at our obsession with technology with the “Sony Soul Sensor DX-12,” a computer gadget that gauges the spiritual well-being of the audience. The Altar Boyz’ goal is to get the number of troubled souls down to zero by the end of the show.
Choreographer Amanda Leam Guitstewite came up with some high-energy, dynamic moves for the guys — and they nail it. Musical director for the show is Kevin Cooper.
“Altar Boyz” is one of those shows that many people have never heard of — myself included — but I’m really glad I got “the word.” This is a show that will leave you feeling good and humming as you head home — and that’s the Gospel truth.
“Altar Boyz” runs Wednesday through Sunday at Genesius Theatre, 10th & Walnut streets in Reading.
Remaining shows are 7:30 Wednesday and Thursday; 8 p.m., Friday and Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday. To purchase tickets with all major credit cards, visit the website at www.genesiustheatre.org or call 610-373-9500. Tickets range in price from $15 to $25 and credit card fees apply. Tickets are also available at the door. For more information, contact the theater at 610-371-8151. Genesius Theatre is handicap accessible and there is free parking beside of the theater (limited spaces available). This production is rated PG — (light, but complimentary spoofing of organized religion).

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Steel River's 'Complete Works of Shakespeare Abridged ' is a nonstop laugh riot. My review is up at http://www.pottsmerc.com/arts-and-entertainment/20140515/steel-rivers-condensed-shakespeare-is-sublimely-absurd

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Bobby Rydell talks about his life, his music and is passionate about organ donation

I had the most amazing conversation with Bobby Rydell who will be performing in Pottstown March 29. It was like catching up with an old freind. He talked about his life, his career, his family and friends and organ donation.
Having received a new liver and kidney in 2012, he is passionate about the subject. Check out his story at
http://www.pottsmerc.com/arts-and-entertainment/20140313/bobby-rydell-hits-pottstown-march-29-with-music-and-a-message-about-organ-donation

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Steel River's 'August: Osage County' is up-close-and-personal theater

I saw the play, "August: Osage County"  at Steel River Playhouse in Pottstown. I deliberately did not see the movie beforehand -- and I'm glad I made that choice.  There's nothing like live theater. The show runs through March 23. My review is up at
http://www.pottsmerc.com/arts-and-entertainment/20140312/steel-rivers-august-osage-county-is-up-close-and-personal-theater

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Get captivated by 'Kiss of the Spider Woman' at Genesius Theatre in Reading




By Cheryl Thornburg
cthornburg@pottsmerc.com

The opening scene of Genesius Theatre’s “Kiss of the Spider Woman” is undoubtedly the most dramatic I have seen in my 25 years of reviewing theater.  With powerful music, strobe lights and chaotic staging, it set the tone for what was to come – a dynamic musical with dark undertones that captured and held my attention from beginning to end.
The show was new to me, but knowing that it was written and composed by John Kander & Fred Ebb, the team that created  “Cabaret” and “Chicago,” I was hopeful for an energetic and entertaining afternoon, and I was not disappointed.
“Kiss of the Spiderwoman,” however, is not like its more famous brethren. Its setting and themes are very dark and complicated. It tells the story of two men held captive in an Argentinian prison during the time that has become known as the “Dirty War” when thousands of citizens “disappeared.”
The men are a study in contrasts, Molina, a gay window dresser, who has been imprisoned for allegedly making sexual advances to a young boy and Valentin, an intense young revolutionary, whom the prison warden is trying to force to give up his comrades.
The storyline is also full of contrasts, with scenes of torture and violence juxtaposed with the upbeat fantasy world of Molina who is obsessed with an actress named Aurora whose movies include, “Kiss of the Spider Woman.”
Irving Gonzalez is mesmerizing as the flamboyant, seemingly self-absorbed Molina, whose fantasy world helps him drown out his dismal reality. His flair for comedy and exquisite vocals make him the perfect choice to play Molina. He particularly shines in “Dear One,” with his Mother, Marta and Valentine;  in “Mama, It’s Me”  and “Only in the Movies,” the rousing finale.
Jon Browning is intense and at times, explosive, as the idealistic Valentin, who endures all sorts of torture from the prison guards, but remains true to his cause. His vocals are strong throughout, but his performance in the stirring “The Day After That” in the second act is powerful, memorable theater – the kind that makes the hair on your arm stand up when you remember it. The entire cast delivers this revolutionary anthem with such passion, it will remind you much more of “Le Miz” than “Cabaret.”
Weaving her spell as the Spider Woman and various other roles as the actress, Aurora, is Jennifer Parker Scott.  With some fabulous costumes and spidery props, Scott is convincing as the deadly seductress, particularly in the final act when she sings, “The Kiss of the Spider Woman.”
Some of Berks County’s best vocalists add their talents to this production, including Anita Lewis as Molina’s mother and Meegan Gagnon as Marta, who deliver haunting interpretations in “Dear One.”  Lewis’ “You Could Never Shame Me” and Gagnon’s “I Do Miracles,” a duet with Scott, are highpoints of the show. Another standout is “Gabriel’s Letter” delivered with an exquisite tenor by Bo Irwin.
Carl Wolfe is chilling as the ruthless warden who will stop at nothing to get what he wants. By persuading Molina to spy on his cellmate, he sets everyone on a path that ultimately leads to the evolution of both prisoners.
Some of the most vivid scenes involve the entire cast. “Over the Wall,” which is reprised twice, features powerful harmonies, poignant vignettes, and complex staging and choreography.
Choreographer Michael Roman also had to switch gears for the fantasy scenes with jazzy scores that required showgirl numbers reminiscent of other Kander and Erb shows.
The cast includes Randy Gerber, Joey Lovello, Emily Madden, Sara Moyer, Becca Snyder, Jessica Reber, Kaitlyn Reber, Peter Bourey, Briana Christie, Alex Krick, Eli Noll, and Michael Roman.
“Kiss of the Spider Woman” is directed by L J Fecho and music directed by Kevin Cooper. With its superlative cast and orchestra, spectacular lighting and staging, the show is the complete package and worth the trip to downtown Reading.
The show continues Oct. 9 and 10 at 7 p.m., Oct. 11, 12, at 8 p.m., and Oct. 13 at 2 p.m.  Tickets are $15 for Wednesday and Thursday performances and  $25 ($20 for seniors) for other performances. To purchase tickets with all major credit cards visit the website at www.genesiustheatre.org or call 610-373-9500.  Credit card fees apply. Tickets are also available at the door.
For more information, contact the theater at 610-371-8151. Genesius Theatre is handicap accessible and there is free parking aside of the theater (limited spaces available). This production is rated PG for adult situations and language. Genesius Theatre is located at 10th & Walnut streets in Reading.


Monday, September 2, 2013

Improve auditions in Reading

The Reading Theater Project will hold auditions for its Improv Team Sunday, September 15 at 4 p.m. at the TEA Factory at 580 Willow St. in Reading. We are looking for adult actors and sketch comedy writers who are interested in working with a team and performing in the area. Bring a character, a sketch idea, or a scene and be ready to play! Rehearsals will be Sunday evenings 4-7 at the TEA Factory. Questions or reservations: 484-706-9719 or vicki@readingtheaterproject.com. More information at ReadingTheaterProject.com