Monday, March 28, 2011

“How To Succeed in Business” excels in entertainment

By Cheryl Thornburg
The question is answered – Daniel Radcliff can sing and dance. Leaving behind his Harry Potter persona and his British accent, Radcliff proves he's got the moves in “How To Succeed in Business” which is currently playing at the Al Hirschfield Theatre in New York.
Radcliff stars as J. Pierrepont Finch, a window washer who uses a self-help book called “How to Succeed” to maneuver his way to the top of the Worldwide Wicket Company at rocket speed.
Radcliff has a clear, strong tenor that delivers the ballad “I Believe in You” with an honesty that pulls the audience in. It is one of two songs that you might find yourself humming when you leave the theater. The other is the rousing “Brotherhood of Man” that wraps up the second act with a hand-clapping feel-good number that leaves the audience feeling more than satisfied.
For a musical, though, this might just as well be called a “dancical” because it is the choreography that puts it a cut above the rest. Its high energy, intricate, interlocking routines are mesmerizing and delivered with precision by a team of first-rate dancers. By the way – Radcliff more than keeps up with them.
Although the entire show is filled with one great routine after another, “A Secretary Is Not a Toy” and “Grand Old Ivy” are over-the top enjoyable. The latter is filled with some of the most agile and hilarious football players you'll ever see, lead by Radcliff and the other star of the show, John Larroquette,
The Emmy Award-winning actor of “Night Court” fame brings his comedic talent to Broadway for the first time. He seems made to play the part of J.B. Biggley, the likable, philandering boss, whom Finch befriends – and manipulates in order to climb the corporate ladder. Larroquette's natural charm, booming voice and swaggering posture put the “big” in Mr. Biggley. His comedic timing is impeccable.
Also impressive is Christopher J. Hanke as Bud Frump, Biggley's ne'r-do-well nephew, Finch's rival, who can't quite outfox the crafty newcomer. Hanke has one of the most fun parts to play in this production and he does so with flair. He particularly shows off his vocal and comedic skills in the first act in “Coffee Break,” as he tries to fend off coworkers and hold on to the last cup of coffee from the now-empty machine.
Other performances of note are Rob Bartlett as Mr. Twimble, the head of the mail room; Ellen Harvey as Miss Jones, Biggley's secretary; Tammy Blanchard as Hedy LaRue, Biggley's sexpot mistress; and Rose Hemingway as Rosemary Pilkington, Finch's love interest.
Hats off to director/choreographer Rob Ashford who has put together a talented cast and brought amazing performances to a delighted audience. “How to Succeed” is the total package with talented actors and dancers, ingenious set designs by Derek McLane (You'll never think of cubicle in the same way again), accentuated by spot-on lighting by Howell Binkley and costumes by Catherine Zuber.” What you'll take away is phenomenal imagery, as all the pieces of this production fit together perfectly. It is well worth the trip and the ticket price.
This particular theater experience came as package through Village Productions at the Tri-County Performing Arts Center in Pottstown, Pa.and it's a great way to see Broadway.If you don't relish the thought of driving in New York City, check into similar bus trips online or through local travel agencies and organizations.
Ticket prices for the show start at $52.
Radcliff's presence has one added bonus for theater lovers. The audience was filled with many young Harry Potter fans, and I suspect that what the Harry Potter books did for encouraging young people to read, his performance in this production may inspire a whole new generation of live theater enthusiasts. And that alone make it a success.

Monday, March 14, 2011

"Doubt" is certain to make you think

By Cheryl Thornburg
Perhaps Kirk Lawrence has missed his calling. As Father Brendan Flynn in the Reading Community Players' production of "Doubt," his sermons are both convincing and entertaining. His performance as the priest who has come under suspicion of an inappropriate relationship with a young boy in a 1960s Catholic school is multilayered and will keep audiences guessing – which is what this play is all about. Did he or didn't he?
The subject matter could be ripped from today's headlines, though it is set more than 50 years ago.
Director Robert Bruce McLean has assembled a talented cast that brings this thought-provoking Pulitzer and Tony award-winning play to the Reading theater scene for the first time.
Lawrence's charming Father Flynn is offset by the not-so-likable school principal, Sister Aloysius, capably played by Susan Sneeringer. Her strict, no-nonsense interpretation evokes memories of stern nuns for former parochial school students, but she also evokes laughter at times, a surprising element to a play about such serious subject matter. Her demeanor may be harsh, but Sneeringer also lets us know that her intentions are good. She is truly concerned about the young boy in question.
Julia Parsons provides perfect contrast as the naïve, soft-hearted Sister James, the boy's teacher. Her confusion about who and what to believe as she is drawn into the controversy mirrors that of the audience.
Just when you think you've got things figured out, along comes Andrea Griffith as Mrs. Muller, the boy's mother. Griffith gives this complicated character believabilty, even if her actions don't make sense to you. Her performance adds another dimension to the story and more possibilities.
It is just that complexity of characters that makes John Patrick Shanley's play so compelling. There are many shades of gray in its telling and you may come away still trying to sort it out – and that's just what director McLean and the playwright want. The uncertainty, the discussion following the play is what Shanley himself referred to as the “second act.”
And that “second act” was in full force Sunday afternoon as people left the building. And that's the hallmark of good theater – it makes you think, it stays with you even after the final curtain.

"Doubt" continues through March 20 at the Reading Community Players, 403 N. 11th Street in Reading.
Show times are:
Friday March 18 at 8 p.m.
Saturday, March 19 at 8 p.m.
Sunday, March 20 at 3 p.m.

RCP offers a free shuttle service from the 13th and Green School parking lot to the theater a few blocks away for those who don't want to tackle parking in the city.

Tickets can be purchased at  For more information visit the website or call the theatre box office at (610) 375-9106.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Auditions for "Dutch Blue" Monday March 14

Auditions for “Dutch Blue,” an original play by Reading Community Players Life Member, Roma Greth, will be held at 7 p.m. Monday March 14 at the theater located at 403 N. 11th Street, Reading.

Brush up on your Pennsylvania Dutch accents for this production that may answer the question, “Do hexes really work?”

Available roles are: Mother 50+, Uncle 50+, Son 30s, Fiancee 30s, Brother 35, and
Reporter 40s

Phone: 610-375-9106

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

"The Crucible" conjures up strong emotions, thought-provoking ideas

By Cheryl Thornburg
Powerful performances, plus Arthur Miller's always provocative play, “The Crucible,” make for an evening of riveting, and sometimes disturbing, theater at Tri-PAC's current production in Pottstown.
The story centers around the Salem witch trials in the 1600s in Massachusetts, but elements of the production have been moved into the 20th Century to reflect the era when Miller penned the play – the McCarthy era of the 1950s.
Inherent in both periods is the spreading of lies, almost in a cancerous fashion; fear, hysteria, and  greed, with the end result being neighbors testifying against neighbors in order to save themselves.
Director John Moletross has assembled an amazing cast and drawn poignant performances from both professional actors and youngsters just starting their careers.
Of particular note is Bob Stineman as John Proctor, whose wife is wrongfully accused of being a witch by a young servant girl with whom he had an affair. Stineman brings an intensity and believability to this complex character whose actions and decisions are an integral part of the story. Andrea Frassoni turns in a strong performance as his wife, Elizabeth, who steadfastly remains true to him and her own beliefs.
Paul Recupero turns in a solid interpretation of Reverend John Hale, who initially believes the young accusers, children and teens, who set the entire witch hunt in motion. As his character slowly evolves, he eventually reverses his opinion and speaks for the accused.
Two young actresses handle some difficult roles with a maturity that is impressive. Maggie Swahl, a high school senior, delivers a strong performance as Abigail Williams, the deceptive and seductive leader of the pack of young girls whose lies result in dozens being arrested, and some hanged.
Molly Lang, a junior at Lower Merion High School, plays Mary Warren another of the accusers, who eventually recapitulates, but her confession falls on deaf ears in the court. Lang's performance is poignant and touching as she struggles to convince the judge that she is now telling the truth.
Conjuring up a dynamic performance is Titiloa Verissimo as Tituba, the young woman who dances with the young girls in the woods and who becomes a target of the initial investigation.
A trio of actors turn in powerful performances as the  power players in this scenario. Steve Reazor is appropriately unlikeable as Reverend Parris, the holier-than-thou preacher with a taste for the finer things in life. John McGraw's  Judge Hawthorne is imposing, demanding and thoroughly convincing and Neal  Newman’s  Governor Danforth, concerned about power and maintaining control, could represent politicians of any era.
All in all, the entire cast does justice to Miller’s timeless award-winning play.
The minimalist set is effective, reflecting the stark living conditions of the townsfolk The stage is set up in a long, narrow format, with seating on two opposite sides, which adds to the challenge for the actors, but also may make it difficult to see some scenes.  If you go, sit in the center seats.  Having chosen an aisle seat at one end, it was difficult to see one of the most dynamic scenes  where Tituba is grilled about her actions. Two of the actors blocked most of this scene from my point of view.
In Salem, it was witches in the '50s it was communists as satirized by the Chad Mitchell Trio who sang “If your mommie is a commie, then you gotta turn her in.” Generation after generation, this scenario seems to raise its ugly head, in different forms, with different targets.
“The Crucible” is a powerful reminder of the pitfalls and dangers of such thinking and forces us to ask the questions, “What would I do? What would I die for?”
If you've never seen the play, now is great time to experience it. It will make you think, it will make you angry, and it may very well leave a permanent mark on your personal philosophy.
"The Crucible" continues through March 20 at the Performing Arts Center, 245 E. High St., Pottstown. Performances are Thursdays, March 10 and 17 at 7:30 p.m.; Fridays, March 11 and 18 at 8 p.m.; Saturdays, March 12 and 19 at 8 p.m.; and Sundays, March 13 and 20 at 3 p.m. Ticket prices are $17-21 for adults; Students and seniors (65+), $15-19; and children 12 & under, $13-15.
For more information go to or call 610-970-1199.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

On Stage in March

 "The Fantasticks" returns to Reading
Genesius Theatre celebrates its 40th anniversary by reprising its very first show -- "The Fantasticks." The musical opens March 4 and runs through March 13 at the theatre, 153 North 10th Street in Reading.
"The Fantasticks" was the longest running show Off-Broadway.
There is parking next to the theater.
For more information, go to or call (610) 371-8151.

Arthur Miller's "The Crucible" at Tri-PAC in Pottstown
The Tri-County Performing Arts Center presents Arthur Miller's Tony-Award winning play "The Crucible" from March 3 through March 20 at the Performing Arts Center, 245 E. High St., Pottstown.
The play centers on the Puritan purge of witchcraft in old Salem. The story focuses upon a young farmer, his wife, and a young servant-girl who maliciously causes the wife's arrest for witchcraft. The farmer brings the girl to court to admit the lie - and it is here that the monstrous course of bigotry and deceit is terrifyingly depicted. Arthur Miller's masterpiece was written during Senator Joseph McCarthy's House Un-American Activities Committee hearings, for which Miller was called to testify in 1956. “Although the play is an historical allegory for the McCarthy period, its true power lies in its ability to be re-interpreted to fit any time period. Its fertile themes - the lure of power, the gullibility of those who believe they have a moral imperative, the need to accept responsibility for the consequences of all actions, and the nature of truth - are universal in scope [and] have recurred with alarming predictability throughout human history.” – review by James Berardinelli.
The show runs
Thursdays, Mar 3 (preview), 10, 17 @ 7:30 p.m.
Fridays, Mar 4, 11, 18 at 8 p.m.
Saturdays, Mar 5, 12, 19 at 8 p.m.
Sundays, Mar 6, 13, 20 at 3 p.m.
Talkbacks with director and cast will be held  Sundays, March 6  & 13
ADULT: Thurs $17; Fri, Sat & Sun $21
STUDENT/SENIOR (65+): Thurs $15; Fri, Sat & Sun $19
CHILD (12 & under): Thurs $13; Fri, Sat & Sun $15
$2 off per ticket for groups of 10 or more.
For more information go to or call 610-970-1199.

"Doubt" on stage in Reading March 11-20

Reading Community Players presents "Doubt"  March 11 through March 20.  Robert Bruce McLean directs the first area production of the 2005 Pulitzer and Tony award winning play by John Patrick Shanley.  The cast of four is made up of Susan Sneeringer, Kirk Lawrence, Julia Parsons and Andrea Griffith.  Patricia Perfect will produce.
"Doubt" is set in a Bronx parochial school in 1964.  Tensions arise when school principal, Sister Aloysius, questions the nature of the relationship between parish priest, Father Flynn, and a young boy at the school. 

Show times are:
Friday, March 11 at 8 p.m.,
Saturday, March 12 at 8 p.m.
Sunday, March 13 at 3 p.m.

Friday March 18 at 8 p.m.
Saturday, March 19 at 8 p.m.
Sunday, March 20 at 3 p.m.

Tickets can be purchased at  For more information visit the website or call the theatre box office at (610) 375-9106.

Murder mystery dinner theatre

PHOENIXVILLE – Phoenixville Area Community Services (PACS) presents its fourth annual Murder Mystery Dinner Theatre March 25 at  River Crest Golf Club.
Actors from the Forge Theatre bring the charactiers to life  as guests investigate the murder and try to solve the crime. In additon to dinner and the show, there is also a silent auction.  All proceeds from the event support PACS with their programming. PACS is an emergency food pantry for the families in the community in need.
Tickets to the Murder Mystery Dinner Theatre are  $75 per person. To purchase tickets, visit or call 610-933-1105. For more about PACS, please visit

Other area productions in March
Arden Theatre Company, 40 N. Second St., Philadelphia (215-922-1122)
"A Moon for the Misbegotten" through March 6

DeSales University, Labuda Center for the Performing Arts, 2755 Station Ave., Center Valley (610-282-3192)
"She Stoops To Conquer" through March 6

Gamut Classic Theatre, 605 Strawberry Square, Harrisburg (717-238-4111)
Gamut Theatre Group presents "A Year With Frog and Toad" through March 12

Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts, Innovation Studio, 260 S. Broad St., Philadelphia (215-893-1999)
Off Broadway at the Kimmel presents "Parenting 101, The Musical" through March 6

People's Light and Theatre Company, 39 Conestoga Road, Malvern (610-644-3500)
"The Adventures of Tom Sawyer"; Feb. 17 through March 13

Plays and Players Theater, 1714 Delancey St., Philadelphia (215-735-7356)
Theatre Exile presents "The Lieutenant of Inishmore" through March 13

Walnut Street Theatre, 825 Walnut St., Philadelphia (215-413-1318)
"Amadeus" through March 6

Walnut Street Theatre, Independence Studio on 3, 825 Walnut St., Philadelphia (215-574-3550)
"The Ugly One" through March 13