Tuesday, June 21, 2011

'A Little Princess' brings back memories and creates new ones

By Cheryl Thornburg
There are some amazing young actors in this area as I have witnessed in recent weeks, and Reading Community Players' production of  "A Little Princess" showcases many of them.
This classic tale of  Sarah Crewe, who grows up in India and is pampered by her wealthy father, will be familiar to many of us thanks to the timeless Shirley Temple film about the little girl who is her father's "little princess." He sends her to a boarding school in London, but then dies suddenly and Sara  becomes a pauper and  has to work as a servant at the school where she was once a student.
Photo by Phil Wheeler
Kathryn Majesky plays Sara Crewe
in RCP's "A Little Princess."
It is based on the 1905 novel by Frances Hodgson Burnett that has been retold in many forms -- even Japanese anime.
Kathryn Majesky, a 6th-grade student at Oley Valley Middle School, plays Sara with the poise and composure befitting a princess as she goes from princess to pauper.  Her portrayal of the kind-hearted Sara is believable and endearing.
Not endearing is the play's villainess, Miss Minchin played with iron-clad talent by Debbie Maier. She brings the stern, self-centered school mistress to life, creating one of those characters that you love to hate.
Also relishing a role as a mini-villainess is Christina Flamporis as Lavinia, the school's "mean girl" who is always causing trouble for the other girls. Christina, who will be a 7th-grader at Exeter Junior High in the fall, is delightfully devious as the outgoing and mischievous Lavinia.
Her real-life twin sister, Melissa, plays another of the students, Jessie, who is the opposite of Lavinia, quiet and shy.
Playing other students in the school are Kassandra Scheese, as Emengarde who has to eat throughout the entire show; and Alainnah Seyler, as Lottie who gets to throw an amazing temper tantrum.
Julia De Gruchy, a 10th-grader at Wilson High School, makes the most of her role as Becky, the beleaguered, over-worked maid. She brings whining to a whole new level.
Other young actors include Mazie Sol Strouse as Annie, Nicole Greenfield as Janet, Rebekka Schwenk as Nora, and Robert Harwell as Guy Lawrence.
Though the young actors shine in this production, there are also some fine performances by adults in the cast including Deb Brubaker, as Amelia, Miss Minchin's submissive and put-upon  sister; Mindy Wheeler, as Sara's  French maid, Marie; and Diann Stewart, as Miss Tibault, the French tutor.
Photo by Phil Wheeler
Kathryn Majesky, left, plays Sara  Crewe;  Robert Harwell, Guy Lawrence,
Nicole Greenfield, Janet; and  Rebekka Schwenk,  Nora, in
Reading Community Players production of "A Little Princess."
Ruth Martelli  played Mrs. Perrins in last Sunday’s show (Kathy Newville also will  play that role for some performances); Patrick McCaffrey, plays a lawyer, Mr. Barrows;  Brian Miller, Mr. Carrisford, a friend of Sara's father; Steve Dzielak,  Lascar, a servant; and Greg Harwell, Mr. Michaels, another lawyer.
The show is directed by Debbi Silas, assisted by Marissa Hoover,
It offers great family entertainment for just a little more than a trip to a movie and adds the intimacy and excitement if live theater. This is a perfect show to introduce your children and grandchildren to what can lead to a lifelong passion for the performing arts.
"A Little Princess" continues through Sunday June 26 in the Playhouse at 403 North 11th St. in Reading.
Showtime for Friday and Saturday performances is 7:30 p.m. and Sunday matinee is 3 p.m. Tickets are $15 for adults, $8 for students and $10 for seniors 65 and older.
Additionally, princess gift bags will be available for sale at each performance.
Free parking is available at 13th & Green Elementary School with a free shuttle service to the theater.
  For more information or to purchase tickets go to www.rcptheatre.com  or call the box office at 610-374-0777.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Just a reminder of what's happening at TriPAC this summer

Don’t Miss it - Last 5 Performances!
Thursday through Sunday, June 16 – 19
U.S. Premiere of the new version from the creative team behind the Broadway blockbuster, MARY POPPINS
Music by George Stiles; Lyrics by Anthony Drewe; Book by Willis Hall
Based on the J.M. Barrie original play, with permission from Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children
Sir James Barrie’s timeless tale of the boy who never grew up is reborn as a spectacular musical by Britain’s Stiles & Drewe (Broadway’s MARY POPPINS, the award-winning HONK!, and the new West End hit, BETTY BLUE EYES) with favorite friends Tinker Bell, Wendy, John, Michael, the Lost Boys, Tiger Lilly, and of course, Captain Hook and his band of Pirates!
PETER PAN (June 2 – 19)
June 16
7:30 pm
June 17
8:00 pm
June 18
3:00 pm & 8:00 pm
June 19
3:00 pm
ADULT:  Thurs $19; Fri, Sat & Sun $23
STUDENT/SENIOR(65+): Thurs $17; Fri, Sat, Sun $21
 CHILD (12 & under): Thurs $13; Fri, Sat & Sun $15
$2 off per ticket for groups of 10 or more; www.tripac.org610.970.1199

For campers entering 1st through 12th Grades
Three 2-week sessions! Take 1, 2 or all 3!
Session One: July 11 – 22; Session Two: July 25 - Aug. 5; Session Three: Aug. 8 - 19
9am – 4pm for 5th - 12th Grades ($419 per 2-week session)
9am – 4pm for 1st - 4th Grades ($429 per 2-week session)
Half-day camp option for 1st through 4th Grades; 9am – noon or 1pm – 4pm ($209 per 2-week session)
Join us Onstage or Backstage! Open to camp participants only. $25 materials fee.
Details at www.tripac.org or contact Steve Reazor, Education Director, steve@villageproductions.org 

P.O. Box 1325; 245 E. HIGH STREET

Monday, June 13, 2011

Genesius' "Bat Boy," may be gone, but won't be forgotten

By Cheryl Thornburg
  A small, but enthusiastic crowd witnessed the final performance of "Bat Boy, The Musical” at Genesius Theatre in Reading Sunday – and what they witnessed is what is best about live theater. Talented actors bring to life the story of Edgar, a deformed boy who is discovered in a West Virginia cave, and whose struggle to fit in is poignant and at times heart-wrenching.
  What is unique is that the production uses broad, outrageous characters and comedy to tell this otherwise sad tale.
Sometimes it takes a slapstick-style hammer to drive home a serious message about bigotry and intolerance. The message is delivered through laughter and tears and some great music, so it is quite painless.
  At the heart of the success of this production is an incredible performance by Philippe Levesque as Edgar, the Bat Boy. The role is physically and emotionally demanding and Levesque gives 110 percent to the role. His acrobatics inside the cage after the bat boy is first captured are amazing to watch. His vocals are powerful, and at times haunting as in “Show You a Thing or Two,” and “Let Me Walk Among You.”
  Set in the intimacy of this small theater, it is Levesque's acting that makes you believe. His emotions are palpable and makes it impossible not to care.
  He doesn't do it alone, though, a talented cast pulls off this challenging musical, with passion and flair.
  Jon Browning is deliciously evil as Dr. Thomas Parker. At first the seemingly harmless, but alcoholic veterinarian, is at the sidelines. But it soon becomes obvious that he has demons that drives him to dark actions. Browning plays Parker to the hilt and shows off his vocal talent with a sinister twist in “Dance With Me Darlng.”
  Erin Stevens plays his wife, Meredith, in a more understated manner, but there's nothing understated about her vocal delivery in the poignant , “A Home For You” and her comedic inflection in “Three Bedroom House.”
  She shares the latter song in a duet with Rachel Himes as her daughter, Shelley. The two take on the task of civilizing Edgar and become his protectors.
  Himes' vocals shine in the ballad, “Inside Your Heart” with Levesque and in the finale , “Hold Me , Bat Boy.”
  James Barksdale doesn't have as much time on stage as the others, but his performance as Pan is commanding and memorable. His delivery of “Children, Children,” is powerful and takes the story in a whole new direction.
  There are fine comedic performances by Chuck Austin, Dan Smith, Laura Kruse and Randy Gerber.
There's also some cross-dressing as several actors switch genders for different roles. Trust me it works.
  Jordan Baylor plays both Rick Taylor and Lorraine. Tama McConnell plays both Ron Taylor and Maggie. Marisa Hoover plays Ruthie Tayler and Ned. And Kirk Lawrence plays Mrs. Taylor, Roy, and Rev. Billy Hightower.
  Lawrence is outrageously over-the-top as Mrs. Taylor and memorable when he sings ,”Mrs. Taylor's Lullaby,” but his rendition of “A Joyful Noise'” as Rev. Hightower, is one of the high points of the show. It is a hand-clapping foot-stopping tune that sticks with you when you leave the theater.
  The show was directed by John Gancar with Dave Himes as music director. Together they have elicited first-rate performances from the ensemble cast.
  St. Genesius, patron saint of actors, would be veery proud of this production.
  "Bat Boy, The Musical,” may be over, but Genesius has other productions coming up soon.

  • “High School Musical” opens July 15 and runs through July 24.
  • “Tale of a West Texas Marsupial,” featuring young actors ages 6-14, runs Aug. 5-7.
  • Aspects of Love,” will run Aug 19-21 at the Reading Public Museum.

Genesius Theatre is located at 153 North 10th St. in Reading. For more information, go to www.GenesiusTheatre.org or call (610) 371-8151.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Peter Pan's parents land in Pottstown

 I had the great opportunity and pleasure to meet with Drewe and Stiles, the creators of "Peter Pan, A Musical Adventure," this week. Check out the photos and  story in The Mercury at:


For some 'out-takes" from the interview that didn't quite fit the news story, check back here later.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

'Peter Pan' takes Tri-PAC to new heights

By Cheryl Thornburg

  "Close your eyes and imagine" -- a theater production that takes you back to the wondrous world of childhood  -- and you've got Tri-PAC's current production "Peter Pan, A Musical Adventure."  It's a dream of a show peopled with Sir James Barrie’s unforgettable characters -- Peter Pan, Wendy and of course, Captain Hook. The production is the U.S. premiere of the musical created by the award-winning team of Drewe & Stiles whose other credits include Broadway’s "Mary Poppins" and "Honk!"
  Director Deborah Stimson Snow has put together an incredible world-class cast, even though most of them are local actors.
  PJ Schweizer is delightfully mischievous in the title role and seems to have been born to soar above the audience and fulfill everyone's concept of the boy who didn't want to grow up.  His swagger and the gleam in his eye as he sings 'The Cleverness of Me,"  is  quintessential Peter Pan.
  Joe Cieresi, plays dual roles and is charming as Mr. Darling, but absolutely shines as the dastardly Captain Hook. Cieresi brings a deep, dark quality to his vocals that adds dimension as he sings "I Will Kill Peter Pan, " and the memorable "A Pirate With a Conscience,"  sung with Ben Fried, as his ever-faithful sidekick, Smee.
  Most impressive is Madison Aicher, an 8th-grader from Owen J. Roberts Middle School.  As she sings the phrase "close your eyes" from "Just Beyond the Stars"  to the Lost Boys, her clear soprano shows a maturity way beyond her years. This talented young lady has a very bright future.
  Other performances of note are Donna Dougherty as the narrator and Rebecca Shoemaker as Mrs. Darling, both of whom were last seen in "Nunsense;" and AJ Giruzzi and Connor Kirk as Wendy's brothers, John and Michael.
  My special "Bravest Pirate Award" goes to Matt Kiesling, who frequently played the victim as his cohorts demonstrated how they would dispatch someone. His gift for physical comedy adds flair to his interpretation of his character, Skylights.
  The remaining cast includes  Jason Burke, William Bell, Isabella Rota-Talarico, Emma Russek, Sam Pettine, Josiah Swensen, David Helmer, Ben Williams, AJ Sermarini, Charlie Harrison,  Marc Sherfield, Michael Kiesling,  Harrison Stengle, Cletus Stell, Maggie Swahl, Sami Kolb, Taylor Helmers, Patrick Shepherd, Carly Fried, Carrie Thorwarth, Karissa Smith, Sara Helmers, Philip Seader, Adele Morello, Jordan Popky, Lynn Cooper, Madison Devlin, and Al Ulozas.   
  The unseen orchestra, conducted by Barbara Newberry, sets the tone perfectly for every scene.
  The production itself is amazing, filled with complex flying apparatus, fight choreography,  dozens of costumes, lighting and special effects.  It took countless volunteers to pull off this ambitious project, and their hard work paid off with a memorable night at the theater.

  If you're ready to escape your hum-drum workaday world, head to downtown Pottstown, for a trip to Neverland.  The show runs Thursdays through Sundays until June 19 at at the Tri-County Performing Arts Center, 245 E. High St.
  Ticket prices for Thursday performances are $13 for children 12 and under, $17 for students and seniors (65+), and $19 for adults.  Ticket prices for Friday, Saturday and Sunday shows are $15 for children 12 and under, $21 for students and seniors, and $23 for adults.  Groups of 10 or more receive $2 off per ticket when purchased in a single transaction.
  Tickets are on sale now at www.tripac.org or by calling the box office at 610-970-1199.

How you can help

Bringing this spectacular production to Pottstown with its technical equipment, is a costly venture. To help offset the cost,  Tri-County Performing Arts Center, a non-profit 501(c)(3) performing arts organization located at 245 E. High Street, Pottstown, introduced  the  ‘Fly to Never Land’ Challenge. The financial goal for this initiative is $20,000. Thanks to the generosity of an anonymous donor, every dollar donated will be matched 100%, up to a total of $5,000.
There are many reward options to consider, including autographed show posters, personal phone calls from characters of the show, post-show tour of the backstage and flying effects, tickets to the show, the option to present the on-stage curtain speech, a photo session with show characters on set, a private pre-show wine and cheese reception, and more! Plus every donation to the ‘Fly to Never Land’ Challenge will automatically be entered to win a personal appearance by Peter Pan at a party for a child age 10 and under.

Details about the ‘Fly to Never Land’ Challenge are available online at  http://www.villageproductions.org/FlyWithUstoNeverlandChallenge.html. Visitors can watch a special video message about the challenge, learn why your support is important, review the various rewards available, and view the vibrant show poster, as well as make a donation and purchase tickets to performances of "Peter Pan.'

 Village Productions (the Tri-County Performing Arts Center) is a dynamic non-profit performing arts organization founded in 2001 to make the arts highly accessible to all in the community. Established and led by dedicated team of performing artists, arts educators, business leaders, and area residents, Village Productions seeks to strengthen community, inspire creative exploration, educate, and entertain, through the presentation of quality performing arts events and educational opportunities geared toward a diverse audience. More information is available at www.tripac.org

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Pottstown-Reading area auditions coming up

Ready to get back on stage? Check out these audition notices for upcoming area productions

Pottstown, Pa.—The Tri-County Performing Arts Center is pleased to announce OPEN AUDITIONS June 6th through 12th for productions occurring during the first half of the 2011-12 season. Men, women, teens and children who are vocalists, actors, dancers, gymnasts, magicians, and circus performers are needed for a wide range of roles in musicals and plays.
Included are roles in the popular Stephen Schwartz musical, PIPPIN, the family favorite A CHRISTMAS STORY, the Tony-award winning musical AIN’T MISBEHAVIN’, a children’s touring production to be announced, and a mystery dinner theater production. The Tri-PAC is also holding auditions for WILLY WONKA, JR., which is open to children in 5th through 12th grades who are also enrolling in the Tri-PAC performing arts summer camp.
The Tri-County Performing Arts Center will also be scouting for other upcoming productions that will run in March through June 2012.
Initial auditions will be held June 6th through 12th at various times throughout the day and evening, with callbacks for specific shows scheduled from June 14th through 22ndRehearsals are evenings and weekends. You can download information about the shows and auditions at www.tripac.org.
Most of the auditions will be held at the Tri-County Performing Arts Center, 245 E. High Street in Pottstown, with additional dates and times to be held in Center City, Philadelphia. Roles are nonunion and unpaid unless otherwise noted in the audition materials. Ethnic diversity is encouraged. Contact casting@villageproductions.org for an audition appointment.

Village Productions (The Tri-County Performing Arts Center) is a dynamic, non-profit performing arts organization founded in 2001 by a dedicated team of performing artists, arts educators, and area residents who dreamed of creating new and highly accessible performing arts opportunities for the community. Village Productions seeks to strengthen community, inspire creative exploration, educate, and entertain, through the presentation of quality performing arts events and educational opportunities geared toward a diverse audience. You may contact Village Productions through their website at www.tripac.org, or by telephone at 610-970-1199.


Reading Community Players, Pennsylvania's third oldest community theater , will hold auditions for “To Kill A Mockingbird” Sunday, June 19 and Monday June 20. Performance dates will be September 23, 24, 25, 30, October 1, 2
The play is set in a small Alabama town in 1935.  It is the time when Blacks were still severely oppressed having to face deep prejudice in the South.  Atticus is a light in the dark exposing the cruelty of that prejudice.  At the same time it shows the goodness in some people willing to face injustices at their own risk.  It’s a glimpse into a time that is mostly in the past, but while we still seem to wrestle with the prejudices.  “Mockingbird” still makes us look at our inner selves.

The theater is located at 403 N. 11th Street, Reading, PA,
For more information check the website at www.readingcommunityplayers.com

Peter Pan lands in Pottstown

POTTSTOWN – Take off on a brand new theater experience -- the U.S. premiere of a new version of "Peter Pan, A Musical Adventure" opens June 2 at the Tri-County Performing Arts Center, 245 E. High St.
Sir James Barrie’s timeless tale of the boy who never grew up is reborn as a spectacular musical by Britain’s Drewe & Stiles (Broadway’s "Mary Poppins" and "Honk!"
 among other works) with favorite friends Tinker Bell, Wendy, John, Michael, the Lost Boys, Tiger Lilly, and of course, Captain Hook and his band of Pirates!
The show runs June 2-19.  Tickets are on sale now at www.tripac.org or by calling the box office at 610-970-1199.
Ticket prices for Thursday performances are $13 for children 12 and under, $17 for students and seniors (65+), and $19 for adults.  Ticket prices for Friday, Saturday and Sunday shows are $15 for children 12 and under, $21 for students and seniors, and $23 for adults.  Groups of 10 or more receive $2 off per ticket when purchased in a single transaction.