Sunday, July 31, 2011

Young actors have a claim to 'Fame'

By Cheryl Thornburg
  The plot of Reading Community Players' current production "Fame" is fairly simple -- dozens of talented young people  attend a prestigious performing arts high school in New York to hone their skills and head on the path to stardom. And this show does the same thing  on a smaller scale -- it gives young area performers the chance to develop their skills and showcase their talent. And some of them are already on the path to stardom. They not only have talent, they  have  spark that makes them shine a little brighter on stage.
  Among them are Bronson Taylor as Ralph Garcy, a young man who plays fast with the truth and has a fascination with the late Freddie Prinze.  Taylor delivers a Ralph with lots of swagger and a touch of insecurity underneath.  He seems at home on stage -- and he belongs there.
  Showing off some fine dancing skills and a flair for comedy is Michael Roman as Angel, who originally came to auditions to help a friend and ended up winning a slot at the school.
 Also impressive is Amanda Gray as CoCo, who delivers two of the most memorable songs from the show, "I Want to Live Forever" and 'Out Here on My Own."
  James Barksdale, who may be familiar to area theater-goers, turns in a solid performance as Leroy, a talented, but belligerent young dancer who battles with Mrs. Sherwood, an English teacher who tries to help him. Hope O'Pake , who is also one of the directors of the show, is intense and believable as the teacher and the two share a tender scene in the second act.
  Elizabeth Pienta evokes sympathy as the talented, but timid, Doris, who is overpowered by her overbearing stage mother, Mrs. Schwartz, played with comedic flair by Laura Stewart.
  Alex Potcovaru  turns in a fine performance as the sensitive Monty MacNeil, who has lots of "issues."
 Owen Halsey, one of the younger performers (He will be in 9th grade at Exeter High School this fall) shows that he is a fine musician and singer as well as an actor.  He plays Bruno, the young composer who keeps his music to himself, at first.
  Integrated throughout the show are some familiar tunes sung by a fine barbershop quartet  -- Nick Moore, Zach Weisman, Dan Lesko, and Colin Long.
  The ensemble  format gives ample opportunities for cast members to show what they do best, sing, dance, act, or even tell jokes.
  Other performances of note are Katie Spencer as Joy, whose powerful vocals steal the show and Allison Gieringer as Deirdre  who conjures up a delightfully silly, fun-to-watch character.
  The grown-ups in this show who play teachers and parents, manage to hold their own amidst this talented group of up-and-coming performers.
Chuck Austin gives a first-rate and funny performance as Mr. Farrell, the drama teacher; Greg Mazurek, who also served as music director for the show,  plays Angelo, Bruno's father;  Ruth Martelli seems very comfortable as the music teacher, Mrs. Shorofsky, as does Marjory Ewald  as Miss Berg the dance instructor.
  Other members of this outstanding cast include Karl Kemmerer, Alex Forsyth,  Mikee Echavarria, Alex Torres, Logan Hatt, Summer Rose Biros, Billy Bailey, Jess Feldman, Shannen Moser, Kelly Fries, Amy Swartz, Danielle Moore, Ali Clark, Daphnee McMaster, Erika Guthier, Sydne Lyons. Jen Heydt, Cece Peery, Krista Grevas and Briana Hafer.
  In addition to and O'Pake and Mazurek, Amanda Leam, choreography, and Josh Austin, assistant director, helped make this production  possible.
Although the show is very upbeat and inspiring, some of the material may not be suitable for young audiences due to language and sensitive subject matter.
  If you're looking for something to restore your hope for the future, "Fame" may just be the ticket. As the show's closing anthem says,
"We can make a difference, It's not too late; Bring on tomorrow, we can't wait." 
  There's nothing like the enthusiasm of the next generation to lift the spirits of those of us who may have become somewhat jaded.
 “Fame”  continues today (July 31) and runs through Aug. 7 at Reading Community Players, 403 N. 11th St.  in Reading. Friday and Saturday curtain time is 7 p.m. Sunday matinees will begin at 2 p.m.  Tickets are $15 for adults, $10 for seniors and $8 for students. Call 610-375-9106 or visit the website, or call the theatre, 610-375-9106, for tickets.  Free parking and shuttle service is available at the 13th & Green Elementary School parking lot.

Sunday, August 7, will be an all-day FAME affair, starting with a fundraiser for the Elizabeth Martelli Scholarship at Reading High at noon.  A 2001 graduate of RHS, Liz was part of the Fame 2001 cast.  She was killed in an automobile crash in March 2008.  This tribute to Liz will include a photo collage and music prepared for her memorial service by her brother, Mark, and the reading of several pieces of her poetry.  Refreshments will be served for those attending. A $10 donation is suggested. Proceeds will benefit her scholarship.  At 2 p.m., FAME 2011 will take the stage!


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