Monday, August 22, 2011

What's not to love about 'Aspects of Love'?

Photos by Shannan Denlinger
Jonathan Browning and Maria Damore star in 'Aspects of Love."
 By Cheryl Thornburg

Maria Damore, Kirk Lawrence and Anita Lewis
It never ceases to amaze me at the level of talent in this area.  Andrew Lloyd Webber's "Aspects of Love" is  a demanding production and Genesius Theatre's cast more than meets the demands.
The concert performance filled the Reading Public Museum's Atrium with incredible solos and duets, soaring to the glass rooftop.
The opening song, “Love Changes Everything,” sets the tone and stage for the series of complex relationships that embody this show.
Performed with power and passion by Jonathan Browning, it is the song that stays with you long after the curtain call. Browning plays Alex Dillingham, a 17-year old” young man from England who becomes infatuated with a French actress Rose Vibert played by Maria Damore.
Damore's Rose is seemingly confident with an underlying insecurity that makes her intriguing. She matches Browning note for note in power and passion. Their duet "Seeing is Believing" is memorable.   Her solo in the closing scene "Anything But Lonely," sums up her character.
Rose's affair with the much younger Alex is at the core of the plot as Webber explores the many "aspects of love."
Enter the first complication,  Alex's Uncle George who discovers the couple in his villa and also becomes beguiled by Rose.
Kirk Lawrence plays George Dillingham,  the uncle, with sophistication and charm and eventually, Rose falls in love with, and marries him.  Lawrence also gets to show off his vocal talents in duets with Browning in "She'd Be Far Better Off With You" and "The First Man You Remember" with his daughter Jenny played by Kathryn Ott. He particularly shines in his solo "Other Pleasures," as he sings to a young Jenny.
Jenny is played by two actresses.
Jenny at 12 is played by Kathryn Majesky. Her playful, innocent Jenny is delightful to watch as she sings the "Mermaid Song" with her cousin  Alex.
Jenny at 15 is played by Kathryn Ott whose Jenny is capricious and flirtatious with Alex. Her clear soprano shines in the father/daughter duet, "The First Man You Remember."
The feelings that develop between Jenny and Alex, add another level of depth to the story as Alex fights his feelings. Browning demonstrates his acting is on par with his singing in these scenes.
Another of the lovers in this complicated plot is “Giulietta,” an Italian sculptress, who is involved with George at the beginning of the story and remains his friend throughout his life. Anita Lewis plays this sensual beauty with a zest for life to perfection. Her vocals have a sultry, earthy quality to them that is captivating. Her solo, "There is More to Love," showcases her talent and her powerful rendition of the rousing "Hand Me the Wine and the Dice" at George's wake in the final act is stirring and poignant.
Another steadfast friend is Rose's manager, Marcel, who is there for her throughout her ups and downs in life. Jason Denlinger plays Marcel with subtlety, giving the impression that her too loves Rose. He finally gets to show off his vocal skills in "Leading Lady" in the second act.
Other supportive characters are Kathy Becker as George's housekeeper and Michael Contreras as Hugo, Rose's friend.
In addition, an ensemble cast backs up the key players throughout the production.  They are Eric Hassell, Brandon Kegerize, Gabrielle V. Lewis, Luis Pagan-Anderson, Pat Rehr, and Amy L. Serhienko.
Underlying the superb vocals was music by a fine orchestra that never overpowered the performers.
The production was directed by Christopher Sperat, with music direction by Dave Neel and choreography by Amanda Leam Guistwite,
The setting, put together in cooperation with the museum staff, plus hors d’oeuvres and dessert, offered a unique evening of theater that is worth experiencing. Unfortunately, the 3-day run is over, and you'll probably have to wait until next summer to  try it out.

Next up at Genesius in the theater at 10th & Walnut streets in Reading is "I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Change." It opens Sept. 16. and runs through Sept. 25.  For more information, visit

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Alpha/Omega Players auditions for 'Once On This Island' Aug. 28

 The Alpha/Omega Players will hold public auditions on Sunday, August 28  at 1 p.m. for the hit Broadway musical "Once On This Island.'   The show has book and lyrics by Lynn Ahrens and music by Stephen Flaherty.  The Players are looking for a cast of 14-16 men and women ages 14 and up and 1 girl age 8 - 12. All must be strong singers and move/dance well.  There is no audition fee and no prepared audition is needed.  All roles are open and available.  Everyone who auditions should come prepared for a movement/dance audition.  For more information you can contact the Players at 610-404-4849 or on the web at   Production dates are November 25, 26, 27, December
2, 3, 4, 2011

'Love' is in the air this weekend

Genesius Theatre presents Andrew Lloyd Weber’s "Aspects of Love" this weekend (August 19-21) in the Reading Public Museum’s Atrium for a concert performance of the musical that many call his greatest score to date. Featuring the song, “Love Changes Everything,” this show proves that it certainly does, often in the most unexpected ways. Get your tickets early! This event has sold out for the last two years…we’d hate to turn you away!
Spanning three generations, this bold and ambitious chamber opera, heralded by critics as “a masterpiece” and a “triumph”, explores the landscape of the human heart. The Genesius production stars acclaimed singer/actress Maria Damore as “Rose Vibert”, a tempestuous French actress whose affair with young “Alex Dillingham” (played by Genesius favorite Jon Browning) sets the plot in motion. Genesius leading man Kirk Lawrence is featured as “George”, Alex’s worldly uncle, and Anita Lews recreates her performance of “Giulietta”, a role she played in the Berks County premiere of the show in 2003. Kathryn Majewsky and Katie Ott share the role of “Jenny Dillingham”.

With direction by Christopher Sperat, music direction by Dave Neel and choreography by Amanda Leam Guistwite, "Aspects Of Love" promises to be theatrical event of the summer.

Doors open at 7 p.m. for the 8 p.m. show on Friday and Saturday and at 6 p.m. for the 7 p.m. show on Sunday.

Tickets are $35 each, including hors d’oeuvres. Cash bar available. For tickets and more info, visit  or call 610-373-9500.

Monday, August 8, 2011

RCT's 'Spelling Bee' is H-I-L-A-R-I-O-U-S

Photos by Jeff  Cusano
By Cheryl Thornburg
If you're in need of a good laugh, Reading Civic Theatre is serving up lots of them in its current production, "The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee."
An outstanding ensemble cast brings this Tony Award-winning musical comedy to outrageously over-the-top life, guaranteed to make even the grumpiest person chuckle, if not guffaw.
Set in a county spelling bee at Putnam Valley Middle School, somewhere USA,  the show features six unique and awkward adolescents vying for the title and a chance to go to the national competition. The three adults in charge are just as quirky as the "youngsters."
The Spellers
Angela DeAngelo is a triple threat as Olive Ostrovsky, an insecure young girl who keeps hoping her absentee parents will turn up. DeAngelo's powerful vocals are showcased in "The I Love You Song" and "My Friend the Dictionary." Her comedic timing and acting create an extremely likable Olive that has the audience rooting for her.
One of her main competitors is William Barfee, played with flair by Jamie Richard, who delivers the know-it-all Barfee with delightful obnoxiousness.
Heidi Carletti plays a different kind of know-it-all,  the super-achieving Marcy Park, who placed 9th in the national competition the previous year. Carletti also is the whole package with a great voice and comedic acting ability. Her song "I Speak Six Languages" sums up her character pretty well.
 A lot less secure is Logainne SchwartzandGrubenierre, whose two dads are constantly giving her advice. Delivered with a delightful lisp, Marisa Hoover's Logaine is sweet and charming, evoking sympathy from the audience, as well as lots of laughs.
Corey Buller is over-the-top as the almost indescribable Leaf Coneybear, a youngster who makes his own clothes (including a cape) and can't seem to sit still, but super-focuses to spell the words. Buller's interpretation of Leaf will make you laugh.
Even more over-the-top is Caleb Seip as Chip Toleration, last year's county spelling bee winner. His Chip is overly confident (cocky in more than one sense of the word) and superbly funny. Always in character, expect anything from this talented comedian.
The Staff
Jason Denlenger, channeling Bret Michaels, is perfect as the bad boy Mitch Mahoney, serving as monitor for the Bee as part of his community service. Denlenger is a talented comedic actor, but also has a great voice as shown in "Prayer of The Comfort Counselor" and "The I Love You Song."
Stan Durlack creates a memorable Vice Principal Douglas Panch, whose weaknesses and idiosyncrasies surface as the Bee progresses.
Rounding out the staff  is Danelle Wagner as Rona Lisa Perth, a long-ago Bee winner, now in charge of the Putnam County Spelling Bee.  Her obsession with the Bee and her former glory is clear in the numbers "Rona's Moment (1, 2 & 3)"  and as she adds hilarious commentary on the techniques of each of the spellers.
In addition to the nine cast members (some of whom play multiple roles), four audience members are drafted to participate in the spelling bee, adding an element of improvisation for the cast as well as the draftees.
Put all of these talented actors together and you get a laugh-filled afternoon or evening. Note that this is an adult cast playing children. Some of the the humor in this show is adult fare done mostly with gestures and innuendo (Think Shakespeare's bawdier scenes), and so it may not be suitable for young children.
The show is directed by Bruce Schonour, assisted by Jeanette DeAngelo. Choreography is by Anne Burkot.
RCT's "The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee" continues Aug. 12-13. Thanks to a partnership with Alvernia University,  performances are at the Alvernia Montessori School (St. Anthony's Auditorium), 211 Grace St., Reading.  Located off Lancaster Avenue, the auditorium is easy to find and there is ample parking.
Tickets are available by calling the ticket line 610-373-3311. Friday and Saturday performances are at 8 p.m. and Sunday matinees are at 3 p.m. For information call 610-375-7482 or visit

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Powerful performances in FCT's 'Aida' make it worth the trip to Fleetwood; Final performance Aug. 7, 2 p.m.

Aida, played by Nichole McFarlane, is escorted by an Egyptian soldier. 
Aida and Radames share a kiss.
By Cheryl Thornburg
If you're anywhere near Berks County today (Aug.7), consider taking a trip back in time with Fleetwood Community Theatre's final performance of  "Aida."
Elton John and Tim Rice’s contemporary musical demands dynamic leads and director Debbi Silas has put together a cast that more than meets those demands.
Nichole McFarlane seems to have been born to play the regal Nubian princess Aida who has been captured by the Egyptians and put into slavery. She is Aida from head to toe. Her vocals range from poignant to powerful as she delivers some of the shows most memorable songs, "Elaborate Lives," "Written in the Stars," and "The Gods Love Nubia."
The show features many duets, and matching McFarlane note for note is Jonathan Quier as Radames, the  Egyptian soldier who captured her and falls in love with her, despite being betrothed to the Egyptian princess Amneris.
Quier brings passion and depth to his version of Radames, whether  singing a love song with Aida or challenging his powerful and manipulative father, Zoser, played by David Hornberger, in "Like Father, Like Son."
Completing the classic love triangle is Allyson Horn as Amneris. Horn sets the tone for the show with the opening song, "Every Story Is a Love Story," and from the first note it is obvious she can handle the role. Her upbeat delivery of "My Favorite Suit," is fun and flirty set against the backdrop of an Egyptian fashion show.
Another of the show's duets, "How I Know You," features McFarlane and James Damore as Mereb, the clever Nubian slave who seems to get things done. Damore's tenor rings true as he tells Aida he knows her real identity. He also shows a flair for comedy as the well-intentioned Mereb, who can't quite keep a secret.
Deborah Anne D'Haiti makes the most of her supporting role as Nehebka, another Nubian slave who sacrifices herself for her princess.
Rounding out the ensemble cast are  Caitlin Cavallomagno, Olivia Damore, Ashley Frankhouser, Kelly Klick, Rebekah Thomas, Donna Torres, Jessica Wolf, Ausjoli Colon, Anna Heitman, George Benjamin, David Erb, Dean Fichthorn, Brian Miller, David Mote, Will Patti, and Lance Thomas.
In addition to director Debbi Silas, production staff includes Christopher D. Hoster music director; Jenni Juntunen, costumer; Jeanette DeAngelo, assistant director; Tara Sands, production manager; and Micah Wentzel, master carpenter.
The final performance of "Aida" is today (Sunday Aug. 7) at 2 p.m. at Fleetwood Area High School, 809 N. Richmond Street, Fleetwood. Tickets are $12 for adults and $10 for Students/Seniors and can be purchased at the door or by calling 610-944-3610.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

'Spelling Bee' opens in Reading this weekend

READING — Reading Civic Theatre in conjunction with Alvernia University presents "The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee" August 5-6, 12-13 at Alvernia Montessori School (St. Anthony's Auditorium), 211 Grace St., Reading.

The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee is a one-act musical comedy conceived by Rebecca Feldman with music and lyrics by William Finn, a book by Rachel Shein0kin and additional material by Jay Reiss. The show centers around a fictional spelling bee set in a geographically ambiguous Putnam Valley Middle School. Six quirky adolescents compete in the Bee, run by three equally-quirky grown-ups.

The 2005 Broadway production, directed by James Lapine was nominated for six Tony Awards, winning two, including Best Book.

The RCT cast includes Danelle Wagner as Rona Lisa Perth, Stan Durlack as Vice Principal Douglas Panch, Jason Denlenger as Mitch Mahoney, Angela DeAngelo as Olive Ostrovsky, Jamie Richard as William Barfee, Marisa Hoover as Logainne Schwartz and Grubenierre, Heidi Carletti as Marcy Park, Corey Buller as Leaf Coneybear, and Caleb Seip as Chip Toleration.

Tickets are available by calling the ticket line 610-373-3311. Friday and Saturday performances are at 8 p.m. and Sunday matinees at 3 p.m. For information call 610-375-7482 or visit

Get more local theater news on Curtain Call at

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Fleetwood Community Theatre presents "Aida" August 4-7

Fleetwood Community Theatre  is bringing the contemporary musical "AIDA" to Berks County on August 4, 5, 6, and 7. Elton John and Tim Rice’s pop-rock score is a modern crowd pleaser. A classic tale of timeless love between an Egyptian Soldier and the Nubian princess he enslaves.

The story begins in modern day. The star-crossed lovers encounter one another in the Egyptian exhibit at a local museum, and spark the spirit of Amneris (played by Allyson Horn) to begin the telling of the tale. Quickly, we are taken to ancient Egypt. Radames (Jonathan Quier) has just returned from a mission in the rival country of Nubia. He and his soldiers have captured more of the Nubian people, and among them is the Princess Aida (Nichole McFarlane Hunsberger). Radames is intrigued by her strength and stature. She is not the usual frightened slave. She speaks her mind. Because of his interest in her he does not submit her to the mines, but instead gives her to his betrothed, Princess Amneris, as a maidservant.
Aida is introduced to the princess at the baths. Here the audience learns that Amneris is the typical princess... a material girl. We are given a full out runway show of Amneris’ closet with fabulous costumes designed by Jenni Juntunen. Aida, no stranger to the finer things, easily befriends Amneris because of her knowledge of fine fabrics and style. Amneris has no idea that they share a title. Both are unaware that they are in love with the same man. Upon learning of the affair, Amneris makes the decision to send the traitor and his love to face death together.
This musical includes high-spirited dancing, multi-cultural casting, and powerful vocals. Directed by Debra Silas, the cast promises to be standout in Berks County theatre. Christopher D. Hoster, makes his Music Directing debut with Fleetwood this year, and has done a remarkable job. The choreography of Irving Gonzales appears on FCT’s stage in “Dance of the Robes” and “Strongest Suit.”
Other performers include: David Hornberger as Zoser; James Damore as Mereb; Deborah Anne D'Haiti as Nehebka; Caitlin Cavallomagno, Olivia Damore, Ashley Frankhouser, Kelly Klick, Rebekka Thomas, Donna Torres, Jessica Wolf, Ausjoli Colon, Anna Heitman, George Benjamin, David Erb, Dean Fichtorn, Brian Miller, Will Patti, and Lance Thomas.
In March of 1999, the song “Written in the Stars” Stars", a duet by Elton John and country star Lee Ann Rimes, become a breakout hit. It stayed at number two on the Billboard charts for four weeks. 

AIDA was an instant audience favorite. It received 5 Tony nominations, winning for Best Original Score, Best Actress in a Musical and Best Lighting Design. The show also won the 2001 Grammy for Best Musical Show Album.
The idea of doing AIDA was discussed for several years. In past years, we’ve chosen our summer musical well. We’ve done things differently: we’ve chosen shows that haven’t been overdone, but we’ve also done the popular and well known. AIDA was one we knew had been tackled by many of the local High Schools, but not recently by a community group. We like being innovative and original at FCT. It is what being artistic is all about.” said FCT’s Production Manager, Tara Sands. “The cast is brilliant. Our directors had a vision and they’ve stuck to it. They chose very, very talented individuals and created one heck of an ensemble.”
Fleetwood Community Theatre is a not-for-profit 501(c)(3) volunteer organization of theatre lovers currently planning their 24th season. FCT is committed to the education and development of their membership within the theatre arts program by offering opportunities to all ages both on-stage and behind the scenes. As an outlet of quality musical, dramatic and ensemble productions, it encourages and supports local youth to pursue performing arts opportunities through school, church, collegiate or other local productions.
Fleetwood Community Theatre’s production of Elton John and Tim Rice’s "AIDA" is at the Fleetwood Area High School, 809 N. Richmond Street, Fleetwood, PA. Four performances are scheduled: evening performances on Thursday August 4th and Friday August 5th at 7:30 PM. Saturday August 6th and Sunday August 7th performances are matinees at 2 in the afternoon. Tickets are $12 for adults and $10 for Students/Seniors and can be purchased at the door or by calling 610-944-3610.


Auditions for "Cabaret" for the Forge Theatre November production will be held Sunday August 7 at 2 PM and Monday August 9 at 7 PM at the theater, 241 First Avenue in Phoenixville.
Performances will be November 4, 5, 11, 12, 13, 17, 18, 19, and December 1, 2, 3, 2011.
(no performances Thanksgiving weekend)
For details, go to the website,