Wednesday, November 30, 2011

'A Christmas Story' comes to Pottstown

  The classic holiday tale, "A Christmas Story" previews Thursday Dec. 1 and  runs weekends through December 18.  at  the Tri-County Performing Arts Center at 245 E. High St. in Pottsown. Ralphie wants a  Red Ryder BB gun for Christmas.  In the weeks before the big holiday, Ralphie and his friends and family get into all kinds of sticky situations – including a bully with yellow eyes, a tongue stuck to a lamp post, a bar of soap in the mouth, a garish major award, and a Chinese Christmas dinner. The play is based on humorist Jean Shepherd’s novel “In God We Trust, All Others Pay Cash.”
  The cast includes Geoffrey Berwind, Andrea Frassoni, Steve Reazor, Michele Bolay, Ben Williams, David Helmer, Carter Niness, Nathan Esser, Josiah Swenson, Sebastian Coates, Alex Tomarelli, William Bell, Xander Dake, Olivia Swenson, Jenna Tomarelli, Hannah Paczkowski and Lauren Esser.
  Tickets are available online at or will be sold at the door if space is available.  Ticket prices range from $13 to $21, with discounts for students and seniors as well as groups of 10 or more.  For full information check  or call the theater at 610-970-1199.  You will also find information on the website about the rest of the upcoming 2011 – 2012 season, which includes musicals, plays, dance and more,

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Sound of Music opens at Genesius Friday

 One of the best-loved musicals of all time, "The Sound of Music" opens Friday at Genesius Theatre in Reading.  The show runs through Dec. 11. For a sneak peek, check out this rehearsal video:

 For tickets and more information visit the Genesius Website at or call the Genesius Reservation Hot-Line at 610-373-9500.   The theatre is located at 10th and Walnut streets in Reading.  Genesius has free parking next to the theater, just off 10th Street and is handicap accessible.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

RCP's 'The House of Yes' is a positively devious and delightful dark comedy

Seated: Kathy Newville; from left, Josh Austin, Gabrielle Lewis, Jon Browning and Kelly Schmehl
By Cheryl Thornburg
  If you like your comedy on the dark side, then Reading Community Players current production, "The House of Yes" could be right up your alley -- actually I should say right near THE Kennedy estate.
  Set in the Pascals' well-to-do home in suburban Washington D.C. on Thanksgiving Day two decades after JFK was assassinated, the play focuses on a family that takes the word dysfunctional to a whole new level.
  From the onset, it is easy to see that Jackie O, the daughter who has recently been released from a mental hospital, is the ringmaster in this bizarre household.  She is used to getting her way, and when she doesn't, there's hell to pay.
  Played to creepy perfection by Gabrielle Lewis, Jackie O has to be one of the most devious and deviant characters I've seen on stage in a long time. Her obsession with JFK's assassination, right down to dressing up as the real Jackie Kennedy, shows a deeply disturbed young woman. (Kudos to  costume designer Debbi Silas -- the pink suit and pillbox hat are right on.)
  But that just scratches the surface of her depravity -- her obsession with her twin brother, Marty, and their longstanding sexual relationship, are at the heart of the conflict inside the house while a hurricane rages outside.
   Jon Browning, veteran of many local musical theater productions, shows he's much more than a great voice.  He brings a sensitivity to the conflicted young man who is trying to break free from the unnatural relationship with his twin sister and just wants to be "normal."  When he arrives at the family home in the middle of the storm with his new fiancee, Lesly, tensions arise that are palpable.
  Kelly Elizabeth Schmehl plays Lesly, the young woman who doesn't meet the family's standards. Schmehl is particularly good in her interchanges with Jackie O as the two trade snappy retorts.
Gabrielle Lewis, Kelly Schmehl
  Lesly to Jackie: I don't think you're insane, I think you're just spoiled.
  Jackie: If everyone around here is going to start telling the truth, I'm going to bed.
  And playwright Wendy MacLeod's  dialogue is what makes this play special. Laughter ripples through the audience  as actors deliver one great line and comeback after another.
  Getting some of the best of those lines is Kathy Newville as Mrs. Pascal, mother of the twins and their younger brother, Anthony.  And Newville makes the most of them, with perfect timing to allow the audience to savor each one.
  As an appetizer, when accused of spying on her children, she replies, "A mother doesn't spy. A mother pays attention."
  Rounding out this quirky family is Josh Austin as the closer-to-normal younger brother, Anthony. Austin seems very natural on stage, bringing  a believability to his character in the midst of the more damaged family members.
  It is hard to imagine that a play with incest as a major part of its plot could be funny, but "The House of Yes" is just that  -- a very dark comedy that explores amorality  -- and as MacLeod herself described  is "about people who have never been said no to.”
  When director Ray Rhoads mentioned in his opening speech that the cast had had less than two weeks to rehearse together, I braced myself for a disappointing experience -- but Rhoads and his cast delivered a polished and satisfying performance -- one that is worth your time and money.
  As mentioned before the play includes issues, including incest, that make it not suitable for younger audiences.
  “The House of Yes” continues weekends through Nov. 20 at Reading Community Players located at 403 N. 11th St. in Reading. Friday and Saturday shows are at 8 p.m. and Sunday matinees at 3 p.m. Tickets are $15 for adults, $10 for seniors and $8 for students.
  A free shuttle service is provided from the 13th and Green Elementary School parking lot.
For more information, call 610-375-9106; email: or go to the website at

For up-to-date local theater happenings, follow me on Twitter @MercArtsCheryl

Monday, November 7, 2011

Domino Players' 'Arcadia' is thought-provoking theater at its best

By Cheryl Thornburg
  I just attended my first performance by Albright College's Domino Players and it won't be the last. The production of Tom Stoppard's "Arcadia" was stylish, polished -- superb. The play itself is challenging, with complex, fast-paced  dialogue -- done in an English accent -- and even more complex ideas to ponder.
  Set on a country estate in Derbyshire, England, Stoppard takes the audience on a journey between two eras -- 1809 and the present -- with a cast of fascinating characters trying to unravel the mysteries of life and the universe. 
  At the heart of the 1809 story is Thomasina Coverly, a gifted young lady, whose scientific theory is ahead of its time. Taylor Rae Cole is delightful as the precocious and bubbly young teen, with just the right hint of child becoming woman.
  Ryan McCarthy plays her tutor Septimus with ease, seemingly channeling an ancestor from two centuries ago. Whether being a doting teacher to Thomasina or a lover to the unseen Mrs. Chater, McCarthy is believable and charming, in a scoundrel sort of way.
  Making the most of a great part, Sheryl Smith adds a touch of humor to the seductive Lady Croom, Thomasina's mother.
  Devon Taylor  is spot-on as the cuckolded would-be poet, Ezra Chater, who is easily manipulated by Septimus.
  In the present day, Szalene Anthony delivers a first-rate performance as Hannah Jarvis, the author researching a hermit who lived on the property in the 19th century.
  Trying to get into her good graces to share research is glory-seeking Bernard Nightingale, played by Logan Toomey.  His Nightingale is appropriately devious as the academic who wants to prove that Lord Byron stayed at the estate.
  Jason Brown is also a standout as Valentine Coverly, a descendant of Thomasina's family, who is also exploring scientific pursuits.
  Rounding out the cast are Sheldon Carpenter as as Jellaby, Anthony DiCrecchio as Richard Noakes, Tyler Ryan as Captain Brice, Karina Grossman as Chloe Coverly, and John Tallarida as Gus and Augustus Coverly.
  Hats off to dialect coaches for this production, the English accents were not forced or overdone as often happens.
  Director  Jeffrey Lentz elicited professional performances from this student cast.  The set design by Cocol Bernal  seems simple, but it is elegant and sophisticated in evoking the essence of the country home and its garden. The costumes by Paula E. Trimpey also strike the right note in both centuries.
  It is easy to see why Albright was recently named one of the Top 25 Artistic Schools in the country by Newsweek.
  Unfortunately, Domino Players thought-provoking "Arcadia" with its exploration of truth, love, fame, and much more, ended  its run Sunday. But Domino Players have more in store for this season.
  The 24-Hour Theatre Project is set for Nov. 20 at 8 p.m. in which the Domino players  create, cast, rehearse, stage and perform a new work in just one day's time.
  On Dec. 6 and 8 at 7:30 p.m., the students from the theater department will showcase short plays by minimalist Samuel Beckett.
  In February, the Players will present "On the Verge" by Eric Overmeyer and in April, "A Streetcar Named Desire" by Tennessee Williams.
  To purchase tickets for future productions,  call the Albright College box office at 610-921-7547.
  The Center for the Arts is located on the Albright College campus at 13th and Bern Streets, Reading, Pa. For more information or disabled assistance, please call 610-921-7526, or visit

For a fun night out, come to 'Cabaret' at Penn State Berks

By Cheryl Thornburg
  A talented student cast  makes Penn State Berks' production of "Cabaret" an entertaining night out at a reasonable price.  The Tony-ward-winning show, first staged on Broadway in 1966, is filled with memorable music as well as disturbing reminders of what was happening in Germany in 1931.
  The musical, with its juxtaposition of the real world represented by the American writer, a boarding house owner and a Jewish fruit-shop vendor and the surreal atmosphere of the bawdy Berlin night club, the Kit Kat Klub, gives the audience a sense of the disturbing times as the Nazis are coming into power.
  Nick Freer turns in a dynamic performance as the Emcee, who from the opening number "Willkommen" commands the  stage and delivers sinfully good vocals throughout the production, particularly his version of "The Money Song" (Money Makes The World Go Around.)
  Providing the perfect foil to Freer's sinister Emcee is Patrick O'Neill as the naive writer, Cliff Bradshaw, who is captivated by the uninhibited atmosphere of the club and its star, Sally Bowles.
  Cat Whelan plays a multilayered Bowles, from  a flirtatious vixen to a woman who is seeking love and happiness. Her rendition of "Maybe This Time" is poignant and her "Cabaret" in the final act is powerful.
  The second love story, that of senior citizens Fraulein Schneider and Herr Schultz, is beautifully played by two first-year students, Ashanti Acosta and Noah Sanders.
  Acosta's Schneider is gentle and likable as she warms up to the attentions of Sanders' Herr Schultz.  Sanders shows promise as a fine character actor and definitely has a future in musicals. Their duet, "Married," is a beautiful counterpoint to some of the more raucous numbers in the show.
  Other notable performances come from Danielle Fitzgeorge as Fräulein Kost, a prostitute, and Alex Barskey  as Ernst Ludwig, a Nazi sympathizer. The two are featured prominently in "Tomorrow Belongs To Me," one of the most memorable songs from the production.
  A group of talented young singers, dancers and comedians round out the cast  --  Kevin King, Tiana Thomas, Katelyn Leets, Kate Knorr, DayDay Robinson, Regilynn Haywood, Ashleigh Levan and Nick Lewis.
  The show was directed by Cleo House, Jr., with Rob Napoli as technical director, Dave McConell as musical director and Jennifer Parker Scott, choreographer. 
  "Cabaret" continues  Nov. 10–­13 with Friday and Saturday performances at 8 p.m., and Sunday matinee at 2 p.m. in the Perkins Student Center Auditorium.
  For more information or to reserve tickets, call the Box Office at 610-396-6371.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

On stage in November

Coming up

READING -- 'House of Yes' at Reading Community Players
It’s Thanksgiving Day, 20 years after the JFK assassination, and the hurricane raging outside is outdone only by the storm brewing inside the Pascals’ affluent home. Marty has brought home a fiancée, and his twin sister, Jackie-O, isn’t pleased.
She enlists younger brother, Anthony, to divide and conquer, as Mama prepares to “baste the turkey and hide the kitchen knives” With the power out and the alcohol flowing, the family’s obsession with the Kennedy Assassination and Jackie’s even greater obsession with Marty are played out in a haunting and dangerous game.
“The House of Yes” opens Friday Nov. 11 at Reading Community Players located at 403 N. 11th St. in Reading and runs weekends through Nov. 20. Friday and saturday shows are at 8 p.m. and Sunday matinees at 3 p.m. For more information, call 610-375-9106; email: or go to the website at

POTTSTOWN -- Tri-County Performing Arts Center in Pottstown presents "Senior Follies – A Veterans’ Day Tribute" Saturday, Nov 12 at 7 p.m. and Sunday Nov 13 at 3 p.m. 

Our Senior Theater Performance Troupe celebrates our nation’s veterans with popular songs from the eras of the Civil War through World War II, and present a USO style show that will make you laugh and cry. Join our cast as they demonstrate the skills they have learned through music, drama and comedy, while paying tribute to those who have given so much for our freedom.
The show is appropriate for all ages. Tickets are $12, Students/seniors, $10 and children 12 & under $8. $2 discount for groups of 10 or more.

Genesius Theatre presents "The Music of Hollywood -- The Sequel" at the Reading Public Museum, 10 a.m. to noon. The performance is part of the Bagels, Bach & Beyond series sponsored by Alvernia University this year. Tickets  include the concert, a light breakfast and admission to the museum after the show. For more information visit or call 610-371-8151.  Seating is limited. To reserve your tickets, call 610-371-5850, Ext. 264. For a sneak preview check out


Alpha Omega Players, 301 E. First St., Birdsboro, present "Once on This Island" Nov. 25 through Dec. 4,, 610-404-4844

“Done to Death,” a mystery-comedy that takes audiences on a roller coaster ride of murder and mayhem, will be presented on Friday and Saturday, Nov. 12, at Perkiomen Valley High School, 509 Gravel Pike. Directed by Krista Yerkes and Bob Enters, this comedic look at old-time murder-mysteries will feature a student cast including Drew Welsh, Teddy Segal, Emily Fry, Nick Capriotti, Ashley Barasha and Ryan Myers.
Tickets will be $6 at the door.

Ephrata Performing Arts Center's Sharadin-Bigler Theater, Cocalico Street, Ephrata (717-733-7966)
"Evil Dead: The Musical"-- through Nov. 5
"The Vagina Monologues" -- Nov. 11  & 12

Hershey Theatre, 15 E. Caracas Ave., Hershey (717-534-3405)
"A Christmas Story, The Musical!" -- Nov. 8-13

“Anything Goes” presented by the King of Prussia Players  runs Nov. 4, 10 and 11 at 7:30 p.m. and Nov. 5 and 12 at 2 p.m, at Upper Merion Area Middle School, 450 Keebler Road in King of Prussia. Advance discount tickets are available at Reservations are not necessary for tickets at the door, which are $17 for adults, $12 for children and students under 18 or seniors 65 and older. Group rates (20 or more people) are available for all performances. For information, visit

“The Carpenter,” the story of a young man who arrives in a New England town and plies his trade as a woodworker, will be brought to the stage by high school students at West-Mont Christian Academy, 873 S. Hanover St.
The drama, which relates the story of carpenter Jeff Masters and the role he plays in the tangled lives of many of his neighbors, will be presented on Friday and on Saturday, Nov. 12.
Cast members are Matt Kenney, Becky Fanus, Kendra Nihart, Patrice Pfeiffer, Kara Cook, Nancy Wieder, Sam Fanus, Jacob Matters, Sam Kenney, Caleb Kambic and Andrew Fick.
Tickets are $10 and will be available at the door. Advance tickets can be purchased online at

Academy of Music, 1420 Locust St., Philadelphia (215-893-1999)
"Billy Elliot" -- Nov. 16-27

Arden Theatre Company, 40 N. Second St., Philadelphia (215-922-1122
"The Whipping Man" through Dec. 18

Plays and Players Theater, 1714 Delancey St., Philadelphia (215-735-7356)
1812 Productions presents "This Is the Week That Is" Nov. 25 through Dec. 31

Walnut Street Theatre, 825 Walnut St., Philadelphia
"The King and I" -- Nov. 8 through Jan. 8
Walnut Street Theatre continues its landmark 203rd season with an all-new production of Broadway’s Tony Award-winning family musical, Rodgers and Hammerstein’s "The King and I." The show previews on Nov. 8, opens on Nov. 16 and runs through Jan. 8th on the WST Mainstage For tickets and information, call 215-574-3550 or 800-982-2787. Tickets are also available online 24/7 by visiting or Ticketmaster.

Wilma Theater, 265 S. Broad St., Philadelphia (215-546-7824)
"Our Class" -- through Nov. 13

The Domino Players, Albright College, Center for the Arts, 13th & Bern streets.
"Arcadia" by Tom Stoppard  continues Nov. 3 – 5
All performances are at  8 p.m., except Sunday matinee, 2:30 p.m.,  at the Wachovia Theatre. Call the box office at (610) 921-7547 for prices/tickets.

Genesius Theatre presents "The Music of Hollywood -- The Sequel" at the Reading Public Museum, 10 a.m. to noon. Tickets  include the concert, a light breakfast and admission to the museum after the show. For more information visit or call 610-371-8151.  Seating is limited. To reserve your tickets, call 610-371-5850, Ext. 264.

Penn State Berks, Perkins Student Center Theater, Tulphocken Road, Wyomissing,
"Caberet" through Nov. 13.
 Tickets 610-396-6371

Reading Community Players, 403 N. 11th St. (610-375-9106)
"House of Yes" Nov. 11-20

Trinity Lutheran Church, 527 Washington St. (610-374-4861)
Fall Festival of the Arts presents "Such Stuff As Dreams Are Made Of," an evening of scenes from Shakespeare; 7:30 p.m. Nov. 4-5