Tuesday, June 26, 2012

'A Pirate's Life' is definitely 'see-worthy' for family fun

By Cheryl Thornburg
If you're looking for something fun and different to do with your children or grandchildren, check out Reading Community Theatre's production of “A Pirate’s Life for Me,” an original children's musical written by Reading-area natives, Landon Scott Heimbach (book and lyrics) and Ray Rhoads (music).
This is a high-energy interactive show that is great family entertainment.
Young actors age 7 to 14 ask the audience for advice throughout the 45 minute show.
“A Pirate’s Life or Me” is the story of Penny, a young girl who wants to become a pirate in a male dominated pirate world. Alex Goshert plays Penny with a likable spunk as she meets the challenges thrown at her by the “pirate” crew.She shines in her solo, “Most Girls.”
The pirates are lead by Panayioti (Pete) Clauser, as Porter, who is determined to keep a girl from becoming a pirate.
The title song, “A Pirate's Life for Me” is catchy and the kids on stage and in the audience seem to love it.
The pirate crew includes Aidan Wahl, Colleen Gieringer, Darian Bornmann, Emily Madsen, Julian Morales, Lily Moyer, Maggie Perfect, Sammy Sanoval, Sharon Borkey, Sophia Mattes and Venise Reid.
Director Debbi Silas has rounded up an enthusiastic and talented young cast that is definitely “see-worthy.” They each get a turn to show what they can do in “The Pirate Requirements.”
Silas also takes the stage as one of the two grown-ups in the show. She plays Aunt Peneloe and Christine Maziarz plays Mom.
Remaining shows are June 29 and 30 at 7:30 p.m. and July 1 at 3 p.m. at Reading Community Players Theatre, 403 North 11th St. in Reading. There is a free shuttle to and from the theater from the parking lot on 12th Street between Buttonwood and Elm streets.
Tickets for each performance are $8 and are available by calling 610-375-9106 or online at www.ReadingCommunityPlayers.com.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Genesius’ ‘Miss Saigon’ -- a night at the theater you won't forget

By Cheryl Thornburg
Bryon Smith and Rachel Pereira in "Miss Saigon"
There are many amazing moments in Genesius Theatre’s production of  “Miss Saigon,” but the one that will stay with me forever is the opening song of the second act, “Bui Doi,” sung by Chris Sperat and the best male chorus I have ever heard in a community theater production.  The song title, which translates to “dust of life” refers to the mixed-race children left behind after the American soldiers left Vietnam.  The powerful music and poignant lyrics, backed by projected images of these children, gave me goose bumps.
“Miss Saigon,” is basically a love story set in 1975 at the end of the Vietnam War. Based on Puccini's opera, “Madame Butterfly,” it has all the power, emotion and tragedy of a classic opera, but it also has more theatrical musical numbers and choreography that bring it to the highest level of modern musicals.
Penned by the same team that created “Les Miserables,” “Miss Saigon” is filled with exquisite and challenging music and it takes a stellar cast to pull it off.
Director L J Fecho has found and melded just such a cast. There is palpable chemistry and cohesion as these characters interact.
Rachel Pereira has both the vocal and acting talent to create a memorable Kim, the young, orphaned teen who has just started working as a bar girl in a club that caters to American soldiers. As she is trying to adjust to her new situation, she catches the attention of Chris, a Marine who has been brought to the club by his friend John.
Chris, played by Bryon Smith, is captivated by Kim and they spend the night together, a night that changes both their lives. Smith has a spectacular voice that fills the theater with exquisite anguish as he sings, ‘Why God, Why.”  When he realizes he is leaving Vietnam right away, he tries, unsuccessfully, to bring her with him. He comes across as the ultimate good guy.
Irving Gonzalez as The Engineer with
some of the bar-girls
In contrast, Irving Gonzalez is a bad guy you love to hate as The Engineer, who cons young women into working for him in his club.  Gonzalez seems to relish the role, delivering great lines with a devilish gleam in his eye, and great songs like “If You Want to Die in Bed” and “The American Dream” with an equally devilish spark.
Brandon Kegerize also plays a character with an edge, Thuy, the young man who was betrothed to Kim by arrangement of their parents. When he comes to the club to rescue her, she spurns him and three years later in Bangkok, she rejects him again. Kegerize does a great job slowly building his rage that eventually erupts into a deadly scene.
Christopher Sperat, mentioned earlier, plays John, Chris’ best friend who becomes involved with the movement to help the children left behind, which sets the stage for the poignant and powerful second act, as he and Chris, and Chris’ wife, Ellen, arrive in Bangkok, where Kim, her son Tam, and the Engineer are now living.
Jennifer Parker Scott plays Ellen, and shines in the ballad, “Now That I’ve Seen Her.”
Another stand-out is  Elizabeth Cooper as Gigi who really gets the audience involved with “The Movie In My Mind” in the first act.
The other key player is Marianna Ott, who plays Tam, Kim and Chris’ young son. The mother–son scenes are the most tender and moving in the show.
There is a first-rate ensemble cast with accomplished singers and dancers to back up and interact with the key players.
The set for this production, designed by L J Fecho and Kyle Feltenberger, is ingenious, complex and massive. It makes Saigon itself another character in the show.
The choreography by Rachael Hart ranges from seductive to aggressive, capturing the different sides of Saigon in 1975. Pulling this off on such a small stage, is masterful.
Music director Kevin Cooper, who wowed the audiences in “The Man of La Mancha,” stays backstage this time around, conducting the unseen orchestra that is that foundation for  Claude-Michel Schonberg's music.
This production is filled with great lighting and sound effects, particularly in the fall of Saigon scene at the American embassy.
Genesius has once again managed to take an epic show, often produced on a huge stage, and make it work in the intimate setting of its 100-seat theater.
“Miss Saigon” runs through July 1 at Genesius Theatre, 153 Walnut St., (10th and Walnut streets) in Reading. To purchase tickets with all major credit cards and get more information visit the website at www.genesiustheatre.org or call 610-373-9500 to purchase tickets with credit cards only. For more information, contact the theater at 610-371-8151. Tickets range from $15 to $25 and credit card fees apply.  Genesius Theatre is handicap accessible and there is free parking aside of the theater (limited spaces available).  The production is rated PG-13 – Adult Situations and Language.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

'Miss Saigon; opens Friday at GenesiusTheatre in Reading

Genesius Theatre's production of  "Miss Saigon" opens Friday June 22 and runs through July 1 at the theater located at 10th and Walnut streets in Reading. 

This epic love story, set in war-torn Saigon in 1975 and one of the most stunning theatrical spectacles of all time, centers on the romance between a strong-willed Vietnamese woman and an American soldier during the Vietnam War.
  Tickets are available online at Tix.com  or by calling 610-373-9500 for tickets with credit card or 610-371-8151 for non credit card reservations or for questions or show times.

Young pirates take over Reading Community Players

Reading Community Players Theatre presents the Reading premiere of  "A Pirate’s Life for Me," an original Children's Musical written by Reading area natives, Landon Scott Heimbach (book and lyrics) and Ray Rhoads (music). Debbi Silas directs the cast of local performers aged 7-14.

"A Pirate’s Life for Me" follows the journey of Penny, a young girl on her quest to become a pirate in a male dominated pirate world. Through perseverance, hard work and determination, she attempts to prove she is a worthy pirate candidate. Will she triumph in her crusade? Could she possibly even become the Pirate Queen? The answers to these questions and more will be revealed during the 45 minute fun-filled production.
"A Pirate’s Life for Me" is intended for the entire family. The production is interactive, so please feel free to dress as a pirate and be prepared to participate or risk having to walk the plank!
The production plays June 22, 23, 29 and 30 at 7:30 p.m. and June 24 and July 1 at 3 p.m. at Reading Community Players Theatre, 403 North 11th St., Reading. There is a free shuttle to and from the theatre from the parking lot at The Citadel, at 12th and Walnut streets.
Tickets for each performance are $8 and are available by calling 610-375-9106 or online at www.ReadingCommunityPlayers.com.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

‘Hairspray’ shines the spotlight on young performers as well as segregation in the ’60s

Photo by John Daggett
 By Cheryl Thornburg

 A talented cast, backed by an equally talented orchestra, brings back 1962 Baltimore with its upbeat music and its downside – segregation  – in Steel River Playhouse’s current production, “Hairspray.”
The show focuses on the “reality” TV of the time – dance shows featuring local teens  – and Tracy Turnblad, a plump young lady whose got the moves and auditions to be on The
Corny Collins Show, an all-white dance show, except on Negro Day, when there’s an all-black show. Despite objections from the show’s shrewish producer, Tracy joins the cast and sets the stage for a social revolution.
To make this show work, you need a great “Tracy” and Nicole Bright is perfect for the role of the bubbly, big-hearted teen. Her likeability factor is through the roof and she can sing and dance. Noteworthy are her renditions of  “I Can Hear the Bells” and “Mama, I’m A Big Girl Now.”
Matt Kiesling meets her measure for measure as the show’s suave heartthrob, Link Larkin.  He exudes charm and confidence, but also shows Link’s sensitive side. He shows off his vocal skills in his duet with Tracy, “Without Love.”
The show’s star, Corny Collins, is played by Greg Kasander with just enough over-the-top enthusiasm and a perpetual smile to evoke memories of other dance show emcees.
Donna Dougherty is the villainess you love to hate as Velma Von Tussel, the pushy, self-centered producer of the show and mother of the show’s equally self-centered teen heroine, Amber, played by Julia Tyminski. The pair has some hilarious scenes and seem to relish their roles.
Showing off some stellar dance moves is Willie Garner as Seaweed J. Stubbs, who teaches them to Tracy when the two meet in detention. His younger sister,  Li’l Inez, is played with flair by Cierra Fekelman. She has a smile and spark that makes her stand-out on stage.
One of the show-stopping standouts though, is Britney Hines as Motormouth Maybelle, who hosts a radio show. She is a force to be reckoned with.  Her power and range are memorable in “Big, Blond, and Beautiful,” and “I Know Where I’ve Been.”
Bob Goretski is outrageously funny and fun to watch as Tracy’s mother, Edna Turnblad, particularly in scenes with her husband, Wilbur, played by Bill Kiesling.
Jordan Popky turns in a performance as Penny Pingleton, Tracy’s best friend, that channels everyone’s best friend.
Another highlight of the show is the trio, The Dynamites Alexa Morefield, Gabrielle Hines and Jordan Shoemaker, who deliver “Welcome to The 60s” in slinky red gowns.
Jennifer Dinan is a triple threat nailing her three roles as Penny’s mother Prudy Pingleton; the gym teacher and the jail matron.
The cast also includes Breyanna Clark, Casey Cloonan, DeQuan Washington, Drew Carr, Eric Thompson, Holly Hoover, Madison Devlin, Madison Dietrich, Mardije Pearson, Matt Corson, Mike Styer, Nancy Dolan, Rikki Etter, TJ Galamba, and AJ Giruzzi.
Zuhairah McGill, who directed the poignant and unforgettable “Ain’t Misbehavin’”    delivers another great theater production that’s entertaining as well as educational to the Steel River Playhouse.
The show’s 60s setting is unfamiliar to most of the cast, crew and audience.  Only about one quarter of Sunday’s audience got the jokes about Eddie Fisher, green stamps and the Gabor sisters. The story educates younger audience members about segregation as it was practiced 50 years ago and how things began to change.
The title, “Hairspray,” which refers to the mile-high hairstyles of the era, doesn’t reflect that aspect of the show.  It is much more than a fluffy romp through  60’s styke music and its worth the trip to downtown Pottstown.
The show runs Thursdays through Sundays through June 24 at the Steel River Playhouse (formerly Tri-County Performing Arts Center - Tri-PAC),  245 E. High Street in Pottstown. Tickets are $13 to $23, with discounts for groups of 10 or more. Visit www.steelriverplayhouse.org to buy tickets online or call the box office at 610-970-1199.