Sunday, September 30, 2012

Genesius' 'Witness for the Prosecution' is a guilty pleasure

By Cheryl Thornburg

Genesius Theatre's current production "Witness For rhe Prosecution" is full of all the twists, turns and red herrings that you would expect from an Agatha Christie classic.
Set in a lawyer's office and the courtroom, we never meet the victim, Emily French, a wealthy older woman who was murdered in her home.
The accused, Leonard Vole, a younger man who befriended her, seeks advice from seasoned attorney, Sir Wildred Robarts, who is known for his skill in the courtroom.
Jon Browning, who has been featured in many local musicals, gets to show his acting chops in this thriller, where his life is on the line. Browning is spot-on throughout whether being earnest or angry or confused when his own wife betrays him on the stand.
Theater veteran, J. Nathan Oswell Plays the sly Sir Robarts with great timing and delivery, making me suspect that he was a lawyer in a former life.
Romaine Vole, Leonard's wife, is played with a cool sensuality by Julia Elberfeld. She commands the stage and keeps the audience guessing about what she is up to.
Heading up the prosecution is Mr. Myers played with skill by Stan Durlak as he verbally spars with Oswell in a classic courtroom rivalry.
Greg Harwell lords it over the proceedings as Mr. Justice  Wainwright, perched above everyone during the trial. Harwell's judge is fun to watch as he sits with amusement as the lawyers battle.
Christine Cieplinski plays Janet Mackenzie, the longtime housekeeper who claims to have heard Vole talking with the victim just before she was killed. Cieplinski gives a dynamite performance as this sometimes belligerant witness who might have her own reasons for wanting Emily French dead.
There are solid performances all around from Paul Delfin as Mr. Mayhew, Vole's original solicitor; Heidi Carletti as Greta, Sir Robarts' assistant; Luis Pagan-Anderson as Carter, a clerk; Kyle Felttenberger, as Inspector Hearne, Randy Gerber as Dr. Wyatt; Brian McMinimee as Officer Clegg; Tamara Wright as Clerk of Court and Heather Troxell as a young woman.
Director by Marjory Ewald has chosen her actors carefully and has guided them to slowly let Christie's fascinating characters unfold.
The play is fairly long and there are two intermissions. It is well worth the time to discover the Christie classic for the first time or enjoy it all over again.
“Witness For The Prosecution” continues through Oct.7 at Genesius Theatre, 153 Walnut St. (10th and Walnut streets) in Reading. To purchase tickets with all major credit cards and get more information please visit the website at or call 610-373-9500 to purchase tickets with credit cards only.
For more information contact the theater at 610-371-8151. Genesius Theatre is handicap accessible and there is free parking next to the theater (limited spaces available).

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Fleetwood Community Theatre’s Spaghetti and Song is the entertainment deal of the year

By Cheryl Thornburg

Katie Ott
It’s time for the best entertainment bargain of the year again—Fleetwood Community Theatre’s annual fundraiser, Spaghetti and Song. Where else can you get an all-you-can-eat spaghetti dinner and nonstop live performances for just $10?
This year’s show, “Love is in the Air” features a Berks County All-Star cast singing Broadway and pop songs about love. Rehearsals gave a sneak peek at some of the outstanding performances in store:
Katie Ott (Genesius; “Titanic, the Musical” and many others) sings  “One More Kiss” from “Follies.

Bob Aregood and Erin Aregood, (“Titanic, the Musical” and “Children of Eden”) perform a duet, “All the Wasted Time.”  Erin delivers the haunting “We Live on Borrowed Time” while Bob lightens the mood with “If You Love Me, Don’t Feed Me.”
Sarah Wisser
Other solo performers from “Titanic” include Pete Bourey ( “Love Remains”) and  Jason Denlinger, (“If I Can’t Love Her.”)
Sarah Wisser, who wowed audiences in Alpha Omega’s “Spring Awakening,” sings a soulful “How Do I Live.”
Angela DeAngelo, seen in FCT’s “Spelling Bee” and “Hairspray” in Allentown, shows her more serious side with the exquisite “On My Own,” from “Les Miserables.”

Amanda Hornberger featured in FCT’s “Children of Eden,” performs “I Won’t Say I’m in Love” and Nichi McFarland Hunsberger, who stunned audiences in the title role in “Aida,” gives her special touch to “Home” from “The Whiz.”

There’s also some great performances by some relative newcomers, including a smooth rendition of  “If I Loved You” by Gerry Thibou and a rousing performance of Donna Summer’s “Let’s Dance” by Debbi DiHaiti.
The cast also includes Jenni Juntunen, Paige Fenstermacher, Marissa Bubbenmoyer, Dave Hornberger, Matthew Phillips, Dave Erb, Ashley Frankhouser, Michelle Krueger, Casey Krueger, Donna Peters, Donna Torres, Matthew Hayes, Peter Laucks, Debbi Silas, Brian Miller and Haley Krueger.
The show is directed by Jeanette DeAngelo and  produced by Tara Sands. Phyllis Sands is the accompanist. Peter Laucks, in addition to performing, is head chef for the event.
With 30 performers there’s nonstop entertainment, and when they are not singing, they are serving you dinner. It all takes place in an intimate setting at the Social Hall of St. Paul’s UCC,  5 West Arch St., Fleetwood.
Spaghetti and Song is a two-night only fundraiser, Friday Sept. 28 and Saturday Sept. 29 from 5 to 8 p.m. Adults pay just $10, children (4-11) pay $8 and no-pasta dinners pay $8.
For reservations and tickets, call (610) 944-3610.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Steel River Playhouse’s ‘Next to Normal’ is extraordinary

Gregory Kasander, Steven Burke and Denise Webb in  "Next to Normal"              Photos by John Daggett
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Friday, September 14, 2012

'Next to Normal' opens today at Steel River Playhouse

Photos by John Daggett

The popular Tony- and Pulitzer Prize-winning musical, “Next to Normal,” is the highly anticipated 2012-13 season opener for Steel River Playhouse (formerly Tri-County Performing Arts Center, or Tri-PAC). Running for just six performances over two weekends (Sept. 14 through Sept. 23), “Next to Normal” is a compellingly honest story that is by turns comedic and moving.
A contemporary rock musical infused with a powerful story line, “Next to Normal” centers on the Goodmans – Dan, Diana, Gabe and Natalie – a seemingly “normal” family as real and recognizable as our own. Each is trying to take care of themselves and each other, wrestling to hold onto home, joy, commitment and love in the face of strong and subtle forces.
The magic of  “Next to Normal” is how much you care about the characters and their tenacity as they experience each day.
The New York Times called it a “brave, breath-taking musical,” and a “feel-everything musical.”
The Washington Post went so far as to say it”defines the modern American musical.”
Unlike traditional musicals comprised of discrete sections of dialogue and song, the thrilling musical numbers of  “Next to Normal” are woven seamlessly into the work and carry the plot forward organically.
A live orchestra supports the stellar cast of actor-singers, keeping up SteelRiver Playhouse’s longstanding commitment to high quality musicianship as an essential part of the musical theater experience.
“Next to Normal” is directed by Kevin Laibson, a New York-based producer and director who has been instrumental in encouraging and enabling artists and playwrights to take risks and keep theater original and powerful
Laibson says “Next to Normal” is about “... how hard people work to be together.” What makes the play so powerful, Laibson says, is “how much the audience will care about these characters, and how much their struggles will mean to everyone watching.”
The play will be performed in Steel River Playhouse’s intimate Newberry Loft, which will seat less than 100 people for each performance. Laibson believes that this setting will enhance the audience’s identification with the characters’ will to adapt to their lives and each other.
The cast includes Maddie Aicher, as the daughter, Natalie Goodman; Steven Burke as the son, Gabe Goodman; Drew Carr as Henry; Greg Kasander  as the father, Dan Goodman; Denise Webb as the mother, Diana Goodman; and Kevin Ray Johnson  as Dr. Madden.
“Next to Normal” will be performed on Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. Sept.  14, 15, 21 and 22 and Sundays at 3 p.m., Sept. 16 and 23 at Steel River Playhouse, 245 East High St., Pottstown. In addition, on Sunday, Sept. 16 following the performance audience members can ask questions of the director and cast during our Talkback.
The musical is directed by Kevin Laibson; music directed by Deborah Stimson-Snow.
Single ticket prices are Adults $19, Seniors (65+) $17 and Students/Children $15. There are two changes in ticketing policy this season; groups of 10 or more get a higher discount – $3 off per
ticket. And tickets bought online - - are the same price as tickets purchased at the box office.

Monday, September 3, 2012

On stage in September

POTTSTOWN -- Steel River Playhouse (formerly the Tri-County Performing Arts Center) presents the Tony- and Pulitzer Prize-winning contemporary rock musical “Next to Normal” at 245 E. High St. in Pottstown. Running for just six performances over two weekends (Sept. 14- 23), “Next to Normal” is a compellingly honest story that is by turns comedic and moving.
On Sunday, Sept. 16 following the performance, audience members may ask questions of the director and cast during a Talkback.
Single ticket prices are Adults $19, Seniors (65+) $17 and Students/Children $15. There are two changes in ticketing policy this season; groups of 10 or more get a higher discount – $3 off per ticket. And tickets bought online - - are the same price as tickets purchased at the box office. To buy your tickets online visit  You may also call the box office at 610-970-1199.

READINGGenesius Theatre continues its season of classics with Agatha Christie’s “Witness For The Prosecution” opening Sept. 27 at  Genesius Theatre, 153 Walnut St. (10th and Walnut streets). To purchase tickets with all major credit cards and get more information please visit the website at or call 610-373-9500 to purchase tickets with credit cards only. For more information contact the theater at 610-371-8151. Genesius Theatre is handicap accessible and there is free parking aside of the theater (limited spaces available).

FLEETWOOD ‑- Fleetwood Community Theater’s annual Spaghetti & Song, “Love Is in The Air,” fundraiser features entertainment and an all-you-can-eat spaghetti dinner Sept. 28 and 29 from 5- 8 p.m. at the Social Hall of St. Paul's UCC, 5 West Arch St., Fleetwood, Pennsylvania 19522. Dinner includes spaghetti with your choice of sauce, salad bar, garlic bread, dessert, and beverages. Adults pay just $10, Children (4-11) $8. For tickets, call (610) 944-3610.  With some of the area's best singer performing, plus a spaghetti dinner -- This is the entertainment bargain of the year.

Other area theater productions

Civic Theatre of Allentown, 527 N. 19th St., Allentown 18104  (610-432-8943)
Civic Theatre of Allentown will present a one-night only, staged reading of “8″ the new documentary play by Dustin Lance Black Sept. 8 at 8 p.m. for the benefit of and in partnership with the Pennsylvania Diversity Network. The Lehigh Valley premiere of this new play, which has been and will be produced in theaters and universities all over the country. A talk back will follow the performance to energize the discussion about marriage equality in the U.S.  “8″ demystifies the debate around marriage equality by chronicling the landmark trial of Perry v. Schwarzenegger. Learn about the historical context of marriage from expert testimony. See the human cost of discrimination. Uncover the arguments used to justify bans on marriage for gay and lesbian couples. Using the actual court transcripts from the landmark federal trial of California’s Prop. 8 and first-hand interviews, “8″ shows both sides of the debate in a moving 90-minute play. For tickets call the box office at 610-432-8943 or click the link below.

Pines Dinner Theatre, 448 N. 17th St., Allentown (610-433-2333) presents “The marvelous Wonderettes,”  featuring classic '50s songs. Sept. 7 – Oct. 28.


Act II Playhouse, Ambler presents “4 Lads from Liverpool,” a tribute to the Beatles Sept, 4-30. (215-654-0200) or

Act 1 presents “Arsenic and Old Lace,” Sept. 26 to Oct. 7 at DeSales University Center for Performing Arts, 2755 Station Ave, Center Valley, PA 18034 (610-282-3192)


Ephrata Performing Arts Center's Sharadin-Bigler Theater, Cocalico Street, Ephrata (717-733-7966) presents "The Night of the Iguana" Sept. 6-22


The Barley Sheaf Players, 810 N Whitford Road, Lionville, PA 19353  (610-363-7075) present the rock musical,  “Spring Awakening.”


People’s Light & Theatre, 39 Conestoga Road, Malvern (610-644-3500) presents  "Seven Guitars”  Sept. 12 through Oct. 7.

The Lantern Theatre Company presents “New Jerusalem, The Interrogation of Baruch de Spinoza at Talmud Torah Congregation: Amsterdam, July 27, 1656” for a limited return engagement Sept. 4 – 23 . Tickets for are $20-$38 and are available online at or by calling the Lantern Box Office at (215) 829-0395. $10 student rush tickets are available 10 minutes before curtain with valid ID; cash only. Additional discounts are available for seniors and groups of 10 or more. Lantern Theater Company is located at St. Stephen's Theater, 10th & Ludlow streets in Center City Philadelphia.

Old Academy Players present  Shakespeare’s “The Taming of the Shrew” Sept. 14-30  at 3544 Indian Queen Lane, Philadelphia, PA 19129 (215-843-1109)

Plays and Players Theater 1812 Productions presents "This Is the Week That Is: The Election Special!" Sept. 27 through Nov. 4 at 1714 Delancey St., Philadelphia (215-735-7356)

Walnut Street Theatre opens its 204th season with the American premiere of  “Love Story, the Musical.” It previews Sept. 4, opens Sept. 12 and runs through Oct. 21 on the WST main stage. For tickets and information, call 215-574-3550 or 800-982-2787. Tickets are also available online 24/7 by visiting or Ticketmaster.

Walnut Street Theatre for Kids presents  “Otherwise Known As Sheila the Great” Sept. 22 at 10:30 a.m. and 1 and 3:30 p.m. For tickets and information, call 215-574-3550 or 800-982-2787 or visit the website at


Forge Theatre presents the political thriller “Farragut North” Sept. 7-22 at 241 First Ave., Phoenixville, PA 19460 (610-935-1920)

Playcrafters of Skippack present ‘Allo Allo’ Sept. 20 through Oct. 6 at 2011 Store Road, Skippack, (610-584-4005)


Players Club of Swarthmore present “Brighton Beach Memoirs” Sept. 14 -29 at 614 Fairview Road, Swarthmore PA 19081 (610-328-4271)

To have your production listed here, email information to Cheryl Thornburg at