Thursday, August 15, 2013

Amazingly talented youngsters bring RCP's 'Flat Stanley' to life

The cast of  "The Musical Adventures of Flat Stanley, Jr."                                  Photos by Debbie Goshert

By Cheryl Thornburg

Mom and dad check out Stanley after he
becomes "flat."
Reading Community Players’ “The Musical Adventures of Flat Stanley, Jr.” is a well-rounded production showcasing the talents of young area actors ranging in age from 9 to 17. Based on the popular children’s book by Jeff Brown, it tells the story of Stanley Lambchop an ordinary ten-year-old who longs for adventure – and he gets it when a bulletin board falls on him and he wakes up “flat,” but otherwise unharmed. His new ultra-thin physique allows him to travel the world through the mail, setting the stage for somefun locales including Los Angeles, Hawaii and Paris.
The best thing about these “Junior” productions is that you get to see the great things that young people are doing and capable of, instead of what we see in newspapers and on TV on a daily basis.
The youngsters’ talent, dedication and enthusiasm is a reminder that there is hope not just for the future of live theater, but for the world.
Sharon Borkey
as Arthur
Bringing Flat Stanley to life is Nicholas Panase, 12, who will be going into 7th grade at Exeter Junior High this fall. He is a newcomer to local theater, but he is so at ease in this show that you’d think he was born on a stage. His singing and comedic acting is spot-on and there is no doubt we’ll be seeing lots more of him.
But the talent doesn’t stop there — his “family” members have singing and acting skills of their own Alex Goshert plays his mother, Pete Clauser, his dad and Sharon Borkey plays Arthur, his younger brother.  Alex is in 10th grade at Governor Mifflin, Pete is a junior at Exeter, and Sharon, at Schuylkill Valley Elementary.
The show has lots of vignettes, giving each of the cast members a chance to shine.
The scene at the Louvre when Stanley stops a thief from stealing a portrait of Napoleon (Betsy Lucas) and the Mona Lisa (Joanna Fielding) is clever and fun. Who knew that paintings can talk to each other while hanging on a museum wall?
Nina Botvin plays Mrs. Cartero, who acts as the story’s narrator and delivers Stanley to his destinations in ”Travelin’ Through the Mail” with Stanley and the ensemble.  Nina is in 5th grade in the Wyomissing schools.
Stanley visits Hawaii
The ensemble cast members play numerous roles from doctors to thieves to birds and more. Mastering these transformations are Darian Bornmann (4th grade, Muhlenburg), Qwyn Cephus , Joanna Fielding, (7th grade, Antietam), John Fielding IV (10th grade, Antietam), Reese Ganster (Reiffton Elementary), Betsy Lucas (Wyomissing Hills Elementary), Madison Kemp (Jacksonwald Elementary) and Samantha Pinero (Cumru Elementary).
The show is directed by Debbi Silas assisted by Julia Minotto.
The Lambchop family
The music is upbeat and catchy and the show is great family entertainment. If you’d like to take your kids or grandkids to a musical, this is a good place to start. Perhaps they will be inspired to try acting too.
The show continues this weekend at Reading Community at at 403 N 11th St., Reading.
Friday and Saturday shows begin at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday shows begin at 3 p.m. Tickets are $10 and are available by calling the theater at 610-375-9106 or . Free shuttle service is available from the parking lot at The Citadel on N. 12th Street.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Alpha/Omega Players deliver a ‘Memorable’ production of ‘Cats’

By Cheryl Thornburg
Spectacular choreography and Andrew Lloyd Webber’s incredible music make Alpha/Omega Players current production “Memorable.”
The ability of this company to produce really big shows on a not-so-big stage is sheer genius. “Cats,” with its huge dance numbers had to be a particular challenge, but choreographer and director, Melissa Kauffman more than met the challenge.
The storyline that loosely connects the musical numbers is really a frame for the portraits of various unique “cats,” as envisioned in T.S. Eliot’s  “Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats.” The musical “portraits” provide ample opportunities for Berks County’s singers and dancers to showcase their talents.
Maria Damore as Grizabella the aging Glamour Cat, delivers the now-standard “Memory,” with elegance and passion. The song will haunt you long after the show is over – particularly since you hear it more than once. In the second act, Maria is joined by Olivia Damore as Jemima in a reprise of this exquisite melody.
Keeping the spotlight performances in the family, James Damore turns in a rollicking turn as  Mungojerrie with Mandalee Flannery as Rumpleteezer in the appropriately named “Mungojerrie and Rumpleteezer.” The two are a triple threat with singing, dancing and comedy rolled into one just- plain-fun- to-watch number.
Assistant director Mark Drey turns in a dramatic version of Old Deuteronomy, the revered leader of the Jellicle cat clan and shows off his vocal skills in “The Moments of Happiness” and “The Ad-dressing of Cats” in the second act.
Jacob Cowan’s Munkustrap, is at the heart of many of the numbers and deservedly so. His vocal talents are showcased in “”The Old Gumbie Cat,”  “Old Deuteronomy,” and “The Battle of the Peeks and the Pollicles.”
The role of Mr. Mistoffelees, demands a superlative dancer and Josh Bellamy doesn’t disappoint.  On several occasions at Sunday’s performance, the audience burst into applause at his mesmerizing spins and leaps. His duet with Brianna Hafer as Victoria was another highpoint of the show.
Other standout performances came from James Barksdale as Macavity, Chris Weiss as Bustopher Jones, and Stephen Barszowski as The Rum Tum Tugger,
But to be honest, the entire cast gives standout performances, delivering the high-energy, intricate dance numbers with such precision and synchronicity, that it is obvious that countless hours of rehearsals and dedication went  into  this show. They are Sarah Wisser as Bombalurina, Melissa Kaufmann as Demeter, Stephanie Bricker as Jellylorum, Amanda Delbo as Griddlebone, Gordon Joyner as Growltiger, Deb Kasdras as Jenny Any Dotts, Tyler Ravert as Skimbleshanks, Julian Morales as Alonzo, Mary Britton as Carbucketty, Megan Centeno as Cassandra, Amy Swartz as Coricopat, Kirsten Heim as Pouncival, Meghan O’Neill as Tantomile, Meghan Austin as Electra, Krista Grevas as Etcetera, Allison Gieringer as Exotica, Nicole Greenfield as Tumblebrutus and Molly O’Brian Sillabub.
Musical director and conductor of the 16-piece pit orchestra for tis show is Nathan Patton. The unseen orchestra sets the tone for every number without overpowering the singers. The set was designed by Mark Drey, Gordon Joyner and William Eschbach, and the producer is Kerry Drey.
Remaining performances are Aug. 9 and 10 at 8 p.m. and Aug. 11 at 3 p.m. in the Alpha/Omega Performing Arts Center, 301 E. First St., Birdsboro. Due to the show’s popularity, Alpha/Omega has scheduled an additional performance on Thursday Aug. 8 at 7:30 p.m.  For more information or to order tickets, call 610-404-4844 or visit