Bristol’s JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR; A leap of faith that works!

Put away your Nazarene garb and sandals. This Superstar rocks a “Rent” style talent- heavy production. 

Director Keith Baker who celebrates his 30 years as Bristol’s Artistic Director pushes the envelope without going over the top for Bristol’s Jesus Christ Superstar.

Bristol Riverside Theater presents a dramatic and visually exciting take on “a global phenomenon that has wowed audiences for over 40 years. Jesus Christ Superstar is a timeless work set against the backdrop of an extraordinary and universally-known series of events but seen, unusually, through the eyes of Judas Iscariot.” ~ Jesus Christ Superstar website.

Having seen the staged production twice on Broadway, three times regionally with such iconic actors/singers as Ted Neely (the original Jesus on film), Danny Zolli as Jesus, Kevin Gray as Pilate, Tony Vincent as Judas as well as Rock star Sebastian Bach as Jesus and Carl Anderson as Judas and many more, well, you never know what to expect when a theater mounts this epic sometimes controversial rock opera.

The first thing to puzzle the Bristol crowd is the 25 foot stage totally covered wall to wall with white steps. So perhaps this is going to be very dramatic or a disaster or both! Fortunately and thanks to the talents of Choreographer Stephen Casey this entire cast was really on their toes, carefully placed for every scene and song. The steps were treated to some very high tech lighting and projections by Joe Doran and John Hoey that enhance each scene as they scroll over the steps.

The cast, from the mop -headed Patrick Dunn (Jesus) who is a marvelous Messiah to Adam Kemmerer (Judas) who is the show-stealing snitch to Ciji Prosser ( Mary Magdalene) who warms the heart, each bring out their best and they simply dazzle! Dunn’s “Gethsemane”, which every die-hard JCS demands perfection, possess a ‘got-to-hear-it-to believe it ‘voice sustaining his money notes to the next level.

Kemmerer’s Judas is a magnet of madness and frustration. Ciji Prosser captures Mary Magdalene so realistically. Her “I Don’t Know How To Love Him” was one of the sweetest most vulnerable versions I’ve seen and heard. Standout performances are offered by Julian Alvarez (Simon Zealotes) and Derrick Cobey (Peter), who also sings the touching “Could We Start Again Please? duet with Mary Magdalene. The stern Caiaphas was strongly played and sung as deep as any baritone as I’ve heard by long-time actor Steve Steiner.

 

The 15 piece orchestra cleverly almost hidden top left of the steps aptly handles the 25 rock song made famous by the incredible Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice. Such favorites include “Heaven on Their Minds”, “Hosanna”, “I Don’t Know How To Love Him”, Gethsemane”, Could We Start Again Please?”, “King Herods’s Song”, and of course “Superstar”.

Baker’s strong directional moments are seen in his many choices; the focus on Mary Magdalene’s big solo number staged and spotlighted sitting alone as she wipes off her lipstick and tears off her wig to expose a vulnerable woman changed by her affection for Jesus. The sick, blind and lame appearing in ghostly white veiled cloth begging Jesus to heal them adds a dramatic touch. “King Herod’s Song” and scene is a flashback to a Ziegfield Follies Revue. (I found it amusing at the reactions from this somewhat older perhaps new to JCS audience seemingly unsure of some of goings on at times). Pilate (Darren Ritchie) is presented as a modern-day typical rich business man, who plays golf during the persecution of Christ. The fact the actual crucifixion is never seen yet heard and felt quite dramatically. I was wishing that a resurrection would take place…but we all know the true story!

All in all these actors were completely up for the task of the show on the steps and Keith Baker’s gut feelings for his Superstar proves “Everything’s Alright” about this production.

JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR plays at the Bristol Riverside Theatre, Bristol Pa. through April 16. For tickets and information visit www.brtstage.org  call 215.785.0100.

Production Photo Credits: Mark Garvin

Pati Buehler (Broadwayworld.com) and Derrick Cobey (Peter)

 

Review: JOHN AND JEN at the Eagle Theatre

The truth and conviction of the human spirit makes this John & Jen a gorgeous triumph.

John & Jen, a story that spans over 50 years, is an intimate tale about connections, commitments and the healing of the human heart.

We meet Jen as a 6 year old singing “Welcome to the World” to her baby brother John promising to make sure he’s happy and as safe as he can be; promises that are easily made yet in time take on a darker new meaning. Every family has its unique problems and situations. Turns out father has a temper that occasionally turns violent and Jen soon sees that John in sometimes the target of his rage. The two vow to work it out together in a cozy attic which becomes their safe place and later becomes a testing ground for the growing siblings over the years.

There is much to get involved with about this story; an emotional score by Broadway’s Andrew Lippa featuring some of his finest work paired with lyrics by Tom Greenwald and a book by both. Then there’s the incredible acting and vocals by Adam Hoyak (John) and Kimberly Suskind (Jen) and the effective direction of Ted Wioncek III. Wioncek takes a piece that was basically staged in a ‘black box’ setting and enhances the production by inviting the audience into the cozy attic filled with family treasures, memorabilia and stored pieces from their lives. It’s in this setting that Hoyak and Suskind live out their hopes, dreams, and frustrations as they bond together during their childhood and sing their hearts out!  The two brilliantly and believably become excitable little children who grow together and inevitably apart from one another as their evolving feelings and independence present challenges into young adulthood. Again Lippa’s score propels the emotions which always seem to be the focal point of the story with numbers such as the playful ‘Think Big”, “Trouble With Men”, (showing how Jen’s troubles with Dad affected her), “Hold Down the Fort”, (as the two march into young adulthood) “It Took Me While” and “Run and Hide”, as the two part bitterly ending Act One.

John and Jen could have ended gloriously after Act One, which I understand was the original idea during the reading stages of this Off- Broadway show that opened in 1995. However the creators decided to add a second act as Jen’s story takes on a new life after the death of her brother. As Jen struggles with layers of sadness, guilt and regret while raising a young son, also named John, also played by Hoyak after her brother, the plot takes on a whole new set of problems arising with Jen’s inability to let her son grow on his own fearing she would lose him as well. It was Act Two that I became aware of the similarities of this piece with Brian Yorkey, Tom Kit’s Broadway hit show “Next To Normal” who’s story-line revolves around the loss of a family member and repercussions that affect a family when a mother mourns and suffers through the loss alongside her family.

Jen relives her memories of her brother with and through her son in songs “Old Clothes” and “Just Like You” as her son struggles to become his own person apart from his uncle’s memory and Jen struggles to find a way to deal with letting go. Powerful songs such as “The Road Ends Here” (Jen’s recognition to let go and move on) and the ending song “Every Goodbye is Hello” bring the show to full circle leaving a totally immersed audience perhaps thinking about friends and family members facing the reality we call… life.

JOHN and JEN plays at The Eagle Theatre, 208 Vine St. Hammonton, NJ on selected dates through April 9. For tickets and information: visit www.eagletheatre.org or call 609.704.5012

Production Photos: Chris Miller

photo: Adam Hoyak (John), Kimberly Suskind (Jen), Artistic Director Ted Wioncek III, Pati Buehler ( PBENT.com/BWW.com) standing.

Cherry Hill East High School “Ragtime: The Musical” School Edition

A South Jersey High school drives its “Wheels of a Dream” bravely through a wonderful production. Surrounded by a barrage of local and regional media attention Cherry Hill East High School decides to “Make Them Hear You”.

The sweeping musical based on the novel ‘Ragtime’ by E.L. Doctorow came alive with a strong young cast that did justice to the spectacular score by Stephen Flaherty and Lynn Ahrens. Easily one of most under-rated musicals to come out of Broadway in the last 20 years, Ragtime: The Musical—with book by Terrence McNally, follows the lives of three families and their communities through the tumultuous and promise filled early 20th century. For each member of the African American, upper-class suburbanite, and Eastern European immigrant groups, the fight for understanding brought unique perspectives to this vibrant and challenging time in American history.

Cherry Hill East’s decision to follow the shows script as outlined by MTI (Music Theater International) brought a barrage of confrontation due to the racial language and profile of this piece. But copyright laws prohibited modifying the script, leaving the district with the option to perform the musical as written or not at all.

Superintendent Joseph Meloche, who made the decision to allow the musical to go on as written with racial slurs, said the required class discussions about racism and stereotypes were an important first step for the district of 11,350 students “History and English classes for thousands of students at Cherry Hill East took a detour to engage in a hefty subject: race and the N-word.” The South Jersey district has developed a special curriculum to discuss those sensitive themes before the production of Ragtime-School Edition hit the school’s stage for a nine-day run.

The issue sparked such far- reaching interest to the extent that Broadway’s Brian Stokes Mitchell, the star of the original production, came down to his experience and support at Cherry Hill High School East. Prior to the opening he tried to help students address the thorny use of the N-word and other racially charged language in the school’s upcoming production. The student actors rose to the challenge by making a public statement before each performance assuring their stand on this delicate matter.

Ragtime is a show that reaches hearts to the core. No story more dramatic and touching than the relationship of the musical’s central couple, Sarah played by Ashley Cooper and Coalhouse Walker Jr played by Cedric Middleton. With a highly charged emotion- fueled score it reveals the carelessness of young love in songs “Sarah Brown Eyes” the heartbreak of the losses that weighs heavy on the two young lovers. The powerful desperation of “Your Daddy’s Son” and the smooth sorrow of “Coalhouse’s Soliloquy” equally express emotional power. Both Cooper and Middleton are expressively caught up in their respective roles and are outstanding in their roles which are played to near perfection. The role of Father was played nicely by Ezra Nugiel and Mother beautifully played and sung by Katherine Trauger whose soars in “Back To Before”. From Emma Goldman played by Kathryn Quay to Evelyn Nesbit played by Jacki Orlando, each actor delivers a performance to be proud of and thoroughly grabs the audience at every scene. For a musical already driven so lyrically by the stories of individuals, these actors made me taste the struggles, the disappointment, and the hope that they each lived.

Often bringing comic relief to the production was the inextinguishable optimism and fatherly devotion of Tateh played by Jake Ropka, faced with years of hardship after his decision to move his life and daughter to a new life in America. Ropka’s Tateh was rooted in kindness, determination. You could see his character’s energy touching every member of the company.

The powerhouse behind any production typically goes to the director(s) and East’s Theater director Tom Weaver and co-director and choreographer Sandi Makofsky can take a well deserved bow! The two manage to wrangle over 100 student/actors and turn this energy into a flowing, well acted, well synchronized creation. Weaver is also is responsible for the impressive sets and lighting. Scenes were visually stunning and the addition of projections by Peter Gambino, particularly the moving train scene is quite effective. Noel Davis’s beautiful period costumes add to the authentic feel of the 1920’s.

RAGTIME- School Edition plays at the Cherry Hill East High School, Kresson Rd. Cherry Hill on selected dates through 3/19. For tickets and more information visit: www.chetheatre.com  

Production Photo: Cherry Hill East Theatre

Photo: Brian Stokes Mitchel and Cedrick Middleton (Coalhouse)

Photo Credit: Tricia Burroughs

SISTER ACT at Haddonfield Plays and Players

Those wonderful sisters are at it again!
The Sisters “Raise Their Voices” in historic Haddonfield New Jersey with a heavenly, heartfelt production.
For those not from South Jersey, welcome to one of the oldest theater troupes in the area. Since 1934 this dedicated group of individuals has performed in many local venues, including the Haddonfield Fortnightly and the Kingsway Learning Center. In 1986, they built a 150 seat performing arts center where they now do most of their productions.
Based on the popular 1992 movie starring Whoopi Goldberg award-winning composer Alan Menken and lyrics by Grammy winner Glenn Slater bring this story to life and almost everyone loves these singing nuns.

The cast is delightful from the super talented Paige Smallwood who plays Deloris
Van Cartier to Tami Gordon Brody playing Mother Superior to Sister Mary Robert (Kelsey Hogan), Sister Mary Patrick (Karen Henry), Monsignor O’Hara (Charles L. Bandler). Terrance Hart puts in a standout performance as Eddie (Sweaty Eddie), the officer/hero who saves the day!

For the few who don’t know the story, the show tells the story of Deloris Van Cartier, an aspiring disco diva in late 1970’s Philadelphia. Deloris accidentally witnesses her mobster boyfriend Curtis killing a man in cold blood. Deloris runs to the police for safety and agrees to testify against her ex. Officer Eddie Souther, a shy, nervous man who had a crush on Deloris when they were both in high school, offers her witness protection in the most unlikely of places: a convent. Brash Deloris immediately runs afoul of the Mother Superior at the ailing church, but finds her place working with the nuns’ feeble choir, transforming the group into a slick musical unit that performs spiritual songs with soulful energy and flashy choreography.

This show is filled with clever, non-stop fun at the hands of director/choreography by Chris McGinnis with show stopping costumes by Tina’s Productions. The movies-to-musicals trend has been in full swing for a quite some time and Sister Act lends itself nicely for a live musical treatment. There are some charming character moments for both shy Mary Robert and the relationship between Deloris and Mother Superior. These added plot changes not seen in the film tone down all the Vegas-style hoopla nicely.

Musical Highlights include “Take Me To Heaven”, Raise Your Voice”, The Life I Never Led” and Sister Act”.

SISTER ACT plays at the Haddonfield Plays and Players, on selected date through Feb. 18. For tickets and more about the Haddonfield Plays & Players visit www.haddonfieldplayers.com or call 856.429.8139

Photo Credits: Perspective Media Productions

PHILLY POPS SGT. PEPPER CELEBRATION


The Philly Pops “Get Back” to their usual greatness with a tribute to the Beatles.

It’s the 50th anniversary of The Beatles’ groundbreaking Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band album, and that’s a cause for a POPS musical celebration!
The Pops soar “With a Little Help From Their Friends” the widely acclaimed tribute band Classical Mystery Tour as they cover Sgt. Pepper’s magical lineup — “Lucy In the Sky With Diamonds”,” With a Little Help From My Friends”, and “When I’m 64” — as well as other timeless “Fab Four” classics including “Yellow Submarine” and “Come Together”.

The Pops open with their wonderful “signature style” of orchestral introduction medleys with “Eleanor Rigby” and “Getting Better” under the robust baton oh Michael Krajewski. The nearly sold out crowd of three generations of Beatles fans cheered and sang along to such familiar tunes as “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds” “When I’m 64”, “Ob-La-Di, Ob-La Da” and many more legendary hits. The Classical Mystery Tour; all talented musicians/vocalists in themselves portray the original Beatles featuring Jim Owen (John Lennon), Paul Curatolo (Paul McCartney), Tom Teeley (George Harrison), and Chris Camilleri (Ringo Starr). In an interview with the group’s founder Jim Owen, he shares just how much work went into the creation process of writing the orchestral charts for these famous songs. http://www.broadwayworld.com/philadelphia/article/BWW-Interview-Jim-Owen-of-CLASSICAL-MYSTERY-TOUR-at-Kimmel-Center-20170127

But this sold-out audience was more interested in cheering and enjoying the show! Dressed in Sgt. Pepper garb, the four simply dazzle and amaze in a style that if you “Close Your Eyes” you hear the original artists from Liverpool. My personal favorites were the vocal harmonies in “She’s Leaving Home” and “Here Comes the Sun”, Paul Curatolo’s “Live and Let Die” along with the awesome orchestra backing, “Golden Slumbers” and “A Day In The Life”. After the intermission, A simply stand-out medley arrangement by the Pops which included “Yesterday”, “Blackbird” featuring a wonderful trumpet and violin offering, “All My Lovin’” “Day Dreamer”, Lady Madonna”, “If I Fell”, “Something”, “Money Can’t Buy Me Love”, “Let It Be” and “All You Need Is Love” brought the entire audience to its feet! In all there were 19 songs and two encore songs including the familiar ending song “Hey Jude” which brought out the lighters and a grateful happy crowd. Philly even brought in the Beatle Beetle!

The Philly Pops Sgt. Pepper Celebration played at the Kimmel Center on Feb. 3,4,5. For More information about the Philly Pops visit www.phillypops.org or call 215.893.1999 For More information about The Classic Mystery Tour visit www.classicalmysterytour.com

Photos: The Philly Pops and  Pati Buehler

Review: MEMPHIS- The Musical at the Ritz


With the show’s motto “His Vision- Her Voice” Memphis slowly finds its way into your heart.

It’s nice when a somewhat unfamiliar musical can actually surprise you in a good way. Though it starts on a familiar note with a storyline reminiscent of “Hairspray” and “Dreamgirls”,”Memphis” eventually finds its own voice and beat, and wins over with its sheer enthusiasm and passionate performances. For the most part its careful balance of pure fun and character drama proves to be irresistible.
The show’s story is relatively simple. Its hero, Huey Calhoun, is a poor white guy who wiggles his way into one of Memphis’s Beale Street clubs, where he falls head over heels for both the intoxicating rhythm and blues sound, and a young black singer, Felicia.

Memphis is a musical by David Bryan (music and lyrics) and Joe DiPietro (lyrics and book). It is loosely based on Memphis disc jockey Dewey Phillips,[1] one of the first white DJs to play black music in the 1950s. It played on Broadway from October 19, 2009 to August 5, 2012. This production won four 2010 Tony Awards, including Best Musical, Book, Original Score, and Orchestrations. Not bad for a show that some folks barely heard of!

Ritz veteran Matt Reher plays Huey Calhoun, a stand-in for real-life Memphis D.J. Dewey Phillips, who was among the first to play R&B “race records” for white audiences and famously gave Elvis his radio debut. Unlike Dewey, Huey doesn’t put Elvis on the air. Oddly enough there’s no mention of Elvis at all in this 1950’s Memphis story. In fact Huey seemingly forgets he is a white boy except for the fact the he reminds everyone around him about the inability of white people to sing and dance.
Matt Reher’s summoning up of Huey is so perfect that not for a moment do you believe that it is only acting. He is enchantingly partnered by Felicia played by newcomer to the Ritz, Vedra Chandler- a thrilling singer and commanding actress; so much so that you find yourself rooting for her ( and Huey) all the way.

The principal and ensemble cast, mostly new to the Ritz, are equally wonderful and direction by Bruce A. Curless and choreography by Arthur Leo Taylor bring this show to a non-stop treat for all. The score while not especially memorable outside of the material, moves the story line effectively with songs “Music For My Soul”, “Everybody Want to Be Black”, “Love Will Stand” sung wonderfully by Felicia. Huey’s eleven o’clock number “Memphis Lives in Me” is a painful reminder of the choices that need to be made and Reher delivers it well.

MEMPHIS The Musical plays at the Ritz Theatre, 915 White Horse Pike, Haddon Twp. NJ through February 5. For tickets and more information: www.ritztheatreco.org or call 856.858.5230

Photos by Chris Miller

We’re off to see the Wizard at the Walnut!

dorothy-and-totoThe Merry Old Land of Oz lands in Philly in time for the Holiday Season.

Just three clicks of the heel away on Walnut Street- America’s oldest theater takes its audience on a familiar journey through the all-time beloved story of Dorothy, The Scarecrow, The Tin Man, the Cowardly Lion and all your favorite characters in L. Frank Baum’s classic story” The Wizard of Oz”.

Director Glenn Casale brings this classic story to life on stage in grand style. He shares with me, “Everyone knows exactly what to expect from the story and these characters. I asked the cast, however to make each role their own”. Casale captures this concept so well as he brings to life each familiar old friend and iconic moment with a few new surprises.

The twister twists, The witches fly, the Munchkins sing and dance and Emerald City ozis ‘just as beautiful as you expected’. The success of Walnut’s Wizard is a combination of a stellar company and principle cast as well as incredible scenic designs by Stephen Gifford who creates a terrific twister as well as a fabulous fairy-tale settings to fill the stage with color and excitement. Costume designer Mary Folino fashions a wardrobe to challenge Broadway’s WICKED and Rodney Glen Roberts keeps the action tight and entertaining.

dorothy-and-coLeading us down the yellow brick road is newcomer to the Walnut Adrienne Eller as Dorothy who is refreshingly so much like the the most famous Dorothy we’ve all come to love while adding her own adorable style to the role. She is joined by the talented Christopher Sutton as the clumsy cute Scarecrow and the multi talented Christopher Shin as the rusted Tin Man who turns in an impressive tap dance ditty to rouse the already excited crowd. The Cowardly Lion is played larger than life by a robust Nichalas L. Parker bringing an equal amount of updated humor along the way. Parker’s “King of the Forrest” brings the crowd to a roar of its own. Walnut favorite Bill Van Horn is outstanding as Prof. Marvel and The Wizard. The witches are wonderful! Lyn Philistine’s Glinda is perfect and Ellie Mooney’s Wicked Witch of the West is wickedly funny.

oz-munchkinsStealing the show as no surprise are the Munchkins. A double cast of local talented children, 30 in all share as much talent and cuteness as one can handle and they almost single-handedly( or paws in this case) outdone by the amazing Toto played by Dusty who despite twisters, witches, dancing, flying humans and creatures never misses a cue!  “I’d Turn back to the Walnut if I Were You”.

The Wizard of Oz plays at the Walnut Theatre through January 8th. For tickets and more information visit www.walnutstreettheatre.org or call 215.574.3550

Photos: Mark Garvin

 

 

Walnut Street Theatre’s SOUTH PACIFIC is Stunning!

south-pacific-logoA glorious adventure awaits the audience in this classical beauty of a show.
Walnut Street Theatre welcomes back several Philly and Broadway talents for their glorious season opener.

One cannot help being captivated by the set designs by Robert Andrew Kovach and lighting design by Paul Black. These creators transform a bare stage into a lush tropical paradise of color. Tall tropical foliage surrounds the sides of the stage with a revolving center piece that carry tall palm trees, rocks and scene sets throughout the production. A stellar cast dance, dash, sings and falls in love in one of Rogers and Hammerstein’s most beloved musicals.

The story centers around the unlikely attraction of a handsome French plantation paul-kate-dancingowner, Emile de Becque played by Paul Schoeffler; a veteran Broadway actor seen on Walnut’s stage a Capt. Hook (Peter Pan), Javert (Les Miserables), and Don Quixote (Man of LaMancha) and the naïve U.S. navy nurse, Ensign Nellie Forbush played by Kate Fahrner; Walnut’s Elf (Jovie), Grease (Rizzo), Miss Saigon (Ellen) and Born Yesterday (Billie Dawn) and WICKED Broadway National Tour.
Schoeffler & Fahrner bring a wonderfully refreshing excitement to their relationship that creates a chemistry that soars when they are on stage together. Fahrner’s energy is exuberant throughout the production and Schoeffler sexy playful personality wins her over.

cable-and-liutAt the same time, U.S. Lieutenant Cable Ben Michael from Walnut’s 9 To 5: The Musical and How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, falls for a beautiful island native named Liat (Alison T. Chi, making her Walnut debut). Can true love survive cultural prejudices and the threat of war on this island of paradise? Ben Michael’s vocals are simply stunning making one wish R&H had written several solos for the Lieutenant and Chi’s Liat is sweetly alluring.

 

Lori Tan Chinn makes her Walnut debut as the sarcastic, sassy Bloody Mary. Chinn also played the role in the 2001 made-for-television movie, starring Glenn Close. Many audience members will recognize her from her character on Orange is the New Black, Mei Chang. Among Chinn’s numerous stage credits, she has been seen on Broadway in M. Butterfly, G.R. Point and Lovely Ladies, Kind Gentlemen.
Philly favorites join in the adventure featuring the always ready for a laugh Fran Prisco is “a hundred and one pounds of fun” as Luther Billis. Prisco was last seen in Walnut’s hit show Sister Act as Stewpot. Joining Prisco are Philly pals and seasoned  actors  Ben Dibble as Professor and Jeffrey Coon as Commander William Harbison as well as Dan Olmstead as Captain George Brackett.

The ensemble is made up of Walnut veterans Joey Abramowicz, Jennie Eisenhower, girls-of-spMaria Konstantinidis and Owen Pelesh. Shavey Brown, Schyler Conaway, Casey Elizabeth Gill, Jessica Gruver, Kathryn Miller, Joseph Michael O’Brien, Chris Stevens and Sean Thompson make their Walnut Mainstage debuts with this production. Choreographer Michelle Gaudette captures as much energy as possible from this talented group of sailors and seabees. Long time Walnut director Charles Abbot takes this production to the next level of excitement and heartfelt emotions.

kate-and-paul-final-scenePlaying Emile’s adorable children are all local to the Philadelphia area; Courtney Chu of Mount Laurel, NJ and Ella Hampton of Cherry Hill, NJ will share the role of Ngana. The role of Jerome will be shared by Ethen Jih-Cook of Philadelphia, PA and Kwanchi Loo of Cherry Hill, NJ.

The thrilling score includes “I’m Gonna Wash That Man Right Outa My Hair,” “Some Enchanted Evening,” “There Is Nothing Like a Dame,” “Younger Than Springtime” and “I’m in Love with a Wonderful Guy.”

As a special treat the grandson of Oscar Hammerstein, Will was in the audience for the opening and one of the first people on his feet for a well deserved standing ovation.

SOUTH PACIFIC runs at the Walnut September 6 through October 23. For tickets and information, call 215-574-3550 or 800-982-2787. Tickets are also available online 24/7 by visiting www.WalnutStreetTheatre.org or Ticketmaster.

Photos by Mark Garvin

Eagle Theater’s The King of East Jabip grabs the heart

KING_OF_EAST_318“Better to be the king of your house than the King of East Jabip”

Barrymore Winner Tom McCarthy and daughter Kelly create a dramatic piece of work that everyone can relate to.

“There are very few roles for 80 yr. olds, so I asked my daughter Kelly to write a play for me “says Tom McCarthy. The plot centers on Jack and Nora Doyle, an Irish couple from Philly in their twilight years facing difficult and inevitable choices. When Jack (Tom McCarthy) shows signs of Alzheimer’s Nora (April Woodall) becomes his coach-in-denial of the seriousness of his condition. Their daughter Bridget (Melissa Connell) returns from a soul searching trip to India to find her dad greatly changed and her mother convinced that if they move into an assisted living his confusion will go away.

Is there a family anywhere that has not faced the challenge of jabip-pic-april-and-tom-heartfelta mother/father/grandparent in failing health? As Director Ed Corsi says “It’s going to hit close to home for a number of people. I love it because it does take you on an hour and 45 minute roller coaster”. What you will experience is the depth of these three characters as they travel through about a dozen emotions, often within minutes of each other. Playwright Kelly McCarthy captures the whole real, raw picture of living in a loving household with a seriously fragile 80 yr. old. The subject matter is solemn but the balance of humor and tragedy truly grounds the show.

Tom McCarthy is nothing less than brilliant in the role of Jack, who just wants to jabip-pic-tom-and-melissa-heartfeltstay in his modest row home in Philly with a plan to revisit Ireland where he grew up. McCarthy’s Archie Bunker-style personality gives him the green light to act out as he sees fit at any given moment…and he sure does! When Nora suggests a visit to the Assisted Living Jack’s rejects the notion loudly claiming “I’d rather be the King of this house than the King of East Jabip”. The couple re-lives their young married life which was filled with love and tragedy at the loss of their son, and then they’re off to funeral of a dear friend. While there Jack decides to sound off a bit and Nora decides that if she dies first Jack’s not to serve shrimp cocktail at the luncheon as it’s “too celebratory for a funeral”. There is much needed levity in this piece so that the audience has the opportunity to see that in every difficult situation there is humor. There has to be!

 

 

Woodall’s Nora is equally outstanding as she is outwardly supportive but her sanity is threatened as well as any care giver can attest to. Daughter Bridget rises from her own personal situation to support the family and Connell puts in a wonderful performance. Director Ed Corsi has assisted the McCarthy’s project which was first presented as a reading at the Walnut Street Theater in Philadelphia. Corsi, a young father of three young boys shows an amazing feel for this work injecting just the right amount of angst vs humor for the audience to relish every moment and wondering how this story will end. So you’ll just need to see the show to find out what becomes of The King of East Jabip.

Scenic Design by Chris Miller and Ed Corsi and lighting by Chris Miller for this “world premier” which looks promising for future engagements and more.

THE KING OF EAST JABIP plays on selected dates at The Eagle Theatre, Hammonton NJ. For more information and tickets visit www.theeagletheatre.com or call 609.704.5012

Photos: Chris Miller

NEW JERSEY’S FIRST FRINGE FESTIVAL!

635990081574658789-FRINGE-FINAL-LOGOJust when you thought South Jersey was all about the shore and great tomatoes; here comes a festival to remember.

Hammonton New Jersey may boast the title “blueberry capital of the world”, but now it owns another title; “ First town to host the first New Jersey Fringe Festival”.

“Jersey Fringe” as it is called took place in Downtown Hammonton, NJ on August 5, 6, and 7th, 2016. For those not familiar with these events here’s what took place. Jersey Fringe was a 3-day event featuring multiple theatrical productions at a variety of venues within walking distance of the central location and ticket hub, The Eagle Theatre. 15 Producing Organizations offered eclectic, unique selections for festival goers throughout the entire weekend. This one also featured a Beer and Wine Garden, Pop-Up Art, Food and Art Vendors, Live Music and More!

Here’s a lineup of just a few of the live presentation we had the pleasure of enjoying.Antihero+2
ANTIHERO, presented by The Tribe of Fools: A comedy about how seriously we take superheroes and how we often default to violence as a way to solve problems. We experienced close-quarters stage combat as a way to have fun with unrealistic fight scenes in superhero video games and movies. Eventually the piece turns somber as we investigate the real effects that violence has on conflict. The stage Antiherofighting was some of the best I’ve seen on any stage and the show presents the farce of some of our comic book heroes and their fans at their best …and worst; while the content and language is a bit too raw for children; still it’s an entertaining look at how people view their heroes.

 

IT GIRL: presented by Amanda Schoonover, Brenna Geffers and Anthony Crosby.It Girl

IT GIRL opens our obsession with the Next Big Thing when it comes to women in the entertainment industry. Looking through the lens of the original “It Girl” Clara Bow and her tumultuous raise and fall in the Silent Film Industry, this original piece becomes the actress’ nightmare for contemporary women. A fantasia of silent film, clown, tap, ballroom, boxing, vintage gags, and innovative storytelling, IT GIRL pits an actress in a dance to the death against Show Biz to find out if anyone can really have It all? IT GIRL is presented in complete pantomime accompanied by vintage music.  Amanda Schoonover and Anthony Crosby have mastered this form of art with not one moment of guessing what was happening in each dramatic scene; Simply a delightful presentation.

Fring Show collageAt the helm of the Festival, which was months in the making,  is a devoted team of dedicated volunteers many involved directly with Hammonton’s Eagle Theater, New Jersey’s only year round professional theater.  Among the Fringe orange- clad volunteers were Eagle’s own  Managing Director Jim Donio, Artistic Directors Ed Corsi and Ted Wioncek II, several Eagle staff members and actors all putting in their best effort to welcome everyone to the Festival and assure that the 3 day event went smoothly and was enjoyed by all.

NOIR- Conceived & Directed by Ted Wioncek III – Screenplay by Tim Rinehart NOIR– Cinematography by Brian Morris.
Innovations Factory is the core of themeing artists responsible for many of Eagle Theatre’s special effects featured in their mainstage productions, including; mechanical walls, rotating stages, walk-through exhibits, and sensory experiences. Their latest project; a satire on film noir, seamlessly blends live-action with three dimensional cinematography, using up-to-the minute technology and theatrical techniques to immerse the audience. As the vision came into focus, Actor/Writer Tim Rinehart was brought on staff to write a treatment of dialogue for the screenplay. Rinehart’s snappy wit turned out to be a perfect fit for what Wioncek had in mind.
Wioncek, Eagle Theatre’s Co-Artistic Director and a Founding Member of Innovations Factory, explains, “”Tim wrote the script with no theatrics in mind. We intentionally kept him out of the loop on concept, handed him little to no information regarding our desire to incorporate stage illusions and sensory effects. Our hunch was that a stronger script would arise should it be written straight, with no outside influences. The experiential storytelling aspects would come later, long after the plot and characters had been developed. This approach allowed the writer to write, and remain honest to his intent. NOIR will continue to be developed in this fashion, as we continue to make plans to bring it to the mainstage.”
Wioncek concluded, “What patrons experienced at NOIR’s debut was simply a small sample of live concept art. Our dynamic team of creative and technical professionals is constantly working to pioneer new forms of entertainment and push the medium of live theatre forward. Our greatest reward is being afforded the opportunity to share what we have discovered with our audience.”
Everyone went home fully entertained and the buzz is when will the next New Jersey Fringe Festival take place? For more information about the New Jersey Fringe Festival visit the website www.jerseyfringe.com for more information about the Eagle Theater visit www.eagletheatre.com
Photos: Courtesy NJ Fringe Festival and The Eagle Theatre