“Dinner and a Show”: Media Pa – Noodi Thai Chef and “Billy Elliot”

Billy ElliotDining on alligator and enjoying boys and men in tutus may not be on your ‘bucket list’, but you only live once!

Steeped in the history of Delaware County, Media has become the life and heart of the region, drawing expanded growth from its unique mixture of authentic and contemporary attitudes. It’s in this setting we find an artful blend of new and traditional, eclectic and sophisticated, international and plain old down-home goodness. Strolling on State Street one can find a variety of food, unique shops and of course, the Media Theater!

Our first stop is Noodi Thai Chef Restaurant on the corner of State & Monroe. My IMAG0237newly found passion for Thai cuisine first brought me to this quaint place that thrives to provide an authentic and diverse menu and warm inviting atmosphere. The extensive menu includes 18 noodle entrees, 6 fried rice dishes as well as unique Chef Selections such as “Winning Alligator” and “Young Girl on Fire” Relax; it’s a deliciously prepared roasted hen.

IMAG0239We were treated to two freshly prepared meals starting with Tom Yum (lemon grass soup) and Wild mushroom soup, followed by Vietnamese Rolls of chicken and shrimp. Main entrees were Mango Curry (Chicken, Shrimp, Mango chunks in a coconut yellow sauce) and Bangkok Eggplant (Shrimp, Chicken, and Asian Eggplant in a ginger-soy sauce)

Noodi Thai is located at 42 East State St. Media Pa. For more information visit www.thaicheftoday.com or call 610.892.8710

Now, on to the show! Media Theatre’s Billy Elliot

Billy Elliot: The Musical” is the 10-time Tony winner which has its regional both billyspremiere at The Media Theatre. The 2005 musical with a score by Elton John and book and lyrics by Lee Hall propels the story of the boy who has a desire to be a dancer rather than a boxer in a Welsh mining town in the 1980’s. It all takes place during a miner’s strike which convinces the boy even more to be all he can be and is an inspirational musical focusing on individuality and following your personal passion. Media Theater’s Artistic Director Jesse Cline and director/choreographer Geoffrey Goldberg went all out searching for talent in Manhattan for young actors who could not only fulfill the show’s requirement of ballet and tap, but also would be able to carry the score and add depth to the gravity of the characters. What a treat to find Philadelphia area talent in Media’s Brandon Ranalli and West Chester’s Gunar Daniels, both 13, share the role of Billy Elliot

Anna-Connors-as-Mrs.-Wilkinson-with-Ballet-GirlsBilly Elliot possesses a powerful poignant plot with compelling characters, a unique yet unremarkable score and dazzling dance scenes. The show opened on Broadway in 2008 and went on to win 10 Tony Awards, and has been playing to sold-out houses on the road for years. At this performance Gunar Daniels dazzles the audience as Billy breaks out from a shaky start in a room filled with aspiring young female ballerinas and finds his ‘sea legs’ sending him soaring into the air by the end of Act One. billygunardancetwistDaniels, a competitive gymnast now a member of the Professional Ballet Division at the Rock School Philadelphia, has little problem with the required routine for this ambitious production. Ballet teacher Mrs. Wilkinson, played wonderfully by Anne Connors is willing to extend herself to encourage the boy to pursue his natural abilities much to the chagrin of Billy’s coal mining father played by Zachary Wobensmith.

There is much to love about the characters and the actors who portray them from the delightful little ballet girls to Billy’s best friend Michael played to near perfection by Philly favorite JD Triolo who brings much needed humor and warmth to the gritty story of a boy who’s lost his young mum (Elisa Matthews) in death, a bitter father, an angry older brother (Garrison Carpenter) an endearing, eccentric grandmother (Susan Wefel) and an overbearing boxing coach (Kelly Briggs). Media Theater regulars prove their versatility time and again with standout performances by the “triple-threat” Triolo, the always whimsical Wefel as well as the multi-talented Anne Connors. Wobensmith wins the crowd with his transformation from tough love dad to a caring father who can really croon a tune!

The musical production does not allow enough time to fully grasp the back story of relationships and the language is unexpectedly raw considering that almost half the cast are young children. Still this is not a reflection on the presentation but on Hall’s book. Scenic Designer Mathew Miller creates impressive fluid sets of corrugated metal, beams and stairs. I especially enjoyed the set and lighting choices that simulate the coal mine entrance. Lighting designer Troy Martin O’Shia does an excellent job spotlighting and panning the cast to generate the various moods and energy of the show.

“Billy Elliot” will now play through January 10, with the extension week having evening performances at 7pm Wednesday through Saturday, a Saturday matinee at 2pm, and Sunday matinee at 3pm. For tickets, call 610-891-0100 or visit mediatheatre.org.

Media Theater Photos: Laurie Briglia