“Hairspray” At The Steel River Playhouse In Pottstown Is Not To Be Missed!

I had the great pleasure of attending today’s matinee performance of Hairspray at Pottstown’s Steel River Playhouse (formerly the TriPAC).  The theater was full for a Sunday afternoon show!

I saw Hairspray on Broadway and wasn’t sure if this would live up to that experience.  As usual the performance was stellar!  I enjoyed Hairspray just as much in Pottstown as I did on Broadway.  That’s saying something.

If you aren’t familiar with the story, this comedic musical takes place in Baltimore, circa 1962.  Overweight teenager, Tracy Turnblad wants to dance on the Corny Collins ShowThe story demonstrates the social injustice of racism in pre-Civil Rights Act America and speaks about society’s disdain for people who are calorically challenged.  This is done mostly through humor and song.   There are some poignant moments as well but you don’t feel “preached at”.  You also realize how much has not changed since 1962!

There are some veteran Steel River actors in this show: Gregory Kasander, Bill Kiesling, Matt Kiesling, Donna Dougherty and Alexa Morefield.  The mostly youthful cast does an outstanding job!    The Director and Choreographer, Zuhairah McGill gets major kudos for another top-notch production!  As always the live orchestra is superb as were all other aspects of the production: costumes, lighting, sound, scenery etc… 

All the main characters are excellent.  Gregory Kasander nails the Corny Collins role with a lounge lizard meets Ted Baxter from the Mary Tyler Moore Show interpretation.  Matt Kiesling is very believable as Link Larkin, teenage heart-throb and love interest of Tracy Turnblad.  Donna Dougherty’s Velma Von Tussel is the character you love to hate!

Nicole Bright gives a standout performance as our heroine, Tracy Turnblad.  She embodies everything her character is supposed to represent.  Tracy’s parents, played by Bob Goretski and Bill Kiesling are hysterical.  Some very famous actors have played Edna Turnblad (Harvey Fierstein and John Travolta to name a few).  A male always plays the Edna Turnblad role.  Bob Goretski may not be famous yet, but he did the role justice.

The other two actors I would like to mention are Willie Garner who plays Seaweed J. Stubs and Britney Leigh Hines who plays Motormouth Maybelle.  Their acting, singing and dancing are exceptional.

This production is well worth the price of admission!  Congratulations and thank you to Marta Kiesling and the entire staff at Steel River Playhouse for bringing quality entertainment to the Greater Pottstown area!  I hope many people take advantage of having this gem in Pottstown!

Hairspray at Steel River runs from June 7 – 24, 2012.  For dates, times, ticket prices and to buy tickets online, click here: http://www.steelriver.org/2012/05/hairspray/ or call the Box Office at 610-970-1199.

Muhlenberg Summer Music Theatre 32nd Season

Allentown, Pa. (May 15, 2012) — If you’ve planned a wedding recently, then you’ll find something familiar about the lineup for this summer’s Muhlenberg Summer Music Theatre season. In the spirit of bridal couture, the 32nd MSMT festival will feature something old, something new, something borrowed, and something — well, purple.

The “something new” is the regional professional premiere of “Hairspray: The Broadway Musical” that opens the season, June 13 – July 1. Adapted from the John Waters movie that was partially filmed right here in the Lehigh Valley, “Hairspray” will feature Angela DeAngelo as Tracy Turnblad and SMT mainstay Bill Mutimer as her mother, Edna. MSMT co-founder Charles Richter directs.

The “something old” is Gilbert & Sullivan’s HMS Pinafore,” the duo’s first commercial hit (way back in 1878), and a precursor to the Broadway blockbusters of today. The show runs July 11-29. Muhlenberg Theatre & Dance Department chair James Peck directs.

This season’s production for young audiences, Harold and the Purple Crayon,” accounts for both the “borrowed” and the purple. The play is a movement theater adaptation of Crockett Johnson’s beloved children’s book, created by Enchantment Theatre Company. “Harold” plays June 20 – July 28.

“Hairspray: The Broadway Musical” features a book by Mark O’Donnell, music by Marc Shaiman, and lyrics by Shaiman and Scott Wittman. It’s 1962. Beehive hairdos are in, rock ‘n’ roll is young, and Baltimore teenager Tracy Turnblad dreams of dancing on “The Corny Collins Show.” Plump and proud, Tracy wins a role on the program, then uses her newfound fame as a platform to rally support for racial integration.

Winner of eight Tony Awards, including Best Musical, Book, and Score, “Hairspray” is a big, goofy, good-hearted celebration of young people, rock ‘n’ roll, and doing the right thing. Ken Butler is the musical director, and Karen Dearborn is the choreographer.

“HMS Pinafore” was the first big hit by W.S. Gilbert and Arthur Sullivan, whose 19th century comic operas have been featured regularly on the MSMT stage. In this romantic comedy, Ralph Rackstraw, “the smartest lad in all the fleet,” is in love with the captain’s daughter, Josephine, but her father has a more sophisticated suitor in mind.

Full of hijinks and silliness, as well as the duo’s trademark wit, satire, and tunefulness, the production features musical direction by Ed Bara and choreography by AlexJo Natale.

“Harold and the Purple Crayon” adapts Crockett’s 1955 picture book about a curious four-year-old boy who, with his purple crayon, has the power to create a world of his own simply by drawing it. The play follows Harold’s adventures as he explores oceans, braves dragons, and finds friendship.

The production is created by Enchantment Theatre Company, whose “Cinderella” was a hit during the 2011 MSMT season. The show tells Harold’s story through movement, narration, and imagination, with innovative animated scenery and an original score by Charles Gilbert. Enchantment founder Leslie Reidel directs.

The show is recommended for ages 4 and up. The actors wear masks and full-body costumes throughout the show, and parents of young children are encouraged to bring their children at least ten minutes early to meet members of the cast without their masks on. Cast members will be available after the show to talk to audience members and sign autographs.

Tickets for the first four performances of both “Hairspray” and “HMS Pinafore” are $32 regular admission; seniors are $28; students and children are $18. For the remaining 11 performances, tickets are $38 regular admission; seniors, $35; students and children, $20.

All tickets to “Harold and the Purple Crayon” are $10 for June performances and $12 for July performances.

Sundays are Family Matinee day; tickets for children ages 5-18 are just $10 when purchased with a full-price or senior ticket. (Limit two discounted tickets per full-price ticket.)

Subscriptions to “Hairspray” and “HMS Pinafore” are available for $50 for the first four shows, or $60 for the remaining 11 shows. Group discounts are available for groups of 15 or more.

Open Captioning and Audio Description will be available at the Sunday, June 24, performance of “Hairspray.” Call 484-664-3087 for tickets in the accessible section of this performance. 

Muhlenberg Summer Music Theatre performance information and tickets are available at 484-664-3693 or www.muhlenberg.edu/SMT.

Muhlenberg Summer Music Theatre Auditions

Auditions for MSMT 2012 season, including ‘H.M.S. Pinafore,’ Lehigh Valley premiere of ‘Hairspray,’ will be held Feb. 19 and 21 Technical positions and high school internships also available

Allentown, Pa. (Jan. 17, 2012) — Muhlenberg Summer Music Theatre will hold open auditions for performers ages 16 and up on Feb. 19 and 21. Performers will be cast for the season’s mainstage productions: the Lehigh Valley premiere of “Hairspray,” performing June 13 – July 1, and Gilbert and Sullivan‘s “H.M.S. Pinafore,” performing July 11-29.

The following audition details can also be found online, at www.muhlenberg.edu/summermusictheatre.

Vocal auditions will be held Sunday, Feb. 19, from 2 to 6 and 7 to 11 p.m., and Tuesday, Feb. 21, from 6 to 11 p.m. Auditions will be held in the Empie Theatre, Baker Center for the Arts, on the Muhlenberg College campus. Vocal audition appointments are three minutes.

Dance auditions will be held Sunday, Feb. 19, from 6 to 10 p.m. and Tuesday, Feb. 21, from 6 to 8 p.m., in the Dance Studio Theatre, Trexler Pavilion for Theatre and Dance. Dance auditions will take about half an hour. Auditioners will be taught a short dance sequence, which they will then perform. No preparation is required.

All auditioners must register in advance and schedule an audition. All auditioners must sign up for both vocal and dance auditions. Auditioners should send an e-mail to boxoffice@muhlenberg.edu before Friday, Feb. 17, indicating available dates and times within the scheduled audition, and providing a mobile phone number where the auditioner can be reached with questions.

Those without access to e-mail should call the Muhlenberg Theatre & Dance office at 484-664-3087, during regular office hours before Thursday, Feb. 16. Voice messages should contain all of the above information.

All auditioners will be assigned a time for both a dance audition and a vocal audition, and should plan to dance and sing, even if they concentrate in just one area. It is possible for a performer to be cast based on a strong audition in just singing or just dance; however all performers in both shows will sing and dance.

The directors are looking for an ethnically diverse cast, including a wide range of ages and types, and community members are strongly encouraged to audition.

Performers may audition for either show, or for both shows, but will not be cast in more than one.

Auditioners for both shows should prepare a memorized vocal selection of 16 to 32 bars. Those wishing to be considered for a lead role in “Hairspray” should sing an up-tempo song that shows off belt voice (for women) or upper register (for men). Those wishing to be considered for a lead in “H.M.S. Pinafore” should sing any song that shows off range, size of voice, projection, and character.

To be considered for lead roles in both shows, auditioners should prepare two audition selections. To be considered for just the chorus of either or both shows, auditioners may prepare just one selection.

An accompanist will be provided for the vocal audition. You must bring sheet music in the key in which you would like to sing, with your 16- to 32-bar selection indicated and any cuts clearly noted. Please no accompaniment tapes or a cappella auditions.

Callback auditions will be held March 15-18, and will include acting auditions, reading from the script. Details will be provided as necessary, but auditioners should hold the dates if possible.

Non-performing opportunities are available for technicians and costumers. Carpenters, electricians, props technicians, light board and sound board operators, and stage crew are needed for productions. Costumers, first hand, stitchers, and wardrobe running crew are needed in the costume shop.

High school stage management internships are available for those who will be at least 16 years old by the time they begin working for MSMT. Interns work alongside college students and professionals from the College, and guest artists from New York, learning valuable skills that they can take back to their high school programs. Interns receive a $400 stipend for the summer.

The application deadline for technicians, costumers, and administrative personnel is March 1. Applications can be found online at www.muhlenberg.edu/summermusictheatre. Completed applications can be sent to boxoffice@muhlenberg.edu.