Muhlenberg Summer Music Theatre Embarks On 37th Theatrical Season

Allentown, PA — Muhlenberg Summer Music Theatre at Muhlenberg College announces the lineup for its 37th summer season. The season will feature the revolutionary rock musical “Hair,” the classic “My Fair Lady,” and “Wild,” a new modern circus production for all ages.

“Hair” opens the season, running June 14 – July 2. A celebration of freewheeling 1960s youth counterculture, “Hair” commemorates the 50th anniversary of its original Broadway run.

“My Fair Lady,” running July 12-30, was the 1957 Tony Award-winning Best Musical. Lerner and Loewe’s beloved musical features a score that includes such standards as “I Could Have Danced All Night” and “The Rain in Spain.”

“Wild,” running June 28 – July 29, is a world premiere modern circus performance for audiences of all ages, featuring aerial acrobatics, clowning, spectacle, and a touch of magic. The show is recommended for adults and children ages 3 and older.

A free 45-minute circus-themed activity workshop follows each performance of “Wild.” Participation is limited, and advance registration through the box office is recommended. Evening workshops will focus on circus skills for all ages. Daytime workshops are geared toward children and will focus on storytelling and play through circus activities.

Tickets and information are available at muhlenberg.edu/SMT and 484-664-3333.

Join the Age of Aquarius and celebrate the freewheeling counterculture of the 1960s in “Hair.” Passionate, outspoken Claude must choose between submitting to the draft and continuing to fight the establishment through pacifist lifestyle. Joining him is a “tribe” of non-conformists who believe in the power of free speech and free love as they groove to the music, including beloved 1960s hits “Good Morning Starshine” and “Let the Sunshine In.” Director James Peck returns to MSMT following last season’s production of “In the Heights.” He is reunited with musical director Ed Bara and choreographer Samuel Antonio Reyes.

“My Fair Lady” tells the story of Eliza Doolittle, a Cockney flower girl in training to become a lady of society. At first, her lessons with phonetics professor Henry Higgins could not be more frustrating, but their squabbles eventually foster an unlikely partnership — Eliza and Higgins realize they have a lot to learn from each other. MSMT founding artistic director Charles Richter will direct the production. Ed Bara serves as musical director, and Karen Dearborn choreographs.

Atlas Circus Company’s world-premiere modern circus production “Wild” presents the story of a boy who runs away on an adventure through the unknown. Throughout his journey, he meets unusual characters that teach him about love, family, and what it means to be home. The show is designed for audiences of all ages, and incorporates elements of aerial acrobatics, juggling, magic, dance, theater, and clowning.

Relaxed performances of “Wild” will be presented on Saturday, July 8th at 10 am and Thursday, July 13th at 1 pm. The relaxed performances will be followed by an interactive workshop. Relaxed performances are designed for children with autism and other sensory challenges. At these performances, sound levels are reduced, and startling sounds are avoided; lights remain on at a low level during performance, and strobes and other flashy lights are omitted; patrons are free to talk or leave their seats during the show; and attendance is limited. Social stories will be available in advance from the MSMT website and the theater staff and cast will receive special training in meeting the needs of patrons with autism and sensory issues.

Audio Description and Open Captioning will be available for all three productions: “Hair” on Sunday, June 25; “My Fair Lady” on Sunday, July 23; and “Wild” on Thursday, July 20, at 10 a.m. Call 484-664-3087 for tickets in the accessible section of these performances.

“Hair” runs June 14 – July 2; “My Fair Lady” runs July 12-30. Performances are Wednesday through Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m.

Ticket prices for both “Hair” and “My Fair Lady” are as follows. For the first four performances: $35 regular admission; seniors, $31; students and children, $20. For the rest of the performances: $41 regular admission; seniors, $37; students and children, $24.

“Wild” runs June 28 through July 29. Performances are Wednesday and Thursday at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m., and Friday and Saturday at 10 a.m. and 6:30 p.m. All tickets to “Wild” are $11 for the first week of performances and $13 for remaining performances.

Subscriptions and group rates are available at a discount. Contact the box office or refer to the website for details.

Tickets and information are available at www.muhlenberg.edu/SMT or 484-664-3333.

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Muhlenberg Summer Music Theatre Announces Open Audition Dates

Allentown, PA — Muhlenberg Summer Music Theatre will hold open auditions on Feb. 26 and 27. Performers will be cast for the season’s mainstage productions: “Hair,” performing June 14 – July 2, and “My Fair Lady,” performing July 12-30.

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

Preliminary vocal auditions will be held for both “Hair” and “My Fair Lady” on Sunday, Feb. 26, from 12 to 5 p.m. and 7 to 11pm, and Monday, Feb. 27, from 5 to 10 p.m. All auditions will take place at Muhlenberg College, at the Baker Center for the Arts and the Trexler Pavilion for Theatre & Dance.

All auditioners must register in advance and schedule an audition. Auditioners should visit the Summer Music Theatre website, at muhlenberg.edu/smt, and follow the link to the registration form. Auditioners without internet access may call the Theatre & Dance office at 484-664-3087, during regular office hours before Thursday, Feb. 23.

All auditioners should prepare a 32-bar song selection from a Broadway musical written before 1975. Auditioners should bring properly marked sheet music. An accompanist will be provided. Dance will not be a part of the preliminary audition, but will be included in callback auditions. Auditioners should bring two copies of their resumes and headshots.

For “Hair,” performers ages 18-30 are encouraged to audition.  For “My Fair Lady,” the director will be casting actors ages 16 and up, and older auditioners are encouraged to attend. Auditioners may audition for both productions.

All actors participating in Muhlenberg Summer Music Theatre productions are paid a stipend. Out-of-town actors are provided with free housing. We will consider casting Equity members on guest artist contracts.

Auditioners who live too far away from the Allentown area or who are unable to attend auditions may submit a preliminary video audition. The video should consist of one song (see guidelines above). Please send a link to a video hosted on the internet; e.g., YouTube or Vimeo. Do not send attached files via email.

Auditioners who receive a callback must attend in person to be considered for a role. Callbacks will include dance and acting auditions, reading from the script.

Callbacks will be held on Monday, March 13, for “Hair” and Tuesday, March 14, for “My Fair Lady.” Auditioners must attend callbacks in person (not by video submission) unless previous arrangements have been made.

“My Fair Lady” will be directed by Charles Richter, with choreography by Karen Dearborn and musical direction by Ed Bara. Rehearsals are June 20 through July 11, Tuesday through Sunday from 1 to 5 p.m. and 7 to 11 p.m.  Performances are June 12 through July 30, Wednesday through Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m.

“Hair” will be directed by James Peck, with choreography by Samuel Antonio Reyes and musical direction by Ken Butler. Rehearsals are May 23 through June 13, Tuesday through Sunday from 1 to 5 p.m and 7 to 11 p.m. Performances are June 14-July 2, Wednesday through Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m.

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.

The application deadline for technicians, costumers, and administrative personnel is March 9. Applications can be found online at muhlenberg.edu/smt. Completed applications can be sent to smtcompany@muhlenberg.edu.

‘In The Heights’ Brings Latin Rhythms, Stories To Muhlenberg Summer Stage

Allentown, PA — Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Tony Award-winning musical “In the Heights” — the precursor to his blockbuster Broadway hit “Hamilton” — runs July 13-31 as the second production of the Muhlenberg Summer Music Theatre season.  The show tells a story that many of its cast hold close to their hearts: the story of families and cultures that have been transplanted from far away.

Many of the show’s 20 actors and dancers can tell you a story about their families coming to the mainland United States from Puerto Rico, or Cuba, or the Dominican Republic. For some, that story is not so long in the past. Wilma Rivera, for example, is a professional actress, a Muhlenberg College alumna, and a first-generation American. She says “In the Heights” is the story of her family.

“When I saw ‘In the Heights’ on Broadway, there was this moment when the music of the first number started, and it captured so beautifully the experience of what it’s like to be a Latino,” says Rivera, who plays Camila. “It’s that struggle to maintain an identity and also to assimilate — especially in New York City.”

“In the Heights” was a hit when it opened in 2008, running more than a thousand performances and bringing its composer, Lin-Manuel Miranda, to the attention of theatergoers. Miranda’s innovative score melded the rhymes and rhythms of hip-hop with the Latin-style music of salsa and merengue, and, together with Quiara Alegría Hudes’ book, captured the sights, sounds and stories of the Washington Heights neighborhood of New York City.

The show won the Tony Award for Best Musical and was short-listed for a Pulitzer Prize the following year. Miranda also won the Tony for Best Score. Choreographer Andy Blankenbuehler and musical director Alex Lacamoire also won Tony Awards for their Latin- and hip-hop-inflected choreography and orchestrations. The three would reunite with director Thomas Kail to create “Hamilton.”

“Miranda is deeply versed in ’90s hip-hop,” says James Peck, who directs the production for Muhlenberg Summer Music Theatre. “He picks up beats and rhythm structures and song structures from hip-hop, and he incorporates salsa, merengue, and other Latin styles — but he’s also a musical theatre fanboy from the age of five. The results are really a musical tour-de-force.”

MSMT’s production features choreography by Samuel Antonio Reyes and musical direction by Ed Bara. John Raley designed the set, Lex Gurst designed costumes, John McKernon designed lights, and Patrick Moren designed sound.

Peck credits choreographer Reyes as a driving force behind bringing the show to the MSMT stage.

“Sammy is a hip-hop dancer, a theater artist, and a Puerto Rican. He has a deep understanding of the cultural dynamics at work in this piece,” Peck says. “I wouldn’t have had the temerity to the play without him. It was Sammy saying, ‘I’ve got to do “In the Heights”‘ that made it come together.”

 “In the Heights” tells the universal story of a vibrant community in New York’s Washington Heights neighborhood — a place where the coffee from the corner bodega is light and sweet, the windows are always open and the breeze carries the rhythm of three generations of music. It’s a community on the brink of change, full of hopes, dreams and pressures, where the biggest struggles can be deciding which traditions you take with you, and which ones you leave behind.

Miranda himself was born in Washington Heights, and grew up in Linwood, one neighborhood over. His parents had moved to New York from Puerto Rico, and every summer, he visited his grandparents back on the island.

Wilma Rivera’s classmate at Muhlenberg, Gabe Martínez, also remembers feeling like he was watching his own family’s history on stage when he first saw “In the Heights.” Martínez saw the show for the first time a year to the day after his grandmother passed away.

“The actress who played Abuela Claudia was the spitting image of my abuela,” says Martínez, who stars as Usnavi, the role that Miranda played on Broadway. “As soon as she walked out on stage, my father and I started weeping. We were at the matinee; I bought the cast recording on the way home and had it memorized by the time I went to bed.”

Martínez’s grandparents moved from Puerto Rico to New York in the 1940s, shortly after his grandfather returned from service in World War II.

“They wrote to each other every day, planning their move to New York, the American dream,” Martínez says. “When the war was over, he hadn’t been home a week when they bought a plane ticket and headed to the Bronx.”

Rivera has a similar connection to the material. Her father immigrated to the United States from Cuba in the early 1970s. Her mother was born in East Harlem, but moved to Puerto Rico as a small child. Both came from poverty, she says. Her mother was the only one in her family to go to college. When Rivera went off to Muhlenberg to study acting, she was the first in her family to attend college on the mainland — and, like Nina in “In the Heights,” she almost gave it up after her freshman year. Department chair Charles Richter talked her into staying.

“‘We need you here,’ he told me.”

Rivera and Martínez were the only two Latino students in the theater program at the time. Neither of them ever had the chance before now to play a Latino character on the Muhlenberg stage — and the opportunity is what drew them back. Both of them have worked steadily as actors since graduating — Rivera in 2009, and Martínez in 2010 — but they have had to be flexible in order to do it.

“I’ve spent my entire professional career praying to see a casting call saying ‘ethnically ambiguous — slash — Latino,'” Martínez says. “We were the only two Latino kids in our class, and now there are lots of kids, and this is their first professional gig, and we’re just so happy for them to start out this way, that these kids are having this opportunity.”

Rivera echoes his enthusiasm.

“This department has really embraced students of color and encouraged their talents, and really raised them up,” she says. “I’m very proud of this college and to be an alumna of this college, and I just hope it continues to grow.”

Martínez and Rivera’s deep connection to “In the Heights” is a common thread through the entire cast, Peck says.

“When people have a chance to be part of a show that speaks to their own experience, they make a significant personal investment in that show,” he says. “It’s rare that these stories get told, and when people have the chance to be a part of these stories, they grab onto that chance.”

In fact, Rivera’s connection to the show runs so deep that she got a tattoo of one of its lyrics, “Paciencia y fe,” a song sung by Abuela Claudia. The lyric reminds her of her own abuela, who died in January.

“It’s heartbreaking to lose that matriarch of a Latin family,” Rivera says. “She’s the stone and we’re all the ripples of what she leaves behind. It holds weight, I think, in this world, that we remember who we are and where we’re from. Gabe and I are very lucky that we have that image of our parents and remember the struggle.”

The actor who plays Abuela Claudia in the production — jazz vocalist, scholar and activist Roberta Meek — agrees. Meek had only one grandparent growing up, and ike Abuela Claudia — and like Rivera and Martínez’s abuelas — she was the keeper of the family’s stories.

“My grandmother was literally the historian of the family,” Meek says. “Her father was born into slavery, and he had been searching for his mother ever since. My grandmother was the griot,” the person who maintains the oral history tradition in many West African cultures. “You came to her for school.”

“In the Heights” is Meek’s first musical theater performance, although she has been performing as a jazz vocalist in the Lehigh Valley for more than 20 years. She also contributed stories and songs to the Touchstone Theatre project “Another River Flows: a Celebration of the Lehigh Valley Black Experience.”

One of the things that “In the Heights” gets right, Rivera says, is the sabor — the flavor of Latin culture and of the Washington Heights community.

“This show is packed full of sabor,” she says.

Some of that flavor is visual; much of it comes from the rhythm and choreographic energy that choreographer Samuel Reyes has brought to the project.

“The blend of salsa, hip-hop and contemporary movement is very exciting for me as a choreographer — and we have found such a dynamic, crazy talented cast,” Reyes says. “This show is going to punch a hole in the wall, both visually and emotionally. I’m just so damn proud to be part of it.”

“In the Heights” plays July 13-31 at Muhlenberg Summer Music Theatre. Performances take place in the Dorothy Hess Baker Theatre, in the Trexler Pavilion for Theatre & Dance. Showtimes are Wednesday through Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m.

Ticket prices for the first four performances are $33 regular admission; seniors, $29; students and children, $18. Prices for the rest of the run are $39 regular admission; seniors, $36; students and children, $20.

Tickets and information are available at http://www.muhlenberg.edu/smt or 484-664-3333.

‘GROWL!’ At Muhlenberg Summer Music Theatre‏

Allentown, PA —For the past two seasons, the theatre company Doppelskope has created world-premiere musicals for young audiences at the Muhlenberg Summer Music Theatre. In 2014, they presented “Gruff!” a troll’s eye view of the story of the three billy goats Gruff, and last season it was “Grimm!” a tale of the storytelling Brothers Grimm and their quest to chase down their escaped stories with the help of a rambunctious little girl.

This season, MSMT and Doppelskope will complete the “Grilogy” with another new show, “Growl!” — playing June 29 through July 30. “Growl!” brings Doppelskope’s energetic, innovative puppetry, lively music, and interactive theatrical spirit to the story of Goldilocks and the Three Bears.

Co-authors Ora Fruchter and Christopher Scheer describe “Growl!” as a “zany reinvention” of the story of Goldilocks and the Three Bears, in which a group of woodland creatures has come together to solve a series of break-ins by a certain mysterious blonde figure. They are led by an imaginative young bear who likes to be known as Danger Bear, and who has no time for breakfast while the world needs a hero to make freedom sing in the hearts of all animal-kind.

“Our inspiration always comes from a lot of different sources,” Scheer says. “For ‘Growl!’ we’ve spent a lot of time thinking about what made us laugh as children, and what still makes our inner-children laugh now. So as we got ready to write the show, we spent some time researching the cartoons we grew up watching — Chip and Dale, Roadrunner, Bugs Bunny, and lots of other classic cartoons. We like to create comedy that works on at least two levels, so that we can engage adults just as much as we engage kids.”

The eight-member cast of “Growl!” plays an ensemble of woodland animals, who in turn present the story of Goldilocks and the Bear family through puppetry. The cast members also play all the music themselves, on instruments ranging from washboard and stand-up bass to banjo and accordion — all while selling the audience a variety of woodland merchandise such as Hats, Buckets, Porridge, and Four-Month Energy Drink (the alternative to hibernating).

“We want our audiences to laugh in a deep, satisfying way,” Fruchter says. “And we want them to walk away amazed by the possibilities of live theater, puppetry and imagination.”

“Growl!” features a script by Fruchter and Scheer, with music composed by Tony Singer, who also serves as musical director. Fruchter, Scheer and Singer also made up the core creative team for both “Gruff!” and “Grimm!” The team’s show has evolved from recorded musical accompaniment, the first year, to live piano accompaniment last year, to this year’s approach of letting the actors accompany themselves.

“Toby has created this super-catchy, playful score for us,” Scheer says. “And because of our actor-musicians, we’re able to have fantastic live music throughout the show.”

Scheer says that the group’s puppetry has also evolved, both in the design and in performance. The show uses both tabletop puppets, created by Fruchter, and detailed shadow puppetry, projected on giant screens to create “surprisingly cinematic moments” throughout the show.

“We’re really exploring and innovating what’s possible with puppetry on stage,” he says. “We’re learning quite a lot as we experiment, with some really exciting results. Ora’s puppets are beautiful and hilarious. They’re like cartoon characters come to life, and they create this fantastic connection with the audience.”

Young audiences members can participate in a free 45-minute Imagination Workshop, following every performance of “Growl!” Participants will join members of the cast to explore the themes of the show through movement, storytelling, and creative play. Participants can register in advance through the box office or on the MSMT website.

Cast members are available after the show to meet the audience and sign autographs.

A Sensory-Friendly Performance of “Growl!” will be presented on Saturday, July 23 at 1 p.m. The performance will be followed by an interactive Imagination Workshop. Sensory-friendly performances are designed for children with autism and other sensory challenges. At these performances, sound levels are reduced, and startling sounds are avoided; lights remain on at a low level during performance, and strobes and other flashy lights are omitted; patrons are free to talk or leave their seats during the show; and attendance is limited. Social stories will be available in advance from the MSMT website, and the theater staff and cast will receive special training in meeting the needs of patrons with autism and sensory issues.

American Sign Language interpreters will interpret the 10 a.m. performance on Saturday, July 23. The interpreters will be available prior to the show and following the show at the meet-the-cast session and Imagination Workshop. All patrons are welcome to attend.

“Growl!” runs June 29 through July 30 in the Studio Theatre, Trexler Pavilion for Theatre & Dance. Performances are Wednesday through Saturday at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. All tickets to “Growl!” are $10 for June performances and $12 for July performances.

Tickets and information are available at http://www.muhlenberg.edu/SMT or 484-664-3333.

‘Gypsy’ Kicks Off Muhlenberg Summer Music Theatre Season, June 15 – July 3‏

Allentown, PA — Muhlenberg Summer Music Theatre’s 2016 season will feature some familiar faces for fans of last summer’s “Hello, Dolly!” Mia Scarpa and Jarrod Yuskauskas return this summer for “Gypsy,” the beloved musical the New York Times calls “the greatest of all American musicals.” The show runs June 15 through July 3.

“Gypsy” kicks off a summer season that will also feature the 2008 Tony Award-winning Best Musical, “In the Heights,” by Lin-Manuel Miranda, composer of the current Broadway smash “Hamilton,” playing July 13-31. The season also features the world premiere family musical “Growl!” an irreverent adaptation of the story of Goldilocks and the three bears, created by the theatre company Doppelskope. “Growl!” plays June 29 through July 30.

Arguably one of Broadway’s most beloved musicals, “Gypsy” adapts burlesque star Gypsy Rose Lee’s sensational autobiography into a sultry, campy tour-de-force about show business, ambition, and motherhood. The score, with music by Jule Styne and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, features such classics as “Everything’s Coming Up Roses” and “Together Wherever We Go.”

Mia Scarpa returns to the MSMT stage to play Mama Rose, the most notorious of all stage moms, after an acclaimed run in the title role of last summer’s “Hello, Dolly!” She plays opposite Jarrod Yuskauskas in the role of Herbie. Last summer, The Press Newspapers noted that “the repartee between Scarpa and Yuskauskas is priceless.”

In the starring role of Louise — based on Gypsy Rose Lee herself — recent Muhlenberg graduate Lillian Pritchard takes the stage following a turn as Roxie Hart in this season’s sold-out run of “Chicago” on the Muhlenberg stage.

The production also features MSMT mainstay Neil Hever, returning to the role of Pop that he first played in the 1993 MSMT production of the show.

Also featured in the cast are six young actors from the Lehigh Valley Community: Jenna Seasholtz as Baby June; Anna Edwards as Baby Louise: and ensemble members Elijah Albert-Stein, Aaron Finkle, Robert Pierno, and Robert Stinner.

“Gypsy” also reunites the production team from “Hello, Dolly!” — director Charles Richter, choreographer Karen Dearborn, and musical director Michael Schnack. Richter, the founding artistic director of the Muhlenberg Summer Music Theatre, is in his 36th season with the festival.

Audio Description and Open Captioning will be available at the Sunday, June 19 performance of “Gypsy.” Call 484-664-3087 for tickets in the accessible section of this performance. Open Captioning displays lyrics and dialogue via electronic text display visible to the side of the stage, for the benefit of patrons with hearing loss. Audio Description uses the natural pauses in the play to provide a narrative that translates the visual image into an audible form for patrons who are blind or low-vision. Patrons use headsets to hear the audio description.

“Gypsy” runs June 15 – July 3; “In the Heights” runs July 13-31. Performances are Wednesday through Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m. Both productions are in the Baker Theatre, Trexler Pavilion for Theatre & Dance.

Ticket prices for both “Gypsy” and “In the Heights” are as follows. For the first four performances: $33 regular admission; seniors, $29; students and children, $18. For the remaining 11 performances: $39 regular admission; seniors, $36; students and children, $20. Subscriptions to both shows are available.

“Growl!” runs June 29 through July 30 in the Studio Theatre, Trexler Pavilion for Theatre & Dance. Performances are Wednesday through Friday at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m, and Saturday at 10 a.m. only. All tickets to “Growl!” are $10 for June performances and $12 for July performances.

Tickets and information are available at www.muhlenberg.edu/SMT or 484-664-3333.

‘Arts And Access’ Launches Program For Greater Accessibility

Lehigh Valley arts and cultural organizations will be welcoming patrons with intellectual, sensory and physical disabilities as a result of the effort of the Lehigh Valley Arts Council (LVAC) and the Lehigh Valley Partnership for a Disability Friendly Community (Partnership).

They will host an “Arts & Access” reception on July 24, 2015, to launch the yearlong plan to celebrate the 25th Anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) through the lens of the arts. The event will be held 4:30-6 p.m. at the Good Shepherd Health & Technology Center, 850 S. 5th St., Allentown. It is open to the public, particularly to anyone with a disability.

“Access to the arts is more than just building a ramp,” said Randall Forte, LVAC Executive Director. “To be truly accessible to those with disabilities, performing and visual arts groups need to make important changes in the way they have always done things.”

With the guidance of VSA PA, LVAC has developed staff training and promotional programs to help local arts organizations learn how to remove the barriers that prevent people with disabilities from enjoying their offerings. More than 30 arts organizations have already agreed to move toward greater inclusion and make accommodations for people with disabilities.

Workshops will continue this year on implementing open captioning and audio description for people with vision and hearing loss. Open Captioning provides the audience with an electronic text display to the side of the stage, displaying lyrics, dialogue, and sound effects in real time. Audio Description is a form of audio-visual translation, using natural pauses to insert narrative that translates the visual image into an audible form. Patrons use headsets to hear the audio description.

Together, the arts council and partnership hope to accomplish the following goals:
a) to convince cultural organizations to consider the community with disabilities as a viable market
b) to train arts presenters in how to adapt their work for an audience with varied disabilities.
c) to help arts organizations recognize the needs and the abilities of people with disabilities.
d) to work together to promote accessible events for people with disabilities and their families.

For more information, visit ArtsandAccess.org

Addressing a need
Most of us can go to a concert or play with little thought to attendance details. But those who experience hearing or vision loss, or have mobility or developmental challenges that require special accommodation, are often barred from cultural events.

The 2012 U.S. Census estimated that more than 12 percent of the Valley’s non-institutionalized population lives with some kind of disability. That’s a potential arts audience of about 81,000 people. “Arts groups should realize that in the community with disabilities there is an untapped market for performing and visual arts,” said Forte.

Members of the Lehigh Valley Partnership for a Disability Friendly Community, a coalition of organizations that serve the diverse disabled community, asked the LVAC to involve arts groups in addressing this issue. To date, more than thirty arts and cultural organizations have agreed to participate, including ArtsQuest, Allentown Art Museum, Lehigh University Art Galleries, Muhlenberg College Theatre & Dance, Pennsylvania Shakespeare Festival, SATORI, and Williams Center for the Arts.

Arts & Access is already responsible for important changes in the way the arts are presented. For example, this fall the Lehigh University Art Galleries will debut a tactile description program in their teaching gallery, which uses technology to create a three-dimensional relief of a portion of the image for the person to explore through touch. Many local service providers, such as Lehigh Valley Center for Independent Living and the Center for Vision Loss, are offering customer service training free-of-charge. For instance, the staff at Center for Vison Loss will work with ushers and box office personnel on how to interact with a person with vision loss. In addition to providing them audio-description, theatres may offer a pre-show sensory tour, where patrons arrive early, meet cast members and handle props and costume accessories.

The LVAC can connect presenters with affordable professionals who do American Sign Language interpreting, audio describing, and open captioning for live events and exhibitions. The council also offers audio-describer training and equipment for organizations who wish to train their in-house personnel. In addition, participants may apply to the council for a Greater Inclusion Grant, a matching grant for up to $300, to help fund a new initiative that meets the approved criteria.

The Americans for Disabilities Act, passed on July 26, 1990, prohibits discrimination against the disabled. It set in motion a frenzy of activity designed to prevent discrimination against those who have difficulty navigating modern life, particularly in employment, transportation, and public buildings. But the act did not specifically address the facilities used by the arts such as theaters, galleries, and auditoriums. http://www.ada.gov/cguide.htm#anchor62335

L.V. Partnership for a Disability Friendly Community is a diverse network of more than 75 people and agencies in the Lehigh Valley united in the goal to improve the lives of people with disabilities. Their vision is to be a catalyst for change in making the Valley a disability-friendly community which is inclusive, accessible, and welcoming. http://disabilityfriendlylv.com/

The Lehigh Valley Arts Council acts as both advocate and catalyst to create new gateways, and bring people together to find solutions that advance greater arts participation. It promotes the arts, supports the development of artists, assists arts organizations, facilitates communication among its constituencies, and conducts research to measure the economic impact of the region’s cultural industry. http://www.lvartscouncil.org/

VSA ARTS in Pennsylvania shares its knowledge of inclusive arts education across Pennsylvania and works with artists with disabilities to develop professional careers.

Schedule for July 24 Launch Party
4:30 p.m.

  • Guests greeted by The Miracle Movers cheerleaders from The Miracle League of the Lehigh Valley
  • Tours of “Beyond Limits”, the Heath & Technology facility

5:15 p.m.

  • Welcome by John Kristel, President and CEO, Good Shepherd Rehabilitation Network
  • Remarks by Nelvin Vos, founding convener of the Partnership
  • Remarks by Randall Forte, Executive Director, LVAC

5:30 p.m.

  • Refreshments. Music by The Mississippi Mudders Dixieland Quintet

6 p.m.

  • Conclusion of event

Free, wheelchair accessible parking is available in the Good Shepherd parking deck across from the Health & Technology Center on South 5th St.; it is connected to the center via a bridge on level three.

A Partial List of Arts Organizations participating in Arts & Access
Abbreviations used below: AD – Audio Described; ASL – American Sign Language; OC – Open Captioned;

Allentown Art Museum in collaboration with Via of the Lehigh Valley and artist Jill Odegaard
Contact: Julia Marsh, 610-432-4333, jmarsh@allentownartmuseum.org.
Thru October 11, 2015: “Woven Welcome: Making Community” a community weaving project that connect individuals and groups trough the creative process.

ArtsQuest
Contact: Mark Demko, 610-332-1341, mdemko@artsquest.org
December 19, 2015 – February 15, 2016: “Life Accessible” Photography Beyond the Limits of Life; at Banana Factory. Photographer Stephen Cunic uses braille techniques and braille labels to create stunning visuals for the visually impaired.

Muhlenberg Summer Music Theatre
Contact: Jessica Bien, 484-664-3807, bien@muhlenberg.edu.
July 26, 2015: AD and OC performance of “Hello Dolly” at 2:00 p.m.
July 18, 2015: Sensory-friendly performance of “GRIMM,” a children’s play for children with autism and their families, followed by an interactive workshop, at 1:00 p.m.

Pennsylvania Shakespeare Festival
Contact: Jill Arington, 610-282-9455, jill.arington@pashakespeare.org
July 25, 2015: American Sign Language (ASL) performance of “Rapunzel” for hard of hearing children, 2:00 p.m.
August 1, 2015: Audio-described (AD) performance of “The Foreigner,” 2 p.m.

Raker Lecture Series
Contact: Nelvin Vos, nvos@ptd.net.
September 29, 2015: Daniel Lasko, retired Marine corporal, accomplished
athlete and member of the Wounded Warrior Amputee Football Team at 7:30 p.m. at Egner Chapel, Muhlenberg College. Presented by Good Shepherd Rehabilitation Network.

SATORI in collaboration painter William Christine at the Colonial Intermediate Unit #21
Contact: Nora Suggs, Executive Director, 610-435-6036, nas0710@yahoo.com
October 23, 2015: “See the Music, Hear the Art” at 1:00PM at the CIU #21, Schnecksville. Blends chamber music, art narration and discussion, ASL interpreted.

Williams Center for the Arts/ Lafayette College
Contact: Kelly Prentice, 610-330-5203, prentick@lafayette.edu
September 15, 2015: Dance for PD® Workshop for Parkinson patients, care takers and dance teachers at 6:30 – 8:30 p.m.

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About the Lehigh Valley Arts Council

The Lehigh Valley Arts Council is the region’s central voice for the arts, promoting arts awareness and advocating its value while strengthening access to the arts for all citizens in our community. The Arts Council’s mission is to promote the arts; to encourage and support artists and their development; to assist arts organizations; and to facilitate communication and cooperation among artists, arts organizations, and the community. Services include arts research and advocacy, professional development seminars, publications, and cooperative regional marketing initiatives.

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Lehigh Valley Arts Council

840 Hamilton Street, Suite 201
Allentown, PA 18101
610-437-5915 / operations@LVArtsCouncil.org
www.LVArtsCouncil.org / www.LVArtsBoxOffice.org

Muhlenberg Summer Music Theatre’s 35th Season Features World Premiere Children’s Musical “Grimm!”

Allentown, PA —This summer, Doppelskope Theatre Company bring its energetic puppetry, lively music, and interactive theatrical spirit — along with a little bit of magic — to the stories of the Brothers Grimm. Doppelskope’s world premiere children’s musical “Grimm!” will open June 17 at the Muhlenberg Summer Music Theatre.

“This piece of theater is very playful and present, drawing upon the whole company of everyone involved,” says director Ora Fruchter, who co-wrote the musical with her Doppelskope partner, Christopher Sheer. “It’s really about imagination and getting the audience to imagine along with us.”

The hour-long performance plays June 17 through July 25, Wednesday through Friday at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. and Saturday at 10 a.m. It is recommended for ages four and up. Audience members can stay after the show to meet the cast, and then for a free 45-minute activity workshop, featuring storytelling, movement, and crafts with the workshop team and members of the cast.

“Grimm!” offers classic fairy tales as they’ve never been told before. Brothers Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm use their Story Machine to capture daydreams and make them into fairytales, but everything goes awry when the machine breaks, releasing colorful, fuzzy stories into the world. It’s up to the audience to help the brothers rescue the stories and keep them from unraveling.

Meanwhile, Charlotte, a young girl with a wild imagination, is on her own quest to save her father from the Blue Glowing Madness. She travels through the storybook landscapes of the Grimm Brothers’ classic fairy tales, including Hansel and Gretel, Little Red Riding Hood and Rumpelstiltskin.

The play emphasizes the importance of active, creative play, as well as the fun of storytelling of all sorts — encouraging families to engage in creating, recording, retelling and performing their own stories.

“Grimm!” features a script by Christopher Scheer and Ora Fruchter — the members of the Doppelskope theatre company — with music by Toby Singer and lyrics by Fruchter. The trio also collaborated to create last year’s successful world-premiere children’s musical “Gruff!” for Muhlenberg Summer Music Theatre. Both shows rely heavily on audience participation, inviting the children in attendance to join in creating the story.

“What we really want is to engage the audience in the storytelling process — to tell the story not just to the audience but with them,” Scheer says. “We can go so much further if we all agree to imagine together. Let’s all collaborate together and collectively create the illusion that we’re in outer space or we’re in a fairy tale realm.”

This year for the first time, Muhlenberg Summer Music Theatre presents free activity workshops after every performance. The workshops are designed to encourage children to explore their own family stories in a series of energetic hands-on activities that will get kids up on their feet, thinking, playing and expressing themselves. Members of the cast will join MSMT’s Workshop Team of experienced theater and movement teachers in leading storytelling, movement, and crafts. The Grimm Workshops are sponsored by Embassy Bank, Enterprise Car Rental and Highmark Blue Shield.

Participation in the Grimm Workshops is limited to allow for small group sizes, and advance registration is recommended. Parents can register their children online at http://www.muhlenberg.edu/grimm, or call the workshop team at 484-664-3695. Groups may inquire with the workshop team about bringing the workshop on-site.

“Grimm!” will be presented in two sensory-friendly performances for children with autism spectrum disorders and other sensory processing challenges. At these performances, sound levels are reduced, and startling sounds are avoided; lights remain on at a low level during performance, and strobes and other flashy lights are omitted; patrons are free to talk or leave their seats during the show; and attendance is limited. Social stories will be available in advance from the MSMT website, and the theater staff and cast will receive special training in meeting the needs of patrons with autism and sensory issues. Sensory-friendly performances will be offered Tuesday, June 30, at 6:30 p.m. and Saturday, July 18 at 1 p.m. Tickets and information about these performances are available at http://www.muhlenberg.edu/grimm or at 484-664-3087.

“Grimm!” runs June 17 through July 25. Performances are Wednesday through Friday at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m, and Saturday at 10 a.m. only. All tickets to “Grimm!” are $10 for June performances and $12 for July performances. Tickets and information for all of the Muhlenberg Summer Music Theatre productions are available at www.muhlenberg.edu/SMT or 484-664-3333.

Muhlenberg Summer Music Theatre Announces Open Audition Dates

Allentown, PA — Muhlenberg Summer Music Theatre will hold open auditions for performers ages 16 and up on Feb. 22 and 23. Performers will be cast for the season’s mainstage productions: the raucous, pupped-filled musical comedy “Avenue Q,” performing June 10-28, and the classic musical “Hello, Dolly!,” performing July 8-26.

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

Vocal auditions will be held Sunday, Feb. 22, from 1 to 5 and 6 to 11 p.m., and Monday, Feb. 23, from 7:30 to 11 p.m. Vocal auditions will be held in the Empie Theatre, Baker Center for the Arts. Appointments are three minutes.

Dance auditions for “Hello, Dolly!” will be held Sunday, Feb. 22, from 4 to 7 p.m. and Monday, Feb. 23 from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m., in the Baker Theatre, Trexler Pavilion for Theatre & Dance. Dance auditions will take about half an hour.

All auditioners must register in advance and schedule an audition. Auditioners should send an email to SMTcompany@muhlenberg.edu before Friday, Feb. 20, 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 email should call the Muhlenberg Theatre & Dance office at 484-664-3087, during regular office hours before Thursday, Feb. 19. Voice messages should contain all of the above information.

All “Hello, Dolly!” auditioners will be assigned a time for both a dance audition and a vocal audition. Auditioners must both dance and sing, even if they concentrate in just one area. All performers in “Hello, Dolly!” will sing and dance. “Avenue Q” does not require a preliminary dance audition, although callback auditions may include some movement.

Auditioners who live too far away from the Allentown area or who are unable to attend auditions may submit a preliminary DVD audition. The DVD should consist of a comedic monologue not more than two minutes in length, one song (see guidelines below), and a 90-second dance solo. DVDs must arrive before the audition date listed to be eligible for consideration.

Auditioners who receive a callback must attend in person to be considered for a role. Callbacks will be held March 14-15, and will include acting auditions, reading from the script.

Auditioners for both shows should prepare a memorized vocal selection of 32 bars. An accompanist will be provided for the vocal audition. Auditioners must bring sheet music in the key in which they would like to sing, with the selection indicated and any cuts clearly noted. Please no accompaniment tapes or a cappella auditions.

Auditioners for “Hello, Dolly!” should prepare a song from a musical produced prior to 1980. Auditioners for “Avenue Q” should select a song that shows character, from 1980 through the present.

For dance auditions, auditioners will be taught a short dance sequence, which they will then perform. No preparation is required.

Auditioners should bring two copies of their resumes and headshots.

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 9. Applications can be found online at muhlenberg.edu/smt. Completed applications can be sent to boxoffice@muhlenberg.edu.

Muhlenberg Summer Music Theatre Production Of Rock Opera ‘Superstar’ Explores Human Side Of Crucifixion Story

Allentown, PA– James Peck vividly remembers the best rock concert he ever attended: U2 at the Meadowlands in 2011.

“It was one of the most quote-unquote ‘ritualistic’ theater experiences I’ve ever had,” he says. “It had that seize-your-body, wash-over-you aspect of rock-and-roll—that feeling that you’re part of something larger than you. That aspect of ritual.”

That’s the feeling that Peck wants to create as the director of “Jesus Christ Superstar,” opening July 10 at the Muhlenberg Summer Music Theatre.

“‘Superstar’ is a big epic rock musical about one of the greatest stories ever told,” Peck says. “In the way that a really great rock concert makes you feel like you’re part of something big and cosmic, I think a great production of this show should work the crowd into a sort of oceanic sense of being in touch with something in the universe.”

This summer marks not only the Muhlenberg premiere of “Superstar,” but also the return of former Muhlenberg dance professor Charles O. Anderson. Anderson returns from Austin, Texas, where he teaches dance at University of Texas Austin. Ken Butler serves as the musical director.

“Jesus Christ Superstar” runs July 10-28, Wednesday through Sunday on the Empie Stage, MuhlenbergCollege.

“Superstar” dramatizes the last seven days in the life of Jesus, from his entry into Jerusalem through his crucifixion. Set to a rock score by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice, the show looks at those seven days through the eyes Judas, the disciple who betrays Jesus and “one of history’s great so-called villains,” Peck says.

“It is unusual for a show to take the vantage point of Judas,” Peck says. “But it’s what makes ‘Superstar’ unique.”

The show features the hit songs “I Don’t Know How to Love Him” and “Superstar.”

What interests Peck most, he says, is the way the play explores the humanity of the characters—real people at the epicenter of one of history’s great moments.

“You get a sense of Jesus as a human,” he says, “of how exhausting it must be to be at the heart of a world movement.”

“Superstar” features a cast of 27, including Muhlenberg alumni Dan Cary ’08 as Jesus, Jessie MacBeth ’13 as Mary Magdalene, and Equity guest artist Kennedy Kanagawa ’08 as Judas. The show also features guest artists from the LehighValley including Ed Bara as Caiaphas, Bill Mutimer as Herod, and Joshua Neth as Pontius Pilate.

“What I love about ‘Jesus Christ Superstar’ is that it takes these iconic figures that we are used to thinking of abstractly, and it humanizes them,” Kanagawa says. “They have emotions and desires and allegiances and secrets. The idea of returning to my alma mater and making these discoveries along with this brilliantly talented creative team is thrilling.”

The show features a spare, earthy design by Tim Averill, who brings his interest in sustainable theater design to the production. Annie Simon’s costume designs draw from 1970s and contemporary grunge fashion. Lighting design by John McKernon brings a rock-show sensibility to the performance. The five-piece band led by Vince Di Mura will feature a lean rock-band sound—less lush Broadway score and more rock-and-roll.

The Muhlenberg Summer Music Theatre has been bringing excellent theatre to the LehighValley for 33 years. All productions are performed at MuhlenbergCollege, one of the top-rated college performance programs in the country according to the Princeton Review rankings. Muhlenberg is a liberal arts college of more than 2,200 students in Allentown, Pa., offering Bachelor of Arts degrees in theater and dance.

“Jesus Christ Superstar” runs July 10-28 in the Empie Theatre, Baker Center for the Arts, Muhlenberg College, 2400 Chew St., Allentown, Pa.

Performances are Wednesday through Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m. Regular admission tickets for the first four shows are $32; seniors (65 +) are $28; students and children are $20. For the remainder of the run, regular admission tickets are $38; seniors (65+) are $35; students and children are $20. Family matinees on Sundays are just $10 for children. For groups of 15 or more, tickets are $25 per person and $16 for students and children.

Tickets and information are available at 484-664-3333 or http://www.muhlenberg.edu/smt

Muhlenberg Summer Music Theatre Embarks On 33rd Theatrical Season

Logo of Muhlenberg College

Logo of Muhlenberg College (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Allentown, Pa. —The Muhlenberg Summer Music Theatre festival at Muhlenberg College announces the lineup for its 2013 summer season — the 33rd in the festival’s history. The season will feature “Crazy for You,” the musical based on the music of George and Ira Gershwin; Andrew Lloyd Webber’s “Jesus Christ Superstar”; and Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty’s “Seussical,” the Dr. Seuss musical for young audiences.

Opening the summer season is “Crazy for You,” June 12-30, winner of the 1992 Tony Award for best musical. Based on the music of George and Ira Gerswhin, “Crazy for You” features some of the best-loved Gershwin tunes, as well as virtuoso tap dance numbers, choreographed by Karen Dearborn.

The groundbreaking rock opera “Jesus Christ Superstar,” featuring lyrics by Tim Rice and music by Andrew Lloyd Webber, runs July 10-28. Directed by James Peck, the show dramatizes the last seven days in the life of Jesus. Former Muhlenberg dance professor Charles O. Anderson choreographs the production.

“Seussical,” the Dr. Seuss Musical, runs June 19 through July 27, presented in a special hour-and-15-minute Young Audiences edition. This show brings a slew of popular Dr. Seuss characters to the stage, with music and lyrics by Tony Award-winning songwriting duo Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty. “Seussical” is recommended for ages 4 and up.

Tickets and information are available at www.muhlenberg.edu/SMT and at 484-664-3693.

“Crazy for You” is the story of Bobby Child, a well-to-do 1930s playboy, whose dream in life is to dance—and despite the serious efforts of his mother and soon-to-be-ex-fiancée, Bobby achieves his dream. Full of showgirls, tap dancing, and mistaken identity, this musical comedy features the classic Gershwin tunes  “I Got Rhythm,” “They Can’t Take That Away from Me,” “Nice Work if You Can Get It,” and “Someone to Watch Over Me.”

The Broadway production of “Crazy for You” garnered numerous awards when it premiered in 1992, including the Tony Awards for Best Musical, Best Choreography, and Best Costume Design. Muhlenberg Summer Music Theatre founding artistic director Charles Richter directs the production. Ed Bara is musical director, and Karen Dearborn is choreographer.

The Muhlenberg premiere of the rock opera “Jesus Christ Superstar” dramatizes the last seven days in the life of Jesus, from his entry into Jerusalem through his crucifixion. With a lively score by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice, this hit musical gained prestige in its 1972, 2000, and 2012 Broadway productions. MSMT veterans James Peck and Ken Butler serve as director and musical director, respectively.

Former Muhlenberg faculty member Charles O. Anderson returns to choreograph “Superstar.” Anderson was named one of “25 to Watch” in 2008 by Dance Magazine, and his work has been presented at high-profile regional venues around the country.

“Seussical,” the Dr. Seuss Musical, the Tony Award-winning composer-lyricist team of Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty have lovingly brought to life an assortment of Dr. Seuss’s most beloved characters, including the Cat in the Hat, Horton the Elephant, Gertrude McFuzz, the lazy bird Mayzie, and Jojo, a little boy with a big imagination.

This hour-and-15-minute Young Audiences edition of “Seussical” is directed by Benjy Shaw, with musical direction by David Dabbon and choreography by Nina Pongratz. It is appropriate for ages four and up.

“Crazy for You” runs June 12-30; “Jesus Christ Superstar” runs July 10-28. Performances are Wednesday through Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m.

Ticket prices for both “Crazy for You” and “Jesus Christ Superstar” are as follows. For the first four performances: $32 regular admission; seniors are $28; students and children are $18. For the remaining 11 performances: $38 regular admission; seniors are $35; students and children are $20.

“Seussical” runs June 19 through July 27. Performances are Wednesday through Friday at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m, and Saturday at 10 a.m. only.  All tickets to “Seussical” are $10 for June performances and $12 for July performances.

Sundays are Family Matinee Day; mainstage 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 “Crazy for You” and “Jesus Christ Superstar” 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.

Audio Description for patrons who are visually impaired will be available at the Sunday, June 23, performance of “Crazy for You.” Call 484-664-3087 for tickets in the accessible section of this performance.

Tickets and information are available at www.muhlenberg.edu/SMT or 484-664-3333.

Hilarity Heats Up The Harmony In MSMT’s ‘HMS Pinafore’

Pop-Art inspiration highlights the humor In Muhlenberg Summer Music Theatre’s production of Gilbert and Sullivan‘s first big hit, running July 11-29

Allentown, Pa (June 30, 2012) – When Gilbert and Sullivan’s “HMS Pinafore” opens July 11 at Muhlenberg College, aficionados will see the 19th century operetta they know and love, says director James Peck. But they will also see the bright colors and bold lines of the Pop Art era of Warhol and Rauschenberg, from which the production draws inspiration.

“The show will appeal to traditionalists and satisfy them. It’s a faithful production,” Peck says. “But it will also definitely win new fans. It’s a 134-year-old Victorian show filled with comedic and melodious moments, and we’re color-washing it—making it Technicolor.”

Muhlenberg Summer Music Theatre, now in its 32nd season, presents “HMS Pinafore” July 11-29, in the Baker Theatre. Peck, chair of the Theatre & Dance Department, will direct the show; Ed Bara and Muhlenberg alumna AlexJo Natale will provide musical direction and choreography, respectively.

“What makes ‘Pinafore’ so unique and special is the pure humor rubbing up against some of the most beautiful music,” Peck says. “It’s simultaneously absurd and beautifully serious.”

Librettist W.S. Gilbert and composer Arthur Sullivan’s first big hit, “HMS Pinafore” is full of hijinks and silliness, as well as the pair’s trademark wit, satire, and melodic songs. Ralph Rackstraw, a sailor aboard the HMS Pinafore and “the smartest lad in the fleet,” is in love with the ship captain’s daughter, Josephine — but her father has a more sophisticated suitor in mind: The Right Honorable Sir Joseph Porter, K.C.B, First Lord of the Admiralty.

Will true love prevail? Peck says they audience will just have to attend to find out. “Though let’s be honest,” he says. “They can probably guess.”

“Pinafore” was first produced in 1878 at the Opera Comique inLondon, where it ran for 571 performances —the second-longest running operetta up to that time. Some of the show’s best-known songs include “I’m Called Little Buttercup” and “A British Tar.”

“In fact,” Peck says, “the start of American musical theatre owes a lot to this show. It became an international sensation — and when it crossed over to theUnited States, it helped set the stage for the form of the American musical.”

Peck has directed the show before, many years ago. “Actually it was the third play I ever directed,” he says. “So I was so young; I was going by instinct. Now I have a tool bag, tricks of the trade, 25 more years of experience, and of course a great cast.”

Peck brings a Pop Art sensibility to this classic musical theatre masterpiece by playing with the typical production design to create something novel but still rooted in history.

“Imagine what Andy Warhol or Robert Rauschenberg or Jasper Johns might have done with ‘Pinafore,’ and that’s where we’re headed,” Peck says. “The show takes place on a warship painted to look like the Union Jack in bright reds and aqua blues. It feels like a toy boat.”

MSMT’s second production of the season reaches new technicolor heights with the help of faculty members and Muhlenberg alumni. Peck and Barra are joined by faculty member and professional actor Troy Dwyer as the dialect designer for the show. Also joining the production are Muhlenberg alumni Lauren Curnow ’96 as Little Buttercup and Matthew Allar ’00 as the scenic designer.

Allar and costume designer Kevin Thacker look to bring a sense of flourish to the show — reflective of the flourish of the music and lyrics — by brightening the costumes and set.

“We are embracing the late 19th century Victoriana setting, but in a pop contemporary way,” Allar says. “I am working to update the Victorian aesthetic typically seen in ‘HMS Pinafore’ with heightened shape and color to reflect the heightened music.”

Similarly, Dwyer, is crafting dialects not commonly used for “Pinafore” — but which he says are more truthful to the setting of the show. The characters are of British descent, but from the coast, resulting in more of a Hampshire and Portsmith accent which Dwyer says sounds “more pirate-like” than the English Cockney accent usually used

“This show takes a bold, colorful, vivid approach to the world of ‘Pinafore,'” Dwyer says, “but with no sacrifice of human reality, thanks to Jim. There are complete, whole characters — performing absurd humor.”

The accents Dwyer is designing signify more than a truthful locale, they also signify status and class within the world of the play. The more “pirate-like” the accent gets, the lower the class of the character speaking.  All of this intense focus on dialect specificity works to solidify Peck’s creation of absurdity still rooted in reality. Although Peck draws from a pop contemporary style, he still hopes to get at some important themes of class and true love. The show is anchored (pun intended) by these realistic themes.

“The theme of war between classes in this opera is as relevant today as it was when the show was written,” says actress Lauren Curnow, who plays Little Buttercup. “What’s great with this piece is that Gilbert and Sullivan composed text and music to complement each character’s absurd, but very serious, take on where the class lines should be drawn.”

“HMS Pinafore” plays July 11-29, Wednesday through Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m., in the Dorothy H. Baker Theatre, Trexler Pavilion for Theatre and Dance.

For the first four performances, July 11-14, tickets are $32 regular admission; seniors are $28; students and children are $18. For shows beginning July 15, tickets are $38 regular admission; seniors, $35; students and children, $20.

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.) Group discounts are available for groups of 15 or more.

Muhlenberg Summer Music Theatre performance information and tickets are available at 484-664-3333 or www.muhlenberg.edu/SMT.

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 Presents A Joyful, Celebratory ‘Godspell,’ July 13-31

The music and the message are the focus in this production of the Broadway hit by ‘Wicked’ composer Stephen Schwartz.

Accessible performance July 17 will feature Audio Description and Open Captioning for visually and hearing-impaired patrons.

Allentown, Pa. (June 27, 2011) – Muhlenberg Summer Music Theatre will present “Godspell,” Stephen Schwartz’s upbeat retelling of biblical parables, as the second Mainstage production of its 2011 season. Directed by Francis X. Kuhn, the show will run July 13-31 in the College’s Baker Theatre, Trexler Pavilion for Theatre & Dance.

“‘Godspell’ is a celebration,” Kuhn says. “People should come to the theater ready to celebrate and enjoy themselves.”

Based on the Gospel according to St. Matthew, “Godspell” is one of the biggest Off-Broadway and Broadway successes of all time. Featuring a beloved and sparkling score, in a variety of musical styles from pop and folk rock to gospel and vaudeville, “Godspell” boasts a string of familiar songs, led by the international hit “Day by Day.”

The show was conceived and originally directed by John-Michael Tebelak with music and new lyrics by Stephen Schwartz, the Tony Award-nominated composer of “Pippin” (1972) and “Wicked” (2003). Drawing from various traditions such as clowning, pantomime and song-and-dance, “Godspell” is a groundbreaking and unique reflection on philosophy and faith—with a message of kindness, tolerance and love.

“The story is about the discovery of divine play within ourselves,” Kuhn says. “‘Godspell’ may be a story about Jesus but the play is really a celebration of what is divine in all of us and how we can all become better human beings.”

Kuhn last directed at Muhlenberg in the summer of 1979. He has directed plays, musicals, and operas for theater and opera companies throughout the country, and he is currently an associate professor of theater at The College at Brockport (SUNY) in western New York.

Muhlenberg senior Andrew Clark, who plays Jesus, says that he appreciates the chance to play a role like this because it is different from any other character he has played.

“I’m not really what you would picture when you picture Jesus,” Clark says. “Theater is a way to subvert the norm, and I think that is the essence of ‘Godspell.’ In the show Jesus acts as a storyteller, and we are learning about the stories for their moral values and not necessarily the religious aspects.”

To emphasize the stories, set designer Curtis Dretsch and Kuhn wanted to take the look of their “Godspell” in an unusual direction. Dretsch co-founded Summer Music Theatre 31 years ago and has designed more than 100 sets for Muhlenberg.

“‘Godspell’ is usually overlaid with a notion of specificity — for example street people or a circus setting,” says Dretsch. “For our production we wanted to create a flexible, malleable, obviously theatrical environment.”

Kuhn and Dretsch want the text and the music to be the main focus. The set is very flexible and designed primarily to respond to light. Changes in atmosphere is accomplished through lighting changes.

“This is a much more straightforward, presentational version of the show,” says Dretsch. “The set is there to support, nurture, and present the play.”

The set and lighting also provide a showcase for the choreography by alumnus Will Porter, returning to Muhlenberg Summer Music Theatre for the first time since graduating in 2008. Porter will be headed to Tokyo in August as part of the national tour of “A Chorus Line.”

“Returning to Muhlenberg is a blessing,” says Porter. “It’s like a breath of fresh air.”

Porter and Kuhn want to give the show a contemporary look and feel liberated from its 1970s roots and specifically Christian context.

“Personally, I am Buddhist,” Porter says, “But I find many parallels among religions in the songs and stories in ‘Godspell,’ and I am using that as a jumping off point for the choreography.”

The Sunday, July 17, performance at 2 p.m. will feature Open Captioning (OC) for patrons who are deaf or hard of hearing and Audio Description (AD) for patrons who are blind or visually impaired. Open captioning provides the audience with an unobtrusive electronic text display to the side of the stage, displaying lyrics and dialogue in real time. Audio Description is a form of audio-visual translation, using natural pauses to insert narrative that translates the visual image into an audible form. Patrons use headsets to hear the audio description. This performance is sponsored in part by the Tri-County Accessible Arts Coalition.

“We are excited to bring the first audio described and open captioned performance to the Lehigh Valley community,” says Jess Bien, general manager of Muhlenberg’s Theatre and Dance Department. “By offering these types of performances, we are hoping to provide a whole new audience with the opportunity to experience live theater and some of America’s greatest musicals.”

To purchase audio described and open captioned tickets for the July 17 performance only, please call Jess Bien at 484-664-3087 or email boxoffice@muhlenberg.edu.

“Godspell” runs July 13–31, Wednesday through Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m. Performances are in the Dorothy Hess Baker Theatre, in the Trexler Pavilion for Theatre & Dance, Muhlenberg College, 2400 Chew St., Allentown.

Tickets for July 13-16 are $32; seniors age 65 and up, $28; students and children, $18. Tickets for July 17-31 are $38; seniors, $35; students and children, $20.

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.) Discounts are available for subscriptions to “The Music Man” and “Godspell” and for groups of 15 or more. More information online.

Also featured in MSMT’s 31st season: “Cinderella,” a movement-theater production for families, June 22 – July 30.

Muhlenberg Summer Music Theatre performance information and tickets are available at 484-664-3333 or www.muhlenberg.edu/SummerMusicTheatre