October 22, 2019
MRA opens season with 'Rocky Horror'
“The Rocky Horror Show” (and its film sibling “The Rocky Horror Picture Show”) has been entertaining audiences for decades. That tradition is alive and strong with Mon River Art’s production of Richard O’Brien’s classic cult parody of science fiction and horror movies.
The show continues Oct. 25 and 26 at 8 p.m. at the Grand Theatre in Elizabeth. Because of adult themes, no one under 17 is admitted unless accompanied by an adult.
Director Ray Cygrymus captures the essence of the show that encourages audience participation. Some local die-hard fans did not miss a beat to interact with the characters. For those who want to get in on the action, a prop bag can be purchased in the lobby for $4.
In case you are not familiar with show, it’s about a young engaged couple — Brad and Janet. One night while out in the car, they get a flat tire and walk through the rain to a castle. All they want is to use the phone, but they get an eye-opening experience, losing their innocence and naivety in the process. They quickly realize the people inside are a little unusual, especially the owner — Dr. Frank’N’Furter, a transvestite scientist who creates the muscle-bound Rocky. Things take an interesting turn when servants and siblings Riff Raff and Magenta overtake the others, free Brad, Janet and their friend Dr. Scott, and return to their planet Transexual in the galaxy of Transylvania.
A strong cast is led by Erik Thompson as the mad scientist. His strong vocals and witty delivery add depth to the character. It’s also impressive how he dances and runs around in spike heels.
There is chemistry between Emily-Ann Stephens and Sam Minnick as Janet and Brad. They create a believable young couple in love. They do a nice job with “Dammit Janet” and “Super Heroes” and they do a nice job taking their characters on their whirlwind life-changing adventure.
Taylor Anderson does a wonderful job as Riff Raff, the hunchbacked servant, and Alexis Hawk is good as Magenta. She also opens and closes the show as the Usherette with “Science Fiction.” Jess Uhler takes center stage in one of the funniest scenes as Columbia.
Christine Pittman does a great job as Rocky; Jenn James is good as Dr. Scott; Dale Mossburg is energetic as musician Eddie; and Gabrielle Sally sets the stage for various scenes as the very effective Narrator. Rounding out the cast are ensemble members Sierra Mitchell, Samantha Parks, Jordan Yuhas and Lydia Browell.
“The Rock Horror Show” is a unique musical with catchy tunes (the live music is excellent but sometimes overpowers the vocals), good dancing, and strong acting. If you want to get in spirit of the season, this show should do the trick.
By Carol Waterloo Frazier
September 13, 2019
Charlie Brown opens MLT's season
Have you ever wished you could go back in time and spend an evening with friends you grew up with?
If you grew up with the Peanuts gang then you’re in luck. McKeesport Little Theater brings those ageless characters to life in “You’re A Good Man, Charlie Brown, The Broadway Musical.” Show times are 7:30 p.m. Sept. 13, 14, 20, 21, 27 and 28 and 2 p.m. Sept. 15, 22 and 29.
The theater is located at 1614 Coursin St. in McKeesport. Tickets are $18, $12 for students. For reservations call412-673-1100.
Director Lora Oxenreiter does a fine job capturing the idiosyncrasies of Charlie Brown, Lucy, Linus, Sally, Schroeder, and Snoopy. The costumes match the characters and the colorful multi-functional set does not overshadow the performers.
The musical is a delightful blend of snippets and production numbers featuring scenes Peanuts fans have come to love. From kite flying to baseball to the psychiatrist to the flying ace, those iconic scenarios are sure to bring a smile to your face.
Each of the six performers has plenty of time in the spotlight and each takes full advantage to show off their performing skills. Scott Thompson does a wonderful job as Charlie Brown, convincing the audience that despite his “good grief” life he really is a good man. His scenes with Catherine Hayashi as Lucy are fun, especially “Doctor is In.”
Thompson effortlessly shows Charlie’s daily rollercoaster of emotions ranging from insecurity about the little redhaired girl to accomplishment in “The Kite” to optimism in “Baseball TEAM” to stress in “Book Report” to sharing what brings him (and the others) “Happiness.”
Hayashi has mastered the mannerisms and expressions of Lucy — and the never-ending attempts to gain the attention of piano-playing Schroeder, played by Matthew Tracy, who does a nice job with “Beethoven Day.” Their scenes together, like “Schroeder,” are fun. She shares another fun scene with Benn Blinn as Linus, her little brother whom she explains some “Little Known Facts.” As the blanket-toting Linus, Blinn does a nice job with “My Blanket and Me.” He maintains a child-like voice throughout so it’s easy to see him as a little boy.
Anneke Jo Elmhirst is a joy to watch as Sally, Charlie’s little sister. Her snippets are amusing and relatable as she shares them with unbridled energy. “My New Philosophy” is fun.
A Peanut’s show would not be complete without Snoopy — and Adam Wainwright does an amazing job portraying man’s best friend. He is definitely a scene-stealer with numbers like “Suppertime” and his search for the Red Barron. His over-the-top melodramatics is sure to make the audience “howl” with laughter.
“You’re A Good Man, Charlie Brown” is a perfect way to relax and laugh after a hard week. The cast is wonderful and the music is very good. This show is a perfect kickoff for MLT’s 59th season.
By Carol Waterloo Frazier
November 11, 2016
MLT's 'Twelve Angry Men' a must-see show
Testimony has wrapped up and the judge has sent the 12-man jury into a room to deliberate the guilt or innocence of a 19-year-old man charged with fatally stabbing his father. On the surface, the verdict seems obvious. But it doesn’t take long before the obvious becomes a bit blurred.
That’s the scenario for McKeesport Little Theater’s impressive production of “Twelve Angry Men.” The show continues Nov. 11, 12, 18 and 19 at 8 p.m. and Nov. 13 and 20 at 2 p.m. at the 1614 Coursin St. theater in McKeesport. Tickets are $15, $10 for students.
Director Lora Oxenreiter cast 12 strong performers who bring to life what goes on behind the closed doors of the deliberation room. They draw the audience into the arguments and explanations that result in more questions than answers.
While all the jurors are in the spotlight, the focus is on Juror 8, brilliantly played by Randy Berner. His character methodically goes through the testimony, offering other possibilities or questioning how something said under oath could possibly be true. As the voice of reason, he constantly reminds his fellow jurors they hold the teen’s life in their hands.
In contrast, Sean David Butler as Juror 3 turns in an outstanding performance as his character’s personal circumstances cloud any possibility the suspect may not have committed the crime. The juror’s relentless outbursts keeps his colleagues on edge, not knowing if he might act on his rage.
This show is more than just 12 people trying to come up with a guilty or innocent verdict. It’s a fascinating look into the interaction of 12 very different personalities. Just as Jurors 8 and 3 are opposites, a similar comparison can be made of Jurors 9 and 10.
Bill Winzeler convincingly plays the elderly Juror 9, who is soft spoken and moves slowly. His character brings a different perspective toward the suspect and one of the witnesses. On the other side of the spectrum, Dale Irvin is good as Juror 10, who bases his decision on prejudicial thoughts of a certain type of people.
Johnny Terreri as Juror 4 does a good job coming up with scenarios to support his ideas and very clearly lays out his theories, but is open-minded to other possibilities. Zack Miller is wonderful as Juror 11, a rabbi who came to America and is proud of the freedoms he has here. He maintains the accent throughout the show, which is not an easy task to accomplish.
There’s always one braggart in every group and David Hoffman is that overbearing Juror 12. And there’s always one who just wants to finish and go home, which is the goal of Juror 7, played by Steven F. Gallagher.
Rounding out the jurors are Tom Sarp, who does his best to keep deliberations as civil as possible as the Foreman; Arjun Kumar as the young Juror 2; Justin Kofford as Juror 5; and Ryan Baker as Juror 6. James Brian is the infrequently seen Bailiff.
Not only is the acting amazing, the set adds to the credibility of story, which is set in 1957. There’s a working window, ash trays (yes, they are used), a reconstruction of a jury room conference table, and actual vintage jury room chairs from the Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County.
MLT has raised the bar quite high with this amazing production. “Twelve Angry Men” is definitely a show you don’t want to miss.
By Carol Waterloo Frazier
October 20, 2022
MRA's 'The Wedding Singer' a marriage of superb singing, acting
Mon River Arts kicks off its season with a phenomenal production of "The Wedding Singer" at the Grand Theater in Elizabeth.
The show continues Oct. 21 and 22 (Friday and Saturday) at 7:30 p.m. and Oct. 23 (Sunday) at 2 p.m. Tickets range from $18-$22 and are available at MonRiverArts.ticketleap.com. The Grand Theater is at 207 South Second Ave.
Director Nik Nemec does an exceptional job bringing the popular Adam Sandler movie to the stage. Expectations can be hard to live up to for fans of the movie but Nemec meets - and exceeds - them. The exceptionally talented cast probably makes that task easier.
From the stars to the ensemble, there is not a weak link to be found. And that includes the orchestra, which has a new home for the production - on stage overlooking the action.
Not familiar with "The Wedding Singer"? Set in the 1980s (there are lots of references to that decade!), the show is about a wedding singer and his two friends who sing at receptions and help make the day memorable. Things change when lead singer Robbie gets left at the altar at his own wedding and no longer believes in love. Julie, a waitress where he sings, is smitten by him even though she soon finds herself engaged. They eventually realize they can't deny their feelings for each other, but it is too late?
Sam Brooks is amazing as Robbie as his character finds himself on a roller coaster of emotions. He has a commanding stage presence and easily draws the audience into his emotions. While his acting is strong, he is a vocal powerhouse, especially on "If I Told You." He does a nice job with the dark yet funny "Somebody Kill Me" and "Casualty of Love."
Katy Risotto shines as Julia. She makes it easy to believe you have a window into her character's life instead of watching an actress on stage. Scenes with her and Brooks are a perfect match. Whether it's the light-hearted "Come Out of the Dumpster" or the more emotional "If I Told You," she is wonderful and together they are a joy to watch.
Robbie's two sidekicks are fun. Derek Fredrickson (Sammy the guitarist) and Joe Coccia (George the flamboyant keyboardist) offer a stereotypical glimpse into the '80s. When the threesome are together you never know what might happen, but you know they will be there for each other. Fredrickson's scenes with Erin Seaberg as Holly are great, especially "Right in Front of Your Eyes"; Seaberg does nice job with "Saturday Night in the City." Every time Coccia is on stage he is guaranteed to generate laughs.
Ted Froats does a great job as Julia's fiance Glen. "All About the Green" is a great scene where he takes center stage. Alicia Miller is fun Grandma Rosie and Tracy Rudzinski is very good as Linda, the one who left Robbie at the altar; her "Let Me Come Home" scene is fun and steamy.
The ensemble - Sue Biddle, Dana DeFonso, Vivian Fredrickson, Jodi Geyer, Jade Goodes, Jamie Magill, Matt Magill, Paige Moody, Maximus Morales, Sarah Sidorchuck, Jordan Yuhas and Noah Zamamiri - is very good and take on various roles.
Everything about "The Wedding Singer" is wonderful. Choreographer Chelsea Fredrickson does a great job with the dance numbers, and the sets and costumes are very nice. If you have nothing to do Friday or Saturday evening or Sunday afternoon, this is definitely a show worth seeing. You will not be disappointed.
By Carol Waterloo Frazier
May 19, 2022
MRA's 'Mamma Mia!' a top-notch production
When the curtain goes up on Mon River Art's production of "Mamma Mia!" theater-goers will be transported to a small Greek island just in time for a wedding. There will be lots of laughs and maybe a tear or two, rekindled love, a budding romance, and the antics that happen when good friends get together.
The show opens at the Grand Theater in Elizabeth tonight (May 19) at 7:30 p.m. and continues through May 22. Show times are May 20 at 7:30 (no online tickets), May 21 at 2 and 7:30 p.m. (no online tickets for 7:30 p.m.), and May 22 at 2 p.m. (no online tickets). For ticket availability, go to the website at monriverarts.org or call 412-405-8425.
A popular show filled with songs people love to sing and dance to can be challenging but director Nik Nemec meets - and exceeds - expectations. And when you have such a talented to cast, it makes the job a little easier.
The show takes place in the hours leading up to the wedding of Sophie and Sky. The bride-to-be wants her father to give her away, but she has to find out who he is. Without telling her mother, the owner of a hotel on the island, she invites the three men who could be her dad. Through some funny and some emotional encounters, love prevails - with a twist.
Erin Seaberg does a phenomenal job as Donna, the mother of the bride who is dealing with the emotions of her little girl getting married. Add to that the roller coaster of feelings she must deal with when seeing the three men who could be her daughter's father. She effortlessly - and very convincingly - takes the audience along on this 24-hour journey of facing her past and moving into the future.
As strong as her acting is, vocally she is even better. Whether it's having fun with her friends for "Dancing Queen" and "Super Trouper," the show's namesake song "Mamma Mia" or tear-jerker "Slipping Through My Fingers" while helping her daughter get ready for her wedding (Vivian Fredrickson is cute as the Young Sophie) she is a vocal powerhouse. She puts so much feeling into "One of Us" and the powerful "SOS" and "The Winner Takes it All" with Sam Brooks (Sam) is exceptional. Brooks and Seaberg play off each other well, establishing a believable tension from the moment they see other. Brooks does a great job pouring out his heart on "Knowing Me, Knowing You" his expressions conveying his heartache.
Sophie is wonderfully played by Hannah Rosenberg. Interactions with the men who could be her father are good, including "Thank You For the Music" and the probing "The Name of the Game." During a nightmare, Rosenberg does a nice job with "Under Attack."
Jen Kopach is fun as Rosie and Susana Barragan is great as Tanya, the best friends of the mother-of-the-bride. Together, they do a nice job with "Chiquitita" while trying to comfort their friend. Kopach is wonderful in the flirtatious "Take A Chance on Me" and Barragan has a good time with "Does Your Mother Know."
The two other potential dads are played by Ray Cygrymus as Harry and Ernesto Sanchez as Bill. Cygrymus and Seaberg share a nice scene reminiscing in "Our Last Summer" where he lets his hair down (literally) and his vocals shine. Sanchez is quite convincing as a fun-loving writer who takes a liking to Rosie and enjoys her flirtations.
Johnny Reardon as Sky does a nice job, especially when interacting with his friends. A very light-hearted and fun scene is with him, Rosenberg, and his groomsmen Pepper (Derek Fredrickson) and Eddie (Matt Magil) for "Lay All Your Love on Me."
Sophie's best friends are the vivacious Ali (Katy Risotto) and the more reserved Lisa (Jade Goodes). Rounding out the cast are Randy Dicks as Father Alexandrios and the ensemble, Megan Bonenberger, Terri Davis, Jamie Magill and Jordan Yuhas.
MRA hits it out of the park with "Mamma Mia!" The cast is excellent and you can't go wrong with the soundtrack. If you can get tickets, you will be glad you did. And don't run out after the curtain call - the fun doesn't end there.
By Carol Waterloo Frazier
September 21, 2018
MLT season opens with a tale of 'Sordid Lives'
McKeesport Little Theater opened its season with a comedy that shows the sordid lives of a family experiencing the unexpected loss of someone.
The show continues Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m. at the theater at 1614 Coursin St. in McKeesport.
There is no doubt this show will have you laughing out loud. But a word to the wise: be prepared for some rough language from many of the characters.
If you're not familiar with "Sordid Lives," it's about Peggy - a mother and grandmother - who bleeds to death after hitting her head on the sink. The real story is how that happened - she tripped over her lover's wooden legs while they were in a motel room in Texas. By the way, her lover was her daughter's best friend's husband.
Each scene begins in the same setting - one of Ty's therapy sessions in New York where he is trying to come to terms with his sexuality. Although you never really see him during these sessions because there is only backlighting, Lukas Gerlach does a nice job portraying Ty. The scene where he tells his mother is good.
Apryl L. Peroney plays his mother, Latrell, and turns in a fine performance. Scenes with Anna Marie Colecchi, who plays her aunt, Sissy Hickey, are great. There is a chemistry between them that makes them fun to watch.
Elaine M Lucas-Evans is the victim's other daughter, LaVonda, who says what she's thinking. She is there for her best friend Noleta, played by Deanna Marchese It's Noleta's husband that was in the motel room with LaVonda's mom. She is definitely a woman scorned and her wrath on her husband and his two friends, Wardell his brother Odell, is priceless - and her best friend LaVonda is right there with her getting her own revenge for her brother.
LaVonda is the only one in the family who thinks their brother, "Brother Boy," should be allowed out of the mental hospital to attend his mother's funeral. Karl Rice does an amazing job in the scene with Dr. Eve Bollinger, amazingly played by Sydney Turnwald, who will do anything to prove her theory of dehomosexualization and complete a book deal.
"Brother Boy" has been institutionalized 23 years, thanks to bartender Wardell "Bubba" Owens. Jack McClaskey does a believable job in a redemption of sorts when he admits that what he did was wrong, living with the guilt ever since. In an albeit unorthodox way, he brings his friend to the funeral. Ethan Olsen portrays his brother, Odell, who is fixated on what he saw done to a pig at a fair.
The indirect cause of all this upheaval is G.W., played by Wyatt Wilson. He blames himself for the death of the only woman he's ever loved - despite the fact he's married.
If you're looking for something fun to do this week, "Sordid Lives" could be the answer. The cast is good and draws the audience into their lives, as sordid as they may be. But remember, it's definitely a show for an adult audience, not children.
For tickets, go to www.mckeesportlittletheater.com.
By Carol Waterloo Frazier
November 9, 2019
MLT's 'And the Winner Is...' a definite winner
McKeesport Little Theater has a winner with it's production of Mitch Albom's comedy, "And the Winner Is..."
The show continues Nov. 9-10 and 15-17. Curtain goes up at 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturdays and 2 p.m. Sundays.
Director Dan Kirk does an amazing job with a very talented cast and the result is two hours of laughing with some surprises and a message of redemption.
This is the story of a rather egotistical actor, Tyler Johnes, who is nominated for an Oscar. It's a dream come true but there is one problem - he dies the night before the ceremony. He makes a deal with Irish heavenly gatekeeper Seamus to attend the awards to find out if he wins. Joining him - and Seamus - on the journey are his agent, his girlfriend, and his acting rival. His wife shows up on occasion, too, and plays a key role in the actor's transformation.
There is not a weak link in the cast. Leading the way is Scott Thompson as Tyler Johnes, aka Jake. He does a wonderful job as the full-of-himself actor who has a had time dealing with the reality that he is dead. His gradual epiphany of believing in something greater than himself is convincing. Interactions with the other characters are good; scenes with Heather Atkinson as his wife Sheri are packed with emotion.
When Atkinson is on the main stage she shines. She easily draws the audience into her character through her laid back demeanor. The less-than-perfect relationship between Sheri and Jake are told in "flashbacks" on a side stage.
Patrick Conner is great as Seamus, the Irish gatekeeper who greets Johnes in a bar upon his death. His facial expressions often say more than words when it comes to his confusion about things his charge is talking about.
Teddy LePetite, the agent who is more focused on the bottom line than his clients, is superbly played by Matthew Tracy. He impresses by never losing the French accent despite the character's zaniness.
Dellen Morton is good as Kyle Morgan, the acting and personal nemesis of Johnes; the scene reflective of their younger days is fun. Kate Sickels nails the idiosyncrasies of the ditzy girlfriend, Serenity. Tina Hull is the Oscar announcer.
The language at times is a bit rough, but it actually is used - at least early on in the show - to set the stage of who Seamus is and what happened to Johnes.
If you like comedies, you will definitely enjoy "And the Winner Is..." Although it is definitely a fun show, it poses a couple questions that just might make you think about your own life.
By Carol Waterloo Frazier
May 10, 2017
Set sail for an 'Anything Goes' cruise at MLT
If you've ever been on a cruise, you know that feeling when you see the ship that will be your home for the next week. You'll get a similar feeling as you enter the McKeesport Little Theater. The stage is transformed into a deck of a luxury ocean liner of the 1930s, complete with portholes, railings, and the ship's name -- the S.S. American.
Once onboard, theater-goers watch as passengers set sail from New York to London and the storylines of the Cole Porter musical "Anything Goes" quickly unfold.
The show continues at the 1614 Coursin St. theater in McKeesport at 8 p.m. May 12, 13, 19 and 20, and at 2 p.m. May 14 and 21.
Much of the show centers around Reno Sweeney, an evangelist turned nightclub singer played by Riley Tate. Vocally she is strong and seems to get stronger as the show progresses. She does a convincing job when interacting with the other performers, especially in a light-hearted seduction-gone-bad scene with Sam Minnick as Sir Evelyn Oakleigh. Because their characters are polar opposites, that's what makes their scenes so much fun, including "Let's Misbehave." He does a nice job maintaining the British accent throughout the show.
Ron Clawson turns in a strong performance as Billy Crocker, who has one goal -- get his former girlfriend back, who just happens to on her way to London to get married to another passenger, Sir Evelyn. A ticketless passenger, Clawson's character uses the ticket of Snake Eyes Johnson, aka Public Enemy #1, and dons many disguises to avoid being caught. His powerful voice makes songs like "It's Delovely" seem effortless.
The love of his life, Hope, is played by Emily-Ann Stephens and they have a chemistry that makes their love story believable. Her expressions are natural, especially when trying not to laugh each time her former love shows up incognito. Stephens and Clawson do a nice job on "All Through the Night."
Hands down, Tim Tolbert is the scene stealer -- even if the spotlight is not on him. As Moonface Martin, aka Public Enemy #13, he dons the disguise of a priest that results in some pretty funny dialogue. His expressions are matchless and he commands attention any time he is on stage. "Be Like the Bluebird" is just one of the many scenes you can't help but laugh.
Julia Lodge is fun as Moonface's sidekick Bonnie, who is not only a joy to watch but does a great job maintaining the New York accent even when singing and dancing to songs like "Heaven Hop." Anna Colecchi is convincing as Hope's mother, Mrs. Wadsworth T. Harcourt, who just happens to not like Billy.
The production staff does a superb job. Kudos to director Dorothy Fallows for making the set and costumes, as well as the singing and dancing (although not as much tap as in the original Broadway show, the couple of numbers are good), worthy of an award-winning classic musical. There are only six more "cruises" left. Make sure you don't miss the boat on a superb season-closing production.
By Carol Waterloo Frazier
July 16, 2021
MLT resumes shows with powerful ‘Dracula, A Musical’
After more than a year of silence, McKeesport Little Theater is raising the curtain on its 2021 season. And it's starting with a rousing production of a show that made it's premiere there in 1993, "Dracula, A Musical."
Showtimes are July 16, 17, 23 and 24 at 7:30 p.m. and July 18 and 25 at 2 p.m. The theater is located at 1614 Coursin St. in McKeesport.
Tickets are $20, $12 for students with a valid ID or under 18. For reservations, call the theater at 412-673-1100 and leave your name, phone number, the date of the performance you wish to see, and the number of tickets; there are no online reservations for this show. There will be no call backs to confirm reservations unless you have a question or concern. After 5 p.m. for same day viewing, tickets must be purchased at the box office.
Created by Western Pennsylvania friends and musical geniuses Paul Michael Brown and Albert Snyder, the musical tells the story of Count Dracula, the famous character brought to life in Bram Stoker's 19th century novel. But Brown's version is more of a character study, giving this love story a depth not usually found in stories about the famous character.
The setting is 1927 at the Van Helsing estate on the outskirts of London at what was supposed to be the engagement party for Mina Van Helsing and Jonathan Harker. But the murder of Mina’s close friend prompts the canceling of the festivities, although one guest, Count Dracula, was not told about the change of plans. His presence stirs feelings in Mina and Jonathan’s sister Lucy – and triggers suspicion for Jonathan.
One of the show's highlights is the wonderful score. From the opening rather dark “Children of the Night” to the poignant lyrics of “Wildbird,” the powerful “Show Me the Light” and the whimsically macabre “Crazy Man” and “The Dirty Work,” the music is outstanding.
Director Dorothy Fallows has a strong cast to bring the show to life. Ann Gergerich offers a stellar performance as Mina. Her expressions and body language easily draw the audience into her feelings, especially when it comes to the Count. Vocally she is phenomenal, especially on her lone solo, “Love Like This,” and when joined by Ron Clawson (Dracula) on “Just Like the First Time” their strong voices blend beautifully.
Clawson does a superb job as the stoically seductive Count Dracula. His dynamic voice is showcased on “Show Me the Light,” as he expresses his anguish about his curse. While scenes with Gergerich are filled with emotion, the most powerful scene involves Jessica Freuden as Lucy.
Freuden does a stellar job to bring Lucy’s wide-eyed innocence and her need to see the world to life. She easily allows the audience into the character's life, especially on the hope-filled “Wildbird.” Hands down the most powerful scene is the beautifully choreographed seduction as she falls under Dracula’s spell on “One Little Kiss.” A brilliantly powerful scene.
Dylan Stramaski does an excellent job as escaped mental patient Renfield. Maybe it’s the makeup, but there is no question the character has some dark issues. His movements are sharp and he plays to the audience.
Evan Pietrzak does a nice job as Jonathan, the jealous fiancé and overprotective brother. His performance gets stronger as the show progresses.
Rounding out the cast is Ed Gergerich as Van Helsing, Phil Boatright as McPherson, Tom Arillotta as Inspect Farnsworth, Terri Davis as Emily, Colleen Boatright as Sylvia, and ensemble members Dakota Vargo, Savannah Vargo, Margaret Valentine, Ellie Valentine, Dave Fleming and Colette Funches.
This is a must-see show. If you have missed going to the theater, “Dracula, A Musical” is an exceptional production to welcome folks back. You will not be disappointed.
Carol Waterloo Frazier
A variety of stories including previews and reviews of local theater productions will be featured.
December 13, 2016
MRA's 'Wonderful Life' an inspiring Christmas show
For many, "It's A Wonderful Life" is a holiday tradition.
Mon River Arts brings the beloved 1946 movie to life in "It's A Wonderful Life -- A Live Radio Play."
Curtain times are 7:30 Dec. 16 and 17 and 2 p.m. Dec. 18 at the Grand Theatre, 207 South Second Ave. in Elizabeth. Tickets are $14, $12 for seniors (age 62 and older) and students (college age and younger with ID). For tickets, call 412-405-8425 or email MRAboxoffice@gmail.com or click the "Reserve Your Seat" at monriverarts.org.
While the iconic story is best known as a movie, it was done two times on radio with James Stewart and Donna Reed reprising their roles: in March 1947 on "The Lux Radio Theatre" and in December of that year on "Camel Screen Guild Theatre." A 30-minute radio adaption was done in May 1949 on "Screen Director's Playhouse" with Stewart.
In the nostalgia of the radio era, director Samantha A. Camp does a nice job with the five-person cast to bring the story to life. Sound effects were vital during live radio shows and that was the case with the MRA production. Joe Schneider does a great job as the Stage Manager (as well as other characters) hitting his mark with effects like walking and doors closing.
Christopher Collier gives a strong performance as George Bailey. He convincingly takes George through a roller coaster of emotions from excitement to disappointment, despair to renewal. He lassos the audience with a couple powerful monologues that create a hush over the theater and triggers a tear or two when he realizes how blessed he is and the impact he's had on the people in Bedford Falls.
Sarah McKee is delightful as Mary, who captures George's heart. Her expressions say what words can't -- her unconditional love for her husband, her concern when she knows something's wrong, her overwhelming sense of pride when the townfolk help him in his time of need. Her vivacious persona connects with the audience and brings a unique depth to her character.
Collier and McKee are the only cast members with one role. The rest of the performers wear multiple hats -- literally.
While Laura Grossman is the on-air host of the radio broadcast, she also plays two very important characters -- the mean-spirited, Scrooge-like Potter who will do anything to take over Bailey Building and Loan, and Joseph, the head angel who tells George's story to Clarence. As Potter, she dons a black hat, accent and the occasional smirk to try to swindle the business from George. As Joseph, she puts on a pair of wings. She does a nice job providing her other character with slightly different voices.
Clarence is brought to life by Stacy DiPasquale. She does a wonderful job as the naive angel-in-training trying desperately to get his wings. She also portrays George's war hero brother Harry and others.
Jessica Trumpeter is Billy, the absent-minded uncle whose carelessness sets the stage for George's life-changing experience. Wearing a suit coat as Billy, she puts on a shawl to become Violet, and other items for different characters.
The different "costumes" is a great way to help identify the various characters and the cast has it down to a choreographed routine so the changes are smooth and effortless.
If you're looking for a way to get into the Christmas spirit or if you need a break from the craziness of the season, make some time to include this as part of your holiday activities.
By Carol Waterloo Frazier
January 20, 2017
Journey to ‘Madagascar’ with MLT Juniors
It's the middle of January — wouldn't it be great to spend some time on a nice, warm island? Madagascar might be an option.
The cast of McKeesport Little Theatre's Juniors will take you on a journey to the island in their production of "Madagascar — A Musical Adventure." Curtain time is 7:30 p.m. Jan. 20 and 21 and 2 p.m. Jan. 23. Tickets are $15, $10 for students.
Director Dorothy Fallows does an amazing job with the cast of young performers who range in age from 5 to 18. Whether large or small roles, the aspiring actors and actresses to a wonderful job bringing the Dream Works animated film to life.
The 90-minute show (including a 15-minute intermission) tells the story of Alex the Lion, Marty the Zebra, Melman the Giraffe, Gloria the Hippo, and a group of penguins who decide to see what life is like outside of New York’s Central Park Zoo. Their adventure lands them on a ship to Madagascar, where things really get interesting.
Portraying the four adventurous animals are Joey Young as Marty, Derek Jenkins as Alex, Jessica Freuden as Gloria, and Isaac Richardson as Melman. They complement each other nicely as a group and are good when they have their time individually in the spotlight.
The instigators for the escape are the penguins, who are adorably played by Sierra Mitchell, Kaitlyn Majewski, Autumn Tavaglione, Sadie Mitchell, Gillian Holiday, Shane Jenkins, and Zeke Tavaglione (only in kindergarten, he doesn’t miss a beat and is a scene stealer).
Camden Sutek and Julia Lodge are excellent as King Julien and Maurice. One of the show’s highlights is the musical number “I Like to Move It,” led by Sutek.
Rounding out the cast are Alexis Shepherd, Abbi Ross/Mitchell, Lydia Richardson, Ashley McCalla, Colleen Boatright, Nariah Washington, Dylan Stramaski, Paige Allan, Maitlyn Cegiski, Sara Cohill, Alana Demis, Wyatt Holiday, Evan Kepich, Lauren Maneer, and Celia McBride.
The acting and singing aren’t the only impressive aspects of the production. From the time folks enter the theatre, they are whisked to the zoo thanks to decorations and signs to create an appropriate setting.
Lori Stramaski does an amazing job coordinating the wonderful costumes. Parents rallied together to create outstanding outfits that transform the actors into the animals they are portraying.
If you’re looking for something to do this weekend, this show is worth seeing. It’s a fun show, the cast is great, the costumes are wonderful, and there are even some pretty impressive special sound effects.
By Carol Waterloo Frazier
September 22, 2022
Extra! Extra! Read all about it - 'Newsies' a must-see show at MLT
It's not everyday you can go to the theater and get a history lesson while watching an amazing production. For the next three days, you have an opportunity to do just that - learn about the strike by newsboys in New York City in 1899 by an exceptional cast bringing that bit of history to life on the McKeesport Little Theater stage.
The curtain goes up at 7:30 p.m. Sept. 23 and 24 and 2 p.m. Sept. 25. Tickets are $20, $12 for students and are available at the theater's web site, www.mckeesportlittletheater.com. The theater is located at 1614 Coursin St. in McKeesport.
Based on the real-life Newsboy Strike of 1899, this Disney musical tells the story of rebellious newsboy Jack Kelly and his ragamuffin newsboy friends who make a meager living selling newspapers on the city streets. When they have to pay more for 100 papers, they go on strike - against the papers owned and run by Joseph Pulitzer. Jack and the newsboys - with an unlikely supporter - decide it's time to "seize the day!" Their actions result in some major changes in the city.
Director Shawn Conway does a superb job using the talent of the actors to tell this poignant story. The cast does an amazing job not just with the light-hearted moments but with the powerful and at times intense scenes, easily drawing the audience into what their characters are living.
The show has some classic tunes, from the hope-filled and reflective "Santa Fe" to the emotion-packed "Seize the Day" and "The World Will Know," the cast doesn't miss a beat. The live music helps create the intensity conveyed in the songs and the dancing is wonderful, especially the brilliantly choreographed fight scene.
Leading the cast is Dylan Pal as Jack Kelly. He is good vocally and gets stronger as the show progresses. He makes it easy to see why the other newsies look up to his character and why he blames himself when one of his friends ends up back in the Refuge. He convincingly gives Jack the courage to stand up Joseph Pulitzer and to throw caution to the wind and fall in love. What is most impressive is he never breaks from the New York accent - not an easy task and one he masters brilliantly.
Joey Estok does a superb job as Crutchie, Jack's closet newsie friend. He puts a tremendous amount of emotion into the big production numbers, especially "Seize the Day." The most moving scene involves his character writing a letter to Jack from the Refuge after being beaten up and taken there. His expressions are amazing and tell the story of what he is feeling.
The newsboys' unlikely ally is Katherine Plumber, enthusiastically played by Camryn Hall. A newspaper reporter, she agrees to do a Page 1 story about the boys and their plight. Jack is smitten by her and when it's revealed who she is he can't forget about her. Hall and Pal do a nice job on "Something to Believe In" and she shines vocally on "Watch What Happens."
The source of the newsboys' angst is Joseph Pulitzer, perfectly played by Ben Wren. He makes it easy to see why the newsies' revolted against the self-centered ego-maniac publisher. Wren does a nice job when he realizes the character has to give in and make concessions, and wields his authority on "The Bottom Line."
Two brothers - Davey and Les - who start selling papers to help their family (which sets them apart from the other newsies) are played by Ayden Freed and Anderson Miller. As older sibling Davey, Freed is convincing as knowing exactly what has to be done to form a union and Jack and his fellow newsies do what he says. Miller is fun as the younger brother who wants to do everything his big brother does.
Courtney Harkins does a nice job as theater owner Medda Larkin. Her vocals are showcased in "That's Rich" and she interacts nicely with Pal and the other newsboys.
Kyli Stoner is a scene stealer. Whether she's playing Wiesel or one of her other characters, she provides the comedic relief throughout the show. Her antics and expressions are priceless and she makes them seem very natural.
Gov. Theodore Roosevelt is played by Sean Butler and he has the future president's mannerisms down pat. Gunner Firmstone was fun as young newsie Romeo. Rounding out the cast are Dylan Stramaski, Zach Gilkey, B. Barnabei, Gianna Sotereanos, Lucas Sotereanos, Sadie Mitchell, Ashley Grese, Chelsea Conway, Bekah Sedwick, Brandon Snyder, Craig Soich and Paige McLaughlin.
MLT's production of Disney's "Newsies" is excellent. There is nothing weak about this show - the acting, singing and dancing are wonderful. If you want to be see a brilliant show and learn a little bit of history, you don't want to miss this amazing musical.
By Carol Waterloo Frazier
March 17, 2022
MLT’s ‘Exit the Body’ a mystery filled with comedy
If you like mysteries with a twist, and comedy, "Exit the Body" is a must-see.
Set in the1950s, this whodunnit brilliantly directed by Dan J. Kirk and produced by Jennifer R. Vertullo continues at McKeesport Little Theater with performances March 18 and 19 at 7:30 p.m. and March 20 at 2 p.m. The theater is located at 1614 Coursin St. in McKeesport.
Written by Fred Carmichael, "Exit the Body" takes place in a vacation home in New England rented by mystery writer Crane Hammond and her secretary, Kate Bixley. What is supposed to be a quiet place for the author to work on her next book turns into a revolving door of interesting locals looking for diamonds that are believed to be hidden somewhere in the house. Stories are told to keep secrets and the bodies that keep appearing and disappearing in a closet adds lots of layers of humorous intrigue.
The key to this three-act farce is comedic timing and this cast has it down to a science. They make it look so natural, which is quite impressive.
There is not a weak link in this stellar lineup of performers, whose characters all have an integral part in the story. The audience is quickly drawn into the goings-on, due in large part because of the body language and facial expressions conveyed by the actors.
Kacie Greenlief as Hammond and Sierra Mitchell as Kate not only have expressions that tell more than words at times, but they play off each other perfectly. They are wonderful.
Hannah DeGroot does an amazing job as the extremely naive and ditzy housekeeper, Jenny. She teams with Tom Arillotta as Randolph, convincing as a bad-guy wanna be who constantly quotes the "instruction book" when it comes to looking for the diamonds.
Kinsley Beachler is Helen O'Toole, the overly friendly realtor who keeps checking on the house guests. She hooks up with Vernon Cookley, the town's taxi driver, sheriff and anything else he needs to be, amazingly portrayed by Eddie Kunz. He brings a combination of Hee Haw and Barney Fife to the character and the slow drawl makes him a scene stealer.
Val DeCesar does a flawless job portraying the somewhat eccentric but fun-loving Lillian Seymour. She and Cory McCaffery Sigler as her husband Lyle Rogers complement each other perfectly. His reactions to some of the madeup stories concerning him are great.
Although not around until the final act, Dellen Morton as amnesia-victim Philip Smith and Frederick Coleman as Crane’s husband Richard Hammond do fine jobs with their characters as the mystery begins to be solved.
If you like slap stick, excellent acting, and want to spend a few hours laughing, "Exit the Body" is a must-see show. You won't be disappointed.
For tickets, go to mckeesportlittletheater.com.
By Carol Waterloo Frazier
December 13, 2019
MLT's 'Wonderful Life' radio play a perfect way to share Christmas spirit
If you never were part of a live audience for a radio drama - and chances are most of us have not - well, you're in luck. All you have to do is go to McKeesport Little Theatre and you will get a glimpse of what the Golden Age of radio was probably like.
Theatre-goers will get that opportunity when they see "It's A Wonderful Life, A Radio Play" at the 1614 Coursin Street theatre Dec. 13 and 14 at 7:30 p.m. and Dec. 15 at 2 p.m. Tickets for this fundraiser production are $15, $10 for students, and are available by calling 412-673-1100 or at the web site, mckeesportlittletheater.com.
To get drawn into the ambiance of a radio drama, plan to arrive a little early and eavesdrop on cast members as they talk among themselves prior to the show and even mingle with the audience. The stage manager - Krista Cantrell, who is actually the show's stage manager - lets the cast know when it's just about show time.
That's when the nostalgia of radio drama begins as Dan Simon dons one of his many hats as the announcer at WPGH studio in the Jenkins Arcade Building in downtown Pittsburgh. He gets the studio audience ready for the Christmas Eve play that will be "broadcast live from coast to coast." The stage manager holds up the applause signs so those listening on the radio will hear the response from the audience.
In keeping with the live radio nostalgia, each actor plays numerous roles. Not only do they change their voices to fit the character, they use hats or other props to identify who they are. One of the key roles Simon plays is the crochety, power-monger banker Henry F. Potter. He has mastered the voice that is synonymous Potter (thanks to the beloved movie). His other roles include pharmacist Old Man Gower, Joseph, and Peter Bailey.
Sean David Butler does a stellar job as George Bailey. He also has mastered the unmistakable voice of George, who is ready to jump off a bridge because he thinks he is worth more dead than alive. Butler is able to draw the audience into the midst of the action, whether it's a Young George frantically telling Mr. Gower he mixed the wrong drugs, George courting his soon-to-be-wife or when he is furious at his Uncle Billy for losing money. Since this is radio, his words and voice must create the mental picture of what is taking place and Butler has mastered that art.
Chances are you've heard the saying that when you hear a bell it means an angel got their wings. For those not familiar with story, the angel trying to get his wings is Clarence, who is enthusiastically played by Devin Marshall. He also has a multitude of roles including Harry Bailey, Sam Wainwright and Martini (who he becomes via a hand-held mustache and a convincing Italian accent).
The rather absent-minded Uncle Billy is convincing played by Jared W. Lewis. Other roles are Ernie, Mr. Welch and Nick.
Betsy Novotny is a delight as Mary. Even though it's radio, her facial expressions are great and for the audience adds extra depth to her character.
Rounding out a very talented cast are Jessica Pierson-Turner as Lana, Violet, Pete and Janie; Barbara Harrold as Rose Bailey, Mrs. Hatch and Mrs. Thompson; and Lydia Richardson as Bert and ZuZu.
Harper York and Richardson were instrumental in creating many of the special effects such as ice breaking, walking, and running. Dan DeSimone brought music to the show with instruments including the flute, ukelele and accordion.
Director Kalee George is to be commended for a spectacular show and exceptionally talented cast. If you are getting too caught up in the hustle and bustle of the season, take a few hours this weekend to treat yourself to a classic tale of hope, selfless giving, and love - you won't be sorry.
By Carol Waterloo Frazier
September 17, 2016
MLT season opens with strong production of Disney classic
It’s a new season at McKeesport Little Theater and it’s off to a great start with an enjoyable production of Disney’s “Beauty and the Beast.”
The show continues at 7:30 p.m. Sept. 16, 17, 23 and 24, and 2 p.m. Sept. 18 and 25 at the theater at 1614 Coursin St. in McKeesport. For tickets, go to www.mckeesportlittletheater.com.
The musical is based on the 1991 Disney movie about a late 18th century classic French fairy tale with a beautiful young girl named Belle, a castle, a monster, a spell, and of course, romance.
Bringing the story to life is a talented cast led by Kristina Dalbo as Belle and Justin Addicott as the Beast/Prince. They have a chemistry that makes the courtship between their characters believable (which is a good thing — they are engaged in real life). Vocally they are good; he is especially strong with his emotion-filled songs like “If I Can’t Love Her.”
Gaston, the show’s antagonist, is wonderfully portrayed by Ray Cygrymus. He and LeFou (Brandon Keller does a nice job as his sidekick) shine in several production numbers including “Gaston”; “Me” is good with Dalbo.
Costumer Ellen Rosen does a phenomenal job transforming the castle folks into objects, thanks to a spell cast by the Enchantress (played by Rosen). The costumes are amazing and so are those bringing those roles to life. Taking center stage is Jezebele Zbony-DelPercio as Lumiere, whose quick-wit and expressions are delightful.
Sharing the spotlight with here are Derek Harrison as Cogsworth; Caitlin Harrison as Mrs. Potts, Kaitlyn Majewski as Chip, Maddie Leschak as Babette, and Mary Chess Randolph as Madame De La Grande Bouche. Along with Zbony-DelPercio, they come together for “Human Again.”
Other cast members are Linda Baker, Maria Ferguson, Jordan Smith, Julia Lodge, Tristyn Batchelor, Amberlee Batchelor, Derek Jenkins, Rachel Good, Jade Goodes, Vanessa Kettering, and Jason Batchelor who does a good job as Belle’s father Maurice and is good on “No Matter What” (on Sept. 16, Bruce E. Tavers will play the role of Maurice).
Ensemble cast is Kaleia Batchelor, McKenna Blake, Annie Dalbo, Jessica Freuden, Gillian Holiday, Valin Morrison, Isaac Richardson, Lydia Richardson, Dylan Stramaski, Camden Sutek, Kalie Tomiczek, and Margaret Valenine.
Featured dancers are dance captain Riley Tate, Taylor Anderson, Jenkins, Mary Houle, and Lodge. Choreographer Tracy Rudzinski does an amazing job with the entire cast on the several large dance numbers, especially “Gaston” with a creative use of pewter mugs.
It’s worth noting that music is provided by a band that’s off stage, but play a key role in the show’s success. Those musicians are George Pecoraro, Frank Ferguson, Suzanne Levinson, Rachel Dablo, Tom Dalbo, Stephen Kuhn, Tim Blinkhorn, and Colin McBride.
Director Robert Hockenberry is to be commended on his MLT debut. The bar has been set for the rest of the season and it’s pretty high. “Beauty and the Beast” is definitely worth seeing and a good way to spend an evening — or Sunday afternoon — together with your family.
By Carol Waterloo Frazier
March 24, 2022
Disney's 'Moana Jr.' comes to life on MRA stage
If you have a case of spring fever and long for an island vacation, look no further than the Grand Theatre in Elizabeth. Mon River Arts Youth Theatre’s production of Disney’s Moana Jr. transports folks to a Pacific island and the village of Motunui as the story of adventure-seeking Moana unfolds.
The show is today (March 24) at 7:30 p.m. for a pay-what-you-can performance. Limited single seats are available for shows March 25-27. For ticket availabililty, email MRAboxoffice@gmail.com.
This 60-minute musical adaptation of the popular animated Disney film tells the story of Moana and her trek across the Pacific Ocean to save her village and learn the truth about her ancestors. She joins forces with Maui, a legendary demigod, and together they discover the strength that lies within themselves.
Isabella Falcone offers a strong performance in the title role. Her acting skills shine as the adventurous Moana who dares to go beyond the reef to save her village. Scenes with her Gramma Tala, wonderfully portrayed by Sofia Glover, are very good.
Liam Miller shines as the rather egotistical demigod Maui. He does an impressive job with the fast-paced “You’re Welcome” and he and Falcone complement each other nicely in their scenes together. Toni DeFonso in the dual role of Te Fiti/Te Ka is good; her “transformation” from bad to good is nicely done.
An excellent production number is “Shiny,” which showcases the vocal skills of Autumn Miller as Tamatoa. Julia Griesheimer as Hei Hei and Penny Thompson as Pua are fun as Moana’s friends, and Anderson Miller and Avery Laughlin are good as Moana’s parents, Chief Tui and Sina.
Chief Ancestors are Katie Kunkel, Macey Pendleton, Lizzy Klose, Dylan Mough and Jessica Mutmansky; Water Ensemble features Alessa Cavalancia, Lily Giffin, Lilah Hall, Emma Holderbaum, Campbell Knox, Emma Martin, Brenna Reed and Harlow Spalla; Fire Ensemble includes MJ Giunta, Sonja Glover, Victoria Lucas and Lily Mull; and the Ensemble features Lydia Cavalancia, Jake Forbes, Joey Giunta, Orson Hall, Emma Hawkins, Christian Ludwick, Jameson Miller, Abbie Mossburg and Sophia Segner.
This is a fun show; director Jennie Gorton van Mastrigt does a wonderful job with a large cast of young performers. Set Designer Jessica Morgovich transforms the stage into a tropical setting complete with a “grass skirt” around the stage and a backdrop of waves and palm trees, and of course a sail boat for Moana’s Pacific adventure.
If you are lucky to get tickets for the show – or can attend Thursday’s pay-what-you-can performance – you will be treated to an energetic show by some aspiring young performers.
By Carol Waterloo Frazier
January 20, 2022
MLT Juniors presents energetic production of 'Seussical'
If you grew up with Dr. Seuss then chances are you will enjoy the musical that brings those timeless stories to the stage. McKeesport Little Theater Juniors do a wonderful job bringing “Seussical” to life.
The show continues Jan. 20 (Thursday) and 21 (Friday) at 7:30 p.m. and Jan. 23 (Sunday) at 2 p.m. at the theater at 1614 Coursin St. in McKeesport. For tickets visit the web site at www.mckeesportlittletheater.com.
In case you’re not familiar with “Seussical,” it’s a musical based on many of the popular Dr. Seuss stories, with the plot focusing on “Horton Hears a Who!” “Gertrude McFuzz” and “Horton Hatches the Egg.” All the lovable Dr. Seuss characters are part of the show including Horton the Elephant, The Cat in the Hat, Gertrude McFuzz, Mayzie LaBird, and JoJo take folks on a whimsical journey through the Jungle of Nool, to the Circus McGurkus, and the invisible world of the Whos. And it all centers around Horton, who discovers a speck of dust that contains the Whos, who he feels obligated to protect. He also protects an egg abandoned by Mayzie LaBird and ultimately realizes the power of friendship.
Director Dorothy Fallows does a great job with a talented cast of young performers. The story is told by The Cat in the Hat, superbly played by Jonah Higdon. His stage presence is remarkable, always smiling and exuding a personality that immediately connects with the audience. He is very comfortable whether acting or singing and his expressions are great.
Dylan Stramaski does a fine job in a huge role – Horton the Elephant. Whether wanting to protect the Whos or fulfill a promise to care for an egg, his sense of caring and concern is believable.
Every time Kaitlyn Majewski is on stage she is sure to be the center of attention. As Gertude McFuzz, she has one goal – be noticed by Norton. She is an amazing singer and uses her vocal skills to reflect her character’s many emotions.
Zeke Tavaglione does a nice job as JoJo, the little Who boy with a huge imagination. Nyjair Wilkerson and Autumn Tavaglione portray JoJo’s parents and their voices blend nicely.
The Wickersham Brothers, played energetically by Magdalena Koisor and Margaret Ace Valentine, add lots of whimsical fun to the show. Katie Hall does a nice job as Mayzie LaBird and Colleen Boatright keeps the recruits in line as General Genghis Kahn Schmitz.
Other cast members are Tika Gill as the Sour Kangaroo; Julia Rae Jackson, Abi Weiss and Tiara DeFrances as the Bird Girls; Lauren Maneer as Thing 1 and Emmet Chesleigh as Thing 2; Dakota Vargo as the Grinch; Savannah Vargo as Vlad Vladikoff; Lucas Alexa as Yertle the Turtle; and Elin Nowading, Kendayl Howard, Za’Niya Foster, Dakota Vargo, Lucas Alexa, and Savannah Vargo as the Whos.
“Seussical” is a fun show for folks of all ages. The acting is wonderful, the music is fun, and it teaches kids - young and old - about the importance of friendship, loyalty, and family.
By Carol Waterloo Frazier
October 19, 2016
MRA's Youth Theatre to present 'Bugsy Malone Jr.'
The story is a 1920s gangster tale with one twist -- the gangs are all children.
When the curtain goes up at the Grand Theatre for the Mon River Arts Youth Theatre's production of "Bugsy Malone Jr.", a cast of 13 young performers ranging in age from 8 to 16 will bring the story to life. Based on the 1976 film and featuring a score by the composer of "The Muppet Movie," there is everything from rival gangs, a unique gun, and, of course, a love story.
The show opens Oct. 20 at 7:30 p.m. with a pay-what-you-can showing. Performances continue Oct. 21 at 7:30 p.m., Oct. 22 at 2 and 6 p.m., and Oct. 23 at 2 p.m.; tickets are $10. Call the box office at 412-405-8425 or email MRAboxoffice@gmail.com.
Describing what makes the show fun, director Lorraine Corpora Mszanski said, "They are all kids who think they are adults. It's like the Little Rascals, they are putting themselves into adult situations and that's what is funny, especially for adults."
Because it is a youth-oriented show, Mszanski said that creats an interesting twist when it comes to how the gangs arm themselves. The solution is sweet, literally. One of the gangs, led by Dandy Dan, developes the splurge gun that shoots custard pie while wreaking havoc in the town and upon his rival gang led by Fat Sam.
"It becomes Bugsy Malone who has to try to make peace with everyone," the director said, adding that his role as peacemaker is getting in the way of his relationship with Blousey Brown.
Blousey is a wide-eyed would-be star from a small town who wants to make a name for herself. Bugsy wants to spend time with her but finds that's not easy to accomplish.
Praising the young cast, Mszanski said she does not think the performers were familiar with the show when they arrived for the first rehearsal. "But they fell in love with it quickly. A lot of them came back after the first rehearsal with their parts memorized. I couldn't believe it. The kids have worked so hard and I'm really proud of them."
While the show was created with a young cast -- and audience -- in mind, she said adults will not be disappointed. "What's great about this show is that the jokes go right above the kids' heads. The jokes are there for the adults and that's what makes it fun."
The kids weren't the only ones embarking on the show for the first time -- this is the director's debut with the show. "I'm really enamored with this. It has quickly become one of my favorite shows."
One of the reasons she likes the hour-long musical is the message in the final song, "Give A Little Love" and specifically, the line, "...it will all come back to you." "That is literally the last message when the show ends. That's what you hear before you leave the theater and I think that's a great message."
By Carol Waterloo Frazier
September 15, 2017
MLT season opens with ‘Jekyll & Hyde’
For three months, Edward Bostedo has been directing the McKeesport Little Theater cast of “Jekyll & Hyde” in preparation for opening night. After the final rehearsal, he was at a loss for words to describe the show.
“I can’t describe it. It is very uniquely done,” he said. “At the end of the final rehearsal, people who were in the audience said it was breathtaking. They said it puts you on the edge of your seat and makes you uncomfortable.”
That was the response Bostedo was hoping to achieve. “I wanted people to feel uncomfortable in their seats. I was not expecting it to happen but I was glad it did.”
MLT opens its season with “Jekyll & Hyde” Sept. 15, 16, 21, 22, and 23 at 8 p.m. and Sept. 17 and 24 at 2 p.m. at the 1614 Coursin St. theater in McKeesport.
Not knowing a lot about the show, the director said he did extensive research into each of the characters. “I was able to pull things out of the actors that I didn’t think I could do.”
He praised the cast, most of whom are making their MLT debut but have performed on other stages. Others are making their theatrical debut.
Bringing the story to life are Eric Sciulli in the title role, Jennifer Szakolczay, Randi Walker, Thomas Crone, Brandon Keller, Alex Stumpf, Josh List, James Scharer, Lena Nazarei, Anthony Martello, Scott Hamilton, Thomas Due, Benjamin Binn, Kate Kratzenberg, Antonia Ramni, Emily-Ann Stephens, Heather Due, Jade Goodes, Jessica Freuden, Laura Stumpf, and Maria Ferguson.
Casting the title character was key, he said. “When auditions began, we toyed with the idea of having one actor for Jekyll and one for Hyde, or have one actor play both. We didn’t know what to expect. He (Sciulli) came and sang and when he called him back, he did ‘Transformation’ where he goes from Jekyll to Hyde. He made me very uncomfortable, but it was a good uncomfortable. He was amazing. Three months later and he still has the same effect.”
While the director has not worked with most of the cast, he is familiar with several of the performers. He worked with one 10 years ago, one was his music director, and he costumed two.
The show is based on the classic story by Robert Louis Stevenson about a doctor trying to cure his ailing father’s mental illness. Hoping to separate good from evil in the human personality, he creates an alternate murderous personality that threatens to stay in control.
Bostedo opted not to use typical 18th century elaborate, beautiful costumes. “I knew the show vaguely – I knew two songs – but not the story. I did research to see other productions and no one that I saw has done it this way. The best way to describe it is 18th century sci-fi. The production on the MLT stage is intense. The actors are right in the face of the audience. It pulls the audience into being part of the show.”
The theater is something Bostedo has been involved with since he was in Woodland Hills High School. “I was bullied all my life and I found theater. I was in all the productions at school. After I graduated I did a lot of community theater. A lady at McKeesport Little Theater took me on and mentored me on how to produce, direct, and teach theater to kids. I’ve been here ever since and that was more than 20 years ago.”
Noting a twist of irony, he said the cast includes two Woodland Hills alumni and his high school music director.
Reflecting on his theater experience, Bostedo said he has two shows that he directed that are his favorites — “Les Mis” and “Jekyll & Hyde.” “I didn’t know anything about either of them so I was able to put my creativity with different ideas to work. I would love to do both shows again on a bigger scale production.”
For tickets and information, call 412-673-1100 or go to mckeesportlittletheater.com.
NOTE: The show has adult language and situations and is not suitable for children.
By Carol Waterloo Frazier
November 21, 2019
'Elf Jr.' an early Christmas gift at Grand Theatre
It's beginning to look and sound a lot like Christmas in the Grand Theatre in Elizabeth. But what would you expect when Santa and his elves take the stage.
Mon Rivers Arts Youth Theatre offers a delightful production of "Elf Jr. The Musical." Show times are Nov. 22 at 7:30 p.m.; Nov. 23 at 2 and 6 p.m.; and Nov. 24 at 2 p.m. Tickets are $8, $10 at the door; call the MRA Box Office at 412-405-8425.
A special Pay What You Can night is Nov. 21 at 7:30 p.m.
Director Lorraine Mszanski does an amazing job with a talented cast of 26 performers as young as 6 years old. The large cast works well together and not a step is missed with the larger song-and-dance scenes.
In case you are not familiar with the show, it is the story of Buddy the elf who was raised at the North Pole with Santa and the elves. One day he finds out he is not an elf so he sets out to New York City and the Empire State Building to find his father. Along the way he helps restore the joy of Christmas with those who have forgotten what it is all about.
Liam Miller does a phenomenal job as the vivacious Buddy. The fourth grader's personality shines through as the happy-all-the-time elf who just wants to share his excitement about Santa and Christmas with everyone he meets. The few times Buddy is sad, Miller draws the audience into that emotion as easily as he does when he is happy. The innocent honesty of the character shines through in scenes with Jovie (Alayna Lacko).
Lacko does a wonderful job as Buddy's girlfriend, Jovie. She takes the character on a believable transformation from not liking Christmas to getting into the spirit. She is very good vocally on "Never Fall in Love (with an Elf)."
Lee Clark portrays Walter Hobbs, Buddy's father, who is too busy with work to spend time with his son. He is convincing as the workaholic father who eventually learns what is important in his life.
Lexie Dubos and Willow "Will" Lemley turn in strong performances as Emily and Michelle Hobbs. They work well together as the daughter and mother who both rekindle the awe of believing in Santa. They do a nice job on the heart-felt, "I'll Believe in You."
Rounding out the cast are Emma Damiani as Santa; Hannah Damiani, Rachel Dunlap, Sonja Glover, Sofia Glover, Jocelyn Lakits, Autumn Miller, Macey Pendleton, Zoe Ulmer, Lilah Hall, Scarlett Maola, Amber King, Colleen Boatright, Alessa Cavalancia, Campbell Knox, Olivia Garofalo, Emma Holderbaum, Kambria Mossburg, Lizzy Klose, Caitlyn Kelley and Marissa Klose.
"Elf Jr. The Musical" is a wonderful show everyone in the family should enjoy. The sets are very nice - the backdrop is amazing - and despite the number of changes during the show, it happens effortlessly.
If you are looking for a way to kick off the holiday season and get some early Christmas cheer, you don't want to miss this production. And if you've lost that child-like wonder of the season, chances are it will be sparked by the time you leave the theater.
By Carol Waterloo Frazier
March 14, 2020
MRA Juniors offer nice production of 'Mary Poppins'
"Mary Poppins" is a classic family movie and continues to be popular with folks of all ages. The Mon River Arts Juniors offers an enjoyable stage production of this timeless musical.
The talented young cast does a wonderful job telling the story of the Banks family - parents Winifred (Emma Damiani and George (Dylan Stramaski) and their children, Michael (Liam Muller) and Jane (Bella Garvin) - and their search of a nanny. Mary Poppins (Isabella Zallo) shows up, umbrella in hand, and things start to get interesting especially when Mary's friend Bert (Caitlyn Kelley) is around.
Production numbers are energetic, especially "Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious" and "Step in Time." The Honeybees costumes are very nice for "A Spoonful of Sugar" and "Let's Go Fly A Kite" is colorful scene. The Bird Woman (Lizzy Klose) is very realistic in "Feed the Birds."
The cast also includes Sofia Glover, Abby Gindlesperger, Campbell Knox, Zoe Ulmer, Autumn Miller, Lilah Hall, Joey Giunta, Madelilne Mough, Marissa Klose, Sidnee Neal, Sonja Glover, Christian Kolcun, MJ Giunta, Lily Mull, Macey Pendleton, Avery Laughlin, Alessa Cavalancia, Anderson Miller, Abby Toth, Emma Holderbaum, Katie Kunkel, Jocelyn Lakits, and Scarlett Maola.
The show continues at 2 and 6 p.m. March 14 and 2 p.m. March 15 at the Grand Theatre, 207 South Second Ave. in Elizabeth. Tickets are $8, $10 at the door. Contact the MRA box office at 412-405-8425.
Carol Waterloo Frazier
November 21, 2022
Talented cast offers wonderful production of Frozen Jr. at Grand Theater
The Grand Theater in Elizabeth was home to five sold-out performances of the Mon River Arts Youth Theatre’s production of “Frozen Jr.” The delightful show featured a cast of talented young performers whose acting and vocal skills were impressive.
“Frozen Jr.” is a story about sisters Queen Elsa and Princess Anna. After Elsa sets off an eternal winter by accident in the town of Arendelle, her younger sister Anna goes on an adventure to save the kingdom. She’s joined on her quest with Kristoff, Olaf, and Sven. While looking for her sister, Anna encounters an unsuspected villain and other obstacles while doing what she can to bring back summer. Along the way she learns about true love and the special bond between sisters.
The sisters were wonderfully played by Autumn Miller as Elsa and Sofia Glover as Anna. There were three actresses playing each character at different ages - Isabella Falcone played Young Elsa and Penny Thompson played Young Anna; Alissa Rotta played Middle Elsa and Avery Laughlin was Middle Anna. The transition from young to middle was very good. The young sisters did a wonderful job setting the stage for their complicated relationship - and Anna's love of snowmen - and did a nice job with "A Little Bit of You."
Autumn Miller was wonderful with "For the First Time in Forever" and her strong voice shined on the show's popular tune, "Let It Go." Glover's expressions were priceless on "Fixer Upper" and scenes with Anderson Miller as Hans were very good; their duet, "Love is An Open Door," was great. Anderson Miller did a convincing job as Anna's love-at-first-sight fiance. He was very good at being not-so-nice when revealing his real motive to gain Anna's trust.
Liam Miller as Kristoff and Jake Forbes as Sven were fun and they did a nice job with "Reindeer are Better Than People." Liam Miller was convincing as being in love with Anna and proving that only true love can melt a frozen heart. Payton Normandy was the lovable Olaf and "In Summer" offered a great tap routine. "|Hygge" was another good production number led by Macey Pendleton as Oaken.
The large, talented ensemble featured Lexi Buglar, Alessa Cavalancia, Lydia Cavalancia, Antoinette "Toni" DeFonso, Lily Giffin, MJ Giunta, Joey Giunta, Sonja Glover, Julia Griesheimer, Lilah Hall, Emma Hawkins, Abby Horn, Mary Janetka, Lily Kiss, Lizzy Klose, Marissa Klose, Campbell Knox, Christian Kolcun, Katie Kunkel, Christian Ludwick, Emma Martin, Cody Mough, Lily Mull, Jessica Mutmansky, Eli Noel, Josie Pokorny, Brenna Reed, Sophia Segner, and Harlow Spalla. The reprise of "Let It Go" with the entire cast was exceptional.
"Frozen Jr." director Erin Seaberg did a phenomenal job with a group of aspiring actors. The costumes were beautiful and the sets were nice. Those fortunate to see the show were treated a wonderful production.
By Carol Waterloo Frazier
January 16, 2020
MLT Juniors offer impressive journey 'Into the Woods'
When the curtain goes up at McKeesport Little Theater, the audience is treated to a wonderful production of "Into the Woods." What is so impressive is the talented cast - the MLT Juniors, who range in age from fourth through 11th grade.
Folks familiar with Stephen Sondheim - and especially this show - know his works are not easy for seasoned veterans. These aspiring young performers do a masterful job with this modern classic. Kudos to director Dorothy Fallows for showcasing the talents of these performers.
"Into the Woods" brings favorite storybook characters to life - a Baker and his wife who wish to have baby; Cinderella who wishes to attend the King's Festival; and Jack who wishes his beloved cow would produce milk. To have their wishes granted, they all venture into the woods and eventually see their wishes granted - but the outcome is not the happily ever after they had desired.
With three stories that quickly become intertwined, who better to keep the action flowing than the narrator, played by Caden Lawson. Although not in the midst of the action, he does have his moment front and center, albeit for a brief time.
There is not a weak link in the cast from the main characters to the Giant (Julie Belding) who is not seen but only heard. Others not on the stage a lot but who do a nice job are Annaleigh Bouchard as Granny, Magdalena Koisor as the Brown Cow, Abi Weiss as the Steward, and Gillian Holiday, Jada Lawson and Margaret Valentine as the Three Little Pigs.
Kaitlyn Majewski shines as Cinderella and her strong, clear voice is a joy to listen to. Her stepmother, played by Ashley Slagle, and step-sisters - Lauren Maneer as Florinda and Carly "Skyler" Sedlock as Lucinda - do a nice job as her not-very-nice family. Cinderella's mother, whose face is veiled to create a vision-like effect, is played by Riley Sheposh.
Conner Geary has a dual role as Cinderella's father and the cunning Wolf and does a good job with both. He creates a creepy, sinister mood with "Hello, Little Girl" when the Wolf meets Little Red, portrayed by Autumn Tavaglione whose portrayal of the young girl on her way see her grandmother is very good.
Connor McGrew is wonderful as Jack, his facial expressions saying more than words ever could. McGrew's interaction with his stage mother, played by Colleen Boatright, is quite believable and she does a nice job as his somewhat firm parent.
The Baker and Baker's Wife are convincingly played by Jonah Higdon and Nariah Washington, convincingly displaying many mannerisms of a young married couple. His anger and grief shine through on the emotional "No More." The Mysterious Man who The Baker encounters often on his journey and whose identity offers a bit of a plot twist is wonderfully played by Dylan Stramaski.
While there are some great one-liners in the show, the scenes that generate the most laughter involve the two princes, amazingly portrayed by Bolivar Campusano (Rapunzel's Prince) and Isaac Richardson (Cinderella's Prince). Their performance of "Agony" is wonderful and they pull it off with amazing ease. Perhaps the most irritatingly funny - yet tragic - character is Rapunzel, whose fingernails-on-the-chalkboard voice is exceptionally done by Grace Mackowiak.
A dynamic performance is turned in by Sierra Mitchell as the Witch, who takes command of her scenes by giving the character a sense of power over those around her. As the very overprotective mother of Rapunzel, their "Our Little World" scene is quite moving.
While watching the MLT production of "Into the Woods," you may have to remind yourself the actors are students. This is an amazing production by the Juniors and the cast should be very proud of their work. This is definitely a show worth seeing on its final weekend - Jan. 17 and 18 at 7:30 p.m. and Jan. 19 at 2 p.m. The theater is located at 1614 Coursin St. in McKeesport. For tickets visit the web site at mckeesportlittletheater.com.
Carol Waterloo Frazier
January 12, 2017
MLT Juniors to present ‘Madagascar’ musical
The story of four animals that escape the New York Central Park Zoo will come to life on the McKeesport Little Theater stage with the MLT Junior’s production of “Madagascar — A Musical Adventure.”
Show times are 7:30 p.m. Jan. 13, 14, 20 and 21, and 2 p.m. Jan. 15 and 22. Tickets are $15, $10 for students. For reservations, call 412-673-1100 and leave your name, phone number, the number of tickets, and performance date.
Director Dorothy Fallows said the show is based on the DreamWorks animated movies. “There were four ‘Madagascar’ movies and they were combined to make a musical,” she said.
The story follows a zebra, lion, hippopotamus and giraffe who call the zoo home. That is until the zebra thinks he’s unhappy, a thought planted by penguins that tell him he shouldn’t live there.
That results in the foursome venturing outside of the zoo. But they run into a little problem — they scare everyone they encounter. They are tranquilized and when they wake up they discover they are on a boat heading to the island of Madagascar. Soon after they arrive, they realize life at the zoo wasn’t so bad after all.
“This show is so much fun,” Fallows said, “and it’s great for kids. There are a lot of parts so there are a lot of kids with big parts and a lot with small parts. For some of the kids this is their first show and this is a great show for them.”
The ages of the 26-member cast range from 5 to 18, with most being part of the Juniors program. “We do have two kids in the show who are brothers of Juniors,” she said, noting they are ages 5 and 7. “They are really cute and they really listen and they know their dances. You can tell they are having the time of their life.”
But she says the fun isn’t limited to the cast. “I’m having a great time doing this show. It’s really, really cute and the costumes are wonderful. I had never seen the movie so I wasn’t familiar with the show.”
Being unfamiliar with the animated films made directing the musical easier. “For me, it’s exciting to do a show for the first time. I want it to be the way I envision it from reading the script. I want to create what I see in the script. It’s been a lot of fun and the kids are wonderful.”
Fallows said that while the show is fun, there’s also a message for theater-goers of all ages. “We all think if we do or have something else it will be better, but like the animals find out, that’s not always the case.”
Children will have a chance to meet some of the characters at a brunch before the Jan. 15 show. Cost is $6 (tickets for the show are extra) for brunch, which is macaroni and cheese, hot dogs, fruit, dessert and a beverage. Photos can be taken with the characters. Reservations are due today (Jan. 12) and can be made by calling 412-673-1100.
By Carol Waterloo Frazier