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
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
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
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
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 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
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
A variety of stories including previews and reviews of local theater productions will be featured.
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