February 25, 2023

Theatre Factory's 'Everybody' a fascinating, thought-provoking show

     When you go to the theater, it's not often you leaving thinking about life and death - specifically, how you lived your life based on what you thought was important and meaningful.

     Chances are that is exactly what you'll be doing after the Theatre Factory's powerful production of "Everybody." The show continues Feb. 25 at 7:30 p.m., Feb. 26 at 2 p.m. and March 2-4 at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $20; $15 for the March 2 performance.

     "Everybody" is a unique show with a very long history. Inspired by the 15th century morality play "Everyman," the story is about the path taken toward death and the meaning of life. As the show begins, the Usher (Eric Leslie) gives the audience the usual pre-show dos and don'ts. He also shares show's background in a unique way that is at times humorous and at times makes you think, something that happens throughout the 90-minute, intermission-free production.

     Written by Branden Jacobs-Jenkins, the show opens with God ordering Death to bring Everybody through the process of dying. God wants Everybody to present their life and choices to him to learn why the human experiment has been so troublesome. Afraid to die alone, Everybody is determined to find someone to go with them. In a dream, Everybody has lip-synched conversations with voices describing what is taking place in the dream. When Everybody encounters Friendship, Family and Stuff, the characters refuse to join Everybody in Death - until she meets Love. Before going with Death, Everybody also meets Understanding, the virtues of Strength, Beauty, Mind, and Senses, and also Evil.

     Mary Ferrara does a nice job as Death. As she gathers Everybody, who are sitting throughout the audience, she tells them they have forgotten about God and reminds them that Death fears no man. A recurring question/response throughout is "So, God is real? Depends on your definition of reality."

     Elizabeth Glyptis is phenomenal as Everybody coming to terms with her impending death. The dream segments are strong, but the face-to-face encounters are powerful. Fast-talking, upbeat Friendship shares the fun times they had together but walks out when asked to join Everybody on the journey. 

     Everybody encounters Family and is optimistic because kinship is better than friendship. However, Family comes up with an excuse not to go. Next in line is Stuff - all the things collected through the years. But like the others, Stuff won't go claiming it would be a distraction because it destroys humans and ruined Everybody.

     Glyptis does an exceptional job conveying her feelings and questions if her life was a joke because she is dying alone. But then comes Love, wonderfully portrayed by Katy Risotto. She tells Everybody she will join her but she must do something, which she hestitantly does. Emotionally shouting "I surrender," she collapses and is joined by Love. A very powerful scene.

     Understanding, portrayed by Leslie, and his team of Strength, Beauty, Mind and Senses approach Everybody. When push comes to shove, the team also leaves. In the final moments, Everybody encounters all the evil she's ever done. There is one last character, Time, played by Gianna Mease, that shows up hangs out with Death.

     The various characters are superbly portrayed by Devin Marshall, Cecilia Staggers, Skylar Rella and Becky Hukill.

     "Everybody" is very sobering and the Usher leaves the audience with a final thought: Why do plays about death tell us about life?

     There are plenty of moments of humor - and adult language - in this remarkable show. One other aspect that makes "Everybody" so amazing is no one knows their role until the play has begun. Each performance is different because roles are determined by an on-stage lottery. That means every actor (aside from the roles of Usher/Understanding, Death, Love and Time) must learn the entire script. Director J. Cody Spellman did an amazing job getting such a strong, versatile cast to be able to throw themselves into characters with only a few minutes to mentally prepare.

     This is definitely a show worth seeing. The dream sequences are beautifully done, the acting is exceptional, and the intimacy of the theater brings the message home loud and clear.

     For tickets, go to the web site at www.thetheatrefactory.org. The theater is located at 235 Cavitt Ave. in Trafford.

     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   

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


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, 2023

'Gabriel' an intense, thought-provoking production at MLT

     The setting is Guernsey Island, an island in the English Channel that came under German occupation in 1943 during World War II. Many people left before the invasion, but those who stayed found themselves doing whatever was necessary to keep their family safe and protected. One of those who stayed was Jeanne Becquet, her daughter, daughter-in-law, and a friend who helps her at home.

     McKeesport Little Theater brings this fascinating story to life with Moira Buffini's "Gabriel." The show continues May 12 and 13 at 7:30 p.m. and May 14 at 2 p.m. The theater is located at 1614 Coursin St. in McKeesport. For tickets, visit the web site at mckeesportlittletheater.com or call 412-673-1100.

     The stage is transformed into a quaint house that would be welcoming if not for the current situation. Getting folks in the island frame of mind, the soothing sound of waves crashing onto a sandy beach resonates through the theater. 

     Director Patrick Daniel does a phenomenal job bringing this intriguing show to life, a task made easier by an exceptionally talented cast. They easily and convincingly draw the audience into the lives of their characters and have an amazing chemistry with each other, adding to the believability of the story.

     Megan May is absolutely brilliant as the complex Jeanne Becquet, who has to make choices about what to do to protect her family. Jeanne comes across as being tough, standing up to the Nazi German officer in charge of the island. But when faced with the threat of danger for her and her family, May takes the character from tough to cowering in fear for her family's safety.

     Her interactions with Julia Rae Jackson (daughter Estelle) and Rachel Carey (daughter-in-law Lilian) are flawless. Whether scolding Estelle for her behavior or voicing concern to Lilian about bringing a stranger (Gabriel) into their home, she does so while walking the fine line between anger, fear and love.

     She is stellar in scenes with Cory McCaffery Sigler as Nazi officer Von Pfunz. Wanting to win his favor, she does what she has to in order to please him. Despising what he stands for, she berates him while flirting with him and has to deal with being genuinely drawn to him.

     Sigler is very convincing as Von Pfunz, a character you despise from the start. He comes across as being a soft-spoken somewhat whimpy Nazi officer. But it doesn't take long for his sadistic personality to begin showing when Estelle steals his diary and he threatens her. Claiming to be a poet, he demands his book of poetry be returned. When Gabriel reads the diary - and shares it with Jeanne and her family - his true colors are exposed.

​      Jackson shines as 10-year-old Estelle, who resents having to live in an outbuilding on the family's property while the Nazis live in their home. Her character's innocence and naivety about the ever-present danger going on around her is believable.

      Carey is excellent as Lilian, who is dealing with the strong probability her husband has been killed in the war and hiding a secret - she is Jewish. A kind-hearted person, she finds an unconscious man on the beach and brings him home despite the danger that poses for her and her family. In one scene, while on a secondary stage and not the focus of attention, her expressions convey more emotion than words ever could.

     April May Ohms does a nice job as Margaret Lake, an older woman who helps Jeanne with the house. Not one to take unnecessary risks when it comes to the current situation, she would do anything to protect the Becquets.             

     The show's namesake, Gabriel, is wonderfully portrayed by Brandon Snyder. Found unconscious on the beach, Estelle and Lilian take care of him until he wakes up - with amnesia. Unable to remember anything, including his name, he is given the name Gabriel. Fluent in German and speaking perfect English, no one knows if he is a Nazi or a downed British pilot. Snyder masterfully expresses the frustration of not being able to remember anything, thus making it easy to empathize with his character.

     "Gabriel" is a masterful show filled with drama, intrigue and love, and an unexpected turn of events at the end. The story is intense and at times quite sobering, but there are moments of humor delivered with impecible timing. There is also a lot of symbolism throughout, which adds to the one unanswered question - just who is Gabriel?

By 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 Yo

    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​     

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

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 

April 5, 2023

Theatre Factory's 'Godspell' brings gospel story, parables to life

     ​The Theatre Factory's production of "Godspell" takes the audience on a musical journey through the gospel of Matthew, specifically several of the well-known parables Jesus used in the last days of his life. The journey includes very effective use of improvised scenery, pantomime, games, and a variety of musical styles to bring the gospel to life.

    The show continues Thursday through Saturday (April 6-8) at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $20; $15 on April 6. The theater is at 235 Cavitt Ave. in Trafford. 

​     Director Olivia Hartle does a wonderful job with a talented cast for the 2012 revised version of the popular show. This version offers subtle differences - mostly more contemporary lines to appeal to new audiences. And those updates work, as is evident with the opening scene as the ensemble cast uses their cell phones in "Tower of Babble."

     That all stops when John the Baptist arrives and tells them to "Prepare Ye the Way of the Lord." Only two cast members have specific roles and Sam Brook is one of them. He does a nice job as John the Baptist and Judas. He has a great voice and he seems to be having a good time. He plays piano and sings "On the Willows" while Jesus says goodbye to his followers - a very moving scene. He and Kevin Rabbits as Jesus do a nice job with the vaudeville-style "All for the Best."

     Rabbits turns in a strong performance, building up to the climatic crucifixion. He and Sophie Hoglung-McGuirk harmonize beautifully on "By My Side." He projects a caring, compassionate personality which makes him quite believable.

     Minnie Jones is inspirational on "All Good Gifts" and Paulina Neuschwander does a nice job with "Learn Your Lessons Well" (which includes a volunteer from the audience). The entire ensemble is very talented. Meredythe Hlasnik delights with her stage presence; Emily Urbaniak (her expressions are wonderful); Mairead Roddy; Madison Siple; Brennen Wagner-Malia; Jeremy McCawley, and Matt Mlynarski.

     The beloved songs - "Save the People", the energetic "Day by Day", "Light of the World", "Turn Back, O Man", "We Beseech Thee", "Beautiful World" - are made even better with a band.

     This energetic and moving show is always timely, especially during Holy Week. The show will make you laugh, think and quite likely, get you a little choked up. The audience is even invited to joint the cast on stage for wine before intermission. Kudos to everyone involved with the show.

                                                                                                                                                  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  

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

March 14, 2024

'Nana's Naughty Knickers' a fast-paced, hilarious MLT production

     Have you ever looked forward to spending time with someone and early into the visit realize there was something about them you never knew? That scenario unfolds on the McKeesport Little Theater stage with the witty, "Nana's Naughty Knickers."

     The show continues March 15 and 16 at 7:30 p.m. and March 17 at 2 p.m. Tickets are available at www.mckeesportlittletheater.com. The theater is located at 1614 Coursin St. in McKeesport.

     First produced in 2010 in Lancaster, "Nana's Naughty Knickers" tells the story of Bridget, a soon-to-be law student who is eager to spend the summer with her grandmother in New York. It doesn't take long for her to realize there is a side of her nana she never knew existed - she's running an illegal business from her rent-controlled apartment. That business is making and selling lingerie for senior women throughout the city. The aspiring lawyer fears her nana will get arrested or evicted.  

     Director Logan J. Tomko and producers Sierra Mitchell and Eddie Kunz do a remarkable job bringing the show to life. That starts with amazing actors who are perfectly cast in their roles. Their on-stage chemistry is amazing and their comedic timing is perfect. The secret hiding places for Nana's inventory are brilliantly created by Bry Zanotelli.

     The cast is small - only seven performers - and they all shine. Lindsey DiBattista does an exceptional job as Sylvia Charles, the young-at-heart widow and brainchild of Saucy Slips Etc. Repeatedly insisting she isn't hurting anyone, she does not understand why her granddaughter is frantically trying to get her to close up shop. As Nana, her charming disposition makes it easy to understand why women can't get enough of her lingerie. 

     Her best friend and soon-to-be cohort in crime, Vera Walters is wonderfully played by Terri Davis. She is a hoot, partly because her character's hearing aids aren't working and partly because Vera likes a good adventure. Whether she's baking cookies, moving a car or eagerly agreeing to model Nana's latest designs, she does so with convincing enthusiasm. They play off each other seamlessly.

     As good as they are together, it gets even better when Emily Buckel enters the story as Nana's granddaughter, Bridget. Her expressions are priceless as she reacts to her grandmother's clandestine activities. The three women play off each other with ease and pull the audience into the action.

     Buckel's interactions with Matt Tracy as Officer Tom O'Grady are fun. They connect when he carries her boxes to the apartment and keeps reminding her she has to move her car, which is double-parked. He also likes the cookies Sylvia and Vera make for him. His character's naivete makes him fun to watch.

     Gil Schmidt is the obnoxious, foul-mouthed landlord doing whatever he can to get Nana evicted from her rent-controlled apartment - and Cory McCaffery Sigler plays him flawlessly. His gruff, tough-guy personna quickly does an about face when his wife, Clair, quickly proves who rules the roost. Nate Perrin has a dual role as Clair and the googly eyed UPS man delivering boxes, albeit the wrong ones, to the apartment.

     Although only in the second half of the show, Mandy Eckenrode does a stellar job as Heather Van Pree, who shows up to retrieve a delivery for the company she works for that was mistakenly sent to nana. The interestingly dressed Heather sees an opportunity for a better job and gets hired by Nana - and that's when things really get crazy.

     "Nana's Naughty Knickers" is an excellent show with lots of laughs and exceptional acting. Don't be misled by the title - bodysuits are worn under the lingerie so there's nothing really "naughty" about the clothing. If you want to escape the craziness of life for a couple hours, you don't want to miss this show. It will have you laughing from start to finish.

By Carol Waterloo Frazier

September 20, 2023

MLT's 'The SpongeBob Musical' a delightful show    

     If you're a fan of the animated SpongeBob Squarepants TV show - and even if you've never watched it - you will quickly get drawn into life at Bikini Bottom thanks to McKeesport Little Theater's wonderful production of "The SpongeBob Musical."

     The show continues Sept. 22 and 23 at 7:30 p.m. and Sept. 24 at 2 p.m. Tickets are available at the box office or online at www.mckeesportlittletheater.com. The theater is located at 1614 Coursin St. in McKeesport.

     The beloved characters of Bikini Bottom face the possibility that a volcano will erupt and destroy their home. They have only hours to try to stop the eruption while also thwarting the evil plan of Sheldon J. Plankton and Karen the Computer. An outsider to Bikini Bottom, Sandy Cheeks, might have the solution, but only SpongeBob trusts her.  

     From start to finish, singing and dancing is plentiful in this high-energy show. Choreographer Kaylee Hansbery does an amazing job with the production numbers, especially when the entire cast is on stage together. Very impressive.

    The songs are original tunes by some of the music industry's biggest names like Aerosmith bandmates Yolanda Adams, Steven Tyler and Joe Perry, Lady A, Cyndi Lauper and John Legend. Whether slower and heartfelt or upbeat and fun, the talented cast is strong vocally - especially when everyone is singing together.

     With such a large cast, director Will Dixon masterfully uses each actor's strengths to bring the characters to life. For instance, Squidward Q. Tentacles is brought to life by Nyjair Wilkerson, whose eyes, facial and body language convey more than words. He gives the character a quiet strength that comes across as completely believable. He shines vocally in "I'm Not a Loser" - and he taps pretty well, too. And the audience enjoyed him, based on the response.

     SpongeBob is brilliantly brought to life by Mikey Smith. He convincingly projects the innocence and naivety of the lovable character. "Just A Simple Sponge" is heart-felt and it's easy to get caught up in his positive outlook on "Best Day Ever."

     Henry Nightingale is a standout as SpongeBob's sidekick, Patrick Star. With ease he showcases the character's traits of laziness and not the brightest of star fish and excels at being "BFF" with the show's namesake. He does a great job on "Super Sea Star Savior." One of the best scenes is a touching duet with Smith on "(I Guess I) Miss You" and the way the scene is choreographed makes it more impactful.

     Scientist Sandy Cheeks is perfectly played by Jade Goodes. Considered an outsider, only SpongeBob and Patrick trust her. Scenes with Goodes and Smith are nice, especially "Chop to the Top."

     Mr. Eugene Krabs and his daughter Pearl Krabs are perfectly portrayed by Ben Wren and Sadie Mitchell. Wren is very convincing as the money-hungry restaurant owner who doesn't quite understand his teenage daughter, believably played by Mitchell, especially as the rock star-crazed fan on "Bikini Bottom Boogie." Wren and Mitchell shine on "Daddy Knows Best."

     Brandon Snyder is over the top as villain Sheldon J. Plankton and his partner, Karen the Computer, is devilishly played by Kara McKenna. They shine as the dastardly couple trying their hardest to trick the residents of Bikini Bottom. Even their laughs are wicked. They are featured on "When the Going Gets Tough."

     Kyli Stoner is good as the Mayor of Bikini Bottom; Michael Stanley is fun as Patchy the Pirate, who opens the show as a huge fan who wants to meet SpongeBob and rings in the second act with "Poor Pirates"; the band Electric Skate is Delaney Bortz, Dylan Stramaski and Stanley; Terri Davis is Mrs. Puff; Noah Bowytz is Larry the Lobster; Lucas Sotereanos is Buster Bluetang; Stacie Sikora is Old Man Jenkins; Katie Vitullo is A Fish; sardine leaders and devotees are Bee Roll, McGrew, Bekah Sedwick, Julia Rae Jackson, Rasheena Carson and Nie'Zhay Jefferson; French Narrator is Stramaski; Sedwick is Gary the Snail; Luc Sedwick is Foley Artist Fish; and the Bikini Bottom Ensemble is Bowie Boisor, Summer Ura, Skylar Crenshaw, Destini Banks and Sydney Hrinda.

     There is not a weak link in "The SpongeBob Musical." The acting is superb and the singing and dancing is excellent. If you have a chance to see the show, you will not be disappointed. Grab your BFF and get ready to have one of your best nights/day ever. And if you have SpongeBob attire, be sure to wear it and join in singing of the show's theme song.

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

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 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

January 13, 2024

'Aladin Jr.' an enjoyable magic carpet journey of love at MLT

     Looking for a way to escape winter for a few hours? McKeesport Little Theater Juniors has just the answer - Disney's "Aladdin Jr."

​     The show continues January 18 and 19 at 7 p.m. and January 21 at 2 p.m. Tickets are $15 for adults, $10 for students and can be purchased online at mckeesportlittletheater.com or at the box office. The theater is located at 1614 Coursin Street in McKeesport.

     Based on the 1992 Academy Award-winning movie and the 2014 Broadway musical, the show tells the story of Aladdin and his three friends, Babkak, Omar and Kassim, who are down on their luck. Things change when he finds a magic lamp, a Genie, and Princess Jasmine. His quest to earn the respect of the princess takes him on a journey that reveals Aladdin's character. 

     Director Dorothy Fallows does a wonderful job bringing out the talents of an aspiring group of young actors and choreographer Samantha Mitchell showcases their dancing skills. The costumes easily transport the audience to another land, the market scenes are realistic, and the creative use of turning wall panels allows scenes to be changed with ease.

     Lucas Sotereanos does a stellar job as Aladdin. He quickly pulls the audience into the life of his character and creates a sense of empathy for him to succeed. He shines on the touching, "Proud of Your Boy." His sidekicks - Lucas Alexa as Babkak, Julia Rae Jackson as Kassim and Nie 'Zhay Jefferson as Omar - all have a strong stage presence.

     His scenes with Reagan Sheposh as Jasmine are nice. They are convincing as two young people in love and that is effortlessly conveyed in "A Whole New World." "These Palace Walls" is nice when she is joined by her attendants - Maggie Badstibner as Isir, Sydney Hrinda as Manal and Hadassah L. Cardaro as Rajah.

     There are two characters who steal the spotlight every time they are on stage - Jafar and Iago. Noah Bowytz is brilliant as Jafar, the loud and obnoxious sultan wannabe who will do anything to claim that title. His performance is complemented by a strong offering by Bowie Koisor as his sarcastic assistant. They have a spark that ignites every time they are on stage.

     There can't be a magic lamp without a Genie and Tika Gill more than ably fulfills that role. She takes center stage on production numbers like "Arabian Nights," "Friend Like Me" and "Prince Ali." She's convincing in her emotions concerning her future.

     Also turning in good performances are Beckett Lowry as Sultan, Caroline Martino as the Bread Shop Owner, Megan Bowytz as Razoul, Olivia Haskins as Guard 1, Taylor Lewis as Guard 2, Destini Banks as Beggar 1, Anthony Banks as Beggar 2, Bella Daye Messner as the Apple Vendor, Amanda Mihealsick as the Fortune Teller, Sophia Gill as the Attendant, Evan Wolfgang as Prince Abdullah, Julia Rae Jackson as the Spooky Voice, Hadassah L. Cardaro as Cave of Wonders, and Amelia Atkins and Lydia O'Grady in the Ensemble.

     "Aladdin Jr." is a delightful show with a talented cast. If you want an escape from the weather, let the MLT Juniors take you away on a magic carpet for an entertaining couple of hours. The adventure will not disappoint.

By Carol Waterloo Frazier

May 14, 2024

Mon River Arts' offers splendid production of 'Fiddler on the Roof'

     There's something special about the classic musicals. Maybe because the songs are familiar or it's the familiarity of the characters and the story. Or maybe there's something about the tradition of musical theater from the bygone days that is comforting. But on the other hand, it may be because those shows aren't done as often and you appreciate them more. 

     Mon River Arts does a phenomenal job keeping classic musical theater alive with a spectacular production of "Fiddler on the Roof." The show continues May 16-18 at 7:30 p.m. and May 19 at 2 p.m. at the Grand Theater in Elizabeth. Tickets are $22, $18 for seniors (age 62 and older) and students (college and younger with student ID). For tickets, go to monriverarts.org.

     Director Art DeConciliis does an excellent job telling the story of life in the small Russian village of Anatevka in 1905. The story centers around Tevye and his family - wife Golde and daughters Tzeitel, Hodel, Chava, Shprintze and Bielke. He believes in traditions and has a hard time accepting that times are changing as his three oldest daughters fall in love - without the assistance of Yente, the village matchmaker.

     When a show is so well known, it can be a challenge to live up to expectations. But this stellar cast does not disappoint. Leading the way is Ray Cygrymus, whose portrayal of Tevye is phenomenal. If you're familiar with the show, it's immediately obvious he has mastered the mannerisms and wit of his character. Interactions with his family and other characters are so believable you feel you are in the village watching the story unfold. Whether he's happy, contemplative, wishing out loud, angry or sad, he draws you into Tevye's emotions with ease. And he maintains the accent throughout, which is quite impressive.

     Vocally, he does a great job with tunes like "Tradition" and "If I Were A Rich Man" and with Christy Rodibaugh as Golde, for the tender "Do You Love Me?" and the reminiscent "Sunrise, Sunset." Their scenes together are fun, especially "The Dream." While many of his scenes are light-hearted, he shines on tear-jerker ones like "Far From the Home I Love" with Samantha Hawk as his daughter Hodel and the "Chava Sequence" with Delaney Molnar as daughter Chava.

     Rodibaugh does a great job as Golde. She and Cygrymus have an amazing stage chemistry and their bantering is fun. Scenes with matchmaker Yente, enthusiastically portrayed by Dana DeFonso, are exciting. 

     Sarah Hennessy as Tzeitel, the oldest daughter, and Carmen LoPresti as Motel the tailor do a fine job as the first break the tradition. They are convincing as a young couple in love and he does a nice job on the upbeat "Miracle of Miracles." 

     Samantha Hawk as Hodel is superb as the second daughter, who falls in love with Perchik the student, energetically portrayed by Tyler Prah. They are good on "Now I Have Everything." Her character convincingly tugs at the heartstrings while waiting at the train station to go to her soon-to-be-husband who is a prisoner in Siberia.

     Third daughter Chava is brilliantly played by Delaney Molnar. A fun scene is "Matchmaker" with Hennessy, Hawk and Molnar, whose voices harmonize well. While her sisters' break with tradition was hard but accepted by their father, Chava falls in love with someone outside her religion - something her father can not accept. Cygrymus and Molnar shine in these emotional scenes.

     Corey Schildkamp is good as Lazar Wolf, the butcher, whose match with Tzeitel is broken. Phillip Boatright does a nice job as the Rabbi, and Loren McCullough is good as the Constable.

     Rounding out the talented cast are Evie Lyons as Shprintze, the fourth daughter; Annalyssa Pace as the fifth daughter; Linda Baker as Grandma Tzeitel; Mallory Grants as Fruma-Sarah the butcher's wife; Dannielle Seanor as Shaindel, Motel's mother; Liam Miller and Toni DeFonso as The Fiddler; Mark Barrett, David Grace and Dylan Stramaski as Russians; and Eve Lyn Bachmaier, Alessa Cavalancia, Dean Grantz, Mollie Gregory, Nora Gregory, Sidney Handshue, Christian Kolcun, Julie Martin, Kendall Pierce, Michael Schildkamp, Evan Wolfgang and Kelly Wolfgang as Villagers.

     "Fiddler" is a stellar production. Not only is the acting superb, the costumes are great and the dance numbers, especially "To Life," are wonderful. The final scene is powerful. If you want to see an exceptional show, "Fiddler on the Roof" will not disappoint.

By Carol Waterloo Frazier

May 15, 2024

'Night Watch' a suspense-filled thriller at McKeesport Little Theater

     A lot can happen when you can't sleep. You might look out the window and see a body in a chair in an apartment. The police might not find anything, your husband may think you are having a breakdown - again, your house guest may try to calm you, your maid may be a bit to nosy, and you might meet a rather interesting neighbor.

     That scenario - and a lot more - comes to life on the McKeesport Little Theater stage with the thriller, "Night Watch." The show continues May 17 and 18 at 7:30 p.m. and May 19 at 2 p.m. Tickets are $15, $10 for students and are available at mckeesportlittletheater.com.

     This is not the first time MLT has done this show. The show opened in 2020 then the quarantine forced the show to close the next day - and most of those actors returned for this production. It took four years for a two-weekend run and the wait was well worth it.

     Director Sean David Butler does an amazing job with this edge-of-your-seat show. He masterfully builds on the characters' personalities leaving the audience hanging on every word and action until the very end.

    There is not a weak link in the cast. Cindy Swanson is brilliant as Elaine Wheeler, who claims she saw a body through a window. As her husband doubts what she saw, she masterfully delves deeper into a state of fear and convincingly teeters on the verge of another breakdown when she sees another body. Swanson's powerful performance creates the suspense that makes the show a success.

     Steven Gallagher is her not overly understanding husband, John. He quickly and convincingly shows the character's brash personality early as he attempts to placate his wife by calling the police to report the body. He convincingly displays his impatience with her - and just about everyone he encounters. Scenes with Swanson are dramatic and exciting - easily building up the suspense.

    Doing what she can to comfort her friend, Chelsea Conway shines as Blanche Cooke, her long-time friend who is staying with the couple. While she is sympathetic, she shows animosity toward her husband and Helga the maid, who does a great job quietly observing what is going on.

     No thriller would be complete without a nosy neighbor. In this case it's Curtis Appleby, enthusiastically played by Ron Clawson. He adds flamboyance to his scenes and his interactions with Gallagher are good.

     The police assigned to the case - Dellen Morton as Vanelli and Shawn Conway as Lieutenant Walker - quickly get tired of the phone calls. Conway does a nice job allowing his patience to grow thinner as the show progresses.

     Ellen Kalik is good as Dr. Tracey Lake and David Hurlbert is fun as deli owner Sam Hoke.

     "Night Watch" is an amazing show and this very strong cast does a wonderful job building the suspense. If you like suspense and drama, you don't want to miss this production.

By Carol Waterloo Frazier

March 16, 2023

MLT's 'Death Trap' a brilliant show of twists and turns

     ​What happens when you have a down-on-his luck playwright, a student's play that is sure to be a hit, a wife who will do whatever she can to help her husband, an observant attorney, and a psychic? Intrigue, shocking twists and turns - and a lot of laughs.

     McKeesport Little Theater's production of Ira Levin's "Deathtrap" is March 17 and 18 at 7:30 p.m. and March 19 at 2 p.m. Admission is $20, $12 for students. The theater is located at 1614 Coursin St. in McKeesport.

     Just when you think you know what's going on in the five-character play, something happens that you never saw coming. And it happens more than once. Director Logan Tomko does a great job with a strong cast so you never expect what is about to happen.

     Andrew Lasswell is wonderful as Sidney Bruhl, the successful writer in the midst of a dry spell. When he receives a first draft of a play from a student in one of his seminars, he and his wife, Myra (Amy Melissen) devise a plan to get his name back in the spotlight. She does a nice job as the hesitant yet supportive wife to her husband's seemingly crazy plan to get his career back on track. Lasswell's expressions are amazing, adding to the intensity or humor of scenes.  

     Scenes with Melissen and Lasswell are good. Scenes with Lasswell and Gavin Calgaro, as aspiring writer Clifford Anderson, are wonderful. They complement each other brilliantly, whether in serious or comedic moments. Calgaro's star-struck awe is convincing and his callous attitude as the show progresses is exceptional.

     Every time Mandy Eckenrode makes an entrance she steals the scene as Helga Ten Dorp. She is brilliant as the psychic neighbor who "sees" what happened and predicts what will happen. She is a delight to watch.

     Attorney Porter Milgrim is portrayed by Craig Soich. He does a nice job, especially when he points out something to his client. His scene with Eckenrode is fun.

    "Deathtrap" is a wonderful show that will keep you guessing about what will happen next until the very end. One aspect that is no mystery is the amazing set. There is a beautiful china closet, a bar cart, a classic radio, a fireplace - everything to make a very inviting living room. The walls are adorned with posters for murder mysteries as well as various weapons like swords and hatchets, many of which were used in his plays. And the music playing as folks enter the theater is very mood-setting.

     While "Deathtrap" is full of surprises, one thing is definite - this is a wonderful show you don't want to miss.

                                                                                                                                                  By Carol Waterloo Frazier   

Mon Valley Happenings


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 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     

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

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

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


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

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  

October 5, 2023

MRA's 'Oliver!' a stirring journey to Victorian England

     If you enjoy classic musicals, Mon River Arts' production of "Oliver!" will not disappoint. From costumes and sets to the singing and acting, the show is wonderful.

     The curtain goes up Oct. 6, 7, 13 and 14 at 7:30 p.m. and Oct 8 and 15 at 2 p.m. at the Grand Theatre, 207 South Second Ave. in Elizabeth. Tickets are $22 for adults, $18 for seniors and students and can be ordered at www.monriverarts.org.

     Directors Shawn and Chelsea Conway do a great job with a cast of 34 actors - youth and adults. Kudos to Jessica Morgovich for creating a cobblestone street that starts on stage and seamlessly blends into the backdrop. Costumes set the ambiance even more as does the use of lighting.

     "Oliver!" brings to life the Charles Dickens story of an orphan, Oliver Twist. He is befriended by the Artful Dodger who takes him to where a group of child pickpockets live with aging leader, Fagin. Falsely accused of a theft he didn't commit, a kind gentleman takes Oliver home and soon discovers his true identity. Fearing the youngster will tell about Fagin and his mean cohort in crime, Bill Sikes, they devise a plan to take him back. But Nancy, who loves Sikes despite how he treats her, comes up with a costly plan of her own to make sure the lad is returned to the man who befriended him.

     Nancy is a pivotal character and Courtney Harkins does a stellar job portraying her. Whether it's the fun "Oom-Pah-Pah" or the heart-wrenching "As Long As He Needs Me," Harkins shines vocally. Her acting is just as powerful and is a joy to watch.

​     David Nackman does a nice job as Fagin, creating a character you can't help but like - if you ignore the fact he teaches kids how to pickpocket. He is strong vocally on "You've Got to Pick A Pocket Or Two" and "Reviewing the Situation," where his expressions are great.

​     The sinister Bill Sikes is brilliantly played by Jessie Glover. His intense interactions with Fagin and his boys, and the abusive treatment of Nancy - their scenes are very dramatic - easily make him convincing as the villain. He does a chilling job with "My Name."

      Leah Morgan does a nice job as Oliver. Her expressions of confusion and innocence are great and she is very strong vocally, which is first shown on "Where Is Love?"

     Anderson Miller is good as Artful Dodger and does a nice job on "Consider Yourself." He, Morgan and Harkins are fun on "I'd Do Anything."

     David Carver and Alyssa Gephart are fun as Mr. Brumble and Widow Corney and the flirty "I Shall Scream!" is light-hearted. Corey Schildkamp and Katy Chmura do a nice job as Mr. Sowerberry and the very domineering Mrs. Sowerberry, especially on "That's Your Funeral." Jacob Grantz is believable as Mr. Brownlow who takes in Oliver and Michelle Buzas is compassionate as Mrs. Bedwin on the reprise of "Where Is Love?"

     The talented youth cast includes Janna Stumme, Gunner Firmstone, Jacob Pitoniak, Macey Pendleton, Michael Schildkamp, Dean Grantz, Julia Griesheimer, Christian Kolcun, Kendall Pierce, Evan Wolfgang, Sophia Segner and Emma Hawkins.

     Rounding out the adult cast are Jodi Geyer (one of her characters, Old Sally, holds a key to Oliver's identity), Gianna Sotereanos, Dana DeFonso, Julie Martin, Eve Bachmaier, Dana Morgan, Ellie Holderbaum, Kyli Stoner, Sadie Mitchell, Kelly Wolfgang and Rubbie Greenewald.

     From the opening number, "Food, Glorious Food," to the reprise of "Reviewing the Situation," the show is sure to please. If you have a chance to attend MRA's production of "Oliver!" you are in for a treat and should consider yourself lucky to see this production. 

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

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

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