Broadway Theatre League of Northeastern Pennsylvania found an apropos tale to open its season on Friday the 13th.
“A Gentleman’s Guide To Love & Murder,” the 2014 Tony Award winner for best musical, comes to Scranton Cultural Center at The Masonic Temple, 420 N. Washington Ave., for four shows from Friday, Oct. 13, through Sunday, Oct. 15.
And while this story of a man seeking to kill off the relatives who stand in his way of inheriting a fortune might sound dark, star Colleen McLaughlin assured that the musical has a lighter side with lots of laughs. Robert Freedman and Steven Lutvak wrote a complex, brilliant show stocked with jokes, she explained recently by phone from the tour’s stop in Madison, Wisconsin.
“The writing is just so incredible, but you can’t help but laugh about everything,” said McLaughlin, an Oklahoma native. “The whole entire cast is just laughing. I come out to the wings just to see some of my favorite scenes.”
Set in London in 1909, the show centers around working-class man Monty Navarro (Blake Price), who, after learning he is ninth in line to become an earl, decides to eliminate the relatives between him and the aristocratic title. All the while he hopes to marry McLaughlin’s character, Sibella Hallward.
“I’m kind of this narcissistic girl and kind of a gold digger, so I don’t want to marry him, and he thinks the only way he can win my hand in marriage is to become the Earl of Highhurst,” she said of the role.
Actor James Taylor Odom, meanwhile, portrays all eight members of the D’Ysquith family who become Navarro’s targets.
“Every scene that James Taylor Odom is in is pretty incredible. … He’s amazing,” McLaughlin said.
McLaughlin praised the sets for the show, which she described as beautiful, intricate and specific to the characters, but she also noted that Peggy Hickey’s choreography “is pretty incredible.” One song she expects to blow away audiences is “I’ve Decided To Marry You,” whose choreography involves actors entering and exiting through double doors as one character tries to keep two others apart.
“The choreography is so specific. … The rehearsal process was actually really quick, but I think … each of us had to go home and practice with the doors in our apartment just to get it down perfectly,” McLaughlin said. “It was a process but enjoyable.”
The actors worked with a dialect coach to perfect their British accents, but McLaughlin noted learning the songs also posed a challenge.
“The music is beautiful,” McLaughlin said. “(It is a) beautiful score but really intricate, and your diction kind of has to be on point.”
“A Gentleman’s Guide” opened on Broadway in November 2013 and racked up more than 900 performances before closing in January 2016. In addition to best musical, it picked up Tony Awards for best director of a musical (Darko Tresnjak), best book (Freedman) and best costume design (Linda Cho).
McLaughlin described the show as “very thrilling” with “lots of shenanigans.”
“It’s just a night full of laughter,” she said.
Broadway Theatre League of Northeastern Pennsylvania found an apropos tale to open its season on Friday the 13th.
Lawrence Loh’s tenure as music director of Northeastern Pennsylvania Philharmonic comes to an end this weekend as the orchestra regroups.
After 12 years with the orchestra, Loh says goodbye with “The Music of John Williams,” a pops program set for Saturday, Oct. 7, at 8 p.m. at Peoples Security Bank Theater at Lackawanna College in Scranton. The concert is the orchestra’s only show of the season as it suspends operations for 2017-18 to develop a plan to keep the group financially viable.
“The plan is the philharmonic will be able to fundraise and be in a strong position to have success in the future,” Loh said. “I’m hoping it’s a temporary setback for the philharmonic, because I know the people there, particularly the audience, really value the orchestra, and it has such an important history in the region. And it’s something that needs to be supported and saved.”
The philharmonic gave Loh his first job as a music director, and he believes together they “accomplished a great deal over all these years,” from letting him take an adventurous approach to classical concerts to impacting the community through activities such as educational programs and piano competitions. Nancy Sanderson, philharmonic executive director, called Loh “a community-oriented fellow” and noted that he will donate his services for Saturday’s concert.
“While he has been here, he’s cared very much about Northeast Pennsylvania,” she said. “Sometimes (for) conductors, it’s just a job. They come in, conduct and go. But it was more than that to Larry.”
Sanderson pointed out that Loh’s career is on the rise, and he had been honest with her about other job prospects. He continues to guest conduct around the country and has been named music director of West Virginia Symphony Orchestra.
“He cares so much about the orchestra,” Sanderson said. “The thing that people have said to me … is that Larry decided because of the (orchestra’s financial) situation to leave, and that’s not it at all.”
The orchestra had an entire season planned for 2017-18, but decided to go with John Williams’ popular movie soundtracks when paring it down to a lone show. Loh called Williams an “iconic composer” and said he is excited to conduct music from “E.T.,” “Jurassic Park,” “Schindler’s List” and the “Star Wars” and “Harry Potter” series.
“I think that they probably rightfully assumed that that would have a good audience, a good draw,” Loh said. “It’s something I’m very passionate about.”
Loh does not expect his relationship with the philharmonic to end with Saturday’s final note, however. Many concerts with other orchestras will keep him busy this year, but he will continue to be available for anything the philharmonic needs and hopes people “would agree how important the orchestra is and how amazing these musicians are.”
“It’s important also because there are varying levels of arts programs in schools,” he said. “ Some are very good, and some are nonexistent, and so the philharmonic really fills that void. And I think most people agree that if people, especially young people, are allowed to express themselves artistically, it can help with every aspect of their lives. And so the philharmonic as the leading cultural institution in the region has a responsibility to be to fill that need.”
The orchestra will present seven chamber concerts this season that will serve as fundraisers for the orchestra and allow it to keep up a presence in the region, Sanderson said. The first will feature pianist Fei-Fei Dong on Saturday, Nov. 11, at Wyoming Seminary’s Kirby Center for the Creative Arts, Kingston, with a reception at nearby Kevin’s Bar & Restaurant, 247 Wyoming Ave.
While the group hopes to have a full season next year, Sanderson said, “there’s a lot to work out in the meantime.”
“We are exploring all sorts of options for doing something more sustainable,” she said. “I really am reluctant to talk about those options now before we really get them in place, but we’re starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel.”
In the meantime, the group will say goodbye to the man who “just won a place in all of our hearts,” Sanderson said. And when he conducts on Saturday, Loh expects to feel emotional.
“I’m sure that I’ll feel a flood of memories of being with this orchestra and with these people, and I’ll just try and hold it together while I’m up there,” he said. “And I really hope it’s a sellout. I really hope that people absolutely fill the hall.”
A grape escape: PA Wine Land Festival offers wide range of vintages from more than a dozen state makers
Sit back and sip the best wines the state has to offer.
The fourth annual Pennsylvania Wine Land Festival returns to the Lodge at Montage Mountain Resorts, Scranton, on Saturday, Sept. 30, with vintages from 15 wineries ready for tasting. General admission is $29 in advance, and the price increases to $40 on Friday, Sept. 29, and at the door.
“We’ve had it there last year, and it was a great success,” said Ian Lopera, marketing and events coordinator for Times-Shamrock Communications, which presents the festival with Gertrude Hawk Chocolates.
All of the wines come from Pennsylvania, and many from the northeast corner, Lopera said. Guests can sample drinks from Antler Ridge Winery, Bee Kind Winery, Benigna’s Creek Winery, Buddy Boy Winery & Vineyard, Deer Creek Winery, Hidden Creek Vineyard & Winery, Maiolatesi Wine Cellars, Moon Dancer Vineyards & Winery, Olivero’s Vineyard, Sand Castle Winery, Seven Mountains Wine Cellars, Shade Mountain Vineyards, Sorrenti’s Cherry Valley Vineyards, Stone & Key Cellars and University Wine Co.
Organizers offered food-pairing passes for the first time last year, and guests can choose that option again this time to try items from various local vendors. A limited amount of these passes, which include the regular admission for wine tastings, are available for $34.99 in advance and $55 at the door.
“That way you get to sample different wines from the different wine vendors, but then you also get to sample different fare that pairs along with the wine,” Lopera said. “People enjoyed it.”
Several local food trucks also will be on hand, including Peculiar Culinary Co., Sweet Lush Cupcakery, iGourmet, Keystone Farms Cheese, Windsor Inn and Carmella’s Pastries. And visitors also can peruse the numerous vendors who’ll have their wares for sale — such as Scentsy, Collana de Vino, On a Whim jewelry, Cornucopia, Celestial Soap Co., Plow & Hearth, Damsel in Defense, J. Borthwick LEDs, Rodan & Fields and LuLaRoe — as they enjoy the various vintages.
“You can’t go wrong with events based on alcohol in Pennsylvania, especially NEPA,” Lopera said. “I think they’re done well, and I think that’s what people really respect about it. The people who plan the events, they really care about it, and they really want to see them get bigger and better. I think people see that, and they see the attention to detail. … It’s a local thing that people can (get) out and enjoy.”
Antler Ridge Winery
Bee Kind Winery
Benigna’s Creek Winery
Buddy Boy Winery & Vineyard
Deer Creek Winery
Hidden Creek Vineyard & Winery
Maiolatesi Wine Cellars
Moon Dancer Vineyards & Winery
Sand Castle Winery
Seven Mountains Wine Cellars
Stone & Key Cellars
University Wine Co.
If you go
What: Fourth annual Pennsylvania Wine Land Festival
When: Saturday, Sept. 30, noon to 5 p.m.
Where: Lodge at Montage Mountain Resorts, 1000 Montage Mountain Road, Scranton
Details: General admission is $29 until Sept. 28 and $40 after then. Tickets that include food pairings are $34.99 in advance and $55 at the door; tickets are limited. Visit montagemountainresorts.com/wineland for more information.
Pints and Pretzels PA Oktoberfest moves to PNC Field for weekend of eclectic German fare, brews and games
PAOktoberfest found a new home for the classic German food, wiener dog races and seasonal beers fans have come to expect from the annual festival. This year, the event moves to PNC Field, Moosic, after six years at Mohegan Sun Pocono in Plains Twp. The action will take place around the baseball stadium’s concourse as well as on the field.
“We really just wanted (a venue) who was kind of in it for the long haul … and we wanted to make the event bigger and better,” said Ian Lopera, marketing and events coordinator for Times-Shamrock Communications, which runs Oktoberfest. “And PNC Field was really a place where we could see that happening.”
The festival runs Friday, Sept. 22, from 4:30 to 11 p.m.; Saturday, Sept. 23, 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.; and Sunday, Sept. 24, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission is $5 for a one-day pass and $10 for a weekend pass. Food and beer will available for purchase, and visitors no longer will need to buy “Oktobucks” vouchers to do so like they had to in past years, Lopera said.
Local beer suppliers Ace Beverage Co., Banko North L.T. Verrastro Inc. and Northeast Eagle Distributors are supplying more than 50 types of beer with “a lot of fall” flavors plus authentic beer from Germany, the originator of Oktoberfest celebrations, Lopera said.
“There’s pumpkins there, and some beers that the breweries and vendors wanted to get out for the first time,” Lopera said.
Legends, which handles the food at the ballpark, will serve many classic German dishes — such as bratwurst and schnitzel sandwiches — from Alpine Inc. Wurst & Meat House in Honesdale. But guests also can dig into food regularly found at PNC Field, including barbecue and nachos.
“We’re trying to cast a wider net, trying to appeal to all crowds,” said Rich Kloss, Legends’ general manager. “There’s going to be people coming for the German food and beer, but at the same time there might be people tagging along with them that might not want that.”
Live entertainment will fill the weekend, too, including returning favorite Romy, a German singer; Joe Stanky & His Cadets; Schützengiggles; John Stevens’ Doubleshot and John Stanky & the Coalminers. Patrons can test their strength in the periodic beer stein-holding contests or check out the various vendors, a new addition that includes LuLaRoe, Tarot for Living, German Gift Chalet, Spring Hill Services, Jerky Hut, Green Mountain Energy, Cigars on State, VIP Imprints and Wallenpaupack Brewing Co.
While registration for the wiener dog races has ended, visitors still can watch the dogs try to best each other several times during the weekend: Friday at 3 and 6 p.m.; Saturday at noon, 3, 6 and 9 p.m.; and Sunday at noon and 3 p.m. It’s a “bit of a spectacle” that’s fun to watch, Lopera said.
“Last year, we had thousands of people up in the stands and around the track looking,” he said. “People just get really happy. The dogs are always so happy to get out and run, and this year they’ll get to run in green grass in the field.”
On Saturday, the Lederhosen 5K begins at noon, and the $20 registration fee includes admission to Oktoberfest plus post-race beer from Wallenpaupack Brewing Co. Runners can register in advance at scrantonrunning.com or at PNC Field the day of the race from 11 to 11:45 a.m. The race is open to ages 21 and older, and the first 150 registrants also receive a short-sleeved tech shirt.
Kloss said he expects PNC Field to “bring a good vibe” to the event.
“I’m just excited to see how people take to it at the new venue,” he said. “I think it’s going to be awesome. … It’s not just in a parking lot, you know? We’re utilizing the whole venue.”
People not only enjoy that Oktoberfest is a three-day, 21-and-older event but also the authenticity of it, Lopera said.
“We always try to make it something authentic for people,” he said. “It’s not just a beer party.”
Into the spin Festival offers an up-close look at fiber and where it comes from with education, demos
Learn about the fiber-making process from sheep to finish this weekend when the Pennsylvania Endless Mountains Fiber Festival returns for a 14th year.
Set for Saturday, Sept. 9, and Sunday, Sept. 10, at the Harford Fairgrounds, 485 Fair Hill Road, New Milford, the festival brings together not only yarn spinners, weavers and dyers but also many of the animals that provide the natural material for their products.
The festival runs Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., and education makes up a large part. Demonstrations focusing on sheep shearing, natural fiber dying, border collies and more plus classes in such subjects as spinning, weaving and fleece processing fill out the schedule.
“You don’t have to really know anything to participate in the classes,” festival president Ellen Anderson said. “You can really almost go knowing nothing.”
Anderson raises angora rabbits, long-wool sheep, Romeldale sheep and angora goats in Lebanon County and joined the festival as a vendor its second year. She is one of the more than 50 vendors set to participate this time — selling what she called “everything from the raw fiber to the finished product” — but her favorite part of the festival is the chance to talk to and teach visitors.
“People are just getting so far removed from agriculture nowadays,” Anderson said. “It’s important to (teach) especially the younger children. … You tell them, ‘Well, this is how somebody did it 100 years ago, and the technology changed.’”
That includes giving them a chance to get up close to fiber-producing animals. In addition to alpacas, llamas, rabbits and goats, the festival features more than a dozen breeds of sheep showing the different types of wool that can end up in sweaters, hats and much more after weavers and knitters get their hands on it.
“We’re trying to get people involved to learn how to do things so they can make their own products,” said Catherine Hines of Alpacas of Sunshine Farm in New Milford, part of the group of alpaca farmers who founded the festival.
Those efforts seem to be working.
“We just finished up the Harford Fair, and it’s a big difference. We’ve been doing that for nine or eight years,” Hines said. “In the beginning, we had to tell them, ‘No, they’re not llamas. They’re alpacas.’ And now you can hear the kids telling ‘No, they’re not llamas. They’re alpacas.’ They’re learning.”
Interest in the fiber arts has grown in recent years, something Anderson attributes to a desire to unplug from technology and get “back to the basics.”
“You start from the raw fiber, the raw wool, the alpaca, (and) you spin something, you make it into yarn. … You can wear it,” she said. “(It) makes you feel like you’re being a little more down to earth.”
Festival admission costs $3 per day or $5 for a weekend pass for ages 12 and older; parking is free. The festival draws visitors and vendors not only from Pennsylvania but also Maryland, New York, Virginia and beyond.
“It’s big enough that there’s a huge selection of items but yet small enough that the visitors to the festival can really stop and talk to the vendors,” Anderson said.
The weekend also features contests, a fleece sale and raffle, and guests can grab a bite to eat from several food vendors or bring their own for a picnic.
“Last year, I believe, our numbers (were) probably over 500 through the gate each day, but that doesn’t include a lot of volunteers and vendors there shopping with each other,” Anderson said. “We’re hoping our numbers continue to grow. It’s just getting the word out about it. A lot of it is people finding us online (and) friends telling friends.”
If you go
What: 14th annual Pennsylvania Endless Mountains Fiber Festival
When: Saturday, Sept. 9, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Sunday, Sept. 10, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Where: Harford Fair Grounds, 485 Fair Hill Road, New Milford
Details: Admission for ages 12 and older is $3 daily and $5 for the weekend. Parking is free. Visit endlessmountainsfiberfest.com
Tom Nemeth’s mom used to tell him how he’d peer over the side of his baby carriage to watch a passing train.
He outgrew the carriage but not his interest in railroading.
Next weekend, the editor and publisher of Railpace magazine serves as grand marshal for Railfest, Steamtown National Historic Site’s annual celebration of railroading. He felt flattered when he learned of the honor a few weeks ago, knowing past grand marshals include railroad presidents and late businessman Albert Boscov.
“I was rather surprised and kind of honored, because it was like, ‘Me? What did I ever do for Steamtown that merited that?’” said Nemeth, a retired packaging engineer who lives in Greentown.
In 1982, he and two friends started Railpace just for fun, focusing on prototype railroading in the Northeast. Nemeth estimated the monthly publication has about 6,000 readers, although it had a bigger audience during the heyday of hobby shops.
As part of Railfest, which takes place Saturday and Sunday, Sept. 2 and 3, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the historic site, Lackawanna Avenue and Cliff Street, Scranton, Nemeth will share some of his photographs of Steamtown. They range from past Railfests to visiting trains to the attraction’s move from Vermont to Scranton in 1984. Nemeth also will participate in Saturday’s 10 a.m. ceremony to open Railfest, which this year has the theme “Transition from Steam to Diesel.”
But railroad fans can start the celebration early with other train-related activities in the area. On Thursday, Aug. 31, at 7 p.m., Lackawanna Historical Society will present two railroading movies — “Unstoppable” and “Under Siege 2: Dark Territory” — at Circle Drive-In, 1911 Scranton-Carbondale Highway, Dickson City. Admission is $7.
The next night, in conjunction with Scranton’s First Friday Art Walk, the Johnny Cash Experience featuring David Stone will give a free concert from 7:30 to 9 p.m. in Steamtown’s theater. Stone will return for Railfest, performing both days as the site demonstrates the “ring of fire,” a method of replacing locomotive tires using flame.
Other special programs and activities at Steamtown include a World War I presentation, exhibits by Dennis Livesly and Mark Perry, and rides on specialty cars in the rail yard. Steamtown also will run a diesel-driven excursion to Moscow from 12:30 p.m. to 3; tickets prices vary and include park admission.
Additionally, guests can meet “Miss Phoebe Snow,” hear folk music by singer Jay Smar, see demonstrations and check out a 1925 Whitcomb gasoline-powered locomotive.
Children’s attractions, meanwhile, include rides on a 1/8-inch-scale steam train, a photo booth, magicians and train layouts.
“Folks who live in New Jersey may ride trains into and from work each day and see them out there, but they can’t get close to them,” Steamtown spokesman Bill Nalevanko said. “Here, you can get up close and personal to see not only the equipment but (also) meet with people who actually run the equipment. It’s a great opportunity for families, too, to experience downtown Scranton.”
On Saturday, the Lackawanna & Wyoming Valley Chapter of the National Railway Historical Society will hold a night photography session for up to 75 people to take pictures of three railroad scenes lit and staged by Steve Barry of Railfan & Railroad Magazine. Orientation starts at 7:15 p.m. with photos from 8 to 10. Tickets are $25, available at project3713.com.
Railfest makes up just part of a busy weekend in the city. Across the Steamtown parking lot, Electric City Trolley Museum will run additional trolley trips along the Laurel Line. A free County of Lackawanna Transit System shuttle will move visitors among Steamtown; the Scranton Iron Furnaces, 159 Cedar Ave.; and La Festa Italiana on Lackawanna County Courthouse Square during Steamtown’s hours.
Nemeth looks forward to meeting a lot of people at Railfest.
“You see some people you do know,” he said. “It’s a nice venue to get together with friends and people you haven’t seen in a long time, because a lot of rail enthusiasts go there.”
Nalevanko said people enjoy doing something over the last summer holiday weekend, which has turned Railfest into one of the park’s biggest events.
“Come, bring the family and have a great time,” he said.
Showstopping Finale – ‘Pippin’ closes out BTL season this weekend with high-flying shows at Scranton Cultural Center
Step into a colorful world of acrobatics, magic and more as “Pippin” closes the season for Broadway Theatre League of Northeastern Pennsylvania this weekend.
The league brings in the national tour of the Tony Award-winning musical for four performances from Friday, May 5, through Sunday, May 7, at Scranton Cultural Center at The Masonic Temple, 420 N. Washington Ave.
Set around 780 A.D. in the Holy Roman Empire, the show-within-a-show musical focuses on a young prince, Pippin, and his search for the meaning of life through war, murder and love — all told to the audience as a story told by a performance troupe.
“The way I describe it is that you see a young boy who’s trying to find some meaning to his life, and he tries an extraordinary life and then an ordinary life,” said Erica Cianciulli, who plays Pippin’s stepmother, Fastrada. “And it’s very relevant to what’s going on today in the world.”
“Pippin” opened on Broadway in 1972 with a book and choreography by Bob Fosse and music and lyrics by Stephen Schwartz. Featuring such songs as “Corner of the Sky,” “Magic To Do” and “Morning Glow,” it ran for 1,944 performances and five previews before closing in 1977. Its only revival on the Great White Way came four years ago under the direction of Diane Paulus. That production closed in 2015.
The tour is based on the revival, which picked up four Tony Awards, including one for best revival of a musical. Many of the artistic team members from the Broadway revival worked with the tour at its rehearsals, and Paulus’ assistant directed the production and passed on her plans and vision, Cianciulli said. The show incorporates acrobatics and other circus-style entertainment, from hula hooping to knife throwing, plus Fosse-style choreography.
The acrobats all excel in different things, said Cianciulli, who grew up in Lansdale near Philadelphia.
“We have one girl who she went to school for German wheel. It’s like a big steel wheel, and she goes across the stage rolling through it,” she said. “And there’s all this cool stuff and a lot of two-highs and three-highs — people standing on each other’s shoulders. … And it’s interesting because it all just fits into the show somehow.”
Cianciulli doesn’t have to perform any of the acrobatics, but she does a few magic tricks. And as an understudy for the Leading Player character, she had to learn the trapeze routine just in case.
“It’s scary up there,” she said. “If you’re scared of heights, it’s not the best time.”
The cast has heard that the audience enjoys the acrobatics and magic tricks, Cianciulli said, but the songs draw a response, too. In “Magic To Do,” the Leading Player drops a curtain to reveal the acrobats and open the show.
“It’s just a bunch of colorful costumes and everything, which is pretty cool, which gets people excited for the show,” Cianciulli said.
She called “Corner of the Sky” the show’s biggest number because a lot of people know it and she knows many people who have performed it for auditions. And she pointed to “On the Right Track” and “Extraordinary” as big second-act pieces.
Cianciulli gets her own chance to shine. As the “evil, conniving stepmother” hoping to kill her husband and stay queen forever, Cianciulli said, Fastrada shares her plans in “Spread a Little Sunshine.”
When she comes to Scranton, she may even get to perform it for family members and friends making the trip up from the Philadelphia area. In the meantime, she enjoys sharing “Pippin’s” story across the country in her first theatrical tour, which kicked off in January.
“Of course I love doing the show,” Cianciulli said. “The show hasn’t gotten old for me at all. … I don’t really have a night where I’m like, ‘Eh, I don’t feel like doing the show.’ It’s so much fun and such a special show.”
— caitlin heaney west
If you go
What: “Pippin,” presented by Broadway Theatre League of Northeastern Pennsylvania
When: Friday, May 5, 8 p.m.; Saturday, May 6, 2 and 8 p.m.; and Sunday, May 7, 1 p.m.
Where: Scranton Cultural Center at The Masonic Temple, 420 N. Washington Ave.
Details: The show runs approximately 2 hours, 20 minutes, and is recommended for ages 13 and older. Tickets are $37 to $59, available through the box office, 800-745-3000 and ticketmaster.com. For more information, visit broadwayinscranton.com.
Ballet Theatre of Scranton sinks its teeth into a classic tale for its latest production.
The troupe’s senior company presents “Dracula” for one night only, Saturday, April 29, at 7:30, in the Theater at North, 1539 N. Main Ave., Scranton.
But preparations for the ballet began in the midst of winter, as the show’s creators, Katya and Arkadiy Orohovsky, ventured to the city from their Mississippi home for nine days to set up the production with the cast.
“It’s been crazy,” Katya Orohovsky said during those rehearsals. “They pick up really quickly, very enthusiastically.”
The couple saw a few ballet versions of “Dracula” through the years, but never any they identified with. Then they heard music from 20th-century Ukrainian composers that incorporated that country’s folk songs, and they developed their own version of the story using that music.
“It’s so appropriate,” Ballet Theatre artistic director Joanne Arduino said. “Some of the melodies are just haunting. It’s really a perfect selection for this ballet. (In) one of the scenes, there’s Romanian folk dance, so it has some very rousing music. It has some beautiful, romantic music.”
The Orohovskys’ production combines elements from Bram Stoker’s classic novel “Dracula” with real history, resulting in what Arkadiy Orohovsky called a “more family-friendly” story — less horror and more heart. The dancers play up the love story between Dracula and young Mina.
“(We) wanted to tell a little bit of the history and a little more of the romanticism,” Katya Orohovsky said.
Arduino called “Dracula” a well-known, timeless story she believes audiences will enjoy because of how Ballet Theatre chose to portray it this time.
“We’re sort of billing it as it’s not the gory story of Dracula that everybody thinks,” she said. “It’s really a haunting love story. Granted, it’s still ‘Dracula.’ There’s still his story, but we are focusing on his love story.”
The tale became more believable and resonated with audiences as a result of those changes, according to Arkadiy Orohovsky. When the couple first staged the show with their studio in Ohio in 2007, they saw how the audience connected to the character.
“A lot of people cried at the end, which was surprising,” Katya Orohovsky said.
The Orohovskys revived the show in Mississippi a few years later with their company there, and this marks the first time the couple staged it for someone else. Katya Orohovsky said “it’s been really nice kind of brushing it off.”
“I’m really happy that our ballet is going to stay alive,” her husband said.
Taking on the lead is professional dancer and Ballet Theatre veteran Colin Bolthouse, while Jerica Tallo, another longtime Ballet Theatre dancer, portrays Mina.
“With the costumes and the lighting and the sets, it’s just going to be exceptional,” Arduino said. “And we’re all excited about it.”
Since the choreography “is not really set in stone,” Katya Orohovsky said, she and her husband could tailor the moves for Ballet Theatre’s dancers. Arduino believes it is good for her crew to work with different choreographers, noting how the Orohovskys brought “some interesting concepts.” The couple fit in well with the Ballet Theatre family, she added, calling Arkadiy Orohovsky “very easygoing.”
“He wants them to just express themselves and have a good time with their roles,” Arduino said.
Arkadiy Orohovsky said he and his wife enjoyed working with Arduino and her team and are happy with how Ballet Theatre took the show forward.
“I think it’s going to be a great ballet,” he said.
Arduino expects Ballet Theatre will bring “Dracula” back to the stage again one day.
“This is a new work; it’s classical yet contemporary,” she said. “There are a few of those that we have done throughout the years at Ballet Theatre that have been loved by the audience but also loved by the dancers, and this, I think, is one of them.”
— caitlin heaney west
IF YOU GO
What: “Dracula,” presented by
Ballet Theatre of Scranton’s senior company
When: Saturday, April 29, 7:30 p.m.
Where: Theater at North,
1539 N. Main Ave., Scranton
Details: Tickets are $25, available at tututix.com. For more information, call 570-347-2867 or visit balletscranton.org or the group’s
Two Scranton playhouses present all-male and all-female shows over same run
The all-male “Glengarry Glen Ross” with its female director and the all-female “The Women” with its male director play out on separate Scranton stages starting this week in a theatrical battle of the sexes.
Diva Productions brings David Mamet’s examination of the 1980s cutthroat real-estate business to the Olde Brick Theatre, 126 W. Market St., while Actors Circle tackles female relationships amid a gossipy, catty society in comedic style at Providence Playhouse, 1256 Providence Road. “The Women” opens Thursday, and “Glengarry” follows Friday; both run on weekends through April 2.
Paige Balitski, “Glengarry” director and Diva’s founder, scheduled the show after learning of Actors Circle’s plan to present “The Women.” She knew a play with more than 20 women in its cast meant actresses she might want for a Diva show likely would be unavailable. Balitski always wanted to tackle “Glengarry” and thought now seemed like “the perfect time” to do it.
“First of all, it’s Mamet, and he writes tough and gritty,” she said. “And for men, this is always a play that men want to do, so I knew that if I announced auditions, I would get excellent actors. And, boy, did I ever.”
Diva’s eight-man cast includes T.J. Zale and Casey Thomas as salesmen and Scott Colin as their office manager. Balitski described the characters — businessmen tasked with making deals or else risk losing their jobs — as “men who make or break their careers on closing (deals).”
“Roles like this or shows like this come along so rarely. … When you’re able to sink your teeth into a piece of drama like this, you jump at the chance as an actor,” Colin said.
The Tony-winning “Glengarry” debuted on Broadway in 1984, and an acclaimed film adaptation starring Al Pacino, Jack Lemmon and Alec Baldwin followed in 1992. Colin said the show has endured because “David Mamet is able to turn these characters in a short amount of time into very, very real, conversational people.” Zale called it “excellent modern playwriting.”
“Every character has something going on underneath these words,” he said.
Diva’s cast has impressed Balitski with its ability to learn a tough script with dialogue that often changes direction mid-sentence.
“Mamet writes tough,” she said. “He writes in what I like to call ‘fits and stops.’”
Zale called the frequent swearing in the script “part of the texture of (the characters’) language,” but it “doesn’t mean their human emotions are different than anybody else.”
“They are striving and working really hard to what they got,” Zale said. “It’s the human endeavor. It’s what it’s about to make a living and support your family and do the right thing.”
Focus on relationships
While known mainly for its all-female cast — a vision adaptations take so far as to feature only female children, animals and subjects in artwork — “The Women’s” greater focus falls on the relationships among its characters.
“Women have now — and back in the ’30s, when this is set — they do have a mind of their own,” said Brink Powell, who plays Mary Haines. “They are in charge of their own destinies. (And) particularly in the case of these women, they’re rich society women; they don’t go to work. Their husbands support them. But even in that situation, they’re not letting themselves be defined by men. Women and men and any person need to define themselves and not let themselves be defined by someone else.”
Clare Boothe Luce’s comedy hit Broadway in 1936, and a now-classic film adaptation starring Norma Shearer, Joan Crawford and Rosalind Russell followed in 1939 (another came out in 2008). The story follows Mary, whose husband has divorced her and married Crystal Allen, a social climber he had an affair with, and their interactions with each other and their fellow society mavens.
“It’s a comedy for sure, and what is not more comedic than love?” said Jennifer Frey, who plays Crystal. “We see it being treated seriously, and not that love isn’t serious and marriage isn’t serious, but if you can’t laugh at the tragedy of life, what can you laugh at? And so falling in love, falling out of love having boyfriends … all of these storylines are taken on in ‘The Women.’”
Director Ted LoRusso told the cast to think of the play like a “Real Housewives” show.
“There’s a whole slew of really hilarious, funny characters who just go a mile a minute with all these wonderful one-liners,” he said. “And there’s a catty quality to it.”
Since Powell’s character deals “with some pretty heavy emotions,” she doesn’t get opportunities to be funny. But she said the play nevertheless is a lot fun, with the cast laughing its way through rehearsals.
“You don’t think a play about catty women backstabbing each other could be so hilarious,” she said.
Frey — president of the board of Cinderella’s Closet of NEPA, a nonprofit that takes donated prom and other types of dresses and sells them at affordable prices to girls in need — also helped behind the scenes. Cinderella’s Closet sometimes receives slightly broken or vintage donations, which it cannot use. Instead, the group donates them to different theaters, this time sending the pieces to “The Women,” which Frey said “called for some very dressy dresses.”
“That was one of the issues I did stress out about,” LoRusso said. “We have 22 actresses and 12 scene changes and about 60 costumes. And I thought, ‘How in the heck are we going to do this?”
While the plays run the same weekends, in truth, this battle of the sexes ended before it began. Many cast members know those from the other play from previous productions, and each show plans to take one of its off nights to catch the other in action, even if it’s at a rehearsal. The playhouses sit a mile apart, Balitski said, so “there’s no reason not to help each other out.”
“The theater community is very small,” she said. “There’s a lot of them in the surrounding counties, but we all belong to an organization. We all see each others’ shows and help each other.”
And audiences can experience the “best of both worlds” with the two shows running concurrently, Powell said.
“I hope that people will come to both,” she said. “Have a night of women, and then have a night of men.”
— caitlin heaney west
If you go
“The Women,” presented by Actors Circle
When: Thursdays through Saturdays, 8 p.m., and Sundays, 2 p.m., through April 2
Where: Providence Playhouse, 1256 Providence Road, Scranton
Details: Tickets for Thursday’s show are $8 for general admission and seniors and $6 for students. For remaining dates, tickets are $12 for general admission, $10 for seniors and $8 for students. For reservations, call 570-342-9707 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
“Glengarry Glen Ross,” presented by
When: Fridays and Saturdays, 8 p.m., and Sundays, 2 p.m., through April 2
Where: Olde Brick Theatre, 126 W. Market St., Scranton
Details: Tickets are $12 for general admission and $10 for students and seniors. For reservations, call 570-209-7766. Seating is limited. The show contains adult situations and strong language.
Rodgers and Hammerstein’s ‘Cinderella’ transforms with help from NEPA native
Cinderella and her prince finally found their happily ever after on Broadway in 2013 after decades of televised productions, tours and community theater. And they did so in an updated story from Wilkes-Barre-born Douglas Carter Beane, who invigorated Rodgers and Hammerstein’s musical for a new audience.
Now, the fairy tale’s national tour comes to cast its magic at Scranton Cultural Center at The Masonic Temple, 420 N. Washington Ave., where Broadway Theater League of Northeastern Pennsylvania presents five performances from Friday through Sunday.
“The minute the Broadway version was happening and going successfully, people were wanting it for their theaters across America. … The story had enough of a twist and relevance — and now, since the most recent election, even more relevance — that it was wonderful,” Beane said recently by phone. “We did one year of touring, and a lot of the cities rebooked it.”
Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II originally created “Cinderella” for television, and an estimated 107 million people watched Julie Andrews play the heroine when CBS broadcast it live in 1957. The work eventually hit stages around the world and returned to television twice more before reaching Broadway for the first time with the help of Beane.
The five-time Tony Award nominee, who grew up near Reading and who has a home in Wyoming County, initially said no to producer Robyn Goodman when she approached him about working on the project. Beane thought “Cinderella” had a great score but that its story bore a message he didn’t want to share with his young daughter or nieces.
He headed to his home on Lake Carey over Christmas and happened across the original French version of “Cinderella.” He discovered how much it differed from what he knew of the story, as later versions cut out what he called “wonderful parts” in which Cinderella met the prince several times and affected change in him.
“She brought kindness to the court, and one of the stepsisters turned out to be her friend and helped her,” Beane said.
He told Goodman he’d found a way in to the story, but he needed more music to turn “Cinderella” into a two-act musical. In their long careers, Rodgers and Hammerstein created few songs they didn’t use, Beane said, but he and music arranger David Chase went through song fragments and notes at the duo’s library and crafted new works from the masters’ ideas. New songs such as “Me, Who Am I?” join such favorites as “In My Own Little Corner” and “Impossible/It’s Possible.”
“It really was whipping out a Ouija,” Beane said. “It’s all their work. We just arranged (new pieces).”
The basics of the classic tale remain: an orphaned girl, Ella, toils for her wicked stepmother, falls in love with a prince, attends a grand ball with the help of a fairy godmother and — spoiler alert — lives happily ever after. But Beane incorporated the “social satire” element of the French version throughout, along with other plot points, including making the prince, Topher, an orphan like Ella, and giving him help from a court member, whom Beane turned into a negative influence. He took a formerly unnamed stepsister — who now helps Ella — and named her Gabrielle after his daughter.
A piece of the “Cinderella” ballet also snuck in, showing Ella’s kindness toward a homeless woman, who turns out to be her fairy godmother.
“That was sort of just irresistible. … Isn’t that just a fabulous lesson to be teaching your kids?” Beane said.
Beane has heard from parents about how the show “was a great lesson for the kids, and it’s not shoved down their throat. It’s done with humor.”
“There was a wonderful review … which was very meaningful to me, which is about how happy (the reviewer) was to take her daughter to the show and that the lesson of kindness and tolerance and acceptance and different points of view coming to a common conclusion were meaningful to her,” said Beane, who hopes to make it to Scranton for part of the show’s run. “And the kids just enjoyed it. And it was about how a hero can be a hero through sensitivity, through kindness. It was my intent.”
— caitlin heaney west
If you go
What: “Cinderella,” presented
by Broadway Theatre League of Northeastern Pennsylvania
When: Friday, 8 p.m.; Saturday, 2 and 8 p.m.; Sunday, 1 and 6:30 p.m.
Where: Scranton Cultural Center at The Masonic Temple, 420 N. Washington Ave.
Details: The show runs about 2 hours, 10 minutes, including an intermission,
and is recommended for all ages. Tickets are $37 to $65, available at the box office, ticketmaster.com and 800-745-3000.
Local theaters ready to raise the curtain for winter shows
The frozen air gives way to the heat of stage lights this month as local theater groups return to action after the holidays.
Diva Theater’s fourth annual One-Act Festival, a collection of 10 short plays, takes over the Olde Brick Theatre, 126 W. Market St., from Thursday to Saturday, Jan. 26 to 28, at 8 p.m. and Sunday, Jan. 29, at 2 p.m.
Diva loves to present original work, founder Paige Balitski said, and “writers feel comfortable” there.
“We appreciate writers in this area,” she said, noting how most of the writers and directors are local. “They love to see new stuff. Let’s face it — we’ve got a Pulitzer Prize-winner in Jason (Miller) and a Pulitzer Prize (finalist) in Stephen Karam. And they had to start somewhere. People are hopeful.”
The lineup includes works by Margo L. Azzarelli, Marnie Azzarelli, Jason Belak, Christopher Conforti, K.K. Gordon, Michael Pavese, John Schugard, Albert Shivers, J. Stewart and Rachel Luann Strayer. They’ve penned a love story, an 1870s-set piece full of what Balitski called “shoot-em-up-cowboy stuff,” a historical tale focusing on four generations, a piece about a man having philosophical conversations with a monkey and much more.
“We’ve got some eclectic stuff,” Balitski said.
Tickets are $10 and $12, and seating is limited in the second-floor theater; call 570-209-7766 for reservations.
January means another chance to tackle Shakespeare for United Neighborhood Centers of Northeastern Pennsylvania’s Youth Department.
UNC again teams up with New York- and Philadelphia-based REV Theatre Company, this time presenting a free production of “Macbeth” on Friday, Jan. 27, at 6 p.m. at UNC’s Oppenheim Center for the Arts, 1004 Jackson St.
Scranton resident Miranda Chemchick takes on the role of the Scottish thane whose play for power ultimately leads to his demise, while West Scranton High School student Kayla Chofey portrays the conniving Lady Macbeth. Fifteen-year-old Kayla aimed for that role during auditions, interested not just because of Lady Macbeth’s overall character but also “everything around her.” Nabbing the lead surprised but thrilled Chemchick, 20, who noted she plays a man who has somewhat of a feminine side and has moments of sanity and insanity.
“It’s all these different emotions,” she said.
REV tends to add unique touches to its shows, too, Chemchick said, and this time opposite sides of the audience will sit facing each other.
“Some of the scenes will be very up close to the audience,” Kayla said.
“I think the audience will like how interesting it will be,” Chemchick added.
For details, call 570-961-1592, ext. 105.
While it might feel like Antarctica in Scranton this winter, Actors Circle transports its audience to the end of the earth in “Terra Nova,” a drama focusing on the fatal British expedition to the South Pole that began in 1911.
For director Robert A. Spalletta, Ph.D., the play marks the fulfillment of a goal he set 34 years ago when he first saw the play.
“I said, ‘I have to do this sometime,’” he recalled. “It feels great. I am having a wonderful time.”
The show runs Thursdays through Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m. from Feb. 2 through 12 at Providence Playhouse, 1256 Providence Road. Spalletta presents it with what he called his “dream cast,” featuring Casey Thomas as Capt. Robert Falcon Scott, who led his team to the Pole in the shadow of a rival Norwegian team, led by Roald Amundsen (William Zeranski).
The play was “taken literally from the journals of the Englishmen,” Spalletta said, and deals with the expedition and the British-Norwegian conflict. He noted it shows how people “accept or reject their higher circumstances.”
“You would think that a play in which everybody dies — and you know from the beginning that everybody dies — that it would be a real downer, but it’s not,” he said. “It’s fascinating to see how someone could relate to this. So you also see that they’re going crazy, they’re losing their minds because they’re freezing to death and they’re starving to death.”
Tickets are $6 and $8 for the Feb. 2 show and $8, $10 and $12 for remaining dates. For details, visit actorscircle.com or the group’s Facebook page, call 570-342-9707 or email tickets@
‘The Wizard of Oz’
Act Out Theatre Group, 408 N. Main St., Taylor, heads to the Emerald City in its latest show, “The Wizard of Oz.” It runs Feb. 3 to 12 with shows Fridays and Saturdays at 7 p.m. and Sundays at 3 p.m.
The show closely resembles the beloved 1939 film adaptation of L. Frank Baum’s story about a young girl, Dorothy (played this time by both Kendall Joy and Isabella Snyder), who ends up in a faraway land of witches, Munchkins and magic. Audiences will hear favorite songs such as “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” and “Ding-Dong! The Witch Is Dead.”
Act Out typically presents a family-friendly show this time of year and wanted to do the musical for a while, founder Candice Rowe said.
“It’s just one of those classics that I feel like the people just love it,” she said. “It’s a real
Older high-schoolers make up the majority of the cast, although some younger kids fill in the Munchkin roles. Act Out double-cast the leads, so each performer does three of the six shows.
“It’s always nice when we do a big, family-friendly show to get new people in and see what we do here,” Rowe said. “Live theater is just so important.”
— caitlin heaney west
‘Jersey Boys’ returns to Scranton
Cultural Center for eight shows
It seems “Jersey Boys” can’t take its eyes off Scranton for too long.
The national tour of the Broadway sensation about Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons returns to the city almost three years after drawing in crowds during a nearly two-week run. Broadway Theatre League of Northeastern Pennsylvania again brings the musical to Scranton Cultural Center at The Masonic Temple, 420 N. Washington Ave., this time for eight shows starting Tuesday, Jan. 17.
“People love the music, but one of the great things about ‘Jersey Boys’ is it’s so well written. … They just put something together that is really entertaining in that it’s like an episode of ‘The Sopranos’ but with music,” said Keith Hines, an Oklahoman who plays Four Seasons member Nick Massi. “It’s a gangster story, and that’s entertaining. On top of that, (it’s) a story about blue-collar guys achieving extreme stardom.”
Valli — who often visited his maternal grandmother in Dunmore as a child — formed his iconic singing group in New Jersey along with Massi and the other two “seasons,” Tommy DeVito and Bob Gaudio. They achieved stardom with the 1962 hit “Sherry” and followed with such now-classics as “Big Girls Don’t Cry” and “Walk Like a Man.” Personal troubles eventually broke up the original quartet, but Valli and a new lineup continued to find success through the years.
The musical based on the group’s experiences opened on Broadway on Nov. 6, 2005, and closes this Sunday after more than 4,600 performances and four Tony awards, including best musical. Featuring many of the group’s biggest hits, “Jersey Boys” attracted a devoted following and was turned into a feature film in 2014.
“We’ve all worked our whole lives in musical theater and (were) not used to seeing people getting up out of their seats and dancing in the aisles,” Hines said. “When we go back to other shows like ‘Carousel’ and ‘Oklahoma,’ it’s going to be a culture shock.”
The only original member of the Four Seasons no longer living, Massi broke from the group in 1965. But he left a legacy in his bass solos, said Hines, who has been with the show for three years.
“It’s very specific and it’s unique, and people hear it and … even though they might not know the name, the voice is very identifiable,” he said.
Hines called the singer a loving, caring “musical genius” who, even in the Four Seasons’ early days singing on the street, “was designating all the harmonies just off the cuff.”
“He wasn’t using any sheet music, and he could hear them all,” Hines said. “Even when they got into the studios … (songwriter Bob Crewe) was amazed with Nick. He just had a knack for music.
“And I think outside of music, he was struggling to find an identity, so he did a lot of womanizing and a lot of drinking, and that didn’t fulfill him. And he eventually kind of made his way away from the group and surrounded himself with family.”
While Hines’ favorite moment in the show changes from night-to-night, he enjoys performing “Cry for Me,” the first song the Four Seasons sing together on stage. “Can’t Take My Eyes Off of You” often gets a standing ovation, he added, and audiences really seem to love when the stars perform the group’s iconic songs for the first time.
“It’s palpable,” Hines said. “You can feel people lean forward in that moment.”
Hines described “Jersey Boys” as an underdog story that inspires people and gives them excitement and hope.
“It’s a great lesson for people who dream big, that if you dream big and work hard, you can do it,” he said. “You can make your dreams come true.
“In addition to that, I think it’s a magical experience to walk into a theater and leave your worries and concerns outside and allow yourself to be taken away and entertained by people who are actually in the room.”
— caitlin heaney west
If you go
What: “Jersey Boys,” presented by
Broadway Theater League of Northeastern Pennsylvania
When: Tuesday through Thursday, Jan. 17 to 19, 7:30 p.m.; Friday, Jan. 20, 8 p.m.; Saturday, Jan. 21, 2 and 8 p.m.; and Sunday, Jan. 22, 1 and 6:30 p.m.
Where: Scranton Cultural Center at The Masonic Temple, 420 N. Washington Ave.
Details: Because the show contains “profane Jersey language,” gunshots, smoke and strobe lights, it is recommended for ages 12 and older. It runs about 2 hours, 35 minutes, including intermission. Tickets are $37 to $82, available at the box office, 800-745-3000 and ticketmaster.com. Visit broadwayinscranton.com.
Festival of Trees mixes old-fashioned technology with sci-fi to create steampunk theme
Gear up for Christmas with the merry mechanics of a steampunk-inspired festival.
The annual Festival of Trees this year takes on the genre that mixes old-fashioned technology with sci-fi, asking people and groups from across the region to decorate or create Christmas trees with a steampunk theme.
“I think the (planning) committee was thinking we have such a great kind of industrial-era Victorian past here, so I think we’re hoping to see people get into that industrial side of things,” said Maureen McGuigan, deputy director of arts and culture for Lackawanna County.
That means visitors can expect to see trees incorporating elements such as gears, clocks and steam power, which ties in with Scranton’s railroading history. McGuigan said she hopes people will research the steampunk aesthetic and come up with unusual takes on the trees, which she noted could incorporate “elements of the fantastical.”
“I think the color tones are a little bit more gray and brown and stuff, but I think people will be very creative,” she said. “I think we’ll see nontraditional-type trees.”
This year’s exhibit runs from Friday, Dec. 9, through Monday, Jan. 9, in the former Express store across from Santa Claus at the Marketplace at Steamtown, 300 Lackawanna Ave. (From Monday to Sunday, Dec. 12 to 18, the trees will be displayed by a temporary, indoor ice-skating rink.)
Exhibit admission is free except during the Dec. 9 opening reception, which runs from 5:30 to 8 p.m. and costs $20. Proceeds from the show and reception benefit the Marine Corps Reserve Toys for Tots program.
Tree participants like to give to Toys for Tots and put a lot of effort into the trees because it helps families in need, McGuigan said. The holidays are especially important to children, she said, but some families are not in a position to buy such gifts. That’s where Toys for Tots steps in.
“This group has helped people have a wonderful holiday season, because that’s important to growing up and having those good, positive memories about the season,” McGuigan said. “I think it always pulls at our heartstrings. We don’t want to think of any child not having a toy at this time of year.”
Organizers plan to set up a collection box for toy donations during the opening reception, which also includes music and a steampunk costume contest.
“We usually have the Marine Corps (Reserve) speak on behalf of Toys for Tots,” McGuigan said. “We usually have a band, but I think this year we’re going to do a fun steampunk playlist and make it more like a dance party. … (Steampunk) has this particular sound. It’s different-type music.”
She estimated that about 32 or 33 individuals and groups — from businesses to churches to schools — sponsored and decorated trees last year, and she hopes to get about that same number this year. People start calling her as early as August to find out the year’s theme, she said, and “each theme brings some new people who are interested in that topic as well.” She thinks the program lets participants put their personalities and visions into a tree while also getting their names out there.
“I think it just gets addicting,” McGuigan said. “It’s a chance to use your imagination, your creativity.”
The exhibit remains up further into January than last year because organizers learned “people were still trying to come way past the first week of January” to check out the trees, she said. It also opens a week later than last year.
“We want people to experience the trees,” McGuigan said. “People put a lot of time into it.”
— caitlin heaney west
If you go
What: Annual Festival of Trees
When: Friday, Dec. 9, through Monday, Jan. 9;
opening reception Dec. 9, 5:30 to 8 p.m.
Where: Marketplace at Steamtown, 300 Lackawanna Ave.
Details: Tickets for the opening reception are $20; admission for remaining dates is free. Proceeds benefit the Marine Corps Reserve Toys for Tots program.
‘Rent’ 20th anniversary tour comes to Scranton Cultural Center
The cast and crew of “Hamilton” earned praise for bringing to Broadway a musical that broke into new territory with its subject matter and musical styles. Twenty years ago, the same was said about “Rent.” The musical helped define the Bohemian culture of late 20th-century New York City and the struggles of its residents as HIV/AIDS devastated communities. It brought those stories into the mainstream when it moved to the Great White Way in 1996 after selling out shows nightly off-Broadway. Now it celebrates its 20th anniversary with a national tour that comes to Scranton Cultural Center at The Masonic Temple, 420 N. Washington Ave., for four shows from Friday through Sunday. And audiences of all ages have turned out already, a nod “to how enduring the show is,” Katie LaMark, who plays Maureen Johnson, said recently by phone. “We get a lot of really wonderful people who say they saw the show on Broadway when it came out 20 years ago. … Most of our audience members are between 15 and 20 years old, who weren’t even alive when the musical was written,” the Boston native said. “There’s also people who come to see the show because they’re very moved by it because it’s something they’ve lived through.”
Created by Jonathan Larson, who died of an aortic aneurysm the day before his legacy began previews at the New York Theater Workshop, the show is based on Puccini’s classic opera “La Bohème.” It focuses on a group of impoverished artists who struggle to survive and maintain hope and happiness in the midst of love and loss. The musical won the Pulitzer Prize for drama and four Tony Awards, including best musical. The musical touches on ideas of police brutality and sexual identity, topics LaMark noted remain relevant today. But “Rent” endures because it makes a point about how “you can say goodbye to all those things.” It focuses on the importance of love and brings up questions about what you would do if you learned you only had a year to live. “My character does not have AIDS … but (when you) have to go through the trauma of losing half of your friends in a year (to AIDS), you sort of have to set aside all of your personal issues and realize that connecting with other people is the only way you’re going to get by,” LaMark said. In Ms. LaMark’s case, other characters talk about Maureen throughout the first act, so all the information about her comes through the lens of others. They share how she cheated on her now ex-boyfriend and has since entered into a relationship with a woman “who just can’t seem to get a leash on her,” LaMark said. Then Maureen shows up and gives the audience a chance to form its own opinion. “I would say that it’s exciting because then Maureen can be very different, depending on who plays the role,” she said. “I think you’re always going to have a Maureen who’s free-spirited, and … for me I think it was about finding where is the fun and where is the joy in laughing with her and maybe at her a little bit, because she does take herself so seriously. You don’t really get to play many roles like this as a female in musical theater. This is a pretty unique opportunity.” Audiences also “really seem to have a strong reaction to” Maureen’s song “Over the Moon,” which LaMark said always flatters her because of the challenges the piece poses. She said audiences seem to like her co-star, Aaron Harrington, who plays Tom Collins and whose reprise performance of “I’ll Cover You” after a character dies leaves no dry eyes in the house. “Aaron is a gifted performer and gifted singer,” LaMark said. The musical “totally changed the landscape” when it debuted, she said, and she encourages people to come see one so outside the norm as “Rent” is. “I think there are very few opportunities where you get to see characters sing in their own musical styles,” LaMark said. “So the show is written in 1996, so it’s music of 1996, and I think regardless of even any information you have about the plot, to have the opportunity to be on the receiving end of something really visceral about that is a great experience. I think it’s why ‘Hamilton’ is such a success. … This was 1996’s ‘Hamilton.’” — caitlin heaney west
IF YOU GO What: “Rent,” presented by Broadway Theatre League of Northeastern Pennsylvania When: Friday, 8 p.m.; Saturday, 2 and 8 p.m.; and Sunday, 1 p.m. Where: Scranton Cultural Center at The Masonic Temple, 420 N. Washington Ave. Details: Tickets are $37 and $59, available at the box office, by calling 570-344-1111 and online at ticketmaster.com. For more information, call 570-342-7784 or 570-344-1111 or visit broadwayscranton.com.
Cultures from around the world have contributed not only to Scranton’s history but also to today’s Halloween traditions.
As the holiday nears, the sixth annual Bonfire at the Iron Furnaces celebrates many of those pastimes and people. On Saturday night, the Scranton Iron Furnaces, 159 Cedar Ave., alight with a towering bonfire and activities for all ages from 6 to 10 p.m. Proceeds benefit the Pennsylvania Anthracite Heritage Museum.
Maureen McGuigan, Lackawanna County deputy director of arts and culture, said the bonfire offers high-quality entertainment and education that honors the city’s earlier immigrants as well as its newer ones.
“Every year I love seeing how it evolves,” she said. “It just keeps getting better, and it’s really a testimony to the (organizing) committee. The public, I think, we’re getting more new people coming out. … I really like seeing the people enjoy it. As one of the organizers, that’s one of the best parts, to see the people having fun.”
This year, organizers expanded the activities into Bonfire Week, whose activities, art exhibits, food and more focus on not just fire but also cultural heritage, the harvest and industry.
Bonfire Week kicked off with the First Friday Art Walk and includes bonfire-themed specialty drinks and treats available through Saturday at city venues Adezzo, Bar Pazzo, Café Sveda, Terra Preta, the Keys Beer & Spirits, POSH at the Scranton Club, the Bog, Radisson at Lackawanna Station hotel, Whiskey Dick’s and Zummo’s Cafe.
Several businesses — including Duffy Accessories, Lavish Body and Home, Nibbles & Bits, Note Fragrances, On & On and the Post Home and Body — also offer seasonal deals, and some will display bonfire-inspired windows. The Radisson features a special Bonfire Week package that includes two tickets to the bonfire.
“The goal behind it is to kind of capitalize on that fun and energy (of the bonfire) and kind of spread it around downtown,” Ms. McGuigan said.
Other Bonfire Week activities include a sugar skull paint night Thursday from 6 to 9 at Adezzo, 515 Center St. On Friday, The Leonard Theater, 335 Adams Ave., hosts the Boss Lady Mixer and Costume Party, a women’s networking event, from 7 to 9 p.m., and the artists of Bogart Court will hold their grand opening Friday and Saturday.
“October’s a busy month, and maybe not everyone can get to the bonfire, but we still want the people to get into the party,” Ms. McGuigan said. “It’s the reason for adding other activities.”
Organizers always try to weave different cultures into the festivities, Ms. McGuigan added. They had not previously focused on German culture, which she said had a large presence in Scranton and especially in the neighborhood around the iron furnaces, so this year’s activities draw in some of that country’s traditions.
With Germany’s strong fairy tale background thanks to the Brothers Grimm, the group partnered with the Everhart Museum, which showcases a fairy tale-themed exhibit through Dec. 31, for a fairy tale display and activity. Fairy tales for all ages will be shared on the Firebowl Stage from 6 to 7:30 p.m., and the band Schützengiggles plays traditional brass oom-pah music on the main stage from 7:30 to 8:15. The West Scranton High School German Club, meanwhile, will conduct a lantern-making activity with children. Ms. McGuigan said it calls back to German tradition on St. Martin’s Day, the Nov. 11 commemoration in which children make lanterns and carry them in a procession to a bonfire.
Other features of the cultural tent include the Day of the Dead ofrenda, which draws on Mexican culture; a harvest display by the Greenhouse Project of Nay Aug Park; and jack-o’-lanterns, a Halloween tradition based on an Irish folk tale and custom.
In addition to the lighting of the bonfire, which takes place from about 8:15 to 8:30 p.m. and includes a short procession down the hill to the iron furnaces, the event also offers food from a few local restaurants plus traditional Mexican tamales, spiced cider, hot chocolate, beer and wine.
Artist Brian Murray of Reclamation Industrial Furnishings will present a large-scale art-installation that highlights the site’s blast furnace. Other activities include face painting and tarot card readings, and a fire hooper, a fire spinner, fire twirlers, balloon artists and stilt walkers also will entertain the crowd.
“We had one stilt walker last year, but this year we’re going to have a core of stilt walkers,” Ms. McGuigan said. “They’re going to perform in the procession and up on top (of the iron furnaces) before the fire.”
On the main stage, meanwhile, Symmetry Dance performs original choreography from 6 to 6:30 p.m., Colleen Bender and Jimmy Reynolds sing from 6:30 to 7:30, and the band Light Weight plays from 8:30 to 10.
Admission is $15 in advance online and $20 at the gate and includes $5 in “Bonfire Bucks,” which guests need to use for food, beverages and activities (more tickets will be available for purchase at booths that night). Children 12 and younger enter for free, Ms. McGuigan said, because organizers want everyone to be able to access the bonfire.
“There’s something very beautiful and primal about (the bonfire), really,” Ms. McGuigan said. “I do think there’s something for everyone. All of the activities the family can enjoy, a person in their 30s can enjoy. It’s just a fun fall night. I think people love fall naturally, and it’s nice to be outside. (There is) this big fire and a sense of community, but you’re also learning things in a fun way.”
— caitlin heaney west
If you go
What: Sixth annual Bonfire at the Iron Furnaces
When: Saturday, 6 to 10 p.m.
Where: Scranton Iron Furnaces, 159 Cedar Ave.
Details: Tickets are $15 in advance online and $20 at the gate and include $5 in “Bonfire Bucks.” Admission is free for children 12 and younger. Visit scrantonbonfire.com for more information.