The secret’s out

The secret’s out

Scranton speakeasy opens with jazz, burlesque

When the red light goes on, the night begins.
That signal, long tied to old-time bawdy houses and the city underworlds in which they operated, today announces that a new downtown hot spot is open for business.
Madame Jenny’s — with its vintage decor and seating and cabaret-style stage — will open Friday, April 26, in the former private event space at the rear of Ale Mary’s, 126 Franklin Ave., Scranton, and help usher in a new era of drinking, dining and entertainment in Scranton.
“When I first purchased the Bittenbender Building more than six years ago, I envisioned opening a gastro pub and a speakeasy from the start,” said the building’s developer, Arthur Russo. “Madame Jenny’s is the culmination of that original vision. It’s something unique not only in downtown Scranton but in the entire area. We’re able to do this now that someone like Wendy (Wilson) has come on board with me. It’s something an older (crowd) is looking for and a younger crowd will appreciate.”

Local musician Tyler Dempsey will lead the venue’s house band, Madame Jenny’s Jazz Orchestra, during Friday’s sneak peek, when guests can enter for free. The grand opening then will take place the next night, Saturday, April 27, when Tansy Burlesque Troupe out of New York City comes to town. Doors open at 8 p.m., and the show starts at 9. Tickets start at $35 and are available on Madame Jenny’s website.
Wilson, the venue’s hospitality director, hopes the speakeasy will attract locals as well as people from the Lehigh Valley and the Poconos.
“We’re putting together a lot of incredible programs,” she said.
Vintage style
Russo previously converted the building’s upper levels into apartments and established bar/restaurant Ale Mary’s on the ground floor. He and Wilson, a longtime friend, had wanted to work together on a project for many years and finally united for the speakeasy. Joined in the project by Russo’s son, Zach, the group named the space for Jennie Duffy, who operated a bawdy house in Scranton for many years in the early 20th century. They renovated the space to reflect the style of the 1920s, the height of the Prohibition Era in which more than 150 speakeasies sprang up in Scranton, Wilson said.
“There’s honestly nothing around like this,” Zach Russo said.
Deep-red walls and dark wood envelope the room, which features a stage perfectly sized for small ensembles at one end and a bar to one side, all with vintage lighting, seating and glassware originally from the historic Waldorf Astoria hotel.
“Arthur, who is an aficionado of all things classic architecture, was able to get this through auction,” Wilson said.
In front of the stage, they set small tables, while larger booths and tables reach to the back of the room. Wilson said they envision guests being able to reserve the stage-side tables for an additional cost during some performances. But the venue also can arrange tables and chairs to accommodate various types of private events, including weddings and showers.

An adjacent lounge, meanwhile, boasts leather-inspired walls and a bar and will serve as another event space to complement the main room. If that main room is hosting an event, for example, guests can gather in the lounge until the main room is cleared for the next one, Wilson said.
Madame Jenny’s will open Wednesdays through Saturdays at 5 p.m. with entertainment beginning around 6 or 6:30, Wilson said, and it will follow what the crowd demands in terms of how late it stays open. The venue will accept reservations.
Guests can enter Madame Jenny’s through Ale Mary’s and into the outer lounge, where an old vault door from the property will lead them through a hallway designed to feel like a back alley taking them to a hidden speakeasy. Or, guests can come through a door in Raymond Court, the alley behind the Bittenbender. Both doors will have a red light outside them that, when lit, will let guests know Madame Jenny’s is open for business.
All that jazz and more
Wilson expects to bring in not only musicians but also stand-up comedians and burlesque, and with Jenny’s just a two-hour drive from New York City, it could attract national acts, too. She sees it as a revival of the old adage that if you can play Scranton, you can play anywhere. The venue’s soft opening earlier in April, for instance, featured an Édith Piaf-inspired ensemble featuring members of the touring “The King and I” production in its debut performance.
“The audiences here love these artists, and that inspires them,” she said, noting that out-of-town performers can stay overnight in an apartment above the venue.
Madame Jenny’s “goes hand in hand” with jazz, Dempsey said, who expects his group to perform a mix of jazz styles, from classic piano trio songs to New Orleans-influenced tunes on Friday nights.
“As soon as I was in and saw the stage and the space, I was thrilled. … It feels like a concert atmosphere,” he said. “(It) feels like a listening room.”
Madame Jenny’s will share a kitchen with Ale Mary’s, and Chef James Bodnar has crafted a French-inspired menu of small plates to compliment what Wilson called the classy, classic cocktails Madame Jenny’s bar will serve.

“We want someone to come in here and have the best Manhattan they’ve ever had in their life,” she said.
Zach Russo noted that they have named drinks after “people of the time,” such as other local madams and the Scranton mayor who led the shutdown of speakeasies and bawdy houses. They want Madame Jenny’s to complement Ale Mary’s, he added, with mixed drinks in the speakeasy and craft beer in the restaurant up front.
Wilson said she has been “so impressed” by the people who already found Jenny’s through social media and word of mouth. And seeing people gather for the soft opening brought tears to everyone’s eyes, she said.
“Once (my father) actually saw everybody sitting down, watching the show, seeing what we had on stage, he was blown away,” Zach Russo said.

Contact the writer:; 570-348-9100 x5107; @cheaneywest on Twitter

Sites to see

Sites to see

Enjoy natural wonders, activities at local posts during National Park Week

Enjoy the outdoors, learn some history and celebrate “America’s best idea” during the annual National Park Week.
The action happens nationwide from Saturday, April 20, through Sunday, April 28, including at the National Park Service sites in Northeast Pennsylvania. All park entrance fees are waived on April 20, and other days throughout the week will commemorate different groups and topics, such as “Wild Wednesday,” “Friendship Friday” and “BARK Ranger Day.” For more information, visit
Meanwhile, here’s how you can join the fun locally.

Steamtown National Historic Site
Daily, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Where: 350 Cliff St., Scranton
Details: 570-340-5200 or

The free railroad museum and home to historical trains and related machinery has been part of the National Park Service for 33 years, and it will celebrate not only National Park Week but also National Volunteer Week to honor the people who help keep it chugging along.
This year’s park week celebrations include the commemoration of the 150th anniversary of the Golden Spike, the ceremonial spike that connected the Central Pacific and Union Pacific railroads to mark the completion of the United States’ first transcontinental railroad. The park also will release the seventh edition of a series of collectible trading cards and a new Steamtown Junior Ranger badge (available starting Saturday, April 20), with one day dedicated to Junior Rangers that week.
On Sunday, April 28, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., guests can check out games, activities and other information about the health benefits of the outdoors during Park RX Day. Scranton Limited short train rides also will return, and the site will offer extra tours.

Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area
Most of the park is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week (check with visitors centers for specific hours)
Where: Park headquarters, 1978 River Road, Middle Smithfield Twp.
Details: 570-426-2452 or

The recreation area and nearby Shawnee Inn and Golf Resort, Shawnee, will host the annual volunteer-led cleanup of River Road on Saturday, April 27, from 9 to 11:30 a.m. Safety gear, a continental breakfast, post-cleanup appreciation lunch and T-shirt (while supplies last) will be provided to volunteers, who should meet at the Shawnee River Sanctuary Pavilion on the resort’s Grand Front Lawn at 8:30 a.m. The program will take place rain or shine.
To volunteer, register at For more information, contact Nicole Althouse-Garced at 570-424-4050, ext. 1408, or

Upper Delaware Scenic and Recreational River
Where: The site encompasses the upper echelon of the Delaware River; traveling from Scranton, take Interstate 81 to Route 6 East (Exit 187) through Carbondale and Honesdale to Route 652 East to Narrowsburg and New York Route 97.
Hours: River use, 24 hours a day, year-round; public river access, 5 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Details: 570-685-4871 or

Park visitors can hit the Delaware River for boating, rafting, fishing and other water-based fun, or stay on land for hiking. Guests also can hit up one of the area’s notable sites, including the Roebling Bridge, which is open 24 hours a day and crosses the river from Lackawaxen to Minisink Ford, New York; the Towpath Trail, which is open year-round (access the trailhead near the parking lot entrance on the New York side of the Roebling Bridge); and the Roebling Bridge Toll House, 4225 Route 97, Barryville, New York, which is open daily (weather permitting), from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

NEPA Phil presents nature-inspired concert with guest violinist

NEPA Phil presents nature-inspired concert with guest violinist

Just in time for the trees to bud and flowers to shoot up through the thawed ground, the Northeastern Pennsylvania Philharmonic draws attention to nature.
The orchestra presents its final Masterworks concert of the season, dubbed “Inspired by Nature,” on Friday, April 5, at 8 p.m. in Peoples Security Bank Theater at Lackawanna College, Scranton. Under the leadership of interim music director Mélisse Brunet, the program will include Vivaldi’s “Four Seasons” with guest soloist Yevgeny Kutik on violin and Beethoven’s Symphony No. 6, “Pastorale.”
While Beethoven’s piece places listeners in the Viennese countryside, the “Four Seasons” consists of four works with narrative elements that take inspiration from spring, summer, autumn and winter and the nature of each. Vivaldi’s related his work, written around 1720, to sonnets about the seasons, and the music reflects certain sounds of the world, such as birds chirping.
“The fact that he was writing this almost (300) years ago and did that is remarkable,” Kutik said last month by phone from Boston, where he lives.
The violinist noted how even people who don’t listen to classical music tend to know the “Four Seasons.”
“It’s just very approachable, and I think part of it … has to do with these sonnets that Vivaldi wrote, because they’re very descriptive, and everybody can understand what he’s saying.
“It’s still very cool like to be able to take the four weather changes of the year that everybody knows and has a very specific song,” Kutik added. “To put that to music is like just such a great way to kind of connect with the average listener. … Sometimes in classical music we have a problem with the music not being approachable or being too daunting to too overwhelming for people who don’t list to classical music on a regular basis. But I feel like this piece breaks down that wall before you even play the first piece.”
Kutik previously performed in NEPA last year, when he played with pianist Spencer Myer in a philharmonic chamber concert. Kutik said that performance “went quite well” and that he enjoyed playing in the region.
“I loved meeting the people coming (to the concert),” he said. “It was a great environment in which to make music and (I) am very excited to come back and play with the orchestra and work with the conductor.”
Those who enjoy what Kutik has to offer with the philharmonic can also check him out Tuesday, April 23, in his debut at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C. There he will perform two pieces from his album “Meditations on Family,” which came out last month. For the album, Kutik commissioned eight composers to write a short piece based on one of their family photos.
Kutik, who emigrated from the former Soviet Union in 1990, said his family of musicians brought with them “a bunch of old music that really helped me later on in life when I started my career to better understand my culture and my cultural background.” That music inspired his 2014 album, “Music from the Suitcase.”
“I kind of wanted to continue down that road. … (The composers) all have family. They all have histories. They all have stories,” Kutik said. “I’m trying to make that into a user-friendly way.”
Kutik called each piece “a giant surprise.”
“What I loved about the project was I had no idea what each composer would write, and I was just amazed,” he said. “Each one just goes down a completely different road, and the photographs that they chose are very fascinating.”
Business for the orchestra, meanwhile, remains on an upswing after it suspended operations for the 2017-18 season so it could develop a plan to stay financially viable. Nancy Sanderson, philharmonic executive director, said she expects to announce the next season’s lineup by the end of April.
“I think that what I’d like everyone to know is that we have made serious progress on paying our debts, and so we have a season plan for the 2019-20 season,” she said. “We’ll be back. And I think that’s the important piece — to let everybody know that we’re in good enough shape. The first year, it really was all about seeing if this area could support it, and we’re happy that the area has stepped up and purchased tickets — that’s a big part of it — and donated.”

Royal engagement BTL brings ‘King and I’ to Scranton stage

Royal engagement BTL brings ‘King and I’ to Scranton stage

Get ready to whistle a happy tune. “The King and I” is coming to town.
Broadway Theatre League of Northeastern Pennsylvania will present four performances of Rodgers & Hammerstein’s classic musical from Friday, March 29, through Sunday, March 31, at Scranton Cultural Center at The Masonic Temple.
Paulina Yeung, who plays Tuptim, a woman given as a gift to the king of Siam but falls in love with a Burmese scholar, said a lot of audience members tell them they find the music so beautiful. The show features such well-known tunes as “Getting to Know You” and “Shall We Dance.”
“A lot of people, if they haven’t seen the show, they know the tune,” Yeung said recently by phone from a tour stop in Indianapolis.
Set in Siam (modern-day Thailand) in 1862, the show focuses on English widow Anna Leonowens, who comes to the southeast Asian country with her young son to tutor the king’s children and wives, and the understanding and respect she and the king develop for one another. The show debuted on Broadway in 1951 and was adapted for the screen in 1956, starring Deborah Kerr and Yul Brynner. It returned to Broaway in 2015 and won four Tony awards, including best revival of a musical.
Yeung said Bartlett Sher, who directed that revival, “remade this in such a way that it was relevant to today’s times.”

Soraya Patoonsittichai as Eliza in Rodgers & Hammerstein’s THE KING AND I. Photo by Matthew Murphy.

“One of the themes that he explored or he tackled in this stage production is the role of women in the show,” she added. “And I think if you look at this stage production, what makes it different is you really see the strength of women. You see the strength of Anna when she comes into Siam and meets the king. And you see her strength as a mother.”
That toughness is apparent, too, in the character of the king’s head wife, whom Yeung called “a pillar of strength in the court of Siam,” and in Tuptim. Yeung’s favorite scene is the ballet, she said, when “for me character-wise, that’s when Tuptim really … finds her strength and what she believes in, and for me that’s such a powerful and defining moment.”
“I also thing Bartlett also tried to tackle the theme of modernization versus tradition,” Yeung added. “There’s this conflict of whether to embrace the changing time or to stay in a traditional viewpoint. And throughout this production of ‘The King and I,’ we see that journey between Anna and the king, because they look past their cultural differences, and in the end, they embrace change and they bring out the best in each other.”
Some audiences members have noted their surprise that a show written in the 1950s still has relevancy today, Yeung said.
“There’s a line in the show where the king (is) about talking about building a fence in Siam and whether to build a wall around Siam or to let people from the outside world in,” Yeung said. “And that draws out a lot of laughter from the audience. I think they can relate to that.”
Audiences also particularly enjoy the “Shall We Dance?” sequence in which Anna hits the stage in a lavender ballgown that weighs about 40 pounds, Yeung said.

Angela Baumgardner as Anna Leonowens and the Royal Children in Rodgers & Hammerstein’s THE KING AND I. Photo by Matthew Murphy.

“The costumers are gorgeous,” she said. “They’re designed by Catherine Zuber, who’s a Tony-winning designer.”
Yeung said she would encourage people to come out for the show not just because it’s a classic musical but also because it sends out a “touching message” to the audience. She called it a family-friendly show with lots of kids in its cast who bring energy to the show and make it fun.
“I always say it’s such an honor to be able to be a part of this production and to bring the show across the United States and Canada and perform for different people, perform in different cities and to be able to tell this story every night,” Yeung said. “I mean it’s different for us on the stage because every night is different, but it’s really special. It holds a special place in my heart.”

Paulina Yeung as Tuptim and Dongwoo Kang as Lun Tha in Rodgers & Hammerstein’s THE KING AND I. Photo by Matthew Murphy. (1)

If you go
Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “The King and I,” presented by Broadway Theatre League of Northeastern Pennsylvania
When: Friday, March 29, 8 p.m.; Saturday, March 30, 2 and 8 p.m.; and Sunday, March 31, 1 p.m.
Where: Scranton Cultural Center at The Masonic Temple, 420 N. Washington Ave.
Details: The show is recommended for all ages. Tickets cost $42 to $82 and available at and by calling

Angela Baumgardner as Anna Leonowens and Pedro Ka’awaloa as the King of Siam in Rodgers & Hammerstein’s THE KING AND I. Photo by Matthew Murphy.

Broadway Theatre League of Northeastern Pennsylvania will present two workshops Saturday, March 30, in conjunction with its presentation of “The King and I.” Lunch follows at 1 to 1:45 p.m. with a talk-back with cast members from 5:10 to 5:30 p.m., both at Scranton Cultural Center at The Masonic Temple.
The programs include:
“The Small House of Uncle Thomas” dance master class: 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., Center for Health and Wellness, Marywood University, 2300 Adams Ave., Scranton; for dance teachers and intermediate and advanced high school and college dancers
“The King and I and Me” talk with actress Annie Sherman: noon to 1 p.m. at Scranton Cultural Center at the Masonic Temple, 420 N. Washington Ave. This program is geared toward performing arts teachers as well as students from elementary school through college.
Admission to the workshops, lunch and talk-back is free. Participants can buy tickets to the “The King and I’s” 2 p.m. show that day at a discounted rate of $24.
For reservations, call 570-342-7784 or visit 345 N. Washington Ave., Scranton, on weekdays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Photos by Matthew Murphy

Big-screen bash NEPA Film Festival bringing movies, filmmakers to region

Big-screen bash NEPA Film Festival bringing movies, filmmakers to region

This weekend’s Northeast Pennsylvania Film Festival looks to honor some of the region’s own movie makers while also sharing their insight and their work.
The festival, founded in 2016, kicks off with an opening night gala Friday, March 22, at 7 p.m. at Waverly Community House. Waverly Twp. native Lisa Marie Stetler, who produced the animated film “Ferdinand,” will receive the Vision Award at the gala, while Dallas native Robert May will take home the F. Lammot Belin Award for Excellence in Cinema.
“Any time anyone you know acknowledges you for the work that you do, it’s obviously a good feeling, and it doesn’t happen in a lot of jobs, so it’s kind of nice,” May said. “I was really happy.”
May produced the feature “The Station Agent” and the documentary “Kids for Cash,” which he also directed. Gala guests will be treated to a screening of “The Station Agent,” which follows a young man who moves to New Jersey after inheriting a train station there, plus a question-and-answer session with May.
May recalled how, when that film was in development, everyone he shared it with advised him against making it, calling the film “a big risk.” But for May, the film — directed by Tom McCarthy and starring Peter Dinklage, Patricia Clarkson and Bobby Cannavale — “was just such a great opportunity … to be able to dive into folks’ lives that we don’t necessarily think about.”

“I can tell you that when I read the script, I loved it,” May said. “I thought that it was a character-driven story, which was what I was interested in. I felt it showed how important friendship is.”
More local filmmakers will get in on the action the next morning, when POSH at the Scranton Club hosts the “Pitch, Fund, Cast” brunch on Saturday, March 23. Casting director and Old Forge native Mia Cusumano and Mountain Top filmmaker Chris Fetchko will lead the panel discussion. At 9 that night, Fetchko will introduce his film “All in Time,” which earned him best director honors at the Milan International Film Festival, when it screens at Scranton’s Ritz Theater. A question-and-answer session with Fetchko will follow the movie.
Also on Saturday at the Ritz, guests can catch the NEPA premiere of “The Pretender,” which follows Scranton native Mike Kunda’s journey as a Rocky Balboa impersonator. Kunda and the filmmakers will introduce the film at 7 p.m. and hold a question-and-answer session, too.
Local filmmaker Lindsay Barrasse has contributed the short film “Road Less Traveled” to the horror/thriller/science fiction block screening at the Ritz on Saturday at 5 p.m.
An encore screening of “Road Less Traveled” will follow Sunday, March 24, at 5 p.m. in the NEPA filmmaker block screening in Loyola Science Center’s PNC Auditorium at University of Scranton. That block also will include “Don’t Quit: The Ross Cordaro Story,” a documentary about former Dunmore wrestler Ross Cordaro, who became a quadriplegic as a result of a wresting accident; “Gun,” a short film directed by Ed Wasser and filmed in NEPA; and “Nick and Ophelia,” a film noir directed by Luz Cabrales of Scranton Films.

Old Forge native Mia Cusumano, who now lives and works in NYC as a successful casting director for numerous TV shows and movies that attract big-name talents. Jake Danna Stevens / Staff Photographer

Single-event tickets for “When Scorsese Calls,” a discussion with author Charles Brandt, have sold out, but some weekend passes are still available and include access to the program in the private event space at Ale Mary’s at the Bittenbender, Scranton. The program takes place Saturday at 3:30 p.m. and includes a book signing. Brandt’s nonfiction book, “I Heard You Paint Houses: Frank ‘The Irishman’ Sheeran and the Inside Story of the Mafia, the Teamsters & the Last Ride of Jimmy Hoffa,” has local ties and is the basis for an upcoming Martin Scorsese movie, “The Irishman.”
The process of bringing the book to the screen began in 2007, when star Robert De Niro’s office reached out to Brandt’s publisher.
“To say it was worth the wait is an understatement,” Brandt told The Times-Tribune in January. “And, to be waiting for Martin Scorsese to direct a book that you wrote — holy cow.”
The festival wraps up Sunday with a full day of film screenings at PNC Auditorium, including the results of the Mystery Box Challenge at 4 p.m. Teams participating in the challenge had three months to create a short film based on items they received in a cardboard box in September.
And at 2:30 p.m., VIA Global Studios, VIA Public Media’s production arm, will discuss the future of filmmaking in a free panel discussion called “The Digital Age of Filmmaking 2.0,” geared toward filmmakers and independent producers.

‘Office’ party Mark sitcom’s TV anniversary with celebrations in Scranton

‘Office’ party Mark sitcom’s TV anniversary with celebrations in Scranton

‘The Office” pulled Scranton into the national spotlight when it debuted 14 years ago this weekend, and two city hot spots plan to mark that anniversary with events taking inspiration from the hit show.
Center City Wine Cellar in the Marketplace at Steamtown, 300 Lackawanna Ave., Scranton, will hold “That’s What She Said!” on Saturday, March 23, from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. The free event will offer “Office”-themed food, drinks and games. Kalie Black, wine cellar manager, said local vendors at the marketplace will tailor their products toward “The Office.”
“I get a lot of people that come through who are always asking me like where the sign (from ‘The Office’s’ opening credits) is in the mall, and I get a lot of people who love ‘The Office’ … especially with being in the (former) Steamtown Mall,” which the show featured on occasion, Black said. “People love that show so much.”
At 4 p.m., an “Office” trivia contest will begin. Teams of up to five people can compete to win prizes that include a Dundie trophy, a $25 Uber gift card, a bottle of wine, wine glasses, tickets to Cosmic Cinemas — Iron Horse Movie Bistro, and a Dunder Mifflin T-shirt and mug for first place. Second place will win a wine flight date night at the wine cellar, and third place will get coupons, wine glasses and a wine cellar gift certificate.
Individual registration costs $3 in advance and $5 at the door; advance registration ends at 3:30 p.m. that day.
“Depending on how many people sign up, we’re probably going to do the trivia in heats,” Black said.
Then, at 8 p.m., Stage West, 301 N. Main Ave., Scranton, will open its “Office” Pop-Up Party. Organizer Josh Balz has planned a night with “Office”-themed props, food and drinks, and guests are encouraged to dress as their favorite characters from the show. The 21-and-older party also will have a trivia contest that Balz expects to include a mix of easy and hard questions for a chance to win prizes.
“A lot of little things … are going to connect with the show,” Balz said of the activities.
Balz estimated he has watched the show in its entirety “probably 30-plus times,” including a year where he watched it every night before he went to bed.
“It’s just super simple,” he said. “It’s awesome. There’s so many shows that try so hard anymore. … It’s an easy connection show, which I really like.”
“The Office” debuted on NBC on March 24, 2005, and ran for nine seasons, signing off in 2013. Many of the show’s jokes will find their way to Stage West in some form or another, such as “Scott’s Tots” Tater Tots, Kevin’s Chili, a paper airplane competition, and a mannequin Balz plans to put on the roof with a bouncy house in the parking lot, echoing one memorable scene. Guests also will spot Pam’s reception desk, the Finer Things Club and boss Michael’s desk.
“Whenever I have anything to do with anything, I always go a little overboard,” Balz said with a laugh.
Balz hopes to one day open an “Office”-themed venue, but for now, he said, he’s just trying to fill Stage West “with a good time so people enjoy themselves.”


If you go
“That’s What She Said!”
When: Saturday, March 23, 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.; trivia, 4 p.m.
Where: Center City Wine Cellar, the Marketplace at Steamtown, 300 Lackawanna Ave., Scranton
Details: Admission is free. Trivia costs $3 in advance by 3:30 p.m. and $5 at the door (five people per team maximum); to register, call 570-507-9243 or email

What: “Office” Pop-Up Party
When: Saturday, March 23, 8 p.m.
Where: Stage West, 301 N. Main Ave., Scranton
Details: Admission costs $10. Open to ages 21 and older. Call 570-343-7100 or visit

Just your luck

Just your luck

Celebrate St. Patrick’s Day with events and activities across region

The region’s St. Patrick’s parades have come and gone, but that doesn’t mean Northeast Pennsylvania has packed away its green just yet. With St. Patrick’s Day this Sunday, March 17, the area has plenty more ways to celebrate all things Irish this month.

Catch the Celtic Rebels Band on Friday, March 15, from 5 to 8 p.m. for a St. Patrick’s Celebration at Kildare’s, 119 Jefferson Ave., Scranton. ( or 570-344-4030)
Members of a Harrisburg pipe-and-drum band formed a band known for its high-energy Celtic sound, the Kilmaine Saints. It’ll play March 15 at 8 p.m. at Mauch Chunk Opera House, 14 W. Broadway, Jim Thorpe. Tickets cost $18. ( or 570-325-0249)
Kluster Phunk and Static in the Attic will perform at the Cooperage’s St. Patrick’s Day Party on Saturday, March 16. Doors open at 6 p.m. at 1030 Main St., Honesdale, with music following at 7. The show is open to all ages, and Wallenpaupack Brewing Co. will have beer for guests 21 or older to buy. Tickets cost $7 and are available at Players Row Music Supply, 221 Main Ave., Hawley; through members of the bands; and online at
klusterphunk. They also can be purchased at the door. (, 570-253-2020 or klusterphunk

Eats and drinks
Harvest Seasonal Grill & Wine Bar, 7011 Shoppes Blvd., Moosic, presents its Irish Whiskey Dinner on Thursday, March 14, from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. The meal costs $69, plus tax and gratuity, and includes multiple courses and whiskey pairings. Seating is limited, and reservations are required. ( or 570-342-3330)
Italian restaurant Armetta’s Pizzeria & Pub, 2092 Route 848, New Milford, turns Irish for the weekend when it serves Corned Beef and Cabbage, Corned Beef and Cabbage Pizza, and Mint Grasshopper Martinis on March 15 and 16 from 4 to 10:30 p.m. (570-465-5492)
Kol Steakhouse at Hotel Anthracite, 25 S. Main St., Carbondale, offers Irish-style drinks and specials from March 15 through 17. The menu includes Colcannon Soup, Irish Lamb Stew, Corned Beef and Cabbage, and more. Tickets cost $39. ( or 570-536-6020)
Dine on an Irish-style dinner including Ruben Stew, Corned Beef and Cabbage, Shepherd’s Pie, Lamb Chops and Soda Bread plus drink specials at Boulder View Tavern, 123 Lake Harmony Road, Lake Harmony, from March 15 through 17. (boulderview or 570-722-9696)
Glass — Wine Bar Kitchen at Ledges Hotel, 119 Falls Ave., Hawley, serves Irish-style specials March 15 from 5 to 11 p.m. Kevin Campion will provide live music. Reservations are suggested. ( or 570-226-1337)
At Gravity Restaurant & Bar, 40 Gravity Planes Road, Waymart, $14.95 gets you all-you-can-eat Corned Beef, ham, Shepherd’s Pie, cabbage, carrots, potatoes, salad, bread and cake on March 16 from 4 to 9 p.m. ( or 570-488-6918)

Molly O’Shea’s at Mohegan Sun Pocono, 1280 Route 315, Plains Twp. will offer drink specials, Irish-themed mixed drinks and build-your-own whiskey flights at its St. Patrick’s Day Celebration running from March 15 through 17. Entertainment includes Mama’s Black Sheep on March 15 from 9 p.m. to midnight; Chasing Ashlee Duo, March 16, 9 p.m. to midnight; and a DJ and karaoke, March 17, 8 to 11 p.m. (mohegansun or 570-831-2100)
All three Cove Haven resorts — Cove Haven Resort, 194 Lakeview Drive, Jefferson Twp.; Pocono Palace Resort, 206 Fantasy Road, Middle Smithfield Twp.; and Paradise Stream, 6213 Carlton Road, Paradise Twp. — will offer drink specials and entertainment at the St. Patrick’s Day Celebration from March 15 through 17. And at Pocono Palace Resort, guests can enjoy Guinness and Irish whiskey tastings and a cooking class featuring traditional Irish dishes. ( or 877-500-2080)
At Wallenpaupack Brewing Co., 73 Welwood Ave., Hawley, the St. Patrick’s Day Celebration on March 16 starting at noon features a “leprechaun” pouring the brewery’s St. Patrick’s Day Green Cream Ale, Black & Tan, and Nitro Red IPA. There also will be draft and food specials, and festively attired guests 21 and older can compete in the Lucky Charm Challenge at 4 p.m. for a chance to win a prize pack. Then, on March 17, the brewery will offer a St. Patrick’s Day brunch along with food and drink specials.
( or 570-390-7933)
The annual Society of Irish Women St. Patrick’s Day Dinner this year features Scranton author Barbara Taylor as the guest speaker March 16 at Radisson at Lackawanna Station hotel, 700 Lackawanna Ave., Scranton. For reservations, call Mamie Eckenrode at 570-498-8363. Tickets will not be available at the door.
Fiddler’s Green Irish Pub, 259 E. State St., Larksville, hosts its annual Pie-Eyed All Paddy’s Eve on Saturday, March 16, at 9 p.m. There is no cover for the event that includes music by the Pie-Eyed Preachers plus food and drinks.
greenirish or 570-714-3220)
Guests at the Jive, 113 Van Brunt St., Moscow, will find Celtic dishes such as Corned Beef along with music, drinks and prizes for the best costumes on March 16 and 17. (570-843-6673)
Wear green and find all-day specials plus dishes such as homemade Ham and Cabbage at Carey’s Pub, 147 Division St., Kingston, on March 17 starting at noon. Special events include music by the Malloy Brothers Bagpipes at 3 p.m., happy hour from 9 to 11 and karaoke at 9:30. The kitchen will stay open until 12:30 a.m. (570-718-1818)
Failte Irish Pub & Steak House, 1492 Route 739, Delaware Twp., marks the holiday with Irish food, drinks and music by the Tara Minstrels on March 17 from 5 to 9 p.m. ( or 570-828-6505)
Enjoy live music by the Blarney Boys while you dine on Irish-style specials at the Settlers Inn, 4 Main Ave., Hawley, on March 17 from 5:30 to 9:30 p.m. (the or 570-226-2993)

For all ages
Indoor cycling studio Back Mountain Revolution, 106 S. Lehigh St., Shavertown, hosts the “St. Patrick’s Day Ryde” on March 15 at 5:45 p.m. The ride will include Irish music, and the studio recommends wearing green and reserving a bike in advance. Beginners are welcome. (backmountain or 570-760-4554)
On March 16, Leprechaun Lore features storyteller Hal Pratt sharing such details as how to catch a leprechaun. The free, all-ages program starts at 11 a.m. at the Dietrich Theater, 60 E. Tioga St., Tunkhannock. (dietrich or 570-996-1500)
For the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins’ St. Patrick’s Day Celebration, the hockey team will wear special shamrock-themed jerseys at its March 16 game against the Providence Bruins, which it then will auction off that night. Live Irish entertainment will be on hand, too. The puck drops at 7:05 p.m. at Mohegan Sun Arena at Casey Plaza, Wilkes-Barre Twp. ( or 800-745-3000)
The free St. Patrick’s Day Family Party on March 16 runs from 10 a.m. to noon at Waverly Community House, 1115 North Abington Road, and includes crafts, games and raffles. ( or 570-586-8191)
On March 17 starting at 9 a.m., bowlers at Chacko’s Family Bowling Center, 195 N. Wilkes Barre Blvd., Wilkes-Barre, can pick a prize from a “pot of gold” when they’re done. ( or 570-208-2695)
Contact the writer:; 570-348-9100 x5107;
@cheaneywest on Twitter

Christian rock musician to share songs, messages of faith

Christian rock musician to share songs, messages of faith

Matthew West looks at concerts as a time of connections.
Hearing the crowd sing songs back to him never gets old, explained the singer-songwriter behind hit Christian rock music. It tells him that a song means something to them or maybe helped them through a tough time, and that’s why he gets so excited to go out on stage.
“There’s a distance when you write a song and you release it on the radio,” West said by phone recently from Nashville. “They’re connected to the song. … But then (I can) be with that crowd in person and have a moment in time when everyone’s lives kind of collide that one night.”
One such collision is set to happen Saturday, Feb. 23, at 6 p.m. when West brings the Roadshow Tour to Mohegan Sun Arena at Casey Plaza, Wilkes-Barre Twp. Tenth Avenue North and Matt Maher will join him for the night, which also will feature worship with special guest Michael W. Smith and Leanna Crawford.

West has earned four Grammy nominations and a Primetime Emmy nomination for original music and lyrics, received the Billboard Music Award for top Christian artist in 2014 and was named Billboard’s Hot Christian Songwriter of the Year in 2016. He has sold more than 1.6 million albums, with his most recent, “All In,” released in 2017.
“I would say first and foremost, I’m passionate about the craft of songwriting, and I take the lyrics and the music and putting the music together very seriously,” West said.
When he performs at the arena, the audience can expect to hear a mix of new and old songs.
“We’ve been doing a tribute to (the) Rev. Billy Graham, who passed away last year,” West said. “Billy Graham had a profound impact on my life. We’ve got a really powerful video presentation that goes along with that song that the crowd has really been responding to in a powerful way. … I say that’s been one of the special moments.”
As a father, West said, trying to find music with suitable messages and that he feels comfortable with his children listening to is a challenge. But Christian music offers uplifting messages, he added.
“You can fill your stomach with health food or junk food, and you can fill your ears with the same things. … This show’s going to bring it,” West said. “It’s going to be high-energy and tons of fun, but it’s going to be a positive message.
“People come to these concerts, and so many people are literally going through the fight of their lives. And the chance … that I get to encourage them? That’s a tremendous honor for me and all the other artists.”
West also said he sees concerts as “mountaintop experiences.”
“It’s a moment, it’s a night in your life where … there’s a chance to press that pause button and be reminded that there’s something bigger happening and that there’s someone who loves us enough to say … ‘be refreshed,’” he said. “When people walk out of that concert, that road show, (I want them to) be reminded that whatever they’re going through, it’s too big for them, but it’s not too big for the God who loves them. And that’s the message.”

If you go
Compassion LIVE’s “The Roadshow Tour,” featuring Matthew West, Tenth Avenue North, Matt Maher and worship with Michael W. Smith and Leanna Crawford
When: Saturday, Feb. 23, 6 p.m.
Where: Mohegan Sun Arena at Casey Plaza, 255 Highland Park Blvd., Wilkes-Barre Twp.
Details: Tickets start at $20, plus fees, and are available at the box office, and 800-745-3000.

Pair of aces Legendary comedians Steve Martin, Martin Short bringing tour to arena

Pair of aces Legendary comedians Steve Martin, Martin Short bringing tour to arena

Steve Martin and Martin Short on their own have amassed millions of fans, earned numerous industry awards and gained status as legends of the comedy world.
And now, audiences have the unique opportunity to catch the pair together in their latest comedy tour, “Now You See Them, Soon You Won’t.”
Coming to Mohegan Sun Arena at Casey Plaza, Wilkes-Barre Twp., on Friday, Feb. 15, at 8 p.m., the duo will perform alongside Grammy-winning bluegrass group the Steep Canyon Rangers and Paul Shaffer, former band leader for David Letterman’s show.

“I think our initial goal (when) we started out, it was more of a lark, interviewing each other at a comedy festival in Chicago,” Short explained in December by phone from Los Angeles, joined in the call by Martin in New York. “And we were reminded of this kind of chemistry we have, and it was so much fun. We did it again and said, ‘Hey, this should evolve into a show.’ I think the show has evolved terrifically.”
Short and Martin have appeared together in several films during their long careers, including the pair of “Father of the Bride” films in the 1990s and 1986’s “¡Three Amigos!” They also filmed a stop on their first version of their comedy tour, “Steve Martin and Martin Short: An Evening You Will Forget For the Rest of Your Life,” available on Netflix.
When asked why they seem to have such a strong chemistry together, Martin stepped right up.
“Chemicals,” he joked.
“I think the audience is aware that our friendship, our kidding around, our insulting each other, is all in great affection for each other,” Short added on a more serious note.
Martin said they wanted to preserve their show through Netflix, but they also knew “it was time to move away from some of that material” and update it. While Martin said the new show follows “very much the same formula” — mixing comedy, music and personal stories — audiences can expect new material in this stop.
“We’ve changed it up quite a bit,” he said.

Steve Martin, right, Chevy Chase, center and Martin Short arrive at the Ziegfeld theater in New York, Dec. 9, 1986 for the opening of their film, "Three Amigos".(AP Photo/Frankie Ziths)

When they first put the tour together, Martin said finding the right balance was trial-and-error, with them ending up picking the best elements. Short said he hopes that sharing personal stories makes the audience feel as though they were having “a dinner party with us and everybody’s telling stories with us that’s loose and casual and more personal in that respect.”
And since he and Short are both musical, Martin said, incorporating music into the show is “so natural.”
“Marty’s a great, great singer,” Martin said. “I mean, people don’t even know, and Marty’s very sensible about it.”
While it is hard to say what bits gain the biggest responses from the audience without giving away the show, Martin said, “I think the rule of thumb in this show is that if something doesn’t get a big response from the audience comedically, it gets cut. So we’re trying to keep a level where the laughs continue from beginning to end.”
While Martin spent much of his early career as a stand-up comic, he moved away from that for many years. But getting back out there on stage with a live audience has “really been great,” he said, adding that he thinks of a live show as “analog.”
“I mean, (when) you’re on Twitter or something like that, everything can go wrong with just (a) word,” Martin said. “And here, you know … they paid the money for the ticket. It’s an almost two-hour show, and I don’t know, it feels much more comfortable to me to appeal to 30,000 people in a room than 20 million on the internet.”


If you go
“Steve Martin and Martin Short: Now You See Them, Soon You Won’t,” featuring the Steep Canyon Rangers and Paul Shaffer
When: Friday, Feb. 15, 8 p.m.
Where: Mohegan Sun Arena at Casey Plaza, 255 Highland Park Blvd., Wilkes-Barre Twp.
Details: Tickets start at $44.50,
plus fees. For tickets, visit the box office or or call 800-745-3000.

NEPA Philharmonic teams up with guest artists to pay  homage to Beatles at F.M. Kirby Center for the Performing Arts

NEPA Philharmonic teams up with guest artists to pay homage to Beatles at F.M. Kirby Center for the Performing Arts

Imagine a concert uniting the solo careers of the members of one of history’s most legendary bands, and you’ll have just what the Northeastern Pennsylvania Philharmonic plans to offer at its next pops concert.
The orchestra will present “Imagine: The Beatles Solo Years” on Saturday, Feb. 16, at 8 p.m. in F.M. Kirby Center for the Performing Arts, 71 Public Square, Wilkes-Barre. Guests artists Joe Boucher, Christopher Eastburn, Gary Backstrom and Steve Hodgkin will join the philharmonic for the night, conducted by Mélisse Brunet, interim music director.
“There’s a lot of Beatles tribute bands out there, and none of them have really focused on this music,” said Nancy Sanderson, the philharmonic’s executive director. “And there’s just such good music that this particular group that’s coming in to perform with the orchestra decided it was time to (do) that approach to looking at the Beatles. There’s so many wonderful titles that will be performed.”
Those songs include Paul McCartney’s “Maybe I’m Amazed” and “Live and Let Die” (which he performed with his other group, Wings), Ringo Starr’s “Photograph,” John Lennon’s “Imagine” and George Harrison’s “My Sweet Lord,” among many others.
When it came to bringing in Portland Symphony Orchestra-affiliated Boucher and his group, Sanderson said, the orchestra knew a good thing when it saw one.
“He did the ‘Piano Men’ (concert) two years ago here, and that featured the music of Billy Joel and Elton John,” she said. “People went wild. They just loved him.”

The concert comes just a couple days after Valentine’s Day, too, making it an opportunity for audience members to include it in a belated celebration.
“What’s great is that there are so many restaurants nearby that either before or afterward it could just be a wonderful date,” Sanderson said.
The audiences for the orchestra’s pops and masterworks concerts tend to differ, Sanderson said, but the pops concerts can help the orchestra grow its audience for future shows.
“Some of the people who come to the pops concerts say, ‘Wow, I didn’t realize I liked live symphonic music so much,’ and then they start coming to the masterworks concerts,” she said. “The pops concerts, in addition to being great entertainment, are a way to expose this music to more audience members.”
Things also have been going well for the orchestra this season, its first since suspending operations for 2017-18 so it could develop a plan to stay financially viable, Sanderson noted.
“We are definitely back on our feet, and we have a five-year strategic plan that has been working so far,” she said. “We’ve been able to address some of our debts, and by the end of year two of the strategic plan, we will have addressed all of our debts.
“The strategic plan really has been designed so that every step of the way we can determine how big of a season this community can support. And what’s been really encouraging is that community members and businesses have not withdrawn their support. They’re really stepping up and sticking with us, and so the message that we’re getting is that people want the orchestra here.”

NEPA film festival announces lineup

NEPA film festival announces lineup

Charles Brandt spent five years interviewing Frank Sheeran, the longtime Teamsters union official, confidant of Mafia chieftain Russell Bufalino — and the man who confessed to killing notorious union leader Jimmy Hoffa.
In March, Brandt will discuss his book, “I Heard You Paint Houses: Frank ‘The Irishman’ Sheeran and the Inside Story of the Mafia, the Teamsters & the Last Ride of Jimmy Hoffa,” and the upcoming star-studded film based on his work at the Northeast Pennsylvania Film Festival, coming to downtown Scranton and Waverly Twp. from Friday, March 22, through Sunday, March 24. The festival announced its lineup Monday at the Ritz.
“After the book came out, I spent a fair amount of time in Northeast Pennsylvania,” Brandt recalled recently by phone from his home in Idaho. “I had not been there while I was researching with Frank Sheeran or while I was writing the book, but afterward I got invited over the course of the years to many functions there, and (I) have developed a rapport with an awful lot of people. … I became kind of adopted by the locals, and that’s how they got me for the film festival.”

Waverly Community House executive director Maria Wilson speaks during a press conference announcing this year’s NEPA Film Festival lineup at the Ritz Theater in downtown Scranton on Monday, Jan. 28, 2019. Christopher Dolan / Staff Photographer

Film festival screenings will take place at Waverly Community House, 1115 North Abington Road, Waverly Twp.; the Ritz Theater, 222 Wyoming Ave., Scranton; and PNC Auditorium in Loyola Science Center at University of Scranton.
“We’re so excited and grateful for the support of the local filmmaking community,” said Maria Wilson, executive director of the Comm, whose F. Lammot Belin Arts Foundation supports the festival.
More than 50 films will screen during the festival, which will hold a kickoff gala that Friday at the Comm. Dallas film producer, writer and director Robert May will receive the F. Lammot Belin Award for Excellence in Cinema that night, and the festival will show his 2003 film, “The Station Agent,” followed by a question-and-answer session.
Also that night, Waverly Twp. native and Abington Heights High School alumna Lisa Marie Stetler, who produced the 2017 animated feature “Ferdinand,” will receive the festival’s Vision Award. She also will lead a panel brunch discussion, “Pitch, Fund, Cast,” alongside Mountain Top filmmaker Chris Fetchko and casting agent and Old Forge native Mia Cusamano that Saturday at 10:30 a.m. at POSH at the Scranton Club, 404 N. Washington Ave.

Ritz Theater owners Mike and Sheri Melcher speak during a press conference announcing this year’s NEPA Film Festival lineup at the Ritz Theater in downtown Scranton on Monday, Jan. 28, 2019. Christopher Dolan / Staff Photographer

Brandt’s talk, “When Scorsese Calls,” will take place Saturday, March 23, at 3:30 p.m. in the private event space at the Bittenbender Building, 126 Franklin Ave., Scranton. Books will be available for purchase for Brandt to sign.
Also on Saturday, the festival will screen the documentary “The Pretender,” about Scranton native Mike Kunda as he pursues his dream of becoming a Rocky Balboa impersonator. That will begin at 7 p.m. at the Ritz Theater.
Kunda noted that the “Rocky” part of his life — as not only an impersonator but also manager of “Rocky”-based tours in Philadelphia — didn’t move forward until about 10 years ago, when he was 40.
“For me, if anyone ever had a dream, it’s never too late to go back,” Kunda said of his goal for the film’s message.
And at 9 that night, festivalgoers can catch Fetchko’s film “All in Time,” which was shot almost entirely in NEPA.
On Sunday, the action shifts to PNC Auditorium, where guests can watch student films, catch a panel discussion and see the results of the Mystery Box Challenge.

Popcorn bags with the NEPA Film Festival logo are displayed at a press conference at the Ritz Theater in downtown Scranton on Monday, Jan. 28, 2019. Christopher Dolan / Staff Photographer

‘Cold-blooded killer’
For Brandt, the path from page to screen began when the attorney took on Sheeran as a client, trying to gain Sheeran’s release from prison because of a medical condition. Sheeran mentioned that he had read one of Brandt’s books behind bars and told him he was “tired of being written about in all the books on Hoffa as one of those who participated in Hoffa’s murder,” Brandt said, “and he wanted to tell his side of it, and he wanted me to write it.”
Brandt said he knew Sheeran actually wanted to confess.
“And so I met with him,” Brandt said. “And boy did it pour out of him.”
But when Brandt showed Sheeran what he had typed up, the gangster was appalled. With Bufalino still alive at the time, Sheeran balked at making his thoughts public. Brandt told Sheeran to come back if he ever changed his mind.
It took eight and a half years, but Sheeran eventually returned. Bufalino had died by then, Brandt noted, and Sheeran wasn’t afraid. “I Heard You Paint Houses” came out in 2004, just a few month’s after Sheeran’s death. It details Sheeran’s interactions with Hoffa as well as Bufalino, who lived in Kingston and may have ordered Hoffa’s assassination. A former Teamsters president, Hoffa disappeared July 30, 1975, and his body has never been found.
Brandt said he hopes readers take away from his book “the humanity of people.”
“This is a cold-blooded killer, Frank Sheeran, who was formed by his 411 combat days (in World War II), but he never stopped feeling remorse,” Brandt said. “He was ordered to do things that if he hadn’t done them, they’d have gotten done anyway, and he’d have been dead.
“Ultimately, this man that determined the life expectancy of many others determined his own life expectancy and committed suicide by stopping eating. And he returned to his religion, his Catholicism, and sought forgiveness for what he had done. And that’s what drove him to confess to me over the five years we spent together.”
This year, Netflix will release “The Irishman,” the Martin Scorsese-directed adaptation of the book that stars Robert De Niro as Sheeran, Al Pacino as Hoffa and Joe Pesci as Bufalino. Bobby Cannavale, Anna Paquin, Jack Huston, Harvey Keitel, Sebastian Maniscalco and Ray Romano round out the cast. It all comes after De Niro’s office called Brandt’s publisher way back in 2007 to see if the film rights to the book were available.
“There’s an old saying: ‘Dear Lord, give me patience, but give it to me right now,’ and that was the philosophy my wife and I had about it,” Brandt said of the 12 years between that call and the film’s release. “We just knew it (that) there was a lesson of patience in there somewhere, and what we were waiting for was the most special thing any writer could hope for. To say it was worth the wait is an understatement. And to be waiting for Martin Scorsese to direct a book that you wrote — holy cow.”

Seated on the far side of the desk from left to right: Russell Bufalino, Angelo Sciandra and James Osticco. The image was taken on May 21, 1959 in Scranton. Times-Tribune Archives May 21, 1959

A long journey
After the initial contact in 2007 and then providing material for the film in 2009, Brandt heard nothing about the movie until 2016, when De Niro got in touch about meeting. Brandt met several times with the film’s creators, read the script (penned by Steven Zaillian, the Oscar-winning screenwriter of “Schindler’s List”) and provided notes.
“The last script they gave me, I emailed them back that I had no notes, that this was Frank Sheeran’s journey and this captures the Frank Sheeran that I knew,” Brandt said.
The movie began filming in 2017, and Brandt visited the set, which included New York City’s Roosevelt Hotel, where one of Brandt’s uncles was once head of room service, and outdoors in Queens’ Ridgewood neighborhood, where Brandt grew up.
“It was wonderful to be there,” Brandt said.
Brandt said he never doubted the truth of what Sheeran told him. And when it comes to the film, Brandt wants audiences “to be entertained more than anything, I guess, because it’s a very entertaining story to begin with.”
“And the mystery’s been solved, what happened to Hoffa,” he added. “There’s no doubt about it.”

A knight to remember

A knight to remember

Towanda native reprises role as Sir Robin for BTL’s run
of ‘Spamalot’ this weekend

Kasidy Devlin spent his teenage years learning his craft in the Electric City.
Now, the Towanda native shows off the fruits of that labor as part of the cast of the national tour of “Spamalot,” which Broadway Theatre League of Northeastern Pennsylvania brings to Scranton for four performances. Shows will take place Friday, Jan. 25, through Sunday, Jan. 27, at Scranton Cultural Center at The Masonic Temple, 420 N. Washington Ave.
Devlin left Towanda in 2010 and joined the national tour of “Spamalot” a year later, acting in about 300 performances until it shut down. Co-creator and Monty Python alumnus Eric Idle then decided to revive the tour a few years later, and Devlin got called in again.
“This is kind of a reunion tour for some of us,” he said.
As before, Devlin plays Sir Robin, Idle’s role from the film upon which the musical is based, “Monty Python and the Holy Grail,” as well as a few other characters. The audience connects with Robin quite well, Devlin said, noting that his character seems to be the only one who takes some things seriously.

“He is the bravely bold Sir Robin, but he really is kind of a coward,” Devlin said. “I get the great opportunity to soil myself several times on stage. He’s just one of the audience’s favorites because it’s a really crazy world that ‘Spamalot’ lives in. A lot of things can happen.”
The comedy follows the shenanigans of King Arthur as he seeks the Holy Grail, recruiting several knights and meeting numerous unusual characters along the way. “Spamalot” ran for nearly four years on Broadway, earning three Tony awards, including best musical.
“It has a lot of heart,” Devlin said. “It’s a fun, irreverent storyline. It’s apolitical, which is nice today, and … it has just fantastic, catchy songs. It’s a light and easy storyline and it’s just thoroughly enjoyable.”
Devlin brings to the show not just previous experience with the musical but also an education he gained here in Northeast Pennsylvania. Devlin worked with the now-defunct Northeast Theatre, which did business as Electric Theatre Company and staged productions at Keystone College and in downtown Scranton. He also studied with “all these wonderful New York City actors that they were bringing in” through the company’s Griffin Conservatory, an 18-month professional training program for actors.
“By the time I got done with high school, I didn’t feel like I needed to go to a conservatory or college,” Devlin said, although he did further his studies in programs in Italy and California before moving to New York.
Coming back to “Spamalot” has been strange, Devlin said, since he thought he had put to rest that part of his life when the tour closed in 2013, but he pointed out how passionate the fans have been. The show encountered a technical problem on stage during a performance and had to pause for a minute, he said, during which time the entire audience began singing, unprovoked, act two’s “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life” — which the actors hadn’t even performed yet.

“It’s been kind of a joy,” Devlin said. “You feel like a rockstar when you’re in this show, because so many people (know) the lines already.”
Devlin called the musical “a real kind of spiritual experience” for Monty Python fans. He added that Idle “did a really good job of streamlining the original film” and turning into a Broadway show.
“It is so lovingly adapted from the source material, ‘Monty Python and the Holy Grail,’ so the Python fans maybe make up half the audience, people who are there who want to relive the experience … and see it live,” Devlin said.
During the tour’s Scranton stop, the audience also will include several of Devlin’s family members, who, alongside fellow Electric Theatre veterans, will make the trip to see him.
Devlin said he enjoys more than anything bringing such a large show into smaller communities that “don’t get to experience theater in this size.”
“I think in New York there’s so much theater,” he added. “When you come into the (smaller towns), the community is so grateful to have a show come in, and that’s probably the most rewarding experience.”

Chills and thrills ShiverFest fundraiser draws racers to Lackawanna River

Chills and thrills ShiverFest fundraiser draws racers to Lackawanna River

Hit the water, but don’t forget your wetsuit.
Canoers and kayakers once again can take to the Lackawanna River for a chilly ride through Scranton as part of the annual ShiverFest, which raises money for Lackawanna River Conservation Association. The event will take place Saturday, Jan. 19, with the Extreme Kayak/Canoe Race starting at noon and an after-party following from 2 to 5 p.m. at Backyard Ale House, 523 Linden St., Scranton.


The race will kick off at the Parker Street Landing (off East Parker Street in Green Ridge) and end at Sweeney’s Beach just off Green Street in the Pine Brook neighborhood.
LRCA Executive Director Bernard McGurl called the race “a lot of fun to watch.”
“We get about 50 participants on the water, so you’re going to see 50 boats getting paddled down the Lackawanna River in the middle of winter,” he added. “And it’s right through the heart of Scranton, so there’s plenty of room to see it on any of the flood control levees. … There’s lots of places to see it.”

Al Nudelman of Dickson City

As for those on the water, they seem to enjoy the opportunity to “get out and meet up with some friends and do some crazy wintertime kayaking,” McGurl said, noting that some participants in the past have dressed in costume. Racers must be 18 or older and provide their own watercraft and gear. Race participants can register the day of ShiverFest, but McGurl encourages them to do so in advance.
“We strongly recommend that they have a wetsuit or a drysuit (on), because the water temperature is down in the 30s, and it will get hypothermic if they get in the water,” McGurl said.
Organizers will have a campfire going at the finish line to kickstart the thawing, and then the fun continues at Backyard Ale House, where guests can warm up and enjoy food, drinks, basket raffles, a 50/50 drawing and camaraderie.
The race costs $30 per racer and includes admission to the thaw party. Spectators can view the race for free, but admission to the party for non-racers will cost $20.
“We’re hoping to raise a few hundred dollars at the thaw party,” McGurl said.
Proceeds from ShiverFest benefit LRCA, which recently moved its offices to a former church and rectory in North Scranton, which McGurl said “need lots of modernization and repairs and upgrades.” That includes electrical work and some recent plumping fixes.
“We just did a Giving Tuesday project for our … program, but (this fundraiser) is going into the general fund, and we really need it because we don’t have a lot of grants at the present time,” McGurl said.
The organization also is working on some bigger cleanup projects along the river, is encouraging local municipalities to unite to create a municipal stormwater authority and is “actively engaged in acquiring some new parcels of land, and that will help further development of the (Lackawanna River) Heritage Trail and our partners,” McGurl said — all projects that could benefit from ShiverFest.

Pennsylvania Farm Show  celebrates 103rd year

Pennsylvania Farm Show celebrates 103rd year

A winter tradition that brings together Pennsylvanians for a week of food, entertainment, contests and more returns this week.
The annual Pennsylvania Farm Show celebrates its 103rd year as it showcases the best the state has to offer in agriculture, livestock and other categories. Here’s what you’ll need to know if you want to join the fun.

Andy Matsko / Staff Photographer An alpaca listens to the opening ceremony of the PA Farm Show in Harrisburg, Pa., on Saturday, January 6, 2018.

Where to go
The show takes place at the Pennsylvania Farm Show Complex and Expo Center, 2300 N. Cameron St., Harrisburg. The complex includes three arenas and 11 buildings.

When to go
The farm show food court will be open Friday, Jan. 4, from noon to 9 p.m., and parking will be free that day. The full show then will be open Saturday, Jan. 5, from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Sunday, Jan. 6, from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.; Monday, Jan. 7, through Friday, Jan. 11, from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m.; and Saturday, Jan. 12, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Organizers advise that the best time to go is between 8 a.m. and noon and that the show is busiest from 3:30 to 5:30 p.m.

What it costs
Admission is free, but those parking on the two nearby lots can expect to pay $15. Visitors can park at the lot at Elmerton Avenue and Sycamore Drive or at Harrisburg Arena Community College on Wildwood Park Drive. A free shuttle runs between the lots and the complex entrances. Another free shuttle service will run between the complex and downtown Harrisburg weekdays from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.

What to see
Visitors can get up close to some of the nearly 6,000 animals who will make the trek to the farm show, where their owners and handlers will show of their features and abilities as part of the numerous contests going on throughout the week. Guests also can check out the 10,000 competitive exhibits and 300 commercial exhibits.

JACQUELINE DORMER / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER Matthew Suchodolski, 2, of Coatesville, enjoys a milkshake as his father Myron Suchodolski lends a hand in the Exposition Hall at the 102nd Pennsylvania Farm Show at the state Farm Show Complex & Expo Center in Harrisburg on Tuesday morning, January 9, 2018.

What to eat
Find a wide range of Pennsylvania-made and -grown products and dishes at the food court in the Expo and Main halls. Groups serving items include the Pennsylvania Bee Keepers Association (honey ice cream, bottles of honey, beehive products and more), the Pennsylvania Cooperative Potato Growers Inc. (baked potatoes, French fries, potato donuts and more) and the Pennsylvania Dairymen’s Association (milkshakes, milk, ice cream sundaes, toasted cheese sandwiches and more).

What to experience
Judges will spend the week honoring the Pennsylvania’s best in categories such as wine, baked goods, poultry, cheese and more. Visitors also can view various demonstrations, from Agricultural Education to sheep-herding to honey extraction; learn more at educational programs; and check out the wares of numerous vendors.
Other events include magic shows, story time, rodeos, celebrity chef programs, horse pulling and much more. Check for the full schedule of events and programs.
And as always, the annual farm show butter sculpture will be sure to draw a crowd.

For more information
Visit or call 717-787-2905 for details, and head to the farm show’s Flickr album to view photos from past editions.

10 Things: Free winter boredom busters

10 Things: Free winter boredom busters

The holidays bring plenty of time to reconnect and celebrate with family, but after a couple of days of lazing about, you may find yourself faced with a new question: What to do now?
Our occasional feature, “10 Things,” highlights some of the region’s best offerings and provides helpful tidbits. Today, we feature 10 local activities that are both fun and free to enjoy while you wait to ring in the new year.

Holiday lights
Nay Aug Park, 1900 Mulberry St., Scranton, lights up every year with displays of lighted characters and holiday scenes. Cruise through the display from the warmth of your car and explore this annual tradition, lit from 5 to 9 p.m.
Another popular spot to see holiday lights is at the Peckville Christmas House at 1130 Marion St., where visitors will find an elaborately decorated property full of lights that celebrate the holiday spirit. One new activity this year is a scavenger hunt in which guests can try to find 11 unique decorations.
The house lights up Mondays through Thursdays from 5 to 9 p.m. and Fridays through Sundays from 5 to 10 p.m.

Festival of Trees 
Another holiday exhibit open into the new year is the Festival of Trees, located on the second floor of the Marketplace at Steamtown, 300 Lackawanna Ave., Scranton.
For the annual event, local businesses, schools, churches and nonprofits donate and decorate a holiday tree, with proceeds benefiting Toys for Tots.
The Festival of Trees will be on display through Sunday, Jan. 13. For more information, call 570-963-6590.

Be Daring Open Mic
Step out of your comfort zone and show off your talents at the Be Daring Open Mic at Adezzo, 515 Center St., Scranton.
Even if guests don’t want to perform, they can enjoy a change of scenery, sip their favorite cafe beverages and support local talent.
Open mics take place on the last Wednesday of every month, with the next one set for Wednesday, Dec. 26, at 7 p.m. There are 10 available spots to perform that are first come, first serve. Sign-up begins at 6:30 p.m.

‘The Nutcracker’
Ballet Theatre of Scranton presents “The Nutcracker” in partnership with Marywood University as a free gift to the community every year.
The ballet will take place Wednesday, Dec. 26, through Friday, Dec. 28, at 2 and 7:30 p.m. in Marywood’s Sette LaVerghetta Center for the Performing Arts, 2300 Adams Ave., Scranton.
Tickets will be available at the box office two hours prior to each performance.
For more information, call 570-347-2867 or visit

Indoor Farmer’s Market
Find locally sourced fruits, vegetables, eggs, meats, wine, baked goods and more at the South Side Farmers’ Market, 509 Cedar Ave., Scranton.
Created by the United Neighborhood Centers of Northeastern Pennsylvania, the market is open throughout the year on Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
For more information, call 570-346-6203 or visit the market’s Facebook page.

Local history
There’s lots of local history and heritage in Northeast Pennsylvania to pique your curiosity.
Waverly Community House, 1115 North Abington Road, designed “Destination Freedom,” a self-guided walking tour, to allow guests to visit and learn about local sites that were a part of the Underground Railroad.
You can walk the tour from 9 a.m. until 4:30 p.m.
Maps are available in the Abington Visitor’s Center at the Comm’s main offices Mondays through Fridays from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Guests also can arrange to pick up maps outside those hours by calling 570-586-8191, ext. 7.

Locomotive Shop Tour
Learn all about what goes into repairing and maintaining steam locomotives at Steamtown National Historic Site, 350 Cliff St., Scranton.
A 45-minute walking tour of the Locomotive Shop of the Delaware, Lackawanna and Western Railroad will depart from the site’s visitor center every day except Christmas and New Year’s Day. You can join a park ranger or volunteer at either 10 a.m. or 2 p.m. to learn all about this integral part of local history.
Registration and reservations aren’t required; however, schedules are subject to change for safety inside the shop. Guests are advised of potential heat and noise they may encounter during the tour.
For more information, visit or call 570-340-5200.

Seven Tubs Nature Area
At Seven Tubs Nature Area, visitors can trek on the 1.8-mile loop trail that takes them past the numerous natural wonders on display — a series of waterfalls along Wheelbarrow Run that formed as water flowed over potholes (aka tubs) in the bedrock. Situated on 500 acres accessible at 900 Bear Creek Blvd., Plains Twp., the moderate trail also is open to dogs, so grab your furry friend for and fill your lungs with the fresh, cold winter air.
Visit for more information.

Second High School Art Show and Celebration of the Arts
View some of the region’s top student artwork at Penn State Wilkes-Barre’s latest exhibit the second High School Art Show and Celebration of the Arts.
Open through Jan. 21 in Friedman Art Gallery, the exhibit features the work of students from Lake Lehman, Tunkhannock Area and Wyoming Valley West high schools; the Creative and Performing Arts Academy from Wilkes-Barre Area School District; Sue Hand’s Imagery and Social Fabric Collective. Art teachers picked more than 50 of their best student pieces for the show.
The gallery is located in Nesbitt Academic Commons, Conyngham Lane, Dallas, and is open to the public weekdays from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. For more information, call 570-675-9159 or email

Lego Winter Reading Program
Children can grow in their reading skills while also winning prizes in West Pittston Library’s Lego Winter Reading Program.
Once registered, children will receive a Lego mini figure reading log and Lego bookmark. They can color one mini figure for every 20 minutes they read through Feb. 24 and then turn in their completed logs for a chance to win a Lego building book. The top reader will win a copy of “The Lego Ninjago Movie.”
The Lego Club meets Wednesdays at 6:30 p.m. at the library, 200 Exeter Ave. Children who cannot attend can post a picture of their Lego creation and the book they are reading in the library’s Lego Winter Reading Facebook group so their entries are recorded.
For more information, call 570-654-9847 or visit