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. (kildarespub.com/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. (mcohjt.com 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 facebook.com/
klusterphunk. They also can be purchased at the door. (thecooperageproject.org, 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. (harvestseasonalgrill.com 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. (hotelanthracite.com 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
tavern.com 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. (ledgeshotel.com/glass-wine-bar-kitchen 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. (gravityinn.com 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
pocono.com 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. (covepoconoresorts.com 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.
(wallenpaupackbrewingco.com 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. (failtepa.com 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
settlersinn.com 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
revolution.com 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
theater.com 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. (wbspenguins.com 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. (waverlycomm.org 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. (chackosfamilybowlingcenter.com or 570-208-2695)
Contact the writer:
cwest@timesshamrock.com; 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,
ticketmaster.com 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 mohegansunarenapa.com 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 farmshow.pa.gov 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 farmshow.pa.gov 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 balletscranton.org.

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 nps.gov/stea 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 delawareandlehigh.org 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 FriedmanArtGallery@psu.edu.

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 wplibrary.org.

NEPA Philharmonic spreads cheer with holiday pops concerts

NEPA Philharmonic spreads cheer with holiday pops concerts

The Northeastern Pennsylvania Philharmonic can once again give the gift of music this holiday season.
The orchestra will present its holiday pops concert Saturday, Dec. 15, 7 p.m., at Peoples Security Bank Theater at Lackawanna College, 501 Vine St., Scranton, and Sunday, Dec. 16, 3 p.m., at F.M. Kirby Center for the Performing Arts, 71 Public Square, Wilkes-Barre. Mélisse Brunet, interim music director said they worked hard on the program, which features classical holiday fair and other types of music.
“It’s a nice mix for all communities of the cities. … Everybody can really feel welcome when coming to that concert,” Brunet said.
After suspending operations for the 2017-18 season so it could develop a plan to stay financially viable, the orchestra returned to the stage in October, a show executive director Nancy Sanderson said sold out.
“It was really great,” she said. “The audience seemed to be so happy to see the orchestra back on its feet.”
When the orchestra went dark last season, Sanderson said she heard from community members about how much they missed the holiday concert. The returning favorite will feature many of the staples of past editions, such as the Choral Society of Northeast Pennsylvania; singer Erin Malloy, who will perform as well as lead an audience sing-along; and “March of the Wooden Soldiers,” featuring dancers from Ballet Theatre of Scranton.
“(The march is) just such a tradition,” Sanderson said. “I think we would be booed out of town if we didn’t have that.”
The audience also will hear the premier of a Klezmer piece Sanderson said is based on old Jewish melodies. It first was composed for band and clarinet solo and was just rewritten for orchestra and clarinet solo, Brunet said.
“We always try to include something for people who practice the Jewish faith, and we have this incredible … piece this year that’s just fun,” Sanderson said.
And as always, Santa and Mrs. Claus will stop by at the end of the show.
Brunet, a Paris native who was the philharmonic’s apprentice conductor in 2016, took over for longtime conductor Lawrence Loh this year, and Sanderson said the orchestra has received “wonderful feedback.”
“She’s fun,” Sanderson said of Brunet. “The musicians really love to play under her. She’s really clear about what she wants, and she’s got her own particular signature on everything she does. … The audience loves her because she’s just so charming. She likes to talk and interact with the audience, and she is really of the philosophy that a great concert is interactive.”
And Sanderson said the orchestra is following a five-year strategic plan, which she described as “fairly modest the first few years so that we can settle our debts without having to go to the community and ask them to pay off (our) debts.”
“People like to invest in the future and not in the past, and so we’re determined to do it the right way,” she said.
Part of the plan involves Brunet remaining as acting music director through those five years, after which time the orchestra must conduct a search for a new leader in accordance with a union agreement.
“But I sure hope (Brunet) submits her application,” Sanderson said. “She’s got great energy, and I’m really proud of the fact that we have a woman conductor right here in Northeast Pennsylvania, because it still is a man’s world. And that she has this position (and) this particular region of Pennsylvania wants her to be up there I think speaks volumes about open-mindedness and understanding the needs of the community.”

Animal Planet star to scratch surface of cat behavior, relationships

Animal Planet star to scratch surface of cat behavior, relationships

This Thursday’s show at F.M. Kirby Center for the Performing Arts just might be the cat’s meow.
Television star Jackson Galaxy, host of Animal Planet’s hit series “My Cat From Hell,” brings his live stage show to the downtown
Wilkes-Barre theater on Dec. 13 at 7:30 p.m. Doors open at 6.
Galaxy said audiences are unsure what to expect when they come to one of his live shows, where he shares his expertise.
“They know it’s me, and past that they don’t know,” the cat behaviorist said recently by phone from a tour stop in Seattle. “But people have been incredibly receptive, and above all … (we have) had a really good time together. I’ve been going out to the lobby and signing things afterward. It’s what I hoped for.”
On his TV show, Galaxy helps cat owners resolve conflicts and preserve their relationships with their felines so they don’t end up giving their cats to shelters. His stage show, “Total Cat Mojo Live,” will incorporate some of that advice by including a question-and-answer session for the audience. And if they want more information beyond that, he said, he has supporting material available on his YouTube page.
“It’s great to be able to sort of grab the topic when I’m up on stage and then lead people to a more in-depth look at these things,” Galaxy said.
With his television show, Galaxy said, he makes three visits and spends 10 to 12 hours a day in someone’s home. That’s isolating, but when he’s on stage, he experiences “a constant energetic give-and-take.” He will share information about cat history, diet, advice and more.
“Just to get out there and just take a deep breath and interact is such a huge relief,” Galaxy said.
Galaxy described his stage show as “inclusive” and “an affirmation that we are a community of people.” He said he likes to joke in the show that dogs have parks and play dates, but cats don’t.
“We never get to get out there and have a communal event,” Galaxy added. “This is the cat party. … From the very outset, it’s a celebration.”
People used to treat cats like second-best, he said, but now “there’s now a good deal more cats in homes in the U.S. than dogs.”
“To have that affirmation that more and more people are seeking to celebrate it is a big deal. … And being able to look out there and see men and to see kids and to see an incredibly wide range in terms of the audience is also really encouraging,” Galaxy said.
Thanks to social media and sites such as YouTube, cats have gained more attention in recent years through viral videos, memes and celebrity felines, such as Grumpy Cat. The world has reached “that wonderful tipping point now where the casual becomes the committed … and I’m more than happy to lead that charge,” Galaxy said.
“My messaging throughout this show also is let’s now take it one step further,” he said. “If you’re going to spend time saying, ‘Oh my gosh, these are such cute cats on the internet’ … (we should) start putting our money where our mouth is. Let’s start advocating for them. Lets’s start advocating for all animals.”
More than anything, Galaxy said, he hopes his audiences take away the knowledge that “having a cat is having a relationship, and it’s not about what you own. It’s about who you love and … it’s time for us to own that instead of owning that animal.”
“I want us to start looking at our relationships,” he said. “And the response to that has been actually more accepting than I would have even imagined.”

Music to his ears – South Abington Twp. boy  starring in Broadway classic

Music to his ears – South Abington Twp. boy starring in Broadway classic

Not everyone can make the leap from a school production to national tour in just a few months, but Ethan Cutillo did just that.
The 11-year-old South Abington Twp. boy made his stage debut in the musical “Rags: An American Musical” at Scranton Preparatory School earlier this year and now finds himself on the road with Rodgers & Hammerstein’s “The Sound of Music.” Presented by Broadway Theatre League of Northeastern Pennsylvania, the show will bring Ethan back home when it stops at Scranton Cultural Center at The Masonic Temple for four shows from Friday, Dec. 7, through Sunday, Dec. 9.
Ethan’s work on stage grew from his love of music. He has played piano for six years and loves to sing — including with the children’s choir at the Church of St. Gregory in Clarks Green — but had no formal vocal training. He nabbed his first stage role after learning through his church choir director that Prep was in need of a child actor and singer for its spring musical. 
“I just felt it was so much fun to have the audience clapping and cheering me on, and the music just makes it really good,” Ethan said. “The cast was nice at Scranton Prep, so that was really cool. I … made a lot of friends.”
“He loved it,” recalled Ethan’s mother, Bobbie Cutillo. “And then we had an opportunity to audition in New York City, and we hesitated (at first), but we thought why not? … If nothing else, we’ll go to the city for the day.”
Following what she described as a “two-minute audition,” Ethan earned a callback for the following day. A few days after that second round, Ethan learned he’d been cast as Kurt, one of the von Trapp children, in “The Sound of Music.” Bobbie Cutillo said they were shocked that “a little kid from (the) Scranton, Clarks Summit area” could nab the role, but Ethan is really enjoying it.
The experience started with two weeks of rehearsals in New York City plus a week of technical rehearsals in Oklahoma City.
“It was pretty long, the rehearsals,” Ethan said. “And there (were) long hours, but it was a lot of fun because I got to make friends.”
Bobbie Cutillo said she broke down into tears when the music started to play for Ethan’s first show. There’s something about live theater that makes it great, she said, especially when your own kid is part of it.
“(I am) very proud of him, because he doesn’t have a lot of experience, but he’s certainly gaining it,” she said.
Ethan described his first time on stage with the show as “almost magical.” 
“I really felt good, and it was just great having the audience cheering,” Ethan said. “It was the same feeling as Scranton Prep … but it was even more great. That was really fun, just having a lot of people cheering.”
The show will tour for about seven and a half months, and Ethan’s mom and dad, Dr. Doug Cutillo, will take turns accompanying him on the road.
“It’s very interesting,” Bobbie Cutillo said. “I think it’s very challenging, but he’s really experiencing things that most 10- or 11-year-olds (are not), and he’s keeping up with his school work. “
A fifth-grader at Our Lady of Peace School in Clarks Green, Ethan continues to follow his school’s curriculum on the road and has a tutor, too. Ethan expects some of his school friends as well as family to be in the audience this weekend, when they’ll get to see him sing, among others, his favorite song, “The Lonely Goatherd.”
“There’s a lot of surprises in that that I think the audience is going to have a great time, because Maria’s starting to teach the kids how to sing,” he said, adding that the actress who plays Maria “makes it so laughable.”
He expects audiences to find humor in the song “Do-Re-Mi” and the first scene with the Von Trapp children, when they march onto the stage.
“There’s a lot of surprises in the show I think make it great,” Ethan said.
All that combine with beautiful costumes, a talented cast and an outstanding orchestra to round out the show, he added.
“People can come and see the show because it’s not just for adults,” Ethan said. “It’s like a family show, so if you’re having a bad day, I think they should go to the show because it just makes them feel better. It turns their frown upside down.”

Wonderful Christmastime Ballet classic ‘The Nutcracker’ dances onto region’s stages

Wonderful Christmastime Ballet classic ‘The Nutcracker’ dances onto region’s stages

Cue the Tchaikovsky.
The familiar strains of the Russian composer’s beloved Christmas ballet, “The Nutcracker,” will fill auditoriums across Northeast Pennsylvania in the coming weeks thanks to local and international dance companies.
The story follows a girl, Clara, as she receives a nutcracker on Christmas Eve and begins a journey to otherworldly realms where she encounters magical creatures.
So grab your tickets and settle in for an extraordinary trip full of holiday spirit. Weekend Times has rounded up all the ways you can experience the classic production this season.

Linn McDonald School of Dance
Seventy students ranging in age from 3 to 60 will dance in the performance, which stars Sadie Hughes as Clara and Mark Dolph as Drosselmeyer.
When: Saturday, Dec. 8, 7:30 p.m. and Sunday, Dec. 9, 2 p.m.
Where: Scranton High School, 63 Mike Munchak Way
Tickets: $15, available at the door
Details: Visit the school’s Facebook page.

Moscow Ballet
The “Great Russian Nutcracker’s” Dove of Peace Tour comes to Wilkes-Barre and features hand-painted sets and such elements as nesting dolls, snow maidens and more.
When: Friday, Dec. 14, 7 p.m.; doors open, 5:30
Where: F.M. Kirby Center for the Performing Arts, 71 Public Square
Tickets: $28, $38, $48 and $68, plus fees; visit the box office or kirbycenter.org or call 570-826-1100
Details: nutcracker.com

Degnan Ballet Center at the Conservatory of Wilkes University
About 60 people star in the production, which consists of Wilkes University students as well as local students enrolled at Wilkes Conservatory’s Degnan Ballet Center. The cast includes Rachel Whitenight as Klara and guest artists Julie Degnan, Ruben Suarez, T.J. Firneno and Connor Cohen.
When: Friday, Dec. 14, and Saturday, Dec. 15, 7:30 p.m.; Sunday, Dec. 16, 2 p.m.
Where: Dorothy Dickson Darte Center for the Performing Arts main stage, Wilkes University, 239 S. River St., Wilkes-Barre
Tickets: Adults, $22; seniors, students and children, $15; call 570-408-4426
Details: wilkes.edu

Scranton Civic Ballet Company
This marks the company’s 32nd annual edition of the classic production. Eighty students and adults ages 8 to 75 will present the ballet, which will feature company dancer Robert Zaloga as Cavalier. Civic also will present its annual free “Eye on Dance” educational performance of the ballet Friday, Dec. 14, at 10 a.m.
When: Friday, Dec. 14, 7:30 p.m. and Sunday, Dec. 16, 2 p.m.
Where: Scranton Cultural Center at The Masonic Temple, 420 N. Washington Ave.
Tickets: Individual, $18.50; family four pack, $55.50, plus fees, available at the box office or by calling 570-344-1111
Details: 570-346-7369 or scrantoncivicballet.com

Ballet Theatre of Scranton
In partnership with Marywood University, the dance troupe once again will offer several free performances of “The Nutcracker” as a gift to the community. This marks Ballet Theatre’s 43rd year presenting the ballet, which stars Lucy Doherty as Clara. The cast also includes Abby Leoncini, a guest professional alumna.
When: Wednesday, Dec. 26, through Friday, Dec. 28, 2 and 7:30 p.m.
Where: Sette LaVerghetta Center for Performing Arts, Marywood University, 2300 Adams Ave., Scranton
Tickets: Free; available at the box office the day of the show on a first-come, first-served basis two hours before curtain.
Details: 570-347-2867 or balletscranton.org

Celebrated musician Johnny Rivers brings  classic song collection  to Wilkes-Barre

Celebrated musician Johnny Rivers brings classic song collection to Wilkes-Barre

The voice behind hits such as “The Tracks of My Tears” and “Secret Agent Man” will fill F.M. Kirby Center for the Performing Arts with his beloved songs this weekend.
Johnny Rivers, who has sold more than 30 million records during his decades-long career, will perform at the downtown Wilkes-Barre venue on Sunday, Dec. 2, at 7:30 p.m. Doors open at 6.
The audience can expect to hear many of Rivers’ greatest hits, which also include “Memphis,” “Poor Side of Town,” “Summer Rain” and “Baby I Need Your Lovin’,” Rivers promised recently by phone from Los Angeles, where he lives. He said he updates the arrangements to keep them fresh and hopes the audience will “have a good time and enjoy the show.”
“We throw in some album cuts from different albums,” Rivers said, adding that he also does an acoustic set in the middle of the show. “It’s fun. People enjoy it. It’s very intimate.”
Born Johnny Ramistella in New York City, Rivers grew up in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and started his professional playing career at 14. He returned to New York City the next year, scored a record deal and changed his name to Rivers. He released “Memphis,” which became his first No. 1 single, in 1964, and numerous hits followed. Since then, he’s racked up 17 gold records.
Many of his tunes have endured through the years because they’re just good songs, Rivers said.
“And a lot of them are very blues-oriented and stuff, which is my roots,” he added.
While he doesn’t write many songs any more, he does continue to put pen to paper, noting that he puts a lot of time into a song when he does compose and produces it himself. And Rivers can take inspiration from anything, he added, from an article read or his children and grandchildren.
Rivers continues to tour, too, although he’s abandoned long bus trips for weekend gigs.
“It’s just what I do,” he said. “I’m still healthy, and I can still hit the notes, and my voice is still good. As long as I can still do it and hit the notes, I’m going to keep doing it.”

Pick up homemade gifts, goodies at variety of local craft shows

Pick up homemade gifts, goodies at variety of local craft shows

Cross off your Christmas list with homemade, personal gifts picked up locally this year.
In the coming weeks, several organizations in the area will host craft and vendor fairs filled with handcrafted items, basket raffles, food and more, with many of the events raising money for local causes, too. Weekend Times has rounded up a few of the spots getting crafty this holiday season.

American Red Cross Eastern Pennsylvania Region Holiday Craft Show
This 24th annual event will feature more than 150 vendors selling handmade, homemade crafts such as soap, jewelry, food and clothing. Wine tastings and homemade cookies and candies also will be available. Proceeds support the Red Cross’ programs and services in the Wyoming Valley.
When: Saturday, Nov. 24, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., and Sunday, Nov. 25, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Where: Kingston Armory, 280 Market St.
Details: General admission costs $5, and children 12 and younger enter for free. Parking also is free. For more information, call 570-823-7161 or visit the Facebook event page.

Small Business Saturday Artisan Marketplace
Vendors at this event will sell only handmade products on two floors, and visitors also can enjoy live music.
When: Saturday, Nov. 24, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Where: The Anthracite Center at NBT, 41 N. Main St., Carbondale
Details: Admission costs $2. Visit the Facebook event page for more information.

Seventh annual Buy Local Holiday Marketplace
Guests will find sellers spread across five floors of Scranton Cultural Center at The Masonic Temple and can choose from items such as fine art, jewelry, wine, food, children’s accessories and pet gifts. The first 1,000 shoppers receive a free reusable shopping bag. Refreshments and snacks will be available for purchase.
When: Sunday, Nov. 25, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Where: Scranton Cultural Center at The Masonic Temple, 420 N. Washington Ave.
Details: Admission costs $2. Visit scrantonculturalcenter.org or the Facebook event page or call 570-346-7369 for more information.

Old-Fashioned Holiday Market
The two-day event will include not only arts and crafts but also food, entertainment and horse-drawn carriage rides. Proceeds benefit CASA of Luzerne County and Wyoming Valley Children’s Association.
When: Friday, Nov. 30, and Saturday, Dec. 1, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Where: Public Square, Wilkes-Barre
Details: Call 570-208-4149, email phughes@wilkes-barre.pa.us or visit the Facebook event page.

Alternative Christmas Craft Fair
The event features handmade crafts from local artisans, a white elephant table, fair-trade items and wreath-making using fresh greenery. Guests also can enjoy a light lunch.
When: Saturday, Dec. 1, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Where: First Presbyterian Church, 97 S. Franklin St., Wilkes-Barre
Details: Call 570-824-2478 or visit the Facebook event page.

Abington Heights Education Association Craft Fair
In addition to vendors, the fair will hold basket raffles, offer pictures with Santa and host food trucks. Free basket raffle tickets with admission. Proceeds benefit AHEA’s scholarship fund.
When: Saturday, Dec. 1, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Where: Abington Heights Middle School, 1555 Newton Ransom Blvd., Newton Twp.
Details: Admission is $2 for adults and free for children under 12. Visit the Facebook event page for more information.

Jefferson Twp. Volunteer Fire Company annual Cookie Walk and Craft Fair
After you check out the various crafts
for sale, grab some homemade cookies
for $7.99 per pound, with proceeds
benefiting the fire company.
When: Saturday, Dec. 8, 9 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.
Where: Jefferson Twp. Volunteer Fire
Company, 405 Cortez Road
Details: Visit the Facebook event page.

Cookie Walk & Victorian Luncheon
First Presbyterian Church of Hawley will sell more than 30 varieties of homemade cookies for $11 per pound. Gluten-free options will be available. The church also will host a reservations-only Victorian luncheon, which will feature scones, quiche, finger sandwiches, desserts, coffee and tea.
When: Saturday, Dec. 8; cookie walk, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. or until sell out; Victorian luncheon, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Where: First Presbyterian Church of Hawley, 815 Church St.
Details: Reservations are required for the luncheon; tickets cost $11 for adults and $6 for children under 10. Call 570-226-4835 for reservations or more information.

Frances Willard Elementary School PTA Craft Fair
The PTA’s inaugural craft fair will include numerous vendors selling items such as makeup, jewelry, essential oils and clothes.
When: Saturday, Dec. 1, noon to 5 p.m.
Where: Frances Willard Elementary School, 1100 Eynon St., Scranton
Details: Visit the Facebook event page.

Greater Scranton YMCA Holiday Craft Fair
The YMCA aims to offer something for everyone at this annual event.
When: Saturday, Dec. 8, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Where: Greater Scranton YMCA, 706 N. Blakely St., Dunmore
Details: Email jleshuk@greaterscranton
ymca.org, call 570-342-8115 or visit greaterscrantonymca.org.

Seventh annual Holiday Artisans’ Market
Pick up items made by artisans from across the Upper Delaware spread across two floors.
When: Sunday, Dec. 9, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Where: The Cooperage Project, 1030 Main St., Honesdale
Details: Visit thecooperageproject.org or call 570-253-2020.

Abington Heights High School Music Department Vendor Sale
Pick up some food, crafts, clothes and more in this weekday fundraising show. Part of the proceeds will benefit Abington Heights High School’s music department.
When: Thursday, Dec. 13, 3:30 to 6:30 p.m.
Where: Abington Heights High School, 222 Noble Road, South Abington Twp.
Details: Visit the Facebook event page.