Son of a  nutcracker ‘Elf: The Musical’ jingles all the way into Scranton

Son of a nutcracker ‘Elf: The Musical’ jingles all the way into Scranton

The national tour of a Broadway musical looks to spread Christmas cheer by singing loud for all to hear.
Based on the hit Will Ferrell film of the same name, “Elf: The Musical” sweeps into Scranton Cultural Center at The Masonic Temple, 420 N. Washington Ave., for a weekend of four shows just in time for the holidays. Presented by Broadway Theatre League of Northeastern Pennsylvania, shows will take place Friday, Nov. 9, through Sunday, Nov. 11.
“It’s kind of hard to watch the show and not smile a little bit,” said Mackenzie Lesser-Roy, who plays Jovie, a department store employee whose life turns around when an elf from the North Pole arrives.
That elf, Buddy, actually is a grown human man who ended up as part of Santa’s crew when he unknowingly wandered into the toy sack as a toddler on Christmas Eve. Raised by Santa’s elves, Buddy comes to New York City to find his real father and ends up transforming the lives of those he meets. 
Lesser-Roy, who grew up in Westchester County, New York, said the musical does differ from the film but has the same sense of joy and many details that will make audiences laugh.
“The whole show is really fun,” she said. “I think some of these musical numbers … kind of hit you in the face. There’s so much going on, but it’s so entertaining. It’s non-stop, too.”
The character Lesser-Roy plays differs from others in the cast in that she’s more ordinary, and even more negative, than the over-the-top, exaggerated people around her, she noted. Jovie is not a holiday person and has always been alone during Christmas, something audience members might relate to, Lesser-Roy said.
“She does find the Christmas spirit,” Lesser-Roy said. “That’s why it’s so fantastic when (Buddy) does instill some happiness and Christmas in her.”
The actress praised her fellow castmates who play elves by dancing on their knees and said a song they sing is “just adorable.” Lesser-Roy has had many of the songs from the show stuck in her head and said audiences can expect a lot in particular from the tune “The Story of Buddy the Elf,” which comes toward the end of the show.
“It’s this big number where he’s telling the story and the whole ensemble comes in, and it’s this big, catchy, jazzy dance number. … The ensemble is incredible,” she said.
Lesser-Roy recently saw the sets for the first time, too, and said they blew her away.
“It is so colorful,” she said. “It’s also like 3-D in a way, so it almost feels like it’s coming out into the audience. It’s pretty brilliant. There are so many layers of set, and the set changes happen so quickly.”
And with the tour coming to Scranton as the holiday season kicks into high gear, Lesser-Roy expects “Elf” to put people in the right mood.
“I’m sure that there have been some holidays … where you were expecting it to be something different, maybe something better, and Buddy manages to instill Christmas spirit in different people that he meets,” Lesser-Roy said. “I mean, he meets people in a store, and two minutes later, he has them dancing and singing. So I think that it will absolutely get people into the Christmas spirit, and it will remind them of the purest reason for Christmas, which is to spend time with your loved ones and just to give back and to experience joy in the purest form with lots of people you love.”

Frights and delights Scare yourself silly with region’s haunted attractions

Frights and delights Scare yourself silly with region’s haunted attractions

Northeast Pennsylvania knows how to deliver the frights each Halloween season.
The region is home to numerous haunted attractions, which offer everything from spooky hayrides to creeping creatures to houses where spirits run rampant. So get in line and put on your brave face — you’re going to need it.
Circle of Screams
Watch movie scenes come alive during the Haunted Hayride into the woods, take in the creepy performers at the Cirque de Peur sideshow, and brave the haunted rooms of Delfino Manor. If you’re still in the mood for scares, stick around to catch a movie on the drive-in’s big screen.

Where: Circle Drive-in, 1911 Scranton-Carbondale Highway, Dickson City
When: Fridays through Sundays through Oct. 28; ticket booth open 6 to 10:30 p.m.; last ride leaves at 11 p.m.
Admission: Haunted Hayride and Cirque de Peur, $15; Delfino Manor (rain or shine), $15; Haunted Hayride, Cirque de Peur and Delfino Manor, $25; drive-in movies, $8 adults/$5 children
570-489-5731 and

Hellstead Manor
This indoor haunted attraction takes place in a grand house and includes free parking.
Where: 630 Harmony Road, Great Bend Twp.
When: Fridays and Saturdays, 7 to 11 p.m., and Sundays, 7 to 10 p.m., through Oct. 28
Admission: $20
Details:, 570-396-5871 and

Dracula’s Forest
Guests can wind their way through the spooky scenery of two attractions, the Haunted Hay Ride and the Dark Kingdom. For younger visitors who want some scare-free fun, the Not-So-Scary Hay Ride opens on weekend afternoons.
Where: 2828 Rock Road, Ransom Twp.
When: Haunted Hay Ride and the Dark Kingdom, Fridays through Sundays through Oct. 28, 7:30 p.m. (ticket booth open Fridays and Saturdays, 6:30 to 10:30 p.m., and Sundays, 6:30 to 10 p.m.), weather permitting; Little Screamer’s Not-So-Scary Hay Ride, Saturdays and Sundays, 1 to 5 p.m., through Oct. 28 (last wagon leaves at 4:30 p.m.)
Admission: Haunted Hay Ride, $15 ages 11 and older/$10 children 10 and younger with paying adult; Haunted Hay Ride and Dark Kingdom combo, $25 ages 11 and older; free for active military members with ID; Not-So-Scary Hay Ride, $8; parking, $3 (parking benefits Newton Ransom Volunteer Fire Company)
Details:, 570-586-5084 and

Reaper’s Revenge
This 60-acre spot offers four haunted attractions: a haunted hayride; Lost Carnival, a walk-through set in a dark forest; Pitch Black, an indoor walk-through; and Sector 13, a zombie maze. The attractions stay open until all guests have gone through, but they must arrive by 11 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays and by 10 p.m. on Sundays. They are not recommended for children under 10.
Where: 460 Green Grove Road, Scott Twp.
When: Fridays and Saturdays, 6 p.m. to 1 a.m., and Sundays, 6 to 11 p.m., through Nov. 3
Admission: $45 general/$40 Friday general with printable coupon/$35 Sunday general with printable coupon/$25 VIP upgrade/$70 VIP package (general admission with VIP upgrade)/$3 parking/$5 zombie paintball; active and retired military discounts available regularly plus on Military Family Day (Sunday, Oct. 28)
Details: and 570-254-8038

Gravestone Manor
Marking its 20th anniversary this year, the all volunteer-manned attraction presents a new story, “Spirits of the Manor,” about a game show host seeking to drive spirits from the home. The attraction is not recommended for children under 8.
Where: Trion warehouse, 1095 Route 315, Plains Twp.
When: Fridays and Saturdays, 7 to 10 p.m., and Sundays, 7 to 9:30 p.m., through Oct. 28
Admission: $10; all proceeds benefit the United Way of Wyoming Valley
Details:, and 570-821-6500

Horror Hall
Guests will need about 20 minutes to complete the quarter-mile walk through this indoor haunted attraction.
Where: 11 E. Poplar St., Plymouth Twp.
When: Fridays and Saturdays, 6 p.m. to midnight, and Sundays, 6 to 10 p.m., through Oct. 28
Admission: $14 general/$19 fast pass
Details:, or

Hotel of Horror
This Monroe County site features several attractions, including the main Hotel of Horror, focusing on sanitarium residents locked in solitary confinement; Altered Nightmares, based on the occult underworld; and the Theatre of the Damned variety show. The action takes place rain or shine.
Where: 5105 Cherry Valley Road, Hamilton Twp.
When: Fridays through Oct. 26, 7 to 11 p.m.; Saturdays through Oct. 27, 6 to 11 p.m.; and Sundays through Oct. 28; Wednesday, Oct. 31; Friday, Nov. 2; and Saturday, Nov. 3, 7 to 10 p.m.
Admission: Hotel of Horror, $25 Fridays and Saturdays/$20 Sundays; Hotel of Horror and Altered Nightmares combo, $35 Fridays and Saturdays/$30 Sundays; Theatre of the Damned, $5; VIP line jumper pass, $10
Details:, or 570-992-3278

Scranton Reads focuses on sci-fi thriller ‘War of the Worlds’

Scranton Reads focuses on sci-fi thriller ‘War of the Worlds’

This year’s featured Scranton Reads book lends itself to a mix of serious and laid-back programs that draw from its classic science-fiction theme.
Readers across the region will pick up H.G. Wells’ 1897 story “The War of the Worlds” in the coming weeks as part of the annual initiative that encourages the community to read a specific book and participate in book discussions and other related events.
“First of all, it’s science-fiction, which is fun, and we haven’t done one of those in a while,” said Jessica Serrenti, spokeswoman for Scranton’s Albright Memorial Library and a Scranton Reads committee member. “But I think it’s also timely with how much media is in our hands now. ‘War of the Worlds’ is a story that just makes you wake up and focus on what’s in front of you … (and) just being aware of our surrounding.”
The joint venture between Scranton Public Library and the city started in 2002 and has featured such stories as “The Handmaid’s Tale” and “The Red Badge of Courage.” This year’s book focuses on an alien invasion of Earth in which humans fight back using a virus. Orson Welles’s infamous October 1938 radio adaptation of the story induced a panic among people who thought an invasion actually was occurring. It has been adapted for the screen a few times as well, most recently by Steven Spielberg in 2005.
Lackawanna County Library System libraries have free copies of the book available, and Scranton Reads also will hand them out during its events and at the Dunmore Cemetery Tour on Sundays, Oct. 7 and 14, at 2 p.m. at the West Warren Street cemetery.
“People were thrilled that it was kind of timely for October with Halloween, and it’s aliens and invasions,” Serrenti said of the book selection. “They got a kick out of that. … It’s reaching kind of a varying audience in that respect.”
Scranton Reads’ programs kick off with a First Friday celebration on Oct. 5 at Albright Memorial Library that will feature artwork inspired by the book.
Other activities focus on the scientific and pandemic sides of the story, including “A Scarcity of Caskets: The 1918 Spanish Flu in Scranton” on Wednesday, Oct. 24, at Lackawanna County Historical Society’s Catlin House, Scranton; “The War of the Worlds: When Will the Next Pandemic Occur?” on Monday, Oct. 29, at Marywood University, Scranton; and “Survival Skills” on Tuesday, Oct. 30, also at Marywood.
Dr. Philip Jenkins of Marywood University, meanwhile, will lead a discussion of philosophical issues in the novel during Albright Memorial Library’s Socrates Café program on Thursday, Oct. 18. And “The World Is Not Coming to an End. Trust Me: A Conversation about Telling the News” will bring together local journalists for a panel discussing “fake” news and how people can better consume news on Wednesday, Oct. 24, at Penn State Scranton, Dunmore.
Scranton Reads also will offer more light-hearted fare, including “War of the Worlds” film screenings and “History of the Carbondale UFO Sighting,” in which historian Robert Powell from Carbondale Historical Society examines the hubbub surrounded a supposed 1974 UFO crash there.
“Everyone has been going crazy for that,” Serrenti said. “They just think it’s such a fun idea just to see all the craziness and wariness that went around it at that time.”
Numerous county libraries will hold book discussions, too.
“Book discussions kind of allow you to keep an open mind about the interpretation of books and how others see it,” Serrenti said.

Scranton Reads events

First Friday kickoff
When: Friday, Oct. 5, 6 to 8 p.m.
Where: Albright Memorial Library, 500 Vine St., Scranton

“War of the Worlds” film screening
When: Wednesday, Oct. 10, 2 p.m.
Where: Albright Memorial Library, 500 Vine St., Scranton

“History of the Carbondale
UFO Sighting”
When: Wednesday, Oct. 10, 6 p.m.
Where: Albright Memorial Library, 500 Vine St., Scranton

“War of the Worlds” film screening
When: Thursday, Oct. 18, 6 p.m.
Where: Valley Community Library, 739 River St., Peckville

Socrates Café
When: Thursday, Oct. 18, 6:30 p.m.
Where: Henkelman Room, second floor, Albright Memorial Library, 500 Vine St., Scranton

“The World Is Not Coming to an End. Trust Me: A Conversation about Telling the News”
When: Wednesday, Oct. 24,
12:15 p.m.
Where: Hawk Lecture Hall: Business Building 201, Penn State Worthington Scranton, 120 Ridge View Drive, Dunmore

“A Scarcity of Caskets: The 1918 Spanish Flu in Scranton”
When: Wednesday, Oct. 24, 7 p.m.
Where: Catlin House, Lackawanna County Historical Society, 232 Monroe Ave., Scranton

“The War of the Worlds: When Will the Next Pandemic Occur?”
When: Monday, Oct. 29,
6:30 to 8 p.m.
Where: Learning Commons, Room 206, Marywood University, 2300 Adams Ave., Scranton

“Survival Skills”
When: Tuesday, Oct. 30,
6:30 to 8 p.m.
Where: Learning Commons, Room 206, Marywood University, 2300 Adams Ave., Scranton

Book discussions
Thursday, Oct. 4, 6:30 p.m.: Taylor Public Library, 710 S. Main St., Taylor; 570-562-1234

Monday, Oct. 22, 6 p.m.: Nancy Kay Holmes Branch Library, 1032 Green Ridge St., Scranton; 570-207-0764

Thursday, Oct. 25, 1 p.m.: Carbondale Public Library, 5 N. Main St.; 570-282-4281

Tuesday, Oct. 16, 6 p.m.: North Pocono Public Library, 1315 Church St., Moscow; 570– 842-4700.

Tuesday, Oct. 23, 6 p.m.: Abington Community Library, 1200 W. Grove St., Clarks Summit; 570-587-3440

Wednesday, Oct. 24, and Thursday, Oct. 25, 6:30 p.m.: Valley Community Library, 739 River St., Peckville; 570-489-1765

Saturday, Oct. 27, 10:30 a.m.: Dalton Community Library, 113 E. Main St.; 570-563-2014.

City on the fringe – Scranton Fringe Festival returns with expanded schedule

City on the fringe – Scranton Fringe Festival returns with expanded schedule

A longer schedule aims to open up more opportunities for audiences to check out the variety of entertainment the Scranton Fringe Festival will bring to the city this month.
Expanding from five days to nine this year, the festival boasts activities ranging from improv and theater to film, dance and interdisciplinary work.
“We were trying to figure out how to have as many shows in the festival as possible with our resources available. … There’s only so many slots of time that you can put shows into, so pulling it apart like that really gives the audience a little bit more time to see things and also get involved a little bit earlier,” festival co-founder and managing director Elizabeth Bohan said.
The festival opens Saturday, Sept. 22, with the Big Gay Storyslam in Shopland Hall at Scranton Cultural Center at The Masonic Temple, 420 N. Washington Ave. Bohan expects the 8 p.m. show to sell out.
A few other activities will take place in the days following the storyslam, with most events happening toward the end of that week. The festival will hold a free preview party Wednesday, Sept. 26, at 6 p.m. at AFA Gallery, 514 Lackawanna Ave., and close Sunday, Sept. 30, at 7 p.m. with a free, all-ages wrap party.
Tickets cost $8 for festival button-holders and $12 for those without buttons. Buttons cost $5 and offer holders discounts at various local partners, which include downtown restaurants and boutiques. They are available at festival headquarters in the Leonard, 335 Adams Ave., and all button partners. For a list of partners and more information, visit


518 Lackawanna Ave.
“Artemisia’s Intent”: Thursday, Sept. 27,
6:30 p.m.; Friday, Sept. 28, 7:30 p.m.; Saturday, Sept. 29, 4:30 p.m.; theater/solo, by the Anthropologists, featuring Mariah Freda; rated R; 60 minutes
“Here We Are in Spain’s Night (Or Late Afternoon Depending on What Day You Go) of Comedy”:
Friday, Sept. 28, 9 p.m.; Sunday, Sept. 30, 5 p.m.; improv; rated R; 60 minutes
“Goddamned”: Saturday, Sept. 29, 3 and 6 p.m.; Sunday, Sept. 30, 2 p.m.; dance/movement;
rated R; 45 minutes
“Make Your Own Damn Sandwich!”: Saturday, Sept. 29, 8 p.m.; Sunday, Sept. 30, 3:30 p.m.; theater; rated PG-13; 60 minutes

AFA Gallery, 514 Lackawanna Ave.
Preview party: Wednesday, Sept. 26, 6 p.m.;
rated PG; 120 minutes
“The Presented”: Thursday, Sept. 27, 6 p.m.; Saturday, Sept. 29, 3 p.m.; Sunday, Sept. 30, 5 p.m.; theater, starring Chris Davis; rated PG-13; 60 minutes
“I Killed the Cow”: Thursday, Sept. 27, 7:30 p.m.; Saturday, Sept. 29, 6 p.m.; Sunday, Sept. 30, 3:30 p.m.; solo/theater, By Larissa Marten and Leia Squillace; rated PG-13; 60 minutes
“My Condolences: An Experiment in Grief Presented by the New Vintage Ensemble”: Friday, Sept. 28, 6 p.m.; Saturday, Sept. 29, 7:30 p.m.; Sunday, Sept. 30, 2 p.m.; theater; rated R;
60 minutes
“#VANLIFE”: Friday, Sept. 28, 8 p.m.; Saturday, Sept. 29, 4:30 and 9 p.m.; theater, by Chalk & Cheese Productions; rated R; 60 minutes

Artworks Gallery, 503 Lackawanna Ave.
“The World Will Stop If We Make a Mistake”: Thursday, Sept. 27, 6:30 p.m.; Saturday, Sept. 29, 7:30 p.m.; Sunday, Sept. 30, 5 p.m.; interdisciplinary, performed by Sarah J. Stachura and Tim McDermott; videography by Brendan Regan; rated PG-13; 45 minutes
“Sound and Song: Oveone and Over-Sung”: Thursday, Sept. 27, 8 p.m.; Saturday, Sept. 29, 3 p.m.; Sunday, Sept. 30, 3:30 p.m.; theater/musical, presented by C4 Studios; rated PG; 45 minutes
“From Plaid To Pork Chops… And Postcards To Paris”: Friday, Sept. 28, and Saturday, Sept. 29,
6 p.m.; Sunday, Sept. 30, 2 p.m.; solo, starring Jeannine M. Luby; rated R; 45 minutes
“The Hugging Army 3.0: Connect Now!”: Friday, Sept. 28, 7:30 p.m.; Saturday, Sept. 29,
4:30 p.m.; poetry/spoken word; rated PG-13;
45 minutes

The Bog, 341 Adams Ave.
“A Fringe-Tastic Electric City Boogie”: Thursday, Sept. 27, 9 p.m.; dance/movement; 21 and older; 90 minutes

Brennan Hall, Pearn Auditorium, University of Scranton
“Inside Mecca: Insights Along the Path of Abraham”: Sunday, Sept. 23, 3 p.m.; film by Anisa Mehdi; rated PG-13; 90 minutes
“Omega Male”: Monday Sept. 24, 6 p.m.; film, presented by the 411 Studio; created by Bob-A-Lou Productions; rated PG-13; 60 minutes
“Charlie Chaplin’s Body”: Tuesday, Sept. 25,
6 p.m.; film by Jeff Boam; rated R; 60 minutes

Craftsman Hall, Scranton Cultural Center at The Masonic Temple, 420 N. Washington Ave.
“Too Late for Help”: Thursday, Sept. 27, and Saturday, Sept. 29, 8 p.m.; comedy featuring Ellen Doyle; rated R; 60 minutes
Scranton vs. the World Comedy Festival: Friday, Sept. 28, 6:30 p.m.; Saturday, Sept. 29,
9:30 p.m.; comedy from Laugh Out Lepkas Comedy LLC; rated PG-13; 60 minutes
“Crime of the Hour”: Friday, Sept. 28, 9:30 p.m.; Saturday, Sept. 29, 6:30 p.m.; comedy hosted by Abby Deely; rated PG-13; 60 minutes

Junior Ballroom, Scranton Cultural Center at The Masonic Temple, 420 N. Washington Ave.
“Fruit of the Sea”: Thursday, Sept. 27, 6 p.m.;
Friday, Sept. 28, 9 p.m.; Saturday, Sept. 29,
4 p.m.; musical/theater; rated PG-13; 60 minutes
“Rejects Anonymous”: Thursday, Sept. 27, 7:30 p.m.; Saturday, Sept. 29, 7 p.m.; Sunday, Sept. 30, 3:30 p.m.; theater/improv, created and performed by Double D; rated R; 60 minutes
“Hedy! The Life & Inventions of Hedy Lamarr”: Friday, Sept. 28, 6 p.m.; Saturday, Sept. 29, 8:30 p.m.; Sunday, Sept. 30, 5 p.m.; theater/solo, written and performed by Heather Massie; rated PG-13; 60 minutes
“Light // Sound”: Friday, Sept. 28, 7:30 p.m.; Saturday, Sept. 29, 2:30 p.m.; Sunday, Sept. 30, 2 p.m.; interdisciplinary/theater; rated PG-13; 60 minutes

Lackawanna County Children’s Library, 520 Vine St.
“We Are … The Children’s Library! A Visual Arts Experience”: on display Sept. 22 to 30; visual arts; rated PG; 90 minutes; free
Balloon workshop: Sunday, Sept. 23, noon;
Monday Sept. 24, 5:30 p.m.; with Miss Molly Balloons; rated PG; 90 minutes; free
Open mic night: Friday, Sept. 28, 6 p.m.; rated PG; 90 minutes; free
Playing Shakespeare: Sunday, Sept. 30, 1 and
4 p.m.; youth acting workshop; rated PG;
90 minutes; free

The Leonard (Scranton Fringe headquarters), 335 Adams Ave.
“The Comment Section”: Friday, Sept. 28, 8 p.m.;
Saturday, Sept. 29, 4 and 7:30 p.m.; theater, by David and Toni Jo Parmelee; rated PG-13; 45 minutes
“Good Joke/Bad Joke Bingo”: Friday, Sept. 28,
8 p.m.; Saturday, Sept. 29, 6 p.m.; Sunday, Sept. 30, 3:30 p.m.; theater/improv, presented by Bad Theater Fest of New York City; rated R; 60 minutes
“He’s Dead!”: Friday, Sept. 28, 6:30 p.m.; Sunday, Sept. 30, 2 p.m.; theater/solo, by Grace Kapacs;
rated PG-13; 60 minutes
“The Ryan Case 1873”: Friday, Sept. 28, 11 p.m.; improv/theater walking tour; presented by Live in Theater; rated PG-13; 90 minutes
“A Spectacle & Mirth Cabaret”: Saturday, Sept. 29, doors open 10 p.m., show 11; cabaret, presented by Scranton Fringe; rated R; 90 minutes
Monologues That Impress: Saturday, Sept. 29, noon; workshop, with Carlo D’Amore
Teen playwright workshop: Saturday, Sept. 29,
2 p.m.; theater/spoken word presented by Scranton Fringe Festival in partnership with the Everhart Museum; grades seven through 12; rated PG; 90 minutes
Stand-Up Comedy Workshop: Sunday, Sept. 30, noon; workshop, with Ellen Doyle
Scranton Fringe Festival Wrap Party: Sunday, Sept. 30, 7 p.m.; all ages; free

Shopland Hall, Scranton Cultural Center at The Masonic Temple, 420 N. Washington Ave.
Big Gay Storyslam: Saturday, Sept. 22, 8 p.m.; theater; rated R; 90 minutes
60X60 Dance Concert: Thursday, Sept. 27, 6 p.m.; Saturday, Sept. 29, 7 p.m.; Sunday, Sept. 30,
5 p.m.; dance/movement, by Rob Voiseyo; rated PG; 60 minutes
“Rehabulous! The Lighter Side of Narcotics Recovery…”: Thursday, Sept. 27, 7:30 p.m.; Friday, Sept. 28, 8 p.m.; Saturday, Sept. 29, 5 p.m.; theater/interdisciplinary; rated R; 90 minutes
“My Sister’s Keeper: A Poetic Stage Play”: Friday, Sept. 28, 6 p.m.; Saturday, Sept. 29, 8:15 p.m.; Sunday, Sept. 30, 3 p.m.; theater, by Jody Austin; rated PG-13; 90 minutes

The Space at Olive, 541 Wyoming Ave.
“Harper Lee: The Secrets of a Mockingbird”: Thursday, Sept. 27, 6 p.m.; Saturday, Sept. 29, 4:30 p.m.; Sunday, Sept. 30, 5 p.m.; theater/solo, starring Prudence Wright Holmes; rated R; 60 minutes
“Right Is the Price”: Thursday, Sept. 27, and Saturday, Sept. 29, 7:30 p.m.; Sunday, Sept. 30, 3:30 p.m.; theater/improv, presented by Montrose Movie Theater; rated PG; 45 minutes
“An Interview with Peggy Guggenheim”: Friday, Sept. 28, 6 p.m.; Saturday, Sept. 29, 3 and 6 p.m.; musical; rated PG-13; 60 minutes
“50 Shades of Gay”: Friday, Sept. 28, 8 p.m.; Saturday, Sept. 29, 9 p.m.; Sunday, Sept. 30, 2 p.m.; theater/musical, starring Ike Avelli, Chris Williams and Jeza Belle; rated R; 60 minutes

St. Luke’s Episcopal Church, 232 Wyoming Ave.
“Golden Avatar”: Thursday, Sept. 27, 6 p.m.;
Friday, Sept. 28, 7:30 p.m.; theater, by Viva Kultura, featuring Ethan Smith; rated PG; 90 minutes
“Falkland — The War the World Forgot”: Thursday, Sept. 27, 8 p.m.; Saturday, Sept. 29, 7:30 p.m.; Sunday, Sept. 30, 3:30 p.m.; theater, by Tasty Monster Productions, Heather Bagnall and Luke Tudball; rated PG-13;
60 minutes
“Just a Penny”: Friday, Sept. 28, and Saturday, Sept. 29, 6 p.m.; Sunday, Sept. 30, 2 p.m.; musical; rated PG; 60 minutes

Compound interest Trains and local history of coal unite for this year’s railfest theme

Compound interest Trains and local history of coal unite for this year’s railfest theme

A celebration of the region’s coal heritage and its connection to railroading plus more exhibits, music and activities make for a busy weekend at Steamtown National Historic Site.
The annual Railfest returns to the venue at Lackawanna Avenue and Cliff Street in downtown Scranton on Saturday, Sept. 1, and Sunday, Sept. 2, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. This year focuses on the 250th anniversary of anthracite coal’s importance to Northeast Pennsylvania with the theme “Railroading and Coal: A Labor of Love.”
“Obviously the early steam trains ran with anthracite coal, and coal was such a great part of it,” said Debbie Conway, Steamtown’s superintendent. “The two … are really closely connected.”
While visitors normally enter Steamtown for free, the site will charge what Conway called a “cost recovery fee” to offset the event’s price tag. One-day passes cost $10 for ages 16 and older and $7 for children 6 to 15, and two-day passes cost $15 for adults and $10 for children. Ages 5 and younger enter for free.
Railfest officially runs Saturday and Sunday, but the venue will host a special event to kick things off Friday, Aug. 31, when David Stone: The Johnny Cash Experience performs at 7:30 p.m. in Steamtown’s theater.
Throughout the weekend, visitors can enjoy activities such as speeder car, handcar, caboose and Scranton Limited train rides; tours of Mattes Street Tower; photo opportunities; locomotive shop demonstrations; magicians; and more live music. They also can check out model trains, visiting railroad equipment and exhibits such as “The Call of Trains” by railroad photographer Jim Shaughnessy and coal-related photographs by Scott Herring.
Guests can take pictures of their own during a special Sunday morning photo shoot. Reservations are required for the event that Conway said will offer “really unique photo opportunities.”
“Rail fans love taking pictures of trains, so we’re going to try to set up a couple special shots,” she said.
Part of Steamtown’s goal for Railfest is to bring in visiting equipment from other railroads, Conway said, but that has grown more difficult in recent years as rail lines serving the area started to charge fees. Steamtown looked for other options and came up with the idea of a joint trip — dubbed the Northeast PA Railfest Flyer — with the Honesdale-based Stourbridge line, which routinely makes sightseeing excursions to Lackawaxen.
The Flyer will run Saturday, departing Steamtown for Moscow at noon. After lunch, a bus will take passengers to Lackawaxen, where will they will board the Stourbridge line for Honesdale. Another bus then will bring them back to Steamtown, arriving at approximately 5:45 p.m.
“It’s going to be a nice little partnership,” Conway said. 
She recommends that people buy their tickets in advance so they have an accurate number for bus seating. Tickets cost $80 for ages 13 and older and $60 for children 3 to 12; children 2 and younger ride for free on a lap. The tickets include two-day admission for Railfest and lunch.
Steamtown also will offer diesel train-pulled excursions to Moscow both days. Tickets cost $24 for ages 16 to 61, $22 for ages 62 and older and $17 for ages 6 to 15. Children ages 5 and younger ride for free but require a ticket.
Visitors also can take advantage of Railfest’s proximity to La Festa Italiana on Lackawanna County Courthouse Square by riding a free County of Lackawanna Transit System shuttle between the events during Steamtown’s operating hours on Saturday and Sunday. The neighboring Electric City Trolley Museum also plans to expand its schedule of trolley rides during Railfest.
The weekend offers “a lot of really fun things that are fun for the whole family,” Conway said.
“We’re really trying to mix it up and bring in different acts and kind of different draws,” she said.


Art and soul – Trio of events pack weekend with entertainment

Art and soul – Trio of events pack weekend with entertainment

A trio of summer traditions fall under a new umbrella together this year — the inaugural Lackawanna Arts Weekend.
The First Friday Art Walk, Scranton Jazz Festival and Lackawanna Arts Fest (formerly Arts on the Square) take over the city’s downtown with a vibrant mix of music, fine art, crafts and more starting Friday, Aug. 3.
“I really hope that this is just the beginning of putting Scranton on the map for our thriving arts community,” said Cristin Powers, ScrantonMade founder. “It does take a while to get things off the ground, but I think that we did a good job this year and I’m hoping that it just brings people from outside the area, from neighboring counties, to Scranton.” 

Devon O’Keefe, of West Pittston, paints a lion during the fifth annual Arts on the Square in downtown Scranton on Saturday, July 29, 2017. Jason Farmer / Staff Photographer

ScrantonMade’s Lackawanna Arts Fest spurred the change as it sought to move from its traditional July weekend “to take away some of the traffic downtown that day,” since it usually coincided with the county’s three-on-three basketball tournament, Powers said. Organizers brainstormed and decided to move the one-day offering of items from local artisans and craftspeople on Lackawanna County Courthouse Square to the same weekend as First Friday and the 14th annual Scranton Jazz Festival, “hopefully making Scranton and Lackawanna County a tourist attraction for that weekend,” Powers said.
Kicking off the weekend on Friday, with most stops open from 6 to 9 p.m. or similar, First Friday again brings a range of artistic mediums to locales across the downtown. Many also plan to offer live music, and First Friday has hired roving musicians to entertain throughout the downtown.
Uniting First Friday with the other two events will “add so much” to each event since each compliments the others so well, said Thom Welby, First Friday’s acting executive director. It gives them a chance to show off their events to new audiences, he explained.
“It’s so exciting,” Welby said. “We know that we’re going to be bringing in people from outside the market that normally wouldn’t come in, and we have the opportunity to show off these other events. … None of them take away from the other. I think it’s such a great opportunity to show off our area, and our First Friday events have been getting stronger every month.”
The jazz festival also opens Friday night with a happy hour at 5 followed by Voodoo BBQ Brass Band at 8 and Special EFX All-Stars — featuring Chieli Minucci, Eric Marienthal, Regina Carter, Lao Tizer, Joel Rosenblatt and Jerry Brooks — at 9 at Radisson at Lackawanna Station hotel.
“They are a conglomeration of musicians that not only have they been award-winning and together for many years … but individually they’ve had some significant accomplishments on their own with solo albums and playing for other musical greats,” said Sarah Effertz, jazz festival marketing director.
Performances continue with jazz walks around the city Friday and Saturday nights and shows through Sunday.
“People love being able to then just filter out (of the concert and) walk through the city of Scranton, because the city’s beautiful at night, too,” Effertz said. “And on a summer evening, it’s a really nice walk.”
Other headliners include the Bernie Williams Collective — which features jazz guitarist and former New York Yankees player Bernie Williams — performing Saturday, Aug. 4, at 8:30 p.m., and trombonist Delfeayo Marsalis — son of Ellis and brother of Branford, Wynton and Jason — who plays with the SJF Big Band on Sunday, Aug. 5, at 8:30 p.m.
Visitors also will find live music at Lackawanna Arts Fest, taking place Saturday from noon to 8 p.m. on the square, where many familiar vendors will return alongside some new faces. 

Patricia J. Annabelli, spray paint artist, creates art work during the second annual Arts on the Square Festival in Scranton on Saturday, July 26, 2014. Jason Farmer / Staff Photographer

“More artists from out of town are making this a show on their calendars,” Powers said. “We have everything from handmade furniture, candles, jewelry, art, accessories, children’s accessories, wine and, mead, baklava, cupcakes, local honey. Really everything that our area has to offer from local independent artists and craftsmen.”
Live entertainment will come from Yam Yam, Chris Kearney & Friends, Starbird, Rogue Chimp and James Brown Dance Party, while people of all ages can enjoy free activities and even get to meet artists and crafters whose work is for sale.
“I think people really appreciate spending their money locally and getting to hand that over, say, to the person making the products,” Powers said. “It’s a really feel-good buy. I think that it’s just a great, family-friendly event to come to.”
Backyard Ale House, 523 Linden St., will offer an outdoor cafe, while Terra Preta Prime has something special planned at its new location, 301 N. Washington Ave., Powers said.
The weekend precedes the Governor’s Awards for the Arts, set for Wednesday, Aug. 8, at 7 p.m. at Scranton Cultural Center at The Masonic Temple. The lead up to that event also includes the Scranton Fringe Festival guide launch, Thursday, Aug. 2, 6 to 8 p.m., Adezzo, 515 Center St., Scranton; an architectural building tour, Tuesday, Aug. 7, 5:30 p.m., Catlin House, 232 Monroe Ave., Scranton; and “The Arts & the Public Good: A Forum,” Aug. 8, 3 p.m., Scranton Cultural Center.
Organizers hope the arts weekend brings more people to the county.
“Now that we have First Friday, Lackawanna Arts (Fest) and the jazz festival, it’s really exciting,” Effertz said. “It gives Lackawanna County and the surrounding area just a lot of activities, and it’s a lot of options to have a lot of great family fun. And it just enriches our area.”

Set the stage Scranton Shakespeare Festival ready for diverse season

Set the stage Scranton Shakespeare Festival ready for diverse season

Youth across the country have found their voices and undertaken challenges of late in the wake of violence and negativity.
In its seventh year, the Scranton Shakespeare Festival has chosen pieces that reflect that.
“It was supposed to be all about a new generation and a bit of a coming-of-age season, and it’s only become more relevant with the … Parkland activities in Florida,” said Michael Bradshaw Flynn, the festival’s founder and artistic director. “All of the plays we have this summer have some sort of element of young people finding their voices or making their way to some sort of top.”
The festival opens Thursday, June 28, with the musical “How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying,” which it will present downtown in center court of the Marketplace at Steamtown. The story follows an ambitious young man who rises quickly through a company’s ranks. 

“This part show is about … the chaos that happens at one of these big New York businesses, and I thought it would be really cool to be in an actual business,” said Flynn, who will play lead J. Pierrepont Finch. “And it has a great space.”
“How to Succeed” opened on Broadway in 1961 and starred “Mad Men” actor Robert Morse. Flynn worked with Morse on Broadway and nabbed him to provide recorded narration for Scranton’s “How to Succeed.” Morse donated his services, Flynn said.
“It’s pretty fantastic,” he added. “We are a younger company in that we don’t have a lot of more mature actors, so it’s really sort of nice to hear this old-fashioned character, this mature voice doing these iconic lines. It was really exciting.”
The festival’s remaining shows move to Scranton Preparatory School’s St. Robert Bellarmine Theatre. Opening Friday, July 6, the festival offers its first Shakespearean work of the season, “The Tempest,” which focuses on a father and daughter, Prospero and Miranda, who live on an island where a shipwreck occurs.
“It’s really about Miranda finding her voice and changing her father’s opinions, so there’s sort of that slip in power from the daughter… now being the person who’s basically changing his policy and really spurring him for forgiveness,” Flynn said.
While “The Tempest” usually features about 18 actors, the festival will present it with just three plus a featured singer, a group that includes Scranton native and Actors’ Equity Association member Maura Malloy.
“We’re going to work in on a table basically, so there are different objects to play with, to use as characters, to use as different aspects of a personality,” said Malloy, who lives in New York City and directed for the festival during its last two seasons. “It’s experimental in a way at this point in the rehearsal process. … (The director is) letting the three of us discover it as we go, so it’s kind of a fascinating rehearsal process in a way.”
“The Tempest” is double-billed with a newer prequel, “Sycorax,” which focuses on a witch only mentioned in Shakespeare’s original, Flynn said.

“It’s going to be a really cool piece that’s going to complement that evening,” he added.
A family-friendly staging of “Hansel & Gretel” from the festival’s Youth Theatre Lab follows at Scranton Prep on two Saturdays, July 7 and 14, before the festival presents Shakespeare’s comedic “As You Like It” starting Friday, July 13. The festival then shifts back to musical theater with a production of “Footloose,” whose original Broadway version was adapted for the stage and directed by Scranton native Walter Bobbie. That opens Thursday, July 19.
As in past years, the festival will stage each work once more in its final weekend, wrapping up Sunday, July 29. It stars a great group of giving people who have energy and talent, Malloy said, and “I don’t think there’s going to be two shows that are all similar.”
“I don’t know what it’s becoming exactly, but I know it’s growing, which is pretty exciting in that more and more people in the community are getting on the train, which is pretty cool,” Flynn said of the festival. “And I think it’s becoming more inclusive, and I think there are people who keep coming back to us who might never have cared about Shakespeare.”

Scranton Shakespeare Festival schedule

“How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying”
When: Thursday, June 28, through Saturday, June 30, 7:30 p.m.; Sunday, July 1, 5 p.m.; and Friday, July 27, 7:30 p.m.
Where: Center court, the Marketplace at Steamtown, 300 Lackawanna Ave., Scranton

“The Tempest” and “Sycorax”
When: Friday, July 6, and Saturday, July 7, 7:30 p.m.; Sunday, July 8, 3 p.m.; and Saturday, July 28, 7:30 p.m.
Where: Scranton Preparatory School, 1000 Wyoming Ave.

“Hansel & Gretel”
When: Saturdays, July 7 and 14, noon
Where: Scranton Preparatory School, 1000 Wyoming Ave.

“As You Like It”
When: Friday, July 13, and Saturday, July 14, 7:30 p.m.; Sundays, July 15 and 29, 3 p.m.
Where: Scranton Preparatory School, 1000 Wyoming Ave.

When: Thursday, July 19, through Saturday, July 21, 7:30 p.m.; Sunday, July 22, 3 p.m.; and Sunday, July 29, 7:30 p.m.
Where: Scranton Preparatory School, 1000 Wyoming Ave.

Cheers to 125 years Swingin’ on vine fundraiser to celebrate library’s milestone anniversary

Cheers to 125 years Swingin’ on vine fundraiser to celebrate library’s milestone anniversary

Swing by the 500 block of Vine Street this weekend to celebrate Scranton Public Library’s 125th anniversary and help it prepare for the future.
The ninth annual Swingin’ on Vine fundraiser takes over the street outside Albright Memorial and Lackawanna County Children’s libraries on Friday, May 25, from 5 to 8 p.m. Admission to the 21-and-older event costs $20 in advance and $25 at the door, and benefits programs and operating costs at the city libraries, which include the Nancy Kay Holmes branch in Green Ridge at Library Express in the Marketplace at Steamtown.
“It’s community members serving other community members, and you just can’t go wrong there,” Albright spokeswoman Jessica Serrenti said. “I think we heave wonderful support for the library in our community — Scranton and Dunmore and Dickson City and beyond.”
As guests check out the numerous raffle baskets filled with prizes donated from local businesses, they can listen to the music of Picture Perfect, which takes over from longtime performer Paul LaBelle and the Exact Change Band as the entertainment for the night.
“They have a great mix of everything — your Top 40 pop tunes, everything from Bruno Mars, and then they’ve got some Latin, a little bit of country, some rock in there,” Serrenti said. “I have to say, their song list is just never-ending. They’ll definitely be doing more current tunes … but for our older audience, they have those classic tunes as well.”
Subway, Domino’s and Cooper’s Seafood House will provide much of the food, but guests also can munch on items from numerous other local restaurants. Serrenti said they should expect to find lots of pizza, wings, hoagies and such “traditional kinds of picnic foods.”
For dessert, partygoers can grab a slice of cake featuring the library’s 125th anniversary logo on it, courtesy of Minooka Pastry Shop.
Library director Jack Finnerty believes reaching that milestone makes the library one of the city’s “senior institutions.” He wonders “how many tens of thousands of students” learned research methods and worked on term papers within the Albright’s walls through the years, and where their lives took them from there.
“Everybody who’s been a resident of this city, I think, over those 125 years has, at one time or another, found their way through the doors and benefitted from the visit,” Finnerty said.
Library founder John J. Albright built his namesake library on his family’s former homestead as a gift to Scranton residents. The building opened in June 1893 and recently closed for a few months as it underwent a significant restoration.
“When we reopened back in March, it was wonderful to see everyone come back, and they were very appreciative of the changes that we did make,” Serrenti said.
Reaching 125 years shows that the library is “still here for a reason,” she said.
“We are here serving our community’s needs as far as their informational needs, educational needs and even recreational,” she said. “There’s this idea that with everything going digital … that libraries are not needed. And while Google has given more access to information for everyone, it can still be daunting to find out what information is correct (or) how do (you) even start to use Google, and that’s where libraries come in. We can take that daunting task of ‘How do I find information?’ and say, ‘This is how you start.’”


If you go
What: Ninth annual Swingin’ on Vine fundraiser
When: Friday, May 25, 5 to 8 p.m.
Where: 500 block of Vine Street, Scranton
Details: Guests must be 21 or older. Tickets cost $20 in advance and $25 at the door and are available at Albright Memorial Library, 500 Vine St.; Nancy Kay Holmes Branch Library, Green Ridge Street and Wyoming Avenue; and Library Express, the Marketplace at Steamtown, 300 Lackawanna Ave. Proceeds benefit Scranton Public Library.

Lyrical Legend- ‘Beautiful — The Carole King Musical’ tells songstress’ story

Lyrical Legend- ‘Beautiful — The Carole King Musical’ tells songstress’ story

Carole King and Gerry Goffin impacted the musical landscape with their creative genius, a story that lives on in a Broadway show coming to Scranton next week.
“Beautiful — The Carole King Musical” takes over Scranton Cultural Center at The Masonic Temple, 420 N. Washington Ave., from Tuesday, May 8, through Sunday, May 13, for eight shows thanks to Broadway Theatre League of Northeastern Pennsylvania.
The show traces King’s career as a songwriter and her relationship, both romantic and professional, with Goffin, as well as her coming into her own as a performer. The pair wrote numerous songs other performers made famous, and many, such as “The Locomotion,” appear in the musical. The first time King sits down at the piano and sings “Will You Love Me Tomorrow,” tour star Andrew Brewer said, he can hear the audience trying to sing along.
“And the show is kind of full of those moments, especially (in) the first act, of ‘I didn’t know they wrote that’ and ‘I didn’t know they wrote that,’” he added. “It’s all these recognizable songs that we think of as (belonging to) these other groups, and then … it shows up that it’s (King).” 
King wrote “Will You Love Me Tomorrow” as a 17-year-old, and she and Goffin followed it with numerous hits for such acts as the Drifters, the Righteous Brothers and Herman’s Hermits. She began recording her own vocals, too, and her 1971 solo album, “Tapestry,” won her four Grammy awards, including best record, song and pop vocal performance (female) as well as album of the year. She has released numerous platinum and gold albums through the years and was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1987.
Brewer, who plays Goffin in the tour, has had a chance to see King in person a few times when she has come backstage, and he called her “very sweet.” Her story has been part of his life for several years, going back to his job as a swing — a cast member who can step into various roles when needed — on the Broadway production, which continues to run in New York City. Brewer then moved on to the national tour, where he worked his way up to the role of King’s ex-husband and songwriting partner.
The experience let him see multiple actors’ takes on the role and learn “what sort of worked with audiences or what didn’t work with audiences and kind of build my own version of that.”
It can be a tough role, too, “because he’s the catalyst for a lot of things happening in sort of a negative way,” Brewer said.
“I try to get you on his side as much as possible at the beginning and to understand and make clear that they were in love,” he said. “Despite the mistakes that he makes … through it all, he did care. And that’s the one thing I want to make sure is as clear as possible. He’s not just a bad guy doing bad stuff to be mean.”
The show has so much emotion and relatability, Brewer noted, with many moments people have all experienced, such as the fear of losing love that “Will You Love Me Tomorrow” emphasizes.
“That’s what makes the song so powerful, and the melodies play into that,” he said. “And (King and Goffin) were such a great team. … It really shows through the notes why they’ve remained so popular through the years.”
Brewer hopes that, at the bare minimum, audiences “just have a good evening” when they come to see “Beautiful.” They will hear King’s songs in context and see what the songwriters thought of as they penned them, he said. And the musical “ends on a very high note,” he added.
“It’s a very fun show,” Brewer said. “It has some heavier moments, and I think what’s surprising to a lot of people is, while it is whatever we call a ‘jukebox musical’ … there is a great story behind it that I don’t think a lot of people know.”


Evening of Fine Food and Wine unites culture, culinary arts

Evening of Fine Food and Wine unites culture, culinary arts

Take a tour of a historic Scranton landmark and the flavors of Northeast Pennsylvania all in one night.
The annual Evening of Fine Food and Wine returns for an 18th edition on Sunday, April 29, at 5:30 p.m. at Scranton Cultural Center at The Masonic Temple, 420 N. Washington Ave., in whose unique rooms guests will sample dishes from several local restaurants.
The $100 ticket gains each audience member of sampling of food from such spots as Fire and Ice on Toby Creek, Kingston Twp., and Hilton Scranton and Conference Center, Radisson at Lackawanna Station hotel and Montage Mountain Resorts, all in Scranton. Proceeds benefit the cultural center.
“It’s so important, because this is the most beautiful building in Scranton, and we need to preserve it,” said Elizabeth Murray, event co-chairwoman.
Kenny McGraw will provide music during cocktail hour, and groups then will visit rooms across the cultural center where chefs will serve tasting portions and wine. will speak with the audience about the dishes as they prepare them, and members of local media — including Times-Tribune reporters Gia Mazur and Patrice Wilding and newspaper librarian Brian Fulton — will provide background on the facility’s history.
“It’s great for the community,” Hilton chef Donnie Schmidt said, adding that the event lets the chefs break out of their “everyday routine,” too. “It definitely gives us a different outlook to the day.” 
Schmidt and Radisson chef Chris Chludzinski still were deciding on what dinner entrees to serve as of last week, while Fire and Ice chef Gary Edwards looks to make an oxtail ragu with quail hash. Wines will accompany the dishes, but event co-chairman John Murray guests also can enjoy beer pairings and cocktails that night.
Electric City Roasting Co., meanwhile, will prepare batch brews of hot coffee in addition to having cold-brew coffee on tap as guests try desserts and listen to music from the Wanabees, said Kyle Mervau, the company’s director of products.
While Montage Mountain participated in the event previously, this marks chef Tony Mendicino’s first time cooking for it. He plans to prepare a Bailey’s panacotta with Jameson salted caramel for what he expects to be a large crowd.
“(It’s) definitely going to be a good time, a great benefit,” he said.
The chefs also enjoy the camaraderie with their peers the night provides, Chludzinski noted, and he enjoys seeing familiar faces coming back year after year. Edwards said he enjoys sharing his knowledge with the patrons and connecting the culinary arts with the other arts at the cultural center, “such a wonderful facility.”
“I think they go hand in hand,” he said.
Organizers recommend guests buy tickets in advance. John Murray said they are selling fast, and only a limited amount are available.
“It’s the best event anybody will ever attend,” he said.


Show of talent PSU displays range of musical groups, styles with free performance

Show of talent PSU displays range of musical groups, styles with free performance

A free concert will show off Penn State Worthington Scranton’s growing music program and its wide range of musical styles this weekend.
Worthington Scranton Chorale, the Roc[k]tet show choir and Campus Jazz Band all will perform in the college’s annual spring concert Saturday, April 21, at 4 p.m. at the Theater at North, 1539 N. Main Ave., Scranton.
Sharon Ann Toman, director of music and assistant teaching professor in music, began holding the spring concerts a few years after she joined the staff in 2000. The groups performed on campus on many years, but as the years went on, the groups grew and so did the audiences for the shows. The campus auditorium can accommodate 200 people, and after the concert reached capacity two years ago, Toman knew they needed a new venue. They shifted to the Theater at North in 2017 and packed that, too, she said.


Toman has watched the groups grow since she arrived, with the chorus up to 40 members from just a dozen back then. The band, too, started small but has grown to about 20 to 25 members, she added. Some faculty and staff also sing in the chorus and play in band, which Toman called “nice because then faculty and students and staff can interact.”
“All of them have a love for music,” Toman said of her students. “They like to sing; they like to play. … I always say we work hard but we also laugh hard.
“The rehearsals are interesting. They’re light-hearted, and the students have a good time, and I think that’s important. And above everything else, while they’re having a good time, they’re learning.”
In Saturday’s four-part concert, audiences will hear the eight-member mixed show choir perform “How Far I’ll Go” from the Disney cartoon “Moana,” “Stand by Me” and “Forget You.” The chorale, a mixed chorus of about 40 voices, will perform a traditional spiritual, “Peace Like a River”; “Candle on the Water,” from “Pete’s Dragon”; Josh Groban’s “You Raise Me Up” and Billy Joel’s “It’s Still Rock and Roll to Me.”
“We do fun stuff. … And of course we always sing the Penn State alma mater,” Toman said.
The 25-piece campus jazz band, meanwhile, will play “everything and anything” from “Smoke on the Water” to the Blues Brothers, Toman said. 
“They play about seven songs, which is enough to show off their talents,” she added.
Under the direction of Deano Noto, Abington Heights Middle School’s eighth-grade chorus also will perform at the concert, continuing a tradition Worthington Scranton began three years ago when it invited a local school group to perform, too. The choir will perform two songs on its own and then join the college performers for a patriotic song.
People sometimes are surprised to hear Worthington Scranton has such a thriving music program, Toman said, “because when you think of music in higher-education places, you really think of Marywood (University) as well as the University of Scranton.” But her students can stand on level with those music students, she insisted.
“The unique spin on this is the fact that none of these students are music majors,” Toman said. “They could be science, they could be English, they could be business. They’re all from different majors. I don’t have music majors on campus. I’m a graduate (of) Marywood, (and my students) can keep up with the people from Marywood and the University of Scranton. I’m very blessed with a lot of talent here on campus.”

Razzle dazzle ‘Chicago’ returns to Scranton with ‘All That Jazz’ and more

Razzle dazzle ‘Chicago’ returns to Scranton with ‘All That Jazz’ and more

Walter Bobbie knows just a bit about Scranton, Broadway and all that jazz.
Well, maybe more.
Since making his way to New York City decades ago after graduating from University of Scranton, the Tony Award-winning city native built a resume full of starring roles and star-making directorial efforts, including 1996’s Broadway revival of “Chicago,” which continues to run there.
Legendary choreographer and actor Bob Fosse staged the original “Chicago” on Broadway in 1975. It ran for two years, but the revival has completed nearly 9,000 performances, won six Tonys — including one for Bobbie’s directing — and is the longest-running American musical in Broadway history. This weekend, Broadway Theatre League of Northeastern Pennsylvania brings the national tour back to Scranton for five shows from Friday, April 13, through Sunday, April 15, at Scranton Cultural Center at The Masonic Temple, 420 N. Washington Ave.
Bobbie, 72, had hoped to visit to his hometown “to be able to share the moment” with the “Chicago” audience, but his return to the Broadway spotlight — portraying Peter Cauchon, Bishop of Beauvais, in “Saint Joan” — prevents that. The play about St. Joan of Arc — whose cast also includes Condola Rashad and Jack Davenport — opens Wednesday, April 25, at Samuel J. Friedman Theatre, 261 W. 47th St., New York City.
The grandson of Polish coal miners, Bobbie described his beginnings in Scranton as modest. He and his family moved out of the city when he was about 11, but Bobbie returned to study at University of Scranton. During a trip to the 1964 World’s Fair in New York City, he saw “How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying” on Broadway and thought, “I’m coming back here. This is what I want to do.”
“Saint Joan” marks Bobbie’s first Broadway acting gig since he played Nicely-Nicely Johnson in the early ’90s’ “Guys and Dolls” revival. His career there began with 1971’s musical “Frank Merriwell” and picked up speed when he originated the role of Roger in “Grease” in 1972.
Bobbie acted in several other productions in the ensuing years but also developed a desire to direct. He helmed little projects here and there, he said, and conceived and directed the Tony-nominated musical revue “A Grand Night for Singing.”
“Nothing’s overnight,” Bobbie said. “It’s just that sometimes you have the opportunity to really leap forward in a way you couldn’t have planned or imagined or dreamed.”
He started directing for the “City Center’s Encores!” concert series and became its artistic director. After he directed “Chicago” for the series, he said, it “took off like a rocket”and moved to Broadway within a year.
At the time, the O.J. Simpson murder trial had recently transfixed the nation, which Bobbie felt made “Chicago’s” story of the interplay of crime and fame timely. And that “topic has never gone away,” he added, enabling “Chicago’s” record-breaking run. While the 1970s version came across as more of a satire and indictment of America’s judicial system, Bobbie said, today the story seems like “more of a documentary.”
“Basically, it’s about getting away with murder,” he said. “It’s about the use and abuse of celebrity. … As much as it is a lot of razzle-dazzle and a lot of toe-tapping, it also leaves your mind engaged.”
Bobbie and Ann Reinking — who starred as Roxie Hart in the original show and the revival, which she also choreographed — wanted to honor Fosse’s “theatrical imagination” but not replicate his ’70s version, Bobbie said. The pair started by reworking three major numbers, such as by making “Cell Block Tango” look “like one of those great Fosse chair numbers,” Bobbie explained.
“I think that one of the nicest things that’s ever been said to me (was) by the great agent of Sam Cohn. … He said, ‘If Fosse was alive today, this is how he would do it,” Bobbie said.
Eager to direct, Bobbie did not think about the show’s potential success at the time but rather his commitment to things and how they stimulate the imagination.
“(Scenic designer John Lee Beatty) and I decided early on … that we wanted to put the band in a jury box on stage,” he said. “We compressed them. Everybody should be trapped in this show. We continued to use visual metaphors that kept informing our process. And then we had all this joyous music with this singular dance vocabulary.”
Paulette Merchel — Marywood University’s former theater program director, chair of Broadway Theater’s education committee and a relative of Bobbie’s by marriage — said tears filled her eyes the first time she saw “Chicago” on Broadway, in part because it put into perspective all Bobbie had achieved. Bobbie presented “Chicago” in a more abstract, minimalist way that “makes you stop and think,” Merchel said.
“To see something that from the first moment was exciting and fresh and different and compelling and contemporary,” she said. “I appreciated it immediately as a new era. He was part of a new era of getting the message through musical comedy out in such a different way.”
The public tells whether a show succeeds, Bobbie said, and they certainly did that with “Chicago.” Besides running for decades in New York, it spawned several tours and an Oscar-winning film adaptation.
Since earning his Tony, Bobbie has gone on to direct such Broadway shows as “Sweet Charity,” “Irving Berlin’s White Christmas,” “Footloose” and Steve Martin’s “Bright Star.”
“I feel blessedly part of the theater community, and I have since I got here,” Bobbie said. “I don’t know how that happened. I got off the bus and started working. If they wanted to get rid of me, they missed their shot 40 years ago.” 

Bobbie has returned to Scranton through the years and said he feels honored to know the community has supported him during his career.
“All I can say is that if you’re in Scranton and you’re interested in the arts, stay there, make a difference in the arts, or do what I did and follow your dream. … I’ve been all over the planet because of ‘Chicago’ alone, (not) including my other work,” he said. “It’s important when you’re in Scranton to dream big, and if not, stay in Scranton and make a difference, because it’s a remarkable community.”

If you go
What: “Chicago,” presented by Broadway Theatre League of Northeastern Pennsylvania
When: Friday, April 13, 8 p.m.; Saturday, April 14, 2 and 8 p.m.; and Sunday, April 15, 1 and 6:30 p.m.
Where: Scranton Cultural Center at The Masonic Temple, 420 N. Washington Ave.
Details: Tickets cost $42 to $77 and are available at the box office, and 800-745-3000. For more information, visit

What: “Saint Joan,” starring Scranton native Walter Bobbie
When: Now in previews; show officially opens Wednesday, April 25
Where: Samuel J. Friedman Theatre, 261 W. 47th St., New York City
Details: Tickets cost $65 to $145 and are available at For more information, visit


Dance workshop and talkback
Broadway Theater League of Northeastern Pennsylvania will offer a jazz dance workshop with members of “Chicago’s” touring company Saturday, April 14, from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at Ballet Theatre of Scranton’s studio, 310 Penn Ave. The program is open to intermediate and advance student dancers and dance teachers. Admission is $25 and includes a ticket to that day’s 2 p.m. “Chicago” performance. Reservations are required by today and can be made by calling Broadway Theatre League’s office at 570-342-7784.
Following that 2 p.m. show, Toyota of Scranton will present a talk-back with “Chicago” representatives in the Scranton Cultural Center theater. The free talk-back is open to workshop students and anyone from the public who wants to stay after the performance.

Chillin’ Out: Annual Lake Wallenpaupack winter festival returns with frozen fun

Chillin’ Out: Annual Lake Wallenpaupack winter festival returns with frozen fun

Bundle up to tee up at Wally Ice Fest.
Looking to return after two years of warm weather prevented the festivities, the event features not only a golf tournament but also a pond hockey competition, golf-ball driving contest and curling demonstrations, all on the frozen surface of Lake Wallenpaupack.
Activities run Saturday, Jan. 27, and Sunday, Jan. 28, on the ice outside Silver Birches, 205 Route 507, and the Boat House Restaurant, 141 Route 507, both in Palmyra Twp.
While a lack of enough ice kept the festival from going forward in recent years, this winter’s cold snap froze about a foot of the lake’s surface heading into last week’s warmer weather, said Keith Williams, Lake Wallenpaupack Visitors Center manager and one of the event organizers.
“Granted, ice doesn’t form uniformly across the entire lake, but it’s a really good start to the season. … We keep a close watch on it, so ideally we’re looking for 10 inches of ice for safety, to be able to handle the activity that we have planned on the ice,” he said.
If the lake does not freeze, enough, however, the pond hockey tournament and curling demonstrations will be moved to nearby Promised Land State Park for the weekend (the golf tournament and driving contest would be canceled). Organizers used to set aside an alternative date for the festival later in the season in the event of low ice levels, but with hockey players coming from outside the area to participate, Williams said, “it’s real difficult to shift people’s vacation schedule to accommodate” another date.
Under current plans, the adult pond hockey tournament will take place both days, and teams will play four-on-four games with two 15-minute periods and a five-minute intermission. Registration is $360 per team of four to six players, and teams are matched against one another based on skill level. Organizers will set up two rinks outside Silver Birches and four by the Boat House.
Long organized by Chamber of the Northern Poconos, the Ice Tee Golf Tournament runs Saturday from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and Sunday from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., and participants can register in advance for $20 and each day for $25.
“Sunday’s going to be the bigger day,” Williams said. “We’ll have some kind of prizes with craziest sled, craziest hat, those types of things.”
Golfers will compete on one of two nine-hole courses outside Silver Birches, where they will tee off from an artificial green and aim for a Christmas tree marking each extra-large hole (which do not go all the way through the ice).
Golfers will receive a colored golf ball, scorecard and map and should bring two clubs plus a putter.
“You don’t need any special shoes, although we recommend people dressing warm,” Williams said.
Throughout the weekend, Anthracite Curling Club of Wilkes-Barre will give free demonstrations of the Olympic sport near the Boat House and let visitors try it as well.
“That’s kind of another unique piece to (the weekend),” Williams said.
On Sunday, visitors can see how close they can hit a golf ball to a 6-foot-tall snowman dubbed Wally in a driving contest benefiting the chamber. The three hitters who come closest win prizes.
“You don’t have to play golf (in the tournament) to do that,” Williams said. “You can go down and just try.”
Participants and spectators are encouraged to park at lots off Route 507 across from Tanglwood Resort; East Shore Lodging, 2487 Route 6; the visitors center, 2512 Route 6; and Wallenpaupack Area High School, 2552 Route 6, all in Palmyra Twp., and take the shuttle bus to both event locations, since the restaurants have spaces reserved for patrons. Organizers estimate the trip will take about five minutes between each stop.
Visitors can watch the on-ice activities for free, and Williams said the festival also gives guests a chance to dine at local restaurants, visit cultural sites such as the Sculpted Ice Works Factory Tour & Ice Harvest Museum in Lakeville, which will provide ice sculptures at each tee and an ice bar at Silver Birches, plus other winter activities in an area known as a summer destination.
“We’ve got really great restaurants and pubs, and this is a really great way to bring business … to those folks,” he said.

If you go
What: Wally Ice Fest, featuring pond hockey and Ice Tee Golf tournaments and curling demonstrations
When: Saturday, Jan. 27, and Sunday, Jan. 28
Where: The Dock on Wallenpaupack and Silver Birches, 205 Route 507, Palmyra Twp., and The Boat House Restaurant, 141 Route 507, Palmyra Twp.
Details: Participation costs $360 per hockey team, and $20 in advance and $25 the day of the event for the golf tournament. Register for the adult pond hockey and Ice Tee Golf tournaments online at Curling demonstrations are free.


Frozen festivity ShiverFest features kayak race, Thaw Party

Frozen festivity ShiverFest features kayak race, Thaw Party

Recent sub-zero temperatures could have kayakers shivering even more than usual at an annual wintertime race down the Lackawanna River.
That is, if they can even get down the river at all.
As long as ice that has built up along the Scranton section of the river breaks, the annual ShiverFest Extreme Kayak/Canoe Race will go on as planned on Saturday, Jan. 13, said Bernard McGurl, executive director of Lackawanna River Conservation Association, which runs the event. This month’s cold snap froze parts of the river, putting kayakers in danger of getting tossed into the water if they hit ice and then getting washed under the solid surface, but he said warmer temperatures expected this week could melt it.
“We’re going to hold judgment until the morning of the event,” McGurl said. “People will show up, and we’ll scout the whole course.”
Should the weather cooperate, the race will begin at noon at the Parker Street landing, travel 3 miles down the river and end around 12:35 or 12:40 p.m. at Sweeney’s Beach, about 1,000 feet downstream of Poplar Street, where the association will have a bonfire.
The race is “mostly for fun,” McGurl said, but the association does time it and give out prizes to the top three finishers. Each participant this year will receive a clear plastic, waterproof bag they can use to keep their cell phones dry while on the water. 
Racers must be at least 18, wear a personal flotation device and bring their own kayak or canoe. Helmets are not mandatory, but the association strongly suggests racers wear wetsuits.
“If you’re just coming out in casual fall attire like blue jeans or something like that or a Polartec sweater, it’s not going to cut it,” McGurl said. “You’re going to be dead in 10 minutes.”
The $30 race fee also includes a ticket to the Thaw Party, which runs from 1 to 4 p.m. at Backyard Ale House, 523 Linden St., Scranton, and features music from DJ Jack Martin, food, beer and other activities. Watching the race is free, and non-racers can pay $20 to attend the party.
Racers can register in advance on the association website,, or at the launch site that day. Should the association cancel the event, those who registered in advance will receive refunds unless they want to attend the Thaw Party, which will go on no matter what the weather.
Proceeds from ShiverFest benefit the association and the work it does to support the Lackawanna River.
“If you are a kayaker and you’ve done some wintertime kayaking, it’s a great opportunity to enjoy some camaraderie with a larger group of people who are so inclined,” McGurl said. “We have several family groups that come, and the cultural aspect of costuming themselves with all kinds of accoutrements and masks. … It’s pretty colorful site for some of the participants.”

If you go
What: ShiverFest Extreme Kayak/Canoe Race
When: Saturday, Jan. 13, noon
Where: Parker Street landing to Sweeney’s Beach on the Lackawanna River, Scranton
Details: Racers must be 18 or older, wear a personal flotation device and provide their own kayak or canoe. Wetsuits are strongly recommended. Proceeds benefit Lackawanna River Conservation Association.

What: ShiverFest Thaw Party
When: Saturday, Jan. 13, 1 to 4 p.m.
Where: Backyard Ale House, 523 Linden St., Scranton

Race entry is $30 and includes a ticket to the post-race Thaw Party. Watching the race is free. Tickets for the party only are $20 and include food, drinks and entertainment. Proceeds benefit Lackawanna River Conservation Association. Visit for tickets. For more information, call 570-347-6311 or visit

Mid-East Feast-Downtown Scranton eatery prides itself on serving authentic Middle-Eastern cuisine from original family recipes

Mid-East Feast-Downtown Scranton eatery prides itself on serving authentic Middle-Eastern cuisine from original family recipes

Hamid Azizi turned to family recipes passed down among generations when he opened the Gyroz Club earlier this year.

Originally from Afghanistan, Azizi came in 2003 to Scranton, where other family members had settled. He works full-time as a supervisor at Americold in Gouldsboro but decided to open a restaurant after noticing a lack of options for people seeking kosher and halal foods locally.

Azizi and his family members have experience working in restaurant kitchens and have several cousins who own their own eateries around the country. He added his own to the fold in February when the Gyroz Club opened at 111 Wyoming Ave., the former spot of Curry Donuts.

“I saw this place was empty, vacant, for a while, and it was downtown, so it was a good opportunity,” Azizi said.

His wife, Nazifah Shah; his brother-in-law, Habib Mirzaye; his brothers and other family members all have full-time jobs, some in the medical field, but pitch in at the restaurant whenever and wherever they can, from the kitchen to the front counter. The dishes come from family recipes passed down from one generation to the next, making for a true Middle-Eastern taste that customers would find Azizi enjoying at home.

“It’s family-run, authentic,” he said. “Everything is homemade.”

The menu includes beef and chicken kabobs that all come with basmati rice he buys specially — customers can have the meat skewered or served over the rice — along with a garden salad, bread and white sauce, which Azizi calls “magic sauce.” He makes it with cucumbers, yogurt and other “secret ingredients” for what he described as a tasty, healthy combination. A Family Platter of kabobs serves four people.

On the gyro side, customers can pick from beef, chicken, vegetable, and a chicken and beef combo, all served in grilled pitas Azizi gets from a specialty store in New Jersey. They come with tzatziki, white and hot sauces, lettuce, fries and a drink.

Sandwiches, meanwhile, come with fries and a drink and include a Kabob Sandwich (marinated beef or chicken served on a pita with fried onions, grilled tomatoes, lettuce and tzatziki sauce) as well as more traditional American fare, such as the Philly Cheesesteak, Hot Wing Sub, Cheeseburger, Chicken Tenders and Hot Dog.

Customers can add on sides of rice in two sizes or fries, and then finish their meal with baklava.

Azizi shops at local grocery stores each morning to gather ingredients for the day’s dishes. The restaurant marinates its meats overnight and then slow-roasts it on a spit, shaving it off as it cooks.

“Everything is fresh,” Azizi said. “It’s not frozen or cold.”

He said he keeps his prices reasonable and serves the food fast. People from around the region have dined there, and the restaurant already has several regulars, including a family that told him they used to travel to New Jersey to get food like his. Now, they walk from their home in South Scranton.

“It gave me pride to give back something for the community,” Azizi said.

He made a few upgrades to the property when he took over, adding televisions and artwork his uncle made. Beyond the food, he and his family emphasize their heritage through music playing in the restaurant and art depicting their village back home.

The restaurant has booth seating for customers dining-in, and Azizi said it pulls in the downtown work crowd for weekday lunches and lots of families at dinner. It also offers takeout and delivers to Scranton and Dunmore with a $20 minimum order. The restaurant offers catering, too.

Azizi plans to make a few more upgrades inside the restaurant and hopes to expand to more locations one day. He has received positive feedback so far.

“The quality talks itself,” he said. “We try to keep it that way. (The food) is a bit different.”

His brother, Abdul Azizi, a nurse and former chef, described his brother as someone who embraces the community, from offering food to a homeless person who came by to a few moments of warmth inside the restaurant for people attending events downtown. Starting the business took a lot of courage and dedication, Abdul Azizi said, and his brother’s customers are there to support him.

“The guy’s got a heart of gold,” he said. “A lot of people won’t do that.”

Scranton is his home now, Hamid Azizi said, and a great place to raise his two young daughters, who’ll one day learn those family recipes.

“It’s our duty, our responsibility, to pass it on to the next generation,” he said.