Arts Around Town

Arts Around Town: Civic Theatre's '9 to 5 The Musical' tackles struggles in workplace

Three women just trying to do their job, but with a sexist, egotistical, lying, hypocritical, bigot boss who stands in their way, it's time for takeover in the workplace. The action is hilarious and, though set in the late 1970s, there's a message to be gotten in Civic Theatre's production of "9 to 5 The Musical," running through February 26 at the historic 19th Street Theatre in Allentown.

With music and lyrics by Dolly Parton, the musical is based on the 1980 hit film starring Parton as Doralee Rhodes, Jane Fonda as Judy Bernly, and Lily Tomlinson as Violet Newstead. These three unlikely friends unwittingly kidnap their sexist, egotistical, lying, hypocritical, bigot boss, Franklin Hart Jr., played by Dabney Coleman, and take over the office with extraordinary results.

Civic's artistic director, William Sanders, who directed and co-choreographed the Civic production with Mariel Letournaeu, said the show has been referred to as "a feminist workplace revenge story."

"These three ladies, while so completely different, form a bond and a common goal," Sanders said. "They're not so different after all; the struggles they face in the workplace are the same, and that goes beyond these three – the musical touches on issues like challenges of daycare, equal-pay-for-equal-work, women trying to succeed in a man's world, or 'boy's club' environment.

"While the story approaches these issues in a whimsical way," he continued, "we need to remember that these women were raised in a culture where little girls were encouraged to grow up, get married and raise a family. We are reminded that they were trailblazers, having to overcome an incredible and tremendously solid glass ceiling."

As for a message from the musical, Sanders said, "While the war is not over, the many battles and obstacles that were faced in the past, were won by women of substance and strength – overcomers!"

The Civic cast includes Jan Labellarte as Violet Newstead, Kathleen Oswalt as Doralee Rhodes, Nina Elias as Judy Bernly, and Robert Trexler as Franklin Hart Jr.

Musical director is Steve Reisteter, with costume/lighting designer Will Morris, technical director Alex Michaels, set designers Alex Michaels and Marilyn Loose, and scenic artist Jan Joyce.

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A concert fundraiser, "Jakopa's Punch Bowl," will be held Saturday from 7 to 10 p.m., at the Charles A. Brown IceHouse, 56 River Street, Bethlehem, in support of Touchstone Theatre's free, outdoor summer theater spectacular, "The Jakopa's Punch Processional," premiering July 14-15.

Saturday's Mardi Gras-themed event will feature local bands performing 're-imaginings' of classic pop hits, and New Orleans-style lite fare and drink. Bands are Jakopa's Punch, The Bastard Sons of Burt Sugarman, hosted by Mike Roi and Carter Lansing, and The Charts Funk Band with students from Lehigh Valley Charter High School for the Arts.

The summer processional show, described as part circus, part rock concert, part parade, and part puppet show, is designed as an outdoor spectacle that follows the musician characters from the Jakopa's Punch band in a traveling performance running along the South Bethlehem Greenway behind Touchstone's home theater located at 321 East Fourth St., Bethlehem.

James P. Jordan, Touchstone's artistic director, hopes the event will offer the community "an opportunity to experience joy and revelry together and to both literally and figuratively dance in the streets."

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"Once On This Island," a Caribbean adaptation of the popular fairy tale, "The Little Mermaid," will be presented February 23-27, in Samuels Theatre at Cedar Crest College in Allentown.

This family-friendly musical involves peasant girl Ti Moune, who rescues wealthy boy Daniel from the other side of the island and winds up falling in love with him. Unbeknownst to her, the pompous gods who preside over the island make a bet on which is stronger, love or death, the stakes being Ti Moune's life.

The production features Cedar Crest students and community actors Ted Williams, Jonathon Krippe, Christopher Ryland, Don Phillip Markley, Ben Yenser, Emma Engler, and Ashley Rehrig.

Director is Lehigh Valley veteran actress/director JoAnn Wilchek Basist. Choreographer is Robin Gerchman, with musical direction by Brian Foley.

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Lehigh Valley's Grammy Award-nominated songwriter and former "American Idol" contestant Ian Holmes is launching the "Sing the Dream" vocal competition with a live showcase on February 24 from 7 to 9 p.m., at St. James AME Zion Church, 410 West Union Street, Allentown.

According to a news release, contestants will be required to read the "I Have a Dream" speech by the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and share in 100 words or less, along with their three-minute vocal entry (due this Monday), "how they intend to utilize their talent as a tool for justice and to unite people of every race, color, and creed."

The release further reads, "All contestants will be united as a multicultural volunteer team that will serve local charities and nonprofits, regardless of the contest winners, everyone will 'win,' because everyone can serve."

Local celebrity judges are Elizabeth Strong, owner of Elizabeth Anthony's Beauty Salon in Allentown and lead hair coordinator for Lehigh Valley Fashion Week; Deborah D'Haiti, theater performer recognized throughout the region, and Kimberly Holmes, owner of Kimprint Web and Graphic Design, who handles social media campaigns for international artists, authors and product launches.

Host is Kari Holmes, sister of Ian Holmes and pastor, speaker, gospel singer, and performer.

Ian Holmes currently tours with Latin Grammy-winning band, Camila.

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A re-imagined Act 1 production of Arthur Miller’s powerful drama, "The Crucible," opens Wednesday and runs through March 5 on the Main Stage of the Labuda Center for the Performing Arts at DeSales University in Center Valley, Lehigh County.

Associate professor of theater Steven Dennis, director, offers a new take with "what might we discover if we lifted the story out of the Salem of 1692, and created a world borrowing from past, present, and future? We hope that this might lend itself towards an audience experiencing the piece, not as a historic play, but as one with universal themes that explore the human condition."

"The Crucible" takes place in the deeply religious community of Salem, headed by local pastor Rev. Parris, whose daughter Betty has fallen ill after having been caught dancing in the woods with a group of other young girls. Rumors of witchcraft spread through the community, as paranoia and panic run rampant.

Scenic designer is Will Neuert; guest costume designer is Deborah Burrill, and light and sound designer is Elizabeth Elliott.

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Bruce Norris' Tony Award-winning play, "Clybourne Park," opens February 24 and runs through March 4, presented by Lehigh University's Department of Theatre in Diamond Theater at the Zoellner Arts Center in Bethlehem.

The satiric comedy takes a fascinating look at how we talk about, or avoid talking about, race in America. Using Lorraine Hansberry's "A Raisin in the Sun" as a jumping-off point, the setting is 1959 as a black family moves into a white neighborhood in Chicago. Act two shows the same house in 2009, as gentrification sets in and the roles are reversed.

Director is Kashi Johnson, an associate professor of theatre at Lehigh. The cast includes Lehigh students Donavon Harris '19, Becca Fryer '17, Paige Haperman '19, Jack Scott '19, Dabney Brice '17, Zach Caruso '16, and '17G and Zoellner staff member Matt Faragasso.

Scenic designer is Mellie Katakalos, sound designer Andrew Nelson, and lighting designers Jen Reiser and Olivia Pinio '17. Andrew Southard is technical director; Debra Nyby is stage manager.

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Want to know "How to Be a Cat?" It's the new book by

writer and artist Pamela Hodges, who provides a 15-step plan on how to leave the rat race and become a cat. A book release and signing will be held Friday from 5 to 8 p.m., at an opening reception for Studio B Fine Art Gallery's annual show, "Muse," combining visual and literary art. The exhibit runs until March 12.

Hodges said she was "just the typist" for the book and credits her late cat, "Pooh Hodges," as the author. The book features a certificate of completion, cat diary pages, and several paper cut-out costume pages. She recommends the reading for "Type A friends and family members in search of greater balance in their lives." Illustrations from the book will be available.

Also at the reception will be a booklet of prose, poetry, and illustrations by local writers and artists. It was edited by Jane Stahl, the studio’s Director of Community Relations, and designed by Susan Biebuyck, gallery director.
Studio B Fine Art Gallery is located at 39A East Philadelphia Avenue, Boyertown, Berks County.

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The Acopian Ballroom of the State Theatre in Easton will be the scene of a special performance by local musicians on February 24 at 7:30 p.m. Proceeds will benefit the State Theatre.

Forlorn Strangers, a quintet based out of Nashville, has its music rooted in family harmonies and flavored with guitars, banjo, mandolin, fiddle, dobro, and foot-stomping percussion. Members are sisters Abigail Dempsey and Hannah Dempsey Lusk, Chris Banke, Benjamin Lusk, and Jesse Thompson, who hails from Easton.

The band is set to release a self-titled, debut full-length album, "Forlorn Strangers," on August 5, recorded at John Prine's Nashville studio, The Butcher Shoppe, and produced by Grammy winner Phil Madeira.

Sharing the stage will be special guests, local acoustic rock duo, Blue Jean, with singer-guitarist Chris Hallett and bassist Dustin Schoof. Blue Jean combines the pop sensibility of Weezer with the melodic touch of Spill Canvas and the bright hue of New Found Glory and Jimmy Eat World.

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