Arts Around Town

Arts Around Town: Quakertown's Mark Edwards plays home with 'Beauty and the Beast'

There is beauty in playing the beast. Just ask Quakertown, Bucks County, native Mark Edwards who's doing just that plus more in the current national tour of Disney's "Beauty and the Beast," headed for Easton's State Theatre on Tuesday and Wednesday with 7 p.m. performances.

Edwards, 28, is a member of the ensemble as well as an understudy for both the lead role of the Beast and local hunter/town hero Gaston. He's been touring since last September with the NETworks Presentation of the classic story of Belle and the Beast with the theme of seeing past the exterior into the heart of someone. It's set to an Academy Award-winning score with music by Alan Menken and lyrics by the late Howard Ashman, with additional songs with music by Menken and lyrics by Tim Rice. The book is written by Linda Woolverton. This is the fourth national tour under the direction of the original Broadway creative team and with all new sets and costumes.

With two more weeks left in the tour after Easton before it takes a hiatus, Edwards said he's looking forward to some down time but until then, he's just as excited to be performing on home turf knowing that family and friends will be in the audience. Among those attending will be his parents, Phil and Pat Edwards, and older brother, Matt, a teacher at Wilson Area High School near Easton.

Edwards is a 2003 graduate of Quakertown Community High School, where he was active in the choir and the marching band, under the direction of Andrew Yozviak. He also performed in the school musicals, playing the lead role of Bobby Child in "Crazy for You" in his senior year. He majored in music education at West Chester University but kept active in his first love, performing, with a season at the Bucks County Playhouse.  He also traveled the world performing on cruises with the Holland America Line. His television credits include "Law and Order: SUV," "The Following," and "The Newsroom."

Edwards said he's been fortunate enough to have played so many "wonderful" male leading roles, including Billy Flynn in "Chicago," Harold Hill in "The Music Man" and Sky Masterson in "Guys and Dolls."

"Being a part of ‘Beauty and the Beast' has been truly exhilarating," said Edwards, in a phone interview from his home in Quakertown where he's been spending a week off in his schedule. He's traveled the country with the tour hitting such cities as New Orleans, San Francisco, San Diego, Dallas and Philadelphia.

He said he can still hear his mother screaming in excitement over the phone when he told her the good news that he was hired for the show. He was on a crowded bus en route from New York City headed home when he got the call and, of course, he couldn't start screaming in his surroundings.

"My parents have always been supportive of me, and I have always been grateful for that," Edwards said. "When I got the chance to play the Beast in Oklahoma City, my mom and brother flew in to see the performance. That meant the world to me."

Edwards said he hopes the Easton audiences will leave "absolutely enthralled and swept away... It's not just a kids' show, but a neat show for all ages about seeing within the heart of someone. It's a theme that needs to be stressed more in the world."

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Nature photography is beautifully choreographed by Westwater Arts for the Reading Symphony Orchestra's final concert of its 101st subscription series season on Saturday at 8 p.m., at the Santander Performing Arts Center in Reading. The concert, set to Copland's "Appalachian Spring," also features Britten's "Four Sea Interludes" and Brahms' "Symphony No. 2."

Westwater Arts' Symphonic Photochoreography is described as an innovate art form connecting today's orchestras with today's audiences. Multi-image photographic essays are choreographed and performed live to selected works of classical music. Cues are picked up through the orchestra's performance of music, with no click track used. Thematically-related photographs are projected onto a 440-square-foot, three-panel, panoramic screen suspended above the orchestra.

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"Frank Lloyd Wright: Architecture of the Interior & The Art of Seating" exhibition opens at the Reading Public Museum on Saturday and runs through July 27. A special opening night reception will be held Friday from 5:30 to 7 p.m., where patrons can "meet and greet" Clark County (Nevada) Museum administrator and "Pawn Stars" go-to history expert, Mark Hall-Patton, along with a sneak preview of the exhibition.

"The Architecture of the Interior" portion includes 19 high-quality reproduction drawings, eight photographs and four photographic murals, with a view into Frank Lloyd Wright's creative conception of the interior spaces of his houses.

"The Art of Seating" portion presents a survey of exceptional chair design from the early 19th century to the present day. The chair is experienced not only as a functional item, but as sculptural in view – the chair as art. Each of the more than 50 chairs from around the world was chosen for their beauty and historical context with important social, economic, political and cultural influences.

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Pennsylvania Playhouse, Illicks Mill Road between Route 512 and Schoenersville Road, Bethlehem, will present Harper Lee's Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, "To Kill a Mockingbird," in a stage adaptation by Christopher Sergel, opening Friday through June 15. Director is George B. Miller.

In the sleepy town of Maycomb, Alabama, in 1935, the most excitement one could hope for was when Scout Finch and her brother, Jem, tried to catch a glimpse of their mysterious neighbor, the ghostly Boo Radley. The most excitement, that is, until their father, Atticus Finch, agrees to defend Tom Robinson, a black man falsely accused and arrested for attacking a white woman.

The cast includes Pat Kelly as Atticus Finch, Jonathan Krippe as Jem Finch, Jordyn Dauter as Scout Finch, Zane Child as Dill, Sonia Aviles as Calpurnia, Jeanie Olah as Maudie, Greg Rogers as Boo Radley, Troy Brokenshire as Bob Ewell, Katharine Mayk as Mayella, and Roy Shuler as Tom Robinson.

A rare visit by author Harper Lee, portrayed by seasoned actress Elizabeth McDonald, will be held at special pre-show performances on Friday, and June 8, 12 and 14. McDonald and director Miller create an intimate portrait of the often reclusive author, a chance to share in her memories not only of writing "Mockingbird" but of her childhood in Alabama, life in New York City, her adventures with Truman Capote, and much more, all shared with Southern wit and charm.

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Reading Civic Theatre (RCT), in conjunction with Berks Arts Council, is celebrating its 100th anniversary with a free concert on Friday at 7 p.m., at the Volunteer Firemen's Bandshell in City Park The musical extravaganza, written and directed by Ray Rhoads, will include music from numerous shows RCT/RCOS produced in celebration of one of Pennsylvania's oldest and still active theater organization. Rain date is Sunday at 3 p.m.

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The 23rd season of the Pennsylvania Shakespeare Festival includes two children's productions: "Cinderella" and "Shakespeare for Kids." "Cinderella," by Brandon E. McLauren and directed by Anne Lewis, opens Friday and runs through Aug. 2 at the Schubert Theatre at the Labuda Center for the Performing Arts on the campus of DeSales University in Center Valley. "Shakespeare for Kids," by Erin Sheffield and directed by Matt Pfeiffer, runs July 23-Aug. 2 on the main stage of the Labuda Center.

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History comes alive as the Bachmann Players present "The Founding of Easton, 1752," a dinner-theater presentation at the 1753 Bachmann Publick House on the northeast corner of Northampton and Second streets in Easton. The presentations will be held Friday and June 5 at 7 p.m. On hand will be "Father of Easton" William Parsons, friend Benjamin Franklin, plus other notables. Seating is limited.

The Bachmann Players group, with Artistic Director Christopher Black, is comprised of Easton-based amateur historians and actors who expand on the city's rich colonial history using letters, diaries, and other source materials in their recreations of the 1700s.

Proceeds benefit sponsor, the Northampton County Historical & Genealogical Society.

The 1753 Bachmann Publick House is the oldest remaining building in Easton, once serving as a tavern, court house, and the residence for George Taylor, one of the signers on the Declaration of Independence.

For further info: Sigal Museum, 610-253-1222.


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