Though it doesn't carry a Halloween theme, "there certainly are a lot of ghosts and spirits that roam the halls of Misselthwaite Manor. That's at least seasonal," said William Sanders, artistic director of the Civic Theatre of Allentown and director of its season opener, "The Secret Garden," beginning Friday and continuing through October 22.
"The Secret Garden" was written by British-U.S. playwright Frances Hodgson Burnett (1849-1924), who also wrote the classic children's novels, "Little Lord Fauntleroy" and "A Little Princess."
This Tony Award-winning musical version based on the beloved Victorian classic is described as an enchanting tale of transformation from darkness to light in the orphaned Mary and her journey from India to Misselthwaite Manor, the widowed Archibald, and the sickly Colin. It touches the heart and promises hope to those who believe that 'if you look the right way, you can see that the whole world is a garden' just waiting to bloom.
Sanders said the biggest challenge with the show was finding young people who were able to play the roles. The other was the music which, he said, "has been handled brilliantly by Frank Anonia" with a 15-piece orchestra.
The cast includes Gabrielle Vecciarelli as Mary Lennox, Will Morris as Archibald Craven, Nina Elias as Lily Craven, Brian Rock as Neville Craven, Elizabeth Stirba as Martha, Reese Diaz as Dickon, Ian Higgins as Colin Craven, Rachel Williams as Mrs. Medlock, Richard Director as Ben Weatherstaff, Elizabeth Marsh-Gilkeson as Rose Lennox, and Will Windsor Erwin as Captain Albert Lennox.
"Clearly we live in very troubled, divisive times and I think that 'The Secret Garden' is about finding what’s good in our world and in us and nurturing that," Sanders said. "I hope that we can find a way to do that in our country. I think most of the stories of redemption that came out of the Edwardian and Victorian periods are about how classist or how 'buttoned up' those societies were. It was a way of hopefully working away from that. Hopefully there’ll be more of that."
Sanders said he hopes Civic audiences leave "moved and inspired to spend more time with their family and to discover the goodness in the people around them." He said he chose the family-friendly musical "because of its themes of renewal and rebirth," citing Civic's upcoming renovation/restoration project in 2018.
Civic Theatre is marking its 90th anniversary celebration this year, with its iconic Nineteenth Street Theatre the focus of its current $5.5 million capital campaign, "The Next Act: Setting the Stage for the Future." The venue will close for renovation/restoration following December performances of "A Christmas Carol," with the second half of its season to be held at Cedar Crest College's Alumni Hall. Upcoming productions are "Rock of Ages" and "Prelude to a Kiss."
Footnote: Civic Theatre will celebrate its 90 years in the Lehigh Valley on October 27 from 7 to 10 p.m., at The NB Center for American Automotive Heritage in Allentown. Celebrity capital campaign co-chair is Christine Taylor, along with Sharon Lee Glassman. The event also will honor Sharon and her husband, Dr. Barry Glassman, for their nearly 40 years of service to Civic Theatre.
For further info: civictheatre.com
Blind Boy Paxton will perform at the sixth annual Arts Festival Reading at the GoggleWorks Center for the Arts on Sunday at 1 p.m., as part of the inaugural Reading Blues Fest. Arts Festival Reading has paired with the Berks Arts Council this year to present the national recording artist on the Sly Fox Stage. Paxton, a vocalist and multi-instrumentalist, draws from pre-World War II blues and jazz while being heavily influenced by Fats Waller and Blind Lemon Jefferson.
Other live music performances throughout the weekend include Jerrett and Lawrence Zeng, Skip Moyer, Andy Roberts Duo, Tom Shugar, Carl Zeplin, and Tim Gross.
Arts Festival Reading will run Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., featuring handcrafted items and unique artwork by more than 90 of the area’s finest artists and craft vendors. According to Levi Landis, the GoggleWorks' executive director, this is an exciting year of change for the event, as Arts Festival Reading founder Penny Golden and co-chair Ginny Hand transition their roles to a new team of leaders.
This year's focus is said to expand appreciation for the handmade through demonstration, which will be evident with participating artists presenting ongoing demonstrations of their technique in a variety of mediums. Several of the GoggleWorks' teaching studios will be open, as well as GoggleWorks artist-instructors with a pop-up shop and exhibition of their work.
Local designers from Saylor House and Sweetwater Design will present interior vignettes and offer professional guidance on how to incorporate original artwork and handmade items throughout the home.
The GoggleWorks is located at 201 Washington Street in Reading's Entertainment Square.
For further info: goggleworks.org
The Allentown Symphony Orchestra (ASO) classical series opens the season with "Opera Arias," with Metropolitan Opera star Angela Meade, soprano and John Matthew Myers, tenor, along with the Allentown Symphony Chorus on Saturday at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday at 3 p.m., at Miller Symphony Hall in Allentown. Conductor is Diane Wittry.
Meade, a native of Washington state, first appeared with the ASO on the 2008-09 Rising Stars Season program. An alumna of the Academy of Vocal Arts, she was the winner of the Metropolitan Opera's 2012 Beverly Sills Artist Award and the 2011 Richard Tucker Award.
She returns to Allentown with her husband, John Matthews Myers, also an acclaimed voice. He has performed with the Santa Fe Opera and the LA Opera and was a 2014 Los Angeles district winner in the Metropolitan Opera National Council auditions. He is an alumnus of the Manhattan School of Music.
The program will include selections by Verdi, Wagner, and Tchaikovsky. Opera arias will include Puccini's “La Boheme,” Tchaikovsky’s “Iolanta,” and Bellini’s “Norma.”
For further info: millersymphonyhall.org
The seventh annual Oktoberfest celebration kicks off Friday at 5 p.m., and continues through Sunday, then again October 13-15, at ArtsQuest's SteelStacks in Bethlehem.
The two weekends of fun include axe-wielding lumberjacks of the Great Lakes Timber Show, local artisans, wiener dog races, The Hasselhoff-Off, glass-blowing demonstrations with ArtsQuest glass studio artists, Kinderland for kids, and more.
Hours are Friday from 5 to 10 p.m., Saturday from noon to 10 p.m., and Sunday from noon to 6 p.m.
For further info: steelstacks.org
Hard to believe our Prince is no longer with us, but his music will certainly live on as long as The Purple Xperience tribute band continues to tour the land. This five-piece band brings the memories of Prince and The Revolution to the State Theatre in Easton on Saturday at 8 p.m.
Front-man Marshall Charloff, whose group hails from Prince's hometown of Minneapolis, channels the vocals and movements from the icon himself as he imaginatively styles the magic of Prince's talent with his appearance, vocal imitation, and multi-instrumental capacity on guitar and piano.
Charloff is a celebrated producer and recording artist associated with Marshmallow Fields, a 1990s production team consisting of himself, Grammy winner John Fields (The Jonas Brothers, Miley Cyrus, and Switchfoot), and Steven "Funkytown" Greenberg. The company's credits include productions for Grammy Award winners The Commodores, and Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductees Little Anthony and the Imperials. Charloff's self-produced single, "Cougars," was on the soundtrack of the feature film, "Thieves Like Us."
For further info: statetheatre.org
"The Lion in Winter," with an intriguing and complex plot full of twists, deception and family drama, opens Friday and continues through October 22 at the Pennsylvania Playhouse in Bethlehem.
Written by James Goldman and directed by Clair M. Freeman, "The Lion in Winter" takes place Christmas 1183, when King Henry II is planning to announce his successor to the throne. The jockeying for the crown is complex, however, with his three sons involved.
The cast features Gene Connelly, Jeanie Olah, Marian Barshinger, Chris Keyser, Drake Nester, Jeremy Thompson, and Colin Walsh. Sets are by Dan Lewis, lighting by Hunter Lewis, costumes by Todd Burkel, with stage manager Brian McDermott.
For further info: paplayhouse.org
A photo exhibit, "The War is still with us," a PBS39 community engagement project, is on display at the community gallery at Penn State Lehigh Valley in Center Valley through October 28. An artist reception will be held October 12 from 5 to 7 p.m.
The exhibit features 30 images collected from Lehigh Valley residents that reflect their personal stories about the Vietnam War and the anti-war movement of the 1960s and early 1970s. Selected photos will be displayed on the PBS39 website and through a physical photo gallery that will travel to various locations throughout the region, beginning at the community gallery.
The project also will include podcast interviews from selected experts in the field with the help of Vietnam Veterans of America Lehigh Valley Chapter 415.
For further info: firstname.lastname@example.org or 610-285-5261
"Unleashing Your Inner Opera Fan" soiree, presented by the Berks Opera Company, in partnership with R/C Reading Movies 11 and IMAX, will be held Friday at 7 p.m., with location to be given at registration. The event will introduce "The Met: Live in HD" broadcast of Mozart's "The Magic Flute" ("Die Zauberflote") at R/C Reading Movies 11 and IMAX on October 14 at 12:55 p.m.
Friday's event will present "Magic, Mystery and Masons," with featured artists Mary Fetterman, soprano and Caleb Flick, pianist. The presentation will be given by David Richie.
Fetterman is a senior at Boyertown Area High School and has performed with the Berks Opera Company. She placed second in the Reading Symphony Orchestra League scholarship competition, giving her the chance to perform with the Reading Symphony Youth Orchestra. Her teachers are Tamara and Francine Black.
For further info: berksopera.org/unleashing.html
The Lehigh University Department of Theatre is presenting Samuel Beckett's "Waiting for Godot" through Saturday at the Diamond Theater at the Zoellner Arts Center in Bethlehem. Director is Lehigh professor Augustine Ripa.
According to Ripa, the performance is part of the department's "Translations and Adaptations" season theme. The play was originally written in French and literally translated into English by its native English-speaking author, Samuel Beckett.
"Figuratively, the play deals with contrasting adaptations humans employ when confronted with the challenge of an uncertain universe that yields up no answers regarding why we are here or how we should behave while alive," said Ripa, who directed the play some 37 years ago.
"Then," he said, "I was much more interested in the play's attention to the harsh and unhelpful universe – devoid of guidance and full of the potential for horror. Today, I'm much more interested in the love story at the heart of the relationship of the successful pair of friends."
The cast includes Lehigh University students Matthew Schonberg as Vladimir, Samuel Alper as Extragon, Jade Jackman as Pozzo, Jake Blecher as Lucky, and Abbigail Bettenhausen as the boy.
Scenic design is by Elizabeth Frino, costume design by Courtney Boches, lighting design by Andrew Cowles, and sound design by Philip Ingle.
For further info: zoellnerartscenter.org
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