Out and About: Musikfest and much more

While Musikfest is continuing in Bethlehem through Sunday, there are plenty of opportunities for memorable cultural entertainment in Berks County from a razzle-dazzle jazz-inspired hit musical to a playful 19th century Strauss operetta named after a bat.

"Chicago" at Genesius

Genesius Theatre brings the sizzling Tony Award-winning “Chicago” to Reading Aug. 9-18.

It’s the scintillating 1920s, and two beautiful women are on trial for murder as they compete for fame and an acquittal.

The 1975 original production, directed by Bob Fosse, was nominated for 11 Tony awards; and the 1997 revival won six Tony awards including best revival. The revival, which is still running today, is the second longest-running stage show in Broadway history.

“’Chicago’ is probably the most involved dance show on Broadway, maybe ever,” says Genesius choreographer Jericho Joy. “It’s certainly the most iconic. In most musicals, dance sort of pops up every once in a while, but in Chicago the entire show moves - every scene, every transition."

This really is a choreographer's dream," Jericho said. "The whole show is movement start to finish, and it’s all very stylized, and it goes from campy and fun to glamorous and sexy.”

“Chicago” has a book by Fred Ebb and Bob Fosse, lyrics by Fred Ebb, and music by John Kander, and is based on the 1926 play by Maurine Dallas Watkins. 

The Genesius Theatre production is directed by L J Fecho, and has musical direction by Christopher Sperat who also plays Amos Hart.

Roxie Hart, played by Dara Himes, murders her cheating lover and then convinces her trusting husband, Amos, to take the blame. But when he realizes she was cheating on him, he changes his tune and Roxie ends up in the Cook County Jail where she meets other murderesses, including queen bee Velma Kelly, who plans to parlay her notoriety into vaudeville fame. 

Velma is played by Jennifer Parker Scott and Irving Gonzalez plays the women’s manipulative lawyer Billy Flynn.

Set design and lighting is by Zack Spadaccia, who says the show will have “the feel of 1920s vaudeville with a modern twist.” The production also features an orchestra on the stage with the performers.

The show is rated PG-13 for language and sexual situations.

Performances are 7:30 p.m. Aug. 9-10 and 14-17 and 3 p.m. Aug. 11 and 18. Genesius Theatre is at 
153 N. 10th St., Reading. Tickets are $17.50 to $33. 

For information, visit genesiusdifference.org

“Die Fledermaus” in Sinking Spring

Berks Opera continues its mission to brings opera to the community with a performance Saturday of Johann Strauss' delightful operetta, “Die Fledermaus.” The operetta premiered in1874 in Vienna and has been part of the regular repertoire ever since.

Mistaken identities, flirtations at a masked ball, elegant frivolities and confusions of all kinds provide a hilarious vehicle for some of the most captivating music ever written. The concert performance, conducted by David McConnell, will be held at St. Ignatius Loyola Roman Catholic Church in Sinking Spring.

The cast includes operatic artists and local music theater favorites, including Toni Marie Palmertree, Lauren Curnow, Frederick Schlick, Jarrod Miller, Maggie Riker, Jonathan Reinhold and Christopher Collins Lee. Crossing over for their first operatic appearances are local celebrities Commissioner Christian Y. Leinbach and Dave Kline.

The performers will be accompanied by the acclaimed Berks Sinfonietta orchestra. 

The performance is 7:30 p.m. Aug. 9 at St. Ignatius Loyola Roman Catholic Church, 2700 Saint Albans Dr., Sinking Spring. Tickets are $25 general admission with $10 with a student ID.

For information, call 484-752-2462 or visit BerksOpera.org.

Don’t miss last “Bach at Noon” in Allentown

The third and final Allentown “Bach at Noon” concert for this season is Aug. 13 at St. John’s Lutheran Church in downtown Allentown.

In collaboration with the Arts at St. John’s series, the “Bach at Noon" program is presented on the second Tuesday of the month in June, July and August and is free to the public.

Doors open at 11:30 a.m., and concerts begin at 12:10 p.m. Each performance features soloists, along with members of The Bach Choir and Bach Festival Orchestra, and an informative and lively introduction to each piece from conductor and artistic director, Greg Funfgeld.

The August program includes Johann Sebastian Bach’s “Concerto in C Major for Two Keyboards, BWV 1061” featuring Kristina Moditch and Funfgeld on pianos; “Cantata 180 – Schmücke dich, o liebe Seele” and Johannes Brahms’ Motet from A German Requiem, “How lovely is Thy dwelling place.”

Started in 2005, the free concert series was designed as a community and economic development initiative, educating new audiences about Bach’s music. It includes seven performances throughout the year at Central Moravian Church in Bethlehem and three summer concerts at St. John’s Lutheran Church in Allentown.

The series has been a success attracting more than 8,000 concertgoers of all ages each year. A good will offering will be taken.

St. John’s Lutheran Church is at 37 S. Fifth St. in Allentown. For more information, visit bach.org.

Final weekend of Musikfest

The second and final weekend of Musikfest in Bethlehem is this weekend. There are still plenty of free music performances to catch at the festival’s 18 venues spread across Bethlehem’s Historic District and SteelStacks, the arts and cultural campus on the site of the former Bethlehem Steel plant.

In addition to hundreds of performances of music there are other activities for the whole family.

Play a collection of 20 arcade games from the last four decades, including pinball machines and multicades at Musikfest arcade at Zinzenplatz, provided by Pinfest, one of the largest pinball shows in the country. Featured games include Eightball Deluxe, Nitro Ground Shaker and Monster Bash. Wristbands are $10.

At Familienplatz, enjoy interactive art installations and community projects along the bank of the Monocacy Creek.

Muralist and sign painter Samantha Redles will create an 8 footby 12 foot “Greetings from Bethlehem” postcard mural for fest-goers to take snapshots of and share with family and friends via social media. Redles, who now lives in Baltimore, is originally from Coopersburg.

New this year is the community "Poet-Tree" where visitors will have the opportunity to write a poem and hang it on a community tree.

Try to hit the bullseye as you participate in axe throwing, one of the hottest crazes sweeping the nation at Familienplatz. The cost is $5 for five throws and $10 for 12 throws.

The traditional Polka Mass will take place 10 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. Sunday at Festplatz, and the festival will go out with a bang with fireworks at 10 p.m. Sunday.

Musikfest hours are noon to 11 p.m. through Sunday. For a complete list of performers, visit musikfest.org.

YA Fest Pa

More than 25 nationaly known young adult authors will come to the Easton area for YA Fest Pa 2019 this weekend at the Palmer Branch of the Easton Area Public Library.

A kick off event will be held 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Aug. 9 at Barnes & Noble, 4445 Southmont Way, Bethlehem Township. The preview will include a panel discussion on the themes of the books featured for Saturday's main event from many of the attending authors.

YA Fest Pa 2019 will be held 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Aug. 10 at the Palmer Branch,1 Weller Place, Palmer Township. The Golden Ticket event includes a multi-author discussion panel hosted by Gretchen McNeil, author of “TEN,” “#murdertrending” and “#murderfunding,” on mystery and thrillers in young adult literature. It also includes a Teen Reverse Panel, in which teenage patrons discuss young adult books.

The event includes a multi-author book signing and raffles. Books will be available for sale on site through Barnes & Noble of Bethlehem Township, and there also will be a used book sale. Admission is free.

In 2011, young adult authors Jennifer Murgia and Cyn Balog approached Stephanie Supinski, branch manager at Palmer Branch of the Easton Area Public Library. They wanted to organize a festival celebrating young adult authors and their books but also to allow teens to talk to the authors about their books. Currently, the event is run by Murgia and Ashley Supinski.

Authors include Gretchen McNeil, New York Times bestselling author Cinda Williams Chima, Kara Thomas, and Alexandra Villasante. For a complete list of authors, visit yafestpa.com.

Hawk Mountain Migration Kick-off

On Saturday, Hawk Mountain Sanctuary in Albany Township will hold an “Off to a Flying Start!” party to kick off the fall raptor migration.

The event celebrates the beginning of the autumn migration season, during which sanctuary staff, volunteers and trainees count the passing raptors and other wildlife. The event in the visitor center from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. includes guided bird walks, naturalists in the garden, live bird programs, raptor identification, kids activities, art display by wildlife artists and the annual mountain raffle.

The Annual Autumn Hawk Watch begins Aug 15 at the Sanctuary’s North Lookout and is conducted daily, weather permitting, through Dec. 15.
An average 18,000 birds of prey will soar over the Sanctuary’s rocky North Lookout, a 1,500-foot outcropping on the Kittatinny Ridge or “Blue Mountain.” An official counter and interpreters are on hand to point out and identify birds.

At 1 p.m., embark on an interactive Animal Kingdom Adventure with special guests from the Barn Nature Center. Learn fascinating wildlife science, while enjoying up close and personal encounters with live animal ambassadors representing diverse species from around the world.

Registration is required. The cost is $20 for one adult and one child, with additional family members $5 each.

Enjoy “Moments” art show by Kaitlyn Dougher on display through Aug. 31. Dougher created "Moments" during her artist-in-residency at Hawk Mountain in the summer of 2018. The collection captures the changing light, changing life and changing weather on the mountain.

Visitors should bring binoculars, something soft to sit on and a daypack with water and snacks. Trail fees are $10 for adults; $7 for seniors and $5 for children age 6-12. Hawk Mountain is located at 1700 Hawk Mountain Rd., Kempton. For information visit hawkmountain.org.

Celebrate Smokey Bear's 75th birthday

See fire prevention displays and climb the William Penn Memorial Fire Tower in Reading as you celebrate Smokey Bear's 75th Birthday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday.

Check out brush trucks and firefighting equipment and talk to firefighters at the free event organized by Pagoda-Skyline Inc., a non-profit, citizen volunteer organization dedicated to the restoration and preservation of the Pagoda, the Fire Tower and the Skyline Drive area. There is fun for the kids and refreshments from food trucks.

The event is at 621 Skyline Dr., Reading.

For more information, call 610-375-6399 or visit pagodaskyline.org.

Or explore the extraordinary career of artist Rudolph “Rudy” Wendelin, the artist behind the United States Forest Service’s iconic mascot and spokesman, Smokey Bear, at Reading Public Museum from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday.

Shortly after World War II, Wendelin (1910 –2000) was given responsibility for the Smokey Bear project, and over the course of more than three decades, the artist created a more human version of the mascot, wearing a solemn expression, ranger’s hat and jeans and carrying a shovel.

Thanks to the creative efforts of Wendelin, Smokey appeared on government posters, postage stamps, first-day covers, television, magazines and even a film. The exhibition will include other works by Wendelin including early sketchbooks, architectural projects and watercolors.

Musuem admission is $10 for adults, $6 for seniors and free for students. Reading Public Museum is at 500 Museum Rd., Reading.

For more information, visit readingpublicmuseum.org.

“Always…Patsy Cline” opens at Bucks County Playhouse

Television star Sally Struthers joins Broadway’s Carter Calvert in Bucks County Playhouse’s tribute to the county music singer, Patsy Cline, and the true story of her friendship with Houston housewife Louise Seger, in “Always…Patsy Cline.”

Directed by David Galligan, the musical previews Aug. 9 and runs Aug. 10 through Sept. 7 as part of the Playhouse’s 80th anniversary season.

“We are thrilled to have Sally Struthers back at the Playhouse where she last delighted audiences in the world premiere of ‘Clue,’” says Robyn Goodman, the Playhouse's executive producer.

After hearing Cline on the radio in 1957, housewife Louise Seger became an avid fan. After a chance meeting at a concert brought them face to face, they forged a bond that would last until Cline’s tragic death in 1963.

The musical play includes 27 of Cline’s hits inlcuding “Crazy,” “I Fall to Pieces,” “Sweet Dreams” and “Walking After Midnight.” The show’s title was inspired by Cline’s letters to Seger, which were signed “Love Always…Patsy Cline.”

Calvert, a jazz recording artist who has appeared in Broadway’s “It Ain’t Nothing’ But the Blues,” the national touring company of “Cats,” and the European tour of “Smokey Joe’s Café” plays Cline. She also has played Patsy Cline all over the country.

Struthers, who is a two-time Emmy Award and Golden Globe Award winner for “All in the Family,” CBS's “Gloria” and CW network's “Gilmore Girls” plays Seger.

The production also features Jeff Perri as scenic designer; Michael Gilliam as lighting designer and Philip G. Allen as sound designer. 

Performances are 7:30 p.m. Aug 10 and Tuesdays; 2 p.m. Wednesdays, Sundays and Sept. 3; 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Thursdays; 8 p.m. Fridays and 2 and 8 p.m. Saturdays.

Bucks County Playhouse is at 70 S. Main St., New Hope. Tickets are $60 to $85. 

For more informtion visit bcptheater.org or call 215-862-2121.

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