Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Enchanting ‘South Pacific’ at the Paper Mill Playhouse

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Reviewed by Ruth Ross  April 13, 2014:
Opening night of South Pacific at the Paper Mill Playhouse was truly "some enchanted evening" as Richard Rodgers' lush melodies and Oscar Hammerstein's clever and affecting lyrics, sung by attractive and talented actors, enveloped the playhouse's cavernous auditorium, transporting the audience to the South Pacific Ocean where Americans battled the Japanese in the 1940's.

Using James Michener's Tales of the South Pacific, Rodgers and Hammerstein cobbled together several of the books sketches to create a tale of love and loss. Somewhere on one of the distant Solomon Islands, a group of Seabees wait for the war to come their way. At the officer's club, Ensign Nellie Forbush, a nurse, has caught the eye of suave French planter Emile de Becque. As their romance blossoms, it is paralleled by that of Lt. Joseph Cable, sent to the island to find a way to spy on the Japanese and attack them when they least expect it, and the beautiful Tonkingese maiden, Liat. These couplings are unorthodox at the time, for they both involve a mixing of the races and cause Nellie and Cable much anguish. But all is not gloomy and sad; the frisky Seabees hilariously pine for "dames," stage a Thanksgiving extravaganza and, one of them at least, the wily Luther Billis, tries to find way to get to the mysterious island of Bali H'ai to witness exotic rituals involving boars' teeth and find the virginal maidens the natives have hidden away from the horny Yanks.

Director Rob Ruggiero, choreographer Ralph Perkins and music director Brad Haak give us a production worthy of Broadway. The cast they have assembled is talented, energetic, attractive and have no trouble carrying both the music and the dance steps. Erin Mackey is a lovely Nellie, not so far removed from Little Rock, Arkansas, that she's lost her Southern twang. Her clear soprano soars as she reveals she's a cockeyed optimist who's in love with a wonderful guy whom she later wants to wash right outta her hair! As Emile de Becque, Mike McGowan conveys the man's gravity while letting us see how besotted he is with Nellie. He is very handsome, and his baritone bowls us over as he sings of that enchanted evening when he first spied Nellie. As Nellie slips through his fingers, he sings "This Nearly Was Mine" so poignantly that it brings a tear to the eye.

Doug Carpenter, as Lt. Joseph Cable, conveys the yearning of a young man far from home who falls in love with a native girl, winsomely played by Jessica Wu. She may not have any dialogue, but her body English tells us all she'd want to say. Carpenter's tenor is especially suited to the song that Oscar Hammerstein wrote that sums up the play in a nutshell (and caused quite a stir when it was sung at the premiere), "You've Got to Be Taught." Tally Sessions' Luther Billis is a real operator, but one who can sing and dance, kicking up his heels as he leads the Seabees in their lament "There is Nothin' Like a Dame" or as Honeybun at the camp variety show. And Loretta Ables Sayre brings down the house as the conniving and profane Bloody Mary; her rendition of "Bali H'ai" will not be forgotten.

These stellar actors are aided and abetted by a handsome group of Seabees and a bevy of lovely nurses who add to the hijinks. Youngsters Gabby Gutierrrez as Ngana and Bonale Fambrini as Jerome, Emile's children, are darling; no wonder Nellie falls in love with them!

The set designed by Michael Yeargan evokes the God-forsaken island, complete with the blue South Pacific, palm trees and an elegant planter's villa. John Lasiter's lighting, Randy Hansen's sound and Catherine Zuber's costumes (with the assistance of Leon Dobkowski and Leah J. Loukas) complete the effect.

This sublime example of American Musical Theater reminds us of how much we have missed with the passing of two musical geniuses. A big thank you goes to the Paper Mill Playhouse for reviving South Pacific just in time for its 65th anniversary. When it opened in 1949, starring Broadway's darling Mary Martin and opera great Ezio Pinza, its themes were edgy and the war had been over for just a half decade. That it has stood the test of time is testament to its brilliance and, yes, to the fact that racial prejudice is still with us. And, it is a prime example of the heights to which the Paper Mill Playhouse will go to entertain us.

Note: You can take children ages 10 and up to see this show. The little boy behind me sat quietly through the entire play, but burst into tears learning of Cable's demise! And I heard other patrons burbling about how this could be just the show to introduce kids to the theater. There are no special effects, cartoon figures brought to life or jukebox melodies; what there is onstage is what the American theater does best: musical theater in all its glory.
South Pacific will be performed at the Paper Mill Playhouse, 22 Brookside Drive, Millburn, through May 4th. For information and tickets, call the box office at 973.376.4343 or visit online at
Top Photo: From left to right: Grace Wales, Caitlin Maloney, Erin Mackey (Nellie Forbush), Meggie Cansler, Paige Sommerer and Samantha Joy Pearlman.(Photo by Jerry Dalia)

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Next at Tri-State Actors Susan Goodell’s ‘Heels Over Head’ directed by Patricia Durante

TAT logoAA20Tri-State Actors Theater will present HEELS OVER HEAD, a “Springy” romantic comedy about a couple vowing to keep their poetic, rhapsodic love alive despite overwhelming disruption.Connecticut playwright, Susan Goodell, has written a delicious new comedy about young love and its ups and downs. The premiere production will be directed by Patricia Durante* of Branchville. The comedy opens Thursday, April 24 and runs through May 4, at the Performing Arts Center, SCCC, Newton.

Cast members include Jason Szamreta* (Jake), Rosemary Glennon* (Luna), Ashley Kowzun (Mari), Tara Henderson (Blossom), Tom Walker (Marvin), and Nicholas Wilder (Stan). Tri-State’s Artistic Director, Paul Meacham* will serve as production Stage Manager. [*Member Actors Equity Assoc., the union of professional actors.]

In HEELS OVER HEAD, Jake and Luna meet at a bungee jumping for singles weekend. Jake nervously tries to make small talk with Luna, who is clearly annoyed that Jake is interrupting her attempts at deep breathing to calm herself before the jump. They are getting on each other’s nerves until they make the jump. After which they fall magically in love and elope, not caring where they drive, and spend the next several days at an inn subsisting on blueberry muffins. The young couple promise to never fight and keep no secrets. But as real life awaits, their passion is challenged by dwelling problems (the leases on both of their apartments are running out, and they can’t agree whose apartment to live in,) their crazy roommates (Jake’s best friend Stan and Luna’s allegedly psychic sister Mari,) relatives, old lovers, secrets and many idiosyncrasies.

The play becomes a laugh riot as the newlyweds’ secrets start coming out: Marvin, Luna’s investment broker ex-boyfriend; Blossom, a member of Jake’s phobia support group with a hug-inducing fear of abandonment; and Mari’s habit of adopting wildly different personalities. Love is just a free fall, sometimes it's better with strings attached.

Performance dates and times (two weeks only):
Thu. 4/24 & 5/1 @ 8pm
Fri., 4/25 & 5/2 @ 8pm
Sat., 4/26 & 5/3 @ 2pm & 8pm
Sun., 4/27 & 5/4 @ 3pm

Ticket Prices:
Fri., Sat. Eve & Sun. Mat. = $28, $25 - SRS, $20 – STU
Thurs. Eve & Sat. Mat. $23, $20 - SRS, $18 – STU

Advance ticket purchases are always recommended. Tri-State offers Group Rates and a special discount for SCCC students and staff for all performances. Large print programs, accessible parking, wheelchair access and elevator service are available for patrons with special needs.

For tickets, information, and special services, please contact Tri-State at 973 383-0510. For SCCC Box Office hours call the Performing Arts Center at 973 300-3171. Tickets for are all performances are available on-line at or - click on Box Office. On day of performance, the PAC Box Office is open 60 minutes prior to curtain time.
HEELS OVER HEAD - an unrealistically optimistic comedy about love. . . AS WE’D LIKE TO LIVE IT!

Appropriate for ages 12 and up. Additional information about Tri-State Actors Theater and its programs and services is available on the web at Funding for Tri-State Actors Theater has been made possible by the generous support of The Horizon Foundation for New Jersey.
HOH cast

Spring Improv Comedy Classes at Dreamcatcher

9227-250Now enrolling... NEW 4-day improv course!


Fun classes for adults & teens

Improv games are fun!




Have you seen our improv comedy shows and thought "that looks like so much fun"? Do you envy the ease at which some people face a crowd? Are you an actor exploring comedy? If so, these classes are just for you!
GREAT OPPORTUNITY to immerse yourself in the 4-week improv comedy class. Classes are taught by professional improv master Dave Maulbeck.
- Learn traditional improv games
- Develop spontaneity and learn how to shed your inhibitions
- For actors who want to try another angle on performing
- Not just for actors: for anyone who wants to develop these skills

Tuition & Registration


Saturdays, April 26 - May 17, 12pm-2pm

Oakes Center
120 Morris Avenue, Summit     Directions

(entrance on Russell Place, parking lot at 20 Ashwood Ave.)

$160 for four 2-hr classes       Register now

More info on our Web site

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Writer/Reviewer will be sidelined for several weeks


oops ...Heart Bypass surgery on Monday at  Morristown Medical Center. Expect to be on the sidelines until late June.
My dear friends Ruth Ross and Michael T Mooney will provide reviews during that period for me.
Thanks for all the good wishes. (more time with Annie).

‘One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest’ at Hudson Theatre Works

Thursdays thru Sundays May 9 - 24


Theater at Weehawken High School 51 Liberty Place, Weehawken, NJ

(Click for Directions)

Terence MacSweeny as Randle P. McMurphy

Terence's recent roles include: MacBeth, Iago in Othello, Leontes in The Winter's Tale, and Eli Calibri in Font of Knowledge. New York Theatre: Classic Stage Company, New York Shakespeare Exchange, The Cherry Lane, and The Pearl Theatre Company. Regional Theatre: Southwest Shakespeare Company, Colorado Shakespeare Festival, Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey and Summer Theatre of New Canaan.  His TV and Film credits include: REDRUM, Celebrity Ghost Stories for Discovery ID, Monsters Inside Me for Animal Planet; short films Retire for the Evening and Level 23 currently making the festival circuit; look for Terry in the upcoming Web Series Work in Process and Phantom Soldier set for later this year. Terence graduated from Columbia University's School of the Arts with his MFA in Acting.

This program is made possible  in part by funds from the New Jersey State Council on the Arts, Department of State.  A partner agency of the National Endowment for the Arts, administered by the Hudson County Office of Cultural & Heritage Affairs, Thomas A. Degise, County Executive and the Board of Chosen  Freeholders.

Hudson Theatre Works offers all people equal access to participate in its programs and attend its shows.  If you require special assistance or assistive technology, please contact us directly at201-401-3337 at your earliest convenience.

Hudson Theatre Works, New Jersey's newest Equity theatre company will follow up last season's successful production of Of Mice and Men and begin its second season with Dale Wasserman's adaptation of Ken Kesey's classic tale of freedom and compassion, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest

It is scheduled to run Thursdays through Sundays,May 10th - 24th, at the Theatre at Weehawken High School, 53 Liberty Place, Weehawken, New Jersey, evenings at 8:00 PM and matinees at 2 PM. Tickets are $25 each, with senior and student discounts available.


Actors, Terence MacSweeny (Redrum and Celebrity Ghost Stories) and Leigh Anne West (You've Got Hate Mail and the movie Scare Zone) will play the iconic characters McMurphy and Nurse Ratched respectively. Also in the cast as Harding is Michael Puzzo, (LAByrinth Theater Company since 1997, and Father Sherman in John Patrick Shanley's movieDOUBT). All are veterans of stage, film, and television. Terence MacSweeny's theatre credits include New Jersey Shakespeare Festival's, Henry VI and Iago at the Shakespeare Exchange, NY. Leigh Anne West is a multi-talented theatre artist who played in Pride and Prejudice at Asolo Theater Company and Darwin in Malibu. Michael Puzzo's credits are as a writer and actor. As a writer his most recent productions were Spirits of Exit Elevenat the Lion Theatre and The Dirty Talk. As an actor he appeared in John Patrick Shanley's Pirate! (New York Stage & Film) & Dirty Story (Harold Clurman Theater), as well as Stephen Adly Guigis' In Arabia We'd All Be Kings

Other members of the cast of 16 include actors Kevin Huelbig, Lawrence Mays, Scott Tyler, Frank Blaeuer, Ian McGonigle, Tom Jeszeck, Salvadore Navarro, Sly Alexander, Gina Chedid, Jacqueline Schreiber, Mimi Robinson, Tom Quattrocchi, Matthew Daniel Lee and Jeff Foote. 

The Director:

Frank LicatoThe production is directed by the company's Artistic Director, Frank Licato (photo right). Mr. Licato (director of the Off-Broadway productions of Requiem for a Heavyweight, Lamppost Reunion and Spirits of Exit Eleven) is the winner of a Perry Award for Best Director for his production of Grapes of Wrath, as well as an Applause Award from the New Jersey Theatre Alliance

Creative Team:

Resident Scenic & Lighting Designer, John C. Shimrock, Costume Designer Ann Lowe, Resident Sound Designer & Composer Donald Stark and Producers Karen Brady, Greg Erbach and Sally Ponzio.

Campy Musical ‘Ruthless’ next at Bergen County Players


Ruthless BCP

This Hilarious And Campy Musical Comes To The Little Firehouse Theatre On May 3rd

Bergen County Players (BCP) continues its "From Page to Stage" season with the New York Outer Critics Circle award-winning musical "Ruthless!". Performed at the Little Firehouse Theatre in Oradell from May 3rd through June 1st (no shows Memorial Day Weekend: May 23-25).

Performances are Fridays and Saturdays at 8:00 pm and Sundays at 2:00 pm. All tickets are $22 and may be purchased online at, by calling 201-261-4200 or by visiting the box office at 298 Kinderkamack Road during regular box office hours.

With a book and lyrics by Joel Paley and music by Marvin Laird,
"Ruthless!" tells the story of suburban housewife Judy Denmark and her
daughter Tina, who is the greatest song-and-dance sensation to ever
hit the third grade.  She's cute.  She dances.  She sings.  And she
would KILL to get the lead role in her school play. This hysterical
and campy musical, which features an all-female cast, traces the story
of eight-year old child actress Tina Denmark, her split personality
mother Judy, and her stylish but strangely familiar talent agent,
Sylvia St. Croix, who has all the charm of Joan Crawford in a daycare
center. There’s also more in store with a school teacher who is "no
longer afraid to get on with my life and off medication," a theatre
critic who channels Ethel Merman and the personal assistant who makes
us want to fasten our seatbelts in anticipation of a bumpy night.
It’s a hair-pulling good time, and you will HOWL over this killer
musical comedy. 

In a nutshell, "Ruthless!" is a twisted story; however, it is this "mutilated" plotline that makes it so original and so laugh-out-loud funny.

The original production opened off-Broadway at the Players Theatre in
1992 and closed after 342 performances.  The central role of Tina was
played by Laura Bell Bundy, Natalie Portman and Britney Spears.  The
show won the 1993 New York Outer Critics Circle Award for Best
Off-Broadway Musical. The show has had an untold number of
professional productions since turning into a cult hit over the past
two decades.

"Ruthless!" is directed by long-time BCP life member Steve Bell of
Teaneck, who has directed numerous shows at BCP including "Urinetown",
"Gypsy", "The King and I", "The Little Dog Laughed", and "Modern
Orthodox".  He also teaches vocal music at Teaneck High School and is
the artistic director of the Teaneck Community Chorus. The music is
under the direction of Kerr Lockhart, who was most recently the
musical director for the exciting production of "Curtains".

The talented cast of "Ruthless!" includes: Gabriella Baldacchino as
Tina, Nancy Feldman as Judy/Ginger, C.G. Lewis as Sylvia St. Croix,
Helen Boyadjian as Lita Encore, Paula O’Brien as Myrna/Miss Block and
Shiva Kiani as Louise/Eve.

The production team includes Steve Bell (Director), Kerr Lockhart
(Musical Director), Lauren Muraski (Choreographer), Lynne Lupfer
(Assistant Director), Rhea Smith (Producer), Paul Reitnauer III (Stage
Manager), Michael Smith (Set Design/Construction), Ellyn Essig
(D├ęcor), Alan Seward (Lighting Design), Joe Halajian (Sound Design),
Patty Howard (Costumes), Richard Ciero (Sound Operation), Marty
Obolsky (Lighting Operation), Jim Espaillat (Lighting Operation),
Barbra Murtha (Props and Crew), Abby Light (Props and Crew), Joanne
Guarnaccia (Makeup), Alan Zenreich (Photography) and James Parent

* All performances for "Ruthless!" take place at The Little Firehouse
Theatre at 298 Kinderkamack Road in Oradell, home to the Bergen County
Players since 1949. Performance times are Fridays and Saturdays at 8pm,
and Sundays at 2pm.

* Tickets for "Ruthless!" are $22 for all performances and can be
purchased online at, by calling 201-261-4200 or by
visiting the box office at 298 Kinderkamack Road in Oradell during
regular box office hours. Visa, Master Card, and American Express are

* Those interested in Group Sales of 20 or more tickets can call
(201)261-4200, x6.
* As it has for the past few seasons, BCP will continue to offer a
Questions & Artists (Q&A) discussion following select performances.
The "Ruthless!" Q&A will commence immediately following the May 9th,
2014 performance. Admission to the Q&A is included in the price of the
* Discount tickets for students age 25 and under with proper ID are
available for $14 by phone or walk-up only. Student Rush tickets are
also available for $5, beginning 30 minutes before curtain. The
Student Rush is dependent upon availability, one ticket per student,
payable in cash only.
* Parking is free at the Park Avenue municipal lot, across the street,
one-half block north of the theater.

The Bergen County Players has grown tremendously from its roots as a
small community theater when it was founded in 1932; today, nearly 300
volunteer members, working on and off stage, make possible the
nine productions presented each season. The remaining season includes
the Second Stage production of "My Favorite Wife" (June 7th and 8th).
Bergen County Players, Inc. is a non-equity, non-profit community
theater company dedicated to presenting quality productions for the
enrichment of the community.
Further information can be found at

PHOTO: (l-r) Paula O'Brien, Nancy Feldman, Gabriella Baldacchino,
C.G. Lewis and Shiva Kiani.  Photo by Alan Zenreich

McCarter Theatre Center Gala in May

McCarter 2014 Gala Benefit Trailer


McCarter Theatre Center
2014 Gala Benefit Trailer
Saturday, May 17, 2014

The evening will include a performance by the renowned a cappella group STRAIGHT NO CHASER, a live and silent auction, and delectable delights catered by JOSS AND JULES Boutique Catering and Event Design.

An amazing evening in the company of friends, all to support McCarter Theatre's artistic and education programs!