NEPA Scene: ‘Jekyll & Hyde’ musical transforms Little Theatre of Wilkes-Barre Sept. 6-15

Seasons are beginning to change, and with that comes darker evenings and cooler nights. The same can be said for the Little Theatre of Wilkes-Barre’s next production, the award-winning Broadway musical “Jekyll & Hyde,” where Dr. Jekyll will experience his own changes, making way for Mr. Hyde on Friday, Sept. 6 through Sunday, Sept. 15.

“Jekyll & Hyde” is a gothic-style musical based on the classic novella “The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” by Robert Louis Stevenson. It is appropriate for ages 13 and up due to violent content and imagery.

With a book by Leslie Bricusse and music by Frank Wildhorn, the show highlights a bit of a love triangle as the title character, played by Scott Vinnacombe, shifts between personalities. Kimberly Johnson stars as Emma Carew, Henry Jekyll’s fiancé. She is a graceful, elegant young woman, with spirit and a joy of life. In Jekyll’s company, she shows a great love and has an easy, fun, and flirty manner, making Jekyll smile. She is all that makes him feel wanted, loved, and respected, and he knows she will support him in everything.

Lucy, played by Ashley Bohn, is the epitome of the carnal desire within Dr. Jekyll and Edward Hyde. Jekyll, with his will and “goodness,” keeps that desire well in check, but Hyde, as the unbound spirit of Jekyll, can’t and won’t keep that desire checked. Lucy becomes his fixation and, to some extent, hopefully his salvation. To Lucy, Jekyll is an ideal, something she will never have; however, Hyde is all she believes she deserves. She is massively attracted to the part of Hyde that is Jekyll, but this confuses her, as she also knows Hyde to be cruel and brutal.

Director Alexandra Liguori is making her LTWB directorial debut with this show, though she isn’t a stranger to this stage. With music direction by Jennifer Hunter, technical direction by Mike Wawrzynek, set design by Mike Wawrzynek and Eyanna Gruver, light design by Jonathan Vojtko, costume design by Eyanna Gruver, and choreography by Jamie Burns, the Little Theatre invites Wilkes-Barre to “look behind the façade.”

“Jekyll & Hyde” runs on weekends from Sept. 6 through Sept. 15. Friday and Saturday shows are at 8 p.m., and Sunday matinees start at 3 p.m.

Tickets are $20 and can be purchased at the Little Theatre box office (537 N. Main St., Wilkes-Barre), by calling the box office at 570-823-1875, or online at ltwb.org.

Little Theatre of Wilkes-Barre is one of the oldest continually-running community theaters in the United States, dating back to 1922 with its original founding as the Drama League. Today, it is a nonprofit, 501(c)3 corporation housed at the 537 North Main Street Playhouse in Wilkes-Barre. Little Theatre of Wilkes-Barre’s mission is to provide professional quality, Broadway-style live theatre while ensuring a welcoming environment that enhances the cultural growth of the Greater Wyoming Valley.

‘Jekyll & Hyde’ musical transforms Little Theatre of Wilkes-Barre Sept. 6-15

TIMES Leader: ‘Three Romances About Macbeth’ comes to Little Theatre of W-B’

By Mary Therese Biebel – mbiebel@timesleader.com | August 7, 2019

In his role as a stage manager named Glenn, Kevin Costley turns and treats his audience to a most delicious, self-satisfied smirk.

Are there daggers in that smile? Is Glenn like the serpent beneath an innocent flower?

Not really. Glenn may be a manipulator — “a puppeteer,” Costley calls him — but you can tell his intentions are good.

If Glenn can persuade Linda and Jerry — the best actors to ever appear as Shakespeare’s most famous Scottish couple in a “Barnstormers” show — to co-direct a new production of “Macbeth,” they just might save the struggling “Barnstormers,” whose theater can’t afford costumes and can barely pay its electric bill. Never mind that Linda and Jerry have been on the outs for years.

That’s the premise of “The Charm Wound Up,” one of “Three Romances About Macbeth,” all written by local playwright David Parmelee and all focusing on relationships at different stages of life, as experienced by people who are accustomed to strutting and fretting their hour on the stage.

And slipping out of rehearsal to the nearby laundromat because it has a clean bathroom.

And trying to muster the confidence to audition.

And even plunging into what looks like a nice, soft snowbank before realizing, too late, that it’s a pile of bricks covered by a thin layer of snow.

Parmelee has woven all those circumstances, and more, into three one-act plays — “Spots-Be-Gone,” “The Charm Wound Up” and “The Yellow Leaf” which you can see at 8 p.m. Aug. 9 and Aug. 10 and at 2 p.m. Aug. 11 at Little Theatre of Wilkes-Barre, 537 N. Main St., Wilkes-Barre. Tickets are $12. For information, call 570-823-1875.

“They’re all love stories,” Parmelee said, noting the first two premiered at the Scranton Fringe theater festival in 2017, and “The Yellow Leaf” will debut this weekend.

Some of the material in the one-acts is based on events that really happened to actors he knows, Parmelee said, and “Spots-Be-Gone” was inspired by the proximity of an actual laundromat to the storefront Gaslight Theatre had been using for rehearsals and performances.

“I consider it a great honor to work with the playwright on this. You’re trying to feel his heartbeat through the whole thing,” said veteran actor Carol Sweeney, of Shavertown, whose character goes through “a lot of reminiscing and soul searching” in “The Yellow Leaf.”

“His writing is incredible,” agreed Nickie Kylie of Luzerne, who appears in “The Charm Wound Up” as a would-be actor who fumbles her way through an audition for a role as one of Macbeth’s three witches.

The script calls for the would-be witches to be woefully unprepared — mispronouncing words and not understanding historical context.

“It’s not easy to be this bad, when you’re good,” Parmelee said as a recent rehearsal got under way.

In that one-act Linda and Jerry, who will co-direct “Macbeth” if stage manager Glenn gets his way, can barely manage to be civil to each other. Or to the characters auditioning for the big cauldron scene.

But their mood improves as the auditions do, perking up when two polished performers who are likely to do the Barnstormers proud — portrayed by Dave Giordano and Becky Dennis — audition for the major roles of Macbeth and his lady.

And remind Linda and Jerry of how good they were, so many years ago.

TIMES LEADER: ‘Peter and the Starcatcher’ sail into Little Theatre

By Mary Therese Biebel – mbiebel@timesleader.com | May 3, 2019

“I don’t fancy no dainty daughters roaming my deck,” the sinister captain sneers, sending Molly off to a cabin.

But the intrepid teen won’t stay indoors long. She’ll leave her nanny in the cabin, explore this ship called “The Neverland” and discover “the pigs” one sailor told her he was planning to feed a bucket of swill aren’t swine but a trio of orphaned boys named Prentiss and Ted and …. well, one of them doesn’t even have a name.

“When you first see (my character) I’m a defeated child, afraid of adults,” said Tyler Ocasio, of Wilkes-Barre, who plays the Boy in Little Theatre of Wilkes-Barre’s production of “Peter and the Starcatcher,” which opens May 3 tonight. “I crave my childhood because I missed out on it, and I have no clue who I am. When I meet Molly it’s the first healthy relationship I’ve had in my life.”

Hmm. An orphan boy who’s not eager to grow up, a girl whose family is wealthy enough to hire a nanny, adventure on the high seas … does this sound like any classic story you might have heard?

“It’s not ‘Peter Pan,’ ” director Scott Colin said before a recent rehearsal. “It’s like, as ‘Wicked’ is to ‘The Wizard of Oz,’ ‘Peter and the Starcatcher’ is to ‘Peter Pan.’ It’s the prequel.”

“There’s a character named Black Stache, who may or may not become Captain Hook,” Colin said, “and an unnamed orphan who may or may not become Peter.”

As for Molly, Taylor Rupp, of Mountain Top, who plays the plucky girl, said “she’s a precursor to Wendy.”

Molly is also an apprentice starcatcher, which means it’s her job to protect starstuff, a magical substance that can help you become whatever you’d like to be.

“It sounds better and better, doesn’t it?” Ocasio said.

“I’m telling audiences, ‘leave your adulthood at the door,’ ” Colin said. “We have physical comedy, word play and sight gags, and the set is one big playground.”

“The costumes make it look like we’re kids who got into the clothes in Grandma’s attic,” Ocasio said.

Except that Grandma’s attic wouldn’t have had a real beard like the one Ben Dugas, of Pittston, shaved off, leaving only the authentic whiskers of a curlicue moustache to give himself the look of a vintage, Snidely Whiplash sort of villain.

Dugas plays Black Stache, a character who descended from a long line of pirates and is named for his dark moustache.

“In some productions they’d paint it on or glue it on, but this is real. In case Smee tugs on it, this will stay on,” said Dugas, who described Black Stache as veering between “goofy pirate” and “angry pirate.”

“We’re all playing multiple parts; I’m a sailor, a narrator and a teacher as well as the nanny,” said Kevin Costley, who enjoys portraying Molly’s caretaker, Mrs. Bumbrake, as “a typical British nanny, loving and strict — and a little bit randy.”

“I get to sing as a soprano,” Costley said. “But we don’t hide the fact that I’m a man.”

The script allows the cast to play that up, said Dave Giordano, of Exeter, who portrays a “good-hearted sailor” who fancies the nanny.

“At one point,” Giordano said, “I say, ‘Don’t harm one hair on that woman’s leg.’ “

Little Theatre of Wilkes-Barre kicks off capital campaign with reception

By Mary Therese Biebel – mbiebel@timesleader.com | December 18th, 2017 6:00 am

WILKES-BARRE — Friends of the Little Theatre of Wilkes-Barre gathered in the lobby of the historic North Main Street venue Friday evening for a Christmas Wine and Wishes reception.

The event kicked off a capital campaign, during which organizers hope to raise $1 million by the theater’s 100th anniversary in 2022.

“It’s the third-oldest theater in the United States. That’s significant,” said Wilkes-Barre City Council member Tony Brooks, who showed his support by attending in costume as General Lord Butler, who was a councilman in the early 1800s and also, an ancestor of Little Theatre of Wilkes-Barre Community Board member Cornelia Conyngham Romanowski.

“How many ‘greats’?” Romanowski pondered, as she and Brooks came up with the answer “three.” The historic Butler was her great-great-great-grandfather.

History was a theme at the gathering, as well-wishers reflected on the theater’s many years of existence, the way it can get people talking about new ideas, and the way it can work a kind of “magic,” as even shy people “come alive on the stage.”

“Hopefully it will be here for a long time,” said attorney Tom Mosca, of Dallas, who attended with his wife, Andrea.

The Moscas said they were looking forward to attending Little Theatre’s production of “A Christmas Carol” with their daughter, who would be home on break from law school.

That show would end its run with final performances on Saturday and Sunday, and Little Theatre’s development director Walter Mitchell added to the ambience of the Friday evening reception by sporting an old-fashioned white wig — a la his character, Scrooge’s one-time employer, Fezziwig.

The old theater building needs some renovations and improvements, Mitchell has said, and he envisions it serving in the future not only as a theater but as a place for town meetings and a “reasonably priced, reasonably sized venue for individual artists, for jazz groups and trios, for speakers and open mic nights, for dance recitals, for music teachers that need a place to show what their students have learned.”

He is eager to work toward the $1 million goal by raising $200,000 by the end of 2017, which would bring in a matching $200,000 from an angel benefactor who wishes to remain anonymous.

The dozens of people who showed up on a snowy Friday evening got the project off to a good start by donating $19,253.

“That does not include the match,” Mitchell wrote later, in an email. “Remember, we have an anonymous donor who has offered $200,000 on a dollar-for-dollar match for all funds raised by Dec. 31, 2017 and all pledges received by year’s end and satisfied by July 31, 2018.”

Supporters like Cynthia Post, who attended Friday’s reception, agreed the theater is a worthwhile cause.

“People from all walks of life come together” to put on shows and to watch the shows, Post said. “And they bring children into it. I love that.”

Mitchell vowed earlier this year to devote himself to seeking donations. Individuals who are willing to help may send checks made out to Little Theatre of Wilkes-Barre with a notation in the memo line that it is for the campaign.

Checks may be sent to Little Theatre of Wilkes-Barre, in care of P.O. Box 1, Wilkes-Barre PA 18703.

That low-as-you-can-go box number is not a mistake; it’s an indication of how long Wilkes-Barre’s Little Theatre has been part of the community.

“That’s how old we are,” Mitchell said. “We’ve got the very first post office box.”

LTWB to present ‘Lend Me a Tenor’ June 2 through 11

WILKES-BARRE — Saunders and his assistant, Max, are pacing around the sofa in a hotel suite, going over the way Max is supposed to handle the star tenor who is soon to perform with their opera company.

“You will stick to him …” Saunders prompts.

“Like glue!” Max answers.

“You will give him anything he wants except …”

“Liquor and women!”

After the tenor performs, Max agrees, he will start “a spontaneous standing ovation.” And, at all times, he must keep the singer “sober,” with “his hands to himself.”

It sounds like a tall order for Max, the young protagonist in the farcical “Lend Me A Tenor.” How will he cope?

“The character is very milquetoast, a go-fer,” said Dave Giordano, 38, of Exeter, who plays that role in the Little Theatre of Wilkes-Barre production June 2 to June 11. “But he’s got a big heart.”

No doubt audiences will root for Max’s big heart to triumph.

Will his dream of becoming a star himself come true? Well, maybe it will get a boost when Tito the tenor advises Max to loosen up and sings the aria “Dio, che nell’alma infondere” with him.

“We had a singing audition,” Little Theatre director Scott Colin said during a rehearsal as Giordano and Dave Fortin, of Forty Fort, shared a Max/Tito scene. “I was very adamant about that. We had to have actors who can sing. Dave Fortin is incredible and classically trained. Dave Giordano is budding; he’s getting better.”

This being a farce, you can expect mistaken identities and shouting and all sorts of amusing chaos.

For a while, Fortin will even have to play dead, which means it’s imperative not to laugh at the rest of the cast’s antics. “I really have to try to zone them out and pretend they’re not there,” he said.

Fortin has been singing for 20 years, since he was “thrown onto a stage at age 12” and earned a scholarship to the Westminster Choir College in Princeton, New Jersey.

While his training there was serious, this play is more “laugh a minute,” as Giordano puts it.

Adding to the hilarity will be Deirdre Lynch as Tito’s jealous wife; Jim Pall as Saunders, the opera company manager; Breana Schall as an ambitious soprano; Carol Sweeney as the head of the opera guild, John Beppler as the singing bell hop; and Caitlin Harty as Maggie, a young woman, with a crush on Tito, who doesn’t quite appreciate the affection Max is aching to bestow on her.

“It’s like puppy love,” Harty, 26, of Shavertown, said of Maggie’s feelings for Tito.

As for Maggie’s feelings toward Max, Harty said, “She does care for him, but it takes the whole show for her to realize it’s been there the whole time.”

Reach Mary Therese Biebel at 570-991-6109 or on Twitter @BiebelMT.

Little Theatre of Wilkes-Barre to present ‘Lend Me A Tenor’ June 2 through 11

NEPAScene.com: Comedic musical ‘Dirty Rotten Scoundrels’ scams its way into LTWB

A casino, a bodyguard, a con artist or two, and some wealthy young women. Love, lies, and even a few laughs.

Little Theatre of Wilkes-Barre presents the comedic musical “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels” beginning Friday, April 21 at 8 p.m. and running through Sunday, April 30. The show is directed by Katie Lane and choreographed by Michael Marone, with musical direction by Todd Christopher.

According to Dane Bower, who plays con artist Lawrence Jameson, the show involves an older conman (Lawrence Jameson) who takes on the challenge of mentoring a younger con, Freddy Benson (played by Ian Owens). At first, the two work together but soon realize the area isn’t big enough for both of them.

“They make a new deal – the first person to swindle American soap queen Christine Colgate [played by Kristina Toussaint] out of $50,000 wins, and the loser leaves town,” Bower said. “A hilarious series of con man one-upmanship occurs.”

Toussaint said she sees similarities and differences between her and her character.

“I am like her in that I am easily overtaken with awe in even the smallest of wonders and in that I suffer from wanderlust,” she explained, adding that people will have to come and see the show to learn how the two differ.

The production has been exciting to work on, she continued.

“I love many facets of this show, from the exotic and luscious setting to the strong, distinct personalities of each of the characters, to the subtle innuendos and quick, but hilarious remarks that come and go so rapidly that you do yourself an injustice if you blink,” she described.

Dirty Rotten Scoundrels opens at the Little Theatre of Wilkes-Barre (537 N. Main St., Wilkes-Barre) at 8 p.m. on Friday, April 21. Additional shows are at 8 p.m. on April 22, 28, and 29, with 3 p.m. matinees on Sunday, April 23 and 30. Tickets are $20 and can be purchased at the Little Theatre box office or at ltwb.org.

Director Katie Lane says that, in addition to the fast-paced plotline, the show also has an outstanding, jazzy score.

“People should come see the show because it’s a super enjoyable, lighthearted show that’s easy to get lost in,” Lane said. “[And] there’s a great twist at the end.”

Bower added that the musical does an excellent job of maintaining the plotline of the 1988 film (which was directed by Frank Oz and starred Steve Martin and Michael Caine), but also advances the story through music.

“The spirit and humor of the film are very much in tact,” he said. “In fact, I find the stage musical to be funnier than the movie because they found ways to really streamline the humor of the film and embrace the movie’s best parts.”

TIMES LEADER: Luzerne Foundation’s annual forum spotlights Wyoming Valley nonprofits, Including LTWB

PLAINS TWP. — More than 30 local nonprofit groups talked about their missions and the challenges they face Thursday during the Luzerne Foundation’s annual nonprofit forum at Holiday Inn East Mountain.

Leaders from groups with missions ranging from promoting childhood literacy to providing dental care for the uninsured took the opportunity to explain their needs to members of the foundation’s grant committee, which will choose grant recipients at the group’s annual meeting May 10.

Charles Barber, president and CEO of the Luzerne Foundation, said the organization is re-working how it distributes its grant awards this year, which he hopes will make a greater impact on the nonprofit groups aided through the foundation.

WEEKENDER: Little Theatre of Wilkes-Barre’s production of ‘Angels in America’ honored

WILKES-BARRE — The cast of Little Theatre of Wilkes-Barre’s “Angels in America, Part One” was thrilled to learn on Sunday that judges at the Pennsylvania Association of Community Theaters’ PACTFest admired their work so much they awarded the local group the chance to advance to further competition.

“It was wonderful, one of the best experiences I ever had,” said David Parmelee, of Shavertown, who recreated his role as attorney Roy Cohn in a condensed version of the play at PACTFest. “The adjudicators who gave their critiques right then and there were theater professors and playwrights. It wasn’t like your friend coming up to you after a performance and saying ‘good job.’ “

Judges in the PACTFest competition, which was held in Williamsport, praised Little Theatre for taking on Tony Kushner’s “Angels in America,” which deals with the AIDS crisis in the 1980s, because it is not often brought to the stage, Parmelee said.

They also awarded cast member Mandy Pennington an Outstanding Actress award for her portrayal of Harper Pitt, a fear-filled woman who hallucinates and obsesses as her marriage falls apart, and they awarded Dave Reynolds an Outstanding Director Award.

“Harper is a very emotionally demanding role,” said Pennington, who lives in Scranton. “She’s coming from a place of such frustration. She’s just a beautiful mess. Her emotions tend to cycle quickly. She has an imaginary friend and a tendency to swing back and forth.”

Pennington was especially pleased when the judges told her and Eric Lutz, who portrays character Prior Walter, that they could “feel their pain.”

“I remember being bowled over by their praise,” Pennington said. “That is an actor’s ultimate goal. To get your audience to feel.”

The PACTFest competition limits performances to one hour, and “Angels in America” is a three hour play so the Little Theatre group consulted the playwright about condensing it.

“Tony Kushner was very accommodating,” Parmelee said. “He said, ‘Cut it any way you want as long as you do it in order.’ So we took about one-third of the scenes that told the story best and got most of the characters on stage.”

“It was a thrilling experience,” Pennington said. “Everyone in the cast and crew worked so hard.”

Six theaters from across Pennsylvania were represented in the recent competition, and Little Theatre of Wilkes-Barre was one of two judged worthy of proceeding to ESTAFest, the Eastern States Theater Association competition April 6 to 9 in Wilmington, Del. The other winner was the Erie Playhouse, which presented “The Glorious Ones.”

“This is where the competition gets really keen, on the next level,” said Walter Mitchell, who is PACT president. “They’ll be facing groups from New York state, Delaware, Maryland and Pennsylvania. You really have to be at the top of your game, but I think for the first time in a long time Pennsylvania has a good chance of going on to the nationals (at the end of June) in Rochester, Minn.”

Reach Mary Therese Biebel at 570-991-6109 or on Twitter @BiebelMT

CITIZENS’ VOICE: Little Theatre heading to regional festival

The Little Theatre of Wilkes-Barre never fails to impress me.

This past weekend at the Pennsylvania Association of Community Theatres’ state festival in Williamsport, the Wilkes-Barre theater took home a couple awards for their production of “Angels in America Part One.”

Mandy Pennington received the “Outstanding Actress” award for her portrayal of Harper Pitt, while director Dave Reynolds won an “Outstanding Director” award.

According to Little Theatre General Manager David Parmelee, as a member of the nationwide association, Little Theatre of Wilkes-Barre has this opportunity each year to submit a piece to the festivals. The first time the theater submitted a piece for judging was two years ago with “The Crucible.”

“It’s completely open-ended,” Parmelee said. “You can have produced (your submission), or you could just bring something for the festival. But you are limited to an hour. So that was a challenge for us; how do we set up this three-hour play so the audience can still understand what they are seeing?”

Tennessee Williams scholar led talkbalk for Little Theatre of Wilkes-Barre

FEBRUARY 24TH, 2017 – From the Times Leader [Original Link]
By Mary Therese Biebel – mbiebel@timesleader.com

WILKES-BARRE — As they mingled in the lobby during intermission, theater-goers Nancy Olson, of Kingston, and Joann Wynn, of Ashley, marveled at what they’d just seen and heard during the first act of Tennessee Williams’ “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.”

“She’s tremendous,” Olson said, referring to Angel Berlane Mulcahy’s performance as Maggie in the Little Theatre of Wilkes-Barre production, which continues through March 5.

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