"...Everyone Is Entitled To My Opinion." ~Madonna

Monday, November 23, 2015

Theatre Review : Bald Eagle High School / Cinderella

As usual, Bald Eagle Area Drama Club had an excellent attendance for their fall production. The community support for their plays is impressive, especially considering what a large geographic area is involved with the school district. From where I was sitting, it was also a very appreciative audience.

CINDERELLA  was a good choice for their first play of the season. It is a familiar story, popular with young and old alike. It also has the advantage of having a very large cast, giving opportunities for more involvement. There is not enough space to mention each person involved, but I have to tell about several stand outs.

First, big time credit has to go to the tech crew. The sets were attractive and well planned; thanks to  Tom Durachko and his crew. Colton Lucas along with Jessica Cain, Rosalie Showers and Taylor Zimmerman saw that the costumes were well suited for each actor. I always like to give credit to the light crew ( the trickiest part of any show). Luke Wilson and his helpers pulled it off smoothly.

Colton Lucas is a good actor to open any show. As the jester, Jacques, he set the story in motion. Colton has a great relationship with an audience and, surprisingly, talent as a juggler. Savannah Elder was a sweet Cinderella. Her niceness came through in the scenes with the mice as well as with her step family.

Stepsisters, Maya Eppley and Maggie Cowan, were by no means "ugly" stepsisters. They are both attractive young ladies who had the acting talent to come across mean and vain. Good job ladies. The three mice, Kiara McClusik, Harley Parks Camie Haines, were adorable. Developing a personality while covered in a furry costume is not an easy job, yet we could see them as individual.

Karina Bloom as Queen Isabella and Michael Geyer as King Henri were as royal as a person could want. Their son, Philippe was played with great charm, dignity and with a sense of humor. Oh, he also could juggle.

Watch for Xander White  in upcoming shows. Xander is in seventh grade and already knows how to work an audience. Also, sophomore Alice Statham is a young lady to watch. As the Fairy Godmother she proved that there are no small parts.

Directors Kirsten Betts and Ryan Wade showed us some nice touches to an old classic. The magic of a horse and carriage, a new ball gown and a wedding that included three mice made it an entertaining evening. Thank you.

To see some fun  pictures of this show check www.meadowlanephotography.com and be sure to save the date to see the Bald Eagle Area Drama Club's production of Thoroughly Modern Millie on April 21, 22, and 23. It is going to be interesting to see how that show is casted.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Theatre Review: BAHS The 39 Steps

Bellefonte Area High School Theatre department started the school theatre season with ALFRED HITCHCOCK'S THE 39 STEPS.  It was a good choice, full of action and laughs. The play follows (more or less) the story from the original movie, but adds so many creative touches that you end up laughing, not being scared.

Credit goes to Patrick Barlow for adapting the script and director Eric M. Brinser for adding some of the slapstick comedy. It did cross my mind how many young people picked up on the references to other Hitchcock films. Some, like Rear Window,were mentioned in passing, but we were treated to a fast action scene from North by Northwest that was exciting. Oh, and don't forget the Benny Hill theme every time the cops gave chase.

There were so many clever touches, but I have to mention some standouts from the rather large cast. Senior Stephen Giacobe carried the show by playing the lead, Richard Hannay. He was on stage for the entire evening and never lost his energy, which alone is remarkable. This is a large part that demands quite a bit from the actor. Stephen was up to the part.

Emma Holderman is a junior but has proven in past plays that she can act. Unfortunately, as Anabella Schmidt she meets an early demise and though the character sets the action moving, we do not see her again. The show takes a less serious turn with the"stage show" of Mr. Memory and his assistant,Compere. Mason Keeler and Dori Puzycki were having so much fun with these two parts that the laughter from the audience got in the way, but Mason and Dori were professional with their timing and kept things moving.

Ryan Carroll and Carson Bechdel as the "salesmen" on the train had a chance to do some old vaudeville type quick change routines.  By changing  hats they each became a series of characters, on and off the train. Speaking of the train, the chase and fight scene was quite thrilling---if you used your imagination..

Kaitlyn Whitesell is also a senior who has proven her abilities on stage. She was a good choice as the romantic lead, Pamela. She was definitely not the little, wimpy, helpless heroine.

Among the underclassmen who were stand outs were Jack Badger and Hailey Seibel. They had so much fun as Mr. and Mrs. McGarrigle, the Scotish innkeepers, that they almost stole the show.

 It can be difficult for high school students to do dialects or accents and from what I could hear Sarah Travis and Mark Badger worked dilligently with the students. My problem remains with the sound system at Bellefonte High School. It was the only part of the evening that I heard any negative comments about. Other then that, it was a fun play, performed by talented actors and crew and directed with great creativity.

Now, we will have to wait to see what April 21-23, 2016 ( the date of the Spring Musical) brings.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Book review: ONE GOOD TURN

A Kate Atkinson book can be depended upon to not follow too many rules. Each story is different, even if it is more or less a sequel. ONE GOOD TURN is a good example. Two years after Case Histories, we once again meet Jackson Brodie, now a retired millionaire, visiting in Edinburgh during its famous arts festival.

Out side of a theatre that is featuring a slightly has-been comic, a minor automobile accident causes a nearly fatal road rage incident. As the reader gets to know the participants and witnesses, it is hard to see what any of them have in common. We meet a befuddled, mild mannered author of successful young adult mysteries, an unscrupulous real estate tycoon and his wife, a comic who has seen better days, a dedicated policewoman with a troubled son, some colorful theatre personell  and various shady characters.

Jackson Brodie is in Edinburgh to support his actress girlfriend in what he sees as a terrible play. Unwillingly, he gets pulled into the action when he finds a murdered girl floating in the surf. The ex-policeman, ex private investigator now finds himself the main suspect in what appears to be a completely isolated case.

An Atkinson plot takes twists and turns that keep a reader on her mental toes. I always picture her working space covered with little notes posted all over her walls so that she can make it easier for her reader. ONE GOOD TURN has a large cast of characters but, unless the author wants you to be confused, each one is a clear individual. This makes trying to decide who is a good guy and who isn't a real challenge.

As with any good suspense novel, it is hard to talk about this book without giving too much away. I will say that the clues are there and yet the end of the book came as a surprise to me. It has been fun to go back through the story to see how the author led me along, completely engrossed by the action and characters and still have a surprise ... after I thought that everything was solved.

If good character suspense written by an author who knows how to use the English language is your cup of tea, Kate Atkinson is waiting for you to discover her books.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015


Barbara J. Taylor may be a new author to keep your eye on. Her debut novel, Sing in the Morning, Cry at Night, shows great promise. The theme of a young child being left alone to cope with life is not a new one, but Taylor pulls you into her characters and locale with enchanting ease.

In northeastern Pennsylvania  a mother lies in bed, listening to her eight year old daughter trying to find something in the kitchen for breakfast. It is September,4, 1913, just months after the burial of the older daughter and life has changed drastically for the family.

Daisy's death had been caused by a Fourth of July sparkler. The neighbors say that Violet, the younger sister had deliberately thrown the fiery sparkler out of jealousy and the town seems to believe that Violet was responsible for killing her sister.  Each member of the family handles the tragedy in his or her own way: Grace, the mother, falls into a deep depression and withdraws from life, Owen, the father, leaves the home to live over the local pub, drowning his sorrow, and Violet lives with the fear that she may have murdered her sister.

In addition to the family members, there are so many characters in Sing in the Morning, Cry at Night who stand out. Trying to make it on her own, Violet develops a friendship with Stanley, a motherless boy with an abusive father. The two of them come to the notice of the widow Lankowski, who goes from being a figure to fear to being their savior.

The hateful neighbor, Myrtle Evans and the obnoxious missionary Adelaide, as well as some others in town will not allow the belief that Violet killed her sister Daisy to die down. Adding to the colorful cast of characters are the seductive specter Grief and the real life evangelist Billy Sunday.

I liked this book. At first I was afraid that it would be too much of a downer to enjoy, but the author spreads hope and love through out the sadness. The relationship between Grace and Grief could be felt and made Grace a much more sympathetic person. The scenes that showed the pettiness and often downright meanness of Myrtle or Adelaide were balanced by the kind Widow Lankowski or the spirited Stanley.

The author based this novel on a tragedy from her own family and set it in her own home area. The coal mining scenes, the townspeople and the Billy Sunday Revival all have an authentic feel because they are taken from real life. Ms. Taylor has added her own creative talent to write a story that will keep the reader enthralled. These are people who will not be easily forgotten.