Bethlehem Press

Tuesday, October 16, 2018
PRESS PHOTO BY PAUL WILLISTEINPhase Two of Civic Theatre of Allentown’s “The Next Act: Setting the Stage for the Future” Capital Campaign, which is raising funds to renovate and restore the Nineteenth Street Theatre, begins in January 2018. Civic will present its shows at Cedar Crest College Alumnae Hall Auditorium. The ceremonial kickoff of the $5.5-million campaign was April 27 at Civic. Copyright - KENNETH EK PRESS PHOTO BY PAUL WILLISTEINPhase Two of Civic Theatre of Allentown’s “The Next Act: Setting the Stage for the Future” Capital Campaign, which is raising funds to renovate and restore the Nineteenth Street Theatre, begins in January 2018. Civic will present its shows at Cedar Crest College Alumnae Hall Auditorium. The ceremonial kickoff of the $5.5-million campaign was April 27 at Civic. Copyright - KENNETH EK
CONTRIBUTED PHOTO BY PAMELA WALLACECrowded Kitchen Players’ Lehigh Valley debut of “Act One” at the Charles A. Brown IceHouse, Bethlehem, featured playwright Moss Hart at three different ages, from left, Ryan MacNamara (Moss), Brian Wendt (Hart) and Ethan Silver (Mossy). Copyright - KENNETH EK CONTRIBUTED PHOTO BY PAMELA WALLACECrowded Kitchen Players’ Lehigh Valley debut of “Act One” at the Charles A. Brown IceHouse, Bethlehem, featured playwright Moss Hart at three different ages, from left, Ryan MacNamara (Moss), Brian Wendt (Hart) and Ethan Silver (Mossy). Copyright - KENNETH EK
CONTRIBUTED PHOTO by pamela wallaceCrowded Kitchen Players’ world debut of “12ness,” from left, Robert Salsburg (Arnold Schoenberg), Syd Stauffer (Gertrud Schoenberg), Stephanie Gawlas Walsh (Ginger Rogers) and Ryan MacNamara (George Gershwin). Copyright - KENNETH EK CONTRIBUTED PHOTO by pamela wallaceCrowded Kitchen Players’ world debut of “12ness,” from left, Robert Salsburg (Arnold Schoenberg), Syd Stauffer (Gertrud Schoenberg), Stephanie Gawlas Walsh (Ginger Rogers) and Ryan MacNamara (George Gershwin). Copyright - KENNETH EK
CONTRIBUTED PHOTOs BY KEN EKJulie Valenzuela (The Ghost of Christmas Present), left, and Jeffrey Jones (Ebenezer Scrooge), right, ”A Christmas Carol,” Civic Theatre of Allentown. Copyright - KENNETH EK CONTRIBUTED PHOTOs BY KEN EKJulie Valenzuela (The Ghost of Christmas Present), left, and Jeffrey Jones (Ebenezer Scrooge), right, ”A Christmas Carol,” Civic Theatre of Allentown. Copyright - KENNETH EK
CONTRIBUTED PHOTO BY KEN EK“Hair: The American Tribal Love-Rock Musical,” Muhlenberg Summer Music Theatre. Copyright - KENNETH EK CONTRIBUTED PHOTO BY KEN EK“Hair: The American Tribal Love-Rock Musical,” Muhlenberg Summer Music Theatre. Copyright - KENNETH EK
CONTRIBUTED PHOTO BY KEN EKMeredith Kate Doyle (Eliza Doolittle), Jarrod Yuskauskas (Henry Higgins), “My Fair Lady,” Muhlenberg Summer Music Theatre. Copyright - KENNETH EK CONTRIBUTED PHOTO BY KEN EKMeredith Kate Doyle (Eliza Doolittle), Jarrod Yuskauskas (Henry Higgins), “My Fair Lady,” Muhlenberg Summer Music Theatre. Copyright - KENNETH EK
CONTRIBUTED PHOTO BY DAN MAHEREmma Ackerman, “The Complete and Authoritative Tour of Holy Stuff,” Touchstone Theatre. Copyright - KENNETH EK CONTRIBUTED PHOTO BY DAN MAHEREmma Ackerman, “The Complete and Authoritative Tour of Holy Stuff,” Touchstone Theatre. Copyright - KENNETH EK
CONTRIBUTED PHOTO BY lisa boehm“Sister Act,” Pennsylvania Playhouse Copyright - KENNETH EK CONTRIBUTED PHOTO BY lisa boehm“Sister Act,” Pennsylvania Playhouse Copyright - KENNETH EK
CONTRIBUTED PHOTO BY ken ek From left: Barry Glassman (Roy Cohn), Jason Roth (Joe Pitt), “Angels in America,” Civic Theatre of Allentown. Copyright - KENNETH EK CONTRIBUTED PHOTO BY ken ek From left: Barry Glassman (Roy Cohn), Jason Roth (Joe Pitt), “Angels in America,” Civic Theatre of Allentown. Copyright - KENNETH EK
CONTRIBUTED PHOTO BY ken ek From left: Ian Higgins (Colin Craven), Gabrielle Vecciarelli (Mary Lennox), “The Secret Garden,” Civic Theatre of Allentown. Copyright - KENNETH EK CONTRIBUTED PHOTO BY ken ek From left: Ian Higgins (Colin Craven), Gabrielle Vecciarelli (Mary Lennox), “The Secret Garden,” Civic Theatre of Allentown. Copyright - KENNETH EK
CONTRIBUTED PHOTO BY ken ek From left: Kathleen Oswalt (Doralee), Jan Labellarte (Violet), Nina Elias (Judy), “9 to 5,” Civic Theatre of Allentown. Copyright - KENNETH EK CONTRIBUTED PHOTO BY ken ek From left: Kathleen Oswalt (Doralee), Jan Labellarte (Violet), Nina Elias (Judy), “9 to 5,” Civic Theatre of Allentown. Copyright - KENNETH EK

12th annual ABEs salute Lehigh Valley stage: Theater continues to draw crowds, entertain audiences

Friday, December 29, 2017 by Paul Willistein pwillistein@tnonline.com in Focus

With so many platforms competing for your time and dollar, the depth, range and success of the platform that is Lehigh Valley stage is rather remarkable.

Yes, theater is live and well and entertaining in the Lehigh Valley.

In its 90th year, Civic Theatre of Allentown continues its “The Next Act” capital campaign. For its 26th season, The Pennsylvania Shakespeare Festival set new attendance records. Muhlenberg Summer Music Theatre filled its venues for its 37th season. In its 90th year, national touring theater productions and other shows filled the State Theatre Center for the Arts. Children’s theater and stage shows drew crowds to the 118-year-old Miller Symphony Hall. Pennsylvania Playhouse noted its 52nd season. Touchstone Theatre is in its 36th season. Munopco was back for its 90th season. Further afield, Bucks County Playhouse continued its mix of new plays and classics in its 78th year.

Area thespian endeavors include Northampton Community College’s new summer theater, Crowded Kitchen Players, Sing for America, Global ImpActors Group, Star of the Day Productions, Stagemakers Youth Theater at the JCC of Allentown, Players of the Stage, and Pennsylvania Youth Theatre.

Add to this, theater department productions at Moravian College, Cedar Crest College, Lafayette College, Lehigh University, DeSales University and Muhlenberg College. And don’t forget musicals vying for Freddy Awards each spring, and fall plays at Lehigh Valley high schools.

The Focus section in Lehigh Valley Press did its part to set the stage with preview articles of area productions and the annual “High School Musicals” series about Freddy-eligible high school shows.

In 2017, the Focus section of the Press print editions and web sites published reviews of 35 area community and professional stage shows. That’s down from 39 theater reviews in 2016, 38 reviews in 2015 and up from 31 reviews in 2014.

By reviewer, the 2017 theater review tally is: Makenna Masenheimer, 1; Ellen Wilson, 1; Ed Courrier, 1; Luke Muench, 3; Carole Gorney, 17, and Paul Willistein, 12.

Based on Lehigh Valley plays that I reviewed in 2017, with input from Carole Gorney, here are the 12th annual ABEs, as in Allentown-Bethlehem-Easton, Awards. The synopses are edited versions of published Focus theater reviews.

Regional

Community

Theater

Producer: Civic Theatre of Allentown. Phase Two of Civic Theatre of Allentown’s “The Next Act: Setting the Stage for the Future” Capital Campaign, which is raising funds to renovate and restore the ticket area, lobby, auditorium, wall frescoes, ceiling dome, stage, backstage, and access of Nineteenth Street Theatre, is to begin in January 2018. Civic will present its shows, starting with “Rock of Ages,” Feb. 9-25, at Cedar Crest College Alumnae Hall Auditorium. The ceremonial kickoff of the $5.5-million campaign was April 27 at Civic. Phase One, which began May 1 and was to conclude in December, included heating (replacing a 1927 boiler), ventilation and air-conditioning, and safety upgrades. Civic is to receive a $2-millon Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program grant, secured by State Sen. Patrick M. Browne (R- 16) for the renovation if the theater raises $2.5 million. Civic’s 90th anniversary gala Oct. 27 at NB Center Of Automotive Heritage, Allentown, was attended by 180 at the sold-out event. Movie and television star Christine Taylor, who got her start at Civic, is Capital Campaign celebrity chair. Celebrity committee members include Civic show veterans who’ve gone on to television and motion picture careers, including Dane DeHaan and Daniel Roebuck.

Musical: “Sister Act,” Pennsylvania Playhouse. A convert from the hit 1992 film starring Whoopi Goldberg, the musical stage version of “Sister Act” showcases music by Alan Menken, lyrics by Glenn Slater and book by Cheri and Bill Steinkellner. Director Chip Rohrbach assembled a well-balanced and talented cast of singer-actors, somewhat of a miracle given that he had to cast 26 performers, most of whom not only have to sing and dance, but also play multiple roles. Music director Jennifer Palmero successfully overcame the monumental challenges of conducting an eight-member orchestra off-stage, and guiding the singers and dancers through 18 musical numbers.

Original Musical: None given.

Actress, Musical: Vicki Montesano (Mother Superior), “Sister Act,” Pennsylvania Playhouse. Vicki Montesano, as Mother Superior, has a demeanor as the controlled, yet frustrated top nun, that is in perfect sync. Despite her practiced calm exterior and measured vocal delivery, she is still able to project a discernible yet subtle intensity of feelings. Her encounters with Deloris Van Cartier (Krystle Tate) are some of the best scenes in the show, and her comic zingers, delivered with a straight face, are classic.

Actor, Musical: Will Morris (Archibald Craven), “The Secret Garden,” Civic Theatre of Allentown. Will Morris, as hunchbacked uncle Archibald Craven, along with his domineering brother Neville (Brian Rock), are powerful performers who sing with impressive vocal color and vibrancy. Morris as the tortured widower is heart-wrenching in his first act solo, “A Bit of Earth.” Morris and Rock duet in the explosive “Lily’s Eyes.”

Ensemble, Musical: “9 to 5,” Civic Theatre of Allentown: Nina Elias (Judy) really tops herself with her remarkable voice in her final solo, “Get Out and Stay Out.” Jan Labellarte (Violet) gives the strongest, most polished performance. Kathleen Oswalt (Doralee) looks, talks and sings suspiciously like country singer Dolly Parton, who played the role in the 1980 movie, and wrote the music and lyrics for the musical that opened on Broadway in 2008. Oswalt kept us believing in her character from opening scene until curtain call: no small accomplishment. As a trio, the three women were at their best in the hospital scene, which was crazy, energetic and very funny.

Director, Musical: William Sanders, “The Secret Garden,” Civic Theatre of Allentown. William Sanders, Civic Artistic Director, assembled an exceptionally well-balanced ensemble of 22 superb singers-actors who do infinite justice to Marsha Norman’s Tony Award-winning book, based on the 1911 novel of the same name, and Lucy Simon’s operatic-style musical score.

Choreography, Musical: Joey Schubert, “Sister Act,” Pennsylvania Playhouse. Director Chip Rohrbach manages to effectively block all the bodies on the thrust stage and, along with choreographer Joey Schubert, guide them through a multitude of musical numbers, including two dozen “celibate nuns out there shaking their buns” and imitating a Rockettes’ chorus line.

Play: “Angels In America,” Parts 1 and 2, Civic Theatre of Allentown. Civic Theatre Artistic Director William Sanders directed the award-winning play, highlighted by superb acting, brilliant staging and a masterful script. “Part 1: The Millennium Approaches” is set in 1985 when Ronald Reagan was in his second term as president. While the world is experiencing an historic surge in population, ironically, AIDS is on its way to killing more than 35 million. “Angels” is a sobering and often sardonic examination of a society still riddled with homophobia, and bigotry toward Blacks and Jews, despite its protestations of freedom and equality for all. Beyond that, the play has moments of sincere tenderness, humor and a profound understanding of the human condition. Written in two parts by politically-outspoken playwright Tony Kushner, “Angels in America” received a Pulitzer Prize in 1993, along with a Tony Award. “Part 2: Perestroika” is subtitled “A Gay Fantasia on National Themes.” Civic’s cast of eight actors, many of whom had long monologues that never lost their intensity and impact, had to deal with difficult story lines and portrayals on stage.

Original Play: “Pints, Pounds and Pilgrims,” Crowded Kitchen Players. The Celtic farce, written and directed by Crowded Kitchen Players’ Artistic Director Ara Barlieb, is actually two plays within a play, with a cast of kooky characters who romp through their various scenes with gusto. Chief among these is David Oswald as American director Benjamin Foolscap.

Actress, Play: Julie Valenzuela, “A Christmas Carol,” Civic Theatre of Allentown. The Ghost of Christmas Present, played by Julie Valenzuela, is a dynamic delight. She makes a raucous entrance after playing the theater’s organ, then romps around the stage, spreading good cheer. The contrast is chilling when she reveals, hidden behind her jolly exterior, the children of Want and Ignorance.

Actor, Play: Barry Glassman, “Angels in America: Part 1,” Civic Theatre of Allentown. Barry Glassman was riveting as the real-life lawyer Roy Cohn, who served as chief counsel to Sen. Joseph McCarthy during the Communist witch-hunt days, and in the play, takes credit for getting Ethel Rosenberg executed. Cohn dies of AIDS-related causes, but stays in denial until the end, telling people and himself that he has cancer. Glassman, in reprising the Cohn role from 1997, thoroughly captured his character’s bravado and gritty defiance.

Ensemble, Play: “Act One,” Crowded Kitchen Players. “Act One” is an illuminating look into the struggles of Moss Hart, one of Broadway’s finest playwrights, as well as a glimpse into the inner workings of Broadway theater during the Roaring 20s and beyond. The CK Players deserve credit for accepting the many challenges the script presents, and giving it a very enjoyable life once again on stage. It wasn’t until 2014 that James Lapine’s Tony-nominated stage adaptation premiered on Broadway. The CK Players staged their own noteworthy Lehigh Valley premiere of “Act One” at the Charles A. Brown Ice House, Bethlehem. The play is not for the faint-hearted director, cast or crew. Producer-Director Ara Barlieb did a remarkable job of overcoming the myriad of set, cast and costume challenges that call for 59 scene changes, 51 separate roles and a flurry of costume changes required because all the characters are played by only 14 actors. Ryan MacNamara is marvelous as Moss in his teens and early adult years. Brian Wendt gives credibility to his portrayal of Hart as the adult and acclaimed playwright. Mossy, who is Hart as a boy, and his brother Bernie Hart, are played by Ethan Silver, a very spirited and personable young actor. Trish Cipoletti is Hart’s feisty Aunt Kate. The remaining list of 47 characters is full of the names of luminaries of the 1920s and early ‘30s who met Hart along the way or in some way influenced his career, names such as writer and critic Dorothy Parker, actor and humorist Robert Benchley, writer Edna Ferber, and commentator Alexander Wolcott. Topping them all is George S. Kaufman (David Oswald), the great collaborator who worked with Hart in writing many of his hits, such as the Pulitzer-prize-winner “You Can’t Take It With You.”

Director, Play: George Miller, “12ness,” Crowded Kitchen Players. “12ness” tells the story of the apparently little-known and unlikely friendship between American songwriter George Gershwin and avant-garde composer Arnold Schoenberg. The play’s title is derived from Schoenberg’s 12-tone compositional technique that uses 12 notes of the chromatic scale. The Crowded Kitchen Players production of the comedy-drama, written by Charlie Barnett and directed by George B. Miller, with assistant director Kate Scuffle, was given its world premiere as part of the “IceHouse Tonight Series” at the Charles A. Brown IceHouse, Bethlehem. Miller directs the cast self-assuredly, specifically and deftly, not unlike a skilled coach who ups the game of all the players. Miller employs some neat stage craft, such as a cinematic freeze-frame during double dialogue scenes between Gertrud Schoenberg and George Gershwin and Ginger Rogers and Arnold Schoenberg. The audience moves from the large theater area downstairs at the IceHouse for tennis court scenes to the intimate upstairs theater area for the Schoenberg dining room scene.

Costume Design: Will Morris, “9 to 5,” Civic Theatre of Allentown. Costume Designer Will Morris did an impressive job of dressing the cast members and ensemble not once, but several times, in work and street clothes, tuxedos, Western gear and animal costumes. The colors of the costumes, at least of the lead characters, mirrored the purple, pink, yellow, lime green and beige of the set panels.

Scenic Design: Michael Lewis, “The Secret Garden,” Civic Theatre of Allentown. Michael Lewis’ scenic design incorporates nearly 20 scene changes, which he manages skillfully through clever devices, such as hanging a huge painting of Victorian dancing couples behind the actors to establish a ballroom. To create the illusion of an English manor house, Lewis places lighted window panels at each end of the stage to mimic an exterior view of the building, and in some interior scenes, incorporates an over-sized model of the house into the back wall.

Lighting Design: Will Morris, “9 to 5,” Civic Theatre of Allentown. Will Morris deserves mention for his lighting design that solved the problem of instantly switching from the real world to the various characters’ worlds of murderous fantasy. Scene locations projected onto the set’s back facade (Hart’s Office, Judy’s Joint) was a brainstorm.

Sound Design: Helena Confer, “A Christmas Carol,” Civic Theatre of Allentown. Ghostly sounds, threatening sounds of nature and soothing Christmas carols are in the mix of this successful annual production.

Tim Roche Memorial “Meanwhile ... “ Award: “The SantaLand Diaries,” Civic Theatre of Allentown. Will Morris directs Jarrod Yuskauskas, playing David-Crumpet, in the one-man show, “The SantaLand Diaries.,” Author David Sedaris’ tome is about the time he worked as an elf in Santaland at Macy’s New York City store. The stage adaptation is by Joe Mantello. The satiric look at the Santa season made merry with all who saw it.

Regional

Professional

Theater

Producer: Pennsylvania Shakespeare Festival (PSF), Patrick Mulcahy, Artistic Director; Dennis Razze, Associate Artistic Director: With nearly 150 performances in just under 10 weeks, the PSF season concluded with landmark attendance records, ticket revenues exceeding $1.2 million, an 8 percent increase in subscription sales with 2,634 subscribers, the largest number in the Festival’s history, and a main-stage production playing to 103 percent capacity. Prior to the 2017 season opening, PSF made The New York Times 2017 annual list of the Top 15 summer theater festivals, sharing the ranking with the Stratford Festival, and the Oregon and Colorado Shakespeare Festivals. PSF’s 150 performances of seven productions featured 33 professional Equity actors as part of a seasonal company of more than 400 artists and artisans, staff and volunteers, from 25 states. “Evita” opened the season on the Main Stage playing to 103 percent capacity and its 22 performances brought in more than 10,760 patrons, making this PSF’s highest-attended production in its 26-year history. Nearly 200 standing-room tickets were sold, double the number of standing-room tickets sold for the previous record holder, “Les Misérables” (2015). “The Hound of the Baskervilles” had a sold-out run and set a record for the highest-attended production in the 187-seat Schubert Theatre, playing to 98 percent capacity for a total audience of 5,106. “Ken Ludwig’s The Three Musketeers” and Shakespeare’s “As You Like It” played to more than 9,500 patrons, 1 percent away from setting an all-time repertory attendance record. “Troilus and Cressida” played to 89 percent capacity and to several sold-out houses. PSF’s two children’s productions, “The Ice Princess,” and “Shakespeare for Kids,” played to approximately 9,000. PSF’s annual fund-raiser the “Luminosity Gala” raised more than $110,000 to fund its artistic and educational programming.

Director, Musical: Dennis Razze, “Evita,” Pennsylvania Shakespeare Festival. PSF’s production of the musical by Tim Rice (lyrics) and Andrew Lloyd Webber (music) that received eight Tony Awards in 1980 is world-class in every theatrical sense, from casting, to vocal, acting and instrumental performance, to choreography, to costumes, to staging, to lighting. You are transported to Argentina, circa 1934-1952, by a compelling tango of political entanglement. PSF’s opening season musicals directed by Razze are always phenomenal.

Musical: “Evita,” Pennsylvania Shakespeare Festival. Enough praise cannot be garnered for PSF’s “Evita,” truly a ground-breaking production for the PSF and those fortunate enough to be in the audience during the sold-out run. PSF does musical theater proud, and big, starting with a cast of 40, with everyone on point on stage, totally committed in their every gesture, dance step and vocals. It continues with a 15-piece orchestra, conducted by Nathan Diehl that crackles with percussion, brass and strings in a distinctive Latin flavor (with revised charts from the 2012 “Evita” Broadway revival, as noted by Razze).

Original Musical: None given.

Choreography, Musical: “Hair,” Muhlenberg Summer Music Theatre. The large, young cast of 24, directed with reverence, understanding and sensitivity by James Peck, is exuberant, sounds excellent in ensemble singing, with music direction by Ed Bara, backed by a nine-piece orchestra conducted by Vince Di Mura, and is energetic in the nearly-nonstop choreography by Samuel Antonio Reyes that blends the frug, the pony, the swim, shag, and go-go.

Actress, Musical: Dee Roscioli (Eva Peron), “Evita.” A spectacular turn by Dee Roscioli, who has the uncanny ability on stage to truly become any character she plays. First of all, there’s the voice. Roscioli has a range from a whisper to full-throat that puts the notes into orbit. This is evidenced in every song she sings in “Evita,” but especially in the contrast between her jaw-dropping rendition of “Don’t Cry For Me Argentina” in the famous Casa Rosada balcony scene, and then in the finale, which becomes a bittersweet lament, a plea for forgiveness, understanding and love. Roscioli conveys the triumph and the sorrow of Eva Peron. Roscioli’s Eva is at once strong and conniving and vulnerable and needy. Roscioli plays the role with a sensitivity, strength and dignity that befits what we know of the historic Eva Peron. Roscioli is remarkable.

Actor, Musical: John Dewey (Buddy Holly), “Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story,” Bucks County Playhouse. The exuberant, infectious, toe-tapping musical renders some 10 of Holly’s songs in the first act and some 11 of Holly’s songs in the second act by a tight-knit outfit that will have you doing double-takes, especially for Buddy Holly, played with beaming authenticity by John Dewey, reprising his Bucks’ role. Dewey not only has the Holly “hiccup” singing down, he has the stance, and he wears the black thick-frame glasses well. Director Hunter Foster keeps the musical moving at a brisk pace. Music director is Paul Masse. Sound designer is Matthew Given.

Ensemble, Musical: “Hair,” Muhlenberg Summer Music Theatre: “Hair” is an amalgam of pop, folk-rock songs (some 24 in the first act and 14 in the second act, many mostly snippets (Gerome Ragni, James Rado, lyrics; Galt MacDermot, music). Bree Ogaldez (Ronny), lead vocalist, and the “Tribe” (the ensemble) is astounding in the opening, well-known “Aquarius.” Cameron Silliman (Sheila) makes “Easy To Be Hard” her own, with an expressive, heart-rending rendition. Silliman and the ensemble head the show toward a big close with “Good Morning Starshine.” At the center of what little story there is in “Hair” (Gerome Ragni, James Rado, book) is Alan Mendez (Claude), who, along with Gabe Martinez (Berger) and the cast, sings the emblematic title song, “Hair,’” with hair-waving, hip-shaking and arm-raising abandon. Felice Amsellem (Dionne) and the Tribe present a rousing conclusion with “Let The Sun Shine In.”

Play: “As You Like It,” Pennsylvania Shakespeare Festival. In the reimagining of William Shakespeare’s play, the music’s the thing. “As You Like It” Director Matt Pfeiffer keeps the pace fast, the acting loose (delightful audience asides), with a respect for the text, and an innate understanding of the spirit of Shakespeare that makes this one of the best PSF Shakespeare productions ever. There’s yet another character in “As You Like It”: the music by Composer, Music Director and Sound Designer Alex Bechtel, who put the words of Shakespeare (“Under The Greenwood Tree,” etc.) to wonderful music played by the ensemble, and wrote the words and music for the concluding song, which deserves a life beyond the PSF show. Marnie Schulenburg, gracious as Rosalind in a gorgeous turquoise velvet gown with huge midnight-blue draped bow by Costume Designer Devon Painter, and then, disguised as Ganymede in young man’s attire, creates a charming, cap-wearing Chaplinesque character, replete with mustache. Totally besmirched by Rosalind is Orlando (Zack Robidas, as might he would: he and Schulenburg are husband and wife). Robidas plays the role modestly, with the humility of a farm boy, who has a touch of the poetical, and is given to posting his tributes to fair Rosalind on the trees of Arden (an early version of a chap book, facebook and Snapchat). In the forest of love, you can’t tell the poems for the trees. Touchstone (who has some of the best laugh lines) is the grand fool-bah, as personified in a hilarious turn by Dan Hodge, limbs akimbo, rubbery-face and fleet of foot. As Jaques, Ian Merrill Peakes commands the stage with sure-footed stance, eye-piercing gaze and theater-filling voice, especially in the “Seven Ages Of Man” (aka “All the world’s a stage”) speech. Peakes’ rendering is exquisite and sublime. Sheer brilliance.

Original Play: Emma Ackerman, “The Complete and Authoritative Tour of Holy Stuff,” Touchstone Theatre. It’s around the world in 80 mimes with Emma Ackerman, who created and performs the one-woman show. Ackerman wordlessly leads the audience through a series of vignettes about the search for the meaning of life. The 65-minute performance, with no intermission, takes the form of an audio tour. The selfies fad, the taking of one’s photograph with a cell phone camera, is a major theme. Ackerman, a Touchstone Ensemble member, navigates a maze diagram emblazoned on the stage floor as videos, photographs and images in the Video Design by Dan Maher, coinciding with each scene are shown on a large screen above the stage. Jp Jordan, Touchstone Artistic Director, directed the ambitious show and designed the set.

Actress, Play: Meredith Kate Doyle (Eliza Doolittle),”My Fair Lady,” Muhlenberg Summer Music Theatre. Meredith Kate Doyle is a revelation as Eliza Doolittle. She’s not the elfin Audrey Hepburn (Eliza in the 1964 movie), but she has the voice of Julie Andrews (Marni Nixon’s singing was dubbed for Hepburn’s Eliza). Doyle is nicely feisty (“Just You Wait,” “Show Me”), melds wonderfully with Jarrod Yuskauskas (Professor Henry Higgins) and Zach Love (Colonel Pickering) in a delightful “The Rain In Spain,” and soars with heart-breaking wonder (“Wouldn’t It Be Loverly,” “I Could Have Danced All Night”).

Actor, Play: Jarrod Yuskauskas (Professor Henry Higgins), “My Fair Lady,” Muhlenberg Summer Music Theatre (MSMT). The classic musical is led by a fine lead performance by Jarrod Yuskauskas as Professor Henry Higgins. One difference in the MSMT production and the well-known stage and movie versions is that Yuskauskas can really sing, which Rex Harrison humbly admitted was not his forte (he more or less spoke-sang the songs, also known in German as sprechgesang, or spoken singing). Yuskauskas gives the songs depth, humor and pathos: “Why Can’t The English,” “I’m An Ordinary Man,” “Hymn To Him,” “I’ve Grown Accustomed To Her Face,” the latter especially rendered delicately by Yuskauskas with an emotional sensitivity that wins us over to Higgins’ essential good nature.

Ensemble, Play: “The Hound of the Baskervilles,” The Pennsylvania Shakespeare Festival. The howls you hear during “The Hound of the Baskervilles” at the Pennsylvania Shakespeare Festival aren’t those of the titular hound, although there is that. No, the howls are nearly nonstop from the audience at “The Hound of the Baskervilles,” a regular laugh-riot. “The Hound of the Baskervilles,” adapted for the stage by Steven Canny and John Nicholson from Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s novel, was first performed in 2007 by Peepolykus (pronounced “People Like Us”) and played a 10-week run at the Duchess Theatre in London’s West End. The comedy provides a tour-de-force for actors and the PSF production has de force, i.e., three actors who have delighted audiences in previous PSF seasons and don’t disappoint in “The Hound of the Baskervilles.” Greg Wood plays Sherlock Holmes with the proper combination of somber reflection, unctuous revelatory pronouncements and a reticence in countenance owing to his mind being several steps ahead of his words. Wood’s is a well-considered performance as quick to light up as Holmes’ Calabash Pipe. Carl N. Wallnau plays Dr. Watson, Holmes’ browbeaten assistant, with a touch of whimsy, aggrieved vanity over any perceived slight, and a ram-rod stance that gives the appearance of a statue in the park. Jacob Dresch plays Sir Henry Baskerville, heir to the Baskervilles, with an eagerness that would become a puppy dog, an endearing distractedness and an attentiveness that’s winsome. The three actors assay multiple roles, some 16 among them, including Wood as Cecile Stapleton and Mr. Barrymore and Mrs. Barrymore. That the play must be exhausting for the actors is a rank understatement, owing to the accumulation of dialogue that fires like a battalion’s rounds, timing of lightning-strike repartee, and quick-change costumes and entrance and exits achieved like Olympic runners leaping the hurdles.

Director, Play: Jim Helsinger, “The Hound of the Baskervilles,” The Pennsylvania Shakespeare Festival. Jim Helsinger is well-familiar with theatrical shenanigans, having directed “The 39 Steps,” “The Mystery Of Irma Vep,” “The Complete Works Of William Shakespeare (Abridged),” among other stage delights at PSF. The Helsinger touch, light and deft, is in evidence, as is an attention to detail and staging in the three-quarter round Schubert Theater.

Costume Design: Lisa Zinna, “Evita,” Pennsylvania Shakespeare Festival. Brilliant and meticulous dresses and gowns by Costume Designer Lisa Zinni: From a floral-pattern purple dress of Eva Peron’s small-town days, to increasingly more lavish dresses and suits, to a magnificent bejeweled glowing Dior white Cinderella ball type gown (which Zinni built), the some 14 costume changes by Dee Roscioli (Eva Peron) pattern her march to radio, movie and political success. Zinni created amazing costumes for the entire cast, with wonderfully jaunty attire for the men, Argentinian military uniforms and soldier uniforms, to sleek outfits for the polo crowd sophisticates.

Scenic Design: John Raley, “Hair,” Muhlenberg Summer Music Theatre. Scenic Designer John Raley utilizes a four-level scaffold festooned with elements of an American Flag, and the Statue of Liberty, except the crown, torch and head are disconnected, much like the era in which the musical takes place.

Lighting Design: Curtis Dretsch, “Hair,” Muhlenberg Summer Music Theater. Lighting Designer Curtis Dretsch brings psychedelic colors and even some strobe lights to illuminate the scenes and, in Act One’s brief nudity closing scene, to keep things in the dark.

Sound Design: Don Tindall, “The Hound of the Baskervilles,” The Pennsylvania Shakespeare Festival. One of the many neat things that the play does is have the actors refer to intentionally-missed lighting and sound cues. Sound Designer Don Tindall has his cues full and pulls it off.