Sunday, November 14, 2010

EPAC on the Edge; Sondheim birthday DVD, concert

### Don't miss "The Marriage of Bette and Boo," the Monday night (Nov. 15) play that's part of the "EPAC on the Edge" series of staged readings. Directed by Alan Gomberg, the performance features a cast of some of your favorite EPAC actors. You can find out a bit more about the play itself by clicking on the "EPAC on the Edge" icon on the EPAC web page, or on this page of playwright Christopher Durang's website:

"The Marriage of Bette and Boo," a dark comedy that's meant for adults only(!!), is based on the marriage of Durang's own parents. In the play, a character named Matt narrates the story of his parents' marriage -- described on Durang's Website as " three decades of divorce, alcoholism, madness and fatal illness" -- and tries to make sense of it all. Tickets are $7 in advance and $10 at the door; call 733-7966 for tickets. A wine-and-cheese reception begins at 7 p.m.; the play begins at 8. See you there!

### If you're an EPAC fan, you're probably also a Stephen Sondheim fan; EPAC has presented many marvelous performances from the Sondheim oeuvre.

And if you love Sondheim, you won't want to miss "Sondheim! The Birthday Concert" on PBS "Great Performances" at 9 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 24. The show captures the best moments of the March 15-16 gala concerts, performed at New York's Lincoln Center as part of a year-long celebration of Sondheim's 80th birthday. The concerts, hosted by David Hyde-Pierce and featuring the New York Philaharmonic, include performances of many well-known (and not-so-well-known) Sondheim songs by famed Broadway actors including Mandy Patinkin, Patti Lupone, Bernadette Peters, Michael Cerveris and Audra McDonald. For a description and a preview of the show, check the event's PBS Web page: In addition, a DVD of the show comes out this Tuesday, Nov. 16.


### Don't forget: Tickets are still available for "The Full Monty," running through Nov. 20. Do not miss this high-energy musical filled with talent and heart!

-- Merv Wright

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Welcome to the EPAC blog, and "The Full Monty"

Hello, and welcome to the new Ephrata Performing Arts Center blog, through which we’ll keep you informed about everything that’s going on at EPAC. You’ll learn more about what goes on behind the scenes at the theater, and about some of the unsung heroes of EPAC. We’ll also share information and fun tidbits from the wider world of the arts and theater that we think will interest the EPAC family. We welcome – and encourage – your comments and questions.

This first blog post is being written by Mary Ellen “Merv” Wright, a volunteer for EPAC. Other people will also be writing this blog; we’ll put our initials at the end of our posts, so that, if you have a question or comment about a given post, you’ll know to whom to address it.

“The Full Monty” opens tonight (Thursday, Nov. 4), and I guarantee it’s going to be a wonderful and entertaining show, filled with heart and humor – and served up with a side of beefcake. I was lucky enough to sit in on Sunday’s rehearsal at EPAC, and I can’t say enough good things about the cast, the pit orchestra and the show itself. You will love this rollicking piece of theater. The songs are catchy and the script is filled with both tender moments and hilarious one-liners, all beautifully delivered by an energetic and talented cast. The orchestra also sounded fantastic on Sunday night.

A theater reviewer, writing about a recent Texas community-theater production of “The Full Monty,” commented that the show is mainly about a bunch of men dancing around naked, and that, therefore, the plot is basically irrelevant. Based on what I saw Sunday, I cannot disagree more with that reviewer. Men stripping to music may be the thing that makes audiences hoot and holler at this show, but it is only a small part of what this funny-yet-emotional play is about.

“The Full Monty” is, in fact, “about” so many different things that it is bound to appeal to a very wide audience. It’s about a bunch of backslapping Buffalo, N.Y., buddies – steelworkers (and one of their bosses) who find themselves out of work and feeling lost. It’s about men in danger of becoming alienated from the people in their lives who love them most – wives, mothers, sons – because their loss of employment has meant a loss of identity and dignity. They’re struggling to keep both their furniture AND their pride from being repossessed. Ironically, the six guys in this show – men of varying ages and body types – find a way to regain their dignity by shedding their clothes. They realize they can score a one-night financial jackpot by performing as male strippers and by baring all for an audience of family and friends.

The show is about body image; about learning what it means to be a “real man”; about the importance of finding someone to love, and about what really matters in life. It’s about men realizing that, just as they so often objectify women, they, themselves, can be objectified BY women (with disheartening results).

And, yes, the show is also about a bunch of men taking off their clothes and dancing around till they’ve achieved “the full monty” – complete nakedness. You will love watching this group of “regular guys” practicing pelvic thrusts and other humorously suggestive moves in anticipation of the big performance.

Kudos to the whole cast; this is a great ensemble with a lot of energy and talent. But particular praise must go to the men of Hot Metal, who are having their performance mettle tested by this show: Sean Young, Matthew Rush, Kevin Ditzler, Bob Breen, Tim Spiese and Matthew Metro. These guys have not only worked incredibly hard to inhabit their characters and learn their sexy-steelworker choreography, but have also shown themselves willing to expose themselves, literally and figuratively, to help tell the heartwarming and joyous “Full Monty” story. Please be mindful that these gentlemen – the whole cast, in fact – are volunteering their time to let the audience experience this great music and this great story. This is the essence of community theater, and all of the actors, musicians and members of the directing/choreography staff and crew deserve our gratitude for their long hours of effort.

EPAC’s “Full Monty” will appeal to everyone who wants to come join the fun. But it would also make a great ladies’ night out; I predict there will be quite a few soprano screams, “woo-hoos” and whistles coming from the audience. But you may also find a lump in your throat and a big smile on your lips as you kick back and enjoy this fine production. It runs through November 20. Get your tickets now, either online or by calling the box office at 733-7966. – M.W.