Friday, March 30, 2012


EPAC alumnus Jonathan Groff taps his way through "Anything Goes" at the
 MCC Theater "Miscast" gala in New York 
(photos courtesy of

EPAC alumnus Eliseo Roman, far right, rehearses with fellow cast members of Broadway's "Leap of Faith" (photo courtesy of


EPAC alumnus Jonathan Groff (“Honk,” “Bat Boy”) channeled his inner Sutton Foster/Reno Sweeney and his inner Barbra Streisand/Fanny Brice Monday night, as part of the cast of the MCC Theater’s “Miscast” fundraising gala in New York.
Wait until you see his fancy hoofin’!!

Annually, "Miscast" allows Broadway stars to perform numbers they'd normally never be cast to sing. Jonathan, who has long been obsessed with Sutton Foster, performed "Anything Goes" from the show of the same name (which the Ephrata Performing Arts Center at the Sharadin Bigler Theatre will be presenting in December).

You can see the eight-minute video of his high-energy performance here

 Jonathan also performed "The Music That Makes Me Dance" from "Funny Girl."

The gala raises money for the MCC Theater (where Jonathan recently performed in the play "Submission"), its Youth Company and its work with New York City public high school students and emerging playwrights.

Jonathan's mom, Julie Groff, was in attendance, and said the show was very elaborate, filled with talented performers, and a lot of fun to watch. Julie said Jonathan worked very hard on his tap-dance number for weeks, while flying back and forth among Los Angeles, New York and Chicago for his varied TV work.

Other Broadway stars performing at "Miscast" included "Smash" star Megan Hilty; "Follies" star Jan Maxwell; Norm Lewis of "Porgy and Bess," and Josh Gad of "Book of Mormon."

You can read more about the gala, and see more pix of its performers, here.


In more EPAC alumnus news: Lancaster native Eliseo Roman, who performed in “The Fantasticks” and “Jesus Christ, Superstar” at EPAC, and as the “Piragua Guy” in “In the Heights” on Broadway, portrays an Angel of Mercy in the new Broadway musical, “Leap of Faith,” which opens April 3 at the St. James Theatre, 246 W. 44th St.

 The show, which stars Raul Esparza and Jessica Phillips and has a score by multi-Oscar-winner Alan Menken, is about a flim-flam preacher trying to hustle a small town (till he meets a small-town girl who may just give him something real to believe in, that is!)

Yay, Eliseo! Break a leg!

You can read more about the show here.


All of us who sat in the audience slack-jawed, sobbing and emotionally overcome by the recent run of "Next to Normal" at the Sharadin Bigler Theatre would like to thank everyone who had anything to do with the show -- the director, musical director and choreographer; the cast, the crew, the pit orchestra, the design team ... EVERYONE! You created a true, moving work of art no one will forget. The theater received so many complimentary e-mails and Facebook posts and heard so many effusive comments about that show. KUDOS!

And now, on to "Xanadu," April 26 - May 12!! This musical comedy (based on the campy 1980 movie of the same name) concerns a Greek muse and her efforts to inspire a struggling California artist to create a roller disco.

The show has a book by Douglas Carter Beane (who wrote the wonderful "The Little Dog Laughed" that was a recent "EPAC on the Edge" offering) and music and lyrics by Jeff (Electric Light Orchestra) Lynne and John Farrar (who wrote hit songs for Olivia Newton-John).

Call (717) 433-7966, or visit the Sharadin Bigler Theatre website for tickets or more information.

          -- Mary Ellen ("Merv") Wright

Friday, March 2, 2012


For years, Diana, her family and her doctors have been wandering through a thicket – trying to treat and cope with her bipolar disorder.
We follow them all as Diana tries to make herself whole, gathering pieces of her life and trying to integrate them within her mind and her soul. What important thing can’t she remember? Is her illness in her brain or in her soul?
This is the premise of a powerful rock musical, “Next to Normal,” which is receiving its regional premiere right here at the Sharadin Bigler Theatre (March 8-24).
I watched a recent rehearsal of the show, and I can attest that this Tony Award-winning musical is profound, funny and extremely moving, and that the cast is simply stellar. Wait until you hear this cast wrap its very talented vocal cords around this rock score. They will knock your socks off!
This is a very intense show; it will move you, make you think, make you cry and make you laugh. It will get under your skin, and stay with you for days. Make sure you bring tissues or a handkerchief to the show with you; you will need them!
The show explores themes of memory, love, loyalty, grief, the nature of mental illness and even ethics in psychiatry.
The book is beautifully written and structured, and the music that propels the story forward is powerful. I love the way we, as audience members, are thrown off-kilter by the order in which we learn certain pieces of information about Diana’s psychiatric journey; we gather these pieces as she’s gathering them, and we wonder about so much until mysteries are solved in the final scenes.
The catharsis you’ll experience will be palpable.
It’s no accident that the book won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 2010. It’s one of only eight musicals to ever have won that prize.
The show is beautifully cast with marvelous actors and voices:

Diana - Roberta (Bobbie) Bear
Dan - Bryon Smith
Natalie - Kathryn Williams
         Gabe - Corey Buller
         Henry - Matt Whalen
         Doctor Fine - Bob Breen

The Sharadin Bigler Theatre will present a special performance of “Next to Normal,” part of the proceeds from which will benefit the National Alliance on Mental Illness. That show is at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, March 14; all seats are $20 apiece.
To order tickets online for that benefit show – a small facility and handling fee will be added – visit this page. You can also call the box office at (717) 733-7966.
For more information about “Next to Normal” – and to see a video and some photos – visit the Sharadin Bigler Theatre website and click on the purple “Next to Normal” logo.
The Sharadin Bigler Theatre would like to extend its deep gratitude for our sponsors for this show:  Philhaven; Green MountainCyclery and BlueRidge Communications.

-- Merv Wright