Wednesday, July 23, 2014


Amy Ward, seated, is Elle Woods and Niki Boyer Swatski is Paulette in the Ephrata Performing Arts Center's production of "Legally Blonde: The Musical," opening Thursday at the Sharadin Bigler Theatre.  

On his public radio show, “This American Life,” Ira Glass recently remarked that he learned a lot about storytelling by going to musical theater a lot as a kid.

If you want a great example of what Glass is talking about, then check out “Legally Blonde: The Musical,” opening Thursday (7/24 – tomorrow!) at the Sharadin Bigler Theatre.

A lawyer’s daughter, Amanda Brown wrote the novel “Legally Blonde,” based on her own experiences at Stanford Law School. It told a great story about a young woman who, because of personal heartbreak, works hard to get into law school – a place decidedly outside her comfort zone. Once there, she must defy other people’s stereotypical view of her as a dumb-blonde sorority alumna. And she learns that, once she stops trying to conform and decides to be true to herself and the gifts she recognizes in herself, she can triumph and be useful in ways beyond anything she’d previously imagined.

The 2001 film, “Legally Blonde,” changed some of the details, but kept true to that wonderful story about Elle Woods, a protagonist the audience can’t help falling in love with and rooting for.

The musical takes that great story and layers on songs, dance numbers and extra complexity to some of the other characters we all loved from the movie.

You’ll love the story of Elle Woods; her dog, Bruiser (played at EPAC by an adorable, rescued Chihuahua who’s available for adoption at the end of the run of the show!); her college BFFs; her manicurist buddy, Paulette; the men in her life, and her Harvard Law School frenemies. Director/choreographer Cody Smith, an EPAC veteran (as performer, director and choreographer), has assembled a young, talented cast that fills the stage with energy, great dance moves and clever, catchy songs.

It’s a fun show with a lot of heart and a great message about self-confidence, defying other’s expectations, not judging a book by its cover and being true to oneself.

And, at its core, “Legally Blonde: The Musical” has a great story to tell. Call 733-7966 or visit our website, and get your ticket today (the show runs till Aug. 9). Oh-my-God-you-guys! Let this great cast tell you a wonderful story!

--Merv Wright


Thursday, July 17, 2014


Twenty years ago this week, I was standing in the wings at the sweltering “old” Ephrata Playhouse, waiting to step onstage as part of the ensemble in the musical “The Robber Bridegroom.” Our darling, now-departed Brian Adams, who played Little Harp, was making funny faces at me to help calm my nerves.

 Our rehearsals in an Elizabethtown church basement had been filled with laughter along with the hard work; our cast had bonded into a family. We went out together nearly every night during rehearsals and the run of the show, and had a great time enjoying each other’s company.

While I’d been an audience member at the playhouse for years before those nights in July 1994, “The Robber Bridegroom” marked my first practical involvement with the Ephrata Performing Arts Center.

Here we are, 20 years later. I’m still friends with several people I met while doing that 1994 show. I’ve helped out around the theater, from ushering to working the concession stand, from posting on social media to passing out brochures to helping out during school-day performances.

In those 20 years, I’ve sat in the audience and marveled at the theater being created by this community troupe that rivals professional theaters in the quality of the shows and the talent of the casts and creative teams.

I’ve watched young kids grow up on EPAC’s stage and become wonderful adult performers. I’ve seen EPAC veterans come and go, and watched newbies fill the stage with talent and magic. I’ve laughed my head off; I’ve bawled my eyes out; I’ve scratched my head, and let characters get under my skin.

And, in the last 10 years, I’ve watched creative teams make fabulous use of the beautifully renovated theater space that’s now the (air-conditioned!) Sharadin Bigler Theatre.

Through it all, I’ve remembered that sense of FAMILY I first experienced during the run of “The Robber Bridegroom.”  EPAC is, indeed a family – a family of performers, directors, technical wizards, creative teams, crew members, volunteers, sponsors, patrons, supporters and audience members.

And that family comes together dozens of times every year to create evenings of THEATER THAT MATTERS – plays and musicals that are thought-provoking, joyous, heart-rending, toe-tapping and glorious – sometimes all at the same time.

Whether you move set pieces, direct the pit orchestra, act, direct, throw the opening-night party, show people to their chairs or buy tickets and sit in those seats, you, too, are a part of the EPAC FAMILY.

With the delightful, high-energy musical, “Legally Blonde,” opening next Thursday, we’re about halfway through EPAC’s 2014 season. We’ve experienced great theater so far, and have plenty more to see through the end of the year.

Welcome, family, and thanks for your continued support. It’s been a great 20 years!

-- Merv Wright, proud EPAC volunteer