David N. Dunkle for Sentinel
Stage pranks are really about timing.
Among other things, the doors must open and close precisely; lies must be told convincingly and at the right time; and costume changes must be done with lightning speed. The idea is to keep the audience a little off balance so they don’t have time to examine the unlikely plot too closely.
What if everything goes wrong? What happens if cues are missed, props fail, or lines are sloppy? What if an actor gets knocked out on stage? What if a door that was supposed to slam simply falls? How do the cast and crew right a ship that’s going wrong at lightning speed?
That’s the hilarious premise of “The Play That Goes Wrong,” a frenzied farce in the guise of a murder mystery, which opens June 17 at Allenberry Playhouse near Boiling Springs.
“It’s a very hard-working physical cast,” said Dustin LeBlanc, executive director of Keystone Theatrics, a community theater troupe that puts on shows in Allenberry. “They have to do a lot of extra stuff while keeping the pace of a prank. There are so many things that move or fall.
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The complexity of this game within the game is such that opening night has been pushed back a week to allow more time for preparation.
“I’m not going to say we did more than we could chew, but it was very tough,” LeBlanc said. “It takes a lot of very careful planning. The safety of our cast and crew is paramount, and this set presented a lot of things to think about to make sure that happens.
Written in 2012 by Henry Lewis, Jonathan Sayer and Henry Shields, “The Play That Goes Wrong” has been on the air in London for 10 years, winning the prestigious Laurence Olivier Award for Best New Comedy. It also had a run on Broadway in 2017, closing after 772 performances and winning a Tony Award for Best Stage Design of a Play.
The cast (and crew) of “The Play That Goes Wrong” are seriously incompetent. Lines are forgotten, props fall off walls, and fingers are accidentally stepped on. In fact, a plethora of incidents occur as a disastrous production of “The Murder at Haversham Manor,” an over-the-top mystery by fictional playwright Susie HK Brideswell, regularly unfolds.
LeBlanc, who saw “The Play That Goes Wrong” several years ago, said he was looking forward to intermission, but not for a bathroom break. “I needed a break from the laughter,” he said. “It’s just one of the funniest shows I’ve ever seen.”
The production of Allenberry runs through June 26 at the historic theater along Yellow Breeches Creek.
The musical opens the summer season
The Gretna Theater, one of America’s oldest summer theaters, returns for its 95th summer season with “Honky Tonk Angels,” a country musical featuring songs by legendary artists such as Dolly Parton, Loretta Lynn and Tammy Wynette.
The show features 30 classic hits, including “Stand By Your Man”, “9 to 5”, “Coal Miner’s Daughter”, “These Boots Are Made For Walking”, and “I Will Always Love You”.
The story follows three budding young singers – Angela, Sue Ellen and Darlene – who arrive in Nashville by bus and decide to join forces in their quest for musical stardom. The cast includes “Honky Tonk Angels” Amanda Robles as Sue Ellen, Lena Conatser as Darlene, and Rachel Brennan as Angela.
Gretna Theater began operations as a professional summer theater in 1927 in the small borough of Mount Gretna, Lebanon County, which is part of Chautauqua, a national adult education movement specializing in history and the arts dating back to 1873.
“Honky Tonk Angels” continues through Sunday at the outdoor theater.
“Sound of Music” arrives at the Totem Pole
Another long-running summer theater — Totem Pole Playhouse in Caledonia State Park — enters the heart of its 72nd season this month with a rendition of Broadway favorite “The Sound of Music.”
This glorious musical from Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II – who also created “The King and I”, “South Pacific” and “Oklahoma!” among others – is based on the true story of the Von Trapp family, who fled Austria just before World War II when their safety was threatened by the Nazis. The show transforms this real departure into a thrilling if fictional escape on foot through the Alps to Switzerland.
Memorable songs include the title track, as well as “Edelweiss”, “My Favorite Things”, “Climb Every Mountain”, and “Do-Re-Mi”. The professional cast of Totem Pole includes Natalie Szcerba as Maria and Ken Griggs as Georg Von Trapp.
Totem Pole has been present in Caledonia since 1950, when it opened its doors in a converted car workshop. A later theater was destroyed by an arsonist in 1969, leading to the construction of a new performance hall at its present location next to the Caledonia Golf Course along Route 30 midway between Chambersburg and Gettysburg.
The theater has featured many notable actors over the years, particularly “All in the Family” star Jean Stapleton, who performed in many shows for her husband William Putch, who was producer of Totem Pole from 1953 until when he died in 1983.
“The Sound of Music” will run until July 3 at the Totem Pole.
NOTE: Area theaters continue to take precautions to protect cast, staff and audience members from COVID-19. Check theater websites for the latest updates on protocols and safety guidelines.