Cider Mill’s ‘Trying’ is a triumph

Reviewed by George Basler

At first glance the plot of Trying seems to be the worst kind of theatrical cliché. One character in the two-character play is a cantankerous, demanding old man. The other is a bright, efficient young woman who goes to work for him. Of course, they’re going to start the play clashing with each other. Of course, there going to end up feeling mutual respect and affection.
But don’t let the plot summary discourage you. Trying, now playing at the Cider Mill Playhouse in Endicott, is a funny, warm and poignant play that skillfully explores both the issues of aging and the stresses of young dreams yet to be realized. Canadian playwright Joanna McClelland Glass skillfully intermixes humorous and emotional moments without ever descending into false sentimentality. Like a skillful jazz musician finding new riffs on an old tune, Glass finds new insights in the off-repeated odd couple genre.
And the Cider Mill production is first-rate, with Paul Falzone and Marjorie Donovick giving outstanding performances. Read the rest of this entry »

United Cultural Fund grants total $228,000 for 2013

By Barb Van Atta

Broome County Arts Council Board Chairman Fred Xlander and Executive Director Sharon Ball today (March 13) announced the awarding of more than $228,000 in United Cultural Fund (UCF) grants for 2013. Seven arts and cultural organizations will share in $210,428 in UCF general operating support grants. Project grants totaling another $18,298 will be shared by 14 organizations and individual artists. Read the rest of this entry »

Cider Mill cast makes the most of humor in ‘Leading Ladies’

Reviewed by George Basler

Even in an age of political correctness, a time-honored way to get laughs is to put a couple of guys in dresses and let the fun begin.
The technique has been used, with varying degrees of success, in comedies from Some Like It Hot to Tootsie to Bosom Buddies. It’s on display again in Leading Ladies, a 2004 comedy which opened Thursday (Jan. 24) at the Cider Mill Playhouse in Endicott.
The bad news is that Leading Ladies, which opened this weekend, doesn’t reach the heights of Some Like It Hot or Tootsie, which are classics of the genre. The good news is that, taken on its own terms, Leading Ladies is a lot of fun, and the Cider Mill production supplies its share of laughs to ease the mid-winter blahs. Read the rest of this entry »

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Talented Cider Mill cast finds all the color in ‘Tintypes’

Reviewed by Lee Shepherd

Tintypes, a nostalgic look back at the best and the worst of the turn of the (last century), is a lightweight but highly energetic and thoroughly entertaining evening of pantomime, song and dance.
Presented by the Cider Mill Playhouse Thursday through Sunday every week in November, Tintypes features a fabulous cast of actor/singer/dancers who are mostly Binghamton University-educated. Read the rest of this entry »

Cider Mill actors strong, but opening show is weak

Reviewed by George Basler

Alan Ayckbourn is a busy guy. In his career, the British playwright has produced a remarkable 76 plays. Although it can’t be proven, some have called him the most produced English playwright in history, other than William Shakespeare.

One hopes, then, that It Could Be Any One Of Us, is one of his lesser efforts. Read the rest of this entry »

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Cider Mill director charting a new course for established theater

EDITOR’s NOTE: Over the next few weeks, BAMirror will be chatting with recently appointed leaders of local arts organizations. We begin, appropriately, at the Cider Mill Playhouse, which opens its 37th season tonight (Sept. 13).

By George Basler

As he begins his first full season as executive director of the Cider Mill Playhouse in Endicott, Robert Rogers knows he has taken over a theater with a proud heritage.. He knows that the venerable playhouse, which is starting its 37th season this week, has become an important part of the region’s cultural fabric. Read the rest of this entry »

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Razzle, dazzle: Cider Mill shines in new production of ‘Chicago’

Reviewed by George Basler

You don’t have to be a cynic to like Chicago, but it sure helps.

There’s not an ounce of sentiment in the new production of the acclaimed musical now being staged at the Cider Mill Playhouse in Endicott, and that’s the way it should be, because Chicago is one of the most caustic shows ever to be a hit on Broadwway. The musical’s world is one in which innocence gets crushed, goodness is for saps and corruption wins the day. Don’t look for “heart” because none of the main characters have one, even though the main character is named Roxie Hart. Read the rest of this entry »

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Simon’s ‘Red Hot’ laughs still ring true in Cider Mill production

Ava Crump and Buzz Roddy (photo by Stephen Appel)

Ava Crump and Buzz Roddy (photo by Stephen Appel)

The Neil Simon farce Last of the Red Hot Lovers opened this past week at the Cider Mill Playhouse in Endicott. The production, directed by Penny Powell, features Buzz Roddy, Dori May Ganisin, Marjorie Donovick and Ava Crump.

George Bernard Shaw is quoted as saying that the French do not really care what they do as long as they use the correct words. Roddy’s character, Barney Cashman, is no Frenchman – he is a mid-20th century American man — but he’s in crisis, and words are at the root of his perceived woes. At 43 he believes that his life has been incomplete, because he’s never had an affair. And words are his challenge. He strongly believes that romance must be a part of an affair; however, the women he pursues have other words in mind – and romance is not one of them.

Barney is always changing with each scene building upon the character’s development. Roddy rises to the needs of the role, keeping the audience very invested in Barney’s dilemmas. We suffer, share and enjoy all his anguishes.

Ganisin, a well-known actor in this area, always turns in a great performance. In this piece, she is remarkable.  Her quick mood changes are phenomenal. From sexual enticement to a coughing seizure to anger and attack —  all are accomplished with amazing speed and believability. Read the rest of this entry »

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‘Breaking Legs’ is a very entertaining play with a talented cast

Reviewed by Ralph Hall

The Cider Mill Playhouse’s production of Breaking Legs by Tom Dulack is a nearly perfect defining of the 21st century term “profiling” with the added touch of humor. When you take everything one believes about a specific cultural, ethnic group and add a bit of slapstick comedy, identifiable human guilt and visible sexual overtones — all performed by a talented cast — the results have to be a great success. Read the rest of this entry »

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Andrews’ theatrical career always worth following

By Ralph E. Hall

In the mid-1970s, I had the pleasure of auditioning a very young teenager named Joe Andrews for the role of Sir Tom in Camelot (a Golden-Hall Production at the former Ramada Inn in Binghamton). The musical was produced in a dinner-theater seating. At one performance, a wait-staff member forgot to remove a tray from Joe’s path for a running entrance path. The results were disastrous, but he and King Arthur went on complete the final scene of the show to the roaring approval of the audience. Andrews’ dedication to the craft continues to this day. Read the rest of this entry »

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‘Spelling Bee’ spells ‘good,’ not ‘great’

Reviewed by Nicholas Linnehan

I was looking forward to the Cider Mill Playhouse’s production of The 25th Annual Putnam Spelling Bee, and I was engaged in the atmosphere of the Endicott theater as soon as I arrived. last Saturday (June 4). After a great, high-energy opening number, the cast members proved that they are good actors; unfortunately, they are mostly not good singers.
I’m not a musical fanatic by any means and am therefore pretty forgiving, but some of the performers definitely struggled with the music. Often times they were off pitch, which detracted from the overall quality of the show.
Yet what they could not sing, they could act, and its the acting that saved Spelling Bee. The cast members playing contestants are young, which is needed in order to have the audience believe that they are high schoolers. Maybe it was that inexperience that hurt them. Still, there are some great moments that redeem the show.
Ava Crump plays the spelling bee’s moderator, Rona. She acts and sings well. She probably is one of the most seasoned actors on stage, and that pay off for her. Also noteworthy is Mara Gabrielle as Olive. Gabrielle has an infectious energy about her, and her acting chops shine. But , hands down, Ben Puglisi as William Barfee steals the show. He is mesmerizing and delightful as the akward nerd who learns, not just how to spell, but how to care about someone other than himself. He is weird, yet lovable in a strange way.
While this show is the weakest I’ve seen at Cider Mill, it is still good. I have just come to expect great theater from the playhouse, and this production did not meet my expectations.

‘Unneccessary Farce’ is a necessary show to see

Reviewed by Nicholas Linnehan

The Cider Mill Playhouse’s production of “Unnecessary Farce” is anything but unnecessary. It’s a riot! Under Penny Powell’s capable direction, the cast shines. This play is classic farce, full of awkward situations, sexual innuendo and play on words. The ensemble members show their talent as they tackle all of these aspects with great ease. As an actor, I know that this is no easy feat and requires a lot of diligence and skill. Read the rest of this entry »

I loved it, it was perfect, now laugh!

Reviewed by David L. Schriber

“I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change,” the longest running musical revue in off-Broadway history, is Joe DiPietro’s hilarious commentary on love between the sexes, tracing relationships through the years of one’s life. The Cider Mill Playhouse’s staging is first rate. Cast members Michael Andrako, Rebecca Orly Cohen, Shannon Roma DeAngelo and Jared Eberlein give stellar performances, with expressive faces, well-balanced voices and great chemistry. On the night we attended, there was hardly a bump in the fast-paced lyrics. Lighting and stage changes went flawlessly. Jan DeAngelo directed and provides musical incidental and accompaniment music. Read the rest of this entry »

‘BBC Murders’ neither ‘hot’ nor ‘cool’

Reviewed by Dave Schriber

“BBC Murders” is a collection of four Agatha Christie murder mysteries, each of which was broadcast as a radio play by the BBC between 1937 and 1954. The Cider Mill Playhouse production set the dramas in the context of a radio broadcast, actors lined up in front of vintage microphones with a sound effects bay behind. There was no scenery, no period costume, and, most disappointing, limited acting. It was more of a dramatic reading, with scripts in hand as would have been done in the original radio broadcast, than it was theater. The sound effects were neither visually interesting nor effective. The same heavy clomping of shoes accompanied both a small woman and a large man walking. I tried closing my eyes but still the sound effects didn’t blend well with the spoken word. Read the rest of this entry »

What a weekend for the arts!

Don’t you just LOVE the start of the performance season? Don’t you just HATE IT that you can’t get to everything?

I opted for “Jekyll & Hyde” by S.R.O. Productions III on the grounds that even an unfamiliar score would appeal to a 15-year-old as long as it had a well-known plot and an intriguing onstage combo of stabbings and strumpettes.  Well, he was blown away, and so was I. I wish I could be telling you to go see this wonderful production, but it only ran this past weekend. For you who also don’t the show, with music by Frank Wildhorn and book and lyrics by Leslie Bricusse., my best comparision is “Sweeney Todd.”
Compliments all around to the cast members, particularly the strong female leads, Megan Germond and Jana Kurcera, and particularly to the amazing Jake Wentlent as Jekyll/Hyde. He was able to maintain two distinct characters, with different stances and different, equally impressive vocals, even when performing a “duet” with himself.  Kudos also to director Jan DeAngelo, choreography Anne Tribilcock and the whole technical crew. Kucera and Jan McMahon were credited for the sumptous costumes; Gene Czebiniak (set design) and Joel Pape (lighting design) for the combination of set pieces and evocative back-wall projections.

So that was my weekend in the arts; how about you? Did you go to “Jekyll,” too, or opening weekend at the Cider Mill, or Blues on the Bridge? Please share your news and views.