Ringing' a ringing success at Pennsylvania Playhouse
Special to The Morning Call
Bells are ringing at the Pennsylvania
Playhouse, where good-hearted Ella Petersen (Anne Marie Squerrini), an
employee of the Susanswerphone answering service in Manhattan, just can't
help get overly involved in clients' lives, to the frustration of her
employer (and cousin), Sue.
What would Olga the opera singer do without Ella's recipe for a mustard
plaster? Or the frustrated mom do without ''Santa Claus'' to help keep her
little boy on the right track?
The audience soon finds out in the playhouse production of ''Bells are
Ringing,'' written by the legendary team of Betty Comden and Adolph Green
and filled with eccentric characters and unlikely romance.
The production has some nice touches, particularly Drew Howard's
innovative set design. The center backdrop includes musicians Scott Miller
on piano, John Gackenbach on drums and Steven Wright on bass. This is
right in tune with the story's setting in the era of nightclubs and big
Images flashed on screens on both sides of the stage allow for quick
changes in scenery. The only other major set elements — a checkerboard
floor and some office chairs — cleverly evoke the 1950s obsession for
office gray. Vintage dresses lend authenticity.
The stage direction by director Chip
Rohrbach and the dance numbers by Con Gallagher are precise, snappy, and
keep the story line moving.Although this musical didn't produce a slew of
hits, people will enjoy hearing a few standards — ''The Party's Over,''
''The Midas Touch'' and the poignant ''Just in Time.''
Showing off their fine voices were Squerrini and Mark Breiner, who plays
Sandor, a racketeer who, under the guise of a music publisher, romances
Sue into letting him set up shop at Susanswerphone.
If you're a fan of whacky '50s musicals and understand the constraints of
community theater, you'll enjoy this show. ''Bells are Ringing,'' 8 p.m.
Friday and Saturday, 3 p.m. Sunday, through April 18 (no performance April
9-11), Pennsylvania Playhouse, Illick's Mill Road, Bethlehem. Tickets:
$18; $15, seniors and students; $18, all seats Saturday. 610-865-6665.
Marguerite Smolen is a freelance writer.
Jodi Duckett, Arts and Entertainment Editor
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