Northampton Press

Sunday, August 19, 2018

Groucho returns for 'Evening' at Miller Symphony Hall

Wednesday, May 15, 2013 by PAUL WILLISTEIN in Focus

When Frank Ferrante performs "An Evening with Groucho," 8 p.m. May 18, Miller Symphony Hall, Allentown, the ghost of Groucho may be with him.

First, a personal aside. My father, Paul, once told me that when he was an usher at Miller Symphony Hall (then The Lyric), the Four Marx Brothers (Groucho, Chico, Harpo and, Zeppo) performed their musical-comedy, "The Cocoanuts," there before it was a Broadway hit (1925 - '26) and film (1929). Allentown was a "try-out town," where Broadway-bound shows or stage acts were tested for audience reaction.

Creativity discovered anew in Young Playwrights' Lab

Wednesday, May 15, 2013 by PAUL WILLISTEIN in Focus

Instead of teaching to the test, the Young Playwrights' Festival reaches for the stage.

The creative process, the writing and the plays' staging are key to its success, says Mary Wright, Touchstone Theatre Ensemble Associate and Young Playwrights Lab Coordinator:

"With schools' budgets getting cut further and further, anytime the arts can get reintroduced to the schools is a big deal."

Playing here in Allentown

Wednesday, May 15, 2013 by PAUL WILLISTEIN in Focus

Everyone saw it on the program: "Allentown."

And when the time arrived to perform the song which landed Billy Joel on the Top 20 charts and in hot water with Allentown officials, piano man Joe Boucher couldn't have put it better.

"I grew up in a factory town. And when I heard this song, it spoke to me," Boucher said in introducing the song from Billy Joel's 1982 "Nylon Curtain" album that reached No. 17 and charted for six weeks in Billboard.

"The song has had a major place in my heart and it's so great to be here and see that Allentown's thriving," Boucher said.

Whittling away

Thursday, May 9, 2013 by PAUL WILLISTEIN in Local News

Northampton school tax hike reduced to 2.38 percent

On a night when the Northampton Area School Board honored its Skills USA District 11 and state competition winners, the administration proved its skills in whittling by reducing a proposed budget increase to 2.38 percent.

Still, it wasn't enough to please board President David Gogel and board member Jean Rundle, who voted against the budget.

The proposed general fund budget for 2013-14 of $88,785,952 was approved 6-2, with one member absent Monday night.

'Oblivion': Cruise drone-alone

Wednesday, May 8, 2013 by PAUL WILLISTEIN in Focus

"Oblivion" is a stunning sci-fi thriller that transports you to another world: Earth in the not two-distant future.

The year is 2077, intones Jack Harper (Tom Cruise) in the prologue. An alien invasion has made the planet uninhabitable, he tells us. Surviving humans have fled to Triton, a moon of Saturn.

Harper is a kind of space-age mechanic. Only, instead of repairing cars, he repairs drones, which have been developed into all-purpose super-fast, super-lethal security forces. The drones are like a three-dimensional Pac-Man and they destroy any targets in their path.

THEATER REVIEW Civic's 'Next to Normal' is anything but

Wednesday, May 8, 2013 by PAUL WILLISTEIN in Focus

"Next To Normal" is certainly not your normal musical.

It defies the conventions of traditional Broadway fare in several ways.

"Next to Normal," through May 19, Civic Theatre of Allentown, has very few spoken words of dialogue. The story is advanced through songs 17 in act one and 20 (including five reprises) in act two, for a total of 37 production numbers.

This is about double the number of songs in a typical musical. "Chicago," for example, has 11 songs in act one and seven songs (with no reprises) in act two, for a total of 17 production numbers.

The great budget debate

Thursday, May 2, 2013 by PAUL WILLISTEIN in Local News

Board divided over tax increase

The Northampton Area School District is between a budget and hard place.

The result may mean higher than anticipated school district taxes for NASD property owners.

Superintendent Joseph Kovalchik and Business Administrator Terry Leh have been updating the school board on the fiscal challenges facing the district as the state-mandated July 1 approval deadline of the 2013-14 budget looms.

"What we are looking for is some kind of direction," Kovalchik said to the school board.

'The Place' for fine acting

Wednesday, May 1, 2013 by PAUL WILLISTEIN in Focus

"The Place Beyond The Pines" is a complex drama with three parallel plots telling three interlocking stories. Each is about an individual's choice, and the truth or consequences that result, depending on the choices made.

"Pines" is an indie film crime caper that is of chief interest for its clever if somewhat convoluted screenplay and a bevy of stellar performances by some of the United States' best hot young movie stars.

THEATER REVIEW DeSales Act 1 'Chicago' has all that sass

Wednesday, May 1, 2013 by PAUL WILLISTEIN in Focus

"Chicago" is as brash a musical as can be expected to be set in America's second-city, where crime, scandals and front-page newspaper headlines are second to none.

The musical, directed stunningly with that brash spirit by Dennis Razze, chair of theater, DeSales University, and Associate Artistic Director, Pennsylvania Shakespeare Festival, continues 8 p.m. May 1 - 4 and 2 p.m. May 4 and 5 on the main stage, Labuda Center for the Performing Arts, DeSales University, Center Valley.

Shovelfuls of hope for future

Thursday, April 25, 2013 by PAUL WILLISTEIN in Local News

NASD breaks ground for new middle school, secondary campus project

The silver shovels were lined up and ready for the Northampton Area Middle School and Secondary Campus Renovation Project groundbreaking ceremony.

But it seemed all Northampton Borough Councilman Ed Pany had to do was raise his arms skyward and, like Moses parting the Red Sea, the ground would part, too.

Even so, shovels were put to the test for the $80.7-million project as Earth Day became earth-moving day along a grassy slope on the edge of Northampton Borough Park.