Salisbury Press

Wednesday, September 18, 2019
PRESS PHOTO BY ED COURRIERFrom left, Music director Stacy Bechtel with cast members Dante Hill, Katherine Tabisz, Monica Handwerk, Taylor Hopkins, and bass player Amanda Mawson, “Puttin’ On The Ritz,” through July 2, The Pines Dinner Theatre, Allentown. Copyright - © Ed Courrier PRESS PHOTO BY ED COURRIERFrom left, Music director Stacy Bechtel with cast members Dante Hill, Katherine Tabisz, Monica Handwerk, Taylor Hopkins, and bass player Amanda Mawson, “Puttin’ On The Ritz,” through July 2, The Pines Dinner Theatre, Allentown. Copyright - © Ed Courrier

Theater Review: Pines puts on a delicious ‘Ritz’

Friday, June 16, 2017 by ED COURRIER Special to The Press in Focus

Reel life comes to the stage with “Puttin’ On the Ritz: A Salute to the Golden Age of the Silver Screen,” through July 2, The Pines Dinner Theatre, Allentown.

The well-paced musical revue of movie themes and show tunes from the days of silent films through World War II is brought to the cozy stage by the cast of Monica Handwerk, Dante Hill, Taylor Hopkins and Katherine Tabisz.

Hopkins channels Charlie Chaplin in a clever skit that begins in a small café, then combines real with reel as the four actors pass from the stage into a silent movie screening on the curtain behind them, hop on a train in the film, then return to the stage.

Hopkins confidently croons “Embraceable You” and sings and dances to “If I Only Had a Brain” as the floppy scarecrow from “The Wizard of Oz.”

The show hits high notes as Tabisz’s amazing voice solos in “Bird in a Gilded Cage,” “It Had to Be You,” and “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.”

Hill introduces “The Jazz Singer” as the first talkie and smoothly solos with “As Time Goes By” from “Casablanca ” and “Thanks for the Memories,” among other vintage songs.

Handwerk has fun with her “obnoxious movie star” character who won’t take direction from Hopkins, her director, in the comedic sketch of a 1930s movie production company. She solos with “Somewhere My Love,” the love theme from “Doctor Zhivago,” and “Shakin’ the Blues Away.”

“Singing in the Rain” starts with Hopkins, channeling Gene Kelly, who is then joined by Tabisz in a brief duet and the popular song ends with all four onstage in raincoats and umbrellas singing and dancing to well-timed thunder and lightning.

The four entertainers tap dance to tunes like “I’ve Got Rhythm,” “Puttin’ On the Ritz,” and “Yankee Doodle Dandy.” A music and dance tribute to the USO and World War II with “The White Cliffs of Dover,” “Praise the Lord and Pass the Ammunition,” and “GI Jive” segues into patriotic chestnuts like “Grand Old Flag” and “America the Beautiful” to wrap up the music revue.

The talented quartet is backed by music director Stacy Bechtel on piano and Amanda Mawson on stand-up bass.

The Pines production is co-produced, directed and co-choreographed by Oliver Blatt with co-producer Stacey B. Yoder and co-choreographer Amber Blatt.

The exceptional lighting and period costumes contribute significantly in providing mood and atmosphere to the intimate production. A large filmstrip arch framing the stage provides a simple, but effective “Hollywood” atmosphere.

The medley of 40-plus tunes in “Puttin’ On The Ritz” may be from the past, but the Pines Dinner Theatre’s well-managed production is as fresh and delicious as the food they serve.

Tickets: The Pines Dinner Theatre box office, 448 N. 17th St., Allentown; pinesdinnertheatre.com; 610-433-2333. Members of the armed forces with military ID are eligible for a free dinner and show ticket. Call box-office to make a reservation.