Over a thousand students in Pottstown and the surrounding area will have an opportunity to view a colorful and fun-filled musical production being performed this Spring at the Steel River Playhouse in Pottstown.
And, area families will also be able to enjoy performances of the hit Broadway show, “The Emperor’s New Clothes,” which will be open to the public in April at the playhouse.
“The reason we wanted to be involved in the production is because Pottstown is an economically underprivileged area and many children do not have the funds to go see a show like this,” explained Beth McDonnell, a founder of The Company Theatre of Chester Springs, a traveling theatrical group which is co-producing the show along with the Steel River playhouse.
She said the student performances have been made possible due to a grant from the First Presbyterian Church of Pottstown.
Six free performances of the musical will be presented at the Steel River Playhouse for students who will be bused from schools in the Pottstown School District, MCDonnell explained. She said the actors are all professionals who are able to donate their time for the afternoon shows. “It’s a fun show and is a national Theater for Young Audiences production, which is just over an hour long,” she added.
McDonnell, who’s also directing the production, said families will be able to see the same show at performances open to the public April 7 to 15. She said it is geared towards the whole family, especially for children ages 3 and over.
Kathryn Tilley, who plays the royal clothes maker Deena in the show, said the actors will be performing some numbers from the musical and will also lead the singing of popular Disney tunes the kids are familiar with. “We want to encourage them to join us and have some fun,” she said. The actors will be wearing their colorful costumes and all have colored hair.
“The musical is almost like a storybook coming to life,” Tilley explained. “It’s great because it allows people to jump into a fairy tale world and join in the fun we are having,” she said.
Tilley, who said she and her husband are professional actors who have performed in several productions at the Steel River Playhouse, noted that she especially enjoys performing for these kids who are from a more underprivileged area. “It’s a chance for them to see live theater and it may be the only chance ever,” she said.
McDonnell says she hopes people will come out to support the show. She said most people know of the famous fairy tale by Hans Christian Anderson about the Emperor who was to learn an important lesson about outward appearance from a young boy. But many are not familiar with the music written by famous Broadway composers Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty, winners of numerous awards and creators of shows such as “Seussical,” “Ragtime” and “Anastasia.”
“The score, music and characters of the show are really fine — it is like a storybook coming alive,” McDonnell said. The former Broadway actress and director said she started The Company Theatre after moving to this area three years ago. She also works with sales and marketing for Steel River. “I still remember the first time I saw a theatrical production,” she said. “Art is my passion and I think it is one of the coolest things we can give to kids in the area.”
She said they also try to integrate the children into the performance as much as they can, handing out candy to the kids, bringing some on stage and handing out flags to wave as part of the parade. “There are many fun moments,” she added.
“We have a pretty expressive and exuberant set designed to look like a popup book,” explained Erin Dixon, also a founding member of The Company who is serving as stage manager, scenic artist associated with set design and lighting designer for the show. “It is like bringing a cartoon fairy tale to life,” she said. “I am so excited to see it and I think the kids are really going to love it.”
“Art has always been a part of my life,” noted Dixon, who received a degree in acting and directing from Kutztown University. “Art really influenced me when I was young and drove me to express myself and help others, and I am excited to share that with the children of Pottstown.”
Tickets for the public performances April 7 throught 15 are $19 for adults, $17 for seniors and $15 for children and students. More information can be obtained at www.steelriver.com and www.thecotheatre.com or by calling the box office at 610-970-1199..