“Summer at the State” offers high quality theater experiences

Promos-007-(1)Summer theatre programs have been just the fix theatre lovers need in the lull between the usual fall – spring touring show season. And with Peter Pan opening in mid July, and The Music Man opening soon afterwards at the State Theatre Center for the Arts at 37 E Main Street in Uniontown, PA, summer theatre goers are in store for high quality family entertainment that won’t break the bank.

Starting in 2014, the State Theatre has been hosting summer shows featuring local talent and top-notch music, lighting, and stage production, though it wasn’t always this way.

Founding producer of “Summer at the Theatre” and production stage manager, Kristen Tunney, explains “Before we started, the State Theatre Center for the Arts had previously self-produced a few summer musicals, but there had been several years when the theatre was ‘dark’ all summer. We wanted to change that and get the local theatrical community back on stage.”

Since the success of “Hairspray” in the summer of 2014, Summer at the State has grown to two shows, fostered in large part by director/choreographer, John Wagner III, Kristen Tunney, board member and production manager Toby Maykuth, and “amazing support from Executive Director, Erica Miller and the State Theatre staff,” said Tunney. Additionally, all summer shows feature live music performed by the best local musicians, with music director Lisa Harrier keeping everything in tune and in time.

Toby Maykuth, Production manager for the Summer at the State shows, has also been involved since the beginning, both as performer and as a board member of the Greater Uniontown Heritage Consortium, which owns and operates the State Theatre. Maykuth functions as the liaison between the Board and the productions.

Promos-002“For me, the opportunity to provide quality community theater experiences to local performers has been the greatest aspect of working with the Summer at the State program. Uniontown was once a very culturally rich community with several theaters and many performing arts organizations, so to see some of that glory return to the area, especially at the State Theatre which is personally special, has been a great joy.”

“It’s a great way to do a musical,” said State Theatre Executive Director, Erica Miller. “We produce these pretty highly, and bring in a lot of high tech lighting equipment and professional lighting and scenic designers. The shows are very well done and it’s great to give people a chance to see how talented our local performers are. But, it’s also a chance to see a great show at a low cost.” At only $15 per adult and $10 for children 12 and under, it’s a great way for families to enjoy a quality show – or two.

Cast members hail from localities ranging across Pittsburgh to Morgantown, and all around the local area, Tunney said, continuing, “Work with the casts is going really well…(and) we rehearse both shows simultaneously, starting in May.” A total of 72 cast members round out the shows, with about 16 of them performing in both productions.

Greensburg actress and dance instructor, Breanna Deutsch, landed her dream role as Peter Pan for this year’s production, and should fit the bill perfectly. “As an actor, she approaches every moment of the show with such a fierce joy and enthusiasm – exactly what you want for Peter Pan…we’re so excited by what she’s brought to the role already. Peter Pan’s protagonist, Wendy Darling, will be played by recent Cal-U theatre graduate, Kayla Grimm.

Other members of the Peter Pan cast, as outlined by Tunney, include: Adam Drabish, a rising junior at Albert Gallatin High School as John Darling; Ian Grodz, entering the second grade, as Michael Darling; Tiger Lily will be played by Delaney Harvey, a rising junior at Brownsville Area High School (Delaney was in the 2015 production of Mary Poppins); and Toby Maykuth, taking on the role of Captain Hook.

Filling in the cast for The Music Man, “we have Brian Eisiminger playing Harold Hill. Brian works in the musical theatre department at CALU and lives in Pittsburgh, PA. Emily Hamilla, a Seton Hill grad with a degree in musical theatre, plays Marian Paroo, and Rachael Szabo will be playing her mother. The quartet includes Bill Dreucci, Will Dixon, Rylan Jenkins-Snaith and Jim Champlin. Brennen Malia plays Tommy Djilas, and Mairead Roddy, a current student at Point Park University in Pittsburgh, plays Zaneeta,” Tunney said.

While some cast members regularly perform throughout the area, others – from children to adults – are performing for the first time at Summer at the State, Tunney said. “This range of experiences and our rehearsal process bonds our casts as they all work together to tell the story of the show.”

What this means for audiences is first-rate production quality in shows the entire family can enjoy. “People would be surprised at the high quality of the shows we produce every summer,” Miller said. “They’re incredibly well done and I encourage everybody to come and see them.”

Peter Pan runs July 13 and 14, at 7:30 p.m., with a matinee on July 15 at 2 p.m., while The Music Man runs July 27 and 28 at 7:30 p.m., with a matinee on July 29 at 2 p.m.

Visit statetheatre.info to buy your tickets now. Find them on Facebook at facebook.com/StateTheatreUniontown

Story by Keren Lee Dreyer & Photos by Kelly Tunney for Pennsylvania Bridges