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Trenton Times, Time Off

By Ted Otten

Edited for Brevity


The legendary tale of Zorro, a good man’s fight against evil, has been a source of lasting fascination.

The award-winning PinnWorth Productions presents “Zorro,” which combines high drama with the red-hot music of the Gipsy Kings, at Mercer County Community College’s (MCCC’s) Kelsey Theatre.


Audiences will be mesmerized by the show’s compelling narrative, dazzling sword fights and flamenco dance set to the Gipsy Kings’ unique blend of traditional flamenco music, Western pop and Latin rhythms. It’s a vivid retelling of the 19th century tale of Diego de la Vega, the mysterious man behind the mask who is fighting to restore order in Spanish colonial California. Latin and Spanish influences infuse the thrilling plot, reminding us of the significant contributions of these cultures to our American landscape. It all adds up to an unforgettable theater experience.

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Disney's NEWSIES

Town Topics, Freehold

By Donald H. Sanborn III

Edited for Brevity


Rob Ryan’s performance as Jack makes clear that the character is tough because to survive, he must mask his vulnerabilities. Ryan’s performance of “Santa Fe,” Jack’s impassioned signature ballad at the end of the first act, is the high- light it needs to be, underscoring the character’s mixture of anger and optimism.

Bridget Hughes is amusing in “Watch What Happens,” in which Katherine is initially daunted by the task of writing about the strike... Hughes’ delicate soprano is pretty in “Something to Believe In,” a duet for Katherine and Jack.

Peter Sauer makes the conde-scending Pulitzr into an entetain-ing antagonist, largely through the use of an exaggerated accent mixed with an oily demeanor. As the flamboyant Medda, Mimi B. Francis stops the show with her charismatic performance of “That’s Rich.” In this she is helped by a sleek, bright red dress that is one of costume designer Kate Pinner’s most alluring creations. The entire cast is tireless in its performance of the acrobatic choreography by Koren Zander.

Conducted by François Suhr, the orchestra offers a smooth delivery of the crisp arrangements by Danny Troob. The choral perform-ances are equally satisfying, particularly in the anthem, “Seize the Day.”

The video design by Robert A. Terrano cinematically establishes the settings, and uses text to illustrate the concept of Katherine and the delivery boys making the news rather than merely reporting or selling it. Terrano’s set, which divides part of the stage into square compartments, aids Stalsworth in exploring the show’s theme.

Stalsworth’s staging evokes the late Broadway director Gower Champion.  Stalsworth uses scaf-folding to accentuate a central message of Newsies: to effect social change for the common good, isolation must be replaced by solidarity.


West Side Story


By Anthony Stoeckert

Edited for Brevity

“West Side Story” is a legendary show, and PinnWorth Productions has opened the new year at Kelsey Theatre with a top-notch staging of the musical version of “Romeo and Juliet” set in the streets of New York.

In talking about PinnWorth’s staging, which is at Kelsey through Jan. 21, let’s start with Kugelman, who does an outstanding job as Tony. His voice is strong, with great range, and Kugelman has great command of his instrument. He fills the theater without having to yell or scream.

His singing is also filled with emotion. There’s optimism in his “Something’s Coming,” love and passion in “Maria” and joy in “Tonight,” Tony’s duet with Maria. The role also has its acting challenges, as Tony struggles between his love for Maria and his devotion to the Jets, and Kugelman delivers a strong performance.

Kugelman is the best part of the show, and that’s saying something because the other lead players are top-notch. Keelen is a terrific singer, and plays Maria as hopeful and passionate, but also angry and willing to stand up to Tony when needed. She can sing ballads, like “Somewhere” with real emotion, and also has a sense of fun with “I Feel Pretty.”

Lorraine C. Perri plays Anita, friend of Maria, and Bernardo’s girlfriend. She brings down the house with “America.” She also does some of the best acting in the show, particularly a powerful, difficult moment in Act 2.


The choreography by Koren “KZ” Zander, who co-directs, is impressive, and the ensemble members are up to the challenge. Particularly impressive are the fight scenes, choreographed by E. Lukas DiGiacomo. There was a moment where I thought an actor really was punched.

Director LouJ Stalsworth has assembled a terrific team, shows a deft hand. "West Side Story" is a tricky show. Sure, everyone loves a love story, but there are also moments of violence and real pain, along with comic numbers like “Gee Office Krukpe,” and Stalsworth handles the balance wonderfully.




By Anthony Stoeckert

Edited for Brevity

The first moments of "Memphis" take place in a basement R&B club in the 1950s. The scene is fun, sexy, and soulful. There is a feel that the characters on stage, all black, are in their place, singing their music, letting off their steam, and as brother and sister Felicia and Delray Farrell (played by Tamika Reed-Newman and Kyrus Keenan Westcott) lead the company through the song "Underground," you get the feeling we're in for something unique.

This is a big show with a large cast. Coakley and Reed-Newman are the leads, and they're very good. Coakley brings a mix of ignorance and heart to the part...

Coakley also nails his character's funny lines, DJ speak like "Perry Como was putting me in a co-ma" and digs like "Why do good Christians annoy me?" But he shines brightest when he sings. He brings it on Huey’s first big song, “The Music of My Soul” and the transformation from dumb hillbilly to soulful singer is fun.

Reed-Newman is even better, a standout whenever she sings, but especially during the powerful and dramatic “Colored Woman” and “Someday.” She’s also a good actress, and has the most in-depth role in the show. A scene where Huey's intolerant mother, Gladys (Mauren Hackett) breaks Felicia's record is heartbreaking.

LouJ Stalsworth directed and Westcott is credited as co-director. They do a good job of moving the story along and staging some pretty elaborate numbers. There also are a lot of set changes, and they’re done smoothly.

...The show's biggest joys are its show-stopping numbers by supporting performers. The first of these is by Jerome Arthur John who plays Gator, the club’s silent bartender. (That he doesn’t speak is a hint that’s he’s going to get a big number.) His gospel-influenced “Say a Prayer” is joyous and mournful, just like gospel music is meant to be.

Act 2 sees two big numbers by supporting players. Robert Harris, who plays Bobby... knocks out the opening night crowd with the rousing “Big Love.” You’ll think that can’t be topped, but if anyone does, it's Hackett during “Change Don’t Keep Easy.”

I don't know why "Memphis" won four Tonys, but I know why the opening night audience at Kelsey was on its feet at the show's end.

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