Aug. 17--There's no such thing as a bad in-house show at American Music Theatre.
The gorgeous Colonial-style facility -- located along Route 30 east of Lancaster -- hosts a wide variety of national touring acts during the year. There's everything from rock groups like Chicago and ZZ Top, to country stars like Loretta Lynn and Willie Nelson, to comedians like Tim Conway and Dana Carvey. But what really sets the American Music Theatre apart from any venue in the United States is the quality of its in-house, or original, shows.
AMT produces its own shows from the ground up, using its own cast of singers, dancers, musicians and backstage crew. AMT spends lavishly on sets and wardrobe for its performers. The end result is a world-class show that is really unrivaled anywhere.
I've seen four of AMT's original shows in the past two years, and they've all been excellent. The current show, "Broadway: Now & Forever," which runs through Oct. 12, is no exception. Andrea McCormick, the artistic director who is the guiding force behind the original shows, says "Broadway: Now & Forever" is the biggest show yet at AMT. It may also be the best.
McCormick -- the show's writer, director and choreographer -- and AMT's musical director, Mt. Gretna's own Andy Roberts, have put together a hit show, along with the rest of AMT's production team. The 2-hour, 15-minute show features a cast of almost 50 performers, including a dozen children, a 26-foot-high video screen and hundreds of stunning
costumes for the performers.
The show is divided into two parts: Act I features songs from current Broadway hit shows; Act II features the music of former Broadway classics.
The full cast opens the show with a fitting rendition of "The Show Must Go On," followed by a tribute to "The Producers" that features AMT's female dancers -- dressed as little old ladies -- doing a very funny dance with walkers.
A tribute to "Billy Elliot" showcases the first child actor in the show, Dean Chasser (April to June) and Jeremy Beveridge (now to October), who perform a solo with the song "Electricity."
Singers Angela Walker and Julie Keough perform two songs from "Wicked," followed by an outstanding tribute to "Jersey Boys," in which John Philip-Bowen, Corey Campbell, Jordan Cyphert and Cameron Edris hit the high notes as Frankie Valli & The Four Seasons in renditions of "Sherry," "Walk Like a Man" and "December, 1963 (Oh, What a Night)."
The women in the cast shine next as "Mamma Mia" is greeted by cheers. Keough, Kristen Brewer and Marisa Rivera sing "Dancing Queen" and the title song, "Mamma Mia."
Ric Zimmerman and Walker are highlighted during "The Lion King" segment, performing "Can You Feel the Love Tonight," and AMT veteran Wess Cooke solos with "Circle of Life."
Cyphert sings in all three numbers of a "Mary Poppins" set, including "Chim Chim Cheree," "Step in Time" and "A Spoonful of Sugar."
Act I closes with an electrifying instrumental jam by Roberts and the 10-piece orchestra, performing "Turn Off The Dark" from "Spider-Man." Dancers Missy Clayton, the show captain, Campbell, Holly Becker, Edris, Rivera and Cyphert are outstanding.
"West Side Story" opens Act II, and Bowen has lead vocals in "Something's Coming" and "Tonight." The orchestra dives into the Overture from "Chicago," leading to a sensual performance of "All That Jazz" by Rivera and the AMT dancers.
The kids' cast is showcased again during an "Annie" segment that includes a solo of "Tomorrow" by Gabriella Griffonetti (April to June) and Katie White (now to October).
An Andrew Lloyd Webber medley features soloists Cooke ("Jesus Christ Superstar"), Zimmerman ("Any Dream Will Do"), Keough ("Don't Cry for Me Argentina"), Erisa Sloan or Becker ("Cats"), and great work by Bowen and Walker in a duet ("The Phantom of the Opera").
The finale features songs from "Les Miserables," including "Master of the House" by Michael Austin and Brewer, "On My Own" by Keough, and a goosebump-inducing version of "One Day More" by the entire cast.
You don't have to be a lover of Broadway show tunes to enjoy this show. If you love good music and dancing, period, go see it.
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If you go
"Broadway: Now & Forever" will be performed Tuesday through Saturday, most weeks, through Oct. 12. Tickets are $32 for adults, $27 for AMT members and $16 for children. For more information or to order tickets, visit www.AMTshows.com.
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