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BWW 2013 Best of Philly/South Jersey Picks

1. We brought in the New Year with a familiar Broadway favorite "A Chorus Line" presented by New Jersey's newest theater gone Equity, The Eagle Theater in Hammonton, NJ. Their Chorus Line was something to be proud of featuring the creative Broadway choreographer, Renee Chambers and the talented Erica Scanlon as Cassie.

2. The Walnut Street Theater, Philadelphia mounted a smashing "GREASE" in May. This 98% Equity cast featured Ed Matthew Ragas as an impressive and hot Danny Zuko, a great supporting cast including a standout performance by Adolopho Blaire as Roger, under the clever direction of Bruce Lumpkin.

3. May was also the month for remembering the loss of one of Broadway's most beloved Phantoms; the talented versatile Kevin Gray, who suddenly sadly past away in February of this year. Kevin's wife and Broadway artist Dodie Pettit bravely produced and performed in a program at the Majestic Theater "Kevin Gray: A Celebration of Life". This brought in a huge cast of friends including long time friends and Broadway stars Paul Schoefler, Robert Cucciolo, Norm Lewis, Craig Schulman as well as the casts of Miss Saigon, Titanic and Lion King. Hosted by Hal Prince himself, this was indeed a celebration to remember a man who touched so many lives. What an honor to know him.

4. Summer gets off to a great start in June with the quirky popular Broadway hit "Urinetown" at the Eagle Theater, Hammonton. Director Ed Corsi brings in all the right elements of satire and comedy and truly "gets this right" with a cast that plays out the characters to the full. Clever staging and lighting truly enhanced this production. Look out for this New Jersey theater!

5. This summer Cirque du Soleil's TOTEM brought its troupe of jaw dropping talent, sets and staging under the Big Top to the Camden, NJ waterfront with the Philadelphia skyline in full view. While not a Broadway staged production, nonetheless the Cirque Productions are some the most lavish stage productions in the world. TOTEM traces the fascinating journey of the human species from its original amphibian state to its ultimate desire to fly. TOTEM illustrates, through a visual and acrobatic language, the evolutionary progress of species. Each group of performers is a perfect specimen of athletic agility. Their graceful movements and sheer physical strength seem almost impossible to believe. Set designer Carl Fillion and costumer Kym Barrett transform the audience into a magical world that only Cirque du Soleil can create.

6. July takes us down the shore to the Ocean Professional Theater, Barnegat NJ production of CATS. Long time Artistic Director Steve Steiner brings in the talented Dodie Pettit (wife of the late Kevin Gray), who starred in CATS to direct this incredibly talented cast, featuring a standout performance by Anita Hollander, a one-legged artist whose portrayal of Grizabella is one of the most emotionally touching performances of all time.

7. The Fall season takes us to Media Theater's SPAMALOT in Media Pa, with an enormously talented cast, featuring Scott Langdon as King Arthur and Broadway's Ann Crumb as Lady of the Lake. Sets and staging are stellar as is the choreography by Dann Dunn.

8. Bristol Riverside Theater, Bristol Pa. produces a near perfect performance of "Pride and Prejudice" led by a stellar cast who never misses a line and features outstanding acting by Hannah Kahn as Elizabeth and Michael Halling (understudy for Hugh Jackman in Boy from Oz) as Mr. Darcy. Sets and costumes were also stunning.

9. A most pleasant surprise of the season was a magnificent production of Les Miserables by the Cumberland County College in Vineland NJ. Under the direction of Broadway actress Deborah Bradshaw and former Les Miz and Phantom of the Opera cast member, one would be hard pressed to find a better mounting anywhere. A 46-member cast of some of the most talented, enthusiastic college aged students whose vocals raised the roof. This production spared no expense with a full rotating stage under the stage direction of Chris Totura, a lush 18 piece orchestra and choreographers who flew in to assist with this most wonderful piece of musical theater.

10. We end the 2013 season with Media Theater's "Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat". Director Jesse Cline brings in soap star Kyle Lowder, the hunky star of the Bold and The Beautiful who not only looks great but sings/acts and dances the role as well as the best of them! With clever sets and delightful children, engaging adults and the amazing Dann Dunn who both choreographs and plays one of the brothers, this "Joseph" simply delights.

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From This Author Pati Buehler