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Frankie Valli opens Lenape PAC's 5th Summer Season

 

Nestled in the fields of a South Jersey community, one of the original Jersey Boys fills the town of Marlton's most exciting venue.

When Frankie Valli and the new Four Seasons stepped on the stage we were magically transformed back to 1963. Fresh on the heels of Broadway's Tony winner The Jersey Boys, The Lenape Regional Performing Arts Center is celebrating its fifth year of presenting professional events for the South Jersey and Greater Philadelphia area by bringing back a local legend.

Valli now 72, has summoned up some of the best talent including a 10 piece band and 4 young singers/dancers who collectively never miss a note, a beat or a step. This high energy concert takes you on a journey from one hit to another in a non stop fashion. The audience seems elated to joing in the singing of such memorable hits as "Grease". "Workin' My Way Back to You", "Who Loves You", "Rag Doll" and "Lest's Hang On". Valli still proves to possess a charming voice as he offers a mellow " My Eyes Adored You" and a touching medley of "The Way We Were/All In Love".

This new Performing Arts center first opened its doors in June of 2000 with a concert by a seemingly "unknown" singer, Broadway's Linda Eder and a new show to this area " Neil Berg's "100 Years of Broadway". Many local supporters came out to see what they could do; the theater and the performers. By the middle of intermission of the first show, people may not have remembered or pronounced Ms. Eder's name correctly, but they were picking up their jaws from her dynamic performance. The same scenario played out when Berg brought down 10 Broadway stars to sing the hit songs they sang on Broadway, which is now one of Lenape's best attended events for five years running. 

This was also the theater that brought composer Stephen Schwartz and Friends ( Broadway's Debbie Gravitte and Cabaret star Scott Coulter) to the stage with Mr. Schwartz quietly detailing a new show he was about to debut called WICKED and presented Ms. Gravitte singing " Defying Gravity" for the first time in public.

From past solo guest performers such as Tony Danza, Bill Cosby, Mandy Patinkin to this year's Kenny Loggins and Frankie Valli, Lenape has planted the seeds for some serious entertaining. Adding to the list of Broadway's exceptional vocalists  Patti LuPone, Lea Salonga, Linda Eder, Faith Prince and Audra McDonald has proven to have a razzle dazzle affect on a welcoming audience, who now scoop up their season tickets.

As 1000+ people filed into the 2006 season opener, there was a look of anticipation and familiarity that they have come to expect from what was once mistakenly ear -marked as a "high school auditorium." This state of the arts venue is more spacious and comfortable than many well known theaters in its surrounding cities.

During the opening show as Valli caught his breath between songs, he reminisced about growing up in Newark NJ, going to New York with his mother to see Frank Sinatra. He choked up with gratitude over the good fortune and reception he has enjoyed for many years and the remarkable venue he was standing in this night still doing what he loves in New Jersey.

Lenape proved to be much more than a host to some extraordinary talent. It is also the home to over thirty plays and musicals including Miss Saigon, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolored Dreamcoat, A Chorus Line as well as two world premiers; two new productions by composer Frank Wildhorn's Waiting For The Moon and Jekyll and Hyde in Concert. Lenape's Producing Artistic Director, Vincent Marini holds the reins as director/collaborator on many of these creations with the help of a wonderful staff including a top of the line sound and lighting crew. 

Lenape's accolades are echoed by many of the performers who have made the trek from New York City to this South Jersey family oriented community. After her concert that first opened the doors of the Center back in June 2000, Broadway star,  Linda Eder excitedly announced from the stage, "This place is great. To think this is 90 min. from New York. What a treat". Linda has been invited back every year since. Also making his 5th return with "what has proven to be one of the Centers best selling events", according to Marini is Neil Berg, who was quoted as saying, "Vincent and company has won the trust of this community with the fine presentions he has brought to them. We are happy to be invited again and again to what I now call my home here in South Jersey".

 This was all made possible by a huge amount of work by a dedicated staff from a solid Arts Foundation and generous sponsors to the army of volunteer ushers that greet the audience at every event. Lenape Foundation president and Marlton resident Dr. Richard Schwartz has this to say about a theater project that he had dreamed about in his hometown.

"I remember the day we sat down and talked about what types of acts we would bring in. This wasn't going to be "little" theater. It was going to be first class from start to finish. What fascinated me most of all was the fact that we were going to produce our own shows. Seeing "Waiting For The Moon" being created in front of me was one of the most exciting things I have experienced in theater. Producing Miss Saigon and Joseph was something I had never been a part of before. I learned so much during the creative process".

In an age where shows pass through Broadway like people through a revolving door and funding for the Arts seemingly always the first to be cut in many school districts, it is exciting to see a community support and continue to enjoy quality entertainment in their neighborhoods.

By quickly securing their Equity status and becoming part of the Greater Philadelphia Theater Alliance Lenape Regional Performing Arts Center is proving to be a premier presenter in the Greater Delaware Valley.

For more information about this venue and the rest of their upcoming season, visit: www.sjthheater.com  


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From This Author Pati Buehler