44°F overcast clouds


Camelot_press_photo_2The eight-actor company of CAMELOT — augmented by a heads-on-a-stick ensemble — spend a thrilling day at The Jousts, in the re-imagined musical classic that continues on stage at Two River Theater. (Photo by T.C. Erickson)

It’s a shining kingdom of law and virtue that boasts a population of just eight humans — and only one woman in town, at that. But if the Two River Theater Company production of Camelot seems to be missing a few of its usual fixtures — the dour middle-aged actors, the cardboard castle walls, the pointy hats — what stands revealed at its heart is one of the true evergreen musicals of its (late 1950s/ early 1960s) era, with one of the most sharply delineated triangles in stage history, and a memorably introspective score by the Lerner and Loewe team that previously brought the world My Fair Lady.

Directed here by the Emmy winning sitcom impresario David Lee (Frasier, Wings), this is a Camelot the likes of which you may not immediately recognize — one that dispenses with several of the familiar characters (including Merlin), and which paints over the memory of Richard Harris and other brooding King Arthurs with a fresh-faced cast of young pros that take the story back to basics, against a functionally spare multi-level staging that sometimes substitutes pantomime for pageantry (and, in the percussively choreographed opening moments, a healthy bit of STOMP in place of pomp).

More →


David Lee HRHFRASIER co-creator David Lee (left) returns to Red Bank to direct a young cast of pros (including Hunter Ryan Herdlicka, right) in the Two River Theater Company production of CAMELOT. 

Even as Red Bank’s own Phoenix Productions offers up a supremely silly take on the legends of King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table — courtesy of Monty Python’s Spamalot — the professionals at Two River Theater are getting serious about “The Once and Future King,”   beginning with Saturday’s first preview performance of Camelot.

The 1960 golden-age musical from the songwriting team of Lerner and Loewe — a Broadway costume classic that originally starred Richard Burton, Julie Andrews, Roddy McDowall and Robert Goulet — is already an unorthodox choice for the Two River team led by John Dias and Michael Hurst. But a closer look reveals a production that loses the brooding middle-aged actors in favor of a dynamic young ensemble of just eight players — even as it preserves the award winning score that gave the world “How to Handle a Woman” and “If Ever I Would Leave You.”

Directing the show that opens on Friday, November 21 and runs through December 14 is David Lee, the Emmy winning sitcom impresario (Frasier, Wings) whose previous Two River outing was the celebrated Present Laughter from two seasons back (he also re-teamed with some of the original Frasier cast for a fundraiser presentation on the Red Bank stage). He’s working with an awesomely experienced cast that includes Oliver Thornton, a young veteran of London’s West End (Priscilla Queen of the Desert, Rent) who’s making his American stage debut as Arthur — plus Nicholas Rodriguez (Disney’s Tarzan) as Lancelot, and (as the man-you-love-to-hate Mordred) Hunter Ryan Herdlicka, who shared the Broadway stage with Angela Lansbury and Elaine Stritch in Sondheim’s A Little Night Music. Tony nominee Steve Orich (Jersey Boys) directs a live ensemble of seven musicians.

The Drama Desk at redbankgreen spoke to David Lee about the pros and cons of parades, pageantry and pointy hats. Read on…

More →


RubenDavidLeeJessStoneTony winner Ruben Santiago-Hudson, FRASIER creator David Lee, and Jessica Stone are among the star-quality directors working with Two River Theater Company in the just-announced 2014-2015 season.

“Didn’t we just do this?” joked Two River Theater Company founder Robert Rechnitz, as he stepped up to the podium in the sleek auditorium named for his wife Joan and himself. The TRTC founder joined artistic director John Dias, managing director Michael Hurst and special guests on Monday evening, for an event that’s become a much-anticipated ritual in Red Bank — the unveiling of the upcoming season at Two River’s branded Bridge Avenue arts center.

Spanning centuries-old classics and modern milestones from both sides of the Atlantic — and fulfilling its stated mission of “leading, not following public taste,” with an unprecedented three world premieres — the 2014-2015 slate of mainstage productions stands as one of the company’s most ambitious yet; a schedule that had Rechnitz praising the acclaimed regional theater as “a school, slyly disguised as a place of entertainment…we want to fill the place, but on our terms, and yours.”

Take it just around the corner, for the details on the season that kicks off on September 13.

More →


Tony nominee Michael Cumpsty, left is at the center of a “vortex of neurosis,” as Nöel Coward’s “Present Laughter” comes to Two River Theater in a production directed by “Frasier” co-creator David Lee, right. 


Just about one year ago, actor Michael Cumpsty — then a Tony nominee for his role as Judy Garland’s accompanist in the Broadway engagement of “End of the Rainbow” — stood on the stage of Red Bank’s Two River Theater and introduced the project that “will bring me back to Red Bank, which is where I want to be.”

The project in question is “Present Laughter,” the 1942 comedy by the multifaceted Sir Noël Coward, and a play that Cumpsty described as being about “an aging matinee idol, who throws everyone around him into a vortex of neurosis… kind of like [my] life.”

Beginning Saturday and for the next three weekends, the British-born veteran of more than 20 Broadway shows — and screen parts that include Nucky Thompson’s associate Father Ed Brennan on HBO’s “Boardwalk Empire” — steps into the role of Garry Essendine: frothy farceur, master manipulator, debonair devil, and a character written by Coward as “a bravura part” for himself.

More →


Antoinette LaVecchia, Nick Lehane, Lizbeth Mackay, Lucy DeVito and Steven Skybell in THE ELECTRIC BABY, the ensemble drama by Stefanie Zadravec now onstage at Two River Theater. (Photos by T. Charles Erickson)


To enter Two River Theater is to find a portal into another world; a passage to places that range from England during the Hundred Years War; to enchanted places where the animals walk and talk; to ancient Greece, elegant Paris — and Pittsburgh. We’ll always have Pittsburgh.

The city of the Three Rivers has made its influence felt of late over on Bridge Avenue. It was the setting for Two River Theater Company’s recent production of August Wilson’s Two Trains Running (and last season’s Jitney).  Pittsburgh also happens to be the locale for The Electric Baby, the new TRTC production that went up in previews on April 6. The drama by Stefanie Zadravec — an ensemble piece populated by characters young and old, black and white, living and dead, including a glowing infant with a mysterious rare disease — saw its world premiere last year at Pitt’s Quantum Theatre.

The TV/film actor turned playwright found herself spending even more time in the city when one of her twin sons was referred for treatment to the Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh — and Zadravec writes eloquently here on how being the parent of a seriously ill child served to illuminate the development of what was then a work-in-progress script.

Opening officially with a sold-out performance this Friday night, The Electric Baby is one of two shows running through the early part of May at Two River — and part of an exciting slate of events as the 2012-2013 season enters its heated homestretch.

More →