Thursday, February 26, 2009

DeSales University Act 1 performance: Death of a Salesman

We used to dress up and go to shows at the Kennedy Center, marveling at its towering red curtains, spacious hallways, panoramic views of the Potomac River, and world-class performances. So when I tell you that we were impressed by the latest DeSales University student production, you should know that we have seen enough to know what's really good.

And these students - we dare not call them kids - are GOOD.

So good that we actually subscribed to the Act 1 (DeSales University's theater company's) 2008-2009 season. In October we tried to guess the ending of The Mousetrap, Agatha Christie's murder mystery. We caroled along with the cast during their clever rendition of Merry Christmas, George Bailey! - an old-timey radio show production of It's a Wonderful Life - in December.

Not only is the university casting students for the right roles in the productions, but they are recruiting gifted young performers out of high school in the first place, as well as selecting productions that are suitable for the audience (mostly older), theater size (473 seats - and almost always sold out when we visit), and pool of talent (richly diverse). Add to that an obvious commitment to service, from the box office to the ushers, a reasonable ticket price, and a terrific sound and lighting team, and you have an amazing asset here in the Lehigh Valley.

The latest performance we took in was Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller, and we were fortunate to have selected the ASL-signed performance for hearing impaired. (We got twice the show - those interpreters signed with passion!) Professor Wayne Turney portrayed Willy Loman, a salesman who is plagued by memories and battles his own ego in his "quest for legacy." But the students stole the show - Jenny from the LVCVB took the words out of my blog - Victoria Rose Bonito's portrayal of Willy's glass-half-full, desperate wife sent chills down my spine. We've seen her in a number of Act 1 performances, and she has impressed us every time. The best part of being a subscriber is following the students from their first shows (their bios in the show program tell us) to their final, and the spring musical, Sunday in the Park with George, will likely be Ms. Bonito's last show at DeSales. We can't wait to see what she and her fellow cast members will do with Sondheim's modern musical ode to Seurat's painting, "A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte," (which we saw last year at the Art Institute of Chicago).

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