Millbrook Playhouse lands on Top Ten list in Pennsylvania

MILL HALL — Some area theatergoers may be pleasantly surprised to learn that Millbrook Playhouse has just been designated as one of the Top Ten Theaters in Pennsylvania.

The converted dairy barn at 259 Country Club Drive is the home of the Millbrook Playhouse, with four productions each summer on the upstairs Main Stage and four others on the downstairs Cabaret.

Utilizing a professional company of actors and designers, Millbrook is currently gearing up for its 53rd season.

Producing artistic director David Leinholdt appreciates that the website naming Millbrook one of the Commonwealth’s top theaters is a “nice honor,” although it is unclear specifically what criteria what “Best Things Pennsylvania” website used in compiling these designations.

Having attended shows or concerts at four of the ten theaters listed (including Millbrook where I’ve seen over 100 productions in the last 15 years), I can attest to the quality of the acting and technical resources involved.

It is only the numerical designations, namely Scranton Cultural Center as “Number Two” that raises a question whether the listing order isn’t really random.

The Top Ten Theaters in Pennsylvania according to www.best thingspa.com are listed in the following numerical order:

1.) The Stagecrafters Theater, Philadelphia — This is one of the few theaters that presents semi-professional — as opposed to all professional — casting.

2.) Scranton Cultural Center, Scranton — Completed in 1930 and located in the Masonic Temple with distinctive architectural attributes, this theater was in a noticeably dilapidated condition when I saw Mandy Patinkin and Patti LuPone in a concert a few summers ago.

3.) Sight and Sound Theater, Lancaster — Coupled with its Branson, Missouri “partner,” total attendance often exceeds a million annually. Billed as providing a “inspiring family-friendly experience,” this theater presents Biblical-themed productions, usually with a large cast, live animals and intricate special effects.

4.) The Warner Theater, Erie — This 2,200 seat art deco theater is home to touring shows, locally produced plays, and Erie’s Symphony Orchestra.

5.) The Benedum Center for the Performing Arts, Pittsburgh — Part of the National Register of Historic Places, the Benedum Center also is the home of the Pittsburgh Ballet and Opera is where I saw the first national tour of “Les Miserables” several years ago.

6.) Philadelphia Theater Company, Philadelphia — This Company operates in the Suzanne Roberts Theater, and boasts of staging “thoughtful plays and joyful musicals.”

7.) City Theater, Pittsburgh — Billing itself as “an incubator of sorts of contemporary theater,” this venue features both a Main Stage and a Studio Theater. It was at the City Theater where I saw the then unknown play “Superior Donuts,” obviously aware that it would, a half a dozen years later, show up as a network television series.

8.) Millbrook Playhouse, Mill Hall — The 2017 summer stock productions begin in early June, with extra pre-show publicity generated from the scheduling of the area premiere of the 2015 Tony Award winning Best Musical “Fun Home.” The website listing states that for over 50 years, Millbrook has delivered “incredible summer stock theater.”

9.) Bird-In-Hand Theater, Bird-In-Hand — Given its location, it’s not suprising that this theatre presents shows with uplifting Amish themes. Bird-In-Hand also is the only theater in this Top Ten listing that uses a dinner-theater format.

10.) Hershey Theater, Hershey — Milton S. Hershey completed his “masterpiece” in 1933. I have attended touring Broadway musicals (the last being “Jekyll and Hyde”) in this beautifully equipped and maintained theater in Chocolatetown.

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