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Top 10: Looking back at the year in theater

Even excluding all the shows produced by area high schools as part of the Ray of Light competition, my list of the most notable, nifty and nicely staged plays and musicals of the past year often totaled a dozen or sometimes even a Baker’s Dozen.

But with a nod to COVID-19 which shut down professional, college, and community theatres for part of 2021, the number of productions staged was naturally reduced — and therefore so is my list.

But my foggy crystal ball is still clear enough to list — in no particular order except for the first one — the 10 most notable, nifty, and nicely staged shows of 2021:

BRIDGES OF MADISON COUNTY (CTL and CAC) — The joint collaboration clearly produced the year’s most stellar and top musical attraction. With the orchestra on-stage, the cast’s excellent acting and vocalizing deservingly generated hefty applause.

EMMA (Christ Wesleyan Theatre Productions) — With Pastor Ryan Brosious and Carole Brosious directing, this lavishly costumed show was nicely staged in its massive Milton venue.

MAMMA MIA (Community Theatre League) — This Summer Intensive production proved that “The Winner Takes It All” with a rousing rendition, which played to enthusiastic sold-out audiences.

TWELVE ANGRY MEN (RiverStage Community Theatre) — Notable as the Lewisburg-based theatre group finally reached a verdict in this taut drama (with woman included in the jury) after the pandemic twice postponed its staging.

POPCORN FALLS (Millbrook Playhouse) — Leading off the early fall “season”, this quirky comedy was nifty when only two actors, switching costumes and characters, played dozens of citizens of this financially strapped hamlet.

RENT (Community Arts Center) — Notable as this musical’s supposedly “farewell tour” played in the downtown theatre, as one of the very rarely scheduled appearances of a New York City-Broadway based show.

MERRY CHRISTMAS, GEORGE BAILEY (Bloomsburg Theatre Ensemble) — Notable as an able replacement of the previously announced “A Christmas Story”. James Goode’s adaptation of the classic “It’s A Wonderful Life” proves that a radio show (complete with sound effects and singing commercial) can bring holiday cheer,

NUNSENSE II: THE SECOND COMING (Millbrook Playhouse) — Although the sequel to Dan Goggin’s wildly successful ” Nunsense” was Millbrook’s 2021 finale, this musical is most notable as it brought back to the barn the popular veteran Michael Schloegl, who not only directed but also choreographed the Little Sisters of Hoboken.

THE WILD PARTY (Penn State Centre Stage) — Notable as “live” theatre returned to the University Park campus as PSCS (the professional arm of the School of Theatre) staged this rowdy musical at the huge Playhouse Theatre.

YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN (Community Theatre League) — With a large cast providing an early Halloween treat, this version of Mel Brooks’ looney movie was notable as it marked CTL Executive Director Seth Sponhouse’s entertaining return as a leading actor.

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