Philadelphia Comes to Selinsgrove

By Jayne Ann Bugda |

Published 06/04 2014 10:29PM

Updated 06/04 2014 10:34PM

Upon entering the Courtyard Theater in the Susquehanna Valley Mall in Selinsgrove, a person is transported to a very famous historical landmark of the United States. For there in front of the visitor, on the stage of the theater, are the 12-foot high columned walls, the chairs and tables of Independence Hall in Philadelphia, the place where America was born.

This attraction is not really open to visitors yet. That will happen when the musical play "1776" opens. Then this facsimile will be populated by John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin and almost 2 dozen more of the founding fathers about to debate American independence from Great Britain.

The set's designer and Director of the musical, Bob Taylor, has taken painstaking efforts to recreate the famous venue and even add on to the theater's stage capacity by building a separate room where Jefferson will work on the Declaration. Taylor has created several levels so that the audience can see all of the actors and also made room for the live musicians and in so doing, has removed some of the seating to give the setting authenticity. Because of the seating reduction, the play might quite easily sell out during one or more of the 9 nights of the play's performance.

For those audience members who either have never seen the play (it hasn't been done in our area for over 20 years) or haven't seen the movie, they will experience a musical like no other. The critics were generous in their praise calling the play, "Sizzling!" and that it "unfolds with tension, fury, humor, pathos and musicality. A terrific story that demands telling" The New York Times called it "Cliff hanging drama.... as magical as a fairy tale.".

The play won 4 Tony Awards including Best Musical and it is the first show presented at the Courtyard Theater that truly can be called "family fare". Taylor calls it a "history lesson with music".
Taylor has also found the perfect cast for the play, utilizing some veterans of previous productions at the Courtyard Theater both in musicals and in dramas. There are also some fresh new faces that will grace the stage.

There are added elements to make "1776" unique for the theater. Of course the play is a costume drama, so it is necessary to create or find over 2 dozen period costumes. Although Taylor and his partner Art Lieberman will rent some of these outfits, Taylor has found some talented local people to design and sew colonial costumes for this play. Almost a dozen volunteers are working behind the scenes on costume design and creation, lighting, sound, scenery and set preparation. These days nearly 40 people are at work at the theater on the play. Lieberman says that "right now, the theater looks like some giant grabbed the place and shook it". Of course, everything will be ready when the play opens.

Needless to say there is some excitement at the Courtyard Theater these days and everyone is anticipating the opening night of Friday, June 13th. "1776" will run for 9 performances on three successive weekends with Friday and Saturday night shows at 7:00 PM and Sunday matinees at 2:00 PM.

The Susquehanna Valley Mall is planning to have a few members of the cast perform a song from the show in center court in the Mall on Saturday afternoon, June 7th, with a "Meet and Greet" of the cast at Garfield's Restaurant afterwards. Tickets for the play are available on the theater's website at or by calling the box office weekdays between 9:30 AM and 5:00 PM at 570-374-0060 or 570-966-0080. Tickets will also be available on a first-come, first-served basis, 3 hours prior to every performance for any scheduled event at the theater
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The Courtyard Theater has announced that "Half-Season" tickets are available either by phone or in person at the theater. These tickets will be good for all scheduled events after July 1st EXCEPT the BeeGeez USA concert and The Boston Babydolls presentation of "Madame Burlesque". They will cover 4 plays and 3 concerts and cost only $50.00. This is also true for people currently holding full season passes. In October, it is anticipated that the theater will be announcing its 2015 schedule and season passes for 2015 should go on sale in November of this year.

(Information from  Art Lieberman)

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