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Cresson Lake Playhouse returns

Season offers mix of outdoor music

Courtesy photo Bruce Shettig of Lilly said he is ready to get back to playing. He is slated to perform June 19 during the PennCrest Bank Music Fest at the Cresson Lake Playhouse in Loreto.

Cresson Lake Playhouse is back with a new outdoor performance space and an abbreviated 2021 season of offerings sure to appeal to a variety of tastes.

The season kicks off June 19 with the PennCrest Bank Music Fest in the new outdoor performing space behind the Barn Theater at 279 Shapiro Road in Loretto.

Performers include Bruce Shettig of Lilly.

Shettig is ready to play again, he said in a telephone interview late in May. Now semi-retired from his real estate appraising business, Shettig describes his music as mostly “easy listening” using a unique “finger style” way of playing the guitar. “I play it like a piano,” he said.

After Shettig, the duo Walt & Jackie — voted “Simply the Best Entertainers” in Johnstown — will take the stage. Walt and Jackie are known for their covers and engaging original songs, according to a news release from Cresson Lake Playhouse.

“Walt Churchey and Jackie Kopco have a special chemistry and ease that captivates audiences to the last song. They play a variety of instruments, including piano, ukulele, guitar and Walt’s famous bongos, and they move easily from old country to new pop, bringing a fresh take to live acoustic music,” said Paul Seymour, artistic director at CLP.

Also performing at Music Fest will be the duo Two Far Gone — Denise Baldwin and Roy Milstead — who will “jump genres from rock and pop to soul and country,” Seymour said. “Milstead is laid-back, rock-influenced and writes lyrics that can range from funny to profound. Denise has a rich musical background as a singer, songwriter, guitarist, bassist and veteran performer. Throughout the 80s, she made her living playing full-time with rock bands which opened for Huey Lewis and the News, Southside

Johnny, and Donnie Iris. In the past few years, she has shared the stage with three-time Grammy-winner and friend, Linda Davis.”

The final act at the event is regional fan favorite Clay Bowser, who “has a tremendous sound and can sing just about anything the audience asks. He often takes requests from the crowd and rarely uses any music at all. Clay knows hundreds and hundreds of songs by heart and is truly a unique artist. People are amazed at his repertoire of music and his skillful ability on the guitar not to mention a tremendous voice to go with it,” Seymour said.

Seymour credits theater facilities director Tom Stewart with organizing an evening of music with wide audience appeal.

The night marks the inaugural use of the new outdoor performing space created through a $7,500 grant from the Community Foundation for the Alleghenies.

The COVID-19 pandemic forced the theater’s three staff members and board of directors “to be creative,” Seymour said. He said his wife and theater business director, Cathy Seymour, now works from home instead of renting office space and she spent “untold hours looking for grants” to keep the CLP viable and “being a good steward of other people’s money,” he said.

“The pandemic has been a death knell for so many community arts organizations. Fortunately, we went into it fairly healthy and we have the best board of directors I could ever imagine,” Seymour said, explaining that board members quickly respond to requests for help with construction, grass cutting and even donations for productions, such as two pairs of men’s tap shoes for the July musical, “The Drowsy Chaperone.”

The musical comedy replaced the more somber “Hunchback of Notre Dame,” after the state government eased restrictions to allow all 199 seats in the Barn performance area to be filled, with the stipulation that attendees wear masks.

“When the board met in March, it was decided we would hold some outdoor fundraisers and that would be it. When the governor lifted the restrictions we crammed several months of work into nine days,” Seymour said.

A large-scale comedic romp, “The Drowsy Chaperone,” felt more in tune with what an audience would want and need post-pandemic, Seymour said. Its large cast of 27 roles also offered opportunities for many local actors anxious to return to live performance.

Upcoming events:

— The PennCrest Bank Music Fest, 4 to 10 p.m. June 19, held in the new outdoor performance space behind the Barn Theater. A rain or shine event. Bring comfortable seating, food and drink will be available for sale. No outside food and beverages will be permitted. Rip tickets and 50/50 chances will also be available for purchase.

Tickets purchased in advance will be $13. Tickets purchased at the gate will be $15.

— CLP presents “The Drowsy Chaperone,” July 13-18, in the Barn.

“CLP Unplugged,” 7:30 p.m. July 20 and Aug. 19. Each “Unplugged” concert features a variety of local musicians performing different songs and styles of music. There will be duets and solo performances ranging from jazz, folk, blues, country to current music styles. Tickets: $12; all aspects of the show production is done by volunteers.

“110 Stories,” Sept. 9-18, a theatrical production to honor first responders, will be performed in the Barn. Cast auditions set for 6:30 p.m. July 25-26, at the Lantzy Rehearsal Hall, 427 S. Center St, Ebensburg.

— Comedy Night, Sept. 24, An adults-only night out featuring local comedic talent.

If you go

What: Cresson Lake Playhouse 2021 Season

Where: 279 Shapiro Road in Loretto.

Tickets: Visit www.cresson

lakeplayhouse@verizon.net or call 814-472-4333

Reminder: Cresson Lake Theater will follow COVID-19 state regulations and CDC guidelines for all performances. Performance dates subject to change.

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