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Curtain Rises: DeSales University, Cedar Crest College, Muhlenberg College theater departments seasons underway

Act 1 DeSales University Theatre has opened its 54th season with the Lehigh Valley premiere of Lynn Nottage’s emotional and poignant “Intimate Apparel,” Sept. 27 - Oct. 8, Main Stage, Labuda Center for the Performing Arts.

Nottage, the first and only woman to have won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama twice, tells the story of Esther (Maya Marino Cappello), a black seamstress who, at the turn of the 20th century, sews intimate apparel for a range of clients.

As young women in the boardinghouse where she lives marry and move out, lonely Esther saves her money and dreams of a better life with a husband and her own beauty parlor where black women can be treated like royalty. A chance for love comes from the letters of a mutual acquaintance and Caribbean man working on the Panama Canal.

“Intimate Apparel,” was the 2004 New York Drama Critics Circle Award-winning historical play.

Directing the Act 1 production is Barrymore and F. Otto Haas Award winning actor and director Akeem Davis, who has performed at DeSales with the Pennsylvania Shakespeare Festival in “Henry V,” “Love Labour’s Lost,” “Twelfth Night,” “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” and “Much Ado About Nothing.”

Jenna Snyder is scenic designer, creating the period rooming house. Leigh Paradise is costume designer. Eric T. Haugen, DeSales Theatre Head of Design, is lighting designer and production manager. David M. Greenberg is sound designer.

There are talkback performances with the cast Oct, 1 and 3.

The Oct. 7 performance has open-captioning for patrons who are deaf or hard of hearing and audio descriptions for patrons who are blind or visually impaired. Tickets are half-price for patrons using these special services Oct. 7. Call box office Manager Eric Pierson at 610-282-1100, Ext. 1820, for information.

“Intimate Apparel,” 7:30 p.m. Sept. 27-30, Oct. 4-7; 2 p.m. Oct. 1, 8; 9:45 a.m. Oct. 3, Main Stage, Labuda Center for the Arts, DeSales University, 2755 Station Avenue, Center Valley. Tickets: 610-282-3192; https://www.desales.edu

Cedar Crest premieres “Ruthless: The Musical”:

Cedar Crest College’s Department of Performing Arts is presenting the Lehigh Valley premiere of “Ruthless! The Musical,” Sept 28 - Oct. 1, Samuels Theater.

“Ruthless! The Musical” has music by Marvin Laird and book and lyrics by Joel Paley. The irreverent dark comedy spoofs show business and Broadway musicals, such as “Gypsy” and “Mame,” as well as movies like “The Bad Seed,” “Mommie Dearest” and “All About Eve.” The musical premiered Off-Broadway in 1992.

“Ruthless: The Musical” is the story of a naive 1950s housewife, Judy Denmark (Noel Cruz), and her adorable, but sociopathic eight-year-old daughter Tina (Jenna Seasholtz).

Encouraged by her ambitious manager, Sylvia St. Croix (Giovanni Marini), Tina will do anything to get the lead role in her school play, including murdering the lead.

In Act II, while Tina spends time at a reform school for psychopathic ingénues, Judy discovers from her adoptive mother that her birth mother was a famous actress. Judy decides that she should be famous as well and sets her sights on becoming a Broadway diva.

The cast includes Ashly Rodriguez. Sofia Barbour, Kyleigh Vicoso, Jahniya James and Nik Gieorgievski.

JoAnn Wilchek Basist directs, with music direction by Rebecca Pieper, choreography by Joanelllyn Schubert, scenic design by Roxanne Amico, costumes by Polly Kendrick and hair by Kim Danish.

“Ruthless: the Musical,” 7 p.m. Sept. 28-30; 2 p.m. Oct. 1, Samuels Theater, Cedar Crest College, 100 College Drive, Allentown. Tickets: 610-740-3780; https://www.cedarcrest.edu

Muhlenberg opens theater season:

The Muhlenberg College Department of Theatre & Dance is opening its season with the Lehigh Valley premiere of “The Labyrinth of Desire,” Sept. 28 - Oct. 1, Baker Theatre, Trexler Pavilion for Theatre and Dance.

“The Labyrinth of Desire” is Caridad Svich’s contemporary adaptation of Lope de Vega’s Spanish Golden Age comedy, “La aPrueba de los Ingenios.”

Described as a telenovela meets Shakespeare romantic calamity, “The Labyrinth of Desire” has a gender nonbinary romantic lead who goes undercover, and gets way more than they bargained for. A ravishing heroine and a suave hero learn that love and sex aren’t as clear-cut as they thought.

The play is directed by Leticia Robles-Moreno and Troy Dwyer.

“The Labyrinth of Desire,” 8 p.m. Sept. 28-30; 2 p.m. Oct. 1, Baker Theatre, Trexler Pavilion for Theatre and Dance, Muhlenberg College, 2400 Chew St., Allentown. Tickets: 484-664-3333; https://muhlenberg.edu

Curtain Rises” is a column about the theater, stage shows, the actors in them and the directors and artists who make them happen. To request coverage, email: Paul Willistein, Focus editor, pwillistein@tnonline.com

CONTRIBUTED PHOTO BY JACK LERCH Left to right: Maya Marino Cappello (Esther), CaSandra Kay (Mayme), “Intimate Apparel,” Act 1 DeSales University Theatre.
CONTRIBUTED PHOTO BY CEDAR CREST COLLGE The cast of “Ruthless: The Musical,” Cedar Crest College.