‘Genda Benda’ has singers switching gender roles to present Broadway staples

By Mary Therese Biebel - [email protected] | January 12th, 2018 6:01 am

IF YOU GO

What: ‘Genda Benda — A Broadway Revue with a Twist’

When: 7 p.m. Jan. 12 and Jan. 13, and 2 p.m. Jan. 14

Where: GAR High School, Lehigh Street, Wilkes-Barre.

Tickets are $10, cash only, and can be purchased at the door the day of the show. All proceeds will aid in production of the Coughlin/GAR Players spring production of ‘Ghost - The Musical.’

WILKES-BARRE — “Dear kindly Sgt. Krupke, you gotta understand.

It’s just our bringin’ up-ke that gets us out of hand.

Our mothers are all junkies. Our fathers all are drunks.

Golly Moses! Naturally, we’re punks.”

For fans of the musical “West Side Story,” those lyrics likely create a mental picture:

Street kid. Slouching. Leather jacket. Trying to look tough while singing this bit of social commentary to the local beat cop.

Oh, and of course, the singer would be a boy.

Unless you’re in the audience at “Genda Benda: A Broadway Revue with a Twist.”

Presented by The Misfit Players today through Sunday at GAR High School, the revue features young women delivering songs usually sung by males — think of the lion cub Simba describing how he “just can’t wait to be king.”

Or Seymour from “Little Shop of Horrors” offering comfort and a Kleenex to a weepy Audrey.

Or a street gang singing excuses for their bad behavior to Sgt. Krupke who, as portrayed by Michaela Dennis, 15, of Courtdale, repeatedly hit the gang’s lead singer, 19-year-old Maggie Dishong, on the head with the cardboard tube from a roll of paper towels.

“I’m not really an aggressive person,” Michaela said with a giggle after rehearsing that number on Tuesday evening.

This show gives its 35 performers lots of chances to stretch the imagination, including several numbers in which guys get in touch with their feminine side.

Jonathan Wallace has a turn as Ariel with “a mermaid’s tail and a gigantic fork — I can’t wait,” he said.

In the “Bend and Snap” number from “Legally Blonde,” a group of young men, led by Tyler Ocasio in the role Reese Witherspoon made famous, will demonstrate how bending over to pick up a dropped object can be done in an attention-grabbing way.

For extra fun, three pairs of moms and daughters, all portrayed by young men, sing about being “a big girl now” in a number from “Hairspray.”

“We have to act bratty,” said William Siejna, 16, of Wilkes-Barre, who has the Tracy Turnblad role. “The girls are giving their mothers a hard time.”

For The Misfit Players, a group of mostly teenage thespians who attend several different schools across the Wyoming Valley, the “Genda Benda” revue is a chance to enjoy songs they otherwise might never get to perform before an audience.

“There’s always a song you really love but normally wouldn’t get a chance to sing,” said Emily Makaravage, 16, of Larksville, who auditioned for the revue by singing “Out There,” a song typically sung by a male actor portraying the hunchback, Quasimodo.

While she’s not singing “Out There” in the revue, she’s having a lot of fun as one of the Jets who give Sgt. Krupke a hard time.

“The show is about two-thirds side-splittingly funny,” director Alice Y. Lyons said, citing a scene in which young men will “run around with dusters” while young women sing a song from “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum” about how “everyone should have a maid.”

Other songs are poignant and serious, and have a gender-neutral feel, she said. “The emotion is the same, no matter who sings them.”

Tickets for the revue, which is set for 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday in the GAR High School auditorium, are $10 at the door, and proceeds will benefit the Coughlin/GAR Players’ spring production of “Ghost, The Musical.”

“It is so important to us,” said Dishong, of Plains Township, who is also a Coughlin/GAR Player. “This is a huge fund-raiser, and we might not be able to have a play without it.”

“We have a passion for it,” echoed her classmate Madison Fick, 18, of Wilkes-Barre, who has been cast to share with Dishong the major role of Oda Mae, the medium, in “Ghost.”

Jonathan Wallace, right, participates in a rehearsal with The Misfit Players at GAR High School in Wilkes-Barre.
http://www.timesleader.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/01/web1_TTL011218misfitplayers2.jpgJonathan Wallace, right, participates in a rehearsal with The Misfit Players at GAR High School in Wilkes-Barre. Sean McKeag | Times Leader
In the musical ‘West Side Story,’ the Jets are a primarily male street gang, and Sgt. Krupke is also a man, but in the ‘Genda Benda’ musical revue, set for this weekend at GAR High School, female members of The Misfit Players have those singing roles. Michaela Dennis, fourth from left, is Officer Krupke, and Maggie Dishong, who is stretched out on the riser, right, has the lead singing role of ‘Action’ in the number.
http://www.timesleader.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/01/web1_TTL011218misfitplayers3.jpgIn the musical ‘West Side Story,’ the Jets are a primarily male street gang, and Sgt. Krupke is also a man, but in the ‘Genda Benda’ musical revue, set for this weekend at GAR High School, female members of The Misfit Players have those singing roles. Michaela Dennis, fourth from left, is Officer Krupke, and Maggie Dishong, who is stretched out on the riser, right, has the lead singing role of ‘Action’ in the number. Sean McKeag | Times Leader
Adam Zawatsky sings a solo in the number ‘Mama Who Bore Me’ from ‘Spring Awakening.’ The number is usually sung by a young woman.
http://www.timesleader.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/01/web1_TTL011218misfitplayers4.jpgAdam Zawatsky sings a solo in the number ‘Mama Who Bore Me’ from ‘Spring Awakening.’ The number is usually sung by a young woman. Sean McKeag | Times Leader
Tyler Ocasio sings a solo in during a rehearsal of ‘Genda Benda’ at GAR Memorial High School in Wilkes-Barre.
http://www.timesleader.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/01/web1_TTL011218misfitplayers5.jpgTyler Ocasio sings a solo in during a rehearsal of ‘Genda Benda’ at GAR Memorial High School in Wilkes-Barre. Sean McKeag | Times Leader
Jonathan Wallace and Ericka Law rehearse the song ‘Suddenly, Semour’ from the musical ‘Little Shop of Horrors’ for a musical revue called ‘Genda Benda.’ The twist for this number is that Wallace is singing the lyrics of a character named Audrey and Law is singing as Seymour.
http://www.timesleader.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/01/web1_TTL011218misfitplayers1.jpgJonathan Wallace and Ericka Law rehearse the song ‘Suddenly, Semour’ from the musical ‘Little Shop of Horrors’ for a musical revue called ‘Genda Benda.’ The twist for this number is that Wallace is singing the lyrics of a character named Audrey and Law is singing as Seymour. Sean McKeag | Times Leader

By Mary Therese Biebel

[email protected]

IF YOU GO

What: ‘Genda Benda — A Broadway Revue with a Twist’

When: 7 p.m. Jan. 12 and Jan. 13, and 2 p.m. Jan. 14

Where: GAR High School, Lehigh Street, Wilkes-Barre.

Tickets are $10, cash only, and can be purchased at the door the day of the show. All proceeds will aid in production of the Coughlin/GAR Players spring production of ‘Ghost - The Musical.’

Reach Mary Therese Biebel at 570-991-6109 or on Twitter @BiebelMT.


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