6abc Loves the Arts: 43rd season of the Upper Darby Summer Stage

Sunday, July 23, 2017 09:20AM
Watch Karen Rogers' report on Action News at 7 a.m. on July 23, 2017.

The Upper Darby Performing Arts Center's Summer Stage is celebrating their 43rd season.

Each summer, over 700 students from around the Delaware Valley participate in the program featuring young performers ages 11 to 28. Each season the program produces seven shows in six weeks.

"It's a place for everyone to enjoy the arts," says Harry Dietzler, the Executive and Artistic Director for the Upper Darby Performing Art Center. "This is a place where families can bring their children and see an excellent, high quality show. The kids come very invigorated to perform here and they're so thrilled."

This summer's mainstage musical is the Philadelphia premiere of The Hunchback of Notre Dame.

Lead actor Patrick Walsh says the show will surprise audiences. "We're tackling a show that audiences may think they're familiar with," he says. "But about two minutes in, they'll realize they're not."

"It's just very powerful, very emotional," says Dietzler. "It's not a happy Disney movie, they made it more of an adult, drama. I think they're going to walk out of here crying. I really do."

Rounding out the season are children's productions of How I Became a Pirate, Curious George, and Disney's Beauty and the Beast Jr.

"We really put on top-notch performances that go so far beyond what an audience member may expect to get out of a children's theater," says Walsh. "I think adults are pleasantly surprised when they come."

The program helped jumpstart the careers of some of the biggest Broadway and entertainment stars, including Monica Horan and Tina Fey.

"Tina Fey spent a lot of summers here," remembers Dietzler. "And then, she came back as a director when she became a theater major."

Harry Dietzler founded the Summer Stage in 1976 and the program offers teaching from more than 100 theater professionals. "A lot of people get to direct their first show or they get to do marketing for the first time or design a set for the first time or costumes."

A memorable opportunity, agrees Walsh: "We really pride ourselves on giving kids this extraordinary experience."

Upper Darby Summer Stage 43rd season runs thru August 11th.
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