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A CurtainUp Review
The Berenstain Bears LIVE! In Family Matters

Step right up to the starting line!— The Company
Bernestain Bears
The Bernestain Bears LIVE!
The qualities that have made Stan and Jan Berenstain's children's books a classic series are all present in The Berenstain Bears LIVE! in Family Matters, the Musical at the Manhattan Movement and Arts Center. You'll see some terrific dancing and hear charming, fun songs. You'll discover some new adventures and complications from this beloved Bear Family who always stick together. The tone of Michael Borton's work makes for a just right family entertainment.

On stage, as in the original books, Borton explores some important life lessons about honesty, health, and safety. Devanand Janki, the director and choreographer, has engaged young performers who not only look cuddly but also sound as you always imagined the Berenstain Bears would. Luke Hegel-Cantarella and Lora LaVon, the set and costume designers, have done a fine job of duplicating the spirit of Stan and Jan's storybook characters.

The musical is based on three of the books: The Berenstain Bears Learn About Strangers, The Berenstain Bears and Too Much Junk Food, and The Berenstain Bears' Trouble at School and peppers the story line with ten lively musical numbers. Without being preachy, and at just one hour, the show offers life lessons that can be easily digested by youngsters.

Director Janki's light and clever hand leaves no room for sluggish spots. While lacking Broadway pyrotechnics The Berenstain Bears LIVE! is a good bet for a first-time theater performance (suggested age is 2 through 10). Moreover, it won't break your wallet, and the show gives kids a chance to enjoy a theatrical experience in a very up-close and personal way.

Mixed in with the fun there are some bitter pills for this Bear Family to swallow, and Mama Bear (Laurie Geigel) and Doctor Grizzly (Rori Nogee) see to it that Papa and the cubs don't stray too far in Bear Country, especially when life gets dark, sticky, or confusing. Whether its Brother Bear's (Alex Goley) school grades slipping, Sister Bear's (Jill Kurzner) overfriendliness to strangers at the Village Green, or Papa Bear's (Ryan Scarlata) very fluffy belly, life in Bear Country can be quite unbearable (get it?).

The performances are suitably sincere and warm. Mama and Papa Bear Laurie Geigel and Ryan Scarlata show parental aplomb, knowing when to give their cubs a bear hug or simply put their paw down. And Jill Kurzner and Alex Goley, playing Brother and Sister Bear, are quite adept at showing that life in Bear Country is no picnic. In the supporting role of Dr. Grizzly, Rori Nogee exudes good sense. And Gramps as played by Ben Thorpe, subtly adds the idea of three generations living in harmony.

Be sure to leave time for the post-show activity for your young cubs which allows kids to try their hand at face-painting, or to snag an autograph from a cast member (the back cover of the "Bearbill" has lots of space for autographs).

The musical, which began its life at the Walnut Street Theatre in Philadephia, has been on a 35-week national tour before arriving in New York. And judging by the happy faces of the youngsters in the audience at MMAC, The Berenstain Bears LIVE! are likely to be a good fit for summer fun in New York.

The Berenstain Bears LIVE! In Family Matters
Book by Michael Borton
Additional book material by Michael Slade
Adapted from the classic children’s book series by Stan and Jan Berenstain
Directed and choreographed by Devanand Janki
Cast: Ryan Scarlata (Papa Bear), Laurie Geigel (Mama Bear), Alex Goley (Brother Bear), Jill Kurzner (Sister Bear), Rori Nogee (Lizzie/Dr. Grizzly/Gran), Ben Thorpe (Freddy, Gramps/Other).
Sets: Luke Hegel-Cantarella
Costumes: Lora LaVon
Music & Lyrics: Michael Borton
Lighting: David Ojala
Orchestrations: R. MacKenzie Lewis
Musical Direction: Daniel Green
Associate Choreographer: Nancy Renee Braun Stage Manager: Kristine Schlachter
Manhattan Movement and Arts Center (MMAC) at 248 West 60 Street between Amsterdam and West End Avenue Street Tickets: $29.95, $49.95 and a $59.95 Package for V.I.B.’s (Very Important Bears). Phone (866) 811-4111 or visit
From 6/25/11; opening 7/03/11; closing 9/04/11-- extended to 10/30/11.
After closing at MMAC, the show moves to the Marjorie Dean Theater in the West Side Y for an open run
Saturdays & Sundays at 2pm (Beginning July 23 a 4:30pm show will be added on Saturdays).
Running time: 55 minutes with no intermission.
Reviewed by Deirdre Donovan based on matinee press performance of 6/26/11
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