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House On Haunted Hill

By Gary Wien

originally published: 09/27/2018

House On Haunted Hill

House On Haunted Hill is a classic B-movie by William Castle that came out in 1959.  It starred Vincent Price as a millionaire who offers $10,000 to five people who agree to spend the night locked in a house he’s rented on Haunted Hill.

As with many horror films, the movie contains lines that are unintentionally hilarious.  

Peter J. Loewy noticed the humor and thought the film presented the opportunity for a great comedy - especially around Halloween time, which is when the Forum Theatre in Metuchen presents the World Premiere of House On Haunted Hill, A Horror of a Comedy.  The play is adapted and directed by Loewy.

“I have always loved the classic B and C horror movies of the 50s and 60s,” explained Loewy.  “Although written in a very comic style, House on Haunted Hill is still an homage to the thrillers of that genre, with quite a few laughs, many laughs, along the way.”

Loewy is a veteran of theatre as a freelance director, writer, and producer.  He’s directed plays throughout the United States, but his home base is the Forum Theatre in his hometown.  He purchased the theater in 1983 and has been running it ever since.

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In the play, five unrelated people are chosen to spend the night in what is purported to be a haunted house.  If the guests stay the night, their host, will give them each $10,000.  Loewy has kept the time period of the play set in 1959 as with the film because he believes there is a certain innocence about that era that is no longer with us.

House On Haunted HillThe cast includes Patrick J. Cogan as Frederick Loren (the role played by Vincent Price in the original film); Susie Paplow as Annabelle; Vicki Tripodo as Ruth; Paul Whelihan as Pritchard; Todd Fenstermaker as Dr. Trent; CJ Carter as Lance Schrotchum; and Katie Clair McGrath as the nervous secretary. Anthony Ross is the scenic designer and Jason Jackson is the technical director.  All of the characters will be similar to those in the original film.

It doesn’t take long at all for unusual occurrences and minor creeps to begin, but the inhabitants are locked in and couldn’t leave even if they wanted to.  With eerie music, undependable lights, slamming doors, secret passages, and the most ugly housekeeper put on stage, Loewy’s play balances the horrific premise with humor.

“It’s going to have some scares in it, but a lot of it is going to be very funny,” said Loewy.  “It’s definitely a good play for adults and a good date night play. I’ve been writing comedy all of my life.  This film adapts well for comic dialogue.  It’s not slapstick.  It’s more in the vein of a Neil Simon or Mel Brooks’ work - both who I grew up with and worship.  You don’t have to know the movie to enjoy the play. It’s sort of a spin off on Agatha Christie, thrillers, and horror.”

“It’s a cast of seven and they’re all very good and very funny,” continued Loewy.  “Like any comedy farce like this, you’ve got to play it straight.  You can’t play on the comedy; you have to absolutely commit to being straight.  I think for all of the people I cast, that’s what I was looking for.”

The producer in Loewy recognizes that a play like this could have a life beyond the Forum Theatre - especially around Halloween, but he thinks the play could work throughout the year as well.  The Forum Theatre is trying to take advantage of the holiday though with special performances including shows at 10:00pm, a singles night, and costume night.

Since 1928, the Forum Theatre has been a centerpiece in Metuchen.  It was originally built as a theatre and vaudeville tryout house, but eventually became known as the neighborhood movie house.  Throughout the last few decades since Loewy took over, the theater has taken chances on producing several musicals that didn’t have great success in their original runs.  Some of these productions earned the Forum Theatre a bit of notoriety in the industry.  

One such production was The Rothschilds, a musical that opened on Broadway in 1970 and closed slightly over a year later.  Loewy saw it on Broadway and loved its music, obtaining the rights to produce it at the Forum during the 1989-90 season in May. However, the rights were also granted to the American Jewish Theater, which presented the play in a small off-Broadway theater in February.  Their production had enough success that they announced a move to a much larger Off-Broadway theater at the end of April.  Because of this, a request to extend the run at the Forum Theatre was denied and a small battle between New Jersey and New York theatre audiences ensued with coverage in the major newspapers.

Another production was Mr. Cinders, a musical that ran for over 500 performances in London in its original 1929 run.  In 1982, the musical was revived and became a hit that ran for another 527 performances in London.  It had its premiere in the United States at the Forum Theatre in 1986 thanks to Loewy.  He was just 30 at the time, but was hungry to provide his theater with an identity of presenting works that hadn’t been seen in the area (including Broadway and Off-Broadway). His efforts led the New York Times to proclaim, “In its modest way, the Forum is the state’s regenerator of unsung musicals.”

As with most theaters, the Forum plays a central role in the downtown.  Loewy says theaters like his are absolutely essential to a community.  He’s found a way of bringing different cultural events to the theater, which has not only help kept the venue going, but help forge an even closer relationship to the town.

House on Haunted Hill runs from October 12 to November 3rd at the Forum Theatre (314 Main Street in Metuchen).  Performances are Thursday through Sunday.  

House On Haunted Hill

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Center Players Presents "The Emperor's New Duds"
(FREEHOLD, NJ) --  Center Players Dessert Theater will present a family-friendly production of “The Emperor’s New Duds” at Center Playhouse, 35 South St, in downtown Freehold, NJ from December 7 – 16. A musical adaptation of Hans Christian Anderson’s the “Emperor’s New Clothes,” the play was written by Bernice Garfield-Szita, who co-directed the production with Enid Bush.
Centenary Stage’s Young Performers Workshop presents 2018 Winter Festival of Shows
(HACKETTSTOWN, NJ) -- Based on the Gospel According to St. Matthew with music and new lyrics by Stephen Schwartz, Godspell is composed of various musical parables from The Gospel. Jesus Christ recruits a group of followers and teaches them various lessons through song and dance. Toward the end of the second act, the show begins to follow a more linear narrative as Jesus is betrayed by Judas and eventually crucified. Performances are Sunday, December 9 at 5:00pm; Saturday, December 15 at 8pm and Sunday, December 16 at 7:30pm.
The Shakespeare Theatre Presents "The Winter's Tale"
(MADISON, NJ) -- The Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey’s concludes its 56th season with its sixth and final Main Stage production, The Winter's Tale. Last seen at The Shakespeare Theatre in 2008, Artistic Director Bonnie J. Monte directs this production of Shakespeare’s tragicomedic romance. Veteran company members Jacqueline Antaramian, Jon Barker, Erin Partin, John Keabler, Raphael Nash Thompson,Seamus Mulcahy, Patrick Toon, and Ames Adamson are among a cast of 20 actors. Performances run from December 5 to December 30. 
American Theater Group Announces Full Cast & Creative For "Tell Them I'm Still Young"
(SOUTH ORANGE, NJ) -- American Theater Group has announced the full cast and creative team for its World Premiere production of Tell Them I’m Still Young, a new play by Julia Doolittle, which will run at the South Orange Performing Arts Center from January 24 - February 3, 2019. Joining the previously announced Andre Braugher (Homicide: Life on the Streets, Men of a Certain Age, Brooklyn Nine-Nine) andMichele Pawk (Hollywood Arms, Hairspray, Mamma Mia) are Janice Amaya (Seen/Unseen) and Seth Clayton (The Madrid).
Holmdel Theatre Company Presents 'ART'
(HOLMDEL, NJ) – The Holmdel Theatre Company (HTC) will present 6 performances of Yasmina Reza’s ‘ART’  from December 7th through December 16th. Translated from French by Christopher Hampton, the play tells the story of what happens when Serge buys an expensive painting, and the reactions of his two closest friends, Marc and Yvan, to his purchase. As what begins as a discussion about the quality of the painting that Serge has purchased quickly devolves into petty jabs and personal attacks, the three men border on destroying their friendships.

Broadway’s Mandy Gonzalez LIVE! at Toms River’s Grunin Center
Broadway is in the house at Toms River, NJ’s Grunin Center for the Arts with a Fearless live concert performance by Broadway star, Mandy Gonzalez!
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“I saw something in her that you rarely come across,” recalled Ted Wioncek III, Artistic Director at Eagle Theatre in Hammonton. “She’s more than wise beyond her years; I believe she’s going to be a game-changer and a trendsetter for this art form.”
Broadway’s Next H!T Musical LIVE! at Toms River’s Grunin Center
It’s Friday, October 26, 2018, and the Broadway’s Next H!T Musical cast is just about ready to take the stage at the Jay and Linda Grunin Center for the Arts, located on the campus of Ocean County College in Toms River, NJ.
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Event calendar
Saturday, Nov 17, 2018


THE GAY BLADES @ The Saint, Asbury Park - 7:30pm

HERMAN'S HERMITS STARRING PETER NOONE & THE BUCKINGHAMS @ Bergen Performing Arts Center (bergenPAC), Englewood - 8:00pm

Nelson Riveros Trio: “The Latin Side of Wes Montgomery” @ Englewood Public Library, Englewood - 7:00pm

Hawaiian Music and Hula @ 1867 Sanctuary at Ewing, Ewing - 8:00pm

Pop 2000 Tour @ iPlay America, Freehold - 7:00pm

THE MACHINE PERFORMS PINK FLOYD @ The Strand Theater, Lakewood - 8:00pm


Todd Barry at SOPAC @ South Orange Performing Arts Center (SOPAC), South Orange - 8:00pm

Swamp Boogie Trio @ Lizzie Rose Music Room, Tuckerton - 7:30pm


Annie @ Broad Street United Methodist Church, Burlington - 8:00pm

An Actor's Carol @ Cape May Stage, Cape May - 3:00pm and 7:30pm

Annie @ Axelrod Performing Arts Center, Deal Park - 2:00pm and 8:00pm

Apples In Winter @ Centenary Stage Company - Kutz Theater of the Lackland Center, Hackettstown - 8:00pm

Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat @ The Levoy Theatre, Millville - 8:00pm

Billy Bishop Goes to War @ Bickford Theatre at the Morris Museum, Morristown - 2:00pm

Kiss Me Kate @ Broadway Theatre of Pitman, Pitman - 2:00pm and 8:00pm

Phoenix Productions Presents: The Hunchback of Notre Dame @ Count Basie Center For The Arts, Red Bank - 8:00pm

Enchanted April @ The Summit Playhouse, Summit - 8:00pm

Heathers, The Musical High School Edition @ Pebble Players, Oakes Center, Summit - 7:30pm

Junie B. Jones The Musical at Black Box PAC @ Black Box PAC, Teaneck - 11:00am

Into the Woods @ Studio Playhouse Upper Montclair, Upper Montclair - 8:00pm

The Drowsy Chaperone @ Lauren K. Woods Theatre at Monmouth University, West Long Branch - 8:00pm


Todd Barry at SOPAC @ South Orange Performing Arts Center (SOPAC), South Orange - 8:00pm


BALLET FOLKLORICO DE MEXICO @ Mayo Performing Arts Center (MPAC), Morristown - 8:00pm


ROALD DAHL’S WILLY WONKA JR. @ Ridgewood Ave School Theater, Glen Ridge - 1:00pm and 7:00pm


Mainebiz Health Care Forum @ Mainebiz Health Care Forum, Newyork - 8:00pm

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