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Tyrone man featured in ACT musical

Brett Patrick Keith of Tyrone has a featured role in Altoona Community Theatre’s upcoming production of “Blood Brothers.”
ACT and corporate sponsor M&T Bank will present the British hit for four performances in Altoona’s Historic Mishler Theatre at 8 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday, April 28, 29 and 30, plus a 2 p.m. matinee on Sunday, May 1.
Keith plays Mr. Lyons, a wealthy English businessman whose wife hires a poverty-stricken charlady to clean her house then convinces the destitute mother-to-be to give her one of the twins she’s expecting to raise as her own. Although separated at birth and raised in different economic and social environments, the twin boys become close friends, only to fulfill a fateful prophecy when, as grownups, they discover the truth about their heritage.
“Blood Brothers” is Keith’s second show with ACT, having debuted with the group as the smarmy shopclerk Steven Kodaly in the group’s September production of the musical “She Loves Me.” Keith’s other area performances include “G.I. Jukebox,” “Cinderella” and “Some Enchanted Evening” with Tyrone Community Players, “Grease” and “Once Upon a Mattress” with State College Community Theatre at Boal Barn Playhouse, and the title role of “Pippin” with Penn State Thespians.
Director for ACT’s production of “Blood Brothers” is Russell Stiles, who previously has staged “Play It Again, Sam,” “The Rainmaker,” “Bus Stop,” “A Shayna Maidel,” “Scotland Road” and “Dancing at Lughnasa” for the group. Currently a member of the ACT Board of Directors, he has appeared on-stage with ACT in “Fiddler on the Roof,” “I’m Herbert” and “Evita,” and has designed sets and lights for other shows. Stiles is Fine Arts Chair at Hollidaysburg Area High School, where he oversees the Hollidaysburg Area Repertory Players.
“Blood Brothers” is written by Willy Russell, best known as the playwright of “Educating Rita” and “Shirley Valentine.” The musical first opened in the early 1980s in London where, despite winning the Laurence Olivier Award for Musical of the Year, it had a modest run of just six months. In 1988, however, the show was revived and restaged and became a massive hit, winning a variety of awards including Best Musical from the Society of West End Theatres. Today, 17 years later, it continues to play in London’s Phoenix Theatre to packed houses and standing ovations. A Broadway staging of “Blood Brothers” opened in New York in 1993, starring Petulia Clark and brothers David and Shawn Cassidy, and ran for two years.
Ironically, ACT’s production of “Blood Brothers” also features a pair of brothers in the roles of the twins Robert and Ryan Decker of Altoona as Mickey and Eddie, respectively. Robert, who has studied musical theatre at New School University and American Musical and Dramatic Academy in New York City, appeared in ACT’s production of “The Music Man” in 1991 and was choreographer for “The Wizard of Oz.”
His professional experience includes Off-Broadway productions, national tours with American Family Theatre and performing on a cruise ship. Brother Ryan Decker made his ACT debut as Benjamin in “Joseph and The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat,” appeared as Nana the Dog and the pirate Smiley in “Peter Pan,” and most recently starred as Georg Nowak in ACT’s “She Loves Me.” He also has performed with Penn State Altoona in “Godspell” and Allegheny Ballet Company in “The Nutcracker.”
Playing the mother of the Johnstone twins is Amy Misera of Altoona, who has been seen by ACT audiences as Cherie in “Bus Stop,” Cinderella in “Into the Woods” and Maggie in “Dancing at Lughnasa.” She also directed ACT’s “The Cemetery Club.” Kristine Allen of State College appears as Mrs. Lyons, previously playing Babe in “Crimes of the Heart,” Amanda in “The Glass Menagerie,” Aggie in “Dancing at Lughnasa” and Mona in “Come Back to the Five and Dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean.”
Shawn Foster of Hollidaysburg, who plays the foreboding role of The Narrator, made his ACT debut in September as Arpad, the delivery boy, in “She Loves Me,” played Bernie, the agent, in “Cookin‚ With Gus” and directed ACT’s production of the children’s show “The Purple Fan.”
Other cast members include ensemble members Gigi M. Campbell, Cliff Drury, Ellie Herbster, Katie Kensinger, Tom Liszka, Molly Riva, Patricia Stiles and Kevin Summers of Altoona, Courtney Sherkel of Houtzdale and Emily Fochler, Jayson Gabany, Kevin Keefer and Rachael Marie Shaffer of Hollidaysburg.
Tickets for “Blood Brothers” are $16 for evening performances and $13 for the Sunday matinee and are now available at the Mishler Theatre box office between noon and 5 p.m. weekdays by calling 944-9434.
The Historic Mishler Theatre is located in downtown Altoona at 1208 12th Avenue. For more information about Altoona Community Theatre, visit www.winbeam.com/atheatre. Audiences are advised that “Blood Brothers” contains mature subject matter and language.