Joy and Tears Come CHEAPER BY THE DOZEN at Actors’NET

by Wren Workman

CHEAPER BY THE DOZEN is a heart warming and heart wrenching time-locked comedy that depicts the lives of the Gilbreth children through the memories of two of the siblings as they recount their youth. What could be a simple slapstick comedy is done with tender and tragic words as well as humor. Director Maryalice Rubins-Topoleski and her amazing crew including producer Hayley Rubins-Topoleski have assembled a talented cast and forged them into a great show.

As with most shows at Actors’NET the stage is beautifully crafted with love and care making use of all possible space. Lighting (Andrena Wishnie) is done very efficiently and with a deft touch. A few issues over the sound board were noticeable (Scott Karlin) but barely detracted from the overall greatness of the show. Costumes (Ruth Schanbacher) were lovely and gave a great unified vibe to the show.

While the cast was packed with talent, some stood out far and away more than others. Ken Ammerman (Mr. Gilbreth) was stellar as the hardworking and timely patriarch. Ammerman took a softer approach to the role, that added a lot more love for his character. Monica Fotusky was very convincing as the boy-hungry Anne, but also convincing when her character was at her worst. Olivia Schanbacher (Martha) has a very emotive face and never broke character on stage. Unlike most of the children she always moved with a motive.

The two runaway stars of the show are the narrators. Shane Howell (Frank Jr.) and Melanie Nolan (Ernestine) are both talented beyond their years. They handle their lines with an ease and conviction that few other than Ammerman manage to pull off in this show. They both have an amazing depth of range, and choices. These two were the most perfectly cast of all the children, and really showed insight on the part of the director and her crew.

At this time of the season when most people are looking for a traditional holiday story, please make some time to go see one of the greatest local theater productions of CHEAPER BY THE DOZEN that has been done in years. The standouts of this cast were all far better than I can put into words here, and the five dollar dog was quite possibly the cutest animal I’ve ever seen on stage.

by ChristopherSergel
Directed by Maryalice Rubins-Topoleski
December 5 – 21, 2014
The Actors’ NET of Bucks County
at The Heritage Center Theatre
635 North Delmorr Avenue (Route 32),
Morrisville, PA
Reservations at 215-295-3694 or


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