Acrobat Nathan Knowles talks circus and inspiration as Celebrity Series of Boston presents award-winning show, Circa ‘S’

With sensational feats sure to cause the audience to look twice in amazement, the award-winning, animal free Australian circus, Circa is not only fun for the whole family, but has been enchanting audiences all over the world since 2004.  With a revamped cast making its third thrilling return to Boston, Celebrity Series of Boston proudly presents Circa ‘S’ for three performances only from Friday, March 2 through Sunday, March 4 with a post- performance artist talk on March 3 at Boch Center Shubert Theatre in Boston, Massachusetts.  Click here for more information and for tickets.

Joining the circus was a fire that burned the brightest for young Canadian acrobat, Nathan Knowles. Having been with Circa ‘S’ for 18 months, he learns something new and exciting every day.  Nathan talks about discovering the circus, what it takes to become an acrobat, and his future.

Circa - S - Image by Darcy-Grant6

Acrobats Photo courtesy of Darcy Grant

Sleepless Critic:  What first inspired you to become an acrobat and when did you decide it was your calling?

Nathan Knowles:  In my hometown of Maple Ridge, British Columbia, a clown first introduced me to the circus at age six during an extra-curricular program at my primary school. I went home from school that day and told my parents that one day I’ll be running away with the circus. They laughed it off thinking, ‘What kid doesn’t joke about that?’ I actually manifested it.

SC:  Was there something you wanted to be first, or was it always an acrobat?

NK:  As per a normal childhood, I had a few fleeting ideas of what I would do professionally one day, but the circus was always the fire that burned the brightest.

SC:  What kind of skills do you think it takes to become an acrobat?

NK:  It takes motivation, hunger, discipline, a healthy dose of insanity, and natural or developed physical talent.

Circa - S

Photo courtesy of Steve Eggelton

SC:  How did you get involved with Circa?

NK:  My involvement with Circa began at a workshop in Montréal with our Artistic Director, Yaron Lifschitz during my graduating year from National Circus School. A few months later, I had a signed contract and was hopping on a plane to Brisbane to start the adventure!

SC:  What is your favorite act to perform?

NK:  My acrobatic specialties are hand balancing and contortion, but in terms of the company’s repertoire, I’d have to say ‘Snap’. ‘Snap’ is a scene from our show Il Ritorno where the rest of the ensemble manipulates my body into seemingly impossible shapes and leaves me to sort myself out and bring my body back to normal.

SC:  Wow, that is wild.  Aside from excluding animals, in what way is Circa a unique experience?  I understand that ‘S’ stands for sinuous, seductive, sophisticated, sensual and savage.

Circa - S - Image by Steve-Eggelton6

Photo courtesy of Steve Eggelton

NK:  Circa, a show for all ages, is a stand out company based on our artistic approach to the simply physical and spectacular nature that circus is known for. The company is known for not only demonstrating extreme physical prowess but also our storytelling and capabilities to strike a nerve emotionally and reflectively in the souls of our audiences.

SC:  Circa has been established since 2004. How has this production evolved over the years?

NK:  Circa has grown immensely and has doubled, if not tripled in size. Our reputation for high quality work and innovation has been acclaimed and recognized in 36 different countries. We live up to our reputation without being elitist. We’re a group of fun loving, curious, and professional people from all walks of life.

SC:  What does Circa ‘S’ have in store for Boston? Does the act change a bit with each destination?

NK:  Boston is in for an exciting treat! Although ‘S’ has been performed in many venues around the world, it’s an almost completely revamped cast this time around, yet still holds true to the original concept and structure of the show.

SC:  What do you think makes Circa different from other circuses around the world?

NK:  What makes us different is our hunger and fearless drive to continue chipping away at the future of the circus. Our work is an honest extension of our own humanity, not simply physical prowess coated in fancy costuming, booming budgets, and heavy makeup.

Circa - S - Image by Justin-Nicholas1

Photo Courtesy of Justin Nicholas

SC:  I understand Circa also has a training center for young people from age 3 to 16. Please tell me more about that.

NK:  Circa Zoo, our training program, is an after school program for young people who either are looking for a fun way to stay active or develop the tools to one day break out into the professional market. They also do outreach and external projects in regional Australian towns.

SC:  What do you hope to accomplish with Circa in the future and in your career as an acrobat?

NK:  I prefer to view it as taking it one day at a time. I’ve worked for the company for 18 months now and there hasn’t been a day where I leave the studio or theatre without having learned something new. I’m unable to say at this point whether my career will extend to other companies apart from Circa. I’m happy where I am and have no intention of leaving any time soon. I am also highly interested in making my own work later in life, hopefully in the form of a solo show.

Circa - S -

Photo courtesy of Justin Nicholas

 

SC:  What is the best reason people should see Circa as it makes its third return to Boston with Celebrity Series?

NK:  We’ll have you on the edge of your seats, full to the brim with wonder and questioning!  We aim for you to walk away from the show with a sense of being changed or even a new flame of inspiration to take with you into your life.

Celebrity Series of Boston presents Circa ‘S’ from Friday, March 2 through Sunday, March 4 at Boch Center Shubert Theatre.  Click here for tickets and more about Celebrity Series of Boston as well as their upcoming events.  Follow them on Facebook and Twitter.

 

 

 

 

REVIEW: Moving and visually stunning, ‘Soaring Wings: Journey of the Crested Ibis’ took flight in Boston

The richest beauty comes from a striking, beloved bird as The Boch Center Shubert Theatre debuted the Shanghai Dance Theatre’s ethereal and historical tale, Soaring Wings:  Journey of the Crested Ibis in Boston from January 11 and 12.   The show is part of China Arts and Entertainment Group’s Image China and has been touring all over the world since 2014.  A few of Image China’s featured past performances include The Legend of Mulan, Confucius Dragon Boat Racing, and the Peking Opera.  Click here for more information about Boch Center’s upcoming events.

Soaring Wings, January 11-12, 2018 at the Boch Center Shubert Theatre (11)

Crested Ibis Photo courtesy of China Arts and Entertainment Group’s Image China

With elements similar to Tchaikovsky’s Swan LakeSoaring Wings is a majestic celebration of nature’s harmony with man and how delicate that relationship can be.  From harp-infused, mystical rhythms and horn-infused intensity composed by Guo Sida to the distinct, elegant choreography by Tong Ruirui, Soaring Wings delivers a stunning portrait of love, camaraderie, and what comes of neglect in a tree-lined utopia.

Soaring Wings, January 11-12, 2018 at the Boch Center Shubert Theatre (13)

Courtesy of China Arts and Entertainment Group’s Image China

Written by Luo Huaizhen, directed by Ton Ruirui, and starring Zhu Jiejing and Wang Jiajun, Soaring Wings is part love story, part environmental awareness, and part historical account of the Crested Ibis, China’s sacred bird of good fortune, from its first appearance centuries ago to what has become of them today.  The simple and beautiful setting under a low hanging, multi-branched tree entangled with a mist covered lake is a vision to behold and prefaces the grace and charm of these spectacular birds as a group of explorers look on.  Wearing intricately detailed, lacy costumes accented by a feather plume and dainty red slippers, the dancers move in simultaneous elegance.   They joyfully chirp, prance, float, twinkle, and expressively cock their head while outstretching their wide, magnificent wings under streaming, multi-colored lights.

Soaring Wings, January 11-12, 2018 at the Boch Center Shubert Theatre (7)

The ‘flock’ of Crested Ibis Photo courtesy of China Arts and Entertainment’s Image China

Zhu Jijng and Wang Jiajun possess an instant, sweet fascination with each other as man and bird.  Their intimate dance and the radiant joy they exude from each other is a captivating centerpiece of the performance.  Divided into three parts, the stark contrast between the warmth and jarring indifference that develops in its characters and the symbolic relevance of a floating, single feather drives this altruistic tale.  As visually stunning as its universal message, Soaring Wings: Journey of the Crested Ibis embodies the power of kindness and the importance of harmony in an ever changing world.

Click here for more information about China Arts and Entertainment Group’s Image China and here for more about Boch Center’s upcoming events.

 

REVIEW: Reagle Music Theatre’s 35th anniversary of ‘ChristmasTime’ is most wonderful

Brimming with holiday cheer while celebrating two milestone anniversaries, Reagle Music Theatre of Greater Boston is offering a season more spectacular than ever before.  Not only is Reagle celebrating its 50th anniversary, their beloved annual holiday music revue, ChristmasTime is marking 35 magnificent years.  These special ChristmasTime anniversary performances are dedicated to Reagle’s Christmas Angel, Natalie L. Durkin.  ChristmasTime continues through Sunday, December 10.  Click here for more information and for tickets.

Christmas Time Photo 4

Raggedy Ann Photo courtesy of Reagle Music Theatre of Greater Boston

Just walking into Robinson Theatre before the performance, attendees are greeted by iconic holiday characters and Victorian carolers as the Robinson halls are decked out onstage and off with brightly lit snowflakes, richly designed Christmas trees, gold embossed wreaths, and the stage festively framed with wooden embroidered angels.  Reagle Music Theatre of Greater Boston annually features the memorable performances that transformed ChristmasTime into a holiday tradition as well as additional scenes that keep the show fresh each year.

Christmas Time Photo 2

ChristmasTime stage Courtesy of Reagle Music Theatre of Greater Boston

From touching, candlelit hymns to joyous rollicking Christmas carols for the entire family including a sing-along, Reagle Music Theatre’s production of ChristmasTime never loses steam even in its quietest of moments.  During the holiday season, spend the afternoon witnessing a unique musical revue seeped in a variety of iconic Christmas scenes expertly narrated with the warm, inviting vocals of R. Glen Mitchell and a live orchestra led by Jeffrey P Leonard and Paul S. Katz.  Featuring an enormous, impressive cast of all ages with some performances offered with special permission from Radio City Music Hall, Reagle Music Theatre of Greater Boston travels to distant lands and different time periods from the North Pole to New York City in landscapes painted with picturesque flair by Robert Moody of Santa’s Workshop, Rockefeller Center, Boston’s duck statues, a candlelit church with sunburst stained glass windows, and the stunning, sprawling city of Jerusalem.

Christmas Time Photo 7 - Fred Van Ness Soloist

Renowned Tenor Fred C. VanNess Jr in The Living Nativity

The afternoon also featured an array of special, surprise guests with the returning, suburb talent of renowned tenor, Fred C. VanNess Jr and Mara Bonde’s gorgeous vocals.  Famous scenes of the season include a lively version of The Nutcracker, appearances from Reagle’s Rockettes, a humorous scene from Parade of the Wooden Soldiers, and the suburb The Living Nativity highlighted by popular carols like Little Saint Nick, Jingle Bells, Twelve Days of Christmas, and Christmas medleys capture the Christmas spirit in an unforgettable way.  Scenes are also peppered in performances from toys to trees coming to life dancing to rock, gospel, and much more.  ChristmasTime, through its delightful, stunning vignettes of the season, exhibits a captivating depiction of the meaning of Christmas.

As part of Reagle’s 50th anniversary celebration, Reagle Music Theatre of Greater Boston is holding a limited raffle to win a new Honda Civic.  Click here for further details.

This annual, interactive celebration, which is appropriate for all ages, has a strong following so purchase tickets now.  Each show is held at Reagle Music Theatre, 617 Lexington Street in Waltham, Massachusetts through December 10.  Call 781-891-5600 or Click here for tickets and for more information and upcoming events in 2018 such as Night Fever:  An Evening With the Bee Gees and A Little Bit of Ireland. Tickets are also available at the theatre box office.

 

 

Americana Theatre Company’s David Friday and Nick Mitchell talk ‘It’s a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play’

Over 70 years ago, despair, hardship, hope, and generosity encompassed a holiday tale that quickly became a film classic.  Based on Philip Van Doren Stern’s short story, The Greatest Gift, Frank Capra’s It’s a Wonderful Life became an annual family tradition for generations and The Americana Theatre Company is bringing back this popular, unique retelling of this beloved story suited to the film’s time period.  With a small cast inhabiting over 40 roles with a Christmas Eve setting, It’s a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play is performed as a 1940s radio play with a cast of just five actors.  The show runs from Wednesday, December 6 through Saturday, December 16 at Plymouth Center for the Arts in Plymouth, Massachusetts.  Click here for more information and tickets.

American Theatre Company cast 2017

A few cast member from Americana Theatre Company’s ‘It’s a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play’ through December 16 Photo courtesy of Americana Theatre Company

Managing Director of the Americana Theatre Company David Friday and Director Nick Mitchell discuss the inspirational transformation of It’s a Wonderful Life into an interactive, onstage, and in-studio live radio show.

Sleepless Critic:  What I like so much about It’s a Wonderful Life:  A Live Radio Play is the nostalgic 1940s setting fits right in line with the time period of the film.  How did this idea come about?

Nick Mitchell:  Radio plays have taken off and a lot of companies are doing live, mock radio plays by bringing in the effects and the different voices from the actors.  It was only a matter of time before authors got a hold of pieces like It’s a Wonderful Life.  Two different versions of the script are available for It’s a Wonderful Life that is a formatted radio play.  The one we’re using is by Joe Landry who condensed it into anywhere from 40 actors, but five are recommended and five is what we are going with.

SC:  Those five actors will play 40 roles as I understand.

NM:  Yes, indeed.  George Bailey is played by Jesse Sullivan, Emily Turner Marsland as Mary. They play just those roles, but Josh Nicholson, David Friday, and Erin Friday, the Director of Education for Americana Theatre, play everybody else.

SC:  I understand your voices will be enhanced with microphones, sound effects, and there will also be an authentic ‘Applause’ sign.

NM:  The ‘Applause’ sign is funny.  David made this fully working sign.  I kept thinking during the rehearsal process whether it is bright enough for the audience to see it.  However, audiences have responded to it the minute that sign lit up.  It was fun to watch.

It's a Wonderful Life A Live Radio Play

Cast of It’s a Wonderful Life In Studio Photo courtesy of Americana Theatre Company

SC:  It also makes it more interactive for the audience too.

DF:  The opening speech of the show explains to the audience that the broadcast will be in a radio studio.  Other performances of this show have to be done on a large stage and broadcast on the radio to a different venue.  In the opening speech, the announcer says that people at home are going to be able to hear you so laugh, applaud, cry, and it will all be part of the show.  It really tries to get everybody involved including our stage manager.  He can be seen in the production booth window.  We added that nice little twist.

SC:  Have there been any surprises during this show’s run such as unexpected reactions to certain scenes?

DF:  It’s one of my favorite movies of all time.  I see it every year just like most people do and get a little misty when I watch it.  At the end of one evening’s performance, quite a few audience members were crying or very close to it.  It is good for us.  It just tells us we’ve been able to capture the spirit of the original film.

It’s nice and I’ve actually seen a couple of online Facebook comments that people can’t wait to go home and watch it.  They enjoyed the show and want to watch it because the show recaptured something in a way that they have never seen it and want to go back and relate it to what they know.  People even thinking that way is a large victory for us.

SC:  What is the best reason one should come see the production?

NM:  In this digital age, we get entertainment where and when we want it with a push of a button.  I think at this time of year, a show and format like this reminds us to set aside some time with people that mean something to us and be entertained.  In the process, see how many lives we’ve touched in the meantime.

SC:  It’s a live show so anything can happen.

NM:  It will, believe me.

It’s a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play continues through Saturday, December 16 at Plymouth Center for the Arts, 11 North Street in Plymouth, Massachusetts. Reserve tickets by clicking here or call 1-508-591-0282. Tickets will also be available at the door.  Follow the Americana Theatre Company of Facebook for more information about this amazing theatre company and future productions.

 

Plymouth Community Theatre’s annual musical show ‘The Christmas House’ boasts Christmas carols, intriguing tales, and more

‘Tis the season once again for The Christmas House, an annual musical gathering to hear a blend of beloved Christmas carols, festive, original music by Marianne Withington, and intriguing holiday tales nestled in the Spire Center for Performing Arts in Plymouth, Massachusetts for one weekend only Friday, December 8 through Sunday, December 10.  Click here for tickets and more information.

Written and directed by Marianne Withington, The Christmas House is an original story that explores the magic and meaning of Christmas through the warm memories and celebrations inside an old house since 1788.  Along with traditional Christmas carols by the PCT singers, the cast will narrate and sing original music composed by Marianne Withington.

Plymouth Community Theatre is proud to present The Christmas House musical for three performances only on Friday, December 8 and Saturday, December 9 at 8 p.m.  One Sunday matinee will be held on December 10 at 4 p.m.  All performances are held at Spire Center for Performing Arts, 25 ½ Court Street in Plymouth, Massachusetts.

Click here for tickets, call 617-308-7834, and tickets will also be available at the box office.  Follow Plymouth Community Theatre on Facebook and Twitter for auditions, how to donate, and their upcoming performances.

The Spire Center for Performing Arts boasts a wealth of exciting concerts, performances, and much more, especially during the holiday season.  Tour the Spire Center for Performing Arts, learn about becoming a member, and click here for a diverse roster of exciting events at the Spire or call 1-508-746-4488.  Spire Center for Performing Arts is also available on Facebook.

REVIEW: Festive and moving, Massasoit’s production of ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ is time well spent

Soft, twinkling lights and vintage multi-colored bulbs frame the Buckley Performing Arts Center stage as beloved Christmas carols ring in the holiday cheer in anticipation of a beloved tale.  That familiar sign, “You are Now in Bedford Falls” rings true as Massasoit Theatre Company opened a four show, two weekend run of It’s A Wonderful Life continuing through Sunday, December 3 at Buckley Performing Arts Center, part of Massasoit Community College in Brockton, Massachusetts.  Craig O’Connor, who acts as part narrator and full-time aspiring angel, warmly recalls a beautiful and haunting tale of the value of a life well spent.  Click here for more information and for tickets.

It's a Wonderful Life Bedford Falls

Curtis J. Bellafiore as George and Elizabeth Lovley as Mary Hatch and the cast Photo courtesy of Massasoit Theatre Company

Massasoit has an affinity for festive onstage caroling during annual holiday productions and We Wish You a Merry Christmas is just one of an array of classic tunes to set the mood.  The rolling stage, designed impressively by Nathan Fogg DeSisto, hearkens not only to its vintage 1920s to 40s setting, but visually captures some of the tale’s most iconic moments from the cold, snow covered bridge to a wooden bench frequently shown in Bedford Falls, a setting inspired by Seneca Falls, New York.  Jennifer Spagone’s distinct costume design make the cast looked sharp as women wore brightly colored dresses from polka dots to paisley in signature hairstyles of the period and the men in a variety of suits, ties, and winter coats faithful to the season.

It's a wonderful life Baileys

Patricia Straight-McGrath as Mother Bailey and Curtis J. Bellafiore as George Photo courtesy of Massasoit Theatre Company

Told partly in vignettes and flashbacks, It’s a Wonderful Life focuses on a morbidly downtrodden George Bailey, portrayed with a unique charisma by Curtis J. Bellafiore, who reaches a pivotal moment in his life that makes him question the value of his existence.  Enter mild-mannered Clarence Odbody, portrayed with warmhearted sincerity by Craig O’Connor, who questions whether he can produce a Christmas miracle.

It's a wonderful life Uncle Billy

Curtis J. Bellafiore as George and Danny Hannafin as Uncle Billy Photo courtesy of Massasoit Theatre Company

Director Tony Ruscio masters the challenging task of capturing the charm of this small town through the cast’s jocular and moving camaraderie.  The children have small roles, but each engages the audience in their own distinct way.  With a winning smile and apprehensive verbal style only mildly reminiscent of Jimmy Stewart’s portrayal, Curtis J. Bellafiore, embodies endearing dreamer George Bailey with a unique charisma.  His instant chemistry with Elizabeth Lovley as jubilant, yet mysterious Mary Hatch is captivating to watch.  Lovley’s real skill as Mary is not just in the scripted word, but in the subtlety of her performance.  Lovley’s quiet serenity perfectly complements Bellafiore’s charming optimism.  Craig O’Connor harnesses such a natural presence as lovable Clarence that it is difficult to imagine the actor himself any other way.

Chris DiOrio, last seen as grouchy but lovable Shrek in Hingham Civic Music Theatre’s fall production of the same name, takes a gloriously dark turn as the infamous Mr. Potter.   As he makes his demands from a sitting position, his presence casts a constant shadow, his deep, gravelly, and well spoken demeanor brimming with unflinching practicality.  His calculating exchanges with each cast member are riveting to say the least.

It's a wonderful life Potter

Chris DiOrio as Mr. Potter, Jim Gross, and Margaret O’Brien as Bank Examiner Photo courtesy of Massasoit Theatre Company

Massasoit Theatre Company’s festive and moving It’s A Wonderful Life continues through Sunday, December 3 at Buckley Performing Arts Center, One Massasoit Boulevard in Brockton, Massachusetts.  Call 508-427-1234 or click here for tickets and further details.  Follow Massasoit Theatre Company on Facebook for upcoming events and more.

Holiday Pops makes annual return to Symphony Hall with sing-a-long carols, holiday cheer, and Santa Claus

The spirit of the season comes knocking as the Holiday Pops make their way to Symphony Hall bringing sing-a-long carols and brimming with holiday cheer.  For over 20 years, decking out Symphony Hall has become an annual Boston tradition, seeped in the luminous sights and sounds of the season and welcoming audiences from near and far.  At the helm once again is renowned maestro Keith Lockhart to conduct Holiday Pops 2017 from Tuesday, December 5 and continuing through Christmas Eve.  Cap off the year and return to Symphony Hall for a special New Year’s Eve Party featuring the Boston Pops led by returning bandleader Bo Winiker. Click here for more information and for tickets.

Holiday Pops Christmas

Keith Lockhart leads the Holiday Pops Photo courtesy of Stu Rosner/BSO

Holiday Pops features approximately 40 evening and matinee performances featuring an array of beloved carols, storytelling, and a traditional holiday sing-along.  Morning kid matinees are also available which includes photos with Santa and much more.  Children under 2 get in free.  Kicking off on December 2, The Holiday Pops will also be on the road touring New England with Keith Lockhart and Santa in tow for The Boston Pops Holiday Tour. Click here for tour dates and locations.

Bring Holiday Pops home with the Boston Pops all-live CD.  Savor the sounds of the season right in the living room with A Boston Pops Christmas: Live from Symphony Hall, virtually bringing the listener right through the Symphony Hall doors to enjoy a time-honored Christmas tradition for the entire family.

With Keith Lockhart leading the Boston Pops, A Boston Pops Christmas:  Live from Symphony Hall features a gorgeous Christmas medley from American Idol finalist Melinda Doolittle along with audience favorites such as Dr. Seuss’s How The Grinch Stole Christmas, The Twelve Days of Christmas, Sleigh Ride, The Christmas Song, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, and Merrily We Sing Along.

NYE Bo Winiker Symphony Hall 2017

Photo courtesy of Bo Winiker

Click here for tickets, call SymphonyCharge at 888-266-1200, and are also available at the Symphony Hall Box Office, 301 Massachusetts Ave, Boston, Massachusetts.  A Boston Pops Christmas: Live from Symphony Hall CD is available through ITunes, Amazon, and Amazon MP3.