Hingham Civic Music Theatre will soon debut the humorous fairy tale with a twist, ‘Shrek the Musical’

Shrek the Musical

Hingham Civic Music Theatre debuts ‘Shrek the Musical for two weekends only from Oct 21 through Oct 29 Photo courtesy of Hingham Civic Music Theatre

Can an intimidating green ogre have what it takes to become an unlikely hero?  Get to know Shrek, Donkey, the Gingerbread Man, Three Blind Mice, The Three Little Pigs, Pinocchio, and many more iconic fairy tale creatures in an entirely new way as Hingham Civic Music Theatre debuts Shrek the Musical at the Sanborn Auditorium in Hingham Town Hall Saturday, October 21 and continuing for two weekends through Sunday, October 29.  Based on William Steig’s imaginative fairy tale that later launched into a beloved animated film starring Mike Myers and Cameron Diaz followed by many popular film sequels, Shrek the Musical adds a bit more to this thrilling, family adventure.  Click here for more information, tickets, and how to participate in the HCMT Fundraising campaign.

Featuring real life husband and wife Chris DiOrio as Shrek and Leslie DiOrio as Princess Fiona, Shrek is a lone, but not lonely, green ogre who lives a quiet swamp life until life as he knows it is threatened, forcing him to embark on an daunting quest to save a mysterious princess.  With heartwarming songs such as Don’t Let Me Go, Big Bright Beautiful World, This is How Dreams Come True, and the Monkees classic, I’m a BelieverShrek the Musical offers enough witty humor and heartwarming moments that will entertain children and adults alike.

Directed by Lisa Pratt, music by Jeanine Tesori, musically-directed by Mark Bono, with choreography by Tara McSweeney Morrison, Hingham Civic Music Theatre presents Shrek the Musical on Saturdays, October 21 and 28 as well as one Friday performance on October 27 at 7:30 p.m.  Sunday matinees will be held on October 22 and 29 at 2 p.m.  All shows take place at Hingham Town Hall, 210 Central Street in Hingham, Massachusetts.  Click here for further details, tickets, and be sure to follow Hingham Civic Music Theatre on Facebook for upcoming events and more.

NYC actress, writer, and filmmaker Stephanie Iscovitz talks film career and managing annual ‘New York New Works Theatre Festival’ in October

NYC actress, writer, filmmaker, and casting assistant Stephanie Iscovitz is no stranger to a competitive festival, having been on the winning end and a participant.  She is taking her expertise to a whole new level running the upcoming New York New Works Theatre Festival, kicking off Tuesday, October 3 and continuing through Saturday, Oct. 21 at New York City’s Duke Theatre with the final gala on Monday, Nov. 6 at Theatre 80.

With a wide spectrum of diverse, carefully chosen theatre productions from hundreds of submissions and created by Gene Fisch, Jr., the New York New Works Theatre Festival is a give back project to help the arts community.  It’s an exciting, annual event as award-winning representatives from Broadway and beyond judge the next generation’s promising talent.  Click here for the full theatre schedule, tickets, and here for panelist information.

Stephanie Iscovitz delves into her journey as a film festival participant, what to expect at the New York New Works Theatre Festival, and the message she hopes to convey through her work.  Click here for more on Stephanie and her upcoming projects.

Sleepless Critic:  Starting October 3, you are leading the management team at the New York New Works Theatre Festival.

Stephanie Iscovitz:  Yes, I’m managing the New York New Works Theater Showcase and am very passionate about including as many powerful, female and diverse voices as possible.

 The New York New Works Theatre Showcase is a theatre competition that provides aspiring writers the opportunity to present their work in a top tier theatre while being mentored by a group of Broadway, television producers, and industry leaders. The distinguished panelists are Broadway producers, Tony Award-winners, Emmy Award-winners, or industry executives that volunteer their time to help aspiring writers.  Performances take place in the 199-seat Duke Theatre on 42nd and Broadway from Tuesday, October 3 through Saturday, October 21 with the final gala on Monday, November 6.

I’m eager to take all the wonderful parts of my film festival experience while bringing some great new ideas to the New York New Works Theatre Showcase. As an actor and writer, I know what kind of opportunities I would benefit from and am humbled and excited to provide that for the participants in this year’s showcase.

SC:  You bring a broad range of experience to the New York New Works Theatre Festival, including your training at the T. Schreiber Studio and Theatre, a studio that features Edward Norton, Peter Sarsgaard, and Maria Bello, just a few of their renowned alumni.  What was that experience like for you?

 SI:  With only eleven students in the conservatory, it was an extraordinary, life-changing experience.   When you’re part of an intense, raw, and emotionally-challenging program like that, the people you experience it with become your family.  I still study there as part of their on-going scene study program continually challenged with roles I’m afraid to do.  I was most recently working on a character affected with brain damage.

T. Shreiber Studio

T. Schreiber Studio and Theatre graduate Stephanie Iscovitz T. Schreiber Photo Credit: T. Schreiber Studio & Theatre

SC:  What do you think is the most important thing that T. Schreiber has taught you as an actress, filmmaker, writer, and producer?

SI:  Terry Schreiber notoriously says that you must give yourself the permission to let yourself happen, which has become my mantra. The first couple of short films I made as an actor, writer, and producer had potential, but they weren’t great.  However, I wouldn’t be where I am today or learned as much as I did had I not made those short films, which I consider beautiful stepping stones.  Give yourself permission to fall flat on your face and be patient with yourself on this creative journey because in this business, it’s more about the journey than the destination.

SC:  Having attended a number of festivals in your career, you have firsthand experience participating in what can be incredibly competitive festivals.  What was your first film festival you attended?

SI:  The first film festival I got into was for my first film, Ladies Night, presented at a great festival I return to annually, the 2014 Big Apple Film Festival.  It’s a comedy held in a karaoke bar and I’ve learned a lot after that first film, like avoid writing a film where music rights are imperative. To my surprise, it was very well received and screened alongside Jerry Stiller in the festival program.  I had no idea what I was doing at the festival and was so nervous during the Q&A I could feel my shortness of breath while I was speaking.  It’s a comforting thought that no one really knows what they’re doing and just trying to do the best they can with what they’ve got.

Big Apple Film Festival with Jerry Stiller

2014 Big Apple Film Festival – Stephanie won for her first film, which screened along Jerry Stiller. It was a comedy called ‘Ladies Night’ Photo Credit: Stephanie Iscovitz

SC:  Recently, you went to Long Beach Island for a film festival not long ago.  What is it like for you to attend a festival where your production is featured?

SILighthouse International was the best film festival I’ve attended. Each year, the festival champions a selection of new, often unrecognized films from the US and around the world to compete in the festival and for audience award categories, which screen alongside award-winning spotlight films from Sundance, Cannes, SXSW, Toronto and Tribeca. I saw pre-released films and met other NYC filmmakers, sparking collaboration for future projects.

After the screenings, there were Q&A’s with the filmmakers.  We had our world premiere of Bruce Loves You where the shorts programmer, Chip Parham, ran a stellar screening. It was wonderful to have a captive audience interested in knowing more about our film making process and about of course, Bruce the ghost.

'Bruce Loves You' cast at Lighthouse International film fest

‘Bruce Loves You’ team at the 2017 Lighthouse International Film Festival Photo courtesy of Darin Quan

SC:  As you attend these festivals, do you feel like you get better at the process or is every festival different?  What was it like to win at the festival?

SI:  Every festival is different. We’ve started to call it ‘Game of Festivals’ where you win or die and 99% of the time you die. It’s all so subjective and such a gamble, depending upon who’s watching your submission if your submission was actually watched, at what time of day, and what the viewer’s own personal values and tastes are.  When you are actually accepted out of thousands of submissions, it feels like a real lottery win.

I met one of my closest friends and collaborators at a film festival where our film, Catslaughter had been rejected. After speaking with her, it turned out we had the same exact film except hers was about a sweater and ours was about a cat. She had submitted early and was already accepted when we submitted late.  Timing is everything. A rejection doesn’t necessarily mean your film was bad.  There are a number of factors involved and in this case, they had already programmed a similar film. However, it turned out to be a huge blessing because she and I clicked creatively and have gone on to work together on multiple projects.

Stephanie Iscovitz with Cinder Chou

Filmmaker Cinder Chou at 2016 Big Apple Film Festival Photo courtesy of Stephanie Iscovitz

SC:  What is the message that you hope to deliver through your work?

SI:  I really want to drive social change through storytelling and that begins with representation on film, particularly through the female lens and experience.  I hope to enlighten while helping audiences feel a little less alone.

Tickets are still available to this year’s New York New Works Theatre Festival.  Click here for more information and tickets.  New York New Works Theatre Festival is also on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.  Click here for more on Stephanie Iscovitz and her upcoming projects.

Stephanie Iscovitz new role

Stephanie Iscovitz’s new project Photo courtesy of Rutledge Customs

Reagle Music Theatre of Greater Boston presents one last summer dance with award-winning dance extravaganza, ’42nd Street’

Reagle Music Theatre of Greater Boston is ready for its last dance of their 49th summer musical season.  After the smashing successes of Reagle Music Theatre of Greater Boston’s spectacular production of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat and the historical, epic, award-winning musical, Showboat, Reagle presents the Tony award-winning dance extravaganza, 42nd Street continuing through Sunday, August 13 at Robinson Theatre in Waltham, Massachusetts.  Click here for more information and for tickets.

Reagle Music Theatre Rachel York

Rachel York stars as Dorothy Brock Photo courtesy of Reagle Music Theatre of Greater Boston

Featuring an array of exuberant songs such as We’re in the Money, Lullaby of Broadway, and its title track, 42nd Street delves into the life of a troubled director and the inner workings backstage of a Broadway show.  The toe-tapping, Tony award-winner for Best Musical, 42nd Street, stars award-winning actress Rachel York as ‘Dorothy Brock’ and beloved Reagle alum Rich Allegretto as ‘Julian Marsh.’  Performances are held at the Robinson Theatre, 617 Lexington Street in Waltham, Massachusetts.

Reagle Music Theatre's Rich Allegretto

Beloved Reagle alum Rich Allegretto stars as ‘Julian Marsh’ Photo courtesy of Reagle Music Theatre of Greater Boston

Reagle Music Theatre of Greater Boston has plenty to look forward to in the fall.  On Sunday, September 17, Reagle presents a celebrity concert of what might have been with The Concert that Never Was:  An Evening with Barbara and Frank at 2 p.m.  Featuring classic tunes from The American Songbook, this fascinating concert explores what it might have been like if legendary entertainers, Barbra Streisand and Frank Sinatra, took the stage for one enchanting stage performance.  Click here for this one day only experience as well as other events coming this fall.

Call 1-781-891-5600, click here  or email groups@reaglemusictheatre.org for more information on their final summer musical of the year, upcoming events, and much more.  Group tickets and gift certificates are also available.  Stay updated on all of Reagle Music Theatre of Greater Boston’s latest news by following them on Twitter and Facebook.

Jars of Clay, TobyMac, and For King and Country part of ‘Soulfest’s’ 20th anniversary concert celebration

Soulfest Full lineup

Credit to Gunstock Mountain Resort and Soulfest

Nestled in the White Mountains is a concert experience unlike any other.  Beautiful and uplifting, Soulfest is celebrating its 20th anniversary as a haven for fellowship and the Christian music scene in the stunning mountain setting from Thursday, August 3 through Saturday, August 5 at Gunstock Mountain in Gilford, NH.  In addition, this anniversary concert weekend will also include the Soulfest Kickoff Concert as well as the late night screening of the film, Priceless on Wednesday, August 2.  Click here for an inside look at this anniversary concert experience.

Soulfest Revolution

Soulfest concert scene Photo credit to Soulfest

Co-founded by Dan Russell in 1998, Soulfest annually features an incredible repertoire on multiple stages, featuring 80 musical guests and inspirational speakers over a three day weekend in August.  With this year’s theme entitled ‘Music, Love, Action,’ the Soulfest Kickoff Concert includes performances by Grammy and Dove Award winners Jars of Clay, The Violet Burning, Rachel Taylor, and Dan Russell.  A few highlights spread out over the Inside Out, Mercy Street, and Revival stages are For King and Country, TobyMac, Crowder, Derek Minor, Moriah Peters, Lacey Sturm, Kardia, Project 86, Epic Season, The Light of Hope, as well as acoustic performances on the Mountain Top stage from Chasing the Light, Christopher Williams, Big Kettle Drum, and more.  Click here for this year’s milestone lineup and for tickets.

Soulfest Kickoff Concert

Kickoff concert lineup Photo courtesy of Soulfest

Not only is Soulfest a monumental musical event, it is also packed with exciting and informative workshops by Grammy-winning singer-songwriters, professors, New York bestselling authors, and much more.  This year, the Justice Center stage includes Morning Worship hosted by The Salvation Army and Soulfest Open Mic, the Inside Out stage features Musician’s Workshop with Paul Colman as well as Catholic Mass with Matt Maher, and the Mercy Street stage features a few performers in The Songwriters Circle.  Soulfest also offers an opportunity to meet some of the acclaimed performers in the Meet and Greet/VIP Lounge.

Soulfest performers 2

Photo credit to Soulfest

Soulfest performers

Photo credit to Soulfest

Attendees are also invited to participate in activities onsite including Zip Line, Mini Golf, Paddleboats, Hiking, Mountain Biking, Kayaking, and more.  Kids’ activities zone includes an archery tent, video game hub, and there will also be a children’s ministry in front of a campfire.  Click here for more information.

Soulfest candlelight service

Candlelight service, part of Soulfest’s 20th anniversary celebration Photo credit to Soulfest

Soulfest is always looking for volunteers and are in need of 500 in order to run this three day festival.  Benefits of volunteering include free admission, free camping in volunteer section, and one free meal a day.   To learn about requirements and to register, click here.

Click here for full three day tickets, day passes, and evening passes.  Follow Soulfest on Twitter and Facebook for more details.

Cohasset Dramatic Club proudly presents the enchanting musical comedy, ‘The Wedding Singer the Musical’

In a way, the 80s are back.  Popular Netflix series Stranger Things and GLOW represent a hankering for 80s nostalgia, and arguably one of the few hit films that delightfully represent the 80s so well is the comedy, The Wedding Singer, starring Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore.  Boasting Miami Vice flair, neon legwarmers, frills, and hit 80s music galore, The Wedding Singer is a sweet romantic comedy set in 1985 about shy waitress Julia Sullivan and Robbie Hart, a wannabe rock star turned wedding singer.  Adapted into a musical in 2006, Cohasset Dramatic Club presents The Wedding Singer the Musical for one weekend only from Thursday, July 27 through Sunday, July 31 at Cohasset Town Hall in Cohasset, Massachusetts.  Click here for tickets and more information.

Featuring a cast ages 14-21 and starring Jordan Robie as Robbie Hart and Madison Pratt as Julia Sullivan, The Wedding Singer the Musical is a lighthearted comedy sure to lift the spirit. This enchanting musical comedy features a mix of upbeat and touching original songs including It’s Your Wedding Day, Someday, If I Told You, and I Wanna Grow Old with You.

With a colorful, lively cast that includes a bitter brother, a kindly but sassy old neighbor, a rich, charismatic suitor, and even an appearance by Billy Idol and other 80s icons, Cohasset Dramatic Club proudly presents The Wedding Singer the Musical from Thursday, July 27 through Saturday, July 30 at 7:30 p.m.  One Sunday matinee will take place on Sunday, July 31 at 2 p.m.

Performances will be held at Cohasset Town Hall, 41 Highland Ave in Cohasset, Massachusetts.  Click here for more information and for tickets.  Follow Cohasset Dramatic Club on Facebook for upcoming events and more.

An avid fan of all things Disney, Sarah Kelly discusses being cast as Disney princess Ariel in Company Theatre’s ‘The Little Mermaid’

To Sarah Kelly, award-winning Company Theatre actress, Plymouth State University student, and ardent fan of anything Disney, becoming a Disney princess is another dream come true.  Sarah spent last summer on the Company Theatre stage as sunny Elle Woods in the frothy musical, Legally Blonde the Musical, calling it the best summer of her life.  She spends this summer under the sea as Disney Princess Ariel in Company Theatre’s production of Disney’s The Little Mermaid from July 28 to August 20 at The Company Theatre in Norwell, Massachusetts.  Whether portraying California fashionista turned Harvard law student or a love struck, fish out of water fork enthusiast, what Sarah shares with all of them is her ceaseless optimism.

Sarah Kelly talks about her returning to the Company Theatre, her new sidekicks, future plans, and her unconventional audition.  Click here for further information and for tickets to Disney’s The Little Mermaid.

Sleepless Critic:  You seem to fit right into your role of Ariel in The Little Mermaid just a smoothly as you did as Elle in Company Theatre’s Legally Blonde last summer, a role you won an award for.  What it was like to win for your first lead role?

Sarah Kelly:  Whenever I talk about being a part of Legally Blonde with Company Theatre, I always say it was the gift that kept on giving. It gave me the opportunity to experience leading a show as Elle Woods, work with some of the most incredible and genuine people I’ve ever met, and yes, so blessed to receive ‘Best Actress in a Musical’ from Broadway World Boston.  Receiving this award was an absolute cherry on top of the best summer of my life because I didn’t expect to be nominated at all. To be considered was prize enough and winning is one of the most amazing things that has ever happened to me.  That official validation meant so much to me.

SC:  What interested you in returning to the Company Theatre as Ariel this summer?

SK:  Last year in our interview for Legally Blonde, I talked about how Company Theatre’s family vibe and atmosphere immediately stole my heart. I saw a couple of different shows that were put up this past school year.  When I returned, I was welcomed back with open arms and felt so at home again. Company Theatre is so much fun and I treasure each day.  When I heard they were doing The Little Mermaid, I had to audition because it’s one of my favorite Disney movies and I adore Alan Menken’s work.

SC:  How was the audition process for Ariel different from last year’s and how did you prepare?

SK:  My audition was extremely different for this role because I did a video audition as opposed to last year where I attended the actual audition at Company Theatre. Unfortunately, I was away at school and auditions for Plymouth State University’s fall season were the exact same days as The Little Mermaid’s auditions and callbacks. It’s easier to show your truest colors at an “in person” audition.  Showing what you have as a human being that will make that character you’re trying for special and real is the most important part of an audition.  However, I did my best, memorized the sides that were sent to me, and the song I was asked to sing for my callback.  I guess it really paid off.

Company Theatre Flounder with cast

Colin SanGiacomo as Flounder with cast Photo courtesy of Zoe Bradford/Company Theatre

SC:  It sure did.  Rather than Bruiser from Legally Blonde, you now have a couple of new sidekicks in Flounder and Sebastian.  Please tell me what it is like to work on a Disney musical.  Is this your first one?  The Company Theatre recently completed The Lion King Jr earlier this year.

SK:  Yes, unfortunately, I wasn’t able to see their production of The Lion King Jr, but I heard wonderful things and saw some of the gorgeous costumes.  Aside from playing Kaa the Snake in The Jungle Book Jr in fourth grade, this is my first Disney show and I am living for it. I grew up purely on Disney movies and music, so to be a part of this kind of process and play a Disney princess is a dream come true. The show is so bright, alive, and magical and the direction this specific production is going does the show itself absolute justice.

SC:  I’m sure it must feel a little different to work with a cast who are playing animated characters and creatures.  Such a beautiful set!

SK:  Yes, we have some of the most passionate humans working on this show. The ever so dedicated James Valentin works extremely hard alongside our own personal superman, Ryan Barrow, who is also known as the hot UPS guy from Legally Blonde last summer.  They go above and beyond creating, building, and painting sets. Ryan is one of the many Disney fan girls in our little family and literally will not sleep until everything is perfect.   So many talented hands are helping to interpret the movie’s magic and that magic is right onstage.   It’s so beautiful.  I don’t know how they do it because these two guys are also a part of the cast.  I can’t forget the spectacular Bri Plummer, who brings her unique costume designs to life perfectly.

James Valentin with Flounder and Ariel

Colin SanGiacomo as Flounder, James Valentin as Grimsby, and Sarah Kelly as Ariel Photo courtesy of Zoe Bradford/Company Theatre

Our absolutely brilliant choreographer, Sally Forrest, has such an incredible vision for this show that people need to see to really understand. She wants the audience to believe they are watching the original Disney movie and trains us to think and be animated characters, which is a lot of fun.  The extremely specific motivation and movement direction she gives creates this beautiful and nostalgic picture both children and parents are going to be mesmerized by.

Company Theatre 'The Little Mermaid'

Ronald Vorce as Ursula Photo courtesy of Zoe Bradford/Company Theatre

SC:  Have there been any surprises in portraying Ariel?  Unexpected challenges?  It’s such a fun role.

SK:  Ariel is so much fun to portray. I don’t support all of her life choices considering she gives up her gift of a voice for a legs and a man, but that doesn’t mean she’s not a blast to play on stage. She’s sweet, spunky, lovely, and lively.  A challenge that I knew I was bound to run into with her is letting Elle from Legally Blonde pop in and out. With Elle, I had much more liberty in character choices and playing up my ‘Sarah-isms.’  Ariel is such an iconic animated figure, not to mention princess, so I really wanted to bring her to life in an organic way while staying true to the original cartoon.

Company Theatre Ariel's Royal Princess Celebration

Photo courtesy of Zoe Bradford/Company Theatre

SC:  You’ll be a part of the Company Theatre fundraiser, Ariel’s Royal Princess Celebration on Saturday, August 5 in full Disney princess mode.  I’m sure that will be exciting for you.

SK:  I’m very excited to be a part of the Princess Celebration!  I love working with kids as a day job.  Even when I was in the Hingham Parade on July 4, seeing those beautiful little faces looking up at me like I was an actual Disney princess, made me want it to last forever.  I look forward to creating some real magic for the kids right here in Norwell on August 5.

Company Theatre 'The Little Mermaid' Hingham Parade

Sarah Kelly as Ariel with Flounder at the Hingham Parade on Independence Day

SC:  What are your future plans?  Do you have new acting projects in the works after this?

SK:  My university is putting on Merrily We Roll Along this fall and I was cast as ‘Gussie.’   I’m looking forward to it.  I love a good Sondheim show and I’m portraying a super awful character, but also fun and flirty. Gussie is definitely on the crazy side, which is always a blast!  It’s also directed by one of my favorite people, Beth Daily, and assistant directed by my best friend, Val Umbro, a dynamic duo for sure. I’m also grateful to be assistant directing The Trial with Paul Mroczka in the fall.  It’ll be such a great challenge and growing experience for me.

Click here to learn more about Ariel’s Royal Princess Celebration fundraiser on August 5.  Click here or call the box office at 781-871-2787 for tickets to Company Theatre’s production of Disney’s The Little Mermaid from Friday, July 28 through Sunday, August 20 at The Company Theatre, 30 Accord Park Drive in Norwell, Massachusetts.   Follow Company Theatre on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram for updates and more.

REVIEW: Brimming with compelling storytelling, accomplished singer-songwriter Natalie Merchant made stirring Tanglewood debut

Always an unforgettable storyteller, award-winning singer-songwriter and musician Natalie Merchant made her Tanglewood debut, despite increasingly darkening skies at Koussevitsky Shed in Lenox, Massachusetts.  Her soulful, musical journey included stirring tales of war, deep love and love lost, musings from history, a deadly woman, and a curvaceous Ophelia,  each tale conjuring up a vivid picture in her brilliant, and at times, elegiac lyrics.  Natalie Merchant is a force onstage and her charisma lies in her engaging, soul baring presence.  Click here for Natalie Merchant’s tour dates.

Tanglewood’s season is in full swing, having kicked off with acclaimed BSO Music Director Andris Nelsons leading the Tanglewood Festival Chorus in Mahler’s Symphony No. 2 Resurrection on Friday, July 7.  Natalie Merchant, James Taylor, Emmylou Harris, and John Mellencamp were among Tanglewood’s Popular Artists series.  After an extraordinary season of live classical and contemporary performances throughout the summer, the Tanglewood season concludes with The Boston Pops featuring Melissa Etheridge on Sunday, September 3.  Click here for tickets and further information.

Wearing a dark blue dress and her signature long, thick flowing hair, Natalie Merchant set a deeply insightful, subdued tone before building to a lively, uplifting vibe, much to the delight of the crowd.  Surrounded by a sophisticated, intimate band composed of a cellist, guitarist, pianist, drummer, and a group of elegantly dressed violinists, Natalie started with a tune from her self-titled, 2014 album, Lulu, paying tribute to the audacious silent film star and dancer, Louise Brooks, a woman who paved her own way.

Natalie Merchant lent a patriotic spin to the song, River, a song originally dedicated to memory of River Phoenix, an actor who died too young.  This version of River is from her stripped down, latest album, Paradise is There:  The New Tigerlily Recordings, hinting at the fallen soldier, her deep, contralto voice exuding a beautiful, haunting quality.  Equally affecting is My Skin, from her album, Ophelia, a gripping song about the emptiness of betrayal and loss.

Often barefoot, Natalie was physically expressive onstage, dancing, swaying, and twirling to the rhythm, flowing like a bird to a pulsing violin.  Many devoted followers were present in the audience as sporadic whoops and hollers echoed from the crowd, often shouting her name.  Natalie Merchant has been thrilling audiences since the early 80s and her onstage presence made it easy to recognize her lasting talent.  Although the weather wasn’t always cooperating during the concert, with such a strong following, the crowd remained.  “I’m sorry you are in the rain,” Natalie acknowledged the outdoor audience as the skies opened, “But after the drought we had last year, I’m not sorry for the rain.”

Sharing her passion for social and environmental issues, Natalie briefly shared the stage with Tyler Van Kirk, National Canvass Coordinator from Food and Water Watch, based in Denver, Colorado.  It is an organization dedicated to protecting the world’s natural resources.  See what they stand for here.  She also dedicated a song to corruption in government with a tune delivered partially a cappella, Poison in the Well, dating back her days with the 10,000 Maniacs.

Her gripping storytelling continued with Nursery Rhyme of Innocence and Experience, Ophelia, and the exotic sounds of The Man in the Wilderness.  She delivered cautionary wisdom in The Worst Thing, portrayed a looming, jazz-infused rendition of a femme fatale with She Devil, and inspiration in Lady Bird.

Natalie Merchant’s music ensemble is impressive, whether during a spontaneous jam session or in the quieter moments, a perfect complement to her often heart rendering lyrics.  The tireless performer offered a more joyous and uplifting second half, sharing some her greatest hits.  From Paradise is There:  The New Tigerlily Recordings, she offered a stripped down version of her hit, Carnival, a vivid, reflective view on life.  Accompanied by just her pianist, cellist, and guitarist, she sang Wonder, which was the inspiration behind a children’s book by R.J. Palacio and an upcoming film starring Julia Roberts in November 2017.

Tender, earnest moments were strewn into the songs, Beloved Wife, Break Your Heart, and Frozen Charlotte, the latter culminated in a gorgeous violin solo.  However, she also has a unique sense of humor, sharing a story of an old cookie jar that “carries the emotional weight” of every song.

The moment of the evening was her epic encore, as the band jammed and Natalie danced furiously, the audience was brought to their feet in a spectacular version of These are Days followed by a heartfelt performance of her hit song, Kind and Generous.  Fans couldn’t have asked for better, rain or shine.

Click here to see where Natalie performs next.  Located in the Berkshires at 297 West Street in Lenox, Massachusetts, Tanglewood’s outdoor venue is a must see during the summer, whether under the tent at Koussevitsky Shed or under the stars for a lawn picnic.  Click here for more information on its Tanglewood’s Music Festival summer series and follow them on Facebook.