REVIEW: NPR’s Rob Kapilow’s engaging ‘What Makes It Great? The Songs of Leonard Bernstein’ hit all the right notes

NPR’s famous composer, conductor, and music commentator Rob Kapilow certainly knows his way around a baby grand piano.  Under soft lights and in front of a full house, he is once again ready to transform the way the audience hears and understands some classic tunes.

In honor of the legendary composer and playwright Leonard Bernstein and the centennial of his birth, Rob Kapilow took his popular, 22nd annual What Makes It Great series to Harvard University’s Sanders Theatre, which is Bernstein’s alma mater on Friday, March 9 for one night only.  Celebrity Series of Boston presented What Makes it Great? with Rob Kapilow and Jessica Rivera:  The Songs of Leonard Bernstein featuring an array of legendary Broadway songs during Leonard Bernstein’s time, delving into its brilliant, emotional quality and style through its carefully selected musical notes. Part teacher, humorist, and historian, Rob Kapilow proved once again that this engaging series is as fascinating as ever.  Click here for more on What Makes it Great and here for more on Celebrity Series of Boston.

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Renowned soprano Jessica Rivera Photo courtesy of Celebrity Series of Boston

Calling on a few of Broadway’s most enchanting and classic love songs, Rob was accompanied by renowned soprano Jessica Rivera.  Adorned in a shimmering black dress, Jessica’s versatile, impressive vocals ranged from lighthearted to passionate yearning as Rob had Jessica peel back the layers of each song, revealing what makes each tune shine.  With humor and grace, Rob and Jessica also revealed what each song might have sounded like without its individuality.  What Makes It Great never fails as an eye-opening experience.

Delving into the musical atmosphere and history of Leonard Bernstein’s time, Rob chose a selection of powerful, yet dreamy classic Broadway songs reflective of this era while showing how they are also vastly ahead of their time.  From dreamy songs such as, A Little Bit in Love from Bernstein’s Wonderful Town to the high-spirited I Could Have Danced All Night from Lerner and Loewe’s My Fair Lady to the powerful Somewhere from Bernstein’s West Side Story, Rob shows how the composer ties the musical elements together to enhance the listener’s musical experience.  For example, he describes how Leonard Bernstein’s wildly successful West Side Story is a perfect fusion of classical technique to popular theatre.

Evan Kinnane, a renowned Boston tenor, joined Rob and Jessica for a special stage performance of Tonight after Rob described what makes this song so special.  Full of passion and excitement, Evan and Jessica have a mesmerizing rapport and their marvelous blend of vocals demonstrates the song’s and Bernstein’s timeless appeal.

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NPR’s Rob Kapilow and his piano Photo courtesy of Celebrity Series of Boston

After 22 years, Rob Kapilow continues to captivate audiences with his vast musical knowledge, sense of humor, and his careful analysis of what makes music such a rich, fulfilling experience.  Capping off the evening, Jessica Rivera poignantly sang Some Other Time from the Leonard Bernstein’s musical, On the Town, about how quickly time passes by.  It’s a fond farewell until next time.

Celebrity Series of Boston continues its stellar season with the 50th Anniversary of Alvin Ailey Dance Theatre, acclaimed soprano and Broadway star Audra McDonald, Ira Glass, Los Angeles Philharmonic, and much more.  Click here for more information and for tickets. Tickets can also be obtained at the Celebrity Series of Boston’s box office.  Follow Celebrity Series of Boston on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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: 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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

 

 

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.

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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.

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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.

 

REVIEW: Athletic grace, intensity, and enchanting beauty drive The Boston Ballet’s debut of ‘Obsidian Tear’

Featuring an enthralling, unconventional start, renowned choreographers depict a rich array of contrasting tones as The Boston Ballet opened its 2017-18 season with the captivating, North American debut of Obsidian Tear continuing through Sunday, November 12 at the Boston Opera House in Boston, Massachusetts.  What is particularly intriguing about this program is its delicate balance of triumph, suspense, sorrow, and beauty in a blend of traditional and contemporary artistry featuring two revered works by composer Jean Sibelius.  Click here for more information and tickets.

The Boston Ballet strikes an impressive, emotional balance with the combination of a special, orchestral performance of Finlandia by Jean Sibelius, Obsidian Tear, and Fifth Symphony of Jean Sibelius.  Led by guest conductor Daniel Stewart, the Boston Ballet opened with a stirring orchestral performance of the Finnish National song, Finlandia, composed as a tone poem by Jean Sibelius.  Magnificently led by conductor Daniel Stewart, Finlandia is a triumphant, gripping masterpiece from its ferocious open to every subtle, enchanting note in between.

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Boston Ballet in Wayne McGregor’s Obsidian Tear; photo by Rosalie O’Connor, courtesy Boston Ballet

The Boston Ballet added to its fervent tone with the North American debut of Obsidian Tear followed by the elegant, world premiere of Fifth Symphony of Jean Sibelius.  Choreographed by Wayne McGregor and accompanied by the haunting and evocative rhythms of Esa-Pekka Salonen’s Lachen verlernt and Nyx from violin soloist, Christine Vitale, Obsidian Tear builds to a palpable sense of urgency as each of the nine male dancers, including Daniel Cooper, Derek Dunn, Samivel Evans, John Lam, Alexander Maryianowski, Eric Nezha, Patrick Palkens, Desean Taber, and Junxiong Zhou, appear.

Obsidean Dress Rehearsal

Irlan Silva in Wayne McGregor’s Obsidian Tear; photo by Rosalie O’Connor, courtesy Boston Ballet

Surrounded by a warmly-lit stage and minimal black backdrop, each dancer exhibits their own, distinct appearance and style, gliding in long, sweeping movements.  Often dividing into pairs, their athletic prowess drives each complex step as exuberance, mischief, cooperation, and combativeness, flood an increasingly busy landscape.  Thrilling and poignant, Obsidian Tear is a thought-provoking, mesmerizing journey about belonging and the darkness within.

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Boston Ballet in Jorma Elo’s Fifth Symphony of Jean Sibelius; photo by Rosalie O’Connor, courtesy Boston Ballet

The world premiere of Fifth Symphony of Jean Sibelius, gorgeously choreographed by Jorma Elo, evokes the light, romantic tone of traditional ballet.  The pure, delicate beauty of the ensemble in pale pastel envelops the stage in graceful splendor as a single black halo hovers above.  In elegant costumes designed by former Dutch National ballet dancer Yumiko Takeshima, Fifth Symphony of Jean Sibelius delivers its own sophisticated rhythm, building into a flurry of circular motion and blossoming lifts.  As some divide into attractive pairs, dancers soar, leap, and float joyfully to a soft, urgent rhythm.  A particular highlight depicts the dancers lying sideways across the stage as a pair nimbly twirls into pirouettes and refined lifts.  As Obsidian Tear often focuses on individuals, this performance is much more an ensemble piece, forming dazzling soft color portraits in a breezy, jovial state.

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Boston Ballet in Jorma Elo’s Fifth Symphony of Jean Sibelius; photo by Rosalie O’Connor, courtesy Boston Ballet

Click here for tickets, call 617-695-6955, or visit the Boston Ballet box office at 19 Clarendon Street in Boston, Massachusetts. All performances take place at the Boston Opera House, 539 Washington Street in Boston, Massachusetts. Subscriptions and group rates are also available. Follow the Boston Ballet on Facebook and Twitter.

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.