REVIEW: One con deserves another as South Shore Theatre Works continues with lively ‘Chicago the Musical’

With the recent premiere of the highly-anticipated FX biographical miniseries, Fosse/Verdon about the sizzling creative and romantic partnership between legendary filmmaker and choreographer Bob Fosse (Sam Rockwell) and spectacular Broadway dancer Gwen Verdon (Michelle Williams), it seems Fosse and Verdon’s influence is still everywhere.  So, it is not surprising that South Shore Theatre Works (SSTW) is taking on what SSTW’s Executive Director and President Richard Bento called, “a dream production of mine to direct,” Chicago the Musical continuing through Saturday, April 20 at Abigail Adams Middle School in Weymouth, MA.  This show is not for young audiences.  Click here for more information and tickets.

One of Fosse’s most popular creations was a dark satire dealing with corruption and murder during the Jazz age called Chicago the Musical.  This Tony award-winning production continues to thrill audiences as one of the longest running Broadway musicals and its most recent 2002 film adaptation was the 2002 Academy award-winning film starring Renee Zellwegger (Roxie), Catherine Zeta-Jones (Velma) and Richard Gere (Billy Flynn) garnered a few Academy Awards.

SSTW's 'Chicago the Musical' cast

The cast of ‘Chicago the Musical’ Photo by Annabella Valle/South Shore Theatre Works

How has Chicago the Musical earned its longevity?  The proof is in its clever, satirical storytelling that isn’t afraid to occasionally shock, its sizzling choreography, memorable characters, catchy music, and its frank, timeless message about humanity.  With an impressive, semi-interactive fifteen-piece orchestra led by conductor Doug Gerber that elevates the action onstage plus additional songs not featured in its most recent film adaptation, this darkly humorous production is off to a good start.

With a modest set featuring vintage theatre lights that illuminate the stage, director Richard Bento keeps this production in classic Fosse form dressing his dancers in black. The close-knit, tight choreography by co-choreographers Richard Bento and Amy Valle Wallace includes some dance crazes of the Jazz Age that make for some visual sizzle.  Though the classic number Cell Block Tango needs a bit more snarl, clever Razzle Dazzle boasts some sleek staging.

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Headlining this colorful cast is Stephanie Wallace as desperate, hot tempered and fast-living Roxie Hart.  With a great scowl and energetically navigating Roxie’s myriad of emotions, it is easy to see how Wallace relishes this character.  She is never better than during her natural and engaging signature song, Roxie Hart.

Jaclyn Cleary lends a mix of sharp sophistication and mayhem to Velma Kelly, a former dancer turned criminal.  Her wild, light eyes reveal a smugness and unsteadiness that will keep you guessing her next move.  Having seen Chicago the Musical quite a few times, I admire Jaclyn Cleary’s sleek vocals and not so by-the-numbers rendition of All That Jazz.  She and Matron Mama Morton, portrayed charismatically by Hanna Ford, have great chemistry.  They are two sides of the same coin in their rendition of Class.

Staring down her glasses with an ironically sophisticated air is Hannah Ford as Matron Mama Morton.  With a belt that certainly packs a punch, her rendition of When You’re Good to Mama clearly shows she knows how to pull some strings and depicts Mama in a different and refreshing way.

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Wielding a cane, Aaron Stolicker masterfully navigates the cast and the audience as suave, shrewd, and debonair Billy Flynn, sharply dressed in a black tuxedo.  He’s full on smirking charm in the number, All I Care About is Love and quite the storyteller in his rendition of They Both Reached for the Gun, a complex, energetic number with strong choreography.  J. Merlo adds some humor and some serious pipes as journalist Mary Sunshine.

South Shore Theatre Works continues Chicago the Musical through Saturday, April 20 at Abigail Adams Middle School, 89 Middle Street in Weymouth, MA.  Click here fore more information, tickets, and how to support South Shore Theatre Works, an organization that recently celebrated its third anniversary.  Click here for more information about South Shore Theatre Works and its Executive Director and President, Richard Bento.

 

REVIEW: Engrossing and unpredictable, Hub Theatre’s ‘The Clearing’ a fierce and resonating historical drama

After venturing to the second star to the right in Hub Theatre’s rollicking Peter Pan musical prequel in Peter and the Starcatcher, Hub Theatre Company of Boston kicked off its seventh season with a fierce and romantic historical drama exploring the aftermath of war and the cost of justice in Helen Edmunson’s The Clearing continuing through Saturday, April 20 at First Church Boston in Boston, Massachusetts. Tickets are available at a pay-what-you-can basis.  The show contains mature themes.  Click here for more information.

Hub Theatre's The Clearing

Photo courtesy of Hub Theatre Company of Boston

Engrossing and unpredictable, The Clearing reaches deep into the motives of loyalty and questions the very nature of what is right.  Taking place during 17th century Ireland after the Nine Year’s War and directed by Daniel Bourque, The Clearing is a beautiful, forbidden love story in the thick of a tense, tumultuous landscape and a transformative piece addressing issues that resonate in today’s culture.

The Clearing has a small cast and First Church Boston’s intimate setting, without a bad seat, makes it easy to immerse yourself into this compelling fictional tale set in historical times.  The Clearing’s set by Cassie Chapados has a natural, romantic flair, embellished by flowering trees, lamplight, and an open ceiling.  From lace to frill to gold, Erica Desautels and Nancy Ishara’s detailed, coordinated costumes capture the atmosphere of its time while Ian Conway’s impressive sound design helps to maintain the show’s intensity.

Not knowing much about the production prior to entering the theater made the show that much more enjoyable, but should mention the great chemistry between the cast.  Brashani Reece portrays Madeleine Preston, a wide-eyed and bubbly spitfire.  Reece as Madeleine is charismatic, stubborn, and charming, who often cannot see past her own heart.  She shares endearing, playful chemistry with Matthew Zahnzinger as naïve and adoring Robert.  With smiling eyes, Zahnzinger portrays Robert with mix of smugness and gentility and the two of them together make for some of the show’s best moments.  Although The Clearing is not a musical, Reece’s lovely rendition of an Irish lullaby makes for a sweet moment.

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Lily Steven depicts Killaine Farrell, Madeleine’s quiet and humble companion. With a far off gaze and a shy smile, Steven as Killaine draws sympathy in her painful selflessness, always longing to live in the past.  She and Reece have a sisterly connection.

Jeff Gill delivers a chilling, commanding performance as Sir Charles Sturman.  With beady, wrathful eyes, his righteous and brutal practicality is only weakened by an irksome ailment.  Although the entire cast is strong, his domineering presence will keep you transfixed.  Robin Abrahams depicts world-weary Susaneh, her dry humor makes for a few needed laughs in this mostly serious production.

Although Helen Edmunson’s The Clearing could have been heavy handed as it addresses issues such as culture clash and the lingering resentment of post-war politics, but director Daniel Bourque’s delicate balance achieves a fascinating and enlightening day at the theatre.

Hub Theatre Company of Boston presents Tony-nominated historical drama The Clearing through Saturday, April 20 at First Church Boston, 66 Marlborough Street in Boston, Massachusetts.  Click here for more information and follow Hub Theatre Company on Facebook for further updates.

REVIEW: Season 5 of WGBH’s ‘Sing That Thing!’ still packs a vocal punch

Maybe there was a moment watching American Idol or The Voice where that person auditioning is a friend, acquaintance, or just familiar somehow.  Perhaps it’s a moment of six degrees of separation where suddenly Kelly Clarkson, Lionel Richie, or Katy Perry are not so out of reach now that the person you know knows them.

Now imagine how much likelier that might happen watching WGBH’s popular local singing competition, Sing that Thing! kicking off its fifth season on Friday, April 12 on WGBH 2.  Composed of eighteen dynamic choral ensembles over this season from Boston and beyond, each group competes by creating a unique vocal performance within variety of music genres as coaches decide who will make it to the next round and give feedback on their performances.  Click here for further details.

Divided into three categories consisting of adult, high school, and college, the coaches measure on factors such as visual performance, musicality, intonation, and projection during the course of eight episodes.  Expect less of the Hollywood glitz and glamour and much more insight into what it truly takes to deliver a thrilling performance.

Sing that Thing’s Season five coaches include Anthony Trecek-King, President and Artistic Director of the Boston Children’s Chorus, Jared Bowen, Executive Arts Editor at WGBH and host of Open Studio, and Annette Phillip, vocalist and creative director of Women of the World and Assistant Professor at Berklee College of Music.

Sing That Thing Season 5

From L to R: Coaches Anthony Trecek-King, Annette Phillip, and Jared Bowen Photo credit to Meredith Nierman/WGBH

Sing that Thing’s season five premiere returns to its roots in a way by showcasing a couple of talented groups from its first season.  Season one returning champs Boston Arts Academy Spirituals competes with  The Zumbyes from Amherst College also featured on the first season.  Univoz Vocal Ensemble also joins the competition, making their debut on the show with original compositions.  Sing that Thing! offers a peek into how these ensembles prepare to perform and get ready for their sheer energy!  Whether singing a tender ballad or a resounding hymn, these sophisticated and lively ensembles are the real deal.

Click here for more on Sing that Thing’s new season starting on Friday, April 12 at 8 pm on WGBH 2.  This program can also be seen on WGBX 44, WGBY, New Hampshire PBS, Vermont PBS, Maine Public, and CPTV – Connecticut Public Television.  Apply to be a part of Sing that Thing’s sixth season here and catch up on previous episodes here.  Find out more about Sing that Thing! on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram using #singthatthing.

 

 

REVIEW: Company Theatre’s ‘Evita’ is a touch of star quality

She was a mystery, but everyone thought they knew her.  From a sassy, excitable teenager to rising political figure, Eva (Evita) Peron knew she belonged at the top before she ever knew how to get there.  Having recently celebrated its 40th Anniversary like the Company Theatre, The Company Theatre proudly presents Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Tony award-winning musical, Evita through March 31 at The Company Theatre in Norwell, Massachusetts.  This production is currently sold out.  Click here for more information on the Company Theatre’s upcoming productions and more.

Evita, with music, book and lyrics by award-winning collaborators Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice, is a rock opera set in Argentina.  Part of what makes Evita such a captivating work is its vibrant pacing, handled beautifully by Sally Ashton Forrest.  Based on the life of Maria Eva Peron, Evita’s life moves much like the soundtrack’s quick rhythms. The audience is taken through song from night club to city street to porch step with barely a pause for applause, its sweeping sets divulge Eva’s life in its sheer magnitude.

Company Theatre Evita Kristen Huberdeau as Evita with cast

Kristen Huberdeau as Evita with cast Photo courtesy of The Company Theatre

This version of Evita features real footage from Eva Peron’s life and includes songs not featured in the latest 1996 film.  The Art of the Possible, a cryptic number not in the film and featuring five officers, is particularly engaging.  Evita is a young woman taking Argentina by storm…until she locks eyes with Peron, portrayed with regal like mindedness by Dan Kelly.

The Company Theatre Evita Dan Kelly as Peron

Dan Kelly as Peron Photo courtesy of The Company Theatre

Kristen Huberdeau exudes excitable sass and a bright, wide smile when she first appears as a teenager.  However, Huberdeau’s Evita, behind her feigned naivete, is shrewd as soon as her feet hit the ground for the catchy, effervescent number, Buenos Aires.  Huberdeau takes Evita from a vivacious teenager onward and excels at her developing influence and maturity through the years.  She hits her stride with Buenos Aires, a joyous, catchy number about her instant love for the city and keeps up the brisk pace for this demanding role throughout, though some notes were a bit strained.  She delivered an impressive version of Evita’s signature number, Don’t Cry for Me Argentina, glowing in a pristine gown.

No one succeeds without opposition.  Che, portrayed with charisma and sardonic wit by Ken Bayliss, is part keen observer, part narrator, and represents the working class.  In a beret and military fatigues, he occasionally engages the crowd, but his primary focus is on Evita.  Bayliss captures the essence of Che and makes the role uniquely his own, leaving no trace of previous versions I have seen.  From his observations in Oh What a Circus, his humorous duet in Good Night and Thank You with Huberdeau, and the reflective ballad, High Flying Adored, you’ll be glad to be taking this musical journey with Bayliss.

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With rich, charming vocals for his signature song. On This Night of a Thousand Stars, Ryan Barrow blends sensitivity, melodrama, and humor to night club singer, Magaldi and was a hit with the audience.  A couple of other notable numbers include a sweet rendition of Another Suitcase in Another Hall by Sydney Palmer and a stirring, candlelit rendition of Santa Evita.

The Company Theatre proudly presents Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Tony award-winning musical, Evita through March 31 at the Company Theatre, 30 Accord Park Drive in Norwell, Massachusetts.  This production is currently sold out.  Click here for more information and and how to support Company Theatre’s future.  Follow Company Theatre on FacebookInstagram and Twitter for more on their upcoming events.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

REVIEW: Motherhood goes under the microscope in Flat Earth Theatre’s powerful ‘Not Medea’

The mind can be your greatest asset or your worst enemy.  Flat Earth Theatre presents Allison Gregory’s powerful, semi-interactive drama Not Medea at the Black Box at the Mosesian Theatre for the Arts in Watertown, Massachusetts through March 30.  Partially based on the classic Greek myth Medea, the show runs 100 minutes with no intermission.  Click here for more information and tickets.  This show has mature themes.

Flat Earth Theatre Not Medea Juliet Bowler

Juliet Bowler as Woman Photo courtesy of Flat Earth Theatre

As rain pelts an onstage window, water is caught in a bucket.  This is an unintentional issue for director Elizabeth Yvette Ramirez, but this little wrinkle works well.  A storm is brewing, but it doesn’t hold a candle to the storm brewing inside the mind of an overwhelmed mother portrayed convincingly by Juliet Bowler.  Not without its lighthearted and sometimes relatably frank moments, Not Medea tackles love and motherhood in all its triumphs and complexity.

Allison Gregory’s Not Medea gives this classic a modern spin while cleverly keeping the earmarks of the classic intact.  Not enough can be said about Juliet Bowler as Woman.  She is a natural in this meaty and demanding role, navigating in a “show within a show” atmosphere.  We all know this harried woman.  She is rash, impetuous, and temperamental.  She shares too much, talks too loud, and can’t be still only to hide that she is lost in more ways than one.  She is also daring, which is indicative of her exclusively breaking the fourth wall, a modern convention usually reserved only for comedies.

Flat Earth Theatre 'Not Medea' Juliet Bowler and Gene Dante

Juliet Bowler as Woman and Gene Dante as Jason Photo courtesy of Flat Earth Theatre

Woman meets gallant and narcissistic Jason, portrayed with gusto and charisma by Gene Dante.  They share an instant connection.  However, as Woman remarks, “The Gods always have a plan.”

From child to maidservant, Cassandra Meyer skillfully takes on several roles during the production.  Gentle and compassionate, she is the most impressive as Woman’s conscience.

Flat Earth Theatre 'Not Medea' cast

Gene Dante as Jason, Cassandra Meyer as Chorus, and Juliet Bowler as Woman

Flat Earth Theatre continues Allison Gregory’s Not Medea through Saturday, March 30 at the Black Box at the Mosesian Center for the Arts, 321 Arsenal Street in Watertown, Massachusetts.  Click here for more information and tickets.

Partially surrounded by a lush green lawn that gives it a campus feel, The Mosesian Center for the Arts houses a number of productions and exhibits during the year.  Offering free parking and next door to Panera Bread, upcoming exhibitions include Five Stars Regional Exhibition and Please Touch the ArtThe Underlings Theatre Company presents MacBeth April 5-13.  Hosted by WBZ’s Jordan RichUpstage Lung Cancer’s annual fundraiser, Here’s the The Ladies:  From Lady Day to Lady Gaga takes place for one night only on Thursday, April 18..  Click here to see all that Mosesian Center for the Arts has to offer.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

REVIEW: Greater Boston Stage Company’s intriguing ‘Onegin’ offers vodka, love at first sight, and a whirlwind of surprises

Combine an onstage rock band nicknamed the Ungrateful Dead with a storytelling cast in 19th century St. Petersburg, Russia.  Throw in love at first sight, a duel, add some vodka, and a few winks to today’s technology and it is quite the tale…and that’s not even the half of it.

Expect the unexpected at Greater Boston Stage Company’s unique performance of Onegin, a semi-interactive musical that blends the traditional with the contemporary in surprising ways.  It explores how far one would go for love while its rock and roll vibe and comic moments show it doesn’t take itself too seriously.

Based on Alexandr Pushkin’s poem of the same name and Tchaikovsky’s opera, Greater Boston Stage Company continues Onegin’s United States debut at the Stoneham Theatre in Stoneham, Massachusetts through Sunday, March 31.  Click here for more information and tickets.

Onegin - cast

From L to R: Michael Jennings Mahoney as Vlaimir Lensky, Music Director Steve Bass (on piano), Mark Linehan as Evgeni Onegin, Josephine Moshiri Elwood as Olga, Sarah Pothier as Tatyana, and Peter Adama as Prince Gremin Photo by Maggie Hall Photography/Greater Boston Stage Company

Onegin pushes quite a few boundaries within its two hour time frame.  The show inhabits a myriad of genres and occasionally breaks the fourth wall, but underneath it all is a moving tale of love and loss and what it means when destiny is out of your hands.  The contemporary flair of this period piece may not appeal to staunch traditionalists, but the show has heart.

Katheryn Monthei’s open set design topped with sparkling brass chandeliers and silk backdrops mixed with Deirdre Gerrard’s detailed costumes and Ilyse Robbins’ dynamic choreography depict a romantic, yet edgy vibe indicative of this strong and versatile cast.

Onegin Lensky

Michael Jennings Mahoney as Vladimir Lensky Photo by Maggie Hall Photography/Greater Boston Stage Company

Opening with the rollicking number A Love Song, these singing storytellers describe a man irretrievably in love and one who is roguishly indifferent to it. Michael Jennings Mahoney portrays excitable and lovelorn poet, Vladimir Lensky.  Lensky could have been a one note character, but Mahoney gives him dimension and makes him much more than he seems.   He is taken with Olga, portrayed with complexity and practicality by Josephine Moshiri Elwood.  Enter Evgeni Onegin, portrayed with a deep vibrato and roguish charm by Mark Linehan.  Linehan is charismatic, but also possesses a cynical, world-weary look on life while Tatyana, portrayed with pensive idealism by Sarah Pothier, may just change everything.

ONEGIN at GBSC

Sarah Pothier as Tatyana and Mark Linehan as Evgeni Onegin Photo courtesy of Nile Hawver/Nile Scott Shots

A few highlights include Sarah Pothier’s commanding performance of Let Me Die and stunning performances of In Your House and My Dearest Comrade by the cast.   Expect the unexpected at Onegin and like this engaging cast, prepare to have a little fun.

Directed by Weylin Symes, Greater Boston Stage Company’s musical drama Onegin continues through Sunday, March 31.  Click here for more information and tickets.  Click here for a closer look at Greater Boston’s Stage Company’s recently announced season.

 

 

 

 

 

REVIEW: Boston Ballet’s bold and exciting ‘Full on Forsythe’ kicks ballet up a notch

With all that Full on Forsythe has to offer, it is easy to forget any preconceived notions one may have about the ballet.  The Boston Ballet takes on a wide variety of classic productions such as Sleeping Beauty, Swan Lake, as well as the upcoming performances of Cinderella in May and Coppelia starting March 21.  Yes, ballet is steeped in tradition, but Full on Forsythe adds a bold, modern dimension to dance and this version is unconfined by any assumptions.

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Boston Ballet in William Forsythe’s Pas/Parts 2018; photo by Rosalie O’Connor, courtesy of Boston Ballet

The Boston Ballet continues Full on Forsythe at the Boston Opera House through Sunday, March 17.  The Boston Ballet also recently announced a tour of Full on Forsythe in Paris next month.  The production is divided into three parts with two intermissions.  Click here for more information and tickets.

From catchy R&B to electronica to soul, acclaimed choreographer William Forsythe showcases a modern spin to the Boston Ballet’s signature moves creating fascinating visual portraits.  Songs were taken from James Blake’s album, The Colour in Anything, including I Need a Forest Fire, I Hope My Life, and F.O.R.E.V.ER., music by Dutch composer Thom Willems, and music from popular R&B singers such as Khalid, Barry White, and Natalie Cole.

Lithe, athletic solo dancer Chyrstyn Fentroy kicked off this joyful, haunting, and romantic music journey with last year’s Pas/Parts 2018 in a dual colored leotard as dancers gradually multiplied.  The industrial, tribal feel of Thom Willems music as dancers shift in shadows create a haunting intensity.  As the dancers like part of seamless machine as dancers spin and swing, hitting every last eccentric beat.

Forsythe Playlist

Patrick Yocum Boston Ballet in William Forsythe’s Playlist (EP); photo by Angela Sterling; courtesy of Boston Ballet

There are quite a few extended solos including Lasha Khozashvili, Sao Hye Han, Patrick Yokum, Issac Akiba, Ji Young Chae, Daniel Cooper, Patric Palkins, and Lia Cirio who all capture an intensity within the music and pulsing rhythm, depicting an myriad of exciting dance moves.  Whether in a duet or solo, Patrick Yocum is a particularly wonderful dancer, soulful and charismatic each time he takes the stage.  Click here for a closer look at the company.

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Lia Cirio and Viktorina Kapitonova in William Forsythe’s Playlist (EP); photo by Angela Sterling; courtesy of Boston Ballet

Blake Works I offers a more intimate, romantic display, but also has its share of subtle and humorous moments, especially within the duets.  Pairs Ji Young Chae and Seo Hye Han, Lia Cirio and Patric Palkens, and Jessica Burrows and Patrick Yocum have a great chemistry together as they entwine in each other’s arms in a part interpretive dance.  At one point Patric Palken attempts to lift Lia, but she teasingly denies him before she joins him.  It is a subtle moment, but it depicts the sweet chemistry and joy between the two.

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Roddy Doble, Patrick Yocum, and Hannah Bettes in William Forsythe’s Pas/Parts 2018; photo by Rosalie O’Connor, courtesy of Boston Ballet

 

The Boston Ballet is revered for its beautiful performances, but what sets Full on Forsythe apart is its universal appeal.  The Boston Ballet’s must-see Full on Forsythe leads the audience on an enthralling, unique, and beautiful music journey that concludes on a jubilant, mesmerizing note.

The Boston Ballet continues to offer an opportunity to learn more about ballet through The Warm Up, an interactive, photo-friendly display located in the lower lobby.

The Boston Ballet continues Full on Forsythe at the Boston Opera House, 539 Washington Street in Boston, Massachusetts through Sunday, March 17.  The Boston Ballet also recently announced a tour of Full on Forsythe in Paris next month.  Click here for more information and tickets.  For future events and more, follow Boston Ballet on Facebook and Twitter.