One this is for sure, Boston Lyric Opera can achieve elegance anywhere.
Boston Lyric Opera (BLO) had two remarkable debuts for their virtual concert, A Winter’s Evening. Directed sublimely by Nathan Troop, Boston Lyric Opera’s ‘A Winter’s Evening’ not only made its virtual debut on Operabox, but soprano Gabriella Reyes also made her effervescent debut with the Boston Lyric Opera, an event which she calls “a dream come true.”
BLO’s ‘A Winter’s Evening’ continues streaming through Sunday, January 10. Click here for more information. Boston Lyric Health Task Force helped coordinate the virtual performance to meet safety standards.
Surrounded by the gorgeous grounds at Castle Hill at the Crane Estate in Ipswich, Massachusetts, Miss Massachusetts 2020 Sabrina Victor, adorned in black fur over a glittering white gown, hosted this lovely evening with warmth and poise.
Boston Lyric Opera also weaved in elements of hearth and home blending classic opera and festive classic songs as Gabriella Reyes and Sabrina Victor shared personal remembrances of holidays past. The show is the height of elegance, not only in the couture, but inside the Crane Estate’s majestic ballroom embellished with candlelight and Christmas trees.
Impressively accompanied by pianist Brett Hodgdon, Reyes, adorned in a black gown, showcased her broad range with a dynamic selection of songs that included a serene, bi-lingual version of Silent Night/Nochede Paz, passionate Quando M’en Vo from Puccini’s La Boheme, stirring Nana by Manuel De Falla, a dreamy and heartfelt When You Wish Upon a Star with lyrics by Ned Washington and music by Leigh Harline, and the inspirational classic Harold Arlen song, Over the Rainbow featuring its rarely sung introduction. Reyes masters the operatic selections, her light and powerful vocals make it all look easy.
Guitarist Zaira Meneses accompanied Reyes for a portion of the evening with a selection of songs that are meaningful to both of them including Grever’s Alma Mia and Sandoval’s Gracias a la Vita. Meneses’s vibrancy and flair, putting her entire body into her music with Reyes’s eloquence made for a stirring pair.
BLO’s ‘A Winter’s Evening’ continues on Operabox through Sunday, January 10. Click here for more information and how to subscribe to Boston Lyric Opera’s current season.
For what marks its 50th year, Christmas Revels has been entertaining audiences by delving into vast cultures and recreating historical moments and holiday traditions with drama, dance, humor, and song. Christmas Revels made its debut in 1971 and though it is limited to the screen this year, this engaging production brought a mix of new material while glimpsing some of their best performances in their long history.
Having never seen Christmas Revels before, it was a lot to take in and quite a feat to encapsulate the best moments in such a broad time frame. Catching glimpses of some of their special guests, returning favorites, and new faces was an innovative way to recap a half century of productions, but it also had me longing to see more, especially as I glimpsed some of their best, most enduring performances.
Christmas Revels is still available to stream on-demand through Thursday, December 31. Click here for more information and how to support future Revels productions. The 50th Anniversary of Christmas Revels is also available as a 2-CD set. Click here for more information.
Harvard University’s Sanders Theatre is as majestic and welcoming as ever even as it fills for a virtual audience. The dark, wooden stage is softly-lit with two stately, marble Greek statues sitting on each end as a grand, dimly-lit bronze chandelier floats overhead. Hosted by acting dynamos Paula Plum and Richard Snee as James Otis and Josiah Quincy who were immortalized as those legendary statues on the Harvard University stage and the only souls who have seen every Revels performance and then some, Christmas Revels blends humor, stirring moments, and a wistful trip down memory lane to witness some of Revels’ earliest performances as it gradually became what it is today.
From humorous moments to joyful carols such as 1984’s Yorkshire Here We Come A Wassailing,Go Tell it On the Mountain with Janice Allen and Joy to the World featuring choruses from Christmas past and virtual Christmas present, and a serene Dona Nobis Pacem featuring renowned cellist Yo-Yo Ma, Christmas Revels does not predictably explore its past in sequence, but in clever moments such as merging a past and more recent performance of a song by various performers, setting a different tone to its enduring meaning.
Janice Allen and the Silver Leaf Gospel Singers took the stage in 2000 for a stunning, acapella version of Amazing Grace while 1986’s impressive Appalachian Clogging with Ira Bernstein and the Big Gap String Band and Jean Ritchie delivered a captivating Kentucky folk carol, Christ Was Born in Bethlehem. Another indelible moment rested in a powerful medley of 2000’s Underground Railroad featuring Sheila Kay Adams and Janice Allen, Jordan Ashwood, and Cyrus Brooks, Silver Leaf Gospel Singers, Roaring Gap Chorus, Rocky River Children, Carolyn Saxon, and Johnny Nichols, Jr.
Christmas Revels’ ever changing repertoire is too numerous to mention every highlight, but there are plenty of surprises.
The detailed, rustic sets and the meaningful, meticulous costumes ranged from festive to humorous to haunting. It was marvelous to witness the virtual technology that was such a big part of this production. The virtual choir delivered moving, crisp carols and seeing the creators including founder John Langstaff and Revels Directors Patrick Swanson and George Emlen united in present time without actually being onstage provided some comfort that technology can still make some things possible.
Christmas Revels is still available to stream on-demand through Thursday, December 31. Click here for more information and how to support future Revels productions. Click here for more information on The 50th Anniversary of Christmas Revels available as a 2-CD set.
2020 has been many things, but traditional is not one of them. However, this year’s virtual A Christmas Celtic Sojourn brought back holiday traditions, beautiful performances, reflections, stirring carols, and dare I say a bit of normalcy to 2020.
With a selection of live performances and an option to watch on-demand, GBH’sA Christmas Celtic Sojourn was brought into your home in a warm, inviting, and spirited atmosphere. From a majestic, candlelit cathedral in Ireland to a festive outdoor step dance in Ottawa, Canada, it unconventionally included all the elements of what is beloved about this annual New England show and somehow broadened its possibilities worldwide.
GBH’s virtual A Christmas Celtic Sojourn is still available. Click here for more information and to enjoy the show on-demand through January 2, 2021. A Christmas Celtic Sojourn would also like to hear what you thought of the program by visiting their Facebook page.
Though a portion of the performers were at home, audiences were treated to harmonies created from multiple locations nationally and internationally while enjoying festive, international scenery. For a person who has lacked the chance to travel the world this year, it was a more than welcome opportunity to take a glimpse and to share in some international traditions.
From the stirring, candlelit opening of beloved carol, O Come Emmanuel sung in Latin by Cathy Jordan from gorgeous Sligo Cathedral in Ireland, A Christmas Celtic Sojourn transported audiences to Ireland and to other places around the world as they were unable to bring Ireland to the stage. The show also boasted dueling harmonies simultaneously sung from Vermont, Scotland, and various parts of Massachusetts.
Host Brian O’Donovan brought a mix of humor, melancholy, and wistful reflections toward this difficult year, engaging storytelling, and fond tidings. Though this year has presented its challenges, A Christmas Celtic Sojourn still managed to keep the rituals and long-awaited music right at your fingertips delivering jubilant, soulful moments while still embracing winter’s dark and sacred stillness.
Thanks to Rockport Music, multi-instrumentalist and Music Director Seamus Egan, Assistant Music Director, Celtic harpist, and pianist Maeve Gilchrist, Bouzouki and Harmonium player Owen Marshall, guitarist Conor Hearn, and fiddle players Jenna Moynihan and Maura Shawn Scanlin returned to perform cheerful medleys and energetic jam sessions filmed in Rockport Music at Shalin Liu Performance Center in Rockport, Massachusetts. Seamus Egan’s brilliance shone through as he reached for multiple instruments for separate songs and at one point reaching for a banjo for a joyful freestyle.
A traditional wassail in Edinburgh, Scotland, rollicking sing-along carols and dance from A Christmas Celtic Sojourn’s past, a peerless lullaby carol involving a newborn, original song and stirring new renditions of classic carols, a lighthearted percussive dance from Michigan by Nic Gareiss, and returning step dancer and choreographer Cara Butler reveling in her backyard to a jubilant tune in Ottawa, Canada are just some of the highlights of this carefully-executed, moving production. There were plenty of welcome surprises not to be revealed here.
Spending an awful lot of time at home and not in the car, music is less of a tradition in my house. GBH’s A Christmas Celtic Sojourn created a haven of holiday comfort in song that though we are far apart, some rituals and traditions can still stay the same.
GBH’s virtual A Christmas Celtic Sojourn is still available. Click here for more information and to enjoy the show on-demand through January 2, 2021.
To some, the sun is an adversary. To fast-living insomniac Simon, portrayed by Michael John Ciszewski, the sun is sleeping just when he is waking up. Michael John Ciszewski’s second solo project, The Sun is Sleeping, is a personal, contemplative piece though Simon wants to be anything but contemplative. He’d rather escape than be alone in his thoughts and his isolation, always looking for a quick fix as he dreams, loves, and parties big.
Click here for more information and how to watch The Sun is Sleeping, a one hour avant-garde film.
The Sun is Sleeping is part confessional, part introspection, and part escape, featuring a myriad of mixed emotions as Simon and other characters face a pandemic. As Simon fantasies about an eternally happy existence and doubt seeps in, the audience is privy to each character’s meandering perspectives in their sheer yearning to bond with other people in any way they can.
For the actors themselves facing an arts ‘intermission’ of this magnitude, it’s the thrill of the audience, lack of that type of expression, and entire way of life turned upside down that contributes to their unsettling uncertainty. Pier Lamia Porter as Sam and Rachel Belleman as Caroline unite in a wistful zoom call that could speak to anyone right now. It’s the longing and joy of being together. Some of the show has a sense of humor, but much more of it is reflection showing we all have too much time on our hands and yet the sun still shines.
It is no surprise that Theatre KAPOW added Peter Josephson’s A Tempest Prayer, based on Shakespeare’s The Tempest, to their 13th season entitled, ‘We Can Get through This.’ Having lived through the Great Plague of London, Shakespeare was sadly familiar with the anguish of isolation and solemnity that encapsulates a person during a pandemic and the closing of theatres. It is a perfect choice for this indelible year.
Peter Josephson’s A Tempest Prayer, a solo retelling of William Shakespere’sThe Tempest also starring Peter Josephson, was live streamed at various times from Theatre KAPOW’s studio in Manchester, NH from November 13 through November 15. Click here for more information on season 13 and how to support them on Giving Tuesday on December 1.
Theatre KAPOW company member and award-winning actor Peter Josephson takes on quite a lot capturing the essence of a Shakespearean classic while displaying a full range of emotions not only as Prospero, but as other mystical figures. It is a harrowing journey within a man’s psyche stranded with his daughter on a mystical Mediterranean island imprisoned by his thoughts. He knows there is a way to escape, but must come to terms with himself in order to find freedom. If the show’s surroundings and lead actor’s struggles do not seem a bit familiar in this odd year of 2020, maybe you’re adjusting better than you might expect.
Though A Tempest Prayer is a solo retelling, Josephson portrays other mystical characters on the island in innovative ways while simultaneously making him look that much more unhinged. He uses marionettes for the illusion of interaction and Prospero’s daughter Miranda looks lifelike in a moving CGI portrait. Multiple camera angles, the dark and ominous island setting, and stirring sound effects by Matt Cahoon, Tavya Young, and Jake Hodgins all contribute to Peter’s captivating torment.
Josephson gives a fierce and gripping performance as Prospero expressing his inner turmoil as he struggles to forgive, the weight of his ills threatening to drive him mad unless he can let go. He’s menacing, fearful, shrewd, and human. It is easy to witness this turmoil and have empathy while he is wracked by loneliness and confinement. He paces and ponders the insignificance of life as he attempts to propel himself into a brave new world and appreciate what he does have.
Perhaps you are your own worst enemy. Perhaps more than anyone surrounding you, the unbearable truth is that the biggest struggles are the ones you endure within yourself. Letting go is the key to making things better if only it were that easy.
Sleepless Critic had the honor of interviewing Peter Josephson on a past production he performed with Theatre KAPOW. Click here for the interview.
Theatre KAPOW’s 13th season is underway. Click here for more information about Theatre KAPOW, their mission, and how you can support them on Giving Tuesday on December 1.
Ice Dance International’s Executive Artistic Director and choreographer Douglas Webster reflected wistfully as he introduced what was likely Ice Dance International’s final performance on The Skating Club of Boston’s ice rink on Saturday, February 29. With a 100-year reputation of bringing everything from amateur to Olympic skaters to the ice, The Skating Club of Boston has been sold and will move to a much larger facility in Norwood, Massachusetts. During the week of Ice Dance International’s historic performance in Boston, WGBH’s Open Studios’ star Jared Bowen interviewed Ice Dance International’s exemplary ice dancers at WGBH and took to the ice with them for a stunt or two.
ICE DANCE INTERNATIONAL “IN FLIGHT: LIVE” TOUR 2020 FULL Cast Front Row: Laura Seal, Klabera Komini, Lara Shelton, Douglas Webster, Alissa Czisny, Kseniya Ponomaryova; Back Row: Ian Lorello, Neill Shelton, Rohene Ward, Collin Brubaker Not pictured: Adam Kaplan Photo credit to David J. Murray, ClearEyePhoto.com
Ranging from searing romance to lighthearted fun to big band to catching the wind, Ice Dance International’s ‘In Flight: Live’ gave The Skating Club of Boston a proper send off with a sold out show at 1240 Soldiers Field Road in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Ice Dance International, who holds residence at Strawbery Banke Museum in Portsmouth, Massachusetts, is currently on a national tour through April 4. Click here for more information and tickets.
Neill Shelton and Kseniya Ponomaryova in ‘Till the End’ Choreographed by Douglas Webster
Ice Dancing is not competitive skating, but a unique artistic journey on ice. Not only did ‘In Flight’ feature captivating and extraordinary ice dancers that delivered more than their share of eye-popping stunts, but what was most impressive was how different each dance was from the other. Featuring dynamic choreography from Douglas Webster, Trey McIntyre, Stephanee Grosscup, and Benoit Richaud, Ice Dance International delivered a wide range of music from classical to contemporary including pop, hip hop, and ballads evoking stories of heartache, excitement, humor, and passion.
Just a few of the highlights included a stirring couples skate from Collin Brubaker and Kseniya Ponomaryova called ‘Till the End’ to the haunting ballad, Kissing You by Des’ree. A passionate and bittersweet performance, the pair seemed to float upon the ice as Collin dipped, spun, and lifted Kseniya. They joined together as one before he must let go. Another elegant performance was delivered by Klabera Komini and Neill Shelton called ‘In Space’ choreographed by Douglas Webster with music by Tom Yorke called Suspirium. To a luminous, piano-infused melody with a deeper meaning, the dancers skillfully glided together connected only by a sheer purple scarf.
Alissa Czisny and Rohene Ward delivered beautiful solo performances. Rohene was charming and humorous in a beard and suspenders in ‘Wind Dancer’ choreographed by Stephanee Grosscup while Alissa was a vision in blue skillfully keeping a precise, quick pace to Yo-Yo Ma’s Cello Suite No. 1 in G Major in ‘Primavera.’
Some lighter moments included a group skate with Collin Brubaker, Adam Kaplan, Ian Lorello, Laura Seal, and Lara Shelton to Ben Kweller and Parsonfield’s How It Should Be. In a dance appropriately called ‘A Blade of Sunshine,’ what looked like a freestyle, fun loving group skate in bright, rich colors culminated into a jaw dropping moment as one dancer dove underneath and through the group of moving dancers and landed on his feet. It’s only one example of the sensational stunts witnessed throughout the evening from daring lifts to high speed spins to impossible twists and turns.
Ice Dance International’s ‘In Flight: Live’ continues its 2020 national tour through Saturday, April 4, concluding in Aspen, Colorado. Click here for more information and tickets. For upcoming events and more, follow Ice Dance International on Facebook.
The setting could be anywhere. However, that feeling of impending doom cannot be shaken as SpeakEasy Stage Company and Front Porch Arts Collective presents the twist-filled, semi-interactive, and award-winning Pass Over by Antoinette Nwandu continuing through Sunday, February 2 at the Calderwood Pavilion in Boston, Massachusetts. This show is not appropriate for young children for explicit language and adult themes. Pass Over is an hour and a half with no intermission. Click here for more information and tickets.
Directed cleverly by Monica White Ndounou, Pass Over is part absurdist drama that tackles a number of social issues including racism and police brutality and weaves them together into a culturally meaningful narrative. Its theatre-in-the-round and semi-interactive setting helps pull the audience into the drama and never lets go.
Hubens “Bobby” Cius and Kadahj Bennett in SpeakEasy Stage’s production of ‘Pass Over’ Photo by Nile Scott Studios
Alternating swiftly from humorous to harrowing, Pass Over mixes the real with the seemingly imagined, often leaving you wondering whether what you are seeing onstage is actually happening. Kathy A. Perkins’s lighting and pulsing sound by Anna Drummond seamlessly navigates the distinct, intense mood of this piece.
This suspenseful tale comes with simple staging by Baron E. Pugh and Wooden Kiwi Productions with only a nondescript lamp post and chain link fencing. Anything more than that would be distracting. Costume designer Chelsea Kerl keeps Kitch and Moses local with Red Sox caps and Celtics gear.
Hubens “Bobby” Cius and Kadahj Bennett in SpeakEasy Stage’s production of ‘Pass Over’ Photo by Nile Scott Studios
The joint charisma of the two main characters is what hinges on the show’s credibility and they have that in spades. The magnetic camaraderie, natural rhythm, and gift for physical humor between pensive Moses, portrayed by Kadahj Bennett, and funny, fast-talking Kitch, portrayed by Hubens “Bobby” Cius, gives this show its intriguing vibe as they joke, dream, plot, and wait on a deserted street corner. They keep each other strong as they dream of rising up to their full potential and escape what is holding them back. “Pass Over” means freedom.
Lewis D. Wheeler’s over-the-top performance enhances the palpable tension in this production. As Mister, he plays an intricate part and takes on more than one role in this thought provoking tale. In a beige suit and panama hat while carrying a wicker basket, Mister’s back story faintly resembles little red riding hood as he creates an impossible situation.
Lewis D. Wheeler in SpeakEasy Stage’s ‘Pass Over’ Photo by Nile Scott Studios
Without being preachy, Pass Over delivers a powerful message while exploring some of the darker, hypocritical sides of human nature and treats its serious themes with sensitivity.
SpeakEasy Stage Company and the Front Porch Arts Collective present Pass Overthrough Sunday, February 2 at the Calderwood Pavilion at the Boston Center for the Arts, 527 Tremont Street in the South End of Boston, Massachusetts. Click here for more information and tickets and here to learn more about the Front Porch Arts Collective. The Children and Bright Star still coming up as part of SpeakEasy Stage Company’s 2020 season.