REVIEW: Hub Theatre Company of Boston’s ‘Steel Magnolias’ boasts humor, heartache, and hairspray

A good story is usually rooted in truth.

Robert Harling’s ‘Steel Magnolias’ is partially based on a true story.  Harling wrote the play, ‘Steel Magnolias’ in 1987 and based it off of real people he knew in Louisiana.  In the popular 1989 film (which included a parade of famous actresses such as Dolly Parton, Olympia DukakisDaryl Hannah,  and Shirley MacLaine), the part of M’Lynn was portrayed by Sally Field and Julia Roberts was Shelby.  Harling based M’Lynn on his mother and Shelby (whose real name was Susan) on his sister.

Directed by Paula Plum, Hub Theatre Company of Boston celebrates the 30th anniversary of the 1989 film with comedy drama ‘Steel Magnolias’ continuing at Hub Theatre Company of Boston’s summer home, Club Cafe through Sunday, August 3.  This show is on a pay-what-you-can basis.  Click here for more information and tickets.

The Sleepless Critic also recently spoke to Hub Theatre of Boston Artistic Producing Director’s Lauren Elias about ‘Steel Magnolias,’ the future of Hub Theatre Company of Boston, and more.  Click here for the podcast.

Set entirely in Truvy’s Beauty Shop in Chinquapin, Louisiana in 1985, this bittersweet tale follows a group of vastly different women who find strength in each other through hardships and triumphs with a great deal of understanding, humor, and hairspray.  Though it has its share of serious themes, ‘Steel Magnolias’ offers more humor and relatable moments seeped in a wealth of 80s references that include mentions of Jane Fonda, and Elizabeth Arden.

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From L to R: Maureen Adduci as Ouiser, Liz Adams as M’Lynn, Oye Ehikhamhen as Shelby (center), Lauren Elias as Annelle, June Kfoury as Clairee, and Catherine Lee Christie as Truvy Photo courtesy of Hub Theatre Company of Boston

With bold costumes by Chelsea Kerl and Wig Master Caroline Clancy, the show impressively rewinds the clock into the 80s big hair era and memorable fashion sense while highlighting each woman’s distinct personality.  It is also refreshing to look at back at life at a time before the internet where people shared time, recipes, and hair tips in person.

Directed impressively by Paula Plum, ‘Steel Magnolias’ also thrives through its smart casting and the developing chemistry and growth between these primarily outspoken southern women, keeping this popular show fresh.  With a gift for gab and gossip, Catherine Lee Christie portrays Truvy Jones with charm and sass.  As a big fan of the movie, it is hard to imagine this part for anyone other than Dolly Parton, but Christie, in an array of distinct, sparkling, and mismatched fashion, rises to the occasion.  Her scenes with Lauren Elias as mysterious and humble Annelle make for some quirky, heartwarming moments.

Hub Theatre Company of Boston Steel Magnolias full cast

From L to Right: Maureen Aducci as Ouiser, Liz Adams as M’Lynn, Oye Ehikhamhen as Shelby (center), Lauren Elias as Annelle, June Kfoury as Clairee, and Catherine Lee Christie as Truvy Photo courtesy of Hub Theatre Company of Boston

Maureen Adduci’s sardonic, frank, and darkly amusing Ouiser delivers some of the most entertaining moments in the show.  Adduci’s exhausted scowl alone in Truvy’s cheery beauty salon is enough to crack a smile.  Her sarcastic facade rings true with the priceless line, “I don’t see plays because I can nap at home for free…and I don’t read books because if they are any good, they are going to make them into a miniseries.”  June Kfoury as Clairee, a stylish and gossip-driven widow with good intentions and a knowing smile, amuses herself by teasing Ouiser and their exchanges create their own spark.

However, the most captivating relationship is the family dynamic between Liz Adams as M’Lynn and Oye Ehikhamhen as M’Lynn’s daughter Shelby.  The push and pull between the two make it easy to see them as mother and daughter.  As in any mother-daughter relationship, one minute they exchange nagging barbs and the next, nurturing affection.

Hub Theatre Company of Boston Steel Magnolias Liz Adams as MLynn and Oye Ehikhamhen

Liz Adams as M’Lynn and Oye Ehikhamhen as Shelby Photo courtesy of Hub Theatre Company of Boston

Liz Adams portrays M’Lynn with a quiet, palpable tightness and a bundle of suppressed feelings.  It is easy to feel the weight of the world on her shoulders.  This M’Lynn has a bit of a tougher edge and a dry sense of humor as she meticulously looks after everyone but herself.  Though M’Lynn and Shelby are both dramatic and stubborn, Oye Ehikhamhen as Shelby is a ceaselessly optimistic force where happiness is a requirement, not an option.  With a broad smile and easy chemistry with the entire cast, Oye as Shelby shines in a charismatic, compassionate performance.

Club Cafe’s stage is an air-conditioned, intimate space that includes tables set up for food and drinks.  In honor of the production, Club Cafe offers themed specialty cocktails such as Truvy’s Twister, Blush and Bashful, Wack-A-Ouiser, and Chinquapin Parish Punch.

Directed by Paula Plum, rewind the clock and take a trip south to Truvy’s for Hub Theatre Company of Boston’s ‘Steel Magnolias’ at Club Café  at 209 Columbus Ave through Saturday, August 3. This show is on a pay-what-you-can basis.  Click here for more information about Hub Theatre and tickets.  Hub Theatre Company of Boston is also taking donations of beauty products and toiletries at every performance to be donated to Rosie’s Place and other charities.

REVIEW: Let loose and laugh a lot about life with inventive musical comedy ‘The Other Josh Cohen’

What if life could nudge you in the right direction when nothing seems to be going right?  The romantic musical comedy The Other Josh Cohen inventively and comically explores this concept and more continuing at the Westside Theatre in New York, New York through April 7.  This production is 90 minutes without an intermission.  Click here for more information and tickets.

Imagine a studio apartment being robbed on a holiday with Grinch-like stealthiness, perhaps even the thief figuratively “taking the last can of Who Hash” which in this case is unceremoniously a radio.  However, rather than it taking place on Christmas Eve, it’s on Valentine’s Day, and what little the thief does leave behind becomes your most treasured possession – a certain CD.  It’s easy to relate to this scenario because my own car was robbed once and I knew kids were probably responsible because they left the movie soundtrack to Titanic behind.  Ah, kids today.

The victim in this robbery is Josh Cohen, portrayed with lovable earnestness by Steve Rosen as Narrator Josh, portrayed with confidence and charm by David Rossmer, looks on.  It seems that nothing is going quite right for Josh until an unforeseen circumstance just might turn his life around.

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Steve Rosen and David Rossmer as The Other Josh Cohens Photo courtesy of Caitlin McNaney/The Other Josh Cohen

This multi-layered musical comedy is as ambitious as it is hilarious.  Not only does the show take off right away and I’m not just talking about most of the set, but it plays with time frames, utilizing a small, but ceaselessly hardworking, multi-talented cast capable of playing several characters at the drop of a dime.  How many shows can say that the cast is also the band and it all runs like clockwork?

With orchestrations by Dan Lipton and David Rossmer, The Other Josh Cohen is packed with catchy, insightful, comical, and frequently optimistic tunes about life and isn’t afraid to get occasionally silly.   The lighthearted, rock and roll and pop soundtrack includes Hang On, The Other Josh Cohen, What If, Change a Thing, and Samuel Cohen’s Family Tree which come highly recommended.   The Other Josh Cohen star-studded CD soundtrack features the voices of Hank Azaria, Sutton Foster, Sarah Bishop, and Richard Kind to name just a few.

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From L to R Louis Tucci, Kate Wetherhead, Luke Darnell-Hannah Elless Photo courtesy of Caitlin McNaney/The Other Josh Cohen

There is a great deal of natural chemistry among this small cast and though they seem to be improvising at times, it is an entirely scripted show punctuated by timely pop culture references.  Cathryn Wake, Jane Bruce, Luke Darnell, Louis Tucci, and Megan Loomis all make portraying several roles look easy as glittering Aunt Bea, Josh’s neighbor who is part of the “she” street band, the superintendent, Josh’s father, and the dentist are particular highlights.

 

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So The Other Josh Cohen is funny, inventive, semi-interactive, and has a multi-talented cast, but what makes this show special?  Even when life shows its dark side, there is always hope.  It’s good to laugh a little (or a lot) and through its catchy, sometimes self-deprecating songs, everything in life just might turn out ok.  That makes for more than just a fun night out.

The Off-Broadway, romantic musical comedy, The Other Josh Cohen continues at the Westside Theatre at 407 W 43rd Street New York, New York through April 7.  Click here for more information and tickets.  Click here for further details on that star-studded soundtrack.

 

 

REVIEW: Massasoit Theatre’s Company’s ‘Heathers the Musical’ is big fun with a razor’s edge

At first glance, Massasoit Theatre Company’s Heathers the Musical possesses the earmarks of a classic musical production.  Enter calculating villains and an unlikely hero singing thought-provoking songs in a retro setting wearing distinctive, colorful costumes.  Every meaningful musical usually also delivers a powerful message and it is part love story.  Yes, Heathers delivers all these things, but like its satirical film predecessor, does it in the unlikeliest of ways.  A musical quite faithful to the original film right down its vocabulary of memorable catch phrases, here is fair warning that this production is not suitable for children and contains mature themes.

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Massasoit Theatre Company’s ‘Heathers the Musical’ cast Photo courtesy of Massasoit Theatre Company

Directed skillfully by Nathan Fogg, Massasoit Theatre Company presents Heathers the Musical continuing through Sunday, April 15 at Massasoit Community College in the Buckley Performing Arts Center at 1 Massasoit Boulevard in Brockton, Massachusetts.  Click here for more information and for tickets.

Going into Heathers the Musical, it was difficult to imagine a musical as dark as the satiric comedy film starring Winona Ryder, Shannen Doherty, and Christian Slater.  However, Massasoit captures the film’s high energy, blunt, and darkly humorous look at high school where being popular is seemingly the only means for survival.  With an array of songs that are both humorous and shocking, it also deals with many social issues that high school students face today, but stands outside reality from it just enough to see from the outside.

Arrive early because Heathers the Musical does an excellent job setting the 80s mood through vintage Mtv videos and commercials as well as a unique introduction from the show’s producer, Mark Rocheteau.  Not only does Heathers feature a multi-layered set design with its share of special effects, but Jennifer Spagone’s symbolic costume design contrast bold colors with pale to represent different high school personalities while exacting the iconic fashion from the film.

Before the Plastics leapt onto the screen in the hit film Mean Girls, there were the Heathers.  If the Plastics ruled with a heavy hand, the Heathers ruled with an iron fist.  Adorned in strictly bold, primary colors and slinking into the school as if on a catwalk, CJ Hawes in red depicts Heather Chandler with charismatic cruelty, her head held high and an ego as inflated as her big hair.  CJ’s soprano vocals have an appealing belt and growl while she shares great chemistry with the other Heathers, especially during the numbers Big Fun and Candy Store.  She barks orders to sympathetic subordinate Heather Duke portrayed by Stephanie Wallace.  Dressed in emerald green, Stephanie portrays Heather with a suppressed, bullied demeanor.  Morgan Campbell in yellow portrays anxious, but friendly Heather McNamara with flair and offers a great rendition of the number, Lifeboat.

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Sara Comeau portrays Veronica and Sean Neary as J.D. Photo courtesy of Massasoit Theatre Company

 

Sara Comeau in blue plays awkward and conflicted Veronica Sawyer.  A complicated role, Sara captures Veronica’s clever, contemplative, and at times, sarcastic demeanor with great comic timing.  Veronica and Sean Neary as quiet and mysterious J.D. have compelling chemistry as they navigate the dark side of high school.

Heathers the Musical Jocks

Jack Cappadona as Kurt and Anthony Light as Ram Photo courtesy of Massasoit Theatre Company

 

Anthony Light and Jack Cappadona are immensely comical as mindless and merciless jocks while Emily Buckley as Martha evokes a sweet and impalpable loneliness.  Kels Ferguson plays a dual role as Mrs. Fleming and Mrs. Sawyer.  She brought down the house with her upbeat version of Shine a Light.

Heathers the Musical Shine

Shine a Light Photo courtesy of Massasoit Theatre Company

With a retro and dark, but powerful message, Massasoit Theatre Company presents Heathers the Musical continuing through Sunday, April 15 at Massasoit Community College in the Buckley Performing Arts Center at 1 Massasoit Boulevard in Brockton, Massachusetts.  Click here for more information and for tickets.  Follow Massasoit Theatre Company on Facebook.

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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.