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.

Acclaimed producer Sue Gilad talks Tony nominations, girl power, and heartwarming musical, ‘A Taste of Things to Come’

From the award-winning Natasha, Pierre, and the Great Comet of 1812 to Angels in America, renowned theatre producer Suzanne Gilad has an eye for the next big show.  Boasting an array of memorable tunes, Sue’s current musical project, A Taste of Things to Come, has been described as Jersey Boys meets Betty Crocker meets the 60s feminist movement.  It takes the stage at Chicago’s Broadway Playhouse through April 29.

A Taste of Things to Come poster

Photo courtesy of Broadway in Chicago

Sue discusses getting Tony nominations, bringing A Taste of Things to Come to Chicago, and Turtle Wax.  Click here for more information and tickets to A Taste of Things to Come.

Sleepless Critic:  You are involved in a number of well known projects such as Angels in America, Madame Butterfly, Natasha, Pierre, and the Great Comet of 1812, and upcoming project, The Other Josh Cohen.  What first brought you into the theatre world?

Sue Gilad:  I was a performer a long time ago and then started doing voice overs, which took me down a completely separate and fun path.  A few years ago, a friend created a show and asked me if I would help shape it.  I discovered being a producer meant that I could be responsible and still have a life. We get to be creative in terms of what kinds of work we bring to the public to see and hopefully open their minds and hearts.  It made sense and there are still relatively few female producers in the business, although that is changing.  There is a lot of growth for that.

I would jump Broadway projects as a co-producer and that is what is happening with the recently opened Angels in America.  People ask me if they can meet Andrew Garfield who delivers a tremendous and transformative performance in the show.  I’ve never seen him like that.

SC:  What was it like for you when Natasha, Pierre, and the Great Comet of 1812 got multiple Tony nominations?

SG:  It was such a big honor that the show received the most Tony nominations of any show last year.  The best part about getting the nominations was The Great Comet was a big creative risk.  I don’t think anyone thought it was going to be on Broadway with its tiny stage and cast.  When it was at the American Repertory Theatre (A.R.T) in Cambridge, Massachusetts, Diane Paulus wanted to take the show which was in the round and remount it into proscenium theatre.  She did to great acclaim and it became an immersive production, unlike anything Broadway has ever seen before.

A Taste of Things to Come women

Libby Servais (Broadway: Wicked, Lysistrata Jones), Cortney Wolfson (Broadway: The Addams Family, Les Miserables) Broadway’s Linedy Genao (On Your Feet! Original Broadway Cast), Marissa Rosen (Off-Broadway’s The Marvelous Wonderettes) Photo courtesy of Broadway in Chicago

 

SC:  A Taste of Things to Come has an all female crew.  Was it planned that way?

SG:  Dare I say that the women were the most qualified for the job?  A Taste of Things to Come, written by Hollye Levin and Debra Barsha, is based on Hollye’s experience of her mom and a part of it tells the story of the life her mom had growing up.  Then director Lorin Latarro came onboard when the show debuted at Bucks County Playhouse in Pennsylvania.  Everybody loved her and she brings tremendous things to the show.

The show features four women that age from age 25 in 1957 to age 35 in 1967.  Everything blows open in the beginning of Act 2 when they are 10 years older and wiser with more opportunities for women and delicious secrets about race, religion, and sexuality which is not something you really talked about in the 1950s.  By the 1960s, there was a real space for it.  You get to see these women’s journeys during an incredible moment in history.

SC:  What was it about A Taste of Things to Come that grabbed your attention?

SG:  I saw a rehearsal or reading of this show and loved it.  It gave me the opportunity to articulate my gratitude to the generation before me that broke through so many glass ceilings I didn’t even know existed.

Women of that generation either didn’t work or they became teachers and nurses so my generation can become doctors and superintendents.  Then my kids’ generation can do whatever they want for work or nothing for work.  It’s just extraordinary and gave me a window into the past.  I can share it with my mom and, if I wanted to, bring my teenage daughters to it.  It’s a celebration of friendship, solidarity, and kind of interestingly timed with the advent of the ‘me too’ and ‘times up’ movement that women in their time also had to take a stance for things that were beyond their comfort zone or what was socially acceptable at the time.

A Taste of Things to Come cast

The cast of ‘A Taste of Things to Come’ Photo courtesy of Broadway in Chicago

SC:  The New York Times has described A Taste of Things to Come as ‘a recipe for catchy musical theatre.’  Please tell me a little about the music and your favorite songs.

SG:  Composer Debra Barsha worked on Jersey Boys on Broadway for ten years so it starts out with the popular tunes of the 1950s.  Ten years later, things become a lot groovier and it had a really distinctive 60s sound.  My favorite song has been shifting as I get to know it better, but today I love the song, Blessings in Disguise.  It’s a testament to the things we think will challenge us which are actually the things that make us stronger and give us unexpected gifts.  My other favorite song is In Time, the final song of the show.  The entire cast sings it and they look back at what they have been through together as individuals and as a group of friends.  The best things happen in time.

SC:  What has it been like putting the show together?

Since the show is set in Winnetka, A Taste of Things to Come is making its home in Chicago.  It’s been fun listening to the audio discs during previews because of the way the audience giggles with any Winnetka or Chicago reference.  We were very lucky to get New York Broadway actresses but we also have an understudy that can swing all four roles.  Madison Kauffman is a Chicago native who just graduated from college.  She came in for the first day of rehearsal completely off book for all four roles.  Her level of excitement and passion is so thrilling.

A Taste of Things to Come Chicago cast

The cast of ‘A Taste of Things to Come’ Photo courtesy of Broadway in Chicago

SC:  What kind of support is the show looking for?

SG:  We have a great sponsor based out of Chicago called Turtle Wax.  It is in the script because it was wax that men were using in 1957 for their cars.  We would be open for Chicago-based companies to sponsor the show because we do have a wonderful, primarily female, well-educated audience.

SC:  What is in store for the future of the show?

SG:  We have wonderful theatres interested in having the show at their theatre so we might take the show on tour.  Then we’re hoping to get it licensed so every school, regional theatre, community, and worldwide theatre can perform it and share the victories of womanhood.

A Taste of Things to Come continues at the Broadway Playhouse in Chicago through April 29.  Click here for more information and for tickets.  Follow A Taste of Things to Come on Facebook and Twitter.

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Company Theatre proudly presents the uplifting musical comedy, ‘Sister Act the Musical’

With an incredible lineup of catchy, uplifting songs by Academy award-winning composer Alan Menken, Company Theatre proudly presents the hilarious musical comedy, Sister Act the Musical from Friday, March 17 through Sunday, April 9 at the Company Theatre in Norwell, Massachusetts.  Based on the 1992 smash hit film starring Whoopi Goldberg, Sister Act the Musical is a humorous, inspiring story about loyalty, friendship, and discovering what is really important.  Click here for more information and for tickets.

Set in Philadelphia, lounge singer Deloris Van Cartier finds herself in a terrible predicament and needs protection.  She finds it in a convent with a group of dutiful nuns led by rigid Mother Superior, but she has never felt more out of place until the power of music steps in.  Featuring a cast that will bring audiences joyfully to their feet, see Sister Act the Musical from Friday, March 17 through Sunday, March 19 then Wednesdays through Sundays through April 9.

Company Theatre Sister Act 2

‘Sister Act the Musical’ cast Photo courtesy of Michelle McGrath/Company Theatre

Sister Act the Musical is part of Company Theatre’s stellar 2017 season which includes Disney’s The Little Mermaid with an adult cast this summer.  Auditions will be held on May 3.  Click here for audition details.

Company Theatre MermaidAuditions-300x174

Company Theatre presents Disney’s ‘The Little Mermaid’ this summer. Courtesy of the Company Theatre

Other highlights of the season include the psychological thriller, Lizzie Borden in October and the holiday family musical comedy, Company for the Holidays in December.  All performances take place at the Company Theatre, 30 Accord Park Drive in Norwell, Massachusetts.  Get discount tickets on Family & Friends Fridays. Click here, call the box office at 781-871-2787 for tickets or email sally@companytheatre.com for more information.  Follow the Company Theatre on Facebook.