It’s just so nice to be invited back to a Prom and not be the one in a frilly dress.
Though costume designer Miranda Kau Giurleo does bring all the glitz, glitter and glamour to this satirical blend of inspired true story and over the top musical comedy set in New York as well as in Edgewater, Indiana. SpeakEasy Stage Company’sThe Prom delivers plenty of humor ranging from silly to parody to satirical not without its political ribbings with a sincere and underlying message about helping others.
Featuring stellar and intricate choreography by Taavon Gamble and lightheartedly directed by Paul Daigneault, SpeakEasy Stage Company continues musical comedy The Prom through June 10 live and in person at the Calderwood Pavilion in Boston Massachusetts. The show is two hours and 25 minutes with one 15 minute intermission. Click here for more information and tickets.
The Prom should sound a least a little familiar since its 2020 Netflix film adaptation debut with an abundance of its own star shine including Meryl Streep as Dee Dee and James Corden as Barry. Inspired by a true story, anxious Emma, depicted with self effacing and quiet optimism by Liesie Kelly, invites a date to the Prom with none other than Abriel Coleman as Alyssa, the daughter of the head of the Parent Teacher Association. Once a group of egocentric Broadway celebrities gets wind of this human interest story, they decide to make a difference in this small Indiana town.
Lit with soft and cheerful pastels by Karen Perlow, The Prom features a flashy and dynamic set design including checkered red carpet doubling for any high school setting. One of the stage highlights is a chameleon-like, glittering backdrop complete with shimmering disco ball and an onstage orchestra hidden behind a sports scoreboard.
The Prom is helmed by a strong and exuberant cast with exceptional comedic timing. Dynamite duo Barry Glickman and Dee Dee, portrayed with pizzazz by Johnny Kuntz and Mary Callanan, deliver lots of laughs as seemingly shallow thespians, but their real charm is exposed by the people they meet in this fish out of water production. Their wild antics and Callanan’s fantastic belt are on spectacular display for fist pumping and humorous Changing Lives. Adorned with glamorous red hair, Callanan shines in the commanding and infectious solo It’s Not About Me and has lively and fun loving chemistry with Anthony Pires Jr as compassionate and forthright Mr. Hawkins. Pires Jr adds a shy charisma to the role and his scenes with Emma and Dee Dee are touching and memorable especially for the sweet solo, We Look to You.
Meagan Lewis-Michelson as no nonsense PR rep Sheldon Saperstein and inspirational Lisa Yuen as Angie Dickenson both have their great comedic moments, but Jared Troilo is a bit of a scene stealer hatching outrageous theatrical schemes to unique pronunciations as aspiring actor Trent Oliver. Troilo’s character could have easily become obnoxious as the show progressed, but Troilo’s Trent remained endearing at every turn. Though Troilo is wonderful in every number, perhaps the cheeky Love Thy Neighbor is the most noteworthy fueled by surprising musical accompaniment and gospel influences.
The Prom deals with some serious topics including betrayal, but balances it well with the show’s overall optimistic tone. It is positive throughout, even in the face of Emma’s most difficult challenges. Liesie Kelly’s lovely Just Breathe mixes dry wit with Kelly’s mellifluous vocals and smiling eyes. Emma’s high school classmates are painted as shallow and insensitive and as far as storytelling, it might have been nice to have at least one of them sympathetic to Emma’s plight from the start.
Boasting amazing choreography that not only is reminiscent of popular musicals Footloose and Hairspray, but The Prom contains a wealth of welcome, inside Broadway references. From a clapping and celebratory champagne dance to the Fosse-inspired choreography of Zazz to the intricate chorography of It’s Time to Dance, Gamble with Paul S. Katz’s music direction creates a complex yet sparkling escape to fun and frivolity if only temporarily from the realities of life.
SpeakEasy Stage Company continues musical comedy The Prom through June 10 live and in person at the Calderwood Pavilion in Boston Massachusetts. Click here for more information and tickets.
Not even a Willy Wonka candy coated confection could properly prepare one for what the Company Theatre has in store onstage.
With book by Dennis Kelly and music and lyrics by Tim Minchin, The Company Theatre’sMatilda the Musical is a holiday-themed whirlwind of caricatured adults and rage-filled adolescence while at its core, an inspiring story of an extraordinary girl in a peculiar and unique world that could only come from renowned storyteller Roald Dahl’s innovative imagination. Add Lindsay Hoisington’s eye popping costumes that share their own story along with set designer Ryan Barrow’s striking, festive colors and Matilda the Musical made a refreshing debut from Company Theatre’s more traditional annual holiday fare.
Inventively directed by Zoe Bradford with dynamic Music Direction by Melissa Carubia, The Company Theatre continues Roald Dahl’s Matilda the Musical live and in person at the Company Theatre at 130 Accord Park Drive in Norwell, Massachusetts through December 18. Click here for more information and for tickets.
With a string of renowned children’s books that includes classics such as James and the Giant Peach and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, it is easy to see award-winning author Roald Dahl’s trademark characterizations, sardonic humor, and peculiarities within a morally driven subtext delivered in Dahl’s Matilda, a novel published almost 35 years ago. Matilda went on to become a bonafide hit with children and adults and it was not long before a 1996 film adaptation arrived featuring Danny DeVito and his real life wife Rhea Perlman. In 2012, Matilda became a Tony award-winning Broadway musical before Netflix recently premiered Matilda the Musical featuring Emma Thompson around Thanksgiving. Like most theatrical adaptations, nothing is quite like the experience of seeing it live.
Expectations were skewed immediately with the darkly comedic and infectious opening number, Miracle where cute, wild, and blatantly naughty children zip around a Christmas tree fueled by Brad Reinking’s athletic, energetic, and fist pumping choreography. Keep an eye out for some amazing feats by Ben Cavallo-Smith and others.
Imagination and mischief run wild in Roald Dahl’s tale of an extraordinary girl making her way through a peculiar world. Roald Dahl tugs at the heartstrings in this absorbing children’s tale, but not before displaying a wealth of less than savory characters making Matilda’s life arduous. It is a darkly humorous tale guaranteed to delight children more than the grownups.
Clad in black and white, precious and precocious Matilda, portrayed with determination and quick wit by Reese Racicot, is one of the very few characters standing out in an ostentatious world where television is more important than cracking open a book. Racicot immediately charms from the spunky number, Naughty to mastering the heady lyrics in Quiet, punctuated by her light and airy vibrato. Racicot has a sweet rapport with Annie Jones as enthralled librarian Mrs. Phelps, who delights in Matilda’s significant and imaginative stories as well as Miss Honey, portrayed endearingly by Jennifer Beth Glick. With delicate and powerful vocals, Glick shines depicting Miss Honey’s quiet strength and good natured humbleness, especially for the tender and moving number, My House with Salvador Guillermo Garcia.
The adults are about as tempestuous and spoiled as their children. Matilda’s scheming con artist father Mr. Wormwood, portrayed with a sneer and manipulative glee by Todd Yard is not to be outdone by his equally shortsighted, narcissistic, and ballroom dancing wife and Matilda’s resentful mother, Mrs. Wormwood, depicted by Emilee Dennis Leahy with the sort of flirtatious, chaotic humor reminiscent of Jennifer Coolidge. Accompanied by Brady Rafferty as egotistical Rudolpho, Leahy demonstrates limber dance moves and a wild cha cha in the shimmering and comically shallow number, Loud. Never have a pair claimed to know so much know so little. Oliver Dunn as Matilda’s conspiring brother Michael Wormwood seems to be following in their stealthy footsteps as Yard and Dunn open Act II with humorous improvisation and vaudeville inspired number All I Know.
Matilda the Musical is not without its dark moments and that is exemplified in Matilda’s iron fisted headmaster, Agatha Trunchbull. A fearful and miserably barreling adversary depicted enthusiastically by Christie Reading, Trunchbull is a force to be reckoned with, but against these lively students, anything is possible highlighted by the brilliant and ironic number, When I Grow Up.
The Company Theatre continues Roald Dahl’s Matilda the Musical live and in person at the Company Theatre at 130 Accord Park Drive in Norwell, Massachusetts through December 18. Click here for more information and for tickets.
A broken arm is the catalyst to much more for Evan Hansen.
Winner of six Tony Awards including Best Picture, Dear Evan Hansen stage musical took Broadway by storm in 2014 by distinctly addressing subjects that are becoming dangerously prevalent in contemporary society. Dear Evan Hansen delves into difficult territory and is not for everyone, but it is not hard to see why this musical has gained such acclaim.
The use of social media, the internet, and digital rather than face-to-face interaction due to the pandemic have had people feeling more alone than ever before which has caused social anxiety to gain a greater foothold in our society. With sweaty palms, a constant stream of over thinking, an overwhelming feeling of loneliness in a crowd, and the pressure to live up to what others expect, senior high school student Evan Hansen struggles with interacting with almost everyone until a chance encounter changes his life.
Based on the Tony award-winning musical, Dear Evan Hansen is available on HBO Max, on DVD, and on demand. Click here for more information.
The film adaptation of Dear Evan Hansen has gained some notoriety among the stage musical’s fans because a portion of the musical’s character driven development is left out of the film. As one who has not seen the musical, Dear Evan Hansen is a pretty somber musical experience about a tragedy and a lie that ends up having a life of its own as the film progresses. There are cringe-worthy moments to be certain, but they stem from how deep the rabbit hole of that big lie goes and its inevitable consequences.
What first attracted me to this production was Requiem, a powerful number with beautiful harmony that still stands as my favorite performance. Kaitlin Dever’s chiming vocals as Zoe carry the poignant conflict and the bitterness of Requiem while still preserving her as a troubled and sympathetic figure. Amy Adams as Cynthia Murphy delivers a heartrending performance highlighted by her part in Requiem. However, without a solo number such as A Little Bit of Light as part of this film adaptation, her character has a lack of dimension and less of a sense of what her actual relationship has been with her late son who is lost to mental illness. Danny Pino as Larry Murphy reveals a compelling and complex relationship with his late stepson, but the film would have been better if the adaptation delved deeper into his character. Julianne Moore has much more to work with as Heidi Hansen, Evan Hansen’s single mother. She and Ben Platt as Evan have a complicated, yet caring relationship and Moore shines for the moving number, So Big/So Small. Amanda Stenberg as overachieving Alana Beck is a fascinating look into another side of mental illness and how people are not so different in Anonymous Anymore.
Ben Platt originated the Tony award-winning role as Evan Hansen and also does a marvelous job for the film. Though he seems a little old for the role at this point, Platt’s portrayal of Evan’s anxiety is palpable as he depicts Evan’s struggles right from the opening number, Waving through a Window. His vocals have a soft and introspective quality as he shares his bewilderment and tenseness in attempting to socialize and make friends. At times he is visibly shaken and some of the mixed signals and missed social cues he reads from others can be painful to watch. His simple and hopeful delivery for All We See is Sky Forever is a pivotal and bittersweet song and You Will be Found is inspiring and universally-appealing. Platt also has some awkward but sweet chemistry with Dever as Zoe in the numbers, Only Us and If I Could Tell Her.
Dear Evan Hansen film is not a powerhouse musical, but is filled with quiet reflections, inspirational messages, and sobering revelations. Much of the film deals with various aspects of coping with life and grief, but it also has scattered humor and a few darkly comical moments in the number Sincerely, Me. The ending is not delivered the same way as the musical and seems to wrap too quickly. As one who hasn’t seen the musical, I was less aware of what was missing and seeing Ben Platt’s performance was worth watching. See Dear Evan Hansen the film for its memorable cast and appealing soundtrack, but hold out for the stage musical to get the entire story.
Dear Evan Hansen is available on HBO Max, on DVD, and on demand. Click here for more information and here to see the stage musical on Broadway or on its national tour.
A roaring crowd greeted hip-hop comedic dynamos, Freestyle Love Supreme opening night at the Emerson Colonial Theatre in Boston on Friday, March 18. Packed with plenty of self-proclaimed Freestyle Love Supreme super fans, witnessing this unique, interactive, Tony award-winning production feels more like attending a rock concert. The anticipation leading up to it was palpable and I immediately got the sense I was in for a truly remarkable experience.
No wonder Freestyle Love Supreme is beloved seeing that the show still features some of the founding cast members since the group started in 2004 and went on to be featured in the self-titled Hulu documentary and on Broadway. Founding member Chris Sullivan AKA Shockwave wows with phenomenal hip hop beats (and seemingly impossible) sound effects, Aneesa Folds AKA Young Nees can perform powerful vocal gymnastics to anything that is thrown Young Nees’s way, and founding member Anthony Veneziale AKA Two Touch is a great and welcoming host. Not only can every cast member deliver clever quips at the drop of a hat, but the show is friendly, interactive, and inclusive.
Is Freestyle Love Supreme a big party? A resounding yes, but every performance is unique so it is best enjoyed just knowing the basics. Don’t feel pressure to participate, but the more enthusiasm and participation, the better the show. Trust me. Even in masks which Freestyle Love Supreme deems ‘consonant killers,’ the audience is invited to demonstrate what they are saying in creative and amusing ways. It is fun, has heart, and there wasn’t a dull moment.
The show is tailor made for the locals boasting a slew of signature Boston and pop culture references. Listen closely for the inventive and masterful delivery of these brilliant, high-speed rappers. The possibilities are endless. They also aren’t shy about what they say onstage. This may sound a bit like Whose Line is it Anywayand Wayne Brady was part of the cast at one point, but accompanied by an intimate live band, Freestyle Love Supreme is just on another level. For example, one audience member suggested the word, ‘Yankees’ and it was amazing to see how just many ways that one word was demonstrated led by the vocal styling of hilarious Jay C. Ellis AKA Jellis J.
Freestyle Love Supreme is hilarious, relatable and brilliantly fast-paced, but what makes the show most endearing was not so much the spectacle, but how much the cast does not hesitate to share their personal experiences as each show is shaped into a carefully tailored crowd pleaser. To think for the first time ever, the show’s full set was not delivered by opening night! I can’t imagine having a better time.
Freestyle Love Supreme continues live and in person at the Emerson Colonial Theatre in Boston, MA through April 2. Click here for more information and tickets.
At just beyond his 25th year, NPR’s popular composer, conductor, and music commentator, Rob Kapilow continues to captivate audiences with his vast musical knowledge, sense of humor, and careful analysis of what makes the best songs tick. Though music styles and genres inevitably change, these classic tunes may make you see your favorite songs in a whole new light.
Part teacher, humorist, and historian, Kapilow proves once again just how fascinating a song can be through a mix of sophistication and an easy to follow delivery. Click here for more information and how to get access to this virtual production and follow along by downloading the show’s program. The virtual performance includes a short question and answer session. Click here for more on NPR’s What Makes it Great?
Though often speaking to a large audience, Rob Kapilow possesses such a personal, relaxed and friendly quality during his talks, it often feels like a one-on-one session on a baby grand piano. He is so popular with the Celebrity Series crowd that he usually makes a couple of Celebrity Series of Boston appearances per season tackling everything from swing to dance to classical to Broadway music revealing each song’s inherent brilliance.
Calling on a couple of Broadway love songs, Kapilow was accompanied by soprano Emily Albrink and stirring singer, actor, and musician Ben Jones. In a flowing floral dress, Albrink brims with excitement evident is her soaring vocals as she delivers a charming rendition of My Fair Lady’sI Could Have Danced All Night. In a black jacket and tie, Jones masters the complex and emotional weight of Camelot’sIf Ever I Should Leave You with a bold finish. Together, Jones and Albrink depict the playful and lighthearted chemistry for Brigadoon’sAlmost Like Being in Love and Heather on the Hill where at one point, Jones takes Albrink’s hand.
Delving into the Golden Age of Broadway as well as Lerner and Loewe’s dynamic history, Kapilow chose a selection of lighthearted and dreamy songs as well as pivotal numbers from musicals that leads to a character’s imminent transformation. With humor and grace, Kapilow also reveals what each song might have sounded like without its individuality and as he peels back each layer, What Makes It Great? becomes an eye-opening experience.
From classic songs and American Standards such as It’s Almost like Being in Love from Brigadoon to the high-spirited I Could Have Danced All Night from My Fair Lady to a humorous and not to be missed I Remember it Well from Gigi, Rob shows how compulsive American lyricist Lerner of the famed retail stores and poverty-raised and frugal Austrian composer Loewe poured themselves and their imagination into their music to create some real Broadway magic.
What Makes it Great? with Rob Kapilow streams through January 27. Click here for more information and how to access the show. Click here to see what is next during Celebrity Series of Boston’s digital and in person season.
Those first few chords seem familiar, but no, this is not quite the John Williams classic score about THAT wizard, but another earnest group of wizard hopefuls. Not quite ‘saint-like,’ but fun loving and enthusiastic underachievers nonetheless. Some legendary faces appear and make quite an impression, but the Puffs are the real stars.
Full of inside and self aware jokes, 90s pop culture references, chocolate frogs, almost every flavored bean, and not nearly as long as Harry Potter and the Cursed Child Parts 1 and 2 comes Puffs, a spot on parody that tells the epic tale of the seven years Harry Potter attended Hogwarts from the viewpoint of some of the lesser known wizard students that aimed for first, but would also settle for third. It is a hilarious exploration that is best appreciated by Harry Potter fans due to its share of spoilers, but anyone would enjoy a wealth of improvisational fun and physical humor as well as Dean Palmer Junior’s impressive lighting and special effects. The introduction of hilarious dragons and haunting dementors are just some of the show’s highlights.
This is absolutely not a retread of Harry Potter though, but tells a slightly different and more humorous tale along Harry Potter’s timeline. It is difficult to choose which characters makes the biggest impression because each cast member collaborate so well together and as a big Harry Potter fan, I found myself laughing right through my mask which is required within Company Theatre’s comfortable theatre space.
Many cast members transfigure into multiple roles as Brianna Casey serves as Puffs scholarly narrator. Casey’s benevolent and dignified delivery adds gravitas to an often whimsical role, keeping the tale focused as some of the more spontaneous characters could have led the story astray. Will Moon epitomizes Cedric’s rock star persona and charismatic scene stealer in a dual role and Alex Norton’s Wayne Hopkins is talkative and charming as the tale’s ‘would be’ hero. Morgan Hurley offers a memorable portrayal of conflicted Megan Jones, a rebel with a chip on her shoulder. She shares endearing chemistry with Sean Lally as Wayne’s nerdy best friend, Oliver Rogers.
Anastasia Ferrera is bubbly and delightful as Leanne among others and James Keyes as goofy J. Finch as well as other roles is often the life of the party. One of the many collaborative scenes and highlights of the show involve a party with too much butter beer and a familiar sounding 90s dance song. Some scenes seem a random addition, but are always smartly done.
With intricate, multi-functional sets and props (those wands and that sorting hat!) by Ryan Barrow and colorful, distinctive, and humorously outlandish costumes by John Crampton, Puffs is a lighthearted and wonderful journey while still delivering important life lessons so prevalent in the books such as valuing the power of friendship, dreaming big, and being true to oneself. It’s a shame the show is only presented for one weekend with a cast that is having so much fun.
Academy of the Company Theatre (ACT) performs parody Puffs through October 24. Click here for more information and for all of the Company Theatre’s upcoming events.
Just prior to the pandemic, an award-winning, intriguing production not only made its debut but closed in one night on the Company Theatre stage in Norwell, Massachusetts over a year ago. Onstage as the meaty role of Bruce, Company Theatre’s Director of Development Michael Hammond experienced that incredible and bittersweet night and what it meant to the cast of the musical memoir Fun Home. Click here for our full podcast conversation.
The Company Theatre is offering a chance to see Fun Home for the full run they had originally intended in October. Michael talks about his experience as Bruce, his favorite part of theatre, and a secret upcoming project.
Click here for Sleepless Critic’s Fun Home review and here for tickets and further information about the Company Theatre.
Sleepless Critic: So you’ve been in theatre since you were a kid and now that we have had the pandemic, what was your favorite part of the theatre before and was there a change in your favorite or what you miss the most when we had a break?
Michael Hammond: I think we take a lot for granted in life. We forget how much fun it is to sing with an orchestra or to perform on a beautiful set someone built. Ryan Barrow does amazing sets at Company Theatre and it’s thrilling to perform on one of his sets. It’s thrilling to perform with Steve Bass conducting an orchestra and thrilling to perform Sally Forrest’s choreography under Zoe Bradford’s direction.
I think we take that for granted in some ways and as much as I enjoy it and maybe as I got from show to show to show, I think I just liked performing specific roles for the experience of getting to know a new cast. I did a Christmas show at Company Theatre and just recharged my energy to be around such beautiful people and exciting kids and talent. You’re in a flow and you are doing shows and enjoying it.
You get what you get out of it, but when the pandemic was coming, I was doing Fun Home with an extremely talented cast. Riley Crockett was playing the youngest Alison. I was re-experiencing theatre through her eyes and she had never been on a big stage or performed with an orchestra which is shocking because she is so talented. She would ask me, ‘Are you nervous for your solo tonight?’ I would say, ‘I am a little.’ She would say, ‘Good, now you know how I feel.’ Ok, she needs a little more support and encouragement in that moment.
Then we were standing on top of a staircase and we were about to walk down for our first entrance and she said, ‘Michael, I’ve never performed on a set like this. This is a big deal.’ I said, ‘Yes, it is a big deal. You are right. This is a beautiful experience and you’re about to sing live with an orchestra for the first time in a big theatre on a beautiful set.’ It made me look at what we are doing and not take it for granted.
So we were fortunate to open and close Fun Home on the exact same night because the pandemic had really hit. That day everyone was cancelling their performances but we went on because we had a feeling this would be it. I’m so glad we did because it was one of the most exciting and electric experiences of my life. People were rebellious and excited. They knew this might be the last time they ever saw this show and Fun Home is not a super positive and happy experience.
SC: It is melancholy.
MH: Right, but the audience treated it like it was a rock concert!
SC: Yes, I was there to review your first and final performance. I felt so comfortable and wonderful and I had saw this show in Boston before. What I liked about watching this particular show is that you can make it so different every time you perform it. The parts can be portrayed very differently and you can do so much with the show. In a way, if you had to say goodbye to theatre for awhile, I felt like that was such a poignant thing to do in that moment.
MH: It was. It was one of the most beautiful experiences I think I ever had and it was just so bittersweet because it was the last show with Jordie. How thrilled and grateful am I that I got to have Jordie’s final show be Fun Home and I got to be a part of it. It was just such a fantastic experience and she loved the show. It was such a joy to go through that process with her.
SC: It is one of those shows that sneak up on you unexpectedly. You’re experiencing the show and you enjoy it, but once it’s over, it is really thought-provoking.
MH: I saw it on Broadway and loved it. I thought that I don’t necessarily need to see it again. It was beautiful and moving and I think of it like a beautiful film. You watch it and then you watch another film. When this opportunity came around to work on the show, I have such a great appreciation for it. I think it’s just one of the greatest things ever written where you’re dissecting and it personally and really in the trenches on it. It’s so much more brilliant than I realized.
SC: It has such multi-layered performances as well.
MH: I was thinking today that there were so many things about Bruce, I almost feel like I just left my body. I personally couldn’t be any part of this character because it just wasn’t anything like me. Sometimes I think about it and it feels really difficult to do it again because I remember it as ‘What did I even do?’ I feel like something else took over and performed the role for me.
SC: I don’t often see you play parts like that. Not to reveal anything, but your character is very complicated.
MH: Then to hear compliments like you should do roles like that more often is such a compliment because people think of me as a song, dance, and musical theatre man. Not that I shy away from roles like that, but it was very gratifying to play that part especially opposite such a talented cast. It’s unbelievable.
SC: I know you’ve written a few works with Jordie and Zoe over the years. Please tell us how that came about.
MH: I co-wrote Paragon Park the Musical with Zoe, Jordie, Sally, and Michael Joseph for the first production and Steve Bass for the second who worked on the music. I love amusement parks and I loved Paragon Park. I went there so many times in my life.
When I heard that Zoe and Jordie were thinking of writing a musical about Paragon Park, I selfishly just wanted to see it. I had no inkling that I would be involved or that they would want me involved. I just wanted to see that production so it got mentioned many times over the years and one summer I designed a poster Paragon Park the Musical coming summer of whatever year it was. It was a long time ago.
One day Zoe decided years after the poster even to start doing some research. She said, ‘Why don’t you come with me? We’ll get lunch.’ We went to the Hull Library which was incredible. They put us in a private room and provided us with access to microfiche, boxes of memorabilia, and photographs. They were so generous. It just snowballed from there. We just couldn’t stop. We were researching and loved what we found. It did not end up being the musical we thought we were going to write because the ideas we had in mind turned out to be completely not true. It all got shifted.
We thought maybe there was this seedy underbelly to the park and that once the park was closed, things happened at night. It was going to be dark and mysterious and then we find out from the park owners that ‘Oh no, we locked that place, sealed it like a drum at 11 pm, and went out for Chinese food.’ Nothing happened at the Park after hours. So much for that, but the Stone Family provided us with so much information that we were able to write a really interesting and factual musical. It was 80% true except for the love story we incorporated.
SC: Not only did you write it the first time around, but when it came back around, you got to star in it too.
MH: I did and it was a thrill! The nicest feeling about that show and being in it is to be putting on a costume and as I’m by myself getting dressed, I would hear people walk down the hallway singing the songs or they would say that they get to do that scene they love now. There was so much positivity and to realize we wrote a show that was really fun to perform. Some of the kids were in Ragtime and we used to make these funny backstage videos. So I said, ‘Why don’t we make videos during Paragon Park?’ They said, ‘Michael, you and Zoe wrote a show where there is no time to make videos. When would we do that?’ It was nice to know we had a hand in creating this really fun experience. It was quite thrilling to be able to perform something that I helped write.
SC: Please tell me about the projects you are working on now and upcoming projects.
MH: I’m devoting all my time to Company Theatre and Zoe and I thought, ‘Why not write another musical?’ It’s a completely different project from Paragon Park and we can’t quite announce yet what it is, but Zoe is incredibly inspired by this project.
Watching her, it’s almost like she is channeling something like I’ve never seen. She’s a beautiful artist and I’m obsessed with the way she draws and paints. So she just took out a magic marker and a gigantic pad of paper and drew what she saw in her head for the plot of this show and it was quite impressive to watch. Her ideas are flowing through her. It is unbelievable so we’re hoping that will probably be the summer of 2023.
Company Theatre, 30 Accord Park Drive in Norwell, Massachusetts, is presenting Fun Home in October as well as devoting a night to their late co-founder, Jordie Saucerman, in November. Click here for more information and check back to find out about Company Theatre’s mystery original production.
Although the Boston Children’s Chorus (BCC) could not physically be together this year for their annual concert, they certainly spiritually united in harmony through innovative zoom technology that helped make this remarkable concert a visual spectacle. Featuring renowned special guests in music and in the arts, The Boston Children’s Chorus composed a stirring, gripping, and hopeful collection of works including music and poetry honoring Martin Luther King’s historic day.
The 18th Annual Boston Children’s Chorus concert tribute to Martin Luther’s King, Born on the Water was livestreamed on their website and Facebook on Sunday, January 17 at 4 p.m. The virtual concert is still available on their Facebook page and YouTube channel. Click here for more information on how to support the Boston Children’s Chorus, their upcoming events, programs, digital offerings, and how to join.
In under an hour, the free virtual tribute concert offered a selection of hymns, protest songs, and hopeful melodies. Broadway actor-vocalist Roman Banks delivered an incredible opening number with the Boston Children’s Chorus in a gripping rendition of the African American folk song, Been in the Storm as Banks exclaimed, ‘Give me Time to Pray.’
African American Folksong Joy in my Heart, arranged and introduced by Dr. Rollo Dilworth of Temple University, was a beautiful and hopeful song made more enchanting by the visually-engaging technology and the heart shaped graphics that framed the adorable and angelic-sounding Children’s Chorus.
Boston Children’s Museum’s President Carole Charnow introduced the moving classic African American Spiritual Let Me Fly with Edith Mae’s poem written during for the Civil Rights Movement, Fight on Little Children in memory of Emmett Til.
Other highlights included Nina Simone’s protest song, Mississippi Goddam introduced by KingBoston’s Executive Director Paris Jeffries. It was a fast paced, quick witted, impactful song mastered by the Boston Children’s Chorus and enhanced by clever, visually-engaging technology.
Boston Children’s Chorus dedicated Alicia Keys’s catchy, meaningful song Underdog to Frontline Workers and everyone who is risking their lives during the pandemic. The BCC delivered seamless harmonies accentuated by a beautiful montage of Boston.
Adorned in an elegant dress, actress and soloist E. Faye Butler joined the Boston Children’s Chorus in a performance of Stevie Wonder’s poignant, yet uplifting rendition of Love’s in Need of Love Today. It was easy to hear the enthusiasm in Butler’s warm and soaring vocals as she sang, ‘Don’t delay/Send yours right away’ as the group offered a sorely needed message with such relevance today and so in tune with MLK’s continuing mission.
BCC’s Born on the Water is still available to stream on their Facebook page and YouTube channel. Click here to learn more about the Boston Children’s Chorus, their upcoming events, digital offerings, how to join, and how to support their mission.
In a white suit and glittering heels, soprano and actress Christina Pecce may have paid homage to Beyonce (her style reminiscent of Beyonce’s suit at the Superbowl 50 halftime show), but certainly stepped into quite a few famous shoes with ‘Witches, Bitches, and Divas,’ a one night only, one woman cabaret that took place at the American Repertory Theatre’s (A.R.T.) Oberon Theatre in Cambridge, Massachusetts on Sunday, September 8. Click here for a closer look at ‘Witches, Bitches, and Divas!’ and here to see where Christina will perform next.
Don’t be deceived by the title. No witches, bitches, or divas actually appear in the show unless you are referring to “every woman” Christina Pecce. Her one woman show steps into all three categories to create a partly auto-biographical and comedic musical show covering the likes of Elphaba (Witch) from the Tony award-winning hit musical ‘Wicked,’ Miss Hannigan from the classic musical, ‘Annie‘ (Bitch, if left to interpretation), and diva Mariah Carey. She also chooses zany selections about marriage and shows off her classically-trained vocal talents performing a soaring French opera and then a tonally-deaf singer with Flanders and Swann’s A Word to My Ear. The bottom line is Christina Pecce can sing just about anything.
The Oberon in Cambridge, Massachusetts Photo credit to Witches, Bitches and Divas
Accompanied by a trio of powerhouse musicians which included Music Director Steve Bass on piano, drummer George Darrah, and bassist Nick Francese, Christina brings humor and personal anecdotes while adding her own spin to various medleys. She tackles subjects like nannies, drinking, and gravity and even sneaks in an amusing little drinking game too.
From Sondheim to Nat King Cole, Christina makes her time onstage an unpredictable, interactive treat as she occasionally wanders through the crowd, serenading a few audience members. She also left a piece of her heart onstage in a stirring rendition of Sondheim’s ‘Being Alive.’ Pecce last appeared at the Oberon in February and from the glowing reception she received when she returned, it certainly will not be her last time.
American Repertory Theatre’s Oberon is an intimate and inviting night club without a bad seat in the house that welcomes a variety of shows throughout the year. Located at 2 Arrow Street in Cambridge, Massachusetts, the Oberon is American Repertory Theatre’s second stage for theatre and nightlife. Click here for upcoming events at the Oberon, here to learn more about Christina Pecce, and here for more about the American Repertory Theatre.
It is easy to see why mezzo soprano Joyce Didonato has such a following on social media and otherwise. For one night only, she took the stage to share what she has learned from music and more as Celebrity Series presented Songplay on Friday, March 1 at New England Conservatory’s Jordan Hall at 8 p.m. Click here for more information and here for where Joyce Didonato will appear next.
Celebrity Series of Boston presented Joyce Didonato for one night only on March 1 Photo courtesy of Celebrity Series
Celebrity Series has a knack for welcoming artists that not only show off their talent, but teach the audience a thing or two about their craft, leaving the audience some material to ponder. With a lively, charming presence and a versatile voice that defies a definitive genre, mezzo-soprano Joyce Didonato shattered a few traditions and came up with a refreshing repertoire that combined opera, jazz, baroque, and other genres making a few classic songs new again.
Emerging from backstage in a shimmering emerald evening gown, this dynamic singer was greeted by a full house. This particular show seemed to be tailor-made for professionally-trained singers as Joyce shared details of her extensive vocal training, recalling in jest and self deprecation the tools that helped her become the professional singer she is. She also shared some personal reflections and comical stories between songs about her life and music.
With soaring, soothing vocals and an impeccable range, Joyce’s voice is as sophisticated with an aria as it is playful with jazz and Broadway numbers. Fans of opera and jazz would especially enjoy the show, but Joyce and her band offered enough variety and humor with each transformed song that most music fans could appreciate it as well.
Throughout the evening, she introduced her acclaimed band one by one with anecdotes and playful music interludes. Each band member had their individual chance to shine. Behind a large Steinway and Sons grand piano sat pianist and arranger Craig Terry with whom she shared more than a few lighthearted moments with. They kicked off the evening with the Italian aria, Caro mio ben and later Craig performed a captivating rendition of Dizzy Fingers.
Hailing from Buenos Aires, Lautaro Greco introduced the bandoneon, a unique instrument which is played like a piano, shaped like an accordion, but sounds like a horn. He joined her lively band that included revered double bassist Chuck Isreals, acclaimed percussionist Jimmy Madison, and legendary trumpet player Charlie Porter. The band’s random, surprising music notes added a few humorous and cheeky moments to the performance, the horn chasing her soaring vocals during a jazz-infused interlude. All in good fun.
A few of the evening’s highlights included a heartfelt, angst-ridden rendition of Will He Like Me? from the Broadway show, She Loves Me, a tender, reflective rendition of Gene Scheer’s Lean Away dedicated to Andre Previn, Duke Ellington’s classic Solitude, and a song Joyce always dreamed of singing, Edith Piaf’s La Vie en Rose.
At one point during the show, Joyce referred to playing traditional music just one way as an emotional straight jacket. Watching her put a creative spin on these classics with humor, grace, and gusto was a liberating experience.