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

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

Flat Earth Theatre Not Medea Juliet Bowler

Juliet Bowler as Woman Photo courtesy of Flat Earth Theatre

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

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

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

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

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

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

Flat Earth Theatre 'Not Medea' cast

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Music Director Jamie Kirsch talks Chorus pro Musica’s concert version of comedy musical, ‘Of Thee I Sing’

A spectacular evening of comedy, romance, and award-winning music is in store with Chorus pro Musica’s concert version of Gershwin Of Thee I Sing on Saturday, May 13 at Robbins Memorial Town Hall in Arlington, Massachusetts at 8 p.m.  In the spirit of the show, concert attendees are encouraged to dress in 30s-inspired attire for a costume contest.  Click here for full details and tickets.

Jamie Kirsch is in his fourth year as Music Director of Chorus pro Musica and loves his work.  He offers a closer look into Of Thee I Sing, his incredible work with Chorus pro Musica, and more.

Chorus Pro Musica Jamieinaction

Chorus pro Musica’s Music Director Jamie Kirsch in action Photo courtesy of Alonso Nichols/Tufts University

Jeanne Denizard:  What I absolutely love about Gershwin Of Thee I Sing is it is part concert and part theatrical production.  It has comedy and romance as well.

Jamie Kirsch:  Yeah, writers definitely have called it a work.  It is a unified single where there’s no instantly recognizable tune in this show in the way one would recognize other Gershwin’s most famous songs from musicals that can be extracted and don’t have anything necessarily to do with the plot.  They don’t appear in the best of Gershwin albums because for the most part, everything is tied to that story.  There might be one or two songs that someone might recognize such as the title song of Of Thee I Sing and certainly people have recorded the song, Who Cares, but no song that would be on people’s top ten list of pieces they know because they bought a greatest hits album or a Michael Feinstein album.  They are wonderful songs, but they are all tied to the book.

JD:  I also understand that this is the first musical to win a Pulitzer Prize.

JK:  It did win the Pulitzer Prize in 1932.  Everyone won the Pulitzer except for George Gershwin because there was no Music Pulitzer at the time.  Ira, Kaufman, and Ryskind got it.  I think actually it was awarded to George posthumously where there finally was a music Pulitzer.

JD:  Of Thee I Sing surrounds the election of John P. Wintergreen and deals with politics in a humorous and lighthearted way.  I understand you really were excited about this particular piece to add to the season more for the music than for its political statement though we had a heated election just recently.

JK:  Yes, it doesn’t make a political statement one way or another.  There is no political party mentioned, making fun of both sides equally.  We also picked the piece well over a year ago.  The current players in the real world were still in the primaries and no one had any inkling of what was to transpire and how unexpected it would be.

Numerous colleges and universities did the show right around the election.  It is remarkable how many across the entire country, even major schools of music.  The University of Michigan did it in October and November knowing what was going on.  We had the same idea, hoping it would be a relevant topic but we didn’t plan for any outcome either way.  Separate from the political stuff, it happens to be a musical dominated by choruses and it made perfect sense to do it with our chorus.

JD:  Now, are you going to be performing a lot of scenes from the show?

JK:  Yes, it is a concert version.  We’re doing most of it, just without the staging.

JD:  I understand it has some comedy and a bit of romance as well.

JK:  Absolutely, there are elements common to musical theatre.  People talk about how different it is from anything else Gershwin wrote, but the other side of that coin is a love triangle.  Certainly plenty of musicals have love triangles and also present is an element of the exotic where a French ambassador arrives in the second act and that happens throughout many other musicals.  It’s new, but it has ties to the standard, more traditional musical theatre.

JD:  It sounds like there will be lots of surprises.

JK:  Yes, there will be musical surprises.  It has a Gershwin, jazzy sound and Gershwin rhythms and syncopation, but it is really unique.  There are scenes that go on and on and mostly music for a good ten minutes.  It’s kind of like Gilbert and Sullivan in that way.  That is an example of a piece of music that cannot be extracted.  You are not going to perform that at a musical theatre cabaret as you would with another Gershwin tune.

JD:  You will have featured artists such as Margot Rood, Christina English, and David McFerrin.

JK:  They are three of the best singers around town and the city and I have worked with a couple of them before.  They are just wonderful, so flexible, and able to handle this repertoire and style as easily as they are able to handle early and baroque music.  They are so incredibly versatile, talented, and wonderful actors.  Having them on board for this production is very special.

JD:  You are also the sixth Music Director of Chorus pro Musica.  The chorus has existed close to 70 years.  What is it like to conduct this chorus?

JK:  It’s a joy.  The musicians are incredibly hard working, love challenging themselves, conquering major works, and striving for excellence.  They are so supportive of each other, collegial, and just wonderful people.  They care so much about the product and each other, the chorus, and its history.

Chorus Pro Musica

Chorus pro Musica group shot Photo courtesy of Eric Antoniou

I’m very grateful to be able to do the things that we do with Chorus pro Musica.  In this season alone, we have done maybe the greatest work by Beethoven and some of the greatest works by Mahler.  Then we move on to Gershwin.  We are dealing with pretty amazing people.  I’ve written some amazing music and this chorus is up for the challenge to perform these pieces at an extremely high level while also keeping a good balance of fun while we do it.

JD:  This is your fourth year with Chorus pro Musica, but I understand that you are involved in a lot of projects.  You’re a busy man in music.

JK:  Yes, I am fortunate enough to be on the music faculty at Tufts as my main job and finishing my seventh year there.  It’s a wonderful job and I work with amazing colleagues who are at the tops of their field and teaching theory and musicology.  I teach in a beautiful building with supportive faculty and administration and wonderful students.  We recently did the Mozart C Minor mass.  Yes, between Chorus pro Musica and Tufts, I’m a pretty lucky person.

Chorus Pro Musica Boston City Singers

Family Holiday Concert 2014 Boston City Singers Photo courtesy of Chorus pro Musica

JD:  Do you have a favorite piece of music you like to conduct or a piece you are hoping to conduct with Chorus pro Musica?

JK:  One of the great things about the Chorus is that they are able to handle everything from a candlelight Christmas concert to Beethoven’s greatest works to Gershwin to new, modern pieces.  One of our strong suits is commissioning new works so we are commissioning brand new works by new composers.  They are able to handle any style, genre, and that is what I like to do.  It keeps things interesting for me and for the singers to switch gears from month to month.  Just to be able to be flexible in that way so the chorus matches my strength and my wanting to keep exploring, pushing, challenging, finding new, undiscovered music, create new music, commission new music, so I think in that way, it’s a very good match.

Chorus Pro Musica NE Philharmonic and Providence Singers

Chorus pro Musica with the New England Philharmonic and the Providence Singers, performing Benjamin Britten’s War Requiem, March 14, 2012 in Boston’s Cathedral of the Holy Cross.

JD:  You’ve also worked with a few Boston organizations and collaborated with them in the past.

JK:  We collaborated with the Boston Philharmonic a number of times and we will continue to do so.  We have a wonderful relationship with Ben Zander and the Boston Philharmonic Orchestra and with Richard Pittman and the New England Philharmonic.  We did a number of wonderful collaborations with Richard Pittman.  We are always seeking out new collaborations because they are always great fun, enhance the groups, and work out well for everybody.

Click here for tickets to Gershwin Of Thee I Sing on May 13 at 8 p.m.  It will be an exciting evening that includes a post-concert reception.  Click here for more on Chorus Pro Musica and how to support their mission.

New England Philharmonic President Ann Teixeira offers inside look at 40th Anniversary concert March 4

Led by Maestro Richard Pittman, the New England Philharmonic (NEP) has a stellar reputation for bringing magnificent works and uncovering promising masterpieces in each of their meticulously crafted concerts.  Music Director Richard Pittman is celebrating his 20th anniversary with the orchestra as New England Philharmonic presents its 40th anniversary concert featuring Michael Tippett’s stirring and thought-provoking A Child of Our Time with Chorus pro Musica under the direction of Jamie Kirsch.  This exciting concert will be held at Tsai Performance Center at Boston University on Saturday, March 4 at 8 p.m.  A number soloists and musicians are slated to perform at this special celebratory concert.  Click here for more information and for tickets.

New England Philharmonic President Ann Teixeira offers an inside look at how each season’s works are selected, their annual Call for Scores competition, and how to celebrate two anniversaries in one extraordinary night.

Jeanne Denizard:  How did this 40th anniversary season come together and how were the works selected?  I understand part of the process is NEP holds an annual Call for Scores competition.  Was there a specific theme involved this year?

Ann Teixeira:  Music Director Richard Pittman is responsible for the music selection each season.  Once the orchestra and Board know what he has chosen for the next season, the season’s theme is identified and each concert is given a title based on the relationship among the pieces.  When he selects a program’s theme in advance, it is almost always selected for the family concert.  This year’s family concert was called, The Big Bad Wolf.

JD:  On March 4, the NEP will hold an anniversary concert celebrating two anniversaries at Tsai Performance Center at 8 p.m.  A number of musicians and soloists will be returning for this big night.  What inspired highlighting these two significant anniversaries in one evening?

AT:  The orchestra is primarily celebrating NEP’s 40th anniversary, but this is also the first of Richard Pittman’s 20th year as Music Director.  We are fortunate to have a number of musicians who are long time members of the orchestra on stage for the 40th anniversary concert, including violinist Louise Myers, who joined it as early as its third concert in 1977, and 30-year NEP cellist Jennifer Snodgrass among others.

As the NEP did for its 30th and 35th Anniversary concerts, we will once again perform a vocal work that includes a chorus and vocal soloists.  For the 30th anniversary, it was Alban Berg’s opera Wozzeck and for the 35th anniversary, Benjamin Britten’s War Requiem.

The 40th Anniversary concert features Michael Tippett’s A Child of Our Time with Chorus pro Musica and soloists soprano Sarah Pelletier, mezzo-soprano Krista River, tenor Charles Blandy, and bass Sumner Thompson.  The NEP celebrates another anniversary as this same piece, also with Chorus pro Musica, was performed 25 years ago this season under Ron Feldman’s music direction.

JD:  This year also marks NEP’s 20th anniversary under the direction of award-winning Music Director and Maestro Richard Pittman.  Not only has he led the orchestra to a number of honors, but he has conducted orchestras all over the world and founded a distinguished ensemble, Boston Musica Viva.  Please tell me about how his presence enriched the NEP over the years.

AT:  Dick is a widely recognized and often honored conductor both in the U.S. and Europe.  He founded the Boston Musica Viva, an ensemble widely regarded as one of the best contemporary music ensembles in the world, 47 years ago.  He has enriched the NEP with his broad and deep knowledge of contemporary classical music and the high standards he applies to his repertoire selection.  He selects only the ‘best’ of contemporary classical music which not only utilizes as many instruments and musicians within each piece, but accommodate our part-time musicians.   Program selection is a balancing act!   The programming and training he provides leads to the orchestra’s musical growth and retention of them as well as higher quality performances often recognized by reviewers as equivalent to professional orchestras.

Composers are happy and honored to have the NEP select their compositions for performance due to Dick’s relationship with them.  The composers often attend the performance and speak to the audience about their composition and sometimes the process of composing it, enriching the concert experience.  Composers also sometimes attend a rehearsal, which further enriches the musicians’ experience and training.

JD:  This season features fanfares from former composers-in-residence.  This particular concert features Melospiza melodia from two-term composer-in-residence, Richard Cornell, who wrote this specifically for the anniversary.

AT:  Yes, Richard Cornell used song of the sparrow as his inspiration for this piece.

JD:  NEP features Michael Tippett’s  A Child of Our Time, which is inspired by what happened in Nazi Germany in the 1930s and is a significant work against oppression in the world.  Why this particular work?  I understand that it resonates especially with today’s world.

AT:  When Maestro Pittman selected A Child of Our Time a year ago, he had no prescience for how relevant its statements would be to the current political environment.  While it is explicitly a statement against oppression, it also progresses into a statement about tolerance, thus making it currently relevant on both dimensions.  It is serendipity, it is so relevant, and we hope it will leave its impact on the audience.

New England Philharmonic presents the 40th Anniversary Concert:  A Child of Our Time at the Tsai Performance Center at Boston University on Saturday, March 4 at 8 p.m.  Click here for tickets, how to become a subscriber, and more information.

The New England Philharmonic thrives on the support of the community.  Click here to support the NEP, volunteer, and sign up for their newsletter for upcoming performances and more.

REVIEW: Magnificent and visually-stunning, Holiday Pops offers flawless holiday cheer

Woven into a wide spectrum of Christmas carols, spiritual hymns, and holiday music capped off with a rousing sing-along, is the stuff that makes the Holiday Pops so appealing each year.  Whether it’s through the excitement of the all volunteer Tanglewood Festival Chorus or maestro Keith Lockhart sharing his own Christmas memories, The Boston Pops adds their own unique, personal flair to each heartfelt performance, making it easy to alleviate the stress of the season and happily embrace what truly matters each year.  In its 21st season, The Holiday Pops at Boston Symphony Hall continues through December 31.   The Boston Pops also offers special presentations of the film, “Back to the Future” with live orchestra and New Year’s Eve led by acclaimed bandleader, Bo Winiker.  Click here for more information and for tickets.

Elegantly adorning the intrinsically-detailed gold balconies are white, twinkling lights and multi-colored bulbs on thick, festive wreaths, just a sampling of the stunning, festive surroundings inside Symphony Hall.  The hall also offers its share of playful, humorous decor including orchestra harps topped off with Santa hats.  During the show, the stage spontaneously came to life with a variety of scenery reflected above the stage, from flickering candles to sweeping, dancing snowflakes.  Holiday Pops also featured a stirring presentation of winter scenes created by visual artist and astronomer Jose Francisco Salgado, PhD.  With a lit sky swirling violet with chiming bells, the presentation’s depiction the Northern lights to the song, The Adoration of the Magi from Three Botticelli Pictures lent a mystical, peaceful tone.

This powerful performance of Holiday Pops offered equal doses of reflective material and lightheartedness, the first half insightful and striking.  A Christmas prelude that included Hark the Harold Angels Sing, kicked off a reflective, wondrous first half woven in with maestro Keith Lockhart’s personal reflections of the holiday season such as a wonderful story about his father.  A lullaby sounding Christmas oratorio, Break Forth O Beauteous Heavenly Light followed by the Hanukkah song, Light One Candle depicted sacrifice, unity, and hope.  Holiday Pops also offered a jubilant calypso of Mary’s Little Boy Child, as the Tanglewood Festival Chorus, dressed splendidly in black and white, playfully swayed to the beat.

Brimming with beloved classic Christmas carols and guest appearances by Santa and more, the second half of Holiday Pops was a vibrant, yuletide spectacle of Christmas cheer.  While old fashioned Christmas bulbs glowed to the beat, The jolly Tanglewood Festival Chorus delivered a string of Christmas waltzes, singalongs, and more including the annual reading of Clement Charke Moore’s Twas The Night Before Christmas by special guest, NBC Boston’s Melody Mendez.  Boston’s delightful, signature versions of Sleigh Ride and the incredible and amusing 12 Days of Christmas were welcome additions to the mix as Santa Claus expertly conducted the rousing Chorus.  Holiday Pops gave a final encore of Let There Be Peace on Earth, as Earth shone overhead, brilliantly conveyed the quiet hope for the upcoming New Year.

The Boston Symphony Orchestra has a tremendous lineup in the New Year!  All performances take place at Boston Symphony Hall, 301 Massachusetts Ave in Boston, Massachusetts. Click here for tickets to any of BSO’s upcoming performances, through SymphonyCharge at 888-266-1200, and at the Symphony Hall Box Office, 301 Massachusetts Ave, Boston, Massachusetts.  Listen to the Holiday Pops at home with “A Boston Pops Christmas: Live from Symphony Hall” album available through ITunes, Amazon, and Amazon MP3.