REVIEW:  In partnership with the city of Chelsea and Teatro Chelsea, Apollinaire Theatre staged a street fighting and adventurous summer ‘Hamlet’

Ser o no ser esa es la cuestion (To Be or not to Be)

This was the classic question posed by Apollinaire Theatre Company in partnership with Teatro Chelsea and the City of Chelsea in a bilingual production of Shakespeare’s classic play, Hamlet which took place on Fridays and Saturdays only from August 4-19 live and in person at various locations in Chelsea, Massachusetts.  Though it was not necessary to understand both Spanish and English to enjoy this show and does not take away the gravitas of Shakespeare’s eloquent text, those who understood the dialogue in Spanish may have been at an advantage.  The free production was 90 minutes with no intermission. 

Armando Rivera as Hamlet in ‘Hamlet’

Each performance featured a pre-show that offered take out or delivery dinner, live entertainment, and a pop up Beer Garden by BearMoose Brewing Company at 6:30 pm prior to the performance at 8 pm.  Click here to see what is next for Apollinaire Theatre Company and Teatro Chelsea this fall.

Alan Kuang ‘Hamlet’ rap Photo credit to Danielle Fauteux Jacques

Every summer for the past 20 years with donor support, the Apollinaire Theatre Company has been presenting outdoor theatre productions free to the public in partnership with the city of Chelsea.  This year’s production of the Shakespearean classic, Hamlet mixed the traditional with the contemporary while keeping the audience on its feet.  Intricately directed and cleverly staged by Danielle Fauteaux Jacques with lighthearted chorography by Audrey Johnson, the show is an immersive experience as the production expands beyond the stage and cast members can enter from anywhere.

Armando Rivera as Hamlet in ‘Hamlet’ Photo credit to Danielle Fauteux Jacques

Though the roads were blocked off, there was still plenty that might have distracted this focused cast.  However disruptive, outdoor disturbances such as traffic, noises or foot traffic did not distract them from their performances for an instant.  Armed with microphones, it was fascinating to watch each scene unfold complete with transportable lighting, sound, ominous sound effects with Diana Mediola and Juhi Nagpal‘s elaborate sets and props. How complicated it must have been to stage something like this while gathering an increasing and surrounding crowd led to each destination by a single notebook.

Shakespeare’s Hamlet is about the Prince of Denmark who discovers his mother has married his uncle after his father has been murdered.  An urgent message inspires Hamlet to believe ‘something is rotten in the state of Denmark.’

Armando Rivera as Hamlet and Paul Benford-Bruce in ‘Hamlet’ Photo credit to Danielle Fauteux Jacques

Hamlet is a compelling drama that boasts some iridescent and noteworthy special effects such as blue smoke drifting above Paul Benford-Bruce’s haunting figure on a distinctive blue tinged city fountain lit by Joe Morales.  Resolute, firm, and eerie, Benford-Bruce delivers a memorable performance as Hamlet’s father.  David Reiffel’s ominous and echoing sound design and composition lent to the foreboding mystique of the production.

Anna Riggins as Ophelia, Alan Kuang as Laertes, Paola Ferrer as Gertrude and Brooks Reeves as Polonius in ‘Hamlet’ Photo credit to Danielle Fauteux Jacques

Nodding to the Elsinore, Denmark setting during the late middle ages while boasting a sleek and contemporary flair, Hamlet blended the contemporary with the historical through its colorful, stately, and elegant costumes in furs, leathers, and glittering crowns by Elizabeth Rocha.

Armando Rivera as Hamlet, the Prince of Denmark, led this impressive cast.   Rivera exacted the alarming rage expected of Hamlet in the face of betrayal.  Rivera excelled at Hamlet’s darkly playful, determined, and off kilter demeanor, especially in a powerful scene alone with Ophelia and with Brooks Reeves as Claudius. 

Anna Riggins delivered an absorbing performance as Ophelia with a wide smile, bright eyed virtue, and a complete infatuation and intriguing chemistry with Rivera.  Clinging to any sign of affection, Riggins offered a vulnerable and sympathetic performance.  Riggins also shared a sweet chemistry with her brother, Laertes and Ron Lacey who portrays their proud and concerned father, Polonius.  Alan Kuang is naturally charismatic in the role of valiant and forthright Laertes, especially during an all out and literal street fight with Rivera.

Play-Within-A-Play in ‘Hamlet’ Photo credit to Danielle Fauteux Jacques

Brooks Reeves as Claudius achieved a suave poker face, but with just enough of a devious smirk to embellish this role with Paolo Ferrer as mysterious Gertrude, they are a beguiling pair.  Claudius is a calculating character and left little room for sympathy.  Reeves particularly shined during the play-within-a-play scene as Reeves exclaimed, ‘Get me some light!’  With skillful feigned concern and sarcasm, Reeves was well suited for the role as some of that demeanor is also on display in the Old North Church’s production of Revolution’s Edge through September.

Armando RIvera as Hamlet and Brooks Reeves as Claudius Photo credit to Danielle Fauteux Jacques

Hamlet was not complete without the appearance of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, portrayed with jovial humor by Aloe Domizio and Paul St. Cyr respectively.  Wheeling in on lit bicycles, they made a seeming pair of silly and dimwitted bookends as Hamlet’s childhood friends.  However, like each character in this Shakespearean classic, they are more than meets the eye. 

Apollinaire Theatre Company, in partnership with Teatro Chelsea and the City of Chelsea, presented an outdoor bilingual production of Shakespeare’s classic play, Hamlet which took place on Fridays and Saturdays only from August 4-19 live and in person at various locations in Chelsea, Massachusetts.  Click here to see what is next for Apollinaire Theatre Company and Teatro Chelsea this fall.

REVIEW:  Dive under the sea with Reagle Music Theatre of Greater Boston’s magical ‘The Little Mermaid’

Sebastian is right. 

Life under the sea is better than anything we have up here especially if it is Reagle Music Theatre of Greater Boston’s lively and family-friendly production of Disney’s The Little Mermaid.  Having witnessed Disney’s 1989 classic The Little Mermaid several times, one of the many reasons to see Reagle Music Theatre’s stage version is it contains additional songs and scenes while still delivering all the beloved dialogue, music, and costumes from the 1989 film.  It was refreshing to see that The Little Mermaid has so much more to say.

Directed and choreographed exuberantly by Taavon Gamble with buoyant music direction by David Coleman, Reagle Music Theatre of Greater Boston presents Disney’s The Little Mermaid through Sunday, August 6 live and in person at the Robinson Theatre in Waltham, Massachusetts.  This production is 130 minutes with a fifteen minute intermission.  Click here for more information and for tickets.

Ariel (Kayla Shimizu) and Sebastian (Davron and ensemble perform ‘Under the Sea’ in Reagle Music Theatre’s Disney’s The Little Mermaid. Photo by Herb Philpott

Less than 35 years after the release of Disney’s 1989 classic film and not too long after the release of Disney’s live action remake The Little Mermaid this year, Reagle Music Theatre of Greater Boston has chosen a grand time to bring this land and sea classic to life onstage.  Some will recognize the set pieces and settings from the 1989 film, but Reagle’s production also boasts a great deal of originality as well.

From shimmering fins to uniquely- shaped, brilliantly colored costumes adorned with carefully structured headdresses, Emerald City Theatrical delivers Caribbean charm in all of its animated splendor.  Tony Ferrieri’s layered aquatic scenic design combined with Franklin Meissner Jr’s impressive lighting enhances the complexion and depth of the production’s kaleidoscopic waves, transforming from welcoming to at times threatening along a backdrop steeped in puffy clouds.

King Triton’s Kingdom Disney’s The Little Mermaid presented by Reagle Music Theatre thru August 6 in Waltham Photo by Herb Philpott.

Based on the Hans Christian Anderson tale and the Disney film, The Little Mermaid is about a curious mermaid princess named Ariel, depicted with vibrant charm and soaring vocals by Kayla Shimizu, who falls in love with not only a human prince, but the world on land.  She is offered a way to escape the sea, but will she take it?

Ariel (Kayla Shimizu) singing Part of Your World in Reagle Music Theatre’s ‘The Little Mermaid’ through August 6. Photo by Herb Philpott

The Little Mermaid boasts a completely lovable cast led by Ariel, portrayed with enthusiastic, wide eyed wonder by Kayla Shimizu.  Shimizu’s compelling performance and powerful vocals are remarkably reminiscent of Jodi Benson, the actress who voiced Ariel in the 1989 film.  Shimizu shines with splendid renditions of Part of Your World, The World Above and If Only.  Shimizu shares captivating moments with Ray Robinson as amiable and refined Prince Eric, sweet camaraderie with endearing Kenny Lee as shy, friendly and adorable Flounder and brave, streetwise, and frank Jack Mullen as seagull Scuttle.  Having depicted Will Parker in Reagle’s previous musical, Oklahoma, Mullen again demonstrates his sharp comic wit and jubilant dance moves in a hilarious rendition of Positoovity. 

Positoovity from Disney’s The Little Mermaid presented by Reagle Music Theatre in Waltham. Photo Herb Philpott.

A vision in deep, sparkling red, Davron S. Munroe is exemplary as strict and critical crab Sebastian who assists King Triton, portrayed with wise regality by Cristhian Mancinas-Garcia.  In a display of bursting color and enchanting merriment, Munroe’s calypso-infused rendition of Under the Sea is stupendous and Kiss the Girl not only has tender charm, but delivers a humorous and delightful depiction of twilight, especially as frogs look on.

Ariel (Kayla-Shimizu) and (Sebastian Davron) and ensemble perform Under the Sea in Reagle Music Theatre’s Disney’s The Little Mermaid. Photo by Herb Philpott

Sibling rivalry has never been more fun as showcased through Ariel’s mersisters consisting of Kindred Moore, Aimee Coleman, Joy Clark, Ellie Lauter, Aubrie-Mai Rubel and Olivia Foght.  They are gorgeous beauty queens who gossip, laugh and try to upstage each other.  They perform a catchy, 50s style rendition of She’s in Love with Flounder where even the fishy puns are cute.

Kenny Lee as Flounder and the Mersisters perform ‘She’s in Love’ from Disney’s The Little Mermaid presented by Reagle Music Theatre in Waltham. Photo Herb Philpott.

Rich Allegretto as Grimsby is also impressive as Prince Eric’s traditional yet sympathetic advisor and Teddy Edgar as deranged and passionate Chef Louis is hilarious even in a brief appearance for a marvelous rendition of Les Poissons.  Edgar’s menacing eyes and passion for food make every moment count! 

Katherine Pecevich as Ursula and Eels in Reagle Music Theatre’s Disney’s The Little Mermaid thru August 6. Photo by Herb Philpott.

A trio of dastardly proportions takes shape in Katherine Pecevich as Ursula and Ursula’s two lurking and smirking neon electric eel henchmen portrayed by Miki Grubic as Flotsam and  Alan Cid as Jetsam.  With wild hair and a black and purple glittering gown, Pecevich’s slippery manipulations and brash, yet shrewd machinations match whatever Cid and Grubic have in their co-conspiring minds.  Even though Ursula is the main attraction, Cid and Grubic’s functioning and eye catching costumes do a bit of their own scene stealing.  However, Pecevich’s charisma shines in a devious rendition of Poor Unfortunate Souls, her husky vocals only second to her maniacal laughter.

Directed and choreographed exuberantly by Taavon Gamble with buoyant music direction by David Coleman, Reagle Music Theatre of Greater Boston presents Disney’s The Little Mermaid through Sunday, August 6 live and in person at the Robinson Theatre in Waltham, Massachusetts.  This production is 130 minutes with a fifteen minute intermission.  Click here for more information and for tickets.

REVIEW:  ‘The Secret Garden’ blossoms at the Company Theatre

In the midst of darkness, hope may be as tucked away as a garden.

Packed with secrets that reach far beyond the hallowed walls of the Misselthwaite Manor, The Company Theatre scheduled the perfect time of year to deliver a musical about finding light in loss, growth in darkness, and the best way to plant roots in Marsha Norman’s family-friendly The Secret Garden which continues live and in person at the Company Theatre in Norwell, Massachusetts through Sunday, April 2.  The show is two hours and 20 minutes including one intermission.  Click here for more information and for tickets.

Logo courtesy of Zoe Bradford/Company Theatre

Set in Colonial India and then North Yorkshire, England in 1906 based on the 1911 Frances Hodgson Burnett’s beloved novel of the same name, The Secret Garden focuses on Mary Lennox, portrayed with wise beyond her years fortitude and a mischievous streak by Diana Lee, an orphan girl who arrives at mysterious Misselthwaite Manor after tragedy strikes to live with her widowed Uncle Archibald, depicted with melancholy and seeming detachment by Peter S. Adams.  On Mary’s first night at the manor, Mary starts to hear strange noises and the only thing left to do is investigate. 

Dru Daniels as Lily in ‘The Secret Garden’ Photo courtesy of Zoe Bradford/Company Theatre

Fueled by gorgeous harmony, what stood out the most in this multilayered production was its enchanting score.  Though the musical delves into grief, it also has its share of comical and heartwarming moments.  With music by Lucy Simon, musically directed mellifluously by conductor Robert McDonough and with illustrative choreography and staging by Sally Ashton Forrest, The Secret Garden is well cast with divine and powerful voices, especially from Dru Daniels as discerning and strong willed Lily and Peter S. Adams as Archibald.  Adams has a deeply emotive quality to his vocals and blended with Daniels’s beautiful and operatic tones, songs such as How Could I Ever Know are simply stunning.  Adams movingly delivers both a tender and soaring A Bit of Earth and bittersweet Race You to the Top of the MorningJames Fernandes carries his own as practical and scrupulous Dr. Neville Craven in a powerful rendition of Disappear and with Adams in an awe-inspiring version of Lily’s Eyes.

James Fernandes as Dr. Neville Craven and Peter S. Adams as Archibald Craven Photo courtesy of Zoe Bradford/Company Theatre

Diana Lee shares the role of Mary Lennox with Francesca Miele on alternating performances.  Lee’s angelic soprano vocals shine for A Girl I Mean to Be and she shares some fiery and amusing scenes with Lilly George as domineering and sheltered Colin who shares the role with Jackson Lynch.

Jennifer Beth Glick, delightful in Company Theatre’s previous family musical, Matilda, brings her bright smile and sweet demeanor to the role of Martha.  Playful and nurturing, Glick delivers an exuberant rendition of the imaginative A Fine White Horse and charming chemistry with serious Lee.  Glick also demonstrates Martha’s profound side with a soaring and memorable Hold On.  Glick also shares her role with Emily Lambert on alternating performances.   Another breath of fresh air is Tim Bevens as Martha’s brother Dickon who coaxes Mary to observe the world around her accompanied by a few well behaved, but also with a bit of hankering for mischief live animals that will have to be seen to be believed.  Dickon’s adventurous and breezy demeanor makes him a treat among the musical’s heavier content in his wondrous rendition of Winters on the Wing and with Lee for Wick.

Tim Bevens as Dickon Photo courtesy of Zoe Bradford/Company Theatre

Managing a wild thunderous storm, a blanket of stars, and deep shadows on the manor walls is lighting designer Dean Palmer Jr. with Ryan Barrow’s dynamic and moving set design from the lofty bookcases of a vintage Victorian mansion to the stone walled, vine covered vitality of the outdoors inspired by the Victorian Era.  Costume designer Cathy Torrey completes the look with frock coats, lorgnettes, cravats, and flowing frocks in muted colors faithful to the era.

The Secret Garden has plenty of discoveries in store continuing live and in person at the Company Theatre in Norwell, Massachusetts through Sunday, April 2.  Click here for more information, tickets, and for Company Theatre’s upcoming events.

REVIEW:  Accompanied by A Far Cry, NPR’s Rob Kapilow made an enthusiastic return to Boston with an American classic for Celebrity Series of Boston’s ‘What Makes it Great’ series

Though NPR’s famous composer, conductor, author, and music commentator Rob Kapilow has unveiled quite a few eye catching music details over the years with Celebrity Series of Boston from Swing to Broadway to carols and much more, perhaps the most interesting takeaway from Aaron Copland’s classical music composition Appalachian Spring is that it is not about Appalachia nor is it about spring. 

Making his return to NEC’s golden and gleaming Jordan Hall in person for the first time in front of an audience since the pandemic, NPR’s Rob Kapilow covered some fascinating music territory in What Makes it Great? with Rob Kapilow and a Far Cry Inventing America Part 2 Copland’s Appalachian Spring: An American Voice for Classical Music on Sunday, February 5 at Jordan Hall in Boston, Massachusetts. The show ran for 120 minutes with a 15 minute intermission. Click here for more information on Rob, here for more on A Far Cry, and here for more information about Celebrity Series of Boston.

Rob Kapilow Photo Credit: John Johansen

Kapilow guided the audience through Aaron Copland’s Appalachian Spring with greater technical zeal and an interactive approach than he has in some of his past performances.  Part teacher, humorist, and historian, Rob Kapilow has been performing the What Makes It Great series for approximately 15 years, expertly uncovering a new way to connect to a vast array of music and encouraging the listener to experience this music in an entirely new way from technical composition to its emotional impact.

As beautiful and fanciful as Appalachian Spring sounds, it is neither about Appalachia nor spring and was entirely imagined by Copland who was a Jewish immigrant from Brooklyn.  What is so wondrous about this 40s piece is how Copland creates this imaginary and extraordinary world, a piece which was originally called House of Victory, and how it has been historically associated with America over the years.  Kapilow uses a bit of a different approach for this particular work by expounding on  the technical  and mechanical side of the piece and inviting the audience to actively participate in the song’s musical patterns and rhythms.  Appalachian Spring is also associated with lyrics and it is a based on the Shaker melody, Simple Gifts, and Rob spends a wealth of time on the mechanics of the piece and how it ties together.  It is a method that would thrill classical music fans, music enthusiasts, and musicians alike.  He even exposes the subtle intricacies of Copland’s inherent confidence, style, and how to identify it in Copland’s other works.

Grammy-nominated Chamber Orchestra A Far Cry Photo courtesy of A Far Cry

Adorned in suits, ties, and gowns, Grammy nominated and self-conducted chamber orchestra A Far Cry worked seamlessly with Kapilow as he broke down each aspect of the piece, a feat not easy to do with Kapilow’s specific stops and starts.  A Far Cry has made its way around the world since they started in 2007 and what sets this orchestra apart from others is the open communication between each musician. A Far Cry reflected just how important it is to remain in sync with the group, especially since they must connect without a conductor.  Their camaraderie and chemistry as they play is compelling to witness as they direct each other with each note.

Copland’s Appalachian Spring has a unique zest, playfulness and peppy thrill of nature through harp and chime as well as calm with a western tinge as Rob explains its historical significance and just why the piece is so enjoyable through each note’s placement, rest, and orchestration. 

Appalachian Spring was a childhood favorite for Kapilow’s which was perfectly clear through his personal and humorous anecdotes and the natural and engaging enthusiasm he exhibited throughout the production.  Rob is always teaching something new to even some of the most trained and learned music enthusiasts.  It was easy to see he has missed the live audience and judging from the audience’s resounding applause and standing ovation, they have missed him too. 

Celebrity Series of Boston continues its digital and in person season which includes Jason Moran and the Big Bandwagon on February 17, Dreamers Circus on February 24, Aoife Donovan on March 17, and David Sedaris on April 2, and the return of Alvin Ailey on May 4. Click here to see Sleepless Critic’s past review of Dreamers Circus.  Click here to see the full list of Celebrity Series of Boston’s upcoming events.

REVIEW: The Company Theatre is up to magic and mischief in family-friendly ‘Matilda the Musical’

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’s Matilda 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.

Diana Lee as Lavender and Reese Racicot as Matilda Photo credit to Zoe Bradford/Company Theatre

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.

Mischief during the holidays in Company Theatre’s ‘Matilda the Musical’ Photo credit to Zoe Bradford/Company Theatre

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.

Ben Cavallo-Smith and cast in ‘Matilda the Musical’ Photo credit to Zoe Bradford/Company Theatre

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.

Annie Jones as Mrs. Phelps and Reese Racicot as Matilda Photo credit to Zoe Bradford/Company Theatre

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.

Brad Rafferty as Rudolpho, Emilee Dennis Leahy as Mrs. Wormwood and Jennifer Beth Glick as Miss Honey Photo credit to Zoe Bradford/Company Theatre

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.

Todd Yard as Mr. Wormwood and Oliver Dunn as Michael Wormwood Photo credit to Zoe Bradford/Company Theatre

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.

Christie Reading as Miss Agatha Trunchbull, Jennifer Beth Glick, and the students Photo credit to Zoe Bradford/Company Theatre

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.

REVIEW: Reagle Music Theatre of Greater Boston makes an exciting return to the stage with a moving and remarkable ‘West Side Story’

‘I’ve just met a girl named Maria/And suddenly that name/will never be the same/to me.”

Having seen the classic musical West Side Story from the stage to the 1961 film adaptation to Spielberg’s recent Oscar worthy film, Reagle Music Theatre’s Blake Du Bois as Tony’s moving rendition of the classic song, Maria is a must see.  Many Tonys have floated through this number with surprise, naiveté, and the excitement of attraction while blinded by love, but Du Bois’s delivery evokes a more meaningful perspective.  Enhanced by his extensive vocal range, this soulful rendition depicts not naiveté, not necessarily blindness, but an overwhelming feeling of love for Maria and the fear of what that means.  So overcome by love that he must move forward in spite of it. It was like understanding Maria anew.

Eevie Perez as Maria and Blake Du Bois as Tony in Reagle Music Theatre of Greater Boston’s ‘West Side Story’ Photo by Herb Philpott/Reagle Music Theatre of Greater Boston

Sharply directed and choreographed by Rachel Bertone with seamless musical direction by Dan Rodriguez, Reagle Music Theatre of Greater Boston delivered powerful and clever performances as it kicked off its summer musical season with West Side Story continuing through July 16 at Reagle Music Theatre of Greater Boston live and in person in Waltham, MA.  This show is not intended for children under 13.  Click here for more information and for tickets.

Based on Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, West Side Story is the timeless tale of the Sharks and the Jets, two rival gangs who cannot seem to coexist in Manhattan without a fight.  However, when Blake Du Bois as streetwise Tony and Eevie Perez as idyllic Maria lock eyes, everything quickly becomes complicated.

Helmed by a captivating cast, Reagle Music Theatre’s West Side Story is intriguing from the start as it lays out mischief, antics and petty outrage over owning the streets.  A broad city landscape, chain linked fences, a retro jukebox and detailed drug store are just part of Janie Howland’s retro, rolling set that successfully rewinds the clock back to the 1950s. 

The cast of West Story Photo by Herb Philpott/Reagle Music Theatre of Greater Boston

A great deal of West Side Story hinges on its sharp dance and fight choreography and director and choreographer Bertone hits the ground running.  Along with Fight and Intimacy Director Angie Jepson, the high-kicking choreography blurs the lines between dance and fighting as the gangs intertwine in innovative and precise movements.  A leap becomes a punch and aggressiveness turns graceful…all in the same move.  Jack Mullen delivers an intense performance as the tough talking, swaggering Jet leader Riff, especially during a catchy and memorable rendition of Cool as each tense moment pops to Franklin Meissner, Jr’s intricate lighting.  Mullen as Riff and Du Bois as Tony share some affable camaraderie as they do with their fellow Jets and their fair share of united animosity toward the Sharks.  Nate Walsh stood out as hot head Action, on edge and ready for a fight while Gracin Wilkins delivers a stirring performance as outcast Anybodys.

Bianca Rivera-Irions as Anita with the Shark Girls performing ‘America.’ Photo by Herb Philpott/Reagle Music Theatre of Greater Boston

Eevie Perez is charming and spot on as Maria, her chiming vocals and naiveté especially evident with Ana Viveros as Consuela, Marissa Pineda as Rosalia, and Karina Gonzalez as Tesesita in the exuberant and playful number, I Feel Pretty and in a gorgeous duet with Du Bois as Tony for One Hand, One Heart.  Tall and distinctive, charismatic Bianca Rivera-Irions as Anita knows how to make an entrance in a show stopping red dress, just one of the many rich, vintage, and vibrant costumes provided by Tiffany Howard.  A lively dancer, Rivera-Irions as Anita stands out in any room as only Anita can.  Rivera-Irions as Anita and Diego Klock-Perez as proud and protective Shark leader Bernardo share lighthearted and steamy chemistry.  The dynamic cast performs an exhilarating rendition of Tonight, their robust sound and stirring harmonies build the anticipation and excitement of a night that will change everything.

Reagle Music Theatre of Greater Boston presents musical classic West Side Story continues through July 16 at Reagle Music Theatre of Greater Boston live and in person in Waltham, MA.  This show is not intended for children under 13.  Click here for more information and for tickets.

REVIEW:  Boston Ballet’s virtual ‘The Gift’ spins retro Nutcracker gold

If there wasn’t enough time to see The Nutcracker over the holidays or even if you have and would like to see more, the Boston Ballet is offering a spin on The Nutcracker Duke Ellington-style choreographed by Boston Ballet dancers right from your home.

With special commentary by jazz-enthusiast Eric Jackson nicknamed the ‘Dean of Boston Jazz Radio’ and host of GBH’s Eric in the Evening who rewinds the clock to take a peek at the inspiration behind Ellington’s timeless, progressive Nutcracker Suite, Boston Ballet along with Boston Ballet II and Boston Ballet School post graduates choreograph a lively program from 2020 that highlights and spins some of the Nutcracker’s best moments with their own vibe.

Viktorina Kapitonova and Tigran Mkrtchyan in The Gift; photo by Brooke Trisolini; courtesy of Boston Ballet

The Gift is a dynamic program where each dancer seems they are being moved by the music more than moving to the music.  As much as I am a fan of Boston Ballet’s classic works, there is something even more thrilling when it is infused with upbeat and contemporary flavor. 

From sleek and sophisticated flair to casual and carefree fun, Boston Ballet presents this virtual holiday treat The Gift through January 9 which includes behind the scenes footage and runs approximately 50 minutes.  Click here for more information and access to the show.

The exuberance and sparkling elegance of Viktorina Kapitonova and Tigran Mktrchyan accompanied by pianist Alex Foaksman bring to life the Snow Queen and King’s triumphant Pas de Deux.  All in sepia and crème, they move with a dreamlike sway culminating in a joyful and fanciful reunion.  Some other highlights within the striking variety of dances from Duke Ellington’s upbeat and catchy Nutcracker suite include Overture with choreography by Chyrstyn Fentroy as the number explores the mystery behind The Gift as a package hangs overhead and the dancers gradually get swept away by the song.  Toot Tootie Toot or Dance of the Reed Pipes with choreography by Gabriel Lorena is a brief sashaying escapade as dancers in flowing skirts strut and prance to Ellington’s light and airy rhythms enhanced by an intricate and memorable collective pose.  Peanut Brittle Brigade with chorography by Haley Schwan infuses swing and other dance styles to the beat of Ellington’s bluesy composition.

Boston Ballet in The Gift; photo by Brooke Trisolini; courtesy of Boston Ballet

Arabesque cookie or Arabian Dance with chorography by Haley Schwan, John Lam, Chyrstyn Fentroy, Paul Craig, and My’Kal Stromile, has a bustling rhythm and a retro feel as the number opens with a soloist’s fancy footwork.  It has urgency, poise, and athleticism as each soloist slides in shadow to a transforming color backdrop.  The Voga Vouty or Russian dance with choreography by John Lam showcases savvy and sophistication steeped in black and white as they perform a striking sequence in a spotlight. Chinoserie or Chinese Dance with choreography by Arianna Hughlett is full of mischievous and lighthearted fun as dancers creep and freestyle to the rhythm of Ellington’s chiming beat parting and uniting in shadow.

The finale culminates in a beloved Boston Ballet location worth waiting for.

The Boston Ballet’s virtual holiday treat The Gift continues through January 9 which includes behind the scenes footage.  Click here for more information and access to the show.

REVIEW: Boston Lyric Opera’s season opener ‘Cavalleria Rusticana’ a passionate and magnificent affair

Not even Easter Sunday can stop a scandal in the Sicilian countryside.

Featuring distinct, eye-popping costumes, a glorious Opera Chorus led Brett Hodgdon, and a full orchestra, Boston Lyric Opera (BLO) opened their season on a grand scale with the renowned one act Italian libretto, Cavalleria Rusticana for just two performances on October 1 and 3.  Boston Lyric Opera was greeted by an enthusiastic crowd anticipating BLO’s return to a live venue for 18 months.  Delivered on a concert scale, Cavalleria Rusticana was presented under Leader Bank Pavilion’s open air tent in the Seaport District in Boston, Massachusetts.  It ran for 1 hour and 10 minutes with no intermission.


Loyalty, love, honor, and faith are tested among this group of passionate players.  Led by Music Director David Angus, the seemingly joyous overture delivers an exciting rush woven into a sense of foreboding, hinting at turmoil among still waters on the holiest of days, Easter Sunday.  Introducing the libretto is an interactive and unparalleled performance of Pagliacci’s Prologue by Javier Arrey.  Taking a reflective, humorous, and philosophical tone addressing the audience over what they are about to see, Cavalleria Rusticana becomes a passionate and cautionary tale, pleading about the affects of love and the human spirit.

Julia Noulin-Merat’s standalone set pieces, including overturned chairs piled high in pale pink as well as bright yellow chairs lining the stage, pop as does Gail Astrid Buckley’s distinct, vivid costumes with blooming flowers set against the orchestral backdrop depicting the emergence of a Sicilian spring. 


It is easy to get invested in these headstrong characters and Cavalleria Rusticana hits the ground running steeped in a complex love affair as the sacredness of Easter surrounds them, emphasized by ethereal dancers Victoria Awkward, Michayla Kelly, and Marissa Molinar and the swelling of the Boston Lyric Chorus’s powerful and spiritual lyrics.

Michelle Johnson as conflicted Santuzza leads this magnificent cast, delivering a splendid, heartrending performance.  Filled with sorrow and longing, Johnson’s tremendous vocals and her searing confrontation with Turiddo, portrayed with a charismatic yet manipulative mystique by Adam Diegel, show Johnson is a force to be reckoned with.  Chelsea Basler depicts alluring and complicated Lola with infuriating and masterful charm and the heart of the show lies with loyal and compassionate Nina Yoshida Nelsen as Mamma Lucia who observes it all much like the audience, with bated breath.

The show is delivered entirely in Italian and with subtitles at significant parts of the production.  However, for someone who does not know Italian and with a production so captivating, it is difficult having to forego not knowing every single word spoken from this enthralling cast.

Cavallaria Rusticana takes place in 1900’s Sicily and yet this opera is as timeless as any contemporary story told today and a perfect choice to open Boston Lyric Opera’s new season which includes virtual and live and in-person performances including jazz-themed opera Champion and Svadba through  Click here for more information and a closer look at BLO’s new season.

REVIEW:  Theatre Kapow’s timely and resonating ‘The Boyg’ makes a connection

Comic great Robin Williams once said, “I used to think the worst thing in life was to end up all alone.  It’s not.  The worst thing in life is to end up with people that make you feel all alone.”  Williams suffered from depression, but his ability to feel the lows and to make people laugh perhaps contributed to his gift on a deeper level.  Getting the laugh is greater when the pain in which it is earned is also felt, achieving connection.  Perhaps this is why there is also an in-house psychiatrist at The Laugh Factory in Los Angeles, California.

Theatre Kapow captured isolation and resilience in a play centered around a group of people clinging for hope in A.J. Ditty’s resonating play, The Boyg based partially on the life of Per Krohg.  Art and isolation are key elements and are heavily weighed as each character attempts to connect with each other in their own distinct way.

Celebrating its first indoor production in over a year, Theatre Kapow presented A.J. Ditty’s The Boyg in Derry, New Hampshire in September, toured in Charlestown, Massachusetts as October started, and the show is now available online through October 10.  Click here for tickets and more information.

Before continuing, it is important to note that A.J. Ditty’s The Boyg, named after Ibsen’s classic play Peer Gynt’s groundbreaking literary monster, does not make the play a prerequisite to appreciate this production, but a companion piece.  The show is part play within a play and for those who know Peer Gynt, having read Ibsen’s work may promote a richer understanding, but does not affect the universal appeal of this show.

There is a phantom presence lingering over The Boyg, a sense of tension and dread that builds throughout the production and is rarely addressed until it is unavoidable.  It hides in games, questions, plays, and pleasant conversation and perhaps glimpsed in a pause or a worried glance.  Enhanced by Tayva Young’s mood-induced lighting and versatile sound designed by Jake Hudgins, it is an element as real as any of the characters in this production.

Sabrina Schlegel-Mejia as Mikhail and Rebecca Tucker as Per in ‘The Boyg’ Photo credit Matt Lomanno Photography

Set inside a Norwegian concentration camp during World War II, each character has every reason to try to forget their present circumstances, but struggle within the inevitability of their situation.  Duty, work which is often self defeating, and art seem only to hold more than a moment’s distraction.

R to L: Lisa Boyett as Old Man and Sabrina Schlegel-Mejia as Mikhail Photo credit Matt Lomanno Photography

The cast displays good timing and chemistry even as characters who often struggle to understand each other in their mutual pain.  As barracks leader Odd Nansen, portrayed ardently by Carey Cahoon, Odd seems the most willing to give into whatever is necessary to keep up morale while Professor Francis Bull depicted by Molly Kane Parker, prefers to escape into literature and theatre to cope with the present.   

Rebecca Tucker delivers an intriguing and heartfelt performance as secretive, complex, and anguished Per Krohg who struggles with what it takes to survive.  Tucker’s cat-and-mouse conversations with Nicholas Wilder as harsh and manipulative Captain Denzer and Sabrina Sehlegel-Megia’s earnest portrayal of rebellious and mysterious Mikhail Hjorthson’s haunting recollections of past experiences are particular highlights.

R to Left: Rachael Chapin Longo as Robert and Rebecca Tucker as Per Photo courtesy of Matt Lomanno Photography

What does it take to peel back life’s meaning where there is no other choice?  Reflecting on art and culture while staring into the face of mortality, isn’t life better with connection over dread? 

Directed contemplatively by Matt Cahoon, Theatre Kapow timely production of A.J. Ditty’s The Boyg streaming through October 10.  Click here for more on The Boyg and Theatre Kapow’s new season, Return.

REVIEW: Company Theatre presents interactive and charming ‘Wonderland: Alice’s Immersive Adventure’

Ever wonder what the Mad Hatter would say if you were welcome to tea or imagining a nonsense word to get you out of a fix or how the guards paint the roses red?

This is just a glimpse into Company Theatre’s Wonderland:  Alice’s Immersive Adventure, a magical, unique and most curious tour with some of Alice in Wonderland’s most iconic characters continuing through Saturday, May 1 at The Company Theatre, 30 Accord Park Drive in Norwell, MA.  Directed by Corey Cadigan, this family-friendly tour, based on the Academy of the Company Theatre’s Theatre Workshop, takes place entirely outdoors on Company Theatre’s surrounding grounds following Covid guidelines.  Click here for more information.

Alice with Dweedle Dum and Tweedle Dee Photo courtesy of Zoe Bradford/Company Theatre

Drawing inspiration from the famous Lewis Carroll tales such as Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and its film adaptations, Wonderland:  Alice’s Immersive Adventure with Alice as your guide, you follow the White Rabbit while interacting with some of Carroll’s most iconic characters on a wacky journey to defeat the Red Queen.  The colorful characters’ costumes by John Crampton and the sets by Ryan Barrow are fun, detailed and imaginative featuring twinkling lights to guide your way and the enthusiastic, engaging cast make every tour a unique experience. 

Each character may ask you questions and you may ask them according to the rules of Wonderland.   At journey’s end, enjoy a tea party featuring cookies and other goodies.

The Company Theatre presents Wonderland:  Alice’s Immersive Adventure through Saturday, May 1.  Click here for more information, tickets, and how to support The Company Theatre.