REVIEW:  In these tough times, escape down Greater Boston Stage Company’s zany production of Hitchcock’s ‘The 39 Steps’

What are the 39 Steps?

Like so many Hitchcock creations, it’s complicated.  However, though this Hitchcock production is presented during Halloween season, please don’t let that scare you away.  The 39 Steps is based on John Buchan’s 1915 thriller novel by the same name, was adapted by Alfred Hitchcock into a classic British film in 1935, and adapted to the stage by Patrick Barlow.  Though The 39 steps will certainly keep the audience on its toes, it has more than its share of comedic moments sure to deliver more laughter than frights. 

Greater Boston Stage Company joyfully returned indoors to present Alfred Hitchcock’s thriller comedy mystery, The 39 Steps which continues through Sunday, October 10 at the Greater Boston Stage Company in Stoneham, MA.  The show runs approximately 2 hours and 15 min including an intermission.  Click here for more information and tickets.

Directed imaginatively by llyse Robbins, this dynamic crime noir boasts plenty of vintage flair as well as adventure, romance, comedy, and suspense.  However, what really makes this show such fun is that it doesn’t take itself too seriously.

KP Powell and Paul Melendy in ‘The 39 Steps’ Photo courtesy of Greater Boston Stage Company

The 39 Steps pay tribute to Hitchcock’s body of works with a catchy story while spoofing some of his most famous works along the way.  Vertigo and Rear Window is just a portion of the Hitchcock Easter eggs run amok in this production.  Some of the dark and witty humor from The 39 Steps call to mind humor likened to other murder mystery comedy classics including Clue.

Shelley Barish’s modest and multi-functional set design, Daisy Long’s mercurial lighting, and Andrew Duncan Will’s exceptional, carefully-timed sound effects play a pivotal role in some of the production’s most humorous scenes.  Moveable set pieces transform each scene and costume designer Rachel Padula-Shufelt’s colorful gowns, dynamic wigs, and tweed and paisley suits enliven the production’s vintage noir atmosphere. 

Taking on this production was no small feat for its four stellar actors who depict a total of 150 characters.  However, they were more than up for the task as they sometimes cleverly and quite literally switch roles at the drop of a hat or within seconds.  With impeccable timing and snappy chemistry, these dynamic performers bring to life a variety of accents and deliver a great deal of physical comedy while delivering sharp and at times quirky dialogue. 

Russell Garett, KP Powell, Grace Experience, and Paul Melendy in a makeshift car in ‘The 39 Steps’ Photo courtesy of Greater Boston Stage Company

Paul Melendy portrays Richard Hannay with a mix of bumbling and debonair charm.  Set in Scotland, he is a man on the run after a chance encounter with a femme fatale in all her forms by Grace Experience, leading to a murder mystery.   What Grace Experience does particularly well is though she depicts each character distinctly, they all have the same familiar strength, resourcefulness, and truthfulness as the tale unfolds.  With Russell Garrett and KP Powell quite often after Hannay, it’s a madcap adventure with high jinx galore and likable characters that range from a ludicrous man with ridiculous eyebrows to a flirtatious and outspoken innkeeper.  Some of the scenes are arbitrary and self aware and a couple of gags get a bit repetitive, yet fit right into the production’s silly charm.

From L to R: Russell Garrett, Paul Melendy, Grace Experience, and KP Powell in ‘The 39 Steps’ Photo courtesy of Greater Boston Stage Company

Take a break from these difficult times and escape down Greater Boston Stage Company’s unconventional, madcap, and lighthearted The 39 Steps continuing through Sunday, October 10.  Click here for more information, tickets, and for a closer look at Greater Boston’s Stage Company’s 22nd season.

REVIEW: The Boston Pops blended uplifting Bernstein tribute with sizzling footwork in ‘Dance to the Movies’

The Boston Pops turned up the heat as dancers from Dancing with the Stars, So You Think You Can Dance, and America’s Got Talent as well as American Idol finalists joined Academy Award-nominee Lesley Ann Warren as Scott Stander presented Dance to the Movies on June 9 at Symphony Hall.  Conducted by renowned Music Director Keith Lockhart and filled with memorable moments from some of Hollywood and Broadway’s most popular films, Dance to the Movies lit the stage as part of Boston Pops 133rd spectacular season.  Dedicated to legendary, Lawrence-born composer and conductor Leonard Bernstein’s centennial this season, click here for upcoming Boston Pops performances including details for the Boston Pops Fireworks Spectacular on July 4.

Boston Pops Keith Lockhart and the Boston Pops_WT26691 (Winslow Townson)

Keith Lockhart and the Boston Pops (Winslow Townson)

Before launching into Dance to the Movies, The Boston Pops performed a few remarkable Bernstein selections which included an urgent, masterful orchestration composed by John Williams, a piece first conducted for Bernstein’s 70th anniversary called, To Lenny! To Lenny!  The orchestration, with equal parts bursting triumph and quiet contemplation, set the perfect tone for this uplifting show.  The Bernstein tribute continued with sparkling and upbeat Overture to Candide and the chiming, peerless orchestration of Bernstein’s spiritual Simple Song from Mass.

Boston Pops John Williams and Leonard Bernstein at Harvard Night at the Pops, June 6, 1989 (Donald Dietz)

Boston Pops John Williams and Leonard Bernstein at Harvard Night at the Pops, June 6, 1989 (Donald Dietz)

Winner of 2017’s Boston Symphony Orchestra’s Concerto Competition and recipient of Harry & Marion Dubbs Brookline Youth Concerts Award, captivating violinist Haig Hovsepian, delivered a passionate and intense solo performance as he played Sibelius’s First Movement:  Allegro moderato, from Violin Concerto in D Minor.  An especially touching moment occurred when a couple of his proud family members rushed to the stage to congratulate him after he finished his piece.

The Boston Pops seamlessly tied in Bernstein’s tribute with a sensational film dance montage by Susan Dangel and Dick Bartlett, weaving in dance scenes from Risky Business, Austin Powers:  International Man of Mystery, Burn After Reading, The Greatest Showman, Pulp Fiction, Mrs. Doubtfire, My Best Friend’s Wedding and more to acclaimed dance songs from Bernstein’s musical masterpiece, West Side Story.

Dance to the Movies Hilary Scott

Puttin’ on the Ritz Photo courtesy of Hilary Scott

Boasting an enormously talented cast, Dance to the Movies offered vintage flair by Bair/Pututau costumes and sizzling footwork, taking on classic numbers like Puttin’ on the Ritz and Diamonds are a Girl’s Best Friend/Material Girl from the film, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes.  Hearkening to the age of Fred Astaire, dancers dressed in gold Lemay cocktail dresses and suits with coat and tails then delivered a double take of dancers dressed in Marilyn Monroe’s signature pink gowns with dripping diamonds respectively.  A gorgeously sparkling fringed gown seemed to have a life of its own on Anna Trebunskaya as she swayed with Tristan MacManus to the spicy number, Cuban Pete from the film, The Mask.

Academy Award-nominee Lesley Ann Warren, a television and film veteran known for Cinderella and Clue, delivered a reflective Moon River from Breakfast at Tiffany’s and a flirtatious version of Blues in the Night from the film by the same name.  Warren still has that charismatic charm as she engaged the audience.

Leslie Ann Warren

Lesley Ann Warren in her Cinderella crown Photo courtesy of the Boston Pops

Dance to the Movies tackled Broadway with dance melodies from Chicago and Grease, which featured a performance by American Idol finalist Vonzell Solomon singing Roxy Hart.  Vonzell delivered a show stopping performance singing I’ll Always Love You from The Bodyguard before taking the stage with American Idol finalist Von Smith for a stirring tribute to the late Marvin Hamlisch including the songs, Through the Eyes of Love from the film, Ice Castles and The Way We Were.

Dance to the Movies Chicago

Dance to the Movies takes on ‘Chicago’ Photo courtesy of Hilary Scott

One of the most impressive dance performances seemed a dangerous feat to the tune, Unchained Medley from the film, Ghost sung by Von Smith.  Featuring Randi Strong and Jonathan Platero, it was a rapturous, athletic number recreating a scene from the film featuring remarkable flips and daring spins. Dirty Dancing’s iconic dance number, (I Had) The Time of My Life, featuring a trio of couples, was a beautiful display complete with The Lift.

Dance to the Movies boasted Dancing with the Stars’ Tristan MacManus, Anna Trebunskaya, Magda Fialek, Anya Fuchs and Oksana Platero, from So You Think You Can Dance Jonathan Platero, Randi Strong, and Jaymz Tuaileva, America’s Got Talent’s Antonio Martinez, with Carl James Bair, Alisa Davtyan, Timothy Lewis, Kateryna Klishyna, and Tony Pututau.  Click here to see where Dance to the Movies will appear next.

Dedicated to legendary, Lawrence-born composer and conductor Leonard Bernstein’s centennial this season, click here for upcoming Boston Pops performances including details for the Boston Pops Fireworks Spectacular on July 4.  Follow Boston Pops on Twitter and Facebook.

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