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.
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.
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.
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.
Michael Hammond may change the way you look at life. Are you afraid of the audition? He’ll show you a way to succeed. Having a bad day? He’ll show you a way to lift your spirits. As the new Director of Development at the Company Theatre, a role he calls a lifelong dream, his positivity may help others the way Company Theatre has helped him since childhood.
The Company Theatre, located at 30 Accord Park Drive in Norwell, Massachusetts, joyously held their first indoor production since their absorbing musical, Fun Home early last year. Rock of Ages was an edgy and energetic rock jukebox musical that took place last month. See Rock of Ages review here and click here for Sleepless Critic’s full podcast.
Sleepless Critic: Please tell me what it was like to be back in the indoor setting for Rock of Ages.
Michael Hammond: It’s so fantastic. It’s emotional, exciting, and the energy in the air was just electric. You were there. You saw it. People were cheering and screaming.
The show starts with Sally Forrest’s voice doing her standard announcement which we are all accustomed to hearing. It was such a welcome back and to hear her voice and I think people cheered over her entire announcement. Just to be back inside, hear that familiar voice, and to know we’re about to see a really fun and exciting show was just great.
SC: I know this was the opening weekend for indoor theatre, but you did have some outdoor theatre experiences like Avenue Q before this show.
MH: Avenue Q was incredible. The kids were so talented. Their commitment to what they were doing and their characters were dynamic. It was Broadway-type quality coming out of these kids on the outdoor stage of the Company Theatre out back. We have had other things like Divas with a Twist and Donny Norton’s band,The New Band there. That’s been a really nice addition to the Company Theatre as well as now being back inside.
SC: So getting back to Rock of Ages, you had your opening weekend and you felt like everything went as smooth as can be?
MH: Absolutely! So many new people in this show and as is typical of the Company Theatre, they are already saying this is my new home. It’s this overwhelming feeling that you’re home and you found your family at the Company Theatre even if you did one show and you never come back, it still feels that way. I’ve been involved since I was 19 years old.
SC: I was going to say that you are familiar with that feeling.
MH: I’m very familiar with that feeling. I don’t know what my life would have been like without Company Theatre. I would have taken a completely different path.
SC: It’s hard to replicate the kind of friendly and welcoming atmosphere you have when you’re in theatre.
MH: Absolutely! Such a nice group of people too that do theatre especially the teens. They just stay out of trouble. They have a common goal they are working towards and they enjoy each other’s company and make lifelong friendships. I can’t say enough about it.
I’ve just seen so many kids, even this summer just come through the doors and they leave just completely changed and confident and more themselves. It’s just a beautiful thing to witness.
SC: When you said you had been with Company Theatre pretty much your whole life, you said it was a lifelong dream to do something like this as the Director of Development now. I’m really excited for you.
MH: Thank you! Like a lot of people during the pandemic, you start to question ‘Am I doing what I want with my life? Is this fulfilling and rewarding?’ Like many people, I came to the conclusion that what I was doing was not for me anymore.
It had run its course and I needed something new and Jordie Saucerman, one of the founding partners of the Company Theatre, had passed away and that really accelerated my thought process because her wake was attended by so many people. I thought ‘Look at all the lives that she touched.’ The impact that Jordie had on people is immeasurable. Even if I make just a little sliver of that impact on people, I would feel great about my life. That set the wheels turning.
I approached Zoe one day and said, ‘I will be your janitor. I basically don’t care what you have me do, if there is a spot for me here, I am coming.’ That seed was planted awhile ago and it sort of blossomed into Director of Development. I’m so excited to try new things and just give back what I got from this theatre.
SC: Not only that, but you have a similar positive way about you like Jordie had. Where do you get your positive outlook from? Where do you draw it from considering I’ve also seen videos of you on social media?
I’m not attempting to fill Jordie’s shoes in any way. That’s not a task that anyone could accomplish. She is a unique individual who I feel is still around in the atmosphere and in the joy of the theatre. If I’m upset or have a bad day, it makes me feel better to brighten someone else’s day. That is such a nice feeling to buy someone in line a coffee or just compliment someone or encourage someone to do something they didn’t think they could do. I live off of that. If I am having the worst day of my life and I do something nice for somebody, I instantly feel recharged. I think that’s how I basically go through life.
SC: I hear that from a lot of comedians as well. It makes them feel better to make someone else laugh even if they are upset or having issues.
MH: I tried standup comedy once. I did it more for the writing aspect, but I did perform. It was an interesting experience because you come out onstage and you look at a sea of faces who want you to succeed because if you succeed, they have a fantastic time. You have an overwhelming amount of support that you just want to hold onto and it was an incredible feeling.
SC: What did you did before this that you wanted to walk away from and join the Company Theatre?
MH: I was the station manager at a local cable television station. I was so grateful because it was also a non-profit. I probably learned so many skills that I could apply to this job I didn’t necessarily have before. Just the behind the scenes stuff, the QuickBooks, the budgets, and managing a non-profit was extremely helpful and then also applying my video experience to the job as well. Filming and creating events and learning special effects.
So all of that which at the time was a perfect job for me, but nine years later I felt like I needed a change and so I am going to apply what I learned there and bring it to the Company Theatre. We can offer acting for camera classes and improv for camera classes.
I’ve been on auditions and in commercials. We want to provide those skills to kids who like to act and be on camera. We want them to be able to go into an audition and know how to slay what they are going to be asked to do and be prepared for anything.
I actually started with a class over the summer. Some of the kids were auditioning so they got immediate training for those auditions. When they came back, they would tell the other students that they did just what Michael showed us. I asked if they felt more prepared. Did you do a better job with the audition? Their faces lit up and they said, ‘Absolutely!’ That was a nice thing.
We want to get in touch with the local casting agencies which we already have a good relationship. We want to create a talent database where you can see video auditions and we can send those out so we kind of want to be a bridge between the local movie and theatre scene. We’ll provide students with the training. They’ll have the skills to go out and nail professional auditions and maybe get cast in movies and commercials. We just really want everyone to have new and exciting opportunities to excel in a career in film and theatre if that is something that they are interested in.
SC: Let’s face it – the audition process is the most nerve-wracking and hardest part I think to convey right off the bat because in your head, you are saying,’ I know what I can do for you’ but then you get up there and it is not exactly what you picture.
MH: Having directed before, people come in and they are nervous. The reality is the casting company is nervous and they have roles to fill. So, the second you come in, put them at ease, and they know they have options, they feel better. I always say in my mind when I got into an audition, ‘Here I am! You can relax. I am going to be that person you need.’ I think it’s an interesting way to keep yourself calm to think I am exactly what you need instead of I hope I’m what you need.
SC: I never really thought of it like that.
MH: Think about it. You have a reputation. You have a project. You want to cast the right people because that makes you look good as well. If you find the right people not only are you confident about the project, but it brings excitement.
When I direct a show, I’m not very excited about it until I know who is in it and then I can tailor their performances to their talents. It is such a thrill to watch people blossom.
Please tell me about the projects you are working on now and upcoming projects.
I don’t think I’ll be directing anything for a little bit. I’ll probably take on some projects here and there. I definitely can’t leave that part behind. I’m really going to focus on the video classes. I’ll be working with Christie Reading. She is extremely talented with anything video related. So, I will be teaming up with her teaching improv for camera, acting for camera, and getting people ready for auditions.
We want to nurture and encourage that. That is kind of my goal. It’s to really push people to excel in any way that they can.
SC: You can’t forget about Boston Casting. How convenient is that! There are all kinds of films going on in the state.
MH: Exactly and literally a mile down the road they are making motion pictures. So how can we not be a part of that? They are working on the new Jon Hamm movie in Cohasset. I know Angela at Boston Casting who is an incredible woman and I don’t know how she does everything she does, but with all those films going on, eventually they will run out of actors.
We get casting notices all the time and I’m forwarding them off to everybody I know that I think fits. For example, I sent a buddy of mine a notice yesterday. They were looking for an actual butcher with acting experience and I happen to know a butcher with acting experience. I’m thinking he might get it.
SC: I know. Some of the requirements are so wild.
MH: It’s so specific, but every once in a while I’ll say, ‘Wait a minute, that is me.’
Company Theatre is offering theatre classes in the fall. Click here for the full schedule and upcoming events.
The crowd roared. Even with a half-full Company Theatre crowd that adhered to Covid-19 requirements opening night on Friday, March 13th, this enthusiastic audience was more than ready to be taken away by what theatre does best. Company Theatre co-founder Zoe Bradford provided a special Fun Home introduction and mused, “Theatre has a way of helping you escape reality.”
Riley Crockett as Small Alison and Michael Hammond as Bruce Photo courtesy of Zoe Bradford/Company Theatre
Five-time Tony award-winning musical Fun Home explores different perceptions of reality within the Bechdel family. They wrestle with it, deny it, but ultimately, must come to terms with it. Based on the graphic novel memoir by Alison Bechdel and directed by Zoe Bradford and Jordie Saucerman, The Company Theatre presented musical Fun Home on Friday, March 13 at Company Theatre at 30 Accord Park Drive in Norwell, Massachusetts and plans for the show’s return when the theatre reopens. Click here for more information.
Under a softly lit, lattice rooftop, Fun Home takes an intimate look inside a family seemingly full of zeal and an antique Victorian house so tidy and flawless flanked with a fireplace, grand piano, and large casement windows, it neatly hides any cracks and crevices underneath. With elegant scenic design by Ryan Barrow and Zoe Bradford as well as rich, emotive lighting by Ethan R. Jones, The Company Theatre unveils this absorbing musical that lures the audience into the Bechdel family’s complicated world.
Aimee Doherty as Alison, Michael Hammond as Bruce, and Riley Crockett as Small Alison Photo courtesy of Zoe Bradford/Company Theatre
It’s funny what you recall in life. Memories can be tricky. As time goes by, perspective changes as a person grows, transforming a memory and gradually revealing details once never thought of or understood before. That lattice rooftop seals in cartoonist Alison Bechdel’s intimate memories as she writes her memoirs through her work, ruminating on her childhood and upbringing to find out what ultimately makes her feel like she is stuck in life. Alison uses cartoons because drawing as a child, she recalls, “I need real things to draw from because I don’t trust memory.”
With its share of comedic and uplifting moments, Alison looks back on her relationship with her enigmatic and intellectual father Bruce and her traveling and ill at ease mother, Helen. Alison is the only individual that outwardly transforms in this piece, thanks to the exceptional work of Riley Crockett as adorably precocious Small Alison, and Jaclyn Chylinski who is impressive as naïve, anxious, and excitable Medium Alison. Crockett performs an impeccable version of Ring of Keys and shines with Charlie Flaherty as Christian and Owen Veith as John in the darkly humorous title track, Fun Home. Melissa Carubia is smooth and charismatic as cool and collected Joan.
Riley Crockett as Small Alison, Charlie Flaherty as Christian, and Owen Veith as John Photo courtesy of Zoe Bradford/Company Theatre
With black rimmed glasses and short dark hair, IRNE award-winner Aimee Doherty slips into Alison’s façade, a mature, jaded and intellectually-driven individual. With a dark sense of humor, Doherty narrates this emotional journey evoking confusion, warmth, sorrow, and frustration in her fine features while building her strength in each new discovery.
Michael Hammond, in a tenacious performance, embodies the many sides of Alison’s father Bruce. With black rimmed glasses, dress pants, and a collared sweater, he is critical man with a refined intellect, and perpetually occupied to become an expert on most everything. Seemingly a friendly, strict, and hardworking family man, Bruce is also secretive and closed off. Each Alison does a brilliant job in portraying their wrought frustration in every moment they attempt to make a genuine connection to him, but especially in the bittersweet song, Telephone Wire. Hammond’s engaging and affecting vocals capture Bruce’s perplex feelings in each number, including the poignant song Pony Girl, and most notably his harrowing rendition of Edges of the World.
Amy Barker skillfully portrays Alison’s unassuming, overwhelmed, and misunderstood mother, Helen. Surrounded by outward perfection, she lives her life distancing herself from reality reflected in the heartrending and beautiful number Days and Days. Always putting others first, she is a repressed woman following the traditional values of her generation within the confines of her home.
The full cast of ‘Fun Home’ Photo courtesy of Zoe Bradford/Company Theatre
Led by and musically directed by Matthew Stern, the intimate, seven piece orchestra features a soothing, fiddle-laden soundtrack that is a combination of light, airy, and melancholy. From its opening song, It All Comes Back to the Flying Away finale, Jeanine Tesori’s captivating musical numbers hold a spectrum of rich, multi-faceted meaning. The catchy, Partridge Family-inspired song, Rainbow of Love is a particular highlight, enhanced by cheerful retro costumes and illustrating Small Alison’s hope of escape.
Company Theatre’s Fun Home is on hiatus and plans to return when the Company Theatre reopens. Click here for more information. Follow Company Theatre on Facebook for further updates.
What a time to know Dr. Seuss. Not only was Dr. Seuss’s new book, Horse Museum, recently released from some of Seuss’s old manuscripts, but this month marked the Canadian debut of an immersive, interactive touring exhibition based on his legacy. “Dr. Seuss Experience” is expected to arrive in Boston later this year. After all this time, we are still celebrating Theodor Seuss Geisel who would have been 115 years old this year.
Hingham Civic Music Theatre (HCMT) found many reasons to celebrate Dr. Seuss with their family-friendly, brightly imaginative, and insightful Seussical the Musical continuing through Sunday, October 27 at Hingham Town Hall in Hingham, Massachusetts. Click here for more information and tickets.
The cast of Seussical Photo courtesy of Kerry Tondorf/Hingham Civic Music Theatre
From the introspective yearnings of Solla Sollew to the wise, multi-tiered significance of the number, How Lucky You Are, Seussical runs the gamut of silly, sorrowful, and thoughtful musical moments. The catchy, distinct, and clever soundtrack resonated through the live orchestra, newly situated onstage above all the action.
Directed by Victoria Kirichok-Pratt, Seussical is a musical adventure that strings together a few of Dr. Seuss’s most popular works while cleverly weaving in valuable life lessons along the way. What makes it such a wonderful musical is beneath its comical, brightly-lit fun lie universal truths for the young and old. Zany, imaginative tales unveil insights about vanity, war, sticking to one’s convictions, and just plain coping with life’s inevitable difficulties. Even the darker topics remain family-friendly as audiences delve deeper into Dr. Seuss’s vast and unique universe.
Paul Antico as Mayor, Jean Lyon as Mrs. Mayor and Marcus Myers as JoJo Photo courtesy of Kerry Tondorf/Hingham Civic Music Theatre
At the center of this universe is adorable, inquisitive, and charming JoJo Who, portrayed by Marcus Myers. With wide eyes and a sweet smile, JoJo is starting to learn that life is much more complicated and unpredictable than he ever thought possible.
Much like Dr. Seuss, this wildly dynamic cast is much more than meets the eye and with award-winning costume designer Kathryn Ridder, each character’s outward appearance certainly shines. The catchy opening number, Oh The Things You Can Think, reveals the brilliant and beautiful costumes which include some that look like they walked right off Seuss’s innovative books. Bursting with color, mismatched, madcap patterns and edgy, impossible hemlines deliver that peculiar Seuss quality. One character was even decked out as a Christmas tree. Bird girls shimmer, Wickershams strut in sunshades and fringe, and the Whos revel in vintage flair. There’s fine detail in each costume, like a hint of red glimmering under the tails of the Cat in the Hat’s black jacket.
Wearing his signature top hat and “tails,” Michael Warner mischievously portrays The Cat and the Hat as part Master of Ceremonies, adviser, narrator, and occasional troublemaker. Warner bounces and glides along the stage, popping in to depict a variety of characters and reveling in the occasional chaos such as Egg, Nest and Tree and It’s Possible.
Justin Grankewicz delivers a sweet and sympathetic performance as ceaselessly faithful and compassionate Horton, who hears a mysterious sound from a speck of dust. Grankewicz’s earnest face and charming demeanor with JoJo, Gertrude, and the community make him easy to root for. Myers and JoJo deliver a heartfelt rendition of Alone in the Universe and Jessica DePalo brings unassuming, awkward charm to Gertrude who shines as an avid, amusing storyteller in All for You and Notice Me Horton.
With a Cheshire grin, Carole Shannon struts and shimmers as self-involved Mayzie, showing great comic timing and chemistry among her girl birds and Gertrude. Sour Kangaroo, portrayed with a wealth of sass and quite the set of pipes by Katia Green, has plenty to say accompanied by her equally streetwise young sidekick Natalia Tsourides. They make quite the charismatic pair. In a robe and festive pajamas, Bruno Barbudo’s bearded Grinch is a creature of few words, but his priceless morose scowl makes a statement all its own.
Hingham Civic Music Theatre continues Seussical the Musical through Sunday, October 27 at Hingham Town Hall, 210 Central Street in Hingham, Massachusetts. Click here for more information and tickets and follow HCMT on Facebook for upcoming events and more.
The Boston Film Festival presented US Premiere of indie film, ‘JoJo Rabbit’ Photo credit to Fox Serachlight Pictures
The Boston Film Festival took place for the most part at the stellar Showplace Icon Theatre. Located at the Boston Seaport and conveniently located at the Courthouse stop on the Silver Line, The Showplace Icon Theatre features state-of-the-art stadium seating with plush reclining chairs, a beverage holder, and a place for your popcorn. Click here for a closer look at this amazing theatre and here for more information and tickets.
Showplace Icon Theatre, located at Boston Seaport. Photo courtesy of Jeanne Denizard
The Shorts Program I took place on day three of the festival on Saturday, September 21 and featured a dynamic group of films that ranged from heartrending to hilarious to the macabre. It was a selection likely to appeal to everyone.
Alex Salsburg as Mom and Harley Harrison as Mike Photo credit to the Boston Film Festival and Class of 84
Directed by Alex Salsburg and Joe Andrade, Class of 84 is a narrated animated short film that offers an amusing and clever angle on helicopter parenting. Dr. Katz’s Jonathan Katz is involved in the project. Through clean, colorful, and two dimensional animation, Class of 84 delves into the life of a teenager living with his constantly hovering, overprotective mother. From eating raw cookie dough to crossing the street, Class of 84 has its share of silly moments, but overall a fun and interesting look at the virtues of listening to your mother.
Directed by Jon Bloch, Waiting Game takes a darker turn exploring a tough and complicated relationship between constantly worried and well meaning Kenny, portrayed by John Patrick Amedori and his ailing, frustrated father, portrayed by Bruce McGill as Mel. It doesn’t take long for this meaningful short film to cause a lump in one’s throat.
‘Waiting Game’ Photo credit to Boston Film Festival and ‘Waiting Game’
Waiting Game is a relatable tale about how family can have the best of intentions and those intentions can end up getting misconstrued in the worst way. John Patrick Amedori Bruce McGill deliver powerful and moving performances that can sometimes be painful to watch as they build a fragile, tension-filled chasm between them. Waiting Game balances a few lighter moments between Kenny and sweet waitress Alyssa, portrayed by Dilshad Vadsaria.
On a lighter note, director Barbara Elbinger directs You Need Help, a heartfelt look at a retired married couple. Featuring a fitting soundtrack, Fred, portrayed by Edmund Dehn, is a depressed husband who longs to put vitality and fun back into his life with his all too practical wife, Doreen, portrayed by Eileen Nicholas. These two have a wonderful chemistry even when they do not see eye to eye and there is much more to these two than they seem. To witness Fred’s unconventional antics in recapturing the joy in their marriage is worth the price of the ticket.
Shahana Goswami as Sheetal in ‘The Seal’ Photo credit to Boston Film Festival and The Seal
Directed by Richa Rudola, The Seal takes a look at Shahana Goswami as Sheetal, a woman haunted by her past when she receives a mysterious, sealed package. Though the story is fictional, Director Richa Rudola was inspired to create this tale based on events she witnessed and experienced as a woman growing up in India.
The Seal delves into the struggles that keep people stuck in their pain, unable to move on with their lives. As the haunting phrase, ‘Remember what Mama used to Say’ permeates Sheetal’s thoughts, she seeks comfort in caring, but shady Daquane Cherry as Ruben. However, some of The Seal’s best scenes are in the unspoken moments, allowing the audience to draw their own conclusions.
Photo credit to the Boston Film Festival and ‘Boy Eats Girl: A Zombie Love Story’
Director Sarah Gurfield puts a little love in a zombie’s heart in Boy Eats Girl: A Zombie Love Story. Zombies seem to be all the rage and a love struck zombie picking flowers can be humorous, but found these seven short minutes all too dark and grisly to muster adoration.
The Bigonia Garden, directed by Ron Goldin and based on Goldin’s own experiences, is a foreign short film that explores an unexpected connection between neighbors in war torn Ashdod in Tel Aviv. As missiles are launched over their heads, Sound Producer Adam and neighbor Bar retreat to the stairwell in their building, the safest place during a crisis. It is a snapshot into the lives of people who have no choice but live in the moment during a tumultuous time.
It is a beautiful, personal film and loner Adam, portrayed by Adam Hirsch and Bar, portrayed by Bar Ackerman, have compelling chemistry with an unpredictable conclusion.
Directed by Joel Marsh, A Valley explores a couple of adventure-seeking risk takers as they go on a camping excursion together. It is based on a short story called The Marsh. They make each other laugh, wax philosophical, and the film gives the impression that all they have is each other. The film was a bit ambiguous and would have liked to have delved more into their relationship to give the film more emotional weight.
Boston Film Festival’s Shorts Program I also featured American Life and Heirloom, but were not reviewed. Click here for more about this year’s festival and future updates.
Advice can be taken with a grain of salt (or sugar in this case), or it can change your entire life. Open a window into the increasingly complex life of a busy advice columnist in Merrimack Repertory Theatre’s (MRT) ‘Tiny Beautiful Things’ adapted for the stage by Nia Vardalos of My Big Fat Greek Wedding fame. Based on the book by Cheryl Strayed, tactfully directed by Jen Wineman, and sponsored in part by WBUR, Merrimack Repertory Theatre continues ‘Tiny Beautiful Things’ at the Merrimack Repertory Theatre in Lowell, Massachusetts through Sunday, October 6.
Click here for more information and tickets. ‘Tiny Beautiful Things’ has adult content.
Shravan Amin as Letter Writer #3, Caroling Strang as Letter Writer #2, Lori Prince as Sugar, and Nael Nacer as Letter Writer #1 Photo credit to Merrimack Repertory Theatre
It is no revelation that everyone has their problems. How they are handled makes all the difference. Sugar, portrayed with equal parts compassion and candor by Lori Prince, proves to be an insightful listener as she offers advice to captivating questions from the humorous to the harrowing. Every issue presented is from real life letters from literary website, The Rumpus’s Dear Sugar and the Dear Sugarspodcast exists on WBUR.
A captivating show from the start, ‘Tiny Beautiful Things’ maintains its quick-witted pace as Sugar’s life unfolds while she offers advice according to her own life experiences. Packing an emotional punch, Sugar jumps smoothly from topic to topic while handling issues from infidelity to abortion to suicide. It is not without its uncomfortable and intense moments which widely contributes to this impressive play’s innate realism.
It is amazing the profound advice that occurs over laundry. From an island kitchen to an outdoor barbecue, ‘Tiny Beautiful Things’ features a layered, cheerful set by Tim Mackabee and Marie Yokoyama’s lighting provides a natural flow and warm atmosphere. Combined with upbeat music between scenes, this production keeps the mood light despite some of its heavier, more thought-provoking content.
This tiny, stellar cast will reel you in and never let go, taking on a variety of roles with gusto and grace. Nael Nacer, Caroline Strang, and Shravan Amin all deliver mesmerizing, emotionally-charged moments. The only identity that never changes is Sugar, portrayed with toughness and warmth by Lori Prince. A woman who has a habit of accepting strange offers, Prince as Sugar is a discerning, yet mysterious soul. Her gripping portrayal mixes lightheartedness, anguish, and humor into her raw, cynical, but nevertheless hopeful outlook at life. Prince’s particular strength is her seamless ability to evoke a number of emotions in one line and her sound advice are words to live by.
From Left to Right on phones: Nael Nacer as Letter Writer #1, Caroline Strang as Letter Writer #2, Shravan Amin as Letter Writer #3 and Lori Prince on laptop Photo courtesy of Merrimack Repertory Theatre
Life is full of complicated dysfunction. Let Sugar’s advice be yours.
Merrimack Repertory Theatre’s ‘Tiny Beautiful Things’ continues at the Merrimack Repertory Theatre at 50 East Merrimack Street in Lowell, Massachusetts through Sunday, October 6. Click here for more information and tickets. Follow MRT on Facebook for updates and more.
The Little Theatre of Stoughton showed off its sea legs with Cole Porter’s musical comedy classic, ‘Anything Goes’ that ran one weekend and concluded on Sunday, August 18 at Stetson Hall in Randolph, Massachusetts. Directed and choreographed by Christina Maggio with music direction by Jesse Alling, this Tony Award-winning musical boasted a number of legendary composer Cole Porter’s hit songs while revealing a high seas tale of mistaken identity, lurking gangsters, and complicated romance. Click here for more on the Little Theatre of Stoughton and check back for their upcoming events.
It was a lively, cheering crowd that greeted the cast in the final performance of this show, offering a short applause as each main character first took the stage. Having never seen a production of ‘Anything Goes’ before, it was surprising to see just how many Cole Porter classics came from this 1934 musical. You’re the Top, Let’s Misbehave, I Get a Kick Out of You, De-lovely, and the title track are just a few of the American Standards that have been covered by contemporary music artists and live on today.
Nate Haywood as Billy Crocker (bottom center) and cast Photo courtesy of the Little Theatre of Stoughton
‘Anything Goes’ could very well have also inspired the 1977 television show, The Love Boatbecause comedy and complex romance runs amok on the SS American where Nate Haywood as Billy Crocker will do virtually anything for a laugh. Earnest, charming, and complex, Haywood was well-fitted for the role as a man of many faces who wore many hats.
The show has its share of silly moments and Haywood’s scenes with Will Candler as boisterous and demanding Mr. Whitney prompted more than a few laughs. Haywood’a agile vocals struck a few beautiful harmonies with romantic, optimistic, and forthright Hope, portrayed by Sarah Palmer, a lovely high soprano.
Sarah Palmer as Hope Harcourt and Nate Haywood as Billy Crocker Photo courtesy of Mikayla Williams Photography/Little Theatre of Stoughton
Haywood’s vocals were also a great match for Stephanie Wallace’s charismatic and clever nightclub singer Reno during the sweet and playful number, You’re the Top. Wallace was exemplary as Reno, whether solo or accompanied by her elegant Angels, portrayed by Abigail Merchant, Caroline Tobin, Isabelle O’Connor, and Kelli Neville who were all dressed in bold, vintage gowns. Wallace’s smooth and soulful vocals soared through a spirited I Get a Kick out of You and a cheeky version of Let’s Misbehave accompanied by Matt Maggio’s seemingly stuffy, proper, and amusing Sir Evelyn Oakley. Both Maggio and Wallace have wonderful comic timing and playful chemistry.
Sarah Palmer as Hope Harcourt, Nate Haywood as Billy Crocker, and the Reno’s Angels Photo courtesy of Little Theatre of Stoughton
With a squeaky high voice and party-loving ways, Whitney Lloyd as Bonnie and Kevin Fortin as smarmy, cool headed Moonface make a great, albeit a bit clichéd pair.
With captivating choreography by Christina Maggio, this bustling musical certainly showed off its sea legs for a few showstopping dance numbers including a dazzling, adrenaline-soaked tap routine during the title track, Anything Goes. From there, the choreography certainly hit next level status with the spinning and lively number Blow Gabriel Blow and lighthearted Heaven Hop.
The Little Theatre of Stoughton will soon announce its 62nd season. Click here for more on the Little Theatre of Stoughton and get their latest updates on Facebook.
Though “The Birdcage” was set in Miami Beach, the musical production of “La Cage Aux Folles” is set in Saint Tropez, France. With European flair and heart, Reagle Music Theatre of Greater Boston presents the wild, gender-bending, and hilarious musical, “La Cage Aux Folles” through Sunday, August 18 at Robinson Theatre in Waltham, Massachusetts. Click here for more information and tickets.
James Darrah as Albin (center) and Les Cagelles Photo courtesy of Reagle Music Theatre of Greater Boston
A translucent, glittering blue curtain was just a glimpse of the glitz behind it as the musical’s catchy and exotic overture began, peppered with European flair. Directed by Susan Chebookjian with book by Harvey Fierstein and music and lyrics by Jerry Herman, “La Cage aux Folles” is about Georges (J.T. Turner) who runs a drag night club and Albin (James Darrah) is the show’s star attraction. When Georges’s son announces his engagement, everyone realizes they are in for a lot more than they bargained for.
With amazing choreography by Susan M. Chebookjian and Daniel Forest Sullivan, “La Cage aux Folles” bursts with color, razzle dazzle, and unlike “The Birdcage,” features a lot more dance numbers delivered by the sharp and athletic Les Cagelles. The opening, gender bending tune, We Are What We Are, is a nimble display of tight choreography while the signature number, La Cage aux Folles is stylized, bizarre, and fascinating. The show is also semi-interactive, which contributes to some of the productions most amusing moments.
Matthew Wright and Alison Pugh’s fantastic costumes are flashy, elegant, and over the top featuring wild, multi-colored wigs, shimmering gowns accented with furs and other costumes using an array of materials such as velour and silk with a bit of 70s flair. The colorful set, by David Allen Jeffrey, is equally exotic featuring velvet couches and gold accents as well as its share of seaside, Mediterranean flavor and little French nuances at Cafe Renaud.
J.T. Turner as Georges Photo courtesy of Reagle Music Theatre of Greater Boston
The quirky, madcap cast is an excellent study in contrasting perspectives and family dysfunction. In a purple velour coat with bowtie, J.T. Turner delivers a charming, comical, and tender performance as Georges. Love struck and irresistibly likable, Georges is the heart of the show. He has a beautiful rapport with Jonathan Acorn as his son, Jean-Michel and James Darrah as Albin, delivering heartfelt renditions of Look over There and wistful Song in the Sand. The impressive comic timing between Turner as Georges and Darrah as Albin doesn’t get much better than during the number, Masculinity, especially while demonstrating their best John Wayne.
James Darrah as Albin (center), J.T. Turner as Georges (right) and cast Photo courtesy of Reagle Music Theatre of Greater Boston
James Darrah as Albin, who possesses more than a passing resemblance to Nathan Lane, delivers a dramatic, engaging, and powerful performance as Albin. Often not so fashionably late, Albin contends with his longing to hide from the world and his undeniable need to make an entrance. His rendition of I Am What I Am is a Tour de Force performance, the best number of the show. Full of bravery, yearning, and emotional weight, it is an anthem for those who feel like they do not belong.
James Darrah as Albin in Reagle Music Theatre of Greater Boston’s “La Cage aux Folles” Photo courtesy of Reagle Music Theatre of Greater Boston
Jonathan Acorn as anxious Jean-Michel is madly in love with his fiancée Anne. She delivers a sweet and earnest performance by Lily Steven. Theirs is a sweet love story and Acorn’s beautiful timbre is on full display during the affectionate number Anne on my Arm.
The show cuts loose with adventurous and delightful Maureen Brennan as Marie up against Rich Allegretto as relentlessly frowning, disdainful and uptight M. Dindon. Speaking of cutting loose, Benz Atthakarunpan’s energetic, smirking Jacob delivers more than a few self deprecating moments in outrageous and surprising costumes while Ellen Peterson brings cleverness and a great set of pipes to Jacqueline.
J.T. Turner as Georges, Jonathan Acorn as Jean-Michel, Lily Steven as Anne, Rich Allegretto as Dindon, Maureen Brennan as Marie, and James Darrah as Albin Photo courtesy of Reagle Music Theatre of Greater Boston
The show is a bit lengthy, but delivers more than its share of laughs from the dynamic and charismatic cast. With pizzazz and heart, Reagle Music Theater of Greater Boston presents their final musical of the summer, “La Cage Aux Folles” through Sunday, August 18 at the Robinson Theatre, 617 Lexington Street in Waltham, Massachusetts.
Click here for more information and tickets. Follow Reagle Music Theatre of Greater Boston on Twitter and Facebook for upcoming events and more.
‘The Three Musketeers‘ stands the test of time for a reason. Full of swashbuckling adventure, revenge, humor, and romance, ‘The Three Musketeers’ has a universal appeal, a historical tale of three not-so-flawless defenders of the crown in dangerous 17th century Paris, a time where an ambush could take place at any moment.
Many different versions of this classic tale have taken over the stage and screen over the years and that is no surprise. It’s a pliable tale with lots of room for creativity.
The Greater Boston Stage Company, in collaboration with The Front Porch Arts Collective, creates a re-imagined adaptation for their final production of the season. This time, from fights to music to storyline to breaking the fourth wall, ‘The Three Musketeers’ weaves in the classic with the contemporary presenting a new twist of how this story could have played out.
Adapted by Catherine Bush from the novel by Alexandre Dumas, Greater Boston Stage Company continues ‘The Three Musketeers’ through Sunday, June 30 in Stoneham, Massachusetts. Click here for more information and tickets. Click here for more on the Front Porch Arts Collective.
The Three Musketeers cast Photo courtesy of Greater Boston Stage Company
The last time the Sleepless Critic reviewed a show featuring the Front Porch Arts Collective, it was in collaboration with the Lyric Stage Company for the critically-acclaimed musical, ‘Breath and Imagination’ back in December. It was a brilliant, dramatic piece with an incomparable performance by Davron S. Monroe as opera great Roland Hayes.
The Front Porch Arts Collective shows its lighter side with ‘The Three Musketeers.’ Though Alexandre Dumas’s novel can be a heavy read, the films and stage productions have always been an exciting romp with some adaptations better than others. The Greater Boston Stage Company weaves together a wealth of elements, including stylized action sequences, a good dose of humor, eclectic, bolder costumes, and creative casting, but stays pretty faithful to the classic storyline otherwise.
‘The Three Musketeers’ follows Marc Pierre as a fresh-faced country boy named D’Artagnan who wishes to offer his services to the disheveled, world-weary Musketeers. Pierre portrays D’Artagnan with a love struck charm, wide-eyed wonder, and transparency. He’s an easy character to root for.
Teaching the ropes. Tonasia Jones as Madame de Treville and Marc Pierre as D’Artagnan Photo courtesy of Greater Boston Stage Company
Instead of women as primarily damsels in distress, some of the damsels are the Musketeers themselves. Paige Clark as Aremis and Lyndsey Allen Cox as Athos prove they are more than up to the challenge, showing prowess and agility in their perspective roles. Cox as witty and sardonic Athos has some great lines in this show and one of the most memorable is “Love is a lottery whose prize is death.” Along with James Richardo Milord, who gives gravitas to goofy, selfish, but well-meaning Porthos, this trio has good chemistry as they embark on new adventures.
Maurice Emmanuel Parent as Cardinal Richelieu Photo courtesy of Greater Boston Stage Company
The humor is there, especially from Maurice Emmanuel Parent, the Executive Director of Front Porch Arts Collective, as dastardly Cardinal Richelieu. From his raised, mischievous eyebrow to his magnificent, resonating laugh as he occasionally lets the audience in on an elusive inside joke, he steals the show. Tonesia Jones also gives a charismatic and commanding performance as Madame de Treville. Her interaction with the Musketeers lands with drive and heart.
Margaret Clark is a spellbinding spitfire as M’Lady while J.T. Turner, wearing an eye patch, portrays shrewd and creepy Rocheford as he lurks in the shadows.
What also stands out in this production is the exciting action and stellar fight scenes, led by fight director Angie Jepson. From barrooms to the king’s court, the battles are fought valiantly with a good dose of comedy and high jinks. This show takes a lot of modern liberties in a good fight and takes a more serious turn in the second half, so like a Musketeer, be prepared for anything.
Adapted by Catherine Bush from the novel by Alexandre Dumas, Greater Boston Stage Company, in collaboration with The Front Porch Arts Collective, continues ‘The Three Musketeers’ through Sunday, June 30 at 395 Main Street in Stoneham, Massachusetts. Click here for more information and tickets and here for a closer look at Front Porch Arts Collective.
As a fan of the twist-ending, they have been nothing short of fascinating. Directed by Michael Hisamoto, Flat Earth Theatre continues King of Shadows through June 22 at the Mosesian Center for the Arts in Watertown, Massachusetts. Click here for more information and tickets. This show may be haunting for children.
The setting of Flat Earth Theatre’s ‘King of Shadows’ Photo courtesy of Flat Earth Theatre
Much like Riverdale, an ordinary setting withholds extraordinary secrets. Grounded in the reality of missing children in San Francisco, King of Shadows delves into the lives of four distinct characters, all affected by their dark past. The haunting set and intimate, encompassing staging, especially PJ Strachman’s light design, Bram Xu’s sound design, Stage Manager/Puppeteer Amy Lehrmitt, and scenic designer Ryan Bates, create an immersive, unsettling atmosphere for what is about to unfold.
Compassionate and ambitious Berkeley graduate student Jessica, portrayed with finesse by Laura Chowenhill, may be in over her head when she meets Nihar, a mysterious, wise-beyond-his-years homeless teenager portrayed by Trinidad Ramkissoon. Ramkissoon’s penetrating gaze and inquisitive nature give Nihar an edgy charisma. He has a fuzzy past, but that does not stop Jessica from her perpetual desire to help others.
Logical and protective policeman Eric Saunders, portrayed impressively by Matt Crawford, is suspicious that Nihar may have a dangerous agenda. Crawford’s Eric is a great foil for Chowendill’s pensive and conflicted Jessica, setting the stage for some sparks. Jessica’s resentful and impulsive younger sister Sarah, portrayed with sarcasm and sass by Abigail Erdelatz, is capable of anything as she longs for a different life.
Flat Earth’s multi-layered production, King of Shadows is best seen without revealing too many details. Though it’s an increasingly outlandish tale, King of Shadows has more than its share of suspense, leaving the audience constantly wondering where each character’s loyalty truly lies.
Trinidad Ramkissoon as Nihar Photo courtesy of Flat Earth Theatre
Flat Earth Theatre’s final production of its 13th season, King of Shadows continues through Saturday, June 22 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, concerts, and exhibits during the year. Offering free parking and next door to Panera Bread, Earful and Gilly Assuncao are among the featured concerts this month while The Wizard of Oz and the opera, La Cenerentola, are among the upcoming theatrical productions. Click here to see all that Mosesian Center for the Arts has to offer.