REVIEW: Lyric Stage brings beauty and powerful perspective to Sondheim’s ‘Pacific Overtures’

Surrounded by wild pink cherry blossoms, Lyric Stage reveals a telling story with Stephen Sondheim’s stirring musical Pacific Overtures, a historical production set in 1853 when a mysterious ship drops anchor on Japan’s remote and tranquil island.  Told entirely from Japan’s perspective, it’s an important tale about conflict, betrayal, and the price of progress.

Skillfully directed by Spiro Veloudos, musically-directed by Jonathan Goldberg, and choreographed by Micheline Wu, Lyric Stage presents Stephen Sondheim’s Pacific Overtures through June 16 at 140 Clarendon Street in Boston, Massachusetts.  Click here for more information and tickets.

Lyric Stage Pacific Overtures Please Hello

Jeff Song and The cast of Pacific Overtures. Photo by Mark S. Howard.

The Lyric Stage has a knack for surprises.  They take on a variety of shows throughout the season, from contemporary to original productions to traditional musicals, but one thing they all have in common is it is hard to imagine how the show will play out onstage.  Though rarely performed, Sondheim’s Pacific Overtures is an unpredictable, multi-layered musical that delivers an unforgettable message about power and prosperity.

Between scenic designer Janie E Howland’s hand painted set, the sloping wild pink cherry blossoms, Gail Astrid Buckley’s rich and historically-accurate costumes, and Karen Perlow’s clever light design, Lyric Stage brings to life Japan’s beautiful and increasingly tumultuous landscape.  This show does an excellent job at depicting a sympathetic, humorous, and at times, haunting look of how Japan saw the outside world.

Choreographer Micheline Wu’s reflects Japan’s distinct culture in sharp choreography, integrating samurai tradition while carefully letting a bit of westernization seep in.  Kai Chao as relentless Commodore Perry struts into a patriotic, humorous, and cunning Lion Dance while Wu herself, who also depicts Tamate and other roles, captures Tamate’s raw vulnerability in a fan dance during the reflective number, There is No Other Way.

Lyric Stage Pacific Overtures cast

The cast of Lyric Stage’s ‘Pacific Overtures’ Photo by Mark S. Howard

Enthusiastically recited by Lisa Yuen, who was last seen on the Lyric Stage as the mesmerizing Spider Woman in Puig’s Kiss of the Spider Woman, Yuen delicately balances the tale she tells with a mix of humor and urgency, occasionally stepping into the story itself.  That could be an awkward transition, but it’s one that Yuen takes on with ease.

Carl Hsu portrays Kayama, a quietly conflicted fisherman thrust into the spotlight to solve a seemingly impossible issue.  Hsu’s wistful, soaring vocals reflect his alienation as western culture attempts to take hold in Bowler Hat.  Inquisitive and awestruck, he struggles to adjust to Japan’s seeming future.

Lyric Stage Pacific Overtures Carl Hsu and Sam Hamashima

Carl Hsu as Kayama and Sam Hamashima as Manjiro in ‘Pacific Overtures’ Photo by Mark S. Howard

Sam Hamashima portrays Massachusetts fisherman prisoner Manjiro, a man with mysterious intentions.  Hamasima and Hsu show low key camaraderie as they improvise together during the number PoemsGary Thomas Ng takes on several roles, but proves to be at his funniest as the Grandmother in the lighthearted number, Welcome to Kanagawa.

Lyric Stage Pacific Overtures Welcome to Kanagawa

Alexander Holden, Gary Thomas Ng, Karina Wen, and Kai Chao in Pacific Overtures. Photo by Mark S. Howard.

Change can be painful.  From a remote, peaceful, self-sufficient island to an economic powerhouse to the home of the 2020 Olympics, Japan has worn many faces and overcame many obstacles.  Pacific Overtures depicts the raw emotion and a sympathetic perspective on what that might have felt like along the way.

Lyric Stage continues Stephen Sondheim’s moving musical, Pacific Overtures through Sunday, June 16 at 140 Clarendon Street in Boston, Massachusetts.  Click here for tickets and more information.  Subscriptions and dinner packages are also available.  Follow The Lyric Stage on Twitter and Facebook for their upcoming productions and more.

REVIEW: Hingham Civic Music Theatre’s ‘Sweet Charity’ has fun, laughs, and the right moves

She’s just a girl in love with love.  Swipe right for the Tony award-winning, romantic musical dramedy instilled with a dose of cynicism, Sweet Charity.  Unforeseen high jinks and adventures find Charity as she makes her way through what can be a harsh reality.  Before Julia Roberts stepped onto the L.A. streets in the popular film, Pretty Woman, Charity wondered Central Park.  Both have a heart of gold.

With music by Cy Coleman, lyrics by Dorothy Fields, book by Neil Simon, and directed by Nathan Fogg, Hingham Civic Music Theatre (HCMT) continues Sweet Charity through Sunday, May 5 at the Sanborn Auditorium in Hingham, Massachusetts.  This show is for mature audiences and not for young children.  Click here for more information and tickets.

HCMT's 'Sweet Charity' - tap dance

Emilee Leahy as Charity Photo courtesy of Hingham Civic Music Theatre

Sweet Charity is one of those rare opportunities to witness a collaboration featuring theatrical icons playwright Neil Simon and director and choreographer Bob Fosse.  Oh yes, and Fosse’s then wife, muse, and dance dynamo Gwen Verdon starred in the musical’s stage debut in the 60s.

Bob Fosse and Gwen Verdon’s influence is still as lively as ever as FX continues Fosse/Verdon, a biographical miniseries starring Sam Rockwell as Bob Fosse and Michelle Williams as Gwen Verdon.  Coincidentally, Fosse/Verdon also covers in part the making of Sweet Charity.  Fosse Fever has certainly been evident on the South Shore of Massachusetts as two adaptations of Chicago recently took the stage in close succession.

Perhaps it’s the Neil Simon influence, but Sweet Charity seems to tread on the lighter side of Fosse’s popular works.  It has its edgy moments and not for everyone, but Sweet Charity depends much more on humor than darkness.  Though Pretty Woman might be a beloved, yet formulaic tale, Sweet Charity is less predictable and not a by-the-numbers romantic comedy.  The costumes, by Kathryn Ridder and company, are fitted and flashy and the dialogue is snappy and at times, charming.  At one point, Emilee Leahy as Charity sings, “You’re so strong, you have muscles you don’t need.”

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After portraying resourceful criminal Velma Kelly in Massasoit Theatre Company’s production of Chicago,  Emilee Leahy delivers a breezier performance as coy yet sweet, aware and yet sometimes naïve, hopeful and pensive Charity Hope Valentine.  Charity can be a poor judge of character, but Leahy’s Charity proves to be worth rooting for.  She has a pliable vocal range and is certainly light on her feet as she slips into a spontaneous tap routine featuring the famous number, If They Could See Me Now, decked out with a signature Fosse top hat and cane.

Speaking of dance, Sweet Charity offers an array of Fosse-inspired dance sequences, tinged with retro flair.  Choreographer Samantha-Brior Jones, Music Director Sandee Brayton, and Dance Captain Mary Donahue turn up the heat with sharp and distinctive choreography as the Fan-dango Ballroom dancers perform a fierce, steamy, and hip shaking Hey Big Spender.  The sweeping, sophisticated, 60s-inspired Rich Man’s Frug featuring Pompeii Club dancers in all-black has a classic vibe to it while Rhythm of Life is an outrageous, seemingly spiritual journey.

HCMT Sweet Charity - The girls

Kristen Annese as Nickie and Pompeii Club dancers Photo courtesy of Hingham Civic Music Theatre

The characters that Charity encounter seem a bit melodramatic, showing it doesn’t take itself too seriously.  With great New York accents, Kristen Annese as Nickie and Lindsay Warwick as Helene are a plucky, street smart comedy duo.  Their rendition of Baby Dream Your Dream has a lot of reassuring sass and they share playful, if at times mildly-snarky camaraderie with Charity.

Leah Shiels as Ursula and Rob Buckel-Gillis as Vittorio make an exotic celebrity pair, decked out in shimmering attire.   Buckel-Gillis delivers a beautiful rendition of Too Many Tomorrows.  Tony Light is comical as Oscar, a panicked claustrophobic.   Shirtless and in suspenders, Rylan Vachon delivers a wildly energetic, off-the-wall performance as zany preacher Daddy Brubeck.  Mike Warner as Herman also delivers some laughs, but keep an eye on his T-shirts.  Trust me.

Hingham Civic Music Theatre offers two remaining performances of Sweet Charity on Saturday, May 4 and a Sunday matinee on May 5 at the Sanborn Auditorium in Hingham Town Hall, 210 Central Street in Hingham, Massachusetts.  Click here for more information and for tickets.  Tickets are also available at the door.  Be sure to follow Hingham Civic Music Theatre on Facebook and click here to learn how to support HCMT’s upcoming productions.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

REVIEW: Love and marriage gets wildly complicated in amusing romantic comedy farce, TCAN’s ‘First Things First’

Ever told a white lie that manifests itself into a whopper?  One where the truth becomes hazy?  That’s partly what The Center for the Arts in Natick’s (TCAN) romantic comedy farce First Things First is all about.  Presented by Mutual One Bank, First Things First delves into love, marriage, and what can become of a little white lie.

Written by Derek Benfield and directed by Kathy Lague, TCAN’s First Things First continues its run through Sunday, March 17 at 14 Summer Street in Natick, Massachusetts.  Parking is free on Sundays.  The Center for the Arts in Natick is a charming theatre space that also holds other events including a movie theatre.  Click here for more information, tickets, and how to become a member.

TCAN's First Things First

Photo courtesy of TCAN

This story is outlandish, which is the true nature of a farce.  Boy meets girl.  Boy marries girl.  Girl gets lost on a mountain.  Boy marries another girl.  Then the girl returns.  What’s a guy to do?  Set entirely in the living room of newly married couple Pete and Sarah’s apartment, each character has his or her own ulterior motive of how this story will play out.

Set designer Tom Powers creates a cozy, welcoming environment with warm colors, coordinated paintings on the walls, and a large sofa.  Classic songs about love and marriage by Frank Sinatra and Nat King Cole add a lighthearted, vintage flair.

The cast delivers quite a few surprises on this comedic journey and wait for the twist.  Sarah, portrayed with a good measure of feigned, wide eyed naiveté by Laura Deschaines, is Pete’s wife.  In a business suit and beard is Scott Saley as optimistic Pete, a man in for a surprise.  As the characters delve deeper into deception, credit is due for keeping Derek Benfield’s increasing complicated plot straight.  Scott Saley has a knack for physical comedy.  His amusing facial expressions become more entertaining as the plot thickens.

Cathy Merlo portrays Pete’s steely and judgmental mother in law.  Her pink suit is the only thing demure about her.  She’s a woman used to being in charge and her schemes with Laura Deschaines are fun to watch.  David Rustin as Pete’s unwitting friend George offers a great deal of observational humor as does Alessandra Horton as sweet and mysterious Jessica.

TCAN - The cast and crew of First Things First

The cast and crew of TCAN’s ‘First Things First’

The Center for the Arts in Natick present romantic comedy farce First Things First through Sunday, March 17.  Click here for more information and tickets.  Click here for more on TCAN’s 2019 season.

REVIEW: Lively and insightful, Lyric Stage Company’s award-winning play, ‘The Wolves’ howls

Woven into the lush, green indoor turf is a unique narrative with the clever earmarks of adolescence in Sara DeLappe’s Pulitzer Prize-winning play finalist, The Wolves.  Framed as a soccer match, this unconventional ensemble drama kicks off like a rocket, luring the audience into the tumultuous chattering of a competitive, all-girls soccer team who are about to learn a few valuable lessons about life and themselves in and out of the game.

Directed by A. Nora Long, Lyric Stage Company’s The Wolves continues through Sunday, February 3 at 140 Clarendon Street in Boston.  The show is 90 minutes with no intermission and contains some mature themes.    Click here for more information and tickets.

The Wolves play

Photo courtesy of The Lyric Stage Company of Boston

Taking place entirely in an indoor soccer arena, Shelley Barish and Elizabeth Cahill’s exciting setting fits into the team’s boundless energy.  Sports fans take note:  Trained by soccer consultant Olivia Levine, The Wolves are the real deal, showing off authentic as well as physically complex moves throughout the performance.

What makes this show particularly interesting is the remarkable way the story is told.  With a 90 minute running time matching the length of an average soccer match, a horn blaring not only kicks off the latest match within the performance, but sometimes humorously ties in to interrupt a heated conversation.  As the audience as spectators peek into this team’s lives, the progressive nature in which they learn discipline, tolerance, and how to listen to each other is subtle, yet one of the most powerful parts of this compelling narrative.

The Wolves with orange slices

Cast consists of Lydia Barnett-Mulligan, Sarah Elizabeth Bedard, Simone Black, Olivia Z. Cote, Chelsea Evered, Grace Experience, Julia Lennon, Valerie Terranova, and Jurielle Whitney Photo courtesy of Lyric Stage Company

These teammates have a natural and at times, rumbling chemistry in their uninhibited conversations.  Whether they are delving into gossip around school, technology, getting their driver’s permits or scandalized by their maturing bodies, their viewpoints stay consistent with their level of maturity (right down to the abuse of the word, “like”) which can sometimes be insightful and other times, hilarious.

Though each cast member exhibits their own distinct personality in their matching uniforms, Valerie Terranova, who is making her debut on the Lyric Stage with this show, is a particular highlight as serious, optimistic player #25.  The wise, unassuming way she leads the team shows that while the other girls may only see what is right in front of them, #25 sees where the game might take them, united, one victory at a time.

 

The Wolves may even serve as a nostalgic trip down memory lane, when you were a teenager and everything was the best thing in the world or the worst, the raging excitement of life.  It may even leave you scratching your head, trying to recall if being a teenager girl was really like this.  The undeniable answer, for the most part, was yes.

The Lyric Stage Company continues Sara DeLappe’s The Wolves through Sunday, February 3 at 140 Clarendon Street in Boston, Massachusetts.  Click here for tickets and more information.  Subscriptions and dinner packages are also available.  Follow The Lyric Stage on Twitter and Facebook for their upcoming productions and more.

Go green with Cohasset Dramatic Club’s sci fi horror comedy musical ‘Little Shop of Horrors’

Cohasset Dramatic Club’s comedy horror rock sci fi musical, Little Shop of Horrors, offers two very important life lessons.  Don’t feed the plants and everyone’s life should be narrated by a streetwise, Greek chorus.  Punctuated by the sweet, sassy sounds of female Greek chorus trio Chiffon, Crystal, and Ronnette, Cohasset Dramatic Club opened its 98th season with Little Shop of Horrors in all of its zany, outrageous glory on the Cohasset Town Hall stage in Cohasset, Massachusetts continuing through Sunday, November 18.  Click here for more information and tickets.

Cohasset Dramatic Club Little Shop of Horrors cover

Directed by Lisa Pratt, ‘Little Shop of Horrors’ continues through November 18! Photo courtesy of Cohasset Dramatic Club

Little Shop of Horrors, based on John Cullier’s short story Green Thoughts from 1932, has gone on to become a cult classic, with actors such as Jack Nicholson, Bill Murray, Rick Moranis, Steve Martin, and John Candy stepping into its various film adaptations.  A remake is in the works as it celebrates its 60th anniversary in 2020.

It’s a seemingly simple tale about young love on Skid Rowe in a fledgling flower shop that houses a curious, unique breed of plant.  Some critics compare it to the campy tone of the another cult classic, Rocky Horror Picture Show, but Little Shop of Horrors offers a more subtle brand of campy charm.

The show has a gift for funny, ironic contrasts right down to the bright, cheerful set design by Mark Bono with scenic artist Denise Feeney.   An ode to vintage 50s films of its time, Mr. Mushnik’s beautiful and pastel Floral Shop front seems hardly a place that belongs on Skide Row or Gutter as the name of a bar.  With few exceptions, the music, with lyrics by award-winning composer Alan Menken, has a catchy, rock n roll vibe, some tunes an ode to 60s girl groups.  From plaids to shimmering gowns, Colleen Craig as Chiffon, Michelle Margulies as Crystal and Cara Lee Chamberlain as Ronnette form a taut, humorous, street-smart trio, unveiling the real ins and outs of Skid Rowe through harmony, kicking it off with the catchy, signature track, Little Shop of Horrors.

With a distinctive, comedic voice and dark reading glasses, Jonathan Markella is a natural as Mr. Mushnik.  Shrewd, sensible, and a bit dour, Markella’s take on the firm, yet fidgety Mr. Mushnik is a memorable one.  He showcases his comedic chops best with Jordan Reymolds as Seymour in the clever number, Mushnik and Son.

Cohasset Dramatic Club Little Shop of Horrors Seymour

Jordan Reymolds as Seymour and Audrey II Photo courtesy of Cohasset Dramatic Club

With black glasses and a sweater vest, Jordan Reymolds is splendid as Seymour, a sympathetic, conflicted botanist.  With a bit of a crackly speaking voice and a light city accent, he is ever the shy, unassuming nerd that actor Rick Moranis stepped into in the 1986 film adaptation.  He shines in the darkly tender number, Grow for Me and his awkward adoration for Audrey, portrayed with stylish, effervescence by Adina Lunquist, exudes comic charm, at one moment he’s hoping to take her to “a fancy dinner at Howard Johnson’s.”  Linquist is wonderful, her silvery soprano vocals carrying a lullaby or a soulful belt with equal skill.  She shares her simple, 50s domestic dreams in Somewhere That’s Green and with Seymour who deliver a powerful rendition of Suddenly Seymour.

Brendan Smith rises to the occasion playing several roles including the outrageous, narcissistic biker dentist.  Having portrayed The Monster in Young Frankenstein, his pliable, animated features master a multitude of roles in stride.

The real spectacle is Audrey II, the sly soulful plant that changes everything.  With deep, soulful, animated vocals that harness a bit of Elvis and Robin Williams and skillfully manipulated by Mike Nakashima whose theatre history includes a part in Cohasset’s Avenue Q, Audrey II is an impressive specimen right down to its shiny, dangling teeth.

Directed by Lisa Pratt, Cohasset Dramatic Club presents Little Shop of Horrors through Sunday, November 18 at Cohasset Town Hall, 41 Highland Avenue in Cohasset, Massachusetts.  Click here for more information and tickets.  Learn more about Cohasset Dramatic Club by following on their Facebook page.

REVIEW:  Hub Theatre Company of Boston’s ‘Peter and the Starcatcher’ is funny, fascinating, but its best moments shine quietly

How did Peter Pan get his name?  What exactly is Pixie dust?  How did Peter become Hook’s sworn enemy?

The premise is promising.  From pirate to prawn, every cast member is a dynamic storyteller in Hub Theatre of Boston’s imaginative musical, Peter and the Starcatcher, a prequel of sorts to Peter Pan.  Featuring an energetic cast taking on multiple roles, a wealth of physical humor, and no shortage of wild comedy, Rick Elice’s Peter and the Starcatcher strings together the adventures that lead up to the legend of Peter Pan.

Hub Theatre of Boston Peter and the Starcatcher cast

Peter and the Starcatcher cast Photo courtesy of Hub Theatre Company of Boston

Directed by Sarah Gazdowicz with music direction by Bethany Aiken, Hub Theatre of Boston presents Peter and the Starcatcher, the final production of its sixth season, with recently added performances through Sunday, November 18 at First Church of Boston in Boston, Massachusetts.  Tickets are available at a pay-what-you-can basis.  Click here for more information.

Cassie Chapados’s detailed London set harbors clues from the classic Peter Pan story, but the actual performance seems to spring out of a child’s imagination.  The cast emerges from every side and each seat has a good view at First Church of Boston.  Peter and the Starcatcher is action-packed and respect is due for the sheer physical nature of this piece as this animated cast frequently and skillfully form human structures such as a ship and various scenarios as the story unfolds.

Peter and the Starcatcher group shot

L to R: Joey C. Pelletier as Black Stache and Michael John Ciszewski and the cast Photo courtesy of Hub Theatre Company of Boston

Dominated by dastardly pirates, Peter and the Star Catcher is full of captures, double crosses, commandeering ships, and overseas adventure.   Molly Kimmerling portrays Bill Slank with a sneer and a strut, a charismatic double crosser with a rock n roll edge.  Michael John Ciszewski as dimwitted, somewhat unhinged Smee and Joey C. Pelletier as swaggering Black Stache work well together in silly, over the top fun.

With inquisitive eyes and a star-crossed dress, Lauren Elias is no damsel in distress as eloquent, logical, and determined Molly Aster.  Much like her father Lord Aster in a commanding performance by Liz Adams, Molly’s plucky personality is a good match for Claire Koenig as lonely, forthright and naïve orphan known only as Boy.

Peter and the Starcatcher Boy

Claire Koenig as Boy with the cast Photo courtesy of Hub Theatre Company of Boston

The exploration of loneliness, faith, dreams of flying, and finding one’s place in the world is part of what inspires writers to expand and retell this timeless tale.  The improvisational, local, and at times, self referential humor ranges from what an older child would appreciate and features some adult humor as the show progresses.  The audience is so close to the action, it is also somewhat interactive at times.  Peter and the Starcatcher is packed with comedy and yet, it is the sweeter, quieter moments that give the production true heart.

Hub Theatre Company of Boston presents Peter and the Starcatcher through Sunday, November 18 at First Church of Boston in Boston, Massachusetts.  Click here for more information and tickets.  Get all of Hub Theatre Company of Boston’s upcoming events and more on Facebook.

REVIEW: SpeakEasy Stage’s riveting musical, ‘Fun Home’ unveils the illusion of perfection

Every home withholds a multitude of secrets.  Under a softly lit, lattice rooftop, The SpeakEasy Stage Company takes an intimate look inside a family seemingly full of zeal and an old Victorian house so tidy and flawless on the outside, flanked with a towering bookshelf, a grand piano, and oriental rugs, it neatly hides the cracks and crevices underneath.  With clever scenic design by Cristina Todesco, SpeakEasy Stage unveils this absorbing musical as an interactive treat, every seat a good one, luring the audience into the Bechdel family’s complicated world.

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COME TO THE FUN HOME.  Marissa Simeqi, Luke Gold, and Cameron Levesquue in SpeakEasy Stage’s production of FUN HOME. Photo by Nile Scott Studios.

Based on the graphic novel memoir by Alison Bechdel and directed by Paul Daigneault, The SpeakEasy Stage presents the five-time Tony award-winning musical Fun Home through Sunday, November 24 at the Calderwood Pavilion at the Boston Center for the Arts in Boston, Massachusetts.  Click here for more information and tickets.

Looking back on life, it’s funny what you recall. Memories can be tricky.  As time goes by, perspective changes as a person grows, transforming a memory, 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 mused, “I need real things to draw from because I don’t trust memory.”

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Marissa Simeqi and Todd Yard in SpeakEasy Stage’s production of FUN HOME. Photo by Nile Scott Studios

Told through Alison’s perspective, she looks back on her relationship with her enigmatic, intellectual father Bruce and her traveling and ill at ease mother, Helen.  The show is a musical drama with its share of comedic, uplifting moments.  Alison is the only individual that outwardly transforms in this piece, thanks to the intense, meticulous work by Marissa Simeqi, adorably and precociously portrayed by Small Alison and Ellie van Amerongen, exceptional as naïve, charming, and nervous Medium Alison.

With black rimmed classes with short dark hair, Amy Jo Jackson slips into Alison’s façade, a mature, jaded and intellectually-driven individual.  With a dark sense of humor, Jackson narrates this emotional journey, evoking confusion, warmth, sorrow, and frustration in her fine features, building her strength in each new discovery.

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ALISON AT DESK. Marissa Simeqi and Amy Jo Jackson in SpeakEasy Stage’s production of FUN HOME. Photo by Nile Scott Studios.

Todd Yard, in a searing performance, masters the many sides of Alison’s father Bruce, who seems to juggle who is or should be to everyone, but cannot openly face his true nature.  With black rimmed glasses and dressed in khakis and a blue sweater, he is serious man with a brilliant intellect, aiming to be an expert on most everything.  Friendly, strict, and responsible, but as much as he loves his family, 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.  Yard’s vocals have a lovely, emotionally-rich quality reflected in whatever he sings including the poignant number Pony Girl, and most notably his harrowing rendition of Edges of the World  – a must see.

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EDGES OF THE WORLD. Todd Yard in SpeakEasy Stage’s production of FUN HOME. Photo by Nile Scott Studios.

Laura Marie Duncan portrays Alison’s complicated and misunderstood mother.  Surrounding herself with outward perfection, like her husband, Bruce, she lives her life distancing herself from reality, reflected in the moving number, Days and Days.  She personifies a woman with the traditional values of her generation, building security within the walls of her home.  Duncan, a beautiful soprano, is behind the house that shines, keeping the flaws out of sight.

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Led by and musically directed by Matthew Stern, the small onstage orchestra, spread out in front of the bookcase, 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 bright colors and retro costumes, but sung in Small Alison’s hope of escaping reality.

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RAINCOAT OF LOVE. The cast of SpeakEasy Stage’s production of FUN HOME. Photo by Nile Scott Studios.

Some things cannot be fixed.  The painful and difficult moments, and those joyful moments, that might not have been as once imagined.  The best thing is to learn from it and take the next step.

SpeakEasy Stage Company’s Fun Home continues through Sunday, November 24 at the Calderwood Pavilion at the Boston Center for the Arts in Boston, Massachusetts.  Click here for more information and tickets.  Follow Speakeasy Stage on Facebook for more on their upcoming events.

 

 

REVIEW: Unpredictable, humorous, and insightful, Lyric Stage Company’s ‘The Roommate’ not your average odd couple

Don’t underestimate Lyric Stage Company’s The Roommate as a frothy chick lit piece about middle aged women.  The innocent splash of coffee on the promotional poster does not begin to describe this thrilling drama.  With unexpected twists and two exceptional leads, Jen Silverman’s The Roommate is so much more than that.  The Lyric Stage took the audience from an Argentinean prison in Kiss of the Spider Woman in September to the welcoming setting of a rural kitchen in Iowa for The Roommate, but both settings have their share of dark secrets.  The Roommate features an odd coupling of one woman who is overwhelmed by life and the other who wants to change hers completely.

The Roommate poster

The Lyric Stage presents ‘The Roommate’ Photo courtesy of Lyric Stage Company

Directed by Spiro Veloudos and laden with funny, relatable moments, Jen Silverman’s The Roommate, a one act, 90 minute drama with no intermission, continues at 140 Clarendon Street in Boston, Massachusetts through November 18.  Click here for more information and for tickets.

Surrounded by a little too cheerful, inviting Iowa kitchen decorated in mismatched floral décor and what looks like a working island stove, the setting, cleverly designed by Jenna McFarland Lord, could be an extension of Paula Plum as frenzied, relentlessly upbeat Sharon.  Having never had a roommate before and in her mid 50s, it is easy to relate to her nervous twittering and chatter as she waits for her roommate to arrive.

The Roommate Adrianne Krystansky as Robyn as Paula Plum as Sharon at the table

Adrianne Krstansky as Robyn and Paula Plum as Sharon Photo courtesy of the Lyric Stage Company

Dressed in a floral blouse and apron, Sharon is the picture of country living, her hands always busy with an occasional nervous laugh masking melancholy and loneliness.  Paula Plum steps seamlessly into the role of this complicated woman enhanced by her gasps, her excited utterances of glee, and her flicker of self awareness that brings Sharon to exuberant life.

When collected, quiet, and artistic Robyn arrives, Sharon considers how different their worlds are.  The Roommate contains as many humorous moments as it does dark ones and a particularly amusing highlight surrounds the two women’s backgrounds.  Sharon brows rise when Robyn describes her Bronx background while Robyn becomes startled over potential Iowa tornadoes while Sharon brushes them off.  Their quirky, malleable chemistry has a life of its own and it evolves and transforms throughout the play.

The Roommate Paula Plum as Sharon and Adrianne Krystansky as Robyn smoking

Paula Plum as Sharon and Adrianne Krstansky as Robyn Photo courtesy of Lyric Stage Company

Dressed in dark colors and Doc Martins which match her black hair styled in a bob, Adrianne Krstansky portrays Robyn close to the chest, a mysterious, stealthy woman mature beyond her years where every personal detail is a painful revelation.  Krstansky gives an understated performance which simmers as the play progresses.  Each one of Krstansky and Plum’s conversations is a palpable tug of war, and one can’t help but hope that traditional, sheltered Sharon will somehow win.   However guarded Sharon and Robyn are, both are longing to relate to one another and the end result reveals more about themselves than they could have possibly imagined.

The Roommate Paula Plum standing as Sharon and Adrianne Krystansky as Robyn

Paula Plum as Sharon and Adrianne Krstansky as Robyn Courtesy of the Lyric Stage Company

The Lyric Stage Company proudly presents The Roommate continuing through Sunday, November 18 at 140 Clarendon Street in Boston, Massachusetts.  Click here for tickets and more information.  Subscriptions and dinner packages are also available.  Follow The Lyric Stage on Twitter and Facebook for their upcoming productions and more.

Boston Camerata’s Artistic Director Anne Azema talks Fortune and greed in classic satire ‘The Tale of Fauvel: A Political Fable from Medieval France’

With a dose of comedy and memorable music, The Boston Camerata kicks off its 64th season with an enduring satire on hypocrisy, abuse, and greed called The Tale of Fauvel: A Political Fable from Medieval France on Sunday, October 28 at the First Church of Boston at 4 p.m.  Based on a 14th century poem the Roman de Fauvel, this compelling piece focuses on corrupt rulers and the effect they have on society.  Click here for more information and for tickets.

 

The Boston Camerata’s Artistic Director Anne Azema portrays Fortune in this political fable.  She describes her pivotal role, the show’s contemporary significance, and plans for the future.

Sleepless Critic:  You took on the role of Fortune in Tale of Fauvel: A Political Fable from Medieval France. No doubt Fortune must play a powerful role in this piece.

Anne Azema:  Fortune or Lady Luck, a kind of pagan Goddess surviving into the Christian Middle Ages, is a powerful presence and presented as a female in medieval literature. According to the Carmina Burana text, she holds the world in her hands, sits on her wheel, will raise some and crush others – and will leave you shirtless, with a bare back.  Fauvel, the Orange-Maned Horse, has put in his mind to conquer the entire world by wooing and then marrying Fortune.  Little does he know Fortune’s answer to his courtship is a severe put-down.

SC:  This show is a satire, but it carries a contemporary significance ahead of the midterm elections.

AA:  Fauvel began Camerata’s long series of story-telling programs, an effort that continues to this day.  I think Fauvel’s truculent criticism of hypocrisy, abuse, and greed in public life continues to be as relevant as the headlines in today’s newspapers. Some of the lines from 1310 seem so relevant, it will give you shivers.

SC:  What was it like working with the cast?

AA:  A complete joy!  Our core team has performed this piece in various configurations before.  Aside from our three singers, we will have two instrumentalists and a narrator, who will share, in irreverent English verse, the adventure of our Horse, Fauvel.

We are also happy to include Longy School of Music of Bard College students and Brandeis students.  They will all take part in the revels of Fauvel’s Wedding Night!

SC:  What inspired you to bring it to the Boston Camerata stage this season?

AA:  Its manuscript source is interesting on many levels so it is well known both to musicians and literary types who have an interest in early repertoires.  It’s a vehement diatribe in verse against the abuse of power in Paris of 1310, but there is a visual aspect to the book which includes beautiful illuminated miniatures. The music, an anthology so to speak, of varied genre and style of pieces, were songs that were circulating in Paris at the time.  They were either recycled from other sources to fit the narrative or composed to illustrate the purpose.

Camerata developed a first version of Fauvel in the 90s as a commission for Warner/Erato.  Within the Boston Camerata’s repertoire are programs both recently created and ‘classic’. Our Fauvel falls into this latter category. We are delighted this production continues to be in demand both here and in Europe.

SC:  What sort of music will this show offer?

AA:  Written many centuries ago but very accessible, the music is direct and acoustical.  It’s a mixture of voice(s) and instruments in a small setting. The public is close to the performers and has an ‘organic’ access to them.  The trademark to our performances is a blend of spontaneity, energy, and emotional commitment with careful research and scholarship.

SC:  Though this show has its moments of humor, this piece is message-driven. What is the best reason you think people should see this show?

In the end, I believe what is important is spending an entertaining hour or more together. Although the music is seven centuries old, it is totally enjoyable.  Its beauty and energy will bring you to another powerful place and frankly, speaking of humour and satire, we all need to blow off a little steam in this highly fraught moment.

Boston Camerata Fauvel (2)

The cast in action. Photo courtesy of the Boston Camerata

 

SC:  Boston Camerata’s 64th season boasts a wonderful lineup including Christmas performances Puer Natus Est: A Medieval Christmas and Gloria! An Italian Christmas in December. How do you select each season’s performances?

AA:  My choices are driven by my personal interests, the teams we have, the repertory book we want to keep alive, and by our mission to create new programs combined with touring and recording demands. The idea is to keep us and our audiences alert, perky, and open to new experiences.

SC:   I understand you are also a soloist, often writing your own pieces, touring, or recording. Please tell me about that.

I just returned from touring Canada with a One Woman Show, a show which presents music of the 12th and 13th century. These recitals, alone or with colleagues, offer a different way of connecting with the public and demand a deeper relationship with the music.

SC:  What work you are currently working on?

AA:  I will continue to look at narratives/storytelling and prepare several recording and media projects in the coming seasons.  Besides our medieval shows, we’ve been involved in early American music. We are also working on the release of our Naxos CD recorded last season in the context of a Canadian, American, and Dutch project. We recorded The Harmonia Mundi CD in September and that will contain some powerful, motivating American songs of resistance and rebellion!

For one day only, The Boston Camerata presents The Tale of Fauvel: A Political Fable from Medieval France on Sunday, October 28 at the First Church of Boston at 4 p.m.  Click here for more information and tickets and be sure to follow The Boston Camerata on Facebook for all their latest news.

REVIEW: As clever as it is insightful, make time for Americana Theatre Company’s compelling ‘Man of La Mancha’

“When life itself seems lunatic, who knows where madness lies?”

In the midst of action, suspense, heartbreak, and humor in multiple Tony award-winning musical, Man of La Mancha, lies Don Quixote author Miguel de Cerventes’s wise words, one of many timeless reflections declared during Americana Theatre Company’s moving, insightful musical, Man of La Mancha at the Spire Center for the Arts in Plymouth, Massachusetts through Sunday, July 29.  This show is not for children.  Click here for more information and for tickets.

Based on the classic tale, Don Quixote, Americana Theatre Company’s Man of La Mancha by Dan Wasserman is steeped in theatrical riches from its strong, edgy cast, powerful voices, a hint of Monty Python humor, and diverse combat scenes, but the real heart of this work is found in Cervantes himself, a beacon in dark times.  Americana Theatre Company prides itself on its stellar storytelling and this one is for the ages.

American Theatre Company Man of La Mancha

Scott Wahle as Don Quixote and Bethany Lauren James as Aldonza with Ruben Navarro as Sancho Panza

Directed by Michael Kirkland, Man of La Mancha addresses the everlasting battle between idealism and realism through a play-within-a-play.  With the exception of Sancho Panza, portrayed with wide-eyed optimism and unflinching faithfulness by Ruben Nevarro, each character depicts a dark side in humanity, but not without redemption.

Man of La Mancha kicks off without a hitch, showcasing a wide range of comic, stylized, and clever combat scenes by Derek Martin that often take the audience by surprise.  With just two onstage guitars and an offstage piano, the music accompaniment is delightfully subtle and intimate as the musicians melt into the background.  From colorful gypsy costumes and corset dresses to detailed, embroidered vests and leather armor, costumer Brian Kenerson zealously captures the beautiful and harsh Reformation era.

Americana Theatre Company The Barber

Brian Kenerson portrays The Barber as is also the Costumer for the show Photo Courtesy of Denise Maccaferri/Americana Theatre Company

Scott Wahle steps into Cervantes/Don Quixote’s brown leather boots with a natural assurance.  Finding himself among a group of prisoners, author and poet Miguel de Cervantes creates a defense in the form of a play in order to keep his possessions and potentially save his own life.

Wahle has a long history being a charismatic, relatable storyteller as a local television personality and in theatrical roles such as Walt Disney-esque Paragon Park creator George A. Dodge in Company Theatre’s original musical, Paragon Park or as smooth-talking Nathan Detroit in Reagle Music Theatre’s slick musical, Guys and Dolls.  He draws from that and more to deliver a powerful, emotionally-charged, multi-layered performance as a sympathetic admirer in the tender song, Dulcinea to a valiant hero in epic numbers such as The Impossible Dream and Man of La Mancha.  Alongside such dark characters, he is idealistic and compassionate, but hiding a secret.

Americana Theatre Company Don Quixote

Jennifer Martin performs a memorable dance as a Moorish dancer Photo courtesy of Denise Maccaferri/Americana Theatre Company

The chemistry between the cast members crackle, but most notably between Scott Wahle as Cervantes/Don Quixote and Ruben Nevarro as his unfathomably loyal squire, Sancho Panza.  It is a vivid, nurturing friendship every true friendship should strive to be.  Nevarro has his own set of crisp vocals in a warm rendition of I Really Like Him and comical A Little Gossip.

Americana Theatre Company Aldonza

Bethany Lauren James as Aldonza Photo courtesy of Denise Maccaferri/Americana Theatre Company

Wahle shares sweet chemistry with Bethany Lauren James, who delivers a brilliant performance as uncouth, harsh, suspicious, and yet compassionate spitfire Aldonza.  Surrounded by menacing muleteers, she first appears strained and exasperated in a red corset dress for the comical and fiery number, It’s All the Same.  A hard realist who can’t imagine otherwise, James is a wonderful foil for Wahle and holds her own among a cast of powerful characters.  She masters the meaty role and her expressions are a complex web of emotions, her character constantly torn between what to think and how to feel.

Derek Martin is intriguing as a quietly distressed Padre.  Dressed in rust colored robes, Martin is torn by what is right and what is ultimately good for the human spirit, offering a tender and reflective rendition of To Each His Dulcinea.  With vivid, comical expressions and a deep baritone, David Friday is hilarious as a panicked Innkeeper.  Caitlin Skinner as Antonia, Derek Martin as Padre, Erin Friday as Housekeeper, and Jesse Sullivan as Dr. Carrasso lend their impressive vocals to the multifaceted number, I’m Only Thinking of Him.

Americana Theatre Company Man of La Mancha bow

The complete cast Photo credit to Denise Maccaferri

A clever tale with deeper meaning, Man of La Mancha kicked off Americana Theatre Company’s eighth season and continues through Sunday, July 29 at Spire Center for the Arts, 25 1/2 Court Street in Plymouth, Massachusetts.  In October, Americana Theatre Company continues its season with a one man production of Sleepy Hollow and The Gifts of the Magi in time for the holidays.  Click here for ticket information, fall classes, and more.  Click here to find out how to support Americana Theatre Company’s mission and be sure to follow them on Facebook and Twitter.

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