Centastage’s Joe Antoun directs Shakespeare with a comedic, twist-filled spin in new play, ‘Noir Hamlet’

Picture a dark night in 1949 Los Angeles, a mysterious death, a new take on a classic, twist-filled tale, and a play within a…comedy?  That’s what happens when playwright John Minigan melds key elements of Shakespeare’s classic tale while throwing in a doll, a dame, and a detective in Centastage’s Noir Hamlet continuing through Saturday, June 30 at Boston Center for the Arts in Boston, Massachusetts.  Even for those familiar with Hamlet, this tale is full of surprises.  Click here for more information and tickets.

Noir Hamlet Paul Melendy

Paul Melendy as Hamlet in Noir Hamlet

Centastage’s Executive Director, founding member, and Noir Hamlet’s director Joseph Antoun discusses classic noir, Write On, and just where the idea for Noir Hamlet came from.  Joe won an IRNE for Excellence in Theatre.

Sleepless Critic:  Noir Hamlet is a fascinating, inventive play.  Since Shakespeare’s Hamlet has dark and mysterious elements, it’s easy to see the connection to noir.  However, this is a full-length comedy in one act.  How did this show come together?

Joseph Antoun:  John Minigan, part of our Write On playwriting group that meets once a month, wrote Noir Hamlet.  It was read in our playwriting group episodically, which means a couple of scenes brought it every now and then.  Through that process, John was able to shape this show.  Several playwrights bring in their work.

Noir Hamlet has key elements of the famous Shakespeare play such as finding out the mystery behind Hamlet’s father’s death.  Four actors are playing multiple roles.  The secretary’s name is Ray Chio, like ‘Horatio’ in John’s language and the same actor who plays Rey also plays Yorick’s skull.  Hamlet and Gertrude strictly play their roles, but Claude, as in Claudius, also portrays the Ghost of Hamlet and a character named Paolo Niro.  In that case, they are switching characters, but Rae is a love interest for Hamlet.  There’s also questions raised if Claude is also carrying on with Rae.  The show has lots of red herrings.

Noir Hamlet Robert D Murphy and Liz Adams

Robert D Murphy and Liz Adams in Noir Hamlet through June 30. Photo courtesy of Centastage

SC:  It’s vintage noir style.  That must have been fun to put on stage.

JA:  It was a riot!  The comedy has not only the noir look with long trench coats and fedoras, but the stereotypical language such as ‘mug,’ ‘doll,’ and ‘dame.’   It’s a fast moving script with lots of twists.

SC:  It’s a comedy, so I imagine the way this show is put together, even if the audience has read Hamlet, they still won’t know what is coming.

JA:  If the audience knows Hamlet, they’ll get a kick out what is acknowledged and paid homage to.  If they think by knowing Hamlet they’ll figure out the story, they’ll be surprised.

Noir Hamlet Cristhian Mancinas-Garcia

Noir Hamlet’s Cristhian Mancinas-Garcia Photo courtesy of Centastage

SC:  A few local performers are taking the stage such as Liz Adams from Medford.  How was the audition process held?

JA:  It was a very personal type of casting.  I knew I wanted Paul Melendy for Hamlet because I had directed hi m before.  I knew Bob Murphy has the right comic timing.  He understands the show and Hamlet very well, so I knew he could enhance it.  Last year in Newburyport, Cristhian Mancinas-Garcia, who plays Rey, took part in a Noir Hamlet reading and John was pleased with it.  I admired Liz Adams’s work.  She played Julius Caesar in the all-female actor Shakespeare project version of Julius Caesar.  A lot of the audition process was just one-on-one interviews more than monologues or sonnets.

Coincidentally, we’re in the Black Box Theatre for Noir Hamlet, but across the hall in the Plaza Theatre, OWI is performing Red Velvet, calling it an Othello like you’ve never seen before.

Noir Hamlet Paul Melendy as Hamlet

Paul Melendy as Hamlet in Noir Hamlet Photo courtesy of Centastage

SC:  What was most surprising about this production together?

JA:  One is the lightning pace of the show.  The faster the pacing, the funnier and better the show will be.  What is also surprising is the physical humor in it.  How funny simple actions such as turning the head or stepping out of the scene in film noir style have been.

SC:  His Girl Friday, an old film starring Cary Grant and Rosalind Russell, is not exactly a film noir, but the pacing is also incredibly quick.  One can detect four jokes in one line.  It’s a brilliant film.

JA:  Yes, Noir Hamlet has the same style and it pays homage to that film.  I watched a whole lot of film noir to catch up on the noir language such as Laura, The Big Sleep, and film noir-style films like Who Framed Roger Rabbit and Naked GunNoir Hamlet is its own thing though it has its influences.

SC:  Centastage is in its 28th season.  How has it evolved over the years?

Centastage started with seasons of new plays by local writers and I realized I didn’t think we were serving audiences or playwrights by a season every year of the best plays we received if I didn’t feel like they were ready for production.  Over time, we started putting more energy into the development process of new plays.  Now we do a new play when we think we have a script ready for it.

In 2015, our last full production was IRNE-nominated Academy Fight Song by Andrew Clarke.  It took five years to develop between Andrew Clarke, the playwright, doing readings, rewriting it, and us rereading it.   Centastage is a great community to be a part of and it’s nice to deal with playwrights, actors, directors, and designers.

Centastage New work

Courtesy of Centastage

SC:  Please tell me about Write On, which is how Noir Hamlet came together in the first place.

JA:  Write On has been meeting since 1994 on the first Monday of every month.  We have actors come who like to write plays.  The members bring in work and we read and discuss them.  John Minigan has a dramatic piece that is a Eugene O’ Neill finalist this year.  When he brought Noir Hamlet in the first time, the people laughed their way through acting it.  The theatre group has been great.  We have been through years of big numbers but right now.   My guess is that we are at 12-15 regular playwrights.   It’s a very thoughtful process.  All genres, all forms and open to whoever wants to join.  We also put together readings open to the public, social events, and on the website are playwright and actor head shots as well as show titles that have gone on to Centastage full productions.

SC:  I imagine you hear a lot of shows that come across the board.  How do you decide which on you want to work with?

JA:  That’s a really good question.  A lot of it is my gut.  I enjoy plays with a strong sense of character, good storytelling, and surprising themes.   I have actors that come into the writing group and I also teach at Emerson which exposes me to not only young actors, but professional actors who are on faculty and we have open auditions.

I believe in building bridges between playwrights and artists.  Playwrights that have you read their play in a reading start to build a bridge between you and that work.  I think it’s a good way to connect with new plays coming up.

Noir Hamlet poster

Noir Hamlet continues through June 30 Photo courtesy of Centastage

It sounds like Centastage plays a big part in the whole picture.  Click here for more information and tickets to Noir Hamlet, continuing through Saturday, June 30 at Boston Center for the Arts, 539 Tremont Street in Boston, Massachusetts.  Click here for more information on Centastage and here for Write On.  Follow Centastage on Facebook and Twitter.

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‘Boston Radio for Zumix’ benefit boasted Boston DJ’s dancing, live performances, and a peek inside the radio studio

Zumix Radio DJs

Photo courtesy of Zumix

Just across the East Boston fire station sits a youth haven for music and much more.  Zumix, East Boston’s non-profit organization geared toward empowering youth through music, has to offer.  On Friday, June 8, music lovers united to celebrate Zumix’s 11th annual benefit, ‘Boston Radio for Zumix’ featured a long list of Boston DJ’s past and present, live performances, silent auction, food, refreshments, and much more.  Hosted by Morning Guy Tai and Adam Klein, this sensational benefit will be held at Zumix, 260 Sumner Street in East Boston.  Click here to learn more about opportunities at Zumix.

Zumix Tune in

Courtesy of Zumix

As a hanging portrait of a boom box perches overhead, announcers and Zumix staff took the stage as they broadcast live on their local youth inspired radio 94.9 FM Zumix.  The evening had many humorous and heartfelt moments as members performed excerpts from their comedic shows, music, and an excerpt from their local Wednesday noon news program, ‘What’s Up Eastie’ featuring a person recounting their experience of the devastation in Mexico City in 2017 from a massive earthquake.  Zumix features all kind of music, comedy, and real life stories translated into radio. Zumix also offers a Sprouts program for the younger generation.   Zumix students, some who have performed with Sting, have gone on to do great things, keeping music in their lives.

 

 

Marcus Evans, a member of Zumix, offered tours of the facility which boasted soundproof rooms, impressive digital equipment, music instruments, a radio station tour by DJ Psychedelic, and a particular highlight, a unique purple room named after Prince.  Plenty of food and refreshments were served including Bart’s ice cream (Try flavors Three Geeks and a Red Head or the ever popular Deep Purple Cow).  Zumix’s silent auction items included Sporty Spice featuring Red Sox tickets and a tour of the broadcast booth, Pirates of the Boston Harbor featuring Rum Tasting for 25 people as well as a cruise on the Spirit of Boston, VIP Experience which offers a VIP experience to a Blue Hills Bank Pavilion show, Eastie’s Finest featuring a sunset sail and dinner, Soup Guy featuring tickets to the Joel McHale Show at the Chavelier Theatre in Medford, 90’s Utopia featuring tickets to the Cowboy Junkies, DJ for a Day, The Tables Have Turned offering a Turntable, Daft Punk, and Vinyl Box set, and Mid Life Crisis featuring an autographed DVD from Alice Cooper, a variety of music lessons, and more.  DJ Nomadix included the night with music and dancing before announcing the silent auction’s big winners.

 

 

Having started as a songwriting program, Zumix students enjoy in-school and after school events throughout the year. Songwriting, radio, audio technology, and performance are among the renowned programs offered by Zumix for youth ages seven through eighteen and over 1,000 students attend classes. Click here for more information on their upcoming concerts, events, and festivals! Follow Zumix on Facebook and Twitter.

For Performing Arts news, interviews, reviews, and much more in Boston and beyond, follow us on Facebook @sleeplesscritic and subscribe.

Hingham Civic Music Theatre will soon debut the humorous fairy tale with a twist, ‘Shrek the Musical’

Shrek the Musical

Hingham Civic Music Theatre debuts ‘Shrek the Musical for two weekends only from Oct 21 through Oct 29 Photo courtesy of Hingham Civic Music Theatre

Can an intimidating green ogre have what it takes to become an unlikely hero?  Get to know Shrek, Donkey, the Gingerbread Man, Three Blind Mice, The Three Little Pigs, Pinocchio, and many more iconic fairy tale creatures in an entirely new way as Hingham Civic Music Theatre debuts Shrek the Musical at the Sanborn Auditorium in Hingham Town Hall Saturday, October 21 and continuing for two weekends through Sunday, October 29.  Based on William Steig’s imaginative fairy tale that later launched into a beloved animated film starring Mike Myers and Cameron Diaz followed by many popular film sequels, Shrek the Musical adds a bit more to this thrilling, family adventure.  Click here for more information, tickets, and how to participate in the HCMT Fundraising campaign.

Featuring real life husband and wife Chris DiOrio as Shrek and Leslie DiOrio as Princess Fiona, Shrek is a lone, but not lonely, green ogre who lives a quiet swamp life until life as he knows it is threatened, forcing him to embark on an daunting quest to save a mysterious princess.  With heartwarming songs such as Don’t Let Me Go, Big Bright Beautiful World, This is How Dreams Come True, and the Monkees classic, I’m a BelieverShrek the Musical offers enough witty humor and heartwarming moments that will entertain children and adults alike.

Directed by Lisa Pratt, music by Jeanine Tesori, musically-directed by Mark Bono, with choreography by Tara McSweeney Morrison, Hingham Civic Music Theatre presents Shrek the Musical on Saturdays, October 21 and 28 as well as one Friday performance on October 27 at 7:30 p.m.  Sunday matinees will be held on October 22 and 29 at 2 p.m.  All shows take place at Hingham Town Hall, 210 Central Street in Hingham, Massachusetts.  Click here for further details, tickets, and be sure to follow Hingham Civic Music Theatre on Facebook for upcoming events and more.

Hingham Civic Music Theatre announces ‘Shrek the Musical’ auditions

Everyone’s favorite ogre, Shrek is heading to Hingham Civic Music Theatre.  Based on William Steig’s imaginative fairy tale, the Dreamworks Animation film adaptation, Shrek was an instant hit in 2001 starring Mike Myers, Eddie Murphy, Cameron Diaz, and John Lithgow.  Several sequels followed and was also adapted an innovative, fun-loving musical on Broadway.

Hingham Civic Music Theatre is searching for an all-new, fun-loving cast to join Shrek the Musical as it makes its Hingham debut in October.  Auditions for Shrek the Musical will be held at the Sanborn Auditorium at Hingham Town Hall, 210 Central Street in Hingham, Massachusetts on Monday, June 26 and Tuesday, June 27 at 7 p.m.  Callbacks will take place on Wednesday, June 28 at 7 p.m.  Click here for more information on auditions, cast descriptions, rehearsal schedule, and to download the audition form.  These will be closed auditions.

Shrek is a lone, but not lonely, green ogre who lives a quiet swamp life until life as he knows it is threatened, forcing him to embark on a daunting quest and tremendous adventure.  Featuring a large cast of beloved fairy tale characters with a few new faces added to the tale, Shrek the Musical is a parody, offering its own fairy tale twist with plenty of witty humor, family fun, and life lessons.

Directed by Lisa Pratt, musically directed by Mark Bono, with choreography by Tara McSweeney Morrison, Hingham Civic Music Theatre presents Shrek the Musical for two weekends from Saturday, October 21 through Sunday, October 29.  Follow Hingham Civic Music Theatre on Facebook for upcoming events and more.

REVIEW: ‘L.A. Dance Project’ closed Celebrity Series of Boston’s season with powerful, message-driven performances

Another spectacular season of Celebrity Series of Boston has come to an end, but not without an intriguing and dynamic finale by L.A. Dance Project, packing a punch with their surprising footwork.  The final performance also featured a free, interactive post-show talk with Ballet Master Sébastien Marcovici.  Celebrity Series of Boston’s 2017-18 season will premiere in October with multi-talented performer Alan Cumming.  Click here for more information and for tickets.

Playful, vibrant, and at times haunting, L.A. Dance Project, closed out the Celebrity Series of Boston’s season at the Shubert Theatre from May 19-21. Led by Benjamin Millepied, an acclaimed dancer and choreographer known for choreographing the award-winning film, Black Swan, L.A. Dance Project’s three complex and contemporary dance segments offer its share of joy and conflict while inspiring strong emotions throughout the performance.

L.A. Dance Project

‘Harbor Me’ (Morgan Lugo, Robbie Moore, Aaron Carr) Photo courtesy of Robert Torres/Celebrity Series of Boston

Accompanied by a haunting oboe featured in a dynamic medley by Park Woojae, Harbor Me by Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui delivers a powerful message about human nature and looking past what is on the surface.  Fragments of light stripe the floor as shadows sway ominously on the walls.  Dressed in fatigues and urban clothing in browns, blues and greens, Stephanie Amurao, Julia Eichten, and Lilja Ruriksdottir interact with each other in a ballet-infused variation of unity, imitation, reflection, and conflict.  They move in a fascinating flurry of abstract movement that both celebrates unity as well as emphasize the dark side of human nature as the music intensifies.

LA Dance Project Murder Ballades

Murder Ballades (Nathan Makolandra, Rachelle Rafailedes) Photo courtesy of Robert Torres/Celebrity Series of Boston

Worn sneakers possess a mighty significance as dancers, dressed youthfully in shirts and shorts, unite in a vigorous and charming performance, the second dance segment of the afternoon.  The lighthearted, violin-infused music possesses a mounting urgency set upon a vibrant water, gold, and black background.  The lithe men and women ensemble, featuring Stephanie Amurao, Aaron Carr, Julia Eichten, Nathan B. Makolandra, Robbie Moore, and Rachel Rafailedes, are blissful and uplifting in smooth, sweeping steps.  They perform pirouettes with zeal, twirl, dip, and hook arms in a display of sweet innocence.  In a particularly humorous moment, as the dancers exited the stage, rambunctious dancer Janie Taylor, carried away by the music, was yanked offstage at the last moment. The performance, entitled Murder Ballades by Justin Peck, is a response to real life, tragic events that children have endured in Aurora and Sandy Hook.  It is a beautiful, spirited tribute to youth, but not without a sense of foreboding.

LA Dance Project Janie Taylor

‘Murder Ballades’ (Janie Taylor) Photo courtesy of Robert Torres/Celebrity Series of Boston

The final dance, On the Other Side, is an intriguing compilation by acclaimed artistic director and choreographer Benjamin Millepied.  With an extraordinary emphasis of color by costume designer Alessandro Sartori and bright, multicolored background art by Mark Bradford, On the Other Side taps into a wondrous reverie featuring dancers Stephanie Amurao, Aaron Carr, David Adrian Freeland Jr., Morgan Lugo, Robbie Moore, Rachel Rafailedes, Lilia Ruriksdottir, and Janie Taylor.  Each color in the artwork seems to come to life in each dancer as they spin, twirl, and skip along.  The piano tune, by Philip Glass, also builds to a crescendo as duets perform a mix of traditional ballet and contemporary dance and then gather center stage, as if yanked out of a reverie.

LA Dance Project Rachelle Rafailedes

‘On the Other Side’ (Rachelle Rafailedes) Photo courtesy of Robert Torres/Celebrity Series of Boston

Click here to learn more about L.A. Dance Project and future performances.  Follow L.A. Project on Facebook.  Celebrity Series of Boston will be back for another stellar season featuring celebrity appearances, dance, comedy, and more.  Click here for more information, subscriptions, tickets, and how to support Celebrity Series of Boston.  Get further updates on Celebrity Series of Boston on Facebook.

Barenaked Ladies, Jake Owen, and Local CountryFest part of Indian Ranch’s summer season

As the days lengthen and the temperature rises, the first summer concert at Indian Ranch will soon arrive.  With beautiful scenery overlooking Webster Lake in Webster, Massachusetts, Indian Ranch not only offers their annual Yuengling summer concert series and Indian Princess Cruises, but is also available for private parties, weddings, and much more.  Indian Ranch will offer a closer look at their open house on Sunday, May 21 at 11 a.m.  Call 1-508-943-3871 or click here for more information!

Indian Ranch view

Indian Ranch outdoor concert venue/Courtesy of Indian Ranch

Indian Ranch Open Hous

Get a closer look at Indian Ranch at their Open House on Sunday, May 21/Courtesy of Indian Ranch

Indian Ranch summer series, from June through September, will deliver a variety of live concerts in comedy, country, rock, and much more.  Kick off the season with return of Canadian rock comedy band, Barenaked Ladies (June 18).  Pat Benatar and Neil Girardo (July 23), The Mavericks (July 16), Huey Lewis and the News (June 24), and Eddie Money (July 15) are just a few of the popular artists taking the stage this summer.  A number of country artists will perform including Jake Owen (Sept 24), The Marshall Tucker Band (June 25), Big & Rich (July 9), Josh Turner (July 30), Phil Vassar (Aug 6), Montgomery Gentry (Sept 17), The Charlie Daniels Band (Sept 9), Dwight Yoakam (Aug 13), and Hunter Hayes (Aug 19).

Indian Ranch Local Country Fest

Indian Ranch will debut their Local CountryFest on Sept 16 Photo courtesy of Indian Ranch

Performances are still being added to the summer roster.  Check back for further updates.  Indian Ranch is located at 200 Gore Road in Webster, Massachusetts. This gorgeous venue is an ideal setting for campground sights, private events, and weddings.

Click here for tickets, more information, and VIP parking information. Like Indian Ranch on Facebook for updates, ticket information, and the full schedule of upcoming events.

 

REVIEW: Hingham Civic Music Theatre’s compelling musical, ‘Oklahoma’ a stompin’ good time

From the first few angelic notes from one of Oklahoma’s most popular songs, Oh What a Beautiful Morning sung a capella by Jack Cappadona as charismatic Curly, it is easy to see that Hingham Civic Music Theatre’s (HCMT) spring musical is something special.  Celebrating its 75th anniversary, Hingham Civic Music Theatre’s Oklahoma! combines elegant costuming, an impressive, distinctive cast, and an interactive set that makes the audience settle into its own home on the range.  With its wealth of historical references weaved into Rodgers and Hammerstein’s classic soundtrack capturing the spirit of the time, it is no wonder that Oklahoma! won the Pulitzer Prize for musical composition in 1944 and remains relevant today.  Hingham Civic Music Theatre delivers the show’s joyous zest for life, comedy, and, make no mistake, dark moments with zing and suspense.

HCMT Oklahoma Peddler and the Territory Boys

Michael Andre as Ali Hakim and the cast of ‘Oklahoma’ Photo courtesy of Eileen McIntyre/HCMT

Directed by Nathan Fogg and musically directed by Sandee Brayton with choreography by Tara Morrison, Hingham Civic Music Theatre offers two remaining performances of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s musical, Oklahoma! on Saturday, April 29 and a Sunday matinee on April 30 at the Sanborn Auditorium in Hingham, Massachusetts.  Click here for more information and for tickets.  Tickets are also available at the door.

Based on Lynn Riggs’ play, Green Grow the Lilacs, an interactive, colorful, and rustic set rewinds the clock to the Oklahoma Indian Territory at the turn of the century, equipped with softly flickering lanterns, vintage photos, bales of hay, colorful blossoms, lush greenery, and interactive props hanging on the walls.  In this particular production, the lighting is its own character, effectively setting the mood from a soft, rising sun to a nightmarish hue.

The splendid costumes, by Kathryn Ridder, are meticulously-detailed from gold embroidered shirts, brightly-colored satin costumes to delicate, richly-designed dresses with thick bows and petticoats.  Whether it is a cow scarf adorning an outfit or a carefully matched wicker hat, those details wonderfully capture the authenticity of the time.

Ruggedly dressed in suede chaps over khaki pants with a button down shirt and cowboy boots, Jack Cappadona portrays Curly McLain with an imaginative streak and a confident and at times, a mischievous smile.  Whether engaging C.J. Hawes as Laurey in a whimsical carriage ride during the playful song, The Surrey with the Fringe on the Top or musing about life in Oh What a Beautiful Morning, with silvery vocals, Jack slides right into the role as Curly with a natural charm.  With curly red hair and green striped overalls, C.J. Hawes portrays sassy, levelheaded Laurey with great comedic timing and sardonic wit.  Jack as Curly and C.J. as Laurey are enchanting together and their soaring vocals make beautiful harmony.

HCMT Oklahoma Laurey and Curly

Jack Cappadona as Curly and C.J. Hawes as Laurey Photo courtesy of Eileen McIntyre/HCMT

With thick curly hair, bright eyes, and a deep drawl, Rylan Vachon portrays Will as fun loving, somewhat hotheaded, and spontaneous.  Will’s rendition of the song, Kansas City, has never been more fun with lively vocals and slick choreography as The Territory Boys stomp, slide, and perform various stunts.  The entire cast captures the distinct spirit of Oklahoma! in all its stomping, sweeping joy.

HCMT Oklahoma Ado Annie and Will

Rylan Vachon as Will Parker and Jess Phaneuf as Ado Annie Photo courtesy of HCMT

Jess Phaneuf as Ado Annie brings a wild-eyed vivaciousness to the role.  She seems to know how to take command of any room she is in one way or another with a wink and a grin.  Her interaction with any cast member is fascinating and her comic timing is infallible.  Her chemistry with both Will and Michael Andre as bewildered peddler Ali Hakim, have their own distinct charm.  Michael Andre as Ali Hakim does a great job of balancing a dynamic character with comedy and cleverness.

HCMT Oklahoma Ado and Peddler

Jess Phaneuf as Ado Annie and Michael Andree as Ali Hakim Photo courtesy of Eileen McIntyre/HCMT

Athan Mantalos portrays disheveled, hired hand Jud with a slow burn and deep, compelling, operatic- sounding baritone.  Athan masters this role in the quiet moments, adding tension and making his character that much more mysterious.  His scenes with Curly are especially powerful and their vocals have seamless harmony.

HCMT Oklahoma Jud and Curly

Athan Matalos as Jud Fry and Jack Cappadona as Curly Photo Courtesy of Eileen McIntyre/HCMT

With spectacles and a high collared dress, Kate Fitzpatrick brings sensibility and a bit of sarcasm to the role of Aunt Eller, who is much wiser than she lets on.  Emily Gouillart as Gertie Cummings is a great deal of awkward fun with an unmistakable laugh.

Hingham Civic Music Theatre’s Oklahoma!  offers its share of romance, comedy, and plenty of uproarious moments, but dark moments as well.  Rodgers and Hammerstein wrote their second musical, Carousel, shortly after Oklahoma’s success and both shows share some of the same themes.  Hingham Civic Music Theatre delicately weaves in the themes of loneliness, temptation, and violence effectively, balancing this timeless tale.

Hingham Civic Music Theatre offers two remaining performances of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s musical, Oklahoma! on Saturday, April 29 and a Sunday matinee on April 30 at the Sanborn Auditorium 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.

 

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

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

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

Chorus Pro Musica Jamieinaction

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chorus Pro Musica

Chorus pro Musica group shot Photo courtesy of Eric Antoniou

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

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

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

Chorus Pro Musica Boston City Singers

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

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

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

Chorus Pro Musica NE Philharmonic and Providence Singers

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

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

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

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

Award-winning journalist JC Monahan discusses her part in Urban Improv’s funniest fundraiser, ‘Banned in Boston’

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Photo courtesy of Urban Improv

What is it like to perform at Urban Improv’s annual fundraiser, comedy, and music revue Banned in Boston?   For the last five years, Emmy award-winning journalist and Chronicle host JC Monahan has taken the stage to support Urban Improv’s dedication to youth empowerment each year while leaving seriousness at the door.  Sometimes the backstage antics are as hilarious as what is happening onstage.

Urban Improv is celebrating its 25th anniversary and presenting Banned in Boston, an evening of delicious food from top restaurants such as Mei Mei, Island Creek Oyster Bar, Eastern Standard, and East Coast Grill, improve featuring guests from business to politics to media personalities, and much more on Friday, April 7 at House of Blues in Boston, Massachusetts at 6 p.m.  This is a 21+ event.   Hosted by WGBH’s Jim Braude and Margery Eagan, click here for this year’s featured guests and tickets.

As the guest list grows longer each year, this exciting, highly-anticipated event get sillier and more inventive.  Anything can happen.  Emmy award-winning journalist JC Monahan talks about her experiences.

Sally Taylor and Charlie Baker

Onstage at Banned in Boston – Governor Charlie Baker and musician Sally Taylor

Jeanne Denizard:  Last year, I interviewed returning musician, Sally Taylor.  Sally said she had a blast at Banned in Boston.

JC Monahan:  She participates every year and is such a big supporter.  I think a lot of the fun happens backstage, but we also have fun onstage too.  It’s a chance to connect with so many other people in Boston behind the scenes talking and getting to know each other, laughing at the costumes we’re wearing and the lines that we’re saying, and it’s a blast seeing some of these people put into crazy situations.  For example, one of my all-time favorite memories is Aerosmith’s Tom Hamilton, dressed in this fantastic blue prom dress, as one of Cinderella’s ugly stepsisters.  Tom has achieved so much in his life and it’s so great he is totally willing to get onstage and be silly all for Urban Improv.

JD:  He’s local too.

JCM:  We have amazing people right in our backyard and it’s fantastic they all get onstage for this cause.  We’re all from different walks of life contributing in our own way in our personal lives, but we are also contributing together onstage.  I am as much a fan as I am a participant.  Sally Taylor is so sweet, so down to earth, and so talented.  I’ve become good friends with WGBH’s Jared Bowen and that is completely through Banned in Boston.  Emily Rooney is hysterical and Matt Siegel, who I only hear on Matty in the Morning.  I usually don’t get to see him face to face.   It’s a little reunion every year.

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Urban Improv presents their annual fundraiser, Banned in Boston Photo courtesy of Lisa Kessler/Urban Improv

JD:  This year, Banned in Boston is hosted by WGBH’s Margery Eagan and Jim Braude.

JCM:  They are two of my favorites and I listen to them all the time.  Jim usually gives me a hard time which is perfect.  It’s a great night and I love everything about it.

JD:   It’s such a great cause.  Urban Improv helps youth cope with real life challenges such as bullying and violence through topical improvisation.

JCM:  Exactly, you’re there to support the arts in many ways, but you are also using the arts in such a constructive way to help kids learn to communicate.  We can all benefit from being better communicators.  I love that they are starting young and reaching kids who may not know how to solve a problem.  Maybe Urban Improv will be that change in their life that sets them on a new path.  How can you not want to be behind that?

JD:  These kids may lack the guidance and are not in an environment where they can get it.

JCM:  Exactly, it takes all of us.  Urban Improv steps in and reaches those kids.  If I can help keep that program going in a very small way, I’ll be there.  I’ve participated for four or five years, but I feel like I’ve been there since the beginning since they make you feel like part of a family.  It is a very inviting, warm, environment and it allows you to be even sillier that you would be.

JD:  Oh, I know!  The funny things I have heard.

JCM:  When you have the congressmen get up onstage and act silly, the Governor, and the people I know through charity events as well, it’s just fun for everybody.  One of the funnier ones is Sonia Chang-Diaz who was funny as Miley Cyrus one year.  Banned in Boston oftentimes have a ringer who is an actual actress or actor that will blow us all away.  Kathy St. George will be there this year and she’ll be amazing.

JD:  You need a few to keep people guessing.  Are any of your characters created with you in mind?

JCM:  No, I think they work hard to keep us outside our comfort zone.  Politicians don’t play politicians most of the time, though last year I did get to play a reporter a little on the nose.  Then, years ago, I was a bratty yoga devotee.  I’m all for putting me in the most uncomfortable, craziest role because it’s much easier than something that’s close to who you actually are.  I’d rather play Miley Cyrus than have to play myself.

JD:  Do you have certain people that you click with better onstage?

JCM:  Anyone who is all in is the person I want to work with and I don’t think there has been anybody who hasn’t been all in.  Lisa Pierpont is always all in.  She came one year in a big, long wig.  If you take yourself too seriously, this might not be the place for you.  The list of people who have said yes are ready to be silly, ridiculous, and get people to laugh and enjoy themselves because we want people to come back year after year and continue to support Urban Improv.

JD:  I know it is an improv show, but do you do any preparation for it?

JCM:  We get the script less than a week before the show, but they do give you a costume comment.  One year I played a judge, so I overnight shipped a graduation gown on Amazon for the show.  I played the yoga devotee and they said to please come in yoga clothes.  You have no rehearsal time and we walk onstage with our scripts.  We are pretty much a mess, and that is the fun of it.

JC Monahan onstage at Banned in Boston

JC Monahan during an improv sketch at Banned in Boston as a judge with cast Photo courtesy of Lisa Kessler/Urban Improv

JD:  What kind of surprises stick out for you over the years?

JCM:  You don’t know what character you are playing opposite until you get there, so it’s always fun to see who got what character.  A couple of years ago, the chefs in Boston made this awesome music video.  Nobody knew they had done it and it wasn’t part of the program.  That took some coordination, preparation, and effort for people that are super busy, but it was hysterical.  This year’s Banned in Boston’s theme is offense, misdeeds, and comedic infractions.

JD:  That sounds dangerous.

JCM:  Yes, you never know.  When I see the script in my inbox, it’s Christmas morning for me.  You find out where they put you, the songs we sing at the beginning and the end and coming up with new lyrics to fit the always Boston-centric theme.  Anybody from this area will get the jokes.  The jokes are always about Boston accents, Boston parking, Boston drivers, Boston politics.  Nothing will be missed and the audience will get it all.

JD:  You talked a lot about what you look forward to each year and what drives you to return.  What do you think is the best reason people should see Banned in Boston?

JCM:  There are a lot of wonderful Boston fundraisers, so it’s hard to capture people’s attention, time, and money, and Banned in Boston has found a really unique way to do it that captures the spirit of what Urban Improv is.  It has great food, great drinks, and a fantastic space at House of Blues in Boston.  There’s no better mix than that.

Urban Improv kids

Youth improv work in action Photo courtesy of Urban Improv

Click here for more information and tickets to this hilarious, one night only event starting at Lansdowne Pub for a cocktail reception at 9 Lansdowne Street on Friday, April 7 at 6 p.m.  Banned in Boston at House of Blues, located at 15 Lansdowne Street, kicks off at 7:45 p.m.  Click here for more on Urban Improv and its mission.

Bay Players of Duxbury presents romantic comedy, ‘Lovers and other Strangers’

Sometimes laughter is the best medicine, even around Valentine’s Day.  Bay Players of Duxbury is proud to present a collection of comedic and romantic stories with Lovers and Other Strangers by Renee Taylor and Joseph Bologna.  A hit on Broadway and adapted into a film starring Bea Arthur, Lovers and Other Strangers is five tickling tales of love, sex and marriage set in the 1970s.  Among its many topics, it takes a lighthearted look at sexual freedom, gender roles, and women’s lib as relationships evolve over time.  Lovers and Other Strangers is a perfect show with a Valentine, a friend, or with a group.

Lovers and Other Strangers will be held for two weekends only.  Performances take place on Fridays February 10 and 17 and on Saturdays February 11 and 18 at First Parish Church at 842 Tremont Street (Rte 3A) in Duxbury, Massachusetts at 8 p.m.  Directed by Michael Pevzner and showcasing an intimate cast of ten local actors, click here to get more information or tickets to Lovers and Other Strangers, call 781-269-9885, or email Bay Players at tickets@bayplayers.org.  Tickets are also available at the door.  Group, student, and senior rates available.  Follow Bay Players of Duxbury on Facebook for updates, upcoming auditions, and more.