Afung Moy is majestic, idealistic, and beautiful. In 1834, she has set foot on American soil from China at just 14 years of age to share her background, culture, and experiences. However, the details behind her arrival as well as her time and purpose in the United States is where the real story lies.
Directed impressively by Sarah Shin and in partnership with the Chuang Stage, Central Square Theater reveals a little known yet impactful figure in Lloyd Suh’sThe Chinese Lady live and in person at Central Square Theater in Cambridge, Massachusetts through December 11. This semi-interactive production is 90 minutes with no intermission. Click here for more information and for tickets.
The Chinese Lady is gripping from the start and much of that is due to its two powerful leads that at first share amiable banter, humor, and building tension. With bright and expressive eyes, Sophorl Ngin depicts Afung Moy with compelling curiosity as she gradually discovers the life that has been set out in front of her. Ngin’s sweet and understated ingenuity beams adorned in exquisitely-detailed gold embroidered lavender and lilac attire crowned with a colorful guan by costume designer Sandra Zhihan Jia.
Scenic designer Qinan Zhang has a meticulous eye for detail and each piece of furniture and prop provides a significant purpose. Nothing in this vast room is just for show. Translucent curtains blanket the room and add a mysterious quality to the space. Steel structures hang above a Chinese floral blossoms arrangement and the matching end tables and chair quickly become essential to this historical account.
From China’s history of inventing tea to the gruesome details of foot binding, Ngin delivers her lines pragmatically and with a cheery glow, treating her time onstage at first an adventure with delusions of grandeur. With a wide eyed countenance, Ngin brilliantly depicts Afung from her imaginative humor and naivete to the subtle evolution in her ripened demeanor, weary walk, and her conflicted style of speaking as years gradually progress. The Chinese Lady is confronted with the ugly side of humanity and lays it bare as her time slowly fades into a land she has little choice but to adapt to it.
Ngin as Afung and Jae Woo as her older translator and guide Atung illustrate their absorbing camaraderie as they embody their complex characters, particularly exemplified in a chilling scene with the President. This intense and carefully executed scene is riveting and difficult to witness, but punctuates the sheer marvel of these two together onstage. Jae Woo portrays Atung as mysterious, subdued, polite, and unassuming as he keeps himself as minimal as the furniture. He is kind, protective, and squarely knows his place, but hints at a painfully buried intensity. Woo handles this complicated and austere character with tight lipped finesse in spite of or more hauntingly, because of all he has been through.
The Chinese Lady is best experienced without revealing the true nature of the story. Afung’s endearing personality provides a temporary distraction of what is actually happening onstage. Director Sarah Shin and author Lloyd Suh’s clever unfolding of historical and contemporary events and the actors’ subtle navigation in their performances on issues that are anything but subtle are weaved into a striking and message driven historical work that peels away that subtlety piece by piece and by the final act, leaves everything astonishingly and unsettling bare.
Central Square Theater reveals a little known yet impactful historical figure in Lloyd Suh’s The Chinese Lady live and in person at Central Square Theater in Cambridge, Massachusetts through December 11. This semi-interactive performance is 90 minutes with no intermission. Click here for more information and tickets.
From classically fanciful to electrifying to distinctive, unconventional artistry, the Boston Ballet’s DREAMstate is an astute exploration of the delicate nature of dreams and a fascinating escape from reality. Aside from Boston Ballet’s traditional Nutcracker in December, Mikko Nissinen’sDREAMstate is the first live and in person return to Boston Ballet’s regular season since the pandemic. Excitement was in the air and the Boston Opera House was full.
Boston Ballet’s DREAMstate continues through Sunday, March 27 at live and in person at the Citizen’s Bank Opera House in Boston, MA. The show is approximately two hours with two intermissions and the final piece contains partial nudity. Click here for more information and tickets.
Though all three Boston Ballet pieces had its highlights, the stellar world premiere of Boston Ballet’s tribute to the Rolling Stones, DEVIL’S/eye was the most uniquely compelling. Weaving in live concert elements and classic hits such as Can’t You Hear Me Knocking, Paint it Black and much more, dancers take the stage in shadow bathed in purple, red, yellow, pink, and blue glimmering from an incredible, multi-functional sound system lit by Brandon Stirling Baker. With exhilarating choreography and edgy and exotic costume design both by Stephen Galloway, lively dancers in silk, sequins, fishnets and windswept hair complete the full glamour of a rock and roll concert showing off thrilling, contemporary freestyle moves. The entire performance is an electrifying spectacle as dancers let loose to the Stones concert footage with epic alicicone spins, but a brief pause in the guitar-tinged, horn-infused rhythms showing off each dancer’s glowing silhouette cannot be properly conveyed here and those sensational moments are best witnessed in person.
George Balanchine’s Chaconne brings to life a regal and fanciful daydream to the heavenly sounds of the Christoph Willibald von Gluck opera, Orfeo ed Euridice. Elegantly adorned in a flowing and ethereal skirt and crown by Barbara Karinska in front of tranquil green blue backdrop, the always fresh-faced and charming Viktorina Kapitonova performed a beautiful and romantic pas de deux with Lasha Khozashvili, dressed in white. Khozashvili lifts and leads Kapitonova delicately as they sporadically intertwine. The piece is primarily playful as dancers bow and sway in gleaming, royal costumes as they float along this lighthearted daydream, the flutter of slippers sweeping across the stage.
The final piece is probably one of the most unconventional performances the Sleepless Critic has ever witnessed with the Boston Ballet because after a brief intermission, the piece begins before the music starts and dancers are already in motion as the rehearsal blurs into the performance.
Jiri Kylian’sBella Figura, a fan favorite, often departs from reality and the structure of how a performance would normally flow. In many ways, it bucks tradition as the dancers float and slide between closing curtains as Seo Hye Han, topless, wraps herself in only a black stage curtain. Bella Figura has some captivating choreographed indignation and intensity as Ji Young Chae struggles not to be held or controlled by Paul Craig, shaking Craig away. Bella Figura seems an abstract piece with haunting and mysterious elements as female dancers are manipulated in sharp, robotic movements. It seems Bella Figura represents the vision of a perfect female specimen as women bend under the intensity and pressure to be perfect. In gathering rich red skirts, men and women, all topless and all looking the same, glide along the stage. It is a memorable, distinctive performance as the piece continues even as the music concludes.
Boston Ballet’s DREAMstate continues through Sunday, March 27 at live and in person at the Citizen’s Bank Boston Opera House. Click here for more information and tickets.
We all just wanted the holiday season to last just a bit longer.
With the uncertainty and bitter temperatures in this New Year just weeks into 2022, it is difficult to part from the bustling excitement of last year’s holiday season. Musicals, plays, concerts, and more burst onto the stage cautiously but assuredly to deliver holiday cheer, some escapism, and to offer new and hopeful insight into what we have all been going through.
In December, The Jason Palmer Quintet lit up the Arlington Street Church in Boston live and in person amid festively adorned green and gold wreaths while sharing some new music twists to a few beloved Christmas carols. Don’t expect to hear these traditional Christmas carols without some clever and spirited flair.
Infusing music dynamos Duke Ellington and brothers Elvin and Thad Jones into eloquent compositions, The Jason Palmer Quintet arranges what trumpeter Jason Palmer affectionately calls ‘derangements.’ These derangements weave unique and lighthearted spins into traditional carols while each performer has their own chance to shine.
Some of the concert highlights include an extended and impressive trumpet solo to open the show in the smooth and mid-tempo Sunset and Mockingbird/Christmas Song and Lee Fish’s playful drum solo during Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer as the drum beat imitates hooves on a rooftop. It’s a sweeping, quiet build to Rudolph’s catchy chorus. Trumpeter Jason Palmer, tenor saxophonist Noah Preminger, pianist Kevin Harris, bassist Max Ridley and drummer Lee Fish are all so well in sync and it is fascinating to watch them pair off as the instruments ‘chat,’ jam, and gradually build before circling back to that familiar tune with an unexpected flair and flourish.
ChristmasTime is Here is an expressive, rumbling, and fast-paced imagining of Vince Guaraldi’s easygoing classic number. With more hustle, the musicians glide and veer into their own peaks and valleys highlighted by dynamic pianist Kevin Harris tickling the keys under a church sign that reads ‘To the Glory of God.’
What is certain about this quintet is if the viewer listens carefully to their clever compositions, one may detect an extra carol or two within their potent rhythms. For example, stray lyrics to Sleigh Ride can be heard within an eclectic medley of Silver Bells/A Child is Born and Santa Claus in Coming to Town emerges from a rolling and upbeat Greensleeves medley. They certainly kept this enthusiastic audience on their toes.
Celebrity Series at Home is extending the mistletoe and holly with free digital concert, The Jason Palmer Quintet for two more months. Click here to view the concert, more information, and additional selections from Jason Palmer and his quintet.
If there wasn’t enough time to see The Nutcracker over the holidays or even if you have and would like to see more, the Boston Ballet is offering a spin on The NutcrackerDuke Ellington-style choreographed by Boston Ballet dancers right from your home.
With special commentary by jazz-enthusiast Eric Jackson nicknamed the ‘Dean of Boston Jazz Radio’ and host of GBH’s Eric in the Evening who rewinds the clock to take a peek at the inspiration behind Ellington’s timeless, progressive Nutcracker Suite, Boston Ballet along with Boston Ballet II and Boston Ballet School post graduates choreograph a lively program from 2020 that highlights and spins some of the Nutcracker’s best moments with their own vibe.
The Gift is a dynamic program where each dancer seems they are being moved by the music more than moving to the music. As much as I am a fan of Boston Ballet’s classic works, there is something even more thrilling when it is infused with upbeat and contemporary flavor.
From sleek and sophisticated flair to casual and carefree fun, Boston Ballet presents this virtual holiday treat The Gift through January 9 which includes behind the scenes footage and runs approximately 50 minutes. Click here for more information and access to the show.
The exuberance and sparkling elegance of Viktorina Kapitonova and Tigran Mktrchyan accompanied by pianist Alex Foaksman bring to life the Snow Queen and King’s triumphant Pas de Deux. All in sepia and crème, they move with a dreamlike sway culminating in a joyful and fanciful reunion. Some other highlights within the striking variety of dances from Duke Ellington’s upbeat and catchy Nutcracker suite include Overture with choreography by Chyrstyn Fentroy as the number explores the mystery behind The Gift as a package hangs overhead and the dancers gradually get swept away by the song. Toot Tootie Toot or Dance of the Reed Pipes with choreography by Gabriel Lorena is a brief sashaying escapade as dancers in flowing skirts strut and prance to Ellington’s light and airy rhythms enhanced by an intricate and memorable collective pose. Peanut Brittle Brigade with chorography by Haley Schwan infuses swing and other dance styles to the beat of Ellington’s bluesy composition.
Arabesque cookie or Arabian Dance with chorography by Haley Schwan, John Lam, Chyrstyn Fentroy, Paul Craig, and My’Kal Stromile, has a bustling rhythm and a retro feel as the number opens with a soloist’s fancy footwork. It has urgency, poise, and athleticism as each soloist slides in shadow to a transforming color backdrop. The Voga Vouty or Russian dance with choreography by John Lam showcases savvy and sophistication steeped in black and white as they perform a striking sequence in a spotlight. Chinoserie or Chinese Dance with choreography by Arianna Hughlett is full of mischievous and lighthearted fun as dancers creep and freestyle to the rhythm of Ellington’s chiming beat parting and uniting in shadow.
The finale culminates in a beloved Boston Ballet location worth waiting for.
The Boston Ballet’s virtual holiday treat The Gift continues through January 9 which includes behind the scenes footage. Click here for more information and access to the show.
As the world shut down last year and domestic and international performers could not take the stage on A Christmas Celtic Sojourn’s usual tour around Massachusetts, GBH decided to bring the audience virtually to them in 2020. From stunning Sligo Cathedral in Ireland to Scotland to Canada and various parts of Massachusetts, viewers could see a mix of Christmas traditions and scenery on location right from their own living room as well as experience traditional and contemporary harmonies performed simultaneously internationally through brilliant technology. What hadn’t changed was A Christmas Celtic Sojourn’s master of ceremonies, Brian O’Donovan who delivered a mix of humor, melancholy, and warm reflections through engaging storytelling and fond tidings.
This year should seem more familiar. Host Brian O’ Donovan and a mix of renowned performers from around the world returned to the stage for A Christmas Celtic Sojourn to deliver glad and wistful tidings through uplifting Celtic step dancing, musings, music, and storytelling while making stops in Rockport and Boston.
Directed with a mix of festiveness and reflection by Jenna Worden, the live and in person tour included a sold-out show at Shalin Liu Performance Center in Rockport, Massachusetts on December 14 and at the Cutler Majestic Theatre from December 17 through 19 in Boston, Massachusetts. The show is 90 minutes with no intermission.
GBH’s virtual A Christmas Celtic Sojourn is still available. Click here for more information and to enjoy the show on-demand through December 26. A Christmas Celtic Sojourn would also like to hear what you thought of the program by visiting their Facebook page.
Nearing its 20 year-anniversary, what this annual production and concert certainly masters is the quiet and stirring. That is just how the show begins as A Christmas Celtic Sojourn welcomed the audience with crisp, a cappella harmonies led by singer-songwriter Moira Smiley accompanied by returning folk singers Windborne. Weaving in contemporary songs with God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen, their chiming vocals brought distinctive warmth so prevalent to the production.
In front of a painted mural of a serene Irish countryside transforming from dawn to dusk by innovative light designer Dan Jentzen, remarkable Christmas carol compositions, stirring remembrances, lively Celtic step dancing, and rousing jam sessions or Celtic ‘round robins’ brought beauty, celebration, and stillness into the season.
By candlelight and Christmas tree, host Brian O’Donovan recalls childhood memories in Ireland where Protestants and Catholics were brought together singing Christmas carols and the lingering smell of bacon wafted through his home weaving in anecdotes from Welch poet Dylan Thomas. Brian also shared historical musings and performed a humorous rendition of Miss Fogarty’s Christmas cake.
Singer-songwriter Moira Smiley also delivered a mix of reflective and ruminating lyrics with Days of War about hard times as well as the rich folk lullaby Johanna Dreams on banjo. Smiley’s remarkable, round, and velvety vocals enrich each verse. She also shares the stage with Windborne and Brian O’Donovan in a stirring and gorgeous rendition Silent Night, O Holy Night and with the entire cast joined in for a treasured and traditional Auld Lang Syne and Here We Come A-Wassailing.
However, most memorable is a vivid gathering as the stage transforms into a warm and inviting living room with the atmosphere of family and friends singing around the piano sharing various Christmas carols such as Joy to the World. The stage is bright and festive as Celtic step dancers join in this familiar picture of the spirit of the season joyfully leaping in velvet attire and bejeweled shoes led by Ashley Smith-Wallace. It is a picture treasured for the Christmas season and reflective of what is soon to come.
GBH’s virtual A Christmas Celtic Sojourn is still available. Click here for more information and to enjoy the show on-demand through December 26. A Christmas Celtic Sojourn would also like to hear what you thought of the program by visiting their Facebook page.
Since last August’s inventive Carmen, Boston Ballet has not brought new work to BB@Your Home until now.
Celebrating Jorma Elo not only introduces highly-anticipated new dance back in studio including a Jorma Elo World premiere, but launches a luminous montage of Elo’s innovative and exciting work over a fifteen-year history as Boston Ballet’s Resident Choreographer. Introduced by Artistic Director Mikko Nissenen and Jorma Elo, Boston Ballet took to the studio to record Jorma Elo’s Plan to B, excerpts from Bach Cello Suites, and the world premiere of Story of Memory before presenting a vibrant montage of Jorma Elo’s brilliant past work.
The Boston Ballet’s BB@Your Home’s Celebrating Jorma Elo continues streaming through Sunday, March 7. Click here for more information.
In masks and filmed under one studio light designed by Jon Gonda, Heinrich Ignaz Franz von Biber’s fiddle-laden score lays the groundwork for this joyful and intense dance in Elo’s Plan to B filmed in February 2021. Concise, surefooted, and sharp moves dominate this urgent and sweeping performance that feature Lia Cirio, Ji Young Chae, John Lam, Patric Palkens, Tyson Clark and an impressive solo by Tigran Mkrtchyan.
It is an upbeat, contemporary performance with pulsing movement as dancers slice the air and form seemingly impossible forms and shapes. In purple coordinated leotard, Cirio and Palkens perform a duet with building intensity as Palkens carries and spins Cirio romantically before she hastens forward.
A more intimate performance blooms with excerpts from Bach Cello Suites also taking place in studio February 2021 featuring music from Johann Sebastian Bach performed by cellist Ron Lowry. Lia Cirio and Paolo Arrais dance romantically in shadow as an opaque backdrop softly burgeons into light. This beautiful dance is further enhanced by the nature in which the two perform. Arrais spins and handles her delicately in each movement before they embrace.
Dialogue is rarely introduced into dance and it was fascinating to witness the world premiere of Elo’s Story of Memory and the sheer beauty of this piece’s compelling cinematography filmed in February 2021. Dressed in alternately black and white, Viktorina Kapitanova and Tigran Mkrtchyan depict two people who struggle to understand one another. It has moments of discovery, passion, fury, and mystery wrapped in Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, Johann Sebastian Bach, and Nancy Euverink’s captivating scores. Kapitanova and Mkrtchayan depict two struggling, determined people in an increasingly intense dance longing for understanding before coming to a stunning realization.
Surely it was quite a challenge to choose the highlights of Jorma Elo’s 15-year tenure of rich and revolutionary dance into one luminous montage. It was about as monumental as it was writing about it having experienced only excerpts of some pieces in its one and a half hour timeframe.
Too many standout moments to count in this wide spectrum of work including various approaches to the same work at different times in the ballet’s history. Each impressive interpretation brings a new dynamic to the performance.
An excerpt of Elo’s 2004 Plan to B kicks off this collection of works at the Wang Theatre featuring Sarah Lamb, Larissa Ponomarenko, Joel Pronty, Jared Redick, Raul Salamanca, and Sabi Varga drawing comparisons from its most recent interpretation. Though both are impressive, but the newest version seems a bit more intense with sharper, more concise choreography.
Featuring solo pianist Bruce Livingston, excerpts from Jorma Elo’s C to C (Close to Chuck) Reborn filmed in February 2014 takes the audience into a dark, mysterious, and transcendent world. C to C showcases the dancers’ athleticism and the human form as they move about in shadow to pulsing rhythms featuring Kathleen Breen Combes, Lia Cirio, Jeffery Cirio, Whitney Jenson, John Lam and Sabi Varga.
Many of Jorma Elo’s chorography and works have a unique spirit, liveliness, and a seemingly freestyle nature. In this Avant Garde piece, Kathleen Breen Combes, Lia Cirio, and Whitney Jenson’s swing like pendulums. Certain moves seem to play with time as the dancers move swiftly in fast forward, rewind, repetition, slow motion, and then wild intonations to the music’s runaway urgency. Similar unconventional moves are performed in Elo Experience.
Elo Experience filmed in March 2011 opens with an audible laugh and dialogue. It also has elements of avant garde work as a large group of dancers gather all in black. Elo’s innovative choreography showcases freestyle, unconventional moves in an upbeat, lively setting featuring a compelling solo by Jeffrey Cirio.
Excerpts from Elo’s Brake the Eye from March 2012 is part of Elo Experience. It is a playful and vibrant piece as dancers swing in angular movements while others remain still. Dressed in purple and crème and performing to the divine works of Mozart, it is a bustling and upbeat performance featuring Larissa Ponomarenko, Jeffrey Cirio, Robert Krenz, John Lam, Sabi Varga, James Whiteside, Lia Cirio, Kathleen Breen Combes, Whitney Jensen, and Dalay Parrondo.
Humming is integrated into excerpts of Elo’s Sharp(er) Side of Dark filmed in February 2012, showcasing different dancers performing in what seems like heaven. Accompanied by a string trio composed of violinist Michael Rosenbloom, Jean Haig on viola, and cellist Ronald Lowry, Lia Cirio and Sabi Varga, lights hover above them as they playfully glide and frolic in bodysuits to lively, urgent, and joyful music by Bach before seeing excerpts of the same dance performed by duos Kathleen Breen Combes and James Whiteside, Corina Gill and Paulo Arrai, and Whitney Jenson and Jeffrey Cirio.
The Boston Ballet revisits excerpts of a past performance of Bach Cello Suites from March 2018 featuring cellist Sergey Antonov and dancers Maria Baranova, Junxiong Zhao, Lia Cirio, Paolo Arrais, Kathleen Breen Combes, Derek Dunn, Misa Kuranga, John Lam, Addie Tapp, and Lasha Khaozashvili. Dressed in black leotard, this lively performance shows a wide range of moods including pain, love, and passion. A particular highlight showed the dancers briefly interacting with the onstage cellist, leaning in as the cellist plays.
The final two performances are on a larger scale exploring the sheer dynamic nature of Elo’s work from the traditional to the contemporary culminating into a jubilant finale. The sheer athleticism in excerpts of Elo’s Creatures of Egmont as dancers form angular, symmetrical shapes under a twilight sky and then Fifth Symphony of Jean Sibelius filmed in November 2017 a joyous and uplifting grand scale finale that reflects Jorma Elo’s continuing luminous, inventive, and astonishing work with the Boston Ballet.
BB@Your Home continues with The Art of the Classical Ballet from March 25 through April 4 which includes excerpts from Swan Lake and Sleeping Beauty. Click here for more information and a look at Boston Ballet’s full season.
Megan Gogerty’s interactive and dynamic Feast makes you part of this production and it won’t be long until you get reeled into dinner conversation. New Hampshire’s Theatre Kapow brings back theatre in a unique way all while delivering real dessert (and a little extra) and as a person starved for the arts, Megan Gogerty’s Feast will leave you full while remaining behind the computer.
Directed by Matt Cahoon who offers an insightful introduction, Theatre Kapow presented Megan Gogerty’s Feast live with select performances from Friday, September 25 through Sunday, September 27. This show contains mature content and has its own share of dark notes. Click here to learn more about Theatre Kapow’s 13th season, We Can Get through This and much more.
Feast is an intriguing blend of the classic and contemporary featuring to-the-minute pop culture references while unraveling an ancient mystery. Cleverly self-aware through its philosophies and contextual principles, Carey Cahoon is the hostess of this part conversation and part confessional one-woman show in 75 minutes – no small feat for one person. Opening night had a few technical glitches, but Carey didn’t miss a beat, picking up the moment she left off.
Feast acts as much a warning as a mystery and does not shy away from raw and difficult topics, but Carey’s candor makes these subjects easier to swallow. From government to grief, Feast is not preachy or “political” per se, but you’d be remiss if the conversation doesn’t cause you to look inward.
Carey Cahoon is refined, biting, powerful, but most of all compelling as Agathae, an upper-class socialite getting to know the company she is keeping. She handles this complex personality with zeal through her gripping, slow-burn performance and combined with Megan Gogerty’s innovative script, keeps the tension rising as revelations are unveiled.
The show could have been one note and a bit long, but Matt Cahoon’s discerning staging and Tavya Young’s ominous lighting made interesting use of the limited space and various props, especially for an evocative scene involving a curtain. Multi-faceted, shrewd, and on its own calculated mission, Feast also markedly holds onto the famous proverb, ‘Revenge is a dish best served cold.’
‘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.
Combine an onstage rock band nicknamed the Ungrateful Dead with a storytelling cast in 19th century St. Petersburg, Russia. Throw in love at first sight, a duel, add some vodka, and a few winks to today’s technology and it is quite the tale…and that’s not even the half of it.
Expect the unexpected at Greater Boston Stage Company’s unique performance of Onegin, a semi-interactive musical that blends the traditional with the contemporary in surprising ways. It explores how far one would go for love while its rock and roll vibe and comic moments show it doesn’t take itself too seriously.
Based on Alexandr Pushkin’s poem of the same name and Tchaikovsky’s opera, Greater Boston Stage Company continues Onegin’s United States debut at the Stoneham Theatre in Stoneham, Massachusetts through Sunday, March 31. Click here for more information and tickets.
From L to R: Michael Jennings Mahoney as Vlaimir Lensky, Music Director Steve Bass (on piano), Mark Linehan as Evgeni Onegin, Josephine Moshiri Elwood as Olga, Sarah Pothier as Tatyana, and Peter Adama as Prince Gremin Photo by Maggie Hall Photography/Greater Boston Stage Company
Onegin pushes quite a few boundaries within its two hour time frame. The show inhabits a myriad of genres and occasionally breaks the fourth wall, but underneath it all is a moving tale of love and loss and what it means when destiny is out of your hands. The contemporary flair of this period piece may not appeal to staunch traditionalists, but the show has heart.
Katheryn Monthei’s open set design topped with sparkling brass chandeliers and silk backdrops mixed with Deirdre Gerrard’s detailed costumes and Ilyse Robbins’ dynamic choreography depict a romantic, yet edgy vibe indicative of this strong and versatile cast.
Michael Jennings Mahoney as Vladimir Lensky Photo by Maggie Hall Photography/Greater Boston Stage Company
Opening with the rollicking number A Love Song, these singing storytellers describe a man irretrievably in love and one who is roguishly indifferent to it. Michael Jennings Mahoney portrays excitable and lovelorn poet, Vladimir Lensky. Lensky could have been a one note character, but Mahoney gives him dimension and makes him much more than he seems. He is taken with Olga, portrayed with complexity and practicality by Josephine Moshiri Elwood. Enter Evgeni Onegin, portrayed with a deep vibrato and roguish charm by Mark Linehan. Linehan is charismatic, but also possesses a cynical, world-weary look on life while Tatyana, portrayed with pensive idealism by Sarah Pothier, may just change everything.
Sarah Pothier as Tatyana and Mark Linehan as Evgeni Onegin Photo courtesy of Nile Hawver/Nile Scott Shots
A few highlights include Sarah Pothier’s commanding performance of Let Me Die and stunning performances of In Your House and My Dearest Comrade by the cast. Expect the unexpected at Onegin and like this engaging cast, prepare to have a little fun.
Directed by Weylin Symes, Greater Boston Stage Company’s musical drama Onegin continues through Sunday, March 31. Click here for more information and tickets. Click here for a closer look at Greater Boston’s Stage Company’s recently announced season.
Continuing with the theme of International Women’s Day is a show about real life heroine. During the Han Dynasty, an amazing, intelligent woman considered one of the four beauties of Ancient China left the world she knew to marry Huhanye in order to achieve peace on the Northern Border of China.
Princess Zhaojun, presented by China Arts and Entertainment Group (CAEG), is a compelling dance drama and features detailed, beautiful sets and costumes. The Sleepless Critic interviewed accomplished costume designer Yang Donglin about his work and what is was like to visually bring the Han Dynasty and this story to life.
Princess Zhaojun. Photo courtesy of China National Opera & Dance Drama Theater
SC: The China Performing Arts Agency has a reputation for featuring the most beautiful costumes and scenery I have ever seen and Princess Zhaojun is no different. I saw the Soaring Wings production last January and it was stunning. This show serves as a piece of Chinese history and Princess Zhaojun is a real person who lived during the Han Dynasty. Please tell me about how you selected and put together the costumes for this show.
YD: I added proper contemporary interpretation of the piece instead of simply copying and restoring what it looked like in history. We need to constantly deny ourselves and make textured clothing that can keep abreast of the body language expression of our actors. Taking Zhaojun for example, we have tried to change at least 5-6 kinds of fabrics to make a sample, and the director has even personally tried it on for rehearsal action until the most satisfactory texture and effect comes out.
Artistic creation is neither restoring history nor making things up. We have incorporated more dramatic elements into the traditional Han dynasty clothing, and many of the costumes are inspired by the wooden terracotta figures, Han portrait stones, and bricks portraits in the ancient Han dynasty tombs. At the same time, costumes are endowed with different souls according to the personalities and fates of the characters. For example, the overall cool color of the Han dynasty palace and the warm orange color on the grassland have all indicated the change in the character of the protagonist.
Princess Zhaojun. Photo courtesy of China National Opera & Dance Drama Theater
SC: What has been the most difficult part of putting this show together and what has been the best part?
The most difficult part is finding the balance between the communication of the main actors’ images and the restriction of their dance movements in single, double, or triple dance. The most satisfying is the characteristics of each costume are exactly the same as the director’s ideas such as the leashed called dance, free Zigui dance, and bold pouring wax dance full of exotic flavors. Each has its own traits, but together they have a unified style to construct distinctive aesthetic style on the stage.
SC: What do you like best about being a costume designer?
YD: I like the creativity. I like the feeling of swimming freely in the ocean of creation.
Witness Yang Donglin’s exceptional costume design and experience China National Opera and Dance Drama Theatre’s Princess Zhaojun for one weekend only at the Boch Shubert Theatre at 265 Tremont Street in Boston, MA March 16-17. Click here for more information and tickets. Click here for more about China Arts and Entertainment Group and their future productions.