REVIEW: Park the car at the Company Theatre for their bustling, meaningful musical ‘Ragtime’

Oh, how that music rolls along.  Much like the show’s polished Ford Model T, Company Theatre’s Ragtime the Musical hums like a well oiled machine, driven by its marvelous music, veering into life’s complicated pursuit of happiness.

Composed of an energetic, 15 piece live orchestra led by Music Director Steve Bass, this bustling, message-driven musical portrays America through many different sets of eyes, an America full of expectations, hope, and disappointment.  Many looked to America for answers and some discovered it was not quite what they expected.  Some realized the answers were there all along, and some took their comfortable world for granted.  As each impressive note swells, another day dawns to face fears, work harder, and support your neighbor.  You might even find yourself singing a new song.

Company Theatre kicked off their 40th season with Ragtime the Musical on Friday, July 27 and continuing Sunday, August 19 at the Company Theatre in Norwell, Massachusetts. Click here for more information and for tickets.

Company Theatre Ragtime through August 19

Courtesy of Company Theatre for the Arts

Ragtime the Musical explores America from many different perspectives from Eastern European immigrants, people of Harlem led by a successful jazz musician, and the upper-class residents of New Rochelle, New York.  Much of Ragtime is a historical story told.  Narrated with gravitas in part by Jeffrey Sewell as Younger Brother, the catchy, rich, and stirring vocals combined with the complex, interweaving tale is the real magic of this piece. With a cast brimming with sensational voices, Ragtime delivers one spine-tingling song after another.

With the bulk of the cast frequently onstage, costume designer Brianna Plummer carefully orchestrates a bold statement into each costume, painting her own distinct portrait from white lace and pearls to bowler hats and colorful suits faithful to the era.  Behind a white parasol and a string of pearls, Paula Markowitz portrays privileged, yet compassionate New Rochelle resident, Mother.  Markowitz’s silvery soprano vocals soar with the heartfelt numbers, Goodbye, My Love and Back to Before.  It is a privilege to see Markowitz depict her character on a transformative journey, torn between her pensive pauses and her impulsiveness.

With a firm, bearded frown, Peter S. Adams portrays seemingly controlling Father as unyieldingly practical, astute, and always driven by what he thinks are good intentions.  Adams and Markowitz have a familiar chemistry that takes on the earmarks of an old married couple.  They move together with a comforting predictability.  Adams’s melodious, rich vocals are especially poignant during the number, New Music.

Company Theatre 'Ragtime' 'What a Game'

Peter S. Adams as Father and Owen Veith as The Little Boy with cast in the number, ‘What a Game’ Photo courtesy of Company Theatre for the Arts

Owen Veith portrays their chatty, wise, and precocious Little Boy.  Not only is he an adorable addition to the cast, but Veith has some real comic timing as he innocently spouts out truth at the most inconvenient times.

Michael Hammond delivers warmth and enthusiasm as Jewish immigrant, Tateh.  He is a seemingly jubilant hard worker, often hiding his pain.  He has a sweet compatibility with Hannah Dwyer as The Little Girl as they discover a new world and is especially charming during the imaginative number, Gliding.

Ragtime cast

(L to R) Barbara Baumgarten, Cristian Sack, Hilary Goodnow, Brenna Kenney, Finn Clougherty, Jillian Griffin, with Hannah Dwyer as Little Girl and Michael Hammond as Tateh Photo courtesy of Zoe Bradford

Introduced fittingly by the infectious tune Henry Ford, The Ford Model T is something to behold and is its own character.  With working headlights, the Ford Model T is suburb, much like the character driving it.  Last seen as the Wizard in Lyric Stage Company’s The Wiz, Davron S. Monroe as Model T owner and successful Harlem jazz musician Colehouse Walker Jr. embodies the role with charisma, dignity, and sympathetic earnestness.  One could also listen to his velvety vocals all day.   Arielle Rogers delivers a moving performance as Sarah, punctuated by her pained, heart rendering version of Daddy’s Son.  Together, they perform a magnificent version of Wheels of a Dream.  Get in the car, park it at Company Theatre, and witness that magic.

Company Theatre 'Ragtime' Colehouse Walker Jr and cast

Devron S. Monroe as Colehouse Walker Jr. in ‘Ragtime’ with cast Photo courtesy of Company Theatre for the Arts

The show is not without its moments of satirical humor delivered by over the top, flirtatious showgirl, model, and actress Evelyn Nesbit, portrayed with a wink and a smile by Sarah Kelly.  Along with James Fernandez as spectacular Hungarian immigrant illusionist Harry Houdini, these two historical figures shine the light on what the world aspires to.

Company Theatre’s Ragtime the Musical continues through Sunday, August 19 at Company Theatre for the Arts, 30 Accord Park Drive in Norwell, Massachusetts. Click here for more information, tickets, and how to support Company Theatre’s future.  Also follow Company Theatre on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter to learn all about their milestone 40th season.

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REVIEW: Hingham Civic Music Theatre’s ‘Shrek the Musical’ an absolute treat for the whole family

Hingham Civic Music Theatre’s fun-filled Shrek the Musical has all the earmarks of a delightful Halloween treat for the entire family.  Some audience members were seeing double as the musical’s dynamic duo, Shrek and Donkey, were not only present onstage, but also in the crowd.  In the spirit of the season, some children opted to dress as their favorite Shrek character, which is encouraged (though not required).  This exciting production balances sweetness and hilarity through a few amusing tricks and special effects, which is all part of the story.  However, what makes Shrek’s tale so enduring and lovable is its underlying authenticity.  Underneath it all, life is best lived without a mask.

Chris DiOrio as Shrek

Chris DiOrio as Shrek Photo courtesy of Hingham Civic Music Theatre

Directed by Lisa Pratt, musically-directed by Mark Bono with choreography by Tara McSweeney Morrison, Hingham Civic Music Theatre continues its 69th season with Shrek the Musical in its final weekend from Friday, October 27 through Sunday, October 29 at Hingham Town Hall in the Sanborn Theatre in Hingham, Massachusetts.  Click here for more information and for tickets.  Click here for a clip from the musical.

Through its richly-painted set pieces by Lisa Pratt and colorful, meticulous costumes by award-winning costumer, Kathryn Ridder, the visuals in Shrek the Musical are likened to the popular Dreamworks film adaptation, right down to the Gingerbread Man’s gumdrop buttons.  However, having seen the film adaptation, Shrek, based on the book by William Steig, and the film’s many film sequels, Shrek the Musical expands the film’s premise, offering additional scenes and an upbeat, fanciful, rock-tinged soundtrack, composed by Jeanine Tesori.  I’m a Believer by the Monkees is also included.  Shrek’s real magic lies is its innovative ability to cleverly blend authenticity, sadness, adventure, and humor.  Tesori’s soundtrack encapsulates this tone in songs such as Big Bright Beautiful World, a sometimes humorous number about strength in the face of adversity and loss.  Debbie Rawson Stratton and Danny Hannafin as Mama and Papa Ogre offer a tender blend of impressive harmony as an adorable Young Shrek, portrayed by Nolan McHugh, looks on.

Shrek the Musical focuses on a lone, but not seemingly lonely green ogre portrayed with warmth, pensiveness, and gruff charisma by Chris DiOrio.  Shrek lives a quiet life in a swamp until some of literature’s most beloved fairy tale creatures arrive, forcing him to embark on an epic quest to save life as he knows it.

Chris DiOrio steps right into Shrek’s quiet awkwardness and offers a softness in his quiet moments as well as an amusing ferocity when his temper flairs.  Stubborn and humble, DiOrio is thrown for a loop when he meets Brendan Smith as Donkey, who keeps the energy kicking as a cheerful chatterbox.  Their instant, snappy chemistry clearly demonstrates why they are a dynamic duo for the ages.  A towering presence, Brendan offers a hint of Eddie Murphy’s iconic vocals combined with his own charm.  A particular highlight is Brendan’s slick choreography and gravitas during a James Brown-style rendition of the song, Make a Move.  Packed with familiar anecdotes and fairy tale references, Chris and Brendan also have some fun with their duet, The Travel Song.

Shrek and Donkey

Leslie DiOrio, Chris DiOrio’s real life wife, portrays bold, graceful, and idealistic Princess Fiona.  Wearing a shining green renaissance gown, Leslie depicts Princess Fiona with grace, humility, and earnestness, especially in a many-faceted, tender rendition of I Know it’s Today.  Chris and Leslie have a lively and sweet chemistry, even when they don’t see eye to eye.  Chris DiOrio’s endearing version of If Words Fail is also not to be missed.

From his first appearance onstage, Anthony Light literally and figuratively takes his character, Lord Faquaad, to a whole new level.  Absurd and hilarious, Anthony Light’s delusional arrogance and clever costuming is a treat, showing off his unapologetic pompousness in The Ballad of Faquaad, accompanied by the show stopping Duloc Dancers.

HCMT's 'Shrek the Musical' - The cast

Brendan Smith as Donkey, Chris DiOrio as Shrek, Anthony Light as Lord Faquaad, and the Duloc Dancers: Halle Pratt, Molly McLellan, Nicole DiRuzza, Alex Huntington, Catherine Bennis, Hannah Ford, Denise Feeney, and Abbey Randall Photo courtesy of Pat Sherman/Hingham Civic Music Theatre

Hingham Civic Music Theatre has a few tricks up their sleeves by way of special effects as each cast member delivers their own wild, off-beat charm.  With a large cast full of iconic fairy tale creatures including a magnificent dragon, a deceptive Pinocchio, Three Little Pigs, Witch, and a Gingerbread Man equipped with an uproarious squeal, the impressive cast is non-stop fun and never loses heart.

Hingham Civic Music Theatre presents Shrek the Musical with Facebook Friday Ticket discount special on Friday, October 27 at 7:30 p.m.  Click here for discount details.  A final evening performance will be held on Saturday, October 28 at 7:30 p.m.  Sunday’s final matinee performance takes place on October 29 at 2 p.m.  All shows are held at Hingham Town Hall, 210 Central Street in Hingham, Massachusetts.

Click here for further details, tickets, and how to support Hingham Civic Music Theatre.  Be sure to follow Hingham Civic Music Theatre on Facebook for upcoming events and more.