REVIEW:  Fueled by a mesmerizing soundtrack, witness The Huntington and SpeakEasy Stage Company’s quietly stirring ‘The Band’s Visit’

Imagine longing for a phone call from a loved one or the act of just mustering up enough courage to speak to a girl.  Imagine welcoming a group of strangers to your table and into your private home for the night because they are in need of a place to stay.  Think about that kind of selflessness and hospitality freely given without a second thought.  These seemingly small acts of kindness make a big impact in The Band’s Visit.

Cast of The Band’s Visit; Photo by T Charles Erickson

Directed warmly by Paul Daigneault with mesmerizing music direction by Jose Delgado, The Huntington with SpeakEasy Stage Company presents The Band’s Visit by Itamar Moses through December 17.  The show is 90 minutes with no intermission.  Click here for more information and for tickets.

The Band’s Visit made its Broadway debut in 2017 with Tony Shaloub as Tewfiq and went on to win multiple Tony Awards.  Much of this acclaimed show hinges on its eclectic and spellbinding music soundtrack which ties the band and the locals together, particularly essential when they are feeling misunderstood.  This multi-talented onstage band certainly can jam especially for the numbers Soraya and Haj-Butras and receives some additional hidden accompaniment which is delightedly revealed in an unexpected way.

Cast of The Band’s Visit; Photo by T Charles Erickson

Set in 1996 in a small Israeli town located in the middle of the Negrev Desert where nothing unusual ever seems to happen, the townsfolk are dazzled by a traveling and stranded Egyptian band wearing distinguished, powder blue uniforms by Miranda Kau GiurleuThe Band’s Visit is an unconventional and unassuming musical that quietly and most assuredly will open hearts and minds to the little things in life that are sometimes overlooked.

The Band’s Visit unveils heartache and hope in such a remote land that the locals may sometimes feel forgotten.  Many aspects of Jimmy Stubbs and Wilson Chin’s nostalgic scenic design fondly rewinds the clock using iconic pieces of nostalgia while also evoking the isolated nature of the town which includes a towering lamp post, a phone booth richly and authentically detailed with fingerprints and grime on its plastic cover, and a deserted blue street with yellow stripes.  One of the most memorable scenes recreates a retro roller skating rink equipped with multicolored lights, disco ball and DJ. 

Jennifer Apple, Brian Thomas Abraham; Photo by T Charles Erickson

This production has many surprises and this intriguing cast is no exception.  Brian Thomas Abraham wonderfully portrays modest orchestra leader Tewfiq.  Abraham’s reserved Tewfiq expresses his art with charisma, but offstage, he is a man of few words.  Guarded and mysterious, Abraham shares fascinating chemistry with Jennifer Apple, a natural as feisty divorcee Dina especially for the beguiling numbers Omar Sharif and Something Different.  Stunning in a gorgeous red flowing burgundy frock, Apple captures Dina’s resilience and yearning for happiness beyond what this small town can offer but something is holding her back.  Apple’s bright smile and intense, determined nature is particularly notable in a scene stealing incident slicing watermelon in It is What it Is.

Marianna Bassham, Andrew Mayer, Robert Saoud, James Rana, Jared Troilo; Photo by T Charles Erickson

Mariana Bassham, who has a history of impactful roles including a starring role in SpeakEasy Stage’s People Places and Things from 2022, is impressive alongside Jared Troilo as Iris, Itzik’s long suffering and resentful wife.  Even in an uplifting scene involving household instruments, Bassham’s vacant expressions and fatigue is the picture of indifference and discontented heartache as she stares into the abyss of a life unfulfilled.  Troilo’s Itzik is warm and helplessly optimistic despite his family’s circumstances.  Troilo has a powerful voice which is understated for this particular performance for a quietly tender Itzik’s Lullaby

Noah Kieserman, Mac Ritchey, Jared Troilo; Photo by T Charles Erickson

The Band’s Visit also offers a mix of lighthearted comedic moments.   Jesse Garlick shines as awkward and bewildered Papi for the zany number Papi Hears the Ocean as Josephine Moshiri Elwood as self effacing Julia looks on.  Kareem Elsamadicy is much more than meets the eye as Haled for the smooth and lovely rendition of Haled’s Song about LoveEmily Qualmann as Anna and Fady Demian as Zelgar make an entertaining pair of partiers and Noah Kieserman delivers gorgeous vocals with the cast for the enthralling number, Answer Me.

Cast of The Band’s Visit; Photo by T Charles Erickson

Directed warmly by Paul Daigneault with mesmerizing music direction by Jose Delgado, The Huntington with SpeakEasy Stage presents The Band’s Visit by Itamar Moses through December 17.  The show is 90 minutes with no intermission.  Click here for more information and for tickets.

REVIEW: Imaginary Beasts conjures a boisterous ‘The Spider and the Fly’

With a collection of zany characters such as a Moth, a Praying Mantis, a Gossamer Fairy, Figment, a Land Octopus, and a sleepy constable named Bluebottle, it is clear that The Spider and the Fly has no shortage of zealous imagination.

With so many productions that rely on the zip and zing of digital effects, CGI, and AI, it is exhilarating to see director Matthew Woods solely rely on homespun creativity and audience interaction to bring to life a vivid and unpredictable gothic children’s tale.

Imaginary Beasts ‘The Spider and the Fly’ cast Photo by Matthew Woods

Directed artfully by Matthew Woods, Imaginary Beasts presents live and in person Kiki Samko and Matthew Woods’s The Spider and the Fly or the Tangled Web (a gothic pantomime) through October 29 live and in person at Chelsea Theatre Works in Chelsea, Massachusetts.  The show is one hour and 40 minutes with a 10 minute intermission and is recommended for children 5 and up.  Click here for more information and for tickets that are quickly selling out.

Blending vintage with the contemporary, The Spider and the Fly is quite the inquisitive adventure with lots of high jinks, scheming, plotting, sleuthing, and memorable and poetic dialogue that delivers a meaningful message about inspiration, friendship, and doing what is right.  A panto is a form of wintertime family entertainment in the UK that weaves in puns, wordplay, jokes, and more.  The Spider and the Fly is somewhat a panto within a panto as the cast embarks on an ardent journey to inspire a writer inside the writer’s own head.

Brooks Reeves as King Cumbercrown in Imaginary Beasts ‘The Spider and the Fly’ Photo by Matthew Woods

Brooks Reeves relishes in the part of King Cumbercrown who will stop at nothing to stop the Panto from happening, even if it means corrupting everyone in his path.  Reeves is up to no good and his scheming and crafty behavior is such fun to watch as Reeves’s blue face scowls and sneers at the any sign of happiness and joy behind hypno spiral goggles.

The black and purple painted set design by Jason Taschereau has a vintage and mesmerizing quality while Cotton-Talbot-Minkin’s captivating and colorful costumes exude a gothic, fanciful and vintage edge with a dash of steam punk.  As the look is inspired by silent films, outrageous patterns combine with bow ties, top hats, sparkling converse sneakers, lace, corduroy, pearls, flowered shoes and boots.   Though it is gothic, it is not scary, but creative, inviting, and imaginative. 

Laura Detwiler as the Great Author and Brooks Reeves as King Cumbercrown in Imaginary Beasts ‘The Spider and The Fly’ Photo by Matthew Woods

The continual audience engagement fuels this wild tale that does meander and veer off course occasionally, but it is difficult to notice with such a lively cast of characters that weave in some random contemporary pop and winking adult references.  The Wednesday dance challenge, Rhianna, and random television show references are just a few examples. 

Jamie Semel as Young Woodby and Evan Turissini as Madame Bijou in Imaginary Beasts ‘The Spider and the Fly’

Some of the cast depicts more than one role.  Evan Turissini is all drama and also relishes in the part of lovelorn, flirty, and attention-seeking Madame Bijou, especially while vying for the attention of Bluebottle, portrayed with British flair by Colin McIntireSophia Yael Koevary as Daisy Mae and Jamie Semel as Young Woodby share some sweet scenes.  With choreographer Laura Detwiler’s dynamic choreography, Camille Charlier as the Gossamer Fairy and Lindsay Eagle as The Ghost of Mary Whosie-Whatsit perform a  harmonious rendition of Mills Brothers’ The Glow Worm.  Another memorable tune comes straight from the audience as the cast invites the crowd to believe in a spark, depicted by Erin FM and navigated by Beth Owens.

For a show about inspiration, The Spider and the Fly doesn’t need much coaching as it delves into this exciting production with a quick pace with lots of heart.

Imaginary Beasts presents live and in person Kiki Samko and Matthew Woods’s The Spider and the Fly or the Tangled Web (a gothic pantomime) through October 29 at Chelsea Theatre Works in Chelsea, Massachusetts.  The show is one hour and 40 minutes with a 10 minute intermission and is recommended for children 5 and up.  Click here for more information and for tickets that are quickly selling out.

REVIEW: Boston Lyric Opera’s ‘Madama Butterfly’ a mesmerizing and surprising metamorphosis

‘I gave my tears into the earth, now it must give me back flowers.’ 

This is just a hint of Puccini’s masterful lyrics that encapsulates profound love and loss in Puccini’s epic classic 1904 Italian libretto Madama Butterfly presented live and in person at Emerson Colonial Theatre through Sunday, September 24.  This expansive production was 2 hours and 25 minutes with one 20-minute intermission after Act 1.  Click here for more information and more about Boston Lyric Opera’s season.

After their onstage wedding Butterfly’s Karen Chia-Ling Ho and Pinkerton’s Dominick Chenes love spills out onto the San Francisco streets PHOTO BY KEN YOTSUKURA

With heartrending direction by Phil Chan and stirring choreography by Michael Sakamoto, Madama Butterfly was delivered with an altered setting and contemporary flair over a period of time from 1941 to 1983.  Puccini’s Madama Butterfly is a searing and brilliant love story and the source material for the Tony award-winning Broadway musical, Miss Saigon.  This time, Madama Butterfly’s settings ranged from Hawaii to San Francisco to Arizona.  Jeanette Oi-Suk Yew’s multifaceted lighting not only reflected the shadows and watercolor reflection in a lively nightclub but the rich purple and rose of the horizon at daybreak as moving set pieces transported the audience to contrasting settings. Featuring multicolor fans, contemporary yellow crowns, and regal military uniforms, Sara Ryung Clement’s distinctive, silky, and shimmering costumes in bursting color embellished the festivities of the Club Shangri-La in Chinatown in San Francisco, where Navy officer B. F. Pinkerton, depicted with enigmatic sweetness by tenor Dominick Chenes and soprano Karen Chia-Ling Ho as naïve, proud, bubbly and devoted Butterfly or Cio-Cio San meet in 1941.  It will be a night they never forget.

Uncle Bonze Hyungjin Son center makes a shocking revelation about Butterfly Karen Chia-Ling Ho in BLOs new production of MADAMA-BUTTERFLY PHOTO BY KEN YOTSUKURA

Boston Lyric Opera’s production of Madama Butterfly had the audience gripped in a full range of emotions as the eye level live orchestra led by Annie Rabbat articulated Puccini’s moving array of arias punctuated by magnificent drums.  Boasting angelic vocals, Chia- Ling Ho blossomed as Madama Butterfly, her coy yet fragile depiction poignant and buoyant as she navigated through a plethora of challenges during World War II and Pearl Harbor.  Chenes and Chia-Ling had captivating chemistry only enriched by powerful vocals and enthralling dialogue.  Mezzo soprano Alice Chung at first offered an understated performance as steadfast and loyal Suzuki, but Chung’s depiction gradually culminated into one of the most endearing characters of the production alongside Troy Cook as compassionate and protective Sharpless.   Baritone Junhan Choi had a reduced role as Commissioner/Registrar in Madama Butterfly compared to the engineer’s meaty role in Miss Saigon, but Choi left his mark during each of his memorable scenes in a charismatic portrayal of dark humor and dastardly wit.

Suzuki Alice Chung l. laments the news Pinkerton Dominick Chenes brings with him in BLOs new production of MADAMA BUTTERFLY PHOTO BY KEN YOTSUKURA

Michael Sakamoto’s dynamic choreography ranged from delicate to fitful, most notably as Butterfly took the stage in a traditional dance with the Club Shangri-La performers and later in a stirring dance featuring Cassie Wang.  Wang’s symbolic performance was peculiar, heartfelt, foreboding and so riveting that it may remain ingrained into the psyche long after the performance has ended.

During a visit from Officer Sharpless Troy Cook r. Butterfly Karen Chia-Ling Ho center reveals a secret in BLOs new production of MADAMA BUTTERFLY PHOTO BY KEN YOTSUKURA

Boston Lyric Opera’s Madama Butterfly took some liberties from the classic libretto that dealt in immigration, bigotry, and patriotism in a surprising array of twists and turns and proved to be a production that will not soon be forgotten.

Boston Lyric Opera presented Puccini’s Madama Butterfly through Sunday, September 24 live and in person at Emerson Colonial Theatre in Boston, Massachusetts.  This expansive production was 2 hours and 25 minutes with one 20-minute intermission after Act 1.  Click here for more information and more about Boston Lyric Opera’s season.

REVIEW: Sparkle and charm fuel Titusville Playhouse’s ‘The Prom’

Having been invited to The Prom for the second time this year, it seemed best to celebrate this time around in a frilly dress. It was especially appropriate catching a show while away on vacation and with Jordyn Linkous’s festive and glittery wig and costume design, it was easy to fit right in.

Innovatively directed and creatively staged by Niko Stamos with lighthearted choreography by Jordyn Linkous, Titusville Playhouse presents musical dramedy The Prom live and in person in Titusville, Florida through October 1.  This show contains some strobe lighting and special effects.  It runs two hours and 25 minutes with one intermission. Click here for more information and for tickets.

Mandy Kerridge as Dee Dee Allen, Steven J. Heron as Barry Glickman and cast in ‘The Prom’ Photo credit to Titusville Playhouse

The Prom should sound a least a little familiar since its 2020 Netflix film adaptation debut with an abundance of its own star power including Meryl Streep as Dee Dee and James Corden as Barry.  Inspired by a true story, anxious Emma, depicted with self effacing humility by Delaney Sue McGough, invites a date to the Prom with none other than Myanell Enriquez as popular Alyssa, the daughter of the head of the Parent Teacher Association.  Once a group of egocentric Broadway celebrities gets wind of this human interest story, they decide to make a difference in this small Indiana town.  The Prom is a satirical blend of inspired true story and over the top musical comedy set in New York as well as in Edgewater, Indiana.  The Prom delivers plenty of humor ranging from silly to satirical with a sincere and underlying message about helping others.

Mandy Kerridge as Dee Dee Allen and Delaney Sue McGough as Emma Nolan in ‘The Prom’ Photo credit to Titusville Playhouse

With extraordinary music direction by Spencer Crosswell, The Prom boasts strong vocals from an amiable cast.  Glamour takes center stage with Mandy Kerridge as Dee Dee Allan, a self absorbed and award-winning actress.   Kerridge’s impressive vocal range and wonderful belt is on full display for It’s Not About Me and The Lady’s Improving.  Along with Steven J. Heron as warm, lovable, and lauded actor Barry Glickman, Danny Sanchez as no nonsense PR rep Sheldon, Corey Evans as openhearted Trent, and Sarah Ruth Joyner as inspirational Angie Dickinson, these seemingly shallow thespians bring some humorous moments, but their real charm is exposed by the people they meet in this fish out of water production.

Lit with soft and cheerful multicolored lighting by Davis Vande Steeg , The Prom features a dynamic set design by Niko Stamos including a digital screen that transforms settings in an instant including the store front of a 711, a monster truck rally, and the glittering festivities of a Prom.  Some clever staging includes the transformation of an Applebee’s to a balcony seat during a beautiful rendition of We Look to You as well as veiled and translucent staging for the number, Tonight Belongs to You.

Steven J. Heron as Barry Glickman and the Executive and Artistic Director of the Titusville Playhouse and Delaney Sue McGough as Emma in ‘The Prom’ Photo credit to Titusville Playhouse

The Prom deals with some serious topics including betrayal, but balances it well with the show’s overall optimistic tone.   It is positive throughout, even in the face of Emma’s most difficult challenges.  McGough’s chiming vocals in forlorn yet earnest number Just Breathe is a compelling revelation while Holly Fuller’s tight lipped delivery proves fitting for tough and immutable antagonist Mrs. Greene.  Emma’s high school classmates are painted as shallow and insensitive and as far as storytelling, it might have been nice to have at least one of them sympathetic to Emma’s plight from the start.

Cast photo Photo credit to Titusville Playhouse

The Prom contains a wealth of welcome, inside Broadway humor and references as well as notable choreography including a sweet rendition of You Happened and the Fosse-inspired choreography of ZazzThe Prom provides a message driven and sparkling escape to fun and frivolity if only temporarily from the realities of life.  

Titusville Playhouse presents The Prom live and in person in Titusville, Florida through October 1.  This show contains some strobe and special effects and runs two hours and 25 minutes with one intermission. Click here for more information and for tickets.

REVIEW: Fitz and the Tantrums groovily beat the heat and a storm at Indian Ranch

No one can make people forget an unforgiving and sweltering heat quite like indie pop neo soul band Fitz and the Tantrums.  Though the day called for storms, nothing was going to stop their positive vibes until after these multi-platinum artists finished their set.  Their performance was politics-free, but no less personal and full of encouragement with a repertoire of groovy and upbeat sounds that make even those determined not to dance in this heat, bob and sway, get up and get down.

Fitz of Fitz and the Tantrums Photo credit Adam Klein

Fitz and the Tantrums appeared at Indian Ranch in Webster, MA on July 29 and it was one stop on a national tour that continues through October 1…so far.  Click here for more information on upcoming Indian Ranch performances and click here for more information on Fitz and the Tantrums latest national tour.

Indian Ranch is an outdoor concert venue and more which features a lakeside view and beach.  A portion of the seats do have a cover for rain and the shows are mostly rain or shine.   The VIP pre-concert experience that day started at 11:30 am and featured barbeque with a choice of hamburgers, hotdogs, or veggie burgers, baked beans, corn, salads, and an array of desserts.  Fitz and the Tantrums took the stage at 1:30pm for an almost 2 hour set including an encore.

Noelle from Fitz and the Tantrums Photo credit Adam Klein

Fitz and the Tantrums took the stage for a feel good set featuring an array of hit tunes and some songs off their new album, Let Yourself Free.   Despite the heat, the group remained dedicated to their unique and classy style in dark pants and converse sneakers as the band heated up with horn –infused rhythms and flashing, multi-colored lights.

Most of the songs were infectious, lighthearted, and boasted wild rhythms.  The enthusiastic band made the best of the heat as they encouraged the audience to dance and sing-along.  A few of the highlights included a tune that lead singer Michael Fitzgerald or ‘Fitz’ wrote for his wife, Silver Platter.  It’s a breezy, flirty and snappy single off their new album as he exclaimed, ‘Gimme-gimme that love-that love-that love.’  They also revved the audience up with the inspirational number, 123456 as the audience sang along, ‘Count it out! Shout it out!’

Noelle and Fitz from Fitz and the Tantrums Photo credit Adam Klein

Featuring an amazing saxophone solo by James King and Noelle Scaggs’s rhythmic tambourine, Fitz and the Tantrums grooved to Out of my League’s reverberating synth rhythms before delving into the knock down, get up workday struggle with Living for the Weekend.

Fitz and the Tantrums at Indian Ranch Photo credit Adam Klein

Fitz and the Tantrums kept the party going with their brief, but endlessly catchy title track, Let Yourself Free, the story of a dream with AHHHH! and didn’t leave out their biggest hits such as The Walker to the crowd’s delight.

Fitz and the Tantrums appeared at Indian Ranch in Webster, MA on July 29 and it was one stop on a national tour that continues through October 1…so far.  Click here for more information on upcoming Indian Ranch performances and click here for more information on Fitz and the Tantrums latest national tour.

REVIEW:   Company One’s ‘The Boy Who Kissed the Sky’ a heartfelt tale that rocks the cosmos

Music lifts, transports, comforts, brings people together, and provides its own therapy to the happy and the hurt.  Though the Boy, depicted with earnest and imaginative optimism by Errol Service Jr., is not aware of it yet, a force much bigger than him is going to lead the way to his destiny. 

Errol Service Jr. in ‘The Boy Who Kissed the Sky’ Photo by Erin-Crowley

Directed inventively by Summer L Williams with funky musical direction by David Freeman Coleman, joyfully choreographed by Victoria Lynn Awkward and loosely based on legendary guitarist Jimi Hendrix’s life, Company One presents Idris Goodwin’s celestial and groovy The Boy Who Kissed the Sky live and in person at the Strand Theatre in Dorchester, Massachusetts and now streaming through Saturday, August 12.  This far out production is 70 minutes with no intermission and pay what you can tickets are available.  Part of what makes Company One’s The Boy Who Kissed the Sky special is its commitment to the community and social change by partnering with a number of community organizations including Project Bread, Zumix, and Boston Music Project through this production.  Click here for more information and tickets.

Adriana Alvarez, Errol Service Jr. and Martinez Napoleon in ‘The Boy Who Kissed the Sky’ Photo by Erin Crowley

In many ways, musician Jimi Hendrix was deemed ahead of his time.  Part biography, part musical and part fantastic trip through time, the cosmos, and through hardship, The Boy Who Kissed the Sky envisions possibly how Hendrix got there.  It is noteworthy that Service’s boy is never referred to as Hendrix and can be translated into any dreamer’s potential.

 This production boasts a wealth of various projections by Rasean Davonte Johnson including traffic and misty rain as well as kinetic water colored special effects and cosmic imagery.  Through all of the pizzazz and psychedelic special effects lies an inspirational tale built for any dreamer attempting to overcome challenging circumstances.  Set in Jimi Hendrix’s hometown of Seattle, Washington, It also delivers a strong message about the value of hard work, keeping an eye on the prize, and believing in one’s boundless potential.

The cast of ‘The Boy Who Kissed The Sky’ Photo by Erin Crowley

The Boy Who Kissed the Sky’s energetic cast is lead by Errol Service Jr. referred to only as The Boy.  Much of the cast plays more than one role.   Service’s Boy is amiable, sympathetic, imaginative and inquisitive as he waits for his mother, depicted warmly by Yasmeen Dunkin Cedric Lilly is enigmatic and forthright as the boy’s veteran father, Mel and Keira “Kee” Prusmack delivers a humorous yet kindhearted performance as Mrs. Newton, the boy’s nosy neighbor.

L-R Martinez Napoleon and Errol-Service Jr. in ‘The Boy Who Kissed the Sky’ Photo by Erin Crowley

However, grooving through time and space backed by some of Hendrix’s music history and influences is Martinez Napoleon who soars as J. Sonic.  With excellent vocals, mystical charisma, and an easy rapport with Service Jr, Napoleon sweeps through the production with a smooth yet caring demeanor as Martinez attempts to demonstrate that the boy, using a broom as a guitar, is more powerful than the boy ever thought possible.

The cast of ‘The Boy Who Kissed The Sky’ Photo by Erin Crowley

Backed by Eugene H Russell IV and Divinity Roxx’s uplifting rock n roll and blues-inspired score especially for numbers A Feeling Without A Name and Way Back,  The Boy Who Kissed the Sky is a musical celebration elevated by Jimi Hendrix’s iconic fashion sense and Danielle Dominique Sumi’s dramatic and galactic 60s-inspired costume design.  An epic and renowned onstage band trio jams high above the production’s stage alongside a gigantic moon and Wooden Kiwi Productions constructed the rock n roll set equipped with giant wooden amplifiers and stereo speakers under Danielle DeLaFuente’s scenic vision.

Idris Goodwin’s ‘The Boy Who Kissed the Sky’ is appropriate for all ages and a wonderful production to anyone could use a little inspiration.

Directed inventively by Summer L Williams with funky musical direction by David Freeman Coleman, joyfully choreographed by Victoria Lynn Awkward, and loosely based on legendary guitarist Jimi Hendrix’s life, Company One presents Idris Goodwin’s celestial and groovy The Boy Who Kissed the Sky live and in person at the Strand Theatre in Dorchester, Massachusetts and now streaming through Saturday, August 12.  This far out production is 70 minutes with no intermission and pay what you can tickets are available.  Click here for more information and tickets.

REVIEW:  Dive under the sea with Reagle Music Theatre of Greater Boston’s magical ‘The Little Mermaid’

Sebastian is right. 

Life under the sea is better than anything we have up here especially if it is Reagle Music Theatre of Greater Boston’s lively and family-friendly production of Disney’s The Little Mermaid.  Having witnessed Disney’s 1989 classic The Little Mermaid several times, one of the many reasons to see Reagle Music Theatre’s stage version is it contains additional songs and scenes while still delivering all the beloved dialogue, music, and costumes from the 1989 film.  It was refreshing to see that The Little Mermaid has so much more to say.

Directed and choreographed exuberantly by Taavon Gamble with buoyant music direction by David Coleman, Reagle Music Theatre of Greater Boston presents Disney’s The Little Mermaid through Sunday, August 6 live and in person at the Robinson Theatre in Waltham, Massachusetts.  This production is 130 minutes with a fifteen minute intermission.  Click here for more information and for tickets.

Ariel (Kayla Shimizu) and Sebastian (Davron and ensemble perform ‘Under the Sea’ in Reagle Music Theatre’s Disney’s The Little Mermaid. Photo by Herb Philpott

Less than 35 years after the release of Disney’s 1989 classic film and not too long after the release of Disney’s live action remake The Little Mermaid this year, Reagle Music Theatre of Greater Boston has chosen a grand time to bring this land and sea classic to life onstage.  Some will recognize the set pieces and settings from the 1989 film, but Reagle’s production also boasts a great deal of originality as well.

From shimmering fins to uniquely- shaped, brilliantly colored costumes adorned with carefully structured headdresses, Emerald City Theatrical delivers Caribbean charm in all of its animated splendor.  Tony Ferrieri’s layered aquatic scenic design combined with Franklin Meissner Jr’s impressive lighting enhances the complexion and depth of the production’s kaleidoscopic waves, transforming from welcoming to at times threatening along a backdrop steeped in puffy clouds.

King Triton’s Kingdom Disney’s The Little Mermaid presented by Reagle Music Theatre thru August 6 in Waltham Photo by Herb Philpott.

Based on the Hans Christian Anderson tale and the Disney film, The Little Mermaid is about a curious mermaid princess named Ariel, depicted with vibrant charm and soaring vocals by Kayla Shimizu, who falls in love with not only a human prince, but the world on land.  She is offered a way to escape the sea, but will she take it?

Ariel (Kayla Shimizu) singing Part of Your World in Reagle Music Theatre’s ‘The Little Mermaid’ through August 6. Photo by Herb Philpott

The Little Mermaid boasts a completely lovable cast led by Ariel, portrayed with enthusiastic, wide eyed wonder by Kayla Shimizu.  Shimizu’s compelling performance and powerful vocals are remarkably reminiscent of Jodi Benson, the actress who voiced Ariel in the 1989 film.  Shimizu shines with splendid renditions of Part of Your World, The World Above and If Only.  Shimizu shares captivating moments with Ray Robinson as amiable and refined Prince Eric, sweet camaraderie with endearing Kenny Lee as shy, friendly and adorable Flounder and brave, streetwise, and frank Jack Mullen as seagull Scuttle.  Having depicted Will Parker in Reagle’s previous musical, Oklahoma, Mullen again demonstrates his sharp comic wit and jubilant dance moves in a hilarious rendition of Positoovity. 

Positoovity from Disney’s The Little Mermaid presented by Reagle Music Theatre in Waltham. Photo Herb Philpott.

A vision in deep, sparkling red, Davron S. Munroe is exemplary as strict and critical crab Sebastian who assists King Triton, portrayed with wise regality by Cristhian Mancinas-Garcia.  In a display of bursting color and enchanting merriment, Munroe’s calypso-infused rendition of Under the Sea is stupendous and Kiss the Girl not only has tender charm, but delivers a humorous and delightful depiction of twilight, especially as frogs look on.

Ariel (Kayla-Shimizu) and (Sebastian Davron) and ensemble perform Under the Sea in Reagle Music Theatre’s Disney’s The Little Mermaid. Photo by Herb Philpott

Sibling rivalry has never been more fun as showcased through Ariel’s mersisters consisting of Kindred Moore, Aimee Coleman, Joy Clark, Ellie Lauter, Aubrie-Mai Rubel and Olivia Foght.  They are gorgeous beauty queens who gossip, laugh and try to upstage each other.  They perform a catchy, 50s style rendition of She’s in Love with Flounder where even the fishy puns are cute.

Kenny Lee as Flounder and the Mersisters perform ‘She’s in Love’ from Disney’s The Little Mermaid presented by Reagle Music Theatre in Waltham. Photo Herb Philpott.

Rich Allegretto as Grimsby is also impressive as Prince Eric’s traditional yet sympathetic advisor and Teddy Edgar as deranged and passionate Chef Louis is hilarious even in a brief appearance for a marvelous rendition of Les Poissons.  Edgar’s menacing eyes and passion for food make every moment count! 

Katherine Pecevich as Ursula and Eels in Reagle Music Theatre’s Disney’s The Little Mermaid thru August 6. Photo by Herb Philpott.

A trio of dastardly proportions takes shape in Katherine Pecevich as Ursula and Ursula’s two lurking and smirking neon electric eel henchmen portrayed by Miki Grubic as Flotsam and  Alan Cid as Jetsam.  With wild hair and a black and purple glittering gown, Pecevich’s slippery manipulations and brash, yet shrewd machinations match whatever Cid and Grubic have in their co-conspiring minds.  Even though Ursula is the main attraction, Cid and Grubic’s functioning and eye catching costumes do a bit of their own scene stealing.  However, Pecevich’s charisma shines in a devious rendition of Poor Unfortunate Souls, her husky vocals only second to her maniacal laughter.

Directed and choreographed exuberantly by Taavon Gamble with buoyant music direction by David Coleman, Reagle Music Theatre of Greater Boston presents Disney’s The Little Mermaid through Sunday, August 6 live and in person at the Robinson Theatre in Waltham, Massachusetts.  This production is 130 minutes with a fifteen minute intermission.  Click here for more information and for tickets.

REVIEW:  ‘Zebra 2.0’ at New Ohio’s ICE Factory boasts an unconventional meet cute with fascinating zip

One is nicknamed Zebra and another knows everything there is to know about Zebras….except how Zebras feel.

Zebra 2.0 is technological ice breaker and a breakthrough unlike any other.  An interesting meet cute for the modern age, AnomalousCo, Wistaria Project, and Romanian Cultural Institute’s sci-fi rom com Zebra 2.0 was presented at New Ohio Theatre’s ICE Factory in NYC and is now streaming through August 12.  The show runs for 1 hour and 30 minutes.  Click here for more information and how to stream the film.

Alina Mihailevschi and Tim Craig in ‘Zebra 2.0’ Photographer: Jarrett Robertson

A computer and a woman meet in a lab.  She calls it Al and Al nicknames her Zebra 2.0.  As Al coordinates a line of numbers, inquisitive Zina, energetically depicted by Alina Mihailevschi, realizes that Al, portrayed with intellectual charm by Tim Craig, have much more in common than either of them realized.  Zebras are only the beginning.

Zebra 2.0 has an enchanting way of delving into various topics such as the environment, biology, science, books, music, immigration, standardized tests, employment, and the nature of being human in a clever and fascinating manner.  Though Zina only chance meets Al as she cleans up a laboratory, her friendly and candid conversations with Al spark some compelling results.  Written by Saviana Stanescu and directed by Jeremy Goren, Zebra 2.0 combines method and sentiment into a sweet, intense, and astute production with resounding messages about humanity.  Tim Craig is impressive, gradually molding Al into a charismatic and sympathetic character and Mihailevschi epitomizes lonely, zealous, friendly, rebellious, and imaginative Zina who longs for knowledge and dreams of a better life.

Tim Craig and Alina Mihailevschi in ‘Zebra 2.0’ Photographer: Jarrett Robertson

John Jannone, Michi Zaya,  and Amy Liou’s luminous projection and  video, Duncan Davies’s incredible multicolor lighting and Ras Badejo’s epic music and sound combine to make Al into a dazzling, fervent, and a powerful entity that blurs fantasy and reality inside a pristine, windowless, and futuristic space by Xinan Helen Ran.  These special effects display some of the most exciting scenes in the production only second to Craig and Mihailevschi’s humorous and engaging chemistry that just might deliver greater meaning than anything Al can calculate.

Alina Mihailevschi and Tim Craig in ‘Zebra 2.0’ Photographer: Jarrett Robertson

Written ambitiously by Saviana Stanescu with elevated direction by Jeremy Goren, AnomalousCo, Wisteria Project, and Romanian Cultural Institute’s sci-fi rom com Zebra 2.0 was presented at ICE Factory in NYC and is now streaming through August 12.  The show runs for 1 hour and 30 minutes.  Click here for more information and how to stream the film.

REVIEW:  Reagle Music Theatre of Greater Boston kicks up its heels with Rodgers and Hammerstein’s classic ‘Oklahoma!’

From the first few divine notes of the show’s opening number, Oh, What a Beautiful Morning captured vividly by Jared Troilo’s charismatic Curly, Troilo creates one morning not to be missed.  Reagle Music Theatre of Greater Boston’s Oklahoma! combines top notch choreography, a jubilant cast, and an interactive set that invites the audience to settle into its own home on the range. 

Reagle Music Theatre’s ‘Oklahoma’ Aunt Eller Carolyn Saxon and Ensemble Photo credit Robert Pascucci

With luminous direction and exceptional choreography by Rachel Bertone, Reagle Music Theatre kicks off their summer musical season with the stomping fun of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s musical classic, Oklahoma! continuing live and in person through July 2 at the Robinson Theatre in Waltham, Massachusetts.  Click here for more information and for tickets. 

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 is still thriving after 80 years. 

Musically directed and conducted by Dan Rodriguez, Reagle Music Theatre delivers the production’s joyous zest for life, the thrill of camaraderie, timeless messages as well as dark, tense and suspenseful moments.  Rodgers and Hammerstein wrote their second musical, Carousel shortly after Oklahoma’s success and both shows share some of the same themes.  Reagle Music Theatre delicately weaves its joyous moments with themes of loneliness, temptation, and obsession effectively especially through its powerful chorography and soundtrack, balancing this timeless tale.

Based on Lynn Riggs play, Green Grow the Lilacs, a colorful and rustic set rewinds the clock to the Oklahoma Indian Territory just after the turn of the century, equipped with softly flickering lanterns, vintage photographs, wooden fences, prairie landscapes, a wooden and winding fence, and interactive props hanging from the walls.  Franklin Meissner Jr.’s evolving lighting gradually becomes its own character, effectively transforming the mood from a soft rising sun to a nightmarish hue.

Emerald City Theatrical wonderfully captures the authenticity of the time with cheerful costumes from plaids to pinstripes as well as richly colored bandanas, suede stirrups, leather vests, cowboy boots, and pastel puffed sleeved dresses with stylish Victorian boots.

Reagle Music Theatre’s ‘Oklahoma’ Curly (Jared Troilo) and Laurey (Kayla Shimzu) Photo credit Robert Pascucci

Ruggedly dressed in suede chaps with a button down shirt, leather vest, and cowboy boots, Jared Troilo’s Curly McLain has an imaginative streak and an innate zest for life albeit infused with an occasional bit of overconfidence.  Whether engaging Kayla Shimizu as Laurey in a whimsical carriage ride during the imaginative The Surrey with the Fringe on Top or musing about life in Oh What a Beautiful Morning, Troilo puts his heart into Curly delivering an inspired performance.  Troilo also has a sweet rapport with Carolyn Saxon who brings wise sensibility and playfulness to Aunt Eller through her considerable grin, yet she is a woman not to be trifled with.

Reagle Music Theatre’s ‘Oklahoma’s’ Aunt Eller and Curly Photo credit Robert Pascucci

In a fishtail braid and striped overalls, Shimizu depicts headstrong and practical Laurey with sass, strong vocals, and introspective charm.  The production more clearly examines nonconformist Laurey who wants to do anything but what is traditionally expected, yet still yearns for a big love.  Through refined, twirling and ballet-infused choreography that combines the traditional with the contemporary topped with lace lined parasols, Many a New Day illustrates that contrast as Laurey longs for her own path. 

Reagle Music Theatre’s ‘Oklahoma’ Laurey and Girls (Out of My Dreams) Photo credit Robert Pascucci

Jack Mullen has many standout moments showing off rodeo and dance skills as fun loving, somewhat hotheaded, and spontaneous Will.  Will’s rendition of Kansas City has never been more fun with lively vocals and slick choreography as The Territory Boys stomp, tap, and perform various stunts. 

Oklahoma’s Ado Annie (Rebekah Rae Robles)and Will Parker (Jack Mullen) Photo credit Robert Pascucci

A vision in pink, Rebekah Rae Robles depicts excitable Ado Annie with a feigned wild-eyed innocence and childish mischievousness.  With a glimmer in her eye, Robles’s chemistry with both Will and Johnny Gordon as bewildered peddler Ali Hakim has its own distinct charm. Wearing a green suite, Gordon as Ali Hakim cleverly balances this dynamic character with comedy and slyness.  Rick Sherburne also makes a lasting impression as Andrew Carnes, Ado’s intimidating and overprotective father, especially during the number, The Farmer and the Cowman.

Reagle Music Theatre’s ‘Oklahoma’ Dream Laurey and Jud Daniel Forest Sullivan. and Girls Photo credit Robert Pascucci

Daniel Forest Sullivan brings a deeper sadness to skilled hired hand and loner Jud residing in a one room smokehouse.  Sullivan masters this role in its quieter moments, amplifying each scene’s tension and making his character that much more mysterious.  His scenes with Curly are somber and powerful even through Jud’s twisted judgment. With an unmistakable laugh, Caitlin Zerra Rose as Gertie Cummings is a great deal of frivolous fun.

However, the biggest reason to see Oklahoma! is Bertone’s stellar choreography from the powerful and symbolic ballet Out of My Dreams to the snappy excitement of its title track.  The show exemplifies the closeness and camaraderie of simpler times.  It captures the joy of being in one another’s company which has become more precious in the last couple of years.  The entire cast captures the distinct spirit of Oklahoma! in all its sweeping joy. 

Reagle Music Theatre kicks off the summer musical season with Rodgers and Hammerstein’s musical classic, Oklahoma! continuing live and in person through July 2 at the Robinson Theatre in Waltham, Massachusetts.  Click here for more information and for tickets. 

REVIEW:  The Arlekin Players powerful and interactive ‘The Gaaga’ (The Hague) brings war under the microscope

What if during the pain and strife of war, leaders were rounded up and required to stand trial for war crimes?  What if during that trial, the very nature of war is peeled away to only exact more questions?

The Arlekin Players are known for daring and original productions fueled with a strong and universal message and this time, the audience had a say in this interactive trial through the eyes of a child.

Taisiia Fedorenco as Taya in Arlekin Players ‘The Gaaga’ Photo by Irina Danilova

Innovatively written and directed by Sasha Denisova, Arlekin Players Theatre and the Zero-G Virtual Theatre Lab presented The Gaaga (The Hague) live and in person at Beat Brew Hall in Harvard Square in Cambridge, MA as well as a virtual option from June 2 through June 18.  This show contained some adult themes and is 2 hours and 40 including one 10 minute intermission.  Click here for more information.

The cast of Arlekin Players ‘The Gaaga’ Photos by Irina Danilova

The Gaaga delves into some heavy and heady content, but also has its share of satiric humor and spectacle told in an interactive manner through a child’s game delivered through a dark and intriguing performance by Taisiia Fedorenco as Taya in a bomb shelter in Mariupol, Ukraine.  Taya’s “game” is a trial that Putin, portrayed with striking resemblance by hair and makeup designer Anna Furman and depicted somewhat superficially as a child would see Putin by Paulina Dubovikova, and his network of operatives is on trial for their crimes in the Ukraine.  The audience is privy to the trial and then some as each operative parade out for aiding Putin in crimes against humanity. 

It is a powerful, gritty, harrowing, tense, and deeply personal production that leaves many more questions that it does answers about war, its consequences, and the dilemma of who is truly responsible for its uprising.  Though the cast is a dynamic group made of mostly conniving and power hungry adversaries all looking for a scapegoat, The Gaaga adds unexpected dimension to this almost assuredly doomed bunch, but things are never quite as cut and dry.

Taya is not just any girl.  She wants the audience (who can choose to be part of the online jury) to not just see her as narrator and orchestrator of the game, but to get to know her by revealing her favorite soup and what she loves as evidenced by tell tale surroundings including a rocking horse, tea set, and pink doll house.  It’s such a purposefully ironic and metaphorical setting by Environmental Designer Irina Kruzhilina which perhaps symbolizes the loss of innocence as war talk overpowers a child’s playthings.  Lighting designer Kevin Fulton enhances the crucial, mood setting atmosphere from a drab and dismal Dutch prison to the satirical buoyancy of a theatrical performance.  Sound designer Brendan F Doyle and composers Szymon Orfin and Jacek Jedrasik add spectacle and with a cryptic, but at times humorous soundtrack that includes classic rock and original score.

Ilya Volok as Patruschev Photos by Irina Danilova

The originality of The Gaaga varies from treacherous individuals dancing exuberantly in strange garb to being interrogated in a bathtub through the unique lens of security cameras and other means of revelation including a bleary and bombed window.  Quite a few of the cast members make powerful impressions especially handling dual or multiple roles such as Garrett Sands as a malicious soldier, Robert Walsh as Surovikin, Joe Biden and others, but Ilya Volok as conspiracy theorist Patruschev gives a mesmerizing performance, especially in a particularly commanding, absorbing, and unsettling monologue which combines comedy and cruel irony.

Not only is the audience asked show questions as trivia during pivotal points in the production, but invites others to share their thoughts.  Some questions are tongue in cheek, but others are sure to be considered long after the production is over.

Arlekin Players Theatre and the Zero-G Virtual Theatre Lab presented The Gaaga (The Hague) live and in person at Beat Brew Hall in Cambridge, MA as well as a virtual option from June 2 through June 18.  Click here for more information.