REVIEW: Reagle Music Theatre of Greater Boston’s ‘The Sound of Music’ a moving summer gem

The Sleepless Critic has reviewed a few beautiful productions of ‘The Sound of Music,’ a riveting true story set in Austria about the resilient Von Trapp family who not only attempt to resist the Nazi regime in 1938 Pre-war Salzburg, but also attempt to move on without their late mother.  A blend of grace, faith and strength in the face of an indelible sadness, no doubt makes it a stirring classic.  Yet, with the exception of Audra McDonald’s brilliant turn as Mother Abbess in NBC’s 2013’s ‘The Sound of Music Live‘ musical, her extraordinary vocals lifting Fox’s arguably mediocre production with this glorious anthem, Climb Every Mountain, the music to ‘The Sound of Music’ has generally never been my favorite.

Make no mistake, Rodgers and Hammerstein’s classic, Academy Award-winning musical score is nevertheless respected and appreciated for its mark in musical history.   However, what makes Reagle Music Theatre of Greater Boston’s musical, ‘The Sound of Music’ particularly special is its resonant harmonies, a brilliant lead in Aimee Doherty as Maria, and the lively vocals and playful choreography delivered by this wonderful, lighthearted cast.  It convinced me to care for ‘The Sound of Music’ score, which has never sounded lovelier.

With a mix of tradition, opulence, and a few songs not featured in the iconic 1965 film starring Julie Andrews, Reagle Music Theatre’s ‘The Sound of Music’ is the perfect lighthearted summer treat, even in its serious moments.  ‘The Sound of Music’ continues at the Robinson Theatre in Waltham, Massachusetts through Sunday, July 21.  Click here for more information and tickets.

Reagle Music Theatre The Sound of Music Aimee Doherty as Maria Confidence in Me

Aimee Doherty as Maria I Have Confidence Photo courtesy of (C) Herb Philpott Photo/Reagle Music Theatre of Greater Boston

The Sound of Music has many highlights, but one of its brightest is Aimee Doherty’s glowing, enchanting turn as Maria.  This Maria is a tad more youthful, boasting flowing dark hair and a wide, playful smile.  Doherty brings light and gravitas to the role, her infectious charm and soaring vocals especially noticeable during the playful, yet pensive number, I Have Confidence.  Paired with Daniel Forrest Sullivan’s buoyant choreography, it is one of Maria’s more subtle, but powerful moments.

Reagle Music Theatres The Sound of Music Von Trapp Children

Emma Heistand as Leisl, Wade Gleeson Turner as Friedrich, Jane Jakubowski as Louisa, Ryan Philpott as Kurt, Fiona Simeqi as Brigitta, Addison Toole as Marta, Libby Sweder as Gretl, and Aimee Doherty as Maria  Photo courtesy of (C) Herb Philpott Photo/Reagle Music Theatre of Greater Boston

Each of the adorable Von Trapp children featuring Emma Heistand as sweet, but rebellious Liesl, Wade Gleeson Turner as Friedrich, Jane Jakubowski as precocious Louisa, Ryan Philpott as Kurt, Fiona Simeqi as Brigitta, Addison Toole as Marta, and Libby Sweder as Gretl have their moment to shine, and their charming number Do-Re-Mi with Doherty is a delight.  The children’s colorful, identical, and traditional Austrian wardrobe enhance each scene.  Liesl, portrayed by Emma Heistand and Rolf, depicted by Max Currie impressively develop swift chemistry over the playful number, Sixteen Going on Seventeen, largely thanks to Sullivan’s breezy choreography.

Reagle Music Theatre's The Sound of Music Sixteen Going on Seventeen

Emma Heistand as Liesl and Max Currie as Rolf in ‘Sixteen Going on Seventeen’ Photo courtesy of (C) Herb Philpott Photo/Reagle Music Theatre of Greater Boston

There is a moment during the production where Doherty states, “When God closes a window” and Mark Linehan completes her sentence with, “he opens a door.”  The expression is actually the other way around, but Mark Linehan as Captain von Trapp instantly picks up on her phrase and completes her statement, indicating how in tune they both are onstage.  Mark Linehan has shown a natural charisma in other productions and there is no shortage of that here, delivering a powerful performance in the dour, firm, but forthright Captain.  However, his biggest strength is in the quieter moments of the show, especially in the moving reprise of the title song The Sound of Music and bittersweet Edelweiss.

Reagle Music Theatre The Sound of Music Captain Elsa and Max

L to R: Mark Linehan as Captain von Trapp, Janis Hudson as Elsa, and Robert Orzalli as Max Photo courtesy of (C) Herb Philpott Photo/Reagle Music Theatre of Greater Boston

From the first few notes of the Nuns’ gorgeous, a capella chant, Preludium, Reagle Music Theatre of Greater Boston have certainly outdone themselves.  Their resonant harmonies are among the production’s most beautiful moments.  Mara Bonde delivers an understated performance as patient, insightful, and ceaselessly faithful Mother Abbess, enhanced by a soaring rendition of the show’s inspiring anthem, Climb Every Mountain.  Ever the standout, Yewande Odetoyinbo also makes a remarkable impression as outspoken Sister Berthe.

Reagle Music Theatre of Greater Boston The Sound of Music Aimee Doherty as Maria and Mara Bonde as Mother Abbess

Aimee Doherty as Maria and Mara Bonde as The Mother Abbess Photo courtesy of (C) Herb Philpott Photo/Reagle Music Theatre of Greater Boston

Elsa, portrayed with flashy elegance by Janis Hudson, is a sophisticated, marginally manipulative socialite, with a taste for the finer things.  In what could be a potentially unlikable character, Hudson strikes a delicate balance of a woman who struggles with what she wants and yet, wishes to do the right thing.  She and Robert Orzalli as comical and seemingly smarmy Max are quite a comical pair, especially during the little known number, How Could Love Survive.

Reagle Music Theatre The Sound of Music So Long, Farewell

Mark Linehan as Captain von Trapp, Aimee Doherty as Maria and the Von Trapp children Photo courtesy of (C) Herb Philpott Photo/Reagle Music Theatre of Greater Boston

As wonderfully potent to the ears as visually vibrant, experience Reagle Music Theatre of Greater Boston’s ‘The Sound of Music’ though Sunday, July 21 at the Robinson Theatre, 617 Lexington Street in Waltham, Massachusetts.  Reagle Music Theatre will soon cap off its summer musical season with the comedy classic, ‘La Cage aux Folles’ in August.  Click here for more information and tickets.  Follow Reagle Music Theatre of Greater Boston on Twitter and Facebook for upcoming events and more.

 

 

 

REVIEW: Company Theatre’s ‘Paragon Park the Musical’ is one amazing ride

The Company Theatre is reprising their original, award-winning production of ‘Paragon Park the Musical‘ to cap off their 40th season from Friday, July 26 through Sunday, August 18 with a VIP reception taking place on Saturday July 27.  Winner of the Moss Hart Award in 2012 for Best New England Production, ‘Paragon Park the Musical’ returns with a new cast including Michael Hammond as George A. Dodge and some returning cast members.

A portion of the proceeds from the tickets will be donated to the beloved Paragon Carousel.  Performances will take place at the Company Theatre, 30 Accord Park Drive in Norwell, Massachusetts.  Tickets are selling fast.  Click here for more information and how to get tickets and here about the Paragon Park VIP reception.

Click here for a clip of the original production.  Here is what the Sleepless Critic had to say about this production when it first debuted onstage in Summer 2012…

As the dazzling chandelier is to the musical, ‘Phantom of the Opera’ or a certain symbolic revolving stage is to ‘Les Miserables,’ the original, historic carousel used in the Company Theatre’s exciting production of ‘Paragon Park the Musical’ exudes its own brand of theatre magic.  It serves as a pulsing centerpiece into creator George A. Dodge’s timeless imagination as well as the depth and delight of what made children and adults embrace that revolutionary park in Hull, Massachusetts for nearly 80 years and beyond.

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‘Paragon Park the Musical’ is an original production by Company Theatre co-founder Zoe Bradford and director Michael Hammond with lyrics and music by composer Adam Brooks.  Performances continue through Sunday, August 19, 2012 at 30 Accord Park Drive in Norwell, Massachusetts.  This highly-anticipated musical is enjoying a brilliant run, with nearly every show sold out weeks in advance.

What makes this particular production so popular is it depicts the history of a beloved beachside amusement park that closed in 1984 and actually existed in Hull, Massachusetts.  Historic Paragon Park encapsulates many happy memories to Massachusetts natives, especially those in the South Shore.

‘Paragon Park the Musical’ tells the story of warm, ambitious, and imaginative whaling mogul George A. Dodge, who was passionately inspired to entertain Massachusetts residents and beyond with a revolutionary beachside amusement park.  It also tells a story of forbidden romance and a glimpse into the lives of the real people who resided in that little seaside town in Hull.  The Company Theatre’s ‘Paragon Park the Musical’ not only shines a historical lens into a piece of the South Shore’s dynamic history, but the picturesque settings paint a crisp portrait with each scene.

'Paragon Park the Musical' 2012 production

Scott Wahle as George A. Dodge with cast in the 2012 production Photo courtesy of Zoe Bradford/Company Theatre

The cast is very much an ensemble and delves into various social issues, family issues and immigration, giving insight into each character’s devotion to the park, showing what truly made the park endure for nearly 80 years.  Boston broadcast veteran Scott Wahle is charming and clever as George A. Dodge, portraying him with a twinkle in his eye.   He is full of charisma and authenticity throughout the show and is a delight to watch with children.

It is wonderful to see so many strong female characters such as strong willed Tilly, portrayed with vivacity by Joyce McPhee, discerning Amira, played by Maya Carter, sharp and spirited journalist Floretta Vining, depicted by Victoria Weinstein, and spunky and ambitious Mrs. Rose Stone, played by Juliana Dennis.  The practical Mrs. Rose Stone’s strong presence is a fine match for George A. Dodge’s relaxed humor.  Rinado, portrayed by Nick Cox, is a combination of rugged good looks and captivating naivety, while John King’s Ogden has a spectacular sneer.  Dave Daly is refreshing as lively and cheerful Honeyfitz, who showcases soaring vocals and can play a spirited rendition on a ukulele too!

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Each of Paragon Park’s original 18 numbers are polished and lyrically rich.  The musical’s exhilarating songs, One Last Ride and Paragon Park are delivered with spectacular energy and passion.   The humorous song, Over the Bridge sets a cheerful tone and depicts a few glorious aspects of being young through the wonder of the park.  Joyce McPhee’s Long Lost Love compliments her stunning vocal range and was a crowd favorite.  Massachusetts residents will delight in many well-known local references in the show, especially in the welcoming number, Nantasket for a Day. and A Proper Life.

The sets and costumes range from elegant and sophisticated to colorful and humorous.  The question, “Did I really wear that?” may also come to mind.  The sets are colorful, detailed, and the backdrops are simply stunning.

Through meticulously detailed costumes, ‘Paragon Park the Musical’ brings to life important eras of the park’s history with ease.  With 18 original numbers, a powerful 20-piece orchestra, and the enthusiasm of each cast member, the Company Theatre’s ‘Paragon Park the Musical’ is a beautiful creation, a love letter to its creator and the many people who hold dear memories of the park’s heyday.

Company Theatre reprises ‘Paragon Park the Musical’ from Friday, July 26 through Sunday, August 18.  Click here for more information and tickets or call the box office at 781-871-2787. Follow Company Theatre on FacebookInstagram and Twitter for more on their upcoming events.

REVIEW: Greater Boston Stage Company and Front Porch Arts Collective’s ‘The Three Musketeers’ packs action, comedy, and a contemporary twist

‘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.

Greater Boston Stage Company - The Three Musketeers cast

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.

The Greater Boston Stage Company Tonasia Jones as Madame de Treville and Marc Pierre as D'Artagnan

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.

The Greater Boston Stage Company - Maurice Emmanuel Parent as Cardinal Richelieu

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.

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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.

REVIEW: Currently on tour, The Whiskey Treaty Roadshow raised the roof at Club Passim for album release party

Part of what makes folk music fascinating are the inflections of various genres weaved into each track.  Add some insightful lyrics and it creates its own unique journey.  Unlike other music genres, folk experiments a wide variety of eclectic rhythms.  Currently on tour, rock and roots folk music band The Whiskey Treaty Roadshow does one better.  Each band member writes and performs their own songs, voiced from their own perspectives.

Very much a collaborative band, The Whiskey Treaty Roadshow, made up of singer-songwriters and musicians Greg Smith, David Tanklefsky, Billy KeaneTory Hanna, and banjo picker Chris Merenda all have distinctive styles, but when they collaborate, it is spot on.  They have attended songwriting retreats together and collaborate on each of their compositions in various stages of completion, so everything syncs with the band’s sound the way it should.

Whiskey Treaty Roadshow Tour Schedule 2019

The “Band Together” tour schedule Photo courtesy of The Whiskey Treaty Roadshow

The Whiskey Treaty Roadshow returned to Club Passim celebrating the release of their new album, ‘Band Together‘ and played for some familiar faces on June 7.  With band members hailing from different parts of Massachusetts including the Berkshires and Boston, the sold out crowd was thrilled as each of its five members made their individual entrances onto Club Passim’s stage.  Click here to see where The Whiskey Treaty Roadshow will appear next, here for an interview with band member, David Tanklefsky, and here for more on Club Passim.

Sam Chase from Scituate opened for the Whiskey Treaty Roadshow, and there was a brief intermission before the band took the stage.  From quiet, horn-infused reflections in ‘Reasons‘ to the rolling and the ebb and flow rhythms of ‘Jimmy the Whiskey Boy,’ ‘Rock n Roll Déjà Vu,’ and ‘Perfect Day,’ to the lightning-fast, freestyle tempo of ‘Born to Pick Bluegrass’ to observations on the current state of the world with ‘Hey Lady,’ ‘Close to the Edge,’ and ‘Pass the Peace,’ The Whiskey Treaty Roadshow delivered a variety of insightful, optimistic songs as each band member took the lead to tell their story.

Telling jokes, improvising, and revealing some inspiration behind their songs, it is easy to see their breezy camaraderie as they make the most out of Club Passim’s intimate stage.  Dressed casually in jeans and distinctive hats (one band member in a signed tank top), their music travels an eclectic emotional spectrum, from acoustic to electric with lyric-heavy compositions tinged in rock, reggae, roots, country, and blues.  Passersby outside peaked into Club Passim’s lower level concert space as the band performed for an enthusiastic crowd.

The Whiskey Treaty Roadshow band

Whiskey Treaty Roadshow – Billy Keane, David Tanklefsky, Tory Hanna, Greg Smith, and Chris Merenda Photo courtesy of Whiskey Treaty Roadshow

Though The Whiskey Treaty Roadshow has an easygoing vibe, they have been hard at work having just released a new album and are currently on a national tour.  They also boast a Berkshire-based, award-winning short documentary, Whiskey Treaty Roadshow:  Of Brotherhood, Music, and Fine Spirits that can be found here.

After a few encores, Whiskey Treaty Roadshow’s Billy Keane playfully sung an uplifting love song, Leave Your Light On with lyrics such as “If you admit I try and damn, look how much I’ve done/And my love for you is strong, look at the lengths in which I’ve gone,” a fitting end for a band that you should leave your light on for in the future.

This memorable, fun evening marks my first time concert experience at Club Passim, 47 Palmer Street in Cambridge, Massachusetts.  Convenient to the Harvard Square T stop, Club Passim features daily live concerts from promising to professional artists with some hailing from Passim School of Music.  Concerts are situated with table seating with their own restaurant serving appetizers, sandwiches, and more.  Click here for more about Passim and all the venue has to offer.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

REVIEW: From the creator of ‘Riverdale’, Flat Earth Theatre delivers a bizarre and suspenseful ‘King of Shadows’

The theme of Flat Earth Theatre’s 13th season has been a thought provoking, mind-bending journey exploring the extraordinary in Delicate Particle Logic, the mythical in Not Medea, and now the mysterious and fantastical in King of Shadows from Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, the creator of Riverdale. This season’s unique, message-driven productions bend reality to reveal a bigger picture.

As a fan of the twist-ending, they have been nothing short of fascinating.  Directed by Michael Hisamoto, Flat Earth Theatre continues King of Shadows through June 22 at the Mosesian Center for the Arts in Watertown, Massachusetts.  Click here for more information and tickets.  This show may be haunting for children.

Flat Earth Theatre King of Shadows set

The setting of Flat Earth Theatre’s ‘King of Shadows’ Photo courtesy of Flat Earth Theatre

Much like Riverdale, an ordinary setting withholds extraordinary secrets. Grounded in the reality of missing children in San Francisco, King of Shadows delves into the lives of four distinct characters, all affected by their dark past.  The haunting set and intimate, encompassing staging, especially PJ Strachman’s light design, Bram Xu’s sound design, Stage Manager/Puppeteer Amy Lehrmitt, and scenic designer Ryan Bates, create an immersive, unsettling atmosphere for what is about to unfold.

Compassionate and ambitious Berkeley graduate student Jessica, portrayed with finesse by Laura Chowenhill, may be in over her head when she meets Nihar, a mysterious, wise-beyond-his-years homeless teenager portrayed by Trinidad Ramkissoon.  Ramkissoon’s penetrating gaze and inquisitive nature give Nihar an edgy charisma.  He has a fuzzy past, but that does not stop Jessica from her perpetual desire to help others.

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Logical and protective policeman Eric Saunders, portrayed impressively by Matt Crawford, is suspicious that Nihar may have a dangerous agenda.  Crawford’s Eric is a great foil for Chowendill’s pensive and conflicted Jessica, setting the stage for some sparks.  Jessica’s resentful and impulsive younger sister Sarah, portrayed with sarcasm and sass by Abigail Erdelatz, is capable of anything as she longs for a different life.

Flat Earth’s multi-layered production, King of Shadows is best seen without revealing too many details.  Though it’s an increasingly outlandish tale, King of Shadows has more than its share of suspense, leaving the audience constantly wondering where each character’s loyalty truly lies.

Flat Earth Theatre - King of Shadows Trinidad Ramkissoon as Nihar

Trinidad Ramkissoon as Nihar Photo courtesy of Flat Earth Theatre

Flat Earth Theatre’s final production of its 13th season, King of Shadows continues through Saturday, June 22 at the Black Box at the Mosesian Center for the Arts, 321 Arsenal Street in Watertown, Massachusetts.  Click here for more information and tickets.

Partially surrounded by a lush green lawn that gives it a campus feel, The Mosesian Center for the Arts houses a number of productions, concerts, and exhibits during the year.  Offering free parking and next door to Panera Bread,  Earful and Gilly Assuncao are among the featured concerts this month while The Wizard of Oz and the opera, La Cenerentola, are among the upcoming theatrical productions.  Click here to see all that Mosesian Center for the Arts has to offer.

 

 

 

 

 

REVIEW: Footlight Club’s ‘The Importance of Being Earnest’ clever and comedic fun

It’s the age old question:  “What’s in a name?”  Apparently it makes all the difference in the world in Oscar Wilde’s classic play, The Importance of Being Earnest, a high society romantic farcical comedy written twenty years after The Footlight Club was established in 1877.  Full of adages about life and relationships as well as its fair share of ploys, elaborate scheming, love at first sight, and mistaken identity, The Importance of Being Earnest proves that some things are timeless.

The Footlight Club, the oldest running theatre in the nation, boasts renovations that include new seating and more at Eliot Hall.  Directed by David Marino, Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest continues at Eliot Hall in Jamaica Plain, Massachusetts through Sunday, June 15.  Click here for more information and for tickets.

It is amazing to see how far theatre has come over the years.  The Importance of Being Earnest is a lighthearted production told in three acts with each act separated by the drop of the stage curtain.  It is refreshing to see this production in vintage form, especially in a day and age where rolling sets and elevated scenery eliminates the need to close the curtain until intermission.

The Footlight Club The Importance of Being Earnest Michael Jay and Frances Price

Michael Jay as Jack and Frances Price as Lady Bracknell Photo credit to Elizabeth Bean/Footlight Club

Zach Best, David Alger, and Cara Guappone’s elegantly-detailed set, which includes a brass chandelier, seemingly expensive wall hangings, and plush furniture, reflect 1895 London, where high society’s seemingly biggest worries are when to dine, when to have tea, and when to go to the club.  However, even in Audrey Stuck-Girard’s regal costumes, the rich nevertheless have their own relatable issues whether it’s over family, love, and happiness.

What keeps Oscar Wilde’s show so relevant is its witty and hilarious script, showing even the simplest things in life can be the most elusive.  Its comic observations about family, love and society can be scathing, but possess a remarkable ring of truth.

The madcap, clever cast has impressive comic timing, especially Bradley Boucher’s knack for physical humor as Algernon Moncrieff.  Back in 2002, Rupert Everett starred as Algernon Moncrieff at age 43 in the film adaptation joined by a stellar cast that included Colin Firth, Reese Witherspoon, Judi Dench, and Tom Wilkinson.  At first glance, Bradley Boutcher looked too young to portray the suave and sardonic Algernon, especially as he spends a great deal of the show making quips about life as only a well-experienced individual can.  However, Boutcher’s smug smile and shrewd comic timing gradually won me over despite some misgivings and he became quite a scene stealer.

Footlight Club The Importance of Being Earnest Elizabeth Loranth as Gwendolyn and Michael Jay as Jack Worthing

Elizabeth Loranth as Gwendolyn and Michael Jay as Jack Worthing Photo credit to Matt McKee/Footlight Club

Boutcher as Moncrieff and Michael Jay as excitable and anxious Jack Worthing share an amusing, competitive camaraderie as they attempt to prove one wiser than the other.  It is fun to see two very different personalities collide over something as trivial as muffins.

In an extravagant feathered hat, Frances Price flourishes as outspoken, society-minded Lady Augusta Bracknell.  Price strikes a delicate balance between well intentioned and intrusive, making distinguished Lady Bracknell likable, even when her lips curve into a judgmental frown.

Kevin Brunton’s droll presence as Lane/Merriman enhances each scene while Gabrielle Jaques as seemingly sweet, wide-eyed Cecily and Elizabeth Loranth as elegant Gwendolyn are fascinating to watch as their characters become increasingly more complicated.  Jennifer Bean as quirky, love struck Miss Prism and Tim Joseph as amiable Reverend Chasuble round out this stellar cast and make Earnest much more than a name, indeed.

Footlight Club The Importance of Being Earnest Jennifer Beam as Miss Prism and Tim Joseph as Reverend Chasuble

Jennifer Bean as Miss Prism and Tim Joseph as Reverend Chasuble Photo credit to Elizabeth Bean/Footlight Club

The Footlight Club presents Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest at Eliot Hall, 7A Eliot Street in Jamaica Plain, Massachusetts through Sunday, June 15.  Click here for more information and tickets to Footlight’s Club final show of the season.

REVIEW: One con deserves another as South Shore Theatre Works continues with lively ‘Chicago the Musical’

With the recent premiere of the highly-anticipated FX biographical miniseries, Fosse/Verdon about the sizzling creative and romantic partnership between legendary filmmaker and choreographer Bob Fosse (Sam Rockwell) and spectacular Broadway dancer Gwen Verdon (Michelle Williams), it seems Fosse and Verdon’s influence is still everywhere.  So, it is not surprising that South Shore Theatre Works (SSTW) is taking on what SSTW’s Executive Director and President Richard Bento called, “a dream production of mine to direct,” Chicago the Musical continuing through Saturday, April 20 at Abigail Adams Middle School in Weymouth, MA.  This show is not for young audiences.  Click here for more information and tickets.

One of Fosse’s most popular creations was a dark satire dealing with corruption and murder during the Jazz age called Chicago the Musical.  This Tony award-winning production continues to thrill audiences as one of the longest running Broadway musicals and its most recent 2002 film adaptation was the 2002 Academy award-winning film starring Renee Zellwegger (Roxie), Catherine Zeta-Jones (Velma) and Richard Gere (Billy Flynn) garnered a few Academy Awards.

SSTW's 'Chicago the Musical' cast

The cast of ‘Chicago the Musical’ Photo by Annabella Valle/South Shore Theatre Works

How has Chicago the Musical earned its longevity?  The proof is in its clever, satirical storytelling that isn’t afraid to occasionally shock, its sizzling choreography, memorable characters, catchy music, and its frank, timeless message about humanity.  With an impressive, semi-interactive fifteen-piece orchestra led by conductor Doug Gerber that elevates the action onstage plus additional songs not featured in its most recent film adaptation, this darkly humorous production is off to a good start.

With a modest set featuring vintage theatre lights that illuminate the stage, director Richard Bento keeps this production in classic Fosse form dressing his dancers in black. The close-knit, tight choreography by co-choreographers Richard Bento and Amy Valle Wallace includes some dance crazes of the Jazz Age that make for some visual sizzle.  Though the classic number Cell Block Tango needs a bit more snarl, clever Razzle Dazzle boasts some sleek staging.

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Headlining this colorful cast is Stephanie Wallace as desperate, hot tempered and fast-living Roxie Hart.  With a great scowl and energetically navigating Roxie’s myriad of emotions, it is easy to see how Wallace relishes this character.  She is never better than during her natural and engaging signature song, Roxie Hart.

Jaclyn Cleary lends a mix of sharp sophistication and mayhem to Velma Kelly, a former dancer turned criminal.  Her wild, light eyes reveal a smugness and unsteadiness that will keep you guessing her next move.  Having seen Chicago the Musical quite a few times, I admire Jaclyn Cleary’s sleek vocals and not so by-the-numbers rendition of All That Jazz.  She and Matron Mama Morton, portrayed charismatically by Hanna Ford, have great chemistry.  They are two sides of the same coin in their rendition of Class.

Staring down her glasses with an ironically sophisticated air is Hannah Ford as Matron Mama Morton.  With a belt that certainly packs a punch, her rendition of When You’re Good to Mama clearly shows she knows how to pull some strings and depicts Mama in a different and refreshing way.

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Wielding a cane, Aaron Stolicker masterfully navigates the cast and the audience as suave, shrewd, and debonair Billy Flynn, sharply dressed in a black tuxedo.  He’s full on smirking charm in the number, All I Care About is Love and quite the storyteller in his rendition of They Both Reached for the Gun, a complex, energetic number with strong choreography.  J. Merlo adds some humor and some serious pipes as journalist Mary Sunshine.

South Shore Theatre Works continues Chicago the Musical through Saturday, April 20 at Abigail Adams Middle School, 89 Middle Street in Weymouth, MA.  Click here fore more information, tickets, and how to support South Shore Theatre Works, an organization that recently celebrated its third anniversary.  Click here for more information about South Shore Theatre Works and its Executive Director and President, Richard Bento.