REVIEW: Bridgewater State University’s Family Performing Arts Center’s lighter ‘The Wizard of Oz’ inventive fun for the whole family

A group of Nelson Mandela Fellows and visitors from China we among the enthusiastic audience attending Bridgewater State University’s (BSU) Family Performing Arts Center’s ‘The Wizard of Oz.’  Featuring full versions of ‘The Wizard of Oz’s’ beloved soundtrack such as Somewhere over the Rainbow and If I Only Had a Brain, this ‘Wizard of Oz’ is a bright, inventive look at a sweet Kansas farm girl and her dog who find themselves in a strange land with no idea how to get home and a witch suddenly in their wake.

Family Performing Arts Center presents ‘The Wizard of Oz’ through Sunday, July 28 at Bridgewater State University’s Rondileau Campus Center Auditorium in Bridgewater, Massachusetts.  Click here for more information and for tickets.  Click here for a closer look at the production.  Save 10% when you use the code ‘BRAIN’ at online checkout.  This show is suitable for all ages.

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Mary Kate McDonald as Dorothy Gale and her dog Toto Costumes by Mary Hurd and Photo credit to Deidre Confrare/BSU’s Family Performing Arts Center

From the moment Mary Kate McDonald as Dorothy, in braids and blue gingham overalls, vocally glides through the full version of Harold Arlen’s Somewhere Over the Rainbow which includes the song’s lesser known introduction, it was clear this show was going to be something special.  A beautiful soprano, McDonald is adorable as spunky Dorothy, depicting her with curiosity and a determined spirit, but careful not to let her impulsiveness get the better of her.  Her interaction with Toto, portrayed and operated by an ensemble character, gives Toto dimension.  Though at first it was disappointing Toto wasn’t a live dog, it ended up being a clever touch.  The human expressions and movements make Toto that much more endearing.

Featuring a couple of songs and a few characters not included in the 1939 film and a subtle twist ending, BSU’s Family Performing Arts Center keeps this production with its share of freshness and surprises.  With orchestration by Larry Wilcox and Peter Howard and background music by Herbert Stothart, ‘The Wizard of Oz’s’ enchanting soundtrack is no joke, as rarely heard and welcome introductions are weaved into each familiar number.  Conducted by Eli Bigelow, the orchestra impressively sets the mood to each comical and exciting scene.  Though the Jitterbug number is not included in the 1939 film and seems a bit dated and silly, the kids will certainly enjoy the darkly comedic piece.

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A Kansas landscape Costumes by Mary Hurd and Photo credit to Deidre Confrare/ BSU’s Family Performing Arts Center

‘The Wizard of Oz’ also boasts unique choreography, rich lighting, and picturesque sets.  For example, the yellow brick road is cleverly demonstrated more through props and choreography than a literal road.  Another notable moment is the intriguing choreography used during the poppies scene enhanced by bright, hand painted sets by Maia Hay and Michael Duarte.  Christopher Scully’s brilliant lighting and Michael Duarte’s sets portray rich silhouettes of the Kansas landscape and Oz which can dazzling or frightening.

This production has a few more comical moments to keep the show a bit lighter, but does not take away from the show’s poignancy and excitement.  It was a surprise to discover Haley McKenney as Glinda and Aunt Em.  McKenney could not have portrayed the two characters more differently.  Decked out in a feathered stole and shimmering tiara, McKenney’s vivacious Glinda is a high energy diva, chipper-voiced and almost maniacally giggly while the plainly stoic Aunt Em is a practical, but the nonetheless a compassionate soul.

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In a winged black hat, Katia Greene’s unpredictable Wicked Witch has her wicked moments, but portrayed a bit more comically with a spin on the character that I’ve never considered.  Greene clearly relishes the role, delivering an energetic and intimidating performance.  Neha Groves captures the mysterious, well meaning, but somewhat bombastic Professor Marvel.

However, Christopher Starr is an expert tumbler and his pliable body and good-natured demeanor make him a wonderful Scarecrow.  Steven Sawan as Tinman and Jim Quinn as Cowardly Lion both give endearing, comical performances.  Quinn’s baritone and quick wit make the number, If I Were King of the Forest a lot of fun.  With McDonald as Dorothy, they develop a lasting, captivating camaraderie that ring especially true during the numbers We’re Off to See the Wizard, The Merry Old Land of Oz, and Lions and Tigers and Bears.

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Christopher Starr as Scarecrow, Steven Sawan as Tinman, Mary Kate McDonald as Dorothy, and Jim Quinn as Cowardly Lion. Costumes by Mary Hurd and Photo credits to Deidre Confrare/BSU’s Family Performing Arts Center

Take a trip down the yellow brick road with BSU’s Family Performing Arts Center’s production of ‘The Wizard of Oz’ continuing through July 28 at Rondileau Campus Center Auditorium, 19 Park Avenue in Bridgewater, Massachusetts.  Click here for more information and for tickets.  Save 10% when you use the code ‘BRAIN’ at online checkout.   Follow BSU’s Family Performing Arts Center on Facebook for future events and more.

REVIEW: Boston Ballet’s idyllic ‘Cinderella’ more than a glittering gown and glass slippers

Be like Cinderella.

During Sir Frederick Ashton’s Cinderella, The Prince, portrayed masterfully by Patrick Yocum, gentlemanly gestures for Cinderella to go first as they make their entrance and she in turn motions for him to go first.  It is a subtle gesture, but holds great significance.  It is just one moment in many that this Cinderella exudes pure selflessness, more so than other adaptations. We can all learn from Cinderella.  She’ll make a lasting impression and is a shining example of what every child should strive to become.

Sir Frederick Ashton’s Cinderella, performed by the Boston Ballet, continues through Saturday, June 8 at the Citizens Bank Boston Opera House.  Click here for more information and for tickets.  Click here for a closer look at the production.

The Boston Ballet’s Cinderella is an ethereal, lighthearted tale, told with a richness that far exceeds a glittering gown and glass slippers.  David Walker’s multi-layered, translucent scenic design and elaborate costumes create moving portraits from deep into an enchanted forest to a sophisticated royal ball.

It is a classic fairy tale about a young girl living with her father and two ugly Stepsisters.  When a mysterious woman shows up on their doorstep, it may change Cinderella’s life forever.  This adaptation has the earmarks of the popular fairy tale including the pumpkin, the royal ball, fairy godmother, and the handsome prince.

Jeffrey Cirio and Misa Kuranaga in Ashton's Cinderella ©Gene Schiavone

Misa Kuranaga and Jeffrey Cirio in Sir Frederick Ashton’s Cinderella; photo by Gene Schiavone, courtesy of Boston Ballet

Sir Frederick Ashton’s Cinderella also contains a few slight alternations from other popular adaptations and it is all the better for it starting with Vikorina Kapitonova’s marvelous portrayal as Cinderella.  Even in a soot-covered, flowing costume, Kapitonova’s glowing face shines through as she jaunts around the house, with only a broom as her companion.  She soaks in her surroundings, her exuberance shown through the simplest of things.  She puts joy in every step, rarely showing any despair in her strength, warmth, and innocent smile.  Cinderella may be neglected, but she’s also happy and imaginative, despite her circumstances.

Absent is the anguish and vindictiveness Cinderella endured from the glaring presence of a Stepmother in other retellings, but instead a harried father tending to the constant needs of two trying Stepsisters.  What makes this Cinderella so remarkable is she is not bullied by her Stepsisters, but that much more selfless, doing everything for the ease of others, always putting others first with a smile.  She tends to her Stepsisters needs out of love, a self-absorbed pair of braying bookends, portrayed with awkward, conceited flair by Roddy Doble and John Lam.  In full bonnets and mismatched, heavily adorned attire, the Stepsisters comically parade in their gaudy and audacious glory, unaware of how foolish they seem.

Sir Frederick Ashton’s Cinderella’s choreography is an elegant display.  The Fairy Godmother makes a grand, magical entrance and is soon accompanied by the colorful Fairies of the Four Seasons.  They each have their moment to shine, their beautiful solos reflecting their distinct personalities on lush green and then under silvery trees.

Misa Kuranaga and Jeffrey Cirio in Ashton's Cinderella ©Gene Schiavone

 

In white and blue, Patrick Yocum, who was also impressive in Boston Ballet’s Full on Forsythe, makes a wonderful Prince, leading Kapitonova to a delicate pas de deux. Their sweet chemistry is apparent as Cinderella makes her own grand entrance.  Another captivating dance occurs at the ball as the clock strikes midnight, the dancers intricately posing in that pivotal moment knowing the best is soon to come.

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One of the interactive stations at Boston Ballet’s ‘The Warm Up’ Photo by Jeanne Denizard

Mikko Nissinen’s Boston Ballet continues to offer a number of interactive stations including Fairy tale Fun and a photo-friendly display to learn more about the show and ballet through The Warm Up located in the lower lobby.

Sir Frederick Ashton’s Cinderella, performed by the Boston Ballet, continues through Saturday, June 8 at the Citizen’s Bank Boston Opera House, 539 Washington Street in Boston, Massachusetts.  Save 50% for youth under 17 after purchasing one full price ticket.  Click here for more information, tickets, and for future events and more, follow Boston Ballet on Facebook and Twitter.

 

Kristen H. Tremblay talks role in Hingham Civic Music Theatre’s ‘Cabaret’ to kick off 70th anniversary season

Hingham Civic Music Theatre (HCMT) is thrilled to kick off their 70th anniversary.  Over the past 7 decades, The Wizard of Oz, Rogers and Hammerstein’s Oklahoma, Young Frankenstein, Disney’s Beauty and the Beast and The Sound of Music are just a few of the wide range of musical productions HCMT has produced on the South Shore of Massachusetts.  They are launching their milestone season with award-winning spring musical, Cabaret, a captivating musical which celebrated its 50th anniversary just a couple of years ago.

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Photo courtesy of Hingham Civic Music Theatre

Set in the Kit Kat Club in Berlin, Germany as the Nazi Party was rising to power, Cabaret focuses on nightclub girl Sally who becomes embroiled in a love triangle.  Winner of multiple Tony awards, Cabaret is known for its glamorous dance numbers while dealing with serious issues of the era.  The 1972 film was directed by dance legend Bob Fosse and starred Liza Minnelli in her star making role.  This show is not intended for children and contains mature themes.

Sleepless Critic caught up with Kristen H. Tremblay who will make her HCMT debut as Sally Bowles in Cabaret for two weekends only from Friday, April 20 through Sunday, April 29 at Sanborn Auditorium in Hingham, Massachusetts.  Click here for more information and tickets.

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Kristen H. Tremblay as Sally Bowles

Sleepless Critic:  How does it feel to star in the first show of Hingham Civic Music Theatre’s 70th season?  It is quite a milestone.

Kristen H. Tremblay:  I’m so thrilled to be playing a leading role in such a great show as part of this wonderful theater group’s 70th anniversary season! A very special honor for sure!

SC:  What do you like most about being part of Hingham Civic Music Theatre?

KHT:  This is my first production with Hingham Civic Music Theatre. They have such a wonderful reputation and it’s been great getting to know everyone in the group.

SC:  This season also includes the beloved musical, Annie this fall.  You star as Sally Bowles in Cabaret.  Have you ever done this show before?  What was the audition process like for you?

KHT:  I’m a classical soprano and usually play roles very different from Sally. As I get older, I’m trying to challenge myself by going out for roles that might be a stretch for me creatively. Sally Bowles is a complicated, meaty character and love every moment in her shoes.

I auditioned to challenge myself and because I have known the director, Nathan Fogg, for years and think he does great work. I didn’t think I had a shot at getting Sally, but felt really positive about my audition. The day after the audition, I was in line at the grocery store when I got the call. I was shocked and incredibly thrilled.

SC:  The multiple Tony award-winning musical, Cabaret celebrated its 50th anniversary a couple of years ago.  It is a unique musical with memorable songs such as Maybe This Time, Wilkommen, and its famous title track, Cabaret.  What was most challenging about this role?

KHT:  Sally is an iconic character in musical theater. There’s some intimidation associated with the pressure of doing her justice!  She has many sides to her and many intriguing levels. It’s been fun exploring how best to portray her.

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Aaron Stolicker as Emcee with cast in production photo

SC:  How has it been putting the show together?

KHT:  I adore everyone in this cast. They are such a fantastic group of kind, talented, and hard working people. We are having a blast and we all have deeply bonded. No question I’ve made lasting friendships.

SC:  What is the best reason one should see Hingham Civic Music Theatre’s Cabaret?

KHT:  Cabaret is a very different theatrical experience unlike anything else out there right now. It will not disappoint!  It’s edgy, honest, shocking, funny, and thought provoking.

Directed by Nathan Fogg, Hingham Civic Music Theatre proudly presents their spring musical, Cabaret for two weekends from Friday, April 20 through Sunday, April 29 at the Sanborn Auditorium, 210 Central Street in Hingham, Massachusetts.  Click here for more information and tickets.

Click here to take advantage of “Facebook Friday” offer exclusively for the April 20 performance.  Use password “pineapple” to get a pair of tickets for 35 dollars.  Follow HCMT on Facebook.

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

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.

Reagle Music Theatre of Greater Boston presents one last summer dance with award-winning dance extravaganza, ’42nd Street’

Reagle Music Theatre of Greater Boston is ready for its last dance of their 49th summer musical season.  After the smashing successes of Reagle Music Theatre of Greater Boston’s spectacular production of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat and the historical, epic, award-winning musical, Showboat, Reagle presents the Tony award-winning dance extravaganza, 42nd Street continuing through Sunday, August 13 at Robinson Theatre in Waltham, Massachusetts.  Click here for more information and for tickets.

Reagle Music Theatre Rachel York

Rachel York stars as Dorothy Brock Photo courtesy of Reagle Music Theatre of Greater Boston

Featuring an array of exuberant songs such as We’re in the Money, Lullaby of Broadway, and its title track, 42nd Street delves into the life of a troubled director and the inner workings backstage of a Broadway show.  The toe-tapping, Tony award-winner for Best Musical, 42nd Street, stars award-winning actress Rachel York as ‘Dorothy Brock’ and beloved Reagle alum Rich Allegretto as ‘Julian Marsh.’  Performances are held at the Robinson Theatre, 617 Lexington Street in Waltham, Massachusetts.

Reagle Music Theatre's Rich Allegretto

Beloved Reagle alum Rich Allegretto stars as ‘Julian Marsh’ Photo courtesy of Reagle Music Theatre of Greater Boston

Reagle Music Theatre of Greater Boston has plenty to look forward to in the fall.  On Sunday, September 17, Reagle presents a celebrity concert of what might have been with The Concert that Never Was:  An Evening with Barbara and Frank at 2 p.m.  Featuring classic tunes from The American Songbook, this fascinating concert explores what it might have been like if legendary entertainers, Barbra Streisand and Frank Sinatra, took the stage for one enchanting stage performance.  Click here for this one day only experience as well as other events coming this fall.

Call 1-781-891-5600, click here  or email groups@reaglemusictheatre.org for more information on their final summer musical of the year, upcoming events, and much more.  Group tickets and gift certificates are also available.  Stay updated on all of Reagle Music Theatre of Greater Boston’s latest news by following them on Twitter and Facebook.

South South Conservatory’s annual, family summer outdoor concert series, ‘Wacky Wednesdays’ returns

South Shore Conservatory, known for offering fun, educational, and interactive classes and entertainment for all ages for the South Shore of Massachusetts and beyond, is proud to enliven Wednesday mornings once again.  Sponsored by The Harold and Avis Goldstein Trust with WATD as media partner, South Shore Conservatory’s Wacky Wednesdays has been delivering award-winning, educational, and interactive family entertainment for their 21st year every Wednesday mornings as part of their outdoor Summer Spotlight series.  Wednesday morning concerts also feature free lemonade and chocolate milk starting at 10 a.m.

Kicking off the season on Wednesday, July 5, singer-songwriter and Music Together teacher Vanessa Trien and the Jumping Monkeys return to the Jane Carr Amphitheater stage.  This family concert series includes humorous, high energy, and catchy family pop band Karen K and the Jitterbugs on July 12, multiple award-winning Roots musician, Alastair Moock and Friends on July 19, and imaginative, energetic, and interactive musical storytelling by Debbie and Friends on July 26.  Click here for a closer look at this enchanting series.

All concerts take place rain or shine at Jane Carr Amphitheater, One Conservatory Drive in Hingham, Massachusetts.  With funding from Massachusetts Cultural Facilities Fund, the Jane Carr Amphitheater has been updated entirely.  See the South Shore Conservatory’s summer spotlight concert series at affordable prices and no charge for children under three.  Discounted prices for groups are also available.  Click here for tickets and more information or call 1-781-749-7565, ext. 22.

 

Bill Hanney’s North Shore Music Theatre presents Disney’s award-winning musical, ‘Beauty and the Beast’

A mysterious candlestick, a robust clock, a talkative dresser, an imperfect cup, and a warm tea pot could very well be the right ingredients to true love.  On the heels of the blockbuster, live action remake of Disney’s blockbuster film starring Emma Watson, Bill Hanney’s North Shore Music Theatre proudly presents the spectacular, award-winning Disney musical, Beauty and the Beast from Tuesday, July 11 through Sunday, July 30 at North Shore Music Theatre, 62 Dunham Road in Beverly, Massachusetts.  Tickets for children up to 18 years old are half price, but no children under the age of 4 are permitted in the theatre.  Click here for further details, tickets, and special performances that feature free post-show talks.

Based on the classic fairy tale, Beauty and the Beast is about a prince who resides in a magical castle under a dark spell. Belle is the beloved child of an inventor who seems more interested in the life of a good tale than reality. When Belle’s father gets lost in the forest, a series of events will test their capacity for compassion and love. With music by Alan Menken and lyrics by Howard Asman and Tim Rice, Beauty and the Beast boasts enchanting musical numbers audiences know and love such as Be Our Guest, Belle, Something There, and the musical’s beautiful title track.

Bill Hanney’s North Shore Music Theatre kicks off their 2017 musical season with Disney’s Beauty and the Beast from Tuesday, July 11 through Sunday, July 30.  The Mel Brooks musical comedy, Young Frankenstein, the epic musical Evita, the toe tapping 42nd Street, and the return of the holiday classic, A Christmas Carol round out this year’s stellar season.  Follow North Shore Music Theatre on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram for updates and more.