Company Theatre’s Director of Development Michael Hammond discusses returning to indoor theatre and the power of positivity to conquer your next audition

Michael Hammond may change the way you look at life.  Are you afraid of the audition?  He’ll show you a way to succeed.  Having a bad day?  He’ll show you a way to lift your spirits.  As the new Director of Development at the Company Theatre, a role he calls a lifelong dream, his positivity may help others the way Company Theatre has helped him since childhood. 

The Company Theatre, located at 30 Accord Park Drive in Norwell, Massachusetts, joyously held their first indoor production since their absorbing musical, Fun Home early last year.  Rock of Ages was an edgy and energetic rock jukebox musical that took place last month.  See Rock of Ages review here and click here for Sleepless Critic’s full podcast.

Sleepless Critic:  Please tell me what it was like to be back in the indoor setting for Rock of Ages

Michael Hammond: It’s so fantastic.  It’s emotional, exciting, and the energy in the air was just electric.  You were there.  You saw it.  People were cheering and screaming.

The show starts with Sally Forrest’s voice doing her standard announcement which we are all accustomed to hearing.  It was such a welcome back and to hear her voice and I think people cheered over her entire announcement.  Just to be back inside, hear that familiar voice, and to know we’re about to see a really fun and exciting show was just great.

SC:  I know this was the opening weekend for indoor theatre, but you did have some outdoor theatre experiences like Avenue Q before this show. 

MH:  Avenue Q was incredible.  The kids were so talented.  Their commitment to what they were doing and their characters were dynamic.  It was Broadway-type quality coming out of these kids on the outdoor stage of the Company Theatre out back.  We have had other things like Divas with a Twist and Donny Norton’s band, The New Band there.  That’s been a really nice addition to the Company Theatre as well as now being back inside.

SC:  So getting back to Rock of Ages, you had your opening weekend and you felt like everything went as smooth as can be?

MH:  Absolutely!  So many new people in this show and as is typical of the Company Theatre, they are already saying this is my new home.  It’s this overwhelming feeling that you’re home and you found your family at the Company Theatre even if you did one show and you never come back, it still feels that way.  I’ve been involved since I was 19 years old. 

Shane Hennessey as Stacee Jaxx Photo courtesy of Zoe Bradford/Company Theatre

SC:  I was going to say that you are familiar with that feeling.

MH:  I’m very familiar with that feeling.  I don’t know what my life would have been like without Company Theatre.  I would have taken a completely different path. 

SC:  It’s hard to replicate the kind of friendly and welcoming atmosphere you have when you’re in theatre.

MH:  Absolutely!  Such a nice group of people too that do theatre especially the teens.  They just stay out of trouble.  They have a common goal they are working towards and they enjoy each other’s company and make lifelong friendships.  I can’t say enough about it.

I’ve just seen so many kids, even this summer just come through the doors and they leave just completely changed and confident and more themselves.  It’s just a beautiful thing to witness.

SC:  When you said you had been with Company Theatre pretty much your whole life, you said it was a lifelong dream to do something like this as the Director of Development now.  I’m really excited for you.

MH:  Thank you!  Like a lot of people during the pandemic, you start to question ‘Am I doing what I want with my life?  Is this fulfilling and rewarding?’  Like many people, I came to the conclusion that what I was doing was not for me anymore. 

It had run its course and I needed something new and Jordie Saucerman, one of the founding partners of the Company Theatre, had passed away and that really accelerated my thought process because her wake was attended by so many people.  I thought ‘Look at all the lives that she touched.’  The impact that Jordie had on people is immeasurable.  Even if I make just a little sliver of that impact on people, I would feel great about my life.  That set the wheels turning. 

I approached Zoe one day and said, ‘I will be your janitor.  I basically don’t care what you have me do, if there is a spot for me here, I am coming.’  That seed was planted awhile ago and it sort of blossomed into Director of Development.  I’m so excited to try new things and just give back what I got from this theatre. 

SC:  Not only that, but you have a similar positive way about you like Jordie had.  Where do you get your positive outlook from?  Where do you draw it from considering I’ve also seen videos of you on social media?

I’m not attempting to fill Jordie’s shoes in any way.  That’s not a task that anyone could accomplish.  She is a unique individual who I feel is still around in the atmosphere and in the joy of the theatre.  If I’m upset or have a bad day, it makes me feel better to brighten someone else’s day.  That is such a nice feeling to buy someone in line a coffee or just compliment someone or encourage someone to do something they didn’t think they could do.  I live off of that.  If I am having the worst day of my life and I do something nice for somebody, I instantly feel recharged.  I think that’s how I basically go through life.

SC:  I hear that from a lot of comedians as well.  It makes them feel better to make someone else laugh even if they are upset or having issues.

MH:  I tried standup comedy once.  I did it more for the writing aspect, but I did perform.  It was an interesting experience because you come out onstage and you look at a sea of faces who want you to succeed because if you succeed, they have a fantastic time.  You have an overwhelming amount of support that you just want to hold onto and it was an incredible feeling.

SC:  What did you did before this that you wanted to walk away from and join the Company Theatre?

MH:  I was the station manager at a local cable television station.  I was so grateful because it was also a non-profit.  I probably learned so many skills that I could apply to this job I didn’t necessarily have before.  Just the behind the scenes stuff, the QuickBooks, the budgets, and managing a non-profit was extremely helpful and then also applying my video experience to the job as well.  Filming and creating events and learning special effects. 

So all of that which at the time was a perfect job for me, but nine years later I felt like I needed a change and so I am going to apply what I learned there and bring it to the Company Theatre.  We can offer acting for camera classes and improv for camera classes. 

I’ve been on auditions and in commercials.  We want to provide those skills to kids who like to act and be on camera.  We want them to be able to go into an audition and know how to slay what they are going to be asked to do and be prepared for anything.

I actually started with a class over the summer.  Some of the kids were auditioning so they got immediate training for those auditions. When they came back, they would tell the other students that they did just what Michael showed us.  I asked if they felt more prepared.  Did you do a better job with the audition?  Their faces lit up and they said, ‘Absolutely!’  That was a nice thing.

We want to get in touch with the local casting agencies which we already have a good relationship.  We want to create a talent database where you can see video auditions and we can send those out so we kind of want to be a bridge between the local movie and theatre scene.  We’ll provide students with the training.  They’ll have the skills to go out and nail professional auditions and maybe get cast in movies and commercials.  We just really want everyone to have new and exciting opportunities to excel in a career in film and theatre if that is something that they are interested in. 

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

SC:  Let’s face it – the audition process is the most nerve-wracking and hardest part I think to convey right off the bat because in your head, you are saying,’ I know what I can do for you’ but then you get up there and it is not exactly what you picture. 

MH:  Having directed before, people come in and they are nervous. The reality is the casting company is nervous and they have roles to fill.  So, the second you come in, put them at ease, and they know they have options, they feel better.  I always say in my mind when I got into an audition, ‘Here I am!  You can relax.  I am going to be that person you need.’  I think it’s an interesting way to keep yourself calm to think I am exactly what you need instead of I hope I’m what you need.

SC:  I never really thought of it like that.

MH:  Think about it.  You have a reputation.  You have a project.  You want to cast the right people because that makes you look good as well.  If you find the right people not only are you confident about the project, but it brings excitement. 

When I direct a show, I’m not very excited about it until I know who is in it and then I can tailor their performances to their talents. It is such a thrill to watch people blossom. 

Please tell me about the projects you are working on now and upcoming projects.

I don’t think I’ll be directing anything for a little bit.  I’ll probably take on some projects here and there.  I definitely can’t leave that part behind.  I’m really going to focus on the video classes.  I’ll be working with Christie Reading.  She is extremely talented with anything video related.  So, I will be teaming up with her teaching improv for camera, acting for camera, and getting people ready for auditions. 

I think it will be really exciting if we get someone cast in a major motion picture which has happened at Company Theatre.  Andrew Mackin was in Mystic River, Jonathan Togo is on CSI, Michael Morlani is the casting director for Disney.  There are a lot of success stories that come out of this theatre. 

We want to nurture and encourage that.  That is kind of my goal.  It’s to really push people to excel in any way that they can.

SC: You can’t forget about Boston Casting.  How convenient is that!  There are all kinds of films going on in the state.

MH: Exactly and literally a mile down the road they are making motion pictures.  So how can we not be a part of that?  They are working on the new Jon Hamm movie in Cohasset.  I know Angela at Boston Casting who is an incredible woman and I don’t know how she does everything she does, but with all those films going on, eventually they will run out of actors. 

We get casting notices all the time and I’m forwarding them off to everybody I know that I think fits.  For example, I sent a buddy of mine a notice yesterday.  They were looking for an actual butcher with acting experience and I happen to know a butcher with acting experience.  I’m thinking he might get it.

SC: I know. Some of the requirements are so wild.

MH: It’s so specific, but every once in a while I’ll say, ‘Wait a minute, that is me.’ 

Company Theatre is offering theatre classes in the fall. Click here for the full schedule and upcoming events.

Amid peerless Castle Hill and candlelight, Boston Lyric Opera delivers exquisite ‘Winter’s Evening’ on Operabox

One this is for sure, Boston Lyric Opera can achieve elegance anywhere.

Boston Lyric Opera (BLO) had two remarkable debuts for their virtual concert, A Winter’s Evening.  Directed sublimely by Nathan Troop, Boston Lyric Opera’s ‘A Winter’s Evening’ not only made its virtual debut on Operabox, but soprano Gabriella Reyes also made her effervescent debut with the Boston Lyric Opera, an event which she calls “a dream come true.”

BLO’s ‘A Winter’s Evening’ continues streaming through Sunday, January 10.  Click here for more information.  Boston Lyric Health Task Force helped coordinate the virtual performance to meet safety standards.

Surrounded by the gorgeous grounds at Castle Hill at the Crane Estate in Ipswich, Massachusetts, Miss Massachusetts 2020 Sabrina Victor, adorned in black fur over a glittering white gown, hosted this lovely evening with warmth and poise.

Boston Lyric Opera’s ‘A Winter’s Evening’ continues streaming on Operabox through Sunday, January 10. Photo credit to Boston Lyric Opera

Boston Lyric Opera also weaved in elements of hearth and home blending classic opera and festive classic songs as Gabriella Reyes and Sabrina Victor shared personal remembrances of holidays past.  The show is the height of elegance, not only in the couture, but inside the Crane Estate’s majestic ballroom embellished with candlelight and Christmas trees. 

Impressively accompanied by pianist Brett Hodgdon, Reyes, adorned in a black gown, showcased her broad range with a dynamic selection of songs that included a serene, bi-lingual version of Silent Night/Nochede Paz, passionate Quando M’en Vo from Puccini’s La Boheme, stirring Nana by Manuel De Falla, a dreamy and heartfelt When You Wish Upon a Star with lyrics by Ned Washington and music by Leigh Harline, and the inspirational classic Harold Arlen song, Over the Rainbow featuring its rarely sung introduction.  Reyes masters the operatic selections, her light and powerful vocals make it all look easy.

Guitarist Zaira Meneses accompanied Reyes for a portion of the evening with a selection of songs that are meaningful to both of them including Grever’s Alma Mia and Sandoval’s Gracias a la Vita.  Meneses’s vibrancy and flair, putting her entire body into her music with Reyes’s eloquence made for a stirring pair.

BLO’s ‘A Winter’s Evening’ continues on Operabox through Sunday, January 10.  Click here for more information and how to subscribe to Boston Lyric Opera’s current season.

REVIEW: Theatre@First delivers a compelling and haunting ‘Hamlet’

According to the Guinness Book of World Records, William Shakespeare’s work has garnered the most screen adaptations of any author in history in any language.  Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet boasts the most screen adaptations, but it’s hard to imagine Hamlet being far behind.

Shakespeare’s Hamlet has taken the stage and screen by storm from looser adaptations such as Disney’s stunning The Lion King in musical, animated, and live action form to Shakespeare on the Common to several films starring everyone from Laurence Olivier to Mel Gibson to Benedict Cumberbatch.  Why?  It’s a thrilling classic tale beloved by many about love, betrayal, and retribution with a haunting twist.

Theatre@FIrst Hamlet cast Johanna Bobrow

The cast of Theatre@First’s ‘Hamlet’ Photo courtesy of Johanna Bobrow/Theatre@First

Directed purposefully by Elizabeth Hunter, Theatre@First continues Shakespeare’s Hamlet through Saturday, November 23 at Unity Somerville in Somerville, Massachusetts.  Click here for more information and tickets.

Not a bad seat in the house as the audience gathered in Unity Somerville’s church basement for Theatre@First’s Hamlet.  The show is an immersive experience as the production expands beyond the stage and cast members can enter from anywhere in the venue.

Shakespeare’s Hamlet is about a Prince of Denmark who discovers his mother has married his uncle after his father has been murdered.  An urgent message inspires Hamlet to believe “something is rotten in the state of Denmark.”

Theatre@First’s Hamlet is a stylish, compelling drama that boasts some iridescent and impressive special effects as a translucent figure paces from a mysterious location.  It is not revealed which actor portrays that particular figure, but his moving and affecting presence is a highlight of the production.

Theatre@First Hamlet Laertes Nathan Phillip Andrew Harrington as Polonius and Evelyne Cardella Ophelia Johanna Bobrow

Clowning…. Nathan Phillip Johnson as Laertes, Andrew Harrington as Polonius and Evelyne Cardella as Ophelia Photo courtesy of Johanna Bobrow/Theatre@First

The show also blends the contemporary with the historical through its more casual tone and costume choices while Shakespeare’s alluring text and action sequences remain the same.  Carolyn Jones’s and Katie Caroll’s costume design nods to the late Middle Ages setting in Elsinore, Denmark while also boasting a contemporary flair.  For example, Hatem Adell portrays Hamlet wearing stone washed jeans and a crown on his t-shirt while Gertrude, depicted by Ron Lacey, wears a gown more faithful to the historical time period.  Makeup artists Meg Boeni, Mack Caroll, and their assistants did an extraordinary job transforming the cast into their respective roles.

Hamlet features a capable cast that occasionally engages the audience.  The dialogue can be a bit rushed at times in its conversational tone which lessens the gravitas of Shakespeare’s eloquent text.  Andrew Harrington is an unforgettable presence as Polonius.  Wearing a beard and a bow tie, Harrington has natural comic timing with a distinctive voice and lighthearted demeanor.  A bit of a scene stealer, he humorously engages the audience with his offhanded and frank observations while offering wisdom and insight to his children.

Theatre@First Hamlet Hatem Adell and Evelyne Cardella Ophelia Johanna Bobrow

Evelyne Cardella as Ophelia and Hatem Adell as Hamlet Photo courtesy of Johanna Bobrow/Theatre@First

Evelyn Cardella glows as Ophelia with a wide smile, bright eyed virtue, and complete infatuation with Hamlet.  Playful and charming, Cardella has a sweet chemistry with Nathan Phillip Johnson as her brother, Laertes and Andrew Harrington as their warm and wise father, Polonius.  Cardella navigates the character with vulnerability and heartfelt poignancy as her emotions turn on a dime.

Theatre@First Hamlet Nathan Philip Johnson as Laertes and Myra Hope Eskridge as Claudius Johanna Bobrow

Nathan Phillip Johnson as Laertes and Myra Hope Eskridge as Claudius Photo courtesy of Johanna Bobrow/Theatre@First

Hatem Adell certainly has exacted the alarming rage expected of Hamlet in the face of betrayal.  Adell delivers the famous “To Be or Not to Be” soliloquy with finesse.  He also excels at Hamlet’s darkly playful demeanor, especially in a powerful scene alone with Ophelia.  Nathan Phillip Johnson also gives a memorable performance as valiant and forthright Laertes, infusing a natural charisma in each scene.

Myra Hope Eskridge as Claudius delivers a suave poker face, but lacks the devious nature expected of the character.  Claudius is a calculating character and leaves little room for sympathy.  A brief exchange with Laertes later in the production showed just a glimpse of Claudius’s true nature.

Hamlet is not complete without the appearance of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, portrayed with fresh humor by Chantelle Marshall and Julia Kennedy respectively.  They make a seeming pair of jolly, dimwitted bookends as Hamlet’s childhood friends, dressed identically and interchangeably.  However, they are more than meets the eye.

Theatre@First Hamlet Hatem Adell Rosencrantz Chantelle Marshall and Guildenstern Julia Kennedy Johanna Bobrow

Hatem Adell as Hamlet joined by Chantelle Marshall as Rosencrantz and Julia Kennedy as Guildenstern Photo courtesy of Johanna Bobrow/Theatre@First

Get thee to Theatre@First’s final performances of Hamlet through Saturday, November 23 at Unity Somerville, 6 William Street in Somerville, Massachusetts.  Click here for more information, tickets, and how to support Theatre@First.

REVIEW: With flawless artistic wizardry, Disney’s ‘The Lion King’ musical, presented by Lexus Broadway in Boston, remains a magnificent theatrical experience

Over the years as a critic, taking notes during the show has been a ritual and now pretty much a reflex these days.  When Disney’s The Lion King musical amazed audiences over 20 years ago on Broadway at the Nederlander Theatre, it was a larger than life spectacle that was as impressive to the eyes as it was to the heartstrings.   Seeing it for the first time back then, it was probably one of the most glorious theatre experiences in memory.

One would think that as time passed, the technology and the sheer artistry of the show would become a bit dated.  However, it hasn’t aged a bit unveiling richer interpretations of songs from the film such as I Just Can’t Wait to Be King and The Circle of Life and including additional songs such as Shadowland and They Live in You not included in the film. It is also the one show that was too enthralling to take notes.

Directed by Julie Taymor, Lexus Broadway in Boston presents Disney’s Tony award-winning musical, The Lion King through Sunday, October 27 at Citizens Bank Opera House in Boston, Massachusetts.  Click here for more information and tickets and click here to see where the show is touring next.

The Lion King is based on Disney’s 1994 Academy award-winning film of the same name which is also an adaptation of Shakespeare’s Hamlet.  It is about a cub prince named Simba who must grow up fast after being exiled from his home by his scheming uncle.  Bursting with color, comedy, jaw dropping special effects, a classic soundtrack by Elton John and Tim Rice with important lessons about growing up, it puts an entirely new spin and depth into in this extraordinary tale, giving this musical new dimension and heart.

With scenic design by Richard Hudson, lighting by Donald Holder, and Steve Canyon Kennedy on sound, it brilliantly navigates Citizens Bank Opera House’s space to stage some of the film’s vast landscapes which includes the breathtaking and encompassing opening sequence.  The show manipulates movement and height with strategically placed moving props and the Julie Taymor and Michael Curry’s mask and puppet design representing members of the animal kingdom are visionary marvels.

The entire cast is as impressive as their visually stunning surroundings.  Bursting with color, I Just Can’t Wait to be King is a celebration with zany, eye popping color and wild shapes combined with Walter Russell the III’s enthusiastic vocals as Young Simba.  Buyi Zama is intense and hilarious as the wise Rafiki, her mesmerizing interactions with the cast unpredictable and endlessly amusing while delivering the emotional impact that the part entails.  She stands out in the stirring number, Nao Tse Tsa and every scene at Rafiki’s Tree.  Gerald Ramsey has a commanding, yet nurturing presence as Mufasa as he interacts with energetic and adorable Walter Russell III.

Spencer Plachy is a masterful, manipulative Scar the likes of the original Scar voiced by Jeremy Irons, haunting in the number, Be Prepared and with kooky and creepy performances by Keith Bennett as Banzai, Martina Sykes as Shenzi, and Robbie Swift as Ed, they form a group more menacing than in the film.

Adding a wealth of comic relief is Nick Cordileone as Timon, his compelling puppetry bringing the character to life in a new way.  With Ben Lipitz as a wild haired Pumbaa whose expressions channel John Belushi, the two make a sidesplitting pair as they deliver the catchy classic, Hakuna Matata.  Greg Jackson is impressive as he navigates Zazu’s jittery angst in a sprawling bird.

Lexus Broadway in Boston presents The Lion King musical through Sunday, October 27 at Citizens Bank Opera House, 539 Washington Street in Boston, Massachusetts.  Click here for tickets and here to see where The Lion King will perform next on their national tour.  This mesmerizing hit musical continues to reign on Broadway at the Minskoff Theatre in New York City.

Lexus Broadway in Boston has an amazing lineup in store as they continue their 2019-2020 season which includes Disney’s Anastasia, Mean Girls, and their next musical, Come From Away.  Click here for their entire lineup and follow them on Facebook for updates and much more.

 

 

 

 

REVIEW: Walt Disney World at its finest in fall featuring Epcot International Food and Wine Festival

Bursts of orange, green and yellows adorn a landscape of huge pumpkin patches on a chilly night.  Vivid mums, harvest wreaths, festive decorations, and fall colors fill the night sky in a special, nightly fireworks celebration.  No, this is not fall in New England, but the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida, a hidden gem for all the flavors of fall from the end of August through November.  Featuring Disney’s most infamous villains, enchanting characters, and seasonal activities for the entire family, attendees are encouraged to dress up in costume for trick or treating throughout the park.  Click here for more information on Disney’s extensive activities.

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Along with the long list of Magic Kingdom’s wonderful, classic rides such as Pirates of the CaribbeanIt’s a Small WorldBig Thunder Mountain Railroad, and Space Mountain, take some time to visit some of Disney’s spooky attractions in the spirit of the season such as Haunted MansionMonsters Inc. Laugh Floor, and Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom on Main Street.  A select number of rides are open late into the night.  From August through November 1, Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party is built for all ages and features an array of Halloween shows, Mickey’s Boo-to-You Halloween ParadeA Hocus Pocus Villain Spelltacular set up outside of Cinderella’s Castle, and a seasonal themed fireworks celebration.

Fall is also widely known for amazing food festivals around the country.  Taking that idea and expanding it in Disney’s own unique way within Epcot’s famous World Showcase, Epcot is proud to offer their annual International Food and Wine Festival kicking off Thursday, August 29 through Saturday, November 23.  While Epcot’s World Showcase features the rich cultures of 11 countries from Mexico to Tokyo, Epcot’s International Food and Wine Festival exponentially expands on this idea for a limited time, offering enticing cuisines and beverages from 30 marketplaces.  Explore and dine on fare from the Caribbean Islands, Africa, Australia, Brazil, and more.  Cooking demonstrations from famous culinary chefs, exclusive wine and beers from around the world, concerts, and cultural demonstrations take place throughout the park.  From sweet and fruity Hurricane Class 5 wine and key lime flavored wines sold exclusively in Florida to international wines that suit any palette, attendees can try them first with wine tastings throughout the day.

Epcot

This way to more of Epcot’s World Showcase Photo courtesy of Jeanne Denizard

While the festival takes place, enjoy the classic and new attractions such as Norway’s popular ride, FrozenSoarin,’ Test TrackThe Seas with Nemo and Friends, and Mission Space.  Canada and Mexico are among the most popular attractions featured within Epcot’s World Showcase.  With the holidays and the summer months among Disney World’s peak times, attendees can see a bit more without a bigger crowd, though FastPass is always recommended for optimal time saving and planning.

At Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida, the sun shines a little brighter than most places around the world.  Having thrilled families for almost 50 years, enjoy shopping, family activities, and spectacular attractions within each of the four parks.  Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Hollywood Studios, and Animal Kingdom all offer exciting adventures throughout the year.  Click here for more information about Walt Disney World, rates, exclusive offers and more.  It’s never too early to start planning a trip to Disney World, no matter what time of year.

REVIEW: ‘Star Wars: A New Hope in Concert’ with live orchestration from the Boston Pops a thrilling cinematic achievement

No better way to witness a galaxy far, far away.

It has become a beloved Boston Pops tradition to exhibit the finest films in cinema history enhanced by the stellar sounds of the Boston Pops, an immersive film experience performed so eloquently, one may never watch the film quite the same way again.  In the past few years, The Boston Pops has inventively breathed new life into film classics such as ‘The Wizard of Oz,’ ‘West Side Story,’ ‘Singin’ in the Rain,’ ‘Psycho,’ ‘Home Alone,’ ‘Raiders of the Lost Ark,’ and ‘Nosferatu‘ through stunning live orchestration and Star Wars lives up to that sterling reputation.

The re-mastered, extended version of ‘Star Wars: A New Hope in Concert‘ with live orchestration by the Boston Pops was held at Symphony Hall earlier this spring and then recently in the Koussevitzky Music Shed at the Tanglewood in Lenox, MA on August 16.  The ninth film and epic conclusion of the Star Wars series, ‘Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker‘ arrives in theatres in December and what better way to welcome the end than by remembering the beginning.

John Williams at Tanglewood (Hilary Scott)

John Williams conducting Film Night at Tanglewood Photo credit to Hilary Scott

Academy award-winning composer John Williams has been the name on everyone’s lips at Tanglewood for the past couple of weeks with ‘Star Wars: A New Hope in Concert‘ on Friday, August 16 and then the ever-popular ‘Film Night’ on August 24, an annual tribute concert featuring just a few of the acclaimed film scores of John Williams.  Not only did John Williams make an appearance at the end of the August 16th performance, but Patriots owner Robert Kraft was also in the audience.  Click here for more information, tickets, and a look at Tanglewood’s full schedule.

Keith Lockhart Leads the Boston Pops at Tanglewood (Hilary Scott)

Keith Lockhart leads the Boston Pops at Tanglewood Photo courtesy of Hilary Scott

Conducted by acclaimed Boston Pops conductor Keith Lockhart, The Boston Pops launched an enthusiastic audience into that beloved galaxy with ‘Star Wars: Episode IV A New Hope,’ the first film in what would become a beloved series of films in 1977.  The rising swell of the perilous, suspenseful, triumphant, and Academy award-winning Star Wars Main Theme from John Williams was just the start of this exciting film that has been thought to be a touchstone to future films in that genre while also possessing some classic Shakespearean roots.

The intense score, each crisp note from the orchestra, the sound that thundered in the Koussevitzky Shed was nothing that can be relived in front of a television screen or in a movie theatre.  It felt like being in the studio with the cast, enhancing their already outstanding performances, and scoring the film for the first time.

Star Wars A New Hope

Mark Hamill as Luke Skywalker, Carrie Fisher as Princess Leia, and Harrison Ford as Han Solo in ‘Star Wars: A New Hope’ Photo credit to Disney/Lucasfilm

The lively audience was clearly composed of some of the most devoted Star Wars fans cheering   not only the opening of the film, but each major character as they were first introduced onscreen.  Familiar faces such as the twinkling eyes and swaggering charisma of Harrison Ford’s Han Solo, Peter Mayhew’s towering presence as Chewbacca, Carrie Fisher’s holographic appearance as Princess Leia as she utters the classic line, “Help me, Obi-Wan Kenobi.  You’re my Only Hope,” Alec Guinness as the wise and mysterious Obi-Wan Kenobi, Mark Hamill’s naïve Luke Skywalker, and James Earl Jones as the timeless voice of Darth Vader were all greeted with rousing applause.

Set on the planet with two suns, the subtle humor, the scheming, the epic adventure, George Lucas’s marvelous characters, the dazzling technology of its time, the bickering between R2-D2 and C-3PO and between Han Solo and Princess Leia are all recaptured in this unforgettable cinematic experience.

The Lawn at Tanglewood 2016 (Hilary Scott)

The Lawn at Tanglewood 2016 Photo credit to Hilary Scott

Located in the Berkshires at 297 West Street in Lenox, Massachusetts and now year-round, Tanglewood’s outdoor venue is a must see, whether under the tent at Koussevitzky Shed or under the stars for a lawn picnic.  Click here for Tanglewood’s full schedule follow them on Facebook.

Sleepless Beyond the Stage: Building a dream with Richard Bento, President of South Shore Theatre Works

Building a dream always has its share of surprises and challenges. However, with determination, hard work, and more than a touch of luck, those sought after dreams can become a reality.  Sleepless Beyond the Stage explores the reality of making that dream come true, whether by building an organization, finally bringing that dream production to life, or starting a group that makes a difference.

Richard Bento, Executive Director and President of South Shore Theatre Works (SSTW) checked in with Sleepless Critic a few years ago as the theater was just getting on its feet.  Boasting a successful run of Seussical in December, SSTW’s upcoming productions include Blithe Spirit, Ordinary Days, and Chicago.  Richard Bento talks about how this Massachusetts theater has grown in a short time.  Click here for more information, auditions, and for tickets.

SSTW seussical the musical

Past performances of ‘Seussical the Musical’ December 2018

Sleepless Critic: Please tell me about your background and what inspired you to start South Shore Theatre Works?

Richard Bento:  I’ve participated in community and semi-professional theater throughout Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Georgia, and San Francisco.  One of my goals was to have a group of my own who share the same mission and passion I had for the arts.

A few years ago, I decided to participate in theater here and assist another community theater group.  I fell in love with the people.  We shared the same passion.  When we were at a crossroads needing to decide whether we were going to bring this other group to another level or start our own with other people who shared that same drive, I decided to put together South Shore Theatre Works.

SSTW Blithe Spirit

South Shore Theatre Works presents ‘Blithe Spirit’ February 15-17 in Randolph, MA Photo courtesy of South Shore Theatre Works

JD:  What would you say to those who are considering starting a community theater?

REVIEW: Boston Ballet’s ‘The Sleeping Beauty’ is a regal, dazzling achievement

An unexpected hero, an insulted fairy, true love, and a terrible curse make up the enchanting and haunting fairy tale classic as Boston Ballet proudly presents The Sleeping Beauty.  Unfolding with elegant and athletic choreography by Marius Pepita and Sir Frederick Ashton, The Sleeping Beauty has returned to Boston for a limited run by popular demand through Saturday, May 19 at the Boston Opera House in Boston, Massachusetts.  Click here for more information and for tickets.  Click here for a closer look at more of Boston Ballet’s upcoming performances.

A full house including a wealth of excited children gathered inside the Boston Opera House as Ming Luke conducted Tchaikovsky’s famous and dramatic music score, transporting the enthusiastic crowd into a world of royalty, betrayal, innocence, a few familiar fairy tale faces, and a dose of magic.  Disney’s popular animated adaptation possesses a few similarities to this captivating tale, but Boston Ballet delivers more to the story.  At the center of The Sleeping Beauty was raven-haired Lia Cirio as regal and elegant Princess Aurora, a triumph of athletic grace, her limber body mastering a few of ballet’s most difficult dance moves with impeccable balance, an arabesque garnering particular applause.

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Lia Cirio and Boston Ballet in Marius Petipa’s The Sleeping Beauty; photo by Liza Voll Photography, courtesy Boston Ballet

Based on Russia’s Imperial Ballet’s 1890 production, The Sleeping Beauty is a visual treat, boasting finely-detailed costumes and a multi-dimensional set design by David Walker.  From ornate, lush and colorful backdrops in gold, red, and green to the enchanting Renaissance era costumes, each scene is a portrait to behold.  Wearing wreathed tiaras and dressed in sparkling pink, green, yellow, and blue, the gracious fairies made up of Dawn Atkins, So Jung Lee, Maria Baranova, Maria Alvarez, and Emily Entingh floated, frolicked, and twirled, each displaying their own unique personalities.  The energetic yellow fairy was a particular highlight, performing a sweet, joyful, and humorous dance.

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Boston Ballet in Marius Petipa’s The Sleeping Beauty; photo by Liza Voll Photography, courtesy Boston Ballet

With a cruel, mocking laugh and appearing in a dark, glimmering carriage was Dalay Parrondo as treacherous Carabosse.  Accompanied by a group of monstrous henchmen performed by Tyson Clark, Derek Drillon, August Generalli, and Christian Pforr, Dalay delivered an electrifying performance as an insulted fairy in a haunting display of sharp, rigid movements.

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Kathleen Breen Combes and Boston Ballet in Marius Petipa’s The Sleeping Beauty; photo by Liza Voll Photography, courtesy Boston Ballet

Tchaikovsky’s uplifting score hit a crescendo as Rachel Buriassi appeared as the Lilac Fairy.  In this adaptation, she acted as a guide, her quick thinking and courage setting her apart.  Her skillful performance was most evident among her lively, energetic lilac fairy attendants in a glorious display of fouettes, plies, and pirouettes.  She was also impressive in a compelling scene with Lasha Khozashvilli as Prince Desire.  Lia Cirio as Aurora and Lasha Khozashvili as Prince Desire had instant chemistry and perfectly complemented each other in a dream-like dance, swept up in love.

The Sleeping Beauty delivers many magnificent performances within this large cast, many taking on multiple roles.  From a fascinating, thrilling duet from Maria Alvarez as Little Red Riding Hood and Alexander Maryianowski as the Wolf to a humorous, feline flirtation from Emily Entingh as The White Cat and Irlan Silva as Puss ‘N Boots, many beloved fairy tale characters took the stage in a joyous celebration.

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With two intermissions, The Boston Ballet also offers an opportunity to learn more about ballet through The Warm Up, an interactive, photo friendly display located in the lower lobby.   Boston Ballet presents The Sleeping Beauty through Saturday, May 19 at the Boston Opera House.  Click here for more information and follow the Boston Ballet on Twitter and Facebook.

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

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.

Jukebox rockin’ ‘Smokey Joe’s Cafe,’ epic musical, ‘Ragtime,’ and stirring musical, ‘Oliver’ part of Company Theatre’s stellar 40th season

A birdcage, jukebox, a group of kittens, and an orange pocket watch were just a few of the visual clues left on the Company Theatre’s Facebook page in reference to their upcoming 40th anniversary season.  This exciting new season was proudly unveiled at Company Theatre’s annual Open House at the Company Theatre in Norwell, Massachusetts on Saturday, November 18.  As the Company Theatre is about to launch an original musical production, Company for the Holidays on November 25, audiences can also look forward to an excellent balance of classic and contemporary theatre productions in the new year.  Click here for more information and tickets.

Company for the Holidays

The Company Theatre will offer new holiday fare with Company for the Holidays on Saturday, November 25 through Sunday, November 26 and continuing Thursdays through Sundays through December 17.  Shared in three parts with a large ensemble cast, this musical extravaganza includes a new take on a few classics such as All I Want for Christmas is You, White Christmas, and Santa Baby before venturing into a refreshing comedy about Christmas in ‘Bahston,’ and then closing out the show with nativity tale that will bring the audience to their feet.

Take a walk down memory lane with the Grammy award-winning Smokey Joe’s Café, a musical showcase that explores the most enduring songs in rock and roll and rhythm and blues history.  From romantic ballads to uplifting rhythms, Smokey Joe’s Café brings remarkable tunes to life.  Just a few of the songs featured on the Company Theatre stage includes Jailhouse Rock, Stand By Me, Hound Dog, Love Potion #9 and Fools Fall in Love.   Smokey Joe’s Café heats up the Company Theatre for a limited time from February 8-11, 2018.

Robin Williams and Nathan Lane made an uproarious comedy team on the 1996 hit comedy film, The Birdcage, based on the Franco-Italian film, La Cage Aux Folles. The Tony award-winning show, La Cage Aux Folles focuses on a night club owner named Georges and his romantic partner, Albin.  Upon learning Georges’ son is engaged to the daughter of an ultra-conservative politician, Georges and Albin may have to go to extreme measures to come off as a wholesome and normal family to hilarious results. La Cage Aux Folles takes the stage on Friday, March 16 through Sunday, April 8.

Earning multiple Tony Awards including best original score, watch three beautiful tales unfold about American life at the turn of the 20th century with the epic musical, Ragtime.  An immigrant, a wealthy family, and a Harlem musician all aspire for hope in the face of struggle to live the American dream.  Ragtime opens Friday, July 27 and closes on Sunday, August 19.

The Company Theatre rounds out the season with the British Farce, Loot from Friday, October 5 through Sunday, October 21, and closes with Lionel Bart’s classic musical, Oliver! from Friday, November 23 through Sunday, December 16, about a young orphan who dreams of a better life.

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The Company Theatre celebrates their 40th season. Photo courtesy of The Company Theatre

The Company Theatre also announced the new season of The Academy of the Company Theatre which includes Anything Goes, Cats, The Werewolves, The Rocky Horror Show, and Disney’s Mulan Jr.  Don’t miss a moment of Company Theatre’s spectacular 40th season.  All performances take place at the Company Theatre, 30 Accord Park Drive in Norwell, Massachusetts.

Click here for more information and upcoming events or call 1-781-871-2787.  Follow Company Theatre on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.