REVIEW:  Hub Theatre Company of Boston’s ‘Peter and the Starcatcher’ is funny, fascinating, but its best moments shine quietly

How did Peter Pan get his name?  What exactly is Pixie dust?  How did Peter become Hook’s sworn enemy?

The premise is promising.  From pirate to prawn, every cast member is a dynamic storyteller in Hub Theatre of Boston’s imaginative musical, Peter and the Starcatcher, a prequel of sorts to Peter Pan.  Featuring an energetic cast taking on multiple roles, a wealth of physical humor, and no shortage of wild comedy, Rick Elice’s Peter and the Starcatcher strings together the adventures that lead up to the legend of Peter Pan.

Hub Theatre of Boston Peter and the Starcatcher cast

Peter and the Starcatcher cast Photo courtesy of Hub Theatre Company of Boston

Directed by Sarah Gazdowicz with music direction by Bethany Aiken, Hub Theatre of Boston presents Peter and the Starcatcher, the final production of its sixth season, with recently added performances through Sunday, November 18 at First Church of Boston in Boston, Massachusetts.  Tickets are available at a pay-what-you-can basis.  Click here for more information.

Cassie Chapados’s detailed London set harbors clues from the classic Peter Pan story, but the actual performance seems to spring out of a child’s imagination.  The cast emerges from every side and each seat has a good view at First Church of Boston.  Peter and the Starcatcher is action-packed and respect is due for the sheer physical nature of this piece as this animated cast frequently and skillfully form human structures such as a ship and various scenarios as the story unfolds.

Peter and the Starcatcher group shot

L to R: Joey C. Pelletier as Black Stache and Michael John Ciszewski and the cast Photo courtesy of Hub Theatre Company of Boston

Dominated by dastardly pirates, Peter and the Star Catcher is full of captures, double crosses, commandeering ships, and overseas adventure.   Molly Kimmerling portrays Bill Slank with a sneer and a strut, a charismatic double crosser with a rock n roll edge.  Michael John Ciszewski as dimwitted, somewhat unhinged Smee and Joey C. Pelletier as swaggering Black Stache work well together in silly, over the top fun.

With inquisitive eyes and a star-crossed dress, Lauren Elias is no damsel in distress as eloquent, logical, and determined Molly Aster.  Much like her father Lord Aster in a commanding performance by Liz Adams, Molly’s plucky personality is a good match for Claire Koenig as lonely, forthright and naïve orphan known only as Boy.

Peter and the Starcatcher Boy

Claire Koenig as Boy with the cast Photo courtesy of Hub Theatre Company of Boston

The exploration of loneliness, faith, dreams of flying, and finding one’s place in the world is part of what inspires writers to expand and retell this timeless tale.  The improvisational, local, and at times, self referential humor ranges from what an older child would appreciate and features some adult humor as the show progresses.  The audience is so close to the action, it is also somewhat interactive at times.  Peter and the Starcatcher is packed with comedy and yet, it is the sweeter, quieter moments that give the production true heart.

Hub Theatre Company of Boston presents Peter and the Starcatcher through Sunday, November 18 at First Church of Boston in Boston, Massachusetts.  Click here for more information and tickets.  Get all of Hub Theatre Company of Boston’s upcoming events and more on Facebook.

Kristin Chenoweth, making her Celebrity Series of Boston debut on April 30, talks favorite roles, latest album, and more

From a church choir soloist to an Emmy and Tony award-winning actress and singer, Kristin Chenoweth has been dazzling audiences on film, television, and on stage with her dynamic range and powerful vocals for over 20 years.  Currently promoting her sixth album, The Art of Elegance, she will be making her Celebrity Series of Boston debut for ‘An Intimate Evening with Kristin Chenoweth’ at Symphony Hall on Sunday, April 30 at 7 p.m.   The evening will include a selection of her most popular songs, pop, American standards, and Broadway tunes.  Click here for more information and for tickets.

Kristin Chenoweth talks about some of her favorite and most challenging roles, the inspiration behind her Grammy-nominated album, and a few surprises she has encountered along the way.   Click here for more on her upcoming projects.

Celebrity Series 1739-Kristin-Chenoweth-Credit-Bryan-Kasm

The Art of Elegance with Kristin Chenoweth Photo courtesy of Bryan Kasm

Sleepless Critic:  You’re an actress, singer, Broadway performer, and voiceover artist.  You sang in church at an early age.  Was singing your first love?

Kristin Chenoweth:  My first love was ballet.  I wanted to be a ballerina, but I didn’t have the flexibility in my feet.  I was so glad I had that training at a young age because I began to hear classical music and then I wanted to take piano.  I think I was about eight years old when I had my first solo in church and that’s kind of when things shifted for me.

SC:  You will be exploring a number of genres during your upcoming concert.  Pop, songbook classics, Broadway, a bit of everything you’re known for.  What kind of music do you enjoy listening to?

KC:  I love all kinds of music and I shift in and out and change a lot.  Right now, I’m listening to a lot of Linda Ronstadt.  I get on these kicks and I’ll just listen to something over and over and it shifts all the time.  There are so many artists I admire, but that’s what I am doing right now.

SC:  Have you ever had a role that you had certain expectations of and you ended up totally surprised by on Broadway or otherwise?

KC:  Absolutely, I think playing the female lead in Promises, Promises.  I knew it would be a challenge for me to play her, but it was really surprising how much I fell in love with her and came to really understand her.  There’s a big part of me who really knew who this person was.  It might not have been what fans wanted necessarily, but it is important as an artist to not always do what is expected.  The part scared me and that is how I knew I needed to do it.

SC:  You won a Tony as Sally Brown in You’re a Good Man Charlie Brown. What has been your favorite role so far?

KC:  On Broadway, it is definitely Lily Garland in On the 20th Century.  It was a role that required a lot of my own skill set and it is an operetta with tons of movement and high brow comedy.  I probably never worked harder, but it was extremely gratifying.

SC:  You have such a great vocal range.   Was there a note that you discovered you could hit that took you by surprise?

KC:  I remember being in a voice lesson while at Oklahoma City University.  My teacher was vocalizing with me.  I didn’t study voice growing up.  I just sang in choir and was in drama in high school.  That was my training, so I never had a voice lesson.  When I went to OCU, she vocalized with me up to a high F sharp above high C.  I knew that was high, but I couldn’t believe it.

For many years, I sang arias that required a high F and I noticed it’s maybe not there like it used to be.  I would say I am living in more of the D or E flat area, but that was a crazy high note.

SC:  When a song is particularly challenging, how do you overcome it?

KC:  It’s so funny, we were just talking about one of the songs from Promises, Promises the other day with Michael Orland, my music director on this tour.  The song is called, Knowing When to Leave by Hal David and Burt Bacharach.  I just told him that it hammered away at my voice eight times a week because it is very repetitive in an area of my voice that is what we call passaggio.  That song scared me.

Finally in rehearsals, I thought less about being note perfect and more about the character.  I find that when you let go, you really think about what you are singing and mean what you are singing.  It hasn’t always gone that way and I don’t always make the right decisions, but that is when you let go, you can get there.  That song was a big challenge for me and to this day, I think it’s hard, but I worked on it, wrote it down, lived it, and warmed up to it.  Who knows?  Maybe I’ll pull it out again.

SC:  The Art of Elegance is your latest album.  What was the inspiration behind it and why did you choose American songbook classics this time around?

KC:  Basically, I made a list of a bunch of songs and it kept pointing to this era.  I love the lyrics.  I love the melody of its time and they are some of the greatest songs ever written by composers such as Gershwin and Cole Porter.  I didn’t know The Very Thought of You very well.  I think I heard it a couple of times and then I really started to investigate the song.  That happened a lot on this album and now, of course, I just feel like I want to do a part two.

Click here for more information and for tickets to Celebrity Series of Boston presents ‘An Intimate Evening with Kristin Chenoweth’ at Symphony Hall, 301 Massachusetts Ave. in Boston, Massachusetts on Sunday, April 30 at 7 p.m.  Celebrity Series of Boston just announced their 2017-18 season.  Subscriptions, gift cards, group, and student discounts available.  Click here for more on their upcoming season.

Celebrity Series of Boston thrives on support from the community. Click here for a variety of ways to support Celebrity Series of Boston.

New England Philharmonic President Ann Teixeira offers inside look at 40th Anniversary concert March 4

Led by Maestro Richard Pittman, the New England Philharmonic (NEP) has a stellar reputation for bringing magnificent works and uncovering promising masterpieces in each of their meticulously crafted concerts.  Music Director Richard Pittman is celebrating his 20th anniversary with the orchestra as New England Philharmonic presents its 40th anniversary concert featuring Michael Tippett’s stirring and thought-provoking A Child of Our Time with Chorus pro Musica under the direction of Jamie Kirsch.  This exciting concert will be held at Tsai Performance Center at Boston University on Saturday, March 4 at 8 p.m.  A number soloists and musicians are slated to perform at this special celebratory concert.  Click here for more information and for tickets.

New England Philharmonic President Ann Teixeira offers an inside look at how each season’s works are selected, their annual Call for Scores competition, and how to celebrate two anniversaries in one extraordinary night.

Jeanne Denizard:  How did this 40th anniversary season come together and how were the works selected?  I understand part of the process is NEP holds an annual Call for Scores competition.  Was there a specific theme involved this year?

Ann Teixeira:  Music Director Richard Pittman is responsible for the music selection each season.  Once the orchestra and Board know what he has chosen for the next season, the season’s theme is identified and each concert is given a title based on the relationship among the pieces.  When he selects a program’s theme in advance, it is almost always selected for the family concert.  This year’s family concert was called, The Big Bad Wolf.

JD:  On March 4, the NEP will hold an anniversary concert celebrating two anniversaries at Tsai Performance Center at 8 p.m.  A number of musicians and soloists will be returning for this big night.  What inspired highlighting these two significant anniversaries in one evening?

AT:  The orchestra is primarily celebrating NEP’s 40th anniversary, but this is also the first of Richard Pittman’s 20th year as Music Director.  We are fortunate to have a number of musicians who are long time members of the orchestra on stage for the 40th anniversary concert, including violinist Louise Myers, who joined it as early as its third concert in 1977, and 30-year NEP cellist Jennifer Snodgrass among others.

As the NEP did for its 30th and 35th Anniversary concerts, we will once again perform a vocal work that includes a chorus and vocal soloists.  For the 30th anniversary, it was Alban Berg’s opera Wozzeck and for the 35th anniversary, Benjamin Britten’s War Requiem.

The 40th Anniversary concert features Michael Tippett’s A Child of Our Time with Chorus pro Musica and soloists soprano Sarah Pelletier, mezzo-soprano Krista River, tenor Charles Blandy, and bass Sumner Thompson.  The NEP celebrates another anniversary as this same piece, also with Chorus pro Musica, was performed 25 years ago this season under Ron Feldman’s music direction.

JD:  This year also marks NEP’s 20th anniversary under the direction of award-winning Music Director and Maestro Richard Pittman.  Not only has he led the orchestra to a number of honors, but he has conducted orchestras all over the world and founded a distinguished ensemble, Boston Musica Viva.  Please tell me about how his presence enriched the NEP over the years.

AT:  Dick is a widely recognized and often honored conductor both in the U.S. and Europe.  He founded the Boston Musica Viva, an ensemble widely regarded as one of the best contemporary music ensembles in the world, 47 years ago.  He has enriched the NEP with his broad and deep knowledge of contemporary classical music and the high standards he applies to his repertoire selection.  He selects only the ‘best’ of contemporary classical music which not only utilizes as many instruments and musicians within each piece, but accommodate our part-time musicians.   Program selection is a balancing act!   The programming and training he provides leads to the orchestra’s musical growth and retention of them as well as higher quality performances often recognized by reviewers as equivalent to professional orchestras.

Composers are happy and honored to have the NEP select their compositions for performance due to Dick’s relationship with them.  The composers often attend the performance and speak to the audience about their composition and sometimes the process of composing it, enriching the concert experience.  Composers also sometimes attend a rehearsal, which further enriches the musicians’ experience and training.

JD:  This season features fanfares from former composers-in-residence.  This particular concert features Melospiza melodia from two-term composer-in-residence, Richard Cornell, who wrote this specifically for the anniversary.

AT:  Yes, Richard Cornell used song of the sparrow as his inspiration for this piece.

JD:  NEP features Michael Tippett’s  A Child of Our Time, which is inspired by what happened in Nazi Germany in the 1930s and is a significant work against oppression in the world.  Why this particular work?  I understand that it resonates especially with today’s world.

AT:  When Maestro Pittman selected A Child of Our Time a year ago, he had no prescience for how relevant its statements would be to the current political environment.  While it is explicitly a statement against oppression, it also progresses into a statement about tolerance, thus making it currently relevant on both dimensions.  It is serendipity, it is so relevant, and we hope it will leave its impact on the audience.

New England Philharmonic presents the 40th Anniversary Concert:  A Child of Our Time at the Tsai Performance Center at Boston University on Saturday, March 4 at 8 p.m.  Click here for tickets, how to become a subscriber, and more information.

The New England Philharmonic thrives on the support of the community.  Click here to support the NEP, volunteer, and sign up for their newsletter for upcoming performances and more.

Celebrity Series of Boston’s 78th season boasts big shows and return of Stave Sessions concert series

Having kicked off another sensational season with the return of Pianos in Boston, Celebrity Series of Boston’s 78th season has been offering a broad spectrum of captivating performances in their 41 show lineup including the debut of the Vertigo Dance Company, the Berliner Philharmoniker led by conductor Sam Rattle, as well as Argentine cello star, Sol Gabetta with French pianist Bertrand Chamayou.  Celebrity Series of Boston is taking audiences through the winter and spring with mesmerizing performances by Yo-Yo Ma, The Art of Elegance with Kristin Chenoweth, KODO’s 35th anniversary, and the return of the concert series, Stave Sessions.  Click here for more information and the full calendar.

Presented on the Berklee College of Music campus and sponsored by Susan and Michael Sonis, Margaret Eagle, and Eli Rapoport, Celebrity Series of Boston offers five consecutive nights of dynamic, live music in jazz, classical, indie, Moroccan, and contemporary flavors.  Each night has its own unique feel and takes place from Tuesday, March 21 through Saturday, March 25 at 8:30 p.m.

On Tuesday, March 21, the music festival kicks off with YMusic, a group that combines pop and classical styles followed by award-winning tenor sax player Melissa Aldana on Wednesday, March 22.  Electrifying, 18-piece big band orchestra Darcy James Argue’s Secret Society takes the stage by storm on Thursday, March 23 and Tigue and Innov Gnawa combine Moroccan gnawa music with a contemporary percussion trio on Friday, March 24.  The final night features indie music group, Blond Redhead featuring Acme on Saturday, March 25.  A festival pass gains access to all five shows.

Click here for the full list of performances and for tickets. Subscriptions and gift cards are also available.  Celebrity Series of Boston thrives on support from the community. Click here for a variety of ways to support Celebrity Series of Boston.