REVIEW: Magic, mischief, and classic romantic comedy rule Company Theatre’s wondrous ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’

It is not difficult to see why A Midsummer Night’s Dream is one of Shakespeare’s most performed and beloved plays.  It is everything but tragic.  It features magic, mischief, romantic comedy, action, and under a harvest moon, a haunting twist perfect for October and Halloween.

This particular play holds historical significance to the Company Theatre because it was the first show they ever produced 40 years ago when they were working with very little money.  Company Theatre’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream is an opportunity to transform the production into what they have always hoped it to be and what a dream it is.

Cleverly directed by Steve Dooner, Company Theatre’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream continues through Sunday, October 20 at the Company Theatre in Norwell, Massachusetts.  Click here for a closer look at show and here for more information and tickets.

Company Theatres A Midsummer Nights Dream set and cast

Samantha McMahon as Queen Titania and fairies Photo courtesy of the Company Theatre

Under a gigantic moon, Ryan Barrow’s enchanting set design and Zoe Bradford’s beautiful art design unleash a picturesque, woodland world full of frolicking fairies, sword fights, romance, and more surrounded by a moving and glittering landscape.  The show’s fanciful Ravel and Mendelssohn-infused soundtrack, some high flying special effects, Paula Ninestein and Anna Splitz’s authentic costumes with a bit of a contemporary edge, and Ethan R. Jones’s stirring lighting design seamlessly combine to enhance this captivating work.

Company Theatre A Midsummer Nights Dream Theseus and Hippolyta

Dan Kelly as Theseus and Sarah Dewey as Hippolyta Photo courtesy of the Company Theatre

A Midsummer Night’s Dream has multiple story lines, but the cast translates Shakespeare’s work with gravitas and humor.   For those hesitant about understanding Shakespeare’s work, this production is lively, lighthearted, and manageable to follow.

Part play within a play, part intrigue, part comedy, and part mystery, A Midsummer Night’s Dream essentially explores love in all of its forms from unrequited to true love to romantic comedy to love potions.  This production is the source of some of Shakespeare’s most famous reflections on love such as “True love does not see with the eyes, but the mind,” and “The course of true love never did run smooth.”  The show’s witty dialogue is a wonderful reminder that Shakespeare’s story lines are timeless and can translate into any contemporary story line.

Though A Midsummer Night’s Dream boasts a dignified and dynamic cast, it also excels at improvisation, hilarity, and absurdity.  Dan Kelly is a regal and charismatic Theseus and Sarah Dewey a radiant Hippolyta.  They glide onstage like today’s royal family.  Declan Dunn delivers a remarkable performance as wild, mischievous, and mighty Puck and his conspiring moments with Jermaine Murray as King Oberon make for a clever and cunning pair.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The women in this production are strong, beautiful, and fierce.  Ariel Wigfall portrays sympathetic, yet courageous Hermia while raven-haired Joan Raube-Wilson is virtuous and stunning as Helena.  Samantha McMahon is as glamorous as she is amusing as Queen Titania.

‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ also has a wealth of wonderful, improvisational moments.  Suraj Ranhbhat as headstrong Demetrius, Bryant Marshall as Lysander, and especially Marco Zenelli as the energetic, bombastic, yet benevolent Nick Bottom along with his group of madcap, merry Mechanicals all demonstrate some excellent physical humor, improvisation, and zany comic relief.  Where would today’s humor be without these classic comedic moments which stand as the foundation of what we are all laughing about today.

Company Theatre A Midsummer Nights Dream Mechanicals

From L to R: Marco Zanelli as Nick Bottom, Declan Dunn as Puck and Caroline Kautsire as Peter Quince

Company Theatre’s classic A Midsummer Night’s Dream continues through Sunday, October 20 at the Company Theatre, 30 Accord Park Drive in Norwell, Massachusetts.  Click here for more information, tickets, and how to support Company Theatre’s future.  Also follow Company Theatre on FacebookInstagram and Twitter to learn all about their upcoming events.

REVIEW: Lexus Broadway in Boston’s ‘On Your Feet’ a riveting, musical sensation

Leave it to music trailblazers Gloria and Emilio Estefan to make even folding laundry an exhilarating event.  A glimmering purple curtain provided just a hint of the radiance behind it as Lexus Broadway in Boston presented On Your Feet through Sunday, April 29 at the Boston Opera House at 529 Washington Street in Boston, Massachusetts.  Direct from Broadway and featuring five of the original members of Gloria Estefan’s band, Miami Sound Machine, On Your Feet is currently on a national tour.  Click here to find out where they will take the stage next.

BIB On Your Feet Gloria Estefan and National Tour

Christie Prades as Gloria Estefan and the company of the national tour of ‘On Your Feet’.

From its first few powerful notes and flowing, multicolored club lights, On Your Feet is a party from the start.  After real life superstar couple, Gloria and Emilio Estefan playfully introduce the show, Cuban dancers emerge pounding drums as a full, onstage band, Miami Sound Machine, flood the stage and greet the audience.  Award-winning Sergio Trujillo’s thrilling choreography frames every aspect of this international, true story with flair and gusto.  It has an equal share of wild, quick, and intense music with complex, fancy foot work as well as poignant, inspiring moments within a few of Gloria Estefan’s famous ballads.   Gloria and Emilio Estefan are behind the Latin rhythms, touching original compositions, and the orchestrations of some of Gloria Estefan’s biggest hits.  This captivating production not only showcases Latin culture and a peek into its history, but Gloria and Emilio’s tenacious struggle to fit it into American music scene.

BIB On Your Feet National Tour of show

The company of the national tour of ‘On Your Feet’.

Costume designer Emilio Sosa skillfully replicated Gloria’s sparkling, iconic outfits featured in her memorable concert appearances, the Estefan’s worldwide travel, brought together the colorful styles of the 60s, 80s, and 90s from casual, colorful floral summer wear of Cuba and Miami to elegant, nightclub attire.  David Rockwell’s often romantic scenic design and dim lighting depict Miami’s palm tree silhouettes as well as the particular vibe in their worldwide travels.

BIB On Your Feet Gloria Adriel and Company

Christie Prades as Gloria Estefan, Adriel Flete and the company of the national tour of ‘On Your Feet’.

On Your Feet not only explores Gloria and Emilio’s budding romance and their mutual dreams, but their aspirations to pursue music as Latin performers.  What is most fascinating about the show is Mauricio Martinez as Emilio and Christine Prades as Gloria’s sheer dogged determination to thrive.  Martinez offers a charming, yet serious performance as Emilio, business minded and determined with smooth and angelic vocals.  He delivers a touching rendition of Gloria Estefan’s hit, Don’t Want to Lose You Now and original song written by Gloria Estefan’s daughter, If I Never Got To Tell You, a duet with Nancy Ticotin as Gloria Estefan’s mother, Gloria Fajardo.  Martinez is intense, charismatic, and always planning one step ahead.

BIB On Your Feet Gloria Emilio and Company

Christie Prades as Gloria Estefan, Mauricio Martinez as Emilio Estefan, and the company of the national tour of ‘On Your Feet.’

It is easy to see why Christine Prades as Gloria has such natural, crackling chemistry with Martinez.  Prades as Gloria complements Emilio’s drive through her vibrant, shy, and creative personality.  Curly haired and slim with inflections of Gloria Estefan’s distinctive voice, it is hard to imagine another person portraying the award-winning singer-songwriter.  She engages the audience with her glowing, infectious smile while skillfully handling the quick pacing and complex choreography of this production, often breaking out into song and dance on a dime.   From a ‘can’t-help-but-sing’ child doing chores in Cuba, portrayed sweetly by Ana-Sofia Rodriguez, to a timid woman taking the stage, Gloria’s charismatic stage presence in undeniable. Together, Gloria and Emilio are a force to be reckoned with in their uphill battle to become a music sensation.  The tender song, Here We Are is a particular highlight, showing off their sweet chemistry.

BIB On Your Feet Gloria and national tour

Nancy Ticotin as Gloria Fajardo and the company of the national tour of On Your Feet.

Nancy Ticotin delivers a powerful performance as Gloria Fajardo, Gloria’s mother.  Ticotin portrayed strong willed Fajardo with a passion and a powerful voice, especially portrayed with the flirtatious number Mi Tierra, sung in a Havana nightclub.  Ticotin is stubborn and hard on Gloria, but with a giving spirit toward Jason Martinez as Gloria’s loving war veteran father, Jose.

BIB On Your Feet Gloria Kevin and Emilio

Christie Prades as Gloria Estefan, Kevin Tellez, Mauricio Martinez as Emilio Estefan and the company of the national tour of ‘On Your Feet’.

On Your Feet not only quite literally encourages the audience to dance with some of Gloria’s most riveting songs such as 1-2-3, Rhythm is Gonna Get You, Conga and Dr. Beat, but also depicts the journey and sorrows of following a dream.  It has its share of humorous moments in Debra Cardona as Gloria’s charming grandmother, Consuelo, in her unwavering support of her granddaughter and delivering a few sharp one liners.  Carlos Carreras as Jeremy wows as an enthusiastic Gloria Estefan fan that can’t help but dance.  In such an uplifting, spectacular musical celebration, it is easy to understand why.

BIB On Your Feet Concert stage

The company of the national tour of ‘On Your Feet.’

On Your Feet is currently on a national tour.  Click here to find out where they will take the stage next.  Click here for more of Lexus Broadway in Boston’s upcoming performances and follow them on Facebook.

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

REVIEW: Festive and moving, Massasoit’s production of ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ is time well spent

Soft, twinkling lights and vintage multi-colored bulbs frame the Buckley Performing Arts Center stage as beloved Christmas carols ring in the holiday cheer in anticipation of a beloved tale.  That familiar sign, “You are Now in Bedford Falls” rings true as Massasoit Theatre Company opened a four show, two weekend run of It’s A Wonderful Life continuing through Sunday, December 3 at Buckley Performing Arts Center, part of Massasoit Community College in Brockton, Massachusetts.  Craig O’Connor, who acts as part narrator and full-time aspiring angel, warmly recalls a beautiful and haunting tale of the value of a life well spent.  Click here for more information and for tickets.

It's a Wonderful Life Bedford Falls

Curtis J. Bellafiore as George and Elizabeth Lovley as Mary Hatch and the cast Photo courtesy of Massasoit Theatre Company

Massasoit has an affinity for festive onstage caroling during annual holiday productions and We Wish You a Merry Christmas is just one of an array of classic tunes to set the mood.  The rolling stage, designed impressively by Nathan Fogg DeSisto, hearkens not only to its vintage 1920s to 40s setting, but visually captures some of the tale’s most iconic moments from the cold, snow covered bridge to a wooden bench frequently shown in Bedford Falls, a setting inspired by Seneca Falls, New York.  Jennifer Spagone’s distinct costume design make the cast looked sharp as women wore brightly colored dresses from polka dots to paisley in signature hairstyles of the period and the men in a variety of suits, ties, and winter coats faithful to the season.

It's a wonderful life Baileys

Patricia Straight-McGrath as Mother Bailey and Curtis J. Bellafiore as George Photo courtesy of Massasoit Theatre Company

Told partly in vignettes and flashbacks, It’s a Wonderful Life focuses on a morbidly downtrodden George Bailey, portrayed with a unique charisma by Curtis J. Bellafiore, who reaches a pivotal moment in his life that makes him question the value of his existence.  Enter mild-mannered Clarence Odbody, portrayed with warmhearted sincerity by Craig O’Connor, who questions whether he can produce a Christmas miracle.

It's a wonderful life Uncle Billy

Curtis J. Bellafiore as George and Danny Hannafin as Uncle Billy Photo courtesy of Massasoit Theatre Company

Director Tony Ruscio masters the challenging task of capturing the charm of this small town through the cast’s jocular and moving camaraderie.  The children have small roles, but each engages the audience in their own distinct way.  With a winning smile and apprehensive verbal style only mildly reminiscent of Jimmy Stewart’s portrayal, Curtis J. Bellafiore, embodies endearing dreamer George Bailey with a unique charisma.  His instant chemistry with Elizabeth Lovley as jubilant, yet mysterious Mary Hatch is captivating to watch.  Lovley’s real skill as Mary is not just in the scripted word, but in the subtlety of her performance.  Lovley’s quiet serenity perfectly complements Bellafiore’s charming optimism.  Craig O’Connor harnesses such a natural presence as lovable Clarence that it is difficult to imagine the actor himself any other way.

Chris DiOrio, last seen as grouchy but lovable Shrek in Hingham Civic Music Theatre’s fall production of the same name, takes a gloriously dark turn as the infamous Mr. Potter.   As he makes his demands from a sitting position, his presence casts a constant shadow, his deep, gravelly, and well spoken demeanor brimming with unflinching practicality.  His calculating exchanges with each cast member are riveting to say the least.

It's a wonderful life Potter

Chris DiOrio as Mr. Potter, Jim Gross, and Margaret O’Brien as Bank Examiner Photo courtesy of Massasoit Theatre Company

Massasoit Theatre Company’s festive and moving It’s A Wonderful Life continues through Sunday, December 3 at Buckley Performing Arts Center, One Massasoit Boulevard in Brockton, Massachusetts.  Call 508-427-1234 or click here for tickets and further details.  Follow Massasoit Theatre Company on Facebook for upcoming events and more.

Richard Bento, President of South Shore Theatre Works, talks about building a theatre dream

Building a dream has always has its share of surprises and challenges.  However, with determination, hard work, and more than a touch of luck, these 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 play or musical to life, or starting an artistic or musical group that has made a difference.

Richard Bento, Executive Director and President of South Shore Theatre Works (SSTW) in Holbrook, Massachusetts, talks about the excitement and surprises of starting a new community theatre, South Shore Theatre Works.  South Shore Theatre Works’ premiere season features Into the Woods, Steel Magnolias, and much more.  Click here for more information, auditions, and for tickets.

 Jeanne Denizard:  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 theatre 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. Three years ago, I decided to participate in theatre here and assist another community theatre group.  I fell in love with the people. Their passion was parallel to what I felt in my heart. 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. In this group, we spoke about what we loved about community theatre and what we wanted our theatre home to be like.

sstw-board-of-directors-including-richard-bento

South Shore Theatre Works Play Reading Committee led by Richard Bento Photo courtesy of Kelly Webber

JD:  Did you run into any surprises pulling a project like this together? 

RB:  When putting together a non-profit, learning how to comply with the nonprofit laws is ever-changing. We ran into some obstacles such as what we thought was the proper way might not necessarily be the right way on paper and when you’re working with a group of people who are volunteering their time, the challenge is finding exactly where they best fit.  Sometimes we all think that we’re good at one thing, but until we really get into the nitty-gritty of things, that’s when we decide, hey, wait a minute, I might not be a good Treasurer.  My passion might be as a good publicity person.  I think it was not necessarily a struggle or obstacle within the organization, but an obstacle within each one of our board members to find out exactly what they’re truly good at, and how to put those talents and skills into play.

sstw-big-bad-musical-dress-rehearsal

South Shore Theatre Works dress rehearsal for youth production, “Big Bad Musical” Photo courtesy of Rachel Nope Beasley

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

RB:  I wish them a lot of luck and determination. Starting a community theater is a difficult project to take on. It is not an endeavor for everyone or for the weak-hearted. Just like an actor who wants to perform professionally and tries to make it on Broadway, 99% of that actor’s experience will be rejection. When you’re putting together a community theater or theatre group in general, you are going to face a lot of doors closing on you, a lot of people who feel threatened, or don’t understand why you’re creating this new project.  What’s important for anyone who wants to create something of this nature is to make sure that the reason behind you creating this endeavor comes from a good place, from a place of love, and a place of passion.

Before people decide they’re going to start another community theater or another theater in the South Shore or in the Boston area, decide why they want to create that theater. What is the mission behind it and see if there are other groups that share that mission because there are always groups looking for help. For example, if there’s someone out there who is looking to start a brand new theatre company that shares the mission we have at South Shore Theatre Works, join us. We’re always looking for new people to support our mission.

JD:  What is most important in making an investment like this?

RB:  Measuring what is important in an investment can be different for different people. At SSTW, the way to measure whether we have succeeded in our first year’s endeavor is by seeing the membership, those people that we have been able to cultivate and bring together to put on quality theatre in this area. If South Shore Theatre Works ended today, we as a Board of Directors would be extremely proud of what we did because our first major musical was a huge success financially and included a talented cast. We had 64 wonderfully talented people from across the South Shore who came and auditioned across Massachusetts and Rhode Island.  We had people from all over audition who wanted to be part of something new. That for me is a measurable moment of success.

sstw-into-the-woods-rachel-nope-beasley

“Into the Woods” cast Photo courtesy of Rachel Nope Beasley

JD:  How did you select the shows you would be presenting in your premiere season?

RB:  When choosing a season, you have to come up with the season’s mission. I’m very fortunate I have a marketing director who works in the industry and understands what is needed to accomplish things. Every show has to have a specific goal or target audience, whether it is trying to reach actors, expand our membership, or to make money, which we all need to survive.  We wanted to do some shows that were really going to get our name out there and would bring people to work with us and grow with us as an organization.  Not just work with us once, but wanting to come to South Shore Theatre Works to become lifelong members.

JD:  What are your future plans for the theater and the best way people can contact South Shore Theatre Works?

RB:  Our goal for South Shore Theatre Works is to be the leading community theater in the South Shore. We want to have a home where we can perform all year round, a place where people can feel comfortable, and share their talents and their passion for the craft with audiences from all over.

A way to get involved financially or supporting us is by being an audience member and an active member within the theatre company.  Go onto our website, sign up for our emails, keep in touch and find that one project where you really want to help.  Support the arts in any way possible. Spread the word that there is a new community theater in the area excited to branch out and get our name out there.

sstw-children-of-eden

South Shore Theatre Works present the beloved musical, “Children of Eden” Photo courtesy of South Shore Theatre Works

Click here for a closer look on how to support South Shore Theatre Works.  Call 774-386-8258, visit their website, and follow them on Facebook for a closer look at their new season and more.