REVIEW: Athletic grace, intensity, and enchanting beauty drive The Boston Ballet’s debut of ‘Obsidian Tear’

Featuring an enthralling, unconventional start, renowned choreographers depict a rich array of contrasting tones as The Boston Ballet opened its 2017-18 season with the captivating, North American debut of Obsidian Tear continuing through Sunday, November 12 at the Boston Opera House in Boston, Massachusetts.  What is particularly intriguing about this program is its delicate balance of triumph, suspense, sorrow, and beauty in a blend of traditional and contemporary artistry featuring two revered works by composer Jean Sibelius.  Click here for more information and tickets.

The Boston Ballet strikes an impressive, emotional balance with the combination of a special, orchestral performance of Finlandia by Jean Sibelius, Obsidian Tear, and Fifth Symphony of Jean Sibelius.  Led by guest conductor Daniel Stewart, the Boston Ballet opened with a stirring orchestral performance of the Finnish National song, Finlandia, composed as a tone poem by Jean Sibelius.  Magnificently led by conductor Daniel Stewart, Finlandia is a triumphant, gripping masterpiece from its ferocious open to every subtle, enchanting note in between.

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Boston Ballet in Wayne McGregor’s Obsidian Tear; photo by Rosalie O’Connor, courtesy Boston Ballet

The Boston Ballet added to its fervent tone with the North American debut of Obsidian Tear followed by the elegant, world premiere of Fifth Symphony of Jean Sibelius.  Choreographed by Wayne McGregor and accompanied by the haunting and evocative rhythms of Esa-Pekka Salonen’s Lachen verlernt and Nyx from violin soloist, Christine Vitale, Obsidian Tear builds to a palpable sense of urgency as each of the nine male dancers, including Daniel Cooper, Derek Dunn, Samivel Evans, John Lam, Alexander Maryianowski, Eric Nezha, Patrick Palkens, Desean Taber, and Junxiong Zhou, appear.

Obsidean Dress Rehearsal

Irlan Silva in Wayne McGregor’s Obsidian Tear; photo by Rosalie O’Connor, courtesy Boston Ballet

Surrounded by a warmly-lit stage and minimal black backdrop, each dancer exhibits their own, distinct appearance and style, gliding in long, sweeping movements.  Often dividing into pairs, their athletic prowess drives each complex step as exuberance, mischief, cooperation, and combativeness, flood an increasingly busy landscape.  Thrilling and poignant, Obsidian Tear is a thought-provoking, mesmerizing journey about belonging and the darkness within.

New Jorma Dress Rehearsal

Boston Ballet in Jorma Elo’s Fifth Symphony of Jean Sibelius; photo by Rosalie O’Connor, courtesy Boston Ballet

The world premiere of Fifth Symphony of Jean Sibelius, gorgeously choreographed by Jorma Elo, evokes the light, romantic tone of traditional ballet.  The pure, delicate beauty of the ensemble in pale pastel envelops the stage in graceful splendor as a single black halo hovers above.  In elegant costumes designed by former Dutch National ballet dancer Yumiko Takeshima, Fifth Symphony of Jean Sibelius delivers its own sophisticated rhythm, building into a flurry of circular motion and blossoming lifts.  As some divide into attractive pairs, dancers soar, leap, and float joyfully to a soft, urgent rhythm.  A particular highlight depicts the dancers lying sideways across the stage as a pair nimbly twirls into pirouettes and refined lifts.  As Obsidian Tear often focuses on individuals, this performance is much more an ensemble piece, forming dazzling soft color portraits in a breezy, jovial state.

New Jorma Dress Rehearsal

Boston Ballet in Jorma Elo’s Fifth Symphony of Jean Sibelius; photo by Rosalie O’Connor, courtesy Boston Ballet

Click here for tickets, call 617-695-6955, or visit the Boston Ballet box office at 19 Clarendon Street in Boston, Massachusetts. All performances take place at the Boston Opera House, 539 Washington Street in Boston, Massachusetts. Subscriptions and group rates are also available. Follow the Boston Ballet on Facebook and Twitter.

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.

REVIEW: Brimming with compelling storytelling, accomplished singer-songwriter Natalie Merchant made stirring Tanglewood debut

Always an unforgettable storyteller, award-winning singer-songwriter and musician Natalie Merchant made her Tanglewood debut, despite increasingly darkening skies at Koussevitsky Shed in Lenox, Massachusetts.  Her soulful, musical journey included stirring tales of war, deep love and love lost, musings from history, a deadly woman, and a curvaceous Ophelia,  each tale conjuring up a vivid picture in her brilliant, and at times, elegiac lyrics.  Natalie Merchant is a force onstage and her charisma lies in her engaging, soul baring presence.  Click here for Natalie Merchant’s tour dates.

Tanglewood’s season is in full swing, having kicked off with acclaimed BSO Music Director Andris Nelsons leading the Tanglewood Festival Chorus in Mahler’s Symphony No. 2 Resurrection on Friday, July 7.  Natalie Merchant, James Taylor, Emmylou Harris, and John Mellencamp were among Tanglewood’s Popular Artists series.  After an extraordinary season of live classical and contemporary performances throughout the summer, the Tanglewood season concludes with The Boston Pops featuring Melissa Etheridge on Sunday, September 3.  Click here for tickets and further information.

Wearing a dark blue dress and her signature long, thick flowing hair, Natalie Merchant set a deeply insightful, subdued tone before building to a lively, uplifting vibe, much to the delight of the crowd.  Surrounded by a sophisticated, intimate band composed of a cellist, guitarist, pianist, drummer, and a group of elegantly dressed violinists, Natalie started with a tune from her self-titled, 2014 album, Lulu, paying tribute to the audacious silent film star and dancer, Louise Brooks, a woman who paved her own way.

Natalie Merchant lent a patriotic spin to the song, River, a song originally dedicated to memory of River Phoenix, an actor who died too young.  This version of River is from her stripped down, latest album, Paradise is There:  The New Tigerlily Recordings, hinting at the fallen soldier, her deep, contralto voice exuding a beautiful, haunting quality.  Equally affecting is My Skin, from her album, Ophelia, a gripping song about the emptiness of betrayal and loss.

Often barefoot, Natalie was physically expressive onstage, dancing, swaying, and twirling to the rhythm, flowing like a bird to a pulsing violin.  Many devoted followers were present in the audience as sporadic whoops and hollers echoed from the crowd, often shouting her name.  Natalie Merchant has been thrilling audiences since the early 80s and her onstage presence made it easy to recognize her lasting talent.  Although the weather wasn’t always cooperating during the concert, with such a strong following, the crowd remained.  “I’m sorry you are in the rain,” Natalie acknowledged the outdoor audience as the skies opened, “But after the drought we had last year, I’m not sorry for the rain.”

Sharing her passion for social and environmental issues, Natalie briefly shared the stage with Tyler Van Kirk, National Canvass Coordinator from Food and Water Watch, based in Denver, Colorado.  It is an organization dedicated to protecting the world’s natural resources.  See what they stand for here.  She also dedicated a song to corruption in government with a tune delivered partially a cappella, Poison in the Well, dating back her days with the 10,000 Maniacs.

Her gripping storytelling continued with Nursery Rhyme of Innocence and Experience, Ophelia, and the exotic sounds of The Man in the Wilderness.  She delivered cautionary wisdom in The Worst Thing, portrayed a looming, jazz-infused rendition of a femme fatale with She Devil, and inspiration in Lady Bird.

Natalie Merchant’s music ensemble is impressive, whether during a spontaneous jam session or in the quieter moments, a perfect complement to her often heart rendering lyrics.  The tireless performer offered a more joyous and uplifting second half, sharing some her greatest hits.  From Paradise is There:  The New Tigerlily Recordings, she offered a stripped down version of her hit, Carnival, a vivid, reflective view on life.  Accompanied by just her pianist, cellist, and guitarist, she sang Wonder, which was the inspiration behind a children’s book by R.J. Palacio and an upcoming film starring Julia Roberts in November 2017.

Tender, earnest moments were strewn into the songs, Beloved Wife, Break Your Heart, and Frozen Charlotte, the latter culminated in a gorgeous violin solo.  However, she also has a unique sense of humor, sharing a story of an old cookie jar that “carries the emotional weight” of every song.

The moment of the evening was her epic encore, as the band jammed and Natalie danced furiously, the audience was brought to their feet in a spectacular version of These are Days followed by a heartfelt performance of her hit song, Kind and Generous.  Fans couldn’t have asked for better, rain or shine.

Click here to see where Natalie performs next.  Located in the Berkshires at 297 West Street in Lenox, Massachusetts, Tanglewood’s outdoor venue is a must see during the summer, whether under the tent at Koussevitsky Shed or under the stars for a lawn picnic.  Click here for more information on its Tanglewood’s Music Festival summer series and follow them on Facebook.

The Academy of the Company Theatre Teen Conservatory presents the dark comedy, ‘Heathers the Musical’

What does it take to be popular?  Long before Glinda sang about it in the hit musical, Wicked, or queen bee Regina George and the Plastics ruled the school in the satirical teen comedy film, Mean Girls, the Heathers dominated Westerberg High in the dark cult comedy film, Heathers.  Heathers takes a bitingly funny and satirical look at teen life and all the drama that comes with it.   Directed by Steve Shannon with musical direction by Melissa Carubia with the Academy of the Company Theatre’s summer workshop program, The Academy of the Company Theatre Teen Conservatory proudly presents Heathers the Musical (High School Edition) on Thursday, July 13 and Friday, July 14 at The Company Theatre, 30 Accord Park Drive in Norwell, Massachusetts at 7 p.m.  This show contains mature themes.  Click here for tickets and here for more information on the Academy of the Company Theatre.

Heathers the Musical is based on the 1988 film adaptation that stars Winona Ryder, Shannen Doherty, and Christian Slater.  A television adaptation is also currently in development.  Taking a look at the ruthless side of high school, clever Veronica Sawyer finds her way into the Heathers, Westerberg High’s ultimate, cruel clique, just as she encounters mysterious new boy at school, J.D.  In a wild scheme, Veronica plans to show the world life is so much more than popularity.

Performances for the Academy of the Company Theatre’s Teen Conservatory of Heathers the Musical (High School Edition) take place at the Company Theatre, 30 Accord Park Drive in Norwell, Massachusetts on July 13 and 14 at 7 p.m.  Click here for tickets or call the box office at 781-871-2787.  Click here for more on the Company Theatre and its extensive upcoming productions like Disney’s The Little Mermaid and follow them on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Lexus Broadway in Boston presents musical spectacle ‘Wicked,’ returning by popular demand

A simple hat can make quite a statement.  Back by popular demand with its astounding sets, phosphorescent costumes, and multi-faceted story, Wicked is the Grammy and Tony award-winning musical spectacle that may make audiences reject those ruby slippers because Oz feels like home.  The award-winning musical Wicked, presented by Lexus Broadway in Boston, sweeps into the Boston Opera House once again on Wednesday, June 7 and will remain there through Sunday, July 23.  Click here for tickets and more information on Wicked.

Wicked Elphaba and Glinda Joan Marcus

Glinda and Elphaba Photo by Joan Marcus

Could Glinda the Good and young, ambitious, and somewhat naive Elphaba, before she became the Wicked Witch, actually have been friends?  What did happen before Dorothy and Toto arrived?   Based on Gregory Maguire’s best-selling book, Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West, the splendid musical adaptation, Wicked, introduces an entirely new way of interpreting L. Frank Baum’s classic tale, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.

Featuring a mix of beloved, familiar Oz characters while also introducing new ones, many parts of Wicked turn Oz on its ear in a clever and beguiling way, unraveling its own set of mysteries.  It also introduces a darker side to Oz, revealing deep, relatable issues of prejudice and balancing that with hope, love, and treasured moments of welcome humor.

Wicked arrives at the Boston Opera House, 539 Washington Street in Boston, Massachusetts from Wednesday, June 7 through Sunday, July 23.  Click here for more information and tickets.  Subscriptions and group tickets are also available. Click here for a closer look at Lexus Broadway in Boston’s 2017-18 season and follow Lexus Broadway in Boston on Facebook and Twitter.

Cohasset Dramatic Club presents the local premiere of the romantic musical, ‘If/Then’

It’s a story about love and the single woman in the Big City with a twist.  For Elizabeth, portrayed by Ann McCoy, a newly-single woman about to make a fresh start in New York City, life has become a world of daunting, yet wonderful possibilities.  From the producers of the Pulitzer prize-winning team behind the show, Next to Normal Cohasset Dramatic Club is proud to present the first non-professional production of If/Then, an insightful, contemporary musical about a recently divorced woman caught between choice and chance.

Originally starring Idina Menzel and based on a book by Tom Kitt with music and lyrics by Brian Yorkey, If/Then contains moving musical numbers such as A Map of New York, You Never Know, and Surprise.  Directed by Lisa Pratt, musically directed by Sarah Troxler, and choreographed by Tara Morrison, Cohasset Dramatic Club presents If/Then for two weekends only on March 17, 18, 23, 24, and 25 at 7:30.  One matinee performance takes place on March 19 at 2 p.m.  All performances will be held at Cohasset Town Hall at 41 Highland Ave in Cohasset, Massachusetts.   Click here for more information and for tickets.

Other ways to support Cohasset Dramatic Club is to become a volunteer, become a subscriber, and make a donation.  Sign up for their email list to learn about upcoming events and more.  Click here for more about the Cohasset Dramatic Club and follow them on Facebook.

Cohasset Dramatic Club will hold auditions for captivating musical, “If/Then”

Starting over isn’t easy, especially in the Big City.  Cohasset Dramatic Club is thrilled to debut a remarkable musical about a single woman moving to New York City to make a new start.  From the producers of the Pulitzer Prize-winning team behind the show, Next to NormalIf/Then is an insightful, contemporary musical about Elizabeth, a recently divorced woman and all the endless possibilities that lay before her in the Big City.

Originally starring Idina Menzel and based on a book by Brian Yorkey, If/Then contains musical numbers including A Map of New York, You Never Know, and Surprise.  Cohasset Dramatic Club presents If/Then for two weekends only from Thursday, March 9 through Saturday, March 18.  Click here for more information about the show.

Directed by Lisa Pratt, musically directed by Sarah Troxler, and choreographed by Tara Morrison, Cohasset Dramatic Club is holding auditions for the musical, If/Then on Wednesday, January 18 at 41 Highland Ave in Cohasset, Massachusetts at 7 p.m.  Auditioners should prepare 24-36 bars of a song from the show and the evening will also consist of cold readings from the script.  Rehearsals will begin on Sunday, January 22.  Click here for further details and character descriptions.

Before If/Then, Cohasset Dramatic Club presents their fourth annual festival consisting of 10-minute plays, Briefs on February 3 and 4.  This festival will feature cabaret seating, food, and beverages.  Click here for more about the Cohasset Dramatic Club and follow them on Facebook.