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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

REVIEW: Lyric Stage’s ‘Kiss of the Spider Woman’ spins a fascinating web

The Lyric Stage’s powerful musical, Kiss of the Spider Woman, with music by John Kander and lyrics by Fred Ebb, proves escape can take many forms.  Much like Kander and Ebb’s previous works such as Chicago and Cabaret, Kiss of the Spider Woman delves into equal parts fantasy through lavish dance numbers and brutal reality as two very different men are cellmates in a Latin American prison.  Directed and choreographed skillfully by Rachel Bertone, Kiss of the Spider Woman is not just a gripping tale about surviving under profoundly dark circumstances, but an emotional journey, keeping the audience guessing to each character’s complex motives.

Kander and Ebb’s Kiss of the Spider Woman continues at the Lyric Stage in Boston, Massachusetts through Sunday, October 7.  Click here for tickets and more information.

What makes this show particularly fascinating is Bertone’s talent for depicting mounting tension, evident between each character who all share some sort of connection.  Lisa Yuen embodies the Spider Woman/Aurora with dark humor and beguiling charm, a presence who sees and knows all as she proclaims, I Do Miracles.  Her haunting vocals are a magnetic presence as she slinks onstage.  Her dazzling, alluring costumes vary from a shimmering, translucent gown to a bright, multi-colored Bird of Paradise.

Lyric Stage - Cuadros, Yuen, Cavazos, Gamble, Baldassaro

L to R: Arthur Cuadros as Gabriel, Lisa Yuen as Aurora, Eddy Cavazos as Molina, Taavon Gamble as Valentin, and Bernie Baldassaro as a prisoner Photo courtesy of Lyric Stage

Portraying the two cellmates are Eddy Cavazos as imaginative, openly gay window dresser Molina and Taavon Gamble as gruff revolutionary Valentin.  Dressed in a bright scarf and silk robe, Molina is often sinking into his own vivid imagination recalling his favorite film star, Aurora (Lisa Yuen). Cavazos portrays Molina as exceedingly optimistic, vain, and wildly dramatic.  However, with an occasional far off glance or a brief, mournful smile, Cavazos also reveals Molina’s palpable loneliness, wearing his heart on his sleeve.  He and Johanna Carlisle-Zepeda as Molina’s cherished mother share sweet moments, especially during the number, Dear One and You Can Never Shame Me.

Lyric Stage - Cavazos, Carlisle-Zepeda, Zofia, Gamble

L to R Eddy Cavazos as Molina, Johanna Carlisle-Zepeda as Molina’s Mother, Katrina Zofia as Marta, and Taavon Gamble as Valentin Photo courtesy of the Lyric Stage

Taavon Gamble is also impressive as proud, indignant revolutionary Valentin, a man of few words.  His stirring number, The Day After That, offers immense insight into Valentin’s visceral strength.  Cavazos and Gamble’s scenes together are riveting, both delivering shrewd and gritty performances.

Lyric Stage - Gamble, Cavazos with prisoners

Taavon Gamble as Valentin (center), Eddy Cavazos as Molina and prisoners

Musically directed by Dan Rodriguez featuring songs ranging from haunting to catchy, Kander and Ebb’s Kiss of the Spider Woman continues at the Lyric Stage, 140 Clarendon Street in Boston, Massachusetts through Sunday, October 7.  Click here for tickets and more information.  Subscriptions and dinner packages are also available.  Follow The Lyric Stage on Twitter and Facebook for their upcoming productions and more.