REVIEW: Inspiring documentary ‘Won’t You Be My Neighbor’ more than a beautiful day in the neighborhood

“It’s such a good feeling to know we are lifelong friends,” was Mr. Rogers final words as he closed out his show, Mr. Rogers Neighborhoodin 2001.  However, the impact he has had on the world is timeless.

Though The Sleepless Critic usually tackles the very best in music and theatre, one has to make an exception to express the rare, extraordinary quality in Morgan Neville’s Won’t You Be My Neighbor, a moving, deeply personal documentary which highlights Mr. Rogers Neighborhood, a children’s show that was unconventionally the best in television and ran from 1968 through 2001 on PBS.  The film is currently in limited release.  Click here for more information and ticket availability.

This is not to say Won’t You Be My Neighbor didn’t explore the power of music.  American cellist Yo-Yo Ma appeared on Mr. Rogers Neighborhood at a young age and shared his exceptional musical talent.

Mr. Rogers also used music as a powerful tool to influence his viewers such as with his original song, It’s You I Like.   An introvert from childhood, Mr. Rogers often expressed his feelings through music.  This inspiring documentary opens with Mr. Rogers offering a metaphor on the piano about life’s difficult transitions.  He expressed how easy it may be to get from a C note to a D, but how challenging it is to transition from an F to an F sharp, paralleling the challenges children face growing up.  His dedication to children through television offered children support on how to overcome the hardships of life and feel like they have a unique importance in this world.

The film draws from Mr. Rogers’s charisma, which softened the toughest of hearts with his assertion that everyone either had love or lacked it.  Through his family members, cast, crew, and some of his adversaries, it is a balanced portrayal of an ordained minister with a simple purpose, a purpose that was not always understood.  Nonetheless, Won’t You Be My Neighbor is an important film that has navigated generations of children through grief, assassination, divorce, disabilities, and other hardships, providing glimpses into devastation in recent history such as war, the Challenger tragedy, and 9/11.

Won’t You Be My Neighbor was also not without its own sense of humor from backstage antics to show parodies.  However, the best quality of Won’t You Be My Neighbor is, like a good neighbor, Mr. Rogers had a warm smile and an open door, and he genuinely cared.  That’s an awful lot of comfort in a troubled world.

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A beloved, annual musical tradition, Reagle Music Theatre of Greater Boston presents ‘ChristmasTime’

Adorned in brightly lit snowflakes, sparkling, emerald Christmas trees and wreaths  around the Robinson Theatre stage and festively lined with wooden embroidered angels, Reagle Music Theatre of Greater Boston brings back their masterful, musical theatrical production of ChristmasTime for two weekends from Friday, December 2 through Sunday, December 10.  Click here for more information.

With an enormous cast of nearly 200 consisting of adults and children from Massachusetts representing two dozen regional towns, ChristmasTime is a musical revue accompanied by a live orchestra. The sets and costumes are adorned with festive flair and audiences will witness classic family favorites come to life such as ‘Teddy Bears Ballet’ Radio City Music Hall’s ‘The Parade of the Wooden Soldiers,’ and ‘The Living Nativity’ as well as captivating dance performances.  The show blossoms into a sweet dedication to the Christmas season.

This annual celebration has a strong following, so purchase tickets now.  Each show will be held at Reagle Music Theatre, 617 Lexington Street in Waltham, Massachusetts on Saturdays and Sundays December 2, 3, 9, and 10 at noon and 4 p.m.  One Friday evening performance will be held on December 8 at 7 p.m.

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‘Night Fever: An Evening of the Bee Gees’ January 14 Photo courtesy of Reagle Music Theatre of Greater Boston

Reagle Music Theatre of Greater Boston will kick off the New Year with Night Fever: An Evening With the Bee Gees for one day only on Sunday, January 14 at 2 p.m. Click here for more information and tickets or call 781-891-5600.  Tickets are also available at the theatre box office and Reagle gift cards make a great present for the holidays.  Make Christmastime a family holiday tradition.  Follow Reagle Music Theatre of Greater Boston on Twitter and Facebook for all their upcoming events.

South South Conservatory’s annual, family summer outdoor concert series, ‘Wacky Wednesdays’ returns

South Shore Conservatory, known for offering fun, educational, and interactive classes and entertainment for all ages for the South Shore of Massachusetts and beyond, is proud to enliven Wednesday mornings once again.  Sponsored by The Harold and Avis Goldstein Trust with WATD as media partner, South Shore Conservatory’s Wacky Wednesdays has been delivering award-winning, educational, and interactive family entertainment for their 21st year every Wednesday mornings as part of their outdoor Summer Spotlight series.  Wednesday morning concerts also feature free lemonade and chocolate milk starting at 10 a.m.

Kicking off the season on Wednesday, July 5, singer-songwriter and Music Together teacher Vanessa Trien and the Jumping Monkeys return to the Jane Carr Amphitheater stage.  This family concert series includes humorous, high energy, and catchy family pop band Karen K and the Jitterbugs on July 12, multiple award-winning Roots musician, Alastair Moock and Friends on July 19, and imaginative, energetic, and interactive musical storytelling by Debbie and Friends on July 26.  Click here for a closer look at this enchanting series.

All concerts take place rain or shine at Jane Carr Amphitheater, One Conservatory Drive in Hingham, Massachusetts.  With funding from Massachusetts Cultural Facilities Fund, the Jane Carr Amphitheater has been updated entirely.  See the South Shore Conservatory’s summer spotlight concert series at affordable prices and no charge for children under three.  Discounted prices for groups are also available.  Click here for tickets and more information or call 1-781-749-7565, ext. 22.