REVIEW: SpeakEasy Stage Company and Front Porch Arts Collective delivers a no holds barred, twist-filled ‘Pass Over’

The setting could be anywhere.  However, that feeling of impending doom cannot be shaken as SpeakEasy Stage Company and Front Porch Arts Collective presents the twist-filled, semi-interactive, and award-winning Pass Over by Antoinette Nwandu continuing through Sunday, February 2 at the Calderwood Pavilion in Boston, Massachusetts.  This show is not appropriate for young children for explicit language and adult themes.  Pass Over is an hour and a half with no intermission.  Click here for more information and tickets.

Directed cleverly by Monica White Ndounou, Pass Over is part absurdist drama that tackles a number of social issues including racism and police brutality and weaves them together into a culturally meaningful narrative. Its theatre-in-the-round and semi-interactive setting helps pull the audience into the drama and never lets go.

Speakeasy Stage - Moses and Kitch 2 [223]

Hubens “Bobby” Cius and Kadahj Bennett in SpeakEasy Stage’s production of ‘Pass Over’ Photo by Nile Scott Studios

Alternating swiftly from humorous to harrowing,  Pass Over mixes the real with the seemingly imagined, often leaving you wondering whether what you are seeing onstage is actually happening.  Kathy A. Perkins’s lighting and pulsing sound by Anna Drummond seamlessly navigates the distinct, intense mood of this piece.

This suspenseful tale comes with simple staging by Baron E. Pugh and Wooden Kiwi Productions with only a nondescript lamp post and chain link fencing.  Anything more than that would be distracting.  Costume designer Chelsea Kerl keeps Kitch and Moses local with Red Sox caps and Celtics gear.

Speakeasy Stage - The Promised Land 2 [102]

Hubens “Bobby” Cius and Kadahj Bennett in SpeakEasy Stage’s production of ‘Pass Over’ Photo by Nile Scott Studios

The joint charisma of the two main characters is what hinges on the show’s credibility and they have that in spades.  The magnetic camaraderie, natural rhythm, and gift for physical humor between pensive Moses, portrayed by Kadahj Bennett, and funny, fast-talking Kitch, portrayed by Hubens “Bobby” Cius, gives this show its intriguing vibe as they joke, dream, plot, and wait on a deserted street corner.  They keep each other strong as they dream of rising up to their full potential and escape what is holding them back.  “Pass Over” means freedom.

Lewis D. Wheeler’s over-the-top performance enhances the palpable tension in this production.  As Mister, he plays an intricate part and takes on more than one role in this thought provoking tale.  In a beige suit and panama hat while carrying a wicker basket, Mister’s back story faintly resembles little red riding hood as he creates an impossible situation.

Speakeasy Stage - Lewis-as-Mister

Lewis D. Wheeler in SpeakEasy Stage’s ‘Pass Over’  Photo by Nile Scott Studios

Without being preachy, Pass Over delivers a powerful message while exploring some of the darker, hypocritical sides of human nature and treats its serious themes with sensitivity.

SpeakEasy Stage Company and the Front Porch Arts Collective present Pass Over through Sunday, February 2 at the Calderwood Pavilion at the Boston Center for the Arts, 527 Tremont Street in the South End of Boston, Massachusetts.  Click here for more information and tickets and here to learn more about the Front Porch Arts Collective. The Children and Bright Star still coming up as part of SpeakEasy Stage Company’s 2020 season.

REVIEW: Greater Boston Stage Company and Front Porch Arts Collective’s ‘The Three Musketeers’ packs action, comedy, and a contemporary twist

‘The Three Musketeers‘ stands the test of time for a reason.  Full of swashbuckling adventure, revenge, humor, and romance, ‘The Three Musketeers’ has a universal appeal, a historical tale of three not-so-flawless defenders of the crown in dangerous 17th century Paris, a time where an ambush could take place at any moment.

Many different versions of this classic tale have taken over the stage and screen over the years and that is no surprise.  It’s a pliable tale with lots of room for creativity.

The Greater Boston Stage Company, in collaboration with The Front Porch Arts Collective, creates a re-imagined adaptation for their final production of the season.  This time, from fights to music to storyline to breaking the fourth wall, ‘The Three Musketeers’ weaves in the classic with the contemporary presenting a new twist of how this story could have played out.

Adapted by Catherine Bush from the novel by Alexandre Dumas, Greater Boston Stage Company continues ‘The Three Musketeers’ through Sunday, June 30 in Stoneham, Massachusetts.  Click here for more information and tickets.  Click here for more on the Front Porch Arts Collective.

Greater Boston Stage Company - The Three Musketeers cast

The Three Musketeers cast Photo courtesy of Greater Boston Stage Company

The last time the Sleepless Critic reviewed a show featuring the Front Porch Arts Collective, it was in collaboration with the Lyric Stage Company for the critically-acclaimed musical, ‘Breath and Imagination’ back in December.  It was a brilliant, dramatic piece with an incomparable performance by Davron S. Monroe as opera great Roland Hayes.

The Front Porch Arts Collective shows its lighter side with ‘The Three Musketeers.’  Though Alexandre Dumas’s novel can be a heavy read, the films and stage productions have always been an exciting romp with some adaptations better than others.  The Greater Boston Stage Company weaves together a wealth of elements, including stylized action sequences, a good dose of humor, eclectic, bolder costumes, and creative casting, but stays pretty faithful to the classic storyline otherwise.

‘The Three Musketeers’ follows Marc Pierre as a fresh-faced country boy named D’Artagnan who wishes to offer his services to the disheveled, world-weary Musketeers.  Pierre portrays D’Artagnan with a love struck charm, wide-eyed wonder, and transparency.  He’s an easy character to root for.

The Greater Boston Stage Company Tonasia Jones as Madame de Treville and Marc Pierre as D'Artagnan

Teaching the ropes. Tonasia Jones as Madame de Treville and Marc Pierre as D’Artagnan Photo courtesy of Greater Boston Stage Company

Instead of women as primarily damsels in distress, some of the damsels are the Musketeers themselves.  Paige Clark as Aremis and Lyndsey Allen Cox as Athos prove they are more than up to the challenge, showing prowess and agility in their perspective roles.  Cox as witty and sardonic Athos has some great lines in this show and one of the most memorable is “Love is a lottery whose prize is death.”  Along with James Richardo Milord, who gives gravitas to goofy, selfish, but well-meaning Porthos, this trio has good chemistry as they embark on new adventures.

The Greater Boston Stage Company - Maurice Emmanuel Parent as Cardinal Richelieu

Maurice Emmanuel Parent as Cardinal Richelieu Photo courtesy of Greater Boston Stage Company

The humor is there, especially from Maurice Emmanuel Parent, the Executive Director of Front Porch Arts Collective, as dastardly Cardinal Richelieu.  From his raised, mischievous eyebrow to his magnificent, resonating laugh as he occasionally lets the audience in on an elusive inside joke, he steals the show.  Tonesia Jones also gives a charismatic and commanding performance as Madame de Treville.  Her interaction with the Musketeers lands with drive and heart.

Margaret Clark is a spellbinding spitfire as M’Lady while J.T. Turner, wearing an eye patch, portrays shrewd and creepy Rocheford as he lurks in the shadows.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

What also stands out in this production is the exciting action and stellar fight scenes, led by fight director Angie Jepson.  From barrooms to the king’s court, the battles are fought valiantly with a good dose of comedy and high jinks.  This show takes a lot of modern liberties in a good fight and takes a more serious turn in the second half, so like a Musketeer, be prepared for anything.

Adapted by Catherine Bush from the novel by Alexandre Dumas, Greater Boston Stage Company, in collaboration with The Front Porch Arts Collective, continues ‘The Three Musketeers’ through Sunday, June 30 at 395 Main Street in Stoneham, Massachusetts.  Click here for more information and tickets and here for a closer look at Front Porch Arts Collective.

Review: Packed with inspiring music, Lyric Stage Company and Front Porch Arts Collective’s ‘Breath and Imagination’ soars

It often takes a village to become great.  In Daniel Beaty’s Breath and Imagination:  The Story of Roland Hayes, lyric tenor and composer Roland Hayes embarks on a tremendous journey from a shy, sulky church boy to the trials and sacrifices that were made in order for him to become an established singer.  He was often plagued by insecurity and faced backlash in many forms, but the heart of this piece lies in the ones who believed in him even when he wasn’t sure how to proceed, ultimately proving, as the production proclaims, “pain and promise make you great.”

Co-produced by Front Porch Arts Collective, directed by Maurice Emmanuel Parent, and musically directed by Asher Denburg, Lyric Stage Company proudly presents this interactive, uplifting musical helmed by a stellar cast, Daniel Beaty’s Breath and Imagination:  The Story of Roland Hayes continuing through Sunday, December 23 at 140 Clarendon Street in Boston, Massachusetts.  This is a 90-minute musical with no intermission.  Click here for more information and for tickets.

Front Porch and Lyric Stage Breath and Imagination Asher Denburg and Davron S. Monroe

Music Director Asher Denburg and Davron S. Monroe Photo courtesy of Lyric Stage Company of Boston

Packed with impressive performances, Breath and Imagination is an important musical, especially fitting for Boston since Roland Hayes is the first soloist of color to perform at Symphony Hall.  Accompanied by a grand piano sitting in front of an illuminated, sliding paneled backdrop, this interactive, concert musical draws the audience into the performance with its small and mighty cast.

If I thought Davron S. Monroe was terrific in Lyric Stage’s Kiss of the Spider Woman or on the Company Theatre stage in the powerful musical, Ragtime, nothing could quite prepare me for the magnificent performance he delivers as lyric tenor and composer Roland Hayes.  Not only does Monroe beautifully depict Roland Hayes’s journey as he matures from a humble childhood in a wool cap to adulthood in bow tie and tails, he also shows Hayes’s progressive vocal maturity, his powerhouse vocals rising to new, complicated heights as he masters everything from spiritual hymns to internationally-renowned classical works.

Guiding him on this audacious journey is his no nonsense, strict, and faith-filled mother, Angel Mo’, portrayed by Yewande Odetoyinbo in a captivating performance that makes it easy to see where Roland Hayes gets his inspired vocal chops.  Odetoyinbo as Angel Mo’ is fierce yet humble, a quick witted woman in a shawl who shows Hayes what is truly important in life and song.  She reflects the pain of her past and the weight of the immense obstacles in front of her, but consistently holds her own with faith and love.

Front Porch and Lyric Stage Breath and Imagination - Davron S Monroe, Yewande Odetoyinbo and Nile Scott Hawver

Davron S. Monroe as Roland Hayes, Yewande Odetoyinbo as Angel Mo.’ and Nile Scott Hawver Photo courtesy of Lyric Stage Company of Boston

Odetoyinbo and Monroe teamed up earlier this year in Lyric Stage’s spring musical, The Wiz and their sweet chemistry make it no surprise they are collaborating again.  Much of this musical tackles the highs and lows of their relationship as he makes his way into the world.

Rounding out this stellar cast is Doug Gerber as Mr. Calhoun and Nile Scott Hawver, who portrays multiple roles seamlessly from a preacher to a teacher, his enthusiasm makes way for some exciting, touching, and humorous moments.

Front Porch and Lyric Stage Breath and Imagination - Asher Denburg, Doug Gerber, Nile Scott Hawver, Davron S. Monroe and Yewande Odetoyinbo

Asher Denburg, Doug Gerber, Nile Scott Hawver, Davron S. Monroe and Yewande Odetoyinbo Photo courtesy of Lyric Stage Company of Boston

Enjoy the Lyric Stage Company and The Front Porch Arts Collective’s compelling musical, Breath and Imagination:  The Story of Roland Hayes at 140 Clarendon Street in Boston, Massachusetts through Sunday, December 23.  Click here for more information and tickets.  Follow The Lyric Stage on Twitter and Facebook for their upcoming productions and more.