REVIEW: ‘The Mom Show’ a moving recollection of survival and resilience

Michael Levin’s Polish Jewish mother hated one man shows.  Jenny Graubart didn’t think there was anything interesting about someone standing on stage talking through an entire performance.  However, what is so rewarding about Michael Levin’s The Mom Show is not just his reflections and a collection of family photos.  It has wisdom, tragedy, resilience, love, disaster, music, and a cast of multi-faceted relatives existing during one of the most harrowing parts of history.  Accompanied by a collection of original songs performed and composed by Levin (with the exception of one), The Mom Show is an intimate and engaging portrait of a survivor whose son still wonders how she did it all.

Written, composed, and performed by New York Times bestselling author and Tanglewood Festival Chorus tenor Michael Levin, The Mom Show continues live at the Regent Theatre in Arlington, Massachusetts Sundays through July 18 at 7 pm.  It was the first in person theatre production to open in Massachusetts and it follows Covid guidelines.  The show runs 80 minutes without an intermission.  Click here for more information and tickets. 

Unlike Levin’s mother, I think there is something endearing about one man shows if they are delivered with heart, finesse, and has a solid story to tell.  The production explores three generations from 1908 Poland right into the present day exploring Levin’s family’s experiences as they ventured into different parts of the world to escape the Holocaust and ultimately settling in Queens, NY.  Through their ever changing locations, Graubart’s versatility, worldliness, and resourcefulness shine through while overcoming difficult hardships and triumphs that will not be revealed here. We’ll let Levin tell the tale.

Levin is an engaging storyteller, adding humor and spontaneity to this emotional journey.  Musically directed by Nancy Loedy, The Mom Show delves into various musical genres from rockabilly to the blues to a Cuban lullaby.  What We Remember is a particularly stirring piece.   Levin’s sincerity and heartfelt vocals add a lighthearted gleam that keeps in step with each segment of the production.  Levin’s mom was also a big fan of musicals before her death in 2018 and The Mom Show is worthy of her approval. 

The Mom Show continues live at the Regent Theatre, 7 Medford Street in Arlington, Massachusetts Sundays through July 18.  Click here for more information and tickets. 

REVIEW: Led by powerhouse vocals, SpeakEasy Stage Company’s engaging ‘Songs for a New World’ a memorable musical experience

We are all hearing soon.  Soon we will be back together in the theatre for a wonderful live theatrical experience.  How it has been missed! 

However convenient it is sitting in front of a computer for a virtual show, there is nothing quite like the anticipation of live theatre in person with an audience in a shared experience.  SpeakEasy Stage Company’s remarkable concert musical benefit show, Songs for a New World, accomplishes quite a bit in its hour and a half runtime.  Through clever cinematography that still adheres to Covid guidelines, SpeakEasy Stage Company recreates the thrill of seeing actors together onstage and it is easy to see each cast member’s excitement through their own extraordinary performances.  We’re not quite there yet, but this is getting ever closer.

‘A New World’ featuring the entire company Video courtesy of SpeakEasy Stage Company

Directed by Paul Daigneault and musically-directed by Jose Delgado, SpeakEasy Stage Company continues their 30th anniversary season with John Robert Brown’s Songs for a New World streaming through June 8.  The show was filmed onstage at the Calderwood Pavilion in Boston, Massachusetts.  Click here for more information and tickets.  Discount tickets are also available.  Click here for more information on SpeakEasy Stage Company’s recently announced 2021-22 season.

It is difficult to describe the anticipation of seeing SpeakEasy Stage Company’s concert musical benefit, Jason Robert Brown’s Songs for a New World.   The last Jason Robert Brown musical I witnessed was a film adaptation of The Last Five Years.  It was a glorious, resonating tear jerker featuring reliable talents Jeremy Jordan and Anna Kendrick

Songs for a New World explores a variety of characters that are faced with the ultimate, sometimes humorous and other times harrowing life-changing decisions and deciding what to do next.  With simple staging and an onstage band conducted by Jose Delgado, Songs for a New World has humor and heartache enhanced by some of Boston’s most recognizable vocal powerhouses.

Rashed Al Nuaimi sings ‘She Cries” Video courtesy of SpeakEasy Stage Company

From the inspiring, tremendous, and relatable opening number, A New World featuring powerful, upbeat harmonies between Dwayne P. Mitchell, Davron S Monroe, Mikayla Myers, Rebekah Rae Robles, Alexander Tan, Victor Carillo Tracey, Laura Marie Duncan and Rached Al Nuaimi, this production proves to be something to behold.  A New World/Time to Fly gives the audience a glimpse into the shared experience of what each character is feeling and the hope their decisions will turn out right.

Songs for a New World is full of powerful performances and each song is as strong as the last, but here are a few highlights.  One standout performance is a tender and stirring rendition of On the Deck of a Spanish Ship, 1492 as Monroe exclaims, “Have Mercy Lord” while the cast embarks on a harrowing, life-changing journey.  Dressed in a long fur coat, Laura Marie Duncan is wildly entertaining as a scorned woman in an extreme situation in Just One Step.  Duncan’s expressive personality and her sheer energy drive this amazing performance. 

‘I’d Give it All for You’ Jennifer Ellis and Dwayne P Mitchell Video courtesy of SpeakEasy Stage Company

Jennifer Ellis performs some vocal gymnastics as Mrs. Claus for Sweabaya Santa, reimagining Santa as an absent, judgmental husband whose love is as fleeting as his sleigh.  Dwayne P Mitchell literally rises from the ashes of his childhood in this boastful, self-assured rendition of The Steam Train.  Ellis and Mitchell have sweet chemistry in a beautiful duet about the complexity of love in I’d Give it All for You.

Rached Al Nuaimi demonstrates zany, emotional turmoil and building frustration in She Cries and Jennifer Ellis delivers a bold and anguished performance in The Flagmaster, 1776.

SpeakEasy Stage Company’s Songs for a New World also boasts an incredible finale not to be missed with Hear My Song.  Glad to add John Robert Brown’s Songs for a New World as another memorable musical experience. 

SpeakEasy Stage Company continues streaming Songs for a New World through June 8. Click here for more information, tickets, and how to support the SpeakEasy Stage Company.

REVIEW: Lyric Stage brings beauty and powerful perspective to Sondheim’s ‘Pacific Overtures’

Surrounded by wild pink cherry blossoms, Lyric Stage reveals a telling story with Stephen Sondheim’s stirring musical Pacific Overtures, a historical production set in 1853 when a mysterious ship drops anchor on Japan’s remote and tranquil island.  Told entirely from Japan’s perspective, it’s an important tale about conflict, betrayal, and the price of progress.

Skillfully directed by Spiro Veloudos, musically-directed by Jonathan Goldberg, and choreographed by Micheline Wu, Lyric Stage presents Stephen Sondheim’s Pacific Overtures through June 16 at 140 Clarendon Street in Boston, Massachusetts.  Click here for more information and tickets.

Lyric Stage Pacific Overtures Please Hello

Jeff Song and The cast of Pacific Overtures. Photo by Mark S. Howard.

The Lyric Stage has a knack for surprises.  They take on a variety of shows throughout the season, from contemporary to original productions to traditional musicals, but one thing they all have in common is it is hard to imagine how the show will play out onstage.  Though rarely performed, Sondheim’s Pacific Overtures is an unpredictable, multi-layered musical that delivers an unforgettable message about power and prosperity.

Between scenic designer Janie E Howland’s hand painted set, the sloping wild pink cherry blossoms, Gail Astrid Buckley’s rich and historically-accurate costumes, and Karen Perlow’s clever light design, Lyric Stage brings to life Japan’s beautiful and increasingly tumultuous landscape.  This show does an excellent job at depicting a sympathetic, humorous, and at times, haunting look of how Japan saw the outside world.

Choreographer Micheline Wu’s reflects Japan’s distinct culture in sharp choreography, integrating samurai tradition while carefully letting a bit of westernization seep in.  Kai Chao as relentless Commodore Perry struts into a patriotic, humorous, and cunning Lion Dance while Wu herself, who also depicts Tamate and other roles, captures Tamate’s raw vulnerability in a fan dance during the reflective number, There is No Other Way.

Lyric Stage Pacific Overtures cast

The cast of Lyric Stage’s ‘Pacific Overtures’ Photo by Mark S. Howard

Enthusiastically recited by Lisa Yuen, who was last seen on the Lyric Stage as the mesmerizing Spider Woman in Puig’s Kiss of the Spider Woman, Yuen delicately balances the tale she tells with a mix of humor and urgency, occasionally stepping into the story itself.  That could be an awkward transition, but it’s one that Yuen takes on with ease.

Carl Hsu portrays Kayama, a quietly conflicted fisherman thrust into the spotlight to solve a seemingly impossible issue.  Hsu’s wistful, soaring vocals reflect his alienation as western culture attempts to take hold in Bowler Hat.  Inquisitive and awestruck, he struggles to adjust to Japan’s seeming future.

Lyric Stage Pacific Overtures Carl Hsu and Sam Hamashima

Carl Hsu as Kayama and Sam Hamashima as Manjiro in ‘Pacific Overtures’ Photo by Mark S. Howard

Sam Hamashima portrays Massachusetts fisherman prisoner Manjiro, a man with mysterious intentions.  Hamasima and Hsu show low key camaraderie as they improvise together during the number PoemsGary Thomas Ng takes on several roles, but proves to be at his funniest as the Grandmother in the lighthearted number, Welcome to Kanagawa.

Lyric Stage Pacific Overtures Welcome to Kanagawa

Alexander Holden, Gary Thomas Ng, Karina Wen, and Kai Chao in Pacific Overtures. Photo by Mark S. Howard.

Change can be painful.  From a remote, peaceful, self-sufficient island to an economic powerhouse to the home of the 2020 Olympics, Japan has worn many faces and overcame many obstacles.  Pacific Overtures depicts the raw emotion and a sympathetic perspective on what that might have felt like along the way.

Lyric Stage continues Stephen Sondheim’s moving musical, Pacific Overtures through Sunday, June 16 at 140 Clarendon Street in Boston, Massachusetts.  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.

Bay Players of Duxbury presents the Tony Award-winning play, ‘One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest’

Its Academy Award-winning film adaptation was not only hauntingly memorable, but was named by the American Film Institute as one of the greatest films of all time.  Based on the novel of the same name by Ken Kesey, Louise Fletcher’s tyrannical, indelible performance as Nurse Ratched at psychological warfare with defiant Jack Nicholson as Randle P McMurphy delivers a riveting message and stands as one for the ages.

Bay Players of Duxbury proudly presents the unforgettable drama, Dale Wasserman’s One Flew Over the Cukoo’s Nest for two weekends only on Fridays June 23 and 30 and Saturdays June 24 and July 1 at First Parish Church in Duxbury, Massachusetts at 8 p.m. Click here for more information and for tickets.

A play set at Pacific Northwest Mental Asylum, Randle P McMurphy is a carefree, charismatic man who becomes an inmate at the asylum after getting arrested.  What lies in store for him and his surrounding erratic inmates is much more than he ever anticipated.

Directed by Phil Markella, produced by Nicki Bowser, and starring local talent Stephen Bradford Doherty as Randle P McMurphy and Sara Camden Daly as Nurse Ratched, see the captivating drama, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest kicking off on Friday, June 23, part of Bay Players of Duxbury’s 60th season.  All performances take place at First Parish Church, 842 Tremont Street in Duxbury, Massachusetts.  Click here for further details and tickets.  Discounted student and senior tickets are available.

Bay Players of Duxbury is also holding a five-week acting workshop with veteran Equity actor Gary S. Martinez called, Creating a Character kicking off on Thursday, June 29.  Click here for further details and registration information.  For more information on Bay Players of Duxbury, follow them on Facebook for their upcoming events, auditions, and more.

Director Matt Silva and ‘Waist Watchers the Musical’s’ cast talks improvising, exercise, and girl’s night out

Since April, Alan Jacobson’s Waist Watchers the Musical, a musical comedy from the production team responsible for You Say Tomato, I Say Shut Up, My Mother’s Italian, My Father’s Jewish, and I’m in Therapy, and Menopause The Musical, has been taking a frank and lighthearted look at four women’s struggle with dieting, body image issues, exercise, and much more.  Perfect for a date night or a girl’s night out, this musical comedy continues through Sunday, June 25 at the Regent Theatre in Arlington, Massachusetts.  Click here for the full schedule and for tickets.

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‘Waist Watchers the Musical’ cast Photo courtesy of Playhouse Productions/Regent Theatre

The atmosphere was full of excitement and laughter as the cast and director of Waist Watchers the Musical, having just performed a weekday matinee, spoke about the unique preparation for this show, working with the choreographer of the acclaimed film, Silver Linings Playbook and Hairspray Live, and keeping the show fresh and more hilarious each and every night.  Director Matt Silva and cast members Kiley McDonald, Stephanie Genovese, and Krissy Johnson all agree they are having a blast.

Sleepless Critic:  Waist Watchers the Musical tackles a unique and sometimes sensitive subject.  How does this show balance comedy with working out?

Kiley:  We’ve talked about that a lot and how to approach the material knowing about body image and social media.  It really takes a toll on women and how they envision what’s perfect.  This show does a really good job of making light of everything and reminding us to laugh, accept, and love who you are.  Everyone has flaws and trouble with something.  That can’t hold you back and rule the choices you make in life.

Waist Watchers The Musical

‘Waist Watchers the Musical’ cast at Cook’s Gym Photo courtesy of Playhouse Productions/Regent Theatre

SC:  Waist Watchers The Musical’s choreographer, Dani Tucci-Juraga, was behind the choreography for the acclaimed film, Silver Linings Playbook and Hairspray Live, which featured some amazing dance moves.  Did you find learning the dancing particularly challenging?

Stephanie:  Dani is fantastic.  She is the sweetest woman I’ve ever met, but she is tough.  She knows exactly what she wants and pushes you to become a better dancer, performer, and in this case, athlete.  There were times when we were sore and complaining and she told us to deal with it and try harder.

SC:  What attracted you to this show and these roles?

Matt:  I am the orchestrator for this company who had taken on the show.  It was out in Phoenix and I didn’t have anything to do with it.  I went to see the show and thought the material was cool, acceptable, and empowering for women.  The production itself wasn’t all that successful in terms of the talent, choreography, and the production value.  I was really excited to take the message, empowerment, and the women’s process and collaborate with them and make it fun.  I thought the production was lot of fun, but I thought the show I saw needed a little injection.

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‘Waist Watchers the Musical’ cast  Photo courtesy of Playhouse Productions/Regent Theatre

SC:  The cast has very unique roles to prepare for.  Aside from the dancing, what other preparation was involved?

Kiley:  We knew right away that we needed to condition our bodies for the show because it is non-stop, 90 minutes of cardio.  We would have to sing and dance without a lot of time to breathe.  We also don’t leave the stage very often.  It took us a little while to get our bodies moving, figure out where to breathe, and where to sing.  A lot mental preparation goes into it.

SC:  This show features all new and original music by Vince Di Mura.  Do you have any favorites that stand out for you?

Stephanie:  I love Lazy.

Kiley:  My top favorite is The Morning After.

Chrissy:  Eat it.

SC:  You have been performing this show since April and the final show will be on Sunday, June 25.  How does the show stay fresh each time you perform?  I understand the show involves a lot of improvisation.

Stephanie:  We try to make new discoveries each night.  Every audience is different and they react to different things, so every performance stays different and fresh.

SC:  You must encounter your share of surprises improvising and trying new things.  Any memorable moments that occurred onstage?

Krissy:  At this one performance, we had a new sound system.  It was the first time using this wireless microphone. The mic cracked and made a loud noise onstage right before one of my lines.  It frightened me so badly, I screamed!  From that moment to the end of that scene, I could not stop laughing or get my lines out.  It was quite amusing.

SC:  You all obviously have really snappy chemistry on and off-stage.

Kiley:  We are very fortunate to all get along and appreciate each other’s sense of humor.

SC:  What is the best reason to see Waist Watchers The Musical?

Stephanie:  It is definitely a girl’s night out and one hundred percent campy.  It’s a feel good show with lots of laughs.  Good clean fun, but definitely PG-13.

Presented by Playhouse Productions, Waist Watchers the Musical continues at the Regent Theatre until June 25.  After the Regent Theatre, the show continues its tour in Huntington Beach and Sacramento, California.  Click here for further details and for tickets or call 781-646-4849.  Group rates are also available at 888-264-1788.

Tickets for 12th annual Duxbury Music Festival, featuring live seaside concert music & more, go on sale June 1

For the past twelve years, South Shore Conservatory’s Duxbury Music Festival (DMF) has welcomed summer with seaside entertainment and extraordinary live music along the South Shore of Massachusetts.  With more than a week-long concert extravaganza exploring reggae, jazz, classical, and blues, the Duxbury Music Festival kicks off their summer series at a seaside tent on Duxbury Bay at Freeman Place for Blues on the Bay Cabaret Concert on Friday, July 14.  The evening offers cocktails and appetizers featuring live music from Sugar Ray and the Blue Tones at 6:30 p.m.  Tickets go on sale to the public on Wednesday, June 1.  Call 781-934-2731, ext. 11 or click here for the full list of events and tickets.  Follow Duxbury Music Festival on Facebook for updates.

Duxbury Music Festival Logo

Photo courtesy of South Shore Conservatory

Set in in several locations in Duxbury, Massachusetts, the Duxbury Music Festival will be held from Friday, July 14 through Friday, July 28.  On Sunday, July 16, the Duxbury Music Festival continues at the seaside tent at Freeman Place with Festival Overture Concert and Reception featuring works from Haydn and Hurnik at 6:30 p.m.

Duxbury Music Festival Sunday-in-the-Park-2015

Photo courtesy of Kathy Dixon

Founding Duxbury Music Festival faculty member and soloist Oxana Yablonskaya returns to the festival on Tuesday, July 18 for the All-Rachmaninoff Faculty Concert at South Shore Conservatory, Ellison Center for the Arts, 64 George Street in Duxbury, Massachusetts at 7:30 p.m.  This special concert funds scholarships for Duxbury Music Festival students.

Duxbury Music Festival - Tent crowd shot

Photo courtesy of Kathy Dixon

Travel to Duxbury Town Green and enjoy Reggae on the Green featuring the Berklee Reggae Ensemble with opening act and South Shore Conservatory rock band, Toast on Friday, July 21 at 7 p.m.  Other events on the Duxbury Town Green include Rhythm and Blues on the Green Dinner Dance with party band In the House Saturday, July 22, Family Fest with plenty of kids entertainment and interactive activities featuring South Shore Conservatory’s ImagineArts band followed by Picnic in the Park featuring live entertainment from DMF students, lobster roll, and concessions on Sunday, July 23.  Back at South Shore Conservatory in Duxbury, take in Duxbury Music Festival’s All That Jazz featuring quintet Elan Mehler and a Duxbury Wine and Spirits tasting on Wednesday, July 26.

The Duxbury Music Festival concludes with a Winners Concert and Farewell Reception including a Duxbury Wine and Spirits Tasting on Friday, July 28. Tickets go on sale June 1, but subscriptions are now available.  Call 781-934-2731, ext. 11 or click here for tickets, see the full schedule, and all that the Duxbury Music Festival has to offer.

 

 

Barenaked Ladies, Jake Owen, and Local CountryFest part of Indian Ranch’s summer season

As the days lengthen and the temperature rises, the first summer concert at Indian Ranch will soon arrive.  With beautiful scenery overlooking Webster Lake in Webster, Massachusetts, Indian Ranch not only offers their annual Yuengling summer concert series and Indian Princess Cruises, but is also available for private parties, weddings, and much more.  Indian Ranch will offer a closer look at their open house on Sunday, May 21 at 11 a.m.  Call 1-508-943-3871 or click here for more information!

Indian Ranch view

Indian Ranch outdoor concert venue/Courtesy of Indian Ranch

Indian Ranch Open Hous

Get a closer look at Indian Ranch at their Open House on Sunday, May 21/Courtesy of Indian Ranch

Indian Ranch summer series, from June through September, will deliver a variety of live concerts in comedy, country, rock, and much more.  Kick off the season with return of Canadian rock comedy band, Barenaked Ladies (June 18).  Pat Benatar and Neil Girardo (July 23), The Mavericks (July 16), Huey Lewis and the News (June 24), and Eddie Money (July 15) are just a few of the popular artists taking the stage this summer.  A number of country artists will perform including Jake Owen (Sept 24), The Marshall Tucker Band (June 25), Big & Rich (July 9), Josh Turner (July 30), Phil Vassar (Aug 6), Montgomery Gentry (Sept 17), The Charlie Daniels Band (Sept 9), Dwight Yoakam (Aug 13), and Hunter Hayes (Aug 19).

Indian Ranch Local Country Fest

Indian Ranch will debut their Local CountryFest on Sept 16 Photo courtesy of Indian Ranch

Performances are still being added to the summer roster.  Check back for further updates.  Indian Ranch is located at 200 Gore Road in Webster, Massachusetts. This gorgeous venue is an ideal setting for campground sights, private events, and weddings.

Click here for tickets, more information, and VIP parking information. Like Indian Ranch on Facebook for updates, ticket information, and the full schedule of upcoming events.