First comes love. Then comes marriage. This new musical takes a look at what may come next.
Playwright Sheila Kelleher, Music Director John Ferguson, and choreographer Cat Umano collaborated for a two day workshop of a world premiere musical destined to be submitted to a future New York festival. Hingham Civic Music Theatre presented ‘The Annulment’ on Friday, August 23 and Saturday, August 24 at Hingham Town Hall in Hingham, Massachusetts. This show contains some adult humor. Click here for more information and more about Hingham Civic Music Theatre’s future productions.
With music accompaniment consisting of Music Director and pianist John Ferguson and percussionist John Duff, the inviting set was well suited for this production as the show travels to different eras and timeframes.
‘The Annulment’ may have been about three different couples and what happens after they said, ‘I do,’ but what truly gives this show more emotional weight are the larger questions it pursues. What does it take for long-lasting happiness? What stirs the soul? What constitutes an annulment and when is it just legal jargon on a piece of paper? Celia, portrayed with quick-witted cynicism and wistfulness by Carole Shannon, just wants some answers.
Carole Shannon as Celia and Stephanie Blood as Nadine Photo courtesy of Hingham Civic Music Theatre
‘The Annulment’ could very well have developed into a drawn out court battle, but it instead explores the nature of relationships, love, loss, and everything in between. The cast has a very natural chemistry and it is not difficult to imagine this group being longtime friends. The show is also not without its share of wild and sometimes cynical humor. James Swindler channeled a Vince Vaughn vibe as Dave, a playful, party-loving guy who has an uninhibited passion for his equally wild wife Nadine, a lively and comical performance by Stephanie Blood. Their uninhibited and flirtatious antics are among the most amusing parts in the production and they both clearly look like they are enjoying themselves.
Carole Shannon shows a pensive, vulnerable side as Celia, her smooth vibrato poignant during the numbers, When I Used to Sing and What We Missed. Charlie McKitrick impressively portrays Tony, a critical man who constantly worries more about outward appearances than anything else. ‘The Annulment’ is skilled at building tension and there is no lack between these two. Offering a sympathetic, non-judgmental ear is Deanna Lohnes as Celia’s supportive friend Sabrina. ‘The Annulment’ is a funny, relatable musical comedy with heart when life doesn’t quite deliver a happily ever after.
Hingham Civic Music Theatre has been entertaining audiences for over 70 years. This fall, ‘The Dr. Seuss Experience’ exhibit will be heading to Boston and Hingham Civic Music Theatre is also presenting ‘Seussical The Musical‘ in October. Click here for all the details and their recently announced 2020 season.
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.
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.
Micheline Wu performs a fan Dance Photo by Mark S. Howard
Kai Chao in Pacific Overtures. Photo by Mark S. Howard.
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.
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.
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 Poems. Gary Thomas Ng takes on several roles, but proves to be at his funniest as the Grandmother in the lighthearted number, 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.
Rage. Love. Town. City are the themes emblazoned within the songs and tale of the Tony award-winning punk rock musical, Green Day’sAmerican Idiot, presented by the Company Theatre and continuing through Sunday, February 17 at the Company Theatre in Norwell, Massachusetts. It is an in-your-face journey of a group of young, unambitious city dwellers who occupy a portion of an angry, rebellious America. Green Day’s American Idiot is a concert drama that contains mature themes and surprising moments. Click here for more information and tickets.
The set of Green Day’s ‘American Idiot’ Photo courtesy of Jeanne Denizard
This high energy musical is based on Green Day’s lauded album, American Idiot, a band known for their raw, catchy, guitar-tinged riffs, and uncensored lyrics. With hits such as Holiday, Know Your Enemy, Boulevard of Broken Dreams, Wake Me Up When September Ends, and Good Riddance (Time of Your Life), Green Day’s American Idiot contains the music and vocal chops that would please Green Day fans while also considered a message-driven punk rock opera.
Sharing a bit of the mentality of Rent and the 90s film, Reality Bites, the characters in American Idiot wander into a realm of rebellious indifference, confusion, and perhaps laziness looking for their purpose in life as Green Day sings, “in the land of make believe.” Some are unconcerned and others genuinely lost. Partially set in a beat up apartment equipped with a blank, but lit tube TV and shabby couch which perhaps reflects a thinking but lost generation, American Idiot shows they have a hell of a lot to learn.
The energetic, daring choreography by Corinne Mason, which includes moshing and head banging, reflects the anarchic nature of punk music. The choreography in Holiday, which includes a group of characters packed into a wire cart, is a visual highlight.
(Back row, L-R ) Audrey Clark of Northboro as Whatsername, Jose Merlo of Attleboro as Jose, William Oliver of Weymouth as Will, Sarah Kelly of Braintree as Heather, John Crampton of Dedham as John, Jessica DePalo of Westboro as Extraordinary Girl, Brendan Duquette of North Attleboro as Tunny (Front row) Theo Victoria of Brockton as Theo, Evan Cole of Natick as Johnny, Aliyah Harris of Mansfield as Aliyah Photo courtesy of Zoe Bradford
This cast of jaded youths include a haunting performance by Chris Boyajian as Joshua/St. Jimmy, a role that Green Day lead singer Billy Joe Armstrong took over for 50 performances during the show’s run on Broadway. Evan Cole hits all the right notes as Johnny, who also plays his own guitar for Boulevard of Broken Dreams, one of the show’s few quieter tunes. He shares a natural camaraderie with Brendan Duquette as naive Tunny and William Oliver as oblivious Will, a trio of friends heading in different directions. Sarah Kelly stands out as Heather as she develops her resolve during a heartfelt Last Night on Earth. Aliyah Harris as Aliyah also lends her serious pipes to Favorite Son and Too Much Too Soon.
The Company Theatre presents Green Day’s American Idiot through Sunday, February 17, with a special event for Valentine’s Day. All performances take place at Company Theatre, 30 Accord Park Drive in Norwell, Massachusetts Click here to support the Company Theatre and here for more on their 2019 season.
To Sarah Kelly, award-winning Company Theatre actress, Plymouth State University student, and ardent fan of anything Disney, becoming a Disney princess is another dream come true. Sarah spent last summer on the Company Theatre stage as sunny Elle Woods in the frothy musical, Legally Blonde the Musical, calling it the best summer of her life. She spends this summer under the sea as Disney Princess Ariel in Company Theatre’s production of Disney’s The Little Mermaid from July 28 to August 20 at The Company Theatre in Norwell, Massachusetts. Whether portraying California fashionista turned Harvard law student or a love struck, fish out of water fork enthusiast, what Sarah shares with all of them is her ceaseless optimism.
Sarah Kelly as Ariel Photo courtesy of Zoe Bradford/Company Theatre
Sarah Kelly as Ariel and Chet R. Davino as Eric Photo courtesy of Zoe Bradford/Company Theatre
Sarah Kelly as Ariel and Colin SanGiacomo under the sea Photo courtesy of Zoe Bradford/Company Theatre
Sarah Kelly talks about her returning to the Company Theatre, her new sidekicks, future plans, and her unconventional audition. Click here for further information and for tickets to Disney’s The Little Mermaid.
Sleepless Critic: You seem to fit right into your role of Ariel in The Little Mermaid just a smoothly as you did as Elle in Company Theatre’s Legally Blonde last summer, a role you won an award for. What it was like to win for your first lead role?
Sarah Kelly: Whenever I talk about being a part of Legally Blonde with Company Theatre, I always say it was the gift that kept on giving. It gave me the opportunity to experience leading a show as Elle Woods, work with some of the most incredible and genuine people I’ve ever met, and yes, so blessed to receive ‘Best Actress in a Musical’ from Broadway World Boston. Receiving this award was an absolute cherry on top of the best summer of my life because I didn’t expect to be nominated at all. To be considered was prize enough and winning is one of the most amazing things that has ever happened to me. That official validation meant so much to me.
SC: What interested you in returning to the Company Theatre as Ariel this summer?
SK: Last year in our interview for Legally Blonde, I talked about how Company Theatre’s family vibe and atmosphere immediately stole my heart. I saw a couple of different shows that were put up this past school year. When I returned, I was welcomed back with open arms and felt so at home again. Company Theatre is so much fun and I treasure each day. When I heard they were doing The Little Mermaid, I had to audition because it’s one of my favorite Disney movies and I adore Alan Menken’s work.
SC: How was the audition process for Ariel different from last year’s and how did you prepare?
SK: My audition was extremely different for this role because I did a video audition as opposed to last year where I attended the actual audition at Company Theatre. Unfortunately, I was away at school and auditions for Plymouth State University’s fall season were the exact same days as The Little Mermaid’s auditions and callbacks. It’s easier to show your truest colors at an “in person” audition. Showing what you have as a human being that will make that character you’re trying for special and real is the most important part of an audition. However, I did my best, memorized the sides that were sent to me, and the song I was asked to sing for my callback. I guess it really paid off.
Colin SanGiacomo as Flounder with cast Photo courtesy of Zoe Bradford/Company Theatre
SC: It sure did. Rather than Bruiser from Legally Blonde, you now have a couple of new sidekicks in Flounder and Sebastian. Please tell me what it is like to work on a Disney musical. Is this your first one? The Company Theatre recently completed The Lion King Jr earlier this year.
SK: Yes, unfortunately, I wasn’t able to see their production of The Lion King Jr, but I heard wonderful things and saw some of the gorgeous costumes. Aside from playing Kaa the Snake in The Jungle Book Jr in fourth grade, this is my first Disney show and I am living for it. I grew up purely on Disney movies and music, so to be a part of this kind of process and play a Disney princess is a dream come true. The show is so bright, alive, and magical and the direction this specific production is going does the show itself absolute justice.
SC: I’m sure it must feel a little different to work with a cast who are playing animated characters and creatures. Such a beautiful set!
SK: Yes, we have some of the most passionate humans working on this show. The ever so dedicated James Valentin works extremely hard alongside our own personal superman, Ryan Barrow, who is also known as the hot UPS guy from Legally Blonde last summer. They go above and beyond creating, building, and painting sets. Ryan is one of the many Disney fan girls in our little family and literally will not sleep until everything is perfect. So many talented hands are helping to interpret the movie’s magic and that magic is right onstage. It’s so beautiful. I don’t know how they do it because these two guys are also a part of the cast. I can’t forget the spectacular Bri Plummer, who brings her unique costume designs to life perfectly.
Colin SanGiacomo as Flounder, James Valentin as Grimsby, and Sarah Kelly as Ariel Photo courtesy of Zoe Bradford/Company Theatre
Our absolutely brilliant choreographer, Sally Forrest, has such an incredible vision for this show that people need to see to really understand. She wants the audience to believe they are watching the original Disney movie and trains us to think and be animated characters, which is a lot of fun. The extremely specific motivation and movement direction she gives creates this beautiful and nostalgic picture both children and parents are going to be mesmerized by.
Ronald Vorce as Ursula Photo courtesy of Zoe Bradford/Company Theatre
SC: Have there been any surprises in portraying Ariel? Unexpected challenges? It’s such a fun role.
SK: Ariel is so much fun to portray. I don’t support all of her life choices considering she gives up her gift of a voice for a legs and a man, but that doesn’t mean she’s not a blast to play on stage. She’s sweet, spunky, lovely, and lively. A challenge that I knew I was bound to run into with her is letting Elle from Legally Blonde pop in and out. With Elle, I had much more liberty in character choices and playing up my ‘Sarah-isms.’ Ariel is such an iconic animated figure, not to mention princess, so I really wanted to bring her to life in an organic way while staying true to the original cartoon.
Photo courtesy of Zoe Bradford/Company Theatre
SC: You’ll be a part of the Company Theatre fundraiser, Ariel’s Royal Princess Celebration on Saturday, August 5 in full Disney princess mode. I’m sure that will be exciting for you.
SK: I’m very excited to be a part of the Princess Celebration! I love working with kids as a day job. Even when I was in the Hingham Parade on July 4, seeing those beautiful little faces looking up at me like I was an actual Disney princess, made me want it to last forever. I look forward to creating some real magic for the kids right here in Norwell on August 5.
Sarah Kelly as Ariel with Flounder at the Hingham Parade on Independence Day
SC: What are your future plans? Do you have new acting projects in the works after this?
SK: My university is putting on Merrily We Roll Along this fall and I was cast as ‘Gussie.’ I’m looking forward to it. I love a good Sondheim show and I’m portraying a super awful character, but also fun and flirty. Gussie is definitely on the crazy side, which is always a blast! It’s also directed by one of my favorite people, Beth Daily, and assistant directed by my best friend, Val Umbro, a dynamic duo for sure. I’m also grateful to be assistant directing The Trial with Paul Mroczka in the fall. It’ll be such a great challenge and growing experience for me.
Click here to learn more about Ariel’s Royal Princess Celebration fundraiser on August 5. Click here or call the box office at 781-871-2787 for tickets to Company Theatre’s production of Disney’s The Little Mermaid from Friday, July 28 through Sunday, August 20 at The Company Theatre, 30 Accord Park Drive in Norwell, Massachusetts. Follow Company Theatre on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram for updates and more.
From fashion extraordinaire to law student, Elle Woods strives to show Harvard she is so much more than a blond in pink heels. Based on the hit romantic comedy that shot Reese Witherspoon to stardom, Cohasset Dramatic Club’s partner, Cohasset Youth Theatre, proudly presents Legally Blonde the Musical Jr. for two nights only on Friday, April 28 through Saturday, April 29. All performances will take place at Cohasset Dramatic Club’s Town Hall Theatre in Cohasset, Massachusetts at 7:30 p.m. Call 617-852-0091 for more information and for tickets.
Legally Blonde the Musical Jr. is sure to dazzle audiences through its engaging tale about a perky California sorority girl with an indomitable spirit who sets her sights on Harvard Law School to win back her high school boyfriend. She makes some surprising friends along the way and learns she is much stronger than she ever expected. Legally Blonde the Musical Jr. has all the frothy magic of the original movie including the musical numbers Omigod, You Guys, Serious, and Positive that will leave audiences with a happy heart.
Starring Halle Pratt as Elle Woods, catch Cohasset Youth Theatre’s Legally Blonde the Musical Jr. from Friday, April 28 through Saturday, April 29 at 7:30 p.m. All performances take place at Cohasset Town Hall Theatre, 41 Highland Ave in Cohasset, Massachusetts. Call 617-852-0091 for further details and tickets. Tickets are also available at the door and the show is suitable for all ages. Follow Cohasset Dramatic Club on Facebook for updates and more information and details on their upcoming shows.
A spectacular evening of comedy, romance, and award-winning music is in store with Chorus pro Musica’s concert version of Gershwin Of Thee I Sing on Saturday, May 13 at Robbins Memorial Town Hall in Arlington, Massachusetts at 8 p.m. In the spirit of the show, concert attendees are encouraged to dress in 30s-inspired attire for a costume contest. Click here for full details and tickets.
Jamie Kirsch is in his fourth year as Music Director of Chorus pro Musica and loves his work. He offers a closer look into Of Thee I Sing, his incredible work with Chorus pro Musica, and more.
Chorus pro Musica’s Music Director Jamie Kirsch in action Photo courtesy of Alonso Nichols/Tufts University
Jeanne Denizard: What I absolutely love about Gershwin Of Thee I Sing is it is part concert and part theatrical production. It has comedy and romance as well.
Jamie Kirsch: Yeah, writers definitely have called it a work. It is a unified single where there’s no instantly recognizable tune in this show in the way one would recognize other Gershwin’s most famous songs from musicals that can be extracted and don’t have anything necessarily to do with the plot. They don’t appear in the best of Gershwin albums because for the most part, everything is tied to that story. There might be one or two songs that someone might recognize such as the title song of Of Thee I Sing and certainly people have recorded the song, Who Cares, but no song that would be on people’s top ten list of pieces they know because they bought a greatest hits album or a Michael Feinstein album. They are wonderful songs, but they are all tied to the book.
JD: I also understand that this is the first musical to win a Pulitzer Prize.
JK: It did win the Pulitzer Prize in 1932. Everyone won the Pulitzer except for George Gershwin because there was no Music Pulitzer at the time. Ira, Kaufman, and Ryskind got it. I think actually it was awarded to George posthumously where there finally was a music Pulitzer.
JD: Of Thee I Sing surrounds the election of John P. Wintergreen and deals with politics in a humorous and lighthearted way. I understand you really were excited about this particular piece to add to the season more for the music than for its political statement though we had a heated election just recently.
JK: Yes, it doesn’t make a political statement one way or another. There is no political party mentioned, making fun of both sides equally. We also picked the piece well over a year ago. The current players in the real world were still in the primaries and no one had any inkling of what was to transpire and how unexpected it would be.
Numerous colleges and universities did the show right around the election. It is remarkable how many across the entire country, even major schools of music. The University of Michigan did it in October and November knowing what was going on. We had the same idea, hoping it would be a relevant topic but we didn’t plan for any outcome either way. Separate from the political stuff, it happens to be a musical dominated by choruses and it made perfect sense to do it with our chorus.
JD: Now, are you going to be performing a lot of scenes from the show?
JK: Yes, it is a concert version. We’re doing most of it, just without the staging.
JD: I understand it has some comedy and a bit of romance as well.
JK: Absolutely, there are elements common to musical theatre. People talk about how different it is from anything else Gershwin wrote, but the other side of that coin is a love triangle. Certainly plenty of musicals have love triangles and also present is an element of the exotic where a French ambassador arrives in the second act and that happens throughout many other musicals. It’s new, but it has ties to the standard, more traditional musical theatre.
JD: It sounds like there will be lots of surprises.
JK: Yes, there will be musical surprises. It has a Gershwin, jazzy sound and Gershwin rhythms and syncopation, but it is really unique. There are scenes that go on and on and mostly music for a good ten minutes. It’s kind of like Gilbert and Sullivan in that way. That is an example of a piece of music that cannot be extracted. You are not going to perform that at a musical theatre cabaret as you would with another Gershwin tune.
JK: They are three of the best singers around town and the city and I have worked with a couple of them before. They are just wonderful, so flexible, and able to handle this repertoire and style as easily as they are able to handle early and baroque music. They are so incredibly versatile, talented, and wonderful actors. Having them on board for this production is very special.
JD: You are also the sixth Music Director of Chorus pro Musica. The chorus has existed close to 70 years. What is it like to conduct this chorus?
JK: It’s a joy. The musicians are incredibly hard working, love challenging themselves, conquering major works, and striving for excellence. They are so supportive of each other, collegial, and just wonderful people. They care so much about the product and each other, the chorus, and its history.
Chorus pro Musica group shot Photo courtesy of Eric Antoniou
I’m very grateful to be able to do the things that we do with Chorus pro Musica. In this season alone, we have done maybe the greatest work by Beethoven and some of the greatest works by Mahler. Then we move on to Gershwin. We are dealing with pretty amazing people. I’ve written some amazing music and this chorus is up for the challenge to perform these pieces at an extremely high level while also keeping a good balance of fun while we do it.
JD: This is your fourth year with Chorus pro Musica, but I understand that you are involved in a lot of projects. You’re a busy man in music.
JK: Yes, I am fortunate enough to be on the music faculty at Tufts as my main job and finishing my seventh year there. It’s a wonderful job and I work with amazing colleagues who are at the tops of their field and teaching theory and musicology. I teach in a beautiful building with supportive faculty and administration and wonderful students. We recently did the Mozart C Minor mass. Yes, between Chorus pro Musica and Tufts, I’m a pretty lucky person.
Family Holiday Concert 2014 Boston City Singers Photo courtesy of Chorus pro Musica
JD: Do you have a favorite piece of music you like to conduct or a piece you are hoping to conduct with Chorus pro Musica?
JK: One of the great things about the Chorus is that they are able to handle everything from a candlelight Christmas concert to Beethoven’s greatest works to Gershwin to new, modern pieces. One of our strong suits is commissioning new works so we are commissioning brand new works by new composers. They are able to handle any style, genre, and that is what I like to do. It keeps things interesting for me and for the singers to switch gears from month to month. Just to be able to be flexible in that way so the chorus matches my strength and my wanting to keep exploring, pushing, challenging, finding new, undiscovered music, create new music, commission new music, so I think in that way, it’s a very good match.
Chorus pro Musica with the New England Philharmonic and the Providence Singers, performing Benjamin Britten’s War Requiem, March 14, 2012 in Boston’s Cathedral of the Holy Cross.
JD: You’ve also worked with a few Boston organizations and collaborated with them in the past.
JK: We collaborated with the Boston Philharmonic a number of times and we will continue to do so. We have a wonderful relationship with Ben Zander and the Boston Philharmonic Orchestra and with Richard Pittman and the New England Philharmonic. We did a number of wonderful collaborations with Richard Pittman. We are always seeking out new collaborations because they are always great fun, enhance the groups, and work out well for everybody.
Click here for tickets to Gershwin Of Thee I Sing on May 13 at 8 p.m. It will be an exciting evening that includes a post-concert reception. Click here for more on Chorus Pro Musica and how to support their mission.