REVIEW: Company Theatre’s enhanced, lively production of Lionel Bart’s ‘Oliver! ‘kicks this classic up a notch

It was a nostalgic night witnessing Company Theatre’s livelier version of Lionel Bart’s musical, Oliver! having performed in the musical production in high school.  While my part was limited to selling roses on a busy London street, the Company Theatre opened up an entire world for the holidays with enhanced flair for Lionel Bart’s Oliver! continuing through Sunday, December 16 at The Company Theatre in Norwell, Massachusetts.  The production has recently sold out.  Click here for more information on the Company Theatre and their future productions.

Directed by Zoe Bradford and Jordie Saucerman and musically directed by Steve Bass with choreography by Sally Ashton Forrest, Lionel Bart’s Oliver!  is the latest version of this Charles Dickens’ classic.  This family production has enjoyed several tours and revivals in different parts of the world in its close to 60-year history.

It’s is the tale of a workhouse orphan who get entangled in a series of unfortunate events that lead him to face many adversaries, but stays strong in his search for hope and love.  With a large cast featuring memorable numbers such as Consider Yourself, As Long as He Needs Me, I’d Do Anything, and the title song, Oliver, this tale has its share of dark and humorous moments while delivering an important message about humanity that is especially relevant during the holidays.

Company Theatre's Oliver

Matthew O’Connor as Oliver Photo courtesy of Company Theatre

During the holiday season, the Company Theatre tends to make whichever production they have chosen bigger and more spectacular in line with the spirit of the season.  Lionel Bart’s Oliver! stays consistent with that tradition featuring extended, more upbeat musical numbers, grander sets,  and sharper choreography, especially during the sweeping numbers and quicker pacing of Food, Glorious Food and Consider Yourself.

From the humble, stone-lined workhouse surroundings with a single banner that reads, ‘God is Love’ to a bright street setting, Ryan Barrow’s impressive, rolling set design details the diversity of 1840’s London.  Set pieces dropping from the ceiling was a particular highlight.

The musical’s classic line, ‘I want some more’ has never sounded more humble than from the adorable countenance of Matthew O’Connor as Oliver, a sweet, naïve, but daring workhouse orphan boy who, by uncontrollable circumstances, has an opportunity to see life beyond the workhouse walls.  He shares some amusing camaraderie with Colin Paduck as the Artful Dodger, portrayed with a thick, regional accent and a charismatic grin.  They stay in time with the children’s ensemble’s compelling choreography, an energetic bunch light on their feet during some of the production’s most challenging numbers.

Company Theatre's Oliver - Sowerberrys

The Sowerberrys Christopher Spencer as Mr Sowerberry and Christa Dunn as Mrs. Sowerberry Photo courtesy of The Company Theatre

Mr. and Mrs. Sowerberry are wonderfully wicked together.  With a nasal voice and prominent sideburns, Christopher Spencer is quite comical as dour Mr. Sowerberry and Christa Dunn as stern and maybe a bit tipsy Mrs. Sowerberry.  With a prominent stance and a great voice, Francis Sheehan takes on the gruffly bombastic parish beadle Mr. Bumble.

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Colin Paduck as The Artful Dodger, Christopher Hagberg as Fagin, Matthew O’Connor as Oliver and the children’s ensemble Photo courtesy of Company Theatre

With a white beard, black hat, and flowing overcoat, Christopher Hagberg delivers a limber, stealthy performance as Fagin.  Hagberg captures the magic of Fagin, his deceptively good nature and comic greediness put on display in the number, You’ve Got to Pick a Pocket or Two and the fiddle-infused Reviewing the Situation.

Company Theatre's Oliver- Nancy, Oliver, Bet, and Artful Dodger

Brittany Rolfs as Nancy, Matthew O’Connor as Oliver, Aliyah Harris as Bet, and Colin Paduck as the Artful Dodger Photo courtesy of the Company Theatre

Brittany Rolfs brings sass and saavy to the role of Nancy, a sweet but tough woman who has mixed with the wrong crowd.  From her passionate, tenacious version of As Long as She Needs Me to the catchy harmony of the playful, rollicking number, Oom-Pah-Pah, Nancy is a force of her own onstage, sweet with the children, but always certain of what she wants.

With a deep seated growl and a menacing stare, Damian Smith steps into the role of troubled Bill Sikes.  In this production, The Company Theatre brings a new dimension and lesser known angle to this character as he stalks the city streets.  Remington is a welcome addition to the cast as scene stealing Bullseye, Bill Sikes’s dog.

The Company Theatre is capping off its 40th season with Lionel Bart’s Oliver! continuing through Sunday, December 16.  Click here for how to support the Company Theatre and here for more on their 2019 season.

 

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.

Amanda Pekoe of NYC’s The Pekoe Group, shares her Tony Awards predictions and sheer love of theatre

 

The 71st annual Tony Awards, hosted by Academy Award, Golden Globe, and Tony award-winning actor and singer Kevin Spacey, are coming up on Sunday, June 11 and will be broadcast live at Radio City Music Hall in NYC and on CBS at 8 p.m.  It is always an honor to speak to Amanda Pekoe, founder of NYC’s The Pekoe Group, about her thriving business and her sheer love for all things theatre.

Each year, Amanda offers her Tony predictions for theatre’s biggest night! Click here for more on the nominees and here for further information on the Pekoe Group.

Tony Awards 2016

Another shot of Amanda Pekoe, Christopher Lueck, and the Pekoe Group at the Tony Awards/Photo courtesy of Amanda Pekoe/The Pekoe Group

Sleepless Critic:  It’s a very exciting time for The Pekoe Group and your team.  The Pekoe Group recently celebrated its eighth anniversary.  How are you feeling about year eight?

Amanda Pekoe:  I’m really excited about our team and the high level of work we are doing.  Our digital department has expanded and we’re seeing huge ticket sales results from our digital campaigns.  We also won an award this year for the poster design for the Off-Broadway musical, The View UpStairs.

SC:  Congratulations!  It’s an especially busy time leading up to the Tonys every year.  Please tell me how the Tonys impact your business.

AP:  Awards season is such a busy and magical time of year.  I love when shows and artists are recognized for their tremendous work and talent. This year is particularly exciting because there are so many new musicals and different points of view being expressed in the writing on stage. I’m very grateful to continue to be a part of the social conversation.

 

SC:  The 71st annual Tony Awards, hosted by award-winning actor and singer Kevin Spacey, will be held on Sunday, June 11.  This is a special year as the Tony Awards is returning to its traditional venue, Radio City Music Hall.  It was at the Beacon Theatre last year.  It must be nice that it has returned to its roots.

AP:  I am looking forward to it being back at Radio City Music Hall. It’s such a large and beautiful venue, and so many people get to actually be in the theatre for the awards.

SC:  Kevin Spacey is a wonderful and unexpected choice to host.  He is not only an award-winning actor, but has proven to be a song and dance man many times over.  It is surprising that this is his first time hosting.

AP:  I think Kevin Spacey will have a great time hosting the Tony Awards. I’ve never met him in person but I think he’s so talented.  I love him in House of Cards!

SC:  It is wonderful to have an insider at the Tony Awards each year and you’ve been predicting the winners for about five years now.  Groundhog Day the Musical, Come from Away, Dear Evan Hansen, and Natasha, Pierre, and the Great Comet of 1812 are the nominees for Best Musical.  What nominated show do you think stands out to win this year?

AP:  All four of these shows are so terrific and so terrifically different from one another. It’s been such a well-rounded season of new musicals and they all offer something very special. I think Come from Away and Dear Evan Hansen are neck-in-neck, but I’m rooting for Dear Evan Hansen. I think the music is incredible and the story is extremely relatable for anyone who has ever felt like they’ve been on the outside looking in and not being seen.  I know I sometimes do.

SC:  Best Play nominees include Indecent, A Doll’s House Part 2, Oslo, and Sweat. Which ones do you think will prevail?

AP:  The plays are tough because they are all so good.  Sweat is a Pulitzer-Prize winner!  Of all the shows, I think my favorite would have to be Oslo.  I thought it was one of the most well-written plays I have watched this season and the topic was fascinating. The play’s rhythm moved so well and featured tremendous performances.

SC:  Denis Arndt for Heisenberg, Chris Cooper for A Doll’s House Part 2, Corey Hawkins for John Guare’s Six Degrees of Separation, Kevin Kline for Present Laughter, and Jefferson Mays for Oslo are all up for Best Actor in a Play.  Cate Blanchett for The Present, Sally Field for The Glass Menagerie, and Jennifer Ehle for Oslo, Laura Linney for Lillian Hellman’s The Little Foxes, and Laurie Metcalf for A Doll’s House Part 2 are up for Best Actress in a Play.  Who do you think are the big standouts?

AP:  These actors and actresses are all so great in these roles.  My personal favorites have been from the great and hilarious show, Present Laughter‘s Kevin Kline and Jefferson Mays in Oslo.  As for the actresses, Laurie Metcalf in A Doll’s House Part 2 and Jennifer Ehle in Oslo.

SC:  The nominees for Best Actor in a Musical are Christian Borle for Falsettos, Josh Groban for Natasha, Pierre, and the Great Comet of 1812, Andy Karl for Groundhog Day the Musical, Ben Platt for Dear Evan Hansen, and David Hyde Pierce for Hello, Dolly!  Best actress nominees in a musical include Denee Benton for Natasha, Pierre, and the Great Comet of 1812, Christine Ebersole for War Paint, Patti Lupone for War Paint, Eva Noblezada for Miss Saigon, and Bette Midler for Hello, Dolly!  Patti Lupone and Bette Midler in the same category!  Who do you think will win?

AP: I’m in love with Ben Platt in Dear Evan Hansen.  At every performance, he barely leaves the stage and sings his heart out. As for the actresses, it’s really hard for me to say. Patti LuPone and Christine Ebersole are forces of nature in War Paint and Bette Midler, well, there are no words.  These are three greatest of the greatest performers all gracing the Broadway stage in the same season and how awesome is that!  I think Denee Benton and Eva Noblezada are both so talented and very strong singers. This really is a tossup.  The category features some of the most gifted actresses and all of their performances are stunning.  I wish they could all win together.

SC:  What is The Pekoe Group’s specialty and what goals do you have for The Pekoe Group’s future?  I’ve noticed you often offer marketing advice to those who follow you on social media.

AP:  Our specialty is working with experienced producers, finding new audiences, and new ways to talk to traditional audiences.  Click here to check out our blog for marketing tips and pointers.

Besides our work, Christopher Lueck and I have been co-teaching a marketing class for CUNY Baruch College’s Masters Program in Arts Administration and that’s been really fulfilling.

Looking ahead, we hope to connect even more new audiences to theatre productions they’ll love.

SC:  What is the best or easiest way a business can contact the Pekoe Group?

AP:  Reach out to us on facebook or twitter: @ThePekoeGroup

Lexus Broadway in Boston presents musical spectacle ‘Wicked,’ returning by popular demand

A simple hat can make quite a statement.  Back by popular demand with its astounding sets, phosphorescent costumes, and multi-faceted story, Wicked is the Grammy and Tony award-winning musical spectacle that may make audiences reject those ruby slippers because Oz feels like home.  The award-winning musical Wicked, presented by Lexus Broadway in Boston, sweeps into the Boston Opera House once again on Wednesday, June 7 and will remain there through Sunday, July 23.  Click here for tickets and more information on Wicked.

Wicked Elphaba and Glinda Joan Marcus

Glinda and Elphaba Photo by Joan Marcus

Could Glinda the Good and young, ambitious, and somewhat naive Elphaba, before she became the Wicked Witch, actually have been friends?  What did happen before Dorothy and Toto arrived?   Based on Gregory Maguire’s best-selling book, Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West, the splendid musical adaptation, Wicked, introduces an entirely new way of interpreting L. Frank Baum’s classic tale, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.

Featuring a mix of beloved, familiar Oz characters while also introducing new ones, many parts of Wicked turn Oz on its ear in a clever and beguiling way, unraveling its own set of mysteries.  It also introduces a darker side to Oz, revealing deep, relatable issues of prejudice and balancing that with hope, love, and treasured moments of welcome humor.

Wicked arrives at the Boston Opera House, 539 Washington Street in Boston, Massachusetts from Wednesday, June 7 through Sunday, July 23.  Click here for more information and tickets.  Subscriptions and group tickets are also available. Click here for a closer look at Lexus Broadway in Boston’s 2017-18 season and follow Lexus Broadway in Boston on Facebook and Twitter.

The Company Theatre will hold auditions for Disney’s ‘The Little Mermaid’

While the award-winning Company Theatre continues their sold-out run of Academy of the Company Theatre’s (A.C.T.) musical production of Disney’s The Lion King, Jr. through Sunday, April 30, another Disney production will soon be in the works.  The Company Theatre is going under the sea for the adult version of Disney’s The Little Mermaid, with auditions will soon be held on Wednesday, May 3 and callbacks on Thursday, May 4.  Both dates take place at Company Theatre in Norwell, Massachusetts at 6:30 p.m.  Click here for further information.

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Company Theatre presents Disney’s ‘The Little Mermaid’ this summer. Courtesy of the Company Theatre

Based on the beloved Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale of the same name, The Little Mermaid follows the adventures of Ariel, the mermaid daughter of the mighty king of the sea, King Triton. Accompanied by a crab named Sebastian and a cute little fish named Flounder, Ariel gets a glimpse of a world above the sea and longs to take on that great adventure with unforeseen consequences. Under the Sea, Kiss the Girl, and Part of Your World are just a few of the unforgettable songs composed by Alan Menken from Disney’s The Little Mermaid, a heartwarming story for the entire family.

Directed by Zoe Bradford and Jordie Saucerman, choreography by Sally Forrest, and musical direction by Steve Bass, all roles are open for casting and will take place at the Company Theatre Center for the Arts, 30 Accord Park Drive in Norwell, Massachusetts. Audition candidates should be strong singers and be prepared to sing a song from the show in the show’s key or a song in a similar musical style. A headshot or snapshot and a resume is preferred at the audition, but not required. Audition candidates may bring their own sheet music, but the music score will be available with accompaniment.  Please dress appropriately to learn and practice a dance combination.

If unable to attend auditions and are located out of state, the Company Theatre is also accepting video submissions at sally@companytheatre.com.  All submissions must be sent by Tuesday, May 2.

Performances for Disney’s The Little Mermaid will be held from Friday, July 28 through Sunday, July 30 and continuing Wednesdays through Sundays through Sunday, August 20.  Click here for tickets and for further information about the auditions, email sally@companytheatre.com, or call 1-781-871-2787.  Family and Friends Friday offers limited amount of discounted tickets for four or more.  Click here for more information about the Company Theatre’s fabulous 2017 season and follow them on Facebook.

Hingham Civic Music Theatre presents Rodgers and Hammerstein’s ‘Oklahoma!’ on beloved musical’s 75th anniversary

Hingham Civic Music Theatre, a theatre group whose most recent productions included The Wizard of Oz, Young Frankenstein, Once Upon a Mattress, and their most ambitious musical to date, Disney’s Beauty and the Beast, is going country.   This spring, Hingham Civic Music Theatre presents the Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Pulitzer Prize-winning musical, Oklahoma! in recognition of the show’s 75th anniversary.  Click here for a sneak peek.

HCMT's 'Oklahoma' cast

Frank Mellen as Ike Skidmore, Roy J. Harris as Andrew Carnes, and Erin Thomas as Ellen in ‘Oklahoma!’

A sweeping musical with suspense, comedy, romance, and some of Broadway’s most memorable numbers,  Hingham Civic Music Theatre proudly presents Oklahoma! for two weekends only from Saturday, April 22 through Sunday, April 30 at the Sanborn Auditorium in Hingham, Massachusetts.  Click here for more information and for tickets.

HCMT's 'Oklahoma!' costume

Photo courtesy of Hingham Civic Music Theatre

Directed by Nathan Fogg and musically directed by Sandee Brayton with choreography by Tara Morrison, Oklahoma! is based on Green Grow the Lilacs, a 1931 play by Lynn Riggs.  Set in the Oklahoma territory at the turn of the century, settlers explore the beauty and dangers of life on the range where some may be facing their biggest challenge yet: love.  Oklahoma! includes an exciting array of popular musical numbers including People Will Say We’re In Love, Oh, What a Beautiful Morning, I Cain’t Say No, and the title track, Oklahoma.

HCMT's 'Oklahoma!' cast

Cowboy from ‘Oklahoma!’ Photo courtesy of Hingham Civic Music Theatre

Help support Hingham Civic Music Theatre as they raise money to upgrade their sound and lighting equipment for this production, their fall musical, Shrek, and for the quality of future shows.  Click here to be a part of this fundraising campaign.

For tickets and further details, click here or email hcmttickets@gmail.com.  Group and discount tickets are available.  All performances will be held at the Sanborn Auditorium, 210 Central Street in Hingham, Massachusetts and follow Hingham Civic Music Theatre on Facebook for upcoming events and more.

Urban Improv, celebrating its 25th anniversary, presents annual, celebrity-filled improv fundraiser, ‘Banned in Boston’

Urban Improv is celebrating its 25th anniversary and presenting their annual fundraiser, Banned in Boston, an evening of delicious food from top restaurants, celebrity improv, and much more on Friday, April 7 at House of Blues in Boston, Massachusetts at 6 p.m.  This is a 21+ event.

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Photo courtesy of Urban Improv

Hosted by Jim Braude and Margery Eagan, this year’s celebrity roster is once again brimming with acclaimed faces in entertainment such as WGBH’s Jared Bowen and Emily Rooney, Matt Siegel from Kiss 108, WCVB’s JC Monahan, Tom Hamilton from Aerosmith, and musician Sally Taylor.  Political leaders such as Governor Charlie Baker and Mayor Marty Walsh, arts and educational leaders will be present such as Matthew Teitelbaum of Museum of Fine Arts and Anita WalkerMassachusetts Cultural CouncilEnjoy delicious food from a wide array of restaurants such as Mei Mei, Roxy’s Grilled Cheese, East Coast Grill, Eastern Standard, and Area FourClick here for the full guest list, ticket information, and more.

Cissa Campion, Marketing Director of Urban Improv, offers a closer look at Urban Improv, its mission, and why their annual musical revue Banned in Boston is the funniest fundraiser of the year.

Jeanne Denizard:  The annual Banned in Boston fundraiser provides educational workshops guiding youth on how to best deal with tough, real life situations such as racism, violence, and bullying.  Please tell me more about the workshops.

Cissa Campion:  Banned in Boston is Urban Improv’s only annual fundraiser.  Urban Improv’s highly effective, interactive drama programs help young people explore challenging situations in their lives. We work with kids from 4th grade through high school. Whether it is peer pressure, cyber bullying, racism, homophobia, or violence, students role-play scenarios based on their own choices and experience the consequences of their actions in a safe environment.

Our atmosphere of openness and respect allows students to express themselves, leading to stronger self-esteem and improved conflict resolution, cooperation, and leadership skills.  Urban Improv helps students grapple with issues they face every day and equips them with the skills they need to become leaders who communicate our messages of nonviolence, tolerance, and respect. We call it “A Rehearsal for Life.”

Urban Improv has presented to thousands of students at schools and community groups throughout Boston, New England, and beyond.  It has been able to provide thousands of free workshops to Boston schools since its inception in 1992, 25 years ago.

JD:  What would you say is the best reason one should attend Banned in Boston?

CC:  Come for the laughs and because it’s such a good time. It’s a one-night-only event on Friday, April 7. We have this incredible roster of celebrities under one roof and all bets are off!  No rubber chicken and boring speeches at this fundraiser and enjoy delectable food provided by the city’s top restaurants.  Support a great cause that is having a powerful effect in this city.

Click here for more information and tickets to this hilarious, one night only event starting at Lansdowne Pub for a cocktail reception at 9 Lansdowne Street at 6 p.m.  Banned in Boston musical revue at House of Blues, 15 Lansdowne Street kicks off at 7:45 p.m.

Urban Improv is located at 670 Centre Street in Jamaica Plain, Massachusetts.  Click here for more information on Urban Improv, its upcoming events, and how to support this dynamic organization.