What if during the pain and strife of war, leaders were rounded up and required to stand trial for war crimes? What if during that trial, the very nature of war is peeled away to only exact more questions?
The Arlekin Players are known for daring and original productions fueled with a strong and universal message and this time, the audience had a say in this interactive trial through the eyes of a child.
Innovatively written and directed by Sasha Denisova, Arlekin Players Theatre and the Zero-G Virtual Theatre Lab presented The Gaaga (The Hague) live and in person at Beat Brew Hall in Harvard Square in Cambridge, MA as well as a virtual option from June 2 through June 18. This show contained some adult themes and is 2 hours and 40 including one 10 minute intermission. Click here for more information.
The Gaaga delves into some heavy and heady content, but also has its share of satiric humor and spectacle told in an interactive manner through a child’s game delivered through a dark and intriguing performance by Taisiia Fedorenco as Taya in a bomb shelter in Mariupol, Ukraine. Taya’s “game” is a trial that Putin, portrayed with striking resemblance by hair and makeup designer Anna Furman and depicted somewhat superficially as a child would see Putin by Paulina Dubovikova, and his network of operatives is on trial for their crimes in the Ukraine. The audience is privy to the trial and then some as each operative parade out for aiding Putin in crimes against humanity.
It is a powerful, gritty, harrowing, tense, and deeply personal production that leaves many more questions that it does answers about war, its consequences, and the dilemma of who is truly responsible for its uprising. Though the cast is a dynamic group made of mostly conniving and power hungry adversaries all looking for a scapegoat, The Gaaga adds unexpected dimension to this almost assuredly doomed bunch, but things are never quite as cut and dry.
Taya is not just any girl. She wants the audience (who can choose to be part of the online jury) to not just see her as narrator and orchestrator of the game, but to get to know her by revealing her favorite soup and what she loves as evidenced by tell tale surroundings including a rocking horse, tea set, and pink doll house. It’s such a purposefully ironic and metaphorical setting by Environmental Designer Irina Kruzhilina which perhaps symbolizes the loss of innocence as war talk overpowers a child’s playthings. Lighting designer Kevin Fulton enhances the crucial, mood setting atmosphere from a drab and dismal Dutch prison to the satirical buoyancy of a theatrical performance. Sound designer Brendan F Doyle and composers Szymon Orfin and Jacek Jedrasik add spectacle and with a cryptic, but at times humorous soundtrack that includes classic rock and original score.
The originality of The Gaaga varies from treacherous individuals dancing exuberantly in strange garb to being interrogated in a bathtub through the unique lens of security cameras and other means of revelation including a bleary and bombed window. Quite a few of the cast members make powerful impressions especially handling dual or multiple roles such as Garrett Sands as a malicious soldier, Robert Walsh as Surovikin, Joe Biden and others, but Ilya Volok as conspiracy theorist Patruschev gives a mesmerizing performance, especially in a particularly commanding, absorbing, and unsettling monologue which combines comedy and cruel irony.
Not only is the audience asked show questions as trivia during pivotal points in the production, but invites others to share their thoughts. Some questions are tongue in cheek, but others are sure to be considered long after the production is over.
Arlekin Players Theatre and the Zero-G Virtual Theatre Lab presented The Gaaga (The Hague) live and in person at Beat Brew Hall in Cambridge, MA as well as a virtual option from June 2 through June 18. Click here for more information.
From classically fanciful to electrifying to distinctive, unconventional artistry, the Boston Ballet’s DREAMstate is an astute exploration of the delicate nature of dreams and a fascinating escape from reality. Aside from Boston Ballet’s traditional Nutcracker in December, Mikko Nissinen’sDREAMstate is the first live and in person return to Boston Ballet’s regular season since the pandemic. Excitement was in the air and the Boston Opera House was full.
Boston Ballet’s DREAMstate continues through Sunday, March 27 at live and in person at the Citizen’s Bank Opera House in Boston, MA. The show is approximately two hours with two intermissions and the final piece contains partial nudity. Click here for more information and tickets.
Though all three Boston Ballet pieces had its highlights, the stellar world premiere of Boston Ballet’s tribute to the Rolling Stones, DEVIL’S/eye was the most uniquely compelling. Weaving in live concert elements and classic hits such as Can’t You Hear Me Knocking, Paint it Black and much more, dancers take the stage in shadow bathed in purple, red, yellow, pink, and blue glimmering from an incredible, multi-functional sound system lit by Brandon Stirling Baker. With exhilarating choreography and edgy and exotic costume design both by Stephen Galloway, lively dancers in silk, sequins, fishnets and windswept hair complete the full glamour of a rock and roll concert showing off thrilling, contemporary freestyle moves. The entire performance is an electrifying spectacle as dancers let loose to the Stones concert footage with epic alicicone spins, but a brief pause in the guitar-tinged, horn-infused rhythms showing off each dancer’s glowing silhouette cannot be properly conveyed here and those sensational moments are best witnessed in person.
George Balanchine’s Chaconne brings to life a regal and fanciful daydream to the heavenly sounds of the Christoph Willibald von Gluck opera, Orfeo ed Euridice. Elegantly adorned in a flowing and ethereal skirt and crown by Barbara Karinska in front of tranquil green blue backdrop, the always fresh-faced and charming Viktorina Kapitonova performed a beautiful and romantic pas de deux with Lasha Khozashvili, dressed in white. Khozashvili lifts and leads Kapitonova delicately as they sporadically intertwine. The piece is primarily playful as dancers bow and sway in gleaming, royal costumes as they float along this lighthearted daydream, the flutter of slippers sweeping across the stage.
The final piece is probably one of the most unconventional performances the Sleepless Critic has ever witnessed with the Boston Ballet because after a brief intermission, the piece begins before the music starts and dancers are already in motion as the rehearsal blurs into the performance.
Jiri Kylian’sBella Figura, a fan favorite, often departs from reality and the structure of how a performance would normally flow. In many ways, it bucks tradition as the dancers float and slide between closing curtains as Seo Hye Han, topless, wraps herself in only a black stage curtain. Bella Figura has some captivating choreographed indignation and intensity as Ji Young Chae struggles not to be held or controlled by Paul Craig, shaking Craig away. Bella Figura seems an abstract piece with haunting and mysterious elements as female dancers are manipulated in sharp, robotic movements. It seems Bella Figura represents the vision of a perfect female specimen as women bend under the intensity and pressure to be perfect. In gathering rich red skirts, men and women, all topless and all looking the same, glide along the stage. It is a memorable, distinctive performance as the piece continues even as the music concludes.
Boston Ballet’s DREAMstate continues through Sunday, March 27 at live and in person at the Citizen’s Bank Boston Opera House. Click here for more information and tickets.
Amid set designer Ryan Barrow’s quaint, warmly-lit, Tudor-inspired cottages of 1595 London is a Renaissance rock star…and the ones he left behind. Company Theatre’sSomething Rotten has something new to say about something olde and what it truly takes to be remembered.
Slickly directed by Zoe Bradford with zealous musical direction by Steve Bass, Company Theatre presents lighthearted musical comedy Something Rotten through April 3 live and in person at the Company Theatre, 30 Accord Park Drive in Norwell, Massachusetts. The show is not recommended for young children and runs approximately two hours with a brief intermission. Click here for more information and tickets.
The phrase, Something Rotten, calls to mind a number of references, but primarily this alludes to the one and only William Shakespeare, London’s resident celebrity. While music was prevalent in 1595, writers were the real stars of their time and Shakespeare, charismatically portrayed with plenty of ego, prowess, and smirking, flamboyant charm by Brad Reinking, was a legend. Surrounded by Shakespeare’s Bard Boys (watch their expressions as he speaks), Reinking’s stage presence is an eclectic cross between Prince and Elvis.
In the glow of stardom, there must be a few naysayers and no one does it better than Donnie Norton as cynical and struggling writer Nick Bottom who once worked with that famous Bard. Nick’s level of griping is prevalent in the catchy number, God,I Hate Shakespeare, but what makes the song particularly interesting it is also embodies relevant reasons some people do not care for Shakespeare’s writing. Norton as Nick Bottom is so good at the role that payoff is big when he finally shows a trace of optimism. Christopher Spencer also shines as idealistic, impressionable, and head-in-the-clouds Nigel, Nick’s little brother and fellow writer. Spencer’s best moments as Nigel is when he shows reason and aptitude, though his giddy chemistry with Emily Lambert as wide-eyed yet steadfast Portia is also wonderful to watch.
Something Rotten is often self aware and its irreverent brand of humor brought to mind the classic comedy of Mel Brooks in musicals such as in the Tony award-winning The Producersor Young Frankenstein. Sally Ashton Forrest’s notable choreography boasts some splashy and humorous dance sequences including tap dancing and even a glorious kick line.
Elizabeth Cole Sheehan’s gleaming, colorful, and historically-faithful costumes cross the pond between regal classical to edgy contemporary adorned in gold-embroidered velvet, puffed sleeves, and leather.
Something Rotten features some powerhouse vocals, especially from these forward-thinking leading ladies in jolly ol’ England. Emily Lambert as Portia lifted her soaring soprano vocals for the gospel-inspired, We See the Light and the sweet and cheeky duet, I Love the Way with Spencer’s Nigel. Melissa Carubia as spunky, confident, and loyal to a fault Bea is also ahead of her time, her dynamic vocal range on display for the groundbreaking number, Right Hand Man. With quirky comedic charms fueled by a mix of Catherine Tate and Jennifer Saunders, Janis Hudson is perfectly smashing as royally-dressed Lady Clapham.
With bright, inquisitive eyes and a mischievous and knowing grin, Christopher Hagberg is a scene stealer as Thomas Nostradamus who leads with Norton in the funniest and most brilliant number of the show, A Musical tailor-made for literary and musical lovers everywhere.
Company Theatre presents lighthearted musical comedy Something Rotten through April 3 live and in person at the Company Theatre, 30 Accord Park Drive in Norwell, Massachusetts. The show runs approximately two hours with a brief intermission. Click here for more information and tickets.
Just prior to the pandemic, an award-winning, intriguing production not only made its debut but closed in one night on the Company Theatre stage in Norwell, Massachusetts over a year ago. Onstage as the meaty role of Bruce, Company Theatre’s Director of Development Michael Hammond experienced that incredible and bittersweet night and what it meant to the cast of the musical memoir Fun Home. Click here for our full podcast conversation.
The Company Theatre is offering a chance to see Fun Home for the full run they had originally intended in October. Michael talks about his experience as Bruce, his favorite part of theatre, and a secret upcoming project.
Click here for Sleepless Critic’s Fun Home review and here for tickets and further information about the Company Theatre.
Sleepless Critic: So you’ve been in theatre since you were a kid and now that we have had the pandemic, what was your favorite part of the theatre before and was there a change in your favorite or what you miss the most when we had a break?
Michael Hammond: I think we take a lot for granted in life. We forget how much fun it is to sing with an orchestra or to perform on a beautiful set someone built. Ryan Barrow does amazing sets at Company Theatre and it’s thrilling to perform on one of his sets. It’s thrilling to perform with Steve Bass conducting an orchestra and thrilling to perform Sally Forrest’s choreography under Zoe Bradford’s direction.
I think we take that for granted in some ways and as much as I enjoy it and maybe as I got from show to show to show, I think I just liked performing specific roles for the experience of getting to know a new cast. I did a Christmas show at Company Theatre and just recharged my energy to be around such beautiful people and exciting kids and talent. You’re in a flow and you are doing shows and enjoying it.
You get what you get out of it, but when the pandemic was coming, I was doing Fun Home with an extremely talented cast. Riley Crockett was playing the youngest Alison. I was re-experiencing theatre through her eyes and she had never been on a big stage or performed with an orchestra which is shocking because she is so talented. She would ask me, ‘Are you nervous for your solo tonight?’ I would say, ‘I am a little.’ She would say, ‘Good, now you know how I feel.’ Ok, she needs a little more support and encouragement in that moment.
Then we were standing on top of a staircase and we were about to walk down for our first entrance and she said, ‘Michael, I’ve never performed on a set like this. This is a big deal.’ I said, ‘Yes, it is a big deal. You are right. This is a beautiful experience and you’re about to sing live with an orchestra for the first time in a big theatre on a beautiful set.’ It made me look at what we are doing and not take it for granted.
So we were fortunate to open and close Fun Home on the exact same night because the pandemic had really hit. That day everyone was cancelling their performances but we went on because we had a feeling this would be it. I’m so glad we did because it was one of the most exciting and electric experiences of my life. People were rebellious and excited. They knew this might be the last time they ever saw this show and Fun Home is not a super positive and happy experience.
SC: It is melancholy.
MH: Right, but the audience treated it like it was a rock concert!
SC: Yes, I was there to review your first and final performance. I felt so comfortable and wonderful and I had saw this show in Boston before. What I liked about watching this particular show is that you can make it so different every time you perform it. The parts can be portrayed very differently and you can do so much with the show. In a way, if you had to say goodbye to theatre for awhile, I felt like that was such a poignant thing to do in that moment.
MH: It was. It was one of the most beautiful experiences I think I ever had and it was just so bittersweet because it was the last show with Jordie. How thrilled and grateful am I that I got to have Jordie’s final show be Fun Home and I got to be a part of it. It was just such a fantastic experience and she loved the show. It was such a joy to go through that process with her.
SC: It is one of those shows that sneak up on you unexpectedly. You’re experiencing the show and you enjoy it, but once it’s over, it is really thought-provoking.
MH: I saw it on Broadway and loved it. I thought that I don’t necessarily need to see it again. It was beautiful and moving and I think of it like a beautiful film. You watch it and then you watch another film. When this opportunity came around to work on the show, I have such a great appreciation for it. I think it’s just one of the greatest things ever written where you’re dissecting and it personally and really in the trenches on it. It’s so much more brilliant than I realized.
SC: It has such multi-layered performances as well.
MH: I was thinking today that there were so many things about Bruce, I almost feel like I just left my body. I personally couldn’t be any part of this character because it just wasn’t anything like me. Sometimes I think about it and it feels really difficult to do it again because I remember it as ‘What did I even do?’ I feel like something else took over and performed the role for me.
SC: I don’t often see you play parts like that. Not to reveal anything, but your character is very complicated.
MH: Then to hear compliments like you should do roles like that more often is such a compliment because people think of me as a song, dance, and musical theatre man. Not that I shy away from roles like that, but it was very gratifying to play that part especially opposite such a talented cast. It’s unbelievable.
SC: I know you’ve written a few works with Jordie and Zoe over the years. Please tell us how that came about.
MH: I co-wrote Paragon Park the Musical with Zoe, Jordie, Sally, and Michael Joseph for the first production and Steve Bass for the second who worked on the music. I love amusement parks and I loved Paragon Park. I went there so many times in my life.
When I heard that Zoe and Jordie were thinking of writing a musical about Paragon Park, I selfishly just wanted to see it. I had no inkling that I would be involved or that they would want me involved. I just wanted to see that production so it got mentioned many times over the years and one summer I designed a poster Paragon Park the Musical coming summer of whatever year it was. It was a long time ago.
One day Zoe decided years after the poster even to start doing some research. She said, ‘Why don’t you come with me? We’ll get lunch.’ We went to the Hull Library which was incredible. They put us in a private room and provided us with access to microfiche, boxes of memorabilia, and photographs. They were so generous. It just snowballed from there. We just couldn’t stop. We were researching and loved what we found. It did not end up being the musical we thought we were going to write because the ideas we had in mind turned out to be completely not true. It all got shifted.
We thought maybe there was this seedy underbelly to the park and that once the park was closed, things happened at night. It was going to be dark and mysterious and then we find out from the park owners that ‘Oh no, we locked that place, sealed it like a drum at 11 pm, and went out for Chinese food.’ Nothing happened at the Park after hours. So much for that, but the Stone Family provided us with so much information that we were able to write a really interesting and factual musical. It was 80% true except for the love story we incorporated.
SC: Not only did you write it the first time around, but when it came back around, you got to star in it too.
MH: I did and it was a thrill! The nicest feeling about that show and being in it is to be putting on a costume and as I’m by myself getting dressed, I would hear people walk down the hallway singing the songs or they would say that they get to do that scene they love now. There was so much positivity and to realize we wrote a show that was really fun to perform. Some of the kids were in Ragtime and we used to make these funny backstage videos. So I said, ‘Why don’t we make videos during Paragon Park?’ They said, ‘Michael, you and Zoe wrote a show where there is no time to make videos. When would we do that?’ It was nice to know we had a hand in creating this really fun experience. It was quite thrilling to be able to perform something that I helped write.
SC: Please tell me about the projects you are working on now and upcoming projects.
MH: I’m devoting all my time to Company Theatre and Zoe and I thought, ‘Why not write another musical?’ It’s a completely different project from Paragon Park and we can’t quite announce yet what it is, but Zoe is incredibly inspired by this project.
Watching her, it’s almost like she is channeling something like I’ve never seen. She’s a beautiful artist and I’m obsessed with the way she draws and paints. So she just took out a magic marker and a gigantic pad of paper and drew what she saw in her head for the plot of this show and it was quite impressive to watch. Her ideas are flowing through her. It is unbelievable so we’re hoping that will probably be the summer of 2023.
Company Theatre, 30 Accord Park Drive in Norwell, Massachusetts, is presenting Fun Home in October as well as devoting a night to their late co-founder, Jordie Saucerman, in November. Click here for more information and check back to find out about Company Theatre’s mystery original production.
If you decide to visit Hollywood, California, stop by the Bourbon Room, a real bar and nightclub inspired by the legendary fictional bar and nightclub in jukebox musical Rock of Ages. The Bourbon Room opened last year in honor of the show’s 20th anniversary and if it contains half the wild antics of this edgy musical, it will be worth the trip.
The excitement was tangible as the Company Theatre prepared for their return to its signature indoor stage for the debut of Rock of Ages on Saturday, August 7. The crowd was pumped for an uproarious good time as the booming sounds of 80s hits enlivened the stage and nostalgia took over not only for hair bands and jelly bracelets, but for a live show in person and in glorious color.
Directed by Zoe Bradford, musically directed by Steve Bass, and choreographed by Sally Ashton Forrest, The Company Theatre presents Rock of Ages without an intermission through Sunday, August 22 at The Company Theatre, 30 Accord Park Drive in Norwell, Massachusetts. This show is not for young kids. Please note this show run has some rotating cast members. Click here for more information and for tickets.
Packed with colorful characters doused with a mix of rock raunchiness and self aware humor, Rock of Ages holds a mirror up to the era of excess and distinct self expression. Steering this club is Brad Reinking as Lonny, the Bourbon’s impulsive no-holds-barred co-owner, resident storyteller, and narrator. According to Company Theatre’s Director of Development Michael Hammond, Reinking improvised a portion of the dialogue with local references and contemporary quips the audience and not even the cast saw coming. Reinking shines as Lonny, his strong voice and penchant for dark humor work well in a script that never takes itself too seriously.
Part love story, part rebellion, and mostly musical, Rock of Ages is set in the 80s on the Sunset Strip where idealistic Sherrie (Emily Lambert) and guitar strumming dreamer Drew (Braden Misiaszek) long for stardom and are not sure where to start. They set their sights inside the fledgling Bourbon Room, an aging nightclub and bar in danger of being shut down unless someone takes action.
Performed by an intimate group of musicians led by Steve Bass, Rock of Ages is fueled by a wide range of 80’s hits that are clearly a trip down memory lane for some including Journey, Bon Jovi, REO Speedwagon, and Foreigner enhanced by Forrest’s intense choreography. Emily Lambert boasts powerful vocals as wide-eyed yet determined Sherrie and does a terrific job teaming up with Caitlin Ford as complex yet confident Justice in a powerful medley of Quarterflash’s Harden My Heart and Pat Benatar’s Shadows of the Night. Lambert also shines in a sweet yet intense rendition with Misiaszek for Extreme’s More than Words, Bad English’s To Be with You, and Warrant’s Heaven medley. Melissa Carubia as spunky and resourceful renegade Regina is all spirit and heart for Twisted Sister’s We’re Not Gonna Take it and light and amusing rendition of Starship’s We Built this City and Styx’s Too Much Time on My Hands.
Shane Hennessey makes a big entrance as mysterious Stacy Jaxx (in a nod to another famous 80s rocker) to Bon Jovi’s Dead or Alive. Ryan Barrow’s vibrant set design is on point especially one scene in a nightclub bathroom. It is easy to feel the grime watching that signature nightclub bathroom from the audience. Janis Hudson portrays compelling Denise Dupree with a tough façade, dry humor, and a Joan Jett vibe while Christopher Spencer offers some refreshing and sometimes goofy comic relief as Franz.
That is just a taste of the wide range of rock numbers in store. A jukebox rock musical, Rock of Ages is best enjoyed as an extended MTV music video at a time when music was mainly performed on MTV. The rock medleys have cheek and sass and in the real world oozing with serious drama (where to start) Rock of Ages is meant as pure entertainment and each fun loving character a representation of a lighter time. You may find yourself bobbing your head, singing along, or both to the catchy tunes you may or may not have lived through, but nonetheless have stood the test of time in their own vibrant way.
Prior to the Rock of Ages musical on opening night, Company Theatre offered a VIP pre-show that featured plenty of 80s nostalgia and delicious treats including Pop Rocks, shrimp cocktail, cheese and crackers, vintage-style cupcakes, and a special Ecto Cooler cocktail.
The Company Theatre presents Rock of Ages without an intermission through Sunday, August 22 at The Company Theatre, 30 Accord Park Drive in Norwell, Massachusetts. Click here for more information, upcoming events, and tickets.
Part of what makes folk music fascinating are the inflections of various genres weaved into each track. Add some insightful lyrics and it creates its own unique journey. Unlike other music genres, folk experiments a wide variety of eclectic rhythms. Currently on tour, rock and roots folk music band The Whiskey Treaty Roadshow does one better. Each band member writes and performs their own songs, voiced from their own perspectives.
Very much a collaborative band, The Whiskey Treaty Roadshow, made up of singer-songwriters and musicians Greg Smith, David Tanklefsky, Billy Keane, Tory Hanna, and banjo picker Chris Merenda all have distinctive styles, but when they collaborate, it is spot on. They have attended songwriting retreats together and collaborate on each of their compositions in various stages of completion, so everything syncs with the band’s sound the way it should.
The “Band Together” tour schedule Photo courtesy of The Whiskey Treaty Roadshow
The Whiskey Treaty Roadshow returned to Club Passim celebrating the release of their new album, ‘Band Together‘ and played for some familiar faces on June 7. With band members hailing from different parts of Massachusetts including the Berkshires and Boston, the sold out crowd was thrilled as each of its five members made their individual entrances onto Club Passim’s stage. Click here to see where The Whiskey Treaty Roadshow will appear next, here for an interview with band member, David Tanklefsky, and here for more on Club Passim.
Telling jokes, improvising, and revealing some inspiration behind their songs, it is easy to see their breezy camaraderie as they make the most out of Club Passim’s intimate stage. Dressed casually in jeans and distinctive hats (one band member in a signed tank top), their music travels an eclectic emotional spectrum, from acoustic to electric with lyric-heavy compositions tinged in rock, reggae, roots, country, and blues. Passersby outside peaked into Club Passim’s lower level concert space as the band performed for an enthusiastic crowd.
Whiskey Treaty Roadshow – Billy Keane, David Tanklefsky, Tory Hanna, Greg Smith, and Chris Merenda Photo courtesy of Whiskey Treaty Roadshow
After a few encores, Whiskey Treaty Roadshow’s Billy Keane playfully sung an uplifting love song, Leave Your Light On with lyrics such as “If you admit I try and damn, look how much I’ve done/And my love for you is strong, look at the lengths in which I’ve gone,” a fitting end for a band that you should leave your light on for in the future.
This memorable, fun evening marks my first time concert experience at Club Passim, 47 Palmer Street in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Convenient to the Harvard Square T stop, Club Passim features daily live concerts from promising to professional artists with some hailing from Passim School of Music. Concerts are situated with table seating with their own restaurant serving appetizers, sandwiches, and more. Click here for more about Passim and all the venue has to offer.
Combine an onstage rock band nicknamed the Ungrateful Dead with a storytelling cast in 19th century St. Petersburg, Russia. Throw in love at first sight, a duel, add some vodka, and a few winks to today’s technology and it is quite the tale…and that’s not even the half of it.
Expect the unexpected at Greater Boston Stage Company’s unique performance of Onegin, a semi-interactive musical that blends the traditional with the contemporary in surprising ways. It explores how far one would go for love while its rock and roll vibe and comic moments show it doesn’t take itself too seriously.
Based on Alexandr Pushkin’s poem of the same name and Tchaikovsky’s opera, Greater Boston Stage Company continues Onegin’s United States debut at the Stoneham Theatre in Stoneham, Massachusetts through Sunday, March 31. Click here for more information and tickets.
From L to R: Michael Jennings Mahoney as Vlaimir Lensky, Music Director Steve Bass (on piano), Mark Linehan as Evgeni Onegin, Josephine Moshiri Elwood as Olga, Sarah Pothier as Tatyana, and Peter Adama as Prince Gremin Photo by Maggie Hall Photography/Greater Boston Stage Company
Onegin pushes quite a few boundaries within its two hour time frame. The show inhabits a myriad of genres and occasionally breaks the fourth wall, but underneath it all is a moving tale of love and loss and what it means when destiny is out of your hands. The contemporary flair of this period piece may not appeal to staunch traditionalists, but the show has heart.
Katheryn Monthei’s open set design topped with sparkling brass chandeliers and silk backdrops mixed with Deirdre Gerrard’s detailed costumes and Ilyse Robbins’ dynamic choreography depict a romantic, yet edgy vibe indicative of this strong and versatile cast.
Michael Jennings Mahoney as Vladimir Lensky Photo by Maggie Hall Photography/Greater Boston Stage Company
Opening with the rollicking number A Love Song, these singing storytellers describe a man irretrievably in love and one who is roguishly indifferent to it. Michael Jennings Mahoney portrays excitable and lovelorn poet, Vladimir Lensky. Lensky could have been a one note character, but Mahoney gives him dimension and makes him much more than he seems. He is taken with Olga, portrayed with complexity and practicality by Josephine Moshiri Elwood. Enter Evgeni Onegin, portrayed with a deep vibrato and roguish charm by Mark Linehan. Linehan is charismatic, but also possesses a cynical, world-weary look on life while Tatyana, portrayed with pensive idealism by Sarah Pothier, may just change everything.
Sarah Pothier as Tatyana and Mark Linehan as Evgeni Onegin Photo courtesy of Nile Hawver/Nile Scott Shots
A few highlights include Sarah Pothier’s commanding performance of Let Me Die and stunning performances of In Your House and My Dearest Comrade by the cast. Expect the unexpected at Onegin and like this engaging cast, prepare to have a little fun.
Directed by Weylin Symes, Greater Boston Stage Company’s musical drama Onegin continues through Sunday, March 31. Click here for more information and tickets. Click here for a closer look at Greater Boston’s Stage Company’s recently announced season.
Aaron Stolicker as Pinocchio, Catherine Bennis as Witch, and Hannah Ford as Sugar Plum Fairy
Nicole DiRuzza as Pig #1, Abby Randall as Pig #2, and Denise Feeney as Pig #3
Katie Duff as Mama Bear, Joel Leonard as Papa Bear, and Nolan McHugh as Baby Bear Photo courtesy of Pat Sherman/Hingham Civic Music Theatre
Hingham Civic Music Theatre’s fun-filled Shrek the Musical has all the earmarks of a delightful Halloween treat for the entire family. Some audience members were seeing double as the musical’s dynamic duo, Shrek and Donkey, were not only present onstage, but also in the crowd. In the spirit of the season, some children opted to dress as their favorite Shrek character, which is encouraged (though not required). This exciting production balances sweetness and hilarity through a few amusing tricks and special effects, which is all part of the story. However, what makes Shrek’s tale so enduring and lovable is its underlying authenticity. Underneath it all, life is best lived without a mask.
Chris DiOrio as Shrek Photo courtesy of Hingham Civic Music Theatre
Directed by Lisa Pratt, musically-directed by Mark Bono with choreography by Tara McSweeney Morrison, Hingham Civic Music Theatre continues its 69th season with Shrek the Musical in its final weekend from Friday, October 27 through Sunday, October 29 at Hingham Town Hall in the Sanborn Theatre in Hingham, Massachusetts. Click here for more information and for tickets. Click here for a clip from the musical.
Through its richly-painted set pieces by Lisa Pratt and colorful, meticulous costumes by award-winning costumer, Kathryn Ridder, the visuals in Shrek the Musical are likened to the popular Dreamworks film adaptation, right down to the Gingerbread Man’s gumdrop buttons. However, having seen the film adaptation, Shrek, based on the book by William Steig, and the film’s many film sequels, Shrek the Musical expands the film’s premise, offering additional scenes and an upbeat, fanciful, rock-tinged soundtrack, composed by Jeanine Tesori. I’m a Believer by the Monkees is also included. Shrek’s real magic lies is its innovative ability to cleverly blend authenticity, sadness, adventure, and humor. Tesori’s soundtrack encapsulates this tone in songs such as Big Bright Beautiful World, a sometimes humorous number about strength in the face of adversity and loss. Debbie Rawson Stratton and Danny Hannafin as Mama and Papa Ogre offer a tender blend of impressive harmony as an adorable Young Shrek, portrayed by Nolan McHugh, looks on.
Shrek the Musical focuses on a lone, but not seemingly lonely green ogre portrayed with warmth, pensiveness, and gruff charisma by Chris DiOrio. Shrek lives a quiet life in a swamp until some of literature’s most beloved fairy tale creatures arrive, forcing him to embark on an epic quest to save life as he knows it.
Chris DiOrio steps right into Shrek’s quiet awkwardness and offers a softness in his quiet moments as well as an amusing ferocity when his temper flairs. Stubborn and humble, DiOrio is thrown for a loop when he meets Brendan Smith as Donkey, who keeps the energy kicking as a cheerful chatterbox. Their instant, snappy chemistry clearly demonstrates why they are a dynamic duo for the ages. A towering presence, Brendan offers a hint of Eddie Murphy’s iconic vocals combined with his own charm. A particular highlight is Brendan’s slick choreography and gravitas during a James Brown-style rendition of the song, Make a Move. Packed with familiar anecdotes and fairy tale references, Chris and Brendan also have some fun with their duet, The Travel Song.
Leslie DiOrio, Chris DiOrio’s real life wife, portrays bold, graceful, and idealistic Princess Fiona. Wearing a shining green renaissance gown, Leslie depicts Princess Fiona with grace, humility, and earnestness, especially in a many-faceted, tender rendition of I Know it’s Today. Chris and Leslie have a lively and sweet chemistry, even when they don’t see eye to eye. Chris DiOrio’s endearing version of If Words Fail is also not to be missed.
From his first appearance onstage, Anthony Light literally and figuratively takes his character, Lord Faquaad, to a whole new level. Absurd and hilarious, Anthony Light’s delusional arrogance and clever costuming is a treat, showing off his unapologetic pompousness in The Ballad of Faquaad, accompanied by the show stopping Duloc Dancers.
Brendan Smith as Donkey, Chris DiOrio as Shrek, Anthony Light as Lord Faquaad, and the Duloc Dancers: Halle Pratt, Molly McLellan, Nicole DiRuzza, Alex Huntington, Catherine Bennis, Hannah Ford, Denise Feeney, and Abbey Randall Photo courtesy of Pat Sherman/Hingham Civic Music Theatre
Hingham Civic Music Theatre has a few tricks up their sleeves by way of special effects as each cast member delivers their own wild, off-beat charm. With a large cast full of iconic fairy tale creatures including a magnificent dragon, a deceptive Pinocchio, Three Little Pigs, Witch, and a Gingerbread Man equipped with an uproarious squeal, the impressive cast is non-stop fun and never loses heart.
Hingham Civic Music Theatre presents Shrek the Musical with Facebook Friday Ticket discount special on Friday, October 27 at 7:30 p.m. Click here for discount details. A final evening performance will be held on Saturday, October 28 at 7:30 p.m. Sunday’s final matinee performance takes place on October 29 at 2 p.m. All shows are held at Hingham Town Hall, 210 Central Street in Hingham, Massachusetts.
Click here for further details, tickets, and how to support Hingham Civic Music Theatre. Be sure to follow Hingham Civic Music Theatre on Facebook for upcoming events and more.
Kicking off their 49th annual summer musical series with Andrew Lloyd Webber’s uplifting Joseph and the Amazing Technical Dreamcoat, Reagle Music Theatre of Greater Boston unveils an everlasting world in rich, glorious color. An interactive, endearing, and humorous production, Joseph nears its 50 year mark with exuberance and a bit of modern subtlety stirred in the funniest and unlikeliest of places.
Reagle Music Theatre of Greater Boston proudly presents Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat through Sunday, June 18 at Robinson Theatre, 617 Lexington Street in Waltham, Massachusetts. Based on the Book of Genesis, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat explores the incredible journey of Joseph and his brothers as Joseph discovers his destiny. Click here for more information and tickets.
Bursting with vibrant, dynamic costumes by Goodspeed Musicals, wardrobe supervisor Amelia Fitch not only rose to the occasion, but makes a distinct, daring, and memorable impression in each spectacular ensemble and most notably in Joseph’s magnificent coat. From stunning, glimmering headdresses to brightly colored, heavily-embroidered designs that recalled another era, the costumes were consistently remarkable. The scenic design by Peter Colao and Richard Shreiber and David Wilson’s lighting design further enhance the show’s visually spectacular nature in multi-colored lights and innovative sets. The versatile and brilliant music, by the Academy Award-winning team of Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice, offers a wide spectrum of music for every taste from calypso to rock and roll, accompanying the unique retelling of a sacred tale of treachery and unceasing hope.
With wide eyes and an unassuming demeanor, Peter Mill portrays humble, yet forthright Joseph with instant likability. Peter gives a multi-dimensional, powerful performance as a naïve outsider who is transformed by his destiny. Peter’s versatile, soothing, vocals master signature numbers Any Dream Will Do and Close Every Door, his tone heart rendering and sympathetic.
Waltham native, singer, and American Idol contestant Ayla Brown returned and delivers a powerful performance as Narrator, ten years after she last performed Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat at Reagle. Clever, sunny, and engaging, silvery soprano Ayla Brown has a relaxed charm with each cast member, but was particularly sweet with the Children’s Choir, a small group of boys and girls. Carefully arranged as a coordinated rainbow in pinks, greens, purples, blues, yellows, reds, the choir’s angelic, soaring voices blend in perfectly at different points in the songs. Their choreography, helmed by Susan Chebookjian, mix well with Ayla during the number, Go, Go, Go, Joseph, as the kids performed the hand jive. It is also worth mentioning that one of the child singers at intermission was dressed like a mini-Joseph, wearing a lit multicolored hat and a cleverly designed mini Technicolor Dreamcoat made entirely of beach towels.
Charming and funny even whether they are rejoicing or scheming, the united choreography between Joseph’s eleven brothers reflects the wonderful camaraderie between each of them. This was most evident during a country themed tune, One More Angel in Heaven with Bernice Baldassaro, who does a wonderful job chewing the scenery as Judah. Another excellent number that depicts the brothers’ united front was delivered by Taavon Gamble as Naphtali, a catchy, amusing song called Benjamin Calypso.
Bernie Baldassaro (center) as JUDAH with male ensemble.
Rock n roll royalty takes on a new meaning in the show’s rollicking, show stopping number, Song of the King, featuring Andrew Giordano’s always impressive comedic talent and zany charisma as Pharoah. It’s a shimmering display in blue and gold as Andrew flawlessly captures the essence of a certain king in a high energy number not to be revealed here. It is one of the great highlights of the show in every joyous, silly moment.
The cast wearing sunglasses and a unconventional journey to Egypt are just a few of the subtle, modern touches added to this lighthearted production that had its share of stirring moments, but offers so many more uplifting, spirited moments, it’s difficult to feel down for long.
Reagle Music Theatre of Greater Boston’s Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat continues at the Robinson Theatre in Waltham, Massachusetts through Sunday, June 18. Click here for more information, tickets, group rates, and more. Follow them on Facebook and Twitter to get updates on its stellar summer musical season.
Multi-instrumentalist Sarah Blacker Photo courtesy of Kimberly Marchand
Award-winning, Boston based singer-songwriter and dynamic, multi-instrumentalist Sarah Blacker is always listening for a new beat. Her most recent album, In Waves, experiments with new rhythms and is a departure from her usual sundress rocker fare. Her energetic, live performance is encouraging people to the dance floor and just may be the basis for her next album to be released early next year. She will perform with the New England Groove Association at Club Passim, 47 Palmer Street on Saturday, January 7, just a few days shy of her birthday. New Jersey based Greg Townsend of Perilune opens. The concert starts at 8 p.m. Click here for more on Sarah and here for ticket information!
Sarah Blacker, who also works as certified music therapist, talks about the inspiration behind In Waves, her exciting new sound, and why her music should not be referred to as folk.
Jeanne Denizard: Before we talk about your latest album In Waves and your upcoming appearance at Club Passim on January 7, tell me about touring and what you did for the holidays.
Sarah Blacker: We’ve been taking it a little slow around the holidays. Since our last album In Waves was released in spring 2015, we’ve done some recordings for a new album in our music room. We want to capture a live and comfortable homey vibe, something I haven’t really done yet besides demo and free downloads. We’re doing an entire album like that.
I was recently in Beverly, Massachusetts and I sat in and sang with the Percy Hill Choir at the Paradise in Boston. That was a real blast. My touring partner and my sweetie, Aaron Katz and his band, Percy Hill had reunited. I got to sing in their choir which was a lot of fun since I used to go see them in high school.
JD: I understand you are currently living in Salem, Massachusetts and you are a talented multi-instrumentalist.
SB: Yes, I play the ukulele, guitar, piano, and a little bit of percussion. I used to play a little mandolin, but it’s been a while and I stopped writing on that. Whatever I can write on is really the idea. I usually travel with an electric and acoustic guitar and my ukulele. Varying it up makes things a little more exciting for people in the audience, hearing different sounds, vibes, and styles.
JD: Variety is always best for a live performance.
SB: Exactly! Aaron and I have been playing together a little over a year now and he plays drums and djembe, but we will do a lot of improvising live depending on who is playing with us. We’ve been playing with this amazing keyboard player and calling ourselves Sarah Blacker and the New England Groove Association. Lots of improvising and if people want to dance, we try to keep the music going.
JD: You will be changing it up again for the next album.
SB: A lot of people have requested an album that sounds live because so much of what we do is based around the energy that we capture live and people can experience the music at a physiological level. Sometimes getting into the studio and doing so much flavoring and production and compression can take away the human element to it. We’re trying to make something raw, human, and that represents a mission about that live music, the energy that we really believe in.
Sarah Blacker with her electric guitar
JD: Your latest album, In Waves, was a bit of a departure from your well known sound. What inspired that?
SB: I think you get pigeonholed if you play an acoustic guitar. A lot of people tend to think that I play folk music and I never felt like my music is classified as folk. My sound has roots in classic rock, jazz, and a lot of pop music, and grunge from a lot of singer-songwriters from the 90s. I’ve been trying to steer away from that. I thought maybe I should put something out that shows another side to what I do and where I came up as a musician.
JD: The title track, In Waves, has a rich, rhythmic beat to it.
SB: Thank you. My on and off bassist and producer, Sean McLaughlin, was a key element in coming up with that driving rhythm track behind it. We modeled it after the Radiohead album, In Rainbows which is that poly-rhythmic base part and really makes it sound like a wave.
JD: The album is called In Waves. Is there significance to that?
SB: The title track is based around a really challenging year that I had. I won’t go into too much detail, but I realized that someone I had been dating turned out to be a sociopath. Everything I had been experiencing turned out to be a complete lie which is one of the reasons I decided to move up to Salem and rebuild my life from a place where I thought everything had crumbled. That was part of it, just learning to ride the waves of emotion and know that everything happens for a reason. If you can just move through it, everything will be alright. I also spent a lot of time on the ocean during that year, which is where the oceanic theme came from.
Sarah Blacker overlooking the ocean Photo courtesy of Kimberly Marchand
JD: Listening to you, it sounds like things are looking up.
SB: Absolutely! It was really a blow to the heart and reality, so I’ve just been rebuilding. I love living in Salem by the ocean. I feel like I can be myself, learning to trust in the process, and maybe not rush things so much. As a young musician, you want to push to make everything happen yesterday, but I find it important to really take care of yourself along the way. I’m ready to experience this in as many ways as possible and I think evolving as an artist is just part of the journey.
Sarah Blacker and the New England Groove Association perform at Club Passim on Saturday, January 7. Click here to learn more about Sarah and her music. Click here for tickets as well as Club Passim’s full concert schedule. Club Passim is located in Harvard Square and easily accessible by public transportation.