REVIEW: Currently on tour, The Whiskey Treaty Roadshow raised the roof at Club Passim for album release party

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 KeaneTory 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.

Whiskey Treaty Roadshow Tour Schedule 2019

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.

Sam Chase from Scituate opened for the Whiskey Treaty Roadshow, and there was a brief intermission before the band took the stage.  From quiet, horn-infused reflections in ‘Reasons‘ to the rolling and the ebb and flow rhythms of ‘Jimmy the Whiskey Boy,’ ‘Rock n Roll Déjà Vu,’ and ‘Perfect Day,’ to the lightning-fast, freestyle tempo of ‘Born to Pick Bluegrass’ to observations on the current state of the world with ‘Hey Lady,’ ‘Close to the Edge,’ and ‘Pass the Peace,’ The Whiskey Treaty Roadshow delivered a variety of insightful, optimistic songs as each band member took the lead to tell their story.

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.

The Whiskey Treaty Roadshow band

Whiskey Treaty Roadshow – Billy Keane, David Tanklefsky, Tory Hanna, Greg Smith, and Chris Merenda Photo courtesy of Whiskey Treaty Roadshow

Though The Whiskey Treaty Roadshow has an easygoing vibe, they have been hard at work having just released a new album and are currently on a national tour.  They also boast a Berkshire-based, award-winning short documentary, Whiskey Treaty Roadshow:  Of Brotherhood, Music, and Fine Spirits that can be found here.

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

REVIEW: Greater Boston Stage Company’s intriguing ‘Onegin’ offers vodka, love at first sight, and a whirlwind of surprises

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.

Onegin - cast

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.

Onegin Lensky

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.

ONEGIN at GBSC

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.

 

 

 

 

 

REVIEW: Hingham Civic Music Theatre’s ‘Shrek the Musical’ an absolute treat for the whole family

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

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.

Shrek and Donkey

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.

HCMT's 'Shrek the Musical' - The cast

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.

REVIEW: Reagle Music Theatre of Greater Boston’s lighter ‘Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat’ a stunner

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.

Joseph 'Any Dream Will Do'

Courtesy Reagle Music Theatre/©Herb Philpott Peter Mill as JOSEPH with children’s ensemble perform ‘Any Dream Will Do’

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.

Joseph Photo Joseph and male ensemble

Courtesy Reagle Music Theatre/©Herb Philpott Peter Mill as JOSEPH and male ensemble perform “Joseph’s Coat.”

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.

Joseph Ayla Children's choir

Courtesy Reagle Music Theatre/©Herb Philpott Ayla Brown (right) as NARRATOR with children’s chorus performing A Pharaoh’s Story.

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.

Joseph Photo Joseph Brothers

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.

Joseph Ayla and Andrew

Courtesy Reagle Music Theatre/©Herb Philpott Ayla Brown (left) as NARRATOR and Andrew Giordano as PHARAOH

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.

Joseph Photo7

Courtesy Reagle Music Theatre/©Herb Philpott Male ensemble performs “One More Angel in Heaven”

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 talks Salem, new dance sound, and upcoming concert at Club Passim

sarah-blacker-in-waves

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-onstage

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-and-the-ocean

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.