REVIEW: Lexus Broadway in Boston’s ‘Waitress the Musical’ proves the best things in life come from the kitchen

Lexus Broadway in Boston’s heartwarming and meaningful musical, Waitress the Musical, shows that life’s most important answers can be found in a pie.  Currently on a national tour, Waitress, with book by Jessie Nelson, music and lyrics by Tony and Grammy-nominated singer-songwriter Sara Bareilles and featuring an all female production team, oozes with southern charm as baker Jenna, portrayed passionately by Desi Oakley, finds herself pregnant and falling in love with her doctor.

Jenna in the kitchen

Desi Oakley as Jenna in the national tour of Waitress, photo by Joan Marcus and courtesy of Broadway in Boston

With a cast of colorful and comical characters and based on the 2007 film of the same name starring Keri Russell, Waitress served its best in Boston from February 20 through March 4 at the Boston Opera House.  Click here to see where Waitress will be taking the stage next and here for more on Lexus Broadway in Boston.

From a bright neon sign and red chrome booths to clever choreography that gives diner dancing a fresh, new meaning, the majority of Waitress is set inside the vintage and picturesque Joe’s Pie Diner.  Impressive songs range from catchy to reflective and numbers like When He Sees Me and Opening Up are sure to stay with the audience long after the show is over.

Full of heart, what Waitress the Musical achieves is a delicate balance of the sweetness and realism of life, delving into the lives of a group of dynamic characters who dream of a better life.  Jenna expresses her thoughts on life through the humorous titles she deems to Joe’s Diner Pie of the Day.

'Waitress the Musical 'Jenna and Earl

Nick Bailey & Desi Oakley in the national tour of Waitress, photo by Joan Marcus and Matthew Murphy and courtesy of Broadway in Boston

Desi Oakley delivers a powerful, inspiring performance as Jenna.  She depicts Jenna’s complex web of emotions with a blend of dark humor and a note of hope.  Her voice is as versatile as the pies she bakes and her intense rendition of She Used to Be Mine is one of the show’s greatest highlights.  Her irresistible chemistry and beautiful harmony with compassionate and mysterious Bryan Fenkart as Dr. Pomatter are engaging in the playful Bad Idea and the tender You Matter to Me.  Dressed in a plaid shirt, worn jeans, and tied back hair, Nick Bailey as Earl is manipulative and gruff with a rich, rock n roll voice.

'Waitress the Musical' Doctor visit

Maiesha McQueen, Desi Oakley & Bryan Fenkart in the national tour of Waitress, photo by Joan Marcus and Matthew Murphy and courtesy of Broadway in Boston

With big earrings and wild hair, Charity Angel Dawson offers a great deal of comic relief as outspoken and wise cracking waitress Becky.  Passionate and direct, Becky is captivating in the number, I Didn’t Plan It and her onstage charisma will have the audience hanging on her every word.

Waitress The magic of pie

Charity Angel Dawson, Desi Oakley & Lenne Klingaman in the national tour of Waitress, photo by Joan Marcus and Matthew Murphy and courtesy of Broadway in Boston

In bright, red glasses, Lenne Klingaman portrays Dawn with her own, magnetic, comedic timing.  Dreamy and shy, Dawn calls herself “a woman of many passions.”  She is unforgettable singing the yearning number, When He Sees Me.  With Jeremy Morse as scene stealing Ogie, they are a comedic force to be reckoned with.  Gleeful and goofy with a habit of over sharing, Jeremy Morse has even the cast trying to keep a straight face.  Morse’s comic timing is a bungle of flawless, unsuppressed energy.

Waitress Lenne and Jeremy

Lenne Klingaman & Jeremy Morse in the national tour of Waitress, photo by Joan Marcus and Matthew Murphy and courtesy of Broadway in Boston

Larry Marshall, with a wonderful laugh and a curmudgeonly personality, portrays difficult customer and diner owner, Joe.   A complicated storyteller with more insight than he seems, his conversations with Jenna is full of humor and openness.  Speaking to the uplifting spirit of this charming show, Joe proclaims, “Baking a pie is a magical experience.”

Waitress - Waitress and Joe

Desi Oakley & Larry Marshall in the national tour of Waitress, photo by Joan Marcus and Matthew Murphy and courtesy of Broadway in Boston

Click here to see where Waitress the Musical arrives next.  Lexus Broadway in Boston announces their new season on Monday, March 18 and is just getting started with popular musicals, On Your Feet, Disney’s Aladdin, Hamilton, and more.  Click here for more information, tickets, and upcoming news.  Follow Lexus Broadway in Boston on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.

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Boston Ballet presents the North American debut of emotionally-charged ‘Obsidian Tear’

In a season filled with extraordinary contemporary and classic performances, the Boston Ballet continues its 2017-18 season with the debut of Obsidian Tear.  Choreographed by Wayne McGregor, The Boston Ballet takes on a gripping exploration of raw human emotion as Obsidian Tear makes its North American debut from Friday, November 3 through Sunday, November 12.  Co-produced with the Royal Ballet, full of athletic grace, and inspired by poetry by Esa Pekka Salonen, Obsidian Tear depicts the powerful impact emotion makes on society, in all of its extremes.  The second half of the show features the world premiere of Fifth Symphony of Jean Sibelius, choreographed by Jorma Elo.

RoyalBallet Artist CalvinRichardson_Wayne McGregor's Obsidian Tear

Royal Ballet Artist Calvin Richardson in Wayne McGregor’s Obsidian Tear; photo by Andrej Uspenski, courtesy The Royal Ballet

The Boston Ballet concludes 2017 with the triumphant return of Tchaikovsky’s beloved holiday classic, Mikko Nissinen’s The Nutcracker from Friday, November 24 through Sunday, December 31.  Starting in March 2018, The Boston Ballet mixes the classic with the contemporary with Parts in Suite, combining the imagination of esteemed choreographers William Forsythe, Justin Peck, and Jorma Elo from Friday, March 9 through Saturday, April 7, 2018.  Two crowd pleasing romantic classics take the stage with Romeo and Juliet from Thursday, March 15 through Sunday, April 8 and Sleeping Beauty from Friday, May 11 through Saturday, May 19.  Explore beauty and the pursuit of everlasting love with Classic Balanchine from Thursday, May 17 through Saturday, June 9 and La Sylphide from Thursday, May 24 through Sunday, June 10.

Click here for tickets, call 617-695-6955, or visit the Boston Ballet box office at 19 Clarendon Street in Boston, Massachusetts. All performances are held at the Boston Opera House, 539 Washington Street in Boston, Massachusetts. Subscriptions and group rates are also available. Follow the Boston Ballet on Facebook and Twitter.

Hingham Civic Music Theatre announces ‘Shrek the Musical’ auditions

Everyone’s favorite ogre, Shrek is heading to Hingham Civic Music Theatre.  Based on William Steig’s imaginative fairy tale, the Dreamworks Animation film adaptation, Shrek was an instant hit in 2001 starring Mike Myers, Eddie Murphy, Cameron Diaz, and John Lithgow.  Several sequels followed and was also adapted an innovative, fun-loving musical on Broadway.

Hingham Civic Music Theatre is searching for an all-new, fun-loving cast to join Shrek the Musical as it makes its Hingham debut in October.  Auditions for Shrek the Musical will be held at the Sanborn Auditorium at Hingham Town Hall, 210 Central Street in Hingham, Massachusetts on Monday, June 26 and Tuesday, June 27 at 7 p.m.  Callbacks will take place on Wednesday, June 28 at 7 p.m.  Click here for more information on auditions, cast descriptions, rehearsal schedule, and to download the audition form.  These will be closed auditions.

Shrek is a lone, but not lonely, green ogre who lives a quiet swamp life until life as he knows it is threatened, forcing him to embark on a daunting quest and tremendous adventure.  Featuring a large cast of beloved fairy tale characters with a few new faces added to the tale, Shrek the Musical is a parody, offering its own fairy tale twist with plenty of witty humor, family fun, and life lessons.

Directed by Lisa Pratt, musically directed by Mark Bono, with choreography by Tara McSweeney Morrison, Hingham Civic Music Theatre presents Shrek the Musical for two weekends from Saturday, October 21 through Sunday, October 29.  Follow Hingham Civic Music Theatre on Facebook for upcoming events and more.

REVIEW: Hingham Civic Music Theatre’s compelling musical, ‘Oklahoma’ a stompin’ good time

From the first few angelic notes from one of Oklahoma’s most popular songs, Oh What a Beautiful Morning sung a capella by Jack Cappadona as charismatic Curly, it is easy to see that Hingham Civic Music Theatre’s (HCMT) spring musical is something special.  Celebrating its 75th anniversary, Hingham Civic Music Theatre’s Oklahoma! combines elegant costuming, an impressive, distinctive cast, and an interactive set that makes the audience settle into its own home on the range.  With its wealth of historical references weaved into Rodgers and Hammerstein’s classic soundtrack capturing the spirit of the time, it is no wonder that Oklahoma! won the Pulitzer Prize for musical composition in 1944 and remains relevant today.  Hingham Civic Music Theatre delivers the show’s joyous zest for life, comedy, and, make no mistake, dark moments with zing and suspense.

HCMT Oklahoma Peddler and the Territory Boys

Michael Andre as Ali Hakim and the cast of ‘Oklahoma’ Photo courtesy of Eileen McIntyre/HCMT

Directed by Nathan Fogg and musically directed by Sandee Brayton with choreography by Tara Morrison, Hingham Civic Music Theatre offers two remaining performances of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s musical, Oklahoma! on Saturday, April 29 and a Sunday matinee on April 30 at the Sanborn Auditorium in Hingham, Massachusetts.  Click here for more information and for tickets.  Tickets are also available at the door.

Based on Lynn Riggs’ play, Green Grow the Lilacs, an interactive, colorful, and rustic set rewinds the clock to the Oklahoma Indian Territory at the turn of the century, equipped with softly flickering lanterns, vintage photos, bales of hay, colorful blossoms, lush greenery, and interactive props hanging on the walls.  In this particular production, the lighting is its own character, effectively setting the mood from a soft, rising sun to a nightmarish hue.

The splendid costumes, by Kathryn Ridder, are meticulously-detailed from gold embroidered shirts, brightly-colored satin costumes to delicate, richly-designed dresses with thick bows and petticoats.  Whether it is a cow scarf adorning an outfit or a carefully matched wicker hat, those details wonderfully capture the authenticity of the time.

Ruggedly dressed in suede chaps over khaki pants with a button down shirt and cowboy boots, Jack Cappadona portrays Curly McLain with an imaginative streak and a confident and at times, a mischievous smile.  Whether engaging C.J. Hawes as Laurey in a whimsical carriage ride during the playful song, The Surrey with the Fringe on the Top or musing about life in Oh What a Beautiful Morning, with silvery vocals, Jack slides right into the role as Curly with a natural charm.  With curly red hair and green striped overalls, C.J. Hawes portrays sassy, levelheaded Laurey with great comedic timing and sardonic wit.  Jack as Curly and C.J. as Laurey are enchanting together and their soaring vocals make beautiful harmony.

HCMT Oklahoma Laurey and Curly

Jack Cappadona as Curly and C.J. Hawes as Laurey Photo courtesy of Eileen McIntyre/HCMT

With thick curly hair, bright eyes, and a deep drawl, Rylan Vachon portrays Will as fun loving, somewhat hotheaded, and spontaneous.  Will’s rendition of the song, Kansas City, has never been more fun with lively vocals and slick choreography as The Territory Boys stomp, slide, and perform various stunts.  The entire cast captures the distinct spirit of Oklahoma! in all its stomping, sweeping joy.

HCMT Oklahoma Ado Annie and Will

Rylan Vachon as Will Parker and Jess Phaneuf as Ado Annie Photo courtesy of HCMT

Jess Phaneuf as Ado Annie brings a wild-eyed vivaciousness to the role.  She seems to know how to take command of any room she is in one way or another with a wink and a grin.  Her interaction with any cast member is fascinating and her comic timing is infallible.  Her chemistry with both Will and Michael Andre as bewildered peddler Ali Hakim, have their own distinct charm.  Michael Andre as Ali Hakim does a great job of balancing a dynamic character with comedy and cleverness.

HCMT Oklahoma Ado and Peddler

Jess Phaneuf as Ado Annie and Michael Andree as Ali Hakim Photo courtesy of Eileen McIntyre/HCMT

Athan Mantalos portrays disheveled, hired hand Jud with a slow burn and deep, compelling, operatic- sounding baritone.  Athan masters this role in the quiet moments, adding tension and making his character that much more mysterious.  His scenes with Curly are especially powerful and their vocals have seamless harmony.

HCMT Oklahoma Jud and Curly

Athan Matalos as Jud Fry and Jack Cappadona as Curly Photo Courtesy of Eileen McIntyre/HCMT

With spectacles and a high collared dress, Kate Fitzpatrick brings sensibility and a bit of sarcasm to the role of Aunt Eller, who is much wiser than she lets on.  Emily Gouillart as Gertie Cummings is a great deal of awkward fun with an unmistakable laugh.

Hingham Civic Music Theatre’s Oklahoma!  offers its share of romance, comedy, and plenty of uproarious moments, but dark moments as well.  Rodgers and Hammerstein wrote their second musical, Carousel, shortly after Oklahoma’s success and both shows share some of the same themes.  Hingham Civic Music Theatre delicately weaves in the themes of loneliness, temptation, and violence effectively, balancing this timeless tale.

Hingham Civic Music Theatre offers two remaining performances of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s musical, Oklahoma! on Saturday, April 29 and a Sunday matinee on April 30 at the Sanborn Auditorium in Hingham, Massachusetts.  Click here for more information and for tickets.  Tickets are also available at the door.  Be sure to follow Hingham Civic Music Theatre on Facebook and click here to learn how to support HCMT’s upcoming productions.

 

Music Director Jamie Kirsch talks Chorus pro Musica’s concert version of comedy musical, ‘Of Thee I Sing’

A spectacular evening of comedy, romance, and award-winning music is in store with Chorus pro Musica’s concert version of Gershwin Of Thee I Sing on Saturday, May 13 at Robbins Memorial Town Hall in Arlington, Massachusetts at 8 p.m.  In the spirit of the show, concert attendees are encouraged to dress in 30s-inspired attire for a costume contest.  Click here for full details and tickets.

Jamie Kirsch is in his fourth year as Music Director of Chorus pro Musica and loves his work.  He offers a closer look into Of Thee I Sing, his incredible work with Chorus pro Musica, and more.

Chorus Pro Musica Jamieinaction

Chorus pro Musica’s Music Director Jamie Kirsch in action Photo courtesy of Alonso Nichols/Tufts University

Jeanne Denizard:  What I absolutely love about Gershwin Of Thee I Sing is it is part concert and part theatrical production.  It has comedy and romance as well.

Jamie Kirsch:  Yeah, writers definitely have called it a work.  It is a unified single where there’s no instantly recognizable tune in this show in the way one would recognize other Gershwin’s most famous songs from musicals that can be extracted and don’t have anything necessarily to do with the plot.  They don’t appear in the best of Gershwin albums because for the most part, everything is tied to that story.  There might be one or two songs that someone might recognize such as the title song of Of Thee I Sing and certainly people have recorded the song, Who Cares, but no song that would be on people’s top ten list of pieces they know because they bought a greatest hits album or a Michael Feinstein album.  They are wonderful songs, but they are all tied to the book.

JD:  I also understand that this is the first musical to win a Pulitzer Prize.

JK:  It did win the Pulitzer Prize in 1932.  Everyone won the Pulitzer except for George Gershwin because there was no Music Pulitzer at the time.  Ira, Kaufman, and Ryskind got it.  I think actually it was awarded to George posthumously where there finally was a music Pulitzer.

JD:  Of Thee I Sing surrounds the election of John P. Wintergreen and deals with politics in a humorous and lighthearted way.  I understand you really were excited about this particular piece to add to the season more for the music than for its political statement though we had a heated election just recently.

JK:  Yes, it doesn’t make a political statement one way or another.  There is no political party mentioned, making fun of both sides equally.  We also picked the piece well over a year ago.  The current players in the real world were still in the primaries and no one had any inkling of what was to transpire and how unexpected it would be.

Numerous colleges and universities did the show right around the election.  It is remarkable how many across the entire country, even major schools of music.  The University of Michigan did it in October and November knowing what was going on.  We had the same idea, hoping it would be a relevant topic but we didn’t plan for any outcome either way.  Separate from the political stuff, it happens to be a musical dominated by choruses and it made perfect sense to do it with our chorus.

JD:  Now, are you going to be performing a lot of scenes from the show?

JK:  Yes, it is a concert version.  We’re doing most of it, just without the staging.

JD:  I understand it has some comedy and a bit of romance as well.

JK:  Absolutely, there are elements common to musical theatre.  People talk about how different it is from anything else Gershwin wrote, but the other side of that coin is a love triangle.  Certainly plenty of musicals have love triangles and also present is an element of the exotic where a French ambassador arrives in the second act and that happens throughout many other musicals.  It’s new, but it has ties to the standard, more traditional musical theatre.

JD:  It sounds like there will be lots of surprises.

JK:  Yes, there will be musical surprises.  It has a Gershwin, jazzy sound and Gershwin rhythms and syncopation, but it is really unique.  There are scenes that go on and on and mostly music for a good ten minutes.  It’s kind of like Gilbert and Sullivan in that way.  That is an example of a piece of music that cannot be extracted.  You are not going to perform that at a musical theatre cabaret as you would with another Gershwin tune.

JD:  You will have featured artists such as Margot Rood, Christina English, and David McFerrin.

JK:  They are three of the best singers around town and the city and I have worked with a couple of them before.  They are just wonderful, so flexible, and able to handle this repertoire and style as easily as they are able to handle early and baroque music.  They are so incredibly versatile, talented, and wonderful actors.  Having them on board for this production is very special.

JD:  You are also the sixth Music Director of Chorus pro Musica.  The chorus has existed close to 70 years.  What is it like to conduct this chorus?

JK:  It’s a joy.  The musicians are incredibly hard working, love challenging themselves, conquering major works, and striving for excellence.  They are so supportive of each other, collegial, and just wonderful people.  They care so much about the product and each other, the chorus, and its history.

Chorus Pro Musica

Chorus pro Musica group shot Photo courtesy of Eric Antoniou

I’m very grateful to be able to do the things that we do with Chorus pro Musica.  In this season alone, we have done maybe the greatest work by Beethoven and some of the greatest works by Mahler.  Then we move on to Gershwin.  We are dealing with pretty amazing people.  I’ve written some amazing music and this chorus is up for the challenge to perform these pieces at an extremely high level while also keeping a good balance of fun while we do it.

JD:  This is your fourth year with Chorus pro Musica, but I understand that you are involved in a lot of projects.  You’re a busy man in music.

JK:  Yes, I am fortunate enough to be on the music faculty at Tufts as my main job and finishing my seventh year there.  It’s a wonderful job and I work with amazing colleagues who are at the tops of their field and teaching theory and musicology.  I teach in a beautiful building with supportive faculty and administration and wonderful students.  We recently did the Mozart C Minor mass.  Yes, between Chorus pro Musica and Tufts, I’m a pretty lucky person.

Chorus Pro Musica Boston City Singers

Family Holiday Concert 2014 Boston City Singers Photo courtesy of Chorus pro Musica

JD:  Do you have a favorite piece of music you like to conduct or a piece you are hoping to conduct with Chorus pro Musica?

JK:  One of the great things about the Chorus is that they are able to handle everything from a candlelight Christmas concert to Beethoven’s greatest works to Gershwin to new, modern pieces.  One of our strong suits is commissioning new works so we are commissioning brand new works by new composers.  They are able to handle any style, genre, and that is what I like to do.  It keeps things interesting for me and for the singers to switch gears from month to month.  Just to be able to be flexible in that way so the chorus matches my strength and my wanting to keep exploring, pushing, challenging, finding new, undiscovered music, create new music, commission new music, so I think in that way, it’s a very good match.

Chorus Pro Musica NE Philharmonic and Providence Singers

Chorus pro Musica with the New England Philharmonic and the Providence Singers, performing Benjamin Britten’s War Requiem, March 14, 2012 in Boston’s Cathedral of the Holy Cross.

JD:  You’ve also worked with a few Boston organizations and collaborated with them in the past.

JK:  We collaborated with the Boston Philharmonic a number of times and we will continue to do so.  We have a wonderful relationship with Ben Zander and the Boston Philharmonic Orchestra and with Richard Pittman and the New England Philharmonic.  We did a number of wonderful collaborations with Richard Pittman.  We are always seeking out new collaborations because they are always great fun, enhance the groups, and work out well for everybody.

Click here for tickets to Gershwin Of Thee I Sing on May 13 at 8 p.m.  It will be an exciting evening that includes a post-concert reception.  Click here for more on Chorus Pro Musica and how to support their mission.

The Boston Ballet presents William Forsythe’s thrilling ‘Artifact,’ part of their 2017-18 season

On Thursday, February 23, the Boston Ballet begins another magnificent spring season and simultaneously launches a five-year partnership with brilliant dancer and world-renowned choreographer, William Forsythe. As part of Forsythe’s five-year partnership, William Forsythe and Boston Ballet’s Artistic Director Mikko Nissinen work together to establish each season’s performances, highlighting one of Forsythe’s stunning works each year.

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Choreographer William Forsythe and Misa Kuranaga in rehearsal for Artifact; photo by Liza Voll, courtesy of Boston Ballet

William Forsythe’s full length masterpiece, Artifact, a revelation in the art of dance and has thrilled audiences since its stage premiere in 1984.  Artifact continues through Sunday, March 5 at the Boston Opera House, 539 Washington Street in Boston, Massachusetts.  Click here for tickets, call 617-695-6955, or visit the Boston Ballet box office at 19 Clarendon Street in Boston, Massachusetts.  Take a closer look at William Forsythe’s Artifact here.

Boston Ballet Artifact

Boston Ballet’s Misa Kuranaga and Patrick Yocum, William Forsythe’s Artifact; © Rachel Neville

The Boston Ballet boasts a monumental lineup for its 2017-18 season including timeless romantic classics such as Marius Petipa’s The Sleeping Beauty from April 28 to May 27, 2017 and John Cranko’s Romeo & Juliet from March 15 through April 8, 2018.  This season is also filled with masterful works such as Kylian/Wings of Wax from March 23 through April 2, Robbins/The Concert from May 5 through May 27, Obsidian Tear from November 3 through November 12, and the return of Tchaikovsky’s beloved holiday classic, Mikko Nissinen’s The Nutcracker from November 24 through December 31, 2017.  Click here for a closer look at all of Boston Ballet’s 2017-18 season highlights.

Click here for tickets, call 617-695-6955, or visit the Boston Ballet box office at 19 Clarendon Street in Boston, Massachusetts.  Subscriptions and group rates are also available. Follow the Boston Ballet on Twitter!