REVIEW: One con deserves another as South Shore Theatre Works continues with lively ‘Chicago the Musical’

With the recent premiere of the highly-anticipated FX biographical miniseries, Fosse/Verdon about the sizzling creative and romantic partnership between legendary filmmaker and choreographer Bob Fosse (Sam Rockwell) and spectacular Broadway dancer Gwen Verdon (Michelle Williams), it seems Fosse and Verdon’s influence is still everywhere.  So, it is not surprising that South Shore Theatre Works (SSTW) is taking on what SSTW’s Executive Director and President Richard Bento called, “a dream production of mine to direct,” Chicago the Musical continuing through Saturday, April 20 at Abigail Adams Middle School in Weymouth, MA.  This show is not for young audiences.  Click here for more information and tickets.

One of Fosse’s most popular creations was a dark satire dealing with corruption and murder during the Jazz age called Chicago the Musical.  This Tony award-winning production continues to thrill audiences as one of the longest running Broadway musicals and its most recent 2002 film adaptation was the 2002 Academy award-winning film starring Renee Zellwegger (Roxie), Catherine Zeta-Jones (Velma) and Richard Gere (Billy Flynn) garnered a few Academy Awards.

SSTW's 'Chicago the Musical' cast

The cast of ‘Chicago the Musical’ Photo by Annabella Valle/South Shore Theatre Works

How has Chicago the Musical earned its longevity?  The proof is in its clever, satirical storytelling that isn’t afraid to occasionally shock, its sizzling choreography, memorable characters, catchy music, and its frank, timeless message about humanity.  With an impressive, semi-interactive fifteen-piece orchestra led by conductor Doug Gerber that elevates the action onstage plus additional songs not featured in its most recent film adaptation, this darkly humorous production is off to a good start.

With a modest set featuring vintage theatre lights that illuminate the stage, director Richard Bento keeps this production in classic Fosse form dressing his dancers in black. The close-knit, tight choreography by co-choreographers Richard Bento and Amy Valle Wallace includes some dance crazes of the Jazz Age that make for some visual sizzle.  Though the classic number Cell Block Tango needs a bit more snarl, clever Razzle Dazzle boasts some sleek staging.

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Headlining this colorful cast is Stephanie Wallace as desperate, hot tempered and fast-living Roxie Hart.  With a great scowl and energetically navigating Roxie’s myriad of emotions, it is easy to see how Wallace relishes this character.  She is never better than during her natural and engaging signature song, Roxie Hart.

Jaclyn Cleary lends a mix of sharp sophistication and mayhem to Velma Kelly, a former dancer turned criminal.  Her wild, light eyes reveal a smugness and unsteadiness that will keep you guessing her next move.  Having seen Chicago the Musical quite a few times, I admire Jaclyn Cleary’s sleek vocals and not so by-the-numbers rendition of All That Jazz.  She and Matron Mama Morton, portrayed charismatically by Hanna Ford, have great chemistry.  They are two sides of the same coin in their rendition of Class.

Staring down her glasses with an ironically sophisticated air is Hannah Ford as Matron Mama Morton.  With a belt that certainly packs a punch, her rendition of When You’re Good to Mama clearly shows she knows how to pull some strings and depicts Mama in a different and refreshing way.

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Wielding a cane, Aaron Stolicker masterfully navigates the cast and the audience as suave, shrewd, and debonair Billy Flynn, sharply dressed in a black tuxedo.  He’s full on smirking charm in the number, All I Care About is Love and quite the storyteller in his rendition of They Both Reached for the Gun, a complex, energetic number with strong choreography.  J. Merlo adds some humor and some serious pipes as journalist Mary Sunshine.

South Shore Theatre Works continues Chicago the Musical through Saturday, April 20 at Abigail Adams Middle School, 89 Middle Street in Weymouth, MA.  Click here fore more information, tickets, and how to support South Shore Theatre Works, an organization that recently celebrated its third anniversary.  Click here for more information about South Shore Theatre Works and its Executive Director and President, Richard Bento.

 

Film review: Vice packs great performances, but a less than fascinating story line

Though The Sleepless Critic does not usually tackle films, since awards season is here and Sleepless Critic is associated with the Screen Actors Guild Awards, a review will pop up here and there about a nominee.

The hype about the political satire film, Vice has been mounting.  With Christian Bale’s recent Golden Globe win for his portrayal as Vice President Dick Cheney, it seems that this film has its sights set on the Academy Awards.  Christian Bale and Amy Adams have been nominated for Screen Actors Guild Awards for Outstanding Male Actor in a Motion Picture and Outstanding Female Actor in a Motion Picture, respectively. The performances are definitely worth seeing and this biting satire has a lot to say, if it only the actual story line was that good.

Vice has its clever moments, but those moments were much more interesting in Adam McKay’s far superior film, The Big Short.  Narrated by a mystery man who plays a significant role in Dick Cheney’s life, this satirical tale is slow and a bit muddled from the start as it describes Cheney’s path into politics.

The second half picks up quite a bit as Cheney rises to power, but not enough to make up for the first half.  Accentuated by a crooked sneer, Bale is almost unrecognizable as the former Vice President, his performance quiet and calculating.  As the film warns, “Beware the quiet man.”  However, I was waiting to see how brazen he truly was and with the exception of a brilliant monologue toward the end, I was left waiting for the payoff.  His motivation is never really clear other than desire for power.

Underneath that plastered smile, Amy Adams is ruthless, power hungry Lynn Cheney.  Although it becomes clear why Lynn Cheney is with Dick Chaney, it is unclear why Dick seemingly will give anything to impress Lynn.  Steve Carell offers a steely and momentarily sympathetic portrayal of Donald RumsfeldSam Rockwell delivers an amusing performance as ill-prepared for the presidency, George W. Bush, but sadly, is not in the film nearly as much as he should be.

sag 2019 nominees

Screen Actors Guild Awards will be broadcast on Sunday, January 27! Photo credit to SAG

The 25th annual Screen Actors Guild Awards, hosted by Megan Mullally, will be broadcast on Sunday, January 27.  Click here for more information.

Vice is still in theatres now.

 

Boston Camerata’s Artistic Director Anne Azema talks Fortune and greed in classic satire ‘The Tale of Fauvel: A Political Fable from Medieval France’

With a dose of comedy and memorable music, The Boston Camerata kicks off its 64th season with an enduring satire on hypocrisy, abuse, and greed called The Tale of Fauvel: A Political Fable from Medieval France on Sunday, October 28 at the First Church of Boston at 4 p.m.  Based on a 14th century poem the Roman de Fauvel, this compelling piece focuses on corrupt rulers and the effect they have on society.  Click here for more information and for tickets.

 

The Boston Camerata’s Artistic Director Anne Azema portrays Fortune in this political fable.  She describes her pivotal role, the show’s contemporary significance, and plans for the future.

Sleepless Critic:  You took on the role of Fortune in Tale of Fauvel: A Political Fable from Medieval France. No doubt Fortune must play a powerful role in this piece.

Anne Azema:  Fortune or Lady Luck, a kind of pagan Goddess surviving into the Christian Middle Ages, is a powerful presence and presented as a female in medieval literature. According to the Carmina Burana text, she holds the world in her hands, sits on her wheel, will raise some and crush others – and will leave you shirtless, with a bare back.  Fauvel, the Orange-Maned Horse, has put in his mind to conquer the entire world by wooing and then marrying Fortune.  Little does he know Fortune’s answer to his courtship is a severe put-down.

SC:  This show is a satire, but it carries a contemporary significance ahead of the midterm elections.

AA:  Fauvel began Camerata’s long series of story-telling programs, an effort that continues to this day.  I think Fauvel’s truculent criticism of hypocrisy, abuse, and greed in public life continues to be as relevant as the headlines in today’s newspapers. Some of the lines from 1310 seem so relevant, it will give you shivers.

SC:  What was it like working with the cast?

AA:  A complete joy!  Our core team has performed this piece in various configurations before.  Aside from our three singers, we will have two instrumentalists and a narrator, who will share, in irreverent English verse, the adventure of our Horse, Fauvel.

We are also happy to include Longy School of Music of Bard College students and Brandeis students.  They will all take part in the revels of Fauvel’s Wedding Night!

SC:  What inspired you to bring it to the Boston Camerata stage this season?

AA:  Its manuscript source is interesting on many levels so it is well known both to musicians and literary types who have an interest in early repertoires.  It’s a vehement diatribe in verse against the abuse of power in Paris of 1310, but there is a visual aspect to the book which includes beautiful illuminated miniatures. The music, an anthology so to speak, of varied genre and style of pieces, were songs that were circulating in Paris at the time.  They were either recycled from other sources to fit the narrative or composed to illustrate the purpose.

Camerata developed a first version of Fauvel in the 90s as a commission for Warner/Erato.  Within the Boston Camerata’s repertoire are programs both recently created and ‘classic’. Our Fauvel falls into this latter category. We are delighted this production continues to be in demand both here and in Europe.

SC:  What sort of music will this show offer?

AA:  Written many centuries ago but very accessible, the music is direct and acoustical.  It’s a mixture of voice(s) and instruments in a small setting. The public is close to the performers and has an ‘organic’ access to them.  The trademark to our performances is a blend of spontaneity, energy, and emotional commitment with careful research and scholarship.

SC:  Though this show has its moments of humor, this piece is message-driven. What is the best reason you think people should see this show?

In the end, I believe what is important is spending an entertaining hour or more together. Although the music is seven centuries old, it is totally enjoyable.  Its beauty and energy will bring you to another powerful place and frankly, speaking of humour and satire, we all need to blow off a little steam in this highly fraught moment.

Boston Camerata Fauvel (2)

The cast in action. Photo courtesy of the Boston Camerata

 

SC:  Boston Camerata’s 64th season boasts a wonderful lineup including Christmas performances Puer Natus Est: A Medieval Christmas and Gloria! An Italian Christmas in December. How do you select each season’s performances?

AA:  My choices are driven by my personal interests, the teams we have, the repertory book we want to keep alive, and by our mission to create new programs combined with touring and recording demands. The idea is to keep us and our audiences alert, perky, and open to new experiences.

SC:   I understand you are also a soloist, often writing your own pieces, touring, or recording. Please tell me about that.

I just returned from touring Canada with a One Woman Show, a show which presents music of the 12th and 13th century. These recitals, alone or with colleagues, offer a different way of connecting with the public and demand a deeper relationship with the music.

SC:  What work you are currently working on?

AA:  I will continue to look at narratives/storytelling and prepare several recording and media projects in the coming seasons.  Besides our medieval shows, we’ve been involved in early American music. We are also working on the release of our Naxos CD recorded last season in the context of a Canadian, American, and Dutch project. We recorded The Harmonia Mundi CD in September and that will contain some powerful, motivating American songs of resistance and rebellion!

For one day only, The Boston Camerata presents The Tale of Fauvel: A Political Fable from Medieval France on Sunday, October 28 at the First Church of Boston at 4 p.m.  Click here for more information and tickets and be sure to follow The Boston Camerata on Facebook for all their latest news.

REVIEW: Massasoit Theatre’s Company’s ‘Heathers the Musical’ is big fun with a razor’s edge

At first glance, Massasoit Theatre Company’s Heathers the Musical possesses the earmarks of a classic musical production.  Enter calculating villains and an unlikely hero singing thought-provoking songs in a retro setting wearing distinctive, colorful costumes.  Every meaningful musical usually also delivers a powerful message and it is part love story.  Yes, Heathers delivers all these things, but like its satirical film predecessor, does it in the unlikeliest of ways.  A musical quite faithful to the original film right down its vocabulary of memorable catch phrases, here is fair warning that this production is not suitable for children and contains mature themes.

Heathers collage

Massasoit Theatre Company’s ‘Heathers the Musical’ cast Photo courtesy of Massasoit Theatre Company

Directed skillfully by Nathan Fogg, Massasoit Theatre Company presents Heathers the Musical continuing through Sunday, April 15 at Massasoit Community College in the Buckley Performing Arts Center at 1 Massasoit Boulevard in Brockton, Massachusetts.  Click here for more information and for tickets.

Going into Heathers the Musical, it was difficult to imagine a musical as dark as the satiric comedy film starring Winona Ryder, Shannen Doherty, and Christian Slater.  However, Massasoit captures the film’s high energy, blunt, and darkly humorous look at high school where being popular is seemingly the only means for survival.  With an array of songs that are both humorous and shocking, it also deals with many social issues that high school students face today, but stands outside reality from it just enough to see from the outside.

Arrive early because Heathers the Musical does an excellent job setting the 80s mood through vintage Mtv videos and commercials as well as a unique introduction from the show’s producer, Mark Rocheteau.  Not only does Heathers feature a multi-layered set design with its share of special effects, but Jennifer Spagone’s symbolic costume design contrast bold colors with pale to represent different high school personalities while exacting the iconic fashion from the film.

Before the Plastics leapt onto the screen in the hit film Mean Girls, there were the Heathers.  If the Plastics ruled with a heavy hand, the Heathers ruled with an iron fist.  Adorned in strictly bold, primary colors and slinking into the school as if on a catwalk, CJ Hawes in red depicts Heather Chandler with charismatic cruelty, her head held high and an ego as inflated as her big hair.  CJ’s soprano vocals have an appealing belt and growl while she shares great chemistry with the other Heathers, especially during the numbers Big Fun and Candy Store.  She barks orders to sympathetic subordinate Heather Duke portrayed by Stephanie Wallace.  Dressed in emerald green, Stephanie portrays Heather with a suppressed, bullied demeanor.  Morgan Campbell in yellow portrays anxious, but friendly Heather McNamara with flair and offers a great rendition of the number, Lifeboat.

Heathers the Musical Veronica and J.D

Sara Comeau portrays Veronica and Sean Neary as J.D. Photo courtesy of Massasoit Theatre Company

 

Sara Comeau in blue plays awkward and conflicted Veronica Sawyer.  A complicated role, Sara captures Veronica’s clever, contemplative, and at times, sarcastic demeanor with great comic timing.  Veronica and Sean Neary as quiet and mysterious J.D. have compelling chemistry as they navigate the dark side of high school.

Heathers the Musical Jocks

Jack Cappadona as Kurt and Anthony Light as Ram Photo courtesy of Massasoit Theatre Company

 

Anthony Light and Jack Cappadona are immensely comical as mindless and merciless jocks while Emily Buckley as Martha evokes a sweet and impalpable loneliness.  Kels Ferguson plays a dual role as Mrs. Fleming and Mrs. Sawyer.  She brought down the house with her upbeat version of Shine a Light.

Heathers the Musical Shine

Shine a Light Photo courtesy of Massasoit Theatre Company

With a retro and dark, but powerful message, Massasoit Theatre Company presents Heathers the Musical continuing through Sunday, April 15 at Massasoit Community College in the Buckley Performing Arts Center at 1 Massasoit Boulevard in Brockton, Massachusetts.  Click here for more information and for tickets.  Follow Massasoit Theatre Company on Facebook.

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The Academy of the Company Theatre Teen Conservatory presents the dark comedy, ‘Heathers the Musical’

What does it take to be popular?  Long before Glinda sang about it in the hit musical, Wicked, or queen bee Regina George and the Plastics ruled the school in the satirical teen comedy film, Mean Girls, the Heathers dominated Westerberg High in the dark cult comedy film, Heathers.  Heathers takes a bitingly funny and satirical look at teen life and all the drama that comes with it.   Directed by Steve Shannon with musical direction by Melissa Carubia with the Academy of the Company Theatre’s summer workshop program, The Academy of the Company Theatre Teen Conservatory proudly presents Heathers the Musical (High School Edition) on Thursday, July 13 and Friday, July 14 at The Company Theatre, 30 Accord Park Drive in Norwell, Massachusetts at 7 p.m.  This show contains mature themes.  Click here for tickets and here for more information on the Academy of the Company Theatre.

Heathers the Musical is based on the 1988 film adaptation that stars Winona Ryder, Shannen Doherty, and Christian Slater.  A television adaptation is also currently in development.  Taking a look at the ruthless side of high school, clever Veronica Sawyer finds her way into the Heathers, Westerberg High’s ultimate, cruel clique, just as she encounters mysterious new boy at school, J.D.  In a wild scheme, Veronica plans to show the world life is so much more than popularity.

Performances for the Academy of the Company Theatre’s Teen Conservatory of Heathers the Musical (High School Edition) take place at the Company Theatre, 30 Accord Park Drive in Norwell, Massachusetts on July 13 and 14 at 7 p.m.  Click here for tickets or call the box office at 781-871-2787.  Click here for more on the Company Theatre and its extensive upcoming productions like Disney’s The Little Mermaid and follow them on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

The Academy of the Company Theatre Teen Conservatory will hold auditions for dark comedy, ‘Heathers the Musical’

No avoiding a mean girl.  Long before queen bee Regina George and the Plastics ruled the school in the satirical teen comedy film, Mean Girls, the Heathers dominated Westerberg High in the dark cult comedy film, Heathers.  The Academy of the Company Theatre Teen Conservatory (T.C.T.) will hold auditions for Heathers the Musical (High School Edition) on Monday, June 6 with callbacks on Tuesday, June 7 at the Company Theatre in Norwell, Massachusetts at 6 p.m.  Teen actors from age 13 through college age are invited to audition.  Click here and check back for further details on auditions.

Heathers the Musical is based on the 1988 film adaptation that stars Winona Ryder, Shannen Doherty, and Christian Slater.  A television adaptation is also in development.  Taking a look at the ruthless side of high school, clever Veronica finds her way into the Heathers, Westerberg High’s ultimate, cruel clique, just as she encounters mysterious new guy, J.D.  In a wild scheme, Veronica plans to show the world life is so much more than popularity.

Audition candidates should be prepared to sing 16 to 24 bars of a song from the show or similar musical style.  A headshot or snapshot and a resume is preferred at the audition, but not required.  Audition candidates may bring their own sheet music, but the score will be available with accompaniment.  Audition candidates will be charged a non-refundable $10 audition fee.  Click here for further details on the A.C.T. Summer Workshop and to the emergency form to be completed prior to the audition.

Performances for the Academy of the Company Theatre’s Teen Conservatory of Heathers the Musical (High School Edition) will be held at the Company Theatre, 30 Accord Park Drive in Norwell, Massachusetts on July 13 and 14 at 7 p.m.  For further information about the auditions, email ACT@companytheatre.com, or call the box office at 1-781-871-2787.  Click here for more information about the Company Theatre’s fabulous 2017 season and follow them on Facebook.