REVIEW: Celebrating their 70th anniversary, Hingham Civic Music Theatre delivers a feel good family favorite with ‘Annie’

Generations have grown up with some version of little orphan Annie and her trusty dog Sandy who meets billionaire tycoon Oliver Warbucks during Depression-era New York.  It is a classic family tale for all ages with the eternal promise that no matter what happens, there is always hope.  As the intimate, sweet-sounding orchestra chimed its first triumphant, horn-infused notes of the overture highlighting song snippets of It’s a Hard Knock LifeFully Dressed, and TomorrowHingham Civic Music Theatre (HCMT) proves this steadfast musical favorite never goes out of style.

To cap off their 70th anniversary, Hingham Civic Music Theatre brings back this beloved musical to an almost sold-out audience so try to capture the last few tickets now.  Directed and choreographed by Nathan Fogg and musically directed by Sandee Brayton, Annie continues through Sunday, November 10 at Hingham Town Hall located at 210 Central Street in Hingham, Massachusetts.  Click here for more information and for tickets.

Annie NYC

Abby Tondorf as Annie, Rob Buckel-Gillis as Oliver Warbucks, Sara Daly as Grace Farrell and the cast in the Big City Photo courtesy of Hingham Civic Music Theatre

What is such fun about Annie is although the story remains the same, there is always room to perform it a little differently each time.  Having seen the beloved 1982 film adaptation featuring a brilliant cast including Tim Curry, Carol Burnett, Bernadette Peters, Aileen Quinn, and Albert Finney, it is easy to forget the stage musical version sticks to the storyline for the most part, but also contains additional songs.

A group of homeless New Yorkers offer a spirited version of Hooverville, which dials into social injustices during the Great Depression.  Rob Buckel-Gillis as dapper, tough-minded tycoon Oliver Warbucks pays tribute to the Big City with N.Y.C. before later performing a touching rendition of Why Would I Change a Thing.  These are just a few of the additional songs included in the stage version of the musical.

Annie I think you're gonna like it here

Abby Tondorf as Annie, Sara Daly as Grace Farrell as Grace, and the cast singing ‘I Think I’m Gonna Like it Here’  Photo courtesy of Hingham Civic Music Theatre

From wealthy city shoppers to house staff to government officials including President Roosevelt to the amazing Rockettes and even Santa, the delightful ensemble cast seamlessly enhances the lighthearted atmosphere of this production.  For example, before the famous number, Be Our Guest from Disney’s Beauty and the Beast existed, I Think I’m Gonna Like it Here offers its own set of accommodations as the house staff warmly introduce Annie to Oliver Warbucks’s mansion.

Enhanced by a few impressive stunts, the orphans skillfully navigate the memorable number, It’s a Hard Knock Life as the orphans mourn their life in the orphanage with Miss Hannigan.  The orphans’ version of Fully Dressed is adorable and sure to make you smile.

Annie - It's a Hard Knock Life

‘It’s a Hard Knock Life’ number Photo courtesy of Hingham Civic Music Theatre

Donning a red bob haircut tied with a scarf, Abby Tondorf delivers spunky charm as Annie, her silvery vocals strongest during the numbers I Think I’m Gonna Like it Here and her signature song, Tomorrow.   She shares some endearing moments with Rob Buckel-Gillis as Daddy Warbucks.  Along with her trusty dog Sandy who is a ringer for the dog in other adaptations, the two of them make a sweet pair.

Having made her last appearance as the Dragon in HCMT’s Shrek, Debby Rawson Stratton sinks her teeth into this fiery role as sarcastic and snarky Miss Hannigan.  Wearing a purple silk robe over a green nightgown with frazzled red hair, Debby makes the role her own with sharp, comic timing and a vocal belting quality never better than during the hilarious number, Little Girls.  Aaron Stolicker as Rooster and Whitney Lloyd as Lily St. Regis make an amusing, sleazy pair.

Sara Daly charmingly depicts elegant Grace Farrell, Oliver Warbucks’s levelheaded secretary.  Daly participates in a frequent battle of wills with Debby Rawson Stratton as Miss Hannigan and their smug verbal exchanges are hilarious.

Annie Christmas photo

The cast of ‘Annie’ Photo courtesy of Hingham Civic Music Theatre

Don’t wait for tomorrow to get the remaining tickets to Hingham Civic Music Theatre’s musical, Annie, a classic family show with an timeless message about never giving up.  Annie continues through Sunday, November 10 at Hingham Town Hall located at 210 Central Street in Hingham, Massachusetts.  Click here for more information and for tickets.  Follow Hingham Civic Music Theatre on Facebook for updates and more.

REVIEW: Festive and moving, Massasoit’s production of ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ is time well spent

Soft, twinkling lights and vintage multi-colored bulbs frame the Buckley Performing Arts Center stage as beloved Christmas carols ring in the holiday cheer in anticipation of a beloved tale.  That familiar sign, “You are Now in Bedford Falls” rings true as Massasoit Theatre Company opened a four show, two weekend run of It’s A Wonderful Life continuing through Sunday, December 3 at Buckley Performing Arts Center, part of Massasoit Community College in Brockton, Massachusetts.  Craig O’Connor, who acts as part narrator and full-time aspiring angel, warmly recalls a beautiful and haunting tale of the value of a life well spent.  Click here for more information and for tickets.

It's a Wonderful Life Bedford Falls

Curtis J. Bellafiore as George and Elizabeth Lovley as Mary Hatch and the cast Photo courtesy of Massasoit Theatre Company

Massasoit has an affinity for festive onstage caroling during annual holiday productions and We Wish You a Merry Christmas is just one of an array of classic tunes to set the mood.  The rolling stage, designed impressively by Nathan Fogg DeSisto, hearkens not only to its vintage 1920s to 40s setting, but visually captures some of the tale’s most iconic moments from the cold, snow covered bridge to a wooden bench frequently shown in Bedford Falls, a setting inspired by Seneca Falls, New York.  Jennifer Spagone’s distinct costume design make the cast looked sharp as women wore brightly colored dresses from polka dots to paisley in signature hairstyles of the period and the men in a variety of suits, ties, and winter coats faithful to the season.

It's a wonderful life Baileys

Patricia Straight-McGrath as Mother Bailey and Curtis J. Bellafiore as George Photo courtesy of Massasoit Theatre Company

Told partly in vignettes and flashbacks, It’s a Wonderful Life focuses on a morbidly downtrodden George Bailey, portrayed with a unique charisma by Curtis J. Bellafiore, who reaches a pivotal moment in his life that makes him question the value of his existence.  Enter mild-mannered Clarence Odbody, portrayed with warmhearted sincerity by Craig O’Connor, who questions whether he can produce a Christmas miracle.

It's a wonderful life Uncle Billy

Curtis J. Bellafiore as George and Danny Hannafin as Uncle Billy Photo courtesy of Massasoit Theatre Company

Director Tony Ruscio masters the challenging task of capturing the charm of this small town through the cast’s jocular and moving camaraderie.  The children have small roles, but each engages the audience in their own distinct way.  With a winning smile and apprehensive verbal style only mildly reminiscent of Jimmy Stewart’s portrayal, Curtis J. Bellafiore, embodies endearing dreamer George Bailey with a unique charisma.  His instant chemistry with Elizabeth Lovley as jubilant, yet mysterious Mary Hatch is captivating to watch.  Lovley’s real skill as Mary is not just in the scripted word, but in the subtlety of her performance.  Lovley’s quiet serenity perfectly complements Bellafiore’s charming optimism.  Craig O’Connor harnesses such a natural presence as lovable Clarence that it is difficult to imagine the actor himself any other way.

Chris DiOrio, last seen as grouchy but lovable Shrek in Hingham Civic Music Theatre’s fall production of the same name, takes a gloriously dark turn as the infamous Mr. Potter.   As he makes his demands from a sitting position, his presence casts a constant shadow, his deep, gravelly, and well spoken demeanor brimming with unflinching practicality.  His calculating exchanges with each cast member are riveting to say the least.

It's a wonderful life Potter

Chris DiOrio as Mr. Potter, Jim Gross, and Margaret O’Brien as Bank Examiner Photo courtesy of Massasoit Theatre Company

Massasoit Theatre Company’s festive and moving It’s A Wonderful Life continues through Sunday, December 3 at Buckley Performing Arts Center, One Massasoit Boulevard in Brockton, Massachusetts.  Call 508-427-1234 or click here for tickets and further details.  Follow Massasoit Theatre Company on Facebook for upcoming events and more.

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.

Hingham Civic Music Theatre will soon debut the humorous fairy tale with a twist, ‘Shrek the Musical’

Shrek the Musical

Hingham Civic Music Theatre debuts ‘Shrek the Musical for two weekends only from Oct 21 through Oct 29 Photo courtesy of Hingham Civic Music Theatre

Can an intimidating green ogre have what it takes to become an unlikely hero?  Get to know Shrek, Donkey, the Gingerbread Man, Three Blind Mice, The Three Little Pigs, Pinocchio, and many more iconic fairy tale creatures in an entirely new way as Hingham Civic Music Theatre debuts Shrek the Musical at the Sanborn Auditorium in Hingham Town Hall Saturday, October 21 and continuing for two weekends through Sunday, October 29.  Based on William Steig’s imaginative fairy tale that later launched into a beloved animated film starring Mike Myers and Cameron Diaz followed by many popular film sequels, Shrek the Musical adds a bit more to this thrilling, family adventure.  Click here for more information, tickets, and how to participate in the HCMT Fundraising campaign.

Featuring real life husband and wife Chris DiOrio as Shrek and Leslie DiOrio as Princess Fiona, 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 an daunting quest to save a mysterious princess.  With heartwarming songs such as Don’t Let Me Go, Big Bright Beautiful World, This is How Dreams Come True, and the Monkees classic, I’m a BelieverShrek the Musical offers enough witty humor and heartwarming moments that will entertain children and adults alike.

Directed by Lisa Pratt, music by Jeanine Tesori, musically-directed by Mark Bono, with choreography by Tara McSweeney Morrison, Hingham Civic Music Theatre presents Shrek the Musical on Saturdays, October 21 and 28 as well as one Friday performance on October 27 at 7:30 p.m.  Sunday matinees will be held on October 22 and 29 at 2 p.m.  All shows take place at Hingham Town Hall, 210 Central Street in Hingham, Massachusetts.  Click here for further details, tickets, and be sure to follow Hingham Civic Music Theatre on Facebook for upcoming events and more.

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

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

HCMT's 'Oklahoma' cast

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

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

HCMT's 'Oklahoma!' costume

Photo courtesy of Hingham Civic Music Theatre

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

HCMT's 'Oklahoma!' cast

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

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

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