REVIEW: ‘Star Wars: A New Hope in Concert’ with live orchestration from the Boston Pops a thrilling cinematic achievement

No better way to witness a galaxy far, far away.

It has become a beloved Boston Pops tradition to exhibit the finest films in cinema history enhanced by the stellar sounds of the Boston Pops, an immersive film experience performed so eloquently, one may never watch the film quite the same way again.  In the past few years, The Boston Pops has inventively breathed new life into film classics such as ‘The Wizard of Oz,’ ‘West Side Story,’ ‘Singin’ in the Rain,’ ‘Psycho,’ ‘Home Alone,’ ‘Raiders of the Lost Ark,’ and ‘Nosferatu‘ through stunning live orchestration and Star Wars lives up to that sterling reputation.

The re-mastered, extended version of ‘Star Wars: A New Hope in Concert‘ with live orchestration by the Boston Pops was held at Symphony Hall earlier this spring and then recently in the Koussevitzky Music Shed at the Tanglewood in Lenox, MA on August 16.  The ninth film and epic conclusion of the Star Wars series, ‘Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker‘ arrives in theatres in December and what better way to welcome the end than by remembering the beginning.

John Williams at Tanglewood (Hilary Scott)

John Williams conducting Film Night at Tanglewood Photo credit to Hilary Scott

Academy award-winning composer John Williams has been the name on everyone’s lips at Tanglewood for the past couple of weeks with ‘Star Wars: A New Hope in Concert‘ on Friday, August 16 and then the ever-popular ‘Film Night’ on August 24, an annual tribute concert featuring just a few of the acclaimed film scores of John Williams.  Not only did John Williams make an appearance at the end of the August 16th performance, but Patriots owner Robert Kraft was also in the audience.  Click here for more information, tickets, and a look at Tanglewood’s full schedule.

Keith Lockhart Leads the Boston Pops at Tanglewood (Hilary Scott)

Keith Lockhart leads the Boston Pops at Tanglewood Photo courtesy of Hilary Scott

Conducted by acclaimed Boston Pops conductor Keith Lockhart, The Boston Pops launched an enthusiastic audience into that beloved galaxy with ‘Star Wars: Episode IV A New Hope,’ the first film in what would become a beloved series of films in 1977.  The rising swell of the perilous, suspenseful, triumphant, and Academy award-winning Star Wars Main Theme from John Williams was just the start of this exciting film that has been thought to be a touchstone to future films in that genre while also possessing some classic Shakespearean roots.

The intense score, each crisp note from the orchestra, the sound that thundered in the Koussevitzky Shed was nothing that can be relived in front of a television screen or in a movie theatre.  It felt like being in the studio with the cast, enhancing their already outstanding performances, and scoring the film for the first time.

Star Wars A New Hope

Mark Hamill as Luke Skywalker, Carrie Fisher as Princess Leia, and Harrison Ford as Han Solo in ‘Star Wars: A New Hope’ Photo credit to Disney/Lucasfilm

The lively audience was clearly composed of some of the most devoted Star Wars fans cheering   not only the opening of the film, but each major character as they were first introduced onscreen.  Familiar faces such as the twinkling eyes and swaggering charisma of Harrison Ford’s Han Solo, Peter Mayhew’s towering presence as Chewbacca, Carrie Fisher’s holographic appearance as Princess Leia as she utters the classic line, “Help me, Obi-Wan Kenobi.  You’re my Only Hope,” Alec Guinness as the wise and mysterious Obi-Wan Kenobi, Mark Hamill’s naïve Luke Skywalker, and James Earl Jones as the timeless voice of Darth Vader were all greeted with rousing applause.

Set on the planet with two suns, the subtle humor, the scheming, the epic adventure, George Lucas’s marvelous characters, the dazzling technology of its time, the bickering between R2-D2 and C-3PO and between Han Solo and Princess Leia are all recaptured in this unforgettable cinematic experience.

The Lawn at Tanglewood 2016 (Hilary Scott)

The Lawn at Tanglewood 2016 Photo credit to Hilary Scott

Located in the Berkshires at 297 West Street in Lenox, Massachusetts and now year-round, Tanglewood’s outdoor venue is a must see, whether under the tent at Koussevitzky Shed or under the stars for a lawn picnic.  Click here for Tanglewood’s full schedule follow them on Facebook.

Exploring theatre, nature, space and more, Boston Landmarks Orchestra’s Christopher Wilkins talks depth and diversity in free summer concert series

From exploring live theatre and music to nature to science to space as well as taking on racism, climate change, and many more important topics all involving a vast array of community members, organizations, and performers, Boston Landmarks Orchestra is so much more than a beautiful free Wednesday night concert outing at the Esplanade.  Boston Landmarks Orchestra Gala will celebrate 90 years of free concerts on the Esplanade in October.

WCRB is a media partner for the Boston Landmarks free concert series.  Click here for Boston Landmarks Orchestra’s complete summer schedule at Boston’s renowned Hatch Shell and here for further details on the upcoming Gala.

It was an honor to speak with Christopher Wilkins, Boston Landmarks Orchestra’s conductor and Music Director, who took time out of his busy schedule to discuss the highlights of the Boston Landmarks Orchestra’s summer season and what is coming up.

The Sleepless Critic:  The season kicked off on July 10 with the second annual “Season Tune-Up” party.  What was that like?

Christopher Wilkins:  It was a gorgeous night with a great turn out.  Lots of children attended and we introduced our audience to many of our partner organizations which include musical organizations, music educational schools, and partners like the New England Aquarium and the Museum of Science.  The “Season Tune-Up” Party featured fun games, a performance from the Everett High School band, and our Maestro Zone where kids can step up at the podium, wave the baton, look at a score, and get a conducting lesson.  We offer Maestro Zone at our regular concerts as well.

Boston Landmarks Orchestra Maestro Zone Assistant Conductor Shuang Fan

The Maestro Zone with Maestro Zone Assistant Conductor Shuang Fan

SC:  We’ve been blessed with some beautiful nights this summer.  You have been the Music Director and conductor for the Boston Landmarks Orchestra since 2011.  What has it been like for you collaborating with different theatres and new works each year?

CW:  Our mission is to engage as many Bostonians as possible from all walks of life and one of our strategies is to develop partnerships.  They feature an array of organizations to get their fans, their folks, and their constituency excited to come to a concert and work with us.

One of our best strategies is to create composer residencies in different neighborhoods around Boston so people who might not ever encounter an orchestra can develop some way of making music or dancing or some other performing art that they can bring to our stage and perform with the orchestra. We have a lot of inexperienced young performers throughout the summer and some who have never been onstage before.   We do all that along with an eclectic lineup of Dvorak, Broadway, symphonies, and a great choral repertoire.

SC:  It must be an incredible experience to see how everybody interacts with each other and how it turns out onstage.

CW:  It’s wonderful to perform it in the Hatch Shell because it is an iconic venue, people associate it with orchestral music, and it is in the heart of the city.  The Hatch Shell is also quite enormous. We can fit 5,000 people or more at our concerts and that is typically what we draw when the weather is nice.

SC:  Such depth in a free event.

CW:  It’s important to many people that can’t afford to come otherwise.  It’s also a powerful emblem of the idea of universal access.  Everybody is welcome.

We just think about access barriers, which are not only economic.  Cultural assumptions in a community can cause people to stay away.  At Landmarks, we think deeply about what those barriers are and do what we can to get rid of them.

SC:  Yes, and you have held many events so far this season.  For example, you recently celebrated the 50th anniversary of the Moon Landing with Symphonic Space Odyssey.  How did you pay tribute to this historic event?

CW:  We performed that in Jordan Hall because it was a stormy night.  Jordan Hall is one of the most beautiful venues in America and the sound indoors just rattles your bones.  We didn’t have to change the program at all, just the venue.

The Moon Landing is one of the most amazing achievements in the history of mankind.  It was an awesome night and we celebrated it with the Museum of Science which was perfect because they have had an exhibition ever since the moon landing occurred.  The Museum of Science prepared fabulous video footage relating to the moon landing, space travel, rockets, and deep space taken from materials produced in house at the Hayden Planetarium for their full dome experience.

SC:  What are you most looking forward to this season?

CW:  Each week is so over the top that it’s hard to pick a favorite.  We have a wonderful collaboration on August 14 with the New England Aquarium featuring some remarkable video material that will be synchronized live to the orchestra.

Boston Landmarks Orchestra New England Aquarium

Boston Landmarks Orchestra partners with the New England Aquarium for a free concert on August 14 Photo courtesy of Boston Landmarks Orchestra/New England Aquarium

The subject is climate change and we’re performing Vaughan Williams Symphonia Antarctica which is originally a film score, but now set to a more recent film made by Natural History New Zealand featuring all shots from Antarctica.

Then we have a beautiful photographic sequence put together by Boston Globe writer David Arnold called “Above and Below.”  He’s taken Brad Washburn’s iconic aerial photographs of glaciers and coral reefs mostly from the 1930’s and then taking the same shots today.  Of course what you see is a devastating record of loss set to Adagio for Strings.  The program also includes optimistic shots from Boston Harbor and other places from then and now which shows tremendous improvement environmentally and send the message that we can do something about climate change.

We did an extremely interesting panel discussion recently which has some caused useful and in depth panel conversation called “Who Should Sing Ol’ Man River?” around race and the portrayal of racial themes at WBUR CitySpace.  Our moderator was Emmett G Price III, a celebrity in Boston and a wonderful musician, historian, pastor, and radio personality.  It was a wonderfully experienced and informed panel who weighed in on a lot of these questions and shaped how we put together the following week’s concert.

Boston Landmarks Orchestra Alvy Powell

Bass Bariton Alvy Powell Photo courtesy of Boston Landmarks Orchestra

SC:  Ol’ Man River from Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “Showboat” is such an amazing song and I’ve seen it done is so many different ways.

CW:  It’s a showstopper.  Our base Alvy Powell has sung Ol’ Man River in the White House for the last six sitting Presidents in a row.  He sang it at George H.W. Bush’s funeral at President Bush and his wife Barbara’s request.  He also sang it at Gerald Ford’s funeral.  If anyone should sing Ol’ Man River, it’s Alvy Powell and he performed it that night.

SC:  What kind of conversation sprung from that panel?

CW:  That’s a good question.  We got into questions of language, dialect, the history of black music, and cultural appropriation.  Quite an interesting segment was when we were looking at where we go from here.  One of our panelists was Ashleigh Gordon, founder of an organization that has attracted a lot of praise and attention called Castle of Our Skins.  It celebrates African American composers and performers.  She’s done an amazing job furthering the discussion and coming up with creative ways of producing eye catching programming.

They are opening a permanent set of offices at the Boston Center for the Arts.  We are collaborating with Ashleigh, Castle of Our Skins and Anthony Green, a composer she works with frequently on the Esplanade on August 21 for our Landmarks Dance Night.  The project surrounds the music and dance of Haiti because we are also including the Jean Appolon Expressions Dance Company.

Boston Landmarks Orchestra Jennifer Ellis Matthew DiBattista, Maesto Wilkins, and One City Choir

Christopher Wilkins with Jennifer Ellis Matthew DiBattista, Maesto Wilkins, and One City Choir Photo courtesy of Boston Landmarks Orchestra

It’s often our best vehicle for showcasing the diversity of traditions and types of cultural expression.  I grew up here, but the city is infinitely more diverse now than it was when I grew up.

SC:  Absolutely.  What have you liked most over your time with the Boston Landmarks Orchestra?

CW:  We’ve had lots of great moments over the last eight or nine years.  My first concert was conducting Beethoven’s 9th at Fenway Park so that is pretty hard to top.  We did an amazing night celebrating the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King’s I Have a Dream Speech with Governor Deval Patrick as our narrator and featuring a lot of video and photographic imagery.

We did a memorable collaboration with the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum when their director, Peggy Fogelman, first arrived in Boston.  Another highlight was a series of programs with Commonwealth Shakespeare Company.  We performed full productions of musicals or a Shakespeare play such as “Midsummer Night’s Dream” with Mendelssohn.

The musicians learn something they know so well and are able to put it into the context of the play while the actors now can play off a symphony.  Now how often does that happen?   It is amazing for the performers and the audience.

SC:  You’ve performed all over the United States.  What do you like best about your time with the Boston Landmarks Orchestra?

CW:  I love our mission.  It’s readily understandable to most people in the community which I think is why we are receiving increasing levels of support from all quarters from individuals and foundations and from political reps because we are using great music with its level of complexity, depth, and emotional appeal and a first class professional orchestra as a means to gather community together.

I don’t know another orchestra that has a mission defined in this way.  I learn a lot and meet all kinds of interesting people doing interesting work.  We get to come together in a musical setting and it’s almost guaranteed everybody has a wonderful time.

Sit back and enjoy the Boston Landmarks Orchestra free every Wednesday night.  Click here for the full schedule and how to support future concerts.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

REVIEW: Hub Theatre Company of Boston’s ‘Steel Magnolias’ boasts humor, heartache, and hairspray

A good story is usually rooted in truth.

Robert Harling’s ‘Steel Magnolias’ is partially based on a true story.  Harling wrote the play, ‘Steel Magnolias’ in 1987 and based it off of real people he knew in Louisiana.  In the popular 1989 film (which included a parade of famous actresses such as Dolly Parton, Olympia DukakisDaryl Hannah,  and Shirley MacLaine), the part of M’Lynn was portrayed by Sally Field and Julia Roberts was Shelby.  Harling based M’Lynn on his mother and Shelby (whose real name was Susan) on his sister.

Directed by Paula Plum, Hub Theatre Company of Boston celebrates the 30th anniversary of the 1989 film with comedy drama ‘Steel Magnolias’ continuing at Hub Theatre Company of Boston’s summer home, Club Cafe through Sunday, August 3.  This show is on a pay-what-you-can basis.  Click here for more information and tickets.

The Sleepless Critic also recently spoke to Hub Theatre of Boston Artistic Producing Director’s Lauren Elias about ‘Steel Magnolias,’ the future of Hub Theatre Company of Boston, and more.  Click here for the podcast.

Set entirely in Truvy’s Beauty Shop in Chinquapin, Louisiana in 1985, this bittersweet tale follows a group of vastly different women who find strength in each other through hardships and triumphs with a great deal of understanding, humor, and hairspray.  Though it has its share of serious themes, ‘Steel Magnolias’ offers more humor and relatable moments seeped in a wealth of 80s references that include mentions of Jane Fonda, and Elizabeth Arden.

Hub Theatre Company of Boston Steel Magnolias full cast 2

From L to R: Maureen Adduci as Ouiser, Liz Adams as M’Lynn, Oye Ehikhamhen as Shelby (center), Lauren Elias as Annelle, June Kfoury as Clairee, and Catherine Lee Christie as Truvy Photo courtesy of Hub Theatre Company of Boston

With bold costumes by Chelsea Kerl and Wig Master Caroline Clancy, the show impressively rewinds the clock into the 80s big hair era and memorable fashion sense while highlighting each woman’s distinct personality.  It is also refreshing to look at back at life at a time before the internet where people shared time, recipes, and hair tips in person.

Directed impressively by Paula Plum, ‘Steel Magnolias’ also thrives through its smart casting and the developing chemistry and growth between these primarily outspoken southern women, keeping this popular show fresh.  With a gift for gab and gossip, Catherine Lee Christie portrays Truvy Jones with charm and sass.  As a big fan of the movie, it is hard to imagine this part for anyone other than Dolly Parton, but Christie, in an array of distinct, sparkling, and mismatched fashion, rises to the occasion.  Her scenes with Lauren Elias as mysterious and humble Annelle make for some quirky, heartwarming moments.

Hub Theatre Company of Boston Steel Magnolias full cast

From L to Right: Maureen Aducci as Ouiser, Liz Adams as M’Lynn, Oye Ehikhamhen as Shelby (center), Lauren Elias as Annelle, June Kfoury as Clairee, and Catherine Lee Christie as Truvy Photo courtesy of Hub Theatre Company of Boston

Maureen Adduci’s sardonic, frank, and darkly amusing Ouiser delivers some of the most entertaining moments in the show.  Adduci’s exhausted scowl alone in Truvy’s cheery beauty salon is enough to crack a smile.  Her sarcastic facade rings true with the priceless line, “I don’t see plays because I can nap at home for free…and I don’t read books because if they are any good, they are going to make them into a miniseries.”  June Kfoury as Clairee, a stylish and gossip-driven widow with good intentions and a knowing smile, amuses herself by teasing Ouiser and their exchanges create their own spark.

However, the most captivating relationship is the family dynamic between Liz Adams as M’Lynn and Oye Ehikhamhen as M’Lynn’s daughter Shelby.  The push and pull between the two make it easy to see them as mother and daughter.  As in any mother-daughter relationship, one minute they exchange nagging barbs and the next, nurturing affection.

Hub Theatre Company of Boston Steel Magnolias Liz Adams as MLynn and Oye Ehikhamhen

Liz Adams as M’Lynn and Oye Ehikhamhen as Shelby Photo courtesy of Hub Theatre Company of Boston

Liz Adams portrays M’Lynn with a quiet, palpable tightness and a bundle of suppressed feelings.  It is easy to feel the weight of the world on her shoulders.  This M’Lynn has a bit of a tougher edge and a dry sense of humor as she meticulously looks after everyone but herself.  Though M’Lynn and Shelby are both dramatic and stubborn, Oye Ehikhamhen as Shelby is a ceaselessly optimistic force where happiness is a requirement, not an option.  With a broad smile and easy chemistry with the entire cast, Oye as Shelby shines in a charismatic, compassionate performance.

Club Cafe’s stage is an air-conditioned, intimate space that includes tables set up for food and drinks.  In honor of the production, Club Cafe offers themed specialty cocktails such as Truvy’s Twister, Blush and Bashful, Wack-A-Ouiser, and Chinquapin Parish Punch.

Directed by Paula Plum, rewind the clock and take a trip south to Truvy’s for Hub Theatre Company of Boston’s ‘Steel Magnolias’ at Club Café  at 209 Columbus Ave through Saturday, August 3. This show is on a pay-what-you-can basis.  Click here for more information about Hub Theatre and tickets.  Hub Theatre Company of Boston is also taking donations of beauty products and toiletries at every performance to be donated to Rosie’s Place and other charities.

REVIEW: Multi-talented Hugh Jackman wows at the TD Garden

Is multi-talented Hugh Jackman better on film or onstage?

Is it worth seeing him when he comes back to Boston?  Is he the Greatest Showman?

One thing is certain – Hugh Jackman is the genuine article.

Some actors who decide to go on tour put on self-indulgent shows of their history in show business and share their general musings about life to promote their next album or film.  They might even sing a song or two.  However, outside the studio, they can’t really sing or dance.   People cheer, even if the show isn’t what they were expecting, but they remember that guy in that film or show who was so great in those roles, and that is enough.

Hugh is one talented guy.  He is a Tony, Emmy, and Grammy award-winner as well as a Golden Globe and Academy Award-nominee.  He has also been on the other side of acting as host of the Academy and Tony Awards.  For his 50th birthday, he wished to go on a world-wide tour.

Hugh Jackman’s ‘The Man. The Music.  The Show’ will continue through October 20, 2019. Click here for show dates.  He’ll also return to Boston’s TD Garden for one more performance on Tuesday, October 1.

Hugh Jackman the Tour

Photo credit to Hugh Jackman The Show

The morning of Hugh’s appearance on Thursday, June 27 at the TD Garden, Hugh Jackman made a surprise appearance serving coffee from a coffee truck in Boston to promote his charity work with ‘The Laughing Man Cafe and Foundation.’  A loyal Bruins fan, he called performing in Boston one of his big dreams.

As superhero Wolverine (in which he demonstrated an onstage pose or two), he showed his dynamic range.  Decked out at first in a white tux, he ran the gamut of styles from flashy costumes to more casual attire with no ringleader costume in sight.  Though he reminisced about his career with a realistic look at his dogged pursuit to find success as an actor, he seemed like a humble, funny, and approachable guy.

A family friendly show, he kept the crowd moving with a broad range of music.  From reaching into an old school vibe with selections such as I’ve Got Rhythm and Mac the Knife to tap dancing to AC/DC to performing a vast selection of musical theatre including lighting up the stage with selections from ‘The Greatest Showman,’ the show had a universal appeal though especially tailored for the theatre buff.  He joined Kaley McKnight onstage to perform a stunning, powerful rendition of This is Me and a sweeping ‘Les Miserables‘ medley.  He also joined members of the Boston Children’s Chorus for a stirring rendition of You Will Be Found from the hit musical, ‘Dear Evan Hansen.’

Hugh Jackman stage

Hugh Jackman at TD Garden in Boston, Massachusetts Photo courtesy of Jeanne Denizard

The second half of the show did not outdo the first, but he demonstrated his range further in the second.  It actually became a bit trippy during his ode to his Australian idol, Peter Allen in which Hugh won a Tony Award for his portrayal as Peter in ‘The Boy From Oz.’  Peter was not only known for songs such as Don’t Cry Out Loud and Arthur’s Theme, but for his over-the-top stage performances.  He also welcomed the audience into his native Australia by recreating the outback, claiming it as one of his most out-of-this-world experiences he has ever had.

So, to answer those questions, I prefer Hugh in his epic films, but he is undeniably a wonderful performer.  The very best is a lot to ask, but his dynamic range is truly great and worth watching on tour or when he returns to Boston in October.  You will no doubt recognize the sheer talent that he has developed over decades of being a singer, a dancer, theater actor, movie star, and a hero.

REVIEW: Company Theatre’s ‘Paragon Park the Musical’ is one amazing ride

The Company Theatre is reprising their original, award-winning production of ‘Paragon Park the Musical‘ to cap off their 40th season from Friday, July 26 through Sunday, August 18 with a VIP reception taking place on Saturday July 27.  Winner of the Moss Hart Award in 2012 for Best New England Production, ‘Paragon Park the Musical’ returns with a new cast including Michael Hammond as George A. Dodge and some returning cast members.

A portion of the proceeds from the tickets will be donated to the beloved Paragon Carousel.  Performances will take place at the Company Theatre, 30 Accord Park Drive in Norwell, Massachusetts.  Tickets are selling fast.  Click here for more information and how to get tickets and here about the Paragon Park VIP reception.

Click here for a clip of the original production.  Here is what the Sleepless Critic had to say about this production when it first debuted onstage in Summer 2012…

As the dazzling chandelier is to the musical, ‘Phantom of the Opera’ or a certain symbolic revolving stage is to ‘Les Miserables,’ the original, historic carousel used in the Company Theatre’s exciting production of ‘Paragon Park the Musical’ exudes its own brand of theatre magic.  It serves as a pulsing centerpiece into creator George A. Dodge’s timeless imagination as well as the depth and delight of what made children and adults embrace that revolutionary park in Hull, Massachusetts for nearly 80 years and beyond.

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‘Paragon Park the Musical’ is an original production by Company Theatre co-founder Zoe Bradford and director Michael Hammond with lyrics and music by composer Adam Brooks.  Performances continue through Sunday, August 19, 2012 at 30 Accord Park Drive in Norwell, Massachusetts.  This highly-anticipated musical is enjoying a brilliant run, with nearly every show sold out weeks in advance.

What makes this particular production so popular is it depicts the history of a beloved beachside amusement park that closed in 1984 and actually existed in Hull, Massachusetts.  Historic Paragon Park encapsulates many happy memories to Massachusetts natives, especially those in the South Shore.

‘Paragon Park the Musical’ tells the story of warm, ambitious, and imaginative whaling mogul George A. Dodge, who was passionately inspired to entertain Massachusetts residents and beyond with a revolutionary beachside amusement park.  It also tells a story of forbidden romance and a glimpse into the lives of the real people who resided in that little seaside town in Hull.  The Company Theatre’s ‘Paragon Park the Musical’ not only shines a historical lens into a piece of the South Shore’s dynamic history, but the picturesque settings paint a crisp portrait with each scene.

'Paragon Park the Musical' 2012 production

Scott Wahle as George A. Dodge with cast in the 2012 production Photo courtesy of Zoe Bradford/Company Theatre

The cast is very much an ensemble and delves into various social issues, family issues and immigration, giving insight into each character’s devotion to the park, showing what truly made the park endure for nearly 80 years.  Boston broadcast veteran Scott Wahle is charming and clever as George A. Dodge, portraying him with a twinkle in his eye.   He is full of charisma and authenticity throughout the show and is a delight to watch with children.

It is wonderful to see so many strong female characters such as strong willed Tilly, portrayed with vivacity by Joyce McPhee, discerning Amira, played by Maya Carter, sharp and spirited journalist Floretta Vining, depicted by Victoria Weinstein, and spunky and ambitious Mrs. Rose Stone, played by Juliana Dennis.  The practical Mrs. Rose Stone’s strong presence is a fine match for George A. Dodge’s relaxed humor.  Rinado, portrayed by Nick Cox, is a combination of rugged good looks and captivating naivety, while John King’s Ogden has a spectacular sneer.  Dave Daly is refreshing as lively and cheerful Honeyfitz, who showcases soaring vocals and can play a spirited rendition on a ukulele too!

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Each of Paragon Park’s original 18 numbers are polished and lyrically rich.  The musical’s exhilarating songs, One Last Ride and Paragon Park are delivered with spectacular energy and passion.   The humorous song, Over the Bridge sets a cheerful tone and depicts a few glorious aspects of being young through the wonder of the park.  Joyce McPhee’s Long Lost Love compliments her stunning vocal range and was a crowd favorite.  Massachusetts residents will delight in many well-known local references in the show, especially in the welcoming number, Nantasket for a Day. and A Proper Life.

The sets and costumes range from elegant and sophisticated to colorful and humorous.  The question, “Did I really wear that?” may also come to mind.  The sets are colorful, detailed, and the backdrops are simply stunning.

Through meticulously detailed costumes, ‘Paragon Park the Musical’ brings to life important eras of the park’s history with ease.  With 18 original numbers, a powerful 20-piece orchestra, and the enthusiasm of each cast member, the Company Theatre’s ‘Paragon Park the Musical’ is a beautiful creation, a love letter to its creator and the many people who hold dear memories of the park’s heyday.

Company Theatre reprises ‘Paragon Park the Musical’ from Friday, July 26 through Sunday, August 18.  Click here for more information and tickets or call the box office at 781-871-2787. Follow Company Theatre on FacebookInstagram and Twitter for more on their upcoming events.

REVIEW: Despite boat’s limited view of the band, sold-out 70s funk and disco ‘Booty Vortex’ boat cruise still made waves

Taking off from Boston Harbor to Gilligan’s Island and Hawaii Five-O’s adventurous theme songs, this was one three hour tour that kept party cruisers on their feet.  Plenty of sun poured into the boat as fans wore their shiny, disco best boarding the Mass Bay Lines off of Rowes Wharf boat to witness the annual return of the nine piece 70s Funk and Disco band, Booty Vortex on their sold-out 21+ Booty Boat cruise Sunday, August 26 at 4 p.m.  The cruise offered a cash bar and various concessions.  Click here to find out Booty Vortex’s full schedule as well as a closer look at their talented band members.

This particular Mass Bay Lines boat was not ideal for a concert cruise.  The roof where the band played was completely covered and attendance at full capacity, which offered limited ways to see the band perform up close.  Booty Vortex’s past performance on the Provincetown II provided an open floor plan and dance floor so attendees had more room to move and witness the band take the stage.  However, the band’s upbeat tunes provided plenty of reasons why Booty Vortex has developed such a strong following.

Booty Vortex on Provincetown II

Past performance on Provincetown II for Rock and Blues concert cruises.

Calling themselves Boston’s finest funk and disco band, Booty Vortex is indeed unconventional, full of character, and possesses a bit of a wild side.  Their enthusiasm is infectious, their voices powerful, and their music, a collection of mostly 70s disco cover songs, are tailored for a truly devoted 70s and retro dance crowd.

From saxophone to keyboard player, Booty Vortex delivers a full retro, big band sound.  Some of their lively sense of humor is found in their self-proclaimed group member names composed of Huggy Bear Jeremy D. Valadez on saxophone, Brass Tornado Mark Coronado as Manager and Trumpet player, Gold Fingah James Tootle as MD/Keys and Vocals, Minty Fresh Dave Burnett on Bass, E-Bop Erik Barnes on Guitar, Tiger Lily Eva Davenport as Media and Vocals, Pixie Stix Maureen Medieros on Percussion, Rufus Russell Bogartz on Trombone, and Papi Erick B. Cifuentes on Drums.

Booty Vortex on Booty Boat Cruise

Full Booty Vortex band on Mass Bay Lines boat Photo credit Erin Frawley/Booty Vortex

The nine piece extravaganza has a unique style, their music not too hard or loud and songs range from danceable to at times, mellow.  They charmed audiences with pop tunes and disco hits such as Hues Corporation’s Rock the Boat, Lakeside’s Fantastic Voyage, Patti Labelle’s Lady Marmalade, Alicia Bridges’ I Love the Night Life, Tavares’s Heaven Must Be Missing an Angel, A Taste of Honey’s Boogie Oogie Oogie, George Benson’s Give Me the Night, Donna Summer’s Bad Girls, The Trammps’s Disco Inferno, Rose Royce’s Car Wash, Bee Gees’s You Should Be Dancing, Hot Chocolate’s You Sexy Thing, Chic’s Freak Out, Dee-lite’s Groove is in the Heart, KC and the Sunshine Band’s Get Down Tonight and Shake Your Booty, prompting the crowd to sing along.

Boston skyline view

Photo courtesy of Jeanne Denizard

Under sunny skies with no need for a jacket, the Booty Boat cruise provided some of Boston’s most beautiful sights including the Boston Harbor Islands and a lovely and hazy view of the city.  It was primarily a smooth ride, with just a few instances of rockiness.

Booty Vortex C Note

Booty Vortex will next appear at the C-Note in Hull on September 8. Photo credit to Erin Frawley/Booty Vortex

Easing their way back to Rowe’s Wharf, Booty Vortex closed out the evening with Sister Sledge and Jade’s We are Family and Journey’s hit Don’t Stop Believing.  Booty Vortex next takes the C-Note stage in Hull on September 8.  Click here for more of their future tour dates around Massachusetts and Rhode Island.  Follow them on Facebook and Twitter.

REVIEW: Billy Joel brought his A-game for his fifth year at Fenway Park

Grammy award-winning singer-songwriter Billy Joel will not be sharing new music any time soon.  Renowned for his library of hits in the 70s, 80s, and 90s, he stuck with the chart toppers and some lesser known singles at the Fenway Park field on Friday, August 10 as part of the Plainridge Park Casino Fenway Concert series.

Billy Joel Fenway Park

Photo credit to IheartMedia

‘I haven’t had a hit in 25 years,’ he muses, ‘but I have also not released an album in 25 years.’  Opening fittingly and dramatically with the theme song from The Natural, a beloved 1984 sports film starring Robert Redford, Billy Joel took the Fenway Park stage for his fifth year.  Click here to see where Billy Joel will perform next.

Showcasing his biggest hits along with a few of his lesser known ones, Billy Joel brought his A-game.  Kicking off shortly after eight in the evening as fans were still filing into the park, he arrived behind his piano for his straight-talking hit Big Shot, a song that was said to have been inspired by a dinner he had with Mick and Bianca Jagger.  Under multicolored lights and an infectious beat, from the start Billy Joel proved his ceaseless energy at 69 years old.

On a cloudy, but rainless night in Fenway, Joel referred to Boston as the birthplace of freedom where he wrote the song, My Life.  He also mentioned the Red Sox, though he’s an avid NY Mets fan, before a stirring rendition of NY State of Mind, which featured shots of New York City’s famous landmarks.  He even playfully sang Boston’s More than a Feeling before jokingly “forgetting the words.”

Billy Joel Fenway

Photo courtesy of Jeanne Denizard

Sharply dressed in a dark suit and tie, Billy Joel spoke with humor and frankness, sharing personal details behind his music, his voice matured into a deeper, grittier growl with all the same power behind it.  He treated the enthusiastic full house to a spectrum of his famous and lesser known songs as he reflected, ‘I worked just as hard on the lesser known songs as the hits.’  Some of those lesser known songs included Summer, Highland Falls, Zanzibar, The Downeaster Alexa, and Vienna, a sweet, quiet tune from his album The Stranger and was also featured on the 13 Going on 30 film with Jennifer Garner.

Accompanied by a robust rock, jazz, and horn-infused big band, Joel performed upbeat number, Movin’ Out (Anthony’s Song), a hit song that inspired a 2002 Tony award-winning Broadway musical of the same name.  The musical highlighted a number of Billy Joel’s greatest hits.  Dedicating a song to his three year-old daughter, Joel performed Don’t Ask Me Why as well as many of his signature hits including a resonant Only the Good Die Young, Scenes from an Italian Restaurant, a colorful, extended version of River of Dreams, and It’s Still Rock and Roll to Me.

The award-winning singer-songwriter kept the crowd on their feet with surprise guests from two vastly different genres.  Peter Wolf, lead singer of the J.Geils Band, a group Billy Joel opened for early in his career.  Wolf performed the band’s 80s hit, Centerfold before calling Joel one of the nicest in the business.  Def Leppard’s Joe Elliott, who was to perform with the band at Fenway the following night, also joined Joel.  Accompanied by powerful guitar, Elliott’s deep, throaty vocals delivered their audacious hit, Pour Some Sugar on Me.  As welcome as their appearances were, it couldn’t beat their return to the stage later to sing with Joel for You May Be Right.

Joel also had his share of quiet moments as he silenced the crowd with the emotional, heartfelt number, And So it Goes and She’s Always a Woman.  Sitting behind the baby grand piano most of the evening with a brief stint humming on the harmonica for Piano Man before taking to the guitar during an epic, four-song encore, Billy Joel still has a seasoned passion for the stage and left with hardly a voice, delivering short of a three hour performance.

REVIEW: As clever as it is insightful, make time for Americana Theatre Company’s compelling ‘Man of La Mancha’

“When life itself seems lunatic, who knows where madness lies?”

In the midst of action, suspense, heartbreak, and humor in multiple Tony award-winning musical, Man of La Mancha, lies Don Quixote author Miguel de Cerventes’s wise words, one of many timeless reflections declared during Americana Theatre Company’s moving, insightful musical, Man of La Mancha at the Spire Center for the Arts in Plymouth, Massachusetts through Sunday, July 29.  This show is not for children.  Click here for more information and for tickets.

Based on the classic tale, Don Quixote, Americana Theatre Company’s Man of La Mancha by Dan Wasserman is steeped in theatrical riches from its strong, edgy cast, powerful voices, a hint of Monty Python humor, and diverse combat scenes, but the real heart of this work is found in Cervantes himself, a beacon in dark times.  Americana Theatre Company prides itself on its stellar storytelling and this one is for the ages.

American Theatre Company Man of La Mancha

Scott Wahle as Don Quixote and Bethany Lauren James as Aldonza with Ruben Navarro as Sancho Panza

Directed by Michael Kirkland, Man of La Mancha addresses the everlasting battle between idealism and realism through a play-within-a-play.  With the exception of Sancho Panza, portrayed with wide-eyed optimism and unflinching faithfulness by Ruben Nevarro, each character depicts a dark side in humanity, but not without redemption.

Man of La Mancha kicks off without a hitch, showcasing a wide range of comic, stylized, and clever combat scenes by Derek Martin that often take the audience by surprise.  With just two onstage guitars and an offstage piano, the music accompaniment is delightfully subtle and intimate as the musicians melt into the background.  From colorful gypsy costumes and corset dresses to detailed, embroidered vests and leather armor, costumer Brian Kenerson zealously captures the beautiful and harsh Reformation era.

Americana Theatre Company The Barber

Brian Kenerson portrays The Barber as is also the Costumer for the show Photo Courtesy of Denise Maccaferri/Americana Theatre Company

Scott Wahle steps into Cervantes/Don Quixote’s brown leather boots with a natural assurance.  Finding himself among a group of prisoners, author and poet Miguel de Cervantes creates a defense in the form of a play in order to keep his possessions and potentially save his own life.

Wahle has a long history being a charismatic, relatable storyteller as a local television personality and in theatrical roles such as Walt Disney-esque Paragon Park creator George A. Dodge in Company Theatre’s original musical, Paragon Park or as smooth-talking Nathan Detroit in Reagle Music Theatre’s slick musical, Guys and Dolls.  He draws from that and more to deliver a powerful, emotionally-charged, multi-layered performance as a sympathetic admirer in the tender song, Dulcinea to a valiant hero in epic numbers such as The Impossible Dream and Man of La Mancha.  Alongside such dark characters, he is idealistic and compassionate, but hiding a secret.

Americana Theatre Company Don Quixote

Jennifer Martin performs a memorable dance as a Moorish dancer Photo courtesy of Denise Maccaferri/Americana Theatre Company

The chemistry between the cast members crackle, but most notably between Scott Wahle as Cervantes/Don Quixote and Ruben Nevarro as his unfathomably loyal squire, Sancho Panza.  It is a vivid, nurturing friendship every true friendship should strive to be.  Nevarro has his own set of crisp vocals in a warm rendition of I Really Like Him and comical A Little Gossip.

Americana Theatre Company Aldonza

Bethany Lauren James as Aldonza Photo courtesy of Denise Maccaferri/Americana Theatre Company

Wahle shares sweet chemistry with Bethany Lauren James, who delivers a brilliant performance as uncouth, harsh, suspicious, and yet compassionate spitfire Aldonza.  Surrounded by menacing muleteers, she first appears strained and exasperated in a red corset dress for the comical and fiery number, It’s All the Same.  A hard realist who can’t imagine otherwise, James is a wonderful foil for Wahle and holds her own among a cast of powerful characters.  She masters the meaty role and her expressions are a complex web of emotions, her character constantly torn between what to think and how to feel.

Derek Martin is intriguing as a quietly distressed Padre.  Dressed in rust colored robes, Martin is torn by what is right and what is ultimately good for the human spirit, offering a tender and reflective rendition of To Each His Dulcinea.  With vivid, comical expressions and a deep baritone, David Friday is hilarious as a panicked Innkeeper.  Caitlin Skinner as Antonia, Derek Martin as Padre, Erin Friday as Housekeeper, and Jesse Sullivan as Dr. Carrasso lend their impressive vocals to the multifaceted number, I’m Only Thinking of Him.

Americana Theatre Company Man of La Mancha bow

The complete cast Photo credit to Denise Maccaferri

A clever tale with deeper meaning, Man of La Mancha kicked off Americana Theatre Company’s eighth season and continues through Sunday, July 29 at Spire Center for the Arts, 25 1/2 Court Street in Plymouth, Massachusetts.  In October, Americana Theatre Company continues its season with a one man production of Sleepy Hollow and The Gifts of the Magi in time for the holidays.  Click here for ticket information, fall classes, and more.  Click here to find out how to support Americana Theatre Company’s mission and be sure to follow them on Facebook and Twitter.

For Performing Arts news, interviews, reviews, and much more in Boston and beyond, follow us on Facebook @sleeplesscritic and subscribe.

 

Company Theatre’s co-founder Zoe Bradford talks 40th anniversary, ‘Ragtime’, and the theatre’s exciting future

Underneath a tent on a bright summer day, Company Theatre’s co-founder Zoe Bradford, enthusiastic and smiling, has a lot to celebrate.  The award-winning Company Theatre is as busy as ever as they prepare to open their 40th season with beloved musical, Ragtime   July 27.  Click here for more information and tickets.

Zoe reflects on how Company Theatre has evolved over the years and her extraordinary vision for the future which goes well beyond their 2.3 acres in Norwell, Massachusetts.

Sleepless Critic:  Congratulations on Company Theatre’s 40th anniversary. Even in the last five years, so much has happened from the upgraded, painted theatre with new seating to new, original productions.  Please tell me more about that.

Zoe Bradford:  Now that the theatre is beautiful, we’re envisioning the potential of our outdoor property.  We’ve done a lot with Academy of the Company Theatre (A.C.T.) having an expanded outdoor stage and new pavilion.  Our growing summer program is currently at capacity with 200 kids.  Not only do we need more space and with everybody addicted to their screens, I believe in getting kids outside.  We now have a path to the pond front and we’re holding classes there for water coloring and creative writing.

Freedom for creative expression has been the key for me, so I know it is the key for them.  It’s why I desperately wanted my own theatre and thank God it happened.  It’s not stimulating to work in the confines of another person’s building or organization.  That’s one of the draws here.

Company Theatre's Paragon Park cast

The 2012 ‘Paragon Park’ cast, photo courtesy of Company Theatre

SC:  The original musical Paragon Park took place in 2012.  Are there any original shows you are working on?

ZB:  Michael Hammond and I loved working on Paragon Park together and we want to do another one.  We’re bookending our 40th anniversary with the start of Ragtime and ending summer to summer with a revival of Paragon Park in 2019 as opposed to the season running January to December.

Paragon Park will be the pinnacle of our 40th celebration with a wonderful night of dinner and dancing at Nantasket Beach Resort in Hull.  Preceding that will be a VIP cocktail reception where guests can go on the Carousel and ride the ponies if they wish.  Then we’ll trolley to the hotel for celebration and fundraising.

Company Theatre's original production, 'Paragon Park'

TV personality Scott Wahle with ‘Paragon Park’ cast The Company Theatre’s will reprise its original production of Paragon Park the Musical, which premiered in 2012, image by Zoe Bradford

We’ll also have an outdoor VIP cocktail reception before opening Ragtime and featuring the Model T Ford, which is integral to Ragtime’s story.  It looks like the real thing, built exactly to scale.  Bob Grazioso, who has since retired from technical director but is still active at Company Theatre, built the Model T Ford when we did the show in 2003.  The Ford Motor Company wanted to buy it from us, but we kept it because we wanted to do the show again.

Ragtime's Booker T. Washington with the Statue of Liberty

Todd McNeel Jr. of Boston as Booker T. Washington in ‘Ragtime’ Photo courtesy of Zoe Bradford

SC:  When you revive a show like Ragtime, what kind of changes do you make?

ZB:  Life happens.  My thinking has evolved from 2003 to 2018 just from life experience and I have approached Ragtime differently than I did then.  We have three actors reprising their roles and 40 cast members who all feel it is a different experience than last time.

We did Ragtime in 2003 because there are strong, underlying themes of racism in the early 1900s and our attitude was thank God this is all behind us.  Now this show has never been needed more.  Shockingly, things have gone backwards and we have to speak out.  Being a huge sympathizer of Black Lives Matter and having a black adopted daughter puts a lot of things into perspective.

Back then, immigration was sort of in the forefront of the news, but not like it is today.  The show is about immigrants, which is about America and coming to America.

My passion lies in great storytelling.  Ragtime is a prevalent, uplifting show with three beautiful, intertwining stories involving a Jewish immigrant and his daughter, a New Rochelle family, and jazz musician Colehouse Walker Jr. who buys the Model T.  It’s a moving, relatable show about family, choosing family, and acceptance.  It also has a brilliant score and we have a fifteen piece live orchestra.  In my long theatre career, Ragtime is one of my top three shows.  People will leave feeling good.

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(L to R) Finn Clougherty, Jillian Griffin, Cristian Sack, Hannah Dwyer as Little Girl, Michael Hammond as Tateh, Barbara Baumgarten, Brenna Kenney, Melissa Carubia as Emma Goldman (on soapbox), Hilary Goodnow Photo courtesy of Zoe Bradford

SC:  Period pieces can be difficult from costuming to the fine details and Ragtime must be a monster to put together.

ZB:  It’s challenging, but we have our costumer Bree Plummer.  We would love to have her as a resident, but she is also a teacher so we get her when we can.  I work with a great team of designers including Ryan Barrow and James Valentin to make the most beautiful show possible.  We love period pieces because we can make it interesting.

I’m trying to let others set design because people have to carry the legacy on just in case.  I probably won’t ever retire, but will let people take over certain aspects.  As I let some things go, I plan to write more.

Company Theatre's  2018 'Ragtime'

(L to R) Hannah Dwyer of Scituate as Little Girl with Michael Hammond of Holbrook as her father Tateh Photo courtesy of Zoe Bradford

SC:  Spring Awakening also took place in the last five years, another daring show.

ZB:  I didn’t cut it, though it was handled carefully.  Though it happened in a different era, the themes are also relevant today and people need things they can relate to.  I also love a good score.  Steve Bass came on in 2016 and we’ve made him our resident Music Director and may keep him on indefinitely.  He’s a young, brilliant pianist and has his PhD from the Conservatory.

Company Theatre's musical, Spring Awakening

Company Theatre’s 2014 musical, ‘Spring Awakening’  Photo courtesy of The Company Theatre

SC:  You once said you chose popular shows that sell, but in the last few years, The Company Theatre has been delving into unchartered waters a bit.  Last year was haunted with Carrie the Musical and Lizzie Borden.

ZB:  It’s financially difficult to do that, but we are trying to give the young people what they want.  Lizzie Borden went well because people love local history and some said they have been to her house.  A gruesome tale, but it was also a nice psychological thriller.

We changed a little how we choose our shows, but we still have to please our general audience and offer something for the family, something mature, and our team knows their demographic well and what will be successful.

I’m passionate about big musicals and there’s nothing like the thrill of a live orchestra.  People in the professional theatre world, mentors, and colleagues say they will put eight pieces in here and do a lot of synthetic and prerecord.  You can make a lot of money that way, but we can’t do that.  Michael Joseph said that is standard while he was here and we’ve maintained it.

SC:  What shows do you still dream of doing?

ZB:  I’d love to do Wicked, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, and I’m also waiting to do Mamma Mia!  We’ll get to it.  It’s all about rights and I’m sure there are new shows coming out that I’d love to get my hands on.

As a non-profit, whatever comes in has to support what we are doing and help us be self-sustaining.  Grants, gifts, and tax deductible donations are the key.  We have better opportunities for community support such as new packages for corporate sponsorship due to having higher end computer capabilities, a better website, and a brand new ticketing service that allows people who wish to support us to advertise.

SC:  What has been your most challenging musical?

ZB:  The Wizard of Oz because the movie is a masterpiece and any derivation from the film would be a disappointment for those who truly love it.  People would fight me on that, but if you take on The Wiz, you can do what you want because no one has a preset notion of it.  The Wiz was recently in Boston and the star of Ragtime portrayed the Wizard.

SC: What advice would you give someone taking on a business in theatre or similar?

ZB:  It’s highly competitive.  Know your vision, don’t give up, and try to think of something that someone else hasn’t already thought of.  Be fresh and original when you can and make sure people know of your existence without being obnoxious about it.  We still struggle with it.  Some people say they didn’t know a theatre is here.

The Company Theatre logo

Company Theatre’s logo, a design Zoe Bradford hand drew 40 years ago

SC:  What do you envision for the Company Theatre’s future?

ZB:  We have to keep growing and in our 40th year, we are finally setting up the Legacy Fund.  Our money rolls in and out with the tide as any non-profit would, but we’re actively fundraising to ensure another 40 years and beyond.

For the last ten years, I’ve wanted to design a new logo.  I remember sitting at a little drafting table back in the 70s and hand drew it when we didn’t have any money or resources.

With art being cut in classrooms and attending theatre in Boston can be so expensive, we’re looking to keep this going so it’s accessible for everyone and expand.  I can see us taking on more property and A.C.T. quadrupling over the next ten years.  We’re not a community theatre anymore, but a year round professional and we’ll evolve again.  We provide many jobs for people, but the other part of my vision is to create more jobs for artisans in the area.  The more people that are working and inspiring people, the better.

Click here for tickets or call the box office at 781-871-2787.  Located at 30 Accord Park Drive in Norwell, Massachusetts, click here on how to support the Company Theatre and be sure to follow them on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

For Performing Arts news, interviews, reviews, and much more in Boston and beyond, follow us on Facebook @sleeplesscritic and subscribe.

 

An avid fan of all things Disney, Sarah Kelly discusses being cast as Disney princess Ariel in Company Theatre’s ‘The Little Mermaid’

To Sarah Kelly, award-winning Company Theatre actress, Plymouth State University student, and ardent fan of anything Disney, becoming a Disney princess is another dream come true.  Sarah spent last summer on the Company Theatre stage as sunny Elle Woods in the frothy musical, Legally Blonde the Musical, calling it the best summer of her life.  She spends this summer under the sea as Disney Princess Ariel in Company Theatre’s production of Disney’s The Little Mermaid from July 28 to August 20 at The Company Theatre in Norwell, Massachusetts.  Whether portraying California fashionista turned Harvard law student or a love struck, fish out of water fork enthusiast, what Sarah shares with all of them is her ceaseless optimism.

Sarah Kelly talks about her returning to the Company Theatre, her new sidekicks, future plans, and her unconventional audition.  Click here for further information and for tickets to Disney’s The Little Mermaid.

Sleepless Critic:  You seem to fit right into your role of Ariel in The Little Mermaid just a smoothly as you did as Elle in Company Theatre’s Legally Blonde last summer, a role you won an award for.  What it was like to win for your first lead role?

Sarah Kelly:  Whenever I talk about being a part of Legally Blonde with Company Theatre, I always say it was the gift that kept on giving. It gave me the opportunity to experience leading a show as Elle Woods, work with some of the most incredible and genuine people I’ve ever met, and yes, so blessed to receive ‘Best Actress in a Musical’ from Broadway World Boston.  Receiving this award was an absolute cherry on top of the best summer of my life because I didn’t expect to be nominated at all. To be considered was prize enough and winning is one of the most amazing things that has ever happened to me.  That official validation meant so much to me.

SC:  What interested you in returning to the Company Theatre as Ariel this summer?

SK:  Last year in our interview for Legally Blonde, I talked about how Company Theatre’s family vibe and atmosphere immediately stole my heart. I saw a couple of different shows that were put up this past school year.  When I returned, I was welcomed back with open arms and felt so at home again. Company Theatre is so much fun and I treasure each day.  When I heard they were doing The Little Mermaid, I had to audition because it’s one of my favorite Disney movies and I adore Alan Menken’s work.

SC:  How was the audition process for Ariel different from last year’s and how did you prepare?

SK:  My audition was extremely different for this role because I did a video audition as opposed to last year where I attended the actual audition at Company Theatre. Unfortunately, I was away at school and auditions for Plymouth State University’s fall season were the exact same days as The Little Mermaid’s auditions and callbacks. It’s easier to show your truest colors at an “in person” audition.  Showing what you have as a human being that will make that character you’re trying for special and real is the most important part of an audition.  However, I did my best, memorized the sides that were sent to me, and the song I was asked to sing for my callback.  I guess it really paid off.

Company Theatre Flounder with cast

Colin SanGiacomo as Flounder with cast Photo courtesy of Zoe Bradford/Company Theatre

SC:  It sure did.  Rather than Bruiser from Legally Blonde, you now have a couple of new sidekicks in Flounder and Sebastian.  Please tell me what it is like to work on a Disney musical.  Is this your first one?  The Company Theatre recently completed The Lion King Jr earlier this year.

SK:  Yes, unfortunately, I wasn’t able to see their production of The Lion King Jr, but I heard wonderful things and saw some of the gorgeous costumes.  Aside from playing Kaa the Snake in The Jungle Book Jr in fourth grade, this is my first Disney show and I am living for it. I grew up purely on Disney movies and music, so to be a part of this kind of process and play a Disney princess is a dream come true. The show is so bright, alive, and magical and the direction this specific production is going does the show itself absolute justice.

SC:  I’m sure it must feel a little different to work with a cast who are playing animated characters and creatures.  Such a beautiful set!

SK:  Yes, we have some of the most passionate humans working on this show. The ever so dedicated James Valentin works extremely hard alongside our own personal superman, Ryan Barrow, who is also known as the hot UPS guy from Legally Blonde last summer.  They go above and beyond creating, building, and painting sets. Ryan is one of the many Disney fan girls in our little family and literally will not sleep until everything is perfect.   So many talented hands are helping to interpret the movie’s magic and that magic is right onstage.   It’s so beautiful.  I don’t know how they do it because these two guys are also a part of the cast.  I can’t forget the spectacular Bri Plummer, who brings her unique costume designs to life perfectly.

James Valentin with Flounder and Ariel

Colin SanGiacomo as Flounder, James Valentin as Grimsby, and Sarah Kelly as Ariel Photo courtesy of Zoe Bradford/Company Theatre

Our absolutely brilliant choreographer, Sally Forrest, has such an incredible vision for this show that people need to see to really understand. She wants the audience to believe they are watching the original Disney movie and trains us to think and be animated characters, which is a lot of fun.  The extremely specific motivation and movement direction she gives creates this beautiful and nostalgic picture both children and parents are going to be mesmerized by.

Company Theatre 'The Little Mermaid'

Ronald Vorce as Ursula Photo courtesy of Zoe Bradford/Company Theatre

SC:  Have there been any surprises in portraying Ariel?  Unexpected challenges?  It’s such a fun role.

SK:  Ariel is so much fun to portray. I don’t support all of her life choices considering she gives up her gift of a voice for a legs and a man, but that doesn’t mean she’s not a blast to play on stage. She’s sweet, spunky, lovely, and lively.  A challenge that I knew I was bound to run into with her is letting Elle from Legally Blonde pop in and out. With Elle, I had much more liberty in character choices and playing up my ‘Sarah-isms.’  Ariel is such an iconic animated figure, not to mention princess, so I really wanted to bring her to life in an organic way while staying true to the original cartoon.

Company Theatre Ariel's Royal Princess Celebration

Photo courtesy of Zoe Bradford/Company Theatre

SC:  You’ll be a part of the Company Theatre fundraiser, Ariel’s Royal Princess Celebration on Saturday, August 5 in full Disney princess mode.  I’m sure that will be exciting for you.

SK:  I’m very excited to be a part of the Princess Celebration!  I love working with kids as a day job.  Even when I was in the Hingham Parade on July 4, seeing those beautiful little faces looking up at me like I was an actual Disney princess, made me want it to last forever.  I look forward to creating some real magic for the kids right here in Norwell on August 5.

Company Theatre 'The Little Mermaid' Hingham Parade

Sarah Kelly as Ariel with Flounder at the Hingham Parade on Independence Day

SC:  What are your future plans?  Do you have new acting projects in the works after this?

SK:  My university is putting on Merrily We Roll Along this fall and I was cast as ‘Gussie.’   I’m looking forward to it.  I love a good Sondheim show and I’m portraying a super awful character, but also fun and flirty. Gussie is definitely on the crazy side, which is always a blast!  It’s also directed by one of my favorite people, Beth Daily, and assistant directed by my best friend, Val Umbro, a dynamic duo for sure. I’m also grateful to be assistant directing The Trial with Paul Mroczka in the fall.  It’ll be such a great challenge and growing experience for me.

Click here to learn more about Ariel’s Royal Princess Celebration fundraiser on August 5.  Click here or call the box office at 781-871-2787 for tickets to Company Theatre’s production of Disney’s The Little Mermaid from Friday, July 28 through Sunday, August 20 at The Company Theatre, 30 Accord Park Drive in Norwell, Massachusetts.   Follow Company Theatre on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram for updates and more.