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.

NYC actress, writer, and filmmaker Stephanie Iscovitz talks finding home, making it big, and her latest projects, including ‘Bruce Loves You’

From a southern city to the Big Apple, actress, writer, filmmaker, producer, casting assistant, and T. Schreiber Studio and Theatre graduate Stephanie Iscovitz learned it takes a quick study to make it in the big city.  Working on a variety of diverse projects, Stephanie continues to inspire and entertain through her unique storytelling.  She will run the New York New Works Theatre Festival this October.  Click here for more information on entering the festival and further details.  Submit for free by August 15.

New York New Works Theatre Festival

Film submissions are free through August 15. Festival with Broadway panel takes place in October. Photo courtesy of New York New Works Theatre Festival

Stephanie talks about finding home, her current project, her most challenging and rewarding experiences as a woman in film, and who she would love to work with in the future.

Sleepless Critic:  You are from Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, but you decided to pursue your career in NYC.  What do you love most about the city and what ultimately inspired you to stay?

Stephanie Iscovitz:  I knew I wanted to move to New York when I was 12. Oprah calls them ‘Ah-ha!’ moments. I visited the city with my family and it wasn’t the bright lights or tall buildings that enticed me, but truly the first time I felt home. I felt connected to the city unlike anything else.  Nine years after moving here, I still love the energy, the urgency, the constant inspiration, and creativity.

T. Shreiber Studio

T. Schreiber Studio and Theatre graduate Stephanie Iscovitz with class of 2011 Photo Credit: T. Schreiber Studio & Theatre

 SC:  You have delved into a wealth of projects as an actress working in New York City, always with enthusiasm for the next project.  Please tell me what it was like when you first arrived.

SI:  I really had to get it together when I first arrived because the competition is too fierce. I awakened to the reality of what it actually takes to be an actor and to stay afloat in the industry. Coming from Florida, I thought I would audition, book this role, and be rich and famous before I’m 30.  It’s so hard.  So many steps on the ladder and hoops you have to jump through to succeed and as a woman, a glass ceiling.  You have to be somewhat naive to get into the business and then an ultimate bad-ass to stay in it.  The first time I felt like I got it right was an audition for a role portraying a very complex, troubled stand-up comedian. I never felt more alive and was still reeling from the audition when the producer followed me out of the room and thanked me for my work, which never happens. I didn’t book it, which is a lesson that talent sometimes has nothing to do with who gets the job.

SC:  You have delved into a variety of female driven projects. What has most surprised you working on these productions?

SI:  What surprised me most was the real, systemic issues preventing women from rising through the ranks. Women graduate from film school at 50 percent, the same rate that men do, so there are no lack of trained, qualified, and willing female directors. Women are held to a much higher standard than men before they are considered qualified. There are countless examples of male directors who were snatched up by the studio after having only directed a very small micro-budget film and literally handed the opportunity of taking on a multi-million dollar studio movie. That kind of risk has almost never been taken on by a female director. I was never aware of these greater challenges until I got into the business which is why it’s imperative to have these conversations about the revolution of women in film.

SC:  Of the various jobs you do, what has been most challenging and rewarding for you?

SI:  Though every role has its own set of challenges and triumphs, the most rewarding is being able to collaborate with other independent female filmmakers to create something that grows organically.  I’ve learned that the film you shoot will be different than the film you write and the film you edit will be different than the film you shot.  It’s movie magic to nurture this idea with a team you respect, admire, and have a final product you never could have created on your own. Each learning experience gives me the confidence to guide me through to the next project.

Big Apple Film Festival with Jerry Stiller

2014 Big Apple Film Festival – Stephanie won for her first film, which was screened alongside Jerry Stiller. It was a comedy called ‘Ladies Night’ Photo Credit: Stephanie Iscovitz

SC:  You have taken on thrillers, dramas, comedy, and other genres in your work.  Just a couple of the comedies you are a part of is OK, Cupid and the web series, Third Wheel.  I understand Third Wheel is doing well and was nominated for an award.

SI:  I enjoy all genres and hope to continue to create a diverse body of work. As an actor, I tend to play darker, troubled characters but also have extensive improv experience having completed The People’s Improv training program. I was on two indie improv teams performing in comedy clubs throughout the city for a few years and loved it.  Improv is a reminder to stay in the moment and inspires a ‘yes, and’ attitude for life. It’s where I met my close friends Sarah and Darin who are part of the Third Wheel team.  On Third Wheel, Sarah plays the lead character, ‘Lu’ and Darin directed, shot, edited and scored the entire project.  We were nominated for Best Ensemble at the NYC WebFest. Third Wheel got distribution through SeekaTV, a streaming platform for the independent filmmaker. See the complete first season here.

Scene from 'Bruce Loves You'

Stephanie Iscovitz in her latest film, ‘Bruce Loves You’ Photo Credit: Darin Quan

SC:  Tell me about your latest film, Bruce Loves You.

SI:  I reconnected with Sarah and Darin after Third Wheel to film Bruce Loves You. Chris Roberti of HBO’s High Maintenance and Comedy Central’s Broad City is Bruce, a charismatic and handsome ghost in a complicated relationship with a young woman who happens to be alive. When he begins to compliment her roommate’s speaking voice, it becomes clear he is not a one-woman ghost.  I portray the roommate.  The inspiration behind Bruce focuses on improbable or ridiculous stories and how they can help alleviate the inevitable problems of time and money in film production.  A blender was also always breaking down, so this story was a natural expression of all those elements in a true ‘indie’ spirit.  See the trailer here.

'Bruce Loves You' cast at Lighthouse International film fest

‘Bruce Loves You’ team at the 2017 Lighthouse International Film Festival Photo courtesy of Darin Quan

SC:  You also work for the Donna Grossman Casting Agency.  How did you get involved in that line of work?

SI:  I am so grateful I got the job through my best friend.  Every actor should have an opportunity to work in a casting office.  You learn nothing is personal and the best person for the job doesn’t always get it for reasons beyond anyone’s control.  Once we were casting for a luxury eye-wear company and the model they wanted to book had a small cut on her finger and lost the job even though it would have been healed and completely unnoticeable by the shoot date.  Another time we were casting a commercial and booked an actress in her mid-40s.  The client changed their mind and wanted the role to be for an 80 year-old actress. So even after booking it, that actress didn’t get it. You’re not in it ‘til you’re in it.

SC:  Please tell me about projects you are currently working on and who you would like to work with in the future.

SI:  I’ve been working on a virtual reality (VR) project in narrative form for the past year. VR experiences have an unprecedented potential to elicit empathy, which makes it perfect for a story I’m exploring about unconventional love and “otherness.”  It’s the first time I’m focusing more on myself and creating a role that showcases my acting range instead of a more ensemble piece where all my friends have equal screen time.

Right now I’m dying to work with Ana Lily Amirpour. Her debut feature, A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night, is a huge inspiration for my VR project. She also spoke at the Nevada Women’s Film Festival in March where my film, The Man with the Western Hat, was accepted. I admire her work and she offered some real insight into navigating this industry. Her sophomore feature, The Bad Batch was just released June 23rd. I hope our paths cross one day.

 

 

Reagle Music Theatre of Greater Boston presents award-winning, grand scale musical, ‘Showboat’

Swept up in the weathered pages of a photo album is a story of forbidden love and a reflection of time gone by and the beauty in its passing.  Celebrating its 90th anniversary, Reagle Music Theatre of Greater Boston proudly presents the award-winning, grand scale musical, Showboat as part of Reagle’s 49th annual summer musical season.  Starring Broadway’s Ciaran Sheehan as Ravenal, Sarah Oakes Muirhead as Magnolia, and Broadway’s Michel Bell in his Tony award-winning role as Joe, Showboat arrives for two weekends only from Thursday, July 6 through Sunday, July 16 at Robinson Theatre in Waltham, Massachusetts.  Click here for more information and for tickets.

Reagle Music TheatreMichel Bell headshot hi

Broadway’s Michel Bell reprises his Tony award-winning role as Joe in Reagle Music Theatre of Greater Boston’s ‘Showboat’

With music by Jerome Kern and book and lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II, Showboat focuses on the happenings aboard a Mississippi showboat over generations from 1887 through 1927.  This insightful musical, which delves into social issues and prejudice, features the classic numbers Ol’ Man RiverCan’t Help Lovin’ Dat Man and Make Believe.

Reagle 42nd Street

Reagle Music Theatre of Greater Boston will close out its summer musical season with the toe-tapping, Tony award-winner for Best Musical, 42nd Street starring The Dukes of Hazzard star Tom Wopat for two weekends from Thursday, August 3 through Sunday, August 13.  Performances will be held at the Robinson Theatre, 617 Lexington Street in Waltham, Massachusetts. Call 1-781-891-5600, click here, or email groups@reaglemusictheatre.org for more information on their summer musical series and much more.  Group tickets and gift certificates are also available.  Stay updated on all of Reagle Music Theatre of Greater Boston’s latest news by following them on Twitter and Facebook.

Bill Hanney’s North Shore Music Theatre presents Disney’s award-winning musical, ‘Beauty and the Beast’

A mysterious candlestick, a robust clock, a talkative dresser, an imperfect cup, and a warm tea pot could very well be the right ingredients to true love.  On the heels of the blockbuster, live action remake of Disney’s blockbuster film starring Emma Watson, Bill Hanney’s North Shore Music Theatre proudly presents the spectacular, award-winning Disney musical, Beauty and the Beast from Tuesday, July 11 through Sunday, July 30 at North Shore Music Theatre, 62 Dunham Road in Beverly, Massachusetts.  Tickets for children up to 18 years old are half price, but no children under the age of 4 are permitted in the theatre.  Click here for further details, tickets, and special performances that feature free post-show talks.

Based on the classic fairy tale, Beauty and the Beast is about a prince who resides in a magical castle under a dark spell. Belle is the beloved child of an inventor who seems more interested in the life of a good tale than reality. When Belle’s father gets lost in the forest, a series of events will test their capacity for compassion and love. With music by Alan Menken and lyrics by Howard Asman and Tim Rice, Beauty and the Beast boasts enchanting musical numbers audiences know and love such as Be Our Guest, Belle, Something There, and the musical’s beautiful title track.

Bill Hanney’s North Shore Music Theatre kicks off their 2017 musical season with Disney’s Beauty and the Beast from Tuesday, July 11 through Sunday, July 30.  The Mel Brooks musical comedy, Young Frankenstein, the epic musical Evita, the toe tapping 42nd Street, and the return of the holiday classic, A Christmas Carol round out this year’s stellar season.  Follow North Shore Music Theatre on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram for updates and more.

Tickets for 12th annual Duxbury Music Festival, featuring live seaside concert music & more, go on sale June 1

For the past twelve years, South Shore Conservatory’s Duxbury Music Festival (DMF) has welcomed summer with seaside entertainment and extraordinary live music along the South Shore of Massachusetts.  With more than a week-long concert extravaganza exploring reggae, jazz, classical, and blues, the Duxbury Music Festival kicks off their summer series at a seaside tent on Duxbury Bay at Freeman Place for Blues on the Bay Cabaret Concert on Friday, July 14.  The evening offers cocktails and appetizers featuring live music from Sugar Ray and the Blue Tones at 6:30 p.m.  Tickets go on sale to the public on Wednesday, June 1.  Call 781-934-2731, ext. 11 or click here for the full list of events and tickets.  Follow Duxbury Music Festival on Facebook for updates.

Duxbury Music Festival Logo

Photo courtesy of South Shore Conservatory

Set in in several locations in Duxbury, Massachusetts, the Duxbury Music Festival will be held from Friday, July 14 through Friday, July 28.  On Sunday, July 16, the Duxbury Music Festival continues at the seaside tent at Freeman Place with Festival Overture Concert and Reception featuring works from Haydn and Hurnik at 6:30 p.m.

Duxbury Music Festival Sunday-in-the-Park-2015

Photo courtesy of Kathy Dixon

Founding Duxbury Music Festival faculty member and soloist Oxana Yablonskaya returns to the festival on Tuesday, July 18 for the All-Rachmaninoff Faculty Concert at South Shore Conservatory, Ellison Center for the Arts, 64 George Street in Duxbury, Massachusetts at 7:30 p.m.  This special concert funds scholarships for Duxbury Music Festival students.

Duxbury Music Festival - Tent crowd shot

Photo courtesy of Kathy Dixon

Travel to Duxbury Town Green and enjoy Reggae on the Green featuring the Berklee Reggae Ensemble with opening act and South Shore Conservatory rock band, Toast on Friday, July 21 at 7 p.m.  Other events on the Duxbury Town Green include Rhythm and Blues on the Green Dinner Dance with party band In the House Saturday, July 22, Family Fest with plenty of kids entertainment and interactive activities featuring South Shore Conservatory’s ImagineArts band followed by Picnic in the Park featuring live entertainment from DMF students, lobster roll, and concessions on Sunday, July 23.  Back at South Shore Conservatory in Duxbury, take in Duxbury Music Festival’s All That Jazz featuring quintet Elan Mehler and a Duxbury Wine and Spirits tasting on Wednesday, July 26.

The Duxbury Music Festival concludes with a Winners Concert and Farewell Reception including a Duxbury Wine and Spirits Tasting on Friday, July 28. Tickets go on sale June 1, but subscriptions are now available.  Call 781-934-2731, ext. 11 or click here for tickets, see the full schedule, and all that the Duxbury Music Festival has to offer.

 

 

Reagle Music Theatre of Greater Boston celebrates 49th summer season with three renowned musicals

Dance, forbidden love on the water, and an epic tale among brothers featuring a coat of many colors encompass Reagle Music Theatre of Greater Boston’s award-winning summer musical season.  Celebrating its 49th season of bringing summer musicals to Waltham, Massachusetts, Reagle Music Theatre of Greater Boston kicks off their summer season on June 8, featuring one renowned musical a month through August 13.  Click here for more information and for tickets.

From acclaimed composer Andrew Lloyd Webber and lyricist Tim Rice, who have both earned Tony, Grammy, Academy, and Golden Globe awards, Reagle Music Theatre of Greater Boston presents the joyous and stirring musical, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat starring American Idol contestant and country singer Ayla Brown for two weekends from Thursday, June 8 through Sunday, June 18.

Based on the Book of Genesis, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat explores the incredible journey of Joseph and his brothers as Joseph discovers his destiny.  Exploring a variety of genres such as country western, rock and roll, disco, and reggae, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat boasts memorable tunes such as Close Every Door, Any Dream Will Do, and Go, Go, Go Joseph.

Reagle Showboat

Courtesy of Reagle Music Theatre of Greater Boston

Celebrating its 90th anniversary, Reagle Music Theatre of Greater Boston proudly presents the award-winning, grand scale musical, Showboat starring Broadway’s Ciaran Sheehan for two weekends from Thursday, July 6 through Sunday, July 16.  With music by Jerome Kern and book and lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II, Showboat explores the relationships and events aboard a Mississippi show boat from 1887 to 1927.  An insightful musical delves into significant issues such as prejudice and forbidden love, Showboat features the timeless numbers Ol’ Man River, Can’t Help Lovin’ Dat Man and Make Believe.

Reagle 42nd Street

Courtesy of Reagle Music Theatre of Greater Boston

Reagle Music Theatre of Greater Boston closes out its summer musical season with the toe-tapping, Tony award-winner for Best Musical, 42nd Street starring The Dukes of Hazzard star Tom Wopat for two weekends from Thursday, August 3 through Sunday, August 13.  Featuring hit songs such as Lullaby of Broadway, We’re in the Money, and I Only Have Eyes for You, 42nd Street is a fast-paced, dazzling musical surrounding the inner workings of a Broadway show.

All performances will be held at the Robinson Theatre, 617 Lexington Street in Waltham, Massachusetts. Call 1-781-891-5600, visit click here, or email groups@reaglemusictheatre.org for more information on their summer musical series and much more.  Group tickets and gift certificates are also available.

Reagle Music Theatre of Greater Boston will also host Musical Theatre camp in July! Click here for more information and follow Reagle Music Theatre of Greater Boston on Twitter and Facebook.