REVIEW:  ‘The Secret Garden’ blossoms at the Company Theatre

In the midst of darkness, hope may be as tucked away as a garden.

Packed with secrets that reach far beyond the hallowed walls of the Misselthwaite Manor, The Company Theatre scheduled the perfect time of year to deliver a musical about finding light in loss, growth in darkness, and the best way to plant roots in Marsha Norman’s family-friendly The Secret Garden which continues live and in person at the Company Theatre in Norwell, Massachusetts through Sunday, April 2.  The show is two hours and 20 minutes including one intermission.  Click here for more information and for tickets.

Logo courtesy of Zoe Bradford/Company Theatre

Set in Colonial India and then North Yorkshire, England in 1906 based on the 1911 Frances Hodgson Burnett’s beloved novel of the same name, The Secret Garden focuses on Mary Lennox, portrayed with wise beyond her years fortitude and a mischievous streak by Diana Lee, an orphan girl who arrives at mysterious Misselthwaite Manor after tragedy strikes to live with her widowed Uncle Archibald, depicted with melancholy and seeming detachment by Peter S. Adams.  On Mary’s first night at the manor, Mary starts to hear strange noises and the only thing left to do is investigate. 

Dru Daniels as Lily in ‘The Secret Garden’ Photo courtesy of Zoe Bradford/Company Theatre

Fueled by gorgeous harmony, what stood out the most in this multilayered production was its enchanting score.  Though the musical delves into grief, it also has its share of comical and heartwarming moments.  With music by Lucy Simon, musically directed mellifluously by conductor Robert McDonough and with illustrative choreography and staging by Sally Ashton Forrest, The Secret Garden is well cast with divine and powerful voices, especially from Dru Daniels as discerning and strong willed Lily and Peter S. Adams as Archibald.  Adams has a deeply emotive quality to his vocals and blended with Daniels’s beautiful and operatic tones, songs such as How Could I Ever Know are simply stunning.  Adams movingly delivers both a tender and soaring A Bit of Earth and bittersweet Race You to the Top of the MorningJames Fernandes carries his own as practical and scrupulous Dr. Neville Craven in a powerful rendition of Disappear and with Adams in an awe-inspiring version of Lily’s Eyes.

James Fernandes as Dr. Neville Craven and Peter S. Adams as Archibald Craven Photo courtesy of Zoe Bradford/Company Theatre

Diana Lee shares the role of Mary Lennox with Francesca Miele on alternating performances.  Lee’s angelic soprano vocals shine for A Girl I Mean to Be and she shares some fiery and amusing scenes with Lilly George as domineering and sheltered Colin who shares the role with Jackson Lynch.

Jennifer Beth Glick, delightful in Company Theatre’s previous family musical, Matilda, brings her bright smile and sweet demeanor to the role of Martha.  Playful and nurturing, Glick delivers an exuberant rendition of the imaginative A Fine White Horse and charming chemistry with serious Lee.  Glick also demonstrates Martha’s profound side with a soaring and memorable Hold On.  Glick also shares her role with Emily Lambert on alternating performances.   Another breath of fresh air is Tim Bevens as Martha’s brother Dickon who coaxes Mary to observe the world around her accompanied by a few well behaved, but also with a bit of hankering for mischief live animals that will have to be seen to be believed.  Dickon’s adventurous and breezy demeanor makes him a treat among the musical’s heavier content in his wondrous rendition of Winters on the Wing and with Lee for Wick.

Tim Bevens as Dickon Photo courtesy of Zoe Bradford/Company Theatre

Managing a wild thunderous storm, a blanket of stars, and deep shadows on the manor walls is lighting designer Dean Palmer Jr. with Ryan Barrow’s dynamic and moving set design from the lofty bookcases of a vintage Victorian mansion to the stone walled, vine covered vitality of the outdoors inspired by the Victorian Era.  Costume designer Cathy Torrey completes the look with frock coats, lorgnettes, cravats, and flowing frocks in muted colors faithful to the era.

The Secret Garden has plenty of discoveries in store continuing live and in person at the Company Theatre in Norwell, Massachusetts through Sunday, April 2.  Click here for more information, tickets, and for Company Theatre’s upcoming events.

REVIEW:  Vocals soar as Academy of the Company Theatre presents Andrew Lloyd Webber’s ‘Phantom of the Opera’

It may seem like a small detail, but The Phantom of the Opera’s iconic chandelier plays a pivotal role in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s The Phantom of the Opera.  It opens the show in its sheer majesty and the Phantom is actually found hiding in the glittering and monstrous powerhouse of a special effect at one point during the Broadway production.  In fact, it is what fascinates the audience at the beginning of the musical in glorious rhythm with the thunderous and foreboding sound of a pipe organ blaring in the distance and what later crashes to makes the cast run in terror.

Directed insightfully by Sally Ashton Forrest with powerful music directed by Melissa Carubia, Academy of the Company Theatre’s Phantom of the Opera gets so many things right from Vickie Gerard-Culligan’s ornate costumes, the pitch perfect casting, its sinister lighting by Dean Palmer Jr., and its smaller scale replications of Phantom’s famous sets by Ryan Barrow, but the production’s chandelier may not quite meet some lofty expectations.

Academy of the Company Theatre (A.C.T.) presents Andrew Lloyd Webber’s The Phantom of the Opera live and in person at The Company Theatre, 130 Accord Park Drive in Norwell, Massachusetts through February 19.  The musical is sold out.  Click here for more information on the Company Theatre and its upcoming events.

Alexa Cohen as Madame Giry (right) with cast in ACT’s ‘Phantom of the Opera’ Photo courtesy of Zoe Bradford/Company Theatre

Set in the 1700’s, Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Phantom of the Opera focuses on a mysterious presence that haunts the famous Palais Garnier Opera House in Paris, France.  New opera house co-owners Ben Cavallo-Smith as Monsieur Richard Firmin and Weston Hammond as Monsieur Giles Andre make a distinguished and at times humorous pair in vintage suits with tails as they start to realize things are not what they seem.

‘Masquerade’ ACT’s ‘Phantom of the Opera’ Photo courtesy of Zoe Bradford/Company Theatre

Phantom of the Opera boasts some enduring yet challenging music numbers and the cast may feature students up to 18 years of age, but their vocals are well beyond their years.  Jillian Pongonis as Christine and Catrina Riker as Carlotta hit some extraordinary notes for being so young and it was a joy to hear Riker’s Think of Me and Prima Donna as she prances around the stage in signature diva fashion, bold and comical as she shouts her demands.  Carlotta’s sophisticated gowns become more extravagant as the musical progresses and the cast hits its outrageous stylish stride for Masquerade.  Salvator Guillermo Garcia, whose past performances with ACT include Jean Val Jean in Les Miserables, has a supporting and memorable role as Ubaldo Piangi.  Garcia not only does a wonderful job vocally in Hannibal and Notes with the cast, but his occasional tenuous smirks and smiles enhance the musical’s humorous moments.  

Gilbert Dabady as The Phantom and Jillian Pongonis as Christine Daae Photo courtesy of Zoe Bradford/Company Theatre

Pongonis may be slight in stature, but her powerful vocals exceed her years as does Gilbert Dabady as The Phantom.  Dabady and Pongonis’s duet of The Point of No Return may seem a bit mature for their ages, but Angel of Music and  Music of the Night are beautifully performed and Pongonis’s stirring rendition of Wishing You Were Somehow Here Again is a must see.  Dabady is mysterious and threatening as the Phantom, his deep and resounding vocals all the more menacing offstage. Dabady and Pongonis are a complex and charismatic pair while Charlie Flaherty is well suited for the daring and charming Raoul.  Amid a pale blue rooftop, Christine and Raoul perform a sweet rendition of All I Ask of You

Charlie Flaherty as Raoul and Jillian Pongonis as Christine Daae in ACT’s ‘Phantom of the Opera’ Photo courtesy of Zoe Bradford/Company Theatre

Clever blocking and reigned in sets aptly accommodate the Company Theatre stage. Tints of haunting purple, vintage marble columns, nostalgic lighting, eerie skulls, an angelic stone statue, onstage gold lined opera box seats, a brass organ, monkey music box, and a candelabra lit lair on a misty lake help recreate iconic scenes and special effects that bring this somewhat opera within an opera to life.  As a big Phantom of the Opera fan, Academy of the Company Theatre’s Phantom of the Opera captures this moving and mystical musical best known for Andrew Lloyd Webber’s classic soundtrack and makes the magic of the longest running show on Broadway last a little longer in Norwell. 

Academy of the Company Theatre (A.C.T) presents Andrew Lloyd Webber’s The Phantom of the Opera live and in person at the Company Theatre, 130 Accord Park Drive in Norwell, Massachusetts through February 19.  The musical is sold out.  Click here for more information on the Company Theatre and its upcoming events.

REVIEW: Company Theatre’s ‘A Christmas Carol’ immersive, haunting, and filled with holiday spirit

The Company Theatre’s haunting, immersive, and meaningful A Christmas Carol is a frequent holiday tradition with good reason.  So much more than the Charles Dickens classic, the Company Theatre calls on the holiday spirit through subtle nuances in story and song and the exceptional festivities only become more fervent each December it takes the stage.  Sure, the Company Theatre weaved in the holiday spirit in other December productions such as last year’s Charles Dickens classic, Oliver the Musical (featuring Matt O’Connor as Oliver who returns as adorable Scrooge as a young boy) but this thought-provoking tale of charity, compassion, and forgiveness is the pinnacle holiday treat.

Company Theatre A Christmas Carol

Company Theatre’s ‘A Christmas Carol’ is sold out! Photo courtesy of The Company Theatre

The Company Theatre presents the Charles Dickens classic A Christmas Carol now through Sunday, December 22 at the Company Theatre in Norwell, Massachusetts.  This show is sold out.  Click here for their recently announced 2020 theatre season and how to support The Company Theatre.

A Christmas Carol is the classic tale of Ebenezer Scrooge, a wealthy, penny-pinching old miser who has no use for Christmas until his past comes back to haunt him on Christmas Eve.

With LED lighting and cinematography, heightened special effects, singing Carolers flooding the aisles,  enviable costumes by Kathryn Ridder, and snow glimmering over that bright, familiar cobblestone street where Scrooge must face his worst fears, A Christmas Carol is certainly a feast for the eyes.  The uplifting overture, orchestrated by Steve Bass and arranged by Steve Rogers, is tinged in popular Christmas carols, a preview of the wealth of carols and additional songs added to this festive production.  Ding Dong Merrily on High, O Come O Ye Faithful, Hark the Harold Angels Sing, Joy to the World, and Noel are among the production’s musical highlights.

Company Theatre A Christmas Carol Owen George as Tiny Tim as Bill Carter as Bob Cratchit

Owen George as Tiny Tim and Bill Carter as Bob Cratchit Photo courtesy of Zoe Bradford/Company Theatre

Directed by Zoe Bradford and Jordie Saucerman, The Company Theatre’s production of A Christmas Carol also sets itself apart by weaving in the beauty of the season within the excitement of its joyous ensemble cast.  Each cobblestone street character is as enthralling as the immediate cast, each with their own individual story and holiday motivation within the context of this beautiful London setting.  The action is so immersive that it can hide the immediate cast a bit.  One of the most endearing moments is the return of a lively trio running around the London streets holding up mistletoe for kisses as well as the uplifting and rollicking period dance numbers choreographed with style by Sally Ashton Forrest.

This production boasts a lively cast led by Phillip Hebert as miserly Ebeneezer Scrooge.  Hebert exacts Scrooge’s deep, searing signature growl, his sterling vocals cutting into the soul.  Scrooge toils, scowls, and his dire sense of humor is not lost on his cheerful and generous nephew Fred, portrayed with a crisp accent and inviting demeanor by Christopher Spenser.  In spectacles and a sour huff, Hebert is best in his dark gruffness. However, his overall interpretation becomes jollier as the show progresses as his arms stubbornly swayto the music, offering a lighter, increasingly heartening Scrooge.

Company Theatre A Christmas Carol Owen George as Tiny Tim and Philip Hebert as Scrooge

Owen George as Tiny Tim and Philip Hebert as Ebenezer Scrooge Photo courtesy of Zoe Bradford/Company Theatre

Bill Carter portrays humble, guarded, and sympathetic Bob Cratchit.  Hebert and Carter skillfully develop palpable tension as Carter, leery, speaks to Scrooge out of turn.  Kris Connolly portrays loyal and eternally patient Mrs. Cratchit.  Connolly and Carter deliver heartwarming scenes with their large, beautiful family including sweet Owen George as Tiny Tim as their voices lift for the bright and original song, Noel.

Adorned in a gorgeous lit crown and veil, Nicole Hall delivers warmth, yet a foreboding quality as the Ghost of Christmas Past.  Serene and gentle, she brings out the best in Scrooge’s curmudgeonly soul.  Majestic in a crown of holly and carrying a cornucopia, Dave Daly glides across the stage as charismatic, jolly and larger-than-life Ghost of Christmas Present and the equally endearing Mr. Fezziwig.  Lilly George and Brynn Hsu also shine as giggling Christmas sprites.  Covered in hazy light, Dan Kelly is remarkably ghoulish and crazed as Jacob Marley with some very impressive special effects.

Company Theatre’s A Christmas Carol pulls off a couple of surprises to this classic tale in the finale, and cannot leave out Megan Boutilier’s expressive and hilarious depiction of The Laundress.  She is marvelous.  If the holiday season is not spreading the joy that is should this year, Company Theatre’s A Christmas Carol will certainly encourage that heartwarming feeling, indeed.

The Company Theatre continues A Christmas Carol at the Company Theatre, 30 Accord Park Drive in Norwell, Massachusetts through December 22.  The show is sold out, but click here for their exciting 2020 season.