REVIEW: Mikko Nissinen’s ‘The Nutcracker’ remains a visually-stunning journey for all ages

With enchanting special effects and performances that would endear any holiday pessimist, Mikko Nissinen’s The Nutcracker once again returns with an entire world seeped in the fondest of daydreams for adults and children alike. With the enhancement of internationally-renowned Finnish lighting designer Mikki Kunttu and Tchaikovsky’s classic score conducted by Misha Santora, The Nutcracker is as picturesque as ever, emphasizing its mark as an annual holiday institution.

Boston Ballet The Nutcracker cast Photo by Liza Voll

The 150 dancers making up ‘The Nutcracker’s’ spectacular cast. Photo credit to Liza Voll/Boston Ballet

The castle on a cloud is only the prelude to an enchanting journey as Mikko Nissinen’s The Nutcracker returns to the Citizens Bank Opera House with new surprises.  An elegant party, a valiant battle, and a variety of spectacular toys springing to life is just part of Clara’s exquisite journey when she is gifted an intriguing Nutcracker for Christmas.

The Boston Ballet takes the stage for Mikko Nissinen’s The Nutcracker continuing through Sunday, December 29.  The Boston Ballet features discount youth pricing. Click here for more information and for tickets.

The Boston Ballet The Nutcracker

Stage view Photo courtesy of Jeanne Denizard

Robert Perdziola’s meticulously-detailed set and costume design not only create an inviting atmosphere whether inside a fire lit, multi-dimensional living room with a towering, emerald-lit Christmas tree or surrounding an outdoor fire pit where locals can keep warm, but also creates a pristine wintry wonderland where you can almost feel the chill.  The ornate period costumes are gorgeous as women are adorned in velvet, silk, and ribbons and the men are dressed to the nines. Sweet, sophisticated, yet playful Clara, portrayed impressively by Emma Blake, is lovely in her pale blue coat, bonnet hat, and fur hand warmers.

Boston Ballet The Nutcracker Party Scene by Liza Voll

Party scene. Photo credit to Liza Voll/Boston Ballet

Christmas Eve is a magical time, especially for children.  Paulo Arrais unveils some of that magic as charismatic and confident showman, Drosselmeier.  Mustachioed Arrais is a grand presence as he delivers visions sprung from the imagination, showing children anything is possible.

Boston Ballet Nutcracker Ricardo Santos and Ji Young Chae by Rosalie O Connor

Harlequin Doll and Ballerina Doll. Photo credit to Rosalie O’Connor/Boston Ballet

Among the most memorable moments is a Soo-bin Lee’s convincing portrayal as a Ballerina Doll, her rigid movements out of the box a fascinating sight.  Tyson Clark’s Harlequin Doll and Sun Woo Lee’s life size, exotic bear are exuberant, playful, and among the most highly- anticipated scenes in this production.

The appearance of the Nutcracker Prince, depicted by a chivalrous and gallant Derek Dunn, is extraordinary surrounded by bright, multicolored, shimmering ornaments in a magnificent tree.  His appearance highlights one of the most spectacular and exciting special effects of the production that will not be revealed here.  His encounter with Alec Roberts’s bold and at times humorous Mouse King is thrilling and partially what makes The Nutcracker a children’s classic.

Boston Ballet 'The Nutcracker' Mouse King and Wooden Soldiers by Liza Voll

Alec Roberts as the Mouse King and a valiant battle Photo credit to Liza Voll/Boston Ballet

Seo Hye Han and Tigran Mkrtchyan are visions as The Snow Queen and King on a sparkling silver sleigh as surrounding dancers joyfully flock and frolic in a glorious scene.  Seo Hye Han and Tigran Mikrtchyan have a sweet chemistry as they join together in a captivating dance.

Boston Ballet The Nutcracker Snow fairies by Liza Voll

An enchanted winter wonderland. Photo credit to Liza Voll/Boston Ballet

Under glimmering chandeliers is a group of remarkable, electric performances which is less story progression and more showcase driven presented by the iconic and sparkling Sugar Plum Fairy, portrayed with finesse by Chisako Oga.  Two pairs of Spanish dancers portrayed by Ekaterine Chubinidze, Haley Schwan, Daniel Cooper, and Benji Pearson, sway and twirl in a dazzling spectacle.  Chyrstyn Fentroy and Paul Craig receive a rousing applause as a pair of exotic and athletic Arabian dancers while Desean Taber, Daniel Durrett, and Fuze Sun show off their flexibility and athletic prowess as a trio of leaping Russian dancers.

Among the most humorous scenes is an adorable appearance by Bo Peep accompanied by a mischievous black sheep and Graham Johns as towering and surprising Mother Ginger.

Boston Ballet The Nutcracker By Liza Voll

Clara, portrayed by Mia Steedle, Nutcracker Prince portrayed by Tigran Mkrtchyan, and reindeer by students of Boston Ballet School Photo credit to Liza Voll/Boston Ballet  

Whether seeing Mikko Nissinen’s The Nutcracker for the first time or returning to enjoy it all over again, The Boston Ballet is as elegant and magical as you remember with enough refreshing additions to endure as a splendid holiday treat for the entire family.

The Boston Ballet takes the stage for Mikko Nissinen’s The Nutcracker continuing through Sunday, December 29 at the Citizen Bank Opera House, 539 Washington Street in Boston, Massachusetts.  These performances feature group rates and discount youth pricing.  Click here for tickets and for more information on Boston Ballet’s 2020 season.

 

 

Cohasset Dramatic Club proudly presents the enchanting musical comedy, ‘The Wedding Singer the Musical’

In a way, the 80s are back.  Popular Netflix series Stranger Things and GLOW represent a hankering for 80s nostalgia, and arguably one of the few hit films that delightfully represent the 80s so well is the comedy, The Wedding Singer, starring Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore.  Boasting Miami Vice flair, neon legwarmers, frills, and hit 80s music galore, The Wedding Singer is a sweet romantic comedy set in 1985 about shy waitress Julia Sullivan and Robbie Hart, a wannabe rock star turned wedding singer.  Adapted into a musical in 2006, Cohasset Dramatic Club presents The Wedding Singer the Musical for one weekend only from Thursday, July 27 through Sunday, July 31 at Cohasset Town Hall in Cohasset, Massachusetts.  Click here for tickets and more information.

Featuring a cast ages 14-21 and starring Jordan Robie as Robbie Hart and Madison Pratt as Julia Sullivan, The Wedding Singer the Musical is a lighthearted comedy sure to lift the spirit. This enchanting musical comedy features a mix of upbeat and touching original songs including It’s Your Wedding Day, Someday, If I Told You, and I Wanna Grow Old with You.

With a colorful, lively cast that includes a bitter brother, a kindly but sassy old neighbor, a rich, charismatic suitor, and even an appearance by Billy Idol and other 80s icons, Cohasset Dramatic Club proudly presents The Wedding Singer the Musical from Thursday, July 27 through Saturday, July 30 at 7:30 p.m.  One Sunday matinee will take place on Sunday, July 31 at 2 p.m.

Performances will be held at Cohasset Town Hall, 41 Highland Ave in Cohasset, Massachusetts.  Click here for more information and for tickets.  Follow Cohasset Dramatic Club on Facebook for upcoming events and more.

Urban Improv, celebrating its 25th anniversary, presents annual, celebrity-filled improv fundraiser, ‘Banned in Boston’

Urban Improv is celebrating its 25th anniversary and presenting their annual fundraiser, Banned in Boston, an evening of delicious food from top restaurants, celebrity improv, and much more on Friday, April 7 at House of Blues in Boston, Massachusetts at 6 p.m.  This is a 21+ event.

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Photo courtesy of Urban Improv

Hosted by Jim Braude and Margery Eagan, this year’s celebrity roster is once again brimming with acclaimed faces in entertainment such as WGBH’s Jared Bowen and Emily Rooney, Matt Siegel from Kiss 108, WCVB’s JC Monahan, Tom Hamilton from Aerosmith, and musician Sally Taylor.  Political leaders such as Governor Charlie Baker and Mayor Marty Walsh, arts and educational leaders will be present such as Matthew Teitelbaum of Museum of Fine Arts and Anita WalkerMassachusetts Cultural CouncilEnjoy delicious food from a wide array of restaurants such as Mei Mei, Roxy’s Grilled Cheese, East Coast Grill, Eastern Standard, and Area FourClick here for the full guest list, ticket information, and more.

Cissa Campion, Marketing Director of Urban Improv, offers a closer look at Urban Improv, its mission, and why their annual musical revue Banned in Boston is the funniest fundraiser of the year.

Jeanne Denizard:  The annual Banned in Boston fundraiser provides educational workshops guiding youth on how to best deal with tough, real life situations such as racism, violence, and bullying.  Please tell me more about the workshops.

Cissa Campion:  Banned in Boston is Urban Improv’s only annual fundraiser.  Urban Improv’s highly effective, interactive drama programs help young people explore challenging situations in their lives. We work with kids from 4th grade through high school. Whether it is peer pressure, cyber bullying, racism, homophobia, or violence, students role-play scenarios based on their own choices and experience the consequences of their actions in a safe environment.

Our atmosphere of openness and respect allows students to express themselves, leading to stronger self-esteem and improved conflict resolution, cooperation, and leadership skills.  Urban Improv helps students grapple with issues they face every day and equips them with the skills they need to become leaders who communicate our messages of nonviolence, tolerance, and respect. We call it “A Rehearsal for Life.”

Urban Improv has presented to thousands of students at schools and community groups throughout Boston, New England, and beyond.  It has been able to provide thousands of free workshops to Boston schools since its inception in 1992, 25 years ago.

JD:  What would you say is the best reason one should attend Banned in Boston?

CC:  Come for the laughs and because it’s such a good time. It’s a one-night-only event on Friday, April 7. We have this incredible roster of celebrities under one roof and all bets are off!  No rubber chicken and boring speeches at this fundraiser and enjoy delectable food provided by the city’s top restaurants.  Support a great cause that is having a powerful effect in this city.

Click here for more information and tickets to this hilarious, one night only event starting at Lansdowne Pub for a cocktail reception at 9 Lansdowne Street at 6 p.m.  Banned in Boston musical revue at House of Blues, 15 Lansdowne Street kicks off at 7:45 p.m.

Urban Improv is located at 670 Centre Street in Jamaica Plain, Massachusetts.  Click here for more information on Urban Improv, its upcoming events, and how to support this dynamic organization.

Richard Bento, President of South Shore Theatre Works, talks about building a theatre dream

Building a dream has always has its share of surprises and challenges.  However, with determination, hard work, and more than a touch of luck, these sought after dreams can become a reality.  Sleepless Beyond the Stage explores the reality of making that dream come true, whether by building an organization, finally bringing that dream play or musical to life, or starting an artistic or musical group that has made a difference.

Richard Bento, Executive Director and President of South Shore Theatre Works (SSTW) in Holbrook, Massachusetts, talks about the excitement and surprises of starting a new community theatre, South Shore Theatre Works.  South Shore Theatre Works’ premiere season features Into the Woods, Steel Magnolias, and much more.  Click here for more information, auditions, and for tickets.

 Jeanne Denizard:  Please tell me about your background and what inspired you to start South Shore Theatre Works?

Richard Bento:  I’ve participated in community and semi-professional theatre throughout Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Georgia, and San Francisco.  One of my goals was to have a group of my own who share the same mission and passion I had for the arts. Three years ago, I decided to participate in theatre here and assist another community theatre group.  I fell in love with the people. Their passion was parallel to what I felt in my heart. When we were at a crossroads, needing to decide whether we were going to bring this other group to another level or start our own with other people who shared that same drive, I decided to put together South Shore Theatre Works. In this group, we spoke about what we loved about community theatre and what we wanted our theatre home to be like.

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South Shore Theatre Works Play Reading Committee led by Richard Bento Photo courtesy of Kelly Webber

JD:  Did you run into any surprises pulling a project like this together? 

RB:  When putting together a non-profit, learning how to comply with the nonprofit laws is ever-changing. We ran into some obstacles such as what we thought was the proper way might not necessarily be the right way on paper and when you’re working with a group of people who are volunteering their time, the challenge is finding exactly where they best fit.  Sometimes we all think that we’re good at one thing, but until we really get into the nitty-gritty of things, that’s when we decide, hey, wait a minute, I might not be a good Treasurer.  My passion might be as a good publicity person.  I think it was not necessarily a struggle or obstacle within the organization, but an obstacle within each one of our board members to find out exactly what they’re truly good at, and how to put those talents and skills into play.

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South Shore Theatre Works dress rehearsal for youth production, “Big Bad Musical” Photo courtesy of Rachel Nope Beasley

JD:  What would you say to those who are considering starting a community theater?

RB:  I wish them a lot of luck and determination. Starting a community theater is a difficult project to take on. It is not an endeavor for everyone or for the weak-hearted. Just like an actor who wants to perform professionally and tries to make it on Broadway, 99% of that actor’s experience will be rejection. When you’re putting together a community theater or theatre group in general, you are going to face a lot of doors closing on you, a lot of people who feel threatened, or don’t understand why you’re creating this new project.  What’s important for anyone who wants to create something of this nature is to make sure that the reason behind you creating this endeavor comes from a good place, from a place of love, and a place of passion.

Before people decide they’re going to start another community theater or another theater in the South Shore or in the Boston area, decide why they want to create that theater. What is the mission behind it and see if there are other groups that share that mission because there are always groups looking for help. For example, if there’s someone out there who is looking to start a brand new theatre company that shares the mission we have at South Shore Theatre Works, join us. We’re always looking for new people to support our mission.

JD:  What is most important in making an investment like this?

RB:  Measuring what is important in an investment can be different for different people. At SSTW, the way to measure whether we have succeeded in our first year’s endeavor is by seeing the membership, those people that we have been able to cultivate and bring together to put on quality theatre in this area. If South Shore Theatre Works ended today, we as a Board of Directors would be extremely proud of what we did because our first major musical was a huge success financially and included a talented cast. We had 64 wonderfully talented people from across the South Shore who came and auditioned across Massachusetts and Rhode Island.  We had people from all over audition who wanted to be part of something new. That for me is a measurable moment of success.

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“Into the Woods” cast Photo courtesy of Rachel Nope Beasley

JD:  How did you select the shows you would be presenting in your premiere season?

RB:  When choosing a season, you have to come up with the season’s mission. I’m very fortunate I have a marketing director who works in the industry and understands what is needed to accomplish things. Every show has to have a specific goal or target audience, whether it is trying to reach actors, expand our membership, or to make money, which we all need to survive.  We wanted to do some shows that were really going to get our name out there and would bring people to work with us and grow with us as an organization.  Not just work with us once, but wanting to come to South Shore Theatre Works to become lifelong members.

JD:  What are your future plans for the theater and the best way people can contact South Shore Theatre Works?

RB:  Our goal for South Shore Theatre Works is to be the leading community theater in the South Shore. We want to have a home where we can perform all year round, a place where people can feel comfortable, and share their talents and their passion for the craft with audiences from all over.

A way to get involved financially or supporting us is by being an audience member and an active member within the theatre company.  Go onto our website, sign up for our emails, keep in touch and find that one project where you really want to help.  Support the arts in any way possible. Spread the word that there is a new community theater in the area excited to branch out and get our name out there.

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South Shore Theatre Works present the beloved musical, “Children of Eden” Photo courtesy of South Shore Theatre Works

Click here for a closer look on how to support South Shore Theatre Works.  Call 774-386-8258, visit their website, and follow them on Facebook for a closer look at their new season and more.