Sunday, August 20, 2017

"A Never-Ending Line - A Female Song Cycle" by Jaime Lozano - At Players Theatre, West Village


MacDougal Street in the West Village is the site of a thrilling song cycle entitled "A Never Ending Line," composed and directed by Jaime Lozano. Lin-Manuel Miranda has called Mr. Lozano "the next big thing on Broadway." He has collaborated with nine different lyricists in writing the seventeen songs that make up  this "female song cycle." Four gifted women sing the songs - as solos, trio, and quartets. The result is an intriguing evening of theater and music.
  • Emily Esposito was most impressive in the solo "If You Break My Sister's Heart."
  • Kat Blackwood had her best moments in "Diet or Die."
  • Florencia Cuenca was heartbreakingly effective in the haunting "Maybe In Florence."
  • Erica Wilpon, looking like a young Bernadette Peters, really sold "Hello Forty." 


The loose thread that ties together the songs in this cycle are women and their struggles - with men, with body image, with weight, with looks, with relationships, with hope for the future.

These four gifted singers were backed up by Music Director, Geraldine Anello on piano, Karen Speyer on Harp, Melanie Mason on Cello. My only complaint was that the amplification of the piano sometimes drowned out the singers in the intimate space that is Players Theatre.

The Lyricists are Lindsay Erin Anderson, Neena Beber, Lauren Epsenhart, Sami Horneff, Victoria Kuhne, Lisa Mongillo, Marina Pires, Noemi de la Puente, and June Rachelson-Ospa.

Choreography is by Fernanda Aldaz.

The show runs through September 12.

Enjoy!

Al


Praxis Stage Presents "Julius Caesar" - Boston Loves The Bard And Shakespeare In The Park

The Assassination of Caesar
"Julius Caesar" by William Shakespeare
Praxis Stage
Through July 27th

Boston area audiences have been blessed with many opportunities to see Shakespeare this summer - outdoors as well as indoors. Praxis Stage is currently presenting "Julius Caesar" in two parks in Cambridge. Today at 3:00 you can catch a performance at Longfellow Park on Mt. Auburn Street. This coming week they return to lovely Danehy Park on Sherman Street with the following schedule: W, TH, F at 7:00, SA at 3:00 and 7:00, SU at 3:00. All performances are free, with donations gratefully accepted at the end of the show.

Praxis Stage has a growing reputation for mounting serious and very well presented productions. "Julius Caesar" builds upon that deserved reputation. The cast is excellent. I attended a performance in the gorgeous Danehy Park. Because of distances and ambient noise, there were a few times when I was not able to hear all of the lines spoken by all of the actors. So I turned my cell phone back on, Googled the script of the play, and followed along. Problem solved!

The cast of 20 are well used by Director Kim Carrell. The actors are uniformly excellent; those with the most lines who carry much of the action of the play are:
  • Michael Anderson as Julius Caesar
  • Shaoul Rick Chason as Brutus
  • Daniel Boudreau as Cassius
  • Sam Terry as Mark Anthony
  • Kevin Paquette as Casca
  • Grace Trapnell as Calphurnia
  • Dawn Davis as Portia
  • Slava Tchoul as Cinna the Poet
Sam Terry as Mark Anthony
Michael Anderson as Julius Caesar
Shaoul Rick Chason as Brutus
"Julius Caesar" by William Shakespeare
Praxis Stage
Through July 27th

Ensemble members playing multiple roles include Evan Turissini, Dominic Carter, Susannah Wilson, Leilani Ricardo, Danny Mourino, Angelina Raquel Morales, Kevin Kordis, Kelly Downes, Rachel Leigh Richter, Benjamin Finn, Sophia Koevary, Lisa Nguyen.

A Central Park production of this same play earlier in the summer drew much attention for its explicit parallels between Caesar and a certain POTUS 45. Praxis is less explicit in this production, but Shakespeare's timeless text prompts us to consider the cost of tyranny, naked ambition and disloyalty. We are left to draw our own conclusions - and our own daggers.

Enjoy this fine production - today at Longfellow Park or next week at Danehy Park.

Enjoy!

Al





Tuesday, August 15, 2017

"Fool Me Once" by Harlan Coben - Is Maya's Murdered Husband Alive Or Dead?


Harlan Coben never fails to delight and surprise me. In "Fool Me Once," we meet Maya, a former special-ops pilot who has returned from a deployment to find that her husband has been murdered. In the midst of her grief, she encounters an image that indicates he may still be alive. How could this be? Is she losing her mind? Is her deep grieving causing her to imagine things? As Maya seeks answers to these haunting questions, she learns a great deal about herself, about her departed husband, and about the life that they shared.

The setting is the territory that Coben knows well - suburban New Jersey, not far from the hustle and bustle of New York City. Maya's search takes her to some shady places where she meets a few equally shady characters. The answers she finds surprise her - as they did me. Coben strikes again.

Enjoy!

Al

"The Stranger" by Harlan Coben - How Well Do We Really Know Our Loved Ones?


This Harlan Coben novel, "The Stranger," is chilling. Several individuals are approached by a stranger who reveals to them a dark secret about an important person in their lives. In each case, the person who has been surprised by the stranger must decide how to act upon this new information. In a major plot thread, Adam must decide if he wife, Corinne, is who she appears to be, or if she is in fact hiding a secret. He confronts her, and she disappears? Adam is forced to conduct an extensive search, bringing his sons into the mystery of where Corinne may have gone - and why. The answer is not one that I had anticipated.

No matter how many of Coben's novels I read, he always manages to keep me guessing and engaged. After I finish a book, and I ready to dive into the next one.

Enjoy!

Al

"Home" - A Novel by Harlan Coben - Myron Bolitar and Win Reunite


I have been on a bit of a Harlan Coben binge lately, catching up with some titles that had previously escaped my attention. "Home" is one of those novels. This is a spine tingling tale of two boys who were kidnapped, and Myron Bolitar's attempt to find them in concert with his sidekick, Win. The action pivots between London and New Jersey. The plot twists are complex - the kind that I have come to expect from a Coben novel. The denouement is surprising and heartbreaking

It is good to have Win back in the picture, after he disappeared for awhile. One of the boys has been spotted in London and rescued - or has he? What about the other boy who was kidnapped at the same time? Where is he? Can he be found alive? Win and Myron follow a lot of rabbit trails before they uncover the truth. Coben always finds a way to weave in compelling social themes. In this case, he examines the sordid underbelly of human trafficking.

Enjoy!

Al

"The Rise and Fall of D.O.D.O." - A Novel by Neal Stephenson and Nicole Galland


Neal Stephenson is my favorite science fiction author. In "The Rise of Fall of D.O.D.O." he has partnered with co-author Nicole Galland to produce an absolutely fascinating novel about time travel, based on theories from quantum mechanics. The fact that much of the action is set in my current neighborhood of Central Square, Cambridge made this book even more compelling for me. Central Square sits halfway between Harvard and MIT, and these two august institutions play a major role in the plot of this novel.

The government has decided that magic and witchcraft could be strategic tools if they could be resurrected, but they died out with the birth of photography - specifically the photographing of the solar eclipse that occurred in 1851, captured by the Prussian photographer Berkowski. The complex plot finds a motley crew of government officials, academics, scientists, witches, Vikings, Puritans, courtesans, and bankers embroiled in complex stratagems to reverse the effects of Berkowski's photograph.

There are extended scenes in which Vikings travel in time to a present day Walmart and pillage it as if it were un unprotected village in the Dark Ages. This scenario alone is worth the price of the book.

Along the way, the authors comment upon government inefficiency, ineptitude and bureaucratic inanities. The action encompasses many continents and centuries - including present day Cambridge and D.C., Cambridge in 1640, Antwerp in 1560, London in 1601, Constantinople in 1203, San Francisco in 1850, Normandy in 1045, and London in 1851.The Novel is a wonderful compendium of scientific research and literary imagination.

This is a must read for any fan of Stephenson, and of good science fiction.

Enjoy!

Al

Monday, August 14, 2017

"Found" by Harlan Coben - Book 3 in the Mickey Bolitar Series


Reading Harlan Coben novels is a guilty pleasure for me. I love his Myron Bolitar series. The concept of a former Celtics player turned sports agent turned detective is intriguing to me. The subsidiary series featuring Myron's disaffected nephew, Mickey, is equally engaging. This book, "Found," is the third in a series about Mickey's adventures and misadventures helping to rescue lost or abducted children and teenagers. Uncle Myron plays a role, as do Mickey's colorful partners in crime, Ema, Rachel, and Spoon.

I love the fact the Mr. Coben uses these nail biting tales to address relevant social issues. In this case, bullying, the hazards of online dating, hazing by sports teams, and abuse of steroids are all treated in depth. While Mickey is busy trying to find several lost souls, he finds himself while discovering a shocking secret about the death of his father, and the subsequent breakdown of his mother. It is a fast-paced and ultimately emotionally moving tale of a young man who will not give up on himself or on those he cares for.

Enjoy!

Al

"Jerry's Girls" - York Theatre Company Continues To Delight With Its Musicals In Mufti Series


York Theatre Company has a wonderful tradition of mounting concert versions of beloved musicals. They call the series "Musicals In Mufti - Musical Theatre Gems In Staged Concert Performance." This season's series has just come to a glorious conclusion with "Jerry's Girls," featuring more than 30 numbers taken from musicals written by the acclaimed composer and lyricist Jerry Herman.

This project began by reuniting Director Pamela Hunt and Music Director Eric Svejcar. They then cast three of the most versatile musical theater actresses working in New York - Stephanie Umoh, Stephanie D'Abruzzo, and Christine Pedi. The result was an uplifting show that highlights Herman songs from shows ranging from "Hello Dolly," "Mame," "Mack and Mabel," "Milk and Honey," "Dear World," "The Grand Tour," and "La Cage Aux Folles."

The flow of the show, broken up by a 15 minute Intermission, featured a nice blend of solos, duets, and ensemble pieces. Each of the women brought her unique signature style and versatility to this concert. Using only music stands on wheels as props (with an occasional feather boa or fan thrown in for fun), they created instant characters, acting each song rather than being content to merely sing them. They were backed up by the incomparable Mr. Svejcar at the piano, whose virtuosity at the keyboard is astounding. Each of the women had several moments to shine as solo artists.

  • Stephanie Umoh - I have had the opportunity to follow Ms. Umoh's stellar career beginning with her student days at Boston Conservatory. She created a strong and memorable Sarah in the final Broadway cast of "Ragtime," Her purity of tone lays a solid technical foundation for the work she does in interpreting songs, adding hypnotic eye engagement, nuanced gesticulation, and fluid body language that enables her to tell a convincing story with each song she sings. In this concert version of "Jerry's Girls," she was most engaging in "It Only Takes A Moment," "I Won't Send Roses," "and the rollicking "I Am What I Am," which caused the audience to go wild. She combined with Ms. D'Abruzzo in a wonderfully arch version of "Bosom Buddies" from "Mame."
  • Stephanie D'Abruzzo - This star of "Avenue Q" can be both comic and poignant, as demonstrated by her interpretations of "Wherever He Ain't," "So Long Dearie," "Before The Parade Passes By," and the heartbreaking "Time Heals Everything."
  • Christine Pedi - This Broadway veteran of "Chicago," and current Guest Diva in "Spamilton," knows how to sell a song with the best of them. She often uses self-deprecating humor to draw in her audience. This was the case in "Just Leave Everything To Me," "Two A Day," "Gooch's Song," and "Nelson." She was most moving in her haunting rendition of "If He Walked Into My Life" from "Mame."
Stephanie Umoh, Stephanie D'Abruzzo, and Christine Pedi
Eric Svejar
"Jerry's Girls"
"Musicals In Mufti"
The York Theatre Company

If you are not already a subscriber or fan of The York Theatre Company's "Musicals In Mufti" series, I suggest that you get on their mailing list so you will be one of the first to know about next season's offerings.

York Theatre Company Website

Enjoy!

Al


Thursday, August 10, 2017

"Influence Redefined" by Stacey Hanke - "Be the leader you were meant to be, Monday to Monday


With "Influence Redefined," author Stacey Hanke makes a significant contribution to the growing corpus of book that address the role of influence as a crucial leadership dynamic. I particularly appreciate her strong emphasis on communication as a foundation stone upon which all influence is built.

"More than three thousand managers surveyed by the Apollo Research Institute rated communication as the most important twenty-first century skill " (p. 43)

She breaks down the six essential characteristics of influential individuals:

  • Trustworthy
  • Credible
  • Confident
  • Knowledgeable
  • Authentic
  • Passionate (p. 49)


She ties together these two important dynamics: "I often describe the connection between influence and communication this way: Behind every influential individual sit the six influence characteristics, and behind these characteristics sit effective communication skills." (p. 51)

She makes the strong point in tying together the relationship between conversation and presentation: "A leader from a large pharmaceutical company had a big a-ha moment during one of our mentoring sessions: 'I get it! A presentation is really an extension of a conversation.'  He hit the nail on the head. How we show up for every conversation and interaction determines the level of influence we have, rather than simply turning on our 'A' game for presentations." (p. 95)

Mr. Hanke offer this important perspective on considering the needs of audience when prepare a presentation: "Need - What does your audience need to know in the amount of time you have with them in order to take the action you want them to take?" (p. 168)

Finally, she offers this perspective on using eye contact to exert influence while making a presentation: "Eye connection is the primary delivery skill that builds trust. Eye connection goes beyond eye contact. Eye connection is looking at an individual  in the eyes and being 100 percent focused on that person for a full sentence. . . . You only speak when you see eyes. No eyes, no talk." (p. 190)

Read this book and use its many insights to "be the leader you were meant to be, Monday to Monday."

Enjoy!

Al

Reagle Music Theatre Presents "42nd Street" - Life Imitates Art - Final Weekend


The classic musical "42nd Street" is basically a story about a show that is about to open, but at the last minute, one of the leads is unable to appear on stage. Will the show go on? In steps an unexpected replacement who wins the hearts of audiences and cast mates. That is the make believe world of "42nd Street"; it is also the real world story of this Reagle production of the musical. Just hours before the preview performance, lead male actor Tom Wopat ran afoul of the law, and was removed from the cast. Could the show go on? Long time Reagle cast member Rich Allegretto rose to the challenge and went on as Julian Marsh - to great acclaim. The show must, indeed, go on! A new chapter was written in Boston theater history.

Cast in "We're In The Money"
"42nd Street"
Reagle Music Theatre
Through August 13th
Photo by Pete O'Farrell

"42 Street" is one of the great old chestnuts of the musical theater canon. Music is by Harry Warren, Lyrics by Al Dubin, Book by Michael Stewart and Mark Bramble, original Choreography by the legendary Gower Champion. This production is Directed by Eileen Grace, with Musical Direction by Dan Rodriguez. The orchestra is Conducted by Jeffrey Leonard. Original Scenic Design is by Robin Wagner, Original Costume Design is by Theoni V. Aldredge, Lighting by David Wilson, Original Choreography reproduced by Eileen Grace and Susan M. Chebookjian.

The opening of this show is iconic and breath-taking. The curtain rises just enough to reveal the feet of the entire cast tapping away to the rhythmic beats of Mr. Warren's score. The audience went wild. Things continued on a high note as each member of the cast embraced the challenge of putting on a show under duress. It is no accident that the Director is named "Grace," for grace and grit are just what were on display by this courageous company of actors, singers, dancers, and creatives.

  • Mr. Allegretto as Julian Marsh had the best opportunities to show what he could do in the well known numbers "Lullaby of Broadway" and "42 Street." 
  • Rachel York as Dorothy Brock was every inch the Broadway diva she was cast to portray. This Broadway veteran and Drama Desk and IRNE Award winner shone most brightly in "Shadow Waltz" (kudos to the Lighting of Mr. Wilson), "You're Getting To Be A Habit With Me," and "About A Quarter To Nine," a duet she shares with Peggy Sawyer (Mara Cecilia).
Rachel York as Dorthy Brock
"42nd Street"
Reagle Music Theatre
Through August 13th
Photo by Pete O'Farrell

  • Peggy is the chorus girl who steps on- and then steps in for - Dorothy. Ms. Cecilia is an outstanding dancer, and shows off her vocal chops in the aforementioned duet, "About A Quarter To Nine," as well as "Lullaby of Broadway."
Rachel York as Dorthy Brock
Mara Cecilia as Peggy Sawyer
"42nd Street"
Reagle Music Theatre
Through August 13th
Photo by Pete O'Farrell
  • Addition principal roles included Charley Borden as Andy Lee, Scarlett Brunson as Anytime Annie, Beth Martin Pierce as Maggie Jones, Harold "Jerry" Walker as Bert Barry, Jack F. Agnew as Abner Dillon, Paul Reynolds as Pat Denning.
  • The outstanding cast excelled in their ensemble singing, and were extraordinary in their energetic and perfectly synchronized tap dancing. They are Anelise Allen, Anya Axel, Bernie Baldassaro, Jessica Bodner, Louis Brogna, Anna Chesny, Patrick Clark, Emma Clinch, Allyson Duarte, John Eldridge, Leo Galleto, Natalie Hall, Olivia Hytha, Nicollette Lebrun, Helen Lee, AJ Manuel Lucero, Kevin Patrick Martin, Kelly McCrue, Conor Meehan, Daniel Moore, Heather Morgan, Danielle Naugler, Victoria Newhuis, Brad Foster Reinking, Julia Shapiro, Connor Shea, Ansley Speares, Brianna Webb, Suzi Weisberg
Cast
"42nd Street"
Reagle Music Theatre
Through August 13th
Photo by Pete O'Farrell


This is the final weekend for "42nd Street," with performances Thursday at 2:00, Friday and Saturday at 7:30, and Sunday at 2:00.



Enjoy!

Al

Wednesday, August 09, 2017

"Only Love Is Real" by Brian Weiss, M.D. - A Story of Soulmates Reunited


Reading "Only Love Is Real" was a challenging and provocative exercise for me. Dr. Brian Weiss and his description of past life regression therapy flies in the face of my traditional conservative Christian heritage, so I had to be open to considering new ideas that I may have previously discarded. The fact that my friend, Josh, whom I respect deeply, had sent me the book made me willing to open my mind as I opened the pages of this fascinating account of Dr. Weiss and his practice.

I was impressed by the fact that a trained psychiatrist, well respected in his field, would put his reputation on the line by following his patients' requests that he lead them through an examination of past life memories under hypnosis. This book focuses primarily on the cases of two patients, Elizabeth and Pedro, neither of whom was familiar with the other, yet who shared remarkably similar stories of their past. I was fascinated with how Dr. Weiss chose to handle an ethical hot potato. If these two had been connected in past lives, should they not be made aware of one another in this life? Yet, as a physician, he was pledged to maintain confidentiality. He came up with a creative solution to ensure that they would interact in some manner.

In the midst of recounting some fascinating memories revealed under hypnosis on the part of his patients, Dr. Weiss also interjects his own philosophical musings about the nature of relationships and love and healing. This quotation lies at the heart of his message:

"Reach out with love and compassion, and do not worry so much about outcomes. Do not attempt to end your life before its natural time. A higher wisdom deals with outcomes and knows the time for all things. Free will and destiny coexist. Do not measure healing by physical results,  Healing occurs at many levels, not just the physical, and real healing must occur at the heart level.  Somehow I would learn about healing the hearts of men. Most of all: Love one another. Timeless wisdom, easily grasped but practiced by only a few." (Page 134)

Just as patients Elizabeth and Pedro would able to find connection through the work that Dr. Weiss put them through, so we can find hope and connection by embracing the message of this book.

Enjoy!

Al

Monday, August 07, 2017

Ogunquit Playhouse Presents "Ragtime" - The Best Show I Have Seen All Year - An Absolute MUST SEE!



Fasten your seat belts, for this will be a lengthy review of a show that is deserving of every accolade it can collect. The current production of "Ragtime," running through August 26th at the Ogunquit Playhouse, is the best show I have ever seen at Ogunquit, the best show I have seen this year on any stage, and the best production of "Ragtime" I have ever witnessed. Get to Ogunquit to experience this miracle of artistic perfection and timely political commentary.



Not only is this a production that shines in every creative and artistic aspect, but it is one that speaks clearly to many of the dilemmas that face our nation today. As we entered the theatre from the lobby prior to the show, I was struck by the large mask of a woman's face that was suspended above the darkened stage, taking up much of the space in the proscenium. I said to my sister, "What does that woman's face have to do with 'Ragtime'? Being the more perceptive sibling, Di answered, "That is the face from the Statue of Liberty." I gasped. For it was indeed her face, but she was bereft of her welcoming torch, and had been stripped of her majestic crown. As I sat to read the Playbill, the Director's Notes by Seth Sklar-Heyn made it clear that Lady Liberty and the current assaults upon her legacy and ethos are at the heart of Ogunquit's telling of this tale, originally penned in the novel of the same name by the brilliant E.L. Doctorow.

The Notes begin with a reminder of the Emma Lazarus poem, "The New Colossus," not in any manner a dead letter, but one that rings with timeless truth in today's world. Its iconic words, "Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free," were the fodder for a lively contretemps last week in the White House. This story of immigrants' struggles at the dawn of the 20th century reverberates with poignancy in these early years of the 21st century. Current social and political themes that test our nation's resolve - such as White Privilege, Black Lives Matter, police brutality, the plight of immigrants, affordable health care, a living wage, caring for the downtrodden, and the question of how a terrorist is born - all are limned to dramatic effect in this musical that was spawned by the novel.

With a book by Terrence McNally, Music by Stephen Flaherty, and Lyrics by Lynn Ahrens, the original creative team were insightful in the ways in which they translated Doctorow's watershed novel to the musical stage. Ogunquit's creative team have been equal to the task of carrying that commitment to artistic excellence into this production. Director Seth Sklar-Heyn has made brilliant staging and blocking choices, using the gorgeous and malleable Scenic Design by Tim Mackabee to full effect. Lighting by Richard Latta is particularly effective, as is the Sound Design of Kevin Heard. The costumes, based on original designs by Santo Loquasto and Coordinated by Molly Walz are exquisite. Music Director Jeffrey Campos translates Mr. Flaherty's sumptuous score beautifully, coaxing lush sounds from the 8-piece orchestra. Choreography by Jesse Robb is outstanding.

Now let's discuss the stellar cast.
  • Darnell Abraham commands the stage as Coalhouse Walker, Jr. Whether he is seated at a piano playing his ragtime tunes, driving his gleaming Model T ( a wonderful working model that is a nice touch), serenading Sarah, or confronting redneck Fire Chief Willie Conklin, he is in charge. This complex character is both a delight and a challenge to portray, and Mr. Abraham shows consummate skill in taking Coalhouse through a broad array of emotions and facial expressions as he traverses a path from delight, to pride, to concern, to rage, to despair, and finally to resolve and resignation. His nuanced acting is matched by his powerful vocal interpretations, especially in "Gettin' Ready Rag," "Wheels of a Dream," in which he is joined by Lindsay Roberts as Sarah, "Till We Reach That Day," and "Make Them Hear You."
Darnell Abraham as Coalhouse
"Ragtime"
Ogunquit Playhouse
Through August 26th
Photo by Gary Ng
  • Lindsay Roberts as Sarah also conveys a vast spectrum of emotions. She is almost catatonic after trying to dispose of her unwanted child, resistant to Coalhouse's persistent courting, ecstatic when she realizes that he loves her and wants to marry her, and doggedly determined to help him find a way to receive justice after his Model T has been destroyed in an act of pure racial hatred and bigotry. She shines in "Your Daddy's Son, and "Sarah Brown Eyes."
  • Kirsten Scott as Mother is a revelation. In the opening scenes she is bedecked in a gorgeous outfit of off-white, the very embodiment of a turn of the century stay at home patrician wife and mother. Ms. Scott brings a wondrous warmth to Mother's voyage from complacent help mate to a practical and bold feminist, making choices with her head and heart that Father never understands and seldoms approves. She turns song into story in "Goodbye, My Love," "What Kind of Woman," "Journey On," and especially in "Back To Before," a gentle feminist anthem. She pairs with Josh Young as Tateh in the deeply moving "Our Children."
  • Josh Young! Never have I seen such a fine and evocative Tateh. His is another beautifully conceived complex character, a young widower who dreams of providing a safe home for his young daughter. This impoverished Jewish immigrant from Latvia, arriving in New York on one of the "rag ships," works his way up the ladder of the American Dream by hard work and imagination. He comforts his terrified little girl with the sweet "Gliding," and then celebrates his business success with "Buffalo Nickel Photoplay Inc." He scales the invisible wall that had been erected on the border of the socioeconomic chasm that separates him from Mother when he joins her in singing "Our Children," a wonderful foreshadowing of what is to come for them both. Ella Luke-Tedeschi is fragile and expressive as Tateh's daughter.
Josh Young as Tateh
Ella Luke-Tedeschi as Daughter
"Ragtime"
Ogunquit Playhouse
Through August 26th
Photo by Gary Ng
  • As Father, Jamie LaVerdiere is the very quintessence of rigid rectitude and patrician cluelessness. Throughout the show, his light slowly fades. He expresses his bemusement when he returns from Arctic exploration with Admiral Peary to find that his white enclave in New Rochelle has been overrun with people that are not "our kind." The song is "New Music." Father does not understand the changes, while everyone else rejoices in them. It seems that the more he travels the world, the more distant he becomes from understanding those he claims to love.
  • Julian Decker stands out in the difficult role of Younger Brother. He is trying to find himself, but like Prince Pippin, fails in several attempts. Smitten with Vaudeville sensation Evelyn Nesbit (a delightful Carly Hueston Amburn), he becomes embittered and turns to revolution  and support of the militant Coalhouse. His moments to shine are in "The Night That Goldman Spoke at Union Square," and "He Wanted To Say."
  • Carly Hueston Amburn tickles the audience and the courtroom with her saucy "Girl on the Swing" routine in "Crime of the Century."
  • The role of Emma Goldman is crucial in this show as the voice of social conscience. Klea Blackhurst is perfectly cast in this role, also standing out in the two songs she shares with Younger Brother, the aforementioned "The Night That Goldman Spoke at Union Square," and "He Wanted To Say."
  • Rod Singleton stands out as Booker T. Washington, the voice of moral authority for the Negro race in the opening decades of the 20th century. He makes an impact near the end of the play in "Look What You've Done."
  • Freddie Kimmel does not escape our attention as Harry Houdini, an immigrant who made a splash on the American stage. His big numbers are "Success," and "Atlantic City."
  • Young Sol Thomas, making his professional debut, is excellent as The Little Boy. His plangent repetition of "Warn the Duke!" stills echoes in my ears.
  • Galyana Castillo's powerful voice moves us in the heartbreaking "Till We Reach That Day."
  • The excellent ensemble is comprised of Valeska Cambron, Darius Crenshaw, Amy Decker, Joseph DiPietro, Jack Doyle, Joey Elrose, Sam Hartley, Dion Montez Jarrett, Megan Lione, Lexi Lyric, Mary MAlaney, Anna Noble, Joel Robertson, Michael Santora, David Studwell, Nya Trysha, Kate Turner, Klton Washington, Eric R. Williams. In alternating performances, Ella Riley and Tyler Wladis play the role of the children.
Cast
"Ragtime"
Ogunquit Playhouse
Through August 26th
Photo by Gary Ng


The opening montage, "Ragtime," is one of the mostly brilliantly choreographed in all of musical theater. Three groups - the White ruling class, Black migrants to New York from the South, and Eastern European immigrants - intertwine and interact with each other. They bump up against one another in groups - foreshadowing coming conflicts in the narrative of the play. Individuals from the three groups come in contact with one another, giving a glimpse into relationships yet to come. I am in awe each time I see this sequence acted out and danced. This cast performs it with precision and exuberance.

Cast - The Three Groups
"Ragtime"
Ogunquit Playhouse
Through August 26th
Photo by Gary Ng
One final comment. At the emotional heart of this story is the love and shared dream that develops between Coalhouse and Sarah. As a Black man, Coalhouse is in awe that he is able to dream of success - "own a car, raise a child, build a life with you . . ." That dream is aborted - the wheels come off - when Willie Conklin desecrates the car. I could not help but think of our current POTUS as a modern day Willie Conklin, systematically taking a lug wrench to the wheels of the American Dream and dismantling it, in cahoots with his enablers and abettors in the Swamp in Washington. Coalhouse resists. Art, such as this show and this production, is a way to resist and to tell the story of a better way - a better American. Let's put the crown back on Lady Liberty's brow and hand her back her torch so it can once again shine brightly to welcome home those who need refuge.

Lindsay Roberts as Sarah
Darnell Abraham as Coalhouse
"The Wheels of a Dream"
"Ragtime"
Ogunquit Playhouse
Through August 26th
Photo by Gary Ng

Come to see this show - through August 26th, and then "Go Out And Tell The Story"!

Ogunquit Playhouse Website

I plan to return to see this show a second time. I hope to see you there.

Enjoy!

Al


Friday, August 04, 2017

"A Walk With Purpose" by Michael D. Becker - A Pharmaceutical Executive Shares His Own Journey With Cancer



"A Walk With Purpose" is a moving memoir that parallels two journeys taken by author Michael D. Becker. The first journey is the one he has taken as a senior executive with pharmaceuticals, striving to improve treatment for several forms of cancer. The second journey is his personal battle with his own diagnosis of cancer, that eventually saw him as a user of the very products he had helped to develop.

Along the way, Mr. Becker shares intimate details of his life as a top industry executive, husband, father, and cancer patient. He invites us to laugh with him at some of life's absurdities, and to cry with him over the sobering reality of impending death. This is a book that will serve as an inspiration to anyone facing cancer, family members of patients, medical professionals, and research scientists dedicated to eradicating this haunting network of diseases.

Enjoy!

Al

Thursday, August 03, 2017

"Performance Partnerships" by Robert Glazer - The Checkered Past, Changing Present, & Exciting Future of Affiliate Marketing



Author Robert Glazer has done an outstanding job in clearly explaining the complex world of affiliate marketing. I have known of Mr. Glazer and his work for a number of years. It is for good reason that he enjoys a reputation for being an innovator and deep thinker in this space.  Most of us as online consumers are exposed many times a day to the front end of affiliate marketing campaigns, but I warrant that few of us understand it, and few of us know how best to use if to benefit our businesses. In the space of 250 well utilized pages, Mr. Glazer clears away the fog.

The subtitle of "Performance Partnerships" gives a good preview about the author's intent and structure for telling the affiliate marketing story: "The Checkered Past, Changing Present, & Exciting Future of Affiliate Marketing." Through this book, his frequent speaking and blogging, and through the services of his firm, Acceleration Partners, Mr. Glazer is leading the way in establishing standards and best practices in an emerging and rapidly developing industry sorely in need of just this kind of structure and visionary leadership.

Whether you are an online marketing professional, a consumer of these services, or simply someone who wants and needs to understand this arcane world, this is a book that you will value.

Enoy!

Al

Wednesday, August 02, 2017

"South of Broad" by Pat Conroy - A Love Letter To Charleston And Its Colorful Denizens


When the literary world lost Pat Conroy in 2016, we lost a great one. I have delighted in his novels over the years, and was thrilled to read "South of Broad." This is Conroy at his best, rhapsodizing about the charms of his beloved Charleston, while at the same time exposing its vulnerable underbelly of racism and classism.

Leopold Bloom King is saddled with the name of the hero of James Joyce's novel "Ulysses," because Leo's mother was obsessed with Joyce. We follow Leo's adventures with his quirky family, and his coterie of friends that span the spectrum from abandoned orphans, to a pair of troubled twins,  to the flower of Charleston society. Along the way, their loyalties are tested as Sheba, one of the twins, returns to town after a spectacular Hollywood career. She needs help in finding her flamboyant brother, whose has disappeared in San Francisco in the midst of the AIDS crisis.The friends
respond and go kinetic in the bowels of the Tenderloin.

Conroy paints vivid pictures of places that he loves, and of people that the reader learns to love. They are colorful, quirky, and unforgettable. He keeps the focus on the personal and relational level while exploring faith and societal issues. It is a winning combination.

The bottom line is that I cannot wait to get to Charleston and breathe some of the air that filed Conroy's lungs and soul for the length of his career.

Enjoy!

Al

Commonwealth Shakespeare Company Presents A "Romeo & Juliet" To Die For - Through August 6th


The young star-crossed lovers from fair Verona have brought their tale of woe to Boston Common, compliments of the Commonwealth Shakespeare Company. This sumptuous production of the Bard's iconic tragedy, "Romeo & Juliet," is delighting audiences as CSC continues their 22 year-long tradition of offering free Shakespeare in the Park (Suggested donation of $20/per person helps to support this valued Boston tradition).

Artistic Director, Steve Maler, has delegated the directing chores for this production to Allegra Libonati, and she has justified his faith in her artistic sensibilities by pulling together a creative team and cast that make this chestnut sizzle with life and vitality. The gorgeous set by Julia Noulin-Merat transports us instantly to the palazzos and streets of Verona where the deadly feud between the Capulets and the Montagues sets in motion tragic consequences with which we are all too familiar. Period Costumes are by Neil Fortin. The Lighting Design by Jamie Roderick subtly directs our eyes to the part of the vast set where the most relevant action is taking place. David Remedios' Sound Design enhances the feel of the time and place. Choreography by Peter DiMuro deftly places the cast members where they need to be in the masked ball scene. Important fight sequences have been Directed by Angie Jepson.

The cast is superb, wielding the Elizabethan verse with agility and grace to tell the story that has been beloved for centuries.
  • Gracyn Mix as Juliet is right out of central casting, and is magnificent in this production. Fair of feature and flaxen haired, she exudes the subtle combination of innocence, passion, resolve, defiance, and despair that one would desire to perceive from this young bride cut down just as she is about to fully bloom as a wife and woman. Her simple and resplendent white gown appears to be almost gossamer in its delicacy. Hers is a moving portrayal of one of the great characters in theater history. The chemistry between Juliet and her Romeo are palpable and electric.
  • Her Romeo is also impressive. I had been familiar with the work of John Zdrojeski from his role as John Hinckley in the BU production of "Assassins," and his starring role in "Monster" at Atlantic Stage in New York. So I was expecting a special performance, and was not disappointed. John is taller than many actors who are cast as Romeo, and he uses his stature to advantage. His height made the contrast all the more poignant when he knelt in supplication before Juliet, and before Tybalt (an ominous and imposing Kai Tshikosi) to beg that the swordplay be stopped and a truce be declared between the warring factions.
John Zdrojeski as Romeo
Gracyn Mix as Juliet
Commonwealth Shakespeare's "Romeo & Juliet"
Boston Common
Through August 6th
Photo by Evgenia Eliseeva
  • The role of Nurse is always crucial in any production of this play, and Ramona Lisa Alexander lives up to expectations in this crucial role. She combines the requisite physical humor with the non-stop verbiage that makes Nurse such a lovable clown. 
  • The always outstanding Boston actors Celeste Oliva as Lady Capulet and Fred Sullivan, Jr. as Lord Capulet are outstanding in these roles, especially in the scene when Juliet refuses to marry Paris (played splendidly by Adam Ewer). Lord Capulet's rant at Juliet earned an exit applause from the appreciative audience.
Celeste Oliva as Lady Capulet
Commonwealth Shakespeare's "Romeo & Juliet"
Boston Common
Through August 6th
Photo by Evgenia Eliseeva
  • Mercutio departs the stage - and life - early in the story, but Kario Marcel makes a strong impression in the scenes in which he is featured. He lights up the stage with his physical vibrancy and verbal adroitness. His oft repeated mantra, "A plague on both your houses," still echoes in my remembrance.
  • Equiano Mosien is an impassioned Friar Laurence, whose plans and machinations are central to the plot of this tragedy. He is effective, as well, as a one man chorus, introducing the action of the playing and moralizing about its meaning at the end.
  • Although Lord and Lady Montague are less in evidence in this play than are Lord and Lady Capulet, they are portrayed ably by Mark Soucy and Chris Everett.
  • Brandon G. Green makes a strong impression as Romeo's friend, Benvolio.
  • Kaci Hamilton portrayed the Prince.
  • Other cast members are Alex Deroo, Cassie Foote, Tim Hackney, Keith Hale, Jamil Joseph, Stephanie King, Sarah Mass, Andrew Prensky, and Joey Tyler.
Cast
Commonwealth Shakespeare's "Romeo & Juliet"
Boston Common
Through August 6th
Photo by Evgenia Eliseeva

The Director made an interesting choice to open the second half of the program following intermission. There was a brief recapitulation of the major action that had occurred before Intermission. It was a helpful reminder for audience members that may have been new to this play and to Shakespeare.

The play can be seen through this Sunday at Boston Common.

Wednesday through Friday at 8:00 PM
Saturday at 3:00 and 8:00 PM
Sunday at 7:00 PM

The show must close after Sunday's performance.

"Parting is such sweet sorrow . . . "

Enjoy!

Al

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Wait No More To See "Waiting For Waiting For Godot" - Three Performances Remain


Wait! Do you mean to tell me that there are only three more chances to see the Hub Theatre production of "Waiting For Waiting For Godot"? Precisely! Tonight, Friday, and Saturday at Club Cafe. So, don't wait to get your tickets!

Hub Theatre Website


Last week I saw "Waiting For Waiting For Godot." I have not laughed that long and that loud in a long while. It is brilliantly written, directed and acted. It is a pastiche of parody, physical comedy, an existential take on existentialism, an absurd commentary of Theater of the Absurd. It is a loving poke in the eye to the pretentiousness of some actors and acting methods. Playwright Dave Hanson has taken the iconic Theater of the Absurd "Waiting For Godot" by Samuel Beckett and used it as a platform to comment upon many things. It is a wonderfully clever piece that follows the shenanigans and preening of two understudies backstage waiting to possibly go on as Estragon and Vladimir. They are awaiting a visit from the Director, who, of course, never arrives. Director Paula Plum has Gabriel Graetz as Val and Robert Orzalli as Ester operating as two clowns whose comic timing and physical comedy are perfect. Lauren Elias is Laura, the Assistant Stage Manager who tries to ground them in reality and realism. Good luck!

Robert Orzalli as Ester
Gabriel Graetz as Val
"Waiting For Waiting For Godot"
Hub Theatre Company of Boston
Club Cafe
Through July 29

In one of the most amusing segments of this play, Ester convinces Val that he is not a very good actor, and could benefit from acting coaching from Ester himself. He describes and demonstrates his "Miserly Technique," a clear send-up of the popular Meisner Technique. For those who do not know the original Beckett play that has inspired this homage and parody, "Waiting For Waiting For Godot" will be entertaining. For those who are steeped in the original, this creative and outrageous send-up will be an absolute delight. Playwright Hanson will be  the house on Friday for a talkback following the performance. As is always the case with a Hub Theatre production, each performance is a "Pay What You Can" offering. I cannot think of a better way to spend an evening this Thursday, Friday, or Saturday than laughing at the hijinks of this talented troupe of clowns.

Set and Prop Design is by Megan Kinneen, Lighting by Mike Wonson, Costumes by Chelsea Keri, Sound by Kyle Lampe.

Enjoy!

Al

Saturday, July 15, 2017

"Beauty and the Beast" Enchants Audiences at North Shore Music Theatre - Through July 30th


If you want a break from beastly New England summer weather, make tracks to Beverly and Bill Hanney's North Shore Music Theatre for their delightful production of Disney's "Beauty and the Beast." The beloved Disney cartoon has been wonderfully adapted to the in-the-round stage at NSMT, and audiences are loving it.

Director Michael Heitzman has assembled a wonderful cast to tell the story set to music by Alan Menken, with Lyrics by Tim Rice, based on a book by Linda Wolverton and original Direction by Robert Jess Roth. Music Direction is by Rick Fox, Choreography by Lisa Shriver, Scenic Design by Stephen Dobay, Original Costume Design by Ryan J. Moller, Additional Costume Design by Sandra Pelletier, Lighting by John Burkland, Sound by Don Hanna, Makeup by Dena Olivieri, Wigs by Gerard Kelly.
  • The pivotal role of Belle is played by Rose Hemingway. She is lovely, delightful, and charming, winning the hearts of the Beast and of the audience. She shines in the opening number, as well as in "Home" and "A Change In Me." There were a handful of times when she was singing in her upper register that I would have appreciated more support in her voice, but that is a technical quibble, for overall she is a very engaging Beauty.
  • Stephen Cerf is a formidable Beast. He makes a triumphant return to the Boston area, having studied at Boston Conservatory before embarking on a career that has taken him to Broadway and on several national tours. His two shining moments vocally occur near the end of Act 1 with "How Long Must This Go On?" and "If I Can't Love Her," which gave me chills. The writing in this song is Menken and Rice at their best. I trust that the sound department has resolved the Opening Night problems with his microphone. He persevered through those technical struggles, and portrayed a believable and sympathetic Beast who showed a range of emotions from petulant to vulnerable.
Stephen Cerf as Beast
Rose Hemingway as Belle
Disney's "Beauty and the Beast"
North Shore Music Theatre
Through July 30th
Photo by  Paul Lyden
  • NSMT favorite son David Coffee returns to this stage to portray Belle's beleaguered father, Maurice. He is his usual impressive and engaging self in this paternal role!
David Coffee as Maurice
Rose Hemingway as Belle
Disney's "Beauty and the Beast"
North Shore Music Theatre
Through July 30th
Photo by  Paul Lyden
  • In the role of Gaston, Taylor Crousore is wonderfully and appropriately cartoonish as the narcissistic oaf who is a paragon of entitlement and macho cluelessness. His moment in the spotlight is the self-title number "Gaston." He is, indeed, specially good at expectorating.
Taylor Crousore as Gaston
Andrew Kruep as Lefou
Disney's "Beauty and the Beast"
North Shore Music Theatre
Through July 30th
Photo by  Paul Lyden
  • As Gaston's longsuffering sidekick, Lefou, Andrew Kruep is a revelation. He combines physical comedic timing with self-deprecating humor to create a wonderful foil for the boisterous and boastful Gaston. 
  • The enchanted staff members of the castle are wonderfully cast. Christiane Noll as Mrs. Potts is as warm and refreshing as the tea she brews. Her rendition of the title song is a highlight of this production. As her son, Chip, Ben Choi-Harris is an absolute delight. Benjamin Howes illuminates the stage as Lumiere. Ryah Nixon is the bubbly and buxom Babette, Phillip Taratula is amusingly arch as Cogsworth. Joy Hermalyn is the operatic Madame de la Grande Bouche. Her lyric soprano voice soars on several occasions. They are joined by the Ensemble in the rollicking anthem "Be Our Guest," which is elegantly staged and choreographed as a highlight of the show.
  • Heather Klobukowski helps to kick off the action of the play as the Enchantress, cursing the Young Prince (Cam Perrin). Mark DiConzo is the Bookseller who gives Belle the volumes that she treasures.
  • David Wright as Carpet does handsprings and cartwheels across the stage throughout the show. He is joined by Mr. DiConzo as Salt and Ben Cullen as Pepper.
  • The three Silly Girls who swoon over Gaston as Sydney Mei Ruf-Wong, Caitlin Wilayto, and Daisy Wright.
  • Additional Ensemble members are Katie Anderson, Briana Fallon, Joshua Gillespie, Justin Ronald Mock, Tyler Roberts, and David Visini.
"Beauty and the Beast" will run through July 30th. Make a day of it on the North Shore - picnic, trip to the beach, and a memorable evening of theater. Bill Hanney and his team say to you: "Be our guest"!


Enjoy!

Al


Monday, July 10, 2017

Captain Andy's Cotton Blossom "Show Boat" Ties Up At The Reagle Music Theatre Dock - Through July 16


Jerome's Kern's iconic score for the musical "Show Boat" is timeless. During Saturday's performance by the Reagle Music Theatre cast, I let the familiar tunes and riffs wash over me like a gently lapping wave made by the wake of a Mississippi riverboat. This current production is a well conceived and beautifully executed interpretation of the classic tale of struggle against the tide of racism and oppression up and down the Mississippi in the closing decades of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century. Some might argue that the stereotypical portrayals of blacks in this musical are not politically correct, but my opinion is that they are an accurate reflection of the ethos and attitudes that existed during the era in which the story is set.

From the opening moment, I knew that we were in good hands under the skillful direction of Rachel Bertone. As a director, she also thinks like a choreographer, and that was apparent in the first tableau - river hands struggling in slow motion to haul in a line along the river dock. That moment reflected both the poetry and beauty of the setting, and the arduous life lived by the characters in the play. It wonderfully set the tone for this entire production. A solid cast enhanced the telling of this story, using Kern's music and Oscar Hammerstein II's book and lyrics, based on the novel by Edna Ferber.

Ciaran Sheehan as Gaylord Ravenal
Sarah Oakes Muirhead as Magnolia Hawks
"Show Boat"
Reagle Music Theatre
Through July 16
Courtesy Reagle Music Theatre/©Herb Philpott

Ciaran Sheehan returns to Reagle after last summer's triumph as Billy Bigelow in "Carousel." He is perfectly cast as Gaylord Ravenal, the charming river gambler who sweeps Magnolia (Sarah Oakes Muirhead) off of her feet. The two of them shine in their first duet, "Only Make Believe." As Captain Andy, Rick Sherburne sets just the right tone, and is matched by Susan Scannell Gilbert as his harridan of a wife, Parthy. Julie LaVerne (Dani Wrenn) is the star attraction aboard the Cotton Blossom, but she and her husband, Steve Baker (Chris Scott) are charged with miscegenation because Julie has Negro blood, and they are forced to leave the boat and the area, settling in Chicago.
An early musical highlight of the show is the scene in which Julie is joined by Magnolia and Queenie (Yewande O. Odetoyinbo) in singing the rousing "Can't Help Lovin' Dat Man."


Michel Bell as Joe
Yewande O. Odetoyinbo as Queenie
"Show Boat"
Reagle Music Theatre
Through July 16
Courtesy Reagle Music Theatre/©Herb Philpott

Perhaps the most beloved and well known song from this show is "Ol' Man River," sung by Joe, portrayed here by the incomparable Michel Bell. He has played this role on Broadway, resulting in a Tony nomination. His vocal range is stunning, with a basso profundo that reverates like the 32 foot Diapason stop on a Wurlitzer Theater organ. His initial solo portion of this song is impressive in its own right, but was raised to another level of artistry when he was joined by the trio of stevedores, Kelton Washington, Taavon Gamble, and Davron S. Monroe. The contrast between Joe's deep bass notes and the trio's more lilting harmonies gave me chills. It was the highlight of the show for me.

Davron S. Monroe, Kelton Washington
Michel Bell as Joe
Taavon Gamble
"Show Boat"
Reagle Music Theatre
Through July 16
Courtesy Reagle Music Theatre/©Herb Philpott


Adding comedic texture to the story are Joy Clark as Ellie May Chipley and Kevin Patrick Martin as her partner, Frank Schultz. Their moment to shine is in the duet, "Goodbye My Lady Love." Ms. Clark also stands out in the number "Life Upon The Wicked Stage." Todd Yard is excellent as Sheriff Ike and as Jim Greene. Other members of this fine ensemble cast are: Anthony L. Gervais, Brad Walters, Bernie Baldassaro, Louis Brogna, Georgia Buendia, Tracey O'Farrell, Noura Deane, Anna Chensny, Victoria Newhuis, Leo Galletto, JAsmine Robinson, and Monica Rosenblatt.

Musical Direction is by Dan Rodriguez, Scenic Design by Michael A. Micucci, Costumes by Amy Clark and Florence Klotz for Goodspeed Musicals, Lighting by David Wilson.

The play runs through July 16th, so there are four remaining opportunities to see this show before it pulls up anchor: Thursday at 2:00, Friday and Saturday at 7:30, and Sunday at 2:00.

Reagle Music Theatre Website

Enjoy!

Al


Sunday, July 09, 2017

A Star Is Born At Feinstein's 54 Below - Billy Recce Rocks The House


Let me try to put into perspective the significance of what occurred Friday evening at Feinstein's 54 Below. This is my favorite cabaret venue in NYC. I usually go there to see and to hear well-established Broadway stars perform. In recent months I have enjoyed the song stylings of Jeremy Jordan, Corey Cott, Laura Osnes, the cast of "Newsies" - you get the picture. Friday night's 9:30 show featured "The Perks of Being A Snowflake: Songs by Billy Recce." Mr. Recce is a 19 year-old undergraduate at Fordham University. To call him a prodigy and a wunderkind would be to understate the case. He is the youngest ever composer to have shows produced by the New York Musical Festival -  "Balloon Boy: The Musical" and "Rachel Unraveled."

To highlight the poignancy and irony of his barely legal status headlining in the upscale boite that is 54 Below, Billy recounted his experience in approaching the bar to cash in the drink coupon that they give to performers. He was handed a Capri Sun, which he gleefully slurped from the bench of the baby grand.



It is difficult to encapsulate Mr. Recce's writing style, since it covers so many genres and nuanced flavors. The most obvious comparison is with Tom Lehrer, who wrote and sang political and social parodies in the 1960s and 1970s. In addition, there are elements in his writing that remind me of Jonathan Larson, as well as Duncan Sheik, composer of "Spring Awakening." It is hard to conceive of how someone of such tender years has been able to develop a worldview that allows him to write songs that are so sweetly sardonic, such as "My Roommate (Is A Neo-Nazi)" and "Go Into Finance" - performed with great aplomb by Rachel Ravel. While purporting to eschew tackling issues of politics, the songwriter invited to the stage Alexa Joseph to sing the "Betsy Devos' Song" in which our beleaguered and verbally-challenged Secretary of Education croons about saving all of the Caucasian children - not just those wearing jeans.

Other highlights of the evening included Lindsay Nicole Chambers kvetching over the ubiquitous Gwyneth Paltrow in the hilarious "Pain (Gwyneth Paltrow)." In several of the numbers, Mr. Recce was supported vocally by a talented cohort of his friends and classmates that included Laura Laureano, Victoria Duffy, Alexa Joseph, Sarah Rachael Lazarus, Rachel Ravel, Lynn Craig, Patrick Swailes Caldwell, and Roger Dawley. The band consisted of Rocco Recce on Trumpet, Adam Mastrocola on Drums, Vinny Carlino on Bass, Jimmy Ble on Guitar, and David Moses on Violin.



"Filter It! - All" reminded me a bit of "Turn It Off" from "Book of Mormon." And the gorgeous "Morning Is Coming Soon (Wally Weasel's G.O.P. Jamboree!) has elements reminiscent of the finale from "Spring Awakening" - "Song of the Purple Summer."



Mr. Recce has a strong following on his YouTube channel. Check out some of his clips here, and subscribe.

Billy Recce YouTube Channel

Remember this name.  Billy Recce shows strong promise of being his generation's answer to Stephen Sondheim, Stephen Schwartz, Jonathan Larson, or Lin Manuel Miranda. I can't wait to see and hear what he will produce next. This is one Caucasian manchild I hope that Betsy Devos will find a way to save!

Enjoy!

Al


Saturday, July 08, 2017

The Winnipesaukee Playhouse Presents Cole Porter's "High Society"


It is always a treat to discover a theater venue I had not previously visited. This week marked my first visit to the lovely Winnipesaukee Playhouse in Meredith, New Hampshire. I can report that Summer Stock is alive and well on the shores of picturesque Lake Winnipesaukee. This modern 200-seat theater has the feel of an old barn, but with very comfortable seats and modern conveniences. The property even boasts its own covered bridge. New England charm at it finest!

The theater makes its mission clear in the blurb printed on the front of the Playbill: "Favorites from the big and small screen - gloriously brought to life on stage." The current production is Cole Porter's "High Society," based on the film starring Frank Sinatra, Bing Crosby, and Grace Kelly. This movie musical was inspired by the play, "The Philadelphia Story," starring Cary Grant, Jimmy Stewart, and Katherine Hepburn. This production, directed by Clayton Phillips, features several well know Cole Porter tunes, including "Let's Misbehave," "Just One of Those Things," "It's All Right With Me." A highlight was the Finale of Act One, was the lovely "True Love," made popular by Frank Sinatra. In this production, the duet is song beautifully by Tracy Lord (Haley Jones) and Dexter C.K. Haven (Jay Wilkinson). Other highlights included Mike Connor (TJ Lamando) singing "You're Sensational," and Liz Imbrie (Rebecca Tucker) singing "He's A Right Guy."

Other cast members include Sophie Pankhurst, Sebastian Ryder, Richard Brundage, Mark Stephen Woods, Wayne Shuker, John-Michael Breen, Thomas Doelger, Chris Hendricks, Sandia Ahlers, Kelley Davies, and Candice Shedd-Thompson. Musical Direction is by Clayton Phillips, Choreography by Bryan Knowlton, Set by Melissa Shakun, Costumes by Lori McGinley, Lighting by Matthew Guminski, and Sound by Thom Beaulieu.

"High Society" will run through July 15. Next up at the Playhouse will be a stage adaptation of the Sherlock Holmes mystery "The Hound of the Baskervilles," running from July 19-29.

Winnipesaukee Playhouse Website

Enjoy!

Al



Monday, June 12, 2017

Reagle Music Theatre Dazzles With A Flawless Production of "Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat"


Unlike Egypt under Pharaoh Ramses II, Reagle Music Theatre never seems to suffer any seasons of famine or drought. Each year, for the 49th straight summer, they have offered up a banquet of musical theater delicacies that delight, inspire, and entertain. This summer is no exception. The current production of "Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat" is a flawless delight that is the best version of this musical I have ever witnessed.

The story comes from the book of Genesis, telling of the rise, fall, and rebirth of Joseph, favorite son of Jacob. The pedigree of this musical telling of the Joseph saga also harks back to biblical times - back when Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice were students at the Colet Court School in the London.

This production is vibrant, colorful, fast-paced and unmitigated fun. It is masterfully Directed and Choreographed by Susan M. Chebookjian, based on original Choreography by Anthony Van Laast. Exquisite Lighting is by David Wilson. The gorgeous Set has been designed by Peter Colao and Richard Schreiber. Music Director Dan Rodriguez leads a 17-piece orchestra that beautifully interprets the disparate music styles and genres that Lloyd Webber tosses into this tasty bouillabaisse of a score.

While showcasing three Principals in Joseph, Pharaoh, and Narrator, this show is very much an ensemble piece. The cast, including a spectacular 21-voice Children's Choir, is perfect, from the 12 brothers and their wives. to Jacob/Potiphar, the Baker and the Butler.

Let's begin with the Principals:
  • Ayla Brown presents the ancient storyline as Narrator. From her first entrance, she owns the stage. Her regal and statuesque carriage give her a commanding stage presence, yet she can be as approachable as a kindergarten teacher in telling the story of Joseph to the children in the choir. She shows off her impressive vocal chops in the "Prologue," "Go, Go, Go Joseph," and the reprise of "Any Dream Will Do."
Ayla Brown as Narrator
Children's Choir
"Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat"
Reagle Music Theatre
Through June 18th

  • Peter Mill as Joseph takes us on a tortuous emotional journey that is both moving and mesmerizing. The dreamer who alienated his eleven brothers with his hubris becomes the trusted interpreter of dreams for the all-powerful Pharaoh. We see the impressive range of his voice and acting - beginning with the hopeful "Any Dream Will Do," to the despair of the prison cell in "Close Every Door."  Mr. Mill's pleading rendition of this song of hopelessness gave me chills - always a sign that I am experiencing great theater!
Peter Mill as Joseph
The Brothers
"Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat"
Reagle Music Theatre
Through June 18th
  • And then there is Andrew Giordano as Pharaoh - The King in many ways. The character of Pharaoh is written to be performed as Elvis, with all of the attendant vocal tics and bodily gyrations. Mr. Giordano buys into this fun shtick and sells it to the audience with panache and aplomb. His "Song of the King" is a tour de force that had audience members enraptured. That he got to repeat this number during the "Megamix/Curtain Call" felt like being given a second dessert after a sumptuous and satisfying meal. 
Andrew Giordano as Pharaoh
"Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat"
Reagle Music Theatre
Through June 18th
Then there are the remaining sons of Jacob, who are the progenitors of the twelve tribes of Israel. Individually, these actors bring great talent. Collectively they are the solid foundation upon which this production stands. They show great stylistic range - both vocally and physically - in a variety of impressive production numbers. They adopt a cowboy elegy twang in "One More Angel in Heaven." In "Those Canaan Days," they raise their berets and intone a Gallic lament that would make Maurice Chevalier feel as home.

They are:  
  • Christopher Infantino as Reuben
  • Adam Winer as Simeon
  • Louis Brogna as Levi
  • Taavon Gamble as Naphtali, whose solo in "Benjamin Calypso" is a highlight.
  • AJ Manuel Lucero as Issachar
  • Chris Scott as Asher and Pharaoh's Butler
  • Jacob Sherburne as Dan
  • Leo Galletto as Zebulun
  • Anthony L. Gervais as Gad and Pharaoh's Baker
  • Jack Dwyer as Benjamin
  • Bernie Baldassaro as Judah
The Brothers
"Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat"
Reagle Music Theatre
Through June 18th

On the distaff side, their wives are played by Joy Clark, Emma Clinch, Laura Sky Herman, Lenni Alexandra Kmiec, Helen Lee, Madeline Mathias, Paris Martino, Ashley Mayorquin, Hannah Shihdanian, Angela Syrett, Suzi Weisberg.

Rick Sherburne is Jacob and Potiphar, and Joy Clark is the seductive Mrs. Potiphar.

The Children's Choir, clad in all of the colors of the rainbow - matching Joseph's colorful coat - are: Phoebe Anthony, Jessica Arsenian, Georgia Buendia, Meghan Caldera, Jackson Daley, Tayah Fulciniti, Ananda Geller, Mia Giatrelis, Benjamin Harris, Audree Hedequist, Shiv Meiyur, Eden Melville, ANabel Moda, Druthi Muppala, Tanvi Muppala, Asher NAvisky, Clare Soucy, Rylee Truesdale, Julia Viaud, Gabe Watson, Sarah Wirth.

As I was leaving the theater after a prolonged curtain call and a rollicking standing ovation, I overheard two women behind me enthusing about what we had all just experienced: "You know, I have been coming to this theater for many years. This is the best show I have seen here." If you would like to find out for yourself what all of the brouhaha is about, you have four more chances to experience the wonders of "Joseph": Thursday at 3:00, Friday and Saturday at 7:30, and Sunday at 2:00 at Waltham High School.

Reagle Music Theatre Website

Enjoy!

Al