All posts by Bobby Franklin

NORTH SHORE MUSIC THEATRE PRESENTS

THE 28TH ANNUAL PRODUCTION OF

A CHRISTMAS CAROL

A MUSICAL GHOST STORY

14 PERFORMANCES ONLY!

December 7 – 23, 2018 

David Coffee as Scrooge
Photo Credit: Paul Lyden

Bill Hanney’s North Shore Music Theatre (NSMT) will once again present the area’s most beloved production of A CHRISTMAS CAROL sponsored by MarketStreet Lynnfield. This award-winning, original musical adaptation was created solely for North Shore Music Theatre and cannot be seen anywhere else. Two cast members, David Coffee (Ebenezer Scrooge) and Cheryl McMahon (Mrs. Dilber), will be both be celebrating their 25th appearance in the holiday show. A CHRISTMAS CAROL will play 14 performances from Friday, December 7 thru Sunday, December 23, 2018. 

“This year’s production of A Christmas Carol will be even more festive than ever before. This year we will celebrate two beloved cast members, David Coffee and Cheryl McMahon, who are both marking their twenty-fifth appearance in the show,” said NSMT’s owner and producer Bill Hanney. “With each passing year, we look forward to watching them perform together on stage. We are never disappointed with the new ways they find to make us laugh, and cry, and fill us with the spirit of the holidays!”

Based on the Charles Dickens classic, A CHRISTMAS CAROL is an original adaptation by former NSMT Artistic Director Jon Kimbell and members of the NSMT staff, following Ebenezer Scrooge through a series of strange and magical ghostly encounters, where he ultimately discovers the true spirit of the holiday season. With dazzling special effects that have grown even more exciting over time, traditional and original songs, and colorful costumes, A CHRISTMAS CAROL has become a holiday favorite throughout New England having been seen by more than one million people since 1989.

Cheryl McMahon as Mrs. Dilber
Photo Credit: Paul Lyden

NSMT audience favorite, David Coffee, returns for his twenty-fifth year playing Ebenezer Scrooge. A CHRISTMAS CAROL also features Leigh Barrett (The Ghost of Christmas Past, Mrs. Cratchit), Peter S. Adams (The Ghost of Christmas Present, Gentleman 1), Ryan Mardesich (The Ghost of Christmas Yet To Come, Young Scrooge), Freddie Kimmel (Jacob Marley), Tommy Labanaris (Narrator), Russell Garrett (Bob Cratchit), Cameron Hobbs (Pearlie), Parker Krug (Pearlie), Joy Clark (Belle), Andy Tighe (Fred), Cheryl McMahon (Mrs. Dilber/ Mrs. Fezziwig), J.T. Turner (Mr. Fezziwig/Gentleman 2), Bobby Conte (Old Joe, Ensemble), Lianne Gennaco (Meg, Ensemble), Allsun O’Malley (Ensemble), Ian Shain (Dick Wilkins, Ensemble), and Janelle Yull (Ensemble).

The cast of 27 actors will also feature many local young performers including Isabella Carroll (Belinda Cratchit), Jake Ryan Flynn (London Boy), Jospeh Flynn (London Boy), Asher Navisky (Peter Cratchit), Grace Olah (Fan), Cam Perrin (Ensemble), AJ Scott (Tiny Tim), and Nicole Talbot (Martha Cratchit), and Wade Gleeson Turner (Boy Scrooge).

Throughout the run of A CHRISTMAS CAROL NSMT will be collecting toys in the lobby for Tiny Tim’s Toy Drive.  NSMT will be accepting unopened, unwrapped toys for boys and girls ages 2 – 12.  All toys will be donated to Toys for Tots.

Performances are December 7 – December 23, 2018 (Evening shows December 7, 8, 9, 14, 15, 16, 20, 21, and 22 at 7:30pm; Matinees December 8, 9, 15, 16, and 22 at 2pm). Tickets can be purchased by calling the North Shore Music Theatre Box Office at (978) 232-7200, via the website at www.nsmt.org or in person at 62 Dunham Road (Route 128, exit 19), Beverly, MA.  

 

Boxing’s Lessons

Punching From The Shadows

Memoir Of A Minor League Professional Boxer

Published By McFarland (McFarlandbooks.com) 

265pp

Reviewed by Bobby Franklin

Glen Sharp had a professional boxing career that consisted of three fights of which he lost two. In Punching From The Shadows: Memoir Of A Minor League Professional Boxer he chronicles his time in the ring and the gyms, along with his experiences with the many different and unusual characters that populated the world of boxing in the 1980s. He also discusses why a young man decides to take up such a brutal sport, and the effect it had on his life, both short and long term. 

Sharp has written a fast paced book that gives the reader much insight into what it takes to become a fighter. Unlike other sports from that era, when a young man would first enter a boxing gym it was very likely he would be training alongside seasoned professionals. This was true for the author, who would become friends with and a sparring partner for five time world title challenger Yaqui Lopez. I don’t think many young football players get a chance to workout with Tom Brady, but boxing was a very egalitarian sport. It was one of the things that made it so attractive.

Glen Sharp wasn’t some poor kid from the mean streets who sought out boxing as a means to escape a life of poverty. In fact, he explains how the belief that boxing is a poor man’s sport is overhyped. Dipping into the writings of Jose Ortega y Gasset as well as Homer, he describes boxing as a form of expression, an artistic pursuit. With the advances man has made, many skills that were once required for survival are no longer needed on a daily basis. However, there is still an urge in many a young man to test himself to see if he can pass the test when challenged on his ability to implement those qualities. These include strength, skill, courage, and endurance. Sharp found the best way for doing that was in taking up boxing.

Yaqui Lopez and Glen Sharp

In Punching Through The Shadows, Glen Sharp gives us an honest telling of his life in boxing. His self doubts and second guessing will be familiar to anyone who has taken a shot at practicing the sweet science. Along the way we meet people such as former Middleweight Champion Carl Bobo Olsen who trained Sharp for a period of time. Reading about the relationship between the former champ and the young prospect only strengthened my belief that having been a top ranked fighter does not necessarily mean you will be good at teaching the art of boxing. In fact, I came away from this book believing Glen Sharp gained more insight into what goes into making a boxer on his own than most trainers do. He really understands the “theory of boxing”.

In an interesting chapter entitled Boxing Is Economics Theory Expressed In The Flesh, Sharp, who has an undergraduate degree in economics puts that knowledge to use in explaining things like the cost/benefit calculation when throwing a punch. When a boxer throws a punch he is most vulnerable to being hit with one. How to mitigate that risk is something every fighter thinks of, though maybe not in economic theory terms. It makes for interesting reading.

When I say Sharp understands the “theory of boxing”, this is made very clear when he describes the styles of some of the leading boxers of the time. His analysis of Joe Frazier as not a slugger but as a skillfully aggressive boxer is both insightful and right on the mark. He also makes  great a point when he writes “What a fighter fears most is not physical discomfort…but rather a failure to live up to the image the fighter has of himself.” There are a number of such gems in this book.

Glen Sharp (left) On The Attack

Along with many insights into the world of boxing, Sharp also delivers a compelling personal story. His comparison of boxing with art  serves him well when discussing his own journey. His story is honest and open. He freely discusses his fears, his self doubts, and his disappointment in not being able to become a top boxer. Boxing is a sport of dreams that are rarely fulfilled. Glen Sharp, like just about any kid who ever put on a pair of boxing gloves, dreamed of one day becoming a world champion. As far a long shot as that is in reality, it is still painful to have to accept the fact that it just isn’t going to happen. In boxing, the default mode emotionally is to look upon one’s self as a failure in so many ways, most of all in believing it means you have failed the test of manhood. 

Sharp With Carl Bobo Olsen

It took Sharp some time to work his way through those feelings. After his third pro fight he stepped back from boxing. A while later he decided he wanted to give it another try. He still felt he could do it and the need to prove himself still burned inside of him. After speaking to a trainer and promoter about making a comeback, he was advised not to. It was a tough message to get and it hurt. He again uses the comparison with the arts to describe his feelings and how he dealt with this emotionally. It turns out he proved himself solidly.

When visiting a boxing gym today, the odds are you will see something more akin to a huge aerobics class setting than the boxing gyms from a few years back. Boxing gyms are now a platform for group exercise rather than places to learn the expressive art Sharp so well describes. He was around for the waning days of the old school boxing gyms and trainers who understood what it was all about. Punching Through The Shadows is a terrific chronicle of what boxing was and should be. It is also a great story of a young man’s quest to test himself and to deal with the emotional turmoil that is so much a passage into manhood.

If you spent time in a boxing gym before they became group fitness centers you will find much of what Sharp has written will bring back memories. If you missed out on those days, you will learn much about what it meant to train in an authentic boxing gym at a time when it was very different than today.

Glen Sharp With His wife Punky

I can’t think of another boxing book out there that gives such an inside look at what it was like to pursue the dream of boxing in the way Glen Sharp did. It is a great read on so many levels. Most of all, it is a very human story. I doubt there are many who will not be able to relate to some portions of Sharp’s book. I know I did.

 

“Breath & Imagination: The Story Of Roland Hayes” Opens At The Lyric Stage on November 30

Breath & Imagination

The Story Of Roland Hayes

A musical by Daniel Beaty

Directed by Maurice Emmanuel Parent

Music Director, Doug Gerber

 Featuring Davron S. Monroe, Yewande Odetoyinbo, Doug Gerber,

 Nile Hawver

Breath & Imagination: The Story Of Roland Hayes opens at the Lyric Stage on November 30 and runs through December 23. 

Breath & Imagination chronicles Roland Hayes’s inspirational journey from a Georgia plantation to a singing career that included command performances for kings and queens. Despite his international acclaim, Roland never left behind his complex and loving relationship with his mother, his Angel Mo’. With spirituals and classical music, Breath & Imagination is a compelling musical about one man’s determination to become an artist despite seemingly insurmountable odds.

THE TOWN OF BROOKLINE, home to Roland Hayes, will host a FREE welcoming event for Breath & Imagination, with the actors presenting scenes from the play, plus a talk by the play’s director.  Sponsored by Brookline’s Office of Diversity, Inclusion & Community Relations, local grants will provide a diverse audience of attendees with a range of discounted tickets to the play.  Sunday, Nov. 18, 6pm @ United Parish, 210 Harvard St.

The Lyric Stage, 100 Clarendon Street, Copley Square, Boston

617.585.5678

www.lyricstage.com

“A Charlie Brown Christmas Live On Stage” In Boston

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The Peanuts Gang Comes to the Boch Center Shubert Theatre for A Charlie Brown Christmas Live On Stage

New Production is a Fresh Take on the Timeless Classic

Just in time for the holiday season, the Peanuts gang will be coming to the Boch Center Shubert Theatre from November 29 – December 2, 2018 for A Charlie Brown Christmas Live On Stage. A Charlie Brown Christmas Live On Stage is a fresh take on the timeless classic that gives the audience a completely new way of experiencing the storyline as portrayed by real actors who maintain the integrity and spirit of each Peanuts character.

This Emmy and Peabody award-winning story by Charles M. Schulz has been a longstanding tradition, warming the hearts of millions of fans since it first aired on television over 50 years ago. Now, the live on stage adaptation of the classic animated television special brings all your favorite characters to life – all set to the unforgettable sounds of the Vince Guaraldi musical score. 

A Charlie Brown Christmas Live On Stage encompasses each of your favorite scenes from the original animated television show.  It even expands the storyline into greater detail with more fun, more music, more finding the true Christmas spirit.  This Peanuts Experience also includes an intermission and, after the final bow, the show crescendos into a celebration of song as the audience is invited to join the Peanuts gang in singing Christmas favorites.

So, join Charlie Brown, Snoopy, Lucy, Linus and the rest of the Peanuts gang in their journey to uncover the true meaning of Christmas.

Tickets are on sale and can purchased at the Boch Center Box Office, online at www.bochcenter.org, or by phone: 866.348.9738.

When Fenway Park Packed A Punch

A Brief Look At The Time Boxing Matches Were Held At Fenway Park

By Bobby Franklin

Fenway Park 1912

Fenway Park is the home to a team that can now be called among the best, if not the the best, in baseball history. The Boston Red Sox were dominant this year and in the World Series. 

Fenway Park is the proud home to the Sox. It is considered one of the most beautiful ballparks in the country and one of the few remaining old time parks. Bostonians are not only proud of their team, they also take great pride in having such a wonderful home venue to host that team.

Fenway Park first opened in 1912. Over the years it has been the sight of baseball games. It has also been known to have other events as well. Among these were professional wrestling, rock concerts, ice hockey, football, ski jumping, and boxing.

The first boxing card to take place at Fenway was on Monday, August 11, 1919. In the main event that night, local boxer Frankie Britt won a 12 round decision over Ralph Brady in a lightweight battle.

There would be two more fight cards held at the park over the next year before taking a break. Boxing would resume being staged at Fenway on June 26, 1928 when Al Mello faced Billy Murphy for the New England Welterweight Title. Mello came away with a win after 12 rounds. Other local fighters who appeared that night included Hy Diamond, Charlie Donovan, Jack Donohue, and Ray Cross. They all were victorious.

There were 22 more fight cards held at Fenway from 1928 through 1937. The last during that period was held on August 24, 1937 when Tony Shucco and Al McCoy fought to a draw in the main event promoted by Rip Valenti. There would not be another fight held there until after WWII. 

During those years there were a number of great venues for staging boxing matches. These included the Boston Garden, Boston Arena, the Mechanics Building, and another ballpark; Braves Field.

Staging an outdoor fight always came with the risk of bad weather forcing a cancellation or hurting attendance. Often times big title fights were held outdoors because they could accommodate the huge crowds eager to attend so the risk was worth taking.  I don’t believe crowd capacity was the reason for holding outdoor fights in Boston. It more likely was because it is such an attractive place to be on a warm summer night. Also, in the days before air conditioning was widespread it could be a nice alternative to sitting in a stuffy arena.

During the 1930s some of the world’s leading contenders made appearances at Fenway Park. The ill fated Earnie Schaaf lost a decision to Babe Hunt on September 2, 1930. Tony Shucco fought there again in 1937 when he lost a decision to top contender Natie Brown. Maxie Rosenbloom defeated Joe Barlow there in 1932, and the great Kid Chocolate also fought at Fenway in 1932 defeating Steve Smith by decision. Future heavyweight king James J. Braddock made his only appearance at the park when he won a decision over Joe Monte in 1930.

 

Jack Sharkey vs Phil Brubaker

In 1936 former heavyweight champ Jack Sharkey, on the comeback trail, took on Phil Brubaker in a ten round main event at Fenway. He came away winning a close ten round decision. The Associated Press gave this report on the fight:

“Jack Sharkey projected himself back into the heavyweight picture today as the result of a close but convincing 10 round victory over young Phil Brubaker. Sharkey got up off the floor at Fenway Park last night, gave the 22 year old Brubaker an artistic boxing lesson, and promptly served notice that he’s serious about making a comeback. Knocked down, cut and battered by Brubaker’s first round rush, Sharkey rallied to outbox, outpunch and outpoint the California clouter. The 33 year old ex-champion, all things considered, waged one of his best fights to score an uphill victory.” 

The win would earn Sharkey a match against an up and coming heavyweight contender by the name of Joe Louis. Jack would retire after losing to Louis.

Boxing returned to Fenway in 1945 when two aging former heavyweight contenders faced off. Tami Maurlello took on Lou Nova. Both had challenged Joe Louis for the championship years before and were at the tail end of their careers. Tami showed he still had quite a bit of fire in him when he destroyed Nova in the first round, dropping him less then a minute into the fight. He then opened a cut over Lou’s left eye before finishing him off with a right to the jaw.

There would only be two more fight cards promoted at Fenway Park and they would be in the mid 1950s. Both would be headlined by one of the most exciting fighters to ever come out of Boston, the great Tony DeMarco.

In 1954, hot on the trail for a shot at the world welterweight title, Tony showed his vaunted power when he stopped George Araujo in the 5th round. Araujo put up a valiant effort but was outgunned by the power punching DeMarco.

The final boxing show to be held at Fenway Park took place on June 16, 1956 when Tony DeMarco once again headlined a show promoted by Sam Silverman. Tony was now the former welterweight champ, but was on the comeback trail coming off two wins since losing the title to Carmen Basilio.

Tony DeMarco Celebrates Victory Over Vince Martinez At Fenway Park

Tony showed he was still a serious contender to be dealt with as he won a ten round decision from the very talented Vince Martinez. Martinez started fast, winning the early rounds, but Tony came on to dominate the rest of the fight nearly stopping Vince in the tenth round.

I don’t know if Boston will ever again see another boxing show at Fenway Park, but it sure would be exciting. Taking a seat at ringside on that field of dreams would be an unforgettable experience. Maybe some promoter will consider doing it again.

Review: “Fun Home” at SpeakEasy Stage

Fun Home

At SpeakEasy Stage

Is First Rate

Reviewed by Bobby Franklin

Three Alisons (Marissa Simeqi, Ellie van Amerongen, and Amy Jo Jackson)
Photo: Nile Scott Studios

The musical Fun Home now playing at the SpeakEasy Stage Company is deeply moving and complex. Based on the graphic memoir of the same title by Alison Bechdel, it tells the story of of Ms Bechdel’s childhood and her coming out as a lesbian while in college. However, this is not a story simply about a young woman coming to terms with her sexuality. It is much more complicated than that. In reality, her coming out is not the center of the story. 

The play opens in, what seems to be, the happy home of the Bechdels (Welcome To Our House on Maple Avenue). Alison’s father, Bruce (Todd Yard), is an English teacher as well as a director of a funeral home. The title of the play is taken from the shortened and more enjoyable name the Bechdel children use for the family business. Alison has two brothers, Christian (Cameron Levesque) and John (Luke Gold).

Alison is played by three actors depicting her at different ages. There is Small Alison (Marissa Simeqi), Medium Alison (Ellie van Amerongen), and present day Alison (Amy Jo Jackson). The play does not follow a chronological order, but rather follows the present day Alison as she looks back on events in her life while drawing cartoons as she relives the various times. Much of the time she is sitting at a writing desk or standing off to the side looking on and drawing as her memories are played out by the others. She makes comments as she observes. I found this very effective as it is common for people to look back on their lives as if they are witnessing a play or a movie. Trying to figure it all out can get complicated, and this story is no different when it comes to complications.

Marissa Simeqi (Small Alison)and Todd Yard (Bruce)Photo: Nile Scott Studios

Those complications are not so much in Alison’s coming to grips with her own sexual identity, she does quite well with that, but more with her father’s having to deal with his. It turns out Bruce is gay and has never come out. He has gotten into trouble for “procuring alcohol for underage boys”. Tyler Simahk, last seen at SpeakEasy in Allegiance plays multiple roles as the young men Bruce procures beer for. He is also somewhat controlling, not abusive, of his children, and it is easy to gather that controlling behavior is reflective of his attempts to control his own behavior. It is painful to watch him struggle. 

In the song Maps Alison talks about drawing maps of the neighborhood as a child. At one point she says about her father “I can draw a circle, his whole life fits inside”. That line had me thinking of how trapped Bruce must have felt. 

Bruce eventually killed himself by stepping in front of a truck. This was not long after Alison came out, and she says “My beginning would be your end”. These words are powerful as they so strongly convey the torment in not being able to live who you are openly. Alison was fortunate, though it still wasn’t easy, to have come of age in a time when she could find support and acceptance. Bruce had to live his life in the shadows and with guilt and anger that was turned within.

One of the most powerful moments in the play is when Alison’s mother Helen (Laura Marie Duncan) sings Days and Days:

Welcome to our house on Maple Avenue
See how we polish and we shine
We rearrange and realign
Everything is balanced and serene
Like chaos never happens if it’s never seen.”

In which she laments her life, feeling she wasted it in attempting to be the good wife.”

 She advises Alison: 

“Don’t you come back here

I didn’t raise you

To give away your days

Like me.”

The song is strong and delivers the message of how living lies is painful to all involved. Fortunately, Alison has learned that difficult lesson.

Helen (Laura Marie Duncan)Photo: Nile Scott Studios

While this story is one that involves much struggle and pain, it also has its happy moments. Although Bruce was in much pain and controlling, he was also a loving father. The children loved him and Helen, as well as each other. The song Come To Fun Home is a rousing number sung by the three siblings as they pretend to make a commercial for the funeral home. It is somewhat of a cross  between the Osmands and the Jackson Five, and all much fun. Marissa Simeqi, Cameron Levesque, and Luke Gold bring the house down while dancing around a casket, and taking turns singing into a can of Pledge used as a microphone. 

Desire Graham plays Joan, the understanding, though edgy, friend Alison makes on campus and who eventually becomes her lover. Joan may be a bit tough but she is kind, and just the supporting figure Alison needed 

Amy Jo Jackson in her role as present day Alison comes across as thoughtful and wise. It is interesting watch her expressions as she observes and begins to understand her life as it evolved  Often, when looking back we see ourselves with a more sympathetic eye. It is good when we can cast that view onto our present day selves. We can learn that from Alison Bechdel.

Fun Home

Music by Jeanine Tesori

Book and Lyrics by Lisa Kron

Directed by Paul Daigneault

Music Direction by Matthew Stern

Through November 24 at the Calderwood Pavillon

527 Tremont Street, South End, Boston

617.933.8600

speakeasystage.com 

Review: Measure For Measure Presented by ArtsEmerson

“Measure For Measure”

At ArtsEmerson

Is Not A Problem

William Shakespeare’s  Measure For Measure is considered his first problem play. The production now playing at the Emerson Cutler Majestic Theatre presents only one problem. It is here for only six performances, and a few of those performances are competing with the Red Sox in the World Series. This is too bad as the play, which is a collaboration by London’s Cheek By Jowl and Moscow’s Pushkin Theatre, directed by Declan Donnellan, and with a cast that speaks entirely in Russian (there are subtitles), is as interesting a production of one of Shakespeare’s works as you will see.

Set on a nearly bare stage with five large red boxes lining it, and an array of hanging lights of the type you might see in an industrial building, the starkness takes on a full life as the cast of thirteen enter and begin this story of power, the fairness and abuse of authority, hypocrisy, and conflicting principles. It is one of Shakespeare’s least performed, yet most moving works.

And yes, I wrote it is performed entirely in Russian, which may seem offsetting to some who can’t imagine seeing the works of the Bard performed in anything other than the original verse. However, I am here to tell you it works wonderfully when performed this way. There is definitely a synergy   when Russian actors take on Will Shakespeare. 

Interestingly, two of the most widely acclaimed film versions of King Lear and Hamlet were produced by Russian director Grigori Kozintsev, so this mix is not new. 

As the play begins the cast moves about the stage in a tight group without uttering a line. It is a device that is used to varying extents throughout the play as the crowd, in different sizes serves as witnesses, or perhaps a conscience, to and for the main characters. 

Angelo (Andrei Kuzichev) is played as a mousy bureaucrat who is given power by the Duke (Alexander Arsentyev), in the classic ambivalent role.

Anna Vardevanian’s Isabella is very interesting in that she gives us a more fragile and complex reading then I have seen before. Her “Man proud man” speech when confronting Angelo over his lack of compassion when enforcing the law is spoken more in mockery than anger. I found this to be very effective. Her facial expressions are priceless, especially in the closing scenes. 

There is much more to be said for this very talented cast, but time grows short, and you really should be making plans to see this Measure For Measure. It is a timely work that will have you reflecting on how power is wielded and what happens when people are too rigid and hypocritical when ruling over others. Of course there is much more to it, but you should really see for yourself. I highly recommend you do.

This is a unique and fast moving production that should not be missed. ArtsEmerson is giving Boston theatre goers a gift. Accept and enjoy it.

Measure For Measure

Cheek By Jowl and Pushkin Theatre

Presented by ArtsEmerson

At The Emerson Cutler Majestic Theatre

219 Tremont Street, Boston

Through October 28

tickets [at] artsemerson [dot] org | 617.824.8400

Photos by Johan Persson

Within This Wooden O

Hartford Stage’s 

Henry V 

In The Round

Henry V

Through November 11

The Hartford Stage 

50 Church Street

Hartford CT

www.hartfordstage.org

Reviewed by Bobby Franklin

The cast of Henry V

As the Chorus (Peter Francis James) sets the scene at the opening of Shakespeare’s Henry V now playing at the Hartford Stage, the audience is reminded that what they are about to see is all illusion. He asks that those in the theater use their imagination in order to see the story about to unfold.

Director Elizabeth Williamson has chosen to set this production in the round with very few props and effects. Other than a couple of tables and chairs, a few guns and knives, costumes that are not period specific, subtle lighting, a minimum of sound effects, and a floor that has a map inlaid in it, the rest is left to the actors, the language, and yes, the imagination. And it is Shakespeare’s language in the hands of the actors that makes the story  so vivid. 

Peter Francis James as the Chorus

Peter Francis James fills the theater with anticipation with his exciting opening monologue that invites all who are there to participate in the  events about to unfold. His rich and enthusiastic voice does indeed get the “imaginary forces” working. Throughout the play he returns to carry us along and set the upcoming scenes. It is a pleasure to listen to him.

Henry V is played by Stephen Louis Grush and he faces the challenge of reciting some of the Bard’s most rousing speeches, many of which will be familiar to the audience, such as The St. Crispin’s Day speech before the Battle of Agincourt. His battle cry (Once more unto the breech dear friends…) during the siege of Harfleur is  somewhat drowned out by sound effects at first, which is odd since they are so little used, but is still rousing as the noise fades and the words are heard. Mr. Grush sometimes appears a bit uncomfortable but settles down as he allows the words to flow from his mouth. He will only get better during this run.

Miles Anderson (Pistol)

Miles Anderson as Pistol (he also plays the Bishop of Ely) almost steals the show and his interactions with Nym (Felicity Jones Latta), Bardolph (Liam Craig), and Fleuellen (Baron Vaughn) are comic and touching. The almost knife fight between Nym and Pistol is a memorable scene that had the audience laughing while it revealed the character of the two participants. Mr. Vaughn also takes on the part of Nell Quickly and is campy and quite funny.

Director Willamson’s decision to set this in the round was a wise choice as Henry V fits well into this setting. As the actors turn about the stage addressing each other, they are also speaking to the audience. It adds an intimacy that gives the work more emotional power.

Felicity Jones Latta (Alice), Evelyn Spahr (Katherine)

Watching Katherine (Evelyn Spahr) practicing her English with Alice (Felicity Jones Latta) while moving about the stage is quite charming. Ms Spahr also plays Boy and Lord Scroop. Her Boy is innocent and yet insightful. Her Katherine is tender yet smart.

I feel I must mention Peter Francis James again. Mr. James’s Chorus paces his speeches perfectly and, without overreaching, brings a depth of excitement to the swelling scenes.

Now, since this is Henry V and we are asked to use our imagination, I beg to indulge for just a moment. During the Battle of Agincourt while the sound of machine guns were used for effect, my mind went to the swoosh of arrows being let loose from the long bows that were so effectively used to defeat the French. I think it would have been very effective here as well.

I make it a point to travel to the Hartford Stage each year to see their productions of the works of William Shakespeare. They are among the best staged anywhere. While this year’s work is a bit uneven, I thought the scenes in the French Court were stiff, it is still a worthy production not to be missed. 

Liam Craig (Bardolph), Felicity Jones Latta (Nym)

If you are among those who sometimes believe William Shakespeare wrote in a foreign language, lay your fears aside. While the text is untouched, the focus given the words and the clarity with which they are spoken here will leave you fully engaged. This is an excellent reason to make the trip to Hartford. You will leave the theatre feeling comfortable with the language of Shakespeare and glad you have seen these few, these happy few perform. 

All photos by T. Charles Erickson

NORTH SHORE MUSIC THEATRE PRESENTS THE BIG, FAT, HIT MUSICAL  ‘HAIRSPRAY’

October 30 – November 11, 2018 

Bill Hanney’s award-winning North Shore Music Theatre (NSMT) concludes the 2018 Subscription Season with Broadway’s big, fat, hit musical, HAIRSPRAY, playing for two-weeks only from Tuesday, October 30 thru Sunday, November 11, 2018.

 “I cannot think of more satisfying way to end this record-breaking season than with a bubbly, eye-popping, and powerful production of Hairspray,” said Bill Hanney, NSMT owner and producer. “The final show of the subscription season has to be like a fantastic dessert. It needs to be memorable, put a smile on your face, fill you up, and make you want to come back for more. This hysterical and heartwarming show is a favorite of mine, and with Blake Hammond, Brooke Shapiro and this amazing cast under the direction of Jeff Whiting, I know we have the recipe for success!”

HAIRSPRAY, winner of the 2003 Tony Award for ‘Best Musical,’ is piled bouffant-high with laughter, romance, and infectious musical numbers. Set in Baltimore, 1962, Tracy Turnblad is a big girl with big hair and an even bigger dream: to dance her way onto TV, and into the heart of teen idol Link Larkin. Tracy’s audition makes her a local star and soon she is using her new-found fame to fight for something bigger than her hair – racial integration. HAIRSPRAY is an irresistible, feel-good show with a Tony Award-winning book by Mark O’Donnell and Thomas Meehan and a Tony Award-winning score by Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman featuring the hit songs “Welcome To The ‘60s,” “You Can’t Stop The Beat,” “Mamma, I’m A Big Girl Now,” “I Know Where I’ve Boon,” and many more.

The cast of HAIRSPRAY will be led by Blake Hammond as Edna Turnblad and Brooke Shapiro as Tracy Turnblad. Blake Hammond is stepping into the role of Edna Turnblad once more having played her in the Broadway company of Hairspray. He has also appeared on Broadway in Living on Love, First Date, Sister Act, Elf, Billy Elliot, The Lion King, The Music Man, Kiss Me Kate, and On The Town. His Off-Broadway credits include When Pigs Fly, Carnival and Do Re Mi at Encores. Other credits include National Tours of Something Rotten, Cinderella, The Addams Family, and Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. Brooke Shapiro returns to North Shore Music Theatre where she was last seen as Jan in the 2014 production of Grease. She has performed off-Broadway in My Big Gay Italian Midlife Crisis, The Calico Buffalo, and did the first NYC reading of Love in Hate Nation (a new musical by Joe Iconis). Brooke has also performed in regional theaters across the country including Goodspeed Opera House, Cape Playhouse, Zach Theatre, Florida Studio Theatre, and Gateway Playhouse.

Performances are October 30 thru November 11, Tue – Thurs at 7:30 pm, Fri & Sat at 8 pm, matinees Wed, Sat and Sun at 2 pm. For tickets and information call (978) 232-7200, visit nsmt.org, or visit the box office at 62 Dunham Rd., Beverly, MA.

 

 

MRT’s Musical-Comedy Whodunit, “Murder for Two”, To Open with Original Star and Co-creator

 At The Merrimack Repertory Theatre From

October 17 through November 11

Joe Kinosian
(Photo Joan Marcus)

Joe Kinosian, the original star and co-creator of the Off-Broadway sensation Murder for Two will lead the Merrimack Repertory Theatre (MRT) cast of the musical-comedy whodunit October 17 – November 11 at the Nancy L. Donahue Theatre at Liberty Hall, according to Artistic Director Sean Daniels and Executive Director Bonnie J. Butkas.

Murder for Two, framed by the authors, Kinosian and Kellen Blair, as The Marx Brothers meet Agatha Christie, will be the second show of MRT’s 40th Anniversary Season and its 264th production since 1979.

“A hilarious musical whodunit,” according to The New Yorker, Murder for Two played Off-Broadway for nearly two years and earned a slew of Drama Desk and Outer Critics Circle awards and nominations. The New York Times called the show, “Ingenious! A snazzy double-act.”

Making his New England debut in the show, Kinosian plays all six of the suspects in the murder mystery, and he will be joined by Martin Landry as the detective in this original musical with book and music by Kinosian and book and lyrics by Blair. JC Clementz will direct.

Part Vaudeville, part murder mystery spoof, Murder for Two features one murder, two actors, six suspects, and one piano, wildly shared by both actors. In the zany story, every guest has a motive. Was it the prima ballerina, the widow, the niece, the psychiatrist, or even the detective? The two actors play 13 roles in the homage to everything from Agatha Christie to “Murder She Wrote” to the board game Clue.

A veteran of more than 700 performances in the role, Kinosian said his grandmother showed him his first Marx Brothers film as preschooler. “Their anarchic combination of intellectual screwball wordplay and physical zaniness has never stopped appealing to me. Like Vaudeville, we definitely wanted to channel that comedically broad ‘anything for a laugh’ approach.”

Kinosian has played the role in a two-year tour of America, as well as in productions in Korea, Japan, England, and China. His New York credits as an actor also include the cult favorite Dear Edwina. His regional theatre credits include The Nerd, An Act of God, and Dirty Blond with Emily Skinner.

Landry’s credits include the national tour of Murder for Two and the Off-Broadway productions of Dragons Love Tacos and Dear Edwina. A longtime affiliate of Steppenwolf Theatre in Chicago, director Clementz lists Irving Berlin’s I Love a Piano and The Devil’s Music: The Life and Blues of Bessie Smith among his credits.

For tickets or information, visit www.mrt.org, or call the Box Office at 978-654-4678.