Category Archives: Stage – all

“The Children” Opens At SpeakEasy Stage February 28

The Children

To Open At SpeakEasy Stage Company 

February 28

From February 28 to March 28, SpeakEasy Stage Company will proudly present the Boston premiere of the acclaimed drama THE CHILDREN by British playwright Lucy Kirkwood.

A 2018 Tony Award Nominee for Best Play, THE CHILDREN is a taut and timely new play that questions the responsibility each generation has for the way it leaves the world. One summer evening, in an isolated cottage on the British coast, Hazel and Robin, a long-married pair of retired physicists, are surprised by a visit from Rose, a former colleague whom they haven’t seen in 38 years. As the friends reminisce, long-held secrets come to light, leading to the real reason behind Rose’s return.  

A native of East London, Lucy Kirkwood is currently represented on London’s stages by The Welkin.  Her other works include It Felt Empty When the Heart Went at First but It Is Alright Now (2009 Evening Standard Award and 2010 John Whiting Award); NSFW (2012); Chimerica (2014 Olivier and Evening Standard Awards for Best New Play, plus a Critic’s Circle Award and the Susan Smith Blackburn Award); The Children (2016) and The Mosquitoes (2017). Her screen credits include Skins (Company Pictures), The Smoke (Kudos / Sky 1), and the short film The Briny, which she also directed.  Ms. Kirkwood adapted her play Chimerica into a four-part miniseries for Channel 4 in 2019, and has written a new four-part series Adult Material, following a woman’s life in the adult film industry, due to be shown in 2020.

Elliot Norton Award-winning director Bryn Boice will direct the SpeakEasy production of THE CHILDREN. Her recent credits include Universe Rushing Apart: Blue Kettle & Here We Go, two Caryl Churchill one-acts (Commonwealth Shakespeare Company); Admissions (The Gamm Theatre); Last Night at Bowl-mor Lanes (Greater Boston Stage); and an all-female production of Julius Caesar (Actors’ Shakespeare Project). Bryn is the newly appointed Associate Artistic Director of Commonwealth Shakespeare Company and is the founding Artistic Director of fringe ensemble Anthem Theatre.

The cast consists of three Norton Award-winners:  Tyrees Allen, Karen MacDonald, and Paula Plum. 

The design team is Cristina Todesco (scenic); Rachel Padula-Shufelt (costumes); Jeff Adelberg (lighting); and David Remedios (sound). Rachel Sturm is the Production Stage Manager. 

THE CHILDREN will run for five weeks, from February 28 through March 28, 2020, in the Roberts Studio Theatre in the Stanford Calderwood Pavilion at the Boston Center for the Arts, 527 Tremont Street in Boston’s South End.

For tickets or more information, the public is invited to call BostonTheatreScene Ticketing Services at 617.933.8600 or visit www.speakeasystage.com  

Cast 

TYREES ALLEN* (Robin) is thrilled to be back at SpeakEasy Stage, after having played Pops in last season’s Between Riverside and Crazy [IRNE and Elliot Norton Awards — Outstanding Actor]. Broadway credits include Aida (OBC) and the renowned revival of Henry IV at Lincoln Center.   Notable regional credits include playing Colin Powell in the American Premiere of Stuff Happens at The Mark Taper Forum, the title role of Othello at The Old Globe, Christian in Ruined at Echo Theater, and Northumberland in Richard ll at The Goodman Theatre. At the Dallas Theater Center, he has played Elder Jay in The Christians, Evan in Sweat, James Bevel in The Great Society, and Aegisthus in Electra. Tyrees was a series regular on the TV show Women’s Murder Club, has had recurring roles on several shows, and has guest-starred on over fifty shows.


KAREN MACDONALD*
(Rose).  SpeakEasy: Polly, Other Desert Cities; The Drowsy Chaperone, The Drowsy Chaperone. Broadway: Amanda Wingfield [u/s, performed], The Glass Menagerie. Off-Broadway: Oliver Twist (TFANA). National: The Audience (Maltz Jupiter Theatre); No Exit (Hartford Stage); Faithful Cheaters (Trinity Rep); Escaped Alone (Gamm Theatre). Boston-Area:  The Cake, Red Hot Patriot (Lyric Stage); America Plays (Plays in Place);  Calendar Girls (Greater Boston Stage Company); Finish Line (Boston Theater Company); The Apple Family Plays (Greater Boston Stage Company, Gloucester Stage, New Rep); 73 productions including Arkadina, The Seagull, Mother Courage and her Children (American Repertory Theatre – Founding Company Member); All My Sons, Good People (Huntington Theatre); Long Day’s Journey into Night (New Rep); Universe Rushing Apart, Coriolanus, All’s Well That Ends Well, Hamlet (Commonwealth Shakespeare Company); Home of the Brave, The Blonde, The Brunette and the Vengeful Redhead (Merrimack Rep). Ms. MacDonald has worked nationally from The Wilma Theater to Berkeley Rep. She has been awarded several IRNE and Elliot Norton Awards, and has received the Robert Brustein Prize for Sustained Achievement in the Theatre and the Elliot Norton Prize for Sustained Excellence. 

PAULA PLUM* (Hazel). SpeakEasy credits include The History Boys, Reckless, The New Century, The Savannah Disputation, and The Divine Sister. She is the recipient of seven IRNE Awards; the 1995, 2007, and 2017 Elliot Norton Awards for Outstanding Actress; the 2004 Elliot Norton Award for Sustained Excellence, and the 2003 Distinguished Alumni Award from Boston University. In 2009, in association with SpeakEasy Stage, Paula was one of five actors nationwide to receive the Fox Foundation Resident Actor Fellowship. As a founding member of Actors’ Shakespeare Project, she has played Cleopatra, Beatrice, Lady Macbeth, and Phèdre. Paula has also appeared regionally at the Lyric Stage, the American Repertory Theatre, New Rep, Merrimack Rep, Huntington Theatre, Gloucester Stage, and Elm Shakespeare. Film credits include Mermaids, Malice, Next Stop Wonderland, and Woody Allen’s Irrational Man. Television: Science Court (three seasons – ABC) and The Dick & Paula Celebrity Special (co-creator and star – FX). Ms. Plum is a cum laude graduate of Boston University and has studied at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art, the Dell’Arte Institute, and École Phillipe Gaulier in Paris. She has been published in American Theatre magazine, is married to actor Richard Snee, and is a professional acting coach.  www.paulaplum.com

Director Information

BRYN BOICE (Director) is thrilled to make her SpeakEasy debut. She is an award-winning director, educator, actor, and producer. Recent credits include Universe Rushing Apart: Blue Kettle & Here We Go, two Caryl Churchill one-acts for Commonwealth Shakespeare Company (Elliot Norton Award–Outstanding Director, Large Theatre); Admissions (The Gamm Theatre); Last Night at Bowl-mor Lanes with Paula Plum and Nancy E. Carroll (Greater Boston Stage); and an all-female production of Julius Caesar for Actors’ Shakespeare Project. Upcoming: A Midsummer Night’s Dream (CSC2/Comm Shakes). NYC and regional credits as an actor and/or director include work with Asolo Repertory Theatre, Boston Playwrights’ Theatre, Caroline’s on Broadway, and Manhattan Theatre Club. Bryn is the newly appointed Associate Artistic Director of Commonwealth Shakespeare Company and is the founding Artistic Director of fringe ensemble Anthem Theatre Company. She teaches acting, voice, applied movement, and dialects, among others, at Salem State. She holds an MFA in Directing from Boston University and an MFA in Acting from the Asolo Conservatory for Actor Training (FSU). More information at www.brynboice.com

Performance Schedule: February 28 – March 28, 2020 

Wed. & Thurs. at 7:30PM; Fri. at 8PM; Sat. at 4 & 8PM; 

Sun. at 3PM.  Additional performance Thursday, Mar. 26 at 2PM.

“Detroit Red” Opens At ArtsEmerson

BEFORE HE WAS MALCOLM X, 

HE WAS DETROIT RED ARTSEMERSON PROUDLY PRESENTS 

THE WORLD PREMIERE OF 

DETROIT RED 

A WILL POWER AND ARTSEMERSON PRODUCTION 

FEBRUARY 01 – 16, 2020
EMERSON PARAMOUNT CENTER ROBERT J. ORCHARD STAGE

Will Power
Photo Credit: Adam A. Anderson

ArtsEmerson is thrilled to announce the World Premiere of Detroit Red by internationally renowned playwright Will Power. This theatrical exploration of the life of Malcolm X as he dwelled and came of age in the Roxbury section of Boston, plays the Emerson Paramount Center Robert J. Orchard Stage February 01 – 16, 2020. 

The world forever knows him as Malcolm X, but when he lived in Roxbury, he was dubbed “Detroit Red.” Will Power, along with director Lee Sunday Evans, shine a light on a pivotal coming-of-age moment in the celebrated, controversial civil rights leader’s life in this world premiere piece. Boxed in by race and class in 1940’s Boston, “Detroit Red” (Eric Berryman) transformed from a rowdy teenager into a street hustler. Detroit Red vividly brings this world to life, depicting a brutally honest, human portrayal of the future activist as he navigates the criminal underworld, taking the first steps in his quest to define the type of man he would eventually become. 

A potent, heart-wrenching deconstruction of a future American hero in turmoil, Detroit Red features three shape-shifting actors who create a deeply dramatic and surprisingly funny theatrical experience. The production offers a radical take on traditional theater, illuminating an iconic African-American figure and the community and circumstances that helped form him. 

“It’s been a joy working with Will Power, Lee Sunday Evans, Eric Berryman and the community of Roxbury dramaturgs on the development of Detroit Red,” says ArtsEmerson Artistic Director David Dower. “When Will first described what he was aiming to do in this play we were immediately hooked. I loved that he wasn’t setting out to stage Malcom X’s biography. That story is told. I admired that he wanted to create this play in a deep collaboration with Roxbury itself.” 

“Will has found a surprising and explosive point of entry through the story of teenage Malcolm Little’s days in our city,” continues Dower. “The entire play is set in a single moment of epiphany trapped in a moment of reckoning — the sudden, impulsive moment of letting go of one story to make the space for the new story to unfold. The media is filled with stories of people who confronted this type of moment of reckoning, gun in hand. This play is about the moment Malcolm Little put his gun down, and let drop the story of Detroit Red. He changed his own narrative and, as a result, changed the world. Will and his team have zoomed in on that split- second decision, unpacking it for us on stage. And so we get to sit inside Malcolm’s head as he stood inside that Roxbury jewelry store at a life and death crossroads.” 

“I am fascinated by Malcolm’s time in Boston,” says Detroit Red playwright Will Power. “It is an unexplored period in the trajectory of a future world leader, a period that, when you include both his time as “Detroit Red” and his time incarcerated, adds up to almost a dozen years in which he lived in the state of Massachusetts. Malcolm X came to Boston as a skinny, countrified teenager (a “hick” as Malcolm describes it), and left Boston as the man known to the world as Malcolm X. In some ways, like Malcom, the city of Boston is iconic onto itself-it represents both the achievements and the complexities that exist in America. I can conceive of no other place that this play could’ve originated in other than right here in Boston.” 

Detroit Red plays for two weeks, February 1 – 16, 2020, at the Emerson Paramount Center Robert J. Orchard Stage. Tickets may be purchased at ArtsEmerson.org, by phone at 617.824.8400 or at the box office. 

Review: “The Cake” At The Lyric Stage In Boston

The Cake

Nobody Has The Corner On Self Righteousness 

Reviewed By Bobby Franklin

Karen MacDonald

I almost declined the invitation to review The Cake, now playing at the Lyric stage in Boston. Many works today are taking on societal issues, and getting people to think about what is going on around them while being more open to listening to the views of others is a good thing. It is healthy when we challenge ourselves and our, very often, deeply held views. It doesn’t mean we will necessarily change them, but understanding where others are coming from and why they feel the way they do helps to prevent us from putting up walls between one another and feeling anger. As hard as it is to believe, we can actually get along with people with whom we disagree. 

The problem with much theatre that I attend today is that it is self righteous. Instead of posing questions that will make us consider other views, many of the works I see tend to preach, and worse, demand that the audience members fall in line with a particular view point. I have received press packages that are filled with materials that all but tell me what I am supposed to feel about the play and about myself. Frankly, I find this insulting and disrespectful. It is also counterproductive. 

Kris Sidberry and Chelsea Diehl
Photo: Mark S. Howard

This used to be rare, but it is becoming too common today probably due to the polarizing times we live in. One exception to this is Ayad Akhtar’s The Who & The What that played at The Huntington Theatre in 2017 and dealt with the issues facing a Muslim family living in America. It was thought provoking but not preachy. Mr. Akhtar has said “Advocacy is not art, it’s advertising”. I couldn’t agree more.

In The Cake, author Bekah Brunstetter takes a similar approach. The play is about a gay couple living in New York, Jen (Chelsea Diehl) and Macy (Kris Sidberry), who have traveled to Jen’s original home in North Carolina where they plan to get married. Jen wants the ceremony to take place in the same venue where her parents were wed. Her mother has passed on but it is apparent she is looking for acceptance as she can not know, but does suspect, how her mother would feel about this. 

The play opens at Della’s Sweets, a bakery run by Della (Karen MacDonald) who was close to Jen’s mother and has known Jen since she was little. Della is very excited about having become a contestant on The Great American Bake Off, and is describing what it takes to make a good cake. Jen wants Della to bake the wedding cake for her and Macy. Macy arrives at the shop ahead of her and engages Della in conversation. 

At this point it all seems to be very predictable; the dumb and bigoted hick will respond with hate and disgust at the request while the enlightened couple will be both victim and moral superiors to the backward folks living down south. That is not at all how this plays.

Karen MacDonald and Chelsea Diehl
Photo: Mark S. Howard

Ms Brunstetter shows empathy for all of the characters and allows that many issues are not that cut and dried. In a twist, Macy turns out to be the self righteous one who has no room for differing views, while Della is willing to face the conflicts she faces with her beliefs. It is refreshing to see a Southern Evangelical treated with respect. And while Della is willing to question herself, Macy is very judgmental and believes “If you don’t want to be a bigot you have to think like me”. 

Jen is the most conflicted as she had been close to Della and was brought up in the same cultural environment. It is clear that Della is a mother figure to her. Having Della bake the cake for the wedding is important to her, but Jen is also understanding, while hurt, when Della makes excuses for not doing so. Della is also feeling pain as she loves Jen. There is a lot of emotional conflict here that spills over into the relationship between Macy, who grew up in New York, and Jen.

Fred Sullivan,Jr. and Karen MacDonald
Photo: Mark S. Howard

Karen MacDonald is perfect as Della, a woman without an inch of hate in her heart but views that are considered backwards, and even hateful, by big city liberals. Tim (Fred Sullivan, Jr)., Della’s husband, is a plumber. This is where I felt things could fall apart as the stereotype so often portrayed of white working class men is not usually flattering. While Tim is set in his ways, he is also a decent man who deeply loves Della. He also enjoys mashed potatoes which makes for a very funny scene, but you will have to see the play to find out what that is all about.

The interactions between Macy and Jen as well as between Della and Tim are both insightful into why they believe the things they do and what they believe about others. It is this hard facts back and forth that occurs between Della and Jen that really digs into the conflicted feelings they both are dealing with as well as a way to start understanding each other. 

Chelsea Diehl digs deep down into Jen emotions, those of a woman with a foot in two cultures. Jen does not agree with Della, but she understands her, while Della’s moral code precludes her from baking the cake, her heart tells her it is good that the little girl she has always loved has found someone she is in love with. They truly care for each other.

Chelsea Diehl and Kris Sidberry
Photo: Mark S. Howard

The one fault I found with the play is in the character of Macy. Kris Sidberry gives us a character that is so certain of her beliefs that she has an almost religious fervor about them, and many of us will recognize that person; the take no prisoner true believer. However, by the time the play moves to where the characters are beginning to find common ground it is too little too late for Macy. She has done something particularly cruel that gets brushed off and shouldn’t. And though she finds some common ground toward the play’s end, her journey there is not fully developed.

The Cake may involve a baker and the choice not to bake a cake for the wedding of a gay couple, but it is not about the right or wrong of making that choice. This is a play about how listening, and more importantly, treating one another with respect is the way to finding a way to understand one another. A way not to react with hate at that with which we do not agree. That goes for all people. 

This is a sweet play baked with warmth and humor about people being, for the most part, kind and understanding of one another without having to compromise their beliefs. This is not a dig in your heels political diatribe, but rather a thoughtful look at how we are all human, and of how we really can get along. The Cake is refreshing and delicious and is certainly worthy of being tasted.

The Cake

Directed By Courtney O’Connor

Through February 9

The Lyric Stage, Copley Square, Boston

617.585.5678

lyricstage.comR

GREATER BOSTON STAGE COMPANY PRESENTS THE WORLD PREMIERE OF “SWAN LAKE IN BLUE: A JAZZ BALLET”

 

Greater Boston Stage Company is proud to announce the World Premiere Dance Event Swan Lake in Blue: A Jazz Ballet, created and composed by renowned jazz musician and composer Steve Bass. Choreographed and staged by GBSC Associate Artistic Director and multiple IRNE and Elliot Norton Award Winner Ilyse Robbins, Swan Lake in Blue: A Jazz Ballet is inspired by and loosely based on Tchaikovsky’s masterpiece, Swan Lake. 

Featuring big band jazz music as well as a company of tap and jazz dancers, Swan Lake in Blue: A Jazz Ballet tells the story of a Broadway producer who falls madly in love with a burlesque dancer, Odette. He then discovers that she is under the control of a terrible mob boss and is being forced to perform nightly at The Swan Club. Passion, betrayal and mistaken identities ensue—will Odette fly away from her past or stay caged forever? 

Choreographer Ilyse Robbins is a celebrated tap dancer, having danced with tap legend Gregory Hines. She has won IRNE awards for Best Choreographer for Dames at Sea, How to Succeed in Business…, and 42nd Street, among others. She is thrilled to be staging to Bass’ creation. “This production is the perfect complement to GBSC’s commitment to telling familiar stories in fresh new ways,” says Robbins. 

Composer and creator Steve Bass says of the Premiere, “Jazz was my first musical love, and I’ve also always loved tap dance. This piece is ballet at its core— storytelling though dance and instrumental music—and I have replaced the classical orchestra with a jazz big band and replaced the ballet dancers with tap, jazz, and lyrical dancers. The idea was to have something that looked and sounded much closer to a Broadway musical, but with no words—a Jazz Ballet. I immediately knew I wanted to base it on Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake and I began adapting the classic fairy tale into a 1940s New York City setting.” 

Cast Members:

SARA COOMBS (Odette/Odile) is an actress/choreographer/teaching artist based in NYC. As a performer, she was most recently seen on the GBSC stage as Doris Walker in Miracle on 34th Street. Other GBSC credits include: 42nd Street, Thoroughly Modern Millie, Dames at Sea, She Loves Me and Being Earnest. She has choreographed Off-Broadway shows, national tours, and many musicals in regional theatres. Sara is a member as well as thechoreographer of Manhattan Shuffle: NYC’s Premiere Song and Tap Trio – manhattanshuffle.com. With over 15 years of teaching experience, Sara has taught tap dance and theatre at Broadway Dance Center, Peridance Capezio Center in NYC, and at multiple theaters throughout New England. She holds a B.F.A in Musical Theatre from The Boston Conservatory. Instagram: @coombaloo 

Andy McLeavey and Sara Coombs
Photo Credit: Nile Scott Studios

ANDY MCLEAVY (Florenz Siegfried) – is thrilled to return to GBSC having previously appeared as Billy Lawlor in 42nd Street. A few of his favorite credits include Antipholus of Ephesus in Boys From Syracuse (Commonwealth Shakespeare Company/Boston Landmarks Orchestra), Jimmy in Thoroughly Modern Millie (Merry-Go-Round Playhouse/Rev Theatre & Reagle Music Theatre), Pat Denning/Dancer in 42nd Street (Atlantic City’s Tropicana Casino), George in Goldilocks (NYC’s Opening Doors Theatre Company), Gaston in Beauty and the Beast (Company Theatre), On The 20th Century w/Alice Ripley, and Carousel w/Shirley Jones. Andy is proud to have sung the national anthem multiple times at Mohegan Sun Arena, McCoy Stadium, and the Ryan Center. He also loves teaching Zumba & Tap, as well as singing and songwriting under the nickname “Andy Macktastic”. Andy is a former joke writer for SomeEcards.com. Instagram: @andymacktasticmusic 

 

 

What: Swan Lake In Blue: A Jazz Ballet

Where: Greater Boston Stage Company, 395 Main Street, Stoneham, MA

When: February 15 through March 1

How: Box Office: (781) 279-2200

Website: www.greaterbostonstage.org
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Lynn Nottage’s “Sweat” Opening At The Huntington Theatre January 31. Now Extended Through March 1

Huntington Theatre Company has announced the extension of the Boston premiere of the Pulitzer Prize-winning drama Sweat.  Due to high ticket demand, this “breathtakingly timely” (The Wall Street Journal), Tony Award-nominated play by two-time Pulitzer Prize winner Lynn Nottage and directed by Kimberly Senior (The Niceties at the Huntington, Disgraced on Broadway) will now run at the Huntington Avenue Theatre, 264 Huntington Avenue, Boston from Friday, January 31, 2020 through Sunday, March 1, 2020.
 
Five new performances have been added; the dates are Thursday, February 27 at 7:30pm; Friday, February 28 at 8pm; Saturday February 29 at 2pm and 8pm; and Sunday, March 1 at 2pm.

Hailed as “a gripping play with humor and humanity” by Time Out New York, Sweat is based on playwright Lynn Nottage’s interviews with residents of Reading, Pennsylvania.

The play chronicles years in the lives of a group of friends from this working-class community who are struggling to stay connected as the local factory industry, which has employed them for generations, crumbles. In a neighborhood bar, each of them reaches for their piece of the American dream while their friendships are put to the test. Nottage weaves a tale of trust and doubt, longtime bonds and short-term possibilities. The New York Times raves “Superb…Nottage is writing at the peak of her powers.”
 
Sweat was first performed at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival in 2015, the following year it opened Off-Broadway at The Public Theater and transferred to Broadway at the beginning of 2017. After a run on Broadway, numerous regional productions throughout the United States and a stop at London’s West End, Sweat comes to Boston in this moving and urgently relevant new production.

Kimberly Senior (The Niceties and the upcoming, Our Daughters Like Pillars at the Huntington) takes the reigns of this play that The New Yorker designated “the first theatrical landmark of the Trump era” at the beginning of what could be our nation’s most important presidential election year in history.

As previously announced, the cast of Sweat features (in alphabetical order) Tyla Abercrumbie (Magnolia at the Goodman Theatre, Showtime’s “The Chi”) as Cynthia, Norton Award winner Marianna Bassham (Yerma and Romeo and Juliet at the Huntington) as Jessie, Norton Award winner Brandon G. Green (An Octoroon at Company One, The Scottsboro Boys at SpeakEasy Stage Company) as Chris, Shane Kenyon (Buzzer at the Goodman Theatre, Hushabye at Steppenwolf Theatre Company) as Jason, Norton Award winner Maurice Emmanuel Parent (Romeo and Juliet, Skeleton Crew at the Huntington) as Evan, Jennifer Regan (Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf on Broadway, How I Learned to Drive at Second Stage Theatre) as Tracey, Tommy Rivera-Vega (A View from the Bridge at Teatro Vista, Three Sisters at Steppenwolf Theatre Company) as Oscar and Guy van Swearingen (The Time of Your Life and Taking Care at Steppenwolf Theatre Company) as Stan. Actor Alvin Keith (Cat on a Hot Tin Roof on Broadway, Novenas for a Lost Hospital at Rattlestick Playwrights Theater) joins the cast as Brucie.

The creative team for Sweat includes set design by Cameron Anderson (Yerma and The Niceties at the Huntington), costume design by Junghyun Georgia Lee (Tiger Style!, Smart People at the Huntington), lighting design by D.M. Wood (The Niceties at the Huntington, 4.48 Psychosis at the Royal Opera House), fight direction by Ted Hewlett (Quixote Nuevo and Yerma at the Huntington), and sound design and composition by Pornchanok Kanchanabanca (Skylight at the McCarter Theater, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time at Steppenwolf Theatre Company). The production stage manager is Emily F. McMullen and stage manager is Kelsy Durkin and Sam Layco.

What: Sweat by Lynn Nottage
When: January 31 through March 1, 2020
Where: The Huntington Theatre, 264 Huntington Ave., Boston
How: In person at the Huntington Avenue Theatre Box Office, 264 Huntington Ave. and the Calderwood Pavilion at the BCA Box Office, 527 Tremont St. in Boston’s South End.
By phone: 617.266.0800
On Line: huntingtontheatre.org

Review: “Irving Berlin’s White Christmas” At The Boch Center Wang Theatre, Boston

Irving Berlin’s White Christmas 

Is A Dream 

At The Boch Center Wang Theater

Reviewed by Bobby Franklin

White Christmas now playing at the Boch Center Wang Theatre in Boston is based on the 1954 movie of the same name. The story of two WWII veterans and Army buddies, Bob Wallace and Phil Davis who form a musical act after the war and, at the urging of Phil, start pursuing love interests Betty and Judy Haynes is corny, formulaic, and great fun. 

During the course of catching up with Betty and Judy, who are also performing as musical artists the Haynes Sisters, they end up at the Columbia Inn in Vermont run by their former Commanding Officer General Waverly. The inn is failing, and well, you can figure out the rest. 

What is wonderful about musicals like this is they are a perfect showcase for the amazing music taken from the Great American Songbook, in this case the songs of Irving Berlin; tunes such as Count Your Blessings Instead Of Sheep, I Love A Piano, Let Me Sing And I’m Happy, and Blue Skies. It is also, as the title reminds us, Christmas Season and Mr. Berlin wrote many of the Christmas songs that have become standards. Along with the title number these include Happy Holidays, Snow, and I’ve Got My Love To Keep Me Warm.

Blue Skies

The huge stage of the Wang Center can be overwhelming, and at first I thought the players were going to be lost in their surroundings. However, their powerful performances and the beautiful scenery prove large enough to fill their surrounding and more. Blue Skies performed by David Elder as Bob Davis along with the chorus all dressed in white and  set against a  background of sky blue with wisps of clouds was food for the eyes while the singing and dancing were spectacular. 

Kerry Conte and Kelly Sheehan as the Haynes Sisters are delightful while performing the number Sisters, a song that is later reprised by Bob and Phil in a bit of  twist. There is great chemistry among the four actors both when all together and when paired off separately. 

Judy and Phil

Phil played by Jeremy Benton sings one of Berlin’s best songs I Love A Piano while dancing atop a small grand piano. He is joined by Judy and the pair perform a tap dance routine while seated on the piano with their feet hitting the stage. It is innovative and received a well deserved round of applause.

Bob and Betty bring tenderness to Count Your Blessings, a song that is not only appropriate for the Christmas Season, but one that delivers a message we should all take to heart each and every day.

Judy performs How Deep Is The Ocean set at the Regency Room in New York City. Here is where that large stage really works. Judy is joined by Phil as they sing and dance under a beautiful chandelier and are surrounded by gorgeous white draperies. 

The set designs adapted by Kenneth Foy from the 2009 production sets designed by Anna Louizos are breathtaking. The colors vivid and warm are marvelous. The scenes at the inn capture what it feels like to be in New England at Christmastime. I don’t want to give away the ending, but I can assure you that you’ll be in awe at what you see.

Lorna Luft

Lorna Luft plays Martha Watson the manager of the Columbia Inn in Vermont. When she sings Let Me Sing And I’m Happy it is impossible not to think of her mother Judy Garland, but she is not performing an imitation of her famous mother. Ms Luft is a consummate stage professional who can not only sing beautifully but also has tremendous stage presence and exquisite timing. 

Conrad John Schuck as General Henry Waverly is a cross between George Patton and General George C. Marshall, proud, firm, and tender. In the performance I attended Kyla Carter played Susan, the granddaughter of General Waverly. (The role is alternated with Emma Grace Berardelli). Ms Carter was impressive when she reprised Let Me Sing And I’m Happy. It must have been a bit intimidating to be performing the number in front of Lorna

Kyla Carter, Conrad John Schuck, and Lorna Luft

Luft just minutes after Ms Luft had sung it, but Ms Carter was poised and powerful. 

The character of Ezekiel Foster has few words, but his “ayuhs”, high waisted pants, cigar, and facial expressions are subtle and very funny. Cliff Bemis originated the role and is on the stage here in Boston. It takes on even more meaning to native New Englanders. Is he good? Ayuh!

Director and choreographer Randy Skinner has put the large stage to good use, keeping it open and vast on numbers such as Blue Skies, while using the scenery to shrink it a bit and frame scenes tastefully such as the ones at the inn. 

This is a big production with a full orchestra and very large cast. Irving Berlin’s White Christmas is just the thing to make you forget about your troubles and become filled with the joy and spirit of Christmas. Great music, great talent, and great scenery on a great big stage is just the ticket for a great night of theatre.  This should be a part of any Christmas celebration in Boston.

Irving Berlin’s White Christmas 

Directed and Choreographed by Randy Skinner

The Boch Center Wang Theatre, 270 Tremont Street, Boston

Through December 29

bochcenter.org 

Greater Boston Stage Company Partners With Christmas In The City To Collect New Toys For Needy Families

JOIN GREATER BOSTON STAGE COMPANY AND BE ONE OF SANTA’S HELPERS 

Greater Boston Stage Company is committed to giving back to the community as it celebrates its 20th Anniversary Season. As part of this promise, GBSC is partnering with Christmas in the City during the run of Miracle on 34th Street to make the holidays a little brighter. 

From November 29th through December 19th, 2019 Greater Boston Stage Company will be collecting new toys to donate to Christmas in the City so that they can pull off a miracle of their own: providing thousands of toys to needy families in the Greater Boston area. 

Share some holiday happiness with kids who could use a little extra comfort and joy. Bring your donation of a new toy to the Griffin Museum Gallery attached to the theater and put it under the tree. Your gift and your generosity are truly appreciated. 

Christmas in the City is a 100% volunteer non-profit that since 1989 has been dedicated to helping relieve the impact of homelessness and poverty on Boston-area children and their families.
Learn more: christmasinthecity.org 

And while you’re here… stay for the show! Based on the much-loved motion picture from Twentieth Century Fox, Miracle on 34th Street reminds us that if you really believe, anything can happen. Miracle on 34th Street celebrates the season by taking us to Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in the 1940’s where a gentleman named Kris Kringle steps in as a last-minute replacement for Santa. When he claims to be the true Santa Claus, he needs to convince the doubters, including a little girl longing to find something to believe in. Directed by Associate Artistic Director, Ilyse Robbins runs from November 29 – December 22, 2019. For more information or to purchase tickets, call the Box Office at Greater Boston Stage Company at (781) 279-2200, or visit www.greaterbostonstage.org.   

Greater Boston Stage Company is dedicated to fostering an inclusive and accessible environment for all. A sensory-friendly performance of Miracle on 34th Street will be offered on December 21, 2019 at 2:00pm. The sensory-friendly production will be a performance dedicated to creating a more welcoming space for individuals with sensory-input disorders. There will be modifications throughout the theatre that create a friendly and supportive environment, encouraging patrons to experience the magic of theatre in their own way. Families, friends and caregivers of individuals with sensory-input disorders are also encouraged to attend. Please visit https://www.greaterbostonstage.org/sensory_friendly.html for more information. 

 

“Irving Berlin’s White Christmas” Opens At The Boch Center Wang Theatre December 17

 

 Irving Berlin’s White Christmas

Comes To  The Boch Center Wang Theatre

December 17 Through December 29

Starring

David Elder, Kerry Conte, 

Jeremy Benton, and Kelly Sheehan

 Featuring Conrad John Schuck As The General, 

And Reprising The Role Of Martha Watson, Lorna Luft 

 

The producers of IRVING BERLIN’S WHITE CHRISTMAS, the stage adaptation of the beloved classic film, have announced casting for the upcoming National Tour, coming to the Boch Center Wang Theatre December 17 – 29, 2019.

The 2019 season will star David Elder as “Bob Wallace,” Jeremy Benton as “Phil Davis,” Kerry Conte as “Betty Haynes,” and Kelly Sheehan as “Judy Haynes.”  Also featured are Conrad John Schuck as “General Waverly,” Lorna Luft as “Martha Watson,” Brad Frenette as “Ralph Sheldrake,” Danny Gardner as “Mike Nulty,” and Cliff Bemis as “Ezekiel Foster.” Additionally, Emma Grace Berardelli and Kyla Carter will be reprising their role of “Susan Waverly.” 

Rounding out the cast of returning cast members are Darien Crago, Sarah Fagan, Drew Humphrey, Bryan Thomas Hunt, Brianna LaTrash, Stephanie Brooks Martin, Chris McNiff, Daniel Plimpton, Kristyn Pope, Sean Quinn, and Karilyn Ashley Surratt. Additional new cast members for the 2019 season include Lamont Brown, Kimberly Immanuel, Tina Johnson, Kristie Kerwin, and Chris Shin. 

IRVING BERLIN’S WHITE CHRISTMAS tells the story of a song-and-dance team putting on a show in a magical Vermont inn who fall for a stunning sister act in the process. Full of dancing, laughter and some of the greatest songs ever written, including “Count Your Blessings Instead of Sheep,” “Happy Holiday,” “Sisters,” “Blue Skies,” and the unforgettable title song, Irving Berlin’s “White Christmas.”

The New York Times exclaims “this cozy trip down memory lane should be put on your wish list.” And, the New York Daily News hailed IRVING BERLIN’S WHITE CHRISTMAS as “a holiday card come to life.”

IRVING BERLIN’S WHITE CHRISTMAS features music and lyrics by Irving Berlin with book by David Ives and Paul Blake and is based upon the Paramount Pictures film written for the screen by Norman Krasna, Norman Panama and Melvin Frank

Tickets are available at the Boch Center Box Office,  www.bochcenter.org, by calling 800-982-ARTS (2787), and via Ticketmaster or by calling 866-348-9738.

Wishing Sally Struthers A Speedy Recovery As Ruth Gottschall Steps In To Play Miss Hannigan In Annie At The Music Hall In Portsmouth, NH

Ruth Gottschall to Step Into the Role of Miss Hannigan in the
Ogunquit Playhouse Holiday Production of Annie at The Music Hall

Ruth Gottschall

Broadway’s Ruth Gottschall has returned to the seacoast to step into the role of Miss Hannigan in the Ogunquit Playhouse production of Annie now on stage at The Music Hall in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. Ms. Gottschall replaces Sally Struthers who is recovering from surgery for a broken leg which was caused by a fall on an ice covered walkway earlier this week following the recent snow storms. Ms. Gottschall will take the stage the week of December 9, and through the end of the run.

“Our Dear Sally will need to step out of Annie for the rest of the run to get herself back on her feet. But she will be nearby – so don’t be surprised if you see her sneak in to watch to the show! We are grateful that Sally is resting comfortably and feeling great right now. While we will miss her very much in this role, we want her to continue to rest and to enjoy time with her family and friends over the holidays. We of course look forward to welcoming Sally to our stage in 2020. With Sally’s blessing, the Ogunquit Playhouse is thrilled to announce that Ruth Gottschall, the brilliant Broadway actress who delighted Ogunquit audiences this past summer in Agatha Christie’s Murder On The Orient Express, has arrived in Ogunquit to take over the role of Miss Hannigan,” stated Executive Artistic Director Bradford Kenney.

Ms. Gottschall made her Ogunquit Playhouse debut as Helen Hubbard this past summer in the critically acclaimed mystery, Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express. On Broadway she has performed in Mary Poppins, The Music Man, Laughing Room Only, Cabaret, and The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas among others. At regional theatres she has portrayed Aunt Eller in Pittsburgh CLO’s Oklahoma!, Maggie in Bucks County Playhouse’s 42nd Street, and Mrs. Tottendale in Goodspeed Opera House’s The Drowsy Chaperone.

Annie is on stage now through December 22 at The Music Hall in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. Annie is the story of a spunky, red-headed orphan who lands a holiday stay with Oliver “Daddy” Warbucks, a billionaire trying to do good. This delightful musical has become a worldwide phenomenon and is the winner of seven Tony Awards, including Best Musical. The acclaimed book and score by Tony Award-winners Thomas Meehan, Charles Strouse, and Martin Charnin feature some of the greatest musical theatre hits ever written, including “Tomorrow.”

The Ogunquit Playhouse production is helmed by Broadway Director/Choreographer James A. Rocco. The cast includes Josie Todd as Annie, Emmy nominee Robert Newman as Oliver Warbucks, and Broadway veterans Angie Schworer as Lily St. Regis, Jeffry Denman as Rooster Hannigan, and Gail Bennett as Grace Farrell.

To purchase tickets call The Music Hall box office at 603-436-2300 or visit TheMusicHall.org. 

Review: “Annie” At The Music Hall In Portsmouth, NH

Leapin’ Lizards!

The Ogunquit Playhouse Production Of

Annie

Is Great Fun At The Music Hall

In Portsmouth

Reviewed by Bobby Franklin

Josie Todd as Annie and Macy as Sandy
Photo By Gary Ng

The Ogunquit Playhouse has been closed down for the winter, but the season is not quite over. Ogunquit’s Executive Artistic Director Brad Kenney has joined forces with Patricia Lynch who is the Executive Director of The Music Hall in Portsmouth, New Hampshire to bring a lovely holiday gift to New England theatre goers. That gift is the superb production of the musical Annie playing at the Music Hall through December 22.

Directed and choreographed by Jamie Rocco, Annie is running on all cylinders on the stage of the magnificent Historic Theater in Portsmouth. Just stepping into this beautifully restored Victorian Era theater is a breathtaking experience. Even before the curtain goes up it is impossible not to be impressed by the surroundings. And once the orchestra starts playing the overture and the actors first take to the stage it all comes together for a wonderful night of theatre

Annie first appeared on Broadway in 1977 and has lost none of its charm over the years and through many revivals. The Ogunquit Playhouse version  playing in Portsmouth has been freshened up a bit while retaining its original score and still brings smiles to the faces of the audience while tugging at the heartstrings. 
ring that dream with a very lucky audience.

This production of Annie is flawless and rivals anything you will see on Broadway. It is a top notch production that should not be missed.

Josie Todd as Annie, the orphan who sets out to find her birth parents, is feisty and lovable. She leads the other orphans in great renditions of Maybe and It’s A Hard Knock Life and takes it to the top with Tomorrow. I would imagine this is a dream role for Ms Todd and she is sharing that dream with a very lucky audience.

The orphans at the Municipal Girls Orphanage run by Miss Hannigan are played by an ensemble of young actors who are excellently choreographed and get to really show their talents in the number You’re Never Really Dressed Without A Smile. Each and every one of them performed like experienced Broadway performers.

Robert Newman brings an Oliver “Daddy” Warbucks to the stage who shows the strength and drive that made him a billionaire while conveying the warm heart that is melted by his relationship with Annie. Mr. Newman’s version of Something Was Missing is touching and lovely. 

I last saw Gail Bennett in the 2014 production of Mary Poppins at the Ogunquit Playhouse. In Annie she is cast as Grace Farrell the personal assistant of Oliver Warbucks. It was a pleasure to see her on the stage again.

Josie Todd (Annie), Robert Newman (Daddy Warbucks), and Cast
Photo by Julia Russell

The scene recreating a 1930’s radio broadcast where Oliver Warbucks takes to the air offering a reward to find the birth parents of Annie, it is filled with nostalgia. Kevin McMahon plays host Bert Healy wearing a straw hat and accompanied by a ventriloquist with a dummy, and a sound effects man (Trent Kidd) There is also an Andrews Sisters style singing group the Boylan Sisters (Karen Largerberg, Zina Ellis, and Kym Chambers Otto). The program revolves around the song You’re Never Fully Dressed Without A Smile. It is all set in a recreated radio station. There is quite an enjoyable tap-dancing number performed by the sound effects man using  wooden shoes on a table. 

Cast of Annie
Photo by Gary Ng

This wonderful cast has another member who is truly unforgettable; Sally Struthers reprising her role as Miss Hannigan. It is more than a bit ironic that Ms Struthers who has spent her life advocating for children would be playing a character who runs an orphanage as if it were a prison. In the number Little Girls she is very funny while displaying her dislike of the children by manipulating a doll in a rather sociopathic manner. It is a scene that was suggested by Ms Struthers and could only be pulled off by her.

Sally Struthers is a regular at the Ogunquit Playhouse every year and never disappoints. In her role as Miss Hannigan she outdoes herself. I’ve mentioned it before but must do so again in saying that she has a knack for comedic timing that is rarely seen. Her pauses and glances at the audience induce laughter every time. Ms Struthers also shows what a true professional she is by never attempting to steal scenes from the other actors. She works well with everyone. Of course, she is working with a cast that is deeply talented and all enhance one another.

Ms Struthers is at her character’s conniving best when plotting with her younger brother Rooster (Jeffry Denman) and his girlfriend Lily St. Regis (Angie Schworer). They are all wickedly funny.

What would Annie be without her dog Sandy who is played by rescue dog Macy. Macy comes close to stealing the show and captures the hearts of the audience with her beautiful eyes. She was an orphan in real life so it is only fitting she has a role in this play about orphans.

Set during the Great Depression the story has many references to figures of that era and includes a scene with Franklin D. Roosevelt (Doug Carfrae) and his cabinet joining Annie in singing Tomorrow. I’m not sure how many young audience members will be familiar with the names of these confidantes of FDR as well as the references to figures of the day such as Harpo Marx, Jack Dempsey, Babe Ruth, Bernard Baruch, Herbert Hoover, and Fiorello LaGuardia, but not knowing them takes nothing away from the enjoyment. Mr. Carfrae is returning to the Ogunquit Playhouse after an absence of a mere 46 years. He still has it!

In the spirit of the season the play closes with a beautiful Christmas party. This combined with the festive decorations in the theatre and then stepping out to the streets of Portsmouth to breath in the Christmas Season is a delightful experience.

This production of Annie is flawless and rivals anything you will see on Broadway. It is a top notch production that should not be missed. I highly recommend you take in a performance. It’s a wonderful coda to this year’s Ogunquit Playhouse season. 

Many people give up on the coast of northern New England after summer, but by doing so they are missing out on a very beautiful time of the year.

Ogunquit Playhouse’s Annie at the Music Hall in Portsmouth is just the recipe for getting into the holiday spirit. You’ll leave the theatre filled with the Christmas Spirit that will have the biggest Scrooges smiling. Head north, see Annie, enjoy Portsmouth, and then continue on to Ogunquit and the many other places that put the joy in this time of the year. You’ll be glad you did.

Annie

Though December 22

The Music Hall at the Historic Theatre

28 Chestnut Street,

Portsmouth, NH

603.436.2400 themusichall.org