GREATER BOSTON STAGE COMPANY
PRESENTS THE TONY AWARD-WINNING SMASH HIT MILLION DOLLAR QUARTET
Greater Boston Stage Company proudly presents the beloved rock ‘n’ roll musical Million Dollar Quartet. Million Dollar Quartetbrings to life the famed 1956 on-the-fly recording session at Sun Records that brought together icons Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis and Carl Perkins for one of the greatest jam sessions ever. Featuring a score of hits that includes “Blue Suede Shoes,” “Great Balls of Fire,” “Walk the Line,” “Hound Dog,” and more, Million Dollar Quartetwill have audiences dancing in their seats. Directed by Associate Artistic Director Ilyse Robbins, performances run April 25 – May 19, 2019.
Shares Robbins, “I first heard about Million Dollar Quartet from my parents. They enjoyed it so much, that they saw it twice – in New York and on tour. It turns out that in one of the productions, my parents saw our Music Director and Jerry Lee Lewis, James Scheider, who was their favorite part of the show.” She continues, “Million Dollar Quartet is an evening of song, joy, and story – three things that I love.”
The Million Dollar Quartet Cast features Melissa Geerlof, Nile Scott Hawver, Luke Linsteadt, Trey Lundquist, Matthew Pitts, Austin Wayne Price, Robert Saoud, and James Scheider.
The Design Team is comprised of Scenic Designer Patrick Lynch, Lighting Designer Jeff Adelberg, Costume Designer Stephen LaMonica – a Young Company alum, Sound Designer John Stone, and Props Master Emme Shaw. Music Direction is by James Scheider.
Box Office: (781) 279-2200, 395 Main Street, Stoneham, MA 02180Mondays – Fridays, 11am to 6pm; Saturdays, 1pm to 6pmwww.greaterbostonstage.org
Art Thou Ready To Rumble? Paula Plum Scores A Knockout With The Lyric Stage/Actors’ Shakespeare Project’s
Reviewed by Bobby Franklin
Twelfth Night is considered one of William Shakespeare’s three great comedies. It is also a dark comedy, as well as the Shakespeare play that contains the most music. While it is not exactly known what the songs would have sounded like in the original productions, the lyrics are contained in the plays.
In this production, the Lyric Stage Company has joined with Actors’ Shakespeare Project and the results are delightful. Under the creative direction of Paula Plum, the action is moved from the Elizabethan Period to the 1920s. The set is modeled after New Orleans’ French Quarter and is softly lit, giving it a jazz club feel.
This is fitting, as Ms Plum has employed the very talented David Wilson to compose music to accompany the lyrics Mr. Shakespeare has provided. The bluesy jazz has the feel of Billie Holiday crossed with George Lewis. The songs are performed by Rachel Belleman in the role of Feste. Ms Belleman has an exquisite voice as she sings while being accompanied by digital music that is piped in through a juke box. Other than realizing there is not an orchestra present, you would never guess Mr. Wilson has made this happen through the wonders of modern technology. There are also flapper era songs such as I Wanna Be Loved By You and Someone To Watch Over Me that are played as incidental music.
Twelfth Night utilizes many of the familiar devices Shakespeare uses. A pair of twins that are separated, gender bending, a shipwreck, mistaken identity, and a character who is outcast by the others. It can get confusing, but that is the charm in it all.
In addition to Rachel Belleman’s Feste, and she brings much to her fine performance than her amazing singing talents, the stage is populated with a strong cast of Boston veteran actors and young talent who do not disappoint.
Bobbie Steinbach and Alejandro Simoes as Sir Toby Belch and Aquecheek respectively, bring a vaudeville/slapstick flavor to their parts. There are also shades of Laurel and Hardy. They are dressed in brightly colored costumes and wear derbies. Ms Steinbach reminded me a bit of the Penguin from the Batman series. As usual, she is a presence on the stage but never at the expense of her fellow players. Michael Forden Walker in straw hat as Valentine and Maria played by Jennie Israel round out the gang who set up Malvolio. This is Shakespeare meets vaudeville.
They are really funny, but the darkness also comes through when they begin to gaslight the somber Malvolio played by Richard Snee. This is a more sympathetic Malvolio than is sometimes seen. He is stern and unforgiving in his treatment of Sir Toby and Viola. A steward to Olivia, he is duped into believing she has romantic intentions toward him. The scene where he dresses in cross garters and yellow stockings is right out of Sid Caesar and is hysterical, which makes his embarrassment the more palpable when he finds out he has been duped. Imprisoned for madness, his rage is understandable, and Mr. Snee delivers Malvolio’s angry words to his tormenters like a cannon shot fired into the audience.
The dueling scene is presented as a boxing match, and while the legacy of Joe Louis is not threatened, it is fun and lively. Hearing the lines “Art thou ready to rumble?” was really amusing and a nice touch by Ms Plum.
Samantha Richert is a boozy Olivia dressed as a 1920’s flapper. She and Orsino are both smitten with Cesario who is really Viola in disguise. Played by Hayley Spivey, Viola has been shipwrecked in Illyria and believes her twin brother Sebastian (Dominic Carter) has been lost.
Ms Spivey and Mr. Carter are both making their Shakespearean debuts in Twelfth Night, but you would never know it by their performances. Hayley Spivey is confident and recites her lines flawlessly. Her timing is impeccable and precise as she moves effortlessly across the stage.
Dominic Carter has fewer lines, but the old saying about less being more certainly holds true for him. There is almost a shyness about his performance that makes it both subtle yet understatedly powerful. I was very impressed with both Mr. Carter and Ms Spivey. I hope they will take to the stage in future Shakespeare productions.
This Lyric Stage/Actors’ Shakespeare Project collaboration is terrific. The Lyric has not put on a Shakespeare play in some time and opening up the theatre in Copley Square for this production shows how well two different companies can work together. I thought “Oh No! Two Artistic Directors working on the same project at the same time! This could get crazy.” However, Spiro Veloudos at the Lyric and Christopher Edwards from ASP obviously work well together. I think they also let director Paula Plum have a free hand, and that was wise.
Some people are not happy when a Shakespeare play is set in a more modern era. It never has bothered me as long as it stays true to the original in dialog and meaning. This does not mean it always works. This one does, and it works extremely well. It is highly entertaining, funny, the music is perfect while the story remains intact and as meaningful as ever.
To those of you who still suffer from the slings and arrows of that high school teacher who managed to instill in you a lifelong dislike of the world’s greatest playwright, have no fear as you will enjoy this production. I heard some people at intermission saying the play was confusing. Well, it is and is supposed to be. The characters become confused. Many plays take time to resolve themselves as they progress, and this is rarely an issue. In Shakespeare, however, I think the ghosts of teachers past sometimes haunt us. My advice: don’t hang on every word, don’t worry if you feel you are not getting the story immediately, remember that you will not be given a test right after, and most of all, remember that you are not reading it. You are watching it which is the way it was meant to be experienced.
Relax and enjoy what has to be one of, if not the, best productions of a Shakespeare play this season. As Orsino says “If music be the food of love, play on; Give me excess of it”. The music at the Lyric stage is certainly the food of love…and of great theatre.
Photos by Mark S. Howard
Through April 28
The Lyric Stage, Copley Square, Boston
Onegin, now playing at the Greater Boston Stage Company in Stoneham is the U.S. premiere of the musical based on the epic poem of the same name by Alexander Pushkin. It has been very popular in Canada, and after seeing this production I can understand why. In this version, Russian literature meets rock opera. The result is two hours of very enjoyable theatre that you won’t want to miss.
Set in 19th Century Russia, it is the story of Evgeni Onegin (Mark Linehan) who has moved to the countryside where he has inherited his uncle’s estate. There he befriends the young poet Vladimir Lensky (Michael Jennings Mahoney). To cheer his new friend up, Lensky introduces Onegin to his girlfriend’s sister Tatyana (Sarah Pothier).
We hear how Tatyana is immediately taken with Onegin as she sings Let Me Die, in which she tells of her love of books and her feelings that Onegin has walked out of one of the great novels she has read. Ms Pothier’s rendition of Let Me Die is beautiful. Her voice is sweet and conveys a vulnerability that captures the essence of Tatyana.
Unfortunately, the object of her affection does not respond in kind. He makes his feelings clear in Onegin’s Refusal in which he sings the lyric, “Marriage is not for me.” Mark Linehan’s voice is strong and rich, and it doesn’t take long to understand the character of the self centered Onegin.
The story moves to tragedy as Onegin’s thoughtlessness causes his friend Lensky much pain. Onegin’s flirtation with Lensky’s fiancé Olga (Josephine Moshiri Elwood) leads to the two friends having a duel. The result causes much pain while giving Onegin what appears to be the first sense of caring for others.
While tragic, the play has many upbeat and funny moments. Christopher Chew as Triquet puts on quite the rock star performance during “The Queen Of Tonight”. Kerry Dowling’s glower seems aimed at each audience member as she sings Rules For Dueling while dressed as a Cossack complete with mustache. There are a number of memorable moments such as this.
Michael Jennings Mahoney who plays Lensky has a remarkable voice. The melancholy that shows during Olga Will You Weep is deeply moving. I was impressed and taken with what I heard.
The five piece orchestra was on stage throughout the performance as are most of the cast members. And, in a nice touch, a few members of the audience are also seated on stage and take part in some of the numbers.
Onegin plays through March 31 in Stoneham, and I highly recommend it. This Greater Boston Stage Company production is well worth seeing.With political divisions permeating so much of our daily lives, it is nice to be able to take a break from the madness and see a play that is touching, human, and has such a great score.
When the curtain rises for An Inspector Calls, now playing at the Emerson Cutler Majestic Theatre, a magnificent Victorian mansion appears center stage shrouded in mist and rain. It is rather breathtaking to see as we hear the occupants talking over dinner. Eventually, the sides of the house swing back revealing the diners while allowing the audience to get to know each character.
At first I thought the house would steal the show, but nothing could take away from the fine acting on display over the next 100 minutes of this fast paced production filled with rapid fire dialog.
J.B. Priestly’s play which was written in 1945 and is set in 1912, takes in place the home of the prosperous Birling family, celebrating the engagement of their daughter Sheila (Lianne Harvey) to Gerald Croft (Andrew Maclin). Croft’s family runs a company that competes with the Birling’s firm, and the wedding appears to be as much a business merger as an affair of the heart.
The mood begins to change quickly when the mysterious Inspector Goole (Liam Brennan) arrives and begins questioning the individuals about a young woman named Eva Smith. Eva has taken her own life and the Inspector acts as a conscience while going from person to person while finding blame in each for driving the young Smith to such despair.
Priestly made no attempt to hide his agenda and it is clear the story comes down to a very black and white social commentary; wealthy industrialist is cruel and exploitative while the workers have no control over their lives. It is a theme that will be popular with many of today’s Millennials who seem to be quite taken with socialism, but it does not lend itself to discussion. Priestly has written a work that is more of a sermon promoting rather than an argument for his beliefs.
Does this mean only people who agree with the author should see it? Not at all. Actually, it is a very good work with excellent dialog, many surprises, and characters that are well developed, and that while it is strongly political in nature, there is much in it that will resonate with people from all spectrums of opinion. Step back from where Priestly is trying lead the audience and you have a story about human nature and the harm people do to one another because they don’t understand or simply choose not to see the consequences their actions have on the lives of others. This is a problem for not only wealthy capitalists, but for many people when they have power over others. It could even be true of college professors or lower level management people.
This is the U.S. tour of the National Theatre production of An Inspector Calls, and the set from the original London West End theatre has been brought over. It is a first rate work that is a pleasure watch. At times I felt as if I were sitting in a London theatre while watching this incredibly talented troupe of actors plying their art. Costumes, lighting, and effects further enhanced the performances.
Liam Brennan’s Inspector Goole is a combination of avenging angel and Ghost of Christmas yet to come, while Jeff Hamer in the role of family patriarch Arthur Brilling takes his character, who could have easily slipped into caricature, and fills him with depth and emotion.
Lianne Harvey’s Shelia Brilling at first appears to be uncaring, or rather naive, but then becomes a voice of reason and understanding. Eric Brilling, the alcoholic son played by Hamish Riddle, gains much depth as the play moves on, and his pain is deeply felt as the final scenes unfold.
Gerald Croft (Andrew Maclin), the future son in law, and Sybil Birling (Christine Kavanaugh), the family matriarch, struck me as the coldest of the bunch. Both appeared to be from the school that says if nobody sees you, you didn’t do anything wrong.
Not to be forgotten is Edna, the Birling’s maid. Played by Diana Payne-Myers, she has very little dialog but acts as witness to all that happens. While subtle, she is quite moving and plays an important role in the play.
Opening night was also Ms Payne-Myers 91st birthday. She has been performing the part for 22 years, I think she has it down pat.
Be neither turned off or on by the political bent of An Inspector Calls. It is excellent theatre and it would be a shame not to take it in. We are in such polarized political times, but that has always been true to some degree. The important thing is to be able to listen to one another no matter how much we may disagree. While you may or may not agree with J.B. Priestly’s political views, there is much common ground to be found in how we can improve our lives when it comes to treating others with kindness and respect.
One thing everyone can agree on is this is a superb production that should not be missed.
Emerson Cutler Majestic Theatre, 219 Tremont Street, Boston. Tickets may be purchased online at www.artsemerson.orgby phone at 617.824.8400, or in person at the box office.
If Music Be The Food Of love, Play On! Give Me Excess Of It!
Orsino, Act 1 Scene 1
The Lyric Stage Company and Actors’ Shakespeare Project will be co-producing a production of William Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night. ASP founding member Paula Plum will will direct. Paula has worked as an actor and director with the Lyric Stage since 1975. She has won numerous awards including three Eliot Norton Awards for Outstanding Actress.
The cast will feature Rachel Bell;eman, Dominic Carter, Jennie Israel, Samantha Richert, Alejandro Simoes, Richard Snee, Hayley Spivey, Bobbie Steinbach, and Michael Forden Walker.
Twelfth Night is a tale of unrequited love – hilarious and heartbreaking. Twins are separated during a shipwreck and are forced to fend for themselves in a strange land. The first twin, Viola, falls in love with Orsino, who dotes on Olivia, who falls for Viola but is idolized by Malvolio. Enter Sebastian, who is the spitting image of his twin sister… is it possible for this to all end well? Well, it IS a comedy!
Twelfth Night will run from March 29 through April 28 at the Lyric Stage, Copley Square, Boston.
Greater Boston Stage Company proudly announces the U.S. Premiere of Amiel Gladstone and Veda Hill’s, Onegin. Based on Pushkin’s masterpiece novel in verse and Tchaikovsky’s stunning opera, Onegintells the love story of the innocent Tatyana and the self-obsessed aristocrat Onegin. This soaring musical adaptation begs you to answer the question, “Look around, look around, look around, Do you see someone worth dying for?”Directed by Producing Artistic Director Weylin Symes, performances run March 14 – 31, 2019.
Says Symes, “I discovered this one in a bit of a strange way. Veda Hille (composer/co-writer) released several albums in the 90s and early 2000’s that I owned and loved. One day a few years ago, I discovered that she was still writing and moreover that she had written a brand-new musical based on Pushkin’s most famous poem, Onegin. After listening to one song, I was hooked. Veda’s modern pop/musical sensibility that includes motifs from the Tchaikovsky opera, combined with a ‘musical-meets-rock-concert’ setting seemed like the perfect way to capture the passion, vibrancy and tongue-in-cheek playfulness of this classic story for a modern audience.” He continues, “Like most of my favorite shows, Onegin is a true ensemble piece with a cast of seven playing multiple roles throughout the show. And what a cast it is.”
“The great Russian novels feel so contemporary to us,” shares co-creator Hill. “You know these people, and you’ve had these feelings. We are so thrilled to have our American Premiere at GBSC. This production marks the first time that Amiel and I are not directing/music directing the show. We’ve been looking for the right company to hand Onegin to, and we feel we’ve found such excellent people at GBSC.”
The Onegin Cast features Peter Adams, Christopher Chew, Kerry Dowling, Josephine Ellwood, Mark Linehan, Michael Jennings Mahoney, and Sarah Pothier.
The Design Team is comprised of Scenic Designer Katy Monthei, Lighting Designer Jeff Adelberg, Costume Designer Deirdre Gerrard, Sound Designer John Stone, and Props Master Emme Shaw. Music Direction is by Steve Bass with choreography by Associate Artistic Director, Ilyse Robbins. Young Company Alum, Stephen Zubricki IV Assistant Directs.
There will be complimentary Pre-Show Vodka Tastings at each of the Friday performances courtesy of Vodka Sponsor Deep Eddy Vodka.
Single Tickets for Onegin: $50-60 Adults; $45-55 Seniors; $20 Students (with valid ID). Thrifty Thursday tickets cost $15 at the door and are available for the Thursday, March 14, 2019 performance at 7:30pm. 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.
New Block of Seats on Sale Friday, March 8 at noon
Due to overwhelming demand, SpeakEasy Stage Company has added seven more performances of its acclaimed production of the Tony Award-winning musical ONCE.The show will now play through Sunday, April 7, 2019.
The entire original cast will remain for the additional week of performances. The new block of seats for these additional performances will go on sale this Friday, March 8, 2019 at noon.
Based on the 2007 Irish film written and directed by John Carney, ONCEemploys an exceptional ensemble of actor-musicians to tell the story of an unlikely romance between a down-on-his-luck Dublin street musician and a determined Czech immigrant who inspires him to dream.Featuring a book by Enda Walsh, and music and lyrics by Glen Hansard and Markéta Irglová, ONCEis a charming tale that reminds us of the importance of pursuing our dreams and the power music has to connect us all.
SpeakEasy General Manager Paul Melone directed this production of ONCE. Winner of two Elliot Norton Awards for his direction of the musicals Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson (2013) and Adding Machine: A Musical (2010), Mr. Melone also directed the company’s Boston premieres ofCarrie: The Musical; reasons to be pretty; The Little Dog Laughed; Fat Pig; The Moonlight Room; Our Lady of 121st Street; and The Shape of Things.
Also on the artistic team are Steven Ladd Jones (music director) and Ilyse Robins (choreographer).
Nile Scott Hawver and Mackenzie Lesser-Roy play the lead roles of Guy and Girl.Jacob Brandt, Billy Butler, Clara Cochran, Chris Coffey, Reagan Gardiner, Billy Meleady, Robert X. Newman, Marta Rymer, Stephen Shore, Jeff Song, Kathy St. George, and Ellie van Amerongen make-up the ensemble of actor-musicians.
The design team is Eric Levenson (scenic); Rachel Padula-Shufelt (costumes); Karen Perlow (lighting); and Andrew Duncan Will (sound).
ONCE will now run through Sunday, April 7, 2019, in the Roberts Studio Theatre in the Stanford Calderwood Pavilion at the Boston Center for the Arts, 527 Tremont St. in Boston’s South End.
For tickets or more information, the public is invited to call the box office at 617.933.8600 or visit www.SpeakEasyStage.com .
KEITH HAMILTON COBB’S AWARD-WINNING EXPLORATION OF SHAKESPEARE, RACE, AND AMERICA RETURNS TO BOSTON
TWO WEEKS OF PERFORMANCES, APRIL 10 – 21, 2019 AT
THE EMERSON PARAMOUNT CENTER
ArtsEmersonwill host the return of the award- winning American Moorwritten and performed by Keith Hamilton Cobb, an urgent solo work examining the experience and perspective of black men in America through the metaphor of William Shakespeare’s character, Othello. The 2018 IRNE and Elliot Norton award-winning play received wide-spread acclaim from Boston audiences and critics – American Moorplays ArtsEmerson for two weeks of performances, April 10–21, at the Emerson Paramount Center Robert J. Orchard Stage.
American Moorchallenges the capacity of theatre to fulfill the human longing to be fully visible and embraced; it’s a show that poses the question “who gets to perform Shakespeare?” while exploring the inequities of life as a black actor and life as a black man. The Boston Globe’s Don Aucoin calls it “a deep-from-the-heart spellbinder [that] is ablisteringly eloquent and penetrating meditation on the ever-urgent matter of race in America
“Keith’s got something timelessly entertaining, powerfully urgent and deeply disruptive to say with American Moor,” says ArtsEmerson artistic director David Dower. “In his first appearance in Boston he struck a chord that still reverberates. Just like we’ve done with Daniel Beaty’s Mr. Joy, Melinda Lopez’ Mala, and with companies like Whistler in the Dark, Arlekin Players, and Bedlam, we’re delighted to create the opportunity for more people to experience an award- winning production. Keith and Kim have continued to evolve the show since last we saw it here, as well, so even its fans will find surprises that reward a repeat visit. With Oregon Shakespeare Festival’s Othello having just wrapped a visit to A.R.T., it’s a perfect time to confront the complexities of that play, its title character, and the American culture — Keith is absolutely burning to take us there.”
American Moorwas previously presented in Boston in 2017 by O.W.I 7:30pm
For more information: Online: ArtsEmerson.org Phone: 617-824-8400 In Person: Paramount Center Box Office, open Tuesday-Saturday from 10am-6pm (also open on Sunday 2/3 beginning at 12noon)
A Chorus Line, Anything Goes, and The Music Man are on tap for this year’s summer season at the Reagle Music Theatre located at the Robinson Theater, 617 Lexington Street, Waltham. The three classic musicals will be directed by Leslie Woodies, Eileen Grace, and Susan Chebookjian respectively.
A Chorus Line will run for 8 performances from June 7 through June 17. Anything Goes will have 8 performances running from July 5 through July 15, and The Music Man will close out the season also running for 8 performances from August 2 through August 12.
For more information contact the box office at 781-891-5600, or go to