Gloucester Stage’s “To Kill a Mockingbird” Brilliantly Evokes the Bad Old Days

 

By Sheila Barth

 

Some things never change.

We say they do. Over the years, we claim, there have been sweeping, amazing, changes.
But people don’t change. Sadly, there’s a stagnancy in human nature and conditions. Such is the case with Christopher Sergel’s striking stage adaptation of Harper Lee’s classic 1960 novel, “To Kill a Mockingbird,”  with Gloucester Stage’s blended cast of outstanding professional and local actors, skillfully directed by award-winning Boston director-Boston University educator, Judy Braha.

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Ogunquit Playhouse’s ‘FROM HERE TO ETERNITY a Powerful, Dramatic Musical

By Sheila Barth

 

Okay- straight out – Ogunquit Playhouse’s production of new musical “From Here to Eternity” is so overwhelming, realistic, and gut-wrenching, it’s the hardest-hitting musical I’ve seen in a while. Some of you remember the dramatic movie that won Frank Sinatra an Academy Award and took several other Oscars. The movie was superlative, and this new musical seems slated for success.

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MARY POPPINS (Uncommon Theatre, Foxboro)

MARY POPPINS
Reviewed by Tony Annicone

 

Welcome to the wonderful world of Walt Disney with “Mary Poppins” and the opening musical of Uncommon Theatre’s 38th season. This musical opened on Broadway on November 16, 2006, closed on March 3, 2013 and ran for 2619 performances. It is now a full Broadway musical with 44 major awards worldwide. The story of Mary Poppins, the magical nanny who flies into the troubled lives of the Banks children will dazzle and delight audiences of all ages. Bert, the chimney sweep welcomes the audience into the world of “Mary Poppins” with “Chim Chim Cher-ee.” We then follow Mary’s exploits throughout all of London where she charms each person she comes in contact with. The talent of this cast captures the hearts of all members of the audience by propelling them to their feet at curtain call. Director Meg Dussault, music director Linda Barbieri, orchestra director Esther Zabinski and choreographer, Anna Pietal  definitely out do themselves with this spectacular musical.

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LEGALLY BLONDE – (Dean College)

LEGALLY BLONDE
Reviewed by Tony Annicone

 

The School of Arts at Dean College’s fall musical is “Legally Blonde, the Musical” which is based on the Amanda Brown novel and the 2001 movie which starred Reese Witherspoon. It tells the story of Elle Woods, a sorority girl from Delta Nu who is the college sweetheart and home coming queen who doesn’t take no for an answer. So when her boyfriend, Warner dumps her for someone more “serious”, she puts down the books, heads to Harvard Law School to win him back. Along the way Elle proves that being true to yourself never goes out of style. She also discovers how her knowledge of the law can help others and defends fitness guru, Brooke Windham from murder charges. Director Ali Angelone creates a high energy contemporary musical with her keen insight into these comic characters while musical director taught them all these musical numbers does so while playing lead keyboards and conducting a seven piece orchestra. Ali who is also the choreographer, supplies the dance numbers that stop the show with their power and execution. Their combined expertise wins the cast a standing ovation at the curtain call.

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A Daughter Forsaken in “Alligator Road”

 

by Michele Markarian

 

“Alligator Road” – Written by Camille Kimball. Directed by Weylin Symes. Presented by Greater Boston Stage Company, 395 Main Street, Stoneham, through October 29.

 

Recently widowed Kathy (Brianne Beatrice) is stuck with a hardware store she doesn’t want to run. Her feminist daughter, the angry Candace (Sarah Bendell) has just learned that her mother is literally giving away the store to Lavinia (Victoria George), a black woman Kathy perceives to be homeless. This is in order to make what she feels are “reparations”, despite never having slave owners in her family tree. Candace wants the store, Lavinia and her husband Scott (Avery Bargar) want the store, and Kathy just wants to be free from a life and a marriage she was long bored with. The stakes are high all around, which makes for interesting drama.

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Gloucester Stage Closes Season with Poignant, Powerful “Mockingbird”

 

By Mike Hoban

 

“To Kill A Mockingbird” – From the novel by Harper Lee; Stage adaptation by Christopher Sergel; Directed by Judy Braha; Set Design by Jon Savage; Lighting Design by John Malinowski; Costume Design by Chelsea Kerl; Sound Design by David Wilson. Presented by the Gloucester Stage Company at 267 East Main Street, Gloucester, through October 28.

 

During a pre-trial scene in To Kill A Mockingbird, the stage version of Harper Lee’s semi-autobiographical novel about racial injustice and the loss of innocence, there’s this defining exchange between defense attorney Atticus Finch and Scout, his 10-year old daughter.

 

“Atticus, are we going to win it?”

“No, honey.”

“Then why –”

“Simply because we were licked a hundred years before we started is no reason for us not to try to win,” says Atticus.

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THE SAVANNAH SIPPING SOCIETY

Reviewed by Tony Annicone

 

Walpole Footlighters’ first show of their 94th season is “Savannah Sipping Society” by Jessie Jones, Nicholas Hope and Jamie Wooton. Four unique Southern women, all needing to escape the sameness of their day to day routines are drawn together by fate. At an impromptu happy hour, they decide it’s high time to reclaim the enthusiasm for life they’ve lost throughout the years. Randa, a perfectionist and workaholic, is struggling to cope with a surprise career derailment. Dot, still reeling from her husband’s recent demise and the loss of their plans for idyllic retirement, faces the unsettling prospect of starting a new life from scratch. Earthy and boisterous Marlafaye, a good ole Texas gal, has blasted into Savannah in the wake of losing her tom-catting husband to a twenty three year old dental hygienist. Finally, Jinx, a spunky ball of fire, offers her services as a much needed life coach for these women. Directed by Wendy Stuart who gives these actresses the insight into these comic characters but also makes them deliver the goods in a poignant moment to give the show a nice mixture of comic and dramatic moments. This creates a well rounded show that the audience can savor and thoroughly enjoy.

Wendy gives each actress their moment to shine in this show. All four actresses do a superb job in this high energy show. This whole season is dedicated to Barbara Pettis, a 45 year member, who originally was to direct this show and had cast it before her unexpected passing away in July. I first met Barbara back in 2004 when I reviewed “She Loves Me” which she directed. The gorgeous set 2nd story verandah of a home is by Dan Sheehan while Kate Smith supplied the comic costumes which reflect the characters personalities. Cindy Bell shines as Randa, who goes from uptight to friendly during the course of the show. She’s lost her job and has a bitter rivalry with her lawyer brother, Alden and a contentious relationship with her rich shrewish grandmother. (There is a hilarious scene with this crotchety old woman at the end of Act 1 that has to be seen to be believed.) Cindy’s character hasn’t had a date in 30 years and on Valentine’s Day finally does with surprising results. Randa, Dot and Marlafaye first meet after a failed yoga class and then meet again at Randa’s home. The first meeting has a lot of cheese brought by the women. Cindy’s interactions with the other characters are excellent especially her first meeting with Jinx when she recognizes her as the one from the express line in the market. Evie Rayburg does a terrific job as Dot, a lovable grandmother type more concerned about others. Evie stepped into this role seven days before the show due to an accident that Kay Carter Blaha had. She does an amazing job with the enormous amount of dialogue. Some of her funniest bits include smacking a doll on the table because she was upset that her husband died so suddenly on her, takes her bra off in a very comic scene and reads dirty books from the library.

Barbara Pettis’ real life daughter, Cynthia Wegel plays Marlafaye, the funniest character in the show. She has the best one liners including cutting the crotches out of her husband’s pants. Cynthia is dynamite with her larger than life charm and the anger directed at a cheating hubby.  Barbara Schapiro is marvelous as Jinx, a sympathetic busybody who moves from place to place constantly and has come to Savannah to take care of her sister who has dementia. Barbara looks like Shirley Maclaine with her blonde wig. She has many funny lines and also a serious monologue later in the show which hits home with the audience. They teach us life lessons while entertaining us. So for a marvelous new show from the writers of “Golden Girls” TV series, be sure to catch “The Savannah Sipping Society” at Footlighters before time runs out. A show that I am sure Barbara would be very proud of indeed. Brava!

THE SAVANNAH SIPPING SOCIETY (20 October to 5 November)

Walpole Footlighters, 2 Scout Road, East Walpole, MA

1(508)668-8446 or www.footlighers.com

The Ghost Sonata – Fort Point Theatre Channel

 

Reviewed by James Wilkinson

 

August Strindberg’s The Ghost Sonata. Performances run October 6th through 14th. Thursday/Friday/Saturday at 8pm. Durrell Theatre at Cambridge Family YMCA, 820 Massachusetts Ave, Cambridge, MA Tickets: $20, Students, seniors and Stagesource members: $14. For tickets call 800.838.3006 or visit www.fortpointtheatrechannel.org

 

It’s best, I think, to drop any notions you may have about narrative structure before walking into August Strindberg’s The Ghost Sonata. This is a play that’s going to shatter each of those notions right before your eyes. Kudos to Fort Point Theatre Channel for having the nerve to take on this twisty puzzle box of a play. It is fascinating to have all of the play’s secrets and mysteries unfold in front of you until you turn around and realize you’re enveloped. If you have the chance to catch this production, now playing at the Durell Theater at the Cambridge Family YMCA, perhaps you’ll spend the whole evening, (as I did), with one eyebrow perpetually cocked as you silently repeat the phrase, “Wait…what?”

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A Bright Room Called Day – Flat Earth Theatre

 

By James Wilkinson

 

BOX INFO: Two and a half hour, two act, production of Tony Kushner’s 1985 play, appearing September 30-October 14, 2017; Thursday-Saturday 8pm; matinee Sunday at 2pm. The Black Box Theatre at The Mosesian Center for the Arts, 21 Arsenal Street, Watertown, MA 02472. www.flatearththeatre.com

 

There’s a moment early in Flat Earth Theatre’s production of A Bright Room Called Day that, intentional or not, strikes me as oddly prescient. The character of Agnes is attempting to write a skit that will mobilize the Communist party. She speaks the lines, “The world is perched on the brink of…the brink of…” She searches for the right word then gives up and sighs, “Shit.” Sitting in the audience, I wanted to yell out, “You have no idea…”

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CHICAGO (Footlights at the Grange, Swansea, MA)

Reviewed by Tony Annicone

 

Welcome to the 1920’s with the current musical at Footlights at the Grange. Director/choreographer Brian Barry Pereira transports the audience to the prison atmosphere needed for this terrific blockbuster musical “Chicago.” Kander and Ebb’s 1975 vaudeville type show is based on the 1926 play by Maurine Watkins. The 1997 musical version won six Tony Awards and the 2003 movie version won the Academy Award.

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