NSMT’s “Beauty & the Beast” A Musical Gem

 

Reviewed by Tony Annicone

 

The second musical of North Shore Music Theatre’s 62nd season is Disney’s “Beauty and the Beast” which first opened on Broadway on April 19, 1994. It closed on July 29, 2007 and ran 5,461 performances. Based on the 1991 animated Disney movie, the show tells the story of a spell cast on a Prince which transforms him into a ferocious beast. He must love and be loved before the last petal falls from the rose or he will be a beast forever.

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Reagle Delivers Terrific “Showboat”

Reviewed by Tony Annicone

The second show of Reagle Music Theatre’s 49th summer season is the Goodspeed Musicals version of “Showboat” which combined the talents of Jerome Kern and Oscar Hammerstein II. The original version opened at the Ziegfeld Theatre on December 27, 1927 and ran for 572 performances. Kern and Hammerstein felt that the Broadway musical theatre was suffering from a lack of depth and wanted to steer away from the fluffy musical comedies and melodramatic operettas it was accustomed to.

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“The Music Man” at Theatre by the Sea

 

By Richard Pacheco

 

“The Music Man” is a musical with book, music, and lyrics by Meredith Willson, based on a story by Meredith Willson and Franklin Lacey and is currently playing at Theatre by the Sea in a spirited, energetic and fun production. The plot concerns con man Harold Hill, who poses as a boys’ band organizer and leader and sells band instruments and uniforms to the naive Iowa townsfolk, promising to train the members of the new band. Harold is no musician, however, and plans to skip town without giving any music lessons. Prim librarian and piano teacher Marian sees through him, but when Harold helps her younger brother overcome his lisp and social awkwardness, Marian begins to fall in love. Harold risks being caught to win her.

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WEST SIDE STORY (Ivoryton Playhouse, CT)

“WEST SIDE STORY”

Reviewed by Tony Annicone

 

Ivoryton Playhouse’s summer musical is “West Side Story”, the classic 1957 musical hit. Based on Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet”, the story is as fresh and new to contemporary audiences as it was back in 1591 for the original play as it was in the 1950’s for the musical version. Hatred and violence don’t solve problems, they create new ones. Love and understanding of each other are the solutions to these problems not only in these shows but in real life. The well known story of Tony and Maria takes place in New York City. The outside forces of friends, enemies, gang members and adults keep them from fulfilling their dreams of everlasting happiness due to hatred and bigotry. This talented cast under the direction of Todd Underwood, delivers the goods in a powerful and poignant presentation with outstanding acting, singing and dancing which propels the audience to their feet at curtain call. Who could ask for anything more in this gut wrenching magnificent production at this historic theatre.

Todd takes this well written script and makes it soar in the comic aspects of the show. Just when you feel your heart is going to break in two, the script has a comic moment to lighten it up. Todd casts the show marvelously from the major roles to the minor ones. He is aided in this huge undertaking by musical director Mike Morris and his twelve piece orchestra. He makes the music stand out in the ballads and the up tempo numbers with his eye for annunciation and vocal training. The Bernstein and Sondheim score is excellently rendered by the musicians and the vocalists. The best group numbers are “The Quintet” and “Somewhere” with Annalise Cepero and Hillary Ekwall as lead vocalists in this latter number. One of the most important parts of this show is choreography and the audience isn’t disappointed here either. Todd who is also the choreographer, makes his cast dance their shoes off with ballet, modern, jazz dance with salsa and mambo to name a few. His dancing expertise is seen in “Prologue”, “Dance at the Gym” which stops the show, “Cool” with the men doing amazing splits, “America” and the breathtaking ballet to “Somewhere” sung beautifully by. Another standout dance segment is “The Rumble” which leads to the death of two main characters. The mixture of movements and direction of this fight at the end of Act 1 leaves the audience stunned but begging for more good things to come. The blending of these three elements with a talented cast make this the must see show of the summer season.

The two leads are amazing performers. Stephen Mir as Tony makes him into a strong hero that the audience can relate to from his first entrance onstage. His first number is usually a throw away number but Stephen makes “Something’s Coming” as important as his other numbers. He makes it as impressive as “Maria” and “Tonight” with his powerful tenor voice which soars off the charts especially impressive is his falsetto at the end of “Maria.” Stephen’s acting is strong with the love at first sight, the ensuing exuberant pure love, the horror of killing someone, the anguish of thinking your true love is dead and finally making your own death onstage believable. Mia Pinero as Maria is Stephen’s equal in every way. From her first scene in the dress shop she displays the spunkiness of Maria. Mia makes Maria a strong character who stands up for what she believes in. She and Stephen have a lot of chemistry together. Their duets are terrific together especially the fire escape number “Tonight” and “One Hand, One Heart” which is tender and emotional and “Somewhere” which starts off with everyone getting along at first. They capture the naivete of Tony and Maria, making the audience remember the first time they fell in love. Mia delivers a gutwrenching final scene when she yells at the others to kill her like they killed Tony. Luckily she also has the comic “I Feel Pretty” which lightens the mood at the start of Act 2. Mia just graduated from Montclair State University in New Jersey.

The two leads are strongly supported by the other cast members. The dancing in this show is fantastic by one and all. Playing gang leaders Riff and Bernardo are Conor Robert Fallon and Victor Borjas who are excellently cast. Both deliver strong performances especially in the confrontation scenes and the fight scene leading to their deaths. Conor does a marvelous job in “The Jet” song with his gang members and in “Cool” where exerts control over them especially hot headed Action who is always ready for a fight. Conor and Stephen portray best friends who are as close as brothers with their credo from “Womb to tomb”. Victor is topnotch as Bernardo with his strong dancing prowess in Dance at the Gym and in the Rumble. Beautiful brunette Natalie Madlon plays the spitfire girlfriend of Bernardo, Anita splendidly. She is a strong actress who sells the comic song “America” where she and the girls dance up a storm and in my favorite dramatic song “A Boy Like That” duet with Maria. Her hurt and anguish are displayed in this number and in the assault scene. After Anita is attacked by the Jets, she tells them Maria is dead. Natalie is a junior at Montclair State University.The Jets have become as depraved as the characters they just sang about in “Officer Krupke.” She delivers a powerful performance, leaving the stage in triumph over the hoodlums. Praise to the performers as the gang members  who knock the ball out of the park in this fabulous show. The Jet gang members are Pierre Marais as Baby John, the naive member who sings the female social worker in Krupke, Daniel Miller as Diesel who sings the Judge part, Max Weinstein as A-rab who sings the shrink part and Colin Lee as the hot headed Action who is always ready for a fight. The hard ass Lieutenant is wonderfully played by Rick Malone. So for a script that still resonates with audiences 60 years later, be sure to catch “West Side Story” at Ivoryton Playhouse. Tell them Tony sent you.

WEST SIDE STORY (5 to 23 July)

Ivoryton Playhouse, 103 Main St, Ivoryton, CT

1(860)767-9520 or www.ivorytonplayhouse.org

Broadway Fire in Reagle’s “Technicolor Dreamcoat”

 

By CJ Williams

 

Directed and Choreographed by Susan M. Chebookjian, based on original Choreography by Anthony Van Laast. Lighting Design by David Wilson. Set Design by Peter Colao and Richard Schreiber. Music Direction by Dan Rodriguez. Presented by Reagle Music Theatre at 617 Lexington St, Waltham through June 18.

 

“Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” is Broadway-theater fare in unexpectedly Beantown-local affordability – and the Broadway musical is put on to amazing effect at the Reagle Music Theatre in Waltham. For all its crowd-pleasing choruses, and a cast that could sing and dance down Carnegie Hall, “Dreamcoat” nonetheless pulls a nice undercurrent of depth as well.

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NSMT Serves Up A Delicious Slice of White Bread with Delightful ‘Music Man’

 

by Mike Hoban

 

‘Music Man’ – Book, Music, and Lyrics by Meredith Willson. Story by Willson and Franklin Lacey. Directed by Bob Richard. Choreography, Diane Laurenson. Music Direction by Milton Granger; Scenic Design by Kyle Dixon; Lighting Design by Franklin Meissner; Sound Design by Danny Erdberg; Costume Coordinator and Additional Costume Design by Paula Peasley-Ninestein. Presented by North Shore Music Theatre, Beverly, through June 18.

“I’m as corny as Kansas in August” may be a line from a song from another classic musical, (South Pacific, “A Wonderful Guy”) but it could certainly double as a description of Music Man, the delightful 1957 musical now being given an inspired revival at the North Shore Music Theatre. Set in 1912 Iowa, birthplace of Meredith Willson, writer of the book, music, and lyrics for the Broadway hit, Music Man may be the quintessential white bread musical, but damn – er, darn – is it good.

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THE MUSIC MAN (Theatre by the Sea, Matunuck, RI)

Reviewed by Tony Annicone

 

Bill Hanney’s Theatre by the Sea’s second show of their 84th season is “The Music Man” by Meredith Willson. This musical first opened on Broadway on December 19, 1957 and ran for 1375 performances. Robert Preston played the leading role of Harold Hill both onstage and in the 1962 film version. The show is set in Iowa in 1912 and is the story of the fast talking Harold Hill who cons the good citizens of River City into buying musical instruments and band uniforms by promising to create a boy’s band in the town.

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NSMT’s “THE MUSIC MAN”

Reviewed by Tony Annicone

The opening show of Bill Hanney’s North Shore Music Theatre’s 62nd season is “The Music Man” by Meredith Willson. This musical first opened on Broadway on December 19, 1957 and ran for 1,375 performances. Robert Preston played the leading role of Harold Hill who cons the good citizens of River City, Iowa into buying musical instruments and band uniforms by promising to create a boy’s band in the town. Not knowing a clarinet from a saxophone, Hill expects to skip town with cash in hand, only to be caught by the arms of the beautiful Marian Paroo, the librarian, who transforms him into a reformed rouge and respectable citizen by the close of the show.

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Reagle’s “JOSEPH AND THE AMAZING TECHNICOLOR DREAMCOAT”

 

Reviewed by Tony Annicone

 

Reagle Music Theatre’s first summer musical of their 49th season is “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat”, the biblical story of Jacob and his 12 sons. It is a spectacular presentation and stars country star Ayla Brown as the Narrator and IRNE nominee Peter Mill as Joseph. It was written in 1968 by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice as a 15 minute cantata, this now two hour show is high energy from start to finish. The storyline is told by a narrator who interacts with her fellow performers at various times in the show. Joseph has prophetic dreams and is the most loved son of his doting father, Jacob who gives him a coat of many colors. It is a story about this boy with dream interpretation whose 11 brothers become jealous of him. They especially don’t like his prophecies and his splendid coat and sell him into slavery in Egypt. There Joseph rises from house slave to become Pharaoh’s second in command because of his gift for interpreting dreams. Director and choreographer Susan Chebookjian and music director Dan Rodriguez have all the necessary ingredients to make this high energy blockbuster musical one of the must see shows of this season.

Susan takes this story and creates many picture postcard scenes along the way. She combines shtick and pathos together excellently for the audiences to savor and enjoy. Susan dance’s are also breathtaking and include hoe down, tango, the ballet, the swim, the conga line and the rock and roll dances of the 1960’s. The numbers stop the show with sustained applause. Dan taught the cast the many different styles of songs to the cast with the harmonies soaring in them. He also conducts a marvelous 17 piece orchestra. The scenic design of the show by Peter Calao and Richard Schreiber is astounding and the costumes by Goodspeed Musicals are splendid including some colorful outfits for “Go, Go Joseph.” Stage manager Nicky Carbone keeps things moving smoothly all night long, making it flow seamlessly from one scene to the next.

The most important part of this show are the two leads. The Narrator is played by beautiful and statuesque, Ayla Brown. She has a fantastic soprano voice which soars in all her numbers including the Prologue, “Poor, Poor, Joseph” and “Go, Go Joseph.” She weaves her way in and out of the numbers with the rest of the cast beautifully. Ayla can not only belt some of the songs but sings sweetly on her softer ones, too. She interacts with the superb children’s chorus who join in on several numbers during the show. Ayla has grown into a seasoned actress and vocalist since I last saw her do this role back in 2008. She is a dynamic performer and makes this role her own. Her talented partner in the show is Peter Mill as Joseph. He was for the IRNE award for Mary Sunshine in “Chicago.” He has a fabulous tenor voice whether he is singing softly in “Any Dream Will Do” or with deep feeling and emotion in “Close Every Door” where his voice soars off the charts, sending chills up your spine with its poignancy. Peter’s interactions with other cast members is terrific whether is he is speaking with his brothers, father, Pharaoh and the rest. The warm relationship between Joseph and Jacob comes through dramatically in the reunion scene with Peter singing “Any Dream Will Do” in the arms of his father. There wasn’t a dry eye in the house after this scene.These two strong leads set the bar high for the rest of the cast to live up to which they do in spades.

The other 11 brothers have oodles of talent, too. They shine in their singing and dancing prowess. The standout solos include the country western song “One More Angel” sung slowly and sadly to Jacob and then with wild abandon by Bernie Baldassaro in his lilting tenor voice, the Benjamin Calypso is sung by Taavon Gamble another powerful tenor, and another voice that soars off the charts is Jacob Sherburne who sings the French type song, “Those Canaan Days.” Jacob and his wife are expecting their first baby in July. The other talented brothers include Chris Scott who also plays the butler, Anthony Gervais who also plays the baker, Christopher Infantino, Adam Winer, Louis Brogna, AJ Manuel Lucero, Leo Galletto and Jack Dwyer. Another stunning performer is Andrew Giordano as the Pharaoh. He plays the part perfectly making the girls faint at his feet. Andrew’s Elvis impersonation is fabulous and his diction is perfect, ensuring you understand every line of the “Song of the King.” Jacob is excellently played by Rick Sherbourne with a great deal of warmth and feeling. He also plays Potiphar while Joy Clark plays his slutty wife where the women are dressed in 1920’s garb and dance the Charleston during the number where she seduces Joseph. The women have more to do in this new version of the show where they sing and dance up a storm. The Mega Mix is where the energetic cast reprises most of the songs from the show brilliantly. So go, go see “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” at Reagle Music Theatre to lift your spirits up during the 49th anniversary of this theatre that brings Broadway close to home. Run do not walk to the box office. Tell them Tony sent you.

JOSEPH AND THE AMAZING TECHNICOLOR DREAMCOAT (8 to 18 June)

Reagle Music Theatre, 617 Robinson St, Waltham, MA

1(781)891-5600 or www.reaglemusictheatre.org

Lyric’s Abridged Version of “Camelot” Still a Delight

 

By Mike Hoban

 

Camelot – Book and Lyrics by Alan Jay Lerner, Music by Frederick Loewe; Directed by Spiro Veloudos; Music Direction by, Catherine Stornetta; Choreography by Rachel Bertone; Scenic Design by Shelley Barish; Costume Design by Elisabetta Polito; Sound Design by Elizabeth Cahill; Lighting Design by Karen Perlow. Presented by The Lyric Stage Company of Boston at 140 Clarendon Street Boston through June 25th.

 

Less isn’t always more, but with The Lyric Stage Company’s lovingly trimmed production of Camelot, less is more than enough. Although I’ve been a huge fan of this musical from boyhood, it has always seemed a bit too long, so while this this version may lack some of the grandeur of a “full” staging, it more than makes up for it with some solid performances by its leads and strong cast of supporting players.

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