A.R.T.’s ‘Fingersmith’ a Masterwork of Deception


“FINGERSMITH” — Adapted play by Alexa Junge, based on the novel by Sarah Waters; Directed by Bill Rauch; Set design by Christopher Acebo; Costume design by Deborah Dryden, Lighting Design by Jen Schriever; Composer/Sound design by Andre Pluess; Projection design by Shawn Sagady; Wigs & Makeup design by Rachel Padula Shufelt. Presented by American Repertory Theater at the Loeb Drama Center, 64 Brattle St., Cambridge through January 8th.


by Susan Daniels


“Fingersmith” is a love story that pushes against societal norms, gender, and sexual orientation, although, initially, many viewers are unlikely to think of it that way. Instead, they probably would describe it as a story about a scrappy pickpocket who helps a raffish rogue swindle a gullible, young heiress out of her inheritance. Actually, both perspectives are valid in this provocative piece filled with numerous threads that twist and turn toward blind alleys and decamp down dead ends.

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Gentle Redemption in ASP’s “The Tempest”


by Michele Markarian


“The Tempest”, by William Shakespeare.  Directed by Allyn Burrows.  Presented by Actors’ Shakespeare Project, Willet Hall at United Parish, 210 Harvard Street, Brookline, through January 8.


“The Tempest”, allegedly Shakespeare’s last play written solely by him, is a tale of redemption through revenge and ultimately, forgiveness.  Prospero (the formidable Marya Lowry), the former Duchess of Milan, has had her dukedom usurped by her scheming brother Antonio (Thomas Grenon), who, twelve years ago, with the aid of Alonso’s army, tossed her and her child Miranda (the coltish Lydia Barnett-Mulligan) into a small boat that washed ashore on a remote island.  The island is deserted but for two inhabitants – the magical Ariel (in a multi-faceted performance by Samantha Richert, who manages to be both elegant and impish) and Caliban (Jesse Hinson), the undesirable son of a witch.  When Prospero sees that her former tormentors – Antonio, Alonso, Queen of Naples (the versatile Mara Sidmore), her brother Sebastian (Michael Forden Walker) and her son Ferdinand (the excellent Kai Tshikosi) are at sea, she conjures up a tempest to avenge wrongs done to her.

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Central Square Offers A Fairy Tale Romp of Light and Shadow – Perfect For Holiday Season

By CJ Williams


‘Matchless and The Happy Prince’Written  and adapted by Gregory Maguire; Cast and Sound –  Tess Degan,  Raya Malcolm, Marc Pierre, Alan White; Scenic and Puppetry Designed by David Fichter; Sets by Will Cabell; Lighting by John Malinowski; Stage Management by Katherine Humbert. Presented by Central Square’s Studio Theater and Produced by The Underground Railway Theater at Central Square Theater, 450 Mass. Ave. Cambridge, through December 31.


“Matchless” is a quick but immediately engaging jaunt into theatrical wonder, and its innovative use of the intimate space at Central Square Theater, props, puppets, and its actors’ versatility bring the fairy tale world vividly to life. The story – Hans Christian Andersen’s classic tale of the little match girl – is adapted by well-known “Wicked” author, Gregory Maguire, and is presented in conjunction with Oscar Wilde’s short fairy tale “The Happy Prince”. In the first, a small girl tries to sell matches on a frigid winter night, her only warmth a ragged shawl, and her dead mother’s shoes – she loses the shoes in a near-collision in the street, and desperate, unable to sell her wares, strikes matches for warmth. In “Prince”, the statue of a once-living, selfish young royal watches the pains of humanity from his pedestal – and though his heart is now lead, it aches as it never did when it was flesh and he lived in his palace, isolated from the sufferings of others. He gives up his eyes (sapphires) to save a mother and her child, to aid a struggling writer, etc. But it is a little swallow who forgoes his migration to Egypt that runs his errands of charity; and the cold finally catches the brave little bird, just as it catches the little match girl. While the two stories might seem a stretch to match, the crew at Central Square have linked them well.


Part of the consistency and believability derive from the use of that small cast. Multiple characters are played by one performer — for example, newcomer Raya Malcolm is charming and tragic as both the swallow in “Prince” and the Little Matchgirl (while also playing 2 or 3 supporting roles as well). Likewise, Marc Pierre plays the young boy, Frederik, in “Matchless”, while also holding down the part of the Prince.


It is a show pitched to families and young children. After reading the plot summary, you might be wondering where this tragedy fits with holiday heartiness, or could possibly appeal to little ones. But one highlight of the show that simply can’t be summed up in a report of the plot is narrative framing, and the creative use of found objects, light, shadow, and the deft voices of the actors, to tell the story. This gentle and light-hearted framing bring in the sadness of the two stories without falling under it. Like many fairy stories, the fantastic and the distant give the audience detachment enough to enjoy the play of light and shadow — and that play is quite literal here too, as we get to see shadow-puppets and silhouettes on screens act our portions of the play.
I won’t spoil the endings of both stories – or exactly how they’re matched, but if you’re looking for an hour and half visual wonder, you couldn’t do much better than a few seats at “Wicked” author, Gregory Maguire. Better still, bring the kids — and enjoy the chance to meet the cast at the end, play with the puppets and props, and experience some heart-warming reminders of what heals a broken heart. For more info, go to: https://www.centralsquaretheater.org/shows/matchless-happy-prince-2016/



Reviewed by Tony Annicone


Welcome to the Mountains of Austria at Hanover Theatre’s current National Tour of “The Sound Of Music” by Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein. Based on Maria Von Trapp’s autobiography, ”The Story of the Trapp Family Singers”, this musical takes place in Austria in 1938. It tells the story of Maria Rainer, a free-spirited postulant who is hired by Captain Georg Von Trapp to care for his seven children. Although the Captain is engaged to a wealthy socialite, he and Maria eventually fall in love and marry but their happiness is soon shattered when the Nazis annex Austria and they are forced to escape to America. The original show opened on Broadway on November 16, 1959, starred Mary Martin and ran for 1443 performances becoming the second longest running show of the 1950’s. The highly successful movie starring Julie Andrews opened in 1965 and runs yearly on television. The live version of “The Sound Of Music” starring Carrie Underwood ran on NBC on December 5, 2013 enchanting 44 million viewers of modern day audiences once again. Three time Tony Award winning director, Jack O’Brien casts and directs this version excellently, casting fabulous performers and vocalist in all these well known roles. This emotionally charged 57 year old musical once again captures the hearts of every member of the audience, bringing them to laughter and tears in all the right places. It wins this astounding cast a spontaneous standing ovation at the curtain call.

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Hanover Theatre’s “A CHRISTMAS CAROL”


Reviewed by Tony Annicone

The Hanover Theatre’s holiday presentation this year is the ninth annual production of “A Christmas Carol” adapted and directed by Troy Siebels. The historic Hanover Theatre is a jewel of a theatre hidden away in Worcester and is breathtakingly gorgeous and splendiferous. It first opened in 1904 as a burlesque theatre, in 1926 as a movie theatre and in 2008 as a gorgeous show place that needs to be discovered by one and by all. The Theatre seats 2300 people and 19,000 patrons discovered this musical version of the show last year. Troy once again has a huge cast of 30. The underlying themes of charity, mercy, forbearance, and benevolence found in “A Christmas Carol” are universal and are relevant to people of all religions and backgrounds.

In his version, Troy uses a grown up Tim Cratchit as the narrator of this familiar tale of miserly, curmudgeon, Ebenezer Scrooge. It is the classic tale of this stingy, miser on the road to his redemption. Originally written in the winter of 1843, this show still resonates with audiences, one hundred and seventy three years later. Scrooge is visited by his dead partner, Jacob Marley who has been dead for seven years on Christmas Eve as well as the ghosts of the Past, Present and Future. who hope to change his destiny and save his soul. This marvelous musical adaptation is full of many special effects, timeless music, colorful sets and gorgeous costumes. This musical treat follows Scrooge on his strange and magical journey, where he finally discovers the true Christmas spirit at last. The combination of Troy’s, music director, Timothy Evans and choreographer Ilyse Robbins hard work, creates a phenomenal retelling of this classic story. A standing ovation is their reward on a job extremely well done. Bravo!

Troy obtains laughter and some tears on Scrooge’s journey to redemption by blending the dramatic and comic moments together splendidly. Troy keeps the action of the show flowing smoothly from scene to scene. He ends the show with the cast singing “We Wish You a Merry Christmas” as the snow falls on both the performers and the audience. Timothy plays a Wurlitzer organ and picked the most lovely Christmas carols for the cast to sing in this version. The dance numbers by Ilyse stop the show with their expert execution of this talented cast, especially in the show’s opening “Deck the Halls”, the Fezziwig dance scene, “Greensleeves” as Fred’s party waltz and in “Ding Dong, Merrily on High.” The two other marvelous numbers are “Pattapan” and “Wassail” as well as the show stopping Act 2 opening men’s chorus dance in “The Boar’s Head Carol” which is breathtaking. I recently reviewed Ilyse’s current musical “Mame” at Stoneham Theatre which she directed as well as choreographed. The incredible London sets are by James Krozner while the fabulous, gorgeous authentic costumes are by Gail Astrid Buckley.

Jeremy Lawrence returns in triumph for his fifth year of playing Ebenezer Scrooge. He plays this miserly curmudgeon excellently and commands the stage in this role. Jeremy excels in the comic scenes especially in “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” when he yells at the caroler as well as when he yells at the two solicitors. He’s also funny when he boxes his robe. However it is in the dramatic scenes that are the most memorable including Fan’s death, the break-up with Belle, the witnessing the dead body of himself under a blanket, the death of Tiny Tim and in his transformation that the pathos pours out to the audience. It leaves them and myself in tears. His exuberance when he awakens on Christmas morning is stunning to behold as he dances with joyous rapture. The audience learns that Scrooge has become a better man by learning from the past, present and the future. Bravo on your fifth year as this iconic character!

The four Ghosts do a marvelous job in this show, too. Marc Gellar is wonderful as Jacob Marley. He scares not only Scrooge but every person in the audience as he appears on the scene. The chains fall from the ceiling with a clang to the floor.  Marley flies to the top of Scrooge’s bed and around the stage with fog and colorful lighting. He hovers over Scrooge’s bed with huge chains and warns him to reform his miserly ways or suffer Marley’s fate these past seven years. Marc’s delivery of these lines is frightening to behold. The spectacular flying effects are handled by California based company ZFX. Christmas Past is portrayed by Tori Heinlein, a beautiful blonde who has a lovely singing voice in her two songs, “The Holly and the Ivy” and “In the Bleak Midwinter.” In the first number she does a dance with two girls. She chides Scrooge as he watches his younger self enjoying and loving Christmas with his sister, Fan when she arrives to take him home and again at Fezziwig’s party when he fell in love with Belle. Tori’s strong line delivery is powerful as she takes Scrooge on his journey of enlightenment. This is her sixth time being in this show. She started it when she was 8 and is now 16.

Young Scrooge is wonderfully played by Devin DeAngelis as is Abigail Harris as little Fan. Brian Hunter is wonderful as Young Ebenezer especially in the break up scene. Lea Nardi is terrific as Belle, playing it with a great deal of warmth and charm. Their break up scene is gut wrenching to observe as she hands him back the engagement ring. The jolly employer and his wife are splendidly played by Steve Gagliastro and Shonna Cirone. They shine as Mr. and Mrs. Fezziwig. They lead the party festivities with gusto, bringing the necessary comic relief at this point of the show. Steve is fantastic, having seen him perform this role for the sixth time. Shonna is hilarious especially when she yells at the guests to be quiet so her husband can make a toast. Their song and dance “Wassail” stop the show with merriment as Scrooge and Christmas Past join in it. Also the end of Act 1 is perfectly portrayed with spot lights on a tableau of the Fezziwigs, young Scrooge and Fan, young Ebenezer and Belle and the Narrator with Scrooge back in his bed.

Christmas Present is fabulously played by the multitalented Christopher Chew. I reviewed him before as Henry Higgins in “My Fair Lady” last year and the title role of  Sweeney Todd in 2014 at Lyric Stage in Boston. Christopher is the dominant presence in this show while he spreads good cheer. He teaches Scrooge an important lesson on how to treat his fellow man and uses Scrooge’s words against him. The Ghost cajoles Scrooge while he shows him the plight of the Cratchit family and how his nephew, Fred is spending Christmas day. Andrew Crowe is marvelous as Fred. He brings a comic touch to the role, infusing him with personality and energy. He is hilarious when he puts more coal in Scrooge’s heater and is comical during the party scene. His wife, Millie is excellently played by gorgeous, brunette, Laura DeGiacomo. They have some clever banter during the party scene. Laura’s fabulous soprano voice is heard in the tear jerking, “Little Tiny Child” in the death of Tiny Tim sequence. She and Andrew have terrific chemistry together. Two of their best friends in the show, Topper and Suzannah are excellently played by Kevin Hadfield who returns in triumph to this role and Alison Russo whom I have been reviewing since she was in high school back in 2009. They are marvelous in these comic roles as well as being excellent vocalists and dancers. The Ghost of the Future is enormous and is dressed in a huge black robe. This puppet like creature scares the crap out of the audience as he shows Scrooge the fate that will befall him unless he repents his terrible ways. The Ghost accomplishes this by having Scrooge observe the Old Joe scene, the death of Tiny Tim and Scrooge’s own gravestone.

The narrator is terrifically played by Bill Mootos for the eighth time. He is remarkable as the grown up Tim who weaves the story together and tugs on your heartstrings when he reveals he is the adult Tim Cratchit. Bill is perfect as this character and commands the stage in this role. The Cratchit family members do a remarkable job, too. Tyler Belmon as Bob handles the comic moments trying to put a piece of coal in the heater in the first scene, laughing nervously and being shocked by Scrooge’s transformation in the last scene. He does a nice job in the death of Tiny Tim sequence. Annie Kerins returns for the eighth time as Mrs. Cratchit and she shines in this role, as the caring, doting mother. She and Tyler display their powerful singing voices and dancing prowess, too. Annie is very comical when she won’t toast the old miser but becomes properly dramatic and chokes you up during the Tim death scene. Other family members include Zoe Ann Stewart as Martha, Madi Shaer as Belinda and Carter Siebels as Peter. Carter is comical when he begs Bob to carve the goose and then comments on how delectable it looks. First grader Gavin Bergman plays Tiny Tim wonderfully and delivers the “God Bless Us, Everyone” with gusto. Other comic performers include Stephanie Carlson as Mrs. Dilber, who delivers Scrooge’s gruel and sells his bed clothes, Marc Gellar also plays Old Joe and Amiee Doherty as the laundress. A word of praise to the whole cast and crew on a job very well done. So to get into the Christmas spirit, be sure to catch “A Christmas Carol” at the beautiful Hanover Theatre. Tell them Tony sent you. Run do not walk to the box office before this show sells out completely.

A CHRISTMAS CAROL (16 to 23 December)
Hanover Theatre, 2 Southbridge Street, Worcester, MA
1(877)571-SHOW or www.thehanovertheatre.org

Christmas Revels Enchants with Celebration of Acadian, Cajun Cultures


by Mike Hoban


The Christmas Revels: An Acadian-Cajun Celebration of the Winter Solstice. Directed by Patrick Swanson; Musical Direction by Megan Henderson; Set Design by Jeremy Barnett; Lighting Design by Jeff Adelberg; Sound Design by Bill Winn; Costume Design by Heidi A. Hermiller; Choreography by Gillian Stewart. Projection Design by Garrett Herzig Presented by Revels at The Sanders Theater at Harvard University, 45 Quincy Street Cambridge, through December 27th.


As the days grow shorter and the nights become progressively chillier, it’s once again time for the “Christmas Revels”, the non-traditional holiday tradition that draws “revelers” from far beyond its Boston/Cambridge base. Founded in 1971, this is the 46th version of “Revels”, which each year presents a different culture and its traditions centered on the Winter Solstice/Christmas. In recent years we have traveled back to the Wales of Dylan Thomas’ childhood; late 19th century Victorian England (a show which included some brilliantly funny pantomime); and joined a pilgrimage to the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in 15th century Spain. This year’s production focuses on North America, beginning with the previously unsettled shores of Nova Scotia and traveling to present day Cajun country in Louisiana. This enchanting incarnation of “Revels” features music and dance from early French and Acadian cultures as well as New Orleans traditional music (including a rousing Dr. John number).

As is tradition, larger-than-life baritone David Coffin begins the Revels by prepping the audience for the half-dozen songs that they will sing along with the cast. This year’s selections include “Les Anges Dans Nos Campagnes (Angels We Have Heard on High) an mid-1800s French carol; the familiar Vive LaCompagni; and perennial favorite “The Lord of the Dance”, a 1963 English hymn that concludes the first act, where a pair of Morris dancers and the entire chorus from the production join hands with the audience in a serpentine dance as they make their way to the ornate lobby for intermission.

The narrative of this year’s story focuses on the settlement and displacement of French citizens who immigrated to what is now known as Nova Scotia in the late 17th and early 18th centuries. They developed their own farmland, draining the marshlands to create fertile soil, and they carved out a rich life for themselves, surviving by farming and fishing. Unfortunately, they were often caught in land disputes between French and British, and were finally banished from their new homeland by the Brits. In 1785 1,600 Acadians migrated to Louisiana via sailing ships (courtesy of the Spanish government). The story is told using narration as well as traditional song and dance from the era, and features some gorgeous choral work by the ensemble, as well as adorable performances by the children’s chorus, “Les Petits Voyageurs Children”.

The production is further elevated by the guest talent that Revels’ annually imports. According to the playbill, former Revels music director George Emlen worked closely Acadian/Cajun musicians to find the right mix of songs to bring the show to life, including Josee Vachon (who performs a number of beautiful traditional French folk songs as well as amazing the audience with her rhythmic foot tapping); fiddlers Lisa Ornstein, David Greely and Becky Tracy; accordion player Tom Pixton; and piano/guitar player Keith Murphy, who performed the evening’s most emotionally wrenching number, the heartbreaking “Le Depart Du Canada (The Leaving of Canada)”. It is also the most theatrically impactful number, projection designer Garrett Herzig’s wonderful “magic tree” burning in the night while the Acadians leave their new homeland after being ordered out by the British.

The production is given a big boost by veteran Boston actors Steve Barkhimer, who plays a variety of roles including the narrator, a French military official and the aforementioned Dr. John (in an high-spirited version of “Right Place, Wrong Time”), and Ross MacDonald as a charming rogue of a British military leader as well as the Cajun “Rex” who battles the King Alligator (the imposing Coffin) in a very funny sword fight. Noni Lewis, best known as a voice actress (Wallace and Gromit), also narrates and shines in a number of comic roles.

Another great aspect of this production is the incredible venue, the Sanders Theatre. Originally designed to host Harvard commencements and lectures, the theater has been host to theater and music since 1895. It is acoustically perfect and the architecture inside and out of the 1,166 seat theatre is stunning. “Christmas Revels” is a terrific alternative entertainment for the holiday season. For more info, go to: http://www.revels.org/



NSMT Delivers Christmas Gift With Dazzling “A CHRISTMAS CAROL”


by Mike Hoban


A CHRISTMAS CAROL – Based on the novella by Charles Dickens. Adapted by Jon Kimbell, David James and David Zoffoli; Directed and Choreographed by Kevin P. Hill; Music Direction by Milton Granger; Original Scenic Design by Howard C. Jones ; Costume Design by Paula Peasley-Ninestein; Lighting Design by Jack Mehler; Sound Design by Leon Rothenberg. Presented by Bill Hanney’s North Shore Music Theatre (NSMT), 62 Dunham Road, Beverly, through December 23.


‘Tis the season, and the North Shore Music Theatre once again rolls out its annual “spirited” retelling of the Dickens classic, “A Christmas Carol – A Musical Ghost Story”. The NSMT version, now in its 26th year, features a healthy dose of scary stuff that would make it equally well suited for Halloween, and also approaches the yuletide classic from a different point of view by providing narration from what appears to be an adult version of Tiny Tim.  And this hugely entertaining production dazzles while still retaining the timeless and poignant message about the redemptive possibilities of humankind.


As the story opens, we see the joy that the Christmas season is bringing to the streets of London – for everyone but Scrooge, of course – as the company belts out traditional as well as less familiar Christmas songs to establish the holiday atmosphere. But when two men raising funds come to Scrooge’s office soliciting funds for the disadvantaged, and we hear Mr. Scrooge’s views on the less fortunate (“If they would rather die, then they had better do it, and decrease the surplus population”) we know we’re dealing with someone for whom “cold-hearted” doesn’t begin to tell the story (but who could probably win a seat in Congress in some states).


Scrooge’s journey into humanity begins with an encounter with his old business partner, the seven years dead Jacob Marley. NSMT pulls out all the stops on the horror meter, providing us with a truly ghoulish, flying Marley (a bombastic Will Ray) who drags his massive “chains he forged in life” across the stage as Scrooge cowers in the corner, seeking the mercy that he himself would never show a fellow creature. But under the threat of eternal suffering, he accedes, and the painful healing process begins, courtesy of a trio of outsized spirits. The first is a rather stunning Ghost of Christmas Past (Boston favorite Leigh Barrett, who also ably doubles as Mrs. Cratchit) who takes Scrooge back to his childhood following a beautiful rendition of “Dream Within a Dream” (fittingly based on an Edgar Allen Poe poem). Christmas Past (Peter S. Adams) is equally impressive, a jolly giant of a man/spirit, who gives Scrooge a dose of income inequality reality via a trip to the Cratchit’s home; as is the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come, whose horrifying predictions frighten Scrooge onto his spiritual path.


NSMT staple David Coffin, in his 23rd consecutive year as Scrooge (but who also submitted a brilliant turn as Doc in this season’s “West Side Story”) again delivers a Scrooge for the ages, transforming from a bitter and heartless cretin into a loving uncle and humanitarian. The music is mostly traditional songs, with some familiar ones like “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen”, “Here We Come A-Wassailing”, and “We Wish You A Merry Christmas”, but there are some highly effective obscure tunes, including “Isn’t It Grand Boys” an old English music hall tune sung by Mrs. Dilbur (the scene stealing Cheryl McMahon, also in her 23rd production), the housekeeper who robs him upon his death, and her slimy cohorts. The number is a highlight in a show filled with some spectacular staging, and the singing is consistently well done throughout. The orchestra is also a plus in this production, with sections and individual players scattered throughout the theater.

The musical numbers and the extravagant enhancements to the show do not detract in any way from the simple message of the story: that living only for oneself is a sad and lonely existence. The non-musical portions of the story are as compelling as any movie version, as we see Scrooge transform from a heartless miser into a loving human overnight. Coffee really embodies every Scrooge I’ve ever seen and his performance is remarkable. The cast is uniformly strong, with Leigh Barrett a standout, especially vocally; and Tommy Labanaris as the adult Tiny Tim and Joshue Gillespie as young Tim especially memorable.


If you haven’t got Christmas in your heart yet, this season, the NSMT may be just the place to get it. For more info, go to: http://www.nsmt.org


Reviewed by Tony Annicone


Bill Hanney’s North Shore Music Theatre’s holiday show this year is the 26th Anniversary production of “A Christmas Carol, A Musical Ghost Story which is an annual favorite. This version of this well known story was written by former NSMT artistic director Jon Kimball which he adapted back in 1989. As Jon explains “A Christmas Carol” is a timeless story that still resonates with people of all ages and carries a message that is genuine and poignant now as when it first was created back in 1843. This musical version definitely captures the true meaning of the holiday season for one and all. David Coffee returns in triumph to play Scrooge for the 26th time. Audiences have luckily seen David in “Singing in the Rain” and “West Side Story” this season and as always they are beyond thrilled that he is playing this iconic role once again. Current artistic director Kevin Hill helms this year’s presentation of everyone’s favorite holiday show. “A Christmas Carol” tells the well known story of curmudgeonly miser, Ebenezer Scrooge, who is visited by the ghosts of Marley, Christmases Past, Present and Yet to Come who hope to change his destiny and save his soul. Audiences are taken a trip with Scrooge as he takes a strange and magical journey that helps him recapture his exuberance for the true meaning of Christmas once more. Kevin and his cast and crew deliver the goods perfectly with special effects that are as splendid as are the marvelous musical numbers. Bill spares no expense in bringing this beautiful and heart warming tale to his audiences. Once again, it is a phenomenal success with the audience leaping to their feet at the curtain, moved to laughter and tears at all the appropriate moments. Bravo on a job extremely well done!

The special effects are dazzling and more astounding than ever this year. Kevin not only directs and blocks this huge show marvelously, he also choreographs high energy dances that captivate the audience, too. His keen eye for both comic and dramatic situations, bring out the best in these 30 performers. Although there are more comic bits this year, Kevin does not shirk on the pathos that is very important to this magical tale. He makes this the definitive version of “A Christmas Carol” that pleases audiences of all ages. Musical director Milton Granger conducts a ten piece orchestra and taught this enormous cast the lush and beautiful harmonies of these Christmas songs. The choral effect sounds better than ever. David Coffee delivers a tour-de-force performance once again. He, for my seventh time of my seeing this show, is as phenomenal as ever as Scrooge. David mines the many layers of this character perfectly from start to finish. His comic moments include yelling at his nephew, Fred, his employee, Bob Cratchit, the almsmen and the carolers to shut up when they start to sing in his office. But it is the dramatic moments that will enthrall you thoroughly. They include Fan’s death, the break up with Belle, the astonishing transformation sequence and the death of Tiny Tim. These segments tug on your heartstrings bringing you to tears, no matter how many times you see this show. David makes you believe that Ebenezer has learned from the past, present and future on how to become a better man. The audiences in Beverly could get no better actor than David Coffee to embody this character all these years. Bravo on delivering an outstanding performance to one and all whether it’s your first time, seventh time or more in seeing this magnificent production.

Tommy Labanaris returns for his role as the Narrator for the third year. He does an incredible job as this poignant character. I last review Tommy as the leading character in “Avenue Q” this past summer. He displays his powerful voice in the opening number and especially in the emotionally draining “The Little Child” about Tiny Tim’s death. He and the incomparable Leigh Barrett sing this song together and there isn’t a dry eye in the house. Later on a surprising revelation is given at the end of the show that will also leave you in tears when you find out the hidden secret at last. Two acrobatic dancers called the Pearlies are portrayed by Brady Miller and Brad Trump. They sprinkle their magical dust throughout London while spooking Mrs. Dilbur, transporting Scrooge and the other spirits around town. Their magical dust puts everyone into the Christmas spirit. Both Brady and Brad are phenomenal dancers. Will Ray is dynamic as Jacob Marley and he scares the crap out of Scrooge and the entire audience and is one of the best acted Marley’s I have ever seen. Marley hovers over the audience while warning Scrooge to reform his ways unless he wants to share the fate Marley has suffered these past seven years. Marley exits into hell at the end of the scene. The special effects and pyrotechnics are by ZFX and are stunning to behold. Will previously played Jean Valjean in “Les Miserables” and Warner in “Legally Blonde” at NSMT. It’s good to see him back here in Beverly once again.

The three ghosts are lead by Leigh Barrett as Christmas Past. It is her sixth year with this musical and she makes every role she plays fresh and new with each performance. Leigh is striking red head with a glorious soprano voice that is crystal clear in her beautiful opening number “A Dream within a Dream” where she’s backed up by two girls. She chides Scrooge as they watch the scene between Fan and boy Scrooge as well as at Fezziwig’s party when he used to love Christmas. Sophia Wulslin  plays Fan and Jake Flynn plays Boy Scrooge. Both of them have played Tiny Tim with her in 2013 and him in 2014 & 2015. Both of them have oodles of talent at an early age. As a matter of fact, Jake was just cast as Charlie in “Willie Wonka” on Broadway and the show opens in March. Andrew Tighe plays Young Scrooge while Britney Morello plays Belle. They shine in their roles and especially in the break up scene while Tim McShea plays the best friend, Dick Wilkins. Peter Adams is fabulous as Christmas Present. He towers over everyone while on stilts and possesses a phenomenal tenor voice which knocks your socks off. His voice soars in “The Boar’s Head Carol” and “The Gloucestershire Carol.” Andrew also portrays Christmas Yet to Come who transforms himself into a statue of Young Scrooge during the transformation sequence. He scares the crap out of Scrooge by convincing him to reform his ways. I last reviewed Andrew as Jimmy in “Thoroughly Modern Millie” in July at Reagle Music Theatre. The biggest scene stealer in this show is Cheryl McMahon as Mrs. Dilbur and Mrs. Fezziwig. Some of her comic moments as Dilbur come when she is scared by the Pearlies with a blanket flying off the bed, Scrooge’s coat being hurled at her and then she holds a crucifix out to ward off the evil spirits. She also does an energetic polka as Fezziwig’s wife with J.T. Turner as her jolly husband. Cheryl is a superb actress and these two roles are some of her best work which she’s been portraying for 23 years.

Bronson Norris Murphy returns for his fourth year of playing Fred in this show. He is tall, dark and handsome and is as marvelous as Fred as he was as Tony in “West Side Story” earlier this season. He displays a magnificent tenor voice with Britney Morello who also plays Meg has a fabulous soprano voice in their song “Tomorrow Will be My Dancing Day.” Their voices blend together marvelously. I last reviewed her in “Nine” at Speakeasy Theatre back in 2010 and she was in the ensemble of “Les Miserables”. Bronson also has some comic moments in the opening when he encourages the young carolers to annoy his cantankerous uncle and again in the present when Fred describes his Uncle’s bad behavior to his guests. The Cratchit family shine in their roles, too. Russell Garrett returns as Bob for the fifth year. He handles the comic and dramatic moments splendidly. His comic moments take place in the opening scene, the first family scene and at the end of the show when Bob faints when Scrooge gives him a raise. His best dramatic moment occurs during the death of Tim sequence. Leigh Barrett also plays Mrs. Cratchit marvelously. She sings the poignant “The Little Child” with the Narrator which is a gut wrenching moment for the audience. Joshua Gillespie who is eight years old plays Tiny Tim. He displays his strong voice in “I Saw Three Ships” and his “God Bless Us Everyone” is well done, too. Returning as Martha for her fourth year is Jillian Furber and returning for their second year are Cameron Perrin as Peter and Haven Pereira as Belinda. They display the right amount of comedy and pathos for these roles. Cameron’s bible passage reading is heartfelt and well done, too. Another comic performer is Brian Padgett who is fantastic as Old Joe. His phenomenal voice stops the show with merriment and hilarity in his vaudeville number “Isn’t It Grand Boys?” with Cheryl as Mrs. Dilbur. So for a magnificent production of this well known tale, be sure to catch “A Christmas Carol, A Musical Ghost Story” right here at North Shore Music Theatre before Scrooge and his cohorts fly out of town for good. It will definitely get you into the Christmas spirit at any age. Run do not walk to the box office before all the tickets are sold out. Tell them Tony sent you.

A CHRISTMAS CAROL (9 to 23 December)

North Shore Music Theatre, 62 Dunham Road, Beverly, MA

1(978)232-7200 or www.nsmt.org






Reviewed by Tony Annicone


New Repertory Theatre’s winter show is “Fiddler on the Roof.” Director Austin Pendelton, who was the original Motel on Broadway, breathes new life into this show. At times making the comic moments overpower some of the dramatic ones. The threat of the outsiders is watered down in this production at the end of Act 1 when everyone should be terrified of them. This musical takes place in Tsarist Russia in 1905 and is about a milkman, Tevye and his wife, Golde and their five daughters, his attempts to maintain his family and religious traditions while outside influences encroach upon their lives. The original Broadway show opened in 1964 and was nominated for ten Tony Awards, winning nine including Best Musical, score, book, direction and choreography. It remains Broadway’s sixteenth longest running musical in history and was the longest running musical for ten years. The expert musical direction is by Wade Russo who brings out the best vocal quality in his cast while choreographer, Kelli Edwards creates some splendid dance numbers to entertain the audience. The talented performers shine in their roles.

From the comic “If I Were a Rich Man” and “The Dream” sequence to “Sabbath Prayer”, “Sunrise, Sunset” and “Anatevka”, the musical numbers are splendid in this show. Austin has too much tongue in cheek moments and has the fiddler on stage as part of the action when he should be more unobtrusive. The best dramatic moments are with Tevye and Hodel as well as Tevye and Chava which tug at your heartstrings and is the heart and soul of this production. Wade conducts his 8 piece orchestra and they sound splendid, too. He taught the cast some gorgeous harmonies which soar especially in “Sunrise, Sunset” and “Anatevka.” Kelli’s dance numbers are marvelous especially “Tradition”, “Matchmaker”, “To Life” and the wedding dance and the athletic bottle dance. Leading this 26 member cast is Jeremiah Kissel as Tevye. He brings perfect comic timing to this role as well as the warmth it needs. His relationship with his wife and daughters are excellent. Jeremiah’s vocal prowess shines through in his strong delivery of his songs. His rendition of “If I Were a Rich Man” stops the show with laughter. His rendition of “Tradition” and his duets with Golde including “Sabbath Prayer”, “The Dream”, “Sunrise, Sunset” and “Do You Love Me?” are superb, too. His incredible poignant moments occur with Hodel in her solo and with Chava in “Little Bird” which brings tears to your eyes while the comic “To Life” and “The Dream” will leave you rolling in the aisles with laughter.

Amelia Broome as Golde, has a lot of chemistry with Jeremiah and shines in this role with her acting prowess. I last reviewed Amelia as Mrs. Lovett in “Sweeney Todd” and she delivers a strong performance in this role, too. She has the best singing voice of any Golde I have seen. Her adversarial relationship comes across splendidly and her admittance of love after twenty five years is topnotch, too. Amelia displays her soprano voice in the duets with Jeremiah. One of her funniest lines comes when she yells at Tevye after his drunken spree. Amelia displays the dramatic side of Golde when she implores Teyve not to disown Chava after marrying outside her faith. The young couples act and sing beautifully, too. Abby Goldfarb as Tzeitel and Patrick Varner as Motel deliver fantastic performances as the eldest daughter and her true love. Her strong singing voice comes through in “Matchmaker” and her interactions with her sisters are excellent, too. Patrick is hilarious as the timid, Motel who becomes the mouse who roars later in the show when he performs his solo “Miracle of Miracles”, displaying his strong baritone voice. Austin gave Patrick the strongest direction of the 3 young men in this show.

Sarah Oakes Muirhead as Hodel does an awesome job with her role. Sarah’s soprano voice soars in “Matchmaker” and is especially gorgeous in the gut wrenching “Far from the Home, I Love” which is one of the prettiest songs in the show. Ryan Mardesich does a good job as the outspoken revolutionary and displays his strong tenor voice in “Now I Have Everything”, one of the most difficult songs in this musical. Perchik comes alive in this song but Austin has him too laid back earlier in the show. Both of them display their dancing prowess in the wedding scene. Victoria Britt is fabulous as Chava and Dan Prior as Fyedka is wonderful. Victoria sings “Matchmaker” with Abby and Sarah and gets to tug at your heartstrings in “Little Bird” and the confrontation scene with Tevye when he disowns her. This is the best dramatic scene in the show. Dan Prior as Fyedka displays his tenor voice in the Russian section of “To Life”.  Austin should have made him more forceful in the reprimand of Sasha scene when Fyedka defends Chava from the Russians. The dancers in the bottle dance are fabulous.

One of the funniest performers is Bobbi Steinbach as Yente. She steals many a scene with her caustic one liners. Bobbie’s long speeches are brilliant and she also delivers the goods in “The Rumor” song in Act 2. David Wohl is also comical as Lazar Wolf who wants to marry Tzeitel. His voice is heard with Jeremiah in “To Life” scene. Two other comic performers are Alyssa Rae Surrette as Fruma Sarah and Jocelin Weiss as Grandma Tzeitel as they sing in “The Dream” scaring the wits out of Tevye and Golde with their comic antics. The two youngest daughters are well played by Gabriella Ettinger and Carly Williams. So for a different take on this classic musical, be sure to catch “Fiddler on the Roof” at New Rep before the bottle dancers and Tevye dance their way out of Watertown for good on January 1.

FIDDLER ON THE ROOF (2 December to 1 January)

New Repertory Theatre, 321 Arsenal Street, Watertown, MA

1(617)923-8487 or www.newrep.org


The Good Book Says, New Rep’s ‘Fiddler’ a Gem


By Mike Hoban        


“Fiddler on the Roof” – Based on Sholem Aleichem stories by special permission of Arnold Perl; Book by Joseph Stein; Music by Jerry Bock and Lyrics by Sheldon Harnick; Original Choreography by Jerome Robbins; Directed by Austin Pendleton; Music direction by Wade Russo; Choreographed by Kelli Edwards. Presented by the New Repertory Theatre at the Charles Mosesian Theater at 325 Arsenal St., Watertown through January 1st.


“Fiddler on the Roof” is truly a brilliant piece of American theater, because it works on so many different levels. The show debuted in 1964 and was once the most successful musical in Broadway history (running for over 3,000 performances and copping nine Tonys) – and it’s easy to see why. Not only does it feature a brilliant score and a book that simultaneously tells the story a loving father attempting to deal with a cultural heritage that is rapidly breaking with the old ways (and a political one that is descending into horror), it’s also loaded with Borscht Belt humor that still works well today (“May God bless and keep the Tsar… far away from us!” says Tevye, the story’s protagonist). New Rep has mounted a terrific production that functions beautifully as entertainment, but as artistic director Jim Petosa noted before the opening of the show, there’s a “new found resonance” for the piece in light of recent political events.

“Fiddler” opens with Reb Tevye (Jeremiah Kissel), a dirt poor dairy farmer with five daughters (and no sons), explaining to the audience how life works in his little Russian Jewish village of Anatevka during Tsarist rule, about a dozen years before the revolution of 1917. The village is largely isolated from the goings on of the outside world and the villagers lives are run in accordance with their orthodox religious philosophy and of “Tradition” – the show’s first big musical number. Tevye is apparently on a first name basis with God, whom he conveys his disappointments to, asks guidance from, and occasionally makes a humble request of (in the Broadway standard “If I were a Rich Man”, which Kissel really makes his own).

Local matchmaker Yente (played with comic verve by Bobbie Steinbach) has good news for Golde (Amelia Broome), Tevye’s beleaguered wife. The well-to-do butcher Lazar Wolfe, lonely after his wife’s passing, has his eye on their oldest daughter, Tzeitel, and he wants to ask Tevye for her hand in marriage. There are a few complications, however. Lazar is at least twice Tzeitel’s age and Tzeitel plans to marry poor tailor Motel Kamzoil (a wonderfully cast Patrick Varner), her sweetheart since childhood. This sets the stage for another hit tune/dance number from the show, “Matchmaker, Matchmaker” where the three girls examine the pros and (mostly) cons of having a marriage arranged for them by Yente.

Tevye initially agrees (in the lively song and dance scene “To Life”) to allow Lazar to marry his daughter, and there is great drunken celebration by the men, but in the first sign that traditions, customs, and life itself are subject to change no matter how desperately we wish to cling to the familiar, Teyve relents and lets his daughter follow her heart. Which sets the stage for the wedding and another American standard, “Sunrise, Sunset” before the play turns darker when both local infighting and nationalist politics rear their ugly heads.

The show is full of great production numbers, and in addition to the aforementioned Broadway “hits” there’s the vastly underrated heart-tugger, “Do You Love Me”, a question posed by Tevye to his wife after 25 years of an arranged marriage and answered in duet by Golde. The cast is solid and cohesive, and the three oldest daughters – each of whose non-traditional method of choosing their husbands causes their father much turmoil – are one of the real strengths of the production, with Abby Goldfarb as Tzeitel, Sarah Oakes Muirhead as Hodel and Victoria Britt as Chava. The trio shine in the “Matchmaker” number (playfully choreographed by Kelli Edwards). Muirhead, who is a bonafide rising star, also delivers a magnificent interpretation of the heart-wrenching “Far From The Home I Love”.

But like many great musicals, what makes “Fiddler” such a great work is not the collection of individual performances but the brilliance of the piece itself. The book and score present a series of complex relationships where love wins out in spite of difficulties, set against the backdrop of a cold world that is about to get a lot colder. This is a first rate production of a classic American musical. For more info, go to: http://www.newrep.org/