HEATHERS, THE MUSICAL Coventry High School

Reviewed by Tony Annicone


Coventry High School Drama’s current show is “Heathers, the Musical”, the Rhode Island premier of PG 13 version of this musical. It was written by Laurence O’Keefe who created “Legally Blonde” and Kevin Murphy of Reefer Madness. Their terrific pop score expands the story while keeping the black edge comedy of the original movie. “Heathers, the Musical” is the darkly, delicious story of Veronica Sawyer, a brainy, beautiful teenage misfit who hustles her way into the most powerful and ruthless clique at Westerberg High: The Heathers. But before she can get comfortable at the top of the high school food chain, Veronica falls in love with the dangerously, sexy new kid, J.D. When Heather Chandler, the almighty, kicks her out of the group, Veronica decides to bite the bullet and kiss Heather’s aerobicized ass, But J.D. has another plan for that bullet.

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ALWAYS PATSY CLINE – Little Theatre of Fall River (Local Community Theater)


Reviewed by Tony Annicone


Little Theater of Fall River’s Fire Barn show is “Always Patsy Cline.” This show is based on a true story about the country music legend and the fan she called a friend. The title was inspired by Cline’s letters to her friend, Louise Segar which were always signed, “Love Always…Patsy Cline.” This is a tribute to the woman who epitomized country music in the late 50’s and early 60’s. Louise Segar fell in love with Patsy’s voice after seeing her perform on “Walkin’ After Midnight” on Arthur Godfrey’s Talent Scouts in 1957. She followed Cline’s career via radio and television and finally met the singer at a concert in Houston in 1961. The two became pen pals up until the 1963 plane crash that claimed Cline’s life. The musical play complete with down home country humor and true emotion includes many of Patsy’s unforgettable hits, 27 in all, such as “Lonely Days”, “I Fall to Pieces”, “Sweet Dreams”, “Walking After Midnight” and of course, my personal favorite, “Crazy.” Director Bobby Perry weaves this funny moving tribute to this country movie star wonderfully with the 27 musical numbers connected with a strong storyline. He casts these two star roles perfectly winning them a resounding standing ovation at the end of the night. It is the must see show of this season.

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THE WIZARD OF OZ Bishop Hendricken Theatre (High School Production)


Reviewed by Tony Annicone


We’re off to see the wizard for Hendricken’s autumn musical. This classic tale of Dorothy and Toto’s adventures in Oz has melted hearts for more than seven decades with its unforgettable melodies and timeless themes of family, home and the courage to pursue dreams. Adapted from L. Frank Baum’s enduring children’s story, “The Wizard of Oz” follows a Kansas girl’s journey over the rainbow where she meets the Scarecrow, the Tin Man, the Lion and other magical creatures. So audience members click your heels three times and join the travels through the magical land of Oz to meet the Wizard to obtain your hearts desires. Director Richie Sylvia picks talented 60 student performers to play these well known roles while as the music director he taught the well known score to them. Sean Donnelly conducts a fabulous 15 piece orchestra. Teresa Pearson choreographs some energetic dances to entertain the audience all night long especially in “The Jitterbug” number that stops the show as does the tap dancing and many others in “Merrie Ole Oz” performed energetically and splendidly.

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A Rich and Beautiful ‘Journey to the West’


By Michele Markarian


Journey to the West – Adapted by Mary Zimmerman, from the translation by Anthony C. Yu of Hsi Yu Chi. Directed by Lee Mikesha Gardner. David Fichter, Scenic Designer & Painter; Leslie Held, Costume Designer; John R. Malinowski, Lighting Designer; Judith Chaffee Choreographer.Presented by The Nora Theatre Company and Underground Railway Theater, 450 Massachusetts Avenue in Cambridge through December 31.


Looking to take your mind out of the post-Trump slump?  Look no further than Central Square, where Nora Theatre Company and Underground Railway Theater present the sumptuous Journey to the West.  For at least two and a half hours, you will be blessedly relieved of bad cabinet choices, orange hair and the Supreme Court – okay, I’ll stop there.  As a piece of blissful, flowing, often funny theatre, Journey to the West delivers pure pleasure, beautifully directed by Lee Mikeska Gardner.

Based on one of the Four Great Classical Novels of Chinese Literature, Journey to the West tells the story of a Buddhist monk, Tripitaka (Jesse Garlick) and his three unruly disciples, the Monkey King (Lynn R. Guerra), Pig (Shanae Burch) and Sha Monk (Harsh J. Gagoomal), who must travel to the West in search of three Buddhist scrolls with scriptures. They have been warned that the journey will be arduous and long, and fraught with no more and no less than 81 perils. Along the way, they meet many characters, some dangerous, some pathetic, some comical, all of them interesting.

And beautifully adorned!  Leslie Held’s costumes are remarkable, from the Dragon King’s stunning tail to the Death Girls’s (I can think of no other names for these two characters, but I loved them) Goth-chic ensembles.  There is also a scene with a monster that I won’t give away, but the costume is startling and scary. David Fichter’s set is a work of art; two colorful courts on either side of the long stage, with a bare white floor, calling to mind rice paper or a scroll, in between. Long flowing cloths augment the piece.

Lynn R. Guerra perfectly embodies the role of Monkey King, vocally and physically. The role is a physically demanding one, requiring agility, strength, and balance, which she accomplishes with seeming ease. Jesse Garlick plays Tripitaka, the monk, with a nice balance of courage and fear. Shanae Burch is very funny as Pig, and Sophorl Ngin brings elegance and grace as Buddha. The supporting cast is excellent, playing a variety of roles so well that it’s actually surprising to read the program and see just how small the cast really is. Ryan Meyer’s compositions complement the script both with harmony and tension.

At a little over two and a half hours long, Journey to the West might not be appropriate for younger children, although there seemed to be enough interesting and action-oriented things onstage to keep the two kids (ages maybe 7?  8?) that were attending the night I saw it entertained.  Despite the Buddhist nature of the tale, one might be perceived as high-minded, there are some very funny moments.  And while I was able to put the current state of America easily on the back burner, it was refreshing to see that despite 81 harrowing dangers and a 16-year long journey, our heroes manage to complete their task and gain enlightenment.  Isn’t that the best that any of us can hope for? For more info, go to: https://www.centralsquaretheater.org/shows/journey-to-the-west/





Salpini, Troilo Kill in Lyric’s “Murder for Two”



by Mike Hoban


“Murder for Two” – Book & Music by Joe Kinosian; Book & Lyrics by Kellan Blair; Directed by A. Nora Long; Music Director, Bethan Aiken; Choreography by David Connolly. Presented by The Lyric Stage Company of Boston at 140 Clarendon Street, Boston through December 24.


“Murder for Two”, the clever little two hander musical now being staged at the Lyric, is one of the really pleasant surprises of the early theater season. I must admit that in the opening minutes of the show, I found myself wondering if I were going to be in for a long and torturous afternoon of glib cabaret. The set was relatively bare, save for an upright piano and a few gallons of blood that had been spilled across the stage floor to depict a murder scene, so it looked like was going to be two actors belting out droll vaudeville-style piano tunes for 90 minutes. Thankfully, I was dead wrong (pun intended). Director A. Nora Long has crafted a fast-paced and very funny version of this Off-Broadway hit, featuring Jared Troilo and relative newcomer Kirsten Salpini, who also accompany one another on piano throughout the show – no mean trick considering the show’s upbeat tempo.


As the story begins, we find that crime novelist Arthur Whitney has been shot dead at his own surprise birthday party, and all of the guests are suspects. Arranged by his Southern belle (and bitter former stage performer) wife Dahlia, the party list includes the seductive ballerina Barrette Lewis, who was having an affair with the deceased; Dr. Griff, the town psychiatrist who conveniently happens to be treating each of the suspects; the Murrays, a bickering neighbor couple; Whitney’s niece Stephanie who, serendipitously enough, is working on her graduate school thesis: “How to Assist in the Solving of a Small-Town Murder”; and a boys choir that is a dementedly inspired cross between Our Gang and the Bowery Boys, and whose response to the detective who thinks the boys may be traumatized by the presence of the bloody body on the floor is: “We’ve seen a lot woise”.


Officer Marcus Moscowicz, a small town New England cop with a dream of becoming a detective, is the first to arrive on the scene (with his offstage partner Lou). Marcus sees this murder as his big chance at a promotion, but he’s only got ninety minutes to solve the case before the real detective shows up. In order to let his superior officer know what a great job he’s doing with the investigation, he keeps “accidentally” pocket dialing him on his cell phone, beginning with his opening number “Protocol Says”,  which amusingly details exactly how to run an investigation.


What makes this show work so well is its leads, Troilo and Salpini. The original and subsequent productions of “Murder for Two” (it was first performed in 2011) featured two male actors, but it is the chemistry between Salpini and Troilo that make this musical sing. Troilo (who was terrific as the spurned Freddy in the Lyric’s outstanding “My Fair Lady” last season) is convincing as the insecurity-driven Moscowicz, and he anchors this production with aplomb. But it is the performance by Salpini that elevates the show. Utilizing a combination of outsized silly accents and identifying physical movements, she plays the entire roster of suspects (including dropping to her knees to portray all of the boys choir parts), adroitly switching characters at breakneck speed while still managing to adopt their distinct mannerisms. While she has largely been seen as an ensemble member in her time in Boston, one hopes that this performance lands her in more featured roles. She’s that much fun to watch.


This is a really fun show, full of lots of dopey jokes (as well as some more outlandish humor) and appropriate for all ages. At ninety minutes it’s a great little escape vehicle from the expectations of the holiday season. For more info, go to: http://www.lyricstage.com/

Mansfield Music and Arts Society’s “A CHRISTMAS CAROL”



Reviewed by Tony Annicone


Mansfield Music and Arts Society current holiday production is a special one man presentation of “A Christmas Carol” adapted from the Dickens original text. “A Ghost Story of Christmas” was performed by Charles Dickens on his American tours between 1842 and 1868 where he traveled by stagecoach and railroad, performing to standing room crowds. His great-great grandson, Gerald Charles Dickens continued his legacy with tours to Boston and other cities in the 1990’s while later on Patrick Stewart performed another one man version on Broadway. Gary Poholek presents his original take on this well known tale which he has been performing and perfecting since 2001. I saw him perform this version twice before and once again Gary delivers a knock out, tour-de-force performance. He now interacts more with the audience but delivers the goods in spades as he plays every single role in this show with brilliant and stunning interpretation of each and every character. Bravo on being the definitive Scrooge for all season!

Gary is dressed in Victorian attire and starts out narrating the story, emphasizing that Marley was dead to begin with, otherwise the good things that follow would not have taken place. After this narration, Gary becomes each one of the characters including Scrooge, Marley, the three ghosts and about 18 more characters. He switches from one to another as if he were the other performer speaking to the former. He is the current day Sybil, a movie that starred Sally Field in which she had multiple personalities. Gary memorized this entire hour and a half script. He uses many different voices as these characters including Ed Wynn when he plays Fezziwig. He interacts with the audience bringing them into the story utterly and completely. He runs the gamut of emotions from comic to poignant and his performance is flawless. Gary brings even the most hard hearted person into the Christmas Spirit with this mesmerizing performance. It is an outstanding piece of theatre. Before the show, local vocalist Kevin Mischley directs and leads fellow vocalists including his lovely wife, Jennifer, his talented children, 11 year old son, Warren and 9 year old, Greta who sings a verse of “Silent Night” splendidly, Brian Gustafson, Shannon Stiles and Ken Butler in several Christmas Carols including “Deck the Halls”, “What Child is This?”, “Silent Night” and “God Rest Ye, Merry Gentlemen.” The sound is expertly handled by Bruce Webster while the lighting cues are handled expertly by Alan Conway. Both sound and lighting are integral elements in Gary’s transitions from one role to the next. So for “A Christmas Carol” that will amaze and astound you with the multitalented Gary Poholek as Scrooge and company, be sure to catch this one man show in Mansfield. Tell them Tony sent you to catch this enthralling ghost story.

A CHRISTMAS CAROL (9 to 18 December)

Mansfield Music and Arts Society, 377 North Main Street, Mansfield, MA

1(508)339-2822 or www.mmas.org




Reviewed by Tony Annicone

Attleboro Community Theatre’s holiday presentation this year is “The Best Christmas Pageant Ever.” The show is hilarious from start to finish as anyone who ever sat through Sunday school can attest to. The premise is that the director of the play, Mrs. Armstrong who is well played by Jo-Ann Vaughn, has broken her leg and can’t direct the pageant. It is based on the 1971 book by Barbara Robinson. It tells the story of Imogene, Claude, Ralph, Leroy, Ollie and Gladys, six delinquent children named the Herdmans who are engaged in misfit behavior for their age including smoking, drinking jug wine and shoplifting. They go to church for the first time after being told the church offers snacks. Despite protests from other church members, they are given roles in the Sunday school’s Christmas play, in which they tell the Christmas story in an unconventional fashion. Director Jeanne Smith casts a multitude of people in these roles including many children and they do a bang up job with this funny Christmas story.

She is aided by musical director Barbara Lee who taught the children the Christmas carols in Act 2. Jeanne’s daughter also creates a very beautiful stained glass window that is lit up during the pageant, providing a miracle that the show goes off without a hitch, leading the harshest critics to exclaim that this is the best Christmas pageant ever. Mrs. Armstrong enlists Mrs. Grace Bradley to help out and take over direction of the show. Her daughter, Beth Bradley is the narrator of the show and is the voice of reason. She is wonderfully played by Jasia Mackey.  Her brother, Charlie who spills the beans to the unruly Herdmans is well played by Riley Sparks. Their long suffering parents are excellently played by Megan Ruggiero and Brandon Harrington. After many trials and tribulations, she manages to pull the show off with some misinterpretations along the way which induces much laughter. The tough as nails, cigar smoking Imogene is well played by Abigail Terreault who plays Mary and cries during the manger scene. Her antics are priceless. Another scene stealer is Cadence Preston as Gladys who likes to say Shazam as the angel. She exclaims loudly to come and worship Jesus and pushes the shepherds over to him. She also drinks the altar wine which is also very comical. Shawn Oravec as Ralph, Michael Coburn as Claude, Ryan Dilisio as Leroy and Garion Havens as Ollie are also very as the Herdman family who transform themselves after the pageant to be bettered behaved. Morgan Gariepy is also a hoot as the prim and proper Alice who usually plays Mary. She writes down everything she finds wrong in a small notebook. Let me just say this show has to be seen to be enjoyed. Kudos to the whole cast and crew for providing a family friendly show that audiences can savor and enjoy during this holiday season. So for a Christmas show that will definitely help you usher in the Christmas spirit, be sure to catch “The Best Christmas Pageant Ever” at Attleboro Community Theatre. Tell them Tony sent you.


Attleboro Community Theatre, 71 North Main St, Attleboro, MA

1(508)226-8100 or www.attleborocommunitytheatre.com

Stoneham Theatre’s “Mame” Hits All the Right Notes (4 Stars)


By Mike Hoban


“Mame,” – Music and lyrics by Jerry Herman; Book by Jerome Lawrence and Robert E. Lee; Directed and choreographed by Ilyse Robbins; Scenic Design by Katheryn Monthei; Lighting Design by Jeff Adelberg; Costume Design by Tyler Kinney, Music Direction by Matthew Stern; Sound Design by John Stone. Presented by the Stoneham Theatre at 395 Main St, Stoneham through December 23rd.


Take a couple of powerhouse musical actresses (Kathy St. George in the title role and Mary Callanan as her boozy diva sidekick), throw in a supporting cast loaded with local and Boston favorites (Margaret Ann Brady, Ceit Zweil, Robert Saoud, and Will McGarrahan as well as musical comedy rising star Katie Anne Clark), and put them in the hands of awarding-winning director/choreographer Ilyse Robbins, and what do you get? A solid (if unspectacular) re-working of a classic Broadway show that sent the sold out crowd into the chilly night air with smiles on their faces. With music and lyrics by Jerry Herman (who also did “Hello Dolly” and La Cage aux Folles”) and a compelling (and very funny) book by Jerome Lawrence and Robert E. Lee, Stoneham Theatre’s presentation of “Mame” hits all the right notes.


“Mame” tells the story of Mame Dennis, a well-off New York City bohemian who runs with an eclectic crew of intellectuals and artists from the Algonquin Table, whose philosophy is “Life is a banquet, and most poor sons-of-bitches are starving to death.” She has her party time interrupted when her 10 year-old nephew Patrick (Cameron Levesque) comes to live with her (along with his prudish nanny Agnes Gooch, ably played by Zweil) following her brother’s death. While she is pressured to bring up the boy in a proper, conservative lifestyle by appointed trustee Dwight Babcock (an appropriately rigid Sean McGuirk), Mame instead introduces him to a less inhibited way of living, including teaching him how to make a proper dry martini (which he unwittingly serves to Babcock in one of the evening’s funniest scenes). Mame’s best friend is Vera Charles (Callanan), a Broadway actress who, when not wowing audiences, is recovering from hangovers from Mame’s wild soirees.


Things get a little serious when Babcock gets his way and the child is enrolled at a boarding school (St. Boniface) in stodgy old Massachusetts, and then the Great Depression hits, ruining Mame and most of America. But Mame’s fortune soon turns when she meets the love of her life, southern gentleman Beauregard Jackson Picket Burnside (the weirdly charming McGarrahan), owner of the amusingly dubbed Peckerwood Plantation. His family is at first hostile to the northerner, but she wins them over with her plucky charm, culminating in a surprisingly subdued version of the title song by the entire cast. But her love life causes Mame to lose track of Patrick’s formative years, and much of the story in Act II concerns whether he will remain a bohemian at heart or marry into a stick-in-the-mud, ultra-conservative family.


St. George is well cast as the energetic and charismatic Mame, and the same can be said of Callanan, her brassy drinking partner. The two are at their best in the “Bosom Buddies” duet, a diss-filled ode to true friendship, and the pair work well together. St. George also delivers a terrific rendition of the show’s other hit, “If He Walked Into My Life”, and beautifully teams with Levesque (in a terrific turn as young Patrick) in the touching number “My Best Girl”. The supporting cast is uniformly strong, with Zweil’s performance of “Gooch’s Song” one of the evening’s highlights.


The only downside to the production is the show itself. For starters, the material is a little dated, as Mame’s supposedly wild lifestyle is actually pretty tame (minus the heavy drinking) by today’s standards. Some of the social stigmas seem archaic (like single motherhood), and the all too real anti-Semitic feelings on the part of the conservative society aren’t spelled out very well (how many in the audience under 60 knew that the term “restricted” once meant, “No Jews Allowed” ?). The score, while solidly crafted, has few great numbers, and the choreography isn’t particularly imaginative given the pedigree of director/choreographer and the talented cast. These are minor quibbles with the show, and Stoneham’s production of “Mame” delivers a pretty entertaining diversion from the steady stream of the usual holiday fare (although there’s a cute version of “We Need a Little Christmas” early on) that the audience clearly loved. For more info, go to: https://www.stonehamtheatre.org/