Echoes of the Past Pulse through the Present in “Incident at Vichy”

 

By Michele Markarian

 

Incident at Vichy, by Arthur Miller.  Directed by Hatem Adel and Daniel Boudreau.  Presented by Praxis Stage, Inner Sanctum, 1127 Harrison Avenue, Boston, MA, through January 26.

 

The year is 1942.  Nine men and one fifteen-year old boy find themselves in a detention center in Vichy, France.  With one exception, none of them have committed any crime in the eyes of the authorities, save for one thing – they’re Jewish. The reality of this fact differs for each of them – several men, like Leduc and Lebeau, have been in hiding already. Monceau, an actor, believes that with the right aplomb, he can pull off anything, including false papers. The Waiter, who regularly serves the German officers, keeps insisting that they’re nice. Bayard, a Socialist electrician, believes that the working class will rise up and defeat the elitist Nazis. He is incensed when von Berg, the only known non-Jew in the prison, insists that the Nazis are working class. The tension between those who are in denial of what is happening around them and those who know the truth is only eclipsed by the tension and fear that they all share at being held.  Various authority figures come in and out of the room, occasionally summoning one of the captives to another room offstage, which only makes the men more fearful.

 

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LOVERS AND OTHER STRANGERS, THE COMMUNITY PLAYERS (Pawtucket)

Reviewed by: Sue Nedar

LOVERS AND OTHER STRANGERS – By Renee Taylor & Joseph Bologna

The Community Players’ current fare is the comedy “Lovers And Other Strangers” by husband & wife team, Renee Taylor (of “The Nanny” fame) and Joseph Bologna.

Lovers And Other Strangers is written and presented in a series of five vignettes, all dealing with a crazy little thing called love (and sex, as a matter of fact.) We are introduced to six couples in all. Act I brings us Jerry, who’s trying to get into Brenda’s pants, Mike, who is having second (third, fourth, and fifth) thoughts about marrying Susan, Cathy, who is demanding that Hal tell his wife about their affair during a spat in the ladies room, and Wilma, who is begging, pleading, cajoling, and bargaining with her husband Johnny for sex. Act II brings us to mom & dad’s house where Richie and Joan, who have to discuss their impending divorce with Richie’s parents, Bea and Frank.

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“THE DROWSY CHAPERONE” (Joseph Case High School)

Reviewed by Tony Annicone

 

Case High Theatre Company’s closing show of their season is “The Drowsy Chaperone.” The show first opened on Broadway on May 1, 2006 and starred Georgia Engel as Mrs. Tottendale and won Tony Awards for Best Book and Best Score. The hilarious show within a show begins when a diehard musical fan decides to play his favorite cast album, a 1928 smash hit called “The Drowsy Chaperone” and the show magically bursts to life right in his very own apartment. The plot centers on Janet Van De Graff, a showgirl who plans to give up her career to marry an oil tycoon, Robert Martin. However Janet is the star of Feldzieg’s Follies and her producer is being threatened by two gangsters employed by his chief investor. Disguised as pastry chefs, these two pun-happy thugs want Feldzieg to stop the wedding. He employs Adolpho, a bumbling Latin Lothario, to seduce Janet and spoil her relationship with Robert. This being the 1920’s, Janet is accompanied by a chaperone who is always drowsy which is another word for tipsy. A massive misunderstanding takes place after Janet disguises herself as a French woman. The ensuing plot incorporates mistaken identities, dream sequences, spit takes, deus ex machina, an unflappable English butler, an absent minded dowager, a ditsy chorine, a harried best man and of course Janet’s drowsy chaperone. The chaperone is played by a Grande Dame of the theatre who sings rousing anthems and not above upstaging her costars. Director Neil Jeronimo picks the best performers for this madcap romp and obtains topnotch performances from one and all of them to entertain the audience with laughter all night long. His addition of a large chorus adds to the enjoyment of this high energy musical. The talented performers win a standing ovation at the close of the night.

Neil is aided in his task by musical director Kasey Jeronimo who taught the beautiful 1920’s music to this talented cast. Jameson Ward not only conducts the 14 piece orchestra but also plays keyboards. Choreography by Tricia Rodrigues includes the Charleston, tap, tango, and Busby Berkley dances to name a few. The Man in the Chair is played by freshman student, Nathaniel James LeBoeuf. He keeps the plot moving along during his narration and weaves in and out of scenes excellently. He commands the stage in this role, making numerous comic references along the way. Nathaniel joins in on Monkey on a pedestal while imitating Janet’s movements as well as in “As We Stumble Along, the finale of the show where he’s given goggles from Trix and climbs into the airplane in triumph. He delivers his enormous amount of dialogue splendidly and has a very bright future in theatre ahead of him.<P>

Julia Morin is marvelous as Janet with her singing and dancing as well as her comic timing. She is a gorgeous girl who looks like a young version of Madeline Kahn. Julia enchants the audience with her numerous songs. “Show Off” starts as a torch song and builds into a belting number with high kicks and acrobatics. It’s reminiscent of a number from “Gypsy.” Her other number is “Bride’s Lament” where she sings about putting her boyfriend as a monkey on a pedestal. Brendan Costa is tall and handsome as her suitor, Robert. He is fantastic especially in “Accident Waiting to Happen” where he dances on roller skates while blindfolded. It has to be seen to be believed. Brendan also does an excellent song and tap dance routine called “Cold Feets” with Devin Proulx as the best man, George. Both Brendan and Devin learned this intricate tap dance routine in four sessions, having never tapped before. Devin also uses his strong voice in the Wedding songs and has many comic bits in the show.

Makenna Beaudoin is hilarious as the Drowsy Chaperone. Neil gives her some clever shtick to do while she guzzles from her drink. Makenna uses her lovely voice in “As We Stumble Along” which to refers to her drinking. She steals many a scene in this over the top role. She also sings in “I Am Aldopho” where she seduces the Latin lover and in “A Message from a Nightingale” with Kitty, the gangsters and Aldolpho where they are disguised in Asian attire. This latter number opens Act 2 and sounds like “Western People Funny” from “The King & I.” The Man in the Chair mistakenly plays it and the song has funny rhymes like Asian and Caucasian. Aldolpho is played by Brayden Fanti with his dark swarthy looks and smarmy charm wins over the audience. Some of his clever antics include wooing the chaperone and saying his name in a very mysterious comic voice. He is a hoot in this role.

Derek Alexander is very comical as Feldzieg, the producer. He displays his voice in “Toledo Surprise” where he and the cast do a rousing Charleston. His dumb blonde girlfriend, Kitty wants to replace Janet in the show is played by Sydney Rutkowski who is wonderful. She has a dumb blonde voice and is very comical as this dim bulb. Sydney displays her dancing skills in “Toledo Surprise.” The two punny and funny gangsters are well played by Samuel Rodriguez Jr. and Luke Sylvester . They have numerous puns about cooking as they are disguised as pastry chefs. They are reminiscent of the two gangsters from “Kiss Me Kate.” They show off their voices in “Toledo Surprise” and “Message from a Nightingale.” Their scene stealing antics are priceless. Playing the eccentric dowager, Mrs. Tottendale is Grace Boland whose antics have the audience rolling in the aisles with laughter. She is extremely ditsy and her funniest bit is her spit takes with her butler. When she asks for ice water, he gives her vodka which she spits into his chest, winning her many laughs. Her faithful butler, Underling is excellently played by Eddie Plante whose dead pan delivery wins many laughs. Their duet “Love is Always Lovely in the End” is wonderfully performed. Casey Frazier plays Trix, a mysterious woman who solves the problems facing the cast in the finale. She belts out the rousing “I Do, I Do in the Sky” with an airplane onstage. So for a fun filled evening of entertainment and merriment, be sure to catch “The Drowsy Chaperone” performed by Case High Theatre Company. They do a very professional job with their productions, having won the 2017 Drama Festival. Tell them Tony sent you and tell them this is Tony’s 1600th review.

THE DROWSY CHAPERONE (12 to 14 May)

Case High Theatre Company, Joseph Case High School, 70 School St, Swansea, MA

1(508)675-7483 or casetheatretickets@gmail.com

“THE LARAMIE PROJECT” (Providence College)

“THE LARAMIE PROJECT”

Reviewed by Tony Annicone

 

The second show of Providence College’s Blackfriars Theatre is “The Laramie Project” by Moises Kaufmann and members of the Tectonic Theater Project about the reaction to the October, 1998 murder of University of Wyoming student, Matthew Shepard in Laramie, Wyoming. The murder is widely considered to be a hate crime motivated by homophobia. The Tectonic Theater Project sent ten members to collect 200 interviews with the inhabitants of the town, company members’ own journal entries and published news reports. It is divided into two acts with the 11 performers portraying over 67 characters in a series of short scenes. Director Mary Farrell uses these performers in multiple roles to present a very moving and dramatic show with some comic moments, about the diversity of people in not only this town but across the country, too. She tells this story with both excellent direction and acting from start to finish. This story is very relevant almost 19 years later as it was back in 1998 with the political situation facing the United States in 2017, making this show one of the must see shows of this season.

The town is divided between love and hate. It has been almost 20 years since the incidents portrayed in this show occurred. The world needs to be seen in its fullness and beauty, not in its ugliness and dreariness. Matthew Shepard’s murder changed the lives of many people, not only of Laramie, but also the entire world. Unfortunately, feelings of hate and discrimination still exist in a society that, by now, should have opened its arms to all people, regardless of who and what they are. Productions of this play will hopefully open people’s eyes to learn from the past and not repeat the mistakes for the future. “The Laramie Project” is still an electrifying and relevant production that rivets you to your seat. “Amazing Grace” sets the mood as the cast sings it at Matt’s funeral in Act 2 while Act 1 ends with HOPE projected in big letters over the stage. Something we definitely need in this country now more than ever.

Matthew died under the stars of the sky all alone on the buck fence that tragic night. This cast brings these roles to life wonderfully whether they are spouting hateful diatribes about being gay, or of compassionate understanding. The performers play multiple characters in the show, so I will look at some of the roles they played in this show. Timothy Brown is fabulous in all his roles. He plays the limo driver, Doc, who is hilarious at first when he drove Matthew to the gay bar where he met his attackers. has some colorful language as this character but in the second act he makes you cry when he says Matt died under twinkling stars and also plays the “faggot” hating Jack Phelps who demonstrates at Matt’s funeral. Timothy as Dennis Shepard, Matt’s father, delivers the goods when he gives one of the murderers a life sentence instead of the death penalty, gives the show its most dramatic punch with his delivery. His son is a hero when he died on October 12 and that Aaron has Matt to thank for his life, hoping he will regret his crime. He also delivers the speech as the spokesman of the hospital to hug your children, gets choked up and cries on the air. Another tear jerking heartwarming moment in this show. Honey Perez is excellent as Reggie, the cop who might have contracted HIV from Matt after she finds him beaten and bloody on the fence. She becomes elated when she receives good news in Act 2, winning some laughs. Diane LaMattina is also topnotch as she plays her mother, Marge who delivers a few laughs and some heartfelt moments with her daughter.

The other performers do a wonderful job in their many roles, too. Brittany Price plays the ER doctor who treated Matt and when she, Reggie and Aaron Kreifels discuss Matt’s condition in Act 1 is where the show becomes more vibrant to the audience. Daniel Munoz plays the President of University of Wyoming as well as Detective Rob Debree who interrogated the two killers. Mireya Lopez is a spitfire as she plays Romaine, a lesbian who is one of Matt’s best friends who blocks Jack Phelps with her angel brigade. Julia Zygiel is the theatre teacher at the University as well as Allison, a chatty friend of Marge. Brittany is also Tiffany, a glamourous local TV reporter as well as the strict judge. Aisling Sheahan is the straight laced minister as well as the bartender who waited on Matt. Emily Clark plays the lesbian teacher, Catherine Connolly and Moises Kaufmann. Michael Izzo plays one of the murderers, Russell Henderson as well as the bar owner. He also plays the vile and evil killer, Aaron McKinney. Teddy Kiritsy is excellent as the God believing Aaron who found Matthew on the fence while riding his bike. This Aaron feels the hand of God lead him to find Matthew that night. Teddy also plays Jedadiah who explains his parents felt his appearance in “Angels in America” is a sin because he is playing a gay man but the role he played in a Shakespeare tragedy where he killed a woman, her children and numerous other people, is acceptable to them. This shows their bias against gay people. So for a show that still packs a powerful punch while teaching about tolerance and understanding, be sure too catch this superb rendition of “The Laramie Project” at Providence College’s Blackfriars Theatre.

THE LARAMIE PROJECT (27 January to 12 February)

Providence College, Blackfriars Theatre, Eaton St, Providence, RI

1(401)865-2218 or www.providence.edu/theatre

“FAME JR.” (Footlights Rep Jr., Morton Middle School)

Reviewed by Tony Annicone

 

Footlights Rep Jr.’s first show of 2017 is “Fame Jr.” “Fame” began as an Academy Award winning movie in 1980. Then it became an Emmy Award winning TV series and finally, an international musical production. The show follows a group of gifted students through four grueling, exhilarating years at New York City’s High School of Performing Arts on West 46th Street. The class of ’84 was the last class to graduate from that landmark building before moving to Lincoln Center as LaGuardia High School. The show is a bittersweet but ultimately inspiring story of a diverse group of students and it explores the issues that confront many young people today: issues of prejudice, identity, self worth, literacy, sexuality, and perseverance. Directors Neil Jeronimo and Tricia Rodrigues take their 40 member cast on an exuberant journey that captivates the audience from the opening “Prayer to get in P.A.” and “Hard Work” about whether singing, dancing or acting is really the hardest course in school, to the closing poignant number “Bring on Tomorrow” at the graduation.

Neil and Tricia block the show wonderfully on their two story set and obtain stunning performances from their young cast. Music director Kasey Jeronimo obtains topnotch vocals from them while Barry Pereira dance’s include ballet, modern and jazz. The teachers in the show are played by Eliza Sirpenski as Miss Sherman who is the English teacher and is very strict with her students. She and Miss Bell sing “The Teacher’s Argument” about a student who can’t read but dances perfectly. The dance teacher, Miss Bell is well played by Julia Ahaesy. The other two teachers are Emma Guillotte as Miss Myers, the acting teacher who wants the students to show their inner beings to each other and to grow in their roles and Steph Baxter as Miss Sheinkopf, the strict music teacher who makes them practice Mozart.

The acting students, Nick, Serena and Jose are played by Nick Lannigan, Jillian Levesque and Derek Rivera. Nick plays Nick who has appeared in commercials as a child but really wants to learn about acting. He displays his strong tenor voice in “I Want to Make Magic.” And he finally gets to play Romeo to become a serious actor. Jillian plays the girl who has a crush on Nick. She grows from nerdy girl into a swan at the end of the show. Jillian displays her pretty soprano voice in “Let’s Play a Love Scene”, a pretty ballad. Derek plays the cocky, Jose who adopts Joe Vegas as his persona. He handles a lot of comic moments in the show.

The dancing students, Carmen, Tyrone, Iris and Mabel are very well played. Bella Manchester is fabulous as Carmen, a girl who will do anything to make it in show business. She sings the title number “Fame” and brings down the house with it. She plays this over confident character to the hilt. She also shines in “There She Goes”, another big dance number. Derek Alexander as Jack, is the illiterate student who has dyslexia and also has a chip on his shoulder. He falls in love with Iris, the prima ballerina and argues constantly with Miss Sherman. He does a terrific job. Desiree Levesque as Iris, displays her dancing prowess in this role in the ballet segment and her acting ability when she tells Tyrone that he must learn how to read. Macayla Goulet is dynamite as Mabel as she sings “Mabel’s Prayer”, a gospel number. She is very comic as she starts out dancing and switches to acting.

The three musicians, Scholmo, Grace and Goodman also do a wonderful job in their roles. Nate LeBoeuf as Scholmo, the shy pianist who falls in love with Carmen after they write the rousing anthem “Bring on Tomorrow.” A dramatic moment occurs when Carmen leaves him and school to pursue her dreams with a producer. The finale of their song packs a punch when Scholmo explains that it is dedicated to her. Erika Baxter does a great job as the tomboy drummer and Ed Plante is a hoot as the trumpet player. Kudos to the whole cast and crew for doing a marvelous job with show. So for an energetic evening of musical entertainment, be sure to catch “Fame Jr.” by Footlights Rep’s Junior Division at the beautiful Morton Middle School. Tell them Tony sent you.

FAME JR. (27 & 28 January)

Footlights Rep Jr., Morton Middle School, 1135 North Main St, Fall River, MA

1(774)644-4539 or www.footlightsrep.net

 

Davenport Artfully Celebrates the Life of Marshall in New Rep’s ‘Thurgood’

Johnny Lee Davenport as Thurgood Marshall (by Andrew Brilliant/Brilliant Pictures)

 

by Mike Hoban

 

Thurgood – Written by George Stevens, Jr.; Directed by Benny Sato Ambush; Scenic Design by Ryan Bates; Lighting Design by Bridget K. Doyle; Composer & Sound Designer, Dewey Dellay. Presented by New Repertory Theatre at the Black Box Theater at the Mosesian Center for the Arts, 321 Arsenal Street, Watertown through February 5th.

 
When New Rep artistic director Jim Petosa and managing director Harriet Sheets were formulating their theme for their 2016-2017 season “What’s Past is Prologue”, they could not have possibly known how disturbingly prescient that idea would be. Although I did not see the season’s opener “Regular Singing” (about a family coming together to celebrate the life of an aging relative on the fiftieth anniversary of the Kennedy assassination), the storylines of the past three productions have served to remind us that if we’re not careful, past could indeed become prologue.

 

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Black Lives Matter: Speakeasy’s “Scottsboro Boys” A Spectacular Reminder (5 Stars)

liebowitz-and-boys

 

by Michele Markarian

 

The Scottsboro Boys – Book by David Thompson, Music and Lyrics by John Kander and Fred Ebb. Directed by Paul Daigneault. Presented by SpeakEasy Stage Company, Boston Center for the Arts, 527 Tremont Street, Boston through January 26th.

 

Despite the fact that you just know things are not going to go well for the nine boys on a train crossing the Alabama state line in 1931 (where, as a friend once told me, they are taught in school to call the Civil War “the War of Northern Aggression”), you can’t help but be mesmerized by Speakeasy Stage’s production of “The Scottsboro Boys”. It is a flawless production from start to finish, as well as a reminder of how much (and at times, how little) things have changed since then.

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Essays in Idleness

 

by Larry Stark

 

The THEATER MIRROR lives again!

My undying thanks to Mike Hoban, who is doing all the uploading/designing work I found it increasingly difficult to keep up with — as well as to Lee Vander Laan, whose continued generosity let me start The Mirror, and who, throughout its life, held my hand and fixed all my glitches making it real. They represent The Mirror’s past, and its future.

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Alternative Theater Venues Provided Some of the Best Productions of 2016

Maiden Phoenix Theatre Company’s ‘Sense and Sensibility”

 

by Mike Hoban

One of the more frustrating aspects of reviewing (or just being a fan of) theater in Boston is knowing that, even if you can get to as many as 2-3 shows per week during the seasonal peaks, there are still a number of stellar productions that you will miss out on in any given year. Most of these productions are mounted by so-called “fringe” companies that often don’t have the resources to consistently bring their work to the more widely known, larger (and promoted) stages such as the Boston Center for the Arts (BCA) – despite doing some of the most compelling work in Boston theater. So discovering these shows can be a bit more challenging for those who aren’t in the Boston theater loop.

Below are a handful of productions that I saw in 2016 that were mounted in venues that many theatergoers don’t necessarily find their way to, but absolutely deserved a wider audience.

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