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

“HIGH SCHOOL MUSICAL” (Footlights Junior Division, Morton Middle School Fall River, MA)

Reviewed by Tony Annicone

 

Footlights Juniors current show is Disney’s “High School Musical”, an adaptation of the Disney TV movie musical which was released on January 20, 2006. “High School Musical ” is a modern day adaptation of “Romeo and Juliet.”  It is the story of two high school students: Troy Bolton, who is the captain of his high school’s basketball team, and Gabriella Montez, a shy transfer student who excels in math and science. Together they try out for the lead roles in their high school musical. Despite other students attempts to thwart their dreams, Troy and Gabriella resist and inspire others along the way. Directors Neil Jeronimo and Tricia Rodrigues cast 70 talented performers in this high energy musical.

Neil and Tricia’s blocking of this enormous musical is brilliant. Kasey Jeronimo, the musical director obtains strong vocals from this young cast, while Barry Pereira supplies some unique dance moves including basketball dance, some Fossesque moves and other breathtaking dance moves that astound the audience. The six piece orchestra sounds wonderful, too except a little bit too loud at times. The two leads do a topnotch job in their roles. Luke Sylvester plays Troy and dances up a storm in this role. Beautiful brunette, Maia Millard plays Gabriella and has a gorgeous voice. Their duets include “The Start of Something New”, “What I’ve Been Looking For”, “When There Was Me and You” and the joyous “Breaking Free” when they decide to tryout for the musical “Juliet and Romeo.” Luke and the basketball team sing “Get’cha Head in the Game” which is a Fosse style dance with basketballs in their hands. Maia has some topnotch comic scenes with the girls. She shines in this role.

The biggest scene stealers in this show are Jillian Levesque and Ed Plante who play the spoiled Evans twins, Sharpay and Ryan. Dressed in bright pink, Jillian displays her comedic talents as this bitchy girl who will do anything to get what she wants because she has always played the lead in every musical with her brother since they were in kindergarten. Eddie is hilarious as the prancing and fawning brother who will do anything and everything that his sister wants him to do. Jillian  and Eddie’s antics are wonderful to behold and they display their voices in a rock version of the ballad “What I’ve Been Looking For” and also in “Bop to the Top” with the Brains and the Jocks.

Another scene stealer is Cathy Howard as the over the top drama teacher, Mrs. Darbus who hates cell phones. Her interactions with the students are laugh out loud moments as she cavorts around the stage in this comic role. Cathy’s facial expressions and quoting of Shakespeare are hilarious Troy’s father is well played by Brandt Swanson.

 

Troy and Gabriella’s best friends, Chad and Taylor are played by Matt Macy and Rachel Ochoa. They plot and scheme to keep them from trying out for the play but end up realizing they should help their dream come true. Matt and Rachel display their voices and dancing prowess in “Cellular Fusion” and “We’re All in this Together.” Playing the sympathetic playwright Kelsie is Samantha Moreira while Nick Lannigan plays Zeke, the lovesick guy who wants to be a baker and has a crush on Sharpay. When Kelsie finally stands up to Sharpay and when Zeke throws a pie in her face are laugh out loud moments. Nathaniel James LeBoeuf is phenomenal and a hoot as Jack Scott,, the guy who delivers messages over the PA system and displays his acting prowess in this role. The chorus shines in “Wildcat Cheer”, “Stick to the Status Quo” and “High School Megamix.” So for a musical treat for people of all ages, be sure to catch “High School Musical” at Footlights Junior Division.

HIGH SCHOOL MUSICAL (27 to 29 July)

Footlights Junior Division, Morton Middle School, 1135 North Main St, Fall River, MA

1(774)526-9972 or www.footlightsrep.net