Reagle’s “JOSEPH AND THE AMAZING TECHNICOLOR DREAMCOAT”

 

Reviewed by Tony Annicone

 

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

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

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

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

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

Reagle Music Theatre, 617 Robinson St, Waltham, MA

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

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

 

By Mike Hoban

 

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

 

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

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“BUTTERFLIES ARE FREE” (The Arctic Playhouse, West Warwick, RI)

Reviewed by Hen Zannini

The Arctic Playhouse’s current production is “Butterflies are Free.” Written by Leonard Gershe, the play is a dramedy about Don, a blind man, who moves into his own apartment in Manhattan against the wishes of his overprotective and overbearing mother, and befriends Jill, the freethinking young woman next door. With the help of Jill, Don works to break free of his mother to prove that he can make it on his own. Gershe was inspired to write “Butterflies Are Free” after he heard the story of Harold Krents, a Harvard educated lawyer who happened to be blind.

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GSC’s ‘Bank Job’ – Robbery Goes Wrong, Comedy Goes (Mostly) Right

 

By Mike Hoban

 

Bank Job – Written by John Kolvenbach; Directed by Robert Walsh; Set Design by Jon Savage; Lighting Design by Russ Swift; Costume Design by Linda Ross; Sound Design by David Wilson. Presented by Gloucester Stage Company, 267 East Main Street, Gloucester through June 10.

 

If you were of television-watching age during the late sixties and you’ve ever wondered what would happen if the Smothers Brothers downed a few cans of Red Bull and then robbed a bank – now’s your chance to find out. Gloucester Stage Company is presenting the New England premiere of John Kolvenbach’s somewhat uneven but very funny Bank Job, which takes us on a lightning-paced ride which slows down only when the bank robbing brothers take time out to relive their Smothers Brothers-esque unresolved childhood squabbles.

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A.R.T.s “Arrabal” Electrifies

 

By Mike Hoban

 

Arrabal – Book by John Weidman; Music by Gustavo Santaolalla/Bajofondo; Choreographed by Julio Zurita; Directed and co-choreographed by Sergio Trujillo; Choreography by Julio Zurita; Scenic Design by Riccardo Hernandez; Costume Design by Clint Ramos; Lighting Design by Vincent Colbert; Sound Design by Peter McBoyle; Projection Design by Peter Nigrini. Presented by the American Repertory Theater at the Loeb Drama Center, 64 Brattle St., Cambridge, through June 18

 

It may be relatively early in the 2017 theater season, but it seems highly unlikely that anything you will see on Boston stages (or anywhere else) this year will pack the kind of visual, aural and emotional wallop that Arrabal – now making its United States premiere at the American Repertory Theater in Cambridge – will deliver to the senses. This tango-based work combines Latin music and dance with a horrific (and true) political story to create a singular theatrical experience that is alternately steamy and harrowing.

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Lyric Stage Delivers Fresh Take on “Camelot”

 

Reviewed by Tony Annicone

 

The closing show of Lyric Stage’s season is “Camelot”, a musical by Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe. It is a fresh new take on this classic musical by David Lee, a cautionary tale based on the King Arthur legend as adapted from the T.H. White novel “The Once and Future King.” The original Broadway show opened on December 3, 1960, ran for 873 performances and won 4 Tony Awards, and the original cast album was America’s top selling LP for 60 weeks.

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This is a ‘Midsummer Night’s Dream’ Worth Seeing Multiple Midsummer Nights

 

By CJ Williams

 

‘Midsummer Night’s Dream’ – Directed by Patrick Swanson; Written by William Shakespeare; Stage Management by Marsha Smith;  Composition & Sound Design by David Reiffel; Set Design by Eric Levenson; Puppetry  & Design by Elizabeth Rocha; Costume Design by Jessica Pribble; Lighting Design by Deb Sullivan. Presented by Actor’s Shakespeare Project at the Multicultural Center, 41 2nd Street Cambridge, MA through June 4.

 

Actors’ Shakespeare Project’s take on “Midsummer Night’s Dream” is both a faithful and thoroughly up-to-date rendition of a classic. But that’s what Shakespeare, performed and produced well, is in a nutshell: timeless. Not every cast or production team can pull that kind of rabbit out of the theatrical hat, though – even the best productions of the Bard often end up slogging through a sad stodgy seriousness in using the centuries old Elizabethan cant, costume, and anything else historical they can get their hands on. (Either that, or they blow it all on a modern spin that mangles the wordplay and subtlety of the language.)

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Ellis A Revelation in Speakeasy’s “The Bridges of Madison County”

 

by Michele Markarian

 

‘The Bridges of Madison County’ – Book by Marsha Norman. Music and Lyrics by Jason Robert Brown. Based on the novel by Robert James Waller. Directed by M. Bevan O’Gara. Music Direction by Matthew Stern. Presented by Speakeasy Stage Company, Calderwood Pavilion at the Boston Center for the Arts, 527 Tremont Street, Boston, through June 3.

From the opening strains of a sole, mournful cello, you get a sense that the story about to unfold is a sad one. Let me clarify by saying I may have been the only person in the audience unfamiliar with the book or film. Which is a good thing, because I find musical adaptations of films in general to be lackluster, pallid affairs. But M. Bevan O’Gara and the cast of Speakeasy Stage Company’s “The Bridges of Madison County” do such a great job creating an alternate reality that I was truly transported. Adding to the magic is the score, which is very, very intriguing.

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LAB’s “Yellow Bird Chase” Great Fun for Kids – And Adults

 

by Mike Hoban

 

‘Yellow Bird Chase’ – Conceived and Directed by Jason Slavick; Written by the LAB Ensemble; Scenic Design and Props by Rebecca Lehrhoff; Puppetry Direction & Design by Penny Benson; Costume Design by Kendra Bell; Lighting Design by PJ Strachman. Presented by Liars & Believers (LAB) at the Boston Center for the Arts, Martin Hall, 527 Tremont Street Boston through May 21.

 

There’s a lot of fun to be had at Liars & Believers’ expanded production of ‘Yellow Bird Chase’, the laugh-filled fairy tale with music that marks their debut as Artists in Residence at the Boston Center for the Arts. Originally developed as a 30 minute piece for the 2015 “Outside the Box” festival, “Yellow Bird” is 70 minute mash-up of clowning, puppetry, and cabaret-style music that is pure entertainment. And while the production appears to be aimed mostly at the kiddies, there’s still plenty to keep the adults in the audience amused, particularly if they’re fans of iconic 60’s pop tunes.

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Jenson Channels the Spirit of Lester Bangs in ArtsEmerson’s ‘How To Be A Rock Critic’

 

By Mike Hoban

 

‘How To Be A Rock Critic’ – Based on the Writings of Lester Bangs; Written by Erik Jenson and Jessica Blank; Performed by Erik Jenson; Directed by Jessica Blank; Lighting Design by Lap Chi Chu; Scenic Design by Richard Hoover; Sound Design by David Robbins; Dramaturg: P. Carl; Produced by Thomas O. Kreigsmann at Emerson/Paramount Center’s Jackie Liebergott Black Box Theatre, 559 Washington Street, Boston, through May 21.

 

If you are a music fan of a certain age who experienced the evolution of Rock n Roll from the late sixties to the early eighties with any degree of enthusiasm, ‘How To Be A Rock Critic’ – a kind of one-night stand with the (deceased) seminal rock critic Lester Bangs – is not to be missed. Erik Jenson, who plays the speed and cough syrup-fueled pseudo-journalist and bona fide creative writer Bangs with a beautifully unhinged bravado, perfectly captures the near spiritual experience of what happens when people like Bangs (and me) hear those three chords that unleash the mind-bending power of a truly great rock song.

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