WEST SIDE STORY (Ivoryton Playhouse, CT)

“WEST SIDE STORY”

Reviewed by Tony Annicone

 

Ivoryton Playhouse’s summer musical is “West Side Story”, the classic 1957 musical hit. Based on Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet”, the story is as fresh and new to contemporary audiences as it was back in 1591 for the original play as it was in the 1950’s for the musical version. Hatred and violence don’t solve problems, they create new ones. Love and understanding of each other are the solutions to these problems not only in these shows but in real life. The well known story of Tony and Maria takes place in New York City. The outside forces of friends, enemies, gang members and adults keep them from fulfilling their dreams of everlasting happiness due to hatred and bigotry. This talented cast under the direction of Todd Underwood, delivers the goods in a powerful and poignant presentation with outstanding acting, singing and dancing which propels the audience to their feet at curtain call. Who could ask for anything more in this gut wrenching magnificent production at this historic theatre.

Todd takes this well written script and makes it soar in the comic aspects of the show. Just when you feel your heart is going to break in two, the script has a comic moment to lighten it up. Todd casts the show marvelously from the major roles to the minor ones. He is aided in this huge undertaking by musical director Mike Morris and his twelve piece orchestra. He makes the music stand out in the ballads and the up tempo numbers with his eye for annunciation and vocal training. The Bernstein and Sondheim score is excellently rendered by the musicians and the vocalists. The best group numbers are “The Quintet” and “Somewhere” with Annalise Cepero and Hillary Ekwall as lead vocalists in this latter number. One of the most important parts of this show is choreography and the audience isn’t disappointed here either. Todd who is also the choreographer, makes his cast dance their shoes off with ballet, modern, jazz dance with salsa and mambo to name a few. His dancing expertise is seen in “Prologue”, “Dance at the Gym” which stops the show, “Cool” with the men doing amazing splits, “America” and the breathtaking ballet to “Somewhere” sung beautifully by. Another standout dance segment is “The Rumble” which leads to the death of two main characters. The mixture of movements and direction of this fight at the end of Act 1 leaves the audience stunned but begging for more good things to come. The blending of these three elements with a talented cast make this the must see show of the summer season.

The two leads are amazing performers. Stephen Mir as Tony makes him into a strong hero that the audience can relate to from his first entrance onstage. His first number is usually a throw away number but Stephen makes “Something’s Coming” as important as his other numbers. He makes it as impressive as “Maria” and “Tonight” with his powerful tenor voice which soars off the charts especially impressive is his falsetto at the end of “Maria.” Stephen’s acting is strong with the love at first sight, the ensuing exuberant pure love, the horror of killing someone, the anguish of thinking your true love is dead and finally making your own death onstage believable. Mia Pinero as Maria is Stephen’s equal in every way. From her first scene in the dress shop she displays the spunkiness of Maria. Mia makes Maria a strong character who stands up for what she believes in. She and Stephen have a lot of chemistry together. Their duets are terrific together especially the fire escape number “Tonight” and “One Hand, One Heart” which is tender and emotional and “Somewhere” which starts off with everyone getting along at first. They capture the naivete of Tony and Maria, making the audience remember the first time they fell in love. Mia delivers a gutwrenching final scene when she yells at the others to kill her like they killed Tony. Luckily she also has the comic “I Feel Pretty” which lightens the mood at the start of Act 2. Mia just graduated from Montclair State University in New Jersey.

The two leads are strongly supported by the other cast members. The dancing in this show is fantastic by one and all. Playing gang leaders Riff and Bernardo are Conor Robert Fallon and Victor Borjas who are excellently cast. Both deliver strong performances especially in the confrontation scenes and the fight scene leading to their deaths. Conor does a marvelous job in “The Jet” song with his gang members and in “Cool” where exerts control over them especially hot headed Action who is always ready for a fight. Conor and Stephen portray best friends who are as close as brothers with their credo from “Womb to tomb”. Victor is topnotch as Bernardo with his strong dancing prowess in Dance at the Gym and in the Rumble. Beautiful brunette Natalie Madlon plays the spitfire girlfriend of Bernardo, Anita splendidly. She is a strong actress who sells the comic song “America” where she and the girls dance up a storm and in my favorite dramatic song “A Boy Like That” duet with Maria. Her hurt and anguish are displayed in this number and in the assault scene. After Anita is attacked by the Jets, she tells them Maria is dead. Natalie is a junior at Montclair State University.The Jets have become as depraved as the characters they just sang about in “Officer Krupke.” She delivers a powerful performance, leaving the stage in triumph over the hoodlums. Praise to the performers as the gang members  who knock the ball out of the park in this fabulous show. The Jet gang members are Pierre Marais as Baby John, the naive member who sings the female social worker in Krupke, Daniel Miller as Diesel who sings the Judge part, Max Weinstein as A-rab who sings the shrink part and Colin Lee as the hot headed Action who is always ready for a fight. The hard ass Lieutenant is wonderfully played by Rick Malone. So for a script that still resonates with audiences 60 years later, be sure to catch “West Side Story” at Ivoryton Playhouse. Tell them Tony sent you.

WEST SIDE STORY (5 to 23 July)

Ivoryton Playhouse, 103 Main St, Ivoryton, CT

1(860)767-9520 or www.ivorytonplayhouse.org

“YOU CAN’T TAKE IT WITH YOU” (Community Players, Pawtucket, RI)

Reviewed by Tony Annicone

 

The final show of Community Players 96th season is “You Can’t Take It With You”, a 1937 Pulitzer prize winning comedy by Moss Hart and George F. Kaufman. Meet the Sycamore family, a collection of lovable eccentric incompetents who keep a printing press in the parlor, manufacture fireworks in the basement, are friends with an Ex-Grand Duchess, and includes a grandfather who doesn’t believe in paying taxes. When daughter, Alice falls in love with straight laced Tony Kirby and invites his conservative, high society parents to dinner, she orders her family to ”ordinary up”, which means act like normal people. As with most things in this wacky family, things don’t go exactly as planned. The important message is to live in the here and now, live life to the fullest and do whatever makes you happy. Director Patricia Hawkridge casts this huge show wonderfully. It is a positive and light hearted show that is definitely needed in these trying times we are living through now.

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Flat Earth’s “Fat Pig” Artfully Combines Pain, Laughter

 

by Mike Hoban

 

“Fat Pig” Written by Neil LaBute. Directed by Juliet Bowler. Presented by The Flat Earth Theatre at the Mosesian Center for the Arts, Watertown, through June 24.

 

Flat Earth Theatre follows up their luminous (and Elliot Norton Award–winning) Silent Sky with another first-rate production, Neil LaBute’s Fat Pig, playing through next weekend (June 24). This dark dramedy details the unlikely romance between plus-sized librarian Helen, and Tom, a handsome (and thin) up-and-coming corporate guy. The two meet by chance in a crowded restaurant and the mutual attraction is evident early on, as Helen’s disarming and sexually-tinged wit draws Tom in, and he quickly finds himself smitten.

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Broadway Fire in Reagle’s “Technicolor Dreamcoat”

 

By CJ Williams

 

Directed and Choreographed by Susan M. Chebookjian, based on original Choreography by Anthony Van Laast. Lighting Design by David Wilson. Set Design by Peter Colao and Richard Schreiber. Music Direction by Dan Rodriguez. Presented by Reagle Music Theatre at 617 Lexington St, Waltham through June 18.

 

“Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” is Broadway-theater fare in unexpectedly Beantown-local affordability – and the Broadway musical is put on to amazing effect at the Reagle Music Theatre in Waltham. For all its crowd-pleasing choruses, and a cast that could sing and dance down Carnegie Hall, “Dreamcoat” nonetheless pulls a nice undercurrent of depth as well.

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NSMT Serves Up A Delicious Slice of White Bread with Delightful ‘Music Man’

 

by Mike Hoban

 

‘Music Man’ – Book, Music, and Lyrics by Meredith Willson. Story by Willson and Franklin Lacey. Directed by Bob Richard. Choreography, Diane Laurenson. Music Direction by Milton Granger; Scenic Design by Kyle Dixon; Lighting Design by Franklin Meissner; Sound Design by Danny Erdberg; Costume Coordinator and Additional Costume Design by Paula Peasley-Ninestein. Presented by North Shore Music Theatre, Beverly, through June 18.

“I’m as corny as Kansas in August” may be a line from a song from another classic musical, (South Pacific, “A Wonderful Guy”) but it could certainly double as a description of Music Man, the delightful 1957 musical now being given an inspired revival at the North Shore Music Theatre. Set in 1912 Iowa, birthplace of Meredith Willson, writer of the book, music, and lyrics for the Broadway hit, Music Man may be the quintessential white bread musical, but damn – er, darn – is it good.

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Drama Abounds in “Days of Atonement”

 

By Michele Markarian

 

Days of Atonement. Written by Hanna Azoulay-Hasfari, translated by Shir Freibach. Directed by Guy Ben-Aharon. Presented by Review,, 527 Tremont Street, Boston through June 25.

 

It is the eve of Yom Kippur.  Amira (Dana Stern), a student filmmaker, calls her three estranged sisters to their mother’s apartment in Netivot, to try and locate their elderly Moroccan/Israeli mother, who has disappeared without a note. Malka (Jackie Davis) the oldest sister, is in her own state of perpetual crisis, convinced that her husband David is cheating on her. Evelyn (Adrianne Krstansky), the second oldest, is deeply Orthodox. Pregnant again, in an advanced age and already with eight daughters, she refuses to have an abortion, even though her doctor is recommending it – Evelyn has diabetes. Fanny (Ramona Lisa Alexander), whom Malka suspects has slept with David, had been thrown out of the house as a teenager, her mother jealous of her developing body. Although a successful realtor, Fanny still has emotional wounds that make her reunion difficult and bitter. Amira, the youngest, born after their father has died, is suffering from mental health issues. Each sister feels like she had it the worst growing up.  It’s a play fraught with tension, resentment and, appropriately set on Yom Kippur, forgiveness and repentance.

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Nora Theatre’s ‘Midvale High School Fiftieth Reunion’ Is A Charmer

 

by Mike Hoban

 

The Midvale High School Fiftieth ReunionWritten by Alan Brody, Directed by Lee Mikeska Gardner; Scenic Design by Steven Royal; Costume Design by Chelsea Kerl; Lighting Design by John Malinowski; Sound Design by Nathan Leigh; Choreography by Marlena Yanetti and Felton Sparks. Presented by The Nora Theatre Company at Central Square Theater, 450 Massachusetts Avenue, Cambridge through July 2.

 

Is it possible to fall in love for the first time long after AARP has begun mailing you membership offers? That’s the question that Midvale High School Fiftieth Reunion, the superb comic drama now having its world premiere at the Central Square Theater, seems to be asking. This thoughtful and very funny play takes one of life’s ridiculously emotionally trying rituals and uses it as a springboard for an unlikely but utterly charming love story. It also sends up all the awkward moments one encounters at the oft-dreaded high school reunion (crushes revealed, not remembering friend’s names, feigned interest in other’s lives) while cleverly inserting backstory for the characters via a series of revealing flashbacks.

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THE MUSIC MAN (Theatre by the Sea, Matunuck, RI)

Reviewed by Tony Annicone

 

Bill Hanney’s Theatre by the Sea’s second show of their 84th season is “The Music Man” by Meredith Willson. This musical first opened on Broadway on December 19, 1957 and ran for 1375 performances. Robert Preston played the leading role of Harold Hill both onstage and in the 1962 film version. The show is set in Iowa in 1912 and is the story of the fast talking Harold Hill who cons the good citizens of River City into buying musical instruments and band uniforms by promising to create a boy’s band in the town.

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Huntington’s ‘Ripcord’ Delivers Laughs Alongside Odd Couple’s Darker Side

 

by Mike Hoban

 

‘Ripcord’ – Written by David Lindsay-Abaire. Directed by Jessica Stone. Scenic Design by Tobin Ost; Costume Design by Gabriel Berry; Lighting Design by David J. Weiner; Sound Design and Composition by Mark Bennett; Projection Design by Lucy Mackinnon. Presented by the Huntington Theatre Company at the Calderwood Pavilion, Boston Center for the Arts, 527 Tremont St. Boston through July 2

 

There probably aren’t many plays – even comedies – that could include a scene as implausible as having a septuagenarian drugged, kidnapped, and tricked into jumping out of an airplane without straining its credibility to the point of snapping, but David Lindsay-Abaire manages to not only pull it off but make it convincing in his very funny and ultimately touching Ripcord, now running at the Huntington Theatre through July 2. That scene is just one of the many horrors that two female roommates inflict upon one another to great comic effect as they each try to win the bet to settle a turf battle set in an assisted living facility.

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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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