NSMT’s “Beauty & the Beast” A Musical Gem

 

Reviewed by Tony Annicone

 

The second musical of North Shore Music Theatre’s 62nd season is Disney’s “Beauty and the Beast” which first opened on Broadway on April 19, 1994. It closed on July 29, 2007 and ran 5,461 performances. Based on the 1991 animated Disney movie, the show tells the story of a spell cast on a Prince which transforms him into a ferocious beast. He must love and be loved before the last petal falls from the rose or he will be a beast forever.

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Reagle Delivers Terrific “Showboat”

Reviewed by Tony Annicone

The second show of Reagle Music Theatre’s 49th summer season is the Goodspeed Musicals version of “Showboat” which combined the talents of Jerome Kern and Oscar Hammerstein II. The original version opened at the Ziegfeld Theatre on December 27, 1927 and ran for 572 performances. Kern and Hammerstein felt that the Broadway musical theatre was suffering from a lack of depth and wanted to steer away from the fluffy musical comedies and melodramatic operettas it was accustomed to.

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“Blood on the Snow” a Surefire Hit

 

By Michele Markarian

 

“Blood on the Snow” – Written by Patrick Gabridge.  Directed by Courtney O’Connor.  Presented by The Bostonian Society at the Old State House, 206 Washington Street, Boston, through August 20.

 

Through a side entrance in the Old State House, you make your way up a winding, wooden staircase to be ushered into The Council Chamber. Two sets of chair rows face each other, flanking a long, elegant table. Dr. Nathaniel Sheidley, Executive Director of the Bostonian Society enters – he’s modern day, by the way – and explains to us that the real-life drama that “Blood on the Snow” is based on took place in this very room, the violence having taken place outside the actual window. Wow. This adds a level of authenticity to what we are about to witness that makes this not just a play, but an experience.

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In Gloucester Stage’s “The Effect”, Love is the Drug

 

by Mike Hoban

 

‘The Effect’ – Written by Lucy Prebble; Directed by Sam Weisman; Set & Projection Design by J. Michael Griggs; Costume Design by Miranda Kau Giurleo; Lighting Design by Russ Swift; Sound Design by David Remedios; Composer, Claudio Ragazzi; Choreography by Maurice Emmanuel Parent. Presented by the Gloucester Stage Company through July 8

 

Oh Oh, catch that buzz
Love is the drug I’m thinking of
Oh Oh, can’t you see
Love is the drug for me

“Love is the Drug” – 1975 single by Roxy Music

 

Is true love something that can be prescribed?

 

The Effect, now making its New England premiere at Gloucester Stage, asks that question, as Big Pharma guy Dr. Toby Sealey of Rauschen Pharmaceuticals hopes to create “a Viagra for the heart” as clinical trials for the experimental antidepressant with the unsexy name of RLU37 get underway. But as we soon find out, results are not always predictable whenever there’s a human element in the experiment, even in a sterile clinical setting.

 

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“The Music Man” at Theatre by the Sea

 

By Richard Pacheco

 

“The Music Man” is a musical with book, music, and lyrics by Meredith Willson, based on a story by Meredith Willson and Franklin Lacey and is currently playing at Theatre by the Sea in a spirited, energetic and fun production. The plot concerns con man Harold Hill, who poses as a boys’ band organizer and leader and sells band instruments and uniforms to the naive Iowa townsfolk, promising to train the members of the new band. Harold is no musician, however, and plans to skip town without giving any music lessons. Prim librarian and piano teacher Marian sees through him, but when Harold helps her younger brother overcome his lisp and social awkwardness, Marian begins to fall in love. Harold risks being caught to win her.

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“BAGGAGE” (Newport Playhouse,)

“BAGGAGE”
Reviewed by Tony Annicone

The current show at the Newport Playhouse is the romantic comedy “Baggage” by Sam Bobrick. Two difficult and single people, Bradley and Phyllis, both trying to heal from their respective disappointing relationships, get their luggage mixed up at the airport. After a very disagreeable first encounter, the two decide to help each other get over their heartaches by forcing a friendship that eventually leads to the two discovering that while they may be too difficult for everyone else in the world, but they are perfect for each other. Throw in an analyst who speaks directly to the audience as well as to Bradley and Phyllis and a kooky female friend of Phyllis and you have the ingredients for this very funny comedy.

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ONE MAN, TWO GUVNORS (Contemporary Theater Company, Wakefield, RI)

“ONE MAN, TWO GUVNORS”

Reviewed by Tony Annicone

Contemporary Theater’s second comedy of their summer season is “One Man, Two Guvnors” by Richard Bean, an English adaptation of “Servant of Two Masters”, a 1743 Commedia dell’arte style comedy play by the Italian playwright Carlo Goldoni. The play changes the Italian locale to 1963 Brighton. Francis finds himself picking up a second job to just scrape together enough money to buy himself a pint. But he soon finds out that keeping his two bosses, rivals in the mob scene from finding out about each other is more trouble than he bargained for. The two men are Roscoe Crabbe, a gangster and Stanley Stubbers, an upper class twit. Complicating events Roscoe isn’t really Roscoe, think Shakespeare on this one, and there is a secret lover in this twist in the story. With secrets and lies flying about, Francis tries his best to keep it all under control. Complicating matters even further is local mobster Charlie the Duck, who has arranged his daughter Pauline’s engagement to Roscoe despite her preference for the over the top amateur actor, Alan Dangle. Throw in several letters, a very heavy trunk, several unlucky audience volunteers, an extremely elderly waiter and Francis’ pursuit of his twin passions: Dolly, Charlie’s feminist bookkeeper and, food. Director Sami Avigdor casts these farcical performers wonderfully, gives them a great deal of shtick, pratfalls and facial expressions to keep the audience in stitches all night long.

Leading this 11 member cast is Rico Lanni as Francis. His over the top antics are priceless as he speaks to the audience and other characters while trying to eat constantly in Act 1 and get in a girl’s pants in Act 2 by taking her to Spain. Sarah Reed shines as Rachel and Roscoe playing identical twins that aren’t identical. Her secret motives are hilarious as she hires the dumber than dirt Francis. Also hiring him is Tyler Brown as Stanley who has a terrific temper and has many hilarious moments especially when he thinks his girlfriend is dead and when he and Francis light the crepes on fire.

One of the funniest characters in this show is Jeremy Chaing as the 87 year old, Alfie who has a pace maker and can’t hear very well. His pratfalls, facial expressions and one liners are priceless. When his pacemaker is turned up to nine and puts him into racing around mode received the biggest laugh of the night. Playing Charlie the Duck is Bob Mignarri who tries to force his daughter to marry a gay man against her wishes and can’t understand why a boy and girl can’t be identical twins. Nicholas Fazio does an excellent job as Lloyd,an ex-con who owns a restaurant they go to. Isobel McCullough wins many laughs as the dumb blonde daughter with her clever antics. Terry Simpson plays a legal speaking lawyer while Devon Andrews plays the over acting son. Alynne Miller plays the feminist bookkeeper working for Charlie that is lusted after by Francis. Rounding out the cast is Ezra Jordan as a waiter and cop and Justine Moore as a hapless audience member roped into the lunacy of the show. So for a madcap romp, be sure to catch “One Man, Two Guvnors” at Contemporary Theater Company before time runs out.

ONE MAN, TWO GUVNORS (14 July to 12 August)

Contemporary Theater Company, 327 Main St, Wakefield, RI

1(401)218-0282 or www.contemporarytheatercompany.com

 

Delicious Storytelling Dished Up in “I Loved, I Lost, I Made Spaghetti”

 

By Michele Markarian

 

“I Loved, I Lost, I Made Spaghetti.” Adapted by Jacques LaMarre from the memoir by Giulia Melucci. Directed by Ilyse Robbins . Presented by Stoneham Theatre, 395 Main Street, Stoneham, through June 25.

 

“I can count on my breasts the number of times I’ve missed a meal”, Giulia (Kerri Jill Garbis) tells us. For Giulia, food is love, as she demonstrates by actually cooking dinner for eight guests onstage while telling us unfortunate stories from her love life.  If you have an interest in food and a colorful romantic past, this is the show for you.

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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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