September in Boston has a magical feeling. Bostonians return from the Cape with stories and a tan. Students flock to familiar coffee shops and hubs. New folks find themselves in a big city for the first time, searching for where they belong and where they can call their new home. The excitement is played out in the rebirth of the Boston theatre scene as we start the 2015-2016 Season. What will this season bring for productions on our Boston stages? Will we provide gender parity in not only our casting breakdowns but in our meaningful stories? Will our plays and musicals reflect the wealth of diversity in our city? What new talent will emerge? Who will return with a triumphant gusto?
With perhaps our most ambitious Must See feature, we highlight seven productions from Watertown to Gloucester, from Boston to Beverly. The sheer volume of Must See productions is a bright harbinger of the 2015-2016 Theatre Season in the Greater Boston area. The variety in selections showcases that Greater Boston theatre companies are taking chances and doing shows that demonstrate their depth of talent and signify their recurring strengths. New Rep reminds us of the renowned work by American classic playwright Arthur Miller. Gloucester Stage Company reinforces its history and roots as part of the Gloucester community with a new play by its Founding Artistic Director. The Lyric Stage Company of Boston continues its warm tradition of mounting fresh interpretations of classic works for its intimate space. Flat Earth Theatre brings smart theatre with affordable fringe prices, highlighting the wealth of female talent in the Greater Boston theatre community.
Zeitgeist Stage Company brings its synergy of talents to stage an important LGBTQ play that started a movement, sparking a discussion on how far we’ve come and how far we still need to go. SpeakEasy Stage Company, on the other hand, finds another winning new play to bring to the New England theatre scene. And, finally, North Shore Music Theatre builds upon its strong season of family-friendly and accessible musical theatre favorites with a production of a cult classic movie and award-winning musical in its theatre-in-the-round space.
We have been lucky in 2015 to see close to 100 productions so far, and we are so excited to continue reviewing and discussing the important, moving, and outstanding work being produced and performed in the Greater Boston theatre scene. These seven productions in September are only a small slice of what’s to come this fall, but we couldn’t be more excited. In celebration of the exciting start to the 2015-2016 Season, and the return of old friends and arrival of new friends, we suggest that you consider bringing a friend to the theatre this month – take someone who wouldn’t normally attend that particular production, and show them why the arts, specifically theatre, matter in this area. For truly, #ArtsMatter and #BostonCreates. We remind you as always, tweet us at @ArtsImpulse or follow us on Facebook. Continue the discussion of what theatre inspires, celebrate our successes, and look forward to new beginnings this fall.
This month, we feature:
- BROKEN GLASS by New Repertory Theatre
- GLOUCESTER BLUE by The Gloucester Stage Company
- MY FAIR LADY by The Lyric Stage Company of Boston
- RADIUM GIRLS by Flat Earth Theatre
- BOYS IN THE BAND by Zeitgeist Stage Company
- APPROPRIATE by SpeakEasy Stage Company
- BILLY ELLIOT by North Shore Music Theatre
BROKEN GLASS (Boston Premiere
By Arthur Miller
Directed by Jim Petosa
New Repertory Theatre
Charles Mosesian Theatre
Arsenal Center for the Arts
321 Arsenal Street
Watertown, MA 02472
September 5 – 27, 2015
This year, we celebrate Arthur Miller’s 100th birthday. Around the country, theatre companies, scholars, and fans remember the vibrant storytelling from one of the America’s greatest playwrights. Miller left quite a legacy in his vast body of work. New Repertory Theatre (“New Rep”) acknowledges Miller in all of his wonder by producing one of his rarely-done and hidden gems, Broken Glass, a 1994 Tony Award-nominated play about loss, forgiveness, and paralysis. The play centers around a Jewish husband and wife, who are deeply affected by Kristallnacht, The Night of the Broken Glass. The slow-burn mystery will leave you questioning identity, truth, and understanding until the play’s dramatic climax. With Jeremiah Kissel and Anne Gottlieb as Phillip and Sylvia Gellburg, the play promises to be fiercely acted. Kissel was a stand-out performer in last season’s Imagining Madoff and Gottlieb won accolades for her performance in the 2011 New Rep production of Frankie and Johnny in the Claire de Lune. It is a delight to welcome them both back to the New Rep stage to honor Arthur Miller and his finely-crafted characters and stories.
GLOUCESTER BLUE (New England Premiere)
Written by Israel Horovitz
Directed by Israel Horovitz
The Gloucester Stage Company
267 East Main Street
Gloucester, MA 01930
September 17 – October 3, 2015
Israel Horovitz is a successful American playwright, director, and actor, but, even more importantly, he was the Founding Artistic Director of the Gloucester Stage Company. He served as the Artistic Director for twenty-eight impressive years. We are ecstatic to have him return to both write and direct this season. You may remember his most recent film adaptation of his stage-play My Old Lady, which starred Maggie Smith and Kevin Kline. Gloucester Blue promises to be something quite different. The play centers on Bummy and Lexi, husband and wife, and Stumpy and Latham, their housepainters. The play is described as a story painted with a brush of seduction, betrayal, and deceit. The play promises to be a spicy home-cooked meal with strong language and adult situations, with acts of greed and extramarital attractions. While the complete cast has not been released, the promise of seeing Robert Walsh (who became a favorite in Actors’ Shakespeare Project’s Henry VIII) and Lewis D. Wheeler (with his electric performance in New Rep’s Muckrackers this season) leave me anxious to see this Gloucester Blue up close. I can’t wait to paint the seaside town red, and I believe this play will leave us with a lot to talk about over the water.
MY FAIR LADY
Book and lyrics by Alan Jay Lerner
Music by Frederick Loewe
Adapted from George Bernard Shaw’s play, Pygmalion, and Gabriel Pascal’s motion picture, Pygmalion
Directed by Scott Edmiston
140 Clarendon Street
Boston, MA 02116
September 4 – October 10, 2015
While I know that many theatre companies pick their play and musical selections months in advance, I still appreciate that, as a reviewer, I may have a small hand in shaping the Greater Boston theatre scene. In the Spring of 2015, I interviewed Jennifer Ellis (winner of the 2014 ArtsImpulse Theatre Award for Best Actress in a Musical), and I asked her about her dream roles. Topping the list was Eliza Doolittle, the plucky heroine of the Lerner and Loewe classic musical My Fair Lady, based on George Bernard Shaw’s sharply written play Pygmalion. I am beyond delighted to see Jennifer Ellis’ gorgeous face and bold smile to grace the posters for The Lyric Stage Company of Boston’s (“The Lyric”) opening production for its forty-second season. The Lyric has a strong reputation for adapting large musicals for its intimate space, reimagining some classics in unexpected and astonishing ways. Audiences and critics rave about The Lyric’s polished, professional, and innovative style because they are able to see Broadway quality classics for a quarter of the prices right in their backyard.
Scott Edmiston directs this darling of a musical, featuring iconic songs, such as “I Could Have Danced All Night,” “The Rain in Spain,” and (my personal favorite) “On The Street Where You Lived” (which will be sung by the heart-throb Jared Trolio). But, moreover, Edmiston has a robust vision, which is clear if you watch this video. Ellis’ portrayal of the flower-girl Eliza expounds upon her natural aura as a young woman waiting to make her mark upon the world. I believe that Ellis has already made a mark upon Boston, and I cannot wait to see what she does with this “bucket role.” You better be prepared to be changed for the better after seeing her performance and Edmiston’s production.
By D.W. Gregory
Directed by Lindsay Eagle
Charlestown Working Theater
442 Bunker Hill Street
Charlestown, MA 02129
September 4 – 19, 2015
Gender parity has come to Boston, and it is here to stay and say something. Under the fearless direction of Lindsay Eagle, Radium Girls boasts an all-female cast to tell this story of women fighting against corporate greed, against male oppression, and against the odds, risking their families and lives to do what they believe is right. This strong and beautiful tale is the perfect vehicle to showcase Boston’s outstanding female acting and production talent. Eagle has proven herself to be a brilliant and versatile director, mostly handling meaty and dramatic plays, such as Independent Drama Society’s Eurydice and Flat Earth’s Rocketman. Leading the cast, Erin Eva Butcher and Bridgette Hayes go head-to-head, battling for control of the factory and humanity. The cast and crew have reimagined this play with an all-female cast, which will lead to some unique choices that guarantee that it will not be like any production of this award-worthy play that you have seen before.
BOYS IN THE BAND
By Mart Crowley
Directed by David J. Miller
Boston Center for the Arts
September 11 – October 3, 2015
Zeitgeist Stage Company’s reputation precedes it; at the forefront of many new plays and emerging revivals and lead by consistently resourceful David J. Miller, Zeitgeist Stage Company educates as well as impresses each and every season. Its plays feature some of Boston’s strongest acting and production talent, while maintaining affordable fringe theatre prices and some plays that other companies do not have the resources or interest to tackle. Mart Crowley’s Boys in the Band goes onto the long list of Miller’s triumphs. Not only has he assembled a dream team cast, but he is bringing a play that is worthy and due of a revival. Following the Supreme Court case and recent sociological evolution of civil rights for LGBTQ individuals, this production demands recognition and further inspection. Taking place in an Upper East Side apartment in Manhattan and featuring a diverse crew of gay characters, Boys in the Band is the play that you will want to bring your best friend, your partner, your blind date, and your parents in order to discuss, argue, debate, and reflect on how far we’ve come as a society and how far we have yet to go.
APPROPRIATE (New England Premiere)
By Branden Jacobs-Jenkins
Directed by M. Bevin O’Gara
Boston Center for the Arts
September 12 – October 10, 2015
Branden Jacobs-Jenkins might be one of the new favorite playwrights. Given his prominence in the Greater Boston theatre season next year, I purchased a few of his plays to prepare myself and see about the current buzz. Let’s just say that it’s appropriate. And Appropriate might be my favorite. The play doesn’t feel new, but it feels like a refreshing mix of old favorites. You will see a bit of Sam Shepard, Horton Foote, Eugene O’Neill, and Tracy Letts (I’m sure that you know August: Osage County) in this family drama play. The play is haunting, from start to finish, offering characters and a story that will make you feel both instantly comfortable and equally as unnerved. The once-prosperous plantation house that forms the setting and unspoken final character of the play will reverberate in your memory for seasons to come. Directed by M. Bevin O’Gara, Appropriate promises to be a bold new look at race and identity, a subversive take on a classic American playwriting genre for a new generation.
BILLY ELLIOT: THE MUSICAL
Music by Elton John
Book and lyric by Lee Hall
Based on the Universal Pictures/Studio Canal Film
Directed and choreographed by Adam Pelty
62 Dunham Road
Beverly, MA 01915
September 29 – October 11, 2015
North Shore Music Theatre continues its diverse season with the hit adaptation of the cult classic film, Billy Elliot. The musical, by itself, would not spark much interest, given its critically-acclaimed recent production in Ogunquit, Maine. However, this production hits closer to home, in multiple senses of the phrase. The production is performed in Beverly, a short drive from Boston. But, moreover, the production is performed in the round, an intimate showcase for the play’s foot-fancy dance work. With not a bad seat in the house, North Shore Music Theatre comes alive with family-friendly fare, complete with popcorn, candy, and beverages, to bring accessible Broadway productions to your laps. Gone are the worries of an obstructed view, a binocular-level seat cannot be found in this house. Billy Elliot is one of those charming, feel-good musicals that serves as a star vehicle for one (or two, or even three) talented young boy, but it also offers opportunities for a choreographer and featured performers to shine. With a wealth of young talent and an active youth theatre scene, Boston theatre audiences should take note of this musical’s short run to see why this show won ten Tony Awards when it premiered in New York. Who knows that kind of award-worthy talent you will see dance its way into your hear this fall in North Shore’s Billy Elliot?