Like the Tango Itself, "Arrabal" Raises You High and Drops You Low

Like the Tango Itself, "Arrabal" Raises You High and Drops You Low

Billed as a tango-infused dance theater piece, Arrabal is making its U.S. debut at the American Repertory Theater in Cambridge, Massachusetts, running now through June 18, 2017.  

The theater space is converted to be semi-immersive, transporting the audience to a Buenos Aires nightclub in the 1990s, where the double-lettered seats of the Loeb Theater are replaced by an intimate set-up of tables and chairs, complete with in-house wine service. There are two levels on the stage. The fast, furious, 90-minute show is propelled forward by the virtuosic (if sometimes bordering on painfully loud) talent of the five piece band, Orquesta Bajofonderos.

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SpeakEasy’s "Bridges" Builds A Gorgeous Home

SpeakEasy’s "Bridges" Builds A Gorgeous Home

SpeakEasy Stage Company does a wonderful job of inviting the audience in to enjoy the close of their 26th season with a gorgeous musical and a stellar cast in The Bridges of Madison County. While the original run of this production on Broadway was short-lived (lasting only 3 months with seasoned performers Kelli O’Hara and Steven Pasquale), the show should be recognized for its musical and storytelling mastery. This production helps remind us of that beauty, and I hope that more companies will join SpeakEasy by giving this beautiful show the care and attention that it deserves.

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A Chamber Musical of Much "Importance"

For the beginning of their 10th Anniversary season, Bad Habit Productions (“BHP”) opened with a lovely and charming chamber musical, A Man of No Importance. Walking through a side corridor in the Wimberley Theater, and onto the stage, I felt as if I was wandering into somewhere I wasn’t supposed to be. The stage and audience were arranged on the mainstage itself, with the curtain drawn, blocking out the normal house seats. This setting, coupled with set designer/director Daniel Morris’ simple, rustic set, was intimate and made one feel as if she was in the "rec room" of a church in dreary Dublin

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MIT Produces Founding Fathers in "1776"

Featuring the longest scene without a musical number in the history of musical theater (over 30 minutes), 1776 is in many ways a theatrical oddity. Not only does it go for long stretches without musical numbers, a keen dramaturgical ear has difficulty in the narrative and song structure as it exists in the stage version. Act I goes from the large ensemble number “Cool, Cool, Considerate Men” right into the devastatingly haunting “Mama Look Sharp” with barely a breath in between. Likewise, the end of Act II is also peculiar in that there is no real finale number (even though the song title is “Finale”) it feels more as if the piece just begins to fade like a flickering candle as the roll is called to sign the Declaration of Independence

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A Man Has No Face: Hwang's "Yellow Face"

O.W.I.’s mission is to subvert expectations through the premiere of new plays or the reimagining of old stories. David Henry Hwang’s Yellow Face is a prime example of reimagining stories since it is in itself semi-autobiographical, blurring the lines between truth and fiction.  The play also explores the uncomfortable, and still very important, theme of race and its representation in the arts.

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Riding The Highs of Reagle's "Carousel" Healed My Heart

Amidst tragedy in our world, Reagle Music Theatre of Greater Boston shines with its bright and hopeful production of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Carousel.  Under the skillful and innovative direction of Director-Choreographer Rachel Bertone, and a heavenly cast of Boston-favorite performers, Carousel becomes a “can’t be missed” production about missed opportunities, second chances, and the power of love and hope from within the darkness.

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Let "The Merry Widow" Be Merry

The Boston Lyric Opera (the “BLO”) finished its season – and its tenure at the Shubert Theatre – with Franz Lehar’s The Merry Widow. This closing of one chapter and moving onto another was emphasized by the directorial choice of setting the production on the Eve of World War I – New Year’s Eve, to be precise – rather than its original 1905 setting. Clever to emphasize the progression from one place or time to another; that is, until it became apparent that the only directorial vision was “to be clever.”

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Touching "Brilliant Traces"

Touching "Brilliant Traces"

In gorgeous strokes of empathy and intimacy, Brown Box Theatre Project presents the poetic and deeply personal Brilliant Traces at the Atlantic Wharf in Boston before continuing its run on its tour to Maryland (Oxford, Salisbury, and Ocean City).  Driven by the strength of Cindy Lou Johnson’s tight script, Director Kyler Taustin and his talented cast of Laura Menzie and Spencer Parli Tew perform a surprisingly invigorating production in its tenderness, questioning, and thought-provoking story of how we face our scars that leave brilliant traces and the cathartic ways that we move on with the help of others. 

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“The Birds and the Bees” Tells It Like It Is, Whatever That Is

“The Birds and the Bees” Tells It Like It Is, Whatever That Is

Flying into the Boston Center for the Arts, the Sleeping Weazel soars with three original plays, as part of its “The Birds and the Bees: A Festival of New Plays” tackling mortality, conformity, and camaraderie, and myriad of other issues and ideas with originality and charm.  

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Revised "Eyes Shut. Door Open." Continues to Haunt With Repeated Viewings

Revised "Eyes Shut. Door Open." Continues to Haunt With Repeated Viewings

Boston theatre does not usually get the luxury of seeing original plays get a second draft and production.  Playwright and Producer Cassie M. Seinuk revives her award-winning Eyes Shut. Door Open. to critical success, sharpening the play’s focus, expanding key moments, and re-defining our understanding of this Cain-and-Abel story.  The production boasts many of the same delights, especially the thrilling cast, as the original production.  The trimmed script and additional technical resources allow the play to be seen with new eyes; the key, however, is for the play to be seen and appreciated for all of its spectacle and thrills. 

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BOC's "Family Feuds" : Three Stories, One Wild Ride

BOC's "Family Feuds" : Three Stories, One Wild Ride

Boston Opera Collaborative mounted a lean but impressive production of "Family Feuds" at Central Square Theater last weekend. Raked seating surrounded the modest but thoughtful set on three sides, giving immediate access to the performers -- not a bad seat in the house. This unique program brought together three one-act operas, each with its own cast, director, and pianist (no orchestra or other instruments present). As implied by the title, the three stand-alone stories had similar themes: family we love, family we choose, and family we are stuck with. Three stories, one wild ride.

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"Lettice & Lovage" : A Tour de Force at the Crane Estate

"Lettice & Lovage" : A Tour de Force at the Crane Estate

I’m not sure that I will ever again bear witness to a local theatrical production that has a more suitable setting than the Great House at the Crane Estate is for The Trustees/Castle Hill Productions of Lettuce and Lovage, an engaging and often humorous character study given a unique presentation where its venue itself actually gets listed in the program as part of the cast.

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A Chorus of "Brains" Fills the Meat-less "La Zombiata"

Even as an opera fan, I admit that the genre needs a reboot for the 21st century. WholeTone Opera presents La Zombiata for Valentine’s Day weekend in February 2016 at the Davis Square Theatre. The original retelling by Jillian Flexner of Mozart’s La Traviata is a short, fifty-minute, zombie-filled zomp through love and violence. Director J. Deschene and Music Director Ian Garvie keep the production moving at a clip pace, but, ultimately, the production feels thin. With some well-timed blood splatters and fine vocals, the evening was a fine foray into the multi-faceted potential for the company, but a simplistic attempt. 

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No Empty Chairs at this "Drag Miserables"

And now for something completely different. On February 8, 9, and 10, 2016, at Club Café’s Napoleon Room in Boston, Heart & Dagger Productions presented its first drag musical, “Drag Miserables,” an adaptation and reinterpretation of the classic musical Les Miserables.  Featuring a cast of Heart & Dagger Productions regular performers, the musical treat was a rousing sing-along for the audience. The treat was in saying many stage performers showcase their singing chops, in a gender-swapped borrowing of Victor Hugo’s epic story of one man’s journey from prison to salvation. Directed by Joey C. Pelletier (with narrations also by him) and musically directed by James Sims, the evening was a delightful mix of camp and confidence. 

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Fiddlehead Theatre's "Rent" Celebrates Life

Fiddlehead Theatre Company brings Rent to the Back Bay Events Center this February 2016, a celebration of the Jonathan Larson musical’s twentieth anniversary. They assemble some stunning talent to fill the large stage and auditorium, especially Scott Caron’s reflective Mark Cohen, Katie Howe’s expressive Maureen Johnson, and John Devereaux’s emotive Tom Collins. Director Stacey Stephens makes the musical a celebration and examination of the 1990s New York City living. The production, however, fails to resonate; not being a Rent-head, I didn’t see the appeal of returning to a bohemian way of life. As usual, I connected with Cristhian Mancinas-Garcia’s level-headed Benjamin Coffin III, and I wondered why we needed a Rent revival to prove my point of the skewed perspective of living life within this iconic musical. 

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The Best "Sondheim" in Boston

The Best "Sondheim" in Boston

I am a huge Sondheim fan; I love him for his “crazy” characters, his smart dissection of life, his clever lyrics and turns-of-phrases, and his eclectic musical styles. The Lyric Stage Company of Boston’s Sondheim on Sondheim is a dream come true. Running two hours and forty-five minutes, few aspects of Sondheim’s life are left unheard or untouched by this gorgeous musical revue conceived by his long-time collaborator James Lapine. And the Lyric Stage is one of the only theatre companies in Boston who can find the hummable tunes and the complex characters within Sondheim’s expansive scores and stories. Lead by genius Sondheim-interpreter Director Spiro Veloudos (whose Sondheim credits are too numerous to list) and supported by Music Director Jonathan Goldberg (another Sondheim professional) and Choreographer Ilyse Robbins (whose work excels expectations, especially for a Sondheim revue), this rarely-done production offers acute insights into an artists’ motivation, but, moreover, it grants a deep understanding of Sondheim’s characters and how some Boston legends and rising stars interpret and apply themselves to Sondheim’s work. This inside-look is voyeuristic and beautiful, celebrating not only Sondheim but also the Lyric and the performers that we love to see there. 

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"Mary Poppins" Flies Into Wheelock For a Jolly Show

Mary Poppins has flown into Wheelock Family Theatre, and it has been delighting audiences for weeks. My review of the opening night performance is just that: an opening night performance review. Exhausted from rehearsals, rattled by the whir of technical demands, and effected by everyone sinking into his or her roles, the production did not dazzle the way that it has over the past few weeks. For once, I wanted to see this production again to notice the splendor and magic of this talented ensemble and star-studded cast bring the “practically perfect” Nanny to our Boston stage. As I saw it, Wheelock’s Mary Poppins was merely “a spoonful of sugar;” the recipe for success was there, but it needed more fine-tuning and time for the production to really soar. 

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Silly Shakespeare Shakes My "Twelfth Night"

Silly Shakespeare Shakes My "Twelfth Night"

Four hundred years later, we are still redefining and reshaping these classic stories, and finding new ways to experience Shakespeare.  Filter Theatre has found the right rhythm to give us new access to Twelfth Night's fun and merriment. While I wish that some of the play's gravity, particularly in Malvolio's ending scenes had emerged, the play's condensed focus to ninety minutes meant that sacrifices needed to be made. I think that Shakespeare would be proud of the buffoonery and ludicrousness accomplished by these actors, expertly reined by Director Sean Holmes.

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BOC's Trimmed "Faust et Marguerite" Is a Treat To Cherish

BOC's Trimmed "Faust et Marguerite" Is a Treat To Cherish

Boston Opera Collaborative celebrates its 10th Anniversary Season, and they continue to innovate the Greater Boston opera community with its recent production of Charles Gounod’s Faust et Marguerite. Stripped to ninety minutes of intimate song, faith, and redemption, the Boston Opera Collaborative's Faust et Marguerite is an astonishing treat for modern audiences to experience the splendid music in a truly intimate atmosphere and storytelling. For those familiar with the Faust legend, you will find a brand-new story full of love and suspense, featuring some masterful work by soprano Emily Jensen as Marguerite. 

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