Saturday, July 15, 2017

"Beauty and the Beast" Enchants Audiences at North Shore Music Theatre - Through July 30th


If you want a break from beastly New England summer weather, make tracks to Beverly and Bill Hanney's North Shore Music Theatre for their delightful production of Disney's "Beauty and the Beast." The beloved Disney cartoon has been wonderfully adapted to the in-the-round stage at NSMT, and audiences are loving it.

Director Michael Heitzman has assembled a wonderful cast to tell the story set to music by Alan Menken, with Lyrics by Tim Rice, based on a book by Linda Wolverton and original Direction by Robert Jess Roth. Music Direction is by Rick Fox, Choreography by Lisa Shriver, Scenic Design by Stephen Dobay, Original Costume Design by Ryan J. Moller, Additional Costume Design by Sandra Pelletier, Lighting by John Burkland, Sound by Don Hanna, Makeup by Dena Olivieri, Wigs by Gerard Kelly.
  • The pivotal role of Belle is played by Rose Hemingway. She is lovely, delightful, and charming, winning the hearts of the Beast and of the audience. She shines in the opening number, as well as in "Home" and "A Change In Me." There were a handful of times when she was singing in her upper register that I would have appreciated more support in her voice, but that is a technical quibble, for overall she is a very engaging Beauty.
  • Stephen Cerf is a formidable Beast. He makes a triumphant return to the Boston area, having studied at Boston Conservatory before embarking on a career that has taken him to Broadway and on several national tours. His two shining moments vocally occur near the end of Act 1 with "How Long Must This Go On?" and "If I Can't Love Her," which gave me chills. The writing in this song is Menken and Rice at their best. I trust that the sound department has resolved the Opening Night problems with his microphone. He persevered through those technical struggles, and portrayed a believable and sympathetic Beast who showed a range of emotions from petulant to vulnerable.
Stephen Cerf as Beast
Rose Hemingway as Belle
Disney's "Beauty and the Beast"
North Shore Music Theatre
Through July 30th
Photo by  Paul Lyden
  • NSMT favorite son David Coffee returns to this stage to portray Belle's beleaguered father, Maurice. He is his usual impressive and engaging self in this paternal role!
David Coffee as Maurice
Rose Hemingway as Belle
Disney's "Beauty and the Beast"
North Shore Music Theatre
Through July 30th
Photo by  Paul Lyden
  • In the role of Gaston, Taylor Crousore is wonderfully and appropriately cartoonish as the narcissistic oaf who is a paragon of entitlement and macho cluelessness. His moment in the spotlight is the self-title number "Gaston." He is, indeed, specially good at expectorating.
Taylor Crousore as Gaston
Andrew Kruep as Lefou
Disney's "Beauty and the Beast"
North Shore Music Theatre
Through July 30th
Photo by  Paul Lyden
  • As Gaston's longsuffering sidekick, Lefou, Andrew Kruep is a revelation. He combines physical comedic timing with self-deprecating humor to create a wonderful foil for the boisterous and boastful Gaston. 
  • The enchanted staff members of the castle are wonderfully cast. Christiane Noll as Mrs. Potts is as warm and refreshing as the tea she brews. Her rendition of the title song is a highlight of this production. As her son, Chip, Ben Choi-Harris is an absolute delight. Benjamin Howes illuminates the stage as Lumiere. Ryah Nixon is the bubbly and buxom Babette, Phillip Taratula is amusingly arch as Cogsworth. Joy Hermalyn is the operatic Madame de la Grande Bouche. Her lyric soprano voice soars on several occasions. They are joined by the Ensemble in the rollicking anthem "Be Our Guest," which is elegantly staged and choreographed as a highlight of the show.
  • Heather Klobukowski helps to kick off the action of the play as the Enchantress, cursing the Young Prince (Cam Perrin). Mark DiConzo is the Bookseller who gives Belle the volumes that she treasures.
  • David Wright as Carpet does handsprings and cartwheels across the stage throughout the show. He is joined by Mr. DiConzo as Salt and Ben Cullen as Pepper.
  • The three Silly Girls who swoon over Gaston as Sydney Mei Ruf-Wong, Caitlin Wilayto, and Daisy Wright.
  • Additional Ensemble members are Katie Anderson, Briana Fallon, Joshua Gillespie, Justin Ronald Mock, Tyler Roberts, and David Visini.
"Beauty and the Beast" will run through July 30th. Make a day of it on the North Shore - picnic, trip to the beach, and a memorable evening of theater. Bill Hanney and his team say to you: "Be our guest"!


Enjoy!

Al


Monday, July 10, 2017

Captain Andy's Cotton Blossom "Show Boat" Ties Up At The Reagle Music Theatre Dock - Through July 16


Jerome's Kern's iconic score for the musical "Show Boat" is timeless. During Saturday's performance by the Reagle Music Theatre cast, I let the familiar tunes and riffs wash over me like a gently lapping wave made by the wake of a Mississippi riverboat. This current production is a well conceived and beautifully executed interpretation of the classic tale of struggle against the tide of racism and oppression up and down the Mississippi in the closing decades of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century. Some might argue that the stereotypical portrayals of blacks in this musical are not politically correct, but my opinion is that they are an accurate reflection of the ethos and attitudes that existed during the era in which the story is set.

From the opening moment, I knew that we were in good hands under the skillful direction of Rachel Bertone. As a director, she also thinks like a choreographer, and that was apparent in the first tableau - river hands struggling in slow motion to haul in a line along the river dock. That moment reflected both the poetry and beauty of the setting, and the arduous life lived by the characters in the play. It wonderfully set the tone for this entire production. A solid cast enhanced the telling of this story, using Kern's music and Oscar Hammerstein II's book and lyrics, based on the novel by Edna Ferber.

Ciaran Sheehan as Gaylord Ravenal
Sarah Oakes Muirhead as Magnolia Hawks
"Show Boat"
Reagle Music Theatre
Through July 16
Courtesy Reagle Music Theatre/©Herb Philpott

Ciaran Sheehan returns to Reagle after last summer's triumph as Billy Bigelow in "Carousel." He is perfectly cast as Gaylord Ravenal, the charming river gambler who sweeps Magnolia (Sarah Oakes Muirhead) off of her feet. The two of them shine in their first duet, "Only Make Believe." As Captain Andy, Rick Sherburne sets just the right tone, and is matched by Susan Scannell Gilbert as his harridan of a wife, Parthy. Julie LaVerne (Dani Wrenn) is the star attraction aboard the Cotton Blossom, but she and her husband, Steve Baker (Chris Scott) are charged with miscegenation because Julie has Negro blood, and they are forced to leave the boat and the area, settling in Chicago.
An early musical highlight of the show is the scene in which Julie is joined by Magnolia and Queenie (Yewande O. Odetoyinbo) in singing the rousing "Can't Help Lovin' Dat Man."


Michel Bell as Joe
Yewande O. Odetoyinbo as Queenie
"Show Boat"
Reagle Music Theatre
Through July 16
Courtesy Reagle Music Theatre/©Herb Philpott

Perhaps the most beloved and well known song from this show is "Ol' Man River," sung by Joe, portrayed here by the incomparable Michel Bell. He has played this role on Broadway, resulting in a Tony nomination. His vocal range is stunning, with a basso profundo that reverates like the 32 foot Diapason stop on a Wurlitzer Theater organ. His initial solo portion of this song is impressive in its own right, but was raised to another level of artistry when he was joined by the trio of stevedores, Kelton Washington, Taavon Gamble, and Davron S. Monroe. The contrast between Joe's deep bass notes and the trio's more lilting harmonies gave me chills. It was the highlight of the show for me.

Davron S. Monroe, Kelton Washington
Michel Bell as Joe
Taavon Gamble
"Show Boat"
Reagle Music Theatre
Through July 16
Courtesy Reagle Music Theatre/©Herb Philpott


Adding comedic texture to the story are Joy Clark as Ellie May Chipley and Kevin Patrick Martin as her partner, Frank Schultz. Their moment to shine is in the duet, "Goodbye My Lady Love." Ms. Clark also stands out in the number "Life Upon The Wicked Stage." Todd Yard is excellent as Sheriff Ike and as Jim Greene. Other members of this fine ensemble cast are: Anthony L. Gervais, Brad Walters, Bernie Baldassaro, Louis Brogna, Georgia Buendia, Tracey O'Farrell, Noura Deane, Anna Chensny, Victoria Newhuis, Leo Galletto, JAsmine Robinson, and Monica Rosenblatt.

Musical Direction is by Dan Rodriguez, Scenic Design by Michael A. Micucci, Costumes by Amy Clark and Florence Klotz for Goodspeed Musicals, Lighting by David Wilson.

The play runs through July 16th, so there are four remaining opportunities to see this show before it pulls up anchor: Thursday at 2:00, Friday and Saturday at 7:30, and Sunday at 2:00.

Reagle Music Theatre Website

Enjoy!

Al