Monday, June 12, 2017

Reagle Music Theatre Dazzles With A Flawless Production of "Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat"

Unlike Egypt under Pharaoh Ramses II, Reagle Music Theatre never seems to suffer any seasons of famine or drought. Each year, for the 49th straight summer, they have offered up a banquet of musical theater delicacies that delight, inspire, and entertain. This summer is no exception. The current production of "Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat" is a flawless delight that is the best version of this musical I have ever witnessed.

The story comes from the book of Genesis, telling of the rise, fall, and rebirth of Joseph, favorite son of Jacob. The pedigree of this musical telling of the Joseph saga also harks back to biblical times - back when Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice were students at the Colet Court School in the London.

This production is vibrant, colorful, fast-paced and unmitigated fun. It is masterfully Directed and Choreographed by Susan M. Chebookjian, based on original Choreography by Anthony Van Laast. Exquisite Lighting is by David Wilson. The gorgeous Set has been designed by Peter Colao and Richard Schreiber. Music Director Dan Rodriguez leads a 17-piece orchestra that beautifully interprets the disparate music styles and genres that Lloyd Webber tosses into this tasty bouillabaisse of a score.

While showcasing three Principals in Joseph, Pharaoh, and Narrator, this show is very much an ensemble piece. The cast, including a spectacular 21-voice Children's Choir, is perfect, from the 12 brothers and their wives. to Jacob/Potiphar, the Baker and the Butler.

Let's begin with the Principals:
  • Ayla Brown presents the ancient storyline as Narrator. From her first entrance, she owns the stage. Her regal and statuesque carriage give her a commanding stage presence, yet she can be as approachable as a kindergarten teacher in telling the story of Joseph to the children in the choir. She shows off her impressive vocal chops in the "Prologue," "Go, Go, Go Joseph," and the reprise of "Any Dream Will Do."
Ayla Brown as Narrator
Children's Choir
"Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat"
Reagle Music Theatre
Through June 18th

  • Peter Mill as Joseph takes us on a tortuous emotional journey that is both moving and mesmerizing. The dreamer who alienated his eleven brothers with his hubris becomes the trusted interpreter of dreams for the all-powerful Pharaoh. We see the impressive range of his voice and acting - beginning with the hopeful "Any Dream Will Do," to the despair of the prison cell in "Close Every Door."  Mr. Mill's pleading rendition of this song of hopelessness gave me chills - always a sign that I am experiencing great theater!
Peter Mill as Joseph
The Brothers
"Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat"
Reagle Music Theatre
Through June 18th
  • And then there is Andrew Giordano as Pharaoh - The King in many ways. The character of Pharaoh is written to be performed as Elvis, with all of the attendant vocal tics and bodily gyrations. Mr. Giordano buys into this fun shtick and sells it to the audience with panache and aplomb. His "Song of the King" is a tour de force that had audience members enraptured. That he got to repeat this number during the "Megamix/Curtain Call" felt like being given a second dessert after a sumptuous and satisfying meal. 
Andrew Giordano as Pharaoh
"Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat"
Reagle Music Theatre
Through June 18th
Then there are the remaining sons of Jacob, who are the progenitors of the twelve tribes of Israel. Individually, these actors bring great talent. Collectively they are the solid foundation upon which this production stands. They show great stylistic range - both vocally and physically - in a variety of impressive production numbers. They adopt a cowboy elegy twang in "One More Angel in Heaven." In "Those Canaan Days," they raise their berets and intone a Gallic lament that would make Maurice Chevalier feel as home.

They are:  
  • Christopher Infantino as Reuben
  • Adam Winer as Simeon
  • Louis Brogna as Levi
  • Taavon Gamble as Naphtali, whose solo in "Benjamin Calypso" is a highlight.
  • AJ Manuel Lucero as Issachar
  • Chris Scott as Asher and Pharaoh's Butler
  • Jacob Sherburne as Dan
  • Leo Galletto as Zebulun
  • Anthony L. Gervais as Gad and Pharaoh's Baker
  • Jack Dwyer as Benjamin
  • Bernie Baldassaro as Judah
The Brothers
"Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat"
Reagle Music Theatre
Through June 18th

On the distaff side, their wives are played by Joy Clark, Emma Clinch, Laura Sky Herman, Lenni Alexandra Kmiec, Helen Lee, Madeline Mathias, Paris Martino, Ashley Mayorquin, Hannah Shihdanian, Angela Syrett, Suzi Weisberg.

Rick Sherburne is Jacob and Potiphar, and Joy Clark is the seductive Mrs. Potiphar.

The Children's Choir, clad in all of the colors of the rainbow - matching Joseph's colorful coat - are: Phoebe Anthony, Jessica Arsenian, Georgia Buendia, Meghan Caldera, Jackson Daley, Tayah Fulciniti, Ananda Geller, Mia Giatrelis, Benjamin Harris, Audree Hedequist, Shiv Meiyur, Eden Melville, ANabel Moda, Druthi Muppala, Tanvi Muppala, Asher NAvisky, Clare Soucy, Rylee Truesdale, Julia Viaud, Gabe Watson, Sarah Wirth.

As I was leaving the theater after a prolonged curtain call and a rollicking standing ovation, I overheard two women behind me enthusing about what we had all just experienced: "You know, I have been coming to this theater for many years. This is the best show I have seen here." If you would like to find out for yourself what all of the brouhaha is about, you have four more chances to experience the wonders of "Joseph": Thursday at 3:00, Friday and Saturday at 7:30, and Sunday at 2:00 at Waltham High School.

Reagle Music Theatre Website



Sunday, June 11, 2017

The Nora Theatre Company Presents The Thought-Provoking "The Midvale High School Fiftieth Reunion" by Alan Brody

I first became familiar with Alan Brody's writing when I saw the stunning production of "Operation Epsilon" in 2013. A Professor Emeritus at MIT, Brody bring to his playwriting a refreshing combination of intellectual vigor and deep understanding of the human condition. In this play, we follow the adventures and misadventures of Tom Terres (Gordon Clapp) and Bettina Belknap (Debra Wise) as they reluctantly attend their 50th high school reunion. They have each come alone, Bettina recently widowed, and Tom's wife having fled a number of years ago.

Using pantomime of conversations with other attendees and classmates, the playwright reveals a great deal about Tom and Bettina, and spotlights the insipidness of surface conversations that occur at such events, He also explores the nature of memory, longing, loneliness, the never-ending search for love, and the deep-seated desire to be seen and known by another. This theme of being seen reminded me of the epic film "Avatar." In this film, characters who love one another verbalize their love by saying "I see you." In "The Midvale High School Fiftieth Reunion," there is a poignant scene near the end of the play when Tom and Bettina, who had not real known one another in high school, sit and look into one another's eyes for several minutes without saying a word. We see love begin to bloom as they truly begin to see each other in that precious moment.

Fans of the classic TV show, "NYPD Blue" will recognize Mr. Clapp as Detective Greg Medavoy. As Tom, he is perfect in portraying a man who always kept his head down, hoping not to be noticed. His one love in life is books. He owns a small bookstore in a college town in Maine. He is shy and socially awkward, but manages to make a growing connection with Bettina, a neuroscientist who explains in detail to Tom how memory works. Ms. Wise is both confident and vulnerable as Bettina. Throughout the play, Tom and Bettina each experience three flashbacks that give exposition to some of their backstories. Matthew Zahnzinger and Sarah Elizabeth Bedard are excellent in playing multiple roles as they interact with younger versions of Tom and Bettina. One theme that emerges from Bettina's flashbacks is the steep price she had to pay as a female trying to break into the world of hard science - overcoming admission biases and glass ceilings, and sacrificing time and passion as a wife and mother. Director Lee Mikeska Gardner uses these four talented actors wisely, and frees them to create the kind of chemistry the playwright envisioned.

Debra Wise as Bettina
Gordon Clapp as Tom
"The Midvale High School Fiftieth Reunion"
by Alan Brody
The Nora Theatre Company
Central Square Theater
Through July 2nd
Photo Courtesy of A.R. Sinclair/Central Square Theater

Mr. Brody uses dance as a metaphor in this play. Tom and Bettina are coaxed into competing as dancers for the title of King and Queen of the reunion. Their entire evening of interaction has been one of dancing gingerly around the awkwardness of getting to know - and to see - one whose face is familiar, but who has been a stranger. It is a poignant, evocative and moving play that should be seen. It will run through July 2nd.

Scenic Design is by Steven Royal, Costumes by Chelsea Kerl, Lighting by John Malinowski, Sound by Nathan Leigh, and Choreography by Marlena Yanetti and Felton Sparks.

Central Square Theater Website