Sunday, November 27, 2016

Moonbox Productions Presents "Amadeus" by Peter Shaffer - Through December 17th

There are two compelling reasons to take a trip to the Plaza Theatre at Boston Center for the Arts to see the current Moonbox Productions' presentation of "Amadeus" by the recently deceased Peter Shaffer. The first is the timeless writing of Peter Shaffer, whose insights into the human condition are both broad and deep. The second reason is to breathe in the extraordinary artistry of Matthew Zahnzinger in the pivotal role of Antonio Salieri, rival and bête noire to Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. In the opening scene, we behold Salieri confined to a wheelchair and wheezing out barely discernible phrases about Mozart, who had died 32 years earlier. Did he kill Mozart? That is the overarching question of the play. Salieri, recognizing the superior genius of Mozart's music over his own pedestrian compositions, cries out to God and eventually challenges God to strike him down as he plots to destroy the naive Mozart. The young composer sees Salieri as a friend and protector. Mr. Zahnzinger takes his Salieri through an impressive arc from piety to impiety, from rage to resignation.

Matthew Zahnzinger as Salieri
"Amadeus" by Peter Shaffer
Moonbox Productions
Plaza Theatre at the BCA
Through December 17th
Photo by Earl Christie

Mr. Shaffer uses the rivalry between Salieri and Mozart to examine the nature of musical genius, the irony of God's bestowing greatness on an apparently unworthy recipient, and the tragedy of God seeming to turn His back on one who had vowed to serve him through music.

This production is Directed by Allison Olivia Choat, with Music Direction by Dan Rodriguez, Set by Cameron McEachern, Lighting by Jeffrey Salzberg, Sound by David Wilson, Costumes by David Lucy and Wigs by Peter Mill.

  • Cody Sloan plays young Mozart as the petulant manchild that Shaffer envisioned, uttering profanities with his potty mouth while producing divine sounds with his fingers - on the manuscript pages and on the keyboard.
Matthew Zahnzinger as Salieri
Cody Sloan as Mozart
"Amadeus" by Peter Shaffer
Moonbox Productions
Plaza Theatre at the BCA
Through December 17th
Photo by Earl Christie
  • Caroline Keeler is Mozart's wife, Constanze. Her character initially plays along with Amadeus' childish pranks and buffoonery, but soon suffers from her husband's lack of practical sense or social grace.
  • Sarah Leary and Nick Osborne are excellent as Venticellia and Venticello, providing a constant presence as spies for Salieri and as commentators on the action taking place on and off the stage.
  • Other cast members include Matt Arnold as Salieri's valet, Callin Doran as Salieri's cook, Adam Manacher as Leopold Mozart and others, J. Deschene as Teresa Salieri, Katie O'Reilly as Katherina Cavalieri, Arthur Gomez as Count Orsini-Rosenberg, Ray O'Hare as Emperor Joseph II, Ed Peed as Count von Strack, and Andrew Winson as Baron van Sweiten.
"Amadeus" will be performed through December 17th.

Moonbox Productions Website



Produced by Sharman Altshuler and directed by Allison Olivia Choat, Amadeus is an extraordinary meditation on art, love and the human condition.  The year is 1781, and the place is Vienna.  Joseph II is Emperor of Austria, and Vienna's world of music is ruled by the precise and pedantic composer Antonio Salieri.  Then the famous Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart arrives, throwing Salieri's predictable court life into chaos.  At first, Mozart's genius fills Salieri with awe, but that awe quickly turns to a poisonous jealousy.  Salieri must decide how far he will go to protect the world he has created, and to destroy the man who is a constant reminder of the artist he will never be.

"A Winter of Wolves" by Marc Rainer - A Jeff Trask Crime Drama

"A Winter of Wolves" is the fourth volume in a series of Marc Rainer novels that he calls "A Jeff Trask Crime Drama." The story line of this novel is one that kept me on the edge of my seat. Would the good guys intervene in time to prevent the detonation of a dirty bomb that would cripple much of the Northeast megalopolis? Police officers from a variety of agencies in the Washington, D.C. area have been targeted for assassination. The authorities need to figure out - amidst typical interagency rivalries - if this is part of a larger terrorist plot by radical Muslim elements bent on destroying America? Trask chooses to take risks that could end his career - or his life - if things turn out badly.

The author is a graduate of the Air Force Academy, and has worked both as a JAG prosecutor and a federal prosecutor, so the action in seen through the eyes of protagonist Jeff Trask, an Assistant U.S. Attorney. The author is transparent about airing his conservative political views through this fictional tale. In an Author's Note at the end of the book, he reveals that issues raised in the novel are based on real situations with which he disagrees: early release of dangerous criminals, and the politicalization of the office of the Attorney General are chief among them.

The book is a good read, and makes me want to go back and read the first three volumes in this series.



Bill Bryson Strikes Again with "Down Under" - An Antipodean Delight

I recently have been on a reading jag involving inhaling as many of Bill Bryson's books as possible. The latest milestone is his tour de force of Australia entitled "Down Under." Any travel writer - and Bryson is far more than a "mere" travel writer - who is able to make me want to book the next flight on Qantas is someone worth reading. As he does in all of his books, Bryson uses his travels through Australia to feed the reader delicious and gritty morsels of history, culture and human interest. I was particularly motivated to read this book because I have many friends and clients in Australia, and hope to visit there in 2017.

The reviewer for the New York Times said it perfectly: "If there is one book with which to get oriented before departure or en route to Australia, this is it.

Allow me to share a brief excerpt from this work to give you a small taste of Bryson's style as he reacts to the antipodian continent and culture:

Driving in a remote part of the Outback, Bryson found that the only radio station whose signal he could now receive was broadcasting an interminable cricket match. The author's send-up of the commentator's dialogue had me howling with delight.

"'Pritchard begins his long run in from short stump. He bowls and . . .oh, he's out! Yes, he's got him. Longwilley is caught leg-before in middle slops by Grattan. Well, now, what do you make of that, Neville?'

'That's definitely one for the books, Bruce. I don't think I've seen offside medium-slow-fast-pace bowling to match it since Baden-Powell took Rangachangabanga for a maiden ovary at Bangalore in 1948.'

I had stumbled into the surreal and rewarding world of cricket on the radio.

After years of patient study (and with cricket there can be no other kind) I have decided that there is nothing wrong with the game that the introduction of golf carts wouldn't fix in a hurry. It is not true that the English invented cricket as a way of making all other human endeavors look interesting and lively, that was merely an unintended side effect. I do not wish to denigrate a sport that is enjoyed by millions, some of them awake and facing the right way, but it is an odd game. It is the only sport that incorporates meal breaks. It is the only sport that shares its name with an insect. It is the only sport in which spectators burn as many calories as players - more if they are moderately restless. It is the only competitive activity of any type, other than perhaps baking, in which you can dress in white from head to toe and be as clean at the end of the day as you were at the beginning." 

And so it goes for almost 400 rollicking pages. If you have not yet been exposed to the mind and pen of Bill Bryson, I invite you to take the plunge. Come on in; the water is fine. If you are already a fan, then add this to your long list of treasured Bryson titles.



"Hard To Die" by Andra Watkins - A Novel About Theodosia Burr, Daughter of Aaron Burr

Leveraging the acclaim accorded to Broadway phenomenon "Hamilton," author Andra Watkins has crafted a fascinating metaphysical novel exploring the death and possible after life of Aaron Burr's daughter, Theodosia. Ms. Burr disappeared at age 29 in a shipwreck as she was returning to see her father.

In this story, Teodosia returns to life in 1950 as an inhabitant of a Nowhere world - halfway between death and immortality. She and others in a similar situation are given up to 13 chances to redeem themselves by helping out an assigned target. In the case of Theodosia, she is assigned to help a West Point cadet who is being coerced to return to a life as a spy, needing to save the world from Soviet nuclear aggression. Both Theodosia and Cadet Richard Cox share a common enemy in a person who manifested himself both as George the spymaster and as a General who was a bitter rival of Aaron Burr.

The novel, "Hard To Die," contains scenes both of violent confrontation and of  tender coming together of Theodosia and Cadet Cox, whose character is based on an actual mystery of a West Point cadet who disappeared without a trace. The settings of the action at West Point, Garrison, the Hudson River islands, Grand Central Stations are all familiar to me, and are rendered very graphically and clearly. Ms. Watkins' writing is of such a nature that she caused me to care about the fate of these shadowy creatures inhabiting a mysterious dimension.



Handel + Haydn Society Presents Handel's "Messiah" at Symphony Hall - Hallelujah!

Boston can boast many holiday traditions. There is skating on the Frog Pond at Boston Common. There are the Christmas Revels. Of course there is the iconic Boston Ballet version of the beloved "Nutcracker." But the granddaddy of them all is the tradition of the Handel + Haydn Society singing Handel's "Messiah" backed by full orchestra playing period instruments. On December 25th, 1818, H+H gave the first performance of "Messiah" in America. In 1854, the Society began the annual holiday tradition of singing the oratorio at or near Christmas.

I have a personal history with H+H and "Messiah."  When I was around 10 years old - when dinosaurs still roamed the earth - I was taken by family members to hear H+H sing the annual offering of the famed work. A distant relative was singing in the chorus at the time, Ann White Adamson. I recall being enthralled, and this piece of transcendent music has been one of my favorites over the years - both to sing and to listen to. I had not heard the H+H perform for many years, so I was thrilled to have the opportunity to hear them on Friday evening.  I was not disappointed. Sometimes we as adults tend to over-hype childhood memories.  In this case, the present iteration of H+H exceeded my boyish memories.

The concert was superb. Harry Christophers' conducting was a master class in precision, passion, and subtlety. He led the orchestra and chorus in nuanced interpretations of tempos and dynamics, blending the voices and period instruments that filled the hall with heavenly sound befitting the subject matter of the piece. There was a perfect balance between the 30 voices in the chorus and a similar number of instrumentalists in the orchestra. Concertmaster Aisslinn Nosky led the string section with a steady hand. Principal Trumpeter Jesse Levine stood out in the soaring "The Trumpet Shall Sound."

The four soloists all came with worldwide reputations. They clearly know and love this Handel piece, treating it with respect and dignity.

Soprano Joelle Harvey was the very essence of professionalism. Her clear tones and nuanced interpretations of the text stood out. Each note was clearly articulated, and I was able to understand each carefully enunciated word. Her rendition of "I Know That My Redeemer Liveth" is one of the best I have heard. As she sang, she addressed herself to each section of the hall, as if to say, "I am telling an important story here; I do not want any of you to miss it."

Tenor Colin Balzer brought a mastery of dynamics that was impressive. With the opening notes of "Comfort Ye My People," I knew we were in good hands with this tenor. And "Every Valley Shall Be Exalted" was a revelation. Mr. Balzer showed great vocal control in the sustained notes in the phrase "And the rough places plain."

Baritone Sumner Thompson's rich voice filled the hall when the text called for power, and he decrescendoed to an audible whisper when appropriate, such as the phrase "And the Gentiles shall come to thy light." His voice soared in the aforementioned "The Trumpet Shall Sound."

Countertenor Robin Blaze has an impressive list of international achievements in his bio, yet I found his performance to be spotty on Friday evening. In "But Who May Abide The Day of His Coming?" he lacked the vocal power in the lower parts of his range to project his voice to all parts of Symphony Hall. I was sitting in an acoustically fortuitous part of the hall midway back in the Orchestra section, yet I had a difficult time hearing him over the orchestra. The melismatic sections seemed to melt into a muddy stream of sound, without a clear articulation of each rapid note. On the other hand, when the music called for him to use the upper reaches of his range, his voice was beautifully clear. This was especially true in the aria he shared with Ms. Harvey "He Shall Feed His Flock/Come Unto Him."

The chorus was simply magnificent throughout. They have clearly been well chosen, well trained and well directed. The blend of the voices in the ensemble sections was exquisite, and each section carried their part with clarity and beauty. The blend was most evident during the a capella sections of "Since By Man Came Death."

The audience responded enthusiastically both at the end of Part the First and at the conclusion of the concert. This is a tradition that continues to delight.  There is one more opportunity on Sunday afternoon to hear this year's version of "Messiah." There are also additional concert programs scheduled over the next few months.  If H+H is not already on your list of cultural and entertainment options, I encourage you to treat yourself to one of their performances. They are world class.

Handel and Haydn Website



Wednesday, November 23, 2016

"Natasha, Pierre, & The Great Comet" - A Supernova Lights Up The Broadway Sky

The artistic phenomenon that is "Natasha, Pierre, & The Great Comet" has had a wondrous peregrination across the entertainment firmament. The show is billed as The Ars Nova Production since this Broadway production began its journey at Ars Nova, moved to a tent in the Meatpacking District, and then to a tent erected on a vacant lot on West 45th Street just west of the Imperial Theatre that it now calls home. The next stage of its journey took it to the American Repertory Theater in Cambridge, where it had a very successful run. I first became aware of the show when I saw it in Cambridge. I was thrilled and mesmerized and in awe that a story culled from a mere 70 pages of Tolstoy's masterpiece, "War and Peace" could be so full of action and meaning.

Much of that Cambridge cast has transferred to Broadway where it is now delighting audiences eight times a week at the transformed Imperial Theatre. In order to create an authentic Russian setting, the interior of the Imperial was gutted and reconfigured as a Russian cabaret. Musicians and actors surround audience members - on what was once the stage, in the orchestra section, and in the mezzanine. Mimi Lien's scenic design is bold and innovative and will be the talk of the town come Tony Award time.

The one major exception to the Cambridge cast transferring to Broadway is that Josh Groban, making his Broadway debut, was inserted into the role of Pierre. On the evening I attended the show last week, Mr. Groban was out sick, and his understudy, Scott Stangland, filled in very ably. Because of the absence of Mr. Groban in a key role, I have been invited to return to review the show during a performance after Mr. Groban's return. At that time, I will provide a more comprehensive review. I will offer preliminary comments now.

The show is a total delight for every sense. Hot out of the oven pierogies are served by cast members to the audience just as the show is about to begin. This act of Russian hospitality sends a message that the audience should be prepared to be involved in the action - with actors and musicians weaving their way through the aisles, passing letters to one another using audience members as couriers, sitting in the midst of the guests, and parading up and down staircase that lead to the mezzanine. It is very much a frenetic party atmosphere.

In the title role of Natasha, Broadway newcomer Denée Benton is a luminous revelation. The young Carnegie Mellon graduate is the epitome of grace and beauty as the princess who is engaged to Prince Andre Bolkonsky (Nicholas Belton). But Andrey is away at war fighting Napoleon. In Andrey's absence, handsome Anatole ( a wildly entertaining and preening Lucas Steele) comes along and sweeps Natasha off of her feet with his beauty and charisma. They plan to elope, but the plan is thwarted, and Natasha is disgraced.

Lucas Steele as Anatole
Denée Benton as Natasha
Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812
Photo by Chad Batka 

I have oversimplified a complex plot and cast of characters that includes a complicated constellation of siblings, spouses, cousins, lovers, advisers, and hangers on. Acknowledging the dizzying array of characters and names, the show begins with the rousing Prologue that is sung in the style of "The 12 Days of Christmas." Each character introduces himself or herself in song, so we have a clear idea from the start who are the dramatis personae. Each verse ends with the phrase: "And Andrey isn't here."

Other principals of note are Brittain Ashford as Sonya, Gelsey Bell as Mary, Nick Choksi as Dolokhov, Amber Gray as Helene, Grace McClean as Marya D, and Paul Pinto as Balaga.

The music and lyrics and book are by Dave Malloy, and they cover a variety of styles. Paloma Young has designed costumes that reflect the period and beautifully define each character. Lighting Design by Bradley King is spectacular throughout the show. It is my understanding that Sound Designer Nicholas Pope and his team have designed new technology to allow for free moment of the actors and musicians throughout the theatre, and the sound is impressive. When the cast sang the first ensemble piece, I felt as if I were immersed in a sea of sound.

Director Rachel Chavkin and Choreographer Sam Pinkleton have the troupe in constant motion, using every available corner of the theatre. The atmosphere is electric, and the cast members are clearly relishing their roles. This production is so good that I found myself occasionally distracted by counting up how many Tony nominations the show is likely to garner. I predict it was be a substantial number.

Stay tuned for more comments after I have had a chance to see Josh Groban portray the role of Pierre.



Thursday, November 17, 2016

Huntington Theatre Company Lightens The Mood With "Bedroom Farce" by Alan Ayckbourn - Just What The Doctor Ordered

Just as many of us have been stressing out over the Brave New World that hit us like an asteroid on November 8th, along comes the Huntington Theatre Company's "Bedroom Farce" to lighten the mood. The laughter that filled the theater on Opening Night was just what the doctor ordered to relieve some tension and restore a sense of balance. The comedy is a British bedroom romp of the first order - four couples occupying three bedrooms in a dizzying combination of couplings - mostly conversation and not carnal.

The ensemble cast are exceptionally well suited to their roles, and well directed by Maria Aitken. The brilliant set by Alexander Dodge covers the stage with the boudoirs of three different couples. We are led from one to another by Matthew Richards' Lighting design as the act shifts from one home to another. Costumes are by Robert Morgan and Sound and Original Music by John Gromada.

Malcolm Ingram, Patricia Hodges,
Richard Hollis, Emma Kaye
Nael Nacer
Huntington Theatre Company's production of
Bedroom Farce, directed by Maria Aitken,
playing November 11 - December 11, 2016,
Avenue of the Arts/BU Theatre.
© Photo: T. Charles Erickson.
  • Malcolm Ingram as Ernest is the very model of dimwittedness and obliviousness, polished with a gentleman's aplomb and sang froid. His wife is worried about their son, Trevor, and his troubled marriage to Susannah. Ernest is worried about the damp ceiling in the spare room, and with getting a good night's sleep. 
  • Patricia Hodges as Delia is wonderful as the longsuffering wife and doting mother to a dysfunctional adult son. Her words of advice to Susannah include, "Give him a nice breakfast, make sure he has clean clothes each morning, and don't tell him too much." Her advice about sex is hilarious.
  •  Nael Nacer is the hypochondriacal Nick, confined to bed with a pulled muscle in his back. Mr. Nacer always gives a bravura performance, and in this role, he gets to display some clever and gymnastic physical comedy.
  • Mahira Kakkar is  terrific as Jan, Trevor's not-so-longsuffering wife. "I have a finite amount of empathy, and I just ran out of it. See you later!" Jan used to date Trevor, and that dynamic adds some delicious complications to the goings on in all three bedrooms.
  •  Richard Hollis is Malcolm, married to Kate.  His feelings are hurt when she reveals that she is occasionally bored when they have sex. He takes his rage out on a DIY table he is building as a gift for Kate. Mr. Hollis also display some wonderful physical dexterity as he does battle with an IKEA-type table that refuses to be assembled.
  •  Emma Kaye is rock solid as Kate, who bears much of the brunt of trying to help out Trevor and Susannah to sort out their tumultuous relationship, while trying to placate Malcolm's deflated ego. Her facial expressions are wondrous when Trevor walks in as she is dressed only in a bath towel, and also when Susannah confesses to being attracted to young women on the street. 
  • Karl Miller as masterful as Trevor, whose flattened affect bespeaks a narcissistic clod who manages to complicate the lives of each of his friends, his parents and his hysterical wife.
  • Katie Paxton is the unhinged Susannah, whose battle with Trevor in Kate and Malcolm's bedroom ruins a party that Malcolm and Kate were hosting. Ms. Paxton gets to pull out all of the stops of hysteria and kinetic energy in her battles with Trevor.
This is non-stop fun and a pure delight. The play will run through December 11th.



Hub Theatre Company of Boston Presents "Wit" by Margaret Edson - Winner of the Pulitzer Prize and a MUST SEE

It seems as if with each season, Hub Theatre Company of Boston ratchets up the level of professionalism of their productions another notch. They have reached a new height with their current offering - the brilliant and sobering Pulitzer Prize-winning one act play "Wit" by Margaret Edson. Ms. Edson drew her inspiration for the subject matter of this drama from her years as an administrator at a cancer treatment facility.

The protagonist, Dr. Vivian Bearing, is a tenured professor of Literature who has just been diagnosed with Stage Four metastatic ovarian cancer. In her terse words: "There is no Stage Five!" She is dying, and she conducts herself on stage as if the audience were one of her college classes in the Holy Sonnets of John Donne - shattering the fourth wall with regularity. The playwright is not simply looking at death in contradistinction to life, but she is examining many related nuanced topics. What happens at the end of life when one has lived in isolation from true human touch? At what point does intellectual examination of issues of life and death become insufficient? How does one introduce emotion when it has been denied for much of one's life. What happens when one is forced to look up from the level of poring over minutia and is confronted with the need to examine the whole forest. How can medical care for the dying be made more humane when researchers and many clinicians are hard-wired to look only at data and symptoms - not at the whole person who is in front of them, but is virtually invisible. What impact can the genuine human touch of just one or two individuals make to a person who is living a parched life in a desert of isolation? How do we think about and talk honestly about end of life choices? Do we opt for last ditch efforts at resuscitation or order the withholding heroic measures, and gracefully accept the end?

The structure of the play allows the brilliant Liz Adams, as Dr. Bearing, to examine all of these issues as we follow the arc of the progression of her disease and of the extremely aggressive and pernicious chemotherapy regimen that her doctors impose upon her "for research purposes." We see her "bearing" change from that of a detached academic to one of a hysterical dying lonely person screaming in agony as the cancer has metastasized to her bones and beyond. This performance by Ms. Adams is breathtaking in its depth and scope. It is one of the most memorable performances of this season, and is not to be missed. (Only three performances remain - this Thursday, Friday and Saturday evening.)

Liz Adams as Dr. Vivian Bearing
"Wit" by Margaret Edson
Hub Theatre Company of Boston
Through November 19th
Photo by Tim Gurczak
Liz Adams is joined by an excellent ensemble of actors, all working like a well-oiled machine or Code Blue team under the direction of John Geoffrion.
  • Robert Bonotto is excellent as the senior researcher and oncologist, Dr. Kelekian, as well as in the role of the emotionally detached father of a young Vivian in a flashback scene.
  • Blyss Cleveland, Michael Lin, Albert Scerbo and Grace Trapnell play the roles of several emotionally detached medical "care givers." They often act as if Vivian is not even there, or that caring for her is a huge burden and inconvenience.
  • Lauren Elias very sympathetically plays nurse Susie Monahan, whose presence in Vivian's life is like a lifeline of emotional connection and caring. When things begin to go downhill medically, Vivian asks Susie plaintively, "Will you still take care of me?"
  • Tim Hoover plays Dr. Posner, a young cancer researcher who is forced to put in some clinical hours to satisfy institutional requirements. He is emotionally tone deaf and brain dead. He is a former poetry student of Dr. Baring, and this backstory complicates the level of uneasiness that Vivian feels when he conducts a ham-handed pelvic exam. Mr. Hoover is very effective in portraying the very epitome of clinical detachment and dehumanizing of a patient.
  • Dayenne C. B. Walters is warm and wonderful as Dr. Ashford, Vivian's Ph.D. thesis advisor. We see her in flashback as a cold and nitpicking about arcane examples of punctuation in Donne's poems. But in a penultimate scene, she sneaks into Vivian's hospital room when Dr. Bearing is nearing the end. She is scared. Dr. Ashford climbs onto the bed and reads a children's book. This scene provides a tie back to Vivian's childhood when she taught herself to read a Beatrix Potter book as her father sat engrossed in reading the newspaper. Emotional distance gives way to emotional surrender as Vivian and Dr. Ashford embrace. It is a powerful moment in this landmark play.
The performance I attended last week was full, so make your ticket reservation now.

Hub Theatre Website




Vivian Bearing, PhD - Liz Adams
E.M. Ashford, D.Phil - Dayenne Walters
Harvey Kelekian, MD / Vivian's Father - Robert Bonotto
Jason Posner MD - Tim Hoover
Susie Monahan, RN, BSN - Lauren Elias
Blyss Cleveland, Michael Lin,
Albert Scerbo, Grace Trapnell


Producer - Lauren Elias
Production Associate - George Page
Assistant Director - Emma Putnam
Stage Manager - Caitlin Mason
Assistant Stage Manager - Kristen Heider
Set Design - JP Pizzuti
Master Carpenter - Brian Melcher
Prop Design - Kelly Smith
Lighting Design - Chris Bocchiaro
Associate Lighting Designer - Jeremy Stein
Sound/Projection Design - Deirdre Benson
Costume Design - Nancy Ishihara
Medical Consultant - Mark Estano
Poster Design- Cristhian Mancinas-Garcia
​Promotional Photography - 
Tim Gurczak

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Bad Habit Productions Presents The World Premiere of "How Soft The Lining" by Kirsten Greenidge

It is always a plus when an evening at the theater is both entertaining and informative. Such was the case last night when I attended the Bad Habit Productions' World Premiere of "How Soft The Lining - The Extraordinary Friendship of Mary Todd Lincoln and Elizabeth Keckly" by Kirsten Greenidge. Ms. Greenidge is an Obie Award winning playwright who teaches at BU. Boston audiences are familiar with her play "Milk Like Sugar" that was produced by the Huntington Theatre Company earlier this year.

Playwright Kirsten Greenidge

The play stitches together several scenes that tell the story of the intricate relationship that developed between FLOTUS Mary Todd Lincoln and Elizabeth Keckly, the woman who became her dress maker during her tumultuous White House years. Mrs. Keckly was a former slave who had moved from Missouri to Washington, D.C., and had established her own dress shop - an extraordinary achievement for a woman of color in the 1860s.

This well-conceived production is directed by M. Bevin O'Gara, and she steers a fine ensemble cast through a story that includes several flashbacks with actors playing multiple roles. Anchoring the action are Bridgette Hayes as Mrs. Lincoln and Elle Borders as Mrs. Keckly.  Their relationship is multi-dimensional and complex, and the playwright examine every thread of the fabric of their friendship. Ms. Hayes plays the troubled First Lady in sometimes hysterical tones, befitting what history tells us about Mrs. Lincoln's tempestuous temperament. After a rocky beginning to their relationship when Ms. Keckly delivers a dress later than she had promised, the two women developed what Mary felt was a true friendship, but Elizabeth understood it to be lacking in some important dimensions. As the action progresses, the soft and silky lining of their comradeship is torn asunder when Mrs. Lincoln learns of her dressmaker's plans to publish a book chronicling her days as a slave and as dressmaker to the President's wife. Ms. Borders is excellent in showing Elizabeth walking a fine tightrope between being appropriately obsequious to the First Lady and standing on her own feet as a free woman of business. These are two powerful performances on the part of act these fine actors. Their bond is palpable, even when the seams of their friendship are strained.

Elle Borders as Elizabeth Keckly
Bridgette Hayes as Mary Todd Lincoln
"How Soft The Lining" by Kirsten Greenidge
Bad Habit Productions
Boston Center for the Arts
Through November 20th
Photo: Paul Cantillon,

Jade Guerra is also outstanding in several roles, including the mother of young Elizabeth in one flashback, and as the slave who has recently run away to Washington, D.C. and is begging Elizabeth to employ her.  Margaret Clark is strong and steady as Mary's sister, trying to be a steadying keel when Mary threatens to capsize herself in one of her gales of temper and self-pity. Gabriel Graetz brings a soft interpretation to Mr. Lincoln as father to Tad and Willie: "Let them play," he proclaims as they run roughshod through the White House. Boys will be boys. The always reliable Lizzie Milanovich has fun portraying the rambunctious Tad. In his second professional role, Kaya Simmons is versatile as Willie, the Lincoln son who died during the family's White House years, and as Elizabeth's light skinned son, who passed as white, enlisted in the Union Army, and died in battle..

For the most part, the structure of the play with multiple flashbacks works and it is usually clear to the audience when the action is flashing back to a previous time or event. One exception is a scene in which young Mary Todd is in conflict with her hated stepmother, a role played by Mr. Graetz, complete with his Lincoln beard. It did not help that there was a minor wardrobe malfunction, and his/her shawl was snagged on a prop and carried away, leaving this hirsute man unadorned and trying to pass as a woman.  I was not able to suspend disbelief. I am not sure if this particular double casting was mandated by the playwright, or by the usually steady Ms. O'Gara, but it was a hiccup in an otherwise smooth performance.

Costumes are by Kathryn Schondek, Lighting by P J Strachman, Sound by Andrew Duncan, and Scenic Design by Rebecca Lehrhoff.

The play is worthy of your attention, and can be seen in the Roberts Studio at the Calderwood Pavilion of the BCA through November 20th.

Bad Habit Productions Website



Tuesday, November 08, 2016

Historic Fenway Studios Offer Open Studios This Weekend - Join Me

This Sunday afternoon, I plan to stop by the iconic Fenway Studios on Ipswich Street to take advantage of their Open Studios event.

See details below, and plan to join me.



Saturday + Sunday
November 12+13

Particpating Artists
Laura RichardsonKenneth Kelleher
Ed StittErnie Andrades
Amy ChuckrowPeter Scott
Sid HurwitzSasha Gassel
Nan Hass FeldmanAnne McGhee
Judy RyanMae Chevrette
Deborah KravitzBerio Gizzi
Mary HugheHenry Gates
Constance JacobsonSamuel Gareginyan
Teri MaloKeith Maddy
Peter Williams 

This event provides a rare opportunity to meet and talk with artists as well as to see the inside of this National Historic Landmark. This is the oldest purpose built structure in the country designed soley as artist studios.

During open studios, a raffle is held and funds raised are used to promote the building and restoration efforts.

The Open Studios committee also uses this event as an opportunity to solicit donations to the Greater Boston Food Bank.
Visitors are asked to bring a non-perishable food item, which the artists then deliver to GBFB. 
Click here to find out more about the GBFB’s most needed items.

We are 2 blocks from Hynes Convention Center T-Stop.

For information:

North Shore Music Theatre Presents A Stunningly Beautiful Production of "West Side Story" - Through November 20th

The reason that "West Side Story" remains a perennial favorite among theater goers is that it stands the test of time. Just like the source material that inspired the writing of this musical - Shakespeare's "Romeo and Juliet" - this tale of star-crossed lovers who dare to breach the wall of family prejudice and festering feud is timely. Anita may very well have been someone at a Trump rally screaming: "One of your own kind - stick to your own kind!" So, at its heart, this gripping and heart-rending tale asks the question, "Does love determine who is 'my own kind'?"

Sydney Mei Ruf-Wong as Consuela
Rachel Pearlman as Teresita
Michelle Alves as Anita
Alex Hairston as Francisca
"West Side Story"
North Shore Music Theatre
Through November 20th
Photo by Paul Lyden
Under the gifted direction of Bob Richard, Music Director Milton Granger, and Choreographer Diane Laurenson, this talented cast of actors, singers, and dancers have put together a NSMT production of this classic musical that is virtually flawless and visually stunning. In framing the choreography for this rendition of "West Side Story," Ms. Laurenson started with the classic Jerome Robbins concept and adapted it beautifully to this theater-in-the-round venue. Robbins, Bernstein and Sondheim would be very proud of this mounting of their masterpiece.

There were several standouts among the cast:
  • As Tony, Branson Norris Murphy is not the typical choice for the reluctant leader of the Jets. The first impression is almost that of a tentative would-be gentle man trying to shake off the dust of the streets, but his powerful and passionate Tony comes into full flower as soon as he opens his mouth to sing the iconic "Maria." In this and other songs, he blends his tenor voice beautifully with that of the actress portraying Maria.
  • Evy Ortiz reads as a very young, vulnerable, and believable Maria. Her impassioned plea to Anita, "I Have A Love" drives a dagger into the heart. Her voice is strong and unwavering, and she wins all of our hearts.
Branson Norris Murphy as Tony
Evy Ortiz as Maria
"West Side Story"
North Shore Music Theatre
Through November 20th
Photo by Paul Lyden
  • Michelle Alves is powerful as Anita. She is saucy, seductive and sultry, shining especially in the numbers "America" and "A Boy Like That."
  • Alexander Gil Cruz is a true standout as Bernado, the leader of the Sharks. He is swarthy, and simmers with rage and testosterone as he dances and taunts Tony, Riff, and the other Jets. He exudes machismo as he attempts to control Anita in old school Puerto Rican island traditional fashion, but she is not buying it in America.
  • The estimable David Coffee returns to NSMT in his 52nd production, this time in the role of the shopkeeper Doc. Many of us make a pilgrimage to NSMT each holiday season to be enraptured by his Ebenezer Scrooge.  In this show, he is Doc, whose heart is broken when he fails to stop the cycle of violence and death between the rival gangs.
"West Side Story"
North Shore Music Theatre
Through November 20th
Photo by Paul Lyden
Each member of the cast and creative team deserve recognition, so please peruse the full list at the end of this post.

Alexander Gil Cruz as Bernado
Branson Norris Murphy as Tony
Tyler John Logan as Riff
"West Side Story"
North Shore Music Theatre
Through November 20th
Photo by Paul Lyden
This wondrous production runs through November 20th. On this Election Day, vote with your theater-going dollars and go on-line to secure your tickets before the polls close.

North Shore Music Theatre Website



Jane Abbott (Velma, s/c Graziella, s/c Anybodys) is thrilled to be making her debut at the NSMT. She is currently matriculating towards a B.A. in Dance from Columbia University where she has worked with artists such as Chase Brock, John Heginbotham, and Twyla Tharp. She has studied and performed works by Bob Fosse, Mark Morris, Paul Taylor, and Trisha Brown. She is also a member of General Mischief Dance Theatre. Countless thanks to Diane, Bob, and her family for their unending love and support.

Michelle Alves (Anita) is more than thrilled and excited to be making her North Shore debut! Born and raised in Puerto Rico. Broadway National Tour: West Side Story (Anita 2012-2014) [2013 Best Featured Actress in a Touring Production Award Winner by Broadway World LA]. New Show: Carmen; An Afro-Cuban Jazz Musical (Fina/Carmen us). Regional: Rent (Ensemble/Mimi us), Hair (Dionne), Nine (Anabella), Hairspray (Lil Inez/Dynamite) Chicago (June), Godspell (Turn Back O' Man), West Side Story (Anita) [2015 Craig Noel Awards, The San Diego Theatre Critics Circle nomination for Outstanding Featured Performance in a Musical, female] Live Performances: Ricky Martin, The Black Eyed Peas, Pitbull, Nelly Furtado. Film: Dirty Dancing 2: Havana Nights, Feel the Noise. TV: Grammy Awards, Billboard Awards. Endless love and gratitude to family and friends for their infinite support!

Roberto Araujo (Pepe, Voice of Maria's Father, s/c Bernardo) is native of Mexico City. NYC: Street Lights, Angelina Ballerina: The Very Merry Holiday Musical, Go WestJackson Heights 3am and Rachel. Regional:Xanadu, Les Miserables(Thenardier) and Evita (Che - Understudy) at ZACH Theatre in Austin, Texas; Buddy, The Buddy Holly Story (Ritchie Valens) at Sierra Repertory Theatre in Sonora, California; Singin’ in the Rain, Legally Blonde and Gentlemen Prefer Blondes at Merry-Go-Round Playhouse in Auburn, NY; West Side Story (Pepe - Bernardo and Chino Understudy) at Theatre by the Sea. He has toured around Latin America with The Disney Special Events Group and in China with Fame, The Musical. Voicework: Joseph in Dreamworks' animated feature Joseph, King Of Dreams. Roberto also has a passion for photography check out his work at: . For more visit: and and in social media Instagram @robertoaraujophotography and Twitter @BobbyAraujo

Hannah Balagot (Anybodys) is beyond excited to be performing for the first time at North Shore after a wonderful run of West Side Story at Theatre By The Sea. She has also toured as "Anybodys" with the International Touring Company. Other credits include Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas at the Grand Ole Opry, Wizard of Oz with Surflight Theatre and various performances with The Insomnium Theatre Company in NYC. Special thanks to Bob and Diane for passing on the legacy of this powerful story and to my family and Galen for their enduring support.

Bentley Black (Action, u/s A-Rab, u/s Riff) is happy to be back at NSMT after appearing in the 2013 production of The Sound of Music. Other credits: West Side Story (Riff), We Will Rock You (1st natl. tour), Pippin (Pippin), Footloose (Ren), The Rocky Horror Show (Riff Raff). Bentley is also a licensed real estate sales professional and group fitness instructor in NYC. Thanks to CTG, Mom & Pop, Morty, Bob, Diane, and Kevin! BA Theatre from Univ. of Alabama. @BentleyBlack

Erik Joshua Clack (Snowboy, u/s Tony) is proud to make his debut on the North Shore stage performing in his dream show, West Side Story. Fav Credits: Singin' in the Rain (Don), 42nd St. (Billy), White Christmas (Phil). His journey here wouldn't be possible without the support of his family back home in NM. Many thanks as well to Michael (9 Muse), Binder Casting, Bob and Diane, Kevin, and the entire NSMT team. And finally to Rachel, though we are on different sides of the gym in this story... I am so blessed to have you by my side everyday.

David Coffee (Doc) returns for his 52nd production at NSMT! In a career that spans 48 years and encompasses all arenas of performance (save the circus), he has been welcomed by audiences from Portland, Oregon to Portsmouth, New Hampshire. In addition, David has been the recipient of multiple IRNE Awards, DFW Critics’ Forum Awards, a Award, multiple Column Awards (including Best Actor for his King Lear this past season), the Elston Brooks Lifetime Achievement Award and the honor of having NSMT’s green room named in his honor! Look for David when he returns for his 23rd season as Scrooge!

Rob Coughlan (Sergeant Krupke) is both elated and honored to make his professional debut as Sergeant Krupke in North Shore Music Theater's production of West Side Story! Rob is certainly no stranger to the North Shore stage as he has appeared in every Voices of Hope production including: Jesus Christ: SuperstarOnce on this IslandGodspell(Apostle), and Fiddler on the Roof (Mendel). Regional: CompanyInto the Woods, and Urinetown: The Musical. Special thanks to Greg, Kevin, Tom, Bob and the W.S.S. production team for this amazing opportunity. It’s a privilege to join the NSMT family and give back to a theater which has entertained me over the years. Love and thanks to my friends and family who support me. Love you, Mom & Dad!

Alexander Gil Cruz (Bernardo, Dance Captain, Fight Captain) is excited to return to the role of Bernardo. His previous credits include Bernardo inWest Side Story (Theatre By The Sea), Bolo u/s Diesel in West Side Story (National Tour '13-'14), Paul in A Chorus Line (National Tour '12), Mercedes u/s Jean Michael/Jacob in La Cage Aux Folles (Goodspeed Opera House). TV credits include "The Get Down," "Vinyl," and "Saturday Night Live" with Selena Gomez. Alex would like to thank Bob and Diane for the opportunity, Bloc NYC, as well as his family, friends and Jeff for the support. ¡Baila con fuego!

Diego Guevara (Luis, s/c Chino) is elated to be making his debut at the NSMT in one of his favorite shows! Other credits (select): Ui (Ernesto Roma), Legally Blonde: the Musical (Carlos/Sundeep), Avenue Q (Princeton), columbinus (Freak/Eric Harris), Caucasian Chalk Circle (Fat Prince/ Lavrenti)Diego is a recent graduate from the University of Rhode Island where he earned a BFA in Theatre with a concentration in Acting. He will next be seen as Matt in Mr. Burns: Post-electric play, and later as Melchior Gabor in Spring Awakening at the Wilbury Theatre Group in Providence, Rhode Island. I cannot thank Bob, Diane, Kevin and Bill enough for trusting me to be a part of this beautiful story, and my family for the endless support. Los amo! @diego.guev

Alex Hairston (Francisca, Voice of Maria's Mother, s/c Rosalia) is excited to be making her North Shore debut! She received a BFA in Musical Theatre and Dance minor from Western Carolina University in 2014. Immediately following graduation Alex hit the high seas, performing internationally on various ships with Norwegian Cruise Line. She is grateful to return to land and become a shark…pun intended. Favorite roles include Mimi (Rent), Brenda (Smokey Joe’s Cafe), and Pilar (Legally Blonde). Romans 12:12

Lauren Langbaum (Rosalia, s/c Maria) is thrilled to be making her NSMT debut in one of her favorite shows! She recently performed the role of Maria in this show with Arkansas Shakespeare Theatre this past summer. Other favorite credits include Twelfth Night (Arkansas Shakespeare Theatre), Man of La Mancha (Barrington Stage Company). She was honored to make her Carnegie Hall debut last fall with the New York Lyric Opera. She has sung in various cabarets with music sung and directed by William Finn, Adam Gwon & Drew Gaspariani. Proud graduate of both NYU (MM) & The Boston Conservatory (BM). Many thanks to Binder Casting & everyone involved at NSMT for this incredible opportunity! Always much love to her friends and family. @laurenlangbaum

Tyler John Logan (Riff) is ecstatic to be making his Equity debut after spending the summer playing Riff at Theatre By The Sea. National Tour: Elf The Musical (2014 & 2015) Regional: 7 Brides for 7 Brothers (Caleb), Once Upon A Mattress (Jester), West Side Story (Snowboy), MemphisMusic Man, Wizard of Oz, and S’Wonderful. Tyler has worked alongside and choreographed for Broadway’s Jason Robert Brown, Liz Callaway, Eden Espinosa, Krysta Rodriguez, Susan Egan, and Matthew Morrison. Huge thank you to his parents, family and friends for all of their love and endless support! Instagram: @tylerlogan31

Sarah Kay Marchetti (Graziella), an area native, having grown up in Hampstead, NH and trained with Jose Mateo's Ballet Theatre, is excited to make her NSMT debut! NY Credits: Susan Stroman's The Merry Widow at The Metropolitan Opera and the Radio City Christmas Spectacular. National/International Tours: West Side Story (Minnie) and Cats (Victoria). Regional: Cats (Victoria) and West Side Story (Graziella/Dance Captain) at Sacramento Music Circus; Cats (Victoria/Dance Captain) at The Muny; The Music Man at the Cape Playhouse (Dance Captain) and at Geva Theatre Center; and a special concert of Children of Eden at the Kennedy Center. TV: "Boardwalk Empire". Many thanks to Bob, Diane, NSMT, my husband, Chris, and my loving family.

Tim McGarrigal (Big Deal) is thrilled to return to NSMT! Other NSMT: West Side Story, ChicagoDreamgirlsHigh School Musical 2. NYC: Radio City’s Christmas SpectacularNothing But Trash (Theatre for the New City). Vegas: We Will Rock You (Original U.S. Cast), Hugh Jackman: In Time, Tours: FosseJoseph…High School MusicalWest Side Story(Action) Saturday Night Fever (Double J). Regional: Sacramento Music Circus, Atlanta TOTS, Berkshire Theatre Festival, Connecticut Repertory Theatre. Film: Across the Universe. M.F.A. Acting, Shakespeare Theatre Co/GWU. Huge thanks to Bob, Diane, Tom, Kevin, and my amazing family!

Christopher Morrissey (Diesel, u/s Action, u/s Krupke) is thrilled to be part of this West Side Story family and also to be joining the American Actors Equity Association. Originally from Australia Christopher is one of Melbourne’s most sought after commercial dancers, musical theatre performers, teachers, choreographers and adjudicators. He was a member of Princess Cruise’s elite production shows for almost 11 years. During this time he was an original cast member of 8 world premier productions. He is a graduate of the Victorian College of the Arts Secondary School and gained the highest honor in his graduating year by dancing in “Top Acts” 2002 at the Melbourne Concert Hall. Christopher recently appeared at TBTS in West Side Story and before that was on the International tour of Beauty & the Beast. Come the new year Christopher can be seen with New York City Opera Company in their production of Candide. Love to Mum, Dad and his wonderful husband Garfield.

Evy Ortiz (Maria) is very excited to be returning to one of her favorite roles after having played it at Theatre by the Sea this past summer. She toured throughout the USA as Maria in the 1st National Broadway Tour of West Side Story (recent Broadway revival), and debuted that production in Canada and Japan. Other credits include Luisa in the off-Broadway production of The Fantasticks (dir. by Tom Jones), Philia in A Funny Thing…Forum (TBTS) and Masha in The Seagull. She has appeared as a soloist in numerous concerts, including her own NYC solo concert. She also trained for many years as a lyric coloratura. BA Theater (Pace University), MA Vocal Performance (New York University). Much love to her supportive Mom, family and friends! This one is for you Grandpa, a real life Bernardo.

Bronson Norris Murphy (Tony) happily returns to North Shore Music Theatre for the sixth time! For NSMT: Cats(Bustopher Jones, Gus and Growltiger), Saturday Night Fever (Frank Jr.), A Christmas Carol (Fred); Broadway: The Phantom of the Opera (Raoul u/s); National Tour: Cats (30th Anniversary Cast)Regional: Over 40 roles at theatres including: Goodspeed Opera House, York Theatre, Skirball Center, Theatre by the Sea, John W. Engeman Theatre, Manhattan Theatre Mission, Arts Center of Coastal Carolina, West Virginia Public Theatre, The 55th Anniversary cast of The Stephen Foster Story (US and Japan). Training: NYU-Steinhardt; Faculty member at The New York Film Academy, Joffrey School of Ballet and Institute of American Music Theatre. For the latest information, visit and follow @BronsonBiz. – Endless gratitude to the WSS creative team for another opportunity to share this wonderful story. For my family.

Brian Padgett (Glad Hand, s/c Shrank, s/c Doc) returns to NSMT after playing Robertson Ay in this summer’s Mary Poppins, and Mr. Braithwaite in last season’s Billy Elliot, a role he recently reprised at the Fulton TheatreLast summer he played the monster in Young Frankenstein at Theatre by The Sea, where he also played Robertson Ay in Mary Poppins. Brian toured the country with the Broadway tours of Elf: The Musical and The Drowsy Chaperone. Regional credits include; Beauty and the Beast (Cogsworth), Hairspray (Edna), Joseph…(Napthali/Baker), Hello, Dolly!(Rudolph/Ensemble), White Christmas (Snoring Man, Zeke), 42nd Street (Bert Barry) among many more. Brian thanks Bill, Kevin, Bob, Diane, his family, friends and, above all, God for love and unending support. Psalms 46:10.

PJ Palmer (A-Rab, s/c Baby John) is so pumped to be making his North Shore debut with West Side Story! Previous credits include the National Tour of Elf: The Musical, as well as Paper Mill, MUNY, Maine State, KC Starlight, Fulton Theatre, John Engeman Theatre, Fireside, and Stages St.Louis. Joffrey Ballet School trainee. In addition to performing, PJ makes incredible milkshakes. They're really good. PJ sends a huge thanks to everyone here at NSMT and a huge thanks to Quentin and Ullyses! @peejpalmer

Rachel Perlman (Teresita) is absolutely thrilled to make her NSMT debut in one of her dream shows! National/International Tours: Joseph...DreamcoatThe Aluminum Show, Regional: Mary Poppins (Arkansas Rep, NBFT), 42nd Street (Mill Mountain Theatre, Interlakes Theatre), Singin' in the Rain (NBFT), All Shook Up, Christmas Carol, Piano Men (Palace Theatre), Hello, Dolly!, Miss Saigon (Interlakes), Holland America Cruise Line (Dance Captain), BFA Elon University. Endless gratitude to Binder Casting, Diane, Bob, Kevin, all the creatives, ATB, Mom, Dad, family, friends, and to my very own Jet, Erik, who I couldn't be more proud to share this stage with.

DJ Petrosino (Chino). A Boston native and Salem State University alum, DJ is so excited to be making his NSMT debut after experiencing his first taste of theatre here as a child!! Tours: Cabaret. Regional: Signature Theatre: West Side Story(Chino) and La Cage Aux Folles; Merry Go Round Playhouse: Saturday Night Fever; The Engeman Theatre: A Chorus Line; Ogunquit/Gateway Playhouse: Saturday Night Fever; The A.R.T.: The Donkey Show; Harbor Lights Theatre Co. West Side Story; White Plains Performing Arts Center: Tommy, The 39 Steps, The Little Mermaid, Cats; Arizona Broadway Theatre: Young Frankenstein; Buddy Holly Story; Kiss Me, Kate; 7 Brides...; The Palace Theatre: West Side Story; Speakeasy Stage Co.: Zanna, Don’t!; Beef and Boards Dinner Theatre: 9 to 5; American Music Theatre: Christmas Show; Sea and Sun Princess Cruise Lines: Dancer. This is dedicated to my Rosie.

Pedro Rangel (Nibbles, s/c Big Deal, s/c Snowboy, s/c Glad Hand) is thrilled to be making his debut at NSMT and overjoyed to tell such a marvelous story. Pedro is a graduate from UNR with a BFA in theatre. Besides performing Pedro is a sought after Acro teacher and aerialist in NYC creating some award winning competition numbers for studios and dances for many BC/EFA events including Broadway Bonnet and Broadway Bares. International Tours: Cirque du Soleil (OvoFame! The Musical. Off-Broadway: The Orion Experience The Musical. Regional: West Side Story (Big Deal), Singin' in the Rain (Sid/Speech Teacher), 9 to 5 the Musical (us Dick). Love to this creative team, my family and JP. You guys give me a reason to wake up every morning.

Tyler Roberts (Toro) is honored to be making his debut with North Shore Music Theatre.  He is a recent graduate of Wagner College, majoring in Theatre (Performance) with a minor in Educational Studies.  Previous credits include: A Chorus Line, Cats, Carousel, Hello, Dolly!, Damn Yankees, and David & Lisa.  Tyler would like to thank Binder Casting, Bob and Diane, Kevin, and the rest of the NSMT team for the opportunity.  Much love for his friends and family!!

Sydney Mei Ruf-Wong (Consuela, s/c Anita) is thrilled to reprise the role of "Consuela" for her first production at NSMT! After receiving a BFA in Musical Theatre from UW-Milwaukee's Peck School of the Arts, Sydney rooted in NYC where she currently dances with Anabella Lenzu DanceDrama, Silva Dance Company, and flies as an aerialist for Royal Caribbean International. Favorite credits: West Side Story (Theatre By the Sea), Color (Theatre for the New City). Love to her supportive family!

John Wojda (Lieutenant Schrank) was featured in the first national tour of Spring Awakening and toured internationally in West Side Story. On Broadway he's appeared in Present Laughter, Two Shakespearean Actors, The Merchant of Venice and Macbeth, and off-Broadway at the NYSF/Public Theater, Theater For A New Audience, Primary Stages, WPA Theater, The Women’s Project, Classic Stage Company, Ensemble Studio Theater, Theater For The New City, The Soho Playhouse and The New Group (Obie award for Ecstasy). John has played dozens of leading roles in resident theaters including four seasons at Canada’s Stratford Festival. His television and film credits include "Bluebloods", "Madam Secretary", "Mr. Robot", "Law & Order", "Criminal Intent", "SVU", "Third Watch", "The High Life", Manhattan by Numbers, Seven Servants, Shaft, and the upcoming Christmas release of Gold.

Josh Zacher (Baby John) is thrilled to be making his North Shore debut! Regional: The Little Mermaid, West Side Story, The Wizard of Oz, Les Misérables, High School Musical. Film/TV: “Dance Moms” “Live! With Regis and Kelly” “The Sorry Project” Nic Hanson’s “Worthy.” Josh is a recent graduate of NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts and Broadway Dance Center’s Summer Professional Semester. Josh is proudly represented by LDC Artist Representation and assists Broadway choreographer Josh Prince at Broadway Dance Lab. Josh sends his thanks to Bob, Diane, Kevin, Bill, Milton and the Shain family! Follow: @dancingdudejz

Arthur Laurents (Book) His first play, Home of the Brave, opened on Broadway in 1945, followed by many others. His newest plays are A Key Change and Come Back, Come Back, Wherever You Are, starring Shirley Knight and Alison Fraser. These came right on the heels of his New Year’s Eve starring Marlo Thomas and Keith Carradine at his favorite theatre, the George Street Playhouse in New Brunswick. He wrote his first musical, West Side Story, in 1957, followed by Gypsy and others. His first screenplay was The Snake Pit in 1948, followed by others including RopeAnastasiaThe Way We Were and The Turning Point. His own play, Invitation to a March in 1960, was the first of several he directed. I Can Get It for You Wholesale in 1961 was the first musical he directed, followed by others including La Cage aux Folles and Gypsy with Angela Lansbury, then Tyne Daly and most recently, Patti LuPone. In 2000, he wrote a memoir, Original Story By. His latest book, Mainly on Directing: West Side Story, Gypsy, and Other Musicals, was published in March 2009. His posthumous memoir The Rest of the Story was published in 2012.

Leonard Bernstein (Music) (1918–1990). Composer, conductor, author, teacher and recording artist, Bernstein transformed the way Americans and people everywhere hear and appreciate music. A few of his many compositions include the symphonies Jeremiah and The Age of Anxiety, the theatre piece MassChichester Psalms, Divertimento, the film score for On the Waterfront, the ballets Fancy Free and Facsimile and the operas Trouble in Tahiti and A Quiet Place. He was music director of the New York Philharmonic from 1958 to 1969 and, over his lifetime, conducted many of the major orchestras of the world. His Broadway musicals include Wonderful Town, Candide, 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue and the immensely popular West Side Story.

Stephen Sondheim (Lyrics) wrote the music and lyrics for Saturday Night, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, Anyone Can Whistle, Company, Follies, A Little Night Music, The Frogs, Pacific Overtures, Sweeney Todd, Merrily We Roll Along, Sunday in the Park With George, Into the Woods, Assassins, Passion and Road Show as well as lyrics for West Side Story, Gypsy, Do I Hear a Waltz? and additional lyrics for CandideSide by Side by SondheimMarry Me a Little, You’re Gonna Love Tomorrow, Putting It Together and Sondheim on Sondheim are anthologies of his work as composer and lyricist. For films, he composed the score of Stavisky, background music for Reds and songs for Dick Tracy and the television production “Evening Primrose.” He co-authored the film The Last of Sheila and the play Getting Away With Murder. Mr. Sondheim is on the council of the Dramatists Guild, having served as its president from 1973 to 1981.

Jerome Robbins (Original Concept, Original Broadway Direction & Choreography) is world-renowned for his work as a choreographer of ballets as well as his work as a director and choreographer in theatre, movies and television. His Broadway shows include On the Town, Billion Dollar Baby, High Button Shoes, West Side Story, The King and I, Gypsy, Peter Pan, Miss Liberty, Call Me Madam and Fiddler on the Roof. His last Broadway production in 1989, Jerome Robbins’ Broadway, won six Tony Awards including Best Musical and Best Director. Among the more than 60 ballets he created are Fancy Free; Afternoon of a Faun; The Concert; Dances at a Gathering; In the Night; In G Major; Other Dances; Glass Pieces; and Ives, Songs, which are in the repertories of New York City Ballet and other major dance companies throughout the world. His last ballets include A Suite of Dances created for Mikhail Baryshnikov (1994), 2 & 3 Part Inventions (1994), West Side Story Suite (1995) and Brandenburg (1996). In addition to two Academy Awards for the film West Side Story, Mr. Robbins received four Tony Awards, five Donaldson Awards, two Emmy Awards, the screen Directors Guild Award and the New York Drama Critics Circle Award. He was a 1981 Kennedy Center Honors recipient and was awarded the French Chevalier dans l’Ordre National de la Legion d’Honneur. Mr. Robbins died in 1998.

Bob Richard (Director) Broadway: He has provided the choreography for How the Grinch Stole Christmas!, and on tour, this year Grinch was also on stage at The Grand Ole Opry in Nashville! Off- Broadway: Co-Director & Choreographer of Inventing Mary Martin, The Revue Of A Lifetime. This work was recognized and nominated for the prestigious Callaway Award; The Road to Qatar at the York. Director: West Side Story 60th Anniversary, Sacramento Music Circus: (National Tours); The 50th Anniversary National Tour of Hello, Dolly! starring, Sally Struthers; Cabaretwhich won several awards around the country, including an Ivey Award, and the National Tour of Guys and Dolls. Also, on the other side of the planet his work is currently seen in the original Chinese musical Shanghai Bund; (TV and Film); Choreographer of “LazyTown” Season 3; by Turner Network Television. “The Tonight Show;” “The Today Show;” and “The Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade.” Bob is honored to be the Resident Choreographer for Sacramento Music Circus for the past 19 years and has staged over 40 productions. He has been a guest master instructor at Jacob's Pillow Dance Festival. Other notable theatres include; The 5th Ave Theatre (Seattle, WA) where he won a Footlight Award, Madison Square Garden (NYC), North Shore Music Theatre (Beverly, MA), Theatre by The Sea (Wakefield, RI), Theatre Under the Stars (Houston, TX), and The Pioneer Theatre (Salt Lake City, UT). Bob and his wife Diane Laurenson are the Co-Founding Artistic Directors of The American Musical Theatre Dance Company! Dancing, teaching master classes worldwide, and choreographing encompassing over 30 plus years in show business.

Diane Laurenson (Choreographer) began her career as a performer, appearing on Broadway in Sweet Charity, Big Deal, Gypsy (twice!), Dangerous Games and The Little Prince, International/National Tours of Bob Fosse's Dancin', Anything Goes, West Side Story, and Regional productions of A Chorus Line, 42nd Street, and Chicago. Numerous TV, Film and Business Theatre credits include “Law and Order,” Age of Innocence, “The Kennedy Center Honors,” “The Miss America Pageant,” “Royal Variety Show,” “Milliken Breakfast Show” and France 3's documentary: “Getting To Broadway.” She's choreographed highly acclaimed productions of West Side Story for Theatre By The Sea, Sacramento Music Circus, Westbury Music Fair, NY and North Carolina Theatres, and was Associate Choreographer on the 2nd National of Dancin’ and the TV Movie “Gypsy,” starring Bette Midler. Under the tutelage of Gwen Verdon, Diane recreated Sweet Charity starring Donna McKechnie for California Music Theatre. As an IATSE Stagehand in NYC, she was Asst. Electrician on Les Misérables at the Imperial Theatre, also working backstage on Miss Saigon, Phantom of the Opera, The Life and Titanic in Electrics and Sound. Alongside Director/Better-Half: Bob Richard, they've premiered an original musical, Shanghai Bund, currently running in Shanghai, China; are co-founders of The American Musical Theatre Dance Co, NY; and are proud partners in their most extraordinary production: Robert Henry! Ms. Laurenson is on Faculty at Broadway Dance Center and Steps on Broadway- NYC, and is sanctioned by the Verdon/Fosse Estate to teach Mr. Fosse's original works. She is a frequent guest Master Theatre Dance Instructor at schools, studios and theatres across the US and around the world, from Argentina and Mexico to Great Britain and Japan, and is a proud member of SDC, AEA, SAG & AFTRA.

Milton Granger (Music Direction) has previously served as Music Director in NSMT productions of Singin’ in the Rain, Mary Poppins, Saturday Night FeverA Christmas Carol (’14, ‘15), Anything Goes, Cats and Swing! As pianist/conductor: Broadway: Mary Poppins, The Woman in White, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, Cyrano the musical, and Camelot (with Robert Goulet). National tours: Sunset Boulevard, Big, The Phantom of the Opera, Only a Kingdom (with Sally Struthers). Off-Broadway: A Fine and Private Place, Fermat's Last Tango (CD and DVD), Company, Different Fields. International: West Side Story in Paris and Berlin; over ninety productions in regional theaters. As composer/lyricist/librettist: Two first-place awards from the National Opera Association; Castle Walk a Next Link selection in the New York Music Theatre Festival; Bronze Mirror a selection of the Manhattan Theatre Mission festival; Peter Rabbit and the Garden of Doom winner of the Actors' Playhouse competition. Eight chamber operas which have been produced by 50 college opera workshops and small opera companies in U.S. and Canada.

Kyle Dixon (Scenic Design). Kyle’s scenic artwork may be seen across the United States, from NYC to Las Vegas. Recent scenic designs include: Camelot (Westchester Broadway Theatre), Buddy, West Side Story, The Wizard of Oz, Sister Act, and Young Frankenstein (Theatre By The Sea, BroadwayWorld Regional Award), Growing up 70’s starring Barry Williams (Off Broadway), Angelina Ballerina, The Musical (NYC, Toronto, National Tour), Fancy Nancy, the Musical (NYC, National Tour), StinkyKids (Off Broadway Alliance Award), The Wizard of Oz (Gretna Theatre, BroadwayWorld Regional Award), Xanadu, Doubt, and The Merchant of Venice (Williams Center for the Arts), and many more. Kyle has designed concert events for Faith Prince, Tommy Tune, Pam Tillis, and the NC Gubernatorial Inauguration Gala (Telly Award). In addition to theatre, he is the designer of NC’s historic Elizabethan Gardens’ Winter Lights, a ten-acre holiday display.

Mark Nagle (Costume Coordinator and Additional Costume Design). NSMT: Singin’ in the Rain, Mary Poppins, Funny Girl. Off Broadway: Belleville (New York Theatre Workshop) New York: Bird in the Hand (Fulcrum Theater). Regional: Memphis the Musical (Arkansas Repertory Theatre), Shrek the Musical, Cabaret, Macbeth (Red House Arts Center), Orlando (Colby Sawyer), Some Girl(s) (Salve); Belleville (Yale Rep); Julius Caesar, JIB, Passing (Yale School of Drama); An Incident, Close Up Space (Chautauqua Theater); Rose Mark'd, The Tempest (Yale Cabaret). Assistant: Broadway: RebeccaThe Assembled Parties (Manhattan Theatre Club)Off Broadway: Nikoli and the Others (Lincoln Center) Regional: Assistant Costume Designer at American Conservatory Theater. M.F.A.: Yale School of Drama.

Jack Mehler (Lighting Design) . Previous work with NSMT includes Scenery & Lighting for Singin’ in the Rain, Billy Elliot The Musical 2015, Miss Saigon 2013, Scenery for West Side Story 2003, and Lighting for A Christmas Carol ('02-'15; 2012 IRNE nomination), AnnieCamelot (IRNE nomination), Children of Eden42nd StreetFunny Girl, GypsyHairsprayHigh School MusicalJesus Christ SuperstarThe King and I, A Little Night MusicMy Fair Lady, Nine (IRNE nomination), RagtimeThe ProducersThoroughly Modern MillieWizard of Oz. He received the 2012 (Elisabeth) and 2013 (Rebecca) Korean Muscial Theatre Awards (Korean Tony) for Lighting Design of the Year. Other Theatre design credits include Walnut Street Theatre, Paper Mill Playhouse, Manhattan Theatre Club, Riverside Theatre, Cleveland Play House, Seattle Rep, Syracuse Stage, Weston Playhouse, The Working Theatre and WPA among many others. Dance: Joffrey Ballet, Lar Lubovitch, Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre, San Francisco Ballet, Donald Byrd/Spectrum Dance, Hubbard Street Dance Chicago, Jose Limon, Ballet Memphis and others. Jack also provides owner's design representation for organizations building or renovating performance and rehearsal spaces.

Don Hanna (Sound Design) Regional sound design: Billy Elliot (North Shore Music Theater); regional premieres of Priscilla Queen of the Desert,Rock of Ages, The Addams Family, Young Frankenstein, all for Ogunquit Playhouse/Gateway Playhouse. Nat’l Tour: Million Dollar Quartet (2016 tour, Head Audio), Smokey Joe’s Cafe (20th Anniversary Tour, Head Audio). Huge thank you to my friends, family and Bethany for their love and continual support.

Gerard Kelly (Wig & Hair Design) Broadway: Disney’s The Lion King (Tony© Award - Best Musical), Hair (Tony© Award - Best Revival of a Musical). Gerard's hair and wig design has been seen at North Shore Music Theatre since 1999 as well as many other Regional Theatre's and Shakespeare Festivals across the country. Gerard has also created many wigs for performers such as Harvey Fierstein, Felicity Huffman, Laura Linney, Marlo Thomas, The B-52's (including the cover of their last album Funplex), Varla Jean Merman, Charles Busch, S.Epatha Merkerson, Jennifer Holiday, Ru Paul, Woopie Goldberg, and The Lady Bunny. Gerard's work can be seen in films such as Transamerica, Girls Will Be Girls, The Ten, The Savages, King Bolden, Notorious, The Conjuring and The Other Woman.

Natalie A. Lynch (Production Stage Manager). With NSMT: Spamalot, Singin’ in the Rain, Mary Poppins, Funny Girl, the 2010, 2011, 2012 Musical Seasons. Other Credits Include: Capital Repertory Theatre, Reagle Music Theatre, Lyric Stage Company of BostonNew Repertory Theatre,Pioneer Theatre Company, STAGES St. Louis, Stoneham Theatre and Maples Repertory Theatre. National Tours: The Magic Tree House: The Musical and A Christmas Carol. Natalie began at NSMT as the SM Intern in 2005 and is thrilled to return once again to her theatrical home. She is a graduate of University of New Hampshire and is a proud member of Actors’ Equity Association. Special thanks to her family and friends, especially her parents, for their endless love and support. For Andrew, Abigail and Devin.

Dakotah Wiley Horan (Assistant Stage Manager) is thrilled to be back having just made her equity debut here at North Shore with Spamalotand Singin’ In The Rain. Some of her previous stage management credits include: NSMT: Funny Girl and Mary Poppins. Capital Repertory Theatre: Marvelous Wonderettes, Cactus Flower, 33 Variations, Leslie Uggams in Uptown Downtown, Man of La Mancha, and Single Girls Guide.Pendragon Theatre: Clean House, Twelve Angry Men, A Christmas Story. CPS: The King And I. She is a graduate of SUNY Postdam and Universidad de Sevilla. She would like to thank her parents for instilling and encouraging her love of theatre, her very supportive friends and Natalie, Tom, and Kevin for this amazing opportunity.

Robert L. Rucinski (Assistant Music Direction). Past NSMT credits include: Singin’ in the Rain, Les MisérablesThe Little MermaidThe King and IA Christmas Carol '04-'07 & '10-'15Forever PlaidSeven Brides for Seven BrothersCrazy for YouCinderella '05-'06Singing in the RainAin't Misbehavin'Damn YankeesCamelotFame. Robert is thrilled to be returning to NSMT. This past winter, he was music director for Wheelock Family Theater's production of Mary Poppins as well as for shows such as CinderellaLittle Women, and My Fair Lady at the various high school and university theater programs at which he continues to work. A native of Jersey City, NJ, now living in Arlington, MA, Robert is a freelance musician working out of Boston and New York City.

Binder Casting (Casting). Broadway: In Transit (December 2016), Dames at SeaA Gentleman’s Guide to Love & MurderLion KingNice Work If You Can Get ItBorn Yesterday, The Miracle Worker, Finian’s Rainbow, Brighton Beach Memoirs, A Chorus Line, Gypsy, 39 Steps, White Christmas, Is He Dead?, Inherit The Wind, Journey’s End, Butley, Virginia WoolfSweet Charity, Wonderful Town, Movin’ Out,  42nd Street, Music Man, Iceman Cometh, Charlie Brown, Sound of Music, Beauty & the Beast, Last Night of Ballyhoo, Chicago, King & I, Damn Yankees, Lost in Yonkers, Jerome Robbins’ Broadway, The Goodbye Girl. Film/TV: DreamgirlsChicago, Nine, Hairspray, Carousel (PBS/NY Phil), Six by Sondheim(HBO), So You Think You Can Dance. Regional/Other: NY City Center Encores! series, Hartford Stage, West Side Story (San Francisco Symphony), Lyric Opera of Chicago, TUTS.  Twelve–time Artios Award winner. An RWS & Associates company.

Bill Hanney (Owner/Producer) is honored and proud to have been responsible for the re-opening of the nationally renowned North Shore Music Theatre in 2010. He began his career in show business at age 19, leasing and developing movie theaters, including his first multiplex in Quincy, Massachusetts. Before long, he was booking rock shows (Jefferson Starship, Rush) and other types of live entertainment, which eventually led to the presenting and producing of Broadway productions. One such show was an appearance by the legendary mime artist, Marcel Marceau. As president of Broadway Productions, Bill presented national tours such as Annie, Amadeus, Dancin', Peter Pan, Rocky Horror Show and Mark Twain starring Hal Holbrook, throughout New England including Worcester, Springfield, Portland, Maine and Boston. Aside from his work operating North Shore Music Theatre, one of Bill's crowning achievements was the 2007 purchase and re-opening of Theatre By The Sea, a landmark 500 seat professional summer theatre and restaurant, which just completed its tenth successful year of operation in Matunuck, RI ( Throughout his career, Bill has stayed focused on his movie theatre chain having bought, built, owned, operated and sold more than 30 cinemas. His company, Entertainment Cinemas, currently operates eight movie complexes in four states. In 2009, Bill was elected President of the Theatre Owners of New England. Bill's ongoing work with NSMT inspires him to consider acquiring additional performance venues at which he plans to someday share his productions between his theatres. Bill has been named to the North Shore Top 100 by the North Shore Chamber of Commerce. In 2012 he was recognized by both the Beverly Chamber of Commerce and Salem Chamber of Commerce as Business Person of the Year. He is the recipient of the 2015 Leslie S. Ray Hall of Fame Award, presented by the Greater Beverly Chamber of Commerce. Bill is a member of the League of Broadway Producers and was involved with the recent revival of Pippin.

Kevin P. Hill (Producing Artistic Director). Born and raised in Waltham, Massachusetts, Kevin began his theatrical career as dancer and actor. He appeared in National Touring companies of Hello, Dolly! with Carol Channing, Leslie Uggams and Michele Lee, Anything Goes and the International Touring Company of A Chorus Line. New York audiences have seen him in the Off-Broadway production of Party. Regional credits as a performer include: West Side Story, Good News! A Chorus Line, My Fair Lady and Marvin in Falsettoland. Kevin has directed and choreographed over 100 productions across America. He has had the privilege of working with such stars as Marin Mazzie, Joanne Worley, Kathleen Turner, Josh Groban, Jonathan Groff and Tony Award winner, Cady Huffman. In New York, he was the assistant to the director of On The Twentieth Century at the New Amsterdam Theatre and assistant to the choreographer on the revival of Guys and Dolls. Most recently he directed and choreographed 2 record-breaking musicals, Grease and Disney's Mary Poppins, at Bill Hanney's Theatre By The Sea in Rhode Island, where he is also Artistic Director. Kevin has been nominated as Best Director/Choreographer for his work on Smokey Joe's Café, Rent,The Full Monty, Chicago, and Edwin Drood, and was awarded the NH Theatre Award for Best Choreography for West Side Story at the Papermill Theatre. Future projects include an original danced play called Standing Still. As a Professor of Dance, Kevin has been on faculty at Pennsylvania State University, Kansas State University and most recently The Boston Conservatory of Music. He currently owns Hill Studios Dance and Fitness Center located in Newton, Massachusetts, and is a proud member of SDC, AEA and Dance Masters of New England, Chapter 5.

Tom Amos (Associate Producer) is excited to return to North Shore Music Theatre in his role as Associate Producer. Joining in 2005, Tom began in the Electrics Department and quickly moved into Company Management. Prior to working at NSMT, Tom received his Bachelor's Degree from Westfield State University and his Masters in Arts Administration from Boston University. Tom's passion for theatre and social justice issues motivated him to establish a LGBT Scholarship fund at Westfield State University where he created a Social Justice Theatre program to raise funds needed to maintain the scholarship. A big thank you to Bill, Kevin, Karen for their support and guidance.

Music Theatre International ( is one of the world's leading dramatic licensing agencies, protecting the rights and legacy of composers, lyricists and book writers and supplying scripts, musical materials and other theatrical resources to theaters around the world. MTI has been a driving force in extending the production life of such great musicals as Annie, Guys and Dolls, West Side Story, Damn Yankees, Fiddler on the Roof, The Music Man, Ragtime, as well as West Side Story. With more than 250 titles in its catalogue, including hits from the Broadway and London stage, musical revues, the Broadway Junior Collection and other youth musicals, MTI shows have been performed by more than 45,000 amateur and professional theatrical organizations throughout the U.S. and in over 60 countries around the world.

Actors' Equity Association (AEA), founded in 1913, represents more than 45,000 actors and stage managers in the United States. Equity seeks to advance, promote and foster the art of live theatre as an essential component of our society. Equity negotiates wages and working conditions, providing a wide range of benefits, including health and pension plans. AEA is a member of the AFL-CIO, and is affiliated with FIA, an international organization of performing arts unions. The Equity emblem is our mark of excellence.

North Shore Music Theatre (NSMT) Since 1955, NSMT has become one of the most attended theatres in New England, with approximately 250,000 patrons annually. With a national and regional reputation for artistic achievement, NSMT has received numerous industry awards including Elliot Norton Awards, IRNE Awards, the Rosetta Le Noire Award from Actors' Equity, and the Moss Hart Award. NSMT produced the World Premiere of Memphis in 2003, the show went on to win four 2010 Tony® Awards including Best Musical. Under the new ownership of Bill Hanney in 2010, NSMT continues to annually produce a musical subscription series and an annual production of A Christmas Carol along with celebrity concerts and children's programming.