Posts Tagged ‘Berkshire On Stage’

Linda Lavin Returns to Club Helsinki on Sunday [Berkshire on Stage]

Friday, August 7th, 2015
Linda Lavin with her musicians.

Linda Lavin with her musicians

Her last appearance in our area was SRO, and now Club Helsinki in Hudson is welcoming back for a third time two-time Tony Award and Golden Globe winner Linda Lavin backed up by her five-piece band and musical director/pianist, the famed Billy Stritch.

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REVIEW: “Unknown Soldier” @ Williamstown Theatre Festival [Berkshire on Stage]

Thursday, August 6th, 2015
Derek Klena (Francis Grand) and Lauren Worsham (Lucy Lemay). (photo: T. Charles Erickson)

Derek Klena (Francis Grand) and Lauren Worsham (Lucy Lemay). (photo: T. Charles Erickson)

Theater Review by Larry Murray

Collaboration is the key to a successful musical, and when the late Nicholas Martin anointed the team behind Unknown Soldier to “do something together” while at the Huntington, Michael Friedman (music and lyrics) and Daniel Goldstein (book) began the journey that ultimately created Unknown Soldier, now getting its world premiere production at the Williamstown Theatre Festival in Williamstown. Even director Trip Cullman, who joined the team a bit later in the process, has helped make the trio of creatives ready for prime time.

When you arrive at the theater, the stage is already set as the research library of Cornell University and with the movement of furniture and boxes, it morphs into the various settings of the play, from the kitchen table of a house in Troy, NY to the cavernous main hall of Grand Central Station in New York City and the examination room of the hospital. The action is brilliantly layered throughout the musical with key scenes taking place downstage as the hustle and bustle takes place upstage, and a five-piece musical combo accompanies the songs from behind a sheer curtain at the very back of the stage.

The story is complicated, taking in four generations of Rabinowitzes and Andersons but comes down to this: Ellen Rabinowitz has inherited her grandmother’s house in Troy – the house where she grew up and ran away from as soon as she could. When cleaning it out, Ellen discovers a picture of her Grandmother Lucy, as a young woman, ripped from a magazine, sitting next to a man, having a picnic – the caption, “Has Unknown Soldier Found True Love?” As she tries to discover the identity of the man in the picture, she uncovers secrets about her Grandmother Anderson and about herself, and has to choose what to remember and what to forget.

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REVIEW: Regional Premiere of ‘john & jen” @ the Theater Barn [Berkshire on Stage]

Wednesday, August 5th, 2015

Caitlin Mesiano and Michael Luongo in “john & jen” at the Theater Barn in New Lebanon, NY from July 30 through August 9.

Caitlin Mesiano and Michael Luongo in “john & jen” at the Theater Barn, New Lebanon, July 30-August 9.


Theater review by Gail M. Burns

john & jen is the area premiere of a melancholy little musical about a woman who spends her whole life, well, the first 45 years at least, trying desperately to take care of the men in her life, only to have them either fail her or reject her smothering efforts. Over the course of the show we learn next to nothing about her – her desires and dreams and talents – but we learn all about them. You will not be surprised when I tell you this show was written by two men, composer Andrew Lippa and lyricist Tom Greenwald.

The woman’s name is Jen and the men with whom she struggles are her unseen, unnamed and physically abusive father; her six-years-younger brother, John, who is killed in Vietnam at the age of 19; her son, also John; and Jason, the father of her child, who is never seen on stage or in the child’s life. The show takes place over the course of 38 years – 1952-1990 – and is set primarily in the United States, although the first scene of the second act occurs in Canada, where Jen and Jason have moved so that he can avoid the draft. In this solid production at the Theater Barn in New Lebanon, Caitlin Mesiano plays Jen and Michael Luongo plays her brother John in Act I and her son John in Act II.

The show, which is sung through, rests squarely on Mesiano’s shoulders. Where Luongo is only required to play both Johns from birth to age 18/19, Mesiano has to take Jen from six to 44. I am guessing Mesiano is not yet 30, and both age extremes are a stretch for her. Her voice is naturally fairly high and nasal, and her exaggeration of these traits when she was playing Jen as a child was grating. But since, as I mentioned earlier, Jen is not a well-written or fully fleshed-out character, there are grating and pathetic moments built right in, and Mesiano does a heroic job of bringing emotional depth and sympathetic interest to this tragic woman.

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Mentalist Max Major Reads Minds at Adirondack Theatre Festival [Berkshire on Stage]

Tuesday, August 4th, 2015
Max Major can be a pretty amazing guy, and promises to amaze his audiences at the Adirondack Theatre Festival.

Max Major can be a pretty amazing guy and promises to amaze his audiences at the Adirondack Theatre Festival.

The Adirondack Theatre Festival continues its 21st summer season with its “Mind-blowing Entertainment” as it presents Think Again: An Evening of Mind Reading & Magic. Renowned mentalist Max Major is in Glens Falls to develop his latest theatrical production that will premiere tonight (Tuesday, August 4) with ATF before it tours across the country. Performances will be held at the Charles R. Wood Theater in downtown Glens Falls at 7:30pm nightly through Friday (August 7). Tickets are $26-$40 and are available at the Wood Theater Box Office, online at ATFestival.org, or by calling (518) 480-4878.

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John Williams Ailing, Bows Out of Tanglewood [Berkshire on Stage]

Monday, August 3rd, 2015
John Williams Conducting The Boston Pops 5/22/07. Photo by Michael Lutch.

John Williams conducting the Boston Pops, 5/22/07. Photo by Michael Lutch.

John Williams regretfully has had to cancel his upcoming appearances at Tanglewood in Lenox for Tanglewood on Parade on Tuesday (August 4) and Film Night on Saturday, August 22, due to a back ailment that requires him to rest and limit travel over the next few weeks. Williams is expected to recover soon and return to his conducting work in the coming weeks.

BSO Music Director Andris Nelsons will lead the Boston Pops in Williams’ “Throne Room and Finale” from “Star Wars” during Tanglewood on Parade on Tuesday (August 4). And Boston Pops Conductor Keith Lockhart will join conductor David Newman to lead John Williams’ Film Night on August 22.

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Chattin’ with Ian Lowe from Cap Rep’s “Murder for Two” – A Zany Musical Mystery with Killer Laughs [Berkshire on Stage]

Thursday, July 30th, 2015
Ian Lowe has a solo song, “Protocol Says” in his role as a detective in Murder for Two. Photo by Joan Marcus.

Ian Lowe has a solo song, “Protocol Says,” in his role as a detective in “Murder for Two.” Photo by Joan Marcus

Story by Larry Murray

Everyone can be a witness to the hilarity in Murder for Two, a witty musical murder mystery with a twist. One actor – Ian Lowe – investigates the crime, the other – Kyle Branzel – plays all of the suspects, and they both play the piano! This show is a zany blend of classic musical comedy and madcap mystery, a whodunit that just happens to be loaded with both great music and killer laughs. The show has been running at Albany’s Capital Repertory Theatre since July 10 and continues through Sunday, August 9.

We were able to catch up with the lead detective, Ian Lowe, who is familiar to theater-goers in the region for his appearances at the Adirondack and Dorset Theatre Festivals. He’s played the role before, and after completing the Albany engagement, will be on the road to New Haven’s Long Wharf Theater, New Jersey’s famed George Street Playhouse and Denver Center for the Performing Arts where Murder for Two plays next.

Ian and I chatted about what makes the show such fun. Lowe describes it as “90 minutes of madness,” which conflates the traditions of a good old-fashioned detective story “with the antics of Monty Python and the humor of ‘South Park.’ It requires your attention, but it is also just a lot of fun. Boiled down to its essence, I find it a very creative bit of musical comedy that also manages to be high style art.” That is due to the depth of its sources and references.

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THEATER REVIEW: “Paradise Blue” @ Williamstown Theatre Festival [Berkshire on Stage]

Monday, July 27th, 2015
(l) Blair Underwood and (r) De’Adre Aziza in Paradise Blue. Photograph T .Charles Erickson

(l) Blair Underwood and (r) De’Adre Aziza in Paradise Blue. Photograph T .Charles Erickson

Theater review by Larry Murray

In Dominique Morisseau’s “Detroit Cycle” of three plays, it is the women who come most vividly to life, and in Paradise Blue – currently onstage at the Williamstown Theatre Festival through Sunday (August 2) – that is doubly true as Kristolyn Lloyd brings a sad sweetness to her character Pumpkin, while the scintillating De’Adre Aziza burns up the stage with her heat as Silver, an opportunistic spider lady whose charms are impossible to spurn. Unless you are Blue (Blair Underwood), a trumpet player whose high notes could shatter glass, and low moods suffocate both his sanity and humanity. The second play in Morisseau’s series takes us to the Paradise Valley jazz club in 1949 where we also meet Corn (Keith Randolph Smith) and P-Sam (Andre Holland) as Blue secretly plots to sell his club and accept a gig in Chicago, where he will be a featured artist, not a back bench player.

According to the program notes, the first play in the cycle, Detroit ’67, was produced at the Public Theater in 2013, and looked at the explosive and unstable days of the 1967 riots/rebellion. Skeleton Crew, slated for a 2016 production at the Atlantic Theater Company, depicts four auto workers facing an uncertain future as the city edges toward the 2008 recession. In many ways it documents the difficulties of Motor City in the past and present, and offers a gloomy outlook on the future. Just as August Wilson’s plays give us a view into the inner life of Pittsburgh, so does Paradise Blue give us a taste of what life in Detroit might have been like for African Americans in the past.

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REVIEW: Neil Simon’s “Lost in Yonkers” @ Barrington Stage Company [Berkshire on Stage]

Friday, July 24th, 2015
(l to r) Matt Gumley, Jake Giordano, Stephanie Cozart, David Christopher Wells and Paula Jon DeRose (photo: Kevin Sprague)

(l to r) Matt Gumley, Jake Giordano, Stephanie Cozart, David Christopher Wells and Paula Jon DeRose (photo: Kevin Sprague)

Theater review by Larry Murray

At the Barrington Stage Company in Pittsfield, the fresh new production of Lost in Yonkers is a contender for the summer’s best comedy. It’s a really funny show, especially the first act when we get to meet the characters. It is also in the race for the year’s best drama, as the second act unfolds with more gravitas than guffaws. It’s likely to be a hot ticket, too, since it is hitting the sweet spot with its audiences, as they find its human dimensions absolutely riveting.

Granted, it’s been a long time since just having Neil Simon’s name on the marquee was a gold-plated guarantee of a hot ticket. Lost in Yonkers came well after Simon’s laugh-a-minute comedies The Odd Couple and Fools, and also much later than his autobiographical plays Brighton Beach Memoirs, Biloxi Blues and Broadway Bound.

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