Posts Tagged ‘Ghent’

Frank & Fiona, Bob & Terry, Plus William & Mary in Ayckbourn’s “How the Other Half Loves” in Ghent [Berkshire on Stage]

Monday, March 17th, 2014
Christina Smith, Sam Reilly and Todd Hamilton as Teresa, William and Bob in “How the Other Half Loves” at The Ghent Playhouse. Photo Daniel Region

Christina Smith, Sam Reilly and Todd Hamilton as Teresa, William and Bob in “How the Other Half Loves” at The Ghent Playhouse. Photo Daniel Region

The Ghent Playhouse will present Alan Ayckbourn’s wickedly funny play, “How The Other Half Loves” opening on Friday (March 21) and playing through April 6. The production’s director is Sky Vogel, who directed the Playhouse’s smash hit musical “Urinetown” in 2012.

Ayckbourn’s play deals with the interlocking lives of three couples: Frank is an upper-level manager in a nondescript business office. He is married to Fiona. The two of them are comfortable in life, though Fiona is a bit bored. Frank, it should be added, is a bit dim. Bob and Terry are a young couple with an infant child. Bob works for Frank. Terry spends her days writing letters to newspaper editors trying, without much success, to right one or more of society’s wrongs. She could be a better mother. Bob is sleeping with Fiona. Bob could be a better husband.

In an attempt to provide cover for a late night rendezvous, Bob tells Terry he has been out offering counsel to a co-worker, William, supposedly distraught because his wife, Mary, has been having an affair. This seems a little more than odd considering Mary is mousy, plain and meek. William, himself no prince of partying, may also be up to sexual shenanigans. At least so suspects Frank, who, as mentioned, is not the sharpest cheddar in the pantry.

Click to read the rest at Berkshire on Stage.

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“SleepFrog” Unleashes Panto-Madness at the Ghent Playhouse [Berkshire on Stage]

Thursday, December 5th, 2013
The Cast of SleepFrog. L to R: Judy Staber, Nellie Rustick, Tom Detwiler, Michael Meier, Paul Murphy, Joanne Maurer, Mark “Monk” Schane-Lydon, Cathy Lee- Visscher, Sally McCarthy, Paul Leyden.

The Cast of SleepFrog. L to R: Judy Staber, Nellie Rustick, Tom Detwiler, Michael Meier, Paul Murphy, Joanne Maurer, Mark “Monk” Schane-Lydon, Cathy Lee- Visscher, Sally McCarthy, Paul Leyden.

Theater Review by Gail M. Burns

I am coining a new word – Pantoloonacy. The troupe who write and perform the annual British-American Pantos at the Ghent Playhouse style themselves the Panto-Loons, and therefore it is only proper that I spell my avid fandom for their annual efforts accordingly. This year they are presenting a mash-up of Sleeping Beauty and The Frog Prince titled SleepFrog, and while they have not succeeded in blending the two tales as brilliantly as when they magnificently merged The Three Bears and The Three Little Pigs in Menageries a Trois, their Loonacy shines through, and I hear the seats are selling out.

In case you still don’t know what a Panto is, it is a British holiday tradition where you take a familiar story, have everyone cross-dress, and proceed to merrily shred the plot while inserting a pile of topical humor and songs. Under British-born Judy Staber’s guidance, the Panto-Loons have made this artform (and I use the term “art” very loosely) the must-see of the season in Columbia County.

With a script that calls for six fairies (of the winged variety) and two frogs, costume designer Joanne Maurer, who also plays King Posterium, has once again turned out a pile of colorful, hilarious costumes that transform men and women into women and men and animals and supernatural beings of all shapes and sizes.

Click to read the rest at Berkshire on Stage.

Sleeping Beauty + Frog Prince = “SleepFrog,” This Year’s Panto in Ghent [Berkshire on Stage]

Monday, November 25th, 2013
Nellie Rustick as Fortuna and Judy Staber as Salubria in “SleepFrog” at the Ghent Playhouse.

Nellie Rustick as Fortuna and Judy Staber as Salubria in “SleepFrog” at the Ghent Playhouse.

by Larry Murray

This is the most creative and family-friendly show in the Berkshire-Albany orbit. The Pantaloons come around every Christmas, and their show is completely new different every year. Fans go back year after year to see what craziness they have come up each season, it never fails to tickle the funny bone. As a result, the Pantaloons always ends up selling out. If you are a first timer, there’s no time to dither about it, make the plunge and firm up your plans now. The Pantalons have taken a grand old theatrical tradition – a British import – to which they have added lots of our own local twists.

If you are not familiar with that great British tradition called holiday “pantos” then you are in for a real treat. For one thing, there’s no connection to mime at all. Instead you will discover it is a fast-moving show for all ages, full of exuberant singing, dancing and merry making, all performed in some of the most ridiculous costumes (and wigs!) ever devised. There’s innocent but hilarious cross-dressing, plus a story line that’s a mash-up of familiar fairy tales, local lore and current events.

It opens on Friday, November 29 (the day after Thanksgiving) and runs through Sunday, December 15.

This year, the madcap troupe will present “SleepFrog”, a merry merger of two well-known fairy tales in a version never before seen of “The Sleeping Beauty” and “The Frog Prince.” Frogs, fairies and royals abound amid spells, songs and enough schtick to keep you awake and hopping.

Click to read the rest at Berkshire on Stage.

Review: An Exceptionally FIne Lettice and Lovage at the Ghent Playhouse [Berkshire on Stage]

Wednesday, March 27th, 2013
(l to r) Johnna Murray, Joan Coombs and Nancy Hammell in Lettice and Lovage in Ghent, NY.

(l to r) Johnna Murray, Joan Coombs and Nancy Hammell in Lettice and Lovage in Ghent, NY.

by Gail M. Burns and Larry Murray

Gail Burns: People have been talking about this wonderful community theatre production, so we just had to squeeze it in. And am I glad we did.

Larry Murray: And those who read this will be able to as well since it is playing at the Ghent (NY) Playhouse for one more week. Theatre people know about the comedy Lettice and Lovage which revolves around a deceitful docent who livens up her historic tours of yet another of England’s fusty* and dusty historic homes with tales from her own imagination. But anyone who has been held captive on a “historic” tour that is dull as dishwater will love the twists and turns that follow.

The playwright Peter Schaffer has always had a knack for picking colorful and interesting characters, from Mozart in Amadeus to the stableboy who blinded horses in Equus. Barrington Stage did his wonderful Black Comedy a couple of seasons ago, and I have to admit that Schaffer is one of my favorite playwrights.

Gail: I am not sure I’d rank him that high on my list. His plays, especially Equus, tend to be over wrought, and the plot is the thing I like the least here. When I reviewed the 2003 and 2004 Shakespeare & Company productions I wrote: “…[The play is] rather predictable and formulaic in that oh-so-wacky way television has trained us to expect. I enjoyed the laughs…but I would have enjoyed them more if they had supported a more serious purpose than another when-I’m-an-old-lady-I-shall-wear-purple-carpe-diem-you-can’t-take-it-with-you slab of silliness.” And “…playwright Peter Schaffer…has used the captivating character of Lettice Douffet as a way to hold the audience’s attention while he rails about everything from ugly British architecture to stifling work environments, and celebrates everything from Shakespeare to Tudor cuisine.”

I enjoyed it though because I saw it in the Spring Lawn Mansion, which played the role of Fustian House* exceedingly well, with Tina Packer and Diane Prusha in the title roles. But you saw the original London production starring Dame Maggie Smith and Margaret Tyzack.

Click to read the rest at Berkshire on Stage.

Gail Burns on “Robin Hood: Fifty Shades of Green” – The Panto Loons 2012 Edition [Berkshire on Stage]

Thursday, December 6th, 2012
The cast (l to r) Judy Staber, Mattew W. Coviello, Sally McCarthy, Johnna Murray, Cathy Lee-Visscher, Michael Meier, Mark “Monk” Schane-Lydon, Joanne Maurer, Tom Detwiler, Paul Murphy, and Paul Leyden. Photo: Daniel Region

The cast (l to r) Judy Staber, Mattew W. Coviello, Sally McCarthy, Johnna Murray, Cathy Lee-Visscher, Michael Meier, Mark “Monk” Schane-Lydon, Joanne Maurer, Tom Detwiler, Paul Murphy, and Paul Leyden. Photo: Daniel Region

For the Berkshire-Capital region’s most comprehensive listing of theater offerings visit GailSez.org

After this past presidential election cycle, it is only natural that the Panto Loons would select Robin Hood – whose hero robs from the 1% to give to the 99% – as the story they would send up this holiday season. And considering that the Loons start writing in July and the show goes up a scant three weeks after election day, they must be very clever indeed to get the political humor just right (or in this case just left) so that the show rings true whatever the outcome.

(Quick Introduction for Panto Virgins: The British Pantomime or Panto tradition has nothing to do with what Americans know as Pantomime or Mime. There is a LOT of talking and singing and no one wears white-face or a beret. The best analogy for Baby-Boomers is to imagine the Fractured Fairy Tales segment from the Rocky and Bullwinkle cartoon show live on stage, set to music, with everyone in drag. There is a lot of topical political and cultural humor, and the songs are all new lyrics set to old standards. Its all very, very silly.)

While I recognized, happily, several jokes from their 2004 staging of this same story – the female anthropologist joke and the epithet “You flatuent anchovy!” in particular – this is an all new 2012 version, retaining only Head Loon Judy Staber’s gently sloshed performance as Friar Tuck and Johnna Murray’s perfect turn as Maid Marion, a young woman with the riches and womanly virtues of a true princess, and the speech impediment of Elmer Fudd. Her love for Wobin, er, Robin Hood (Cathy Lee-Visscher) is as unswerving as her hate for Sheriff Cockalorum of Nottingham (Sally McCarthy), whom his greedy Mother Dona Trumpet (director Tom Detwiler) wants her to marry.

Click to read the rest at Berkshire on Stage.

Wanna Be a Performance Artist?

Tuesday, July 10th, 2012

C’mon, admit it – wouldn’t you like to add the title of “performance artist” to your life resume?

Italian artist Salvatore Scalora is seeking volunteers to participate in an art performance with him at 4:30pm on Sunday (July 15) at Art Omi in Ghent.

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LIVE: “Urinetown” @ The Ghent Playhouse [GailSez]

Monday, January 23rd, 2012
Mark "Monk" Schane-Lydon as Officer Lockstock and Eleah Jayne Peal as Little Sally in the Ghent Playhouse production of "Urinetown." (Photo: Daniel Region)

Mark "Monk" Schane-Lydon as Officer Lockstock and Eleah Jayne Peal as Little Sally in the Ghent Playhouse production of "Urinetown." (Photo: Daniel Region)

What a great production of a truly great musical! The Ghent Playhouse stage is truly awash with talent as this energetic cast – which skillfully and seamlessly blends a bunch of eager and talented youngsters with the usual middle-aged crowd that keep the Playhouse going – under Sky Vogel’s expert direction prove what a genuine classic Urinetown has become in a mere ten years.

I first saw and reviewed the show at The Theater Barn in 2006. At that time it was clear to me that the show was all about oil and our unsustainable dependence on fossil fuel. This time I got a completely different message and the show seems even more timely and relevant than it had previously. The ability of material to stand the test of time and continue to speak to and move audiences is the hallmark of great theatre.

Actually, Urinetown was written at a fascinating juncture in American culture. First devised in 1999, it was all set to open on Broadway on September 13, 2001. Talk about BAD timing!! That the official opening night occurred only a week later with only one line of dialogue changed to suit the new American reality was astonishing. So it’s a pre-9/11 show that only entered the larger cultural consciousness post-9/11. (Urinetown did have a successful off-Broadway run pre-9/11, but a show is not considered “set” until its official Broadway opening, after which union rules actually prevent the creative team from making any changes.) The audience for whom it was written had ceased to exist by opening night and whatever messages Mark Hollmann (music and lyrics) and Greg Kotis (lyrics and book) had intended to convey were immediately morphed by the changing world into which the show was launched.

Read the rest at GailSez.

LIVE: The PantoLoons: “Menagerie à Trois” @ The Ghent Playhouse [GailSez]

Tuesday, November 29th, 2011
Mayoral candidate Oscar Weiner (Cathy Lee-Visscher) and his brother Wilbur (Sally McCarthy) are incensed when they see what Papa Bear has done to Oscar's hydrofracking equipment in "Menagerie à Trois." (photo: Dan Region, Blue Mesa)

Mayoral candidate Oscar Weiner (Cathy Lee-Visscher) and his brother Wilbur (Sally McCarthy) are incensed when they see what Papa Bear has done to Oscar's hydrofracking equipment in "Menagerie à Trois." (photo: Dan Region, Blue Mesa)

Pigs and wolves and bears, oh my! Must be Panto time!

The PantoLoons 12th annual British American Panto, Menagerie à Trois, is a melange of Goldilocks and the Three Bears, The Three Little Pigs, with a soupçon of Romeo and Juliet and its 20th century clone, West Side Story, thrown in. Its an all-new cross-species love story by Judy Staber and the Loons, with Mother Nature (musical director Paul Leyden) presiding at the piano, and its FABULOUS!

Of course, I never met a Panto I didn’t like, but this year’s edition is the best yet musically. Most of the cast can really sing, and they have selected songs to spoof which fit their vocal ranges and personalities. The lyrics are very clever, and it is nice to see that long-time Loon Ron Harrington, sadly missing from the stage this year, has had a hand in creating them.

Joanne Maurer has also outdone herself in the costume department, with the bears and pigs decked out to ursine and porcine perfection. Maurer herself plays Fryer Duck (you can’t have a Romeo and Juliet spoof without a kindly man of the cloth to mix up the lovers’ messages, you know), with a splendid waddle on webbed feet and tail-feathers protruding from the rear of her monk’s robe. Walter Bauer as Wolf Bilkser aka The Big Bad Wolf is nattily turned out in dove-gray top hat and tails – that would be three tails, two on the suit coat and one on his butt. Believe it or not Goldilocks (Mark “Monk” Schane-Lydon), the lone human character in the show, is positively restrained in her attire, sporting a simple frock in buttercup yellow and a demure pair of black mary-janes.

Click to read the rest at GailSez.

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