Posts Tagged ‘Larry Murray’

Mark St. Germain’s Touching “Dancing Lessons” Set to Debut at Barrington Stage Company [Berkshire on Stage]

Wednesday, August 6th, 2014
Dancing Lessons

Dancing Lessons

Once again we await – with great interest – the world premiere of another Mark St. Germain play, Dancing Lessons. It is described as a new romantic comedy by the Barrington Stage Company Associate Artist Mark St. Germain and will play on the main stage from Thursday (August 7) through August 24. Opening night is August 13 at 7pm.

Directed by Barrington Stage Artistic Director Julianne Boyd, Dancing Lessons stars John Cariani and Paige Davis. John Cariani made his BSC debut as Dogberry in last summer’s Much Ado About Nothing. Cariani is also the playwright of the popular play Almost, Maine and recently starred in the play’s Off-Broadway revival. Paige Davis (Broadway’s Chicago and TV’s “Trading Spaces”) makes her BSC debut.

Dancing Lessons centers on a young man (Cariani) with high-functioning autism (Asperger’s syndrome) who seeks the instruction of a Broadway dancer (Davis), now sidelined with injuries. As their relationship unfolds, they’re caught off-guard by the surprising discoveries – both hilarious and heartwarming – that they make about each other.

Click to read the rest at Berkshire on Stage.

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PigPen Theatre Co. Offers “The Old Man and the Old Moon” @ Williamstown Theatre Festival [Berkshire on Stage]

Tuesday, August 5th, 2014
The company takes storytelling to new heights. Seen here: Ryan Melia, Curtis Gillen, Ben Ferguson, Matt Nuernberger, Dan Weschler.

The company takes storytelling to new heights. Seen here: Ryan Melia, Curtis Gillen, Ben Ferguson, Matt Nuernberger, Dan Weschler

The Williamstown Theatre Festival’s final show of the 2014 season is The Old Man and the Old Moon, which runs on the Nikos Stage from Wednesday (August 6) through August 17.

Of course, the endlessly imaginative PigPen Theatre Co. comes to Williamstown with a reputation for luminously low-fi spectacle that elevates traditional storytelling to high art. Their fantastical, song-filled tale takes us to the end of the world, when an old man abandons his duty of filling the moon with liquid light to search for his missing wife. With a rollicking array of ever-changing characters, inventive theatrical effects and an infectious contemporary folk sound, these seven young actor-musicians transform the seemingly ordinary into sheer wonder.

Click to read the rest at Berkshire on Stage.

THEATER: “The Visit” with Chita Rivera Gets an Epic Production at Williamstown Theatre Festival [Berkshire on Stage]

Monday, August 4th, 2014
The cast on the set of The Visit. (photo by T. Charles Erickson)

The cast on the set of The Visit. (photo by T. Charles Erickson)

Theater review by Gail M. Burns and Larry Murray

Larry Murray: From the moment you take your seat at the ’62 Center where the Williamstown Theatre Festival performs, you know you are in for a special evening. Soaring into the flies on stage is Scott Pask’s single set that will contain the evening’s performance of The Visit. This tuneful John Kander and Fred Ebb musical has been trying to get to Broadway since 2001. With a book by Terrence McNally and Chita Rivera in the lead role as Claire Zachanassian, it could be well on its way. The WTF production is directed by John Doyle, who knows how to showcase the darker side of human nature, the rich manipulating the poor and it couldn’t be more timely.

Gail M. Burns: This is billed as Kander and Ebb but since Fred Ebb’s death in 2004, Kander and McNally have formed the creative team. Doyle made many changes for this version – cutting the show from two and a half hours and two acts down to a 95-minute one-act form – so the lyrics have obviously been changed since Ebb wrote them.

Larry: The 2001 production was put together at Chicago’s Goodman but 9/11 killed its prospects when New York producers were unable to fly in to see it. The Signature Theatre in Arlington, VA staged a workshop production in 2008, and now in 2014 it looks like the Williamstown team has put together the definitive version. Earlier productions were a bit top heavy having incorporated far too many characters and details from Friedrich Dürrenmat’s 1956 satirical play about greed and revenge, Der Besuch der alten Dame.

The tightening up of the show has worked well, and only a few songs have been lost – the Chorale that opened Act 2, Claire’s “Confession” song, and the reprise of “Winter” by a Young Adam. Other songs have likely been shortened a bit to keep things moving swiftly. They were not missed, since the story is still delightfully rich, full of detail. With a large cast and luscious ten-piece orchestra under David Loud, this Williamstown production fully conveys a dark parable about what desperate people will do when faced with a financial payoff.

Click to read the rest at Berkshire on Stage.

Berkshire on Stage Offers an Unusual Array of “Top Picks” for August [Berkshire on Stage]

Monday, August 4th, 2014
Our creative venues overflow with shows, glorious August shows!

Our creative venues overflow with shows, glorious August shows!

By Larry Murray

August is the month of bounty, when those tasty tomatoes begin to overflow the basket, and every stage in the Berkshires and beyond is filled with glorious live entertainment. All six of our major cultural organizations are in high gear: Tanglewood, Jacob’s Pillow, Barrington Stage Company, Berkshire Theatre Group, Shakespeare & Company and the Williamstown Theatre Festival all have sure-fire crowd-pleasers on their stages, but so do lots of other, smaller groups.

So here are lots of suggestions of things to do – some from the familiar and popular organizations but this month we put the emphasis on the smaller and lesser known arts organizaions you should know about. Enjoy the Berkshire’s season of plenty – the leaves start dropping in less than ten weeks.

Click to read the rest at Berkshire on Stage.

Berkshire Fringe Festival Has It All – Comedy, Drama, Music, Labs – August 2-18 [Berkshire on Stage]

Friday, August 1st, 2014
Brooklyn’s Under The Table present The Hunchback of Notre Dame, a wildly hilarious, irreverent and poignant reimagining of Victor Hugo’s classic tale.

Brooklyn’s Under The Table present “The Hunchback of Notre Dame,” a wildly hilarious, irreverent and poignant reimagining of Victor Hugo’s classic tale.

Founded in 2003 by Sara Katzoff, Peter Wise and Timothy Ryan Olson, the Berkshire Fringe Festival begins its second decade at its new home, the Shire City Santuary in Pittsfield. The Berkshire Fringe is an international center for new work in the heart of the Berkshire Community. Since its first events in 2005, the Berkshire Fringe has become a vital testing ground and has hosted over 500 emerging performers while bringing nearly 100 full-length original productions to the Berkshires.

Participating artists are given space to develop and perform their newest concepts, teach community workshops and invite audiences to engage more deeply in the creative process through open rehearsals and discussions.

Click to read the rest at Berkshire on Stage.

THEATER: “The Golem of Havana”: The Mystical Musical at Barrington Stage Musical Theatre Lab [Berkshire on Stage]

Wednesday, July 30th, 2014
Julie Benko and Ronald Alexander Peet. (photo: Kevin Sprague)

Julie Benko and Ronald Alexander Peet. (photo: Kevin Sprague)

Theater review by Gail M. Burns and Larry Murray

Larry Murray: The creators of The Golem of Havana deserve to light up some nice big Cuban cigars, because they have a lot to celebrate following the world premiere of their smash new musical. And those associated with William Finn’s Musical Theatre Lab should be popping some champagne corks over at Barrington Stage in Pittsfield right about now. They have told a complex story exceptionally well.

This tale of a Hungarian-Jewish family living in Batista’s 1950’s Cuba conflates history with a legendary protective golem. The combination sets up all the drama one could ask for in a musical, a story replete with good fortune and deadly reversals as Fidel Castro brings revolution to the Frankel family. To dramatize the story, the company uses everyday realism mixed with nighmarish surrealism; and the memories of a bright and imaginative young girl mixed with the mysticism of Jewish and Santeria traditions.

Gail M. Burns: This is an original story, based on the composer and lyricist’s personal experiences in Venezuela. The American media keeps us so very ignorant of events on the whole South American continent that the creative team was wise to move the story to Ricky Ricardo’s pre-Castro Cuba, not only for us Ugly Americans but also, as I understand, for their own political safety as artists.

Larry: What I most liked about The Golem of Havana is the music itself, and when it is brought to life in songs that move the plot along it has me singing its praises. Much of it is delivered in snippets, as when first Laszlo and later Yutka sings; “I had no choice, I bear no blame, I had my family, You’d do the same” Or when Teo laments “Rich Men’s Sons, Poor Men’s Sons.” Written by Salomon Lerner, the music is a colorful tapestry of sounds, often distinctly Cuban and Caribbean, and at others clearly Jewish with Klezmer influences. The scene dictates the style. It is at its best when the two meet, sort of in the middle, and the songs become a blend of the two cultures. Lyricist Len Schiff wastes no time in finding words to the winsome melodies that either express the characters feelings, or advance the plot, sometimes both at the same time.

Gail: The music is lively, melodic, and beautiful. And eminently danceable. Choreographer Marcos Santana blends the dancing seamlessly into the characters’ movement. He is likely also responsible for the striking shadow work that opens the shows and which helps anchor the ancient tale of Rabbi Loeb and the Golem of Prague in its time and place.

Click to read the rest at Berkshire on Stage.

John Doyle, Chita Rivera, Roger Rees All Excited by the Kander-Ebb Musical “The Visit” at WTF [Berkshire on Stage]

Wednesday, July 30th, 2014
Chita Rivera stars in the Williamstown Theatre Festival production of The Visit. (photo: Laurie Duncan)

Chita Rivera stars in the Williamstown Theatre Festival production of The Visit. (photo: Laurie Duncan)

Preview of “The Visit” by Larry Murray

There’s a lot going for the Kander and Ebb musical The Visit, which runs on the Main Stage of the Williamstown Theatre Festival in Williamstown from Thursday (July 31) through August 17, 2014. First and foremost is its lead actor, Chita Rivera. And then there is the return of John Doyle as director and Roger Rees, a WTF favorite.

I had a chance to chat with all three briefly before one of their rehearsals. I asked Doyle, who is known for having actors play instruments during a performance (Remember Donna McKechnie in Ten Cents a Dance at WTF?) if that was to be for this new project, and he laughed, “No, not this time. It’s really a rather dark musical, very European, and not at all what you might expect from a Kander and Ebb score.”

Rivera for her part was delighted to have a chance to put together a large scale musical once again, thinking out loud that “It’s very exciting, very unique, dark [and] passionate. It’s one of the last scores Freddie and John wrote. I am enjoying the challenge and who knows where it might go.” With luck, it could have a life on Broadway after Williamstown.

Click to read the rest at Berkshire on Stage.

THEATER: Small, Quirky & Fun: “Gutenberg! The Musical!” @ the Theater Barn [Berkshire on Stage]

Tuesday, July 29th, 2014
Dominick Varney and Shaun Rice play Doug and Bud.

Dominick Varney and Shaun Rice play Doug and Bud.

Theatre Review by Gail M. Burns and Larry Murray

Gail M. Burns: Gutenberg! The Musical! is the kind of small, quirky musical that the Theater Barn in New Lebanon does extremely well, and that their audience just loves. And with just two actors, one pianist and virtually no sets or costumes, it also suits their small space and modest budget requirements

Larry Murray: I am always amazed at how the Theater Barn finds these little musical gems to keep us amused. And coming back for more. Anthony King and Scott Brown, who wrote this two man show were also in it originally, when it ran just 45 minutes. Later it was expanded to two acts and had a significant 2007 New York production directed by Alex Timbers (Bloody, Bloody Andrew Jackson and The Last Goodbye) that starred our Williamstown favorite, Christopher Fitzgerald, and Jeremy Stamos.

Gail: The show is presented as a Backer’s Audition, a theatre ritual in which the creators of a musical do a concert version of their work before an audience of potential investors/producers. If the show involves proven talent, say, Stephen Sondheim or Jason Robert Brown, stars interested in appearing in the production participate in the audition, but that is at a higher level than these two guys – a caregiver at a nursing home and a senior barista at Starbucks – have achieved.

Larry: Dominick Varney and Shaun Rice play Doug and Bud, an aspiring words-and-music team peddling their musical very loosely based on the story of Johannes Gutenberg (1398-1468), inventor of the printing press. Their comic timing and energy levels are remarkable, and Varney’s lithe and rubbery body is pretty amazing to see in action. Rice keeps up, barely, his strong suit being his amazing range of voices. He uses them to portray many of the dozen-plus characters in this musical. Both use a variety of imprinted hats to indicate which role they are playing at the moment.

Click to read the rest at Berkshire on Stage.

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