LIVE: “Swing” @ The Mac-Haydn Theatre, Chatham [GailSez]

July 25th, 2011, 2:30 pm by Sara
A rehearsal shot of the cast of "Swing!' at the Mac-Haydn Theatre.

A rehearsal shot of the cast of "Swing!' at the Mac-Haydn Theatre.

Trading on the mega-popular swing dance revival of the late 1990’s, Swing! ran a respectable year and two months on Broadway and was nominated for the Tony for Best Musical in 2000 despite not having a book. (Another dance musical, Contact won that year.) And when the Mac-Haydn first staged it back in 2004 I liked it very much, even though I am not in favor of calling a non-stop series of songs and dance numbers with absolutely no characters, dialogue, or plot a “musical.” So I was both pleased and nervous to see it back on the roster this summer.

I was pleased because I had happy memories of a great show, and nervous because none of the people I had seen in 2004 would be on the stage this time around. Swing! is a true ensemble show, the Mac-Haydn annually hires a core group of singers and dancers who appear in solo roles and ensemble numbers throughout the season.

Generally, by mid-July, I would recognize the ensemble members and have my favorites picked out. This year, not so much. Not that the 2011 company isn’t talented, but they aren’t stellar. I can recognize very few, even the ones who have impressed me in solo turns, like Victoria Broadhurst and Carl Hulden.

Click to read the rest at GailSez.

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LIVE: Jekyll and Hyde @ Mac-Haydn Theatre, Chatham [GailSez]

July 11th, 2011, 3:30 pm by Sara

Jekyll and Hyde @ Mac-Haydn Theatre

“Why is it so much fun to play the bad guy?” asks James Benjamin Rodgers in his program bio. Rodgers is playing both of the title characters in the Mac-Haydn’s marvelously spooky production of Jekyll and Hyde and from viewing the show, the answer is obvious to me.

The “bad guy,” Mister Edward Hyde, gets to murder all the stuffy old Victorian pah-foots who were so snide and condescending to that nice Dr. Henry Jekyll earlier in the show, and he gets to romp lustily with a saucy prostitute named Lucy (Carman Napier), who has it all over Jeckyll’s wimpy good girl fiancée, Emma Carew (Alison Drew), who wears her nightie buttoned up to her earlobes.

Being nice is, well, nice, but being really, really awfully evil is glorious! And that is exactly what the potion Dr. Jekyll has concocted – in the admirable hope of finding a cure for mental illness – permits him to become.

Click to read the rest at GailSez.

Be Here Now: Irving Berlin’s “I Love a Piano” @ the Mac-Haydn Theatre Chatham [GailSez]

May 31st, 2011, 2:30 pm by Sara
From left: Andrea Dotto, Carl Hulden, Kelly L. Shook, Tim Quartier, John Saunders, and Karla Shook in the Mac-Haydn production of Irving Berlin's "I Love a Piano."

From left: Andrea Dotto, Carl Hulden, Kelly L. Shook, Tim Quartier, John Saunders, and Karla Shook in the Mac-Haydn production of Irving Berlin's "I Love a Piano."

I entered the Mac-Haydn a little on the grumpy side. I am not a fan of “revue-sicals” and I couldn’t imagine Irving Berlin’s I Love a Piano being anything but. But at the conclusion, as many in the audience rose to their feet cheering the talented cast, who were clearly pleased with the work they had just done, I was happy as a clam. This is indeed a revue of songs by the inimitable Irving Berlin, but creators Ray Roderick and Michael Berkeley have crafted the piece with a singular flow and have avoided one of the major pitfalls of the genre – too much exposition painfully forced into dialogue.

You really don’t need to know that Irving Berlin (1888-1989) was born Israel Isidore Baline in Russia, emigrated with his family to New York City in 1893, dropped out of school at age eight to become a newsboy and discovered that he could sell more papers if he added a little song to his sales pitch in order to enjoy this show. Chatty critics like me can tell you all of that, and there are plenty of good biographies of Berlin out there too. You just need to know a good song, well sung, when you hear it.

They are all good songs, well sung, with some pretty nifty dancing in there too, thanks to sisters Karla and Kelly L. Shook who have directed and choreographed the show here at the Mac-Haydn after being involved with it professionally for many years. They also both appear on stage, along with Mac-Haydn favorites John Saunders and Andrea Dotto, and newcomers Tim Quartier and Carl Hulden. The combination of the Shooks personal experience with this show and with this theatre, and with Saunders and Dotto, have allowed them to tailor this production to fit the cast and venue like a Kate Middleton’s wedding gown. Perfection!

Click here to read the article at GailSez.

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