Posts Tagged ‘New Lebanon’

THEATER REVIEW: “Forever Plaid” @ Theater Barn [Berkshire on Stage]

Tuesday, August 2nd, 2016
Forever Plaid at Theater Barn.

“Forever Plaid” at the Theater Barn

Review by Gail M. Burns

I have lost track of how many productions of Forever Plaid I have now seen, but this time was special because I brought my 20-year-old nephew and he had never seen the show before. I had the pleasure of watching the Plaids work their magic once again, and as we exited the Theater Barn in New Lebanon, my nephew proclaimed that Forever Plaid was now his favorite musical of all time. The last show to earn that approbation was Cabaret, which actually IS one of the great masterpieces of 20th century musical theater. What is it about this little piece of fluff that has made it so hugely popular over the last quarter of a century? It holds the record as one of the longest running shows on the Vegas strip – and this is a show with no scantily clad women (in fact, there are no women at all!) What makes Forever Plaid work?

One word: writing. Stuart Ross didn’t just craft a great line-up of late 1950s/early 1960s guy-group harmony tunes; he created a story and four distinct, lovable characters. Over the course of a mere 90 minutes you genuinely come to care about Frankie, Sparky, Jinx and Smudge, even though you never learn their last names, or even their real first names except for Frankie/Francis. These four guys are the schleppy everymen we all knew or once were. Sort of the upbeat version of Seymour Krelborn, if he’d had pals instead of plants to hang out with.

For those of you who haven’t seen this show (where have you been for the past quarter century?) Forever Plaid is the story of a mid-20th century close harmony “guy group” who are dead. On February 9, 1964, en route to pick up their custom-made plaid tuxedos, they were driving in their cherry-red 1954 Mercury convertible and rehearsing their big finale when they were slammed broadside by a school bus filled with eager Catholic teens on their way to witness the Beatles make their U.S. television debut on “The Ed Sullivan Show.” The schoolgirls miraculously escaped injury. The members of Forever Plaid were killed instantly. Through the power of Harmony and the Expanding Holes in the Ozone Layer, in conjunction with the positions of the planets and all the other astro-technical stuff, they are allowed to come back to perform the show they never got to do in life.

Click to read the rest at Berkshire on Stage


The Theater Barn Announces 2016 Season of Shows [Berkshire on Stage]

Friday, February 5th, 2016

Yes, we have been nuts about the songs of Alan Sherman for more than half a century.

Yes, we have been nuts about the songs of Alan Sherman for more than half a century.

By Larry Murray

The Theater Barn in New Lebanon, New York has revealed its choices for its 33rd season, featuring both traditional favorites – an Agatha Christie mystery and a couple of musical chestnuts – and some unexpected fare. One of the most affordable theater experiences in the region, Theater Barn is known for casting local actors along with seasoned professionals from New York, and has blown us away with its high standards more than once. The company continues to offer reasonable ticket prices so that seniors as well as young families can afford to attend their shows.

Here’s what is coming up in 2016. We love all their choices.

Don’t Talk to the Actors

June 24–July 3
This farce has been called “A love song to the theater — laugh out-loud funny, witty and delightful!” A young playwright from Buffalo, NY is suddenly swept up in the whirlwind of New York’s theater scene when his play is optioned for Broadway. He soon finds himself hilariously in over his head dealing with egocentric actors. Don’t talk to the actors, just give them a script and let nature take its course…

Click to read the rest at Berkshire on Stage.

THEATER Review: “God of Carnage” @ the Theater Barn [Berkshire on Stage]

Monday, September 14th, 2015
Upper: Brett Milanowski (l) and Aaron Holbritter (r) Lower: Erin Waterhouse (l) and Kathleen Carey (r)

Upper: Brett Milanowski (l) and Aaron Holbritter (r) Lower: Erin Waterhouse (l) and Kathleen Carey (r)

Review by Gail M. Burns and Larry Murray

Larry Murray: At first, I was lulled into the thought that God of Carnage at New Lebanon’s Theater Barn was going to be a civil, if testy exploration of the issues surrounding a playground fight between two boys. The two sets of parents meet to calmly discuss the situation in this gem of a play by French playwright Yasmina Reza, translated by Christopher Hampton. The words and tone change as the polite niceties soon give way to more primal behavior.

Gail M. Burns: In present day Brooklyn, Michael (Aaron Holbritter) and Veronica (Kathleen Carey) have invited Alan (Brett Milanowski) and Annette (Erin Waterhouse) over to discuss the fight between their 11-year-old sons. It seems that Alan and Annette’s Benjamin has whacked Michael and Veronica’s Henry with a stick, resulting in some superficial injuries and two broken teeth. The adults, who have not met until this encounter, are gathered awkwardly to discuss and “resolve” this crisis.

Larry: With direction by Phil Rice, this dark comedy comes as close to being the theatrical answer to an R-rated movie as I have ever seen on stage, as four grown-ups duke it out using every sort of humor you can imagine, from deadpan cracks to gross-out gags. There is something wickedly delightful in being able to watch other people’s decorum go south along with their marriages, and it is obvious that the actors have managed to cross the fierceness of Albee’s Virginia Wolf with TV’s laugh-out-loud characters in The Honeymooners.

Click to read the rest at Berkshire on Stage

THEATER Review: “Evita” @ the Theater Barn [Berkshire on Stage]

Monday, August 31st, 2015
Eva Peron

Eva Peron

Theatre review by Gail M. Burns and Larry Murray

Gail M. Burns: I’ve waited a long time for Evita to be performed in this area…

Larry Murray: It’s one of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s most interesting concept musicals because its jewel of a lead, Eva Perón (Joanna Russell) left such an impressive legacy that even an Englishman was inspired to make her life into a musical. People don’t think of the safety net she created in the middle of a brutal military dictatorship, but as Evita brings out, her story was propelled by her upbringing as a desposeído. She cared for the poor even as the government enriched itself to the point of bankruptcy.

Gail: Eva Perón (1919-1952) was an amazing woman, and like most amazing women her story is told and retold through various patriarchal lenses – political, religious, sexual and here artistic. Since she was only 33 when she died of cancer, there was not time for Evita to tell her own story.

And while this 1976 Andrew Lloyd Webber rock opera is iconic and well known, this is the first time I have been offered an opportunity to see it since I bought a $10 seat in the nose-bleed section of the original Broadway production in 1979. (Yes, you could see a Broadway musical for $10 back then.) It’s a show everyone knows, and nobody does. For the tiny Theater Barn in New Lebanon to tackle it takes chutzpah!

Larry: I was impressed by both leads, Joanna Russell has a tremendous voice which she kept under control, building songs like “Don’t Cry for Me, Argentina” from pianissimo beginnings to exuberant displays of vocal prowess. Her acting style was forthright, and not overwrought, whereas someone trained as an actor rather than a singer might have been tempted to burn up the scenery a bit, don’t you think? In a gorgeous glittering white dress, arms raised high on the balcony, she was every bit the Evita we have come to know from legend.

Click to read the rest at Berkshire on Stage.

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.

Click to read the rest at Berkshire on Stage.

REVIEW: “A Murder is Announced” Is Classic Christie @ the Theater Barn [Berkshire on Stage]

Wednesday, July 15th, 2015
John Trainor and Rie Lee.

John Trainor and Rie Lee.

Theater review by Gail M. Burns

The annual murder mystery – almost always an Agatha Christie – does so well for the Theater Barn in New Lenanon that they are running this year’s offering for three weekends instead of the usual two. A Murder Is Announced offers lots of familiar faces on stage and familiar names in the program at the cheerful, no-frills family-run theatre. John Trainor is once again wearing the trench coat as a Christie sleuth; Joan Coombs is dithering; Meg Dooley is playing the highly strung mistress of the house where the murders (yes, there are two) take place; Abe Phelps has designed a handsome set which is well lit by his son Allen Phelps; and a supporting cast of talented young actors struts their stuff.

A Murder is Announced is a 1977 stage adaption by Leslie Darbon of Dame Agatha Christie’s 1950 novel of the same title, which was her fiftieth published book. The novel was very well received and is considered classic Christie, so it is interesting that Dame Agatha didn’t dramatize it herself. If she had, I suspect we would have ended up with a smoother, funnier, less fraught work than director Aaron Holbritter has to work with here.

In a large country house called Little Paddocks in the small English village of Chipping Cleghorn, Miss Blacklock (Dooley) is minding her manners and presiding over her hodge-podge household of friends and relations with the questionable assistance of her lone servant Mitzi (Shannon Paul), a loquacious and excitable Russian. It is Friday, October 13, and uppermost on Miss Blacklock’s mind is the celebration of her dear friend Miss Bunner’s (Coombs) birthday. She’s been Miss Blacklock’s companion ever since the latter returned from a long stay abroad nursing her late sister through a losing battle with tuberculosis. But the day-to-day concerns take a back seat when a notice in the personals column of the local Gazette announces a murder will take place at Little Paddocks at 6:30 that evening.

Click to read the rest at Berkshire on Stage.

REVIEW: “Moon Over Buffalo” Is a Five-Star Hit at Theater Barn [Berkshire on Stage]

Tuesday, June 30th, 2015
(l to r) Alyssa Chase and Joan Coombs in Moon Over Buffalo at The Theater Barn through July 5, 2015.

(l to r) Alyssa Chase and Joan Coombs in “Moon Over Buffalo” at the Theater Barn through July 5.

Theater Review by Gail M. Burns and Larry Murray

Larry Murray: Set in 1950’s America with nonstop laughs that barely gave its opening night audience at the Theater Barn in New Lebanon a chance to catch its collective breath, Ken Ludwig’s Moon Over Buffalo, which was written in 1995, proves that its timeless combination of satire, slapstick and sight gags still make for an immense crowd-pleaser. His earlier turns at farce – Lend Me a Tenor and Fox on the Fairway – have established him one of the most popular purveyors of light comedy to summer and community theater. Moon Over Buffalo spoofs the theater, television and film, as well as families, sweethearts, egos and even your local weathermen. Nobody escapes his gaze unscathed.

Gail M. Burns: I love how Ludwig’s humor is simultaneously low-brow and literate, and the cast here does a great job of being broadly physical as well as bringing home the speeches from Shakespeare, Rostrand and Coward. George (Phil Rice) and Charlotte Hay (Mary Nichols) are a married couple of B-grade actors. We meet them in Buffalo, NY, touring Noel Coward’s Private Lives and Edmund Rostrand’s Cyrano de Bergerac in rep. Her stone-deaf mother, Ethel (Joan Coombs) is their costume mistress and a bit player, and Paul (Noah Mefford), the man they thought would be their son-in-law, is also an actor/administrator with the company. Their daughter Rosalind (Alyssa H. Chase) has recently left Paul, and the theater, in search of a “normal life” and arrives with a new fiancé, a local TV weatherman named Howard (Caleb John Cushing), in tow. Another interloper amidst the mayhem is Richard (Sky Vogel), a wealthy and successful “lawyer to the stars,” who has come to woo Charlotte away to that fabled land of normalcy. On the day that famed film director Frank Capra is coming to see the matinee to consider George and Charlotte for leads in his new Scarlet Pimpernel movie, George learns he has knocked up the ingénue Eileen (Clara Childress) and goes on a bender. Chaos ensues.

Larry: I don’t know who deserves the lion’s share of the credit for this superb production, the director or the actors, but the entire creative team went the extra mile to make this fast-paced story go by in a flash. It proves that Theater Barn has retro screwball comedy chops. There are no small roles in this play, making casting the key to a good production, which is why Joan Coombs was a real standout for me. She plays the mother-in-law who is deaf as a post, thereby setting up many of the play’s awkward situations as she putters about as wardrobe mistress and bit player. Coombs plays her with steadfast determination and total obliviousness as she picks up the pieces the others leave behind, including Cyrano’s floral trousers which always seemed to end up in two pieces.

But the real trouper in all this is Phil Rice, the show’s director who, due to the illness of the original actor, ended up playing the central role of George as well. And it’s a juicy role, too, the star turn. I had some rare-for-a-critic full belly laughs during his second-act drunk scene in which he gets to drop his drawers, recite Shakespeare and, literally, come out of the closet. The only straight man in the show is the lawyer, Richard (ably and subtly played by Vogel), who tries to woo away Charlotte.

Click to read the rest at Berkshire on Stage.

“The Real (Desperate) Housewives of Columbia County” Take Over the Theater Barn This Weekend [Berkshire on Stage]

Monday, September 22nd, 2014
(From left)  Amy Fiebke, Meg Dooley, Diedre and Cathy Lee-Visscher (photo: Mike Molinski)

(From left) Amy Fiebke, Meg Dooley, Diedre and Cathy Lee-Visscher (photo: Mike Molinski)

The Housewives are back by popular demand! The Theater Barn presents the Taconic Stage Company production of “The Real (Desperate) Housewives of Columbia County” for a limited run this weekend (September 26-28), with Friday and Saturday shows at 8pm and a Sunday matinee at 2pm.

The performances last just over an hour. The Theater Barn is located at 654 State Route 20, New Lebanon, NY, 12125. Tickets are $25 and are available by calling (518) 794-8989. As an added bonus, Chatham Wine and Liquors and Domaney’s of Great Barrington are offering a complimentary glass of wine before each performance.

The hilarious musical revue – by Columbia County resident Carl Ritchie with music by Los Angeles composer Wayne Moore – played a sold-out season at Copake Lake a few summers back, a sold-out run in NYC at the Laurie Beechman Theatre last year, and a sold-out run of Mondays at the Mac-Haydn Theatre this past July.

Click to read the rest at Berkshire on Stage.

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