Posts Tagged ‘The Theater Barn’

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: “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.

REVIEW: “The Addams Family” Haunts the Theater Barn with Music, Mischief [Berkshire on Stage]

Tuesday, August 26th, 2014
Tony Pallone, Steph Bacon and Kimberly Suskind.

Tony Pallone, Steph Bacon and Kimberly Suskind

Theater review by Gail M. Burns and Larry Murray

Larry Murray: The moment you hear the “Addams Family Theme Song,” you know you are in for fun evening at the Theater Barn in New Lebanon. The main reason is that the director Bert Bernardi is back in town and up to no good, taking this critically drubbed musical and giving it a fresh new life in its regional premiere. The Addams Family musical is being performed for the first time in the Berkshires.

Gail M. Burns: I had read some of those dismal reviews the New York production received, and I have to say that I am disappointed if this book and score are what passes for a successful Broadwy musical these days. But as I watched the show I realized that The Addams Family is not about great music and dramatic literature, but instead it’s about nostalgia and the love Americans, especially Baby Boomers like me, have for these characters. A while back someone did a poll asking who TV’s most happily married couple were, and Gomez and Morticia Addams beat Ozzie and Harriet Nelson, Lucy and Ricky Ricardo, Ward and June Cleaver, even George Burns and Gracie Allen! We love these fictional folks and rush for any chance to see them again.

Larry Murray: People in this area look forward to the annual return of Bernardi to the Theater Barn since he has developed a reputation for finding hidden gems and making them into breathtaking productions while staying inside a pauper’s Broadway show budget. Last summer we all enjoyed his hit Young Frankenstein, and he has followed that spooky but hardly scary musical with yet another. The cast sang, danced and cracked jokes with the best of them, and while much of the material is silly, vaudevillian and sometimes a bit coarse, it was clear the audience was enjoying every morsel these performers dished out. It is among the best work I have ever seen from Bernardi and Theater Barn.

There’s another connection too…The Addams Family composer and lyricist Andrew Lippa is a Theater Barn alum, having toiled in New Lebanon during the summers of 1990 and 1991.

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.

Larry Gelbart’s Play “Better Late” Unusual Offering at Theater Barn [Berkshire on Stage]

Tuesday, September 10th, 2013
(L to R) Joan Coombs and John Noble in “Better Late” at the Theater Barn.

(L to R) Joan Coombs and John Noble in “Better Late” at the Theater Barn.

Theater review by Gail M. Burns & Larry Murray

Larry Murray: In the world of theatre we don’t get to see many plays like Better Late, which is about older people and their relationships. So three cheers for the Theater Barn taking on this Larry Gelbart play. It’s a sort of a “dramedy,” isn’t it?

Gail M. Burns: It is a remarkably solemn little play for the Theater Barn, which generally offers up light comedy, murder mystery, and bijou musicals.

Larry: What I was amazed at was the opening night audience in what is now the shoulder season for tourism, with the summer folks gone and the leaf peepers still weeks away. At the Theater Barn, it is strictly a local audience, and they turned out for the opening in respectable numbers, and while I saw some grey hair, I was surprised at the amount of blonde, brunette and every shade in between that dotted the audience in front of me. It seems that Gelbart’s story has a universal appeal. I suppose that is because we all have aging members in our family.

Gail: None of us are getting any younger, that’s for sure. But I think most of the audience thought they were attending a very different kind of play from what was presented. The Theater Barn has tackled profound subjects before – their top-notch production of Stones in His Pockets, which filled this fall slot a few seasons back, springs to mind – but they have been more satisfying dramatic journeys.

Click to read the rest at Berkhshire on Stage.

“Young Frankenstein” the Mel Brooks musical at The Theater Barn [Berkshire on Stage]

Tuesday, August 27th, 2013
The cast poses for a rehearsal photo of Young Frankenstein.

The cast poses for a rehearsal photo of Young Frankenstein.

Theatre Review by Gail M. Burns

Okay gang, buy tickets to see Young Frankenstein at The Theater Barn, fire up the Way Back Machine, set your sense of humor to “Junior High,” and you’ll have a ball. Set it any higher and you may be disappointed (high brow it ain’t!) but there are many worse ways to spend a summer evening than laughing your ass off at the stuff you used to find hilarious back in the day.

After Mel Brooks had a Broadway mega-hit in 2001 with his musical stage adaptation of his film The Producers, it was only natural that people would clamor for an encore. Blazing Saddles had too many horses and Silent Movie didn’t have them leaving the theatre humming, so Brooks and co-author Thomas Meehan (Brooks and Gene Wilder had written the screenplay) settled on Brooks’ iconic 1974 film Young Frankenstein. It opened on Broadway in 2007 and had a respectable 15 month run, but it was not the sensation that The Producers was.

Young Frankenstein is a VERY faithful adaptation of the film, so all your favorite jokes are there. “Put the candle back.” “Walk this way.” “My name is Frau Blücher (horse whinnies)” “Abby normal.” “Puttin’ on the Ritz.” etc. Of course the stage at The Theater Barn is tiny and the 15-person cast is large for this venue. But director Bert Bernardi makes excellent use of every inch of Abe Phelps’ two-story set and scene melts into scene effortlessly and convincingly.

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