Posts Tagged ‘The Theater Barn’

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.

“The Taffetas” at the Theater Barn: Jukebox Musical About Four Singing Sisters [Berkshire on Stage]

Wednesday, July 31st, 2013

Berkshire on Stage Theatre Review

Review by Gail M.Burns

The Taffetas, a jukebox musical about a quartet of singing sisters making the television debut in 1956, is often billed as the female version of Forever Plaid, although it predates that off-Broadway phenomenon by two years. But it lacks the heart and the fun of the Plaids, and fails to individuate the characters or give you much of a reason to care about them. Kay, Cheryl, Donna and Peggy are all pretty and sing sweetly. The songs, the majority of which are reduced to medley form, are nostalgic. There was nothing unpleasant about the evening, but nothing memorable either.

Bert Bernardi’s staging of the original 1988 script on Abe Phelps’ bright and uncluttered set is very nice. Nice girls singing nice songs for ninety minutes. Good musical direction by Victoria Casella, who plays the piano and doubles as the girls’ “Cousin Vicky” for a couple of gags. Roger Mason on bass and Ian Tucksmith on percussion round out the on stage trio of musicians. Allen Phelps mentioned the purchase of new hanging microphones, and I did notice an improvement in the sound balance. The girls are not body miked – thank God! – and the standing mikes they use are merely props.

Click to read the rest at Berkshire on Stage.

“The Little Dog Laughed” Lampoons Hollywood’s Closeted Actors at the Theater Barn [Berkshire on Stage]

Friday, September 7th, 2012
Jimmy Johansmeyer (l) and Melissa Herion (r) in “The Little Dog Laughed” at The Theater Barn from September 8-23, 2012.

Jimmy Johansmeyer (l) and Melissa Herion (r) in “The Little Dog Laughed” at The Theater Barn from September 8-23, 2012.

The Little Dog Laughed is a scathing comedy about Hollywood’s dirtiest secrets. It opens at The Theater Barn in New Lebanon, NY on Friday, September 7th at 8pm and runs for three weekends through September 23rd.

It is getting its area premiere under the direction of Bert Bernardi who has the ability to exploit the humor that is buried in this play’s script for all audiences to enjoy.

The hilarious tale of flexible sexuality was written by Douglas Carter Beane (As Bees in Honey Drown and The Sister Act) and was nominated for a Tony Award for Best Play in 2007. The play has been rediscovered of late, with its London production at the Garrick Theatre in 2010 and last year in Vancouver where it had its Canadian debut.

Since so much of the fun of this unconventional comedy is in its surprises, suffice to say that it puts on stage what are normally down and dirty whispers about how the Hollywood film industry operates. The players include a screen idol in the closet, an ambitious male prostitute and his naïve girlfriend, and a brash, driven Hollywood agent who can spin anyone and anything. The New York Times called the play “The tastiest homegrown comedy of manners in years, a tangy new fable of fame and its discontents.”

Click to read the rest at Berkshire on Stage.

Burns and Cane Review: “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum” at the Theater Barn [Berkshire on Stage]

Tuesday, August 28th, 2012

by Gail Burns and Roseann Cane. For the Berkshire-Capital region’s most comprehensive listing of theatre offerings visit

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum @ The Theater Barn

Roseann Cane: A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum first opened on Broadway in 1962 and has enjoyed many incarnations, including two revivals on Broadway (one in the ’70s and one in the ’90s), over the last half-century. I would have loved to see the Cantonese version produced in Hong Kong just a few years ago! It’s easy to understand its popularity. Smart, bawdy, upbeat…what’s not to love? And the show has a solid pedigree, thanks not only to its esteemed creators, but because it’s based upon the works of the Roman playwright Plautus, and celebrates his stock characters—the cunning slave, the dirty old man, the braggart warrior—as well as his joyful vulgarity.

Gail Burns: When I told a friend I would be seeing/reviewing ……Forum I was asked if I wasn’t heartily sick of it, and I answered no, for all the reasons you have outlined above. I have seen many productions, but three stand out in my mind as really special: the all-male version at the Williamstown Theatre Festival in 2010, starring Christopher Fitzgerald; the 2007 production starring Jim Charles at the Cohoes Music Hall; and the 2002 production at the Theater Barn starring Matthew Daly and Anthony Devine. So I was obviously very excited to see what the Barn would do with this show in 2012.

But I have to say that I was disappointed from the moment I entered the theatre. I remembered Abe Phelps wonderfully colorful set from 2002, and this time he produced nothing but grey monoliths.

Click to read the rest at Berkshire on Stage.

Review: “The Great American Trailer Park Musical” at the Theater Barn [Berkshire on Stage]

Tuesday, August 14th, 2012
Review: The Great American Trailer Park Musical at The Theater Barn thru August 19th. with (l to r)  Mary Kate Morrissey, Shaun Rice and Katie Clark.

Review: The Great American Trailer Park Musical at The Theater Barn thru August 19th.
with (l to r) Mary Kate Morrissey, Shaun Rice and Katie Clark.

By Gail Burns and Roseann Cane. For the Berkshire-Capital region’s most comprehensive listing of theatre offerings visit

Gail Burns: If there’s a show with a title that makes you say “What the..??” – whether it’s a Broadway hit like “Urinetown” or “The Drowsy Chaperone,” or something you’ve never heard of before like “Zombie Prom” or “The Great American Trailer Park Musical” – and it’s being directed by Bert Bernardi at The Theater Barn, this is a show you want to see. You need to call the box office ASAP and say “I want to see THAT show.” Because it is bound to be great fun.

Roseann Cane: I’d forgotten how pleasant it can be just to have a night of silly fun at the theater. I really knew nothing about “The Great American Trailer Park Musical,” and, truth be told, I’d braced myself for an underwhelming evening. But when we entered The Theater Barn, and I drank in Abe Phelps’s nicely crafted set—the hindquarters of two trailers framing a trio of beach chairs and an assortment of de rigueur lawn accents, including a pink flamingo and a garden gnome—I felt a spark of hope.

Gail: The show is set in Armadillo Acres, a trailer park in Starke, Florida, a small town about midway between Gainesville and Jacksonville in the northern part of the state. No beach resorts here. And the electricity goes out with every storm. We’re talking Georgia’s Dukes of Hazzard much more than Florida’s Golden Girls.

The southern setting makes the “trailer park” issue slightly more palatable to a local audience, and Betsy Kelso’s book and David Nehls’s lyrics manage to deftly walk that razor’s edge between broad caricature and lovably flawed humanity. There are cliches and stereotypes of the kind of people who live in manufactured housing communities, and some of them apply some of the time. But the bottom line is that trailers/mobile homes are America’s affordable housing and the people who live in them are home owners and active citizens in the towns where they live, work, vote, and pay their taxes.

Click to read the rest at Berkshire on Stage.

LIVE: “Stones In His Pockets” @ The Theater Barn, New Lebanon [GailSez]

Friday, September 16th, 2011
Stones In His Pockets @ The Theater Barn, New Lebanon

The entire cast of "Stones in His Pockets" at The Theater Barn - Trey Compton, seen here as Jake Quinn, and Matthew Daly, seen here as Charlie Conlon - play ALL the roles in Marie Wilson's profound little comedy.

This little two-man comedy has been around for about fifteen years now, and productions have proliferated on the periphery of this region, but this production at The Theater Barn was my first chance to see it. I knew that it was set in Ireland and that it was one of those two-guys-play-all the-parts deals, which made me think I was going to see a kind of Tuna Go Bragh. But I was delighted with the cast and director that the Barn announced, and went off with high hopes of a fun-filled evening.

I walked out of the theatre so deeply impressed with what I had seen – with Marie Jones magical script, with Phil Rice’s meticulous direction, and with Trey Compton and Matthew Daly’s artistry – that I was genuinely astonished. This is no little comedy. This is a profoundly affecting little play about human dignity and frailty and the psychology of place – how where we come from and where we make our home affect who we are.

The premise is simple – two Irishmen, one a local and one an “outsider” – are working as extras in a cheesy Hollywood flick called The Quiet Valley, one of many that are shot on the lush Irish countryside every year. This is the only work they can get as both farming and manufacturing have died out and neither are well educated or highly skilled. They are left playing caricatures of themselves on their home soil for forty quid a day. How each copes with that depressing irony forms the core of the story.

Click to read the rest of this story at GailSez.

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