Posts Tagged ‘Williamstown Theatre Festival’

Blythe Danner to Star in “The Country House,” a Play about Summer in Williamstown [Berkshire on Stage]

Tuesday, March 18th, 2014
Blythe Danner

Blythe Danner

Story by Larry Murray

Plans have been announced for The Country House, a new comedy by Donald Margulies, whose story takes place at a Berkshire summerhouse during the Williamstown Theatre Festival. Starring Blythe Danner, it will open this June at the Geffen Playhouse in LA, then move to Roundabout Theatre in New York City in September.

A press announcement noted that it is the sixth production at the Geffen Playhouse for Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Donald Margulies (Coney Island Christmas, Times Stands Still, Sight Unseen). The Country House is a new comedy about a deeply dramatic family and begins previews June 3 (opening night is June 11).

Tony and Emmy winner Blythe Danner (The Commons of Pensacola, Meet the Parents) stars as Anna Patterson, the matriarch of a brood of famous and longing-to-be-famous creative artists who have gathered at their Berkshires summerhouse during the Williamstown Theatre Festival. But when the weekend takes an unexpected turn, everyone is forced to improvise… inciting a series of simmering jealousies, a flurry of romantic outbursts and a bout of passionate soul-searching.

Click to read the rest at Berkshire on Stage.

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Barrington Stage and Williamstown Festival Make Major 2014 Season Announcements [Berkshire on Stage]

Friday, January 31st, 2014
One of the great heroes of WWII is Alan Turing who broke the Nazi’s enigma code and whose riveting personal story will be presented by Barrington Stage Company this summer.

One of the great heroes of WWII is Alan Turing who broke the Nazi’s enigma code and whose riveting personal story will be presented by Barrington Stage Company this summer.

by Larry Murray

Theater news is in the air as Pittsfield’s Barrington Stage Company announced its full season of 2014 offerings and the Williamstown Theatre Festival dropped the names of the shows and stars to light their main stage marquee. A detailed look at the Barrington Stage offerings is in the works here at Berkshire on Stage as Gail M. Burns and I report on the kick-off lunch and our discussions with Julianne Boyd and others later this week. For now, the Barrington Stage Company offerings are:

Kiss Me, Kate will be from June 11-July 12. This classic musical which mixes Shakespeare with a traveling troupe of theatrical folks was first announced last September. The popular musical recounts the backstage and onstage antics of two feuding couples during a touring production of The Taming of the Shrew. Sparkling with 18 classic Cole Porter songs, Kiss Me, Kate includes “Another Op’nin’, Another Show,” “So in Love,” “Always True to You in My Fashion,” “Too Darn Hot,” and “Brush Up Your Shakespeare”.

Breaking the Code, Hugh Whitemore’s biographical drama about the true story of Alan Turing, the famed mathematician and computer science pioneer and the primary designer of the Turing Machine, an early computer used to solve the German Enigma code during World War II, a solution many believe was instrumental in the Allied victory. The title refers to both the solution of the Enigma code and Turing’s open admission to his homosexuality, which at the time violated not only the codes of polite society but British law. To star BSC Associate Artist Mark H. Dold, and will be directed by Joe Calarco. Performances of Breaking the Code are from July 17-August 2.

Click to read the rest at Berkshire on Stage.

Mandy Greenfield to Succeed Jenny Gersten as Williamstown Theatre Festival Artistic DIrector [Berkshire on Stage]

Thursday, December 5th, 2013
Mandy Greenfield

Mandy Greenfield

Williamstown Theatre Festival has named Mandy Greenfield as their new Artistic Director beginning September, 2014. The appointment was announced by the Festival’s Board Chair Matt Harris. Greenfield, who is currently Artistic Producer at Manhattan Theatre Club, succeeds Jenny Gersten. As previously announced, Gersten departs Williamstown Theatre Festival in January 2014 to become Executive Director of Friends of the Highline. Gersten will program the upcoming 2014 season, and Williamstown Theatre Festival Producer Stephen Kaus will oversee the season. Greenfield’s tenure as Artistic Director will begin immediately following the 2014 season, the Festival’s 60th.

“We are thrilled for Jenny’s new chapter, and know that she will forever be linked to WTF; we welcome Mandy Greenfield with great excitement. Mandy has the experience, leadership ability, taste, and vision to help us write the next chapter for our theater,” – Board Chair Matt Harris

In the news release announcing the appointment, new artistic director Mandy Greenfield said, “I am thrilled to build upon the rich history of the Williamstown Theatre Festival and create bold, adventurous work with the company. I look forward to producing theater with writers, directors, designers, actors and apprentices passionate about making great art, in a spectacular and singular environment, in the seasons ahead. I am excited to work with the Festival’s devoted board, unwavering supporters and loyal audiences to sustain and grow one of the great American cultural treasures.”

Click to read the rest at Berkshire on Stage.

WTF and the Debate Society Opens “Blood Play” – Dark, Difficult Story About the Dystopian ’50s [Berkshire on Stage]

Wednesday, August 14th, 2013
(L to R): Paul Thureen (Jeep), Hannah Bos (Bev), Michael Cyril Creighton (Morty), Hanlon Smith-Dorsey (Sam) and Birgit Huppuch (Gail). Photograph T Charles Erickson.

(L to R): Paul Thureen (Jeep), Hannah Bos (Bev), Michael Cyril Creighton (Morty), Hanlon Smith-Dorsey (Sam) and Birgit Huppuch (Gail). Photograph T Charles Erickson.

Theater review by Larry Murray

The Williamstown Theatre Festival (WTF) continues its tradition of presenting and supporting up and coming theatre companies that most people have never heard of. The Debate Society (TDS) is one of them, and it opened Blood Play at the Nikos Theatre last week. This work occupies the final slot in WTF’s 2013 season of seven plays.

Blood Play places us in a claustrophobic pine-paneled basement room with five refugees from the fifties. In the dystopian culture which those years spawned we meet some people on the cusp of success who spend their time drinking, socializing and playing silly party games. It is all innocuous enough on the surface, but the sheer mediocrity of it left me thinking about how much I dreaded not being able to escape that sort of life half a century ago. That’s when I fled suburban Freeport, Long Island in search of something more meaningful, more real than the regimentation of getting married, having 2.5 kids, 1/4 acre, and a station wagon in the garage. The oppressive scourge that era brought us includes Senator Joe McCarthy and the red scare, Levittown, keeping up with the Joneses, the John Birch Society, TV dinners. It ultimately paved the way for the vacuity of discount big-box stores, overcrowded highways and mindless television, not to mention the military-industrial complex and war as big business.

Marshall McLuhan coined the phrase “The past is prologue,” and I might posit that this dystopia still exists, even as the nature and variety of amusements has changed. Now we have all manner of “smart” electronic toys that make us feel unique and powerful even as they keep us from actually communicating with each other as the drinking games in Blood Play do. Times have not changed all that much, just the things we amuse ourselves with. On another level there are hints of family dysfunction, sexual curiosity and neglected, possibly abused children. These are some of the things that Blood Play – whether purposely or by accident – brings to the surface. They are all hinted at. We, the audience have to fill in the blanks.

Click to read the rest at Berkshire on Stage.

On Its Way to Being a Hit: “The Bridges of Madison County” at WIlliamstown Theatre Festival [Berkshire on Stage]

Tuesday, August 6th, 2013
(L to R): Cass Morgan (Marge), Steven Pasquale (Robert Kincaid) and Elena Shaddow (Francesca). Photo by T Charles Erickson.

(L to R): Cass Morgan (Marge), Steven Pasquale (Robert Kincaid) and Elena Shaddow (Francesca). Photo by T Charles Erickson.

Review by Larry Murray

The Bridges of Madison County has all the ingredients to make it a big hit on Broadway, but the show itself, now playing at the Williamstown Theatre Festival in the Berkshires of Massachusetts is not quite there yet. It’s too long, and does not have a show-stopper song, something many consider essential to a real hit. The production is directed by Bartlett Sher (Tony-winner for the recent revival of South Pacific). Kelli O’Hara – who is currently expecting her second child – will assume the lead role of Francesca (played in Williamstown by Elena Shaddow) for the Broadway transfer.

The new musical has a lush and romantic score by Tony-award winner Jason Robert Brown and a book by Marsha Norman whose Pulitzer-winning ‘night, Mother shows she knows her way around families and human emotions. Bridges has lots of them, especially during the final 30 minutes which are so sob-inducing there should be a couple of Kleenex tucked into each program.

Brown is among a small number of serious new musical composers who create scores that are beautiful to hear rather than simply strident and bombastic, a trend infesting many new musicals. Nice melodies and gorgeous arrangements, it’s an approach that I endorse, and it seems to be evolving nicely as Bridges clearly demonstrates. One identifying feature is that its songs actually require some real singing. In fact, it has to be of near-classical proportions (think Adam Guettel and Light in the Piazza) by actors who portray their characters as solidly as they hit their notes.

Click to read the rest at Berkshire on Stage.

“Bridges of Madison County: The Musical” to Have World Premiere at Williamstown Theatre Festival [Berkshire on Stage]

Tuesday, July 30th, 2013
The Bridges of Madison County

The Williamstown Cast includes Elena Shaddow and Steven Pasquale.

Williamstown Theatre Festival Artistic Director Jenny Gersten has announced the full cast and creative team for the sixth production, the third and final of the 2013 Main Stage season: The Bridges of Madison County will be presented on the Main Stage from August 1–18, 2013.

Based on the best-selling novel by Robert J. Waller that captivated millions of readers, The Bridges of Madison County is brought to life onstage in a passionate new musical production written by acclaimed playwright, screenwriter and novelist Marsha Norman (Pulitzer Prize for ‘night, Mother), with music and lyrics by Tony Award-winner Jason Robert Brown (Parade; The Last Five Years). Norman’s additional Broadway credits include book and lyrics for The Secret Garden, for which she won a Tony Award and the Drama Desk Award, as well as the libretto for the musical The Color Purple; Brown has been hailed by The New York Times as “a leading member of a new generation of composers.”

Directed by Tony Award winner and Resident Director of the Lincoln Center Bartlett Sher (South Pacific, Golden Boy, Awake and Sing!), The Bridges of Madison County captures the lyrical expanse of America’s heartland along with the deep yearning entangled in the eternal question, “What if…?”

Click to read the rest at Berkshire on Stage.

“Johnny Baseball” Hits a Home Run, Continues Williamstown Theatre Festival’s Winning Streak [Berkshire on Stage]

Monday, July 29th, 2013
The true curse of the Red Sox is obscured by the mists of time. (James Snyder, photo by T. Charles Erickson.)

The true curse of the Red Sox is obscured by the mists of time.
(James Snyder, photo by T. Charles Erickson.)

Review by Larry Murray

The first baseball musical was Damn Yankees. I saw it in 1955, the year that Jackie Robinson – America’s first African American player – led my beloved Brooklyn Dodgers to the World Championship, I had no idea that a later musical would explore that world.

Robinson was the first to break the color line back in 1947 following WWII. As for the Boston Red Sox, to their great shame, they would be the last team in Major League Baseball to field a black player, allowing racism to cloud their better judgement for decades. Finally they signed Pumpsie Green in 1959, long after Damn Yankees had run its 1,018 performances and the Brooklyn Dodgers moved to Los Angeles. The big difference between the two musicals – both of which revolve around the temptations of a woman – is that while Joe Hardy sold his soul to the Devil in Damn Yankees, Johnny O’Brien sells it instead to the Red Sox in Johnny Baseball.

First seen in a Diane Paulus production at the American Repertory Theatre in 2010, Red Sox fans loved the music and lyrics by the brothers Robert and Willie Reale. Especially well received were the scenes of the fans lamenting the long drought in world championships, as they sang songs such as “86 Years” and “The Ballad of Johnny O’Brien.” But others were not as enchanted with the unforgiving facts about the racism that fueled bad Red Sox decisions which led to so many years of major league irrelevance. Johnny Baseball posits that it was not the “curse of the Bambino” that prevented them from coming out on top for more than half a century, that selling Babe Ruth to the Yankees had absolutely nothing to do with it, it was their intractable racism which kept them from the pennant year after year.

Click to read the rest at Berkshire on Stage.

Review: Heather Lind Shines Brightly in Witty “Pygmalion” at Williamstown Theatre Festival [Berkshire on Stage]

Monday, July 22nd, 2013
Robert Sean Leonard (l) and Heather Lind in Pygmalion. Photos by T. Charles Erickson.

Robert Sean Leonard (l) and Heather Lind in Pygmalion. Photos by T. Charles Erickson.

Theater review by Larry Murray

There’s a fresh and fast paced new production of Pygmalion on the stage of the Williamstown Theatre Festival, and it is a wonder. Those of you who are fans of George Bernard Shaw (GBS) would do well to schedule an impromptu trip to see it. If you enjoyed My Fair Lady you will find that this all-talk no-music original has deeper and richer characters, though you might expect the cast to break out in song at any moment. Seeing Pygmalion clues you in to the fact that Alan Jay Lerner did not so much create the lyrics for the musical as simply crib some of them from the original GBS script.

Can it be that a hundred years has passed since George Bernard Shaw wrote Pygmalion? Certainly it is the most popular and beloved of all his plays, yet since the first performance on stage its ending has often been declared unsatisfactory by those who like the leading couple to end up married. Since Higgins and Dolittle do NOT walk into the sunset together, producers and actors have been prompted to ad lib various endings that suggest otherwise. It annoyed GBS so much that he actually penned an epilogue, an essay so detailed and convoluted that it is surprising that some Hollywood filmmaker hasn’t announced “Pygmalion, The Sequal: Eliza’s Revenge.”

Click to read the rest at Berkshire on Stage.

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