Mar 21

Catching the Beat: THE REALNESS: A BREAK BEAT PLAY

 Photo by Meghan Moore.

Photo by Meghan Moore.

Presented by Merrimack Repertory Theatre
Written by Idris Goodwin
Directed by Wendy C. Goldberg

March 16 – April 10, 2016
50 East Merrimack Street
Lowell, MA
MRT on Facebook

Review by Craig Idlebrook

(Lowell, MA) The power of hip hop as an art form comes from seizing the rhythm of the moment. The same could be said for The Realness: a break beat play, which is making its world premiere in Lowell. Writer Idris Goodwin has embedded a few dozen profound beats in this play, and it is a beautiful thing to watch when this cast catches one, and then another; the stage crackles to life in these moments. Often, however, it feels like these beats have yet to be uncovered on stage, making this play feel like a work in progress. Rarely do I wish to go back to see a play with the same cast, but I’d like to see how this production grows toward the end of its run in Lowell. Continue reading

Feb 22

Short, Sweet, and Gory: “La Zombiata”


Presented by WholeTone Opera
Opera by Jillian Flexner
Based on the opera by Giuseppe Verdi and Francesco Maria Piave.
Stage Director: J. Deschene
Music Director: Ian Garvie

February 12 – 14, 2016
Davis Square Theater
Somerville, MA
WholeTone Opera on Facebook

Review by Craig Idlebrook

(Somerville, MA) The few times I’ve been to an opera, I noted that if you took out a lot of the notes people sang, you would end up with a bloody, sexy tale. Being that I’m generally inclined for a bloody, sexy tale over a lot of notes, I daydreamed of a streamlined opera that didn’t take itself so seriously. (Have you gathered I don’t usually like opera?) Continue reading

Jan 25

Sober Truth….With Jokes: THE WHITE CHIP

Jeffrey Binder in "The White Chip" Photo by Meghan Moore.

Jeffrey Binder in “The White Chip” Photo by Meghan Moore.

Presented by Merrimack Repertory Theatre
Written by Sean Daniels
Directed by Sheryl Kaller

Jan 6 – 31, 2016
50 East Merrimack Street
Lowell, MA
MRT on Facebook

Review by Craig Idlebrook

(Lowell, MA) Earnestness may be the most difficult emotion to pull off in theater well. Attempts generally fall short and become bludgeoning lectures, wooden morality plays, or both. That’s what makes The White Chip, playing at Merrimack Repertory Theatre, such a theatrical revelation. Not only does it deliver a powerful, needed message on why so many fail at addiction recovery, but it is a riveting play that is a joy to watch, as playwright Sean Daniels manages to add just the right amount of humor and perspective to keep the audience hooked. Continue reading

Nov 16

Black Nuns are Supposed to be Funny: “SISTER ACT”

Photos©Paul Lyden

Photos©Paul Lyden

Presented by North Shore Music Theatre
Music by Alan Menken
Lyrics by Glenn Slater
Book by Cheri Steinkellner and Bill Steinkellner
Additional Book Material by Douglas Carter Beane
Based on the Touchstone Pictures Motion Picture Sister Act written by Joseph Howard
Direction and Choreography by Kevin P. Hill
Music direction by Andrew Bryan (with an assist by Adrian Ries)

November 3 – 15, 2015
Beverly, MA
NSMT on Facebook

Review by Craig Idlebrook

(Beverly, MA) What do you do with a musical version of a 90’s comedy that doesn’t age particularly well? You try and set it in the 70’s and hope for the best. The North Shore Music Theatre cast of Sister Act is winsome at times, but not crisp enough to transcend the problematic source material. Continue reading

Oct 05

GAMES WITHOUT FRONTIERS: “Billy Elliot – The Musical”

Photo © Paul Lyden

Photo © Paul Lyden

Presented by North Shore Music Theatre
Music by Elton John
Book and Lyrics by Lee Hall
Based on the Universal Pictures/Studio Canal Film
Direction and Choreography by Adam Pelty
Musical direction by Andrew Bryan

September 29th – October 11th, 2015
Beverly, MA
NSMT on Facebook

Review by Craig Idlebrook

(Beverly, MA) Leave it to children to show adults just how stupid they can be.

In Billy Elliot – the Musical, a young boy in a northern English town stumbles into a love of ballet in the midst of a coal miner strike in the mid-eighties. It is a good show that can achieve multiple goals during the course of the script, and North Shore Music Theatre stages a good one. Through skillful choreography and playful dance, this production shows how the political struggles of Thatcherism in the UK so closely resembles the nonsensical and almost playful twists and turns of a second-rate children’s ballet show. At the same time, at its core, this play is a simple coming-of-age story of a child growing up different and talented at a time when a community was straining to hold onto a core value of gray sameness. Continue reading

Sep 11

Almost a Good Fit – KINKY BOOTS

Photo via http://kinkybootsthemusical.com/media.php

Photo via http://kinkybootsthemusical.com/media.php

Book by Harvey Fierstein
Music and lyrics by Cyndi Lauper
Music orchestrator/arranger/supervisor: Stephen Oremus
Music direction by Brian Usifer
Directed/choreographed by Jerry Mitchell
Associate direction by DB Bonds
Associate choreography by Rusty Mowery

August 11 – 30, 2015
Boston Opera House
Boston, MA
Kinky Boots online

Review by Craig Idlebrook

(Boston, MA) It’s amazing that even a play that prominently features a singing and dancing troupe of transvestites (gay or straight) can still be primarily about helping a heterosexual white male self-actualize and grow up. It’s as if Kinky Boots celebrity writer Harvey Fierstein and his musical partner Cyndi Lauper were given a directive to adhere to some guy version of the Bechdel test. Continue reading

Aug 19

Desperate Jiving: SATURDAY NIGHT FEVER

Sam Wolf as Tony Manero in SATURDAY NIGHT FEVER The Musical playing at North Shore Music Theatre August 11 - 23, 2015. Photo © Paul Lyden

Sam Wolf as Tony Manero in SATURDAY NIGHT FEVER The Musical playing at North Shore Music Theatre August 11 – 23, 2015. Photo © Paul Lyden

Presented by North Shore Music Theatre
Original Stage Adaptation by Robert Stigwood & Bill Oakes
North American Adaptation by Sean Cercone & David Abbinanti
Directed by Richard Stafford
Choreographed by Nick Kenkel
Music direction by Milton Granger
Assistant music direction by Joseph Mohan

August 11th – 23rd, 2015
62 Dunham Road
Beverly, MA 01915
NSMT on Facebook

Review by Craig Idlebrook

An old Rolling Stone profile of the Bee Gees, the band behind the music for Saturday Night Fever, included a heartbreaking moment – the band was on top of the world at the time, but one of the Gibb brothers spent the entire interview nervously scrolling the radio dial to hear if any station was playing his music. Continue reading

Aug 03

Frothy and Forgetful Summer Fare: “Shrek the Musical”

Photo © Paul Lyden

Photo © Paul Lyden

Presented by North Shore Music Theatre
Music by Jeanine Tesori
Book and Lyrics by David Lindsay-Abaire
Based on the DreamWorks Animation Motion Picture and the book by William Steig
Musical directed by Michael Gacetta (why does NSMT keep leaving their music directors off the main page?)
Direction by Michael Heitzman
Choreography by Mara Greer

July 7 – 19, 2015
62 Dunham Road
Beverly, MA
NSMT on Facebook

Review by Craig Idlebrook

If you can’t smile at North Shore Music Theatre’s production of Shrek the Musical you really are an ogre, and I don’t mean the good kind that everyone cheers for to win the girl. However, if you can remember a song from this musical a few days after you watched it, you are a better reviewer than I. This production has all the trappings of a winsome summer blockbuster movie in that it’s something fun to watch while scarfing down popcorn with your family, but when the dazzle fades, there isn’t much there there. Continue reading

Jun 16

Sanitized Motown: DREAMGIRLS

Photo©Paul Lyden

Photo©Paul Lyden

Presented by North Shore Music Theatre
Book & lyrics by Tom Eyen
Composed by Henry Krieger
Directed & choreographed by Nick Kenkel
Music direction by Jesse Vargas

June 2-14, 2015
North Shore Music Theatre
62 Dunham Road
Beverly, MA 01915
NSMT on Facebook

Review by Craig Idlebrook

Sometimes, a musical is cursed with potential. The action on stage may be enough to bring the crowd to its feet, but you can still walk away thinking it should have been something more. Continue reading

May 11

On Golden Bay: THE OUTGOING TIDE

David Adkins, Ross Bickell, Felicity LaFortune. Photo by Meghan Moore.

Presented by Merrimack Repertory Theatre
By Bruce Graham
Directed by Charles Towers

April 23 – May 17, 2015
50 East Merrimack Street
Lowell, MA 01852
MRT on Facebook.

Review by Craig Idlebrook

(Lowell, MA) The decline of old age comes for so many of us, and yet there are few who are prepared to meet it on our own terms. In the powerful drama The Outgoing Tide, one patriarch races against time and his own failing memory to decide his fate in the face of dementia. This production is sure to spur thought-provoking discussions on aging and death, and it largely avoids the feel of a Lifetime Original medical drama of the week. We never lose sight of the individuality of the main character even as what makes him an individual slowly disintegrates. Continue reading