Sep 26

Trump Might Not be the Worst*: 45 PLAYS FOR 45 PRESIDENTS

Terrell Donnell Sledge starts off the show as George Washington. Photo by Meghan Moore;

Terrell Donnell Sledge starts off the show as George Washington. Photo by Meghan Moore.

Presented by Merrimack Repertory Theatre
Written by Andy Bayiates, Sean Benjamin, Genevra Gallo-Bayiates, Chloe Johnston, and Karen Weinberg
Directed by Sean Daniels

September 7 – October 2, 2016
50 East Merrimack Street
Lowell, MA
MRT on Facebook

Review by Craig Idlebrook

(Lowell, MA) Do you know that dull portrait of all the U.S. presidents that’s on the inside binding of high school history textbooks? Mix it with an episode of Game of Thrones and an episode of Who’s Line is it Anyway?, and you have 45 Plays For 45 Presidents. Continue reading

Jul 27

Saving Mr. and Mrs. Banks: MARY POPPINS – THE MUSICAL

Kerry Conte (Mary Poppins) with Scarlett Keene-Connole (Jane Banks) and Jake Ryan Flynn (Michael Banks), Photo © Paul Lyden.

Kerry Conte (Mary Poppins) with Scarlett Keene-Connole (Jane Banks) and Jake Ryan Flynn (Michael Banks), Photo © Paul Lyden.

Presented by North Shore Music Theatre
Book by Julian Fellows
Original and lyrics by Richard Sherman & Robert Sherman
New materials by Anthony Drewe & George Stiles
Co-created by Cameron Mackintosh
A Musical based on the stories of P.L. Travers & the Walt Disney Film
Directed and choreographed by Kevin P. Hill
Music direction by Milton Granger

July 12 – July 31, 2016
62 Dunham Road
Beverly, MA 01915
NSMT on Facebook

Review by Craig Idlebrook

(Beverly, MA) It’s hard to tinker with a musical movie that many consider practically perfect in every way, but when there’s money to be made, many a scriptwriter will try. Mary Poppins – The Musical is more successful than most Disney rehashes at adding some new touches to a classic plot and score, even if the finished product feels a bit overlong, and the North Shore Music Theatre production of this spectacle does a solid job staging this spectacle. Continue reading

May 12

Absurd Political Escapism: HOME OF THE BRAVE

Photo by Meghan Moore

Photo by Meghan Moore

Presented by Merrimack Repertory Theatre
Written by Lila Rose Kaplan
Directed by Sean Daniels
Featuring Karen MacDonald

April 20 – May 15, 2016
50 East Merrimack Street
Lowell, MA
MRT on Facebook

Review by Craig Idlebrook

(Lowell, MA) Finally, a political play that is as absurd and as over-the-top as the 2016 presidential election! Um, I’m not sure that’s a good thing. Continue reading

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