Nov 11

Scarily Relevant Once More: WEST SIDE STORY

Presented by North Shore Music Theatre
Beverly, MA
November 1- 20, 2016
NSMT on Facebook

BOOK BY: Arthur Laurents
MUSIC BY: Leonard Bernstein
LYRICS BY: Stephen Sondheim
Director: Bob Richard
Music Director: Milton Granger
Choreographer: Diane Laurenson
Based on Conception of Jerome Robbins
Based on Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet

Review by Craig Idlebrook

(Beverly, MA) How quaint – working class whites and Hispanics fighting for control of a few city blocks. West Side Story is a fun period piece hearkening back to a time when institutionalized racism was the norm and …
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Nov 11

The Church is the Thing: HAMLET

Photo by Nile Scott Shots; Marianna Bassham and Ross MacDonald.

Photo by Nile Scott Shots; Marianna Bassham and Ross MacDonald.

Presented by Actors’ Shakespeare Project
By William Shakespeare
Directed by Doug Lockwood

October 5 – November 6, 2016
Church of the Covenant
Boston, MA
ASP on Facebook

Review by Craig Idlebrook

(Boston, MA) Hamlet is often seen as a humanist play, one where the lead character, instead of taking much of any action, spends much of his time pondering the meaning of life, the universe, and everything. Continue reading

Nov 02

Shakespeare…with Zombies: “Twelfth Night of the Living Dead”

Photo courtesy of Anthem's Facebook page

Photo courtesy of Anthem’s Facebook page

Presented by Anthem Theatre Company
Based on the work by William Shakespeare
Script by Brian MacInnis Smallwood
Directed by Bryn Boice

October 27 – November 5, 2016
Plaza Black Box Theatre at the Boston Center for the Arts
Boston, MA
Anthem on Facebook

Review by Craig Idlebrook

(Boston, MA) I’m going to make a case for why Twelfth Night of the Living Dead, a mashup of Shakespeare and zombie movies, rises above its original source material. And I’m making this case post-Halloween, so I’m not gripped with Salem festival-like fever. Continue reading

Oct 17

Sympathy for the Sinner: ABIGAIL/1702

Photo by Meghan Moore; Rachel Napoleon and Jon Kovach.

Photo by Meghan Moore; Rachel Napoleon and Jon Kovach.

Presented by Merrimack Repertory Theatre
Script by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa
Directed by Tlaloc Rivas

October 12 – November 6, 2016
50 East Merrimack Street
Lowell, MA 01852
MRT on Facebook

Review by Craig Idlebrook

(Lowell, MA) Ever notice that there aren’t many Academy Awards won for performances given in horror films? This might be because such scripts require a form of acting gymnastics – extreme emotion in some moments and the ability to deliver silly-sounding lines with a straight face in others. Continue reading

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