Oct 14

Jigsaw Transcendence: “Angels in America – Perestroika”

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Photo found on Umbrella Facebook page. Currently uncredited.

Photo found on Umbrella Facebook page. Currently uncredited.

Presented by Umbrella Arts
By Tony Kushner
Directed by Nancy Curran Willis

The Umbrella
Concord, MA
October 3 – October 18, 2014
Umbrella Arts on Facebook

Review by Craig Idlebrook

(Concord, MA) In 100 years, Tony Kushner’s sprawling masterpiece of Angels in America might be studied by school-kids, much like the Odyssey. That might be the right setting, providing a full semester to fully take in this script. Kushner asks us to follow along as he pinballs between real and surreal, politics and religion, gay culture and religion. Each well-developed scene feels like a glistening jewel of a short story, complete in pacing and characters, but it can be very hard to understand how these pieces come together into one cohesive story. If you’re watching the play for the first time, it can feel like reading a New Yorker magazine from cover to cover in one sitting. Continue reading

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Oct 14

Earnest and Flawed: BENT

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This tragic yet beautiful photo was found on the Zeitgeist Facebook page. No photo credit was found.

This tragic yet beautiful photo was found on the Zeitgeist Facebook page. No photo credit was found.

Presented by Zeitgeist Stage Company
By Martin Sherman
Directed by David Miller

Boston Center for the Arts
September 19th – October 11th, 2014
Zeitgeist on Facebook

Review by Craig Idlebrook

(Boston, MA) Terror comes when you slowly realize that you have run out of ways to escape a horrible situation. It can first comes in drips, and then all at once. Homosexuals in Nazi Germany first lived on the knife’s edge in a non-sanctioned world of winks and nods. In the play Bent, they succumb to terror in one fell swoop, but then realize that perhaps the most terrifying thing of all is when one can’t find the bottom of a nightmare. Then, all that one can do is accept what is happening and find ways to regain shreds of dignity. Continue reading

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Oct 07

Murder, We Hope: “Chicago”

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Heather Parcells (Roxie) and Bahiyah Hibah (Velma). Photo © Paul Lyden

Heather Parcells (Roxie) and Bahiyah Hibah (Velma). Photo © Paul Lyden

Presented by North Shore Music Theatre
Book by Fred Ebb and Bob Fosse
Music by John Kander
Lyrics by Fred Ebb
Based on the play by Maurine Dallas Watkins
Directed and choreographed by Nick Kenkal

Beverly, MA
September 23rd – October 5th, 2014
NSMT on Facebook

Review by Craig Idlebrook

(Beverly, MA) At one point after a showstopping number during the North Shore Music Theatre’s production of Chicago, actor Sean McDermott (Billy Flynn) was clearly out of breath. He had a lot of company in the audience, as this production succeeds in leaving an audience breathless. Continue reading

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Aug 18

Needs Oil, But Still Burns Rubber: GREASE

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Photo © Paul Lyden

Photo © Paul Lyden

Presented by North Shore Music Theatre
Book, music, lyrics by Warren Casey & Jim Jacobs
Directed by Mark Martino
Music directed by Craig Barna
Choreographed by Mark Stuart

August 12th – August 24th, 2014
Beverly, MA
NSMT on Facebook

Review by Craig Idlebrook

(Beverly, MA) The backstory behind the script for the musical “Grease” is that writers Jim Jacobs and Warren Casey locked themselves away to write a bunch of 50’s era songs, and then tried to piece together a plot to fit the songs together. This sounds like a recipe for a disaster of a script, and for a long time I personally thought the plot flimsy and vacant. Continue reading

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Jul 15

Go Big or Go Home: A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM

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The Cast. Photo found on It’s A Fiasco Facebook page.

It’s a Fiasco Theatre Company
by William Shakespeare
Sponsored by the City of Cambridge and the Cambridge Arts Council – presented under the auspices of the Actors’ Equity Association Member’s Project Code.

June 19 – 29, 2014
Longfellow Park, 175 Mt. Auburn Street
Cambridge, MA
It’s A Fiasco on Facebook

Review by Craig Idlebrook

Think for a moment of the conditions under which Shakespeare was performed in the Elizabethan era and you realize this play was never meant to be locked away in an ivory tower. At the time the words of these plays were fresh, so was the concept of public sanitation. Most of the population was illiterate, and probably a good amount of them shared their skin with some form of vermin. Even in the hallowed halls of royal theater, the patrons probably stank to high heaven and air conditioning was a couple of centuries from being invented. So if at first glance it seems incongruous to speak some of the English language’s best poetry next to a Cambridge water park, it might be best to remember this probably would have been considered a pretty gentile staging grounds back in the day. Continue reading

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Jul 15

A Sinking Feeling: DISNEY’S A LITTLE MERMAID

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Adrienne Eller as Ariel in North Shore Music Theatre's Production of Disney's THE LITTLE MERMAID running July 8 - 27, 2014. Photo©Paul Lyden

Adrienne Eller as Ariel in North Shore Music Theatre’s Production of Disney’s THE LITTLE MERMAID running July 8 – 27, 2014. Photo©Paul Lyden

Presented by North Shore Music Theatre
Music by Alan Menken
Lyrics by Howard Ashman and Glenn Slater
Book by Doug Wright
Based on the Hans Christian Andersen Story and the Disney Film produced by Howard Ashman & John Musker and written & directed by John Musker and Ron Clements
Direction by Michael Heitzman
Music directed by Bruce Barnes
Choreography by AC Ciulla

July 8th – July 27th, 2014
62 Dunham Road
Beverly, MA
NSMT on Facebook

Review by Craig Idlebrook

(Beverly) Whenever you are suspending disbelief, there are rules that must be followed to create a new reality. It doesn’t matter if you are writing Game of Thrones or playing make-believe with a 2-year-old, the ground rules, once established, have to be enforced or the whole thing falls apart.

That is perhaps the main reason why the musical version of Disney’s A Little Mermaid, playing at the North Shore Music Theatre, couldn’t hook either me or for my 8-year-old daughter. This show is largely aquatic, but director Michael Heitzman fails to create a sea for our imagination. Sometimes, the merpeople and fish hobble awkwardly in tight fin-like gear; other times, they use the same wires and pulleys to occupy the same air as the seagull. Merpeople aren’t allowed on land, until they are at the end of the play. Too often, they crossed the streams. Continue reading

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Jun 16

The Smartest Play in Town: SMART PEOPLE

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Roderick Hill as Brian White and McKinley Belcher III as Jackson Moore in Smart People. Photo: T. Charles Erickson

Roderick Hill as Brian White and McKinley Belcher III as Jackson Moore in Smart People. Photo: T. Charles Erickson

Presented by the Huntington Theatre
Written by Lydia R. Diamond
Directed by Peter DuBois

June 25th – July 6th, 2014
Calderwood Pavelion
Boston Center for the Arts
Boston, MA
Huntington Theatre on Facebook

Review by Craig Idlebrook

(Boston) How we view race defines us, but we often don’t like to examine how we view race, at least not directly. To write well about race in America requires both a deep understanding of society and a deeper self-examination of one’s own feelings to sort out fact from feeling, and to know when to use both to create an artistic vision. Successful attempts to write well in fiction about this dicey subject are rare; most either skitter across the surface or descend into lecture. Continue reading

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Jun 16

Informal Enlightenment: EATING MY GARBAGE

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IMG_7787

 

 

Written and performed by David Mogolov
Directed by Steve Kleinedler
Music by Ryan Walsh and Evan Sicuranza

June 12th through June 20th, 2014
Davis Square Theatre
255 Elm Street
Somerville, MA 02114
Mogolov on Facebook

Review by Craig Idlebrook

 

 

(Somerville) In the midst of the blockbuster movie season, it’s quite refreshing to see the captivating power of good storytelling. With his one-person play, Eating My Garbage, David Mogolov owns the stage, despite an absence of blocking, props, and special effects, by letting us get a clear picture of how his unique synapses fire to draw quirky insight into the human condition. Continue reading

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Jun 02

A Robust Spectacle: THE TEMPEST

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Photo: The Smith Center/Geri Kodey

Photo: The Smith Center/Geri Kodey

Presented by the American Repertory Theatre
By William Shakespeare
Adapted and Directed by Aaron Posner and Teller
Magic by Teller
Songs by Tom Waits and Kathleen Brennan
Choreography by Matt Kent, Pilobolus
Magic Design by Johnny Thompson
Magic Engineering and Construction by Thom Rubino
Music Direction and Arrangements by Shaina Taub

May 11th – June 15th
Cambridge, MA

Reviews by Craig Idlebrook and Clara Idlebrook

(Editorial note – Reviewer Craig Idlebrook attended The Tempest with his family. The American Repertory Theatre asked that he include his 8-year-old daughter’s take on the show. Clara Idlebrook’s review appears below Craig’s.)

Craig’s Take:

There is something so delicious about watching artists at work who have mastered their craft enough to disregard public opinion and create something exquisitely weird. American Repertory Theatre’s staging of the Tempest feels like a transcendent late-night jam session between William Shakespeare, veteran magician Teller, and musical sabotage specialists Tom Waits and Kathleen Brennan. You could picture this production being a traveling troupe’s one-shot staging done during a layover, and someone happened to hit the record button on an iPhone. Continue reading

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May 14

Good Songs and Good Cheer: NEIL BERG’S 100 YEARS OF BROADWAY

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Uncredited photo snagged from Larcom Theatre Facebook page.

Presented by Spectacle Management
By composer, lyricist and producer Neil Berg

Larcom Theatre
Beverly, MA
May 9th – May 11th, 2014
Larcom Theater on Facebook

Review by Craig Idlebrook

(Beverly, MA) It is regrettable that Broadway too often is a business for the young, as this cult of youth cuts out so many talented actors who have finely honed their abilities through years of practice. Instead of making use of this talent in New York, actors over 35 too often are shunted off to regional tours or repertory theaters.

The show Neil Berg’s 100 Years of Broadway, stopping in Beverly for the weekend, shows that New York’s loss is the country’s gain. A straightforward concert of some of Broadway’s most memorable tunes, this show smartly forgoes the spectacle that consumes cruise ship concerts to give the performers space to truly connect with their audience and showcase their abilities to entertain. Continue reading

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