Feb 27

“Swan Lake in Blue: A Jazz Ballet”

Presented by Greater Boston Stage Company
Music Director and Composer Steve Bass
Director and Choreographer Ilyse Robbins
Featuring Sara Coombs as Odette/Odile and Andy McLeavy as Florenz Siegfried

February 9 – March 1, 2020
395 Main Street
Stoneham, MA 02180
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Review by Shiyanbade Animashaun

Stoneham, MA — Swan Lake in Blue: A Jazz Ballet is a retelling of the classic ballet Swan Lake with heavy jazz influences. It is set in the 1940s, and takes place in an audition space and night club. Continue reading

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Feb 04

“boom”: An End or A Beginning?

Nicholas Yenson* & Chloe Nosan as “Jules” and “Jo.”
Photo by Maggie Hall

Presented by Wellesley Repertory Theatre
By Peter Sinn Nachtrieb
Directed by Marta Rainer
With Nicholas Yenson, Chloe Nosan, Stephanie Clayman

January 16 – February 9, 2020
Ruth Nagel Jones Theatre
Wellesley College
Wellesley , MA 02481
WRT on Facebook

Review by Shiyanbade Animashaun

Wellesley, MA — The set for boom is a tank reminiscent of a gallery or museum exhibit, with assorted instruments set to the left. As it starts, Stephanie Clayman’s  (“Barbara”) crosses the stage in a jumpsuit and overcoat. Shortly thereafter,  Nicholas Yenson ( “Jules”) and Chloe Nosan (“Jo”) robotically take to the stage, arranged as an underground bunker. Continue reading

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Feb 03

“Pass Over”: Repetition and Resonance

The cast at a friendly picnic. The cops were called. Photo by Nile Scott Studio.

Presented by SpeakEasy Stage Company
Written by Antoinette Nwandu
Directed by Monica White Ndounou
With Kadahj Bennett, Hubens “Bobby” Cius, Lewis D. Wheeler

January 3 – Feb. 2, 2020
Calderwood Pavilion at the Boston Center for the Arts
SpeakEasy on Facebook
The Front Porch on Facebook

Review by Shiyanbade Animashaun

Boston, MA — When directed to their seats, audience members were asked to stay clear of the stage. Set in-the-round, the four seating sections surrounded a square with an off-center lamp post and brick. Soon the direction became clear as Kadahj Bennett (Moses) and Hubens “Bobby” Cius (Kitch) took to the stage in the pre-show moments, with interactions that foreshadowed the events of the play. Continue reading

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Dec 18

Depth of Understanding: “Moby Dick”


Presented by American Repertory Theater
Music, Lyrics, Book, and Orchestrations by Dave Malloy
Based on Moby-Dick by Herman Melville
Music Direction and Supervision by Or Matias
Choreography by Chanel DaSilva
Developed with and Directed by Rachel Chavkin

December 3, 2019 – January 12, 2020
Loeb Drama Center
64 Brattle Street
Cambridge, MA 02138
ART on Facebook

Review by Shiyanbade Animashaun

(Cambridge, MA) Moby-Dick, as director Rachel Chavkin said when talking about multihyphenate writer Dave Malloy, attempts to formally “capture Melville’s eclecticism”. The novel Moby-Dick has a chapter as a play, another as a poem, and wraps the tale of an ill-fated drive for vengeance alongside descriptions of whale types, and the many ways one can prepare and eat a whale. Continue reading

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Dec 06

The Joy and Sadness of “Oliver!”

The cast of Oliver! Andrew Brilliant/Brilliant Pictures.

Presented by New Repertory Theatre
Book, Music, and Lyrics by Lionel Bart
Directed and Choreographed by Michael J. Bobbitt
Music Direction by Sariva Goetz

December 2-29, 2019
Mosesian Center for the Arts
Watertown, MA
New Rep on Facebook

Review by Shiyanbade Animashaun

(Watertown, MA) From before this show began, I was in high spirits. En route to the theater, the soundtrack played in my mind. Once at the Mosesian Center for the Arts hall, surrounded by the gorgeous set, I paused – nervous about my ability to give an impartial review. I have fallen in love with and seen the 1968 movie rendition umpteenth times. I did not have much to worry about though, even as I anticipated lines, reacted to choreography or held my breath through differences between the stage version and screenplay. Continue reading

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Nov 25

The More Things Stay The Same: “An Iliad”


Presented by ArtsEmerson: A Homer’s Coat Production In Association with Octopus Theatricals
Written By Lisa Peterson and Denis O’Hare
Based on Homer’s Iliad, translated by Robert Fagles
Directed by Lisa Peterson
Starring Denis O’Hare
Bassist: Eleonore Oppenheim

November 20 – 24, 2019
Emerson Paramount Center Robert J Orchard Stage
Boston, MA
ArtsEmerson on Facebook

Review by Shiyanbade Animashaun

(Boston, MA) In pre show moments, I wondered about the cluttered stage and oppressive light fixture prominently placed stage left. I worried that I would need to shield my eyes if it remained. Then An Iliad began and its purpose clarified with a wash of sound and light cues that left our star, Denis O’Hare, in its wake. One of many instances that proved I had no need to worry. Continue reading

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Nov 18

A Ritual and Remembrance: “What to Send Up When It Goes Down”

The company of What to Send Up When It Goes Down; Photo by Lauren Miller.

Presented by the American Repertory Theatre
Produced by The Movement Theatre Company
Written by Aleshea Harris
Directed by Whitney White
Presented in collaboration with Hibernian Hall
Ensemble Alana Raquel Bowers (Three), Nemuna Ceesay (Four/​Eight), Rachel Christopher (One/​Made), Ugo Chukwu (Six/​Miss), Kambi Gathesha (Two), Denise Manning (Nine/​Song Leader), Javon Q. Minter (Seven), Beau Thom (Five/​Man/​Driver)

NOV 14 – 16 at Hibernian Hall
184 Dudley Street
Roxbury, MA 02119

NOV 20 – 24 at The Ex (Loeb Drama Center)
64 Brattle Street
Cambridge, MA 02138

Review by Shiyanbade Animashaun

(Roxbury/Cambridge, MA) In its initial moments, What to Send Up When It Goes Down declares itself as a ritual for Black people. Acknowledging the non-Black people in the audience it welcomes all others, with a clear request that all partakers be respectful. Even before it began, I knew the performance would tackle important issues that I resonate with, but the play was surprisingly evocative for the larger audience as well. Continue reading

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Oct 31

The Lost Treasures in “Cambodian Rock Band”

Matthew Yee, Peter Sipla, Aja Wiltshire, Eileen Doan, Greg Watanabe; Photo by Liz Lauren courtesy of Victory Gardens

Presented by Merrimack Repertory Theatre
A co-production with Victory Gardens Theatre in Chicago and City Theatre in Pittsburgh
By Lauren Yee
Directed by Marti Lyons
Featuring the songs of Dengue Fever, Sinn Sisamouth, Voy Ho, and Rose Serey Sothea
Cast includes Eileen Doan (Pou, keyboards), Albert Park (Duch), Christopher Thomas Pow (Leng/Ted, guitar), Peter Sipla (Rom, drums), Greg Watanabe (Chum, bass),  and Aja Wiltshire (Neary/Sothea, vocals).

Oct 16-Nov 10
Merrimack Repertory Theatre 
Lowell,MA
MRT on Facebook 

Review by Shiyanbade Animashaun

(Lowell, MA) The history one learns from Cambodian Rock Band will vary based on previous knowledge of the Cambodian genocide, the Vietnam War, and other geopolitical histories of that era. Lauren Yee’s narrative blends details about how characters survived genocide with elements from the real stories of countless others. Yet, one doesn’t leave the theater with fresh tears of sadness, rather, with smiles over tear-stained faces. The actors, particularly the father-daughter pair of Chum (Greg Watanabe) and Neary (Aja Wilshire), have both very touching and comical exchanges throughout the over 2 hour run time. 

It weaves together a portrait of a father, a mystery, history, and amazing music. From the pre-show announcement to ‘cold open’, both in Khmer, audiences are taken on a ride between the 70’s to the early 2000s features a band from the 70s, singing in Khmer. Continue reading

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Oct 22

Songs of Light and History: “Marie and Rosetta”

Lovely Hoffman, Pier Lamia Porter; photo by Nile Scott Studios.

Presented by Greater Boston Stage Company in Collaboration with The Front Porch Arts Collective
By George Brant
Directed by Pascale Florestal
Musical Direction by Erica Telisnor

With Lovely Hoffman, Pier Lamia Porter

Oct. 17 – Nov. 10, 2019
Greater Boston Stage Company 
395 Main Street
Stoneham, MA 02180
GBSC on Facebook

Review by: Shiyanbade Animashaun

(Stoneham, MA) Marie and Rosetta is a tremendous concert built around a conversation that shares what should be a much more well-known story about the roots of Rock-N-Roll. It takes place on the first rehearsal night for a dynamic musical duo, played and sung by Lovely Hoffman as Sister Rosetta Tharpe, and Pier Lamia Porter as Marie Knight. The comedic and moving single act conversation has scenic and costume design by Baron E.Pugh and Michelle Villada, which help transport the audience to this moment in time. Continue reading

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Sep 25

Rhythms of Humanity: “Choir Boy”

The cast in “Choir Boy.” Photo by Nile Scott Studios.

Presented by SpeakEasy Stage Company
By Tarell Alvin McCraney
Directed by Maurice Emmanuel Parent
Musical Direction by David Freeman Coleman
Choreography by Yewande Odetoyinbo and Ruka White

Sept. 13 – Oct. 12, 2019
Stanford Calderwood Pavilion at the Boston Center for the Arts
Boston, MA
SpeakEasy on Facebook

Review by Shiyanbade Animashaun

(Boston, MA) Choir Boy opens on a sole figure, David (Dwayne P. Mitchell), a student at the elite Charles R. Drew Prep School. He looks into the audience with intent as he begins to step dance. It is deliberate, slow and unaccompanied. The routine then increases in intensity and volume as more students appear. They flank the audience, on their way to the stage, with percussive dancing and chanting. Among the students, I noticed Bobby Marrow (Malik Mitchell) right away. He often seemed moments away from breaking into a joyous smile, mirroring my own.  Continue reading

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