Nov 04

Don’t Tell Me the Odds: “Roald Dahl’s Willy Wonka”

Photo by Nile Scott.

Presented by Wheelock Family Theatre
Music and lyrics by Leslie Bricusse and Anthony Newly
Adapted for the stage by Leslie Bricusse and Timothy Allen McDonald
Based on the book, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl
Directed by Emily Ranii
Music directed by Nathan Urdangen 
Choreographed by Russell Garrett

Oct 25 – Nov. 17, 2019
Boston University
200 Riverway 
Boston, MA 02215
Wheelock on Facebook

Critique by Kitty Drexel

(Boston, MA) Wheelock Family Theatre’s production of Roald Dahl’s Willy Wonka (2004) should not be confused with the West End and Broadway production of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (2013). Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is currently touring in the US (now in Omaha!). Roald Dahl’s Willy Wonka is not. Both incorporate elements from Dahl’s novel and the two Hollywood movies. They are similar but not the same.  

Roald Dahl’s Willy Wonka cannot compete with the novel or the movies. Fans of the other Wonka media should view this iteration as the children’s theatre it is and not compare it to its source materials. They will be disappointed. 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 17

Life Smells Weird: “SpongeBob the Musical”

National Tour Cast of The Spongebob Musical. Photo by Jeremy Daniel.

Presented by the Boch Center Wange Theatre
Based on the series SpongeBob Squarepants by Stephen Hillenburg
Book by Kyle Jarrow
Music by Tom Kitt
Original songs by Yolanda Adams, Steven Tyler, Joe Perry, Sara Bareilles, Jonathan Coulton, Alex Ebert, The Flaming Lips, Lady Antebellum, Cyndi Lauper, Rob Hyman, John Legend, Panic! At the Disco, Plain White T’s, They Might Be Giants, T.I., Domani, Lil’ C, David Bowie, Brian Eno, Andy Paley, Tom Kenny, Derek Drymon, Mark Harrison, Stephen Hillenburg, Blaise Smith & Tom Kitt
Additional lyrics by Jonathan Coulton
Production conceived and directed by Tina Landau
Choreography by Christopher Gattelli
Music direction by Patrick Hoagland
Music supervision by Julie McBride & Timothy Hanson

October 15 – 27, 2019
Boch Center Wang Theatre
Boston, MA
SpongeBob and Wang Theatre on Facebook

Review by Kitty Drexel

(Boston, MA)

A SpongeBob Squarepants internet primer: 

  • SpongeBob is a cartoon featured on the Nickelodeon TV network. 
  • SpongeBob Squarepants has a devoted YouTube channel with helpful playlists.
  • Encyclopedia SpongeBobia has a series timeline and community forum for fans.
  • SpongeBob Squarepants has spawned many dank memes. A “dank meme” is colloquial phrase that describes viral internet media of outdated comedic value.  

(Boston, MAThe SpongeBob Musical currently playing at the Wang Theatre is great fun. Tina Landau’s production engages the audience with colorful design and choreography. Tom Kitt’s upbeat, pop score is catchy but thoughtful. It’s a heartening musical comedy that teaches important lessons about friendship, generosity and civic duty.  Continue reading

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Oct 07

The Broadway Facts of Life: “42nd Street”

PREVIEW: The Umbrella Stage Company Presents 42nd Street from The Umbrella on Vimeo.

Presented by The Umbrella Stage Company 
Music by Harry Warren
Lyrics by Al Dubin
Book by Michael Stewart & Mark Bramble
Based on the novel by Bradford Ropes
Directed by Brian Boruta
Music direction by James Murphy
Musical restaging and new choreography by Lara Finn Banister

September 27 – October 20, 2019
The Umbrella Main Stage 
Concord, MA
The Umbrella Stage on Facebook 

Critique by Kitty Drexel

(Concord, MA) 42nd Street is a show-within-a-show jukebox musical serving as a thinly veiled excuse to pair tap dance with 1930’s Broadway hits. The 1933 Depression-era movie had choreography by Busby Berkeley and was nominated for an Academy Award. The movie (and eventually the musical) has deeply impacted musical theatre. Bullets Over Broadway, Kiss Me Kate and other backstage musicals have all been influenced by 42nd Street’s incarnations. It’s a classic but carries with it the problems of its time.   Continue reading

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Aug 27

Riffs, Shimmies, Herstory: “Six”

Anna of Cleves (Brittney Mack, at center) performs “Get Down” in SIX, written by Toby Marlow and Lucy Moss and directed by Lucy Moss and Jamie Armitage.
Photo: Liz Lauren

Presented by the American Repertory Theatre
By Toby Marlow and Lucy Moss
Direction by Lucy Moss and Jamie Armitage
Music direction by Roberta Duchak
Choreography by Carrie-Anne Ingrouille 

Aug. 21 – Sept. 29, 2019
The Loeb Drama Center
64 Brattle Street
Cambridge MA 02138
A.R.T. on Facebook 

Critique by Kitty Drexel

Trigger warning: sexual abuse of a minor, gas lighting, female objectification

(Cambridge, MA) Six is catchy like Hamilton. They have similar harmonic elements; both borrow heavily from popular music formats. Unlike Hamilton, Six lends its female characters depth beyond the deeds of a man. The women of six will be remembered for more than a shared husband. They’ll be remembered for living and their shared husband.  Continue reading

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Jul 21

Superfans in Cosplay Having the Best Time: “The Lightning Thief: The Percy Jackson Musical”

Presented by the Huntington Theatre Company
Adapted from the book, The Lightening Thief by Rick Riordan 
Book by Joe Tracz
Music and lyrics by Rob Rokicki
Directed by Stephen Brackett
Music direction by Wiley DeWeese
Choreography by Patrick McCollum
Fight direction by Rod Kinter
New puppetry design by AchesonWalsh Design Studios

July 17 – 28, 2019
Huntington Avenue Theatre
264 Huntington Ave
Boston, MA
The Huntington on Facebook

Critique by Kitty Drexel

(Boston) Saturday afternoon’s performance of The Lightning Thief: The Percy Jackson Musical was an event for superfans and their friends. Children in Camp Half-Blood t-shirts and their adults congregated to the Huntington Theatre to watch this musical about modern day children of Greek gods. It’s not a production for everyone; it’s specifically written for devotees to the Rick Riordan book. Theatre-lovers will appreciate the ingenuity of the design team but they should attend knowing that this musical isn’t for them; It’s for fans in their childhood years. Continue reading

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Apr 22

Sometimes God Eats People: “Caroline or Change”


L to R: Pier Lamia Porter* as “The Washing Machine”, Davron S. Monroe* as “The Dryer” and Yewande Odetoyinbo* as “Caroline Thibodeaux” ; Photograph: Sharman Altshuler

Presented by Moonbox Productions
Book and lyrics by Tony Kushner
Score by Jeanine Tesori
Directed by Allison Olivia Choat
Music directed by Dan Rodriguez
Choreography by Yewande Odetoyinbo

April 20 – May 11, 2019
The Stanford Calderwood Pavilion
Boston Center for the Arts
Boston, MA
Moonbox on Facebook

Critique by Kitty Drexel

(Boston, MA) It isn’t true that money can’t buy happiness. Science, as dressed in commercially digestible articles from Time or Entrepreneur, told us in 2017 that happiness begins at an income that covers payment of non-negotiable needs such as food, rent, and other expenses. That amount was approximated between $50,000 – $75,000. Anything less or more than fiscal solvency lowers our quality of life. Minimum wage is still $7.25. And the 1% wonder why the 99% are angry all the time.   

Caroline or Change is about a poor, Black woman raising four kids on her own in 1963 at the peak of the Civil Rights movement in Louisiana. She’s a maid in the Gellman household where she makes $30 a week (roughly $250/week in 2019) and it’s not enough. Caroline Thibodeaux (Yewande Odetoyinbo) isn’t paid enough to deal with any of the nonsense like throws at her but she does it anyway.  Continue reading

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Mar 22

On A Dime: “Dragon Lady”

Presented by by A.R.T. Breakout, part-one of the Dragon Cycle
Created and performed by Sara Porklob
Original music by Peter Irving
Band: Hot Damn Scandal
Directed by Andrew Russell

March 20 – April 6
Club Oberon
2 Arrow Street
Cambridge MA, 02138
A.R.T. on Facebook

Critique by Kitty Drexel

(Cambridge, MADragon Lady is the courageous story of how potty-mouthed, gangsta grandma Maria Porkalob traveled from the Philippines to the US as told by her granddaughter Sara Porkalob.  This one woman show/dramatic cabaret is intensely passionate. The events of Maria’s stories might not be exactly true. What is true is the emotional veracity with which it is told.

Continue reading

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Feb 14

Raise A Glass to Broadway, 2 Critiques: “Spamilton”

Presented by Huntington Theatre Company
Created, written and directed by Gerard Alessandrini
Musical direction by Curtis Reynolds
Choreography by Gerry McIntyre 

Feb. 12 – April 7, 2019
South End
Calderwood Pavilion at the BCA
Boston, MA
Huntington on Facebook

Trigger warning: potentially offensive racial humor, disrepecting Sondheim

Critique by Kitty Drexel

(Boston, MA) Holy crap, go see Spamilton. Seriously, I mean it this time: go see Spamilton. Parody musicals aren’t for everyone but almost everyone loved Hamilton and Spamilton takes all of the great parts of Hamilton and makes them funny on purpose. Spamilton is a good laugh – even for the people who hate Hamilton.

Continue reading

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Feb 11

“Cendrillon” is a Sweet, Sugary Cinderella

Presented by The Harvard College Opera
Composed by Jules Massenet
Music Directed by Benjamin P. Wenzelberg
Stage Directed by Madeline Snow

Agassiz Theater
Cambridge, MA
Feb 1-3 & 8-10
Facebook Event

Review by Gillian Daniels

(Cambridge, MA) If Massenet’s Cendrillon was a cake, it would be covered in thick, buttery frosting, have crushed sugar cookies inside, and funfetti melted into every layer. This version of Cinderella is one of the sentimental renditions of a wildly popular but very reliable recipe. As a fan of multiple versions of the rags-to-riches, wish-fulfillment fairy tale, which includes the much bleaker version explored in Into the Woods, I enjoyed the sweetness that the Harvard College Opera leans into so very hard in this production. Continue reading

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