Oct 01

The Unfinished Work of a More Perfect Union: NATIVE GARDENS

Gabriel Marin (Pablo De Valle), Vivia Font (Tania Del Valle), Joel Colodner (Frank Butley)
Photo by Meghan Moore

Presented by Merrimack Repertory Theatre
Directed by Giovanna Sardelli
By Karen Zacarías

September 12 – October 7, 2018
50 East Merrimack Street
Lowell, MA
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Review by Craig Idlebrook

(Lowell, MA) Writers must walk a fine line with audiences when it comes to parables. For a parable to be effective, the story must signal its intentions early and clearly. If done well, it gives the story license with the audience to present an incomplete worldview to prove a point. The devil, however, is in the details – as in what details to give the audience and what details to leave out – to create a world that gets enough buy-in from the audience to think about the issue. Continue reading

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Aug 15

Frothy Fun and B-Side Moments: MAMMA MIA

Tari Kelly (Tanya) with Tiffani Barbour (Rosie) and Erica Mansfield (Donna) in MAMMA MIA! live on stage at North Shore Music Theatre thru September 2. Photo©Paul Lyden

Presented by North Shore Music Theatre
Directed & Choreographed By: Kevin P. Hill
Music Direction By: Bob Bray
Music And Lyrics By: Benny Andersson & Björn Ulvaeus And Some Songs With Stig Anderson
Book By: Catherine Johnson
Originally Conceived By: Judy Cramer

August 2 – September 2, 2018
North Shore Music Theatre
Beverly, MA
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Review by Craig Idlebrook

(Beverly, MA) There is a reason why the musical Mamma Mia has become such a phenomenon – I mean, aside from the fact that a group of Swedes sold their souls to the devil to make the most earworm-y music of the 20th century. The story is one long, sexy summer party that showcases the current or past foibles of our twenties. A young woman secretly invites her three potential fathers to her island wedding without telling her mother about it – it’s as if someone set out to re-envision Midsummer Night’s Dream with platform shoes. Continue reading

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May 22

Fempool: THE VILLAINS’ SUPPER CLUB

Kristen Mengelkoch (Galactic Girl). Photo by Meghan Moore.

Presented by Merrimack Repertory Theatre
By Lila Rose Kaplan
Directed by Sean Daniels

April 25 – May 20, 2018
Merrimack Repertory Theatre
50 East Merrimack Street
Lowell, MA
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Review by Craig Idlebrook

(Lowell, MA) Bringing a comic book to life on stage can be extremely difficult, but deconstructing the comic book genre onstage can bring a new round of pitfalls. While the Merrimack Repertory Theatre production of “The Villains’ Supper Club” sometimes stumbles through the scattershot superhero world created by Lila Rose Kaplan’s script, it does so with a winsome and improvisational spirit. This, combined with the fact that Rose Kaplan has packed the script with some really great comical lines, leaves theatergoers with a visually stunning and utterly unique theatrical experience that may not always make sense, but is always entertaining. Continue reading

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Apr 23

Mother’s Day Should be Plural: “Little Orphan Danny”

Julie Foldesi (Band Member/Women) and Dan Finnerty (Book, Lyrics, Music/Danny)
Photo by Meghan Moore

Presented by Merrimack Repertory Theatre
Concept by Dan Finnerty and Sean Daniels
Book and Lyrics by Dan Finnerty
Music by Dan Finnerty and Dan Lipton

March 21 – April 15, 2018
Lowell, Massachusetts
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Review by Craig Idlebrook

(Lowell, MA) As a father of an adopted child, I often wonder how I will guide my son through the emotional stages of thinking about his origin story. I picture many long, earnest, possibly tear-filled conversations that will be good for us to go through, but certainly not entertaining. In Little Orphan Danny, wiseass rock singer Dan Finnerty decided to tell his own story of adoption, and it’s indeed a tearjerker of a musical. My eyes were wet and my ribs were sore from laughing so hard. Continue reading

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Mar 19

The First Tragic Big Man of Hollywood: “Lost Laughs – The Slapstick Tragedy of Fatty Arbuckle”

Aaron Muñoz (Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle) and Kristen Mengelkock (Will); Photo by Meghan Moore.

Presented by Merrimack Repertory Theatre
Written by Andy Bayiates and Aaron Muñoz.
Directed by Nathan Keepers

February 14 – March 11, 2018
50 East Merrimack Street
Lowell, MA 01852
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Review by Craig Idlebrook

(Lowell, MA) Since the advent of the movie industry, we only pay money to see fat men on the silver screen if we can laugh at them. This has invited a parade of tortured souls willing to be crying-on-the-inside clowns in exchange for riches and some measure of acceptance. Too often, however, these jesters (John Belushi, Chris Farley, etc.) break down, and we celebrate the tragedy of a “brilliant life cut short” while waiting for the next heavy man waiting in the wings. Continue reading

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Nov 14

Stardust and Deep Roots: SILENT SKY

Julia Brothers, Polly Lee, Alexis Bronkovic, Victoria Grace, and Tom Coiner
Photo by Meghan Moore

Presented by Merrimack Repertory Theatre
By Lauren Gunderson
Directed by Sean Daniels

Oct. 18 – Nov. 12
50 E Merrimack St
Lowell, MA 01852
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Review by Craig Idlebrook

(Lowell, MA) There has been a move in recent years to use film and stage to unearth the hidden stories of women who have advanced society while making their contributions in the confines of sexism. This has resulted in a series of earnest biopics or bio-plays, some more well-crafted than others. Continue reading

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Nov 14

Misstep: “42nd Street”

Presented by North Shore Music Theatre
Music by HARRY WARREN
Lyrics by AL DUBIN
Book by MICHAEL STEWART & MARK BRAMBLE
Based on the Novel by BRADFORD ROPES
Original Direction and Dances by GOWER CHAMPION

October 31st – November 12th, 2017
North Shore Music Theatre
62 Dunham Road
Beverly, MA
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Review by Craig Idlebrook

(Beverly, MA) In the mood for regressive theater that features outstanding tap dancing? If you can stomach a musical with a thin plot that celebrates a time when there was no such thing as sexual harassment, then 42nd Street: The Musical is your show! You will have to try hard to find a script that is as nostalgic for the pre-Harvey Weinstein show business era as this one. It’s a revival of a revival of a 1980 play based on a 1933 movie which was designed to help people remember a time before the Great Depression. Continue reading

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Oct 06

Latin America without Latinos: EVITA

Presented by North Shore Music Theatre
Lyrics by Tim Rice
Music by Andrew Lloyd Webber
Direction and Choreography – Nick Kenkel
Music Direction – Mark Hartman

September 26 – October 8, 2017
62 Dunham Road
Beverly, MA
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Essay by Craig Idlebrook

(Beverly, MA) You’re going to a play; it’s a play about a different time and a different country – Argentina, mid-century, Evita. Maybe you’re going to escape, maybe you’re going to learn something, maybe you’re going to be entertained. Continue reading

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Aug 28

Gonzo Greatness: YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN

Tommy Labanaris (Dr. Frederick Frankenstein) and Brian Padgett (The Monster). Photos © Paul Lyden

Presented by North Shore Music Theatre
Book by Mel Brooks and Thomas Meehan
Music and lyrics by Mel Brooks
Original Direction & Choreography by Susan Stroman
Direction and choreography by Kevin P. Hill
Musical direction by Milton Granger

August 15-27, 2017
62 Dunham Road
Beverly, MA
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Review by Craig Idlebrook

(Beverly, MA) Sometimes, you know you’re in for a great night of theater with the very first line of a play; with Young Frankenstein, playing at the North Shore Music Theatre, you know it before the play even starts. Even the pre-play announcements and opening credits, told by a disembodied voice and projected onto a grey shroud, suck you into the campy, spooky, sexy world that Mel Brooks creates. Continue reading

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Jul 03

Please, Make the Music Stop: THE MUSIC MAN

Photo by Paul Lyden.

Presented by North Shore Music Theatre
Book by Meredith Willson and Franklin Lacey
Music by Meredith Willson
Direction by Bob Richard
Music direction by Milton Granger
Choreography by Diane Laurenson

June 6 – June 18, 2017
North Shore Music Theatre
Beverly, MA
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Review by Craig Idlebrook

(Beverly, MA) Sometimes, a play gets to an awkward age where it needs to be taken out of circulation for a while so it can age properly and can come back as a nostalgic piece. The Music Man, which was performed recently  at the North Shore Music Theatre, is one of those plays. In the age of Trump, this play’s racist and rape-culture overtones hit too close to home to be enjoyable. Continue reading

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