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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Feb 03

Almost There! “The Making of a Great Moment”

Photo by Meghan Moore; Danny Scheie and Aysan Celik

Presented by Merrimack Repertory Theatre
By Peter Sinn Nachtrieb
Directed by Sean Daniels

January 4 – 29, 2017
50 East Merrimack Street
Lowell, MA
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Review by Craig Idlebrook

(Lowell, MA) At any point in the year, there are dozens of small theatrical troupes of two or three actors crisscrossing the country to perform at schools or community centers. They perform plays you have never heard of in places you’ve never heard of, and the only way they do their job is to take the absurd situation they find themselves in seriously. Continue reading

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Dec 12

A Ted Williams After-School Special: “Going to See the Kid”

Joel Colodner, Veronika Duerr, John Gregorio. Going to See the Kid. Photo by Meghan Moore.

Joel Colodner, Veronika Duerr, John Gregorio. “Going to See the Kid.” Photo by Meghan Moore.

Presented by Merrimack Repertory Theatre
By Steven Drukman
Directed by Alexander Greenfield

November 30th – December 24th, 2016
50 East Merrimack Street
Lowell, MA
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Review by Craig Idlebrook

(Lowell, MA) Sometimes, you get the sense in the opening minutes that a play is going to be so bad that you steal yourself to feel sorry for the actors. It is a testament to the professionalism of director Alexander Greenfield and the cast of Going to See the Kid that I didn’t cringe much for them onstage as they crisply worked with the material they had, but the script was just as cringe-worthy as I had feared. Continue reading

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Nov 11

Scarily Relevant Once More: WEST SIDE STORY

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