Feb 13

Love Against All Odds: “Mr. Popper’s Penguins”

“Mr. Popper’s Penguins” cast: (l-r) Russell Garrett, Lisa Kate Joyce, Michael Jennings Mahoney, Kristian Espiritu, Yasmeen Duncan, and Todd McNeel. Photo by Jake Belcher.

Presented by Wheelock Family Theatre
Book by Robert Kauzlaric
Music and Lyrics by George Howe
Based on the novel by Richard and Florence Atwater
Direction and Choreography by Ilyse Robbins
Music Direction by Dan Rodriguez
Scenic Design by Janie E. Howland
Costume Design by Bethany Mullins
Puppet Design by Alex Vernon
Featuring: Yasmeen Duncan, Kristian Espiritu, Russell Garrett, Lisa Kate Joyce, Michael Jennings Mahoney, Todd McNeel

February 10 – March 3, 2024
Wheelock at Boston University
180 Riverway
Boston, MA 02215

Run Time: 70 minutes with no intermission

Recommended for ages 3+

Review by Maegan Bergeron-Clearwood

BOSTON, Mass. — After a long afternoon at work and a particularly sluggish MBTA ride, I was in a grim mood when I finally walked into the Wheelock Family Theatre last night – but my spirits were almost instantaneously lifted at the sight of Captain Cook (the first of many heartwarming creations by puppeteer Alex Vernon), a full-sized penguin puppet, complete with waddling feet, flapping wings, and expressive, blinking eyes. Continue reading

Oct 03

The Grim, Hilarious Carnival of “Assassins”

John Hinkley (Jacob Thomas Less), Lynette “Squeaky” Fromme (Lisa Kate Joyce), Leon Czolgosz (Daniel Forest Sullivan), The Proprietor (Jackson Jirard), Sara Jane Moore (Shonna Cirone), and Samuel Byck (Phil Tayler) (Photo by Mark S. Howard)

Presented by The Lyric Stage Company of Boston
Music and Lyrics by Stephen Sondheim
Book by John Weidman
Directed by Courtney O’Connor
Music Directed by Dan Rodriguez
Based on an idea by Charles Gilbert, Jr.

Sept 15 – Oct 15, 2023
140 Clarendon Street
2nd Floor
Boston, MA 02116
Lyric Stage Company on Facebook

Review by Gillian Daniels

BOSTON, Mass. – Of the Sondheim shows I’ve seen, this is the most, well, Sondheim. Assassins is wonderfully bleak and hilarious. 

Lyric Stage explores the legacies of the lonely, disenfranchised, entitled, and deranged individuals who tried to share their personal darkness with the rest of the world by trying (and sometimes succeeding) in killing American presidents. Audiences looking for a conventional theater experience will likely be disappointed. There’s no singular, central protagonist here. But why should there be in a show that joyfully hopscotches between eras?  Continue reading

Jan 13

Somewhere Deep Inside, Love Is Hiding: “Preludes”

Photo by Mark S. Howard.

Presented by the Lyric Stage of Boston
Music, lyrics, book, and orchestrations by Dave Malloy 
Directed by Courtney O’Connor
Music direction by Dan Rodriguez
Dramaturgy by Megan Jepsen, Marieska Luzada
Orchestra: Bethany Aiken, Mindy Cimini on keyboards

Jan. 6 – Feb. 5, 2023
Lyric Stage 
140 Clarendon Street
Boston, MA 02116

RUNNING TIME: APPROXIMATELY 2 HOURS AND 10 MINUTES, INCLUDING A 15-MINUTE INTERMISSION.

Critique by Kitty Drexel

BOSTON, Mass. — As a girl I was introduced to the music of Sergei Rachmaninoff via the 1996 Geoffrey Rush movie Shine about pianist David Helfgott. I remember thinking Rachmaninoff’s music was so wondrous that it would be worth going a little mad to play it so beautifully.

It is terrifically easy for innocent children to romanticize the mental health crisis of adults. I’m an adult now with two degrees in classical music, but I don’t entirely disagree with my teenage self. 

Preludes is Arcade Fire’s Win Butler (minus those pesky sexual assault allegations) meets contemporary musical theatre that arbitrarily skips between the centuries. It’s the story of poor, little rockstar composer Rach (Dan Prior) who suffers from debilitating writer’s block. Rach is seeing Dahl (Aimee Doherty), a hypnotherapist, to break his block and reach the great heights of success again. Rach shares his journey with his fiancee Natalya (Kayla Shimizu), opera singer Chaliapin (Anthony Pires Jr.), and assorted Russian intelligentsia (Will McGarrahan). Dan Rodriguez kicks ass as Rachmaninoff.   

I’m of two minds about Dave Malloy’s Preludes at the Lyric Stage: it’s whiny and navel-gazy; and, it directly attacks the artist’s universal conundrum of creating art that is both valuable and entertaining. The Lyric’s production does not negate itself by doing both simultaneously. 

This is what it is to be an artist. We desperately want to be hired but know that we may never reach our full potential. Every artists has that one brilliant friend who gave up because they couldn’t reconcile all that excruciating, costly, invisible work for lack of career recognition. 

Audiences don’t often get to see artists complaining. As in the rest of life, artists can complain and still feel truly grateful for our discipline and talents. We bitch to our therapist, pick ourselves up again and get back to our art. In Preludes, Rach doesn’t get back to it because he can’t. Artists are people too.  

Audiences will recognize Dave Malloy from his biggest success Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812. Preludes is a great departure from Great Comet. For one thing, it’s mercifully shorter. For another, it has more than the one melody played over and over and over. 

Malloy’s original compositions in Preludes have tight, exposed vocals. Sometimes the vocals are a capella. He incorporates techno elements on two keyboards. Malloy requires vocals to sing lines independent of the techno music. 

The Preludes cast meets Malloys demands and conquers them. Whatever one might think of the script or the music, the cast does a great job. Kayla Shimizu has both an expressive legit voice and impressive, cathartic-sounding mix. Anthony Pires Jr. bounds across the stage as Chaliapin. Will McGarrahan wears many hats while wearing the same shirt. Aimee Doherty charms as Dahl. 

Dan Prior rides waves of Rach’s mental health to the big breakdown in Act 2 like a professional surfer. Prior and director O’Connor paced both acts uncannily well to preserve Prior’s energy and the audience’s patience. By the time Rach is ready to tell his Big Tale, we’re ready to hear it. 

Music director Dan Rodriguez is the soft-focus star of Preludes. He plays piano center stage, rarely looks up from the keyboard and utters few words over the course of the two-hour production. He hovers omniscient, observant, seen and unseen. 

The actors drift around Rodriguez weaving Malloy’s story, but it’s Rodriguez who does the impossible work of interpreting Rachmaninoff’s genius and then threading Malloy’s compositions under and through. Then Malloy asks his music director to conduct from the stage. And then Malloy asks him to sing.  

Rodriguez is a known, beloved music director in Boston. Rodriguez has the trust of his cast, his unseen orchestra, and the audience. We believe his Rachmaninoff and in his skill at the piano. This may be his most challenging role to date, and he meets it with aplomb. He takes a risk coming in front of the curtain. It pays off.

Photo by Mark S. Howard.

The “Who’s Who in Preludes” playbill article adds a thoughtful touch to the playgoing experience. It puts nine faces to nine famous name drops in the show and gives the audience something to consider during the intermission. (Such as how Tolstoy maintained such an exact yet plush eyebrow to mustache hair ratio). We’re introduced to how each knows Rachmaninoff and why they are important to Preludes. More dramaturgy is HERE.

For those of you who know what it is to have spoken with the muses and be abandoned by them, it is no small thing to have experienced their presence. Attempting to call them back is painful, embarrassing, and painfully embarassing. Malloy’s work represents his experiences. It isn’t universal. Be kind. 

People want/need art but don’t want to pay artists a living wage. Preludes asks an audience to see an artist as a person, an imperfect, breakable person with more flaws than genius or friends. We ask a lot of our artists. Preludes asks us to give a little more than money and time. 

Jun 14

Jam, Jive and Everything: “Ain’t Misbehavin’: The Fats Waller Musical Show”

The company; Photo by Nile Scott Photography

Presented by Greater Boston Stage Company
Co-produced with The Nora at Central Square Theater and The Front Porch Arts Collective
Conceived by Richard Maltby, Jr. & Murray Horwitz
Musical Adaptions, Orchestrations, and Arrangements by ​Luther Henderson
Directed and Choreographed by Maurice Emmanuel Parent
Co-Choreographed by Ilyse Robbins
Co-Music Direction by Dan Rodriguez and David Freeman Coleman

June 9-26, 2022
Greater Boston Stage Company
395 Main Street
Stoneham, MA 02180
Runtime: 2 hours including intermission

Review by Kitty Drexel

STONEHAM, Mass. —  Ain’t Misbehavin’ is a show that builds and builds until the energy and the intensity seem unsustainable. Then it builds some more. The musical opens with the titular song and spans the great career of Thomas Wright “Fats” Waller. There is little dialogue but a lot of impressive dancing. 

The red Art Deco set by Jon Savage, Aria Pegg, and Tori Oakes transports the audience to a speakeasy deep in the bowels of New York. The audience is flanked by large-scale landscape murals depicting Black jazz musicians and dancers a la Josephine Baker. The stage extends close to the first row to give the cast plenty of room to stomp, prowl, and wiggle. Café tables are placed on the edges of stage left and right.  Continue reading

Jan 29

Protest Harder, Longer, Faster: “Hair: The American Tribal Love-Rock Musical”

Cast of Hair. Andrew Brilliant/Brilliant Pictures.

Presented by New Rep Theatre
Book & Lyrics by Gerome Ragni and James Rado
Music by Galt MacDermot
Directed and choreographed by Rachel Bertone
Music direction by Dan Rodriguez
Intimacy direction by Angie Jepson
Dramaturgy by Emily White

Jan 26- Feb 23, 2020
Open Caption services will be provided on Saturday, 2/8 during the 3:00pm performance.
MainStage Theater
Mosesian Center for the Arts
321 Arsenal Street
Watertown, MA 02472
New Rep on Facebook

Content Warning: This production contains strong language, frequent references to sex and illicit substances, and brief nudity. Recommended for ages 18+.

Critique by Kitty Drexel

Watertown, MA —  Hair is the only time I’ve been (purposefully) naked onstage. I have fond memories of performing in Counter-Productions Theatre Company’s Hair in 2010. Getting naked as an expression of civil protest was just one of the perks of joining their cast. Continue reading

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

Dec 03

Castaway Caught in Colonialist Fantasy in “Shipwrecked!”

Presented by Moonbox Productions
Written by Donald Margulies
Original music composed and performed by Dan Rodriguez and the repertory cast
Directed by Allison Olivia Choat

Nov 25 – Dec 29
Boston Center for the Arts Plaza Theatre
539 Tremont Street
Boston, MA 02116
Moonbox Productions on Facebook

Review by Gillian Daniels

(Boston, MA) Halfway through Shipwrecked! An Entertainment, when Louis de Rougemont (Kevin Cirone)–a real person who claimed to have been stranded in the Pacific in his 1899 serial-turned-book–lives on an unspecified island in a carefree existence with an unspecified, idealized indigenous people who variously refer to him as “chief” or “god,” I thought I’d be writing a very different review. But the lively depiction of a “man-eating octopus” and “flying wombats” early in the show should have tipped me off. This is a narrative that pokes holes in itself, a comedy-drama, a man using a survivor’s unlikely colonialist narrative to build his self-worth, and a story about the stories we tell ourselves to feel better. Continue reading

Jun 11

“A Chorus Line” as a Period Piece

Wahle as Zach with Ensemble. Photo by Herb Philpott.

Presented by Reagle Music Theatre of Greater Boston
Conceived and Originally Directed and Choreographed by Michael Bennett
Book by James Kirkwood and Nicholas Dante
Music by Marvin Hamlisch
Lyrics by Edward Kleban
Originally Co-Choreographed by Bob Avian
Direction; Recreation of the Original Choreography by Leslie Woodies
Music direction by Dan Rodriguez
Assistant Director/Assistant Choreographer – Lauren Gemelli

June 7 through 17, 2018
Reagle Music Theatre of Greater Boston
617 Lexington St., Waltham, MA 02452
Reagle on Facebook

Reviewed by Bishop C. Knight

(Waltham, Massachusetts) I had never seen A Chorus Line so, for readers who are unfamiliar with this 1975 Broadway musical about life in show biz, please let me provide a brief summary.  On a bare stage, a group of dancers bring their headshots and personal histories to an audition where they share their birth names, stage names, birthdays, and ages, as well as their most formative life experiences.  There was a tough boy from the Bronx, another guy from a big Italian family, a saucy woman who flirted with the director, and fifteen more performers – all with large and extremely memorable personalities. Continue reading

Apr 23

“Cabaret” : Red Lights & Secrets

Aimee Doherty* Photographer: Tom Shoemaker

Presented by Moonbox Productions
Based on stories by Christopher Isherwood
Lyrics by Fred Ebb
Music by John Kander
Book by John Masteroff
Directed by Rachel Bertone
Music Direction by Dan Rodriguez

April 14th thru 29th, 2018
BCA Calderwood Pavilion
Wimberly Theater, Boston
Moonbox on Facebook

Review by Bishop C. Knight

(Boston, Massachusetts) I assume that unlike many in the audience at the Wimberly Theatre, I went to the Calderwood Pavilion knowing nothing substantial about Cabaret and naïvely expecting lots of eye-high rockette dance moves.  Seated with friends before the show, I opened up a program and encountered a quote by Christopher Isherwood, the British-American novelist who holds a principal place within my private imaginative world.  This quotation was from Isherwood’s Goodbye to Berlin, upon which Cabaret is based, and it goes “I am a camera with its shutter open, quite passive, recording, not thinking. Recording the man shaving at the window opposite and the woman in the kimono washing her hair. Someday, all this will have to be developed, carefully printed, fixed.”   Continue reading

Jun 14

You’re Doing Fine: “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat”

Presented by Reagle Music Theatre of Greater Boston
Music by Andrew Lloyd Webber
Lyrics by Tim Rice
Directed and Choreographed by Susan M. Chebookjian
Musical Direction by Dan Rodriguez

June 8th – 19th
Reagle Music Theatre
617 Lexington Street
Waltham, MA
Reagle on Facebook

Review by Danielle Rosvally

(Waltham, MA) Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat is easily my favorite Andrew Lloyd Webber musical.   Full of camp and cheese with loads of catchy, singable songs, it’s pretty much everything I want in a musical.  As a North-of-Bostonian, I was so excited to see a production of Joseph outside the city limits at the Reagle. Continue reading