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

Nov 06

Let the Sun and Light Come Streaming: “The Rocky Horror Show”

The Rocky Horror Show at CST! First Rehearsal! from Central Square Theater on Vimeo.

Presented by Central Square Theater 
Book, Music, & Lyrics by Richard O’Brien
Directed by Jo Michael Rezes & Lee Mikeska Gardner
Music Direction by Jack Cline
Choreography by Ilyse Robbins
Gender Consulting and Intimacy Direction by Shira Helena Gitlin
Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Consulting by Kira Troilo

October 26 – November 26, 2023
Central Square Theater
450 Massachusetts Avenue 
Cambridge, MA

Critique by Kitty Drexel

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. — I have a lot of personal feelings about The Rocky Horror Show. It is my favorite, and I had to shake off my preconceived notions of what a production should be to give a fair critique. 

Preferences aside, a critic asks and answers two questions when critiquing: What did the artist attempt to do? Did they do it? The rest of the article is opinionated fluff and dramaturgy. 

  1. What did Central Square Theater attempt? The company produced Richard O’Brien’s The Rocky Horror Show for CST’s beloved audience of MIT nerds and nerd allies. 
  2. Did CST do it? Yes. 

A potential third question is “Did they do it well?” This question is subjective. Multiple perspectives can be true at the same time.  Continue reading

Dec 06

Losing the Heartbeat: “Little Women: The Broadway Musical”

Photo by Nile Scott Studios

Presented by Greater Boston Stage Company
Based on the novel by Louisa May Alcott
Book by Allan Knee
Lyrics by Mindi Dickstein
Music by Jason Howland
Directed & Choreographed by Ilyse Robbins
Music Direction by Matthew Stern

November 25 – December 23, 2022
Greater Boston Stage Company
Stoneham, MA

Review by Kate Lew Idlebrook

Stoneham, Mass — As producers mine history for intellectual property that can be spun into gold, especially those that are in the public domain, they can sometimes lose sight of what makes a classic a classic.

Unfortunately, this was the case with Little Women: The Broadway Musical. In the original story, Luisa May Alcott created a world full of wonderfully full, relatable characters. She allowed her characters to speak for themselves and trusted her readers to hear the message. I only wish the Greater Boston Stage Company’s production of this play had the space to do the same. Continue reading

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

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
GBSC on Facebook

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

May 17

Uncle Sam is a Benevolent Master. Bator: ALLEGIANCE

The cast. Photo credit: Nile Scott Studios

Presented by SpeakEasy Stage Company
Book by Marc Acito, Jay Kuo, and Lorenzo Thione
Music and lyrics by Jay Kuo
Directed by Paul Daigneault
Music direction by Matthew Stern
Choreography by Ilyse Robbins
Traditional Japanese dance choreography by Kendyl Yokoyama

May 4 – June 2, 2018
Calderwood Pavilion
Boston Center for the Arts
Boston, MA
SpeakEasy on Facebook

The New England Theatre Geek believes that productions about people of color should be critiques by people of color. Allegiance was attended by both Noelani Kamelamela and Kitty Drexel. The editorial response by Kamelamela gives insight into personal histories of the Japanese-American internment camps. Drexel gives a performance critique. If a story doesn’t include us at all levels then it isn’t really about us.

Response by Noelani Kamelamela

(Boston, MA) After bringing an acclaimed version of Kander & Ebb’s The Scottsboro Boys to Boston last year, Speakeasy Stage Company presents Allegiance, a two hour long musical that explores the unjust imprisonment of Japanese Americans in the US at the tail end of World War II.  It is important for us to tell these stories, not stories of victory, but tales of survival in difficult circumstances. Ignorance, more than the steady drumbeat of white supremacy, separates people far more than a border wall ever can. Continue reading

Dec 11

Honestly and Wonderfully: “She Loves Me”

The cast of “She Loves Me.” Photo by Maggie Hall.

Presented by Greater Boston Stage Company
Book Written by Joe Masteroff
Music Originally by Jerry Bock
Lyrics by Sheldon Harnick
Directed by Ilyse Robbins
Music directed by Matthew Stern

November 24th through December 23rd, 2017
Greater Boston Stage Company on Facebook
395 Main St, Stoneham, Massachusetts 02180

Review with Bishop C. Knight

(Stoneham, Massachusetts) An adaptation of the 1937 play Parfumerie by Hungarian playwright Miklós László, She Loves Me is set in a perfume shop where the entire staff pauses to sing in unison “Pleeeease doooo call again” to every departing customer.  In a broad sense, this is one of those comedies defined by the positive space of its set; meaning that the characters’ workspace and workspace culture were as much part of the musical as the characters’ dialogue and songs.  She Loves Me is evocative of other comedies reliant on their sets, like Cheers and Seinfeld which respectively wouldn’t be what they are without Sammy’s Boston bar and Jerry’s apartment building. Continue reading

Dec 05

Begin the Pegeen: MAME

The cast of Mame (2016). Photo Credit: Nile Hawver/Nile Scott Shots.

The cast of Mame (2016). St. George center stage, looking exquisite in red. Photo Credit: Nile Hawver/Nile Scott Shots.

Presented by the Stoneham Theatre
Book by Jerome Lawrence & Robert E. Lee
Music & lyrics by Jerry Herman
Based on the novel by Patrick Dennis, and the play Auntie Mame by Lawrence and Lee
Directed and choreographed by Ilyse Robbins
Music direction by Matthew Stern

Nov. 25 – Dec. 23, 2016
Stoneham Theatre
395 Main Street, Stoneham, MA
ST on Facebook

Review by Kitty Drexel

“Put the blame on Mame, boys
Put the blame on Mame
Mame gave a chump such an ice-cold “No”
For seven days they shovelled snow
So you can put the blame on Mame, boys
Put the blame on Mame”

Put the Blame on Mame,” from the film “Gilda” (1946), by Allan Roberts & Doris Fisher

(Stoneham, MA) Stoneham Theatre’s production of Mame dazzles. It’s a classic show with all the trimmings. Themes of classism and resulting conflicts will be only slightly offensive to gossipy, snooty attendees. It’s a nearly perfect Christmas/Chanukah/Kwanzaa/etc. treat that anyone from any doctrine can enjoy. Continue reading

Oct 27

Beautiful and Painful: “The Scottsboro Boys”

Nile Hawver / Nile Scott Shots; The ensemble getting down.

Nile Hawver / Nile Scott Shots; The ensemble getting down.

Presented by SpeakEasy Stage Company
Music and Lyrics by John Kander and Fred Ebb
Book by David Thompson
Original Direction and Choreography by Susan Stroman
Directed by Paul Daigneault
Musical Direction by Matthew Stern
Choreography by Ilyse Robbins

October 21 – November 26
Calderwood Pavilion, Boston Center for the Arts
527 Tremont Street
Speakeasy on Facebook

Review by Danielle Rosvally

(Boston, MA) It’s difficult to know what to say about The Scottsboro Boys.  The piece is uncomfortable to watch not because of its incredible talent or flawless direction and design, but rather because it’s meant to be uncomfortable to watch.  The show is a remixed account of the historical case of The Scottsboro Boys, nine young black men who in 1931 were accused of raping two white women on a train, told through the lens of American Minstrelsy.  Performed with gusto and amazing energy, SpeakEasy’s production is a triumph that should be mandatory viewing for any American (particularly in an election year as fraught with the urge to “just give up” as this one has been). Continue reading

Dec 01

Busy With Important Things; or, Leggings Are Not Pants: THE LITTLE PRINCE

Photo by Andrew Brilliant / Brilliant Pictures

Photo by Andrew Brilliant / Brilliant Pictures

Presented by the New Repertory Theatre
Adapted from the book by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
Book and lyrics by John Scoullar
Music by Rick Cummins
Directed by Ilyse Robbins
Musical Direction by Todd C. Gordon

Nov. 22 – Dec. 21, 2014
Charles Mosesian Theatre
Watertown, MA
New Rep on Facebook

Review by Kitty Drexel

(Watertown, MA) The novella The Little Prince is part memoir, part analogy for a grown man’s relationship with his inner child. Scoullar and Cummins adapted Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s most famous work into a parent-friendly children’s science fiction musical. It has the subject matter to entertain kids and the emotional complexity to interest adults. This is a show heavy with metaphor and analogy. Continue reading