Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Upcoming Plays for April

Upcoming plays in April:

At the Goodspeed Opera House in East Haddam, Connecticut:

Irving Berlin's “Annie Get Your Gun” runs April 16th through June 27th. “Ride along with Annie Oakley, a backwoods gal with a sure-shot and quick wit, as she challenges dashing marksman Frank Butler to be the star of Buffalo Bill’s traveling show. Sparks fly faster than bullets as the competition and romance heat up. Featuring some of Broadway’s greatest songs: “There’s No Business Like Show Business,” “Anything You Can Do,” and “I Got The Sun In The Morning.”

At The Hartford Stage
“The Adventures of Tom Sawyer”, newly adapted by Laura Eason, directed by Jeremy B. Cohen runs April 1st through May 9th.

At The Ivoryton Playhouse in Ivoryton, Connecticut, “Some Enchanted Evening - The Songs of Rogers & Hammerstein” runs April 14th through May 2nd.

At the Merrimack Repertory Theatre of Lowell, Massachusetts,

“The Last Days of Mickey & Jean” by Richard Dresser receives it world premiere, now running through April 11th.

“Mickey, a witty, paranoid fugitive ex-mobster from Southie who is on the lam with his no-longer young, Charleston-native girlfriend, Jean, is forced into an early retirement in Europe. With his Boston Red Sox cap never out of reach, he is out of place and away from the one thing he truly loves: his work. While he searches for a way to get back into business and Jean longs for a “normal" life back in Boston, the dysfunctional couple runs into one hilarious situation after another, learning shocking secrets about each other along the way. The Last Days of Mickey & Jean is a funny perspective on unconventional love, unconditional loyalty and life after retirement.”

At the Portland Stage, Portland Maine, “Mary’s Wedding” by Stephen Massicotte runs April 6th through the 25th.

“A passionate and heart-breaking love story about a young farmer and his bride-to-be who are separated when he enlists in World War I. Mary and Charlie tell an unforgettable story from the quiet after a prairie thunderstorm to the terrors of the trenches in this award-winning drama about two lovers who must surrender their fate to the uncertainties of tumultuous times.”

At The Bushnell of Hartford, Connecticut:

Rodgers & Hammerstein's “South Pacific” runs April 20th through 25th.

“A stunning reinvention produced by Lincoln Center Theater, South Pacific swept the 2008 Tony Awards®, winning seven honors including Best Musical Revival and Best Director for Bartlett Sher. Set on a tropical island during World War II, the musical tells the sweeping romantic story of two couples and how their happiness is threatened by the realities of war and by their own prejudices.” The beloved score’s songs include “Some Enchanted Evening,” “I’m Gonna Wash That Man Right Outta My Hair,” “This Nearly Was Mine” and “There’s Nothin’ Like a Dame.” USA Today cheers, “Gorgeous! South Pacific doesn’t just float; it soars!”

At the Westport Country Playhouse, Westport, Connecticut:

“She Loves Me” runs April 20th through May 8th, book by Joe Masteroff, music by Jerry Bock, lyrics by Sheldon Harnick, and directed by Mark Lamos.

“Georg and Amalia are madly in love. They just don't realize it yet. Caught up in a feud at the parfumerie where they work, neither suspects that the other is their anonymous romantic pen pal. This bewitching musical comedy, with a beautiful score and delightful book by the team that created Fiddler on the Roof, still has all the grace, allure and spirit that established it as one of the all-time great Broadway classics.”

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Paramount Theater - Boston

Thankfully, in this era of struggling theaters, one long dormant theater has achieved a remarkable resurrection. Boston’s Paramount Theater re-opened this month as a performing arts center for theatre, dance, and music performances.

Built in 1932, the original Art Deco theater on Washington Street was strictly for motion pictures, fell on hard times decades ago and was closed in 1976.

Have a look here for an article detailing the renovation and reopening of this treasure.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

"Our Irish Visitors" in Fall River, 1885

On this St. Patrick’s Day we note the touring troupe of Murray and Murphy, whose “Our Irish Visitors” played in Fall River, Massachusetts on this day in 1885.

It was a farce, typical perhaps of that era when opinion toward the Irish in America were starting to morph in a painfully slow way from lazy, thieving, drinking, brawling, unwashed undesirables that Need Not Apply to a more benign, if still stereotyped, characterization of charming, harmless, winsome indolence, witty, of a proud people who comically thought well of themselves.

As every ethnic and racial minority knows, equality starts with an open mind, and theatre, when it does not perpetuate stereotypes, is usually quite effective in opening the mind.

One notable who got her start in the cast of “Our Irish Visitors” was Loie Fuller, a pioneer in dance who also invented many stage lighting techniques, apparatus, and garments.

According to “Loie Fuller - Goddess of Light” by Richard Nelson Current and Marcia Ewing Current (Northeastern University Press, 1997), Miss Fuller was the leading lady of “Our Irish Visitors”, and danced and sang in her role. The authors quote the recollections of one who saw her perform some months later at the Boston Theatre in August, 1885:

“…in her skirt and her jersey-like waist, she created excitement, and people flocked in to see what the newspapers called a `sensational dance,' which some even called `daring,' just because the dancer wore no corset, and the muscular sway of her young figure was visible."

So much for Irish stereotypes. After the show’s performance in Fall River, they next appeared in Lawrence, Mass. on the 25th, then hopped over to Newburyport on the 27th.

They seemed to be running out of steam the following March of 1886 in Chicago, when the New York Times noted: “Murray and Murphy in “Our Irish Vistors” have been playing to a good many empty seats at the Columbia”.

Even the luck of the Irish runs out after a while.

If the show did not, eventually, go on, Loie Fuller did. Have a look below at a sample of Loie Fuller’s choreography and invention in her Dance Serpentine, filmed in 1896, a decade later.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

The Show Goes On at the Depot in the Blizzard of 1888

Tomorrow, it will be 122 years since the notorious Blizzard of 1888, which we noted on my New England Travels blog with this post last year. One consequence was a disruption in theatre.

A small troupe called the Hi Henry Minstrels, whose star and owner was cornet-playing Colonel Hiram P. Henry were slated to the play the Opera House in Holyoke, Massachusetts, but the high drifts of snow stranded their train between Northampton and the Mt. Tom Railroad station in Smith’s Ferry. Knowing the show must go on, they walked the rest of the way to town, but first stopping to warm up at the Smith’s Ferry depot.

So relieved to have made it even that far, they broke into song and entertained other stranded folks with their medicine show brand of music. It was customary anyway for the Hi Henry Minstrels to play in the streets in a sort of impromptu parade to get people to follow them to the theater. No such luck this day.

The show did go on at the Opera House, but to a practically empty house. One wonders if they had left a larger audience back at the train depot.

Note: Photo of the Holyoke Opera House from Image Museum website.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Review - "A Man for All Seasons" - Majestic Theater

“A Man for All Seasons” by Robert Bolt, currently playing at the Majestic Theater in West Springfield, Massachusetts, is a strong production with flawless acting, and an obvious appreciation for Bolt’s rich and thought provoking script.

Robert Lunde is magnificent as Sir Thomas More, the witty pragmatist with a conscience whose passive defiance of King Henry VIII shook a nation. When the King decides to divorce Catherine of Aragon in his quest for a male heir by yet another prospective queen, Anne Boleyn, and splits with the Roman Catholic Church declaring himself to be the supreme head of the new Church of England and grant his own divorce, Sir Thomas must weigh the politics of self preservation versus the demands of his own beliefs.

The play is rife with sycophants and opportunists, political machinations and religious schisms, and is as relevant to modern society as if it were written yesterday, about today.

Steve Henderson is commanding as the troubled Duke of Norfolk, friend of Sir Thomas who inevitably finds himself on opposite sides. Sam Rush plays a sinister Thomas Cromwell, royal political hit man. His unrelenting vindictiveness, even more than the King’s selfish pleasure, is the main threat to Sir Thomas.

Daniel Rios is memorable in several roles, often humorous, as The Common Man, who finds himself a servant, a jailer, a jury foreman, a boatman, and other “every man” identities through which he can speak directly to the audience as their representative in this remarkable period of history.

Also strong in their roles are Katrina Ferguson as Lady Alice, wife of Sir Thomas, and Keith Bailey, as Master Richard Rich, the most proficient opportunist in the bunch.

The multi-level set designed by Greg Trochlil is evocative of several settings, from great hall to court room, to tavern, to jail. The costumes, designed by Elaine Bergeron, are elegant and detailed to the period and station in life of the characters.

Producing Director Danny Eaton is to be congratulated on this excellent production of this important play.

“A Man for All Seasons” runs at the Majestic through April 3rd.

For more on “A Man for All Seasons” and the Majestic Theater, have a look at this website.