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'Jersey Boys' a Blockbuster Musical

December 19, 2019

Jersey Boys first opened in New York on November 6, 2005 and by the time it closed over 11 years later on January 15, 2017, it was the 12th longest running show in Broadway history.  No matter how many times you see it, I have seen it five times in different venues from Broadway to on a ship going through the Panama Canal, if the voices are good it’s a great night in the theater and this production at the National is a blockbuster. 

Jersey Boys is the behind-the-music story of Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons. It is said about them “they were just four guys from Jersey, until they sang their very first note. They had a sound nobody had ever heard… and the radio just couldn’t get enough of.” The show features all their mega hits including “Sherry,” “Big Girls Don’t Cry,” “Oh What A Night,” “Walk Like A Man,” “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You,” and “Working My Way Back To You.” Those of a certain age will remember hearing them for the first time and those younger will enjoy them for the first time. They are songs to move too and clap your hands too and you will leave the theater singing them. The songs were written by Bob Gaudio who was not only a founding member of The Four Seasons but has written songs for many others and is a world class producer having worked with Barbara Streisand, Neil Diamond, Frank Sinatra and Marvin Gaye among many others.  Frankie Valli is still touring today though not with the original Four Seasons. The group was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1990. 

This production is directed by two-time Tony® Award-winner Des McAnuff and his whole team does their work really well. In this play which is really all about the music the fact that you even notice their work is a high compliment to them. They include Klara Zieglerova (Scenic Design), Jess Goldstein (Costume Design), Howell Binkley (lighting design) Steve Canyon Kennedy (Sound Design) and Ron Melrose (Music Supervision, Vocal/Dance Arrangements & Incidental Music). 

Then what makes this production so great is the cast who are uniformly good. Each of their voices strong and they capture the audience from beginning to end. The cast is led by John Hacker (Frankie Valli) who has an amazing voice and great stage presence. Then add Eric Chambliss (Bob Gaudio), Corey Greenan (Tommy DeVito), and Michael Milton (Nick Massi) and you have the dynamic The Four Seasons. The ensemble includes Andrés Acosta, Justin Albinder, Ashley Bruce, Kenneth Quinney Francoeur, Katie Goffman, Connor Lyon, Kevin Patrick Martin, Sean McGee, Hamilton Moore, Bruno Vida, and Amy Weaver. Each one of them easily holds their own on the stage.

Jersey Boys will be at the National Theatre through January 5, 2020. For a great time in the theater don’t miss this production. Get your tickets today. 

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'Peter Pan and Wendy,' A Must-See for the Holidays!

December 11, 2019

Peter Pan and Wendy is a reimagining of J.M. Barrie’s classic work by Lauren Gunderson and its world premiere is now onstage now at Sidney Harman Hall through January 12, 2020. My suggestion is run, don’t walk to see this brilliant and happy production of a classic story. It is fun for children and adults because who can’t enjoy seeing Peter, Wendy and her brothers fly thought the air after Tinkerbell spreads her fairy dust on them. 

Gunderson has kept her promise when she said “We want to let the original and all its fantasy shine because, why would I ever touch that? That stuff is great. That’s why I love that story.” She does that with the help of one of the most brilliant and creative directors in the theater, Alan Paul. 

Justin Mark (Photo by: Scott Suchman)) Justin Mark

Paul said “At its core, Peter Pan is about imagination.” He makes it easy for the  audience to suspend reality for a couple of hours and let their imagination fly along with Peter to enjoy the sumptuous sets, a mischievous and magical Tinkerbell, an enormous crocodile, and even a real dog playing Nana. The sets are some of the most incredible I have ever seen at the Shakespeare thanks to the enormously talented Jason Sherwood. Then there are the wonderful costumes imagined by Loren Shaw. 

From the opening scene which takes place in the children’s bedroom of the Darling home you get caught up in the play and simply sit back and enjoy. The music by composer Jenny Giering is perfect as is the lighting by Isabella Byrd. The flying sequences choreographed by Paul Rubin let you easily suspend reality.

The there are the actors. Paul has put together an impressive cast with some extremely talented STC regulars like Derek Smith who plays both Captain Hook and Mr. Darling; and Jenni Barber who also plays two roles, Mrs. Darling in Edwardian England and then puts on her wings as Tinkerbell in Neverland and makes you love her in both. The ever delightful multi-talented and wonderfully funny Tom Story plays Hook’s right hand man Smee; and then the talented Gregory Wooddell and Michael Glenn play pirates.  

Sinclair Daniel and Justin Mark (Photo by: Teresa Castracane) Sinclair Daniel and Justin Mark

What makes this production a little different and very current is Gunderson has focused on the stories and portrayal of three women characters and the respect that Peter has for them by the end of the play. Two of the women and Peter are played by newcomers to STC but each is one you will hope to see over and over again. First is Justin Mark as Peter Pan. He is brilliant and vulnerable and fun to watch from the first scene to the last. Sinclair Daniel as Wendy Darling is strong and captivating and Isabella Star LaBlanc as Tiger Lily is perfect. In this adaption Tiger Lily has been written with sensitivity and a sense of history, as an activist, a smart and capable girl who defends her home and becomes an inspiration for Wendy. Rounding out the leads are Chauncey Chestnut funny and charming as Michael Darling and Christopher Flaim as John Darling, Together with the lost boys including Joriah Kwame, Tendo Nsubuga and all the others they bring to life Gunderson and Paul’s vision to make Peter Pan relevant today. They focus and explore how young men and women begin to shape their own identifies. 

This Peter Pan and Wendy is a must see for the holidays. Take yourself and bring your children, nieces and nephews. You will all enjoy a delightful time in the theater. Tickets will go fast to Peter Pan and Wendy so order yours today.

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'The Woman in Black' – Brilliant, Scary and Fun

December 8, 2019

The Woman in Black is a ghost story written by Susan Hill, about Arthur Kipps haunting experiences at Eel Marsh House. In this story Arthur Kipps, a young solicitor, is instructed as a last attempt to keep his job, to visit Crythin Gifford to attend the funeral of the late Alice Drabow and to review any relevant documents left by her, the deceased owner of Eel Marsh House, an isolated windswept mansion with tragic secrets hidden behind its shuttered windows, as a prelude to the sale of the house. 

The book was adapted as a play by Stephen Mallatratt and had its first performance at the Stephen Joseph Theatre in Scarborough, UK in 1987. After seeing it you will understand why people are still flocking to see it. When the play begins it is thirty years later and Arthur is preparing to tell his story of that time to his friends and family. He has hired a professional actor to help him to tell the story. We see him return to the site amidst the eerie marshes and howling winds of England’s forbidding Northeast Coast on Christmas Eve with the actor he has hired to help him exorcise the terrors of that horrid time long ago. Arthur arrives in Crythin Gifford to attend Alice’s funeral where he first relates seeing the woman dressed in black though apparently no one else does. 

Robert Goodale and Daniel Easton (Photo by: Courtesy of Shakespeare Theatre by Tristram Kenton) Robert Goodale and Daniel Easton

Director Robin Herford has staged this play so well he manages to have the two characters, Kipps and The Actor, keep you fully enthralled for two hours. Herford says about this play “It is the magic of theatre, made possible only by that most precious and under-used of commodities, the audience’s imagination. This piece relies extremely heavily on it, as all the good theatre should.”

Now, while not all of us in the audience may have a great imagination, Herford ensures that we will be aided not only by the wonderful book or adaption of it as a play but by an amazing company of talented and creative artists. He brings the play to life for us though use of the lighting design by the talented Kevin Sleep, Scenic and Costume design by the imaginative Michael Holt and the often scary sound effects by Sound Designer Sebastian Frost. 

Then there are the two actors on stage who keep us enthralled the entire time. The brilliant Daniel Easton as The Actor; and playing so many roles in this story the extremely talented Robert Goodale as Arthur Kipps. When you add all this together, then stir the pot a little, you end up with one of the most fun evenings I have had in the theatre in a long time.  The Woman in Black will be at the Michael R. Klein Theatre at the Lansburgh through December 22. I urge you to get your tickets now.

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