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Ibsen’s “Hedda Gabler” Burns Hot and Cool at Coal Mine Theatre

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With homecoming flowers and the sound of strings, Coal Mine Theatre‘s revival of the classic Hedda Gabler gets underway. It’s a captivating runway set-up, giving intimacy to the struggles of Henrick Ibsen’s anti-hero and namesake by placing the audience on three sides of its wood-planked rectangle. Played with wild abandonment by Diana Bentley (Coal Mine’s Detroit), her Hedda finds herself sitting in the moonlight at the piano, hunched over in some complicated state of anguish, trapped and caged in a backless gown. It’s clear, from that first image and the music that comes, that this production, adapted with tinges of modernity by Liiisa Repo-Martelli (Crow’s Uncle Vanya), is aiming itself directly at the naked soul of Hedda Gabler, now Hedda Tesman, the married woman who had once enchanted the men of this town with her beauty and cool exterior. But in what time frame does she come from and live within? That is a complex question that doesn’t actually have to be answered because as directed by Moya O’Connell (Actor: Coal Mine’s The Sound Inside) with a fierce passion that sometimes overflows the sparsely-used space created by set and costume designer Joshua Quinlan (Crow’s Theatre’s The Master Plan), this Hedda is from no distinct era, floating and fighting against her position and place in the world that never fits her frame.

Fiona Reid and Diana Bentley in Coal Mine Theatre’s Hedda Gabler. Photo by Elana Emer.

When the sweet Auntie Julia, played lovingly by Fiona Reid (Shaw’s Dance of Death), is ushered into the living room by an overwhelmed nervous Berta, played quietly by Nancy Beatty (“The Shipping News“), it is clear that there is tension in this newly acquired home of Hedda and her newlywed husband, Jorgen Tesman, played a bit too obviously by Qasim Khan (Canadian Stage’s The Inheritance). Jorgen is forever oblivious, even when prompted by the sweet maternalness of Auntie Julia. He doesn’t seem to see much beyond his books and personal interests, even when addressing the woman he has married and is completely spellbound by. Khan’s Tesman is a bit dense about marriage and what comes next, sailing in worlds that are oceans apart from his wife, especially when it comes to sensuality and seduction. It all flies over his head, but not ours.

Trapped in a marriage and a house that she does not want, Bentley’s Hedda is a heap of contradictions, struggling with her new life and the timeframe she must live in. Devoid of any excitement or enchantment, she battles with an inner demon that only comes out when she finds herself alone on that stage. Her fighting spirit erupts in those moments, making it clear that when she is in the room with others, she is mostly insincere and putting on whatever face is required. This is especially true when it comes to her interactions with the timeframed women who float in and out of the room in a more traditional tone. She belittles them, slyly, for no other reason than knowing how. Playing nice, when she needs security or information, but shifting gears the moment she is no longer in need. Hedda’s tragic flaw, as we all know, is her willful narcissism that latches itself on to a destructive force within. Her only focus is getting whatever she wants at any given moment, even if it comes at the expense of another person’s feelings.

Diana Bentley in Coal Mine Theatre’s Hedda Gabler. Photo by Elana Emer.

This Hedda, passionately portrayed by Bentley, needs to manipulate others as an undercurrent form of power and control, forcing those frameworks forward, most likely, because of societal expectations and norms. Ideals Hedda can’t abide by. Bently does a fascinating job at flinging herself into the role, flipping back and forth from insincere politeness and care to manipulative and suggestive power dynamics, usually involving one particular way of sitting on that lounge chair. Unfortunately, those two aspects get used repeatedly without much variance or subtlety added. Where is the steady climb to destruction? And where is the fall from grace? She is supposed to be a woman born into a higher class than the one she finds herself in; more her regal father’s daughter than her intellectual husband’s wife. Thus the play’s focus on her maiden name. But rather than class consciousness, she simply comes off as a hungry smooth sociopath, with no empathy and an impulsive streak that stings all that get too close. This Hedda sometimes falls into the form of a one-page, two-sided narcissist without a soul, and with nowhere to go, she doesn’t hold our interest as sharply as she is supposed to.

A sense of subtlety seems to be the key that is missing in much of this production of Hedda Gabler. Everyone is hitting their marks, doing what is required of them at any given moment, raising their voice when they are told to, but the deeper depiction of the manipulative nature feels a bit hurried, as we watch the characters move with urgency around the space. Within this patriarchal society, Hedda pushes a bit too hard and obviously, trying to gain some agency or control over her existence. It’s clear that she is forever disturbed by her marriage to the boring Tesman, now that she has found herself caged in a new house that, while being more extravagant than they can really afford, “smells like old lady” and death. And it will never bring her any contentment unless she seizes control.

(L to R) Andrew Chown, Diana Bentley (back), and Leah Doz in Coal Mine Theatre’s Hedda Gabler. Photo by Elana Emer.

So when she hears from a former classmate Thea Elvsted, portrayed tense and uncomfortable by Leah Doz (Coal Mine’s The Effect), that a former lover, Eilert Lovborg, handsomely portrayed by Andrew Chown (Crow’s Bad Roads) has resurfaced, her focus shifts. “He’s nothing to me“, Hedda delivers, but a shaking, dynamic need has been awakened. A spark has been lit inside this trapped animal, and this spark leads all to chaos and a sea of drunken madness and despair. “No one trusts a tea toddler,” Hedda says, tempting and creating her own manifesto for the future, one of manipulation, deviance, and a roaring fire of pages destroyed. Why, we may ask? Because something must happen in this woman’s new world order, and she must find a way to take control. “This night will be the making of him,” she says, for someone, or herself.

Hedda is smug and cruel, out of boredom and shallow emotional connection to others. She moves through the space like a caged lioness, under captivating lighting by Kaitlin Hickey (Factory’s Wildfire) with a strong sound design by Michael Wanless (Coal Mine’s Appropriate). Hedda initially only finds excitement in the eyes of their family friend and helper, Judge Brack, played suggestively and a bit overtly by Shawn Doyle (Canstage’s A Number). But that triangle only works with one rooster in it, the Judge tells the woman he wants to control, and once he sees the glint in Hedda’s eyes for the firebrand that is Lovborg, a different tension climbs up and out of its box. And like any caged animal unleashed, destruction must come for all those who get too close and demand too much.

Diana Bentley (back) and Shawn Doyle in Coal Mine Theatre’s Hedda Gabler. Photo by Elana Emer.

The ending is legendary, complicated and raw. A different fuse has been lit, as we witness what happens when Hedda discovers that the intended destruction did not go how she had conceptualized it. She must take control of something, but unfortunately, after such a solid buildup, the end disappears into the depths in a far too quick undynamic fashion with an inauthentic mayhem following soon after the firing. The symbolic bodily unleashing is fascinating, but doesn’t actually carry the emotional weight and magnitude that is intended. It’s overwrought and disconnected from the heart, even with the thought-provoking physicality thrown out with wild abandonment. The tragedy doesn’t connect to the desperation that is underneath in Coal Mine‘s Hedda Gabler. It’s distinct and electric, but doesn’t manage to shoot itself deep into the soul.

Qasim Khan and Shawn Doyle in Coal Mine Theatre’s Hedda Gabler. Photo by Elana Emer. For tickets and more information, click here.

For more go to frontmezzjunkies.com

My love for theater started when I first got involved in high school plays and children's theatre in London, Ontario, which led me—much to my mother’s chagrin—to study set design, directing, and arts administration at York University in Toronto. But rather than pursuing theater as a career (I did produce and design a wee bit), I became a self-proclaimed theater junkie and life-long supporter. I am not a writer by trade, but I hope to share my views and feelings about this amazing experience we are so lucky to be able to see here in NYC, and in my many trips to London, Enlgand, Chicago, Toronto, Washington, and beyond. Living in London, England from 1985 to 1986, NYC since 1994, and on my numerous theatrical obsessive trips to England, I've seen as much theater as I can possibly afford. I love seeing plays. I love seeing musicals. If I had to choose between a song or a dance, I'd always pick the song. Dance—especially ballet—is pretty and all, but it doesn’t excite me as, say, Sondheim lyrics. But that being said, the dancing in West Side Story is incredible! As it seems you all love a good list, here's two. FAVORITE MUSICALS (in no particular order): Sweeney Todd with Patti Lupone and Michael Cerveris in 2005. By far, my most favorite theatrical experience to date. Sunday in the Park with George with Jenna Russell (who made me sob hysterically each and every one of the three times I saw that production in England and here in NYC) in 2008 Spring Awakening with Jonathan Groff and Lea Michele in 2007 Hedwig and the Angry Inch (both off-Boadway in 1998 and on Broadway in 2014, with Neal Patrick Harris, but also with Michael C. Hall and John Cameron Mitchell, my first Hedwig and my last...so far), Next To Normal with Alice Ripley (who I wish I had seen in Side Show) in 2009 FAVORITE PLAYS (that’s more difficult—there have been so many and they are all so different): Angels in American, both on Broadway and off Lettice and Lovage with Dame Maggie Smith and Margaret Tyzack in 1987 Who's Afraid of Virginai Woolf with Tracy Letts and Amy Morton in 2012 Almost everything by Alan Ayckbourn, but especially Woman in Mind with Julia McKenzie in 1986 And to round out the five, maybe Proof with Mary Louise Parker in 2000. But ask me on a different day, and I might give you a different list. These are only ten theatre moments that I will remember for years to come, until I don’t have a memory anymore. There are many more that I didn't or couldn't remember, and I hope a tremendous number more to come. Thanks for reading. And remember: read, like, share, retweet, enjoy. For more go to frontmezzjunkies.com

Out of Town

Comedy On in Noises Off

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Opening their 2024 Season at the Bucks County Playhouse is Noises Off, a farce by the English playwright, Michael Frayn. Definition of “farce” – a comedic dramatic work using buffoonery and horseplay and typically including ludicrously improbable situations. Yes, yes and yes. Synonym: slapstick comedy.
To be in this production, directed by Hunter Foster, you must either be an olympic gymnast or have the stamina of a race horse for there is much hopping up and down stairs, pratfalling, back flipping, slow splits and general rolling about.

Ah, but I digress. Let us get to the plot. The what? Well, actually there really isn’t much of a plot. You see, the play is a play within a play. It is a troupe of second rate actors in a second rate tour of a second rate play, a sex farce entitled, “Nothing On”. It begins at midnight the night before the cast’s first performance and they are ill prepared. Many things go awry. Missing props, missing cues, missing lines, etc. etc. etc. And to top it all off, there are relationship problems amidst the members which become exacerbated as the tour progresses. Act One is the rehearsal. Act Two is a performance viewed from behind the scenes and Act Three is the disastrous results at the end of the tour.

The play premiered in London in 1982 directed by Michael Blakemore. The 1983 Broadway production again directed by Blakemore earned four Tony nominations and a Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Director of a Play and Outstanding Ensemble. Since then it has had seven revivals between Broadway and the West End and has become a staple of both professional and community theaters alike. Standout performances are in order for the entire ensemble.

Amanda Kristin Nichols

Amanda Kristin Nichols (as Brooke Ashton) is hysterical in her skimpy underwear preening and posing in the most ridiculous positions, thinking she’s looking sexy.

Jen Cody

Jen Cody is appropriately dotty as the sympathetic Dotty Otley, whether she’s doing a split or hanging upside down.

John Bolton

John Bolton is simply super as Frederick Fellowes, the sensitive actor who always needs to know “why” he must complete an action on stage no matter how nonsensical it is.

John Patrick Hayden

John Patrick Hayden is marvelous as the director we sympathize with for having to deal with these screwball actors even though he turns out to be a cad. Though Roe Hartrampf is hard pressed to express himself with words as Garry Lejeune, he goes ballistic when he mistakenly thinks that Dotty is seeing Frederick.

Marilu Henner

Marilu Henner is the proverbial peacemaker always trying to smooth things over even when they are inextricably fouled up. Barrett Riggins as Tim Allgood, the Assistant Stage Manager, has greatness thrust upon him through no fault of his own.

Folami Williams

Folami Williams as Poppy Norton-Taylor, the Stage Manager is adorable as she reveals her secret at the end of the play.

Richard Kline

And Richard Kline as Selsdon Mowbray, the man with a drinking habit is quite lovable. They say the director’s hand should be invisible in a play, but I’m afraid that Mr. Hunter’s hands are all over this one for this production is choreographed to a “T”. Credit must be given to this director because usually there aren’t many laughs in Act One as it’s all just a set up for Act Two and Three. However, there are a lot of laughs in the first act. And needless to say, it’s a non-stop laugh fest for the next two acts. So if you need a good laugh – and who doesn’t with fire, floods, tornadoes and earthquakes all around us – this show is a very good panacea.

For tickets visit buckscountyplayhouse.org or call 215-862-2121.

Noises Off by Michael Frayn Directed by Hunter Foster
Running now through June 10, 2024 70 South Main Street

New Hope, PA 18938

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Out of Town

Tarragon’s Come Home: The Legend of Daddy Hall Rewinds With Layered Results

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The “sweet, sweet boy” lies in a spotlight, shrowded in Spanish moss and mystic lighting. He’s drowning in the mystic feeling of death with ghostly faces of ancestorial connection shimmering forward to engage and recount. This memory play, written with purpose and desire by Audrey Dwyer (Calpurnia), spans time and place, layering in the histories of both Black and Indigenous teachings that float out the realities of the cultural framing. Spanning generations and one man’s ever-so-long lifelin is as epic in its scope as can be, distinct and smart in its construct, and sometimes lacking in focus, leading us to lean in and tune out with some regularity.


Daren A. Herbert & Emerjade Simms with Nicole Joy-Fraser & Brandon Oakes in Tarragon’s Come Home: The Legend of Daddy Hall. Photo by Cylla von Tiedemann.

The beginning, as staged by Tarragon artistic director Mike Payette (Tarragon’s Cockroach), floats into our system like the smell of ghostly swamp air, hidden behind layers of mist and secrecy. Giving abstract vantage points to breathe in the complexities of this man’s trauma, the play spirits out souls from his epic life for us all to engage with, as well as a future generation stumbling forward while trying to unpack a past, all so he, Billie, played by Troy Adams (TIFT’s The Other Place), a descendant, can understand the present condition and navigate life forward from a wiser perspective. The framing is unique and contextual, letting Hall’s mixed heritage of Mowak and Black Jamaican ancestry find equal footing on that somewhat overstuffed stage, designed by Jawon Kang (Tarragon’s A Poem for Rabia), while giving layers of space to try to understand personal trauma and confusion.

Helen Belay & Daren A. Herbert with Troy Adams, Emerjade Simms, Brandon Oakes & Nicole Joy-Fraser in Tarragon’s Come Home: The Legend of Daddy Hall. Photo by Cylla von Tiedemann.

Hall, played forcibly by Daren A. Herbert (Soulpepper’s Jesus Hopped the ‘A’ Train), finds clarity in his rewinding, looking back over his timeline with curiosity. He fought as a Black loyalist in the War of 1812. He survived capture by American forces and was systematically enslaved in Virginia and Kentucky. He escaped, with his wife, using a threaded map of rice and beans braided into his hair that helped lead him back home to safety in Canada. Throughout his journey, he held true to his yearnings for home, family, and love, marrying, we are told, up to six wives and was father, or should I say “Daddy Hall” to somewhere around 21 children. It’s a lot to cover in this one-act wonder of a play, and even when it falters in its complicated unpacking, muddling the journey with an overly fussy rearrangement of wood pieces and somewhat jarring blocking and movement, the journey has marked moments of wonder that are highlighted and expanded by the gentle fantastical music delivered out from the depths by Unsettled Scores (Spy Dénommé-Welch & Catherine Magowan), the production’s sound designers and composers.

The notes float in, elevating the dialogue with background poetic illusions of ancestorial and cultural undercurrents that consistently save the framing from sinking down underneath the crackling ice. They trigger tragedy and loss, even when the interconnectivity feels jagged and forced. Lit from a place of historic warmth and engagement, designed by Michelle Ramsay (Factory’s The Waltz) with simple yet clever costuming by Christine Ting-Huan 挺歡 Urquhart (Tarragon’s Cockroach), Come Home: The Legend of Daddy Hall works hard to relive all those key moments in this man’s complex life, particularly around the ideas of home, safety, and attachment. The cast, that includes Indigenous actors Nicole Joy-Fraser (Tarragon’s My Sister’s Rage) and Brandon Oakes (CBC’s Diggstown), and Black actors Helen Belay (Soulpepper’s Queen Goneril & King Lear) and Emerjade Simms (Cahoots Theatre’s Sweeter), engages with intent in the non-linear mystical unpacking, allowing us to consider and engage with Hall’s ancestral lineage and all the trauma that has been layered on this man throughout his journey.

Emerjade Simms & Daren A. Herbert in Tarragon’s Come Home: The Legend of Daddy Hall. Photo by Cylla von Tiedemann.

The play spirits forth the dynamic from this misty ancestral plane, sometimes finding complete visual and poetic illusions, like in the crackling watery descent of his wife, Mary, played lovingly by Belay. At the same time, other moments feel disconnected from the emotional journey and its overarching themes. The modern stance in Tarragon‘s Come Home: The Legend of Daddy Hall never really finds its connective tissue throughout and feels put upon and not completely organic to the main Hall stance. There’s wonder in their search for bigger pictured themes and answers to complex historical and connective questions, sometimes feeling grounded in emotional truth, and sometimes masked behind layers of Spanish moss. The energy shifts, floating in and out of the murky cold waters of memory and ancestral history, and when it hits its mark, there is clarity, but other times, we swim in cold waters looking for the light and air of understanding.

Daren A. Herbert & Helen Belay with Nicole Joy-Fraser & Brandon Oakes in Tarragon’s Come Home: The Legend of Daddy Hall.  Photo by Cylla von Tiedemann.

For more go to frontmezzjunkies.com

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Music

The Canadian Festival of New Musicals Unveils Three New Works

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This Saturday, thanks to the theatre gods of Toronto, I was gifted with the chance to experience the next wave of new Canadian musicals. Getting underway earlier this week, the inaugural season of The Canadian Festival of New Musicals, running from May 23rd – 26th at the Berkeley St Theatre, unveiled a few new musicals. Presented by The Musical Stage Company in association with Canadian Stage, the three new shows were given the grand opportunity to present snippets of their work-in-progress; new musicals that are being experimented with, played with, and developed for our theatrical enjoyment. And what a joy it was to be in the room with all these enthusiastic souls.

New Voices. New Stories. New Musicals.” is the Festival’s motto, as I made my way downtown to join the celebration of creativity, innovation, and collaboration, giving the audience a glimpse of three of the Musical Stage Company’s musicals in development.

Featuring excerpts from IN REAL LIFE, AFTER THE RAIN, and COWBOY TEMPEST CABARET, the Canadian Festival of New Musicals was an electrifying showcase that gave audiences a first look and listen at the new stories being created by some of our country’s most promising lyricists, composers, and writers, and delivered by some amazing performers, such as Brandon Antonio (Broadway’s & Juliet), Raquel Duffy (Coal Mine’s Apppropriate), Eva Foote (Stratford’s Hamlet-911), Brendan Wall (MSC’s Natasha, Pierre…), and the phenomenal Elm Reyes (Factory’s Trojan Girls…). The festival also provided opportunities for music theatre creators to meet new collaborators, learn more from experts in the field, and engage in the conversation around the development of new musical theatre in Canada.

These musicals are all being developed for full-length productions, with AFTER THE RAIN already programmed into the upcoming Tarragon season, a production that I am super excited to have the chance to experience again.

THE CANADIAN FESTIVAL OF NEW MUSICALS

Details and schedule:

AFTER THE RAIN (Double bill with COWBOY TEMPEST CABARET)

May 23RD 8:00pm and May 25th 3:30pm

Co-Commissioned and Co-Developed by The Musical Stage Company and Tarragon Theatre

Book by Rose Napoli

Music & Lyrics by Suzy Wilde

Featuring Eva Foote, Raquel Duffy, Brendan Wall, and Shaemus Swets

Her parents are famous. Her boyfriend is stupid. And Suzie is a mess.

When she accepts a mature piano student obsessed with mastering only one song, Erik Satie’s “Gymnopedie No. 1”, struggling songwriter Suzie’s life takes an unforeseen turn. Full of family turmoil, life’s complexities, and centered around a devastating discovery, AFTER THE RAIN is a musical based on a true story about the healing power of music.

COWBOY TEMPEST CABARET (Double bill w AFTER THE RAIN)

May 23rd 8:00pm and May 25th 3:30pm

Commissioned and Developed by The Musical Stage Company

Book by Niall McNeil, Lucy McNulty & Anton Lipovetsky,

Music by Anton Lipovetsky

Lyrics by Niall McNeil

Featuring Brandon Antonio, Raquel Duffy, Eva Foote, Dylan Harman, Yousef Kadoura, Elm Reyes, Shaemus Swets, and Brendan Wall

Guns and magic. Love and hurt. When gunslinger Prospero conjures a storm in the desert, he begins a chain of events that forces every cowboy and spirit into a fight for freedom. Created by an artist with Down Syndrome and his longtime collaborators, Cowboy Tempest Cabaret is a totally lawless adaptation of Shakespeare’s Tempest musicalized in the styles of rock, folk and country & western music.

IN REAL LIFE

May 24th and 25th at 8:00pm, May 26th at 2:00pm

Commissioned by The Musical Stage Company and Co-Developed by The Musical Stage Company and fu-GEN Theatre Company

Book & Lyrics by Nick Green

Music & Lyrics by Kevin Wong

Featuring Alicia Ault, Janelle Cooper, Colleen Furlan, Hailey Gillis, Matthew Joseph, William Lincoln, Jacob McInnis, and Daniel Williston

Set in a dystopian future, technological prodigy Max is an ideal student with a bright future, until, with a single swipe, he sets out on a journey to forbidden corners of the Internet, underground societies, and forgotten parts of himself. A story filled with twists and turns, In Real Life examines the complexities of power, technology, and freedom in the digital era.

For more information, click here.

For more go to frontmezzjunkies.com

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Music

The Canadian Festival of New Musicals Unveils Three New Works

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on

This Saturday, thanks to the theatre gods of Toronto, I was gifted with the chance to experience the next wave of new Canadian musicals. Getting underway earlier this week, the inaugural season of The Canadian Festival of New Musicals, running from May 23rd – 26th at the Berkeley St Theatre, unveiled a few new musicals. Presented by The Musical Stage Company in association with Canadian Stage, the three new shows were given the grand opportunity to present snippets of their work-in-progress; new musicals that are being experimented with, played with, and developed for our theatrical enjoyment. And what a joy it was to be in the room with all these enthusiastic souls.

New Voices. New Stories. New Musicals.” is the Festival’s motto, as I made my way downtown to join the celebration of creativity, innovation, and collaboration, giving the audience a glimpse of three of the Musical Stage Company’s musicals in development.

Featuring excerpts from IN REAL LIFE, AFTER THE RAIN, and COWBOY TEMPEST CABARET, the Canadian Festival of New Musicals was an electrifying showcase that gave audiences a first look and listen at the new stories being created by some of our country’s most promising lyricists, composers, and writers, and delivered by some amazing performers, such as Brandon Antonio (Broadway’s & Juliet), Raquel Duffy (Coal Mine’s Apppropriate), Eva Foote (Stratford’s Hamlet-911), Brendan Wall (MSC’s Natasha, Pierre…), and the phenomenal Elm Reyes (Factory’s Trojan Girls…). The festival also provided opportunities for music theatre creators to meet new collaborators, learn more from experts in the field, and engage in the conversation around the development of new musical theatre in Canada.

These musicals are all being developed for full-length productions, with AFTER THE RAIN already programmed into the upcoming Tarragon season, a production that I am super excited to have the chance to experience again.

THE CANADIAN FESTIVAL OF NEW MUSICALS

Details and schedule:

AFTER THE RAIN (Double bill with COWBOY TEMPEST CABARET)

May 23RD 8:00pm and May 25th 3:30pm

Co-Commissioned and Co-Developed by The Musical Stage Company and Tarragon Theatre

Book by Rose Napoli

Music & Lyrics by Suzy Wilde

Featuring Eva Foote, Raquel Duffy, Brendan Wall, and Shaemus Swets

Her parents are famous. Her boyfriend is stupid. And Suzie is a mess.

When she accepts a mature piano student obsessed with mastering only one song, Erik Satie’s “Gymnopedie No. 1”, struggling songwriter Suzie’s life takes an unforeseen turn. Full of family turmoil, life’s complexities, and centered around a devastating discovery, AFTER THE RAIN is a musical based on a true story about the healing power of music.

COWBOY TEMPEST CABARET (Double bill w AFTER THE RAIN)

May 23rd 8:00pm and May 25th 3:30pm

Commissioned and Developed by The Musical Stage Company

Book by Niall McNeil, Lucy McNulty & Anton Lipovetsky,

Music by Anton Lipovetsky

Lyrics by Niall McNeil

Featuring Brandon Antonio, Raquel Duffy, Eva Foote, Dylan Harman, Yousef Kadoura, Elm Reyes, Shaemus Swets, and Brendan Wall

Guns and magic. Love and hurt. When gunslinger Prospero conjures a storm in the desert, he begins a chain of events that forces every cowboy and spirit into a fight for freedom. Created by an artist with Down Syndrome and his longtime collaborators, Cowboy Tempest Cabaret is a totally lawless adaptation of Shakespeare’s Tempest musicalized in the styles of rock, folk and country & western music.

IN REAL LIFE

May 24th and 25th at 8:00pm, May 26th at 2:00pm

Commissioned by The Musical Stage Company and Co-Developed by The Musical Stage Company and fu-GEN Theatre Company

Book & Lyrics by Nick Green

Music & Lyrics by Kevin Wong

Featuring Alicia Ault, Janelle Cooper, Colleen Furlan, Hailey Gillis, Matthew Joseph, William Lincoln, Jacob McInnis, and Daniel Williston

Set in a dystopian future, technological prodigy Max is an ideal student with a bright future, until, with a single swipe, he sets out on a journey to forbidden corners of the Internet, underground societies, and forgotten parts of himself. A story filled with twists and turns, In Real Life examines the complexities of power, technology, and freedom in the digital era.

For more information, click here.

For more go to frontmezzjunkies.com

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Broadway

Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet Times Three

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It’s going to be some Shakespeare-heavy months ahead, especially around those famously doomed lovers named Romeo and Juliet, as I fly into the Stratford Festival (formally called the Stratford Shakespeare Festival) here in Ontario, Canada for their first big opening week of six shows. The week will start with Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night followed by the musical comedy about Shakespeare, Something Rotten, and then Shakespeare’s Cymbeline on night three. The fourth night will be the opening of Ibsen’s Hedda Gabler; the fifth, La Cage Aux Folles, followed by, lastly (at least for this coming week) the final opening of this particular opening week, show number six, Shakespeare’s ultimate romantic tragedy, Romeo and Juliet. (Much more follows over the summer of Canada’s fantastic Stratford Festival.)

As directed by Sam White, the founding Artistic & Executive Director at Shakespeare in Detroit, Shakespeare’s great romance Romeo and Juliet slides in at the Festival Theatre on Saturday, June 1st, 2024, starring Jonathan Mason (Stratford’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream) and Vanessa Sears  (CS/Obsidian/Necessary Angel’s Is God Is) as those starcrossed titular characters and lovers. As with the whole season, I’m hoping this production, and all the others, will live up to the festival’s high standards, and be just the beginning of a spectacular year of Shakespeare. And of these two young lovers.

Kit Connor and Rachel Zegler. Photo by Sam Levy.

After that jam-packed week in Stratford, Canada, it doesn’t end for this theatre junkie and his faithful companion. Jetting off soon after to London, England, we have another week of theatre planned. As scheduled, the two of us will see an onslaught of plays, including Chekhov’s The Cherry Orchard at Donmar, two National Theatreproductions; Hills of California and the Olivier-winning Standing at the Sky’s Edge, as well as Ian McKellen in Player Kings (Shakespeare’s Henry IV Part 1 & 2), the Royal Court Theatre’s Bluets, and (of course) the much-talked-about production of Romeo & Juliet, directed and produced by Jamie Lloyd. It just opened this week at the Duke of York’s Theatre, running from Saturday, May 11 through Saturday, August 3, starring Tom Holland as Romeo and Francesca Amewudah-Rivers as Juliet.

#RomeoJulietLDN production photography by Marc Brenner

From the photos popping up on Facebook, Lloyd’s pulsating new vision of Shakespeare’s immortal tale of wordsmiths, rhymers, lovers, and fighters is sure to be something to see. It will definitely be talked about all over the world, yet it was truly disheartening to read about all the hateful postings around the casting choice of Lloyd’s Juliet. It says, sadly, so much about our world right now, but it seems to have quieted down some (although the sting and stink must still be lingering in the air for us all), and although the reviews of this West End production came out today, I will try to stay away from them until long after. Whether the production will follow the successful path of other Lloyd hits, including the pared-down stagings of A Doll’s House that starred the incredible Jessica Chastain or the phenomenal Betrayal with Tom Hiddleston, Charlie Cox, and Zawe Ashton, remains to be seen, but I am curious if it will also find its way across the pond to Broadway.

If it does, it will have some pretty fierce competition, as another Romeo & Juliet, this one starring Heartstopper‘s Kit Connor and West Side Story‘s Rachel Zegler will begin Broadway performances on Thursday, September 26, at Circle in the Square Theatre, with an official opening night set for Thursday, October 24. The run, directed by Sam Gold, is a strictly limited, 16-week engagement, and I can not wait to get in to see it as well. All three really. And I won’t have to ask the forever question, “O Romeo, Romeo, wherefore art thou Romeo?” I’ll just have to ask which Romeo are we looking for? And which Juliet.

See video here. 

Often called the greatest love story of all time, Romeo + Juliet has captivated audiences and artists for centuries and provided the inspiration for hundreds of films, ballets, operas, novels, including the iconic Broadway musical West Side Story.

Stratford Festival’s production of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet officially opens on June 1 and runs until October 26 at the Festival Theatre. Tickets are available at stratfordfestival.ca

The West End’s Romeo & Juliet officially opened on May 23rd at the Duke of York’s Theatre, London, and runs until Saturday, August 3. Tickets are available (although probably sold out) at https://www.thedukeofyorks.com/romeo-and-juliet

The Broadway production of Romeo + Juliet at Circle in the Square Theatre, with an official opening night set for Thursday, October 24, and running for a limited engagement of 16 weeks. Tickets will be available at https://romeoandjulietnyc.com/

For tickets and more information, click here.

For more go to frontmezzjunkies.com

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