Monday, June 27, 2011

QUICK TAKES: WORLDS BETTER THAN 1066 By Beverly Creasey

Gloucester Stage now has performed two-thirds of Alan Ayckbourn’s glorious THE NORMAN CONQUESTS. I can hardly wait for Gloucester to mount part three of Norman’s romantic adventures. Director Eric Engel conducts the mayhem flawlessly, never veering into caricature, never charging over the top (and I’m a stickler where NORMAN’s trilogy is concerned: It’s one or should I say three of my favorite plays).

The physicality of the comedy is perfection in at Gloucester, and never more so than in LIVING TOGETHER (Part II) with Steven Barkhimer as Norman succumbing hilariously to some lethal dandelion wine and Jennie Israel furiously pressing a magazine to her eyebrow in order to read without her glasses. Barlow Adamson performs some marvelous feats of entertainment just by standing still and Richard Snee delights by impersonating a knight on a chessboard (not to mention his impersonation of a husband).

Sarah Newhouse is a wonderful foil to Lindsay Crouse’s hysterical, condescending sister-in-law. Her turnabout is simply delicious, right down to her smug, conspiratorial little smile. In short, this family is certifiably insane and you adore each and every one of them. You won’t find better ensemble work anywhere.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

QUICK TAKE REVIEW CELTIC PRIZE By Beverly Creasey

Everyone in Boston knows that Harry Frazee traded away Babe Ruth to finance the Broadway run of NO, NO NANETTE. But who knew that the Ice Capades played a major role in signing Bill Russell to play for the Celtics? Ken Dooley’s delightful new play about the life and times of Arnold “Red” Auerbach is chock full of delicious behind the scenes basketball stories like the Ice caper. THE AUERBACH DYNASTY (playing through July 3rd at the Arsenal Center for the Arts) is a one-man show with the remarkable Jeff Gill in a tour de force as Auerbach. Gill transforms himself into the brash, charismatic, cigar chomping mega-coach, easily holding sway as he shares the secrets and triumphs which made Auerbach a legend.

For basketball fans, the show is a revelation. For historians, it’s a must. The playwright collaborated with Auerbach on several projects, including a motivational film and a biography called MBA: MANAGEMENT BY AUERBACH and was privy to many a tale no one else was. Even if you think you know the man from his courtside antics, you’ll be surprised to discover what a public relations genius he was, what a strategist he was and what a pioneer he proved to be for the game.



Sunday, June 19, 2011

QUICK TAKE REVIEW Lovely LADY By Beverly Creasey

North Shore Music Theatre’s high spirited MY FAIR LADY is definitely enhanced by being performed in the round. When there isn’t room for large set pieces, you have to think up some ingenious alternatives to backdrops and heavy machinery and NSMT does!

Choreographer Michael Lichtefeld delivers clever, punchy dancing which plays beautifully from all angles and director Charles Repole gets charming performances from all the leads, just unique enough to set them apart from all the other Lerner and Loewe productions of the musical. Charles Shaughnessy as Prof. Higgins is as debonair as he is pompous and Lisa O’Hare is delicately, sweetly na├»ve as Eliza.

Hayden Tee makes Freddie a lot more than the smitten buffoon most actors make him out to be. Bill Dietrich is plenty charismatic as Eliza’s father (justifying Higgins’ suggestion that he become a lecturer on morality). But it’s the fine local actors who make the secondary roles pop: Sarah deLima gets lots of laughs as Higgins’ no nonsense mother, as does Cheryl McMahon as Higgins’ skeptical housekeeper. Ellen Peterson, too, sparkles in several roles, the three woman adding personality and savvy to the production. Even if they had repeated all the songs, I could have watched all night!

Saturday, June 4, 2011

The Little Musical with Teeth By Beverly Creasey

Where would we be without the raft of fantastic stories in (the now defunct) Weekly World News? When you were stuck in the interminable checkout line at the CVS, there always would be a headline like “Woman Devoured by Fur Coat” to amaze and amuse. When you were running late and the bozo in front of you brought twenty items to the “10 items or less” line, you could convert your anger to laughter by discovering where Bat Boy had been sighted that week. Iraq? Afghanistan? DisneyLand? (Evidently most of us read the headline for free and never bought the paper so Weekly World News went the way of the dodo, ironically soon to be the way of the North American bat because of devastating “white nose” disease …but I digress. Back to the review.)

Keythe Farley and Brian Flemming capitalized on the craze for Bat Boy sightings by envisioning a cheeky musical about the poor, little fellow with the overbite. Their naughty story is plenty sardonic and Laurence O’Keefe’s music dovetails hilariously with the satire. Metro Stage Company’s riotous BATBOY (playing through June 11th) will have you cheering for the darling, misunderstood creature. Nick Sulfaro is simply adorable, learning how to speak English by mimicking Aubin Wise, herself sensational as the kindly wife of the town veterinarian (Nathanael Shea). Her duet with Sulfaro, “A Home for You,” is heartbreaking and genuinely lovely.

Director M. Bevin O’Gara’s entire cast is spot on, with amusing performances all around, especially Melody Madarasz as the vet’s handful of a daughter, Michael Ryan Buckley as the overwhelmed sheriff, Anthony Alfaro as the bible (and forehead) thumping Reverend Billy and James Tallach as not one, but two formidable women!

Music director John Howrey gets fine singing from the cast, especially in the rousing, show stopping “A Joyful Noise,” niftily choreographed, hallelujah style, by Chris Carcione. If you’re a BATBOY fan, you’ll be delighted. If you don’t know the musical, the Metro’s is one of the best, and certainly one of the bloodiest, productions I’ve seen.

Friday, June 3, 2011

QUICK TAKE REVIEW Shameless Shenanigans By Beverly Creasey

Who doesn’t love the Marx Brothers with their bad jokes, lame clowning and their “shameless impropriety”? The Lyric Stage’s production of ANIMAL CRACKERS (through June 4th) is a sure thing…although it’s a slow starter, working feverishly to set up the {I hesitate to call it a} plot about the theft of a painting. All any of us want is to wind the brothers up and let them go but George Kaufman and Morrie Riskin (and adapter Henry Wishcamper) saw the need for complications to tease out the revelry. We just want to hear Groucho’s famous “I shot an elephant in my pajamas…”

It’s a curious phenomenon that people who can run the film endlessly in their mind’s eye delight in seeing it on stage. (I can and I do.) Here’s what makes the Lyric show a treat. “Three Cheers”, as they say, for Captain Spaulding. Ed Hoopman is sensational as the loveable lothario/big game hunter aka Groucho. Leigh Barrett’s Mrs. Dumont (here called Mrs. Rittenhouse) is simply delicious. When Groucho unceremoniously lays his head on her chest, she does a fabulous four-point take in order to absorb what’s going on!

Nael Nacer as Chico and Alycia Sacco as Harpo make us remember why the brothers are so adored. Chico’s word mangling and Harpo’s nonsensical shtick will get you every time. Bert Kalmer and Harry Ruby’s songs are charming, smartly delivered by the “straight men,” some of whom are pretty funny all by themselves, chiefly Aimee Doherty and Merissa Czyz .Rachel Bertone’s smart choreography and Spiro Veloudos’ inventive direction keep spirits up when the brothers are off stage. If only Lyric would revive A NIGHT AT THE OPERA (my favorite Marx Brothers vehicle). Every so often I need to hear Groucho and Chico’s wonderful bit about the “sanity clause.”