Wednesday, July 30, 2014


The enormous effort involved in creating a musical is nothing to sneeze at. The hard work Kevin Cirone has put into his new musical, CREATIVE LICENSE (@ Davis Square Theatre through Aug. 2nd) shines through in the ingenious songs (lyrics by Cirone, music by Kevin Cirone and Spencer Elliott, with additional music by the show’s music director, Dan Rodriguez). The songs in CREATIVE LICENSE build character: Sometimes they shout it out so audaciously that you really do leave the theater humming. Case in point is a spectacular nose to nose confrontation song (“Delusional”), where the leads insult each other with glorious rhymes.

The story melds a “Hey, kids. Let’s put on a show” plot with the BoHo (and rock) sensibility of RENT. The twenty-somethings in CREATIVE LICENSE want more than “mere survival.” They want to “create.” Curiously, rather than building suspense over the course of the musical, each crisis in Cirone’s script is quickly followed by a solution in the next scene. ‘Can they stave off foreclosure of the family bar?’ is answered immediately with ‘We’ll put on a show to raise the money.’ Then ‘Where do we find backers for the show?’ is solved post haste when the heroine unearths a slew of willing investors. (Who knew it was that easy!) This stop/start pattern of quick resolution for the characters’ problems works against a fluid, accumulating momentum for the piece. (It’s something to do with the “law of physics,” to borrow from one of Cirone’s extremely clever lines.)

This is only CREATIVE LICENSE’s first (professional) outing and in developmental theater, it takes a village, as they say. Let’s get back to those lovely songs. There’s the resonant anthem for the show, “What Are We Here For?” …and a shimmering “This is Not That Story” delivered by Michael Levesque as the hero and playwright of the play within the play. (Coincidentally Levesque brought his brooding leading man charisma to RENT a few seasons ago.)

Ashley Levesque has a sensational show stopper in the sexy, take-no-prisoners “Give Your Love To Me” although she’s not the romantic match for Levesque’s writer (which wasn’t evident until the end, I’m sorry to say). Sarah Leary is the gal he can’t live with/or without. She has the powerful reprise of “Take That Away.” Kevin Groppe as the forgetful professor gets a touching song about dementia, “More and More I’m Less and Less.” (By the by, I wasn’t clear how he beat the brain robbing disease.)

In a romantic subplot, Varsha Raghavan and David Lucey get to be “Flying High” on the expectation of love. Kudos to the band for some righteous rock (without overpowering the singers). Ross Brown makes the most of his role as barkeep/everyone’s confidant and best of all, he gets to star in the musical within the musicalwhich is a side-splitting Monty Pythonesque send-up of the Scottish play with hilarious, over the top choreography by Rachel Bertone. 

Saturday, July 26, 2014


The TITANIC THEATRE COMPAY prides itself on producing bold, cutting edge plays. Naturally playwright David Lindsay-Abaire came to mind. He’s equally adept at absurdist humor (like FUDDY MEERS) as he is with pathos (THE RABBIT HOLE). His wild WONDER OF THE WORLD (@ Arsenal Arts Center through Aug. 9th) falls into the FUDDY MEERS category, with escaping wives, a trailing husband, bumbling private detectives and a plunge over Niagara Falls.

Titanic director Adam Zahler has assembled a crackerjack cast to navigate the swirling waters of upstate New York and although WONDER has its madcap moments, it doesn’t quite reach the comic pitch of FUDDY MEERS. Where the latter is refreshingly zany, WONDER is creepily bizarre at times. I know, the playwright is just pushing the envelope but for me to laugh at a Joseph Mengele reference, it has to be more than a cheap joke. (Mel Brooks proved that Nazis can be funny but Brooks has a point on the axe he’s grinding.) The same can be said for the icky Barbie material: gross, yes; hilarious, no.

Mind you, there’s a lot of WONDER that does hit the mark, chiefly because of the cast’s spot on, tongue-in-cheek delivery. Alisha Jansky, who plays the jaded “Gabby Hayes” sidekick to Meredith Saran’s nutty wanderer, has as Hayes would say “the beauty part.” She’s the character who moves the (watery thin) plot along by obsessing about the Fallsand by spilling the beans midway through, she brings all the parties together.

Laurie Singletary and Damon Singletary are a delightful duo as the Keystone Cops on the scent of Johnnie McQuarley’s missing wife; Alissa Cordeiro is a treat as the dubious shrink/clown (and wiseacre waitresses) but it’s Matthew Zahnzinger whose tour de force as Cap’n Mike makes WONDER work.

The Titanic Theatre Company’s WONDER OF THE WORLD ought to be a barrel of laughs. Instead it’s a mixed bag of chuckles.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

QUICK TAKE REVIEW By Beverly Creasey Lively Skirmish of Wits

MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING, Shakespeare’s “merry war” of the sexes (@ Bay Colony Shakespeare through Aug. 3rd) runs in repertory this summer with MACBETH and HAMLET. How’s that for a gargantuan effort: The company of a dozen or so actors appear in all three plays. If MUCH ADO is any indication of the other two, I presume they’ll possess the same level of attention and invention.

Director Jess Guyon sets the MUCH ADO romp in 1945 (staying in Italy) where a troop of American soldiers celebrate the end of the war with swing dancing and a romantic dalliance or two. The brash Benedick swears up and down that he’ll never marry…so his fellow soldiers set out to trick him into succumbing.

Beatrice, whom Benedick snidely calls “Lady Disdain” is his match in bravado and determination. She vows she’ll never fall for any man. Before you can say “what fools these mortals be,” they’re falling all over each other, believing the outrageous flattery their friends have counterfeited to bring them together.

Shakespeare has a serious subplot in MUCH ADO, where gossip and deception result in genuine harm. The company smoothly navigates both the spirited artifice of the Beatrice and Benedick plot and the stark contrast in the slanderous mistaken identity charges.

Neil McGarry as Benedick embraces the high comedy (even appearing in drag at a masquerade party) without sacrificing the man’s nobility. After all, we witness the honorable Benedick stand up for the women when everyone else has been led astray. Kudos to McGarry and Poornima Kirby, as the fiery Beatrice (donning a man’s suit for that very same soiree!) to play her revenge request in earnest. (Believe it or not sometimes it’s unfortunately played for laughs.) Kirby’s Beatrice is intelligent, witty and brash but you can see the vulnerability in her eyes.

Guyon has a game cast all around, with Tom Grenon a standout as the horrified father of the bride, when his daughter (Monica Girodano) is jilted at the altar. Dan Anderson as the ‘almost’ groom redeems his character when he learns the truth, as does Cameron Beaty Gosselin as the commanding army c.o.

Ross Magnant makes a brazen bad guy but it’s Ross MacDonald who steals the show as the fumbling, easily distracted constable (not that Erica Simpson doesn’t give him a run for his money as his long suffering lieutenant). MacDonald seizes the opportunity to extemporize on myriad subjects while he’s delivering Shakespeare’s actual lines. (One might raise an eyebrow if one weren’t laughing so hard she couldn’t).

The only snag (or as the Bard would call it, an “impediment”) at Bay Colony’s brand new digs is the high ceiling in the former church sanctuary space. Precious dialogue had a tendency to fly upward toward the heavens instead of straight out to the audience at my performance. This happened more to the soft voiced actors, especially when the text lent itself to intimate exchanges. I think it’s only a matter of projection and getting used to the new space before those stars Beatrice knows so well will be dancing again.

Monday, July 14, 2014


ME AND MY GIRL (@ Reagle Music Theatre through July 20th) is a charming rags to riches musical that’s part Gilbert & Sullivan, part MY FAIR LADY (or “LADDIE” in this case) and part British music hall comedy. It’s not OKLAHOMA mind you, but if you like old fashioned, corny dialogue and jaunty songs like “The Lambeth Walk” then you’ll enjoy Stephen Fry’s savvy revision of the original.
Cynthia Thole directs and recreates the original Broadway choreography, which is the best thing about ME AND MY GIRL: The dancing is crisp, precise, even thrilling. Joshua Holden is the cheeky cockney bloke who learns he’s inherited a castle and a seat in Parliament (if he can measure up to the upper classes). Getting him there is half the fun. The other half is watching the aristocrats squirm.

Carole Healey steals the show as the Duchess who tries to overhaul the lad and his “GIRL” (Jamie Buxton) and in the process, finds a love match herself. Rishi Basu is wonderfully stuffy as Sir John. Watching him join in on the dancing is simply delicious.

Holden’s “education” wouldn’t be complete without a few stumbling blocks and femme fatale Shonna Cirone throws everything but the kitchen sink at the new, soon-to-be-very-rich heir. Cirone manages to be mighty seductive and enormously silly at the same time, chasing the poor man over hill, dale and drawing room couch.

Chris Charron gets to show off his G&S chops as “The Family Solicitor.” He brightens the stage every time he comes back. (I would have loved even more verses of the very model of the modern solicitor general.) Devon Stone as Cirone’s spurned beau makes sputtering into an art.

In short, ME AND MY GIRL is one of those “in for a penny, in for a pound” musicals: You have to let yourself go and give yourself over to lame one liners like the Dutchess’ naughty quip to Sir John’s pensive: “It crossed my mind.” She: “Not a long journey.” That’s how I feel about the musical: not a long journey with plenty of diversions along the way.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

QUICK QUICK TAKE REVIEW By Beverly Creasey Slouching toward Nevada

Taylor Mac’s THE WALK ACROSS AMERICA FOR MOTHER EARTH (@ Oberon through July 27th ) is really a rewrite of HAIR with additions so gross you wonder who would think this stuff is funny: There’s a bottle of urine someone drinks, toenails another eats, menstrual blood another wrings out of her “rag” and, oh, someone dines on peeling skin. A vile HAIR is not a better HAIR. And I haven’t even mentioned a rape which is dismissed out of hand and hollow songs about racial equality for Native Americans when the entire cast is white.

I could go on and on (it’s a long evening) about all the inconsistencies, the banalities, the incredulities, the absurdities, the beastialities. Let’s suffice it to say this flower child didn’t think much of Circuit Theatre’s tedious WALK ACROSS Harvard Square. In fact, when Rainbow Carl complained about everything being so hard, I silently sang “Easy to be Hard” to myself. And it is “easy to say no” to this.

Circuit has assembled a cast of beautiful young people who perform with passion and sing gorgeously (with many playing multiple instruments). Their pre-show concert (The Beatles, Woody Guthrie) and their “No Talent, Talent Show” during intermission were lovely. What’s in between and after intermission was not. 

Monday, July 7, 2014

QUICK TAKE REVIEW By Beverly Creasey Still Vital After All These Years

Not only does JACQUES BREL IS ALIVE AND WELL AND LIVING IN PARIS (@ Gloucester Stage through July 6th) still work, it packs a walloping sardonic punch. You don’t need elaborate staging or fancy costumes, just singers who can inhabit a lyric, and oh, of course, a spotlight.

Director Eric C. Engel and company revel in the simplicity and at the same time, the multiplicity of Brel’s incomparable chansons. Brel’s words (exquisitely translated by Eric Blau) reach into your very soul and you find yourself mourning a lost love, lost innocence, or a world lost out there in space. You’re hearing his words but you feel like they’re yours.

Doug Jabara reminded me of another baritone who performed the role early on: Theo Bikel. Jabara is a standout in the Gloucester production, living a world of hurt and desire in one fleeting song: “Mathilde’s Come Back to Me.” Then he plunges us into the depths of “Amsterdam.”

Jennifer Ellis sits on the floor, waiting for “My Death” wrapped in a sheet and we are contemplating our own mortality as the drum (Don Holm) slowly beats away time. Then she’s softly begging/singing the plaintive “Don’t Leave Me” and we’re slain.

Daniel Robert Sullivan struts Brel’s defiant songs, like “Jackie,” who just wants to be “cute…in a stupid ass way.” And he delivers a searing indictment of animal cruelty with “The Bulls” who “bleed for us…we ask them to suffer for us…to drop dead for us.” Brel even conjures a “hell where matadors burn.”

But the show stopper is Shana Dirik, whether she’s giving sly payback in “I Loved” or pulling out all the stops with Brel’s paean to Belgium, the soaring anthem “Marieke, Marieke.” She’s a force of nature.

Alas, in a few songs, music director David McGrory’s keyboard drowned out a lyric or two but it’s tribute to the power of Brel’s every word, that we wanted desperately to hear them all.