Awake and sing, ye that dwell in dust  (Isaiah 26:19)
(Second half) created: 7/06, end 7/09
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She Loves Me @ Huntington Theater, Boston
        Last season the Huntington closed with the comedy gem 'Present Laughter', and this season's (2008) closer (one month run) is the musical gem, 'She Loves Me'. Music by Jerry Bock and Sheldon Harnick (music of Fiddler on the Roof) starring Kate Baldwin and Brooks Ashmanskas. (In July the show with the same cast followed Nicholas Martin to the Williamstown Theatre Festival.)

        The Globe reviewer says this is a show you've probably never seen. Yup, this is a 1963 show that I had barely heard of. It was revived on Broadway in 1993, but this was before I was going to NYC regularly. It shares its plot with one of my favorite movies, 'You've Got Mail' and 'The Shop Around the Corner' because they are all derived from the same Hungarian play ('Parfumerie').  The musical appears to stick quite close to the original play.

        I read the background on this show is that it became sort of a quasi-cult musical after its less than one year run in 1963 breaking out into hit status only after its 1993 revival. It has a score considered by some to be the perfect broadway musical score though it contains only a couple of moderately well known songs. The music is so tightly integrated into this nuanced show that I think it's going to take a repeat viewing to really appreciate this show and production. (The production is moving June 27 - July 12 to the Williamstown Theatre Festival along with director Nicholas Martin.)

        Beautiful golden yellow perfume shop set and costumes with 13 piece orchestra above. Ashmanskas as an ordinary man dresses in ordinary suits, but the flashy Troy Britton Johnson (Kodaly), who is a handsome guy, stands out in several spectacular dashing 30's style outfits. Dick Latessa is the shops owner and sings the nice song 'Days Gone By'. I remember him from the original cast of HairSpray (as Wilbur) on Broadway.

        The sparkle of the show is (much) more apparent after a second viewing. Now knowing all the songs and loving it so much, when I was able to snag an up close box seat, I went again (3rd time). This is very strong cast top to bottom, which is very important, as almost everyone above the ensemble (I count 6 plus the two principals) has a featured number. Kate Baldwin is an up and comer. She was in ensemble in Broadway's Full Monty and Thoroughly Modern Mille, then moved to supporting role of Helen in Wonderful Town (one of my favorite shows). Locally I saw her last year in the (not very good) Three Musketeers at North Shore Music Theater. She is a strong actress and her voice beautifully soars to high C in the 'Vanilla Ice Cream' finale. Ashmanskas is back from last season's Present Laughter as is the really funny waiter (Marc Veitor). Ashmanskas I was surprised to see has a fairly good singing voice.

Kate Baldwin (Amalia Balash) in the Huntington Theatre Company's revival of She Loves Me (6/08)

Dick Latessa (Mr. Maraczek) and Brooks Ashmanskas (Georg Nowack)

Jessica Stone and Troy Britton Johnson

'A Romantic Atmosphere' dance number
She Loves Me @ Huntington Theatre (6/08)

        Everyone loves this production. Half a dozen excellent reviews including Variety, Wall Street Journal, and Boston Globe. (Excellent reviews for the Williamstown run too.) There is some talk among the reviewers of it possibly ending up on Broadway. Here's the Globe's review:

         Video (1 min) of the production number "A Romantic Atmosphere" (this production)

        Link to all the songs (maybe original Broadway production, sounds like Barbara Cook)

(update Oct 30, 09)
        I wrote above (6/08) that "Kate Baldwin is an up and comer". Well, Kate Baldwin has just hit it big on Broadway. Finian's Rainbow ("heaven for musical theater lovers") starring Kate Baldwin just opened on Broadway to terrific reviews, and Isherwood of the NYT praise's her to the sky.

        "To call Kate Baldwin a newcomer is perhaps an overstatement. Ms. Baldwin has appeared on Broadway before and has a solid list of regional and Off Broadway credits. But never has she made the bewitching impression she does here.

        Feeling a twinge of homesickness, she pauses to sing one of the score’s most famous numbers, “How Are Things in Glocca Morra?” Ms. Baldwin’s cool, pure soprano gently rides the crests of the undulant melody, tugging at each question in the lyric with a sensitivity that perfectly expresses the song’s tender, yearning essence. The tune is folk-simple, the words drenched in stock ideas of Irishness, but as performed with both sophistication and sincerity by Ms. Baldwin, it has the distilled beauty of an art song." (CHARLES ISHERWOOD's review of Finian's Rainbow, NYT, Oct 30, 2009)

The Importance of Being Ernest @ Lyric Stage, Boston, MA

 . . .
The Importance of Being Ernest @ Lyric Stage (6/08)

Pageant @ Stoneham Theatre, Stoneham MA
        Last season (2007) Stoneham opened with a big (excellent) production of Gypsy. This season (2008) they have opened with another big musical, but something very different. I saw an interview with Weylin Symes (Stoneham's Producing Artistic Director) where he made a refreshing comment. With Pageant, he said, I'm either going to be a hero or goat. Well based on the first preview performance, which  I attended, Symes is going to be the hero. This is a off-Broadway, funny musical done in almost entirely in drag, and the audience loved it.

        Six contestants in a beauty pageant are all played by men in heels. Sure, this is a drag show, but a (very) high class drag show, and after a while you almost forget the girls are all men and you laugh because it's a funny beauty pageant satire. The shows works because the cast is uniformly excellent, and Symes has wisely brought in the right people to prepare them. The director (Bill Russell) co-wrote the show's book in 1991, costumes were designed by a designer (Stephen Yearick) who specializes in designing gowns for real 'real' Miss America contestants, and even the choreographer is a former beauty contestant. Most of the contestants are from the Boston Conservatory's musical theater program, and the MC is too (Nicholas Ryan Rowe). Rowe sets just the right tone with his smiling patter and also does a mean tap dance in heavy boots. The show is buoyed by upbeat songs and a lot of pretty funny, clever bits all of which are played straight. I was surprised that during the curtain calls the men stayed in character with wigs on.

Cast of Stoneham's production of Pageant -- John Ambrosino (Miss Deep South), Danny O’Connor (Miss Texas), Adam Cochran (Miss West Coast), Nicholas Ryan Rowe (Frankie Cavalier in suit), Nick Cearley (Miss Great Plains), Michael Joyce (Miss Bible Belt), Corbitt Williams (Miss Industrial Northeast). (photo by Paul Lyden) (9/08)

Pageant's Corbitt William pitching his/her 'solar rollars'

Here's a good song (I'm Bankin on Jesus) from the show (from other productions):

        YouTube 'Bankin on Jesus #1
        YouTube 'Bankin on Jesus #2

Boston Globe's Louise Kennedy really liked the show:
         "Pageant is a beauty of a parody" --- "Pageant is silly, saucy, and sharp. It's also about five times smarter than it needs to be."

Boston Ballet (3rd Annual) Night of Stars @ Wang Center, Boston MA
        To kick of the 2008/9 season the Boston Ballet, under Artistic Director Mikko Nissinen, opened with a spectacular one night gala featuring members of the company (with a visitor or two). This is the 3rd year for this tradition which brings out the Boston dance enthusiasts.

        The huge(12 pieces) and varied program was brilliantly danced by the great dancers of the Boston Ballet. Included were large ensemble pieces by Twyla Tharp (In the Upper Room), Balanchine (Concerto Barocco), and Petipa (Paquita), four classic pas de deux (Sleeping Beauty, Rubies, Le Corsaire, Spartacus), newer works the BB dances so well including a large piece by Boston's resident choreographer, Jorma Elo (In on Blue), and a couple of brand new pieces too. I like everything except for one piece: some drivel by William Forsythe (Vile Parady of Address), which wasted the talents of soloist John Lam.

Boston's Cuban principals Nelson Madrigal and Lorna Feijoo in ''Paquita' excerpts (photo -- Jay Connor, Boston Globe)

        The program shows the company continues to be very stable in its upper ranks. All principals and I think nearly all soloists too have been with the company for some time with Larissa Ponomarenko still the prima. I note that not one of the seven BB principals was born or was trained in USA. According to an article in the NY Times in spring 2008 finances were forcing the company to reduce the number of dancers for the 2008/9 season from 50 to 41. The count of company dancers in the gala program is 40 (supplemented by seven dancers from BB II).

Review by Karen Cambell of Boston Globe: "Stars shine bright in Boston Ballet gala"

Boston Ballet, Black & White, choreography by Jiri Kylian  @ Wang Center, Boston MA
        Spectacular performance by the Boston Ballet on opening night of an evening of choreography by Jiri Kylian. All five pieces choreographed by Jiri Kylian (for Nederlands Dans Theater) between 1986 and 1991. Orchestra packed, I think I got the last decent seat. This is the real dance crowd. Great cheering at the end of every number and standing ovation at the end (rare at BB performances).

        I certainly haven't seen much Kylian before, in fact I don't know that I have seen any. These related works are very quirky in a distinctive style, with a lot of humor in some, especially in the last. A unifying theme of the evening were fixed ball gowns that would glide around the stage, apparently with hidden wheels. All the evening's works were totally non-classical, hardly a classical step to be seen and certainly no toe shoes in evidence. Also virtually no solo turns, every number was a large ensemble often dancing in unison.

        This company is world class with incredible dancers. You really see it when it's something other than Nutcracker, though the 2008 Nutcracker performance I saw was really first rate. They have been rehearsing this is parallel with something completely different, Balanshine (Jewels), coming up in a couple of weeks. There must have been thousands (many thousands) of jerks, twists and positions tonight, generally danced at breakneck speed and often in unison, and I didn't see one, not one, step that was not perfect. Amazing.

screen capture from Nederlans Dans Theater video

screen capture from Nederlans Dans Theater video

(left) SECHS TÄNZE: Roman Rykine and Erica Cornejo (Feb 2009)

FALLING ANGELS: For women only

PETITE MORT: Rie Ichikawa and Roman Rykine

        From an interview with Heather Myers (BB solist) during rehearsals for Black and White

        "This is the U.S. premiere of this full Kylian program. One very unique thing about it is that while it is technically 5 separate pieces, they are really all part of the same presentation and strung together by intention, style and some certain props/costumes, and are enriched by being seen all together. It is also a program which is extremely loved by the dancers and meaningful to many of us."
Pictures of Boston Ballet in warm up class on stage of Wang Center during run of Black and White

BB in on stage warm up during Black and White, probably Heather Myers (center)
Photo credit: Jessica Lander, Blast Magazine 2/13/09

BB in on stage warm up during Black and White
Photo credit: Jessica Lander, Blast Magazine 2/13/09

Porch @ Stoneham Theatre, Stoneham MA
        A new play by local playwright, Jack Neary.  "(The Porch) gets the loudest laughs in the first 10 minutes of any play that I've ever heard," Neary said. Based on the night I was there, this may in fact be true. Beautiful New England style (working class) house with porch for a set. Due the success of 'Sisters of Swing' the three man production team had only four days (instead of the usual ten days) to strike the old set (saving it) and build a house on stage.

Sheriden Thomas, Ellen Colton, and Cheryl McMahon in Jack Neary's "The Porch." @ Stoneham Theatre (5/08)

25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee @ North Shore Music Theatre, Beverly MA
        This show depends almost entirely on the strength of the cast, and North Shore, in a co-production with the Barrington Theater, has pulled together a very, very, good and balanced ensemble. I saw this show on Broadway a few years ago (from a poor seat obtained from the cancellation line!) and at the Wilbur a few years ago where it had a long run. When the cast came out after the show for a talk back session, it was amazing how different a few of them looked, especially the tiny girl Shartz&Grovenere and William Barfee. The North Shore audience (mostly ordinary folks) seems to be split on this show, some like it a lot, but others hate it. I sat next to two women who couldn't wait for it to end, and attendance has not been very good.

        The more I see this show, the more I like it. It's pretty much an oddball comedy/comic play with the music playing a supporting role. (update --- On repeat viewing I'm coming to appreciate William Finn's music for this show. It's sort of like 'I love you' where the songs seems initially slight because ther're so tightly integrated into the show. But I now find the songs to be clever, listenable, and fit the characters to a tee helping them tell their stories. The song 'I love you'? (sung by the ashram mom) is particularly nice.)

        The characters in the play are all well drawn and pretty outrageous, and all the actors here bring this out wonderfully, yet in quiet moments getting us to care about them. I notice from the bio that some of them are Spelling Bee specialists having been in touring productions (Barfee) or in the Broadway production (Chip). This must be a tough show to cast as it requiring very specific types. The director explained in a interview that he looked for actors that were skilled enough to walk the line between heightened reality and being cartoonish. Another nice touch of this production is that instead of hiding the four musicians (piano, keyboard, cello, flute), they were at the edge of the stage where they were clearly visible to the audience.

Cast of North Shore Music Theatre production of 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee (8/08)

        YouTube excerpts of this production

How Many Miles to Basra @ Stoneham Theatre, Stoneham MA
        From the title you would think this is a play about the US Army in Iraq. Well it's about Iraq, but it's about British soldiers accompanied by an Irish journalist. It's the US premier of a play that started life as a BBC radio play and was written in 1991 before the invasion. The misery of war and on being a soldier. One review described it as a "tedious plod through the sand" with the message that 'war sucks'. Well, it was another chance to see Eve Kagan, who at Stoneham in the last two years has sung and danced as Gypsy and sat mute in the Cutting.

How Many Miles to Basra @ Stoneham Theatre (Oct 2008)

Producers @ North Shore Music Theatre, Beverly MA
        Usual polished, big, North Shore production (in round) of what I have always thought was an overrated show. Amy Bodnar and Jim Stanek (Bloom) below were quite good, Bielastock a little weak. {When the Producers was playing on Broadway, I had a chance to talk (in Virgil's Barbecue) to an elderly Danish couple who had just come from the show. They had lived through Germany's occupation of Denmark, and they didn't celebrating Hitler was all that funny! }

Amy Bodnar and Jim Stanek
New England premier of The Producers @ North Shore Music Theatre (5/08)

        YouTube excerpts of this production

Producers @ Ogunquit Playhouse, Ogunquit, Me
        Ogunquit has put together really a first rate production of the Producers. The strength of this production is the cast which features many that are Producers specialists. Cory English (Bielastock) and Andy Taylor (Bloom) both excellent and make a well balanced team. Cory English was especially good, and I see he has played the Producers in London's West End and all over the UK for a year. The Nazi author also fit the part very well, and I see he has done this role in Las Vegas and all over.  I saw the show in July 2008 in previews on opening day (and from first row) and already nearly every detail of this large, long show looked well polished.

Strangers on a Train @ Stoneham Theatre, Stoneham MA
        Some wise man of the theater is supposed to have said you don't want too much exposition (i.e. laying out of the plot). This play confirms the wisdom of that saying as it has exposition aplenty, too much exposition. For 10-15 minutes at the beginning there are only two characters in a circle of light on a dark stage talking. Every other line seems to be 'have another drink' and it gets pretty tedious, but when the play finally gets moving we see it's a pretty interesting thriller with a tricky plot and large attractive cast.

        The play is derived from the novel that was the basis for the 1951 Hitchcock 'film noir' movie of the same name, though from Weylin Symes' notes in the program the play is probably closer to the novel than the movie. The lighting and set of the play throughout give it a film noir atmosphere. The set is highly stylized with an oval shaped house wall penetrated by a huge center stairway, but downstage realistic with just a few plain pieces of furniture.

        Dee Nelson who has been the mother in two recent Stoneham productions (It's a Wonderful Life and Picnic) here gets to be more glamorous. The talented Liz Hayes, who was one of three Tall Women last season at the Lyric, has a large role, and convincingly creepy as the psychopath is Robert Serrell. I was there opening night and can report most of the audience immediately jumped to their feet during the bows causing cast members to grin widely.

right: Jonathan Popp & Robert Serrell
Stoneham theatre production of Stangers on a Train (5/09)

        [Maybe I missed something, but at a critical point in the play I was asking myself, Why doesn't our
everyman kill his tormentor rather than the person his tormentor wants killed?]

Reagle Player 2007 Summer Season @ Waltham MA
   -- 42nd Street
   -- King and I
   -- Singing in the Rain
        Saw three of four productions of Reagle Player in summer 2007. This year was my first time at Reagle players even though they have been around a long time. This company successfully blends Broadway professionals with local amateur talent. This is their 39th season, and this long history has allowed them to build up a huge and highly skilled talent pool for chorus, dancers, singers and secondary roles. Another huge plus is that the Reagle Player are able to (somehow) routinely put a huge (maybe 15-20 players) orchestra in the pit, far more than any other local theater.

        Here's a YouTube montage shot from wings of Reagle's 'Singing in the Rain'

        The Reagle Player season is a little unusual. Most Boston area companies run for 8-9 months of the year, taking the summer off (an exception is North Shore Music Theater that takes off Jan through April), while in vacation areas, like ME and the Berkshires, most companies run only in the summer. The Reagle Player, however, appears to have only a season in the spring, where they pack in four productions in about three months.

        All three productions I saw were excellent. 42nd Street with large dancing chorus and excellent  singing principals. King and I with strong principals (David Scannell & Sarah Pfisterer) wonderful large group of  (Thai looking) children and excellently danced ballet. Singing in rain climaxed with rain on the full stage.

Sarah Pfisterer and David Scannell                                               Thai children
Reagle Players King and I (summer 2007)

Reagle Players King and I (summer 2007)

        Their 42nd Street was better in some ways than the recent Broadway revival, especially in the lead roles. John Antony was really on top of the role of Julian Marsh, he was far better than anyone I saw in the theater on the actual 42nd street, and late in the production revealed that he is an excellent singer too. Principals were backed by a huge 30+ tap dancing chorus of skilled, high energy, and very well rehearsed dancers, with even 14 well matched chorus boys. Show was all there, even the double decked train pullman scene that separates and ends with strobe finish. All the Reagle productions are backed by a strong, large orchestra (about 20) in the pit too.

        How they can put all this on stage at 2:00 pm during the week is a wonder. I am sure it represents real dedication by the performers and musicians and production team. Here's a link to a very positive review of this 42nd Street production with lots of background info on the performers and production team.

King and I @ Ogunquit Playhouse, Ogunquit ME
        I saw a 2nd King and I (soon after the excellent Regal Player's King and I) on vacation in ME at the Ogunquit Playhouse (it's 75th year!). My first time there, well at least as an adult, I am reminded by my brother that we were taken there as children. It's a big theater with a high stage and was sold out. This production also was good with Lorenzo Lamas as king and Rachel de Benedet as Anna. Some of the children looked like ME locals (Regal Players were able to fill the stage with authentic looking East Asians). Excellent ballet. de Benedet is an excellent singer and good actress, but her english accent was a little off putting (as you hear in the video).

Wishful Drinking @ Huntington Theatre, Boston
        'Wishful Drinking' is Carrie Fisher's one woman show where she 'dishes' (Boston Herald's term) about her life. The show was created at Berkeley Repertory Theatre (apparently spring 2008) and a Google search shows Boston is the 5th and last stop on a 2008 tour that began in June. It's pretty demanding to stand up and talk for two hours, and Boston's two week run comes just 12 days after a four week run in Washington DC.

        I'm not a big Carrie Fisher fan. I haven't read any of her books, I never even saw Star Wars! So I'm sitting in the first row and the show starts, and off the stage Carrie comes and (this is the truth) she makes a bee line right for me. She then proceeds to slowly dump one, then two, handfuls of glitter on the top of my head to the great amusement of the crowd. I was picking it off me and off the floor for the next 24 hours. Consequently I got a good look at Carrie standing right in front of me.

        She does not look good for a 52 year old woman. She's fat, her face is lined, she dressed in frumpy clothes with no bra, stupid glitter makeup on her face, smoking during much of the performance, and running around the stage barefoot or with slippers all evening. The picture below flatters her, she did not look nearly this good at the performance I saw.

        She lets it all hang out physically, and that is the theme of her show too, which appears to be an accurate, and witty, telling of her life's story. She starts with some guy who died (fairly recently I guess) in her bed, and this was the only time she took questions from the audience. The picture below is a nice bit, where she reviews her 'family history' with nearly everyone getting skewered, especially her father Eddie Fisher (who left Debbie when she was baby). Apparently Eddie Fisher is still around, I thought he had died years ago.

Carrie Fisher in 'Wishful Drinking' @ Huntington Theatre (10/08)

Boston Ballet's Romeo & Juliet @ Wang Theater, Boston
            Every director of Boston Ballet seems unhappy with previous Boston productions of Romeo and Juliet (probably never having seen them) and brings in a new one. According to the Boston Globe this is the 4th production Boston has staged of this work, this time based on John Cranko's choreography for the Stuttgart Ballet. Gone with one of the older production is one of my favorite stage effects. In a previous production prior to curtain the full stage was filled with a beautiful painting of Verona (done I believe by Boston based stage artists) whose appearance subtly changed over several minutes as lighting effects smoothly shifted simulating a sunrise over the town. Quite spectacular.

        Dancing was excellent, as always. Principals were Nelson Madrigal and Larissa Ponomarenko (essentially the company's prima) the night I was there (opening night) with a seat in the first row. Cranko's choreography has variety and depths and I didn't get the feeling of too many street scenes that tends to afflict some productions of Romeo and Juliet. On the other hand there seemed to be a lot more acting and less dancing that there should be. In a similar vein the Globe reviewer complained that there was not enough dancing for the principals. And the dramatic climax of Romeo killing himself didn't work well, having nothing like the impact I remember from a long ago San Francisco ballet Romeo & Juliet.

        Costumes were extravagant and colorful. In the ballroom scenes many people had a fixed  mask built into the costume and were holding up a 2nd mask (two masks!). But the scenery was all black and white and quite dreary This was also a complaint of the Globe reviewer,  "Susan Benson's costumes are gorgeous, especially the shimmering gold ballroom robes. But Benson's set design is disappointing, tending toward a monochromatic, stone-like gray."

        For some weird reason Boston Ballet rarely makes available performance pictures. The only decent one I could find for Romeo & Juliet is left of Nelson Madrigal (from a Boston Ballet email). I found the picture right of Madrigal and his wife Lorna Feijoo, another Cuban BB principal, attached to a recent Globe article on four married couples in the company.

left:Nelson Madrigal in Bostom Ballet Romeo & Juliet (2/08)
right: Nelson Madrigal with his wife Lorna Feijoo

Boston Ballet's Jewels @ Wang Theater, Boston MA
        This is my first Jewels (Rubies, Emeralds, Diamonds) as seen from a great seat (3rd row). Super dancing from Boston Ballet, but afterward no one performance or image stands out, except maybe Larissa Ponomarenko in Diamonds, who as always danced beautifully. Curtain up of every section brought applause. NYT reviewer came to Boston to do a review, and the NYT site had an eleven picture slide show.

        Boston Ballet lost dancers this year due to budget problems, so a very pleasant surprise was to realize (later) that seven member of Boston Ballet II were included. Emeralds had four smaller men, who were very well matched physically and skill wise, and I was surprised to see that two of them are Boston Ballet II dancers.

Heather Myers   photo -- Eric Antoniou (3/09)

photo --Erik Jacobs

Opening of Rubies      photo --Erik Jacobs

photo --Erik Jacobs

Roman Rykine and Larissa Ponomarenko   photo --Erik Jacobs

The Scene @ Lyric Stage, Boston MA
        Boston production of a recent (2006) off broadway comedy about an unemployed actor (Jeremiah Kissel) who meets a sexy flake (Georgia Lyman). Written by Theresa Rebeck, who is associated with TV's Law and Order. Here is the blurb from the NYT about the play, "The most accomplished and rewarding play in the 2006 Humana Festival - a searing, sharply observed, and often blisteringly funny play."  One reviewer of the Lyric production commented, "The shallow story about vapid Manhattanites, living their beautiful people dreams, contains some of the most entertaining, albeit tastefully executed, simulated sex you'll ever see. And it's pretty funny to boot."

        Terrific performances by both Lyman and Kissel. Kissel has a spectacularly fast, long monologue at the end of the first act, and this role fits Lyman like a glove as she transitions from kooky to knockout. Globe review says, "poisoned little trinket of a play a stylish production .. with knockout performances." "None of this would be half so entertaining without the bravura performance of Georgia Lyman, who makes Clea into a kind of gleaming, glorious monster. At first you think she's just hoping to be a starlet; then you realize she's much smarter, and meaner, than that - and you still can't take your eyes off her. Neither can Jeremiah Kissel's Charlie, whose rumpled charm retains our sympathy."

Jeremiah Kissel & Georgia Lyman in Lyric Stage's "The Scene" (2/08)

Cat on a Hot Tin Roof @ Lyric Stage, Boston MA
        A year later (after 'The Scene' above) and Georgia Lyman is back at the Lyric starring, doing  great job, and getting excellent reviews, in another sexy role: Tennessee  William's Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. Had seen the famous movie many years ago, but had never seen the play. While it has iconic characters in Big Daddy, Big Mama, and, of course, Maggie the Cat, it's in many places stilted, talky and a little pompous. (Talky is how the Globe's reviewer, Louise Kennedy, described the 2nd act. Yes, mendacity!) I'ts also strangely unbalanced with Maggie doing almost a monologue for the first act, the Brick and Big Daddy dialogue dominating the 2nd act. For a couple of minor characters, like the preacher, it's hardly worth showing up. Artistic director of the Lyric,  Spiro Veloudos, played Big Daddy, Cheryl McMahon as Big Mamma (picture of her in Stoneham's 'Porch'), Kelby Atkin as Brick, Own Doyle, who just two months ago starred in Stoneham's 'It's a Wonderful Life', as other son Gooper (some name!) and Elsa McDonald as his pregnant wife.

Georgia Lyman as Maggie and Kelby T. Akin as Brick (2/09)
in the Lyric Stage Company production of Tennessee Williams's ''Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.'' (Mark S. Howard)

Dirty Dancing @ Boston Opera House, Boston MA
        The natural audience for this show is people, like me, who know the movie Dirty Dancing well. In an uncanny way with a very complex, clever set, virtually the whole movie intact, every scene, nearly all dialogue, and nearly every setting has been reproduced on the stage! When the girls go the staff row of houses, you see the same row of houses as in movie, when Baby talks to her father on a porch over the lake, they appears to be on a porch over a lake. A very long log tilts down dramatically for the few seconds of dancing on the log. And the most amazing stage effect of all (you could hear the oohs from the audience) is that when Baby and Johnny are practicing lifts in the water it really looks like they are in the water.

        This is a primarily a dance show. None of the lead characters sing, they're dancer/actors (singing is done by others). We get lots of big dance numbers (well danced) sprinkled through the show (though the choreography was a little repetitive), the Baby/Johnny dance romance, the upbeat Dirty Dancing finale, so in many ways this is a good show. But it needs something. Get a show doctor, too bad Jerry Robbins is dead. Before I went I heard it advertised as preBroadway run, so while watching it I thought they were working on the show.

        Wrong? Afterward doing some research, I found out this show has been around since 2004 playing in London and Europe. On this tour it played a couple of months in Chicago, more than two months in Boston and is scheduled to play two months in LA (with nothing after that scheduled). There was talk in the fall of 2008 of it going to Broadway in early 2009 (replacing HairSpray on 52nd St) , but obviously that didn't happen. It's apparently selling very well. Most shows come in to Boston for a week or so. This is an extended 9 week (!) run with shows six days a week. I went on Tues night and there was a very good crowd.

        The audience reaction is very strange. People sit silently until near the finale when the audience begins to react. One Chicago reviewer commented on this, and I noticed it too, it's uncanny. The reviewer said people sit silent like watching a movie. Maybe he's right, because it looks like a 3d movie of Dirty Dancing. Maybe these are mostly not theater people. But I suspect it's the show, get a show doctor. Curiously the audience reaction seems to have been very different opening night when Globe Review, Louse Kennedy, was likely there. She writes

        "Clearly, for many of the movie's fans in the Opera House the other night, it was a dream. They laughed in advance of the jokes; they mouthed key lines along with the actors; they clapped rhythmically with some of the songs (what??), and they positively cheered when Johnny returned at the end - whoops, retroactive spoiler alert - to declare that "Nobody puts Baby in a corner."" (yes, but this was the first reaction and is nearly the end of the show)
        I saw the understudy Baby (listed as 2nd understudy), Aspen Vincent in for Amanda Cobb (bummer when a principal is missing), but she was good. I was so close that I could see the key lift in the finale was nearly missed, but Aspen is small and Brown was able to muscle her up. The dance girl, Britta Lazenga, is former Joffry dancer, very tall like a show girl with spectacular legs and technique. Role of Johnny was an Australian ballet dancer, Josef Brown, he had danced the role in London. He is big and strong and a good dancer, but not much of an actor. Clearly Louise Kennedy liked him,  "He  has magnificent presence and poise, and he's often thrilling to watch: sinuous, elegant, slinky, and, yes, dirty in just the right way. Things go less smoothly whenever Johnny opens his mouth." The show has a large ensemble of good dancers supporting principals along with some singers (featured in "Time of My Life" finale) plus a few musicians who appear briefly upstage.

        Two small, but memorable roles in the movie, the clutzy sister (Katyln Carlson) and nerdy grandson of the owner ("Let's do the petchangia", Adam Overett) were kept intact and nicely done. Carson in particular did a great job singing  the one song in the talent show song with splendid and funny terribleness. I had best seat in house: 4th row center. For this show the stage projected out over the pit so in 4th row head was even with stage, in closer rows you could see below knee (1st row was a disaster).

Dirty Dancing National tour (sort of) Josef Brown and Amanda Leigh Cobb (didn't see her) 2/09

        (update 3/17/09) Saw the show again five weeks later. This time Amanda Lee Cobb, 'Baby' was in, and she is very good. Tall Britta Lazenga (dance girl) has such spectacular legs and technique that it's worth another visit just to see her dance again and the rest of the dancers too. During intermission and after the show I heard several people comment on her spectacular legs. This time I was able to focus on the show rather than the set.

        This time the audience, or at least a group up back, was much more alive than previous, maybe some had seen it before. There was a fair amount of applause, but I noticed the form of the show itself blocks much of the applause by not having the necessary gaps. Something that escaped my notice the first time is that some of the actors do sing (a little) including Baby's mother and father, and of course, Baby's sister, Katyln Carlson, who does such a great job in the talent show song. Still getting a good crowd. Standing ovation at end. I had good seat (7th row, c, on aisle).

A Year with Frog and Toad @ Stoneham Theatre, Stoneham Ma
        Didn't know what to expect going into this show. From the title it sure sounded like a kid's show. But after reading about it on the Stoneham web site, seeing the set building video (nice touch), and finding the show had been on Broadway in 2004, I went. Well yes, it's a kids show, but one that adults will like too. The actors are not dresses as frogs (or toads), no maudlin songs, no preachy songs, no one dies, no one is hurt, and a happy ending (sorta). The show starts in spring with toad and frog waking from hibernation, and true to the name of the show, follows them on their tiny little adventures (like flying a kite) for a year, cycling around to another spring. The show has a lot of nice little songs and dances, maybe a third of the show.

        The show works, and a key reason it works, aside from the songs and dances, cute story line (there's no real plot) and light consistent tone, is the cast. The five singing and dancing (one a trained dancer) actors have been perfectly cast. All are polished performers who, without appearing to work hard (doubtless an illusion), keep the show bouncing along smoothly. They work well as an ensemble, yet each has at least a little time to solo. Featured as frog and toad are Steven Barkhimer and Edward Barker, backed up by birds Mary Callanan and Ceit McCaleb Zweil, and snail Matt Spano, who on opening night replaced Phil Crumrine listed in the program.

Edward Barker and Steven Barkhimer in rehearsal for Stoneham Theatre production of  'A Year with Frog and Toad' (2/09)

The Cutting @ Stoneham Theatre, Stoneham Ma
        US premier of two person play that Stoneham artistic director, Weylin Symes, found and considered a challenge to stage since one of the two characters says not a word for fully 1/3 of the play (though both are on stage). The show is about a psychiatrist talking to a mute arrested on suspicion of killing her mother, when a bird is discovered with the mothers chopped off hand. Symes changed the psychiatrist from a man to a woman.

        The play is very intense and holds your attention. It was well acted by versatile Boston actors who were both recently featured in very fine productions that I saw: Eve Kagan in this falls Stoneham production of Gypsy (as Gypsy, wow there's a transition), and Rachel Harker in this fall's New Rep production of Streetcar Named Desire (as Blanche DuBois).

        One difficulty was that Kagan, who was so into character as someone who is totally wracked and barely speaks, was often difficult to understand as she spat out and mumbled her story, even from the 1st row. The Globe critic agrees, "Eve does much of her confessing in the form of a Cockney-inflected children's song delivered from a huddled crouch, in such a way that the dropped clues are just that - dropped."

Eve Kagan (left) plays a woman accused of killing her mother and Rachel Harker a psychiatrist asked to assess the prisoner (3/08)

 Rachel Harker & Eve Kagan in Stoneham's Theatre 'The Cutting' (3/08)

Two Men of Florence @ Huntington Theater, Boston Ma
        New play about Galileo by Bostonian Richard Goodwin, former presidential speech writer and historian starring Jay O. Sanders (new to me) as Galileo and the famous Edward Herman as Cardinal Barberini/Pope Urban VIII. Spectacular, creative production by The Huntington, with a sweeping round curtain used cleverly to change between the 19 separate scenes that make up the play. A semi-abstract, but very effective set consisting of an open lattice with candles and multiple doors. Great touch was inclusion of several pieces of Galileo's experimental equipment, including a very large double ramp , telescope, and early microscope all of which were woven into the play. An especially magical moment after the telescope scene was the filling of the stage in three dimensions with stars. Set and costume design, many of the costumes were also very ornate and beautiful, was by Francis O'Connor.

        The play covered a lot of ground with Galileo earlier years in the first act, the first act ending with Galileo's (sort of) friend Cardinal Barberini becoming pope. The 2nd act is Galileo summoned to Rome and the conflict between Galileo and Pope over the book Dialog between Two World Systems. I liked the play a lot. In a few spots it gets a bit preachy, but generally it does a wonderful job in detailing Galileo's work and objective in trying to guide the church, while at the same time the popes fears and worries are clear, and they are not trivial. Goodwin has the pope not concerned about the details of whether or not Galileo staying within guidelines he was given for his writing. The pope is concerned (rightly) that Galileo's science will fundamentally undermine faith in god, at least as the church sees it. This makes for high drama.

        Some theater critics (like Kennedy of Globe) think as a drama this play is weak. One criticism I've seen made is that it's too much of a science teaching tool. This, of course, is one reason I liked it! The recreation on stage of Galileo science and his test equipment (working long ramps and realistic looking  telescope) and quick references throughout manage to 'teach" his science (at least to those in the know). It's wonderfully done and very accurate.

        The set's turntable is capable of amazing speed (far faster than I ever seen) and this is used to wonderful effect demonstrating that there are 'two motions' as Galileo repeated throws up a weighted bag and it drops at his feet. (I suspect this sort of thing is lost on Kennedy). Also there's a nice dramatization from central book: Dialog on Two World Systems, giving the tone of its argument, which is needed to explain the pope's reaction to it.

        The night I was there the playwright (Goodwin) was there with his wife (Doris Kearns Goodwin) and entourage (including the English director Edward Hall too I think) all sitting diagonally behind me in the 2nd row.  (High schools would be smart to send some of their best science students to this play.)

        Reading reviews I find Goodwin, now 77, finished this play 10 years ago. It was first done in England six years ago to good reviews with an offer to take it to the West End (refused). The English set was stored for six years and that is the set the Huntington is now using. Goodwin director Hall have worked on the play since England, expanding the role of Galileo's daughter for example, for its US debut. It's a big play with a cast of 22, but only about 10 took bows (standing ovation). Good acting in all the support roles.

Huntington's Two Men of Florence spectacular set (as seen from balcony) (3/09)

Edward Herman in Huntington's Two Men of Florence (3/09)

Jay O. Sanders as Galileo and Edward Herman in Huntington's Two Men of Florence (3/09)

Edward Herman in Huntington's Two Men of Florence (3/09)

        After I had seen the play, a box office person suggested that the balcony is a better seat for this show than the orchestra because from the orchestra you can't see the wonderful floor of the set. I realized this was true when I looked at Kennedy's slide show of the set (below). So I went again, and this time sat in the first row in balcony. No only is the floor of the set inscribed with a glowing, reflecting, world like image, but the action of the turntable is much more impressive than I had realized from up close in the orchestra.

        It's the most elaborate turntable I have ever seen. It's a double counter-rotating turntable, the small center goes one way and the large section the other. This effect is used several times. Another spectacular thing is that the large outer section goes at varying speeds and can go really, really,  really fast (& smooth and quiet too). This high speed is used wonderfully to demonstrate relative, double motion as Galileo (probably holding on tight) throws a weighted bag straight up repeatedly and it lands at his feat. This is clearly seen from the balcony, but was not as clear from the orchestra.

        A long slide show on the spectacular set is below. It's narrated by Louise Kennedy, chief theater critic of the Globe, "(It's) one of the most stunning (sets) we'll see on a Boston stage this year".

Contact @ North Shore Music Theatre, Beverly MA
        This is the first time I have seen 'dance play' Contact since I saw it at Lincoln Center in 2000 and at the Wang on the 2003 national tour. It takes really good dancer/actors to pull this show off. This production had less sparkle than the other two national productions I had seen because the dancers were not quite as good. The final swing club piece had strong principals in Naomi Hubert, as the girl in the yellow dress, and Jarrod Emick, as Michael Wiley, but the swing dancing was not as spectacular as the Broadway production. Where I was hoping for more was the dance sequences in the Italian restaurant piece. The principal, Sally Mae Dunn, was a good actress, but she was not a strong ballet dancer. In the touring show I believe Charlotte d'Amboise, who is a really strong dancer, danced this role.

Naomi Huber and Jarrod Emick in North Shore Music Theatre production of Contact (6/08)

Sally Mae Dunn with Matt Rivera and company in North Shore Music Theatre production of Contact (6/08)
Photo credits: (Paul Lyden)

Naomi Huber in North Shore Music Theatre production of Contact (6/08)

        Hilites of this Contact production on YouTube. (Clearly there was a lot of good dancing in this production.)

Boston Ballet's Swan Lake @ Wang Theater, Boston
        New Boston production (I think) of Swan Lake with choreography by the company's artistic director, Mikko Nissinen,  after (of course) Petipa. Dancing superb, drama a little thin. The ending was a little flat too. There was  no jumping in the lake, no boat sailing away, just the principals standing together at the rear of the stage. Costumes were beautiful, sets (mostly large backdrops) did the job.

        Corp of 24 girls (all the same height!) in the white acts was outstanding, beautifully polished and amazingly synchronized. In the lead I saw company prima (15 years as principal), Larissa Ponomarenko, partnered by Roman Rykine. Ponomarenko is always great, but opening night she had a bad moment, during fouette #28 of her 32 (I was counting), but managed to recover..

        The huge Wang was less than half full. Why the company doesn't sell more seats (price?), I don't know. Maybe the move next year to the smaller Opera House will improve things. Unfortunately unless the company finances improve, their ability to mount large works like Swan Lake next year looks problematical. I read that large works need a company size of 50 min. In Mar 2008 Boston Ballet announced that due to a budget shortfall (their budget is about 25 million dollars) they would have to downsize from 50 to 41 dancers at the end of the season. Company roster as of spring 2008 shows a corp of 26, 4 second solists, 10 solists, and 10 principals for a total of exactly 50. (Of the 10 principals only 1 is from the US , and of the 10 solists only 4 are from the US.)

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Boston Ballet Swan Lake, corp,  Lorna Feijóo, Lorna Feijóo and Nelson Madrigal (May 2008)

A Delicate Balance @ Merrimack Theater, Lowell MA
        A 1966 'classic' (?) play by Edward Albee that won the Pulitzer prize, perhaps because his earlier sucess, 'Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf', had been passed over. Generally watchable (though sometimes with eyes closed!), but with an overwrought plot, pompous dialogue and long tedious monologues (I think Albee must have seen too much Shakespeare!), this play was not my cup of tea. Also a running theme thoughout the whole play is drinking, who is to making the drinks, which drink is too "sticky", who is drinking too much, should we drink this early? Give me a break, this is supposed to be interesting?

        A review of this play in Curtain Up (not of this production) sums up my feeling quite well --- "In fact, 'A Delicate Balance' introduced audiences to a remoteness and pretension in Albee's work that made him an increasingly obscure and unpopular playwright who for nearly two decades, until the success of Three Tall Women, seemed played-out." (Three Tall Women is coming later this season to the Lyric, should I risk it?)

        Globe's Louise Kennedy a year earlier said of the play, "Albee's characters often pose this kind of problem. Hyperdramatic, hyperarticulate, and hyperalert, they too easily resemble overacting actors, making grand gestures and delivering ornate speeches instead of walking and talking." Yup.

Boston Ballet's Cinderella @ Wang Theater, Boston
        The few small children I saw at Boston Ballet's new Cinderella were probably disappointed. This is not the usual fairly tale production , but a sophisticated retelling by choreographer James Kudelka of the National Ballet of Canada (2004). BB billed it as "featuring Art Deco-inspired scenery, stylish Roaring-Twenties costumes" (by David Boechler). 'Visually stunning' said one reviewer plus it had strong characters, well acted/danced by the great BB dancers, and lots of fresh clever dancing.  The night I was there the principals were Lorna Feijoo and Carlos Molina, both of whom dance beautifully.

Boston Ballet's production of Kudelka Cinderella (Oct 2008)

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Kathleen Breen-Combes and Heather Myers (sisters), Lorna Feijoo (Cinderella), and Carlos Molina (prince)

       I was surprised to find on YouTube three minutes of excerpts of BB's Cinderella. This video has all the hallmarks of being official (well framed, good sound, and edited), so why does BB keeps postings like this  a secret? YouTube says it was posted on Oct 1, 2008, but the first performance was Oct 18, 2008, and it was obviously recorded during a performance, so apparently this video is from 2005. So why is it posted in 2008? (I don't remember seeing Cinderella in 2005, but a couple of reviewers say this is a return engagement, and one of the two sisters in the video is different from the 2008 run.) The video shows an excerpt of a clever Cinderella solo (Larissa Ponomarenko) danced with one toe shoe and a bare foot.

Show Boat @ North Shore Music Theatre, Beverly MA
        Speaking of composing.... I recently saw for the first time the 80 year old musical Show Boat by Jerome Kern and Oscar Hammerstein II. I didn't realize what a master Kern was. A huge number of the songs in this show have gone on to become classic music standards. Kern needs a song about the Mississippi river, so he writes 'Ol' Man River' followed by, 'Only make believe', 'Can't help lovin' dat man of mine', 'Life upon the wicked stage', 'Why do I love you', and 'He's just my Bill'.   Amazing... that's why this show survives.

        This production is modeled after the 1993 Broadway revival with Susan Stroman's choreograph. At a 'meet the cast' after the show one of the actors said that Stroman had used a cast of 80 !!  North Shore had to pare it down, of course, but with a cast of 28 (not counting the kids) and an orchestra of 13, this is a huge production. Audience loved show. In the meet the cast several said it was one of the best shows they had ever seen at North Shore.

        Great cast of principals all with strong voices who acted well and looked the part. Quality all the way down the line and into the ensemble, who I would judge were mostly singers 'who can move'. There were dancers too, but they had little to do with only one big dance number right at the end. The two romantic leads, Ron Bohmer, tenor, (Ravenal) and Teri Dale Hansen, soprano, (Magnolia) had great voices, though Hansen's voice took a little getting used to since it was more operatic than Broadway. I read that in the Broadway 1993 revival of Show Boat Rebecca Luker, a favorite of mine since I saw her in Music Man as Marian, and who has a very clear soprano voice, played Hansen's role of Magnolia. Phillip Boykin (Joe), a big man with a deep bass voice, played Joe in a 2000 national tour, and while he doesn't have big acting role, he gets to sing Ol' Man River throughout the show. A strong center to the somewhat melodramatic plot was provided by Gorden Stanley, who plays captain Andy.

        In a supporting role as song and dance man was Jim Walton. His bio noted he played the lead in PBS's broadcast of  'Crazy for You' a few years back (1999), and I still remember his spectacular tap dancing in that show (Paper Mill Playhouse production). In three small non-singing parts Ron Wisniski was impressive. In the 'meet the cast' he was introduced as having been at North Shore before in Les Mis, and we were asked what role. Suddenly it came to me (even though I had only seen the show once) that he was the memorable Master of the House, which I called out and tickled him.

 Teri Dale Hansen (Magnolia) & Ron Bohmer (Ravenal)
in North Shore Music Theatre production of Show Boat (9/08)

Gordon Stanley (Capt Andy) & Audrie Neenan                   Phillip Boykin (Joe)

Jim Walton and Melinda Cowan (Photos Paul Lyden) (9/08)

        I was surprised to read in Wikipedia that in the last fifteen years some blacks have been upset by this show leading to protests, picketing, and cancellation of planned productions in Conn and England. I am not aware of any protests or complaints about the North Shore production, in fact some arts council helped fund the production.

        North Shore posting on YouTube of excerpts from this production:

Three Tall Women @ Lyric Stage, Boston MA
            After the trauma of Albee's 'A Delicate Balance' (see above) seen earlier in the season (at Merrimack), I was a little reluctant to risk Albee's 1996 Pulitzer prize winning play at the Lyric, 'Three Tall Women". But I had heard Spriro Veloudos (Artistic Director of the Lyric and this play) say good things about it, so I took a chance. Well I'm glad I did.

        This play has an amazing and unexpected sudden transformation near the beginning of the 2nd act. The realistic play about a complaining, rambling 92 year old woman in the first act that you thought you were watching is suddenly in the opening of the second act revealed to be a prelude to an entirely different play about a young woman seeing her future as a middle aged and old woman. Very clever, and entertaining all the way through. Albee, when asked what his plays are about, sometimes says "about two hours". I can't add to that.

        Very well acted by Anne Scurria, who plays the old lady and has a ton of lines, a member of the Trinity Repertory Company (Providence RI) for 30 years, Paula Plum, as the middle aged woman (just saw her in the comedy Clean House at New Rep), and Liz Hayes, as the young woman.

Liz Hayes, Paula Plum, & Anne Scurria in Lyric Stage production of 'Three Tall Women' (4/08)

Excellent review by Louise Kennedy in the Globe.

personal aside
        Having seen a lot of local productions in the last couple of years I am slowly getting to know some Boston based performers. At the performance of Three Tall Women I attended I recognized the rumpled, very ordinary looking, middle aged man sitting in the row behind me (with what appeared to be his wife) as Robert Saoud. I first noticed him when he appeared as one of three performers in the Stoneham post-fire benefit in Dec 2007 singing several songs. At the time he was appearing in Stoneham's 'Miracle on 34th St' in a supporting role (store manager). Doing a little research on Three Tall Women, I noticed the Lyric just announced they won a bunch of IRNE (Independent Reviews of New England) awards for last season's, Man of La Mancha, and included in the list of winners I find -- Robert Saoud, Best Supporting Actor in a Musical (Sancho Panza).

Wild Party @ New Rep, Watertown MA
            Highly stylized, theatrical musical with a large cast and lots of choreography. In the style of Sondheim a substantial amount of the dialog is sung. There is something like 30 songs in the show. Todd Alan Johnson and Aimee Doherty (on the night I was there) led the cast. Leigh Barrett was in the show too and wrote an interesting daily blog for New Rep during the rehearsal period and previews.

        There was high drama the night I was there. The show had just opened and the understudy (Aimee Doherty) with less than a day to prepare had to take over the star role who has maybe 20 long complex songs to sing. Leigh in her blog discussed how a day or two earlier during previews the show had to be stopped after the a few numbers when the star's voice gave out (audience's money was returned). The theater director before our performance advised us of the last minute substitution for the star role and to (in effect) keep our fingers crossed, but the Aimee did wonderfully.

        A few months later Johnson was starring in the (non-singing) role of Stanley Kowalski in Street Car Named Desire at New Rep, where he did great, and Aimee Doherty was starring in the new musical Adrift in Macao at the Lyric, where she also did great.

Wild Party @ New Rep (5/07)

Here is Globe's review is entitled, "Trashy and wicked, 'Party' is a lot of fun":

Antoine Feval @ Stoneham Theatre, Stoneham MA
        A long comedy routine about a dim witted 19th century Englishman longing to be a detective's sidekick like Dr. Watson is to his hero Sherlock Holmes. It was written by Chris Gibbs, a British standup comic, and previously performed by him at a Canadian Fringe theater festival. Stoneham artistic director,Weylin Symes, told how he got the script and worked to turn it into a real theatrical piece, here acted (brilliantly) by Tom Souhrada. The story is a little offbeat, and while it was not to everyone's taste, I liked it and thought it clever.

        Certainly Tom Souhrada pulled out all the stops in this one man show done without intermission. The Globe critic agreed, commenting that Souhrada "gives each of the many characters he plays distinctive characteristics", but that in spite of his "extraordinary effort" the material was too thin for a good play.

Tom Souhrada in Antoine Feval @ Stoneham Theatre (1/08)

The Belle of Amherst @ Gloucester Stage, Gloucester MA
           A one woman show with Lindsay Crouse as Emily Dickinson telling about her life. I like good acting and in the intimate Gloucester Stage theater you get to see it close up. An impressive performance. I was not familiar with Lindsay Crouse, but see that she has worked steadily in movies and TV for 30 years, and in 1985 she was nominated for an Academy Award for best supporting actress in Places in the Heart.

Lindsay Crouse, Belle of Amherst @ Gloucester Stage (summer 07)

Copenhagen @ American Repertory Theatre, Cambridge MA
        I like scientific/technical plays and Copenhagen is one of the best. It recounts a remarkable meeting in 1941 by two leading lights of quantum physics, Neils Bohr, a Dane, and his former, younger student/colleague Werner Heisenberg, a German. Heisenberg led the German atomic bomb effort all during the war and Bohr, while not working on the allied atomic bomb effort, he knew all the players and knew what was going on..

        One of the issues the playwright explores is why did Heisenberg come to Denmark to see Bohr. Was he trying to find out if the allies were working on the bomb? Was he asking for Borhr's approval to work on it? Another issue explored is after the war what happened to the German bomb program. Was Heisenberg a hero for deliberately going slow and denying Hitler the bomb, or were he (& German science minus all the jews) just not up to the huge job?

        This is the 2nd time I have seen this play, having seen it a few years ago on Broadway. The ART's performances by Will LeBow (Bohr), John Kuntz (Heisenberg) and Karen McDonald (Bohr's wife) were excellent.

Will LeBow (as Bohr), John Kuntz (as Heisenberg) and Karen McDonald (as Bohr's wife) in ART's Copenhagen (1/08)

Santaland Diaries @ New Rep (downstairs), Watertown MA
        A one man show based on David Sedaris' humorous essay about being an elf at Macy's during Christmas season. The show was so popular the previous year that this year John Kuntz did two shows a night. This was the first time I attended theater with a starting time of 10:00 pm! I had read and liked Sedaris essay, but was a little disappointed in Kuntz's performance. I thought he threw away some of Sedaris' funniest lines, like 'your an elf, not a dancer'.

John Kuntz as Macy elf 'Crumpet' in David Sedaris' Santaland Diaries @ New Rep (12/07)

Boston Ballet's Next Generation @ Wang Theatre, Boston MA
        In new modern works the ability and range of the Boston Ballet dancers is really on display and is amazing. All pieces choreographed in a rather quirky modern style that the NYT 'blames' on William Forsythe (Frankfort Ballet). What sticks in the mind is the incredibly fast finale of Picket's "Eventide" (danced without a misstep) and the blueness of Elo's "In on Blue", where the lighting was the most intense blue I have ever seen (& totally blue costumes too).

                  Boston Ballet's "Next Generation" new choreography series                            “In on Blue” by Jorma Elo
(These are strong legs!)

“Eventide" by Helen Pickett (3/08)

       The New York Times reviewer came to Boston to do a review. Here is the NYT reviewer (Alastair MacCaulay) commenting on the unusual opening number where only the four choreographers danced:

        "The program also had unity. In a singular stroke, surely without precedent, all four choreographers opened the evening by dancing, in Mr. Elo’s “Téssera.” Set to a repeating phrase from Sibelius’s Violin Concerto, it showed the four as confidently individual soloists as well as an ensemble."
          NYT 'Next Generation' review
         Boston Glove 'Next Generation' review

Les Miserables @ North Shore Music Theatre, Beverly MA
        While this show is not really my cup of tea, the huge cast is uniformly excellent, all very good singers and actors. Performed in the round, scenery is minimal, you need to imagine the barricade! This all singing, no dancing, opera/show has some very good songs and stirring moments, but the first act plot is a complex tangle, and in the 2nd act what's so interesting about a few revolutionaries who get themselves killed in France in the 1830's.

        The high quality of the singing can be heard in this video summry of the North Shore Production. (scoll down to 2nd video)

        Fred Inkley in the lead, and Ron Wisniski as the inn keeper, are particularly strong performers. Inkley most recent role at North Shore was as coach in High School Musical. Yikes, it shows how tough it must be to make a living in theater.

Fred Inkley is Valjean in North Shore Music Theater's Les Miserables

Ron Wisniski & Inga Ballard in North Shore Music Theater's Les Miserables (fall 07)

Mike Daisey's MONOPOLY! @ART Zero Arrow theater Cambridge MA
            A 2 hr non-stop monologue featuring Nikola Tesla (who'd have thunk it!) woven in with the story of Monopoly, filming a video with Bill Gates, and the WalMart in his Maine hometown. Very impressive performance and writing. Daisy has been packing them in for a month in this new ART performance space in Harvard Sq . This is 2nd monologue of the run and he will soon preview a 3rd. Very good review in the Globe (reviewer was there same night as me.)

Mike Daisey, monologist (5/07)

update (4/21/2008)
            Found a NYT review of a (new?) Mike Daisy monologue ('How Theater Failed America'). Times has good things to say about Daisy, including this -- "deep into his opening-night performance, when the entire room was quietly rapt — not what you would expect at Joe’s Pub (in East Village), where silverware clangs while waiters circle. It takes a remarkable performer to pull that off." and " He may not have much to say, but he says it with enough mastery to restore that sense of wonder to the theater."

Mamma Mia @ Colonial Theater, Boston MA
        2007 national tour of Mamma Mia in Boston performances featured an all around strong cast led by three very good principals, of whom I had never heard: Mary Jayne Raleigh as Donna and as her sidekicks Allison Briner and Christine Sherrill. This is the 3rd time I have seen Mamma Mia. I saw it a few years ago in NYC and in Vegas too. In Vegas the audience just sat there. In Boston, as in NYC, the audience was on its feet for the concert-like finale. A little girl near me was clearly thrilled by the finale. Briner and Sherrill were the best of those I have seen in the supporting roles, both had good stage presence and were good physical comedians as well as good singers.

        Globe reviewer, Sandy McDonald, claiming never to have seen Mamma Mia before (!), ended her review with, "Until I finally saw Mamma Mia! for myself, I'd tended to disbelieve the raves of repeat attendees. Now I'm sold."

Mamma Mia finale (2007 national tour) --- Christine Sherrill, Mary Jayne Raleigh, Allison Briner (lt to rt) (12/07)

        According to her web site Raleigh has emerged from understudy obscurity (in national tour of Les Miserables) to starring in Mamma Mia. (I have since learned that Raleigh performed a few years earlier at the Stoneham Theatre in Man of LaMancha.) Her web site led me (eventually) to a nearly one hour video of her performing her cabaret act in 2002 (recorded at Kennedy Center).


The Three Musketeers @ North Shore Music Theatre, Beverly MA
         This is a (relatively) new musical (1999 workshop) with music by George Stiles who wrote the music for the show Mary Poppins on Broadway. It is totally different from the musical (of the same name) that ran one week on Broadway in the 1980's. Excellent production, great costumes, and some good songs, but this is a musical going nowhere. You get sword fights (a lot of them) instead of dancing.

        The plot is so dense and convoluted I got totally lost in the first act. My seat neighbor said the show is "flat".  A lot of people left (about 30 cars worth) during intermission. A dismal review by Louse Kennedy in the Boston Globe hits the nail on the head.

Three Musketeers @ North Shore Music Theater (8/07)

Man of LaMancha @ Lyric Stage, Boston MA
        I saw Man Of LaMancha on Broadway a few years ago, but it made no impression at all. Some great song, but what the hell was the story?  The plot seemed to me then incoherent nonsense about knights and quests with a long stupid big rape scene in the middle. After seeing the recent, very good Lyric Stage production, I see that LaMancha has at least a weak thread of a plot, but it's still pretty far out in la la land.

        Christopher Chew in the lead as Cervantes/Quixote was excellent both acting and singing. The rest of the cast at the Lyric (as usual) were also excellent. Show was well supported by a clever, well detailed and effective set by Janie Howland (who also did 'Streetcar Named Desire' running concurrently at the NewRep). The set at the Lyric is accessible, and during intermission walking around on it I discovered it contained several nicely drawn (spooky) figures on the floor.

        Very good review in the Globe ('thrilling') with a mention of Howland's set in the first sentence.

Christopher Chew lying in the lap of Caroline deLima in Lyric Stage production of Man of LaMancha (9/07)

Gypsy, a Musical Fable @ Stoneham Theatre,  Stoneham MA
        Superb local (Reading) musical actress Leigh Barrett, who was outstanding last winter in the two person play on the life of Florence Foster Jenkins (Souvenir) in Boston, is again outstanding in the wonderful Stoneham Theatre production of Gypsy. The role fits her like a glove and in the playbill she gives thanks for the role of a lifetime. She is supported by a strong, balanced cast including a bunch of local kids with lots of stage experience and good stage presence. .

        Gypsy is a big show demanding a large diverse cast and good orchestra, and Stoneham Theatre is not a big theater, so this is a big stretch financially and artistically for them, and they have pulled it off. The Stoneham production has a 25 person cast (plus 2 dogs) excellent supporting cast (top to bottom) with a nine person orchestra arrayed behind a thin curtain at the rear of the stage.

        Excellent review in the Boston Globe --- "Barrett's singing is, as ever, terrific. It's sheer pleasure to hear her power her way through "Everything's Coming Up Roses" or, more subtly, reveal her charm and humor in "Small World."  Stoneham audience too is wowed with standing ovations and murmurs of that was 'great'.


Stoneham Theatre production of Gypsy w/Eve Kagan as Gypsy and Leigh Barrett as mama (9/07)

(from Leigh Barrett's web site --

        On a repeat viewing the performance of the whole cast shines, and gypsy takes a large (non-interchangable) cast. In the supporting cast there's four young newsboys, four older newsboy dancers, four teen toreador girls, three singing strippers, various theater managers/agents/grandfather. The principals include Dainty June (singer/dancer),  Tulsa (singer/dancer) and the trio that the show revolves around: Rose, Herbie (singer/actor Scott Severance) and Gypsy (singer/actor Eve Kagan). Scott Severance is apparently a NH actor/director who says he has been in 300 productions!

Bye, Bye Birdie @ North Shore Music Theatre, Beverly MA
        Prior to seeing this show my only knowledge of Bye, Bye, Birdie was the 1963 movie with Dick Van Dyke, Janet Leigh and Ann Margaret. I didn't even know if had first been a play. (I found out at the North Shore 'talk back' with the cast  that it had first been a play and had had a pretty good run on Broadway.) The show plot followed along very closely with the movie as I remembered it, even down to the long fur coat worn by mama.

        While it has a lot of pretty good songs (Put On A Happy Face, A Lot of Livin’ To Do, How Lovely To Be a Woman,  The Telephone Hour, and One Last Kiss), this is not a great show. It's a dated satire with a pretty ridiculous 'plot', and it drags in places (like the opening exposition scene), but still North Shore has mounted a very good, polished, production with a strong cast. Huge cast of local teens too with a bunch of tap dancing teens and a separate group playing Sweet Apple teens.

        The two leads, Bianca Marroquin (Rosie) and James Patterson (Albert), sing well and both are strong dancers with featured solos and duets. Patterson is local (Tufts and New England Conservatory) and Marroquin is from Mexico. This is the first time I have seen Patterson, but talking with Weylin Symes (at donors theater tour) he knows Patterson and I think he said Patterson had performed at Stoneham. Also featured is Alessa Neeck (Kim Macafee) a good singer, Robert Saoud in the Paul Lynde role of father, Eric Ulloa as Elvis (sort of), and Mary Pat Green as mama, a crowd favorite. (It didn't occur to me that the abstract looking set was supposed to be a record player until I was clued in by the North Shore website, and then it was pretty obvious!)

Teens and Eric Ulloa (Birdie) in Bye Bye Birdie @ North Shore Music Theatre (7/08)

Mary Pat Green and James Patterson                            Alessa Neeck and Eric Ulloa

Robert Saoud, Madeleine Doherty, Alessa Neeck in Bye Bye Birdie @ North Shore Music Theatre (7/08)

        Good review in the Globe: "A rousing 'Birdie,' delivered in all its 1960 glory"

        YouTube excerpts of this production

A Streetcar Named Desire @ New Rep, Watertown MA
        (4/22/08 update) This production won 6 IRNE (Independent Reviews of New England) awards including best Drama, best direction (Lombardo), best actress (Harker) and best supporting actor (Wilder).

        An iconic play ("Stella! Hey, Stella!" & "I have always depended on the kindness of strangers.") by Tennessee Williams first performed on Broadway 60 years ago. An excellent production by the New Rep starring Todd Alan Johnson — Stanley,  Rachel Harker — Blanche DuBois, Marianna Bassham — Stella, Bates Wilder — Mitch. A powerful set with a realistic run down two room apartment below and a fantasy New Orleans cityscape signs above. The set was designed by Janie Howland, who also did the set for Man of LaMancha at the Lyric running concurrently. Johnson is also a singer and last starred in the musical Wild Party at the NewRep. (In 2008 Johson is in Ogunquit's Les Miserables recreating his role from a national tour.) Good review by Louse Kennedy in the Boston Globe.

        This is the first Williams play I have ever seen. It has wonderful strong characters, beautifully written dialogue, and a gritty run down New Orleans ambiance. I was carried along for the first two hours or so, but this play is long... (three hours). Memorizing the script for Blanche DuBois, who is the center of the play, must be like memorizing a book.

Todd Alan Johnson, Marianna Bassham, & Rachel Harker in New Rep's 'A Streetcar Named Desire' (9/07)

Rachel Harker and Bates Wilder. (9/07)

(Alfred Hitchcock's) The 39 Steps @ Huntington Theater, Boston MA
             A new highly stylized, crazy, madcap romp/farce. Played on a nearly bare stage, the four actors race though what seems like hundreds of 'special effects' with fog, lights, flashlights, hats, rear projections, rapid costume changes, and sound effects. In the picture below running across the top of trucks becomes our hero escaping the police running down the top of a train in London fog. The three men in the cast put on a brava performance (the lady role is much smaller and low key). The swash buckling leading man was played by the English actor who originated the role in England in 2005.

        Louise Kennedy in her Boston Globe review say, "The play has many amusing moments, even more clever ones, and a few truly inventive instances of imaginative stagecraft. The actors, too, display a breathtaking range of skills and moods. First of all, there are just four of them, filling more than 100 roles (150 say the producers). But the real heroes are the two actors each billed only as ‘‘Clown,’’ Arnie Burton and Cliff Saunders. With dizzying speed and crack timing, they slip from one character to the next, and the next, and the next... But somehow all these pleasures do not combine to transport us onto the high, giddy plane of sustained comedic rapture."

        I agree, that sums up my thinking too. It's clever silliness, imaginative stage effects, and good fun, but in the end a little thin. I think this is partly because there really isn't any plot (at least no plot that I could follow). The original mystery plot is so submerged and abbreviated in the craziness that it's incomprehensible. Maybe it helps if you know movie, and apparently there are references to the movie all through the play. At the end I didn't have a clue as to what the '39 Steps' were. Even after I found out online that '39 steps' in Hitchcock's movie referred to 39 steps down to the sea in Kent, I can't connect this in any way with the show.  (Does 39 steps refer to the number of plot twists in the screenplay/novel? see Kennedy's review)

        According to the playbill the show is now playing in London's west end and is scheduled to open on Broadway in early 2008. Louise Kennedy in her review implies that it is this production that is moving to Broadway. It will be interesting to see what kind of reception it gets on Broadway.

39 Steps stage magic
-- running 'on the top of a train' and jumping between carriages (left) (9/07)
-- scene backstage on Broadway (from NYT Slide Show series) (right) (1/08)

        Well, surprise, in a Jan 18, 2008 review the chief NYT's critic (Ben Brantley) liked it, calling it an "absurdly enjoyable, gleefully theatrical riff on Alfred Hitchcock's 1935 film."  The NYT even included backstage shots in their Slide Show series including the one above right that shows how the 'shadow' scenes are done.

update 4/25/08
        The show (same cast as Boston) has been a hit on Broadway even getting a Tony nomination for best play! It still had a million dollar advance when its time at the AA Theater on 42nd st ran out due to it being booked for another show, so the producer paid to move the show (very unusual says the NYT) to the (somewhat out of the way) Cort theater on 48th.

update 6/14/08
        On a recent trip to NYC I was outside the Cort theater reading the 39 Steps reviews, and a couple was standing next to me reading them too. I told them I had seen the show in Boston, but never the movie, and I still didn't know what the '39 Steps' referred to. They had seen the movie (and were going to see the show that afternoon) and told me that in the movie the '39 Steps' was just the name of a spy organization.

NYT '39 Steps' picture for 2008 Tony best play nomination (6/08)

Here is Brantley's NYT review

Boston Ballet Gala 2007@ Wang Theater, Boston
        Boston Ballet showed off its remarkable range in its 2nd annual, one night gala, Oct 2007. The range and skill of the dancers is amazing. One of the top companies in the USA. The artistic director, Mikko Nissinen, has wanted the company to start touring, and they did so this year. They were just back from a six week tour of Spain. The danced at seven festivals in Spain, apparently with great sucess and getting a lot of good press. They danced La Sylphide and all Balanshine program. Only one guess artist at the gala: Herman Cornejo of ABT, who danced with his sister Erica, a BB principal.

        One nice touch was two very young dancers not yet in the company (member of  BB II and a student), who had been to Denmark for three weeks of coaching, did an excerpt from Bournonville's "Flower Festival in Genzano."  They came through splendidly with the boy (Jeffrey Cirio) doing beautiful beats. 2nd nice touch was the finale, a grand Defile or procession, described in the program as a hierarchical parade of the dancers in the manner of the Paris Opera Ballet, of the entire BB school, followed by BB II, then the entire company with separate entrances for each principal. (Crowd control backstage must have been a challenge.)

Boston Ballet 2007 gala -- principals Roman Rykine and Carolos Molina (Balanchine's "A Midsummer Night's Dream") (10/07)

Excellent Globe review -- "Boston Ballet sparkles in its annual 'Night of Stars' benefit"

Boston Ballet's La Sylphide + Serenade @ Wang Theater, Boston
        Following on the heels of the gala BB danced (essentially) the program they took on tour to to Spain: Bournonville's La Sylphide (Sorella Englund’s staging) + Serenade from their Balanshine tour program. Beautiful dancing from Erica Cornejo and Roman Rykine principals in La Sylphide. He has a spectacular high jump before he starts his beats. Here is Thea Singer in the Globe: (Rykine's) "entrechats and jumps soar and rebound".  Lorna Feijóo and Carlos Molina lead the cast of Serenade.

        Jennifer Dunning, dance critic of NYT, came to Boston to review the performance. Here is her good NYT review: "She Floats Like a Butterfly but Stings Like a Bee", and the Singer's good review in the Boston Globe:

Erica Cornejo in Boston Ballet's La Sylphide (10/07)

The Pursuit of Happiness @ Merrimack Repertory Theatre, Lowell MA
        An always entertaining, honest, and sometime funny play/comedy by Richard Dresser about family tensions when their only, smart, daughter doesn't want to go to college. Set in Maine. Play premiered in LA early in 2007. Pretty fair reviews in LA and Boston. Globe's review below, "Director Charles Towers has gathered a terrific cast to bring this quirky crowd to life."

Allyn Burrows, Monique Fowler, and Amelia McClain in "The Pursuit of Happiness" at Merrimack Repertory Theatre (fall 07)

Brendan @ Huntington's Wimberly Theatre, Boston MA
        A brand new play about a recent Irish immigrant in Boston by young Boston (Irish born) playwright Ronan Noone, who is connected with the Huntington. A well crafted, touching, interesting new play (any play that features classical music can't be all bad) that tells the story of young, lonely, shy Irish immigrant in Boston who comes to turn with living in America and overcomes his shyness to find love. A very good ensemble cast with Dashiell Eaves, formerly a member of STOMP, giving a strong performance in the lead as Brendan. Nicely done clever set too with warm locations popping out of a huge, cold, relecting wall with distorted Boston images. Good review by Louise Kennedy of the Globe.

Dashiell Eaves (rt) & Nancy Carroll in world premier of Brendan at Huntington (11/07)

Marilyn, Forever Blonde @ Stoneham Theatre Stoneham MA
        Sunny Thompson does an amazing job acting/impersonating/recreating Marilyn Monroe in a one woman show that in Marilyn's own words tells her life story (sort of). Thompson is an attractive, 30ish?, voluptuous (pumped up breasts) woman, who in the show looks like Marilyn, talks and sings exactly like Marilyn, walks like Marilyn and has her poses and mannerisms down pat. I had a good look because I was in the first row and sometimes within 8 ft. Nearly every reviewer says at times you would swear it was Marilyn on the stage. I agree.

Sunny Thompson as Marilyn Monroe at Stoneham Theatre (11/07)

        The playbill says little of Sunny's background, but a little web snooping revealed she is a vegas type performer. Here's a night club review from 2004.

        "The show's star, the glamorous and multi-talented Sunny, just has to be the most gifted and entertaining performer to currently grace any nightclub stage in Nevada. Her appearance in Reno last year starring in "Sunny: Blondes and Boy-Toys" was an enormous success. This year's show, with six female dancers and three male back-up singers, is even more impressive....It's Sunny's five movie star impressions that make this thoroughly show-business show like no other current show I know (Monroe, Dolly Parton, Mae West, Bette Middler)."
        This is the third run for this show (it opened in LA) created in early 2007. Sunny Thompson is the young wife of a big time 63 year old, Seattle based, casino show producer (Greg Thompson) who wrote the show. The show hold up pretty well with a good set and direction, lots of costume changes, and Sunny sings a lot of songs (pretty well and most acapella). However, there are some tedious stretches where Marilyn's drones on in fan magazine type interview style. For a two hour one woman show I found the Playbill credits a little odd. On the first page the director, writer and star are all listed together on one line in the same type. In the bio section the star is listed last, after the director and writer/producer (her husband).

Fire Benefit @ Stoneham Theatre, Stoneham MA
        It apparently was a mad house getting the Stoneham theater ready for "Marilyn, Forever Blonde" because on Oct 23, 2007, just three days before opening, a large fire destroyed the building next door and nearly took the theater with it. Fireman from 8 towns worked hard and saved the theater with damage limited to water damage in the lobby and basement, and the town expedited the needed inspections so the production could open on schedule.

        On Dec 10, 2007 the theater had a fire benefit (for theater a fireman fund) with local theater favorites and polished performers: Leigh Barrett, Kathy St. George, and Robert Saoud. Leigh has a powerful voice that she normally holds back in musical theater singing, but when she lets it go she can really stop the show, which she did in one number tonight. Saoud come out after Leigh, and got a laugh with "I have to follow that?"

Miracle on 34st Street @ Stoneham Theatre, Stoneham MA
        Last year the 1947 movie (of same name) was adapted for the stage by a team from a theater company in NYC, and this year at Christmas a lot of local theaters in the country are staging it. Cornball plot, but a fun show, and hey it's Christmas. Strong cast of 20+ in the Stoneham production each with a distinctive personality. Alycia Sacco, still a theater student, was a scene stealer with her Betty Boob like delivery, and a nice performance by 10 year old Rebecca Lerman.

Left: William Gardiner as Kris Kringle with Rebecca Lerman
Right: Alycia Sacco, Robert Saoud, Christine Hamel, & Williarm Gardiner
Miracle on 34th Street at Stoneham Theatre (Dec 07)

Young company @ Stoneham Theatre, Stoneham MA (1/08), (8/08), (2/09)
        A well run local theater is a great community resource and that is the case with Stoneham Theatre. One resource is the guild, which is two to three hundred volunteers that do ushering and other support tasks. Another is the training of kids in theater arts and giving them a chance to perform, and Stoneham Theatre does a lot here. Last year (2007) I attended my first young company performance, which included one act from the classic (1936) Moss Hart and George S. Kaufman comedy 'You Can't Take It with You', and enjoyed it, so this year I made it a point to see both the younger and older kids who were doing musicals in Jan (08).

             junior high  & elementary            Music Man  (slightly condensed, billed as Music Man Jr)
             high school                                    Pajama Game

        Can't help but be impressed with the polish of these productions. Both performances (even the little kids) were a lot of fun. Music Man was billed as Music Man Jr. but it was probably 80-90 % of the full show (14 musical numbers from the show were included) done by small kids. I saw Harry Connick Jr in Pajama Game on Broadway in its recent revival, and as far as I can remember this was the whole show.

Kelli O'Hara and Harry Connick Jr in Pajama Game in 2006 Broadway revival
(Winner of 2006 Tony for best revival of a musical)
(In 2008 Kelli O'Hara scored a big sucess as the star of South Pacific)

Music Man (1/08)
        One reason these performance are fun is looking for talent. In the younger kids the standout performer  was Zoe Virant, playing the female lead (Marion Paroo). Only in the fifth grade, she was the standout singer and is probably going to develop a very sweet, clean soprano voice. Playbill bio shows she is the youngest member of an awfully slick (too slick, I think) tween singing group called Girl Authority (

Pajama Game (1/08)
        Among the older kids principal roles tend to be taken by those who have done quite a few shows and are often serious about theater. You often see in the Playbill they plan on studying theater in college. The four standout principals in Pajama Game were excellent. This includes the romantic leads Allison Russell (Babe) and Michael Coup (Sid) and featured players Deirdre Burke (Mabel) and Hannah Owens (Gladys).

        Russell and Coup are Stoneham regulars. Russell was Agnes in the fall's Gypsy and sang in the Stoneham benefit. She jokes she might as well move into the theater since she has been in 30 Stoneham productions! Coup, who comes down from Beverly, says this is his 9th Stoneham production. Burke is a senior at Stoneham High School, and Owens says she "lives" at the North Shore Music Theatre. Russell and Coup are both experienced, polished performers and both act and sing well. They are also a good match, but if I had to guess, I would think Coup has the best chance of making it as professional. He has a strong, clear voice (dominating the stage when he sang) and physically he looks the part.

 Aug 2008
        In Aug  2008 the artistic team at Stoneham Theatre mounted an amazing five productions presented on two weekends: three full scale musicals (Company, 42nd Street, Guys & Dolls), a play (Holiday, a 1928 play by Philip Barry) , and a scaled done Annie by the little kids.

42nd Street (8/08)
        Allison Russell (Dorothy Brock), Michael Coup (Billy Lawlor), and Diedre Burk (Peggy Sawyer) all from Pajama Game were reunited in 42nd Street, joined by an impressive Rachael Andrews (Maggie). Scott Coffey, though only in 10th grade and unable to sing (he has about half an octave range), was good enough in the difficult role of Julian Marsh to give the show focus. This is a big show to mount with large cast (24) and lots of dancing/singing production numbers, probably on a tiny budget. Nice job by the principals and the whole cast.

Diedre Burk and Scott Coffey                                              Rachael Andrews (center)

Michael Coup and and Diedre Burk

  Allison Russel and Diedre Burk

        You knew the show was going to be good when the lights came up and the stage was filled with three rows of tap dancers doing the famous 42nd Street choreography. The railroad car scene was cleverly done without scenery by using cloths attached to the arms of costumes acting as pullman booth 'curtains'. Stephen Costa (Andy Lee, the tap captain) had a few seconds to shine with some flashy tap steps.

Michael Coup with 42nd Street ensemble -- Stoneham Theatre Young Company
(Photo -- Paul Lyden) (8/08)

Company (8/08)
        Company is famous with lots of well known, offbeat Sondheim numbers, but I had never seen the show before. Andrew Barbato, as Bobbie, is a polished performer and according to the playbill a regular at Stoneham. Also a polished performer was Brittany Rolfs, new to Stoneham. Both sing well and dominated the stage during their solos, as you tell from photo below. (There were other nice performances too but not knowing the show well I can't connect the performers and characters.)

Andrew Barbato (Bobbi) and Brittany Rolf (right)
Stoneham Theatre's Young Company Company (8/08)

Andrew Barbato center

Andrew Barbato
        In the Stoneham Theatre press archives there is a link to a Globe reviewer speaking favorably of Andrew Barbato performing at the Wheelock Family Theatre a few months earlier (below). Barbato also is part of an alumni group of Stoneham young performers who have put together a cabaret act, which performed immediately after the Company performance (separate paid admission).

         "I was sure the company had brought in a New York pro to play Peter Pan (here cast, counter to theatrical tradition, as the male he was meant to be). But no: Andrew Barbato is a senior at Stoneham High, and if his performance as J.M. Barrie's title character is any indication, Broadway could definitely loom in his future." (Feb 2008 Globe Peter Pan review)

Andrew Barbato in Company

Holiday (8/08)
        The name of the author (Phillip Barry) was missing from the playbill. I read in a bio of Barry that he was "generally considered our finest creator of high comedy", but little of that seemed to be in evidence in this 1928 play.  Holiday is a drawing room piece about a rich family with their minor quirks. The plot hinges on the realization that suitor Johnny has chosen the wrong sister to become engaged to. (I was told the original intent was to do Barry's more famous comedy, Philadelphia Story, but the cast required a change.) When I researched the movie version (with Carry Grant and Hepburn), I found most reviewers loved it, one reviewer saying, "The script for Holiday is brilliant. It is just brimming with witty lines, earnest speeches and ideas, and an excellent gradual romance").

Rachael Lerman and Nick McGrath in Stoneham Theatre's Young Company Holiday (Aug 2008)

        This play has a lot of dialogue that goes by fast, and unfortunately (for a play) a lot of it was not audible from 4th row center. Principals were Nick McGrath (outsider Johnny), Rachael Lerman (sister engaged to Johnny) and Kristin Riopelle (sister who at the end of the play follows Johnny). McGrath, playing the Carry Grant role, has an easy charm.

Gus & Dolls (8/08)
        The middle school kids did Guys & Dolls. Six principals and a huge cast (39 in playbill). The huge group of dancing girls/crap shooters were well prepared with most showing good stage presence and personality. There were so many in some scenes that they could not all be fit on the stage, often extending up both aisles.

        The standout performer in this show, already a polished performer (both acting and singing), was Zoey Michaels, who as Miss Adelaide sings a 'A Person Could Develop a Cold' (Adelaide's Lament). This is her 3rd summer with Stoneham young company. An up and comer is Jonathon McTague, who played Nathan Detroit. At 12 he is still small, which made for some humor when the 13 year old Zoey, who is a foot taller, would hug him. Jonathon provided a strong core for the show with his good acting and usually deep voice that he projected well. The other singing principals also did a nice job: Daniel Begin (Sky Masterson),  Derek Santos (Nicely Nicely Johnson), Lilly Shamlian (Sarah Brown), Jeffrey Siegal (Benny Southwest) and Adrian Shelmack (Agatha).

Jeffrey Siegal?, Jonathon McTague, Derek Santos
Stoneham Theatre Young Company (8/08)
 (Photo -- Paul Lyden)

Annie jr (8/08)
        The elementary school kids did a scaled down version of Annie. Again the kids were well prepared. Hard to go wrong with this show. The standout performer here, acting and singing, was Alexandra Flammia as Annie (her 4th production at Stoneham says her bio). Also a nice performance by 11 year old Rebecca Lerman as Miss Hanigan. There is a picture of her (above) from 'Miracle on 34th St' this winter, where she had a large role and was excellent. Also noteworthy was Brooke Hindle as Grace.

Annie, Jr, Alexandra Flammia as Annie (center)
 Stoneham Theatre Young Company (8/08)
 (Photo -- Paul Lyden)

        At a performance of Annie I recognized Rachael Lerman, who I had seen a week earlier in Holiday, sitting right in front of me in the first row. Putting two and two together, it's a pretty good guess that Rachael and Rebecca Lerman are sisters.

Winter 2009
        Like last year the Young Company is doing two shows in early winter 2009 (during school year of course) and come summer will rehearse (in five weeks I think) and perform six shows, five musicals and one play! I attended both winter shows and one of the pleasures is seeing familiar faces, and often in very different roles and situations. This winter the shows were the musicals Wonderful Town, done by the younger kids (up to 8th or 9th grade) and West Side Story, done by the older kids (up to 12th grade)  A good cityscape set served well for both shows.

Wonderful Town (2/09)
        One of my favorite shows, after I discovered it during its recent Broadway revival, is Betty Comden, Adolph Green, & Bernstein's Wonderful Town. This is the 'Town' musical about two sister from Ohio. I saw in NYC with Donna Murphy and on a later visit with Brooke Shields, and I was even at the last NYC performance. Bernstein's music was well served in the NYC revival by a terrific, large on stage band of 20+.

        The younger kids did a somewhat abbreviated version of this show. I noticed three numbers missing (conversion #,  difficult village vortex #, and the police house #, probably not enough boys). This core of this show are the two sisters and show was nicely carried by two very strong performers (new to me): Adele Leikauskas (13 yr old 8th grader in Stoneham), as the pretty sister Eileen, and Claudia Rae Namaroff, as the brainy sister Ruth. Good support by Brian Conry, singing song Wreck, and Molly Goddard as Helen. In minor roles was a principal from last summer's Guys and Dolls, Derek Santos, and Scott McGrath from Annie Jr.

        The many large production numbers are very well done. Everyone on stage is very polished, costumed, animated, and know exactly what he/she is doing. This reflects well not only on the young kids, but I'm sure is largely due to the talents of Stoneham's resident director, the young Caitlin Lowans.

Claudia Rae Namaroff (Ruth) with Conga gang, Stoneham Theatre Young Company 'Wonderful Town' (2/09)
(photo credit: Karen Snyder  --

L to R, Claudia Rae Namaroff (Ruth) and Adele Leikauskas (Eileen) in One Note Rag
Stoneham Theatre Young Company 'Wonderful Town' (2/09)
(photo credit: Karen Snyder  --

Left:Adele Leikauskas (Eileen) and Claudia Rae Namaroff (Ruth)
Right: Molly Goddard (Helen) and Brian Conry (Wreck)
Stoneham Theatre Young Company 'Wonderful Town' (2/09)
(photo credit: Karen Snyder  --

West Side Story (2/09)
        Great music, but not a favorite show of mine. I had only seen it once before, a national tour in Boston. Stoneham did it to a recorded score. Strong performances by many in a large cast. I did not see the playbill Marie (not sure about Tony). A real standout with a strong stage presence was Rachael Andrews (as Anita), a senior in high school. She was a strong performer too in last summer's 42nd street as Maggie (see picture above). She is a large girl, but that doesn't hold her back. I could see her becoming a professional. Also someone who appears to be serious about acting is Amanda Sirois, playing a boy (Riff), who I remember before from her dancing in Pajama Game. The boys singing 'Officer Krupke' did a nice job with Comden and Green's clever lyrics. In a minor role was Zoey Michaels, just 14 in 8th grade at Stoneham, who was the hit of last summer's Guys & Dolls last summer as Adelaide.

Steven Costa and Rachael Andrews
Stoneham Theatre Young Company 'West Side Story' (2/09)
(photo credit: Karen Snyder  --

Steven Costa and Amanda Sirois
Stoneham Theatre Young Company 'West Side Story' (2/09)
(photo credit: Karen Snyder  --

        This show was also directed by Caitlin Lowans, she must have been busy. Don't know if it's a tradition with West Side Story, but this was the first show that I ever remember seeing with no curtain call at the end. This seemed kind of unfair to such young performers and audience did their best to bring them out, but to no avail.

Stoneham Young Company (8/09)
        Stoneham Young company summer 2009 did 18 performances of six different shows over two week ends. Some days there are three shows on the same stage (12:00, 3:00 and 7:00). The young company program in the summer is several weeks of theater training with performances at the end. With 20 to 30 in each cast they must get something like 150 kids who pay close to 1k. The Young company also does a winter program with rehearsals in Jan and performances in Feb.

        First week end was three plays performed by high school kids: The Who's Tommy, Treasure Island, and Sweeny Todd. Since rock is not my thing, I skipped Who' Tommy. I see in program it had familiar names: Steven Costa (42nd St), Nick McGrath (Holiday) and Amanda Sirois (West Side Story). Also skipped Treasure Island when I read it was an 'action play' (adaptation by Ken Ludwig). Pros with a big budget may be able to pull this off, but I didn't want to see a low budget high school version.

Sweeny Todd
       I did see Sweeny Todd, but going in I thought this would be too difficult for high school kids. I had seen it a long time ago on Broadway, and like a lot of Sondheim's stuff I didn't like it much and remembered it as pretty close to an opera. Well I was wrong, the kids pulled it off, and the theater for last performance on Sun night was packed.

        Two standouts here were Robert Williams as Sweeny Todd (senior at Melrose High in his first Stoneham production) and Samatha Cunha as Mrs Lovett. I had seen Samatha in a couple of performances including as Marie in West Side Story, where she was the understudy, but didn't fit the role vocally or physically. Here, however, in a large role Samatha showed real comic/acting ability and vocally was fine (I suspect this role is not too demanding vocally). Williams looked the part and had both a deep fairly strong voice and was a terrific actor. In one dramatic routine in a bright spot center stage he was impressive and drew raves.

        Three others stand out: Rachael Andrews (Maggie in 42nd Street), Olivia Miller (new to me with a nice voice) as Johanna , and Angelo McDonough (will be senior at Stoneham High) pulled off with comic flare the italian barber Pirelli. The production was greatly helped by a five piece orchestra, a custom built 'disposable' barber chair that worked well, a lighting design, and direction/choergraphy by Christopher Carcione, who is an assistant to the artistic director at the  Huntington Theatre Company, and who previously did West Side Story, 42nd St, and Pajama Game at Stoneham.

Robert Williams (Sweeny Todd) and Samantha Cunha (Mrs Lovett) in Sweeny Todd
Stoneham Theater's Young Company (Aug 2009)

Angelo McDonough (center) as Pirelli in Sweeny Todd
Stoneham Theater's Young Company (Aug 2009)

        Second weekend it's the younger kids also doing three shows: My Fair Lady (middle school), Oliver (elementary and middle), and Pirates of Penzance (elementary). I saw all three. Going in I was familiar with some of the principals from previous shows: My Fair Lady will feature Adele Leikauskas as Eliza Doolittle (direction by Caitlin Lowens). Last summer she who was one of the two sisters in Wonderful Town (see pictures above) . Oliver will feature Zoey Michaels (as Nancy), who was wonderful in Adelaide's Lament in Guys & Dolls last summer. Also Rebecca Lerman (Miracle on 34th St) will be Oliver, and it will be directed by former young company member, Andrew Barbato (see pictures above of him in Company). The night I was there the local cable company recorded Oliver for later broadcast.

Angelo McDonough  (Update May 2015)
        I noticed on opening night at Stoneham of 'How to Succeed in Business without Really Trying' that the mail room jeck, Bud Frum, was played by Angelo McDonough. I remembered a performer in the Young Company named Angelo McDounough, and comparing pictures I can see it's the same guy! In 2009 above he was in HS. He now lived in NY working as an actor singer having studied musical theater at Marymount Manhattan College.

My Fair Lady, Oliver, Pirates of Penzance
        Zoey Michaels was the standout of Oliver. She is tall and staturesque and a polished performer though just graduating from 8th grade and entering Stoneham HS next year. In featured rolls were Scott McGrath (Fagin) and Sebastian Hoffman (Artful Doger) plus many others, but I don't know Oliver well, so I can't really connect the program with the performance. It's clear there were lots of nice voices in this large cast, many of whom had only a few moments to shine.

        My Fair Lady is in large part the story of Elisa Doolittle and Prof Higgins. I think the show was a little cut down, because I'm pretty sure the number, 'Why can't a woman be like a man' sung by Higgens and his buddy was missing.

Mikado & Altar Boyz Musical @ Arundel Barn Theatre, Arundel Me
        The five boys of the young resident company were in both productions, in the Altar Boyz alone and in the Mikado joined by several girls and female ensemble many of whom I was told were local. It's always fun to see young performers. At Arundel the performers for the most part are college students (or recent grads) studying musical theater, who come for the summer, or in 2009 for only part of the summer as the last show of the 2009 season is a small cast comedy (Almost, Maine) with (I am told) different performers.

        Altar Boyz has apparently been playing off Broadway (New World Stages, west 50th) for four years (since 2005). It's kind of hip-hop flavored review with a goofy religious overlay and not my kind of show. Not a single memorable song.

        I much more enjoyed the Mikado, which I saw twice because delayed 2009 nice summer weather and a new car brought me to Maine three times in four weeks. Strong performances by xxxxxxxx & yyyyyyy and a nice comic performance by xxxx as the Mikado. One Tues night there might have been more people on stage and in the band than in the audience.

Cabaret performances (July 09)
        I have been to three cabaret performances in last six months, two just this week. I don't know if they are new to the local theater scene, or I was just unaware of them, but certainly they are rare and hard to find. They have all been a lot of fun.

Dirty Dancing
        Dirty Dancing did a 2 1/2 month run in Boston, and I believe there was just one cabaret performance during the run, which was on an off night at a different theater. Here the ensemble gets to perform (singing and dancing) with some support from the mother and father in the show. The number that sticks in my head was a rousing 'I am your jew' (original song?) sung by the nerdy nephew of the hotel owner.

Reagle players (professional show singer/dancers)
        I ran into another cabaret performance quite by accident last night at the Reagle Players. A dozen or so show dancers (male and female) were hired in NY for the three month series of three summer musicals by the Reagle Players, and last night they did a 45 minute cabaret performance after the main show (free + donation). The fun closing number was 'men in tights'.

Stoneham -- Cellar Door Productions
       The third cabaret was an evening long performance at Stoneham Theater in early summer ($10 + donation). They did it twice on two consecutive nights (Sun and Mon), but I didn't find out about it (from theater email, it was not on the theater calendar) until the first performance was over. This cabaret was by alumni of the Stoneham Young Company joined by those from two other theaters. They have self organized into Cellar Door Productions so they can perform. The director, organizer and spark plug is former Stoneham high school student Andrew Barbato (see pictures above). Allison Russel, who I saw in several Stoneham Young Company productions, is also a member. These (former) kids are now age 18 to 20 and mostly (all?) performing arts majors in local colleges. The program lists about 25 members with 18 of them performing in this performance in various combinations.

        Lots of enthusiasm and lot's of fun. This is their second cabaret series in three months. They are finishing up writing an original musical (we got a sample number) that they hope to take around to schools. All are skilled with the best of them impressive. I imagine the Stoneham theater staff is proud of them and probably gave them access to the theater either free or for a nominal fee.

2 Pianos, 4 Hands @ Merrimack Repertory Theatre, Lowell MA
        This is a wonderful show. A show I had never heard of (who knows what wonders lurk out there!). In the first few minutes it looks like it's a going to be a two piano version of Victor Borge's piano schitck, but it's so much more. Conceived 10 years ago by Canadian pianists Dykstra and Greenblatt, it played 6 months off Broadway, at the Kennedy center in Washington, and in London's west end, 5,000 performances to date. The last 500 of those performances have been by the two actor/pianists I saw at Merrimack: Richard Carsey and Tom Frey.

        2 Pianos 4 Hands is a multi-level play. The play has lots of sketch humor, where the pianist take turns playing the teacher of the other pianist as a child, and a lot of this is really funny with out loud, belly laughs. There's lot's of physical comedy too with Frey being particularly good at this. But the play is much more than comedy.

        I's also a serious play about friends and the difficulties of leaning to play a difficult instrument and become a professional. In school I played a 'one note at a time' instrument (trumpet) and always guessed it must be a bitch to play (and read!) multiple notes at the same time. This play has enough detail about piano mechanics and music theory to convince me that learning to play the piano well really is a bitch. Finally, the play has  tons of good music played in snippets throughout (23 mostly classical works are listed in the program) by the two pianist (all memorized). The play wraps up with a straight version of the whole first movement of Bach Concerto in D minor that was started (& messed up) at the opening. Great show and great performances by two very talented performers: pianists, actors, comedians. Standing ovation. I was in the first row center, so got to hear the two pianos close up.

Tom Frey (left) & Richard Carsey in 2 Pianos, 4 Hnads (1/08)

2 Pianos, 4 Hands authors: Richard Greenblatt (left) & Ted Dykstra

NYC Broadway shows seen June 2008
        I came into NYC on a Sun holding a ticket for 7:00 pm performance of Legally Blonde to see Laura Bell Bundy (again) before she departed the show. I had been planning just to walk about NYC until show time, but the temperature was about 96 (!) that day. On a whim, and to cool off, in the early afternoon I bought a ticket at the box office for the 3:00 pm Sun matinee to August: Osage County, which I knew from the national press had great reviews. Good timing too because I got to see the original (Chicago) cast, and only a week later (after it won the Tony for best new play) two of the leads left the show.

         What I didn't know is that Osage is three and half hours long! A 3.5 hr play followed immediately (15 min break) by a 2+ hr musical, six+ straight hours of theater! I'm sure that will never again happen in my life.

        On this trip to NYC I saw old favorites: Hairspray (with Geoge Wendt of Cheers doing an OK/fair job as the fat mama, Edna Turnblad), Legally Blond (with Laura Bell Bundy) and the off-broadway review Your Perfect, Now Change. Below are pictures of four new shows (or productions) seen on this trip plus Grease, which I saw last summer.

August: Osage County
        Amazing reviews: 'This is the probably the best play to hit Broadway in years. Forget probably, the is best play to hit Broadway in years.'  Huge cast (almost all from Chicago), single three story set, and packed Sun matinee house. It held everyone's attention (including mine) for three and half hours!

August: Osage County (original Chicago/Broadway cast) 2008 Tony winner for Best new play (6/08)

Cry Baby

Cry Baby -- new 2008 Tony nominated musical (6/08)
        A bit of fluff, but entertaining.

Kerry Butler in Xanadu -- new 2008 Tony nominated musical (6/08)

        I had a great seat for the terrific new 2008 production of Gypsy starring Patti Lupone and (amazingly) directed by Arthur Laurents, who wrote the book and is now 90 years old (and he's planning to direct West Side Story, which he also wrote, in Mar 2009)! I saw the previous Broadway revival a few years ago with Bernadette Peters, which  I didn't like and which did not run very long. One example of how bad the earlier production was, was that their Dainty June was unable to do even a simple dance step.

        The show has a huge orchestra (rare these days) and was featured on stage for the overture. Patti Lupone was born to play this part and really lets go, winning the 2008 Tony for best actress in a musical. Gypsy is played by Laura Benanti, who I was familiar with because she was a lead in the Wedding Singer of 2006. I was also taken with newcomer Leigh Ann Larkin who played Dainty June. She had an unusual low voice, which gave her real stage presence, and did a great job in the famous duet, Mama Get Married, with Laura Benanti.

    Here's a long video with scenes and interviews from opening night of Gypsy

    An excellent 2 min montage of scenes from this production

    A YouTube (just a picture) of the full duet Mama Get Married with Larkin and Benanti

Patti Lupone, Boyd Gaines, Laura Benanti in new (2008) production of Gypsy (6/08)

Boyd Gaines, Laura Benanti and Patti Lupone in new (2008) production of Gypsy (6/08)

Country Girl
        I went to Country Girl for three reasons. One it was by Clifford Odetts. In 2006 I had seen his impressive 'Awake & Sing', written in the 30's about a large family in the Bronx in the depression, and knew that many considered it one of the finest plays ever written, so this was a chance to see a second work by Odetts. Two, good acting. I had heard that Mike Nichols had convinced Morgan Freeman to appear in some play which he was to direct, and it turns out this was the play. Three, this was a limited run.

         However, even before seeing the play I was pretty sure the reviews had not been too good, the tip off being that not a single complete review was posted outside the theater, only a few carefully selected phases. I thought it was well acted (I especially liked Frances McDormand), but was disappointed that the play seemed far less interesting that Awake & Sing. Country Girl is about a weak, alcoholic actor and his stoic wife. Awake & Sing had been totally new to me, but I found that I knew this story, somewhere I had seen this before. I have since found out that this Odetts' play was made into a movie in 1954 starring Grace Kelly and of all people Bing Crosby (playing Freeman's part of the alcoholic actor).

        Long video that includes some brief scenes of this production of Country Girl.

       Here is a picture of the 2007/8 Broadway production of Grease (Nominated for a 2008 Tony as best revival of a musical) that I saw in summer of 2007.

2007/8 Broadway revival of Grease (6/08)

Legally Blond @ Boston Opera House, Boston MA
        I like the show Legally Blond having seen in NYC three times over the last couple of years, so when the National Tour came to Boston for a couple of weeks in fall 2008 I was there. I got a seat dead center in first row.

        Excellent production led by Becky Gulsvig (as Elle Wood), who I had seen perform the role on Broadway when she was Laura Bell Bundy's understudy.  MTV ran a series of shows to find a replacement for Bundy, who was terrific, but the NY production only lasted about 10 weeks after Bundy left in July, closing in Oct 2008. Becky does a good job, but she is not the dancer that Bundy is.

Beck Gulsvig in Legally Blond (Nov 2008)
(Supposedly a tour photo, but it might be Gulsvig with NY cast)

        Here is a YouTube link to Becky singing 'So Much Better' with the NY cast in 2007.

Oliver Twist @ ART (American Repertory Theater) Cambridge MA
        A highly theatrical, stylist, polished, exquisitely detailed adaptation of Charles Dickens Oliver Twist. Every word in the play written by Dickens, and every move and scene in the play meticulously planned, lighted, and choreographed. The acting is up to par with the production, many parts played by ART regulars. This is ACTING.

Oliver Twist @ American Repertory Theater (early 07)

Oliver Twist @ American Repertory Theater

'Awake and Sing' in the bible

        Odets got the title of his play from a verse in Isaiah. I checked out the 'awake and sing' Isaiah verse (Isaiah 26:19) in various biblical translations.Amazingly (to me) virtually every biblical translation of this verse is different!  (Isn't it a huge problem for the biblical literalists that every translation of the bible is different?)

        Here are the 15 different versions of the 'awake and sing' line I found, and below the line in context with the full verse and biblical translation.

Awake and sing, ye that dwell in dust                         (King James Version)
Awake and sing, ye that dwell in the dust
Awake and sing, you who dwell in dust
Awake and sing, ye dwellers in the dust
Awake and sing, you who dwell in the dust
Awake and sing in triumph, ye that dwell in dust
You who dwell in the dust, awake and sing for joy
...awake and sing, you who lie in the dust
All you dead and buried,  wake up! Sing!

You who lie in the dust, awake and shout for joy
You who lie in the dust, wake up and call out for joy
You who dwell in the dust, wake up and shout for joy
You who lie in the grave, wake up and shout with joy
awake, and give praise, ye that dwell in the dust

Tell them to leave their graves and celebrate with shouts.
Isaiah 26:19 translations with 'awake' and 'sing'

Isaiah 26 (King James Version) & (21st Century King James Version)
 19  Thy dead men shall live, together with my dead body shall they arise. Awake and sing, ye that dwell in dust: for thy dew is as the dew of herbs, and the earth shall cast out the dead.

Isaiah 26 (American Standard Version)
 19  Thy dead shall live; my dead bodies shall arise. Awake and sing, ye that dwell in the dust; for thy dew is as the dew of herbs, and the earth shall cast forth the dead.

Isaiah 26 (New King James Version)
     19  Your dead shall live;
      Together with my dead body they shall arise.
      Awake and sing, you who dwell in dust;
      For your dew is like the dew of herbs,
      And the earth shall cast out the dead.

 Isaiah 26 (Young's Literal Translation)
19  `Thy dead live -- My dead body they rise. Awake and sing, ye dwellers in the dust, For the dew of herbs [is] thy dew, And the land of Rephaim thou causest to fall.

Isaiah 26 (Holman Christian Standard Bible)
    19  Your dead will live; their bodies [b] will rise. (N)
    Awake and sing, you who dwell in the dust!
    For you will be covered with the morning dew, [c]
    and the earth will bring forth the departed spirits.

Isaiah 26 (Darby Translation)
 19  Thy dead shall live, my dead bodies shall arise. Awake and sing in triumph, ye that dwell in dust; for thy dew is the dew of the morning, and the earth shall cast forth the dead.

Isaiah 26 (English Standard Version)
19  Your dead shall live; their bodies shall rise.
   You who dwell in the dust, awake and sing for joy!
For your dew is a dew of light,
   and the earth will give birth to the dead.

Isaiah 26 (Amplified Bible)
    19 Your dead shall live [O Lord]; the bodies of our dead [saints] shall rise. You who dwell in the dust, awake and sing for joy! For Your dew [O Lord] is a dew of [sparkling] light [heavenly, supernatural dew]; and the earth shall cast forth the dead [to life again; for on the land of the shades of the dead You will let Your dew fall].

New American Bible (catholic)
19  But your dead shall live, their corpses shall rise; awake and sing, you who lie in the dust. For your dew is a dew of light, and the land of shades gives birth.

Isaiah 26 (The Message)
 19  But friends, your dead will live,
   your corpses will get to their feet.
All you dead and buried,
   wake up! Sing!
Your dew is morning dew
   catching the first rays of sun,
The earth bursting with life,
   giving birth to the dead.
Isaiah 26:19 translations with 'awake', but no 'sing'

Isaiah 26 (New American Standard Bible)
    19  Your dead will live;
         Their corpses will rise
         You who lie in the dust, awake and shout for joy,
         For your dew is as the dew of the dawn,
         And the earth will give birth to the departed spirits.

Isaiah 26 (New Life Version)
19  Your dead will live. Their dead bodies will rise. You who lie in the dust, wake up and call out for joy. For as the water on the grass in the morning brings new life, the earth will bring back to life those who have been dead.

Isaiah 26 (New International Version)
 19  But your dead will live;
       their bodies will rise.
       You who dwell in the dust,
       wake up and shout for joy.
       Your dew is like the dew of the morning;
       the earth will give birth to her dead.

Isaiah 26 (New International Version - UK)
 19  But your dead will live; their bodies will rise. You who dwell in the dust, wake up and shout for joy. Your dew is like the dew of the morning; the earth will give birth to her dead.

Isaiah 26 (New International Reader's Version)
 19  Israel, those among you who have died will live again.
       Their bodies will rise from the dead.
    You who lie in the grave,
       wake up and shout with joy.
    The dew of the morning gives life to the earth.
       So the earth will give up its dead people.

Latin Vulgate Douay-Rheims Bible (catholic)
19  Thy dead men shall live, my slain shall rise again: awake, and give praise, ye that dwell in the dust: for thy dew is the dew of the light: and the land of the giants thou shalt pull down into ruin.

Challoner Douay Rheims Bishop Challoner’s 18th century revision of the Douay Rheims version (catholic)
19  Thy dead men shall live, my slain shall rise again: awake, and give praise, ye that dwell in the dust: for thy dew is the dew of the light: and the land of the giants thou shalt pull down into ruin.

The first English Version used by the Roman Catholic Church since A.D. 1582.
19  Thy dead men shall live, my slain shall rise again: awake, and give praise, ye that dwell in the dust: for thy is the dew of the light: and the land of the giants thou pull down into ruin.
Isaiah 26:19 translations missing 'awake' and 'sing'

Isaiah 26 (Contemporary English Version)
    19  Your people will rise to life!
   Tell them to leave their graves
   and celebrate with shouts.
   You refresh the earth
   like morning dew;
   you give life to the dead.

Biblia Sacra, Vulgatae Editions, 2005 edition, edited by Michael Tweed ale (catholic)
{26:19} Vivent mortui tui, interfecti mei resurgent. Expergiscimini, et laudate, qui habitatis in pulvere, quia ros lucis ros tuus, et terram gigantum detrahes in ruinam.

Bible verses in 20 english translations can be found here