Review: 'Carousel' at Reagle Music Theatre

Angelica Potter

  • OnStage Massachusetts Critic

Opening the 48th Anniversary Summer Season is Rogers and Hammerstein’s classic musical Carousel. It tells the story of carnival barker Billy Bigelow and mill worker Julie Jordan who meet at the carousel and quickly fall in love. In addition to the clear love theme, the show also delves into the themes of violence, hope, and redemption. The “Carousel Waltz” was an entertaining start to the show and the audience enjoyed the turning of the carousel center stage as various performers moved about the stage enticing the locals with different carnival acts such as acrobats, a dancing bear, clowns and of course the main attraction: the carousel. 

Jennifer Ellis as Julie Jordan (left) and Jessica Kundla as Carrie Pipperidge. Courtesy Reagle Music Theatre/©Herb Philpott

Jennifer Ellis as Julie Jordan (left) and Jessica Kundla as Carrie Pipperidge. Courtesy Reagle Music Theatre/©Herb Philpott

Jessica Kundla as Carrie Pipperidge delivered a magnificent performance both with her vocals and strong character work. Her rendition of “Mister Snow” was absolutely lovely. Ciarán Sheehan as Billy Bigelow performed with strong vocals throughout, but his best performance of the evening was in “Soliloquy” towards the end of act one. His voice boomed through the theatre capturing the audience’s attention with his rich tone as he powerfully sang each note. Jennifer Ellis as Julie Jordan and Leigh Barrett as Nettie Fowler also delivered beautiful vocals throughout. 

The best part of the show was the choreography by Director/Choreographer Rachel Bertone. The choreography was rooted in Ballet technique and well executed by the cast. My one complaint regarding choreography comes from the opening of act two: “This Was a Real Nice Clambake”, when the cast’s actions and lyrics led us to believe they were too full from the clambake to move, but some got a bit too energetic with the dancing especially the turning. If someone was that full they wouldn’t be turning and bouncing around unless they wanted their lunch to come back up. The boisterousness took away from the reality and authenticity of the number. 

The highlight of act two was the beautifully danced “Ballet”, largely performed by Kyra Christopher as Louise Bigelow, Zachary Eisenberg as the Carnival Boy and Ensemble dancers. Christopher’s emotional connection to the music and the movement was stunning. Her technique was tremendous and she is clearly a very talented and trained dancer of whom I’m sure we’ll be seeing more of in the future. 

While this musical is a classic, its’ length of three hours including intermission (in part due to a seeming lack of urgency as many scenes drag on) is certainly a deterrent and explains why a number of people left after the first act. However, if you love Rogers and Hammerstein or this musical, you’re sure to enjoy it.  If you’re not an enthusiast of the classics you may want to sit this one out and wait for the next one. Carousel plays from June 9-19, 2016 at the Robinson Theatre (617 Lexington Street, Waltham, MA). For information and tickets visit www.reaglemusictheatre.com

Title Photo: Female dance ensemble from Carousel. Courtesy Reagle Music Theatre/©Herb Philpott

For more of my reviews and theatrical thoughts check out: http://intheatresome1isalwayswatching.blogspot

Review: Reagle Music Theatre of Greater Boston’s Kiss 'Me, Kate'

Angelica Potter

Kiss Me, Kate is a five-time Tony award winning musical with music and lyrics by Cole Porter and book by Sam and Bella Spewack.  It recounts the wild backstage and onstage antics of two feuding couples during a production of The Taming of the Shrew. 

Directed by Cynthia Thole and wonderfully led by Broadway couple Sarah Pfisterer, as Lilli Vanessi/Katherine, and Rick Hilsabeck as Fred Graham/Petruchio, this production keeps the audience engaged and laughing throughout the close to two and a half hour show. The pair brings boldness, flare and charm to their dueling characters. They are supported by Lisa Dempsey (Lois Lane/Bianco), Kevin Patrick Martin (Bill Calhoun/Luciento) and a fantastic ensemble who keep the energy high with fun and exciting dance numbers. The entire company looked as though they were having a terrific time during their opening night performance; which in turn, led the audience to have a wonderful time as well. 

Two stand out performances came at the beginning of each act. First, was Lovely Hoffman’s shining performance of Hattie during the opening number “Another Op’nin’, Another Show”; which she performed along with the ensemble, who seemed more than ready to get this show underway. This number captured the audience’s attention and was a wonderful start to the show. Second, came from Darren Bunch, as Paul, who fantastically led the spirited “Too Darn Hot” at the beginning of act two. If there’s a number that can instantly re-engage and wow the audience “Too Darn Hot” is that number. 

Rick Hilsabeck as Fred Graham/Petruchio and Sarah Pfisterer as Lilli Vanessi/Katherine and ensemble members. (Courtesy Reagle Music Theatre/Herb Philpott) 

Rick Hilsabeck as Fred Graham/Petruchio and Sarah Pfisterer as Lilli Vanessi/Katherine and ensemble members. (Courtesy Reagle Music Theatre/Herb Philpott) 

One of my favorite parts of this production comes not from the stage but from the pit. The orchestra of nineteen musicians, led by Conductor Jeffrey P. Leonard, was fantastic from the beginning to end. They played Porter’s score like no other orchestra I’ve heard. They were sometimes upbeat and sometimes hauntingly beautiful, but at all times they were incredible. 

Another area of note is the creative scenic design by Richard Schreiber whose colorful and multi-use set brought more life to the production. Speaking of life, the choreography by Susan M. Chebookjian was superbly executed by the cast. It was clear that they worked hard to make their dancing unified and exhilarating to watch. 

This show is a fun night at the theatre and I’m sure the other thousand people at last night’s opening would agree. Kiss Me, Kate plays until July 19th at the Robinson Theatre (617 Lexington Street, Waltham, MA). For information and tickets visit www.reaglemusictheatre.com

For more of my reviews and theatrical thoughts check out: http://intheatresome1isalwayswatching.blogspot.com/

Review: Reagle Music Theatre of Greater Boston’s Guys and Dolls

Angelica Potter

I could hardly contain my anticipation walking into the air-conditioned Robinson Theatre last night as the opening night performance of Guys and Dolls was minutes away. The opening announcement boomed over the speakers as the audience took their seats. The lights started to dim as the live orchestra began the lively Overture. 

In case you are not familiar with the show, Guys and Dolls is a Tony Award winning musical comedy with music and lyrics by Frank Loesser and book by Jo Swerling and Abe Burrows. In short, it’s a story about gambling gangsters, showgirls, mission workers and the chaos that erupts when bets are made, lost and won. 

A fantastic performance was given by leading man Brent Barrett who played charismatic gambler Sky Masterson. His smooth, yet commanding vocals were mesmerizing. In his very first scene with Sarah Brown, played by Mara Bonde, he reminded me of Clark Gable and his portrayal of Rhett Butler in the classic film Gone with the Wind.  

Two standout performances came in the second act from supporting characters Arvide Abernathy, played by Terry Donilon, and Nicely-Nicely Johnson, played by Brad Peloquin. Donilon’s rendition of “More I Cannot Wish You” was wonderfully sweet and was sure to have put a smile on the faces of everyone in the audience. Peloquin’s performance of “Sit Down, You’re Rockin’ the Boat” was high energy and a joy to watch. 

I must take a moment to mention the fine work done by Choreographer Rachel Bertone. The ensemble looked like they were having a great time with energetic Musical Theatre Jazz style routines complete with individualized dancer tricks. There were more than enough high kicks, splits, turns and tricks throughout the show not only from the ladies but from the fellas as well.   I would have to say my favorite routine was “Havana” with its fierce Latin dance moves and plenty of hip shakin’. 

Overall, this show was a fun night out and I think the rest of the audience in last night’s mostly full house would agree. Guys and Dolls plays from June 11-21, 2015 at the Robinson Theatre (617 Lexington Street, Waltham, MA). For information and tickets visit www.reaglemusictheatre.com


For more of my reviews and theatrical thoughts check out: http://intheatresome1isalwayswatching.blogspot.com/