Tag Archive | "musicals"

The Addams Family Comes to Sag Harbor Tonight

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Colleen Samot and Denis Hartnett as Morticia and Gomez Addams lead the cast in a rehearsal of the Pierson High School musical production of The Addams Family in the school auditorium on Tuesday, April 21. Photo by Michael Heller.

Colleen Samot and Denis Hartnett as Morticia and Gomez Addams lead the cast in a rehearsal of the Pierson High School musical production of The Addams Family in the school auditorium on Tuesday, April 21. Photo by Michael Heller. 

By Tessa Raebeck

A man wearing a white fur toga and an Einstein-esque wig is stroking something. Earlier, he was a tree, dancing around with branches alongside a flapper, a Native-American woman, a woman resembling Marie Antoinette, and others, all dressed eerily in white. The man is neither Socrates nor Einstein, but is in fact a “Cave Man Ancestor”—or, in reality, Pierson High School student Nick Knab. He is one of the many unnerving, yet strangely comedic, “ancestors” in “The Addams Family,” the latest theatrical production at Pierson High School.

Pierson’s take on the musical comedy will come alive this Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, under the leadership of musical director Paula Brannon and producer Melissa Luppi, who also teaches sixth grade English at Pierson Middle School.

Based on the characters in the classic comic strip by Charles Addams, the show was first staged in 2009. Written by Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice, with music and lyrics by Andrew Lippa, it opened on Broadway in 2010 starring Nathan Lane as Gomez and Bebe Neuwirth as Morticia.

The talented cast of Sag Harbor actors, musicians and stagehands was at school late in the evening on Tuesday, April 21, to work out the final kinks, which always seem to magically disappear come opening night. During the cast’s last run-through before Wednesday’s dress rehearsal—the culmination of near-daily rehearsals since February—students appeared from all sides in between scenes, expertly weaving among one another to pull props and erect elaborate sets.

Ms. Brannon designed the set and the costume concepts, with Ms. Luppi—“seamstress extraordinaire,” according to Ms. Brannon—in charge of costume construction. In addition to the creative duo, many hands are on deck to ensure the music, set and performances run smoothly. Pierson student Jennifer Hall is the assistant director, and her classmate Christen Heine is stage manager. Former Sag Harbor students have returned to their alma mater, helping as make-up artists and teaching workshops on props construction and various elements of entertainment.

Pierson chorus director Suzanne Nicoletti is the vocal coach for the production. Oscar Gonzalez, called the “Zumba king” by Ms. Brannon, is the choreographer. The tech director is Doug Alnwick, a shop teacher at Pierson. Some of the student actors also act in roles behind scenes: Shane Hennessy is the lighting designer, Paul Hartman is student choreographer and Zoe Vatash designed the playbill.

The play has the classic characters of “The Addams Family,” but with modern jokes about pat-downs by the TSA (Transportation Security Administration), thyroids and healthcare, and even Jews living in Florida. The comic relief is not reserved to a few staple characters; the whole cast, from leads to extras, adds to the show’s humor and entertainment.

As in most tales, the plot revolves around love. Wednesday, the morbid daughter of the morbid family, has fallen in love with Lucas, the cheery son of a nice, “normal” family from Ohio.

When Wednesday, played by Rebecca Dwoskin, is pleading with her father, Gomez, begging him to act more like a Fred or a Joe in order to impress her new fiancé and his family, she tells him, “We’re who we are and they’re from Ohio.”

“Ohio—a swing state! Monsters!” replies Gomez, with an eerily on-point vampire accent portrayed by actor Denis Hartnett.

Morticia, played by Colleen Samot, swishes around the stage in an elaborate gown of black and crimson. Even with the knowledge that Ms. Samot is a high school student without an extensive rap sheet or a gang of ghosts, the audience will undoubtedly be intimidated by her portrayal of Morticia.

All the classic characters are easy to recognize as their singing selves in the play. There’s gargling, mumbling Lurch, played by Oree Livni, and creepily hilarious Fester and Grandma Addams, played by Matt Shiavoni and Shannon Keane, respectively.

In one scene, a giant set of wood and chains suddenly appears from behind the curtain. Gomez and Morticia’s son, Pugsly, portrayed by Emma McMahon in the classic black and white t-shirt, is on a contraption, holding chains that his sister Wednesday is using to playfully torture him.

Later, the curtains open to reveal the Addams house, complete with the white-clad ancestors—Yani Bitis, Hope Brindle, Alexandra Dudley, Natalie Federico, Jennifer Hall, Charlotte Johnson, Sofia Karamolegou, Zeb Kinney, Courtney Kinsella, Nick Knab, Phoebe Madison Miller, Rachael Miller and Zoe Vatash—crawling in and out of picture frames and acting as picturesque statues on podiums. In the corner, Kerrie Vila acts as a somehow charming “Thing,” sitting in a box as her hands dance on top of it.

After asking the audience for directions, the “normal” family of Wednesday’s love-interest, Lucas, portrayed by Paul Hartman, makes it to the Addams house. Lucas’s parents, Alice and Mal, or Audrey Owen and Shane Hennessy, are apprehensively in tow, dressed in beiges and yellows and slightly skeptical of Wednesday’s accessory choice: a crossbow.

“This is how they live in New York,” remarks Alice, decked from head to toe in yellow, when she enters the Addams house. “They spend all their money on rent and have nothing left for furniture.”

Show dates for “The Addams Family” are at 7 p.m. on Thursday, April 23, Friday, April 24, and Saturday, April 25, with a matinee performance at 2 p.m. on Saturday, April 25, in the auditorium of Pierson Middle/High School, located at 200 Jermain Avenue in Sag Harbor. Tickets are available through the main office or by emailing agalanty@sagharborschools.org.

Review: “My Life is a Musical” at Bay Street Theater

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Photo by Lenny Stucker.

Brian Sills, Wendi Bergamini, Howie Michael Smith, Danyel Fulton and Adam Daveline in Bay Street Theater’s production of “My Life is a Musical.” Photo by Lenny Stucker.

By Dawn Watson

The musical is one of those things that theatergoers either love or hate. For some, there’s nothing more transcendent than immersing themselves in the combination of spoken dialogue, singing, acting and dancing. For others, the entire construct rings false, somewhat hokey and attempts and fails to push beyond the limits of suspending disbelief.

“In real life, people don’t burst into song,” a character critical of the genre said early in Act One during the sold-out Saturday night performance at Bay Street Theater. Exactly.

“My Life is a Musical,” making its world premiere in Sag Harbor, is one show that is guaranteed to make a fan of everyone who sees it. Gently poking fun of the genre, the musical comedy tells the story of Parker, played by Howie Michael Smith, a likable but shy everyman who hears and sees people excitedly singing, dancing and carrying on instead of what they are really doing, which is talking, walking, and acting normally. The rub: Parker hates musicals.

Turning the Broadway form on its ear, “Musical” allows those who watch it to feel very much that they are in on the joke.  Charming, clever, and full of heart, style and verve, the Adam Overett (he brilliantly wrote the musical comedy book, music and lyrics) and Marlo Hunter (she directed and choreographed) production is sure to be a smash. I predict that it will be the next big thing to hit the Great White Way.

The writing is tight and laugh-out-loud funny. The musical numbers are catchy and enthusiasm provoking. The pacing between serious and outrageous scenes is impeccable. The characters are likable and relatable. And the cast, of which there are no bold-faced names, is absolutely superb.

Smith in particular, a talented triple threat that looks like a blend of Jason Biggs, Ben Stiller and Bradley Cooper, is perfection as Parker. He’s the socially awkward underdog who audience members find themselves rooting for before he even opens his mouth, and then that much more so once he does.

Playing JT, his love interest, Kathleen Elizabeth Monteleone is pitch perfect as a tone-deaf rock and roll band manager. She’s plucky and full of passion, just what Parker needs in order to grow and accept himself and his perceived flaws. Monteleone, who has a phenomenal voice, particularly shines in “Someone Else’s Song,” where she beautifully belts out that she can’t sing a lick.unnamed-2

Deeper level fun poking comes in the form of The Zeitgeist’s band lead singer, Zach, a pretty-boy hack who is the recipient of Parker’s musical-inspired songwriting talents—a Christian de Neuvillette to Parker’s Cyrano de Bergerac if you will. Justin Matthew Sargent, who starred in Broadway’s “Rock of Ages,” totally nails the intellectually challenged rock star persona, to great comic effect. He’s thoroughly watchable.

The most entertaining character was Randy, an overly dramatic 1940s-era film noir-esque gumshoe, who had the best lines and the funniest setups of the entire play. Robert Cuccioli, a veteran actor with considerable stage experience, hammed it up in a way that was beyond brilliant. Think Adam West playing himself as the Mayor on “Family Guy.” His fast-talking antics included insisting that Parker meet him at 1 a.m. at a bar called “Midnight” and at another called “The Corner,” which was located in the middle of the block. Cuccioli’s portrayal of Parker’s foil had me laughing so hard that I was crying many, many times throughout the night.

The multi-talented supporting cast—which includes Wendi Bergamini, Adam Daveline, Danyel Fulton, and Brian Sills—was amazing. Keeping count of the dizzying number of characters (though my favorite was Sills’s bellhop) and super hot quick changes was impossible but each was memorable and mesmerizing. And each and every one of actors in the show gave it with gusto.

Every single detail of this production—from the cheeky set to the cleverly utilized musicians, and far, far beyond—is an absolute winner. And judging from the very enthusiastic response of the audience on Saturday night, I’m definitely not alone in my thoughts. As the entire cast sings in the musical finale, “It’s the kind of show that I love.” Nobody could say it any better than that.

Bay Street Theater Brings World Premiere of “My Life is a Musical” to Sag Harbor

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A rehearsal photo taken at the New 42nd Street Studios in NYC with the cast of "My Life is a Musical:" Danyel Fulton, Wendi Bergamini, Howie Michael Smith, Adam Daveline, Brian Sills, Justin Matthew Sargeant, Kathleen Elizabeth Monteleone, Robert Cucciolo. Photo by Barry Gordin.

A rehearsal photo taken at the New 42nd Street Studios in NYC with the cast of “My Life is a Musical:” Danyel Fulton, Wendi Bergamini, Howie Michael Smith, Adam Daveline, Brian Sills, Justin Matthew Sargeant, Kathleen Elizabeth Monteleone, Robert Cucciolo. Photo by Barry Gordin.

By Tessa Raebeck

Parker has lived his entire life seeking solitude, trying to hide his affliction from the rest of the world. He doesn’t make new friends, he doesn’t have romantic relationships and he most certainly does not want to join the local chorus.

Parker, a straight-laced accountant, is suffering from a rare condition that makes his entire life take the shape of a musical. Bay Street Theater’s latest play, “My Life Is a Musical,” follows Parker’s struggle as he tries to navigate a world in which everywhere he goes people are singing, dancing, and going through life with an energy that is only found in musical theater—which he happens to despise.

The musical, written by Adam Overett and directed and choreographed by Marlo Hunter, “both real rising stars in musical theater,” according to Bay Street’s artistic director Scott Schwartz, will have its world premiere in Sag Harbor.

Director/choreographer Marlo Hunter, playwright Adam Overett and music director Vadim Feichtner. Photo by Barry Gordin.

Director/choreographer Marlo Hunter, playwright Adam Overett and music director Vadim Feichtner. Photo by Barry Gordin.

The play opens on a normal—and thus strange—day in the life of Parker, who quickly sees the order through which he controls his affliction turned upside down when his accounting firm sends him to work for none other than a rock band.

“Of course, it’s his worst nightmare,” Ms. Hunter said in an interview on Friday, July 18, “because he has to be around music all the time and he won’t have any idea what’s going on.”

With his company’s future hanging in the balance, Parker accepts the position.

In a structure similar to “Cyrano de Bergerac,” the 1897 play by Edmond Rostand, the play follows Parker’s struggle to discern between what is song and what constitutes a person’s inner thoughts.

“He hears the truth of their emotion in the song,” explained Ms. Hunter.

Although the proximity to music is what terrifies Parker, in the end, it is what helps him to see the value of his affliction.

“It’s about how this person struggles with and ultimately embraces the thing about him that he thinks makes him a freak, which is a very universal theme,” the director said.

“We all have things about ourselves that we feel don’t fit in or we’re not comfortable with,” Mr. Schwartz said. “This show explores that life from a wonderful, musical land.”

The cast, which Ms. Hunter called “sensational,” has appeared in celebrated shows including “Evita,” “Hair” and “The Lion King.”

It stars Howie Michael Smith as the confused Parker, and Robert Cuccioli, who plays the rising rock star Zach, with Kathleen Elizabeth Monteleone and Justin Matthew Sargeant playing other the principal roles.

The ensemble, “the hardest working people in show business,” according to Ms. Hunter, features Wendi Bergamini, Adam Daveline, Danyel Fulton and Brian Sills. They play over 70 characters between the four of them.

“It’s pretty astounding what they do,” Ms. Hunter said of the cast, “and they have to sing, dance and have broad comedic ability—they were hard to find.”

The show’s music is as varied as the ensemble’s roles.

“We really run the gamut stylistically,” she said. “It’s not all just traditional musical theater. There’s some pop, rock in there.”

Through Mr. Cuccioli’s character Zach, who Parker hears singing like a musical theater star, Mr. Overett shows how musical theater moments get transformed into rock songs.

Mr. Overett, Ms. Hunter and Mr. Schwartz agree this is a show for both people who love musicals and people who hate them.unnamed-5

“I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard people in previous readings or in our workshops who have said, ‘I don’t usually like musicals, but I love this,’” Ms. Hunter said, adding she thinks both sides of the audience will walk away from Bay Street with a love—or at least an appreciation—for musicals.

The show addresses the aspects of  musicals that bother people while celebrating them at the same time.

“The form of musical theater, there’s an aspect of it that is—it’s larger than life—and in some ways, that feels inaccessible to people, because it seems insincere in its grandeur. But that’s also what other people love about the form—that it requires such a suspension of disbelief,” Ms. Hunter said.

“The beauty of the way Adam has written this show,” she added, “is that it may not seem realistic but he’s written us characters who are very real and very accessible and a story line that is incredibly heartfelt.”

“My Life is a Musical,” Ms. Hunter said, delivers the big production and entertaining numbers of a musical, but with “real heart and a strong core.”

“This is the kind of show that in your career you hope you find and I’ve been lucky enough to have found it,” the director said.

“My Life is a Musical” opens Tuesday, July 29, and runs through Sunday, August 31, at the Bay Street Theater, located at the corner of Bay Street and Long Wharf in Sag Harbor. For more information or tickets, call (631) 725-9500 or visit baystreet.org.

Pierson Cast of “A Chorus Line” Wins “Best Ensemble” on the East End at the 2014 Teeny Awards

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Pierson's production of "A Chorus Line" took home the highest award, "Best Ensemble," at the 2014 Teeny Awards.

Pierson’s production of “A Chorus Line” took home the highest award, “Best Ensemble,” at the 2014 Teeny Awards. Photo by Zoe Vatash.

By Tessa Raebeck

A testament to both their talent and their teamwork, the cast of “A Chorus Line” at Pierson High School took home the highest honor at the 2014 Teeny Awards, “Best Ensemble.”

Held Sunday, June 8, at Longwood High School, the Teeny Awards are put on by the East End Arts Council to recognize the talent of local actors, musicians, technicians and all other artists of the theater.

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Photo by Zoe Vatash.

“As ‘A Chorus Line’ is a musical about the ensemble–about them as individuals, who make up the chorus as a unit–this is the ultimate compliment to our group,” Pierson Theatre Director Paula Brannon said. “It means we did it right.”

“As their director, I am extremely proud of these young thespians for not just their talent, but [their] dedication and extremely hard work as a unit,” said Ms. Brannon. “They were truly an ensemble and we are honored to have been recognized for that work.”

 

For a full list of the Teeny Awards taken home to Sag Harbor, click here.

To read more about Pierson’s production of “A Chorus Line,” click here.