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Monday, July 10, 2017

FREE - eBook at Amazon - Comedy and Tragedy on the Mountain - Holyoke, Massachusetts

FREE eBook this week! - COMEDY AND TRAGEDY ON THE MOUNTAIN - 70 Years of Summer Theatre on Mt. Tom, Holyoke, Massachusetts.

Meet the stars - Hal Holbrook, Wendell Corey, Alexis Smith, Craig Stevens, Eve Arden, George Brent, James Coco, Tallulah Bankhead and more!

Free in eBook form from Amazon until Friday, July 14th.  Download your copy here.


Thursday, June 29, 2017

RAGTIME - at the Barrington Stage Co. - Pittsfield, Massachusetts


JT Lynch photo

Ragtime, now on stage at the Barrington Stage Company in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, is a musical for our time, eerily so in that it is about the early years of the twentieth century, its Broadway production winning a Tony in 1998, from a novel by E. L. Doctorow published in 1975.  Time is as much an element in this show as place.

In a wild parade that brings together our most personal controversies of the fabled “melting pot,” a maelstrom of vignettes weaves the main characters of an African-American family, a European Jewish immigrant and his daughter, and an upper middle class WASP family.  The triumphs, the traumas, and the lessons not yet learned are striking reminders that we have evolved only a little.

The production is vibrant and entertaining, with direction that makes the most of the unique attributes of this kind of montage storytelling—with luminaries  including Houdini, Henry Ford, Emma Goldman, Evelyn Nesbitt and others wandering through the tale.  It helps to be familiar with the history of this period before World War I, because the intelligent script fortunately does not “dumb down” the material, and the audience must be sharp to catch all the references as we are shown pieces of a great puzzle that makes up America at this most exciting period.

The large, multigenerational cast is excellent, both featured players and ensemble work seamlessly in multiple roles.  Especially noteworthy was Darnell Abraham as Coalhouse Walker, Jr., the Harlem ragtime piano player who finds love, success, and heartbreak in a society that has not advanced as quickly as he has; Zurin Villanueva as Sarah, Coalhouse’s love and the victim of tragedy.  Both were deeply moving in expressing their love, their dreams and goals, their heartache, and thrilled the audiences with their powerful voices.

J. Anthony Crane as Tateh was especially effective in his scenes as the struggling, frequently despondent immigrant who later finds a new life in ways he had not imagined.  Elizabeth Stanley carried much of the story as Mother, the WASP wife and mother who discovers that she is, in some ways, bound by greater limitations in her role in society than the ignored African Americans and despised immigrants.  In her empathy for them, she will break loose her own bonds.  Ms. Stanley’s performance was captivating, every glance and movement was nuanced, and her vocal abilities brought applause from the audience after her anthem “Back to Before.”

David Harris as Father, and Anne L. Nathan as Emma Goldman gave strong support in pivotal roles.

Some fine moments:

The above-mentioned “Back to Before” number with the stage lighting dimmed save for a collection of turn-of-the-twentieth-century table lamps lit, casting a yellowish glow that seemed to evoke parlors of the period where a woman both reigned and was prisoner.

“Our Children” with Ms. Stanley and Mr. Crane on a beach watching his daughter and her son playing, and a sudden move toward the apron of the stage as if to pull their kids from danger made us nearly rush forward with them; until they pulled back, smiling, as if the imaginary near-fall was avoided.

The use of strobe lighting to create a zoetrope effect to symbolize Tateh’s new career in early silent movies was very clever.

The final moments of the play are a silent tribute/prayer as the children of the three families stand together and we see they are the future.  More than that, since we can look back on the period in hindsight, we understand, wincing, that their promise of a better life than their parents did not always ring true.  However, they are somehow our children now.  That is the beauty and the majesty, and the magic of theatre.  The audience’s standing ovation was well deserved.

The book is by Terrence McNally, music by Stephen Flaherty, and lyrics by Lynn Ahrens.   The show was directed for the Barrington Stage Company by Joe Calarco, with musical direction by Darren R. Cohen, and choreography by Shea Sullivan.

The theater lobby, with a nod to the subject of immigrants, has a map of the world posted, and invites patrons to put pins in the countries of origin of their families.  In many ways, this earnest production is a reflection of our times as much as it is of the years between 1906 and World War I.  Our fascination with the scandals of celebrities—as with Leanne Smith, who charmingly plays the ever effervescent and opportunistic Evelyn Nesbit—as well as being introduced to new societal forces through music—in 1906 it was ragtime; today it could be rap or hip-hop—demonstrates that the beginning of the so-called “American Century” was not so different from today.  Like the coming and going of Halley’s Comet, are the echoes of that former time cyclical, and the social, economic, and political turmoil we face today possibly signal an end to the American Century?

Or are we just in a, to take a modern phrase, “rebooting” phase?  This thought-provoking musical will likely do much more than entertain you.  Go to the Barrington Stage Company in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, and treat yourself to this wonderful show. 

Ragtime continues through July 15thFor tickets and info, see this website.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Mrs. Bellamy's Proper Parlors - Bellamy House - Chicopee, Massachusetts


Join the Chicopee Historical Society this coming Wednesday, June 21st at the historic Bellamy House, home of 19th century author Edward Bellamy for a special presentation of "Mrs. Bellamy's Proper Parlors":


The presentation starts at 7 p.m., 91-93 Church Street, Chicopee, Mass.



Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Mt. Tom Theatre - Holyoke, Mass. - Talk in West Springfield

I will be speaking on my book Comedy and Tragedy on the Mountain - 70 Years of Summer Theatre on Mt. Tom, Holyoke, Massachusetts on Wednesday, June 7th at 6 p.m. at the West Springfield Public Library, 200 Park Street, West Springfield, Mass.


The book covers the history of live theatre on Mt. Tom from 1895 to 1965.  For some seventy years live theatre created magic on the mountain above the city, from vaudeville, operetta, WPA-sponsored shows in the Great Depression, and its heyday from 1941 to 1962 with a resident repertory company called The Valley Players.  In the early 1960s, two new incarnations: The Casino-in-the-Park, and finally, the Mt. Tom Playhouse with touring packaged shows featuring well-known stars from television and movies.  Many stars of stage and screen, and many newcomers who would one day become stars, performed over several decades on Mt. Tom.  Through interviews, newspaper reviews, and nearly 250 photographs, relive their performances, and go backstage for personal experiences that were both comic and tragic, and enjoy again the excitement of opening night.

The book is currently available in paperback from the printer, CreateSpace here, and from Amazon in paperback and eBook.  You can also contact me by email or my website to obtain a paperback copy. 


Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Berkshire Theatre Festival - Stockbridge & Pittsfield, Massachusetts



This summer at the Berkshire Theatre Festival!
Tickets
Learn
Support
Visitor Info.
MILLION DOLLAR QUARTET
book by Colin Escott & music by Floyd Mutrux
directed & music directed by James Barry

at The Unicorn Theatre
The Larry Vaber Stage
BTG's Stockbridge Campus, 6 East Street
Wednesday, June 14 through  Saturday, July 15 at 8pm

Sponsored by: Lead Sponsor, Bobbie Hallig and Furlano and Arace, PC
Tony Award-winning jukebox musical, and epic night of rock 'n roll, Million Dollar Quartet brings you into the recording studio with icons, Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins, and Jerry Lee Lewis. Based on a true story, set on December 4, 1956, Million Dollar Quartet follows the tale of these four legendary musicians, as they come together for one monumental night of music at Sun Records in Memphis. This smash-hit musical includes classic tunes such as: "Blue Suede Shoes," "Fever," "Walk the Line," "Sixteen Tons," "Who Do You Love?," "Great Balls of Fire," "Folsom Prison Blues," "Hound Dog," and more.


THE MUSIC MAN
book, music & lyrics Meredith Wilson
story by Meredith Wilson & Franklin Lacey
directed by Travis G. Daly, musical direction by Mark Gionfriddo
at The Colonial Theatre
BTG's Pittsfield Campus, 111 South Street
Thursday, July 6 through Sunday, August 6

Sponsored by: Greylock Federal Credit Union, Greylock Insurance Company, Dr. Richard Ziter, Phyllis Parvin and The Berkshire Eagle
The Music Man is about a con-man who ultimately does good by a community. "Professor" Harold Hill's heart opens up through the course of one of America's most beloved musicals. In the magical number "'Till There Was You," we all recognize that the power of love is greater than all else, and change is always possible. In fact, Harold Hill and the children of River City, Iowa, remind us that the ordinary can indeed be changed to the extraordinary.

This beloved musical features over 100 talented Berkshire youth, as well as Rylan Morsbach (BTG: Mary Poppins, The Homecoming), who was recently hailed as "terrific" by The New York Times in BTG's Off-Broadway transfer of Fiorello!. With eccentric characters and a warm, optimistic story, this charming musical is filled with memorable tunes such as, "Ya Got Trouble," "Gary, Indiana," and more.
UY TICKETS

Edward Albee's AT HOME AT THE ZOO (ZOO STORY)
directed by Eric Hill
at The Unicorn Theatre
The Larry Vaber Stage
BTG's Stockbridge Campus, 6 East Street
Wednesday, July 19 through Saturday, August 26 at 8pm

Sponsored by: Lead Sponsor, Bobbie Hallig and Furlano and Arace, PC
Set in New York City, Act 1, Homelife opens with a look inside the isolated marriage of wealthy textbook company executive, Peter, played by David Adkins (BTG: Thoreau or, Return to Walden; Poe), and his articulate, Upper East Side wife, Ann, played by Tara Franklin (BTG: The HomecomingLion in WinterEquus). Unable to communicate their feelings to each other, the foundation of their marriage is built on unspoken agreements. Somehow, they find comfort in their boring relationship, yet, they are never truly on the same page. Act 2, The Zoo Story, follows Peter to Central Park. While sitting on a park bench, Peter encounters forlorn and forsaken stranger, Jerry, played by Joey Collins  Collins (BTG: The Homecoming, Broadway: The Glass Menagerie). This stranger, who appears desperate for human contact and connection, forces Peter to listen to his stories, as he digs deep into Peter's life, and his own.


ARSENIC AND OLD LACE
BY Joseph Kesselring
directed by Gregg Edelman
at The Fitzpatrick Main Stage
BTG's Stockbridge Campus, 83 East Main Street
Thursday, July 27 through Saturday, August 19

Sponsored by: Blantyre, Country Curtains and Red Lion Inn
Good-hearted drama critic, Mortimer Brewster appears to lead a normal, happy life. Recently engaged to be married, Mortimer plans a trip to visit his charming, spinster aunts, Abby and Martha Brewster. However, shortly after Mortimer's arrival, he discovers that his innocent aunts have a deadly secret buried in the basement-about a dozen older gentlemen. To Mortimer's dismay, Abby and Martha deem their poisonous habits as charitable acts; convinced that they are putting these men out of their misery. Attempting to protect society without sending Abby and Martha to prison, hilarity and madness ensues as Mortimer tries to wrangle in his crazy aunts, along with his brothers-Theodore, who believes he is Theodore Roosevelt, and maniacal, murderous Jonathan.


LOST LAKE
directed by Daisy Walker
at The Unicorn Theatre
The Larry Vaber Stage
BTG's Stockbridge Campus, 6 East Street
Thursday, September 28 through Sunday, October 22   


Sponsored by: Lead Sponsor, Bobbie Hallig and Furlano and Arace, PC

Written by Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award-winner, David Auburn (Proof), Lost Lake is an engrossing, evocative play. Part drama, part melancholy comedy, Lost Lake follows the story of Veronica and Hogan; imperfect strangers, tangled up in each other's lives by circumstance. Veronica, hopelessly in need of an escape from life's uphill battle, takes her children to a lakeside rental. Unfortunately for Veronica, not only is the property is less than ideal, it also includes a bedraggled and secluded estate owner, Hogan. Both fighting their own battles, the two outcasts find complicated comfort in their shared isolation.







Administrative
Offices:
111 South Street
Pittsfield, MA 01201
(413) 448.8084
The Fitzpatrick Main Stage and
The Unicorn Theatre:
6 East Street
Stockbridge, MA 01262
(413) 997.4444
The Colonial Theatre and
The Garage:
111 South Street
Pittsfield, MA 01201
(413) 997.4444


For more info, see website here.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Upcoming talk on Mt. Tom Theatre book - West Springfield, Massachusetts

Just a note that I will be speaking on my book Comedy and Tragedy on the Mountain - 70 Years of Summer Theatre on Mt. Tom, Holyoke, Massachusetts on Wednesday, June 7th at 6 p.m. at the West Springfield Public Library, 200 Park Street, West Springfield, Mass.


The book covers the history of live theatre on Mt. Tom from 1895 to 1965.  For some seventy years live theatre created magic on the mountain above the city, from vaudeville, operetta, WPA-sponsored shows in the Great Depression, and its heyday from 1941 to 1962 with a resident repertory company called The Valley Players.  In the early 1960s, two new incarnations: The Casino-in-the-Park, and finally, the Mt. Tom Playhouse with touring packaged shows featuring well-known stars from television and movies.  Many stars of stage and screen, and many newcomers who would one day become stars, performed over several decades on Mt. Tom.  Through interviews, newspaper reviews, and nearly 250 photographs, relive their performances, and go backstage for personal experiences that were both comic and tragic, and enjoy again the excitement of opening night.

The book is currently available in paperback from the printer, CreateSpace here, and from Amazon in paperback and eBook.  You can also contact me by email or my website to obtain a paperback copy. 


Tuesday, May 16, 2017

The Student Prince - Springfield, Massachusetts Restaurant

JT Lynch photo

The Student Prince, a nostalgic and fanciful name for a German restaurant in Springfield, Massachusetts, has been a landmark in that city since 1935.  Though you may not find the characters from the Sigmund Romberg operetta  roaming about the premises, you will, at lease this month, find the Fort Street Carolers performing selections from The Sound of Music.  Surely, that is gemΓΌtlich enough for any fan of this cozy and inviting restaurant.  If that weren't enough, it is reckoned to have one of the largest collection of beer steins in the U.S.

JT Lynch photo

Ruprecht Scherff came from Germany to work here in 1949, and took ownership in 1961, and the Scherff family continued ownership until 2014.  When they announced the closing, several Springfield businessmen became involved to save the beloved restaurant, and so it remains today on Fort Street where it has stood since the Great Depression. 

Fort Street, incidentally, is so named because it was the site of Springfield founder William Pynchon's stockade fort, which withstood the attack of King Phillip's Pocumtuck warriors when they burned the young settlement of Springfield in 1675, 39 years after the settlement had begun. 

JT Lynch photo

There are stained glass windows in The Student Prince that picture Springfield historical landmarks, such as the Campanile, and Deacon Samuel Chapin, one of Springfield's founders.

JT Lynch photo

Through thick and thin, Fort Street lends its tradition of resilience and charm to Springfield.

JT Lynch photo

Have a look here at The Student Prince website.

*************
Also, thank you to organizer Erica Walch, and all the intrepid walkers who followed me around Springfield this past Saturday on my walking tour of Springfield's theater history sponsored by the Springfield Museums and the Armoury-Quadrangle Civic Association.



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