Friday, July 25, 2014
Wednesday, May 14, 2014
Announcing Wheelock Family Theatre’s 2014-2015 Season
of Professional, Affordable Theatre for Every Generation
October 17 – November 16, 2014
A new musical written and directed by Andrew Barbato
Based on the book “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” by Lewis Carroll
Musical Director: Robert L. Rucinski. Composer: Lesley DeSantis. Orchestration: Garrett Taylor. Choreographer: Carla Martinez. Scenic design: Matthew T. Lazure. Costume design: Lisa Simpson. Props Design: Marjorie Lusignan. Sound design: Roger Moore.
This new adaptation sends us on a fantastical coming of age adventure. Alice, relying on her wit and empathy, must negotiate the seemingly arbitrary rules of polite society; the tea parties, the poetry recitals, the croquet matches, and the important dates with royalty. In this distorted adult world of Wonderland, will Alice retain her dreams when pressured by the capricious nature of conformity?
January 30 – February 22, 2015
Written by Steven Bogart and Wendy Lement
Directed by Steven Bogart
Based on the book “The Adventures of Pinocchio” by Carlo Colladi
Musical director/Composer: Mary Bichner. Choreographer: Patricia Manalo Bochnak. Scenic design: Cristina Todesco. Lighting Design: David Wilson. Costume design: Miranda Hoffman. Sound design: Roger Moore. Props & Puppet design: Marjorie Lusignan. Puppet Coach: Roxanna Myhrum.* .
An original adaption, influenced by Japanese traditions of Kabuki, Noh, and Bunraku puppetry, Pinocchio will surprise and delight audiences of all ages. Mystical creatures, live musicians, and gymnastic choreography make the magical transformation of an animated puppet to a real boy, a dynamic and deeply moving experience. Despite being lured away from his loving home by promises of instant fame, fast money, and a life of fun and leisure, the impetuous Pinocchio must learn what is truly important in life.
THE TASTE OF SUNRISE
March 13 – 22, 2015
Directed by Wendy Lement and Kristin Johnson.
Written by Suzan L. Zeder – PART TWO OF THE WARE TRILOGY, produced with Emerson Stage (Mother Hicks) and Central Square Theatre (The Edge of Peace)
Composer: Peter Stewart. Choreographer: Patricia Manalo Bochnak. Scenic design: Janie Howland. Lighting design: Annie Weigand. Costume design: Lisa Simpson. Props design: Marjorie Lusignan. Sound design: Roger Moore.
This bilingual play—performed in American Sign Language and spoken English—is the second play in Zeder’s critically acclaimed Ware Trilogy; which will be produced in its entirety in collaboration with Emerson Stage and Central Square Theatre. The Taste of Sunrise takes place in the mind and memory of Tuc, who journeys through his childhood from the fever dream that took his hearing, to the language of nature that he shares with his father, to the deaf school where his mind explodes with the discovery of sign language. Tuc meets the mysterious Nell Hicks, who heals with herbs and singing spells; Roscoe, who gives Tuc his name-sign and cultural identity; and Maizie, a wild child of deaf parents with a head full of movie palace dreams. After the death of his father, Tuc navigates the perilous path of love, loss, and language to weave a family out of wishes. An ensemble of Deaf and hearing directors, designers, and actors explore the cultural complexities of deafness with humor and compassion.
SHREK the MUSICAL
April 17 – May 24, 2015
Directed by Shelley Bolman
Book and Lyrics by David Lindsay Abaire. Music by Jeanine Tesori. Based on the Dreamworks film “Shrek”.
Musical director: Matthew Stern. Choreographer: Patricia Manalo Bochnak. Scenic design: Matthew T. Lazure. Costume design: Charles G. Baldwin & Lisa Simpson. Props & Puppet Design: Marjorie Lusignan. Puppet Coach: Roxanna Myhru in collaboration with Puppet Showplace Theatre. Sound design: Roger Moore.
The 2008 Broadway smash about a horrible ogre, a feisty princess and a garrulous donkey, Shrek the Musical simultaneously subverts and fulfills fairy-tale expectations. With wit and a mischievous humor, we follow our misanthropic, green hero as he learns about the power of friendship and the magical nature of love; all while thwarting a dastardly villain. Based on the irreverent book by William Steig and the award-winning animated film by DreamWorks, this singing, dancing extravaganza explores the relative nature of beauty, the beguiling myth of “happily-ever-after”, and the importance of accepting yourself for who you really are.
Wheelock Family Theatre is a professional, non-profit theatre associated with Actor’s Equity, the union of professional actors and stage managers. Located on the campus of Wheelock College, Wheelock Family Theatre seeks to improve the lives of children and families through the shared experience of live theatre.
Friday, April 18, 2014
The Boston Globe: Friday April 18
Wheelock’s ‘Mountain’ a vivid adaptation
By Terry Byrne
Grace Lin’s captivating “Where the Mountain Meets the Moon” is a potent blend of fantasy, Chinese folklore, and heroic adventure. On the Wheelock Family Theatre stage, the book’s theatrical adaptation combines vivid imagery with simple storytelling for an enchanting journey from Fruitless Mountain to the village of Bright Moonlight and back again.
Lin’s chapter book, which is geared to readers ages 8 to 12, weaves multiple traditional Chinese themes and characters into the main story line, which focuses on young Minli (Caroline Workman) and her quest to improve her family’s fortune. While managing all of the stories might create staging challenges, director Jane Staab and her production team make some very low-tech choices that have a powerful dramatic impact.
Choreographer Laurel Conrad and costume designer Melissa Miller collaborate on particularly winning costumes and movement that suggest the wind and rain and a silvery and graceful Old Man of the Moon, not to mention a greedy pack of monkeys.
Adapter Jeannine Coulombe uses selective narration to link the different stories, and Staab takes advantage of the opportunity to position various members of her ensemble in different areas of the stage to deliver key transitions and bits of exposition. The effect is one of constant movement, making it easy for the audience to follow Minli from her desperately poor home to the sky where the Jade Dragon and her children control the rain.
At the heart of “Where the Mountain Meets the Moon” is the power of storytelling. The play opens with children gathering around a storyteller, asking for the chance to play different roles in the tales. The storyteller soon morphs into Minli’s father, Ba (Michael Tow), whose tales feed Minli’s imagination even when there’s little rice to feed the family.
Minli’s Ma (Grace Napier) scoffs at Ba’s impractical stories and bemoans the family’s lack of money, inspiring Minli to spend one of the only two coins she has on a goldfish the seller promises will bring good fortune.
Following the fish’s instructions, Minli heads out on a quest to find the Old Man of the Moon who knows the secret of good fortune and ties everyone’s destiny together with string. Along the way, Minli meets a variety of characters, including an orphan boy (Sebastian Wood), a vindictive Magistrate Tiger (Bill Mootos), and most importantly, a flightless dragon (Stewart Evan Smith) who becomes Minli’s ally and best friend.
While the collection of folk tales spans time and space, and the parade of characters can feel a bit confusing at times, especially for the younger audience members, Workman and Smith’s chemistry helps to keep the audience focused. As the flightless dragon, Smith is endlessly enthusiastic, giggling with delight at whatever he and Minli encounter, and the friendship between the young girl and the dragon unfolds naturally and believably.
Matthew T. Lazure’s tiered moonlit set and Dewey Dellay’s atmospheric music help make the many transitions easy to follow.
While the book focused primarily on Minli’s quest, the stage adaptation opens up to the many people whose lives Minli touches. “Where the Mountain Meets the Moon” celebrates the importance of family, from Ma and Ba to the larger communities Minli encounters.
Terry Byrne can be reached at email@example.com.
Caroline Workman as Minli and Stewart Evan Smith as the flightless dragon in “Where the Mountain Meets the Moon” at Wheelock Family Theatre.
Wednesday, April 16, 2014
In ‘Mountain,’ a girl’s quest, and an author’s
By Joel Brown Globe Correspondent April 10, 2014
As a girl in upstate New York, Grace Lin rejected her Chinese heritage.
“There were no other Asian or minority families that lived in the area,” says Lin, whose parents emigrated from Taiwan. “I kind of decided early on that I was just going to pretend that I wasn’t Chinese. I was going to pretend that I was Caucasian, like everybody was in my class. I did such a good job of that that I really did forget most of the time that I was Chinese. I used to walk down the street and see my reflection in a store window and be like, ‘Oh, there’s a Chinese girl. Wait, that’s me.’ ”
Growing up in Cambridge years later, Caroline Workman embraced her own mother’s Chinese heritage. And one of her favorite books was “Where the Mountain Meets the Moon,” a novel for young readers based on Chinese folk tales, written and illustrated . . . by Grace Lin.
It all comes full circle beginning Friday, when Workman, 14, stars in a stage adaptation of “Where the Mountain Meets the Moon” at Wheelock Family Theatre, a New England premiere that runs through May 11.
“I loved the story, and I was so excited to see what it would look like onstage, whether I was in it or not,” says Workman.
Lin will spend much of this weekend at Wheelock, where she will receive the Wheel Award for commitment to children and families and changing lives through art. “It’s a really neat thing,” says Lin, who counts 15 books in print that she both wrote and illustrated, “because you spend so much time alone in your studio or your writing room, and you kind of put your work out into the universe and you don’t really know if it goes anywhere.
“And then to know there’s a whole production being made of something that came from nothing, that just came from your imagination, is a really cool feeling,” says Lin, who moved from Somerville to Northampton last year.
The book and play tell the story of a girl named Minli (played by Workman) who, inspired by her father’s folk tales, sets off on an adventure-filled quest to find the Old Man of the Moon and ask him how she can change her family’s fortunes.
“What she learns on the journey is: The good fortune we seek to begin with isn’t the good fortune we find, but we do find what really matters,” says director Jane Staab.
“I love that Minli is so kind and so smart,” says Workman. “She puts the puzzle pieces together, and she thinks of what to do to go over an obstacle. She’s so quick-witted.”
Lin says she used to get angry when her parents tried to teach her about Chinese culture “because I felt like all they were trying to do was remind me how different I was from my classmates.” But eventually she changed her mind, and “Where the Mountain Meets the Moon” in part resulted from one of her mother’s early efforts to connect her to her roots.
“One day she went out and got about six to 12 Chinese fairy tale books that had been translated to English, and she put them on the bookshelf in the living room and just left them there. She knew if she gave them to me I’d get mad.
“She was really smart. I did end up reading every single one of them,” Lin says. “But I remember feeling like these books weren’t that great. The translation was kind of rough, there wasn’t a lot of detail, everything was kind of flat, and the illustrations were really kind of crude. I think it kind of reinforced the idea that my Asian heritage was kind of inferior to these Western things, like ‘Sleeping Beauty’ and ‘Cinderella.’ ”
Many years later, she regretted not knowing more about her heritage and spent a lot of time trying to recapture what she had missed, including travels to China, Taiwan, and Hong Kong. “All of a sudden those fairy tales came back to me. I’d see them in the landscape around me.”
She started making up her own stories about them, and “Where the Mountain Meets the Moon,” published in 2009, was the end result. Workman and her mother attended Lin book signings, and a print of Lin’s art hangs in Workman’s room.
“Where the Mountain Meets the Moon” will be Staab’s last show at Wheelock, at least for a while. After 33 years at the theater, as cofounder, casting director, business manager and artistic director, she is retiring in June. Going forward, the theater will be run by producer Wendy Lement and assistant producer Shelley Bolman, who have been in their jobs since Staab’s cofounder Susan Kosoff retired in 2012.
“There’s no particular reason, it’s just I turned 70, you know?” says Staab. “But I don’t believe I’m done with the creative side of my life. I sure hope not.”
Workman is a busy young actor and dancer whose resume includes a stint in “Billy Elliot” on Broadway. She says she’s excited to work once again with Staab, who also acted in or directed the other three shows she’s been in at Wheelock.
“Caroline is a special talent. We’ve seen her grow up in this theater,” Staab says. “I think we’ve brought her and her acting to a place she can be thrilled with.”
To this day, Lin says, she doesn’t speak Chinese well and cannot write it. Workman, though, is excited for next fall when she’ll be a freshman at Cambridge Rindge and Latin School, where one of her classes will be Mandarin Chinese.
Joel Brown can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Wednesday, February 12, 2014
Spoiler alert: Wheelock Family Theatre’s rollicking production of multi-ward winning, two-act “Hairspray, The Broadway Musical,” is more than a feel-good, happy-go-lucky rock ‘n’ roll fest. Like the original production, which ran almost seven years on Broadway, this version tackles a few heavier issues, but with a subtle approach.
The musical is a fabulous romp back to 1962, in slow-to-integrate Baltimore, Md., when rock ‘n’ roll, bouffant hairdos, TV dance parties, sock hops, and – unfortunately – racism and societal put-downs ruled. The musical also tackles conformity, bullying, and a rapidly-changing society, as rock ‘n’ roll skyrocketed off the charts, and its “race,” “colored,” or “n…..” music horrified conservative white parents.
Any teen who didn’t look, dress, and sound like each other, especially those who were heavyset, plain-looking, geeky, African-American, individualistic, gay, and God-knows-what else, were jeered at and shunned. “Hairspray” touts the idea that being different can be a good thing.
Wheelock director Susan Kosoff ventures further into controversy by casting lovable star Jenna Lea Scott in lead role of chubby, teen-age, activist heroine, Tracy Turnblad. With her infectious, fresh-faced effervescence and giggly exuberance, Scott’s ideal here.
Like Scott, who was born in South Korea and adopted by Caucasian American parents, Tracy is also adopted from Asia by American odd couple, Wilbur and Edna Turnblad, of Baltimore. And they’re more odd than you think. Wilber is the affable owner of the Har-de-Har Hideway Hut joke shop, while his agoraphobic, hefty “wife,” Edna, is a cross-dressing male, who’s ashamed of being overweight. To earn money, stay-at-home Edna does other people’s ironing and laundry, but had hoped to someday become a fashion designer. Veteran actors Robert Saoud as Edna and Peter A. Carey as Wilbur are a delightful duo, especially in “You’re Timeless to Me,” the show’s biggest hit number.
Harmoniously accompanied by Music Director Matthew Stern and his merry musicmakers, “Hairspray’s” large, energetic cast embraces and welcomes theatergoers, with Laurel Conrad’s energetic choreography, dancing in the aisles and onstage, swinging, swaying, and singing “Good Morning, Baltimore,” then introduces us to “The Nicest Kids in Town,” all-white cast of Corny Collin’s TV dance show. As Collins, Mark Linehan is duly unctuous.
But Amber Von Tussle, spoiled, teen-aged daughter of show manager Velma Von Tussle, isn’t nice. She’s catty, cruel, egotistical, and a chip-off-the-old block, like her mother, Velma, who proudly touts her former beauty title, in “Miss Baltimore Crabs” . Popular star Aimee Doherty as Velma and Jane Bernhard as her carbon copy daughter are marvelously mean and downright despicable.
While Tracy is a big, frontline activist, gathering support and crossing race lines to integrate the show, her overly-protected pal, Penny Pingleton, creates her own chaos by falling for African-American super dancer, Seaweed J. Stubbs, (lanky John Allen), son of Baltimore’s black music radio superstar, Motormouth Maybelle (Gamalia Pharms). Tyla Colier as Seaweed’s younger sister, Little Inez, also shines.
But Jennifer Beth Glick as Penny, is a perpetual scene stealer, with her gum-cracking, slump-shouldered, squeaky obeisance to her bigoted mother, Prudy, and her metamorphosis as a glittery “checkerboard chick” .
North Shore favorite actress, Cheryl McMahon, is also outstanding in her roles as Prudy Pingleton, big size fashion entrepreneur Madame Pinky, and a mean-spirited gym teacher, who encourages her students to abuse their special education and African-American counterparts in a vicious game of scatter dodge ball.
The three moms, Turnblad, VonTussle, and Pingleton, and their daughters shine in their contrasting triptych number, “Mama, I’m A Big Girl Now”.
Although Michael Nortardonato as Link Larkin, Amber’s narcissistic boyfriend and TV dance party idol, sings and dances well, he does not ignite enough romantic sparks with his newfound love, Tracy. However, her dreamy rendition of “I Can Hear the Bells” is riotous.
Treat the family to Wheelock’s funny, rollicking “Hairspray”. From start to finish, they welcome you to those turbulent ‘60s, making sure you don’t miss the beat, dancing and singing in the aisles with them.
Friday, January 31, 2014
Junior troop 71198 from St Raphael School in Medford recently went to see the Wheelock Family Theatre production of " Hairspray" that was advertised in the GS Catalog. This was one of the best shows we have ever seen! It rivaled Broadway! Kudos to GSEM for advertising and letting troops know about this amazing production. This show portrayed many of the values we teach in Girl Scouts. Tolerance, Acceptance, Being true to yourself.... It was so awesome to see how well our 9-yr olds related to this story line.
And the cast and crew were so terrific after the show, signing autographs, answering questions and we even got a back stage tour!
Thank you GSEM for letting our troop know about this wonderful show! An experience our troop will not forget!
Amy-Jayne McCabe and Dee Fagan- Co-leaders St Raphael School, Troop 71198 Medford, MA.
Amy-Jayne McCabe and Dee Fagan- Co-leaders St Raphael School, Troop 71198 Medford, MA.
My students LOVED it! They can't wait to write their formal "professional" critiques in tomorrow's classes with me (their academic assignment after going on the trip). And just kept talking about the show right thru lunch and back at school.
AND several want to come BACK to bring their families! (One chaperone even remarked that even though he was there with his daughters today with us, he wants to get tickets to see it again on the weekend!) And when our 8th graders heard we went to see the show (and didn't take them -- they went last year when they were 7th graders to see Oliver, as is the tradition to take our 7th graders to a WFT show each year)... several said, "fine! We're going ourselves this weekend on own, since you didn't take us." Awesome! There was such a buzz from our 7th graders that other grade levels want to go, too!
It was heartwarming to overhear some of our students saying that it was great to see a show that was not "all white." Our school population is roughly 70% African & Caribbean American and they really appreciated a show that told a story that many could connect to and to their families. It has made for great discussions already. Thank you for that.
Academy of the Pacific Rim
Hyde Park, MA
Wow! Wheelock Family Theatre’s performance of Hairspray is wonderful! I felt so proud of Wheelock and what it offers to the community in quality live theater. Today I attended a school performance with a full auditorium of middle and high school students from Boston area schools who seemed to love the show as much as I did. What a great message Hairspray offers on inclusion amidst great music, dancing, and amazing vocals. The whole auditorium seemed to be in synch with rapt attention, laughs, hoots and affirmations! Great work Wheelock Family Theatre!
Stephanie Cox Suarez
Associate Professor, Special Education
Thursday, January 30, 2014
Robert is a member of Actors’ Equity Association and has appeared at Wheelock Family Theatre in A Little Princess, Cinderella, Fiddler on the Roof, Charlotte’s Web, Tuck Everlasting, Pippi, Hello Dolly, Kiss Me Kate, The Tempest, Snow White, Beauty and the Beast, Phantom Toll Booth and Anne Of Green Gables.
"This is my 16th production with Wheelock Family Theatre. My first show was A Little Princess in 1994, so this season marks my 20th anniversary. WFT has been a wonderful place to grow and train. The theatre gave me my Equity card to play a pig in 1996. I have done Shakespeare, musicals, comedy and drama. I have been cast as the bad guy, the good guy, the funny guy, the serious guy, the witch, and even the fat man/thin man! When I was offered the role of Edna I was a little terrified. It’s become an iconic character in the world of musical theatre. When I was told they wanted to try a different take on Edna, I was intrigued. The rehearsal process has been challenging, but I think it’s difficult to play Edna and not fall in love with her.
I grew up in Detroit, and although I was very young at the time, I remember the race riots of 1968. I did not fully understand the ramifications of what was happening, but I still remember seeing the National Guard trucks rolling into the city. Hairspray deals with race on a much lighter level, but WFT has never shied away from issues that may make people uncomfortable or require them to think. One of my favorite productions I’ve seen anywhere was Wheelock’s staging of Lord of the Flies (and I wasn’t even in it)! Over the years I have made numerous ongoing friendships here. I cannot thank WFT enough for all it has given me."
Robert is a proud member of Actors Equity and Stage Source.
Tuesday, January 28, 2014
An irresistible score combined with an outstanding cast make the Wheelock Family Theatre’s production of “Hairspray” a highlight of the theater season.
Marc Shaiman and Scott Whitman’s musical adaptation of John Waters’s 1988 movie celebrates individuality in all its glorious forms. Shaiman’s rock score references just the right musical themes from the 1950s and ’60s while making fresh new songs that serve the musical theater storytelling format. Wittman’s lyrics are hilarious, working period-specific pop culture references into rhymes that also move the story along and develop this quirky crowd of characters.
And what a crowd they are. Director Susan Kosoff and musical director Matthew Stern have cast the show with a healthy mix of familiar faces and new talent to populate Baltimore circa 1962, and every performer seems to be inspiring the others to up their game. No fewer than three dozen performers sing, dance, and act up a storm on the Janie E. Howland’s brightly colored ’60s-style variety show set, and thanks to Kosoff’s direction and Laurel Conrad’s sleek choreography, these dancers make it look easy. Stern conducts a tight, six-piece band through the high-energy score with joyful ease.
Jenna Lea Scott (who was so good in last year’s Lyric Stage production of “Avenue Q”) delivers a Tracy Turnblad with the perfect combination of effervescence and sincerity without being cloying. Her Tracy, a big girl with even bigger hair, is as believable when she swoons over heartthrob Link Larkin as she is when she resolves to be judged for her dancing talent, not her plus size, on “The Corny Collins Show.” The earnest, unaffected way Scott turns Tracy’s demotion to special ed into an opportunity to make new friends, and learn some slick new dance moves, wins the audience’s hearts, to say nothing of her performance of “Good Morning, Baltimore” and “I Can Hear the Bells.”
Scott’s Tracy also has a warm relationship with her parents Edna (Robert Saoud) and Wilbur (Peter A. Carey), as well as her best friend Penny Pingleton (an outstanding Jennifer Beth Glick), which gives “Mama I’m a Big Girl Now” and “Welcome to the ’60s” a lot of heart — to say nothing of the soulful sound from the trio of Dynamites (Maritza Bostic, Ciera-Dawn Washington, and Kerri Wilson-Ellenberger).
Boston Conservatory student Michael Notardonato makes Link Larkin the perfect teen idol (with a killer falsetto), whose “It Takes Two” is the first of several show-stoppers. Despite his pop icon aspirations, his Link is grounded enough to fall for the no-nonsense Tracy, despite his role as arm-candy for Amber Von Tussle (Jane Bernhard), daughter of “The Corny Collins Show” producer Velma Von Tussle (Aimee Doherty).
Doherty has never sounded better (and that’s saying something), but she also makes the scheming Velma Von Tussle a charming villainess, and her castanet-like choreography for her “Miss Baltimore Crabs” nearly brings down the house.
There is not one weak link in this ensemble, so it seems almost unfair to single out performers, but Gamalia Pharms, a Wheelock regular, is inspired as Motormouth Maybelle, Jon Allen is a seductively loose-limbed Seaweed, Tyla Collier grabs our attention with her Little Inez, Cheryl McMahon is pitch perfect in multiple roles, and Mark Linehan is an appropriately slick Corny Collins.“Hairspray” takes on some big issues, but does it with so much humor and optimism it will send you out of the theater singing and dancing for joy.
Review by Terry Byrne.
Photo by Gary Ng.
Jenna Lea Scott, Jon Allen.