This year, however, started off amazingly, thanks to my bestest of daughters (and her very nice co-worker who had seen this in London) who treated me to "Matilda" on my birthday! Though I am a big fan of the book and the movie I had not seen Matilda: the Musical!!! We saw it at the Kennedy Center which is pretty spectacular in itself and it was the first time (but NOT the last time...as we shall see!) I'd ever been there! The music was realllly good and very catchy and the cast was such fun. A perfect Birthday present!
Also, we are lucky that we live in an area that has some pretty incredible local theatres. Between the Players Ring, Seacoast Rep, the Music Hall and the Ogunquit Playhouse we have access to some really world class productions and actors, musicians, directors and creators.
John and I are big fans of Billy Butler, an actor, writer, singer, composer... you name it, he's the Seacoast's own Lin-Manuel Miranda, anyway, we make it a point to see anything he is in, if we are able to, and the Players Ring presented this powerful production of "The Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo" by Rajiv Joseph and with the Veterans in Performing Arts with Billy Butler as the Tiger. I couldn't find any video, but here is an image of Mr. Butler from this production.
Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo
For Mother's Day, this year, I decided to treat myself to the Seacoast Reps production of "Titanic: the Musical" and I am SO glad I did. It was such a moving experience with many boohoo moments, great songs and a stellar cast. The creative use of the space was very clever and one other thing I love about Seacoast Rep (besides their willingness and enthusiasm when I reached out to them to connect with the Rochester Library, thank you, thank you!), is that there are no bad seats. If a tall person sits in front of you, they are below you, so, Yay! Great theatre (and also the place where Nico got her acting start!)!
Phantom of the Opera
To me, Phantom of the Opera, by Andrew Lloyd Webber, is the perfect adaptation of a book to a musical with the most memorable, smart, romantic and just wonderful music and lyrics ever written. It is why it never gets old, and why versions are performed all over the world, and why people keep coming back to see it, to enjoy all the different interpretations each actor brings to the role. Unlike many of my friends, I have only seen it live 4 times. I saw the tour when it opened in Rhode Island and then in Boston and it was coming to the Kennedy Center right when we were going to be there, so we got amazing tickets (thank you, Jeremiah) and it was Nico and John's first time seeing it live, too. Chris Mann who was the lead in the tour at that time was taken ill, so we wondered who we would see, and the man who took his place was such a perfect Phantom, he really should be on Broadway. Travis Taylor brought everything you would want to that role (did I tell you we had great seats? 2nd row! ) so we were able to see his every gesture and detail and his gorgeous voice, well, here is a video of him singing "Music of the Night" at an event. The only clip I could find of him was this one. See for yourself!
Hunchback of Notre Dame
Ohmygosh! Let me just say I saw that this was playing in Ogunquit at the Ogunquit Playhouse just by accident, so, yes, keep advertising on the Music Hall site or I would never have known about this. And the good, ol' enabler came with me. This production was one of the most thrilling theatre experiences I've ever had. First off, I'd never heard the additional songs, and they are beautiful. The whole production was stunning. The sets, the staging. Just wonderful And the cast! In particular, Bradley Dean as Claude Frollo, and F. Michael Haynie as Quasimodo brought those characters to vivid life.
Who doesn't love Little Women? It has been adapted several times to film but I had never seen it done as a musical and, again, I treated myself to this production and I was so glad I did. It was just superb! A lovely cast and the staging was also really wonderful, plus the songs and score were beautiful. Seacoast Rep never disappoints in their productions. We've seen so many things there over the years and this was a great experience!
DraculaI feel very lucky to have connected with the lovely and talented Edra Toth , the director of Northeastern Ballet Theatre, and a very visionary choreographer. Her production of Dracula is captivating. I first saw John Ling in the role and he really owned that role so I was curious about the man playing that role in recent productions, Assaf Benchetrit, who brought his own dynamic to the role and was mesmerizing. If you have a chance to see it don't miss it. It is a great evening of story and dance.
Bloody, Bloody Andrew Jackson
The fact that this played in NH is amazing and again, I found out by accident, but early enough to score front row seats! UNH has a great theatre department, but I haven't been in a while, so it was a treat to see this fabulous production. Even John loved it, which is high praise, indeed!
Another great night at the Players Ring ! The music of Billy Butler performed by some fantastic singers, musicians, puppeteers, dancers, creatures of the night and what have you (plus Billy on the piano). Fantastic, one of a kind and memorable theatre at its innovative and creative best!
Farmington Town PlayersAnd what's a year of culture without the fabulous Farmington Town Players now in their 31st year (I think) and revamped back when John was the Town's Rec Director and going strong ever since. Nico was a former member and former Police Chief Kevin Willey still appears in most productions. This past November's Moblile Home Sweet Home was fun as always and now with the addition of the new Farmington Community Band playing opening numbers.
NH Gay Men's Chorus
A wonderful holiday surprise was the presentation of the fantastic New Hampshire Gay Men's Chorus singing a variety of divers and gorgeous music for free at the Rochester Opera House.
I couldn't actually find any video of this marvelous group but I did find a photo. If you get a chance to go hear them do not hesitate. They are truly worth a trip to Manchester or wherever!
Beauty and the Beast and at the Portsmouth Music Hall, no less, I bought my front row seat immediately. And that was back in August! So I was thrilled and delighted to be front and center for this fun and just all around breathtaking theatrical event! It was everything I hoped for and more! The Beast was commanding and heartbreaking and sang a song that I wasn't familiar with but now LOVE "If I Can't Love Her" passionately sung by Jason Michael Evans, who was all you would want in that role. Belle was played by Catherine Charlebois who was quite perfect and lovely and plucky in that part. And one of the really standout performances was Peter Saide as Gaston, hilarious and sympathetic in his love for Belle. Applause, Applause, Applause to all involved!
And what better way to end a great year of culture than with the Northeastern Ballet Theatre's production of the Nutcracker! A lovey cast of dancers brought this original version to festive life! Thank you, again to Edra and Nancy for their generosity with tickets!!!
That wraps up this fabulous and diverse and theatrical, musical and dramatic year! Who knows what 2017 may bring? We shall see!