Supporting the Arts in Western Massachusetts and Beyond

March 16, 2018

PREVIEW: UMass, Valley Jazz Network, "A Conversation & Concert"

Old Chapel Great Hall, UMass, Ahmerst, MA
Tuesday, April 3, 2018 7pm

The Valley Jazz & Social Change Network presents "A Conversation & Concert featuring Toshi Reagon, Christian Scott and Helen Sung" will take place on Tuesday, April 3rd from 7pm-10pm at Old Chapel Great Hall, UMass.

Helen Sung
Through their work, musicians often focus or dedicate their talent on giving voice to civil rights and social change, strengthening the breadth and depth of social activism. On April 3rd, the Valley Jazz Network hosts JAZZ MUSIC AND SOCIAL CHANGE which creates a public platform for sharing and understanding how some artists use their talent to forward social issues and contribute a positive impact on society. At the table will be three world-class musicians: renown activist, lyricist and singer Toshi Reagon; trumpeter Christian Scott; and Asian American pianist Helen Sung. 

Admission is free, but tickets are required. For information check or

March 15, 2018

PREVIEW: Smith College, “Shut Up, Emily Dickinson”

Smith College, Northampton, MA
Thursday, March 22, 2018, 7:30pm

Emily Dickinson: poet, recluse. Loosely based on the Master Letters, “Shut Up, Emily Dickinson” is a pseudo-historical, quasi-biographical, hysterically existential psycho-romance about America's most brilliant and annoying poetess. Holed up for all eternity in the bedroom of our minds, the “woman in white” stretches into a projection screen for truths, half-truths,  and truth-less-ness. She’s whatever you want her to be and nothing you imagined. Emily Dickinson is the definition of a difficult woman.

Written by Tanya Ritchie and directed by Mary Beth Brooker, Smith College will present “Shut Up, Emily Dickinson” on Thursday, March 22 at 7:30pm. Free and open to the public.

March 14, 2018

REVIEW: Majestic Theater: “Outside Mullingar”

Majestic Theater, West Springfield, MA
through April 1, 2018
by Shera Cohen

Photo by Lee Chambers
“Outside Mullingar” is one of those sweet little slice-of-life plays that might remind you of someone you know or, perhaps, yourself. The setting are two small farmhouses in a town in Ireland where everyone knows his neighbor. That can be taken literally, as the cast of four portray characters who live next door, although divided by two fences and a smidgeon of land. The rustic environment is far from bucolic. That, coupled with the physical separation of the farms, makes a significant statement. Greg Trochlil’s staging becomes a “character.”

Advertised as a love story, the play’s outcome is no surprise. That is not very important. What is significant are the extremely effective means by which the actors motivate their characters to the right place at the right time. Margaret Reilly Streeter (Rosemary) portrays an assertive, brash, savvy, 30-something woman. At first, Streeter gives her character nuances of vulnerability. By Act II, the actress proves that Rosemary has such empathy and determination that the audience cannot help but become her sympathetic ally.

Jay Sefton (Anthony) dons the near-opposite personality for his character. Anthony and Rosemary display the personification of oil and water. A commonality is that both are quirky, but in different ways. Isolated, self-conscious, and self-effacing describe Sefton’s Anthony. Yet, his verbal fights with Rosemary reveal powerful emotions. Nearly all of Act II is a taut dialog between these two characters. I felt intrusive watching Rosemary and Anthony’s interaction. And, isn’t that what truly effective theatre is about.

The balance of the cast is actor Ron Komora (Anthony’s father) and Sara Whitcomb (Rosemary’s mother). Both fulfill their roles admirably. However, in my layman’s criticism of award-winning and prolific writer John Patrick Shanley, flaws in Act I reduce Komora and Whitcomb’s performances to stereotypes. Neither the actors nor director Danny Eaton can develop “real” characters given the words in the script. In fact, a good deal of Act I could have been cut, and “Outside Mullingar” would be a fine play.

A word about accents. Not that I am by any means an expert, but listening to the quartet of actors successfully brought me to Ireland.

And, a word about the Majestic. Just when I thought that I had no time in my busy life to see this play, I learned that each show offers two Sunday matinees during its run. The timing was excellent.

REVIEW: Hartford Symphony Orchestra, Stravinsky & Swan Lake

Hartford Symphony, Hartford, CT
March 9–11, 2018
by Michael J. Moran

For the sixth “Masterworks Series” program of the HSO’s 74th season, Music Director Carolyn Kuan presented three works by the two seminal composers of Russian ballet music: two by Stravinsky, and one by Tchaikovsky. Two were originally written as ballets, and the third was choreographed later.
The concert opened with an energetic account of Stravinsky’s “Game of Cards,” a 1936 “ballet in three deals” which depicts a game of poker in “Baden-Baden of the Romantic Age,” inspired by the composer’s memories of Germany between the two world wars. The characters are all cards, and after winning the first two deals, the joker is defeated in the third deal by a royal flush of hearts. Kuan and the agile HSO winds, brass, and strings nicely captured the mischievous spirit of the music.

The first half concluded with a dramatic rendition of Stravinsky’s 1945 “Symphony in Three Movements,” reflecting the turmoil of World War II and choreographed by George Balanchine for a 1972 New York City Ballet Stravinsky festival. The propulsive rhythms of the outer movements and the quiet charm of the inner slow movement sounded very danceable in this measured performance, which built steadily to a shattering close. The percussive harp and piano texture of the symphony contrasted sharply with the more refined sound world of the preceding card game.
The highlight of the program came after intermission, when the orchestra played seven selections from the first of Tchaikovsky’s three great ballets, “Swan Lake,” for two of which they were joined by Boston Ballet principal dancers Dalay Parrondo and Yuri Yanowsky. As the beautiful princess Odette, transformed by a curse into a white swan, and the handsome prince Siegfried, who falls in love with her as a woman, they graced the Belding stage with first the rapture of new love and later its power to break the curse by uniting them forever in death.

The energizing presence of the dancers drew carefully shaded playing of deep emotion from the orchestra, lively and committed leadership from Kuan, and enthusiastic applause from an audience that was clearly riveted by a heady evening.

PREVIEW: The 2018-2019 Bushnell Broadway Series

The Bushnell Broadway Series, Hartford, CT

Beginning this fall, The Bushnell will bring seven exciting titles to Hartford as part of the Series, along with additional off-Series hits to round out a strong lineup.

The Play That Goes Wrong
THE PLAY THAT GOES WRONG, September 25-30, 2018: What would happen if Sherlock Holmes and Monty Python had an illegitimate Broadway baby?  You’d get THE PLAY THAT GOES WRONG, Broadway & London’s award-winning smash comedy!  The musical/mystery is chock-full of mishaps and mania.

FIDDLER ON THE ROOF, November 6-11, 2018: See a fresh and authentic vision to this beloved theatrical multi-Tony Award winning masterpiece. FIDDLER ON THE ROOF will introduce a new generation to this uplifting celebration that raises its cup to joy! To love! To life!

HAMILTON, December 11-30, 2018: HAMILTON is the story of America's Founding Father Alexander Hamilton, an immigrant from the West Indies who became George Washington's right-hand man during the Revolutionary War. The score blends hip-hop, jazz, blues, rap, R&B, and Broadway, in the story of America then, as told by America now. 

CHARLIE AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY, February 19-24, 2019: This amazing tale of Willy Wonka is the perfect recipe for a delectable treat: songs from the original film, alongside a new score from the songwriters of Hairspray.  Get ready for Oompa-Loompas, incredible inventions, and more at this everlasting showstopper!

RENT, March 12-17, 2019: This Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award®-winning masterpiece returns to the stage in a vibrant 20th anniversary touring production.  A re-imagining of Puccini's La Bohème, RENT follows an unforgettable year in the lives of seven artists struggling to follow their dreams.

COME FROM AWAY, April 30 – May 5, 2019: Here is the story of the small town in Newfoundland and 7,000 stranded passengers. The winner of numerous Best Musical awards, COME FROM AWAY takes you into the heart of the remarkable true story of culture clash, uneasiness, trust, and friendships.

WAITRESS, June 18-23, 2019: This irresistible new musical features music and lyrics inspired by the beloved film, WAITRESS – the tells the story of a young woman whose baking expertise helps her summon up courage to make a fresh start to her life.

In addition, a number of audience favorites will return during the 2018-2019 season including Disney’s THE LION KING (August 1-19, 2018), CATS (January 29 – February 3, 2019), BEAUTIFUL – The Carole King Musical (March 26-31, 2019), and THE SOUND OF MUSIC (May 17-19, 2019).

The 2018-2019 Bushnell Broadway Series is co-sponsored by Farmington Bank and Travelers. For further information call 860-987-6000 or visit the website at

PREVIEW: Hartford Stage, “The Age of Innocence”

Hartford Stage, Hartford, CT

One of author Edith Wharton’s most regarded novels, “The Age of Innocence,” comes to Hartford Stage. Douglas McGrath adapted the story into a play about what was called “The Gilded Age of the 1870s.”

New York City society at its most cultivated, wealthy and rigid was an elite class of people who dreaded scandal more than disease. In her Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, Wharton introduces the courtly young gentleman lawyer Newland Archer; his traditional and demure fiancée May; and the free-spirited Countess Olenska, who has come home from Europe, tainted by scandal. From the moment Newland meets the Countess, he is torn between virtue and desire, and all three are forced to make the agonizing choice, ever old and ever new, between love and honor.

For details and ticket information check the Hartford Stage website at

PREVIEW: Somers Village Players, “A Mother, A Daughter and a Gun”

April 13 – 28, 2018

Somers Village Players present the comedy, “A Mother, A Daughter and a Gun” as their annual spring dinner show April 13 – 28 for cocktail hour, dinner, and performance.

Jess is having a bad day. She's discovered she's pregnant, that her husband is cheating on her, and has bought a gun to kill him. She's interrupted by her mother, Beatrice, who arrives to help with a party Jess has forgotten she's having, to which she's invited a handful of strangers. Events unfurl at a furious pace as the party guests take over, Beatrice almost murders Jess' dad, and Jess' husband finally returns to the mayhem. The end of the play is surprisingly poignant and will profoundly effect everyone who's ever had a mother.

For details and reservations check or call 860-265-3342.