Supporting the Arts in Western Massachusetts and Beyond

December 24, 2008

Lloyd Cole + The Lonesome Brothers

Pioneer Arts Center, Easthampton
December 20, 2008
by Eric Sutter

"Turn away, turn away, turn your blue skies to grey" is a line from "Unhappy Song" off Lloyd Cole's CD "Love Story." Tales of heartbreak and true love were performed by the English singer-songwriter who got his start in a modern rock style in the 80s and has now evolved into a literate character-driven sensitive song writer on acoustic guitar. He sang the moody ballad, "Butterfly" from a 1991 CD. Many of his songs had sad outcomes and/or a caustic dry wit, such as "No More Love Songs" and "How Wrong Can You Be?" from 2006's "Antidepressant." He followed with the perturbed "Impossible Girl" and "Young Idealists," which could be the story of folksingers from the last century.

The Lonesome Brothers peppered it up with the rockabilly vehicle "Fins on a Cadillac" from their latest CD, "The Last CD." These singers are Northampton rockers who keep on doing what the locals love best -- exciting music with lively lead guitar by ace Jim Amenti performed in an Americana style. Both Armenti and Ray Mason are keen observers of human nature with lyrics that shine playful humor on relationships and life situations. Mason's comical "You've Never Seen My Baby Drunk" brought forth dancing at PACE on this bleak night just shy of the Winter Solstice. "Amy Cincinatti" was Armenti's joyful jaunt of rock n' roll.

The banter between Armenti and Mason, as they traded songs, caused chatter in the audience which spilled out with shouts of requests of such favorites as "Swamptown Girl" and "Frozen George." Mason slowed things down with his ballad "Early in the Spring." The duo concentrated on requests like "Sure Looks Pretty," but since it was a CD release party they focused on songs from "The Last CD." The audience was treated to Armenti's Christmas song, "Country Christmas." "Pass the Wrench" was Mason's and featured a bluesy harmonica solo by drummer Tom Shea. The trio encored with the country-rock tinged "Warm Vinyl," which was a homage to vinyl records before the age of CD.

December 23, 2008

Nathan Klau - "Jersey Boys" he started in Hartford & he's back

One of the performers in the "Jersey Boys" (2/4-2/20), the story of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons, is Nathan Klau. Born at Hartford Hospital, brought up in West Simsbury, educated at Yale, he will be featured at one of Connecticut's prestigious performance venues - The Bushnell. The following is a paraphrased interview with Klau.

Your playbill credit is "swing". What does that mean?

Swing is anyone and everyone onstage. I'm a standby for several roles, and never know which part I will perform from night to night. That's what makes this job exciting. Someone calls in sick; I'm there. There are 3 male swings. We are back-up, which means we have to know every aspect of the play. On any given performance, I could easily be doing something different. I am a section of a puzzle. If that piece is gone for some reason, I fill the place.

You've been in several musicals. What's special about "Jersey Boys" (JB)?

Several shows on Broadway closed this month, but not JB. It just keeps going and going on Broadway and on tour. It's a fantastic true story paired with wonderful music that touches the older generation and young people. It's vital, exciting music. Even though it's decades old, it feels new and amaging. JB tells the rags to riches story of the group, which is what most people didn't know. My introduction to JB was seeing an excerpt on the Tony Awards. I became obsessed. I had to see it. It was almost like I discovered the play, just for myself, and I had to be part of it. Frankie Valli was at my rehearsal, which was a little unnerving, and he was very supportive. Since July, 2006, I've been in the cast.

You've been on tour for the past 15 months; what is that like?

I've been in musicals since 1994. In regional theatre or national tours, it's still magical, an adrenelin rush. Being employed is a very nice thing, especially in a job that you like very much. Touring is great because the audience is different for each show. They are like a character in the the musical, especially when they sing along, which is all the time. One common thing is that the music, script, and every exciting moment onstage becomes infectious. Every audience is literally on their feet at the end, clapping and dancing.

How did you make the life journey from Hartford, to NYC, to tour the US, and back to Hartford?

My mother was an actress for many years in Hartford productions. I followed in her footsteps, literally, dancing and singing. I was in just about every musical that teenagers do. I became active in theatre at Yale, sang in the chorus, and New York was next. I majored in history, but this was my dream. My first real role was in "Anything Goes"From then on, musicals have been my bread and butter. When I visit my parents in West Simsbury, my mother and I still sing "Les Miz" as she plays the piano. Of course, I had been to the Bushnell, but February 4th will be my first time on its stage. "Oh, What a Night."

December 10, 2008

Legally Blonde the Musical

The Bushnell, Hartford
through December 14, 2008
by Rachel White

In a time where all that's seen or read on the TV or in papers are grim and depressing accounts of the troubled economy and world affairs, Legally Blonde the Musical debuts in Hartford just in time. Bringing the fabulous movie to life with peppy, fun, toe-tapping songs and wonderful 21st century humor, Legally Blonde is sure to get audiences laughing out loud from start to finish.

Elle Woods, played by Becky Gulsvig, is a sorority girl who ends up at Harvard Law after chasing her ex-boyfriend there in the hopes of proving that she is serious enough for him and win him back. Instead, she encounters a world vastly different than her California fun and sun, and has to learn that glitz, glam and fashion do not always equal happiness. Gulsvig, originally the understudy for Elle in the Broadway cast, seems born for this role. Her natural perkiness and fabulous voice captivate and command attention while on stage. Throughout Elle's journey through her first year of law school. She meets a colorful cast of characters, notably Emmitt Forrest, played by D.B. Bonds, who is not only talented, but exceptionally charming in this role. Great chemistry is obvious between Gulsvig and Bonds, which makes songs and dialog even more believable and enchanting.

Award winning director and choreographer Jerry Mitchell delivers a smash hit for Broadway audiences with this energetic and colorful tale. The cast performs beautifully and delivers this hilarious and high-paced performance that sparkles just as much as the costumes. The music and lyrics are funny and creative, sure to have audiences humming and singing well-after leaving the theatre.

Legally Blonde the Musical is a delight and breath of fresh air. The Bushnell continues to offer the latest and best with their Broadway Series and this debut is proof of that.

December 8, 2008

Dave Mason

Mahaiwe, Great Barrington
by Eric Sutter

The British born Rock 'n Roll Hall of Famer Dave Mason rocked the Mahaiwe Theater with a mix of 60s Classic Rock, 70s solo material and new songs from his latest CD, "26 Letters~12 Notes." Mason, who came into prominence in the 60s with Steve Winwood from Traffic, went on to jam with many well known rockers including Clapton and Hendrix. He lit the fuse with the opening track from his new CD with "Good 2 U" firing off stinging lead guitar and a gutsy soulful vocal delivery. He easily slipped into his sensitive side and performed the familiar 70s songcraft of "Let It Go, Let It Flow" and "We Just Disagree" on strummed acoustic. His band sparked a strong pulse of blues tinged rhythm with the Traffic songs "Fourty Thousand Headmen" and a rockin' "Dear Mr. Fantasy," which featured the hot licks of John Sambataro's lead guitar.

Mason was an image of renewed vitality, even as he wiped the sweat from his bald head Louis Armstrong-style as he launched into "Ain't Your Legs Tired Baby?" More new blues followed with the true grit of "Let Me Go" and "One Day." The well-known opening riff of Bob Dylan's "All Along the Watchtower" brought the dancing baby boomers down front as the funky rhythm section of Gerald Johnson on bass and Alvino Bennett on drums picked up on the action. The new ballad "How Do I Get to Heaven?" featured acoustic guitar interplay and singing between Mason and Sombataro. They closed with the 70s shout of joy, "Only You Know and I Know" which was a full band workout with a fluid electric guitar solo courtesy of Mason and smart keyboard work by Bill Mason. After a standing ovation, they kicked into the rock anthem written by Dave Mason, "Feelin' Alright" with an electrifying interaction of dual guitars between Mason and Sombataro... I'd give Mason the sweaty edge.