Supporting the Arts in Western Massachusetts and Beyond

September 29, 2010

Jacques Brel Is Alive and Well & Living in Paris

First Park Productions, Springfield, MA
October 1 - 10, 2010

First Park Productions, committed to promoting diversity through theatre, presents "Jacques Brel." This theatre troupe's premiere production is a cabaret-style musical filled with passionate solos, lively ensembles and amazing lyrics of life's issues in moving poetry and soaring melodies. Frank Aronson, Amanda Davis, Matthew Jaquith and Vickie Phillips star.

Aronson, a member of Actors' Equity, has performed throughout New England and worked with John C. Reilly, James Whitmore and Len Cariou. Davis has performed in numerous roles in local theatre, including productions at Bay Path College and Exit 7 Players. She holds a Bachelor of Music Education from The Boston Conservatory. Jaquith had his start with roles in "West Side Story" and "Hello, Dolly." He has been a soloist with the Springfield Symphony Chorus and performed in concerts throughout New England. Phillips, an award-winning New York City Cabaret performer with a 2004 OOBR (Off-Off Broadway Review) Award, was nominated by MAC (Manhattan Association of Cabarets). New York Time praised Phillips as "a one-woman room warmer with irresistible charm and vivacity."     

The musical is directed by Richard Volker, a member of Actors' Equity who has worked in television, radio and theatre, having appeared in countless commercials, as an actor and director, and is a writer of plays and novels. Michael Rheault, musical director, has been active in theatre as a musician and composer for many years. Rheault is the current director of music at First Park Memorial Baptist Church. Choreography is by David Michael Bovat who has earned a national reputation in dance. He has come to be known as the "teachers' teacher."

First Park Memorial Baptist Church, 4 Garfield Street, Springfield at 8pm on Fridays, October 1 and 8; Saturdays, October 2 and 9 and Sunday, October 3 and 10 at 3pm. For information and to purchase tickets in advance call 413-654-9111. Tickets will be sold at the door.

Angela Gerhard, Holyoke Jeweler

Paradise City Art Fair
Oct. 9, 10, 11, 2010
Three County Fairgrounds, Northampton, MA

Describe your jewelry and how it is unique from others?
My work is predominantly vitreous enamel on metal - contemporary with techniques that are different from traditional cloisonne. I use opaque colors and focus on surface design, texture, and finish to create wearable art jewelry. Bold colors and an uncharacteristic matte surface finish set the work apart.

What is the process of creating your craft? Do you know the outcome at the start?
I start with a flat sheet of copper, which is worked into a base form and shape. From there, layers of powdered enamel are sifted onto both sides of the metal and then fired in a kiln at 1500 degrees. I then create the surface designs, adding color and manipulating the surface texture using a variety of techniques. Commonly, I draw into layers of liquid and sifted powder, exposing the base coats below. When creating individual pieces and designing new work, I often start with an idea, but find that the process takes me down a different path. I try to be open to new possibilities.

How did you become a jeweler? Is this full time work?
I have always been interested and involved in both art and craft. Three years ago, I began taking workshops in metalworking to fill my spare time. Once I started working with enamel, the work just came pouring out. It was an organic process. My pieces gained attention and praise, making it easy to transition into a full-time business.

Paradise City always has a huge crowd. Due to the economic realities, are people still making purchases?
People are definitely buying, but perhaps more cautiously. There is a huge benefit in having an already-established relationship with your customers. I am seeing people coming back again and again to add to their collection and purchase gifts which run the entire spectrum from accessibly priced earrings to signature pieces.

What's in your future as an artist?
I'll be continuing to work on my jewelry, but on a smaller scale, as I add to past collections while experimenting with new techniques and pushing the boundaries of what and how I create.

September 27, 2010

The Real Inspector Hound

Shakespeare & Company, Lenox, MA
through November 7, 2010
by Shera Cohen

Laughs begin before the play does, as the announcer informs the audience of the usual dos and don'ts. Yet the instructions are far from usual. The audience's second response of laughter comes seemingly prior to the production as well. A bumbling late-comer cannot find his seat, stumbles over patrons, and ultimately sits in the first row, stage left. Indeed, he is the lead in this quirky play - actually two plays. An extremely bad melodrama is swallowed up by a farce. Think: Monty Python performs Agatha Christie.

As the pathetic play-within-a-play whodunit is mounted, two critics (actors) comment throughout. These men are none too bright although they sound smart - English accents do that. In reading the program book, character names are giveaways that something funny is amuck. Descriptions alongside these names ("the crippled half-brother" and "mysterious stranger") are pluses in case anyone misses the joke the first time.

Director Jonathan Croy, one of a Shakespeare & Company's best actors/directors and ol' timers, purposely paints both plays with broad strokes, all for the sake of non-stop humor. His cast includes some Berkshire "greats" like Josh Aaron McCabe (lecherous critic), David Joseph (suave murderer), and Wolfe Coleman (brainless inspector). The comedy is physical. A card game is a hodgepodge of anything goes. A love scene, if you could call it that, involves the pair rolling all over the floor and into a dead man. Yet, nothing stops this chaos.

While the blind housekeeper joke is lovely, it goes on a bit too long, even for the farce factor of "let's milk it." Also, with two characters seated in the audience, it must be a problem for those seated behind them to fully see what is going on. Section A seating is dead on, but a recommendation is to ask about sightlines before purchasing tickets.

The set is an isolated mansion. The sound is somewhat regal music upon the entrance of every character, every time. The elegant costumes are from a B movie set. And doesn't everyone wear a gown while playing tennis? There isn't anything on or in the set that is supposed to be real, which adds even more to the fun.

September 13, 2010

The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee

Majestic Theater, West Springfield, MA
through October 17, 2010
by Shera Cohen

How do you spell the one word that means: delightful story of three-dimensional characters, highs and lows of childhood, set to music? The answer: M-A-J-E-S-T-I-C. The Majestic kicks off the 2010/2011 season with a sweet play about a spelling bee. Seemingly an odd subject for a musical, the opening full-cast number sets the tones for the next two hours of warmth and fun.

The plot of "Bee" is exactly as one would expect - competition of youngsters in a spelling contest. These are the tense finals for six kids in the running. With audience participation of the brave souls who join the bee, the adults spell right along with the youth until all are purposely eliminated. The challenged words are those that the average person with a doctorate degree in English would never know. Each word is defined and used in a sentence, resulting in the biggest ongoing laughs of the show. Actor Tim Cochran's (Vice Principal) deadpan delivery adds to the humor. Event MC and former bee winner Rona, portrayed by Lori Efford, serves as den mother to the pack.

The competition continues with some losers and one winner. More important than the spelling of "chimerical" are the subjects of mutual and self-respect. Each young speller comes with poignant and sympathetic baggage, and every character possesses a physical or psychological flaw. In other words - these are real people. For adult actors to portray cute children is not an easy task. Throw in choreography and singing, and the burden (or joy) is three-fold. Two "students" need to enunciate their lyrics a bit (the funny lyrics must be heard). While "Bee" is an ensemble with a capital "E," a Majestic "regular" should be mentioned. One of the area's best actors/singers, Luis Manzi might have been better instructed to play his role as the ex-con Comfort Councilor broader.

The set is ideal as a typical school gym. The band of three never overpowers. Songs are not memorable, yet one is exquisite (Manzi, Efford, and Hilary Buxbaum's "I Love You Song"). Dual roles are clear. Passage of time is handled perfectly by director Meghan Lynn Allen. Be sure to be at the "Bee".