by Mark G. Auerbach
Those Singing and Dancing Political Candidates
The 2016 Election campaign has more outrage, drama, tension, comedy, and sass than any multiplex cinema marquee. Two area stages take on politic in song and dance. At Cranwell, The Capitol Steps poke fun at Democrats, Republicans, and everyone else. At Berkshire Theatre Group, they’re profiling a politician who tried to rid politics of corruption.
Fiorello: Politics and Poker at Berkshire Theatre Group
Berkshire Theatre Group opens its summer season with an intimate production of the musical Fiorello in its Unicorn Theatre on the Stockbridge, MA campus (June 15-July 23). When the name LaGuardia comes up, most people think of that crowded, dour airport in New York City. It’s named for one of New York’s most colorful characters, Fiorello LaGuardia, whose early life and career were turned into the charming musical, Fiorello, with book by Jerome Weidman and George Abbott, and music and lyrics by Jerry Bock and Sheldon Harnick. Fiorello won the Tony Award and Pulitzer Prize, and its score included some now pop standards like “Til Tomorrow”, “Politics and Poker”, and “When Did I Fall in Love” Fiorello was a big hit, when it opened in 1959, and it made a star of its lead, Tom Bosley (Happy Days on TV).
Harnick and Bock went on to fame with She Loves Me and Fiddler on the Roof, both enjoying well-received revivals on Broadway this season. Fiorello doesn’t get revived all that often. Encores presented a concert version in its inaugural season in 1994, and revived it in 2013 with Berkshire Theatre Group favorite Kate Baldwin as LaGuardia’s wife Thea.
Playwrights Horizon founder Bob Moss directs the Berkshire Theatre Group production; Michael Callahan choreographs, and Evan Zavada is musical director. The cast features Austin Lombardi as Fiorello, Rebecca Brudner as Thea, Kate Birenboim as Marie, Chelsea Groen and Dora. Also featured is Rylan Morsbach, who gave a terrific performance in last season’s The Homecoming.
The Capitol Steps: What to Expect When You’re Electing
For 35 years, The Capitol Steps have been poking fun at Democrats and Republicans in song and satire. They’re spending the summer at Cranwell in Lenox (July 1-September, nightly except Tuesdays) with songs from their new album of music and comedy, What to Expect When You’re Electing, plus whatever new comes to mind as Democrats and Republicans make fools of themselves at their conventions. (Find some of their new hits, “Sarah Palin Stumps for Trump” and (based on Adele’s song) “Hello, Is It Mitt You’re Looking For” at their website. www.capsteps.com. (Check their YouTube channel too)
Mark Eaton, a Capitol Steps writer and performer (and their booking manager), joined the troupe in 1999. “Is this election year the best yet for material”, I asked. Eaton replied, “It amazes us that every few years people will say “boy, it can’t get better than this” for political satire. They said it about Dan Quayle, Bill Clinton, George W., and now Trump and Hillary. Fortunately for us, our only enemy will be a completely competent government and candidates that are adored by everyone. So we should be around for a very long time!”
The Berkshire Theatre Group is a recipient of a $45,000 grant from The Shuibert Foundation, the New York based grantor that supports non-profit theatres around the country. The Shubert Foundation,was established in 1945 by Lee and J.J. Shubert in memory of their brother Sam, and is the sole shareholder of The Shubert Organization, Inc., which currently owns/operates 21 theatres: 17 on Broadway, one off-Broadway theatre (The Little Shubert), and one each in Boston and Philadelphia. For information on Berkshire Theatre Group programs: www.berkshiretheatregroup.org.
Sejii Ozawa has cancelled his Tanglewood appearances this summer due to illness. For details on program changes: www.tanglewood.org
Keep in Mind
Dolly Parton kicks off the summer season at Tanglewood on June 17. Earth Wind and Fire sizzle in Lenox on June 18, and a cover-to-cover of “Pet Sounds” with Beach Boys co-founder Brian Wilson, Blondie Chaplin and Al Jardine wraps the weekend on June 19. What a way to kick off the summer. For details: www.tanglewood.org.
Peter and the Starcatcher, the recent Broadway hit by Rick Elice, a grownup’s prequel to Peter Pan, is a wildly theatrical adaptation of the novel by Pulitizer Prize winning writer Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson. It flips the classic story of how an orphan boy became known as Peter Pan. Tony Award nominee Forrest McLendon (The Scottsboro Boys) and Raegan Roberts headline the Connecticut Repertory Theatre production at UConn in Storrs (June 23-July 2). Vincent J. Cardinal directs his final show at Ct. Rep before moving on to Michigan. For details: 860-486-2113 or www.crt.uconn.edu.
Yankee Tavern, Steven Dietz’s edge-of-your-seat thriller, opens New Century Theatre’s season at Smith College, Northampton, MA (June 16-25). Gina Kaufmann directs the story of Adam, who has inherited his father’s bar, and his fiance, who try to plan a wedding amidst the bar’s quirky clientele. For details: 413-587-3933 or www.newcenturytheatre.org.
The Oregon Trail, Bekah Brunsteeter’s tale of two young women, both named Jane, weaves parallel stroeis of survival. It gets a staged reading at WAM’s Fresh Take Series on June 19, at the No. Six Depot Roastery and Cafe in West Stockbridge, MA. Estefania Fadul directs. For details: www.wamtheatre.com.
Tea for Three, starring Emmy winner Elaine Bromka as first ladies Lady Bird Johnson, Pat Nixon, and Betty Ford, plays the Majestic Theatre in West Springfield, MA on June 16-19. Bromka co-wrote the show with Eric H. Weinberger, which showcases what Nixon called .the “hardest unpaid job in the world.” For details: 413-747-7797 or www.majestictheater.com
Mark G. Auerbach studied theatre at American University and the Yale School of Drama. He’s worked for arts organizations and reported on theatre for newspapers and radio.