Arts Beat

by Mark G. Auerbach

The Arts Year in Review: 2017: Part I

The Good

Among the year’s milestones, Shakespeare and Company celebrated its 40th Anniversary. The venerable Sevenars Concerts presented its 50th concert season, the highlight of which was Rorianne Schrade’s return to the concert stage with a preview of her Carnegie Hall recital, which was the hit of the season. Hartford Symphony Maestra Carolyn Kuan received her American citizenship onstage at The Bushnell, with a dozen new Americans. Terrence Mann took the helm of Connecticut Repertory Theatre’s Nutmeg Summer Series, and The Hartford Symphony Orchestra is back on solid ground. https://hartfordsymphony.org/annual-message-2017/

Broadway Bound

Christy Altomare and the Hartford Stage company of Anastasia. Photo by Joan Marcus.


Hartford Stage’s Anastasia moved to Broadway. Although it was overlooked by the Tony Awards and received mixed reviews, the musical is a bonafide hit. Women who were teens and tweens when the movie came out two decades ago are bringing their tweens and teens to the theatre in droves to see this incredibly well-made musical. This reminds me of Wicked, another musical that was overlooked by The Tony Awards and the reviewers.

Joshua Jackson and Lauren Ridloff in Berkshire Theatre Group’s Broadway-bound Children of a Lesser God. Photo by Matthew Murphy.

Also of note: The current Broadway hit, The Band’s Visit, was workshopped in its infancy at Hartford Stage, and another big Broadway hit, Come From Away, landed at Goodspeed’s 8th annual festival of new artists in 2013, enroute to Broadway, and Berkshire Theatre Group’s summer hit, Children of A Lesser God, opens on Broadway in March.

A standing ovation goes to Gina and Fran Burrage  of Westfield, MA. Son Joshua, who went into the national tour of Newsies just days after his graduation from Westfield High School, made his Broadway debut in Cats. Older brother Nick is co-starring in the national tour of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella.

Josh Burrage in Broadway’s Cats.

The Innovators.

Kristen Van Ginhoven co-founded WAM Theatre with a philanthropic mission: Building a theatre company showcasing the work of women that donates a portion of its box-office proceeds t non-profit organizations that serve women and children. Arts groups nationwide are celebrating Van Ginhoven’s model. She took it a step further, and organized The Berkshire Leadership Summit, which brought women in theatre from across the country to The Berkshires to develop means to strengthen women in arts management nationwide. Van Ginhoven won this year’s Larry Murray Award for her efforts. For details: http://www.wamtheatre.com/

Real Time Concert Notes, a collaboration between Springfield Symphony Maestro Kevin Rhodes and young music educator Matt Bertuzzi, Maestro of the Springfield High School of Commerce Band, found a way to deliver concert notes to symphony-goers via text message to their cellphones and tablets. They’re providing a new user-friendly method of attracting younger patrons to classical music concerts. For details: https://thewestfieldnews.com/arts-beat-extra-springfield-symphony-launches-innovative-real-time-concert-notes

Hartford Symphony Orchestra launched its Intermix series, concerts in unlikely places, where audience members could mingle before and after a concert in an informal setting, like a brew pub, and a distillery. They also put some innovation into their Bushnell performance, from having acrobats on stage, to adding a touch of theatre to a concert. For a performance of Lizst’s Faust, they enticed radio’s Colin McEnroe to script a narrative for two actors, and TheaterWorks director Eric Ort to stage the evening. Brilliance!

Travis G. Daly

Travis G. Daly is Berkshire Theatre Group’s resident director, who stages community productions at The Colonial Theatre in Pittsfield, which bring talented amateurs and professionals together for crowd pleasers like The Music Man and A Christmas Carol. He adapts plays for tours to area schools. His Encore! program, which brings the best performances of regional high school musicals to The Colonial Theatre, showcases local talent, but also teaches young people the importance of working together as a group to build something strong. Kudos to Daly!

Goodbyes and Farewells

We said a final farewell to: Larry Murray, the marketing genius who put ArtsBoston on the map, retired, moved to The Berkshires, and had a second career as scribe for Berkshire Onstage, and founder of “The Berkies”, The Berkshire Theatre Awards, which launched last year. Larry knew he was terminally ill at that point, and the Berkshire Theatre critics created The Larry Murray Award to honor an individual that made unprecedented accomplishments. Larry lived to see that first ceremony. We also said farewell to Janet Sadler, a dedicated arts administrator who had been affiliated with Musicorda, Yellow Barn, Commmonwealth Opera and later historic North Hall in Huntington; and to Frances Shames, a Springfield baed piano teacher and activist with The Community Music School of Springfield.

The Sad

Berkshire Museum

The Berkshire Museum, an art, history, and science museum that dates back to 1903, decided to sell off 40 paintings, amongst them two by Norman Rockwell, gifted to them by the artist. Their rationale: to fund their new vision to update the museum, bolster its science exhibits, pay down their deficit, and build their endowment. But the creative economy movers and shakers, from the Massachusetts Cultural Council and the Smithsonian, cried “foul”. The outrage from individuals, patrons, and donors was heard, and the Attorney General’s office got a temporary halt to the sale. No matter how this ultimately plays out, the Museum’s cavalier attitude towards its public has violated the public trust, and donors will think twice before supporting the Museum under its current leadership. The good which has come from this: a group of creative economy movers and shakers has offered to help the Museum’s board and staff look at alternative ways to raise money.

Next Week: The Outstanding Theatre Productions of the year.

Keep In Mind…

Home For The Holidays, The Majestic Theater’s family-friendly holiday variety show, returns to West Springfield December 13-22. The musical features some of Western Massachusetts’ talented community theatre people, many of them Majestic regulars. Ray Guillemette, Jr., who has headlined several previous Home for the Holidays shows and countless “A Ray of Elvis” sold-out shows at the Majestic. Cate Damon directs. 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. Mark produces and hosts ArtsBeat Radio on 89.5fm/WSKB.

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