By Mark G. Auerbach
Mini-Reviews: Arts Online, Part Two
Corona Covers. James Barry, the actor, director, and musician seen in many productions at Berkshire Theatre Group and Chester Theatre, found his packed schedule instantly free, as the pandemic hit. So, putting his musicianship, acting, and directing skills to work, he created a novel concept: Corona Covers. You picked a song, and paid a fee, and he’d record it and post it to YouTube, and split his fee with a non-profit. You could dedicate the song to someone for their birthday or special occasion. He’s had over 200 requests and dedications, and he turns each song, with music ranging from the Beatles to Credence Clearwater Revival, Paul Simon to Madonna, into a mini musical theatre piece. He’s often accompanied by his wife, the actor Tara Franklin and their son, Sam. Some of my favorite Corona covers are: Melanie’s “Brand New Key”; the classic made famous by the Mamas and The Papas, Dream A Little Dream.” Madonna’s “Material Girl” and John Denver’s “Take Me Home, Country Roads.” His musicianship is top notch, and his ability to turn a song into a story is a fine example of directing. I find myself wandering over to YouTube for a quick song break during the day. Find his music on YouTube as James Barry.
Scene and Heard Live, Hartford Stage’s online series, features new Artistic Director Melia Bensussen as host of conversations with her theatre colleagues and community partners about theatre past, present, and future. She’s an engaging presence with a smoky voice made for storytelling. She seems empathetic and neighborly, and her guests, drawn from her many connections from theatres nationwide, offer lively conversation. She says “as a storyteller, as a theatre-maker, I turn to the power of narrative as a tool for building empathy and accountability. I am now contemplating how our beloved Hartford Stage as an institution, can help build a stronger urban center and a more empathetic and accountable world, not only through our storytelling, but also by being in community, building relationship, and standing with all of our neighbors” New episodes air on Wednesdays. This is classy conversation with a heart. For details: www.hartfordstage.org..
Berkshire Opera Festival has cancelled its Fifth Anniversary Gala Concert scheduled for August 13 at the Mahaiwe in Great Barrington. Plans are underway to reimagine their production of Mozart’s Don Giovanni, with performances scheduled on August 22, 25, and 28th at the Colonial Theatre in Pittsfield. The opera will be semi-staged with full orchestra and chorus, but without sets and costumes, in a way that provides social distancing for both audience and performers. For details: www.berkshireoperafestival.org
The Majestic Theatre will reopen in January with a continuation of its production of Stan Freeman’s The Pitch, which closed early due to the pandemic. The well-received drama about two sports reporters, originally starred John Haag and Julian Handley. Murder For Two, a musical whodunnit follows in February. Danny Eaton’s Betty and The Patch, a world premiere, plays the West Springfield theatre in April, followed by the musical 9 to 5, originally scheduled for this year. For details: https://majestictheater.com/
Silverthorne Theatre will present a summer Thursday Playreading Series, streamed live free through Silverthorne’s Facebook page and YouTube channel. Each of the three plays will feature live post-reading discussions with the playwrights. The season opens on June 18 at 7PM, with Daniel Elihu Kramer’s [email protected], staged by Chris Rohmann. Kramer is Artistic Director of The Chester Theatre Company, whoise play reimagines Jane Austen’s classic Pride and Prejudice for five actors playing 22 roles. On July 22, in a co-production with Cvhester Theatre Company, Kramer directs Darcy Bruce’s Soldier Poet, a drama set in Syria, where two American soldiers rescue a pregnant woman. Northampton playwright James McLindon’s Distant Music, directed by Penney Hulten, wraps the series on August 20. The play is set in a Cambridge, MA bar in January 2000. All programs stream at 7PM. For details: www.silverthornetheater.org.
Joel Revzen, the award-winning conductor at the Metropolitan Opera, Arizona Opera, and Berkshire Opera for 14 seasons, has passed away from COVID19 at age 74. That now-defunct Berkshire Opera presented the world premiere of Steve Paulus’ Summer. Revzen also conducted at Tanglewood. For details: https://www.phoenixnewtimes.com/arts/joel-revzen-former-arizona-opera-artistic-director-dies-11472355
Ann, the one-person play about Texas Governor Ann Richards, by and with Holland Taylor, will be aired on PBS Great Performances on June 19. WAM Theatre had a great success with a Berkshires production of Ann, starring Jayne Atkinson, and staged by Kristen Van Ginhoven. WAM’s production was restaged at Washington, DC’s Arena Stage (with Atkinson) and at the Dallas Theatrwe Center. For detaIls: https://www.pbs.org/wnet/gperf/ann-about/10421/
Berkshire Theatre Group continues its online Learn At Home program in June. On Mondays, there’s crafting at 3PM with Caroline Stamm, and Theatre Book Club with Katie Birenboim at 4PM. On Wednesdays, Kathy Jo Grover presents Learn A Song and Sing-Along at 3PM, followed by BTG PLAYS online playrighting class with Travis Daly, Allison Rachele Bayles, Sadiya Quetti-Goodson and Lillian Colvin at 4PM. Isadora Wolfe teaches Torch Pilates and Conditioning at 10AM, followed by David Adkins’ Casual Fridays at 2PM, and a lecture series at 3PM by David L. Auerbach. For details: www.berkshiretheatregroup.org.
Joe Iconis and Family are featured on Lincoln Center’s American Songbook. The composer, lyricist, playwright, and musician is best known for his Broadway hit, Be More Chill. He has an on-going relationship as an Associate Artist with Barrington Stage Company, who workshopped his musical The Black Suits, and later premiered his musical Broadway Bounty Hunter, which starring Annie Golden, moved on to New York. Stream anytime: .https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KHRRs0IGPKI&feature=emb_title
Lifting Every Voice, a virtual perform-a-thon, will be held by the Community Music School of Springfield on the afternoon and evening ofJune 11. The event showcases the talents of faculty, students and alumni, children through adult, The event is a fundraiser for the CMSS Financial Aid and Scholarship Programs. Event access is through the CMSS website and Facebook Live. For details: https://www.communitymusicschool.com/event/lifting-every-voice-perform-a-thon/
The New York Times presents Offstage: Opening Night. Celebrating the Broadway season that was and will be. The new series premieres June 11 at 7PM. Watch Patti LuPone and the cast of Company perform the show’s opening number. See Mary-Louise Parker’s monologue from The Sound Inside. Hear from playwright Jeremy O. Harris, the creator of Slave Play. Sing along with Elizabeth Stanley of Jagged Little Pill. For details: https://timesevents.nytimes.com/broadway/dnl?utm_source=dnl&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=broadway&utm_content=openingnight
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 TV/Radio for WCPC15 and 89.5fm/WSKB and is a contributor to Pioneer Valley Radio.