Still going strong
Patriarchs of community theater stage modern take on mythology, and classic American musical
By Heidi Masek firstname.lastname@example.org
Ode to the prairie
Nashua’s 52-year-old community theater company, Actorsingers, is bringing back its old favorite, Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Oklahoma! Actorsingers produced the show in 1990 and 1973. A villain named Jud (Tom Ritrovato) comes between a cowhand, Curly (Michael Coppola), and farm girl Laurey (Mandy O’Neil) in a turn-of-the-20th-century Midwest territory. Laurey’s friend Ado Annie (Rachel Scott) sings about the attentions of traveling salesman Ali Hakim (Gary Vago) and cowhand Will (Thomas Caron) in “I Cain’t Say No.” Ballet, comedy and a murder are rolled into this 1943 show. Oklahoma! was the first musical to use song and dance to drive the story.
“We try to do something old and something new every year,” Kathy Lovering of Actorsingers said. The group’s fall performance of Evita was heavy with historical and political themes. Oklahoma! lets actors and audience just have fun with the show — plus, with “this one you can follow the plot,” Lovering said. Coincidently, they’ve learned 2007 is Oklahoma’s 100th anniversary of statehood.
New to Actorsingers, Dan Barth directs a cast of about 36. Music direction is by Peter Bonaccorsi and choral direction is by Henry Kopczynskie. Jessica Scalese choreographs.
To get in the mood, check out Hugh Jackman, (yes, Wolverine) as Curley in the 1999 PBS Great Performances DVD. Actorsingers presents Oklahoma! Friday, May 4, at 8 p.m., Saturday, May 5, at 2 and 8 p.m. and Sunday, May 6, at 2 p.m. at Keefe Auditorium at Lake and Elm streets in Nashua. Ticket costs range from $10 to $15. Call 320-1870 or visit actorsingers.org.
Same stories, different time
Hopkinton Equity actor Kevin Gardner left the Concord Community Players in the 1970s. But he’s finally found the right time and show to direct for the 79-year-old theater group in which his late parents were deeply involved. Gardner proposed the straight play, Metamorphoses, which will run May 3 through May 5.
Modern and ancient are mixed in Metamorphoses, which opened on Broadway in 2002. Mary Zimmerman’s script is contemporary but based on mythology from Roman poet Ovid.
“I think it’s mysterious to people, because I don’t think that Ovid is on everyone’s reading list,” Gardner said. Yet the stories, such as those of Narcissus and King Midas, are familiar to Westerners.
The god Apollo is a “classic absentee father” in this play, who reluctantly allows his son Phaeton to drive his chariot of the sun. Phaeton “immediately crashes the chariot into Earth and destroys all humanity,” Gardner said. The audience learns the story as Phaeton tells it to his therapist after the event. Throughout the session, the therapist addresses the audience analyzing Phaeton with psychological jargon. Zimmerman is subtle, but sends up the father and son’s relationship and modern psychology at the same time.
While “things don’t always happen in real time” and some of the action is abstract, “I think the impression it makes is one of simplicity, not complexity,” Gardner said of the play.
Gardner also composed and recorded an original score, “frankly because I love doing scores for plays,” and to tailor the music for this staging, he said. He’s recorded a mixture of ancient and modern sounds, mainly percussion and flute. He recorded all parts, except for some violin and mandolin from his niece.
Gardner said he’s been “enormously impressed” with the cast’s performance so far. Gardner has acted professionally since the late 1960s, mostly in small New England theaters. He switched focus to teaching and directing in the 1990s at Saint Paul School, Manchester Institute of Arts and Science (the precursor to NH Institute of Art) and Plymouth State.
Metamorpheses runs Thursday, May 3, through Saturday, May 5, at 8 p.m. at the Concord City Auditorium, 2 Prince St. Ticket costs range from $12 to $15. Call 228-2793 or visit communityplayersofconcord.org.