July 23, 2009


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Theater on the grass
Review: HSM is all-singing, all-dancing; Have drunken fun at The Tempest; Hot Buttons shines
By Heidi Masek hmasek@hippopress.com

Disney’s High School Musical
It was raining during the opening night of Disney’s High School Musical in Manchester’s Veterans Park July 17. It can be difficult to see over umbrellas, but the lead actors carried off their parts pretty well in this community show from New Thalian Players.

What looked like a mostly teen cast sang and danced their way through a story of cliques trying to keep a basketball star and an academically inclined girl from singing in the school play. It’s not subtle — it’s spelled out for you. There’s even a song called “Stick to the Status Quo.”

The two adult cast members playing a drama teacher and a basketball coach do have a pointed exchange about the situation of arts in education, which is also not subtle, but interesting.

And while HSM has a great live band and some fun choreography — I wouldn’t be surprised if the cheerleaders actually are cheerleaders — the show is definitely more appropriate for families or HSM fans. Interestingly, the probably adolescent group next to me was having the most un-PG conversation, yet still seemed to know words to some of the songs. Perhaps it was nostalgia for a simpler, more innocent time, like when they were 12.

New Thalian Players presents High School Musical twice more as part of its Theatre in the Park program, which is free to audiences, Friday, July 24, and Saturday, July 25, at 8 p.m. in Veterans Park on Elm Street in Manchester, free.

If you go, try to sit up close to the stage, if you can. Otherwise, when there are a lot of actors on stage all moving about, those speaking can kind of sound like disembodied voices through the speakers. Don’t worry, there are opening acts starting at 6:30 p.m. to take in while you stake out your spot. Teen Actorsingers of Nashua are expected to preview their production of Swing at 6:30 p.m. on July 24.

Visit newthalianplayers.org to learn more.

The Tempest
Nashua Theatre Guild presented well-executed Shakespeare for its 17th Shakespeare in the Park season at Greeley Park July 18.

But it would be awesome if someone could find it in their hearts to lend them some mikes.

If you go, sit close, because whenever the actors turn away from the audience to address each other, they can be hard to hear.

The Tempest is set on the island Prospero escaped to after his brother Antonio conspired with a king to take over Prospero’s seat as the Duke of Milan.

Some of the most entertaining parts are drunken exchanges among the jester Trinculo, played by Carly Jo Geer in a costume somewhat reminiscent of Rainbow Brite, butler Stephano, played by Rich Hurley, and of course Caliban (Gail Angellis), a half-fish slave of the protagonist Prospero (Arthur Barlas). They make the most of lines like, “Really, do not turn me about. My stomach is not constant,” or Caliban’s “Let me lick thy shoe,” with their comic timing and body language.

Angellis used exaggerated physical and vocal traits to transform herself into the strange monster and earned plenty of appreciation from the crowd. Angellis in particular (it’s a demanding part) and the cast don’t hold back — they are all confident in their roles, and The Tempest seemed well cast. There’s a fairly wide age range to the characters, but younger actors like Elizabeth Ten-Hove, who played Ariel, certainly kept pace with more mature or experienced actors.

Actors made great use of the grass area, frequently entering through the audience. In answer to, “Dost thou like the plot, Trinculo?” Geer sits up in the grass, puts two thumbs up, and says “Excellent,” exactly like an exhausted drunk person would who is agreeing so they can lay back down would do.

I have to give the community actors extra kudos for presenting such a polished Shakespearean performance in a busy park, under hot sun, with no budget.  Check it out, but bring your sunblock, bug spray, water and probably a hat, and sit as close as you can (yes, I know the shade is farther away). Nashua Theatre Guild performs The Tempest twice more, Saturday, July 25, and Sunday, July 26, at 2 p.m., at Greeley Park, Concord Street in Nashua, free (www.nashuatheatreguild.org, 320-2530).

Hot Buttons
Night number two for the premiere of Hot Buttons, a musical by Granite Staters Dave Agans and Winfield Clark, went well.

It’s an entertaining and fun comedy about a robot, Omni-Fixa, who is tasked with fixing the dangerously defective products made by monopoly Flummex. Along the way, Omni falls for satellite robot Alpha-Lingua, a corporate takeover is planned, a mystery is solved, the fourth wall is broken several times, robots fight prejudice, and some humans even fall in love.

The setting provides plenty of opportunity for robot and technology jokes. Agans is the author of tech book Debugging; he knows his subject matter.

The cast overall is good, but Hot Buttons also features three professional-quality singers: Dingo (Steve) Ihde as Omni, Cathy McKay as Kareen Wildley and Caity Glover as Celeste Doolowitz.

Agans and Clark have been working on Hot Buttons for more than a decade and hope to take it farther than Milford. Milford Area Players presented (Agans is the president) this on their community troupe budget, which isn’t easy with a show like this. I couldn’t help wondering what it might look like if it were done professionally and what a field day designers would have with a large production budget. Still, the costuming, sets and props here work well to support the action.

Jeff Caron directs.

Hot Buttons continues Friday, July 24, and Saturday, July 25, at 8 p.m., and Sunday, July 26, at 2 p.m., at the Amato Center, 56 Mont Vernon St. in Milford (673-9073, www.MilfordAreaPlayers.org). At a bargain $12 for an adult ticket, and $7 for students and seniors, there’s not much reason to skip this chance to see what your fellow locals have been developing (and you don’t need bug spray). — Heidi Masek

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7/9/2009 The Bard and Disney!
7/02/2009 Robots!
6/25/2009 Curtain calls
6/18/2009 Altered souls
6/11/2009 Curtain calls
6/4/2009 Curtain calls
5/28/2009 This one time at theater camp ...
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5/7/2009 Review:Actorsingers produces The Producers
4/30/2009 Journey to and through Motherhood
4/23/2009 Concord does the Full Monty
4/16/2009 Courtroom drama
4/9/2009 Scotland- bound
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3/26/2009 The original sitcom
3/19/2009 Palace to produce The Producers
3/12/2009 British farce and new romantic comedy
3/5/2009 Curtain calls
2/26/2009 Serious stories
2/19/2009 Curtain calls
2/12/2009 On Golden Pond writer honored
2/5/2009 Divorce and death
1/29/2009 Red carpet?
1/22/2009 Curtain calls
1/15/2009 Money, powqer and family
1/8/2009 Offer your two cents
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11/20/2008 Mary's new home
11/13/2008 Company, Secret garden and Doubt
11/6/2008 That Broadway sound
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8/28/2008 Tennessee Williams at Weirs
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7/31/2008 Merry tales
7/24/2008 Review: the great outdoors
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6/5/2008 This one time, at drama camp...
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4/17/2008 'Balance' in Bedford
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3/27/2008 These aren't recitals folks
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3/13/2008 Murder and rhinos
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2/28/2008 The art of theater criticism
2/21/2008 Breaking the cycle
2/14/2008 Curtain Calls
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1/31/2008 Elvis fans and ghost stories
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1/3/2008 A little confidence
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12/06/2007 Curtain Calls
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11/22/2007 Broadway composer and actress hit Granite State
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11/1/2007 First times
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02/16/2006 Herding CATS
02/09/2006 An actors' studio
02/02/2006 A thing about love
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Wake up to ‘night Mother