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Peter and the Starcatcher
LIZ CHIRICO----ONSTAGE BLOG, "IN DEFENSE OF SMALL THEATERS" ARTICLE. Last night I had the pleasure of seeing “Peter and the Starcatcher” at the Cannon Theatre in Littleon, MA. It’s a show that I knew astonishingly little about apart from the fact that I previously worked at the author’s high school alma mater. Unfortunately life and rehearsal for my own show prevented me from seeing “Peter” until its final weekend but to any OnStage fans in the greater Boston area looking for something to do tonight or tomorrow I recommend going. There’s some marvelous acting and the story itself is both funny and touching. Plus it features some incredible use of space. Which brings me back to the main point of my piece.
The Cannon Theatre is… umm… well there’s no way around this. It’s small. I think my college dorm room was bigger (not really. But you get my point.) It’s a black box theater that seats around 60. Quite comfortably too, which is a nice change from the folding chairs I’ve sat on for many a performance. There’s room for one set at a time on the stage that isn’t even large enough to fit the entire cast in a straight line for curtain call, they had to bend a bit. There’s no room for a pit, just a pianist in the rear of the theater on a mezzanine above the audience.
I love small theaters. And when I say small I don’t mean theaters on a shoe-string budget, I’m talking about theaters with a significant lack of space be it on stage or off. Because a small theater can’t rely on opulent sets, dazzling special effects and tons of props to divert your attention away from a poorly conceived/acted/directed story.
At a small theater like Cannon, intimate is the first word that springs to mind. Seated in the 2nd row, I was close enough to see individual beads of sweat on a couple performer’s foreheads. But I’m pretty sure the folks in the last row could see it as well. Which means the acting has to be on point. All the time. By everyone. And at least with “Peter” everyone’s acting was phenomenal. These characters came to life in a way I didn’t anticipate and I found myself totally immersed in the action.
As I mentioned this stage is tiny. “Peter and the Starcatcher” features 2 boats from Her Royal Majesty Queen Victoria’s (God Save the Queen!- Inside reference to the show, really go see it ) fleet, the underbelly of said ships, an island, an ocean grotto. a mountain, a forest/jungle… I think that’s everything. With such limited space it would be impossible to create scenery and backdrops for each scene and Cannon didn’t even try which I loved. Instead they used a couple of ladder/stair things on wheels (the types you see at the big box stores), some rope riggings set up on the far wall , beautifully painted surfboards and a handful of props to set each scene. It worked for me. Did I truly think I was inside a grotto with water all around? No. But that’s theater. In theater you should be exercising your own imagination, suspending your reality for the time you’re there. Let TV and movies put everything in your face. The small theaters have to be incredibly creative and judicious with their space. Usually the results end up being more exciting and transporting than the larger companies with all their backdrops and set pieces. Not everything is rosy for small theaters. They have to be cognizant of their limitations and pick shows that will work well in a streamlined environment.
That being said I think almost any show could stand to be stripped down provided you have the right mix of actors and vision behind the scenes. If you haven’t performed with, or seen a show in a small theater find one near you and visit today.
C. BRITTON-----GROTON The show was brilliantly cast, from your leading lady -- whose ability to carry the lead was impressive in an actor so young, and who very clearly has a bright future in the theater (and whose voice training showed through whenever she sang solo) -- and your Peter -- who somehow managed to come across as every bit of a lost adolescent boy, rather than as the young man who looked out at us from the program -- to your delightfully evil and misspoken villain and his hilarious side-kick, all the way down to the many secondary characters who somehow managed to steal bits of their scenes throughout the show: Your uproariously funny and alliterative Nana and her lovesick seaman, your despicable Captain of the Neverland who morphed into the Mollusk Princess with the excess of saliva (a man playing a woman and a woman playing a man -- I began to wonder if I was at the Globe!), your Mollusk King, whose "native" language betrayed his homesickness for his kitchen in dreaded Britain (and who was played by a member of our Church, who was the first person to tell us about this show), your vetty British Lord Aster, and Peter's friends -- whose in-character coda requesting donations to the theater was a show-stealer all by itself! Even the remaining two cast members -- Mr. Bernard and Ms. Rains -- whose principal characters weren't given all that much to do individually, showed an impressive versatility in their ever shifting roles within the group scenes.
We were also extremely impressed with your set -- for its own remarkable versatility. It takes some ingenuity for the same set to stand in so successfully for a London dock, several parts of two different ships, a lagoon, and a jungle!
Not long after they were published, my then young son read all of the "Peter and the Starcatcher" books -- the only books he was ever really excited to read. So for that reason -- and because I was a huge fan of Dave Berry -- I read them all as well. I couldn't imagine how a play -- particularly in a small theater -- could portray the wide ranging plot of even the first of these novels. But your production really did capture the essence of that first story.
What your production also did was to be so hilariously funny that I had to wonder if Dave Berry had had a hand in writing the script -- having suppressed the kind of humor he's known for in the novels themselves. I am something of an aficionado of puns and other forms of double-entendre word play. And, as I said above, I found myself rolling in the aisles as the pace of that word play accelerated to breakneck speed through your second act. Larry Lickteig had warned us that the play was funny, but that it was SO funny came as a very pleasant surprise to me!
So, to sum up, we wish to thank you and your cast and crew for a delightfully entertaining evening -- a particularly successful example of the quality we have experienced every time we've come to a Cannon Theater production.
M. CASSIDY----- Saw this Saturday Night! Everyone in the cast was wonderful, but my favorite was SMEE. Great Play!
E. GOLDFARB----MARLBORO I wasn't familiar with this show before I saw last night's performance, and I have to say it was delightful! Great job by all, including standouts Dave Kulvete and Nicholas Meunier!!
A. QUINN------LITTLETON We went to see Peter and the Starcatcher at Cannon Theatre yesterday. The cast did a great job and Shawn, Bret and all the other theater staff did wonderful work on the production. We all enjoyed the show, fun for the entire family. Buy tickets while you can, show ends next week.
JACK CRORY---Professor at Fitchburg State College, Director of Twelfth Night
The Cannon Theatre’s Fawlty Towers, directed by Bruce C. Browne, is proof that classic television comedy can also be hilarious on the stage. The script by John Cleese and Connie Booth, based on three episodes of their 1970s British show, is a nonstop parade of eccentric characters and clever jokes that makes for an entertaining night of theater. Basil Fawlty (Andrew Harrington) is the arrogant, incompetent owner of a second-rate resort hotel who takes out his self-loathing on his give-no-ground wife Sybil (Victoria Powell), his always-confused waiter and bellhop from Barcelona Manuel (Francis Hauert), and a series of unsuspecting, self-involved guests. This cast is uniformly excellent, nailing every comic bit with spot-on timing. Harrington anchors the show with a manic performance that switches fluidly from disgust at his station in life to fawning servitude to lords and hotel inspectors. Manuel was an audience favorite as the employee whose desperate struggle to learn English and please Basil lends a sweet silliness to episodes that would otherwise be dominated by Fawlty’s misanthropy. Larry Lickteig displays his acting chops by creating two distinct, believable characters in the laid-back, womanizing Danny and the fussy Mr. Hutchison. Other memorable performances include Peter Daniel as an appealingly dignified lord and Sandy Armstrong as a grand dame who refuses to turn up her hearing aid because it “drains the battery.” This stage adaptation of Fawlty Towers does not tell a weighty story, and contains few moments of seriousness; like the television show, it presents an anti-reality that is mainly a setting for skits and zingers. For a night of nonstop laughter, though, you can’t do better than this latest offering from the Cannon Theatre.
CYRANO DE BERGERAC
CATHERINE-----LITTLETON We loved it! We were especially impressed with all the lines and the rapidity with which they had to be delivered. The Monday after seeing the show, my husband took a group of kids to Guard Up in Burlington, as he does every year for a class choice during interrim week. Guess who he was able to catch up with and deliver an in person compliment? So, kids from Lexington Christian Academy got some great fencing classes with "Cyrano!"
RETURN TO OZ
HEATHER-----AYER Shawn Cannon should be very proud of her wonderful creation, and of the stellar performances of her 30 (thirty!!! on that stage!!) talented and enthusiastic young actors in Return to Oz at the Cannon Theatre. BRAVO, you insanely creative lady! I don't know how you do it.
A BAD YEAR FOR TOMATOES FRANK-----CHELMSFORD
Funny! Funny! Funny! Congrats to all! I highly recommend this! Not be missed! Get out and go to this play!
TWELVE DANCING PRINCESSES mandy----ayer
I brought my three kids along with me on Saturday to see 12 Dancing Princesses, and they can't stop talking about it and singing 'Revenge, Revenge, Revenge!' at the top of their lungs. Even my 8 year old boy enjoyed it which I think is the true test of a good performance. What a fantastic and original show! Great acting! I love this theatre!
ANNE OF GREEN GABLES GARY----LITTLETON Anne of Green Gables is for the whole family. The kids and I had great time seeing this lovely production of a sweet story. You can tell the cast was both having fun and taking it seriously. Everything the story requires is present: dresses with puffy sleeves, a brilliantly appointed set, vibrant red cordials, and weaponized slates. Hats off to the whole cast and all involved in the production. Carrot!
CHRISTINE-----LITTLETON We have been remiss in telling ALL of you how much we enjoyed
Anne of GreenGables! It was fabulous. The casting for Anne couldn't have been
more perfect. All the cast did a wonderful job, but Anne had SO MANY lines and
put so much enthusiasm into the part that we sat in amazement. I tried and tried
to bring a friend for the last weekend, but after inviting 3 (all busy) I gave
up. I would have definitely come back for seconds if I'd found a
companion. When leaving the theater my husband said, "That's the best one yet!
I always thought the Anne books were for girls, but now I'm going to read them!"
We've been season's ticket holders for several years now and up until this point
we would have put "By Jeeves" at the top of the list of our favorite plays done
at the theater. Anne gave it strong competition and may have just topped
it!Thanks for a delightful night and an escape to a better time
AN IDEAL HUSBAND Phil----Maynard
The Cannon Theatre has gone Wilde again with its early spring production of An Ideal Husband. This delightful show was well cast and directed by Tatiana Ivan. It had the same beautiful over the top set designs and costumes we have come to expect from the Cannon Theatre. Jacob Moore and Ian Dowell performed admirably in their respective roles of Sir Robert Chiltern and Lord Goring but it was the amazing supporting cast that delivered the scenes and performances that captivated me the most. Most notably among them was Will Dalley in the role of Lord Caversham. Wilde's dialogue and sentiment for Lord Caversham toward Lord Goring is somewhat repetitive and a performer could easily reduce this character to a monotonous rant. Instead Dalley's stage appearances kept me on the edge of my seat wondering what he would do next. He conveyed each line with an originality and vital nuance that lifted the character off the page and delivered him to the audience bursting with life and energy. Lida McGirr was great fun as Lady Markby. During one challenging monologue-like scene that seemed to take up half an act with little character movement she kept the scene alive with great comic timing and by creating a sense of varied setting as she moved us back and forth in her mind between the past she knew and the present she criticized. Andrew Harrington as Phipps had only brief moments on stage but in those moments was able to paint a thorough picture of the resigned state of punctilious passive aggressive obedience he has in his relationship with Lord Goring. Sonya Richards gave a playful portrayal of the controlling but whimsical Mabel Chiltern. As Mabel she captivated us with an embodiment of a sort of harmless danger in just the right mixture that really could lure the un-lurable Lord Goring and perhaps some of the audience as well. Her character adjustments based on who was on the stage with her in a given moment were also masterfully done. An Ideal Husband will go into the archives as another Cannon Theatre success. Be sure to see it before it goes, by getting out to one of the remaining shows this weekend or next.
I loved the show last night! This is my favorite of Wilde's plays, and the performances by the individual actors were excellent.
I had a wonderful time with my family going to see my sister Sonya Richards in the play, "An Ideal Husband" at the Cannon Theatre in Littleton, MA. Everything and everyone was excellent! I loved it all! I would definitely recommend going to this theater and seeing this play!
MURDERED TO DEATH Ina----Norwood
I am in the car going back home after seeing the Cannon Theater's production of 'Murdered to Death', and I decided I could not wait to get home to write this review. (I'm not the one driving, so don't worry) The first thing that stood out was the incredible professionalism and craft quality of the cast. It felt as if I was watching an off-Broadway production, as opposed to a community theater. It was jaw-dropping amazing. I kept wondering how they were able to find someone as perfect for the role of Inspector as Mr Ed Bernard: awkwardly tall and slender, with a face that doesn't need to utter a word for you to begin laughing. Other characters stood out as well, and it would be a disservice to all if I only highlighted a few. All I can say to others out there looking for a good time to head down to Littleton and come see this play. It was a very fun date and I hope we can head out here to see more of what they got to offer. Also, the cast was kind enough to pose for a picture with me and my friends on the stage at the end of the show. Thank you for being such great sports!
The Cannon Theatre continues to outdo itself and tonight was no different. "Murdered To Death" was just plain fun. A great selection well executed by cast, crew and director. I have seen most of the cast in other productions and this was a night filled with best performances in a strong ensemble cast with no weak links. As great ensembles do the cast played off each other cohesively as a group with each having special moments to call their own. They kept a solid momentum throughout. Even in this terrific cast Becky Fleckner gave a stand out performance in her supporting role as Constable Thomkins. Real, consistent, and nuanced in her portrayal she commanded the stage like a pro and played expertly off Ed Bernard's deliveries with comic ease and poise. Bravo to all on a great show well done! I'm looking forward to the next Cannon Theatre production.
Not your typical "whodunit"! All the actors delivered top notch performances, and I was truly drawn in from the very beginning. There are so many laugh-out-loud moments: Inspector Pratt is endearingly incompetent, Miss Maple is innocently cunning, and all the characters keep you giggling while at the same time keeping you transfixed to find out who the culprit is. And the production itself - costumes, set, sound - all were outstanding. But then I'd expect no less from The Cannon Theatre. Can't wait for their next show - they never fail to please!
Saw my brother in Murdered to Death last night at the Cannon Theatre in Littleton......what an awesome job he did as Inspector Pratt!! I laughed so hard!!
BLITHE SPIRIT Jim-----Nahant
We attended opening night of Blithe Spirit and thoroughly enjoyed it. Frankly, we don't attend "community theater" as a rule, but this production was theater as it should be. The acting was uniformly good and, in one case, outstanding. We had never seen any of them before and did not know what to expect.. We knew it was by Noel Coward and that it would be witty but, at the end of a long week, we didn't even look up the synopsis.The first thing we did upon returning home was to email friends and urge them to attend.
We thoroughly enjoyed the psychic journey of Blithe Spirit! The Cannon Theatre is so homey that, as we watched the show in this hidden gem, we were completely enveloped in the story. I had seen Blithe Spirit some odd years ago but this production "wow-ed" with a cast that impressed me in how well they captured the dynamic personalities of the characters. We found ourselves laughing through the night at one-liners and physical comedies of the show. Our ride back to RI was spend recapping favorite parts and lines -- the evening was a "real rouser!"
SHE LOVES ME Stephanie----Bolton
What a hilarious and professional production! We couldn't stop talking about it all the way home. I love that we have such amazing talent right here in our own backyard. My teenage son and daughter are still singing songs from the show. (They still sing songs from "By Jeeves".) The Cannon Theatre has proven to be delightfully family friendly and the shows are filled with humor that always has us laughing. Looking forward to the next production... and the next... and then next!
MARJORIE---LITTLETON I don’t know where Shawn Cannon finds so many area actors of top professional caliber for the Cannon’s latest musical comedy. Neither do I understand how she designs that brilliant set on that small stage. What I do know is that if you should find your way into her zany Theater at the Common to see “She Loves Me” you will have a rollicking good time with the singing, music, costumes, story – the whole shebang!
Arsenic And Old Lace
SC, you did it - AGAIN! We've come to expect a great evening of blended talent, humor & a cozy theater experience from your comedic productions. Last night's performance of "Arsenic & Old Lace" was no exception! Looking forward to my "first chance" @ your "Second Chance Revue" in Sept. ;~)
If you want to have an evening of pure enjoyment, by all means see Arsenic and Old Lace at The Cannon Theatre. The nefarious characters are well cast, the biblical quotes just a tad off, with just enough double entendres to keep you on your toes! John and I had a good laugh (several in fact) and a great evening all the way around. Don't miss a chance to see these thespians in action. They've done a fantastic job. I highly recommend you check out the website and see the show.
Shawn Cannon's The Cannon Theatre is a great night out, for intimate, professionally produced local theatre. I have a ton of respect for the effort that she, her husband and all the actors put into their shows.
The play was great. We enjoyed it very much. As always, the actors were great and the costumes, set design, everything, was great.
Jeeves was absolutely fabulous tonight! My parents and I had a
wonderful time- full of laughs for sure! :-) Fantastic job everyone! It
was very well done!
We totally enjoyed the comedy and fabulous acting in "By
Jeeves." It was delightful! Not having heard of the musical, but having enjoyed
Charley's Aunt. This time we invited our twenty something son along with his
girlfriend. They loved it! They think they'd like to return with us for "Arsenic
and Old Lace" as they're not familiar with it, and we assured them it was a
classic. I am now trying to get a few friends together for the last weekend
performance, if they're not busy. I would not mind seeing it again in the
Thanks for another wonderful performance!
Great show with a talented cast, both dramatically and musically. High
energy cast! Our party included a friend from London who was enchanted
by the whole experience including the venue, the play and of course the
great catered goodies. She thought the English accents were (British
understatement alert) "quite good". She had the cast autograph the
Cannon's postcard so the Cannon Theatre's reputation now will have
jumped the big pond. As in all productions at the theater if you sit in the
front row you get the added thrill of half expecting one of the actors
to land in your lap. P.G. Wodehouse would have had great fun at this
What a blast! If you want to feel good about life, even in this
discouraging world, hurry up to the Cannon Theatre to see "By Jeeves." I
guarantee you will come out smiling.
HURRAH HURRAH! Saw a production in 1996 in London and you matched them!
In ENERGY you beat them! The voices, the acting and everything rates
very high marks. Congratulations to ALL at the Cannon Theatre. As Jeeves
might say you're really TOO TOO MUCH!
saw By Jeeves tonight. It was a great show! Very funny. Excellent
cast. I had a great time! Perfect casting. I highly recommend it.
"By Jeeves"-----it was a jolly good time last night! The cast of
characters was well matched & FUN! Their expressions - priceless!
Their timing - flawless! Their voices - clear & well projected!
Their energy level - exhilarating! I love the intimacy of the "small
theatre" experience. Well done, SC! Looking forward to your next
By Jeeves was thoroughly enjoyable! All the actors sang and played splendidly, though the voice talents of Jeeves and "Stiffy" were especially enjoyable! Encore, encore!
SEE HOW THEY RUN
Thanks for a fun show! The kids loved it! It is great to have a place to bring them for family friendly live theatre. We'll be back for the next one. Keep it up!