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'100 Years of Broadway' headed to Symphony Hall

October 21, 2014
(As originally seen on MassLive by Keith O'Connor)

The best person to describe what Neil Berg's 100 Years of Broadway, coming to Symphony Hall in Springfield on Nov. 1, is all about is the producer himself.

"Tell your readers it's just as if I'm throwing a party at my house and the audience is invited over for an intimate evening of music, no matter how large an audience we're playing to," said Berg.

Ten years after the show's debut, Berg said the audiences keep coming back for more.

"There are a couple of reasons why. I always get comments after the show from people who tell me the songs bring back memories for them….it might be that they saw the show on Broadway or that their parents played the album in the house when they were young," said Berg.

"Also, I think people appreciate the fact that Broadway is truly an American art form. We stole from everyone, it's an amalgamation of so many things from tin pan alley to vaudeville to opera and more. People love to gel stories with music, and eventually people like Jerome Kern and Rogers and Hammerstein took it to a new level when they figured out how to forward a plot with songs," he added.

"100 Years of Broadway" recreates the greatest moments from the finest shows of the century, featuring the actual stars of shows such as "The Phantom of the Opera," "Les Miserables," "CATS," "Jesus Christ Superstar," and "Jekyll & Hyde."

Among the scheduled performers at the Saturday show will be:

Jeannette Bayardelle – Bayardelle starred in the revival production of "Hair" on Broadway and in "The Color Purple" on Broadway. She has also shared the stage with artists such as Donnie McClurkin and Michelle Williams from Destiny's Child. According to Berg, audiences will hear Bayardelle performing additional Broadway songs as "And I Am Telling You" from "Dreamgirls" and "Natural Woman" from "Beautiful: The Carole King Musical."

Richard Todd Adams – Adams, who holds a Master's in Music from The Juilliard School, made his Broadway debut in 2005 in Andrew Lloyd Webber's "Woman in White." He has played the Phantom and Raoul in "The Phantom of the Opera" on its tours of the United States, as well as the Los Angeles company of "Phantom." Berg said audiences can expect to hear such songs from Adams as "The Music of the Night" from "Phantom" and others from "Les Miserables."

Rita Harvey – Harvey is the principle soprano in Berg's Broadway salute and the producer's wife. She made her Broadway debut in the lead role of Christine Daee in "The Phantom of the Opera" and performed on Broadway in the role of Hodel in the latest revival of "Fiddler on the Roof." In addition to paying tribute to her Broadway roles, Berg said his wife will also be singing some of the "great soprano material" from "The Sound of Music."

Berg serves as narrator of the show.

"This isn't just a concert where people get up and sing. I narrate the show with historical information and behind-the-scenes anecdotes about the songs and performers. It's not just great entertainment, but a love letter to the history of Broadway musicals," said Berg.

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California, Montreal guitar trios to team up at CityStage

October 7, 2014
(As originally seen on MassLive by Keith O'Connor)

Audiences will be getting two shows for the price of one when the California Guitar Trio shares the stage on Oct. 16 at CityStage with the equally accomplished Montreal Guitar Trio.

"We had heard about the Montreal Guitar Trio for a long time, and they were aware of us. It was only a matter of time before our paths crossed. A few years ago we were at a booking conference in Oregon and heard them play, and they heard us. Just by coincidence, we were all on the same flight going to Chicago and we got to talking and there was an interest expressed in getting together. Both of our agencies loved the idea and immediately started booking some shows together for us," said Paul Richards of the California Guitar Trio.

Their coming together was a marriage made in heaven.

"When we got together for the first time in the rehearsal studio, it was as if we had been playing together for years. It was amazing how well we all blended together. The Montreal Guitar Trio come from a classical background and play nylon-stringed guitars, while we play on steel-stringed-guitars. Each offer a uniquely different sound, and when the three and three are blended together it's just a beautiful thing and I don't think its ever been done before to the extent we are doing it in this show," Richards said.

The California Guitar Trio's multi-genre explorations have driven 14 albums and nearly 1,500 gigs across its 22-year career. Comprising Bert Lams of Affligem, Belgium; Hideyo Moriya of Chiba, Japan, and Richards of Utah, the group criss crosses the universes of rock, jazz, world music, surf music, and classical music in its performances and recordings.

The trio met while participating in Robert Fripp's Guitar Craft courses in 1987. They first toured together as part of Fripp's League of Crafty Guitarists, an orchestra of acoustic players that served as exponents of the King Crimson founder's teachings, compositions, and performance approach. In 1991, they founded the California Guitar Trio in Los Angeles, which initially gained notoriety opening for the likes of King Crimson, John McLaughlin, and David Sylvian. Their music has even been used to wake-up the crew of the Space Shuttle Endeavour.

For over 15 years, the Montreal Guitar Trio have been winning over audiences around the world. The trio, composed of guitarists Marc Morin, Sébastien Dufour and Glenn Lévesque, has given hundreds of concerts in some of the most prestigious venues across North America, Europe, New Zealand and Australia, including the BB King Blues Club in New York, the Rundetårnet in Copenhagen, and the legendary Concertgebouw in Amsterdam.

The Oct. 16 show will see the acts performing independently in the first half of the program, followed by a breathtaking six-guitar format. They play arrangements of each other's material, as well as innovative takes on rock standards.

"I think people will find that there is something for everyone in our performance with the Montreal Guitar Trio, Those who have never seen an instrumental guitar show will usually leave the show with an appreciation some portion of the group repertoire, since we play such diverse and different," Richards said.

"We find that our audience is comprised of everyone from little kids to folks in their 70s and 80s. During a recent tour, a woman in her 90s came up to me and said she had never heard any instrumental guitar music before the show, and how much she enjoyed it," he added.

The guitarist noted even though the show is predominantly instrumental, one of the members of the Montreal Guitar Trio sings and will likely add vocals to George Harrison's "While My guitar Gently Weeps," Richards noted.

"I also like to feel that we sing through our guitars, that the singing quality comes through when we play them," Richards said.

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Jekyll & Hyde to put a chill in the air on Oct. 10 at Symphony Hall

October 1, 2014
(As originally seen on MassLive by Keith O'Connor)

An epic musical tale of good vs. evil, "Jekyll & Hyde" brings the "strange case of Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde" to the Symphony Hall stage on Friday, Oct. 10, for one show only at 7:30 p.m.

The play hits close to home with former Southborough resident Laura Helm starring in the role of prostitute Lucy Harris, a nightclub singer at the Red Brick where she becomes entangled in the Jekyll and Hyde web.

"I feel very blessed to get the lead female role in my very first national tour. I'm so grateful to be working alongside a wonderful cast," Helm said.

"While I was auditioning for the role, I was also performing in a play at The Palace Theatre in Manchester, New Hampshire, called 'My Mixtape: Sounds of the 80s.' It was quite a drive going from New Hampshire to the audition in New York City, then driving back to New Hampshire to perform in the show," she added, about the 10-hour round-trip commute.

The gothic musical thriller brings to life Robert Louis Stevenson's timeless novella, concerning the case of a Victorian England doctor and his all too ill-fated experiment, which attempts to separate good and evil within a living human subject, himself.

The current touring production, presented by Touring Theatre Associates LLC, is a re-imagined, sensual, psychological thriller – less like the more recent rock-oriented version starring "American Idol's" Constantine Maroulis and closer to the original production –which includes such audience musical favorites as "Someone Like You," "In His Eyes," and its stellar standout, "This is the Moment."

"For my college audition, my voice teacher picked 'Someone Like You' for me to perform. It's one of the most iconic songs from 'Jekyll & Hyde' and it's been a dream role of mine to play Lucy. But I never thought the first time would be at this point in my career on my first-ever national tour," Helm said.

Born in Huntington Beach, California, Helms moved with her family at the age of nine to Southborough. She started dancing seriously while in high school and performed in several choirs and numerous musicals before deciding that a life in theater was her calling. She attended The Hartt School of Music in Connecticut, where she earned her BFA in musical theater in May 2012. Today, based out of New York City, her parents still reside in Southborough.

"Jekyll & Hyde" made its Broadway debut at the Plymouth Theater in 1997 and ran for more than 1,500 performances. Originally conceived for the stage by Frank Wildhorn and Steve Cuden, the play features original music by Wildhorn, a book by Leslie Bricusse, and lyrics by Wildhorn, Bricusse and Cuden. The current touring production is directed by Paul Stancato with musical direction by Jeffrey Campos.

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John Denver tribute returning to CityStage

September 30, 2014
(As originally seen on MassLive by Keith O'Connor)

After the success of his John Denver Musical Tribute at CityStage last year, Ted Vigil – who bears a close resemblance to the late "country boy" – will return to the Springfield stage to once again pay homage to the gifted performer and his music.

But, when Vigil returns to CityStage on Oct. 11, it will be minus a special friend he had been bringing along to perform on stage with him – Steve Weisberg, Denver's lead guitarist, who passed away in May after losing his battle with cancer.

"I know that Steve will be with me in spirit while I'm in Springfield. He had such a huge influence on me and helped me tremendously in many ways both on stage and in my personal life. I can truly say my life is richer for having known and worked with him," said Vigil.

Prior to joining up with Weisberg, Vigil has been doing the tribute show alone for about seven year.

With two of his favorite musicians gone, Vigil said he now has something special to remember them by.

"Steve left me in his will a unique tour pendant that John had designed and given to all the members in his band on their 1975 tour. On the back of the pendant is written, 'I love you, John.' It's a very special gift," said Vigil.

In reflecting on his upcoming performance in Springfield, Vigil offered his thoughts on his Top 3 John Denver songs performed in his tribute show.

1. "Take Me Home, Country Roads" – "I'd have to say it's the most thrilling thing that happens to me on stage, when some 400 to 500 people are all singing 'Take Me Home, Country Roads' along with me. It's as if we all become one and nothing else matters in with world as we sing together and have a great time. The song is a favorite of mine and I can relate to it, it's very relaxing. It was a great anthem for John and I'm sure it was among his top favorites."

2. "Sunshine on My Shoulders" – "This is a song I never really played on stage. It's a great one, and people certainly remember it, but it is so slow, and there were already slow numbers in my set. After I met Steve (lll) he asked me about the song and why it wasn't in my set, so I explained why to him and told him that I did know how to play it. He told me that it really needed to be on my set list because it touched so many people and was just so heartwarming."

3. "Annie's Song" – "It's tough to select what would be my number three song because I have so many favorites, but it would have to be "Annie's Song," which John wrote for his wife. There's such a beautiful melody in the song, and you can tell that John really deeply loved Annie. But, John was on the road a lot and it was tough for him to be away from her. So, there were many ups and downs in their marriage which eventually resulted in divorce. John never got over Annie and I heard he was going to get back with her before he died."

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The Midtown Men pick 5 favorite hits from upcoming Symphony Hall show

September 10, 2014
(As originally seen on MassLive by Keith O'Connor)

Now on their fifth nationwide tour, The Midtown Men will return to Springfield's Symphony Hall on Sept. 19 after thrilling audiences two years ago with their nostalgic trip through the music that defined the 1960. – and this time around they have a whole new bag of songs.

The Midtown Men are the four stars from the original cast of "Jersey Boys" – Tony Award-winner Christian Hoff, Michael Longoria, Daniel Reichard and Tony Aware-nominee J. Robert Spencer – whose concert tour reunites the four stars from the original cast of Broadway's "Jersey Boys."

Among the popular groups and individual artists the "men" will pay tribute to are The Beatles, The Rascals, The Turtles, the Motown sound, The Four Seasons and many others.

Midtown Man Daniel Reichard said it was an honor to have been in a Broadway production like 'Jersey Boys' that was turned into a big screen movie,"

Asked what his five top songs that will be sung at their Springfield show, Reichard offered up his choices:

"Groovin'" by The Young Rascals – "Just listening to the song harkens back to the laid back, feel good vibe of the '60s. We just have a lot of fun with the song and kick back with it. We've gotten to know The Rascals over the years and have performed with some of their members. In fact, their guitarist Gene Cornish comes up on stage to perform with us on our PBS special that will air sometime in December. We just have a lot of fun with the song and kick back with it."

"You're All I Need To Get By" by Marvin Gaye with Tammi Terrell – "This song is the climax of our pride and joy – our Motown sequence in the show. It has become an anthem, a rally, for not only our connection with our own families and loved ones, but it is also an anthem for our group and unifies us every time we sing the song. There is such a passion heard throughout the entire song, which is really about sticking things out with people you care about. As a group, we've been through so much in the past decade and it's an affirmation every time we perform the song on stage that we are still giving it our all."

"Ain't No Mountain High Enough" by Diana Ross – "We have a new arrangement for this song and all of The Midtown Men's different personalities are represented when we perform it. We see 'Ain't No Mountain High Enough" as one of those songs that unifies a crowd. It's such an iconic song, and when we sing something like that is means so much to the many people who have a deep human connection to it. It's an honor to sing it for everyone and for them to hear it a different way."

"Be My Baby" by The Ronettes – "This time around on tour we're having a lot of fun with our set list and have added many new songs that Springfield audiences, who saw us last time around, will not have heard. We're pushing the boundaries and are covering the many girl groups from the '60s like The Ronettes, and not just singing guy group songs. I think audiences will enjoy hearing this popular girl group song with a Midtown Men twist."

"December, 1963 (Oh, What a Night)" by The Four Seasons – "This is one of the first five numbers we perform from 'Jersey Boys.' Our show has always been about singing songs by our favorite groups of the '60s, and we take great pride in bringing this song that we sang every night in 'Jersey Boys' to our audiences today. Although the song actually came out in the '70s, it's still relevant for us and our new show. It was my song to sing in 'Jersey Boys' and on the award-winning album from the Broadway musical."

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Audience favorites, new offerings to make up CityStage and Symphony Hall 2014-2015 season

June 17, 2014
(As originally seen on MassLive by Keith O'Connor)

When CityStage and Symphony Hall begins its 2014-2015 season in September, they will be bringing back some crowd pleasers from years gone by alongside many new shows from Jingle Babes for the holidays to a mop top tribute called Yesterday & Today: The Interactive Beatles Experience.

"We are giving our loyal patrons the return engagements they have been asking for, but we are also bringing in new and unique entertainment like the vocaldente group from Germany and The Wellington National Ukelele Orchestra," said Tina D'Agostino, president of CityStage and Symphony Hall.

"I'm also thrilled that we finally landed a date on the Love, Loss and What I Wore tour. I saw the show a few years ago in New York and thought it was perfect for CityStage. I've been making offers on it for a couple of years, hoping to bring it to Springfield ever since I saw it. It's so rewarding when things finally work out, especially when the audiences are receptive," she added.

D'Agostino said she is excited about the eclectic mix of shows, noting comedies and tributes are very popular at CityStage.

"I am looking forward to the return engagement of The Male Intellect: an oxymoron? and CityStage's favorite Elvis, Matt Lewis, and Ted Vigil who delivers an amazing tribute to John Denver. All of those shows had great box office records, and we've had people come back time and time again, but these are also great shows for a first time experience at the venue. The Male Intellect is a funny show about relationships and really gets to the root of what women want. Some of us on staff still quote our favorite lines from the show, it's that memorable and incredibly funny," she said.

According to D'Agostino, CityStage is "a versatile space, and a great place to see live music, comedy and theater."

"At the start of the season, the focus is truly on music. Guitar aficionados will have the opportunity to see the 'phenomensemble' of The California Guitar Trio and Montery Guitar Trio performing original compositions and new arrangements of rock, world, jazz and classical music. Then, the following month we are bringing in Tavares, one of the most memorable soul groups of the 70s and 80s," she said.

D'Agostino noted the new season is going to be a crucial year for Broadway at Symphony Hall.

"Many touring productions simply won't fit in the building, but the two that we've booked this year, 'Jekyll & Hyde' and 'Buddy - The Buddy Holly Story,' have played there before and were amazing shows. I am hopeful that we can continue to bring in large productions like this, and that these shows attract a lot of people," she said.

For those who want a little more variety rolled into one show, Symphony Hall will play host to a couple of concerts featuring the music of Broadway and popular hits from the 1960s. "Neil Berg's 100 Years of Broadway" showcases the most popular Broadway songs, from classics to contemporary and The Midtown Men are four stars from the original cast of "Jersey Boys" returning to Symphony Hall.

The new season wil also include family-friendly programming during the school vacation weeks. In addition to The Magic of Bill Blagg in February at CityStage with matinee and evening performances, there will be a matinee performance of the Popovich Comedy Pet Theatre at Symphony Hall in April.

"Personally, I am most looking forward to The Wellington National Ukelele Orchestra, I think it's going to be a very unique and uplifting show that is also family friendly," said D'Agostino. She said they are also looking at other concerts and will be announcing their stand-up comedy series later in the summer.

Tickets for all shows go on sale to members on June 18. Tickets to The Midtown Men go on sale to the public July 21 and the rest of the season shows go on sale to the public beginning September 8.

SYMPHONY HALL 2014-15
Sept. 19 – The Midtown Men
Oct. 10 – Broadway's Jekyll & Hyde
Nov. 1 – Neil Berg's 100 Years of Broadway
Nov. 22 – Medium Lisa Williams
Jan. 10 – The Wellington International Ukelele Orchestra
Jan. 18 – Broadway's BUDDY – The Buddy Holly Story
April 22 – Popovich Comedy Pet Theatre

CITYSTAGE 2014-15
Oct. 11 – A Tribute to John Denver with Ted Vigil and Steve Weisberg
Oct. 16 – California Guitar Trio + Montreal Guitar Trio
Nov. 21 – Tavares
Dec. 12 – Jingle Babes – a holiday version of The Four Bitchin' Babes
Feb.12-14 – The Male Intellect: An Oxymoron?
Feb. 20 – The Magic of Bill Blagg
Feb. 28-29 – Vocaldente - Germany's Most Successful A Cappella Export
March 6-7 – Yesterday & Today: The Interactive Beatles Experience
April 9-11 – Love, Loss and What I Wore
April 23-25 – Long Live the King - A Tribute to Elvis, starring Matt Lewis

Bud Light presents STAND UP Comedy Series Comedians to be announced soon.

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News Directory '100 Years of Broadway' headed to Symphony Hall

California, Montreal guitar trios to team up at CityStage

"Jekyll & Hyde to put a chill in the air on Oct. 10 at Symphony Hall

John Denver tribute returning to CityStage

The Midtown Men pick 5 favorite hits from upcoming Symphony Hall show

Audience favorites, new offerings to make up CityStage and Symphony Hall 2014-2015 season

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