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Arts in the News

Holidays Mean Music

Join Milton Academy—either in-person or virtually via a live stream—to experience the Jean McCawley Orchestra and Chorus Winter Concert. This annual event is a celebration of music by the students of Milton Academy’s vocal and orchestral program. The concert features seasonal tunes to celebrate the holidays, alongside repertoire ranging from Baroque to Contemporary, and classical traditions representing a diverse range of cultures and geography.

This free event begins at 7:30 p.m. this Friday, December 9, in the Kellner Performing Arts Center. Click here to register for in-person attendance. For families who can not travel to campus or prefer a virtual attendance, Milton will host a livestream of the event via Zoom. Join the live stream here.

Milton’s musicians practicing for the concert.

Milton Academy’s Performing Arts Department Presents Lobby Hero

This fall’s 1212 play is Kenneth Lonergan’s Lobby Hero, a dialogue-rich play set entirely in the lobby of a Manhattan apartment building. Directed by Performing Arts Department faculty member Darlene Anastas, the show features four main characters whose lives intertwine during the investigation of a crime.

“Lonergan is a Tony-award winning playwright who is known for his dialogue and how he integrates ideas and action into his dialogue,” Anastas said. “It’s a very naturally flowing play. It’s fitting to set it in the lobby of a residential building in Manhattan, where people from all walks of life are passing by. It deals with interpersonal interactions, some social issues with policing, and the personal issues of the ‘lobby hero’ whose life is on display for the whole show.”

It is the first 1212 play for Anastas, who has taught at Milton since 1981—she has always worked on the larger, main-stage productions. “It was exciting to me to work in depth with just a few students and to explore the issues the play has, which are very relevant today.”

To capture the feeling of New York City at night, Anastas added music from a student who will play a street saxophonist; since the show is set entirely in the lobby, the set is somewhat minimal. Although the play doesn’t run until after Thanksgiving, students were already planning to work without their scripts in mid-October.

“So much of the dialogue is motivated by reactions from other characters, so they have a lot to memorize,” Anastas said.

Lobby Hero is scheduled to run in the Studio Theatre in Kellner Hall on Thursday, December 1 at 7:30 p.m., Friday, December 2 at 7:30 p.m., and Saturday, December 3 at 7 p.m. Register for tickets online.

King Theatre Gets Wicked Sketchy

On the main stage at King Theatre for the first time, the fan favorite sketch-comedy show Wicked Sketchy will feature funny sketches and musical numbers written and performed by students.

First performed in 2014, Wicked Sketchy began as a 1212 play—a Milton tradition named for the former room in Warren Hall where pared-down, intimate performances were staged—giving students an opportunity to flex their comedy muscles. Last fall, the show moved to an outdoor tent to accommodate audience restrictions during the pandemic; for the first time, the show had a stepped-up production, said director and Performing Arts Department faculty member Peter Parisi.

“We were able to see the impact that lighting and sound design had on the show, and it just raised the stakes,” Parisi said. “It’s certainly evolved.”

This year, the show has about a dozen sketches, including some musical numbers. Students brought their ideas for sketches to the group, and together they fleshed out the ideas. Writing comedy is hard work, particularly for a show with a broad audience of students and adults.

Cast member Maggie Dudley ’25 explained that fine-tuning the sketches involves a lot of balance, but the feeling of getting something to work feels like “striking gold.”

“It is quite hard to find a sweet spot with a sketch where its pacing and structure works, as well as its relatability to the audience and comedic timing, but it really pays off once it’s done correctly,” Dudley said. “My favorite kind of comedy is the kind that bonds people through shared experiences that maybe embarrassed them or made them feel self conscious before. I enjoy using comedy to make people feel less alone in the world by not taking ourselves too seriously.”

“The questions are always: ‘What’s funny about it? And how could it be funnier?’” Parisi said. “We had a lot of ideas. Some of them went through zero iterations and were just ready. Others went through many iterations and will never see the light of day. We’re always working to make them funnier.”

Owen GwinnLandry ’23 remembers seeing Wicked Sketchy when he was in eighth grade and knowing he had to be part of it. Collaborating with the other sketch writers and performers has made him laugh to the point of tears during the process. The supportive atmosphere makes it possible for the wildest ideas to be explored, he said.

“It’s just a fun show that people should see if they want a laugh,” he said. “Plus, all the sketches are written by students, so it’s nice to come and support your peers and see what they’ve cooked up.”

This year’s 12 cast members are planning sketches that poke fun at pandemic hoaxes—during the bubonic plague—explore some Boston-area tropes, parody a game show, and perform a bee-based version of Hamlet. “It’s so silly, but it’s a lot of fun,” Parisi said.

Wicked Sketchy will run for three shows in King Theatre: Thursday, November 3 and Friday, November 4 at 7:30 p.m., and Saturday, November 5 at 7 p.m.

Reserve tickets online

Chicago Comes to King Theatre

The magic of musicals returns to King Theatre this month with a production of Chicago, Milton’s first live musical since the fall of 2018.

Director and Performing Arts Department faculty member Eleza Kort said the show—a satire of sensationalized crime in 1920s Chicago—was chosen for its spectacle and potential for escapism.

“We wanted to do something big, something fun, something with amazing music and cool and interesting dancing, and something with an intriguing plot,” she said. “I wanted a show with a little darkness, but that’s not too dark. We wanted to invite people back to the theater with something that will razzle-dazzle them.”

COVID-19 paused live theater everywhere, said Kort. This year, Milton has returned to live plays, including a fall production that featured 1940s-era radio plays and this spring’s 1212 Play, Ripcord, written by graduate David Lindsay-Abaire ’88. Kort hopes that Chicago—one of the most popular and longest-running Broadway shows in history—reminds people why they love going to see shows.

Chicago stars Talia Sherman ’22 as Roxie Hart and Ingrid Krisnan ’22 as Velma Kelly, competing singers who achieve notoriety when they each become murderers. The story follows their push to get and stay in the limelight as a fickle public quickly moves on to the next sensational stories. The show also stars Manny Uzobuife ’22 as Billy Flynn, the women’s lawyer who stokes tabloid news coverage, and Phuc Ngo ’23 as Amos Hart, Roxie’s put-upon husband.

“They’re all excited, and they’re all working incredibly hard,” Kort said.

Performing Arts Department Chair Kelli Edwards is choreographing the show, which was originally choreographed by the legendary Bob Fosse. The Milton show honors Fosse’s distinct style. A combination of student, faculty, and professional musicians will perform live on stage throughout the show, which pays tribute to Chicago’s theme of “life as performance,” Kort says. Chicago opens Thursday, May 19 at 7:30 p.m. and runs Friday, May 20 at 7:30 p.m. and Saturday, May 21 at 7 p.m. Tickets are available for reservation through the Performing Arts website.

Dance Concert Returns Live

The Winter Dance Concert returns live to King Theatre on March 3 for a four-show run that includes about 70 students and a wide variety of dances.

The show, which will run for a Saturday matinee for the first time, features dance styles from all over the world, including hip hop, African, Indian, Irish step, Chinese fan dancing, and modern dance, said director and Performing Arts Department Chair Kelli Edwards. The last live Winter Dance Concert at Milton happened just before the school went remote in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic—in 2021, a smaller production was filmed and shared with the community.

“The cast has worked very hard this year and the student choreographers are so eager to share their work,” said senior dancer and choreographer Audrey Volpe ’22. “We’ve waited two years to get back on stage for a live dance concert and we’re so excited for everyone to come to the show.”

Volpe, who has trained in ballet for 15 years, said participating in the concert has helped her branch out and try new styles, including Irish step and Chinese fan dancing. This year, she has choreographed a contemporary dance to the song “Fix You” by Coldplay, with the theme of personal connections.

“It’s about helping the people you care about through their personal struggles. I wanted to experiment with partnering and telling a compelling story where people connect and rely on each other to thrive,” she said. “Dance concert season is my favorite time of the year because so many people from different backgrounds and different levels of experience come together and create an outstanding show.”

“Having everyone back in person and having the ability to interact with the cast face to face (or mask to mask) has been fantastic,” said Aoidin Salmon ’22, who has choreographed an Irish dance for the concert. Salmon, a competitive Irish step dancer, decided this year to “go with more modern music and storyline. My dance follows the theme of a ‘take-off’ taking place.”

Taking the lead as a choreographer has been a good challenge, Salmon said. Similarly, Vivian Gao ’22, a lifelong dancer with a background in ballet and Chinese folk dance, said “The best part of choreographing has been getting to know the dancers on a different level. In my rehearsals, I try to have moments where the cast as a whole comes up with movements for a section of music. Making it collaborative has helped me know the cast not just as students but as artists.”

Gao’s dance mixes Chinese traditional fan dance—a style with more than 2,000 years of history—with modern dance.

“I see my dance as a symbol of community,” she said. “The 11 dancers are like petals to a flower that, despite having moments of disharmony, are still part of a larger group.”

The Winter Dance Concert opens in King Theatre on Thursday, March 3 at 7:30 p.m., with additional shows Friday, March 4 at 7:30 p.m., and Saturday, March 5 at 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Reserve tickets online. Audience members must wear masks inside campus buildings at all times.

Watch the live stream here.