If ever there was a born-again theatre, Pittsfield’s Colonial Theatre is it. Rescued from disuse half a dozen years ago, the theatre has had to learn how to endear itself to the community all over again, and like any toddler, has had a few mis-steps along the way, And some pretty incredible successes, too. Still working to expand its audience, the theatre has made a giant leap forward in recent months as it has shaken up its original team, and brought in a new coach.
That is, of course, Kate Maguire, a competent, hands on risk taker with an impressive resume and energy to spare. She is the new CEO and Artistic Director for the Colonial which is in the process of merging with her company of many years, the Berkshire Theatre Festival. The two boards are well along in making this more than a marriage of convenience.
The first concrete demonstration of where Maguire and her boards are taking the glorious theatre came today as she announced some two dozen events that have been slated – so far – for the Colonial during the new season which begins in May 2011.
Foremost among the events is the first BTF production to be specially staged for the Colonial, The Who’s Tommy, a rock opera starring Randy Harrison and James Barry to be directed by Eric Hill. This event is so important – it plays a full two weeks – that we have done a separate in-depth story on it here. That sort of run is a milestone for the theatre, since nothing has every played there for longer than a weekend. Even the much ballyhooed offering of Rent only played several performances. That show, as other musicals that have played there have been either “bus and truck shows” which travel the country from theatre to theatre or transfers from other nearby theatres, such as The Producers and The Mikado two superb productions from the Cohoes, NY Music Hall.
Given a top notch production, the BTF production of Tommy could well sell out to the walls. The show has those sort of “legs” because of its unique appeal to both young and traditional audiences. It will be a watershed event for the new team.
The array of events is extensive, and embrace several Berkshire artists who are nationally known, like Arlo Guthrie and others, like Frank Rich who has a nationwide following (he is a columnist for the New York Times) and only rarely makes solo appearances before theatre audiences.One of the new elements in the Colonial mix will be to reconfigure the lobby space to allow it to be used as an informal gathering spot, perhaps like a cabaret, salon, or family room. Among the uses being explored are as an incubator for local music groups, playwrights and other performance artists. This, in conjunction with expanded use of the BTF Unicorn Theatre for Berkshire artists, intimate jazz and other music are fascinating concepts that would help continue the branding of the Berkshires as a center of cultural life in America.
Here is a rundown of what you can expect in 2011, with new events expected to be scheduled as the booking process continues.
At the Colonial Theatre (111 South St, Pittsfield)
Tanglewood Music Center Fellows
Part of the Pittsfield 250th Celebration
Sunday, May 1 2pm
An afternoon of the finest classical music to kick-off the summer! For over 70 years, the Tanglewood Music Center has been training the finest young musicians in their Fellowship program. For the first time at the Colonial, recent Fellows from this esteemed training program will be performing some of the finest music in the world. Do not miss this chance to hear the future stars of the musical world in concert together.
Sherri Buxton and Friends:
Songs From The Great American Songbook
with special guest Matt Cusson
A Benefit for Community Resources for People with Autism
Sponsored by Cohen | Kinne | Valicenti | Cook & Berkshire Bank
Thursday, June 2 7pm
VIP: $55 • A: $35 • B: $25 • C: $15
From Gershwin to Berlin and Porter to Arlen, Sherri James Buxton, is an elegant interpreter of the Great American Songbook, delighting audiences with her warmth, versatility and flawless technique. She combines Broadway, Cabaret and recording experience with a highly skilled voice and amazing stage presence. Matt Cusson, is an award-winning singer-songwriter who has performed with James Taylor, Stevie Wonder, Christina Aguilera and Brian McKnight among many others. His jazz ballad “One of Those Nights” won the John Lennon Songwriting Contest and Maxell Song of the Year and was also nominated for a 2011 Oasis Contemporary Jazz Award. These two local favorites unite for a fun-filled evening of music.
Saturday, June 18 8pm
All Tickets: $15
Local favorite Bobby Sweet has shared the bill with some all-time great country and folk artists, including Vince Gill, Bill Staines, Bill Morrissey, Deana Carter, Bryan White, Arlo Guthrie, Pete Seeger, Jonathan Edwards and Sawyer Brown. A sought-after lead guitarist, he has opened for George Jones, Asleep at the Wheel, Willie Nelson, The Bellamy Brothers, Waylon Jennings, and many others. Stylistically, Sweet’s music resides somewhere between John Prine, Jackson Browne, Guy Clark and a country version of Bruce Springsteen.
God’s Trombone’s Lift Ev’ry Voice:
Celebrating African-American Culture & Heritage in the Berkshires
Sunday, June 19
Time and Prices To Be Announced
In 1927, James Weldon Johnson published the classic God’s Trombones: Seven Negro Sermons in Verse. This seminal work, consisting of actual sermons written in free verse form, sought to document and preserve the unique African American cultural tradition. Now musician and composer Craig S. Harris continues that work with his opus God’s Trombones. Harris looks to Johnson’s poems for inspiration while creating a musical interpretation of the unique rhythm and cadence of traditional African American sermons. This performance is sure to be a soaring, triumphant musical event not to be missed.
The Who’s Tommy music and lyrics by Pete Townshend, book by Pete Townshend and Des McAnuff
Additional music and lyrics by John Entwistle and Keith Moon
Featuring James Barry (Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson) and Randy Harrison (Boq in Wicked, TV’s Queer as Folk)
Produced by Berkshire Theatre Festival, Presented at The Colonial Theatre
Directed by Eric Hill
Previews July 7, 8, 9 @ 2pm
Opening Night/Press Night July 9 @ 8pm
Closes July 16
Tickets A: $49 • B: $40 • C: $20
Monday, Tuesday, Thursday-Saturday at 8pm, Wednesday at 7pm, Thursday and Saturday at 2pm
The original rock opera, The Who’s Tommy is at once a show-stopping rock concert and a cautionary tale of the power and perils of celebrity. We witness Tommy Walker from his birth, through the shocking episodes of his childhood that render him deaf, mute and blind, as he conquers the world with his stardom, and finally after the crowds have turned on him. Featuring legendary songs by the Who, including “Pinball Wizard,” “See Me, Feel Me” and “Tommy, Can You Hear Me?” and with a cast including James Barry of Bloody, Bloody Andrew Jackson as Captain Walker and Randy Harrison from Wicked and Queer as Folk as Tommy, this promises to be the event of the summer in the Berkshires.
Tommy Tune in Steps In Time: A Broadway Biography In Song And Dance
Featuring The Manhattan Rhythm Kings
Thursday, August 11 7:30pm
VIP: $100 • A: $65 • B: $45 • C: $25
Nine-time Tony Award-winner Tommy Tune teams with longtime collaborators The Manhattan Rhythm Kings for a personal look back at his incredible career, featuring timeless standards, elegant choreography and Tommy’s own unique charm and warm-hearted humor. Don’t miss this rare chance to view the personal side of this quintessential song-and-dance man.
Bakin’ with the Boss Tour starring Buddy Valastro: The Cake Boss
Saturday, August 13 2pm & 7pm
VIP: $75 • A: $65 • B: $45 • C: $25
In this live interactive event, the baker and star of TLC’s Cake Boss will share the stories behind his hit TV series and his colorful Italian family, answer audience questions and give a live demonstration of the techniques that have made him one of the most successful and renowned cake artists in the nation. Buddy will even invite audience members to join the fun on stage. The whole family is invited for a night of “bakin’ with the boss” one will not soon forget.
Word x Word Festival
Saturday, August 20
Time and Prices To Be Announced
For the second year in a row, acclaimed performance festival Word x Word will conclude its weeklong offering of cutting edge music, theatre and spoken word at the Colonial. Festival founder Jim Benson promises to top last year’s finale which featured the poet Rives and singer/songwriter Langhorne Slim.
Berkshire Comedy Spotlight II
Saturday, September 24 8pm
A: $30 • B: $20 • C: $15
ZipStohr Comedy is proud to return to the Colonial to present the best locally grown stand-up comedians. Back by popular demand, these entertainers are Berkshire natives who grew up testing material in backyards and parties all over the county; now they earn a living by making people laugh all over the country. Join us for performances by Kevin Bartini, Brian Collins, Rick D’Elia, Jake Gold, Jay Montepare, Karen Rontowski, Mike Whitman.
Sunday, October 9 2pm
VIP: $100 • A: $65 • B: $45 • C: $15
An intimate conversation with one of the unique voices of our times. For nearly forty years, Frank Rich has been one of the preeminent commentators on arts, culture, politics and the world in which we live. Between his years as head drama critic and featured columnist for the New York Times , Frank has helped shape our view of arts, politics and the world we share. This is a rare opportunity to hear a bestselling author, award-winning commentator and singular voice, all at the same time.
The Grace Kelly Quartet with special guest Phil Woods
and the Berkshires Jazz Youth Ensemble
in association with the Pittsfield CityJazz Festival
Saturday, October 15 8pm
Pricing To Be Announced
Five years to the day after Grace Kelly first performed with Phil Woods, the duo returns to the Colonial to conclude their 2011 world tour as headliners for the 7th annual Pittsfield CityJazz Festival. Then Phil Woods was the guest artist with the U.S. Army Jazz Ambassadors and was a brand-new Jazz Master inviting the young 14 year old phenom to sit in for a number. During that number, Phil placed his iconic leather cap on Grace’s head, a symbolic passing of the torch. This moment has become a part of jazz-lore and even sparked the name of Grace’s latest CD, Man With The Hat, featuring Phil Woods as a guest artist. Now Grace is a leading light of the jazz world, blending standards, jazz, funk, blues and original compositions with world-class saxophone skills and a sweet and soulful voice. In addition to their own set, Phil and Grace will appear with the Berkshires Jazz Youth Ensemble, a county-wide all-star big band.
Wednesday, October 19 7:30pm
VIP: $75 • A: $65 • B: $45 • C: $25
NPR Humorist and Bestselling Author of Naked, Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim and
Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk. With sardonic wit and incisive social critiques, David Sedaris has become one of America’s pre-eminent humorists. The great skill with which he slices through cultural euphemisms and political correctness proves that Sedaris is a master of satire and one of the most observant writers addressing the human condition today.
Saturday, November 12 8pm
VIP: $55 • A: $45 • B: $25 • C: $15
Pianist Christopher O’Riley has garnered critical accolades and international acclaim for his groundbreaking transcriptions of Radiohead, Elliott Smith and Nick Drake as well as his unforgettably sublime interpretations of the classical canon. His latest album, Out of My Hands, includes music by R.E.M, Portishead, Cocteau Twins, Pink Floyd, Nirvana, and the Smiths among others. As host of the popular radio show, NPR’s From The Top, he performs with the next generation of brilliant young musicians.
Arlo Guthrie: Boys Night Out
Saturday, November 19 8pm
VIP: $65 • A: $55 • B: $35 • C: $15
For over four decades, Arlo Guthrie has toured the world winning a broad and dedicated following. In addition to being an accomplished musician, Guthrie is a natural-born storyteller whose hilarious tales and timeless anecdotes are woven seamlessly into his performances.
Wednesday, November 30 7:30pm
VIP: $65 • A: $55 • B: $35 • C: $15
Cape Breton’s incandescent fiddler tears up the stage with grand shows filled with ferocious fiddling, high-powered step-dancing, fast-paced Celtic raves and heart-warming ballads. MacMaster and her sizzling band captivate live audiences with colorful reels and jigs and dynamically fuse the traditional with bluegrass, world music and pop. MacMaster has shared the stage with luminaries such as Carlos Santana, the Chieftains, Alison Krauss, Faith Hill, Luciano Pavarotti and dozens of symphony orchestras including the Boston Pops.
BTF Family Series
Hansel and Gretel’s Grimm Tale by E. Gray Simons III, based on stories by the Brothers Grimm
Directed by Travis G. Daly
Staged at the Berkshire Museum
(Wednesday-Saturday at 11am)
A production of the Unicorn Company (BTF’s pre-professional acting troupe)
In collaboration with the Berkshire Museum
Ticket prices To Be Announced
BTF is proud to return to the Berkshire Museum again this season. This summer bring the whole family to see this lighthearted tale based on two Grimm’s Fairy Tales (“Hansel and Gretel” and “The Devil with the Three Golden Hairs”). Young Hansel and Gretel are obsessed with stories. When they wander off into the woods one day, they have only their wits and the power of tales to ensure they make it home and get a “happily ever after” ending.
The Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum, with music and lyrics by Harold Arlen and E. Y. Harburg, Background Music by Herbert Stothart, Dance and Vocal Arrangements by Peter Howard, Orchestration by Larry Wilcox, Adapted by John Kane for the Royal Shakespeare Company. Based upon the Classical Motion Picture owned by Turner Entertainment Co. and distributed in all media by Warner Bros.
Directed by E. Gray Simons III and Travis G. Daly
Staged at The Colonial Theatre
Opening Night September 9
Closing Night September 11
Friday-Saturday at 7:30pm, Saturday-Sunday at 2pm
Featuring the Berkshire Theatre Festival Children’s Theatre Company, consisting of children and adults from throughout Berkshire County.
Tickets $20 for adults, $15 for children 16 and under
BTF’s Children’s Theatre Company comes to The Colonial Theatre for the first time with the beloved tale of Dorothy Gale going “over the rainbow.” Berkshire County children and adults come together with BTF staff to produce a tremendous weekend of musical theatre in the picturesque setting of The Colonial Theatre.
A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens, adapted by Eric Hill
Directed by Eric Hill and E. Gray Simons III
Staged at The Colonial Theatre
Previews December 17, 18 @ 2pm
Opening Night/Press Night December 18 @ 7pm
Closes December 30
Tickets $20 for adults, $15 for children 7-16. Not appropriate for children 6 and under.
BTF’s sixth annual production comes to The Colonial Theatre. The traditional tale of the healing power of Christmas will unite the entire county for two weeks in December.
Made in the Berkshires
Festival of New Works
October 8-10, 15-17
At The Colonial and BTF
Times and Prices To Be Announced
Led by Hilary Deely and Barbara Sims, Made in the Berkshire is a locally-grown festival of new works. These works will be written by local artists, featuring local directors and actors and celebrating the best of the Berkshires. Submission period and performance schedule to be announced soon.
Friday Series and Musical Mondays
BTF’s play reading series, expanded
Schedule to be announced
At BTF and The Colonial
BTF’s wildly popular free play reading series returns again this summer in a new expanded format. The Friday Series will feature some of the best new work directed and read by members of the BTF company, including the same actors that appear in our season performances, at either the Unicorn or Fitzpatrick Main Stage. This year the Friday Series is supported by Musical Mondays, readings of new and classic musicals complete with accompaniment and the actors performing the original songs. This new series will be held at The Colonial on Mondays throughout the summer. Performance dates and titles to be announced soon.
Live performances throughout the summer
Part of the Cultural Pittsfield 3rd Thursdays celebration
At the Colonial
Times and Prices To Be Announced
This year, the Colonial will be programming events as part of 3rd Thursdays in Pittsfield. Each month come be a part of live music, theatre and the visual arts in conjunction with the county’s biggest after hours street festival. Look for our exciting programming each month.
Season passes to the full slate of BTF plays as well as to the Colonial are still available. For Tommy tickets, contact the BTF Box Office at (413) 298-5576 or visit www.berkshiretheatre.org for more information on a BTF Season Pass. Contact the Colonial Box Office at (413) 997-4444 or visit www.thecolonialtheatre.org for more information on a Colonial Season Pass
Member tickets for Colonial events are exclusively available from February 25-March 13. Contact the Colonial Box Office at (413) 997-4444 or visit www.thecolonialtheatre.org for more information.
Single tickets for all events go on sale March 14 to the general public. For BTF productions (including Tommy) contact the BTF Box Office at (413) 298-5576 or visit http://www.berkshiretheatre.org to purchase. For Colonial events contact the Colonial Box Office at (413) 997-4444 or visit www.thecolonialtheatre.org for more information.
All plays, schedules, casting, events and prices are subject to change.