Strand Theater hosts flurry of summer shows

Elizabeth Murray, Special to The Reporter
Jul. 19, 2012

Operettas, comedies and musicals – oh my!

The Strand Theater on Columbia Road is hosting a myriad of performances during the end of summer and into the beginning of the fall, including two fundraisers. The city-owned Uphams Corner theater, originally opened as a movie and vaudeville palace in 1918, serves as both a community arts and events facility and a citywide performing arts venue.

Boston Opera Collaborative (BOC) will be presenting Jacques Offenbach’s Orpheus in the Underworld at the Strand July 26 to July 29. Thanks to support from The Free For All Concert Fund Inc., tickets for the performances will be free to the general public. They are available for reservation at The Thursday, Friday and Saturday performances will be held at 8 p.m., and the Sunday performance at 3 p.m. It will be performed in English with English subtitles.

Offenbach’s operetta takes the Greek tragedy of Orpheus and Euridice and spins it into a farce. In this version, Orpheus (Brendan P. Buckley) and Euridice (Lindsay Conrad/Christine Teeters) grow tired of marriage, so Euridice decides to visit Hell. It is up to the Public Opinion (Christine English/Sadie Gregg) to convince Orpheus to save his wife from the best party in all three worlds, for which even the gods on Mount Olympus have revolted to join.

Brandon Milardo, director of Marketing for the BOC, said the show is appropriate for people of all ages since operettas, unlike many operas, are much lighter and more fun. Milardo said he has attended a few rehearsals, and the show is “absolutely hilarious.”

“Even if you’re not into opera or classical music, this is kind of a gateway opportunity,” Milardo said. “I encourage [those people] to come to this show and find out it is something you can really get into and enjoy.”

The show is directed by Boston-based stage director David Gram and music director Maria Sensi Sellner will make her Boston debut conducting the orchestra.

A Tutti! Glitz and Glamour party will follow the July 28 performance so show attendees can meet and mingle with the cast and crew of the show and further a relationship with the Boston Opera Collaborative.This event, which will take place in the second floor lobby of the Strand, will be Golden Age of Hollywood themed, and wine and desserts will be served. The event is for people ages 21 and over, and a reservation is required though the event is free. There is a 75-person limit to the event and Milardo said the event will no longer be posted on the website when the spots are all filled.

Laughter is the best medicine for the group Comics for Recovery, which will host an evening of stand-up comedy on Friday Aug. 3 as a fundraiser for those suffering from addictions. Billy Gardell of the hit show Mike and Molly will be joined by Boston’s own Jack Lynch, and all proceeds from the event will benefit Right Turn in Arlington, Mass. Right Turn provides innovative outpatient treatment as well as supportive housing for addiction.

Founder and CEO of Right Turn Woody Giessmann said Billy Gardell decided he wanted to do the fundraiser in Boston for Right Turn because he understands the need for Right Turn’s services and the demand for their programs in the community. Tickets for the 8 p.m. show are $25 and Giessmann encourages everyone to come out to the show and buy tickets in advance.

“Billy Gardell is one of the biggest personalities in comedy these days,” Giessmann said. “He is amazing. I have never laughed so hard in my life. He made me cry the last time [I saw him].”

Giessmann said the show is appropriate for people of all ages and the funds will support a really great cause.

“Billy Gardell is coming to do this amazing comedy show for a program that really encourages people, especially creative and like-minded people, to feel that even though they struggle with addiction and sometimes feel that they might lose their edge as a creative person, these kinds of events send a really strong message that recovery is a really great thing,” Giessmann said. “It’s not a death sentence.”

Divas Working It Out, a non-profit health, fitness and wellness support group of Norwood, Mass., will be teaming up with Dorchester’s Youth in Crisis Ministry for an evening of live music and tips for a healthier lifestyle on August 18 at 7 p.m. Tickets are $30 and may be purchased by visiting the Divas Working It Out Facebook page and by calling 617-953-6177. The funds raised by this event will go toward the Nazareth House in Roxbury and the Sojourner House in Roxbury and other local shelters with new health initiatives and makeovers.

Cashawna Cross, one of the event’s organizers from Divas Working It Out, said the event is being held because she was inspired by her own weight loss of 85 pounds to show the community how to also be healthy and get moving. The event will feature zumba and line dancing performances and guest speakers who will give tips to a healthy lifestyle.

“People should come out to the event because there is a high risk of people that have diabetes and high blood pressure in the community,” Cross said. “We’re trying to prevent generational obesity. . . Just trying to get the community to understand that this is a long-term thing. We feel people will come out to see the entertainment and at the same time be educated on health awareness.”

On Sept. 28 at 7 p.m., Fiddlehead Theater Company and The American Civil Liberties Union will present Ragtime The Musical. The musical is based on E.L. Doctorow’s 1975 novel, and the musical intertwines the stories of three families in the early 20th century. As these families confront history’s contradictions of wealth and poverty, freedom and prejudice, and hope and despair, they find out what it means to live in America.

Tickets for the event are between $32 and $45, and student tickets can only be purchased at the box office with a valid student ID. Tickets for seniors and children will be at will call, and proper identification must be presented. Subsequent performances of the musical will take place Sept 28 at 8 p.m., Sept. 29 at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m., Sept 30 at 2 p.m., Oct. 3 and 4 at 7:30 p.m., Oct. 5 at 8 p.m., Oct. 6 at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m., and Oct. 7 at 2 p.m.