"Angry men don’t write the rules and guns don’t right the wrongs. America’s got a problem…Sondheim has a solution. Never a more poignant and relevant time in our current political climate than right now has it been so appropriate to produce a production of Stephen Sondheim’s Assassins. Pallas Theatre Collective is boldly daring to do so, and it draws striking attention to the world around us at present. Directed by Clare Shaffer with Musical Direction by Alex Thompson, this jarring and thought-provoking musical might be exactly what the nation needs to put the wheels of change spinning in motion."
"Director Clare Shaffer has framed up the production around a twisted carnival, fully interweaving this atmospheric idea into the performance by making each of the performers musicians as well. One might say that Shaffer’s musical mobilization of the actors was instrumental in executing her idea. At times, it completely replicates the notion of the band on the grand stand at a state fair... all of the individuals who take up instruments— be it euphonium, xylophone, triangle, or the more traditional trumpet, and trombone— do an exceptional job of playing their way through the score."
"Reinforcing the notion of the twisted carnival and warped wonderland are Properties Designer Pauline Lamb (who doubles as the show’s Choreographer) and Sound Designer Reid May. Lamb strings up various fairground-style prizes— complete with tickets— all across the back wall of the play space, to help cement the notion that each shot taken could be a simple carnival game on the midway. May’s auditory enhancements flow in the same vein with the congratulatory bell-dings when they “win their prize” if an assassin is successful. All of these support beams strengthen Shaffer’s concept, including the State-Fair-esque costume design by Joan Lawrence. The Proprietor’s Boat Hat, the gleaming whites of the ensemble, all of these little nuances help to complete the environment that Shaffer has envisioned for approaching Assassins.... Relevant, striking, and perfect for the time, Pallas Theatre Collective has a production that you’ll want to invest in."
"Pallas Theatre Collective's production, superbly directed by Clare Shaffer, follows the carnival-like atmosphere dictated by John Weidman's book.... The company plays Michael Starobin's complicated orchestrations with musical grace and perfection."
"Director Clare Shaffer proves that she is one of the area's best up and coming directors. She really gets into the heads of the assassins and makes them seem human rather than just lunatics... As presented by Pallas Theatre Collective, Assassins is one of those shows that is expertly executed by everyone involved."
"Director Clare Shaffer has ingeniously shoehorned the show into the black box at Logan by casting actors who double as musicians, such that at times they are the orchestra seated stage left and right and at times they are center stage singing and dancing and playing their instruments. The carnivalesque quotient of this choice pays off enormously in pleasure."
"...a delightfully sassy Assassins... Pallas has a track record of staging with panache contemporary musicals with political bite, and Assassinsterrifically showcases the company’s audacious command of the form... an inventive variety of staging styles... the material is entertaining and unsettling in equal measure."
"Clearly, this musical wants us to attend to the assassins’ interior lives in order to understand who they were as people and why they did what they did. Not to condone what they did. Not to make them out to be heroes or sympathetic. But to reckon with what made them each tick and not just dismiss them as deranged."
-DC Metro Theatre Arts
"Directed by Clare Shaffer with Musical Direction by Paige Rammelkamp, this strikingly beautiful musical tale— based on the novel by Robert Kames Waller— paints a picture indeed worth more than 1,000 words; it paints a picture of love, life, and loss, the inherent journey of the human being over time."
"Lawler is full of panache and personality and plays well against Brian Lyons-Burke, who plays Marge’s devoted husband Charlie. Lyons-Burke has an almost deadpan response to some of the absurd little moments that Lawler’s character goes up on, complimenting her comedic skills flawlessly with his exacting delivery."
"A twinkling gem amid a sky full of stars, Chani Wereley... is best praised for her time spent as Marian. It’s just one song, just one moment, but so painstakingly perfect in both its emotional connection and vocal delivery that it stops the production and swells the heart simultaneously. Wereley is richly invested in this number, fabricating the character’s pain into something nearly palpable; this tragically beautiful performance of “Another Life” is a show-stopping moment not easily forgotten."
"Collins and Meyers find unique ways of creating depth to [Michael and Carolyn], giving them a lively existence on the stage."
"Taking the character of Bud and fleshing him out into a multi-dimensional human being, rather than the shallow and static character that Norman penned him to be, Wheeler finds deep emotional currents running through the layers of Bud and uses the music of the show to connect to those currents, bringing them readily to the surface."
"What do you call a man like Ryan Burke? Versatile? Such a simple word hardly seems to fully ensconce what he’s capable of in the role of Robert Kincaid. Talented? Again the word seems ordinary, lacking in depth when it comes to the sounds he makes, the feelings he expresses. So what do you call a man like that? Extraordinarily gifted, sounds about right, well-fitting the bill when it comes to Burke’s portrayal of the photographic journalist. Exceptionally understanding falls in line with his approach to the persona of Robert and how it fits into the overall story of The Bridges of Madison County. There is more than an honesty to the way he presents Robert Kincaid; there is a vulnerability that is readily present right from his first sung moment..."
"Erin Granfield has spectacular consistency with the Italian affectation she cases over her spoken and sung English. There is something to be said for the way she carries the accent into her singing voice, authenticating the songs in a way that feels true to the character’s origins. Granfield covers the full story arc of Francesca, from “To Build a Home” through to “Always Better” and hits all of the emotional peaks and valleys along the way."
"A sensitive, artfully realized production of the work marks a whole new chapter in the life of the Red Branch Theatre Company... Overseeing the production is D.C.-based Director Clare Shaffer, with first-rate musical support from Conductor Paige Rammelkamp... On opening night, the audience was clearly taken with the performances of the two adult leads, also making their Red Branch debut...
"Erin Granfield brings a lovely trained soprano to the vocally demanding role of Francesca. From her opening memories as an Italian war bride in “To Build a Home” through her complex relationships to family and her adopted American community, Granfield never makes a single dramatic misstep...
"Burke brings some of the show’s most complex and defined vocal shadings to the riveting solos “Temporarily Lost” and “It All Fades Away...
"Together, Burke and Granfield make the romantic duet between Robert and Francesca, “Falling Into You,” one of the most touchingly heartfelt musical moments of this theatrical year."
"Director Shaffer, with the active help of Choreographer Kathy Gordon, keeps the ensemble shifting through pretty stage pictures all evening on Scenic Designer Jacob Cordell’s skewed picture-frame set."
-DC Metro Theatre Arts
"When I saw the movie adaptation of Robert James Waller’s book, “Bridges of Madison County,” I wept at the beautiful simplicity of the story. When I saw the musical version on Broadway more than 20 years later, I wept again at hearing the perfectly written and performed score by Jason Robert Brown. And when I saw it last weekend in Red Branch Theatre’s stellar production I cried like a baby through most of the second act. Because this time I was struck by the not just the story, not just the magnificent voices, but the perfect blend of the two elements. This show is a knock-out that packs an emotional punch that can leave you breathless."
"Clare Shaffer has cleverly directed this piece with a slow, sure hand... she added enough deft touches to keep the action moving... With the added touch of silhouettes behind a gauzy backdrop, she displays a terrific sense of theatricality."
"I’m running out of superlatives to write about Ryan Burke... His Robert is at once tender and tentative, and when he makes up his mind that Francesca is all he’s ever been looking for... it brought a tear to my eye and a lump to my throat. But then again that happened pretty much every time he opened his mouth to sing."
"Erin Granfield is one of those rare actresses on local stages that makes you completely forget she’s playing a character. She is Francesca. She’s stepping into some mighty big shoes, following the likes of Meryl Streep and Kelli O’Hara. Scratch that – this lady’s got her own shoes. With a voice that can go from a whisper to a wail and rip your heart out along the way, she’s perfection in this part... In her scenes with Robert, we watch her resolve melt away as she throws herself into an affair that she knows will cost her dearly. And we see it all in Ms. Granfield’s expressions and her body language... From the opening number “To Build A Home” to her final “Always Better” her voice is amazing. She is a gifted performer and a true artist."
"I loved every minute of it. Treat yourself, but bring your hanky. You’re going to need it."
-MD Theatre Guide
WYPR RADIO REVIEW - Listen Here
Reviews, previews, and other coverage of recent projects.