Occasionally someone will reference magic at Hampton Terrace. Fine. We like to hear that. BUT….no one will deny REAL magic – the Disney kind - occurred late one Monday evening, this summer, in our living room.
Magic takes special ingredients, and it is undeniable that there was something brewing in the cauldron that evening. Deborah Grausman, a local friend with a foot in Shakespeare & Company, and a foot squarely with the New York musical theater crowd, had just produced her second “Broadway in the Berkshires,” to benefit the education programs at Shakespeare & Company.
Many Broadway leads have taken advantage of the “intensives” at S&Co. Even beyond a professional connection – for many Broadway actors – the Berkshires are like comfort food. So when Deborah comes calling, those who can, respond.
The sold-out performance at the Tina Packer Playhouse consisted of one show-stopping musical number after another, hosted by John Douglas Thompson.
This could have been magic enough, but we were in for a historic surprise. The actors, sponsors, and major benefactors of the evening were invited to Hampton Terrace for an “after-party,” and this is where our story begins.
Alan Menken has won eight Academy Awards and 11 Grammies for his scores and original songs from iconic Disney musicals, including The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, and Pocahontas, as well as Broadway shows, Little Shop of Horrors, and Newsies. His daughter, Nora, performed in Master Class this summer with Deborah, and she was part of the “Broadway in the Berkshires” line-up. Her parents drove up from New York to see her, and serendipitously stayed at Hampton Terrace.
I have to admit: I threw a few of the ingredients into the cauldron as well. When Alan checked in that afternoon, I gave him the typical tour and steered him close enough to the Steinway to see John Williams’ letter. He said, “Ooh…Johnny played this piano!” I responded, “And you will too.” I told him about the after-party and he agreed he would sit down for a song, but not to expect more. “Of course not, Alan…”
So fast forward to after 11 p.m., when there were easily more than a hundred guests in our living room, dining room and bar – sipping champagne and eating chocolates from Chocolate Springs. Terrific jazz pianist, David Grausman, was playing the Steinway, when Alan Menken finally responded to the nudging and sat down to play his “one song,” “Part of Your World,” from The Little Mermaid. Deborah Grausman took the lead (Touring Company, Fiddler on the Roof), along with Lauren Jelencovich (currently featured vocalist with Yanni, Grand Prize in Ed McMahon’s Star Search). Encouraged at that level of professionalism coming from beside the piano, Alan continued on…
He played a dozen songs or more, perhaps surprised that virtually every one in the room knew all the lyrics to every song. Several highlights jump out…
“Suddenly Seymour” from Little Shop of Horrors: This rendition went to a whole different level when Jonathan Rayson took the part of Seymour. Jonathan played Seymour on Broadway, and in the national touring company. Just as impressive, was when Kat West jumped up to be Audrey in this iconic duet. Kat was the stage manager for “Broadway in the Berkshires” and although her resume of backstage management is long, even her friends did not know she could sing like this.
“Somewhere That’s Green,” Little Shop of Horrors: Joining Alan on the piano bench is Tonya Pinkins – a very familiar face to many. Star of Broadway, films and daytime soaps, she has won about every award there is, including a Tony. Watch this clip the whole way through. How they end the song sums up the evening here at Hampton Terrace.
Stay tuned for Part Two of this Berkshires adventure...!
The world-class theatre companies that call the Berkshires home have their own way of making the holiday season special. Right here in Lenox, MA, through December 29, Shakespeare & Co is presenting a radio-play adaptation of an American cinema classic: It’s A onderful Life.
George Bailey’s Christmas Eve odyssey is a tale that defines the Christmas spirit for many people. This radio play presentation (scripted by Joe Landry) features five actors playing more than 50 roles, and creating oodles of handmade sound effects. A pre-show introduction to how those sound effects are created gives the audience an insider’s peek, as they follow protagonist George, and Clarence the angel, on the journey to show George just how much he matters to the people and the world around him.
Playwright Joe Landry got his start in the business early – his first job, at age 12, was in the film department of the Fairfield, CT library. His love of film and theatre grew from there, and his parents encouraged the habit, introducing him to more theatres and opportunities. His work has been widely produced, and It’s A Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play, can be seen across the country this holiday season.
As always, we’re sure this Shakespeare & Co. production will be excellent. For more information and tickets, visit the Shakespeare & Co. website.
Can’t help but mention that Shakespeare & Co.’s home base is just a two minute drive, or a nine minute walk, to your cozy quarters at Hampton Terrace.
Photo via the Shakespeare & Co. website.
Norman Rockwell created what are widely known as the iconic images of America in the 20th century. Images of personal moments, small town places – images known as America to the world, but known to Berkshires residents as “home”. Norman Rockwell moved to Stockbridge, MA in 1953 with his wife Mary and three sons. The people and places of the Berkshires became his subjects, and the rest – well, the rest is history.
That history can be explored at the Norman Rockwell Museum, in Stockbridge, MA. Rockwell himself established the trust that paved the way for the museum, so that subsequent generations of fans could enjoy the legacy he left behind, up close.
Currently the museum is featuring an exhibit called “Norman Rockwell: Home For The Holidays”. Until January 26, 2014, you can view Rockwell’s depictions of the holidays – greeting cards, advertisements, props he used to stage his subjects, and more.
When you visit the Norman Rockwell Museum, explore the town of Stockbridge itself. You can still see some of the places featured in several of Rockwell’s works – Stockbridge’s Main St, for example, is still there, made famous by his painting “Main Street At Christmas”. The 1862 firehouse on Elm St. in Stockbridge is another famous Rockwell destination, featured in his piece “The New American LaFrance is Here!”
Savor unique downtown shops and restaurants. Enjoy a stroll. A visit to the Stockbridge Chamber of Commerce website can give you all the information that you need to fill out a day of discoveries.
Photo via the Norman Rockwell Museum website. "Home For Christmas" by Norman Rockwell, 1955.