Alan Chartock: Barrington Stage gets 2 thumbs up


The Barrington Stage's "On the Town" may be the best thing that the company has ever done and they have done some amazing things. I've always liked the play, the music and the choreography, and this ensemble has really done it right. While the plot may be a little hokey, you have to remember what was happening in 1944 when this country was at war and three sailors get off the boat looking for the New York experience. You may just have some tears in your eyes by the end of the show. This play is a must-see. Just the dancing is worth it but the whole piece is so nostalgic, so real, so filled with extraordinary talent, that you don't really want to miss it. Get yourself up there.

Julie Boyd's work in developing Barrington Stage has paid dividends for Pittsfield and the city is truly lucky to have the company in residence. Every theater company now has an educational component. There are lots of at-risk young people in our cities. Julie Boyd and Barrington Stage chose to honor a wonderful woman, Shirley Edgerton, for her work with Pittsfield's children. The 2013 Gala rang with praise for Edgerton. This is one brilliant woman who has given her all to make things better for young people and especially for young people of color by showing them all that is possible. Good for Julie, good for Shirley. Good for all of us that we have a chance to see something like this. If you don't believe me, read the New York Times review of "On the Town."

Last Sunday, Roselle and I went to see Joan Baez at Tanglewood. I just love her. She has never pulled her punches and has been out on the front lines for over 50 years, fighting for justice and freedom no mater how dangerous that fight might sometimes be. I recently had the pleasure of interviewing her and I hardly knew what to ask, she's done so much. While Joan has written some important music, she is best known for her voice, one of the sweetest and purest ever. Incredible in her own right, it was she who introduced the world to Bob Dylan. You can look it up.

Dylan, of course, is a genius. His musical output is phenomenal and he is one in a million but he probably won't get any awards for being the most charming human being on the planet. Joan, on the other hand, is simply a nice person. At the end of the concert, she insisted that the security people at Tanglewood let the crowd in. She did it in a nice way and was neither belligerent nor strident. It was great to see her son, Gabe, playing percussion with her. Like her, he's a very sensitive musician.

There were a lot of people with tears in their eyes as Joan sang "Diamonds and Rust."

When I asked her if folk music would ever be the same as when we were coming up in the ‘60s and ‘70s, she said it would not. It was the confluence of civil rights and Vietnam and a collective will to make things different that fostered the music then and that is, of course, is largely gone.

Good for the Boston Symphony for bringing this greatest of the greats to Tanglewood. She acknowledged that there is something very special about the place. Other places she's seen during her years on the road have blended together, but Tanglewood stands out.

It takes a lot to get me out these days but when it comes to Joan Baez, just tell me when and where. She told me that she might hang it up and paint. If you heard the cheering at Tanglewood last Sunday you would realize what a terrible loss that would be. That cheering came from the heart.

Alan Chartock, a Great Barrington resident, is president and CEO of WAMC Northeast Public Radio and a professor emeritus of communications at SUNY-Albany.


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