Theater is back up and on its feet on big stages in and around Boston with a couple of crowd-pleasing musical theater classics through this weekend!

MAMMA MIA at North Shore Music Theatre shut down on press opening night after IATSE (International Alliance of Theater and Stage Employees) staged a walkout. (I managed to catch the matinee!) But within 24 hours, they walked back in and it was on with the show. According to NSMT:

STRIKE UPDATE: North Shore Music Theatre has entered into an agreement with their stagehands who have agreed to return to work after making progress on wage increases.  All productions of Mamma Mia! will go on as previously scheduled thru October 17.

This happens to be a rousing production of the ABBA musical set on a Greek island on the eve of a wedding to which the young bride (Sara Bartoszek) has secretly invited three of her mother’s (Donna Sheridan) former lovers (Al Bundonis, David Elder, Jesse Sharp) in order to figure out which of them might be the dad to walk her down the aisle! I’ve seen this musical more than a few times, onstage and onscreen, with everyone from Tony-winner Judith Light to Oscar winner Meryl Streep in the lead. But this production has real heart and vocal heft, staged in the round, with a live orchestra, glittery costumes, and outsized performances. Some of the numbers had the matinee crowd on its feet!¬† If you are among those still holding tickets for the cancelled opening night performance, call the box office at (978) 232-7200 to reschedule to any date from now through October 17th!¬†

RENT: The 25th Anniversary “Farewell Season of Love” production of Jonathan Larson’s Tony Award and Pulitzer Prize-winning show is now onstage at the Boch Center Shubert Theatre and is somehow better and worse than I remember. When I first saw the show 25 years ago, I remember questioning the premise: WHY the heck didn’t this rag tag crew of bohemian songwriters, filmmakers, drag queens, and assorted performance artists squatting in NYC’s lower east side think THEY DIDN’T HAVE TO PAY THE RENT?

Now in 2021, what looked like entitlement now looks like prescient resentment about paying rent in a society that not only turned its back on AIDS victims, but going forward not only turned its back on the homeless and drug addicted, but would fuel those problems by turning a blind eye to racial, gender, and income inequality in a hyper-polarized world in which the social compact has been demonized. Jonathan Larson must be turning in his early grave.

Last night the house was pretty full, with an audience cheering on this sprawling cast of characters who were put through their paces at lightning speed. Larson’s score has really grown on me and become more relevant and beautiful over time. The production almost did it justice. Throughout, the sound was an issue; the assorted voice mail messages sprinkled throughout as comic relief were muffled beyond recognition, and the onstage band lacked power and just didn’t anchor these performances, many of which could have used the support. The best voices did not belong to leads Coleman Cummings as “Roger” and Aiyana Smash as “Mimi” (an excellent dancer) who generated absolutely no heat however many candles they attempted to light.

It was another couple who brought the house down at least twice with their powerful vocals and big presences — Rayla Garske as “Joanne” and Lyndie Moe as “Maureen,” who also sent us “Over The Moon” in a vibrant and funny performance. And then there was the second act opening number featuring¬† “Seasons of Love” soloist Charlotte Odusanya a 19 year-old Emerson College student taking a gap year which she’s spending stealing the show in this touring production. Her voice cut through the chaos and landed right in the middle of our uplifted hearts. She gave me hope. See RENT at the Boch Center Shubert Theatre through Sunday OCTOBER 17!¬†