Home Musical play Rachel Bertone prepares for her lead role at the Reagle Music Theater

Rachel Bertone prepares for her lead role at the Reagle Music Theater

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In total, Bertone spent a decade working steadily at Reagle, serving as Director of Educational Programs alongside her stage work. She then choreographed and directed at Boston’s Lyric Stage Company, Moonbox Productions and Wheelock Family Theater before moving to New York in 2019. For her inaugural season, she directed and choreographed “West Side Story” (July 8-16) and “Pippin” (August 5-13).

“Once I was drafted, I contacted Bob, who said he was happy the team had chosen ‘someone from the family,'” says Bertone.

From 1969 to 2021, Eagle transformed a high school auditorium in Waltham into a summer destination for high-quality Broadway classics, with appearances by the likes of Shirley Jones, Lorenzo Lamas, Donna McKechnie, John Davidson, Rachel York, Patrick Cassidy and Andrea. McArdle, as well as musical revues and a year-round concert series. Along the way, Reagle’s lineup also served as a launching pad for many Boston artists, including Bertone.

“I was first hired as an ensemble performer for the entire season,” Bertone explains, “then I moved up to dance captain, assistant director, and choreographer, and then I took full responsibility for direction and choreography for ‘Carousel’ and ‘Showboat’. I had the chance to work with Gemze de Lappe, who shared the Dream Ballet choreography in ‘Oklahoma’ which she learned from Agnès de Mille, as well as Rachel York [”Kiss Me, Kate”] and Rick Hilsabeck [“Phantom of the Opera,” “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang”]. It was such a gift to be in the room with these experts.

Diego Klock-Pérez and Bianca Rivera-Irions rehearse a number from “West Side Story”. Josh Reynolds for the Boston Globe

What she loves about Reagle, Bertone says, is the opportunity to bring together so many artists.

“We mix talent from New York and beyond, with local professionals and artists from the community,” she says. “It’s an even playing field.”

Bertone says she is thrilled to continue Reagle’s commitment to full orchestras and major casts. “West Side Story” will feature 28 members of the company, many of whom she says are new to her.

“The large cast helps make the show exciting for the audience,” she says. “And I love the opportunity to collaborate and connect with the cast. Every member of the ensemble needs to feel invested because they are critical to the success of the show.

Diego Klock-Pérez, who plays the central role of Bernardo, leader of the Puerto Rican Sharks gang, says that despite the widespread familiarity with the series, he was impressed with the time Bertone spent developing the character.

“Familiarity can sometimes lead to these roles being reduced to stereotypes, and it’s really important to me that Bernardo is not misrepresented,” says Klock-Perez. “Rachel asks us to take a step back and think about why these teenagers joined a gang. The individuals of these two gangs are fighting for the same thing – they are trying to be safe in a world of chaos.

Bertone and Klock-Perez worked together on his Wheelock Family Theater production of “In the Heights” and his Lyric Stage production of “Kiss of the Spider Woman.”

“Rachel has so much respect for the opinions of actors,” says Klock-Perez. “She asks each of us to bring truth and respect to the characters. That’s what helps the audience lean into the story.

“I’m as creative as the people I surround myself with,” says Bertone. “I think my background as a performer and my background as a teacher combine to let me know what actors need to feel empowered.”

Although the challenges of the pandemic made his first season “a year of transition,” Bertone says after the pandemic hiatus, hosting just two shows instead of Reagle’s traditional three seemed right this summer. She is grateful to have her colleague and longtime Reagle musical director, Dan Rodriguez, as a partner on these shows, as they have worked together at other theaters in the area, including in a production of “West Side Story.” at the Turtle Lane Playhouse 10 years ago.

“It’s exciting to mix the familiar with the new,” she says. “Part of my role as artistic director is to reach a wider audience and appeal to younger and more diverse audiences. Nevertheless, we will again present the “Christmastime” show, which is so popular with families. I staged the choreography for children years ago, so I hope to give it a bit of a facelift while respecting the tradition.

She is already thinking ahead and hopes to expand educational programming, add more concerts and reviews, and ultimately provide the opportunity for workshops on new pieces.

“Hopefully we can continue to tap talent from our backyard as well as New York for even more continuous year-round programming,” she says.

A family’s fears

Great Barrington Public Theater presents the latest installment in its series of solo shows, ‘Leave Your Fears Here’, through July 10 at the Liebowitz Black Box Theatre, Bard College in Simon’s Rock. The memoir, by actor James Morrison (‘Law and Order SVU’, ‘The West Wing’, ‘Six Feet Under’), tells the heartbreaking story of his 10-year-old son’s brain cancer treatment and recovery year. ($25 tickets at www.greatbarringtonpublictheater.org.)

WEST SIDE STORY

Presented by Reagle Music Theatre. At 617 Lexington St., Waltham, July 8-16. Tickets $38-$68. www.reaglemusictheatre.org

Terry Byrne can be reached at [email protected].