Kate Pazakis directs Harwich Theatre, Will Swenson becomes Neil Diamond

Transition to Cape Cod Theater Company/Harwich Junior Theater is underway, as Kate Pazakis begins to take over as production art director from Nina Schuessler, who is retiring after 25 years in the role.

The choice of Pazakis, who grew up on Cape Cod and at the West Harwich theater, was announced Friday following a nationwide search by the CCTC/HJT board of directors.

“Like so many of Nina’s proteges, Kate has enjoyed great success far beyond our shores,” board chairman Chris Powicki said in announcing the pick. “We are thrilled to welcome him back and see his creativity, empathy, talent and passion applied to benefit local families and communities.”

Kate Pazakis has been named the new Artistic Director of Production for the Cape Cod Theater Company/Harwich Junior Theatre.

He noted that Schuessler had “entertained, inspired and educated generations of children and students” – including Pazakis. She then became artistic director and producer of Rockwell Table & Stage in Los Angeles, where she created “The UMPO Series” (for “unauthorized musical parodies of…”); was co-producer of Green Day’s musical ‘American Idiot’ in London’s West End; and appeared on and off Broadway, on national touring shows, on “South Park” on television, and in multiple commercials.

Pazakis recently returned to Cape Town with her husband and two young children, settling in Barnstable Village. She has since created a show “UMPO” and others, and performed with the Cape Rep Theater in Brewster.

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“In 1986, at the age of 9, I was cast in ‘Rags to Riches’, my first HJT show and the start of a lifelong love affair. I spent my childhood until ‘in my early twenties deeply involved in acting, including numerous classes and performances,” Pazakis said in a written statement. “When I imagined my future, it always involved coming home to HJT. The opportunity to continue in the footsteps of my mentor, Nina Schuessler, is an honor.

Schuessler has similar praise for his successor. “Handing the reins of our beloved theater to my bright and talented friend Kate Pazakis is like coming full circle,” she said in her statement. “She is an inspiration to all who know her,” noting “her vision and dedication will take CCTC/HJT far into the future.

As Schuessler steps down on March 31 after a month-long transition, she will continue to lead there. “Red Swans” a new work that will open in April based on the real-life experiences of Lisa Gervai Egler – Schuessler’s mother – and Katja Caselles. The two became friends in Berlin during World War II, then became part of a resistance group dubbed “The Red Orchestra” and their story explores the power of art as a means of challenge and survival.

A “Standing Ovation” gala will be held June 30 to celebrate Schuessler’s career and contributions to the Cape Cod theater community. Information and tickets: www.capecodtheatrecompany.org.

Broadway's Will Swenson will star as iconic singer Neil Diamond in

Beach Road Weekend adds Taylor, Baker

VINEYARD HAVEN — What will be the region’s biggest music festival in recent memory added Vineyard musician Livingston Taylor and folk singer-songwriter Julien Baker to the late August lineup last week.

The Beach Road Weekend Music Festival is due to take place August 26-28 at Veterans Memorial Park, with two side-by-side stages for all-day music. Taylor’s 50-plus-year career spans performing, songwriting and teaching folk, pop, gospel and jazz – including writing top 40 hits for his brother James Taylor and appearances with Joni Mitchell, Linda Ronstadt, Fleetwood Mac and Jimmy Buffet. Hailing from Memphis, Baker is an acclaimed independent singer-songwriter whose third album topped the US folk charts last year.

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Beach Road’s roster of previously announced artists, who have over 35 Grammy Awards and dozens of gold and platinum albums between them, includes Beck, Wilco, The Avett Brothers, Khruangbin, Jason Isbell & the 400 Unit, Billy Strings, Emmylou Harris, Lucinda Williams, and dozens more acts.

Tickets and information: www.beachroadweekend.com.

Will Swenson to direct Neil Diamond musical at pre-Broadway premiere in Boston

The Red Sox and other Boston-area music fans rejoice: the new musical about Neil Diamond will play in Boston before Broadway, and Tony-nominated Will Swenson has the title role.

Tickets went on sale Friday from June 21 to July 31 for the world premiere at the Emerson Colonial Theater at www.emersoncolonialtheatre.com.

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Swenson has just finished starring in Classic Stage Company’s revival of Stephen Sondheim’s “Assassins” in New York; earned Tony Award, Drama Desk, and Drama League nominations for her portrayal of Berger in “Hair” (directed by American Repertory Theater’s Diane Paulus); and received an Obie Award for “Jerry Springer: The Opera”. Other Broadway credits include ‘Waitress’ opposite Sara Bareilles, creating the role of Javert in the 2014 revival of ‘Les Miserables’ and featuring ‘Priscilla: Queen of the Desert’ and ‘110 in the Shade’ .

Swenson has also performed in Provincetown for the “Broadway@” shows, with and without his six-time Tony Award-winning wife Audra McDonald, who is on the roster again this summer to join the star-led shows. Sirius XM Radio Seth Rudetsky. In a 2018 show, Swenson sang Diamond’s “You Don’t Bring Me Flowers,” in a comedy duet with Rudetsky singing the Barbra Streisand part.

In his casting announcement, Swenson said he couldn’t remember not having most of Neil Diamond’s songs permanently imprinted in his brain. And he is “super happy” with it.

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“A Beautiful Noise” will tell the personal and professional story of famed singer-songwriter Diamond, who sold over 130 million albums and performed in arenas around the world for five decades. He has charted 39 Top 40 singles and 16 Top 10 albums in the United States and abroad. Her recognition includes a Grammy Award, 13 other nominations, and an honor from the Kennedy Center. He is a member of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and the Songwriters Hall of Fame.

Known for songs such as “Song Sung Blue”, “I Am, I Said” and “Longfellow Serenade”, Diamond first performed at Revere in 1967 and has since performed in or around Boston nearly 40 times . Diamond’s song “Sweet Caroline” has become an anthem for Red Sox fans and is played at every home game for an eighth one-on-one at Fenway Park. Diamond took to the field to sing it himself in the aftermath of the 2013 marathon bombing.

The new musical will feature around 20 Diamond songs, with a book written by four-time Oscar nominee Anthony McCarten (“Bohemian Rhapsody,” “Darkest Hour,” “The Theory of Everything,” “The Two Popes”); Directed by Tony Award winner Michael Mayer (“Funny Girl,” “Hedwig and the Angry Inch,” “Spring Awakening”), and choreographed by Olivier Award winner and four-time Tony nominee Steven Hoggett (“Harry Potter and the Cursed Child”, “Once”, “Black Watch”).

Contact Kathi Scrizzi Driscoll at kdriscoll@capecodonline.com. Follow on Twitter: @KathiSDCCT.

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