Monday, January 20, 2020

ROLL OUT THE RED CARPET FOR OSCAR NIGHT AT THE KATE FEBRUARY 9



Have you seen movies about a villain of Batman who is mentally ill (Joker), a disturbing time in the 1960’s in tinsel town (Once Upon a Time...in Hollywood). a mob drama about a man with ties to his homeland (The Irishman), a World War I epic of danger and deceit (1917), a new version of the March sisters (Little Women), a bitter divorce and custody battle (Marriage Story), a dark comedy and psychological thriller set in South Korea (Parasite), a tale of a young German boy who wants Hitler as a personal friend (Jojo Rabbit) and a true story of how the Ford Motor Company wants to beat Ferrari in the racecar circuit (Ford V Ferrari)?
If you’ve seen any or all of them, you’re all set to vote on this year’s Oscar nominations for best picture and many other categories and ready to attend in your fashion finery the Tenth Annual Oscar Night Party at the Katharine Hepburn Cultural Arts Center on Sunday, February 9th at 7 p.m.
This red carpet fundraising event promises to be extra special this year as it also celebrates the Kate’s tenth anniversary.  It pays tribute to Katharine Hepburn’s incredible cultural and arts presentations at her unique theatrical space all year long. Proceeds support quality performing cultural and arts presentations at the Kate..
Fresh Salt of Saybrook Point Marina and Spa will once again provide a plethora of plentiful and delicious hors d’oeuvres and delectable desserts.  Candy and popcorn and a champagne toast will also be featured. The 92nd Academy Awards will be shown live on a giant screen, with a cash bar available all evening long.  Devin Carney, grandson of the late award-winning actor Art Carney and state representative, actor, and member of the Kate’s board of trustees, will serve as emcee and bring his grandfather’s Oscar for photo opportunities. Debra Mals, the “glitter queen,” will add touches of shine as the official event décor chair.
The evening will include an auction featuring such prizes as two tickets to a live taping of Saturday Night Live with overnight stay at the Yale Club of New York, a special private chef’s dinner for six with wine pairings by the chef of Fresh Salt and a $250 gift certificate from The E List Shop in Chester, a unique boutique, among many others.  The raffle will feature a 43” Visio Smart TV.
The Oscar Night Party is generously sponsored by J. David Kelsey Family, H & R Block of Old Saybrook, Ashlawn Farm Coffee, Comcast, Gulick & Company, Renovation Contractors and Saybrook Point Inn Marina & Spa.
For tickets ($75, members $65), call the Kate, 300 Main Street, Old Saybrook at 877-503-1286 or online at www.thekate.org. Relive the wonderful moments of Hollywood in splendor and join viewers from 225 countries around the globe for this glittering and glamorous night.
Come to the gala to vote for Renee Zellweger as Judy Garland or Joaquin Phoenix in "Joker.” Give best director nod to Martin Scorsese for the three and a half hour “The Irishman,” symbolically shake hands with the kind hearted Tom Hanks for his turn as Mister Rodgers, cheer on the youngest March sister Florence Pugh in “Little Women” or hail Cynthia Erivo in the Harriet Tubman story.  Make your vote count.

TIE A YELLOW RIBBON ON THE MUSICAL GIFT OF THE 70s THANKS TO CT CABARET


If you were trying to define the essence of the music of the 1970’s, you might banter around terms like disco, funk, hard rock, soul, heavy metal, country rock, progressive rock, new wave, blues, pop and rhythm and blues and many others.  Well, you get the idea.  Genres were changing and innovation was the key.  Singers and singer/songwriters  like Barry Manilow, Elvis, Neil Diamond, Simon and Garfunkel, Carly Simon, Roberta Flack, Helen Reddy and Carole King were caught in the spotlight.  To celebrate the seventies, the Connecticut Cabaret in Berlin invites you to “8 Track The Sounds of the ‘70s” weekends until February 8.

Imagine a giant jukebox exploding with favorite tunes and ones you barely remember, all guaranteed to have you grooving with delight.  Conceived by Rick Seeber, with musical arrangements by Michael Gribbon, musically directed by TJ Thompson, and produced and directed by Kris McMurray, sit back for a wonderful journey back in time.

With the musical talents of Emily Gray, Erica Whitfield, Jayson Beaulieu and Dan Frye as your hosts, you will be gifted with dozens of hit tunes that showcase the era and renew your love for the times. Sunshine is the predominant weather forecast as this quartet dances with great choreography to tunes like “Best of My Love,”  “Close To You,” “We’ve Only Just Begun,” “Everything is Beautiful,” “Just the Way You Are,” “Afternoon Delight,” “You Light Up My Life,” “Killing Me Softly” and “Make It with You.”  Love is the cure for whatever ails you.

A change of pace marks such songs as “Convoy,” “Desperado,” “50 Ways to Leave Your Lover,”  “Brick House,” “Car Wash” and “Peace Train” while the power of the female sex is evident in “I Am Woman” where her voice roars. 

Reserve your place now by ordering tickets ($35) by calling the CT Cabaret, 31-33 Webster Square Road, Berlin at 860-829-1248 or online at www.ctcabaret.com for shows Friday and Saturday nights at 8 p.m., with doors opening at 7:15 p.m.  Remember to pack goodies to share at your table or plan to buy desserts and drinks at the concession stand on site.

Do not fear, the Seventies are alive and well and grooving to the beat at the Connecticut Cabaret.

Monday, January 13, 2020

COME MEET COMPOSER ELLIE GREENWICH: “THE LEADER OF THE PACK”





PHOTOS BY CONSTANTINE PAPPAS


From the time Ellie Greenwich was a teenager, learning to play the accordion, she knew her destiny was to be a singer/songwriter.  Growing up in Brooklyn, New York, she acknowledged her mother’s advice to become a teacher, but she knew in her heart that music was her future.  Luckily for the world she was right in her prediction, and, even luckier for you, Seven Angels Theatre in Waterbury is bringing her story to the stage, thanks to the Stage Seven Community Theatre Production weekends until Sunday, January 19.

With a bundle of determination and talent, Brittany Mulcahy’s Ellie sets a goal of musical magic and then makes it happen. While listening to her cautious mom advise her to get a college degree, she nevertheless creates a three girl singing group, The Jivettes, and works hard to achieve her dreams, becoming a singer, songwriter and recording producer from the 1960’s to the early 2000’s.

Starting at the famous site for music magic the Brill Building, she fought her way to the top, getting credit for discovering Neil Diamond along the way.  In the musical “Leader of the Pack” with book by Anne Beatts, music and lyrics by Ellie Greenwich and Friends, with additional material by Jack Heifner, based on the original play by Melanie Mintz, we learn of her trials and triumphs.

With Samantha Rae Bass playing Darlene Love as narrator and principal singer, we hear such great tunes as “Wait ‘Til My Bobby Gets Home,” Today I Met the Boy I’m Gonna Marry,” “Not Too Young to Get Married,” “Christmas-Baby Please Come Home,” and “River Deep Mountain High.”  Other great tunes are presented by Zani N. Scott as Annie Golden, her writing partner and husband Jeff Barry played by Rob Girardin and her music producer Rodney K.’s Gus Sharkey.  Some snazzy choreography is staged by Zachary Geiger, Lucia Greene, Jewell Hearon, Loren Pelosi, Alex Polzun and Alexa Santos. Foster Evans Reese directs this bopping beauty on a record hop set designed by Katrina Paul.

Ellie Greenwich is credited with having a major influence on 1960’s rock and roll, having seventeen Billboard Hot 100 Hits in 1964 alone, earning 25 gold and platinum records and being inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

For tickets ($28, four pack $90), call Seven Angels Theatre, 1 Plank Road, Waterbury at 203-757-4676 or online at sevenangelstheatre.org. Performances are Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m. with an extra matinee Saturday, January 18 at 2 p.m.

For a girl who just wanted to hear her songs on the radio and be on American Bandstand, Ellie Greenwich achieved levels of success even she could never have anticipated.  Come groove to “Da Doo Ron Ron” and “Do Wah Diddy Diddy.”

“ANASTASIA” AN AWESOME MUSICAL ADVENTURE

Adventure, romance and mystery swirl around a penniless young girl who may just have a secret identity or does she?
Is she the perfect and poised princess or the fanciful figment of a fruitful imagination?  Come meet Anastasia, the lass whose family is assassinated in a revolt in czarist Russia at the turn of the twentieth century in a glorious musical at the Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts in Hartford until Sunday, January 19.  Trust me, you don’t want to miss this splendid spectacle of a show. It is magical and momentous and marvelous.

Lila Coogan’s Anastasia, better known as Anya, is the delightfully spunky and devoted daughter whose story book childhood is disturbed violently when the peasants revolt  and everyone in her family is killed, save for her and her grandmother, the Dowager Empress, played regally by Joy Franz, who had fortunately traveled to Paris in advance of the siege.  Coogan is wonderfully charming as the young girl thrust out of her aristocratic upbringing to find herself suddenly sweeping streets, penniless and alone.  Think Eliza Doolittle without the flowers. .

Two men, Jake Levy’s Dmitry, and Edward Staudenmayer’s Vlad come upon Anya in her reduced state and determine she would be an excellent candidate to pose as the lost princess, to learn the appropriate facts and pass herself off as The Dowager Empress’s missing heir.  Think Professor Higgins and his mate  Pickering without the language lessons.  While the gentlemen are working to perfect their scheme, the ruthless Russians want to suppress any rumors that Anastasia survived the coup and procede to plot her death, led by Jason Michael Evans’ Gleb.

The Dowager in Paris is protected by her guardian Lily, a vibrant Tari Kelly, who dismisses all the imposters who claim to be ready to assume the legacy.  Lily’s past relationship with Vlad helps to open the door for Anya to make her claim, and the renewing of that courtship is a delight to witness…one of millions in the musical.  One quickly runs out of superlatives to describe the elegant costuming, the elaborate scenic design, with amazing projections and video, the enchanting choreography  and the exceptional direction.   All the moving parts of this magical musical fit together in a masterful jigsaw puzzle of perfection.

This new musical boasts a book by Terrence McNally, music by Stephen Flaherty and lyrics by Lynn Ahrens and the result is joyful. Tunes like “Once Upon a December,” “We’ll Go From There,” “In  a Crowd of Thousands,” “Land of Yesterday” and “Everything to Win” swell with meaning. There is even a scene from the ballet “Swan Lake “ to admire and applaud.

For tickets ($31 and up), call the Bushnell, 166 Capitol Avenue, Hartford at 860-987-5900 or online at www.bushnell.org/MyTickets.  Performances are Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday  at 7:30 p.m., Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m., with matinees Saturday at 2 p.m. and Sunday at 1 p.m. and 6:30 p.m.

Hop aboard for the white gloved elegant hit of the season as Anastasia takes you on a journey of adventure and romance that bridges decades and destiny.


Monday, January 6, 2020

REVIEWING AND RENEWING THE BEST CONNECTICUT THEATER OF 2019


ASHLEY AYALA AS THE ADORABLE "SYLVIA" AT THE CT CABARET THEATRE

As a new year and a new decade beckon, it is appropriate to look back and review the past, and in the case of wonderful theater, it is a joy of remembering.  We are blessed in Connecticut to have an abundance of theatrical enterprises, from Equity to community to national road shows and here, in no particular order, are some of my favorites from 2019.

Heading the list is a personal showstopper, at least for the past fifteen years, The Goodspeed Festival of New Musicals in East Haddam.  An entire weekend in January (this year January 17-19, 2020) is devoted to a trio of new staged readings of musicals, two cabarets and a plethora of seminars and symposiums highlighting theatrical topics.

Summer Theatre of New Canaan spotlighted an exciting and Technicolor magic show of “Pippin,” the tale of a prince who is seeking to find his way and his purpose in the world and it was truly outstanding.

Music Theatre of Connecticut in Norwalk offered a bittersweet and heartwarming “Steel Magnolias,” the story of a sisterhood of Southern women who shared the joys and sorrows of life with laughter, hugs and the occasional tears.

Entering into the life of composer Irving Berlin, the amazing Hershey Felder researched, wrote and portrayed magnificently at Westport Country Playhouse
and the Hartford Stage. The haunting tale of an elephant and the poachers who pursued it was revealed in all its horrors in “Mlima’s Tale” also on the stage of the Westport Country Playhouse.

For dramatic impact, New Haven’s Long Wharf Theatre presented the moving Greek tale “An Iliad” while Playhouse on Park in West Hartford tackled the true story of a group of black teenagers caught in prejudicial lies in “The Scottsboro Boys.”

Historical times were also revealed in Music Theater of Connecticut’s lively production of “Ragtime,” using every inch of its intimate stage.  The spirited presentation of  “The Music Man” gladdened the hearts of all the Goodspeed audiences who witnessed this special classic.

Kudos to ACT of Ridgefield who took on the daunting task of exploring the scope and depth of  “Working” and the participants who keep this country functioning. One man’s efforts in entertaining was highlighted in “Woody Sez,” a country western tribute at Ivoryton Playhouse to the tunes and talents of Woody Guthrie.

A little mystery and romance mixed beautifully at Hartford Stage with the presentation of “The Engagement Party,” while at UCONN the Connecticut Rep took a spin at the occasion of discovering “Shakespeare in Love.” Love was clearly evident in Joanna Gleason’s moving tribute to her parents in her original cabaret show  “Out of the Eclipse” at Fairfield University.

Twists and turns abounded in Yale Repertory’s offering of a new play “The Plot” where questions remained long after the curtain fell.  There were no questions about the adorable pup “Sylvia” who invaded the lives of her owners at the Connecticut Cabaret in Berlin.

Seven Angels Theatre in Waterbury presented a second installment of that favorite couple of comics “George and Gracie” for nostalgia’s sake while Hartford TheaterWorks returned with another traditional version of their home grown “Christmas on the Rocks,” this year with a new bartender at the helm.

The Terris Theatre in Chester as one of its new presents to the state presented “Hi, My Name is Ben,” highlighted a true story of a man who quietly changed lives while the Bushnell in Hartford shared the moving 9/11 tribute to humanity in “Come From Away,” a must on your theater viewings.

The list is completed with two productions at opposite ends of the spectrum,  Fairfield University’s monologues of women’s plights “Women on Fire” and the outrageous parody of  Alexander Hamilton “Spamilton” at Playhouse on Park.

Hopefully you have experienced at least a few of these outstanding productions and will be inspired to take advantage of a few more as 2020 begins and promises to rock the theatrical world in Connecticut.

Monday, December 30, 2019

“ON GOLDEN POND” BECKONS YOU TO THE KATE FOR REFLECTION AND FUN




Spending your twilight years in a favorite place of tranquility, a summer home that has served your family well for almost five decades, may be an idyllic end to a long and happy marriage.  So feel the Thayers, Ethel and Norman, who are settling in for another season “On Golden Pond,” a sweet piece of nostalgia penned by Ernest Thompson.  The Saybrook Stage Company is fittingly bringing this heartwarming comedy to life at the Katharine Hepburn Cultural Arts Center in Old Saybrook from Thursday, January 16 to Sunday, January 19.

In the 1981 movie both Katharine Hepburn as Ethel and Henry Fonda as Norman earned Academy Awards for their roles.  Rounding on eighty, Norman (Jim Hile) is retired from teaching and, despite an increasingly poor memory and heart palpitations, he has retained his sharp wit and bitingly strong views on life.  Ethel (Terri Corigliano), ten years his junior, appreciates her hubby and the long marriage that they have grown comfortable enjoying.

Sending a ripple of tremors through their familiar routines is the arrival of their divorced daughter Chelsea (Amy Kirby) who is on her way to Europe with her new fiancé Bill (Ralph Buonocore).   His son Billy (Jake Totten) will be the summer guest of the Thayers, the “grandchild” they never had, and his presence will enliven the household in innumerable ways.

What will Norman and Billy learn from each other?  Will Chelsea be able to reconcile her differences with her dad?  How will Ethel cope with the newest and oldest members of the family? How does the visit of neighbor Charlie (Mark Gilchrist) change the dynamics of the story?

The Saybrook Stage Company will present “On Golden Pond” in honor of The Kate’s tenth anniversary, under the direction of Marc Deaton.  For tickets ($17-23), call 860-510-0453 or online at www.thekate.org.  Performances are Thursday to Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m. at the theater, 300 Main Street, Old Saybrook.

Spend a leisurely summer day with Ethel and Norman Thayer as they readjust to more than just the loons visiting them “On Golden Pond.”


Monday, December 23, 2019

WARM UP WITH GOODSPEED FESTIVAL OF NEW MUSICALS THIS WINTER





PHOTOS FROM PRIOR GOODSPEED FESTIVALS OF NEW MUSICALS
PHOTOS BY DIANE SOBOLEWSKI
While the weather outside is frightful, there is a place that is warm and truly delightful: the 15th Annual Goodspeed Festival of New Musicals in East Haddam. Produced by Goodspeed Musicals Max Showalter Center for Education in Musical Theatre, this three day event will take place on Friday, January 17 to Sunday, January 19 and it’s the highlight of the winter season for all musical theatre aficionados.
The weekend begins on Friday at 7:30 p.m. with the exotic tale of “The Tattooed Lady,” with book by Erin Courtney and Max Vernon and music and lyrics by Max Vernon.  What choice does a seventy-eight year old woman, who earned her living in a freak show as a Tattooed Lady, have when her husband dies?  Must she retire to the solitude of her daughter’s home or summon the courage and return one last time to the stage?
This first staged reading of this musical will be followed at 10 p.m. at the Gelston House next door with a Festival Cabaret with actress-singer-writer-teacher Grace McLean and special guest Jonathan Brielle.  Original music by McLean will ring from the rafters.
Take your vitamin pills for a highly energetic Saturday that begins with your choice of several seminars from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Gelston House and across the street at LaVita Restaurant.  Goodspeed’s Artistic Associate Anika Chapin will lead a sparkling discussion with Matte O’Brien and Matt Vinson about their new musical set for summer of 2020 at the Goodspeed:  “Drama Nerd: Anne of Green Gables.”  Want to hear what it is entailed in being a Broadway producer, then come hear Nancy Gibbs tell her theatrical tales in “From Downtown to Uptown.”
Producing Director of Musical Theatre Factory Mei Ann Teo will share her views in “What’s the Buzz?  The New and Distinct Voices of Musical Theater.”  In an “Exit Interview,” come hear Michael O’Flaherty discuss his decades at the helm as Goodspeed’s  Resident Musical Director.  Additional seminars will be announced.
At 3 p.m. at the Goodspeed, a symposium will journey back in time for 15 years of the Festival to reflect in its contributions to musical theatre over the years.  At 4 p.m., Goodspeed Executive Director Michael Gennaro will lead a symposium on “New Vision for New Works-The Terris Theatre in 2020” and share the exciting new offerings there for the upcoming year. Both symposiums are free and open to the public.
If you purchased the Gold Package for $149, it includes all three staged readings, a trio of seminars, two symposiums, a Saturday night three course dinner at 5:30 p.m. at either the Gelston House or La Vita, either the Friday or Saturday night Cabaret and a Sunday afternoon Meet the Writers event to close the Festival.  The Silver package for $80 includes the three staged readings, both symposiums and the Meet the Writers event.
Saturday evening at 7:30 p.m. take your seat at the Goodspeed for “Private Gomer” with book, music and lyrics by Marshall Pailet.  It tells the tale of a World War I soldier who hides his profound hearing loss and hones a remarkable skill as a sniper.  Along the way, he must deal with violence and war and the interesting people he meets on his travels.
The Saturday night Cabaret at 10 p.m. features Jonathan Brielle performing “It’s the Bear” at the Gelston House.
While six co-workers meet at a Bear Mountain retreat to work on tensions in the workplace, a mysterious killer is on the loose with his own agenda. How will they survive?
Sunday at 1 p.m. at the Goodspeed, the final musical “Grow” will be staged, with book by Matt Murray, music by Colleen Dauncey and lyrics by Akiva Romer–Segal.
Sisterhood, community and the future will be tested by two Amish teenage sisters Hannah and Ruth when they experience the ancient rite of passage Rumspringa.  They find themselves in a dangerous predicament with a most unlikely savior to help them survive.
The Festival will conclude at 3:30 p.m. at the Goodspeed with an intimate chat with the three teams of writers and composers in Meet the Writers Reception. Discover  
their source of ideas and inspiration and how they go about working the creative process.
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This year’s Festival is sponsored by corporate sponsor RisCassi & Davis, P.C., with support from the Burry Fredrik Foundation, the Adolph and Ruth Schnurmacher Foundation Sheridan College and Webster Private Bank.  Single tickets are $25 for each staged reading and $15 each for students.  Purchase tickets and packages by calling the Goodspeed Box Office at 860-873-8668 or online at www.goodspeed.org.
So ignore any frightful weather outside and cozy up to the Goodspeed Festival for warmth and wonderment.