Monday, December 22, 2014

GOODSPEED FESTIVAL: A DEFINITE CURE FOR WINTER BLUES


    PHOTOS OF LAST YEAR'S FESTIVAL BY DIANE SOBOLEWSKI

Do you dread winter?  The cold, the ice, the snow, the inconvenience?  What if I said there was an antidote...an oasis in time that is meant to counteract all the blahs of January.  Unbelievable? Impossible? Well, abandon your snow shovels and head to Goodspeed Musicals in East Haddam for a hearty weekend dose of pure sunshine and fun.

From Friday to Sunday, the weekend of January 16-18, the Tenth Annual Goodspeed Festival of New Musicals will be aching to serenade you with stirring selections of brand new works.  Check in at Goodspeed, on the Connecticut River, for one to three days of never been seen or heard before musical works.  Staged readings will take place on all three days and you can bear witness to the "births." A cadre of talented students from the Hartt School of Music and the Boston Conservatory of Music will delight you with their skills and performance.

On Friday, January 16 at 7:30 p.m., "Outlaws" will debut, with book by James Presson and music and lyrics by Alexander Sage Oyen, directed by Noah Himmelstein.  Enter the Old West and travel aways with Jesse James and his brother in crime Frank as they take matters and the law into their own hands.  Are they reckless villains or is there a smidgen of salvation in their souls?  A Friday night cabaret of new tunes by Festival composers will follow at the Gelston House next door at 10 p.m.

Saturday, January 17 features a full day, starting at 10 a.m., of seminars, a musical preview of a Norma Terris show, a musical theatre symposium, a festival dinner at the Gelston House or at La Vita, the new musical and another cabaret at the Gelston House. To date, the seminars include author Jennifer Ashley speaking about her new book "The Untold Stories of Broadway: Volume Two"  and set designer Paul Tate dePoo revealing the secrets to detailing the varied sets of "Guys and Dolls" in his talk "How Do They Do That?"

 The new musical at 7:30 p.m. at Goodspeed will be "The Noteworthy Life of Howard Barnes," with book and lyrics by Christopher Dimond and music by Michael Kooman.  What would happen if you woke up one day and discovered your life was a musical?  Could you handle the songs and satire, the love, lyrics and laughter?  Ask Howard Barnes and he'll tell you what it's like in great detail.

On Sunday, January 18, come early at 11 a.m. to tour the new state-of-the-art Cynthia Kellogg Barrington Costume Center that houses over 250,000 costumes, enough to clothe more than two dozen Broadway shows.  At 1 p.m., view the third musical preview "For Tonight," with book by Whitney Rhodes, Spencer Williams and Shenelle Williams and music and lyrics by Shenelle Williams and Spencer Williams.  A trio of siblings, Thomas, Hayden and Nettie, have their insulated lives in a tiny Welsh village rocked off its foundation when their parents die of a mysterious illness.  This Indie-rock/folk score will follow Hayden as he travels, guitar in hand, to Liverpool to discover the wide worlds he's never known. There he finds a woman Mirela, who speaks to his searching soul.

The Festival will conclude at 3:30 p.m. at the Gelston House with a Meet the Writers Reception, when all the composers will speak to their creative process.  Single tickets to events are $20, students $15, while two packages are available, the Gold for $99 that includes almost all events and the Silver for $65, that includes all three staged readings, the symposium and the new musical preview.  Call 860-873-8668 for tickets or go online to www,goodspeed.org.  Don't wait as this is sure to sell out.

Forget the winter blues and blahs and let Goodspeed Festival of New Musicals light your way through the storm.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

DINNER THEATER FUN IS COMING TO CONSIGLIO'S

Ever feel like you could be a great Sherlock Holmes or one of television's master sleuths like on "C.S.I.," "Bones," "The Mentalist" or "Castle"?  Many of us love to dissect clues (not bodies) and evaluate alibis, get inside the head of the killer and discover who-dunnit.  Consiglio's Restaurant on Wooster Street in New Haven, known for fine Italian cuisine for over seventy-five years, is offering a plethora of opportunities to get out your magnifying glass and finger print kits to dust for evidence with a bevy of murder mystery and dinner events.

Just in time for Christmas, our favorite Detective Chester Hadlyme is dapper and chipper and eager to get on the case of "Something Elfy."  How could a mischievous elf cause someone to commit murder or be murdered himself?  Upcoming shows are Tuesday, December 16 at 7 p.m. and Thursday, December 18 at 7 p.m. and come complete with an outrageously delicious 3-course feast Italiano.  Interactive comedy is on the menu as the cast mixes and mingles at your table dropping napkins and clues for your investigative pleasure.

Ring those bells to signal the New Year 2015 and let Consiglio's and its magical master of ceremonies Michael Sayers help you usher out 2014 on New Year's Eve.  Starting promptly at 9 p.m. on Wednesday, December 31, the festivities will end at midnight with a champagne toast.  On the agenda is another mystery murder "That Kills Another Year!"  What happens when a trio of women all make a  date and discover it's all with the same man?  The results might be messy!

Your menu for the evening will feature a choice of five appetizers including spicy Tuscan shrimp, grilled jumbo shrimp over a bed of white beans simmered with tomato, garlic, onion and a hint of cayenne or Stuffed Mushrooms, with sausage, roasted red peppers, spinach, mozzarella cheese, drizzled with a garlic lemon butter sauce.  Out of the ten entrees, you might select New York Strip Steak Gorgonzola, an 8 oz. steak topped with sun-dried tomatoes and artichoke hearts in brandy gorgonzola sauce, served with herbed roasted potatoes or homemade Lobster Ravioli with Shrimp, ravioli stuffed with fresh lobster meat and ricotta, served with jumbo shrimp, tossed in a light plum tomato cream sauce.

For dessert, sink your taste buds into a choice of three:  Godiva Tiramisu, mascarpone, espresso and Godiva liquor soaked lady fingers, or Strawberry Napoleon, layers of fresh strawberries and whipped cream in flaky pastry or Chocolate Mousse Cake, a creamy and chocolatey confection with Oreo cookie crust.  Tickets ($65) include the show and 3-course meal, with beverage, tax and gratuity not included.

Start you January off to an exciting start by making a reservation for "Murder on the Menu" on Friday, January 23, 2015 when our trusty Detective Hadlyme tries to solve another mystery, with your help.  Millionaire Sir David Fairchild is celebrating a birthday but not all the guests on the invitation list want him to enjoy good health in the future.  Doors open at 6 p.m and the show starts at 7 p.m.  The 3-course dinner and show are $55.

For reservations to any of these special evenings, call Consiglio's Restaurant, 165 Wooster Street, New Haven at 203-865-4489 or online at www.consiglios.com.

If you haven't experienced the delicious joys of Consiglio's, seventy-six years of excellence in dining, now is a fine time to sign up for special treats as 2014 ends and 2015 begins.  Mangia!

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

MERRY CHRISTMAS FROM THE RANDAZZOS TO YOU


Mark Holleran, Paul Hatrick, Barbara Brown, Beth Bria, Tracey Marble, Peter Randazzo

For more than two decades, the talented husband and wife team of Peter and Karen Randazzo have been entertaining audiences all over the state of Connecticut, even through New England, and Christmas is their favorite time of the year.  This time around is no exception and you can follow their merry trail of tunes in a trio of locations:  Cinzano's in Fairfield, Michael's at the Grove (formerly Capellaro's) in Bethel and Adam's Mill in Manchester.

"Christmas in the Air" will feature an old-fashioned dinner theater atmosphere with luncheon and evening performances, with a delicious four-course meal punctuated by rousing musical comedy sketches centered on the holidays.  Way back in 1987, the shows were held at the Spinning Wheel Inn in Redding, conceived by Robert Butler who desired a Christmas play designed around a medieval feast.

This year's offering features two different casts from Steppin' Out Entertainment, written and directed by Karen Randazzo.  Entitled "Good Day Ludlow's Christmas Special," the show captures the spirit of the day with a sprinkle of sweetness, the embrace of love, the joy of laughter and a hearty helping of family togetherness.  Discover what happens when the cast and crew of a show prepare to go on but their guest host has yet to appear.  All the songs sung in glorious harmony will warm your heart and make the holidays glow.

For tickets (prices and menu vary by locations, $48-69, and include meal, show, tax and tip), call for reservations to 203-261-4868 or online at www.thechristmasshow.org.  Upcoming shows are Friday, December 19 at 7 p.m. at Cinzanos, 1920 Black Rock Turnpike, Fairfield, Saturday, December 20 at 12:30 p.m. and 7 p.m. at Adam's Mill, 165 Adams Street Manchester and 7 p.m. at Cinzano;s, Sunday, December 21 at 12:30 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. at Cinzano's and 12:30 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. at Michael's  at the Grove,(formerly Capellaro's) 42 Vail Road, Bethel.  On Saturday, December 27 there is a snow day if needed at Cinzano's at 7 p.m.  To view the menu, calendar, prices and directions, go to www.thechristmasshow.org.

Let the Randazzos dazzle you with a fine array of Christmas stories and songs while you dine elegantly on a holiday feast.  What could say "Merry Christmas" more delightfully and deliciously!

Monday, December 15, 2014

"ALTAR BOYZ" SIMPLY DIVINE


When divine and devout meet irreverent and inspiring, the sinfully spectacular song fest that results is sure to lift you high enough to visit the angels in heaven.  For almost a decade, five young men have been plying pious pop tunes to the populace, encouraging salvation and the abandonment of sinful ways.  In need of being saved, let Matthew, Mark, Luke, Juan and Abraham (the token Jew) cleanse your soul and polish it up for a perfect shine.

"Altar Boys" has been engaging in seriously light hearted fun using parody and song, laughter and dance, to convince people to reform.  Now Playhouse on Park in West Hartford is opening its gospel revival meeting hall for conversions and baptisms until Sunday, December 21. Come and have the spirit move you with Mark G Merritt as Matthew, Brandon Beaver as Mark, Adam Cassel as Abraham, Greg Laucella as Juan and Nick Bernardi as Luke raise the rafters and fill the joint with joy.

As a spoof of boy bands and Christian-themed music, it focuses on one group band in Ohio who get the chance to spin their spiel for the big Time in New York City.  It's the final concert of their "Raise the Praise" tour and these guys are primed and ready to take the audience straight to the Promised Land.  They even have a Soul Sensor DX-2 right on stage with them to measure all the souls who have been redeemed.

This musical comedy is based on a book by Kevin Del Aguila, with music and lyrics by Gary Adler and Michael Patrick Walker, conceived by Marc Kessler and Ken Davenport. In order to prove it's cool to be Catholic, these guys hear the messages from Jesus on their cell phones, faxes, emails and beepers.  They mean to convince you God is making a comeback and they are filled to the brim with love and forgiveness and the value of family.  Kyle Brand directs and choreographs this foot-stomping tribute to the big guy upstairs, with all its heavenly harmonies set to hold court in your head and heart.

For tickets ($35-45), call Playhouse on Park, 244 Park Road, West Hartford at 860-523-5900, ext. 10 or boxoffice@PlayhouseOnPark.org. Performances are Wednesday and Thursday at 7:30 p.m., Friday at 8 p.m., Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m. (with talk back with cast).

Let this male Hallelujah chorus convince you to be a believer. Sunday school is now in session.

COME TO EARLENE'S DINER FOR A HOLIDAY SHOW


A blizzard packed with ice and snow is not the best invitation to the holidays. If you have plans, the storm can be a major inconvenience.  For Earlene Babcock, the inclement weather is throwing a fireplace andiron into her Christmas plans.  It's Christmas Eve and the long awaited night of the 50th Annual St Francis Christmas Variety Show and this year it's scheduled to be broadcast on television.  What can a body do if you're snowed in with nowhere to go without a dog sled of huskies or Santa's sleigh?

For Earlene Babcock, the owner of Earlene's Diner, it's time to change the menu and be an inventive chef.  With a little ingenuity and creativity, this sassy and savvy lady will transform her diner/motel into the site of the Christmas Variety Show.  If you're snowed in with her, you'd better start practicing your tap dance routine or Perry Como imitation for the stage.

Waterbury's Seven Angels Theatre is whipping up one hooting and hollering hootenanny of a holiday show, "Christmas Eve at Earlene's Diner," and you're invited to the festivities.  Until Sunday, December 21, the tinsel will be glittering and the star at the top of the tree will be sparkling.  Michele Gotay will reprise her role as the genial and generous-hearted Earlene whose spirit is big enough to fill the state of Texas and then some.

Just like the post office service, Earlene isn't going to let a little storm of snow stop her.  She'll gather her guests and guarantee the good times will roll. Despite her own private worries about foreclosure, she'll rally the troops.  Will the Rockettes manage to make their way?  Can she get the Talent Contest and the Bakeoff to emerge through the curtains of white stuff?  What surprises are likely to blow in through her welcoming doors?

For tickets ($37.50, children $20), call Seven Angels Theatre, One Plank Road, Waterbury at 203-757-4676 or online at www.SevenAngelsTheatre.org.
Performances are Thursday and Friday at 7:30 p.m., Saturday at 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m., and Sunday at 2 p.m.

Now is definitely the time to make your reservations for Stand Up and Count Down to 2015 on New Year's Eve, featuring a quartet of New York comedians, with shows at 6:30 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. The later show features appetizers and a champagne toast at midnight.

Usher in the spirit of the holiday season with Earlene and her gang as she improvises on a grand impromptu Christmas singing celebration.

COME HEAR "THE CAROL OF THE BELLS" IN IVORYTON


Where better to imbibe the spirit of Christmas then to belly up to a bar and where better to find fine drinking buddies than in Dublin?  It's time to get reacquainted with the Bell family and their invincible patriarch Paddy as he welcomes the wee little people and the lucky leprechauns to join in for a grand Christmas celebration.  Faith and begorrah, but it's that time of year again when families gather and exchange good wishes and presents, sing a song or three to the season and raise a pint to the baby the day commemorates.

Ivoryton Playhouse is decking its halls with mistletoe and holly once again to welcome back the Bell family with "The Bells of Dublin: Part II:  The Carol of the Bells" until Sunday, December 21. Last year Jacqueline Hubbard, Ivoryton Playhouse's spirited Executive Director, wrote a wonderful family story about Irish folk and superstitions and traditions and this year, she's penned a second installment, stuffed with songs with an international flavor and steins of Christmas cheer.

R. Bruce Connolly is back as Paddy, with a mischievous twinkle in his eye and an inclination to discover trouble whether he's looking for it or not. Never at a loss for a wild scheme to make mountains of money, this time around he has outdone himself in the wild department with a plan to turn the Dublin bar into a restaurant of Mediterranean cuisine, by exchanging Irish stew for Spanish plates of tapas.  What could possible go wrong? He'll be joined by Playhouse favorites Michael McDermott, Ted Philips and Norm Rutty (from Save the Train, a local band), Jenna Berloni, Nancy and David Cardone, Olivia Harry, Larry Lewis, Maggie McClone Jennings, Michael Hotkowski, Holly Price and Celeste Cumming.

This original holiday musical is sure to grab you by your suspenders and spin you off to do an Irish jig, especially if you've had a hot rum toddy or two.  Melanie Guerin, who arranged the music, will have you levitating as the band captures the joy of the season.

For tickets ($32, seniors $30, students $20, children $15), call the Ivoryton Playhouse, 103 Main Street, Ivoryton at 860-767-7318 or online at www.ivorytonplayhouse.org.  Performances are Thursday, Friday and Saturday at 7:30 p.m., with matinees Saturday  and Sunday at 2 p.m.  Lights, thousands of them, are setting Ivoryton village aglow.  Come early to enjoy the sight.

Warm your heart and hands with Paddy and his extended family at Bell's Pub for a glass filled to the brim with holiday happiness.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

HOP ABOARD THE SANTA CLAUS EXPRESS

                                   Mr. and Mrs. Claus Celebrate the Holiday

All aboard the Santa Claus Express leaving from the Milford Center for the Arts (and a former train station) until Sunday, December 28, a perfect departure point for the whole family.  This original musical production, "Christmas at Santa Claus Station," is a brand new holiday gift from Bert Bernardi for book and lyrics, Justin Rugg for music, Jimmy Johansmeyer for colorful costumes and Von Del Mar for welcoming set.  Pantochino Productions is known for its original works that are guaranteed to delight and entertain.

It's almost Christmas Eve and there's a crisis at Santa Claus Station.  The train to the North Pole isn't working so how is  the jolly red hatted man going to get home in time to load his sleigh and deliver all the children's presents.  The trusty train conductor (George Spelvin) is in a tizzy.  He quickly assembles Santa's Elite Team Mr. Bells (Jimmy Johansmeyer), Miss Bows (Rachael Dugas) and Mr. Baubles (Justin Rugg) in the hopes they know the right magic to solve the problem.

The trio is soon joined by Santa's elegant elves, Sparkle (Olivia Foley), Twinkle (Thea Ryan), Holly (Meg Cardi), Merylee (Hannah Kupson) and Twice (Tyler Panck), who come up with some clever ideas to save the day.  Trying to help are the holiday twins Marianne Bright (Kylie Poggio) and Judith Lights (Cassie Gerace) and their talented friends Miss Flake (Ashley Ryan Lord) and Mr. Trimatree (Jeremy Tortora).

To add a giant measure of urgency to the cause, Mrs. Claus (Shelley Marsh Poggio) is soon joined by the big man of the moment himself (George McTyre) who need to get home immediately. Before you can say "Merry Christmas" three times quickly, a pair of strangers arrive at the holiday train station, a super chatty Stella Amblecantor (Dani Corrigan) and her anxious protective mom (Dale Allen) who may just have the solution to the pressing problem.

Come watch how Bert Bernardi directs this charming Christmas tale with clever characters and happy tunes.  For tickets ($20 at the door, or online $18 at www.pantochino.com), the shows will be held at Milford Center for the Arts, 40 Railroad Avenue, Milford.   Performances are Friday, December 19 at 7:30p.m., Saturday, December 20 at 2 p.m. and Sundays, December 21 and 28 at 2 p.m.

Let the Christmas spirit choo-choo-choo and chug-chug-chug along to create happiness and joy for the whole family.