Wednesday, August 24, 2016

COME CELEBRATE BEAUTY AND BUTTERFLIES







As a child, Jamie Hulley was fascinated by butterflies, the whole notion of metamorphosis, of evolving into something bigger and more beautiful than a caterpillar and cocoon. She especially  loved the Monarch and frequently incorporated it into her own drawings and art work.  How appropriate it is, therefore, that the butterfly is the symbol of the foundation created to honor and pay tribute to her memory.

Talented artistically, as a writer, actor, comedian, singer, dancer, songwriter, artist and photographer, Jamie was a junior at Wesleyan University, just home from a spring semester in Italy, when she died two weeks before her 21st birthday from an aggressive form of lymphoma.  To keep her memory and spirit alive, a Jamie A. Hulley Arts Foundation was established fourteen years ago by family, neighbors and friends who wanted to do something.
 As her mother Judy Primavera, president of the Foundation and a professor of psychology and head of the department at Fairfield University, explains it, “We knew a road race was not Jamie’s thing.  Contributing to the arts that Jamie loved was our answer.”

The first fundraiser featured a local band with 200 people attending and it has grown like Topsie to 700 by last year’s count.  This year the Quick Center at Fairfield University will be opening its doors again, doing the honors on Saturday, September 10 at 6 p.m., with light food and drink, a silent and live auction of 150 items and a 7 p.m. performances by "FOUR by FOUR-A Tribute to the Legendary Music of the Beach Boys, Beatles, Bee Gees and Motown.” These headliners are coming straight from Las Vegas with the iconic musical stylings from the 1960’s, 1970’s and 1980’s.  For tickets ($45 in advance, $50 at the door), call the Quick Center box office at 203-254-4010 or 1-877-ARTS-396.  For information call 203-891-8869 or online to www.jamieart@snet.net.

Since its creation, the Jamie A. Hulley Foundation has raised $700,000 to provide opportunities for young artists to pursue their dreams and develop their talents, in the community as well as in elementary, middle and high schools.  As Jamie herself often said, “What would I want with small dreams?”
To that end, the non-profit organization endows scholarships, supports educational programs and provides assistance to the arts all over the state but especially in the greater New Haven and Fairfield counties.  Jamie lived in Orange with her mom Judy, her dad Fred Hulley and her younger sister Kari.

Among its dozens of programs are fourteen children who are attending the same summer theater camp Jamie went to, nine who are receiving partial college scholarships for art, ones that will increase over their four years, year-round voice lessons for students who would otherwise not be able to afford them and support for a whole year of full-scale theater productions-one a month.

Jamie was a “relationship person,” one who knew now to make everyone feel special, a girl with a laugh that could be heard all the way down a school hall.  How appropriate is it that the foundation named for her supports community groups like the Square Foot Theatre in Wallingford, with its directors Jared Brown and Patrick Laffin, with Brown serving as the evening’s Master of Ceremonies on September 10.

Another innovative partner that has blossomed under the Foundation’s wing is the Amity Creative Theatre and its directors Andrea and Rob Kennedy who will serve as co-hosts and auctioneers.  Also intimately involved in the evening will be Connor Deane and J. Scott Handley from Fairfield’s Broadway Method Academy who will provide a bevy of young aspiring stars to perform as will the Square Foot Theatre and the Amity Creative Theatre.

Whether it’s encouraging a young filmmaker, putting ballet shoes on a budding diva, funding a class project with a published author to help students write their own books, providing a social studies class with lessons in Latin American ballroom dancing or opening a Magic Storybook for second graders to develop their own storytelling skills, all the dollars raised at events like the one at the Quick Center at Fairfield University are immediately plowed back into deserving projects, investing in young people, planting seeds so the arts will grow and flourish. 

Come help this finely tuned organization harvest even more “artistic crops.”  Come on Saturday, September 10 at 6 p.m. for “An Evening for the Arts," to honor the memory of a girl who believed in beauty and butterflies and making the world a better place.  Enjoy light hors d’oeuvres, wine and beer, bid on auction items like tickets to a Broadway show, the Boston Red Sox or a taping of Jimmy Fallon and be nostalgically entertained by the legendary group FOUR by FOUR.  Who could ask for anything more?

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

COME TO THE SHARON PLAYHOUSE TO BE PART OF “QUARTET”







If you have known the glamor and excitement of performing arias in front of thousands, being relegated to a rocking chair may be a fate worse than permanent laryngitis.  Retirement may be the goal and envy of many, but for four aging opera singers it is like an appointment to perform for an audience of one, Dr. Kevorkian.

ELIZABETH FRANZ   PHOTO BY RANDY O'ROURKE
The Sharon Playhouse has your Adirondack chair ready on the porch for you to relax in, to enjoy “”Quartet” by Ronald Harwood until Sunday, August 28.  There’s no need to prepare a performance piece from “Carmen” for this talented troupe whose applause has echoed into obscurity.  Now they call The Retirement Home for Artists their final stage and it is as welcome as a balloon without helium, a garden without roses and a refrigerator without caviar.

Come meet the “inmates,” Cissy (Patricia McAneny), Reggie (Joseph Hindy) and Wilfred (Greg Mullavey) as they wile away the hours, fussing about a lack of marmalade with their breakfast toast and listening to great music from their past successes on headphones.  They come to life when they learn a new arrival is at the door: Jean Horton (Elizabeth Franz).

How will Jean’s unexpected presence change the dynamics of the trio?  Will Wilfred still employ sexual antics for Cissy’s benefit?  Will Reggie confess he was once briefly married to Jean?  A crisis of anticipation emerges when the “quartet” is invited to sing the finale of “Rigoletto” at the October 10 birthday celebration of Giuseppe Verdi.  Why does Jean refuse to take part?  Can the others persuade her of the wonder of this honor?  John Simpkins directs this gentle foray into the aging process and the price it costs.

For tickets ($20-47), call the Sharon Playhouse, 49 Amenia road, Sharon at 860-364-7469 or online at www.sharonplayhouse.org.  Performances are Tuesday to Friday at 7 p.m., Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 3 p.m.

Can these four, who knew the glory of fame on stage, back in the day, momentarily fling off the ravages of age and triumph once again?

Monday, August 22, 2016

CT CABARET OFFERS "THE FANTASTICKS" IN BERLIN




LUISA (JILLIAN CAILLOUETTE), MATT (JORDAN DUVALL) AND EL GALLO (JON ESCOBAR)

Jack Benny was proud to be perpetually 39 years of age.  The oldest running musical off-Broadway, “The Fantasticks,” is also proud to be 39 but it is counting on surpassing that number in short order.  To date, since 1960, over 21,000 performances of this Tom Jones and Harvey Schmidt show have toured all over the world and now you can have a front row seat to see what all the hoopla is about or revisit a show you have loved in the past.  Either way, the Connecticut Cabaret Theatre in Berlin has your table waiting, weekends until September 24 (no performances Labor Day weekend).

The plot of the musical is simple.  Two well meaning fathers are in cahoots to encourage their children, Luisa and Matt, to fall in love.  To that end, they forbid them to speak or meet and even go so far as to build a wall between them.  Of course, these tactics do what they had hoped for and push the pair into a romantic tizzy.  Their scheming, however, has unexpected consequences of day dreaming morphing into nightmares and young innocence becoming cruel awakenings.  The fairy tale does not easily become happily ever after.

Come meet the interfering fathers Hucklebee (George Lombardo) and Bellomy (Russell Fish) who are so protective of their offspring, Matt (Jordan DuVall) and Luisa (Jillian Caillouette), that they try to manipulate their feelings and end up in trouble for it.  Perhaps they should have stuck to raising vegetables because as they sing so philosophically, when you plant a carrot you get a carrot, but with children who knows.

The gallant El Gallo (Jon Escobar) narrates the tale and is hired by the dads to fake an abduction of Luisa so Matt can heroically save her.  The plot is aided by the comic actors Mortimer (James J. Moran) who specializes in dying and Henry (Dave Wall) who has forgotten more lines of Shakespeare than most of us even know. Sue Emond is effective and silent as the wall that has been erected to separate the young lovers, with her chest of tricks and props to aid and abet the action.

The road to true love is full of bumps as both Matt and Luisa discover when they let the real world enter their naive surroundings.  Memorable songs like “Try to Remember,” “Soon It’s Gonna Rain,” “Plant a Radish” and “Round and Round” advance the story.  The shielding masks of childhood are soon torn away as romantic dreams are shattered. Kris McMurray does a splendid job directing a fine cast in this enduring classic of love and loss.

For tickets ($30), call the CT Cabaret Theatre, 31 Webster Square Road, Berlin at 860-829-1248 or online at www.ctcabaret.com.  Performances are Friday and Saturday nights at 8 p.m., with doors opening at 7:15 p.m.  Bring goodies to share at your table or plan to buy dessert and drinks on site.

Join two parents in their age old quest to do the best for their offspring by scheming and plotting and manipulating and causing results that threaten to destroy all they had hoped to create.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

CT FREE SHAKESPEARE PRESENTS COMEDY IN STRATFORD





KATRINA FOY, CRAIG ANTHONY BANNISTER AND IAN EATON

Is there enough money, gold, jewels or treasure in the world to persuade you to marry a person of shrewish disposition, a fiend with a cursed tongue and a sour temperament?  A wasp who stings with words and battles with physical arms?  Would this be your prize package?  But if you look long and hard enough like Hortensio and old Gremio do, you might just find a likely candidate in the supremely confident Petruchio (Ian Eaton) who has conveniently come from Padua with his man servant Grumio (Mark Friedlander) for the sole purpose of matrimony.

You are invited to settle back on blanket or beach chair, with or without picnic basket, on the lovely shores along Stratford’s American Shakespeare Festival Theatre grounds, outdoors at sunset, for a delightful production of “The Taming of the Shrew” until Sunday, August 21, evenings at 8 p.m. by CT Free Shakespeare Company, enjoying its 17th season of fine family entertainment.

Hortensio (Ryan Halsaver) and old Gremio (Andrew Bryce) have a selfish reason for inveigling Petruchio’s help. They want him to marry the obstinent Katherina (Katrina Foy), the elder daughter of Baptista (Craig Anthony Bannister), for it is only when Kate is wed that his pretty agreeable younger daughter Bianca (Marca Leigh) will then be free to select a mate.  Both Hortensio and old Gremio are vying for that honor.

All this confused merriment is a play or a ploy to entertain a drunken man named Christopher Sly (Myles Tripp) who has wandered on stage to make him believe he is a nobleman.  Soon another complication enters town when Lucentio (Joel Oramas) arrives in Padua with his servant Tranio (Uma Incrocci) and his court jester Biondello (Alejandro Lopez) for the purpose of study at university, only to instantly fall in love with Bianca too and enter the race to woo and win her.

In a matter of minutes Petruchio has offered for the hand of a evil devil Kate and everyone else has donned disguises to be in Bianca’s company to tutor her in music, Latin or poetry.  With a ton of reverse psychology, Petruchio has Kate believing the sun is the moon, that no clothing or food is good enough for her and that all her mean words are mellow and sweet.  Petruchio has truly tamed his shrew.

Ellen Lieberman does a noble job creating this deliciously rich tale, introducing clever sound effects and modern music to add to the tale’s joy.

Run to the park with friends and family in tow to catch this comedy by the Bard before it doth vanisheth.

Friday, August 19, 2016

COME CAPTURE DREAMS WITH ELM SHAKESPEARE








Pack a picnic, take the kiddies, grab a blanket or a chair, and head off to the Arden Woods.  In this case, those woods  are disguised as Edgerton Park on the New Haven/Hamden border and the Elm Shakespeare Company is eagerly awaiting your arrival.  The company has been preparing a simply delightful rendition of one of the Bard’s favorite offerings, perfect for the family and the season, “A Midsummer’s Night Dream,”  evenings at 8 p.m. August 23-28, and August 30-September 4, every night but Mondays.

The woods are mysterious and deep, inviting and menacing, intriguing and forbidding, all at the same time.  Whereas Shakespeare often dealt with one set of star-crossed lovers, this time around he has multiplied the fun by dealing with pairs.  Mathematically, the odds are not really in their favor. The fair Hermia (Anna Paratore) is pining for the noble Lysander (Steven Godoy) but her father (Gracy Brown Kierstead)  strenuously objects and wants her to marry his choice of mate, Demetrius (Anthony Peeples).  The Duke (Dave Demke) who rules Athens has been involved and is threatening Hermia to obey or else she will be sent to a nunnery, banished or face death.  The Duke himself is on the verge of marriage to Hippolyta (Tai Verley) and is planning his own nuptials, engaging a group of actors to perform for him.

The actors led by Peter Quince (Caley Miliken) include a verbose Bottom (Raphael Massie) who feels he should play all the parts and leave none for his fellow thespians Flute (Jeremy Funke), Snug (Jordan Simpson), Snout (Nathan Tracy) and Starveling (Elisa Albert).  Bottom gets to play a major role in an intrigue not of his own making when Oberon, King of the Fairies (Frederick Secrease) decides to play a trick on his Queen, Titania (Kristin Wold) when she angers him by denying him access to a changing boy he wants. Oberon sends his servant Puck( Evan Gambardella) to make mischief by dropping a sleeping potion of flowers into the eyes of unsuspecting people in the woods, causing them to awaken and fall in love with whomever they see first.  That’s how Titania becomes smitten with Bottom in his guise as a donkey, much to Oberon’s delight. 

Also caught up in Puck’s fun as Cupid is Helena, a good friend of Hermia’s, who is in love with Demetrius ( the one who loves Hermia) and she invites him to follow Hermia and Lysander who enter the forest to run off to marry. Soon the enchanted woods are filled with all the lovers from Athens as well as all the whimsical creatures who accompany Titania and everyone is experiencing problems of a romantic nature, thanks to Puck. The trees look like they are lit by a million fireflies to add to  the magic.  This is Elm Shakespeare’s nineteenth season and now with their alliance with Southern Connecticut State University as the theater in residence the partnership opens new possibilities for additional greatness, thanks to Producing Director Rebecca Goodhearted and this production’s innovative director Tina Packer.

Plan now to attend Magic in the Woods, a Gala & Auction on Thursday, September 1 from 5 p.m. on at Edgerton Park, Cliff Street entrance with food, drink and exciting auction items. This fundraiser supports the year round educational pursuits of the organization.  Tickets start at $75 and are available at ElmShakespeare.org or 203-392-8882.  Come support this wonderful enterprise with your attendance and donations.

If you were caught in the tangled web of an arranged marriage, you too might take flight into the forest and like Lysander bemoan the fact that “the course of true love never did run smooth."

Monday, August 15, 2016

THE KATE WILL BE FILLED WITH “SUNSHINE" ON AUGUST 24



                                           BRAIDEN SUNSHINE
Braiden Sunshine is a musical phenomenon.  Think Harry Potter with a guitar.  He may not be a household name at the moment, but watch out.  As a singer/songwriter, he is showing great signs of performance perfection…and he is only sixteen.  As a baby, he would hum along when his dad sang him lullabies, mostly Billy Joel.  By age five, he was singing in his Lyme, Connecticut church choir.

When Braiden was nine, he was invited to join the band Silver Hammer, playing gigs with old timers who were pushing their teens.  As a boy soprano, he had an even higher voice range than his sister Sierra who was thirteen.  The band dissolved when the members started packing their bags for college.  The same thing happened with his next band, Stone Creek.

By then, Braiden had picked up the guitar and started writing his own songs, about love and being heartbroken, even at his tender age.  Doing a school project on police forensics, a song about a “Wanted Man” running from the cops popped into his head and he captured it acoustically.  Basically he likes to tell stories.

You have the golden chance to hear those stories and the songs that accompany them when Braiden Sunshine performs at the Katherine Hepburn Center for the Performing Arts, 300 Main Street, in Old Saybrook on Wednesday, August 24 at 7:30 p.m. For tickets ($23-35), call The Kate at 860-510-0453 or go online to www.thekate.org. And he’ll have quite a journey of tales to share.  He freely admits he has been blessed with opportunities on the way to making music his life. 

Braiden will undoubtedly tell of how his mom wanted him to audition for NBC’s The Voice, an idea he nixed as being both a waste of time and a waste of gas money.  The next day when she offered to drive him to “a really cool car show in New Jersey” (as cars are a second love), he discovered himself at an open audition for The Voice instead. While his mom always had faith in his abilities as a musician, he needed a little “trickery and magic” to believe in himself that he could make it.

Even though he was technically too young for the show, the casting crew allowed him to appear on Season 9 and he went all the way to the semi-finals.  To Braiden, “That was wow, one heck of a dream that really happened.”  As a member of Team Gwen, he found himself with “an amazingly sweet Gwen Stefani who was like a second mom to me.”

In addition to his success on The Voice, Braiden may dish about opening for Huey Lewis and his favorite band of all time, at least since his age 6, The Blues Traveler, who advised him “to go write music.”  He has listened to that admonition and will be recording a new album by the end of 2016, in addition to the singles he has already released this year. Stories about his five summers as a Cabaret Junior intern at the Eugene O’Neill Cabaret Conference in Waterford, CT where he sang Beach Boys songs this month may get a mention or three.

The fact that he treated himself to a classic car, a 1959 Plymouth Belvedere, a bonus from appearing on The Voice, could be worth a story.  When he has a free moment, he is restoring it, making it a beautiful dark red that sparkles, with the goal of driving it in the 2017 Memorial Day Parade in his hometown.  The fact that Braiden Sunshine has appeared 400 times on stage, either individually or in a band, in his six year career will surely be worth sharing. Come to the Kate to hear “my journey as a musician so far” with lots of sweet songs, perhaps “Feeling Good” and “Best There Ever Was," mixed in with the swell stories.

To become a Sunshine fan, go to:
 
Website: braidensunshine.com
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/braidensunshin
Twitter: https://twitter.com/braidensunshine
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/braiden_sunshine/

TIME TO PAY THE BILL FOR “RENT” WITH LOVE AT IVORYTON




ENERGETIC CAST OF "RENT" AT IVORYTON PLAYHOUSE

Christmas Eve should be a time for celebration, reflection and admiration, unless you are hungry, cold, virtually homeless and without prospects for the future.  Squatters in an abandoned New York City tenement dealing with life and death issues like AIDS hardly seem the stuff of musical magic but Jonathan Larson’s “Rent” has achieved cult status and Tony Awards and a Pulitzer Prize, a winning effort by a young man who tragically died the night before the play’s off-Broadway opening.

Larson was the composer and lyricist of this rock opera and his untimely death is a tragic footnote to the story he spent seven years creating.  Using the tale of Puccini’s opera “La Boheme” as a framework, he made the 1840’s characters into 1990’s artists, struggling to meet the next rent bill as they strive for creative validation in their chosen fields.

Until Sunday, August 28, the Ivoryton Playhouse is welcoming a troupe of perpetual motion youth, high energy and talented, who will fill the rafters with an electrifying wattage of enthusiasm.  These ragtag bohemians create a community that morphs into a family as they struggle daily to earn their crust of bread.

Instead of the tuberculosis that Puccini’s heroine Mimi contracts, this time the ominous specters are drugs and AIDS that claim young lives in their prime. One of Larson’s goals was to portray these accomplished artists and to show how tragedy strikes in their ranks. Mark, a visual recorder Tim Russell, is the narrator and cinematographer who chronicles all the activities in the loft.  He is alone as he copes with the reality that his ex-girlfriend Maureen, a vibrant Stephanie Genito, has a new relationship with Joanne, an understanding Maritza Bostic.  Meanwhile his roommate Roger, a frustrated Johnny Newcomb, is trying desperately  to compose one “glory” song before AIDS takes him.  His chance meeting with another AIDS patient Mimi, a seeking for love Alyssa V. Gomez, may be just the impetus he needs and the candle of inspiration he is searching to find.

The holiday boasts no holly and no heat, no mistletoe and no money, but this motley clan have gathered to celebrate with the natural exuberance that the young cling with hope to so promisingly.  Songs like “Seasons of Love” with its 525,600 minutes in a year, the soulful “Without You,”  the dance of protest in “Tango: Maureen” and the “Over the Moon” by Maureen that is, well, over the moon wonderful are just four of the over forty tunes that light their fires.  Jacqueline Hubbard directs this energy fest, with her supportive team of Michael Morris as Music Director, Todd Underwood as Choreographer, and Martin Scott Marchitto as Scenic Designer.

For tickets ($50, senior $45, students $22, child $17), call the Ivoryton Playhouse, 103 Main Street, Ivoryton at 860-767-7318 or online at
www.ivorytonplayhouse.org. Performances are Wednesday at 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m., Thursday at 7:30 p.m., Friday at 8 p.m., with 2 p.m. matinees August 20 and 27 and Sunday at 2 p.m.

Are you willing to share your last crumbs of bread?  Yes, if it is with a coterie of friends who are really family.