Monday, October 24, 2016


Under a blood red moon, anything is likely to happen, especially if the calendar says it's almost the magical date of October 31st, Halloween.  What better way to celebrate the holiday, then to skip on over to the Milford Center for the Arts weekends until Sunday, October 30 for Pantochino Productions' original spooky and sweet musical "The Bewitchingly Scrumptious and Extraordinary Mister Trick & Mrs Treat." Created by Bert Bernardi for imaginative book and lyrics, Justin Rigg for memorable music and jimmy Johansmeyer for clever costuming, this is  delightful family fare.

The frost is definitely on the pumpkins in the neighborhood where the family of Mr. Trick (Jimmy Johansmeyer), his daughter Ordelia (Mary Mannix), his son Thorn (Gavin 
Conte), his father Payne (George Spelvin), and his housekeeper Ursa Luna (Hannah Duffy) all delight in the mischievous side of the spooky holiday where orange is the new black and purple.  They have been known to fill donuts with gooey mayonnaise instead of jelly, sprinkle itching powder in sensitive places and dangle dangerous spiders for maximum scary effect.

The Trick family clearly have adopted the ghoulish and ghastly side of Halloween.  Imagine their dismay, however, when a new family moves into the vacant house right next door.  Are they witches? Oh, my!

Here come Mrs. Treat (Shelley Marsh Poggio), and her clan that includes her son Charleston (Justin Rigg), her daughter Tootsie (Annabel Wardman), her nephew Clark (Andrea Pane) and her housekeeper Eclaira (Maria Berte).  While the Trick folks get their jollies at the expense of others, Mrs Treat is 100% sweetness and she can't wait to share her yummy goodies with others on her favorite holiday.

You don't need to be a Sherlock Holmes to see where this delicious and dastardly musical is going.  A patch of pumpkins get a makeover, a water filled bushel of apples become a game and the two neighbors learn the lesson that Halloween can be even more fun if there are both tricks and treats galore.  This enthusiastic cast under the direction of Bert Bernardi sings and dances up a storm, both scary and sugary, about everything that goes bump in the night.

For tickets ($20 online, $22 at the door), go online to Pantochino Productions at  Performances are Friday at 7:30 p.m., Saturday at 2 p.m. 
( only this performance is cabaret style, bring food) and 5:30 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m. at the Milford Center for the Arts at the Milford Train Station, 40 Railroad Avenue, Milford.  It's not too early to plan to see their next production opening December 2, "The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus."

Grab the kiddies and have a fantastic and fun family day in honor of that happy and hungry for candy holiday of Halloween.  Boo!


                                          JUDY GARLAND AND TOTO   1939

Dorothy and her puppy Toto are iconic figures in motion picture legend.  Her journey from a farm house in Kansas all the way to the Land of Oz in the Emerald City, via a yellow brick road, is one millions have traveled with her. Judy Garland, the little girl with the booming voice, achieved  stardom with her incredible role as Dorothy and now Goodspeed Musicals is anxious to reveal just how it happened, from now until Sunday, November 27.

Before the scarecrow, the lion and the tin man, before Glinda the good witch and the wicked witch of the West, before the magical and all powerful Oz, there was a little girl from Minnesota named Frances Gumm, a tot with big dreams.

Born into a show business family, Frances was part of the Gumm Sisters in vaudeville, beginning her career at the tender age of 2 and 1/2.  The idea of telling Frances' story, how she was transformed into Judy Garland, was the brain child of Tina Marie Casamento Libby.  Knowing that Judy's story was told in her music, Libby has spent the last seven years developing her idea, revealing the chid who wanted to be a star, all the way to her securing the coveted role of Dorothy.

"Chasing Rainbows Judy Garland's Road to Oz" has a book by Marc Acito and music adapted by David Libby.  First we meet an adorable little Frances, a bright button named Ella Briggs who grows before our eyes into a spark plug of a teenager Ruby Rakos.  She is daddy's little love and the mutual admiration society she develops with dad Frank, a wonderfully expressive Kevin Earley, is a delight to behold.

With her mom (Sally Wilfert) and sisters Virginia (Piper Birney and later Andrea Laxton) and Mary Jane (Claire Griffin and later Lucy Horton), we watch Frances polish her performances until she is ready to strike out on her own.  With the Depression a dark shadow and her dad not able to support the family, it fell to Judy to earn a $100 a week to keep them together.

Off to Hollywood, she is "discovered" by Kay Koverman, an enterprising Karen Mason and pianist  Roger Edens, an encouraging Gary Milner, who bring her to the attention of the tough minded head of M.G.M., Louis B. Mayer, a gruff Michael McCormick.  As the studio head, L. B. Mayer calls his new young star not pretty or thin enough, but her fan club that includes Mickey Rooney (Michael Wartella) and Clark Gable (Danny Lindgren) prevails.

Wonderful tunes like "Over the Rainbow," "I Can't Give You Anything But Love," "You Made Me Love You" and "Zing! Went the Strings of My Heart" keep the story a pure delight.  Tyne Rataeli leads this personal tale of will and perseverance down the yellow brick road, through rain clouds, to bluebirds of happiness.

For tickets ($29 and up), call Goodspeed Musicals, on the CT River, in East Haddam (exit 7 off route 9) at 860-873-8668 or online at  Performances are Wednesday and Thursday at 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m., Friday at 8 p.m., Saturday at 3 p.m. and 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m.  Shows Thanksgiving week are 11/21 at 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m, 11/25 at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m., 11/26 at 3 p.m. and 8 p.m. and 11/27 at 2 p.m. and 6:30 p.m.

Watch Judy Garland of the big voice and big heart earn her ruby slippers through a lot of perseverance and a little bit of luck.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016


A section of the public library and shelves of the Barnes and Noble are devoted to how-to books on a myriad of topics, from how to make a garden worthy of a Versailles or make an aquarium reminiscent of an ocean floor.  The Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts has an unusual twist on this theme with "A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder" with book and lyrics by Robert L. Freedman and music and lyrics by Steven Lutvak, from Tuesday, October 25 to Sunday, October 30.

Think of Don Quixote with his quest for the Impossible Dream velcroed to Monty Python and his mission to secure the Holy Grail and you have the beginnings of the fervor of one Monty Navarro. As a newly orphaned lad, with no money or prospects, Monty discovers that his mum was disinherited from the wealthy D'Ysquith family for marrying beneath her station.

To right this wrong, Monty takes pen to paper and writes to the head of the clan, respectfully requesting a position in the family business so he can earn his inheritance.  The absolute rejection of his claim, with the stern proviso never to contact them ever again, leads the industrious Monty to pursue that how-to book previously mentioned, that guide to love and murder for the proper gentleman.

Monty determines that to become the next Lord D'Ysquith, his most desired position of wealth and good standing, there are only nine family members ahead of him.  His clever solution is to eliminate them, one by one, and all his dreams will become reality.  And if he finds love along the way, all the better.

With ingenuity and a sense of style, he proceeds to help the rightful heirs meet their maker, whether by drowning in a pond of ice, swallowing a potion of poison, falling from a belfry tower or being devoured by hungry cannibals.  The only question that remains is:  will Monty succeed in snatching the title of Lord, with all its attendant riches, or will the coppers charge him with multiple murders?  Come and discover for yourself.

For tickets ($25.50-109.50), call the Bushnell, 166 Capitol Avenue, Hartford at 860-987-5900 or online at  Performances are Tuesday to Thursday at 7:30 p.m., Friday at 8 p.m., Saturday at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. and Sunday at 1 p.m. and 6:30 p.m.

Grab on tight to Monty Navarro's coat tails for a merry mix of murder, music and mayhem that is sure to delight, especially as the winner of the 2014 Tony Award for Best Musical.

Monday, October 17, 2016



Hold on tightly to your pogo or hockey stick, well, in this case, your tennis racquet, for 350 years of political history as innovative and imaginative playwright Sarah Ruhl hopscotches from the dynasties of the Charles Stuarts of Great Britain to the George Bushes of America in less than two and a half hours of creative theater telling at the Yale Repertory Theatre until Saturday, October 22.  The world premiere of "Scenes from Court Life or the whipping boy and his prince" will surely open your eyes and mind to the startling revelations and similarities between these seemingly diverse historical families.

Yale Rep's University Theatre takes us seamlessly and flawlessly, quickly and repeatedly, like a championship tennis match at Wimbledon or  the US Open , back and forth across the centuries, from King Charles I and his son, the  royal prince Charles II, to American royalty George H. W. Bush and Barbara, sons George W. and Jeb and their spouses Laura and Columba.  One moment you are dancing in the royal court and the next you are doing a Texas hoe down.

Keep your eye on the tennis ball as it bounces back and forth between the two stories as Greg Keller is alternately excellent as the young prince afraid of the crown he will soon wear and the ambitious son of a president eager for his chance to catch the golden ring on the merry-go-round.  While Prince Charles has a whipping boy, Danny Wolohan, to take his punishment if he commits a sin, George W. has his younger brother Jeb, also brought to life by Danny Wolohan, to serve the same role.

In the early era, Charles I is accused of treason and beheaded and later number 41, President G. H.W. Bush counsels his sons on their positions of potential power.  Both roles are captured with majesty by T. Ryder Smith.  Mary Shultz is the loyal Barbara Bush, protective of her sons while Angel Desai serves a dual role as the harpsichord player who opens the scene and the supportive wife Laura.  

Keren Lugo bridges the ages, first as the arranged wife of Charles II, as Catherine of Braganza from Portugal and later as Columba, the wife of Jeb. With our own contentious contest waging on our soil, it may be comforting to learn that "politics is essentially a tennis match.  Some one wins and someone loses." Mark Wing-Davey presides over a masterful piece of theater, rife with video projections and unusual
props and properties, with an excellent cast of actors on both sides of the pond.

For tickets ($44-88 ), call the Yale Rep at 203-432-1234 or online at  Performances are Tuesday to Saturday at 8 p.m., with 2 p.m. matinees October 19 and 22.

Come enjoy the sport of kings, admire George W's artwork, be privy to the inner workings of two regal families and marvel at the genius of Sarah Ruhl.


                                              KIMBERLY SQUIRES AND ALLAN ZELLER

Allan Zeller and Kimberly Squires of Milford have the unique ability to meet as strangers and fall spontaneously in love at 8 p.m. and then ten minutes later be ready, willing and able to kill each other with whatever weapon is handy, like an axe. This talented husband and wife acting team put on and take off personas the way other people hunt for the perfect winter coat at Macy's, carefully and with style. 

 For an entertaining treat, come meet Zeller and Squires at the top of their game at the historic Lyric Hall in Westville for "Delightful Differences: An Evening of One Act Plays," weekends at 8 p.m. on November 4 and 5, and 11 and 12. Come an hour earlier for a musical serenade in the lounge courtesy of Cathy Szebo's engaging vocals, with PJ Letersky at the ivories.

Zeller and Squires have dabbled in the works of a half dozen Connecticut playwrights in fashioning a night of vignettes that showcase their wide range of acting chops. Frederick Stroppel has penned a trio of selections that begin with a couple bickering over a trip to the mall right before Christmas. Finding a parking spot in general and securing their godson's specific Nerf gun gift almost cause World War III, but with bombs of humor, in "Miracle at the Mall."

Stroppel continues the warfare theme with "A Medical Breakthrough" when a spontaneous challenge at a party causes Mr. Moore a great deal of pain and embarrassment.  The foreign object lodged in his rear must be removed by Dr. Fields, a female proctologist.  His last offering also occurs at Christmas when two strangers, both hopeless, meet "On the Bridge" and plan to jump at midnight when sometiing unexpectedly magical occurs.

From Rosemary Foley come a pair of selections where Zeller and Squires play a couple brought together by a love of symphonic music in "Baroque Dating Service."  Move over, eHarmony, and let Bach and Beethoven play Cupid. The fantasies continue as "He Who Would Be Frog" hops into a psychiatrist's office hoping to be cured of his love of all things green and discovers his doctor is masquerading as Little Red Riding Hood.

Get down your rifle and clean and polish it for Elizabeth Keyser's "Shooting Practice" as a father and daughter struggle over the ethics of gun control.  Things can get even more heated in a screenwriter's office when a 007 character mock shoots a scene for a movie and causes sparks to fly with Drew Denbaum's "Succulent."

The sparks really ignite in Jim Gordon's "The Agreement" when a cheating wife tries to blackmail her husband into a lucrative divorce settlement.  The tables definitely turn in this suspense thriller.

Planning a 50th surprise birthday party becomes increasingly intimate when event planner Sheree meets John at his office and finds herself running behind, in front of and around his desk, seeking cover, in Susan Cinoman's "Little Sins." John has a little surprise party planned for someone other than his wife.

For tickets ($25), call the Lyric Hall, 827 Whalley Avenue, New Haven at 203-389-8885 or online at

Come let Allan Zeller and Kimberly Squires entertain you as strangers, dating couples, husband and wife, doctor and patient, father and daughter and acting partners, all in a jam packed nine plays that reveal just how talented and diverse their skills are...and delightfully and differently so.


                                                  PLAYWRIGHT PAULA VOGEL

How often have you stopped to ponder the longevity of a street walker or lady of the evening?  Does she have a pension plan or collect social security after decades of personal service?  Playwright Paula Vogel has considered their plight, so much so she has penned their telling story in the comedy "The Oldest Profession" now entertaining patrons weekends at Connecticut Cabaret Theatre in Berlin until Saturday, November 5.

It's the Reagan era in the 1980's in Manhattan and we find four world weary women on a park bench discussing and debating the problems of the world in general and their particular plights personally with their madam.  Their problems are poignant and tied to their profession and the length of time they have been pursuing it

Their clients are now grey haired men who reside in seedy hotels and retirement homes and these gals are still anxious to meet their sexual needs.  The actresses Mae the madam (Jennifer Burns), Lillian (Nancy Ferene), Ursula (Karen Gagliardi), Edna (Barbara Horan) and Vera (Bonnie Sprague) are no spring chickens but they bring an earthy earnestness to their roles.

They bicker about their customers, the long hours, the increasing demands, the lack of security for their eventual retirement and the old days when they received a modicum of honor and respect.  These women of a certain age are frank in their language, as they are faced with arthritis, aches, Alzheimer's and other ailments, trying to develop new tricks of the trade to remain vital and productive.  

You can almost hear the clock ticking as one by one they strip down to their elegant evening wear, don a white boa, and become angelic Gypsy Rose Lee wannabes.  With a mixture of warmth and weariness, these ladies of the street reveal their colorful personalities under the makeup.  As New York changes to a more dignified city, these gals have to endure a makeover of their own.  Kris McMurray is kind to their dreams and ambitions as he showcases their lives.

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

Get "hooked" on these mature professionals as they struggle to survive and stay productive in a changing world.

Saturday, October 15, 2016


If you have a pink poodle skirt or a black leather motorcycle jacket hiding in your closet in mothballs, now is the time to pull them out for a good airing.  The Warner Theatre in Torrington is declaring Saturday, October 22 at 7:30 p.m. an official 1960's music day when Praia Entertainment presents "Pop, Rock and Doo Wopp, LIVE" for your listening pleasure.

Not one, not two, not three, but four great groups with historical and memorable pasts will be saluting their homegrown skills and you can be there to cheer them on.  Dancing in the aisles is encouraged when the clock is rolled back to those glorious days of yesteryear.  

Prepare to be wowed as Jay & The Americans take the stage. This great rock and roll band was inducted into the Vocal hall of Fame in 2002 and are now featuring Jay #3 and enjoying a resurgence in popularity.  According to their founder, Sandy Yaguda, better known as Sandy Deanne, "we don't look old. We're health and full of vitality so it's like Woodstock every night.  It's a love fest, except traveling was a lot easier when we were 20."

Come here their greatest hits like "This Magic Moment," :Cara Mia,: "Come a Little Bit Closer" and "Walkin' in The Rain."  As Sandy states, "we are the Harvard College of Rock and Roll who knew the formula to make a song work."

Another group that surely knows the formula are The Buckinghams who originally hailed from Chicago, Illinois and called themselves The Centuries, way back in 1965.  Considered an American Sunshine pop band, they changed their name to reflect the popularity of the British invasion.  Their hit songs include "Kind of a Drag" that opens with a trademark horn note and put them firmly on the top of the charts, and got them named "The Most Promising Vocal Group in America" by Cash Box Magazine in 1967.  Other tunes like "Hey Baby,They're Playing Our Song," "Susan," "Don't You Care," and "Mercy, Mercy, Mercy" with their original lead singer Dennis Tufano got the group inducted into the Hit Parade Hall of Fame in 2009.

Get ready to cross over the famous Brooklyn Bridge who play do wopp, rhythm and blues and rock and were formed in 1968 by Johnny Maestro on Long Island. Their most popular million dollar best seller is "The Worst That Could Happen."  They will definitely sing that as well as "Welcome Me Love" and "Blessed Is the Rain," tunes that got them inducted into the Vocal Hall of Fame in 2005.

Last up on the stage will be Jay Siegel's Tokens that began with Jay's high school friend Neil Sedaka in Brooklyn as the Linc-Tones and then became The Tokens when Jay joined the following year.  In 2011, Jay's powerful falsetto in "The Lion Sleeps Tonight" celebrated its 50th anniversary.  Watch for Jay in Barcelona, Spain in February of 2017 as well as on Royal Caribbean cruise lines.  The group wrote many of its original hits back in the 1960's like "Portrait of My Love" and "Tonight I Fell in Love."

For tickets ($45-79 ), call the Warner Theatre,                , Torrington at 860-489-7180 or online at

Take a trip down nostalgia lane with this quartet of great groups that are sure to tickle your fancy with magic memories.