Monday, June 24, 2019

ALL ABOARD THE LADY KATHERINE FOR SUMMER FUN, FOOD, AND MYSTERY



ACME MYSTERY COMPANY’S CAST HUGH (THOMAS SHUTZ), BRADLEY (ANTHONY URILLO) AND SOLANGE (RAYAH MARTIN)
What could be more delightful than gliding down the Connecticut River on a sunny summer afternoon or evening? What if your trip included attentive staff, a delicious meal and the chance to prove yourself a budding Sherlock Holmes? Come sign up for a Lady Katherine adventure leaving out of Charter Oaks Landing in Hartford, Eagle Landing in Haddam, Middletown or the Riverfront Plaza for a different experience with a theatrical twist.
 
You will be seated at a linen covered table, with other like-minded passengers, and given a clue to start off your investigation. On my recent trip, the mystery that was afoot was “Deadly Inheritance” by Robert Greene, the Acme Mystery Company’s founder and Executive Director. A cast of talented actors, sporting British accents, were ready and willing to go from table to table dropping hints and story lines. We were encouraged to “trade” our clues with other table mates and, if we were lucky, to be assigned several lines to speak at appropriate moments in the performance. This is interactive theater at its best.
 
The matriarch Penelope is not long for this world. First she has to hold a memorial service for her younger son Dickie who disappeared while on his dinghy, leaving a grieving widow Solange (Rayah Martin). In addition, Penelope has to create a new will, so her greedy relatives will know who will inherit her $13 billion estate. As executor of her fortunes, the attorney Bradley Biltmore (Anthony Urillo) has significant control. Also in the picture is Penelope’s older son Hugh (Thomas Shutz) who has been busy losing all the money given him by investors who hoped to make millions, instead of losing them, in his new car company, Uranus. Good friends of Dickie’s, Frank and Natalie Kladd, (Terence LaCasse and Heather Auden) are also on hand to bid Dickie goodbye and hope for a mention as two of the will’s recipients.
 
As you enjoy a yummy meal of salad, rolls and butter, pasta, roasted potatoes, stuffed chicken and beef with mushrooms, you are encouraged to study the evidence. The bar includes free iced tea, water and coffee and a whole list of libations, from wine to cocktails, to purchase. The second act takes on a more intense feel as emotions boil over and motives abound. All the while, you are laughing at the shenanigans of the mercenary members. Certificates are awarded for the most outrageous and the most accurate solutions to the crime.
 
Desserts of cookies and cherry topped cheesecake complete the experience. Who is the killer? It’s up to you to decide. The next chance to board the Lady Katherine with Acme will be August 17 when the Hillbillies hold a family reunion and take over the ship. For tickets ($65 lunch, $85 dinner), call the Lady Katherine at 860-395-5446, ext. 2 or go online tores.ladykatecruises.com.
Acmealso performs at the Oliver Jensen Gallery at the River Valley Junction at Essex Station in Essex (without a train or boat) as well as private parties across New England. Their repertoire includes reggae cruises, eight Christmas shows, and spoofs like The Sound of Murder (a mystery Sound of Music), Fiddler on the Loose and Death Takes a Cruise. The Lady Kate sports its own menu of offerings with themes like a Tacos and Tequila Cruise, a Whiskey and Cigar Cruise and over 15 holiday cruises for the whole family called Rudolph on the River.
 

Acme Mystery Company was founded in Syracuse, New York and has a storehouse of 35 mystery adventures, mostly written by founder Bob Greene and the artists and actors who work for him. Terry LaCasse has been involved for 15 years as an actor, producer and artistic director.
 
Come play Sherlock Holmes for a delightfully different day as Acme Mystery Company drops clues like bon bons for you to gather and digest.
 
 

COME ”SPINNING” WITH MARY ANN FRANK



PIANIST/COMPOSER ANDREW LEVINE WITH ACTRESS/PLAYWRIGHT/COMPOSER MARY ANN FRANK


Prudential Life Insurance Company famously has had a rock, the mighty Rock of Gibraltar, as its logo for decades.  Mary Ann Frank also has a rock as a talisman and symbol of strength. To learn about her fixture of permanency, you needed to attend her incredible world premiere at Stage II of New Haven’s Long Wharf Theatre until Sunday, June 23. Watch for it to appear at a stage near you.

Mary Ann Frank is an actress and singer and psychotherapist. She is also a wife, mother and now widow.  She is telling her life story, with wit, poignancy and song and you will be the better for hearing it.  From the time she first meets her blind date “Ralph honey” at a New York City library to that instant attraction, culminating in their elopement four years later, you will be charmed by Mary Ann Frank the storyteller and chanteuse.

Their marriage, home in New Haven, Connecticut, twins Lily and Lucas, careers, family and friends, are chapters in their saga of life, punctuated many years later by a devastating diagnosis of glioblastoma for Ralph that changes their goals and dreams dramatically.  Without any attempt for pity, she reveals the realistic issues surrounding Ralph’s prognosis, injecting humor and a few well deserved tears in the bittersweet process.  One moment they are empty nesters and the next they are fighting a battle royal for survival.

Always motivated by love, Mary Ann Frank paints a picture of their struggle, the remission, the hope the brain tumor won’t be fatal and then after his death she picks up the pieces, hugging her memories like a warm blanket and describes how to move on.  The metaphor of “orienting to the rock,”  of following a guide to the universe to traverse a path to a better pace where hope lives is evident. A reoccurring theme is the song “Zing went the strings of my heart” in happier times and the original melody “Due North” after she struggles to regain her balance after spinning off course. She declares this is not a cabaret or a musical, “it’s more a hybrid, a Prius.”

She also declares this is a team effort, crediting friends like Jeanine Pardey Levine and May Wuthrich for inspiration,  her director Douglas Moser, her musical director and pianist Andrew Levine, production and lighting designer Andrew Rubenoff and choreographer Ginger Thatcher and many more.

Come be healed  and restore your heart, as Mary Ann Frank spreads gratitude and love in her personal garden of hope and restorative blessings where resiliency is her fertilizer and the sun’s warmth is her constant.

Monday, June 17, 2019

HERSHEY FELDER CREATES IRVING BERLIN AT HARTFORD STAGE




Hershey Felder, a uniquely gifted actor, pianist, composer, producer, director and storyteller, has the musical ability few others can attain.  He can become great composers of the past, creating the stories and music for the world to enjoy once again.  In his original performances, he can conjure the likes of Beethoven and Bernstein, Chopin and Liszt, Gershwin and Tchaikovsky.  Through exhaustive research, he emerges as the composer in question, laying the foundation from childhood on, until his music explodes on the stage with his virtuoso piano renditions.
This time around Hershey Felder has set his sights on a poor immigrant boy who grew up to become one of the most honored and respected composers of the twentieth century.  Born Israel Bellin in Imperial Russia, he came to this country at the age of five. He sold his first song for 33 cents,”Marie from Sunny Italy,” and only six years later penned one of his greatest hits “Alexander’s Ragtime Band.”  He would go on to become part of the Great American Songbook, composing hundreds of memorable tunes.
From Friday, June 21 to Sunday, June 30, Hershey Felder will become Irving Berlin and capture him in immortal words and chords at the Hartford Stage. The width and breathe of his works include such hits as “White Christmas,” “Easter Parade,” “Puttin’ on the Ritz,” “There’s No Business Like Show Business” and “God Bless America.” As a spunky kid, Berlin would earn pennies to help his family, with a lofty goal of one day becoming a singing waiter in a saloon.  Tin Pan Alley and Broadway became his proving ground with Vaudeville as his first stage.
Hershey Felder will take the audience on a remarkable musical journey, highlighting Berlin’s humble beginnings and incredible successes.  You will feel like you are in Irving Berlin’s company, learning intimate details of his one hundred and one years. Musical history comes to glorious life as Felder becomes Berlin, sharing his life, his hopes, his dreams.  As directed by Trevor Hay, this production will surely fill your heart with the joy of Irving Berlin, thanks to the powerful portrayal by Hershey Felder.
For tickets ($18-90), call the Hartford Stage, 50 Church Street, Hartford at 860-527-5151or online at ticketing.hartfordstage.org.  Performances are Friday at 8 p.m., Saturday at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m., Sunday at 2 p.m., Tuesday at 7p.m., Wednesday at 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. and Thursday at 7:30 p.m.
Come meet Irving Berlin, of blessed memory, as Hershey Felder brings him to incredible triumph at the Hartford Stage.

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

MICHAEL MOORE: A DAVID AGAINST GOLIATH IN THE DOCUMENTARY FILM WORLD



Michael Moore, the legendary documentary filmmaker, was the star of the New Haven Documentary Film Festival May 30 to June 9. He is an unlikely David battling gigantic Goliaths in hopes of changing the world.  With courage, he has taken on the auto giant General Motors (Roger & Me), school shootings (Bowling for Columbine), the Bush administration after 9/11(Fahrenheit 9/11), capitalism (Capitalism: A Love Story), health care (Sicko), invasions (Where to Invade Next), voting issues and Electoral College (Fahrenheit 11/9) and more.

The audience for each film was privileged to hear him expound on his theories after each showing. For thirty years, since 1989, Moore has raised an alarm where he felt necessary in order to educate and make the world better. He admitted he was na├»ve enough to believe that his award winning film Bowling for Columbine would stop school shootings.  Tragically he was wrong. He made the decision to make the film only three hours after the shootings and feels you could show it today without any changes being made. What progress have we made in 17 years?

Moore would like nothing better than to be irrelevant, and remove the need for his documentaries.  Even when he was a baby, people said “Here comes trouble, baby,” and it hasn’t changed. His family claims he was born with an adult head. He has always loved movies and saw 3 or 4 a week.  He calls those movies “My film school.” Ironically, he credits a beatnik with instructing him in how to make a film for only one week.  Later he learned the beatnik’s mother and Barbara Bush were sisters.

Living in Flint, Michigan, the closing of the General Motors plant put him in pursuit of Roger Smith, the company head.  He wanted answers for why Smith caused this working class devastation, moving plants to Mexico and scoring record wealth for G.M. in the process. He wanted the film to be “unforgettable,” seeing unemployed workers evicted on Christmas Eve. To see America in trouble, not for entertainment but for education. To “comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.” In Flint, the 80,000 workers are now only 5000 in number.

With “Bowling for Columbine,” so named because the two teenaged shooters went bowling that morning before their rampage, he doesn’t want those children to have died in vain…there or at Newtown or Parkland, or anywhere. Gun deaths in America are thousands greater than any other country.  He has already talked to three sets of parents in Newtown who want to help him make a more graphic film of gun violence to shock change.
He wants people to be responsible, to inspire you to do something, to make you think, by creating a whole new level of filmmaking.

Michael Moore, just a man in a baseball cap, needs to tell stories to initiate change. He was able to get K Mart to stop selling bullets, by bringing two boys from Columbine to headquarters who still had bullets embedded in their bodies that can’t be surgically removed. He confronted Charlton Heston , the head of the NRA,  who felt no responsibility for gun violence.
Moore doesn’t feel he is brave.  He also “doesn’t believe we can fix any of these problems” but that doesn’t mean he won’t try.  He gave an analogy that if you only had a Dixie cup in a boat that sprang a leak, in order not to die you would still use that Dixie cup to empty the water out.

To Moore, “we are a nation founded on genocide and greed and we need something to go to our souls.” He wants to be “the camera with a conscience.”  He feels he has no choice, to be selfless for strangers, and he wants you to be selfless too…as if you were part of the French Resistance. Right now, he is helping a friend do a film on climate change, warning “we are out of time,” and need to see not only what is happening right in front of us but on the sides, to see the whole picture.

Moore is telling us we “can’t use excuses to not be active, for our family, neighbors or ourselves.” We must believe it so strongly, we are willing to die for the cause.
We are the majority, the 70% that includes blacks, women and young people who need to stand up and vote for anyone but the present administration.

Michael Moore has devoted his life to create change for the better. Listen to his words, pay attention to his films and work with him to save our planet. 

Monday, June 10, 2019

“WAITRESS” READY TO MUSICALLY SERVE YOU AT THE BUSHNELL



Whether you’re ordering a gourmet five-course dinner or a simple slice of cherry pie with vanilla bean ice cream, your pleasure in your meal depends as much on the food as on the waitress who serves you.  If you’re lucky enough to have Jenna as your server, and double lucky enough to be feasting on one of her heavenly perfect pie creations, you know what hanging out with the angels is all about.  Come pull up a seat at Joe’s Diner located at the Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts in Hartford as “Waitress” comes to town from Tuesday, June 18 to Sunday, June 22.

With music and lyrics by Sara Bareilles and book by Jessie Nelson, “Waitress” boasts an all woman creative team.  Come meet Jenna, the sweet hearted server who is trapped in an abusive relationship with hubby Earl.  When she discovers she is pregnant, she has to “clean up” her personal messes and get her act together.

Beginning more than a professional interest with Dr. Jim Pomatter, her gynecologist, is the first step Jenna takes to improve her life.  A pie baking contest in a nearly county is the second step.  With her recipes for such specialties as Mermaid Marshmallow, The Key (Lime) to Happiness Pie and “Betrayed By My Eggs Pie,”
she views the grand prize as her big chance at a new life.
Jenna’s third step is to find the courage to abandon her loveless marriage and take a stand for freedom and happiness.  That recipe is more elusive than most and harder to find the proper ingredients for, but with her sister servers, her crusty boss and loyal customers, Jenna eventually finds everything she is seeking.

For tickets ($35-126), call the Bushnell, 166 Capitol Avenue, Hartford at 860-987-5900 or online at www. bushnell.org.  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.

Plan to order a slice of perfection, like Mermaid Marshmallow pie, as you enjoy the heavenly treats on the stage.  Don’t forget to leave a generous tip for your waitress.

WESTPORT COUNTRY PLAYHOUSE STAGES GRIPPING DRAMA TILL JUNE 22




For some, silver spoons are most likely made of plastic and rose-colored glasses don’t allow you to see. Life is not always fair.   Just ask four factory workers at a Detroit car manufacturing plant where the scuttlebutt is the plant is on the verge of closing.  While you may not love your job, it provides dollars to pay your rent, health care to cure your ills and the promise of a pension if you perform well over the years.  Take a deep breath and enter the break room where this quartet of workers have shared their dreams and expressed their hopes for tomorrow.  Now that tomorrow is in jeopardy.

“Skeleton Crew” by Dominique Morisseau is one of three plays she has penned that expose life on the edge, where each paycheck is important and life is not filled with fairness or guarantees.  Come meet Perri Gaffney’s Faye who always plays by the rules and has devoted almost three decades of hard work for the factory’s success.  She is a union rep and fights hard for her people. How is it that she is now homeless and is sleeping in her car or in the break room?

Faye’s family ties go back a long way in her relationship with the plant manager Sean Nelson’s Reggie who is trapped in a no-win situation between his “people” and his superiors. How can he be true to both?  Faye had a close bond with Reggie’s mom, and she feels a loyalty that she prays Reggie shares.  

Toni Martin’s Shanita is pregnant which adds an urgency to her situation.  She has always worked hard on the line and hopes that will augur in her favor if layoffs are made.  She has an unusual affection for Leland Fowler’s Dez, a young man with dreams of running his own garage and some unorthodox ways of making that happen.  Will his daring deeds be his undoing?

Detroit in 2008 is a time of change and unrest and these four have a lot to lose, whether they stand together or apart.  They will make you care about their fate under the finely tuned direction of LA Williams, on a set designed by Caite Hevner, illuminated by Xavier Pierce’s lighting.

For tickets ($30 and up), call the Westport Country Playhouse, 25 Powers Court, Westport at 203-227-4177 or 1-888-927-7529 or online at westportplayhouse.org. Performances are Tuesday at 7 p.m., Wednesday at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m., Thursday and Friday at 8 p.m., Saturday at 3 p.m. and 8 p.m., and Sunday at 3 p.m.

Imagine the insecurity and uncertainty of life if you were a victim of the economy and subject to so much that was totally out of your control.

Sunday, June 9, 2019

“‘MAMMA MIA!” WHAT A STUNNING SHOW AT UCONN!



                                         THE CAST OF "MAMMA MIA"
Do you love the music of the Swedish group ABBA? Did you always fantasize about running off to a remote island in Greece? Does the thought of attending a wedding rev your soul? Then if yes is the answer, have I got a delightfully delicious musical for you. Head for the campus of the University of Connecticut to the Jorgensen Theatre where "Mamma Mia!" awaits you in all its musical splendor.

Even if your knowledge of the music group ABBA is non-existent, the show will win your heart and your joy even before the overture is complete. But don’t waste time thinking about it as the fun only lasts until Saturday, June 22.
Dance down the aisle with the Connecticut Repertory in Storrs to catch this lively with a capital L smash hit musical “Mamma Mia!” with music and lyrics by ABBA musicians Benny Andersson and Bjorn Ulvaeus and book by Catherine Johnson.

Set on a mythical Greek island, the show is about a daughter Sophie, played by a delightful Kelly McCarty, who at 20 is about to marry. Her fervent wish is to have her father walk her down the aisle, but there’s one small problem. Her mother Donna, a determined and vivacious Jessica Hendy who runs the island taverna, has never spoken Sophie’s father’s name.

So the industrious and clever Sophie sends wedding invitations to the three candidates for fatherhood as determined by invading the privacy of her mom’s diary of twenty one years previously: an architect Sam (Bradley Dean), an Australian travel writer Bill (Jamie Colburn) and a proper British banker Harry (Rob Barnes). All three men accept the invitation they believe is from Donna and show up conveniently on the eve of Sophie’s nuptials to Sky (Mason Reeves).

Fortunately the unsuspecting Donna has the moral grounding of Tanya (Lauren Blackman) and Rosie (Jennifer Cody), the members of herold singing group, who literally and figuratively support her when the sparks of mistrust andaccusations start to fly. The great ABBA songs like “Dancing Queen,” “The Name of the Game,” “S.O.S.,” “Thank You for the Music,” “I Do, I Do, I Do, I Do, I Do,” and “The Winner Takes It All” and more than a dozen more, make this show sparkle with neon lights that spell Amazing, Bouncy, Beautiful, and Alive, in snappy and pulsating style, thanks to musical director Geraldine Anello. Kudos to Terrence Mann for directing this joyful experience, Tim Brown for a creative set, Fan Zhang for colorful costuming and Mary Ann Lamb and Jessica Walker for choreography extraordinaire.

For tickets ($48 and up) call the Jorgensen Theatre, at Storrs at 860-486-2113 or online at www.crt.uconn.edu.Performances are Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday at 7 p.m., Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m., and Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday at 2 p.m.
Once upon a time a girl prays to have her father at her side for her wedding day. Is it a blessing or a curse when her prayers are answered three times over? Catch the joy of “Mamma Mia!” and discover for yourself. Wedding gifts are optional.