Monday, July 21, 2014

"NORA" LIVES IN A DOLL-LIKE WORLD




The old saying goes that two people can keep a secret if one of them is dead.  Nora Helmer has a secret of such proportions that it is capable of destroying her marriage and thrusting her into society's disapproving eye.  To meet Nora and discover her criminal indiscretion, avail yourself of Westport Country Playhouse's "Nora," adapted by Ingmar Bergman from Henrik Ibsen's classic drama "A Doll's House."  The original was first performed in Copenhagen, Sweden in 1879 and centers on a woman who appears on the surface finally to possess  everything she has ever desired.

Until Saturday, August 2, you are invited into Nora's doll house life in 19th century Sweden, a life where she and her husband Torvald appear to be the happiest of couples.  It is Christmas and by New Year's Day, he will occupy the post as manager of the Cooperative Bank, a position of prestige and prosperity. No longer will they have to scrimp.  Nora can now indulge her fancies for all the pretty possessions of life.  Liv Rooth embraces the role of Nora with both arms open wide.

The moment is one of ecstasy, but it soon turns an ugly face.  Nora, with the best of intentions, to restore Torvald to good health, entered into a compromising relationship with a shady lawyer Krogstad (Shawn Fagan) who now appears on her doorstep hinting of blackmail.  He is about to be dismissed at the bank by Nora's husband for his own less than honest dealings and he pleads with Nora to intervene on his behalf with the morally upright Torvald, an uncompromising Lucas Hall.

Illusions of a perfect life are shattered as Nora's old friend Christine (Stephanie Janssen) appears and implores Nora to help her for old time's sake.  When Christine is given Krogstad's bank position, it seems Nora is doomed to be exposed for her illegal actions, forging her father's name on legal documents.  The only one clearly on her side, with great admiration for her, is Dr. Rank (LeRoy McClain), who, although quite ill, is staunch in her defense.

This melodrama spins like a child's toy top in a dozen directions as Nora's life fast forwards out of control.  As a possession of her husband and not a wife and equal, she wakes up to her unhappy fate and does the only thing she can.  David Kennedy keeps the suspense building as Nora frantically tries to save her fragile life of contentment.  The walls of her doll house eventually disintegrate around her, a design conceit created by Kristen Robinson.

For tickets ($30 and up), call the Westport Country Playhouse, 25 Powers Court, off Route 1, Westport at 203-227-4177 or 888-927-7529 or online at www.westportplayhouse.org.  Performances are Tuesday at 8 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.

Let Henrik Ibsen and Ingmar Bergman and David Kennedy unite to tell a tale of a woman who, in losing everything, discovers herself.


"LA BOHEME" WILL STIR YOUR HEART


             A SCENE FROM A 2006 PERFORMANCE OF "LA BOHEME"

Few operas have attained more international status and popularity than "La Boheme" by Giacomo Puccini, first produced on February 1, 1896 at the Teatro Regio in Turin, Italy, with Arturo Toscannini conducting.  The tender and heartbreaking story of the love of the poor poet Rodolfo for the sweet sick seamstress Mimi has captured the imaginations of hundreds of thousands of listeners over the decades.

Opera Theater of Connecticut will be concentrating all its dramatic and exciting properties on Tuesday, August 5, Thursday, August 7 and Saturday, August 9 at 7:30 p.m. and on Sunday, August 10 at 6 p.m. to bring this glorious tale of romance to the stage of the air-conditioned Andrews MemorialTheater, 54 East Main Street, Clinton.  The production is fully staged and sung in Italian with English supertitles, a full orchestra, chorus and children's chorus.

Christmas Eve in Paris in the 1840's should be celebrated with wine, women and song, but for the artist Marcello, a dramatic Maksim Ivanov, and the poet Rodolfo,  a sensitive Joshua Kohl, starvation is the only thing under their tree, if they could even afford one.  They burn pages of Rodolfo's latest book to keep from freezing.  When all seems lost, their roommates Colline, a philosophizing Aaron Sorensen, and Schaunard, the clever musician Ryan Burns, arrive with a feast of food and funds to celebrate from an unexpected and eccentric commission, playing music for a parrot until it died.  Even the appearance of their landlord Benoit, a greedy Laurentiu Rotaru, to collect the rent, doesn't defer them from their glee.

After getting Benoit drunk on wine, they all leave to party at the Cafe Momus, save for Rodolfo who lingers to pen a few words.  A knock on the door presents him with a vision of loveliness, Mimi, a pretty neighbor Shannon Kessler Dooley, whose candle has burned out and needs a match.  The pair fall instantly in love as they search for her key, which he has secretly pocketed, and soon they join his friends at the cafe to celebrate their sudden good fortune.

Poverty and illness are not good companions for young love and the pair suffer from both.  While Marcello and his former girlfriend Musetta, a fiery Lisa Williamson, flirt and argue about her dalliance with the wealthy and boring Alcindoro, also played by Laurentiu Rotaru, Rodolfo and Mimi are traveling a rocky road in their relationship.  He pretends to be jealous so she will leave him for a rich patron to care for her during her illness, knowing he has no means for medicine and doctors.

When Mimi realizes Rodolfo's ruse and that he truly adores her, they tearfully reunite but it is too late.  Her illness has consumed her and she dies, leaving Rodolfo in despair.

Puccini never disappoints.  His notes are lush and lyrical, as Rodolfo and Mimi proclaim their devotion, first tentatively, and then stirringly all the way to her tragic deathbed where Rodolfo weeps her name on his fevered lips. If the word "opera" represents a musical marriage of song, orchestra, drama, dance, design, costumes, sound and light, then Puccini's "La Boheme" is a masterwork that exemplifies them all with grandeur.

Under the leadership of General Director Kate Ford, Production Director Alan Mann and Music Director Kyle Swann, Opera Theater of Connecticut has assembled a sterling ensemble together to perform this spectacular production.  Come early for a boxed supper prepared by Chip's Pub III and picnic on the theater lawn next to the lovely Indian River an hour before showtime.  Dinners are $15 and must be reserved in advance.  Come even a little earlier, an hour and a half before curtain, and let Artistic Director Alan Mann engage and enlighten you with his Opera Talk.  Tickets are $5 and will make the opera much more enjoyable.

For tickets ($45 adults, $40 seniors, $35 for under 18) call Opera Theater of CT at 860-669-8999 or online at www.operatheaterofct.,org.

Let Opera Theater of CT bring you a sumptuous selection of song for your summer's entertainment.  It's sure to be a highlight of your August.

Monday, July 14, 2014

"BENEDICT ARNOLD THE MUSICAL" A STIRRING EPIC OF SONG




Ambition and power are enticing aphrodisiacs, ones that have lured many a man off the righteous path.  Entitlement travels side by side with ambition and it can easily corrupt.  Feel yourself slighted, overlooked, undervalued and you might be tempted to rebel, to make a statement that restores your spoiled sense of dignity.

Consider the fate of one Benedict Arnold, a man from colonial history in America's birth pangs who felt he wasn't properly respected and acknowledged.  His story is being showcased dramatically and honestly in a brand new work "Benedict Arnold The Musical," a world premiere by Richard Vetere, book, Jeffrey Lodin, music, and William Squier, lyrics.  Until Sunday, August 3, The Spirit of Broadway Theater in Norwich will launch this exciting production about one of Norwich's own, Benedict Arnold, fittingly in honor of the town's 350th celebration.

To Brett A. Bernardini, Artistic Director of Spirit of Broadway Theater and the inspiration behind this innovative production, "This idea was been percolating for years.  Working in this amazing little city, this is my way of giving back to the community," to undo the archaic notion that Benedict Arnold "is someone we don't talk about."  By combining history and theater, Bernardini wants to attract tourists from all over the globe to come discover Norwich and one of its native sons.  The desire is to focus attention on the man and his character, his relationship with his second wife Peggy Shippen and his respect for General George Washington.

Luke Yellin is excellent as the frustrated and impatient General Arnold who doesn't feel the Continental Congress values his worth, not giving him the military commission he feels he deserves.  While Washington, a strong and forceful Derek Corriveau, urges patience and encourages him to consider marriage to the lovely and eligible Peggy Shippen, a determined and ambitious Jessie MacBeth, Arnold is anxious to advance his career.

Once married to Peggy, he finds in her friendship with Major John Andre, a charming Loyalist striking in the hands of Joe Cordaro, a sympathetic ear and offers of prestige and wealth from Britain and the King that he can't secure from the colonists. Whether he knows Andre is a spy or not, Arnold accepts all the temptations presented and provides vital secret information about West Point, his newest posting, a step that violates his loyalty to Washington.

Throughout the play, a trio of witches, played with mystery and magic by Bryna Kearney, Alisha Kapur and Maureen Pollard, swirl through the fog and mist foretelling shadows of wickedness.  in forsaking his own country, Arnold never receives the recognition he so strongly desired and he and Peggy are sorely disappointed by their reception across the pond. The playwright and composers manage to make Benedict and Peggy real and one feels compassion for their chosen course, however misguided it becomes. Stirring tunes like  "Something Wicked This Way Comes," "The Belle of Philadelphia,""The Deed Is Done," "Two Very Different Men" and "An American Macbeth" advance the plot.  Brett A. Bernardini directs this journey back into historical times with pride and skill.

Ensemble members who round out the cast include Paul Leitz, Andrew Goehring, Justin Carroll, Nick Edwards and Bessie Fong.

For tickets ($32), call The Spirit of Broadway Theater, 24 Chestnut Street, Norwich at 860-886-2378 or online at www.spiritofbroadway.org. Performances are  Wednesday and Thursday at 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m.  All last week Norwich focused attention on Benedict Arnold's polarizing influence with fireworks, walking tours, lectures, exhibits, movies, art and concerts.

Eager to help the theater in its fundraising efforts, contact Jackie Roy about the unique "Night of One Hundred Dinners" where you invite
friends to your home for a cocktail party, a picnic, a dinner, dessert, wine tasting, (well you get the idea), in October with all proceeds going to SBT.
Interested? Want more information? Call Jackie at 860-887-6975 or jackieroy6020@gmail.com.

Witness how love and betrayal are interwoven in this complicated tale of loyalty where ego plays a large role in the devastating outcome.

"NOW YOU'VE DUNNIT!! " A MERRY MYSTERY TREAT






Ever fancy yourself a playwright, a detective, a source of great humor and imagination?  For the big trifecta of entertaining hits, plan to mosey on down one of New Haven's prettiest areas, Wooster Street, to number 165, where the Consiglio family have been preparing great Italian feasts for over seventy-five years.


Master of ceremonies, actor, writer, producer and director Michael Sayers is at it again, creating fun and excitement with you as the stars as he presents his unique improvisational murder mystery shows " Now You Dunnit !!" on a series of summer evenings on  Friday, July 18 at 7 p.m., Sunday, July 27 at 5 p.m., Saturday, August 9 at 7 p.m., Friday, August 22 at 7 p.m. and Friday, September 19 at 7 p.m.


With Michael Sayers at the helm, anything can happen and usually does.  He comes to the stage with a talented troupe of actors who are ready, willing and most able to think on their feet.  You, the audience, are called upon to provide the plot, the victim, the murderer and the who, what and where.  Your suggestions frame the action so you feel a part of the story from the first word.  The back ground, the interrogation and the investigation are all figments of your imagination and the wilder the better.


Before you put on your sleuthing gear, you are invited to partake of a delicious three course meal of your choosing.  With appetizers like fried calamari or eggplant napoleon, entrees like sole provencal or penne vodka and desserts like Gelato or Godiva Tiramisu, you will have a hard time deciding between all the delicious choices.


Audience participation is at the heart of Consiglio's menu.  Be prepared to sing and play games and search for clues to a murder with Chester Hadlyme as the chief detective.  Detective Hadlyme needs your help, to weigh and balance all the clues dropped for you to retrieve and solve. As if that isn't enough, there will also be hysterical table games and "sing a longs."



For tickets ($55), to "Now You've Dunnit !!," call Consiglio's Restaurant, 165 Wooster Street, New Haven at 203-865-4489 or online at www.consiglios.com.  Tax, tip and drinks are not included.  Doors open one hour before showtime.


Join the great team of Sayers and Consiglio's for delicious and dandy entertainment! Start thinking now of how you can stump the cast with wacky story lines and far out murder clues.  The fun begins this Friday night at 7!  Be there!

“THE BIKINIS” UNVEILING THEMSELVES MUSICALLY AT LONG WHARF



 
You've heard of the Jersey Boys, who've been immortalized in musical and now movie.  Please come and meet the Jersey Girls, a quartet of singers who made a name for themselves on the New Jersey shores decades ago.  As the Bikinis, they won a talent contest, much to their own amazement.

In 1964, four B.F. F.’s (best friends forever) on a lark enter a talent contest wearing (you guessed it) bikinis and win the beach boardwalk banners.  Two teenage sisters from Paramus,  Jodi (Lori Hammel) and Annie (Valerie Fagen), join forces with their impetuous cousin Karla (Karyn Quackenbush) from Philadelphia and their best bud Barbara (Regina Levert) from Staten Island and gather to make their summer fun memorable . The surf is up at Long Wharf Theatre until Sunday, July 27 and you're free to grab your beach towel, suntan lotion and boogie board and sail along for the smooth musical ride.

Believe it or not, the scantily designed swimwear that dangles in two pieces on women and resembles abbreviated underwear was named for the site of a nuclear weapons test site, the Bikini Atoll in the Pacific Ocean.  Conceived by French engineer Louis Reard in 1946, it has become heralded as one of the most popular female beachwear ensembles, an $811 million industry annually.
 
Now it is being reincarnated in an entirely new fashion statement thanks to co-writers Ray Roderick and James Hindman and composer and musical arranger Joe Baker as a beach party musical “The Bikinis.”  

With a parade of dozens of favorite tunes like “It’s Raining Men,” “Dedicated to the One I Love,” “It’s in His Kiss,” “I’m Every Woman,” “Under the Boardwalk” and “Chapel of Love” as well as brand new songs like “In My Bikini” and “Sandy Shores,” you’ll find yourself dancing in your seat and humming right along.
 
According to Ray Roderick, who is busy juggling three hats for the show, as creator, choreographer and director, “The show is about fun, females and friendship.  It’s 75% songs we know and love and 25% new material.  It showcases women in a positive way, written by men who love them.”
 
Calling it “a joyous party,” Roderick finds it “an easy, breezy show where the women don’t stop.  They are a talent pool that delivers and has fun in the process.”  Stating that the musical’s title is a metaphor for the struggle for equality women face, he feels they are empowered by it, even as they are still vulnerable.  The quartet of females in the show relive their past but focus, decades later when they reunite, on the here and now.
 
The great rock and roll music of the 60’s and 70’s is wrapped around the original talent contest where the goal of the girls was to produce a 45 record demo to get on Dick Clark’s American Bandstand and fast forwards to their gathering when they meet to save the Sandy Shores Mobile Home Beach Resort Park, a favorite landmark on the Jersey beach that is being threatened by a land developer who wants to take over and build condos. Each trailer park owner has been offered a quarter of a million dollars to sell out so a giant resort can move in.
 
Back in 2007, at the Briny Breezes Trailer Park in Florida, the owners were each offered a million dollars to move and “The Bikinis” is loosely based on that true story.  In addition, it touches on the innocent fun of that era as well as the Vietnam War, the Woodstock event, flower children and the rise of women’s voices.  “The Bikinis” is “a coming of age story that views the world through their eyes.”
 
For tickets ($55), call the Long Wharf Theatre, 222 Sargent Drive, New Haven at 203-787-4282 or online at www.longwharf.org. Performances are Tuesday and Wednesday at  7:00 p.m., Thursday, Friday and Saturday at  8 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m.
 
Come rediscover the great songs of the 60’s and 70’s as this one hit wonder girls’ group reunites as women.  Come hear them roar.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

"GYPSY" EVERYTHING'S COMING UP ROSES!

                       HERBIE, ROSE AND LOUISE IN "GYPSY"

As stage mothers go, Mama Rose is the definitive puppet mistress of them all, focused and fixated on making one of her two daughters a star with a capital S.  She is equally revered and vilified for her powerful controlling role as the pushy and manipulative mother who refuses to take no for an answer.  She knows best and her opinion  is inviolate.

Until Sunday, June 20, the Connecticut Repertory Theatre at the Harriet Jorgensen Theatre on the campus of the University of Connecticut will be presenting, in fine fiddle and form, the musical fable "Gypsy" with book by Arthur Laurents, music by Jules Styne and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, suggested by the memoirs of Gypsy Rose Lee.

Miss Leslie Uggams envelops the role of Mama Rose and makes it her own as she steamrolls her two little girls, baby June (Annie Totis) and Louise (Madison Young), into the star pattern born of her own dreams. From Uncle Jocko's (Stephen Hayes) Kiddie Show to a top billing on the Orpheum Circuit, wherever vaudeville was king, Rose pushed and manipulated her girls into the spotlight.  She saw baby June, now a grown up dimpled blonde Alanna Saunders, as her ticket to success and she used Louise, an accommodating Amandina Altomare, to help her claw her way to the top.  Along the rocky road, Rose latches on to good- natured Herbie, Scott Ripley, who pledges his help to be their agent because he loves Rose and all children.

When Rose's dad, a long suffering Michael James Leslie, refuses to give her any more money to fund her pie-in-the-sky schemes of stardom, Rose does not hesitate to find other means to make her way.  Wonderful songs like "Some People," "Small World," "You'll Never Get Away From Me," "If Momma Was Married," "Everything's Coming Up Roses," "Together Wherever We Go" and "Rose's Turn" help propel the plot in a most delightful way.

When Dainty June finally rebels, Rose doesn't hesitate for a moment to fasten her hopes on Louise to now be her rocket to the moon.  Louise's star turn takes an unexpected curve, especially when she meets and gets inspired by a trio of strippers, Mazeppa (Ariana Shore), Electra (Cassandra Dupler) and
Tessie Tura (MacKenzie Leigh Friedmann) who make the tune "You Gotta Get a Gimmick" one of the highlights of the show.  As directed by Vincent J. Cardinal, "Gypsy" is a pure pleasure.

For tickets ($10 to $43), call the Nafe Katter box office at 860-486-2113 or online at www.crt.uconn.edu.  Performances are Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday at 7:30 p.m., Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m. with matinees at 2 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday.

Come gather ye rosebuds while ye may as Miss Leslie Uggams and a talented cast spread rose petals of delight all the way to the doors of the air conditioned Jorgensen Theatre.

Monday, July 7, 2014

LINDA LAVIN TO SING AT THE KATE



 


 Linda Lavin can easily be called an American legend. As an award winning singer and actress, she has earned a place not only in America’s songbook as a crooner but on the legitimate stage. Born in Portland, Maine, this talented performer had an opera singer as a mom, a coloratura soprano, one who gave up the stage to be a parent. With an older sister nine years her senior, she refers to herself as a “surprise.”

Doctors had told her mom to give up singing professionally to have another child, because of her difficulty conceiving, and that’s what she did. Lavin calls having such a powerful mother a “mixed blessing,” the ying to her yang, but when they did three part harmony while washing dishes it was all worthwhile. 

Her father was a businessman and probably didn’t join in the song.

 That famous harmony will be on display on Thursday, July 17 at 7:30 p.m. when Linda Lavin graces the stage of the Katherine Hepburn Cultural Arts Center, 300 Main Street, in Old Saybrook with her incredible show ”Possibilities.” Her husband of 9 years Steve Bakunas will be on stage with her as drummer, with her musical director Billy Stritch on piano. Her little dog Mickey is sure to be near by.

 Lavin was the original “little grownup,” encouraged to sing and perform by her mom and friends. She loved to act, to get attention, to show off. Her mother even claims that at one year of age, she stood up in her crib and sang “God Bless America.” In her world, singing was required. Her mother wanted her to be a concert pianist and she felt great pressure to fulfill her mother’s dreams. For fifteen years, she hated it, preferring to improvise rather than play what was required. “My tough teacher was mean and playing didn’t make me happy. I wanted to sing and learn jazz. The stress was terrible. An accidental injury to my finger finally freed me from the yoke of my mother’s dream one week before a big concert.” On stage, she claims to be nowhere near as nervous.

 To Linda Lavin, acting and singing “give me joy.” She learned to be flexible in life early on. At the age of six, on Halloween, she wanted to be a princess. When she came down with the chicken pox, her mom told her “now you can be a witch.”

 Her motto is “expand, grow, change.” At age 8, she had her heart set on being Alice in “Alice in Wonderland,” but got cast as the White Rabbit instead, which was both disappointing and challenging. Her big turn as a totally different Alice wasn’t to come for many years. In the school show “I Love Lucy,” she was cast as Ethel instead of the coveted role as Lucy. Show biz life is a series of lefts instead of rights, but Lavin always managed to find her balance.

 Her iconic role as the waitress/mom/singer in “Alice” gave her a new identity as a working woman and led to her speaking to Congress on labor issues and women’s rights. After nine seasons on “Alice,” Lavin wanted to go back to the theater, “I wanted all the women who live in me to get heard.” Roles in “Broadway Bound,”where she earned a Tony, “The Diary of Anne Frank,” “Last of the Red Hot Lovers,” as Lena in “Lena: My 100 Children,” as Mama Rose in “Gypsy” and as the wife Marjorie in “The Tale of the Allergist’s Wife” and scores of others on stage and screen and television have cemented her star over the show business door.

 Recently this 76 year young and vibrant lady took up jazz piano, on her old childhood piano that follows her wherever she moves. It came with her to Wilmington, North Carolina where she lived for many years before returning to New York City. In Wilmington, she and her husband Steve established the Red Barn Studio as a community theater as well as using her foundation to create a theater program to raise the self-esteem of at-risk teenage girls in the inner city. She now teaches master classes in New York.

 At the Kate, she will showcase her singing act “Possibilities,” which she describes as “the story of my life in song and patter.” What could be better.
 For tickets ($ 65 ), call The Kate at 877- 503-1286 or online at www.thekate.org.

 Many times in her life, Linda Lavin has started over, reinventing herself as a new person in a new community. Come witness the newest version of her glory at The Kate and applaud her star power as it shines, sparkles and glows.