Monday, July 25, 2016

HUCK FINN IS RIDING THE ‘’BIG RIVER’’ INTO SHARON



                                          AUTHOR MARK TWAIN
As an impetuous youth, did you ever contemplate building a split rail raft and sailing down the Mississippi?  Probably not, unless your name is Huckleberry Finn and you have a burning desire for adventure and freedom.  The Sharon Playhouse in Sharon, at
the foothills of he Berkshires, is inviting you to hop aboard that sturdy floating vessel for a rousing good time as “Big River” sets sail  until Sunday, July 31.

Our old friend Mark Twain has penned this lazy summer day of entertainment,  with book by William Hauptmann and music and lyrics by Roger Miller.  It is filled with characters, villains and nice folks, as a brave Huck, bent on experiencing escapades and escaping 
the clutches of the virtuous Widow Douglas (Ginny Rickard) and Miss Watson (Susan Hackel) as well as the paws of his alcoholic Pap (Travis Mitchell), runs away from home.  With him, for companionship and protection, is the Widow’s faithful slave Jim.  He too seeks freedom and a chance to earn the right to purchase his wife and children from bondage.

Joseph Allen is wonderful, full of pluck and charm, as a youth who never wants to grow up and Nicholas Ward is outstanding as the runaway slave, Jim, one whose bass voice is chillingly powerful in such songs, with Huck, as “Muddy Waters,” “River in the Rain” and “Free at Last.”

Huck is trying his darnest to make sure he never gets into heaven and he sees the raft ride as a plum good way to guarantee he stumbles into as much rough and tumble trouble as possible. Before he can say the name of his good friend Tom Sawyer (Alex Dorf) three times, he is caught up in the schemes and shenanigans of two river rats named The Duke (Thomas Cannizzaro) and the King (Travis Mitchell) who con their way aboard the raft as they try to exhort money from the good folks in the river towns.

Huck surely gets his fair share of adventures, even getting to pretend to be a ghost, as he oversees Jim’s quest for being a free man.  As he says himself, I have “considerable trouble and considerable joy.” John Simpkins directs this wonderful saga of a country lad who earns his stripes the hard way and grows up in the process.

For tickets ($ 15-47), call the Sharon Playhouse, 49 Amenia Road, Sharon at 860-364-7469 or online at www.sharonplayhouse.org.Performances are Thursday at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m., Friday at 7 p.m., Saturday at 3 p.m. and 8 p.m. and Sunday at 1 p.m. and 5:30 p.m.

Come join Huck Finn  as he declares sincerely that he “don’t want to be civilized, no way, no how” yet manages to come of age and learn the true meaning of friendship in the process.  But be forewarned:  Mark Twain cautions that “persons attempting to find a plot will be shot."

THE AMAZING LUCIE ARNAZ COMING TO THE KATE



                                                                                 LUCIE ARNAZ

f your mother is the zany comedienne Lucille Ball and your father is the Cuban bandleader Desi Arnaz, are you destined for a life in show business?

Just ask Lucie Arnaz, who made her television debut at the age of twelve playing a teenage soda jerk at an ice cream shop on her mom’s series “The Lucy Show” in 1962 and she hasn’t stopped since.  With Jack Benny as a next door neighbor in Beverly Hills, Lucie Arnaz knew early on what fame looked like and the responsibilities it defined.

Lucie won over Broadway in “They’re Playing Our Song” by Neil Simon and has appeared in such shows as “Pippin,” “Lost in Yonkers” and “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels” to great acclaim as well as touring with “My One and Only,” “Seesaw,” “Whose Life Is It Anyway?” and “Social Security” to name but a few.

Ms. Arnaz, who once called Connecticut home, now resides in Palm Springs, California with her husband Larry Luckinbill.  She has devoted much of her five decades in show business to preserving the memories of her famous parents in museums and in tribute shows, like her highly successful shows honoring her father “Babalu!” and “Latin Roots” and the film paying tribute to her parents “Lucy and Desi: A Home Movie.”

Now you have the opportunity to experience her up close and personal when Lucie Arnaz appears in her night club act “An Intimate Evening with Lucie Arnaz,” with her musical director Ron Abel at the Katharine Hepburn Cultural Arts Center in Old Saybrook on Friday, July 29 at 8 p.m..

With sass and sparkle, Ms. Arnaz will sing and share stories of her show business family, revealing her “roots” with personal anecdotes and favorite tunes.  From ballads to Broadway, Latin to pop standards, jazz and a little country, with maybe a bongo for good luck, this concert is a sure crowd pleaser.

For tickets ($58-68), call the Kate, 300 Main Street, Old Saybrook at 877-503-1286 or online at www.katharinehepburntheater.org.

Let Lucie entertain you in royal style.  If you loved Lucy, you’ll surely love Lucie!

THE TERRIS THEATRE IN CHESTER INAUGURATES “A SIGN OF THE TIMES”



GABRIEL BARRE, THE DIRECTOR OF "THE SIGN OF THE TIMES"



EPHIE AARDEMA AS CINDY IN "THE SIGN OF THE TIMES"   PHOTO BY DIANE SOBOLEWSKI

Actor and director Gabriel Barre is no stranger to theater, on Broadway and internationally, having been at the helm for such productions as “Camelot,” “Carmen,” “Cinderella” and “Cyrano” as well as “Memphis,” “Magic to Do” and “Almost, Maine.” At Goodspeed Musicals and The Terris Theatre in Chester, he has worked on “Pippin,” “Sweeney Todd,” “Houdini” and “Finian’s Rainbow.” Now he is knee deep in the guts and glamour of a brand new musical “A Sign of the Times” set to debut at The Terris Theatre on Friday, July 29 and run until Sunday, September 4.
 The inspiration for this 1965 song fest goes to Richard Robin, a real estate developer with a passion for the arts, one who has experience as a financial backer. Long fascinated with the 1960’s and the music Petula Clark and others those years generated, he decided one day, “I’d rather do my own show” so he purchased the rights to the songs of the era and created a basic story line for the show.

 That’s when the comic genius of Bruce Vilanch was signed on as book writer, a man used to writing for television, the Oscars and a quarter of a century for Bette Midler. In Gabriel Barre’s mind, “Bruce brings a lot to the table. He was raised on musical theater and he knows the rules, when to follow them and when to break them. He’s flexible, cooperative and a laugh riot at rehearsals.”

 Barre is also delighted that this time around he has a full four weeks of rehearsal time to take the songs of Petula Clark and use them as the basis for this innovative new work. To Barre, “We are enjoying a fantastic discovery period, with lots of changes and rewrites. It’s fun and entertaining and the cast is terrific. I’m so lucky to do what I do and make a living at the same time.”

 To create the 1960’s for today’s audiences, Barre has a dual approach. The first is a visual one with scenery and projections, with direct localities of the times combined with the great costumes created by Jennifer Caprio, “a cross-section of looks of the mid-1960’s guaranteed to make you smile.” The second handle is the music provided by a fantastic five piece band led by Joe Church and Rick Fox who are “top-notch and give the songs a vibrant fresh sound.”

 The show is stuffed with familiar tunes like “Downtown,” “Don’t Sleep in the Subway,” “My Love,” “Who Am I?,” “I Know a Place," “Boy from New York City” and “The Shoop, Shoop Song.” Tunes like “Color My World” create the pivotal moment when the heroine Cindy watches her black and white Centerville, Ohio environment transform into the Technicolor realm that is the Big Apple.

 Cindy, an optimistic Ephie Aardema, is the mid-west girl who comes to New York City to find herself and create a purpose for her life. Her natural talent as a photographer sets her on a path. Through song and movement, she overcomes obstacles, coming of age just as America does, a mixture of vulnerability and strength. Barre calls her story “a mosaic, weaving a fresh 
new story into the songs to form a complete picture of the times.” He is working to justify each song and make it “true to the integrity of the show.”

For tickets ($54 and up), call Goodspeed at 860-873-8664 or online at www.goodspeed.org. The Terris Theatre, 33 North Main Street, Chester (exit 6 off route 9) is the location for the performances Wednesday at 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m., Thursday at 7:30 p.m., Friday at 8 p.m., Saturday at 3 p.m. and 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m. and 6:30 p.m.

With a great team that also includes Paul Tate de Poo III for sets, JoAnn Hunter for choreography, Jay Hilton for sound, Ken Billington on lighting and Ben Pearcy for projections, Barre wants “A Sign of the Times” to resonate with today’s audiences. He wants a debate on patriotism to take place, to raise social awareness, to encourage people to make a difference, to grow and emerge hopeful. To work, “A Sign of the Times” must "celebrate life and living and what we have to give to each other."

GET INVOLVED IN THE DRAMA THAT IS “THE INVISIBLE HAND”

Eric Bryant and Rajesh Bose in “The Invisible Hand,”       Photo by Carol Rosegg


Kidnapping is a heinous and cowardly crime, one guaranteed to shock and scare the intimate participants.  What if you are the victim and the random demands are refused, unavailable, denied or forbidden to be paid?  in the case of Nicholas Bright, a stock market analyst who specializes in futures, he is forced by circumstances to find a creative solution to save his own life.

To enter the bizarrely frightening trauma of Nick’s abduction in Pakistan, place yourself in the audience of Westport Country Playhouse until Saturday, Augsut 6 as the political juggernaut “The Invisible Hand” by Ayad Akhtar is deliberately delivered.  Eric Bryant’s Nick was not even the intended target.  It was supposed to be his boss, the bank’s chief officer.  But once his abductors had him in their clutches, Jameal Ali’s Dar, Fajer Kaisi’s Bashir and their leader Rajesh Bose’s Imam Salem, they are not predisposed to let him go.

With a ransom demand of $10,000,000, Bright’s future is anything but bright.  The captives’ demands are denied.  Nick, with a creative command of currency, proposes he make his own funds.  With Bashir as his eager protege, he designs investments, in this case futures, that will yield large returns.

The Imam’s needs, whether personal or for the people, disturb the monetary balance and also cause Bashir to question his omnipotent authority.  Meanwhile Nick is caught in the internal conflict.  Does he side with one man against the other?  Is his monetary scheme in danger of failing?  Will his life be sacrificed for the cause?

The play’s title is derived from Adam Smith’s economic theory that self-interest drives the free market like an invisible hand.  Certainly all the players have a personal stake in the success of Bright’s scheme.  David Kennedy directs a fine cast in this tension driven tale that could be ripped from today’s headlines, one that will leave you holding your breath as guns are drawn and drones circle overhead.

For tickets ($30 and up), call the Westpor t Country Playhouse, 25 Powers Court, Westport (route 1) at 203-227-4177 or 1-888-927-7529 or online at www.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.  For a complete listing of community events tied to the play go to www.westportplayhouse.org.

Watch how financier Nick  juggles potatoes, oranges, wheat, water and sugar as seeds of greed infest the menace of monetary madness.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

PAINTING A GARDEN WITH CLAUDE MONET





                                           CLAUDE MONET'S WATER LILIES
If you don’t have the luxury of strolling the paths and reflecting on the ponds of water lilies that Claude Monet enjoyed at Giverny in Normandy, you have a delightful opportunity for the next best experience.  The Katharine Hepburn Cultural Arts Center will present “Painting the Modern Garden Monet to Matisse” on Sunday afternoon at 1 p.m., July 24th in air conditioned pleasure.

As one of the greatest Impressionist painters of his time, Monet reveled in his gardens, using them as inspiration for his incredible works of art, capturing the light and texture and color of his beloved water lilies, in pink, white, yellow and purple, on hundreds of canvases.  As a horticulturalist, he brought art into the open air, exploring nature and utilizing the bright sun to create magical reflections.

Monet has been said to make a “symphony” of his gardens and influencing fellow artists like Van Gogh, Sargent, Pissaro and Matisse, along the way.  This film will focus on an exhibit of his work at The Royal Academy of Arts in London and reveal how Monet encouraged the flowers and waters at Giverny to be the site and subject for artists to paint and express their feelings and fascinations.

For tickets ($15), call The Kate, 300 Main Street, Old Saybrook at  860-510-0453 or 877-503-1286 or online at www.katharinehepburntheater.org. Now is also the time to make your reservations for The Kate’s Annual Summer Gala honoring Dick Cavett with the Spirit of Katharine Hepburn Award on Saturday, August 27.

Monet says it all:  “Perhaps I owe it to flowers that I became an artist."

Monday, July 18, 2016

COME DISCOVER THE JEWEL THAT IS THE O’NEILL THEATER CENTER



MELISSA MANCHESTER AT THE O'NEILL CABARET, TUESDAY, AUGUST 9 AT 8 PM



THE CAST OF THE MUSICAL "DARLING GRENADINE" AT THE O'NEILL

Every week this summer, starting in June, the Eugene O’Neill Theater Center in Waterford has added a pearl of pleasure to a long necklace of entertaining gems.  The unique jeweled creation began with an International Puppet Conference, for eight days, where participants were encouraged to explore the power of puppetry with passion and hands on participation.

Workshops on marionettes and music, creation and communication, marked the sessions that resulted in two live performances, featuring the acclaimed work of Richard Bradshaw and Art Grueneberger.  Hot on the heels of their wooden feet, the Eugene O’Neill, on eleven sprawling acres, devoted itself to a double decker of delight with a National Music Conference and National Playwrights Conference back to back for the month of July.  Under the banner of the musicals were a trio of offerings, selected from 285 submissions.

The finalists in the musical theater category included “The Museum of Broken Relationships” with book by David H. Bell and music and lyrics by Daniel Green, about a couple Kristen and Pierce brought together by a lost wedding ring and a traveling art exhibit.  “GIRL Shakes Loose,” with book and lyrics by Zakiyyah Alexander and music and lyrics by Imani Uzuri deals with the journey of a single, jobless black Girl with lots of qualifications who starts a three city odyssey from the Big Apple with the goal of growing up.  “Darling Grenadine” with book, music and lyrics by Daniel Zaitchik circles around a semi-successful composer, Harry, and his myriad of relationships with the people and pets in his world. Artistic Director Paulette Haupt  oversees these exciting new musical developments.

Also packing the perimeters of July are the eight National Playwrights Conference selections, Artistic Director Wendy C. Goldberg and her team of volunteer readers culled from over 1500 submissions.  The winners include “Running On Fire” by Aurin Squire about a college student who jogs his way straight into a crime scene, innocently setting off sparks of controversy and conflict.  Mike Lew has penned “Teenage Dick,” with more than a passing nod to the Bard, a humorous riff that encompasses revenge as our hero determines to pay back his high school bullies.

Get out those Iphones to capture the text messages that travel to and from in “The Burdens” by Matt Schatz, a quirky dark comedy about communication and the dangers of technology gone mad.  Kathryn Walat takes a close look at “Small Town Values” as high school sweethearts Jane and John and best friends Jane and Maryjane confront Emma and strange things start to happen.

Two families separated by eight thousand miles, one in New Mexico and one in Pakistan, encounter differences and similarities in “Against the Hillside” by Sylvia Khoury.  What prompts a highly successful travel agent Laura to use the company outing to take her own life?  Kate Tarker tackles the hard questions in “Laura and the Sea.”

As a stranger in a new place, Dusty takes on a tough job in a tough bar, forging a life in “Girls in Cars Underwater” by Tegan McLeod, until her balance is threatened and everything she has created starts to topple.  How do you maintain your youthful idealism as an intern in Washington D. C.?  Watch Jack and Jill, 20-somethings, handle the pressure in “Up the Hill” by Keith Huff.

From June 20 to July 25, on Monday evenings, the O’Neill interns The Theatermakers, provided all the work in progress they have been perfecting all that previous week at 7 p.m. for free on campus.

At 6 p.m., on Saturday, July 23, the O’Neill will host its Summer Gala, celebrating the music of its alumni Robert Lopez and Kristen Anderson-Lopez, the songwriters of “Book of Mormon,” “Avenue Q,” “In Transit” and “Frozen.”  For tickets, contact Chris Lagana at events@theoneill.org.

August comes in like firecrackers with the Cabaret and Performance Conference, under the Artistic Direction of John McDaniel, from the 3rd to the 13th.  Wednesday, August 3 is Opening Ceremony (free) with a smattering of many of the remarkable performers on tap. The music of Paul Simon will be showcased in the new show created by Brad Simmons on Thursday, August 4, followed by An Evening with Norm Lewis! on Friday, featuring songs and stories from this gifted and acclaimed showstopper.  

Saturday, August 6 finds Molly Pope at the microphone, fresh from her new status as winner of the 2016 Bistro award and 2016 MAC award.  A combination plate of goodies, Barb Jungr and Lennie Watts, will headline Sunday, August 7 for their first star turn together. Tuesday, August 9 will welcome Melissa Manchester and her high powered presence to the stage for a solo concert not to be missed.  The music of those iconic Beach Boys will be “Fun, Fun, Fun” thanks to the creativity of the Cabaret Junior Fellows on August 10 and again on the 11th, when they continue to strut their stuff.

Watch for the 5-time Female Vocalist of the Year, Karen Mason, to do her unique thing on Friday, August 12, while the conference comes to a smashing conclusion on Saturday the 13th with a Grand Finale by many of the star spangled participants. 

For tickets, call the box office at 860-443-1238 or online at www.theoneill.org.  Relax and enjoy a drink at Blue Gene’s Pub, before or after a performance.  The O’Neill is located at 305 Great Neck Road, Waterford, exit 75 off I-95.

Don’t let the summer schedule escape you without coming once, twice or three times to this jewel of a theatrical necklace.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

CELEBRATE SUMMER MUSICALLY WITH “THE BIKINIS”





Think sun, sand and surf. Think beach, blankets and breezes.  Think four girls scantily clad in bikinis who, on a lark, enter a talent contest on the Belmar Beach boardwalk in New Jersey way, way back in 1964 and, surprisingly, win. 
Thanks to co-writers Ray Roderick and James Hindman and composer and musical arranger Joe Baker, youre invited to bring a beach ball to the party at Long Wharf Theatres main stage until Sunday, July 31.

If you are the least bit curious about the origin of the miniscule  swimwear, it is named for the site of a nuclear weapons test site, the Bikini Atoll in the Pacific Ocean.  The barely abbreviated underwear was designed by French engineer Louis Reard in 1946 and it racks up sales to the tune of over $810 million every year.

You know the “Jersey Boys,” but now it’s time to make room on stage for the Jersey Girls.   The story line, as thin as the beachwear, has  four B.F. F.’s (best friends forever)
winning the talent show and now desperately wanting to get on the Dick Clark show, American Bandstand.  To accomplish that, they need to make a 45 record, at a cost of $875. Thats a lot of bar mitzvahs and wedding receptions!

 Two teenage sisters from Paramus,  Jodi (Lori Hammel) and Annie (Natalie Toro), join forces with their impetuous cousin Karla (Karyn Quackenbush) from Philadelphia and their best bud Barbara (Marinda Anderson) from Staten Island to make their summer fun memorable and you’re invited along for the roller coaster ride.
 
With a parade of almost forty 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 an interview with Ray Roderick, way back when the show debuted at the Norma Terris Theatre in Chester in 2012, the man 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  their gathering, a reunion,  when they meet to save the Sandy Shores Mobile Home Beach Resort, a favorite landmark on the Jersey beach that is being threatened by a land developer who wants to take over and build condos.


Roderick was inspired by a true story he read in the newspapers. 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 event.  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 ($36 and up), call Long Wharf Theatre, 222 Sargent Drive, New Haven at 203-787-4282 or online at www.longwharf.org.  Performances are Tuesday at 7 p.m., Wednesday at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m., Thursday at 8 p.m., Friday at 8 p.m., Saturday at 3 p.m. and 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m. 
 Come discover if these four women can band together to save Sandy Shores and in the process share the great songs of the 60’s and 70’s as this one hit wonder girls’ group reunites decades later.  Come hear these women roar.