Monday, August 20, 2018

AN HILARIOUS LOOK BEHIND THE CURTAIN:“THE UNDERSTUDY”




BRETT DALTON'S JAKE CONFRONTS HIS UNDERSTUDY ERIC BRYANT'S HARRY

PHOTO BY CAROL ROSEGG

  A spotlight, often harsh and unflattering, is being directed at the angst and agonies of acting, the trials and the triumphs, by playwright Theresa Rebeck in her intimate offering “The Understudy” being showcased at Westport Country Playhouse until Saturday, September 1. “The Understudy” provides a comic look at what it means to be permanently in the wings, word perfect and primed, for a chance at the big time.  For that is the fate of the understudy, ready and willing but unlikely to ever get his chance on stage.

German/Jewish novelist Franz Kafka, whose works were mainly ignored in his lifetime, would seem a strange source of material for a current play on Broadway.  Known for his themes of hopelessness and absurdity, however, one might see the method that playwright Theresa Rebeck found in making a newly discovered Kafka play the skeleton upon which she fleshes out her new comedy. 
Enter from stage left, Harry, not your most eager and grateful actor, so capably neurotic in the hands of Eric Bryant. He doesn’t have a lot of respect for the muscle bound actor he is “covering” for, an action star who commands big bucks but has little legitimate stage quality. Harry, in his opening monologue, manages to disparage the man, Jake, his megabucks movie and the acting profession in general.
Bryant calls the role “theatrical therapy” as it reveals the real struggles and anxieties of actors as they go on stage. He feels there is a supreme powerlessness in acting, as one is constantly begging for a job. His co-stars Brett Dalton who plays Jake and Andrea Syglewski who inhabits the stage manager Roxanne agreed that it is great to be employed, but each role has a beginning and an end. It’s not an easy business. All three agreed that Rebeck depicts their passion, their soul and their bitterness and how saying the lines, on stage, with an audience, is its own reward. Whereas in most plays, actors escape themselves in their characters, this is different. Here they bring their personal neuroses to the job, and have to live in the logic of the lines, and live in the moment. Still they all stated the play offers a window into the actor’s world, why they love it, and the absurdity of it all.

For his part, Jake, a manly Brett Dalton, is also waiting for his major break-through role but is willing to pay his dues and give Kafka a fighting chance. As the two men meet on stage for the first time, it is all stage manager Roxanne can do to prevent them from coming to blows. Yet by the play’s end, they share a significant moment that makes all the struggle supremely worthwhile.

Poor Roxanne, a wonderfully exasperated Andrea Syglowski, has a lot to contend with on her theatrical plate: her star and his understudy have an instant dislike for each other, the understudy is presuming to rewrite the script, both men are eating the props, an unseen light, sound and scenery tech Laura is stoned on drugs, the unseen star Bruce is casting his huge shadow over the rehearsal process and Roxanne quickly discovers the understudy has changed his name and is really her ex-fiancee who jilted her at the altar. What is a girl to do for an encore? David Kennedy mines the play for maximum laughter at the expense of the art of show business.

For tickets ($30 and up), call the Westport Country Playhouse, 25 Powers Court, Westport, off route 1 at 203-227-4177 or 888-927-7529 or online atwww.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. 

The show must go on, unless it doesn’t, in this comic behind the curtains look at theater, passions, egos, wounded hearts, warts and all.
ANDREA SYGLOWSKI'S ROXANNE COMES FACE TO FACE WITH HER EX-FIANCEE
ERIC BRYANT'S HARRY    PHOTO BY CAROL ROSEGG

“SOCIAL SECURITY” IS A REAL LAUGHING MATTER









 Ernest Ackerman, a retired motorman from Cleveland, Ohio, became the first person ever to receive a check, on August 16, 1935 for Social Security. He was lucky enough to retire one day after the Social Security program began and he received a check for a whopping 17 cents. Today millions of Americans rely on this monthly check to live on, for food, rent and sundries.

One of those women is Sophie Greengrass who is fortunate enough to live with her daughter Trudy and her accountant husband Martin on Long Island. She also is lucky enough to have another daughter Barbara and her successful art gallery owning husband David who are more than willing to write a check for mama’s care and comfort…as long as she doesn’t invade their luxurious Manhattan apartment and disturb their lovely life style.

The Connecticut Cabaret Theatre in Berlin is inviting you to get up close and personal with these families as critical issues are discussed and radical changes are being made, weekends until Saturday, September 22 when Andrew Bergman’s frantic family comedy “Social Security” comes to call. The Avon Lady or the Fuller Brush Man would have been more welcomed.
With an ominous phone call that there is “something to discuss,” sophisticated art gallery owners David (Chris Brooks) and Barbara Kahn(Rachel West-Balling) have the disconcerting sense that their smooth, witty, and well ordered lives are about to irrevocably change. How different they are from the Mineola, Long Island branch, her uptight sister Trudy (Carleigh Cappetta Schultz) and her staid accountant husband Martin (Tony Galli) who are content to be suburbanites, happily overprotecting their daughter Sarah and care taking of mama Sophie (Lori Feldman) at the same time.
So what could be so urgent as to make the stay-at-home Heymans leave their secure nest and venture into the big, bad Big Apple? The couple are the epitome of the “sandwich generation.” Not only do they have to handle all the capricious whims of Sophie, who is hard of hearing, leaves half eaten sour balls everywhere like in the toaster, and needs be catered to, they also have to contend with their only daughter Sarah who seemed to be off to college and becoming sexually active in a menage a trois off campus. What are concerned parents to do? Dump Sophie in Manhattan and fly to Buffalo to rescue Sarah, of course. The plan goes quickly awry when Barbara and David’s best artist client Maurice Koenig (Russell Fish) comes to dinner and meets Sophie in the flesh.

For tickets ($34) call the CT Cabaret Theatre, 31-33 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 your own goodies or plan to buy treats at the concession stand onsite.

Come discover what half eaten sour balls and gefilte fish have to do with the price of art and sanity when Sophie Greengrass invades Manhattan. Oy Vey!

GO COUNTRY WESTERN WITH PATSY CLINE




                             CARTER CALVERT AS PATSY CLINE

 From the moment Louise Seger first heard the magical voice of Patsy Cline on The Arthur Godfrey Show on the radio way back in 1957, she recognized a soul mate and began a life long worship of this country western singer. If you share even a modicum of Louise’s affection and joy, you’ll feel like you’ve died and gone to hog heaven when you experience the fine production of ”Always…Patsy Cline” created by Ted Swindley at the Sharon Playhouse in Sharon, CT until Sunday, September 2. You are guaranteed to find a lot to love about this energetic and warm hearted romp into Grand Ole Oprey Land.
Put on your fringed western shirts and cowboy boots and help Louise Seger, the queen of Patsy Cline’s fan club, pay tribute to her favorite lady. Louise is being brought to enthusiastic life by Alison Arngrim. Four years later, when Cline comes to Louise’s hometown of Houston to perform, the two women meet and an instant friendship is cemented. Like secret-sharing sisters, Patsy and Louise exchange phone calls and letters for the next two years until a plane crash robs the world of Patsy Cline at age 30.
The play showcases Carter Calvert as the magnetically musical Patsy Cline and provides a string of pearl hits like “Walkin’ After Midnight,” “Stupid Cupid,” “Crazy,” “I Fall To Pieces,” “You Belong To Me,” and “True Love.” Alison Arngrim is a smart talking, adoring Louise and the friendship between the two is a joy to behold. The band rocks the rafters, including Eric Thomas Johnson as musical director with Bruce Carlson, Roger Cohen, Elizabeth Handyman, Mike Lee and Steve Siktberg. Alan M-L Wager directs all the country western doings in fine style. 
For tickets ($15 and up), call the Sharon Playhouse, 49 Amenia Road, Sharon at 860-364-7469 or online atwww.Sharonplayhouse.org. Performances are Thursday at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m., Friday at 8 p.m., Saturday at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. and Sunday at 3 p.m. Mark your calendars for a special Spotlight Gala on Saturday, September 8 when the Sharon Playhouse features Broadway stars Andrea McArdle and Donna McKechnie in a celebration of the music of Marvin Hamlisch and Stephen Sondheim. Cocktails and a light supper at 6 p.m. in the Book Gallery, followed at 7:30 p.m. with a performance in the Playhouse and culminating at 8:45 p.m. with a Meet and Greet Champagne Reception on the patio,
Even though Patsy Cline has been dead over five decades, her record sales have gone gold and platinum in the 1980’s, with her recording of “Crazy” as the most popular juke box single to date and her “Walkin’ After Midnight” on the top ten hit list worldwide. So whether you’re a diehard fan like Louise or a brand new devotee, ”Always...Patsy Cline” is sure to swing your fringe.

Monday, August 13, 2018

WONDERFUL MUSICALS OFFERED FOR SUMMER FUN



THE BEEHIVE STARS SINGING THEIR 60'S SONGS AT SEVEN ANGELS

If your hair is shellacked to an inch of an Egyptian pyramid and piled high like a Dairy Queen ice cream cone, you are clearly sporting a beehive hairdo. No need to visit your stylist because Seven Angels Theatre in Waterbury is offering a grand musical tour of the 1960’s, with historical commentary, until Sunday, August 19, “Beehive The 60’s Musical."

 Come swing and sing with Amy Bentley, Brittany Mulcahy, Chelsea Dacey, Samantha Rae Bass, Erin West Reed and Patricia Paganucci as they play teenyboppers in a swirl of pastel prettiness. All your favorites from the past, like Brenda Lee to Petula to Connie Francis and Tina Turner, the beat goes merrily along. These gals move with enthusiasm and energy as they deliver tunes like an exploding jukebox for your listening pleasure. 

  Favorites such as “My Boyfriend’s Back,” “Respect,” “It’s My Party,” “Where the Boys Are,” and “You Don’t Own Me “ are vocally energized as the platters spin. With almost three dozen tunes in all, you are sure to hear all the ones you treasure from the past and maybe learn a new line or three. As they sing, Erin keeps up a running monologue about current events, from JFK’s assassination to the civil rights movement to the invasion by the Beatles and women advancing their cause. 

 For tickets ($30) to this creation by Larry Gallagher, directed and choreographed by Foster Reese, call the Seven Angels Theatre, Plank Road, Hamilton Park, Waterbury at (203)757-4676 (off I-84). Performances are Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m. Come rock one fine day and discover where the boys are downtown when you make your own kind of music
 If you are into the 60’s scene, then Seven Angels has another special night for you as “The Sixties Show” comes to the stage on Saturday, August 25 at 8 p.m.. Billed as the Greatest 1960’s Re Creation Show in the World,” it is sure to transport you on a magical journey back in time to the hottest hits of the era, complete with narration and film clips. The members of the band are all rock ’n roll royalty and have played with all the greatest like Sir Paul McCartney, The Beach Boys, Brian Wilson, The Bee Gees, Mick Jagger and Bruce Springsteen, to name drop just a few. Tickets are $47.50. Don’t miss it!

  If you are still ready to groove, bop on over to Ivoryton Playhouse for a few great dance lessons as that singular sensation “A Chorus Line” struts its fancy footwork, revealing true stories of dancers as they audition for a new Broadway musical and perfect their talents. Michael Bennett gets full credit for the original idea, direction and choreography, with book by James Kirkwood and Nicholas Dante, music by Marvin Hamlisch and lyrics by Edward Kleban. “A Chorus Line” takes you into the hearts, minds and bodies of Broadway wannabes who are at a cattle call to find eight dancers for a brand new musical. The hopefuls are soon pared down to seventeen in number, all praying “I Hope I Get It.” 

 You will feel their angst and anxiety, their trepidation and terror, their enthusiasm and energy, their joy and jubilation as they open up their inner soul to convince the director that they deserve a chance. Dancing is their life and they cannot conceive of a world without it. This production showcases Schuyler Beeman, Grant Benedict, Ronnie Bowman Jr., Andee Buccheri, Cory Candelet, James Falcon, Stephanie Genito, Sam Given, Joey Lucherini, Amanda Lupacchino, Natalie Madlon, Alexa Racioppi, Jared Starkey, Max Weinstein, Kayla Starr Bryan, Matthew Carp, Dakota Hoar, Liv Kurtz, Lina Lee, Jennifer Roberts, Edward Stanley, Cassidy Terracciano, Lili Thomas, Sarah Warrick and Carl Zurhorst. 

The production is directed and choreographed by Todd L. Underwood and musical directed by Michael Morris, with set design by Martin Scott Marchitto, lighting design by Marcus Abbott and costume design by Kate Bunce. On August 20, Sam Given will show off his alter ego in a cabaret special as Millie Grams: “Don’t Make Me Over.” Tickets are $25, 7:30 p.m., for ages 18 and over.

"A Chorus Line" runs through September 2. Performance times are Wednesday and Sunday matinees at 2 p.m. Evening performances are Wednesday and Thursday at 7:30 p.m., Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m. Additional matinee performances are on Saturday, August 18 and Saturday, September 1. 

Tickets are $55 for adults; $50 for seniors; $25 for students and $20 for children and are available by calling the Playhouse box office at 860-767-7318 or by visiting our website atwww.ivorytonplayhouse.com.

Stand in a line next to each hopeful as they try to prove they deserve their chance in the spotlight and explain poignantly or humorously what each did for love..

Saturday, August 11, 2018

A TRIBUTE TO MARVIN HAMLISCH “MARVIN AND ME” AT MTC




                                             MARVIN HAMLISCH

When it came to racking up awards, nobody quite did it better than composer and conductor Marvin Hamlisch.  To his credit
are Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tonys as well as a Puitizer Prize for Drama for “A Chorus Line.” His magical musical touch can be heard in the tunes sung by Barbra Streisand, Aretha Franklin and Liza Minnelli who all sang at his memorial service in September 2012.  At the 2013 Academy Awards, Streisand shared “The Way We Were” in his memory.

A tribute to the man and his music is slated for one special evening on Saturday, August 18 at 8 p.m. at Music Theatre of Connecticut  and you are invited to join the celebration.  Part of MTC’s Hot Summer Night Cabaret Series, “Marvin and Me” will feature Valerie Lemon, his signature singer for a dozen years.  She will expand her one-woman show especially for this unique event, a production written for her by Hamlisch himself.

Marvin’s widow Terri Blair Hamlisch will add her personal treasure trove of stories about her husband’s career, his musical journey and their special life together.  These intimate tales will be enhanced by a series of film clips, a quartet of Broadway stars including Raissa Katona Bennett, Patrick Ludt and Shana Farr, featured guest appearances by pianist Phil Hall and musical director J. Ernest Green, and a 16-voice chidren's choir of MTC students.

The evening may include such hits as “The Way We Were,” “Nobody Does It Better,” “The Sting,” "Through the Eyes of Love,”
“What I Did For Love,” "Surprise, Surprise “ and “I Finally Found Someone.”  For tickets ($65, 75), call MTC, 509 Westport Avenue, Norwalk, behind 9 West Shoes, at 203-454-3883 or online at www.musictheatreofct.com.

Let the music and the man fill an evening with joy as MTC salutes Marvin Hamlisch and his contributions.  Nobody did it better.


Monday, August 6, 2018

FOLLOW THE PARADE OF AFRICAN ANIMALS TO THE BUSHNELL








For more than two decades," Disney’s The Lion King” has fascinated children and adults alike and now it is coming to Hartford’s Bushnell Center for the Arts for three weeks until Sunday, August 19, Don’t miss this spectacular theatrical event that follows the story of a baby lion cub Simba as he learns about life on the African savannah from his parents as he prepares to be King of the Jungle.The intriguing role of the young lion prince is shared by Joziyah Jean-Felix and Salahedin Safi, rambunctious as a young pup as each tries on the mantle of leadership and tests his limitations.

The role of Simba’s best friend Nala is shared by Danielle W. Jalade and Gloria Manning, as each investigate their own adventure into forbidden territory, the land in the dark shadows in the elephant graveyard, lured there by Simba’s menacing and jealous uncle Scar, a diabolical Mark Campbell. As brother of the King Mufasa, a caring Gerald Ramsey, Scar is on a mission to destroy Mufasa, and also Simba, so he can ascend Pride Rock as ruler.

This incredible musical extravaganza is stuffed with color and creativity. The masks, costumes and puppetry have to be seen to be believed as the aisles and the stage are filled with elephants, giraffes, gazelles, ostriches, flying birds, a rhinoceros, hyenas, lions and even a lovable warthog named Pumbaa created by Ben Lipitz or William John Austin and his best pal Timon created by Robbie Swift. A lot of the humor can be found in the opinionated Zazu, a bird feathered well in the hands of Greg Jackson.

After a frightening incident orchestrated by Scar, the young Simba runs away, meets Pumbaa and Timon, and returns as a fully grown adult lion, strongly created by Jared Dixon. He is reunited with his childhood pal Nala, now grown into the lovely Nia Holloway who convinces Simba to challenge Scar for his rightful place as monarch. Elton John and Tim Rice deserve credit for music and lyrics, with book by Roger Allers and Irene Mecchi. Julie Taymor is responsible for much of the costume and puppetry magic as well as directing this feast of fur and feathers. The incredible choreography is due to the talents of Garth Fagan.

For tickets ($30 and up ), call the Bushnell, 166 Capitol Avenue, Hartford at 860-987-5900 or online at www.bushnell,.org. Performances are Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday at 7:30 p.m., Friday at 8 p.m., Saturday at 2 p.m. and8 p.m. and sunday at 1 p.m. and 6:30 p.m.

You will feel the love tonight as you join the circle of life and let Mukelisiwe Goba’s Rafiki guide you into this mysterious and magical world where the kingdom of magnificent African animals roam free.

Saturday, August 4, 2018

NEW TALE (TAIL) AT THROWN STONE THEATRE COMPANY



SCENES FROM  "WHERE ALL GOOD RABBITS GO"



Everyone knows rabbits have long fluffy ears and enjoy munching on carrots.  They like to hop and visit Mr. MacGregor’s garden and even deliver Easter eggs on occasion.  What you may not realize that in the fantasy
world created by playwright Karina Cochran, rabbits are also what a human can transform into in her intriguing play “Where All Good Rabbits Go” that recently, from July 20 to August 4, was aired for interesting exploration at
Ridgefield’s new and innovative Thrown Stone Theatre Company.  The company is housed at the Ridgefield Conservatory of Dance at 444 Main Street.

We all struggle with death and watching helplessly as a loved one or friend copes with an illness like cancer or Alzheimer’s or a sudden accident. How much more comforting it might be to know we never die but hop into
 another world, a nether world, known as the Sacred Green Space, and possibly wile away our eternal days residing in a cabbage patch?

Fashion designer Julia, a loving Alexandra Bazan, has been married for a trio of happy years to Walter, a hard working lettuce farmer played by Jason Peck.  One morning their comfortable life stye is dramatically interrupted when Walter discovers he has grown a bushy rabbit’s tail overnight.  Since his father has transformed into a bunny years before, the inevitable seems to be written on the hutch’s door.

Fortunately Julis’s brother Dorn, a good doctor played by Mike Boland, can be consulted for help with treatment. He orders tests and offers advice, but, ultimately can provide no more consolation than a homemade casserole.
We witness Walter’s complete change and the coping methods both husband and wife employ to soften the outcome, When Julia cuddles a live bunny, her new Walter, it is tragically sincere.

Brittany Bland’s water color projections and Fufan Zhang’s black and white scenic designs offer a unique perspective to this process of loss in this bittersweet fable.  Cyrus Newitt directs this  comedy/drama with sensitive hands and heart 
for its East Coast premiere.

While it is too late to catch the rabbit trail, watch Thrown Stone Theatre Company for another innovative and thought provoking evening of theater in Ridgefield,