Wednesday, September 2, 2015

GRAB YOUR JAMMIES FOR “BEDROOM FARCE”




TREVOR (CARSON ELROD) AND SUSANNAH (SARAH MANTON) IN "BEDROOM FARCE"
PHOTO BY CAROL ROSEGG


No matter how many decades it has been since you donned a pair of pajamas and attended a slumber party, an overnight where you did everything with your best friends except sleep, the Westport Country Playhouse has the ideal entertainment solution.  You’re invited to enter, unannounced and deliciously quiet as an eavesdropper, to a trio of bedrooms for a voyeuristic adventure.

Be prepared to laugh, out loud, as director John Tillinger offers up the delightfully and only slightly scandalous “Bedroom Farce” by prolific British playwright Alan Ayckbourn until Sunday, September 13.  Marjorie Bradley Kellogg has cobbled the sleeping quarters of three couples so tightly together the toes of one couple could almost reach out and touch another couple…so we feel intimately involved in the lives portrayed instantly.

Ernest (Paxton Whitehead) and Delia (Cecelia Hart) are the senior dorm parents, comfortable and familiar after eons of marriage.  They cope with leaking roofs, eating sardines in bed, cold feet under the covers and incidents of over-and under- tipping of waiters with ease.  What gives them pause is the marriage choice of their son Trevor (Carson Elrod) to Susannah (Sarah Manton) when he had many more suitable choices available.

For Nick (Matthew Greer) and Jan (Nicole Lowrance), the pressing issue is Nick’s recent onset of a severe back pain, pain that has rendered him virtually immobile.  While wife Jan is somewhat solicitous, it doesn’t stop her from abandoning him to attend a housewarming party for good friends Malcolm (Scott Drummond) and Kate (Claire Karpen).

Jan explains she really must go if for no other reason than her former suitor Trevor is going through a bad patch with Susannah and Jan is afraid of what will happen at the party.  She is sure her calming and patient words will be conciliatory.  The complications rise like a twisting flight of stairs until chaos and comedy reign supreme.  This ensemble cast is perfect, both in and out of nightclothes.

For tickets ($30 and up), call Westport Country Playhouse, 25 Powers Court, Westport at 203-227-4177 or 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., with many special events scheduled throughout the run.

Get your scorecard ready so you can keep track of these “strange bedfellows” who migrate hither and yon, somewhat like Goldilocks trying to find a bed and a partner that is just right.

Monday, August 31, 2015

SHADES OF SINATRA AT SEVEN ANGELS



ABOVE: TOM SANTOPIETRO, PHOTO BY JOAN MARCUS
BELOW: TONY DE SARE





If the current music groups like Counting Crows, Smashing Pumpkins and Barenaked Ladies confuse you and leave you shaking your head, if the on stage antics of Miley Cyrus and Katy Perry make you want to shut your eyes tightly and if you want to harken back to a kinder, gentler time, then Waterbury's Seven Angels Theatre has just the solution and show for you: "A Century of Sinatra."

For one night only, Saturday, September 12 at 8 p.m., the stage will be devoted to Ol' Blue Eyes, the Chairman of the Board, the guy who did it his way and you're invited to share the joy.  Courtesy of Tom Santopietro, a Waterbury native who has dedicated his writing talents to the show business world he has immersed himself with, the audience will learn fascinating facts about Sinatra from his book "Sinatra in Hollywood."

A famed biographer, Santopietro has chronicled the lives of many icons, like Barbra Streisand and Doris Day.  With in-depth precision and well researched detailed anecdotes, he is sure to fascinate all of Frank's enduring fan club.  As if this lively tribute were not enough, he will partner with the singing stylings of Tony DeSare, an acclaimed jazz singer, pianist and songwriter who has appeared all over the United States as well as Australia, Spain, Japan and Hong Kong.

With a sound that has been described as "romantic, swinging and sensual," DeSare will bring his fresh flavorings to the tunes that made Sinatra a classic.  He may croon such tunes as "Mack the Knife," "Let It Snow," "Strangers in the Night," "My Way," "My Kind of Town," "New York, New York," "All or Nothing at All," " Fly Me to the Moon," "Come Rain or Come Shine" and "That's Life" or a plethora from hundreds of others.

You're sure to learn tidbits about Sinatra as a talented actor as well as as the iconic singer who made Bobbysoxers swoon.  This Hoboken, New Jersey crooner has been gone since 1998 but his incredible talents live on, thanks to the inspired joining of Santopietro and DeSare.

For tickets ($40), call Seven Angels Theatre, 1 Plank Road, Pavilion Park, Waterbury at 203-757-4676 or online at www.sevenangelstheatre.org.

Celebrate Sinatra's 100th birthday with a brand new sound, great stories and extraordinary songs, as this tribute is launched for your personal entertainment pleasure.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

CELEBRATE “TWELFTH NIGHT” WITH ELM SHAKESPEARE


                              JACOB HEIMER AS FESTE, PHOTO BY MIKE FRANZMAN

If you ventured into the leafy forests of Egerton Park, on the border between New Haven and Hamden, just to see the unique Spanish set designed by Vladimir Shpitalnik and his trusty student crew of eight, it would be worth the trip.  The plethora of pillars and the abundance of archways welcome this well schooled cast of players as they present, at sunset and then under the stars, the delightful Shakespearian comedy “Twelfth Night.”

For the twentieth season, Elm Shakespeare is offering an incredible gift to the community, continuing from tonight to the 30th and then September 1-6 at 8 p.m.  Come enjoy the drunken antics of Sir Toby Belch (James Andreassi) and his inebriated comrade Sir Andrew Aguecheek (Jeremy Funke) as they commit antics in the home of Sir Toby’s niece, the fair but melancholy Olivia (Andrea Goldman).

With the instigation of Olivia's maid Maria (Paula Plum), the  men plot the complete embarrassment of Olivia’s male servant Malvolio (Raphael Massie) who is easily manipulated to believe Olivia loves him.  He dons yellow cross-gartered stockings and a permanent smile to prove his ardor for her.  And this is but one of the minor diversions of the Bard.

A storm at sea has separated the twins Viola (Lydia Barnett-Mulligan) and Sebastian (Teddy Hall) in the country of Illyria and each believes the other has drown.  Viola, to preserve her womanhood, disguises herself as a male servant Cesario and secures a position in the court of Duke Orsinio (Aaron Moss).  As Cesario, she soon finds herself wooing Olivia in the Duke’s stead (think Cyrano de Bergerac).  Olivia, who is in mourning and has spurned the Duke, finds herself drawn to the sweet words of Cesario and offers him her heart.

Not to be undone, Cesario unwittingly is captured by the Duke’s fine figure of a man and Cupid is off and running hither and yon.  All the while, Jacob Heimer as Feste provides wonderful songs, many original, to add to the evening’s pleasures.  Once again, director James Andreassi has assembled a stellar cast to present one of Will’s most favorite delights.  Don’t miss it!

Come with picnics, chairs and blankets (and a flash light) and take the whole family too.  The performances are free but donations are most appreciated.

Elm Shakespeare will hold a Gala and Auction on Thursday, September 3 at 5 p.m. in Edgerton Park, 75 Cliff Street, New Haven with fabulous food and entertainment.  Come visit the south of Spain in “A Night at the Alhambra.”  For tickets ($75-200 plus fees), go to www.elmshakespeare.org.  You can even buy auction items online if you can’t attend the gala.  A performance of “Twelfth Night” will follow.

Watch mistaken identities lead to comic complications that are sure to be joyful. Never fear, in the end, “all’s well that ends well."

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

A MUSICALLY COMIC "MURDER FOR TWO" AT LONG WHARF



It may not be Miss Plum in the drawing room with a knife, but this spooky mansion is stuffed with clues and at least one dead body.  You're invited to join Marcus, the wannabe police detective, in discovering "who dunnit" as a new musical comedy "Murder for Two" invades Long Wharf Theatre until Sunday, August 30.

Sharing the credits for book, music and lyrics are Joe Kinosian and Kellen Blair and taking the bows for this opus performance of a baker’s dozen of characters are Kyle Brazil and Ian Lowe.  While playing the piano in dual competition, the two men assume personas of all the suspects and murder victim(s).
How do you combine a ballerina’s tutu, a series of mystery novels, a bunch of bananas, a stolen stash of ice cream, a cache of dirty little secrets, a trio from a boys' chorus and a missing notebook into the evidence that may or may not reveal the killer?  Very cleverly!

A birthday party for Arthur Whitney, the famed mystery novelist, turns particularly deadly when he is “surprised” by a gun shot to the head.  Could he have been killed by his less than loving wife, his dancing-on-her -toes mistress, his confidence revealing psychiatrist, his accommodating niece or another of the guests gathered for the celebration?

Kyle Branzel and Ian Lowe sing and dance and tickle the ivories as they combine smart and corny hi-jinxs in this wild and wacky world of weird happenings.  This fast paced adventure is 90 minutes in length without an intermission, on a detailed mansion set designed by Beowulf Boritt.  Scott Schwartz directs this part spoof, part farce with a seriously comic touch.  This may not be the cup of tea (poisoned or otherwise) that appeals to everyone, but if your sense of humor for physical comedy is triggered by the Three Stooges or Abbott and Costello, you’ll love the antics on the Claire  
Tow Main Stage.

For tickets ($61.50), call Long Wharf Theatre, 222 Sargent Drive, New Haven at 203-787-4282 or online at www.longwharftheatre.com.  Performances are 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.

Let Second Stage Theatre bring you a passel of clues, evidence and motives to sift through, weigh and evaluate to bring the criminal in question to justice. Come discover who, what, where, when and how and laugh all the way to the prison cell.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

"THE STORY OF MY LIFE" A TALE WORTH TELLING


                     John Costa and Michael Cartwright in "The Story of My Life"

Having a best bud is not possessing a prize winning rose or tulip, but holding on to a true and loyal friend.  If you are lucky enough to have a BFF, a best friend forever, consider yourself blessed.  While women easily forge intimate attachments, the male of the species doesn't gravitate so quickly to the emotional side.  They don't bond over beer and baseball, or Lexuses and ladies.

The exception might be Alvin Kelby and Thomas Weaver who meet in Mrs. Remington's first grade class, at her famous Halloween party, and find themselves kindred spirits of the permanent kind. To become acquainted with Alvin and Thomas, you would have to have gone this past weekend to the Deep River Town Hall Auditorium in Deep River for Milo Productions' tender and bittersweet offering of "The Story of My Life." This musical by Neil Bartram and Brian Hill is a jewel that is wrapped in layers of tissue paper and just waiting to reveal its colorful facets.

Michael P. Cartwright as Thomas and John Costa as Alvin were born to these roles, capturing the spirits of these two boys who become men right before our eyes.  As childhood pals, they pledge that whoever dies first, the other will deliver the eulogy and the play opens with the ending:  Alvin has died and Thomas has the task of finding the right words to say.

While Alvin has stayed in their hometown, caring for his ailing father and running his dad's bookstore, Thomas has enjoyed fame and fortune as a best selling author.  The fact is that all his penned stories are about their escapades as kids, like making snow angels, throwing sticks over a waterfall and marveling at butterflies and bugs, but Thomas fails to give credit to Alvin as his muse.

Now with Alvin's death, the pair must come to a sense of peace and acknowledge all they have meant to each other.  Songs like "Mrs. Remington," "Butterfly," "Saying Goodbye" and "Angels in the Snow" express and highlight this highly emotional tale of male relationships.  The musicians Paul Feyer, Philip Plott and Julie Fryenborg provide a beautiful accompaniment. Lori A, Cartwright directs the pair with a steady and poignant hand.

While it's too late to catch this production, watch for it to be repeated, possibly at another venue and at another time.  It is well worth a glimpse into how boys and later men explore their ties.  Using the Frank Capra film "It's a Wonderful Life," many issues like a friendship that borders on a deeper and more intimate relationship, a need for validation and the despair of taking your own life, are explored.  Brush the snow off your pants and watch for the honesty, cold and wet, to emerge.

Monday, August 17, 2015

CATCH THAT "MEMPHIS" BEAT


                   REHEARSAL PHOTOS OF THE CAST OF "MEMPHIS"


                                         PHOTOS OF THE SHOW "MEMPHIS"


Put away your Perry Como sweater, let Patty Page sit in the window with a doggy and watch Roy Rogers gallop away on Trigger because theres a new musical sound in town and that town is Memphis.  The time is the early 1950s and get ready for the rafters to rise and ring!

These big changes are all due to Huey Calhoun, an unusual disc jockey on the radio, who doesnt let the fact that hes a high school dropout, young, naive and a pasty white get in his way.  He has wandered into some underground nightclubs where the Negro music he hears sets his heart and feet pumping and he cant wait to share it with the world, whether the world is ready for it or not.

This Tony Award-winning 2010 Best Musical – “Memphis”- is bringing its exuberant excitement to the Ivoryton Playhouse until Sunday, August 30.  With music and book by David Bryan (Bon Jovi) and Joe DiPietro (I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change) and choreography by Sergio Trujillo (Jersey Boys),  get ready for the lowdown jive of rhythm and blues and rock and roll to  break excitedly into the light of day.

Defying his ultra-conservative radio station owners, this adventurous kid risks it all to play music that has been termed “racial” and inadvertently starts a sensation on the air.  Discovering a new black singer Felicia, he also finds love for the first time, in a relationship forbidden by society, one  that he must keep hidden. Carson Higgins is great as Huey, imbued with conviction and spirit, one he uses to convince Felicia, a dynamic Renee Jackson, that he has the power to make her a star.  If she is a non-believer, than her brother Delray (Teren Carter) has a heart like the biblical Pharoahs.

Tunes like “Memphis Lives,”  “Say a Prayer” and “The Music of My Soul” focus on the passion this new sound engenders in Huey and underscore the tensions and conflicts of integration at that time and that place.  Hold on to your bobby sox as this musical and dance feast for the eyes, ears and feet rocks and rolls itself into your heart. Todd L. Underwood directs a stellar cast, with super musical direction by Michael Morris, scenic design by Martin Scott Marchitto and costumes by Elizabeth Cipollina.

For tickets ($42, seniors $37, students $20 and children $15), call the Ivoryton Playhouse, 103 Main Street, Ivoryton at 860- 767-7318 or online at www.ivorytonplayhouse.org.  Performances are  Wednesday and Thursday at 7:30 p.m., Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m., with matinees Wednesday and Sunday at 2 p.m. 

Get into the groove with this “West Side Story” tale of forbidden love that tells the true tale of a DJ whose passion for a bogey beat sets a town to sizzle. Shout out “hockadoo."

Sunday, August 16, 2015

HAVE I GOT A SPELLING BEE FOR YOU!


What happens when a half dozen middle school misfits gather to compete in "The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee"? Well, it's clearly pandemonium and delightfully so.  In  2004, William Finn and Rachel Sheikin created this charming musical comedy that is now gracing the intimate stage of the newly reorganized Chestnut Street Playhouse until Sunday, August 23.

Grab your trusty dictionary and heigh thee over to the competition where you'll make the acquaintance of Leaf Coneybear (Evan Jambor) who sews his own clothes and is organically smart, Marcy Park (Victoria Noel Chiappa) who suffers from perfectionism and is multi-talented in six languages,  Logainne Schwartzandgrubenierre
(Debra Slezak) who has two fathers and a good sense of self, Olive Ostrovsky (Julie Jarvis) who feels abandoned by a dad who works too hard and a mom who is off in India discovering herself, Chip Tolentino (Chase Zimmerman) who is a proud Boy Scout but is caught up in the throes of puberty and William Barfee (Justin Carroll) who has a mucous and sinus problem but compensates with his amazing Magic Foot.

Presiding over this outrageous menagerie are a prior winner of the Bee, Rona Lisa Peretti (Melissa Rostkoski), who is also an ace realtor and Douglas Panche (Derek Corriveau), an assistant principal with a questionable past and a present temper, with the help of Mitch Mahoney (Brandon Nichols) who is completing his community service while on parole by being the official comfort counselor and distributor of juice boxes.


You can be the star of your own parade, no matter how quirky and unusual you are, if you find your special traits and talents.  Nowhere is that more evident than in this delightful potpourri of nerds and misfits, said only with love, assembled to compete in the Bee.  Members of the audience are invited to take part on stage in the competition so practice up if you want your chance to shine.

The late great playwright Wendy Wasserstein is credited with putting composer William Finn together with his former student Rachel Sheinkin and her co-creator Rebecca Feldman to turn this original non-musical C-R-E-P-U-S-C-U-L-E (one of the spelling words) into this Tony Award winning musical.  If you've never experienced it, what a summer treat.  If you're already a fan, go again and take some friends with you.

The Scripps National Spelling Bee was recently held in Washington, D. C. over Memorial Day weekend and has been held ever year since 1925, except during World War II, but "The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee" deserves kudos and accolades as well for its unusual treatment and tribute to the spoken word.

Under the direction  of Kyle Reynolds, with a cast of top notch performers and words to spell like "weltanschauung" and "cow," you are guaranteed a lively, animated and entertaining evening.

For tickets ($25), call the Chestnut Street Playhouse, 24 Chestnut Street, Norwich at 860-886-2378,  or online at www.chestnutstreetplayhouse.org.  Performances are  Thursday, Friday and Saturday at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m. 

You'll enjoy everything from the initial musical recitation of "The Rules" to the interim "Pandemonium" all the way to the crowning of "The Champion."
I p-r-o-m-i-s-e you!