Tuesday, May 24, 2016

BROADWAY SINGER TONY DESARE SAILS INTO THE KATE





                                      TONY DESARE LIVE AT THE KATE

The jazzy side of Broadway is coming to call at the Kate. For one night only, Saturday, May 28 at 8 p.m., the Kate will be rolling out the red carpet to welcome Tony DeSare, accomplished songwriter, pianist and jazz singer.  Whether he’s performing with symphonies from Phoenix to Pittsburgh, Cincinnati to Seattle, at Carnegie Hall or Las Vegas, opening for Don Rickles or winning first place in the USA Songwriting Contest, Tony DeSare calls up tunes from the Great American Songbook as well as his own original melodies.

Think nightclubs.  Think television spotlights.  Think commercials and even a movie theme song or three.  Named a “Rising Star” Male Vocalist in 2009 in a Downbeat Critics Poll, he has toured internationally from Hong Kong to Australia to Japan, being compared to a young Frank Sinatra.  He has worked extensively on a tribute to ‘Ol Blue Eyes entitled “The Best Is Yet To Come” and “Our Sinatra,” teaming up with Tom Santropietro along the way to produce “A Century of Sinatra” in honor of Frank’s 100th Birthday.

Known for his compelling stylings and extraordinary artistry, Tony DeSare will shine on stage at the Kate, with his winning personality, sparkling charm and smooth delivery.  His fingers will dance across the ivories as he regales the audience with song upon song, hand picked from one of his three top ten Billboard jazz albums.  First Niagara Foundation will bring this live performance to the Katharine Hepburn Cultural Arts Center as a grand way to add an explosive and suave spark to your Memorial Day weekend.

For tickets ($45-48), call the Kate, 300 Main Street, Old Saybrook at 877-503-1286 or online at www.thekate.org.

Get in the mood for romance.  Celebrate all the Broadway tunes that you love.  Let Tony DeSare entertain you with a capital E.

Monday, May 23, 2016

HAIL TO THE FARCE AT CT. CABARET




                                         CHRIS BROOKS AND ASHLEY AYALA
We are a nation that loves to order things, all sorts of things, online, using the Internet as a giant shopping cart.  After purchasing, we eagerly await the mailman’s truck to arrive to deliver our highly anticipated goods so we can instantaneously be gratified and rewarded.  What happens, however, when what we order is not what we receive, if there is some disconnect between the buyer and the seller.  What do we do then?

Grab a catalogue or amazon.com wish list, and run over to Berlin’s intimately staged Connecticut Cabaret Theatre for a lesson in laughter as it speedily delivers a farce for your pleasure:  “No Sex Please, We’re British.”  Penned by Alistair Foot and Anthony Marriott, it was a rousing success in London’s West End when it opened in 1971.  

Even though the new bride Frances Hunter did not have access to the Internet or E-Bay for her shopping needs, she did take advantage of a mail order request for some sparkling Scandinavian glassware to furnish their apartment over the bank where her husband Peter works.  When the goblets fail to arrive, Frances, instead, finds herself the recipient of cases and cartons, envelopes and boxes of Scandinavian pornography.  Ashley Ayala’s sensible Frances takes the mistaken delivery in stride until her hubby Peter, a stoic Chris Brooks, points out if the off color material is found in their possession he could lose his job.  The situation becomes even more dire with the arrival of Peter’s mom, an inquisitive Rachel West-Balling, as well as two official bank executives played by Russell Fish and George Lombardo.

To solve their “blue” problem, Peter coerces his bank assistant Brian, an eager to please Chris Pearson, to save the day by either burning, drowning, burying or dumping the offensive material.  As the stakes climb and the situation looks like it is involving the police, in the personage of Dave Wall’s Lt. Paul, Brian becomes appropriately unhelpfully hysterical.

As the Hunter apartment becomes increasingly crowded, especially when you add in the happy hookers Susan (Maria Pompile) and Barbara (Brianna Zuk), this farce threatens to explode.  With anchovies and artwork, sleeping pills and parrots, ringing doorbells and threatened resignations, mistaken identities and misdirected missives, the newlyweds are overwhelmed with the mysteries of marital life.  Through it all, director Kris McMurray, CT Cabaret’s Artistic Director and owner, makes sure the laughter rolls merrily along.

For tickets ($30), call CT Cabaret Theatre, 31 Webster Square Road, Berlin at 860-829-1248 or online at www.ctcabaret.com.  Performances are Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m., with doors opening at 7:15 p.m.  Remember this is cabaret, with food and drinks welcome or you can buy refreshments on site.  Now is the time to subscribe for next year’s season of two musicals and three comedies.

As doors slam and lies and fibs fly, watch how the newlyweds Frances and Peter keep their cool while chaos reigns.

“THE CALL” WELL WORTH THE WAIT


               

                               MARY BACON
           
Selecting a restaurant and an entree are decisions that are easily accomplished.  The consequences for choosing badly are brief and inconsequential in the long run. Some decisions, however, are weighted and ponderous in their implications and can’t be easily changed once a course is taken.  Such is the case with Pater and Annie, a slightly older couple, who want to complete their family by adding a child.

Hartford TheaterWorks is opening the door and the heart to parenthood with Tanya Garfield’s involving drams “The Call” until Sunday, June 19.  Here the stakes are high. Annie has endured the pain and disappointment of tests and treatments, experienced a trio of miscarriages and even entertained the idea of hiring a surrogate. Peter is supportive and shares her desire to embrace parenthood.

Mary Bacon’s beautifully heartbroken Annie is beset by worries.  Even as she plans and paints the perfect baby’s room, she agonizes over whether she’ll be good enough to earn the coveted title “mom.”  We, the audience, are carried along on her emotional journey, especially when she and hubby Todd Gearhart’s Peter decide to venture overseas on a cross-cultural African adoption.

With good friends a lesbian African-American couple Rebecca (Jasmin Walker) and Drea (Maechi Aharanwa) offering concern and advice, it is truly Peter and Annie’s new next door neighbor Alemu, a helpful in-your-face Michael Rogers, who provides the wisdom and words to help them reach the appropriate decision in this highly personal arena.  Jenn Thompson sensitively directs this fresh and probing drama about what separates and unites us in our desire to make this planet a better place to live, even if it is just for one child. As the Talmud states, if you save one life it is as if you have saved the world.

Ironically, in the case of life imitating art, both Mary Bacon and Jenn Thompson are intimately tied to this question of parenthood, both having adopted children from Ethiopia, Mary having stayed in the country for a time as a volunteer to learn about her son’s heritage.  Her husband Andrew Leynse is the artistic director of New York’s Primary Stages, the theater that originally produced “The Call” in 2013.

For tickets ($40-65, student rush when available $15, seniors $35 at Saturday matinees), call TheaterWorks, 233 Pearl Street, Hartford at 860-527-7838 or online at www.theaterworkshartford.org.  Performances are Tuesday to Thursday at 7:30 p.m., Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m. and weekend matinees at 2:30 p.m.

In celebration of its 30 year anniversary, TheaterWorks will hold a gala party on Saturday, June 4, starting at 6 p.m.  Utilizing all levels of the theater building, guests will travel from space to space enjoying pasta, wine, burgers and brews, jazz and country, and even a chance to dance. Tickets for all this enjoyment start at $195.

Watch the global community shrink down to one well appointed apartment where the ringing of the telephone has the potential to change lives in infinitely astonishing ways. Come take the complicated journey all the way to love.

Monday, May 16, 2016

TAKE A SENSUAL STEP WITH “DIRTY DANCING”







Who can forget the sensual and stimulating steps, those monumental and memorable moves, that Baby and Johnny took all those years ago at a resort in the Catskill Mountains in New York?  Those two fiercely free spirits set our joints throbbing as they pumped and pounded their way to passion and paradise and took us along for the romantically robust ride.  Hold on to your socks for they’re about to do it again, this time live at the Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts in Hartford from Tuesday, May 24 to Sunday, May 29 as "Dirty Dancing” captures the stage.

Get your dance card ready, the one with the light blue satin cover and the tassel, for an explosion of one heck of a sexy summer love story way back in 1963. The Houseman family is on vacation and seventeen year old Frances, better known as Baby, is about to learn a lot more than badmitten.  Not interested in the typical resort fare, she stumbles upon the forbidden fruit on display at a staffers’ dance party and the temptation is dangled and swallowed whole.

Soon Baby is mesmerized by the resident dance instructor, one smooth moving Johnny Castle, and the spell is cast.  As if bewitched, Baby has no resistance to Johnny’s dangerous pleasures on and off the dance floor.  Quickly she becomes his dance partner, much to the dismay of her family.  From two different worlds, the pair nevertheless move to the same beat in rhythm that is electric.  Johnny and Baby figuratively make love with their moves on the dance floor and we are the vicarious witnesses.

For tickets ($36.50-105.50), 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.

You’re guaranteed to “have the time of your life” as you discover the answer to the burning question of the day and night “Do You Love Me?"

“LEGALLY BLONDE” IS GREAT LEGITIMATE FUN


              LAWSON YOUNG AS ELLE WOODS    PHOTO BY PAUL



Oh, my God. Oh, my God. Oh, my God is the rallying cry of Elle Woods, a recent graduate of UCLA, who discovers her boyfriend Warner Huntington III is dumping her rather than giving her an engagement ring. Warner is on his way to Harvard Law School and a future Senatorship and he feels he needs someone serious minded on his arm. To win her lover back, Elle applies to Harvard and is accepted and the courtship challenge is on.

Seven Angels Theatre in Waterbury is putting this sparkling show on its docket, ”Legally Blonde the Musical," until Saturday, June 18 and you’re invited to cheer Elle on in her campaign. With book by Heather Hach and music and lyrics by Laurence O’Keefe and Nell Benjamin, this show is a definite high energy crowd pleaser. Previously precious in pink, her signature color, Lawson Young’s Elle is bouncy and bubbly as the gal determined to get back her guy, even if she has to earn a law degree in the process to accomplish it. 

With her little pooch Bruiser, a chihuahua, faithfully by her side, she enters the ivy covered walls of Harvard and sets out to prove her worth.  Her boyfriend Warner is a jerk and a snob, in the capable hands of Naysh Fox,  and can’t quite believe his eyes when Elle shows up. With her trusty Greek chorus of sorority sisters singing encouragement all the way, Miranda Rivas, Adena Ershow and Stephanie Bissonnette, Elle also acquires a sassy self-esteem coach Paulette, a wise manicurist Jackie Nuzzo, and a legal eagle assistant Emmett, an encouraging Richard Lafleur, to smooth her path.

Learning at the knee of famed law professor Callahan, a smooth talking Tom Chute, Elle cuts her teeth on a pro bono law case getting Paulette’s dog returned from a disreputable ex, and then is challenged to help fitness guru Brooke, an athletic Molly Winter Stewart, who is accused of murdering her much older husband. Through it all, songs like “What You Want,” “Blood in the Water,” “Whipped Into Shape,” “Legally Blonde” and “Find My Way” advance the story line with panache. Choreographer Janine Molinari, with the help of Bobby Gouse, keep the action amazingly swift.

Eventually even Warner’s new girl Vivienne, a starchy Holly Martin, has to admit that Elle has what it takes to succeed and helps root her on her way. Janine Molinari wears a second hat as the quite capable director of this fashionista turned savvy negotiator. For tickets ($38-54), call Seven Angels Theatre, Plank Road, Waterbury at 203-757-4676 or online at www.sevenangels.com.  Performances are Thursday to Sunday, evenings at 8 p.m.and matinees at 2 p.m. On Thursday, May 19 there is a special fundraiser at  6 p.m. to support Bravo Waterbury, with “Legally Blonde” at 8 p.m., and tickets are $40 and not $48. Tickets include a slice of pizza and a free beer.

Elle may be the underdog but with her brilliant mind on high settings she rises to the occasion, with a jump rope, Irish step dancing and whole lot of fancy footwork to not only win the day but the right guy too.  Spoiler alert:  it’s not Warner.



Friday, May 13, 2016

“MY PARIS” IS MAGNIFIQUE!!!



BOBBY STEGGERT AS TOULOUSE-LATREC WITH MARA DAVI AS MODEL SUZANNE

MAGNIFIQUE! FANTASTIQUE! TRES BIEN! OOH, LA LA! If you are a lover of theater and of art, New Haven’s Long Wharf Theatre has a spectacular gift for you to open.  That gift expires on Sunday, May 29 so don’t be left empty handed.  The new musical about the life of artist Henri Marie Raymond de Toulouse-Lautrec-Monfa, better known as simply Toulouse-Lautrec, is sweeping in with a swirl of ruffled skirts and the gaiety of Montmartre, in a vivid color washed world of bohemian life.

Bobby Steggert is captivating and capricious as the man-child painter who flees his stifling home in Albi, France in the late 1880’s to discover his talents in the decadent world of Le Moulin Rouge.  Only nineteen years of age, he has suffered since birth with a bone affliction, one that caused his legs to break, and never properly grow. His aristocratic father (Tom Hewitt) does not know how to accept this counterfeit son, one who doesn’t know how to hunt or ride horses, but prefers a paint brush.  On the other hand, his sympathetic mother (Donna English) only wants Henri’s happiness and follows him to Paris to ensure he stays safe.

Brought into a raucous Technicolor world peopled with pimps and prostitutes, sinners and singers, he is quickly swept away. His fellow students in art class - Josh Grisetti, John Riddle and Andrew Mueller - quickly indoctrinate him in the seedier but dazzling aspects life on the edge.  As he paints and creates posters of the night club owner Bruant (Jamie Jackson), Henri experiences love with his vivacious model Suzanne, a divine Mara Davi, who fancies herself an artist too. Unfortunately indiscriminate sexual encounters and a blinding affection for the drink absinthe, portrayed in sensual splendor by Erica Sweany as the Green Fairy, cause this promising painter to lose his way.  Despite his afflictions and early death, he managed to create over 700 canvases, almost 300 watercolors, over 350 prints and posters and over 5000 drawings.

The sweeping music, with tunes like “Paris” and “Vive La Vie,” penned by Charles Aznavour, and the sassy dance numbers created by Kathleen Marshall, make the book by Alfred Uhry literally fly off the stage with joy.  Musicians David Gardos, Sean Rubin, Jeffrey Carlson and Andrew Smith capture the spirit of the day.  Jason Robert Brown takes credit for the English lyric and music adaptations. Kathleen Marshall has directed a sparkling glimpse into this “artsy world of thieves and prostitutes,”one that would cause Toulouse-Lautrec to die by the age of 36.

For tickets ($30.50-119.50), 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. Now is the time to make a reservation for Long Wharf’s gala An Evening with Kelli O’Hara on Monday, June 6.

Take a whiff of gay Paree and the rich and colorful canvases that are splashed so vividly on the Long Wharf stage. The pleasure will be all yours for the taking.

“MOTHERHOOD OUT LOUD:” SO MUCH MORE THAN DIRTY DIAPERS




CLOCKWISE FROM THE LEFT: LEIGH KATZ, LILLIAN GARCIA, LUCY BABBITT

If you know any mothers, have a mother or been a mother, “Motherhood Out Loud” is sure to touch your funny bone and heart strings with its personal, precious and often puzzling aspects of parenthood. The series of vignettes, written by a number of gifted authors, hopscotches around from the  pangs, pushes and pains of childbirth to many of the unexpected trials and triumphs of this rewarding and challenging aspect of life. Square One Theatre Company of Stratford, as part of its 26th season, weekends until Sunday, May 29.
 Dads and moms and people in general will identify with many of the scenarios that are beautifully portrayed by a quartet of talented actors-Lucy Babbitt, Lillian Garcia, Leigh Katz and Kiel Stango-who flit and fly from one intriguing situation to another, much like honey bees pollenate flowers.
 
 With skill and poignancy, they interpret scenes from the first contractions of childbirth to the difficult letting go of waving your little one off on the first kindergarten day, to buying your daughter her first bra and other teen issues, all the way to high school graduation ceremony concerns, the various ways to celebrate or not celebrate Thanksgiving, all the way to when your baby has a baby of her own.
 
The most touching vignettes deal with a little six year old Sammy who wants to wear princess dresses as if every day were Halloween or Purim, a mom who has to defend herself when introducing her biological son and her adopted Chinese daughter, a gay dad who with his partner are creating a family of three, a teenaged boy with autism who goes on his first date and a great granddaughter who interviews three generations of her family tree.
 
These are unforgettable moments that celebrate motherhood and, even if you haven’t experienced any of them, they will still touch your heart.  Tom Holehan directs this lovely evening that will make you laugh a lot and tear up a little. The show was conceived by Susan R. Rose and Joan Stein in 2010.
 
For tickets ($20, seniors and students $19), call Square One Theatre Company at 203-375-8778  or online at www.squareonetheatre.com.  Performances are Thursday at 7 p.m., Friday at  8 p.m., Saturday at 4 p.m. and 8 p.m., with matinees at 2 p.m. on Sunday. All shows will be at Square One’s new home at Stratford Academy, 719 Birdseye Street, Stratford. On Tuesday, May 31, Play It Again, Square One will host a post-performance discussion at noon at the Stratford Library Lovell Room.  Bring your lunch, coffee and tea will be provided.
 
Learn once again that babies are mostly grown in a mommy’s tummy but always come out of your heart.