Sunday, April 21, 2019

“COME FROM AWAY” WONDERFULLY CLOSE AT HAND IN HARTFORD


Musicals have untraditionally been created to mark the strangest events, like the sinking of the Titanic, the men and women who have tried and often succeeded in assassinating presidents, spelling bees, flying cars, elves, groundhogs, missionaries for the Mormons, Superman and Spiderman, African animals, mental illness, monsters named Shrek, urine, and many more.

This time around the focus and attention is fixated on five days and some of the worst events in our country’s history, the destruction of towering buildings in New York City and government structures in Washington, D. C. on 9/11/2001. Ten years later husband and wifeDavid Hein and Irene Sankoff traveled to Gander, Newfoundland to record the amazing story of a humanitarian miracle. Without warning on that fateful day, 38 planes from all over the world were diverted to Gander, once a major stop for refueling for international flights, but long since abandoned as planes no longer needed to stop for more gas.
The almost 6700 passengers on the planes, the pilots and the people of Gander had no idea what was happening. Without warning or preparation, the good citizens of the small town rushed to open their homes and hearts to those strangers, providing baby formula, dog food, pillows and blankets, casseroles, a place to sleep and comfort before the tragedy was even revealed.

Run to the Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts for a marvelous musical that captures the generosity of this small community of Canadians from Tuesday, April 30 to Sunday, May 5 as “Come From Away” soars into Hartford.

The planes were originally diverted for fear some were also part of the terrorist plot, like the plane that crashed in a Pennsylvania forest. The 11,000 citizens of Gander didn’t stop to ask questions. The striking bus drivers immediately returned to work to ferry the passengersaround town. Twelve actors and seven musicians will take you on the journey of generosity, playing the passengers, pilots and people of Gander to musically illustrate the way good folks can respond with hope in the midst of devastating tragedy. 

Come visit the dog catcher, the mayor, the chief of police, the first female pilot to command a major airline jumbo jet, a woman who fears her fireman son has been lost in the downing of the World Trade Center, a gay couple searching for acceptance, two strangers who find each other and romance and so much more.

This is a musical happening, brimming with spirit and patriotism, a tribute to faith and resilience, a gift of compassion in the face of tremendous loss. I was fortunate enough to see the birth of “Come From Away”
at the Goodspeed’s Festival of New Musicals when the first staged reading took place and also attend the Broadway production the day Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau brought 500 of his people to see the show in New York on Canada’s 150th birthday. 

For tickets ($23-109), call the Bushnell, 166 Capitol Avenue, Hartford at 860-987-5900 or online atwww.bushnell.org. Performances are Tuesday, Wednesday and 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. 

This is not a show to be missed. If nothing else, it will restore your faith in the innate goodness of neighbors to reach out and hug you with friendship and love.

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

ELI WHITNEY MUSEUM FUNDRAISER HIDING BEHIND A MASK




 YELLOW-BILLED STORK BY PENRHYN AND ROD COOK
What greater image of mystery and mystic is there than a mask? To disguise, to tantalize, to camouflage, to intrigue, to hide, to transform, a mask is guilty of all these pleasures and plottings. For the 25thyear, the Eli Whitney Museum is staging its famous Leonardo Challenge, an artistic and creative fundraiser to encourage a new generation of students to open their minds to exploration through experimentation and hands on workshops all year long.
 
On Thursday, April 25, from 5:30 p.m. to 9 p.m., you are invited to experience ”Mask and Metaphor” at the Eli Whitney Museum, 915 Whitney Avenue, Hamden. In years past, one hundred artists from all across the country have been asked to create a painting, jewelry, a child’s game, a piece of furniture, a mobile, a wall hanging, an article of clothing, in fact anything they desire to capture Leonardo’s incredible imagination. Over the years, these artists have worked with playing cards, keys, mirrors, knots, brushes, numbers, rulers, checkers and more. This year masks are the objets d’art.
 
Leonardo da Vinci was noted to be a scientist, architect, inventor, painter, musician, engineer, mathematician, sculptor, historian,a truly original Renaissance man. This inventiveness has provided fuel for the Eli Whitney’s tradition of challenges.The word is that next year, #26, will be dedicated to Letters, as in the alphabet, but don’t tell anyone quite yet.
 
According to Sally Hill, the museum’s Associate Director and Designer, who every year creates the clever theme and invitation, “We hope our artist’s entries will delve into the deeper meanings of masks, the metaphorical aspects. These will not be the masks you don for Halloween.” She anticipates that many will be “wall pieces” as opposed to art you can wear. “We all wear masks, to hide or to enhance. Hats are masks and there are even groups in Africa who are identified by their hair styles, their individual masks.” Hill wants artists to “stretch“ their imaginations, even though she herself will fashion a lamp as she does every year.“We want people not to think of this event as a masquerade but to come and look at the fun and great artwork.”So far, she has received entries from Penrhyn and Rod Cook, a Yellow-Billed Stork, Skull: A Mask for Yorick by Michael and Anna Lombardo, Wooden sculpture: Protectress by Susan Clinard, Bowl: A Bowl in a Bowl Masked by a Bowl by Michael Bower, Metal bowl: "The Mirror" by Moussa Gueye, and Wooden sculpture: Boared? by Mike Dunn.
As if the artwork were not enough, the evening starts outside with a visit to the Big Green Truck Pizza courtesy of Doug Coffin, while inside the hall you’ll find a groaning table of breads from Whole G’s artisan bakers, savory organic entrees from Karen Lenahan at Small Kitchen Big Taste, drink Koffee Cocktails, sample treasures from the Fromagerie at Olmo and drink your fill of brew at Black Hog Brewery, plus fine wine and spirits and a host of delicious desserts.
 
For tickets ($75, with patron opportunities from $250-$5000), call the Eli Whitney Museum and Workshop at 203-777-1833 or online at www.eliwhitney.org.
 
Even though the history of masks date back up to 40,000 years ago, discover much more modern interpretations, artistically and metaphorically, courtesy of the Eli Whitney Museum on Thursday, April 25.

THE LEGACY THEATRE OFFERS SOMETHING TO MEET EVERY TASTE



The newest theatre on the Shoreline, located on the site of the Stony Creek Theatre in Branford, has a full slate of entertainment options waiting for you to enjoy. With an ambitious goal of raising 4.2 million dollars, the Legacy Theatre is striving to create a state-of-the-art intimate neighborhood arts center for the community. 

Until renovations are completed, it is holding productions down the street at the Stony Creek Museum, 84 Thimble Island Road, in Branford.  You just missed a weekend  of a staged reading of Joe Landry’s intriguing tale about Orson Welles “The Wicked Stage” performed by Jeremy Funke, Heather Hayes, Tim Reilly, Mariah Sage and Michael Sayers.

Director, actor and playwright Orson Welles was a frequent visitor to the Branford theatre in the 1930’s and this tale, inspired by real events, concerns his real encounter with William Castle, a foreign female movie star, an invitation from Adolph Hitler and a giant publicity stunt.  The acting and the accents were excellent.

The tradition of the theatre to present entertainment for children will continue May 17 and 18, Friday at 6 p.m. and Saturday at 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. with a rousing visit from “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.”  Whistle while you attend this charming fairy tale.

Also scheduled is the happy musical “Merrily We Roll Along” with book by George Purth and music courtesy of Stephen Sondheim the weekend of June 6, 7 and 8 at 7 p.m. Harkening back to memories of the original Stony Creek Theatre production in 1936, this offering will sparkle with the wit of  the original George S Kaufman and Moss hart pay.  The menu of entertainment will continue all summer with July 11, 12 an13 at 7 p.m presentation of the patriotic “Stars, Stripes and Quarries,” stories and songs celebrating Stony Creek as part of the great American landscape.

The final offering of the summer will be August 22, 23 and 24 at 7 p.m. with ”Past, Present, Future: An Overview of the Stony Creek Theatre’s Songs, Stories and Dance from 1866to the Present.” Revisit a myriad of pay snippets from the long 100 year history of the Stony Creek  Theatre, plus a preview of scenes from Legacy Theatre’s future season.  The evening will conclude with a tour of the latest phase of renovations to date.

Don’t forget the Saturday afternoon discussions at the Willoughby Wallace Library where Legacy manager Jeremy Funke and friends introduce you to “Behind the Curtain” of plays. On April 27 from 2-4 p.m., the topic will be Tom Stoppard’s “Arcadia” and on May 25 Samuel Beckett’s “Waiting for Godot.”  Free and open to the public, the donation of a canned good for the Branford Food Pantry would be most appreciated.

Artistic director Keely Baisden Knudsen proudly invites the community to participate in Legacy Theatre’s exciting list of offerings: pays and new works, musicals and cabarets, children’s and family theatre, summer camp, visiting Broadway performances and workshops, Saturday morning children’s series of fairy tales, mime shows and puppetry, classes for all ages and opportunities for accelerated students to apprentice in professional productions.  You are also encouraged to donate to Legacy Theatre’s building campaign.  For more information, contact Keely at 203-208-5504 or online at www.LegacyTheatreCT.org or write to her at 128 Thimble Island Road, Branford, CT 06405.

Come encourage the newest theatre on the block in Branford to be the gift to the community it aspires to be.

Saturday, April 13, 2019

GET YOUR SUPPLY OF COMEDY AT THE CT. CABARET




                                    JAMES J. MORAN, CHRIS BROOKS AND RICK BENNETT

When you hear the phrase “Laughter is the best medicine,” believe it. If you are exposed to something funny, your nervous system sends an electric current to your brain, you give your diaphragm a chance to exercise itself and stimulate your muscles to make you happier. By thinking good thoughts and laughing more, the cells in your body can dance to a rhythm of well being.  How can you accomplish all that: make a reservation for Connecticut Cabaret Theatre in Berlin’s “The Complete History of Comedy abridged. ” Weekends until Saturday, April 27, you are invited to titter, giggle, guffaw, chuckle, chortle, crack up, roar and even snicker.
A trio of ambitious souls, Rick Bennett, Chris Br0ooks and James J. Moran, take you on a journey back in time, all the way back to the caveman. Assisted by a team of costumers, Sue Emound , Russell Fish, Karen Gagliardi, Linda Kelly and Caroline Van Austin, the three men don dozens of appropriate gear as they travel through time to bring you the highlights of comedy.  A combination plate of vaudeville and burlesque, this history lesson by Reed Martin and Austin Tighenor is meant to tickle your funny bone and any other place you’d like to mention on the body.
With a wonderful collection of video clips, we visit the comedians over the years and remember them fondly. Routines like Why did the chicken cross the road?, what would happen if men gave birth, a nod to the Three Stooges’ pie in the face, a visit with Abe Lincoln and a set of Congressional puppets, a session with Rambozo the clown, a slew of Knock Knock jokes, a few riddles to puzzle over and a lot of physical humor. 
This running commentary on how humor has infected us through the centuries is a fst paced and funny forum that Bennett, Brooks and Moran are delighting and literally taking on the road.  With a blend of satire and silliness, pratfalls and punched up one liners, the trio is having a great time in their ambitious task for your amusement.  From the Romans to Shakespeare to The Donald,  no one is immune from the elbow in the ribs.  Artistic director Kris McMurray is having a good time in this red nosed tribute to the funny men and women from the past. 
For tickets ($35), call the CT Cabaret, 31-33 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 to bring goodies to share at your table or plan to buy dessert and drinks at the concession stand onsite.
Get ready to laugh and slip on a banana peel as Rick Bennett, Chris Brooks and James J Moran skip merrily 
across time to entertain.

Friday, April 12, 2019

“PERFECT NONSENSE” DELIGHTS AT HARTFORD STAGE


 
If you are fond of the prolific writings of P. G. Wodehouse, a British author who has championed the antics of employer Bertie Wooster and his faithful valet Jeeves, you will be in your glory with Hartford Stage’s latest comic offering “Perfect Nonsense.” Penned by twin brothers David and Robert Goodale, this delightful farce will be making its North American debut until Saturday, April 20 at the Hartford Stage.
 
 Fancying himself somewhat of an actor and a storyteller, Bertie Wooster, a personable Chandler Williams, has jumped feet first into a one- man show on London’s West End. No sooner ha the curtain risen when Bertie regretfully realizes he needs his loyal and trustworthy valet Jeeves, a capable and accommodating Arnie Burton, if he is to have any chance of success on the stage.
 
A fast paced farce with slapstick humor, love affairs gone wrong, a threatening Fascist dictator, a search for a missing notebook, a valuable silver cow-creamer and a missing policeman’s helmet, all figure prominently in the plot. Eddie Korbich’s Seppings enters into the fray helping Jeeves play a multitude of characters from Bertie’s anxious Aunt Dahlia who desperately wants Bertie to secure the cow-creamer for her husband Tom for his collection, to Bertie’s good friend Gussie who wants Bertie to be his Cyrano and woo Madeline to be his bride, to Spode, the ultra tall and imposing Spode who is hiding a delicious secret, plus a spot of blackmail and a pair of fathers who refuse to give permission for their daughters to marry.
 
As engagements are broken, and a barking dog threatens to bite, Jeeves finds himself the critical factor in avoiding tragedy and chaos and saving his aristocratic master from total disaster. Wodehouse’s clever English wit keeps the lively and slapstick humor sparkling as this trio of talented actors scurry to win the day. Wodehouse’s characters inspire laughter in a bizarre and vaudevillian and charming turn of phrase and inventive sense of action. Sean Foley keeps the tale spinning in high gear, on a clever revolving set by Alice Power.
 
For tickets ($25 and up), call the Hartford Stage, 50 Church Street, Hartford at 860-527-5151 or online atwww.hartfordstage.org. Performances are Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Sunday at 7:30 p.m., Friday at 8 p.m., Saturday at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m.
 
Travel with Bertie and Jeeves and a host of their friends and at least one enemy to Totleigh Towers for a rousing adventure where laughter is definitely on the agenda.

GIFTED STORYTELLER SPINS GREEK TALE AT LONG WHARF



Rachel  Christopher is an extraordinary and gifted storyteller, at one moment lyrical and at the next filled with rebellion. Smoothly transitioning from ancient Greece to modern day, she spins a tale of the devastation of war, back in Troy up to the present. She easily proves Aristotle’s point that “only the dead have known the end of war.” 

Humanity has yet to learn the price we pay as a civilization for wrecking devastation on another people. To become immersed in this tale as old as time, come to Stage II at Long Wharf Theatre in New Haven to experience “An Iliad,” adapted from Homer, by Lisa Peterson and Denis O’Hare, translated by Robert Fagles, by Sunday, April 14.

This is an epic poem brought to dramatic life as gods and goddesses, warriors and wars, leap to the forefront of the stage.  As the poet, Rachel Christopher addresses the audience in a personal manner, like a co-conspirater, revealing the tragedy of armed confrontation.  For ten years, the city of Troy has been under siege by the armies of Greece.  The sad truth is that this conflict took place almost three thousand years ago and the world has yet to learn a lesson about domination and devastation and the futility of both.

We quickly are acquainted with the facts that King Agamemnon has taken the young maiden Chrysels  as a prize of war, and her father wants her returned.  The King, afraid of the wrath of the god Apollo, agrees to surrender her if he can have Achilles’ concubine Briseis in her place.  Achilles has no intention of complying, even when the warrior Hector threatens him.  Wanting peace, Achilles sends his brother in arms Patroclus, donning Achilles’ armor, onto the battlefield. Patroclus is killed, spurring Achilles to action, resulting in Hector’s demise.

Experiencing evident pain in the retelling of the tale, the Poet is accompanied by the Muse, Zdenke Martin, who uses his guitar and other musical instruments to emphasize the dramatic moments, highlighting her words.  The tale culminates in an incredibly long detailing of all the wars and conflicts men have orchestrated, and still we have not learned the folly of our terrible actions.  Director Whitney White navigates our journey through time, sprinkled as it is with Greek language, on a spellbinding narrative that is meant to educate and illuminate the history of our deeds.

For tickets ($35.50-75.50), call Long Wharf Theatre, 222 Sargent Drive, New Haven at 203-787-4282 or online at www.longwharf.org.  Performances are Wednesday at 7 p.m., Thursday at 8 p.m., Friday at 8 p.m., Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m.

Come be mesmerized by Rachel Christopher as you travel back in time to Troy as gods and goddesses and mortal men learn the truths of humanity and inhumanity.

Thursday, April 11, 2019

“THE BOOK OF MORMON” IS RINGING YOUR DOOR BELL UNTIL SUNDAY, APRIL 14



Dedicating your life to be a missionary is a worthy calling and not one meant for just anyone.  Take, for example, the young enthusiastic Elder Price, brought to virtuous life by Luke Monday, who is ready and able to devote two years providing enlightenment to non-believers.  As an eager member of the Church of Jesus Christ Latter Day Saints, better known as the Mormons, he can’t wait to preach his faith and convert others to his cause.

To come meet Elder Price and his cohorts, run to the Waterbury’s Palace Theater by Sunday, April 14 and follow his religious journey.  “The Book Mormon” has been written by the creators of the cartoon series “South Park,” Trey Parker, Robert Lopez and Matt Stone, and is just as irreverent.  Elder Price is anxious to get out into the field and ring doorbells and initiate his converts.  He has studied hard and has his heart set on being sent to Orlando, in Florida, for his mission for God.  

Unfortunately for Elder Price, his destination is Uganda, in Africa, a destination without Mickey or Minnie Mouse, but a place with AIDS, poverty, famine and war.  To add to his disappointment, he is paired for his journey with a partner at the bottom of the food chain, the nerdy Elder Cunningham, who has never bothered to do his studying, his homework or even attempted to read the Book of Mormon, the religion’s Bible.

Jordan Matthew Brown’s Elder Cunningham, on the other hand, is thrilled to be attached Elder Price and clings to him as the new best friend he never had. The pair land in a strange land and immediately have their luggage stolen.  When they meet the team of missionaries who are already on site, who have not converted even one native to their cause, they realize the uphill battle they are facing.

Never fear. When they meet the lovely and hopeful native Nabulungi, a  helpful Kayla Pecchioni, a ray of sunshine enters their lives.  Obstacles crash around them and disasters fall in their path but the pair persevere.  With song and dance, they forge ahead and never give up the good fight, even when they are in danger of death.

For tickets ($39 and up), call the Palace Theater, 100 East Main Street, Waterbury at 203-346-2000 or online at www.palacetheater.org.  Last performances are 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.

Come enjoy this  production that has been called “the best musical of the century” by New York Times critic Ben Brantley.