Saturday, July 21, 2018

“THE TEMPEST” A CHARMING PRODUCTION BY CT FREE SHAKESPEARE





What better way to spend a delightful summer evening then by being outdoors and entertained by Connecticut Free Shakepeare’s charming troupe of entertainers in the Bard’s tale of jealousy and revenge “The Tempest.” Held this year the weekend of July 19 to 22 on the grounds of the University of Bridgeport, families gathered with the kiddies and a picnic to enjoy this intriguing tale. The master magician Prospero has been sent in exile, with young daughter Miranda, to a deserted island. The devilish deed was done by brother Antonio (Mark Friedlander), with the help of Alonso (Craig Anthony Bannister) the King of Naples, and his dishonest cohorts and one goodhearted Gonzalo (Alejandro Lopez), all because of jealousy. 

 Prospero is the rightful Duke of Milan and now, twelve years after the fact, is set to enact vengeance. In this clever adaptation created by Ellen Lieberman, director and artistic director, Prospero is a woman, crafted with authority by Channie Waites, who conjures up a storm, “a tempest,” to catch her tormentors and shipwreck them, thus putting them at her mercy,


A ship carrying Alonso and Antonio and Alonso’s son Ferdinand (Joel Oramas) and brother Sebastian (Ian Eaton) is traveling home from Tunis and Prospero is busy with her spirit friend Ariel, a free floating Uma Incrocci, and the quixotic Caliban, an unhappy Myles Tripp, who obeys herbut has evil in his heart for Prospero. Prosperos main concern is her daughter Miranda who was only three when this miscarriage of justice took place. Much of theirsuccess in adapting to their exile is thanks to Gonzalo and his initial help of food, water, clothes and a library of books when Prospero and little Miranda were set adrift in a small boat.

Prospero has thrived on the tiny island. With the aide of Ariel,  a spirit only she can see, and Caliban, an ungrateful and menacing son of a witch, she has learned to survive. While Ariel serves her, she only desires her freedom, but Caliban resents her presence and wants her permanently gone.

Through her incantations, Prospero separates the men on the ship into three groups, so that Alonso and his son Ferdinand each believe the other is dead. Two of Alonso’s servants Stephano (also Ian Eaton) and Trinculo (also Mark Friedlander ) are delightfully drunk and fall in with Caliban to plot a ridiculous defeat of Prospero. The handsome young Ferdinand is immediately smitten with Miranda (Alex Acosta), so quickly that Prospero feels she must place a few obstacles in the path of true love so “too light winning (may) make the prize light.” 

Meanwhile Antonio and Sebastian have treachery firmly in mind as they plot to murder Alonso and the good-hearted Gonzalo so that Sebastian can become King. A forgiving Prospero, calm after the storm, with the help of the Bard, makes sure everything works out as “all’s well that ends well.” Forgiveness is a current theme ofCFS, one theyhave broughtto schools, groups and even prisons to create discussions and reflections. Donations are always welcome at a CFS production, which are marked by special effects, creative costuming, humor, joy, dancing and singing.

 A web of enchantment is being woven that will surely catch you in its mesmerizing spell. Hold tight to the magic!

Monday, July 16, 2018

BUZZ ON OVER TO BERLIN FOR “THE QUEEN BEES”



                                      THE QUEEN BEES

Turn your clock back to the 1960’s, a kinder, gentler time in many ways, and join two sisters and their 
best friend as they try to scale the mountain to the top of the all girl group singing charts. Come to the
Connecticut Cabaret Theatre in Berlin weekends until Saturday, August 4th to see, hear and bop along with 
Rob Urbinati’s lively “The Queen Bees,” a joyous jukebox musical.

The road to the top is not easy and there’s a lot of room for missteps along the way. Good voices and a
ton of enthusiasm are not enough as sisters Diane and Brenda and BBF Connie soon discover. Finding
the right name for their group (The BonBons sounded too juvenile and sweet), the best manager 
(Flash Davis didn’t work out) and the proper songs to sing (nothing with car crashes and sea gull
sound effects) were a process of trial and error.

Maria Soaft’s Brenda, the too wise one, sexually provocative and out for what was best for her, in terms 
of clothes and financial successful and boys to men, is in direct contrast with younger sister Diane, played
 by Amy Bentley, who is conscientious and determined and has the whole group in mind as she makes 
decisions for them to succeed. Kristin Iovene’s Connie is the believer of the group, who reads and honors the
Bible and is slow to approve Brenda’s rebellious ways. 

The show reveals their hopes, dreams and struggles as the girls try to succeed in a male dominated world
where they are dismissed all too often and forced to fight for every little step up the ladder to the top.
Amazingly they hit their peak in three years, only to discover that their goals have changed and maybe
they are no longer on the same musical page.

Along the way they harmonize on a number of great 60’s hits, like “My Boyfriend’s Back,” “Leader of the Pack,” 
“Maybe,” “Remember (Walking in the Sand),” “Twist and Shout,” “The Boy From New York City,” and “Shout!”
A lively band of Nathaniel Baker, Jamie Sherwood and Tim Urso sets the pace.

Kris McMurray directs this trio of songsters who put their heart and soul into their sound with enthusiasm and
glee. For tickets ($34), call the CT Cabaret Theatre, 31-33 Webster Square Road, Berlin at 860-829-1248 or 
online at www.ctcabaret.com. Remember to bring goodies to share at your table or plan to purchase dessert and 
drinks at the onsite concession stand.

Come cheer on Connie, Brenda and Diane, all from Queens, New York, as they travel the highway to a place where dreams can come true…or not.


“ A FLEA IN HER EAR” A COMIC DELIGHT IN WESTPORT









If you love to laugh and enjoy the complicated joys of farce, then do I have the play for you. Farce is a unique form of comedy that is reminiscent of Abbott and Costello partying with The Three Stooges, only with lots of bedrooms, slamming doors, mistaken identities and a slap dash of romance. The situations are ridiculous, the humor is physical and the dialogue equal parts witty and sexy. Get ready to dip your toes in this delicious sea of silliness.

In 1907 Georges Feydeau of France penned the outrageously adorable “A Flea in Her Ear” which has been delightfully adapted by David Ives. Until Saturday, July 28, you are urged to run, not walk, to the Westport Country Playhouse for some fancy French folderol. 
You will quickly get caught up in the plottings of Raymonde Chandebise (Elizabeth Heflin) who is convinced her husband Victor (Lee E. Ernst) is cheating on her. To catch him in the act, Raymonde contrives to have her best friend Lucienne (Antoinette Robinson) write him a perfumed love note, urging him to meet his new secret admirer at The Frisky Puss Hotel. What could possibly go wrong with this plan?
 The flattered Victor enlists his womanizing friend Tournel (Steven Pelinski) to go in his place and the race to comic confusion is on. Add to the mix a smug servant (David Beach) and his amorous (to others) wife (Carine Montbertrand), a doctor with ulterior motives (Hassan El Amin), a cousin with a severe speech impediment (Mic Matarrese) and the hotel’s accommodating staff and residents (Deena Burke, Laura Frye, Robert Adelman Hancock, Wynn Harmon, John Rensenhouse) and you have merry mayhem that is magnificently played upon Kristen Robinson’s beautifully appointed set, with lovely costuming by Sara Jean Tosetti and adapt direction guided by Mark Lamos.

A pair of suspenders and a bucket of suspicion start off the race, with a wildly jealous husband of Spanish ancestry (Michael Gotch) firing the starting gun for hijinxs and high comedy. The action spins into revolving bedrooms with laugh-out-loud results. The remarkable resemblance between a man of noble upbringing and a lowly bellman engenders much mistaken personality.

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 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. and Saturday at 3 p.m. and 8 p.m. and Sunday at 3 p.m.

Check-in at The Frisky Puss Hotel for some mischief and merriment in this masterpiece of French bedroom farce. Be sure to ask if room 5 is available.

DEEPLY MOVING “THE PIANIST OF WILLESDEN LANE” IN HARTFORD










Fate and luck have a lot to play when a father is a gambler and wins one ticket to freedom for one of his three daughters. It sounds a little like the impossible decisions of a King Solomon or a Sophie’s choice.

In this case a fourteen year old girl in Vienna is put on the Kindertransport train by her parents at the eve of World War ii to escape the Nazis. All she has with her is a small suitcase, the sewing skills taught to her by her father and the love of music given to her by her mother. The train would carry her and almost 10,000 Jewish children to England over the war years and her inspiring story is being revealed by her daughter in a deeply moving concert with words currently thrilling audiences at Hartford Stage until Sunday, July 22.

The teenager’s name was Lisa Jura and we can thank her daughter Mona Golabek for bringing her inspirational story to life. Transport yourself to an elegant drawing room where a concert of piano music by Grieg, Debussy, Liszt and Beethoven is being performed, all the while a transforming story of survival unfolds. Mona Golabek first wrote her mother’s story in a book and thanks to Hershey Felder that book, written with Lee Cohen, is now an astonishing narrative accompanied by glorious music.

The musically mesmerizing Ms. Golabek takes her audiences on a riveting journey as her mother uses her music to make boys and men fall in love with her, while inspiring hope that the world will survive. Calling her music her best friend, Lisa pounded the keyboard to drown out the boom of bombs during the London blitz. She becomes a musical Pied Piper for all the children terrified of the war, living together under one roof at 243 Willesden Lane.

Mona Golabek with no formal training as an actress nevertheless becomes all the people who live in her mother’s world, from the uncle who was supposed to save her to the guardians like Mrs. Cohen and Mr, Hardesty who give her shelter, to the young French soldier who hears her music and is entranced.

Hershey Felder and Trevor Hay have designed a gilted setting of gold and black with empty picture frames that are soon filled with visual projections that portray her life, all surrounding a grand Steinway piano.

For tickets ($25 and up), call the Hartford Stage, 50 Church Street, Hartford at 860-527-5151 or online at www.hartfordstage.org.Performances are Tuesday at 7 p.m., Wednesday at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m., Thursday at 7 p.m., Friday at 8 p.m., Saturday at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m. 

Equal parts stirring piano concert and moving true tale of a teenager, "The Pianist of Willesden Lane" is packed with all the love, respect and honor one daughter can gift to her mother. All the proceeds from her book “The Children of Willesden Lane” go to her non-profit organization Hold On To Your Music, the words spoken to Lisa by her mother Malka as she left Vienna on her incredible journey.

Saturday, July 14, 2018

SUPERSTAR COMING TO STORRS



Alex Prakken as Jesus and Ryan Vona as Judas in JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR

Few composers are the equal of Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber. He was
                     never one to take the road more traveled. Even as a teenager, when he was just starting 

                    to test out his literary pen, he chose a topic less main stream and more creative: he wrote
                    a musical about a boy in the Bible who receives an unusual
gift from his father. That became the world famous rock musical “
                   Joseph and his Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.”

In the years to come, Lloyd Webber continued his unorthodox choice of subject matter by composing musicals about a gang of backyard felines (CATS), a poor woman who rises to become a powerful figurehead in her country of Argentina (Evita), teams of train engines who race on roller skates (Starlight Express) and a disfigured young man hiding in the bowels of a Paris opera house (The Phantom of the Opera).

Now you have the opportunity to experience another record breaking musical about another boy in the Bible: “Jesus Christ, Superstar,” playing Tuesday to Sunday, to July 22 at the Jorgensen Theatre on the campus of the University of Connecticut as the last offering in their Nutmeg Summer Series.

Composed by Lloyd Webber with Tim Rice, this almost five decade old musical concerns the last week in the life of Jesus Christ and it is an emotional and moving experience This is true punk rock, a biblical retelling of a savior who wants to cleanse the world of corruption and sin. This last seven days in the life of Jesus Christ, who is portrayed by a memorable Alex Prakken, is told through the eyes of his betrayer, one of his disciples, Judas Iscariot, played with all his anger and confusion evident by Ryan Vona.

Tender moments are underscored by Sasha Renae Brown’s Mary Magdalene as she confesses of Jesus “I Don’t Know How to Love Him” while the passion and suffering are momentarily alleviated by the antics of a song and dance Vaudeville routine by King Herod, a mischief making Griffin Biennicker, belting out “King Herod’s Song." The high powered political naysayers who have banned together to end Jesus’ reign as the King of the Jews are led by Tyler Grigsby and Jonathan Cobrda.

This spectacular rock musical that separates the myth from the man is directed by Terrence Mann and the non-stop dance moves are choreographed by Christopher d’Amboise. The lighting designed by Doug Harry is especially effective. A full orchestra led by Bryan McAdams supports the fully sung story.

For tickets ($48 and up), call the box office at 860-486-2113 or online at crt.uconn.eduPerformances 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 2 p.m.

Enter the emotional whirlwind as Jesus Christ realizes that those closest to him are determined to witness his destruction. After three years of trying to teach his beliefs as the son of God, he is sad and tired and prepared to die for his cause.

Monday, July 9, 2018

“GREASE” IS THE WORD AT IVORYTON





JOHNNY NEWCOMB AS DANNY AND KIMBERLY IMMANUEL AS SANDY IN "GREASE"



Imagine yourself in the halls of high school, Rydell High to be exact, whether it is in your past, present or future. It’s time to don a black leather jacket, pedal pushers, or a dress with a dozen crinolines and start practicing your hand jive moves. Slick back your hair and get ready to groove and cruise with some of the coolest cats from the fifties. Rydell High is ready to open for a another school year as a spanking new production of that perennial favorite “Grease” comes to the stage of the Ivoryton Playhouse until Sunday, July 29.

Sandy Dumbrowski, a sweet and naive Kimberly Immanuel, and Danny Zuko, a hipster bad boy in Johnny Newcomb, are ready to make musical magic once again as the Pink Ladies lock lips with the T-Birds in this joyful and spirited teenage rebellion written by Jim Jacobs and Warren Casey way back in 1971.
 
It’s rock and roll heaven as Sandy and Danny reunite after a brief summertime romance. Soon the girls (Alyssa V. Gomez, Taylor Lloyd, Audrey Wilson) are piercing Sandy's ears and talking about the boys at a pajama party while the guys (Luke Linsteadt, Taylor Morrow, Natale Pirrotta, Max Weinstein) steal hub caps for Kenickie’s new used car he has named “Greased Lightnin’.” Amy Buckley is the teacher in charge, Johnny Cortez plays guitar, Alexa Racioppi is the head cheerleader, Shalani Taylor is the rival school’s guest dance partner and Cory Candelet is the class nerd.
 
Because of a misunderstanding with Danny, Sandy misses the High School Hop. He is initially too cool to acknowledge his feelings for the new girl at school, Sandy, especially after he lied to his pals about her fast ways. At the hop, Vince Fontaine, a popular radio disc jockey, is played by Lawrence Cummings. He also does double duty as the understanding Teen Angel who counsels Frenchy (Katelyn Bowman) to go back to high school after a failed attempt at beauty school. As MC, Vince spins the records and oversees the dance contest where the best hand jive couple wins. 
 
The kids change partners, a gang is challenged to a rumble, Danny tries to win Sandy back and Sandy tries to change herself to fit in at Rydell High.
 
Great songs like “Born to Hand Jive,” “Hopelessly Devoted to You,” “Look at Me, I'm Sandra Dee,” “Greased Lightnin’, " “Rock ‘n’ Roll Party Queen,” “There Are Worse Things I Could Do” and “We Go Together” pepper the scenes. Michael Morris leads the band at a lively pitch. A versatile set designed by Daniel Nischan serves as lunch room, lockers, prom hall, bedrooms, the burger palace and movie drive in. Todd L. Underwood directs all the energetic action at a fever pitch.
 
For tickets ($55, senior $50, students $22, children $17), call the Ivoryton Playhouse, 103 Main Street, Ivoryton at 860-767-7318 or online atwww.ivorytonplayhouse.org. Performances are Wednesday and Thursday at 7:30 p.m., Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m. and Wednesday and Sunday at 2 p.m. Water’s Edge Resort and Spa is partnering with the Ivoryton Playhouse to sponsor a series of dinner and cabaret-style performances throughout the summer, “What I Did for Love” on Sunday, July 15, “La Dolce Vita” on Sundays, July 22 and August 12 and “Summer Nights” on Sunday, August 19 and 25. For tickets ($59, plus tax and gratuity), call Water’s Edge at 860-399-5901or online at www.watersedgeresortandspa.com.
Will wholesome and pure Sandy Dumbrowski find love and happiness with the cocky and handsome Danny Zuko? Cha-cha over to the Ivoryton Playhouse in Ivoryton and find out for yourself. You’ll be delighted you did.
 

Saturday, July 7, 2018

COME JOIN THE CIRCUS WITH P. T. BARNUM



THE ENTIRE CAST OF"BARNUM" WITH ELINOR BIGGS
Phineas Taylor Barnum will always be Bridgeport’s favorite son. The recent celebration of his 208th birthday may have been the impetus for retelling of his highly dramatic and colorful life story, at least from the years 1835 to 1881.

Barnum was first and foremost a showman, and if he stretched veracity to the breaking point, like it was a giant slingshot, it was only to promote the wonders of what he was selling to the public. Call it flimflam, buffoonery, humbuggery or malarkey, he believed in giving value for your money, even if he also subscribed to the adage “There’s a sucker born every minute.”

Calling himself a “caterer of amusement,” he delighted in finding freaks and fancies to entice the public to part with a dime and be well entertained. He created exhibitions and sideshows, museums and circuses, menageries and attractions that made and lost him millions.

If you’ve ever wanted to run away and join the circus, now is your golden opportunity. Fairfield's gem of a theater, the Little Theatre at Sacred Heart University, is grandly presenting “BARNUM-The Musical” by Mark Bramble, Michael Stewart and Cy Coleman only until Sunday, July 22.

Come, boys and girls, and children of all ages and meet the Connecticut man who was pure showmanship. Justin Weigel delights as the bigger-than-life entrepreneur who brought to the world Jumbo, the largest elephant, Joyce Heath (Stachakay Silvers), said (by Barnum) to be George Washington’s nurse and 160 years old, General Tom Thumb, (Jake Doble) the tiniest man, and Jenny Lind, (Courtney O'Shea) the Swedish Nightingale of song. With his no-nonsense wife Charity, a lovely Jordan Norkus, at his side, this masterful man with his head in the clouds, created a dynasty of colorful theatrical magic and hocus pocus meant to amaze and to entertain.

Join the ringmaster (Zachary Thompson Lane), clown (Serginho Valcourt ),jugglers and diverse characters (Mike Villanueva, Hannah Jones, Delaney Lynch and Tori Vacca) that peopled Barnum’s universe and suspend your disbelief for a few hours. Kevin Connors directs and Marissa Powers choreographs this leap into the curious world of one of Connecticut’s own native sons.

A special bonus opening night was the appearance of Barnum’s great great great granddaughter Elinor Biggs who is clearly still fascinated by her relative P. T. and collects memorabilia which she gladly shares with others. Most recently she found two letters from P.T. to her grandfather which show the love and affection the two men shared.

She has been involved for over three decades with the Barnum Museum in Bridgeport that showcases a lot of displays about the impresario. She works closely with the museum’s Executive Director Kathleen Maher, currently on a new envisioning of Barnum’s career through epics of his life and master storytelling. This is an attempt to humanize the man and illustrate his struggles and triumphs. The pair also consulted on the recent movie “The Greatest Showman.” Both are impassioned by their work to shine a spotlight on this entertainment mastermind.

For tickets ($22, $15 seniors, faculty $15, students $10), call the Sacred Heart box office 5151 Park Street, Fairfield (exit 47 off the Merritt) at 203-371-7908 or online atwww.edgertoncenter.org. Performances are today at 3 p.m., Thursday, Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m., with matinees Sunday at 3 p.m. Free, secure parking is available on the campus. Make plans now to attend the final production, “Godspell,” with book by John Michael Tebelak, and music and lyrics by Stephen Schwartz, and directed by Jim Schilling playing July 27, 28 at 8 p.m. and 29 at 3 p.m. The musical follows Jesus and his disciples as they become a community.
Now is the time to grab the kiddies and make a run for the big tent.