Monday, October 20, 2014


                                         PHOTOS BY DEEN VAN MEER

" Hear ye. Hear ye. Extra. Extra. Read all about it" might be the rallying cry of newspaper boys all the way back to colonial times.  They are the energetic, paper-in-your-face kids ready to earn a penny or two hawking the latest headlines of the day, scrapping by on the pittance they earn from the big publishing giants like Joseph Pulitzer and William Randolph Hearst.

Hold on to your reading glasses and run as fast as you can to Waterbury's Palace Theater tonight through Saturday, October 25 as "Disney's Newsies The Musical" flies into town.  With book by Harvey Fierstein, music by Alan Menken and lyrics by Jack Feldman, "Newsies" has been making its own headlines, winning Tony Awards in 2012 for Best Choreography and Best Original Score.

Based on a real newsboy strike in New York City in 1899, it centered on child labor practices, when the kids united to change the way the big powers compensated them.  In the two weeks the boys refused to sell newspapers, circulation dropped from 360,000 to 125,000 and the kids were victorious in having their voices heard.

Now you're invited to get in on the exuberant musical and dancing action as newspaper boys called "newsies" take to the streets to sell their wares.  Often homeless and orphaned, they were not employees of the publisher.  They couldn't return unsold goods.  Working from early morning often to late in the night, they typically earned 30 cents a day.

Come meet Jack Kelly, an enthusiastic hard working Dan DeLuca, who rallies his gang when he realizes the cost of the papers from the publisher has been raised.  Jack gathers his force to protest and finds unexpected support from a reporter Katherine (Stephanie Styles).  With the help of Davey (Jacob Kemp) who is helping the family when his dad is disabled, the boys are encouraged to "Seize the Day."  The police and strikebreakers try to snuff their spirit but, ultimately, Jack's championing of their cause prevails and Pulitzer (Steve Blanchard) backs down on his monetary demands.  Even Governor Theodore Roosevelt rides in to help save the day.

For tickets ($30-70), call the Palace Theater, 100 East Main Street, Waterbury at 203-346-2000 or online at  Performances are tonight at 7:30 p.m., Friday at 8 p.m. and Saturday at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m.

Help Jack and his pals carry the banner of truth, justice and the American way as they hit the streets of 1899 New York City to battle the giants and win the day.


Photo of Ulysses(Vasili Bogaziano) and Emma (Debra Jo Rupp) by Larry Nagler
Life in a trailer park of accidental nudists is complicated.  Just ask the cowboy poet Ulysses who has sought refuge in the mountains of Colorado after his wife Emma stole away one night with their son Sam, never to be heard from again. That was twenty years ago and a lot of snow and ice have frozen over their initial love and caring.  Now, without warning or explanation, Emma is at Ulysses' trailer door.  Why?  What good reason could she have?

Sharr White has penned an intriguing premise in "Annapurna," letting it all hang out at TheaterWorks of Hartford until Sunday, November 9.  In Ulysses, he has created a character who has given up climbing any personal mountains. He's lost his wife and son years ago and doesn't remember why and now his health has deserted him, with death seemingly imminent.

With no danger of winning a Betty Crocker or Martha Stewart Award for cleanliness or gourmet food preparation, Vasili Bogazianos' Ulysses has thrown in the dirty crying towel on life.  The only things that keep him going are his slightly crazy incessantly barking dog and his active hatred of his trailer park's director Marty McNeely.

With his life already in the crapper, he is still astonished to find Emma at his door, ready to move in, once the debris has been shoveled out.  Debra Jo Rupp's Emma is in take charge mode and doesn't care that Ulysses doesn't want her, her bottle of Lysol or her cheese and anchovy sandwiches. It's a long trek up a dangerous mountain, alluding to the Nepal mountain noted in the play's title, but accusations and confrontations reveal the circumstances surrounding Emma's abrupt departure.  The resolutions are amazingly quick and satisfying when they come, like a slide down a cliff, thanks to the perfect timing of director Rob Ruggiero.

For tickets ($50-65, senior matinees $35), call TheaterWorks, 233 Pearl Street, Hartford at 860-527-7838 or online at  Performances are Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday at 7:30 p.m., Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday matinees at 2:30 p.m  Come early to see a display of sculpture by artist Susan Clinard in the gallery upstairs, sponsored by The Hartford Financial Services Group.

Clear off a space in a corner of Ulysses' messy home, designed by Evan Adamson, complete with ants, so you have an up close and personal view of what love, loss and reconciliation look like and learn what he has been doing with himself for the last two decades.

Saturday, October 18, 2014


The White Rabbit disappeared down a hole and Alice went through the looking glass to great and mysterious effect.  For Professor Constance Ledbelly, her adventures began when her studies and research into plays by Shakespeare take her back in time to visit the likes of Othello, Desdemona and Iago and later to Romeo, Juliet, Tybalt and Mercutio.

Enter the intoxicatingly complex world where a young English literature professor from across the pond ventures into worlds far away from her everyday existence. She lands right in middle of two of Shakespeare's greatest tragedies:  "Othello" and "Romeo and Juliet."  The Department of Theatre on the campus of Central Connecticut State University, 1615 Standly Street, New Britain will be stretching the boundaries of imagination until Saturday, October 18 at 7:30 p.m. in the Mahoney Black Box Theatre with its production of "Goodnight Desdemona (Good Morning Juliet)" by Ann-Marie MacDonald.

Benideliz Canales Salgado plays the intrepid Constance who theorizes, after extensive research, that evidence exists that these two plays in question were originally comedies, written by a mysterious "fool."  Whether in her subconscious or by sleight of hand and some hocus pocus, Constance finds herself suddenly immersed in Shakespeare's world.

Throwing on a figurative cloak of courage, she encounters easily persuaded Othello (Laugh Sanchez), the conniving Iago (Stephen Lenczewski) and the innocent Desdemona (Kat Barone). Constance soon finds herself fighting duels and saving lives.  She intervenes and interferes in the story of Romeo (Matt Cote), Tybalt (Anthony Yovina), Mercutio (Kat Blair), Juliet (Melanie Gawlak)  and her nurse (Adam Cormier), changing the course of events along the way.  Who knew penning a doctoral dissertation could be so dangerous!

Mistaken identities ensue, swords clash brilliantly, pillows are used to smother, handkerchiefs with strawberries signal infidelity and strange sexual attractions abound.  Thom Delventhal directs this comedy or errors and tragedy of intentions with an ambitious all student cast.

For tickets ($10 students, $5 seniors), call the box office at 860-832-1989 or online at  Next up will be "It's a Wonderful Life" by Joe Landry December 4-6 and "Servant of Two Masters" by Carlo Goldoni March 3-7.

Help cheer on Constance and help her discover her true self as she plunges headlong down the Shakespearian rabbit hole.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014



Esther Mills, at the turn of the twentieth century, has been working virtually around the clock to fashion a better life for herself.  Fueled by a dream of owning an elegant beauty parlor catering to African-American women like herself, she has scrimped and saved every dollar she has earned stitching personal items, undergarments and dresses, for females.  Her crazy quilt lining on her bed is the "bank" in which her future is stored.

Sturdy and plain and now thirty-five in age, Esther has witnessed dozens of girls, from the rooming house of Mrs. Dickson where she resides, take the path to matrimony. Just when hope seems most elusive, she receives a letter, a love letter, from a Jamaican laborer George Armstrong working on the Panama Canal.  Suddenly Esther's prospects for happiness begin to shine, like an early morning sun after a night of rain.

Lynn Nottage's "Intimate Apparel" will be beautifully hung on a clothesline for your inspection at Westport Country Playhouse until Saturday, November 1.  Allen Moyer's layered set moves seamlessly from Esther's single boarding room to her friend Mayme's space where she entertains her paying make guests to the workshop of Mr. Marks, where Esther purchases her material to the home of Mrs. Van Buren, a wealthy white woman who employs her services.

As a modest spinster, Esther (Nikki E. Walker) is intrigued when she receives a letter from the physical laborer George (Isaiah Johnson).  She seeks the help of Mrs. Van Buren (Leighton Bryan) and even Mayme (Heather Alicia Simms) to help her write a reply since she can neither read nor write.  Her land- lady Mrs. Dickson (Aleta Mitchell) doesn't approve of Esther's correspondence with a strange man, especially when she has prospects of her own closer to home to promote.

The high points of Esther's week are her visits to Mr. Marks (Tommy Schrider), the Jewish shopkeeper who saves her the finest of his merchandise.  The inappropriate feelings they have for each other are not allowed to grow or flourish.  Esther's choices, although made with a true and loving heart, bring her heartbreak but do not destroy her worthy soul.  Mary B. Robinson directs a story of sensitivity and sorrow, longing and love that will long resonate in your memory.

For tickets ($30 and up), call Westport Country Playhouse, 25 Powers Court, Westport at 203-227-4177 or 888-927-7529 or online at  Performances are Tuesday at 8 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.

Stand up with Esther as she balances triumph and tragedy in a life that is both blessed and cursed.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014


Being the  favorite son is not all that great if you are one of twelve brothers and sibling rivalry and the green eyed goddess named jealousy are evident in every interaction of the family.  You might even find yourself cast into a pit or sold off to a caravan bound for Egypt, especially if your name is Joseph, a special son of Israel. You may find that your father Jacob is powerless to protect you from the machinations of your brothers,  if you incite their anger by boasting of dreams where your superiority is evident.  When Jacob gives Joseph a beautiful rainbow-hued coat of glorious colors, Joseph's fate is sealed.

This wonderful story from the Bible will be brought to magnificent life at the Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts when Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice's great family musical "Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat" comes to Hartford from Tuesday, October 14 to Sunday, October 19.  This show, believe it or not, was penned by the pair while they were still teenagers and it has thrilled millions with its unique story of jealousy, envy and redemption. Initially, in the summer of 1967, Lloyd Webber was asked to write a "pop cantata" for a school concert at Easter time. Who culd have predicted the glorious road that request would take.

Follow the clan as Joseph travels from the ancient land of Canaan to the mysterious environs of Egypt, traveling to the musically diverse genres from calypso and country western to rock and roll, and even ballads with a distinctly French flair. Husband and wife team Diane De Garmo and Ace Young will star, with De Garmo as the engaging Narrator who tells the tale and Young as the charming but betrayed Joseph who is sold into exile. His adventures take him to the household of Potipher (William Thomas Evans), whose wife causes Joseph further troubles, landing him in jail.  While imprisoned, Joseph is asked to interpret the dreams of a baker and a butler.  His skills as a revealor of nighttime thoughts lead him to be summoned by the mighty head ruler of the land, the Pharaoh, who wants Joseph to tell him what his dreams foretell.

Joseph, due to his talents for organization, helps the Pharaoh (Ryan Williams) stave off a famine that has the power to devastate the land. In his position as the Number 2 man in command, Joseph ultimately has the satisfaction of witnessing his brothers bow down to him as he had predicted, even though they do not recognize him.  Andy Blankenbuehler does double duty as the director and choreographer of this infectious feast for the eyes and ears.  Songs like "Any Dream Will Do," "Close Every Door" and "Those Canaan Days" are simply wonderful.

For tickets ($21-80), call the Bushnell, 166 Capitol Avenue, Hartford at 860-987-5900 or online at  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.

Follow the journey of Joseph, Jacob's favored son, who is singled out for greatness but endures many trials before his true fate is realized.


Playwright Tom Stoppard proves his intelligence and wit in every word of his challenging and involving masterwork "Arcadia" that probes such diverse topics as chaos and order, jam in rice pudding, mathematical equations, the meanings of "carnal embraces,"
literary criticism and the history of gardens, among many others.  Yale Repertory Theatre in New Haven will be shining an orb of enlightenment on "Arcadia" until Saturday, October 25.

The more erudite you are and well learned, the better to catch all the myriad historical and literary references.  Even if you miss a goodly portion of them, you will still be enchanted by the banter in this multi-layered tale set in two different centuries hundreds of years apart, 1809 and circa 2009.

Stoppard's intriguing story begins with a pert and precocious teenager Thomasina, delightfully captured by Rebekah Brockman, querying her tutor Septimus, an engaging Tom Pecinka, about "what is carnal embrace?"  His explanation, that skirts the truth, sets off an exploration of knowledge that reveals proofs for theorems, mathematical laws, lessons in folly and all the gossip that keeps Sidley Park igniting on all sixteen cylinders.

An illusive Lord Byron is never seen but his poetic influence is felt.  The scholarly discourse surrounding Byron and what took place in 1809 consumes the minds of the educated lot who people Sidley Park two centuries later.  Who is the hermit?  Was a duel fought?  What do the designs of the garden portend? What do Thomasina's equations mean involving the behavior of numbers?  A reverence for learning is evident as well as a healthy spirit of discovery.

In the current times, a scholar Bernard Nightinggale, portrayed by a tempest swirling Stephen Barker Turner, has invaded Sidley Park to gather research on a talk he is giving for the Lord Byron Society.  His theories and allegations stir up a hornet's nest of controversy among the residents, Hannah (Rene Augesen), Chloe (Annelise Lawson), Valentine (Max Gordon Moore) and Gus (Bradley James Tejeda).

Thomasina's world is also peopled by Ezra (Jonathan Spivey), Noakes (Julian Gamble), Lady Croom (Felicity Jones) and Captain Brice (Graham Rowat).  Across the boards and across the centuries, the cast is uniformly excellent.  James Bundy directs this three hour entertainment with a skilled hand, one that waltzes in perfect step.

For tickets ($20-98), call the Yale Rep at 203-432-1234 or online at  Performances are at the University Theatre, 222 York Street, New Haven Tuesday at 8 p.m., Wednesday at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m., Thursday at 8 p.m., Friday at 8 p.m. and Saturday at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m.

Follow the trail of clues from the past that confuse, elude and astonish the current generation.  Be assured that no tortoises were harmed in the making of "Arcadia."

Saturday, October 11, 2014


                                                  JODI PICOULT TO SPEAK

As supreme storytellers go, Jodi Picoult is at the top of her field, or in this case on the top of her elephant, sitting on a howdah, if she approved of such an act.  As the author of twenty-two books, many of them best sellers, read to date by 25 million people in 35 countries, Picoult is a master at weaving involving tales about topics as diverse as stem cell research ("My Sister's Keeper"), the Holocaust ("The Storyteller"), Asperger's Syndrome ("House Rules"), wolves in their native habitat ("Lone Wolf") and school shootings ("Nineteen Minutes").  Her books are noted for their plot turns and twists, her ability to voice her characters with a true pitch, the extensive research she conducts to speak with authenticity and her ability to capture human experiences so beautifully and sensitively.

Picoult will leave her New Hampshire farm where she lives with her husband and family and small menagerie of furry animals to speak on Friday, October 17 at 7 p.m. at Sacred Heart University, in the Edgerton Center for the Performing Arts, 5151 Park Avenue, Fairfield, courtesy of WSHU Public Radio.

Picoult's newest novel "Leaving Time" is set in a game reserve for elephants in Botswana, telling the tale of Alice, a researcher who has devoted her life to studying memory in pachyderms.  The natural caring and compassion a mother feels for a child is echoed in this animal, mother for her calf.  When a helpless baby is orphaned, Alice feels the need to rescue it and guard its safety.

"Leaving Time" will be released October 14 so the audience at Sacred Heart will be among the first to learn how Ms. Picoult selects her topics, researches them extensively and then writes an involving story that captures readers from page one. Elephants have been said to "never forget," and that despite not having good eyesight they never forget a face.  This "recall power" is important in helping them survive, as mother elephants have been noted to retain a "store of social knowledge" when dealing with their family, their herd.  Living up to 60 years, they are said to recognize themselves in a mirror, can "imprint" memories that are essential to their survival and can actually grieve at the loss of a member of their herd or of the trainer or keeper who was good to them.

Did you know elephants use their ears as giant fans to cool themselves?  That they don't drink with their trunks but use them to feed water into their mouths or that they have the largest brains, 10.5 pounds, of any animal?  They even play a critical role in the environment.  You'll know all that and more after hearing Jodi Picoult and reading her newest book.

To get an in depth perspective on pachyderms and their intriguing bonding behavior, especially with humans, let Jodi Picoult be your animal guide.  With this loyal and social beast of the wilderness, she will weave an intriguing story of a Alice and her daughter and how an enduring love can survive a devastating tragedy.  Come to WSHU Public Radio's Join the Conversation.  The event is $30 and includes a copy of the book, and students are $10, with no book.  Join the Conversation is jointly sponsored by IKEA of New Haven, the Wyant Simboli Group and the Law Firm of Cohen and Wolf.  For reservations, call 203-371-7908 or go online to

Come hear Jodi Picoult, a master of storytelling since she penned her first book at age 5, "The Lobster Which Misunderstood."