Monday, November 24, 2014

HAVE 4 TIMES THE FUN WITH "4 GIRLS 4"

If one is good and two are better and three are best, then four must be spectacular.  In this case, the four are four gals, a quintet of talent that will trumpet in the holiday spirit in a great big way.  "4 Girls 4: A Christmas Together" is guaranteed to have your red, green and gold lights twinkling and set your holiday season ablaze with brightness.

The Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts in Hartford will be sparkling in splendor for one night only: Monday, December 1 at 8 p.m. at the Belding Theater, as a fundraiser for Hartford TheaterWorks. As girls go, these ladies are stars spectacular from movies, television, records and Broadway.  You're invited to be up close and personal, fun and flirty, with Andrea McArdle of "Annie" fame who grew up to star in "Beauty and the Beast" and "Starlight Express." 

Maureen McGovern has a collection of Grammy Awards to her credit, a #1 Gold record for "The Morning After" and a Drama-Desk nomination for "Little Women,"  You'll recognize Donna McKechnie for her performances lighting up the stage in "Company" and "State Fair" as well as her TONY winning role in "A Chorus Line."  Last but certainly not least is Faith Prince who was a dynamo as Miss Hannigan in "Annie" on Broadway, a TONY winner for "Guys and Dolls" as well as TV's "Drop Dead Diva" and "Bells Are Ringing."

These gals have the musical goods and they will deliver them right to your front row seat.  You'll hit the holiday jackpot as they belt out the tunes they made famous from the shows that made them stars.  These leading ladies will start your holiday season off with a bang and a rat-a-tat-tat and a hoopla of happiness.

Tunes you might hear from their magical jukebox of hits could include "Strike Up the Band," "Broadway Baby," "The Morning After," "Miss Adelaide's Lament," "It's Marvelous," "Together" and "A Tisket A Tasket." Individually or all together, these women will sing and schmooze, share a laugh and a memory and royally entertain.  Musical director John McDaniel will lead this festive parade of hits.

For tickets ($55-100), call 860-527-7838.  The performance will take place at the Bushnell, 166 Capitol Avenue, Hartford.  The $100 tickets will include a post-performance party with the stars, a Meet and Greet!  $50 of each ticket will benefit the Hartford TheaterWorks Annual Fund.

Ring those bells for these four leading ladies of Broadway as they usher in and celebrate the holidays in regal style.


Saturday, November 22, 2014

HAVE SO MUCH FUN AT THE PUTNAM COUNTY SPELLING BEE




Whether you're a great speller or have trouble with words of one syllable, you are going to take a whole dictionary full of pleasure when you sign up for
 "The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee."  The Connecticut Repertory Theatre on the campus of the University of Connecticut at Storrs, at the Jorgensen Theatre, will be encouraging you to come and practice your spelling bee list for the competitions to be held until Sunday, December 7.

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  treat.  If you're already a fan, go again and take some friends or family with you.

At UCONN, they have already lined up some celebrity guests to come on stage and show off their literary stuff. If you're daring and live on the edge, you might even volunteer to be one of the extra hand-selected to join the bee-on stage-with an official entry number and everything.  You, too, can earn a juice box and a hug from the official comfort counselor Mitch (Melvin Abston) who is there serving out his community service while on parole.

The Scripps National Spelling Bee is held in Washington, D. C. over Memorial Day weekend and has been held every year since 1925, except during World War II, but "The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee" deserves kudos and accolades as well. Where else would you find a Boy Scout named Chip  (Kent Coleman) who wears a chestful of badges, a pig tailed angel (Gina Salvatore) who sports not one dad but two which influences her leadership of the Gay and Lesbian Alliance, an original Flower Child named Leaf Coneybear (Gavin McNicholl) who makes his own cheerful and colorful clothing, William Barfee (rhymes with parfait) who has a rare mucous membrane disorder and (thanks to Ryan Shea) a sparkly magical and moving foot that spells out the words, an over-achieving parochial student, Marcy Park (Julia Estrada) who can't help how incredibly smart she is and, lastly, a young girl who talks into her hand to spell, Olive (Whitney Andrews) who bravely stands alone, with her mom off in an Indian ashram and her dad busy at work.

Each contestant wants to win so they can proudly say they succeeded at something special.  They are each a bit of a misfit but they stand tall and are willing to risk everything to write their own ticket to destiny and pride.  Along the way, as they compete and rise to the challenge, they learn enough about themselves to earn the title of champion, whether they win the trophy or not.

Overseeing the proceedings are Vice Principal Panch (Mark Harapiak) who has a dubious past and eager-to-please Rona Lisa Perretti (Blythe Wilson) who has the double distinction of being a class A realtor and of winning the 3rd Annual Bee.  Under the direction of Paul Mullins, and choreography of Sara Andreas, 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 ($7-36), call The CT Rep at 860-486-2113  or online at www.crt.uconn.edu.  Performances are a student matinee at 10 a.m. on Tuesday, December 2, Wednesday at 7:30 p.m., Thursday at 7:30 p.m., Friday at 8 p.m., Saturday at 2 p.m. and  8 p.m. and closing Sunday, December 7 at 2 p.m.  There are no performances the week of Thanksgiving.

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!

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

FLY THROUGH THE SKY WITH RUDOLPH


Going through life with a shiny red nose can only be desirable if you're a clown in the circus or a famous reindeer leading an even more famous sled.  Hold on to your sleigh bells and give them a big jingle as "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer:  The Musical" flies straight in for a fabulous landing at The Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts from Tuesday, November 25 to Sunday, November 30 for a festive holiday welcome.

Get ready for this wonderful television classic to burst into life right before your eyes.  Dressing yourself in red, green and gold is optional.  This fifty year old classic tale is bound to excite the Christmas spirit in everyone in the family, even if your name is Ebenezer Scrooge.

It's time to greet the jolly Mr. Claus and his wife, Hermey the Elf, Bumble the Abominable Snow Monster, Clarice, Yukon Cornelius, the Misfit Toys and don't forget the shining star of the show, that red-nosed reindeer.

Conceived by Jeff Frank and First Stage, with script adaptation by Robert Penola and arrangements and orchestrations by Timothy Splain, this merry musical comes with a message.  Learn first hand with Rudolph that what makes you different just might be what makes you special and that there is a little misfit in all of us.

In honor of this production, a portion of the proceeds will be donated to Ben's Lighthouse, a Newtown-based group that supports communities impacted by tragedy.  It honors those teachers and children who died at Sandy Hook Elementary School and its motto is "Helping Is Healing." A children's chorus from Ben's Lighthouse, named for Benjamin Wheeler, will perform in the lobby and at intermission at November 28 and 29 morning and afternoon shows.

For tickets ($21 and up), call the Bushnell, 166 Capitol Avenue, Hartford at 860-987-5900 or online at www.bushnell.org.  Performances are Tuesday at 7 p.m., Wednesday at 7 p.m., Friday at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m., Saturday at 11 a.m., 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. and Sunday at 11 a.m., 2 p.m. and 5 p.m. There are no shows on Thanksgiving.

Come help Rudolph realize how important he is and help him guide that fabulous sleigh for a jolly holly holiday for all the little ones in your life.

Monday, November 17, 2014

FIND YOUR HEART IN "ONCE WE LIVED HERE"



Being tied to the land can be a blessing or a burden.  It speaks to heritage and tradition and family.  For Amy McPherson, her family's sheep shearing ranch in California is her entire world.  While her siblings Lacy  wants a big time career and Shaun, who has clearly lost his way, Amy will move heaven and earth to be sure the ranch Emoh Ruo (Our Home spelled backward) survives and thrives.

Amy is willing to battle a long drought, the danger of wild fires and the financial uncertainties of her quest. No task is too hard or too difficult to face and overcome. "Once We Lived Here" with book and lyrics by Dean Bryant and music by Matthew Frank will be offered at Spirit of Broadway Theater in Norwich until Sunday, November 30. The musical is Artistic Director Brett Bernardini's signature swan song, his farewell tribute to the theater that has been his home and focus for the last seventeen years.

To Bernardini, "Once We Lived Here" is a great musical with an amazing cast, about family and the memories it creates, the home that holds it together.
The ultimate message is "family matters."

Originally set in Australia, the composer's home, the musical has been relocated  to California where the realities of lack of rainfall and dangerous brush fires and economic downturns are all too real.  The McPhersons have gathered their wagons together to survive another family tragedy.  Eight years ago their father was tragically killed.  Now their mom Claire (Jennifer Killinger Blackwell) is seriously ill. Despite all of Amy's (Samantha Souza) diligence and hard work, the future of the family farm is in question. Will Shaun (Dakota Dutcher) or Lacy (Bessie Fong) step up to help?  Can Burke (Matt Smolko ), a hired hand who helped in the past, ride back in as a white knight to save the day?

Here is a disfunctional unit who harbors secrets and lives on lies.  Their memories creep in and explode in their faces.  Will a fresh wind of change help them rediscover what family means and uncover the love they all need to survive?  Brett Bernardini works wonderfully well to help the cast discover the anchors they need to thrive.

For tickets ($32), call Spirit of Broadway Theater, 24 Chestnut Avenue, Norwich at 860-886-2378 or online at www.spiritofbroadway.org.  Performances are Wednesday and Thursday at 7 p.m., Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m.

A 2014 Spirit Gala will be held on Saturday, December 6 to honor and pay tribute to Founding Artistic Director Brett Bernardini with a reception at 6 p.m., dinner at 7 p.m. and special guest performances at 8 p.m.  This black tie event is sure to be special.  For tickets ($125), call the theater box office.

You can vote on the future of the theater at www.surveymonkey/r/SpiritofBroadway.

Discover that "All Roads Lead to Home" in this musical where unanswered questions, guilt and memories must be addressed.



'

SING ALONG WITH PATSY CLINE IN WATERBURY



Tune up your guitar, start speaking with a twang, grab a cold Bud and find a comfy pair of cowboy boots as that great country western gal with a resonating voice that rocks the rafters is coming to town.  None other than Miss Patsy Cline will be creating her honky tonk heaven at Seven Angels Theatre in Waterbury until Sunday, December 7 and you surely don't want to miss the fun.

"Always, Patsy Cline" is the brain child of Ted Swindley, who created and originally directed it, based on a true story of one devoted fan for a star.  When Louise, a divorced mother of two, heard Patsy on the Arthur Godfrey Show on television, it was love at first note.  Her worship of her idol bordered ever so slightly on a stalker status, but her genuine reverence could not be ignored.

When Patsy comes to Louise's Texas hometown to sing, Louise is the first in line to say "howdy."  Their instantaneous mutual admiration brings them both a ten gallon cowboy hat full of pleasure.  Rebecca Barta's Louise is a true red, white and blue admirer, the president of Patsy's fan club and her most loyal supporter.  Her enthusiasm is contagious and captivating.

Louise's admiration is not misplaced. Christine Mild has channeled Patsy and made her her own, with a deep whiskey laced voice that captures her unique sound. Tunes like "Walkin' After MIdnight," "I Fall to Pieces," "Your Cheating Heart," "Stupid Cupid," "Crazy" and "True Love" are either lively and spirited or romantically challenging.  This vivacious lady can put a solid spin on any tune, like a jukebox bonanza.  A fine five piece combo of piano, fiddle, electric guitar, bass and drums, with Luke Nelson, Guy "Fooch" Fischetti, Jamie Sherwood, Danny Kraszewski and Mary Ryan are a royal court of musical majesty.  Semina DeLaurentis directs this bittersweet tale of a life cut too short, yet packed with a lasting and lingering melody.

For tickets ($47), call Seven Angels Theatre, 1 Plank Road, Hamilton Park Pavilion, Waterbury at 203-757-4676 or online at www.sevenangelstheatre.org.  Performances are Thursday at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m., Friday at 8 p.m., Saturday at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m.

Now is the time to mark your calendars for a return to the stage of that king of irreverent comedy, Mr. Rob Bartlett, for Sunday, December 7 at 7 p.m.
Make a date with Michelle Gotay to celebrate "Christmas Eve at Earlene's Diner" December 11 to 21 to enjoy some old fashioned hometown fun.
 New Year's Eve will see New York City comedians ready and willing to usher in the holiday with humor, at 6:30 p.m. and 9:30 p.m.  The late show includes appetizers and a midnight champagne toast.  Call the box office for more information.  Also plan your early Christmas shopping at the annual Silent Auction, with winning bids closing December 7.

 Let the incomparable Patsy Cline bring her special brand of country western styling right to your seat.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

RAISE A GLASS OF IRISH STOUT WITH “THE SEAFARER”

 Being drunk on Christmas Eve is not a necessary event but it often helps survive the holiday.  Just ask the scruffy blokes who inhabit the space that could pass for a flat in the seamy side of Dublin where lumpy and bumpy seem to characterize their existence. Plop yourself down, if you dare, on that well used sofa, being careful to not fall on the legions of discarded liquor bottles and beer cans strewn about for color.  Martha Stewart is not coming any time soon and don't look for anything too cheery to boast about for the Christmas holiday.

The flat is peopled with a sad lot of humanity, mostly drunk and hardly ever sober.  Enter the world craftily created by Conor McPherson in his play “The Seafarer,” being brought to entertaining life by the New Haven Theater Company from November 20-22, on Thursday, Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m.
  
 One of Ireland’s best known contemporary playwrights, McPherson has skillfully drawn a motley crew of characters with his sharpened quill.  It’s Christmas Eve and what better way to celebrate the savior’s birth then with a bottle or three of whiskey and a rousing game of poker.  The stakes for the game are exceptionally high, even if most of the players are clueless.
  
 Jim Lones is wonderfully wrapped in the role of Richard, a curmudgeon recently blinded in a freak accident, who loves to make his brother “Sharky” (J. Kevin Smith) dance to his piper’s tune.  Their poor friend Ivan (Steve Scarpa) seeks refuge  at their place, to give himself time to sober up and only manages to make his home situation mountains worse. He is clearly afraid to face his wife Karen and his children. To stir up a little fun and mischief,  Richard invites his brother’s nemesis Nicky (Peter Chenot) over to share a brew, the man “Sharky” blames for much of his disappointing life and Nicky, in turn,  introduces a stranger into their pathetic Christmas pageant.  Will the unknown Mr. Lockhart (George Kulp) be Scrooge or Santa or someone altogether different?
 
 Deena Nicol-Blifford directs this Irish tale, peppered as it is with salty language, with a firm and steady hand and a fine cast of talented blokes.
   
For tickets ($20), contact The New Haven Theater Company  online at www.newhaventheatercompany.com.
The theater is located inside the English Building Markets, 839 Chapel Street, in downtown New Haven.  This is the second anniversary at its new home.

Pull up a chair, drink a drop of Irish in honor of the holiday and ante up for a spirited game of chance where you may lose or win much more than you bargained to wager.
  JIM LONES, STEVE SCARPA, J. KEVIN SMITH, PETER CHENOT AND GEORGE KULP




Saturday, November 15, 2014

SAVING THE WORLD'S CHILDREN ONE BABY AT A TIME

               CARYL STERN AT WORK FOR UNICEF IN KENYA

Do you remember the orange cardboard boxes carried by goblins and ghosts and cowgirls who were trick or treating on Halloween?  All the money collected went to save the lives of children around the world, to provide vaccines, emergency disaster relief and educational opportunities like School-in-a-Box kits and much more.  In the name of UNICEF, the United Nations Children's Fund, chidren's lives have been saved since the organization was created more than 65 years ago to provide aid after World War II.

Way back in 1950, a group of school children in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania donated $17 at Halloween to this worthy cause.  Since then Trick-or-Treat for UNICEF has filled coffers of over $157 million in the United States alone and is still going strong.

You have the unique opportunity to learn more about this distinguished team effort when Caryl Stern, the President and CEO of the U. S. Fund for UNICEF delivers the Jacoby-Lunin Humanitarian Lecture, "I Believe in Zero: Learning from the World's Children."  The lecture will be held at the Regina Quick Center on the campus of Fairfield University on Wednesday, November 14 at 8 p.m.

Stern, who has been an advocate for children and a civil rights activist for more than three decades, will speak about her mission to reduce the number of preventable deaths of kids under the age of 5 from 19,000 every day to zero.  She will also address efforts to stop Ebola for children  who are its most vulnerable victims.  Statistics say that nearly 5000 people have died from this devastating disease since March, with 3700 children orphaned as a result.

Stern has written a book that is also the title of her talk.  For tickets ($45), call the Quick Center at 203-254-4010 or 1-877-ARTS-396, or go online to www.quickcenter.com.

Let Caryl Stern take your hand to walk through crowds of needy children whose lives are improved and saved every day through the efforts of UNICEF.  Come share in the smiles of success.