Sunday, October 20, 2019

PANTOCHINO PRODUCTIONS IS PUTTING KANSAS ON THE MAP OF MUSICAL FUN


Once upon a time, a spunky girl named Dorothy went on a giantadventure.  Thanks to a tornado, the farmhouse she lived in with her Aunt Em and Uncle Henry spun out of control and landed on a witch, wicked to her core, and placed Dorothy in the Land of Oz

In Oz, she skipped along the Yellow Brick Road with a trio of strangers who would become her friends, the Scarecrow (Jimmy Johansmeyer), the Tin Man (Justin Rugg) and the Lion (Cadence Castro).   But now our spirited heroine is back among the corn fields with her Auntie Em (George Spelvin) and her Uncle Henry (Jimmy Johansmeyer) and she is bored, bored, bored.  Be careful what you wish for, Dorothy, because trouble is right around the corner.

Gather the family and a basket of treats to share at your table and let Pantochino Productions entertain you with the delightful original spoof "The Wicked Witch of the West: Kansas or Bust!" playing weekends until Sunday, October 27 at the Milford Center for the Arts, 40 Railroad Avenue, Milford.

Use your imagination to think mean and green and before you can say "Munchkins" three times who should appear but that scary madame of malice The Wicked Witch of the West, wonderfully portrayed by Shelley Marsh Poggio. Don’t let her froggy greenness scare you. She has a specific agenda:  to get  back her magical powers, her broom and her ravishing ruby slippers.  To accomplish this, she must, at all costs and comedy, find Dorothy who stole them away from her, right under her pickled green nose.  Once the WWW meets Professor Marvel and his crystal ball, another role by George Spelvin, she is quickly on the way to her goal.

Dorothy is portrayed by the adorable pigtailed sweetheart, Mary Mannix, who is plum full of spirit and perkiness. With her trio of hearty and trusted cohorts, the Lion, the Scarecrow and the Tin Man, they all set off to find the mysterious Wizard of Oz, another characterization assumed by the versatile George Spelvin.  It's rumored that the Wizard is in Wichita, in possession of all the good stuff.

That road of yellow is getting mighty crowded as the ragged Vagabelle kids, Elrod (Connor Rizzo), Faylene (Kiera Citarella) and Billie Rae Jay (Nora Simonelli) are also on the trail of the treasure.  And don't forget that big green lady who's determined to get all her goodies back, even if it means traveling in disguise.

Thankfully Dorothy remembers to ask for help from her friend from her previous escapade, 
and the Good Witch Glinda (Rachelle  Ianiello) flies in with a little comforting advice.  Bert Bernardi has outdone himself in the clever department as this show is filled to the top of the corn fields with genuine humor (most of it corny).  Justin Rugg's music, like the Wicked Witch's "I'm Back with a Vengeance," adds a delightful liveliness to the action. Jimmy Johansmeyer's costumes are a Halloween hoot.

For tickets ($22 online, $25 at the door), go to www.pantochino.com.  Performances are Friday at 7:30 p.m.;, Saturday at 2 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m. Look for the troupe’s Podcasts on iTunes and Spotify.  This ninth season is dedicated to the memory of Evan Faram, who was a valued company member who will be greatly missed.

Polish your crystal ball, practice your cackles, look for rainbows and bluebirds and bring a big glass of water for you-know-who, just in case you need her to melt!


JIM CROW LAWS ARE AN UNWELCOME CHARACTER IN “ON THE GROUNDS OF BELONGING” AT LONG WHARF


 
The painful lessons of the doomed love between Juliet and her Romeo as well as the passionate climax of Tony’s devotion for Maria in “West Side Story,” what happens when you don’t “stick to your own kind,” are all too evident in the unexpected romance that blooms between Russell and Tom in Ricardo Perez Gonzalez’s world premiere drama “On the Grounds of Belonging.” Long Wharf Theatre in New Haven will unveil this forbidden coupling until Sunday, November 3.
 
While Houston, Texas in the late 1950’s sported a number of gay bars, the number and frequency  of lynchings was well documented.  Wilson Chin has designed one such establishment, a detailed Gold Room where men of color frequented for social connections of a sexual nature.  Presided over by bartender Hugh Williams, a judicious Thomas Silcott, it was a safe environment for meetings.  Safe that is until a white man in drag, one Thomas Aston, captured by a sensitive Jeremiah Clapp, runs in to find sanctuary when a raid in the nearby Red Room for white gays only is in progress. 
 
The Red Room for gay white men is owned by Mooney Fitzpatrick, a mean spirited Craig Bockhorn,  who also lays claim to the Gold Room.  He needs to be in control and he is quick to proclaim his power if anyone opposes his will. When Tom and Russell find a tender connection that has the potential to develop into something deeper and more lasting, the dye is cast for complications and possible disaster.  Also on the scene as witnesses are Russell’s long standing more than a friend Henry Stanfield, a jealously guarded Blake Anthony Morris, who enjoys playing the field as long as Russell is loyally there to come home to at the end of the day.  The powerful lounge singer Tanya Starr, a concerned Tracey Conyer Lee, spreads her influence in the maelstrom of emotions and swirls the action to a heartbreaking pitch.
 
These are trying times where violence is just around the corner waiting to pounce.  The story is real, the characters are sincere and the ending is anticipated to be tragic. David Mendizabel directs the action with consummate grace.
 
For tickets ($30-75), call the Long Wharf Theatre, 222 Sargent Drive, New Haven at 203-787-4282 or online at www.longwharftheatre.org.  Performances are Tuesday at 7 p.m., Wednesday at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m., Thursday and Friday at 8 p.m., Saturday at 3 p.m. and 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m.
 
Be a witness to a forbidden love,  “of a homosexual persuasion,” that defies the odds and declares itself worthy of existence.

Saturday, October 19, 2019

YALE REPERTORY THEATRE CREATES A FRENZY WITH ”GIRLS”


 
You might think a play entitled “Girls” could be about a bevy of high schoolers debating the dating scene, or college gals weighing the benefits and obstacles of joining a sorority or sisters trying to establish a relationship with parents, classmates and the world.  How wrong you would be.  In this world premiere drama at the Yale Repertory Theatre until Saturday, October 26,  playwright Branden Jacobs-Jenkins has taken a new look at Euripides’ ancient Greek tragedy “The Bacchae” and fashioned his own version of revenge and retribution.
 
On a forested woodland set lushly designed by Adam Rigg that resembles a well detailed diorama at the Peabody Museum, from which dinosaurs might emerge, we meet a disc jockey Deon, a determined Nicholas L. Ashe, who has a specific agenda in mind.  He wants to welcome the women of the community to a dance marathon where inhibitions are forsaken and madness can prevail.  As a stranger in their midst, he sets up his music to lure them into the park and watches what happens.
 
Formerly exiled to boarding schools, he is back with a purpose. Loudly playing his intoxicating and hypnotic songs, he encourages them to spin like whirling dervishes into a frenzy of passion.  He knows one of them is guilty of causing his mother’s brutal death and is confident he can expose the perpetrator and enact his vengeance.
 
Meanwhile like a voyeur above the fray we find Theo who speaks to the world from his bedroom, live streaming, and interacting with his hippie grandfather Dada, Tom Nelis, and his blind friend, Haynes Thigpen, who also plays the sheriff and the cowherd who has lost his cows. 
 
Also seeking and searching is Gaga, a focused and gun toting Jeanine Serralles, who wants to find her sisters but is easily seduced into malicious mischief.  Armed and dangerous, Gaga is the antithesis of Asia, one of the many women who pepper the scene with monologues. Ayesha Jordan’s Asia provides much needed comic relief as she speaks non-stop about the difficulties of finding the perfect office chair, expanding and expounding  on the theme with obvious delight and humor.
 
Clearly there will be no happy reunions here and the sound of gunfire is resolutely loud.  With Raja Feather Kelly’s intense choreography and Lileana Blain-Cruz’s direction,  “Girls” will echo for a long time in your questioning psyche.
 
For tickets, call the Yale Repertory Theatre at 203-432-1234 or online at www.yalerep.org The production will be held at the University Theatre, 222 York Street, New Haven.Performances are Tuesday to Saturday at 8 p.m., with matinees at 2 p.m. on Saturday. 

Let your imagination run wild as the passions soar and the music inspires madness .
 
 
 

Monday, October 14, 2019

A BRONX MAN WITH A TALE COMING MUSICALLY TO THE WATERBURY PALACE THEATER




                                                CHAZZ PALMINTERI

When actor and writer Chazz Palminteri was a nine year old boy sitting innocently on a cement stoop in front of his Bronx home, he witnessed a murder.  He saw two men fighting five feet in front of him, ostensibly over a parking space, when a third man stepped in to help his pal. He killed his friend's opponent and, thus, rescued his friend.  The police, no matter how they tried, couldn't get Chazz, who was called by his given name Calogero, to testify.

In the midst of this devastating encounter, Chazz's eyes met those of the stranger's, who turned out to be Sonny, the capo di tutti capi, or "boss of all bosses" or godfather if you prefer. The young impressionable lad soon found himself swept into a different and exciting world that Sonny commanded, into a fancy club, fetching coffee and cutting lemons and limes, rolling dice and collecting tips.  Chazz's father, a hardworking bus driver, did not approve of his son's new associates and when Sonny tried to give him a lucrative job he refused.  Soon "C" as he was called became Sonny's "penance, something good to leave behind."

Chazz was now influenced by two father figures.  His dad Lorenzo gave him a card that stated "Don't waste your talent," while Sonny taught him life lessons like "It's better to be feared than to be loved" and "Never underestimate your enemy.” You are now invited to enter Chazz’s world courtesy of Waterbury’s Palace Theater with “A Bronx Tale The Musical” comes to town from Tuesday to Thursday, October 22 to 24, with 2015 American idol winner Nick Fradiani in the role of Lorenzo, the father. the new musical features a book by Chazz Palminteri, music by Alan Menken and lyrics by Glenn Slater.  Alec Nevin will play “C”, with Jeff Brooks as Sonny, the mob boss.
Chazz recalls his early years as an "outrageous time to grow up.  I had a great childhood in an Italian neighborhood with happy times, sports and some violence."  Writing about it has proven therapeutic, "a transference of energy from negative to positive."  He is grateful his father lived to see his success.  

Chazz Palminteri is a man of many talents, none of which he wastes, as his father had warned.  A veteran of 50 films like "Analyze This" and "The Usual Suspects," he also runs classes three or four times a year "One on One Auditions" and the website www.chazzpalminteri.net to "give back" and help young actors as well as hosts a new Baltimore restaurant "Chazz A Bronx Original."  There his cold fire oven pizza cooks in 90 seconds, "sweet and fluffy on the inside, crispy and caramelized on the outside.” 

For tickets, call the Palace Theater, 100 East Main Street, Waterbury at 203-346-2000 or online at www.palacetheaterct.org.  Performances are Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday at 8 p.m.

 As for those life lessons, Chazz Palminteri also has learned "family is important" and "stay close to the things you value."  Come see his musical put all these lessons to good use.

Monday, October 7, 2019

ANSWER YOUR DOORBELL TODAY: “THE BOOK OF MORMON” IS CALLING

PHOTO BY JOAN MARCUS OF AN EARLIER NATIONAL TOUR

The Mormons, also known as the Church of Jesus Christ Latter Day Saints, are estimated to number 15 million people.   In upper New York state in the 1820’s, Joseph Smith had a vision of an angel and he saw buried books of golden plates.  Brigham Young continued Smith’s religious work and brought the new faith to Utah’s borders.  Now you are invited to learn a novel view of the religion when the Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts in Hartford offers up a donation plate featuring the famous and equally infamous “The Book of Mormon.”

The creators of the television cartoon series “South Park” claim the rights to this irreverent satire that has won 9 Tony Awards: Trey Parker, Robert Lopez and Matt Stone.  Church services will be held from Tuesday, October 15 to Sunday, October 20 and the pews are sure to fill up quickly.

“The Book of Mormon” concerns a pair of young missionaries sent out from Utah to convert the world.  This is a door-to-door attempt to sell beliefs, similar to an Avon lady or a Fuller Brush man.  The goal is to bring enlightenment to the uninformed.  Their lucky assignment is Uganda, in the remote and dark regions of Africa.

Unhappily for eager to please Elder Kevin Price, he had his heart set on going to Orlando, Florida for his conversion work for his two year mission. He certainly didn’t plan on being partnered with the nerdy and nebbishy Elder Arnold Cunningham who never bothered to even learn the approved script or even to read the Book of Mormon, their sacred text.

The situation in Uganda is not welcoming.  The incongruous pair are quickly robbed and then learn that the villagers are so busy battling poverty, famine, war and AIDS they have little time for prayer meetings.

The team of two struggle to make a difference and have obstacles placed in their rocky path at every turn.  Their faith is tested repeatedly and yet, despite all odds, many miraculous things occur.  With song and dance and incredible stories, “The Book of Mormon” manages to amuse, astonish and entertain in heavenly ways.  Be forewarned the language is not always sweet and pure.

For tickets ($ and up), call the Bushnell, 166 Capitol Avenue, Hartford  at 203-987-5900 or online at www.bushnell.com. 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.

Answer your door bell to discover the messengers from God who are ready to offer you salvation, redemption and an angelic host of humor.

“THE CAPITOL STEPS" PARADING POLITICAL POPPYCOCK

  

Late night comedians thrive on our political arena and the 
 antics on Capital Hill.  Way back in the 1980’s, there was a
 group that made its mark by doing the same thing and they
 are still actively engaged in that humor today.They zig. They zag. They zoom zingers. They’re the Capitol Steps and politics is easily the name of their “I can top that” game. Whether you’re a Democrat, a Republican, an independent, Green Party person, or otherwise affiliated, the Capitol Steps are bound to crunch a few of your sensitive toes as they sling their bipartisan barbs on the icons of Washington, D. C., those hard working and hard playing leaders of our country.
These entertainers know of what and whom they speak, for they were all former Congressional staffers who have gone legit by entering the world of show business. For one night only they will be the official speakers of the house at the Torrington's Warner Theatre. This command performance will take place on Saturday, October 19 at 8 p.m.

Calling their current show “The Lyin’ Kings” (pun definitely intended), this talented troupe, with satire and wit, will take today’s headlines and cast a new and slightly jaundiced eye on those happenings. Their highly successful stint began in the early 1980’s when three staffers for Senator Charles Percy needed to take center stage at a Congressional Christmas party. They took the stage then and haven’t yielded the floor to this day.

The original trio, Elaina Newport, Bill Strauss and Jim Aidala, continue to write the ever changing material. Newport frequently acts and is responsible for writing 95% of the humor. Don’t be surprised if you see the latest controversies from Washington D. C. paraded on the stage for your entertainment.  President #44 is sure to be front and center and singing and tweeting to his heart’s content. You might also see Bernie Saunders sing a show tune and Vladimir Putin, shirtless of course, dance a number. Don’t be surprised if the evening starts off with a rousing “76 Unknowns” to rib the Democrats for their overabundance of presidential candidates.

For tickets ($31-51) call the  Warner Theater, 68 Main Street, Torrington at 860-489-7180 or online at www.warnertheatre.org.

Cast your vote for the former and current politicians who are sure to please the crowds when the Capitol Steps march into our Connecticut political arena with their timely skits, lyrics and parodies.

SEVEN ANGELS THEATRE IN WATERBURY GOES NASHVILLE COUNTRY WESTERN



CARLYN CONNOLLY AS LANA MAE AND LAURA HODOS AS KATIE LANE
PHOTO BY PAULROTH


You’ve heard of the Grand Ole Opry, but have your ever encountered the Grand Ole Laundry? Country western music is intricately involved in each and you’re invited to sashay over with or without fringed shirts and cowboy boots, to make the acquaintance of the latter until Sunday, October 20 at Waterbury’s Seven Angels Theatre when “Honky Tonk Laundry” comes swinging into town.
 
Written by Roger Bean, with musical arrangements by Jon Newton, “Honky Tonk Laundry” will drop you plunk into the middle of the Wishy Washy Washateria in Tennessee for a quick wash, dry, fold and iron of your unmentionables.  The establishment owned and operated by Lana Mae Hopkins, a resilient Carlyn Connolly, knows what to do with the “dirty” aspects of life, like her no-account husband Earl who has made cheating on her an art form.
 
Joining her is a soul mate companion who wanders in to the Laundromat one day seeking solace and soul cleansing, an optimistic Katie Lane Murphy, courtesy of Laura Hodos, who doesn’t object to a little help from pills and alcohol to maintain her equilibrium.  The two gals commiserate over problems of the heart and take to singing like Loretta Lynn and Dolly Parton to help themselves survive the long days and longer nights.
Be prepared for a feast for the eyes and ears when the pair transform their workplace into a showcase for girls like Patsy Cline and Wynonna Judd who put country western music on the map.  Tunes like “Stand By Your Man,” even if he is a cheating son of a gun, “These Boots Were Made for Walkin’,”  of Nancy Sinatra fame, as well as twenty others, will set your toes atappin.’  Close your eyes and you’ll think you’re in Nashville, as these two talented and energetic gals belt out their heartache and hope, without ever losing their sense of righteous indignation and humor, thanks to the direction of Russell Garrett and musical direction of Brent Crawford Mauldin.
 
For tickets ($42-49.50, 30 and under $25), call Seven Angels Theatre, 1 Plank Road, Waterbury at 203-757-4676 or online at www.SevenAngelsTheatre.org.  Performances are Thursday at 7:30 p.m., Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m., Sunday at 2 p.m., with added 2 p.m. matinees October 10 and 19.
 
For one night only, Saturday, October 26 at 8 p.m., Seven Angels Theatre is going Italian with “Coppa Italia 2019.”  Think of stuffing a manicotti or cannoli with “Italy’s Got Talent,” “Italian Idol,” “The Voice” and “So You Think You Can Dance” into one tasty and entertaining confection and you will have some idea of the festivities awaiting you.  Call the theater for reservations.
 
Feel the need for a good soul cleansing? Lana Mae and Katie Lane have all the fixings in spot remover, soap and suds to wash out all your problems.  Just best not ask Katie Lane to iron out any wrinkles.