Monday, January 16, 2017

(TITLE OF SHOW) TAKES THE MUSICAL FROM BABY TO BOOMER




 Peej Mele as Hunter, Miles Jacoby as Jeff, Ashley Brooke as Susan, Amanda Forker as Heidi 
 Photo by Meredith Atkinson



 Lace up your running shoes because the race is on to meet the deadline for a submission to a contest for a new musical offered by the New York Musical Festival and your help and encouragement are needed.  From now until Sunday January 29, you are invited to West Hartford’s Playhouse on Park to sit in at all the backroom drama and comedy and free-for-all nonsense as well as the blood, sweat and tears that go into writing a musical for Broadway in the new millennium. Entitled (title of show) by Hunter Bell and Jeff Bowman, the name refers to the space at the head of the application where title of show belongs.

Peej Mele’s Hunter and Miles Jacoby’s Jeff are challenged to write a show with only three short weeks to deadline. When they are not procrastinating, they are busy seeking substance over fluff. The result is the ambitious, frenetic, fast-paced and forward thinking (title of show). They not only want to win the contest, these two eager collaborator/composers want to take their show to off-Broadway and then, to that most sacred of all places, Broadway…and we, the audience, get to go along for the bumpy ride.

To that end, they enlist the aid of two show business friends Heidi, a bubbly Amanda Forker, and Susan, a happily neurotic Ashley Brooke, to meet their goal.  With a trusty silent partner Larry, a talented Austin Cook, on keyboard, the quartet decide to write a musical about…writing a musical.  They drop names and plays like gumdrops on a gingerbread house, allude to everything from monkeys to Mame to Mamma Mia, and to Shrek, Shakespeare, Sondheim, sequins and Sedaris, pay homage to Wonder Woman and Broadway and even sing a crazy and delightful song about Vampires, and dead ones at that.  David Edwards expertly directs this mad, musical romp that went on to receive a Tony Award nomination in 2009 for Best Book of a Musical. 

For tickets ($17.50-50.00), call Playhouse on Park, 244 Park Road, West Hartford at 860-523-5900, ext. 10 or go online to www.PlayhouseonPark.org.  Performances are Wednesday and Thursday at 7:30 p.m., Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m. Watch for a play reading, “Human Rites,” for $5 on January 24,  a night of Improv on February 3 and a comedy night on February 4.

Discover for yourself the magic formula as well as all the hard work, creativity and genius that go into the penning of a successful show. OMG!  Get your jazz hands ready! Theyll come in handy if you want to eat a Rice Krispie Treat. Musical theater geeks are especially welcome.

Monday, January 9, 2017

“BEAUTIFUL” COMES TO THE BUSHNELL



                                           CAROLE KING
If beauty is in the eye of the beholder, it is also in the ear of the listener as well, especially if you’re talking about the super singer/songwriter Carole King.
Her incredible musical story has been captured in a 2014 Grammy, Outer Critic, Olivier, Drama Desk and Tony Award winning show “Beautiful: The Carole King Musical” and it is jumpstarting its sparkle and sass at the Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts in Hartford from Tuesday, January 17 to Sunday, January 22 and it is not to be missed.

From the musical moment when a17 year old King penned her first hit “Will You Love Me Tomorrow,” her career has been a rocket launch to the sky filed with stars, with 100 hit songs, 400 compositions, immortalized by more than 1000 artists.  Legends like James Taylor, Aretha Franklin and Lady Gaga have riden the coattails of her musical genius, resulting in her winning an avalanche of achievement awards in the industry.

Douglas McGrath has taken a tale about a hesitant teen, a Jewish girl named Carol Klein, and spun it like gold into a Cinderella story of a voice that propelled a generation.  Called both awesome and amazing, with a parade of wall-to-wall hits like “You’ve Got a Friend,” “Up on the Roof,” “The Locomotion,” “Take Good Care of My Baby,” “I Feel the Earth Move” and ”Some Kind of Wonderful,” the show is a guaranteed crowd pleaser, one dazzling hit at a time.

Following King from the time she meets her future husband and writing partner Gerry Goffin at Queens College, “Beautiful” encapsulates the triumphs and tragedies of her roller coaster life and her path to a pinnacle of success.  Her collaboration with best friends and married musical partners Cynthia Weil and Barry Mann is inspirationally documented.

For tickets ($36.50-132.50),call the Bushnell, 166 Capitol Avenue,Hartford at 860-987-5900 or online at www.bushnell.com. Performances are Tuesday to Thursday at 7:30 p.m., Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 6:30 p.m. A special three course dinner prepared by Max’s Catering will be held before showtime on Thursday, Friday and Saturday for $60, tip included, beverages extra.  Deadline for reservations is noon, Sunday the 15th.

Come let the earth move under your feet in some kind of wonderful way as you enjoy this stupendous salute to one of America’s sweetheart singer/songwriters, Carole King.

Monday, January 2, 2017

WINTER FUN AT THE FESTIVAL



PHOTO FROM THE 2016 FESTIVAL BY DIANE SOBOLEWSKI

If you aren’t into skiing, skating, sledding or sitting in front of a roaring fire, what do you do to enhance or endure the long cold winter months New England is noted for?  The antidote for winter blahs is clearly the Goodspeed Festival of New Musicals, now in its twelfth year of providing  the great escape for freezing toes and icy noses. Produced by the Max Showalter Center for Education, this year’s festive festival will be held at Goodspeed in East Haddam for the whole weekend of Friday, January 13 to Sunday, January 15 and you’re invited to participate in the joy of the occasion, no snow shoes, skis or skates required or even necessary.

The weekend  is packed with pleasure for all theater lovers who can come to see a trio of brand new musicals as well as attend seminars, lectures, previews, cabarets and a dinner.  Opportunities galore will be available to speak to and listen to the best writers and actors in their fields and be present as staged readings will be mounted featuring students from the Hartt School of Music in Hartford and the Boston Conservatory of Music. Excitement will be swooping and pulsing from every corner of the Goodspeed as well as next door at the Gelston House and across the street at the La Vita Restaurant.

The festival will open Friday night at 7:30 p.m. with the debut of “Picnic at Hanging Rock,” with book, music and lyrics by Daniel Zaitchik, adapted from the novel by Joan Lindsay.  Turn the clock back to Valentine’s Day, 1900 in the town of Victoria, Austrailia, where a bevy of girls from a prestigious college are allowed a day trip to a famous geological rock formation. What happens there is bound to intrigue and haunt you in this gripping musical adaptation.  At 10 p.m., a cabaret will be held at the Gelston House featuring the musical soundings of Matthew Lee Robinson, who is part of the 2016 Johnny Mercer Writers Colony and will share selections from his recent works, like “Atlantis” and “Happy People.”

Take your vitamin pills because Saturday requires energy and enthusiasm. It begins at 10 a.m. to 12:45 p.m and features a full morning of seminars like how Cirque du Soleil is expanding its borders to cross into Broadway. As Cirque Theatricals, it is embracing a new show “Paramour,” and the process  will be explained by Jayna Neagle, Executive Director, and Elizabeth Shumate, Associate Producer in "Cirque Goes Broadway." Jack Viertel, famed Broadway producer, will discuss his new book “Secret Life of the American Musical” with theater critic Frank Rizzo. If the life of a Broadway stage manager is of interest, look no further than Chris Zaccardi and his stories and insights on his career, especially as it relates to the Broadway revival of “Hello Dolly! with Bette Midler this spring.

Did you see “Come from Away” in 2013 at Goodspeed?  Now come hear theatrical producer and developer Michael Rubinoff reveal its progress to Broadway and how this tale of Gander, Newfoundland’s hospitality when 38 planes of passengers were stranded  on 9/11/2001 is translated to the big stage.  Ever wonder how actors perfect all the dialects and accents they need to make their roles believable, then tune in to dialect coach Gillian Lane-Plescia’s talk on how to do the voices properly.  Before a theater can put on a show, they must acquire the rights and Sean Cercone, senior vice president New Musical Development will discuss how  the property even gets its first performance rights in “Licensing 101.”  The spotlight will be on Ken Billington, a Tony-Award winning lighting designer, when he regales with tales of his more than 100 Broadway shows including “Chicago,” “Amazing Grace” and “The Scottsboro Boys.”

The vibrant history of The Goodspeed will be revealed at 1:30 p.m. with a colorful tour in front of and behind the scenes followed at 3:30 p.m. with a musical preview of all three of the trio of new musicals to be featured at Goodspeed’s little sister theater, The Terris. If you purchased the $139 GOLD Package, you will now  enjoy a Festival Dinner at 5:30 p.m. at either the Gelston House or La Vita.  The SILVER Package at $80 will include an abbreviated selections of choices.  For reservations, call the box office at 860-873-8668 or online at www.goodspeed.org. Single tickets at $25, students $15, are also available.

The second musical offering is “ZM” at 7:30 p.m. with music by Mark Hollmann, book by Greg Kotis and lyrics by both, and features a pair of fast food workers and a sandwich that may have the powers to turn any one who eats it into a zombie. Yum!  This from the clever guys who brought us “Urinetown The Musical.”  A cabaret at the Gelston House at 10 p.m. will broadcast the talents of Mark Sonnenblick, a prize winning librettist.

On Sunday afternoon at 1 p.m., “Row” with book by Daniel Goldstein and music and lyrics by Dawn Landes will set sail, based on the book by Tori Murden McClure, “A Pearl in the Storm.”  This true adventure took place in 1998 when McClure attempted to row across the Atlantic and landed in the eye of Hurricane Danielle by accident, discovering much more than she bargained for finding.  At 3:30 p.m., the festival will conclude with a reception at the Gelston House with the three teams of composers answering questions about their process and how they created their works.

Be sure to clear your front walk and your calendar so you can be an active participant in this inspiring and exciting weekend  of new musical theater that is the Goodspeed Festival.

Monday, December 26, 2016

END NEW YEAR’S EVE WITH A BANG AT CONSIGLIO’S!



As 2016 runs in a race to the finish line and 2017 gets ready to rock and roll, what better way to celebrate the occasion than a trip  to New Haven’s charming Wooster Street where Consiglio’s Restaurant has been serving great Italian food for over seventy-five years, keeping the recipes clearly in the family for four generations now.  This is the place for warmth, hospitality and comfort food and lots of fun and laughs as its year round menu of inviting interactive dinner theater culminates the calendar with “Last Night Last Chance” on Saturday, December 31 from 9:30 p.m. until the champagne toast at midnight.

Once again the genial host of the evening will be Michael Sayers, the master of the mystery and magic, the man who conjures up all the machinations and motives, the writer of the plots and the solver of the dastardly deeds, in the persona of that maestro detective Chester Hadlyme.  Sayers has been penning these  clue laden tales for decades and they are always filled with twists and turns, and they all involve the wits of the guests who come for a delicious dinner and a dessert of crime solving.  This New Year’s Eve is no different.

Be on your toes as a bevy of females come to your dining table to drop subtle and not so subtle hints as to their history and motivations as the mystery unfolds.  Look for Ann Crimmons, Mara Dresner and Elizabeth Harnett to be dressed in their holiday finery, stopping by to wink and whisper about their intentions.  Are they looking for a date or a sip of your Martini?  Your job is to figure out who may be riding on the coroner’s table before the tolling of midnight.  And who is the male counterpoint all the females are seeking?  Has romance gone kaput? Get a scorecard to record your impressions and suspicions.

While you ponder the preponderance of evidence, don’t forget to enjoy the feast of Italian offerings that Consiglio’s is presenting.  Of the five appetizers, you might select the fried calamari bathed in Italian spices, ready to be dipped in a hearty marinara sauce or the crisp and crunchy Caesar salad dressed in parmesan cheese and decorated with homemade croutons.  The ten entrees include such specialities as ravioli stuffed with fresh succulent lobster meat and ricotta and dancing with jumbo shrimp in a light plum tomato sauce or chicken rosa, a short tower of eggplant, chicken cutlet, mozzarella and fresh tomatoes swimming atop linguine in a light creamy plum tomato sauce.

For dessert, flip a coin and decide between a chocolate mousse cake with an Oreo cookie crust, stuffed with yummy chocolate cream or Godiva tiramisu with Godiva liquor soaked lady fingers with a generous filling of Mascarpone and dusted with espresso.  For reservations ($65, beverages, tax and gratuity not included), call Consiglio’s Restaurant, 165 Wooster Street, New Haven at 203-865-4489 or go online for the full details at www.consigliosrestaurant.com.  The evening includes the show, the three-course dinner and the champagne toast at the stroke of twelve, as well as games and contests with prizes if time permits.  Come prepared to participate for maximum enjoyment.

Now is the time to plan for the first Dinner Theater show of 2017, “The 13th of Friday Part 1” on Friday, the 13th, of course, at 7 p.m. when you discover what happens when New Year’s resolutions take a decidedly deadly turn. Michael Sayers is preparing lots of surprises for the new year, expanding the offerings from summer on the patio, including classes in interactive acting.

This is Mystery Party Theater with an emphasis on Party. Everyone needs to end the year with laughter.  As Michael Sayers would seriously recommend: Happy, Happy. Joy. Joy. As the extended Consiglio family would definitely suggest:  Buon Appetito.


Monday, December 19, 2016

SPIRITS ARE HAUNTING HARTFORD STAGE’S “A CHRISTMAS CAROL”





ABOVE SCROOGE AND MARLEY'S GHOST   BELOW SCROOGE AND THE PRIZE TURKEY


Christmas is a holiday for people who are open hearted and generous, joyful and grateful.  But what if you are mean spirited, grumpy and greedy, with a heart as closed up tight as the Pharaoh of Egypt or a miserable miser who never learned how to share.  The epitome of ingratitude and selfishness is surely Ebenezer Scrooge and he is ready and willing to defend his sullen attitude until Monday, December 30 in the Hartford Stage’s glorious and ghostly adaptation by Michael Wilson of Charles Dickens' “A Christmas Carol.”

Bill Raymond for the seventeenth and last year will be donning his night cap and assuming the persona of our favorite bah humbug curmudgeon, old Ebenezer Scrooge, who refuses to acknowledge the Christmas holiday and begrudges his faithful and hard working employee Bob Crochet, the loyal Robert Hannon Davis, even one day off a year with pay.  This year, however, on Christmas Eve, Scrooge’s old partner in business Marley, dead seven years, comes back to warn Scrooge to mend his ways or he is fated to join Marley in a place of deep regrets.

To help and encourage Scrooge to change, Marley (Noble Shropshire) is sending him three spirits, the Spirit of Christmas Past (Johanna Morrison), the Spirit of Christmas Present (Alan Rust) and the Spirit of Christmas Future on Christmas Eve at 1 a.m. and 2 a.m. and 3 a.m.  Scrooge will be given the opportunity to review his past life and see what he had in life and what he lost and what he can still achieve if he is willing to change. 

Along the way, our cranky businessman visits a former employer Mr. Fezziwig  (Charlie Tirrell), his fiancee Belle (Flor De Liz Perez), his nephew Fred (Terrell Donnell Sledge) and the home of his clerk Bob who has a crippled son Tiny Tim (Charlize Calcagno or Hunter Cruz).  At each step of the journey, Scrooge has his eyes opened wider to see what the world has to offer if he only opens his heart to the possibilities. Meanwhile ghosts swirl and fly in a masked ball of supernatural steps.  They are here to scare a little sense into Mr. Scrooge and help him to avoid Marley’s disasterous fate.

By the end of Christmas Eve, Scrooge declares “I am not the man I was.  I will learn the lessons I have been told.  I will dispel the shadows.”  When he sends for the prize turkey, he has clearly come to his senses and begs forgiveness from the town’s people in general and his family in particular.  Artistic Associate Rachel Alderman has added personal touches to this production to make it even more special than usual. Buzz Roddy inhibits the persona ofScrooge at student performances.

For tickets ($25 and up), call the Hartford Stage, 50 Church Street, Hartford at 860-527-5151 or online at www.hartfordstage.org/christmas-carol.  Performances are Tuesday to Sunday at 7:30 p.m. with matinees Saturday and Sunday at 2 p.m.  Donations of food for the holiday drive are encouraged at each performance.

Don’t let the holiday season escape without a visit to that most famous of cantankerous curmudgeons, Ebenezer Scrooge, who transforms himself into a new man thanks to the visitations of a trio of ghosts.

ENTER THE INTRIGUING WORLD ABOUT A BOY AND A DOG



If you’re a fifteen year old boy with autism, a form called Asperger’s Syndrome, one who can count prime numbers into the thousands, has a special relationship with the animal kingdom, looks at the world in a precise and literal manner, your name is Christopher John Francis Boone and you’re about to embark on an unusual journey.  Your favorite detective would be that British literary maven Sherlock Holmes, and when you discover Wellington, a neighbor’s dog, has been killed, you dedicate yourself to finding his murderer.

Welcome to “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time,” a compelling book by Mark Haddon that has now been adapted to the stage and will trot into the Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts from Tuesday, December 27 to Sunday, January 1.  The play has been penned by Simon Stephens and is the winner of five 2015 Tony Awards.  The production is being presented by the National Theatre as part of its first North American tour.

Christopher has an exceptional mind but has trouble dealing with humans and with everyday life.  When he finds himself accused of hurting Wellington, he sets out, against extraordinary odds, to find the real culprit.  To do this, he must venture far from the safety and comfort of his familiar world to what is the scary and dangerous unknown.  What he uncovers will change his life forever and alter his view of himself and of the universe.

Adam Langdon stars as the unusual teen who confronts personal demons and learns truths that are especially difficult to reconcile and accept.  Marianne Elliott directs this startling vision into Christopher’s head as a sensory explosion, one that expands and contracts as he faces the city of London in its scary entirety, all in an attempt to find reality.

Fly with Christopher as he explores the unknown, traveling on a confusing grid of noisy and light drenched pathways, that are sure to startle and amaze, frighten and disturb, on trains and subways to the unknown.

For tickets ($25.50-94.50), call the Bushnell, 166 Capitol Avenue, Hartford at 860-987-5900 or online at www.bushnell.org.  Performances are Tuesday to Thursday at 7:30 p.m., Friday at 8 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday at 1 p.m. and 6:30 p.m.

With mathematical insight, join Christopher’s search as he comes of age and learns how to navigate the previously foreign universe.

Sunday, December 18, 2016

HATS OFF TO MRS. SCROOGE AT SEVEN ANGELS


Typically Ebenezer Scrooge is a miserly and greedy curmudgeon who wishes Christmas and good will to mankind a hearty "bah, humbug."  What, however, might happen if the mean spirited character Scrooge were morphed into a female version? For the intriguing and comic answer, look no further than Seven Angels Theatre in Waterbury where its Stage Seven Community Players are taking just that premise and running with it all the way to Thursday, December 22 for your entertainment pleasure.

Come enter the world of Earlene Babcock, comically brought to life by the vivacious and fun loving Michelle Gotay in the original work "The Christmas Carol at Earlene's Diner," written by Artistic Director Semina DeLaurentis  as a continuing saga at the famous Pottsville diner and  motel that always seems to be on the verge of bankruptcy.

Earlene wasn't supposed to play Scrooge but the actor in question forgot that the show must go on and is nowhere to be found.  The gungho Earlene is tapped to save the day by her creative and hard working stage managing assistant Kelsey, played by an energetic Carey Cannata. Just like in the Dickens original, Scrooge now known as Ebbie, is approached by her long dead partner in business Jacob Marley (John Fabiani) who arrives on Christmas Eve to warn that Ebbie is going to suffer the same fate as he, for all his greediness on earth.

To that end, Ebbie is visited by three ghosts, a hip swirling Michael Sacco from the past, a jolly bearded man from the present (Timothy Cleary) and a vision from the future who resembles a Star Wars character (Matthew Conroy).  Ebbie learns  what her lack of regard for mankind has cost her as she sees how she has mistreated her clerk Bob Cratchit and his ailing Tiny Tina (Zoe Kindt) and her nephew Fred (Alexander Niatopsky).  Along the way a medley of lovely Christmas tunes are sung by this talented community cast, with spirit and glee, almost thirty in all.  

A slightly tipsy Billy Bob (William Wilson) provides a good recipe for a liquid fruit cake, Thomas Chute adds an Irish flavor and later a solemn song, Earlene delivers a hearty "12 Steps of Christmas" and we even get a sing along. All in all, this enthusiastic troupe is having a great time on stage and taking the audience along for the sleigh ride, thanks to  director Semina DeLaurentis.

For tickets ($39, 18 and under $20, Family 4 packs $99 for 2 adults and 2 children), call Seven Angels Theatre, 1 Plank Road, Hamilton Park, Waterbury, at 203-757-4676 or online at www.SevenAngelsTheatre.org.  Performances are Tuesday to Thursday at 7:30 p.m. 

Now is the time to make your reservations for Stand Up, Count Down New Year's Eve Comedy Night on Saturday, December 31 at 6:30 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. to usher in the New Year with hilarity, courtesy of New York comedians John Ivarone, Liz Barrett, Ellen Karis and Frankie Pace.  Also mark your calendar for the weekends of January 13-15 and 20-22 when Showstoppers! Broadway comes to Seven Angels led by master maestro Tom Chute from WATR radio.  The January 14 show features an added bonus of an opening night party with great food.

Watch Earlene save the day, save the diner and the motel and create a lot of laughter in the process, guaranteeing a happy holiday of good wishes along the way.