Saturday, April 22, 2017

"SHREK” A LESSON IN LOVE AND FRIENDSHIP AT UCONN



DONKEY (SCOTT REDMOND) AND SHREK (WILL MANN)
PHOTO BY GERRY GOODSTEIN

PRINCESS FIONA AND FRIENDS      PHOTO BY GERRY GOODSTEIN

Living in a swamp, all on your own, might not be the ideal location for many people, but for one green hued ogre named Shrek it was perfection.  Ever since he was cast out from his family at the tender age of only seven, he took up residence in what some might term murky and muddy and altogether yucky.  That wonderful address stopped being so fabulous when, suddenly, neighbors started arriving, uninvited and unwanted.  It seems a dictator going by the name of Lord Farquaad, who ruled the town of Duloc, evicted all the fairy tale citizens and sent them with all their luggage, baggage and trunks to live in the swamp with Shrek. 

 Shrek is now forced to find room in his happy home for a lot of fhomeless misfits, namely Pinocchio, the three Little Pigs and the Big Bad Wolf, not to mention the Three Bears, the Ugly Duckling, Humpty Dumpty and the Gingerbread Man, to name drop just a few. To get control of his own home territory again, Shrek, an amazing Will Mann, must venture out of his comfort zone, his personal swamp, and confront the wicked Lord, villainy at its best in  Mark Boyett, to reclaim the deed to his land. On his adventures, Shrek is accompanied by a wise-cracking new friend named Donkey, a loyal Scott Redmond, who can be helpful at times, and also a huge hindrance, an annoying BFF if there ever was one.  Shrek, although an unlikely hero, bravely fights a ferocious dragon and rescues a feisty fearless princess named Fiona, a vivacious Desi Oakley, in the bargain.

 To become acquainted with Shrek and his pals, come to the Connecticut Repertory’s outstanding production of “Shrek the Musical” at the Jorgensen Theatre until Sunday, April 30.  This fantastic family musical with book and lyrics by David Lindsay-Abaire and music by Jeanine Tesori is great entertainment, with delightful sets by Tim Brown and Morgan Dawn Golightly, choreography by Katie Johannigman, costumes by Corey Brittain and Heather Lesieur and puppetry by Zach Broome. 

The use of puppets, a unique feature at UCONN, adds a special element of fun to an already great show, with Matthew Sorensen mastering Pinocchio and the puppeteers creating the  Dragon and the 3 Blind Mice to perfection. The production is such a wonderful adventure, where a green ogre who loves smelly things and his oozy, gooey swamp saves a princess from a dragon and defeats the villain to discover love and true friendship, all in one afternoon or evening.

Margarett Perry directs this great show that is stuffed with delightful songs led by musical director John Pike.  For tickets ($7 to 36), call the Jorgensen at 860-486-2113 or online at www.crt.uconn.edu. The show is on the campus of the University of Connecticut in Storrs. Performances are 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.
 The message to the audience is “let your freak flag wave.”  It’s okay to be different and memorable, even though others may try to belittle us, it’s our differences that make us strong.  As Kermit  the Frog says, “It’s not easy being green” but that doesn’t mean it’s not great too.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

NOSTALGIA REIGNS AS “FOLLIES” PARADES ON WARNER STAGE




Nostalgia reigns supreme when a bevy of chorus girls slip into their costumes and show business finery for one last romp of former glory. The stage of their greatest triumphs, the Weismann Theatre, is about to be closed forever, and these ladies want to come together to celebrate what once was.  Every year between World Wars I and II, they flamboyantly made their mark tredding the boards.  Now, with only a skeleton of past successes, mere planks and scaffolding, they have returned to the Weismann to conjure up memories and bid a reluctant farewell to the past.

Come to the Warner Theatre in Torrington for “Follies” by Stephen Sondheim for music and lyrics and James Goldman for book from Saturday, May 6 to Sunday, May 14, weekends, presented by the Warner Stage Company.

On one level, “Follies” is a simple and heartbreaking attempt to recapture the past and make it live again.  On another level, it’s a metaphor for a nation’s loss of innocence after the assassination of President Kennedy when our rose colored glasses were shattered without warning. It’s 1971 and theatrical impresario Dimitri Weismann (James Wood) is having a reunion of ex-showgirls as a final farewell to end the era.  Tunes like “Losing My Mind,” “I’m Still Here,” “Too Many Mornings,” “Could I Leave You?,” and “Broadway Baby” fill the rafters of this now crumbling edifice. The memories are not all sweet ones as two couples Buddy and Sally Durant Plummer and Benjamin and Phyllis Rogers Stone can attest.  When they all meet again, old feelings are rekindled and current entanglements are revealed.

At poignant points in the show, the younger versions of the showgirls appear as ghosts of their former selves. This show was inspired by the true account of former Ziegfeld showgirls gathering for a reunion.  Michael Berkeley directs this nostalgic look back in time, with Willard C. Minton as musical director.

The cast of Follies also includes Juliette Koch, Cole Sutton, Eric Lindblom, Becky Sawicki, Kelsey Morris, Amber Cameron,  Dave Cadwell, Katie Kat, Shannon Leigh Sullivan, Payton Turpin, Amy LeBlanc, Christopher Gilbert, Suzanne Powers, Wendy Aronson Traub Bill Molnar, Darcy Boynton, Eve Van Syckle, Hope Murphy, Elyse Jasensky, Susan Mieras, and Josh Shakeshaft.

For tickets ($19-27),call Warner Theatre, 68 Main Street, Torrington at  860-489-7180  or online at www.warnertheatre.org.
Performances are Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m.

Come see what has been called the greatest musical of all time and follow the steps and stories of the past and the present to uncover the truth.

FLOWERS AND FUNDRAISING IN BLOOM




     "FLORALITY" BY GEORGE HART, WELL KNOWN MATHEMATICIAN AND ARTIST FROM LONG ISLAND

 Imagine a world without daffodils, daisies or day lilies, a landscape bereft of tulips, orchids, sunflowers or roses.  An earth without the beauty and color and fragrance of flowers is unacceptable.  This year, for the 23rd time, the Eli Whitney Museum's unique tribute to the original Renaissance Man Leonardo da Vinci, the annual Leonardo Challenge fundraiser will pay tribute to the blossoms and buds of the flowering world.

This technicolor world, "Leonardo in Bloom," will take place Thursday, April 27 from 5:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. at the museum, 915 Whitney Avenue, Hamden.  This innovative event will be dedicated to raising scholarships for children to attend the museum's stimulating activities throughout the year on site.

Leonardo da Vinci is known for his imaginative inventions as well as his skills in the world of mathematics, architecture, music, anatomy, science, engineering and writing.  In addition, his talents as a painter were also a passion and he used his skills wisely, from drawing items as concrete as a helicopter and as ephermal as a hyacinth. 

From the time Leonardo was a teenager of fourteen, he pursued his love of the arts as an apprentice to Vercocchio, one of the most successful artists of the time.  Legend has it that the student was so far superior to his teacher that Vercocchio retired his brushes and never painted again.  The young man's powers in botany led him to his famed flower studies that include the lily, narcissus, columbine, carnation and Star of Bethlehem.  

Flowers exude a language of their own and the Eli Whitney Museum's Leonardo Challenge is stirring artists across the country to contribute a creation of their own, in a painting, a mobile, clothing design, jewelry, game, piece of furniture, the possibilities are endless.

According to the museum's associate director Sally Hill, who is also the principal designer of the event, "No matter how many years we've been doing this, we are always blown away by the creativity of each year's entries. This year has not disappointed.”  Once again, Hill will contribute an innovative lamp to the auction items. 
On Thursday, April 27, the artist's contributions will be on display in a silent auction, ready for bidding.  As participants bid, they will listen to the medieval music of Billy Fischer and Mickie Koth, strollers, and enjoy the culinary offerings of such food delights as Small Kitchen, Big Taste’s organic fare, flowered salads made by Two Guys from Woodbridge,  Doug Coffin’s Big Green Truck Pizza, Whole G’s artisan bakers, cheeses from Fromagerie Caseus  and the liquid libations from  Koffee Kocktails and Black Hog Brewery as well as Chocolate Spectacular desserts from Tariq and Asma Farid of Edible Arrangements.      .

For tickets ($75, with supporters at $250 violet, $500 lily, $1250 aster and $2500 orchid), go to https://squareup.com/store/eli-whitney-museum-inc or https://www.eliwhitney.org/7/exhibitions/leonardo-bloom.

Come enjoy the new garden that will be planted in all its artistic finery  at this year's Leonardo Challenge and plan to pluck an offering to take home, all in a worthy cause of educating our youth in thought provoking experiences and experiments of invention and design.



--

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

“STARS IN CONCERT” RETURNING TO DOWNTOWN CABARET



When you might ask did Las Vegas move miles closer to Bridgeport’s Downtown cabaret Theatre?  The answer is simple.  When Bernhard Kurz, master impresario, started bringing his sparkling stable of stars known as “Stars in Concert” to Connecticut.  With an East Coast premiere in a trio of sold out shows on April 7 and 8, “Stars in Concert” lit up the sky with stellar performances by legendary singers who are look and sound alike images of the genuine article.

Where can you go and hope to hear celebrity impersonators of such greats as Elvis and Elton John, 
the Beatles or Bette Midler, Madonna or Michael Jackson, Whitney Houston or Robbie Williams, Abba or Adele, Buddy Holly or the Blues Brothers, and many more.  Tremendous hits in Germany where Kurz was born and being hailed as one of the longest-running and most successful productions in Germany’s history, “Stars in Concert” was received to such acclaim at Bridgeport’s Downtown Cabaret Theatre that plans are already underway for a number of return engagements in the fall, possibly in September or November, or both.  The showstoppers may be different but the quality will be top notch on stage.

As tribute shows go, “Stars in Concert” pays a respectful homage to the top performers of yesterday and today with what has been described as the “vision of a perfect deception.”  The recent show in Bridgeport featured the startling likes of Tina Turner, Bette Midler, Michael Jackson, Whitney Houston and Elvis, hand selected from a bevy of forty perfect impersonators whom Kurz rotates.

When Kurz began his unique parade of stars in 1997, the prediction was for a four month run.  His dazzling triumph illustrates that his show appeals to all ages and the high caliber of his performers guarantees that it will continue to enjoy a spectacular success.  Who knows who will take center stage next time around? Little Richard, Cher or Louis Armstrong? Be prepared to be amazed and delighted.  Watch the Downtown Cabaret Theatre, 263 Golden Hill Street, Bridgeport for an announcement on www.mycabaret.com  or call 203-576-1636.  Remember this is cabaret at its best so bring along food and drinks to share at your table.

With a screen full of exciting videos, watch the celebrity hand-picked impersonators belt out their best, so well and so wonderfully you may not know the polished performer from the genuine article.

Monday, April 17, 2017

SCHEDULE A VISIT OR THREE TO THE KATE









The Katharine Hepburn Cultural Arts Center is busy as a bee hive creating a honey of a harvest of wonderful entertainment offerings, and the ten days at the end of April are no exception.  Any day or night of the time look for comedy, movies, song fests, opera and theater presentations that are sure to please.

Calling all Ella Fitzgerald fans on Thursday, April 20 at 7:30 p.m. when masterful vocalist-musician Jane Monheit takes center stage.  With her new album “The Songbook Sessions:  Ella Fitzgerald” just released, Monheit will be flying high with the sultry sounds that make her tribute to the queen of jazz so special. For tickets ($48), call the Kate at 877-503-1286 or online at www.katharinehepburntheater.org.

Get ready to have your socks blown off as the son of that Rock ’n’ Roll Hall of Famer, Bill Haley Jr and the Comets, revs up the fever pitch of energy and fervor on Friday, April 21 at 8 p.m.  The rafters of the Kate will vibrate with all the great sounds that mark this musical era we love so much.  Tickets are $45-48.

Opera lovers unite as the opera Eugene Onegin is presented from the Met in HD, on Saturday, April 22 at 12:55 p.m. ($28) and again at 12:55 p.m. on Tuesday, April 25 ($25).  Tchaikovsky’s music and Pushkin’s work will explore this tale of selfishness, regrets, rejected love and fatal duels.

Saturday, April 22 at 8 p.m. will welcome the lively and entertaining combo of Matt Nakoa and Seth Glier, both known nationally and internationally as great singer-song writers.  As true troubadours, they will have you breathless and wanting more.  Tickets are $18-25.

Ready for a heart warming family musical, settle in on Sunday, April 23 at 1 p.m. for the live ArtsPower’s presentation of the classic” Anne of Green Gables,” as orphan Anne searches for the home she always wanted and will have to work hard to be accepted in and loved.  Tickets are $12-20.  Her spirit and spunk will win the day...and your heart.

For a little comedy up your Shakespearian sleeve, come see the film “Rosencrantz and Gildenstern” starring Daniel Radcliffe on Thursday, April 27.  This Tom Stoppard play weaves comedy and tragedy with two of the Bard’s minor minions.  Tickets are $20.

Ready for smooth sounds with roots strictly home grown Americana, come Friday, April 28 at 8 p.m. to hear the perennial blues favorite Johnny Nicholas and his legendary tunes.  Tickets are $25-28.

The merry month of April ends in a lovely place of blooms and buds as the film “The Artist’s Garden: American Impressionism” is presented at 1 p.m. on both Saturday, April 29 and Sunday, April 30.  The Florence Griswold Museum in Old Lyme is featured as it focuses on American artists like Mary Cassatt.  Tickets are $15.  Call 877-503-1286 or go online at www.katharinehepburntheater.org.  The Kate is located at 300 Main Street, Old Saybrook.

For a wide variety of selections, look to the Katharine Hepburn Cultural Arts Center to fill your entertainment calendar.  The result is sure to be honey-dipped pleasures.

MUSICAL PROOF THAT "LIFE COULD BE A DREAM"










KAITE CORDA AND JON ESCOBAR AS LOIS AND SKIP

Come grab a bean bag chair and cozy up in Denny's basement rec room for a musical trip down memory lane, especially if the songs of the 1950's and 1960's are YOUR favorite tunes. Come meet two boys who want to sing, as they start off as a duet, enlarge into a trio and finally make their mark as a quartet. They began  as the Crooning Crabcakes at Springfield High School and now they have set their goals, in their new iteration as Denny and the Dreamers, to win the Big Whooper Radio's Lifetime Talent Search Contest.

Think a giant jukebox that is filled to the brim with great tunes of yesteryear exploding on the stage of the Connecticut Cabaret Theatre in Berlin weekends until Saturday, May 6 and there is no need to pump in quarters.  Will Danny and his pals make it to the big time?  To find out you have to come to Roger Bean's musical show "Life Could Be a Dream" and listen for yourself.

Denny, an ambitious Jayson Beaulieu, does not want to get a job, a refrain his mother keeps echoing.  He feels strongly that winning this rock and roll talent contest will launch his career.  To help him on his musical mission, he has enlisted his pal Eugene, a less than confident but eager to learn  Rick Bennett and his religiously zealous friend Wally, a sunny Jordan T. Duvall. The first big stumbling block they encounter is the need for a $50 entry fee.  Where will it come from?  Wally nominates Big Earl, owner of Big Stuff Auto, a man he knows from church, to be their sponsor.

When Big Earl sends his head mechanic Skip, an older but wiser and magnetizing Jon Escobar, to check out the group, Earl's daughter Lois, a charmer with a heavenly voice named Kaite Corda, tags along to offer coaching advice.  Her appearance sends Eugene, who had been crushed by her rejection in fifth grade, into a tizzy and causes all the males in attendance to experience testosterone tail spins of their own.

Soon they realize that Lois only has eyes for Skip and the feeling is mutual, but Skip knows his job is on the line and Big Earl is not going to give them his blessing.  Everything is soon in jeopardy when Skip is fired and the group no longer has its trusty leader.

A parade of super hits are serenaded from "Fools Fall in Love," "Earth Angel," "Sunday Kind of Love," "Unchained Melody," "The Glory of Love" to "Duke of Earl," each one better than the one before, and all great listening.  Kris McMurray directs this on-target cast in this fun and groovy journey back in time with style and grace.

For tickets ($30), call CT Cabaret, 31-33 Webster Square Road, Berlin at 860-829-1248 or online at www.ctcabaret.com.  Performances are  Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m., with doors opening at 7:15 p.m.
Don't forget to bring goodies to share at your table or plan to buy them at the concession stand on site.

Don't be a "Runaround Sue" or "The Wanderer" and take a chance on missing this fun doo-wop, rama lama ding dong, sh-boom of a show. Singing along is encouraged.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

THE MUSICAL TELLING OF ONE SOLDIER’S STORY: " LETTER FROM ITALY, 1944"


NANCY FITZ-HUGH MENEELY                        

                       
                                 








           SARAH MENEELY-KYDER


 Imagine you are one of two young daughters whose father 
 goes off to war and comes home a man neither one of you recognizes.  He has changed dramatically and no matter how hard the sisters try they cannot reach into his heart and soul to find the daddy he once was.  As a medic, he fought to save lives as a member of the 10th Mountain Division during World War II and he traveled, on skis, in the treacherous hills during winter to save soldiers' lives.

This is the story of two sisters, Nancy Fitz-Hugh Meneely, a poet from Guilford and Sarah Meneely-Kyder, a composer from Lyme, whose father Dr. John K. Meneely, Jr.  suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).  Witnessing so much wartime tragedy, including losing his best friend one week before the Armistice was declared, left him with dark shadows that he could not erase.

 Years after he committed suicide, his daughters found a packet of the letters he sent home and began to understand the traumas that their father endured and could not escape.  They have woven them into a stirring tribute to him that will be given a spectacular production at the Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts on Thursday, May 4 at 7:30 p.m.

Call it " a soldier's story told in music," “ a dramatic oratorio," "a moving opera" or "two sisters' loving tribute to their father," "Letter from Italy, 1944" tells the true tale of one man's experiences during wartime.  It is at the same time a personal and private story and also universal in its scope.

The trauma of wartime doesn't end when peace is finally achieved and guns are laid down and abandoned.  It lingers and invades the soul  for close to eternity for some. Dr. Meneely's daughters, one a poet and one a composer, have lovingly dedicated years of their lives to sharing their father's story, using his letters home from war as the foundation.  They could be any soldier's story.

“Letter from Italy 1944” was first performed in Middletown in 2013 and will now be expanded to include the Hartford Chorale in addition to the original GM Chorale(Greater Middletown Chorale), again under the leadership of Artistic Director Joseph D'Eugenio, and will be accompanied by  the Hartford Symphony Orchestra.  Alan Mann, Artistic Director of Opera theater of Connecticut, will direct and design the production that will be enhanced by video projections. 

Seeing "Letter from Italy, 1944" is a way to pay tribute to all of America's military and also their loving, supportive families. Suicides by soldiers and the incidence of alcohol and substance abuse as well as emotional instability and homelessness underscore the need for greater understanding and the pressing responsibility  to address the complex problems faced by returning veterans.

For Nancy, the poet daughter, the experience of putting together both the book and the oratorio has "broadened my awareness of the workings and efforts of war, past and  present, and deepened my appreciation of how hard it can be to come home from the battlefield.  I understand now that my father fought two wars, the one he waged overseas and the one he fought against its aftermath.  I know now that he was heartbreakingly heroic not only in his first war but also in the second.  I've always loved him, of course, but what I feel for him now is something even deeper, love mixed with sympathy, admiration, understanding - and gratitude beyond words.

Her book of poetry "Letter from Italy, 1944" (Publisher, Antrim House) chronicles in lyrical and emotional verse, with photos and explanations, her father's journey through the battlefields of war and the equally difficult landscapes at home.  She writes with bittersweet insight into what he faced.  Her sister Sarah has taken many of these missives and set them to music enhancing their poignancy.  From the first song, a newly born John hears his father singing "Oh, The Sweetie Man," to songs of battle like "Riva Ridge" where he is "fight(ing) the clutch of memory and fear," to "Boots" where he relives the loss of best friend Billy, to the final despair that takes him as a "solitary man who has loved the best he can" into "In the End He Can Do No More."

For Sarah, the composer, "It has been an amazing challenge to write 'Letter from Italy, 1944,' an oratorio that engages large chorus, five professional soloists and orchestra.  Rarely have I had such an opportunity. I've learned so much musically in the process of the writing.  I've also learned so much about my father through the writing, and I have a much deeper understanding of him and the extreme duress that he must have experienced both during and after the war prior to his death.  I feel him alive in me.

"I feel greatly honored to have been commissioned by the Greater Middletown Chorale to write lyrics for 'Letter from Italy, 1944' as Composer-in-Residence.  I consider this chorus the equal of all the noted professional choruses in Connecticut.  I applaud the chorale for its willingness to take chances, delving into repertoire that has rarely or never been heard!  Maestro Joseph D'Eugenio is able to balance high expectations with warmth and charisma, and, as a result, has brought the group to a high level of musicianship, given its stunning and consistent readiness to fulfill all that is asked.

"At the heart of this group is a warmth and breadth of spirit, rare and contagious, by which I feel embraced in all my interactions and undertakings.  I thank all of you deeply for your unstinting support.  This is indeed a cherishing.” Go to www.bushnell.org for tickets ($25-60).

Immerse yourself in the conflicted life of one soldier, Dr John Meneely, Jr., and learn the costs of war on and off the battlefield in this loving tribute by two daughters for their father in the newest iteration of "Letter from Italy, 1944."