Wednesday, June 15, 2016

MTC ENTERTAINS AN EVENING OF NEW VOICES



Music Theatre of Connecticut welcomes your participation in an evening of musical joy.  These new voices  will share scenes and songs from new musicals that are getting unwrapped for your listening pleasure.  

For one night only - Monday, June 20 at 7:30 p.m. - the intimate space at MTC will let the audience enjoy excerpts from a quartet of offerings:  LOVE ON ICE, a cryogenic love music by Jeffrey Lodin and book and lyrics by Bill Nabel and William Squier, ONEIDA with music
by Lizzie Hagstedt and book and lyrics by Beth Blatt, ODETTE/ODILE with music by Randy Klein and book and lyrics by Joan Ross Sorkin and TRIGGER with music by Byron Au Yong and libretto by Aaron Jafferis.

Your will earn bragging rights at the water cooler when you are the first to hear these brand new offerings.  The creative process will be an open book for you to enjoy.  Your opinion would be welcome.  This Page to Stage fundraising event is only $20.  Call MTC, 509 Westport Avenue, route 1, in Norwalk, behind  Nine West, and reservations can be made by calling 203-454-3883 or online at
www.musictheatreofct.com.

Meet the composers and their new musicals and be there at the beginning of the creative process.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

CT CRITICS CIRCLE CELEBRATES BEST OF STATE THEATER


Move over, Tony Awards, the CT Critics Circle celebrated its own version of Broadway with its 26th Annual Awards show on Monday, June 13 at Hartford Stage, co-sponsored with Hartford TheaterWorks.  With the talented crooner Tina Fabrique known especially for her command of the role as Ella Fitzgerald, served as mistress of ceremonies.  The party honored the best in our state in the past season with recognition in the areas of acting, direction, costumes, choreography, sound, lighting, set design, ensemble, debut and, new this year, projections.

Two world premieres -- Hartford Stage's Broadway-bound “Anastasia,” about a lost princess who searches for family, and Yale Repertory Theatre's "Indecent,” about a real play and its journey around the world, which is currently playing in New York -- received top honors as outstanding musical and play. 

Honors included Outstanding director of a play: Rebecca Taichman for “Indecent," Outstanding director of a musical: Darko Tresnjak for “Anastasia," Outstanding actor in a play: Rajesh Bose for "Disgraced" at Long Wharf Theatre, Outstanding actor in a musical: Bobby Steggert for "My Paris" at Long Wharf Theatre, Outstanding actress in a play: Erika Rolfsrud for "Good People" at Hartford's TheaterWorks, Outstanding actress in a musical: Christy Altomare for “Anastasia," Outstanding choreography: Peggy Hickey for “Anastasia," Outstanding ensemble: "Indecent” at Yale Repertory Theatre,
Outstanding featured actor in a play: Charles Janasz for "Romeo and Juliet" at Hartford Stage," Outstanding featured actress in a play: Birgit Huppuch for "The Moors" at Yale Repertory Theatre, Outstanding featured actor in a musical: Teren Carter for "Memphis" at Ivoryton Playhouse, Outstanding featured actress in a musical: Mara Davi for "My Paris,” and Outstanding debut: Mohit Gautman for “Disgraced” at Long Wharf Theatre. 

Others awarded that night included Outsanding set design: Alexander Dodge for "Rear Window" at Hartford Stage,. Outstanding costume design: (a tie) for Linda Cho for "Anastasia" and Paul Tazewell for “My Paris” at Long Wharf Theatre, Outstanding lighting design: Donald Holder for “Anastasia," Outstanding sound design: Darron L. West for "Body of an American" for Hartford Stage, Outstanding projection design: Aaron Rhyne for "Anastasia" at Hartford Stage and  special awards were presented to Lisa Gutkin and Aaron Halva, co-composers and co-music directors who created the Klezmer music for Yale Rep's world premiere of "Indecent." 

Anne Keefe, stage manager of New Haven's Long Wharf Theatre and Broadway for more than 25 years and part of the leadership team that saved and transformed Westport Country Playhouse, received the Connecticut Critics Circle's Tom Killen Award for lifetime achievement in the theater. Longtime colleague Allison Harris presented the award and read congratulations from former Long Wharf Theatre artistic director Arvin Brown and actor John Lithgow. 

Among the award presenters were Gov. Dannel F. Malloy and Cathy Malloy, CEO of the Greater Hartford Arts Council, O'Neill Theater Center founder George White, animal trainer Bill Berloni and Tony Award nominee Tony Sheldon who is currently starring at The Terris Theatre in Chester in “The Roar of the Greasepaint, The Smell of the Crowd." 

Tina Fabrique sang several numbers, with her famous “scatting” prominently displayed  and also performing was David Pittsinger, with his  deep resonating tenor voice, offering a song from the role he was nominated for,  "South Pacific" at Ivoryton Playhouse. 

The Connecticut Critics Circle is comprised of theater critics and writers in the state's print, radio and on-line media. Information: www.ctcritics.org. The celebration clearly demonstrated that Connecticut theater may be close to Broadway but it is certainly not in its shadow.

Monday, June 13, 2016

LOCAL STORE OPENS ITS DOORS TO LOVE



                                     SOL HITZIG, LUCIE ARNEZ AND JOYCE SALTMAN         

 Joyce Saltman likes to brag that she is world famous…in Connecticut. As a Special Education teacher for decades, many of them at Southern CT State University, and a Laughter Guru and lecturer all over the country, Joyce is a unique individual.  When she gives her talks on Health and Laughter, Sex and Health and Laughter and Just Plain Laughter, the response is overwhelmingly positive.  She donates her lecture fees to her favorite charities, like Paul Newman’s Hole in the Wall Camp where sick children enjoy a week of activities at no cost, or Hadassah, her local synagogue Hebrew Congregation of Woodmont that is celebrating its 90th anniversary or PAP Corps, a cancer research facility in Florida. 

Not being ordinary by any means, when Joyce lost her beloved husband of 24 years, Kopi Saltman, a rabbi, she looked to find another  soul mate, a man who met her long list of 20 requirements, like having a sense of humor, being bright, financially independent, social and caring, to name a few.  After searching for three years, Joyce was fortunate enough to met Sol Hitzig, a man who embodied all her sought for qualities and even more.  He approached her after one of her talks on Laughter one Sunday morning in Del Ray Beach, Florida where Joyce spends half her year. She had mentioned Norman Cousins in her talk and how laughter had helped his recovery from serious illness, when his doctor had urged him to check out of the hospital and go to a hotel and view comedy shows on television. That doctor was Sol’s uncle. 

The enterprising Sol used that information as his opening gambit to ask Joyce out on a date.  They went to Snappers, a fish restaurant, and talked until closing time.  For forty years, Sol was a dedicated stock broker, many of those years with Morgan Stanley. After being married to his lovely Blossom for 51 years, Sol quickly recognized a “good investment” when  he meet Joyce.

Now the couple are celebrating five years of married bliss and since they are far from the every day variety, their party had to be unusual, different and grand. As  the happy couple of the evening explained, "Sol and I love celebrations with friends! For our first anniversary in 2012, we threw a gala party at a Chinese buffet in Florida for our 90th Wedding anniversary, since Sol had been married for 51 years, I had been married for a total of 38, and together we had been married for one year, thus equaling 90 years of marriage! We had over 100 friends come for the luncheon, as our guests. Buffets are good, as they allow everyone to choose what they like to eat! Why IKEA? Aside from the fact that IKEA is Sol's favorite store, Sol's response was right on the mark.- We know that IKEA can almost always provide a solution to a problem. This party is a way for celebrating our friends in a unique venue!” 

Why IKEA, indeed? If you need a desk or a dustpan, a bed or a bar stool, towels or toys, the ideal place to shop is IKEA in New Haven. The vast furniture chain began with an entrepreneurial lad, Ingvar Kamprad, who at the enterprising age of five began selling matches to neighbors after purchasing them in bulk in Stockholm.  He soon expanded his line of products to include greeting cards, flower seeds, ball point pens and Christmas tree decorations.That was almost a century ago and now his legacy, the furniture maven known for putting- it -together- yourself, has morphed to over forty countries around the globe.  Priding itself as an economical and modern solution to your bedroom and bathroom, kitchen and closet, living room and living space needs, IKEA is Sweden’s answer to contemporary furnishings. Now IKEA is creating a new venture in New Haven at 450 Sargent Drive when it hosts its first anniversary party to celebrate the fifth anniversary of Joyce Saltman and Sol Hitzig from Milford. 

Food manager Alejandro Pineiro is planning a Swedish smorgasbord for the gala occasion in IKEA's recently renovated facility, one famous for its Swedish meatballs with sweet and tangy lingonberry sauce.  In addition to this national favorite, there will be smoked salmon platters, chicken and vegetarian meatballs, salmon filet with hollandaise sauce, mashed potatoes and steamed vegetables, salad, rolls, cheese and fruit, a toast with sparkling cider, Swedish coffee and a host of tempting desserts. As Pineiro explained, “When I heard of Joyce and Sol’s intentions at first I felt honored and thankful for them thinking about IKEA to celebrate such an event. The idea and intention of providing the venue and our Swedish dishes looked like an opportunity and a great thing to do (why not?)"

According to Jeff Zeitlin, Customer Relations Manager, he was quick to add his thoughts.  “My relationship with Joyce and Sol goes back many years and involves many wonderful family events so it was my pleasure to make this innovative party be part of IKEA’s new celebratory venture.  We look forward to our first anniversary party for two such special people, the first in our twelve year history in New Haven.” Not to be left out, Antonio Banaga, the Restaurant Commercial manager added his good thoughts, "I am so excited to be a part of this Wedding Anniversary Celebration. We strive to bring a smile to everyone and have our products be a part of lives. What better way to do this than to help celebrate their special occasion at IKEA. It’s a first for IKEA New Haven and seeing the joy we brought to the celebrants, this will definitely not be the last." 
 Clearly the boy who started it all, Ingvar Kamprad, would be proud. His “matches” have now  translated into "match making."

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

OPEN YOUR GIFT: IT EXPIRES IN 16 DAYS



           
The city of New Haven has a giant present for the local community that is set to open from Friday, June 10 to Saturday, June 25.  The gift is the 21st Annual International Festival of Arts and Ideas and it is one whooper of a surprise package. Whether you’re into dance, or music, theater or lectures, bike rides or tours, you can select from a plethora of unique offerings - from all over the world, and 85% of them are free for the plucking.

With two world premieres and 8 U.S. premieres, you’re invited in one instance to take a taste of Scotland’s National Theatre with “Our Ladies of Perpetual Succor” at Yale Repertory Theatre, 1120 Chapel Street, New Haven.  Join a half dozen spirited school girls as they troop off to Edinburgh for a singing competition and receive much more than they bargained for in terms of challenge, lust, love, pregnancy and even death.

Care to hear one of two open rehearsal readings of a brand new musical, courtesy of the Yale Institute for Musical Theater.  Pick a city to visit - either Blessing, Alabama where the good folks allow a storm to blow questions into their lives or Chicago at the World’s Columbian Exposition where mysterious missing girls disturb the scientific advances of 1893.

The New Haven Green will be abuzz with excitement as wildly popular groups like George Clinton and Parliament Funkadelic, Lila Downs, M.A. K.U Soundsystem, Red Baraat and Cirque Mechanics (with the New Haven Symphony Orchestra) come to call on Saturday nights.  Have fun with Air Play, get immersed with the dance movements of Wendy Whelan, Brian Brooks and Brooklyn Rider, as a clash of classical and contemporary, get all jazzed up with Off the Charts or marvel at the inticate detail of the theatrical event, “The Bookbinder.”

Want your mind stimulated, then sit in for a talk about displaced Americans and their stories, youth activism and social change, music and intellectual property in the digital age or delve into when houses are not homes, to name a few. Take a bike or walking tour to the Eli Whitney Museum, Wooster Square, the CT Botanical Society or Pardee Rose Garden to sprinkle a few ideas, take a tasting tour of the Thimble Island Brewing Company or stroll and nibble your way along Grand Avenue or indulge in the science of chocolate at Gateway Community College.  The possibilities are endless.  Reservations may be required so check ahead.

For kids and the family, there are pop-up festivals, yoga classes, arts and crafts on the New Haven Green, children’s film festivals, concerts and a bonsai exhibit.  Go to artidea.org to explore all the infinite choices and plan your adventures.  If you don’t explore this incredible gift, you have no one to blame but yourself.  Get hopping!

COME COMMIT SINS WITH THE YALE SUMMER CABARET



The Yale Summer Cabaret, the artistic home for Yale School of Drama students since 1968, wants you to join their band of sinners…and enjoy every indulgent and decadent moment of the journey.  They want you to experience sinful pleasures so much they are dedicating their whole summer to the exploration.  The Seven Deadly Sins are your assignment and your homework should be deliciously evil.

Catch up first and get a sense of SLOTH, a failure to act or exert yourself, an avoidance of any physical or spiritual work.  Unfortunately, you may have missed the Sloth party on May 27 so you will have to exert yourself somewhat to cross it off your dance card of sins.  At the season opener, party goers ate, drank and made merry.

Run right along before the sin of GLUTTONY escapes your grasp.  Open your mouth wide and take a deep breathe to slide down the rabbit hole with Alice in “Alice in Wonderland.”  Until Sunday, June 19, Sydney Lemmon’s curiouser and curiouser heroine gives chase to the White Rabbit and has a series of misadventures and mischief with all your favorite Lewis Carroll characters from the March Hare to the Mad Hatter, Humpty Dumpty to the Dormouse, the Caterpillar to the Cheshire Cat.  Jesse Rasmussen directs this strongly charming version where Alice, willingly and not so much, gulps and swallows, nibbles and chews her way to an identity crisis of the first order.

With co-artistic director Elizabeth Dinkova, the 2016 summer season has been described as being “incredibly alive and so present.  We are building an environment that is playful, fun and lots of laughs.”  The cast of Alice also includes Marie Botha, Paul Cooper, Ricardo Davila, Patrick Foley and Bronte England-Nelson.  Future productions will feature Yagil Eliraz, Emily Reeder, Rebecca Hampe and Steven Lee Johnson, among others.
 This version of the classic has been adapted by the Manhattan Project under the direction of Andre Gregory.  Rasmussen calls this “a slightly different iteration, one that is elastic and alive.  Part of the joy of adaptation is knowing we put our imprint on the text.  Even Lewis Carroll appears in several guises to incorporate the author’s voice.  The original text is sliced to make room for the talented ensemble to create an original interpretation, to make it their own.”

PRIDE will be explored in a special event, a one night reading of Tori Sampson’s “Cadillac Crew” on Friday, June 24.  If you think you are better than others, more worthy and important and exhibit an excessive belief in ourself, you are experiencing vanity or pride.  In this intense reading, travel back to the 1960’s in Virginia with women of color, a trio from Yale Rep’s recent Shakespearian offering of “Cymbeline,”  including Chalia La Tour, Miriam A. Hyman and Sheria Irving, to explore the Civil Rights Movement as these women find their voices of activism.  A talk back with the playwright will follow this dramatic and fresh offering.

Next up, to incorporate the sin of GREED, is the debut production of “Antarctica! Which Is To Say Nowhere” by Yale School of Drama student Miranda Rose Hall and directed by Elizabeth Dinkova from Thursday, June 30 to Sunday, July 10.  Called a tragic comedy and farce, it takes an unhappy American couple who feel colonizing Antarctica is the answer to their problems and will ultimately save their lives.  Dinkova describes it as “Macbeth-like but with lots of talking animals, like penquins.  There’s war, climate changes and an extreme grotesque disaster. Terrible things happen but it envelopes music, dance, chaos and fun,” while at the same time it encompasses the sin of desire to possess material wealth and avarice.

ENVY: The Concert is slated for Friday, July 15 with Fred Kennedy and Chris Ross-Ewart, with a merry band of deadly sinners, revving up for avenging of a “musical exploration of longing,” that insatiable desire of coveting and desiring possessions that rightly belong to someone else.

Elizabeth Dinkova will also put her stamp on WRATH, a sin that will be wrapped up in the North American premiere of “Adam Geist” by Dea Loher, as translated from the German by David Tushingham, from Thursday, July 21 to Saturday, July 30.  Anger, rage and hatred and the loss of love in favor of fury are abundant in this tale of a young man “cast out and abandoned by his family who takes an epic journey to try to redeem himself.  He keeps making mistakes as he struggles against constraints in contemporary society, experiencing stints with drugs, as a fire fighter, in the Foreign Legion and even religion.”

The sin of LUST will be tackled in Sarah Kane’s “Phaedra’s Love,” directed by Jesse Rasmussen, from Thursday, August 4 to Sunday, August 14.  Here an inappropriate sexual desire, between a royal mother for her stepson, goes wildly out of control.  The Queen seeks pleasures of the flesh that can only lead to disaster.  The co-artistic director describes this play as “going darker and darker, deeper and deeper” into the world of temptation, the Circles of Hell where Kane “satirizes the royal family, the monarchy and power in general, ripping open the nature of love.”  This black comedy is called “disturbing, guaranteed to shock open veins and be totally exhilarating.”

Completing the talented team are Emily Reeder as Producing Director and Sam Linden as General Manager.  For tickets ($30, Yale faculty $25, students $15) call the Yale Summer Cabaret, 217 Park Street, New Haven at 203-432-1567 or go online to www.summer.cabaret@yale.edu. Flex 4 and 8 passes are also available. Performances are Thursday at 8 pm, Friday at 8 pm, Saturday at 7 pm and 10 pm and Sunday at 8 pm.

The co-directors are proud to point out, without slipping into the sin of pride too deeply, that this summer’s season includes a trio of plays written by women and with an international flavor to boot (to boast). Come up to an hour and a half before the performance and enjoy a gourmet meal, courtesy of chef Anna Belcher.  Selections from the Eat Me menu include a spicy watermelon gazpacho ($6), mushrooms stuffed with pesto ($7), beef with duchess potatoes ($19) and White Rabbit carrot cake ($6), among others.  45 minutes before showtime, a pre-show will be offered involving music or conversation.  The intimate basement space invites a camaraderie,where you share your table with strangers who become new friends.  Your waiter this week can be the star of next week’s production. Committing sins has never been more fun.

Sunday, June 5, 2016

DARE TO CLIMB "THE 39 STEPS” IN IVORYTON

DAN FENAUGHTY AS HANNAY AND LARISSA KLINGER AS PAMELA IN “THE 39 STEPS”


Think of a game of CLUE that has run amok. Think of a humorous homage to the great film maker Alfred Hitchcock.  Think a spy film with secret agents of decidedly German ancestry.  Think practically summer entertainment with a sense of humor and a special spoof in the making.  All these clues spell out “The 39 Steps” and the Ivoryton Playhouse can’t wait for you to come, until Sunday, June 19, to solve the comical adventurous game afoot.

This fast paced suspenseful and silly slapstick ride is an adaptation by Patrick Barlow, based on an original concept by Nobby Dimon and Simon Corble, from the novel by John Buchan and the 1935 movie of the same name.  Clearly Alfred Hitchcock would have gotten a hoot from the clever doings of the four stars who play a whole mine field of characters, donning wigs and hats, aprons and uniforms, leaping off bridges and trains, as the grand pursuit unfolds.

There's an old saying "Be careful what you wish for" so when Richard Hannay, a resourceful and resiilent Dan Fenaughty, complains one day in his London apartment in 1935 that he is bored, what happens next sends him fleeing for his life, accused of murder.  Not so bored any more, eh Richard.

When he attends a performance at the London Palladium, he triggers a series of episodes that begin with a German damsel in distress, Annabella (Larissa Klinger) being murdered in his bed.  Before she dies, she warns Hannay that there is a dastardly plot being brewed to smuggle documents out of the country that will lead to disaster for England.  She also cautions him to beware of a man with part of his little finger missing.

Soon Hannay is jumping on and off trains, running from spies, hiding out on farms and in hotels, a fugitive from justice, giving speeches in double talk for unknown politicians and falling in love with Pamela (again, Larissa Klinger), one of his chief accusers.  A versatile fleet of only two, Jonathan Brody and David Edwards, play a plethora of roles from milkman to mothers, motormen to Mr. Memory, adding spice to a veritable stew of characters.  Erik Bloomquist directs this merry and mysterious romp in Alfred Hitchcock Land with aplomb.

For tickets ($50, seniors $45, students $22, children $17), call the Ivoryton Playhouse, 103 Main Street, Ivoryton  at 860-767-7318 or online at www.ivorytonplayhouse.org.  Performances are Wednesday and Sunday at 2 p.m., Wednesday and Thursday at 7:30 p.m. and Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m.

Come discover for yourself how biscuits and bagpipes, haddock and handcuffs, underwear salesmen and undercover agents, play a significant role in this whistle-while-you-work theatrical tour de force event. Be sure to have your ears tuned to pick up all the references to Hitchcock hits sprinkled liberally throughout this wild and wooly whodunit.

CELEBRATE THE TONY AWARDS IN STYLE IN NORWICH



                                                    THE TONY AWARD

                                                   THISYEAR'S TONY HOST JAMES CORDEN
If your nickname is Tony and you are an actress, director, producer, philanthropist and co-founder of the American Theatre Wing, you must be Antoinette Perry.  Ms. Perry has been immortalized since her death in 1946 with an award, the Tony, created the following year to recognize excellence in live performance from Broadway to Hollywood.  Initial performers and presenters included Mickey Rooney, Ethel Waters, David Wayne and Herb Shriner while winners that first evening included Arthur Miller, Helen Hayes, Agnes de Mille, Ingrid Bergman, Patricia Neal, Elia Kazen and Jose Ferrer.

That celebratory ceremony has continued to grow in honor and prestige and this year, the 70th, is no exception.  On Sunday, June 12, the musical sensation “Hamilton” by Lin-Manuel Miranda  may walk away (or run away or rap away) with many or all of its record 16 nominations.  It follows 15 years later  its closest competitor, Mel Brooks’ musical “The Producers” in 2001 and “Billy Elliot: The Musical” in 2009 with 15 each.

While Angela Lansbury earns kudos for hosting or co-hosting the most ceremonies with five, this year’s honors go to Tony Award-winner James Corden, the late night talkshow host of The Late Late Show fame. He won his Tony for the lead in “One Man, Two Guvnors." Joining him on stage to do the honors will be Barbra Streisand, who hasn’t appeared at the awards since 1970, as well as Oprah, Cate Blanchett, Steve Martin, Edie Brickell, Carole King, Audra McDonald, Saoirse Ronan, Patina Miller and Nathan Lane. 

If you don’t have a coveted ticket to New York’s Beacon Theatre, where the awards are presented by the Broadway League and the American Theatre Wing, make a reservation for the gala celebration at the Chestnut Street Playhouse in Norwich where the fun and festivities begin at 6:30 p.m. with hosts Lisa Foss and Maureen Pollard in charge of the night.

Come prepared to enjoy delicious food from Olde Tymes Restaurant of Norwich as well as raffles, trivia contests, a silent auction and a pool of predictions.  The event will be shown on a giant screen in the intimate black box theater.  For tickets ($50), go to http://bit.ly/CSPTony or call 860-886-2378.

As for the 24 varied categories, will Steve Martin and Edie Brickell’s “Bright Star” shine as the best musical?  Will Arthur Miller’s drama “The Crucible” headline as Best Revival? With either Jeff Daniel in “Blackbird” or Frank Langella in “The Father” scoop Best Actor in a play?  How will “Eclipsed” stand up to “King Charles III”?  Half the fun is guessing the  outcome, judging the gowns and hearing the acceptance speeches!  Be there so your voice and vote are counted. 

Heads up that the Chestnut Street Playhouse will be offering its second 2016 Main Stage production with John Patrick Shanley’s probing drama “Doubt: A Parable” from June 16-26, Thursday to Saturday at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m.  It’s 1964, the Bronx, and the nun who heads the Catholic school has doubts about the conduct of a new young priest with a student. Is it inappropriate? Tickets are $20.

If you are a theater lover, then the Tony Viewing Party at the Chestnut Street Playhouse, 24 Chestnut Street, Norwich,  is a perfect way to celebrate the stars in front of and behind the glorious curtain.