Monday, October 15, 2018

"THE DROWSY CHAPERONE” IS NO SLEEPER



If you love musical theater, a special treat is waiting for you at Goodspeed Musicals until Sunday, November 25 so don’t be caught napping. To guide you on this journey of discovery, you first have to make the acquaintance of The Man in Chair, a truly delightful character who is most anxious to share his love for the genre and guarantee that you love it as much as he does. John Scherer couldn’t be more charming and personable as our host as he serves as commentator, putting on a phonograph record of his favorite show from 1928, an homage to the Jazz Age, stuffed with magical characters, “The Drowsy Chaperone.” His little apartment suddenly morphs into the show as it comes to life before our unbelieving eyes. Wow!
As it delightfully spoofs the musical comedies of the past, we learn we are participating in the wedding of the century, when Robert Martin (Clyde Alves) meets the sparkling show star Janet Van de Graaff (Stephanie Rothenberg) on a cruise and instantly falls in love. The nuptials are slated to take place immediately, with best man George (Tim Falter) as wedding planner. Unfortunately Janet’s producer Feldzieg (James Judy) can’t afford for her to retire from show biz and plots to stop the couple from saying their “I dos.” To motivate Feldzieg a little more, there are two gangsters at the house, a comic duo (Blakely Slaybaugh and Parker Slaybaugh), who are posing as pastry chefs and threaten him at every turn.
In desperation, Feldzieg employs a Latin lover Aldolpho, a slickly sauve (not!) John Rapson to seduce the bride-to-be but he mistakes her chaperone (Jennifer Allen) for Janet and woos her into submission. “The Drowsy Chaperone” began its stage life as an entertainment for a stag party for the wedding of theatrical couple Bob Martin and Janet Van De Graaff in Canada and has grown, after several reincarnations, into the show the Goodspeed is presenting so wonderfully. Hunter Foster directs this joy stuffed musical adventure, with glorious costuming by Gregg Barnes, a remarkable set by Howard Jones and clever choreography by Chris Bailey.

With book by Bob Martin and Don McKellar, music and lyrics by Lisa Lambert and Greg Morrison, winner of two Tonys for best score and best book and four Drama Desks for outstanding musical, book, lyrics and music, this is a show-within-a-show, centering around a conceited showgirl who decides to marry a man she’s known for two New York minutes and a producer who sees his meal ticket waltzing away. The show depends on every campy device known to musical comedy and happily exploits them all. Meanwhile The Man in Chair comments as he tries hard not to jump into the action and save the day and the damsel.

Eccentric and memorable characters lead us on a merry parade to the wedding day, with wannabe stars (Ruth Pferdehirt), dowager ladies (Ruth Gottschall), Trix the Aviatrix (Danielle lee Greaves) and even the butler (Jay Aubrey Jones) insinuating themselves into the bride and groom’s big day and into the pleasure filled plot.

For tickets ($29 and up), call the Goodspeed Musicals, East Haddam at 860-873-8668 or online at www.goodspeed.org. Performances are Wednesday at 2 p.m. and at 7:30 p.m., Thursday at 7:30 p.m. (with select 2 p.m. shows), Friday at 8 p.m., Saturday at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m. (with select 6:30 p.m. shows).

Come to the wedding and no gifts are required on your part. You'll be the recipient of a gift of laughter and joy and musical merriment as “The Drowsy Chaperone” bursts into life magically before your eyes. If you are like I am, you’ll want to take The Man in Chair home, with his phonograph, to introduce you to more of his favorites. What fun!

TAKE A DIP IN “THE RIVER” AT HARTFORD THEATERWORKS


Mystery swirls in the dark waters that conceal schools of silvery sea trout in the river. A fisherman’s paradise, they are a challenge to catch, especially if you refuse to cheat in the process by using a “monster munch,” a pickle and olive flavored lure which is tantamount to poaching.  Sea trout move like a lightning bolt and are huge creatures, a delight to the purist fisherman to land.

Jez Butterworth has hooked a fascinating line in “The River” now being baited at Hartford TheaterWorks until Sunday, November 11.  The play is set in an isolated cabin, accurately detailed by Brian Prather, where we first encounter The Man, Billy Carter, who lives and breathes his fascination for fish.

He definitely wants a female companion to share his love of the shiny and elusive creatures, a woman who will stand along side him in his river of dreams. Does such a woman exist?  To add to the drama, these amazing beings can only be caught on one moonless night of the year, lucky for us, and this is the night.

Does The Man lure his female friends to his lair as carefully and systematically as he sets out to catch his sea trout?  He clearly loves both pursuits, proclaiming affection for each, only destined to be disappointed if his “lures” don’t work. Andrea Goss and Jasmine Batchelor serve the story as the much desired ladies who ultimately disillusion him.  In the process, The Man prepares a sea trout for tasty consumption.  The fish, fortunately, lives up to its reputation.  Rob Ruggiero directs this simple on the surface tale that has plenty of intrigue underneath its deep waters.

For tickets ($45-70), call TheaterWorks, 233 Pearl Street, Hartford at 860-527-7838 or online at www.twhartford.org.  Performances are Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday at 7:30 p.m., Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m., with matinees Saturday and Sunday at 2:30 p.m.

You don't have to be an angler to get hooked on this poetic homage to the art of catching creatures, both animal and human.

Sunday, October 14, 2018

AN INTRIGUING SPIDER’S WEB AT SACRED HEART UNIVERSITY





If you are a promising writer, actor, sports personality, model or musician, in the public eye on the brink of fame and fortune, beware the predatory trap of a master spider maker.  Alexa Vere De Vere is a fictional creation designed for herself, by herself, and she is dangerous to anyone who is caught in her web of lies.

Douglas Carter Beane has placed Alexa in the center of his intriguing comic drama “As Bees in Honey Drown,” a phrase Alexa is wont to say as she drops names and places to impress.  Nothing she says or does is true so be careful before she catches you in her calculated hands.

The Performing Arts Department of Sacred Heart University in Fairfield offered up “As Bees in Honey Drown” until October 14 in their Little Theater.

Evan Wyler, a new and promising writer, is her latest victim.  Evan, a na├»ve Paxton McLane, believes everything this unscrupulous smooth talking grifter is selling.  Delaney Lynch is all too believable as she entices Evan into writing her glamorous life story, purported to be for Hollywood consumption.

When Even discovers his credit card has been maxed out and Alexa has conveniently disappeared, he realizes he is only one victim of many.  He soon meets
the producer Kaden (Andrew Peloquin),  Bethany the wannabe actress (Allison Campbell), Illya the model (Olivia Porriello) and Mike, her dead husband who is very much alive (Kevin Carlson).

Can Evan and this string of victims achieve a level of revenge?  Should he just forget and forgive and go on with his career? Will this powerful self -assured potential star maker get what she deserves? Jim Schilling directs this foray into this sting and scheme operation manipulated by one devilish dream maker and destroyer.


Imagine the chutzpah it takes to feed this line of lies and have no conscience or concern when lives and hopes and promises are destroyed.

“BEAT BUGS” A NEW MUSICAL ADVENTURE ENCHANTS IN MILFORD


Mr. Mustard  and the Five Bugs he is trying to destroy but can't!
A colony of bugs are bopping to the beat of the Beatles’ music:  who could ask for anything more?  Credit the creative talents of Pantochino Productions for being the first ever to bring this new  children’s musical to the stage at the Milford Arts Council weekends until Sunday, October 28.   

Based on the animated Netflix series,  “Beat Bugs” was created
By Josh Wakely and written by Sean Cercone and David Abbinanti, with garden set by Von Del Mar, cute and clever costuming by Jimmy Johansmeyer, musical direction by Justin Rugg and staging and direction by Bert Bernardini.

A community of bugs with a slowish slug Walter, Barret Crowder,  an inventive cricket Crick, David Katz, a friendly 
fire fly Buzz, Sydney Maher, a lovely ladybug Kumi, Ariana
Morales, and a brave beetle Jay, Gian Raffaele DiCostanza, revel in taking an adventure, a magical and mysterious journey in their backyard. Led by a host of fire flies, these five pals are
busy celebrating Crick’s birthday together.

Soon they find themselves in a land blessed with strawberry fields forever and deem it heavenly.  Unbeknownst to them, in another part of town, a mean Mr. Mustard, Jimmy Johansmeyer, without the aid of his loyal assistant Prudence Mary Mannix , is plotting  to build a Premium Power Solution Plant that would pollute and, ultimately, destroy all the flora and fauna, bugs and berries, and force any living creature to move their home to a new location in order to survive.

With echoes of “Strawberry Fields Forever,” the pals discover this wondrous new nature preserve and conjure up the Sgt. Pepper Lonely Hearts Club Band, led by Justin Rugg, to express their joy. Tunes like “All You Need is Love,” “We Can Work It Out,” “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds,” “Yellow Submarine” and “With a Little Help From My Friends” create a new Woodstock, in this case Bugstock.  They are helped in the song fest by Doris, a spider (Anna Hicks) and Postman Bee (Michael Battista).

Will Mr. Sun  (Don Poggio) or the Queen Bee (Shelley Marsh Poggio) be able to save the day and the garden preserve?  Can Prudence persuade mean Mr. Mustard to mend his mischievous manners?  The show is thoroughly delightful and may make you itch for more.  The cast is totally enchanting, even the nasty you know who.

For tickets ($22 online, $25 at the door), go online 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. at the Milford Arts Council at the train station, 40 Railroad Avenue South.  Free parking is at the bank lot nearby.  A selection of
“Beatles” cupcakes from Sweet Cupcasions are available at the lower level speakeasy to enjoy at your cabaret table. Bring your own goodies to share.

Take the family to this new novel musical show with a message: wherever your friends are is home and love is sure to fill every room.


Tuesday, October 9, 2018

COME VISIT “THE RAT PACK LOUNGE” IN BERLIN


God has commanded that Frank, Sammy and Dean leave Heaven where they all currently reside to return to earth on a mission. Apparently Mr. Sinatra committed an unpardonable sin twenty five years ago and now he and his famous cohorts have to correct it. With your help and encouragement, the Connecticut Cabaret Theatre in Berlin will be holding court weekends until Saturday, November 3 to determine in which direction God will force Mr.Martin, Mr, Sinatra and Mr. Davis. Jr. to go. Credit goes to James  Handyman and Ray Broderick for “The Rat Pack Lounge”, with musical arrangements by John Glaudini, for this singing and drinking tribute to the Chairman of the Board and friends.

With a three piece band “Tommy and the Gang” behind them, this trio rocks the joint, a down on its luck bar owned by one Vic (Nick D’Angelo), the guy who was victimized those many years ago. Now on New Year’s Eve 1998, Vic is ready to end his life and God does not want that to happen. He sends a three unlikely guardian angels down to assure it doesn’t. To prevent Vic’s suicide, the men, who have taken over the bodies of guys who happened to be in the bar at the time, work to restore Vic’s confidence in himself and his musical talents, with Jayson Beaulieu as Frank, Jonathan Escobar as Dean and Rick Bennett as Sammy.


With appropriate formal wear, the requisite mannerisms and shtick, this dynamite team sings, dances and banters like the men they emulate. Their easy camaraderie on stage makes their performance a fun experience and crowns each of them as “kings of the road.” Gradually Viccatches on to their musical magic and is snapping his fingers and crooning like a champ. All along the way a blonde Kristin Iovene sashays in and out to guarantee their progress.

Tunes like “High Hopes,” “Volare,” “You Make Me Feel So Young,” “My Way,” “Fly Me to the Moon,” “I’ve Got the World on a String” and “Birth of the Blues” fill the lounge with great song, Kris McMurray directs this homage to the best crooners of the past in a show that has a theme like “It's a Wonderful Life."

For tickets ($34), call the CT Cabaret Theatre , 31-33 Webster Square Road, Berlin at 860-829-1248 or online atwww.ctcabaret.com. Shows are Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m., with doors opening at 7:15 p.m. Remember this is cabaret, so bring goodies to share at your table or plan to buy them at the concession stand on site.

Gather around the bar and lift up a glass in tribute to the legends of Frank, Sammy and Dean who are living large again in the Rat Pack Lounge. Keep those champagne bottles popping.

Monday, October 8, 2018

SEVEN ANGELS PRESENTS HEAVENLY “ALTAR BOYZ"











Five young men are busy making heavenly harmony at Seven Angels Theatre until Sunday, October 21 and you are invited to join the hallelujah choir and confess your sins and sing praises unto the Lord. 
Part gospel revival meeting, part Bible camp, part Sunday School class, “Altar Boyz” is all high voltage, high energy musical comedy, a spoof on a Christian boys band that is marking the end of their national “Raise the Praise” tour. The boys, aptly named Matthew, Mark, Luke and Juan, with one token Jew Abraham, want to convert the nonbelievers and take temptation away from the sinners in their midst and, in the process, prove it’s cool to be Catholic.

The guys led by Matthew (Jeff Jordan), Mark (Andrew Poston), Luke (Louis Griffin), Juan (Spiro Marcos) and Abraham (Maclain Dassatti) are used to playing bingo parlors but want to headline at the Hollywood Bowl. Like a Richard Simmons exercise video, the five lads applaud God for giving them rhythm as they perform synchonized choreography and impassioned song.
In this modern age, they hear Jesus’s message on their cell phone, fax, email and beeper as they encourage the audience to work on their souls, to cleanse them of sin. According to the boys, God is making a comeback and they are happily his willing agents. Don’t worry about fire and brimstone, these guys are all into love and forgiveness and, ultimately, family.

“Altar Boyz” is the brain child of Kevin Del Aguila, book, and Gary Adler and Michael Patrick Walker, music and lyrics. The show was conceived by Mark Kessler and Ken Davenport, choreographed  and directed by Sam Hay.

For tickets ($45-55), call Seven Angels Theatre, 1 Plank Road, Waterbury at 203-757-4676 or www.SevenAngelsTheatre.com. Performances are Thursday to Sunday at 8 p.m., with matinees   at 2 p.m. 


Learn how everybody fits into God’s great family according to the gospel of Matthew, Mark, Luke, Juan and Abraham, the self-anointed and angelic “Altar Boyz.”

TAKE A JOURNEY WITH “THE GRAPES OF WRATH” TO UCONN


ANGELA HUNT AS MA AND ALEX CAMPBELL AS ROSE OF SHARON
PHOTO BY GERRY GOODSTEIN


Is it coincidental that Job from Bible lore endures a mighty list of travails, being continually tested by God, and John Steinbeck creates the Joad family in Oklahoma to journey to California, against all odds, during the difficult times of the Great Depression? While Job was wealthy, the Joads knew poverty first hand. Still the comparison seems possible.  One would need determination, perseverance and a strong will to survive the great traumas that face both Job and the Joads.  The suffering and adversities are many, yet the human spirit battles to endure. 

Let the Connecticut Repertory Theatre, on the campus of the University of Connecticut at Storrs, in the Jorgenson Auditorium, give you a lesson in courage until Sunday, October 14.  This Steinbeck novel has become a prize-winning movie as well as the 1990 winner of a Tony and Outer Critics Circle Award, a drama penned by Frank Galati.

 Will the Joads find the promised golden land of California, if they even make it to the west coast?  Can the steel magnolia strong Ma Joad have the fortitude to lead this desperate family, three generations strong, against the overwhelming elements? Her son Tom, a newly freed from prison Mauricio Miranda, returns to his Oklahoma roots just as the clan is packing the truck to travel west.  Full of promise, they have just lost their farm but are eager to start anew and leave the Dust Bowl behind. 

 Ma and Pa (Angela Hunt and Ken O’Brien) with Granma and Grampa (Johanna Leister and Dale AJ Rose) want and need work.  Visions of juicy oranges and tasty grapes fill their heads and, hopefully,  soon their stomachs. Like in a video game, obstacles pop up at every curve in the road.  Tom has trouble controlling his temper, his pregnant sister Rose of Sharon (Alex Campbell) has different ideas from her new husband Connie (Aiden Marchetti), brother Noah (Nick Greika) at the last moment refuses to leave home and brother Al (Sebastian Nagpal) has his eye on all the ladies.  Jim Casy (Joe Jung), a former preacher, joins the Joads heading out. 

The heaviness of the heartaches are relieved by the music created by Rob Barnes who sings, plays guitar and also serves as narrator,   A number of unusual instruments like a washboard, banjolele and washtub bass add to the spirit, especially at the lively square dance scene.  Gary English sensitively directs this deeply moving tale of one family’s struggle to secure a better life. 

For tickets ($10-35), call the CT Repertory Theatre at the Jorgenson at 860-486-2113 or online at www.crt.uconn.edu.  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.

John Steinbeck won the Pulitzer Prize and Nobel Prize for his book and Frank Galati secured the 1990 Tony Award for Best Play for his adaptation.  “Grapes of Wrath” is well worth your undivided attention.