Monday, February 8, 2016

HUMOR LURKS ON THE GLOOMY MOORS


                     MIRIAM SILVERMAN AND KELLY MCANDREW IN "THE MOORS"
                     PHOTO BY JOAN MARCUS





Take one dark and gloomy castle, set it smack on a bleak and desolate moor, add swirls of fog and wisps of smoke, people it with a gaggle of women all in varying stages of unrequited desires and you have a start at capturing Jen Silverman’s world premiere Gothic romantic mystery comedy.

New Haven’s Yale Repertory Theatre will have a whole lot of melodrama pulsing through its veins until Saturday, February 20 as “The Moors” entices you to explore its dangerous depths. Think the Bronte Sisters Meets Lizzy Borden.  “The Moors” is definitely deliciously devilish and devilishly delicious, but be careful if any one of the maids Marjory, Mallory or Margaret (all portrayed by a rebellious Hannah Cabell) offers you a cuppa tea.

As with all good Gothic tales, there are unexplained incidents, romances that are not what they seem, hidden passageways, an elusive (possibly deceased) hero (or villain), an abiding sense of danger and females in various pangs of peril.  Two unwed sisters, the dominant elder Agatha, captured in the severe, judgmental and exacting aura of Kelly McAndrew, and the flighty and frivolous younger Huldey, portrayed with panache by Birgit Huppuch, are trapped in the family estate.  Agatha has a master plan which she is not going to share with the less than mature Huldey who spends her days sighing and writing fiction in her diary, one she hopes will be scandalously read by everyone in the household, or even the world.

The arrival of a governess, the accommodating and eager to please Emilie, a delightful Miriam Silverman, sets Agatha’s plot in motion.  Why has she been brought here?  Is there a child for her to instruct?  Who actually sent her the packet of letters that lured her to leave her current position to venture to the desolate and forbidding land?

Into this bleak household of women romps a giant dog, a mastiff, anthropomorphized by Jeff Biehl into a philosophizing pet who seeks the meaning of happiness.  In his quest for answers, he meets and falls in love with a Moor-hen, a feathered and flying Jessica Love, who fears all that ails him is indigestion.  Absurd events, that are bizarre and often brutal, punctuate the plot under the skillful manipulation of director Jackson Gay.  Alexander Woodward’s intriguing set encompasses both castle and moor in a satisfying split scenery, with suitably Victorian garb created by Fabian Fidel Aguilar.

For tickets ($20-98), call the Yale Rep, 1120 Chapel Street (near York), New Haven at 203-432-1234 or online at www.yalerep.org.  Performances are Tuesday at 8 p.m, Wednesday at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m, Thursday at 8 p.m., Friday at 8 p.m. and Saturday at 2 p.m and 8 p.m  The play is a product of encouragement by the Yale’s Binger Center for New Theatre.

Enter the lonely world where sisters and pets seek love and happiness, a nest for security with the adventurous ability to fly free.

RAISE YOUR MUSICAL TEMPERATURE WITH “SATURDAY NIGHT FEVER”




When you think of “Saturday Night Fever,” the first and foremost image that comes to mind is an iconic vanilla white suited John Travolta doing a dance jive like no other.  You have the opportunity to relive and recreate that transforming moment when the classic rock stage musical, with a book by Nan Knighton, in collaboration with Arlene Phillips, Paul Nicholas and Robert Stigwood, invades Waterbury’s Palace Theater.

For three performances, Friday, February 19 and Saturday, February 20, you’ll have the opportunity to enter the drab black and white and gray world of Tony Manero, a kid from Brooklyn who has a job at a paint story with no future and a crowd of deadbeat pals who aren’t going to win any prizes in the game of life.  When the workweek ends, however, Tony crosses into a technicolor world when he struts into the local disco.

At the discotheque, he is morphed from a lowly frog into the worshiped prince and suddenly he owns the musical world.  Here he is admired.  All things are possible, even a courtship with the much appreciated Stephanie Mangano.

Will Tony’s smooth and groovy dance floor moves help him win Stephanie’s heart?  Could they even be the magic gold ticket that will launch him out of Brooklyn into the big time?

The great tunes from the Bee Gees' repertoire, starting with the smart and savvy lyrics of “Stayin’ Alive,” pulsate compellingly to aid the story’s advance.  Other tunes like “How Deep Is Your Love,” “If I Can’t Have Him” and “Top of Your Game” stroke the momentum, especially with impressive choreography.

For tickets ($50-75), call the Palace, 100 East Main Street, Waterbury at 203-346-2000 or online at www.palacetheaterct.org.  Performances are Friday, February 19 at 8 p.m. and Saturday, February 20 at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m.  Special added bonuses on Friday and Saturday nights are a Post-Show Disco Dance Party from 10:30 p.m. to 12:30 a.m. with DJ Jim O’Rourke from YMCA. Follow the glittering disco ball in your leisure suit and platform shoes while imbibing signature 70’s cocktails available for purchase to go with provided finger foods.  Tickets ($30) include one complimentary cocktail, like a snakebite or screwdriver.

Watch temperatures rise to an explosive pitch as “Saturday Night Fever” raises the Palace roof.

SEND “LOVE LETTERS” TO YOUR VALENTINE




                ALI MACGRAW AND RYAN O'NEAL TOGETHER AGAIN

  Today, we live in an instantaneous world. We delight in sending e-mails, text messages, tweets, instagrams  and communicating on Facebook. How many of us actually pick up a pen, or God forbid, a fountain pen with real ink, to write a heartfelt message using cursive writing and complete thoughts. it is refreshing to return to a gentler and kinder and more personal time when people took pen to paper and actually exchanged handwritten letters.  Now with Valentine’s Day upon us, we have the unique opportunity to combine the art of penmanship with the composition of notes with a romantic flair in A. R. Gurney’s  touchingly sincere “Love Letters” playing at the Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts until Sunday, February 14.
   
How extra special to have celestial sparkling stars like Ali MacGraw and Ryan O’Neal as the two friends, or more than friends, in question sharing their thoughts. Ms. MacGraw portrays Melissa Gardner who has had a fifty-year relationship with childhood friend Andrew Makepeace Ladd III played by her long ago co-star in the classic “Love Story.” That tale of Oliver and Jenny and their ill-fated romance is forever seared in our psyches.  Now the two portray a different couple, one who meet at age seven in second grade to be exact, at a birthday party, and even though she is outlandish, outspoken and a tad rebellious and he is straight arrow, conservative and a bit stuffy, they form a connection that endures over time and geographical separation.

 Whether they are exchanging postcards from summer camp, notes about escapades at private school, get well missives after she breaks her leg skiing, congratulatory words on achieving being at the top of his class at college graduation or the inevitable letters of apology for some slight or misstep, Melissa and Andy mark all the big and small moments of their friendship and affection by writing to each other.  Even their pauses in communication speak volumes, when one or the other is miffed. What began as puppy love has grown over the years and is so much more meaningful when their letters are read by two people who have “history” together.  This is just part of a National Tour for the pair, who are being directed by Gregory Mosher.
 Into her notes, Melissa inserts drawings of cats, bears and kangaroos that hint early on about the art career she will pursue, pursue all the way to Italy.  Into his letters, Andrew reveals his love of the law and of politics that suggests his future path in life, foreshadowing his role as a Senator and the possibility of even a presidential nod.  This poignant interchange of heartfelt, sometimes silly, often loving, communication spans five decades.

 For tickets ($22-81), call The Bushnell, 166 Capitol Avenue, Hartford at 860-987-5900 or online at www.bushnell.org.  Performances are Thursday at 7:30 p.m., Friday at 8 p.m., Saturday at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. and Sundays at 1 p.m. and 6:30 p.m.


Let Ali MacGraw and Ryan O’Neal share the intimacies of Melissa and Andrew so beautifully, expressing how he spent his whole life trying to rescue his lost princess. Perhaps you will be inspired to pen your own love letter in honor of Cupid’s Day.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

DRE TOWEY HAS FUN WITH FOOD


        DRE TOWEY  THE MUSICAL HEALTHY FOOD PROMOTER

If fruits and vegetables and all foods healthy had a policewoman or super spokesperson in charge, Dre Towey would be it.  With humor, clever lyrics and adorable visuals, she could probably persuade even the most artery hardened carnivore to abandon pork ribs and filets of beef.  Her song “You Are What You Eat” uses all kinds of food, mostly healthy, leafy gems like asparagus and crunchy carrots to spell out Dre’s good for you message.  One does notice the occasional candy corn kernels and chocolate chips, licorice and lollipops, as her song happily sings along. The CD features Claymation letters and pictures created with the help of Ellery Lamm, a neighbor’s imaginative daughter.

A mom of three, plus assorted fish, cats and a solo dog, Dre Towey has been strumming a guitar and creating ingenious lyrics since 1998.  Called positively a “Mom of Reinvention,” she has racked up five albums, CDs and a pair of holiday singles, becoming a finalist in The John Lennon Songwriting Awards and receiving a trio of Parents’ Choice Awards along the merry way.

Dubbing herself originally a Jersey girl, she always loved music and describes herself as a”kindie rocker,” a genre of songs specially for kids.  Explaining that “I’m just a kid at heart, going where my songs take me,” Dre came into the music world in a back door kind of way.  “I was teaching in the city and observed a co-worker entertaining her kindergarten class singing and playing guitar.  I just loved it and thought it was cool.  I knew I wanted to do it too.”

Jumping right in to her new career, she collaborated with a fellow teacher on a CD entitled “The Ants Wear Underpants.”  Already proficient as a writer and illustrator, she moved into the new artistic areas with ease.  When she became pregnant with her first child, she was able to indulge her passion and start writing songs and accompanying them on guitar on topics from mashed potatoes to meatballs, mushrooms to monkeys.

An added boost came with a request to write a song about pickles by a pickle maker, Nick Harmon of Horman’s Best Pickles, resulting in an album “In a Pickle.”  Dre confesses “I love pickles and I could eat them all day long.”  Her thoughts about turkeys, which she captures in the catchy and bouncy tune “Turkey Bop," are a little more complicated.  While Thanksgiving conjures up memories of holidays with family on Cape Cod, it also brings about negative thoughts of gluttony and the fate of the poor bird.  The tune, which she hopes will be a “one hit wonder,” came to her while she was running in the annual Turkey Trot race.  “The gobble gobble refrain kept getting in my head.”  Now you can grab a drumstick and do the gobble gobble dance.

Dre Towey believes that “children and food have always landed on the same plate for me.”  Her goal is to start a healthy and fun conversation between parents and their offspring, not to preach but to educate.  She has done extensive research on things like where food comes from, translating it into lyrics that are infectious and imaginative. For more information and to hear and order her music, go to www.dretowey.com and www.cdbaby.com. Watch in the spring for her newest album “Flower Child” about the environment we live in together.

A series of upcoming events will illustrate her message in an entertaining way:  Saturday, February 6 at 11 a.m. at a Teddy Bear Tea Party at Waveny Castle in New Canaan, don’t forget to bring a teddy bear; Friday, February 26 at 10 a.m. at a Mom’s Morning in the Darien Community Association in Darien; Friday, April 8 and Friday, May 6 at 10:30 a.m. at the Rowayton Library for story time and songs. Two years ago, Dre opened JAM, a Junior Art and Music Studio in South Norwalk.

Dre has a band “Sugar on Top” featuring Randy Funke on electric guitar who is also her producer, Kurt Berglund on drums and Benj LeFevre on bass as well as a second band “Dog on Fleas” for her album “In a Pickle.” Sometimes her son, 15, plays drums for her gigs, admitting “Mom, that was amazing.  I wish that the world was only kids and dogs.”  Her children who are now 17,15 and11 have always been involved in her music, being inspiration for most of the songs in a love/hate relationship, even singing backup on her CDs.

It’s hard to believe that Dre Towey, now a Connecticut resident for thirty years, was a picky eater as a child when today she has successfully married her three loves:  art, music and children to the world of healthy food choices.  Write on! Sing on! Eat up!


Monday, February 1, 2016

THE TURBULENT 80’S EXPLODE IN “ROCK OF AGES”



CAST OF "ROCK OF AGES"  PHOTO BY MANDI MARTINI


Sex, drugs and rock 'n roll combined with awesome echoes of the 1980’s and you have a hint of the power packed musical explosion that is “Rock of Ages.” Hold on to your argyle socks as the Warner Theatre salutes this unique era of time in a flamboyant megawatt rendition of big band sounds featuring solo guitar antics that pulse with good vibrations.

Let the music of Journey, REO Speedwagon, Pat Benetar, Styx, Bon Jovi, Twisted Sister, Night Ranger and more rock you to the rafters.  On Saturday, February 6 and 13 at 8 p.m., Sunday, February 7 and 14 at 2 p.m. and Friday, February 12 at 8 p.m., this emotional story will have you levitating with joy.

Think of a jukebox stuffed with classic rock tunes that reaches its peak and becomes an exploding volcano of hits, as the decade’s greatest hot metal bands send out oceans of fiery offerings.  Marry that music to a powerful story of a rocker wannabe Drew Boley (Noel Roberge) who is biding his time as a busboy while waiting for his big break.  Set at a Hollywood nightclub called The Bourbon Room, owned by the show’s narrator Lonny Barnett (Michael King) and his partner Dennis Dupree (Kevin Sturmer), two German real estate developers (Dick Terhune and Anthony Amourando) are set on tearing it down as part of a clean up the city campaign.

Meanwhile a sweet young thing from Kansas named Sherrie (Katie Brunetto) walks in to the club and Drew, instantly smitten, convinces Dennis to hire her as a waitress.  The action escalates as Dennis books a band Arsenal starring Stacee Jaxx (Tony Leone) to headline what might be The Bourbon Room’s finale, Sheree momentarily loses her dream of becoming an actress to take a new job as a stripper and Drew gets a chance to shine on stage and earn a recording contract.

songs that surround a book by Chris D’Arienzo boom skyward, like “Just Like Paradise/Nothing But a Good Time,” “Sister Christian,” “We Built This City,” “We’re Not Gonna Take It,” “I Wanna Rock,” “Wanted Dead or Alive” and “Any Way You Want It/ I Wanna Rock.”  A triumphant “Don’t Stop Believin’ ’”reconciles all the disparate pieces of the puzzle as dreams are exchanged for new ones and the Sunset Strip lives to celebrate another day."Rock of Ages" is directed and choreographed by Sharon A. Wilcox with Dan Ringuette as musical director.

For tickets ($29), call the Warner Theatre, 68 Main Street, Torrington at 860-489-7180 or online at www.warnertheatre.org. This musical is suited for more mature teens and adults.

Can the fairy tale hopes survive when real estate moguls from Germany threaten Sunset Strip in general and the new romance of Drew and Sherrie in particular?  Come discover for yourself.

“THE CHOSEN” A SENSITIVE AND POIGNANT CHOICE



Jordan Wolfe as the young Reuven Malter and Joshua Whitson as Danny Saunders
photo by Rich Wagner


Two disparate worlds, two sets of fathers and sons, one fast and furious curveball and five blocks in Brooklyn lead a pair of teenage boys on a path of self-discovery.  Playhouse on Park in West Hartford has forged a beautiful staging of Chaim Potok’s novel “The Chosen,” adapted by Aaron Posner and Chaim Potok until Sunday, February 14.

Reuven Malter, an enterprising Jordan Wolfe, meets the traditionally educated Chasidic Danny Saunders, across a baseball diamond  Although they are both raised as Jews, they are legions apart in what and how they believe.  Both students of the Talmud, both dedicated “yeshiva brokers,” boy scholars, they have been indoctrinated in radically different households.

Reuben’s dad, an understanding Dan Shor, only wants his son to be happy, hopefully as a college professor of mathematics while Danny’s father, the respected rabbi of a huge congregation, has planned his future, to take over the rabbinic dynasty six generations in the making.

When Danny smacks a baseball deliberately at Reuven’s head, the resulting injury becomes the unlikely catalyst that brings the two together.  Reuben’s dad has been mentoring Danny with literary choices at the library, without either knowing the identity of the other.  Danny soon invites Reuven to join him in studying the Torah with his patriarch, a great honor.

The “hungry minds” of both lads are being nurtured in different ways.  While Reuven’s dad is open and loving, Danny’s is bound by silences, a seeming alienation of affection.  A major riff between the families takes place over the prospect of a Jewish homeland, with David Maulter publicly and vocally in favor, so much so that he risks his health for the cause.  Rev Sounders is equally vociferous in denying that Zionist dream.  Through the four years of the play, from 1944 to 1947, the older Reuven, portrayed by an eloquent David Gautschy, narrates the tale that is universal in its scope.  Fathers and sons have always struggled emotionally to reach a level of love and understanding that is satisfying and liberating.  Dawn Loveland directs a powerful and poignant story that is inspiring in its telling.

For tickets ($22.50-35 ), call Playhouse on Park, 244 Park Avenue, West Hartford at 860-523-5900 ex. 10 or online at 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.

On Tuesday, February 9 at 7:30 p.m., the Playwrights on Park Reading series presents an original piece by Eve Lederman “Let It Come Down.”  The unique relationship of therapist and patient are explored as a potent romance and was inspired by deposition transscripts from a malpractice case,  Call the box office for tickets ($5).

Come discover how each boy, posed on the cusp of manhood, ultimately forges their own personal destiny.

Monday, January 25, 2016

PASSIONATE DESIGNS MARK ”BUYER AND CELLAR”




TOM LENK AS THE EXTRAORDINARY SHOPKEEPER IN "BUYER AND CELLAR"


Calling all Barbra Streisand fans to run to Hartford TheaterWorks by Valentine’s Day to indulge in some highly entertaining fictional fantasy about that gorgeous gal. Playwright Jonathan Tolins has indulged in creating a fictionalized account about Barbra’s basement, of all things.  As she explains in her exceptionally detailed fashion coffee table book about her Malibu, California home, “My Passion for Design,” even her basement is worthy of admiration.

Many of us collect “stuff,” but Barbra Streisand’s stuff is destined to be remarkable.  To display it properly, she had a series of boutiques, in the European style, a mall if you will, built below her incredible house.  To care for her things, her dolls, her costumes, her dollhouses, her antiques, she hires an out-of-work actor to be her shopkeeper.  That is the intriguing premise upon which Tolins layers his lavish imaginary storyline “Buyer and Cellar.”

Tom Lenk plays Alex More, the impressionable and eager to please faux proprietor of the shops, the caretaker of the goodies that range from gifts to yogurt and popcorn machines, the man whose singular job is to cater to and serve his singular mistress.  Lenk plays all the parts from the diva herself, her accommodating husband James, her difficult to please assistant Sharon and Alex’s obsessively jealous boyfriend Barry.  And he plays each part with caring and panache.

Lenk is deliciously delightful as he dishes with his darling of a department store doings.  Initially he might not have wanted the position but soon he is thoroughly engaged in doing his best to please “Sadie,” the name Barbra goes by when she deigns to browse, shop and, occasionally, purchase.  Their encounter over FiFi, the imported French doll who blows bubbles, is priceless…well, actually $850 retail.

Rob Ruggiero lets his directorial talents shine, as projections of the legend by Rob Denton fill the set beautifully designed by Luke Hegel-Cantarella.  The theme is carried out in the upstairs art gallery where shades of Barbra bloom in abundance.  You can even pose with the star and her Oscar.

For tickets ($50-65), call TheaterWorks, 233 Pearl Street, Hartford at 860-527-7838 or online at www.theaterworkshartford.org.  Performances are Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday at 7:30 p.m., Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m and Saturday and Sunday at 2:30 p.m.

Admit it. Wouldn’t you just love to shop in Barbra Streisand’s basement, even if you couldn’t afford to buy anything. Well, maybe, you could purchase a gardenia scented bar of soap.