Wednesday, August 24, 2011


What would summer be without a visit to Edgerton Park in New Haven courtesy of Elm City Shakespeare for a seasonal infusion of quality literary entertainment?  This year’s offering, in its sixteenth season to date, is William Shakespeare’s “Measure for Measure,” evenings at 8 p.m. until Labor Day.

Although billed as a comedy, it doesn’t fit neatly into the category, despite the best efforts of slapstick performers Pompey (Richard Massery) and Elbow (Colin Lane).  Dealing with themes of truth, justice, mercy and pride, “Measure for Measure” wraps a lot of serious thinking around how easily power can be corrupted.

When a lack of money forces a young Lord Claudio (Matt Cohn) to not post his banns announcing his marriage to Juliet (Francesca Smith), Angelo (Eric Martin Brown) a formidable judge, takes pleasure in declaring them unlawfully wed.  Angelo has just been appointed temporary head of the government of Vienna when the true ruler, Vincentio (Mark Zeisler), the Duke of Vienna, leaves the city on a secret mission.

In an abuse of his newly claimed powers, Angelo condemns Claudio to death, even though in many eyes his marriage to Juliet is valid.  To save his life, Claudio enlists the aid of his sister Isabella, played by a fiery Sarah Grace Wilson, a novice nun, to intercede with Angelo and beg for mercy.  The crafty Angelo declares he will spare Claudio’s life but only if Isabella sleeps with him and gives up her virtue.

Through a series of elaborate trickeries and deceits, as only the Bard can arrange, Claudio’s life is saved as well as Isabella’s virginity, Vincentio reappears as the Friar Lodowick to unmask the villainous Angelo, and Lucio (Aaron Moss), a friend of Claudio’s, who is so busy spreading slander, like peanut butter on whole wheat bread, about both the Friar and the Duke, gets himself figuratively drowning in a vat of grape jelly.  James Andreassi directs this dramatically comic offering.

Performances are free but donations ($20 adults, $10 students, $5 children 12 and under) are most welcome.  Shows are
evenings at 8 p.m. at Edgerton Park, Cliff Street entrance, New Haven.  Bring your own blankets and chairs for easy viewings and snacks to enjoy pre-show.  An elaborate castle set provides the perfect backdrop for the action.

A Gala  and Auction for the benefit of the Elm Shakespeare Company is set for Thursday, September 1 at 5 p.m. at Edgerton Park.  Check online at or call 203-393-1436 for ticket information and a list of great auction items.

Corruption bubbles and boils in Vienna as Claudio declares “I hope to live but I am prepared to die” in this involving tale of power gone awry.                                                                           


As a star of country music, Johnny Cash’s wattage shines bright and also casts a burning light on musical genres from rockabilly to rock and roll, blues to folk to gospel.  Labeled one of the most influential artists of the twentieth century, he has been inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and the Gospel Music Hall of Fame.

This mysterious “Man in Black,” who was known for wearing dark apparel in honor of the poor, homeless and imprisoned, had a distinctive deep and resonant bass-baritone and a rebellious streak that marked his manner.  Ivoryton Playhouse is welcoming the memories of the man and the music in a tribute concert “Ring of Fire:  The Music of Johnny Cash” until Sunday, September 4.

Let a talented trio of women, Megan Loomis, Deb Lyons and Helen Jean Russell, and a skilled sextet of men, Eric Scott Anthony (musical director), Jon Brown, Michael Hicks, David M. Lutken (co-director), John Rochette and Scott Sowers, conjure up that good ol’ country boy who hears and answers the train whistle’s call.

More than three dozen hits, from melancholy to spiritual, humorous to laced with sadness, fill this production.  Each performer plays an instrument or three to make each number memorable, like “Straight A’s in Love,” “Ring of Fire,” “Jackson,”
“I’ve Been Everywhere,” “Man in Black,” “Boy Named Sue” and “Folsom Prison Blues.”

This ensemble makes you feel up close and personal with toe tapping a plum necessity, as they strum, fiddle and drum beat these old familiar melodies that marked Johnny Cash’s colorful career.

For tickets ($40, seniors $35, students $20, children $15), call the Ivoryton Playhouse, 103 Main Street, Ivoryton at 860-767-7618 or online at  Performances are Wednesday at 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m., Thursday at 7:30 p.m., Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m.  Stay after the Sunday matinee for a real old-fashioned hootenanny outside.  Bring your own guitar, fiddle or washboard and play along!

Created by Richard Maltby, Jr. and conceived by William Meade, with orchestrations by Steven Bishop and Jeff Lisenby, “Ring of Fire” is a straight A tribute celebration honoring that musical icon John R. Cash.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011


Long before Dorothy and Toto traveled  by tornado from their farm in Kansas along the yellow brick road to the Emerald City to visit the grand and powerful Wizard of Oz, there were a trio of women, mere girls at the time, who were destined to become memorable as witches.  If you peek behind the bushes next to that famous road of yellow bricks, you might see what happens before Dorothy and Toto drop in for a visit.

Welcome to “Wicked,” sailing into the Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts in Hartford for an extended stay Wednesday, August 24 to Sunday, September 11.  Based on the book by Gregory Macquire, with music and lyrics by Stephen Schwartz and story by Winnie Holzman, “Wicked” has won 35 major awards, a Grammy and three Tonys.

Kermit the Frog and Shrek know what it’s like to be judged by the color of your skin, in this case green.  Even if you’re emerald hued and beautiful, you will still be labeled different.  To discover the misunderstood heroine of “Wicked,” the fiery and independent Elphaba who attends Shiz University and meets Glinda and, unlikely as it seems, they become f]best friends.

The “happily ever after” is not destined to triumph and here loyalties are tested and power becomes too tempting a prize.  In a recent interview, Stephanie Brown who plays Nessarose, Elphaba’s younger sister, offered insights,  As Nessa, “I am crippled, in a wheel chair, selfish and self-centered.  I desire more out of life and I am embarrassed by having a sister who is green.  Wanting desperately to be normal, I blame Elphaba for all my problems.  As Nessarose, I become the governor of Munchkinland and use my magic powers to control my subjects.  By turning to the dark side, I earn the title of Wicked Witch of the East and Dorothy’s home eventually falls on me, crushing me and only my famous silver slippers remain.”

Despite Nessarose’s less thansterling character, Stephanie Brown is thrilled to play her, complications, warts and all.  Being unlovable and whiney is just fine for her.  She realized her powers to perform when she was only a tyke of three on vacation at a California resort.  On big band night, she snuck up to the lead singer, tugged on her coat, and proceeded to sing a rousing version of “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star.”  By third grade her fate was sealed when she played Dorothy in the “Wizard of Oz.”

To date, Ms. Brown has been Belle in “Beauty and the Beast,” Hope in “Urinetown, The Musical,” Juliet in “Romeo and Juliet,” been one of the tribe in “Hair” and Edith in “Pirates of Penzance,” but with the role of Nessarose she is truly stretching her acting wings.  She understands how in seeking love and being thwarted, Nessarose becomes evil and totally misunderstood.  In falling in love with Bog, a munchkin, she abuses her powers and ends up destroying herself.

For tickets to “Wicked” ($33-89, $125-150), callthe Bushnell, 166 Capitol Avenue, Hartford at 860-987-5900 or online at  Performances are Tuesday at 7:30 p.m., Wednesday at 7:30 p.m., Thursday, August 25 at 1 p.m. and 7:30 p.m., Friday at 8 p.m., Saturday at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. and Sunday at 1 p.m. and 6:30 p.m.

Grab your magic broomstick and defy gravity at what Entertainment Weekly calls “the best musical of the decade.”

Saturday, August 13, 2011


If you want to experience the drama of Mozart’s opera “Don Giovanni,” (Saturday, October 29, 1 p. m.), the sweet bluegrass sounds of Sierra Hull and Highway 111, (Friday, October 21, 8 p.m.), thrill to the excitement of Russia’s leading classical Chamber Orchestra Kremlin (Saturday, February 18, 8 p.m.), celebrate Christmas with the Church Basement Ladies in “Away in the Basement” (Friday, December 16, 8 p.m.) or envision the ballet of “The Sleeping Beauty” with the Moscow Festival Ballet (Friday, March 30, 8 p.m.), the Fairfield University’s Quick Center has tickets with your name engraved on them.

The whole school year, from September to May, is stuffed with a potpourri of eclectic offerings in opera, music, theater and dance as well as fun experiences for young folks like the National Acrobats of the People’s Republic of China (Sunday, November 13, 3 p.m.), a one-man Star Wars Trilogy with Charles Ross (Friday, February 3, 8 p.m.) and The Complete World of Sports (abridged) by the Reduced Shakespeare Company (Friday, March 2, 8 p.m.).

As if that weren’t enough excitement, an Open Visions Forum, from September to April, features distinguished speakers in the world of the arts.  They range from Chuck Todd, Chief White House Correspondent, addressing “State of the Nation:  Polling the Mood” (Monday, September 19, 8 p.m.) to Rex Reed, film critic, on “Hollywood Notebook:  Glory or Gory?” (Sunday, January 29, 3 p.m.) to Meadowlark Lemon, the “clown prince” of the Harlem Globetrotters on “Globetrotting into Civil Rights” (Monday, February 13, 8 p.m.), among many others.

If you visit the Quick Center, be sure to allow time to see the changing exhibits at the Thomas J. Walsh Art Gallery or up the road at the lovely stone mansion, the Bellarmine Museum of Art.

For the full schedule of events, go online to or or call 203-254-4010 or 1-877-ARTS-396.

Let your imagination fly free and engage your mind and spirit in the wealth of treasures offered at Fairfield University’s Quick Center for the Arts.  The season is entitled “Arts and Minds.”  You’re invited to Come Curious and Leave Inspired.

Thursday, August 11, 2011


When a pair of young Shakespearian trained actors from London, England find themselves down on their luck without enough money between them to purchase breakfast, they hatch a scheme (eggless) to pose as long lost heirs to a fortune.  Mrs. Florence Schneider of York, Pennsylvania is seeking the whereabouts of Steve and Max whom she hasn’t seen since they were mere toddlers.  At stake, a three million dollar estate and these actors are poised to claim it.

Enter the farcical world of Ken Ludwig in this extremely silly and fun comedy “Leading Ladies” now enjoying capturing guffaws at Connecticut Cabaret Theatre in Berlin weekends until Saturday, September 10.

An enterprising team Leo Clark (Joe Autuoro) and Jack Gable (James J. Moran) think they have found the legendary pot of gold at the end of the rainbow when they read a story about two missing nephews who have lived in England as actors and are now being sought to claim Mrs. Schneider’s millions.  An accidental meeting on a train with Audrey (Chelsea Neville), a cleverly simple roller skating waitress/college student provides the pair with some inside information to help them with their deception:  the fact that Steve and Max are really Stephanie and Maxine and Steve can neither hear nor speak.

Fortunately the cohorts in crime have a slew of costumes to don when they meet Florence’s niece Meg (Melissa Ingrisano) and her fiancĂ©, the minister, Duncan (Chris Brooks).  To add to the liveliness, Florence (Joanna Callahan-Roohr) who had been declared dead by her doctor (Paul Braccioforte) is very much alive and delighted to welcome Steve and Max back to the family fold.

Romantic rivalries abound, solid sisterhood friendships are cemented, love letters go astray, suspicions as to fraudulent capers persist and, in the middle of the mayhem, a Shakespearian play is being rehearsed in time for a wedding.  Soon all the principals, including Doc’s lovesick son (Jonathan Escobar), are posing with swords and quoting the Bard.  Kris McMurray directs this merry romp for maximum laughs.

For tickets ($30), call the Ct. Cabaret Theatre, 31-33 Webster Square Road, Berlin (just off the Berlin Turnpike) at 860-829-1248 or online at Performances are Friday and Saturday nights at 8 p.m.  Remember to come early and bring snacks to enjoy or purchase desserts on site.

Watch how two leading men become two leading ladies as they plot to win the money and discover the true treasure of love.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011


A trip to the hairdresser couldn’t be more charming or delightful than when your appointment is scheduled with “The Barber of Seville.”  You will be pampered and powdered, thanks to the master composer Gioachino Rossini who first penned this two act opera buffa that premiered in Rome on February 20, 1816 and in America, in New York City, in 1825.

Rossini was especially prolific and is said to have composed two operas a year for almost two decades, and, astonishingly, is said to have written “The Barber of Seville” in a mere three weeks.

Opera Theater of Connecticut will perform this most beloved of comic operas at the air-conditioned Andrews Memorial Theater, 54 East main Street, Clinton on Tuesday, August 6 at 7:30 p.m., followed by a reception by Vina Concha y Toro, Thursday, August 11 and Saturday, August 13 at 7:30 p.m., with a final performance Sunday, August 14 at 6 p.m. Filled with comedy and wonderful music, “The Barber of Seville” is #9 on the most performed operas worldwide on Operabase’s list.

Count Almaviva is in love with Rosina, the ward of the overly suspicious and stingy Dr. Bartolo, who guards her ferociously.  The Count, wanting to be loved for himself and not for his wealth, assumes a succession of disguises, first as a poor student Lindoro, later as a drunken soldier and finally as a singing tutor.

Enlisting the aid of his servant Figaro, the barber, the Count employs a series of machinations to win Rosina’s favor while the lady in question is writing him letters of affection, that her overprotective guardian tries to intercept.

“The Barber of Seville” features a wonderful blending of voices that include Meredith Ziegler, mezzo-oprano, as the sought after Rosina, Matt Morgan, tenor, as the inventive hero Count Almaviva, Laurentiu Rotaru, bass-baritone, as the stingy protector and David Pershall, baritone, as the clever barber, with the support of Stephanie Gilbert as Rosina’s faithful governess Berta and Daivd Olsen in a duet of comic roles as Fiorello and the officer.

For tickets ($40, seniors $38, students $34), call Opera Theater of Connecticut at 860-669-8999 or online at  Artistic director Alan Mann will give an informative Opera Talk one hour and a half before each performance ($5).  Boxed suppers from Chips Pub III are available for $15 and must be reserved 48 hours in advance.

Watch and listen (in English with Supertitles) to how young love triumphs over delayed plans, thwarted plots, mistaken identities and daring disguises in this rollicking and sparkling operatice adventure.