Monday, October 31, 2011

“BELLEVILLE” AN EMOTIONAL VACATION IN PARIS




The Mattel Toy Company created a fictional life for its best selling fashion doll Barbie more than five decades ago, giving her a collection of friends like Kelly, Krissy and Christie, a convertible car and a boyfriend named Ken.  Real life does not conform to these unrealistic images and happily-ever-afters didn’t work for anyone but Cinderella and Snow White.

Imagine for a moment if you really believed you lived a fairy tale life, married to your special love who is a courageous doctor searching for a cure for pediatric AIDS, residing in a loft in Paris, enjoying all the sweetness of life.  Enter the idyllic world of Abby and Zack as fashioned by Amy Herzog in “Belleville,” being produced by the Yale Repertory Theatre in New Haven until Saturday, November 12 as a world premiere.

The bohemian, artsy section of Paris known as Belleville could be a wonderful neighborhood for theater lovers, with outdoor cafes and galleries within strolling distance.  For Maria Dizzia’s Abby, it is a dream come true, on the surface at least.

If you probe a little deeper, remove a few protective layers, you realize all-too-quickly that Abby’s world is not so rosy.  She needs pills to keep herself mentally balanced and it doesn’t take anything major to tip her emotional scales out of kilter.

Abby and husband Zack (Greg Keller) are children playing grown-up.  To keep themselves together, she takes baths and booze and he relies on drugs and deception.  Ken and Barbie are due for a serious reality check and it starts when Abby unexpectedly comes home early one afternoon to find Zack is not at work where he is supposed to be.  With the entrance of their landlord Alioune (Gilbert Owuor) and his wife Amina (Pascale Armand) into their apartment, more unpleasant revelations become glaringly obvious.  Anne Kauffman directs this confusing confrontation surrounding the web of lies that is masquerading as a marriage.

For tickets ($20-88), call the Yale Rep, 1120 Chapel Street, New Haven at York Street at 203-432-1234 or online at www.yalerep.org.  Performances are Tuesday-Saturday at 8 p.m., with matinees Saturday at 2 p.m.

Be careful as you enter the Parisian loft of Abby and Zack as it is littered with emotional land mines set to explode.

GEORGIA STITT: A WOMAN WITH MUSIC IN HER HEART




Georgia Stitt knew when she went to a music camp in junior high school and took an elective in music composition that she had discovered her life’s passion.  She found herself writing music for the marching band and for friends who were singers.  By the time she was in college at Vanderbilt University working with Professor John Morris Russell writing musicals for summer stock theater, her career path was set.

Her dad even has a recording of her very first composition, “Summer Daydreams,” which he loves but which Georgia confesses “honestly was not very good, but it was a marker of a time in my life.”  Since then, she has been busy conducting orchestras, writing an arrangement for the Boston Pops, working in recording studios, being asked by a playwright to write music for a scene, being a record producer and penning musicals like “Mosaic” with Cheri Steinkellner, “Big Red Sky” with John Jiler, “The Water” with Jeff Hylton and Tim Werenko and “Sing Me a Happy Song” with Jamie Pachino.

“As long as there is music in my life,” Georgia is one happy camper and she “likes how varied my days are.”  For the last two years, she has been writing with Cheri Steinkellner, this time around on a “new-fashioned musical,” using the Great American Songbook.  The show “Hello! My Baby” features Tin-Pan Alley era songs and revolves around a bunch of kids in the early days of sheet-music publishing.

The idea for the show came about when the Emmy Award winning Steinkellner was working in a high school directing students and discovered the kids were amazed by the old standards they were singing in “Anything Goes.”  Their questions, “why don’t we know these songs?,” led her to want to develop “old songs in young voices,” to uncover the old classics and make them fresh again.

Any songs written before January 1, 1923 are part of the public domain and no royalties need to be paid  There were a treasure trove of tunes that fit the category and Steinkellner wondered, “what if I can create an original story about the song industry and make the songs fresh to us?”  At the time, she was working on “Sister Act” with Alan Mencken and he suggested a meeting with Georgia Stitt.  The “marriage” was arranged and happily “Hello! My Baby” is the resulting bouncing musical product.

“Hello! My Baby” will be given a full workshop at the Norma Terris Theatre in Chester, called the “Little Goodspeed,” from Wednesday, November 2 to Sunday, November 27.  For tickets ($     ), call 860-873-8668 or go online to www.goodspeed.org.  Performances are Wednesday at 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m., Thursday at 7:30 p.m., with select shows at 2 p.m., Friday at 8 p.m., Saturday at 3 p.m. and 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m., with select shows at 6:30 p.m.

The Norma Terris experience is a “wonderful round-the-clock four week process, writing music all day and typing notes all night.”  It involves problem solving, the “what if stage of development,” made more exciting by the addition of Kelly Barclay’s dance routines.  After many workshops, readings and arrangements for piano and voice, it’s now time to make sure the script is as good as it can be,  to get the show up on stage and, once it’s up, to edit the process and have it polished for the audience…to “freeze the show” and know it is finally finished.

As an added bonus, “Hello! My Baby” was part of the Goodspeed’s New Festival of Musicals last January and was a clear crowd pleaser.  With its run at the Norma Terris, the pair have had four weeks to make it even better.  This is “our time here to see it really dance, with eighteen actors, new orchestrations and all instruments, not just piano…and eventually we have to stop tinkering.”

Georgia Stitt hopes the Norma Terris audiences will recognize the songs like “You Made Me Love You” and sing along as well as appreciate the new verses she composed to add to the truthful story they are telling.  She wants the audience to root for the young songwriting cast.

Stitt, meanwhile, is busy with a capital B.  With Susan Egan, the original Belle from “Beauty and the Beast,” she is writing a blog called “Glamour and Goop,” about the glamorous world of Hollywood juxtaposed with the daily chores of laundry and motherhood.  Both women have two daughters under the age of six.

Georgia’s husband Jason Robert Brown is also a composer and lyricist but they don’t collaborate.  She “trusts his musical taste and he is often the first person to hear my music when it is ready to share.”  They do conduct orchestras for each other and write orchestrations for each other, but “it’s too tense to work together.  I’d rather have him love me than think me right.  Keeping separate careers preserve our relationship.”

With daughters two and six, Georgia already sees musical potential but, as parents, she and Jason will be supportive but not pushy.  When their younger daughter turned two, her older sibling played ”Happy Birthday” to her on the piano.  They will be exposed to music but if they choose a basketball hoop, that’s fine too.  For  Halloween, since the girls are in Chester with her, the costumes were Winnie the Pooh for the two year old and a go-go booted 60’s girl for the older.  For right now, the “vagabond life” and its adventures are working well for the family.

Start reading “Glamour and Goop” online to see how the creative Georgia Stitt keeps her family life and career in happy and harmonious balance.


Tuesday, October 25, 2011

“TWELFTH NIGHT” A ROMP IN THE BARD’S BACKYARD





Merry spirits are being imbibed if Sir Toby Belch and Sir Andrew Aguecheek are any indication, to create a feeling of holiday joviality and frivolity. Such is the mood engendered by the current production being offered on a silver platter by Westport Country Playhouse until Saturday, November 5, of William Shakespeare’s “Twelfth Night, or What You Will.”

Double trouble, toil and muddle, there has been a storm at sea and twins Viola and Sebastian are shipwrecked on the land of Illyria, each believing the other has died.  To protect herself, Viola (Mahira Kakkac) takes on the disguise of a male servant Cesario and is soon in the service of Duke Orsino (Lucas Hall).

The Duke instructs his new page to be his messenger:  conveying words of love to the fair Olivia (Susan Kelechi Watson).  Olivia, barely recovering from the deaths of her father and brother, wants nothing to do with suitors, who number the Duke and Sir Andrew.

In keeping with the festivities of the Twelfth Night holiday, when everything is turned upside down and inside out, Sir Toby (David Schramm) and Sir Andrew (Jordan Coughtry), both well inebriated, conspire with Olivia’s maid Maria (Donnetta Lavina Grays) to present a third suitor to the fray, Olivia’s dour servant Malvolio (David Adkins).

Finding a love letter he believes sent to him by his mistress, Malvolio alters his appearance, forsaking black for yellow cross-gartering and pasting on a huge smile like a jack-o-lantern. Olivia thinks him mad and commits him to prison to the co-conspirator’s delight.

The merriment continues when Olivia believes herself to be in love with Cesario, while Cesario finds herself well smitten by the Duke.  Even Sir Toby succumbs to the wiles of the clever Maria.  Meanwhile Olivia’s fool Feste (Darius De Haas) presides over the party with mirth and song.

By the time Sebastian (Rachid Sabitri) wanders on to the stage with his rescuer Antonio (Paul Anthony Stewart), the confusion has reached fever pitch and is ready for the Bard’s
smooth resolution.  Mark Lamos direct this balance of mayhem and melancholy with an even hand, aided by Andrew Boyce’s seashore and chandelier set and Tilly Grimes’ whimsical costuming.

For tickets ($40-60), call Westport Country Playhouse, 25 Powers Court, off route 1, Westport (exit 42, off Merritt) at 203-227-4177 or 888-927-7529  or online at www.westportplayhouse.org.  Performances are Tuesday-Saturday at 8 p.m., with matinees Wednesday at 2 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday at 3 p.m. (no performance on Wednesday, November 2).

Watch how a tragedy at sea, misplaced affections, seemingly lost love letters, vaudeville routines, mismatched duels, too much drink and a sense of frivolity can provide so much entertainment once the perplexity is dispelled, or maybe because of its presence.



Monday, October 24, 2011

“JERSEY BOYS” BRINGING THEIR SENSATIONAL SHOW TO THE BUSHNELL




Rocky Road can refer to an ice cream flavor with a base of chocolate or vanilla, studded with nuts and marshmallows, or it can allude to a difficult time getting from here to there.  For four young kids from the Garden State who flirt with crime before devoting their time to being crooners, both definitions apply.  They definitely knew how to capture a sweet sound, a harmonious taste, and their career clearly was a bumpy journey.

Until Sunday, November 6, the Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts will be offering the golden tones of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons in the blockbuster tribute Broadway hit show “Jersey Boys,” with book by Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice, music by Bob Gaudio and lyrics by Bob Crewe.

Through trial and error in experimentation as to who fit the membership best, as well as criminal trials for misdemeanors, this quartet of singers struggled to make a name for themselves, to even find a name they liked for their group.  Once Tommy DeVito and Nick Massi recruited Frankie Valli and later Bob Gaudio, the troupe was set to explode on the Billboard charts.  Soon Gaudio was churning out hits and songs like “Sherry,” “Big Girls Don’t Cry,” “Walk Like a Man,” “Oh, What a Night,” “My Eyes Adore You,” “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You” and “Working My Way Back To You” were giving them entrĂ©e into the big time.

Success is not without its price and “Jersey Boys” tells its tale straight up, warts and all.  All the time on the road plays havoc with the families left behind and on the guys the fans adore as well as the struggles for power take their toll.  Tommy DeVito’s gambling addiction almost destroys the group until Frankie Valli steps forward and honorably takes on the burden of his debt to the mob.

The guys are great in their roles, making their story real, their struggles believable, their success sweet and undeniable.  Come hear Bob Gaudio (Preston Truman Boyd), Frankie Valli (Joseph Leo Bwarie and on alternate dates John Michael Dias and Courter Simmons), Tommy DeVito (John Gardiner) and Nick Massi (Michael Lomenda) bring this quartet of blue collar boys to life strikingly and harmoniously.  Des McAnuff directs this great musical stuffed with memorable tunes that will have you wanting to dance up the theater aisles.

For tickets ($25 and up), call the Bushnell, 166 Capitol Avenue, Hartford at 860-987-5900 or online at www.bushnell.org.  Performances are Tuesday-Thursday at 7:30 p.m., Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m., with matinees Saturday at 2 p.m. and Sunday at 1 p.m.

Let four guys from Jersey adore you with their eyes and their voices as they work their way into your heart.

"THE MOTHERF------R WITH THE HAT” TIPS ITS BRIM IN HARTFORD



No white picket fences, no refrigerators with crushed ice makers in the door and no happily –ever-afters for playwright Stephen Adly Guirgis’ characters. He doesn’t create wimps or princes.  Rather his heroes are macho and right out there in your face.  His title says it all:  “The Motherf-----r With the Hat.”

A hit last season on Broadway, TheaterWorks of Hartford is launching this edgy, outspoken comedy through Sunday, December 4th for its American Regional Theater premiere and they dare you to utter your own four letter words.

The play is all about relationships, but it is not advised to use it for your personal partnerships, unless you want them to explode.  Jackie (Ben Cole) is newly released from prison, has joyously renewed his long standing hitch-up with Veronica (Clea Alsip), a gal he’s known and loved since eighth grade.

Now Jackie is at her doorstep, at the pad they share, with flowers, a teddy bear and sweet gifts and the huge news that he has landed a job.  Employment will enable the couple to move up the ladder of affection at least three rungs.  All is lovey-dovey until Jackie spies a hat, a man’s hat, not his own hat, on the dresser.

The grey fedora sets off a series of events that involve Jackie’s AA
sponsor Ralph (Royce Johnson), a buff, smooth talking, I’m in your corner African-American who claims to have all the answers to Jackie’s problems, even if it turns out Ralph is causing the vast majority of them himself.  Ralph’s wife, the realistic, eyes open, don’t b.s. me Victoria (Vanessa Wasche) knows the man she married and acknowledges all she lost in the process.

Completing Jackie’s circle of influence is Cousin Julio (Varin Ayala) who genuinely cares for him and has his back, even if it means crossing the morality line.  Tazewell Thompson directs this well-acted verbal and physical comic confrontation with dramatic results.  Sensitive ears may need earmuffs.

For tickets ($50-63), call TheaterWorks, 233 Pearl Street, Hartford at 860-527-7838 or online at www.theaterworkshartford.org.  Performances are Tuesday-Thursday at 7:30 p.m., Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m., and Saturday and Sunday at 2:30 p.m.  Come early to the upstairs lobby to view the art of Chet Kempczynski and Mark Zunino.

Watch how easily addictions to everything from drinking and
 drugs to sex and fruit smoothies present choices that dictate life’s directions and detours.


Monday, October 17, 2011

“OVER THE TAVERN” IS AN INTIMATE FUN FAMILY VISIT




Whoever said “my family put the fun in dysfunctional,” it might well have been a precocious twelve year old lad named Rudy Pazinski of his growing up adventures in Buffalo, New York in the 1950’s Eisenhower era.  Tom Dudzick’s delightfully perceptive comedy about family life, growing up Roman Catholic, is “Over the Tavern” and it will be entertaining people of all ages until Sunday, October 30 at Seven Angels Theatre in Waterbury.

Carey Cannata’s Rudy is a little too smart for his own good, especially if you’re taking a poll among his earnest Catechism teacher, Sister Clarissa (Noel Desiasto) who says Rudy could well be the death of her and she may be right, or his siblings.  Older brother Eddie (Ben Scanlon) is trying to distance himself from the household, now that he’s in high school and he looks on Rudy as pesky.  His sister Annie (Mandy Thompson) is a teenager waking up sexually and she is confused by what she is feeling and doing The youngest sibling Georgie (Tony Harkin) is mentally challenged and Rudy is supposed to guard him and keep him from harm, in word and deeds.

His parents Ellen and Chet (Sarah Knapp and Michael Sacco) have their hands full, not only with remembering to put spaghetti and meatballs on the dinner table but with helping grandpa stop drinking and keeping the tavern profitable.  If it isn’t worrying about Rudy never taking his confirmation or Annie teasing her hair into a beehive where spiders can nest, it’s monitoring the uncensored words coming out of Georgie’s mouth and needing a GPS monitoring system to keep tabs on Eddie’s whereabouts.

Rudy, who is adorable in the hands of Carey Cannata, tries to get his dad to take him to play miniature golf and get God to be more like Ed Sullivan where life is a “really big show.”  Inbetween all the angst, there are sweet moments when mom and dad do an impromptu polka and Eddie beats up his friend who is spreading rumors about Annie.  Whether you believe sinners should be astonished or admonished, “Over the Tavern, as directed by Semina De Laurentis has much to offer on the innerworkings of a family who learn in a thousand simple ways how to have fun and bond together.

For tickets ($29-39.50), call Seven Angels Theatre, Plank Road, Hamilton Park Pavilion, Waterbury at 203-757-4676 or online at www.sevenanglestheatre.org.  Performances are Thursday at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m., Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m.


Let Rudy, as his favorite man Ed Sullivan, guide you into his world, where he questions authority all the way to the big man in charge as he seeks a little bit and a large bite of heaven on earth.

LIN-MANUEL MIRANDA: A MAN CLEARLY HEADING FOR THE HEIGHTS




As a young thirty-something, Lin-Manuel Miranda has a lot of accomplishments and job entries that add up to an impressive resume.  You could say his standing is “in the heights.”

As a Puerto Rican- American composer, rapper, lyricist and actor, Miranda wrote and starred in “In the Heights,” a joyous musical celebrating life in the Washington Heights section of New York City that embraces community and diversity.  It has been accurately described as “Our Town” with a heaping side order of spicy salsa.  He wants audiences to “walk away dancing…after being transported into a state of mind.  The work is a welcome to the neighborhood, with a feeling like ‘Fiddler on the Roof’ and ‘West Side Story.’ Here you spend three days with these people getting to know them.”

Miranda wrote the earliest draft of the musical in 1999 while a sophomore at Wesleyan University in Middletown.  He had already co-founded a hip-hop comedy troupe on campus, Freestyle Love Supreme.  His eighty- minute show was accepted at the student theater company, the Second Stage, “when I only had a working title and two songs written.”  Suddenly he had to produce a finished piece.  Being advised to write about what he knew, he fashioned a piece about growing up Latino, where he spoke English in school and Spanish at home, where he spent summers at a slushy machine helping his aunt, where there were bodegas on every corner.

At Wesleyan, even though there was only one Spanish-American grocery story in the neighborhood, he felt he had permission to write about his culture.  Finding a Latino cast was difficult to organize on campus so he cast a “wide net” and the happy effect was that “everyone had a friend in the show.”  Not only was it a huge success, two seniors Thomas Kail and John Buffalo Mailer, son of author Norman Mailer, approached him about expanding the play for Broadway and were instrumental in making it happen.

By 2002, Miranda had written five drafts while working as an English teacher.  The show went first to off-Broadway and by 2005 to Broadway.  With “serendipity, hard work and luck,” Miranda’s goal was to make the “best show possible.”  Usnavi, who was originally a funny side character, became the narrator and when they had trouble casting him, a Latino who could do rap and learn lots of text, Miranda, who was an actor, took the part.  He performed it for years, as if it were “a snowball falling down the hill.”  Reprising the role as Usnavi again from Christmas 2010 to January 9, 2011 when the play closed, he called it a “great perfect memory” and he has no plans of doing it again…unless there is a movie version.

“In the Heights” was the first Equity tour to ever go to Puerto Rico where it received a “tremendous response.” When Lin-Manuel Miranda was on stage accepting one of several Tonys for his musical he waved a Puerto-Rican flag.

Now the national tour is on its way to Waterbury, to the Palace Theater, 100 East Main Street, for three performances the weekend of November 4 and 5.  For tickets ($48-68), call the Palace at 203-346-2000 or go online at www.palacetheaterct.org.  Performances are Friday, November 4 at 8 p.m. and Saturday, November 5 at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m.

Not one to rest on his laurels, Miranda has dabbled in many other pots, like appearing on “The Sopranos,” helping on “The Electric Company” and “Sesame Street,” producing a hip-hop show on Alexander Hamilton, working on “High School Musical 2,” writing a column and being a restaurant reviewer for the Manhattan Times, composing music for commercials, being invited by Stephen Schwartz to write two songs for the musical “Working” and by Stephen Sondheim to write the new Spanish language dialogue for the revival of “West Side Story.”

In between he also found the time to produce the film “Clayton’s Friends,” to perform at the White House for an Evening of Poetry, Music and Spoken Word, to be the guest of honor this past weekend at Harlem’s Morris-Jamal Mansion, receive an honorary degree from Yeshiva University that resides in Washington Heights and be one of three finalists for the 2009 Pulitzer Prize for Drama.

At the moment, he is flying to Los Angeles to continue working on a new musical “Bring It On” that will open in November.  With a cast that is young and amazing, that he “is in awe of,” it’s a story of a girl who is captain of a cheerleading squad and is redistricted to another school.  The plot is slightly different from the movie but features “extraordinary dancing.”

If you haven’t realized it by now, Miranda doesn’t do anything half way.  When he married Vanessa Nadal, he presented her with a musical version of the song “To Life, L’Chaim” from “Fiddler on the Roof,” a version he had worked on with his father-in-law and the whole wedding party for a month in secret.  Google “To Life Vanessa’s Wedding Surprise” to see this “awesome” video that earned him “major husband points” and overwhelmed his new bride.

Miranda’s philosophy is “follow your gut and you’ll be okay.  Keep moving.”  As for “In the Heights,” it’s been an “incredible journey to which I owe Wesleyan a debt of gratitude. The school said yes and encouraged my ambitions and made them possible.”  Miranda is looking forward to his tenth year reunion coming soon.  Hopefully the serendipity, hard work and luck will continue with lots of spicy salsa for decades in the future.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

THE KINGSTON TRIO: PERFORMING LIVE IN BRIDGEPORT THIS WEEKEND



The colorful shirts, Hawaiian style, may have mellowed.  There might be a little less hair on top.  The members might be different but the musical history marches on.  With three Grammys, entrance in the Grammy Hall of Fame and a 2011 Lifetime Achievement Award, at one point they had four albums on the Billboard Top 10, a record no group. not even the Beatles, has ever matched.

Proudly influencing such entities as the Ramones, the Eagles and Fleetwood Mac, this musical institution prepared the world of folk music for the arrival of Bob Dylan, Joan Baez and Peter, Paul and Mary.  As a cultural phenomenon, The Kingston Trio set off a rock and roll revolution.

You can get on this groovy bandwagon to hear the legendary Kingston Trio for three performances only Saturday, October 15 at 5 p.m. and 8 p.m. and Sunday, October 16 at 5 p.m. at the Downtown Cabaret Theatre, 263 Golden Hill Street, Bridgeport.

The trio began as college crooners, in the mid-1950’s who thought of themselves as calypso singers rather than a folk music group.  They played at fraternity houses, coffee shops and nightclubs in the San Francisco Bay area, planning to stay together for only a year.  Their plans changed when a little ditty named “Tom Dooley” took off like a meteor and the rest is folk music history to the tune of 6 million in sales.

The original group of Bob Shane, Nick Reynolds and David Guard have been replaced over the five decades but the integrity of the group’s original magical sound of harmony has remained the same.  Today’s Kingston Trio consists of George Grove, Rick Dougherty and Bill Zorn, with acoustic guitars, banjos and bass, and their customary humorous banter that accompanies their tunes.

This weekend you are sure to hear a healthy sampling of the group’s hit parade such as “A Worried Man,” “M.T.A.,” ”Scotch and Soda,” “They Call the Wind Maria,” “Everglades,” “Greenback Dollar,” “Road to Freedom,” “Where Have All the Flowers Gone?,” “Seasons in the Sun” and, of course, “Tom Dooley.”

George Grove, who has logged thirty-five years with the group arranges and scores orchestral music, produces albums for other artists and does session work as a vocalist and musician.  Reached in California where he is currently touring, Grove reflected on his history stating, “It is still exciting to pump out the music with integrity and joy.  A career in arts and athletics can last two or three years and our group has been going strong since 1957.”

As to performing 22-30 weeks a year, which he joked can seem like “420 weeks a year,” he calls it “dynamic and ever changing.  Our moods individually and collectively change day to day, depending on our hormone levels and the response of the audience.  People continue to love folk music.  We are a canvas on which we paint our musical picture, continually changing the colors.”

As for their humor on stage, a lot of the show is planned.  They “inject it, starting it as a conversation on stage, a stream of consciousness.  When it works and has merit, we leave it in.”  They strive to be topical and current but not political, to “twist the knife” a little.

All ages seem to enjoy The Kingston Trio sound, and “99.9% come to be entertained, to forget the front page news and just share the music.”  George reflected that the “graying of our audience matches how we are aging on stage,”  Overwhelmingly their fans have kids and grandkids who “are going to record bins and rediscovering the vinyl.  Lots of new fans with a wide range of ages are being made this way.”

The Kingston Trio are “no flash in the pan,” with their lasting contribution, according to Grove being, “encouragement of other people to become musicians…originally they may have wanted to pick up a guitar to impress the girl down the street and it led to something bigger.  With Bob Dylan, it was opening a door for him and allowing his talent to bubble to the top and let him succeed.”

If George Grove ever writes a book about his thirty-five years with the group. he might tell about the time back in 1983 or 84 when the governor of North Carolina James Hunt Jr. came backstage, with his two huge state troopers as body guards and informed Bob Shane, the original group’s leader, that there were three things he always wanted to do:  be governor which he was, conduct a symphony playing Sousa’s “Stars and Stripes Forever” which he was going to do that night and sing a song on stage with The Kingston Trio.  Shane, sitting and smoking, didn’t blink and replied, “Two out of three ain’t bad.”

He might devote another chapter to the time the then Governor of Massachusetts Mitt Romney invited the group to Boston to introduce a new way to pay for the trolley.  The metal token size nickels were being phased out in favor of a credit card that could be swiped.  A city-wide contest had resulted in the new card being called a Charlie Card in honor of the famous Kingston song “M.T.A.” where Charlie never returns.  The governor sang with them on stage, something the governor of North Carolina would envy, and “not only was he tall and good looking, he had a good voice.”

The other members of the current group are also known for their singing prowess:  Bill Zorn has “a terrific voice and is a great entertainer, and has family in Connecticut while Rick Dougherty is a beautiful tenor.”  Paul Gabrielson is wonderful on bass.

For tickets ($29.50-49.50), call the Downtown Cabaret Theatre of Bridgeport at 203-576-1636 or online at
www.downtowncabaret.org.  Performances are this Saturday at 5 p.m. and 8 p.m. and Sunday at 5 p.m.  Remember to bring a picnic meal to share at your table.

George Grove, who could easily change his name to “Groove” or “Groovy,” started playing piano by ear at age four and by seven he knew he was going to be a professional musician.  Even when he was in the army, he played in the band.  He feels blessed to be making music with the iconic Kingston Trio, a group he calls “the Ever Ready Bunny,” always memorable, crisp and eager to entertain, a cultural extravaganza that sounded an alarm clock for folk music’s wake-up and revival.









Saturday, October 1, 2011

SINTHEA STARR WOWS CROWD AT LYRIC HALL




Sinthea Starr could be Dame Edna’s kissing cousin, minus the Australian accent of course.  She comes in a large package of  engaging charm and she confides Hollywood gossip and inside information like she is chatting with you, her best friend.  Ms. Starr, a self-proclaimed legend, appeared recently on an intimate stage, the Lyric Hall in the center of New Haven’s Westville section, in a space that has been lovingly restored by John Cavaliere. Lyric Hall was long ago an entertainment space in vaudeville and silent film days and it is now spotlighting talent once again as well as showcasing antiques.

With a show dedicated to her old friend, the late Academy Award winning actress Patricia Neal, Ms. Starr was awash in turquoise silk and adorned with feather boas.  A collection of salty and sexy songs pepper her performance, along with funny anecdotes about her life on and off the stage, saluting her decades as a star.  In a show written, directed and created by Joel Vig, with musical direction by Chris Muller on the piano, Sinthea Starr serenades seductively as she surrenders her heart and soul to her audience.  Watch for notices announcing her next one- woman show “An Evening with Sinthea Starr” at a theater or nightclub near you.

HOT AIR BALLOONS ALMOST TAKE TO THE SKY