Monday, April 30, 2012


Once again the Eli Whitney Museum’s Leonardo Challenge has achieved high levels of accomplishment at its fundraiser on Thursday, April 26, number 18 in a series of sensational soirees. Each year an object, like pencils, rulers, mirrors, keys or ice cream spoons, is selected as an artist material and the “challenge” is to create something utilizing that in a novel way.

This year director Bill Brown and associate director Sally Hill selected numbers, entitled “Enumerated Invention" and one hundred artists from all over the country submitted everything from detailed painted eggs to beautifully carved furniture, blocks and toys for children to children's books, hand sewn patchwork quilts to elegant carved sculptures.

Jennifer Davies of Branford created “Your Numbers Are Falling,” with black and white paper she produced herself using Japanese mulberry plants.  In a series of steps, she cooks and cleans it, makes it fiber, squeezing and suspending it and then catching it on a screen before flipping it on a blanket to dry.  She claims to have been entering the challenge every year since “the clothes pins and cigar boxes.”

For Betsy Golden Kellem of Westville, who is an attorney by day, her love of art brings her to take part in the challenge.  Her entry this year is called “4 and 20 Blackbirds,” a delightful water color painting of what might happen if the blackbirds from the nursery rhyme mutinied causing the chef to go in a tizzy.
For Tim Nighswander, one entry wasn’t enough, he submitted two.  After scouring flea markets all spring to find just the right old clamps and fittings which, when mounted on an old white piece of lumber read as the numbers 1 – 10. Titled "Tools You Can Count On," it charmed everyone who saw it. Add to that, a painstakingly hand-crafted child's chair called "4 on the Floor" and it was clear what Tim did late into the nights before the Challenge.

Amy Peters of Madison used slate and wood, a wood burner and acrylic paint to create an abacus “You Can Count on Me.”  Calling it  “quirky like me,” it was the first idea she had and she selected a Gertrude Stein quote “Counting is the religion of this generation.  Its Hope and Salvation.” She considers the quotation perfect for an abacus “funny, wise and eccentric.”

Among the many other unique submissions are “Soft numbers” animal toys by Sara Thomas, a lithographed and hand colored group of Toucans by Alexis Brown called "Safety in Numbers", a sculpture of 5 hands counting on one through 5 extended fingers by Susan Clinard, a shiny white 3D printed “Pi Plate and Pi Pin” designed by Tim Newton, an exquisite cherry wood and ash handmade bench with Pi shaped feet, called Cherry Pi Bench, by Dan Velasquez, and an adorable photograph of a girl and her pup called “Wallflower 13” by Jackie Heitchue.

All the proceeds from the fundraiser will be used for summer and year round programming for children and for scholarships.  The entries will be on display until Sunday, May 13.  The Eli Whitney Museum, 915 Whitney Avenue, Hamden is available by calling 203-777-1833 or online at  Museum hours are Sunday noon-5 p.m., closed Monday and Tuesday, open Wednesday – Friday noon – 5 p.m. and Saturday 10 a.m. – 3 p.m.

Come see creativity and imagination unleashed as a tribute to Leonardo da Vinci, master mathematician, painter, sculptor, inventor and scientist.



If you believe that “good neighbors make strange bedfellows,” then you might want to borrow a cup of sugar or share glass of wine with “The Realistic Joneses,” a world premiere play by William Eno currently entertaining company at the Yale Repertory Theatre until Saturday, May 12.

Bob and Jennifer Jones enjoy sitting outside of an evening talking of inconsequentials, the lonely hooting of an owl, the quietness of basking under a canopy of stars.  Living in the shadows of the mountains is a peaceful and powerful balm as they try to avoid dealing with Bob’s devastating illness.

Their snippets of chatter and conversation are interrupted by the unexpected arrival of John and Pony, who are also Joneses and have moved in a few steps down the road.  Like a Welcome Wagon in reverse, John and Pony have brought a bottle of wine to Bob and Jennifer’s picnic table to make their acquaintance.

As these two couples waltz and cha-cha around each other, it quickly becomes clear that strange things are happening in the suburbs.  Non sequiturs, unrelated babbles of talk, are planted in the garden like daffodils and tulips, and are picked up and discarded without cause or reason.  Everyone talks but nobody listens, everyone is afraid, but nobody cares.  They each have an agenda but it is written in sand and easily erased.  While there are a lot of serious topics alluded to, they engender little meaningful response.

Tracy Letts and Johanna Day as Bob and Jennifer interact with Glenn Fitzgerald and Parker Posey, as John and Pony, communing with nature but failing to communicate with each other.  Sam Gold directs this meandering trek into suburbia where real issues like love, fidelity, marriage, career, illness and death are lurking behind the pine trees, ready to jump out and scare you silly.

For tickets ($20-88), call the Yale Rep, 1120 Chapel Street, New Haven, corner of York, at 203-432-1234 or online at  Performances are Tuesday to Saturday at 8 p.m., with matinees selected Wednesdays and Saturdays at 2 p.m.

Perch on the picnic bench and squeeze yourself into the conversation as you sip a glass of Merlot and discover for yourself if the Joneses are realistic or not.


The classic coming-of-age movie “The Graduate” is enjoying a reincarnation from the novel to the stage, thanks to writers Calder Willingham and Buck Henry.  Until Sunday, May 6, the Ivoryton Playhouse will be “revealing” how Benjamin Braddock who should be ecstatic about completing four years of college at the top of his class and celebrating his achievements with his family and friends at a party in his honor is, instead, hiding in his bedroom, filled to the max with anxieties and insecurities.

Luke Guldan is wonderful as the angst-driven Ben, whose promising future everyone sees as golden except himself.  At this vulnerable junction in life, when he just has to select which perfectly paved road to pursue, there enters temptation in the form of Mrs. Robinson, the wife of his dad’s law partner.

Luke Guldan’s Benjamin is deliciously ripe for the picking and the older and wiser Mrs. Robinson has selected him for her treat of the month club.  First Judith Lightfoot Clarke’s Mrs. R. shocks him and then tantalizes and entices him to play her little game of seduction.

While his parents (Rik Walter and Victoria Bundonis) wait patiently for Ben to show signs of maturity, ambition and direction, he wanders farther and farther from any path of promise. When his dad and Mr. Robinson (Peter Cormican) contrive to have Ben date Elaine Robinson, a sweet and idealistic Jess Brown, who is home from Berkeley, the illicit deeds become fodder for a first class family feud.  To complicate an already “grotesque” situation. Ben and Elaine find themselves having real feelings for each other.

Completing the cast are Heather Gault as a stripper and bridesmaid, Jeffrey F. Wright II as a hotel clerk and groom and Todd Little as a priest and bartender.  Lawrence Thelen keeps a steady hand on the delicate balance of comedy and drama that drives the story.

For tickets ($40, seniors $35, students $20, children $15), call the Ivoryton Playhouse, 103 Main Street, Ivoryton at 860-767-7318 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.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012


Bob Hope named him Tony Bennett.  Frank Sinatra called him the best singer in the business.  Judy Garland proclaimed the world needs him.  Because of his charity work, he’s been renamed “Tony Benefit.” Born in Astoria, Queens, New York, the son of a grocer and a seamstress, he is almost as well known as a painter, using his birth name Benedetto, as he is a famous crooner of tunes.

Music Theatre of Connecticut in Westport is paying splendid  tribute to Tony Bennett, the man and the music, weekends until Sunday, May 6 with the David Grapes and Todd Olson show “I Left My Heart….”

A trio of dapper and debonair gentlemen – Christopher De Rosa, Johnny Orenberg and Jordan Wolfe – will serenade you with all his greatest hits and a few lesser known numbers as well as share stories of the man in anecdotes and personal tales.

 A three piece jazz combo will guarantee there is smooth sailing as the men of the moment, clad in tailored tuxedo perfection, go “Steppin’ Out With My Baby,” encourage you to “Come Fly With Me,” croon you a “Lullaby of Broadway,” fiddle with
That Old Black Magic,” try to “Make Someone Happy” and  promise to be there “As Time Goes By.”

With polish and pizzazz, they hopscotch across the six decades of Bennett’s career and touch on more than three dozen hits from his one hundred albums to share the best of this American icon’s songbook.  From “Boulevard of Broken Dreams” to “Because of You,” “Stranger in Paradise” to “Crazy Rhythm,” these classy gents help us remember why Tony Bennett has endured and is clearly “a classic.”

In honor of his 85th birthday, in September 2011, he released “Duets II,” debuting at number one on the Billboard 200, making Bennett the oldest living artist to reach that top spot.  New generations are continually discovering him and the music of Cole Porter, Gershwin and Johnny Mercer that he made memorable.

Kevin Connors directs this wonderful musical salute that ends with Bennett’s signature song, “I Left My Heart in San Francisco.” He first sang it at the Fairmount Hotel in 1961 in that city by the bay and it has been his song ever since.  Bennett claimed “That song helped make me a world citizen.  It allowed me to live, work and sing in any city on the globe.  It changed my whole life.”

For tickets ($30-45), call MTC, 246 Post Road East, lower level, Westport at Colonial Green at 203-454-3883 or online at  Performances are Friday at 8 p.m., Saturday at 4 p.m. and 8 p.m. and Sunday at 3 p.m.

Jump aboard that little cable car and “Make Someone Happy” by climbing halfway to the stars…when the golden sun will shine for you.

Monday, April 23, 2012


                                     OSA IMAGES   COSTUMES ZALDY GOCO

Cirque du Soleil and Michael Jackson are both legendary and icons, each remarkable, each fantastic, so imagine the power and personality and punch of uniting them in one extraordinary entertainment experience. WOW!!! On Wednesday, May 2 and Thursday, May 3 at 8 p.m.  Hartford’s XL Center will explode with “Michael Jackson: The Immortal World Tour.”

The official “King of Pop,” the superstar of performers, the greatest entertainer of all time, a larger than life personality, Michael Jackson began life in a small three-room house in Gary, Indiana.  His father Joe’s strict discipline had a profound effect on Michael, contributing to his success as well as bordering on child abuse.  At a young age, he began performing with his brothers as part of The Jackson 5.

A singer-songwriter, musician, composer, dancer, choreographer, record producer, actor, businessman and philanthropist, Jackson knew no equal.  Through his Heal the World Foundation, he personally donated over $300,000,000 to charity and holds the Guiness World Record for having supported more charities than any other pop star, and more than any other celebrity except for Oprah Winfrey.

As the most awarded recording artist in the history of pop music, he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame not once, but twice and is the only dancer from the world of rock ‘n’ roll to be entered into the Dance Hall of Fame.

Be prepared to be astounded by this $57,000,000 tribute to Michael Jackson’s artistry and talent, written and directed by Jamie King, who captured “his energy, spirit and essence” in the show, with sixty-five performers from all over the world.  With a Giving Tree at the center of the stage, this creative image is the source of all the fairy tales and fantasy, magic and mystery, all the imaginative artistry for which he was blessed and for which Cirque du Soleil is world famous.  The show will paint this superstar power with a brush of many colors as it creates a panoramic portrait of the man and his magnificent music and extraordinary dance.

The Giving Tree is modeled after a real tree on Jackson’s Neverland Ranch in California, a tree he often sat in to write songs because he found it so inspirational.  Cirque du Soleil is clearly the superlative and exceptional company that can do justice to Michael Jackson with its mastery of monumental theatrical magic.

While the vast majority of the performers in the show are from exotic locations world wide, at least one is home grown.  Nineteen
year old Desiree Bassett is from Ashford, Connecticut and she may be black and blue from pinching herself to make sure she’s wide awake and not caught in a dream.  For Desiree Bassett is the lead guitarist on the Cirque du Soleil Michael Jackson  The Immortal World Tour.

This talented young lady strums a mean guitar and has been doing so since age 3, starting on a half size Lotus guitar, encouraged by her father.  Both her parents had recognized her abilities when at age 2 they heard her singing herself to sleep with Reba McEntire songs.

By age 8, she was competing in local contests and a year later could be found at the University of Connecticut music program taking both singing and guitar lessons, where it was discovered she had perfect pitch and could play by ear.

Her father, a guitarist himself, admits that by age 4 and 1/2 Desiree was correcting his playing mistakes.  When she strummed a complicated Joe Satriani tune that he had invested ten years in learning, without success, he knew she was a child prodigy.  Being called Guitar Queen and considered the “Best Girl Guitarist in the World,” is it any wonder that Desiree Bassett now finds herself playing in a band that has five original members of Michael Jackson’s musical entourage?  She calls the experience “indescribable and I’m learning so much that will influence my own music when I tour with my own band and make my own videos and recordings.  They are all so supportive with good advice and help so I’ll go in the right direction.”

The magic began last March when her dad, now her agent, got a call from the musical director of the Cirque du Soleil band.  As Desiree tells it, she was in her room listening to a Michael Jackson tune “The Way You Make Me Feel” and her dad, who admits he had never heard of Cirque du Soleil, had no idea of how the call would change her life.

The musical director had seen her on YouTube and recognized the unique talents she possessed.  Her background in hard rock, rock ‘n’ roll, blues, metal, jazz, classical and pop made her eminently qualified for the opportunity.  As the youngest member of the show, she calls it “one huge family.”

Desiree has no trouble deferring college as she travels all over Canada and the United States and can’t wait for Europe and Asia.  The whole experience has made her “awestruck.  It’s all good.  There is no down side.  I’m excited that my whole family, school teachers and friends will be coming to Hartford to see the show.”

The Jackson family has been supportive and involved in the production, coming to see it for its October 2, 2011 opening in Montreal and several times since.  They know Michael was a huge fan of Cirque du Soleil and would have been proud to have this tribute mounted.

For tickets ($50-175 and up), call 1-800-745-3000 or online at or Performances are Wednesday, May 2 and Thursday, May 3 at 8 p.m. at the XL Center, 1 Civic Center Plaza (formerly Hartford Civic Center), Hartford.

Come see a celebration of a man/boy who said of himself “I’ll always be Peter Pan in my heart…and…music has been my outlet, my gift to all of the lovers in this world.  Through it, my music, I know I will live forever.”  The Immortal Tour is making Michael Jackson’s wish come true.  A white sequined glove is optional.


A fine line exists between saving, collecting and hoarding.  Preserving bits and pieces of the past can ground us, but the threat is always present that they can just as easily suffocate and paralyze us, preventing us from moving on with our life.  Such is clearly the case with Daniel Ashburn in the compelling and powerful world premiere drama “Salvage,” written by George Brant and directed by Maryna Harrison, being presented by Theatre 4 in New Haven until Sunday, May 6.

The Ashburn family now consists of only mother Roberta, played with strength of steel and backbone of anger by Janie Tamarkin, and daughter Kelly, created with anxiety and compassion by Mariah Sage.  They have just buried Daniel, lovingly fragile son and brother, who has been tragically killed in a car accident.

In mom’s mind, Danny died two decades before when his high school sweetheart Amanda ended their relationship and abandoned him for her future, college, and later penned a revealing book, a bestseller, that was a mere wisp of gauze disguising their intimate and private love.

Danny never recovered from Amanda’s loss and has been frozen in time, unable to move forward, from that fateful day she walked out.  As a worshipful younger sister, Kelly regarded her big brother as a hero and has been content to live in his shadow all these years.

Now a killer storm is on the way and the basement that houses all the treasures of Danny’s life will soon be flooded and mother and daughter have the daunting task of “salvaging” what each wants to save.  They are closing up shop on an existence, and now they must quickly separate what is debris from what is dear, slicing open sealed boxes to reveal who Danny was.

Into this fraught and fearsome sea of unresolved issues walks Amanda, portrayed with charisma and chutzpah by Rebecka Jones, seemingly there to offer sympathy.  Bu† she has a manipulative agenda of her own.  To Roberta, Amanda is a symphony of evil, the girl who destroyed her son.  To Kelly, she is an idol to be adored, yet can she be trusted after walking out so many years before?

The intimate space in the Gallery at UpCrown Entertainment, 216 Crown Street, New Haven is perfect for this involving and emotional work that will keep you in suspense.  “Wow” is too small a word.

“Salvage” was commissioned by Theatre 4 specifically to create good roles for women and George Brant has captured that task beautifully.  For tickets ($30, student rush $15), call 203-654-7711 or online at  Performances are Thursday-Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m.

Does Amanda deserve the blame for setting her young love Danny on a path that dead ends? Judge for yourself as this compelling work unfolds and the floodwaters creep ever closer.

Monday, April 16, 2012



Once again the Connecticut Chapter of the American Liver Foundation, located in North Haven, has outdone itself in this year’s “Flavors” event.  Thirty-five chefs from all over the state came to the Aqua Turf recently to share their culinary talents, preparing a festive and gala meal for a table of twelve, five courses with wine pairings.

Setting a table with china and linens, the chefs gave their finest menu, cooking at their table, and serving each course personally, often with commentary.  In addition to the delicious dinners, a silent and live auction were held as well as a special liver research funding opportunity.

Kudos to chapter coordinator Joanne Thompson and her staff and co-chairs Dr. and Mrs. Robert Leventhal for an outstanding evening of fun and funds, raising over $200,000 to find the answers to the more than 100 liver diseases that are currently labeled “no known cause and no known cure.”  For further information, contact the chapter at 203-234-2022, 127 Washington Avenue, North Haven, CT 06473.



For the ninth year, New Haven’s Creative Arts Workshop has opened its doors and its mouth to the international fun contest “Edible Books Tea.”  Children and adults are encouraged to take a favorite book and translate it through food into something edible.
This year’s entries included a pretzel and cookie campfire display that represented the book “Kind’ling,” a diorama of vegetables
that introduced “The Secret Garden,” a giant cookie to tell the tale (tail) of “Harry the Dirty Dog,”  a yummy pink, black and white frosted tent to represent “Nighttime at the Circus,” and a unique hive of cereal squares glued together by peanut butter to be “The Secret Lives of Bees,” among others.

Once the books have been admired, the audience of lookers gets to eat them ….hence, edible books. Tea is optional.



Westport photographer Barbara Paul has a fascinating exhibit of pictures on display at the New Haven Free Public Library until Thursday, May 3 entitled :”The Amazing Himba People of Namibia.”  Namibia is a small African nation, an isolated world where few travelers venture.  Through Barbara’s photos one can glimpse the daily life of these unique people, caring for their children, picking corn, cooking, dancing with joy, men herding their goats.

Taking part in the lives of this semi-nomadic tribe, Barbara was “privileged to visit twenty isolated Himba villages in the rugged terrain of Northwestern Namibia.  It was impossible not to be awestruck by the stunning women…whose oiled and ochred skin gleams a deep red-orange, and who wear extravagant thick braids and animal hide skirts, headdresses and ornaments.  The Himba still preserve age-old habits and traditions which have endured despite much adversity.  They live almost as they did centuries ago.”

At the exhibit opening, the Namibian ambassador to the United Nations came with his wife and daughter and spoke of his country.
Namibia gained independence from South Africa twenty-two years ago and is the home of the oldest desert in the world.  Boasting 300 days of sunshine a year, the ambassador encouraged people to visit.

By recording these unique indigenous group around the world, she hopes to “provide understanding and respect for their culture, their style of dress, their daily way of life, and the steadfastness with which they preserve their traditions.”

Ms. Paul has also made photo studies of Sri Lanka, India, the cultures of Oman, Mongolia and Indonesia, the Samburu of Kenya, the festivals of Ghana, Benin, and Togo, the monk’s village life in Eastern Tibet, Ethiopia, Jerusalem, and Petra, Mali and Papua, New Guinea.


If one birthday party is good, then two birthday parties must be great, especially if you are invited to attend to celebrate a pair of legendary actresses on Sunday afternoon, May 6 from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m.  Academy Award winner Celeste Holm and Tony Award winner Elizabeth Wilson will be feted, wined and dined at Westville’s intimate Lyric Hall, 827 Whalley Avenue, in New Haven for Ms Holm’s 95th and Ms. Wilson’s 91st.

In honor of the occasion, the film “Broads” will be shown, featuring both actresses as well as the esteemed Estelle Parsons and the late Kim Hunter, Patricia Neal and Maureen Stapleton.
Ray Glanzmann, who conceived, produced and directed “Broads” will be in attendance to introduce it along with many surprise guests.

The illustrious Ms. Holm is noted for her roles as Karen in “All about Eve,” as Liz in “High Society,” as Aunt Polly in “Tom Sawyer,” as Anne in “Gentleman’s Agreement,” as Sister Scholastica in “Come to the Stable,” among dozens of others.

Ms. Wilson has had outstanding parts in such varied productions as Picnic,” “Sticks and Bones,” “Uncle Vanya,” “Threepenny Opera,” “Nine to Five,” “A Delicate Balance” and “The Graduate.”

Lyric Hall itself has a fascinating history, starting off as the West Rock Theater in 1913, a home for vaudeville and silent film showings.  Forgotten for almost eight decades, it has been brought back to vibrant life by John Cavaliere who rescued it from obscurity, when it was about to become a parking lot, and gave it new life as a home for his restoration of furniture and antique business by day and an exciting performance venue by night.
Call 203-393-0733 for tickets ($25), a donation to help the Preservation of the Lyric Hall.  Come celebrate these two luminaries of show business, Ms. Celeste Holm and Ms. Elizabeth Wilson, and drink a champagne toast and enjoy a slice of birthday cake.


The abstract expressionist artist Mark Rothko, born Marcus Rothkovitz in Russia in 1903, created more than eight hundred paintings in his lifetime, a few breaking selling records at $22.5 million, $30 million and even $72.8 million.

Playwright John Logan has taken one period in the life of Mark Rothko and fashioned his scrupulous attention on it, a spotlight if you like, and entitled it simply “RED,” a color the painter favored.  Red can mean vermillion, crimson, scarlet, plum, ruby or maroon and “RED” focuses on all its aspects and particularities.

TheaterWorks of Hartford will be casting a speculative eye on “RED” to catch all the interactions of painter and canvas and viewer until Sunday, May 6.

Rothko dabbled with work in the garment district of New York and with acting in Portland, Oregon before he picked up a paintbrush and saw art as a life’s journey for both religious and emotional expression.  The play “RED” deals with a period when he has found some success, with Peggy Guggenheim as a patron, with works hanging in the Museum of Modern Art, with solo shows at the Art Institute of Chicago. He is given a new major commission.

Architects Mies Van der Rohe and Philip Johnson, designers of a new building on Park Avenue, the Seagram edifice, want Rothko to provide paintings for its luxury restaurant, The Four Seasons.  This challenging project for which he paints forty large canvases with horizontal and rectangular shapes in a variety of shades of red consumes him.

Jonathan Epstein is Rothko in all his bombastic and egotistical splendor, a man obsessed as much by his talents as by his doubts.  To him his larger than life paintings are a “continuous narrative…10% paint on canvas, 90% thinking.”  He wants to make the restaurant a temple and, at the same time, make it impossible for the patrons to eat anything while sitting under his work.

To help him attack the blank canvases, intimidating in their whiteness, he hires a young assistant, portrayed by an eager to learn Thomas Leverton, who gets quite an education under Rothko’s abrasive and intimidating tutelage.  Director Tazewell Thompson provides over this dramatic play of insights and aspirations with a keen eye for detail.

For tickets ($50-63), call TheaterWorks, 233 Pearl Street, Hartford at 860-527-7838 or online at  Performances are Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday at 7:30 p.m., Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m., with Saturday and Sunday matinees at 2:30 p.m.  Come early for the exhibit of art by woman prisoners in the Gallery of American Art upstairs, sponsored by The Hartford Financial Services Group.

Will Mark Rothko compromise his artistic principles if he completes a monumental mural for a commercial venue?  Come to his studio, hand him a paintbrush, and discover the intriguing answer for yourself.

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                                   Kiara Matos - 1,2,3  Set of porcelain bowls

You may remember being at a carnival and having a barker exhort you to “Pick a number. Any number” with the hopes of luring you to play a card or shell game or wager on spinning a wheel of fortune.  Now the Eli Whitney Museum in Hamden is issuing a call of its own, enticing artists from all over the country to enter the 18th   Annual Leonardo Challenge, named in honor of the great inventor and artist Leonardo Da Vinci, this year entitled “Enumerated Invention.”

Every year since 1994 , the museum, located at 915 Whitney Avenue in Hamden, has selected an object, from clothes pins to playing cards, ice cream spoons to measuring tape, checkers to keys, bottle caps to pencils to use to create a picture, mobile, item of clothing or furniture, game or puzzle to contribute to a unique fundraising event to benefit the museum’s year round and summer programs for children, and for scholarships for those who could not afford to attend otherwise.

This year’s gala will take place on Thursday, April 26, from 5:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. and the topic of interest is, you guessed it, numbers.  Numbers are a fixed aspect of life, the backbone of mathematics and the way we count, days, objects, everything, from addition to algebra, back to the Egyptians and Greeks, from the Chinese abacus to the most complex computer systems.

Are you intrigued by the fact that historians using high magnification techniques have discovered numbers and letters hidden in Da Vinci’s painting of the Mona Lisa?  Even though number notation was not standardized in his time, he used mathematical symbols and terms to communicate his own unique ideas.  He is even quoted as saying “Let no one read my principles who is not a mathematician.”  His inventive mind is credited with conceiving solar power, the parachute, helicopters, calculators and tanks as well as being a masterful painter, sculptor, architect, musician, scientist and engineer:  a true Renaissance man.

This year’s challenge encourages artists to pick a number that appeals to them and explore it, revealing its magic, mystery and mirth.  Every year the museum’s associate director Sally Hill creates a lamp and a second entry to contribute and this year is no exception. “It’s hard to believe it's been 18 years. Just after each one of these, Bill (William Brown,  Director) and I begin to worry we won't be able to come up with another good idea. And then February comes around and we send out invitations to the artists – and the work that comes in is just magical, or whimsical, or…reassuring that wonderful creative fresh ideas are always going to be around as long as people are enjoying themselves doing it.”

For tickets ($55), call the museum at 203-777-1833 or online at  Museum hours are Sunday noon-5 p.m., closed Monday and Tuesday, open Wednesday – Friday noon – 5 p.m. and Saturday 10 a.m. – 3 p.m.  This event will be open for viewing until May 13.

Let the genius of Leonardo Da Vinci be your inspiration to create any “number” of fascinating fleets of fancy.

Monday, April 9, 2012


The days of the faithful milkman delivering bottles of fresh dairy products to your door personally is a tradition that has stopped long ago.  But that custom is about to be renewed, for a few days at least, when that philosophical and wise but humble man, Tevye, comes to town.  Tevye will be pulling his wooden wagon, since his horse is lame, plodding along in his native village of Anatevka, in Czarist Russia, as he has been doing religiously since 1964 when “Fiddler on the Roof” first opened its magical, musical doors.

Until Sunday, April 15, you can visit with Tevye, a magnificent John Preece,and his extended family, at Hartford’s Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts, in the shtehl community where they have lived in peace and harmony for centuries  until the outside world intrudes.  Tevye is a likeable fellow who carries on conversations with God, would love to be rich enough so he could study Torah all day and only wants his wife Golde and his five daughters to be happy and blessed with good health.

In his way, Tevye is a proud papa who desires his daughters to find proper suitors and a good match.  Employing a matchmaker in the village, Yente, is the accepted method of arranging marriages, but he soon learns that times are changing and he, as a tree of strength, must learn to bend and be flexible to accommodate the new ways.

When his sweet Tzeitel chooses for herself to wed the poor tailor Motel, instead of the wealthy widower Lazar Wolf the butcher, Tevye bends to the winds of change.  But Tevye will be tested many more times in ways that he could never have anticipated as the Jews feel the harsh hands of the Czar slowly tightening around their necks.

These stories of Sholom Aleichem have been woven by Jerry Bock, Sheldon Harnick and Joseph Stein into a multiple Tony Award-winning musical, bursting with such glorious tunes as “Matchmaker, Matchmaker,” “If I Were a Rich Man,” “Tradition,” “To Life” “Miracle of Miracles” and “Now I Have Everything.”  The peace of the 1905 village is disturbed, when the Czar decides to evict the Jews and force them to flee, causing the precarious musician, a fiddler perched on the thatched roof, to lose his balance.

For tickets ($17-72), call the Bushnell, 166 Capitol Avenue, Hartford at 860-987-5900 or online at  Performances are tonight at 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.

Don’t let another “Sunrise, Sunset” go by, without experiencing the joy and tears of Tevye’s family as they count their blessings, celebrate their traditions and learn to change in a world that is shaking them from their slippery rooftop perch.


Actress Maria Baratta prides herself on being real and raw, and along the way she is also filled with personality and promise.  Her new one-woman show that she wrote and stars in, “Vignettes of an I-talian American Girl,” is receiving well-deserved kudos on the stage of Waterbury’s Seven Angels Theatre until Sunday, April 22.

Fittingly this Waterbury native is willing to show herself, Italian-American roots and all, down to her soul, which she bares to the audience openly and honestly.  While she is alone on stage, her family surrounds her with love and sincere affection as well as a lot of advice she has no intention of taking.

Her mom Lucy, her dad Tony, her younger sister Nicolina and a bevy of aunts and uncles are all brought to life through Baratta’s skills as an impersonator, so true to life that you can see each member of the family interacting with her like a well spiced spaghetti sauce to her narrative meat balls.

The stories she shares are at times humorous and poignant and she spares no details to keep it real.  Her extended clan taught her how to be a professional first-class worrier while her father showed her dances from the tango to the twist to the tarantella.  Her mom, the accordion-playing and singing hairdresser, convinced her that any problem can be solved with her special cookie recipe…every problem except what happened on June 23, 2000 to her exuberant, taboo shattering, full of vibrancy little sister Nicky.

As Maria searches for answers as to why their lives changed so drastically that fateful day, she summons the courage to face forward and move ahead, following the advice given to her long ago by a favorite uncle.  Anthony Patellis directs this charming and heartfelt journey of coming of age.

For tickets ($29-39), call Seven Angels Theatre, Plank Road, Hamilton Park Pavilion, Waterbury at 203-757-4676 or online at  Performances are Thursday at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m., Friday at 8 p.m., Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m.

Follow Maria Baratta down her personal yellow brick road to growing up where her La Famiglia, her family, may be hiding behind the curtain with the Wizard of Oz.

Monday, April 2, 2012


By day, Lyric Hall is a fascinating warren of antiques and furniture, nestled in the Westville section of New Haven, lovingly conserved and restored by owner John Cavaliere.  Cavaliere who restores art and antiques and frequently adds gold leaf to the treasures, gilding the objects, buys things he loves and then lives with them.  They are often salvage pieces with interesting architectural details and he also takes commissions from dealers and collectors.

Seven years ago he bought Lyric Hall which had been destined to be torn down and made into a parking lot.  The previous owner, an antique dealer Wayne Chorney, was hoping Cavaliere would save it from that fate.  Even though the building was in an advanced state of disrepair, Cavaliere saw its potential, especially after he realized there was a theater hiding amidst the debris.

Back in its heyday, in 1913, the venue had entertained crowds as a vaudeville and silent picture house.  This week it will once again play a Buster Keaton movie “The Navigator,” in black and white, with a live eight- piece orchestra for a hundred students from a neighboring high school film class.  Showing silent movies has become a regular event.  Cavaliere feels the good ghosts, which he knows are still there, would approve of the film showings as well as what he has done to restore the once West Rock Theater to its former glory.

By night, Lyric Hall has been reopened to all sorts of interesting entertainments.  An intimate stage, this week from Wednesday to Saturday, April 4-7, it will present “The Journey of E,” an anthology of the history of jazz and an homage to Edith Piaf, hence the E in the title.  Written, directed and performed by Marcel Blanchet and his quartet Beyond the Sun, the audience is taken on a trip through history from the pre-Depression years of 1928 until 1945, in America and across the pond to Europe.

Marcel plays a newspaper boy who uses the day’s headlines as stopping-off  points for a musical cavalcade of numbers, starting with Louie Armstrong’s “West End Blues.” Blanchet calls Armstrong the Michael Jackson of his age.  As he hawks his papers, he travels along New York City’s Great White Way and picks up fellow musicians Ryan Larson on keyboard and Jedd Chiebowski on bass to join him on drums. When chanteuse Carolyn Raming strolls down the boulevard, his quartet is complete.

The hot jam session salts the air with the sultry and smoky sounds of Carolyn caressing “Love Me or Leave Me,” which segues into the Yiddish “Bei Mir Bisdu Shein” and breaks into French for “Stormy Weather.”  Other wonderful numbers tumble after, like “Boulevard of Broken Dreams,” “Caravan,” “God Bless the Child” and a charming French version of “Wish Upon a Star.”

In tribute to cabaret great Edith Piaf, the group slides back in time to offer “Autumn Leaves” and “La Vie en Rose” before it travels back to the United States for a gig at a Harlem hotspot with a hearty and happy “Lullaby of Birdland.”

For tickets ($10-15) to performances of  “The Journey of E, a Jazz Musical” Wednesday-Saturday at 7:30 p.m., with a Saturday matinee at 2 p.m., call Lyric Hall at 203-389-8885.

Other upcoming events include musician Richard Gans on Saturday, April 14 from 8-11 p.m. at a Shemantra Party with meditation, chanting and Jewish prayer, Top of the Night, a Cabaret with Jim Coatsworth at 7 p.m. and 9 p.m. on Saturday, April 28 and a Birthday Celebration for theater legends Celeste Holm and Elizabeth Wilson at 2 p.m. Sunday, May 6 ($25).

In May, look for Artwalk, a celebration of Westville, the weekend of Mother’s Day, May 11 and 12, a delightful combination of lunch and theater on Wednesday, May 23 from 11-2:30 p.m. when “Play With Your Food” comes to town and Bruce Barber of NPR celebrating his 50th show, being broadcast on Thursday, May 24.
Call Lyric Hall to confirm times and ticket prices.

Let Marcel Blanchet and his jazz combo Beyond the Sun take you on a delightful musical journey jam packed with jazz, both hot and cool, for your listening pleasure.


When author Mary Shelley’s classic monster novel collides with the comic genius of writer Mel Brooks, anything can happen, so hold on to your head, hair and brains.  Mad experimentation and mad scientists are clearly on the loose and a rampage may happen at any moment.

The Palace Theater in Waterbury will be carrying on these deliciously dastardly deeds for three performances, Friday and Saturday, April 13 and 14, evenings at 8 p.m. and matinee at 2 p.m. with the national touring company.

Proceed if you dare into the Transylvania Heights castle, and then into the deep, dark dungeon-like laboratory where Frederick Frankenstein is working his black magic.  A reknown brain surgeon and professor from New York, Frankenstein has recently inherited the property from his grandfather, a clearly off-his-rocker but brilliant Victor Von Frankenstein.

Once in the castle, Freddie must decide his fate:  should he continue his grandfather’s deranged testing or run as fast as he can in the opposite direction?  Could a sexy and beautiful laboratory assistant named Inge sway his decision?  Will the endearingly odd shaped helper Igor be an aide or a hindrance?

Thanks to the imaginations of Mel Brooks and Thomas Meecham, with music and lyrics by Mel Brooks and direction and choreography by Susan Stroman, the bandages are tight and firmly in place for a classic comedy masterpiece.

All this madcap adventure happens while singing and dancing to such sterling tunes as “The Transylvania Mania,” “He Vas My Boyfriend” and “Puttin’ on the Ritz.”  With lightning bolts and cracks of thunder, Mel Brooks has ventured wildly into new territory, first created by a nineteen year old Mary Shelley in her haunting novel about Frankenstein published in 1818.

For tickets ($48-68 ), call the Palace Theater, 100 East Main Street, Waterbury at 203-346-2000 or online at
Ask about the special 4-pack for families.

Come see for yourself how easily Igor convinces Frederick, a brain surgeon, to forget about being the Dean of Anatomy at Yale University and, instead, follow in his grandfather’s footsteps and experiment, experiment, experiment.