Thursday, May 31, 2012


The significant role women have played over time is explored in the new exhibition The History of Woman, on view from May 30, 2012, through June 23, 2012, at Fairfield University’s Thomas J. Walsh Art Gallery, located in the Quick Center. The exhibition is presented by Montage Initiative, a program dedicated to providing impoverished and disadvantaged women and families around the globe with expanded opportunities to earn a sustainable living.

The History of Woman features works by local artists, students, and faculty in celebration of cultural acceptance and individual expression. development. The History of Woman is the capstone event of the Quick Center’s involvement in Fairfield University’s Global Citizenship initiative. During this period, from June 11-15, 2012, Fairfield University is hosting the 3rd Biennial JUHAN (Jesuit Universities Humanitarian Action Network) Student Leadership Conference: Global Perspectives on Humanitarian Action. An estimated 200 students, faculty and staff will be attending the conference from Jesuit Universities globally and nationally to visit the exhibition. Montage Initiative’s attention is currently focused on the plight of the widows in the Indian providence of Vrindavan, although it endeavors to alleviate the reality of extreme poverty worldwide by rallying support and awareness and promoting peace building.

The Thomas J. Walsh Art Gallery is free and open to the public. Hours: Tuesday through Saturday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., Sundays from noon to 4 p.m., and approximately one hour prior to curtain and during intermission at all Quick Center events. The Regina A. Quick Center for the Arts is located on the campus of Fairfield University at 1073 North Benson Road in Fairfield, Connecticut.. Fairfield University is located off exit 22 of Interstate-95. For further information and directions, call (203) 254-4010 or 1-877-278-7396, or visit


Fairfield University’s Quick Center presents an encore screening in High Definition of This American Life- Live! hosted by Ira Glass at 7 p.m., Thursday, June 7, 2012. The original broadcast and performance took place on May 10, 2012, at the Skirball Center at New York University in New York City. It is being presented by WBEZ Chicago and BY Experience in collaboration with Public Radio International. Ira Glass is the well-known host of WBEZ Chicago’s critically acclaimed radio show This American Life, a weekly hour-long radio program that debuted in 1995 on WBEZ Chicago, and broadcast to 500 radio stations reaching 1.7 million weekly listeners.

 This American Life- Live! features stories by writer David Rakoff, comedian Tig Notaro and Snap Judgment host Glynn Washington. Together they perform a live stage version of the radio show, centered on the theme “The Invisible Made Visible.” The performance also features a new short film by Mike Birbiglia, live music by the rock band and YouTube sensations OK Go, a dance performance by Monica Bill Barnes & Company, original animation and illustration, and special surprise guests.

 "I saw this amazing dance performance by Monica Bill Barnes' company, and I thought - that is totally in the style of our radio show," said host Ira Glass. "But obviously you can't have dance on the radio. Then I realized, we have to do another cinema event! We've built this lineup of stories mixed with super visual things, including the dancers I saw that night, so it's going to feel like the radio show but also totally unlike anything we've done before.”

 Tickets ($20, $15 for students and seniors) are available through the Quick Center: (203) 254-4010, or toll-free 1-877-ARTS-396. (1-877-278-7396).

Come see and hear a radio show come to life, with Ira Glass at the helm.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012


The theatrical marriage of Frank Sinatra’s sultry love songs and Twyla Tharp’s dazzling dance moves is an evening that promotes and celebrates romance.  Think of a Valentine’s Day holiday gala hosted by Cupid himself where a big band, more than a dozen dancers and Ol’ Blue Eyes’ memorable music serenade and sooth.  Experience “Come Fly Away” coming to Hartford’s Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts on gossamer wings of love until Sunday, June 3.

Sexy and sophisticated, flirtatious and fancy free, “Come Fly Away” follows four couples Kate and Hank (Ashley Blair Fitzgerald and Anthony Burrell), Marty and Betsy  (Christopher Vo and Ramona Kelley), Slim and Chanos (Ioana Alfonso and Matthew Stockwell Dibble) and Babe and Sid (Meredith Miles and Stephen Hanna) as they fall in and out of love, experience their first exhilarating smooch, discover what may not be fated to be and explore all the intricate parts of the puzzle known as love.

Great Sinatra favorites like “Fly Me to the Moon,” “New York, New York,” “You Make Me Feel So Young,” “Body and Soul,” and “I’ve Got a Crush on You” ignite the stage, with Twyla 
Tharp’s innovative and sizzling dance steps to bring the scenes to dramatic and daring life.

With shimmering long legged ladies and dapper gents, the numbers fly by with fluid moves and sensuous styling.  Whether it’s the bumpy courtship of “Let’s Fall in Love” with Marty and Betsy, the possessive and confrontational action between Hank and Kate in “That’s Life,” the spellbinding movements of Sid and Babe in “Witchcraft” or the caveman techniques of  Slim and Chanos in “Yes Sir, That’s My Baby,” these versatile dancers go all out to make their feelings known through their incredible body language on stage.

For tickets ($17-72), call the Bushnell, 166 Capitol Avenue, Hartford at 860-987-5900 or online at Performances are Wednesday  and Thursday at 7:30 p.m., Friday at 8 p.m., Saturday at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. and Sunday at 1 p.m. and 6:30 p.m.

Sip an imaginary martini at the hot nightspot where the dancing is deliciously sexy and sensual and sensational, the big band brilliantly brassy and the vocals of Frank Sinatra dripping with dangerous delight.

Monday, May 28, 2012


                                   Ellen and Annemarie

On Memorial Day, we pause to value our freedoms and thank the men and women who have guaranteed them over the decades.  How appropriate is it , therefore, to look back to a time when Hitler and his Nazi soldiers ruled0 Germany and had plans for a master race and a plot to control the world.

The Spirit of Broadway Theater in Norwich will be shining a spotlight on a memorable moment in World War II with a new musical “Number the Stars,” with book, music and lyrics by Sean Hartley, based on the Newberry Medal Award-winning book by Lois Lowry, until Sunday, June 3.

This ambitious and well- staged production focuses on two ten year old girls in Denmark and how the Nazi invasion affects their daily lives.  First it is a lack of sugar, cream, flour, coffee.  No more cupcakes.  Then it is an 8 p.m. curfew and a curtailment of personal freedoms, with the Jewish people being specifically targeted, their stores closed and members of their faith rounded up, sent to ghettoes and destined for annihilation.

Annemarie (Vera Farina) is best friends with Ellen (Abby Rain Heiser) and they walk to school together with Annemarie’s precocious younger sister Kirsti (Aysia Reed) until Nazi soldiers (Brandon Nichols and Rob Grgach) repeatedly stop and question them.  As the months of 1943 pass, it becomes clear that the Denmark they once enjoyed is gone, possibly for a long time, if not forever.

When Ellen and her mother Sophy (Kristin Lattin) fear for their lives because of their Jewish faith, it is Annemarie’s Christian parents (Shawn Rucker and Frank Calamaro) who risk their own lives to hide Ellen.  When soldiers knock at their door in the middle of the night, they claim Ellen is their daughter Lise (Anne Fowler) who was killed working with her friend Peter (Connor Harvey) in the Resistance movement.

Annemarie’s Uncle Henrik (Corrado Alicata) has a plan to spirit Ellen and her mother away to Sweden and safety.  This plan allows Annemarie the opportunity to show her courage and bravery and underscores how neighbors join in a community to fight evil and stand up for justice.

Songs like “I’ll Tell You Just a Little,” “The Robin and the Rosebud,” “L’Shana Tova” and “Friends” express the heartfelt sentiments of a people fighting an enemy that has invaded their homeland.

Artistic director Brett A. Bernardini has shepherded this production like a proud papa showing off a newborn child, nurturing its development with love and care.  For tickets ($30, students $15 one hour before curtain), call Spirit of Broadway Theater, 24 Chestnut Street, Norwich at 860-886-2378 or online at  Performances are Wednesday and Thursday at 7 p.m., Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m.

Sign up today for the Connecticut High School Musical Theater Awards, a black tie event to be held on Monday, June 4 at 6:30 p.m. at Waterbury’s Palace Theater, 100 East Main Street.  Nineteen member schools, seventeen of which are self-funded acting programs, will receive awards in sixteen categories.  Tickets for the Gala begin at $50.  Call the Palace Theater box office at 203-346-2000 for this outstanding salute to our youth.

Discover the hope and promise that can emerge from even the darkest corners when our freedoms are threatened and our faith is tested.


Cast of MAME, with Louise Pitre   Photo by Diane Sobolewski

Mame Dennis of 3 Beekman Place, New York City prides herself on being unconventional, eccentric and free spirited, on giving spectacular parties and for wringing the last juicy and joyous drop from the sponge of life.  When she finds herself the legal guardian of her late brother’s son Patrick, she incorporates the young lad into her pattern of living without missing a syncopated beat.

To experience a glimpse into her dazzling demeanor, delight in the spirited and engaging production of Jerry Herman’s “Mame” at Goodspeed Musicals in East Haddam, extended to Saturday, July 7 by popular demand.

Louise Pitre sparkles and shines as the adventurous Auntie Mame who only knows one way to live, with exuberance.  When a cautiously timid Agnes Gooch, a deliciously timorous Kirsten Wyatt, delivers young Patrick, a sporting and game Eli Baker, to Mame’s doorstep, they are soon swept away in the glorious goings on.  A starchy Dwight Babcock (Paul Carlin), Patrick’s legal trustee, casts a disapproving eye on the proceedings but he is powerless to control or tame the galloping goddess, Mame.

Patrick is quickly surrounded by the people who hold Mame dear, like her best friend Vera Charles (Judy Blazer), her houseboy Ito (James Seol), her new husband Beau (James Lloyd Reynolds) and her publishing friend Woolsey (James Beaman).  As the roaring twenties progress through the Depression, the grown-up Patrick is portrayed by an understanding but conflicted Charles Hagerty, who still needs Auntie to set him straight.

A parade of great tunes sweep us along, like “It’s Today,” “Open a New Window,” “We Need a Little Christmas,” “Mame,” “Bosom Buddies,” “Gooch’s Song” and “If He Walked Into My Life Today.”  For director Ray Roderick, “Delivering this lavish musical with its thrilling Jerry Herman score, big, bold and stylish dances and its smart and funny book to audiences at Goodspeed’s jewel box of a theatre seemed like a thrilling ride…It is clearly a very special and unexpected love story that remains more than relevant today.”

Add in James Youmans’ versatile silver set, Gregg Barnes’ luscious costumes and Vince Pesce’s inspired choreography and you have a glorious production.  For tickets ($27 and up), call  Goodspeed Musicals on the Connecticut River in East Haddam at 860-873-8668 or online at  Performances are Wednesday at 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m., Thursday at 7:30 p.m. (with select ones 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 ones at 6:30 p.m.) Check the website for special events.

Sit down at the banquet of life where stuffing yourself is more than permitted it’s required, in this delightful family musical by Jerome Lawrence and Robert E. Lee, adapted from the book written by Patrick Dennis about his life with his extraordinary Auntie Mame.


                            Miranda, Prospero and Ferdinand
                                     Photo by T. Charles Erickson
The master magician Prospero has been sent in exile, with his young daughter Miranda, to a deserted island by his brother Antonio, with the help of Alonso the King of Naples, because of jealousy.  Prospero is the rightful Duke of Milan and now, twelve years after the deed, he is set to enact his revenge.

A ship carrying Alonso and Antonio and Alonso’s son Ferdinand and brother Sebastian is traveling home from Tunis where Alonso’s daughter Claribel has just wed the King and Prospero has sent a giant storm, a tempest, to cause it to shipwreck.

Let yourself surrender to the spellbinding enchantment which director Darko Tresnjak has woven into the Hartford Stage’s magnificent rendering of William Shakespeare’s “The Tempest” until Sunday, June 10.

Daniel Davis is riveting as the powerful Prospero.  Thanks to Gonzalo (Noble Shropshire), one of his enemy’s henchmen, and his initial help of food, water, clothes and a library of books when Prospero and a three year old Miranda were set adrift in a small boat, Prospero has thrived on the tiny island.  With the aide of Ariel (Shirine Babb), a spirit only he can see, and Caliban (Ben Cole), an ungrateful and menacing son of a witch, he has learned to survive.  While Ariel serves him, she only desires her freedom, but Caliban resents his presence and wants him gone.

Through his incantations, Prospero separates the men on the ship into three groups, so that Alonso and his son Ferdinand each believe the other is dead.  Two of Alonso’s servants Stephano (Michael Spencer-Davis) and Trinculo (Bruce Turk) are delightfully drunk and fall in with Caliban to plot a ridiculous defeat of Prospero.  The handsome young Ferdinand (William Patrick Riley) is immediately smitten with Miranda (Sara Topham), so quickly that Prospero feels he must place a few obstacles in the path of true love so “too light winning (may) make the prize light.”

Meanwhile Antonio (Jonathan Lincoln Fried) and Sebastian (David Barlow) have treachery firmly in mind as they plot to murder Alonso (Christopher Randolph) and the good-hearted Gonzalo so that Sebastian can become King.

A forgiving Prospero, calm after the storm, with the help of the Bard, makes sure everything works out as “all’s well that ends well.”  The set designed by Alexander Dodge is wondrous to behold, beautifully complemented by Fabio Toblini’s lovely costumes, Michael Chybowski’s inspired lighting and David Budries and Nathan A Roberts’ dramatic sounds and original music.

For tickets ($59.50-90.50), call the Hartford Stage, 50 Church Street, Hartford at 860-527-5151 or online at  Performances are Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Sunday at 7:30 p.m. and Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m., with matinees Wednesday and Saturday at 2 p.m.

Let Prospero and Ariel catch you in their web of enchantment that is both mesmerizing and magical in its utter imagination.
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Thursday, May 24, 2012


Sandy Yaguda, better known as Sandy Deanne, had no way of knowing that assembling a group of high school friends in the basement of his Brooklyn home over fifty years ago would become a lifetime career move.  He admits, “I had no big plans back then.  I got a bunch of kids from Brooklyn together who wanted to hear themselves on the radio, to brag about how good we were.  We got lucky then and we’re even luckier now.”

Since that fateful day, the group has had more turns and twists, more downs and ups, than a Coney Island roller coaster.  They started out as the Harbor Lites, were almost named Blinky Jones and the Americans, before being labeled Jay and the Americans for eternity.

Today this rock and roll band, who were inducted into the Vocal Hall of Fame in 2002, has undergone several metamorpheses. They are on Jay #3 now and, with a resurgence in popularity, they couldn’t be happier. According to Sandy, “we don’t look old.  We’re healthy and full of vitality so it’s like Woodstock every night.  It’s a love fest, except traveling was a lot easier when we were 20.”

The original members include Sandy with his buddies Howard (Kirschbaum) Kane and Kenny (Rosenberg) Vance, and later Marty (Kupersmith) Sanders, began life with John “Jay” Traynor as Jay #1 and then replaced him with David Blatt, Jay #2, aka Jay Black,when John Traynor opted for a solo career.  Jay #2 had gambling issues and when the courts demanded he sell the group’s name to raise funds, Sandy and his son, paid $100,000 for a wild bid for a piece of immortality.

While Sandy admits it was hard “to buy something that we originally invented for free, we did it to protect the name.  We had no plans to use it, we just didn’t want four 21 year olds to steal our heritage.”  He says “it would have given me hives.”  The original group had had other lives for the thirty-five years they weren’t performing, from 1974 to 2005.  While his son cautioned him to be careful what you wish for, the urge to start performing again came with the possession of the name.

Ironically the only other bidder for the name was a guy from Chicago who had been performing their music for three decades. He lost his bid because Illinois laws prohibited someone who was not an original member from buying it. When Sandy called him out of the blue, a date was set to hear him sing and the fact that his name was Jay, Jay Reincke, seemed like an omen.  This Jay, Jay #3, had first heard their music when he was in sixth grade and now can’t believe he is on stage, with the original guys, crooning away.  To Sandy, he is the best Jay ever.

To hear Jay Reincke and the Americans, with Sandy Deanne, Marty Saunders and Howie Kane, head over to the Downtown Cabaret Theatre, 263 Golden Hill Street, Bridgeport, (exit 27A off I-95, to exit 2) on Saturday, June 2 at 5 p.m. or 8 p.m.  For tickets ($39 and 59), call the cabaret at 203-576-1636 or go online at  Remember to bring snacks to share at your table.

Come listen to their hits like “She Cried,” “Tonight” from West Side Story, “Come a Little Bit Closer,” “Cara Mia,” “This Magic Moment,” “Only in America” and “Little Senorita.”  Sandy Deanne is quick to credit the song writing team and record producers of Jerry Lieber and Mike Stoller for getting them started on the right path.  “They were the masters and we studied at their feet.  They were before Motown and we were the first white act they managed.  It was a magic storm and they liked us because we were a little bit of soul.”  To Sandy, they were “the Harvard College of Rock and Roll who knew the formula to make a song work.”

As for the people who flock to hear them today, Sandy says they are great people, their original fans, their kids and their grandkids, who bop and sing in the aisles.  The veterans who confess that the music got them through hard times in war, the folks who say they named their children after their songs and the 93 year old woman with a walker who told them”you made me feel young again,” will guarantee these guys will be singing “until we need red, white and blue oxygen tanks.” They don’t do it for the money.  They do it for the “love, gratitude and thank yous from our fans and because singing is a joy.” 

Come to the Downtown Cabaret Theatre of Bridgeport on Saturday, June 2 when Jay Reincke and the Americans, better known as the Rip Van Winkles of Rock and Roll, perform a multitude of magic moments.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012


You may remember him as Captain Jeffrey T. Spaudling in “Animal Crackers,” as Rufus T. Firefly in “Duck Soup,” as Otis P. Driftwood in “A Night at the Opera” or as Doctor Hugo Z. Hackenbush in “A Day at the Races.”  With his exaggerated stooped walk, his trademark cigar, greasepainted bushy eyebrows and mustache, horn-rimmed glasses and split-second wit, Groucho Marx performed with his brothers Chico, Harpo and Zeppo in a baker’s dozen movies as well as having a long and enviable solo career as a comedian.

Groucho called T. S. Eliot, W. Somerset Maugham, rock star Alice Cooper and Elton John (whom he referred to as John Elton) friends and he regretted that he had to leave school in the sixth grade to help support his family.  Despite a lack of formal education, he was well-read, wrote five books and has a collection of his letters in the Library of Congress.

On Thursday, May 17, hundreds of people gathered at the Jewish Community Center in Woodbridge, donning his Groucho glasses-a one piece mask of horn –rims, large plastic nose, thick bushy eyebrows and mustache-to pay tribute to the man at their Perspective Speaker Series.  Television host Dick Cavett, who knew Groucho personally and had him on his talk show seven times, had a conversation on the comic with Robert Bader, a renown expert on the man and his mania.

Cavett called Groucho “the most supremely gifted comedian of our time” while Bader confessed he has loved him since he was a kid, collecting clippings of the man from a young age.  These  clippings have proven helpful in Bader’s book detailing the history of Groucho and the Marx Brothers, “Groucho Marx and Other Short Stories and Tall Tales:  Selected Writings of Groucho Marx.”  In addition to telling Groucho stories, they shared film snippets from his colorful career.

Tidbits you might not know:  Groucho was born in 1890 in New York City in a room over a butcher shop;  He left school at age 12 to earn money for his family, giving up his dream of becoming a doctor; Despite being married three times, he had no luck with women but always admired Harpo’s wife Susan; On Cavett’s show, Groucho proposed marriage to Truman Capote; The Marx Brothers did things on television, they had done fifty years earlier in vaudeville; Groucho was a brilliant writer and would prefer to be remembered for his written words;  To Groucho,  “humor is reason gone mad;”  The quiz show “You Bet Your Life” came along at the right time to save his career, even though he was insulted by it; He was like a Jewish uncle to Cavett, easy to talk to and quick to put you at ease; When Cavett introduced him at Carnegie Hall in 1972, Groucho got more applause than the Beatles.

Groucho Marx will be long remembered for his sharp and quick wit, his exaggerated facial features and his contributions to the world of laughter and letters.

Monday, May 21, 2012


                      KATE ALEXANDER AS GOLDA

Golda Meir could have devoted her life to her family, husband Morris, children and grandchildren, staying in the kitchen, making chicken soup and matzoh balls.  Instead she devoted more than five decades of her life to a cause, establishing a homeland for the Jewish people, creating and safeguarding the state of Israel.

William Gibson has fashioned an intense and revealing portrait of this international world leader, “Golda’s Balcony,” receiving a wonderful production at West Hartford’s Playhouse on Park until Sunday, June 3.  It follows her life from the shtelts of Russia to Milwaukee where she was a school teacher to her days as a pioneer clearing the land in Palestine, before it became the state of Israel, through her political rise as the fourth Prime Minister.

Kate Alexander is superb as one of the world’s greatest leaders of the twentieth century, embodying  the spirit and courage of a woman who would not back down in her beliefs.  Her sacrifices of her personal life to achieve her public goals are clearly delineated.

Director Terence Lamade uses a set of six television screens to visually highlight her struggles and the historic moments that marked her incredible political career.  Much time is focused on the 1973 Yom Kippur War when Golda Meir, pressed to the wall to save Israel from annihilation at the hands of Egypt and Syria, resorts to blackmail in her dealings with Henry Kissinger and President Richard Nixon.  To get the United States to release desperately needed planes, tanks and ammunition, she threatens to launch nuclear weapons, a likely prelude to World War III.

The title “Golda’s Balcony” refers to the codename for the area inside the nuclear power plant where important visitors would observe the underground facility and its activities in Dimona.

One-women shows are exceptionally difficult to perform. Kate Alexander, with her physical resemblance to Golda, does an outstanding job of bringing this grandmother with a backbone of steel to glorious life, even more remarkable when she does it with a broken foot, injured in rehearsals.

For tickets ($22.50-32.50) call Playhouse on Park, 244 Park Road, West Hartford  (exit 43 off I-84) at 860-523-5000, ext. 10 or online at Don't hesitate to take advantage of their limited time offer; Before June 3rd, if you purchase tickets to “Golda's Balcony” as well as either of their two final Main Stage productions (“Metamorphoses” and “Swinging on a Star”), you will receive a ticket to the remaining show FREE.

Follow Golda Meir, a woman with a simple dream to make a new world, and agonize with her when she states “there will be peace when Arabs learn to love their children more than they hate the Jews.”


Wave your flag, don your red, white and blue, and parade patriotically over to Waterbury’s Seven Angels Theatre for a sparkler of a musical.  Light the firecrackers for an explosion of color as that bully brave Rough Rider Theodore Roosevelt charges up San Juan Hill right into the White House.

Until Sunday, June 10, settle back for a rousing good time as the marching music of John Philip Sousa welcomes “Teddy and Alice,” a musical with book by Jerome Alden, lyrics by Hal Hackady and adaptations and original tunes by Richard Kapp.

John T. Lynes is spectacular as the President who boasted he could control the country or his daughter Alice but not both.  Sydney Turner is a delight as the outspoken and progressively high- spirited woman who is not afraid to voice her opinions.  Her hi-jinks dismay Teddy’s cabinet (Jonathan Russ, Charles Stoop, John Swanson), inspiring the gentlemen to sing “She’s Got to Go” and “No More Alice in the White House” as they plot her marriage to Congressman Longworth (Matt Martin) as a way to get her “removed from office.”

With energy and boundless enthusiasm, Teddy presides over crises like the building of the Panama Canal, trust busting issues with J. P. Morgan (Tim Cleary), race relations with Booker T. Washington (Jerrial Young), chaos on Wall Street and the conservation movement by establishing National Parks.  He initiated the concept of the Square Deal, promising to protect the average citizen with fairness.

Proving that the show must go on, artistic director Semina De Laurentis took off her capable director’s hat and stepped into the shoes of Teddy’s second wife Edith when the actress playing her, Krista Adams Santilli, suffered an accident.  The entire large cast do a wonderful job creating this era in history, with spirited songs like “Make This a House,” “Charge!,” “Perfect for Each Other” and “You’ve Got Nothing to Lose But Me” as well as charming choreography by Janine Molinari in such numbers as “Leg-O-Mutton.”  Jimmy Johansmeyer’s colorful costumes are perfect.

For tickets ($29-39, children under 18 $12), call Seven Angels Theatre, Plank Road, Hamilton Park Pavilion, Waterbury at 203-757-4676 or online at  Military men and veterans are half price Memorial Day weekend, May 25 and 27. To continue the theme of patriotism, plan to attend the Red, White and Blue Comedy Night on Saturday, May 26 at 8 p.m. when three funny New York City comedians will entertain, including Tina Giorgi and Joe Devito.  Tickets are $29, or $24 for season subscribers.

Gallop along and cheer on Teddy Roosevelt as he leads the country to victory, even if he can’t lead his own feisty and feminist daughter Alice into submission.

Monday, May 14, 2012



With his trademark bushy eyebrows and mustache, his ever- present cigar and his quick, sharp wit, Groucho Marx has been an icon of comedy.  One of the famous Marx Brothers, he was the well known host of radio and television, namely of the game show “You Bet Your Life.” 

 To get the real deal on this master of mirth, come to the Jewish Community Center in Woodbridge at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, May 17 to hear talk show host Dick Cavett and Groucho expert Robert Bader show film clips and tell stories.

For tickets ($12, members $10), call Cathy Lombardi at the JCC, Amity Road, Woodbridge at 203-387-2522, ext. 225 or online at

Get the inside scoop and say the secret word and divide $100.


  Asher Lev with his mother, as his father sits in the background, photo by T. Charles Erickson

Every day we are asked to make tiny life choices, but what if the decision bordered on sacrifice?  One young man from Brooklyn, a Hasidic Jew who has deep beliefs in God, finds that his wondrous gift as an artist clashes dramatically with his faith and his family’s and community’s feelings.

The struggle between religion and art is personified in Long Wharf Theatre’s current excellent offering of “My Name is Asher Lev,” by Aaron Posner, adapted from the Chaim Potok novel.  It will run on the Mainstage until Sunday, May 27.

Ari Brand is passionate as Asher Lev, the conflicted protagonist who is forced to choose between two loves.  He is caught in the world of his ancestors and the observant Jewish community, and especially his own father who does not understand his compulsive need to create.  They are threatened by his art, particularly his fascination with Christian symbolism and the representation of the unclothed female form.

His father Ari, a devoted Mark Nelson, has dedicated his life to Jewish causes, traveling to Russia to help better the plight of the Jews trapped there, building yeshivas for study.  His mother Riv, a compassionate Melissa Miller, has suffered traumatically when her brother is killed doing similar work to her husband’s and she decides, after her deep depression lifts, to go to college so she can continue her brother’s missionary work for the Rebbe.

The play goes back in time to Asher’s childhood, highlighting key moments in his development.  It focuses on his introduction by the Rebbe to his mentor Jacob Kahn (both portrayed by Mark Nelson), the painter, an act that changes his life’s direction.  Ultimately Asher must choose one path to travel.  Gordon Edelstein directs a superb cast in this compelling play of anguish and ecstasy.

For tickets ($40-70), call Long Wharf Theatre, 222 Sargent Drive, New Haven at 203-787-4282 or online at  Performances are  Tuesday at 7 p.m., Wednesday at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m., Thursday at 8 p.m., Friday at 8 p.m., Saturday at 3 p.m. and 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m.

Chaim Potok and Asher Lev celebrate much in common in this autobiographical drama that give Asher credit for painting “Brooklyn Crucifixion,” a masterwork Potok himself created.  Both try to correct a world out of balance and try not to tumble into the Sitra Achra, the Other Side.


Donny (Tracy Griswold) Bob (Ryan Barry) Teach (Jim Andreassi)
Photo by Judy Sirota Rosenthal

Raw, brutal and powerfully disturbing…David Mamet’s drama/comedy “American Buffalo” is all that and more.  You’ll feel like you’ve gone ten rounds in a boxing ring with the champ and you’ve come out battered and bruised.  The intimate space of the Kehler Liddell Gallery in the heart of Westville, at 873 Whalley Avenue, New Haven is a splendid venue for this Elm Shakespeare powder keg of a play.

Elizabeth Bolster has created a wonderfully cluttered junk shop filled with collectibles and trash, guitars, lamps, baseball bats, license plates, paintings on velvet, a multitude of minutia that inhabit Donny’s place of business.  Donny, a good guy trying to make a buck, is portrayed by a grisly Tracy Griswold, presiding over his little kingdom, hosting the occasional poker game, giving odd jobs to Bobby who means well but is challenged mentally.

Bobby, captured perfectly by Ryan Barry, wants desperately to be one of the guys and he will lie if it helps him fit into the action.  Right now Donny has a plan, not a great plan or even a good one, but he is determined to see it through.  A customer came into his shop and cheated him in the purchase of a Buffalo head nickel and now Donny, with a blue book of coin values in hand, is scheming to stage a heist and steal it back, with Bobby as his lookout.

Into the fray comes Teacher, a big kahuna masterfully played  by James Andreassi, who knows all the angles and wants to take over as head man.  The air fairly crackles with the  angst and energy he exudes as he paces and stalks with authority and attitude, both with a capital A.  To complete the team, he plans to enlist Fletch but complications arise, tempers flare, tensions explode.  The language and action are not for the delicate of heart.  Mark Zeisler directs this drama laced with dark, dark comedy with a steady hand on the trigger.

For tickets ($35, students $20), call the Elm Shakespeare at 203-393-1436 or online at  Performances are May 17 to 20, Thursday at 7:30 p.m., Saturday at 4:30 p.m. and 8 p.m. and Sunday at 4:30 p.m.  On Friday, May 18, there is a Special Benefit with wine and hors d'oeuvres at 6:30 p.m. followed by the performance at 8 p.m. Watch for announcements for their summer offering of Shakespeare’s “Macbeth” at 8 p.m. August 16-19, 21-26 and August 28-September 2 in Edgerton Park in New Haven.  A special gala will be held Thursday, August 30 from 5 p.m. – 8 p.m.

If you’ve ever considered a life of crime, take a cautionary tale from what Donny, Bobby and Teacher do and do just the opposite.

Monday, May 7, 2012


                  Elizabeth Wilson and Celeste Holm:  Photo by David Sepulveda 

Celebrating two legendary actresses with hors d’oeuvres, champagne and birthday cake, a wonderful new movie that stars them both and surprise guests:  what a delightful afternoon.  The glittering and glamorous glow from Celeste Holm and Elizabeth Wilson, who turned 95 and 91 respectively, made the event memorable on Sunday, May 6.

Lyric Hall in the Westville section of New Haven, Connecticut, that began life in 1913 as a vaudeville and silent film house, was decked out in festive finery for the occasion.  Joel Vig served as a charming master of ceremonies, with congratulatory letters being read from fans from afar, Broadway tunes crooned by Ms. Holm’s husband Frank Basile, a montage of mementoes from each illustrious show business career prepared by Bernie Kaufman and the unveiling of two oil paintings by Joel Spector.

Ms. Holm’s portrait will hang in the Englewood, New Jersey Actor’s Fund Retirement Home, a cause she has worked tirelessly for over the years.  Ms. Wilson’s portrait will hang in the Barter Theatre in Abington, Virginia where she began her career and starred in dozens of productions.

Another highlight of the afternoon’s tribute was the showing of a new film “Broads” introduced by Ray Glanzmann who conceived and produced it.  The film features both actresses sharing their reflections on their careers, directors, fellow actors and achievements as well as candid comments from Maureen Stapleton, Kim Hunter, Patricia Neal and Estelle Parsons.

In it we learn such fascinating tidbits as Estelle Parsons’ first role was as a frog even though she aspired to be another Shirley Temple, Elizabeth Wilson’s fairy godmother and mentor was Helen Hayes, Patricia Neal had an affair with Gary Cooper and they all had a thing for Marlon Brando.  Mr. Glanzmann plans to expand his movie to include interviews with Shirley Knight, Anne Meara, Frances Sternhagen, Anne Jackson, Olympia Dukakis, Marsha Mason, Lois Smith and Margo Martindale.  Bravo to these broads!

Watch for Elizabeth Wilson, who just returned from London where she filmed “Hyde Park on the Hudson,” starring as Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s mother.

After expenses, money raised from this joyous event will be used for the Preservation of Lyric Hall Fund. Lyric Hall will turn 100 next year and these funds will guarantee the loving restoration by its owner John Cavaliere will continue.

As Joel Vig so aptly put it, “today we pay tribute to three grand ladies of the theater, Elizabeth Wilson 91, Celeste Holm 95 and Lyric Hall 99.”  Let’s make plans now for their centennial celebrations!


Somewhere between “once upon a time” and “happily ever after,” the Brothers Grimm created a boatload of fairy tales that were dark and mysterious and gave us goose bumps and nightmares in equal installments.  Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine have taken all these intriguing plots and woven them into a clever and imaginative cauldron of tasty soup entitled “Into the Woods.”

The Westport Country Playhouse is celebrating the musical’s twenty-fifth anniversary with a splendid production stuffed with your favorite fairy tale characters until Saturday, May 26.

There’s no need to don Little Red Ridinghood’s red cape or Cinderella’s glass slipper or Rapunzel’s long yellow hair or climb Jack’s infamous Beanstalk, unless you want to help the Baker and his wife (Erik Liberman and Danielle Ferland) in their quest to have a child.

Old ago a Witch (Lauren Kennedy) had a curse placed upon her and in order for it to be lifted, the Baker and his wife must bring her, in three days’ time, a cape red as blood, hair yellow as corn, a cow white as milk and a slipper pure as gold.  So they set off “into the woods” to make their dream come true.

In the forest, they meet a devoted son Jack (Justin Scott Brown) who has been sent by his mother (Cheryl Stern) to sell Milky White, his beloved cow, so they can have money to buy food, a feisty and determined Little Red Ridinghood (Dana Steingold) who is off to visit her granny (Alma Cuervo) but meets a wolf (Nik Walker) instead, Cinderella (Jenny Latimer) who has escaped her wicked stepmother (Alma Cuervo) and stepsisters (Eleni Delopoulos and Nikka Graff Lanzarone) to go to the prince’s ball and Rapunzel (Britney Coleman) who has been imprisoned in a tower.  Toss in a pair of handsome charming but insincere princes (Robert Lenzi and Nik Walker), a mysterious man (Jeremy Lawrence) and a narrator (Jeffry Denman) who tries to orchestrate the action and you have all the ingredients for a fulfilling and satisfying evening of theater.

Mark Lamos directs this fine cast on this flight of fancy in fabulous style, in association with Baltimore’s CENTERSTAGE, on a lovely set designed by Allen Moyer and colorful costumes by Candice Donnelly.

For tickets ($30 and up), call Westport Country Playhouse, 25 Powers Court, off route 1, Westport at 888-927-7529 or 203-227-4177 or online at  Performances are Tuesday at 8 p.m., Wednesday at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m., Thursday and Friday at 8 p.m., Saturday at 3 p.m. and 8 p.m. and Sunday at 3 p.m.  An interesting note is that Stephen Sondheim was an intern at the playhouse sixty-two years ago.

Heartfelt wishes and witch’s curses, magic beans and wolfish fiends, angry giants and a community’s defiance, “Into the Wood” has them all in fantastic and fanciful abundance.


  Above: Christopher Smith at first read through of play
 Chris Peluso, Charles E. Wallace, Abdur-Rahim Jackson, Tyrone Davis, Jr. and Jonathan Burke                           Amazing Grace photos by Diane Sobolewski.


Once upon a time, in 1996, Christopher Smith had some time to kill and was walking through the children’s section of the library in his hometown of Montgomery County, Pennsylvania.  As a police officer and Youth Outreach and Education Director, he was always on the lookout for stories to tell to children with teachable lessons.  Taking a book at random off the shelf, one of literally thousands to choose from, he selected one about John Newton, a man born in the early 1700’s in England, a seaman, slave trader and later minister.

The book could  have been about Curious George or Raggedy Andy.  Instead the tale of John Newton, who gave the world the inspiring hymn Amazing Grace, changed Christopher Smith’s life in innumerable ways.  So affected by this honest and compelling tale of one man who tried to unravel slavery in England, Smith set out on a journey he is still traveling sixteen years later.

Calling it an “epic sweep of story of conflict, romance and redemption, with a fair amount of humor,” Smith felt destined to tell John Newton’s compelling story.  Comparing it to “Les Miserables,” although set in a different century in a different nation, Smith admits “I decided to do it myself.  I knew no one in the theater so, without any limitations, I just started writing it the way I wanted to see it on stage.”  Having had one semester of theater arts in college, as well as some high school productions, he simply sat down and went to work.

Fast forward a decade and Christopher Smith is giving a guitar lesson to a prominent Bucks County, Pennsylvania businessman, Rich Timmons, who asked him what he was doing in his spare time.  The gentleman loved the idea of the musical and took it, all five songs and story outline, to “every person I know to raise dollars” and soon there was a team of local supporters on board.

Now six years later, after several readings in New York City, even one at the Empire State Building, utilizing some of the cast of “Les Miz” ironically, Smith’s dream of “Amazing Grace” will be mounted from Thursday, May 17 to Sunday, June 10 at Goodspeed’s Norma Terris Theatre in Chester, a venue dedicated to nurturing new musicals and five busloads of those loyal supporters from Pennsylvania will be in attendance on opening weekend.

For tickets ($43), call Goodspeed Musicals at 860-873-8668 or go online to  Performances are Wednesday at 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m., Thursday at 7:30 p.m. (8 p.m. on May 17), Friday at 8 p.m., Saturday at 3 p.m. and 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m. and 6:30 p.m.

Among Christopher’s staunchest cheerleaders is his wife Alana, who just gave birth to their third child six months ago.  Whereas John Newton always had the faith of his childhood friend Mary Catlett, who was destined to be his wife, Smith credits Alana with encouraging him to pursue his passion, even to resigning from the police force to follow his dream.

At the Norma Terris helping to make that dream a reality are his mentor and co-author Arthur Giron, director Gabriel Barre, producer Carolyn Rossi Copeland, music supervisor Kimberly Grigsby, musical director Jodie Moore, orchestrator Kenny J. Seymour, set designer Beowulf Boritt, choreographer Benoit-Swan Pouffer, fight director David Leong, lighting Ken Billington, sound Jay Hilton and costumer Toni-Leslie James.  Add to that a cast of twenty-seven whom Chris calls “fabulous, exceeding all my expectations” and you can understand why he is one happy fellow.

“Amazing Grace” focuses on a point of resonance in John Newton’s life, revealing a man who wants to be loved despite his failures.  It is “a journey of self-discovery into a heart of darkness, where John hears the voice of a person who always believed in him, Mary, and how he comes out the other side.”  It is one man’s suffering and struggle to end slavery in England and how he transforms himself from salve trader to pastor.

On New Year’s Day in 1774, he wrote the song Amazing Grace for his congregation, never realizing what a profound effect and message it would hold for future generations.  Today there are 27 million children and adults all over the world still in bondage.  There is a dedication in the playbill honoring abolitionists everywhere for their work in the name of justice.

This epic undertaking that deals with relationships of father and son, master and slave, husband and wife, slavery and freedom, success and failure, has touched Christopher Smith’s life in a multitude of ways that Curious George or Raggedy Andy never could have.  Godspeed to Christopher Smith and his team at Goodspeed’s Norma Terris Theatre.


Commander Mark Kelly knows first hand the meaning of the word courage.  As a Naval pilot, he has flown thirty-nine dangerous missions to drop bombs in Iraq during the Gulf War.  As a NASA astronaut, he has logged over 50 days in space, 15 million miles, orbiting earth over 600 times.  But he will freely admit he didn’t know the true definition of the word until his wife, United States Congresswoman Gabrielle “Gabby” Giffords, was the target of an attempted assassination on January 8, 2011 in Tucson, Arizona while meeting with her constituents.

Her battle to recovery, which she is still actively engaged in, required numerous complicated surgeries, as she was shot in the head, as well as six days a week of grueling therapy, physical, speech and occupational.  She gets to rest on Sunday, when it is limited to an hour.  Six people, including a nine- year old girl, were killed in the attack and, as Commander Kelly was rushing by plane with his family to be by her side, he heard the television report that she too had died.

That crushing news was, thankfully, erroneous but she had suffered a traumatic brain injury and has had to learn to walk, speak, eat, read and write again. The couple has written a memoir, with Jeffrey Zaslow, entitled “Gabby: A Story of Courage and Hope” and Mark Kelly spoke Friday night, May 4, 2012 as the Mary and Louis Fusco Distinguished Lecturer at Lyman Hall on the campus of Southern Connecticut State University.  As the fourteenth in the series, he joins the ranks of Colin Powell, Walter Cronkite, Tim Russert and Michael J. Fox, among others.

Now retired from the Navy and from NASA,, after piloting the final mission of space shuttle Endeavor in May of 2011 with his wife watching at the Kennedy Space Center, he is concentrating on helping her recover.  Doing public motivational speaking at schools, universities and in the community, he now has the flexibility to be there to take Gabby to her doctor’s appointments.  He is also a safety consultant for a company SpaceX, a commercial crew program to launch cargo to the space station and, eventually, to find customers for space travel.  Kelly would  encourage people to support the space program, through calls and letters to their Congressional representatives and would one day like to see the United States explore Mars.  According to Kelly, “you have the power in a single voice to be heard.”

His message at SCSU, woven into his story of Gabby, is one of “hope, resilience and management.,”  He urged the students to “set goals and focus,” admitting  he and his twin brother Scott, also an astronaut, were underachievers in high school.  Calling “every experience an opportunity to learn,” he encouraged teamwork to find solutions, but cautioned “none of us is as dumb as all of us.”  Independent thinking and questioning should be a major part of decision making.

Stating that “it is critical to have a good team that works well together,” he emphasized “paying attention to the details” and “thinking ahead.”  Relating his words to his space shuttle missions, he confessed they were “risky business, putting 4 and ½ million pounds, mostly fuel, strapped to a rocket, with a million and ½ pounds of thrust, reaching a speed of 17,000 miles an hour in 8 minutes, 25 times the speed of sound.”

Kelly called orbiting the earth, a “big blue marble in the blackness of space,” an exciting experience.  His space travel, his war missions as well as the shooting have taught him that “things can change in an instant.”  He maintains a deep faith in God, this country, his family and his friends.  He relayed a message from Gabby:  “Be passionate. Be courageous.  Be strong. God bless America.”

Partnering the evening was the Brain Injury Alliance of CT (BIAC), offering support, resources, assistance and programs since 1981 for families of brain injury survivors for prevention and recovery.  Located at 200 Day Hill Road, Suite 250, Windsor, CT 06095, they can be reached at 800-278-8242, 860-219-0291 or online at

Mary Papazian, Ph. D., the president of SCSU, summed it up best:  “Shoot for the stars.  That’s how you reach the moon.”


Thursday, May 3, 2012

  • Title : Don't Stop Till You Get Enough - Billie Jean
  • Picture credit : OSA Images
  • Costume credit : Zaldy Goco


If you take $57 million, the fabulous talents of a superstar and the polished perfection of a theatrical giant, the razzle-dazzle spectacular that results can be summed up in one word: WOW!!!

The place to be on May 2 and 3, 2012 was the Hartford’s 16,500 seat XL Center for all the sparkle, showmanship and spectacle when Cirque du Soleil and Michael Jackson joined forces for a powder keg of professional party going.

With a giving tree at its center, to symbolize Michael Jackson’s record $300 million to charities around the world, the evening focused on Jackson’s life, his smooth dance moves, his sensational songs, his incredible contributions to world peace.  With pyrotechnics and graphic videos, his childhood as part of the Jackson 5, his precious Neverland Ranch, his love of animals, his great tunes like “Dangerous,” “Thriller,” “Beat It” and “Man in the Mirror” are all brought to colorful, throbbing life.

The tribute ends with a sea of pulsing red hearts, a flurry of world flags and a burst of fiery fireworks.  Michael Jackson would have loved it and you will too.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012



The Brooklyn Botanic Garden became Japanese for the day on Saturday, April 28, when the cherry blossoms should have been in bloom.  Even though the trees had shed their pink finery, the day celebrated Japanese culture and tradition in style as “Sakura Matsuri” was unfurled.

From traditional taiko drumming and martial arts, funky pop bands, hanagasa odori, a flower hat dance procession, Uncle Yo’s stand up comedy, bonsai and ikebana flower arranging and doll displays, the day was stuffed with creative and colorful events.  The beauty and tranquility of the Japanese Hill-and-Pond Garden, with its koi fish, ducks and turtles, was especially lovely.

Many visitors took advantage of the day by dressing in traditional Japanese kimonos or as Tokyo goth gals, Victorian maidens with parasols, furry animals and super ninja heroes making Kodak moments momentous.

Thanks to T & A Tours of Branford for arranging this special day that ended at the delightful shops and boutiques and eateries at Chelsea Market for more fun, fashion and food.