Wednesday, August 29, 2012


Just in time for the Jewish holiday of Rosh Hashonah, Congregation Beth El-Keser Israel Synagogue in New Haven offered the community an in depth look into the fascinating world of the honey bee.  The sweetness of honey is indelibly tied to the greeting for a Good and Sweet New Year.

September is national Honey Month, making the presentation doubly timely.  Beekeepers Richard Moore and Bob Kaiser, from Canton and Madison, both raise bees as a hobby and shared such facts as:
There are 300 kinds of honey (we got to taste several, including wild flower, cranberry, blueberry and crème);  honey bees are a great nurturer of life and fertility, dating back to ancient India, Persia, Egypt and Babylonia and Greco-Roman civilizations;  a jar of 2000 year old honey was discovered in King Tut’s tomb and was still edible (honey is the only food that can’t spoil);  honey bees were brought to this country by the colonists (black German bees that have since died out); honey has healing and beneficial ingredients (minerals, nutrients and silica);  there are 200,000 beekeepers in the United States (1000 in Connecticut, with 8000 registered hives);  the average hive has 75,000-100,000 bees at its peak (worker bees live only weeks, while the queen bee lives two years until she stops producing eggs);  to get one pound of honey, bees must visit a million flowers, flying thousands of miles in the process (the average bee produces 1/10 of a teaspoon of honey);  bees are being infected with a mite that carries Cripple Bee Syndrome and makes flight impossible;  scout bees “dance” or “waggle” to share a new source of food and the direction it is (like a magical GPS locator) and, bees create an organized community or society that is quite amazing.

In ancient times, Hippocrates praised the virtues of honey and it was used as an effective antiseptic and antimicrobial ointment to treat cuts, skin conditions, battle wounds and even burns.  Who knew?

The morning also included movies, a demonstration of a beekeeper’s outfit and tools, honey being extracted from a honeycomb, a colony of live bees, tasting of various honeys and recipes made with honey.  HOW SWEET IT IS!

Wishing you a sweet and honey-dipped New Year!

Monday, August 27, 2012


                            Lysander (Henry Tobelman) and Hermia (Rachel Skalka)

Think Fonzie from “Happy Days” and Rydell High School from “Grease.”  Take sneakers, fifties songs and poodle skirts and mesh them with Shakespeare’s verse and you have the wonderful Shake-It-Up Shakespeare Youth Ensemble’s rendition of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” that played for four sold-out performances on Stage II of New Haven’s Long Wharf Theatre August 23-26.

Delightfully conceived by the theater’s Director of Education Annie DiMartino and musical director Carol Taubl, more than two dozen local teenagers ages 15-21 auditioned to take part in this amazing free six-week program.

Love hits a giant speed lump (that’s twice as big as a speed bump) when Egeus (Alex Carrasco), the father of Hermia, a vibrant Rachel Skalka, decrees that she must marry Demetrius, a dedicated but nerdy Jeremiah Taubl, instead of the man she adores, Lysander, a hunky heartthrob Henry Tobelman.  Egeus kindly gives her three choices:  do as he says or enter a convent or die.

Adding to the romantic confusion, Demetrius is the source of angst for Helena, Hermia’s best friend, who has given him her heart, whether he wants it or not.  He doesn’t.  Jane Logan’s Helena is an energetic bundle of talent who is the princess of physical comedy to Jeremiah Taubl’s prince.

The two pairs of lovers troop off to the woods, leaving Athens and the authority of their school principal (Matthew Johnson), the basketball coach (Celine Montaudy) and the choir director (Emily Walters) far behind them.  There, in the forest, they come in contact with a magical world of fairies, led by the manipulative King Oberon, a masterful Sam Taubl and his lady fair, Queen Titania, a mysterious Nina Dicker, who are squabbling over a changling child (Gabriel DiMartino, age 8) they both desire.

When Oberon decides to participate in an episode of massive trickery, he employs his jester Puck, an obedient but confused Jack Taubl, to plant magic drops in the eyes of the forest visitors, including the Queen, with hilarious consequences.  Puck becomes an unwitting Cupid, making his victims fall head over heels in love with whomever they see first when they awake.  If you haven’t been paying attention, there are a quartet of Taubl brothers performing, all from New Haven.

To entertain the high school principal and his woman, the basketball coach, a troupe of inept actors led by Peter Quince (Ryan Ronan), put on a play about Pyramus and Thisbe.  The group include Erik Van Eck, Ethan Pierson, Bowen Kirwood, Tommy Ordway and James Taubl, who as Nick Bottom, is graced with donkey ears and finds himself the inappropriate object of the Queen’s affections.

The Queen has an entourage of lovely fairies who attend her, including Dawn Williams, Kira Topalian, Lauren Buonasora, Maya Rose, Chloe Chappa and Alex Luft, who dance with spirit and style.

Throughout the production, songs from the 1950’s are interwoven with incredible joy, songs like “It’s Summertime,” “Hound Dog,” “Don’t Be Cruel,” “My Girl,” “Love Me Tender” and “Do You Believe in Magic?”  To Annie DiMartino, “the language and poetry use music to really understand the heartbeat of the characters.”

What a terrific dream world these talented teens conjured up.  Mark your calendars now for next summer’s Shake-It-Up Shakespeare.


                            MACBETH AND LADY MACBETH
                      PHOTO BY JUDY SIROTA ROSENTHAL

Warriors, witches and wickedness invade Scotland in the haunting drama “Macbeth” penned by William Shakespeare many centuries ago.  Ambition and power can still corrupt as can be witnessed in today’s headlines, when honest politician is all too often an oxymoron.

The  Elm Shakespeare Company will be presenting a masterful production of “Macbeth,” outdoors under the stars at Edgerton Park on the Hamden/New Haven line, from Tuesday, August 28  to Sunday, September 2 at 8 p.m.

Macbeth (James Andreassi) and Banquo (Mark Zeisler) are weary warriors as they return from battle, victorious over two separate invading armies.  Arriving at their homeland, the two men overhear a trio of witches (Sarah Grace-Wilson, Kerry Tattar and Francesca Smith) conjuring spells and offering prophesies about Macbeth soon becoming the Thane of Cawdor and, soon after, the King of Scotland.  Thus the seed is planted and ambitions start to grow out of control, like kudzu, in a fertile plain.

With the encouragement of his wife Lady Macbeth, a determined and diabolical Marianna Bassham, James Andreassi’s impassioned and misguided Macbeth sets off on a bloody trail of victims, forging a path to the throne.  Why wait for the crown if you can eliminate, by murder, all who stand in your way?

With a false heart and a blood stained soul, the once valiant and glorious warrior transforms himself into a corrupt and wicked man.  Lady Macbeth soon manifests her guilt in sleepwalking while her husband sees the ghosts of those he has slain, haunting his waking hours.  For their deeds, their consciences will allow them no peace.
With King Duncan (Tracy Griswold) dead, Macbeth now fears Macduff (Colin Lane) who opposes his accession to the throne, and orders Macduff’s wife and children killed.  When the witches further prophesize that only a man not born of woman can harm him and his safety is secured until Birnam Wood comes to the castle, Macbeth feels invincible.  Artistic director James Andreassi does a sterling job of creating this harrowing tale.

Elm Shakespeare Company productions are free but suggested donations are $20 adults, $10 students and $5 children under 12.  Come early with chair or blanket and picnic on the lovely grounds.

The Elm Shakespeare Company will hold a Gala and Auction on Thursday, August 30 at 5 p.m. with delicious food and intriguing items to purchase.  An online auction is currently underway.  Go to or or call 203-874-0801 for more information.

Cast your fascinated and disbelieving eyes on Macbeth as he unleashes his lust for power and, in the process, self-destructs.

Monday, August 20, 2012


                                          CAROUSEL    photo by Diane Sobolewski

Whether you love the prancing ponies, the stately giraffes, the manly lions or the cavorting zebras, there is much to love about the musical amusement enjoyed by children and adults alike.  No matter if you call them flying horses, roundabout, calliope or merry-go-round, the carousel provides minutes of magical fun with every spin.

To explore these gallopers and horse ballets, plan a trip to the New England Carousel Museum located at 95 Riverside Avenue in Bristol to see rooms of antique wooden horses as well as ponies being lovingly restored to their former glory.  Stop at the Bushnell Park Carousel in Hartford to ride the hand-carved horses that date back to 1914.  This ride for $1 is one of the 200 that remain today from the 6000 that were built between 1890 and 1930 in this country.

These diversions are simply to put you in the proper state to fully enjoy the majesty of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s glorious musical “Carousel” offering magical rides at Goodspeed Musicals in East Haddam, now extended to Saturday, September 29.

Pick out your favorite painted pony and climb aboard the merry-go-round with sweetly naïve Julie Jordan, beautifully and sensitively portrayed by Erin Davie.  The brash, boastful and belligerent carnival barker Billy Bigelow, captured with strength and boldness by James Snyder, finds himself giving the brass ring to Julie as well as his heart.

Billy soon discovers he is being pulled in a trio of conflicting directions: forward to Julie and marriage, back to his boss Mrs. Mullin (Deanne Lorette) who owns the carousel and is jealous of Julie and sideways to an old whaling buddy Jigger (Tally Sessions) who has crime and fast cash on his mind.

While Julie and Billy struggle to stay sure footed on the rocky New England shore, Julie’s best friend Carrie, an adorable and pert Jenn Gambatese, enjoys a star-blessed courtship with the steady and industrious fisherman Mr. Snow, a proper and gentlemanly Jeff Kready.  The helpful influences of the mill owner Mr. Bascombe (Jonathan Rayson) and Julie’s Aunt Nettie (Anne Kanengeiser) are not strong enough to prevent the inevitable tragedy.

Swirling around the story, set in the late 1800’s, are stirring songs like “If I Loved You,” “June is Bustin’ Out All Over,”  “A Fine Clambake” and “You’ll Never Walk Alone.”  Billy is given a chance for redemption when he is sent down from heaven by the Starkeeper (Ronn Carroll) to meet his daughter Louise (Eloise Kropp), now 15, who has never known him or felt his love.

Rob Ruggiero wraps this wonderful musical with wonder in his direction. It has been hailed by Time Magazine as the “Best Musical of the Twentieth Century,” called their favorite collaboration by the composers and termed his most beloved musical by Richard Rodgers.

For tickets ($    ), 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. (and select days at 2 p.m.), Friday at 8 p.m., Saturday at 3 p.m. and 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m. (and select days at 6:30 p.m.).

From the first moment the carousel magically spins, follow Julie and Billy across earth and heaven to find and express their love.


The state of Connecticut in general and the Katherine Hepburn Cultural Arts Center in particular have been selected as the neutral territory for the fight of the century.  No, it’s not a bout with boxers or wrestlers, but the struggle can be just as vicious.  Come on Saturday, August 25 at 8 p.m. to the classic Old Saybrook venue when New York versus Boston for the title Best Comic.

Duck if you want to avoid the left hooks and right jabs and protect your funny bones at all costs when four talented men enter the ring.  Referee for the event, billed as COMEDY SMACKDOWN, will be ESPN’s Rob Ley.

Representing the Big Apple will be Al Ducharme and Tom Van Horn, two of the four National Comedy Headliners.  Ducharme has mentally and physically prepared for the big match by completing stints at television shows like “Comics Unleashed with Byron Allen,” NBC’s “Tonight Show,” “Inside Edition,” “Comedy TV” as well as nightclubs and comedy clubs like Caroline’s on Broadway, The Comedy Strip Live, Gotham Comedy Club and Rodney Dangerfield’s.

Since 1994, Tom Van Horn has regaled audiences with sagas about his ex-girlfirend who dumped him after almost a decade of togetherness.  He routinely makes a circuit of the NYC comedy clubs, the Comedy Festivals in Boston, E Entertainment Television, Fox News “Red Eye” and VH1’s “Stand Up Spotlight.”

Representing Beantown are Kevin Flynn and Jackie Flynn.  Kevin Flynn can claim home court advantage as he hails from Madison, Connecticut and is a fixture as Dr. Bram Walker on HBO’s “Sex and the City.”  Movie fans will recognize him for his unique comedy style from “The Heartbreak Kid,” “Me, Myself and Irene” and “Osmosis Jones.”  Flynn took home kudos for his one-man show “Around the Kitchen Table” at both the Boston Comedy Festival and HBO’s U. S. Comedy Arts Festival in Aspen.  He also hosts Plum TV’s Plum Daily Show on Nantucket.

Compared to Steven Wright, Denis Leary, Lenny Clarke and Jay Leno, Jackie Flynn was discovered early on by the Farrelly brothers.  They cast him in “King Pin,” “There’s Something About Mary,” “Me, Myself and Irene,” “Shallow Hal” and “Stuck on You.”  He also pops up on “The King of Queens” offering samples of his rapid-fire sarcasm.

For tickets ($25), call the Kate, 300 Main Street, Old Saybrook at 860-510-0473 or online at

Prepare for comic knockouts as these four men enter the ring and prepare to take no prisoners as Boston takes on New York.  Be there when the opening bell rings.

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Monday, August 13, 2012


Neal Mayer prepares for his role as Fagin, as Tyler Felson (Oliver) and Nathan J. Russo (The Artful Dodger) look on.

When a scruffy, dirty-faced ragamuffin of an orphan has the audacity to ask, politely, for another bowl of gruel, his reward is to be booted out of his pitiful workhouse home and sold by Mr. Bumble (Michael Cartwright) and his soon-to-be wife the Widow Corney (Maureen Pollard).  The lad finds himself in the employ of a Mr. Sowerberry (Robert Boardman) and his sour wife (Tara Michelle Gesling), the owners of a funeral parlor and made to be a child mourner following the caskets through the streets.

Have no fear, for the lad in question, one resourceful Oliver Twist, soon runs away and lands, for better or worse, in a den of enterprising thieves.  The Ivoryton Playhouse will be picking your pockets and plucking your heartstrings as it presents “Oliver!” with music, lyrics and book by Lionel Bart, based on the Charles Dickens’ story until Sunday, September 2.

Set in England in the 1830’s, Dickens wanted to portray the sad fate of youngsters forced to earn a living in deplorable conditions, hoping to change the child labor laws.

Tyler Felson’s Oliver is adorable and is likely to steal your heart as well as your pocketbook.  When he flees the funeral parlor, he is rescued by a clever lad the Artful Dodger (Nathan J. Russo) who introduces him to gang of thieves led by an enterprising and sinisterly charming Neal Mayer as Fagin who teaches Oliver how to “pick a pretty pocket or two.”

In Fagin’s den, Oliver meets the kind- hearted Nancy, a lovely Kimberly Morgan, and her evil hearted companion Bill Sykes, a terrifying T. J. Mannix who instills fear in all who cross his path.  The troupe of young thieves takes Oliver in but he is soon caught in the act and his fate bounces around like a ping-pong ball in a fast game of table tennis. A compassionate Mr. Brownlow (Larry Lewis) gives Oliver a second chance but the long dark shadow of Bill Sykes looms large.

Thanks to an energetic and talented cast our spunky hero overcomes all obstacles, buying himself a beautiful morning and a wonderful life. R. Bruce Connolly does a fine job “reviewing the situation” with a crafty and clever hand as director. Be aware that there are many dark moments that may be inappropriate for young children.

For tickets ( $40 adults, $35 seniors, $20 students and $15 children), call the Playhouse at 860-767-7318 or visit the website at Performance times are Wednesday and Sunday matinees at 2 p.m., Wednesday and Thursday at 7:30 p.m.and Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m. The Playhouse is located at 103 Main Street in Ivoryton. On Wednesdays August 15, 22 and 29, Food, Glorious Food will be featured before the performance.  Come early for music, food and wine in the tent.

Join Oliver Twist in a London of more than a century and a half ago as he learns the fine art of being a thief from the master himself, Fagin, and his right hand boy The Artful Dodger.


An intriguing and involving cat and mouse game is played on the dark and often sinister streets of London at the turn of the twentieth century between a practiced and proficient con-man and his unassuming and naïve victim.  George Love, his name at the moment, has set his sights on a small brown wren of a woman, a milliner’s assistant, with just enough of a nest egg to be a plump plum for the plucking.

Until Sunday, September 9, TheaterWorks in Hartford will be offering this psychological thriller “Tryst” by Karoline Leach, set in Edwardian England, on their intimate stage, downstairs at 233 Pearl Street.  Mark Shanahan’s George is cleverly cunning and slyly despicable as he lays out his scheme, like an intricate spider’s web to snare his latest female fly.

Andrea Maulella’s Adelaide is a wonderful contradiction of despair and dreams, a spinster who longs for love and marriage and a hat shop of her own but is too damaged by her father’s abuse to ever feel confident enough to snatch the gold ring.

George Love is a polished con artist who preys on vulnerable young women who have a purse of coins he can covet and count.  He plans to woo them and wed them, give them one night of exquisite bliss in bed and then disappear with their life savings firmly tucked in his pocket.

With Adelaide, he finds the rules of the game have changed and it is those twists and unexpected turns that will have you guessing who will win the match.  Perhaps they will both succeed in their quest or perhaps neither one will.  Under Joe Brancato’s smooth direction, on a boarding house set designed by Michael Schweikardt, you will find yourself rooting for Adelaide to capture her dream.

For tickets ($50-63, student rush $17 if available), call TheaterWorks of 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 matinees Saturday and Sunday at 2:30 p.m.  Come early and enjoy the artwork “Variations” in the gallery upstairs sponsored by The Hartford Financial Services Group.

Melodramatic and melancholy, watch how an accomplished liar sets up a skillfully staged game of attraction to trap a gullible mouse with himself as the appetizing cheese.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012


     The Bikinis    Photo by Diane Sobolewski

Believe it or not, the scantily designed swimwear that dangles in two pieces on women and resembles abbreviated underwear was named for the site of a nuclear weapons test site, the Bikini Atoll in the Pacific Ocean.  Conceived by French engineer Louis Reard in 1946, it has become heralded as one of the most popular female beachwear ensembles, an $811 million industry annually.

Now it is being reincarnated in an entirely new fashion statement thanks to co-writers Ray Roderick and James Hindman and composer and musical arranger Joe Baker as a beach party musical “The Bikinis.”  Goodspeed’s Norma Terris Theatre in Chester will be putting down the plaid blankets and rubbing on the suntan lotion from today until Sunday, September 9.

You’ve made good friends with the “Jersey Boys,” but now it’s time to make room on stage for the Jersey Girls.  In 1964, four B.F. F.’s (best friends forever) on a lark enter a talent contest wearing (you guessed it) bikinis and win the Belmar Beach boardwalk banners.  Two teenage sisters from Paramus,  Jodi (Lori Hammel) and Annie (Meghan Duffy), join forces with their impetuous cousin Karla (Karyn Quackenbush) from Philadelphia and their best bud Barbara (Regina La Vert) from Staten Island to make their summer fun memorable and you’re invited along for the roller coaster ride.

With a parade of forty favorite tunes like “It’s Raining Men,” “Dedicated to the One I Love,” “It’s in His Kiss,” “I’m Every Woman,” “Under the Boardwalk” and “Chapel of Love” as well as brand new songs like “In My Bikini” and “Sandy Shores,” you’ll find yourself dancing in your seat and humming right along.

According to Ray Roderick, who is busy juggling three hats for the show, as creator, choreographer and director, “The show is about fun, females and friendship.  It’s 75% songs we know and love and 25% new material.  It showcases women in a positive way, written by men who love them.”

Calling it “a joyous party,” Roderick finds it “an easy, breezy show where the women don’t stop.  They are a talent pool that delivers and has fun in the process.”  Stating that the musical’s title is a metaphor for the struggle for equality women face, he feels they are empowered by it, even as they are still vulnerable.  The quartet of females in the show relive their past but focus, decades later when they reunite, on the here and now.

The great rock and roll music of the 60’s and 70’s is wrapped around the original talent contest where the goal of the girls was to get on Dick Clark’s American Bandstand and fast forward to their gathering when they meet to save the Sandy Shores Mobile Home Beach Resort, a favorite landmark on the Jersey beach that is being threatened by a land developer who wants to take over and build condos.

Back in 2007, at the Briny Breezes Trailer Park in Florida, the owners were each offered a million dollars to move and “The Bikinis” is loosely based on that true story.  In addition, it touches on the innocent fun of that era as well as the Vietnam War, the Woodstock event, flower children and the rise of women’s voices.  “The Bikinis” is “a coming of age story that views the world through their eyes.”

For tickets ($48), call Goodspeed Musicals 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., 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.

The show will take place at the Norma Terris Theatre, 33 North Main Street, Chester (exit 6 off route 9), where new musicals are workshopped and showcased in a process Ray Roderick calls “amazing and so unbelievably supportive.”

Come rediscover the great songs of the 60’s and70’s as this one hit wonder girls’ group reunites as women.  Come hear them roar.

Monday, August 6, 2012


When two families, the Lammermoors and the Ravenwoods, of Scotland perpetuate their sworn enmity, two innocent victims, Lucia di Lammermoor and Edgardo Ravenswood, suffer terribly.  Their secret love will be stirringly revealed in the dramatic opera “Lucia di Lammermoor” by Gaetano Donizetti.  The Opera Theater of Connecticut will bring the majesty and momentum of this soaring work to life this week at the air-conditioned Andrews Memorial Theater, 54 East Main Street, Clinton on Tuesday, August 7, Thursday, August 9, Saturday, August 11 at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday, August 12 at 6 p.m. Opening night will include a gala reception.

From the opening notes of the fine orchestra led by Kyle Swann, the somber mood is translated across the Scottish moors.  This is no light and frivolous scene.  The Lammermoor family, led by a dark and dangerous Enrico, with a rich baritone thanks to a dynamic David Pershall, has fallen on hard times.  In order to recoup its power and wealth, he has planned a marriage for his sister Lucia to the fortunes of Arturo. 

Lucia, captured with lyrical perfection by colortura soprano Amanda Hall, is still reeling from the recent death of her mother, but she has set her heart on Edgardo, her family’s sworn enemy.  She has been seen meeting him secretly on the castle grounds by Normanno, the head of the guards, a determined tenor Jorge Prego, who informs Enrico of her treacherous acts.  To add more fuel to the already incendiary flames, Lucia’s maid Alicia,  a lovely mezzo-soprano Karolina Wojteczko, foresees danger and disaster when she imagines the ghost of a dead girl.  Despite the premonition of doom, Lucia and Edgardo, a most majestic tenor Luigi Boccia, pledge their undying love for each other.

Enrico will not be deterred.  He will see Lucia married to Arturo,  an affable tenor Michael-Paul Krubitzer, and forges a letter from Edgardo, who has traveled to France, that leads Lucia to believe he has been unfaithful.  Reluctantly she is pressured into marrying Arturo but the act leads her to madness and she kills him in their wedding bed.

The scene of her madness is powerfully beautiful as Amanda Hall's Lucia slowly unravels, imagining Edgardo will be hers forever.  Their love will be eternal, but it will be in heaven where they are reunited…in death. Lucia’s chaplain Raimondo, an enterprising bass Daniel Hague, is too late to stop the bloodshed but declares Lucia is the “victim of a cruel brother” and Enrico finally realizes, too late, what his scheme for wealth has spawned.

Opera Theater of Connecticut was founded in 1986 to help professional artists hone their craft and to encourage the public to experience high quality productions affordably and intimately. To that end, Artistic Director Alan Mann personally conducts Opera Talk, an informal, informative talk about that evening’s opera and composer, one hour and a half.  before the performance ($5.00). Boxed suppers Al Fresco Style from Chips Pub III can be pre-ordered for $15 two days in advance by calling 860-669-8999. The opera will be sung in Italian with Supertitles to enhance understanding and enjoyment.

Get caught up in the passion and glory of this tragic tale as two Scottish families, the Ravenswoods and Lammermoor, carry on a feud that leads to the ultimate price.