Monday, April 29, 2013


There's no need to dig out your green polyester pant suit, your plaid suspenders or any pink platform shoes that may be lurking in the back of your closet to enjoy a retro-visit back to the 1970's.  Those years were noted for a culture of hippies, opposition to the Vietnam War and nuclear weapons, advocating for world peace,  a basic distrust of big business and government and an approval of environmental issues.

The 70's were known for disco, funk, jazz and soul with a little rock and country thrown in for good measure.  The Downtown Cabaret Theatre of Bridgeport is paying homage to the era with a show that fuses all the best of it, all for your listening pleasure.  "8-Track The Sounds of the 70's" will take you on a stroll down memory lane weekends until Sunday, May 12.

Baby boomers unite and get your groove on as a quartet of energetic and bright singers - New Haven natives Teddey Brown and Nik Rochlin are joined by Tonya Phillips Staples and Liana Young - to bring back a decade of merry memories that will have you swinging and swaying.  The show is pure music, with no commentary or visuals, just unadulterated great sound by a foursome that knows how to move and groove, jump and jive, prance and dance.

Come hear the tunes that made the decade great and the groups that created the sound, like the Carpenters, The Bee Gees, Helen Reddy, K. C. and The Sunshine Band, The Emotions and The Doobie Brothers.

Like a musical train with an endless number of cars, the group steams ahead with tunes like "We've Only Just Begun," "Get Ready," "I Am Woman," "Alone Again, Naturally,"  "Tie a Yellow Ribbon," "You Light Up My Life," "Fifty Ways to Leave Your Lover," "I Write the Songs," "Y.M.C.A." and "You Make Me Feel Like Dancing," and many, many more.  The show was conceived and directed by Rick Seeber and choreographed by Tonya Phillips Staples.  The lighting talents of Axel Hammerman and sound designs of Joe Boerst make it feel like a light and sound show.

For tickets ($39.50 - 47), call the Downtown Cabaret Theatre, 263 Golden Hill Street, Bridgeport at 203-576-1636 or online at  Performances are Friday at 7:30 p.m., Saturday at 5:30 p.m. and 8:30 p.m. and Sunday at 5:30 p.m.  Remember to bring dinner or snacks to share at your table. 

Hop aboard the musical train for a fantastic and fun journey back in time a few decades with four fabulous "conductors" as they recreate the sounds of the 70's in psychedelic splendor.


Tracy Turnblad is a chunky, fun loving, rebel with a cause, a sixteen year old born and bred in Baltimore.  It's 1962 and Tracy wants to be famous, to be president of the world and to make the planet a  better place to live for everyone.  With a can of hairspray, a radio and her dancing feet, she is well on her way to making all her dreams come true.

To cheer the good natured Tracy on her way, bop on over to the University of Connecticut's Jorgensen Auditorium for one super duper special production by the Connecticut Repertory Theatre of "Hairspray," an eight time Tony Award-winning musical comedy with book by Mark O'Donnell and Thomas Meehan and music and lyrics by Marc Shaiman and Scott Whittman, playing until Sunday, May 5.

Lena Mary Amato is terrific as Tracy, the teenager with the big heart and even bigger hairdo. Winning a spot on the local television Corny Collins Show is her goal, one because she has a mojor crush on the show's male heartthrob Link (Will Haden) and two because of her desire to make the one day a month Negro Day for dancing an everyday occurrence.  There's no segregation for this open-minded gal.

With the support and encouragement of her folks, Edna, a designing Kevin Meaney, and Wilbur, an inventive Scott Ripley, the help of her b.f.f. (best friend forever) Penny, a cute Kate Zulauf, who has her own plans for integration with a fellow student Seaweed, a limber Colby Lewis, Tracy takes on the intrepid and conniving mother /daughter team of Sarah Wintermeyer as Velma and Andrianna Prast as Amber, who are trying to control the Corny Collins Show.  Corny Collins, played by an accommodating James Jelkin, is fortunately on Tracy's side of the dance floor.

As she swirls up a storm on stage, she also stirs up a storm of controversy as she works single-handedly to integrate the entire city of Baltimore.  Even a stint behind bars with her new allies led by a marvelous Motormouth Maybelle, captured by Tina Fabrique, can't discourage this fleet footed queen.  Tunes like "Good Morning, Baltimore," "Mama, I'm a Big Girl Now," "You're Timeless to Me" and "You Can't Stop the Beat" keep the fun flowing, on a great set designed by Joe Keener III, with colorful costumes created by Maureen Freedman, smooth choreography by Gerry McIntyre, and star-studded direction by Paul Mullins.

For tickets ($6-36), call Jorgensen Auditorium on the Storrs campus at 860-486-2113 or online at  Performances are Wednesday and Thursday at 7:30 p.m., Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m.

Come with the whole family to cheer Tracy on as she takes on the conservative establishment and strikes a blow for humanity and justice.


As the grandson of the richest man in the state of Indiana, with a mother who encouraged him to play piano and violin from the age of six, and further subsidized the publishing of his beginning compositions, Cole Porter planted his footsteps on a musical path early on in life.  His name came from an amalgam of his parents, Kate Cole and Sam Porter and by the time he was a student at Yale he was well known for writing football fight songs and full scale college productions for both the Delta Kappa Epsilon fraternity and the Yale Dramatic Association.
To become better acquainted with this man of music, waltz over to Music Theatre of Connecticut for a delightful, delicious and de-loverly production of “Cole,” devised by Benny Green and Alan Strachan, weekends until Sunday, May 12.  The evening not only showcases a parade of wonderful hit songs, it also includes facts and anecdotes about the man himself and his intriguing life.
Cole Porter’s serious music career began in New York with the 1916 flop “America First” which was dismissed as being a high class college show.  Telling the world he was with the French Foreign Legion, he traipsed off to Paris to live the high life and forged a mutually convenient alliance with an American divorced socialite Linda Thomas that helped conceal their gender preferences.
Taking the Broadway musical stage by storm in his second try, he also gave Hollywood a passing whistle with less success.  He was an accomplished wordsmith, noted for his wit and sophisticated patter. He loved to write for Ethel Merman, likening her booming voice to a “band going by,” as well as for Eleanor Powell and Ginger Rogers.  Even a serious horseback riding accident didn’t stop the incredible lyrics and tunes.
Kevin Connor, the versatile director of the show, has assembled a fine quartet of singers to present a string of pearls of his greatest hits.  The stylings of Blair Alexis Brown, Kathy Calahan, Philip Chaffin and Eric Scott Kincaid skip merrily through favorites like “Another Op'nin', Another Show,” “I Love Paris,” “Love for Sale,” “Night and Day,” “I Get a Kick Out of You” and “In the Still of the Night.”  Their version of “Blow, Gabriel, Blow” is a showstopper.
For tickets ($25-45, $5 off students and seniors), call MTC, 246 Post Road East, lower level, Colonial Green, Westport 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.
Hop aboard the Cole Porter Express and learn intimate details about his life and legacy.  Top hats and white gloves are optiona


Garfield is a cartoon cat that craves lasagna and coffee and hates Mondays and raisins.  He can be lazy and fat and quite cynical.  Causing mischief is his great delight and sarcasm is his normal pattern of speech.  Now contrast Garfield with Garfinkle, another fat cat who has a compulsion for donuts (where’s a Dunkin’ Donuts when you need one?), who loves money and the power it provides him and enjoys squeezing corporations until they cry “uncle.”

To see Garfinkle at work, and maybe munch a chocolate sprinkled donut or three, mosey over to the Ivoryton Playhouse to see “Other’s People Money” by Jerry Sterner by Sunday, May 5.  Guard your wallet and your sense of integrity if you want to survive a Garfinkle attack.

Edward Kassar was born to inhabit the larger-than-life persona of Garfinkle, known to his allies and enemies as “Larry the Liquidator.”  He is a businessman without morals or scruples and proud of it.  He would cheat his own grandmother if it made him a profit.

Right now, in the autumn of the late 1990’s, he has set his sights on the New England Wire and Cable Company in Rhode Island, a family owned establishment run for generations, now by President Andrew Jorgenson, a dedicated Gary Allan Poe.  Jorgenson and his trusted manager William Coles (Dennis Fox) and right hand gal Bea (Denise Walker) are ill prepared for a crafty fox that invades their henhouse.

As Garfinkle buys up the company stock, forcing the price higher, it soon becomes clear that he doesn’t care if there’s carnage, if the employees lose their livelihood, if the town suffers harm, as long as his pocketbook is healthy and wealthy with greenery.

Fearing the worst, Jorgenson surrenders to pressure from the ranks and hires Bea’s daughter Kate, an investment banker and attorney, to go head-to-head with the monster at the door.  Maggie McGlone Jennings directs a probing indictment of the corporate world with flair and a talented cast, on a versatile set designed by William Russell Stark.

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 and Sunday at 2 p.m., Wednesday and Thursday at 7:30 p.m., Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m.

Be prepared for a crash course in hostile takeovers and unsavory business negotiations as Lawrence Garfinkle mounts his big guns in attack, without regard for survivors.


                                         PHOTO BY LARRY NAGLER

Room 306 of the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tennessee is now a museum and has been one almost since April 4, 1968 when it became immortal.  It was the motel balcony that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. stood on when he was fatally shot.

TheaterWorks of Hartford is recreating the momentum and majesty of the man as he climbed to "The Mountaintop" to proclaim his dream of freedom and equality for his people.  Until Sunday, May 5, come and be inspired and educated about the Civil Rights leader who preached a peaceful resolution for the advancement of African-Americans. 

Like Moses who never lived to see the Promised Land, Martin Luther King, Jr. tragically never lived to see his dream become a reality.  "The Mountaintop" by Katori Hall, taken from his impressive and impassioned speech "I've Been to the Mountaintop," imagines the night before he was killed.

From the moment a charismatic and gifted Jamil A. C. Mangan's King picks up his motel room phone, at midnight, to order a cup of coffeee through room service, a fantasy unrolls as to what might have occurred that fateful night.

Outside a storm of biblical proportions is raging, while in the room a conflicted Dr. King is trying to calm his jitters, find a cigarette, write his next speech and reach his wife Coretta to ask about his missing toothbrush.

As thunder strikes a fever pitch, a young African-American motel maid delivers his order.  Her first day on the job, she is, nonetheless, open and honest, outspoken and feisty in her treatment of this revered motel guest.  She knows who he is and she is not awed but empowered to speak her own mind.

Courtney Thomas' Camae is a woman on a mission, but that mission will remain a mystery for the moment.  Thomas is brilliant as she baits and assauges King, massaging his ego and his neck, as she provides coffee, his favorite cigarettes and a little "Irish" to his brew.

With the skill of an interrogator, Camae allows an exhausted public leader to expose his fears and weaknesses while pointing out his triumphs and successes.  She cloaks his doubts with the promise of hope, that even if he does not live to see his dream come to fruition others will carry on in his name.  Rob Ruggiero  directs this highly emotional journey that  carries the audience to the summit and over the top.

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., and Saturday and Sunday matinees at 2:30 p.m.

Come early to the upstairs gallery for a fascinating peek at the incredible detail the design team led by Evan Adamson took to recreate an authentic motel room 306.

Meet the man who pledged to preach until the day he died.  Even though that day came much too soon, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. left an enduring legacy on America's conscience.


With a tumbler of bourbon in one hand and a cigarette dangling in the other, Tallulah Bankhead was a southern actress who flaunted excesses and ravished underlings.  Outspoken and flamboyant, she had a persona that was larger-than-life.  The famous lady in question will be bringing her giant sized ego and personality to the stage of the Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts in Hartford from Tuesday, May 7 to Sunday, May 12.

Stephanie Powers will play the famous, or infamous if you prefer, star in "Looped" by Matthew Lombardo, under the careful and detailed direction of Rob Ruggiero.  In the summer of 1965, Tallulah Bankhead was "invited" to return to the studio to re-record, dub or "loop" one line of dialogue from her last movie "Die! Die! My Darling!"

The fact that the actress was drunk when she arrives, the fact that she was demanding and difficult, the fact that she has a battle royal of wits with the film editor Danny Miller, all combine to make what should have been a fifteen minute breeze into an eight hour ordeal, an intensely humorous ordeal.

The play is based on this true event.  The legendary actress had to say "And so Patricia, as I was telling you, that deluded rector has in literal effect closed the church to me."  The fact that Stephanie Powers co-starred with Bankhead on this movie is delicious irony, especially when you realize she is the Patricia in question.  The movie was a British thriller about a woman (Mrs. Trefoile, played by Bankhead) who blames Patricia (Powers) for her son's death.
They were to marry but he dies in a car accident.  The religion-crazed and demented Mrs. Trefoile holds Patricia captive to cleanse her soul and ultimately to kill her.  Fortunately Patricia is rescued and Mrs. Trefoile meets a deadly end.

You probably remember Stephanie Powers best for starring opposite Robert Wagner in the television series "Hart to Hart."  Her tour-de-force performance as Tallulah has been called on the cutting edge of fabulous.

For tickets ($35 and up), call the Bushnell, 166 Capitol Avenue, Hartford at 860-987-5900 or online at Performances are Tuesday to 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.

Witness the showdown between a traditionally mild mannered sound editor, played by Brian Hutchinson, who is tempted to use his audio cords and wires to squeeze the correct words from the throat of the inebriated star.

Monday, April 22, 2013


When Helen Reddy wrote the song "I Am Woman Hear Me Roar," she could well have been penning the anthem for seven women from all over the globe who are the subjects of a dramatic theater piece entitled "Seven."  Each woman could easily proclaim "I am strong, I am invincible," with wisdom and conviction, enduring pain and paying the price.

Their stories have been woven by seven women playwrights - Paula Cizmar, Catharine Filloux, Gail Kriegel, Carol K. Mack, Ruth Margraff, Anna Deavere Smith and Susan Yankowitz -out of interviews that began in 2006, with the encouragement of the Vital Voices Global Partnership, into a intriguing tapestry of diversity.

On Sunday, April 28 at 2 p.m., the Stray Kats Theatre Company, led by artistic director Kate Katcher, will give these women of courage and determination a voice.  The Alexandria Room at Edmond Town Hall, 45 Main Street, Newtown will bear witness to their stories.

Come be inspired by Marina Pisklakova-Parker who created the first women's hotline for victims of domestic violence, Center ANNA in Russia;  Mu Sochua who conducted door-to-door visits to hundreds of villages in her native Cambodia to win one of two seats granted to females in her country's cabinet;  Mukhtar Mai who was gang-raped in Pakistan because her brother committed the crime of holding hands with a woman of a higher caste and turned her tragedy into triumph;  Inez McCormack who worked in northern Ireland to secure human rights and social justice for women and minorities; Annabella DeLeon who pulled herself and her family out of poverty in Guatemala to become a congresswoman striving for women and the poor; Farida Azizi who stood up against the Taliban in her native Afghanistan working for peace and has had to seek asylum in the United States because of death threats; Hafsat Abiola who, after her parents were murdered, continued their activist work to build bridges of skills and democracy in her native Nigeria as well as between African and Chinese women.

When Kate Katcher's friend Carol Mack, one of the authors of this groundbreaking work, encouraged her to see its premiere several years ago in New York at the 92nd Street Y, Kate was "blown away" and knew she wanted to produce it one day herself.  She got the script and read and reread it.  She knew audiences would think about it and talk about it, that it would resonate and be "touching, poignant, educational and life-altering."  Calling it "such a different view of our world," Katcher's goal is to raise awareness about these issues and "bring women into the light, to keep the dialogue going so everyone gets the message."

In this one hour piece, she has worked to combine Equity actors with prominent women in the community, striving to be ethnically diverse  To date, they include Jenny Polozov, Managing Director of Regina's Art Center,  Lisa Skails, Executive Director of the Cultural Alliance of Western Connecticut, actress Caroline Winterson and Kate Katcher, Artistic Director of Stray Kats.  First Selectwoman Pat Llodra will introduce the piece.

The dramatic reading will be followed by a discussion with members of the cast and Vital Voices, as well as refreshments provided by Stray Kats' Board Member Jessica Kaufman. For tickets (adults, $25 in advance, $30 at the door; seniors $20 in advance, $25 at the door, plus $1 credit card charge), call 203-514-2221 or online at Tickets may also be purchased at Queen Street Gifts and Treats, 5 Queen Street, Newtown.

Be there for an extraordinary afternoon of documentary theater when "Seven," seven women's stories written by seven playwrights, are told to prove that one person can make a difference, how courage and change can take place, how despair can turn to hope and promise.  Be there to applaud their triumph.


Bess Johnson (Monique Vukovic) and Macon Hill (Brenda Withers) as Mail-Order Brides
Beth Henley's play "Abundance" opens with the ominous chanting of Indians, a foreshadowing of what is to come.  The time is the 1860's and the place is the Dakota Territory and two young women have just met at a remote outpost and discover they have much in common.

The Sears Roebuck catelogue had not yet been established.  It was to be a godsend for folks in the wilderness of this newly expanding country, perfect for ordering anything from a shiny copper kettle to pretty hair geegaws to an iron plow for the oxen to pull to till the soil.  But it wasn't due to arrive for three decades.

Bess Johnson and Macon Hill are prime examples of what could be ordered at this time.  They are eager and anxious, full of hope and promise:  they are mail-order brides.  Bess has already been waiting for ten days, she has run out of money and food and by now is truly afraid her intended has forgotten her or changed his mind.  She keeps practicing saying "I do" although she fears she won't get the chance to recite it.  All she has to hold on to are the three letters he has sent proclaiming his honorable intentions.

Now Macon has arrived, exuberant and brimming with excitement, a boost to Bess's lagging spirits.  To meet these two courageous gals, head over to the Hartford Stage before Sunday, April 28 to witness their trials and triumphs in "Abundance."  Their abundance exists in the plethora of possibilities their lives embrace.

While the women confess their biggest fears are that their suitors will be ugly, they have no real idea what they are facing.  The frontier life is a hard one, filled with perils, perils they will soon discover.  Bess is searching for true love and Macon for a grand adventure.  Both are doomed to get unexpected surprises starting the moment they are claimed, Bess by Jack Flynn (James Knight), who is reluctantly filling in for his brother Michael who has been killed and Macon by William Curtis (Kevin Kelly), a man scarred externally and internally.  For a long time the friendship between Monique Vukovic as Bess and Brenda Withers as Macon is all the two can cling to in an uncertain world.   The entrance of a professor (John Leonard Thompson) into their lives changes the dynamics dramatically.  Jenn Thompson directs this talented cast in this challenging peek behind the calico curtains into the life in the newly developing west.

For tickets ($26.50 and up), call 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., Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m., with matinees Sundays and select Wednesdays and Saturdays at 2 p.m.

Hartford Stage announces The Summer of Seuss, summer youth education programs. Young actors ages 3-17 can join  teaching artists for full day or half day classes in one, two or four week programs in multiple techniques including improvisation, storytelling, dance, and arts and crafts. All classes (except Summer Bookends) take place at Classical Magnet School at 85 Woodland Street in Hartford. Summer Bookends will take place at the Hartford Stage Rehearsal Studios at 942 Main Street in Hartford.  Now through April 30, new students can save up to $50 on registration. Returning students receive a discount of 10% on all classes.

 Other programs include the  Summer Studio Youth Ensemble which runs July 8 - August 2 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. for ages 9-15 Summer Studio Children's Cast Session One runs July 8-19 and Session Two runs July 22 - August 2., from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. for ages 5-8, One-Act Play runs August 5-16 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. for ages 9-15.

In addition there are Summer Bookends Session One which runs June 24-28 and Session Two runs August 5-9. Both sessions take place from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. for ages 5-8, Day Dreamers Session One runs July 8-12 and Session Two runs July 15-19. Both sessions take place from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. for ages 3-5 and Teen Musical Theatre Intensive - Broadway 2000 PLUS! runs July 22-26 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. for ages 14-17. Become a triple threat! Classes in acting, singing and dancing will lead to a final musical revue performance featuring Broadway shows debuting from the year 2000 and beyond!  For more information please contact Chelsea Caplan, Education Sales Coordinator, 860-520-7244 or

Come hold hands with these brave pioneers as they try to establish a new life for themselves.  Share their laughter and tears and commiserate with them over their lost dreams and how they allowed their bond of friendship to be destroyed.


You may not recognize the moniker Alphonso Joseph D'Abruzzo at first blush.  But this well known actor, director, author, activist and screenwriter who starred as Hawkeye Pierce in the much revered television show M*A*S*H also answers to the name Alan Alda, an amalgam of the first initials of his first and last name. Currently a Visiting Professor at the State University of New York at Stony Brook School of Journalism, he will share his wisdom and philosophy as the Mary and Louis Fusco Distinguished Lecturer on the campus of Southern Connecticut State University on Friday, May 3 at 7 p.m. at the John Lyman Center for the Performing Arts.

His forty year career in show business has won him seven Emmys, six Golden Globes and three awards for directing, from the Director's Guild of America.
For more than a decade he has been the host of PBS's "Scientific American Frontiers."  In addition he has published two bestselling novels "Never Have Your Dog Stuffed-And Other Things I've Learned" (2005) and "Things I Overheard While Talking to Myself" (2007).  The second book will be the title of his talk.

Besides his role as the irreverent Dr. Pierce, he has played a Republican senator from California Arnold Vinick on "West Wing," author and humorist George Plimpton in the movie "Paper Lion," a panelist on "What's My Line?" and "I've Got a Secret" televisi

For tickets ($20 and $30 general public, $10 and $15 students and faculty),call the box office at 203-392-6154 or online at  The John Lyman Center for the Performing Arts is located at 501 Crescent Street, New Haven.

Come and let Captain Benjamin Franklin "Hawkeye" Pierce share the knowledge he has gleaned over the years and maybe explain how he almost turned down this iconic role because "I wanted to show that the war was a bad place to be."
on game shows, physicist Richard Feynman in "QED," as the President of the United States in the satire "Canadian Bacon," Henry Ford the industrialist in the play "Camping with Henry and Tom," among many others.


The chief players involved in making "Letter from Italy, 1944" a reality:
Joyce Kirkpatrick GMC Development Chair; Sheila Hickey Garvey, Professor of Theatre at SCSU and Resident Director of the Greater Middletown Chorale (GMC); Joseph D'Eugenio, Artistic Director GMC and Letter from Italy's Conductor; Nancy Meneely, Poet and Lyricist; Sarah Meneely-Kyder, Composer: and Dawn Alger GMC's Concert and Events Manager.  

Call it " a soldier's story told in music," " dramatic oratorio," "a moving opera" or "two sisters' loving tribute to their father," "Letter from Italy, 1944" tells the true tale of one man's experiences during wartime.  It is at the same time a personal and private story and also universal in its scope.

Dr. John K. Meneely, Jr. was a member of the 10th Mountain Division, an elite and unique unit trained as a ski patrol to fight in winter and mountain warfare.  As a medic, John was called upon to witness and provide aid in numerous difficult and painful situations, not the least of which was losing his best friend Billy, killed just one week before the Armistice was declared.

The trauma of wartime doesn't end when peace is finally achieved and guns are laid down and abandoned.  It lingers and invades the soul  for close to eternity for some. Labelled Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), it sends a dark shadow over the future days, days that should be marked by sunshine.

Dr. Meneely's daughters, one a poet and one a composer, have lovingly dedicated years of their lives to sharing their father's story, using his letters home from war as the foundation.  They could be any soldier's story.  Connecticut residents, poet Nancy Fitz-Hugh Meneely from Guilford and Grammy-nominated composer Sarah Meneely-Kyder from Lyme, will proudly debut this major musical drama "Letter from Italy, 1944," a work comprised of 24 choral and solo pieces, on Sunday, April 28 at 4 p.m. at the Middletown High School Center for the Performing Arts, 200 LaRosa Lane, Middletown.

The 80 strong members of the Greater Middletown Chorale, led by Artistic Director Joseph D'Eugenio, will be accompanied by a professional orchestra.  The principal soloists are Jack Anthony Pott from South Windsor as John Meneely, Patricia Schuman from Essex as his wife Delia, Patricia Barbano from Branford as daughter Sarah, Sheri Hammerstrom from New York City as daughter Nancy and Margaret Tyler from Pawcatuck as daughter Dorothea.  In addition, John's parents will be portrayed by Katie Hart from Rocky Hill and Michael O'Herron from Middletown.

For Dr. Sheila Hickey Garvey, a professor at Southern Connecticut State University, who serves as the Chorale's Theater Director, " It has been a privilege to be a part of the creative team for "Letter from Italy, 1944."  It was just about three years ago that Sarah and Nancy Meneely presented the GMC with the germinating ideas to further develop some already completed short musical pieces based on their father's letters home during WWII.   I was instantly committed to helping their endeavor come to life on the stage.  All the men in my family have served in the military during times of war and during periods of international conflict.  "Letter From Italy, 1944" became my opportunity to honor them.  The men in my family have all been exceptionally brave individuals  of  great integrity.  The fact that what has developed is this larger, grander operatic version of the Meneely sisters' original idea  is nothing short of amazing – and I mean the word Amazing as a gift of spiritual grace.  I only hope audiences give themselves the opportunity to experience this locally written and produced masterwork.  It seems to me that everyone has at least one soldier they have loved and admired.  Seeing "Letter from Italy, 1944" is a way to pay tribute to all of America's military and also their loving, supportive families."

Dr. Garvey is also responsible for all the technical efforts and the projection of WWII archival projections that will accompany the piece and enhance its effectiveness and message.

For Jack Anthony Pott, playing Dr. John Meneely is simply "the role of a lifetime."  He has been involved in the project since December 2011 when his good friend from graduate school at the University of Connecticut, the chorale's artistic director Joseph D'Eugenio, told him about it.  Since that time, Pott has immersed himself in the music, researching PTSD by talking to veterans, investigating the 10th Mountain Division, even speaking directly to the sisters, and all before he was given the part.

His wife thought the role was perfect for him, combining as it does many of his loves: music, history, genealogy and United States military history.  He wanted to understand the mindset of the soldier and, passionate to be fully prepared for the role, read all the letters Dr. Meneely had written home.  He found them "awe inspiring" and calls this production a "new, major work" that he is passionate about presenting to "raise the public consciousness about the issues in the story."

For Pott, this is more than an oratorio, because it involves costumes, stage movement, visuals and interaction, so you see the story as well as hear it.  When he was finally chosen to play this central figure, he felt privileged to portray a man who could not leave the war behind him when he returned home to his family and couldn't cope.  The tragedy is that for the following eighteen years he used alcohol and medications to treat his depression, until in despair he took his own life.

For Nancy, the poet daughter, the experience of putting together both the book and the oratorio has "broadened my awareness of the workings and efforts of war, past and  present, and deepened my appreciation of how hard it can be to come home from the battlefield.  I understand now that my father fought two wars, the one he waged overseas and the one he fought against its aftermath.  I know now that he was heartbreakingly heroic not only in his first war but also in the second.  I've always loved him, of course, but what I feel for him now is something even deeper, love mixed with sympathy, admiration, understanding - and gratitude beyond words."

Her book of poetry "Letter from Italy, 1944" (Publisher, Antrim House) chronicles in lyrical and emotional verse, with photos and explanations, her father's journey through the battlefields of war and the equally difficult landscapes at home.  She writes with bittersweet insight into what he faced.  Her sister Sarah has taken many of these missives and set them to music enhancing their poignancy.  From the first song, a newly born John hears his father singing "Oh, The Sweetie Man," to songs of battle like "Riva Ridge" where he is "fight(ing) the clutch of memory and fear," to "Boots" where he relives the loss of best friend Billy, to the final despair that takes him as a "solitary man who has loved the best he can" in "In the End He Can Do No More."

For Sarah, the composer, "It has been an amazing challenge to write "Letter from Italy, 1944," an oratorio that engages large chorus, five professional soloists and orchestra.  Rarely have I had such an opportunity. I've learned so much musically in the process of the writing.  I've also learned so much about my father through the writing, and I have a much deeper understanding of him and the extreme duress that he must have experienced both during and after the war prior to his death.  I feel him alive in me.

"I feel greatly honored to have been commissioned by the Greater Middletown Chorale to "Letter from Italy, 1944" as Composer-in-Residence.  I consider this chorus the equal of all the noted professional choruses in Connecticut.  I applaud the chorale for its willingness to take chances, delving into repertoire that has rarely or never been heard!  Maestro Joseph D'Eugenio is able to balance high expectations with warmth and charisma, and, as a result, has brought the group to a high level of musicianship, given its stunning and consistent readiness to fulfill all that is asked.

"At the heart of this group is a warmth and breadth of spirit, rare and contagious, by which I feel embraced in all my interactions and undertakings.  I thank all of you deeply for your unstinting support.  This is indeed a cherishing."

While the April 28th performance is sold out, the Chorale has added a Preview Performance on Friday, April 26 at 7:30 p.m..  For tickets ($30 seniors, general admission $35), go online to Ticket Leap at or at the box office one hour before curtain.  The Preview Performance is a complete run through in costume and with movement.  There may be breaks to correct technical issues. Stand-by tickets for the Sunday show, if available, will be released on Sunday at 3:30 p.m. An Honor Roll tribute for military veterans will be included in the program.

Immerse yourself in the conflicted life of one soldier, Dr John Meneely, Jr., and learn the costs of war on and off the battlefield in this loving tribute by two daughters for their father in the world premiere of "Letter from Italy, 1944."

Monday, April 15, 2013


      Joe Mango, Michael Sayers, Christopher Polack (Top to Bottom) in "Molto Buffo"

For 75 years, Consiglio's Restaurant on New Haven's famed Wooster Street has been an Italian jewel, noted for its fine cuisine and friendly and welcoming atmosphere.  For the past three summers, it has been identified as a favorite venue for comic antics as playwright Liz Fuller staged her famous and infamous Spaghetti Musicals outdoors on the back patio.

In celebration of its milestone birthday this month, Consiglio's is moving the fun indoors on Friday, April 26 as it presents "Molto Buffo," Italian for "very funny."  Billed as an evening of cabaret, it will include great songs, comedy sketches, a variety show, Frank Sinatra karaoke talent contest and a psychic with all-knowing powers to solve mysteries. As if that weren't enough, there will also be a performance by Guiseppe Decibello Forte, the great comedic opera singer known to his intimate friends as Joey Loud Mouth.

Wrapped around this evening, that prides itself on active audience involvement, is †he sumptuous food Consiglio's serves.  In this case, you have a grand choice to design your feast.  For appetizers, of which there are five, you might select fried calamari tossed with an array of Italian herbs and a side of marinara sauce or pannecotto- escarole, beans and Italian bread with parmesan cheese.  As a main course, of which there are eight tempting dishes, you might have Veal Parmigiana, layered with marinara sauce and mozzarella over linguine or sole Florentine, fresh sole over a bed of baby spinach finished in a lemon, garlic and white wine sauce over linguine. For a sweet ending, you will have to decide between Godiva tiramisu or chocolate mousse cake.  Beverages, tax and gratuity are extra. Doors open at 6 p.m. and the show starts at 7 p.m.   For reservations ($55), call Consiglio's, 165 Wooster Street, New Haven at 203-865-4489 or online at

For Michael Sayers, actor and playwright, he will be on the playbill for the comic antics. You might remember him as "Tony Bob" in the last two summer patio performances.  He describes "Molto Buffo" as a "mix of music, comedy and audience participation that the folks love about the summer shows.  There's no plot: it's a variety show format and it will be a little different each time it's done."

Sayers, who has written over sixty mysteries for the Camelot River Murder Cruises, hopes to offer mystery nights as well, since this winter has found them a great success.  Guests should come prepared to sing along with Joe Mango, a computer genius from the valley, who does cartoon voiceovers and has a cartoon "Mango" named after him, Christopher Polack from Middletown who knows computers too and is a big blogging favorite on Facebook as well as Michael Sayers himself from New Haven.

For Sayers, "humor is what keeps us going," and he loves the interaction with the wait staff at Consiglio's as well as "the chance to acknowledge the guests, sit down and yak with them and guarantee there's no wall between us."  His show "Murphy's Wedding," where nobody gets to eat the wedding cake but lots get to wear it, is a big production he hopes to put on in the future.  Right now he takes his mystery shows to private gigs, corporations and to colleges and universities, from Maine to Maryland and as far west as Ohio.

For more birthday fun go to and print a free gift certificate for dinner from April 7 to 21 for $19.38 in honor of the year Consiglio's was founded.

If you fancy yourself a chef or have aspirations to be one, sign up for one of Consiglio's famous cooking demonstration classes.  Be warned:  they sell out!

In May, on Thursdays, the 9, 16 and 23, the menu will be fettucini tossed with a roasted garlic sauce, caprese salad drizzled with balsamic vinaigrette, filet of sole and shrimp Florentine and poached pears in puff pastry with port wine.  Menus and dates through August are already posted on the website The complete four-course meal is demonstrated right before your eyes, step-by-step, and then served to you.  Classes start at 6:30 p.m. and are $65.

If you haven't discovered Consiglio's yet, don't let another minute go by as great food and grand fun await you at 165 Wooster Street. Mangia!



As inventors go, Eli Whitney, the proud papa of the cotton gin and the champion of interchangeable parts for muskets, and the grand daddy of Renaissance men, Leonardo da Vinci, would probably have a lively discussion if they ever met.  Their ideas and collaborative philosophies will be united on Thursday, April 25 when the Eli Whitney Museum in Hamden celebrates its 19th annual Leonardo Challenge.

From 5:30 p.m. to 9 p.m., the Eli Whitney Museum at 915 Whitney Avenue will display and demonstrate the imagination and genius of approximately one hundred artists and artisans from all over the country who have contributed pieces for this year's creative event.

Every year for the past 19 years, an item has been selected - from clothespins to playing cards to keys to ice cream spoons - to spark the grey cells to ignite.  This year's challenge is "Brush with Genius," inspired by the incredible achievements of Leonardo da Vinci who excelled in fields from architecture to anatomy, music to mathematics, painting to sculpture.  How appropriate that this yearly challenge pays tribute to this man of extraordinary ideas.

Brushes,  tools with bristles, can be used to apply a young lady's make up, wielded to groom your yellow labrador's silky coat, given the task of shining teeth or painting a priceless work of art.  Brushes have a hundred and one uses from applying an egg wash to shine a pastry tart to buffying your best black boots.  The dilemma for artists will be to create a new vision for a brush, in a painting, mobile, clothing, piece of jewelry, game, toy, furniture or sculpture.

This year's event includes spirits from Fetzer Winery, cheese treasures from Fromagerie Caseus, gourmet treats from Doug Coffin's Kitchens that includes the Big Green Truck, old world confections from Whole G's artisan bakers, Small Kitchen, Big Taste's hand painted cookies and coffee and treats from Koffee.

Sponsors are The Cameron and Jane Baird Foundation and IKEA.   The works inspired by brushes will be on display until Sunday, May 12 at the museum.  Proceeds from the silent auction sale will benefit scholarships for children to attend museum programs after school and in the summer as well as for youth training.  Hours are Saturday 11-3 p.m. and Sunday noon-5 p.m., and Wednesday - Friday late afternoons.

According to Sally Hill, associate director, who designed the inspiring invitation, "I will once again be contributing a lamp.  I found the most amazing guy in Georgia who makes hearth brooms, "The Broom Brothers," a father and son operation.  We are collaborating on the wiring and the design and we are calling it "A Broom for a Little Light Sweeping."  Ever since a board member suggested the fundraiser almost two decades ago, the staff have been charged with contributing to the event.  "The first year we were afraid no one would send in an item so we all were asked to make five." Fortunately, their fears were uncalled for and contributions flow in each year.

For tickets ($55) or major sponsorships ($250, $500, $1000, or $2500), call the museum at 203-777-1833 or go online  to

Be inspired to take a brush, a fine feathered one or a broad banded one, and create a tribute to its beauty and possibilities.  Failing that, come to the Eli Whitney Museum to applaud the unique works artists and artisans have created.


Sequins, sass, sparkle and shine are not the usual words that come to mind when you think of sisters of the cloth.  The conservative and sensible, charitable and caring, convent of nuns is undergoing a transformation not of its own choosing.   When a wannabee superstar singer is hidden (read relocated, as in witness protection) with a sisterhood of religiosity, the lady in question, one Deloris Van Cartier, does not go quietly into that good sacred place.

Deloris who unwittingly witnesses a murder by her boyfriend and boss Curtis does the honorable deed and reports it to the police, in this case Police Detective Eddie Souther.  What happens to Deloris as she plays a cloak and dagger game with the criminals chasing her is captured in the rousing comedy "Sister Act The Musical" roaring into the Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts in Hartford from Tuesday, April 16 to Sunday, April 21.

Two decades ago Whoopi Goldberg played the wise cracking, joyfully singing Deloris in the movies.  This new version composed by Alan Menken and Glenn Slater stars Ta'rea Campbell as the spunky disco diva, Hollis Resnik as the uncompromising and suspicious Mother Superior, Kingsley Leggs as the desperate murderer Curtis and E. Clayton Cornelious as the helpful detective Eddie.  New music reaches heavenly heights with such spirited numbers as "Fabulous, Baby!," "Raise Your Voice," and "Take Me to Heaven."

As Deloris goes under wraps in the protective skirts of the good sisters, she soon finds herself pressed into service of a godly nature.  The convent's choir is suffering mightily and Deloris appears like an angel sent from above to perform miracles and offer a joyful noise unto the Lord.  Prepare to be blown away as this chorus is rejuvenated to razzle-dazzle 'em proportions.  Catch the infectious spirits as this sisterhood soars to the rafters.

For tickets ($20-92), call the Bushnell, 166 Capitol Avenue, Hartford at 860-987-5900 or online at  Performances are Tuesday-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 p.m.

Learn how the powerful glue of friendship cements Deloris with her newly found sisterhood of singing sisters.  You'll have lots of good reasons to rejoice!

Saturday, April 13, 2013


If you are a lover of art and a fan of films, then the Fairfield University Quick Center has the perfect ticket for you:  a trio of artists' lives captured on cinema.
Starting with Edouard Manet, entitled "Manet: Portraying Life" on Thursday, April 18 at 7:30 p.m., continuing with Edward Munch in honor of his 150th birthday "Munch 150" on Thursday, June 27 at 7:30 p.m. and concluding with Johannes Vermeer on Thursday, October 10 at 7:30 p.m., "Vermeer and Music:  The Art of Love and Leisure," the series is open to the public at a nominal fee.  Attend one or all three.

With a swirl of color, Edouard Manet helped launch the the transition of French painting from realism to impressionism, helping 19th century artists focus on modern and postmodern-life subjects.  While some of his early work created chaos and controversy, it is believed to have been a rallying point for others to champion.  Born in Paris in 1832 to an upwardly mobile family, he rejected a career in law, preferring to pursue painting.  A trip to the Louvre with an uncle helped to channel his ambitions.

His controversial painting "Luncheon of the Grass," featuring fully clothed men and a nude woman, was rejected for exhibition by the Paris Salon but did find a home at the Salon of the Rejected in 1863.  His subjects included cafe scenes, the upper classes enjoying social activities like parties and dining, war and history painting and street scenes of Paris.

This film, narrated by Tim Marlow, will reveal the  preparations for the recent Royal Academy of Arts' exhibition in London, spanning his entire career.

For tickets ($15, students and children $10), call 203-254-4010 or 1-877-278-7396 or online at

Without need for a passport or portmanteau, pay a visit to 19th century Paris and personally make the acquaintance of painter Edouard Manet.

Friday, April 12, 2013


Henri Toulouse- Lautrec used his art to capture the personalities of a specific world at an exact moment in time: the night life in the cafes, cabarets, theaters, dance halls and brothels of Montmarte in Paris from 1885 to his death at 36 in 1901. He produced 537 paintings, 314 lithographs and 30 posters
in his brief life, many of the works on paper are contained in his exhibit at the New Britain Museum of American Art until Sunday, May 12.

As a teenager, he suffered leg fractures which stunted his growth.  His alcoholism also affected his health and hastened his death.  A color poster of the Moulin Rouge night club brought him instant success and he went on to illustrate menus, book covers and theater programs.  His extreme life style made his artwork vivid and dramatic, as he lived with his subjects, but it also contributed to his premature death.

This exhibit is but one of the many fascinating ones on display year round.  "The Brilliance of Louis Comfort Tiffany,"  as painter and craftsman, will begin May 24 and run until September 29. The opening reception is Thursday, May 30 from 5:30 p.m. to 7 p.m.  If you go, say hello to the stern but welcoming guard at the door to the first gallery, look for the picture made almost entirely of nails, the wall installation of 20,000 paper cups, the amazing blown glass sculpture by Dale Chihuly, the giant tribute to 9/11 and the room of murals of America painted by Thomas Hart Benton.

Know that every Sunday from 1-2 p.m., there is a docent led American Masterpieces tour as well as many art and explorer activities for children and adults.  The First Friday of the month features a jazz concert.  Museum hours are Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday from 11 5 p.m., Thursday from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m., Saturday from 10-5 p.m. and Sunday from noon to 5 p.m.  Free admission is Saturday from 10 a.m. to noon. Plan to stay for lunch in the cafe and visit the museum gift shop. It is located at 56 Lexington Street.

Visit the New Britain Museum of American Art to discover the treasure trove of surprises it contains.

Monday, April 8, 2013


If you've ever staged a major fundraiser, you know the incredible number of details that go into making it a success as well as the plethora of problems that can derail the big event.  For Henry Sounders, the manager of the Cleveland Grand Opera Company, inviting the greatest Italian tenor of his day, Tito Merelli, to perform his signature role of Otello is a grand coup...until Merelli fails to show up for the rehearsal.

Come help Saunders and his capable assistant Max cope with the multitude of mistakes that can cause mutiny in Ken Ludwig's comic farce "Lend Me a Tenor" being humorously brought to life weekends at the Connecticut Cabaret Theatre in Berlin until Saturday, May 4.

Saunders, the bombastic boss Tom Roohr doesn't start to panic until his prize diva is two hours late.  He has sent his capable aide Max, an industrious Joe Autuoro, to the train station but he has come back to the hotel empty handed.  Meanwhile the list of people anxious to meet Tito, for an autograph, an assignation, an audition or an acquaintance is getting longer by the moment, from Saunder's impressionable daughter Maggie (Kaite Corda), the bellhop who wants to sing (James J. Moran), Julia, the chairman of the opera guild who wants bragging rights (Joanne Callahan-Roohr) and Tito's leading lady Diana (Melinda Learned) who wants her career to get a boost.  Everyone has an agenda of what they want Tito to deliver, not the least of which is his wife Maria, a fiery Louise DeChesser, who is sick and tired of his excesses, in food, drink and women.  Tito arrives and everyone pounces on him.

When Maria storms out of their hotel suite, she is the catalyst for an avalanche of mishaps from an overdose of medication to a mistaken suicide note, from a supper of shrimp mayonnaise on the verge of botulism to not one but two Otellos.  The cast is uniformly great as they slam doors and wreck havoc, but especially the super star himself, Lenny Fredericks as Merelli, in all his flamboyant and excessive splendor.  Fredericks captures him to bellisimo perfection.  Director Kris McMurray balances the panic and the pleasure, the frantic and the funny, with outrageously over-the-top results.  Bravo!

For tickets ($30), call Connecticut Cabaret Theatre, 31-33 Webster Square Road, Berlin at 860-829-1248 or online at  Performances are Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m., with doors opening at 7:15 p.m.  Bring treats to share at your table or purchase delicious desserts and drinks at the concession stand.  Now is the time to renew your subscription for the CT Cabaret's Sweet 16 season as well as register for theater classes at their new studio next door.

Brush up on your opera and your Italian as the fun and fur fly when Tito Merelli and his egotistical entourage come to town.


Have you ever been given privileged information and learned more than you bargained for, knowledge that was a burden and caused you discomfort?  For Judy Exner, whose youth, beauty and personality attracted a bevy of male admirers, gaining status in the inner circle provided her with delightful benefits as well as dangerous possibilities.

New Haven's Long Wharf Theatre has an intriguing look inside the political arena as a new king is crowned in William Mastrosimone's captivating "Ride the Tiger" until Sunday, April 21.  Its portrayal of politics is personal, perplexing and problematic and is guaranteed to disturb any illusions you might harbor about Camelot and other fairy tales of innocence and glory.

How easily could you be seduced and swept into the world of the powerful,with the major players, until you find yourself a pawn, without any integrity left to call your own.  For Judy Exner, the leap was easy.  First she attracted the attention and affection of that blue eyed crooner, Frank Sinatra, and when he tired of her, he passed her on to his good friend and presidential hopeful, John Fitzgerald Kennedy. 

When JFK's father Joe tries to orchestrate and guarantee his son's journey to the Oval Office, Joe chooses a powerful mob boss in Chicago, Sam Giancana, who has the sway to deliver the much needed union vote.  Sam's gaze soon focuses on Judy and he quickly uses jewelry and expensive gifts to win her affection.

With all the prominent players in place, Mastrosimone crafts a fascinating political game where all the chessmen manage and manipulate, like puppet masters on a grand stage, each with a personal agenda and all with the desire to assure JFK gains the presidency.  The years are 1959-1963 and a clever video back splash moves the action from Hyannisport to Las Vegas, Miami to New York, Palm Beach to Los Angeles, Chicago to the White House.

A uniformly fine cast portrays Douglas Sills as the promising candidate Jack, John Cunningham as the controlling papa Joe, Paul Anthony Stewart as the accommodating singer and chairman of the Board, Jordan Lage as the don't-mess-with-me mob boss Sam and Christina Bennett Lind as the opportunistic and naive pawn Judy.  Gordon Edelstein directs this complicated chessboard game of moves and motivations that will shatter any rose colored glasses you might be wearing.

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 and Friday at 8 p.m., Saturday at 3 p.m. and 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m.

Tony and Emmy Award-Winning Mandy Patinkin will headline Long Wharf's Annual Gala on Friday, June 7 at 6 p.m.  The evening, the theatre's major fundraiser, will feature elegant cocktails, small plate tastings, a silent auction, Patinkin's performance and end with a dessert reception. For more information, contact Kathy Cihi at or 203-772-8234.

A Chinese proverb warns of mounting and riding a tiger and the dangers of climbing down.  Watch this cast of players as they try to tame the wild beast.

Friday, April 5, 2013


On the seventh of February in the year 1867, a baby girl was born in a log cabin in Wisconsin whose adventurous spirit would soon find her traveling westward. In a covered wagon, Laura Ingalls ventured with her family from there to Minnesota and Iowa and finally the Dakota Territory.  She captured her childhood and those pioneering days in a series of stories known as the Little House Books.

To meet Laura, a spunky Annie Lutz, her daring pa Charles played by Richard Chagnon, her devoted mother Caroline portrayed byJackie Ostick and her older sister Mary and difficult friend Nellie Owens, both brought to life by Haley Greenstein, plan to travel to the Katharine Hepburn Cultural Arts Center in Old Saybrook.

This delightful musical about this beloved frontier girl and her ambitious family will be performed for one show only, Sunday, April 14 at 3 p.m.  For tickets ($10 child, $16 adult), call The Kate, 300 Main Street, Old Saybrook at 877-503-1286 or online at

For almost three decades, ArtsPower, a theatrical troupe devoted to children's programming using Equity actors, has had a mission to entertain, stimulate and educate.  To that end, they have produced thirty shows, adapting good children's literature into plays and musicals, performing 750 productions every year.  To date, they have entertained 12 million people in almost every state.  Some of their titles include "Mike Mulligan and the Steam Shovel," "Harry the Dirty Dog," "Anne of Green Gables" and "My Heart in a Suitcase."

As artistic director and resident playwright, Greg Gunning is responsible for much of the material, writing the book and lyrics, while Richard DeRosa composes the music.  The final members of this establishment are the co-founders Gary and Mark Blackman.

In this story about Laura, the goal was to show how she came to write her stories, with a target audience of 10-12 year olds, to inspire kids to say "I could do that" (write their own stories) or say "I have to read that book."  The team tries to tie the story to the school curriculum, in this case how the pioneering spirit and movement west can be illustrated in literature, history and the arts.

Another bonus with Laura's tale is its popularity as a television show, Michael Landon's "Little House on the Prairie" series which has a universal appeal and is remembered fondly. "Both children and adults can relate to and by moved by a tomboy and how she becomes one of America's most famous writers."  Laura and her folks' pioneering zeal is both "scary and exciting"  The musical shows how her attitude toward education and being home schooled changed when her older sister Mary goes blind and tells Laura "You have to describe the world to me."

The intriguing musical score includes such tunes as the adventures traveling by covered wagon in "Move On" as they try to find a new home, the tall tales about whose fish is bigger, sung by Laura and Pa, in "Fishin' " and the poignant ballad "Seein' Things I Never Saw Before" as Laura becomes Mary's eyes and lets her imagination run wild and free.  Come meet Pa's "half-pint of sweet cider."

For Greg Gunning, it has been an "interesting journey" at ArtsPower, combining his two loves:  writing and directing.  When Gary and Mark Blackman first contacted him thirty years ago he knew early on it was a "sure partnership."  Just like his protagonist Laura, he also "wants to see what's over the next hill."  He, too, is ready to pack his bags and move on to new adventures, with only two major changes:  while Laura went west, Greg went east to New York and instead of Laura's rumbling wagon, Greg travels by 747.  Both are clearly destined to conquer new frontiers.

Greg Gunning's latest frontier is the show "Jigsaw Jones, Boy Detective" while he has his eyes pealed on his next possible writing venture "The Monster Who Ate My Peas."  All vegetarians beware.
bonnie goldberg (

Monday, April 1, 2013



New Haven's Long Wharf Theatre is inviting the theater going public to enroll in an investigative series of conversations about "Clybourne Park" coming soon to the stage.  The program is entitled "SPARK" and it is designed to shed light and uncover insights into the production, led by Associate Director Eric Ting who is in charge of the show's run from May 8 to June 2.

"Clybourne Park" by Bruce Norris has garnered Tony Awards, Olivier Awards, the Evening Standard Award, and that most envied and admired Pulitzer Prize.  It begins where "A Raisin in the Sun" leaves off, setting its first act in 1959 with a black family hoping to own a home truly their own.  Unfortunately the white neighborhood is not ready to roll out a red carpet of welcome and tries, instead, to block the sale.

Act 2 takes place in the same house fifty years later when the real estate situation has reversed.  The black family who own the house, a property that has suffered over the decades, is being hassled over the prospect of selling to a white family.  Their African-American neighbors strenuously object.

Let Eric Ting open doors and windows into the racial issues and the real estate market in this Chicago community in a series of four sessions, beginning Tuesday, April 9 from 7-8:30 p.m. with First Rehearsal to hear his thoughts on the production, meet the cast and hear design presentations.  On Tuesday, April 23 the Actor's Craft will be discussed from 7-8:30 p.m., focusing on the art and craft of acting and how to create true characters on stage.  Session 3, on Saturday, May 4 from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. is a Technical Rehearsal, to witness how all the pieces come together on stage.  Finally on Tuesday, May 21 from 5-6:30 p.m. is the Post-Mortem to take a look back and explore the challenges and revelations of the production.

To register ($50), and receive a copy of the play, call Long Wharf Theatre at 203-787-4282 or online at  The nominal fee will support the theatre's continued mission to produce new works for the American stage.

Let Eric Ting guide you across the threshold of 406 Clybourne Street and reveal its architecture that alternately conceals and reveals a fair share of bigotry and hypocrisy in its wall boards.



If you're a fan of a short and pudgy member of the Mushroom Kingdom, an Italian plumber with a large mustache answering to the name of "Mario," the Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts has your number: a Video Games Live concert.

Perhaps "Lara Croft, Tomb Raider" is more your speed as this young and eager archaeology graduate searches for the lost kingdom of Yamatai.  Another choice might be the science fiction game about an interstellar war between humans and aliens known as the Covenant in the series "Halo."  Whatever your video game selection, Video Game Live is sure to feature music that highlights your favorites on Saturday, April 13 at 7:30 p.m. in Hartford.  Come at 6 p.m. in costume for some great pre-show activities like Guitar Hero, with prizes.

The creator, producer and host of this industry phenomenon is Tommy Tallarico, a game industry veteran and superstar who orchestrated all the music you hear as you play the games.  He's worked on more than 300 to date, from Zelda to Tron to Sonic the Hedgehog.  Video Game Live debuted at the Hollywood Bowl with the Los Angeles Philharmonic on July 6, 2005, with 11,000 people in attendance.  Since then, it has circled the globe from Canada to China, Mexico to Brazil, Taiwan to New Zealand and everywhere in between.  In 2008, it was inducted into the Guinness Book of World Records for most video concerts in one year, numbering 43.

Tommy Tallarico is a combination Horatio Alger and Donald Trump, arriving in the sacred city of Hollywood in 1991 at the age of 21 with no money, no job, no place to live and no friends.  He slept under the pier at the Huntington Beach.  An ad in a newspaper for a keyboard seller gave him his start and, as luck would have it, a foot in the door to an industry that was just waiting for him to knock.

His first customer at the keyboard store was a producer for Richard Branson's Virgin Mastertronic video game studio.   The fact that Tommy was wearing  a unique video game t-shirt (almost the sum total of his wardrobe) led to a conversation and an offer of a dream job, as a tester of video games.  For $6 an hour, he got to play "Super Mario" and "Pac-Man" and discover problems.  With this entree into the industry, Tallarico pushed to get the chance to compose music for the games, offering to do it for free.  After six months, his big chance came with "Prince of Persia," which led to him
 winning Best Music Video of the Year, an honor he  garnered for the next four years.  At that point, he was in demand and he could name his own price.

In 1995, he left Virgin and started his own company and did work for all the industry leaders.  The "cherry on top" for him was moving his whole family from Springfield, Massachusetts to California to work for him.  Tallarico admits how lucky he is to have combined his two greatest loves:  music and video games. He also likes to brag that his cousin is rock star legend Steven Tyler (nee Tallarico).

His talents were apparent early on, when at three he sat down at the family piano and, without lessons, began playing by ear.  His parents had hoped by buying the piano, they would take lessons but they never did.  Instead, Tommy was soon banging out Jerry Lee Lewis and Elvis Presley tunes.  At age six, his dad took him to a neighbor's house and they played "Pong" for the first time and so his second love, video games, was born.

By age ten, he was putting on video game concerts for his friends and charging a nickel.  He would splice the video games and the music together, jump in front of the T.V. with his guitar and impress everyone in attendance there and later at school assemblies.  Is it any wonder that now Tommy Tallarico is devoting himself to validating and legitimizing this art form in an astonishingly grand concert form?

At the Bushnell, he will be performing with the Connecticut Youth Symphony, Daniel D'Addio conductor, and the Hartt Community Choir, Noah Blocker-Glynn conductor, in a live action symphony concert, with synchronized special effects, cutting edge visuals, the fun of video games and all the power and emotion of symphonic sound. Some lucky person will even get to play a video game on stage!

In China and Brazil, the audiences go "over the top emotionally," cheering like crazy to see their own national symphony, treating the event like "the second coming of Elvis Presley."  Tallarico hopes to prove to the world that his music is "culturally artistic" and reverse the negative thoughts that persist about video games and their possible violence.  He admits that 2% are violent but he is quick to point out that most gamers are over 35 years of age, 47% are women, and 80% of parents play with their children and 66% feel the games have brought them closer to their kids.

Personally, he was inspired at age 10 by John Williams' score in "Star Wars" that "blew me away" as well as by the music of Mozart and Beethoven, whom he called "the rock stars of their day." He recognized Mozart's music in a Bugs Bunny movie and asserts that video game music can "stand on its own, it is so special and so unique that people will see the symphony like they've never seen it before!"  Even someone who has never played a video game will be intrigued by the emotion and catchy melodies.

When Tallarico creates his music, it's all about the melody, the tune that he wants to stay with you, long after the game is over.  For him, it's about the emotion, the action and the characters and how they are feeling.  The validation for what he does comes in fan letters after these concerts, but recently a mother in her early fifties came up to him before the show to thank him.  She had been playing the cello with the orchestra for twenty years and that night her 17 year old son was coming to hear her play.  She had invited him for years.  Suddenly now, because of Video Game Live, he was coming with all his friends and bragging that his mom was playing "Halo." For Tommy Tallarico, it doesn't get much better than this.

For tickets ($17.50 -$55), call the Bushnell, 166 Capitol Avenue, Hartford at 860- 987-5900 or online at  A special VIP $175 ticket includes a tour behind the scenes with Tommy, the best seats, a pre-show party, the chance to meet video game designers from all over the globe, a post-show meet and greet, a laminated tour pass, a free download card for Video Games Live: Level 2 Album and a Video Game Live poster.

Come and be floored by the beauty of the music that proves that video games are art to be enjoyed and to inspire.   The next time you're playing Sonic the Hedgehog to see how fast you can dash, jump and spin or Mega Man, the robot that is battling the evils of Dr Wily, stop and think about the background music that excites you and encourages you to work your way to the next level of competition and give thanks and a thumbs up to Tommy Tallarico and his talented head, heart and hands.