Friday, May 31, 2013

"THE DROWSY CHAPERONE” WON’T CATCH YOU SLEEPING

   
“The Drowsy Chaperone” is no sleeper.  It is a musical tucked carefully inside a comedy, a tribute to the glorious age of jazz, and it prides itself on being stuffed with clich├ęs and dedicated to all the old musicals it delights in spoofing.
    The Connecticut Repertory Theatre on the campus of the University of Connecticut at the Harriet S. Jorgensen Theatre will entertain this Broadway hit, that has sailed off to London, Australia and Japan, from Tuesday, June 6 to Saturday, June 15 and you’re invited to join in the musical fun.  “The Drowsy Chaperone” began its stage life as an entertainment for a stag party for the wedding of theatrical couple Bob Martin and Janet Van De Graaff in Canada and has grown, after several reincarnations, into the show that will delight you and your family now.   
     The show begins nostalgically with The Man in Chair, who puts on his phonograph to recreate his favorite musical, a 1928 stage show “The Drowsy Chaperone.”  He then serves as the commentator and narrator as the show comes gloriously to technicolor life, complete with seashell footlights, dazzling peacocks, trees of sugarplums and costumes that Halloween fanatics would envy.
    And just who is The Man in Chair you might ask?  None other than Pat Sajak, who has spent three decades “standing” as the charming host of “Wheel of Fortune” and he will be joined by Liz Larsen who stars in the title role.
    With book by Bob Martin and Don McKell, music and lyrics by Lisa Lambert and Greg Morrison, winner of two Tonys for best score and best book and four Drama Desks for outstanding musical, book, lyrics and music, this is a show-within-a-show, centering around a conceited showgirl who decides to marry a man she’s known for two New York minutes and a producer who sees his meal ticket waltzing away.  The show depends on every campy device known to musical comedy and happily exploits them all.  Meanwhile The Man in Chair comments as he tries hard not to jump into the action and save the day and the damsel.
    The ditzy Mrs. Tottendale is just one of the eccentric and memorable characters who lead us on a merry parade to the wedding day as gangsters who double as pastry chefs try to intrude and simultaneously threaten.  At the same time, wedding planners, the all-important chaperone, the Latin lover and even the butler insinuate themselves into the bride and groom’s big day and into the pleasure filled plot.
    For tickets ($10-45), call the Harriet S. Jorgensen Theatre at 860-486-2113 or online at www.crt.uconn.edu.  Performances are at 7:30 p.m., Tuesday to Thursday, Friday at 8 p.m., Saturday at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m. The Summer Nutmeg Series also includes “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum” and “The Music Man.” A three play subscription is $30-99.
    Come to the wedding and no gifts are required on your part.  You'll be the recipient of a gift of laughter and joy and musical merriment as “The Drowsy Chaperone” bursts into life magically before your eyes.

Monday, May 27, 2013

"MY SON THE WAITER" A COMIC LESSON IN PURSUING DREAMS





Many parents, especially mothers and in particular Jewish mothers, are famous for holding the bragging rights on the accomplishments of their children.  Frequently it's a game of can-you-top-that. The ultimate prize is usually awarded to the mom who can brag with ten pounds of pride in her voice about "my son, the doctor" or "my son, the lawyer,"

For Brad Zimmerman's mother, her declaration of prominence for almost three full decades has been "my son the waiter."  Zimmerman who has long had aspirations as an actor/comedian has fashioned his mother's angst into a theater piece he longingly calls "My Son The Waiter: A Jewish Tragedy."  The Katharine Hepburn Cultural Arts Center in Old Saybrook will welcome this one man show on Friday, June 7 at 8 p.m.

Arriving in New York City as a fresh faced youth in 1978, he expected to pay his dues doing odd jobs until his dream of becoming an actor was realized.  He will be the first to admit that waiting 29 years was definitely more than the norm for him to experience and certainly much more for his mother to endure.

With a conversational style and laid-back perspective, much the same way he practiced his skills waitering, Zimmerman confesses he wasn't the most service oriented employee,  The restaurant was casual and low pressure and so was he.  He prided himself on knowing next to nothing about wine and for being virtually invisible in his job,  With honesty and a wry sense of self-deprecating humor, he reflects in his seventy minute show about the downs and little ups of his journey of plateaus.

For tickets ($25), call The Kate, 300 Main Street, Old Saybrook at 877-503-1286 or online at www.katharinehepburntheater.org.

Brad Zimmerman credits his mother for providing the impetus for his storehouse of comic material.  Hopefully now she is bragging to her Boca Raton, Florida neighbors about her son, the successful comic.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

"LUCKY ME" A REVEALING LOOK INSIDE TWO CULTURES




You might think at first blush that splitting your childhood between Hollywood, California and Tokyo, Japan would be an exciting and enviable one, and going to boarding schools in England and Switzerland would be filled with international flavor?  If you then went on to teach skiing in New Zealand, to waitress in Hawaii, to be a stewardess on Qantas Airways and an au pair in Paris, then the glitz and glamor might be overwhelming.  Just ask Stephanie Sachiko "Sachi" Parker, the only daughter of Shirley MacLaine and Steven Parker, and she will have a lot to say about her growing up years on multiple continents.

Not many girls get to call Warren Beatty uncle or grace the cover of Life Magazine as a child or make ads for Diet Pepsi with their mom.  Lest you start turning a glorious shade of green with envy over Sachi Parker's life, reflect on the singular fact that at age two her mother put her on a plane, several in fact, alone with only stewardesses to care for her, to fly to Tokyo to live with her father, an abusive man who was living with a mistress.  Sachi got to spend summers and holidays with her star actress mom, whose maternal concerns for her had a maximum duration of four hours.

Yet Sachi, in a recent interview, confessed her childhood and life as the daughter of a mega-personality was often unbelievable, caught as she was between two cultures, the star power of Hollywood and the tranquil beauty of Japan. In her new show "Lucky Me" and her new book, with Frederick Stroppel that grew from it, "Lucky Me: My Life With-and Without- My Mom, Shirley MacLaine," she reflects on the "colorful, eccentric and geographically challenging life, of dramatically bouncing around the world."

If nothing else, it has made her a decidedly different mother to her two teenage children, a hands-on mom, without babysitters or nannies.  Writing and preparing the show has also brought her greater understanding of her mother "as a woman who was betrayed by her husband, a woman in love, who believed in the fantasy."  Sachi can now identify with her and forgive her and take a greater control of her own life.  She also hopes as her children get older, they will enjoy a closer relationship with their grandmother, as she "isn't a little child person."

As for the reaction to her autobiographical memoir, it has ranged from "Who do you think you are?  A horrible Hollywood spoiled brat" to a lot of rave notices, thanking her for her honesty and for helping them, readers who loved it, advising her to forgive and move on.  "There's a lot of great reaction for its sheer entertainment.  They give it either one star or five stars, with no grey area in between."

Her play "Lucky Me" will have its world premiere from Thursday, May 30 to Sunday, June 9, at New Haven's Off-Broadway Theatre, 41 Broadway, entrance on York Street behind Toad's Place.  For tickets ($30, preview night Thursday, May 30 $20), email luckymetickets@yahoo.com or write the director at: Joanna Keylock, 1 Elderslie Lane, Woodbridge, CT 06525, 203-305-7762.

The play has enjoyed three staged readings and everyone who attended them responded: "There should be a book."  Since it was impossible to put all the stories in the hour and a half performance, the book allowed her to put more in and really explore her emotional life. Helping her on her journey from page to stage to page has been playwright Fred Stroppel who is "so close he is like a brother and we spend hours talking it over in a safe, supportive environment.  We have a deep, rare relationship and his wife Liz is so generous in spirit that she allows us to work."  Sachi is also lucky in her "fabulous director" Joanna Keylock.  "We go way back together, wow:  she's lovely to work with as we're both actresses so we've met long ago."  For Keylock, "it’s a bittersweet love letter to a mother who is at once universally beloved and an enigmatic puzzle, a larger-than-life figure who commands the spotlight and yet seems always beyond reach."  Doug Moser will direct this exciting new venture.

Sachi Parker, the actress, will take the stage in her new one -woman show "Lucky Me" starting tonight.  If you see a woman in the audience, draped in scarves, sporting a large hat and even larger dark glasses, she just might be related to the star on stage.

"A COUPLE OF BLAGUARDS" WILL DELIGHT WITH IRISH WIT





With blarney and blather and even a wee bit of blashemy, the Brothers McCourt, Frank and Malachy, have penned an Irish tale about themselves entitled "A Couple of Blaguards."  New Haven's Long Wharf Theatre is offering up this charming and irreverent series of vignettes and anecdotes, songs and limericks, about their life growing up poor and Catholic in the Emerald Isle and their fate after crossing the pond to the promised land.

Until Sunday June 2, you will laugh and titter and guffaw as the talented antics of Howard Platt as Malachy and Jarlath Conroy as Frank take you on an autobiographical journey of all things McCourt.  Kissing the Blarney Stone is strictly your choice.

First raise a pint of stout and drink to the health of these two dauntless lads who rose above the poverty of their childhood in the oldest city in Ireland, Limerick, a handsome and holy city where seven siblings crowded into the home at the end of School House Lane.  With colorful images and picturesque phrases, the adventures of the boys are revisited.  Proper respect is paid to Frank's First Communion, "the happiest day of my life," where he donned a black velvet suit and new shoes and experienced God in unexpected ways.

The quaint storytelling includes visits from Mr. Higgins who came once a week to collect pennies for the life insurance and visits to the library where Malachy took out his first book, one on operas, and how the pair formally conducted contests on who made the best insulting remarks.

Off to America, the two brothers engaged in a variety of jobs, Frank finally settling in as a teacher after attending New York University and Malachy becoming a saloon owner and actor.  From the dance halls to the drinking holes, they caroused and dappled in activities bordering on the criminal.  Through it all, they never lost their sense of the ridiculous and here as a couple of blarney-laced blokes and rogues, with equal parts charm and mischief, they share it all.  Howard Platt directs this rollicking romp with spirit.

For tickets ($40), call Long Wharf Theatre, 222 Sargent Drive, New Haven at 203-787-4282 or online at www.longwharf.org.  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.  On Friday, June 7, "Mandy Patinkin: Dress Casual" a fundraiser at 6 p.m. and concert at 8 p.m. will be held.  For more information on the Gala, call the box office.

Take this opportunity to visit Ireland's Great Hunger Museum at Quinnipiac University, 3011 Whitney Avenue, Hamden, open Wednesday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.,Thursday from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., Friday and Saturday from10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. Admission is free.   Visit www.ighm.org or call 203-582-6500 for more information.

Take a lesson in learning to laugh at your troubles.  It won't make them go away but it will soften the rough and tough edges and make them easier to swallow.

"HEAR WHAT'S IN THE HEART" A SENTIMENTAL JOURNEY HOME



A 32 ounce can of Tuttorosso Tomatoes almost sidelines a funeral wake when one can't be found to make the required red sauce that Rosetta Scionti must cook.  A pox on the heads of her sons Steven and Antonio if they try to pawn off a can of Progresso as a substitute.  The boys have to risk the verbal abuse of Jerry, the pizza maker, once they determine that none of the grocery stores in the entire Middletown, Connecticut area have the Tuttorosso brand in stock.  Thankfully, Jerry, despite his grumbling and garlic-tinged temper, relents when he hears the tomatoes are for the boys' grandfather's wake, Angelo Morello.

Come take a sentimental journey with grandson and actor Steven Scionti as he pays loving tribute to the man who gave his life direction and meaning, an immigrant from Sicily who owned Angelo's Shoe Repair on Main Street in Middletown and who taught a young boy  what is important in life.  "Hear What's in the Heart A Shoemaker's Tale" written by Steve Scionti and Anthony Crivello, and directed by Anthony Crivello, will play at the Oddfellows Playhouse, 128 Washington Avenue, in Middletown Thursday evenings at 7:30 p.m. until June 20.

On his death bed, Angelo Morello tells Steven "I am proud of you."  He cautions him to lead a rich life, blessed with family and acknowledge the good in everyone.  His life lessons began years before when Steve , whom he affectionately called "Stevenchello,"  started exhibiting a love for dance. His grandfather, who took great joy in opera by Rossini and Verdi, would conduct in front of his shoe making machines so it was only natural that he would make Steve his first dancing shoes and pay for his first dancing lessons.  Angelo was always his chief cheerleader and supporter, defending him when he was teased by his peers for preferring dancing to basketball. Being called "Tina Ballerina" is not easy.

With the message "A man has no dreams, he has no heart" from his grandfather, Steven watched this simple, hard working man establish a life so strong and true that two thousand people gathered in Sicily and at the St, Sebastian Church in Middletown to say farewell on December 5, 1990. In this one man show, Steven Scionti plays everyone in his grandfather's world with amazing skill and humor, making them come alive right before our eyes.  Whether it is his womanizing Uncle Manny from Florida who has a reputation as a lover of women, food and women or Brother Connolly from Xavier High School who tried to teach the secret to sex education was abstention or his Uncle Amo whom he likened to a "dancing banana," Steve has the profound talents to bring them each individually and memorably to life.  Anyone who doesn't see the Soup Nazi from "Seinfeld" in Jerry, the pizza man, isn't looking hard enough.

Whether he is doing disco, playing basketball, or channeling Fred Astaire, Steve Scionti is adhering to a code of honor and respect his grandfather taught him. To come meet his mother Rosetta, his father Sebastiano, his brother Antonio, his Uncles Amadeo and Manny, the pizza man Jerry and Brother Connolly and, of course, his dear Angelo, call the Oddfellows Playhouse at 860-347-6143 or online at www.oddfellows.org.  Tickets are $20.

Let Steve Scionti dance his way into your heart as he shares the wisdom he learned at his grandfather's knee.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

"SEVEN" A LITERARY SISTERHOOD OF HOPE





Women can form a sisterhood across the span of ages, geography, racial backgrounds, cultures and religions.  There is a universality to their desires and dreams, basic principles they share that make them kindred souls.  Nowhere is that more evident than in the powerful documentary drama, a staged reading, of "Seven," penned by seven American women playwrights as witnesses to the stories of seven courageous women from around the world.

With the encouragement of the Vital Voices Global Partnership, an organization devoted to raising the visibility of extraordinary females around the globe by enhancing their leadership potential, the writing skills of Paula Cizmar, Catharine Filloux, Gail Kriegel, Carol K. Mack, Ruth Margraff, Anna Deavere Smith and Susan Yankowitz were enlisted.Interviews began in 2006 and the tapestry of tales of "SEVEN" is the literary result.

On Sunday, April 28 at 2 p.m., the Stray Kats Theatre Company, under the leadership of Artistic Director Kate Katcher, gave a powerful voice to seven incredible women in the Alexandria Room of Edmond Town hall in Newtown, Connecticut and their voices will ring resoundingly in the ears and hearts of all those fortunate enough to bear witness.  The only disappointment was that it was only one performance.

Those present learned about  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.

Marina Pisklakova-Parker's story was brought to life by Jenny Polozov, originally from the Ukraine, she has worked in fashion design, music, finance and philanthropy.  Mu Sochua's tale was told by Dionelyn L. DeBorja, a wife, mother, and daughter who has studied zoology and received a law degree.  The difficult story of   Mukhtar Mai was captured by Bindu Subramanian, who is a writer, traveler and marketing expert.

Giving voice to Inez McCormack was Caroline Winterson, an Irish actress who has emigrated from the Emerald Isle and performed in theater and films.  For Annabella DeLeon, Artistic Director Kate Katcher gave her words meaning and momentum, thanks to her extensive theatrical expertise.  To tell Farida Azizi's life, Sarah Baroody, an opthalmologist from Danbury who resides in Newtown, was selected.  To relate the memorable moments of Hafsat Abiola,
Lisa Scails used her experience as a civil rights leader and advocate for youth and the disenfranchised.

Each of these incredibly moving stories was indelibly recorded.  Their acts of courage and determination to prove their personal worth are a testimony to the differences they made, one woman at a time, standing up to challenge the injustices of the world.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

"PHILCO BLUES" A MUSICAL SEARCH FOR IDENTITY



The goal of Brett Bernardini and his Spirit of Broadway Theater is to be bold and innovative, to welcome and encourage new musical theater, and he's been doing just that for nineteen seasons.  He is proud to say "no one else does what we do, taking risks and not doing the tried and true shows like most other venues do."  To that end, the Spirit of Broadway Theater in Norwich is currently launching another novel work, "Philco Blues,  by Jan Warner and Kathe Green, until Sunday, June 9.

For Lara Jean McCallister, a housewife in Wahoo, Nebraska, real life is a disappointment.  Her relationship with her husband Roy is unsatisfying and leaves her yearning for more, a way to fill her loneliness and emptiness.  Jessica Kelly's Lara knows there's something missing in her life and she is willing to risk grabbing it.  Her solution is hidden inside her Philco television set, in the persona of a character on her favorite soap opera "Pine Ledge."  In Wade Jarrett (Nicholas Kochanov), Lara finds hope and promise and a fantasy to love.

In the reality that Lara tries to avoid, there is her deceased mother (Shawn Rucker) who delights in coming back to probe Lara's poor choices and remind her of her own pathetic existence.  Being haunted by a woman who is insane can breed delusions in her offspring.  Matthew Smolko's Roy freely admits he doesn't understand his wife, why she'd rather spend hours writing poetry and letters  to a stranger than do the laundry and how her obsession with her television world would allow her to miss her best friend Ginger's husband's funeral in favor of a soap opera episode.

Ginger (Jean Rykowski), with problems of her own, still supports Lara and tries to offer her good counseling.  Her poignant ballad "I Won't Let You Cry Tonight" reveals her deep feelings for her husband Chris who was wounded in the war and has suffered so.  She identifies with Roy's confusion over Lara's obsession.  As a beer drinking, weekend NASCAR racing mechanic, Roy is struggling to rediscover the woman he thought he married.

To Lara, Wade, who is Kipp off the screen, becomes the epitome of her dreams and she runs off to New York City in a brave but ill-conceived attempt to find her identity and love.  "Philco Blues" started life more than thirty years ago, but is coming into its own on the stage now, largely due to the efforts of Artistic Director Brett A. Bernardini.  He brought in local playwright Kato McNickle to jump start the process and many revisions and rewrites later it is now ready for viewing.

For tickets ($32), call the Spirit of Broadway Theater, 24 Chestnut Street, Norwich at 860-886-2378 or online at www.spiritofbroadway.org.  Performances are Wednesday and Thursday at 7 p.m., Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m.

Let Lara introduce you to her soap opera world where this "lonestar cowgirl" finally discovers a reality where "you taught me how to be."

Monday, May 20, 2013

"DREAMGIRLS" A RAZZLE DAZZLE DELIGHT





With big hair and even bigger dreams, the music world of the 1960's and 1970's was filled with girl groups who wanted to make it to the top.  With glitz and glamour, they put their personal lives on hold as they tried to catch the gold ring and the fame and fortune and success it would bring.

With Tom Eyen penning book and lyrics and Henry Krieger composing great music, the sensational Broadway hit "Dreamgirls" will pulsate its way into the Palace Theater in Waterbury for three performances only, Friday, May 31 and Saturday, June 1.

Follow the ambitions and hopes of a trio of young black women from Chicago, The Dreamettes, who put everything on the line to compete at New York's Apollo Theater in Harlem in a huge talent competition.  Although they don't win, Effie Melody White, Deena Janes and Lorrell Robinson do gain a new manager, Curtis Taylor, Jr. in the process.

Promoting his new girls, Taylor soon has them singing backup for James "Thunder" Early, until they gain the confidence to strike out on their own.  The back stage personality conflicts of the trio and the opinionated differences of the people waiting and wanting to manage them, threaten to derail them. Glorious music like "And I Am Telling You I'm Not Going," "Defying Gravity," "I Am Changing," "Steppin' to the Bad Side" and "One Night Only" keep the joint jumping.

Loosely based on the rise to fame of the Motown girl group Diana Ross and The Supremes, "Dreamgirls" packs a musical wallop that will have you happily flying high.  The backstage intrigue as race, sex, beauty and power are traded for success and fame will keep you on your toes.

For tickets ($49-69), call the Palace, 100 East Main Street, Waterbury at 203-346-2000 or online at www.palacetheaterct.org.  Performances are Friday at 8 p.m. and Saturday at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. SPECIAL $26 tickets for the upper mezzanine are available now rather than one hour before curtain. At 6 p.m. before the Friday performance, on May 31, a three course dinner at the Poli Club on the mezzanine level will be prepared by River House Catering.  Tickets are $62.50 and include tax, fees and coffee and tea, with a cash bar available.  Call the box office for reservations.

Follow The Dreamettes as they become The Dreams and experience all the proud and problematic moments that mark their journey to the top.

"CLYBOURNE PARK" ENCOMPASSES FIVE DECADES OF LIFE



A lot can happen to a neighborhood and the houses in it over five decades.  Through the passage of time, changes can improve or decimate a community, making it unrecognizable to its former inhabitants.

Such is the case with the Chicago neighborhood at the center of Bruce Norris' Tony and Pulitzer Prize winning play "Clybourne Park" now gracing the stage of New Haven's Long Wharf Theatre until Sunday, June 2. The set design of the home by Frank Alberino beautifully illustrates those drastic changes.

In 1959, Clybourne Park is a desirable white enclave that is visibly frightened by the prospect of a black family moving in to its sacred territory.  While Bev (Alice Ripley) and Russ (Daniel Jenkins) are eagerly awaiting their move to a new home, their neighbors are alarmed.  Do they know who is purchasing #406?  Bev and Russ are moving to escape their home's bad memories, for it is here their son Kenneth (Jimmy Davis), a Korean War veteran, committed suicide.

Now close to moving day, and Russ' new job, their home has a revolving door policy.  Jim (Jimmy Davis) drops in to offer some spiritual advice, Karl (Alex Moggridge) and his deaf, very pregnant wife Betsey (Lucy Owen) arrive to question the suitability of the prospective new owners and the effect on the neighborhood, while Albert (Leroy McClan) stops by to pick up his wife Francine (Malle Powers) who has worked for years for the family.  Albert and Francine are quickly called upon to offer their perspective as the only African-Americans present.

The turmoil and questions of 1959 are turned on their head fifty years later in 2009 when a white family dares to foray into what has become a clearly black neighborhood.  Lindsey (Lucy Owen) and Steve (Alex Moggridge) have grand architectural plans for #406 and they are meeting at their perspective new home to address a housing permit with friends and associates.  With sharp witticisms and biting commentary, the thin veneer of civility is stripped from the racial questions not far from the surface.  When Lena (Malle Powers) introduces the subject of a suicide here fifty years before and a construction worker (Daniel Jenkins) uncovers a footlocker buried in the backyard, all the suspicions and mistrust quickly surface.  Eric Ting directs this talented cast in this thought provoking exploration of racial prejudices with a truly skilled perspective.

For tickets ($40-70), call Long Wharf Theatre, 222 Sargent Drive, New Haven at 203-787-4282 or online at www.longwharf.org.  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.


In a partnership with the New Haven Free Public Library's Page. Stage. Engage. program, free talks on the play will be offered:  on Tuesday, May 28 at 6 p.m. at Wilson Library, 303 Washington Avenue with local historian Colin Caplan and Eric Ting and on Saturday, June 1 at 1 p.m. at the Fair Haven Library, 182 Grand Avenue, with local historians Tom Ficklin and Colin Caplan and Eric Ting.  A scene from "Clybourne Park" will proceed the discussion.

Pick up the story where "A Raisin in the Sun" leaves off, as the Younger family prepares to move to their first real home, and bear witness to the cultural clashes that can ensue over a prized piece of real estate.

"CATCH ME IF YOU CAN" A MUSICAL CAT AND MOUSE GAME




Children commonly like to play dress-up and pretend games, making believe they are fairy princesses, cowboys, firemen or clowns.  Halloween presents a grand time to indulge in fantasy every October, as an excuse to go trick-or-tricking. What happens if a child cannot reconcile the world of make believe with one of reality, so that they blur and overlap.

Such a child might grow up to become Frank Abagnale, Jr., who works hard to escape his personal family life by assuming new identities and personas, ones that he has no training for but, nonetheless, succeeds at portraying.  The story of Frank's intriguing true escapades have been captured by Marc Shaiman and Scott Whittman, from a book by Terrence McNally.  The Broadway musical "Catch Me If You Can" will fly into the Hartford's Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts from Tuesday, May 28 to Sunday, June 2.

This Broadway musical is currently enjoying a national road tour, featuring Stephen Anthony as Frank.  His adventures in crime, as an incredibly successful con man, probably began as an attempt to escape an unhappy home life.  He runs away from his family as a teenager and with a million dollars worth of charm, imagination and forged checks, he dons the costumes of college professor, airline pilot, pediatrician and attorney.

With a string of aliases and a ton of chutzpah, Frank brings the art of false identity to a new height.  Nicknamed "The Skywayman," he had police in all fifty states and in twenty-six countries on his trail before he turned 21. The most persistent of all is F.B.I. agent Carl Hanratty, played by Merritt David Janes, who pledges to catch Frank and put him where he belongs:  in prison.

For tickets ($20-65), to this high-flying musical, call the Bushnell, 166 Capitol Avenue, Hartford at 860-987-5900 or online at www.bushnell.org.  Performances are Tuesday - Thursday at 7:30 p.m., Friday at 8 p.m., Saturday at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. and Sunday at 1 p.m. and 6:30 p.m.

With a rugged determination like policeman Javert exhibited in tracking down Jean Valjean in "Les Miserables," Carl Hanratty makes Frank Abagnale, Jr. the target of his dedicated pursuit.

"BLACK TIE" A FORMAL INVITATION TO LAUGH




With one foot in New York and the other in Connecticut, playwright A.R. Gurney, affectionately known as Pete, is a prolific writer of plays, dozens in fact, that center on a group of privileged people he knows well:  White Anglo-Saxon Protestants or WASPS.  The morals and manners of WASPS has occupied him for decades, and he usually explores their behavior, peculiarities and customs, with a background of liquid libations or cocktails readily to hand.

Square One Theatre in Stratford is cordially and formally inviting you to weekend performances, until Saturday June 1, of one of Gurney's latest offerings, the quietly comic and charming "Black Tie."

Curtis and Mim are preparing to host the rehearsal dinner tonight and the wedding tomorrow of their son Teddy.  The site is not exactly their choice, but the prospective bride and groom's, a remote and slightly shabby hotel in the Adirondack Mountains, where they first met.  How to maintain the appropriate level of decorum that Curtis feels the occasion warrants is quickly in question.

Curtis, a dapper and conservative David Victor, is a victim of his father's upbringing.  He knows "proper" when it knocks on his door.  He has chosen to honor his father's memory by wearing the older gentleman's prized evening attire, a tuxedo that  has seen many a formal gathering.

Mim, a supportive wife in the soothing hands of Janet Rathert, will dress accordingly, even though she questions how casual all the other guests may be.  Will it set the wrong tone to look too stylish?

While Curtis is busy "dressing to the nines," with everything from pearl studs to suspenders to cummerbund, the ghost of his father, a debonair and  arbiter of propriety John Bachelder, appears to Curtis to check on the proceedings.  He deems the hotel tacky but does approve of Curtis' attire, a "dinner jacket," rather than a tuxedo, if you please.

As grandfather of the groom, he feels he needs to assure that Curtis' toast at the dinner is up to snuff and freely offers his advice, point by point.  When he learns that Teddy is swimming in the hotel pool, without clothes and with both sexes, and that his bride, Maya, is not only not of their class and status, not a  WASP, but culturally diverse, part African-American, Vietnamese and Peruvian, he manages to keep his cool.

Periodically their daughter Elsie, a pert and practical Alisson Wood, arrives to deliver up-to-the-minute details on the current crisis and finally Teddy , an assertive but confused Jim Buffone, bursts in to drop his own bombshell.

The delightful interplay between the generations makes for an enjoyable ninety minutes of conversation and confrontation.  Artistic director Tom Holehan is a master at keeping the pace smooth, despite all the ripples of contention that threaten Curtis ever giving his congratulatory toast.

For tickets ($20, seniors $19), call Square One Theatre, 2422 Main Street, Stratford at 203-375-8778 or online at www.squareonetheatre.com.  Performances are Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m.,with a special twilight matinee at  4 p.m. on Saturday, June 1.

On Saturday, June 8 at 4 p.m., Square One Theatre will present a true silent movie from 1927, "Wings," starring Clara Bow, Charles "Buddy" Rogers and Gary Cooper at the theatre as a fundraiser for the William A. Barry Scholarship Fund.  A live piano will accompany the action. Tickets are $20, or $15 for Square One subscribers.  Make checks payable to Friends of Square One and mail to Hinda Wolf, 397A Ottawa Lane, Stratford, CT 06614 or call 203-385-3855.

Will Curtis be mistaken for a waiter if he wears his"dinner jacket" as Elise cautions him or will Teddy and Maya even reach the altar?  Let A. R.Gurney play flower girl and surprise you with the bouquet.

Friday, May 17, 2013

"IN A YEAR WITH 13 MOONS" A STRANGE ODYSSEY



If being born under a black cloud or a tall ladder are indications of bad luck, what is the significance of being brought into this world in a year of thirteen moons?  For Erwin, a product of an upbringing in an orphanage, the consequences are tragic.

To enter Erwin's bizarre world of troubles and despairs, cautiously proceed to the Yale Repertory Theatre in New Haven to become immerced in the world premiere adaptation of "In a Year with 13 Moons," based on a German movie and screenplay by Rainer Werner Fassbinder, adapted for the stage by Bill Camp, who stars in it, and Robert Woodruff, who directs it.  It will run until Saturday, May 18.

When the object of his affection casually comments to Erwin, "too bad you're not a girl," it sets him on an odyssey with profound consequences.  A trip to Casablanca results in Erwin becoming Elvira in a blind effort to love and be loved.

Bill Camp's confusing journey as Erwin/Elvira includes killing animals in a slaughterhouse, being brutally attacked for his/her sexuality, almost choking to death, fathering a child, watching a stranger commit suicide and confronting the man, one Anton Saitz (Christopher Innvar) who started him on his futile quest and much, much more.

The play spirals out of control as Elvira experiences the last five days of her life, revisiting that major guideposts that led her to her current state of loneliness, despair and agony. 

For tickets ($20-96), call the Yale Rep, 1120 Chapel Street, New Haven at  203-432-1234 or online at www.yalerep.org.

This densely layered drama that gives new meaning to avant-garde theatre is suited for the brave of heart willing to challenge the unknown.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

"THE DINING ROOM" WELCOMES YOUR VISIT

    A birthday party in the dining room.


A whole lot of living can take place in the dining room, especially if it is decorated by the imagination of playwright A. R. Gurney.  From good conversation to gourmet meals to congenial company, the dining room can be the gathering place for families to unite and celebrate life.

Pull up a chair and adjust your napkin and silverware, fill your water glass and gaze with affection at the fellow guests seated in Gurney's "The Dining Room" at Westport County Playhouse.  Reservations will be accepted until Saturday, May 18.

Michael Yeargan's robin's egg blue set invites three decades of diverse family members to enter and leave this sacred family assembling point.  Gurney focuses on a succession of White Anglo-Saxon Protestants, WASPS, who breakfast and dine, squabble and savor, reveal secrets and protest indiscretions, enjoy poached eggs and welcome the cocktail hour, plan funerals and reveal divorce proceedings, hold birthday parties and toast business successes, strategise game plans and draw up architectural blueprints, all in the name of civility, conviviality and gentility.

Six talented actors, three male and three female, Chris Henry Coffey, Jake Robards, Charles Socarides, Heidi Armbruster, Keira Naughton and Jennifer Van Dyck, play everyone from silly teenagers to crusty old grandfathers, overworked and under-appreciated maids to adulterous matrons, eager to please architects to unenthusiastic and awkward dance partners, apology-seeking defenders of justice to a photographer desiring to be a recorder of a dying breed.  These vignettes comprise a kaleidoscope of a changing horizon of life, all witnessed by one room, the dining room.  Mark Lamos directs this evolving picture of society and the changes in mores, morality and manners it reveals.
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For tickets ($30 and up), call the Westport Country Playhouse, 25 Powers Court, off route 1, Westport at 203-227-4177 or 1-888-927-7529 or online at www.westportplayhouse.org.  Performances are Tuesday at 8 p.m., Wednesday at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m., Thursday and Friday at 8 p.m., Saturday at 3 p.m. and 8 p.m. and Sunday at 3 p.m.

The snowy white linen tablecloth is laid, the tall tapers are lit, the chilled cocktails are poured, and all that is missing is you.

Monday, May 13, 2013

"THE FABULOUS LIPITONES" EMBRACE THE ART OF BARBERSHOP QUARTET

Cast and Writers of "The Fabulous Lipitones"   Photos by Diane Sobolewski

The history of barbershop quartets dates back to a time when African-American males waiting for a shave and a haircut would spontaneoulsy burst into song, spirituals, folk and popular tunes, as they waited for their turn in the barber's chair.  Sung a cappella, without musical accompaniment, the barbershop quartet can be fondly remembered in the movie and musical "The Music Man," as four men harmonized, the lead singing melody, harmonizing with the tenor, the bass singing the lowest notes and the baritone completing the chord.

Donning straw hats and vertical striped vests, the barbershop quartet reached its peak of popularity at the turn of the twentieth century.  In 1938 a tax attorney Owen C. Cash teamed up with an investment banker Rupert L. Hall, both from Tulsa, Oklahoma, to make sure this American art form didn't disappear.  Their efforts produced the S.P.E.B.S.Q.S.A., the Society for Preservation and Encouragement of Barber Shop Quartet Singing in America.

Today, seventy-five years later, two new gentlemen are taking up the banner that Misters Cash and Hall waved so enthusiastically.  Playwrights John Markus and Mark St. Germain are busy giving the barbershop quartet phenomenon an exciting infusion of attention and encouragement.  Last week they launched their new musical "The Fabulous Lipitones" that features a traditional barbershop quartet with a not so customary twist.

Markus and St. Germain met for the first time in the mid-1980's when they both worked on "The Cosby Show," where Markus was head writer, a position he held for 67 episodes over six years.  In time they collaborated again, on projects like "Sons of Liberty," about a fraternal lodge in the mid-west, that is being revisited today after a lengthy hiatus. The pair stayed in touch and when St. Germain had "a vision" ten years ago for a storyline involving a barbershop quartet that he couldn't get off the ground, he brought it to Markus who found the right "note" to get it percolating.

"The Fabulous Lipitones" opens when the 50-something guys have just achieved a great triumph, winning the regional competitions (yes, Virginia, there are contests for best quartets) and simultaneously suffering their greatest loss.  After 32 years of harmonizing together, one of their members, Andy, has died, literally and figuratively after warbling his last note.

While mourning his loss, they are also panicking about filling his empty slot so they can compete in the Nationals less than two weeks away.  Wally (Wally Dunn) is championing the competition, Phil (Danny Rutigliano) is all for disbanding the group and Howard (D. C. Anderson), the deciding vote,  is easily persuaded to agree both ways.

When the men chance to hear about a singing mechanic, they schedule him for an audition, only to discover he is visibly different culturally.  How Baba (Bob) Matidas (Rohan Kymal) inserts himself into their lives is at the heart of this musical.  Markus and St. Germain want the audience to appreciate how differences, in this case, "the other," can make us think outside the box.  Bob as a member of the Sikh culture, can open our minds and illuminate something in the world we didn't understand or know existed.

Set in London, Ohio, a town with two traffic lights, that Markus originally called home, he also used men in his new address, the New York taxi drivers, 90% of whom are Sikhs, as the foundation for the storyline to prove our beliefs and prejudices about people who wear a turban.  Markus also noted they are generous, compassionate and elegant in their jobs.

When the play was first workshopped in Atlanta, where Goodspeed personnel Donna Lynn Cooper Hilton and Bob Alwine first saw it, members of the three major Sikh temples provided accurate and encouraging feedback for the work and thanked the writers for explaining who they are to an unknowing world. 

"The Fabulous Lipitones" will debut at Goodspeed's Norma Terris Theatre, 33 North Main Street in Chester, playing until Sunday, June 2.  For tickets ($44), call 860-873-8668 or online at www.goodspeed.org.  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 men call the Goodspeed experience "terrific," with wonderful actors and a great reputation, allowing them to keep working on the piece and make changes, without having to worry about critic's reviews. The show is directed by Gordon Greenberg, choreographed by Connor Gallagher, with vocal and musical direction by Dan Pardo, on a set designed by Brian Prather.

While the number one and two barbershop quartets in the world are from Sweden and New Zealand, the Lipitones are fabulous in their own right and John Markus and Mark St. Germain are voting for them to be your personal favorites.  Come early and hear a local barbershop quartet crooning in the Norma Terris lobby before the show.  Songs like "Hello, My Baby," "Shine On, Harvest Moon," "Yankee Doodle Dandy" and "Sweet Adeline" have never sounded so good.

"POTTED POTTER:" PERFECT FOR ALL OF HARRY'S FRIENDS





Muggles beware! Hogwarts rebel! Wizards rejoice!  If you've long called Harry Potter, Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger friends, then you are the perfect candidates to make up the audience when "Potted Potter-The Unauthorized Harry Experience-A Parody by Dan and Jeff" comes to town.

The Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts in Hartford is inviting you to take your cloak of invisibility and your magic wand the weekends of May 17-19 and May 24-26 to enjoy all things Harry Potter.

Hop aboard your Nimbus 2000 and polish your Golden Snitch and prepare for the ride of your life as a two man parody team, Gary Trainor of Ireland and Delme Thomas of Wales travel across the pond to bring you seventy minutes of non-stop fun and joy.

Trainor is the plucky lad Harry who discovers at age 11 that he has magical powers and has been stuck living in a world peopled by non-magical folks called Muggles.  Thomas plays everyone else in Harry's world, from pals to principals at the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, to that dastardly enemy, Lord Voldemart, whose goal is to conquer the world and who is also responsible for making Harry an orphan.

With affection, wit and tongue firmly in cheek, the pair use hats, wigs, puppets and props to condense 4000 pages of fantasy by J. K.Rowling into a show that is "75% scripted and 25% improv" according to Gary Trainor who has been playing the dedicated hero for a year and a half.  While he's read the books several times, he had never seen the original show starring the writers Daniel Clarkson and Jefferson Turner before auditioning himself.  Clarkson and Turner are busy preparing the show, which has been a hit from London's West End to Australia and New Zealand, Hong Kong to the Phillipines, to open May 30 to September 1 off -Broadway at the Little Shubert Theatre.  You can see it here first!

The concept began as a five minute skit six years ago, with the aim to complete 5 books in 5 minutes, to entertain the long lines of crowds waiting to see one of the now 8 Harry Potter movies.  The sketch was so well received, it has been expanded to the version coming to the Bushnell.  To Trainor,"it's 70 minutes of hilarity where the audience is invited to be the third character and we break down the fourth wall." A smashing game of Quidditch is also on the agenda.

The show appeals to a wide range of ages, and because of the accessible books and movies, there is something for everyone  There's even a rumor that J. K. Rowling tried to buy a ticket to the show in Edinburgh, Scotland, a 60-seat venue, and was turned away because it was sold out and she wasn't recognized in time.

For tickets ($49.75 and up), call the Bushnell, 166 Capitol Avenue, Hartford at 860-987-5900 or online at www.bushnell.org.  Performances are Friday at 7, Saturday at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m.

Be prepared to hang on to Harry's coattails as this talented Celtic tour-de-force flies into town.

"HEAR WHAT'S IN THE HEART" FULL OF VALUABLE LIFE LESSONS





Steven Scionti is one sentimental guy, otherwise he wouldn't have devoted so many years of his five decades on this planet paying tribute to his grandfather, Angelo Morello. If you have a long time association with Middletown, Connecticut, you may remember Angelo's Shoe Repair on Main Street, a place where Steve spent many long happy hours learning about life.

Using family vignettes and tales from the mouths of his vocal family members, his father Sebastiano, his mother Rosetta, his brother Antonio, his uncles Amadeo and Manny, the local pizza maker Jerry, his favorite teacher at Xavier High School Brother Connelly and, of course, his grandfather Angelo, Steve takes his audiences on a journey from his childhood to adulthood.  All along the way, it was Angelo who inspired him, encouraged him, made him his first pair of dancing shoes and paid for his first lessons in tap.

Angelo Morello came to Middletown in 1955 at the age of forty, from Sicily, where he had to abandon his dream of being a musical conductor and help support his family and start earning a trade from early on.  Steve would spend Saturday afternoons with him, dreaming of becoming Gene Kelly or Fred Astaire, and Angelo wanted to guarantee that aspiration became a reality.  His philosophy was simple:  "You take the good;  no matter how bad, everybody has a good.  Let's go eat." You may find yourself with a consuming desire for Italian food by play's end.

A simple man who loved to sing opera, by Rossini and Verdi, he was "incredibly proud" of his grandson.  When Steve was ribbed for choosing dancing over the baseball and basketball he was so good at playing, Angelo stood by his decision and supported it.  His greatest joy was seeing Steve perform twice in college, at the Boston Conservatory Music, Dance and Theater, occasions that called for celebrations with homemade sausage and wine.

This loving tribute to his ancestor, "Hear What's in the Heart- A Shoemaker's Tale" will be playing at Middletown's Oddfellows Playhouse, Thursdays starting tonight to June 20 at 7:30 p.m. For tickets ($20), call the Oddfellows Playhouse, 128 Washington Avenue at 860-347-6143 or online at info@oddfellows.org.  Matt Pugliese, Executive Director of the Oddfellows has been wonderfully supportive, "a blessing," as have the Chamber of Commerce, merchants on Main Street, and political leaders, in bringing this hometown boy home to tell his story.  A special fundraiser to benefit Steve's alma mater Xavier High School is planned for Thursday, May 23.

Steve has been surrounded by "musicality" his whole life.  In addition to a grandfather who would conduct Verdi in front of his shoe making machines, his father was a bass player with the Hartford Symphony Orchestra, his mother had dreams of becoming a ballerina and his brother Tony played the piano.  They have all been there for him "every step of the way."

This homage opens at his grandfather's wake and was a story that almost didn't get told. The original version written by Steve and James Shanta had literally been abandoned until Steve's old acting friend, the "incredibly talented, honored and dear friend," according to Steve, Antony Crivello, came on the scene.  Now the show's director, Anthony infused new life into the project.  He had been involved early on while it was in the classroom stage of development, knew it was "really great," and offered suggestions and directions over the course of a decade.  A random phone call to Steve when he was in South Carolina ready to give up on his dream of performing, launched him to resurrect it and move it forward - to off-Broadway and the New York Fringe Festival.

Since then, the two have "taken the script, torn it apart and put it back together, with a new beginning, middle and end."  Now it begins with a dance in his grandfather's shoe shop, his tale is told through his family and friends, and the piece goes full circle, finishing with a dance at the end.  The magic of lighting and sound help build the world Steve, as actor and as our tour guide, takes us along on his journey .

A production at the Highlands Playhouse in North Carolina and a workshop in Las Vegas helped to create this new reincarnation, one where the language has been sanitized to be family-friendly and enjoy broader horizons.  A visit to The Kate in Old Saybrook and at Wesleyan University have also helped to refocus the piece.  With its new summer home at the Oddfellows Playhouse, it also allows the Playhouse to expand its vistas as a home for children's productions and venture into adult and family performances.

Audiences from 9-90 are invited to come to Middletown where the show was "born," to witness the incredible voyage of a native son, Steven Scionti, to learn about connections,  love of family and pride in who you are, so at the end of the journey you'll hear a choir of angels singing "Ave Maria" as they escort you to heaven's doors.

Monday, May 6, 2013

"SHIPWRECKED:" A TALL TALE OF ADVENTURE




If you remember the tale of the owl and the pussycat who "set out to sea in a pea green boat" searching for love and adventure, you might understand the fascination and attraction that captures a Victorian gentleman's imagination and sets him on a watery course of his own.  Maybe you've heard of him, one Louis de Rougement, an amicable fellow who might be the slightest bit prone to exaggeration and hyperbole.

His rainbow hued story, which some might term as tall tale. will be spun purely for the sake of entertainment by the innovative and inventive New Haven Theater Company, just three years young, at the Whitney Arts Center, 591 Whitney Avenue, New Haven on Sunday, May 12 at 4 p.m. and 7 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday, May 18 and 19 at 4 p.m. and 7 p.m. "Shipwrecked! An Entertainment.  The Amazing Adventures of Louis de Rougemont (as told by himself)" is a product of the New Haven Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Donald Margulies.

If you've ever been confined to a sick bed for any length of time, you will empathize with a youthful Louis who declares his independence at sixteen, throwing off his fretful fevered brow and wrinkled bed covers for excitement with a capital E.  He trades in his overly protective mother for a man of daring and danger, a sea captain named Jenkins, as he dashes off to encounter LIFE.

Will he be defeated by an octopus, find despair on a deserted island, drown in a giant whirlpool or rather take a fanciful ride on a sea turtle, marry an Australian aborigine and meet the Queen of England?  To discover the truths to the tale, if there are any, follow Louis and his faithful dog Bruno literally to the ends of the earth.  Louis will be played by Christian Shaboo, while Eric Greene will be his trusty pooch and the Queen of England,  Margaret Mann will play his overly protective mother and an Australian prospector, Hilary Brown will appear as his bride Yamba and a newspaper boy while Hallie Martenson will portray the ship captain and an aborigine Bobo. To Peter Chenot, the inventive director, " 'Shipwrecked" is a wonderful play because it lets the audience imagine the story along with the actors on stage.  We try to create a jumping off point for the story telling."

For tickets ($15, children under 13 $10), go online to www.newhaventheatercompany to ticketleap.com.

Hang on to the coattails of Louis de Rougement as he sets off from France on what will be a thirty year intrigue in the late 1880's,one that takes him to Australia and a "dangerous and marvelous world."  His childhood sickroom books of "Robinson Crusoe" and "Arabian Nights" are sure to pale by comparison.