Tuesday, May 21, 2013


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."

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