Monday, July 22, 2013


Artistic Director Brett Bernardini relies on authenticity in his stirring productions at his Spirit of Broadway Theater in Norwich.  This time around, however, he may have gone a little too far in his pursuit of realism.  If Bernardini has control of the temperature, he is priming his audiences for the scorching temperatures of the musical "110 in the Shade."

Set in the dust bowl of Texas in the 1930's, it centers on a drought that has brought the town to its knees.  Until Sunday, August 11, this musical by N. Richard Nash, Tom Jones and Harvey Schmidt will be heating up the stage at the Spirit of Broadway.  Don't look for relief from the torrid tropics plaguing Connecticut, even though the air conditioned intimate space is delightful.

Elizabeth Drevitz's Lizzie is of an age when marriage should be in the offing.  Drevitz is wonderfully convincing as a woman who fears her life has dried up and her prospects of a husband and marriage are gone.  Her pa H. C. (Tony Enright), her brothers Noah (Rob Grgach) and Jimmy (Evan Jambor) are eager to match her up with the sheriff File (Paul Leitz) but he is proving reluctant to take their bait.  While H. C. and Jimmy encourage Lizzie to believe she is beautiful, Noah is busy with his view of reality: she is plain as unbuttered toast and destined to be an old maid.  Noah has also convinced Jimmy that he is stupid.

While Lizzie struggles with her definition of womanhood and femininity, the town is grappling with the bigger issue of  the need for rainfall.  Into their midst comes a stranger, a spellbinding sidewinder with the moniker Billy Starbuck, a charismatic charmer in the hands of Gabriel Rodriquez, who may or may not be a charlatan.  He promises he can deliver something less than a deluge in twenty-four hours but can he?

Will Lizzie's dreams of love become a happily ever after have any more chance of coming true as the desperate hopes for water to fall from the sky?  Let director Brett Bernardini take you on a journey of discovery, blowing the dust and sand away to reveal a treasure or two.

For tickets ($32), call Spirit of Broadway Theater, 24 Chestnut Street, Norwich at 860-886-2378 or online at  Performances are Wednesday and Thursday at 7 p.m., Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m.  The theater is undergoing an intense fundraiser to get the necessary monies, $30,000, to complete a project on a new world premiere play on Benedict Arnold, a Norwich resident.  Please go to to make your pledge today to help this exciting production become a reality.

Hopes and lies swirl in the dust of a poor Texas town as the rainmaker promises to resolve dreams, even if only for a minute.

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