Monday, January 27, 2014


                                         PHOTOS BY RICH WAGNER

Having good neighbors available to borrow a few eggs or a cup of sugar for a cake you are baking is one thing, but asking to borrow an operatic singer, a tenor, is quite another.   You know the incredible number of details that go into making an event a success as well as the plethora of problems that can derail the big project, if you've ever staged a major fundraiser.  For Henry Saunders, the manager of the Cleveland Grand Opera Company,  the bulk of the responsibilities are on his sturdy shoulders.  He has invited the greatest Italian tenor of his day, Tito Morelli, to perform his signature role of Otello. It's is a grand coup...until Merelli fails to show up on the big day.

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  at the Playhouse on Park in West Hartford until Sunday, February 9. Expect slamming doors every other minute and comic timing that is precise and hysterical.

Saunders, the bombastic boss Mike Boland, doesn't start to panic until his prize diva is two hours late.  He has sent his capable aide Max, an industrious Jeff Gonzalez, to the train station but he has come back to the hotel alone.  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 (Lilly Wilton), the bellhop who wants to sing (Corrado Alicata), Julia, the chairman of the opera guild who wants bragging rights (Donna Schilke) to Tito's leading lady Diana (Katie Vincent) who wants her career to get a big boost.  Everyone has an agenda of what they want Tito to deliver, not the least of which is his wife Maria, a fiery Ashley Ford, who is sick and tired of his excesses, in food, drink and women.  Tito arrives and everyone pounces on him.

When an angry and unforgiving 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 anxious to perform on stage.  The cast is uniformly great as they slam doors and wreck havoc, including the super star himself, Robert Wilde as Morelli, in all his flamboyant and excessive splendor.  Director Jerry Winters balances the panic and the pleasure, the frantic and the funny, with outrageously over-the-top results.  Bravo!

For tickets ($22.50 - 32), call Playhouse on Park, 244 Park Road, West Hartford  at 860-523-5900, ext. 10  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.

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


Have you ever imagined what it might be like if Madonna met with Cleopatra  to discuss fashions and image as they floated on a barge along the Nile?  Have you contemplated having a night cap with Lincoln the night before he went to that fateful theater performance?  Perhaps a martini with Marilyn Monroe and Jackie Kennedy is more your style.

If you ask  playwright Mark St. Germain, he would confess that his fascination is with a pair of gentlemen of more weighty intellectual  stature, famed psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud and literary giant C. S. Lewis.  St. Germain has imagined a meeting between these two masters in their respective fields late in Freud's life, actually only weeks before Freud would commit suicide at the age of 83. The play "Freud's Last Session" will be setting up a comfortable couch at TheaterWorks of Hartford until Sunday, February 23 and you are invited to lie back and hear all the confessions.

C. S. Lewis, a competent, assured and dedicated Jonathan Crombie, has written a book that ridicules Freud's beliefs, especially as they relate to the existence of God in the universe. Lewis believes that Freud has summoned him to his home to chastise him for making Freud look like a cartoon character.  In actuality, Freud has never read the treatise and really wants to confront Lewis for his newly proclaimed views of God's reality. C. S. Lewis is assured of God's existance as much as Kenneth Tigar's wonderfully outspoken and dramatically convincing Freud is positive God is a fantasy.  He is the devout atheist to Lewis' newly proclaimed belief in his Christian faith. The two men engage in verbal fisticuffs as they each try to sway the other to their viewpoint. To Freud, the concept of God is irrelevant, a stand Lewis shared with him until his recent conversion.

The time is September 3, 1939 as England's entry into World War II looms ever closer, so near it will be declared that day, with snippets of radio announcements punctuating the somber mood by Chamberlain and King George.  The men meet, at Freud's invitation, in his beautifully appointed study, designed by Evan Adamson, as hundreds of mythological god totems sit everywhere, welcoming revelations.  On the top of their agenda  perches God, but following close behind are questions about sex, love and the meaning of life.  This is an intellectual debate with deep philosophical and thought provoking issues as Freud wants to learn why Lewis has changed his opinion to now believe.

C. S. Lewis was a poet, novelist and literary critic who wrote essays and studied theology and the medieval times.  He would gain his greatest acclaim by penning "The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe."  While Freud, who was suffering mightily from oral cancer for the past seventeen years, enduring thirty surgeries, would take his own life mere weeks after their meeting, Lewis' death on November 23, 1963 was widely overshadowed by the assassination of John Fitzgerald Kennedy.  A special commemoration of his death was celebrated on its fiftieth anniversary.  Maxwell Williams directs this fictional play about two intensely real men and the meeting they might have had.

For tickets ($50- $65, seniors $35 at Saturday matinees), 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.

Enter the minds and hearts of two prominent men in England on the eve of England's entrance into World War II, and invite them to lie back on the couch for some revealing psychoanalysis and provoking conversation.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014


If you enjoy being the first at the water cooler to drop your opinion on the latest movie flick, from the finanicial and sexual shenanigans of "The Wolf of Wall Street" to the conflicted relationships of Walt Disney and P. L. Travers in "The Savings of Mr. Banks," then A. O. Scott is a speaker you won't want to miss.  Scott has been the passionate film critic on the staff of the New York Times since January 2000.  He will definitely have opinions on all the top box office films, from "Frozen" to "American Hustle" and everything in between.

On Monday, January 27 at 8 p.m., Scott will be the guest speaker at Fairfield University's Regina Quick Center as part of the Open VISIONS Forum lecture series.  Perhaps he'll argue the acting abilities of Meryl Streep and Julia Roberts as the battling mother and daughter in that powerful dysfunctional family drama "August: Osage County" or the sensitive search for a son as Dame Judy Densch in the true life story of "Philomena."  Then again he might reveal his opinion of that unusual romantic relationship of a man and his computer software, known affectionately as Samantha, in the new Spike jonze's movie "Her."

Scott might want to take you on a tour "Inside Llewyn Davis" where a man and his guitar travel through Greenwich Village in the 1960's living a folk tale.  His attention might be focused a little earlier in time as he states his opinion on J. R. R. Tolkien's children's book about a ring and a lord and a hobbit who adventure in Middle Earth.  He also might like to weigh in on the powerful story of redemption "12 Years a Slave."

The audience might gain insight into an elderly stubborn cuss of a man who believes he has won a great fortune in "Nebraska" and sets off, on foot, to claim his winnings.  If you follow the recent award shows, you could want to hear A. O. Scott's verdict on Sandra Bullock's performance in outer space, "Gravity," or how Robert DeNiro teams up against his long time rival Sylvester Stallone in "Grudge Match."  Whatever your expectations, you're bound to be intrigued by A. O. Scott's "Critic's Picks."

For tickets ($45), call 203-254-4010 or 877-ARTS-396 or online at

Imagine reviewing 300-350 movies a year, almost one every day, and reviewing half of them in a column.  Let A. O. Scott discuss his experiences in a movie theater seat.  Popcorn is optional.

Monday, January 20, 2014


The devotion of a boy to his horse, teenaged Albert for his pet Joey, has enjoyed life as a treasured novel by Michael Morpurgo, a stirring film by Steven Spielberg and now a poignantly moving play adapted by Nick Stafford.  Taking place on the eve of England's entry into World War I, it captures the lengths love can take us when we are motivated by our heart.

The Connecticut premiere of "War Horse" will gallop headlong into the Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts in Hartford from Tuesday, January 28 to Sunday, February 2, courtesy of the National Theatre of Great Britain. There are currently six productions worldwide.

Epic in scope and emotion, "War Horse" features life-sized puppets to depict the horses central to the story.  Manipulated by men, they move so realistically that you will imagine them breathing and snorting, cantering and galloping, neighing and charging.  The Handspring Puppet Company of Capetown, South Africa created these magnificent creatures out of bent bamboo covered with a brown gauze and their realism will amaze you.

One of the most  astounding elements of the play is the design of Joey as a colt and later as a lifesize puppet, with a strong frame of bamboo wood, elastic, leather and wire.  Two puppeteers operate the body from the inside and one, at the head, is outside and the result is so realistic you forget it is not a living, breathing animal.  The puppeteers help the overall effect by whinnying and snorting, as the horse hoofs rhythmically gallop and the tail swishes.

The story shifts from the Devon village where Albert acquires his horse Joey to the battlefields of war, after Joey is sold by Albert's harsh and mean-spirited  father to further the war effort and to line his own pockets.  Albert, who is too young to enlist, eventually lies about his age and sets off to the fields of war at great personal risk to bring Joey safely home.

The warm sunlit countryside of Devon is in stark contrast to the war zone.  Along the way, traditional English folk songs create a tableau of change, reflecting the spirit of the villagers and later the soldiers, by the "Song Man" who weaves the words.

For tickets ($29 and up), 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.

Immerse yourself in a magical and inspiring theatrical event that will transport you to another land and another time,


Whether you call them unmentionables, undies, panties or underwear, you know they engender titters and giggles, especially by the immature or young.
Those scanty undergarments are the object at the, dare I say, bottom of the Carl Sternheim comedy "The Underpants,"  cleverly adapted by Steve Martin for maximum pleasure and fun.

Whether they're frilly or flimsy or fancy or even utilitarian, you're sure to be tickled by the tale of Louise Maske (Jenny Leona) who inadvertently causes a minor scandal when her drawers fall to her toes, surely by accident, just as the King parades by where she is standing.  Assured that no one has witnessed her predicament, Louise proceeds to pick them up and resume watching the monarch as if nothing has gone awry.

Unfortunately for Louise, there have been any number of people privy to her personal plight.  When her bully of a husband Theo (Jeff McCarthy) hears of her indiscretion, he is livid.  He is sure he will lose his bureaucratic government position and they will soon be penniless and homeless.

When a varied assortment of gentlemen come to the Maske's apartment, they all have two things in common:  they have happily seen Louise's indiscretion and they can't wait to sign a lease for the room for rent.  A poet Versati (Burke Moses) seeking his muse, a hypochondriac barber Cohen (Steve Routman) who wants to be Louise's protector and a dotty senior citizen Klingelhoff (George Bartenieff) appear in short order to claim their prize.  Meanwhile Louise's upstairs neighbor, the adorable yenta Gertrude (Didi Conn), plays the matchmaker who takes vicarious pleasure in Louise's accidental fame and the romantic possibilities it creates.  Dusseldorf at the turn of the 20th century has never been more intriguing, thanks to the spirited direction of Gordon Edelstein, in this collaborative venture with Long Wharf Theatre.  Lee Savage's set is a delight as is the entire ensemble cast of creative characters, who flit in and out of the lingerie party, one worthy of a Victoria Secret.

For tickets ($25 and up), call the Hartford Stage, 50 Church Street, Hartford at 860-527-5151 or online at   Performances are Tuesday to Thursday at 7:30 p.m., Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m., with select Wednesday and Saturday matinees at 2 p.m.

Join the farcical parade where a two second scandal creates a sexual circus that promises Louise a walk on the wildly romantic side.



 A sign of maturity is seeking help when you have a problem so, hopefully, a solution can be found.  Depending on your age, and needs, the resolution may be relatively easy or impossibly complex.  For Jun Suk, the stakes are pretty high.  His job as a designer for a pharmaceutical advertising company is hanging by a thin thread.  To get a quick fix, it is advised he hire a consultant.

For a glimpse into Jun Suk's dilemma, attend the world premiere of Heidi Schreck's "The Consultant" holding office hours at Long Wharf Theatre's Stage II until Sunday, February 9.

On a slick contempory office set designed by Andrew Boyce, we meet Tania (Cassie Beck), a dissatisfied receptionist who may or may not have an office romance going with Mark (Darren Goldstein), a chief member of the advertising team.

Layoffs have trimmed the staff and it is extremely important that Jun Suk's (Nelson Lee) presentation to a new client be perfect.  Unfortunately, his latest best efforts were a disaster and he literally crashed and burned on takeoff.  For this critical offering, he must be letter perfect, hence, the arrival of the consultant, a 22 year old graduate student, Amelia (Clare Barron) at New York University whose advice comes straight from a textbook.

Will she, as inexperienced as she is, inject the right dose of confidence into her client?  Will Tania and Mark make a commitment in the love department?  Has Barbara (Lynne McCullough), one of the first employees to get a pink slip, returned to the company seeking her old job back?  Kip Fagan, who is married to the playwright, directs this inter-office memo of a play with a white gloved hand.

For tickets ($40-70), call the 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. and 7 p.m.

Discover along with Jun Suk the unexpected consequences when he engages Amelia, the consultant, to fix his corporate problems.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014


A trio of childhood friends, with a passing resemblance to the Three Musketeers, play their way through their days seeking the Lost Kingdom.  Amy, Seth and Mikie, better known as the Queen Captain, Scribbles and Meathead, pledge a promise of undying determination as they adventure together.

After the absence of a dozen years, Seth and Michael meet again as adults, when Seth's mother dies, and a childhood oath is renewed.  As boys they had promised to travel the Appalachian Trail, from Georgia to Maine, a journey of over 2000 miles, and Michael challenges Seth to complete that quest.

This world premiere musical journey "Trails," by Christy Hall, lyrics by Jordan Mann and music by Jeff Thomson, is being beautifully explored at Norwich's Spirit of Broadway Theater until Sunday, February 9.

Like a tapestry of moments and memories, the close relationship of the three is woven into a pattern of stories.  In flashback scenes, their friendship is tested, threatened  and cemented as life takes its triumphs and trials.  Amy, a spirited sprite brought to life by Laura Kathleen Donnelly, is the glue that bonds them together and, ultimately, the force that separates them.  She is the adorable Peter Pan who inspires and challenges them to be their best.

Brian Detlefs's Seth is a doubter, never quite sure of his role or his worth.  When his mother falls ill, he is the faithful son who stays home in Allentown, Pennsylvania to be her loyal caregiver.  Both he and Amy look to the stars for their strength and inspiration and their relationship is defined in a metaphor of the tale of Orpheus.  Amy follows the valiant Mike, an ambitious Matt Smolko, to college as he plays Don Quixote, battling his wondrous windmills.  The additional cast of Anne Fowler, Shawn Rucker and Brett A. Bernardini play the rangers and other characters Seth and Mike meet on the trail as they try to resolve the issues of their past. 

Songs like "Blaze a Trail," "Mark My Words," "Places In Between" and Stories in the Sky" make their voyage memorable.

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.  Combine wonderful theater with a delicious dinner and enjoy a three-course meal first at the Spa at Norwich Inn, followed by the show.  Call 860-886-2578 for reservations ($54).

Grab a backpack, your hiking shoes and a walking stick and let Seth , Amy and Mike be your guides on an adventure about time passages, friendship, forgiveness, loyalty and love.

Monday, January 13, 2014


Being a teenager can be an angst-filled, trauma-induced stage of life.  Your worries start with acne and travel through peer pressure to popularity in dating.  Whether you're a member of the cool in-crowd or a nerd can make all the difference in the success of your high school years.

Imagine your name is Evan Goldman  and you live in Manhatten, one of the neatest cities on the planet.  You have tons of friends, you're well-liked and you're planning a Jewish traditional rite of passage, a Bar Mitzvah.  Now factor in a divorce and a compulsory move to Appleton, Indiana where you will know no one and you're suddenly the new weird kid who has an uphill climb similar to Sisyphus pushing a boulder up a mountain and never making it to the top.

Welcome to "13 The Musical," with music and lyrics by Jason Robert Brown and book by Dan Elish and Robert Horn, at Waterbury's Seven Angels Theatre, with two performances Friday and Saturday, January 17 and 18 at 7:30 p.m.  Twenty-nine teens, filled with energy and talent, will bring this musical to blooming life thanks to Stage II, Community Collaborative, under the skilled direction of Semina DeLaurentis.

Carey Cannata's Evan is trying to get a handle on life in Small Town, U.S.A. and he's great in the part.  His next door neighbor Patrice, a congenial Autumn Sheffy, invests her time and effort to make Evan feel comfortable and ease his transition into Dan Quayle High School.  His plan is to win the friendship of the school jock Brett (Phillip Coffey), help Brett get a date with his dream girl Kendra (Rachel Dufresne) and, in the process, win the support of Eddie (Tim Perry), Malcolm (Michael Newman) and Lucy (Zoe Hochberg) and all the gang.

When a disabled student Archie (Michael Ricciardone) arrives on the scene, Evan discovers that he must choose:  the in-group with Brett who look down from their tower of power at everyone below or the misfits who include Patrice and Archie.  How Evan grows up, as he is perched on the cusp of manhood, and learns the true meaning of friendship and love, is worth a trip to Waterbury.  Songs such as "Tell Her," "If That's What It Is," "A Little More Homework" and "Brand New You" help advance the story line and the challenges all teens face.

For tickets ($27, subscribers $22 ), call Seven Angels Theatre, Plank Road, Waterbury at 203-757-4676 or online at  Be sure to buy the special Fascia's chocolates that will benefit and encourage this great youth theater project.  Watch for "Miss Abigail's Guide to Dating, Mating and Marriage" starring Michelle Gotay and Mauricio Pita coming January 24, 25, 26, 31, February 1 and 2.
Two nights of comedy are planned for Valentine's Day with a quartet of New York City comedians, headlined by Billy Garan, with shows Friday, February 14 at 8 p.m. and Saturday, February 15 at 8 p.m.  Champagne and chocolates are included.  Call for reservations.

Help Evan discover what's really important and how the wrong choices can be rectified with a little help from your friends.
With red carpets and award shows virtually every night on television, now might be a good time to review some of the finest offerings this year on Connecticut stages.  Just because our state is sandwiched between New York and Boston, we do not need to apologize for what we produce.  Quite the contrary, we can be proud of all the excellent productions that are available for viewing from Westport to Norwich, New Haven to Hartford, and everywhere in between.

While it is impossible to single out every great show, it is worthy to note the following as examples of the fine quality that hopefully you took advantage of in 2013.  One might take pause when reading the title "Accidental Death of an Anarchist" as a heavy as cinder blocks drama, but you would be wildly wrong. New Haven's Yale Repertory Theatre presented this play by Dario Fo as the ultimate in slapstick comedy and it was non-stop silliness.  Based on a true story in Italy in 1969 about an anarchist arrested for a bank bombing and questioned for days by the police, the suspect jumped or was pushed to his death.  Do you see the humor yet?  Trust me, it was there.

The humor continued in Hartford Stage's amazing production of Shakespeare's "Twelfth Night" where yellow gartered stockings and a mysterious love letter lead to mischief and confusion on a wonderful garden set. Down the street at the Hartford TheaterWorks, the focus of attention was on Dr, Ruth and her fascinating life, courtesy of Mark St. Germain.  Debra Jo Rupp brought this pint-sized sex therapist to sparkling life and the show has gone on to Broadway.

If you're a fan of Sherlock Holmes, perhaps you caught West Hartford's Playhouse on Park's hilarious production of "Hound of the Baskervilles" where the spoof and the fun went from the drawing room to the moors and back again.  If you are a little more adventurous, you might have ventured up to the University of Connecticut at  Storrs for one of Connecticut Repertory's outstanding shows, like "Hairspray" where a courageous teen dances her way into your heart and provides a lesson in fighting intolerance along the way.

Goodspeed Musicals are famous for the quality of their shows and this time around "The Most Happy Fella" was at the top.  Here we met a man who was never smart or handsome, who is now older in years, but who still wants happiness and love.  Goodspeed Musicals in East Haddam on the Connecticut River has a second theater in Chester nearby that devotes itself to brand new works.  This season "Snapshots" delighted when it explored a couple on the cusp of separation who find their hearts again, using the magical music of composer Stephen Schwartz in the process.

If you don't mind pulling out the GPS, Westport is worth a ride.  The Westport Country Playhouse did a lovely job recreating A. R. Gurney's "The Dining Room" where a fine ensemble cast explored the foibles and fantasies of an upper- class  society, known affectionately as WASPS.  Just across the street is an intimate black box theater, Music Theater of Connecticut, where the audience was treated to a "Master Class" with the opera diva Maria Callas.

When you speak of a master class, perhaps the highlight of the year was Long Wharf's sterling production of August Wilson's "Fences," where Phylicia Rashad's sensitive direction offered insights into the life of Troy Maxson, powerfully captured by Esau Pritchett.  Troy was an everyman, an African-American whose career as a baseball player misses being a home run.

If you misses these great offerings, now is the time to make a resolution to make a date with a Connecticut theater near or far.  It's well worth the trip

Tuesday, January 7, 2014


If your life is perfect, you can stop reading NOW.  But, if you're like most of the rest of the universe, you acknowledge that it could be better, improved in any number of small ways. Here is a partial and admittedly incomplete list of suggestions to create a new you in the New Year.

These are not resolutions.  Resolutions are meant to be broken, by January 11th at the latest.  These are merely thoughts on slight modifications to make you happier. One idea is to join a Happiness Club.  Maybe you never knew they even existed:  clubs dedicated to the idea of making you happier!  Lionel Ketchian of Fairfield gets all the credit, when more than a dozen years ago, he decided he needed a little help in the joy department.  Now there are Happiness Clubs all over the world, from Scotland to France to Israel to Pakistan, and there is sure to be one in your neck of the woods, somewhere near your funny bone.

Happiness Clubs meet once a month and they are free.  Guest speakers provide clues and tools to make your life more meaningful in any number of ways.  Find a club in your neighborhood, like Madison, Fairfield, Milford, Woodbridge, Westport, New Haven. Go to

How about a little Laughter Yoga?  An Indian doctor, Dr. Madan Kataria, decided one day that laughter would be beneficial, good medicine if you will.  He gathered five people in a park in India in the early 1990's and now there are Laughter Yoga groups in 72 countries, 8000 and growing. Locally Connie Pino runs one at the High Plains Senior Community Center on Orange Center Road in Orange.  The cost is a can of non-perishable food for a local food pantry, if you wish.  Wednesdays at 9 a.m. discover all the health benefits a little laughter yoga can bring to your life.

Exercise is at the top of many lists for improved well-being.  Grab a Richard Simmons dance video or join a gym for a Zumba or spinning class or try to walk 10,000 steps a day. Remember to drink plenty of water and eat lots of fresh fruits and vegetables.

The New Year is also a time to take a risk and try something different.  Did you always want to tap dance or play the guitar or try watercolor painting?  Now is the moment.  Could photography be in your future or tackling a new game like chess or mah jongg (a Chinese tile game) or perhaps you're ready to get addicted to Candy Crush Saga on your computer or Smart Phone?  Adult education classes abound and if you are over 65 local colleges have a deal for you to audit their lectures.

Do you belong to a book club?  Reading is a wonderful pastime, educational, illuminating and fifty shades of fun.  Want to try your hand at poetry or put your thoughts in a journal every day?  Horror of horrors, you might even write a letter.  E-mails and tweets can be so impersonal.  Reach out to a friend or family member you haven't seen recently or use the telephone.  Visit an elderly neighbor or a shut-in.  Lots of people would welcome a little help. Hugs are a no cost way to say you care.

Buy a ticket to the theater, a concert, a sporting event, whatever pleases your fancy. Looking forward to the event is half the fun.

Like to sing in more than just the shower?  Choirs and choruses are ready to employ your alto or soprano voice.  Need a friendly furry friend in your life?  Animal shelters have lots of pets to rescue.  Attack a closet and pack up all the things you no longer need to donate to a worthy cause, like Big Brothers/Big Sisters or Vietnam Veterans or Goodwill.

Dust off your recipe books and try a new soup or bread or main course or better yet take a cooking class.  One new creation a week can be lots of fun and lots of good eating.  Plan a trip, like a cruise, or just an over night at a Bed and Breakfast.  A change of scenery is beneficial and fun to plan and look forward to doing.  Trace your ancestry and discover your family tree on sites like

Give of yourself and you're sure to receive back more in good feelings.  Find a volunteer activity.  Charities are always welcoming.  Places of worship also have their doors open for your spiritual needs.

Forgive yourself and others.  Let resentments go and send them off into the universe.  Wake up every morning and say "I am happy."  Send yourself good messages and you will begin to believe them.  Make a list and count your blessings.  Whatever you do, remember to be grateful.  If you need a little help in that department, pick up a copy of Ann Kusovitsky's new book "What Makes You Grateful?"

Don't postpone joy.  Celebrate life.  Perform a random act of kindness, often. Make 2014 special.

Monday, January 6, 2014


Photos by Diane Sobolewski from last year's festival

If you don't ice skate, sled, ski or snowboard, you might find winter long and boring.  The perfect antidote is Goodspeed's 9th Annual Festival of New Musicals in East Haddam the weekend of January 17-19.  Seek shelter under the banner of innovative theater and warm your toes by the fires Goodspeed is lighting.

This festive three day festival begins on Friday, January 17 with a brand new musical "Adam Lives" at 7:30 p.m., with book, music and lyrics by Rob Baumgartner, Jr.  A not so successful songwriter and a not so winning lover in his relationship with Claudia, Adam gets a once-in-a-lifetime chance to write for an up and coming pop superstar.  How will he make a choice between the two when he has to pick one as his priority?  At 10 p.m., the excitement moves next door to the Gelston House for an inspirational evening of cabaret that showcases new songs by the festival writers.

Get ready, get set, go for a full day of intense theater explorations starting at 10 a.m. to 12:45 p.m. at the Gelston House for a series of seminars.  Playwright, novelist and theatre historian Mark Acito will delve into the burning question "What Makes a Broadway Hit?" and discuss the commonalities among Broadway's 100 greatest successes.  The secrets and treasures in Goodspeed's Scherer Library of Musical Theatre will be unearthed by author and theatre historian Ken Bloom.  Favorite Goodspeed stars Klea Blackhurst and Tony Sheldon, from the recent hit "Hello, Dolly!," will share stories about the ups and downs of their careers while casting director Paul Hardt and musical director Michael O'Flaherty will repeat their successful "Casting 101" on how to audition and get the role.  More seminars will be announced and you can select three to attend.

After a lunch break, attendees will be treated, from 2:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m., to a peek at a new musical slated to debut at Goodspeed's Norma Terris Theatre next season.  At 4 p.m., a symposium will explore "On the Road to Holiday Inn: Creating a World Premiere" as the creative team will divulge the inner workings on creating a world premiere of "Irving Berlin's Holiday Inn."  This event is free and open to the public.

A dinner will take place from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. at both the Gelston House and La Vita Gustosa.  The second new offering will start at 7:30 p.m. at Goodspeed with "A Proper Place," with book, music and lyrics by Leslie Becker and Curtis Rhodes.  Set in 1902, it is described as a "cross between Downton Abbey and Gilligan's Island," as it swirls around a wealthy British family who find themselves shipwrecked with only their trusty butler to keep them safe.  At 10 p.m., the Gelston house will host another cabaret of great tunes, this time with Sam Willmont and Ben Scheurer.

On Sunday, the day begins at 11 a.m. with a tour of Goodspeed's rehearsal studio, costume shop, library and Music Department. At 1 p.m. the final new musical, "Theory of Relativity" with music and lyrics by Neil Bartram and book by Brian Hill will be unveiled.  The human connection will be explored in a collection of songs, sketches and monologues, with all the joys and sorrows, loves and loses that are intimately involved.The weekend ends at 3:30 p.m. at the Gelston House when all three sets of composers will reveal their creative processes, over complimentary hors d'oeuvres and a cash bar.

Go to or call 860-873-8668 for information on single tickets for one show ($15, students $10) as well as Gold ($89) and Silver ($49) packages.

Light some sparks in Goodspeed's theatrical fireplace for a fantastic weekend sure to warm the cockles of your heart.