Friday, May 30, 2014


 At night in the forest, the woodland creatures come alive, with glittering eyes and wings ready to take flight, as crickets crackle and insects hum.  It is a time of magic and mystery, when everything can happen and you are there to bear witness to the awakenings.  It is Varekai.  It is Cirque du Soleil and all the enchanted elements are poised to capture your imagination.

Varekai is a Romany word, a word of nomads and gypsies, and means "wherever."  This wherever is at the top of a volcano at the site where possibilities are endlessly captivating.  Into this mystical world falls a young man, Icarus, who has traveled too near the sun and is now on the cusp of a grand adventure and you are invited to hold on to his snowy feathers of white and come along on his journey of discovery.

The innocent and fragile Icarus is searching for himself in a strange world.  He is fearful and hurt but he desperately wants to be whole and free and will go to great lengths to reach new heights.  Trapped in a white spider's net that holds him prisoner, Icarus dives and swoops through the air with grace and amazing agility.

He is destined to meet and be exotically attracted to a strange and beautiful creature who will be his guide into a wondrous new world.  He, in turn, will be her catalyst for change and help her with her metamorphosis, as she is his Betrothed. Overseeing this world of nature is a man of much wisdom who has witnessed much change.  To many he is a kindly great-grandfather figure, the Guide, who will lead the inhabitants of his domain to alterations.

Completing this unusual space is a mad scientist/weather man/inventor who experiments in his laboratory, interpreting signs, sounds and wonders.  He is the Skywatcher who predicts troubles before they occur as he uses his genius as a master fortune teller. In addition to these main story players, there are a myriad of performers and entertainers to amaze and astonish from many corners of the globe.

Hold your breath as a daring young woman uses a hoop to sway and swing in a series of incredible and graceful movements, like a ballet in the air.  Watch the power and precision of two aerolists create striking silhoettes, hanging by only two straps, high above the crowds.  From the Republic of Georgia come military-like dancers who parade their power and precision in the traditional style of their ancestors.  Imagine balancing your entire body on a fragile cane or two with grace and flexibility or performing like a disjointed puppet on crutches. 

Take part in Icarian Games where acrobatics are spectacularly achieved as bodies catapult through the air with amazing agility.  Prepare to be entertained as a master juggler, Octavio Alegria, balances everything from hats, balls and bowling pins, on every extremity of his body. Follow the astounding Russian Swings as acrobats soar in midair, only to alight on a partner, a canvas ramp or on another swing. The circus comes alive as an ice skating rink as performers skate and slide in a rainbow of color on a Slippery Surface. What would Cirque du Soleil be without at least one pair of silly clowns, in this case Joanna and Steven, as they inspire laughter and joy.

For all this fun and amazement come to the Webster Bank Arena, 600 Main Street at Harbor Yard in Bridgeport from Wednesday, June 4 to Sunday, June 8 for performances at  7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, at 4 p.m. and 7:30 p.m on Saturday and 1:30 p.m. on Sunday.
For tickets ($35-145), call  800-745-3000  or go online to or

Cirque du Soleil began humbly enough in Quebec in 1982 when a small troupe of jugglers and stilt walkers took to the sidewalks to perform for the crowds.  Today it is international in scope, boasting more than two dozen distinctly different shows, that entertain and astonish millions each year, from England and France to Japan and China.

For family adventure of spectacular style, let Cirque du Soleil's troupe of performers soar and tumble, dance and clown, all for your amusement.

Monday, May 26, 2014


If rock 'n roll is still your music of choice and turning back the clock so you can rock around it still sounds like a great idea, then roll down your bobby socks because I've got a show with your name engraved on it.   The year is 1956 and the gyrating guys who can sing up a tornado of sound are Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins, Johnny Cash and Elvis Presley. They all accidentally and magically turn up at Sun Records on the same day and what happens next is the source of legends. As a jam session goes, this one was smokin' hot and unforgettable. Tuesday, December 4, 1956 lives on in the smash musical hit "Million Dollar Quartet, written by Floyd Mutrux and Colin Escott," as it recreates that one and only legendary day in the history of rock 'n roll.
You can be there, front and center, at the modest Memphis, Tennessee recording studios of Sun Records where this quartet of musical icons set the red hot rafters ringing when "Million Dollar Quartet" lights up the stage of the Palace Theater in Waterbury on Saturday, June 7 at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m.  
Think of it as a personal playlist of your favorite hits as these great tunes come tumbling out.  Listen to "Great Balls of Fire," "Sixteen Tons," "Blue Suede Shoes," "Whole Lot of Shakin' Goin' On," "Hound Dog," "Folsom Prison Blues," "I Walk the Line," "Fever," "Memories Are Made of This," "Long Tall Sally" and "See You Later, Alligator," among others.
Hips will swivel, guitar strings will be set aflame and history will be recorded when an impromptu jam session became an instant legend making event.  Carl Perkins (CT native James Barry) had come to Sun Records that day with his brothers and Sam Phillips, (Vince Nappo) the owner of Sun, added Jerry Lee Lewis, (Benjamin Goddard) a recent acquisition, to the mix as pianist.  When Elvis Presley (Cody Slaughter) dropped by with his girlfriend (Kelly Lamont), he added his voice to the cauldron and it was the final arrival of Johnny Cash (David Elkins) that made the recipe complete.
These guys, all at different stages of music fame, sat down and sang like a group of old friends, without rehearsals or formal plans, and Cowboy Jack Clement, the engineer, was smart enough to record it. Fate clearly played a hand, a winning one, in achieving musical history.  Billy Shaffer and Corey Kaiser complete the swinging lineup.
Country music, rockabilly and rock 'n roll merge and marry as these fellows sing just for the pure pleasure of the sound. For Sam Phillips, called "the Father of Rock 'n Roll," these four men were like his four sons and this show reveals a lot about their relationship, where they came from and where they were going.  It is a sensational staged recreation of the actual event.

For tickets ($50-70), call the Palace, 100 East Main Street, Waterbury  at 203-346-2000 or online at  Performances are  Saturday at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m.
Prepare to dance right out of your seat as these four wild men of music move, groove and shake, rattle and roll.  Memories are made of this.


       Bruch Reed, Pascale Armand, Chris Thorn and Laura Woodward in LOVE/SICK
                                                       Photo by Lanny Nagler

Playwright John Carini believes in T.G.I.F., so he's a Thank God It's Friday kind of guy.  After all, he set all ten vignettes in his almost brand new comedy "Love/Sick" on Friday nights, involving couples, female and male, male and male, female and female, before, during and after they have visited the local grocery chain, Super Center.  Call him cynical and slightly quirky, but John Carini has a unique take on love.  You can tell he really REALLY wants to believe in its power but he's a Missouri type who says "Show me."

Until Sunday, June 22, TheaterWorks of Hartford will be tossing orange blossoms and rose petals and spotlighting Carini's take on romantic possibilities at their intimate space at 233 Pearl Street.  A wildly talented cast of four-Pascale Armand, Bruch Reed, Chris Thorn and Laura Woodward-are ready and willing to take all the risks in the pursuit of wedded bliss.  All you have to do is sit back and laugh (or shed a tear or two) at the intriguing and ridiculous situations they find themselves in, all in the name of love.

Meet a pair of obsessive-compulsive people who think, act and speak simultaneously and may talk heart-to-heart language.  Watch Louise excitedly receive a singing telegram that might not contain the message she's anticipating.Travel the slow and fast lanes of love with two men who are obeying totally different traffic signals.  Peek behind the bathroom door of a bride-to-be as she ponders one of the biggest decisions of her life and then fast forward to a couple already wed who are questioning everything about their relationship.

Meet a woman who blurts out she had sex, I mean quiche, for lunch to her unsuspecting spouse and another couple who want to replace their "beige life" with color.  Say hello to Roger and Jill who desperately want to be hap-happy-happier, and commiserate with Abby and Liz who seem to be disappearing in their family unit and need to find each other again.  Finally collide with Jake and Emily in the Super Center as they discover if they have a spark to rekindle.  Let director Amy Saltz be your official love counselor in this tangled jungle of affections.

For tickets ($50-65, senior matinee $35), call TheaterWorks at 860-527-7838 or online at  Performances are Tuesday-Thursday at 7:30 p.m., Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday matinees at 2:30 p.m.

Gather ye red rose buds and explore all of love's varied puzzles and possibilities, courtesy of master gardener of emotions John Carini.

Thursday, May 22, 2014


Artistic director Brett Bernardini of the Spirit of Broadway Theater  might subscribe to the motto "Bold Is Beautiful."  Like a Sherlock Holmes detective, he seeks out the innovative, cutting edge, imaginative musicals to showcase, often as world premieres.  A faithful attendant at the October workshop of the National Alliance of Musical Theatre in New York City, he has often discovered gems to nurture in Norwich at his wonderful intimate incubator-like site.

Hold on to your houndstooth deerstalker hat because Bernardini has stated emphatically that his newest find, "Bleeding Love" is the "finest work we have done in 17 years."  With a book by Jason Schafer, music by Arthur Lefrantz Bacon and lyrics by Harris Doran, "Bleeding Love" is guaranteed to expand your mind about the definition of musical theater.

Think fractured fairy tales.  Think of the music of Yo Yo Ma. Think Tim Burton meets Courtney Love. Imagine a post-apocalyptic world of darkness and danger that is wildly different from what anyone has known before.  Few signs of life exist in this bleak landscape where a frozen death prevails.

A lovely young girl Bronwyn, enchantingly portrayed by Avery Wigglesworth, sits in solitude plaintively playing her cello by a window that looks out on an abyss of blackness.  Her days are filled with her music and caring for her aunt, a demanding Shawn Rucker, whose basic needs include periodic injections of drugs.

Listening to Bronwyn's magical music is Sweet William, an easily influenced Elliot Peterson, who leaves cans of fruit cocktail at her door as signs of affection.  He does this in secret as he sweeps the stairs, in express defiance of his stern father, a gun totting Justin Carroll.

Outside the apartment house are a domineering and controlling dominatrix Lolli, brought to startling life by Alyssa Chiarello, who leads a skinhead boy, appropriately called Puppy, as if he is her pet.  Puppy is a conflicted Jacob Scheyder who obeys his female master until he realizes he can think for himself.

How these six diverse characters interact in this bizarre environment is at times scary, frightening, illuminating and heartbreaking.  With music that ranges from Broadway to classical to rock, under the baton of musical director Dan Brandl, the tunes soar with emotion, of loneliness and longing and the search for love.  Can the quest of discovering one live red rose be the answer to all Bronwyn's questions?

For tickets ($32), call the 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. Consider having dinner at Kensington's at The Spa at Norwich Inn before the show for only $54 per person for both dining and theater.  Call the box office to reserve.

Now is also the time to make plans to attend the High School Music Theater Awards held this year at Waterbury's Palace Theater on Monday, June 2. Go online to make a donation to the scholarship fund for the winning students, a fine institution founded in 2008 to honor our youth by Bernardini..

Discover that magic and hope are still possible even in a world of devastation and desolation.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014


Olives are an acquired taste, a flavored fruit that varies with the color of its skin.  The plant family it de!rives from includes jasmine and lilacs and in countries like Greece no meal is complete without them.  First green, then red, then black, the olive is bitter if taken directly from the tree and would cause severe illness if it is not cured for weeks in a vat of spices.

Cultivated for 5000-6000 years, it is the source of much prized olive oil, especially the first press or darkest green.  Its branches are a symbol of peace and abundance.  But if your parents named you Olive, you might discover everyone doesn't immediately fall in love with you.  This is especially true if you answer to the name Olive Fisher and you're an aging actress whose only real claim to fame is as the star of a series of commercials about  luncheon meat.  Being referred to as the "Meryl Streep of the Sausage Patty" might not be a satisfying line on your acting resume.

Come meet this cranky and feisty lady in Charles Busch's comedy "Olive and the Bitter Herbs" being served up on a silver platter by Square One Theatre Company weekends until Saturday, May 31 at the Square One Theatre, 2422 Main Street, Stratford.

Alice McMahon's Olive is pretty much mad at the world.  Her acting career has been unsatisfying, her apartment is only rented, not owned like everyone else's, she's fighting with the board president, the custodial crew ignores her and her neighbors are driving her up her paper thin walls.  She has outlived the loud and crabby lady upstairs only to now be plagued by the two men, life partners, who have moved in next door.  Everything about them irratets her, especially when they receive their smelly installment from the Cheese of the Month Club.

A kind-hearted younger woman Wendy (Michelle Duncan) who has a history of helping elderly actresses and doing all things theatrical, tries to nudge Olive into more creative endeavors, but it's going to take a bulldozer to budge this stubborn fixture.  Wendy arranges for the ascerbic Trey (Jim Buffone) and pacifist Robert (Barry Hatrick), her unlucky neighbors, to visit Olive but no branches of peace are extended.  Even an impromptu Passover seder (hence the bitter herbs) does little to change the tense atmosphere.

Into this hodge- podge of geniality wanders the perpetual widower Sylvan (Al Kulcsar), ostensibly representing his daughter, the co-op board chair, to defuse the feud between the women.  His romantic overtures to Olive are quickly rebuffed.

Three events occur that change the dynamics of the group:  Olive senses a presence, an apparition, in her mirror, a spirit she names Howard; Wendy gets offered a dream job across the country; and Olive has a television episode of a murder mystery being shown that night that she hopes will jump start her career.  All the usual suspects gather and a string of secrets, confessions, revelations and coincidences occur.  Tom Holehan directs this spicy and acidic dish that changes the flavors in Olive's world.

For tickets ($20, seniors $19), call the Square One Theatre at 203-375-8778 or online at Performances are Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m., Sunday at 2 p.m., with a twilight show Saturday, May 31. Take exit 32 off I-95.

Enter Olive's war with words at your own risk as she battles the world from her living room couch and few things emerge unscathed. 

Saturday, May 17, 2014


                                            ABE LINCOLN WANTS YOU!

Now is the time for all good men and women to make their reservations for the annual Civil War Round Table dinner to be held at the Laurel View Country Club, 310 West Shepard Avenue, Hamden, CT.  The festivities will commence on Monday, June 9 at 6 p.m., with a cheese and cracker tray and a cash bar, with dinner at 7 p.m.

Former President Abraham Lincoln personally requests your attendance as he is the topic for discussion and he wants a big crowd to hear Lewis Dube and Tom Cruciani present "An Evening with Abraham Lincoln."

For reservations ($40), send your check to Mary Ann Quinn, Civil War Round Table, 75 Washington Avenue, 2-408, Hamden, Ct 06518-3265.The deadline for reservations is June 2.  The menu includes a buffet of such delicious items as a house salad and dressing, penne a la vodka, pan seared salmon, NY sirloin English cut, seasonal vegetables, scalloped potatoes, bread and butter, Italian pastries and coffee.

Don't disappoint Mr. Lincoln.  He is counting on you!


Sit up straight and make sure your homework is neat and complete because the priest and nuns at St Bastien's School are ready to call attendance.  If you
were ever a student at Catholic school, memories will come flooding back as Seven Angels Theatre in Waterbury presents "Do Black Patent Leather Shoes Really Reflect Up?" until Sunday, June 15.

With book by John R. Powers and music and lyrics by James Quinn and Alaric Jans, this musical is guaranteed to have you brushing up on your Saints and watching out so you don't commit any sins.  The show features eight youngsters living in Chicago as they learn their Catechism, get a few knuckles hit with a ruler and discover how to be good people.  Their story goes from elementary school to high school graduation and beyond, starting in the 1950's.

Come meet Will Holly as Eddie and Alexandria Howley as Becky as they struggle to find common ground as friends first and maybe something more later.  Their rocky road relationship runs through the classroom and follows them out the door into adulthood.

Joining them are Kelsey Beckett as Nancy, Lauren Devine as Mary, Brett Bainer as Felix, John Lampe as Mike, Pamela McKenna as Virginia and Boe Wank as Louie.  Supervising their religious education and moral upbringing are James Donohue as Father and Patricia Bartlett, Andrea Gallo, Kadie Tolderlund and Theresa Amico as the good Sisters.

Watch puppy love transform into something more as these kids grow up and mature and learn about life and discover everything you do becomes part of your permanent record (and there's no such thing as Facebook yet).  One strict rule the nuns teach is for the girls to wear undies under their plaid school uniform so their black patent leather shoes don't reflect up. 

Between the growing pains and adolescent years, there's a lot of snappy dancing and sweet and funny moments:  think a Catholic school version of "Glee."  Semina De Laurentis directs this charming visit back to a gentler time, in a show that broke attendance records in both Chicago and Philadelphia.

For tickets ($33-47.50, student $25, children $17), call Seven Angels, Plank Road, Waterbury at 203-757-4676 or online at  Performances are Thursday at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m., Friday at 8 p.m., Saturday at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m.

Bunny hop on over to the Seven Angels for school instruction in this cute coming of age musical.


Relationships are notoriously dangerous as more than 50% of marriages ending in divorce would testify.  Looking back gives the participants the advantage of hindsight, when one is able to review all the opportunities missed, all the pitfalls that one was destined to fall in and all the mistakes that might have been avoided if one turned right instead of left.  Crystal balls are not readily available, however, to give one the foresight to see  potential problems before  committing them.  The world could take a lesson in why going to war is so often an error, yet history keeps repeating itself.
For a musical  cautionary tale that touches the heart in its poignancy and honesty, look no further than Long Wharf Theatre's
current offering “The Last Five Years” by  Jason Robert Brown, playing until Sunday, June 1. Katie Rose Clarke as Cathy Hyatt and  Adam Halpin as Jamie Wellerstein are the couple in question: she, a struggling young actress  and he, an up and coming new author looking for his voice, meet and fall headlong into love.
These New Yorkers tell their tales from both sides of the relationship.  Cathy’s side of the story is told in flashbacks, as she reviews all the steps and pieces, the broken trail of missteps that led them to the end of their romance.  Jamie, on the other hand,  looks expectantly forward, from the first blush of new love to the final moment when he admits defeat and leaves a note of farewell. They each blame the other.  If Jamie hadn't sold his first novel so quickly and so successfully, if Cathy had gotten parts that didn't play in Ohio, if religious differences didn't surface, if he hadn't become the center of his universe effectively pushing her aside...all these intrude and obscure their affection.
Their bittersweet story is told in a series of songs, concert style, where they open their hearts and reveal their souls, at once hopeful and eager, at once anxious and fearful, the whole gamut of emotions that characterize a relationship.  The music captures where they are at that precise moment in their romance, from first date, to Jamie’s mother’s disapproval, to a book signing party, Cathy’s angst- ridden auditions,  their first Christmas,  and all the important moments in-between.  Gordon Edelstein directs this heartfelt tribute to romance and all its intricacies of delight and devilment.
For tickets ($40-75 and up), call Long Wharf Theatre, 222 Sargent Drive, New Haven at 203-787-4282 or online at  Performances are Tuesday at 7 p.m., Wednesday at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m., Thursday at 8 p.m., Friday at 8 p.m., Saturday at 3 p.m. and 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m.
 Let Cathy and Jamie take you by the hand and lead you down the garden path as they discover all the  glorious growths and disappointing weeds that can affect the seeds of love.

Friday, May 16, 2014


Imagine my joy when, after missing the Boston Museum of Fine Arts wonderful "Art in Bloom" display of floral arrangements being inspired by paintings, discovering I was at the New Britain Museum of American Art for their "Bubbles and Blooms" celebration.  Area garden clubs use a painting or sculpture at the museum for inspiration to create a floral arrangement.  Blink and you've missed it as the flowers have an expiration date!  It's well worth marking your calendar so you don't miss it next year.

Don't dismay, there is still lots to see at the New Britain Museum, like James Prosek's Wondrous Strange art exhibit of fantastical animals, flounders to zebras until June 8. A recent trip to Africa inspired his latest nature art series. Sign up for a special art class. Examine the comic book covers.  Stroll through the permanent exhibits and explore the special ones, like a room full of typewriters. and another of miniatures.  See what's hanging (looks like a flying fish to me) where the wall of colorful cups used to be.  See Rashmi's adorable beaded doll earrings and necklaces in the gift shop.  Stay for lunch on the patio.

Plan a wonderful day at this neat and exciting art space.  Be sure to say hi to the stalwart guard at the door.


Have you ever been at a loss for words?  What do you say or do to help when someone is ill, at a funeral, when hard times hit someone you care about a lot?  Would it help to have a book of tools and suggestions, concrete ways to be a good friend?

For Letty Cottin Pogrebin, the answer is a resounding yes.  She has spent more than seven decades of her life being pro-active, fighting for justice, a take-charge woman who knows how to get things done and done right. The author of ten books, a journalist, activist and a national lecturer, she co-founded Ms. Magazine with Gloria Steinem in 1971 and is a tireless advocate for peace, for women and for improving the human condition.

How appropriate is it, therefore, that when this strong, vibrant woman was given a diagnosis of breast cancer, she would research the disease and try to smooth the path for others facing illness and many of life's difficult problems.

Ms. Pogrebin spoke recently for the Women of Vision Society of the New Haven Jewish Foundation at Long Wharf Theatre about "How To Be a Friend To a Friend Who's Sick," her latest book, and shared her insights gleaned from dozens of interviews she conducted while awaiting her radiation treatments at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Hospital in New York.  Not one to waste time, she queried fellow patients and family members about what was helpful and not so much in conversations, actions, gifts and support, especially when crises occur.

Her overriding motto is "kindness is empathy plus action" and it is the strong foundation for all her helpful hints.  She offers lists of suggestions in a number of categories, like ways to help someone whose friend or loved one is sick. You might give frequent flyer miles, babysit their kids, be a secretary and take over personal communication to others, create a web page as a caring bridge to keep everyone informed of the patient's progress, burn a CD of music, stock their food pantry, bring over a meal or take them out to eat, suggest they keep a journal as an oral history of their loved one, call regularly and listen well, be available to help and only offer your company when it's desired.

Being compassionate and non-judgmental with someone who has experienced an issue of depression, attempted suicide, reversal of economic situations or a condition they are ashamed to admit.  Be there to listen and support.  Letty learned many of these lessons early on in her life when her mother died of cancer when she was only 15 years of age.

In hopeless situations, she suggests helping yourself first and then others, to be honest about your feelings, don't fade away, give care and keep company with the caregiver and preserve memories of better days.  If the family is in mourning, ask and act, watch for signals, be sensitive to needs, attend the funeral, express your sympathy briefly, simply, with heartfelt and short words, recall a personal positive story, avoid saying unfeeling comments, create a mourning ritual to honor the deceased, use the written word to express feelings to reflect on a life well lived and help the mourners find a support group if they desire one. Help them deal with their loved one's possessions.  Only offer to help if you mean it.  Be silent and listen.

10 Rules for Friends of a Parent Who's Lost a Child to Illness, Accident or Suicide: provide love and support for the long haul, pay attention to their needs, touch and comfort them.  Be demonstrative, with hugs and hand holding.  Don't rush their recovery, grieving is a personal journey.  Don't distract them with trivial activities.  Remember their child, talk and share.  Keep track of the calendar, mark special days, make a donation to charity in memory.  Don't let alcohol be an answer.  Alert others to why you are unavailable for them, as you are there for your friend. Don't feel a new baby can take the place of the one who died. 

There's an art to being a friend to a friend who's sick.  In the end, only kindness matters.  Translate empathy into action.  Know what to say, when to be silent, be comfortable in your silences and make each other feel safe.

Appreciate life and its wonders, enjoy "perfectly abundant" moments, don't postpone joy.  Be conscious of your miraculous heart and the "unexpected rewards of age and illness."  Be mindful that life comes with an expiration date.  Adapt a "sweetened taste for life," thanks to Letty Cottin Pogrebin.

Monday, May 12, 2014


For years I've gone to bed with the same man, Mondays through Fridays, usually right before midnight so it was a thrill to actually see him in person for the first time.  Comedian Jay Leno was this year's Mary and Louis Fusco Distinquished Lecturer at Southern Connecticut State University on Friday, May 9 to a packed house of admirers. Past recipients over the last sixteen years have been Colin Powell, Walter Cronkite, Tim Russert, Michael J. Fox, Astronaut Mark Kelly and Alan Alda, among others.

Don't look for pearls of wisdom, life lessons or a philosophy to live by. Leno, who was king of the late night television circuit, on The Tonight Show, on NBC, is known for his timing, story telling and wry sense of humor.  He didn't disappoint.

Now that Jimmy Fallon has taken over the late night spot, Jay Leno has taken his stand-up comedy routine on the road.  He admitted easily that on television he did different material in the same place every night. Now, on the road, he does the same material in a different place five nights a week.

With an easy, affable personality, Leno riffed on a variety of topics from IKEA stores in Thailand to teenage girls' underwear at Walmart.  He claims it's harder to tell who's crazy now, due to our technology since people talking to themselves may really be speaking on their blue tooth phones.

He admitted his best interviews have been with politicians, from President Ronald Reagan to President Barack Obama. The topics that drew his attention ranged from Hugh Hefner and his new wife, Mr. Potato Head the toy and Jerry Lewis supposedly naming our medications, where the side effects are worse than the disease.

From airport security and terrorists to cats vs. dogs as pets to women who freeze their eggs, he hopscotched to Carnival Cruises, Charlie Sheen and the unique joys of living in Los Angeles.  The perpetual car lover, he made fun of the Smartcar and spending $108 to fill his SUV.  With a garage that has at least 100 cars and vintage and modern motorcycles, he also has a car show on the internet, "Jay Leno's Garage."

He's written several books, for children and adults, even inspiring a superhero "The Crimson Chin," as well as voicing characters in movies and shows, from a carpenter, detective and journalist to a fire hydrant, jack-o-lantern, rabbit and king.  Right now he's writing his material for a May 22 awards ceremony in Israel, to present the Genesis Prize to its first recipient former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg.  He and his wife Mavis will stop in London and Rome during this trip.

Wherever he goes, like a recent trip to China, or being inducted into the Televison Hall of Fame, Jay Leno is a consummate performer who knows how to tickle those funny bones and give his listeners the joyous gift of laughter.


From April to September, baseball is king to thousands, maybe millions of fans and no one more so than Joe Boyd, a die-hard, true blue, loyal and dedicated Red Sox rooter.  For years he has watched his beloved team struggle against insurmountable odds, especially against those "damn Yankees."  In a moment of impetuous despair, Joe declares that he would sell his soul for the Red Sox to break their curse and win the pennant. Fortuitously or not, the devil in the guise of one Mr. Applegate overhears Joe's exclamation and offers Joe the chance of a lifetime.

Grab your popcorn, peanuts and Cracker Jacks and get a seat behind home plate for the Richard Adler and Jerry Ross words and music and book by George Abbott and Douglass Wallop, "Damn Yankees." This special Red Sox edition is credited to Joe DiPietro.  The baseball season will be in full swing until Saturday, June 21 at Goodspeed Musicals on the Connecticut River in East Haddam.

The conniving and despicable Mr. Applegate, a devilishly slick David Beach, plays on Joe Boyd's obvious weakness, willing to sacrifice everything to make the Red Sox winners.  He persuades him to leave his devoted wife Meg to become a sharp long ball hitter, one with the power to take the team out of the cellar and lead it to triumph.

In a virtual puff of smoke, the aging overweight Joe Boyd (James Judy) morphs into the young and virile Joe Hardy, a dynamic Stephen Mark Lukas and talks his way onto the team led by a brusk but benevolent Coach Van Buren (Ron Wisnicki).  Once he shows his prowess, Joe is embraced by his mates, (Michael Mendez, Danny Lindgren, Victor J. Wisehart) until the inquisitive sports reporter Gloria (Lora Lee Gayer) starts to question Joe's record, his background, his home town, his credits, practically what he ate for breakfast.

Meanwhile back at home, Joe's loyal and loving wife Meg, a supportive Ann Arvia, is lucky to have the friendship of good pals Doris (Allyce Beasley) and Sister (Kristine Zbornik).  While Meg is less than a baseball fan, her gal pals are avid and eager admirers of the new idol on the mound.  When Joe arrives at Meg's doorstep to rent a room, they are overjoyed to recognize their hero.

Applegate isn't happy with his newest recruit and sends in his top Temptress with a capital T to keep Joe in line.  The luscious Lola, a sensuous Angel Reda, uses all her wiles to lure Joe over to the dark side.  Can Joe use his magic arm to rally the team to victory?  Can Lola convince Joe to forget Meg?  Will Applegate make good on his devious scheme?  Will the Red Sox prevail over those damn Yankees?

Daniel Goldstein directs this theatrical home run, on a diamond perfect set by Adrian W. Jones, with patriotic red, white and blue costumes by David C. Woolard and brisk baseball inspired choreography by Kelli Barclay.  Songs like "Heart," "Shoeless Joe from Hannibal, MO," "Whatever Lola Wants, Lola Gets," "Two Lost Souls" and "A Man Doesn't Know" are show stopping hits.

For tickets ($27 and up), call the Goodspeed Musicals, 6 Main Street, East Haddam (exit 7 off route 9) at 860-873-8668 or online at  Performances are Wednesday at 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m., Thursday at 7:30 p.m. (with select matinees at 2 p.m.), Friday at 8 p.m., Saturday at 3 p.m. and 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m. (select 6:30 p.m.).

Grab your baseball bat and glove and swing at a home run winner as "Damn Yankees" comes up to the Goodspeed Musicals home plate.
Wearing red socks is optional.



Grab a pink flamingo, your webbed lawn chair and a brewski because you're invited to take up temporary residence at Armadillo Acres, the pride of Starke, Florida.  As trailer parks go, this one is a doozy as you'll discover as "The Great American Trailer Park Musical" roars into the Connecticut Cabaret Theatre weekends until Saturday, June 7.

Plan to park your double wide next to the Garsteckis, Norbert, the amiable toll booth collector brought to life by Bobby Schultz and his wife Jeannie, the traumatized Kelly Gallagher who has never recovered from the kidnapping of their baby son.  They are about to celebrate their twentieth wedding anniversary and Jeannie can't step out of her cocoon of a home.  Norbert has tickets for the Ice Capades to lure her over the doorstep, but will it be enough?

Armadillo Acres can also boast a Greek chorus of ladies willing to gossip, swap stories, clean your toilet, defend your honor, teach you 4-letter cussing, whatever it takes to make you feel right at home.  These gals brag that they live "this side of the tracks" and their loyal friendship proves to be the spicy cheese on their nachos.  Louise Dechesser as Betty, Julie Lemos as Lin as in Linoleum and Jessica Rubin as Pickles display their "stand by your man" or "woman" with velcroed to the heart devotion.

Into this happy little campfire comes Pippi, a sensual and sweet marshmallow Kaite Corda, a gal who earns her living removing articles of clothing to music.  Her arrival sets tongues wagging and libidos rising, especially when her half-crazed ex-boyfriend Duke, a high on magic markers Chris Pearson, grabs a gun and sets off to find her.

The musical has a popcorn string of clever songs penned by David Nehls that wrap around the down home and earthy story created by Betsy Kelso.  Kelso grew up in Bethany, CT and now lives in California.  She admits she never lived in a trailer park, although Bethany has a nice one. Director Kris McMurray has a lot of fun putting this great big hearted cast on a merry chase all around the park. A lively band led by Pawel "Pauly Taters" Jura kept the joint jumpin'.

In an interview with Kelso, she confided, "David Nehls and I met on tour in Europe when we were both still performers.  I was already doing some writing with a sketch comedy group, so David approached me about writing the book for a musical set in a trailer park.  At the time, he had a lot of “trunk songs” (songs he’d written for other projects) that he was using as a musical framework for the piece, along with the idea that there would be a “Greek chorus” of trailer park housewives to help tell the story.  Over time, we cut that Greek chorus from six down to three and changed out most of the songs as the story developed and changed.  Even after the show was produced at the New York Musical Theatre Festival in 2004, we still continued to develop and make changes to it in preparation for its Off Broadway opening in 2005.  

I never lived in a trailer park, but I grew up in a town that has one (yes, Bethany, CT, has a trailer park — a nice one!).  I remember in elementary school one of my friends lived there and I thought it was so cool because it was different.  Now I think it’s the sense of instant community that draws me in.  That’s definitely an experience we like the audience to have — being part of a community with all its flaws and gossip and fun for a couple of hours.

When the idea for a Christmas-themed companion piece arose, David and I approached Stages Repertory Theatre in Houston because they’d had so much success with the original (they produced it on two separate occasions with extended runs).  Kenn McLaughlin, the Producing Artistic Director for Stages Rep., said “yes” to the Christmas idea right away and we began developing it.  The response has been great — there are already at least three productions happening this year and a few more in the pipeline, so we’re very excited about that.  And the original cast recording for “The Great American Trailer Park CHRISTMAS Musical” will be released this spring/summer."  Maybe the CT Cabaret will revisit Armadillo Acres around the holidays.

For tickets ($30), call the CT Cabaret Theatre, 31-33 Webster Square Road, Berlin at 860-829-1248 or online at  Performances are Friday and Saturday nights at 8 p.m., with doors opening at 7:15 p.m. Bring snacks to share at your table or buy cake and drinks at the concession stand.

Plan a visit to Armadillo Acres for a colorful change of pace that will perk you up and rev your engines.  Holy Ham-sandmiches!

Thursday, May 8, 2014


Two Whimsical Creations by Susan Tabachnick in her Lost and Found Circus

When Susan Tabachnick of Bridgeport found a flange in 2007, she took the unusual piece home and put it on her windowsill.  Months later she saw a copper toilet float and fit the two pieces together perfectly.  Thus began an avocation or hobby that has been occupying her spare time and has led to her first artistic exhibition:  The Lost and Found Circus A Creative Balancing Act.  Bridgeport's Barnum Museum will be showing off her work through the end of August, from Thursday to Saturday, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Tabachnick sees humor and personality in the pieces she assembles, metal or wood or ceramic, for they become her "toys" and "building blocks" as she fits them into an object of interest.  Rather than soldering them together, she places them in a pleasing arrangement and balances each part until her eye tells her it is finished.  This balancing act can become a problem if she disassembles the parts and then tries to reassemble them, unless she has taken a photograph first.

Attracted by shapes, sizes, materials and color, the pieces speak to her and tell her how they need to be combined.  She "marries" these odd discarded items together and has no idea what most of the stuff is.  For her, it's an "intuitive process" that responds to how she sees each piece.   It's "totally imaginary" and she is often amazed at "how the pieces come and create a dialogue."

Always good with her hands, she got her love for artistic handiwork when she learned to embroider at the age of five.  Using her hands to create something new is both "joyous and fun."  She doesn't think of herself as an artist but rather as someone who enjoys taking things apart and putting those same items back together.

Even though Tabachnick doesn't name her creations, her associate George Carsillo of Design Monsters does.  He designed posters for her 3 ring circus like Mesmerizing Spinning Giant and Amazing Unknown Whirling Creature.

To give herself inspiration, she attends estate sales where she might buy three carloads of objects for $20 or pay $40 or $50 for only one item.  The fun is in the discovering first and the creation second.  The goal is a balanced union and she doesn't alter or fit anything permanently.

To try your own hand at this small sculpture design, attend a workshop "Inventive Play" with Susan Tabachnick on Wednesday, July 16 from 1:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m.  Bring your own "found objects" or use the ones provided.  A donation of $5 per family is suggested, for ages 8 to adult.  Go to

Come see Susan Tabachnick's imaginative circus sculptures and discover clowns and monkeys or whatever you "see."

Wednesday, May 7, 2014


                                         THE AUTHORS OF MOMOIRS

Just in time for Mother's Day, four women from Fairfield County have produced a book of vignettes about mothers and daughters: "MoMoirs."  These memoirs have been penned with  affection and angst by Gayle Gleckler, an advertising maven, Eileen Grace,  a multimedia artist doing everything from crayons to clay, Linda Howard Urbach, a novelist who wrote about Madame Bovary's daughter and now about Sarah Bernhardt's hairdresser and Lisa Maxwell, an eclectic gal who juggles her roles as a jazz singer, teacher, advertising art director and mom.

These multi-talented women have been meeting and writing for several years, encouraging and supportive of each other's literary contributions.  Their stories about motherhood cover a plethora of topics, a tribute to the women who raised them and a shout out to the children they have reared.  The Fairfield Public Library has provided space for these ladies to create.

In "MoMoirs: I'll give You Something to Cry about!," you will discover how Gayle Gleckler learned lessons about bees, bubbles and wearing underwear.  She also found out that loving someone won't keep them from leaving you and that sensible Buster Brown school shoes aren't anywhere near as wonderful as three inch high turquoise snakeskin slingbacks.  Gayle uncovered this shoe fact at six years of age and confirmed it many times over as an adult.  She can also leach you how to make a floral lei as well as how to adjust to life, as an adopted child, with a procession of father figures going through a revolving door.  She'll also demonstrate how gracefully and graciously to become a new mom with Lamaze classes, an epidural and a big bag of LifeSavers.

Eileen Grace will skip through her childhood with a mom who was a postmistress and reveal a series of unhappy, lonely days at a school run by nuns and her accidents and illnesses.   She balances the score with a family who made dish washing a fun singing game that ended with wet washcloth fights.  Her tomboy antics and love of climbing trees gave her single mom many a scare, causing her to cry out "I Can't Look" on numerous occasions.  The youngest of five, Eileen values her grandmother's rocking chair with it welcoming arms as one of her most treasured possessions.  She found writing "MoMoirs" an amazing experience because she is an artist, not a writer.

For Linda Howard Urbach, she uses a wry sense of humor to describe her relationships with her mother Pearl and with her daughter Charlotte. She encouraged the other women in the group to write, write, write and took them along the path from polished to published, all without judgment or criticism.  Her mom who made a career out of sewing clothes for her, clothes of pink velvet and corduroy that Linda wouldn't wear but kept in her closet long after her mother died, fills many stories.  Tales of her own relationship with her teenage daughter pursue her fears of Charlotte smoking, tattoos, tongue piercings, drugs, boys and getting a driver's license and the thankful fact that few of those worries came true. Be sure to ask her how she and Charlotte ended up with matching tattoos.

Go barefoot through lazy summer days in Nantucket with Lisa Maxwell as her signature sign of childhood rebellion.  Ironically, she grew up to become a woman who craves high, high heels in high fashion styles.  She learned how to sew at her mother's knee and tells a poignant story about Mr. Yarn Man, a yarn doll who was tied to her mom's favorite sewing scissors.  Follow as Lisa confesses the pea-pee incident, learning resourcefulness at her dad's insistence and fearing his criticism, how to avoid church services and being confirmed and the best places to find sea glass treasures at the beach with mom.

All these honest, funny and heartbreaking tales are available.  Contact or  Books in black and white are $10 and ones in color are $20.

They describe their stories as "literary apron strings,"  Tie one on and enjoy!

Monday, May 5, 2014


                           DAD HERB AND DAUGHTER LIBBY

When nineteen year old Libby Tucker arrives from her home in Brooklyn, unannounced and uninvited, on her father's Hollywood doorstep, she claims she is there to advance her show business career.  Her desire to be in the movies is the excuse she gives dad, a man she has not seen or heard from in sixteen years.

Only Neil Simon could conjure up this bittersweet comedy "I Ought to be in Pictures," and only the Ivoryton Playhouse could provide it such a promising production until Sunday, May 11.

The father-daughter dynamics fuel this family interaction/confrontation.  Libby is refreshingly candid, spunky and endearing in the hands of Siobhan Fitzgerald.  She wears her heart on the sleeve of her camouflage jacket even as she tries to hide her vulnerability.  Her dad, Herb, is a screenwriter who hasn't made it big YET.  He has three failed marriages to his credit and is struggling to make it on all fronts.

Mike Boland is appropriately shocked by Libby's sudden appearance in his life.  With sheepish humor, he tries to justify his past actions and defend his decisions.  Libby will have none of that nonsense.  He owes her, and owes her in spades, and now is the day of reckoning.  She is the steam roller and he is the freshly paved road.  His good care in nurturing a lemon and an orange tree do not equal his blatant abandonment of his wife, son and daughter more than a decade and a half ago.

Playing referee in the family squabble is Steffy, a sweet and forgiving Jeanie Rapp, who quietly tries to make everything neat and tied up with a bow.  Is Herb able to help his long lost daughter?  Can all three of them discover their heart's desire?  Director R. Bruce Connelly makes us care a great deal about this human triangle and root for the long promised happy ending.

For tickets ($42, seniors $37, students $20, children $15), call the Ivoryton Playhouse, 103 Main Street, Ivoryton at 860-767-7318 or online at  Performances are Wednesday and Thursday at 7:30 p.m., Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m., with matinees Wednesday and Sunday at 2 p.m.

Come meet Libby and cheer her on in her quests to find her dad, to discover why he left, to learn if he loves her and, just maybe, to make it in the movies.


Come open the fairy tale book that features a sweet maiden and the monster who frightens the little village where she lives.
As fairy tales go, “Beauty and the Beast” is one of the enchanted best.  Belle, a luminous Hilary Malberger, is a lovely lass who would enjoy reading her precious books from dawn to dusk, as long as she doesn’t have to fend off the affections of the vain and egotistical Gaston, the tower of vanity Tim Rogan, who imagines himself to be a desirable gift to womankind.

Meanwhile in a castle in the forest, an enchantress, for displeasing her,
has cast a handsome prince into a hideous beast.  Only a love that is pure and true can release him from his spell, and only before the last petal falls from a bewitched rose. Time is running out and he and his household will be cursed for all eternity.  The Beast is cloaked in the persona of Darick Pead.

Enter the fascinating musical and magical world of Disney’s “Beauty and the Beast” waltzing into the Hartford’s Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts for eight performances, May 6-11, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday at 7 p.m., Wednesday at 10:30 a.m. and 7 p.m., Saturday at 10:30 a.m. and 4 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m.

Follow the brave heroine Belle hoping to rescue her father Maurice who, after getting lost in the woods, sought shelter at the castle of the Beast and becomes his prisoner.  The angry Beast, who guards his privacy, locks her father, an inventor, in a dungeon.

Belle discovers the castle and a troop of unlikely helpers in Lumiere the candelabra, Mrs. Potts the teapot, her son Chip the teacup and Cogsworth the clock.  To free her father, Belle offers to stay in the castle with the Beast if he will just let her father go home.  In a wild adventure, Belle and her father escape, Gaston and the villagers attack the castle, the Beast is grievously wounded and Belle learns the meaning of true love.

For tickets ($19 and up), call the Bushnell, 160 Capitol Avenue, Hartford at 860-987-5900 or online at

Discover for yourself how the magic spell is broken, how the enchanted objects become human again and how “happily ever after” is the way all fairy tales are supposed to end.