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.

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