Wednesday, December 31, 2014


Being labeled a freak of nature or a side show spectacle has to be a devastating judgment by society.  People are too quick to pronounce opinions and accept prejudices, assuming an air of superiority so they can look down their pointed noses in disdain.

Imagine being born Joseph Merrick and being stricken at birth with a debilitating skin disease that distorts and disfigures.  Is anything close to a normal life possible?  Do you spend years trapped in a workhouse or a mental institution?  Do you allow yourself to be put on display in a circus world of oddities?

Meet "The Elephant Man" by Bernard Pomerance currently playing at the Booth Theatre, 222 west 45th Street, New York City until February 15.  Bradley Cooper has crawled into Joseph Merrick's skin, inhabiting all his problems and phobias, absorbing his personality and patterns of speech, capturing his unique walk, adopting his life qualities.  His performance is remarkable as he becomes his character in 1001 vital and distinguished ways.

When the play opens, Merrick has been "rescued" by Dr. Treves (Alessandro Nivola), who oversees his care and treatment, providing him with a semblance of normalcy for the first time in forever.  He introduces him to a lady of refinement and breeding, an actress, Mrs. Kendal (Patricia Clarkson) who treats Merrick as an equal, as a human being of value, as a man.

With a taste of what life could be, Merrick sees what he might have been if not for his disease.  That reality is both a blessing and a curse, a certainty that is ultimately too much for him to accept.  Scott Ellis directs this glimpse in time, this painful and poignant portrait of a man who has little to no control over his destiny.

For tickets ($158 and up), call 212-239-6200 or online at ElephantManBroadwaycom or  Performances are Tuesday at 7 p.m., Wednesday at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m., Thursday at 7 p.m., Friday at 8 p.m., Saturday at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. and Sunday at 3 p.m.

Let Bradley Cooper assume the persona of Joseph Merrick so brilliantly that you personally feel all his trials and triumphs.


"The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time" may be the most wildly different, imaginative, remarkable and disturbingly emotional play you will ever experience.  You don't just see the play, you feel it.  You are a witness and a participant in the engaging action that swirls around a 15 year old teen with autism, Christopher Boone.  The Barrymore Theatre, 243 West 47th Street, New York City has been transformed into a mathematical cube of lights and directions to accommodate Christopher's unusual world.

Alex Sharp's Christopher is capable of amazing mind shattering revelations.  Sharp invites you, the audience, into his vastly different views of reality and lets you hang on to his coattails for a bumpy and unbelievable ride.  Based on a book by Mark Haddon, it has crossed the pond from London in the form of a new play by Simon Stephens.

How disturbing is it to discover a neighbor's dog has died...not just died, but murdered?  What if you are then suspected of committing that heinous act?  Christopher Boone determines that he must clear his own name and learn who the real culprit is.

That decision takes him on a disturbing and frightening journey.  In his autistic world, many things are too difficult for him to comprehend.  Anything new is scary, being touched is an anathema, loud noises are disorienting.  With a resilence that is almost beyond his ken, Christopher sets off on an odyssey worthy of Ulysses, a young detective determined to uncover the truth.  With resources he didn't even realize he possessed, he leaves the safety and ordered life he has always known, to go on a grand and dangerous and mysterious adventure.  Along the way, he encounters teachers, subway and train conductors, policemen and an assortment of strangers who aide or abort his mission.  Marianne Elliot direct this theatrical revelation into the mind.

For tickets ($36.45-403.65), call Telecharge at 212-239-6200 or online at or  Performances are Tuesday at 7 p.m., Wednesday at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m., Thursday at 7 p.m., Friday at 8 p.m., Saturday at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. and Sunday at 3 p.m.

Follow Christopher on his journey of discovery, one that is unexpectedly shocking and totally unanticipated.

Monday, December 29, 2014



You may feel compelled to take an acrobatics class, try balancing on a giant ball, jumping through a high flying hoop or practicing for a knife-throwing act before heading off to the Bushnell Performing Arts Center in Hartford to see the all-new circus-inspired production of "Pippin."  Now four decades after it was originally composed by Stephen Schwartz, with book by Roger O. Hirson, it has been re-imagined by Diane Paulus and transformed into a three ring circus of spectacular pageantry.

From Tuesday, January 6 to Sunday, January 11, the Bushnell will be afire with color and high flying hi-jinxs as it tells the incredible tale of a young, naive sweet and innocent prince Pippin who desperately wants to follow his destiny.  He is ready and willing to leave the home he knows, as the privileged son of King Charlemagne, to seek adventure and a life of meaning.

Kyle Dean Massey is the vulnerable and impressionable lad who wants to soar like an eagle and fly free, hoping to find his "corner of the sky."
Not content with the small life he feels he is trapped in, he seeks change and experiences.  Sasha Allen, with top hat and cane, plays the Leading Player, the temptress/narrator who has the power to control the directions and misdirections that Pippin pursues.

Along the way, Pippin will encounter the advice and counsel, both good and bad, from his father Charles, a role played by John Rubinstein who was the original Pippin in 1972, Sabrina Harper as his step-mother Fastrada, Kristin Reese as Catherine, a woman who has the power to heal and Lucie Arnez as Berthe, his grandmother.  This production began long, long ago as an after-school project by Stephen Schwartz, whie he attended college.  Called "Pippin, Pippin," it was originally an historical melodrama.  These first seeds have taken root and blossomed into the wildly different and fantastic fable it is today.

Noted for sensational songs like "Magic To Do," "Corner of the Sky," "Glory," "No Time At All," "Morning Glow" and "Love Song," it is sure to astonish and amaze.  For tickets ($21-80), call the Bushnell, 166 Capitol Avenue, Hartford at 860-987-5900 or online at Performances are Tuesday, Wednesday and 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 6:30 p.m.

With the Montreal-based circus company Les 7 doigts de la main (7 Fingers), prepare to soar in spirit and spectacle in a colorful creation of music and magic.

Sunday, December 28, 2014


Do you have room on your holiday wish list?  If so, be sure to add the Shubert Theatre's delightful present of "Irving Berlin's White Christmas."  Just in time to usher in the New Year, it will play from Tuesday, December 30 to Sunday, January 4 and what better way to begin 2015. In 1954, “White Christmas” was made into a movie of the same name starring Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye, Rosemary Clooney and Vera-Ellen. Now it is coming to the stage in all its sentimental glory, with book by David Ives and Paul Blake.

Irving Berlin, the immigrant son of a Russian cantor, wrote a significant portion of America’s Songbook.  Capable of composing one song, music and lyrics, every day, he would begin writing at 8 p.m. and frequently continue until 4 or 5 in the morning.  Ironically, Berlin, a Jew, is credited with two of the greatest holiday songs, “Easter Parade” and the world favorite “White Christmas,” as well as with the grand patriotic anthem “God Bless America.”

The stirring musical, “Irving Berlin’s White Christmas” is set when the world was struggling with the repercussions of World War II. It tells the tale of two charming and talented soldiers, James Clow as Bob Wallace and Jeremy Benton as his pal Phil Davis, who enjoy entertaining the troops with a holiday variety show.  This song-and-dance team continues their act after the war and meet up with a singing sister duo, Kristen Beth Williams as Betty Haynes and Kaitlyn Davidson as her sister Judy.  About to part company, the guys heading to Florida to work and the girls going north, a swift change of train tickets finds all four at an inn in Vermont for Christmas.

A lack of snowfall, a need for guests, a little romance, an avalanche of singing and dancing and a reunion with General Waverly, played by Conrad John Schuck, from their army days all combine into a whirlwind of fun. Songs like "Count Your Blessings Instead of Sheep," "Sisters," "Blue Skies" and "White Christmas" are all guaranteed crowd pleasers.

The show is a big movie musical that will make you feel good and smile throughout.  It was originally written when the country was in bad shape and needed to feel better and be entertained, a situation not so different today.

For tickets ($15-110), call the Shubert Theatre, 247 College Street, New Haven at 203-562-5666 or online at Performances are Tuesday at 7:30 p.m., Wednesday, New Year's Eve at 8 p.m., Thursday New Year's Day at 1 p.m. Friday at 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.,  Saturday at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m.

End your 2014 on a high note or start 2015 with a bang by making the Shubert Theatre your stepping off point for a joyous holiday celebration with enough music and dance to fill an inn in Vermont to the brim of entertainment.

Monday, December 22, 2014



Do you dread winter?  The cold, the ice, the snow, the inconvenience?  What if I said there was an oasis in time that is meant to counteract all the blahs of January.  Unbelievable? Impossible? Well, abandon your snow shovels and head to Goodspeed Musicals in East Haddam for a hearty weekend dose of pure sunshine and fun.

From Friday to Sunday, the weekend of January 16-18, the Tenth Annual Goodspeed Festival of New Musicals will be aching to serenade you with stirring selections of brand new works.  Check in at Goodspeed, on the Connecticut River, for one to three days of never been seen or heard before musical works.  Staged readings will take place on all three days and you can bear witness to the "births." A cadre of talented students from the Hartt School of Music and the Boston Conservatory of Music will delight you with their skills and performance.

On Friday, January 16 at 7:30 p.m., "Outlaws" will debut, with book by James Presson and music and lyrics by Alexander Sage Oyen, directed by Noah Himmelstein.  Enter the Old West and travel aways with Jesse James and his brother in crime Frank as they take matters and the law into their own hands.  Are they reckless villains or is there a smidgen of salvation in their souls?  A Friday night cabaret of new tunes by Festival composers will follow at the Gelston House next door at 10 p.m.

Saturday, January 17 features a full day, starting at 10 a.m., of seminars, a musical preview of a Norma Terris show, a musical theatre symposium, a festival dinner at the Gelston House or at La Vita, the new musical and another cabaret at the Gelston House. To date, the seminars include author Jennifer Ashley speaking about her new book "The Untold Stories of Broadway: Volume Two"  and set designer Paul Tate dePoo revealing the secrets to detailing the varied sets of "Guys and Dolls" in his talk "How Do They Do That?"

 The new musical at 7:30 p.m. at Goodspeed will be "The Noteworthy Life of Howard Barnes," with book and lyrics by Christopher Dimond and music by Michael Kooman.  What would happen if you woke up one day and discovered your life was a musical?  Could you handle the songs and satire, the love, lyrics and laughter?  Ask Howard Barnes and he'll tell you what it's like in great detail.

On Sunday, January 18, come early at 11 a.m. to tour the new state-of-the-art Cynthia Kellogg Barrington Costume Center that houses over 250,000 costumes, enough to clothe more than two dozen Broadway shows.  At 1 p.m., view the third musical preview "For Tonight," with book by Whitney Rhodes, Spencer Williams and Shenelle Williams and music and lyrics by Shenelle Williams and Spencer Williams.  A trio of siblings, Thomas, Hayden and Nettie, have their insulated lives in a tiny Welsh village rocked off its foundation when their parents die of a mysterious illness.  This Indie-rock/folk score will follow Hayden as he travels, guitar in hand, to Liverpool to discover the wide worlds he's never known. There he finds a woman Mirela, who speaks to his searching soul.

The Festival will conclude at 3:30 p.m. at the Gelston House with a Meet the Writers Reception, when all the composers will speak to their creative process.  Single tickets to events are $20, students $15, while two packages are available, the Gold for $99 that includes almost all events and the Silver for $65, that includes all three staged readings, the symposium and the new musical preview.  Call 860-873-8668 for tickets or go online to www,  Don't wait as this is sure to sell out.

Forget the winter blues and blahs and let Goodspeed Festival of New Musicals light your way through the storm.

Thursday, December 18, 2014


Ever feel like you could be a great Sherlock Holmes or one of television's master sleuths like on "C.S.I.," "Bones," "The Mentalist" or "Castle"?  Many of us love to dissect clues (not bodies) and evaluate alibis, get inside the head of the killer and discover who-dunnit.  Consiglio's Restaurant on Wooster Street in New Haven, known for fine Italian cuisine for over seventy-five years, is offering a plethora of opportunities to get out your magnifying glass and finger print kits to dust for evidence with a bevy of murder mystery and dinner events.

Just in time for Christmas, our favorite Detective Chester Hadlyme is dapper and chipper and eager to get on the case of "Something Elfy."  How could a mischievous elf cause someone to commit murder or be murdered himself?  Upcoming shows are Tuesday, December 16 at 7 p.m. and Thursday, December 18 at 7 p.m. and come complete with an outrageously delicious 3-course feast Italiano.  Interactive comedy is on the menu as the cast mixes and mingles at your table dropping napkins and clues for your investigative pleasure.

Ring those bells to signal the New Year 2015 and let Consiglio's and its magical master of ceremonies Michael Sayers help you usher out 2014 on New Year's Eve.  Starting promptly at 9 p.m. on Wednesday, December 31, the festivities will end at midnight with a champagne toast.  On the agenda is another mystery murder "That Kills Another Year!"  What happens when a trio of women all make a  date and discover it's all with the same man?  The results might be messy!

Your menu for the evening will feature a choice of five appetizers including spicy Tuscan shrimp, grilled jumbo shrimp over a bed of white beans simmered with tomato, garlic, onion and a hint of cayenne or Stuffed Mushrooms, with sausage, roasted red peppers, spinach, mozzarella cheese, drizzled with a garlic lemon butter sauce.  Out of the ten entrees, you might select New York Strip Steak Gorgonzola, an 8 oz. steak topped with sun-dried tomatoes and artichoke hearts in brandy gorgonzola sauce, served with herbed roasted potatoes or homemade Lobster Ravioli with Shrimp, ravioli stuffed with fresh lobster meat and ricotta, served with jumbo shrimp, tossed in a light plum tomato cream sauce.

For dessert, sink your taste buds into a choice of three:  Godiva Tiramisu, mascarpone, espresso and Godiva liquor soaked lady fingers, or Strawberry Napoleon, layers of fresh strawberries and whipped cream in flaky pastry or Chocolate Mousse Cake, a creamy and chocolatey confection with Oreo cookie crust.  Tickets ($65) include the show and 3-course meal, with beverage, tax and gratuity not included.

Start you January off to an exciting start by making a reservation for "Murder on the Menu" on Friday, January 23, 2015 when our trusty Detective Hadlyme tries to solve another mystery, with your help.  Millionaire Sir David Fairchild is celebrating a birthday but not all the guests on the invitation list want him to enjoy good health in the future.  Doors open at 6 p.m and the show starts at 7 p.m.  The 3-course dinner and show are $55.

For reservations to any of these special evenings, call Consiglio's Restaurant, 165 Wooster Street, New Haven at 203-865-4489 or online at

If you haven't experienced the delicious joys of Consiglio's, seventy-six years of excellence in dining, now is a fine time to sign up for special treats as 2014 ends and 2015 begins.  Mangia!

Wednesday, December 17, 2014


Mark Holleran, Paul Hatrick, Barbara Brown, Beth Bria, Tracey Marble, Peter Randazzo

For more than two decades, the talented husband and wife team of Peter and Karen Randazzo have been entertaining audiences all over the state of Connecticut, even through New England, and Christmas is their favorite time of the year.  This time around is no exception and you can follow their merry trail of tunes in a trio of locations:  Cinzano's in Fairfield, Michael's at the Grove (formerly Capellaro's) in Bethel and Adam's Mill in Manchester.

"Christmas in the Air" will feature an old-fashioned dinner theater atmosphere with luncheon and evening performances, with a delicious four-course meal punctuated by rousing musical comedy sketches centered on the holidays.  Way back in 1987, the shows were held at the Spinning Wheel Inn in Redding, conceived by Robert Butler who desired a Christmas play designed around a medieval feast.

This year's offering features two different casts from Steppin' Out Entertainment, written and directed by Karen Randazzo.  Entitled "Good Day Ludlow's Christmas Special," the show captures the spirit of the day with a sprinkle of sweetness, the embrace of love, the joy of laughter and a hearty helping of family togetherness.  Discover what happens when the cast and crew of a show prepare to go on but their guest host has yet to appear.  All the songs sung in glorious harmony will warm your heart and make the holidays glow.

For tickets (prices and menu vary by locations, $48-69, and include meal, show, tax and tip), call for reservations to 203-261-4868 or online at  Upcoming shows are Friday, December 19 at 7 p.m. at Cinzanos, 1920 Black Rock Turnpike, Fairfield, Saturday, December 20 at 12:30 p.m. and 7 p.m. at Adam's Mill, 165 Adams Street Manchester and 7 p.m. at Cinzano;s, Sunday, December 21 at 12:30 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. at Cinzano's and 12:30 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. at Michael's  at the Grove,(formerly Capellaro's) 42 Vail Road, Bethel.  On Saturday, December 27 there is a snow day if needed at Cinzano's at 7 p.m.  To view the menu, calendar, prices and directions, go to

Let the Randazzos dazzle you with a fine array of Christmas stories and songs while you dine elegantly on a holiday feast.  What could say "Merry Christmas" more delightfully and deliciously!

Monday, December 15, 2014


When divine and devout meet irreverent and inspiring, the sinfully spectacular song fest that results is sure to lift you high enough to visit the angels in heaven.  For almost a decade, five young men have been plying pious pop tunes to the populace, encouraging salvation and the abandonment of sinful ways.  In need of being saved, let Matthew, Mark, Luke, Juan and Abraham (the token Jew) cleanse your soul and polish it up for a perfect shine.

"Altar Boys" has been engaging in seriously light hearted fun using parody and song, laughter and dance, to convince people to reform.  Now Playhouse on Park in West Hartford is opening its gospel revival meeting hall for conversions and baptisms until Sunday, December 21. Come and have the spirit move you with Mark G Merritt as Matthew, Brandon Beaver as Mark, Adam Cassel as Abraham, Greg Laucella as Juan and Nick Bernardi as Luke raise the rafters and fill the joint with joy.

As a spoof of boy bands and Christian-themed music, it focuses on one group band in Ohio who get the chance to spin their spiel for the big Time in New York City.  It's the final concert of their "Raise the Praise" tour and these guys are primed and ready to take the audience straight to the Promised Land.  They even have a Soul Sensor DX-2 right on stage with them to measure all the souls who have been redeemed.

This musical comedy is based on a book by Kevin Del Aguila, with music and lyrics by Gary Adler and Michael Patrick Walker, conceived by Marc Kessler and Ken Davenport. In order to prove it's cool to be Catholic, these guys hear the messages from Jesus on their cell phones, faxes, emails and beepers.  They mean to convince you God is making a comeback and they are filled to the brim with love and forgiveness and the value of family.  Kyle Brand directs and choreographs this foot-stomping tribute to the big guy upstairs, with all its heavenly harmonies set to hold court in your head and heart.

For tickets ($35-45), call Playhouse on Park, 244 Park Road, West Hartford at 860-523-5900, ext. 10 or Performances are Wednesday and Thursday at 7:30 p.m., Friday at 8 p.m., Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m. (with talk back with cast).

Let this male Hallelujah chorus convince you to be a believer. Sunday school is now in session.


A blizzard packed with ice and snow is not the best invitation to the holidays. If you have plans, the storm can be a major inconvenience.  For Earlene Babcock, the inclement weather is throwing a fireplace andiron into her Christmas plans.  It's Christmas Eve and the long awaited night of the 50th Annual St Francis Christmas Variety Show and this year it's scheduled to be broadcast on television.  What can a body do if you're snowed in with nowhere to go without a dog sled of huskies or Santa's sleigh?

For Earlene Babcock, the owner of Earlene's Diner, it's time to change the menu and be an inventive chef.  With a little ingenuity and creativity, this sassy and savvy lady will transform her diner/motel into the site of the Christmas Variety Show.  If you're snowed in with her, you'd better start practicing your tap dance routine or Perry Como imitation for the stage.

Waterbury's Seven Angels Theatre is whipping up one hooting and hollering hootenanny of a holiday show, "Christmas Eve at Earlene's Diner," and you're invited to the festivities.  Until Sunday, December 21, the tinsel will be glittering and the star at the top of the tree will be sparkling.  Michele Gotay will reprise her role as the genial and generous-hearted Earlene whose spirit is big enough to fill the state of Texas and then some.

Just like the post office service, Earlene isn't going to let a little storm of snow stop her.  She'll gather her guests and guarantee the good times will roll. Despite her own private worries about foreclosure, she'll rally the troops.  Will the Rockettes manage to make their way?  Can she get the Talent Contest and the Bakeoff to emerge through the curtains of white stuff?  What surprises are likely to blow in through her welcoming doors?

For tickets ($37.50, children $20), call Seven Angels Theatre, One Plank Road, Waterbury at 203-757-4676 or online at
Performances are Thursday and Friday at 7:30 p.m., Saturday at 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m., and Sunday at 2 p.m.

Now is definitely the time to make your reservations for Stand Up and Count Down to 2015 on New Year's Eve, featuring a quartet of New York comedians, with shows at 6:30 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. The later show features appetizers and a champagne toast at midnight.

Usher in the spirit of the holiday season with Earlene and her gang as she improvises on a grand impromptu Christmas singing celebration.


Where better to imbibe the spirit of Christmas then to belly up to a bar and where better to find fine drinking buddies than in Dublin?  It's time to get reacquainted with the Bell family and their invincible patriarch Paddy as he welcomes the wee little people and the lucky leprechauns to join in for a grand Christmas celebration.  Faith and begorrah, but it's that time of year again when families gather and exchange good wishes and presents, sing a song or three to the season and raise a pint to the baby the day commemorates.

Ivoryton Playhouse is decking its halls with mistletoe and holly once again to welcome back the Bell family with "The Bells of Dublin: Part II:  The Carol of the Bells" until Sunday, December 21. Last year Jacqueline Hubbard, Ivoryton Playhouse's spirited Executive Director, wrote a wonderful family story about Irish folk and superstitions and traditions and this year, she's penned a second installment, stuffed with songs with an international flavor and steins of Christmas cheer.

R. Bruce Connolly is back as Paddy, with a mischievous twinkle in his eye and an inclination to discover trouble whether he's looking for it or not. Never at a loss for a wild scheme to make mountains of money, this time around he has outdone himself in the wild department with a plan to turn the Dublin bar into a restaurant of Mediterranean cuisine, by exchanging Irish stew for Spanish plates of tapas.  What could possible go wrong? He'll be joined by Playhouse favorites Michael McDermott, Ted Philips and Norm Rutty (from Save the Train, a local band), Jenna Berloni, Nancy and David Cardone, Olivia Harry, Larry Lewis, Maggie McClone Jennings, Michael Hotkowski, Holly Price and Celeste Cumming.

This original holiday musical is sure to grab you by your suspenders and spin you off to do an Irish jig, especially if you've had a hot rum toddy or two.  Melanie Guerin, who arranged the music, will have you levitating as the band captures the joy of the season.

For tickets ($32, seniors $30, students $20, children $15), call the Ivoryton Playhouse, 103 Main Street, Ivoryton at 860-767-7318 or online at  Performances are Thursday, Friday and Saturday at 7:30 p.m., with matinees Saturday  and Sunday at 2 p.m.  Lights, thousands of them, are setting Ivoryton village aglow.  Come early to enjoy the sight.

Warm your heart and hands with Paddy and his extended family at Bell's Pub for a glass filled to the brim with holiday happiness.

Sunday, December 14, 2014


                                   Mr. and Mrs. Claus Celebrate the Holiday

All aboard the Santa Claus Express leaving from the Milford Center for the Arts (and a former train station) until Sunday, December 28, a perfect departure point for the whole family.  This original musical production, "Christmas at Santa Claus Station," is a brand new holiday gift from Bert Bernardi for book and lyrics, Justin Rugg for music, Jimmy Johansmeyer for colorful costumes and Von Del Mar for welcoming set.  Pantochino Productions is known for its original works that are guaranteed to delight and entertain.

It's almost Christmas Eve and there's a crisis at Santa Claus Station.  The train to the North Pole isn't working so how is  the jolly red hatted man going to get home in time to load his sleigh and deliver all the children's presents.  The trusty train conductor (George Spelvin) is in a tizzy.  He quickly assembles Santa's Elite Team Mr. Bells (Jimmy Johansmeyer), Miss Bows (Rachael Dugas) and Mr. Baubles (Justin Rugg) in the hopes they know the right magic to solve the problem.

The trio is soon joined by Santa's elegant elves, Sparkle (Olivia Foley), Twinkle (Thea Ryan), Holly (Meg Cardi), Merylee (Hannah Kupson) and Twice (Tyler Panck), who come up with some clever ideas to save the day.  Trying to help are the holiday twins Marianne Bright (Kylie Poggio) and Judith Lights (Cassie Gerace) and their talented friends Miss Flake (Ashley Ryan Lord) and Mr. Trimatree (Jeremy Tortora).

To add a giant measure of urgency to the cause, Mrs. Claus (Shelley Marsh Poggio) is soon joined by the big man of the moment himself (George McTyre) who need to get home immediately. Before you can say "Merry Christmas" three times quickly, a pair of strangers arrive at the holiday train station, a super chatty Stella Amblecantor (Dani Corrigan) and her anxious protective mom (Dale Allen) who may just have the solution to the pressing problem.

Come watch how Bert Bernardi directs this charming Christmas tale with clever characters and happy tunes.  For tickets ($20 at the door, or online $18 at, the shows will be held at Milford Center for the Arts, 40 Railroad Avenue, Milford.   Performances are Friday, December 19 at 7:30p.m., Saturday, December 20 at 2 p.m. and Sundays, December 21 and 28 at 2 p.m.

Let the Christmas spirit choo-choo-choo and chug-chug-chug along to create happiness and joy for the whole family.

Monday, December 8, 2014


In the twentieth century, luminaries in the world of art could easily conjure up Pablo Picasso and in the sphere of science one could quickly mark Albert Einstein at the top of his field.  Comedian and playwright Steve Martin, who penned an adaptation of "The Underpants" to hilarious response last season is bringing his wisdom and wit back to the stage of Long Wharf Theatre in New Haven until Sunday, December 21.  This time around he has abandoned the pursuit of frilly undergarments and focused his attention on much more heady topics.

In "Picasso at the Lapin Agile," Martin has moved the action from Germany to France, from a parade for the king to a bar in Paris (although you might see a King of a different crown), from a married lady's lament to a battle of the minds.  What might happen, Martin muses, if the artist Pablo Picasso walked into a bar and bumped into Albert Einstein?  The two legends are both callow youth, not yet famous, but with the seeds of brilliance starting to germinate.

Picasso, a confident and self-assured man of many passions portrayed with hot and cool colors by Grayson DeJesus, encounters a calculatingly studious genius by the name of Albert Einstein.  Einstein, a mathematical mastermind in the hands of Robby Tann, has arrived at the Lapin Agile to meet a lady friend.  For a man known for his precision and preciseness, he is cavalierly whimsical about this amorous assignation. As he awaits his countess (Dina Shihabi), his path crosses with the arrogant artist.  It is 1904 and the pair are both on the verge of greatness.

As they spar with words and with pencils, trying to prove superiority, they encounter an art dealer Sagot (Ronald Guttman), an unusual construction tycoon Schmendiman (Jonathan Spivey), an admirer of women despite his prostate problem Gaston (David Margulies) and a stranger with most colorful shoes (Jake Silbermann).  The bar's proprietor Freddy (Tom Rhs Farrell) and his lady friend/waitress Germaine (Penny Balfour) preside over the fireworks, making sure the sparks don't ignite to a conflagration.

With sparkling wit and clever conversation, the patrons who people the scene create a lively give and take, under the artistic direction of Gordon Edelstein.  Michael Yeargan has created a welcoming saloon to house the activities.  For tickets ($25-75), 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. and8 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m.

Take a seat at a little table in the corner, sip a glass of merlot, eavesdrop on the famous and yet-to-be famous patrons and learn about the bonne life of gay Paree.


                                                PHOTOS BY JOAN MARCUS

Family secrets can explode like an erupting volcano and the hot lava of disclosure can burn its victims.  Such is the premise of a world premiere drama "War" by Branden Jacobs-Jenkins sending out sparks until Saturday, December 13 at the Yale Repertory Theatre in New Haven.

Initially commissioned by Yale Rep's Binger Center for New Theatre, the playwright traveled to Germany to research his basic premise:  what happens when an African-American soldier stationed in that country during World War II fathers a child, abandons it and returns home, never disclosing that event to his family.  Imagine for a moment how you might react if you learned about this child you never knew existed decades after the fact, a situation created by your grandfather's actions.

 Siblings Tate (Donte Bonner) and Joanne (Rachel Holmes) are in the midst of a crisis.  Their mother Roberta (Tonya Pinkins) has suffered a stroke and they have rushed to her hospital room. Once there they discover a strange woman Elfriede (Trezana Beverley) at her bedside, a woman who claims in her broken English to be Roberta's sister.

When Elfriede's son Tobias (Philippe Bowgen) bursts into the room, the chaos continues in an escalation of anger, misunderstanding and disbelief.  Joanne's Caucasian husband Malcolm (Greg Keller) tries to disarm the verbal bombs that keep exploding but he is no more successful than the nurse (Tyrone Mitchell Henderson) also in attendance.

The family matriarch Roberta appears as a confused woman trying to find her way, a stroke victim who doesn't understand what has happened to her mind and body. She creates the touching and troubling tremors of a woman in the grips of a nightmare of illness.  A simbian-like character Alpha (also played by Tyrone Mitchell Henderson) tries to translate and clarify her confusion.  Like monkeys in a zoo, he attempts to make sense of what the two families, who have just met, are experiencing. We watch the monkeys perform and they, in turn, mimic our actions.

The deeds of their grandfather have come back in a haunting reality.  Tobias is brutally unhappy about how he and his mother have been treated, especially because of a genetic disease that plagues them both, a gift from that soldier in the war.  Can these combatants resolve their conflict?  Can war be transformed into a blessed peace?  Director Lileana Blain-Cruz takes the roller coaster ride to an answer through a series of twists and turns you might not anticipate.

For tickets ($20-98), call the Yale Rep, 1120 Chapel Street, New Haven at 203-432-1234 or online at or  Performances are Tuesday at 8 p.m., Wednesday at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m., Thursday at 8 p.m, Friday at 8 p.m. and Saturday at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m.

Prepare for battle in this confrontational drama where the opponents strike out in anger, trying to discover what is at stake to both sides of the conflict.


If Christmas has an enemy, someone who hates everything from mistletoe to merriment, gifts to glee, charitable causes to cheer, the mean-spirited personage of one Ebenezer Scrooge would be the poster child.  Some might nominate the lean and green Grinch but, in a contest, Scrooge would win mittens down.

How a trio of ghosts could appear and disappear, soar and fly, dance and cavort, and cause this most cantankerous of cusses to reevaluate his actions is at the heart of Charles Dickens' classic holiday tale of hauntings: "A Christmas Carol."  Once again Hartford Stage is bringing back the incomparable Bill Raymond to inhabit the character of one E. Scrooge and bring him miserly and merrily to life.  Until Sunday, December 28, the whole family is invited to root for the "Bah Humbug" King to change his spots and reform. Will it happen?  Come and find out for yourself.

In Victorian London, it's Christmas Eve and for Mr. Scrooge it's business as usual.  He even begrudges his faithful employee Bob Cratchit (Robert Hannon Davis) a day off, with pay no less.  If Scrooge had his way, the holiday would not be celebrated for as much as a minute.  Counting his money is all that matters to this skinflint of a man who has no room in his heart for charitable thoughts, orphans or widows.  If he could dictate it, they would all go live in the poor house.

Imagine his surprise when his long dead partner in business, Jacob Marley (Noble Shropshire) comes to visit him on that very night with a dire warning:  mend your ways or you will suffer my fate of grief and chains and regret.  While Scrooge laughs off his cautions, he soon finds himself haunted by three ghosts.  The Spirit of Christmas Past (Johanna Morrison), the Spirit of Christmas Present (Alan Rust) and the Spirit of Christmas Future (Death) warn Scrooge to change his ways, to reform, so he doesn't suffer the same destiny as Marley.

How Scrooge responds is at the tender heart of the story, when he has the chance to change, to value his sister's son Fred (Curtis Billings), to treat his tenants (Johanna Morrison, Alan Rust and Michael Preston) with kindness, to help his clerk Bob Cratchit's son Tiny Tim (Alexander Dante Butler or Silvan Friedman) with healing benevolence and to value his faithful housekeeper Mrs Dilber (Noble Shropshire).

Director Maxwell Williams keeps the story as fresh and delightfully delicious as a fattened turkey stuffed with goodness.  This year, the seventeenth anniversary of the production originally adapted and directed by Michael Wilson, there are more surprises and special effects than ever before.

Call for tickets ($25-85, students $25-65), call the Hartford Stage, 50 Church Street, Hartford at 860-527-5151 or online at  Performances are Tuesday to Friday at 7:30 p.m., Saturday 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. and Sunday 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m., with selected matinees at 2 p.m. on Tuesday and Wednesday.  At the student matinees, Scrooge will be played by Buzz Roddy.

The crack of thunder and flash of lightning, the clang of creaking chains, the fog and mist in the night, all conjure up the hauntings that usher in this most excellent tale of a man who learns the errors of his ways before it is too late.

Saturday, December 6, 2014


However you prepare for the holidays, whether it's making a wreath of chestnuts and berries, wrapping the lampposts with red and green ribbon, spiking the eggnog with a dollop of rum, cutting down your own Christmas tree with an axe on a tree farm, the celebration won't be complete without a visit from the boys.

What boys you might ask? Those jolly guys who make up the Connecticut Gay Men’s Chorus!   Whether dressed in tuxedos, tutus, red sequined gowns or elf costumes, the CGMC is always ready to party.  This season is no exception.
Thanks to artistic director Greg McMahan, the theme this year is “Naughty or Nice” and you can bet your angel’s wings that the gentlemen in question will be both.  Of course, the show will feature a selection of Christmas carols in the traditional tone, but also a sprinkling of songs they feel should be Christmas fare but aren't.  And there’s also room for a hint of spice with parodies galore. 

“Reminiscent of a Carol Burnett Show,” according to McMahan, there will be skits and sketches sure to put you in stitches, stitches of laughter that is. Irreverent humor is a hallmark of the CGMC and everything and everyone are fair  game, even Santa himself. As McMahan can attest, "We're really nice guys but we can be naughty."

Lots of material for the musical tree will come from Broadway and nothing is sacred or too holy to be a subject of a little poking for fun.  These guys are festivity itself and a required essential for any holiday celebration. This time around look for Joe Evangelista, traditionally Joan Crawford, appearing as a harried housewife. There is sure to be something for everyone, cool songs heard in a different way.

For tickets ($25-30), call 1-800-644-2462 or online at  Performances are Saturday, December 13 at 8 p.m. and Sunday, December 14 at 4 p.m. at the Co-Op High School, 177 College Street, New Haven.

Grab some jingle bells, a stocking cap and a hearty sense of humor for our favorite Christmas elves, the CGMC, are ready to sing up a storm of joy.

Thursday, December 4, 2014


Imagine a classic Christmas tale with a slightly modern twist in presentation.  Music Theatre of Connecticut has just the right mistletoe decorated present ready for opening and you're invited to do the honors.  MTC has taken Charles Dickens" famous story of that irascible curmudgeon Ebenezer Scrooge and the heart-tugging Tiny Tim and created a radio show to bring this beautiful story of redemption and second chances to life.

For two performances only, Saturday, December 13 at 8 p.m. and Sunday, December 14 at 2 p.m., with a post-show reception with spirits and good cheer with cast and staff, you're welcome to join the party.  Joe Landry, who has already created "It's a Wonderful Life" as a successful radio show, is adding "A Christmas Carol: A Live Radio Play" to his colorful and creative repertoire.

The idea occurred to Artistic Director Kevin Connors last summer that MTC wanted to do a holiday show again this December but not "It's a Wonderful Life." A nearby theater was already booked to do its presentation and Connors wanted a new venture.  The first time around Joe Landry was inspired by Woody Allen's film "Radio Days" and the concept of nostalgia.  He knew "A Christmas Carol" had been a successful radio show in the past but he wanted to give it a new spin. Landry began by using the full text and making it into a stage play, "chipping away," reforming it and breaking down the scenes.  He even watched the film version to discover what other writers and directors had done with it.

One of the most fun aspects was finding the perfect commercials to use, remember this is a radio show set in the 1940's, and settled on one featuring a Fruitcake Club of the Month and a second showcasing a department store, after researching authentic Fairfield County ads from the era. Landry hopes these two radio shows will be done in repertory to provide the ultimate holiday experience. This year alone, one hundred productions of "It's a Wonderful Life" will be performed across the country.

This world premiere benefit reading will feature music by Kevin Connors, with traditional holiday themes, Christmas carol tunes and jingles for the commercials, and take place on a fictional Christmas Eve in the 1940's.  Five actors -John Flaherty, Cynthia Hannah, Chilton Ryan, Jim Schilling and Nadine Willig - with a galaxy of sound effects, like creaking chains for ghosts, mysterious moanings from the other world, doors slamming and carriages arriving, create the intriguing atmosphere of this holiday classic.

From Scrooge's first "bah humbug" to Tiny Tim's heartfelt "God bless us everyone," you will be caught up in this perfect  production for the whole family to enjoy.  Where else can you find a trio of ghosts paying visits after midnight to a cranky cuss who claims Christmas is a cause for complaints and chaos.  Scrooge is set to learn a powerful lesson about life and love.  His heart, hardened like steel, is softened and sweetened in the process.

Come see MTC's new digs in Norwalk, about a mile from their old Westport home, at 509 Westport Avenue, Norwalk, behind Jones New York and Nine West Outlet. Look for the new orange awning. For tickets ($30-40, $5 off students and seniors if available), call MTC at 203-454-3883 or online at  Proceeds will benefit MTC and its programming.

Let playwright Joe Landry and composer Kevin Connors put you in the Christmas spirit by producing spirits of a ghostly nature, all designed to entertain and, for Scrooge, to haunt first and to enlighten second.

Monday, December 1, 2014


The forces of good versus evil have long battled for supremacy.  Nowhere has that struggle been more vibrant and vivid, agonizing and desperate, than in Frank Wildhorn and Leslie Bricusse's stirring musical "Jekyll and Hyde."  This classical tale of a monster captured in the guise of a passionate physician will play for three gripping performances Saturday and Sunday, December 6 and 7 at the Palace Theater in Waterbury.

Imagine yourself in the dark and foggy streets of Victorian London, scurrying home with your packages, eager to reach the safety of your domicile.  You know you should have finished your business earlier, in daylight, but the velvet blackness of the night fell too suddenly.  Your heart beats faster as you hear the rhythm of footsteps behind you on the cobblestones, reinforcing your fears that a madman is on the loose.  Will you be his next victim?

The original tale was penned by Robert Louis Stevenson, the grisly yet glamorous story of a romantic doctor and his black-hearted alter ego, two very different men trapped in one body.  Two women are caught in his machinations, trusting their souls to what could be a terrifying fate, both in love with the same man, who not knowing his terrifying secret.

Memorable music like "This Is the Moment," "Someone Like You" and "A New Life" punctuate the drama with force and fervor.  The longest running show in the history of the Plymouth Theater, "Jekyll and Hyde" has been viewed from Austria to Australia, Sweden to Spain.  Now Waterbury audiences can be trapped in its powerful and wicked claws, on Saturday, December 6 at 8 p.m. and Sunday, December 7 at 1 p.m. and 6:30 p.m.  For tickets ($45-65), call the Palace Theater, 100 East Main Street, Waterbury at 203-346-2000 or online at

Before the Sunday, December 7, 6:30 p.m. performance, Riverhouse Catering will prepare at 4:30 p.m. a pre-fixe four-course dinner in the Palace's Poli Club, on the mezzanine level.  The $62.50 price includes tax, service fees, coffee and tea, with a cash bar available.  Make reservations in advance when you purchase your tickets.

Be mesmerized as this monumental musical of a madman and a medical man makes its mark so magically.


Do you like to spell?  Is the dictionary one of your best friends?  Is Scrabble your game of choice?  If you answered yes to at least two of the three questions, then Connecticut Cabaret Theatre of Berlin has the perfect holiday gift for you and your family in the engaging and fun musical "The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee."  Weekends until January 17, 2015, a collection of slightly bizarre contestants will be representing their schools hoping to win a $200 Savings Bond and a trophy that is almost bigger than they are.

"Spelling Bee" started out life as an improvisational play, penned by Rebecca Feldman, but she was encouraged by the late great playwright Wendy Wasserstein to craft it into a musical .  The delightful result is thanks to a book by Rachel Sheinkin and the words and music of William Finn.

As adolescents go, this group of six is unique and special.  Sitting on stage ready to challenge their brain power is Logainne (Carleigh Schultz) who wants to please her two dads and proudly represent her school's Gay and Lesbian Alliance. Leaf Coneybear (Rick Bennett) boasts his own homemade fashion line of clothing and is determined to overcome his siblings' lack of faith in his abilities. With a chest full of Boy Scout medals, Chip Tolentino (Chris Pearson) has a major problem with a rising situation, one that rhymes with imperfection and rejection.

Imagine what a great speller you could be if you had a magic foot?  Just ask William Barfee (Bobby Schultz) who uses that important appendage to figure out the letters before he confidently proclaims them.  There is no lack of self-assurance in Marcy Parks (Grace Rizzuto) who was blessed with enough faith in her own abilities to support a third world country.  As for Olive (Jess Rubin), she practically takes her dictionary to bed with her in place of a comfy teddy bear.

Speaking of comfort, Mitch Mahoney (Jon Escobar) is on hand to give encouragement, consolation and hugs, as well as a juice box, when the dreaded bell rings to signal a word is misspelled.  Serving out his community service, while on parole, Mitch is generous with his words of regret.  Rounding out the contest are Rona Perretti (Kaite Corda) who helps with the bee's organization, a job she is well suited for since she won the 3rd Bee years before and the competition's word giver, the vice principal Mr. Panch (Doug Lebelle) who has a dubious past and delights in pressing the "for whom the bell tolls" eliminator.  Kris McMurray joyfully puts this talented and skillful cast through its well enunciated paces.

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 at 8 p.m., with doors opening at 7:15 p.m.  Remember to bring goodies to share at your table or buy cake and drinks on site at the delicious dessert bar.

If you're really lucky, you can get one of the four coveted places - on stage- and show off your own spelling skills.  Spell F-A-N-A-S-T-I-C Fun!