Monday, December 28, 2015

THE KATE WELCOMES 2016 WITH LAUGHTER AND SONG



 RITA WILSON APPEARING AT THE KATE ON JANUARY 6
Old Saybrook’s Katharine Hepburn Cultural Arts Center is rolling out the red carpet to welcome the New Year with an abundance of good resolutions.  Get your funny bones ready as the Boston Comedy Festival sails in on Saturday, January 2 at 8 p.m. with a sleigh full of jokes to make your winter merry and bright for $25 a pop.

Just minutes later, on Wednesday, January 6,at 7:30 p.m. the  amazing song stylings of Rita Wilson will grace The Kate’s stage in a warm and wonderful cabaret evening that is guaranteed to chase the winter blues away. Already an actress and film producer of considerable note, Wilson has recently added song writer and singer to her impressive resume.  Tickets are $49-59.

The combined genius of Jeffrey Gaines and Freedy Johnston will bring their pop star wattage to The Kate on Friday, January 8 at 8 p.m.with a show that multiplies their timeless talents in a seamless presentation of song craft that will leave you breathless and begging for more.Tickets are $22-25. Hold on to your hats for NYCE!, a home grown jazz and rock band led by Nic Lefebvre and his Louisiana partner Danielle Ryce at the microphone.  New Orleans is invading Old Saybrook on Saturday, January 9 at 8 p.m. and you need to be there to experience the musical joy.Tickets are $22-25.

For some mystery with a spot of fun, look no further than the Saybrook Stage Company’s exciting production of that classic thriller “Deathtrap.” When a successful playwright has a bout of writer’s block, he decides to permanently borrow the brilliant work of a young protege and the result just may be murder .From Thursday, January 14 to Saturday, January 16 at 8 p.m. and Sunday, January 17 at 3 p.m., the dastardly deed is daring to be done.  Tickets are $15-20.

For two afternoons at 12:55 p.m., on Saturday, January 16 and Tuesday, January 19, The Kate will wave a banner of operatic delights when Bizet’s offering of lust, love and longing springs to full blown triumph direct from the Metropolitan.  The Far East will explode in splendor as soprano Diana Damrau portrays a beautiful Hindu priestess who creates an underwater world of rival pearl divers, suitors, all vying for her hand in marriage.Tickets are $28 and 25.

The pace changes dramatically on Thursday, January 21 at 7:30 p.m. when a tribute to the Rolling Stones, “Satisfaction,” moves in with its power and perfection.The band promises to shine with authenticity in its homage to one of Rock and Roll’s greatest.  Tickets are $37.  Move over, men, for a special ladies night to benefit the Old Saybrook Safe Grad Night on Friday, January 22 at 7 P.M. Have a massage, buy a piece of jewelry, try on a lovely new outfit, all while sipping a glass of wine and nibbling on a savory treat.  Tickets are $40.

Classic country rock moves center stage on Saturday, January 23 at 8 p.m. when the pioneering sounds of Pure Prairie League ignite the tumbling tumble weed with their skillful and soothing sounds. Tickets are $55 and 58.  Tie on your toe shoes to enjoy the comedy of the Bard as the Bolshoi Ballet treats audiences to that classic tale of the bad tempered Katharina who is standing in the way of her younger sister Bianca marrying.  Katharina needs to learn a lesson in “Taming of the Shrew” before anyone gets to throw orange blossoms.  Come Sunday, January 24 at 12:55 p.m. for this viewing.  Tickets are $15.

London’s National Theatre Live will enter The Kate triumphantly on Thursday, January 28 at 7 p.m. with a startling new production of Les Liaisons Dangereuses in a live broadcast.  Aristocrats will battle for love as well as seductive revenge as reputations are crushed along with hearts in pre-revolutionary France.  Tickets are $20.

An evening dedicated to blues, soul and roots music will be celebrated with Chris Bergson, a recent inductee into the New York Blues Hall of Fame, who brings his unique song sensations on Friday, January 29 at 8 p.m. to The Kate. Tickets are $25 and 35.  Completing this month of extraordinary offerings is another production from the Met, this time “Turandot.” On Saturday, January 30 at 12:55 p.m., Christine Goerke, Lise Lindstrom and Nina Stemme, alternating the title role, will shine as the proud princess of ancient China who uses riddles to defeat the many suitors who are vying for her hand.  Tickets are $28.  

Call The Kate, 300 Main Street, Old Saybrook at 877-503-1286 or online at www.thekate.org. for tickets and more information.

Let January be toasty and terrific as The Kate offers a cornucopia of special treats for your enjoyment. 

Monday, December 21, 2015

JOHN DIETRICH IS GOING TO THE FESTIVAL



                                    JOHN DIETRICH AND WILL BUCK

John Dietrich is a born storyteller, whether he tells his tales in word pictures, dance steps or musical lyrics and notes.  Over the years, he has enjoyed relationships with such prestigious entities as Walt Disney for ice shows like "The Little Mermaid," directing and choreographing national tours of shows like "Singin' In the Rain," and "Beauty and the Beast," helping create projects for such stars as Dolly Parton and Dollywood, leading the giant balloons as part of NBC Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade and highstepping it with the Rockettes at Christmas time at Radio City Music Hall, to name drop just a few.

Dietrich was always a performer, growing up in a family that encouraged theatrical events. He remembers his dad, a music teacher and church choir director, telling him one day while he was in fifth grade to "grab your clarinet"and audition for "The Music Man.”  Thus began his career in theater;  although he was sidetracked in college as a journalism major, he soon recognized the error of his ways.

Experiencing a great story is always central to his mission.  If challenged to direct an ice show, for example, "I knew that if I figured just how to tell the story, I could then figure out the medium.” Soon he was directing 220 performers on five stages, with kites and boats.  "I surround myself with people who know how to help."  Clearly he thrives on a challenge, "knowing each one has the value to shape me."

Evidently, John Dietrich is a man who has no regrets, just like the heroine of his latest musical theater project "Only Anne" set to open as one of a trio of new musicals coming to Goodspeed's upcoming Festival of New Musicals the weekend of January 15-17, 2016.  The idea for "Once Anne" was born while Dietrich and his writing partner Will Buck were penning their thesis musical two years ago at the New York University Graduate School.  Will was 25 and John 50 and they discovered, by accident, that both men admired and loved Jane Austen's writings and wanted to take her Victorian Era novel "Persuasion" and her heroine Anne Elliot and transform it.

The men felt Austen portrayed women who were progressive and had different personalities.  They wanted to take the tale out of the Napoleonic Wars and move that aristocratic society forward one hundred years to post-World War I into the Jazz Age.  Maintaining that Anne "lived in a land of strolls and sighs," they wanted to introduce automobiles and telephones and a speed of time after the horrors of war.

To Dietrich and Buck, "this is complex writing, with a universal theme of romance, a human story of miscommunications and misconceptions."  A clash between the upper classes and the nouveau riche as well as the impoverished strata, the story concerns Anne who falls in love with a poor Naval officer Frederick Wentworth and is persuaded by family and friends to break their engagement and end their relationship.  Wentworth has few prospects and is beneath her in social status.

Ironically when the play opens, set in 1920's England, seven years have passed and Anne's vain and extravagent father, with the help of her older sister Elizabeth, have landed the family on hard times.  They will be forced to rent their estate Kellynch Hall and move into more modest accommodations in Bath.

When Anne and Frederick cross paths again, he is now a prestigious and respected Admiral in the Royal Navy and her circumstances have suffered.  Both are involved with new suitors. Can the past be revisited? Is reconciliation possible? Will the changing world help or hinder their chances?

Dietrich's goal, no matter what venue or genre, is to "tell a great story and tell it incredibly well." "Only Anne" has enjoyed staged readings as well as a presentation at the 2015 Rhinebeck Writers Retreat where Donna Lynn Hilton from Goodspeed discovered it.  Dietrich is looking forward to his two week retreat in East Haddam "to dig in again and change a word, a scene, a lyric.  I will get to hear it again, and listen to actors all day.  That's a wonderful gift."

To Dietrich, the workshop process is a "luxury providing valuable insights and new directions."  He and Buck often work by phone or email, and more rarely sitting in a space together.  "We don't need to spend hours in a room together.  I need to be alone and don't enjoy having someone waiting for inspiration to strike."  Their motto is "whoever has the idea first or theme first goes first."

For tickets ($25, students $15),  call Goodspeed Musicals on the Connecticut River in East Haddam at 860-873-8664 for information on the Festival activities or online at www.goodspeed.com.  "Only Anne" will be performed on Sunday, January 17 at 1 p.m.

As an audience member, Dietrich wants you to discover that "love conquers all and survives all if it is true love.  Life's so short. Be true to yourself and don't have regrets."  Dietrich also hopes the audience will appreciate the fascinating moments when a character has to sing or dance, a musical moment that deepens the story lines.  He knows he will be thrilled to hear his words come to life and he promises, like Anne, to have no regrets.

RING IN THE NEW YEAR AT CONSIGLIO’S



CHESTER AND THE GANG AT CONSIGLIO'S  PHOTO BY PAUL LOMBARDO

At the top of your list for great ways to end the year 2015 and start 2016 with a delicious bang should be a New Year’s Eve celebration at New Haven’s old world Italian flavored family restaurant Consiglio’s.  Located on one of the city’s most charming areas, in the heart of Wooster Street, Consiglio’s is famous for its warmth and welcomeness and this holiday is no exception.

Waiting at the door to greet you will undoubtedly be that astute and master of mystery solutions, Detective Chester Hadlyme.  Michael Sayers assumes the persona of Hadlyme whenever possible, having penned scores of comic situations just waiting to be solved…with your help and participation if you please.

It’s not enough for you to sit back and enjoy a delicious meal - for that’s only half the fun.  You need to jump in, enthusiastically into the fray, and use your noggin and noodle to solve the crime.  And you can be sure someone will be the victim and conveniently die.

Quite recently diners had to solve the conflict between Santa Claus and the Elves, a mutiny in the making, with Detective Hadlyme as the captain of the sinking North Pole ship.  An interactive talented cast, who are quick on their feet and excel at improvisation, mingle among the guests dropping clues like so many candy canes in a snow drift.  It’s your job to dust off those hints and solve the murder.

On Thursday, December 31 at 9 p.m., doors will open for a scrumptious dinner.  Choices of appetizers like fried calamari tossed with an array of Italian herbs, served with a spicy marinara sauce or savory antipasto, are among the five on the menu.  For entrees you can enjoy homemade lobster ravioli with jumbo shrimp, tossed in a light plum tomato sauce or filet mignon gorgonzola, a half pound filet with sun-dried tomatoes and artichoke hearts in a brandy wine sauce, with a side of garlic mashed potatoes, among the ten offerings.  Desserts include a choice of chocolate mousse cake with Oreo cookie crust or Godiva Tiramisu with espresso and mascarpone surrounded by Godiva Liquor soaked lady fingers. Yummy!

With the intriguing title “That Kills This Year Too” trouble makers will be let loose to create chaos and mayhem and, ultimately, a crime. Three unsuspecting women are all set for a great date for New Year’s Eve only to discover it is with the same man. The cast will come table to table, circulating with genuine clues and “red herrings” to confuse you. 

The merriment continues until the bewitching hour with games, contests, songs and a midnight toast to 2016.  For $65, (beverages, tax and gratuity not included), you can help create the fun.  Call 203-865-4489 for reservations.  Additional mystery shows are already scheduled for Friday, January 22 at 7 p.m., with “Broken Resolutions” and Friday, February 19 at 7 p.m. with “I Know What You Saw!"

Make the New Year especially merry and good enough to eat by letting Consiglio’s Restaurant and Detective Chester Hadlyme be your gracious hosts.

Monday, December 14, 2015

GOODSPEED FESTIVAL OF NEW MUSICALS LIGHTS UP JANUARY


THE 10TH ANNUAL GOODSPEED FESTIVAL OF NEW MUSICALS   PHOTO BY DIANE SOBOLEWSKI

If you ski, skate, sled or snowboard, then you watch for the skies to bring ice crystals of fun.  For most of us, however, winter spells inconvenience,  cold,  slippery sidewalks and perilous road conditions.  One way to guarantee that the heart of the season, in January, spells warmth and enjoyment is to book tickets for Goodspeed's Festival of New Musicals, number 11, in a long lineup of entertainment joys.

Mark your calendars now for the weekend of January 15-17 when three brand new musicals will light up the East Haddam skies.  Be at the cutting edge of the excitement as Goodspeed unveils these latest offerings in staged reading presentations. Students form the Hartt School of Music in Hartford and the Boston Conservatory of Music will do the honors at the trio of new musicals and the pair of Cabarets.

Ryan Scott Oliver offers up "We Foxes" on Friday, January 15 at 7:30 p.m. with a Southern Gothic tale of a tough and feisty orphan girl Willa who is taken in by the sheriff's wife and what happens when she discovers secrets literally hidden beneath the floorboards.  Following this new story of redemption, a Cabaret will be held at the Gelston House next door at 10 p.m. featuring new musical selections never shared before by new and established artists.

Hold on to your argyle socks for Saturday, the 16th, is a fully stuffed day of theatrical surprises, starting at 10 a.m. with workshops featuring the likes of playwright Alfred Uhry who has garnered two Tony Awards, a Pulitzer Prize and an Academy Award; The Razzle Dazzle World of Broadway commentator Michael Riedel; the writing team of Michael Weiner and Alan Zachary dishing on how you can write musical theater (like their "First Date") and make a living; Press Agent to the stars Rick Miramontez explaining his role in a new musical's life; Goodspeed's own orchestrator Dan DeLange telling the secret to making a minimum of instruments sound mighty; and, John Pike sharing his knowledge of dance history as a noted theater historian.

In the afternoon, a preview of a new musical coming soon will be revealed, followed by a free 4 p.m. challenge of what its like pitching ideas for a new musical to secure funding, with Colin McEnroe as moderator.  At 7:30 p.m, "Milo at the Movies," with book by Tom Diggs and music and lyrics by Mark Gaylord will be presented as two brothers, Milo and Dexter, cope with the discouraging fact that silent movies may have crushed their vaudeville career.  Will an unexpected and lucrative gig save their bacon or will they ultimately be fried for breakfast?  A second Cabaret of new musical material will follow at 10 p.m. at the Gelston House.

On Sunday at 1 p.m., an updated version of Jane Austen's classic novel "Persuasion" will hit the moors in "Only Anne," with book and lyrics by John Dietrich and music by Will Buck.  Set in the Jazz Age of 1920's Britain, Anne once again meets the man she was forced to abandon.  Once penniless, Admiral Frederick Wentworth is now ready for reconciliation, or is he?  The exciting weekend culminates at 3:30 p.m. at the Gelston House with a Meet the Writers Reception, when the three teams of composers reveal their insights about the creative process.

The Gold Packages are $119 and are virtually sold out and included all the activities, plus a Saturday night dinner at either the Gelston House or La Vita.  Silver packages for $80 include the three musicals, the symposium and new musical preview and are still available.  Single tickets are a great option at $25 each show or $15 for students.  RisCassi and Davis PC are the lead sponsors.  Call 860-873-8668 or online at www.goodspeed.org for more information.

Reserve your rights to brag at the water cooler come Monday morning after skating through the wonderful theatrical offerings on the weekend of January 15-17 at Goodspeed Musicals. See you in the front row.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

PANTOCHINO OFFERS UP SINGING CHRISTMAS COOKIES




CHRISTMAS COOKIES: MARY MANNIX, SHELLEY MARSH POGGIO AND PHOEBE WRIGHT

Getting into the holiday spirit can be accomplished in any number of ways, from shopping for the perfect gift for everyone on your Christmas list, to hanging tinsel and ornaments on your tree, to making donations to any one of many worthy causes. No one will dispute that one of the yummiest ways to welcome the festive season is to bake up a batch of delicious Christmas cookies, like peppermint sugar cookies, chocolate krinkles, or the tried and true gingerbread men.

Master bakers Bert Bernardi, for recipe book and clever lyrics, and Justin Rugg, for merry music, have concocted a brand new holiday surprise, with Pantochino Production's "Christmas Cookies! The Musical." The Milford Center for the Arts will be festooned in red and green and silver finery weekends until Sunday, December 27 and what a delicious way to treat the family to some appetizing fun.

For five years, Pantochino has been delivering original musicals and this one may be the most delectable ever.  What do you do when a wonderful old-fashioned bakery falls on "crummy" times?  A little girl writes a sincere letter to Santa asking for help and that assistance comes in the perfect package of a trio of gingerbread girls, Mary Mannix, Shelley Marsh Poggio and Phoebe Wright, who come to life to sing their way to save the bake shoppe, run by Maria Berte as Mrs. Baker.

Once again Jimmy Johansmeyer has gone fashionably wild to dress the cookie girls in holiday happiness, with colorful sets by Von Del Mar, sparkling lighting by Jeff Carr and smashing sound by Nathaniel Dobas, all under the careful care of stage manager Jeff Therkelson.

The large ensemble cast also includes Johansmeyer, Dale Allen, Rugg, Cassie Gerace, Andrea Pane, Anya Caravella, Hazel Foley, Morgan Taylor, Thea Ryan, Dani Corrigan, Jaxon Beirne, Olivia Foley, Justin Cavone and Hannah Kupson.

For tickets ($18 online, $20 at the door), go online to www.pantochino.com or visit 40 Railroad Avenue South, Milford for performances Friday at 7:30 p.m., Saturday at 2 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m.  Saturday at 2 p.m. are "party performances" and are cabaret style with tables and chairs, so you can enjoy your own foods and drink during the show on Saturday, December 19.

Come take a big bite out of this heavenly confection as a trio of Christmas cookies come to the rescue in a most delicious and magically  musical way.


COME GET ACQUAINTED WITH CRUMPET THE ELF

              MATT DENSKY AS CRUMPET THE MACY'S ELF


If you're an out of work actor and if your rent is due, putting you on the edge of eviction, you might be desperate enough to take a seasonal job as an elf at Macy's Department Store.  That 's the high level of panic that forces playwright David Sedaris to pen "Santaland Diaries, adapted by Joe Mantello," coming to Music Theatre of Connecticut for the holidays until Sunday, December 20.

Matt Densky wonderfully wraps himself in red and green and gold to assume the persona of Crumpet, not the most compassionate or friendly Christmas creature.  Even though he has a plethora of elfin tasks to perform, from elf greeter, magic elf, photography elf, water cooler elf or cash register elf, he never quite manages to enjoy his assignment or complete it well.

Crumpet is definitely an elf with an attitude, both sarcastic and cynical. In this darkly comic look behind the magic curtain, we discover that fantasy land is not always perfection. Children cry and throw tantrums, mothers have high and unrealistic expectations, Santas are not always jolly and nice and Crumpet has seen and experienced it all...unhappily so. It's not the easiest way to avoid losing your home.

As a one man show, one based on Sedaris' real life experiences, Matt Densky knows the success of his mission impossible rests solely on his holiday burdened shoulders.  He tells each little story as diary entries recited after the fact, like so many gifts that are opened to discover socks and ties and underwear. If he started out with a cheerful devil-may-care, what-the-heck attitude, the toll of ungrateful kids and super demanding parents overwhelms him.  Kevin Connors directs this irreverent through the looking glass peek at Christmas fun on a truly festive set designed by Carl Tallent.

For tickets ($35-55), call MTC, 509 Westport Avenue, behind Nine West, Norwalk at 203-454-3883 or online at www.musictheatreofct.com.  Performances are Friday at 8 p.m., Saturday at 4 p.m. and 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m.

Put on your stocking cap and your pointy tasseled shoes and join the dance of the sugar plum fairies. Not!

Saturday, December 12, 2015

DICKENS' "A CHRISTMAS CAROL" SET TO MUSIC


 SCROOGE (DEREK CORRIVEAU) AND MARLEY (DAVID FENN)

If you love the classic Charles Dickens' tale of "A Chrstmas Carol," if you're into musical entertainment, and if the holidays with a Victorian English flavor appeal to you, then Norwich's Chestnut Street Playhouse has the perfect gift for you and your family to unwrap until Sunday, December 20.

Forget lumpy gravy, rocky mashed potatoes, sour cranberry sauce and undercooked turkey, for the most disappointing and unappetizing aspect of the Christmas season is the love-to-be-hated Ebenezer Scrooge.  For a man who values money more than people, Scrooge is wonderfully and crankily captured in all his mercenary ways by Derek Corriveau, a curmudgeon who delights in cursing the sacred day.  With a hearty "Bah! Humbug!" he clearly has no compassion left in his hardened heart.

 A trio of composers Alan Menkin, Lynn Ahrens and Mike Ockrent have conjured up a delightful musical version of this decidedly different family story.  On Christmas Eve, Scrooge's long time business partner Jacob Marley (David Fenn), long dead for many years, has returned to earth to warn Scrooge to mend his stingy ways and abandon his avarice before it is too late.

To help him learn his lesson, Marley sends three spirits, the Ghost of Christmas Past (Maureen Pollard), the Ghost of Christmas Present (Randy Ronco) and the Ghost of Christmas Future  (Geralyn Kozel Frishman) to show Scrooge the error of his ways.  In scenes like "Mr. Fezziwig's Annual Christmas Ball," "Abundance and Charity" and "God Bless Us Everyone," this entire ensemble cast of more than two dozen creates a wonderful portrait of Ebenezer Scrooge's wealthy yet impoverished world. Special mention must be made of Mr. Fezziwig (Justin Carroll), Bob Cratchit (Kyle Donelan) and Scarlett Stanley as the adorable and optimistic Tiny Tim. Lisa Foss directs this spirited holiday tale with warmth and sincerity.

For tickets ($15-30), call Chestnut Street Playhouse, 24 Chestnut Street, Norwich at 860-886-2378 or online at www.chestnutstreetplayhouse.org.  Performances are Friday at 7:30 p.m., Saturday at 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m.

Check your calendars for two special Chestnut Street Playhouse events, on Wednesday, December 23 at 7:30 p.m. when a magical evening hosted by Valerie Azlynn and Erin Sousa-Stanley will occur.  "No Place Like Home for the Holiday" promises to be stuffed with laughter, joy and song.  On Sunday, December 27 at 7 p.m., "Next Year, Baby" will feature the song stylings of Christopher Faison, accompanied by Dan Brandt, in a personal and revealing exploration of his life and his music.  Tickets are $25.

Don't let the holidays escape without taking advantage of this trio of fine entertainment choices.  Or "Bah! Humbug!" on you!

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

THE COMPETITIVE SPIRIT REIGNS SUPREME IN "PEERLESS"


        TERESA AVIA LIM AND TIFFANY VILLARIN    PHOTO BY JOAN MARCUS
Think Serena and Venus Williams, sisters who exist and thrive in the competitive realm of world class tennis.  How do they maintain a close bond of affection when they are often facing off against each other for the same singular prize? Now meet another pair of sisters, Asian twins M and L, who are making a dramatic and intense team sport at their Midwestern high school, striving to both be the best.  They have taken on the entire class, lining up resumes, academic and extracurricular activities as if they are applying to be head honcho at a Fortune 500 business.

Thanks to playwright Jiehae Park, we are invited to enter the psyches of these two siblings in the world premiere comedy "peerless" at Yale Repertory Theatre until Saturday, December 19.  Their goal is early-decison at a prestigious Ivy League college and when that fails to happen according to plots and plans, they conjure up a decidedly more aggressive scheme to secure their much desired future.

Teresa Avia Lim as L and Tiffany Villarin as M are talented and single minded in their quest, but are they doomed like a Don Quixote to battle at impossible windmill dreams?  I think not.  These are two master strategists who will achieve their goals ruthlessly at any costs.

Along the way to the top, they encounter obstacles like boyfriends (Christopher Livingston), dirty and preppy girls (Caroline Neff) and the one who cannot be named (JD Taylor) who claimed the college spot that rightfully belonged to them.  Will jealousy and the need for revenge color their world evilly black?  This is a comedy that borders on a midnight hue, as directed with an evil glint by Margot Bordelon.  Shawn Boyle's projections add to the mounting sense of drama.

For tickets ($20-98), call the Yale Repertory Theatre, 1120 Chapel Street, New Haven at 203-432-1234 or online at www.yalerep.org.  Performances are Wednesday - Friday at 8 p.m., Wednesday at 2 p.m. and Saturday at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m.   The development and production of this work were provided by Yale's Binger Center for New Theatre.

When twins L and M fail to get the "fat envelopes" that signal acceptance to the college of their choice for early decision, they plot to make it happen regardless of the costs.  Come witness their uniquely devious machinations.

“MEASURE FOR MEASURE” A SHAKESPEAREAN PLEASURE



EMILY YOUNG AND NOAH BRODY IN "MEASURE FOR MEASURE"
PHOTO BY E. CHARLES ERICKSON

 New Haven's Long Wharf Theatre is welcoming a new cast of characters to their main stage, the Fiasco Theater Company, comprised of graduates from Brown University who banded together in the early 2000's to produce ensemble productions.  With a mission of offering "dynamic, joyful, actor-driven productions of classic and new plays," they are bringing their collaborative creative energies to present William Shakespeare's "Measure for Measure" until December 20.

Although billed as a comedy by some and a tragedy by others, it doesn’t fit neatly into either category, despite the best efforts of slapstick performers Lucio (Ben Steinfeld), Pompey (Noah Brody) and Elbow (Paul L. Coffey).  Dealing with themes of truth, justice, mercy and pride, this "problem play" wraps a lot of serious thinking around how easily power can be corrupted.

When the Duke (Andy Grotelueschen) appoints a temporary ruler of Vienna in his place, Angelo (Paul L Coffey), and disguises himself as a priest to discover the pulse of his city, his replacement decides to stop the corruption that is rampant by enforcing laws that are ancient and have stiff punishments attached. Caught in this new moral trap is Claudio (Noah Brody) who is imprisoned and sentenced to death by beheading for making his fiancee pregnant without benefit of marriage.

 Even though in many eyes his marriage to Julietta is valid, Claudio faces death.  To save his life, Claudio enlists the aid of his sister Isabella, played by a fiery Emily Young, a novice nun, to intercede with Angelo and beg for mercy.  The crafty Angelo declares he will spare Claudio’s life but only if Isabella sleeps with him and gives up her virtue. The maid Mariana (Jessie Austrian) helps Isabella work some feminine magic.

Through a series of elaborate trickeries and deceits, as only the Bard can arrange, Claudio’s life is saved as well as Isabella’s virginity, and the Duke reappears as the Friar to unmask the villainous Angelo. Lucio, a friend of Claudio’s,  is so busy spreading slander, like peanut butter on whole wheat bread, about both the Friar and the Duke, that he gets himself figuratively drowning in a vat of grape jelly.  Noah Brody and Ben Steinfeld share credits for directing this dramatically comic offering.

Six actors play all the parts, with a set defined by six doors, that are rolled in a variety of configurations that designate the action. Fiasco Theater is a collaborative effort, making all their creative decisions together, with minimalist scenery and an actor driven text. They attack their question mark dramatic moments  and equally effective slapstick comic moments with vigor and dedication.

For tickets ($25 and up), call Long Wharf Theatre, 222 Sargent Drive, New Haven at 203-787-4282 or online at www.longwharftheatre.org.  Performances are Tuesday at 7 p.m., Wednesday at 2 pm. 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.


Hypocrisy and corruption bubble and boil in Vienna as Claudio declares “I hope to live but I am prepared to die” in this involving tale of power gone awry.                                

CHRISTMAS IS BURSTING OUT ALL OVER THE STATE

                                      SANTA AT THE IVORYTON VILLAGE ILLUMINATIONS

Wherever in the state you venture, signs of the Christmas holiday are evident for entertainment events.  Get out your calendar and book one or three jingle bell bonanzas of fun.

In Waterbury at Seven Angels Theatre, there's a barrel full of holiday enjoyment beginning with Michelle Gotay as that lovable restauranteur Earlene Babcock.  From December 11-27, Earlene's Diner will be serving up a festive menu of comedy, music and mirth as a storm may be raging outside but a warm and toasty welcome is greeting guests inside.  Put "Christmas at Earlene's Diner" on your holiday list.

For a little naughty fun, let comic Rob Bartlett help you usher in 2016 at Seven Angels at 6:30 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. on New Year's Eve.  Rob and The Bartlettes are sure to make mischief and merriment.  For tickets, call 203-757-4676 or online at www.sevenangelstheatre.org.  Parking is free at 1 Hamilton Park Road, Waterbury.

Hartford TheaterWorks is presenting, for the third year in a row, a little original irreverence for the season.  Imagine a bar on Christmas Eve with Ronn Carroll as your sympathetic caretaker ready to listen to the tales of woe from seven of your favorite Christmas characters like Tiny Tim, Clara and the Nutcracker, Cindy Lou Who and the Grinch and Charlie Brown.  It's guaranteed you've never seen these classic guys and gals quite like this before.  Matt Wilkas and Jenn Harris play all the visitors with spirit and spunk.  For tickets, call Hartford TheaterWorks, 233 Pearl Street, Hartford at 860-526-7838 or online at www.theaterworkshartford.org.

The village of Ivoryton is aglow with 300,000 lights to bring you without benefit of Rudolph's red nose, to the Ivoryton Playhouse from December 10-20 for a happy holiday hodgepodge of carols and songs in  "I'll Be Home for Christmas." Come visit the Evans family as they prepare for the festivities, frantically trying to do so much in so little time.  Billed as "a love letter to good old fashioned Christmas fun," this is a lovely way to greet the holidays for the whole family.  For tickets, call the Ivoryton Playhouse, 103 Main Street, Ivoryton at 860-767-7318 or online at www.ivorytonplayhouse.org.

Speaking of Rudolph, the Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts is  getting their roof ready for a landing as "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer: The Musical" sails into Hartford from December 11-14, with a special sensory friendly performance at 10 a.m.on December13. This holly jolly adventure includes Hermey the Elf, Yukon Cornelius and the Abominable Snow Monster who all help Santa save Christmas.  Call the Bushnell, 166 Capitol Avenue, Hartford at 860-987-5900 or online at www.bushnell.org.

Don't let the holidays fly by without taking advantage of some of these wonderfully entertaining shows.

Monday, December 7, 2015

GET INTO THE SPIRIT WITH THE GIRLS


Traditionally, girls instinctively know how to poarty and what better time of the year to put on your glitz and glamour then when Santa Claus comes to town, the town of Waterbury that is.  The Palace Theater is up for the challenge and " 'Twas Girls Night Before Christmas The Musical" is ready to sparkle one festive night only, tonight, Thursday. December 10 at 7:30 p.m.

Years ago a wannabe playwright Louise Roche, herself the mom to three little ones, was at the theater and came up with the idea  for "Girls Night." Now Roche has designed a new iteration at holiday time with five gal pals as they analyze the past, celebrate their todays and foresee their future together. 

Come meet this sisterhood of friends who love to laugh, cry, dish and schmooze together:  Sharon,Carol, Liza, Kate and Anita.  Sharon plays narrator, an angel who tragically died at 17 and still wants to be one of the girls.  Carol has had two marriages under her chasity belt but still wants to party.  Her younger sister Kate is the sane and sensible one while Liza thrives on complaining about her husband.  Last but not least is Anita who can be equally funny and depressed, bouncing back and forth like a bi-polar balloon.

Be prepared to bond, to hug and to confess all your secrets as these gals share their lives freely and with panache.  Make believe it's Karaoke night and plan to sing along as all the holiday favorites are unwrapped from one giant gift box for your entertainment and pleasure.

For tickets ($45), call the Palace Theater, 100 East Main Street, Waterbury at 203-346-2000 or online at www.palacetheaterct.org.

These girls definitely want to have fun and you're the guest of honor at their party. 

OPEN A HOLIDAY GIFT NOW: "A CHRISTMAS CAROL" AT HARTFORD STAGE


SCROOGE (BILL RAYMOND) AND GHOST OF CHRISTMAS PRESENT (ALAN RUST)
PHOTOS BY T. CHARLES ERICKSON


Watch out for it's time for that miserly curmudgeon Ebenezer Scrooge to fly into town and the Hartford Stage is ready with a gaggle of ghosts to welcome and, perhaps, scare him straight. Tis the season for Scrooge, a wonderfully persnickety Bill Raymond by night and a perfect penny pinching Buzz Roddy at school performances, to learn a touching lesson in the true meaning of Christmas and how we should treat our fellow man.

Until Sunday, December 27, the frighteningly prophetic words of Scrooge's long dead business partner Jacob Marley (Noble Shropshire) ring clear and loud:  Scrooge must change his uncharitable ways or he will suffer the same horrible fate as Marley.  To prove his point and make his case, Marley sends to Scrooge a trio of ghostly apparitions starting after midnight on Christmas Eve.

Each ghost, from the past (Johanna Morrison), the present (Alan Rust) and the time yet to come (Himself) take Scrooge by the hand and revisit his history.  Through these encounters to former times, Scrooge is encouraged to discover why he is how he is and the power he has to reform.  Can he open his closed up heart to let in love and understanding?  Will "bah humbug" continue to be his response to all things Christmasy?  Can the ghosts scare Scrooge
into redemption?

Visitations to his nephew Fred (Terrell Donnell Sledge), his early school and work days, his clerk Bob Cratchit (Robert Hannon Davis) and his young crippled son Tiny Tim (Nora Girard or Max McGowan) will hopefully make a transformation just in time for Christmas Day. As apparitions fly through the skies and chains rattle and clang, as Scrooge's faithful housekeeper Mrs. Dilber (Noble Shropshire) brings him his daily bowl of barley, you will be caught up in the theatrical magic that this Charles Dickens' tale of "A Christmas Carol" traditionally brings to the whole family. Every year for the past 18 years, the Hartford Stage has presented this wonderful gift to the community, and it seems to get more glorious and heartfelt every time.

For tickets ($25-85), call the Hartford Stage, 50 Church Street, Hartford at 860- 527-5151 or online at www.hartfordstage.org/christmas-carol.  Performances are Wednesday to Saturday at 7:30 p.m. with matinees Saturday and Sunday at 2 p.m.

Get a lesson in humanity and humility, by looking no further than the haunting hosts who are ready to lead you on a ghostly holiday adventure.  Hang on to Scrooge's nightshirt for a wonderfully bumpy and rewarding ride.

Sunday, December 6, 2015

"TWELFTH NIGHT AT UCONN ABOUNDS WITH REVELRY AND REVELATIONS


  Olivia (Madison Coppola) with Feste the Clown (Kevin Hilversum)

If Charlie Brown's faithful companion  Snoopy were penning the tale rather than William Shakespeare, the first line would probably be “It was a dark and stormy night.” It's during that stormy night that twins, Viola and Sebastian, are separated at sea and each fears the other has drowned. Washed ashore in Illyria, Viola (Juliana Berse) does what any typical Shakespearean heroine would do: she disguises herself as a male, a page Cesario, and offers her services to the ruler of the land, Duke Orsino.

Such goings on are the delightful fare that make the Bard’s “Twelfth Night” such a mischievous romp.The Connecticut Repertory Theatre on the campus of the University of Connecticut at Storrs will be unveiling its version of this ancient tale, fast forwarded three hundred and sixty years, on the Nafe Katter stage until December 13. Love triangles abound as Viola/Cesario is sent by the Duke to woo the countess Olivia
(Madison Coppola) for him, while Olivia, in mourning for her brother, takes an instant fancy to Viola/Cesario. Of course, Viola is smitten with the Duke (Darren Lee Brown). Sound confusing, just eat a dish of Rocky Road ice cream (from the UCONN Dairy Bar) and hold on to your spoon.

Through further trickery, the countess’ steward Malvolio is seduced into believing his mistress cares for him, and a perfectly wonderful series of scenes have him simpering and prancing to garner her affections. Andrew Ramcharan Guilarte is perfection as the lovesick swain in his cross-gartered yellow stockings. All the undercover skullduggery is accomplished by the comic plottings of Sir Toby Belch (Richard Ruiz), Sir Andrew Aguecheek (Mark Blashford) and the countess’ maid Maria (Arlene Bozich). The gay and witty actions of Feste (Kevin Hilversum) and Fabian (Curtis Longfellow) punctuate this tale of mistaken identity, misguided affections and foolishness. By the time twin brother Sebastian (Jeff DeSisto) and his henchman Antonio (Brian Sullivan) arrive, the gloves are off and the duels are on.

Victor Mang directs this classic comedy where fools and husbands are likened to minnows and herrings, only husbands are bigger. The fine cast leads a splendid parade down Merriment Lane, on an intriguing set of an upside down tree root designed by Brett Calvo, with great lighting by Justin Poruban and clever costuming by Tuoxi Wu.  For tickets ($7-30), call the CT Rep at 860-486-2113 or go online at www.crt.uconn.edu.. Performances are  Wednesday - Thursday at 7:30 p.m., Friday at 8 p.m., Saturday at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m., and Sunday at 2 p.m.

Love is concealed and revealed, revered and reviled, accepted and rejected and ultimately happily applauded in this festival play taking place twelve days after Christmas.  Enter into the mischief which runs wild in Illyria as impossible love affairs are entwined in comic conflict that only the master Cupid, Will Shakespeare, can untangle and set right.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

"BABES IN BOYLAND!” THE NEWEST GIFT FROM THE CGMC



Don’t for a moment confuse the Christmas tale of an eleven year old girl named Lisa who ventures off to Toyland and tries to stop an ill-fated wedding in the 1903 Victor Herbert operetta or the 1986 television movie “Babes in Toyland” with the Connecticut Gay Men’s Chorus’s current offering “Babes in Boyland!”  While both are holiday celebrations, they are worlds apart.

The chorus, now in its thirtieth season of providing unique and clever productions, that can be incredibly moving like last spring’s emotionally sensitive “I Am Harvey Milk,” will be up to its new and old tricks this Christmas go-round.  Their twenty-four voice chorus will provide traditional holiday tunes, often with particularly piquant parodies, but this time with a distinct twist.

Think pink peppermint candy canes and red sugar sprinkled star cookies for the debonair gentlemen of the CGMC are ready to welcome to their ranks five dynamic ladies to the stage of the Co-Op Theater, 177 College Street, New Haven. For two performances on Saturday, December 12 at 8 p.m. and Sunday, December 13 at 4 p.m., the men are prepared to share their boas and sequins.

Lining up to take top billing will be Marissa Perry of Waterbury who is known for roles in such productions as Tracy Turnblad, the feisty and fair-minded teenager in “Hairspray,” as well as playing in the world premiere of “Princesses” and the current Broadway production of “Sister Act.”  Joining her will be her mom, Joyce Follo-Jeffrey of Southington who has been performing regionally for five decades as well as being a Mary Kay Beauty Consultant when she’s not on stage.

Adding her classically-trained award-winning voice to the choir will be music teacher and music director Jaclyn Chiarelli of New Haven, Meriden’s Maureen “Mo” Peitler Lederman who was the female lead with the CGMC’s New England premiere of Andrew Lippa’s “I Am Harvey Milk” and classical soprano Christine Gill from Guilford who is well known in musical theater circles.

According to Artistic Director Greg McMahan, “These ladies bring a huge variety of styles to the performance, from Broadway belters to operatic sopranos.  It’s allowed us the chance to do styles of music we haven’t been able to do in the past, and our singers are really enjoying the collaboration.”
 McMahan feels the addition of this female quintet will allow the chorus to venture into new directions and produce an amazing sound not possible before.  "We're not doing just comedy, drag, camp and silly and not just choral pieces.  This time around we'll put on a cool version of "White Winter Hymnal" as well as some Mariah Carey hits, more difficult arrangements, plus lots of surprises."  Members of the CGMC suggested the names of women they wanted to sing and perform with and McMahan has made it happen, creating "a beautiful art experience at Christmas."


For tickets ($25-$30), call 800-644-2462(CGMC) or go online at www.ctgmc.org.

Be prepared to have your stocking caps fly off your head as the CGMC entertains five ladies of the theater to celebrate the holidays in grand fashion.

"THE 1940'S RADIO HOUR" A NOSTALGIC MUSICAL SHOW


                                              ALEXA CAMPAGNA
Turn your radio dial way back a mere seven decades or so to enjoy the current musical offering by Landmark Community Theatre just in time for the holidays.  The charming, quaint and historic Thomaston Opera House is prepared to recreate the final holiday broadcast of the Mutual Manhattan Variety Cavalcade of Radio Station WOV in New York in December 1942.  You're invited to take a front row seat until Sunday, December 13 to witness the chaos and comedy as the trusty cast and orchestra prepare for the "On Air" sign to light up.

While Pops (Jeff Savage) mans the phones and the mop, paying more attention to his horse racing bets and card games than the upcoming performance, station manager Cliff Feddington (Allen Marko) is alternately exploding and cajoling his tardy stars to get on their marks for the big finale event.

Everyone is anxious to perform, including the drug store delivery boy Wally (Nolan Cummings) and wannabe star Neal (Frank Beaudry), who both want to join the established stars like Johnny Cantone (Robert Saunders) who just might be heading off to Hollywood with a martini in his hand, while Biff (Justin Normandin) has done his patriotic duty and is soon off to war.

Great tunes like "Daddy," "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas," "Aint She Sweet," "How About You?" and "Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy" are brought to sparkling life under the musical direction of Zoot Doubleman (Jim Luurtsema) by an energetic cast of Becky Sawicki, Alexa Campagna, Betsy Ingraham, Carletha Hawley and Michael Newman.  Steve Sorriero does double duty as Cliff's assistant and master of the sound effects, a necessary addition to any radio broadcast.

Dan Checovetes directs this nostalgic salute to patriotism, mom and mincemeat pie.  For tickets ($24, senior and students $20), call 860-283-6250 or online at www.landmarkcommunitytheatre.org for performances at the Thomaston Opera House, 158 Main Street, Thomaston.  Performances are Saturday and Sunday matinees at 2 p.m. and Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m. Watch for "Frosty the Snowman" to dance in December 19 at 1 p.m. and 4 p.m. and December 20 at 1 p.m., with tickets $10.

A special added treat opening night was a tribute to 23 year volunteer Juan Cardona who has been playing the Opera House's famed 1926 Marr-Colton Theatre Pipe Organ since 1993 during the run of "Guys and Dolls."  Cardona has loved the organ since he first heard it played at age 5 and with the help of the CT Valley Theatre Organ Society for maintenance issues he has played suitable accompaniments for almost every subsequent show on this "King of Instruments" utilizing drums, cymbals, bells and a piano, as if he has a full orchestra at his command.  He looks forward to continuing this fine musical tradition on this historic pipe organ at the 1884 Thomaston Opera House for many years to come, his "second home."  Juan, play on!

"PASSING STRANGE:" AN ELECTRIFYING ROCK MUSICAL



                           PASSING STRANGE PHOTO BY RICH WAGNER

Think a rite of passage. like Pippin or Ulysses, a journey of self-discovery, a search for reality, a rebellion against the mundane.  West Hartford's Playhouse on Park is embarking on its own journey of discovery as it mounts "Passing Strange" by performance artist and poet Stew for book and lyrics, with music orchestrations by Heidi Rodewald, in collaboration with Annie Dorsen.

This autobiographical piece was workshopped in two sessions at Sundance in 2004 and 2005, one of the only ones invited back for a second round of development, and enjoyed a brief turn Off- and on Broadway before its final performance was filmed as a movie by Spike Lee.

Playhouse on Park's Artistic Director Sean Harris is both passionate and proud about this new production.  "It's coming along beautifully, with the right ensemble, the right personalities, the right design team.  I feel strongly that the top people are involved.  The band is on stage, interacting, and the audience is involved, being constantly surprised and immersed in the action."

"Passing Strange" is the story of a young African- American, a singer/songwriter, named Youth who wants to escape the religious restrictions of his Los Angles middle class upbringing and venture off to Europe to find himself.  His journey lasts from his age 14 to 22 as he experiences and experiments with the artistic life of Amsterdam and Berlin, discovering along the way women, drugs, art and politics, from Amsterdam's illicit pleasures to Berlin's militant intrigues.  Youth is unhappy with his old life and he plunges himself into a pioneering adventure similar to a Josephine Baker or a James Baldwin, seeking a new reality and a definitive home.

To Harris, the music is compelling and crosses many genres from gospel to punk to funk to rhythm and blues, all "under the umbrella of rock.  The music serves to drive the show...and serves the story every moment."  It's as if Youth "has  his own sound track." "Passing Strange" is not an opera but the music is central to the story and the choreography created by Darlene Zoller is memorable.

Playhouse on Park may only be the fourth regional theater to tackle the show, "touching as it does on so many relatable concepts like beliefs, family, identity, love, becoming an artist." Because it taps into so many levels, Harris was very careful in his casting.  He asked at auditions if you were familiar with the piece? what did you like about it? how does it speak to you about your life? Connections were important in this tale of "escaping what's behind you to find a higher sense of what it means to be an artist."

For tickets (preview $15, single tickets $32.50-42.50), call Playhouse on Park,  244 Park Road, West Hartford at 860-523-5900, ext. 10 or online at www.playhouseonpark.org.  Performances are Wednesday and Thursday at 7:30 p.m., Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m. until Sunday, December 20.

Sean Harris hopes the audience will "open their eyes to different cultures and a different type of theater.  In a time when we divide ourselves it will divert everyone for two hours in time and provide an experience to relate to and enjoy."  He wants everyone to be "emotionally invested and not casual, not sitting back but completely immersed, to feel this singular story of this man with a distinct lifestyle and color and be inexplicably drawn into his world."

Clearly Sean Harris and his cast have taken ownership of this rich and unusual undertaking, putting their personal stamp on it, with a freedom of vision that is rare.  Come experience an "emotional ridiculous roller coaster ride, with high levels of exuberance that just may break your heart."

Monday, November 23, 2015

“SISTER’S CHRISTMAS CATECHISM” STRIKES AGAIN, WITH LAUGHTER


                       NONIE NEWTON-RILEY AS THE GOOD SISTER

Can you see yourself sporting a lamp shade as a hat? Ever fashion yourself as a shepherd or a Little Drummer Boy? Is your sense of humor intact and your self esteem fully inflated?  Do you like a good mystery and following new clues to a humorous conclusion?  If all these questions are possible yeses, then Long Wharf Theatre is mixing up an evening of entertainment that will have you smiling all the way to the church.
 The Good Sister, Nonie Newton-Riley, is returning to the scene of the crime for another installment of Sisters Christmas Catechism:  The Mystery of the Magis Gold and youre invited to partake in the festivities. This is participatory theater at its funniest and you should be willing to jump into the fray if Sister asks you to do so. From Tuesday, December 8 to Sunday, December 20 . Long Wharf Theatres Stage II, in New Haven, will be transformed into a religious school class complete with rulers to rap your knuckles if you misbehave, like dressing immodestly, arriving late, or allowing your cell phone to ring while Sister is conducting class. 
Study up on your religious facts and you might just win a hologram of the baby Jesus in the stable, a picture of the Pope regaled in a Santa hat or a pencil that proclaims Jesus Loves You Snow Much.  But don’t forget the reason you have all assembled: to discover who stole the Magi’s gold.  Get ready for your close up, Monsignor DeMille.  In the meantime you may learn such fascinating facts as the meanings behind candy canes, poinsettias, St Nicholas and Our Lady of the Grilled Cheese. Sister Nonie is skilled in the art of improvisation and she will take that talent up to the highest order.
 Marietta Donovan with Jane Morris and Marc Silvia deserve full credit for penning this most unusual holiday celebration that includes creating a Living Nativity with Mary, an ox, an ass, a shepherd, a sheep, three Kings, Joseph and the little drummer boy arrayed in costumes not to be believed. And if you play your Christmas cards right, that ox or sheep on stage could be you!

For tickets ($35), call Long Wharf Theatre, 222 Sargent Drive, New Haven at 203-787-4282 or online at www.longwharf.org.  Performances are Tuesday at 7 p.m., Wednesday at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m., Thursday and Friday at 8 p.m., Saturday at 3 p.m. and 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m.
If you enjoyed Late Night Catechism and remember fondly your days in Catholic school and you’re in the holiday spirit, then put on your party hat and have a ball with Sister.

CELEBRATE WITH THE GIRLS FOR HOLIDAY FUN


Traditionally, girls know instinctively how to party and what better time of the year to put on your glitz and glamor than when Santa Claus comes to town, the town of Waterbury that is.  The Palace Theater is up for the challenge and “ 'Twas Girls Night Before Christmas" is ready to sparkle one festive night only, Thursday, December 10 at 7:30 p.m.

Years ago a wannabe playwright Louise Roche, herself the mother of three little ones at the time,was at the theater one night and came up with the idea for a musical comedy by, for and about women.  Her small community theater in England mounted her show and it was such a success that she spent her life savings to stage it big time. After three hit tours in the United Kingdom since 2003, “Girls Night” crossed the pond in 2007 for its United States premiere. Now Roche has designed a new iteration at holiday tine with the original five gal pals as they analyze the past, celebrate their todays and foresee their future together.

Meet the born to party Carol, the outspoken tell-it-like-it-is Anita, the issues laden Liza, the designated not to drink driver Kate and the devilish angel Sharon who invites herself along for the ride. Be prepared to bond, to hug and to confess all your secrets as these gals share their lives freely and with panache.   Make believe it's karaoke night and plan to sing along as all your holiday favorites are unwrapped from one giant gift box for your entertainment and pleasure. They will take you along as they visit the mall and the in-laws and prepare to celebrate the biggest holiday of the year..

For tickets ($45),call the Palace Theater, 100 East Main Street, Waterbury at 203-346-2000 or online at www.palacetheaterct.orgAs a special holiday promotion, the Palace Theater and ‘TWAS GIRLS NIGHT BEFORE CHRISTMAS are partnering with Make-A-Wish ® Connecticut and iHeartMedia to help make the wishes of children with life-threatening illnesses come true. From now until the night of the show, customers and patrons are encouraged to stop by the Palace’s Box Office lobby to fill out a “Letter to Santa” and drop it inside the theater’s red mailbox display. For every letter received, Macy’s will donate one dollar to the Make-A-Wish ® Foundation.


Join this sisterhood of forty-somethings as they let it all hang out, under a spinning silver disco ball and speak girl talk and sing and dance with shameless pleasure. Be careful. You might find yourself participating in the hen party too.These girls definitely want to have fun and you're invited to the party.

Monday, November 16, 2015

YOU'RE INVITED TO A 50'S DANCE PARTY




BUDDY HOLLY (JOHN MUELLER), THE BIG BOPPER (LINWOOD SASSER) AND
RITCHIE VALENS (RAY ANTHONY) IN THE 50'S DANCE PARTY AT DTC

Get your dance card ready, the blue satin one you tied to your wrist back in the day.  The Downtown Cabaret Theatre of Bridgeport is inviting you to the best "50's Dance Party" for one super night only, Saturday, November 21 at 5 p.m. and 8:15 p.m. when the stars light up the sky.  The final tour of rock and roll greats - Buddy Holly, the Big Bopper and Ritchie Valens -will be recreated right before your eyes and that'll be the day or better yet night that you'll want to be there for sure.  Oh, Boy!

Buddy Holly will be brought to vibrant life by John Mueller, who will inhabit the skin of this legend of rock and roll, ranked by Rolling Stones at number 13 on its list of "100 Greatest Artists."  Holly who hailed from Lubbock, Texas started off in country-western but then defined himself in the new genre and is credited with influencing such groups and performers as the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, Eric Clapton and Elton John.  In 1986, he was among the first acts inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.  His meteoric rise to fame was cut short in a winter plane crash after an iconic show at the Surf Ballroom in Clear Lake, Iowa on February 3, 1959 that was captured for eternity in the song "The Day the Music Died."

No higher praise can be given to John Mueller's performance than the comments of Buddy's wife and brothers who called it "the only one who does it exactly like Buddy did. He's a great musician in his own right...Really does Buddy proud...One of the best concerts I've ever seen."

The Big Bopper, that grander than life singer who made "Chantily Lace" wildly successful, will be stylized by Linwood Sasser.  Ritchie Valens will be secure in the hands of Ray Anthony whose award-winning live tribute has been immortalized in the show "Legends in Concert."

To hear and see this trio of amazing performers, bop on over to 263 Golden Hill Street, Bridgeport for a memorable night of captivating music that will have you jumping and jiving with joy.

For tickets ($45), call Downtown Cabaret Theatre at 203-576-1636, option 0 or online at www.ctcab.primetix.com.  Don't forget to bring a basket of goodies to share at your table.

Tunes like "That'll Be the Day," "Peggy Sue," "Oh, Boy," "Rave On," "La Bamba" and "Chantilly Lace" will have you "raving on."

ENJOY THE FUN MENU: ”LIVING ON LOVE”

THE ENTIRE CAST OF "LIVING ON LOVE"    PHOTO BY PAUL ROTH

To memorialize  one’s life and career in a best selling memoir is a lofty goal.  If you are a wildly successful music conductor known as “El Maestro,” then it is simply your due.  When you get an advance of $50,000 to pen your golden mots with a ghost writer, you should be sufficiently motivated to respect writing schedules and chapter deadlines. Unless, of course, you can’t be bothered to dictate more than a dozen words a day, causing the publishing company to demand the advance be returned or threaten to sue for double the damages.

To become intimately acquainted with Vito DeAngelis known to his legions of fans as El Maestro, skip over to Seven Angels Theatre in Waterbury for the Connecticut premiere of Joe DiPietro’s comic “Living on Love” until Sunday, December 6.

To date, Vito has fired seven ghost writers whom he dismisses and denigrates  as “spooky helpers,” a record that Donald Trump would later emulate and admire.  Vito’s wife, the world famous opera singer Raquel, “La Diva,” has been under his Machiavellian spell for thirty years, tolerating his too frequent liaisons with impressionable young ladies.  Using the music to Bolero as his tool of seduction, he feels it is his right and obligation to share his macho gifts to those worthy of receiving them.

Steve Vinovich is masterful as the egocentric  Vito, a man who is secure in his talents and achievements…until the name Leonard Bernstein is uttered.  To him, his Raquel is “beautiful, beautiful, beautiful. Wow!” but he doesn’t truly appreciate her many virtues.

Stephanie Zimbalist is dynamic as the glorious opera diva who has known great successes from the Met to Milan.  Unfortunately, she is threatened by dwindling attendance and the mere mention of the younger rival Maria Callas.  The pair delightfully bicker and spar, especially when two ghost writers Robert (Alex Grossman) and Iris (Ali Breneman) arrive to record their immortal words for posterity.  Meanwhile the DeAngelis’s trusty butlers, R. Bruce Connelly and Michael Irvin Pollard, add a delightful comic touch in everything they present and remove.

James Glossman directs this highly entertaining comedy, one that borders on farce, as easily as a snow globe can be shaken and admired.  Daniel Hosvar has created a lovely Manhattan apartment set, circa 1957, to hold the romantic fun.

For tickets ($39-57), call Seven Angels Theatre, now in its 25th year, 1 Plank Road, Waterbury at 203-757-4676 or online at www.sevenangelstheatre.org.  Performances are Thursday at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m., Friday at 8 p.m., Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m., with no show Thanksgiving day.

Enjoy snippets of arias, courtesy of Ms. Zimbalist’s Raquel, with a drizzle of maple syrup or olive oil, as Vito and Raquel compete to see who writes the first and best fictional account of their fascinating lives.

 

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

INTERACTIVE COMEDY COMES TO SCSU



                      COLIN MOCHRIE AND BRAD SHERWOOD


 Memorizing multiple pages of lines in a script is a daunting task and, for many of us, impossible. Imagine, therefore, how much more intimidating and overwhelming if you were to perform onstage without the benefit of the playwright’s words. A Cappella, so to speak. The skill is known as improvisation and two masters of the art, Colin Mochrie and Brad Sherwood, are coming to the John Lyman Center for the performing Arts on Friday, November 20 at 8 p.m. to show you just how they make it happen.
Billed as “interactive comedy with big belly laughs,” these improv gurus are gifted with sharp wits, a great sense of humor, fast thinking on their feet and a fun loving attitude that knows no bounds.  With Brad hailing from the windy plains of Chicago and Colin calling Scotland his place of origin, the pair have been flitting hither and yon entertaining the masses, people of all ages, from one end of this vast country to the other.  As side-kicks in the field of humor, they glory in taking suggestions, wild and crazy, bizarre and inane, from their audiences and imaginatively making them into a skit that is hysterical.  Forget props and backdrops, scripts and direction, Brad and Colin are clearly magicians who manufacture mirth with clever words, pithy actions and enough facial funny frowns and features to keep a school of clowns amused.

Start thinking up your suggestions now and the crazier the better.  Watch them expand their minds tackling such diverse topics as Miss Piggy on a date with Donald Trump or the Keebler Elves challenging the Hershey Kisses in the World Series.  You can surely do much better than these.

Since 2002, Mochrie and Sherwood have toured North America in “An Evening with Colin and Brad” and now they are coming practically to your doorstep.  For tickets ($35 general public, Fun 4 pack $30 each, $10 students), call SCSU at  203-392-6154 or online at www.tickets.southernct.edu.  The show will be at John Lyman Center for the Performing Arts, 501 Crescent Street, New Haven on Friday the 20th at 8 p.m.

If you love their television show “Whose Line Is It Anyway?,” then this is clearly your cup of jasmine tea, java or juice. Enjoy!

Monday, November 9, 2015

CHRISTMAS IS COMING TO THE CT CABARET


Yes, Virginia there is a Santa Claus and if you have any doubts, just jingle your way over to the Connecticut Cabaret Theatre in Berlin weekends until Saturday, December 19.  Hopscotching around the globe, from Ireland to Holland to Australia and plenty of spots in between,  you will learn tidbits and anecdotes about the upcoming celebration that will amuse and amaze you as “Every Christmas Story Ever Told (And Then Some)’ shakes its merry bells.

This holiday comedy created by John K. Alvarez, Michael Carleton and James FitzGerald, with original music by Will Knapp, is guaranteed to put you in the festive spirit.  Grab a sprig of holly or mistletoe, drizzle some tinsel in your hair, pop on a red or green glow-in-the-dark nose and you’ll be all set to party hearty.

With a trio of energetic elves, Rick Bennett, Will Dayton and Joshua Luszczak, prepare yourself for a hodgepodge of your favorite holiday characters from Tiny tim to Cindy Lou Who to Clara and her best Nutcracker to Reindeer (or Reingoats) run amok.  Rick, Will and Josh are your genial, gregarious and even ghostly guides to the beloved heroes and heroines, villains and victims of storybook land.

Come meet a Santa’s elf who refuses to makes toys but would rather fill a cavity or drill a molar.  Learn how and why fruitcake has such a bad rap as the unbest Christmas gift ever. Watch what happens when Ebenezer Scrooge from Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” gets mashed like sweet potato into a figgy pudding with George Bailey and Clarence the wannabe angel from “It’s a Wonderful Life,” complete with a super voiced Jimmy Stewart.  If you drink a few cups of spiked eggnog, it will all seem even funnier.  Be prepared for a stocking full of laughs as Artistic Director Kris “Kringle" McMurray puts his trio of Santa’s helpers through their jolly and joyful paces.

For tickets ($30), call the CT Cabaret Theatre, 31-33 Webster Square Road, Berlin at 860-829-1248 or online at wwwctcabaret.com.  Shows are Friday and Saturday nights at 8 p.m., with doors opening at 7:15 p.m.  Remember to bring goodies to share at your table or plan to buy desserts and drinks at the cabaret bar.

Think the Three Stooges in tutus and stocking caps and you’ll be all set for a ton of holiday fun with the CT Cabaret.

“MASS APPEAL” GARNERS WIDE APPROVAL



 DARIUS JAMES COPLAND AS MARK AND FRANK SMITH AS FATHER FARLEY
An experienced and savvy priest once warned his wannabe religious student that coughs from the congregation during a sermon were bad, an indication of boredom and/or rebellion among the church participants.  That advice from Father Farley of the St. Francis parish was only one of an epistle-full of advice the older clergyman was happy to share with the highly spirited novice Mark.

To learn from the parables and practical parameters, take a seat in Square One Theatre’s new home, an intimate black box theatre, at Stratford Academy, 719 Birdseye Street, Stratford, only a mile or so from its former location.  Sit back and ponder as Father Tim Farley from his comfortable perch as parish pastor sets out to tame the idealistic fervor of seminarian Mark Dolson in Bill C. Davis’ game of religious rules “Mass Appeal” welcoming attendees of all faiths until Sunday, November 22.

Frank Smith’s well beloved Father Tim is in the midst of a Sunday sermon on whether or not women should be considered for the priesthood when he is interrupted mid-sentence by Darius James Copland’s impassioned and impatient and questioning young seminarian Mark.  The challenge is declared and the gauntlet is flung, precipitating an exchange of ideas and philosophies as the elder statesman in this wealthy Roman Catholic congregation mentors the still wet-behind-the-ears student studying to be a deacon.

Both men score points and miss returning the serve as the good Father imbibes more than his fair share of sparkling Burgundy wine and Mark questions his complacent stance on too many issues.  While Mark wants his sermons to shake up the attendees, he accuses Father Farley of merely entertaining them with “song and dance theology.”

Their intense discussions reveal many truths and misconceptions about the church and the two men, about vows of celibacy, why priests should be in the image of Christ, how to be diplomatic and empathetic and the need to be charming rather than confrontational.  The fate of a pair of young seminarians in Mark’s class looms large.  Artistic Director Tom Holehan beautifully handles the delicate relationship that moves from teacher to student, parent to chid, and , ultimately, friend to trusted friend. Both men offer fine performances as they explore their positions on either side of the pulpit.

For tickets ($20), call Square One Theatre at 203-375-8778 or online at www.squareonetheatre.com.  Performances are Thursday at 7 p.m., Friday at 8 p.m., Saturday at 4 p.m. and 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m.

Controversy knocks on Father Farley’s door and forces him to abandon his complacency (but not his Burgundy) as Mark Dolson challenges his authority in particular and the Catholic Church’s in general.