Monday, January 5, 2015



Looking back on the year that just ended, one discovers delightfully that there were many wonderful theatrical events that are well worth remembering.  To savor some of my favorites, take a journey with me through 2014.  Beginning in January, there is no better way to make the winter happy than to attend  Goodspeed's Festival of New Musicals for any or all of the weekend.  This year the dates are January 16-18 and just like last year the festival is stuffed with a trio of new musicals, a pair of cabarets, special talks by theater folk, symposiums and tours.  What better way to thumb your nose at winter's chills and ice.

The Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts in Hartford always has a sensational national touring company waiting in the wings for a spectacular show.  While this week it's the circus world of "Pippin" eager to color your world, this past year the stand out show was "War Horse" with its stirring story of the teenaged boy Albert whose beloved horse Joey is snatched away from him to be part of the World War I calvary effort.  Their reunion, exemplified with life sized puppets, is an epic tale.

March swept in with a festive red carpet celebration of the Oscars at The Kate in Old Saybrook, a gem of a theater dedicated to the memory of Katharine Hepburn.  Gowns and tuxedos were donned to welcome the newest stars to be feted for their acting skills. You even had a chance to have your photo with a real live Oscar, complete from head to toe in gold paint.

Comedian Steve Martin graced Long Wharf Theatre's stage with two gifts this year, with "The Underpants," a collaboration with Hartford Stage that told
the tale of a woman who embarrasses her husband when she loses her undergarments at the King's parade, and later with "Picasso at the Lapin Agile."
The latter is an imagined encounter of the artist Picasso with the scientist Einstein at a bar in Paris at the turn of the twentieth century.  Martin exhibits a grand flair for comedy in both.

Comedy was also saluted at Yale Repertory Theatre at least twice this year, first with the crazy slapstick farce "Accidental Death of an Anarchist" about a serious bombing that actually happened and later with "Those Paper Bullets."  The latter featured a collision of Shakespeare and a musical group like the Beatles in a gloriously funny spoof of song, fashion and romance.

The summer months saw an engagingly different production at Long Wharf by the Split Knuckle Theatre where the adventures of Sir Ernest Shackleton and a mild-mannered insurance company employee overcome great odds in "Endurance."  In a tent, the Summer Theatre of New Canaan put on a smashing version of "Hairspray," that fun musical about a teenage girl in Baltimore taking on the establishment and fighting against prejudice and winning.

West Hartford's Playhouse on Park brought to engaging life a sparkling visit with the awkward misfits who all want to win the spelling contest in "The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee."

With the warm breezes also came the opportunity to travel to Waterford to find that hidden jewel, the Eugene O'Neill Theater Center, that every year for the past five decades offers conferences on puppetry around the world, brand new plays and never heard before musicals.  If you have never experienced the wonders of the O'Neill, you owe yourself this theatrical treat.

Theatrical treats also abound at Goodspeed Musicals in East Haddam where "Fiddler on the Roof" entertained all summer with Adam Heller as the steadfast milkman Tevye.  Plan a full day of theater by going one exit over to Chester to see a new offering at the Norma Terris Theatre, called the Little Goodspeed.

Young people captured the spotlight in two separate but equally wonderful ventures.  Long Wharf's Shake-It-Up-Shakespeare, under the skilled direction of Annie DiMartino, offers teens the opportunity to make Shakespeare a musically vital experience. Their "Much Ado about Nothing" was a virtuoso performance.  Over in Waterbury, Seven Angels Theatre delivered in spades with Neil Simon's "Brighton Beach Memoirs" starring Carey Cannata as the precocious Eugene Morris Jerome.

More serious stuff was spotlighted at Westport Country Playhouse when they presented "Intimate Apparel," about a young African-American seamstress searching for love and a sense of importance.  Hartford Stage's rendering of Shakespeare's "Hamlet" was brilliant, with Zach Appelman as the determined son set to avenge his father's murder.

The relatively new on the scene New Haven Theater Company did itself proud with a stirring production of the Irish play "The Seafarer," where the stakes in a poker game are raised way too high. 

These are but a few of the cream laden shows  that rose to the top of the milk bottle that is Connecticut theater.  Hopefully you saw at least a few and have some favorites of your own.  If not, the slate is now clean and ready to be inscribed for 2015.  See you at the theater.

No comments:

Post a Comment