Wednesday, April 29, 2015



Saying thank you is a positive way to show your appreciation and the Jewish Coalition for Literacy (JCL) is ready to give a shout out 180 times. That's the number of literacy volunteers who are being feted on Thursday, May 14 at the Jewish Community Center, 360 Amity Road, Woodbridge at 9:30 a.m.  Abel Catering is donating breakfast.

A love of reading and learning is imparted to each child at every one hour visit to New Haven Public Schools' seven partner sites all through the school year.  The JCL is the proud recipient of the Superintendent's Award from the New Haven Network for Public Education for its outstanding contributions to public education.  In addition, JCL is an award-winning project of the Jewish Community Relations Council of the Jewish Federation of Greater New Haven.

The adult volunteers are from a diversity of faiths and educational backgrounds who meet one-on-one with students to encourage improving skills in conversation and reading.  Dedicated volunteers help provide individualized sessions, filling the gap when resources in classrooms are not adequate.

This year Linda Friedlaender, the Senior Curator of the Yale British Art Museum, will be the keynote speaker.  Her topic will be "Do You See What I See?," dealing with how to enhance observational skills to improve clinical diagnostic procedures.  She co-produced this program that has been adopted by over 50 medical schools and has been used to measure learning outcomes in museum settings utilizing original works of art as visual text.  It has also been instrumental in helping with a local community of adults with social and cognitive disorders as well as for children with autism.  Krista Bergin, Literacy Intervention Facilitator on the New Haven Board of Education, will preside over the morning's activities.

To measure the impact of these dedicated volunteers, all one has to do is listen to the teachers who see "our students grow tremendously in their self-esteem, experience increased motivation to read by sharing one on one time with an adult who comes to read with them every week.. .students increased  their vocabulary, which helps them express themselves more clearly...students reading comprehension as well as interest in reading have greatly progressed...wonderful hearing students enthusiastically talk about what they are reading with their volunteer."

Clearly the JCL volunteers "make the children feel like they are the center of the  universe, make the 'teaching' and learning fun-no test and no pressure-just reading and working with words for the love and enjoyment of it."

For a reservation to this event, free and open to the public, call Brenda Brenner at 203-387-2424, ext. 308 or online at  Maybe you will be inspired  to  join this proud troupe of giving and caring individuals.

Monday, April 27, 2015


From Middletown to Mozambique to Metropolis, being labeled as a "man of steel" can be as much a blessing as a burden.  Being a hero is a responsibility one cannot ignore or take lightly. Just ask Clark Kent whose alter ego is the incredible caped crusader Superman who saves people and buildings with a cavalier nonchalance reserved for common folk to order a latte at Starbucks.

To get into the complicated lives of Clark, a reporter for the Daily Planet and his secret identity Superman, take a quick leap of fun and faith by heading to the Connecticut Cabaret Theatre in Berlin for the musical comedy "It's a Bird...It's a Plane...It's Superman" playing weekends until Saturday, May 30.

Penned by David Newman and Robert Benton with lyrics by Lee Adams and music by Charles Strouse, it's a comic strip come to life.  The hand painted wooden cutouts of skyscrapers, sub machine guns and sayings (like pow, bam, zonk and ka-pow) only add to the mood, designed by James J. Moran, who also gets credit for the energetic choreography.

Rick Bennett takes double bows for his portrayal of the meek and mild Clark as well as the masculine and muscled super hero.  As the man of the hour, he is admired and revered by the ladies, principally the newspaper staff of Lois Lane, a spunky Kaite Corda, whom he rescued more than a baker's dozen times and Sydney, a fast talking Ashley Ayala who is quite vocal in her adoration.

Not everyone is as smitten, however, by Superman's deeds of daring.  Max Mencken , a crafty Jon Escobar, is determined to take Superman off his pedestal and he is conveniently aided by the mad scientist Dr. Sedgwick, a revenge driven Robert Schultz, who feels he deserves the Nobel Prize and like Susan Lucci and her lack of a Lead Actress Emmy is determined to win one.

With the help of Dr. Sedgwick's assistant Jim (Kevin Ladd) and a troupe of Chinese acrobats who feel Superman has stolen their talented tricks (Russell Fish, Chris Brooks, James J. Moran, William Moskaluk, Carleigh Schultz and Brianna Zuk), Dr. Sedgwick cleverly plots Superman's disgrace.  The good citizens of Metropolis (Tracey Brown and Linda Kelly) find their faith shaken by Sedgwick's deviousness.  Kris McMurray directs this catchy tale of criminals and crusaders with style.

Tunes like "We Need Him," "Revenge," and "You've Got Possibilities" help propel the plot with fun lyrics.  For tickets ($30), call the CT Cabaret Theatre, 31-33 Webster Square Road, Berlin at 860-829-1248 or online at  Remember to pack goodies to share at your table or plan to buy dessert and drinks at the handy concession stand.

Use your x-ray vision to see all the possibilities for frolic and fun as Superman "flies" literally and figuratively into town.


If you marry a classic fairy tale with a specific family history, title it "Cinderella Italiano," you might expect a glass slipper filled with spaghetti.  Until Saturday, May 9, Pantochino Productions invites you to take a magic ride to the sunny Italian countryside for frolic and fun, courtesy of Bert Bernardi for book and lyrics and Justin Rugg for music.

Caution:  don't come to the show hungry, unless you have reservations at an Italian restaurant nearby.  The show is at the Milford Center for the Arts so plan ahead.  As tradition dictates, a much overworked and unappreciated Cinderella, adorably captured by Mary Mannix, has a hard life trying 

to please her impossible stepmother, the demanding Shelly Marsh Poggio, and her disagreeable stepsisters brought to less than charming life by Jimmy Johansmeyer and Jeremy Tortotora (you should be laughing already).

Of course, the villagers (all the eligible young women, that is, like Kylie Poggio, Peyton Iott, Meg Cardi and Cassie Gerace) are all agog over the sudden appearance of the most eligible bachelor Prince Spaghetti, handsomely presented in the personage of Justin Rugg.  His mama, Queen Regina, regally prominent thanks to Maria Berte, wants only the best for her son and heir.

To that end, when he spies a lovely lass but fails to learn her name or where she lives (Cinderella, of course), the Queen schedules a ball (a grand dance, not the sports game kind) in the hopes the mystery maiden will appear. Thanks to an ingenious and slightly devious Godmother (note the lack of the word Fairy in her name), in the clever character of George Spelvin, Cinderella is able to get her dance card filled with the Prince's name.

With a lot of inspired singing and dancing, incredible costumes by Jimmy Johansmeyer and the mention of every Italian food from manicotti to meatballs to mascarpone, "Cinderella Italiano" is a pure and spicy delight, garlic cloves and all.  There's even a magic ingredient to help Cinderalls get her man.

For tickets ($18 online, $20 at the door), call Pantochino Productions at 203-937-6206 or online at  Performances are Friday at 7:30 p.m., Saturday at 2 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m.  Take note that Tuesday, May 5 from 8 a.m. to Wednesday, May 6 at 8 p.m. is The Great Give 2015 where you can pledge financial support to this great and deserving 501C3 non-profit.  Go to  Every dollar donated with be matched.

So what if you're sprinkled with grated Parmesan cheese instead of fairy dust, this spoof of Cinderella is sure to please everyone in the family, capeesh?


If Cupid had a mischievous twin brother, his name might be Puck.  While the former is busy shooting off arrows of affection, the latter indulges in placing eye drops of purple passion flowers that cause mismatched lovers to become inappropriate pairings. For William Shakespeare, who believes "all's fair in love and war," the chance to play matchmaker is too delicious not to indulge in with crazy and comical results.

On the Summer Soltice, known for being long and hot by day and short and warm by night, causing "midsummer madness," the Bard has created his most popular comedy "A Midsummer Night's Dream."  Until Sunday, May 3, the Connecticut Repertory Theatre on the campus of the University of Connecticut will take you delightfully into Arden Forest, moved to circa 1905, in Europe.

Triangles of romance abound.  Hermia (Juliana Bears) loves Lysander (Michael Bobenhausen) and vice versa, but Demetrius (Bryce Wood) also has cast his affections upon her.  To complicate matters, Hermia's father Egeus (Derrick Holmes) forbids her to wed any suitor but Demetrius, with the pain of death or exile to a nunnery if she disobeys.  The Duke (Kent Coleman) who is himself about to marry Hippolyta (Susannah Resnikoff) decrees Hermia must obey her father.

The fair Helena (Arlene Bozich) is facing a similar problem: she loves Demetrius, in vain.  When she hears her friend Hermia is running away from Athens to the forest to secretly wed Lysander, Helena determines to follow.  Meanwhile an amateur troupe of actors, including carpenters, weavers and tailors, is busy practicing a play to entertain at the wedding of the Duke.  Led by Quince (John Manning Jr), he rehearses his men (Jeff DeSisto, Joon Ho Oh, Brian Patrick Sullivan and Sam Kebede) and the play's hero, Nick Bottom (Michael Patrick Kane).

When Puck (Gabriel Apres, Conor Donnally, Scott Redmond), a trio of acrobatic and wily fairies, goes wild with dousing eyelids with potions of love, at the insistence of Oberon the King of the Fairies (Curtis Longfellow), the results are comical and farcical.  Oberon is having problems of his own, love-wise, with his Queen Titania (Natalia Cuevas), and he plots to have her awaken, after her eyelids have been doused, so the first person she sees is Nick Bottom, who has been transformed into a donkey.

The physical comedy on stage is wonderfully wild:  think The Three Stooges Meet Lucy and Desi.  Fairies are plentiful, in magical array, flitting hither and yon. The costume department, led by Pat Ubaldi-Nurnberger, performs double duty as many of the creations, put together with snap tape, have to be resewn after every performance.  The extreme physicality causes †he costumes to literally fall apart. Dale AJ Rose directs this merry mixup of mismatched mates with a clever hand, on a set designed by Luke Miller and Abigail Copeland, one perfect for uphill and downhill chases.

For tickets ($7-30), call the CT Rep Theatre at 860-486-2113 or online at  Performances are 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 2 p.m. at the Jorgensen Theatre.  The ticket box office is at the Nafe Katter Theatre on Bolton Road.

Let yourself be sprinkled with fairy dust and enjoy all the complications and complexities as lovers run off into the forest, unaware that wild and crazy things can happen there...even if none of them are lions and tigers and bears, oh my! Actually there is a lion, but he's harmless.


If you're the type of person who gets excited when you receive an invitation to a big party, imagine your level of ecstasy if that one party magically became six!  The Palace Theater in Waterbury is throwing a grand shindig in celebration of its milestone tenth anniversary and you're invited to join the crowd of well wishers.

Starting at 5 p.m. on Friday, May 1 with an outdoor pre-party on the loading dock and lasting until the wee hours of midnight, the Palace is rolling out the red carpet to all areas of this grand and exotic facade.  Termed "The Party of the Decade," guests will be encouraged to wander freely from the gilded majestic foyer to the cozy Poli Club, make a quick stop at a Tiki Bar, pause at a food truck, go night clubbing on the stage and have yourself a ball, all for a good cause:  the Palace's tenth anniversary.

On the loading dock at 5 p.m., you'll discover a bevy of food trucks like Fryborg where everything is fried to a crispy perfection all the way to Hardcore Sweet Cupcakes that are a delectable delight.  Crosseyed Cat, a popular local group, will start the evening off with a musical bang until 8 p.m.

The next venue will start at 6 p.m. with the opening of the luxury lounge of the Palace's Grand Foyer.  Guests will enjoy trays of passed hors d'oeuvres, specialty drinks of bourbon and martinis and the smooth sounds of The Jazz Trio.  A few marble steps away, up in the Poli Club, grab a plate of delicious nibbles, a cocktail, and sit back and enjoy a list of award-winning jazz artists from 7 p.m. to the bewitching hour.  Fancy yourself a cool tropical drink, the mezzanine lobby will feature a Tiki Bar.  Find a seat under a palm tree and enjoy the selections from a live DJ from Powerstation Events starting at 8 p.m. to 10:30 p.m.

Put your dancing shoes on and glide across the elegant Palace stage in a unique night club atmosphere as local recording artist Timmy Maia performs with Bock and Blu starting at 7:30 p.m. for the next four hours. If you're into karaoke, the Keys to the City's dueling piano show will lure you to the orchestra lobby from 10 p.m. on, to hear contemporary pop tunes.  What a great interactive crowd pleaser!

The brainchild of Development Officer Natalie Lawlor and CEO of the Palace Frank Tavera, this plethora of parties has something for everyone and will showcase all the venues the Palace has to offer, with food stations, craft beers, specialty bars, desserts and tons of live entertainment.  For tickets ($65), which includes everything offered and 2 drink vouchers, call the Palace, 100 East Main Street, Waterbury at 203-346-2000 or online at  Leave your tuxedos and gowns in the closet as the evening is relaxed, casual dress.

For parties with a capital P, with the Palace shining in the spotlight, come celebrate the Palace 10.0 on Friday, May 1!

Wednesday, April 22, 2015



After attending three funerals in eight days (with no weddings in sight), the message was clear:  every day is a present, appreciate the daily gift.

On Saturday, April 18, I began the day on Audubon Street in New Haven at the Creative Arts Workshop attending a really neat and fun event, Edible Books.  An international occurrence every April 1 or thereabouts, it invites children and adults to make a food offering applauding a favorite book, one that can be admired and then eaten.

At this year's display, the tenth or eleventh in a row, there were quiches to note "Julia and Julie," the prize chef and her fan, as well as a tasty egg concoction of the Israelites crossing the Red Sea to commemorate "Exodus." The children's table featured a trio of chocolate cakes to illustrate "Moby Dick," "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" and a typewriter to recognize a children's book about cows who type.  Get your fork and plate ready. Eat!  What a super way to promote reading. Kudos to Paulette Rosen for organizing the morning and for making her yummy chicken soup in honor of Maurice Sendek. Ms. Rosen, an artist herself, will have an exhibit  entitled "In Passing" at the City Gallery, 994 State Street, New Haven until Sunday, April 26.

Long Wharf Theatre inaugurated a weekend of new play readings sponsored by The Lord/Kubler Fund for New Works.  Three plays, "Contemporary American Voices Festival," celebrated works by Janine Nabors, Julia Cho and Samuel D. Hunter who all took part in a symposium hosted by Associate Artistic Director Eric Ting, with the addition of Joe DiPietro whose world premiere play "The Second Mrs. Wilson" will grace the Main Stage from May 6-31. I attended Janine Nabors' emotionally shattering "Serial Black Face" that echoed the Atlanta children's murders of 1979 as well as the symposium of playwrights.

On Sunday, April 19, Julia Cho's "Aubergine" was presented as a reading, followed by Samuel D. Hunter's "Clarkston."  In the fall a companion piece, the world premiere play "Lewiston" will be offered at Long Wharf, directed by Eric Ting. I trekked back to Audubon Street to visit the Silk Road Art Gallery for a trio of photographers:  Phyllis Crowley, Roy Money and Paul Duda.  All the photos were inspired by nature and personal visits to Shanghai, China, Vietnam and Cambodia. They offered views of walls and water,  pines and rice paddies, in a soft lyrical manner.

That night the mood of seriousness lifted as the Palace Theater in Waterbury welcomed actress and comedienne Vicki Lawrence and her favorite persona, the sassy and sharp tongued Mama, a character shaped on The Carol Burnett Show.  The night ended with a lot of laughter.

What a day and night!  How wonderful to share in such talent in so many disciplines. Color me technicolor and grateful.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015



If you garden, you know that having a green thumb is a distinct advantage.  If your plants have a liking for blood instead of the traditional water, plant fertilizer and sunshine, possessing a red thumb might be more of a help.  Just ask  the giant person-eating plant that grows and grows and grows larger and hungrier in Howard Ashman, book and lyrics, with Alan Menken's music, in the decidedly distinctive musical comedy "Little Shop of Horrors" inhabiting the stage of the Melissa and Doug Stage at the  Music Theatre of Connecticut in Norwalk until Sunday, May 3.

If you own a florist shop where no one purchases a bunch of daisies or daffodils, where pots of petunias wilt right before your eyes, when red roses are not requested even on Valentine's Day, you might be tempted to make a pact with the Jolly Green Devil to make your store profitable and plant happy.  When Audrey II makes a sudden appearance at Mr. Mushnik's Floral Skid Row Shop, everything looks like it's finally coming up roses.  Just at the moment when Mushnik (Lou Ursone) is ready to throw in his pruning shears, his meek and mild but intensely loyal clerk Seymour (Anthony DiCostanzo) shows him an unusual plant he has been cultivating, one that he found in Chinatown during a total eclipse of the sun. Seymour feels this new seedling is so different that it will attract visitors and, more importantly, customers, into the frequently empty store.

Seymour has a secret crush on the other employee, Audrey (Elissa DeMaria) so he names his new creation Audrey II.  The object of his affection has an unfortunate relationship with Orin (Tony Lawson, who takes a multitude of roles), a sadistic dentist of the first order of torture and drills.  His physical abuse makes him the perfect primary candidate as plant food when the ever expanding and always hungry Audrey Ii screams "Feed Me!"  Audrey Ii has been cleverly designed by Erin Flanagan Lind and Corey T. Lind, voiced by Peter McClung and puppeted by Will Strong.  To say that Audrey Ii commands the center of attention is a colorful understatement.

Accompanying this scientifically challenging tale is a Greek chorus of energetic singers - Inuka Ivaska, Kristian Espiritu and Gabrielle Lee - who have a lot of fun and flair in music and dance.  Tunes like Audrey's dream of "Somewhere That's Green," Orin's devilishly triumph of "Dentist!" and Seymour's emergence in the spotlight in "Suddenly, Seymour" help the story advance.  Kevin Connors directs this perfectly in tune and talented cast through this decidedly different musical offering.

For tickets ($30-50, $5 off for seniors and students), call MTC, 509 Westport Avenue, Norwalk (behind Nine West and Jones New York) at 203-454-3883 or online at  Performances are Friday at 8 p.m., Saturday at 4 p.m. and 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m.

Think Venus Flytrap morphs into Moby Dick's mouth as Audrey II grows more and more demanding and Seymour tries frantically to answer her call.  Please keep all bandaged fingers safely tucked away.

Monday, April 20, 2015


                                     PHOTO BY ALEJANDRO "LEX" ULLOA

                                            THE FAIRFIELD UNIVERSITY GLEE CLUB

Fairfield University is pulling out all the stops to bring you great musical fun under two banners this coming week at the Quick Center and you're welcome to come to both. First up is the delightful musical comedy "Avenue Q" that combines humans and puppets in a unique and clever way. Think Sesame Street Meets the Cast of "Friends."  These puppets on parade all live on the same street in New York and all are dealing with the problems of transitioning from youth to adulthood andl the myriad of problems that entails.  This coming-of-age parable is a Tony Award-winning show that you won't want to miss.

Come meet Rod, Nicky, Lucy, Brian, Kate, Gary, Trekkie Monster and Christmas Eve as they all help Princeton, the newest resident on Avenue Q, adjust to growing up. All the fun and excitement will take place at the Wien Experimental Theatre at the Quick Center by the Theatre Fairfield, the school's resident production company, from Wednesday, April 22 to Sunday, April 26, with 8 p.m. curtains Wednesday to Saturday and 2 p.m. matinees Saturday and Sunday. Tickets are $12, senior and staff $6 and students $5.  Call the Quick Center box office at 203-254-4010 or 877-ARTS-396 or online at

On Thursday, April 30, at 7:30 p.m., come around again for "Glee Goes Rock 'N Roll '50s '60s '70s" when the Glee Club, under the talented direction of Carole Ann Maxwell, D.S.M. leads the 130 member strong group through its paces with music by Queen, Michael Jackson, Carole King, and many others.
Performances by Sweet Harmony, The Bensonians, The Pops Band and The Glee Band will be featured.

The groups are guaranteed to "Start You Up," "Respect" you and show how "We Will Rock You."  Tickets are $10, students $6.

Now that spring is finally here, robins and daffodils and all, celebrate the season in style with both these gifts from Fairfield University to the community. Princeton and friends and the entire Glee Club are waiting to make merry music just for you.



If you treat all things trivial with seriousness and all things serious with triviality and eat a mountain of cucumber sandwiches in the process, you'll be in the proper frame of mind for Oscar Wilde's comedy of postures and manners "The Importance of Being Earnest."  Set in Victorian London and environs, it will be poised in all its polite prettiness, and a little pettiness, at the West Hartford's Playhouse on Park until Sunday, May 3.

Deceptions run amok with delightfully dire consequences when the utterly respectable Jack Worthing (Michael Raver) resides in the country at his estate in Hertfordshire.  Adopted as a mere babe, he commands a responsible role as a guardian to Cecily Cardew (Laura Hankin), the sweetly fair of face granddaughter of the late Thomas Cardew.  As a landowner of note, Jack must maintain an attitude of modesty and propriety.

When this guise of proper gentleman threatens to choke him, Jack uses an imaginary and disreputable brother Ernest as an alibi to flee the constraints of the countryside and abscond to London for a little scandalous behavior, claiming it is "Ernest" who is at fault.

Jack's best friend Algernon (James Parenti) knows him as Ernest and does not discern the "double life" Jack/Ernest is leading. He, in fact, has his own deceitful character, an invalid named Bunbury, who conveniently calls him to his deathbed whenever a pesky social obligation needs to be  excised.  When Jack confides in Algernon that he is about to propose to the lovely Gwendolen (Jane Bradley), Algernon's cousin, he finds a wall of resistence from Algie as well as from Gwen's mama, the formidable and opinionated Lady Bracknell (Katrina Ferguson).

Complications tumble out of control when Algernon decides to invade his friend's country home in order to make the acquaintance of the sweet as sugar Cecily, a maiden who forces him to fall madly and instantly in love.  Miss Prism (Donna Schilke) as Cecily's governess and Mr. Chasuble (David Farrington) as the community religious leader entertain their own romantic allusions, while the proper English butler (Harrison Greene) serves tea and sandwiches.  Love letters, diaries, a cigarette case, a large black pocketbook and adorable fascinators (hats) pop up to add to the merry mix ups that abound.  Jerry Winters directs this thoroughly entertaining foray into Oscar Wilde's zany world , with a sturdy troupe of skilled performers.

For tickets ($25-35), call Playhouse on Park, 244 Park Road, West Hartford at 860-523-5900, ext. 10, or online at  Performances are Wednesday and Thursday at 7:30 p.m., Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m.and Sunday at 2 p.m. (with talk back with cast after show).

Discover for yourself the importance of being earnest, when two young gentlemen become romantically entangled with two determined ladies who categorically refuse to marry anyone whose name is not Ernest.



The glory, magic and majesty of the land known as Camelot will be sailing its banners high into the Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts in Hartford from Tuesday, April 21 to Sunday, April 26.  King Arthur and his beguiling Queen Guenevere are at the heart and center of this intriguing tale of pomp and pageantry.  Arthur's loyal cadre of knights known as the Round Table serve as his minions in his fight to preserve honor, justice and righteousness.

The tale of bravery begins quite early when a young  and impressionable Arthur, known as Wart to his friends, is a willing and eager pupil of the grand wizard Merlin.   When Arthur pulls the sword Excalibur from the stone, his fate as the future King is England is revealed and sealed.

  This great musical, adapted from T.H. White’s “The Once and Future King,” begins when an uncertain Arthur is posed to meet his bride Guenevere
(Mary McNulty) on the eve of their arranged marriage.  Neither is too eager for the match, but fate and love conspire to bring them together.

Arthur  (Adam Grabau) is determined to create a new order of conduct, to espouse all the worthy virtues of chivalry, during his reign and to bring all the finest and most courageous knights to his newly created Round Table.  To that end, he summons Sir Sagamore, Sir Lionel , Sir Dinaden  and the grandest, bravest, noblest and most immodest of them all, Sir Lancelot (Tim Rogan).

Arthur’s grand plan for peace is challenged with the advent of the maliciously scheming Mordred and the conniving Morgan LeFey, who stir up the pot with treason, treachery and revenge.  

Glorious music swirls romantically throughout.  Such songs as “If Ever I Would Leave You,” “Camelot” and “Take Me to the Fair” are poignant or delightful in turn.

For tickets ($23-80), call The Bushnell, 166 Capitol Avenue, Hartford at 860-987-5900 or online at   Performances are Tuesday - 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. 

Remember the presidency of John F. Kennedy and the current reign of Barack Obama and the legacy of promise and hope that sprang from that “fleeting wisp of glory called Camelot.”  Capture that spark and sparkle for yourself.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015


                                LEONARDO DA VINCI

What do ice cream spoons, pencils, keys, rulers, mirrors, matches, buttons, clothespins, playing cards and knots all have in common?  While you might find them all in a junk drawer in your kitchen, that's not their primary connection.  In the past 21 years, they and many other objects have been the fascinating focus of the Eli Whitney Museum's Leonardo Challenge.

Located on the border between New Haven and Hamden, the Eli Whitney Museum and Workshop, at 915 Whitney Avenue, is a treasure trove of creativity and inventiveness.  Encouraging students to learn by doing, it is dedicated to building minds as well as models, stimulating imaginations to experiment and discover.  From birds to bugs to blockheads, catapults to cars to colonial toys, children have been excited by the myriad possibilities at their disposal.

With creativity as practically its middle name, you wouldn't expect the Eli Whitney Museum to hold a run-of-the-mill traditional fundraiser.  After two decades, the Leonardo Challenge will now provide and provoke comments and enthusiasm as it offers "Uncharted Imagination" for new paths of discovery.

The ancient art of cartography, or map writing, will be given an infusion of imagination as the "material" from which one hundred artists from all over the country will be urged to make something novel and unconventional.  Each entry will be on display at the museum, revealed in all their unique glory, on Thursday, April 23 from 5:30 p.m. - 9 p.m. as part of the 21st Leonardo Challenge. The entries will continue to be on display, free and open to the public, for several weeks after the event.

Maps have been designed to chart land masses, the stars in the skies and the complexity of the seas.  Maps and Leonardo da Vinci are tied together.  While da Vinci is known for his endeavors as a mathematician, scientist, inventor, artist, sculptor, architect, musician and writer, he was also  well known as a cartographer, drawing maps for his elaborate engineering projects and even constructing a world map of the globe, naming the Americas, configuring the continents, with an ocean at the north pole and a continent at the south pole.

How fitting, therefore, that "uncharted imagination"is the  challenge for this year's artists who will use their unbridled directional senses to bloom with romantic flair.  The invitation, designed by Associate Director Sally Hill, is an artistic adventure for those willing to capture the whimsy and wisdom intricately trapped within its folds. For museum CEO and executive director Bill Brown, "maps are so ubiquitous that we take them for granted and not for what they are: a social architecture that connects us on many levels."

The evening will include the delicious spicy and crusty creations of the Big Green Pizza Trucks, the smooth flavorful cheeses of Caseus, the toothy and exotic breads and confections of Whole G's artisan bakers, the fresh and local offerings paired to the seasons from Small Kitchen, Big Taste, the around the globe liquid delights of Koffee's baristas and the Napa Valley spirits from Diageo Wines.

For reservations ($70, with additional levels of giving from $250-$2500), call the Eli Whitney Museum at 203-777-1833 (ask for Dana Clough) or online at

What better way to support and encourage the budding child inventors of tomorrow, than by endowing the Eli Whitney Museum and Workshop projects today.

Monday, April 13, 2015


The music has a message and the Connecticut Gay Men's Chorus is the perfect group to deliver it.  You may know Harvey Milk and his unique story or you may be totally unfamiliar with this unlikely American hero.  Either way your life will be enriched for bearing witness to his life and works, his pride, his courage and his tragic death.

"I Am Harvey Milk," the concert oratorio composed by Andrew Lippa, celebrates the existence of this gay rights activist who spoke up and stepped out long before it was fashionable or safe to do so.  Milk was one of the pioneers and one of the first to hold public office in this country and announce his position with strength and courage, in the face of great opposition.

For two performances, the CGMC, in words, song and dance, will proclaim Harvey Milk's bravery as a political prophet, on Saturday, April 25 at 8 p.m. and on Sunday, April 26 at 4 p.m. at the Theatre at the Co-op, 117 College Street, New Haven.

Milk's life growing up in San Francisco, up to and including his sudden death at the hands of an assassin on the steps of San Francisco City Hall in 1978, will be captured in all its dramatic and heartfelt humanity.  This musical piece was commissioned by the San Francisco Gay Men's Chorus, with the Gay Men's Choruses in Atlanta, Los Angeles, Dayton, Denver, Twin Cities, Vancouver and Heartland.  It enjoyed its world premiere in San Francisco in June 2013 and later its New York premiere at Avery Fisher Hall in Lincoln Center in October 2014.

Incorporating a variety of musical styles, with a dozen stirring songs like "An Operatic Masterpiece," imagined by a young Harvey Milk about his future, "Lavender Pen" which celebrates the passage of San Francisco's gay rights bill and the exuberant "Friday Night at the Castro," complete with a giant mirrored disco ball that turns the stage into a grand night club scene.

The hour long oratorio is packed with musical punches as Milk's impact on the social and political stage is recounted in song and verse.  One of the most emotional moments of the show might be "I Am the Bullet" that traces the trajectory of one of the bullets that takes this folk hero down,  The concluding number "Tired of the Silence" soars to a triumphant arc and includes the words actually spoken by Harvey Milk at a gay rights parade.

"The piece shows how the man was, and continues to be, an inspiration; not only to gay people but all who have experienced oppression of some sort in their lives," according to Ken Sawicki, CGMC board member and singer, "It’s got a wonderful score that incorporates choral music with musical comedy touches and even disco! Ultimately it is a very uplifting experience to be singing it, and I think you’ll find it the same as an audience member. In addition to the Chorus, the CGMC version features some very talented soloists and for the first time since I've been a chorus member, a full orchestra, which make the show even more exciting!"

For tickets ($25-30), call the CGMC at 800-644-2462 (CGMC) or online at

Don't miss the New England premiere of "I Am Harvey Milk" described by Playbill as "a powerful night full of chill-inducing moments in drama and music." Be there to experience the musical tour-de-force!  Come out and be counted!


After lacing up her sensible and sturdy oxford shoes, donning her prettiest floral house dress, covering her grey curls with a fashionable hairnet, Thelma Harper, better known as Mama, is ready to hit the road.  That old gal has been putting young whippersnappers in their place for decades so why should she slow down now.

Believe it or not, actress, singer and comedienne Vicki Lawrence has been giving Mama her way  as if she has a choice), sassy and cranky and just plain adorable, for four decades.  As part of her 40th anniversary tour, she will be appearing at the Palace Theater in Waterbury on Saturday, April 18 at 8 p.m. and you're invited to meet them "both" when Vicki Lawrence and Mama come a calling.

Lawrence's career got a giant jump start way back when this enterprising high school senior sent her idol Carol Burnett a letter noting their physical resemblance. She even invited the star to attend the local fire department's "Miss Fireball Contest" in which she was performing.  With a touch of serendipity, Ms. Burnett was looking for an actress to play her kid sister for a new variety show, she contacted Vicki, and the rest is the stuff legends are made of in show business land.  Vicki went to UCLA and simultaneously started a relationship with Carol on "The Carol Burnett Show" that lasted eleven years.

In a career that spans television talk shows and game show hosts, stage productions like "Carousel" and "Hello, Dolly," appearances on the Grand Ole Opry, promoting women's rights, performing for our military troops, supporting causes like D.A.R.E. and heart and women's cancers and even playing Miley Cyrus' grandma on "Hannah Montana," Vicki Lawrence has been a force to be reckoned with in the entertainment super circle.

Since 2002, she has focused her considerable talents on her one woman show "Vicki Lawrence and Mama, a Two Woman Show."  Prepare to laugh and be hugged to death by this talented star who credits Carol Burnett and Harvey Korman as her exclusive professors who guided her through the "Harvard school of comedy."

For tickets ($42-62), call the Palace Theater, 100 East Main Street, Waterbury at 203-346-2000 or online at

Come discover who has the sharpest and funniest tongue in the west, north, south and east when Mama brings her alter ego Vicki Lawrence to the Palace.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015


Grab a red, white and blue flag and wave it high when the oldest glee club at Fairfield University, numbering 130 voices strong, presents a stirring and patriotic "Star Spangled Showcase" at the Regina Quick Center for the Arts on campus. On Saturday, April 11 at 8 p.m., the Fairfield University Glee Club, that has been performing for almost seven decades, will delight audiences with Broadway favorites and patriotic tunes,.

Kicking off the celebration will be a tribute to the 250 year old classic of our country, the
"Star Spangled Banner."  What will follow is sure to please:  soaring songs like "On My Own" from "Les Miserables," "Don't Rain on My Parade" from "Funny Girl" and even a little stroll down "Avenue Q."

Featured performances by the full Glee Club, conducted by Carole Ann Maxwell, D.S.M. will be complemented by an all-male a cappella group The Bensonians, the all-female chamber group Sweet Harmony as well as The Chamber Singers.

As if that wasn't enough, there will be the world premiere of "But Now I See," scored for choir, soloists and percussion, composed by Robert Schwartz, class of 2016, as a medley of spirituals.  The piece begins with "Sign of the Judgment" and includes "Swing Low, Sweet Chariot" and "Get Down Moses."

For tickets ($10, students $6), call the Quick Center Box Office at 203-254-4010 or 1-877-ARTS-396 or online at

The Fairfield University Glee Club has performed throughout Europe, singing in such prestigious places as Rome at the Vatican, Florence, London and Galway, as well as closer to home at Carnegie Hall, , the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C. and U.S. military academies at West Point and Annapolis.  To hear these strong and vibrant voices for yourself, just take a short trip to Fairfield University and the Quick Center and prepare to be wowed.

Monday, April 6, 2015


Random acts of violence are, unfortunately, so common that they rate a mere few lines of newspaper print or acknowledgement on air.  We are almost immune to their impact, giving them a momentary blink of time in noting their tragedy.  But to the families and friends intimately involved, lives change forever and the impact never disappears.

Thanks to playwright Kimber Lee, we are privy to the devastation of one such random act in her new play "brownsville song (b-side for tray) being showcased at Long Wharf Theatre in New Haven until Sunday, April 19 on the Claire Tow Stage in the C. Newton Schenck III Theatre.

The Brownsville section of Brooklyn is the setting, but it could be Anywhere, U. S. A., where we first meet Lena, the strong matriarch of this splintered African-American family.  Catrina Ganey's masterful performance as Lena introduces us to her grandson Tray and she, reluctantly, begins his tale.  Tray, captured in the ambitious and hopeful hands of Curtiss Cook, Jr., is packed with promise.  He works hard in school, holds a part-time job at Starbucks and lovingly cares for his younger sibling Devine, a sweet but easily frightened Kaatje Welsh.

In addition, he is training for a Golden Glove championship boxing bout and is struggling to write a college essay that will secure him a much needed scholarship.  While Lena and Devine are the center of his world, Tray also deals with his friend (Anthony Martinez-Briggs) and his step-mom Merrill (Sung Yun Cho) who has suddenly reappeared in their lives after abandoning them due to her alcoholism and addictions.

This reliant young man, Tray, is killed, senselessly and tragically.  His life is explored, weaving a tapestry that goes back and forth between present and past.  Highlights of the production, which is co-produced with the Philadelphia Stage Company, are Lena's initial impassioned speech about the loss of her "man" Tray, the delightful dance between Devine, the "tree," and Tray, and the powerful essay Tray pens about who he is.  Eric Ting directs this moving and emotional literary piece, soaked in sorrow but saturated with a sense of salvation.

For tickets ($5-40), call Long Wharf Theatre, 222 Sargent Drive, New Haven at 203-787-4282 or online at  Performances are Tuesday at 7 p.m., Wednesday at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m., Thursday at 8 p.m., Friday at 8 p.m., Saturday at 3 p.m. and 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m.

Discover how Tray Thompson becomes more than just a name in a story of his death, but a real person, a young man of  hope who keeps his own dreams
close to his heart and, ultimately, of yours.




Imagine you're sitting in an elegant and comfortable living room, listening to a piano concert of concertos by Grieg, Beethoven, Debussy, Liszt and Rachmaninoff.  The woman at the piano is a gifted musician and a captivating storyteller who fervently wants to pay tribute to her mother Lisa Jura by telling you her remarkable story of survival during the Holocaust.  Come meet the musically mesmerizing Mona Golabek who weaves a seamless tapestry of history, from her mother's youthful days in Vienna, where she is forced to flee from the Nazis, losing her family in the process.

Hershey Felder has adapted Mona Golabek's tale from her book written with Lee Cohen about the kindertransport, a train that spirited thousands of mostly Jewish children, fleeing for their lives, to safer ports in Europe during World War II.  In "The Pianist of Willesden Lane," the Hartford Stage is providing a unique opportunity until Sunday, April 26 for both lovers of inspiring theater and connoisseurs of beautiful music.

Although not trained as an actress, Mona Golabek dips stunningly into this story she knows intimately, portraying her mother Lisa from her childhood in Vienna, a city of dreams, her rescue from the Nazis on the kindertransport, her rocky survival in and around London in a variety of homes and hostels, most notably at 243 Willesden Lane, and how her piano playing helped her survive, even the terrors of dropping bombs.

The simple black and gold set designed by Trevor Hay and Hershey Felder is an artistic window for a grand Steinway piano to hold center court, while empty picture frames on the wall are filled with the images that portray Golabek's moving words.  She becomes all the figures in her mother's life, from her tearful farewell to her parents in 1938, her interactions with Mr. Hardesty who has so much influence on her fate in London, the stern but loving concern of Mrs. Cohen who takes her into her already crowded home and the young French soldier who hears her play the piano and is so eternally moved by her music.

Through her travels and travails, the skills taught to her by her parents, her father the tailor's sewing prowess and her mother's piano lessons, serve Lisa well.  Hershey Felder directs this emotionally entertaining epoch with spellbinding finesse.

For tickets ($25-85), call the Hartford Stage, 50 Church Street, Hartford at 860-527-5151 or online at  Performances are Tuesday - 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. and occasional 7:30 p.m.

Part stirring piano concert, part moving true tale of a teenager, "The Pianist of Willesden Lane" is packed with all the love and respect and honor one daughter can gift to her mother.