Monday, May 30, 2016

SET SAIL WITH CAPTAIN COLE PORTER ON THE SS GOODSPEED




Relax on your comfy lounge chair on the poop deck of the luxury ocean liner the SS American as Captain Cole Porter sets sail with the sparkling gem of a musical “Anything Goes.”  The show has been effervescent for more than seven decades and never more so than in this Technicolor iteration being given a bon voyage send off at Goodspeed Musicals until Thursday, June 16.

Get your streamers and confetti ready for the launch party and have your martini chilled, as this merry musical with original book by Guy Bolton, P. G. Wodehouse, Howard Lindsay and Russel Crouse, with updates by Timothy Crouse and John Weidman, leaves port for adventures at sea.

The lucky passengers on this vivid voyage are on the lookout for celebrities:  now that Charlie Chaplin is a no-show, they want “stars” to light up the ocean skies.  It’s not enough that the tycoon Eli Whitney (Kingley Leggs), the socialites mother and daughter, the Harcourts (Denise Lute and daughter Hannah Florence), Hope’s aristocratic hubby-to-be Lord Oakleigh (Benjamin Howes) and glamorous entertainer Reno Sweeney (Rashidra Scott) are traveling first class.

It’s only when David Harris’ Billy Crocker is mistaken for Snake Eyes Johnson, Public Enemy #1, and Stephen DeRosa’s wildly manic Moonface Martin, Public Enemy #2, are identified that the guests aboard are pleased.  Billy is actually a stowaway, anxious to disrupt Hope’s marital plans with the English idiom challenged Lord Oakley so Billy can plead his own courtship desires.

While Moonface Martin masquerades as a minister, his cohort Erma (Desiree  Davar) entertains in saucy style, as does the wonderfully talented Reno, and Billy tries to woo Hope before the Captain (Jay Aubrey Jones) or the Purser (Patrick Richwood) catch him in the act. The ship sails full steam ahead into laughter and love.

Captivating tunes like “I Get a Kick Out of You,” “You’re the Top,” “Friendship,” “It’s De-Lovely,” “Anything Goes” and “Blow, Gabriel, Blow” fill the smoke stacks with style. Stephen DeRosa’s Moonface Martin delivers seven full decks of funny, while Kelli Barclay’s treasure of tapping toes, Ilona Somogyi’s natty nautical costumes and Wilson Chin’s red, white and blue patriotic set are first rate.  Daniel Goldstein directs this super-duper luxury liner of happiness that is definitely “so easy to love.”

For tickets ($29 and up), call Goodspeed Musicals, on the Connecticut River, East Haddam at 860-873-8668 or online at www.goodspeed.org. Performances are Wednesday at 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m., Thursday at 7:30 p.m. with select 2 p.m.matinees, Friday at 8 p.m., Saturday at 3 p.m. and 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m., with select 6:30 p.m. shows. An added performance is Tuesday, June 7 at 2 p.m.

Sign up for the fun, frolic and festivities aboard the SS American that is sinfully sensational and definitely “the Tops!"

“ANASTASIA” ARTISTICALLY AWESOME & ASTONISHING!




                                           PHOTOS BY JOAN MARCUS
Is she the perfect and poised princess or the fanciful figment of a fruitful imagination?  Come meet Anastasia, the young girl whose family is assassinated in a revolt in czarist Russia at the turn of the twentieth century in a glorious world premiere musical at Hartford Stage until Sunday, June 19.  Trust me, you don’t want to miss this splendid spectacle of a show. It is magical and momentous and marvelous!

Christy Altomare’s Anastastia, better known as Anya, is the delightfully spunky and devoted daughter whose story book childhood is disturbed violently when the peasants revolt  and everyone in her family is killed, save for her grandmother, the Dowager Empress, played regally by Mary Beth Peil, who has fortuitively traveled to Paris in advance of the siege.  Altomare is wonderfully charming as the young girl thrust out of her aristocratic upbringing to find herself suddenly sweeping streets, penniless and alone.  Think Eliza Doolittle without the flowers. Nicole Scimeca plays Anastasia at 6, while Molly Rushing captures her at 17.

Two men, Derek Klena’s Dmitry, and John Bolton’s Vlad come upon Anya in her reduced state and determine she would be an excellent candidate to pose as the lost princess, to learn the appropriate facts and pass herself off as The Dowager Empress’s missing heir.  Think Professor Higgins and his mate  Pickering without the language lessons.  While the gentlemen are working to perfect their scheme, the ruthless Russians want to suppress any rumors that Anastasia survived the coup and procede to plot her death, led by Manoel Felciano’s Gleb.

The Dowager in Paris is protected by her guardian Lily, a vibrant Caroline O’Connor, who dismisses all the imposters who claim to be ready to assume the legacy.  Lily’s past relationship with Vlad helps to open the door for Anya to make her claim, and the renewing of that courtship is a delight to witness…one of millions in the musical.  One quickly runs out of superlatives to describe the elegant costuming by Linda Cho, the elaborate scenic design by Alexander Dodge, with amazing projections and video by Aaron Rhyne, the enchanting choreography by Peggy Hickey and the exceptional direction by Darko Tresnjak.  All the moving parts of this magical musical fit together in a masterful jigsaw puzzle of perfection.

This new musical boasts a book by Terrence McNally, music by Stephen Flaherty and lyrics by Lynn Ahrens and the result is joyful. Tunes like “Once Upon a December,” “We’ll Go From There,” “In  a Crowd of Thousands,” “Land of Yesterday” and “Everything to Win” swell with meaning, under the musical direction of Thomas Murray. There is even a scene from the ballet “Swan Lake “ to admire and applaud.

For tickets ($25 and up), call  the Hartford Stage, 50 Church Street, Hartford at 860-527-5151 or online at www.hartfordstage.org.  Performances are Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Sunday at 7:30 p.m., Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m., with matinees Saturday and Sunday at 2 p.m.

Hop aboard the Entertainment Express for the white gloved elegant hit of the season as Anastasia takes you on a journey of adventure and romance that bridges decades and destiny.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

BROADWAY SINGER TONY DESARE SAILS INTO THE KATE





                                      TONY DESARE LIVE AT THE KATE

The jazzy side of Broadway is coming to call at the Kate. For one night only, Saturday, May 28 at 8 p.m., the Kate will be rolling out the red carpet to welcome Tony DeSare, accomplished songwriter, pianist and jazz singer.  Whether he’s performing with symphonies from Phoenix to Pittsburgh, Cincinnati to Seattle, at Carnegie Hall or Las Vegas, opening for Don Rickles or winning first place in the USA Songwriting Contest, Tony DeSare calls up tunes from the Great American Songbook as well as his own original melodies.

Think nightclubs.  Think television spotlights.  Think commercials and even a movie theme song or three.  Named a “Rising Star” Male Vocalist in 2009 in a Downbeat Critics Poll, he has toured internationally from Hong Kong to Australia to Japan, being compared to a young Frank Sinatra.  He has worked extensively on a tribute to ‘Ol Blue Eyes entitled “The Best Is Yet To Come” and “Our Sinatra,” teaming up with Tom Santropietro along the way to produce “A Century of Sinatra” in honor of Frank’s 100th Birthday.

Known for his compelling stylings and extraordinary artistry, Tony DeSare will shine on stage at the Kate, with his winning personality, sparkling charm and smooth delivery.  His fingers will dance across the ivories as he regales the audience with song upon song, hand picked from one of his three top ten Billboard jazz albums.  First Niagara Foundation will bring this live performance to the Katharine Hepburn Cultural Arts Center as a grand way to add an explosive and suave spark to your Memorial Day weekend.

For tickets ($45-48), call the Kate, 300 Main Street, Old Saybrook at 877-503-1286 or online at www.thekate.org.

Get in the mood for romance.  Celebrate all the Broadway tunes that you love.  Let Tony DeSare entertain you with a capital E.

Monday, May 23, 2016

HAIL TO THE FARCE AT CT. CABARET




                                         CHRIS BROOKS AND ASHLEY AYALA
We are a nation that loves to order things, all sorts of things, online, using the Internet as a giant shopping cart.  After purchasing, we eagerly await the mailman’s truck to arrive to deliver our highly anticipated goods so we can instantaneously be gratified and rewarded.  What happens, however, when what we order is not what we receive, if there is some disconnect between the buyer and the seller.  What do we do then?

Grab a catalogue or amazon.com wish list, and run over to Berlin’s intimately staged Connecticut Cabaret Theatre for a lesson in laughter as it speedily delivers a farce for your pleasure:  “No Sex Please, We’re British.”  Penned by Alistair Foot and Anthony Marriott, it was a rousing success in London’s West End when it opened in 1971.  

Even though the new bride Frances Hunter did not have access to the Internet or E-Bay for her shopping needs, she did take advantage of a mail order request for some sparkling Scandinavian glassware to furnish their apartment over the bank where her husband Peter works.  When the goblets fail to arrive, Frances, instead, finds herself the recipient of cases and cartons, envelopes and boxes of Scandinavian pornography.  Ashley Ayala’s sensible Frances takes the mistaken delivery in stride until her hubby Peter, a stoic Chris Brooks, points out if the off color material is found in their possession he could lose his job.  The situation becomes even more dire with the arrival of Peter’s mom, an inquisitive Rachel West-Balling, as well as two official bank executives played by Russell Fish and George Lombardo.

To solve their “blue” problem, Peter coerces his bank assistant Brian, an eager to please Chris Pearson, to save the day by either burning, drowning, burying or dumping the offensive material.  As the stakes climb and the situation looks like it is involving the police, in the personage of Dave Wall’s Lt. Paul, Brian becomes appropriately unhelpfully hysterical.

As the Hunter apartment becomes increasingly crowded, especially when you add in the happy hookers Susan (Maria Pompile) and Barbara (Brianna Zuk), this farce threatens to explode.  With anchovies and artwork, sleeping pills and parrots, ringing doorbells and threatened resignations, mistaken identities and misdirected missives, the newlyweds are overwhelmed with the mysteries of marital life.  Through it all, director Kris McMurray, CT Cabaret’s Artistic Director and owner, makes sure the laughter rolls merrily along.

For tickets ($30), call CT Cabaret Theatre, 31 Webster Square Road, Berlin at 860-829-1248 or online at www.ctcabaret.com.  Performances are Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m., with doors opening at 7:15 p.m.  Remember this is cabaret, with food and drinks welcome or you can buy refreshments on site.  Now is the time to subscribe for next year’s season of two musicals and three comedies.

As doors slam and lies and fibs fly, watch how the newlyweds Frances and Peter keep their cool while chaos reigns.

“THE CALL” WELL WORTH THE WAIT


               

                               MARY BACON
           
Selecting a restaurant and an entree are decisions that are easily accomplished.  The consequences for choosing badly are brief and inconsequential in the long run. Some decisions, however, are weighted and ponderous in their implications and can’t be easily changed once a course is taken.  Such is the case with Pater and Annie, a slightly older couple, who want to complete their family by adding a child.

Hartford TheaterWorks is opening the door and the heart to parenthood with Tanya Garfield’s involving drams “The Call” until Sunday, June 19.  Here the stakes are high. Annie has endured the pain and disappointment of tests and treatments, experienced a trio of miscarriages and even entertained the idea of hiring a surrogate. Peter is supportive and shares her desire to embrace parenthood.

Mary Bacon’s beautifully heartbroken Annie is beset by worries.  Even as she plans and paints the perfect baby’s room, she agonizes over whether she’ll be good enough to earn the coveted title “mom.”  We, the audience, are carried along on her emotional journey, especially when she and hubby Todd Gearhart’s Peter decide to venture overseas on a cross-cultural African adoption.

With good friends a lesbian African-American couple Rebecca (Jasmin Walker) and Drea (Maechi Aharanwa) offering concern and advice, it is truly Peter and Annie’s new next door neighbor Alemu, a helpful in-your-face Michael Rogers, who provides the wisdom and words to help them reach the appropriate decision in this highly personal arena.  Jenn Thompson sensitively directs this fresh and probing drama about what separates and unites us in our desire to make this planet a better place to live, even if it is just for one child. As the Talmud states, if you save one life it is as if you have saved the world.

Ironically, in the case of life imitating art, both Mary Bacon and Jenn Thompson are intimately tied to this question of parenthood, both having adopted children from Ethiopia, Mary having stayed in the country for a time as a volunteer to learn about her son’s heritage.  Her husband Andrew Leynse is the artistic director of New York’s Primary Stages, the theater that originally produced “The Call” in 2013.

For tickets ($40-65, student rush when available $15, seniors $35 at Saturday matinees), call TheaterWorks, 233 Pearl Street, Hartford at 860-527-7838 or online at www.theaterworkshartford.org.  Performances are Tuesday to Thursday at 7:30 p.m., Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m. and weekend matinees at 2:30 p.m.

In celebration of its 30 year anniversary, TheaterWorks will hold a gala party on Saturday, June 4, starting at 6 p.m.  Utilizing all levels of the theater building, guests will travel from space to space enjoying pasta, wine, burgers and brews, jazz and country, and even a chance to dance. Tickets for all this enjoyment start at $195.

Watch the global community shrink down to one well appointed apartment where the ringing of the telephone has the potential to change lives in infinitely astonishing ways. Come take the complicated journey all the way to love.

Monday, May 16, 2016

TAKE A SENSUAL STEP WITH “DIRTY DANCING”







Who can forget the sensual and stimulating steps, those monumental and memorable moves, that Baby and Johnny took all those years ago at a resort in the Catskill Mountains in New York?  Those two fiercely free spirits set our joints throbbing as they pumped and pounded their way to passion and paradise and took us along for the romantically robust ride.  Hold on to your socks for they’re about to do it again, this time live at the Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts in Hartford from Tuesday, May 24 to Sunday, May 29 as "Dirty Dancing” captures the stage.

Get your dance card ready, the one with the light blue satin cover and the tassel, for an explosion of one heck of a sexy summer love story way back in 1963. The Houseman family is on vacation and seventeen year old Frances, better known as Baby, is about to learn a lot more than badmitten.  Not interested in the typical resort fare, she stumbles upon the forbidden fruit on display at a staffers’ dance party and the temptation is dangled and swallowed whole.

Soon Baby is mesmerized by the resident dance instructor, one smooth moving Johnny Castle, and the spell is cast.  As if bewitched, Baby has no resistance to Johnny’s dangerous pleasures on and off the dance floor.  Quickly she becomes his dance partner, much to the dismay of her family.  From two different worlds, the pair nevertheless move to the same beat in rhythm that is electric.  Johnny and Baby figuratively make love with their moves on the dance floor and we are the vicarious witnesses.

For tickets ($36.50-105.50), call the Bushnell, 166 Capitol Avenue, Hartford at 860-987-5900 or online at www.bushnell.org. Performances are Tuesday to 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.

You’re guaranteed to “have the time of your life” as you discover the answer to the burning question of the day and night “Do You Love Me?"

“LEGALLY BLONDE” IS GREAT LEGITIMATE FUN


              LAWSON YOUNG AS ELLE WOODS    PHOTO BY PAUL



Oh, my God. Oh, my God. Oh, my God is the rallying cry of Elle Woods, a recent graduate of UCLA, who discovers her boyfriend Warner Huntington III is dumping her rather than giving her an engagement ring. Warner is on his way to Harvard Law School and a future Senatorship and he feels he needs someone serious minded on his arm. To win her lover back, Elle applies to Harvard and is accepted and the courtship challenge is on.

Seven Angels Theatre in Waterbury is putting this sparkling show on its docket, ”Legally Blonde the Musical," until Saturday, June 18 and you’re invited to cheer Elle on in her campaign. With book by Heather Hach and music and lyrics by Laurence O’Keefe and Nell Benjamin, this show is a definite high energy crowd pleaser. Previously precious in pink, her signature color, Lawson Young’s Elle is bouncy and bubbly as the gal determined to get back her guy, even if she has to earn a law degree in the process to accomplish it. 

With her little pooch Bruiser, a chihuahua, faithfully by her side, she enters the ivy covered walls of Harvard and sets out to prove her worth.  Her boyfriend Warner is a jerk and a snob, in the capable hands of Naysh Fox,  and can’t quite believe his eyes when Elle shows up. With her trusty Greek chorus of sorority sisters singing encouragement all the way, Miranda Rivas, Adena Ershow and Stephanie Bissonnette, Elle also acquires a sassy self-esteem coach Paulette, a wise manicurist Jackie Nuzzo, and a legal eagle assistant Emmett, an encouraging Richard Lafleur, to smooth her path.

Learning at the knee of famed law professor Callahan, a smooth talking Tom Chute, Elle cuts her teeth on a pro bono law case getting Paulette’s dog returned from a disreputable ex, and then is challenged to help fitness guru Brooke, an athletic Molly Winter Stewart, who is accused of murdering her much older husband. Through it all, songs like “What You Want,” “Blood in the Water,” “Whipped Into Shape,” “Legally Blonde” and “Find My Way” advance the story line with panache. Choreographer Janine Molinari, with the help of Bobby Gouse, keep the action amazingly swift.

Eventually even Warner’s new girl Vivienne, a starchy Holly Martin, has to admit that Elle has what it takes to succeed and helps root her on her way. Janine Molinari wears a second hat as the quite capable director of this fashionista turned savvy negotiator. For tickets ($38-54), call Seven Angels Theatre, Plank Road, Waterbury at 203-757-4676 or online at www.sevenangels.com.  Performances are Thursday to Sunday, evenings at 8 p.m.and matinees at 2 p.m. On Thursday, May 19 there is a special fundraiser at  6 p.m. to support Bravo Waterbury, with “Legally Blonde” at 8 p.m., and tickets are $40 and not $48. Tickets include a slice of pizza and a free beer.

Elle may be the underdog but with her brilliant mind on high settings she rises to the occasion, with a jump rope, Irish step dancing and whole lot of fancy footwork to not only win the day but the right guy too.  Spoiler alert:  it’s not Warner.



Friday, May 13, 2016

“MY PARIS” IS MAGNIFIQUE!!!



BOBBY STEGGERT AS TOULOUSE-LATREC WITH MARA DAVI AS MODEL SUZANNE

MAGNIFIQUE! FANTASTIQUE! TRES BIEN! OOH, LA LA! If you are a lover of theater and of art, New Haven’s Long Wharf Theatre has a spectacular gift for you to open.  That gift expires on Sunday, May 29 so don’t be left empty handed.  The new musical about the life of artist Henri Marie Raymond de Toulouse-Lautrec-Monfa, better known as simply Toulouse-Lautrec, is sweeping in with a swirl of ruffled skirts and the gaiety of Montmartre, in a vivid color washed world of bohemian life.

Bobby Steggert is captivating and capricious as the man-child painter who flees his stifling home in Albi, France in the late 1880’s to discover his talents in the decadent world of Le Moulin Rouge.  Only nineteen years of age, he has suffered since birth with a bone affliction, one that caused his legs to break, and never properly grow. His aristocratic father (Tom Hewitt) does not know how to accept this counterfeit son, one who doesn’t know how to hunt or ride horses, but prefers a paint brush.  On the other hand, his sympathetic mother (Donna English) only wants Henri’s happiness and follows him to Paris to ensure he stays safe.

Brought into a raucous Technicolor world peopled with pimps and prostitutes, sinners and singers, he is quickly swept away. His fellow students in art class - Josh Grisetti, John Riddle and Andrew Mueller - quickly indoctrinate him in the seedier but dazzling aspects life on the edge.  As he paints and creates posters of the night club owner Bruant (Jamie Jackson), Henri experiences love with his vivacious model Suzanne, a divine Mara Davi, who fancies herself an artist too. Unfortunately indiscriminate sexual encounters and a blinding affection for the drink absinthe, portrayed in sensual splendor by Erica Sweany as the Green Fairy, cause this promising painter to lose his way.  Despite his afflictions and early death, he managed to create over 700 canvases, almost 300 watercolors, over 350 prints and posters and over 5000 drawings.

The sweeping music, with tunes like “Paris” and “Vive La Vie,” penned by Charles Aznavour, and the sassy dance numbers created by Kathleen Marshall, make the book by Alfred Uhry literally fly off the stage with joy.  Musicians David Gardos, Sean Rubin, Jeffrey Carlson and Andrew Smith capture the spirit of the day.  Jason Robert Brown takes credit for the English lyric and music adaptations. Kathleen Marshall has directed a sparkling glimpse into this “artsy world of thieves and prostitutes,”one that would cause Toulouse-Lautrec to die by the age of 36.

For tickets ($30.50-119.50), 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 at 8 p.m., Friday at 8 p.m., Saturday at 3 p.m. and 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m. Now is the time to make a reservation for Long Wharf’s gala An Evening with Kelli O’Hara on Monday, June 6.

Take a whiff of gay Paree and the rich and colorful canvases that are splashed so vividly on the Long Wharf stage. The pleasure will be all yours for the taking.

“MOTHERHOOD OUT LOUD:” SO MUCH MORE THAN DIRTY DIAPERS




CLOCKWISE FROM THE LEFT: LEIGH KATZ, LILLIAN GARCIA, LUCY BABBITT

If you know any mothers, have a mother or been a mother, “Motherhood Out Loud” is sure to touch your funny bone and heart strings with its personal, precious and often puzzling aspects of parenthood. The series of vignettes, written by a number of gifted authors, hopscotches around from the  pangs, pushes and pains of childbirth to many of the unexpected trials and triumphs of this rewarding and challenging aspect of life. Square One Theatre Company of Stratford, as part of its 26th season, weekends until Sunday, May 29.
 Dads and moms and people in general will identify with many of the scenarios that are beautifully portrayed by a quartet of talented actors-Lucy Babbitt, Lillian Garcia, Leigh Katz and Kiel Stango-who flit and fly from one intriguing situation to another, much like honey bees pollenate flowers.
 
 With skill and poignancy, they interpret scenes from the first contractions of childbirth to the difficult letting go of waving your little one off on the first kindergarten day, to buying your daughter her first bra and other teen issues, all the way to high school graduation ceremony concerns, the various ways to celebrate or not celebrate Thanksgiving, all the way to when your baby has a baby of her own.
 
The most touching vignettes deal with a little six year old Sammy who wants to wear princess dresses as if every day were Halloween or Purim, a mom who has to defend herself when introducing her biological son and her adopted Chinese daughter, a gay dad who with his partner are creating a family of three, a teenaged boy with autism who goes on his first date and a great granddaughter who interviews three generations of her family tree.
 
These are unforgettable moments that celebrate motherhood and, even if you haven’t experienced any of them, they will still touch your heart.  Tom Holehan directs this lovely evening that will make you laugh a lot and tear up a little. The show was conceived by Susan R. Rose and Joan Stein in 2010.
 
For tickets ($20, seniors and students $19), call Square One Theatre Company 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., with matinees at 2 p.m. on Sunday. All shows will be at Square One’s new home at Stratford Academy, 719 Birdseye Street, Stratford. On Tuesday, May 31, Play It Again, Square One will host a post-performance discussion at noon at the Stratford Library Lovell Room.  Bring your lunch, coffee and tea will be provided.
 
Learn once again that babies are mostly grown in a mommy’s tummy but always come out of your heart.

AN INTRIGUING PIECE OF “ART” ON DISPLAY IN WESTPORT



BENTON GREENE AND  JOHN SKELLEY VIEW ART.  PHOTO BY CAROL ROSEGG

Long time friends can occasionally argue and disagree about who to vote for in the presidential race or what team to root for in the Super Bowl or World Series. You wouldn’t think a piece of newly purchased art would cause a trio of good pals to come to fisticuffs. If “beauty is in the eye of the beholder,” then what is considered beautiful in art is clearly an individual decision. Whether you respond viscerally to a Flemish landscape, an impressionistic bowl of fruit, or a Madonna and child in the world of the Old Masters is personal. All that withstanding, what happens to the fifteen year friendship of three men when one purchases at exorbitant cost a twenty square foot white on white canvas is the subject of the 1998 Tony Award winning play “Art” by Yasmina Reza, translated by Christopher Hampton, on exhibit, in repertory with “RED” by John Logan, at Westport Country Playhouse until Sunday, May 29.

When Serge (John Skelley) proudly displays his monochromatic modern work of art, his friend and mentor Marc (Benton Greene) has the audacity to laugh. To Marc, it is clearly a case of the “Emperor’s New Clothes” and he believes Serge has been deceived into thinking a 200,000 Euros price tag means the art has meaning and merit. It falls to the third member of the triumvirate Yvan (Sean Dugan) to serve as referee as his two best friends put on the verbal boxing gloves over whose artistic judgment is more valid. While Serge and Marc jibe and spar, poor Yvan, about to be married, has his own personal crisis about saying “I do” or not saying “I do.” Is he strong enough to stand up to his more aggressive buddies or will he be crushed by their arguments?


Mark Lamos directs this hour and a half comedy performed without intermission on an antiseptic set created by Allen Moyer. For tickets ($30 and up) call the  Westport Country Playhouse, 25 Powers Court, Westport at (203)227-4177or 1-888-927-7529 or online at www.westportplayhouse.org.. Performances are on even-numbered days, Tuesdays at 7 p.m., Wednesday at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m., Thursday at 8 p.m., Friday at 8 p.m.,  Saturday at 3 p.m. and 8 p.m., with  Sunday matinees at 3 p.m.  “RED” will be performed on odd-numbered days.
Is it pretentious? fashionable? a magnetic mystery? is it even art? Discover for yourself. Will the real art connoisseur please stand up?

Monday, May 9, 2016

THE GAME OF LIFE REINVENTED IN CHESTER




                                          Photo by EMMA MEAD
In 1965, Broadway debuted a new musical about the divergent class system in Britain, the gulf between the have and the have nots.  Written by Anthony Newley and Leslie Bricusse, “The Roar of the Greasepaint and the Smell of the Crowd” was not an overwhelming success as a musical but its score went on to become pop standards, hits on everybody’s jukebox list.  Rarely seen as a production, the show has been buried in obscurity…until now.

Fast forward five decades and watch actor and director Don Stephenson, with the generous help of choreographer Liza Gennaro, reinvent and reimagine the work.  Calling these “glorious melodies” the incentive, the pair conceived an idea on how to remain true to the original script but make it accessible for a new audience.

Back in the day, the show focused on the huge separation between the British classes and created a Game of Life board of colored squares. The characters, mainly Sir, who controlled the pieces and kept changing the rules to guarantee he would win, played against Cocky, who could never succeed in coming out on top.  Cocky was the common man, Sir’s servant, the little guy who plays fairly and practically starves to death in the process.

Even when Cocky finally abandons the rules, he discovers he can’t function without Sir and, to win, they must struggle through the game together.  Set like a music hall allegory on life, Sir and Cocky have a Greek chorus of urchins, kids who sing and comment about the action.  In the new version, Stephenson claims to be “like a kid with an Erector set,” excited to try out new ideas.  He is reframing the show with four contemporary characters, Sir, Cocky, a female called The Kid and a Stranger.  To Stephenson," there’s a lot of meat on the bone and the deeper you scratch, the more the show has to say, profoundly.  This is a dream project and to make the old show brand new is exciting.  It’s fun to polish it up.”

To that end, he has assembled an A list of collaborators like set designer Walt Spangler, costume designer Jess Goldstein, lighting designer Stephen Terry, sound designer Jay Hilton, music supervisor Michael O’Flaherty and music director Adam Souza who are “wild and crazy good.” Finding a place to do the show, he thought of Goodspeed Musicals, where he is no stranger having directed "Guys and Dolls” last season. Pitching the idea to Goodspeed’s new Artistic Director Michael Gennaro, after getting permission from Leslie Bricusse the original composer and book writer, Stephenson was delighted to get the green light.  This “bold reimagining of the witty and the ridiculous” will star Tony Sheldon as Sir, Michelle Aravena as The Kid, Caesar Samayoa as Cocky and Gregory Treco as The Stranger.

As Stephenson explained, “Goodspeed cultivates new musicals and restates old musicals, so it is the perfect place to do this show.” It will debut at the little Goodspeed, the Terris Theatre in Chester, 33 North Main Street, from Friday, May 20 to Sunday, June 26.  For tickets, ($49 and up), call Goodspeed Musicals at 860-873-8668 or go online at www.goodspeed.org.  Performances are Wednesday at 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m., Thursday at 7:30 p.m., Friday at 8 p.m., Saturday at 3 p.m. and 8 p.m, and Sunday at 2 p.m. and 6:30 p.m.

In the new vision, a catastrophe has taken place and the survivors have no food or water.  They want to make a go of it and make the world like it was before, to have it “make sense and be real.”  Classic songs like “Who Can I Turn To?,” “Nothing Can Stop Me Now,” ”The Joker,” “Feeling Good,” “A Wonderful Day Like Today” and “Where Would I Be Without You?” will take on new meaning in this novel context where they will be showcased.  He describes the orchestrations as “Kurt Cobain unplugged.”

Stephenson wants the audience to invest themselves in the characters and draw their own conclusions to discover who they are and why they do what they do.  Ultimately he wants the characters “to resonate” and give the audience a lot to think about as they drive home.  The message is to “take care of each other and take care of yourself and acknowledge that hope is the best thing to have. The human spirit can prevail against great odds.”  Even though the musical deals with serious topics, Don Stephenson promises that it is a ”funny, funny show.”

Come discover for yourself this “story of hope, where the greatest challenges to capture the humanity of the four flawed characters and highlight the humor in their situation.”  You're sure to walk away “Feeling Good."
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LET’S DANCE AT THE IVORYTON PLAYHOUSE




Move over, Arthur Murray, there’s a new dance instructor in town.  While he’s smooth on his feet, this teacher is brash, irreverent, outspoken and definitely in your face.  He’s got both everything to prove and nothing to lose.  Come meet Michael Minetti, brought to overconfident and slightly irritating life by Michael Iannucci, in the charming and ultimately heartwarming “Six Dance Lessons in Six Weeks” by Richard Alfieri at the Ivoryton Playhouse until Sunday, May 22.

The Playhouse will be rolling up the rugs to make room for intimate instruction in the Swing, Tango, Viennese Waltz, Foxtrot, Cha-Cha and modern moves like the Monkey.  Michael has been hired by a gracious and genteel older Southern lady, Miss Lily Harrison, to come to her lovely Florida condo to provide private steps and patterns in the graceful art of the dance.  Valerie Stack Dodge is the Steel Magnolia gentlewoman who is not prepared initially to deal with this caustic man with a weird sense of humor.

Their first lesson is almost over before it begins.  Michael is insulting and rude and Lily is bewildered and offended by his attitude.  When Michael apologizes, with a series of lies about his background, Lily reluctantly assents to give him a trial run.  As Michael describes each dance as a 
communication of the soul, this unlikely couple achieve a rhythm and fluidity.  Clearly they are both enamored of the magic of the movement and they gradually reveal their fears and secrets and past lives.  Each is a loner, having learned not to trust.  Together they build an unlikely but sincere friendship both on and off the dance floor.  Sasha Bratt has orchestrated this inviting tale of tolerance, understanding and compassion on a welcoming set designed by William Russell Stark, with choreography by Apollo Smile and stylish costumes by Lisa Bebey.

for tickets ($44 adults, $39 seniors, $22 students, $17 children), call the Ivoryton Playhouse, 103 Main Street, Ivoryton at 860-767-7318 or online at www.ivorytonplayhouse.org.  Performances are Wednesday and Thursday at 7:30 p.m., Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m., with matinees Wednesday and Sunday at 2 p.m.

Get set to experience the joy of the dance as Michael and Lily take the steps to climb that illusive stairway to paradise.

THE SUN SHINES STRONGLY ON “HAPPY DAYS”




            DIANE WIEST AS WINNIE IN "HAPPY DAYS"  PHOTO BY JOAN MARCUS

Never for a moment confuse Samuel Beckett’s moving allegory on life and death, hope and despair, with the popular television series from the 1960’s starring a commanding Fonzie and his pal Richie Cunningham.  Both are named “Happy Days” but there the comparisons abruptly end.  Yale Repertory Theatre in New Haven is offering a brilliant rendition of the former until Saturday, May 21 that true lovers of the theater should not miss.

Imagine a barren mound of earth, not quite a mountain, but certainly more than a molehill, in which a woman, the intrepid Winnie, is trapped.  She is visible from the waist up, with no viable means of escape, yet she is determined to make the most of her plight.

Diane Wiest is superb as Winnie, a woman of valor who carries on with the business of living with nary a complaint, content to fill her days with the ordinary things that bring her joy.  Within easy reach is her large black bag, much like the one Mary Poppins carried, that contains the trivialities and treasures that will help her endure under the blazing sun. Her toothbrush can be fascinating. The last drops of a liquid elixir fortifying. A smear of red lipstick brightening. A revolver a comforting necessity.

Winnie does not need much to make this “a happy day.”  To talk to her taciturn and seemingly absent husband Willie and share memories of their time together, to quote a poetic phrase, to hear a romantic tune on her music box and to push away despair and not let it win are Winnie’s daily challenges.  When, out of the blue, Willie, an earth bound Jarlath Conroy, responds, she is ecstatic.  Even when she prattles on as if he is there, his potential presence is all she needs for encouragement.

As Winnie’s predication worsens, Ms. Wiest marks every meaningful moment with extraordinary emotion, in a pout, a raised eyebrow, a sly and knowing smile, a flinging of arms embracing the world.  How can this woman persist in being hopeful?  How can she not? Director James Bundy
has fashioned a compelling theatrical challenge for the heart and mind.

For tickets ($20-99), call the Yale Rep, 1120 Chapel Street, New Haven at 203-432-1234 or online at www.yalerep.org.  Performances are Tuesday - Saturday at 8 p.m., with matinees at 2 p.m. most Wednesday and Saturdays.

Let Samuel Beckett take you on a journey through a desert of darkness in the hope of finding the light of the Promised Land.

Sunday, May 8, 2016

THE SIGNATURE COLOR IS “RED” AT WESTPORT COUNTRY PLAYHOUSE



PATRICK ANDREWS AND STEPHEN ROWE IN "RED"   PHOTO BY CAROL ROSEGG

The abstract expressionist artist Mark Rothko modestly placed his art in the same company as Michelangelo and Matisse.  As one of the famous postwar American artists, he was noted in his later career for his form and color and the large canvases of rectangles that featured his signature color red or vermillion, crimson, scarlet, plum, ruby or maroon in all its aspects and particularities. Born Marcus Rothkovitz in Russia in 1903, he created more than eight hundred paintings in his lifetime, a few breaking auction house selling records at $22.5 million, $30 million and even $72.8 million.


 
Westport Country Playhouse is inviting you to enter Rothko’s studio and personally meet the artist in question in playwright John Logan’s revealing and intimate drama “RED” that  takes one period in the life of Mark Rothko and focuses a spotlight on it. Until Sunday, May 29, you can get inside the head of Rothko and explore to your heart’s content.
Before he picked up a paintbrush and saw art as a life’s journey for both religious and emotional expression, he dabbled with work in the garment district of New York and with acting in Portland, Oregon.   The play “RED” deals with a period when he has found some artistic success, with Peggy Guggenheim as a patron, has works hanging in the Museum of Modern Art and with solo shows at the Art Institute of Chicago. 
 
Architects Mies Van der Rohe and Philip Johnson, designers of a new building on Park Avenue, the Seagram edifice, want Rothko to accept a new commission, to provide a series of murals for its luxury restaurant, The Four Seasons.  This challenging project, with a price tag of $30,000,  for which he paints forty large canvases, with horizontal and rectangular shapes in a variety of shades of red, consumes him.
 
Stephen Rowe is staggeringly strong as Rothko in all his bombastic and egotistical splendor, a man obsessed as much by his talents as by his doubts.  To him, his larger than life paintings are a “continuous narrative…10% paint on canvas, 90% thinking.”  He wants to make the restaurant a temple and, at the same time, make it impossible for the patrons to eat anything while sitting under his work. To him, there is "tragedy in every brush stroke” and he agonizes to make sure his art speaks for itself.
Rothko hires a young assistant, portrayed by an eager to learn Patrick Andrews, who gets quite an education under Rothko’s abrasive and intimidating tutelage as he helps the master prepare the blank canvases, intimidating in their stark whiteness. The student bows down to his mentor, accepting abuse until he explodes in a virulent speech meant to cut Rothko down to size. Director Mark Lamos  illuminates this dramatic play of insights and aspirations with a keen eye for detail.  Lamos has paired this play with ART by Yasmina Reza, in repertory, for a full frontal attack on this fascinating world.
 
For tickets ($30 and up), call Westport Country Playhouse, 25 Powers Court, Westport at 203-227-4177 or online at www.westportplayhouse.org.  Performances are on odd-numbered days, Tuesdays at 7 p.m., Wednesday at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m., Thursday at 8 p.m., Friday at 8 p.m.,  Saturday at 3 p.m. and 8 p.m., with  Sunday matinees at 3 p.m.  “ART” will be performed on even-numbered days.
 
Will Mark Rothko compromise his artistic principles if he completes a series of monumental murals for a commercial venue?  Come to his studio, hand him a paintbrush, stand at his side and discover the intriguing answer for yourself.
 
 

Saturday, May 7, 2016

LIFE LESSONS FROM ROBIN ROBERTS



ROBIN ROBERTS spoke at SCSU as the 18th Annual Mary and Louis Fusco Distinguished Lecturer on Friday, May 6  to a packed and loving crowd of admirers.

Her life lessons, which she published in several books, included such advice as:

A survivor is a thriver. Love is the way.
It’s a privilege to say “Good Morning America” every day.
Put yourself in a position for good things to happen.
You need to fight the fight in front of you.
Be comfortable in your own skin.
Her father, a Tuskegee Airman, said “Wherever I am, God is.”
Family is everything.
Have the time of your life.
If everyone took their biggest problem and put it in a jar, everyone would examine them all and take back their own problem.
When fear knocks, let fate answer the door.
Be concerned about your character, not your reputation.
Surround yourself with good people who hold the same principles as you.
When you strut, you stumble.
She credits her parents and her upbringing for her success.
If disappointed, her parents told her, “Honey, maybe you’re just not good enough yet.”
Her parents taught her: Discipline, Determination, De Lord.
Dream big, focus small…on the solution.
She wrote a song “A Beautiful Day” saying all we have is NOW.
You must be willing to venture outside your comfort zone.
She is a living example of “This too shall pass.”
Her sister Sally Ann was a perfect match as a bone marrow donor and declared “I was born to do this.”
She feels "I am free to be the God in me.”
God loves you because of who he is, not because of anything you do or don’t do.
Share love and faith openly.
Family: We may not have it all together, but together we have it all.
Keep faith, family and friends close to your heart.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

COME CELEBRATE NEW HAVEN WITH A BROKEN UMBRELLA THEATRE MAY 15



If you crave a slice of pizza, with or without pepperoni, if hamburgers on white bread without catsup suit your fancy, thanks to Louis’ Lunch way back at the turn of the twentieth century, if you marvel at the first published telephone book, all fifty names of it, if you ever wondered how the “Elm City” earned its name by being responsible for the inaugural public tree planting program and if you ever licked a lollipop and questioned its sticky origin, then you are primed and ready to celebrate with A Broken Umbrella Theatre as it celebrates its seventh anniversary with a tribute to its ten original offerings about its favorite city and yours: New Haven.

For one day only, Sunday, May 15, at two showings, 1 p.m. and 5:30 p.m.,fittingly at Erector Square (one more item New Haven takes credit for:  the Erector Set), 316 Peck Street, Building 5, Floor 2, New Haven, “Made of New Haven: A Grassroots Gala and Show" will be unveiled. This is a fundraiser to guarantee the future of the theatre company, a troupe made up of 30 dedicated ensemble members and hundreds of volunteers.

Everything A Broken Umbrella Theatre produces is unique and original and pays homage to New Haven. Ensemble member Jes Mack gets full credit for directing the show and writing  the script which includes the songs, spectacle and showmanship that will be splendidly displayed. Over the past seven years, music and lyrics have been contributed by different artists including Chrissy Gardner, Dana Astmann, Robert Shapiro, Will Aronson and Dave Baker. 
Starting with the group’s virgin offering of “A Short Story by a Tree,” the troupe will hopscotch forward in time through their insightful prior productions, like the 100 year history of the famed Shubert Theatre in ”Seen Change,” the frighteningly real tale of a home grown pirate ghost in “Thunderbolt,” the story of enterprising Ebenezer Beecher who invented an automated machine to make matchsticks in “Play with Matches,” the journey up, down and around the 125 year old New Haven Free Public Library in “The Library Project” and the story of A.C. Gilbert and his famous Erector Set in ”Gilbert the Great” to name but a few.

And A Broken Umbrella Theatre, under the good care of Artistic Director Ian  Alderman, won’t let you go away hungry.  I don’t know if lollipops, pizza or hamburgers are on the menu, but thanks to Small Kitchen, Big Taste out of North Haven, you’re sure to enjoy delicious and healthy taste treats.  Libations to drink are local beers from Black Hog Brewing Company and Thimble Island Brewery.  Sponsors include Erector Square, Creative Growth New Haven, Alderman-Dow Iron & Metal and Tyco Printing.

According to long time ensemble member Rachel Alderman,"If you've never been to A Broken Umbrella theatrical adventure, here is your chance for a 'best of' experience. It's like a musical tasting menu of everyone's favorite whimsical Broken Umbrella moments, but re-imagined and fresh...and, of course, a few surprises, too. It will be a delicious evening for audiences old and new alike!”  To Director and Playwright Jes Mack,   ‘Made of New Haven' is a muppet-like musical romp through the first seven years of Broken Umbrella creations. Joyful. Delicious. Ridiculous." 

Tickets to this two hour musical adventure are available at www.abrokenumbrella.org.  For more information, call Rachel Alderman at 203-868-0428 or email rachel@abrokenumbrella.org.

Come meet the whole dedicated gang who make A Broken Umbrella Theatre so special and celebrate their milestone of creative achievement in grand New Haven style.

Monday, May 2, 2016

PARTY HEARTY AT THE PALACE



You’ve heard about parties of the night, the week, the season and the year.  Now you’re being invited to the Party of the Decade and the Palace Theater in Waterbury is getting the noise makers and the steamers ready for the gala event.  Mark your calendars now for Friday, May 13, 2016 when the explosions of great gourmet food, fun intoxicating drinks and exciting musical experiences are awaiting your pleasurable arrival.

Set your clocks for the stroke of 5 p.m. when the party before the party begins.  The loading dock of the Palace will be alive and jumping with E2 “The Eagle Experience” as you drink craft beer and eat a variety of fun food from the trucks assembled.  The band, up to eight members strong, will rock the dock with keyboard, bass, percussion, trumpet, guitar, drums and their great tribute vocal cords.

At 6 p.m. until 7, the inviting Tuscan Lounge and Wine Bar will open for your business in the Grand Foyer, that elegant lobby illuminated in gilt and gold. Sip a cocktail, nibble hors d’oeuvlres,and listen to the lilting sounds of soprano Marissa Famiglietti with her husband bass-baritone Shae Apland, singing operatic favorites together that are guaranteed to delight.

Broadway performer Trevor McQueen will be on deck until 11 p.m. with favorites at the Poli Club Cabaret, crooning tunes called both smooth and soulful.  Got a little yen for country?  The 8 p.m. -10p.m. Kickin’ Country Bar in the mezzanine will certainly scratch that musical itch when Nashville artist A J Jansen is all set to provide down home heaven.

Feel like dancing on the Palace’s main stage?  Just start two stepping at 7 p.m. to the dance party run by DJ Jim O’Rourke, Executive Director of the Greater Waterbury YMCA,on the main stage and hold on to your sweetie all the way to 11 p.m.  Plan to end your evening , from 10 p.m to the bewitching hour of midnight, by pulling up a bar stool to listen to the tantalizing tunes from Keys to the City Dueling Pianos.  The orchestra lobby will be setting these dueling ivories to tingle mode for your entertainment excitement.

Tickets for this grand six parties-in-one are only $75 and can be secured by calling 203-346-2000 or online at www.palacetheaterct.org.  For food stations, great drinks (including two drink tickets), an assortment of wild and fun entertainers and parties galore, come celebrate the Palace 10.1, the next installment after last year’s sold-out tenth anniversary 10.0.  Get your dancing shoes ready for this year’s 10.1!