Friday, May 13, 2016



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 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.

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