Tuesday, May 23, 2017

NEW MUSICAL “DEATHLESS” RAISES LIFE QUESTIONS


                                          ZACK ZADEK


As a child of four or five, Zack Zadek was obsessed with the D word, not divorce, Darth Vader, but death.  He wasn’t traumatized by the lose of a goldfish or a grandmother but, precociously, pondered the unknown. Zack lay in bed one night before sleep and realized people and things don’t last forever.  That realization that something was going to happen to him and to his parents was terrifying to the young lad and he spent considerable hours trying to reconcile that reality, the inevitable lack of forever. While he didn’t go to the length of dressing as a Goth, all in black, his thoughts were not directed to the sunny side of the street.

Now Zadek has channeled all his angst and anxiety into a world premiere musical “Deathless” that resolves the question by giving options,  eliminating the dying factor, and guaranteeing eternity.  Curious how he does it?  Goodspeed’s Terris Theatre in Chester will provide the method and the means from Friday, June 2 to Sunday, July 2 and you’re invited to chill out and take a pill of pleasurable discovery.

Even though his dad reassured him that death was too far away to worry about, Zack was not convinced.  He started marking his life by benchmarks. like learning to drive , graduating high school and college, by charting a timeline of important events. Now, at the advanced age of twenty four, he needs to keep pinching himself because the milestones are piling up rather rapidly.  Nominated by Playbill as “A Contemporary Musical Theatre Writer You Should Know,” he is the winner of the 2017 Weston New Musical Award, the 2017 MacDowell Fellow in Theatre, the winner of the inaugural “Got Musical” award from Disney Creative Entertainment, as well as a stack of honors from Broadway to London's West End.

Being at Goodspeed’s Terris Theatre is “crazy and all I ever wanted and worked for.  It’s remarkable.  In middle school, before I was even bar mitzvahed, I was a finalist to play in the band of a new musical at The Terris called “13.”   It’s amazing that ten years later I am here as the writer of book, music and lyrics for my own show, an endgame.” As to the experience workshopping the show in Chester, Zack calls it “the best of the best. The team of fifty, including the great director Tina Landeau and the wonderful cast of five has been revealing. Before this, I was talking to myself alone in a room and now I have collaborators who are helping me learn about my own piece.  The text on page is coming to life, like a baby being birthed.”

“Deathless” is a musical about a family on an annual road trip to Niagara Falls who has just suffered the loss of the mother and about Hayley, the nineteen year old who can’t reconcile her grief. Hayley will be played by Tony nominated actress Jennifer Damiano. Zack calls the story “a mystery” just as death is a mystery.  A pill has just become available that will guarantee life forever and Hayley is struggling with a decision to take it or not.  Zack hopes the audiences will ponder that choice and have conversations with loved ones about their feelings. Could or would you give up aging?  Would you want to stay at the age you are now? What if only some of your family took the pill? What if life no longer had an expiration date?

For tickets ($49 and up ), call the Goodspeed at 860- 878-8668 or online at www.goodspeed.org. Performances are Wednesday at 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m., Thursday at 7:30 p.m., 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. The Terris Theatre is located at 33 North Main Street, Chester (exit 6 off route 9).

Even though “Deathless” deals with the big topic of death, it is surprisingly funny. Bring a bag or three of snacks as you take a road trip with the Serling family and relearn how to value your life and live it to the fullest.  Zack Zadek will be happy to be your tour guide for this intriguing musical adventure.

Monday, May 22, 2017

COME VISIT "THE CEMETERY CLUB”


KAREN GAGLIARDI, RUSSELL FISH, BARBARA HORAN AND TRACY COSTA


People join organizations for a variety of reasons: socialization, improving skills like in tennis or bridge, charitable intentions like volunteering or fundraising, to satisfy political aspirations or for just plain fun. Playwright Ivan Menchell has an idea for a new club and he is inviting you to a  monthly meeting. Tea and cookies are being served (if you bring them yourself) at the Connecticut Cabaret Theatre in Berlin when “The Cemetery Club” members gather weekends until Saturday, June 24.

When a trio of Jewish friends start to lose their husbands one by one, they form a club to go and visit their departed every month, for comfort and little one-sided conversation. The average age of a widow is 56 and these ladies are right on schedule. Barbara Horan’s Ida is sensible  and able to look to the future. She is devoted to her Murray and enjoys her visits every thirty days to the man she spent decades of happy married life with.  Lucille’s spirit has been captured by a flirting Karen Gagliardi who likes to look sexy, drape herself in mink and pay back her cheating hubby Harry now for his actions during their marriage. Tracy Costa’s Doris is compulsively tied to these visits and  to her Abe who is still at the  center of her universe.  She can no more consider abandoning him than she could taking off for the moon.

When on a regular visitation to the graves, butcher Sam Katz, an appealing Russell Fish, wanders by, Lucille immediately latches on to him as a great catch (fish, catch) while Ida and, especially Doris, are appalled by her actions.  It seems, however, that Sam has his attentions fixed on Ida and it soon becomes apparent that the feelings are mutual.  Will Lucille and Doris try to sabotage this hint of romance?  Will an invitation to much married friend Selma’s next nuptuals  be an opportunity to advance the courtship? Who the heck invited Mildred (Bonnie Sprague) to the party?  Will envy and jealousy destroy long time friendships?

Kris McMurray does a great job playing matchmaker and referee in this gentle and humorous tale.  For tickets ($30), call CTCabaret Theatre, 31-33 Webster Square Road, Berlin at 860-829-1248 or online at www.ctcabaret.com.  Performances are Friday and Saturday nights at 8 p.m., with doors opening at 7:15 p.m.  Remember to bring goodies to share at your table or plan to buy desserts and drinks on site.  There are no performances May 26 and 27.

Come visit with the ladies of the Cemetery Club for some cake, champagne, cookies, chicken wings and chicken livers, companionship, conversation, grief counseling, comedy, cleavage and a little cha-cha.

COME "TRAV'LIN" FOR A HARLEM MUSICAL


When Gary Holmes was ten years old, he met a man who would change the course of his life.  Gary was visiting his father at work, a bank in Wurtsboro New York, and his dad introduced him to J. C. Johnson, an African-American jazz pianist and composer.  Gary had just started taking piano lessons and loved music and the two developed an unlikely friendship that lasted until J. C.'s  death in 1981. Having written 500 songs, some with Fats Waller, for such luminaries as Bessie Smith, Ella Fitzgerald and Billie Holiday, J. C. Johnson told the young lad, his protege, that he wanted his music preserved in a book musical and he would like Gary to write it.  That was quite a responsibility to lay on a youth but Gary rose to the challenge.  It may have taken him decades to complete the work but it is now ready for its Connecticut premiere.

Seven Angels Theatre in Waterbury will be jumpin' and jivin' until Sunday, June 11 with "Trav'lin The 1930's Harlem Musical" by Gary Holmes and Allan Shapiro, featuring two dozen of J. C. Johnson's flavorful hits.  As Allan Shapiro recollected, The tunes have a "jazzy, tuneful character...with a natural bounce and swing that is infectious. Gary and I wove vintage songs seamlessly into the script.  There is an emotional quality to his music, with a great deal of empathy for the human condition.  J. C. knew how silly people can be, especially about love."

"Trav'lin" concerns the lives of three couples living in Harlem in the 1930's, in their twenties, thirties and fifties.  George Walker is a retired Pullman porter and deacon of the local church and unofficial mayor of the town.  He meets a stranger to him, a woman who introduces herself as Ethel from Mississippi, when she is actually his sweetheart Billie from forty years ago in New Orleans.  Lothair Eaton is wonderfully warm and welcoming as George and he does not recognize Miche Braden as his long lost love.

Archie, a numbers runner who travels by train, has a rocky relationship with Roz, who owns a hair salon.  They bicker and tease in an off and on courtship that is fun to witness.  Archie's Teren Carter is a lively bundle of nerves as he dances around Yewande Odetoyinbo's long suffering Roz. The youngest couple are the  eager for love Ella, a heart on her sleeve Cherry Torres, who falls instantaneously for Nelson, a sincere and sensitive Jacobi Hall. All the men have been or still are traveling men and the women have waited and waited for their return.  Wonderful tunes like  "Somebody Loses, Somebody Wins," "Empty Bed Blues," "Hold My Hand," "You Better Finish What You Started with Me," "Trav'lin," "Louisiana," "You'll Come BackTo Me" and "Let's Do, Let's Do, Let's Do" push the story forward and help develop the characters. 

This jazzy musical has a contemporary feel as the score shines under the musical direction of John DiPinto, with set designed by Stephen Dobay, lighting by Keith A.Truax, projections by Christopher Ash, costumes by Janell Berte and choreography and overall direction by Paul Stancato. The result of all their efforts is one delightful evening of pleasure, one that J. C. Johnson would approve of heartily.

For tickets ($39.50-54), call Seven Angels Theatre, 1 Plank Road, Waterbury at 203-757-4676 or online at www.SevenAngelsTheatre.org. Performances are Thursday at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m., Friday at 8 p.m, Saturday at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m.

Catch the spirit and joy of this tribute to J. C. Johnson that will have you bouncing in your seat, tapping your feet and snapping your fingers happily.

SENIORS GET THEIR DAY ON STAGE WITH STRAY KATS








With a sense of wit and whimsy, the Stray Kats Theatre Company of Newtown is encouraging the more mature senior members of society that  they are invited to be "Still Crazy After All These Years!" The company recently performed a series of eight one act plays in Newtown and at Whitney Center in Hamden to great applause.

A year ago co-producers and co-directors Tom Coash and Kate Katcher wondered if there were plays available for an older and more experienced cast of actors.  They put a call out for submissions and were delighted to receive them in the hundreds.  Carefully culling the contributions, they settled on a menu of eight that center on love and marriage and all the myriad problems contained therein for those over sixty-five.

With a troupe of a dozen talented actors - T. J. Chila, Stephanie Lloyd Ficarra, Dave Gant, Maggi Heilweil, Eric Larson, John Moran, Bob Ponturo, Nancy Ponturo, Patty Shea, Kimberly Squires, Don Striano and Allan Zeller- the races were off and running.

In "Back Fire" by David Lee White, a man and woman meet after four decades ago in high school and finally engage in all the fantasies they were afraid to do way back when.  A series of discoveries after the deed is done put an alarming spin on their indulgences.

A uniquely different idea of retirement is explored in "Second Career" by Ellen Margolis when a woman takes on the commercial world as her own personal Complaint Department.  A broken watch band, a non-functioning smoke detector, a damaged shoe, where she holds companies accountable, have now become a full time job.  DSW, watch out!

Hobbies can be great unless yours is to possess such oddities as "Albert Einstein's Brain" by Ron Burch.  A long suffering wife may be indulgent of hubby's strange passion for the quirky but she may have to draw the line here and now.

What would you do if you were a witness to a crime?  In "Action and Reaction" by joel Doty, the husband sits by and watches, watches in alarm as his wife bravely and foolishly jumps in the fray to stop the assault.

To rekindle a marriage where the flames have been extinguished, a couple embark on an adventure to India, at great expense, in "Kamasutra" by Tom Coash.  Doris is willing to go to great lengths to awaken Harold's sleeping libido.

A cancelled credit card causes no end of confusion and problems in "Funny Valentine" by Kaye Soliton when a couple on a cruise find their souvenir shopping in serious jeopardy.

When empty nesters watch their son leave home for college, the husband finds himself suddenly "Splitting Hares" by Brett Hursey.  He starts identifying with long earred, carrot eating bunnies as a coping mechanism.

Planning for the future quickly becomes an obsessive occupation as two men, Jack and John, meet with a funeral arranger in "Planning Ahead" by Kate Katcher.  Cremation, a party and a Hefty bag are all up for consideration.

To discover where or when "Still Crazy After All These Years!" will appear next, go to www.straykatstheatrecompany.org or call 203-514-2221.  The company, founded in 2003, is a not-for-profit professional theatre company with a mission of presenting contemporary classics, radio shows from the golden age of radio and new works.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

GO “IN THE HEIGHTS” WITH A LATINO BEAT



            WASHINGTON HEIGHTS BRIDGE, NEW YORK CITY

If you want a main course of community and diversity, with a heaping side order of salsa, you only need to look for Lin-Manuel Miranda’s spicy Latino flavored “In the Heights.” As a Puerto Rican-American composer, rapper, lyricist and actor, Miranda calls the musical his first theatrical event.  Written while a sophomore at Wesleyan University in Middletown, he penned it as an on campus project that launched him into a career that has since peaked with his recent success with “Hamilton,”  What will he do to top that?

" In the Heights” celebrates life in the Washington Heights section of New York City and Miranda wants audiences to “walk away dancing” and the current production by the Main Stage Theatre at the Downtown Cabaret Theatre until Sunday, May 21 guarantees that and much, much more.

This culture fest features Marcelo Calderon as Usnavi, an all around good guy who owns a small bodega and has a secret crush on Vanessa, a sweet faced Olivia Grace Rivera, who works at the neighboring hair salon.  Usnavi has been raised by Abuela Claudia, a dedicated Celia Ortiz, who has been like a grandmother to him and his wise-cracking cousin Sonny, a challenging Joe Cardozo.  Life is not easy in the barrio, but it is filled with colorful characters who put their faces up to the sun and pray for better times.

Right now the pride of the neighborhood Nina, a conflicted Jessica Paige Braun, has returned from college in California, with the burden of telling her loving parents, played by Perry Liu and Julie Bell Petrak, that she has lost her scholarship and dropped out of Stanford.  Nina finds comfort and care from Benny, a hard working Everton Ricketts, who is employed by her parents but not accepted by them as a proper suitor.

In the midst of this hot summer, on the eve of the fourth of July, two major events take place that are sure to change many lives.  Come see for yourself in this energetic and enthusiastic cast, led by director Christy McIntosh-Newsom and musical director and producing artistic director Eli Newsom and choreographer Emily Frangipane.  Catch the Latino flavor at its spicy best.

For tickets ($28-33), call the Downtown Cabaret Main Stage Theatre, 263 Golden Hill Street, Bridgeport at 203-576-1636 or online at www.ctcab.com.  Performances are Friday at 7:30 p.m., Saturday at 5 p.m. and 8:15 p.m. and Sunday at 5 p.m.

The magic of Lin-Manuel Miranda is evident from the first merry note to the final redeeming dance of joy.  This cast of thirty gives the show 110% wattage power and shines.

Monday, May 15, 2017

COME, YOUR TABLE IS WAITING AT LONG WHARF



       MATT BOGART AS DAVID KAPLAN IN "THE MOST BEAUTIFUL ROOM IN NEW YORK"
Owning and running a restaurant can be a complicated, challenging and, hopefully, rewarding career.  Everything from the name to the napkins, the wine to the wait staff, the menu to the marketing must be perfect.  Today issues like cross-contamination, allergies to nuts and gluten-free items, vegetarians and vegans, health inspections and bad reviews can be troublesome. But for chef David Kaplan who owns TABLE in a desirable corner of Union Square in New York City, the life is perfection.  He is surrounded by his wife Claire, his loving kids Bix and Kate and neighbors, Phoebe and Gloria, who run a green grocery market that supports his concepts of organic and farm to table freshness.  What could go wrong with this picture?

Enter David's idyllic world with Long Wharf Theatre's new world premiere musical about food and family, "The Most Beautiful Room in New York," crafted by Adam Gopnik with music by David Shire on the Main Stage until Sunday, May 28. Come sit down, your table is waiting.

David and Claire's world is turned topsy-turvy when the landlord issues a steep rent increase to $35,000 a month.  Even if the tables are occupied every day, there is no way the couple can meet the new demands.  They need a plan, a great plan, and quickly.  David, a dedicated and hard working Matt Bogart, decides to call in old favors.  Years before he had partnered with an avant garde speculator Sergio, a dipped in olive oil Constantine Maroulis, who talks a good game but can't be trusted to deal honestly in any negotiations. David looks to wife Claire, a fully involved Anastasia Barzee, for the future.  When he discovers she and Sergio share a romantic past, David is unable to understand or forgive either of them.

The kids Bix, a good natured Tyler Jones, has plans of his own that industriously involved  Anna, a sweet Krystina Alabado, and his sister Kate, a helpful Sawyer Niehaus. Bix and Anna use the pizza place owned and operated by her dad Carlo, a cynically witty Mark Nelson, to create a good tasting business that just may solve everybody's problems. Thanks to Sergio and master plans with his cohorts Natasha (Anne Horak) and Gabe (Allan K. Washington), even the outdoor market run by Phoebe (Darlesia Cearcy) and Gloria (Danielle Ferland) is in danger of closing.  David Shire's tuneful music carries the action until a satisfying "Slice of Life" is firmly established for all. Gordon Edelstein directs this delicious combination platter of spicy and savory, sure to please the palate. Michael Yeargan's set design spotlights all the places of interest beautifully.

For tickets ($34.50-89.50), call Long Wharf Theatre, 222 Sargent Drive, New Haven at 203-787-4282 or go online to www.longwharftheatre.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. and 7 p.m.

The next time you dine, whether in a pizzeria on Wooster Street or a four star establishment on Chapel, you will have a new respect for all the ingredients that  go into creating a good tasting recipe for success.

Friday, May 12, 2017

Mark Your Calendars For the CT Critics Awards




TERRENCE MANN (ABOVE) AND PAULETTE HAUPT (BELOW) AT CCC AWARDS NIGHT



 The Connecticut Critics Circle announced today that Broadway's triple Tony nominated Terrence Mann will host its 27th annual Awards ceremony on Monday,  June 26 at 7:30 p.m. at Sacred Heart University’s Edgerton Center for the Performing Arts in Fairfield. A private reception will precede the awards show. 

The  event, which celebrates the best in professional theater in the state, is free and open to the public. 

Last year’s top honorees -- Yale Repertory Theatre’s “Indecent” and Hartford Stage’s “Anastasia” -- are currently on Broadway. 

Mann joins the Connecticut theater community as artistic director of the Nutmeg Summer Series at the University of Connecticut at Storrs. He received Tony nominations for his roles as Javert in “Les Miserables,” as the Beast in “Beauty and the Beast” and as King Charles in the revival of “Pippin.” He also originated the role of Rum Tum Tugger in the Broadway production of “Cats.” 

Paulette Haupt will be recognized for her many years as the  founding artistic director of the Eugene O’Neill Theater Center’s National Music Theater Conference in Waterford.  She will be honored with the Connecticut Critics Circle’s Tom Killen Award, given in recognition of her 40 years of extraordinary achievement and service to Connecticut theater. 


Previous winners of the Tom Killen Award include Lloyd Richards, Michael Price, Gordon Edelstein, Michael Wilson, Lucille Lortel, and Carmen de Lavallade. Last year’s winner was Anne Keefe. 



For further information go to  www.ctcritics.org. The Edgerton Center for the Performing Arts, 5151 Park Ave., Fairfield is just off Exit 47 on the Merritt Parkway 

Monday, May 8, 2017

YOU’RE IN THE ARMY NOW WITH “BILOXI BLUES”




                            CAST OF BILOXI BLUES AT IVORYTON PLAYHOSUE

Eugene Morris Jerome is now a man.  You might remember him as  a precocious teenager dealing with growing up in Brooklyn in Neil Simon’s “Brighton Beach Memoirs.”  Eugene is the central character created by Simon, semi-autobigraphically, in a trilogy.  Now is the time for a second installment and, thanks to the Ivoryton Playhouse, you can come meet Eugene from now until Sunday, May 14 as “Biloxi Blues” salutes soldiers.

It’s World War Ii and our Brooklyn boy is now twenty years old and is leaving home and heading to Biloxi, Mississippi to join the United States Army.  Private first class Jerome is now an active observer, an eager participant in boot camp and a narrator writing about the trials and triumphs of serving patriotically for his country.

Come meet Zal Owen as the lovable Eugene and his best new pals Alec Silberblatt as Arnold, Conor M. Hamill as Wykowski, Ethan Kirschbaum as Carney, George Mayer as Hennesey and Chandler Smith as Selridge. Overseeing their every move and moment is the  hard boiled Mike Mihm as their commander, the dictator Sergeant Toomey. As young recruits, they exhibit all the ABCs,anxiety,bravado and courage that you would expect to witness.  They tease, swear and act tough as they prepare for their new assignment:  going to war. With sly wit and a deep sense of humanity, Simon inducts his soldiers with all the brashness of heading off into the unknown and the fears that entails.

These men, thrown together as they are, have to grow up quickly.  It’s Sergeant Toomey’s job and obligation to toughen them up and supply all the discipline and obedience they will need to endure combat.  Mike Mihm as Toomey is up for the challenge.  Push-ups by the hundreds and long enforced marches through the swamps, peeling potatoes and scrubbing latrines are all part of the patriotic package they must face.  Readiness for battle is a prerogative and instant responsibility is essential.  

As the recruits tease, ridicule and support each other, Eugene records his memoirs for posterity, with pithy comments on the goings on and day-to-day challenges.  A 48 hour pass allows Eugene to explore two of his list of goals, to lose his virginity and to fall in love, both with the help of Moira O’Sullivan and Andee Buccheri.  He also plans to become a writer and not to die in the war. Sasha Bratt as director puts these men through their paces in a heartwarming and poignant way.

For tickets ($50, seniors $45, students $22, children $17), call the Ivoryton Playhouse, 103 Main Street, Ivoryton  at 860-767-7318 or online at www.ivorytonplayhouse.org. Performances are Wednesday and Sunday at 2 p.m., Wednesday and Thursday at 7:30 p.m. and Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m.

Pack your duffel bag and get ready to do some push-ups as a maniacal drill instructor puts you through your paces  or will die trying.

Sunday, May 7, 2017

THE DOCTOR IS IN...DR. RUTH THAT IS.




DR. RUTH (ALICE MCMAHON) WITH PICTURE OF PRESIDENT CLINTON

Dr. Ruth Westheimer at 89 years old, only 4 feet 7 inches in height, has quite a life story to tell.  Right now, Square One Theatre Company of Stratford is letting all those secrets and stories out of the bag as Mark St. Germain's illuminating tale "Becoming Dr. Ruth" plays weekends until  Sunday, May 21.  Performances take place at Square One's new home at the Stratford Academy, 719 Birdseye Street, Stratford.

Alice McMahon is utterly charming as this petite powerhouse whose courage was tested early on in life when, at the age of ten, she was put on the Kindertransport train from her home in Germany to travel alone to Switzerland when Hitler and Nazism became a threat to Jewish lives. She never saw her beloved family again after they say goodbye.

In this historical play, she talks directly to the audience, sharing anecdotes about the people she has met and the obstacles she has overcome. She shows pictures of her family that she is carefully wrapping because after living in this New York Washington Heights apartment for thirty seven years she is finally moving to new home. Every item she touches triggers a memory, from a music box to a washcloth.

Dr. Ruth happily confesses she is pack rat and is quite content to have the audience visit her while she packs up all her treasures. She asserts change is good and moving is good. She reveals that in Palestine her small stature made her a valuable messenger in the war and she served as a sniper. Coming to America, she sought an education and earned a doctorate, abandoning her first thought of being a kindergarten teacher to becoming a sex therapist.  Through her radio and television shows, she helped millions of people deal with issues of a personal nature in a more open manner.

Did you know it was Dr. Ruth who convinced a Governor Bill Clinton to run for the presidency?  Who knew a Beatle (she is not sure which one) sang to her?  Have you ever played her Game of Good Sex?  Did you know she learned to speak English by reading True Confessions magazines?   These are but a few the tidbits of information she reveals about her fascinating life, directed with dedicated care by Tom Holehan.

For tickets ($20, seniors $19),call Square One Theatre at 203-375-8778 or online at www.squareonetheatre.com.   Performances are Thursday at 7 p.m., Friday at 8 p.m., Saturday at 4 p.m. and 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m.

Come learn about this fascinating little lady who believes sex is a celebration of love, who bubbles with positive energy and works to repair  the world.

COME LOSE YOUR HEART TO “MARY JANE”





EMILY DONAHOE AS MARY JANE    PHOTO BY JOAN MARCUS


Parenting is never easy although it can be the most rewarding task a person can do. Being mom and dad rolled into one is an even more daunting challenge.  Now imagine that your child is born prematurely and diagnosed with a litany of medical problems and you are the sole caregiver.  Come meet Mary Jane who calmly and with dedicated love cares for her precious son Alex in Yale Repertory Theatre’s world premiere drama "Mary Jane” by Amy Herzog.  The window into their lives will stay open until Saturday, May 20.

Caring for her son is a 24/7 365 days a year responsibility and it takes a village to perform all the daily tasks that are required. Now two and a half years old, Alex dominates his mother’s life, especially since his dad is no longer in the picture.  Three shifts of nurses enter their tiny apartment to lend support and technical assistance.  Visitors include nurse Sherry (Shona Tucker), Sherry’s niece Amelia (Vella Lovell), new mom Brianne (Miriam Silverman) and building superintendent Ruthie (Kathleen Chalfant).  Alex’s mom is a smiling, positive, even keeled Emily Donahoe who, like a steel magnolia lady, deals with the daily crises with even tempered ease.

That steel magnolia spine threatens to bend and break  when Alex suffers a Grand Mal seizure and pneumonia and Mary Jane finds herself living in the hospital for  seven weeks and counting.  There her world is enhanced by meetings with another mom with a sick child Chaya (Miriam Silverman), a music therapist Kat (Vella Lovell), Alex’s doctor (Shona Tucker) and a grief counselor Tenkei (Kathleen Chalfant).  Trying to keep her equilibrium in the face of so many medical obstacles is a tremendous challenge despite the community of women who try to protect her. Mary Jane’s perch on her rock of steadiness is in danger of splintering into a thousand pieces.  

This emotionally challenging new work is directed with compassion by Anne Kauffman. For tickets ($12-99), call the Yale Rep. 1120 Chapel Street, New Haven at 203-432-1234 or online at www.yalerep.org.  Performances are Tuesday at 8 p.m., Wednesday at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m, Thursday at 8 p.m., Friday at 8 p.m. and Saturday at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m.

Come hold Mary Jane’s hand as you try to protect her heart, and your own, in this sensitive, compassionate story of motherly love.

Monday, May 1, 2017

HOP ABOARD THE "LAST TRAIN TO NIBROC"



                                               





When two strangers meet on a crowded train traveling from California eastbound in December of 1940, the result is whimsical, magical and life altering for both.  The prim and reserved May has her nose buried in a book, one she deems religious, when the handsome young soldier Raleigh invades her space and solitude.  He is heading to New York City with the ambitious goal of becoming a writer, inspired by the fact that two famous writers, F. Scott Fitzgerald and Nathanael West, are traveling on the same train to be buried at their destinations.  For her part, May has just suffered a great disappointment, as the man she was about to marry proved less than he promised.  Raleigh has also suffered a grave setback when a medical ailment has eliminated his desire to be a pilot.

These two people, she reticent and naive, he gregareous and outgoing, discover all they share in common and everything that is vastly different as they travel across the miles.  To accompany them on  their journey of friendship, let Playhouse on Park in West Hartford introduce you in this charming and bittersweet tale, "Last Train To Nibroc" by Arlene Hutton, playing until  Sunday, May 14.  

Lilly Wilton's May and Joshua Willis's Raleigh are perfectly cast as the shy spinster who wants to be a missionary and the teasing and sincere gentleman who decides to open her life to a little adventure and fun.  When he realizes they both live in Kentucky, quite near each other, he determines to accompany her to the famed Nibroc Festival, an event she calls outrageous.  Both are reluctant to go home because of the disappointments they have faced, her broken engagement and his dismissal from the service.  Together they forge the courage to face their obstacles and reach for happiness.

For tickets ($25-40 ), call Playhouse on Park, 244  Park Road, West Hartford at 860-523-5900, ext. 10 or online at www.PlayhouseOnPark.org. Performances  are 
Wednesday and Thursday at 7:30 p.m., Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m., Sunday at 2 p.m., followed by a talkback. Watch for Dr Seuss's The Cat in the Hat for the family June 3-11 and their frequent Comedy Nights, the next one on June 3.

For a swirl of romance and a hint of humor, come visit May and Raleigh for ninety minutes of joy set at a wonderful waltz pace.

Monday, April 24, 2017

COLOR ME AMAZING IN SONG WITH THE CGMC


  THE CONNECTICUT GAY MEN'S CHORUS IN COLORFUL MODE

Imagine you’re driving in a pretty pink cadillac or in a big yellow taxi on a yellow brick road under a sky of purple rain. As you are tootling along, take a sharp right hand turn and set your GPS for the Theatre at the Co-op, 177 College Street, in New Haven.  Make sure to plot your destination for either Saturday, May 6 at 8 p.m. or Sunday, May 7 at 4 p.m. for the Connecticut Gay Men’s Chorus’s colorful production of “The Amazing Technicolor Songbook.”  Somewhere over the rainbow where blue birds fly, you are sure to be wearing rose colored glasses for hours of the greatest musical delights and pleasures.

The CGMC has a full palette of paints ready to color your musical world in any hue or tint you desire.  Hopscotching from one musical genre to another, the chorus is sure to land on many of your favorites. Artistic Director Greg McMahan has been planning the selections carefully as the master painter of the show.  According to McMahan, "The age range of our singers as well as our audiences is continually changing so that means their taste in musical styles continues to change as well. The unifying theme of colors and rainbows allowed us to explore diverse genres of music that we wouldn’t normally be able to feature in one of our shows. How else would we get to sing this lush arrangement of the traditional folk song Black is the Color in the same performance with the James Bond classic, Goldfinger? 
“When we first started thinking about this show,” states CtGMC President David Campanelli, “we knew there would be a lot of material from which to choose. But we had no idea the scope and variety of music. The color blue alone is featured in the title of over 400 songs!” “With that kind of choice, we can guarantee that there’s something for every musical taste in this show” says McMahan. “You won’t want to miss this one!”
Seats are $25 and $30 and you can purchase tickets online at www.ctgmc.org or by calling 800-644-2462(CGMC). 

Come discover if the chorus is going underwater in a “Yellow Submarine, ”  saying hello to a “Brown Eyed Girl,” stirring up some “Old Black Magic,” turning a spin in “My Blue Heaven” with a “Blue Moon” or crooning a tune or two with “Sweet Georgia Brown.”  Knowing these clever and versitile guys, anything is possible. They could even be found on “Blueberry Hill” all “Pretty in Pink” wearing “Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weanie Yellow Polka Dot Bikinis."

COME COOK IN "NONI CIMINO'S KITCHEN"




RAELLEN MAUTHER AS NONI CIMINO     PHOTO BY JULIA GERACE


In most cultures and religions around the globe, family is the glue that holds us together.  Add to family the uniting and bonding ingredients of food and you have the magic recipe that keeps traditions and holidays so dear to our hearts.  Italians have long recognized these important factors and have melded them in every layer of lasagna and morsel of meatball.  To learn about the importance of breaking bread and dipping it in gravy, the proper term for tomato sauce, come running to Pantochino Production of “Noni Cimino’s Kitchen” weekends until Sunday, May 7.

This original production was written by Pantochino’s Artistic Director Bert Bernardi for book and lyrics, with music by Justin Rigg, and focuses on a wonderful and warm grandmother, affectionately called Noni by her close knit clan.  Played with heart and spirit by Raeleen Mautner, an actress who has a radio show as well as writes books, Noni is at the center of this tale.  Excitement is in high gear when the unsuspecting Noni wins the opportunity to make her famous dish, chicken pizziaola on national television with the master chef Graham Kerr.

Thanks to a letter penned by Noni’s daughter-in-law Lori (Hannah Duffy), whose own recipe for gefilte fish was rejected, Noni is now the center of attention, with recognition she doesn’t want.  Her daughters (Mary Mannix, Maria Berte and Shelley Marsh Poggio) as well as her granddaughters (Brianna Joy Jackson and Mia Davi), nosy neighbor (Valerie Solli), her niece (Emily Kopstein) and son (Jimmy Johansmeyer) are all aflutter at the news.

Noni’s tiny kitchen, created in great detail by Von Del Mar, is soon stuffed like manicotti, with everyone who wants to be part of the excitement.  When the television show’s lead man Jerry (Justin Rigg) arrives, the kitchen is in happy chaos as everyone wants to help.  Noni even offers Jerry a slice of heaven, her special dessert bianco mangia, affectionately termed “blah,” an all white with cherries marvel of cake and creme.

Will Noni get her moment on the television screen?  Will her chicken pizziaola become world famous?  Be sure to eat a hearty helping of Italian fare so you won't starve as the daughters give cooking lessons on stage.  The show is set up like a cabaret so you can bring food and drink to share at your table.  For tickets ($20 on line, $22 at the door), go to www.pantochino.com.  Performances are Friday and Saturday at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m., with an extra show on Saturday at 2 p.m. April 29. All shows take place at the Milford Center for the Arts, 40 Railroad Avenue South, Milford, on the east bound side of the Metro-North tracks.

Pantochino Productions Inc. is participating in The GREAT GIVE on May 2-3, a 36 hour online-giving event to support local nonprofits.  Be sure to help them succeed by going to www.pantochino.com with your pledge of support,
Come be Italian for at least a few hours and let Noni embrace you as one of the family as, to her, la familigia is everything. Bon appetito.



Saturday, April 22, 2017

"SHREK” A LESSON IN LOVE AND FRIENDSHIP AT UCONN



DONKEY (SCOTT REDMOND) AND SHREK (WILL MANN)
PHOTO BY GERRY GOODSTEIN

PRINCESS FIONA AND FRIENDS      PHOTO BY GERRY GOODSTEIN

Living in a swamp, all on your own, might not be the ideal location for many people, but for one green hued ogre named Shrek it was perfection.  Ever since he was cast out from his family at the tender age of only seven, he took up residence in what some might term murky and muddy and altogether yucky.  That wonderful address stopped being so fabulous when, suddenly, neighbors started arriving, uninvited and unwanted.  It seems a dictator going by the name of Lord Farquaad, who ruled the town of Duloc, evicted all the fairy tale citizens and sent them with all their luggage, baggage and trunks to live in the swamp with Shrek. 
 Shrek is now forced to find room in his happy home for a lot of fhomeless misfits, namely Pinocchio, the three Little Pigs and the Big Bad Wolf, not to mention the Three Bears, the Ugly Duckling, Humpty Dumpty and the Gingerbread Man, to name drop just a few. To get control of his own home territory again, Shrek, an amazing Will Mann, must venture out of his comfort zone, his personal swamp, and confront the wicked Lord, villainy at its best in  Mark Boyett, to reclaim the deed to his land. On his adventures, Shrek is accompanied by a wise-cracking new friend named Donkey, a loyal Scott Redmond, who can be helpful at times, and also a huge hindrance, an annoying BFF if there ever was one.  Shrek, although an unlikely hero, bravely fights a ferocious dragon and rescues a feisty fearless princess named Fiona, a vivacious Desi Oakley, in the bargain.
 To become acquainted with Shrek and his pals, come to the Connecticut Repertory’s outstanding production of “Shrek the Musical” at the Jorgensen Theatre until Sunday, April 30.  This fantastic family musical with book and lyrics by David Lindsay-Abaire and music by Jeanine Tesori is great entertainment, with delightful sets by Tim Brown and Morgan Dawn Golightly, choreography by Katie Johannigman, costumes by Corey Brittain and Heather Lesieur and puppetry by Zach Broome. 
The use of puppets, a unique feature at UCONN, adds a special element of fun to an already great show, with Matthew Sorensen mastering Pinocchio and the puppeteers creating the Gingerbread Man (Sam Kebede), the  Dragon (Valerie Badjan) and the 3 Blind Mice  (Rebekah Santiago Berger, Pearl Matteson, Tabitha Gayle) to perfection. The production is such a wonderful adventure, where a green ogre who loves smelly things and his oozy, gooey swamp saves a princess from a dragon and defeats the villain to discover love and true friendship, all in one afternoon or evening.

Margarett Perry directs this great show that is stuffed with delightful songs led by musical director John Pike.  For tickets ($7 to 36), call the Jorgensen at 860-486-2113 or online at www.crt.uconn.edu. The show is on the campus of the University of Connecticut in Storrs. 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.
 The message to the audience is “let your freak flag wave.”  It’s okay to be different and memorable, even though others may try to belittle us, it’s our differences that make us strong.  As Kermit  the Frog says, “It’s not easy being green” but that doesn’t mean it’s not great too.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

NOSTALGIA REIGNS AS “FOLLIES” PARADES ON WARNER STAGE




Nostalgia reigns supreme when a bevy of chorus girls slip into their costumes and show business finery for one last romp of former glory. The stage of their greatest triumphs, the Weismann Theatre, is about to be closed forever, and these ladies want to come together to celebrate what once was.  Every year between World Wars I and II, they flamboyantly made their mark tredding the boards.  Now, with only a skeleton of past successes, mere planks and scaffolding, they have returned to the Weismann to conjure up memories and bid a reluctant farewell to the past.

Come to the Warner Theatre in Torrington for “Follies” by Stephen Sondheim for music and lyrics and James Goldman for book from Saturday, May 6 to Sunday, May 14, weekends, presented by the Warner Stage Company.

On one level, “Follies” is a simple and heartbreaking attempt to recapture the past and make it live again.  On another level, it’s a metaphor for a nation’s loss of innocence after the assassination of President Kennedy when our rose colored glasses were shattered without warning. It’s 1971 and theatrical impresario Dimitri Weismann (James Wood) is having a reunion of ex-showgirls as a final farewell to end the era.  Tunes like “Losing My Mind,” “I’m Still Here,” “Too Many Mornings,” “Could I Leave You?,” and “Broadway Baby” fill the rafters of this now crumbling edifice. The memories are not all sweet ones as two couples Buddy and Sally Durant Plummer and Benjamin and Phyllis Rogers Stone can attest.  When they all meet again, old feelings are rekindled and current entanglements are revealed.

At poignant points in the show, the younger versions of the showgirls appear as ghosts of their former selves. This show was inspired by the true account of former Ziegfeld showgirls gathering for a reunion.  Michael Berkeley directs this nostalgic look back in time, with Willard C. Minton as musical director.

The cast of Follies also includes Juliette Koch, Cole Sutton, Eric Lindblom, Becky Sawicki, Kelsey Morris, Amber Cameron,  Dave Cadwell, Katie Kat, Shannon Leigh Sullivan, Payton Turpin, Amy LeBlanc, Christopher Gilbert, Suzanne Powers, Wendy Aronson Traub Bill Molnar, Darcy Boynton, Eve Van Syckle, Hope Murphy, Elyse Jasensky, Susan Mieras, and Josh Shakeshaft.

For tickets ($19-27),call Warner Theatre, 68 Main Street, Torrington at  860-489-7180  or online at www.warnertheatre.org.
Performances are Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m.

Come see what has been called the greatest musical of all time and follow the steps and stories of the past and the present to uncover the truth.

FLOWERS AND FUNDRAISING IN BLOOM




     "FLORALITY" BY GEORGE HART, WELL KNOWN MATHEMATICIAN AND ARTIST FROM LONG ISLAND

 Imagine a world without daffodils, daisies or day lilies, a landscape bereft of tulips, orchids, sunflowers or roses.  An earth without the beauty and color and fragrance of flowers is unacceptable.  This year, for the 23rd time, the Eli Whitney Museum's unique tribute to the original Renaissance Man Leonardo da Vinci, the annual Leonardo Challenge fundraiser will pay tribute to the blossoms and buds of the flowering world.

This technicolor world, "Leonardo in Bloom," will take place Thursday, April 27 from 5:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. at the museum, 915 Whitney Avenue, Hamden.  This innovative event will be dedicated to raising scholarships for children to attend the museum's stimulating activities throughout the year on site.

Leonardo da Vinci is known for his imaginative inventions as well as his skills in the world of mathematics, architecture, music, anatomy, science, engineering and writing.  In addition, his talents as a painter were also a passion and he used his skills wisely, from drawing items as concrete as a helicopter and as ephermal as a hyacinth. 

From the time Leonardo was a teenager of fourteen, he pursued his love of the arts as an apprentice to Vercocchio, one of the most successful artists of the time.  Legend has it that the student was so far superior to his teacher that Vercocchio retired his brushes and never painted again.  The young man's powers in botany led him to his famed flower studies that include the lily, narcissus, columbine, carnation and Star of Bethlehem.  

Flowers exude a language of their own and the Eli Whitney Museum's Leonardo Challenge is stirring artists across the country to contribute a creation of their own, in a painting, a mobile, clothing design, jewelry, game, piece of furniture, the possibilities are endless.

According to the museum's associate director Sally Hill, who is also the principal designer of the event, "No matter how many years we've been doing this, we are always blown away by the creativity of each year's entries. This year has not disappointed.”  Once again, Hill will contribute an innovative lamp to the auction items. 
On Thursday, April 27, the artist's contributions will be on display in a silent auction, ready for bidding.  As participants bid, they will listen to the medieval music of Billy Fischer and Mickie Koth, strollers, and enjoy the culinary offerings of such food delights as Small Kitchen, Big Taste’s organic fare, flowered salads made by Two Guys from Woodbridge,  Doug Coffin’s Big Green Truck Pizza, Whole G’s artisan bakers, cheeses from Fromagerie Caseus  and the liquid libations from  Koffee Kocktails and Black Hog Brewery as well as Chocolate Spectacular desserts from Tariq and Asma Farid of Edible Arrangements.      .

For tickets ($75, with supporters at $250 violet, $500 lily, $1250 aster and $2500 orchid), go to https://squareup.com/store/eli-whitney-museum-inc or https://www.eliwhitney.org/7/exhibitions/leonardo-bloom.

Come enjoy the new garden that will be planted in all its artistic finery  at this year's Leonardo Challenge and plan to pluck an offering to take home, all in a worthy cause of educating our youth in thought provoking experiences and experiments of invention and design.



--

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

“STARS IN CONCERT” RETURNING TO DOWNTOWN CABARET



When you might ask did Las Vegas move miles closer to Bridgeport’s Downtown cabaret Theatre?  The answer is simple.  When Bernhard Kurz, master impresario, started bringing his sparkling stable of stars known as “Stars in Concert” to Connecticut.  With an East Coast premiere in a trio of sold out shows on April 7 and 8, “Stars in Concert” lit up the sky with stellar performances by legendary singers who are look and sound alike images of the genuine article.

Where can you go and hope to hear celebrity impersonators of such greats as Elvis and Elton John, 
the Beatles or Bette Midler, Madonna or Michael Jackson, Whitney Houston or Robbie Williams, Abba or Adele, Buddy Holly or the Blues Brothers, and many more.  Tremendous hits in Germany where Kurz was born and being hailed as one of the longest-running and most successful productions in Germany’s history, “Stars in Concert” was received to such acclaim at Bridgeport’s Downtown Cabaret Theatre that plans are already underway for a number of return engagements in the fall, possibly in September or November, or both.  The showstoppers may be different but the quality will be top notch on stage.

As tribute shows go, “Stars in Concert” pays a respectful homage to the top performers of yesterday and today with what has been described as the “vision of a perfect deception.”  The recent show in Bridgeport featured the startling likes of Tina Turner, Bette Midler, Michael Jackson, Whitney Houston and Elvis, hand selected from a bevy of forty perfect impersonators whom Kurz rotates.

When Kurz began his unique parade of stars in 1997, the prediction was for a four month run.  His dazzling triumph illustrates that his show appeals to all ages and the high caliber of his performers guarantees that it will continue to enjoy a spectacular success.  Who knows who will take center stage next time around? Little Richard, Cher or Louis Armstrong? Be prepared to be amazed and delighted.  Watch the Downtown Cabaret Theatre, 263 Golden Hill Street, Bridgeport for an announcement on www.mycabaret.com  or call 203-576-1636.  Remember this is cabaret at its best so bring along food and drinks to share at your table.

With a screen full of exciting videos, watch the celebrity hand-picked impersonators belt out their best, so well and so wonderfully you may not know the polished performer from the genuine article.