Monday, July 31, 2017



The foreign intrigue, incomparable passion, heartbreaking urgency, classic visual beauty, glorious arias and ill-fated romance of Puccini's "Madama Butterfly" is one of opera's most beloved masterpieces. Set in imperial Japan in the early 1900's, it is the breathtaking tale of a fifteen year old geisha named Cio-Cio-San who because of her fragile beauty and delicate ways is called Butterfly.  Opera Theater of Connecticut is poised to give this magnificent musical piece a momentous production at the air-conditioned Andrews Memorial Theater, Main Street, Clinton on Tuesday, August 8, Thursday, August 10 and Saturday, August 12 at 7:30 p.m. and again on Sunday, August 13 at 6 p.m.

Whether this is your favorite opera or you have yet to witness its soaring splendor, you are in for a special treat.  With a full orchestra led by Kyle Swann, musical director,  be prepared for a trip to foreign lands as the young geisha, portrayed by Shannon Kessler Dooley, soprano, transports you with her precise lyricism and expressionism.  It is her wedding day, for a marriage that has been arranged for her with an American naval officer, Lt. Pinkerton, portrayed by Joshua Kohl, tenor, who matches her in impassioned intensity. The unscrupulous wedding broker Goro, a conniving Stefan Barner, has arranged the match, which to Butterfly is a sincere one of love but to the officer is a game to pass the time. 

Butterfly is the faithful bride, unaware that to her groom she is merely a toy to be amused by and to enjoy for the moment.  She even renounces her religion as part of her commitment to the union and a sign of her loyalty. Once married, Pinkerton leaves her and his return is in question. When Pinkerton finally comes back after three long years away, it is with a new American wife Kate, performed by Carly Callahan. He then discovers he has a son.

 Despite the good efforts of Consul-General Sharpless, played by John Dooley, the disruptive plot of her uncle Bonze played by Andrew Potter, the comforting words of her maid Suzuki portrayed by Evanna Lai, the commanding nature of Zachary Johnson as Prince Yamadori and the sweetness of Butterfly’s child, Dolore Sadness, this dramatic tale ends in tragedy. The opera is sung in Italian, with English supertitles to enhance your understanding.

For tickets ($55 regular, $50 seniors, $35 students), call Opera Theater of CT at 860-669-8999 or online at Dinners from Chips Pub III for $15 can be preordered and enjoyed on the theater lawn, on the lovely Indian River, an hour before the show. Artistic Director Alan Mann will present an Opera Talk for $5, an hour and a half before curtain. Kate Ford serves as General Manager of Opera Theater of Connecticut. To Mann, "Heartbreaking and stirring music is the hallmark of this Puccini masterpiece...This glorious and heart-rending clash of cultures and the tragedy that results is perhaps the most beautiful of Puccini's scores and the most memorable musically, dramatically and visually."

The production is made possible in part by The Howard Gilman Foundation, The National Endowment for the Arts, DECD/COA and The Community Foundation for Greater New Haven.

 A golden silk screen of cranes and cherry blossoms becomes a royal setting for this magnificently costumed and beautifully rich in song tale of love, devotion and abandonment in Imperial Japan. Surrender to its musical magic.

Sunday, July 23, 2017


Gnaw a chicken leg and chase it down by chugging a giant glass of milk in preparation for a challenging new play by an equally new theatrical company in Ridefield, Thrown Stone Theatre. Thanks to co-producer and director Jason Peck, the U.S. premiere of Ross Dunmore's "Milk" will take place at the Ridgefield Conservatory of Dance, 440 Main Street, Ridgefield until Saturday, August 5 (extended due to popular demand).  Peck discovered it at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in Scotland last summer and brought it home for its initial airing.

"Milk" is about appetites, the need for food, for validation, for love, for connections with other human beings. It crosses generational gaps as it deals with three couples at varying stages of life and requirements. First we meet Steph, a starving for affection  fourteen year old who is consumed with passion, giving it and receiving it, totally driven by her hormones.  Alexandra Perlwitz is wonderful in her Lolita-like role as she bubbles over with plans for a future stuffed with grand ambitions.  She overwhelms her high school counterpart Ash, a conservative and shy Aidan Meachem, who does not know what to do with her excesses.  He hopes by consuming and devouring a chicken a day he will grown macho enough to satisfy Steph's unusual needs.

Next meet the abundantly pregnant Nicole, a nervous and anxious Alana Arco, who can't wait to be a mother, one human being who can nurture another, a love goddess with her milk. Her husband Danny is supportive, a reassuring Jonathan Winn, who yearns to be kind.  As a teacher, his kindness leads him to make wrong choices, especially with Steph, his student, who fancies herself a siren who can make him crash on her rocks of temptation.

Completing the triumvirate are May and Cyril, a couple in their nineties who survive on memories, of grand feasts and great heroic deeds.  Melody James and Cyrus Newitt are poignant as they huddle together at the end of life, afraid of shadows and children and dogs, awaiting death. With musical interludes breaking the patterns and two chairs and two tables as props being rearranged with emotional commentary, "Milk" continually makes statements as the couples interact across their scenes, striving for validation and redemption, thanks to strong direction by Jason Peck.

For tickets ($49, and $29 for those 29 and under), call Thrown Stone Theatre at 203-442-1714 or online at  Check the website for associated activities to enhance your enjoyment of the play.

Look for nourishment for the mind and the emotions as "Milk" feeds the stomach and the soul.


As a teenager, if you flunked algebra or had a bumper accident with the family car, you might find yourself grounded for a specified period of time with a lose of privileges attached.  As an adult, however, being grounded would have incredibly different causes and equally divergent consequences. To enter the world of a female fighter pilot, a jock who is justifiably proud of her daring and courage in the face of danger, let playwright George Brant open the cockpit door.  In "Grounded," you will discover an intimate and emotional conversation being conducted by Westport Country Playhouse until Saturday, July 29.

Elizabeth Stahlmann takes off on a one woman mission into the rarefied atmosphere of an Air Force officer whose career is suddenly sidelined by an unexpected pregnancy.  One moment she is the commander of the skies, ruler of the blue horizons, shooting down the enemy, a military marvel, and the next moment she is literally and figuratively shot down herself, and earthbound without options.

Her days and nights are quickly peopled with a husband and baby daughter and her high powered controls are exchanged for toys, toddlers and domesticity.  When she is finally ready to resume her mission and maneuvers, she finds, to her dismay, that the game plan has changed.  No longer is she free to scan the skies from above,  overseas where the action is.  Her task is to command a drone stateside as a "chair force," conducting the war from thousands of miles away from the real action.  For twelve hour shifts, she is  forced to exchange her vast blue skies for grey screens and it takes a devastating toll on her psyche and mind.  Elizabeth is fearless as she tackled this role, bringing to life all the trauma and trials of a woman who dedicated her life to protection, yielding power over the elements.

LIz Diamond directs this personal battle of purpose with a strong handed force.  For tickets ($30 and up), call the Westport Country Playhouse, 25 Powers Court, off route 1, Westport, at 203-227-4177 or 888-927-7529 or online at  Performances are Tuesday at 7 p.m., Wednesday at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m., Thursday and Friday at 8 p.m., Saturday at 3 p.m. and 8 p.m. and Sunday at 3 p.m. 

Watch how one woman, a soldier, takes control of her destiny and tries to fly free.

Saturday, July 22, 2017


Using the pen name P. L. Travers, this Australian born author, dancer, journalist, poet, storyteller and Shakespearean actress named Helen Lyndon Goff made the world a magical and happy place with the creation of an unusual nanny who carried a carpet bag and an umbrella with the head of a parrot and could hold tea parties on the ceiling.  Modeled after her own aunt who in her childhood saved the family from emotional and financial disaster, she gave the world "Mary Poppins" in a series of eight books that earned instant success.

Even as a child she was precocious and imaginative, picking a  giant sunflower from a neighbor’s garden thinking the great golden face was the face of God. To learn more about this nanny named Mary, fly over to the Main Stage of the Warner Theatre in Torrington from Saturday, July 29 to Sunday, August 6 to get better acquainted thanks to the innovative Warner Stage Company. With music and lyrics by Richard and Robert Sherman, new songs by Anthony Drewe and George Stiles, the award winning musical was co-created by Cameron MacKintosh.

As nannies go. Mary Poppins is one of the magical best.  Hailing from England in 1910, she unexpectedly arrives at number Seventeen Cherry Tree Lane when the Banks family is in desperate need of her services.  A strong wind delivers her, carpetbag in hand, to the home of Mr. and Mrs. Banks and their children Jane and Michael.  Flying in with an umbrella is only one of her fanciful feats.

Jane and Michael Banks are thoroughly terrible and have chased their current nanny right out the door.  Mere minutes after the children pen their advertisement for  a new one, sung delightfully as “The Perfect Nanny,” who should arrive but Mary Poppins.

Here is a woman who can make statues come to life, whose best friend is a chimney sweep named Bert, who can befriend unusual people like a Bird Woman and a lady who runs a magical sweet shop and who can encourage toys to dance.

While trying to teach the children life lessons, like learning to value each other again, Mary P. inadvertently puts their father’s job at the bank in jeopardy.  But, never fear, all will come out right in the end.

For tickets ($19-27), call the Warner Theatre, 68 Main Street, Torrington at 860-440-8539, ext. 151 or 800-440-8539 or online at  Performances are Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m.

Travel with Jane and Michael as they learn that “a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down in the most delightful way,”
when a most amazing Mary Poppins has the spoon and the magic firmly in hand. It's "supercalifragilisticexpialidocius"(ly) great.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017


                                       DAVID MAIOCCO AS LIBERACE
If variety is the spice of life, then Music Theatre of Connecticut is offering up a veritable perfect selection of flavors.  Their unique musical and entertaining spice rack is filled to overflowing and you're invited to taste and savor them all over a  quartet of hot summer nights.

First up is that sequined and sparkled entertainer Liberace, courtesy of David Maiocco who will dress in flamboyant fluff and finery to perform like the musical master himself.  The piano keys will be tickled as "An Evening with Liberace" conjures up the grand style the maestro was noted for in song and in story.  The candelabra will be lit for one night only, Saturday, July 23 at 8 p.m.

Next up, on Saturday, July 29 at 8 p.m., you're invited to chill out and sip "Cocktails with Cole," thanks to the singing styles of Leslie Orotino, s shining cabaret star who knows how to put across songs, especially those of Cole Porter in the 1930's and 1940's, the ones she loves best.  She grew up hearing her dad sing them and he passed on his love of that era directly to her.  This accomplished night club singer is also a polished actress, with credits in "Annie" as Miss Hannigan, Reno Sweeney in "Anything Goes" and Meg Brockie in "Brigadoon."

Versatile and eclectic, Raissa Katona Bennett inhabits the music worlds of cabaret, jazz, Broadway and classical song with ease.  One moment she is portraying Christine in Broadway's "Phantom of the Opera," and the next she is busy rescuing and training abandoned dogs or serving as assistant chaplain at Norwalk's Unity Church or being a Raiki master.  On Saturday, August 5, at 8 p.m., she will present her winning ways all directly  to your soul in "The Way of the Heart."  This consummate entertainer delivers all great cabaret tunes and scintillating stories too.

On Saturday, August 19, at 8 p.m., "Master of the Imagination" James Mapes will perform his one man Broadway show for your amazement and pleasure.  Billed as "The Imaginologist," Mapes is skilled at bedazzlement, using  misdirection, non-verbal clues, intuition, psychology,  storytelling and a modicum of magic as he delves into the impossible.  Starting his career at the age of nine, he quickly advanced to hypnosis and acting by his teen years.  Using fun and laughter, he educates and motivates, while treating his "subjects" with dignity. Come be captivated. 

For tickets ($25), call MTC, 509 Westport Avenue, Norwalk,behind 9 West Shoes, by calling 203-454-3883 or online at
Music Theatre of Connecticut is the premier provider of musical theatre performance and training.

Light up your hot summer nights with some way cool entertainment, courtesy of Music Theatre of Connecticut.

Monday, July 17, 2017


William Shakespeare wrote the original tale of star-crossed lovers centuries ago when he penned the tragic story of Juliet and her Romeo. Years later, the tragedy was retold by shifting it to the streets of New York where the original feuding families, the Capulets and the Montaques, were replaced by two street gangs, the Sharks and the Jets.  The avid animosity and anger were still there and the sweet, innocent and instantaneous love sparked between Maria and Tony was just as poisonous to their world and  impossible to sustain. 

The Ivoryton Playhouse is offering up a moving and emotionally vivid "West Side Story" until Sunday, July 30 and you will soon be caught up in the swirl of romance of Mia Pinero's lovely and luminous Maria matched with ardor by Stephen Mir's heroic and dedicated Tony.  The stirring musical is based on a conception by Jerome Robbins, a book by Arthur Laurents, music by Leonard Bernstein and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim.  Musical theater doesn't get any better than this.

When the childhood games of hopscotch, jump rope, and leap frog are abandoned for hide and seek with real guns and turf wars over disputed territory, you know the cliques are now full-fledged gangs. Nowhere are the stakes more obviously at risk then here, pitting two rival gangs in a rumble where the blood runs warm and red. When the leader of the Puerto Rican pack Bernardo (Victor Borjas) finds his sister Maria  has eyes only for Tony, a member of the rival group, the stage is set for tragedy. Just like the doomed lovers of old, Maria and Tony are trapped in conflicts not of their own making. The purity of their love is tarnished by the war that flares out of control. Natalie Madion is a fiery Anita who tries in vain to cool the conflagration and end their affection.

The music by Leonard Bernstein and lyrics by Stephen Sonheim are magic, enhanced by Todd L. Underwood's energetic choreography and direction and Daniel Nischan’s versatile set. 
For tickets ($50, seniors $45, students $22,children $17), call the Ivoryton Playhouse, 3 Main Street, Ivoryton at 860-767-7318 or online at  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.

Watch for the exciting cabaret theater evenings planned this summer with the Ivoryton Playhouse and the Water's Edge Resort and Spa in Westbrook, that combines a delicious dinner with sparkling live entertainment in a personal setting, for $69 a person.  Call Water's Edge at 860-399-5901 for reservations, or go online to  Make your summer musical and memorable.

 Watch how the slash of a switchblade cuts out lives and hopes as it inflicts pain and poignancy to the modern day equivalent of Shakespeare’s favorite pair of lovers.



The Scottish author J. M. Barrie created one of the most beloved characters in literature:  a young lad who could fly with ease, rescue Indian princesses and bravely battle a slew of evil pirates.  Peter Pan is renown for his courage and daring-do and his insistence that he never grow up.

To discover how Sir James Matthew Barrie, 1st Baronet and Order of Merit, came to create a boy with such pluck and perseverance, set your sails directly for the Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts from Tuesday, August 1 to Sunday, August 6 for "Finding Neverland."  With book by James Graham, music and lyrics by Gary Barlow and Eliot Kennedy,  choreography by Mia Michaels and direction by Diane Paulus, this new musical explores imagination and magic in a fantastical combination.

J. M. Barrie was deeply scarred by the death of his older brother in a skating accident when he was only six and he tried to become the perfect boy to help his grieving mother cope.  Perhaps that explains in a small manner his obsession with  a youngster who never grew up and had the powers to fly out of danger at will.  While his marriage was an unhappy one, the author frequently took walks around London's Kensington Gardens with his Saint Bernard.  He chanced upon a family of five rambunctious boys, the Llewelyn Davies brothers, in the late 1890's, and they became his newest inspiration for Peter Pan.

In his great desire for a family, J. M. Barrie insinuated himself in their lives, so much so that when their parents died he supported them financially. He became "Uncle Jim" and entertained Peter, Jack, George, Michael and Nicholas with fairy tales and make-believe stories. He subscribed to the notion that  "Those who bring sunshine to the lives of others cannot keep it from themselves."

Barrie's "Dedication to the Five" tells the story of how the play came to be: "I suppose I always knew that I made Peter by rubbing the five of you violently together, as savages with two sticks produce a flame... What a game we had of Peter before we clipped him small to make him fit the boards. He was the longest story on earth." 

All the proceeds from the copyright of Pater Pan were left to the Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children and continue to this day even though they should have expired years ago. For tickets ($22.50 and up), call the Bushnell, 166 Capitol Avenue, Hartford at 860-987-5900 or online at  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.

Sprinkle some fairy-dust as you come under the spell of J. M. Barrie who freely admitted that he never grew up and never wanted you to grow up either.  Come play make-believe at the Bushnell.

Monday, July 10, 2017



In honor of its twentieth anniversary, the Connecticut Cabaret Theatre in Berlin is throwing a musical party and you are cordially invited.  In a night club setting, the songs and stories about America's favorite crooner come pouring out for your listening pleasure. Some of us have even been known to sing along, welcomed or not.  For a delightful evening of songs and memories, come hear  “My Way:  A Musical Tribute to Frank Sinatra” weekends until Saturday, August 5.  Conceived by David Grapes and Todd Olson, the show features the smooth and sophisticated talents of Kaite Corda and Jon Escobar for stories, songs and dances.

In December of 1915, a baby boy was born to Italian immigrant parents in Hoboken, New Jersey, who was destined to become a beloved interpreter of tunes, a swinger with the likes of a Tommy Dorsey and Harry James, a “bobby soxer” idol way before the Beatles and an actor gifted enough to win an Academy Award as well as more than a dozen Grammy Awards. Francis Albert Sinatra, better known as Frank, was part of the Rat Pack with Dean Martin, Sammy Davis, Jr., Joey Bishop and Peter Lawford and answered to the monikers “Ol’ Blue Eyes” and “Chairman of the Board.”

Duke Ellington called Frank “the ultimate theater” and this King of the Hill duet travels from “Strangers in the Night” to “I’ll Be Seeing You,” stopping along the way to pay homage to the late night  orb, with “Fly Me to the Moon,” spin the light fantastic romantically with such hits as “All of Me,” and “My Funny Valentine,” move around the world geographically with “My Kind of Town,” “New York, New York” and “I Love Paris” as well as a  medley of philosophical favorites such as “That’s Life,” “It Was a Very Good Year” and “I’m Gonna Live Til I Die.”

To Frank Sinatra, the secret of his success was to sing good songs and this wonderful twosome does just that in tribute and style.  Sinatra was known to sing one hundred songs a day and this musical tapestry squeezes in more than half 
that number, sprinkling in anecdotes along the way. The Hoboken Three, featuring TJ Thompson, Jamie Sherwood and Tim Urso play a sparkling backup for the classy tunes. Kris McMurray directs this smooth sampling with flair.

For tickets ($30), call the CT Cabaret Theatre, 31-33 Webster Square Road, Berlin (right off the Berlin Turnpike) at 860-829-1248 or online at  Performances are Friday and Saturday night at 8 p.m. with doors opening at 7:15 p.m.  Remember to pack goodies to share at your table or plan to buy drinks and desserts on site.

Come recapture the spirit of a man whose music was a legend, a man we will long treasure and celebrate. Raise a toast to the Chairman of the Board.

Sunday, July 9, 2017


Put on your yellow slickers, rain hats, rubber boots and inflate your sunny umbrellas for Summer Theatre of New Canaan's truly delightful rain sparkled production of "Singing' in the Rain" under the big white tent at Waveny Park until Sunday, July 30.This smash 1952 movie originally starring Gene Kelly, Debbie Reynolds, and Donald O’Connor was first brought to the stage in 1985 and continues to be a saccharine sweet crowd pleaser. Credits go to Betty Comden and Adolph Green for the screenplay and to Nacio Brown and Arthur Freed for the music.

The time is 1927 and Monumental Pictures has just released another silent movie hit, “The Royal Rascal,” starring that classic romantic couple Don Lockwood, a dashing Matthew Tiberi, and  Lina Lamont, a lovely looking Jodi Stevens. But the old-fashioned heyday of silent films is suddenly taking a back seat to the new kid on the block, the talkies. Can Monumental and its two favorites make the transition? Only if Lina Lamont never opens her uncultured and raspy mouth. But who is going to tell her she sounds like a mad cat in heat, on her good days?

Enter the savior of the day in the personage of peppy and pretty, perky and
polished Kathy Selden, a darling Annabelle Fox who has a voice song birds would envy.
Don Lockwood’s good friend Cosmo,  an ever clowning David Rossetti, comes up with what seems to be the perfect picture solution as long as the lovely Lina never suspects: using Kathy’s
voice to dub in all the words and melodies.

The choreography is non stop super, both wet and dry, thanks to the talents of Douglas Shankman and the romantic songs likeAll I Do Is Dream of You,” and “You Are My Lucky Star” are balanced by cheery ones like “Good Morning” and the silly ones like “Moses Supposes” and “Make ‘Em Laugh.” Melody Meitrott Libonati directs this puddle jumping joy.

For tickets ($30-64) call Summer Theatre of New Canaan, 11 Farm Road, Waveny Park, New Canaan (just off the Merritt, exit 37, behind the high school) at 203-966-4634 or online at Performances are Thursday at  8pm, Friday at 8pm, Saturday at 8pm, and Sunday at 4pm.  Picnic tables are available for reservation.

Also for the kiddies, STONC is offering up a world premiere of "The Dancing Princesses" about 
a mystery that surrounds the young girls and a two person show playing all the characters in "The Adventures of Robin Hood" on Saturday and Sunday mornings and early afternoons ($22-25).

It’s umbrellas and thumbs way up for “Singin’ in the Rain.”  Lucky stars shine in the New Canaan sky.



For thousands of kids, mostly homeless and with little chance of an education, scrambling on street corners of cities like New York,as they tried to earn a penny to keep poverty from their door.  They hustled newspapers, as energetic and enterprising youth, hoping to be the first one to sell you the latest headlines of the day.  This practice dates back to colonial times and no protection like child labor laws existed.

In 1899, giants of the industry decided they deserved more profit and leaders like Joseph Pulitzer and William Randolph Hearst raised the price these scruffy lads paid for the "paps" and effectively reduced the lads' profit to nothing.  The boys led by Jack Kelly, a smart thinking Jim Schubin, and his new friend Davey, an equally savvy Noah Kieserman, devised a plan to form a union and fight the big guys.

This true David and Goliath story birthed a new musical "Newsies" with book by Harvey Fierstein, music by Alan Menken and lyrics by Jack Feldman, and it has been making its own headlines, winning Tony Awards in 2012 for Best Choreography and Best Original Score.  Hold on to your reading glasses and run as fast as you can to the campus of the University of Connecticut at Storrs by Sunday, July 16 for the Connecticut Repertory Theatre's sterling production of "Disney's Newsies The Musical" as it marches proudly and defiantly into the Jorgensen Theatre.  

"Newsies" centers on child labor practices, when the kids united to change the way the big powers compensated them.  In the two weeks the boys refused to sell newspapers, circulation dropped from 360,000 to 125,000 and the kids were victorious in having their voices heard. These boys were often homeless and orphaned.  They were not employees and had no one to protect them but themselves.  They fearlessly took on the giants and won, even though the newspapers wouldn't let them return unsold goods. initially.  Working from early morning often to late in the night, they typically earned 30 cents a day.

Come meet Jack as he gathers his ragamuffin force to protest and finds unexpected support from a reporter named Katherine, a lovely and spirited Paige Smith.  With the help of Davey who with his younger brother Les, a ready to fight for the right Atticus L. Burello, is aiding the family when his dad is disabled, the boys are encouraged to "Seize the Day."  The police and strikebreakers try to snuff their spirit but, ultimately, Jack's championing of their cause prevails and Pulitzer, a power driven Richard Henry,  backs down on his monetary demands.  Even Governor Theodore Roosevelt, a justice seeking Nate Healey, rides in to help save the day.

Also deserving of note are Jack's adopted brother Crutchie, a loyal Tyler Jones, 
and Medda Larkin,  a fiery singing chanteuse Tina Fabrique, who both lend their support to the cause. Director and choreographer Christopher d'Amboise does a super yeoman job in making this production so memorable.

For tickets ($12 to 55), call the Jorgensen Theatre at Storrs, at 860-486-2113 or online at  Performances are Tuesday, 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., with an added matinee Wednesday at 2 p.m.

Join Jack and his pals as they carry the banner of truth, justice and the 
American way,  hitting the streets of 1899 New York City as pint-sized heroes to battle the giants and win the day.

Monday, July 3, 2017



For the 27th year, the CT Critics Circle honored the best in the state for the 2016-2017 theater season at Sacred Heart University's Edgerton Center for the Performing Arts in a gala celebration.  Three-time Tony Award-nominee Terrence Mann served as a "brisk" Master of Ceremonies while Bobby Conte Thornton, star of Broadway's "A Bronx Tale" performed musical selections.

Taking top honors for best play was Westport Country Playhouse's moving production of a man being held for ransom, "The Invisible  Hand" while best musical went to a family coping with mom's mental illness, "Next to Normal" by Hartford TheaterWorks.

The Tom Killen Award for lifetime service in the theater was awarded to Paulette Haupt for her four decades as Artistic Director of the National Music Theater Conference at the Eugene O'Neill Theater Center in Waterford.  Ms. Haunt will retire this year and will be feted at a gala at the unique site in Waterford on July 22 at 6 p.m.  Go to for the full schedule of offerings in musicals, plays and cabarets.

The superb British actor Paxton Whitehead was singled out for a special lifetime achievement award, especially for his numerous appearances at Westport Country Playhouse in Alan Ayckbourn comedies.  James Lecesne who has devoted his life to improving the fate of gay youth  through his writings, acting and advocacy work was also recognized.  He appeared this year in his own work, a one man show, "The Absolute Brightness of Leonard Pelkey" at Hartford Stage.

Awards for outstanding actors in a musical went to Christiane Noll for playing the mom in "Next to Normal" and to Zach Schanne as Tony in "West Side Story" at Summer Theatre of New Canaan. Outstanding actor in a play went to Eric Bryant as the hostage in "The Invisible Hand" and to Vanessa R. Butler as a conflicted military soldier in Hartford Stage's "Queens for a Year."

Best director nods went to Rob Ruggiero for his emotional "Next to Normal" and to David Kennedy for his intense "The Invisible Hand." Outstanding featured actors in a play in a musical went to Rhett Guter for his title role in Goodspeed's "Bye  Bye Birdie" while Kate Simone took top honors for  her title role as "Gypsy" at Music Theatre of Connecticut.

Mia Dillon was selected best featured actor for her duel roles as a child and as a dowager in Hartford Stage's "Cloud 9" while Cleavant Derricks lobbied for possession of the family legacy in Hartford Stage's "The Piano Lesson."

Long Wharf's Theatre's "The Meteor Shower" took top honors for its quirky ensemble cast, Maya Keleher  won the debut award for playing the conflicted daughter in "Next to Normal,"  Jon Peterson for writing and playing the talented Anthony Newley in Seven Angels' production of "He Wrote Good Songs," and Doug Shankman for his clever choreography in "West Side Story" at Summer Theatre of New Canaan.

Jane Shaw won for her special sound design as did Darko Tresnjak for his outstanding Greek Village set and Fabio Toblini for his flamboyant costumes in "The Comedy of Errors" at Hartford Stage while John Lasiter won best lighting for illuminating "Next to 

Presenters included Obie-winning composer Kirsten Childs, actor-director-producer Jerry Adler, O'Neill Theater Center founder George White, former Goodspeed Musicals executive Michael Price, editor-in-chief Paul Wontorek, SiriusXM radio host Julie James and Tony Award-winning set designer Michael Yeargan.



Fair warning to Shakespearian scholars and purists:  the Playhouse on Park in West Hartford is offering up a tongue-in-cheek speedy survey of the Bard's collective works until Sunday, July 30.  With song, dance, improvisation, slapstick, horseplay and even a little mime, a trio of actors - Sean Harris, Hanna Cheek and Rich Hollman - skip at warp speed through all of Shakespeare's tragedies, comedies and histories in "The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (abridged) (revised)" created by Adam Long, Daniel Singer and Jess Winfield.

In the fair environs of Verona, we meet Romeo and Juliet, the most famous star-crossed lovers who are doomed by the long standing feuding  by their families.  Before the bottles of poison are even drained, we are quickly swept into a cooking show reminiscent of "Sweeney Todd" as Titus Andronicus, chief chef, seeks revenge by concocting tasty human treats.

The tale of the dark and brooding Othello who becomes jealous when his best pal Iago deceives him about Othello's wife Desdemona and her faithfulness is spotlighted next.  With tweets and Instagrams, the green-eyed witch is revealed.

If one of the Bard's comedies is good, then sixteen of them must be better. Watch  the three  go off and running when they tackle this mix and match mash up with identical twins, tempests and tons of mistaken identifies. Dukes, donkeys and fairies have  a no holds barred free for all in this delightful tangle of tales.

Golfers play through as we go all Scottish on the heath as Macbeth takes center stage in this glorious blood and death story that quickly morphs into the Ides of March and Julius Caesar and football and Troilus and Cressida and ends with the Prince of Denmark himself, Hamlet.  The audience gets to jump into the fray and shout out a few appropriate phrases as Wonder Woman leaps into the fight.  Watch for skulls on motorcycles and a whole lot of chutzpah riding shotgun, but all in the name of frivolous fun.  Tom Ridgely directs this out of control madness and frivolity, all designed for pleasure.

For tickets ($25-40 ), call Playhouse on Park, 244 Park Road, West Hartford, at 860-523-5900, ext. 10, or online to  Performances are  Wednesday and Thursday at 7:30 p.m., Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m.

PLAYWRIGHTS ON PARK Reading Series continues On Tuesday, July 18 at 7:30 p.m. with an intense comedy "COMMUNITY" by Stephen Kaplan.

Come have fun and enjoy the theatrical antics as all of Shakespeare's works are dusted off and hung on the line for exploration , examination and evisceration, all in the name of enjoyment.