Saturday, July 21, 2018

“THE TEMPEST” A CHARMING PRODUCTION BY CT FREE SHAKESPEARE





What better way to spend a delightful summer evening then by being outdoors and entertained by Connecticut Free Shakepeare’s charming troupe of entertainers in the Bard’s tale of jealousy and revenge “The Tempest.” Held this year the weekend of July 19 to 22 on the grounds of the University of Bridgeport, families gathered with the kiddies and a picnic to enjoy this intriguing tale. The master magician Prospero has been sent in exile, with young daughter Miranda, to a deserted island. The devilish deed was done by brother Antonio (Mark Friedlander), with the help of Alonso (Craig Anthony Bannister) the King of Naples, and his dishonest cohorts and one goodhearted Gonzalo (Alejandro Lopez), all because of jealousy. 

 Prospero is the rightful Duke of Milan and now, twelve years after the fact, is set to enact vengeance. In this clever adaptation created by Ellen Lieberman, director and artistic director, Prospero is a woman, crafted with authority by Channie Waites, who conjures up a storm, “a tempest,” to catch her tormentors and shipwreck them, thus putting them at her mercy,


A ship carrying Alonso and Antonio and Alonso’s son Ferdinand (Joel Oramas) and brother Sebastian (Ian Eaton) is traveling home from Tunis and Prospero is busy with her spirit friend Ariel, a free floating Uma Incrocci, and the quixotic Caliban, an unhappy Myles Tripp, who obeys herbut has evil in his heart for Prospero. Prosperos main concern is her daughter Miranda who was only three when this miscarriage of justice took place. Much of theirsuccess in adapting to their exile is thanks to Gonzalo and his initial help of food, water, clothes and a library of books when Prospero and little Miranda were set adrift in a small boat.

Prospero has thrived on the tiny island. With the aide of Ariel,  a spirit only she can see, and Caliban, an ungrateful and menacing son of a witch, she has learned to survive. While Ariel serves her, she only desires her freedom, but Caliban resents her presence and wants her permanently gone.

Through her incantations, Prospero separates the men on the ship into three groups, so that Alonso and his son Ferdinand each believe the other is dead. Two of Alonso’s servants Stephano (also Ian Eaton) and Trinculo (also Mark Friedlander ) are delightfully drunk and fall in with Caliban to plot a ridiculous defeat of Prospero. The handsome young Ferdinand is immediately smitten with Miranda (Alex Acosta), so quickly that Prospero feels she must place a few obstacles in the path of true love so “too light winning (may) make the prize light.” 

Meanwhile Antonio and Sebastian have treachery firmly in mind as they plot to murder Alonso and the good-hearted Gonzalo so that Sebastian can become King. A forgiving Prospero, calm after the storm, with the help of the Bard, makes sure everything works out as “all’s well that ends well.” Forgiveness is a current theme ofCFS, one theyhave broughtto schools, groups and even prisons to create discussions and reflections. Donations are always welcome at a CFS production, which are marked by special effects, creative costuming, humor, joy, dancing and singing.

 A web of enchantment is being woven that will surely catch you in its mesmerizing spell. Hold tight to the magic!

Monday, July 16, 2018

BUZZ ON OVER TO BERLIN FOR “THE QUEEN BEES”



                                      THE QUEEN BEES

Turn your clock back to the 1960’s, a kinder, gentler time in many ways, and join two sisters and their 
best friend as they try to scale the mountain to the top of the all girl group singing charts. Come to the
Connecticut Cabaret Theatre in Berlin weekends until Saturday, August 4th to see, hear and bop along with 
Rob Urbinati’s lively “The Queen Bees,” a joyous jukebox musical.

The road to the top is not easy and there’s a lot of room for missteps along the way. Good voices and a
ton of enthusiasm are not enough as sisters Diane and Brenda and BBF Connie soon discover. Finding
the right name for their group (The BonBons sounded too juvenile and sweet), the best manager 
(Flash Davis didn’t work out) and the proper songs to sing (nothing with car crashes and sea gull
sound effects) were a process of trial and error.

Maria Soaft’s Brenda, the too wise one, sexually provocative and out for what was best for her, in terms 
of clothes and financial successful and boys to men, is in direct contrast with younger sister Diane, played
 by Amy Bentley, who is conscientious and determined and has the whole group in mind as she makes 
decisions for them to succeed. Kristin Iovene’s Connie is the believer of the group, who reads and honors the
Bible and is slow to approve Brenda’s rebellious ways. 

The show reveals their hopes, dreams and struggles as the girls try to succeed in a male dominated world
where they are dismissed all too often and forced to fight for every little step up the ladder to the top.
Amazingly they hit their peak in three years, only to discover that their goals have changed and maybe
they are no longer on the same musical page.

Along the way they harmonize on a number of great 60’s hits, like “My Boyfriend’s Back,” “Leader of the Pack,” 
“Maybe,” “Remember (Walking in the Sand),” “Twist and Shout,” “The Boy From New York City,” and “Shout!”
A lively band of Nathaniel Baker, Jamie Sherwood and Tim Urso sets the pace.

Kris McMurray directs this trio of songsters who put their heart and soul into their sound with enthusiasm and
glee. For tickets ($34), call the CT Cabaret Theatre, 31-33 Webster Square Road, Berlin at 860-829-1248 or 
online at www.ctcabaret.com. Remember to bring goodies to share at your table or plan to purchase dessert and 
drinks at the onsite concession stand.

Come cheer on Connie, Brenda and Diane, all from Queens, New York, as they travel the highway to a place where dreams can come true…or not.


“ A FLEA IN HER EAR” A COMIC DELIGHT IN WESTPORT









If you love to laugh and enjoy the complicated joys of farce, then do I have the play for you. Farce is a unique form of comedy that is reminiscent of Abbott and Costello partying with The Three Stooges, only with lots of bedrooms, slamming doors, mistaken identities and a slap dash of romance. The situations are ridiculous, the humor is physical and the dialogue equal parts witty and sexy. Get ready to dip your toes in this delicious sea of silliness.

In 1907 Georges Feydeau of France penned the outrageously adorable “A Flea in Her Ear” which has been delightfully adapted by David Ives. Until Saturday, July 28, you are urged to run, not walk, to the Westport Country Playhouse for some fancy French folderol. 
You will quickly get caught up in the plottings of Raymonde Chandebise (Elizabeth Heflin) who is convinced her husband Victor (Lee E. Ernst) is cheating on her. To catch him in the act, Raymonde contrives to have her best friend Lucienne (Antoinette Robinson) write him a perfumed love note, urging him to meet his new secret admirer at The Frisky Puss Hotel. What could possibly go wrong with this plan?
 The flattered Victor enlists his womanizing friend Tournel (Steven Pelinski) to go in his place and the race to comic confusion is on. Add to the mix a smug servant (David Beach) and his amorous (to others) wife (Carine Montbertrand), a doctor with ulterior motives (Hassan El Amin), a cousin with a severe speech impediment (Mic Matarrese) and the hotel’s accommodating staff and residents (Deena Burke, Laura Frye, Robert Adelman Hancock, Wynn Harmon, John Rensenhouse) and you have merry mayhem that is magnificently played upon Kristen Robinson’s beautifully appointed set, with lovely costuming by Sara Jean Tosetti and adapt direction guided by Mark Lamos.

A pair of suspenders and a bucket of suspicion start off the race, with a wildly jealous husband of Spanish ancestry (Michael Gotch) firing the starting gun for hijinxs and high comedy. The action spins into revolving bedrooms with laugh-out-loud results. The remarkable resemblance between a man of noble upbringing and a lowly bellman engenders much mistaken personality.

For tickets ($30 and up), call the Westport Country Playhouse, 25 Powers Court, Westport off Route 1 at 203-227-4177 or 888-927-7529 or online at www.westportplayhouse.org. Performances are Tuesday at 7 p.m., Wednesday at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m., Thursday and Friday at 8 p.m. and Saturday at 3 p.m. and 8 p.m. and Sunday at 3 p.m.

Check-in at The Frisky Puss Hotel for some mischief and merriment in this masterpiece of French bedroom farce. Be sure to ask if room 5 is available.

DEEPLY MOVING “THE PIANIST OF WILLESDEN LANE” IN HARTFORD










Fate and luck have a lot to play when a father is a gambler and wins one ticket to freedom for one of his three daughters. It sounds a little like the impossible decisions of a King Solomon or a Sophie’s choice.

In this case a fourteen year old girl in Vienna is put on the Kindertransport train by her parents at the eve of World War ii to escape the Nazis. All she has with her is a small suitcase, the sewing skills taught to her by her father and the love of music given to her by her mother. The train would carry her and almost 10,000 Jewish children to England over the war years and her inspiring story is being revealed by her daughter in a deeply moving concert with words currently thrilling audiences at Hartford Stage until Sunday, July 22.

The teenager’s name was Lisa Jura and we can thank her daughter Mona Golabek for bringing her inspirational story to life. Transport yourself to an elegant drawing room where a concert of piano music by Grieg, Debussy, Liszt and Beethoven is being performed, all the while a transforming story of survival unfolds. Mona Golabek first wrote her mother’s story in a book and thanks to Hershey Felder that book, written with Lee Cohen, is now an astonishing narrative accompanied by glorious music.

The musically mesmerizing Ms. Golabek takes her audiences on a riveting journey as her mother uses her music to make boys and men fall in love with her, while inspiring hope that the world will survive. Calling her music her best friend, Lisa pounded the keyboard to drown out the boom of bombs during the London blitz. She becomes a musical Pied Piper for all the children terrified of the war, living together under one roof at 243 Willesden Lane.

Mona Golabek with no formal training as an actress nevertheless becomes all the people who live in her mother’s world, from the uncle who was supposed to save her to the guardians like Mrs. Cohen and Mr, Hardesty who give her shelter, to the young French soldier who hears her music and is entranced.

Hershey Felder and Trevor Hay have designed a gilted setting of gold and black with empty picture frames that are soon filled with visual projections that portray her life, all surrounding a grand Steinway piano.

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 at 7 p.m., Wednesday at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m., Thursday at 7 p.m., Friday at 8 p.m., Saturday at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m. 

Equal parts stirring piano concert and moving true tale of a teenager, "The Pianist of Willesden Lane" is packed with all the love, respect and honor one daughter can gift to her mother. All the proceeds from her book “The Children of Willesden Lane” go to her non-profit organization Hold On To Your Music, the words spoken to Lisa by her mother Malka as she left Vienna on her incredible journey.

Saturday, July 14, 2018

SUPERSTAR COMING TO STORRS



Alex Prakken as Jesus and Ryan Vona as Judas in JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR

Few composers are the equal of Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber. He was
                     never one to take the road more traveled. Even as a teenager, when he was just starting 

                    to test out his literary pen, he chose a topic less main stream and more creative: he wrote
                    a musical about a boy in the Bible who receives an unusual
gift from his father. That became the world famous rock musical “
                   Joseph and his Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.”

In the years to come, Lloyd Webber continued his unorthodox choice of subject matter by composing musicals about a gang of backyard felines (CATS), a poor woman who rises to become a powerful figurehead in her country of Argentina (Evita), teams of train engines who race on roller skates (Starlight Express) and a disfigured young man hiding in the bowels of a Paris opera house (The Phantom of the Opera).

Now you have the opportunity to experience another record breaking musical about another boy in the Bible: “Jesus Christ, Superstar,” playing Tuesday to Sunday, to July 22 at the Jorgensen Theatre on the campus of the University of Connecticut as the last offering in their Nutmeg Summer Series.

Composed by Lloyd Webber with Tim Rice, this almost five decade old musical concerns the last week in the life of Jesus Christ and it is an emotional and moving experience This is true punk rock, a biblical retelling of a savior who wants to cleanse the world of corruption and sin. This last seven days in the life of Jesus Christ, who is portrayed by a memorable Alex Prakken, is told through the eyes of his betrayer, one of his disciples, Judas Iscariot, played with all his anger and confusion evident by Ryan Vona.

Tender moments are underscored by Sasha Renae Brown’s Mary Magdalene as she confesses of Jesus “I Don’t Know How to Love Him” while the passion and suffering are momentarily alleviated by the antics of a song and dance Vaudeville routine by King Herod, a mischief making Griffin Biennicker, belting out “King Herod’s Song." The high powered political naysayers who have banned together to end Jesus’ reign as the King of the Jews are led by Tyler Grigsby and Jonathan Cobrda.

This spectacular rock musical that separates the myth from the man is directed by Terrence Mann and the non-stop dance moves are choreographed by Christopher d’Amboise. The lighting designed by Doug Harry is especially effective. A full orchestra led by Bryan McAdams supports the fully sung story.

For tickets ($48 and up), call the box office at 860-486-2113 or online at crt.uconn.eduPerformances 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.

Enter the emotional whirlwind as Jesus Christ realizes that those closest to him are determined to witness his destruction. After three years of trying to teach his beliefs as the son of God, he is sad and tired and prepared to die for his cause.

Monday, July 9, 2018

“GREASE” IS THE WORD AT IVORYTON





JOHNNY NEWCOMB AS DANNY AND KIMBERLY IMMANUEL AS SANDY IN "GREASE"



Imagine yourself in the halls of high school, Rydell High to be exact, whether it is in your past, present or future. It’s time to don a black leather jacket, pedal pushers, or a dress with a dozen crinolines and start practicing your hand jive moves. Slick back your hair and get ready to groove and cruise with some of the coolest cats from the fifties. Rydell High is ready to open for a another school year as a spanking new production of that perennial favorite “Grease” comes to the stage of the Ivoryton Playhouse until Sunday, July 29.

Sandy Dumbrowski, a sweet and naive Kimberly Immanuel, and Danny Zuko, a hipster bad boy in Johnny Newcomb, are ready to make musical magic once again as the Pink Ladies lock lips with the T-Birds in this joyful and spirited teenage rebellion written by Jim Jacobs and Warren Casey way back in 1971.
 
It’s rock and roll heaven as Sandy and Danny reunite after a brief summertime romance. Soon the girls (Alyssa V. Gomez, Taylor Lloyd, Audrey Wilson) are piercing Sandy's ears and talking about the boys at a pajama party while the guys (Luke Linsteadt, Taylor Morrow, Natale Pirrotta, Max Weinstein) steal hub caps for Kenickie’s new used car he has named “Greased Lightnin’.” Amy Buckley is the teacher in charge, Johnny Cortez plays guitar, Alexa Racioppi is the head cheerleader, Shalani Taylor is the rival school’s guest dance partner and Cory Candelet is the class nerd.
 
Because of a misunderstanding with Danny, Sandy misses the High School Hop. He is initially too cool to acknowledge his feelings for the new girl at school, Sandy, especially after he lied to his pals about her fast ways. At the hop, Vince Fontaine, a popular radio disc jockey, is played by Lawrence Cummings. He also does double duty as the understanding Teen Angel who counsels Frenchy (Katelyn Bowman) to go back to high school after a failed attempt at beauty school. As MC, Vince spins the records and oversees the dance contest where the best hand jive couple wins. 
 
The kids change partners, a gang is challenged to a rumble, Danny tries to win Sandy back and Sandy tries to change herself to fit in at Rydell High.
 
Great songs like “Born to Hand Jive,” “Hopelessly Devoted to You,” “Look at Me, I'm Sandra Dee,” “Greased Lightnin’, " “Rock ‘n’ Roll Party Queen,” “There Are Worse Things I Could Do” and “We Go Together” pepper the scenes. Michael Morris leads the band at a lively pitch. A versatile set designed by Daniel Nischan serves as lunch room, lockers, prom hall, bedrooms, the burger palace and movie drive in. Todd L. Underwood directs all the energetic action at a fever pitch.
 
For tickets ($55, senior $50, students $22, children $17), call the Ivoryton Playhouse, 103 Main Street, Ivoryton at 860-767-7318 or online atwww.ivorytonplayhouse.org. Performances are Wednesday and Thursday at 7:30 p.m., Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m. and Wednesday and Sunday at 2 p.m. Water’s Edge Resort and Spa is partnering with the Ivoryton Playhouse to sponsor a series of dinner and cabaret-style performances throughout the summer, “What I Did for Love” on Sunday, July 15, “La Dolce Vita” on Sundays, July 22 and August 12 and “Summer Nights” on Sunday, August 19 and 25. For tickets ($59, plus tax and gratuity), call Water’s Edge at 860-399-5901or online at www.watersedgeresortandspa.com.
Will wholesome and pure Sandy Dumbrowski find love and happiness with the cocky and handsome Danny Zuko? Cha-cha over to the Ivoryton Playhouse in Ivoryton and find out for yourself. You’ll be delighted you did.
 

Saturday, July 7, 2018

COME JOIN THE CIRCUS WITH P. T. BARNUM



THE ENTIRE CAST OF"BARNUM" WITH ELINOR BIGGS
Phineas Taylor Barnum will always be Bridgeport’s favorite son. The recent celebration of his 208th birthday may have been the impetus for retelling of his highly dramatic and colorful life story, at least from the years 1835 to 1881.

Barnum was first and foremost a showman, and if he stretched veracity to the breaking point, like it was a giant slingshot, it was only to promote the wonders of what he was selling to the public. Call it flimflam, buffoonery, humbuggery or malarkey, he believed in giving value for your money, even if he also subscribed to the adage “There’s a sucker born every minute.”

Calling himself a “caterer of amusement,” he delighted in finding freaks and fancies to entice the public to part with a dime and be well entertained. He created exhibitions and sideshows, museums and circuses, menageries and attractions that made and lost him millions.

If you’ve ever wanted to run away and join the circus, now is your golden opportunity. Fairfield's gem of a theater, the Little Theatre at Sacred Heart University, is grandly presenting “BARNUM-The Musical” by Mark Bramble, Michael Stewart and Cy Coleman only until Sunday, July 22.

Come, boys and girls, and children of all ages and meet the Connecticut man who was pure showmanship. Justin Weigel delights as the bigger-than-life entrepreneur who brought to the world Jumbo, the largest elephant, Joyce Heath (Stachakay Silvers), said (by Barnum) to be George Washington’s nurse and 160 years old, General Tom Thumb, (Jake Doble) the tiniest man, and Jenny Lind, (Courtney O'Shea) the Swedish Nightingale of song. With his no-nonsense wife Charity, a lovely Jordan Norkus, at his side, this masterful man with his head in the clouds, created a dynasty of colorful theatrical magic and hocus pocus meant to amaze and to entertain.

Join the ringmaster (Zachary Thompson Lane), clown (Serginho Valcourt ),jugglers and diverse characters (Mike Villanueva, Hannah Jones, Delaney Lynch and Tori Vacca) that peopled Barnum’s universe and suspend your disbelief for a few hours. Kevin Connors directs and Marissa Powers choreographs this leap into the curious world of one of Connecticut’s own native sons.

A special bonus opening night was the appearance of Barnum’s great great great granddaughter Elinor Biggs who is clearly still fascinated by her relative P. T. and collects memorabilia which she gladly shares with others. Most recently she found two letters from P.T. to her grandfather which show the love and affection the two men shared.

She has been involved for over three decades with the Barnum Museum in Bridgeport that showcases a lot of displays about the impresario. She works closely with the museum’s Executive Director Kathleen Maher, currently on a new envisioning of Barnum’s career through epics of his life and master storytelling. This is an attempt to humanize the man and illustrate his struggles and triumphs. The pair also consulted on the recent movie “The Greatest Showman.” Both are impassioned by their work to shine a spotlight on this entertainment mastermind.

For tickets ($22, $15 seniors, faculty $15, students $10), call the Sacred Heart box office 5151 Park Street, Fairfield (exit 47 off the Merritt) at 203-371-7908 or online atwww.edgertoncenter.org. Performances are today at 3 p.m., Thursday, Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m., with matinees Sunday at 3 p.m. Free, secure parking is available on the campus. Make plans now to attend the final production, “Godspell,” with book by John Michael Tebelak, and music and lyrics by Stephen Schwartz, and directed by Jim Schilling playing July 27, 28 at 8 p.m. and 29 at 3 p.m. The musical follows Jesus and his disciples as they become a community.
Now is the time to grab the kiddies and make a run for the big tent.


Monday, July 2, 2018

SIT UNDER THE STARS FOR “KISS ME KATE”










Summer Theatre of New Canaan is offering up a dilly of a seasonal treat with Cole Porter’s lively and lyrical :Kiss Me Kate,”  a highly entertaining play within a play, all set to music.  From now until Sunday, July 29, Waveny Park in New Canaan under the big white tent will be bursting with song and kicking up its dancing heels as a divorced and still angry couple of actors are forced to interact on stage and behind the curtain.  This is a revered Shakespeare comedy “The Taming of the Shrew” set in Baltimore in the late 1940’s and you’re invited to join the fun.

“Kiss Me Kate” has a delightful book by Bella and Samuel Spewack, plus all of Cole Porter’s sparkling songs, with all the comedy and choreography you could want.  Mary McNulty is both Lilli and Katherine, a woman disdainful of both her real life ex-husband Fred and of her on stage suitor Petruchio, created by a not-to-be-easily dismissed David Sattler. How they torment each other is a joy to behold.

Toss into the mix a lying and gambling dancer Bill (Tim Falter) who signs Fred’s name to an I.O.U. for $10,000, thus putting Fred in the hands of two gangsters, deliciously brought to life by Brett Alters and Brian Silliman.  The pair almost bring down the house with their rendition of “Brush Up Your Shakespeare.”  

A flirtatious and sexy Lois, a sizzling Rachel MacIsaac, plays Kate’s younger sister Bianca who has all the suitors in the world but cannot marry until older sis Kate has a match approved by dad Bradley Mott. Enter Petruchio who is determined to wed well, even if it means taming a shrew like Kate. Tempers ignite as the pair parry and spar, both on and off the stage. A bouquet of flowers, misdelivered, threatens to cause a volcano to erupt.

While both Fred and Lilli have seemed to have moved on romantically, he courting the young, pretty and teasing cast member Lois, and she the prestigious military man General Howell, a macho and motivated Luke Lynch, embers of their love still linger. 

In the Bard’s play, Lilli’s Katherine is a tempestuous shrew whom no suitors will court.  Bianca sings a delicious “Tom, Dick or Harry” that shows off her excellent marital possibilities. But  Bianca can’t wed until Katherine does. When Petruchio  arrives on the scene, loudly proclaiming “I’ve Come to Wive It Wealthily in Padua,” the plot to marry him off to the “cursed Kate” is hatched.

Allegra Libonati pulls out all the great gimmicks to make this show a pure pleasure, with Doug Shankman’s energetic choreography, a terrific cast of actors, a versatile set by Julia Noulin-Merat and colorful costuming designed by Arthur Oliver.

For tickets ($40 and up), call the STONC at 203-966-4634 and online at info@stonc.org. Performances are Wednesday, Thursday, Friday  and Saturday at 8 p.m., and Sunday at 4 p.m. Also on the calendar are shows for children, “Peter Pan”, a world premiere through July 29, “James and the Giant Peach” July 7-29 and Balloonacy July 8-29. Times are 10 a.m., 10:30 and 1 p.m. depending on the show, tickets $23 and up.  The New Canaan Library will host “The Complete Works of William Shakespeare Abridged,” a comedy presented free outdoors from July 15-29, Saturdays at 3 p.m. and Sundays at 1 p.m. Go to free tickets/info:stonc.org.

You can’t help being bowled over by this spectacular “wunderbar” performance. It’s too darn hot not to sizzle.

Monday, June 25, 2018

A SHOUT OUT FOR SUMMER THEATER FUN




JOHNNY NEWCOMB AS DANNY AND KIMBERLEY IMMANUEL AS SANDY
IN "GREASE" AT THE IVORYTON PLAYHOUSE
PHOTO BY ANNE HUDSON

Now that summer is officially here, it’s time to schedule some firecrackers of theatrical entertainment to sparkle your July and August months. Area theaters can’t wait to tempt you into their doors to celebrate the fervor and fever of summer.

You have until July 29 to settle in the shadow of the George Washington Bridge in the Washington Heights section of New York City for a hearty dose of spice and Latin American joy with Lin-Manuel Miranda’s first musical hit “In the Heights.” West Hartford’s Playhouse on Park is busy splashing the stage with this joyous tribute to a community, one Miranda lived in and loves. Dance your way now to join the hip hop fun by calling 860-523-5900, ext. 10 or online at www.playhouseonpark.org.

Goodspeed Musicals is shouting “more, please sir, more” as they offer up the classic Charles Dickens tale “Oliver!” for your pleasure. The delights of Victorian England will be yours for the taking as a troupe of pocket picking scamps plan to steal your heart in this rousing musical family favorite. Call Goodspeed at 860- 873-8668 or online atwww.goodspeed.orgfrom June 29 to September 9. Next door in Chester, from August 3 to September 2, at the Terris Theatre is a brand new musical of secret love letters, ghost written by “Cyrano” guaranteed to entertain.

Want to travel a little for a summer drive, then set your GPS for a scarely known gem hiding in the hills of Waterford. On eleven rolling acres, discover the Eugene O’Neill Theater Center which offers four theaters on site, two indoor and two outdoor. The entire month of July features staged readings of eight plays and three musicals, all brand new and exciting. If you want to be on the cutting edge of what’s happening in the theater, make a reservation by calling the O’Neill at 860-443-1238 or online atwww.oneill.org.

Grab your pink poodle skirts and black leather jackets as that perennial favorite “Grease” brings its lightning and thunder to the Ivoryton stage from July 5 to the 29th. Come rock and roll with the kids at Rydell High School as the cool crowd lights up the sky. Bop on over to Ivoryton for a ton of fun. Call the Ivoryton Playhouse at 860-767-7318 or online at www.ivorytonplayhouse.organd start practicing your hand jive moves with Sandy and Danny and the gang..

For inspiring story and piano sounds, let the Hartford Stage share the tale of a woman surviving the Holocaust in the incredibly moving
“The Pianist of Willesden Lane.” From July 12-22, let Mona Golabek tell and perform the story of her mother as she uses her musical skills to live through a monstrous time in history. Call Hartford Stage at 860-527-5151 or online atwww.hartfordstage.orgfor tickets to this performance you will long remember.

Not into musicals, let Hartford TheaterWorks entrap you with “Hand to God,” a drama where evil is lurking in a small town in Texas’ church basement, in a puppet club started by a new widow for teens. How do Satan, sin and sex suddenly play a significant role? Call 860-527-7838 or online atwww.theaterworkshartford.org.


Join the parade the African animals as the Bushnell in Hartford welcomes “Disney’s The Lion King” for a three week engagement from August 1 to the 19. Let the majesty of the jungle overpower you with this compelling tale of power and prestige and leadership of the pack. Call the Bushnell at 860-987-5900 or online at www.bushnell.orgfor your passport to this passionate spectacle.

Mark your calendars as many times as possible to be sure you don’t miss any one of these irresistible offerings. Happy happenings. 

Saturday, June 23, 2018

"SWEENEY TODD:” SLASHES ITS WAY TO UCONN





TERRENCE MANN AS SWEENEY TODD AND LIZ LARSEN AS MRS. LOVETT
PHOTO BY GERRY GOODSTEIN



Swanson is famous for its beef, tuna and chicken pot pies but it’s highly unlikely that they will ever use Mrs. Lovett’s secret recipe. Mrs. Lovett’s pie business was once a flaky failure until she teamed up with a certain mad barber in London’s Fleet Street to create a sensational savory of unusual and peculiar flavor.

The Connecticut Repertory Theatre on the campus of the University of Connecticut is mixing up a batch of tasty treats as it offers for your culinary and theatrical pleasure the Stephen Sondheim musical, with book by Hugh Wheeler, “Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street A Musical Thriller in Concert" until Sunday, July 1st.

The barber becomes a barbarian in this passionate tale of revenge. Sweeney Todd is the alias assumed by a barber who was transported to Australia on trumped up charges almost two decades before. He blames Judge Turpin (Ed Dixon) and his liege The Beadle (Lu DeJesus) for the treachery which led his wife to kill herself and the Judge to claim their infant daughter Johanna (Emilie Kouatchou) as his ward.

Now Todd, played with a steely determination and macabre manner by Terrence Mann, has returned to the scene of the crime to right the wrongs his family has suffered. With the aid of the lusty Mrs. Lovett, played delightfully by Liz Larsen, and a naval man Anthony (Hugh Entrekin), Todd sets his diabolical scheme in place. Complications in the form of an old beggar woman (Andrea Burns), a blackmailer Pirelli (Nicholas Gonzalez) and a wide eyed lad Tobias (Kenneth Galm)  threaten his plans. Peter Flynn directs this involving dark tale plagued with the “chill of ghostly shadows.” The concert form features an orchestra of twelve on stage, led by Ken Clifton, magical lighting by Alan C. Edwards and period costumes designed by Christina Lorraine Bullard.


For tickets ($48 and up) call the CT. Rep, Jorgensen Auditorium, Storrs at 860-486-2113 or 

online at crt.uconn.edu. Performances are Tuesday to Thursday at 7:30 p.m., Friday and 

Saturday at 8 p.m., with matinees Saturday and Sunday at 2 p.m. 


Return to nineteenth century London, if you dare, but be careful to have witnesses if you go 
to a local barbershop for a trim or a neighborhood pub for a succulent shepherd’s pie.

Monday, June 18, 2018

LEAP “ON YOUR FEET!” AS THE RHYTHM IS GONNA GET YOU









For a spicy salsa kick with a Latin- American chaser, look no further than the triumphant musical tale of Gloria Estefan and her producer husband Emilio.  Join the winding conga line all the way to the Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts in Hartford until Sunday, June 24 as “On Your Feet!” commands your exciting attention.

This immigrant story features a three year old Gloria moving with her family from Havana, Cuba to Miami, Florida.  Along the way, she had to deal with a father battling an incurable disease, a mother who voiced her disapproval of Gloria’s hopes and dreams and an accident that almost destroyed everything she and her husband had worked decades to achieve.

“On Your Feet!” is energized by a book by Alexander Dinelaris, choreography by Sergio Trujillo and direction by Jerry Mitchell.

Combining an exploding juke box theme, with tunes like “Conga,” “1-2-3,” “Get On Your Feet,” “Anything For You”  and “Rhythm Is Gonna Get You,” with an inspiring autobiographical story, the audience is treated to highs of extreme joy contrasting with real obstacles to success.  Their crossover music dreams are continually dismissed as impossible by record executives in the know as well as their refusal to release their hit singles in English.

In her home life, Gloria faces a heartfelt estrangement from her mother, the painful witnessing of her father’s illness and then the shattering reality of the tour bus crash with a truck that leaves her severely injured.  Her triumphant return to the stage, after battling incredible odds, is showcased in her performance at the 1991 American Music Awards. Her resilience and spirit can be applauded at every step.

For tickets ($22.50 and up), 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.

Follow the intriguing path to glory that Gloria and Emilio Estefan forge in the musical world. Get “on your feet."

STAND ”IN THE HEIGHTS” FOR THE SHEER JOY OF IT




SONNY (NICK PALAZZO), VANESSA (SOPHIA INTRONA) AND USNAVI (NIKO TOUROS)
PHOTO BY CURT HENDERSON



The Washington Heights section of New York City is being celebrated in all its ethnic diversity in the joyous musical “In the Heights” at Playhouse on Park in West Hartford until Sunday, July 29. Long before his “Hamilton” fame, this production that embraces our differences and appreciates community was penned while Lin-Manuel Miranda was still a student at Wesleyan University in 1999. Some describe it as “Our Town” with a heaping side order of spicy salsa.

The playwright builds on his heritage as a Puerto Rican- American and his skills as a lyricist, composer, actor and rapper to create an energetic ethnic neighborhood in the shadows of the George Washington Bridge. The book to the musical was written by Quiara Alegria Hudes.

Miranda wants audiences to be transported to the world he creates and walk away from the evening dancing. The action lasts for three days, but his goal is to make the inspiring impact of his people to last long afterward. He wrote the piece about his experiences growing up Latino, where he spoke English in school and Spanish at home, spending summers working at a slushy ice machine helping his aunt.

Miranda created Usnavi who owns a bodega, a small corner grocery, as the show’s main character and narrator. He originally played the role himself. in this production, Niko Touros takes the honor, guiding the audience into his world, complete with his joys and frustrations. He introduces us to the woman who acts as his grandmother, Abuela Claudia, a nurturing Amy Jo Phillips, his impatient to grow up cousin Sonny who help him run the bodega, Nick Palazzo, his girlfriend to be Vanessa, a spirited Sophia Introna, who has yet to learn Usnavi’s hopes, as well as the Rosario family, dad JL Rey who rules the job and home, wife Stephanie Pope whose guidance is often needed and daughter Nina, the pride of the community, who is on a scholarship to Stanford, a shining Analise Rios, and their business’ employee Benny, a forward thinking Leyland Patrick, who has his eyes focused on Nina.

We also become friends with the beauty parlor queens Sandra Marante and Paige Buade, the area’s graffiti artist Paul Edme and the treasured ice man cometh at all hours Willie Marte. The ensemble also includes Gabrielle Baker, isiah Bostic, Jahlil Burke, Maya Cuevas, Jon Rodriguez and Olivia Ryan who all help to dance up a storm, courtesy of master choreographer Darlene Zoller.

The plot includes a winning lottery ticket guaranteed to change lives, a city power outage, some dreams, new loves, a death, choices and a ton of wonderful songs and wild dancing.
Sean Harris keeps the pace moving at a dizzying and happy pace.

For tickets ($35-50), call the Playhouse on Park, 233 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 at 8 p.m., Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m., followed by a talk back with the cast. No show on the 4th of July.

Don’t miss this adventure into the world of Lin-Manuel Miranda, in the Washington Heights section of Manhattan, where life spins at its own pace and community and family are everything.

Sunday, June 17, 2018

"MENOPAUSE THE MUSICAL” LAUGHS AT THE CHANGE








Women of a certain age know that changes are coming and it’s ready or not for they are unavoidable. This sisterhood of female sorority would probably vote the problem out the door if they had the collective power to do so, but some things are inevitable. To help you weather the storm that is brewing, or help you deal with your present, ever present, ailments, the cure might well be to head immediately to Long Wharf Theatre in New Haven for a healthy dose of Jeanie Linders “Menopause the Musical.” Until Sunday, July 1, this may be the best prescription the doctor ever ordered.
If you have ever experienced hot flashes, night sweats, memory loss, water retention, insomnia, all referred to as “the change,” then you are ready to go on a journey of discovery when the absurd and ridiculous bodily functions that attack women over the age of Jack Benny’s perpetual birthday start happening.

Power business woman Michelle E. White, Soap Star Cherie Price, Earth Mother Roberta B. Wall and Iowa Housewife Karen Gedissman have a hoot and a holler when they accidentally collide at a Bloomingdale’s lingerie sale one fateful afternoon.

The four bond like Elmer’s Glue as they roam through the store’s floors singing and dancing about “Change, Change, Change” and your body’s hard to ignore signs like “Tropical Hot Flashes” that make you want to move into your freezer and “New Attitude” and the coping skills needed to survive.

The quartet of power packed ladies has a great time and so does the audience of energized woman and you-can-count-on -one-hand bravemen. More than two dozen old favorites are treated to new lyrics in this ninety minute intermissionless delight.

For tickets ($50.50 and up) call Long Wharf Theatre, 222 Sargent Drive, New Haven at 203-787-4282 . Performances are Tuesday at 7 p.m., Wednesday at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m., , Thursday and Friday at 8 p.m., Saturday at 3 p.m. and 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m.

Grab a girlfriend or three, a mother or a daughter, and boogie on over to a phenomenon in the making and stuff all your chocolate cravings, swollen ankles and estrogen anxieties in one big brown bag and bring it with you.

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

"The Age of Innocence" and “Rags" Top Connecticut Critics Awards



MC Jenn Harris with Goodspeed Music Director Michael O'Flaherty, winner of the Tom Killen
Award for outstanding work in theater.  Donna Lynn Hilton presented the award.
Photo by Mara Lavitt


 The world premiere of Hartford Stage’s “The Age of Innocence” and a revised version of the musical “Rags” from Goodspeed Musicals took top honors at the Connecticut Critics Circle Awards Monday.

The event, which celebrated the work from the state’s professional theaters during the 2017-2018 season, was held at Westport Country Playhouse.

Awards for outstanding actors in a musical went to Samantha Massell as Rebecca in Goodspeed’s “Rags” and Jamie LaVerdiere as John Adams in  Connecticut Repertory Theatre’s production of “1776." 

Awards for outstanding actors in a play went to Reg Rogers in Yale Repertory Theatre’s production of “An Enemy of the People” and Isabelle Barbier in Playhouse on Park’s production of “The Diary of Anne Frank.” Isabelle was an astonishing Anne.

Top directing awards went to Terrence Mann for CRT’s “1776” and Ezra Barnes for Playhouse on Park’s “The Diary of Anne Frank.”

Outstanding ensemble award went to TheaterWorks’ production of “The Wolves,” a play about a competitive girls' sports team. The debut award went to Megan O’Callaghan  for “The Bridges of Madison County” and "Fun Home,” both at Music Theatre of Connecticut. The outstanding solo honor was awarded to Elizabeth Stahlmann for Westport Country Playhouse's “Grounded.” Kelli Barclay won for her choreography for Goodspeed Musicals’ “The Will Rogers Follies.”

Michael O’Flaherty, longtime music director for Goodspeed Musicals, received the Tom Killen Award for lifetime service to the theater from Donna Lynn Cooper Hilton, a producer at Goodspeed. This was, in my opinion, the highlight of the evening.

Receiving special awards were New London’s Flock Theatre for its production of “Long Day’s Journey Into Night” at the Monte Cristo Cottage; the Broadway Method Academy of Fairfield; and Billy Bivona, who composed and performed original music for TheaterWork’s production of “Constellations.

The outstanding featured actress award in a musical award went to Jodi Stevensfor Summer Theatre of New Canaan’s “Singin’ in the Rain.” There was a tie for outstanding featured actor in a musical, with honors going to Matt Faucher as Jud for Goodspeed Musicals’ “Oklahoma!” and to Cory Candelet for playing the Wall at Ivoryton Playhouse’s “The Fantasticks.”

The award for outstanding featured actors in a play went to Peter Francis James as the Friar for Westport Country Playhouse’s production of “Romeo and Juliet,” and to Judith Ivey as the nosey neighbor for Long Wharf Theatre’s world premiere of “Fireflies.”

Design awards went to Fitz Patton for sound and Matthew Richards for lighting for Westport Country Playhouse’s “Appropriate;” Linda Cho for costumes for Hartford Stage’s “The Age of Innocence;” Yana Birykova for projections for Westport Country Playhouse’s “Grounded” and David Lewis,for set design for Playhouse on Park’s “The Diary of Anne Frank.”

Jenn Harris and Matthew Wilkas, stars of TheaterWorks’ “Christmas on the Rocks,” presided over the event.