Monday, May 28, 2018

COME CATCH WILL ROGERS IN A LASSO OF PLEASURE



The humorist cowboy Will Rogers was known for quipping that he never met a man he didn’t like.  I would hazard that every man or woman who attends Goodspeed Musical’s latest offering “The Will Rogers Follies” would state the same in reverse.  This stage and motion picture star, vaudeville performer, rope twirler, newspaper columnist and social commentator was hard not to like.  Will Rogers epitomized friendship, homespun humor and common sense and displayed a folksy approach to life that appealed to the common man.

Until Thursday, June 21, Goodspeed in East Haddam will offer a joyful look into the life of this Oklahoma boy who considered himself a Cherokee Indian and gave the world a unique perspective and philosophy of politics, the government and every day life.

David Lutken is doing a sterling silver job of creating Rogers, with just the right blend of humility and starch, aman who knew who he was and was proud of it.  “The Will Rogers Follies a life in revue” is the brainchild of Peter Stone for book, Cy Coleman for music and Betty Comden and Adolf Green for lyrics. It won five Tony Awards.

The show is staged like a production of the Ziegfeld Follies with big production numbers alternating with personal anecdotes by Will and a few amazing rope tricks swirled in and out.  His meeting and marriage to his bride Betty, played by a lovely and supportive Catherine Walker and adorable children (Ben Stone-Zelman, Riley Briggs, Brendan Reilly Harris and Nathan Horne) are displayed on the colorful canvas of Will’s life.

His father Clem is brought to life by David Garrison in all his contrary and opinionated style.  Brooke Lacy plays a Ziegfeld favorite with flair and a kick of sass while the ever present character of Wiley Post looms large courtesy of Dewey Caddell, the pilot of the plane that takes both men to their death in Alaska in 1935. James Naughton is the distinctive voice of Flo Ziegfeld.

Good production numbers like “Will-a-Mania,” “Give a Man Enough Rope,” and “Never Met a Man I Didn’t Like” help to salute this man of the people, who was even asked to run for president.  The glitz and glamour of showgirls star throughout, courtesy of Kelli Barclay’s choreography and ilona Somogyi’s furry and feathered costumes. Don Stephenson directs this sparkling tribute to one of America’s cherished sons.

For tickets ($29 and up), call Goodspeed Musicals, 6 Main Street, East Haddam at 860-873-8668 or online at www.goodspeed.org. Performances are Wednesday at 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m., Thursday at 7:30 p.m. (with select shows at 2 p.m.), Friday at 8 p.m., Saturday at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m. (with select shows at 6:30 p.m.).

Come and let David Lutken introduce you to a man mighty in words and personality, one who speaks his mind and wins hearts with his wisdom and wit.

ROCK ’N' ROLL LEGEND REVEALED AT SEVEN ANGELS








Waterbury’s Seven Angels Theatre is unveiling the legend of a rock ’n’ roll star in song and story:  Dion DiMucci of the Belmonts.  Until Sunday, June 17, the curtain is pulled back for a peek into his fascinating climb into history, warts and demons and all. This musical boy from the Bronx was sure he knew what was best for himself and for his career and he was resistant to listening to anyone else’s advice or direction.  Dion’s tale is one of faith, talent, persistence, missteps and, ultimately, triumph.

Early on in his quest for fame, Dion made a singular decision that was to change and haunt him for the rest of his life.  He changed his mind at the last moment and didn’t take a seat on the ill fated plane that carried Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and The Big Bopper to their death in a snow storm.  They had all been performing in a concert and Dion decided to take the bus instead of flying.  For the rest of his life, he questioned why his life had been spared.

Never fear, Dion’s story includes appearances by The Big Bopper (James Donohue), Buddy Holly (Rob Girardin) and Ritchie Valens  (Edward La Cardo) on that memorable night.  We also meet his back-up singers in the Belmonts (Harry McEnery V, Clint Carter and Nate Rocke) who help him forge ahead musically, until he determined he wanted to go it alone. Also looming large in the background was his father Pat (JP Sarro) who felt he knew what was best for his son and was not afraid to voice his views, while his mom (Marilyn Matarrese) was quick to be supportive.

Early on two record company brothers Bob and Gene Schwartz (John Little and Joel Robertson) were happy to steer Dion in the directions they deemed advantageous although he resisted their suggestions in favor of his own concepts. As Dion battled with his personal demon, heroin, he was helped from two sources, the church in the form of Father Perricone (Tom Chute) and his love interest Susan (Anna Laurie Strider) who has since become his wife of over five decades.

All along the way, Dion’s music pushed him forward and upward with such tunes as “The Wanderer,” “Runaround Sue,”  “Teenager in Love” and “I Wonder Why.”  Matthew Dailey’s Dion is wonderful as the honest and straight forward Italian-American kid who sang on the street corners and worked his way up to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, always doing it his way. He was fortunate to have an internal voice acting as a guardian angel who encouraged him to make the best choices, Johnny (Jason Ostrowski). Semina De Laurentis directs this tribute to the icons of the 1950’s and 1960’s with enthusiasm and energy, with musical staging by Janine Molinari and musical direction by Brent C. Mauldin.

For tickets ($45-60), 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.

Let Dion DiMucci reveal his heart and soul and everything that drove him to become a rock and roll legend who was true to his heritage and to his dreams.



Monday, May 21, 2018

THE PHANTOM AND CHRISTINE CONTINUE IN "LOVE NEVER DIES”


MEGHAN PICERNO AS CHRISTINE AND GARDAR THOR CORTES AS THE PHANTOM
PHOTO BY JOAN MARCUS



The poignancy and pageantry and passion continue.  Andrew Lloyd Webber’s masterful tale “The Phantom of the Opera” and his ill-fated love affair with his beloved Christine enters a new chapter with “Love Never Dies” coming to the Bushnell Theater for the Performing Arts from Tuesday, May 29 to Sunday, June 3 and the excitement is mounting.  The year is now 1907 and ten years have passed.  The phantom has escaped Paris and fled across the ocean to New York’s scintillating and colorful Coney Island where side shows and freaks are everywhere.
Can he find happiness and fulfillment in world that hides his imperfections?  Without Christine does he have a chance for joy?

This new world is alluring  and exciting and the Phantom buries himself in the heart of the magic and mystery.  When he discovers Christine and her husband Raoul and son Gustave are coming to New York for her to perform, the phantom seizes his chance to reopen her heart and win her back.  Her marriage is having problems and he is hoping to capitalize on those flaws.  With skill and stealth, he invites the family to Coney Island to experience its pleasures and unique attractions.  Once they arrive, he will put his plan of manipulation and methods into play all with the challenge to win Christine’s affections permanently.

The colorful circus-like world has its fascinations, but will they be enough to overcome objections and obstacles?  Does the phantom have the powers to win her love and undying loyalty? Can he fulfill the dreams of this world class soprano and capture her heart?  More resplendent than ever, more dramatic and filled with passion, “Love Never Dies”  is sure to engage your heart in this eternal game of forever after.

For tickets ($22.50-129), call the Bushnell, 166 Capitol Avenue, Hartford at 860-         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.

Let this exciting saga continue right before your amazed eyes as the haunting and love-driven phantom seeks to once again win the woman of his dreams, this time for all eternity.

Monday, May 14, 2018

SARNA LAPINE DIRECTS “YOU ARE HERE” AT CHESTER




                                      SARNA  LAPINE

Sarna Lapine never aspired to be an actor or a playwright.  This is despite the fact that she loves theater, literature and reading.  She does love to analyze texts and is excited aboutt the way to take conversations and bring them to life. It’s not so surprising that Sarna Lapine has become a director, one who is sought after.  For her apprenticeship, she served as associate director on Broadway for Bartlett Sher and she hasn’t looked back since.

Recently Sarna undertook her most ambitious project ever, overseeing a “really fabulous American play I always wanted to direct." ".Photograph 51” was cool, satisfying and challenging.  Combining philosophy and science, it concerned the first image ever of a double helix, to unlock DNA.”  With a producer, set designer, interpreter and translator, she spent a year in Japan transforming her dream into reality once the rights to the piece finally became available.

Today she is working closer to home, at Goodspeed’s Terris Theatre in Chester, on a new project, one that has never been staged before:  “You Are Here;” with book by Brian Hill and music and lyrics by Neil Bertram.  This bittersweet musical asks the question “what if?” of Diana, a Chicago housewife in 1969.

July 20, 1969 is a signature day for Diana, not only does she witness on television a man historically walk on the moon for the first time, she takes a giant leap of her own.  This late-in-life lady suddenly finds herself abandoning her existence in the suburbs with a cozy couch and kitchen, to strike out into a fast-paced world with a keen desire to discover herself.  This housewife, with no children and a staid and stable husband, seeks to find who she is.  No more quiet inner life for her.

Diana is being brought to life by Patti Cohenour, whom Sarna Lapine says "is carrying the part beautifully, with honesty, strength and vulnerability, just as the composers imagined.”  In her journey of discovery, Diana is accompanied by three voices, Andrea Frierson, Stacia Fernandez and Dan Rosales. With her security net evaporated and a new to-do list in hand, Diana proves it’s never too late to change, in a deeply moving performance, that will surely touch the audience.

The message to the audience is to "step out of your comfort zone and try something new  Live in the moment and start from where you are now.” The music is an “articulation of Diana’s experiential journey over a period of just four days.” To Lapine, directing a brand new work has special aspects, “the reward of embracing an unknown and making discoveries.  This super professional cast is up for the challenges.”

For tickets ($49-54), call Goodspeed at 860-873-8668 or online at www.goodspeed.org.  Performances will be at the Terris Theatre, 33 North Main Street, Chester from May 18 to June 10.  Shows 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.

For Sarna Lapine, directing will never be boring.  She is on her toes all the time, without any need for ballet shoes.  She knows how to live in the moment, just like Diana, and she is not afraid to take a leap into the unknown.

COME JOIN THE COMEDY OF NEIL SIMON’S “RUMORS”



         THE ENTIRE CAST OF NEIL SIMON'S "RUMORS"

Chaos, confusion, complications and comedy are clearly on the menu as New Haven Theater Company has a rousing good time pulling off a farce, Neil Simon’s thoroughly engaging “Rumors” for your entertainment pleasure.  Doors slamming are just a hint of things to come.  A lot can run amok with Neil Simon at the helm.  Weekends until Saturday, May 19 consider yourself invited to the tenth wedding anniversary party of Myra and Charley Brock.  

Eat dinner at home before you come because there are no servants to prepare the repast.  There are not even canap├ęs or chips to nibble.  What’s even more alarming is the host and hostess are nowhere to be found.  And whatever you do don’t be on time because you might be the luck guests to find Charley with a gunshot wound.  What would you do?  Phone the police? Call an ambulance?  Cause a scandal?

If you’re a doctor, are you prepared to handle the aforementioned gun shot wound-to the head-no less? whiplash? a sprained back? headache? shock? hearing loss? cut arms? hives? burnt fingers? Poor Chris (Jenny Schuck) and Ken (Peter Chenot) Gorman who ring the doorbell first.  They find Charley passed out and bleeding from the head.  Is it a botched suicide attempt?  Did the missing Myra do it? What should the Gormans do as other guests start to arrive?  Why lie, of course.  And so the rumors fly.

Claire and Lenny Ganz (Susan Kulp and J. Kevin Smith) have problems of their own.  They were involved in a car accident right before arriving, an incident that didn’t improve his two day old BMW.  By the time Ernie and Cookie Cusack (John Watson and Margaret Mann) show up,gossip and innuendoes are flying fast and furiously.  Will the thunder cloud of scandal affect the chances of Glenn Cooper (Jim Lones) who is running for state senator or will he be sabotaged by the angry wind that is his wife Cassie, (Suzanne Powers) who is out for vengeance.

By the time the police officers (Donna E. Glen and Matthew Kling) show up, it is anyone’s guess who is going to be arrested and on what charge.  Not only does George Kulp build a great set for the up and downstairs action, he also directs this funny and fast race for the finish line.  For tickets ($20), go online to newhaventheatercompany.com.  The theater is at the back of English Market, 839 Chapel Street, New Haven Thursday, Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m.

Come and try to figure out who’s on first in the living room,  what’s on fire in the kitchen. and where the heck are Charley and Myra?






Monday, May 7, 2018

"MOTOWN THE MUSICAL“ ROCKS INTO WATERBURY’S PALACE THEATER


Berry Gordy tried his hand at boxing, owning a record store, working
 on an auto assembly line and being a soldier in the Korean War and, fortunately 
for the American music scene, really wasn’t happy with any
 of those career choices. He went on to become an American record executive, a 
songwriter, film producer, television producer and the founder of Motown Records,
 and, in the process, becoming one of the highest earning African-American 
business owners for decades.

In 1959, in Detroit, he took a family loan of $800 and bought a house at 2648 West Grand Boulevard and converted the garage into Studio A or Hitsville
U. S. A. There with vision and innovation, he married black gospel songs with be bop
 and jazz and created a new sound that changed musical history.  Think of Gordy as 
the conductor of a train, one who introduced such legends as Diana Ross, Michael 
Jackson, Stevie Wonder, Smokey Robinson, Marvin Gaye, the Miracles, Martha and 
the Vandellas, Gladys Knight and the Pips, the Commodores and many more to 
welcoming pop music tracks and fans.

You are invited to hop aboard this music train for four performances at Waterbury’s Palace Theater, Friday, May 11 at 8 p.m., Saturday May 12 at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m and Sunday, May 13 at 1 p.m. for a spectacular ride back in time, one stuffed with all the music of the 1960’s and beyond that made Berry Gordy such a legend. On this glory train, you will hear great tunes like“My Girl,” “I’ll Be There,” “You’re Nobody ’Til Somebody Loves You,”“Stop in the Name of Love” and “Sign, Sealed, Delivered,” and dozens more.

Berry Gordy had the unique ability to take a nobody walking in the front door and transform them, by teaching them how to talk, stand, dress, act with class and become a star. He could recognize talent, new and raw, and polish it to perfection.

For tickets ($59.50 and up), call the Palace Theater, 100 East Main Street, Waterbury at 203-346-2000 or online at www.palacetheater.org

 Come have your ticket punched for the brand new beat that came to town courtesy of a forward thinking Berry Gordy, the conductor of the train that proved to be so much more than just a little engine that could.

Sunday, May 6, 2018

A POLITICALLY FLAVORED “KISS” AT YALE REP



HADEEL (SOHINA SIDHU) AND AHMED (IAN LASSITER) IN "KISS"

Did you ever feel like your life was a television soap opera and you couldn’t find the tv remote to change the channel or to shut it off?  That lack of control and the idea of events spinning out like items caught in a tornado is devastating and filled with anxiety.  Imagine for a moment you are a citizen earning a living in war torn Syria, trying to survive the madness and still maintain a semblance of a life. Playwright Guillermo Calderon is inviting you for a wild ride in an unstable world with Yale Repertory Theatre’s involving comedy/drama “Kiss”until Saturday, May 19.

Calderon is from Chile, where political unrest is part of the culture, writing the play while working in Germany, penning his first effort in English and setting it in Syria as a musalsalaat or soap opera for American audiences. Melodrama reigns supreme.  Four long time friends are meeting at Hadeel’s (Sohina Sidhu) apartment to eat, drink and watch a soap opera.  When Youssif (James Cusati-Moyer) arrives, it is clear he has issues to discuss.  Although Hadeel is almost engaged to his best friend Ahmed (Ian Lassiter), Youssif has finally summoned the courage to announce to Hadeel that he loves her and wants her to be his wife.  This incredible news is despite his long term relationship with Bana (Hend Ayoub), Hadeel’s best pal, truly a “sister.”

All this is just the first part of the story.  Now it is time to look internally and discover the truth behind the words. The quartet contact the playwright for her insights, but reach her sister (Rasha Zamamiri) and her interpreter (Abubakr Ali) instead by Skype.  The realities of living in Syria with chemical gases and gunshots are unveiled.  The sister is speaking from a refugee camp with all its harshness and dangers. The truths are exposed as well as the secrets that each are hiding.  Where does romantic love fit in to this lost country?  The third part of the story exposes the raw facts of their lives in a fast forward montage of images.This is Damascus 2014 in all its broken pieces. Evan Yionoulis directs this exposed and damaged part of the world so it can be ignored no longer.

For tickets ($30-90), call the Yale Rep,  1120 Chapel Street, New Haven at 203-432-1234 or online at www.yalerep@yale.edu.  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 discover what lurks beneath the surface in an unstable country where war and famine, murder and annihilation are all too common and accepted as the norm.

COME LEARN LEONARD’S LIFE LESSONS






 Alexander Kulcsar as Detective Chuck DiSantis and 8 other Characters

We all need reminders about how to act in this world, courses in diversity, training in anti-discrimination, how to be politically correct in speech and actions.  A small town in New Jersey gets the real deal in one Leonard Pelkey, a young teenager who was not afraid to be true to himself.  In a one man play by James Lecesne, we meet Leonard through his acts and deeds, even though he does not appear in person.  He can’t. Leonard Pelkey is dead.  The question is why and how and could it have been prevented.

Square One Theatre Company in Stratford is tackling this challenging and ambitious drama with Alexander Kulcsar playing all the parts in “The Absolute Brightness of Leonard Pelkey” weekends until  Sunday,  May 20. Kulcsar is fascinating as he becomes all the characters in Leonard’s life, the town’s people who embraced his colorful persona and the mean-spirited ones who could not understand or chose not to understand his unique ways. 

 Leonard was gay and shone with his special brightness wherever he traveled, whether to visit the clock repair man or the head of the town’s school of dance.Leonard made his own rainbow sneakers and wore them with pride.  In the theatrical world, he sparkled.  He was his own fashion statement and helped other townspeople discover their own palette of color sense. Unfortunately he paid a terrible price for being different.

The story is told principally by a detective who is told by a mother and daughter who care for Leonard that he is missing.  In his investigation, the detective discovers the unique heart and soul of the boy, how many people he touched and the evil that destroyed him.  What might Leonard have accomplished if  his life hadn’t been cut short?  Leonard’s life lessons are worthy of learning.

“The Absolute Brightness of Leonard Pelkey” is an extraordinary story telling feat that director Tom Holehan presents as a theatrical gift to the audience. Kulcsar plays New Jersey shore detective Chuck DiSantis and everyone else in Leonard’s world.

For tickets ($20, seniors $19), call Square One Theatre, 719 Birdseye Street, Stratford at  203-375-8778 or online at www.squareonetheatre.com.  Performances are Friday at 8 p.m., Saturday at 4 p.m. and 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m.

Come discover why Leonard has disappeared so mysteriously and who is to blame for robbing the world of his rainbow hued brightness.