Monday, May 13, 2019

“I LOVE YOU, YOU’RE PERFECT, NOW CHANGE” HAS A LOT TO OFFER LOVE BIRDS



NICK D'ANGELO AND CRISTIN MARSHALL   KRISTIN IOVENE AND JON ESCOBAR STAR IN
"I LOVE, YOU'RE PERFECT, NOW CHANGE"



Problems began as soon as God created Adam and Eve and mixed in an apple and a snake. In the beginning, God peopled the earth, which was then confined to the Garden of Eden, with Adam and Eve, and that is the precise moment when complicated romantic relationships began.  Fast forward a few millenniums and playwright Joe DiPietro, with music by Jimmy Roberts,  continues the story in his fascinating and funny musical series of vignettes “I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change.”

For an intimate, charming and revealing look at dating, courtship, marriage, divorce, birth and death, the whole enchilotta, head directly to the Connecticut Cabaret Theatre in Berlin weekends until June 15.  In almost two dozen tales, you will be privy to the anxiety and angst, the preparation and the preening, the fuss and the futility of all the love drenched situations that have forever made the world go round and round and round. Youve probably experienced a goodly number of them yourself.

Hop aboard the bus with Kristen Iovene and Jon Escobar, Cristin Marshall and Nick D'Angelo as your trusty  tour guides on the often rocky path to true wedded bliss.  From those awkward first dates when you want to skip right to the good stuff all the way to providing great pick-up lines at funerals, DiPitro doesn’t leave any possibility for romance stuck under any rocks. This quartet is worthy of venturing down all the bumpy paths for maximum humor and delight in the laughter department.

DiPietro deals with such pressing issues as “Men Who Talk and the Women Who Pretend They’re Listening,” a visit with new parents who are fixated on their recent arrival, lawyers who guarantee sexual satisfaction, a family drive in the car where everyone arrives alive and how not to make a dating video.

This talented quartet plays studs and babes, men who cry at chick-flicks, women who offer to cook lasagna but really want to give themselves as the main dish, what happens when a man who promises to call actually does and the complicated tango dance of a married couple with children always under foot.  Kris McMurray directs this engaging courtship cha-cha-cha with finesse. C J Janis on piano and Jean Connors on violin keep the pace moving forward with spirit.

For tickets ($35), call the CT Cabaret Theatre, 31-33 Webster Square Road, Berlin at 860-829-1248 or online at www.ctcabaret.com. Performances are Friday and Saturday nights at 8 p.m.  Come early and enjoy refreshments at your table when doors open at 7:15 p.m.  Desserts and drinks are available for purchase.

No matter what stage of the romance meter you measure yourself on, you’ll find a lot to enjoy on this highway of love. Come and abandon yourself to the varied parameters of romance and all the charms and chaos trapped within.

Sunday, May 12, 2019

“HI, MY NAME IS BEN” OPENING HEARTS AT TERRIS THEATRE IN CHESTER


CLAIRE MCKENZIE AND SCOTT GILMOUR


Bernhardt Wichmann III, better known as Ben, had an incredibly sad life and a miraculous one at the same time.  Born in Davenport, Iowa, his parents suffered from mental illness and committed suicide.  Ben had dreamed of becoming an architectural draftsman and fought in Korea to earn a college degree. He moved to New York City to make it happen and never looked back. 
 
An operation on his larynx left him without the ability to speak, a condition that lasted more than three decades. Living without speech in a tiny one room apartment at 74th Street and 3rd Avenue, above J. G. Melon Restaurant, one would imagine Ben becoming a recluse, angry at his fate and at life.  Yet, armed with a notepad and a pen, Ben ventured into a cruel and impersonal city and turned strangers into friends.
 
Some of those friends were two doormen at a nearby hotel, Jorge Grisales and Juan Arias, who learned to speak English thanks to Ben’s writing efforts and a news reporter Joan, who with her dog Clementine, often treated Ben to a ticket to the opera, a pastime he loved, even getting him a tuxedo once so he could go in style.
 
On the indifferent streets of the city, Ben and his notebook reached out to passersby and started a conversation.  Before long, he had forged a community, one that chipped in to pay for his funeral when he died
from cancer. Only one year before his death, Ben experienced a miracle.  During an M.R.I. procedure,
Ben’s voice was restored and, in gratitude, he started talking and never wanted to stop.
 
In 2016, a Scottish writing team of Scott Gilmour and Claire McKenzie were visiting New York and chanced upon the obituary of  Bernhardt Wichmann III and saw the germs of a musical.  Invited to the Writer’s Colony at Goodspeed Musicals, they used their time there to craft the story of a simple man who lived his life in capital letters.  With the cooperation of Noisemaker, in collaboration with Dundee Rep, one of Scotland’s leading theatres, you are invited from May 17 to June 9 to experience “Hi, My Name is Ben” at the Terris Theatre, 33 North Main Street, Chester. 
 
For tickets ($49-54), call the box office at Goodspeed 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., Friday at 8 p.m., Saturday at 3 p.m. and 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m. and 6:30 p.m.
 
The team interviewed the many people who viewed Ben as a trusted friend to recreate his life and explore his “unique character.” From his tiny window above the restaurant, Ben used his time to learn about the cab drivers and waitresses who lived and worked around the corner.  The walls of his small living space were filled with a collage of thousands of photos of his new friends. He asked for so little, but he gave of his time and of his heart, to listen to people’s stories and show he genuinely cared. Using folk infused music, with Ben’s “friends” speaking his words, they give voice to how Ben lived his life on his special terms.
 
Gilmour and McKenzie want audiences to hear this quiet story of a man who “found happiness through strangers, using a notebook, and poetic language.”
They want you to “take a walk through his brain” and discover a chunk of his life in this amazingly true story.
Their message is to “make time for others” and they feel Ben would have loved their musical efforts, maybe dressing up in a tuxedo as if he were going once again to an opera at the Metropolitan.
 

“GUESS WHO’S COMING TO DINNER” STILL RELEVANT IN 2019





More than fifty years ago, Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn played 
the liberal white parents to a precocious daughter whom they had raised to 
be independent minded.  When she brings home her new fiancĂ©e, a highly
educated and dedicated African-American doctor, the spouted beliefs of 
her parents are clearly put to the test. This classic film is now a play and 
Ivoryton Playhouse is giving it a loving airing of William Rose’s screenplay,
 with Todd Kreidler’s probing play “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner” until
May  12.

Times have certainly changed over the years, but inter-racial marriage
can still be cause for a pause in the conversation.  Interestingly neither 
Joanna‘s (Katelyn Nichols) parents Matt (Gordon Clapp) and Christina 
(Kaia Monroe) nor John’s (Marc D Lyons) parents John Sr.(Cedric Cannon)
 and Mary (Kimberlee Monroe) are accepting the decision of their offspring to wed 
lightly.  The confrontation escalates quickly when Joanna invites his 
parents to dinner and John announces he will not marry her without  her 
father’s express blessing.

Adding their voices to the controversy are the family’s black maid Tillie 
(Richarda Abrahms), the long time friend Monsignor Ryan (R. Bruce
Connelly) and a business associate Krista Lucas.  Joanna’s father is quick
 to have John investigated by the police as all four parents recover from the 
unexpected shock of the announcement.  Overt discrimination will
certainly affect the young couple and cause obstacles to their feelings.
As liberals, each is coming face to face with their principles.

As in the musical “South Pacific,” prejudice has to be carefully taught, from
childhood on to adulthood.  Soon the mothers are taking a stand on the side
of the young lovers, while the fathers are vehemently opposed.  Keeping 
an open mind and caring heart  are the ultimate winners, thanks to the 
fine acting and the strong direction by Kathryn Markey, on an awesome set 
designed by Daniel Nischan.

For tickets ($55, seniors $50, student $25, children $20), call the Ivoryton 
Playhouse, 103 Main Street, Ivoryton at 860-767-7318 or online at www. 
ivorytonplayhouse.org.     Performances are Wednesday and Thursday at 
7:30 p.m., Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m., with matinees Wednesday and 
Sunday at 2 p.m.

To heal the differences among the famiiies, they need much more than a 
leaf from an aloe plant. We’ve come a long way, but we’re not there yet.




The Hills of Hartford Are Alive with Music



To Captain Von Trapp marching is in, music is out, work is in, play is out,
 whistles are in, laughter is out, discipline is in, singing is out. All that changes when a novice nun named Maria plays governess to the Captain's seven motherless children in Rodgers and Hammerstein's wonderful family musical classic "The Sound of Music".


 Three days from Friday, May 17 to Sunday, May 19, the Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts in Hartford will be resounding with joy for the whole family.


 1938 Austria presents profound changes for the earnest and solemn Captain Georg Von Trapp when both the Nazis and a young impetuous girl named Maria enter his life. He is powerless to defy either as one hardens his heart and the other captures his soul.The captain has been running his household as he did his naval ships: strictly and decorously. Instead of names, he uses whistle sounds to summon his seven children: Liesl, Kurt Friederich, Louisa, Marta, Brigitta and Gretl.

 When the irrepressible Maria skips into their lives, the hills of Austria and Hartford suddenly are alive with the sounds of music.Whether Maria is teaching the children how to sing, in the fun song "Do-Re-Mi," dressing them in play clothes cut from old curtains, helping them yodel their way through a thunderstorm, or preparing them to star in the Carlsbad Festival, she opens windows to love and laughter in their lives.With the Captain and Maria, the Captain's almost fiance, the manipulating Max, and Mother Abbess, each have their individual moments in the spotlight. 
 For tickets ($22-104) call the Bushnell, 166 Capitol Avenue, Hartford at 860-987-5900 or online at www.bushnell.org. Performances are Friday at 8 p.m., Saturday at 2 pm. and 8 p.m. and Sunday at 1 p.m. and 6:30 p.m.

If girls in white dresses, packages tied up in string, crisp apple strudel, and
 bright copper kettles are among your favorite things, then plan a visit to the Bushnell where they are all delightfully awaiting you.

“IN THE HEIGHTS” SOARS WITH SALSA AND SPIRIT AT WESTPORT COUNTRY PLAYHOUSE



DIDI ROMERO AS NINA AND GERALD CAESAR AS BENNY IN "IN THE HEIGHTS"
PHOTO BY CAROL ROSEGG

Long before his stunning success with “Hamilton,” Lin-Manuel Miranda crafted a musical tale of a community thriving in the shadow of the George Washington Bridge, in New York City.

Written while he was a student at Middletown’s Wesleyan University, with book by Quiara Alegria Hudes, “In the Heights” speaks to diversity and cooperation in the Washington Heights section of the city, where people from 
the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, Cuba and other Latino nations live together and prepare for change.

At Westport Country Playhouse, extended  until Sunday, May 19, this musical speaks to people helping people and the common goals of improving the way of life for everyone. At the center of the community is the bodega, or grocery store, run by Usnavi, a caring but unsatisfied Rodolfo Soto.
He has dreams but they are unfulfilled.  Will he win the heart of Vanessa (Nina Victoria Negron)?  How can he best protect Abuela Claudia (Blanca Camacho) who is like a grandmother to him?  Should he return to his homeland to find what his present life is missing?

Around Usnavi swirl the stories of Nina (Didi Romero) whose parents (Tony Chiroldes and Doreen Montalvo) will sacrifice everything to guarantee their daughter get a college education, Benny (Gerald Caesar) who works for her parents and loves Nina, his cousin Sonny (Ezequiel Pujols)
who helps in the bodega but wants more, Piragua Guy (Paul Aguirre) who sells iced drinks to the neighborhood and the sweet grandmother who has good fortune enough to change lives.

On the fourth of July when a blackout occurs, change is poised on the horizon.  With energized dancing choreographed by Marcos Santana, who is also the gifted director, as well as songs like “In the Heights,” “Breathe,” “Sunrise,” and “Alabanza,”  the heartfelt message of the people speaks to their joy. The colorful set by Adam Koch is the launchpad for the story.

For tickets ($30 and up), call the Westport Country Playhouse, 25 Powers Court, Westport at 888-927-7529 or 203-227-4177 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., Saturday at 3 p.m.and 8 p.m. and Sunday at 3 p.m.

Come celebrate the vibrant life of a community where preserving the past is equally as important as laying the groundwork for the future.

”A DOLL’S HOUSE PART 2" OPENING ITS DOOR AT LONG WHARF




Thanks to Norwegian playwright Henrik Ibsen, an outspoken and liberated woman named Nora Helmer asserted her rights as a wife, in 1879, and stormed out of her home,  The echo of that door shutting, with her husband and children abandoned, was monumental. What has happened to Nora since that fateful day?  Does she regret her decision to leave? Did she achieve her victory for womanhood or was her act premature and unfulfilled?

Today a modern playwright Lucas Hnath has inserted a new chapter into the scenario with ”A Doll’s House Part 2.” It's fifteen years later and Nora knocks on that same door and demands admittance to her home. Why has she returned?

New Haven’s Long Wharf Theatre is staging this dramatic “second act” until Sunday, May 26.   Does  she seek a reconciliation with her husband Torvald? Where has she been during her time  of escape?  Has the world changed so much that she feels free to come home? The answers are awaiting you on an interesting outdoor inspired set designed by Arnulfo Maldonado.

Maggie Bofill’s Nora makes a slightly less dramatic entrance in 1894 than she did leaving years earlier when she felt her marriage was suffocating her.  Anne Marie (Mia Katigbak), the housekeeper, seems pleased to see her mistress but wonders what it means and soon regrets her reappearance.  When Torvald (Jorge Cordova) unexpectedly arrives home to fetch a forgotten set of papers, at first he does not even recognize Nora. When he does, he is not pleased.

Her reappearance is soon explained.  A judge has uncovered her identity as a novelist who has been writing under a pseudonym, encouraging women to abandon their husbands and be independent, and even never to marry in the first place.  Having learned Torvald never divorced her, the judge is threatening to have her arrested if she does not publicly confess her sins. What effect will this deception have on all involved? 

Will Torvald agree to divorce her, a fact that will expose his deceit in letting the community believe she died?  What influence will Emmy (Sasha Diamond), the youngest child she deserted, feel about her mother’s reappearance?  Will Davis keeps the tension tight as each character makes their  own plea.  The acting is forceful and succeeds in keeping the audience guessing its dramatic resolution, with many unexpected signs of humor peeking through the door.

For tickets ($30 and up), call Long Wharf Theatre, 222 Sargent Drive, New Haven at 203-787-4282 or online at www.longwharf.org.  Performances are Tuesday at 7 p.m., Wednesday at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. Thursday at 8 p.m., Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m. with matinees Saturday at 3 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m.

Is Nora the emancipated woman she claims to be and the achiever of all her goals or is she in danger of losing everything? Here is a gambler capable of rolling the dice, no matter what the consequences.

Monday, May 6, 2019

CGMC HONORS “STONEWALL 50” ON MAY 18 AND 19 IN NEW HAVEN




MEMBERS OF THE CONNECTICUT GAY MEN'S CHORUS



The year 2019 is memorable for marking the largest international LGBTQ pride celebration ever held and the Connecticut Gay Men’s Chorus is standing ready to honor the occasion.  In New York City’s Greenwich Village in the early hours of June 28, 1969, a series of police raids on the Stonewall Inn started a rebellion for recognition and demonstration by the members of the gay community.  It is considered the most important single event leading to the establishment of the gay liberation movement.

Now five decades later, New York state is organizing Stonewall 50/World Pride and the local Ct Gay Men’s Chorus will launch its personal tribute with “As You Are: 50 Years After Stonewall” at the CoOp, the Cooperative Arts and Humanities High School, 177 College Street, in New Haven on Saturday, May 18 at 8 p.m. and Sunday, May 19 at 4 p. m. You are invited to the celebration.

Artistic Director Greg McMahan asked his membership, who range in age from 20 to 70, to contribute “songs that made an impact on their lives:  growing up, coming out, and simply becoming who they are today.” The result is surprising, “beloved gay anthems, as well as songs that pay tribute to the themes of strength, perseverance, inclusion and acceptance.”
Come hear diversity at its best, from Elton John to Cyndi Lauper, Madonna to Lady Gaga, Melissa Manchester to David Bowie.  Movies and musicals will be represented from “Wicked,” “Dear Evan Hansen,” “Fame,” “Dreamgirls” and ”Kinky Boots.” According to McMahan, the concert reflects a wide variety of musical genres and some of the men never heard them before but are embracing them. “From the passion of heartfelt ballads reflecting past struggles to celebratory songs of hope and joy, this concert will be a reflection of the journey we’re all on together.”

For tickets ($25-30), call the CTGMC box office at 203-777-2923 or 800-644-2462 or online at www.ctgmc.org.  All seats are reserved.  This is the final performance of the 34th season by this group that was the first organization in the state, leading as a choral group and agent of social change. Don’t forget the monthly Bingomania fundraiser where 10% of ticket sales go to support LGBT youth, AIDS outreach and other worthwhile programs.

Come take part in honoring  this milestone and celebrating  the bravery of the ones who began the fight for public recognition. Come stand proud.

76 TROMBONES LEAD TO GOODSPEED’S MARVELOUS “MUSIC MAN"



PROFESSOR HILL ( EDWARD WATTS) AND HIS BOYS' BAND
PHOTO BY DIANE SOBOLEWSKI


The sixtieth anniversary celebration of Meredith Willson’s family classic “The Music Man” will be om-pahing its way triumphantly to Goodspeed Musicals in fine style until Thursday, June 20 in East Haddam. March yourself right over for tickets to this wonderful, joyful tale of a swindler, the fast talking traveling salesman, Professor Harold Hill, played by a smooth and suave Edward Watts, who convinces the town of River City, Iowa that the only way to save their youth from the evils of pool and billiards is to create a boys' band.

The high stepping shenanigans are off and running as soon as the dubious Professor, in cahoots with his old partner (Juson Williams),enter River City and try to hoodwink the Mayor (D. C. Anderson) and his wife, (Stephanie Pope), the sweet librarian Marian, a delightful Ellie Fishman, and her mother, Amelia White.

The choreography by Patricia Wilcox is top notch and the musical score is packed with gems, like “Ya Got Trouble,” “ Goodnight, My Someone,” “Seventy-Six Trombones,” "Shipoopi,” “Gary, Indiana” and ”Till There Was You." The Wells Fargo Wagon is depositing the goods and you’d best be ready to accept delivery. 

Grab the family and introduce them to a cute miss Amaryllis (Katie Wylie) as she courts her shy beau Winthrop (Alexander O'Brien). A forbidden affection is also carried out by the town’s bad boy Raynor Rubel and the mayor’s daughter Shawn Alynda Fisher so the creation of a band for boys cannot come any too quickly.

The sly professor also manages to put together a barber shop quartet with the school board (Branch Woodman, C. Mingo Long, Jeff Gurner and Kent Overshown) as well as a ladies dance troupe led by the mayor’s wife with her friends (Kelly Berman, Cicily Daniels, Victoria Huston-Elem).Meanwhile the hardest citizen for Hill to hoodwink is the town’s piano teacher, Miss Marian, who knows he is a fraud and falls in love with him any way. Even the interference and evidence of another traveling man (Danny Lindgren) fails to derail the shyster for long.
The old-fashioned fun is nonstop, the dancing is infectious, the songs are classics and the cast gives it their all. As a tribute goes, this one is the tops, under the fine direction of Jenn Thompson.

For tickets ($29 and up), call Goodspeed Musicals, on the Connecticut River in East Haddam at 860-873-8668 or online atwww.goodspeed.org. Performances are Wednesday at 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m., some Thursdays at 2 p,m, and 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. 

Watch a spellbinder, who doesn’t know the territory and doesn’t have any credentials, win over a town and give it and you an outstanding production of theater. Don’t miss it! You’re sure to be in TROUBLE, with a capital T and that rhymes with P and that stands for POOL if you do!

JOIN THE “CADILLAC CREW” ON ITS IMPORTANT MISSION AT YALE REP




ASHLEY BRYANT, DRIA BROWN AND BRONTE ENGLAND-NELSON
PHOTO BY JOAN MARCUS


For a quartet of women in a Virginia civil rights office in the early 1960’s, this is a momentous red letter “new dawn and new day.” Rosa Parks, the strong black activist who stood up for her rights, is coming to town to speak. Until Saturday, May 18, the Yale Repertory Theatre is serving up a fascinating living and breathing history lesson that still needs to be learned in the world premiere of Tori Sampson’s “Cadillac Crew.”
The crushing disappointment that a group of men have disallowed Mrs. Parks to speak at the last moment forces this female foursome to make a startling decision. Rachel (Chalia Le Tour) Abby (Dria Brown), Dee (Ashley Bryant), all black women, with Sarah (Bronte England-Nelson), a white woman, are determined to make a difference in the struggle for desegregation and equality for all women, not just women of color.
They want their message and mission to be recorded and remembered. They elect to go on the road and drive through the South as a “Cadillac crew,” speaking and advocating for positive change. Along the way, they will document their experiences so, hopefully, the future activists can stand on their shoulders to reach their goals.
Their road trip is fraught with small victories and huge risks, as they travel to make a difference. Each woman faces her own individual obstacles and challenges, Dee has sent her daughter Deborah to a white school on the first day of class with a knife, Abby has just learned she is pregnant with a white man’s baby, Sarah has issues with “passing” as a white woman despite her heritage and Rachel is the spiritual leader determined to cause change even if it means sacrificing her life in the process.
These ladies are dedicated to securing the vote and to being treated as people who are no longer invisible. They are crusaders and pioneers, even revolutionaries, bent on succeeding, black women speaking out for all their sex, come hear them roar. In Act II, the transition is made to the present day, in a Podcast, highlighting the stories of the past and the continual struggle to be heard and recognized.
The fight is far from over, but the hope and strength of the mission are real, even if the voices of Rachel, Abby, Dee and Sarah are trapped in the stories of the past. Rasean Davonte Johnson’s stream of projections helps the story progress while Jesse Rasmussen’s direction keeps the tale vital, real and powerful.
For tickets ($60-92), call the Yale Rep, 1120 Chapel Street, New Haven at 203-432-1234 and online atwww.yalerep.org.Performances are Tuesday to Saturday at 8 p.m., with a Saturday matinee at 2 p.m.
Hop aboard the car with this strong battalion of “Cadillac crew” as they fight to make a difference, to secure equality for women, and direct themselves to a better destination. They are the GPS to the future.

THE VERBAL GLOVES ARE OFF IN STRATFORD WITH “TRYING"


CELINE MONTAUDY AS SARAH AND AL KULCSAR AS JUDGE BIDDLE SQUARE OFF FOR BATTLE


When a prestigious judge with a long history of service to his country acknowledges that his time on this earth is nearly at its expiration point, he reluctantly admits he needs help to organize his office and his memoirs. 25-81 could be a lopsided basketball score, but it’s the ages of the characters in an absorbing personal drama “Trying” that is earning standing ovations at Stratford’s Square One Theatre Company weekends until May 19. Penned by Joanna McClelland Glass, it tells the true story of her relationship with Judge Francis Biddle from 1967-68 when she served as his secretary.

Judge Biddle is so cantankerous he makes Scrooge look like a pussy cat. That certainly does not make him one iota more reasonable about having a stranger invade his space. Here is a man who has served as Attorney General under President Franklin Delano Roosevelt and presided as Chief Judge at the Nuremberg trials.
Thankfully his new secretary Sarah, a newlywed from Canada, comes with a required supply of fortitude, spine, grit and stamina, all of which she will need in abundance. The honorable Judge Biddle with his long list of political appointments and legal degrees is also irascible, disagreeable, stubborn and difficult to impossible to please. He is a stickler for punctuality and grammar, has enough physical ailments to fill an encyclopedia, quotes Shakespeare and e. e. cummings admirably but forgets who he calls on the phone before they answer.

The two wage a powerful battle of words as each “tries” to understand the other. This dramatic character study speaks to generation gaps and the need to find ways to bridge the hills and valleys that separate us as humans. Artistic director Tom Holehan has assembled a truly fine pair of actors Al Kulcsar and Celine Montaudy in this excellent production.

For tickets ($22 and 20), call Square One Theatre at 203-375-8778 or online at www.squareonetheatre.com. Performances are Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m., Saturday at 4 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m. All productions take place at the Stratford Academy, 719 Birdseye Street, Stratford.

Discover the humanity as a young naive girl with a steel magnolia backbone tackles a renown but crusty elder statesman and they come out at the other end the better for the battle. Beware of initially entering the lion’s den, but you will soon delight in the battle of brains and war of wits and words you will encounter.

EXPERIENCE “THE FULL MONTY” AT DOWNTOWN CABARET



When the main source of employment in Buffalo, New York, a mill, suddenly closes, the displaced workers experience a variety of emotions: anger, depression, suicide, fear, sadness and anxiety. As the months pass and new employment fails to materialize, their prospects dim and working as a security guard at the local mall looms like a life sentence.

The Downtown Cabaret Main Stage Theatre is offering you a front row seat weekends to join these wannabe workers as they deal with serious problems, like divorce, homosexuality, suicide, impotence, body image and self esteem, in the comedy “The Full Monty” with book by Terrence McNally and music by David Yazbek. Until Sunday, May 19, their lives will literally be laid bare for all the world to see.

For Jerry Lubowski (David Webb), the loss of employment is personally devastating. Divorced from wife Pam (Lauren Bell), he is on the verge of losing custody of his precious son Nathan (Nicholas Ferreira) when he fails to make his support payments. His best friend Dave (Kyle Riedinger) doesn’t know how to explain to his wife (Johnna Fettinger) why he has been so distant in the bedroom while the mill’s former manager Harold (Jim Norton) has been lying to his wife (Margaret Buzak) and telling her that he is still working.

Thsee men with their pals Malcolm (Max Helfand). Ethan (Jeff Jannitto) and Noah (Brendan Garnett) have witnessed the way area women have responded to the club featuring Chippendale dancers and come up with a wild plan. They will learn a dance routine and book a club for one night only and make a fortune. Not only will they strip, but they will go one jock strap further and go “the full monty.”

With Jeanette (Elyse Jasensky) as their muse on the piano, they give the plan their all to surprising results. With musical numbers like “Scrap,” “You Rule My World” and “Breeze Off The River,” the band led by musical director Tom Conroy keeps the spirit bouncing along, while Jennifer Kaye keeps the choreography challenging. Andrea Pane gives the men a healthy dose of heart as they work toward their goal.

For tickets ($37.75 ), call the Downtown Cabaret Theatre, 263 Golden Hill Street, Bridgeport at 203-576-1636 or online atwww.mycabaret.org. Performances are Friday at 7:30 p.m., Saturday at 5 p.m. and 8:15 p.m. and Sunday at 4 p.m. Remember to bring goodies to share at your table or plan to buy some onsite. The Children’s Theatre is featuring “Snow White.”

Can real men learn a dance routine and expose themselves to the world, trying to move like Michael Jordan and leave all their inhibitions at the door? You’ll just have to buy a ticket and discover the answer for yourself.



Monday, April 29, 2019

“MY NAME IS ASHER LEV” COMPELLING CONFLICT, CHAOS OF CHOICES


 West HartfordPlayhouse on Park is asking you to take a leap of faith and enter a world that is likely foreign to you. Pease take that leap for there are many rewards to be gained. This is a story of art wrapped in religion, where the conflict is great, a mixture that is not kosher in the most basic of terms.

That struggle between religion and art is personified in the current excellent offering of “My Name is Asher Lev,” by Aaron Posner, adapted from the Chaim Potok novel. It will run until Sunday, May 12.

 A sheltered young man from Brooklyn, a Hasidic Jew who has deep beliefs in God, finds that his wondrous gift as an artist clashes dramatically with his faith and his family’s and community’s feelings.

 Jordan Sobel is sincere and passionate as Asher Lev, the conflicted protagonist who is forced to choose between two loves. He is caught in the world of his ancestors and the observant Jewish community, and especially his own father who does not understand his compulsive need to create and to draw. His parents are threatened by his art, particularly his fascination with Christian symbolism and the representation of the unclothed female form.
 
His father Aryeh, a devoted Dan Shor, has dedicated his life to Jewish causes, traveling to Russia to help better the plight of the Jews trapped there, building yeshivas for study. His mother Rivkah, a compassionate Stefanie Londino has suffered traumatically when her brother is killed doing similar work to her husband’s and she decides, after her deep depression lifts, to go to college so she can continue her brother’s missionary work for the Rebbe.

The play goes back in time to Asher’s childhood, highlighting key moments in his development, when his drawing is as naturaland necessary as his breathing. It focuses on his introduction by the Rebbe to his mentor Jacob Kahn (also portrayed by Dan Shor), the painter, an act that changes his life’s direction. Ultimately Asher must choose one path to travel. He will not apologize for his choices, even if it means a permanent alienation from his family and community. Joseph Discher directs a superb cast of three in this compelling play of anguish and ecstasy.
 
For tickets ($25-40), call the Playhouse on Park, 244 Park Road, West Hartford at 860-523-5900 ext, 10 or online atwww.PlayhouseonPark.org. Performances are Wednesday at 7:30 p.m., Thursday at 7:30 p.m., Friday at 8 p.m., Saturday often at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m. and often at 7 p.m.
 
Chaim Potok and Asher Lev celebrate much in common in this autobiographical drama that give Asher credit for painting “Brooklyn Crucifixion,” a masterwork Potok himself created. Both try to correct a world out of balance and try not to tumble into the Sitra Achra, the Other Side where evil lives.

TAKE A BIG BITE OUT OF “WAFFLE HOUSE 5” FOR YUMMY FUN




THE WAFFLE HOUSE CREW PREPARING FOR THEIR DAY WITH SOME GIRL TALK

Who hasn’t fantasized and dreamt big about the chance of winning a lottery, not the $5 quick pick, but the millionaire type of improbability?  What would you buy first?  Would you quit your job?  What family, friends or charities might you support?  There’s no harm in day dreaming, or is there?

Pantochino Productions is once again tickling your fancy with an interesting proposition with their new musical ticket to good fortune “Waffle House 5” playing at the Milford Arts Council at the Railroad Station, 40 Railroad Avenue, Milford weekends until Sunday, May 19.

It may be hard to be cheerful at 5 a.m. but the early morning crew of waitresses and manager at the Waffle House know how to make you feel welcome.  The waffles are fluffy and hot, the coffee strong and the service is special.  Just ask Ned Nickerson (Don Poggio) who comes in most every morning for his friendly fix of food.

Ned even goes so far as to buy Florida lottery tickets to give as “tips” to his favorite morning pals, Angela (Rachelle Ianniello), Matthew (Justin Rugg), Jackie (Shelley Marsh Poggio), Sandra (Maria Berte) and Jaycee Rae (Mary Mannix).  As Miss Lucy (Marci Bing) tells the story, each recipient of a lottery ticket from Ned pledges to share, if we “hit it, we split it.” 

And wouldn’t you know it, one of those magic tickets comes in, to the tune of $10,000,000 which is a mighty fine tune.  And as luck would have it, Jaycee Rae has no memory of making any promises to share.  With her no account red neck hubby Bo (Jimmy Johansmeyer) by her side,  she pleads in court that the source of the winning ticket was not from Ned.

With a bevy of  fun songs, all country western twang,  the group prays to God “to make a millionaire of me” and  chatter up about “Girl Talk.” With lies and cries of fraud, the Waffle House 5 take Jaycee Rae to court to prove her guilt, with Miss Lucy as the presiding judge.  Come see for yourself if the verdict is fair and everyone wins buckets of cash.  Little Anna -May (Peighton Nash),  Matthew’s daughter, just wants a box of Crayola crayons to make her happy, while faithful customers Mason (George Spelvin) and Mavis (Valerie Solli) don’t want to see the Waffle House close.

For tickets ($ 25 ), go online to www.pantochino.com.
Performances are Friday and Saturday at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday  at 2 p.m., cabaret style, so bring snacks to share.  Help Pantochino raise funds on The Great Give Wednesday and Thursday May 1 and 2 for 36 hours by going to www.thegreatgive.org.  The goal is to raise $15,000.
Pull up a chair at your favorite breakfast bar, designed by Von Del Mar, with original staging and direction by Bert Bernardi, music by Justin Rugg, costumes by Jimmy Johansmeyer, and order up a steaming plate of crispy waffles and bacon and see if you can win a share of the big pot (the lottery, not the coffee). 


“THE WHO’S TOMMY” A ROCK OPERA TRIUMPH AT SEVEN ANGELS



RJ VERCELLONE AS YOUNG TOMMY AND GARRISON CARPENTER AS ADULT TOMMY
PHOTO BY PAUL ROTH


Even if you are not an opera fan, or into hard rock music, it is worth a trip to Waterbury’s Seven Angels Theatre to experience their latest offering “The Who’s Tommy” by Des McAnuff and Pete Townsend. Now celebrating fifty years of success, this musical will be playing until Sunday, May 19 and it is disturbing and awesome all at the same time.

The year is 1940 in England and the war is in full swing.  A handsome army officer Captain Walker (Ryan Bauer-Walsh) meets and marries his young bride (Jillian Jarrett), leaving her pregnant when he ships out.  Word soon comes that he is missing in action and unlikely to ever return.

Years later, when their son Tommy is four (RJ Vercellone) and she has rebuilt her life with a new man, the Captain returns.  In anger he attacks his replacement with his gun.   Tommy, who witnesses the terrible crime, is warned by his parents not to speak of what he has seen and heard.  Traumatized, Tommy is essentially now deaf, dumb and blind and no amount of doctors or procedures seem to help.

Tommy is further terrorized by his uncle (Adam Ross Glickman) who abuses him and his cousin (Jackson Mattek) who bullies him, as well as neighboring kids who use him as a play toy.  Now ten (Brendan Reilly), he discovers an aptitude for pinball machines that suddenly makes him a hero and a star.  All along the way the adult Tommy (Garrison Carpenter) serves as narrator and protector for his younger self.

Tommy’s fate swings like a pendulum, from the deepest of despair to the bright lights of idol fame.  Ultimately he uses his family and true friends, like Sally (Rachel Oremland), to secure his balance in life. Janine Molinari choreographs and directs this extraordinary tale that pulsates and probes the psyche. Standout performances are also portrayed by Richie Barella, Keisha Gilles and Will Carey as well as an energetic troupe of ensemble 
dancers.

For tickets ($44-57.50), call the Seven Angles Theatre, 1Plank road, Waterbury at 203-757-4676 or online at www.SevenAngelsTheatre.org.  Performances are Thursday at 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m., Friday at 8 p.m., Saturday at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m.

Come experience a journey of concealment and discovery as Tommy finds his way back to reality and a life.

Sunday, April 28, 2019

COME MAKE THE ACQUAINTANCE OF “KING HENRY” AT UCONN



The position of king to a country is a weighty responsibility, even heavier than the crown he wears. Preparing a prince for the monarchy is never easy, especially if the young man in question is so busy exercising his indiscretions and associating with rogues and fools like a Sir John Falstaff, a flagrant example of impropriety.  Such is the youthful fate of Prince Hal, a grave disappointment to his father Henry IV.

To enter into the frivolous life of the monarch-to-be, attend the sterling epic presentation of “King Henry IV”
by William Shakespeare, currently mounting the stage of the Jorgensen Auditorium, courtesy of the Connecticut Repertory Theatre, until Sunday, May 5, on the campus of the University of Connecticut at Storrs.

Sebastian Nagpal’s Prince Hal shows the shadow of leadership but is not ready to settle down and assume his role as head of the nation.  He enjoys his days and nights with his unlikely companion Falstaff, an outrageous Michele Tauber, who enjoys playing the fool and buffoon, drinks to excess, exaggerates wildly, plots excessively and lies profusely.  How is the impressionable Prince Hal to resist?

Would you want Falstaff mentoring to your son as he prepares to assume the crown? Can you understand why the King (Aaliyah Habeeb) would feel Hal unworthy? Can Hal throw off his robes of dissolution and be ready to lead his nation, England? 

The play begins with a wonderful look at the relationship of Falstaff and Hal as concerns a highway robbery orchestrated by the rogue and counter manned by his young pledge.  The comic doings are soon abandoned as the world turns serious and enemies appear at the doorstep, lead by a valiant Percy in the person of Erin Cessna, accompanied by Bryan Mittelstadt’s Worchester and Rob Barnes’ Glendower.
Once the King’s lieges, they are now on the other side of the sword and sworn to fight in the battle of Shrewsbury. Greg Webster serves as the fight choreographer against a set designed by Kristen P-E Zarabozo.

Madeline Sayet directs this epic three hour history play that probes relationships and rising to expectations in the face of necessity. For tickets ($31-35, student $10),
call 860-486-2113 or online at www.crt.uconn.edu.
Performances are Wednesday and Thursday at 7:30 p.m., Friday at 8 p.m., Saturday at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m.

Watch how Prince Hal assumes an air of dignity and rises to the challenge of becoming the man his father desperately needs him to be.

Sunday, April 21, 2019

“COME FROM AWAY” WONDERFULLY CLOSE AT HAND IN HARTFORD


Musicals have untraditionally been created to mark the strangest events, like the sinking of the Titanic, the men and women who have tried and often succeeded in assassinating presidents, spelling bees, flying cars, elves, groundhogs, missionaries for the Mormons, Superman and Spiderman, African animals, mental illness, monsters named Shrek, urine, and many more.

This time around the focus and attention is fixated on five days and some of the worst events in our country’s history, the destruction of towering buildings in New York City and government structures in Washington, D. C. on 9/11/2001. Ten years later husband and wifeDavid Hein and Irene Sankoff traveled to Gander, Newfoundland to record the amazing story of a humanitarian miracle. Without warning on that fateful day, 38 planes from all over the world were diverted to Gander, once a major stop for refueling for international flights, but long since abandoned as planes no longer needed to stop for more gas.
The almost 6700 passengers on the planes, the pilots and the people of Gander had no idea what was happening. Without warning or preparation, the good citizens of the small town rushed to open their homes and hearts to those strangers, providing baby formula, dog food, pillows and blankets, casseroles, a place to sleep and comfort before the tragedy was even revealed.

Run to the Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts for a marvelous musical that captures the generosity of this small community of Canadians from Tuesday, April 30 to Sunday, May 5 as “Come From Away” soars into Hartford.

The planes were originally diverted for fear some were also part of the terrorist plot, like the plane that crashed in a Pennsylvania forest. The 11,000 citizens of Gander didn’t stop to ask questions. The striking bus drivers immediately returned to work to ferry the passengersaround town. Twelve actors and seven musicians will take you on the journey of generosity, playing the passengers, pilots and people of Gander to musically illustrate the way good folks can respond with hope in the midst of devastating tragedy. 

Come visit the dog catcher, the mayor, the chief of police, the first female pilot to command a major airline jumbo jet, a woman who fears her fireman son has been lost in the downing of the World Trade Center, a gay couple searching for acceptance, two strangers who find each other and romance and so much more.

This is a musical happening, brimming with spirit and patriotism, a tribute to faith and resilience, a gift of compassion in the face of tremendous loss. I was fortunate enough to see the birth of “Come From Away”
at the Goodspeed’s Festival of New Musicals when the first staged reading took place and also attend the Broadway production the day Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau brought 500 of his people to see the show in New York on Canada’s 150th birthday. 

For tickets ($23-109), call the Bushnell, 166 Capitol Avenue, Hartford at 860-987-5900 or online atwww.bushnell.org. 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 1 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. 

This is not a show to be missed. If nothing else, it will restore your faith in the innate goodness of neighbors to reach out and hug you with friendship and love.