Sunday, February 18, 2018

CATCH THE STARS AT THE KATE






Are the stars out tonight?  You won't care if it's cloudy or bright, as you stroll down the vividly red carpet at the Katharine Hepburn Cultural Arts Center at 7 p.m. on Sunday, March 4 for the Oscars Party 2018.

Kate, herself, accepted that prestigious statue a record four times, from nominations a dozen in all. She would surely love this gala celebration at her namesake theater, affectionately known as The Kate, in her signature hometown, Old Saybrook, especially knowing the proceeds will benefit presentations of both arts and culture all year long.

Prepare to don your holiday fare for this festive party where the likes of Meryl Streep (and Tom Hanks) will be feted for their performance at the Washington newspaper "The Post" and the disclosure of the Pentagon Papers surrounding U. S. involvement in Vietnam, Gary Oldman will be saluted for his wartime portrayal of the British statesman Winston Churchill in the "Darkest Hour," Daniel Day-Lewis for his final gripping performance as a clothes designer who discovers love in an unlikely place in "Phantom Thread" and the persistent determination of Frances McDormand, the mother of a slain daughter, who will not allow her girl's killer to escape punishment in "Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri."

Whether you cast your vote for the confused teenager coming of age, captured by Saoirse Ronan, in "Lady Bird," the controversial mother-daughter relationship of Allison Janney and Margot Robbie in the ice skating attack of “I, Tonya," the sacrificing and idealistic attorney "Roman J. Israel, Esq." portrayed by Denzel Washington or the self seeking soul of a young boy's sexual hungers by Timothee Chalamet in "Call Me By Your Name," you will have much to cheer for that night.

As for The Kate, prepare to enjoy gourmet offerings from the Saybrook Point Inn's Fresh Salt, both savory and sweet, appetizers to desserts.  Chocolate Oscar statuettes might magically appear, in the special candy treats available to nibble all night long, as every good movie needs.

Hold on to your socks for the incredible silent auction items available for bidding like a special wine dinner for 6, specially prepared with pairings by Saybrook Point Inn chefs, a Nikon Cool Pix S6900 Camera with 32 GB SD Card, a framed, autographed concert poster by Graham Nash from his performance at the Kate and a round of golf (18 holes) with cart and lunch at Black Hall Club, Old Lyme.

According to Oscar event chair Diane Hessinger, “This event has always been volunteer-driven and I’m so proud of what we’ve accomplished over the past eight years to support The Kate. Not only is it a very fun evening, but it’s a perfect way to pay homage to our namesake, Katharine Hepburn and raise funds to expand the arts on the Connecticut shoreline.”  This year’s event will be held in memory of long-time and dedicated volunteer Beverly Whalen who gave generously of her time and helped launch this event.

This year an extra exciting item is courtesy of Becker's Diamonds & Fine Jewelry of Old Saybrook.  For $20, you can purchase a Mystery Red Box, that will include a gift certificate to Becker's and one lucky purchaser will win a stunning bracelet, 14K gold with forty-nine diamonds. 

Devin Carney, state representative and Art Carney's grandson, will once again bring a genuine Oscar to hold for photos as he shares the stage with Michael Mcguire,  a member of The Kate’s Board of Trustees, while TV anchor Ann Nyberg, from WTNH, will be offering commentary from the television station periodically throughout the evening.

For tickets ($75), please call The Kate,  300 Main Street, Old Saybrook at 877- 503-1286  or online at 

Come celebrate 90 years of movie magic with guest host Jimmy Kimmel with all the sass and sizzle of the stars.   

Monday, February 12, 2018

BUSHNELL WELCOMES “THE BODYGUARD” TO ITS MUSICAL DOORS



                                          DEBORAH COX IN "THE BODYGUARD"

Who can forget the dangerous sparks that ignited the screen when Whitney Houston’s superstar portrayal of singer Rachel Marron collided with Kevin Costner’s former Secret Service Agent Frank Farmer who is hired as her bodyguard.  Rachel is being stalked by a crazed fan and Frank is in place to stand by her and protect her, even if it means sacrificing his own life. He is still reeling from his failure to save the President from a killer and reluctantly accepts this assignment.

This monumental 1992 film has now transferred its musical magic and magnificence to the stage as “The Bodyguard The Musical,” written by Alexander Dinelaris, flies head first to Hartford.  It will land  at the Bushnell Center for the Arts, offering it from Tuesday, February 20 to Sunday, February 25.

When Frank Farmer (Judson Mills) originally appears at Rachel’s mansion, the famous singer (Deborah Cox) resents his intrusion into her life.  Unaware that she has received a growing number of death threats, she believes she is safe with her sister Nicki (Jasmin Richardson) as her writing partner and her ten year old son Fletcher (Douglas Baldeo, alternating with Kevin B. Jones III) by her side.

Reluctantly Rachel acknowledges her need for protection, allowing Frank to equip her home with security.  As he asserts his control over the situation, the pair clash as Rachel tries to dominate.  Her sister Nicki, out of jealousy, wants to usurp Frank’s attentions and soon a romantic
triangle emerges to complicate the already tenuous situation.  Meanwhile Frank has become a father figure for young Fletcher.

As the suspense builds, the air is filled with a glorious parade of stunning songs and dazzling dances, complete with sequined costumes, like “Queen of the Night,” “Greatest Love of All,” Saving All My Love for You,” “I Will Always Love You,” “All the Man I Need,” “I’m Every Woman,” “One Moment in Time” and “I Wanna Dance with Somebody.”

The stalker is dangerously close, as Rachel performs while on tour and at the Oscars, and he is always a threat to her and to those close to her. Thea Sharrock directs this romantic thriller that showcases Whitney Houston’s great hits with fancy feathers and flair.

For tickets ($37.50 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.

Enter the world of excitement and intrigue in a superstar singer’s life as risk and romance both come knocking at her door.

COME SEE MUSICALS ON PARADE IN NORWICH









While the masks of comedy and tragedy date back to the ancient Greeks, the joyful addition of music to the mix didn't arrive until the 19th century, in England with Gilbert and Sullivan and in America with Harrigan and Hart.  The ground-breaking sounds of such classics as "Showboat" and "Oklahoma" pushed the medium over the top.  Now Eric Rockwell and Joanne Bogart are taking a novel look at that platform of entertainment in a combo of tribute and spoof with their "The Musical of Musicals The Musical"  being aired at the Chestnut Street Playhouse in Norwich until Sunday, February 25.

What better way to salute musicals of the past than with a tongue-in-cheek, slightly jaundiced peek at the masters of their craft.  Starting with Richard Rogers and Oscar Hammerstein, Rockwell and Bogart create a scenario where a young woman June (Corey Gonzales) can't pay her rent and wants Billy (Marc Bibeau) the hero to dramatically save her, while Abby (Maureen "Moe" Pollard) offers friendly matronly advice and Jitter (Justin Carroll), the villainous landlord, is full of threats.  Replace the epic "Oklahoma," with "Corn" and you are half way up to an elephant's eye.  Here the cob is celebrated in Kansas in August, love is in the air and everyone enjoys a symbolic ballet, ah shucks!

The theme continues  with a nod to Stephen Sondheim as the troupe ventures into the woods, in this case a New York apartment, where a crazed artist threatens June to pay her rent or else pose for paintings.  With echoes of "Into the Woods,"  "Sweeney Todd" and "A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum,"  Sondheim is lambasted with meat pies galore.

The joyful tunes of Jerry Herman in such treasures as "Mame,"and "Hello, Dolly!" are twirled around the dance floor in a swank apartment owned by Abby who only takes a moment to introduce her knicker kneed nephew Billy to Jitter and the world of high society. Here Dear Abby is the life of the party.

The mask of Sir Phantom Jitter is firmly in place as Andrew Lloyd Webber sails into "Aspects of Juanita" who is, remarkably, still in need of rent money and of being rescued.  She needs to become a super nova in the spirit of "Evita" and "Jesus Christ Superstar" if she has any hope of surviving.

With "Cabaret"  and "Chicago" in the limelight, tribute is paid to that great song writing team of Kander and Ebb, as June is still without a sou to her name. Will she need to sell her body to end her debt as Prohibition rages and guilty pleasures abound?  Tune in and see for yourself. Hunter Parker gets into the spirit of the spoof with enthusiasm and energy in her direction.

For tickets ($15-75), call the Chestnut Street Playhouse, 24 Chestnut Street, Norwich at 860- 886-2378 or online at www.boxofficechestnutstreetplayhouse.org.  Performances are Thursday, Friday and Saturday at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m.

Come discover the fate of the well flaunted musical in the hands of these actors as they sing and dance to their hearts' delight.

Sunday, February 4, 2018

COME ENTER PINTER’S COMIC AND DRAMATIC WORLD WITH NHTC




Nobel Prize-winning English playwright Harold Pinter wrote creative works for over five decades.  Some of his voluminous works have been deemed “comedy of menace” and the current offering by the New Haven Theater Company easily fits into that category.

With Pinter’s “The Dumb Waiter” being entertained weekends until Saturday, February 10, we meet Gus (Erich Greene) and Ben (Trevor Williams) who are in a cellar, marking time, waiting for something to happen.  But what? Gus is fidgety and more than a little anxious.  He is filled to overflowing with questions, inquirys he throws hither and yon at Ben, who apparently could care less.

Ben is preoccupied with his newspaper.  He is reclined on a cot, oblivious to Gus’s many concerns. Occasionally he will toss out the hint of a startling news story, about a man being run over by a truck or a girl who killed a cat.  Both men are occupying themselves until their assignment begins.  But what assignment is that?

In this enclosed space, with spates of dialogue, we learn early on that Ben is in charge and Gus is clearly at his mercy.  Even the innocent request to make a cuppa tea almost leads to fisticuffs.  Frustrations boil to the surface, especially when an envelope mysteriously appears under the door and written requests for exotic food like Greek and Chinese suddenly appear in the dumb waiter.

A level of anxiety grows and the pair increase the volatility of their emotions.  Gus wants food and they both want their instructions.  Even though the stove has no gas, the level of tension in the room threatens to explode.  What will happen next?  They each have a gun that is all too readily at hand.  John Watson directs this fifty minute drama of growing anxiety with a tight hand.  Both men are controlled like tight rubber bands ready to snap.

For tickets ($20), contact New Haven Theater Company, 839 Chapel Street, New Haven, at the rear of EBM Vintage, a nifty consignment shop where you can look for bargains before and after the curtain.  Performances are February 8, 9 and 10 at 8 p.m.

Come meet Gus and Ben, two blokes who are at each other’s throats, as they prepare for the known and unknown, as best they are able, while the audience listens in to the unpredictable events.

Saturday, February 3, 2018

FOLLOW THE “FIELD GUIDE” TO THE YALE REP’S WORLD PREMIERE


A RUSSIAN BEAR DOING STAND-UP COMEDY    PHOTO BY JOAN MARCUS


Brushing up on your Russian literature, namely  the works of Fyodor Dostoevsky, would help your understanding of this  decidedly different interpretation of “The Brothers Karamazov” created by the ensemble group Rude Mechs.  Commissioned as a world premiere by the Yale Repertory Theatre, it meets the performance group’s mission of producing original, live works “peppered with big ideas, cheap laughs and dizzying spectacle.”

This is the third time Rude Mechs, located in Austin, Texas, has been invited to the Yale Rep, previously with “Now Now Oh Now” and “The Method Gun.” Today with “Field Guide,” the group will explore the different relationship of father to sons until Sunday, February 17.

Fyodor Karamazov is not about to win any Best Father of the Year Awards.  He marries and discards wives without concern or care, and treats his sons as if they do not exist.  No one would blame the boys in question for being less than affectionate and more than steeped in anger and resentment for this patriarch. Their disdain even borders on plots to permanently eliminate the old man.

Rude Mechs comes with a complete ensemble of actors:  Lowell Bartholomee as the father Fyodor, the vulgar, money grubbing seducer of young women, Thomas Graves as the intellectual, often philosophizing son Ivan, Lana Lesley as the brave soldier Dmitri who is engaged to one woman while actively pursuing another and needs his inheritance quickly, Mari Akita as the kind, faithful son who is studying to enter the monastery and who dances, Robert S. Fisher as the bastard son Smerdyakov who is ignored even more than his legitimate siblings and Hannah Kenah as s trio of characters, two desirable ladies who are sought after, Katya and Grushenka, and the servant Grigory.

In this quite unusual work, look for stand-up comedy about such diverse topics as forever stamps and ziplock bags and even a joke or two by a giant bear, theories about the existence of no ugly women, pleas for receiving promised legacies, violent family reunions, cardboard furniture that moves mysteriously, greed, jealousy and a giant Bounce House.  The world of the Karamazov Brothers is definitely bizarre and will not be to everyone’s theatrical palate. Shawn Sides directs this inventive riff of Russian literature.

For tickets ($12-99), call the Yale Rep, 1120 Chapel Street, New Haven at 203-432-1234 or online at www.yalerep.org. Performances are Tuesday to Saturday at 8 p.m. and Saturday at 2 p.m.

Enter the menagerie at your own risk, as many of the animals bite, as good and evil battle for all the winnings and a giant well deserved glass of vodka.

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

PLAY WITH YOUR FOOD CELEBRATES LOVE!




ALLAN ZELLER AND KIMBERLY SQUIRES ON STAGE

Lunch hour usually consists of a sandwich, tuna fish and bean sprouts on whole wheat grain bread or a ham and cheese with
mustard on rye, but it can be so much more.  Let Fairfield County’s unique entertainment vehicle, PLAY WITH YOUR FOOD, show you
just how much more it can be.  Like a three ring circus of fun, PLAY WITH YOUR FOOD opens at noon with a delectable gourmet
meal, from Westport’s Matsu Sushi or Fairfield and Greenwich’s Rory’s Restaurant. But that is just the enticing first course.

After dining, guests will be treated to a trio of play readings by that delightful married couple: actors, Kim Squires and Allan Zeller
Love is definitely in the air as Valentine’s Day looms around the rose festooned corner. What happens when a couple, about to 
celebrate “24 Years” together, decide to evaluate the roller coaster ride that has been their marriage.  Leslie Ayvazian offers up 
this intriguing peek in the bedroom and beyond.

Brian J. Carter and Susan Vanech will help dig up long buried secrets, along with Squires and Zeller, in a dark and rich 
comedy by Albi Gorn, “A Family Affair.”  Will a young couple digest the marital advice or run from the scene in terror as
they process some unusual truths from a long married pair?  Completing the triumvirate is “A Traditional Wedding” by actress and comedian Mo Gaffney, a play that reveals there is more than one way to unite bride with groom and any number of them can be perfect.

For perspective on these playlets, Allan Zeller commented "Having done “A Family Affair” by Albi Gorn in the past for Play With Your Food I have come to see it as a battle between the relationships of yesteryear’s  married couples and the relationships of couples today and in the future. It is a play that cleverly exposes past mistakes of human beings with revelations of contemporary thought where one would not initially  think it to be. The play carries a serious topic but with much humor and surprise. I believe in the end the audience will feel good about the future of these couples. Doing this play with my wife Kimberly will bring a new air of reality and humor to the parts as we will undoubtedly  find our own personal quirks in the characters. Working with Kimberly is always a pleasure onstage.

Even though these three offerings are new to his wife Kimberly Squires, she has remarked that “How timely to be sharing the stage with my husband during this Valentine month of February.  I always love performing for the Play With Your Food company…they are such a loving and caring team of theatrical professionals.  Sharing the stage with my husband during their Valentine season, makes it that much sweeter.”

Ring master of this wonderful time, from noon to 1:30 p.m., is Artistic Director Carole Schweid who selects and directs this special event.  A talk back with the actors and director, and sometimes even the playwrights, follows the readings.  For tickets ($47) to this HB Productions of Westport, call 203-293-8729 or go online to www.HBProductions.org. This event takes place in three locations, February 6-8 in Westport at Toquet Hall, 58 Post Road East, February 13 in Fairfield at the Fairfield Theater Company and February 14 and 15 in Greenwich at the Greenwich Arts Council, 299 Greenwich Avenue.

Forget your tuna and ham and cheese sandwiches in favor of real entertainment with a gourmet flair.  Let PLAY WITH
YOUR FOOD tempt you to expand your cultural horizons.

Sunday, January 28, 2018

"PARABLE OF THE SOWER” MUSICALLY SOARS AT QUICK CENTER




TOSHI REAGON LEADING HER COURAGEOUS CAUSE
Ground-breaking and life altering theater is coming to the Fairfield University’s Quick Center for  the Arts for one remarkable performance on Saturday, February 3 at 8 p.m. with the operatic performance of “Parable of the Sower.”  Created by composer, librettist, music director and producer Toshi Reagon and her mother, civil rights activist and Freedom Singer Bernice Johnson Reagon, PhD, this work grew out of a love and respect for the written words of Octavia Butler. The pair also collaborate on movie and television scores, recordings and two other operas with director Robert Wilson.

This original adaptation of Butler’s work began with a mother’s admiration for Butler’s books which she shared  with Toshi, who enjoyed their sense of science fiction and mystery.  One Christmas many years ago, they each bought the other the same book:  Butler’s "Parable of the Sower."  At the time, Toshi wasn’t prepared to read it.  It took an invitation from Toni Morrison for Bernice to lead a workshop  about Butler at Princeton, one the mom invited her daughter to present with her, to get Toshi to open the pages.  Since that time, she has consumed the novel more than fifty times.

That intense delving into Butler’s themes has led mother and daughter to work  in an easy and enjoyable way.  To Toshi, “ if you believe in multiple lifetimes and a connection of souls, my mom is incredible and it is a privilege and honor to be her daughter.  We connect musically and I hope to follow in her footsteps.  We’re very different but she’s wonderful and my favorite collaborator.”

“Parable of the Sower” takes place in the year 2024, a scant six years from now, when a young girl Lauren Olamina, locked in a self made gated community, one that was once an open cul de sac in a suburb outside of Los Angeles, is consumed with the dangers of global warming and how it is destroying America and the world.  The pollution of air and water is pervasive and drought is a constant threat.  Those who have are separated further and further from those who have not.

To Lauren, God and change are intertwined.  She disagrees with her  pastor father  whom she loves.  She says her father's God is not her God.  She realizes that the walled community is not sustainable and she thinks they should leave.  Her father thinks they should stay and hold on. One day, after he disappears and is presumed dead, she with two friends runs to the north to avoid an assault on her home.
The whole community is attacked and many die. Before she leaves , she starts dropping seeds, wanting to find a rich soil where they will thrive, to grow a new religion of change, understanding and hope which she calls Earthseed.  When it rains for the first time in six years, she experiences a cleansing that is special and spiritual.  Feeling clean is an unexpected luxury in a parched land and Lauren records it all in her journal. Now she concentrates on survival and building a new community on the road and finding a new home with her chosen family.

Toshi uses a chorus of  twenty voices, and musical genres that span rock, rhythm and blues, soul, punk, gospel and spirituals, to tell this poignant tale.  Centuries of the black music experience are explored in this emotional passage from despair to hope.  In her view, this frightening scenario is all too real and we need an immediate change of direction by citizens to reshape our relationship with our government, from the local level on up to the top.

Our basic needs are at stake:  clean air and water, shelter, health care and education.  She feels we must stop using bigotry and prejudice as excuses but rather make a community of communal voices. She hopes experiencing her opera will motivate audiences to take up the cause.

Thanks to the efforts of presenter Bill Bragin, of the NYUAD Arts Center, the work had its world premiere in Abu Dhabi last year and its American premiere in North Carolina at UNC Chapel Hill and later at the Public Theater in New York City. Fairfield University is its fourth presentation.  This is thanks to the efforts of Peter Van Heerden, executive director of the Quick Center for the Arts, who stated “We are thrilled to present this ground-breaking performance…that resonates on such  critical and timely themes.”

For tickets ($50, $40, $30 members, $5 Fairfield students), call 203-254-4010 or 877-ARTS-396 or online at www.quickcenter.com.  Eric Ting directs this spirited call to action. 

Be moved and spiritually carried away by this peek into the future and what awaits if we do not heed the call to action of this pressing musical message.