Wednesday, March 20, 2019

“SISTER ACT” EXPLODES WITH JOY AT THE DOWNTOWN CABARET





If you (God forbid) witness a murder and if the killers know your name, you might feel a compulsion to disappear and leave town quickly, preferably in disguise. If you’re a wannabe cabaret lounge singer named Deloris Van Cartier, you might run as fast as possible and seek refuge in the most unlikely place known to woman or man: a nunnery.
 Sequins, sass, sparkle and shine are not the usual words that come to mind when you think of sisters of the cloth. The conservative and sensible, charitable and caring, convent of nuns is undergoing a transformation not of its own choosing. Under the direction of the good and no nonsense Mother Superior, an inflexible but compassionate Suzanne Powers, the Monsignor (Steve Sorrero) has warned that the church is in danger of closing due to poor attendance and financial woes.
Deloris who unwittingly witnesses a murder by her boyfriend and boss Curtis (Kyle Riedinger) and his gang of thugs (Joe Cardozo, Dominick Benjamin, Sergio Mandujano and Jeffrey Jannitto) does the honorable deed and reports it to the police, in this case Police Detective Eddie Souther, (Berlin Charles) an honorable man who has feelings for her. What happens to Deloris as she plays a cloak and dagger game with the criminals chasing her is captured in the rousing comedy "Sister Act The Musical" roaring into Downtown Cabaret Theatre in Bridgeport weekends until Sunday, April 7.
Decades ago Whoopi Goldberg played the wise cracking, joyfully singing Deloris in the movies. This new version with book by Cheri and Bill Steinkellner, music composed by Alan Menken and lyrics by Glenn Slater stars Simone Palmer as the spunky and spirited disco diva. New music reaches heavenly heights with such spirited numbers as "Fabulous, Baby!," "Raise Your Voice," “Spread the Love Around” and "Take Me to Heaven."
As Deloris goes under wraps in the protective skirts of the good sisters, she soon finds herself pressed into service of a godly nature. The convent's choir is suffering mightily and Deloris appears like an angel sent from above to perform miracles and offer a joyful noise unto the Lord. Prepare to be blown away as this chorus is rejuvenated to razzle-dazzle 'em proportions. Catch the infectious spirits as this sisterhood of Jacqueline Maclean, Julia Lennon, Jeanie Wright, Katelyn Tucker and Roye Anastasio-Bourke soars to the rafters.
For tickets ($28.75 - 37.75), call the Downtown Cabaret Theatre, 263 Golden Hill Street, Bridgeport, at 203-576-1636 or online atmycabaret.org. Performances are at 7:30 p.m. Friday , Saturday at 5 p.m. and 8:15 p.m. and Sunday at 4:30 p.m. Remember to pack goodies to eat at your table as this is cabaret.
Learn how the powerful glue of friendship cements Deloris with her newly found sisterhood of singing sisters. You'll have lots of good reasons to rejoice!

Monday, March 18, 2019

SEVEN ANGELS OPENS MATCHMAKING SERVICES WITH “FIRST DATE”



THE CAST OF "FIRST DATE" AT SEVEN ANGELS THEATRE
PHOTO BY PAUL ROTH

Few things are as fearful and potentially exciting as a blind first date. Well meaning friends or family have arranged the secret assignation and now you are poised at the front door of the coffee shop or restaurant, likely terrified to enter. Take courage, for the Seven Angels Theatre in Waterbury has a check list and agenda of do’s and don’ts to help you survive with “First Date,” book by Austin Winsberg and music and lyrics by Alan Zachary and Michael Weiner until Sunday, April 7.

Where else but on a first date can what seems to be a fairy tale fantasy so quickly become a nightmare horror film. You can go from the top of the mountains to the dangerous depths of the ocean within minutes of meeting. Initially he may look ultra conservative, over dressed and the opposite of cool. She may look borderline hostile, hip and annoyingly hot. Come meet Aaron (Constantine Pappas) and Casey (Christina Carlucci) and tag along with them as they try to survive their “first date.”

Aaron, a recently burned, twice shy, three times a nice guy, has reluctantly appeared at a trendy New York eatery to meet his fix up date. He is initially overwhelmed by Casey, an in-your-face female with lots of experience with first dates but rarely advances to date number two. Unfortunately it is almost instant hate at first sight, a situation exacerbated when Aaron discovers Casey is not of the Jewish persuasion and her father appears with Bible in hand and sermon ready to deliver.

 The pair are protected or persuaded or perplexed by a Greek chorus of “helpers” who sing and dance around them hoping to steer them in the right direction, to romance. Anna Laura Strider, Ethan Kirschbaum, Carly Valancy, Niko Touros and James Donohue humorously play a wide variety of parts from parents, sister, future son, old flames and waiter. These confrontational allies and advisers persuade Aaron and Casey not to bail out, but stick with the game plan of getting to know each other more than what they learned by googling and give themselves a fighting chance.

 Clearly they each arrive with baggage, especially the steamer trunk Aaron drags along stuffed with his ex-fiancee. By the time the evening is over, there is a distinct glimmer of hope on the horizon. As we look for our soul mates, it’s easy to kiss a few frogs along the way. Songs like “First Impression,””The Girl For You,” “Safer” and “I’d Order Love” help pave the way. For tickets ($39.50-49.50), call Seven AngelsTheatre, 1 Plank Road,Waterbury at 203-757-4676 or online atwww.SevenAngelsTheatre.org. Performances are Thursday at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m., Friday at 8 p.m., Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m. 
 Come root for Aaron and Casey to make it to dessert as their first date travels from horror to happy, disaster to dream, as they discover if each is destined to be “the one."





COME BOOGIE WOOGIE WITH THE ANDREWS SISTERS AT NELSON HALL




                                                            THE ANDREWS SISTERS


Called the “defining sister act of all times,” with one hundred million records to their credit, sweethearts of the swing and big band era and the optimistic voices of World War Ii, the Andrews Sisters were a nostalgic fixture of our American musical lexicon.  While only teenagers, their career began when they won first prize in a talent contest at the Orpheum Theater in Minneapolis, beating out a ventriloquist act  by the name of Edgar Bergen and Charlie McCarthy.
Initially imitating the earlier success of the Boswell Sisters of New Orleans, they – Maxene, LaVerne and Patty – forged a permanent place in the American songbook.  When their father’s restaurant failed, he took them on the road in a vaudeville act to support the family, similar to how Frances Gumm, better known as Judy Garland, also provided income for her family.  The sisters became a household name by the 1940’s, especially after their major Decca record hit, the Yiddish song “Bei Mir Bist Du Schon,” translated as “To Me, You Are Grand.” Their close harmonies still are influential today, with such stars as The McQuire Sisters, the Lennon Sisters, the Supremes, Bette Midler and Christina Aguiliera following their lead.
Called “the Sweethearts of the Armed Forces Services,” they entertained troops in the United States, Africa and Italy, encouraged the sale of U. S. war bonds and brought musical joy to soldiers at the U. S. O. With hits like “Rum and Coca Cola,” “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy” and “Don’t Sit Under the Apple Tree (With Any One Else But Me),” you are invited to enjoy a nostalgic trip back in time with a tribute show featuring a trio of Minnesota gals, “The Andrews Sisters Music and Memories” at Nelson Hall at Elim Park in Cheshire, for five performances Thursday, March 21 to Sunday, March 24.
This high energy trip down memory lane will feature Aimee Lee as LaVerne, Kathryn Mueller as Maxene and Lisa Pallen as Patty who will recreate the vivid stylings of these women. Backed by a six piece band led by a two –time Ivey award-winning arranger and musical director Raymond Berg, the girls will include Bill Arnold of Triple Express as host and emcee, telling personal stories and anecdotes.
In 2001, Raymond Berg created two Andrews Sisters’ shows, one a theater piece and this one, a biographical juke box musical, in concert form, with an emcee.  Singing more than twenty of their greatest hits, the trio will croon the swing music that is inherently American.  In their time, the original group sold more records than Elvis and the Beatles, at Decca Records across the mike from Bing Crosby or with orchestras like Tommy Dorsey or at the Grand Ol’ Opry.  They were the girls next door for GIs.
This new troupe have become like sisters too, rehearsing, recording, with vigorous skatting, recreating  the very tricky sounds that weave the melody on top or in the middle, singing above and below the melody to blend it into a whole.  This close harmony singing, according to Berg, “celebrates their lives and contributions in a positive way in music that guarantees they live on.” 
In Aimee Lee’s mind, “We are all blessed with full rich lives.”  By day, she works for a non-profit  Recycle Across America and enjoys her two granddaughters Reese and Dakota, Kathy is a secretary at an elementary school, teaches voice and piano and is a grandmother too while Lisa is a pharmacy tech at Walgreen’s with twin daughters Elle and Sophia and sings with a group Bella Diva. 
For Aimee, the show has an ”element of the unknown and unexpected,” with a range of songs and ballads that encourage toe-tapping.  The music is “amazing, especially singing with my two best friends.  It’s almost effortless, the blending is easy, even though the music is complicated.  In the beginning, the words were hard to memorize but now it’s a total joy.”   As an emcee, she feels Bill Arnold is “clever, funny, corny and big hearted.”
For tickets ($18-35), call Nelson Hall at Elim Park, 150 Cook Hill Road, Cheshire at 203-699-5495 or online at nelsonhallelimpark.org.  Performances are Thursday, March 21 at 2 p.m., Friday, March 22 at 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m., Saturday, March 23 at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday, March 24 at 2 p.m.  Veterans are welcome to come Saturday at 7:30 p.m. for half-price at $17.50.  Special lunches for groups of twenty are available in the Conservatory on Thursday and Friday before the show.  Call 203-699-5495 for reservations.
Come Ac-Cent-Tchu-Ate the Positive as these Sisters of Swing recreate a bygone era that is sure to be memorable, exhibiting hope and promise, especially to our troops at home and abroad.

Sunday, March 10, 2019

THE BUSHNELL ENTHUSIASTICALLY OPEN FOR “RENT”




                                                    NATIONAL TOUR OF "RENT"
Composer and playwright Jonathan Larson accumulated a
veritable treasure chest of awards including the Pulitzer Prize for
Drama, Tony Awards for Best Musical, Best Book and Best
Original Score as well as the Drama Desk Awards for
Outstanding Musical, Book and Lyrics, all for his seminal work
“Rent.” Unfortunately,,Larson died the day before the first
preview of “Rent” Off Broadway at the age of 35 in New York City. 

A musical adaptation of Puccini’s opera “La Boheme,” “Rent” 
shadowed much of Larson’s life as he too lived in a rundown New 
York apartment with many roommates, including having a love
affair on and off with a female dancer, using an illegal wood-
burning stove to combat the building’s lack of heat, with everyone
struggling artist trying to create a bohemian life style. One of
Broadway’s longest running shows, you now have the unique
opportunity to experience Jonathan Larson’s opus “Rent” at the
Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts until Sunday March 17.

In 1989, when Larson was only 29, he began working on the
musical “amid poverty, homelessness, spunky gay life, drag
queens and punk.” The title “rent” stands for lives “torn apart.” 
Puccini’s work 100 years earlier centers on young wannabe
artists and the devastation of tuberculosis while Larsons
introduced HIV/AIDS,Puccini’s Paris became NewYork’s East
Village, and many of the characters’ s names stayed close to the
same. 

For example, Mimi the seamstress sick with TB is now Mimi the
exotic dancer with HIV. The poet Rodolfo is now Roger, a song
writer/musician who is HIV positive and Mimi’s boyfriend.
Roger’s roommate is Mark, a filmmaker, adapted from Marcello, a
painter. The singer Musetta becomes Maureen, a bisexual 
performance artist who loves Joanne, a lesbian lawyer, while the
musician Schaunard is now the drag queen Angel. Angel is
dating Tom Collins, the earlier philosopher Colline who teaches
philosophy at college.The landlord Benoit is now Benny..

 Larson wrote “Rent” in part to celebrate the achievements of
the artists stolen by illness so young and to show how the
community copes with a tragedy within its ranks.


In “Rent,” we meet Mark the narrator cinematographer who is
chronicling the activities of his friends as he adjusts to his ex-
girlfriend Maureen’s new relationship with Joanne . Meanwhile his
roommate Roger is trying desperately to compose one “glory”
song before AIDS takes him. His chance meeting with another
AIDS patient Mimi may be just the impetus and candle of
inspiration he needs.

The time is Christmas eve and there is no holly and no
heat, no mistletoe and no money, but the motley group have
gathered to celebrate with the natural exuberance and hope that 
the youth cling to so promisingly. Sexual gender blurs as
this questioning generation musically explores the seasons of
love contained in the 525, 600 minutes that make up a year, 
contemplate the death of the soul in “Without You” and do a
danceof protest in “Tango: Maureen.”

For tickets ($23 and up) call the Bushnell, 166 Capitol Avenue,
Hartford at(860)987-5900. Performances are Tuesday through
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,.


Explore this spirited and high decibel Tony and Pulitzer Prize
winning musical, originallydirected by Michael Greif and now
restaged by Evan Ensign, that explodes to the rafters with a
hunger for life and for art.

Monday, March 4, 2019

“THE REVOLUTIONISTS” A FEMININE REVOLT




JENNIFER HOLCOMBE AS MARIE-ANTONETTE
A quartet of women band together to support one of their own, a playwright Olympe De Gouges, as she struggles to capture the female perspective on France’s Reign of Terror. West Hartford’s Playhouse on Park will expose the inhumanities that threaten the female throats and hearts of each woman as it presents “The Revolutionists” by Lauren Gunderson until Sunday, March 10.

This true story and its fictionalized chapters bring the audience to the 1793 French Revolution where Olympe De Gouges, a fiery Rebecca Hart, is poised to write a profound epic, if she could only find the perfect words.

She is joined in her attempts by a trio who share her deep concerns and want to aid her in her fight. Marianne Angells, a sympathetic Erin Roche, represents the French colonies in the Caribbean, who are also seeking a democracy that abolishes slavery.

Add to this mix, the warrior Charlotte Corday, a knife yielding Olivia Jampol, who is committed to murdering the Jacobin journalist Jean-Paul Marat. Completing the foursome is the towering hair figure of Marie-Antoinette, a queenly Jennifer Holcombe, who is intent on surviving one more day and delaying the fate that calls her name.

Olympe has already penned her 1791 “Declaration of the Rights of Women and the Female Citizens” and Marianne urges her to write pamphlets for their cause. But Olympe is committed to her play, believing if she can get a title for it, it will literally write itself. In the name of liberty, these four humorously and poignantly stick their necks way out for their principles. Sarah Hartman directs this foray into the annals of history as it resonates its message to fight for what you strongly believe. 

 For tickets ($30-40), call Playhouse on Park, 244 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 and Saturday at 8 p.m., and Sunday at 2 p.m., followed by a talkback with the cast.

Witness how the sisterhood of women set out to end the chaos of a frightening world, even though they will not live to see the changes. Bring along a long red ribbon so you will feel sympathy with the cast as they face their bloody end.

"CLEVER LITTLE LIES" ARE POPPING AT SQUARE ONE THEATRE


JOSIE KULP AND PEGGY NELSON IN "CLEVER LITTLE LIES"


Author and humorist Mark Twain once quipped, “If you tell the truth, you don’t have to remember anything” and also “A lie will go round the world while truth is putting on its shoes.” Unfortunately, the idea of infidelity and adultery exist on the premise of lying…to yourself and to your spouse, and even to your family. Just ask Billy, the cheating husband of Jane in Joe DiPietro’s slyly humorous “Clever Little Lies” being entertaining at Square One Theatre Company at Stratford Academy weekends until March 17.

 Paul Araujo’s Billy has just been defeated by his dad Bill, Sr., an understanding Peter Wood, in tennis match when the son confesses to his father he is having an affair with a personal trainer at their gym. Even though he is a new father himself with a loving wife Jane, a devoted Josie Kulp, Billy is infatuated and feels this is really love. Bill Sr. is rightfully appalled but wants to be helpful. He also fears his wife Alice, an intuitive Peggy Nelson, will ferret out the truth and stick her Sherlock Homes’ nose into the “affair.”

Of course, the secret pops out of the bag as soon as Bill and Alice start to talk, and they quickly get to work to invite the new family over, on the pretense of sharing a cheesecake. What ensues is an awkward evening of misunderstandings, evasions and confessions. Alice makes revelations that astound everyone and shake up all the participants. What she says rivals any of the romance novels she sells in her bookstore in its surprises. Tom Holehan balances the drama and comedy with skills as all the lies and truths come spilling out into the air.

 For tickets ($22, seniors $20), call Square One Theatre, Stratford Academy, 719 Birdseye Street, Stratford at 203-375-8778 or online atwww.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 digest unexpected “news” and cheesecake and learn how to find your “happy” and the best way to show your “shiny” side.




Saturday, March 2, 2019

“THE MYSTERY OF EDWIN DROOD” COMEDY, DRAMA, MUSICAL






The literary genius of writer Charles Dickens is acknowledged internationally, even more than 200 years after his birth in England.  At his death at the age of 58, he spent his last days on earth continuing to pen, but never completing, his last work “The Mystery of Edwin Drood.”  Like so many of his earlier works, it concerned itself with the fate of orphans.  Dickens had always written of children abandoned by poverty, disease and illiteracy like Pip in ”Great Expectations,” David in “David Copperfield,” and Oliver in “Oliver Twist.”

You have the unique opportunity to help the Connecticut Repertory Theatre in its delightful rendition of “The Mystery of Edwin Drood,” set in a rousing Victorian music hall, at the Jorgensen Theatre on the campus of the University of Connecticut until Sunday, March 10.  For added pleasure, you, the audience, get to vote on who committed the murder and a few other important decisions to end the play.

The orphan Rosa Bud (a lovely Graceann Brooks) has been betrothed since birth to orphan Edwin Drood (portrayed by female impersonator Emily Ferranti).  
Rosa is also the object of affection for Edwin’s uncle John Jasper (the villain of the piece Bryan Mittelstadt) choirmaster and opium addict and newcomers from Ceylon Neville Landless ( a tempestuous admirer Mauricio Miranda) and his twin sister Helena (Rosa’s new friend Rebekah Santiago).The pair are under the protection of the Rev Crisparkle (an accommodating Nikolai Fernandez).  

Also figuring in the plot are the Princess Puffer (the concerned proprietress of the opium den Kelly Lester), Durdles (the keeper of the crypt Rob Barnes), Durdles’ assistant Deputy (a good follower Matt Bader), Bazzard (an ambitious actor Sebastian Nagpal) and the jovial master of ceremonies at the music hall (the highly entertaining Kurt Zischke).

Clues and red herrings are woven through this period piece, on a multitude of scenes created by Alexander Woodward, with bouncy and melancholy music directed by Alex Thompson, with elaborate costuming by Brittny Mahan, lively choreography by Rebekah Santiago, under the gifted direction of Paul Mullins.

For tickets ($36-40), call the CT Rep, at UCONN, at 860-486-2113 or online at crt.uconn.edu.  Performances are Wednesday at 7:30 p.m., Thursday at 7:30 p.m., Saturday at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m.

With musical messages like “Press Your Luck” and “Don’t Quit While You’re Ahead,” let this troupe of talented actors help you solve and resolve “The Mystery of Edwin Drood.”  Cheerio, Tally Ho, and all that stuff!