Monday, July 4, 2022

"SMOKEY JOE'S CAFE" IS SMOKIN' HOT IN IVORYTON

Ironically one of America’s greatest song writing teams almost didn’t make it to the platter recording gate. Only one partner was eager to write current best selling hits. As the story goes, Jerry Leiber has been accused of convincing his soulmate Mike Stoller into becoming a songwriter, something Stoller was not anxious to become. Whatever Jerry said, that unique partnership lasted for six decades, with Jerry as the witty lyricist and Mike as the talented composer. Along the way, they helped a little unknown singer named Elvis Presley find his voice, gifting him with tunes like "Loving You" and "Jailhouse Rock." Rock and roll was their forte and humor was often their trademark, although rhythm and blues crept into their extensive repertoire. This producing partnership wrote "Hound Dog" for Big Mama Thornton and a string of R and B tunes for Charles Brown, Jimmy Witherspoon and Floyd Dixon. Almost three dozen of their greatest hits are on display until Sunday, July 31 at The Ivoryton Playhouse in Ivoryton as it presents "Smokey Joe's Cafe: The Songs of Leiber and Stoller" for your summer listening pleasure. As the architects of rock and roll, Leiber and Stoller knew no rivals. If you’re looking for a good time that ping pongs back and forth from snappy sizzle to mellow yellow, then “Smokey Joe’s Cafe” is the perfect place to park yourself for a musical interlude. A cast of nine is perfectly poised and polished to light up the skies with hits from the musical pens of Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller. Turn up the heat for this retrospective of hits that are reminiscent of decades ago as Joseph Castro, Elvie Ellis, Debra Thais Evans, Tiffany Frances, Cameron Loyal, Sandra Marante, Gabriella Saramago, Warren Nolan, Jr. and Cartreze Tucker swing and sway and shimmy into rhythmic magic land with such numbers as “Dance With Me,” “Searchin',” “On Broadway,” “Yakety Yak,” and “I’m A Woman.” They will tickle your fancy with their comic twists performing “Poison Ivy,” “Don Juan,” “D. W. Washburn,” and “Love Potion #9.” Elvis will enter the building as they blast out “Hound Dog,” “Treat Me Nice,” and “Jailhouse Rock.” You’ll love the verbal Valentine of “Falling,” the fun of the dancing in “Teach Me How To Shimmy” and the power of “Stand By Me.” Their invitation to “Dance With Me” will be too hard to resist, while you might be tempted to confess and repent just to be ”Saved.” No matter what the mood or tempo, this lively group will wrap you up with a slithery pink scarf as they dance and sing. They’ve got all the right moves and you might enjoy finding yourself on your feet on stage helping them along the way. For tickets ($55, seniors $50, students $25 with half price tickets on Thursdays after 6 p.m. if available), call the Ivoryton Playhouse, 103 Main Street, Ivoryton at 860-767-7318 or online at www.ivorytonplayhouse.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 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m. With proof of vaccination, masks are optional. A Summer Cabaret Series will begin on Monday, July 11 at 7:30 p.m with the cast of "Smokey Joe’s Cafe" crooning Sounds of the Seventies, produced and directed by Schuyler Beeman. Tickets are $35. Let the mighty spirit move you as you take a musical journey along this friendly and famous road paved by the good works of Leiber and Stoller. Discover first hand why Leiber and Stoller have been called the Rodgers and Hammerstein of Rock and Roll.

Monday, June 27, 2022

"HAMILTON" NOT TO BE MISSED AT THE BUSHNELL

DON’T MISS “HAMILTON” AT THE BUSHNELL Alexander Hamilton was born out of wedlock in the Caribbean and sought his fortunes in a new land, America, achieving great successes as well as attracting powerful enemies. His complicated story will be brilliantly told at Hartford’s Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts, as “Hamilton,” an epic musical crafted by Lin-Manuel Miranda, until Sunday, July 10. Beginning life as a poor orphan with Scottish blood, Hamilton comes to the land of opportunity, America, to become an original Founding Father, a financial wizard, an astute stratagist in war, a powerful writer and orator and the right hand man for the first President George Washington. Pierre Jean Gonzalez’s Hamilton manages to rise from poverty with a goal of making a difference, of becoming a man of significance, a scholar, a lawyer, a statesman, a man who defiantly believes “I am not throwing away my shot.” Early on in America, he meets and is befriended by Jared Dixon’s Aaron Burr, a man who soon exhibits signs of jealousy, trapped by a competition he knows he cannot win. As a Founding Father along side Washington (Marcus Choi) Thomas Jefferson (Warren Egypt Franklin) and James Madison (Desmond Sean Ellington), Hamilton is quickly swept up in a revolution against Britain’s King George (Neil Haskell), helping to plan the siege of Yorktown. He finds time to marry Eliza Schuyler (Stephanie Jae Park), often choosing his dedication to his country over his family. As a co-author of the Federalist Papers and his selection as Secretary of the Treasury to the new nation, he engages in an affair that will later be used as ammunition to bring down his star. His ideas incur the wrath of many of his cohorts and ultimately lead to his death in a duel with Aaron Burr. This historical epic will cement Alexander Hamilton’s importance in the story of our heritage, originally taken from a novel penned by Ron Chernow that Miranda read while on vacation in the Caribbean in 2004, on his honeymoon. The show incorporates statesmen, suitors, sisters, sacred trusts, scandal, successes, shots, slaves, subjects, strategy, surprises, service, skirmishes, seduction, scoundrels and a stunning story. Clearly Hamilton is the tale of America’s complicated history. A cast of cultural diversity with constant movement on stage rules the day. Incorporating hip hop, rhythm and blues, Broadway show tunes, jazz and soul, “Hamilton” enjoys a grand set created by David Korins, period costumes designed by Paul Tazewell, illumination by Howell Binkley, sound mastered by Nevin Steinberg, orchestration by Alex Lacamoire, clever choreography by Andy Blankenbuehler and superb direction by Thomas Kail. “Hamilton” has won an impressive number of awards: Grammys, Tonys, Drama Desk and the 2016 Pulitzer Prize for Drama. A ticket lottery for $10 is held every day for 40 lucky recipients. Go to http://hamiltonmusical.com/app to register. Also check bushnell.com regularly for late release seats. Try to be one of the 66,000 patrons who will see this production at the Bushnell over its 3 week run. It is not a show to be missed. For tickets ($59 and up), call the Bushnell, 166 Capitol Avenue, Hartford at 860-987-5900 or online at 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. Masks are required. Come be caught up in the dramatic magic of the cultural and political tale that weaves our country’s history with the fate of one of its original heroes, Alexander Hamilton.

Monday, June 20, 2022

"SWEET SEASONS" CELEBRATES THE MUSIC OF CAROLE KING

Iconic singer/songwriter Carole King penned her first hit “Will You Love Me Tomorrow” when she was a teenager of 17 and she never looked back. She wrote it with her new husband Gerry Goffin for the female group The Shirelles and the pair became a songwriting legend. They got an assignment to write a song for the princely sum of $25 plus one penny for royalties for each record sold. She explained that chords often came first, she would start tentatively, and then get the hang of it. She loved “to play for the gods,” a feeling that affected her emotionally. She “takes a song on a journey” wandering from chord to chord, from verse to bridge to verse, creating a melody conversationally. Together with Gerry Goffin, they composed such hits as “Take Good Care of My Baby,” “The Loco-motive,” “Up on the Roof,” “Chains.” “One Fine Day,” “Hey Girl,” “I’m Into Something Good,” “Just Once in My Life,” “Don’t Bring Me Down,” and “Natural Woman.” More than 1000 artists have recorded more than 400 of her songs. Ultimately she wanted to be recognized and respected by those who sang them. Carole King certainly “has got a friend” in singer and piano prodigy Michelle Foster who has taken the legendary songwriter and fashioned a tribute show “Sweet Seasons” coming to the Seven Angels Theatre in Waterbury on Saturday, June 25 at 8 p.m. and Sunday, June 26 at 2 p.m. Come be enveloped in the sounds, stories and songs that mark Carole King’s success, thanks to the talents and sparkling shine of this New York-based singer, pianist, actress and dancer. Touring professionally since she was 14, Michelle Foster has been a soloist at Disney’s Hollywood Studios in front of thousands, a regular keyboardist with Gloria Gaynor’s musical director Mark Baron as well as a keyboardist and vocal soloist with the legendary doo-wop group The Duprees. She has also starred in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s “Joseph” and performed in the composer’s music tribute in Canada as well as on tour. For tickets ($35), call Seven Angels Theatre, 1 Plank Road, Hamilton Park, Waterbury at 203-757-4676 or online at www.sevenangelstheatre.org. Now you have the unique opportunity to hear Michelle Foster up close and personal performing the music of the iconic Carole King, clearly a “Natural Woman” who can shout “I’m Into Something Good” “One Fine Day” and fine evening too.

Monday, June 13, 2022

CONNECTICUT CRITICS CIRCLE HONORS THEATER JUNE 27

We’re back! After a three-year hiatus, the Connecticut Critics Circle Annual Awards Ceremony will be held in-person on Monday, June 27 at the Long Wharf Theatre at 7:30-9 p.m. at its 30th Annual Awards Ceremony. We hope you will join us in helping the Connecticut Critics Circle, a not-for-profit organization, celebrate theater in Connecticut, honor the artists who make it happen and help us create opportunities for a new generation of theater enthusiasts. You must rsvp at the link below. Link to CEREMONY: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/346844099037 The annual awards show is the only event in the state which brings the theater community together. It is a powerfully moving evening with artists —many who have devoted their careers to regional theater — receiving an all-too-rare tribute. The Connecticut Critics Circle encourages you to attend.

"KISS MY AZTEC!" AN IRREVERENT COMIC TREASURE OF A MUSICAL

Hartford Stage wants us to get funky for some serious campy fun and oodles of laughter as it presents the irreverent with a capitol I new show “Kiss My Aztec!” until Sunday, June 26. The history of the Aztecs and their rivals from Spain has been refashioned by John Leguizamo and Tony Taccone, with music by Benjamin Velez, lyrics by David Kamp, Leguizamo and Velez and choreography by Mayte Natalio into a riotous comedy that blows holes into what really happened way back in the 16th century. With spectacular scenic and costume design by Clint Ramos, exotic lighting by Alexander V. Nichols, spot on sound conceived by Jessica Paz and Beth Lake and outstanding direction by Tony Taccone, this production swells to outrageous heights that are not for those who fear falling. Come meet a budding Disney princess Colombina, a can’t wait to prove my bravery Krystina Alabado, whose Aztec leader father, a determined Eddie Cooper, desperately wants to defeat the invading Spaniards but wants his darling daughter to stay home and knit. Colombina is championed by her shy suitor, the company clown Pepe, an inventive Joel Perez, who moons over her when he isn’t playing with his puppets Machu and Pichu. Meanwhile back in Spain, the King, a seemingly relaxed Matt Saldivar, has more than the Aztecs on his plate: he has a diffident son Fernando, a mind of his own Z Infante, and a disobedient daughter Pilar, who wants to pick her own lovers and husband Desiree Rodriguez as well as his own distinct fondness for tapas. Moving clandestinely between the two camps is the witch/spy Tolima, whose ruby necklace figures prominently as worn and lost by Maria-Christina Oliveras, as well as the Fixer from France, Pierre Pierrot, a puzzling piece of parlance Richard Ruiz Henry and the Captain Soldier led by a commanding Chad Carstarphen. The music, a festive mix of reggae, hip-hop, salsa, funk, meringue and gospel, is captured in such tunes as “Make the Impossible Possible,” sung and danced by the Aztecs, “Tango in the Closet,” crooned by Fernando and his lover the Head of the Inquisition, “ Everyone Needeth a Fixer” chanted by Pierre Pierrot and “Spooneth Me” a duet between the King and his would-be assassin Colombina. Think of “Kiss My Aztec!” as a mash-up between “The Book of Mormon,” “A Chorus Line,” “Spamalot” and “West Side Story.” Clever inventiveness rules the day when Latinx history gets a wild and wonderful rewrite. Watch for a magic crystal, a blood-red moon, an electric fan, a duel of words not swords, a series of slaps, underground tunnels and see if you come to the conclusion that “God is gay.” For tickets ($30-100), call Hartford Stage, 50 Church Street, Hartford at 860-527-5151 or online at HartfordStage.org. Performances are Tuesday to Thursday at 7:30 p.m., Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m. For COVID requirements, visit hartfordstage.org/covid-19. With everything from Elizabethan dialect, references to everyone from “Romeo and Juliet" to you-know-whose infamous wall, you won’t have a moment to be bored as “Kiss My Aztec!” takes you on a wild ride back to 1540 and what happens when “White People on Boats” arrive. A fellow audience member Sandra described it as “a bouillabaisse of history, fun, action, laughs and love with a side order of tapas!!” Come practice your cha-cha and discover all the fun and festivity for yourself.

Monday, June 6, 2022

TRIO PAYS TRIBUTE TO MICHAEL BUBLE AT SEVEN ANGELS

Michael Buble is a Canadian singer known as the “King of Christmas.” He has sold over 75 million records across the globe and won four Grammy Awards. His albums "It’s Time,” "Call Me Irresponsible,” "Crazy Love,” "To Be Loved,” "Nobody But Me,” “Love" and “Higher" have brought him world renown. Excelling in the musical genres of jazz, swing and easy listening, an interview with Oprah in 2009 revealed he dreamed of becoming a famous singer when he was only two. His fascination with jazz began when he was the impressionable age of five, listening to his family playing Bing Crosby’s album "White Christmas." By the time he was a teenager, he began the habit of sleeping with a Bible so he could pray to become a singer. It wasn’t until he was 13 and riding in the car on a family Christmas trip that his family noticed his musical gifts. He sang, in powerful phrases, “May your days be merry and bright,” from the song “White Christmas.” His interest in ice hockey almost derailed his singing career, but he wasn’t good enough on the ice. His Italian grandfather bartered his plumbing skills in exchange for stage time for Michael when he was 16 and he also paid for his grandson’s singing lessons, believing he would become a star. When he entertained children, he went by the name Mickey Bubbles. You now have the unique opportunity to hear this great singer in a Three Man Tribute at Seven Angels Theatre in Waterbury “Shades of Buble” running Thursday, June 9 to Sunday, June 19. A trio of mellow male voices will present such favorites as “Feeling Good,” “Moondance,” “Come Fly With Me,” “Home,” “Everything,” “Fever,” “Save the Last Dance for Me” and many more. This amazing trio has been performing to sold-out crowds since 2014. With sophisticated style this tribute trio will honor Michel Buble in high-energy three part vocal arrangements you won’t want to miss. For tickets ($50). call Seven Angels Theatre, Plank Road, Waterbury at 203-757-4676 or online at SevenAngelsTheatre.org. Performances are Thursday at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m., Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m. Be prepared to give these talented and energetic young men, all charming and cute, the standing ovation they so richly deserve, as they wow you with their big band sound.

"CABARET" SWIRLS WITH MAGIC AND MENACE AT GOODSPEED MUSICALS

The Kit Kat Club in Berlin, Germany circa 1929 is set for pleasure, with enough senuous, sexual, spectacular excitement to sink a battleship. With no holds barred, the nightclub is overflowing with snazzy, slinky and sensational selections guaranteed to make you forget your troubles and just dance, dance, dance while you drink to distraction. Your table is waiting at Goodspeed Opera House for you to arrive, where life is always beautiful, until Sunday, July 3. These party goers are like the proverbial ostrich that was known for sticking its head in the sand and ignoring the world around it. The same could be argued for the citizens of Berlin when they kept themselves busy partying and dancing and drinking, faster and faster, so they were oblivious to the dangers swirling around them outside the night club doors. The frantic and frenetic times created so masterfully by Joe Masteroff’s book, John Kander’s music and Fred Ebb’s lyrics in “Cabaret,” based on the play by John Van Druten and stories by Christopher Isherwood will be on splendid display, thanks to the glittering scenic design by Michael Schweikardt, complete with a dizzying array of disco balls, the spot on choreography of Lainie Sakakura and glamour personified in Lex Liang’s costumes. The welcome mat is securely laid out by the seductive and most accommodating Emcee Jelani Remy who urges you to leave all your troubles outside and have a good time, especially with his bevy of Kit Kat Girls to entertain you. Headlining the show is the sparkling singer from Mayfair, England, Miss Sally Bowles, a stars in her eyes Aline Mayagoitia, who is busy breezing through life seemingly without a care. She dangles men like so much jewelry, using them to accommodate her needs, like the club owner Max and the newcomer to Berlin, the American writer Cliff Bradshaw, the naive but trusting Bruce Landry. On the train into town, Cliff meets the dangerously single minded Ernst Ludwig, a focused for the cause Tim Fuchs, who helps Cliff secure a room at the boarding house of Fraulein Schneider, a hard working and sincere Jennifer Smith. She is busy keeping track of her tenants like the overly friendly to sailors Fraulein Kost, a convincing Terra C. MacLeod, and the sweetheart of a greengrocer Herr Schultz, Kevin Ligon, who wants to make Fraulein Schneider his wife. The fact that he is Jewish becomes an obstacle of elephantine proportions. Light hearted fun in songs like “Don’t Tell Mama” segue in alarming ways to the themes of “Tomorrow Belongs To Me,” as it echoes the Nazi message, and the hidden in plain sight discrimination of “If You Could See Her,” as the Emcee dances with his dummy doll lady friend. Meanwhile dark clouds obscure the sun, foreshadowing the storm to come, as James Vasquez directs this musical with hidden fangs in a decidedly wicked and “wunderbar” way. For tickets ($30-85), call the Goodspeed Opera House, 6 Main Street, East Haddam at 860-873-8664 or online at www.goodspeed.org. Performances are Wednesday and Thursday 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. Masks are required in the theater. Scrap off the glitter on the surface of the Kit Kat Klub and discover that all is not beautiful, no matter how hard the Emcee tries to make you believe it is so.