Sunday, April 11, 2021

WELCOME BACK THEATER TO THE BUSHNELL

Spring is in the air and vaccination shots are in the arm. Could this mean a touch of normalcy is in the offing? Yes, as Hartford’s Bushnell Theater Broadway series has just announced a season of shows starting this fall. To shake off the dust of quarantine, what better medicine could you get than a visit to the Caribbean sunshine with that tropical favorite Jimmy Buffett and his enticing “Escape to Margaritaville” from October 12 to 17, 2021. Don a flowered shirt and flip-flops and dip your margarita glass in rainbow sprinkles, orange zest and sugar, spicy chili powder and sea salt for a musical adventure in paradise. The doctor has prescribed getting away from it all and Margaritaville is surely the place to leave your inhibitions behind and dance your troubles away. Get your cocktail shaker ready to party! Winning ten Tony Awards, including Best Musical, “The Band’s Visit” centers around an Arab musical group that has come to Israel to perform at an Arab center. Due to a misunderstanding in language, they end up at an out of the way Israeli village where the residents find little to color their world with joy. The unexpected arrival of these strangers sets off a series of encounters that excite the souls on both sides, enlivened by the tantalizing music that is carried by the breeze of the desert air and changes lives forever. “The Band’s Visit” will make you laugh through your tears from November 16 to 21. Follow the true journey of a teenage girl Heidi who crosses the country entering debate competitions to earn her college tuition in the Tony nominated and Pulitzer Prize finalist “What the Constitution Means to Me” from January 26 to 30, 2022. Written by Heidi Schreck, it follows four generations of women as they react to this document that has shaped our history, This may offer you a unique opportunity to examine the impact the Constitution has on our freedoms, what we have sought to preserve, and what is so worth fighting to maintain. You will feel as if you could have danced all night when one feisty Cockney flower girl raises herself from the gutter, Eliza Doolittle, and takes on the formidable Professor Henry Higgins who claims he can make her a princess. This is truly great theater and a musical gift for the ages. Buy a posey of violets and follow Eliza as she is transformed into a “proper lady” In the incomparable “My Fair Lady” by Lerner and Lowe from March 8-13, 2022. Get ready to participate in an all new and definitely quirky evening of entertainment as Blue Man Group comes to town with its giant bag of tricks to surprise and delight. Join the 35 million guests from all over the globe who are already dedicated fans of these man in blue who play music and pulsate with originality, engaging the audience with their gags and gimmicks and joyful craziness. From March 17-20, you are invited to lose your inhibitions and just have fun. Evan Hansen is a troubled, unhappy teenager who writes a personal letter that is misplaced and then he compounds it with a lie, all in his attempt to be liked and accepted. Deeply emotional “Dear Evan Hansen” by Steven Levenson for book and Benj Pasek and Justin Paul for music, follows Evan and his need to be part of the community and the mistakes he makes trying to fit in and find friendship. From March 29 to April 3, 2022, you will find yourself swept along in Evan’s journey of self discovery as he works to gain the life he so desperately wants to live. Will he repair the bridges he needs to cross to become the young man he needs to be? What starts out as a business arrangement takes a curve to the left when wealthy entrepreneur Edward Lewis hires provocative prostitute Vivian Ward to be his “date” for a series of social events. In “Pretty Woman: The Musical” we get a glimpse into their intriguing relationship, one that will engage your heart strings and make you want to cheer them on to the wedding chapel. A captivating movie, it is now a Broadway sweetheart, complete with musical charm. From April 26 to May 1, you are invited to catch the romance and maybe even the bouquet. Here it comes again, the show by Lin-Manuel Miranda that has captured the country by historical storm. With a diverse blend of musical genres, from jazz to hip-hop, rhythm and blues to Broadway tunes, “Hamilton” is a pure genius of a theatrical event that tells the powerful story of one of our founding fathers, Alexander Hamilton, based on Ron Chernow’s illuminating biography. From June 22 to July 10, appropriately over the 4th of July, our country’s history is retold as a moment in revolutionary time. See it for the first time, see it for the fifth time, but don’t miss this remarkable epic tale. This remarkable slate of theatrical delights has two more additions yet to be announced, “Hadestown” and “Mean Girls.” Prepare to go to the underworld where two Greek myths collide in musical splendor, the young dreamers Orpheus and Eurydice as well as King Hades and his wife Persephone. The harsh and cold realities of winter propel Eurydice to fall under the spell of King Hades when he works to gain her love and trust and follow him to the underground where he rules with an iron fist. Orpheus pursues her and sings his special song to win her back. Will he succeed? Return to all the spitefulness and jealousy of high school when “Mean Girls” spreads its net over the new girl in town who does not begin to appreciate the viciousness that is stacked against her. Growing up on the savannah of Africa, with lions and tigers and gorillas, oh my, does not start to prepare her for the savage beasts of suburban Illinois. Can Cady Heron tame the wild ones and secure a place for herself without getting permanently injured? The Bushnell Broadway Series is co-sponsored by Aetna, a CVS Health Company, and Travelers. It includes eight postponed productions from the 2019-2020 and 2020-2021 Broadway seasons. The Bushnell, 166 Capitol Avenue, Hartford can be reached at 860-987-5900 or online at bushnell.org/bushnellbroadway. Now is the time to place your order for entertainment and bring color and excitement back into your world.

Saturday, April 10, 2021

PERIOD PIECE

Move over “Menopause the Musical” and “The Vagina Monologues,” make room for a new theatrical voice in town: “Period Piece.” The conversation about taboo topics continues with this trio of one-night-only programs on Mondays, April 12, 19 and 26 at 8 p.m. aimed at taking away the confusion and stigmatization surrounding menstruation. The unique even with benefit I Support the Girls, an international organization, all volunteers, who bring bras and period products to the homeless, for those who cannot afford them. This is a public health issue and a poverty issue. Playwright Susan Cinamon conceived the idea and soon she had the support of producers Tracey Knight Narang and Terry Nardozzi, as well as thirty-six writers and another thirty-six actors who will perform twelve monologues or essays each night. Playwrights like Theresa Rebeck and actors like Mandy Moore will add their voices to this important message. Karen Carpenter will direct these works, suitable for ages fourteen and up. This educational and fun evening that will run the gamut from humorous, tender, sad, sexy and even gross, will open up conversations and include a talkback with Dr. Jones moderating. These different and diverse experiences will be streamed. Go to PeriodPiecePlay.com for tickets, $20 for one night, $40 for all three nights and $100 pass for patrons. A gift pouch is included on some levels of giving. Hopefully these evenings will open in other venues, like theaters, in the future. The productions will include music and animation and protect the dignity and privacy of transgender and non-binary individuals. Please add your voice and support to this new and exciting theatrical venture that is a unique territory of storytelling.

John Cullum: An Accidental Star

The actor and singer John Cullum, hailing from Tennessee, has played King Arthur and Arthur’s son Mordred in “Camelot,” Laertes in “Hamlet,” Edward Rutledge a delegate from South Carolina in “1776,” Charlie Anderson in “Shenandoah,” a maniacal Broadway producer in “On the Twentieth Century” and an evil corporate president in “Urinetown the Musical,” to name drop just a few. Looking back from a perspective of age, a hearty 91, and wisdom, gleaned from life, John Cullum is ready to delight you in story and song about his fascinating theatrical journey. Calling his one-man show “John Cullum An Accidental Star,” conceived by Cullum and Jeff Berger, written by David Thompson and directed by Lonny Price and Matt Cowart, you are invited to stream it, on demand, until April 22, with a live watch party April 17 at 2 p.m. Co-produced with the Irish Repertory Theatre, Vineyard Theatre and Goodspeed Musicals, tickets are $25 and up and can be secured online at vineyardtheatre.org or irishrep@irishrep.org or by calling the Vineyard at 646-931-4711. Modestly Cullum credits coincidence and luck to his becoming a star. When he came to New York City in 1956, it was with two letters of introduction and not much else. Before he knew it, he was carrying a spear in a production of “St. Joan” and had a second paying job in “Hamlet” and he had only been in the Big Apple for six weeks. Living in a room for $6 a week, he credits his most loyal supporter Joe Papp with casting him in three Shakespeare in the Park productions and his career was officially off and running. Over the decades, he has made his mark in television, stage and screen, winning two Emmys along the way. You might remember seeing him in the TV show “Northern Exposure,” “Law and Order,” “Law and Order Special Victims Unit,” “ER,” “The Middle” and “Madam Secretary” among others. With Julie McBride on the piano, he shares stories about his auditions and his relationships with icons like Julie Andrews, Richard Burton, Elizabeth Taylor and Robert Goulet. He sings such favorites as “On a Clear Day You Can See Forever” and “Shenandoah” and tales from his time in “The Scottsboro Boys,” “Urinetown the Musical,” “Waitress” and “110 in the Shade.” For eighty minutes, he fascinates his audience with a hopscotching tour of his life and career that you won’t want to miss. Let actor and singer John Cullum be your entertaining guide!

Thursday, April 8, 2021

DAILY MIRACLES

How grateful would you be if you identified everything as a miracle? Waking up and saying a prayer that God has restored your soul to you after your soul left you the night before. Looking forward every morning to what I anticipate to be “the gifts” of the day. Discovering my electric toothbrush is still working. Yeah for the Duracell battery and the Energizer bunny. Listening to the NBC Today Show every morning to hear if the world has survived the night. Our little terrier Zoe waiting patiently outside my bedroom door to greet me…and get her morning meal. Looking out the window to watch the squirrels, chipmunks and birds scamper and play hide-and-seek. Being grateful to my children for replacing my old computer so I don’t have to wait 45 minutes for it to “wake up.” Completing two word puzzles, with and without cheating for the answers, to keep my mind sharp. Receiving dozens of daily emails and sending out humorous and educational missives to friends, especially during these difficult COVID times. Finding spiritual moments to identify my purpose in life. Meditating for calmness. Connecting on a daily basis with family, friends and life insurance clients. Encouraging curiosity by scheduling online seminars to learn about artists like Vincent Van Gogh and public figures from Martha Washington to Hillary Clinton, James Patterson to Mike Nichols. Scheduling little exercise sessions from Dr. Zach Bush, combined with walks in the no longer cold outdoors. Saying Hey Google, to play songs from Neil Diamond or Barbra Streisand. Writing in my gratitude journal, at least three items a day. Having a neighbor call to offer to share with me a chicken dinner or chili with corn bread she had just made. Continuing to watch another episode of the sexy medical Netflix drama “private practice.” Who’s addicted? Adding an ice cream cone, either raspberry or rum raisin, to the show’s pleasures. Putting my head down on my clean, cool pillow after a full and thankful day, only waking once at 4 a.m. to take care of the nightly water works. As Will Rogers stated, “One must wait until evening to see how splendid the day has been.” For me, I am of the same school as Walt Whitman who said, “As for me, I know of nothing else but miracles…To me, every hour of the light and dark is a miracle.” I too look forward to tomorrow, when like Little Orphan Annie so prophetically sang, “The sun'll come out" again.

Saturday, April 3, 2021

PRIVATE PRACTICE

Welcoming Netflix into my life, as the pandemic began to take over our lives, I cut my television teeth on such wonderful series as “Grace and Frankie” about two women, not quite friends, who discover their husbands are having an affair with each other and want to marry, “Anne with an E” about a spunky young orphan who desperately wants a family, “Offspring” involving a dysfunctional but lovable clan from Australia, “Blacklist” a cat and mouse game of spies and murder and “The Queen’s Gambit” concerning an orphan who learns how to play a mean game of chess from a caring janitor. Each was enjoyable in its own way and I followed each episode with interest. None of this prepared me for my next venture in TV land when I innocently began watching what I thought was going to be a show about a team of lawyers. “Private Practice” was, instead, about a unique medical group in California where the physicians shared information about their patients as easily as they shared each other’s beds. Quickly captivated by each doctor, I soon found myself addicted to seeing what would happen next and happily seduced into watching one or three episodes every night. Was Violet going to marry either of the two doctors, Pete and Sheldon, who might be the father of her baby? Was Cooper going to win over the cactus toughened Charlotte who kept rebuffing his advances? Would Naomi resume her relationship with Sam, or pick one of the other two doctors pursuing her? Did Addison have a chance to be a mother and find love at long last? Could Amelia break her addiction to drugs and clean up her act? As a medical drama, this show succeeded in capturing my attention and educating me about every possible malady known to woman and man, including organ donation, transplantation, cancer treatments, pedophilia, complications of pregnancy, assisted suicide, mental illness, and the list went on. As I watched, I felt I was personally involved in every intimate issue and had a voice in whether Violet wrote about her revealing traumatic life altering crisis, or whether Sheldon was ever going to find a woman to love who would love him back, or whether Del could raise his daughter Betsy alone since his wife had died of a drug overdose. Now that I know all the answers and the series has ended, I feel like I have been abandoned by a group of close friends who are no longer part of my life. To say I want them back is an understatement. Please suggest what shows I can watch to fill in the hole in the fabric of my TV Guide quilted life. Now that I am vaccinated with both shots, I am almost ready to meet people in person and actually hug again. HELP me please.

Thursday, March 25, 2021

SCHOOL BELLS RING, ARE YOU LISTENING?

While during the isolating months of the pandemic, I did not literally sit in a classroom, I did have a wonderful array of learning opportunities to open my mind. Thanks to a plethora of Zoom experiences, I have learned about a multitude of people and places, back in history and currently influential. In the world of art, I have followed the tortuous life of Vincent Van Gogh, walking through his sunflowers and irises as he traveled from Holland to France to pursue his dreams. He only sold one painting, of a doctor, in his lifetime. What might he think of the millions being bid at the world’s leading auction houses today? Pablo Picasso is the next artist on my study list, who became an international icon, traveling from his native Spain to Paris. Starting at the age of 7 or 8, he worked until his death at 92. This lively, colorful painter created Cubism as he used dancers, circus performers, still life and cafĂ© patrons to illustrate his art. Along the way, I’ve learned how to make crispy rice, challah and cookies like hamantaschen. The new book “The Jew-ish Encyclopedia” was unveiled as well as how the actor Steven Skybell as Tevye became the Yiddish Texan. I’ve heard talks by actresses Natalie Portman and Mayim Bialik and political figures like Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz and Hillary Rodham Clinton. Memorials and tributes to Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg were on my agenda as well as lectures on the Holocaust, anti-Semitism and Black Lives Matter. Area theaters have been streaming new plays and revivals in workshops like Playhouse on Park’s “School Girls” and “Becoming Dr. Ruth” at Music Theatre of CT, in addition to talks on the movies of James Bond at the Mark Twain House and the Irish Repertory Theatre’s “Love, Noel” in praise of Noel Coward. The comic genius of Mike Nichols was lauded as well as the Jewish art creations of Jeanette Kuvin Oren. In addition, I’ve taken a tour of Israel and a marvelous tour of Italy with host Alex Polizzi, returned to Anne Frank’s Amsterdam attic hideaway and walked through the White House thanks to Jackie Kennedy. Our country’s first and second First Ladies, Martha Washington and Abigail Adams, shared their insights guiding their husbands in our new country while the American Liver Foundation celebrated its 45th anniversary of its good works and liver research in Connecticut. Author James Patterson previewed his latest book about today’s military in true stories of courage while the ancient story of the Jewish holiday of Purim was reenacted by a bank of masked singers led by Tovah Feldshuh as narrator. In this trying time where compassion, kindness and empathy are so important, I listened to the words of Brandon Farbstein who abandoned his 3'9'' body to become Ten Feet Tall, Pamela Rae Schuller who uses her Tourette’s Syndrome to create humor and Judy Heumann who has made her disability from polio a platform to change minds and make new laws. All in all, I feel like I am a college student earning my master’s degree once again, only this time with my designated homework assignments no longer due on deadline.

Thursday, March 11, 2021

INTERNATIONAL WOMEN'S DAY

Fifty years ago, Helen Reddy created an anthem for women that still empowers and inspires, especially as we celebrate March 8th as International Women’s Day. “I am woman, hear me roar…I am strong, I am invincible, I can do anything” are fighting words that encourage women to stand up for their rights. Begun in 1911, with two gatherings of over a million people, this movement honors the vibrancy of females, socially, culturally, economically and politically and is a call to action to end injustice and inequality. This year’s motivation is to “choose to challenge,” to call out racism and sexism, to scream instead of whisper, to be stronger, greater and kinder, to choose to create history and write a new page. In the words of Anisa Nandaula, one of the movement’s social commentators, “gender is a pre-written book” and we need to write our own chapter and work for positive change. The glass ceiling is not showing enough cracks, with only 7.4% or 37 Chief Executive Officers of the Fortune 500 corporations as women. Violence against women translates to 137 women being killed by a family member or intimate partner every DAY. COVID-19 threatens to eliminate any advances that have been made. 200 million females, child and adult, across Africa and the Middle East are exposed to violence on a daily basis. Unbelievably 33,000 girls are forced to become child brides every DAY around the world, 132 million girls are denied an education and migrant and refugee women are singled out for mistreatment. As women, we need to paint our own picture and write our own narrative, all the while creating a platform for positive change. Women wear many hats and work to juggle a Superwoman existence. Women are mothers, sisters, daughters, wives, grandmothers, aunts, friends, mentors, teachers, volunteers and advocates, as well as teachers, attorneys, doctors, executives, and especially vice-president. This past year 2020 has shown us how resilient and courageous, innovative and creative, supportive and forgiving, we need to be to not only survive, but thrive. The world has called upon women to stand up and take charge in the home, the classroom, the hospital, in the community, to protect our family and our friends, by whatever means necessary and possible. We have been tested and we have proven our strength. Hopefully 2021 will signal an even higher level of accomplishment from which to grow and soar. Every day, not just March 8th, women need to unite, to stand tall and roar!