Monday, January 28, 2013
Long before Jackie Robinson and Larry Doby broke the color barrier in baseball, before Hattie McDaniel won an Oscar for her role of Mammy in "Gone with the Wind" or the Tuskegee Airmen won honors for the United States military as black pilots in World War Two, Roland Hayes made his amazing musical mark as a concert artist. As a boy, he grew up as a son of slaves on a Georgia plantation. As a man, he sang for kings and queens of Europe and earned a reputation for having a remarkable lyric tenor voice.
You can learn his incredible story by attending the world premiere of Daniel Beaty's tribute to Roland Hayes in "Breath and Imagination" at the Hartford Stage until Saturday, February 9.
Stuffed with moving spirituals, the classical music he sang in seven languages including Italian, German and French, as well as original songs by Mr. Beaty, Jubilant Sykes as Roland Hayes portrays this complex man and his difficult obstacles to achieving his goals. Mr. Sykes embodies his character with spirit and emotion, revealing his dreams and disappointments in a vibrant performance. His voice soars with deep feelings, especially as he is encouraged to focus by his beloved mother, Angel Mo', brought to stirring life by Kecia Lewis. She has to amend her hopes her son become a preacher when his path takes him in a different direction. All the other roles, from previous teachers who guide him to the King of England who applauds him, are developed in the capable hands of Tom Frey who provides piano accompaniment and much, much more. Darko Tresnjak directs this intimate portrait of a man who needs to be recognized in history's light of day. This production is in association with City Theatre of Pittsburgh.
For tickets ($56.50-93.50), call the Hartford Stage, 50 Church Street, Hartford at 860-527-5151 or online at www.hartfordstage.org. Performances are Tuesday-Thursday and Sunday at 7:30 p.m., Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m., with matinees Sunday and selected Wednesdays and Sundays at 2 p.m.
Walk with Roland Hayes on his difficult path to greatness and discover how the gift of his father's watch sets him on his way to a prominent place in history.
Against the turbulence of the Civil War is the epic saga penned by Margaret Mitchell, her one and only masterpiece, "Gone with the Wind." Translating its 1037 pages of romance and drama in the old South into a four hour film by David O. Selznick, producer, ranked number 4 on the 100 Best American Films of All Time list of 1998, is a unique story all on its own.
To be privy to the inside story of how the movie came to be written and splashed across the silver screen, ultimately to win ten Academy Awards and be one of the highest grossing films of its time, head over to Playhouse on Park in West Hartford to see the frantic slapstick comedy "Moonlight and Magnolias" by Ron Hutchinson until Sunday, February 10.
Producer David O. Selznick's career and reputation and future and fortune are all on the line. Every day it is costing him $50,000 to make a film that has no script. Fraught with obstacles, the project to make "Gone with the Wind" is in tremendous trouble. He finally has a cast, Vivien Leigh as his daunting and determined heroine Scarlett O'Hara and Clark Gable as the dashing and enigmatic Rhett Butler but without a workable screenplay he has nothing.
Every script to date is flawed, too long, not practical. Atlanta has to burn, the Confederacy has to be defeated and Scarlett has to face surmounting problems. Selznick (Kevin Elden) implores his good friend the journalist Ben Hecht (Allan Greenberg) to come to his rescue. Hecht, who has never even read the book, reluctantly agrees to try. Locked in a room for five days, with Selznick and his brand new director Victor Fleming (Bill Mootos) acting out the plot, Hecht is forced to live on peanuts and bananas and produce a masterpiece. How the trio survive with the aid of the producer's faithful secretary Ms. Poppenghul (Denise Walker) is a comic circus, under the deft direction of Russell Garrett.
For tickets ($22.50-32.50), 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.
You'll surely want to rent a DVD of this classic film once you witness the behind-the-scenes shnanigans that unbelievably led Ben Hecht, "the Shakespeare of Hollywood," to succeed where so many others before him had failed.
Tuesday, January 22, 2013
If one of your New Year's Resolutions is to lose weight and, therefore, improve your self-image, it might be ill advised to see the comedy horror world premiere show at Long Wharf Theatre's Stage II this month. "January Joiner" by Laura Jacqmin may do more to sabotage your good intentions than to motivate or inspire.
"January Joiner," on tap until Sunday, February 10, refers to the habitual hope that everyone is likely to expereince after New Year's Day, to join a health club and slim down. This play billed as a Weight Loss Horror Comedy may leave you with a permanent fear of candy- and treat-spewing vending machines and make you scared-straight at the sight of a Twix bar.
When Terry (Ashlie Atkinson) experiences a cardiac incident, she realizes her large size persona needs an adjustment...immediately. She finds a specialized weight loss spa on the sunny shores of Florida and invites her sister Myrtle (Meredith Holzman) to take this journey with her for support. Both women have had a complicated history with weight because of their mother's unhealthy obsessions. Terry who has never left her Ohio hometown joins her upwardly mobile New York City sis and one other "guest", Darnell or Big D as he wants to be called (Daniel Stewart Sherman) from Minnesota, for the challenging undertaking.
Darnell brags about being "fat proud," this being his eighth trip to the health spa, none of which have left him improved in size or outlook. Yet he continues to put himself in the charge of the spa's transformational trainers April (Tonya Glanz) and Brian (Anthony Bowden) who want to literally carve away the offending fat.
As Terry swallows the rigorous routine of diet and exercise and little else, she transforms herself so much, into Not-Terry (Maria-Christina Oliveras) that her sibling does not recognize her. Body weight and self-image are wedded so tightly in our culture that our outside appearance may be the only scale we consider valid. "January Joiner" challenges our pre-conceptions and cuts to the core of the weight loss issues. Is thinness a virtue we should worship? What part does who we are inside matter? Laura Jacqmin challenges our values in a funny and often bizarrely frightening way. Eric Ting directs this unusual look at outside and inside images of ourselves.
For tickets ($60-70), 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 and Friday at 8 p.m., Saturday at 3 p.m. and 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m.
Follow two sisters as they travel on a life changing path together, one so intense that they feel like strangers by journey's end.
Monday, January 21, 2013
Built by Warner Brothers Studio, opening on August 19, 1931 as a movie palace, the Warner Theatre, 68 Main Street, in Torrington is replete with art-deco designs, murals depicting sites all over Litchfield County and a splendid star-shaped chandelier crowning the grand auditorium.
After an illustrious history, the theater fell on hard times and was almost destroyed. Due to the diligence of some concerned citizens, it reopened with a recreation of its original 1931 Gala on May 22, 1983, complete with marching bands and vintage cars and the Nutmeg Ballet's production of "Coppella."
Now as a National Historic Site, the Warner enjoys status as a complete center for the arts, offering dance, music and theater productions, both community and national tours. It has been called the "finest surviving Modernistic theatre in Connecticut," and serves 80,000 patrons year-round.
Upcoming attractions include the Warner Stage Company's production of "Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat" by Andrew Lloyd Webber, Friday, February 1 and 8 at 8 p.m., Saturday, February 2 and 9 at 8 p.m. and Sunday, February 3 and 10 at 2 p.m. Straight from the Bible, come with the whole family to witness this amazing musical tale of a favored son Joseph who is sent on a mystifying journey to Egypt when his jealous brothers sell him into slavery. How the family is reunited is a joyous event to witness. Tickets are $20-33.50. Call the Warner at 860-489-7180 or go online at email@example.com.
The Metropolitan Opera Series will feature a broadcast in HD preceded by a complimentary lecture. February's offering will be on Saturday the 16th at 1 p.m. of Verdi's Rigoletto, transformed to Las Vegas in 1960, with a passing nod to the antics of the Rat Pack.Tickets are $25. The magical fairy tale of "Sleeping Beauty" has been transformed by the writing team of Matthew and Barbara Valenti into a charming musical brought to life by the students of the Warner Theatre Center for Arts Education and performers from the Warner Stage Company. Bring the family to discover the transforming nature of a kiss to end evil and allow love to triumph. See this beloved fairy tale Saturday, February 16 at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. and Sunday, February 17 at 2 p.m. Tickets are $15.
Also on the theatrical agenda is the tale of a stage-struck detective whose skills are brought to the fore when the leading lady disappears on opening night in the musical comedy whodunit "Curtains." Emmy Award winning director producer Rob Schiller will fly in to direct this Kander and Ebb old-fashioned musical romp with murder clearly in the script. Performances are Saturday, January 26 at 8 p.m., Sunday, January 27 at 2 p.m., Friday, February 1 at 8 p.m., Saturday, February 2 at 8 p.m. and Sunday, February 3 at 2 p.m. Tickets are $20-33.50.
More February offerings include the theatrical farce "Moon Over Buffalo" Friday, February 15 to Saturday, February 23 and Shakespeare's "As You Like It" on Saturday, February 23. Other programs offered are the International Artist Series, Great American Story Series and Slightly Shakespeare Program as well as Master Classes in choreography, play writing, directing and auditioning. Classes in tap dancing to writing to singing to acting are also offered for all ages, child to adult.
Take advantage of all of the exciting theatrical adventures available at Torrington's pride and joy, the Warner. See you in the audience or on the stage.
Monday, January 14, 2013
The acting profession demands discipline and precision, dedication and talent. A level of spirit, as in" the show must go on," is expected. What happens when the cast of a show, a British comedy called "Nothing On," allows their personal intrigues to interfere and sabotage their production both in front of and behind the curtain?
What results is Michael Frayn's funny farce "Noises Off!" being humorously created by Connecticut Cabaret Theatre in Berlin weekends until Saturday, February 9.
A dress or technical rehearsal is supposed to be the last minute opportunity to polish and perfect a performance before it opens to a first night audience. Staging is fine tuned, lines are delivered flawlessly, costumes and props are put in place and the director makes sure no last minute problems exist.
Imagine the nightmare that Lloyd, a stalwart Len Fredericks, as the director experiences when plates of sardines go missing, doors either won't close or open, the actor (Tom Roohr) playing the bungling burglar is off getting drunk and half the cast is having an affair with the other half. There's more intrigue going on behind the curtains than in front of it.
Look out for bottles of brandy, bedsheets, bouquets of flowers, boxes, baggage, a baby, bathmats, battleaxes and blood not to mention sheiks, sardines, sex maniacs and slamming doors. Silliness is clearly on parade, in one door and out the other, from the first moment Dotty, a dizzy and determined Joanne Callahan-Roohr, answers the phone. The cast that also includes Jennifer Augert, Meagan Bomar, Chris Brooks, Barbara Horan, George Lombardo and James J. Moron is off and running, literally and figuratively. Kris McMurray, with the assistance of Len Fredericks, directs this barrel of fun that quickly rolls out of control.
For tickets ($30), call the CT Cabaret Theatre, 31-33 Webster Square Road, Berlin at 860-829-1248 or online at www.ctcabaret.com. Shows are Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m., with doors opening at 7:15 p.m. Remember to bring goodies to share at your table or plan to purchase desserts and drinks at the concession stand. Now is also the time to sign up for acting classes at the new studio next door.
You may never look at sardines quite the same way ever again after they go flying on stage during the hilarious havoc of "Noises Off!" where a sneak peek behind the curtain may prove hazardous to your health.
Take a remarkable journey with a nine year old girl named Dani, she of the indomitable heart and dancing spirit, who should be making dioramas on animals and ecology and planning teddy bear tea parties and movie dates with girl pals and instead is fighting for her life. No matter where in the state of Connecticut you reside, it is worth getting out your GPS and planning a visit to the newly renovated Spirit of Broadway Theater in Norwich to see the incredibly moving novel musical "Dani Girl" by the writing team of Chris Dimond and Michael Kooman playing until Sunday, February 10.
Annie Fowler as Dani is going to grab your heart and squeeze it dry, so come with a box of Kleenex. She sings with a radiant soul about childhood leukemia, the despair of losing her lovely hair, the need for hope and the delightful sense of magic and imagination and humor that will help her find her way through the maze of disease.
Laugh with her as she eulogizes her teddy bear Mr. Fritz, plays games of life and death with her guardian angel Raph, a versatile Rob Grgach,draws courage and faith from her vigilant and devoted mother, a supportive Lara Morton, and embraces the friendship of a fellow cancer patient Marty, a heroic minded Erik Jonathan Shuler.
In her pink Mickey Mouse pajamas, Dani challenges herself to discover the puzzling answer to "why is cancer?" With Marty as her assistant, she operates on Mr. Fritz, a victim of ovarian cancer, with a scalpel and bubblegum to learn if his stuffing will reveal the answers she seeks.
Meanwhile Marty watches movies to forget, because as Indiana Jones or Superman he will battle and win his crusade. Heroes never die in "I Love the Movies." Dani' s mom imagines herself, in the moving song "The Sun Still Rose That Day," as a queen whose king has deserted her, with her beautiful baby princess imprisoned by a beast, waiting to be rescued.
For his part, Raph entertains and distracts Dani with a series of games and escapades, encouraging her to find the reason for cancer and win her hair back. Brett Bernardini directs this compelling and inspiring story of hope, love and promise.
For tickets ($32), call Spirit of Broadway Theater, 24 Chestnut Street, Norwich at 860-886-2378 or online at www.spiritofbroadway.org. Performances are Wednesday and Thursday at 7 p.m., Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m. Inquire about their Special Spa Dinner and Theater Package.
Come along on a life affirming journey that will help you to value every day and learn the lesson "don't postpone joy." It's quite okay to snuggle with your favorite stuffed animal during the show, we pinky-swear.
Monday, January 7, 2013
Forget falling off fiscal cliffs or falling on the January sheets of ice and seek the warm creative juices percolating at Goodspeed Opera House in East Haddam. For the entire weekend of January 18-20, Goodspeed's Eighth Annual Festival of New Artists will ignite your imagination and fire up your engines as brand new musical works are unveiled for the first time.
Earn bragging rights around the water cooler at work when you reveal seeing the debut staged reading at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, January 18 of "Nine Wives," music and lyrics by Douglas Cohen, book and lyrics by Dan Elish. Commiserate with bachelor Henry whose ex-fiancee has invited him to her wedding. He can't go dateless so how is he supposed to find the perfect woman of his dreams before the rose petals flutter down the aisle? At 10 p.m., head next door to the Gelston House for a fabulous festival cabaret showcasing new works by new artists.
Get up early on Saturday, January 20 for a full day and evening of musical surprises, starting at 10 a.m. with a series of three seminars on all things theatrical, or a tour behind the curtains of the Opera House that dates back to 1876. At 2:30 p.m. one of a trio of new musicals to debut at Chester's Norma Terris Theatre next season will be unveiled, followed by a 4 p.m. musical presentation as part of the Noel Coward Symposium.
If you purchased the gold package for $89, it will include a 5:30 p.m. three-course dinner at the Gelston House. At 7:30 p.m., the second new musical "Come From Away" by David Hein and Irene Sankoff, book, music and lyrics will be featured. Based on a true event on September 11, 2001, a tiny community in Canada opens its welcoming arms to greet the passengers on dozens of planes diverted by the unspeakable tragedy of 9/11. Once again at 10 p.m., the Gelston House will rock with new musical compositions.
On Sunday, January 20 at 11 a.m., a tour of the Chauncey Stillman Production facility will reveal the behind-the-scenes details of scenery, painting and props. At 1 p.m. the final musical "Princesses: A New Rock Musical" by Janece Shaffer, Emma Lively and Tyler Beattie, book, music and lyrics by Emma Lively and Tyler Beattie will be revealed. Imagine what might happen if a quartet of outrageously unconventional young ladies, who just happen to hold the title of princess, escape their confining castle walls and scandalize the fairy tale world.
To complete this exciting three day marathon, at 3:30 p.m. at the Gelston House, all the composers will gather for conversation and complimentary hors d'oeuvres and a cash bar for a "Meet the Writers Reception."
Two Festival packages are available: the Silver package for $69 includes a ticket to each staged musical reading, choice of three seminars, the symposium, new musical preview and meet the writers reception while the $89 Gold package includes all that plus the two festival cabarets and a festival dinner on Saturday night. Call the Goodspeed box office at 860-873-8668 for reservations. Single tickets are $15, students $10. Go online to www.goodspeed.org.
Plan to be there at the birthing process when students from The Hartt School and The Boston Conservatory join the talented teams from Goodspeed Musicals and the Max Showalter Center for Education in Musical Theatre to "deliver" a trio of brand new "babies" for your viewing delight. Musical theatre is clearly alive and well and kicking up its heels thanks to the Goodspeed Opera House.
Before there was a Disney World in Orlando, Florida, there was a Tupperware Home Parties headquarters, established in 1951 by the inventor genius Earl Tupper. Every 2.2 seconds somewhere in the world, an energetic Tupperware salesperson, man or woman, is holding a home party. Brownie Wise is credited with creating the concept and it has been the foundation of this fashionable plastic container and much more empire ever since.
Today Tupperware is sold in more than 100 countries around the globe and no one can be more proud of that fact than Dixie Longate, that sassy and sweet Southern gal whose life has been transformed by products that flip their lids, burp their bowls and hang on tight, going from freezer to microwave in mere seconds.
Dixie is personally inviting y'all to come and hear her spiel about her favorite plastic goodies at Waterbury's Palace Theater from Tuesday, January 15 to Sunday, January 20 for six shows, Tuesday-Thursday at 7:30 p.m., Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 6:30 p.m. To make it even more special, she's mixing up a batch of her own brand of "Southern hospitality," a complimentary cocktail for every ticket holder...served in a Tupperware goblet perhaps.
Your first question might be how did a six foot four Southern belle with a halo of cherry red hair join the sales force one million strong that has sales every year of $1.8 billion around the world? This slick selling team has also helped donate over $20,000,000 to help women, children and families improve their lives. The answer is simple for Dixie. Her parole officer suggested it to her as an easy and legal and fun way to make a living to help her raise her three children, Wynona, Dwayne and Absorbine, Jr., in a trailer park in Mobile, Alabama.
Right now, Dixie is on the road on a national tour, peddling her party favorites, from spice container sets from $15 to round cake takers for $35, classic favorites in food storage combinations to the latest models in the current catelogue. With her sparkle and wit, she will demonstrate and educate, share stories from her colorful past, hold contests and award prizes, and let everyone in the audience "cheer and scream" and forget their troubles and just have fun.
For tickets ($40), call the Palace Theater, 100 East Main Street, Waterbury at 203-346-2000 or online at www.palacetheaterct.org. And don't forget to get your complimentary cocktail and remember you can buy all your Tupperware necessities right after the show from that super saleswoman Dixie herself, who is striving to be #! at the annual Jubilee sales convention every August in Florida.
Let Dixie Longate empower you and dazzle you, in the most neighborly way, as she has done all over the United States, Canada, Scotland, England and Australia...and now right here in your own backyard of Waterbury, Connecticut.