Monday, December 25, 2017

FIRST NIGHT HARTFORD USHERS IN NEW YEAR’S EVE




The average person celebrates New Year’s Eve either quietly at home in front of a roaring fire with a hot toddy or champagne or else at a rowdy party with dozens of their closest friends.  For the 29th year in a row residents of Hartford and its environs are invited to start at 2 p.m. and party non-stop until the bewitching hour of midnight and beyond to welcome in 2018.

First Night Hartford 2018 is a genuine happening.  Look in all directions around the capital city for more than a dozen venues featuring live music, and you can travel in style from place to place in a horse-drawn carriage.  What fun!   Make sure to purchase a First Night wristband at sites like the Old State House, Highland Park Markets, Whole Food Markets, AAA branches, CBT/Berkshire Bank branches and the Radisson Hotel Hartford.  Area hotels even have special packages for participants who want to extend the celebration.  You can also go online to info@firstnighthartford.org or call 860-727-0050.

Because the family is at the heart of the party, the theme is non-alcoholic with many events free, like two family fireworks displays at Bushnell Park, at 6 p.m. and again at midnight.  Other highlights of the festivities include a Samurai demonstration at 3 p.m at the Butler McCook House and Garden, free ice skating at Bushnell Park until 1 a.m., and music at a variety of venues with groups like Ireland, Erie Canal, and The Boys of Wexford.

Start the hoopla early at the XL Center with a rousing basketball game at 1 p.m. when the UCONN Women Huskies face the Memphis Lady Tigers. Come tune in to Story City Troupe at the Center Church or enjoy Hot Jazz! at Paris 1937 on Pratt Street.  How about Couples Paint Night at 451 Restaurant or a Full Moon Hike or a Back to the Times Carol Sing? 

Come to Hartford and let the arts sweep you from the old year to the new, in a  family friendly atmosphere that is all available for you for the taking.

Monday, December 18, 2017

WINTER FUN ABOUNDS AT THE THEATER




JUDY COLLINS IN A TRIO OF CONCERTS AT THE KATE IN OLD SAYBROOK
Imagine you discover an unexpected Christmas gift under your tree, a Secret Santa if you will.  It’s an extension to December 30 to see the delightful and charming brand new family musical at the Terris Theatre in Chester:  “A Connecticut Christmas Carol.”  All the usual suspects are there, from the cantankerous and stingy Scrooge to the adorable crippled Tiny Tim (Robert Berson) who needs an operation to get well, one his family can ill afford.

Lenny Wolpe is the mean spirited miser whose  heart is melted after a trio of visits from ghosts with a decidedly Connecticut flavor, all portrayed by Michael Thomas Holmes, including the author Harriet Beecher Stowe, the circus showman P. T. Barnum and a favorite son Mark Twain. Directed by Hunter Foster, this new offering comes from LJ Fecho and Michael o’Flaherty.  Call The Terris for tickets ($64-80) at 860- 873-8668 or online at box-office@goodspeed.org.  Performances are Wednesday at 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m., 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.  The theatre is located at 33 North Main Street, Chester. A drive to collect gently used coats is being conducted in the lobby.


To enhance your holiday cheer, plan to attend one of the three concerts being offered by that legendary singer Judy Collins at the Katharine Hepburn Cultural Arts Center in Old Saybrook on Friday, December 22 at 8 p.m. and Saturday, December 23 at 3 and 8 p.m. Miss Collins is still going strong since she began in the 1960’s when she started as a folk-pop singer.  An avid activist for political and social causes, she infuses her music with the passion of her convictions. Call 877-503-1286 or online at www.katharinehepburntheater.org for tickets.

What better way to welcome the New Year than with laughter.  Waterbury’s Seven Angels Theatre has a quartet of New York comediennes ready to tickle your funny bone and encourage you to giggle, guffaw and laugh out loud with “Stand up, Countdown New Year’s Eve Comedy Night,” at two shows, 6:30 p.m. and 9:30 p.m., on Sunday, December 31.  The second show includes delicious appetizers and a champagne toast at midnight.

Come hear the professional patter of Joe Matarese, Mike Dugan, Ellen Karis and Gianmarco Soresi.  For tickets ($55, early show, $65 later show), call Seven Angels Theatre, 1 Plank Road, Waterbury at 203-757-4676 or online at www.sevenangelstheatre.org.

If you have your 2018 calendar ready, pencil in a few nights at the Katharine Hepburn Cultural Arts Center, 300 Main Street, Old Saybrook where two perennial favorites will be performing for your pleasure.  On Friday, January 5 at 8 p.m., come hear Martha Redbone Roots Project, a musician and singer of American rhythm and blues and soul, combining her origins of Cherokee, Choctaw, European and African-American in a contemporary blend of Native American song.  Call 877-503-1286 or online at www.katharinehepburntheater.org for tickets ($35).

Come back the next night, Saturday, January 6 at 8 p.m. for a hearty dose of John Sebastian.  Known for his established piece of the American musical fabric, he will expand on his four decades of singing and playing guitar, harmonica and autoharp  He is also known as the founder of The Lovin’ Spoonful band that was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2000.

Let the old year end with a bang and begin the new one with a splash, as you celebrate all the highlights of theater and music that the state offers so generously. 

Saturday, December 16, 2017

TURN YOUR RADIO ON TO MUSIC THEATRE OF CT







If you have a good memory, perhaps you can recall the pleasurable hours you spent sitting around the brown Philco radio with your family, listening to mysterious voices of "The Shadow" or Christmas music sung by Bing Crosby.  Those days are happily back again for a brief time thanks to Joe Landry who has penned another holiday gift for the whole family.

Several years ago, Landry presented audiences at Music Theatre of Connecticut with an original adaptation of Frank Capra's classic favorite "It's a Wonderful Life," the inspiring tale on one George Baiiey of Bedford Falls, New York who doubts his life has any meaning.  A well intended second-class angel named Clarence earns his wings helping George  realize his life is important.

Now Landry has adapted another classic, Charles Dickens' "A Christmas Carol," set it in a radio studio, and you have until Sunday, December 17 to enjoy this latest gift.  A lively and talented cast, Mike Boland as Scrooge, with Elissa DeMaria, Matt Grasso, Kaia Monroe and Jacob Sherburne as everyone else, from the ghosts to nephew Fred to Tiny Tim.

With bells clanging, thunder rumbling, chains jingling and keys banging, the audience gets to see and hear all the sound effects that make a radio show so special, including the commercials for such items as Old London Fruit Cake, how yummy. We are privy to all the angst that the mean hearted Scrooge is exposed to as his stingy soul is opened to love, generosity and redemption.  We witness the dreadful shadows that surround him evaporate as Scrooge learns the lessons that the ghosts teach.  Tim Howard directs this timely favorite that the whole family will embrace, with original music by Kevin Connors..

For tickets ($30-55), call  MTC, 509 Westport Avenue (behind Nine West), Norwalk 203-454-3883 or online at www.musictheatreofct.com.  Performances are Friday at 8 p.m., Saturday at 4 p.m. and 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m.

Come experience the transformation that Scrooge undergoes as his heart is opened and love is allowed to flow.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

“SISTER’S CHRISTMAS CATECHISM” WANTS YOUR HELP





                                        NONIE NEWTON RILEY AS SISTER

Do you want to join a convent or enlist as a technical detective on a crime show, like on CSI, have I got an opportunity for you. Pack up your religious artifacts and your Sherlock Holmes Detection Kit and get thee over to Long Wharf Theatre’s Stage II by Sunday, December 17 for the delightful antics of the good Sister in “Sister’s Christmas Catechism: The Mystery of the Magi’s Gold.”

Think carefully before you show up for service as the nun in charge will not tolerate any clothing that is not modest, or cell phones that have not been silenced or attendance that is not punctual. Sister has rules, and Nonie Newton Riley intends to respect them all. But if you’re attentive and employ deportment, you just might win a hologram of the baby Jesus in the stable, a pencil that proclaims Jesus Loves You Snow Much or a picture
of the Pope wearing a Santa hat.

Sister will also share interesting legends about the candy cane, St. Nicholas, poinsettias, the Nativity and Our Lady of the Grilled Cheese. On a more serious note, Sister is also trying to solve a mystery: what happened to the Magi’s gold and she will go to extreme lengths to find the culprit.

By creating a Living Nativity, including Mary, an ox, an ass, a shepherd, a sheep, three Kings, Joseph and the little drummer boy, using the most original of costuming, like lamp shades and toilet seat covers, Sister is sure the puzzle will be solved. Be prepared to join in the frivolity in this irreverent work created by Maripat Donovan with Jane Morris and Marc Silvia.

For tickets ($34.50 and up), call Long Wharf Theatre, 222 Sargent Drive, New Haven at203-787-4282 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.

If you enjoyed Late Night Catechism and you’re in the holiday spirit, then put on your party hat and have a ball with Sister.

CELEBRATE THE HOLIDAYS WITH SEVEN ANGELS AND IVORYTON PLAYHOUSE




ENTIRE CAST OF "NUNCRACKERS" AT WATERBURY'S SEVEN ANGELS THEATRE


The good nuns at Mount Saint Helen’s School in Hoboken, New Jersey are always busy, but never more so than at Christmas, especially when they are preparing for their first television special and you are invited to be front and center for the telecast.  Courtesy of Seven Angels Theatre in Waterbury, the convent school will present “Nuncrackers” by Dan Goggin to get you into the holiday spirit by raising a little musical mischief.  Hurray because all the hoopla and singing and dancing end on Sunday, December 17.

Come meet and encourage Reverend Mother, a jolly and joyous Michelle Gotay, and her dedicated helper elves Sister Mary Hubert (Cat Heidel), Sister Amnesia (Marcia Masio), Sister Robert Anne (Cathy Wilcox-Sturmer), and Father Virgil (Tom Chute).  Even Santa (Tim Cleary) gets into the act.  A bevy of bountiful boys and girls bring their special brand of joy to the stage to help the merriment: Grace Altenburger, Angelina Emanuel, Ian Kindt, Zoe Kindt, Julia Mehlin, Michael Meier, Zachary Petrarca, Gabrielle Saucier, Julia Thies and Nicole Thomas.

Who says nuns can’t have fun?  This troupe is heaven bent on making the holidays memorable, even if all of their gifts were stolen right from under their Christmas tree. So what if one of their own had an accident and was sent off to the hospital. What does it matter if there are continual technical difficulties.  the show must go on and it definitely does, with highlights like a solo by Sister Mary Annette (think marionette) of "Twelve Days Prior to Christmas,” a troupe rendition of “Santa’s Little Teapot,” a lesson in how not to bake a fruitcake by Father Virgil, a lovely version of “It’s Beginning to Look a Lot like Christmas” by Allison (Grace Altenburger), an inspired tribute to the YMCA guys with “In the Convent,” among others.

You will learn the mysteries of the Catholic Home Shopping Network, see a unique version of the Sugar Plum Fairy you will not soon forget (even if you try to), go a little deeper into the meaning of Christmas  with Sister Robert Anne and even go a bit country western. James Donohue and Semina DeLaurentis direct this festive and fun foray for maximum  enjoyment.

For tickets ($39 adults, kids $20), call the Seven Angels Theatre, 1 Plank Road, Waterbury at 203-757-4676 or online at www.sevenangelstheatre.org.  Performances are Friday and Saturday at 7:30 p.m., with matinees Saturday and Sunday at 2 p.m., with a special Thursday night show on December 14 at 7:30 p.m.  For an enthusiastic and energetic, holy and angelic welcome to the holiday season, look no further than the Little Sisters of Hoboken's jolly celebration of Christmas.

For another heavenly treat, hurry on over to the Ivoryton Playhouse for a good old fashioned Christmas radio hour, as it presents David Pittsinger and Friends for a fundraiser to benefit the 106 year old playhouse's community outreach programs, to insure the highest quality of scheduling.  If you are lucky, you remember the stirring portrayal of world renown David Pittsinger here at the playhouse as Emile de Becque in"South Pacific" and Don Quixote in"Man of La Mancha." This bass-baritone will perform with his wife Patricia Schuman as well as Carly Callahan, Charles Widmer and Kathy Weiser with a selection of Christmas standards and sacred songs. 

Come prepared to hear such favorites as "O Holy Night," "Drummer Boy," "Baby, It's Cold Outside" "Silent Night," "I'll Be Home for Christmas" and "Do You Hear What I Hear?"  A four piece band will be conducted by Eric Tudel.  For tickets ($50), call the Ivoryton Playhouse, 103 Main Street, Ivoryton at 860-767-7318 or online atwww.ivorytonplayhouse.org.  Come gather around the family radio way back in the 1940's for a nostalgic holiday song fest and welcome musical treat. The two performances are Thursday, December 21 at 2 p.m. and Friday, December 22  at 7 p.m.  Remember to gaze with wonder at the illuminated village of 500,000 Christmas lights.

Thursday, December 7, 2017

BE TRANSPORTED BY “OUR COUNTRY’S GOOD” AT UCONN



THE PRISONER AND THE OFFICERS IN "OUR COUNTRY'S GOOD"
PHOTO BY GERRY GOODSTEIN

Transport yourself back centuries and over thousands of miles to the 1780’s to a colony for prisoners in Australia where a ship form England has just landed.  Are they there to be punished, for crimes like stealing food or a candlestick, or to seek redemption and a chance at humanity?  The officers in charge are of a mixed vote as to their fate.  You will quickly become engrossed in their precarious situation thanks to an absorbing drama penned by Timberlake Wertenbaker, presented by the Connecticut Repertory Theatre until Sunday, December 10.  The Nafe Katter Theatre on the campus of the University of Connecticut will welcome this straggle of convicts and the men who hold their life or death in their hands.

This Tony Award nominated and Olivier Award winning drama pits these two forces against each other, the helpless men and women who have been convicted of crimes many of them never committed and the army of Royal Marines who are duty bound to make them pay. This talented cast takes double roles, and even a few three positions, as they don officer’s coats, wigs and shoes to play officers and go bare foot as the accused.

In an experiment to discover if there is a chance for rehabilitation by these prisoners, Second Lieutenant Ralph Clark, a hard working and determined Zack Dictakis, resolves to have the convicts in his charge put on a play, a theatrical event to test if performing that feat will give them a positive outlook on their time under lock and key.  Will it stop them from trying to escape?  Will it encourage them to develop as human beings?  Is it even possible for them to learn their lines and execute a show?

With the sounds of whip lashings in the background and the shadows of a noose overhead, Clark strives, against all odds, to accomplish this
nearly impossible feat.  His fellow officers are not supportive of his mission, and some like Major Ross, a mean spirited James Jelkin, actively oppose the play acting. Connecticut Rep’s Artistic Director Michael Bradford puts on his directing cap to lead the procession to the drama’s hopeful opening night.  The hard working cast includes Nick Nudler, Coleman Churchill, Valerie Badjan, Ademide Akintilo, Tabatha Gayle, Emma Mathieu, Jacob Harris Wright, Braley Degenhardt, Gillian Rae Pardi and Matthew Antoci.

For tickets ($10-33), call 860-486-2113 or go online to www.crt.uconn.edu.  Show times are tonight at 7:30 p.m., Friday at 8 p.m., Saturday at 2 p.m and 8 p.m.and Sunday at 2 p.m.

 Will Clark achieve the impossible?  You’ll have to attend “Our Country’s Good” to find out for yourself.

Sunday, December 3, 2017

HOLIDAY SHOWS AND MORE ABOUND THIS SEASON


LENNY WOLPE AS SCROOGE IN "A CONNECTICUT CHRISTMAS CAROL"
AT THE TERRIS THEATRE IN CHESTER   PHOTO BY DIANE SOBOLEWSKI

What would the holidays be like, without an abundance of merriment and joy.  Look all around you at the offerings that local theaters have wrapped up in red, green and gold finery for your viewing pleasure.

At the Hartford Stage, it's another visit with that mean and greedy Scrooge who shouts "Bah humbug" to the holidays and needs the visits of a trio of ghosts to open his eyes to the wonders of Christmas, of love and of generosity. After seventeen years as the miserly mean man, Bill Raymond has turned over his gold coins and stocking cap to Michael Preston who regaled the audiences with a bit of juggling magic in his new role.  This is Michael Wilson's original creation, two decades ago, of Charles Dickens' "A Christmas Carol A Ghost Story of Christmas" and it is a wonderful family classic.  For tickets, call the Hartford Stage, 50 Church Street, Hartford at 860-527-5151 or online at www.hartfordstage.org/christmas-carol/. The show runs through Saturday, December 30.

For adults in need of a little Christmas cheer, there's a bar stool waiting just around the corner at Hartford TheaterWorks, 233 Pearl Street, where their original offering of "Christmas on the Rocks" is returning for another round of intoxicating joy.  Up until Saturday, December 23, a string of your favorite characters of the holiday will stumble and straggle into a bar for a bit of liquid fortitude and festive fun.  Come meet and greet Clara of Nutcracker fame and Tiny Tim and Frosty the Snowman's creator Karen and Charlie Brown, among others.  Jenn Harris and Matthew Wilkas, with Tom Bloom as the genial bartender, do a super job as the long ago stars on your holiday tree.  Call HTW at 860-527-7838 or online at www.theaterworkshartford.org to see this literary baby created by Artistic Director Rob Ruggiero by Saturday, December 23.

Mosey on over to the illuminated village of Ivoryton, 500,000 Christmas lights bright,  to the Playhouse, 103 Main Street, for a unique radio show by their community players of  Joe Landry’s “It’s a Wonderful Life” A Live Radio Play, set in the 1940’s, in Bedford Falls,  complete with intriguing sound effects. Call Ivoryton at 860-767-7318 or online at www.ivorytonplayhouse.org.  Be a part of the studio audience until Sunday, December 17.


Want a new twist on an old theme, look no further than Goodspeed's Terris Theatre in Chester for a show with  a decidedly local flavor, a nutmeg spicy "A Connecticut Christmas Carol" created by LJ Fecko and Michael O'Flaherty now extended until Saturday, December 30.  Come see Mark Twain, Harriet Beecher Stowe, P. T. Barnum and J. P. Morgan sing and dance their way into your heart and the heart of that curmudgeon Scrooge (he's everywhere this time of year).  This is sure to become a family favorite.  For tickets, call the Goodspeed at 860- 873-8664, ext. 324   or go online to www.goodspeed.org.  The fine tradition of storytelling continues.

Interested in something without mistletoe and holly, the Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts, 166 Capitol Avenue, has a few more showings of the musical special "The Color Purple" for your entertainment until Sunday, December 10.  Call 860-987-5900 or online at www.bushnell.org.  This classic Alice Walker novel highlights the story of two sisters, Celie and Nettie who are separated from each other in the South, only to be reunited decades later.  Let the music of jazz, gospel, ragtime and blues carry and lift your heart.


What would the spirit of the holidays be like without  a musical shout out from the Connecticut Gay Men's Chorus?
Happily they are tuning up for concerts in two locations, first at the Katharine Hepburn Cultural Arts Center, on Main Street, in Old Saybrook, on Sunday, December 10 at 4 p.m.  Go to www.katharinehepburntheater.secure.force.com for tickets.  If you miss the 10th, you can still catch these colorful and talented guys at the Co-Op Theater, on 177 College Street in New Haven on Saturday, December 16 at 8 p.m. and Sunday,December 17 at 4 p.m.  Go online to www.ctgmc.org.  You can be sure these gentlemen will  be decked out in their holiday finery ready to entertain you in regal style with all the best tunes of the season.

Surely there are no excuses for not getting into the holiday spirit with all these delightful possibilities right at your doorstep.

Saturday, December 2, 2017

PANTOCHINO PRODUCTIONS HOLDING A HOLIDAY “SCHOOL FOR ELVES”










Schools exist to teach everything from architecture to archeology, cooking to crocheting, decorating to dentistry.  But have you ever heard of an institution of learning dedicated to producing the best of Santa’s little helpers?  Pantochino Productions is offering just such a quick course wrapped in red and green finery and wrapped with a gold bow, just in time for Christmas.

Weekends until Friday, December 22, sign up for lessons in their delightful original musical ”School for Elves" at the Milford Center for the Arts at the train station. The Yule School is anxiously awaiting their newest class of students as well as the new headmaster, Mr. Sassafras, a demanding Jimmy Johansmeyer, and the school secretary, a charming Miss Garland, the pert Mary Mannix, is making sure everything will be ready and waiting for his arrival. 

 All the teachers, Mr. Trimmings (Justin Rugg),Mrs. Wranglesome (Valerie Solli), Mrs. Lessons (Maria Berte), Miss Orderly (Hannah Kupson), Mr. Molasses (George Spelvin), Mrs. Flourish (Hannah Duffy) and Mrs. Claus herself (Shelley Marsh Poggio) are lined up for welcoming   Even Santa (Greg Hatzis) and the reliable package man (Don Poggio) are standing by to meet and greet. With a regal and no-nonsense manner, Mr. Sassafras enters and takes charge, putting the newest class of elves (Ainsley Novin, Connor Rizzo, Sebastian Bianchine, Adeline Horne, Rowan Simonelli, Sierra P. DiMartino, Gavin Conte, Brianna Jackson, Annabel Wardman, Ainsley Dahlstrom and Luke Hatzis) immediately through their paces.  

In the midst of all this merriment and excitement, it becomes apparent that there is danger lurking in the form of a mystery man who wants to take over Christmas and move Santa Claus as far away as the South Pole.  When two elves suddenly disappear, it looks like the threat is all too real.  Will the school and the elves be able to rally and save Christmas? With tunes like “There’s a Little Bit of Magic” and “Let’s Make a Christmas to Remember,” everyone works together in the spirit of the holiday and its message of kindness and love.  Even fruitcake is called upon to help with a slice or three. 

 With original book and lyrics by Bert Bernardi and music by Justin Rugg, with imaginative costuming by Jimmy Johansmeyer, this is another in a string of colorful ornaments strung on Pantochino’s theatrical tree. For tickets ($20 on line, $22 at the door), go to www.pantochino.com.  Performances are Friday at 7:30 p.m., Saturday at 2 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m.  Saturday shows are cabaret style and you can bring goodies to share at your table.  A book sale will be held at Barnes and Noble, on the Post Road, in Milford on Friday, December 15 to benefit Pantochino. Come and buy holiday gifts at the bazaar.

“THE CHOSEN” A POWERFUL TALE OF FATHERS AND SONS AT LONG WHARF












Two fathers raising their teenage sons, living only five blocks apart in Brooklyn, New York, at the eve of World War II, who share the same religion, still manage to live worlds away from each other.  Both men are dedicated to their roles as teachers and guiders, as instillers of wisdom, who love their offspring and only want what is best for them but approach their vital roles with a different set of rules.  A chance game of baseball between the youth force their disparate worlds to collide as the fast ball Danny Saunders hits strikes the eye of pitcher Reuven Malter.  That accident brings the two boys into a close encounter of the Jewish kind and changes their fates dramatically. 
 Long Wharf Theatre in New Haven will explore that collision of beliefs until Sunday, December 17  with a new adaptation by Aaron Posner and Chaim Potok of Chaim Potok’s involving novel "The Chosen.” 
Reuben Malter, an inquisitive and engaging Max Wolfowitz, enjoys a loving relationship with his father, David, an inspiring Steven Skybell, existing as equals in their bonds of intelligence seeking and understanding of their faith.  When Reuven meets the traditionally educated Chasidic boy Danny Saunders, a complicated and conflicted Ben Edelman, they form a tentative truce.  The accident on the baseball diamond thrusts them together and causes them both to question their beliefs and upbringings. 

 While Reuven has the freedom and encouragement to become whoever he wants, Danny is being guided, even forced, to take the path his father dictates. Without either knowing it, Reuven’s dad has been mentoring Danny’s literary choices at the library, an act his own father Reb Saunders, a judgmental and observant George Guidall, would not approve.  Reb Saunders  even has to give his permission for the two boys to maintain a friendship.

 Reuben acquits himself and is soon invited to study with the great patriarch, a special honor. Difficulties arise since even though bothare students of the Talmud and dedicated yeshiva scholars, they have both grown up in vastly different environments. Danny feels the yoke of his father’s goals, to have him continue a rabbinic dynasty six generations in the making, to take over the leadership of Reb Saunders’ congregation.On the other hand, Reuven is free to pursue his own directions. 

 The question of the existence of a state of Israel irrevocably divides the two families and the boys are forbidden to speak.  The Malters are Zionists and want a Jewish homeland while the Saunders vigorously oppose the idea. Gordon Edelstein directs this thoughtful family drama  about parents and children struggling to reach a level of love and understanding that is liberating. It will appeal to people of all backgrounds and ethnicities.

For tickets ($29 and up), 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. and 7 p.m.

Come discover how each boy, poised on the cusp of manhood, ultimately forges his own unique destiny.

COMPELLING DRAMA "NATIVE SON" AT YALE REP


JEROD HAYNES  AS BIGGER AND JASON BOWEN AS THE BLACK RAT
PHOTO BY JOAN MARCUS

New Haven's Yale Repertory Theatre is inviting you to make the acquaintance of Bigger Thomas but don't expect the encounter to be over tea and crumpets.  Bigger's world in infested with violence and disappointment, poverty and struggle, and the occasional black rat that has to be destroyed.  In Bigger Thomas' world, there is little to hope for and much to be feared.  In Chicago's South Side at the tail end of the Great Depression, black men like Bigger have a fate that seals their existence and offers little to encourage their escape.  Thanks to Richard Wright's gritty portrait of Bigger Thomas in his groundbreaking novel "Native Son," we know him from the inside out, privy to his thoughts and illusions, trapped in his physical and mental assaults.

Yale Repertory Theatre, until Saturday, December 16, is presenting this gritty and gutsy tale adapted for the stage by Nambi E Kelley. This is not a sit back and enjoy experience.  It is in your face and in the head of Bigger as his life explodes around him.  When he secures the job as a chauffeur for a wealthy white  family, it seems for a moment he may have the means for advancement, a chance to climb out of his preordained struggle.  An accident, however, sets him on a road of violence and despair, one that he runs from but can't escape.

Jerod Haynes' Bigger is born into a life of poverty and every day is a struggle to be human. He is blessed or cursed with an inner self, a soul who reflects on his actions and choices, and helps him think through and about his reality. Jason Bowen embodies that inner voice with gusto. Bigger is doomed to run ever faster to escape, climbing up the metal scaffolding set created by scenic designer Ryan Emens, but never finding the freedom he seeks so desperately.  The audience is also trapped in his psyche, with the violence and intensity that marked his forehead like the one forged on Cain.  Seret Scott directs this  explosive drama that will leave you exhausted and exhilarated at the same time.

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

Leave your prejudices and preconceptions at the door as you become embroiled in Bigger Thomas' world and the fate he inherited and can't distance himself from living.

Sunday, November 26, 2017

THE JUKE BOX EXPLODES IN "GOIN' TO THE CHAPEL"




                   THE ENTIRE CAST OF "GOIN' TO THE CHAPEL"

Teenagers are often preoccupied with bouts of puppy love, going steady, getting their hearts broken, pledging eternal devotion, wearing varsity pins, and all the other diversions that make these adolescent years so dramatic and traumatic.  To get a glimpse into your past, no matter how many years ago your high school years were, hop and bop over to the Connecticut Cabaret Theatre in Berlin for Valerie Fagan's world premiere musical "Goin' to the Chapel" with arrangements and orchestrations by Bryan Crook playing weekends until Saturday, December 16.

If you can find your black leather jacket or pink poodle skirt, you'll feel right at home as you meet the cool gang.  You'll be just in time to see Johnny (Tony Galli) promise his heart to Suzy (Maria Pompile) for forever and a day, or at least until a new guy, a wild guy, rides into town.

When Jon Escobar's Eddie breezes in, with danger as his middle name, Suzy and her gal pals Judy (Kristin Iovene) and Robin (Carleigh Cappetta Schultz) are soon all gaga over the exciting new possibilities.  Johnny and his friend Kenny (Rick Bennett) are initially bent out of shape by Eddie's evident allure, but a hearty dose of "Love Potion #9" awakens their macho spirits.

While all these hook ups and break ups are happening, the group of six salute the 1950's and 1960's with an exploding juke box of classic hits like "Rock Around the Clock," "Johnny Angel," "All Shook Up," "Fever," "It's in his Kiss (The Shoop Shoop Song)," "Duke of Earl," "Ring of Fire" and "Bye, Bye Love, among many others, all played with pizzazz by Nathaniel Baker and his lively band.

By the end of the night, you will agree that "rock and roll is here to stay" and also that teen romances are destined to last about a minute and a half.  Kris McMurray holds the dance cards for all the revolving couples until it looks like they are all "Goin' to the Chapel" for eternal vows.

For tickets ($30), call the Connecticut Cabaret Theatre, 31 Webster Square Road, Berlin at 860-829-1248 or online atwww.ctcabaret.com. Performances 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 buy desserts and drinks on site.

Come and apply your Bonnie Bell Grape Lip Smackers  liberally so you're all set to discover "who wrote the book of love" and why "breaking up is hard to do."


Sunday, November 19, 2017

SETTLE DOWN FOR A MUSICAL VERSION OF “A CHRISTMAS STORY” AT THE BUSHNELL




Every good little girl and boy, and even the ones not so good, have a long and involved Christmas list for Santa.  If your name is Ralph and you are nine years old, live in Indiana and are growing up in the 1940’s, you only have one item written in bright red on your wish list.  Ralphie desires above all else one genuine, official, Red Ryder Carbine-Action 200-shot Range Model Air Rifle, with a compass in the stock and a thing that tells time.  What he does not want are a pair of pink bunny pajamas.  You know he will get the pjs.  But is there any chance he will also get the magical, mysterious air rifle he has set his little heart on?  To discover the answer, you must go to one of the performances of “A Christmas Story,” a musical by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, based on the book by Joseph Robinette.

The Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts in Hartford will be entertaining Ralph and his gang from Friday, November 24 to Sunday, November 26 and you’re invited to share this classic tale of childhood desires. Forget old Ebenezer Scrooge and the mean-spirited Grinch.  Let Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer nap the holiday away. Now is the time to concentrate all your efforts on encouraging Ralph in his quest.  He wants that BB gun, but his mother is sure and positive, that he will shoot his eye out.

With grit and determination, this little son of a gun (catch the pun?) will do anything to get what he wants to find under the Christmas tree.  In his plot to succeed, he will shamelessly involve his little brother, his school mates, his teacher, and even a mean old mall Santa Claus.  He is not above scheming and finagling his way to the prize.  The musical numbers, with a whole lot of tap dancing tunes, resonate.  Come hear “It All Comes Down to Christmas,” “Ralph to the Rescue,” “Parker Family Singalong,” and “You’ll Shoot Your Eye Out.”

Don’t bother to get Ralph an Erector Set or Legos, and certainly no socks.  Watch out for that frozen flag pole so keep your tongue clearly in cheek.  Remember what it was like way back when, when you had a must have gift on your Christmas list that made or broke your day. Now is the time to polish your lamps made from luscious legs of ladies, if you are lucky enough to have won one like Ralphie’s dad.

For tickets ($22.50-103.50), call the Bushnell, 166 Capitol Avenue, Hartford at 860-987-5900 or online at www.bushnell.org.  Performances are Friday at 7:30 p.m., Saturday at 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m., and Sunday at 1 p.m.and 6:30 p.m.

The Parker family is expecting you.  Take a seat near the Christmas tree or at the kitchen table.  Come root for Ralphie to have all his dreams come true and, hopefully,  to not lose any eyes in the process.

Monday, November 13, 2017

THEATRICAL SPLENDOR IN “THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA” AT WATERBURY'S PALACE



CHRISTINE (EVA TAVARES) AND THE PHANTOM (DERRICK DAVIS)
[PHOTO BY MICHAEL MURPHY

In a conspicuously immodest way, composer Andrew Lloyd Webber announces his presencewith the booming crash of a thousand pound chandelier, bedecked with 35,000 crystals, on the theatrical stage.  This time the platform is Waterbury's Palace Theater.  The dates are Wednesday, November 15 to Sunday, November 26 and the show is none other than that dramatically impressive musical "The Phantom of the Opera." Whether you are gliding underground in a dusty dungeon or captured in the glittering gleam of the Paris Opera House, you will be transfixed by the grandeur of this presentation.

Dramatic flair and theatrical splendor mark this tale that shines a light on a lovely young singer Christine, brought to life by  Eva Tavares who is the object of the phantom's fixation. He is thought to be a ghost who haunts the opera house, hiding behind a mask to conceal his deformities.  

With a bevy of devious tricks at his calling, the Phantom  masterfully created by Derrick Davis succeeds in terrorizing the entire company.  In this mysterious way, he hopes to entice Christine’s affections.  Unknowingly, she has pledged her heart to another, Raoul, Vicomte de Chagny, a captivating Jordan Craig, thus putting both of them in danger of receiving the Phantom's wrath.  
With amazing tunes like "The Music of the Night" that resound in the underground labyrinth where the Phantom resides and the fantastic New Year's Eve “Masquerade." this production is a classic favorite.  Through it all, Christine is the innocent victim of an unrequited love, one she neither seeks nor understands.
This is the stunning new Cameron Macintosh North American Tour that is touted to be bigger and more spectacular than ever, with new scenic design by Paul Brown, costuming by Maria Bjornson, lighting by Paule Constable , choreography by Scott Ambier and staging by Laurence Connor. A 52 piece orchestra soars with spectacular sounds to the rafters.  
For tickets ($48-125), call the Palace Theater, 100 East Main Street, Waterbury at 203-346-2000 online at www.palacetheaterct.orgPERFORMANCE SCHEDULE November 15 - 26:
Wednesday, November 15, 7:30pm; Thursday November 16, 1pm and 7:30 pm; Friday, November 17, 8pm: Saturday November 18, 2pm & 8pm; Sunday November 19 1pm & 6:30pm; Monday November 20, 7:30 pm:Tuesday November 21, 7:30pm; Wednesday November 22: 7:30pm; Friday, November 24, 2pm & 8pm; Saturday, November 25, 2pm & 8pm and Sunday, November 26, 1pm. 

Cautiously enter a world of darkness were you can examine the face behind the mask, the soul in the shadows, as you confront the disturbing genius of the Phantom of the Paris Opera House.

THE GAME IS DELIGHTFULLY AFOOT IN IVORYTON




SPOILER ALERT:  the butler did not do it!  Get set to speed off and running for Ivoryton Playhouse’s current fun offering of Ken Ludwig’s highly entertaining murder, mystery, melodrama, farce and  comedy “The Game’s Afoot” until Sunday, November 19. You may find yourself in need of a scorecard as to who is dead, might be dead, is pretending to be dead or who someone wants to be dead.  Remember the game of Clue where it could be Colonel Mustard or Miss Plum with a knife or a candlestick, in the kitchen or the drawing room? Here the possibilities are endless.

Daniel Nischan has created a wonderfully detailed set of William Gillette’s castle on the Connecticut River, complete with an number of deadly instruments to commit a felony, lethal and absolute.  It  has a number ofcomplicated gadgets to record voices and even a bookcase that revolves around to display a bar for liquid refreshments.  The famed actor William Gillette is best known, in the 1930’s, for a play he penned about Sherlock Holmes, one he starred in for two decades.  He played the astute and clever detective Mr.Holmes, a character created by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, for so long, Gillette somehow believed he had mastered the detective’s skills.

Now while taking a bow after a performance as the sleuth at the Palace Theatre in New York, Gillette is shot. The wound is, thankfully, not mortal, but he wants to determine who pulled the trigger.  To that end, he hasinvited the entire cast of the show, all the “suspects,” to his fantastic new home on Christmas Eve to unmask the perpetrator. 
 Now he is Sherlock Holmes for real. One by one, or in pairs, the cast members arrive.  Felix (Michael Iannucci) and his wife Madge (Katrina Ferguson) who love to bicker and spar with each other, and Simon (Erik Blomquist)and his brand new wife Aggie (Molly Densmore). On the scene to greet them is Gillette himself, the impressive personage played by Craig MacDonald and his spry mother Martha, the take charge Maggie McGlone-Jennings. The stage is set, or is it?  The unknown catalyst, the one who is going to stir the cauldron, has yet to make an appearance:  that deliciously mean and spiteful theater critic Daria Chase, who has burned each of the thespians in turn, played by a wickedly perfect Beverley J. Taylor. The entire cast works wonderfully together to create a perfect blend of suspicion and camaraderie.

 Spouting lines of Shakespeare as actors are wont to do, the assembled guests are soon flinging accusations at each other: of jealousy, blackmail, adultery and, especially, of murder.  Into this caustic mix ventures a slightly inept policewoman (Victoria Bundonis) who emerges in the middle of a snow storm  to try and make sense of this mysterious chaos.  Jacqueline Hubbard directs this frantically funny foray that has victims hiding behind every velvet curtain and secret sliding panel. For tickets ($50, seniors z45, students $22                              and children $17), call the Ivoryton Playhouse, 103 Main Street,Ivorytonat 860-767-7318 or online at www.ivorytonplayhouse.org.  Performances are Wednesday and Sunday matineesat 2 p.m., Wednesday and Thursday at 7:30 p.m., Friday andSaturday at 8 p.m..

If you love a good mystery and enjoy a jolly comedy, look no further than this delightful marriage of both in Ken Ludwig’s “The Game’s Afoot.”  Now that you know the butler did not do, can you unveil the real culprit? Are you even sure who is the intended victim?  You may not even be sure if it’s poison or a gun or a knife.