With the year 2017 just a memory, it is important to look back and select those theatrical events that were significant, at least in this reviewer's eyes. In no particular order, just as memory serves me, the following shows had a lasting impart on me for a variety of reasons. This list is not exclusive but these are the cream that has risen to the top of the milk bottle. I hope you agree with at least some of them.
Having just come home after an exhilarating and exhausting weekend at the 13th Annual Goodspeed Festival of New Musicals, still wrapped in the excitement of seeing a trio of brand new musicals, two cabarets and a number of talks on topics from the role of a critic to the progress of the Goodspeed born show "Come From Away" currently on Broadway, I have to start with The Festival. Last year and every year, it has been a dream for theater lovers. Set in the middle of winter, it gathers new ideas and gives them wings. Mark your calendars now for January 11, 12 and 13, 2019 and join me in rooting on the talented participants.
Did you get to experience the magic of "Fireflies" at the Long Wharf with those luminous stars Judith Ivey and Jane Alexander? Set in a small Texas town, it circled around a retired teacher, her nosy neighbor and a stranger/intruder/romancer, played by Denis Arndt who disrupts their quiet life in the most unexpected ways.
If Katharine Hepburn invited you for "Tea at Five" you would be delighted to accept, thanks to Connecticut Cabaret Theatre in Berlin with the wonderful actress Kelly Boucher who plays Kate. We get to meet her at two distinct stages of her life, first when she is young and actively lobbying for the role of Scarlett O'Hara in "Gone with the Wind," and later at the end of her life when she is ill but not yet ready to end her acting career.
For a little dramatic tension, I hope you attended Yale Rep's "An Enemy of the People" by Henrik Ibsen. This timely saga pitted two strong men, brothers, against each other over the fate of their town in Norway's political future and its prosperity. The tug of war between the siblings was a wonder to behold, as the entire town took sides.
A drama of an entirely different nature took place at Long Wharf Theatre with a new adaptation of Chaim Potak's "The Chosen" where two teenage boys, raised in quite different religious viewpoints, become unlikely friends. Reuben and Danny learn a lot from their fathers and from each other as they grapple with the difficult task of growing up.
For a complete change of pace, with sunny sides of the street and the need for umbrellas, I hope you got to skip to the big tent in New Canaan for the effervescent musical "Singing' in the Rain" by Summer Theater of New Canaan. This Betty Comden and Adolph Green sweetness tells the tale of how stars of the silent screen transitioned to talkies, or not.
Moving the historical timetable back to our country's founding, we meet the fervent champion of freedom John Adams and his lively battle to win America's release from mother Britain. The Connecticut Repertory Theater on the campus of the University of Connecticut gave their red, white and blue best to make this story, the musical "1776," a stirring stage presence.
Two theaters gave great performances of the momentous concert in rock and roll history "Million Dollar Quartet" that actually took place on December 4, 1956 at Sun Records, the studio of Sam Phillips, considered the Father of Rock and Roll. Sam assembled four icons of the genre, Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins, Johnny Cash and Elvis in a once in a lifetime concert at both Ivoryton Playhouse and Seven Angels Theater in Waterbury to great acclaim.
Hopefully you were lucky enough to score a ticket to Hartford Stage's amazing production by Hershey Felder of "Our Great Tchaikovsky." Felder is the king of musical biographies which he writes and stars in as the composer himself. He is a maestro at the piano and this 19th century tale from Russia is no exception. Next on his list is DeBussy. Watch for it.
Perhaps the most outstanding production of the year goes to Playhouse on Park's "The Diary of Anne Frank," a journey through World War Ii seen through the eyes of a teenage girl. Isabelle Barbier's portrayal of Anne was so on target it is clearly the role Isabelle was born to play.
It is easy to see why I love theater and writing about it. But even I will admit that seeing seven plays in six days, my current record, may be a little too much. See you at the theater.