Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Foxwoods Presents A Bronx Tale

Chazz Palminteri grew up in a tough area of the Bronx which gave him the life lessons that would later prove very useful to his career. Well known for A Bronx Tale, Palminteri originally wrote the script for the stage and performed it as a one-man show in Los Angeles. One night Robert DeNiro walked in to see the show and as they say ”the rest is history.” He then moved the production to New York, where it played for four sold-out months and earned him nominations for the New York Outer Critics Circle for both acting and writing. While in New York he completed the screenplay of A Bronx Tale and soon found himself starring opposite DeNiro, who chose the script for his directorial debut.

Saturday, Sept. 6 at 8 pm

Foxwoods Resort Casino
Fox Theater
350 Trolley Line Boulevard
Mashantucket, CT

More Info:        
Tickets are $75: www.foxwoods.com; 800-200-2882.

Theater Review: Things We Do for Love -- Westport

Sarah Manton, Geneva Carr, and Matthew Greer in Alan Ayckbourn’s “Things We Do for Love,” directed by John Tillinger, at Westport Country Playhouse, now playing through September 7.  (203) 227-4177.  www.westportplayhouse.org      Photo by Carol Rosegg
Things We Do for Love
By Alan Ayckbourn
Directed by John Tilliinger
Westport Country Playhouse

What's it All About?
Best school chums Barbara (Geneva Carr) and Nikki (Sarah Manton) are reunited after years apart when Nikki and her yummy new fiance, Hamish (Matthew Greer) rent a room in Barbara's house while work is completed on their new home. Nikki, just out of an abusive relationship, can hardly believe that she has landed Hamish who calls her his "porcelain princess."

She so wants Babs to like him. Prickly, opinionated Barbara who earned the nickname of "Spike" at the all-girls school where Nikki and her classmates all had crushes on the formidable woman, isn't taken with Hamish, however, at least at first. When personality sparks lead to sexual tension, however, Hamish and Barbara begin an affair. They have to come to grips with being the kind of people who would do such a thing. They aren't the only ones who get hurt. Also needing a self-evaluation is tenant Gilbert (Michael Mastro) who has been keeping evidence of his  odd devotion to Barbara hidden in his downstairs flat.

What Are the Highlights?
Nice performances from all the players, directed by John Tillinger, who previously has directed Ayckbourn's How the Other Half Loves and Relatively Speaking at Westport Country Playhouse (next season he will helm Bedroom Farce.) Carr is entertaining as the judgmental, uptight, but suddenly out-of-control Barbara (she also starred in Relatively Speaking as well as two other Ayckbourns at WCP . Manton, who showed her comedy prowess on Broadway in One Man, Two Guvnors, shines again as the innocent, if odd, Nikki.

"I'm pathetic," Nikki says. "No wonder why people punch me."

Broadway vet Mastro brings humor to a somewhat underdeveloped character and Greer is just right in his offense at being seen at the end of Barbara's nose.

What Are the Lowlights?
-- James Noone designs a frustrating three-level set. At stage level, Barbara's flat is nicely appointed with a long staircase stage right leading to the other flats. Nikki and Hamish's place is shown only in abbreviated shadow box form, allowing us to see action from about the waist down. Gilbert's basement flat, set in the orchestra pit area, was totally unviewable from the balcony level. Every time action centered there, the balcony leaned forward en masse to try to see what was happening. I suspect the view isn't much better from rear parts of the orchestra level.

-- Some of the dialogue is very difficult to hear (sound design by Scott Killian, who also designs original music -- the tune "The Things We Do for Love" during scene changes.) People near me at intermission were complaining that they couldn't hear and during the show, often were supplying missed lines for each other.

--I am not crazy about this story. There are some funny lines and moments to be sure, but two people physically and emotionally abusing each other doesn't equate to love for me. Perhaps a better title would be "Things We Do for Lust, Loneliness, Longing, or Low Self Esteem," but not "love."

-- The first act, at 90 mintes, is very long. A total run time of almost three hours with an intermission is way too long for what is supposed to  be a fast-moving comedy. (That lengthy first act results in an full theater exodus for the rest rooms with the longest lines for the men's room I have ever seen.)

More Information:
Things We Do for Love plays through Sept. 7 at the Westport Country Playhouse, 25 Powers Court, Westport.  Performance are Tuesday at 8 pm, Wednesday at 2 and 8 pm, Thursday and Friday at 8 pm, Saturday at 3 and 8 pm and Sunday at 3 pm. Tickets and info: 203-227-4177, 1-888-927-7529; www.westportplayhouse.org.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Midtown Men Play the Palace

They took Broadway by storm in one of the biggest hits of all-time, and now on their fifth national tour, THE MIDTOWN MEN perform their favorite "Sixties Hits" from The Beatles, The Rascals, The Four Seasons and more at the Palace Theater in Waterbury, on Friday, Sept. 26, at 8 pm. 

Tickets for the one-of-a-kind concert experience are $65, $55, $45 and $35: 203-346-2000; www.palacetheaterct.org; box office, 100 East Main St., Waterbury.

Before the performance, Riverhouse Catering will prepare a 6 pm three-course dinner in the Palace’s Poli Club, located on the mezzanine level of the theater. Dinner is $40 per member/ $50 per non-member, which includes tax, service fees, coffee, and tea. A cash bar is also available. Seating is limited, and reservations can be made when purchasing tickets through the Box Office.

Formed in 2007, THE MIDTOWN MEN reunites four stars from the Original Cast of Broadway’s Jersey Boys. Following their storied run on BroadwayTony Award-winner Christian Hoff, Michael Longoria, Daniel Reichard and Tony Award-nominee J. Robert Spencer have been selling out venues coast to coast by celebrating the music that defined the '60s with top-shelf choreography, incredible vocal performances and legendary onstage chemistry.

These talented entertainers shared the Broadway stage for over a thousand performances, and now, as THE MIDTOWN MENthey have thrilled crowds on concert stages and symphony halls across the continent. Their album, THE MIDTOWN MEN: SIXTIES HITS, was met with critical acclaim and garnered five-star album reviews across iTunes. The album was recorded in New York City and features the group performing such iconic ‘60s hits as, “Can’t Buy Me Love,” “Up On The Roof,” “Time Of The Season,” “Candy Girl” and more. More information: www.themidtownmen.com; www.palacetheaterct.org.

CT Arts Connections


MEOWZA at the Mark Twain
The Mark Twain House and Museum presents an evening for cat lovers at the home of one of America's most famous cat enthusiasts. It's MEOW-ZA! Cat Writers Come Clean 7 pm Saturday, Sept. 20.

When these three authors get together to talk, the conversation is bound to get catty!
Allia Zobel Nolan, author of over 200 titles including Cat Confessions: A Kitty Come Clean Tell-All Book, 101 Reasons Why a Cat Is Better than a Man, and Women Who Still Love Cats Too Much, Clea Simon, author of 16 cat detective books including the Dulcie Schwartz Feline mystery series (Grey Dawn), and Darlene Arden, Certified Animal Behaviorist Consultant and author of dozens of dog and cats books including The Complete Cat's Meow, and Beautiful Cats will purrtake in a panel discussion on writing successful feline novels and how they've created gripping, believable, and entertaining fiction with characters who sleep 20 hours a day. This is a free event, and is followed by a book sale and signing. Reservations are suggested: 860-280-3130; marktwainhouse.org and click on Events.

Tap and Jazz at Playhouse on the Park
Collaboration of some of Connecticut's "20 something" musicians and dancers present a night of tap dancing and jazz music. Tapand Jazz features internationally accomplished tap dancer Tyler Knowlin, award winning jazz vocalist Alita Moses, Emmy award winning composer and pianist Sean Pallatroni along with other guest artists. Presented by stop/time dance theater and Playhouse on Park, this event takes place on Friday, Aug, 22 and Saturday, Aug. 23  at 8pm. Tickets range from $15 - $25, reserved seating. This event is BYOB. Playhouse on Park is located at 244 Park Road, West Hartford. 860-523-5900 ext 10; www.PlayhouseOnPark.org.

Book Club Opps at Playhouse on the Park
Playhouse on Park is offering the chance to make literary fantasies become reality. Any book club that chooses a book or play from the 2014-2015 Main Stage season can see it come to life on stage. This season's performances will include the Pulitzer Prize winner Angels in America:Part 1: Millennium Approaches, the emotional drama Danny and the Deep Blue Sea, the Tony award winner Proof, the middle-class comedy The Dining Room, the Oscar Wilde classic The Importance of Being Earnest, and the provocative drama Oleanna. Group rates, Talk Back with the cast and crew: www.playhouseonpark.org; 860-523-5900 x10.

Mark Your Calendar for Mark My Words

Gregory Maguire who wrote the original novel Wicked - The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West and Stephen Schwartz, legendary composer and lyricist of PippinGodspell, and wicked, Maguire's twisted take on L. Frank Baum's universe, will be the guests for A Wicked Cool Evening, 2014's Mark My Words event for the Mark twain House and musuem.

The conversation, moderated by the Hartford Courant's Frank Rizzo, will be helod 8 pm Tuesday, Oct. 21 at The Bushnell. Musical guests and surprises have been promised.

The tour of Wicked, the musical, makes a tour stop at The Bushnell Nov. 5-23.

The Mark Twain House and Museum's Annual 'Mark My Words' event -- wildly popular authors interviewed by a celebrity host -- has become a mainstay of the Connecticut literary scene over the past three years. John Grisham, David Baldacci, Jodi Picoult, Steve Berry, Sandra Brown, R. L. Stine, Sue Grafton, Alice Hoffman, and Scott Turow have been featured. The VIP Package at $125 includes Premium Orchestra Seating, private reception with Maguire, Schwartz and Rizzo.  Orchestra and box seats are $55, mezzanine seats are $25-40.  Tickets can be purchased online at www.Bushnell.org or by phone at (860) 987-5900.  All proceeds go to the Mark Twain House and Museum. For additional information, visit  www.twainmarkmywords.com.

About Gregory Maguire

Gregory Maguire is best known for his 1995 novel for adults, Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West. A New York Times and Publishers Weekly bestseller, and cited by Barnes & Noble in its "Discover Great New Writers" recommendations for the Fall of 1995, Wicked inspired the Broadway musical of the same name and three New York Times bestselling sequels in the Wicked Years cycle:  Son of a Witch, A Lion Among Men, and Out of Oz. The Tony Award-winning Wicked, well into its eleventh year on Broadway and playing in nine productions internationally, has broken box office records in nearly every venue in which it has appeared. His latest book Egg & Spoon, a dazzling novel for fantasy lovers of all ages set in Russia, will be released on September 9, 2014.

Born and raised in Albany, New York, and schooled in a parochial setting until college, Maguire published his first novel for children at the age of 24. He has written eighteen novels for children and eight novels for adults.  Currently he spends his time in Massachusetts, Vermont, and France with his husband, the painter Andy Newman, and their three children.

About Steven Schwartz

Stephen Schwartz was born in New York City on March 6, 1948. He studied piano and composition at the Juilliard School of Music while in high school and graduated from Carnegie Mellon University in 1968 with a B.F.A. in Drama.  In 1971, he wrote the music and new lyrics for Godspell, for which he won several awards, including two Grammys. The following year, he wrote the music and lyrics forPippin, and two years later, The Magic Show. At one point, Godspell, Pippin and The Magic Show were all running on Broadway simultaneously. He then began working in film, collaborating with composer Alan Menken on the scores for the Disney animated features Pocahontas, for which he received two Academy Awards and another Grammy, and The Hunchback of Notre Dame.  

Mr. Schwartz's most recent musical, Wicked, opened in the fall of 2003 and is currently running on Broadway and in several other productions around the United States and the world. In 2008, Wickedreached its 1900th performance on Broadway, making Mr. Schwartz the only songwriter in Broadway history ever to have three shows run more than 1900 performances.  Pippin is currently running on Broadway and received the 2013 Tony Award for Best Revival of a Musical. He is currently preparingThe Hunchback of Notre Dame to be his first stage musical since Wicked.

About Frank Rizzo

Frank Rizzo has been covering the Connecticut arts scene for more than 37 years, 32 of them for The Hartford Courant. He also writes reviews and stories for the New York Times, Variety, American Theater Magazine and other publications.   

During his tenure he has written about disco, rock and punk; covered the Oscars, the Grammys, the Tonys and Live Aid. He was in Cincinnati for the Mapplethorpe Obscenity Trial, at the U.S. Supreme Court for the NEA Four case, and at the Dakota for the John Lennon vigil. He's profiled such figures as Mikhail Baryshnikov, Julia Child, Rock Hudson, Dr. Ruth, August Wilson, Elizabeth Taylor, Meryl Streep and Mischu, the world's smallest man.
--- A R T S ---

Lauren Yarger with playwright Alfred Uhry at the Mark Twain House. Photo: Jacques Lamarre)

My Bio

Lauren Yarger has written, directed and produced
numerous shows and special events for both secular and Christian audiences. She co-wrote a Christian musical version of “A Christmas Carol” which played to sold-out audiences of over 3,000 in Vermont and was awarded the 2000 Vermont
Bessie (theater and film awards) for “People’s Choice for Theatre.”

Yarger trained for three years in the Broadway
League’s Producer Development Program, completed the Commercial Theater Institute's Producing Three-Day Training and produced a one-woman musical about Mary Magdalene that toured nationally and closed with an off-Broadway

She was a Fellow at the National Critics Institute at the O'Neill
Theater Center in Waterford, CT. She writes reviews of Broadway and off-Broadway theater (the only ones you can find in the US with an added Christian perspective) at http://reflectionsinthelight.blogspot.com/. She
is editor of The Connecticut Arts Connection (http://ctarts.blogspot.com), CT Press Club's award winner of first place for web editing and second place in feature writing for the web in 2012.

She is a contributing editor for BroadwayWorld.com and is a theater reviewer for the Manchester Journal-Inquirer. She previously served as Connecticut theater editor
for CurtainUp.com and as Connecticut and New York reviewer for American Theater Web. Yarger is a book reviewer for Publishers Weekly and freelances for other sites. She is a member of the National Book Critics Circle.

She is a freelance writer and playwright and member of The Drama Desk, The Outer Critics Circle, The American Theater Critics Association and The League of Professional Theatre Women. She served as a judge for the SDX Awards presented
by the Society of Professional Journalists. She also is a member of the Connecticut Critics Circle (awards committee).

A former newspaper editor and graduate of the University of Missouri’s School of Journalism, Yarger also worked in arts management for the Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts,
the Hartford Symphony Orchestra and served for nine years as the Executive Director of Masterwork Productions, Inc. She lives with her husband in West Granby, CT. They have two adult children.

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