Friday, December 19, 2014

Slate of Musicals Announced for Goodspeed Fest

The 10th annual Festival of New Musicals kicks off Friday, Jan. 16 at the Goodspeed Opera House with a staged reading of the Jesse James-inspired musical Outlaws.

Following will be the musical comedy The Noteworthy Life of Howard Barnes Saturday, Jan.17 and For Tonight on Sunday, Jan. 18.

will be presented. Several special events will round out this exciting weekend. Tickets are available at the Goodspeed Box Office or by calling 860.873.8668 or online at Tickets are $20 each for one show, $15 each for students. This year’s Festival is sponsored in part by lead corporate sponsor RisCassi & Davis, P.C., with additional support by The Adolph and Ruth Schnurmacher Foundation, Inc. and The Burry Fredrik Foundation.

On tap:

Friday, Jan. 16

Music and Lyrics by Alexander Sage Oyen
Book by James Presson
7:30 pm Goodspeed Opera House

Frustrated with Washington and hard-up for cash, Jesse James and his brother Frank take matters into their own hands - robbing banks, courting the press, and killing anyone who gets in their way. Alternating between sprawling epic and intimate family drama, Outlawsexamines the blurred lines between hero and villain, bravery and recklessness, and man and god.

Festival Cabaret, showcasing new songs by festival writers, 10 pm Gelston House

Saturday, Jan. 17
10 am to 12:45 pm Gelston House

Author Jennifer Ashley Tepper will share stories from her new book "The Untold Stories of Broadway: Volume Two." Meet the author and book signing will follow the session.

How Do They Do That? - Set Designer Paul Tate dePoo will debut his designs for Goodspeed’s upcoming production of Guys and Dolls and share his secrets for just how to make a night club, a mission, steamy Havana, and Times Square fit in the jewel-box theater.

Vocal Arranging 101 – Learn the process of vocal arranging from Goodspeed’s Resident Music Director Michael O’Flaherty with demonstrations performed by festival participants from The Hartt School.


Musical preview of a new musical set for Goodspeed in 2015
2:30 to 3:30 pm  Goodspeed Opera House

Symposium  (free and open to the public)
4 pm Goodspeed Opera House

The New Musical Challenge: Ever wonder what it takes to write a musical? WNPR’s Colin McEnroe will host a conversation with the writing teams represented in this year’s festival, a team currently writing-in-residence at Goodspeed and festival favorites Marcy Heisler and Zina Goldrich (upcoming production of Ever After at Papermill and Goodspeed’s The Great American Mousical). Learn first-hand about the challenges of writing a new musical and be the first to hear a brand new song written on-the-spot by one of the teams willing to take our New Musical Challenge.

Festival Dinner 5:30 pm Gelston House - OR - La Vita. Enjoy a three course meal with fellow festival goers.

Book and Lyrics by Christopher Dimond
Music by Michael Kooman 
7:30 p.m., Goodspeed Opera House  

Howard Barnes is a perfectly average man until he discovers that his life has become a musical. Equal parts satire, romantic comedy, and love letter to the American musical, The Noteworthy Life of Howard Barnes is a musical for people who love musical theater and their spouses who hate it.

Festival Cabaret 10 pmGelston House

Sunday, Jan. 18
Tour of Goodspeed’s Costume Collection, 11 am The Cynthia Kellogg Barrington Costume Center

Music & Lyrics by Shenelle Williams and Spencer Williams
Book by Whitney Rhodes, Spencer Williams, and Shenelle Williams
1 pm Goodspeed Opera House

When their parents die of a mysterious illness in their small Welsh village, surviving siblings Thomas, Haydon, and Nettie are forced to fend for themselves. Inspired by the gypsies who once shared their home, Haydon heads off to Liverpool, guitar in hand, to find what he's been missing. There he meets Mirela who speaks to his wandering soul. Through a riveting indie-rock/folk score, For Tonight explores the indelible power of home.

Meet the Writers Reception 3:30 pm Gelston House. Complimentary hors d’oeuvres and cash bar.

Festival pricing as well as lodging and dining information for Festival attendees may be found at

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Vince Gilligan, Mitch Hurwitz, Tim Gunn Talk Breaking Bad, Arrested Development, Project Runway

Tim Gunn, Vince Gilligan, Mitch Hurwitz, Photo courtesy of the CT Forum.
The creators of "Breaking Bad," "Arrested Development" and the host of "Project Runway" got together for a chat about Today's Great TV at a recent program sponsored by the Connecticut Forum at the Bushnell.

WNPR's Colin McEnroe moderated the engaging conversation between Tim Gunn ("Project Runway"), Vince Gilligan ("Breaking Bad") and Mitch Hurwitz ("Arrested Development") which ranged from how their shows were created to what it's like working with Betty White (Hurwitz was a writer on "The Golden Girls").

Some of the highlights:

What motivated the creation of their shows:

  • Hurwitz: Executive Producer Ron Howard wanted to use digital video tape to show lots of different parts of a family's life.
  • Gilligan: Suffering a midlife crisis at 40 and wondering where his next paycheck would come from after his writing gig with "The X Files" came to an end, a friend in a similar situation kidded that they both could start selling meth out of the back of a van... What if someone actually were desperate enough to do that, Gilligan thought, and what would be his motivation....
  • Gunn: Producers were looking for a consultant for a reality show about fashion and contacted the dean at Fifth and Pacific (now Kate Spade and Co.) who previously was chief creative officer at Liz Claiborne, Inc. and on the faculty at Parsons New School of Design. The Emmy-Award winning co-host and mentor of Project Runway never thought he would end up on camera.
Any problems with the networks interfering with creativity?
  • Gilligan: Sony and AMC have been excellent partners. They did object to the episode where Walter watches Jessie's girlfriend die, saying, "You've gone too far here." He watched her die any way.
  • Hurwitz: Received polite commentary from time to time, once about not being able to use the term "balls." The network suggested "nads" instead. The day after the show won an Emmy, the network president suggested it was time to bring it under control...
  • Gunn: Had concerns about the intellectual property of the designs. He originally turned down doing a second season when he discovered unacceptable terms in the contract offered to the winner of season one. The designer's rights to their designs eventually were recognized.
What role does morality play in these shows?
  • Gilligan: He didn't start out with a moral theme, but "I lost sympathy for this guy along the way. He's a sociopath," he said of Walt, a "guy who is doing terrible things." In Breaking Bad, Walt goes from protagonist to antagonist. He goes out on his own terms, but his outcome is determined within minutes of the pilot episode.Walt is now the world's to judge.
  • Gunn: The very nature of runways means people will be jumping into cruel and punitive situations. There can only be one winner.... Gunn cited an episode of "zippergate" when real women, rather than models, were on the runway and a faulty zipper exposed a sensitive area. He intervened to keep the woman from being embarrassed.
  • Hurwitz: The morals of this family are not very good.... greed, dysfunction and incest get airtime... but they need and love each other. Mike (the character portrayed by Jason Bateman) needs to be controlling, money kept them from growing. You can't be rigid in storytelling. Eccentricities are allowed.
So what was it like working with Betty White?
Hurwitz: She was "so dear, special and sharp." Most people don't realize that her hair comes from a cotton candy machine, he quipped.

A personal note:
I'd love to see Hurwitz and Gilligan team up on a project. Hurwitz knew exactly how to push Gilligan's humor buttons and there was obvious respect between the two for each other's work. A show those two hooked up on would be a riot. Remember you heard it here first.

More information:
For information on other programs coming up at the CT Forum, visit
-- Lauren Yarger

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Book Review: Show Stopping Recipes: From Your Palace to Your Plate

Just in time for holiday shopping comes a special cookbook from the Palace Theater in Waterbury to celebrate its 10th anniversary.

Comprised of more than 250 recipes submitted by the theater's staff and volunteers, the hardcover volume (published through Morris Press Cookbooks, 2014) is creatively laid out with step-by-step instructions on how to make every meal a showstopper, from the "Opening Number" (soups, salads and appetizers) to the final "Curtain Call" (desserts). 

Other sections are "Supporting Cast"(vegetables and side dishes), "Featured Presentation" (main dishes), "Intermission" (breads and rolls) and "Encore" (cookies and candies). Clever!

I just received a copy of the book to review an already have book marked a number of savory sounding recipes to try out:
  • Greek chicken, spinach and rice soup by Karen Streeter
  • Coleslaw vinaigrette by Judith Campbell
  • Bacon and double cheese quiche by Joan Montesi
  • Sour cream almond coffee cake by Maureen Piccochi
Actually, there are a lot of them --  more than I usually bookmark in these community group type cookbooks.

The front of the book offers a short history of the theater and a message from its CEO Frank Tavera (would have loved to see more photos of the beautiful theater, but they probably aren't an option for this publishing format). Also would have loved a listing of the contributors and their relationship to the theater. The book instead includes some generic "helpful hints" sections.

The idea for the cookbook was generated by the Palace Theater’s Volunteer Fundraising Committee, which is spearheaded by members Genevieve Delkescamp, Carol Marchand, Karen Streeter and George Theroux.

Each cookbook is $20, or $20 for the first book and $15 for each additional copy, and can be purchased at the Box Office, 100 E. Main St. in Waterbury, or in the theater’s gift shop during all upcoming performances. Proceeds from sales benefit the Palace Theater Annual Campaign.
-- Lauren Yarger

Connecticut Arts Connections

Irving Berlin's White Christmas, the stage adaptation of the beloved classic film is coming to the Shubert Theatre in New Haven this holiday season Dec. 30, 2014 through Jan. 4, 2015.

White Christmas tells the story of two showbiz buddies putting on a show in a picturesque Vermont inn, and finding their perfect mates in the bargain. Full of dancing, romance, laughter and some of the greatest songs ever written, including “Count Your Blessings Instead of Sheep,” “Happy Holiday,” “Sisters,” “Blue Skies,” and the unforgettable title song,

The show features music and lyrics by Berlin with book by David Ives and Paul Blake and is based upon the Paramount Pictures film written for the screen by Norman Krasna, Norman Panama and Melvin Frank.

The show will star James Clow as “Bob Wallace,” Jeremy Benton as “Phil Davis,” Kristen Beth Williams as “Betty Haynes,” and Kaitlyn Davidson as “Judy Haynes.” Also featured are Conrad John Schuck as “General Waverly,” Pamela Myers as “Martha Watson,” Ryan Reilly as “Ralph Sheldrake,”Danny Gardner as “Mike Nulty,” Cliff Bemis as “Ezekiel Foster,” and Elizabeth Crawford and Ava DellaPietra as “Susan Waverly.”

This brand new production is produced by Atlanta’s Theater of the Stars. The creative team includes direction by Norb Joerder, choreography by Randy Skinner, scenic design by Anna Louizos, scenic supervision and adaptation by Kenneth Foy, lighting design by Ken Billington, and sound design by
Peter Fitzgerald and Erich Bechtel.

Performances: Tuesday 7:30 pm, Wednesday (New Year’s Eve) 8 pm, Thursday (New Year’s Day) 1 pm Friday 2 and 7:30 pm, Saturday 2 and 8 pm, Sunday 2 pm.

Tickets: $15 – $110:; 203-562-5666

Pops! Series

Saturday, Dec. 20 at 3 pm and 7:30 pm
Mortensen Hall at The Bushnell
Tickets starting at $20; $10.00 for students with ID

NEW YEAR'S EVE: Shakespeare's Big Birthday Bash
A unique Elizabethan feast celebrating the 450th Birthday of William Shakespeare. Spend a splendid Elizabethan evening at Hyatt Regency Greenwich with Shakespeare and Queen Elizabeth I imitators, an Elizabethan inspired feast menu served with complimentary wine, beer and ale, as well as a costumed dance troupe, strolling singers and festive décor. Ring in the New Year with a wide screen showing of the Times Square Ball drop. The evening will benefit NAMI Connecticut, the National Alliance on Mental Illness. Tickets are $195 per person. RSVP to 203-356-9423.

Playhouse on Park offers Introduction to Improvisation, for those who want to perform, improve their public speaking or try something new. This class will teach the basics of improvisational theater. Students will discover how to actively listen, to use their own lives to create stories, and to avoid common thought communication patterns. The lessons will focus on the fundamental principles of improvisation with emphasis on scene building skills and having fun. Claire Zick, a seasoned improvisational actress, instructs. She was an ensemble member of Unexpected Productions in Seattle and has studied improv at Magnet Theater and UCB Theatre.

Classes run on Mondays from Jan. 12 through March 2, 2015 from  7 to 10 pm. Registration is required; class size is limited to 14 students, and will be filled on a first-come, first-served basis. The class fee is $200. To register, visit the Education page at, and download the registration form, or call 860-523-5900 x10 for more information.

And not too far from Connecticut....
To celebrate the group's 60th anniversary, the Camerata's Christmas concert features music from the early years of the American republic. The program includes music from a wide range of early tune books and manuscripts, a generous selection of carols, New England anthems, Southern folk hymns and religious ballads for the season.

Thursday, Dec. 18 at 8 pm
First Parish Church, 20 High Road, Newbury, MA
Friday, Dec. 19 at 8 pm
Hancock United Church of Christ, 1912 Mass. Ave., Lexington, MA
Saturday, Dec. 20 at 8 pm
First Church Congregational, 11 Garden St., Cambridge, MA

Featuring Anne Azéma, mezzo-soprano; Camila Parias, soprano; Deborah Rentz-Moore, alto; Dan Hershey, tenor, Taylor Ward, baritone; Joel Frederiksen, bass, guitar; Jesse Lepkoff, flutes, guitar  with Chris Belluscio, trumpet, cornet' Brian Kay, trombone; Steven Lundahl, trombone, baritone horn; Liza Malamut, trombone.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Theater Review: Altar Boyz -- Playhouse on Park

The Altar Boyz. Photo: Richard Wagner
These Altar Boyz Will Shake Up Your Faith in What You Can Expect from a Musical
By Lauren Yarger
Pop Music becomes Worship Band in Altar Boyz, a fun, guilty-pleasure musical getting a run at Playhouse on Park.

“Guilty,” because the musical, created by Marc Kessler and Ken Davenport, is the sort of cheesy, stereotypical show that we are supposed to call cheesy and stereotypical. Instead, we can’t help but smile and admit that we are having a good time.

Obviously, I am not alone. The show won the 2005 Outer Critics Circle Award for Best New Off-Broadway Musical and ran for more than 2,000 performances, making it the ninth longest running show in Off-Broadway history.

The Altar Boyz are five guys from Ohio, performing the last concert of their “Raise the Praise” tour, yes, you guessed it, right here in West Hartford!  Here’s the stereotype, provided in press info: Matthew (Mark G. Merritt) “The Leader,” Mark (Brandon Beaver) “The Sensitive One,” Luke (Nick Bernardi) “The Bad Boy,” Juan (Greg Laucella) “The Latin Lover,” and Abraham (Adam Cassel) “The Gefilte Fish Out of Water.”

Here’s the cheesy: They have a the Soul Sensor DX-12, a machine that can show the number of lost souls in their audience on a video screen (Christopher Hoyt designs the stage with two large neon crosses and the four-man band under the musical direction of  Robert James Tomasulo  housed in the rear).  The Boyz sing and pray their hearts out in hopes of seeing that number reach zero.

The tunes in varied styles with titles like “Rhythm in Me,” “The Miracle Song,” “La Vida Eternal” and “I Believe” allow the Boyz to “praise the Lord in funk and rhyme” with choreography by Director Kyle Brand that mimics boy bands (Christopher Gattelli’s original choreography for Altar Boyz won the Lucille Lortel Award). The lyrics are fun too. In “The Calling,” we discover that means “Jesus called me on my cell phone…”

Kevin Del Aguila’s book offers some plot in between musical numbers (the fast-moving show is 90 minutes with no intermission). Matthew is hiding a secret; Mark feels a bit more than he is willing to admit for the group’s leader; Juan wants to find the parents who abandoned him; Abraham wants to fit in and Luke isn’t the brightest bulb among the disciples (and seems to be constantly tugging at his pleather pants designed perhaps a tad too tightly by Erin Payne).

Adding to the fun is interaction with the audience, which smiles and taps their feet from the moment they arrive (greeted by organ music). Laucella and Cassel (who portrayed Abraham in the show’s national tour) are the Equity representatives here. Kudos to Beaver who captures Mark's quirky character and whose singing voice stands out – give that Boy a solo in the church choir.

Altar Boyz runs through Dec. 21 at Playhouse on Park, 244 Park Rd, West Hartford. Perfromances: Wednesday and Thursday at 7:30 pm; Friday and Saturday at 8 pm; Sunday at 2 pm. Tickets $15-$45. Additional special ticket offers are available. 860-523-5900 x10 or visit
--- 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 She
is editor of The award-winning Connecticut Arts Connection (,

She is a theater reviewer for the Manchester Journal-Inquirer. She previously served as Contributing Editor for, Connecticut theater editor
for and as Connecticut and New York reviewer for American Theater Web. Yarger is a book reviewer and writer 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.

Blog Archive

Copyright Notice

All contents are copyrighted © Lauren Yarger 2009, 2010, 2011,2012, 2013, 2014. All rights reserved.