Saturday, October 29, 2011

Theater Review: Belleville -- Yale

Maria Dizzia as Abby and Greg Keller as Zack. Photo: © 2011 Joan Marcus
Odd Tale Might Better Be Titled ‘Bewildering Ville’
By Lauren Yarger
Doctor Without Borders Zack (Greg Keller) and his yoga instructor/actress wife Abby (Maria Dizzia) seem like a typical, cozy American couple living in their Paris apartment, but theatergoers who really want any part of typical or cozy won’t find it in this world premiere of Belleville, by Amy Herzog, commissioned by Yale Rep. 

Herzog (After the Revolution) introduces interesting characters, well played by the talented Keller and Dizzia, but she never really takes them anywhere. The plot -- if it can be called that – is bizarre, always teasing that something sinister, or surprising is about to happen, but failing to deliver. There’s one scene that’s squirm-in-your-seat creepy, if not exactly comprehensible, and it never is fully explained either. All the questions we have about what this couple is really all about or what actually becomes of them are left unanswered. The play’s conclusion even is delivered totally in French by the couple’s Senegal-born landlord, Alioune (Glibert Owuor), and his wife, Amina (Pascale Armand). Even if you understand French, don't expect any resolution. 

Who really is the mysterious pot-smoking, porn-watching doctor and why is he behind in the rent? Why was his wife on antidepressant medication and why is she obsessed with talking to her father on the phone and taking baths? I know just a little but more about the answers than the guy in the audience who snored loudly for an hour and a half of the one-hour-and 45-minute play. “Bewildering,” rather than Belleville, the name of their northern Parisian neighborhood, might be a better title for this one.

Director Anne Kauffman doesn’t help by allowing multiple long gaps between dialogue and action. One stop in the action has the actors offstage for so long that audience members start chatting with each other, wondering whether someone has missed a cue, or whether an actor has lost his way after exiting one of several doors on Julia C. Lee’s nice set. Odd lighting (Nina Hyun Seung Lee, design) raises other questions, at times portending a sinister development (which doesn’t occur) and at other junctures, defining the passage of huge blocks of time in a blink. When we’re left trying to figure out what the plot by watching the lighting, however, something’s wrong with the story.

Belleville, featuring costumes by Mark Nagle and fight direction by Rick Sordelet and Jeff Barry,  runs through Nov. 12 at Yale Repertory Theatre, 1120 Chapel St. at York Street, New Haven. Tickets range from $20-$88 and are available at www.yalerep.org, by phone at 203-432-1234 and in person at the Box Office.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Adler, DeWitt Star in CT Rep Satire 'I'm Connecticut'

Jerry Adler (Grampa) and Joyce DeWitt (Polly). Photo: Gerry Goodstein
If you're from Connecticut - the joke is on you! Mike Reiss is a Peabody Award-winner, and four-time Emmy award-winning writer for "The Simpsons." He's also a Connecticut native and this time he's turned his sharp, satirical comic genius on his home state - and yours in I'm Connecticut, a story about a young man who grew up in Simsbury now living in New York City and searching for love.

Amid the anxieties of dating he begins to ask himself what a Nutmegger really is? If you've ever wondered about the identity of The Land of Steady Habits, be prepared for a hysterical surprise.

I’m Connecticut tells the story of a 30-something Connecticut native now living in New York trying to come to terms with his apparent lack of personality that he, and others, attribute to his upbringing in Simsbury.  This highly satirical comedy sets its sights squarely on all things Connecticut.  From the origins of our nickname, The Nutmeg State, to our town names that he observes all sound like the names of English butlers (Simsbury, Litchfield and Old Saybrook) Reiss turned his comic genius on his native state and created a 75-minute new piece of live theater.

Reiss has spent two decades writing for "The Simpsons."  In 2006, Mike received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Animation Writers Caucus.  He co-created the animated series "The Critic," featuring actor John Lovitz, and created Showtime’s hit cartoon "Queer Duck" (about a gay duck).   His other TV credits include "It’s Garry Shandling’s Show," "ALF," and "The Tonight Show" with Johnny Carson.

Reiss’ screenplay "My Life in Ruins" was made into a major motion picture in 2009 starring Nia Vardalos and Richard Dreyfuss.  He also co-wrote "The Simpsons Movie," "Horton Hears A Who!" and "Ice Age, Dawn of the Dinosaurs."  His caveman detective story "Cro-Magnon P.I." won an Edgar Award from the Mystery Writers of America.  He has published 14 children’s books, including the best-seller "How Murray Saved Christmas" and the award-winning "Late for School."  He also composes puzzles for NPR and Games Magazine.  He’s a former president of The Harvard Lampoon and editor of The National Lampoon.

Call 860-486-4226 for tickets or for more information and call or visit the box office for specific show dates and times because performance schedules vary and are subject to change.  Tickets available online at www.crt.uconn.edu.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Cavanaugh, Powers on Tap to Benefit Hartford Children's Theatre

For more information, call 860-249-7970 or visit www.hartfordchildrenstheatre.org.

Colleges To Compete in A Cappella Competition at Bijou Theatre in Bridgeport

The Bijou Blender is a Connecticut-wide collegiate a cappella competition that highlights the talent found at colleges and universities in our own back yard. For one night only, Saturday, Nov. 12, groups will battle it out for a grand prize of $1,000.

“Connecticut is home to over 50 collegiate a cappella groups, and as ensemble singing has begun to integrate itself into the media and pop culture with shows like "Glee," "The Glee Project" and "The Sing Off," we wanted to find a way to make a cappella easily accessible to the public”, said Derek
Adams, producer for the Bijou Theatre. “I have been an a cappella performer for five years now and wanted to created the Bijou Blender because watching a cappella on TV isn’t enough, you just need to experience it firsthand.”

The Judges - The world-touring a cappella quartet, Blue Jupiter, will be sitting at the judges table. Blue Jupiter first gained national fame as the voices of Oreo Cookie, singing the national Oreo radio
commercial since 2005. Since then, Blue Jupiter has headlined the Sands Casino in Macau, China, worked with famed producer and "American Idol" Judge Randy Jackson, sang with Livingston Taylor and performed on "Oprah" and VH1’s "Save the Music."

Groups - Groups in attendance include Out of the Blue (Yale), the Chordials and Notes Over Storrs (University of Connecticut), Too Good For Instruments ( Central Connecticut State University), L’Shir (University of Hartford), and the ConnChords and Co Co Beaux (Connecticut College).

The Bijou Blender takes place Saturday, Nov. 12 at 7 pm at the Bijou, 275 Fairfield Ave., Bridgeport. Tickets: $25 General Admission; $20 Students

Tickets can be purchased online at www.thebijoutheatre.com/events or email info@thebijoutheatre.com for more information.

Take in a Performance at the Kate

The Kate ( The Katharine Hepburn Clutural arts Center in Old Saybrook) has a plethora of performances in November. For tickets and more information, visit www.TheKate.org or call 877-503-1286.

Event: Met in HD: Don Giovanni Encore
Date: Tuesday, Nov. 1
Time: 1 pm
Price: $25

Event: Ellis Paul
Date: Friday, Nov. 4
Time: 8 pm
Price: $25

Event: Met in HD: Siegfried
Date: Saturday, Nov. 5
Time: noon
Price: $28
Event: Darden Smith
Date: Sunday, Nov. 6
Time: 7 pm
Price: $25

Event: 92 St Y: Andy Borowitz Presents the Funniest American Writers
Date: Wednesday, Nov. 9
Time: 7 pm
Price: $10

Event: CTFF Encore: The Green
Date: Thursday, Nov. 10
Times: 4, 7 and 9 pm
Price: $8

Event: Missoula Children's Theatre Presents The Secret Garden
Date: Saturday, Nov. 12
Time: 11am, 2 pm
Price: $14 Adults, $10 Children 12 & under

Event: Pure Prairie League
Date: Saturday, Nov. 12
Time: 8:00pm
Price: $47.50

Event: The Kate Classic Film: Adam’s Rib
Date: Thursday, Nov. 17
Time:2, 4 and 7 pm
Price: $8

Event: STCS: Shoreline Soup Kitchen Benefit
Date: Friday, Nov. 18
Time: 8:00pm
Price: $25

Event: Met in HD: Satyagraha
Date: Saturday, Nov. 19
Time: 1 pm
Price: $28

Event: J. Geils with Jeff Pitchell & Texas Flood
Date: Saturday, Nov. 19
Time: 8 pm
Price:$42/$36

Event: Met in HD: Satyagraha Encore
Date: Tuesday, Nov. 22
Time: 1 pm
Price: $25

Event: Celtic Tenors
Date: Friday, Nov. 25
Time: 8 pm
Price: $67
Event: Kevin Flynn
Date: Saturday, Nov. 26
Time: 8 pm
Price: $25

HSO Appoints Andrea Stalf as New President/CEO

Andrea Stalf. Photo: Leah Morgan
The Hartford Symphony Orchestra has appointed Andrea Stalf as president and chief executive officer.

Stalf will oversee administrative operations and fundraising, and will partner with the artistic leadership of new Music Director Carolyn Kuan. She replaces Kristen Phillips. Carrie Hammond has served as Interim CEO.

Stalf's 22-year career in corporate marketing and general management includes senior positions with Fortune 100 firms in insurance, telecommunications and consumer products.  Stalf moved to Hartford in 2007 when she accepted the position of vice president and chief marketing officer for the personal lines insurance business of Travelers.   She has an undergraduate degree in chemical engineering from the University of Illinois, Urbana, and a master of science degree in environmental engineering from the University of Minnesota.  She earned an MBA in marketing from the Kellogg Graduate School of Management at Northwestern University.  Stalf and her husband, David Lampert, live in Avon with their sons Ben and Max. They are life-long music lovers and concertgoers; their sons are serious students of piano, guitar and clarinet.

“It’s a thrill and honor to work with Carolyn Kuan; she gives herself entirely to each performance,” Stalf said. “Carolyn is a visionary and right now the HSO is at the vanguard of orchestras with its rich heritage of artistic talent and dedication to community service.  I'm really excited to be a part of it and committed to its continuing success.”

Monday, October 24, 2011

Theater Review: The Motherf***ker with the Hat -- TheaterWorks

Royce Johnson, Ben Cole and Varín Ayala. Photo by Lanny Nagler
There's a Bleeping Good Play about Relationships, Loyalty Behind All of That Profanity
By Lauren Yarger
Stephen Adly Guiris' play, The Motherf**ker with the Hat, making its regional premiere at TheaterWorks in Hartford, is a marketing nightmare. How do you get the word out, when the title isn't something you can print or say on TV or radio? And how do you convince audiences that 90 minutes of  ear-blistering dialogue is worth sitting through?

Well, in New York, where the play was nominated for a best-play Tony last season, it helped that comedian Chris Rock was making his Broadway debut in the role of Ralph. Once audiences were in the door, they couldn't help but notice the better-than-average play as well as superb performances by Bobby Cannavale, Elizabeth Rodriguez and Yul Vázquez, all of whom received Tony nominations. Director Anna D. Shapiro was nominated as well.

Here in Hartford, it's worth the trip for the excellent, humorous play and a stellar performance turned in by Royce Johnson as Ralph. We get to see a little bit more of the TheaterWorks veteran (God of Carnage, Broke-ology) than we did of Rock in the role -- Director Tazewell Thompson has added a full nudity scene -- but we also get to see more of Ralph's character and a superior performance.

Ben Cole plays Jackie (the Cannavale role), recently paroled, who finds a job and looks forward to a 12-Step guided fresh start with his love, Puerto Rican spitfire Veronica (a terribly miscast Clea Alsip. She doesn't look or sound Puerto Rican, and doesn't pull off the spitfire part either). There's just one problem: Jackie discovers a hat left behind in the drab apartment (Donald Eastman, design) and accuses Veronica of being unfaithful with the hat-wearing motherf**ker who lives downstairs.

Fighting the urge to take a drink, and/or to shoot the motherf**ker, Jackie seeks guidance from his AA sponsor, Ralph, who doesn't approve of his being back with Veronica any way because she is a user. Ralph perhaps is not the greatest at giving relationship advice, however, as his wife, Victoria (Vanessa Wasche, apparently attempting some indiscernible accent) is preparing to leave him. Calmed down by his good friend, Jackie takes the gun to his cousin Julio (Varin Ayala) for safekeeping.

Before long, we discover that Ralph has been as rotten and uncaring a friend to Jackie as Jackie has been to the effeminate, body-building Julio over the years. Questions of love and loyalty arise on all fronts amidst a bunch of profanity and some very hip and biting humor. When all is said and done, Jackie, who doesn't appear to be the brightest bulb in the pack, might just see the light more than all of them. And there's just something to be said for a guy who can't help but love the woman he describes as a ball-crushing Godzilla.

Besides the odd casting of Veronica, Thompson also fails to rein in Ayala, whose portrayal is too over-the-top dramatically. When he goes "Van Dam" later in the play, some of the humor of that transformation is lost because he already has been supercharged. Yelling also is the technique of choice by most of the actors. Considering that our ears already are being blistered by the language, a more subtle approach to delivering the dialogue works better. Johnson, shines, though, and is natural in the skin of his character, revealing multi levels of sleaze as well as comedic ability as the play continues.

Special kudos go to the actors and crew who change props and furniture on the tiny stage with lightning speed between scenes.

The theater posts the following advisories: Full adult nudity; adult language; adult content; no one under the age of 16 will be admitted; no late seating. The Motherf**ker with the Hat runs through Dec. 4 at TheaterWorks, City on Pearl, 233 Pearl St., Hartford. Performances are
Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays at 7:30 pm; Fridays and Saturdays at 8 pm; Weekend Matinees at 2:30 pm. For information/seats call 860-527-7838; visit www.theaterworkshartford.org.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Theater Review: City of Angels -- Goodspeed

D.B. Bonds, Jay Russell, Burke Moses and Nancy Anderson Photo ©2011Diane Sobolewski
Real, Reel Worlds Collide in Sophisticated Spoof of Hollywood Whodunnits
By Lauren Yarger
It was a Darko stormy night...

Darko Tresnjak, Hartford Stage's new artistic director, helms a stylish production of the complicated murder-mystery musical City of Angels for Goodspeed Musicals, starring Nancy Anderson, Burke Moses and a fabulous set designed by David P. Gordon.

She's not bad looking, the stage I mean, in that way beautiful women have of making us want to offer them a ride in our car, but knowing that all that steam will just pop the tires...

A shelf-lip stage above the action as well as a series of blinds that open to reveal other scenes with superb lighting by John Lasiter complete a picture that makes the story within a story within a story within a story complete with all the necessities for film noir:  narration from the private eye, false leads, flashbacks and lots of funny wisecracks.

The cast is like a group of old friends sitting around a crackling fire, sipping cognac because nothing but the best will do, knowing that the best part of the evening is still ahead...

Moses looks the part (think the Claude Rains, Dick Powell, Robert Mitchum type) and plays up Stone, the rough detective trying to solve a missing person case that turns into a murder. He charges $25 a day and 8 cents a mile, his secretary, Oolie (Anderson), reminds him when he is hired by Alaura Kingsley to find her missing stepdaughter, Mallory (Kathleen Rooney). What it takes the private eye a little while to figure out, though, is that he's actually a character in a screenplay being written by Stine (D.B. Bonds), who isn't happy that the producer/director of the film, Buddy Fidler (Jay Russell), keeps making changes and taking all the credit for the story.

The story has legs, long ones stretching down so long any detective would not be shamus to be called gumshoe....

The book by Larry Gelbart (of M*A*S*H fame) is really quite good. It's funny, very complicated and true to the film noir genre. The events in the "real" world play out against those of the "reel" world, with Anderson, Russell, Rooney, Pearce and others from the large cast playing dual roles. Tresnjak skillfully stages some great scenes: where the action in the screenplay rewinds as the writer erases, the entrance of thug Big Six (a riotous Jerry Gallagher), where characters from both worlds sing duets and a slow-motion fight scene (Ron Piretti, fight director). The fun is made complete by lighting that puts the current action in color and the movie in black and white with costumes (Tracy Christensen) following suit.

We can't run away from the badness ... we can't fight it. We must deal with the badness.... (OK, I borrowed that one from Michael O'Hara in the "The Lady from Shanghai" but it fits)....

The music by Cy Coleman, with lyrics by David Zippel is disappointing and doesn't belong in the play. Imagine, if you will, Lauren Bacall asking Humphrey Bogart if he knows how to whistle then jumping into a song-and-dance number about it. That's what happens here -- 10 times in the first act and seven times in the second act with Michael O'Flaherty conducting the orchestra and the cast performing Jennifer Paulson Lee's choreography. The Angel City 4 singers are played by Mick Bleyer, Vanessa Parvin, Sierra Rein and Adam West Hemming, all members of the 2010 Manhattan Association of Cabarets and Clubs (MAC) award-winning a capella group Marquee Five.

With the exception of one nicely staged number where couples dance at a night club to the sounds of an orchestra actually performing at the night club, however, the score is not memorable, disrupts the action, stretches the vocal abilities of several cast members who are stronger on acting than singing and pushes the running time to two hours and 45 minutes.

I know, those are harsh words for a critic to throw at a man, especially when he's walking out of your bedroom -- I mean ending a review -- (apologies to Philip Marlowe)....

It's worth sitting through all the music, though to see this savvy, extremely well staged production of a show not often produced because of its complex nature. City of Angels runs through Nov. 27 at the Goodspeed Opera House, East Haddam. Curtains are Wednesday at 2 and 7:30 pm, Thursday at 7:30 pm (with select performances at 2 pm), Friday at 8 pm, Saturday at 3 pm and 8 pm, and Sunday at 2 pm (with select performances at 6:30 pm). Tickets are available at 860-873-8668 or on-line at www.goodspeed.org.

Theater Review: Twelfth Night -- Westport

Justin Kruger, David Schramm, Jordan Coughtry, Donnetta Lavinia Grays Photo by T. Charles Erickson
'Or What You Will' Seems to Guide This Production
By Lauren Yarger
Viola and her brother Sebastian aren't the only ones who find themselves washed up on the shores of Illyria following a shipwreck. Also caught in the sand scattered about the Westport Country Playhouse stage are a chandelier and some picture frames, with the scene itself framed against an ocean backdrop that could be the view or a large painting on a castle wall topped by moulding. It doesn't take long to figure out that director Mark Lamos, with almost 30 Shakespeare productions under his belt, has gone to great lengths to explore the "Or-What-You-Will" part of the title of his production of Twelfth Night.

At just about every turn, the intention, like what that ubiquitous sand (Andrew Boyce, scenic design)signifies, isn't clear.  What time frame are we in for example? Some of Tilly Grimes costumes, with their Farthingdale-style waists, indicate 16th-century, or maybe late 1700s. Other pants and shirts look like something worn today at Cape Cod. John Gromada's original music is pleasant, but has a modern swing quality when it isn't invoking the goodnight song from The Sound of Music. And then there's a late 19th-century Gramophone playing the music accompanying the singing (Gromada also designs the sound).

So you we just have to say, "Whatever," or "what you will" to the concept and try to enjoy Shakespeare's story of love amidst mistaken identities. Due to some big-time miscasting here, though, even that is hard to do without a lot of questions.

When Viola (Mahira Kakkar) washes up on shore and thinks her brother, Sebastian (Rachid Sabitri), has perished in the storm, she dresses like a man and  renames herself Cesario to survive. Kakkar, unfortunately, is miscast, beyond simply not being able to deliver Shakespeare's verse naturally (whole passages are lost as the meter overtakes the meaning and what we can understand sounds like an English schoolmarm reading from the text). She's pretty, petite and feminine, so never looks like she could be mistaken for a man. A scene Lamos gives her to try to keep up with other males doing pushups isn't necessary to remind us she's really a woman.

Viola finds herself the trusted servant of the ruler of the land, Orsino (Lucas Hall), who asks Cesario to plead his case of love to Olivia (Susan Kelechi Watson) who has refused his attentions so far. Watson's ability with iambic pentameter, unfortunately, is even less than Kakkar's and when other cast members also can't seem to roll the Shakespeare off of their tongues, we say, "alas and forsooth," or just thorow our hands up and say, "what you will."

Viola falls in love with Orsino (though there is no apparent chemistry between the two actors); Olivia in love with Cesario, mistakenly marries Sebastian, who didn't perish in the storm after all (at least Kakkar and Sabitri look enough alike to pull off passing for twins). The plot sounds outlandish, but it can work wonderfully, like it did a couple of seasons ago in the Public Theatre's stellar Central Park production featuring Anne Hathaway. It is allowed to wander here, though, and isn't helped by a new subplot developed to suggest that friend Antonio (Paul Anthony Stewart) has homosexual feelings for Sebastian.

Saving this Westport production are some terrific turns from minor characters. Donetta Lavinia Grays lights up the stage with her portrayal of Maria, a servant to Olivia, who convinces steward Malvalio (David Adkins) that Olivia's affections will be his if he simply smiles a lot and cross garters himself while wearing yellow stockings (the garters here are over the top). She is aided in her deception, and in having Malvolio declared insane, by two clowns, Olivia's uncle, Sir Toby Belch (a fabulous David Schramm) and Sir Andrew Aguecheek (an equally engaging Jordan Coughtry), also a suitor of Olivia's. The three clowns doing bird calls to cover their presence while hiding from Malvolio is a hoot and I hope Grays will be starring in something soon. She has amazing stage presence.

Also helping is another servant/clown, Fabian (Justin Kruger), who spends some of his stage time wheeling Olivia's jester, Feste (Darius de Haas), around in a period wheelchair added last minute after de Haas suffered a leg injury in the last dress rehearsal. He lends the lead singing voice to the music and doesn't seem inhibited by the chair, but he seems miscast too: melancholy and exacting, rather than festive and spontaneous.
Twelfth Night runs through Nov. 5 at the Playhouse, 25 Powers Court, Westport. For more information or tickets, call 203-227-4177, toll-free at 1-888-927-7529, or visit www.westportplayhouse.org.

News Briefs Week of Oct. 24

The Hartford Symphony Orchestra will begin the 2011-2012 Jazz and Strings Series with a tribute to the classic jazz album, Ella Fitzgerald Sings The Cole Porter Songbook 8 pm Friday, Nov. 4 in the Theater for the Performing Arts at the Learning Corridor in Hartford. 

Conceived and directed by Jazz and Strings Artistic Director Gene Bozzi, this concert will feature guest vocalist Tina Fabrique as the “First Lady of Song,” performing selections from the album as well as a few of Ella Fitzgerald’s biggest hits.  Bassist Rick Rozie and frequent HSO arranger and pianist Walter Gwardyak, along with Bozzi on drums will team up with members of the HSO string, brass, and wind sections for this program. Subscriptions to the 2011-2012 Jazz and Strings Series are $54 for orchestra seating, $104 for center orchestra seating. Single tickets to the 2011-2012 Jazz and Strings Series are $20 for orchestra seating, $40 for center orchestra seating. Student tickets are $10. To purchase tickets or for more information, please contact HSO ticket services at 860-244-2999 or visit www.hartfordsymphony.org.
  • Cirque Dreams Holidaze will play The Bushnell Dec. 20-24. Tickets available at 860-987-5900 or www.bushnell.org. For a review of the show when it played the Palace last season click here.
  • Spencers Theatre of Illusion plays the Quick Center for the Arts at Fairfield University 3 p.m., Sunday, Oct. 30 as part of the 2011-2012 “Awesome Fun” series. For added fun, there will be Halloween treats for all, and audience members are encouraged to come in costume and participate in a costume contest taking place that afternoon. Tickets are $35, $30, and $25. Children under 12 are $15. Tickets are available at 203-254-4010, toll-free 1-877-278-7396 or online at www.quickcenter.com.
  • The powerful, five-octave vocal range of Karen Frisk will resound through the Mark Twain House & Museum's Murasaki Café on Sunday, Nov. 13, as the museum's popular series of Sunday Jazz Brunches continues. Seatings are at 11:30 am and 1:15 pm. The $35 admission includes the performance, full brunch, soft drinks and hot beverages. Alcoholic beverages are available at an additional charge. Call 860-280-3130 for reservations.

Scenic Painting, Associate Program Added to Goodspeed's Musical Theatre Institute

Goodspeed Musicals’ Max Showalter Center for Education in Musical Theatre will be offering new and enlarged educational programming for the 2012 Musical Theater Institutes. The Institutes will include training in the fields of music direction, scenic painting, and dance. All four of the programs will take place on the Goodspeed Musicals campus in East Haddam, Connecticut.

Now in its third year, the intensive has been extended by one day and will take place Jan. 16 – 22, 2012. It allows participants the opportunity to work with internationally renowned experts in music direction while networking with industry professionals. Participants will use the latest technology to receive hands-on training in the management and implementation of the audition, rehearsal, and orchestration processes. They will also attend nightly lectures given by industry experts on pertinent subjects relating to real-world success in the field of music direction. The application deadline for this unique program is November 18, 2011.

Goodspeed’s brand new Introduction to Scenic Painting Intensive will be a six-day program taught by top artisans featuring insturction in a variety of scenic painting techniques including texturing, cartooning, color mixing, squaring up, drop layout, and wood graining. The application deadline is Nov. 18, 2011.

Also new to the Musical Theatre Institute is Goodspeed’s Associate Program. This program will offer the opportunity for talented young theatre professionals and students to work alongside Goodspeed’s director, choreographer, or music director on a Goodspeed Opera House or Norma Terris production during the 2012 season. The application for this highly selective program is Feb. 14, 2012.

Finally, slated for Aug. 13 – 19, 2012, is Goodspeed’s Dance Intensive. This program is designed as a musical theatre dance boot camp for college age performers and young professionals. The distinguished faculty will cover numerous disciplines of dance with a musical theatre focus including instruction in tap, jazz, ballet, and hip-hop. The application deadline is June 15, 2012. Registration will be open soon.

In addition to the Musical Theatre Institute, Goodspeed offers training for students and young professionals in its Apprenticeship and Internship Program. The areas of concentration include Stage Carpentry, Scenic Painting, Costuming, Prop Building, Stage Management, Company Management, Producing, Marketing/Public Relations, Education/Library, and Development. Resumes are now being accepted for the 2012 Season.

For more information visit the Education page at www.goodspeed.org or contact Education and Library Director Joshua Ritter at 860.873.8664, ext. 745 or jritter@goodspeed.org.

Brian Dennehy Brings Krapp's Last Tape to Long Wharf

Tickets go on sale to the general public for the critically renowned production of Krapp’s Last Tape, by Samuel Beckett, starring Brian Dennehy, at 10 a.m. Saturday, Oct. 15. The show will take place on Stage II from Nov. 29 through Dec. 18. Tickets are $70.

“Brian Dennehy is, without question, one of America’s greatest stage actors. His extraordinary performance in Hughie several seasons ago was something we will always remember and we are thrilled beyond measure that he is returning with another of his incredible performances in Krapp’s Last Tape,” said Gordon Edelstein, artistic director.

The play is directed by Jennifer Tarver and has had runs at the Shakespeare Festival Theater in Ontario and the Goodman Theatre in Chicago. “It’s probably the greatest play I’ve ever been involved with and I’ve done a lot of great plays,” Dennehy told the New York Times in 2010. “But Krapp’s is everyone’s life.

In the twilight of his life, Krapp—alone now except for his memories—relives the moment years before when he glimpsed a chance at happiness. Samuel Beckett’s haunting monologue meditates on time’s passage, loves lost, and the rituals that both comfort and imprison us. Noted critic Brooks Atkinson of the New York Times described Beckett’s style as “pungent and fabulous.”

Brian Dennehy, who last appeared at Long Wharf Theatre in the critically acclaimed 2008 production of Hughie, has been described by critics as “transformative” in the role of Krapp. A foremost interpreter of the works of Arthur Miller and Eugene O’Neill, he won two Tony Awards for Best Actor in a Play in 2003 for Eugene O’Neill’s Long Day’s Journey Into Night and in 1999 for the 50th anniversary production of Arthur Miller’s Death of A Salesman. A prolific screen actor as well, Dennehy has appeared in F/X, Cocoon, Gorky Park, Presumed Innocent, and Peter Greenway’s In The Belly Of An Architect for which he won the Best Actor Award at the Chicago Film Festival, among many others.

For more information, visit www.longwharf.org or call 203-787-4282.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Grisham, Baldacci, Picoult Lend a Hand to Mark Twain

John Grisham
By Lauren Yarger
Bestselling authors John Grisham, David Baldacci and Jodi Picoult shared insights into writing, publishing and how other authors, particularly Mark Twain, have influenced their careers in an entertaining event at Yale University last night to benefit the Mark Twain House & Museum in Hartford.
The humor-filled "Mark My Words" panel was moderated by Malaak Compton-Rock, founder of the Angel Rock Project, author of "If It Takes a Village, Build One," and wife of comedian Chris Rock at a sold-out Woolsey Hall. Among them, the featured authors have more than 400 million copies of their books in print. Baldacci’s tales of Washington intrigue and corruption, John Grisham’s blockbuster legal thrillers, and Jodi Picoult’s moving tales of the extremes of human emotion consistently top the best sellers lists. They shared their insights in responses to specific questions posed by Compton-Rock. Some are summarized here:

What is it you like about Mark Twain and which of his works do you enjoy?
Picoult: He wrote social commentary with commercial appeal. She tries to make readers think about important issues while reading a good story. A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court. Also, his later writing about social issues and religion.
Grisham: He was fearless, angry and funny. Tom Sawyer -- a book which almost "ruined" his life after he established a Tom Sawyer Club in his Mississippi childhood and got in trouble for imitating Tom's behavior. The police suggested the disband...
Baldacci: He knew how to tell a yarn.  Tom Sawyer, Huckleberry Finn, his travel books. He likes Twain's later writings. "He got better as he got older."

What's the biggest misconception people have about Mark Twain?
Baldacci: That Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn were the only things he wrote. He wasn't just a humorist, he was a satirist whose work is still funny today.
Grisham: That he was telling the truth when writing non-fiction. He cited a n extremely humorous account of Twain's time with the Confederate army which was hilarious, but hardly recognizable to those who had served with him.

Are libraries important to you?
Picoult: One of her first jobs was as a library page. She began reading at age 3 and couldn't wait to get her own library card.
Grisham: Kidded that he is opposed to libraries because they take away from book sales. Said that when his family moved, they would seek out a Baptist church and how many books the local library allowed you to check out.
Baldacci: His librarian scared him as a kid, but eventually, she allowed him to take out more than the maximum number of books allowed out at one time. The books he read from the library opened a whole new world for him.

What was getting that first book published like?
Picoult: wrote her first novel as her thesis at Princeton. Some 100 agents rejected it. Finally, an unknown agent took on her second novel. She worked in a number of different jobs, then finally continued with writing because "it was much easier than teaching 8th grade English."
Grisham: As a lawyer, where he kidded that he wrote fiction every day in his legal briefs, he had seen something in the court room that inspired a story idea. He began writing early in the morning and around his job, family obligations and duties as a state legislator. He was compelled to tell the story, which we know as "A Time to Kill." The first publisher printed 5,000 copies and Grisham bought 1,000 of them which he sold out of the back of his car. The habit of writing every day stuck and his next book, "The Firm," was the one that launched his career.
Baldacci: Also a lawyer, he started selling short stories to magazines in high school and also write some screenplays. He came up with the idea of a novel about a US President with a mistress and a cover up which became "Absolute Power." At the time, people told him they thought the plot was far-fetched. Later, they accused him of capitalizing on a real-life national scandal.

What is the process that happens when you're writing a book?
Picoult: Begins with a question that she can't answer that haunts her in her sleep. Characters pop up "like little mushrooms" and take the story away. She gets a lot of thoughts while driving, so writes notes on her hands and arms. She wrote on her children's hands too... She needs to figure out the plot twist so she can leave a trail for the reader. Then she does a "boat load" of research that lets her do lots of exciting and crazy things. Then it's like the scene from the movie "The wizard of Oz" where a whole bunch of things are flying around in the wind. The book touches down when she hears the first line.
Grisham: He follows headlines and trials and gets an idea. He tries to figure out what lends itself to the best story, then outlines. He figures out the final scene, then knows where he is going. He writes for three or four hours, (5-10 pages) then takes a break. He posts his deadline on the wall in front of him. His latest story, The Litigators," releases Tuesday.
Jodi Picoult
Baldacci: He recommends being interested in the story since a writer will spend such "a big chunk" of their life on it and you don't want to run out of steam. He tries to figure out how he can tell the story a little differently. He researches, but doesn't know where the story is going or how the book will end. He advises beginners not to try to do too much too  soon.

What's your craziest fan story?
Picoult:
Grisham: 99 percent of fans are great, but there always are a few who make you nervous, like the woman who wanted him to sign a book for her dead friend. At another book signing, a woman asked him to sign her breast and he felt he couldn't refuse when it was presented. Her boyfriend showed up later, unzipped his pants and said, "If you're in such an autographing mood, why don't you autograph this?"
Baldacci: Enjoying lunch with his wife, he noticed a woman staring at him from across the restaurant. She finally came over and asked if he was who she thought he was. When he said yes, she yelled across the restaurant to her husband, "I was right. It is John Grisham!" Baldacci said his wife was so amused she "somehow blew iced tea out of her nose."

When did you know you had made it?
Grisham: Said the authors are "famous in a country where very few people read," so it's still easy to go out in public without being recognized. He felt he'd made it the first time he made the NY Times Bestsellers List.
Picoult: When a reviewer called her the "female John Grisham."
Baldacci: When he offered to sign books in a store. The clerk allowed him to after checking his ID against the book jacket.

What about Ebooks Self Publishing and the future of Publishing?
David Baldacci
Picoult: Ebooks are here to stay. Anything that gets people to read is good. Publishers need to stop panicking and meet the needs of the consumer. She thinks you'll see packages, similar to the music industry, where you will buy a hard cover, an audio recording and a download together. This allows the consumer to read the book in whatever format fits a schedule. "the death of the book is greatly exagerated," she said, but the demise of independent book sellers means it will be harder for first-time writers to get shelf space. Not a fan of self publishing. She feels traditional publishers offer more support in marketing and that there still is a stigma about self publishing.Grisham: Offers have been floating for him to consider going right to ebook, but he prefers traditional publishing. Writers should write their best story and shop it to agents in New York. If your story is good, it will get noticed.
Baldacci: It's not important how people read, just that they do. Publishing is a content-driven business. At the end of the day, people want stories. Only the delivery system will change. Traditional publishing as a business is safer than self publishing (where people have reported being ripped off) and is a way to surround yourself with professionals.

What other authors do you enjoy?
Picoult: Margaret Mitchell ("Gone with the Wind). "She created a world of words and I wanted to do that." Also Alice Hoffman.
Grisham: reads dead people -- Dickens, Twain, Hemingway. Also  John le Carré.
Baldacci: John Irving

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Theater Review: Over the Tavern -- Seven Angels

Michael Sacco, Noel Desiato, Sarah Knapp, Tony Harkin and Carey Cannata. Photo by Paul Roth.
Over-the-Top Performances by Kids Highlight 1950s Story About Growing Up
By Lauren Yarger
Catholic dogma might not rule the life of 12-year-old Rudy Pazinski, who to the horror of his parents and teacher-nun announces his decision to forgo Confirmation while he shops around for a religion, but Over the Tavern, Tom Dudzick’s play opening the 21st season for Seven Angels Theater in Waterbury definitely is a good work with outstanding youth performances.

Carey Cannata makes a notable professional debut as the religion-questioning, Ed Sullivan-impersonating boy trying to find answers in 1959 Buffalo. Ben Scanlon is his pornography-obsessed teenage brother, Eddie. Mandy Thompson is their sister, Annie, whose poor self image causes her to overeat and undress in front of her window. In a terrific turn, Tony Harkin is their younger, mentally-challenged brother Georgie.

Director Semina De Laurentis brings out performances that are natural, touching and humorous. Voice overs (performed by Joyce Jeffrey, Michelle Gotay and Don Leona with sound design by Trenton Spears) call the “s-k-i-ending” names of the Polish students for detention at St. Casimir’s parochial school, depicted simply by Rudy seated at a desk, with Sister Clarissa  (Noel Desiato) towering over him, lighted by Lynne Chase set apart from the main action of the Pazinskis’ apartment (Erik D. Diaz, scenic design).

Mother, Ellen Pazinski (SarahKnapp), tries to keep their home together in the cramped apartment where they live over a tavern run by her husband Chet (Michael Sacco) and his abusive, alcoholic father. It’s not easy given Chet’s manic mood swings that have the kids living in fear of receiving a beating.

Things just get worse when Rudy starts asking questions during catechism class, impersonating Jesus and coming up with some of his own answers. Why does God let bad things happen, why doesn't he answer prayers and why does he allow Sister Clarissa to strike him with her ruler while teaching him about God’s love, he wants to know. Rudy’s resistance finally prompts a fateful home visit from Sister Clarissa that results in a new family dynamic that might just be everyone’s salvation.

Dudzick’s strong character development and engaging dialogue create a glimpse into the family’s life and into a time gone by in America and the amazingly strong performances by the junior cast members make Over the Tavern a real pleasure.

Catch it at Seven Angels Theatre, 1 Plank Road, Waterbury, through Oct. 30. Tickets range from $29 to $39,50 and can be purchased by calling 203-757-4676 or online at www.sevenangelstheatre.org.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Brand: NEW Plays Get Seen at Hartford Stage

Hartford Stage continues its commitment to developing the next generation of great plays and playwrights by presenting the 13th annual Brand:NEW Fall Festival of New Work November 3 - 6.

Building on the success of previous years' events, the festival will feature readings of distinctive new works by Bekah Brunstetter, Marcus Gardley, Steven Levenson, Matthew Schneck, and Sinan Unel. Gardley is this year's Aetna New Voices Fellow at Hartford Stage. The festival also includes a lively playwrights' panel discussion led by Jerry Patch, Director of Artistic Development at Manhattan Theatre Club.
Hartford Stage Artistic Director Darko Tresnjak comments, "The five plays that we have chosen for this year's Brand:NEW festival look at history, family, and desire in exciting and unexpected ways. It is a pleasure to bring these distinctive and provocative writers to Hartford Stage."
Principal Sponsor for Brand:NEW is The John and Kelly Hartman Foundation. New play development is supported by the Harold and Mimi Steinberg Charitable Trust. Hartford Stage is supported by the Greater Hartford Arts Council and the Connecticut Commission on Culture and Tourism.

Schedule of Events for Brand:NEW 2011
Thursday, November 3 * 7:30 p.m.
pathetique
By Sinan Unel
Directed by Darko Tresnjak
Fall 1893. Composer Pyotr Illich Tchaikovsky is in St. Petersburg to premiere his sixth symphony - his darkest and most mysterious, imbued with a "subjective and secret program." Five days later, he is dead. After a decade, his brother and nephew still struggle with unrelenting gossip surrounding the composer's death and the symphony's secret. Pathétique explores the all-consuming passions of a great man and those who live in his shadow.
Friday, November 4 * 7:30 p.m.
hey brother
By Bekah Brunstetter
Directed by Maxwell Williams
Big brother Ben is a financial planner with an alpha-male attitude. Little brother Isaac is a graduate student in history, used to finishing in second place. When a mysterious young woman hunting for her own history comes into their lives, the love/ hate relationship between them is put to the test in this darkly funny adult drama.
Saturday, November 5 * 2:00 p.m.
the ping and the pang
By Matthew Schneck
Directed by Jenn Thompson
                                        
When a man reluctantly visits a psychiatrist for the first time, he is subjected to a bizarre and aggressive new talk therapy technique. Is his doctor helping him to face his real issues? Or merely pushing him past the brink of sanity? The human psyche, the collective unconscious, and funny-tasting kool-aid combine in this outlandish and hilarious existentialist comedy.
Saturday, November 5 * 7:30 p.m.
the house that will not stand
By Marcus Gardley
Directed by Hana S. Sharif
Set in 1836, against the backdrop of Faubourg Tremé in New Orleans, Marcus Gardley weaves a poetic tale of three sisters trapped beneath the oppressive thumb of their unyielding mother in a mandated six month period of mourning. As the summer heat intensifies, passion, jealousy, and fear collide in this explosive reimagining of Federico Garcia Lorca's The House of Bernarda Alba.
Sunday, November 6 * 11:00 a.m.
Playwrights' Panel
Meet the playwrights and engage with the creative process, discuss their inspiration, and learn about each individual journey to developing new work. Led by Jerry Patch, Director of Artistic Development at Manhattan Theatre Club.
Sunday, November 6 * 2:00 p.m.
days of rage
by Steven Levenson
Directed by Darko Tresnjak
1969. As the summer of love darkens into a long and bitter winter, a group of young activists makes plans for the Revolution from a dilapidated farmhouse in upstate New York. Jenny, a college dropout and a daughter of privilege, begins to have second thoughts about her role in the movement. As paranoia and political divisions threatening to tear the collective apart, Jenny must choose between following the dictates of her heart and a Revolution that may never come.
Key Dates and Information
Brand:NEW takes place November 3 - 6.
Readings will be held at Hartford Stage's Rehearsal Studio 2, 942 Main Street, downtown Hartford (Residence Inn building).
Passes good for admission to all Brand:NEW events are $15. Admission to individual readings is $5; admission to the Playwrights' Panel is free. All readings offer general seating.
For reservations, directions, or more information, call the Hartford Stage box office at 860-527-5151 or visit www.brandnewplayfestival.com.

News Briefs Oct. 14, 2011

  • American History will be brought to new life when Pushcart Players presents Let Freedom Ring at the Palace Theater inWaterbury, on Tuesday, November 15, at 9:30am and 11:30am. Tickets are $10 for individuals, $8 for groups of ten or more, and on sale now at the Palace Theater Box Office,100 East Main Street inWaterbury. Administrators and teachers interested in booking a field trip can call the Group Sales Hotline at 203-346-2011. Individual tickets can be purchase by phone at 203-346-2000.
  • Cabaret group Cabaret Lulu, direct from the heart of New York City, will present "Big City Country Music Jamboree" at The Mark Twain House & Museum on November 2, featuring your favorite songs from great Broadway shows like Annie Get Your Gun, Paint Your Wagon and Oklahoma. Also included are songs by beloved country performers like Patsy Cline, Dolly Parton and Elvis Presley. The event will take place Wednesday, November 2, with lunch served at 11:00 a.m. and the show at 2:00 p.m. Tickets are $45, and groups are welcome, with discount packages available for parties of 10 or more. For information, reservations and group discounts, call (212) 308-8050 or 1-866-LULU-USA (585-8872).
  • Connecticut Repertory Theatre (CRT) will present The Miser, Oct. 27 – Nov. 6, in the Studio Theatre on the Storrs campus. For tickets and information, call 860-486-4226 or visit www.crt.uconn.edu.
  • In a departure from the usual Nook Farm Book Talks format, the monthly session of the free book club at the Harriet Beecher Stowe Visitor Center on Thursday, November 3, will examine nine speeches of two great Americans and their meaning for history -- and for us today."The Lincoln and Douglass Speeches" will explore the works of President Abraham Lincoln and his contemporary, author, activist and statesman Frederick Douglass. The talk will be facilitated by noted Trinity Professor Eugene Leach, who has made a special study of the two men's works. Come for refreshments at 5 pm in the Harriet Beecher Stowe Center at 77 Forest St. The discussion begins at 5:30. Reservations are recommended: info@stowecenter.org or 860-522-9258, Ext. 317. Free.
  • Theatre Fairfield, Fairfield University’s resident production company, opens its 2011-2012 season Oct. 26-30 with the classic musical comedy Once Upon a Mattress, with music by Mary Rodgers, lyrics by Marshall Barer, and book by Jay Thompson, Dean Fuller and Marshall Barer. The role of Winnifred is played by Casey Grambo, Queen Aggaravain, the overbearing queen, is played by Ashley Ruggiero, the mute King Sextinus is Joseph Plouffe, and the timid Prince Dauntless is Michael Maio. The cast also includes a court full of knights and ladies: Nancy Laskowski, Luke Paulino, Josh Matteo, Lauren Sippin, Owen Corey, Maria Mazzaro, Kate Hoffman, Margaret Greene, Austin Begin, Kelan McDonnell, Tom Martorano, Kathryn Dennen, Katie Premus, and Brendan Freeman. The production team is headed by Fairfield University graduates Ryan McKinney, ’97, who is director/choreographer, and Gregory Horton, ’68, who is musical director. The design team includes costume designer Julie Leavitt, lighting designer Lynne Chase, and scenic designer Evan Hill. The show is stage managed by Grace Janiszewski and assisted by Katie Gillette. For further information and directions, call 203- 254-4010 or 1-877-278-7396, or visit www.quickcenter.com

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Michael Moore, Juan Williams Events Set By Mark Twain House

Academy Award-winning Filmmaker Moore at Jorgensen Auditorium Nov. 18; Fox News' Williams at Twain Dec. 2.
The Mark Twain House and Museum welcomes two denizens of the current political scene, both of whom carry forward the Twainian tradition of feather-ruffling and boat-rocking: Filmmaker Michael Moore and Fox News' Juan Williams, at two separate events.
Michael Moore
Moore will appear in the museum's lecture series named from that famous quote -- A Pen Warmed Up in Hell -- &:30 pm Friday, Nov. 18 at Jorgensen Auditorium at the University of Connecticut in Storrs. Williams will be speaking in the museum's Clemens Lecture series on Friday, Dec. 2 at 7:30 pm at The Mark Twain Museum Center in Hartford.

Tickets to the Moore talk are $25, $35, and $45, with $85 providing premium orchestra seating and a private reception with the filmmaker at 5:30 pm. To order, call 860-486-4226 or visit www.jorgensen.uconn.edu.

Tickets to the Williams lecture are $30 ($25 for Mark Twain House & Museum members) and can be purchased by calling 860-280-3130.

Moore, an Academy Award-winning documentarian and writer has stirred up the world of documentary filmmaking since the release of "Roger and Me" (1989), his direct-action film in which he confronted an auto mogul on the decline of his home city's signature industry.  Subsequent films -- including "Bowling for Columbine" (2002), "Fahrenheit 9/11" (2004), "Sicko" (June 29, 2007) and "Capitalism: A Love Story" have taken on the gun lobby, the Iraq War, the health industry and greed in general -- all in a way that has been described by supporters as fiendishly witty, or by opponents as irritatingly snarky.
Juan Williams.
Photo Frank Graves.
Williams provided the tinder for a firestorm of controversy last October, when National Public Radio fired him -- then one of their senior correspondents -- for statements he made on a Fox News program that seeing people in Arab dress on airplanes made him nervous. The ensuing debate led to a nationwide discussion on freedom of speech and journalistic responsibility, and after his firing by NPR Fox News expanded Williams' role as political analyst at the station.  Before his decade at NPR, Williams worked for the Washington Post for 23 years, and is the author of "Eyes on the Prize: America's Civil Rights Years, 1954-1965," "Thurgood Marshall: American Revolutionary," "Enough," Williams' critique of black leaders in America and what he calls the "culture of failure"; and the current "Muzzled: The Assault on Honest Debate," an account of his termination by NPR.

Charlie Daniels Band Concert at Palace Cancelled Following Member's Death

The Charlie Daniels Band concert scheduled to take place at the Palace Theater in Waterbury, on Saturday has been cancelled due to the death of the band’s longtime keyboardist and vocalist Joel ‘Taz’ DiGregorio.

DiGregorio, 67, died Wednesday night as a result of injuries he sustained in a single car accident in Cheatham County, TN, while driving to meet the CDB tour bus. The band was scheduled to depart for Cumming, GA, for a concert appearance at the Cumming Country Fair and Festival on Oct. 13.

 “I am in shock now, Taz was one of my best friends,” says Charlie Daniels. “The CDB family has lost a great friend and musician. We traveled many miles together and shared so many nights on the road. We’re going to miss you buddy. You were one of a kind and will never be forgotten.  We send our deepest condolences to the family.”

Out of respect for DiGregorio and the band’s loss, the Palace Theater is also cancelling the venue’s Motorcycle Ride and Fall Street Festival that were integrated with the concert and scheduled to take place before the band’s 8 pm performance. The theater is hoping to reschedule the concert and all related activities for Spring 2012.

Ticket holders are being contacted by the Palace Theater Box Office and will have the option of receiving a full refund or holding onto to their tickets until the potential rescheduled date is announced. For more refund information, contact the Box Office at 203-346-2000.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Broadwayworld.com Launches Awards for Connecticut Theaters

Nominations are sought for the 2011 Broadwayworld.com Awards for Connecticut theaters.

The online theater site will present awards in 26 different categories. Nominations will close on Oct. 31, 2011 at which point online voting will begin. All productions which opened between September 2010 and October of 2011 are eligible for inclusion.

Go to
 http://connecticut.broadwayworld.com/2011nominations.cfm?region=Connecticut#ixzz1aVe1hpt6 for the nomination form and to submit your email address if you wish to be notified when voting begins.

Theater Review: The Marvelous Wonderettes -- Ivoryton

Melissa Robinette, Paige Neal, Danielle Rhodes, Alanna Wilson. Photo by Anne Hudson.
A Double Blast from the Past Stirs Humor, Memories in the Present
By Lauren Yarger
It's 1958 and The Marvelous Wonderettes, an all-female vocal group, is entertaining at the Super Senior Prom and then flash, it's the 10-year reunion in 1968 -- both excuses for the women to sing a bunch of familiar toe-tapping pop tunes from the eras, which have audiences at the Ivoryton Playhouse smiling in nostalgia.

There's an attempt at a book by writer and creator Roger Bean: Betty Jean (Paige Neal) is feuding with former best friend Cindy Lou (Melissa Robinette, who understudied three of the roles for the show's Off-Broadway run) over a boy. Suzy (Alanna Wilson) has just been pinned by the guy running the lights (Tate R. Burmeister, design) and shy Missy (Danielle Erin Rhodes) has a secret love.

If you're looking for more plot than that, you'll be disappointed. The story device, nonsensical at times (Betty Jean and Cindy Lou make up in the middle of the feud for no apparent reason; all of the women suddenly stop, drop and roll for a few-second fire drill....) is just a device for the songs.

All four women, directed by John Sebastian DeNicola (who also music directs), scream '50s and '60s in crinoline-poofed and A-line dresses (Julia Bowers, costume design) and era-popular dos (Joel Silvestro, hair/wig design. ). They also seem to be having a lot of fun and exude lots of enthusiasm belting out the tunes, performing simple, cheesy choreography in front of a glittery silver curtain with streamers and comically interacting with audience members, where the prom theme decor extends into the house (Cully Long, set design). Neal's gift for humor is used nicely.

Some of the harmonies (Bean and Brian William Baker, vocal arrangements) are less than marvelous, with "poof" giving way to "flat," but this doesn't distract the audience,  many of whom probably are recalling their own 1958 (or prior) proms from enjoying tunes like "Dream Lover," "Goodnight Sweetheart," "Leader of the Pack," "Lollipop,"Mr. Sandman," "Wedding Bell Blues" and others accompanied by four musicians (two keyboards, guitar and percussion). The 60s tunes in the second act seem less familiar, but Robinette's "Son of a Preacher Man" is terrific.

The Marvelous Wonderettes runs through Oct. 18 at the Playhouse, 103 Main St., Ivoryton. Tickets are available by calling 860-767-7318 or by visiting www.ivorytonplayhouse.org.

CT Rep Brings Our Town to Storrs

UConn Alumni, TV star and former Ms. Connecticut (1975) Mary Cadorette (center) appears as Mrs. Gibbs and counsels her children Rebecca Gibbs, played by Hannah Kaplan, and George Gibbs, played by Michael John Improta in Connecticut Repertory Theatre’s production of Thornton Wilder’s American classic Our Town playing now through Oct. 16 in the Nafe Katter Theatre, Storrs.  For tickets and information call 860-486-4226 and visit www.crt.uconn.edu.  Photo by Gerry Goodstein.

News Briefs Oct. 11

  • Subscriptions are now on sale to the general public for the 2012 season at Westport Country Playhouse. They may be purchased online at www.westportplayhouse.org or by calling the Playhouse box office at 203-227-4177. To introduce the series of five productions, the Playhouse will host a “2012 Season Preview Night” on Thursday, Oct. 27 from 6 to 8 pm featuring a presentation by Mark Lamos, Playhouse artistic director, followed by a Q&A, along with complimentary hors d’oeuvres, beverages and giveaways. The event is free and open to the public.
  • Fall Writing classes at The Mark Twain House & Museum 5:30 to 7:30 pm on Wednesdays Oct. 26 to Dec. 7. Novelist and memoirist Mary-Ann Tirone Smith will lead a fiction workshop and columnist and memoirist Susan Campbell will lead a non-fiction group. Fee $500. Call Steve Courtney at 860-247-0998, Ext. 243, or email steve.courtney@marktwainhouse.org to register.
  • Yale School of Drama presents Doctor Faustus Lights the Lights by Gertrude Stein, directed by Lileana Blain Cruz, Oct.  25-29 at the Iseman Theater, 1156 Chapel St., New Haven. 
  • The Edgerton Center for the Performing Arts at Sacred Heart University kicks off its Broadway Divas Series featuring Women of Wicked with Dee Roscioli and her Broadway Friends, all of whom have performed in Wicked and other Broadway productions. Described as an enthralling night of Broadway music, the Women of Wicked will take the stage on Saturday, Oct. 22 for two performances at 6 and 9 pm. Tickets and info 203-371-7908. This Sunday, Oct. 16,  the American Legends Series features award-winning actress and singer Shirley Jones at 3 pm.
  • The Regina A. Quick Center for the Arts begins its 2011-2012 Sweet Sounds Series with rising bluegrass star Sierra Hull & Highway 111 performing at 8 pm Friday, Oct. 21. Opening the concert will be area favorites The String Fingers Band, which includes Dan Carlucci, an alumnus of Fairfield Prep and Fairfield University. Tickets are $25. Call 203-254-4010, or toll-free 1-877-278-7396; online at www.quickcenter.com.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

'Amigo' Director Will Speak at Trinity College

What:
John Sayles, a celebrated independent filmmaker and author, will deliver a lecture prior to the showing of his new historical war drama, Amigo. His appearance is free and open to the public. Admission to the movie is $8, and $7 for seniors over the age of 62 and students (with a student ID).

When:
 Wednesday, October 26. The lecture is at 5:30 p.m. and the movie will be shown at 7:30 p.m. Additional screenings of Amigo will be Thursday, October 27 at 7:30 p.m.; Friday, October 28 at 7:30 p.m.; and Saturday, October 29 at 2:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.

Where:
Cinestudio on the campus of Trinity College, 300 Summit Street, Hartford.

Background: Now playing in select cities across the country, Amigo is Sayles’s 17th feature film. It is set in the Philippines in 1900 as the U.S. Army stages an in invasion to liberate the population from Spanishcontrol. The war was strongly criticized by author and humorist Mark Twain,among others.

Based on an incident in Sayles’ novel "A Moment in the Sun"  Amigo opened to rave reviews.

A drama of friendship, betrayal, romance, and heartbreaking violence, Amigo is a page torn from the untold history of the Philippines, and points to similar U.S. occupations of Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan.

For more information about the movie, please visit: www3.amigomovie.com. To contact Cinestudio, please call 860-297-5126 or visit: www.cinestudio.org.

Discover the Super Hero in You at Long Wharf's Discovery Day

Long Wharf Theatre transforms into a cool Superhero Training School for its 5th Annual Discovery Day, a fun family open house event taking place at 9 am Saturday, Nov. 19 at Long Wharf Theatre, located at 222 Sargent Drive, New Haven.

There is a suggested donation of $5 per family or $2 per person. All donations from this event will go towards funding a family friendly March production entirely adapted, produced, designed, and built by the Next Stage residents, early career professionals training in specific fields of theatre.

Discovery Day has grown in popularity over the past five years and over 200 parents and children attended the event last year. This year, kids ages three and up, will have the opportunity to become their own special kind of superhero. Prompted by a pair of headmistresses (one good and one evil, played by residents Maria DiFabbio and Marissa Friedman – think Hogwarts), kids will begin a journey using the magic of theatre as their guide. They’ll take an acting class to create their superhero personas, with lights and sound on the stage to enhance the experience. Kids will then make superhero masks and capes in the costume shop, with more fun to follow. “We want kids to be able to do something engaging and theatrical,” Friedman said.

One of the theatre’s goals with Discovery Day is to help cultivate the joy and love of theatre in very young people. There isn’t a staff member at Long Wharf Theatre who doesn’t remember the theatrical experience that prompted a lifelong love affair with the art form. For residents Friedman, a New Haven native working in the artistic office, and DiFabbio, a stage management resident from Guilford, it happened to be the same musical: Broadway productions of Les Miserables seen around the age of 5. “I was struck by the enormity of the whole experience,” Friedman recalls. “I remember feeling incredibly happy and angry … I left the theatre and told my parents that this is what I have to do.”

“It is  amazing that I still remember (the performance),” DiFabbio said. “I listened to the soundtrack every single day when I was a little kid. I really hope that Discovery Day, with the tour of the backstage and seeing just what we do will show the fun of it all, how theatre is a is all about expressing yourself and learning to work with others to create something extraordinary. That’s our goal."

Long Wharf Theatre’s 2011-12 Next Stage class is comprised of Marissa L. Friedman (Artistic), Kristianna Smith (Education), Gordon Granger (Scenery), Luke Reinwald (Scenic Paint), Craig Harlow (Props), Abbey Steere (Costumes), Jason Pratt (Electrics), Darlene Richardson (Sound) and Maria DiFabbio (Stage Management.)

For more information about Long Wharf Theatre and Discovery Day, visit www.longwharf.org or call 203-787-4282.

Nicholas Martin, Phylicia Rashad Will Direct at Playhouse

Nicholas Martin and Phylicia Rashad have been added to the roster of directors helming productions during Westport Country Playhouse’s 2012 season, playing May through November.

Martin will direct the intimate drama, The Year of Magical Thinking, featuring Maureen Anderman, based on the National Book Award-winning memoir by acclaimed author Joan Didion, June 12-30, 2012. Rashad will direct the powerful classic, A Raisin in the Sun, by Lorraine Hansberry, Oct. 9 – Nov.3, 2012.
As previously announced, Mark Lamos, Playhouse artistic director, will helm the season opener, a 25thanniversary revival of Into the Woods, with music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, book by James Lapine, May 1 – 19, 2012. The musical is a co-production with Baltimore’s CENTERSTAGE. Lamos will also direct the world-premiere comedy Harbor, written by Tony Award-nominated Chad Beguelin, Aug. 28– Sept.15, 2012.  David Kennedy, Playhouse associate artistic director, will stage the biting social satire, Tartuffe, written by Molière and translated by Richard Wilbur, July 17 – Aug. 4. 2012.

5-play subscriptions, starting at $150, are available Tuesday 4-play subscriptions, Pick 3 Plans, FlexTix and group sales will be available starting Jan. 3, 2012. Single tickets will go on sale March 6, 2012.
For more information or tickets, call the box office at (203) 227-4177, or toll-free at 1-888-927-7529, or visit Westport Country Playhouse, 25 Powers Court, off Route 1, Westport. Tickets are available online 24/7 at www.westportplayhouse.org.

Goodspeed Holds Auditions for Instrumentalists

Goodspeed Musicals will be holding auditions for instrumentalists on Saturday, Oct. 22 at the Norma Terris Theatre, in Chester, CT. The goal of these auditions is to develop more depth for the Norma Terris Theatre pit.

Appointments are being made for bass, guitar, percussion, reed doublers (flute, clarinet & saxophones), trumpet, trombone, violin and harp players. All auditions are by appointment only. Appointments may be made starting immediately by calling Goodspeed Company Management at (860) 873-8664, ext. 387, Tuesday through Saturday, 10 am - 6 p.m.

Interested candidates should prepare a brief solo or excerpt that demonstrates an ability to perform in a“Musical Theatre” style. Reed doublers should prepare something that showcases all doubled instruments.

Washington Heights Meets Waterbury

In the Heights, winner of four 2008 Tony Awards® and the 2008Grammy®  Award for “Best Musical Show Album,” brings the energy of its Latin laced rhythms and the timeless story of home to the Palace Theater in Waterbury, for three performances, Nov. 4-5. Tickets are on-sale now and available online at www.palacetheaterct.org, by phone at 203-346-2000 or in person at the box office at100 East Main St. in Waterbury. 
The show tells the universal story of a vibrant community in New York’s Washington Heights neighborhood – a place where the coffee from the corner bodega is light and sweet, the windows are always open and the breeze carries the rhythm of three generations of music.  It’s a community on the brink of change, full of hopes, dreams and pressures, where the biggest struggles can be deciding which traditions you take with you and which ones you leave behind.

In addition to taking home the 2008 Tony Award for “Best Musical,” Lin-Manuel Miranda, the show’s creator, also won the Tony Award for “Best Music and Lyrics,” Andy Blankenbuehler won for “Best Choreography,” and Alex Lacamoire and Bill Sherman won for “Best Orchestrations.”

In theme with the musical’s message about the importance of community, the Palace is offering schools, bands and drama clubs the opportunity to raise money for their organizations by organizing a group to attend the matinee performance of In the Heights on Nov. 5, at 2 pm. For every mezzanine ticket sold at the promotion’s reduced $30 student price, the Palace will donate $3.00 back to the organization. Group leaders are encouraged to contact Box Office and Special Services Coordinator Deidre Patterson at 203-346-2011 for more information or to organize their.

For more information on the production, visit www.InTheHeightsTheMusical.com or www.palacetheaterct.org.

NY Times Critic Ben Brantley Visits Fairfield University for Open Visions Event

Ben Brantley. Photo courtesy of Fairfield University.
The Open VISIONS Forum series at Fairfield University’s Regina A. Quick Center for the Arts turns a critical on today’s theatre scene at 8 pm Wednesday, Oct. 19 when The New York Times chief theater critic Ben Brantley shares his expertise in the lecture "On the Aisle: Critically Speaking."

Following his presentation, Brantley will be joined on-stage for a discussion on the subject with Mark Lamos, artistic director of the Westport Country Playhouse, and Dr. Martha S. LoMonaco, professor of theatre and director of the theatre program at Fairfield University, and guest curator for “Bravo! A Century of Theatre in Fairfield County,” the current exhibition at the Fairfield Museum and History Center. Single tickets are $45.

Brantley became chief theater critic of The New York Times in September 1996 after having served as its drama critic since joining the newspaper in August 1993. He received the George Jean Nathan Award for Dramatic Criticism for 1996-1997. Mr. Brantley is the editor of “The New York Times Book of Broadway: On the Aisle for the Unforgettable Plays of the Last Century,” which was published by St. Martin’s Press in 2001. Prior to joining The Times, Mr. Brantley was a staff writer at The New Yorker magazine. Before that, he was a writer at Vanity Fair magazine, and he reviewed films for Elle magazine. He has also worked as European editor, publisher and Paris bureau chief for Women's Wear Daily and was an editorial assistant at The Village Voice.  Born in Durham, N.C., Mr. Brantley received a B.A. degree in English from Swarthmore College, Swarthmore, P.A., graduated with high honors, and is a Phi Beta Kappa.

Lamos is a director of plays, musicals and opera. In the Westport Playhouse’s 2011 season, he directed Terrence McNally’s Lips Together, Teeth Apart and the current production of William Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night, or What You Will.  He spent 17 seasons as artistic director of Connecticut's Hartford Stage, for which he accepted the Tony Award in 1989. The New York Times has called Mark Lamos "a poet of the theater," and his work receives a chapter in Samuel L. Leiter's "The Great Stage Directors: 100 Distinguished Careers of the Theater," along with legendary directors of for his work at Hartford.

LoMonaco is an author, director, producer and theater historian. She is the resident director and producer of Fairfield University’s Theatre Fairfield company. She is also guest-curator for “Bravo! A Century of Theatre in Fairfield County,” the current exhibition at the Fairfield Museum and History Center. On view through March 18, 2012, the show explores the wealth of theatrical history in Fairfield County, focusing on the Westport Country Playhouse, White Barn Theatre and American Shakespeare Theatre.  The Fairfield Museum is located at 370 Beach Road in Fairfield, CT.

Tickets are available through the Quick Center Box Office: (203) 254-4010, or toll-free 1-877-ARTS-396. (1-877-278-7396). Tickets can also be purchased online at www.quickcenter.com.
 
The Regina A. Quick Center for the Arts is located on the campus of Fairfield University at 1073 North Benson Road in Fairfield, Connecticut. Entrance to the Quick Center is through the Barlow Road gate at 200 Barlow Road. Free, secure parking is available. Access for people with disabilities is available throughout the Quick Center for audience members and performers. Hearing amplification devices are available upon request at the Box Office. Fairfield University is located off exit 22 of Interstate-95. For further information and directions, call (203) 254-4010 or 1-877-278-7396, or visit www.quickcenter.com
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Lauren Yarger with playwright Alfred Uhry at the Mark Twain House. Photo: Jacques Lamarre)

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