Thursday, November 29, 2012

Some Good News in a Bad Economy

Long Wharf Theatre sold more single tickets on Cyber Monday than it did on any single day over the past five seasons, and perhaps longer.

More than 230 tickets were sold on Nov. 26 for The Killing of Sister George alone. The next closest shows were Carousel during the 2007-08 season (188 tix) and The Fantasticks (157 tickets.) The theatre also did robust sales on the remaining plays: January Joiner, by Laura Jacqmin, directed by Associate Artistic Director Eric Ting; Curse of the Starving Class, by Sam Shepard, directed by Artistic Director Gordon Edelstein; Ride the Tiger, by William Mastrosimone, directed by Edelstein; and Clybourne Park, by Bruce Norris, directed by Ting.

There are several factors at play, Long Wharf Theatre administrators believe. In addition to tremendous interest in the return of Kathleen Turner to Long Wharf Theatre, patron curiosity in the renovated Claire Tow Stage in the C. Newton Schenck Theatre is high.

Long Wharf Theatre has already set box office records this season on Stage II. Satchmo at the Waldorf, by Terry Teachout, directed by Edelstein and starring John Douglas Thompson, was the highest grossing show in the 35 year history of Stage II. Satchmo is currently playing at the Wilma Theater in Philadelphia.

For more information about the 2012-13 season or to purchase tickets to a show, call 203-787-4282 or visit www.longwharf.org.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

HSO, Concora Present Messiah

HSO SPECIAL EVENT: HANDEL’S MESSIAH with Richard Coffey, guest conductor; CONCORA; Claudia Rosenthal, soprano; Kelly Hill, mezzo-soprano; Galeano Salas, tenor; Andrew Craig Brown, bass-baritone
Friday, December 14, 2012 │ 7:30 p.m.
Saturday, December 15, 2012 │ 7:30 p.m.
Asylum Hill Congregational Church
Ticket Information: $35 General Admission. Student tickets are $15. To purchase tickets or for more information, please contact HSO ticket services at (860) 244-2999 or visit www.hartfordsymphony.org.

Angelina Ballerina Pirouettes into Westport

Courtesy of Westport Country Playhouse
Angelina Ballerina, The Musical, featuring a feisty little mouse with big dreams of becoming a prima ballerina, will be part of Westport Country Playhouse’s Family Festivities Series on Sunday, Dec. 9 at 1 and 4 pm.

Angelina and her friends, Alice, Gracie, AZ, Viki, and even their teacher Ms. Mimi, are all aflutter because a special guest is coming to visit Camembert Academy. Angelina and her friends will perform all types of dance, including hip-hop, modern dance, the Irish jig, and of course, ballet. Based on the critically acclaimed books by Katharine Holabird and Helen Craig and the PBS KIDS® animated series, Angelina Ballerina, The Musical, is produced by the Vital Theatre Company, and recommended for ages 6 – 10.

One hour before each performance, there will be a pre-show activity presented by Ballet Etudes Company. In conjunction with the Family Festivities Series, the Playhouse is hosting a book collection for Read to Grow, Inc., a statewide nonprofit organization that helps parents take an active role in their children's literacy development by providing free children's books to families with limited access and to community resources that serve them. At each Family Festivities performance, bins will be located in the Playhouse lobby for donations of gently used and new children’s books which will be given to families and programs in the greater Fairfield County area through Read to Grow.

Tickets are $18 (everyone in the audience requires a ticket): 203-227-4177, 1-888-927-7529; www.westportplayhouse.org.

Look Alike, Sound Alike Willie Nelson, Johnny Cash, Kenny Rogers to Take Stage at Downtown Cabaret

Marty Edwards (Kenney Rogers); Philip Bauer (Johnny Cash); Marion Deaton (Willie Nelson). Photo courtesy of Rochard Pheneger
Kings of Country, an evening with three of America’s top artists Philip Bauer, Marion Deaton and Marty Edwards performing the music of Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson and Kenny Rogers is on tap for Bridgeport's Downtown Cabaret.

Kings of Country will take the stage for two performances only Friday, Nov. 30 at 7:30 pm and Saturday, Dec. 1 at 8 pm. 

They look like the real thing and sound like them too. Bauer has been recreating the music and live performances of Johnny Cash since 1985 and has developed a massive following in the U.S. and Europe. Bauer’s uncanny looks and stage presence take his audience back to when Cash was the king of country music. Selections include such top hits as “Get Rhythm”, “Man in Black”, “I Walk the Line”, “Ring of Fire.”

As the band vamps the familiar intro to "Whiskey River," Deaton steps onto the stage, takes the microphone and begins to sing, "Whiskey River take my mind....." Almost immediately the audience’s whispering builds to a crescendo with such comments as "He Looks Just Like Willie!" "Darn, He Sounds Just Like Willie!" 

As a country singer in a band, people began mistaking Edwards for Kenny Rogers back in the 1990s. Since then, he has traded in his country band to become the premier Kenny Rogers tribute performer in the world. 

Doors will open 30 minutes prior to each scheduled performance (The Downtown Cabaret Theatre is located at 263 Golden Hill St,. Bridgeport.) Tickets are: $39-$55: 203-576-1636 downtowncabaret.org; by mail to  Kings of Country, c/o Downtown Cabaret Theatre, 263 Golden Hill St., Bridgeport, CT 06604. Theatre seating begins 30 minutes prior to performance times.

Connecticut Arts Connections You Should Know About


Patty Green. Photo: courtesy of Richard Pheneger
Connecticut Children’s Theatre presents a unique holiday event, Patty's Green, the award-winning family-friendly stage production, which is returning to the Katharine Hepburn Cultural Arts Center (“The Kate”) in Old Saybrook for its holiday episode on Sunday, Dec. 9 at 3 pm. Patty's Green, starring Patty Carver (aka Mother Nature), is chock-full of music (sing-a-longs), warm, fuzzy and crazy characters, performers, artists, special guests, and fun geared toward pre-K thru 2nd graders. Tickets are $10: at The Kate box office, 300 Main St., Old Saybrook; 877-503-1286; thekate.org.

The 41st annual Heida Hermanns International Voice Competition, a two-day event presented by the Connecticut Alliance for Music (CAM) with the support of the Westport Arts Center, will bring together young musicians from around the world at Westport Town Hall, 110 Myrtle Ave. Saturday and Sunday, Dec. 1 and 2. Judged by professional musicians, the competition offers talented vocalists, ages 19 to 35, an opportunity to compete for cash prizes – first prize, $5,000; second prize, $2,500; third prize, $1,500; and three honorable mentions. The semi-finals on Saturday, Dec. 1 from 10 am to 5:30 pm are free to the public. Each of the competitors will give a 20-minute performance before a panel of professional judges throughout the day. Audience members are free to come and go. At the end of the day, judges will select those who will move on to the finals concert on Sunday, Dec. 2, from 2 to 4 pm. Tickets to the Sunday finals are $20 for adults; free for ages 18 and younger: 203-222-7070 (M – F, 9:30 am. to 4:30 pm); http://heidahermannscompetition.org. Honorary Chairman of the competition is Dr. Carole Ann Maxwell, D.S.M., of Fairfield, one of America's preeminent conductors of collegiate, community, and professional choral ensembles.
 
Fairfield University Glee Club. Photo: Bob Winkler
The Fairfield University Glee Club’s Holiday Concerts
On This Night
8pm Friday, Nov. 30
2 pm Saturday, Dec. 1
Fairfield University’s Regina A. Quick Center for the Arts
The program ranges from works by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart to Andrew Lloyd Webber to Steeleye Span, as well as many traditional holiday favorites. The concert features performances by The Fairfield University Glee Club conducted by Carole Ann Maxwell, D.S.M., with accompanist Beth Palmer, and the Reverend Charles H. Allen S.J., Chaplain, as well as by Glee Club members in a variety of collaborations. Also performing are The Bensonians, an all-male a cappella group directed by Robert Preli, Sweet Harmony, an all-female ensemble of chamber singers directed by Lindsey Gorgol, Nicole Raposo, and Diana Lordi, and the Chamber Singers under the direction of Dr. Maxwell. Tickets: $10; Students: $6: (203) 254-4010, 1-877-278-7396; www.quickcenter.com.

The Edgerton Center for the Performing Arts at Sacred Heart University celebrates the season with An Irish Christmas. This is Ireland at its best featuring a group of legendary performers bringing to life all aspects of Irish culture under one roof for One Night Only on Saturday, Dec. 8 at 8 pm. The performers featured in An Irish Christmas include Ciaran Sheehan, Eilin O’Dea, John V. Shea, and The John Whelan Band featuring Kathleen Parks, Flynn Cohen, Liz Simmons and Tom Wetmore. Also performing on Uilleann pipes is the legendary Jerry O'Sullivan with fiddler Marie Reilly. Tickets: $25 - General Public, $20 - Senior Citizens/Faculty/Staff, $10 Students availabe at the Box Office, 203-371-7908 (Mondays through Fridays from noon to 4 pm or 2 hours prior to each performance); EdgertonCenter.org.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Scrooge of Christmas Past, Local Kids Complete Christmas Carol Cast

Bill Raymond as Scrooge. Photo:T. Charles Erickson
What do you get when you combine 3,000 pounds of dry ice, 200 pounds of plastic snow, 33 presents under a tree, and a seve- pound goose? You get 15 years and 661 total performances of Hartford Stage's holiday production of A Christmas Carol - A Ghost Story of Christmas.

 Hartford Stage has announced the full cast and creative team of the 15th Anniversary of A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens, adapted and originally directed by former Artistic Director Michael Wilson, on stage Nov. 23 to Dec. 29. This year's show will be directed by Associate Artistic Director Maxwell Williams.

Hartford Stage brings the magic of Dickens' heart-warming classic to life in this Connecticut holiday tradition. The tale of Ebenezer Scrooge, the heartless miser who discovers the true meaning of the holiday season after a Christmas Eve haunting, features all of Charles Dickens' beloved characters: Tiny Tim, Bob Cratchit and the Spirits of Christmas Past, Present and Future. Ghosts take flight and soar across the stage, carols are sung and snow falls capturing the spirit of a Victorian Christmas forever warming the hearts of adults and children alike. 

Bill Raymond, currently on screen in Steven Spielberg's "Lincoln," returns for his 13th season as Scrooge for all evening and weekend matinee performances. Gustave Johnson will again play the role of Scrooge for the student matinee performances. 

Local youngsters Ethan Pancoast and Fred Thornley IV, both of whom appeared this summer in Rodgers and Hammerstein's Carousel at Goodspeed Opera House, will rotate the role of Tiny Tim. Pancoast is a third grader at West Hill Elementary in Rocky Hill, and Thornley attends first grade at Noah Webster Micro Society Magnet School in Hartford.

The cast will also include Curtis Billings (Fred, Young Scrooge), Robert Hannon Davis (Bob Cratchit), Rebecka Jones (Mrs. Fezziwig, Mrs. Cratchit), Sarah Killough (Wendy, Fred's Sister-in-Law, Begger Woman), Johanna Morrison (Bettye Pidgeon, Spirit of Christmas Past, Old Josie), Michael Preston (Mr. Marvel), Alan Rust (Bert, Mr. Fezziwig, Spirit of Christmas Present), Noble Shropshire (Mrs. Dilber, Jacob Marley), Charlie Tirrell (First Solicitor, Undertaker), and Gillian Williams (Fred's Wife, Belle). 

Also, from The Hartt School, Caitlin Blauvelt (Rich Lady), Josh Boscarino (Teen Scrooge), Dakota Dutcher (Dick Wilkins, Spirit of Christmas Future), Kelsey Flynn (Female Swing), Sarah Kozlowski (Ghostly Apparition, Citizen of London), Lars Lee (Male Swing), William Macke (Party Guest), Andrew McMath (Party Guest), Seth Peterson (Second Solicitor, Fiddler), Matthew Reddick (Lamplighter, Fiddler, Mr. Topper), Tara Reuter (Martha Cratchit), and Hannah Spacone (Nichola).

The Children include Tiana N. Bailey, Tailanae Brantley, Lauren Cassot, Abi Conner, Meg Conner, Jacrhys Dalton, Rachael Dalton, Tyra Harris, Andrew Holland, Daniel Kemple, Daniel Madigan, Marisa McKee, Emily McLean, Abigail McMillian, Adian McMillan, Dermot McMillan, Eric Stephen Murphy, Benjamin Olsen, Eliza Polukhin, Ankit Roy, Aleksei Sandals, Brandon Szep, John Henry Wenz, and Tilden Wilder. 

A Christmas Carol features scenic design by Tony Straiges, costume design by Zach Brown, lighting design by Robert Wierzel, original music and sound design by John Gromada, choreography by Hope Clarke and musical direction by Ken Clark. Derric Harris will serve as dance coach; Sarah Killough asdance captain; Gillian Lane-Plescia as dialect coach; and Christina Pellegrini asyouth director.

Performances are weeknights and weekends at 7:30 pm. Matinee performances are Sundays and selected weekdays and Saturdays at 2 pm. For specific schedule of performances or to buy tickets: 860-527-5151 ; www.hartfordstage.org.

More information:

Recommended for ages 9 and up.

Half-Price Children's Tickets - for all Thanksgiving weekend performances, November 23-25.Offer expires November 23.

Family 4-Packs - Premium Gold Seats (2 adults, 2 children) - $199.50. Save $57.50. And Gold Seats (2 adults, 2 children) - $174.50. Save $52.50. Offer expires Nov. 23.

A Christmas Carol Experience - Make your-child's experience extra special with our A Christmas Carol Experience package. Enjoy unlimited hot cocoa, fill up a bag at our Candy Bar before the show and decorate a cookie at intermission. $10 per person. Dec. 8, 9, 15, 16, 22, and 23 before the show at 1:30 pm.

Market Days - Come and join Hartford Stage for some shopping and a show! Local vendors will showcase unique gift items in our lobby before the show, during intermission and after the show. Free to the public. Dec. 9, doors open at 12:30 pm.

Behind the Magic - The Hartford Stage production staff hosts a behind-the-scenes look at all the amazing special effects that make ghosts soar through the air, snow fall, and bring our beloved production of A Christmas Carol to life! A special look at the world of technical "magic" the whole family can enjoy. $5 per person. Dec. 16 at 4 pm.

Family Fun Night - Before the show, the spooky ghosts will greet and entertain. After the show, get autographs from all your favorite characters. Free with show ticket. Dec. 20 at 6:45 pm.

Paul Anka Sings in the Holidays at the Palace

Paul Anka. Photo: courtesy of the Palace
Just in time for the holidays, legendary singer/songwriter Paul Anka arrives at the Palace Theater in Waterbury, where he will lend his velvety voice to a variety of celebrated Christmas classics in an 8 pm concert Saturday, Dec. 8. 

Tickets for the concert, which is sponsored by Naugatuck Savings Bank, are $100, $75, $65, and $55 and can be purchased by phone at 203-346-2000, online at www.palacetheaterct.org, or in person at the Box Office, 100 East Main St., Waterbury.

With more than 50 years in the industry, Paul Anka is considered one of the most prolific songwriters in the history of popular music. Armed with a sense of tenacity as formidable as his talent, he has established himself as a true artist, successfully transitioning from ‘50s teen idol to celebrated songwriter by penning the Top 10 hits, “You Are My Destiny,” “Put Your Head On My Shoulder,” “Puppy Love,” and “Diana,” as well as Tom Jones’ “She’s A Lady,” and Sinatra’s “My Way.” During his Waterbury tour stop, Anka will perform several of these signature hits, as well as timeless renditions of classic holiday favorites from his Songs of December album, including “The Christmas Song,” “Let It Snow,” and “Winter Wonderland.” 

Before the concert, the Palace Theater will host a 6 pm preshow dinner in the Poli Club, located on the theater’s mezzanine level. The dinner is $40 per member and $50 per non-member and includes tax, service fees, coffee, and tea. A cash bar is available. Seating is limited, and reservations can be made when purchasing tickets through the Box Office.

Connecticut Arts Connections to Make This Week

Photo: courtesy of Downtown Cabaret Children's Theatre
Rudolph and the Reindeer Games will be presented by Bridgeport’s Downtown Cabaret's Children's Theatre. Family-friendly performances are Saturdays and Sundays through Dec 30 at the Downtown Cabaret Theatre, 263 Golden Hill St., Bridgeport. Tickets are $18 & $24 : 203-576-1636; downtowncabaret.org.

Goodspeed Musicals will sponsor its annual food drive to benefit the East Haddam Food Bank. A special buy one ticket, get one free ticket is offered to patrons who bring a generous donation of non-perishable foods to the matinee and evening performance of Something’s Afoot on Nov.19 at the Goodspeed Opera House or to the evening performance of The Great American Mousical playing a developmental run at The Norma Terris Theatre in Chester.. This offer is subject to availability, with no adjustments for prior sale. 

Alma Sanchez-Eppler '14 (sitting),
Christine Treuhold '13 (lying down).
Photo: John Carr,
Wesleyan University
Professor of Theater
Wesleyan University’s Center for the Arts and Theater Department present the world premiere of The Last Days of the Old Wild Boy, a new work written and directed by Rinde Eckert during his residency at Wesleyan as Visiting Artist in Theater and Creative Campus Fellow. It is about a man raised by wolves who finds himself toward the end of his life at the top of the food chain Performances: Thursday, Nov. 15 and Friday, Nov. 16 at 8 pm, and Saturday, Nov. 17 at 2 and 8 pm in the CFA Theater, 271 Washington Terrace on the Wesleyan campus in Middletown featuring Eckert and Wesleyan theater students. Tickets: $8 for the general public; $5 for senior citizens, Wesleyan faculty/staff, and non-Wesleyan students; and $4 for Wesleyan students at http://www.wesleyan.edu/cfa; 860-685-3355, Box Office, located in the Usdan University Center, 45 Wyllys Ave., Middletown.

Meanwhile, The 38th annual Crowell Concert Series presented by Wesleyan University’s Center for the Arts and Music Department continues with a performance by the group Dither, an electric guitar quartet, Friday, Nov. 16  at 8pm in Crowell Concert Hall, 50 Wyllys Ave., Middletown.

The Kate in Old Saybrook hosts Tom Paxtonan integral part of the songwriting and folk music community since the early 60's Greenwich Village scene, Nov. 16 at 8 pm. For more information or to purchase tickets: http://www.thekate.org; 860-388-3286.

The Landmarks Committee of the National Park System Advisory Board has recommended the Harriet Beecher Stowe House be designated a National Historic Landmark.  The full Advisory Board will consider this and make a recommendation to the Secretary of the Interior.

The Hartford Gay Men's Chorus will mark its debut with a holiday concert, "Believe," on Friday, Dec. 7 at 8 pm at the Unitarian Society of Hartford, 50 Bloomfield Ave. Under the leadership of Artistic Director J.D. Bauer, the newly formed group of 25 singing members will present a potpourri of holiday music - from traditional melodies ("The Twelve Days of Christmas") to invigorating, joyous selections (John Leavitt's "Festival Santus") to lighthearted fare ("It's a Hanukkah Song in a Major Key").  For information: www.hartfordgaymenschorus.org. Tickets: $23 at www.hartfordstage.org; 860-527-5151. Tickets will also be on sale at the door the evening of the performance at the Unitarian Society.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Grinch Tries to Steal Christmas from the Whos Over at The Bushnell


Big League Productions presents the musical production Dr. Seuss’ How The Grinch Stole Christmas! at The Bushnell for 11 performances Tuesday, Nov. 20 – Sunday, Nov. 25.
 
Performances are Tuesday and Wednesday at 7 pm, Friday and Saturday at 11 am, 2 pm and 7 pm and Sunday at 11 am, 2 pm and 5 pm. There is no performance Thursday, Nov. 22, Thanksgiving Day. The Bushnell is located at 166 Capitol Avenue in downtown Hartford.

The Grinch broke box office records for two consecutive years on Broadway during its holiday engagements at the St. James (2007) and Hilton (2006) theatres in New York. Since then, thousands of families across America have seen  it.
 
The Musical features the hit songs "You're A Mean One Mr. Grinch" and "Welcome Christmas” (written by Albert Hague and Dr. Seuss) from the original animated series.
 
Max the Dog narrates as the mean and scheming Grinch, whose heart is "two sizes too small," decides to steal Christmas away from the holiday-loving Whos. Sets (John Lee Beatty) and costumes (Robert Morgan) inspired by Dr. Seuss’ original illustrations help transport audiences to the whimsical world of Whoville created here through the music and book of Mel Marvin and Timothy Mason.
 
The 2012 production is directed by Matt August and choreographed by Bob Richard based on the original choreography by John DeLuca and originally created by 3-time Tony Award® winning director, Jack O’Brien. 

Tickets begin at $20: 860-987-5900; www.bushnell.org. For more information please visit grinchmusical.com or www.bushnell.org.

Mousical Gets Six More Performances


The Great American Mousical, directed by Julie Andrews, which began an experimental run yesterday at Goodspeed's Norma Terris Theatre, will run for six additional performances, now closing Dec. 9, 2012.

Below the bright lights of Broadway, in the depths of the historic Sovereign Theatre, an acting troupe of mice rehearse their new musical. When the theatre is threatened by demolition and their diva Adelaide disappears, it will take all paws on deck to fulfill the time-honored tradition: the show must go on!

Filled with singing, dancing, and show biz lore, The Great American Mousical is a sharp and witty tribute to life in the theatre and celebrates the two most glorious words in the English language: musical comedy!

Under the direction of theatre icon Julie Andrews, The Great American Mousical, based on the children's book written by Andrews and her daughter, Emma Walton Hamilton, the show features a new score by Zina Goldrich and Lyrics by Marcy Heisler, a book by Tony nominee Hunter Bell and choreography by Tony winner Christopher Gattelli. Sets and costumes will be designed by Oscar, Emmy and Tony-Award winner Tony Walton. Lighting design will be by Richard Pilbrow; sound design will be by Jay Hilton. 
 
 
Quick Facts:
Where: The Norma Terris Theatre,  33 North Main St., Chester

When: through Dec. 9.  ADDED PERFORMANCES: Wednesday, Dec 5 at 2 pm; Thursday, Dec 6 at 2 pm; Friday, Dec 7 at 8 pm; Saturday, Dec 8 at 2 and 6:30 pm; and Sunday, Dec 9 at 2 and 6:30 pm.
 
How: Tickets are on sale now through the Goodspeed box office at 860-873-8668 or online at www.goodspeed.org.

Lighting Ceremony Kicks Off Arts Week




YOU'RE INVITED TO CELEBRATE CULTURE
AT THESE TWO FREE AETNA ARTS WEEK
EVENTS IN HARTFORD:
KICK-OFF: PLAY-DOH ART CONTEST
Mon Nov 12, 4pm | City Steam Brewery and Café

| 942 Main St.Let’s get the pARTy started! Show off your sculpting
skills with some Play-Doh as we toast to and celebrate the arts in
our community—the top three creations of the night will win tickets
to some United Arts funded events!
LANTERN LIGHTING CEREMONY
Thu Nov 15, 4:30pm | CT's Old State House

| 800 Main St.Brighten up Hartford at the illumination
ceremony of our “Light Up the Night” public art project created
from lanterns made out of recyclable materials by the community
under the artistic direction of local artist Anne Cubberly. Craft a
lantern yourself at our Lantern Workshop on Wed Nov 14
from 11am-2pm at CT's Old State House.
Learn more about Aetna Arts Week events
 

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Theater Review: Marie Antoinette -- Yale Rep

David Greenspan and Marin Ireland in Marie Antoinette. Photo © T. Charles Erickson, 2012.
A Revolutionary Look at France’s Doomed Queen
By Lauren Yarger
I can’t think of any better night to be sitting in the audience for the world premiere of David Adjmi’s screwy play Marie Antoinette at Yale Rep than Election Day, Tuesday, Nov. 6. Most of us there were checking our cell phones before and after the 8 pm performance as well as during intermission for presidential election results.
The significance wasn’t lost as Marie’s fate, at the hands of an angry nation, played out on stage while outside, Americans flocked to the polls to make their voices known in an election where division between wealthy and poor once again was front and center stage. 
In this sumptuous, eye-pleasing version of the last days of Marie Antoinette, Adjmi interjects modern thoughts into history from France’s bloody Revolution to create a remarkable, thought-provoking and witty theatrical experience. 
When we first meet Marie (Marin Ireland), she and her court friends, better educated Yolande de Polignac (Hannah Cabell) and culturally savvy Therese de Lamballe (Polly Lee), are nibbling away on decadent cake (get it?), chatting about whale bone corsets and bemoaning the whispers that the “doomed experiment” of democracy in America might be headed their way.
“These rumors. It hurts my head,” says Marie prophetically as her three-foot wig, supported by rigging, nods her confusion.
Being queen isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. After all, she has to be on public display all the time and set the nation’s fashion (wonderfully accomplished by costume designer Gabriel Berry’s beautiful, yet practical 17th-Century/modern hybrids). She also has to be married to the childish and boorish Louis XVI (a very funny Steven Rattazzi) who is afraid of having delicate surgery that would allow him to consummate their marriage of seven years. Marie isn’t exactly waiting around for Louis and becomes involved with handsome Swede Axel Fersen (Jake Silbermann).
Marie’s brother, Joseph (Fred Arsenault) brings news of their Austrian Empress Mother’s wrath over Marie’s inability to produce an heir and he convinces an embarrassed Louis to go under the knife. Marie produces a Dauphin (Ashton Woerz).
The queen’s popularity continues to decline, however, amidst a tabloid campaign (in the form of pamphlets in those days) with tales of her promiscuity and her actions involving a necklace with which she supposedly tried to defraud the people. As she escapes to the pleasure of playing peasant at L’Hameau, the fake farm she constructs, the real poor of the country rise up, storm the Bastille and capture the royal family. 
Her only real friend is a strange sheep (a puppet, operated, voiced and mimicked in action by David Greenspan) who tries to tell her the truth about her unpopularity (puppet design is by Matt Acheson). Later, Greenspan, this time sans puppet, but clad in a fleecy white formal coat, black leggings and a red tie to match the sheep’s appearance, comforts a freely cursing, miserable, wigless Marie in her cell as she awaits the guillotine.
Now if that all sounds a little odd, it is, but delightfully so. Adjmi (Stunning, The Evildoers) combines wit, historical facts and razor-sharp characters to create a really insightful look into these historic characters – and at a time when mobs of poor, unkempt Occupy Wall Street protesters focusing on the nation’s wealthy and screaming “I’m the 99 percent” makes us realize that we have more in common with Revolutionary France than we might have realized (and again, seeing the show on the night of an historic presidential election was a treat better than cake.)
The action plays out against yellow-toile-covered walls with whimsical set pieces and props accenting the various scenes (set design by Riccardo Hernandez), some involving startling special effects accompanied by dramatic sounds of the revolution (sound design by Matt Hubbs).
Ireland is fun to watch as she chews up and spits out just about everything she comes in contact with while maintaining that she just wants the simple life. Rattazzi is even more amusing when he gets in her way. Brian Wiles, Jo Lampert, Vin Knight and Teale Sperling round out the ensemble. Director Rebecca Taichman does a nice job putting the tale together, using choreography by Karole Armitage to have the actors deliberately move between scenes and place props. It’s like watching people deliberately walk to their doom. One criticism: Taichman needs to clean up some of Ireland’s fast-paced, yelling dialogue, which is very difficult to understand, particularly at the top of the play.
Marie Antoinette was commissioned by Yale Rep and is presented in co-production with American Repertory Theater at Harvard University. It runs through Nov. 17 at Yale Repertory Theatre, 1120 Chapel St., New Haven. Tickets range from $20-96, and are available online at www.yalerep.org, by phone at 203-432-1234, and in person at the Yale Rep Box Office (1120 Chapel Street). Student, senior, and group rates are also available. 

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Long Wharf Offers Flexible Ticket Options

John Douglas Thompson in the recent
production Satchmo at the Waldorf
Photo: T. Charles Erickson.
In an effort to continue to provide affordable and flexible ticket options for patrons, Long Wharf Theatre has announced a new initiative called the Passport program. By paying a small monthly fee, patrons have the opportunity to see a play whenever they like, as many times as they like.
For $25 per month, patrons will have unlimited access to every play at Long Wharf Theatre through the 2012-13 season. A Passport holder can call prior to a desired performance to reserve the best available seat, or can just show up and the Box Office.
 
In addition, Passport holders will have free access to post show discussions, Sunday Symposia, Conversations with the Cast, and other special events throughout the year.
“People’s time is valuable, and dollars are short. We want to be able to offer as much flexibility and value as possible to people who would like to make Long Wharf Theatre one of their entertainment options,” said Steve Scarpa, director of Marketing and communications.
There is a three month minimum commitment, and the Passport automatically reactivates for the new season.
For more information about the 2012-13 season or to purchase tickets, visit www.longwharf.org or call 203-787-4282.

ImagineOcean Swims into the Quick Center


The innovative, glow-in-the-dark musical John Tartaglia’s ImaginOcean swims into Fairfield University’s Quick Center for the Arts 1 pm Sunday, Nov. 18. 

The show is a critically acclaimed black-light puppet show that’s a magical undersea adventure for all families. Tickets are $18 adults, $15 children.

Visually stunning and brightly colored, John Tartalia’s ImaginOcean is performed completely in the dark with black light puppets taking center stage. A one-of-a-kind live experience, the show stars Tank, Bubbles and Dorsel, three best friends who just happen to be fish, and they're about to set out on a remarkable journey of discovery.

A hidden group of puppeteers create the illusion that the puppets are actually swimming around the ocean - sometimes even extending out into the audience. The adventure starts with a treasure map. As the trio swims off in search of clues, they'll sing, they'll dance, and they'll make new friends, including everyone in the audience. Ultimately they discover the greatest treasure of all: friendship.

The show teaches valuable lessons, eye-popping puppets and hummable songs. Its short running time (50 minutes with no intermission) prevents restlessness, and audiences are included in the fun as the characters often ask for advice and applause.

Written as a Broadway show for children, ImaginOcean opened in New York and began its U.S. tour in September 2011. A premiere at the Sydney Opera House in Australia is scheduled for January 2013.

Tartaglia earned a Tony Award nomination for his Broadway debut in the Tony Award-winning musical Avenue Q, in which he originated the roles of Princeton and Rod. Other roles on Broadway include starring as Lumiere in Disney's Beauty and the Beast, and most recently, in the role of Pinocchio in Shrek The Musical. He is probably best known for his work as executive producer, creator and star of the 8-time Emmy-nominated television series "Johnny and the Sprites" (now airing worldwide), receiving a nomination for "Outstanding Performance in a Children's Series."

Tickets and subscriptions are available through the Quick Center Box Office: 203-254-4010, 877-ARTS-396; 877-278-7396; www.quickcenter.com.

The Regina A. Quick Center for the Arts is located on the campus of Fairfield University at 1073 North Benson Rd., Fairfield.

Become a Friend of O'Neill's Monte Cristo Cottage

The Eugene O’Neill Theater Center is seeking volunteers to join the “Friends of Monte Cristo Cottage,” whose mission is to support the continued program development, historic preservation and public awareness of Eugene O’Neill’s boyhood summer home, a National Historic Landmark and important cultural resource in New London.

The inaugural meeting will be 10 am Saturday, Nov. 10 at the Monte Cristo Cottage, 325 Pequot Ave.,  New London.

Volunteers with all interests and experience with interpreting exhibits, landscaping and artistic programming are welcome. If interested, RSVP to montecristo@theoneill.org.

Stowe Center Salon Series Looks at Preventing Human Trafficking

Harriet Beecher Stowe fought to end slavery, yet it still exists today. How can we combat the problem? Find out at a Salon discussion at the Harriet Beecher Stowe Center in Hartford on Thursday, Nov. 15.

The salon is part of Seizing Liberty, Marking the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation.

Join the discussion with guests Steven Ferraro, director of Loving Our Children, a grassroots group working to build awareness among parents and teens, and Tammy Sneed, director of Girls Services at CT Department of Children and Families. They will offer ideas on how to help eradicate human trafficking in Connecticut.

Admission toSalons at Stowe is free. RSVP by calling 860.522.9258 ext. 317 or email Info@StoweCenter.org.

The term human trafficking conjures up images of young girls beaten and abused in faraway places, like Eastern Europe, Asia, or Africa. Actually, human trafficking happens locally in cities and towns throughout the United States, including here in Connecticut.

Next up in theSalon series is Bullied No More on Nov. 29 at 5 pm with Catie Talarski, co-producer of the public radio special BULLIED: Teen Stories from Generation PRX; Council Brandon, a teen featured in the radio program, and activist and Student Stowe Prize winner Tess Domb Sadof.

Visit thSalon blog at http://salonsatstowe.blogspot.com/ to post thoughts, comments and ideas before or after a Salon.

Get Creative and Build More than a House


The holiday season officially starts when festive lights and cheerful decorations begin to beautify our streets and homes. It also means that it is time to prepare for the annual Gingerbread House Show & Competition at Blue Back Square in West Hartford, held Dec. 6-9.

The contest is calling on anyone who thinks they have the creative skills and culinary talent to craft a gingerbread house worthy of winning top honors. Entrees will be auctioned off with all proceeds benefiting Hartford Habitat. 

"This is a great way to elevate awareness about Habitat’s mission to offer those in need simple, decent, affordable housing in our community," said Barbara Lerner, Project Marketing Manager at Blue Back Square. 

The event is especially meaningful as the holidays are a time to give back. This event will help Hartford Area Habitat for Humanity build stable communities through homeownership. 

"This is a fun approach to increasing community involvement with Habitat for Humanity," said Mary Nurse, Marketing and Communications Development Officer for Hartford Habitat. "Whether you are helping out with a hammer and nails or by constructing a gingerbread house, the effort is appreciated and worthwhile."

Those interested, should enter in one of these categories: 

 Student, Amateur, Professional (Bakers, Chefs, Hobbyists)
 Community Champion (Stakeholder, Faith Group, Government, Business, Sponsor)
 Media Personality or Representative

Judging categories include: Traditional, Non-Traditional and Great Hartford Landmark.

All entries must be entirely edible and contain no produce, dairy or meat products. Completed houses must be delivered to 73 Isham Rd in Blue Back Square on Tuesday, Dec. 4 or Wednesday, Dec. 5. Dimensions should not exceed 3 feet wide by 3 feet deep by 3 feet high. Judging will take place Thursday morning, Dec. 6. 

Winning gingerbread houses will be live- auctioned off on Sunday, Dec. 9. All others will be part of an on-going silent auction held throughout the event, Dec. 6-9. For more information on the competition or the auction event, go to www.hartfordhabitat.org or contact Mary at 860-541-2208 ex: 102.

Hartford Habitat’s mission is to eliminate poverty housing by investing in low income, hardworking people. Habitat builds affordable, decent homes and sells them at no-profit and zero percent interest to families living in substandard conditions. These Habitat partner families commit to mortgage payments, work at least 150 "sweat equity" hours, and attend homeownership education classes covering financial literacy, budgeting and insurance issues. Habitat’s volunteer labor and donated funds build more than just a home. 

Blue Back Square is New England’s newest shopping, entertainment and living destination located in the heart of West Hartford.

Monday, November 5, 2012

The Kitchen Witches -- Ivoryton


Lisa Foss and Beverly J. Taylor. Photo: Anne Hudson
The Kitchen Witches Dish Up a Different Kind of Food Fight
By Lauren Yarger
Hurricane Sandy might have postponed the opening of The Kitchen Witches at Ivoryton Playhouse (it had been set for Halloween night), but her fury pales in comparison to the storm of insults and one-upmanship taking place on the set of this cooking show set in Canada.

Dolly Biddle (Lisa Foss) is preparing the last supper – the last Ukrainian supper on her local access TV show “Cooking with Babka” that is -- when her nemesis, Cordon-Bleu-trained Isobel Lomax (Beverly J. Taylor), star of the already cancelled “Busy with Izzy” shows up on the set (a kitchen with island all decked out in purple with two dressing rooms at either side designed by Dan Nischan).

Izzy used to date Dolly’s late husband, the father of Stephen (Carl Howell), who just happens to be the show’s producer and director. When Izzy flaunts a Biddle family heirloom ring and causes Dolly’s apron to malfunction, their personal history boils over into the show’s dialogue and things heat up quickly. Suddenly, viewership is up and the station manager books them on a new show: “The Kitchen Witches.”

Insults, cooking competitions, family secrets bubbling to the surface and food fights are ingredients for a successful show, all captured by Rob, the camera guy (Casey McKeon), until that heirloom ring turns up missing and diabetic Dolly’s health takes a sudden turn for the worse.

While nothing is unpredictable in the plot, there is a nice portion of humor that makes this a lighthearted romp at just about two hours with an intermission. 

One bit involving a “celebrity judge” from the audience to select a winner in a dessert competition between the two cooks was particularly amusing. When the judge became very interested in Dolly’s rum balls, Howell enjoyed the scene so much he struggled to remember his lines and adlibbed to the further delight of the audience. 

The actors all seem to be having fun and Costume Designer LisaMarie Harry provides some zany aprons to assist. Director Maggie McGlone Jennings unfortunately doesn’t keep a tight hand on the pace, however, making the dialogue sound sluggish at points.

If you have an appetite for some dysfunction and food, The Kitchen Witches offers the right brew through Nov. 18 at the Ivoryton Playhouse, 103 Main St., Ivoryton. Performances are Wednesday and Sunday matinees at 2 pm. Evening performances are Wednesday and Thursday at 7:30 pm, Friday and Saturday at 8 pm. An extra matinee has been added for Thursday, Nov. 15 at 2 pm. Tickets $40 for adults, $35 for seniors, $20 for students and $15 for children: (860) 767-7318; www.ivorytonplayhouse.org.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Ivoryton Witches Back on Track; Cast Replacement Announced

The first preview of The Kitchen Witches will be presented tonight at 7:30 at Ivoryton Playhouse.
 
A cast replacement has been announced:
 
Lisa Floss  is happy to be back on the Ivoryton Stage, taking over the role of Dolly Biddle. She was last seen here in  Smoky Joe's Cafe.  She has extensive credits as a director, music director, choreographer and educator throughout Connecticut. She has directed and run programs at UCONN’s Community School of the Arts, The Spirit of Broadway Theatre, Garde Arts Center, Lisbon Central School and as an adjunct professor of theatre at Three Rivers Community College. She is currently the Education Director for Hartford Children's Theatre.
 
For information about the show and to purchase tickets, visit http://www.ivorytonplayhouse.org/our-season/the-kitchen-witches or call 860-767-7318.
C O N N E C T I C U T
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C O N N E C T I O N

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

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