Monday, September 30, 2013

Theater Review: I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Change -- Ivoryton Playhouse

 Sheila Coyle, Michael Brian Dunne, Christopher Sutton and Holly Holcomb. Photo by Anne Hudson
A Musical Romp Through All the Truths That Make Relationships
By Lauren Yarger
A lighthearted musical romp through relationships gets a nice production as Off-Broadway’s longest running music revue, I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change, comes to Ivoryton Playhouse.

With a book by Joe DiPietro (who has gone on to write the books for Memphis Nice Work if You Can Get It and The Toxic Avenger, among others) and music by Jimmy Roberts, the show explores the ups and downs and mysteries of relationships between men and women from dating to the grave.

Various scenarios play out with Christopher Sutton, Michael Brian Dunn, Holly Holcomb and Sheila E. Coyle jumping into various roles amidst 18 musical numbers (accompanied by Music Director Logan Medland on piano and Carin Joy Wiesner on violin). Sutton also choreographs and directs.

Couples experience the angst of a first date, trying to appear interested in a boring date’s diatribe and wondering whether they should try to be more of a “babe” or a “stud.” Couples marry, have kids, wonder when they’ll ever have sex again and experiences the “joys” of family car trips.

Later, couples who have been together for many years fall into patterns, discover enduring love, and even risk finding love again after losing a longtime companion. All of the transitions are enhanced with costuming by Kari Crowther. Standing out are Tarzan/Jane accessories for the couple trying to find time to have sex in between demands from their kids and a really, really, really ugly bridesmaid’s dress.

The vignettes are heavy on the humor (this is DiPietro’s gift), but there also are some touching moments, like “I will be Loved Tonight” and the touching “First Dating Video of Rose Ritz” that balance out the show. “Funerals are for Dating,” for example, is a blend itself, offering some humor in a sadder setting as two elderly folks discover possible romance at what has become a regular activity for both of them: attending the funerals of friends and loved ones.

The ensemble is vocally able and has good rapport. Tony Andrea designs a stationary set with an appropriate arch of hearts over the action.

The elderly couple seated in front of me laughed a lot. And cuddled a lot. And whispered remembrances to each other as each romance played out. It’s that kind of show with a sweet, funny, enjoyable mix that kept I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change running for more than 5,000 performances in New York. At Ivoryton, it runs about two hours and 15 minutes with an intermission.

The show runs through Oct.13, Performances are Wednesday and Sunday matinees at 2 pm; Wednesday and Thursday at 7:30 pm; Friday and Saturday at 8 pm. Tickets$40 for adults, $35 for seniors, $20 for students and $15 for children; (860) 767-7318; www.ivorytonplayhouse.org.

Theater Review: A Streetcar Named Desire -- Yale Rep

Sarah Sokolovic and René Augesen. Photo © Carol Rosegg, 2013
Stella! Hey, Stella! This Production is About You and Blanche, Despite the Display of Stanley’s Chiseled Physique
By Lauren Yarger
Most productions of Tennessee Williams’ Pulitzer-Prize winning play A Streetcar Named Desire seem to want to focus on Stanley Kowalski, the testosterone-dripping, working class guy whose primal call to his wife became a catch phrase after a wet-T-shirt-clad Marlon Brando bellowed “Stella!, Hey, Stella!” in the 1951 film (reprising the role he originated on Broadway). Since then, good-looking guys like Alec Baldwin, Aidan Quinn and Blair Underwood have been donning (and discarding) their T-shirts and getting most of the headlines when a revival is done.

The Yale Repertory show running through Oct. 12 is no exception. Here, there has been media frenzy over the casting of “True Blood” hunk Joe Manganiello in the role of Stanley, but there is a surprise waiting. As directed by Mark Rucker and fueled by a strong performance by Sarah Sokolovic as Stella and a fascinating characterization by Rene Augusen that takes Blanche utra deep, this production ends up being more of a study of the relationship between the sisters. Stanley, despite the display of his very finely chiseled abs and physique several times, seems to have fallen off this streetcar.

That’s a welcome development, since this guy, who abuses his wife, rapes his sister in law and is pretty much an all-around louse, really doesn’t need to be the focus of another production. How much more interesting to study why his wife stays with him – desires him in the first place, really -- and discover how she has been able to shed her gentile upbringing to embrace an urban, impoverished world with him. It becomes apparent that raw sexual attraction is mutual in this marriage and a need that makes Stella oblivious to everything else. She long ago abandoned Blanche to the care of their dying parents at Belle Reve, their family plantation in Mississippi and is unaware of (and doesn’t really care about) how Blanche suffered when they lost their home. This Stella is no victim.

Fascinating also is the dynamic between the sisters. There is love, forged long ago as young children, mixed with anger and frustration as the women they have become increasingly at odds with each other. Blanche, still living in the gentile world of Belle Reve is repulsed by the Kowalski’s shabby two-room New Orleans apartment and by vulgar Stanley who makes it plain that his sister-in-law is not a welcome addition to their household. Flashback scenes staged behind a scrim (Lighting Design by Stephen Strawbridge) really aren’t necessary, because Augesen takes us there in her characterization. We know how much she misses and craves the kinder days of her youth.

Joe Manganiello. Photo © Carol Rosegg
The actress manages to portray a woman who all at once is:

· Coping with a failed marriage to a “degenerate” and trying to keep secret her associations with men is a boarding house where she stayed prior to landing on the Kowalski’s doorstep

· Trying to look beautiful, despite advancing years and a steady drinking habit to woo new beau Mitch (Adam O’Byrne) in the hopes that he will marry her and solve all of her problems.

· Covering the intensity of the panic and despair that lies just under the surface and threatens to unhinge her at any second.

Augesen’s performance, with its wide range of emotion is the reason to see this Streetcar. Mananiello never seems to fit comfortably into Stanley’s skin (as tight and muscle-bound as it is). He’s too suave and nice to be believable as the mean, crass, working stiff and much of his dialogue, particularly when he is yelling, is lost.

Another interesting twist in this production is the number of laughs it gets. Streetcar doesn’t usually come to mind when listing plays that cause chuckles. Not exactly sure what causes the phenomenon here. Perhaps the different focus on the relationship between the women causes some lines of dialogue take on new or more defined meaning. Whatever it is, expect laughter from the audience throughout the play. I kept checking my program to make sure I hadn’t ended up at a comedy by mistake. Even with laughs, Streetcar still feels long, however, with its three-hour run time and two intermissions.

Reid Thompson designs the set with some puzzling choices. The Hubbell’s apartment is masked by a black drop so that only a small portion of it can be seen from the floor up to a couple of feet. Meanwhile, the whole set shifts a few feet over so that Stanley can have his “Stella!” moment yelling up an outdoor stairway that now is in view on the stage left side of the set.

Rounding out the cast are April Matthis and Marc Damon Johnson as Eunice and Steve Hubbell, the Kowalskis’ landlords and upstairs neighbors, and Philip Christian, Nick Erkelens, Ken Ruta and Mercedes Herrero who play a variety of roles.

Streetcar plays at the University Theatre, 222 York St., New Haven through Oct. 12. Performance times vary; Tickets $20-$98 yalerep.org; (203) 432-1234; Box Office, 1120 Chapel St. at York Street, New Haven. Student, senior and group rates available.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Theater Review: Macbeth -- Hartford Stage

Matthew Rauch. Photo: T. Charles Erickson
A Look into The Eyes of Evil
By Lauren Yarger
"Sleep no more" might be the cry of a the anguished soul of a king tormented by guilt and murderous ambition, but it also might be the fate of audience members taking in Hartford Stage's dark production of Macbeth.

Director Darko Tresnjak focuses on the darkness of evil and the psychological depths of the pit it offers to anyone choosing to follow it. It's dark -- literally. Lighting by Matthew Richards keeps everything in night setting, spotlighting only elements that need to be brought into focus to accent the horror unfolding.

There's fog and darkness shrouding the three witches (Kate MacCluggage, Mahira Kakkar and Kaliswa Brewster. hiding their hideous forms laden with horribly distended breasts, but white light highlights the circles and etchings they make (this is downright creepy) and the bubbling cauldron they brew. Emphasis for this production is on the graphic, visual elements, and Richards make sure we see all of the amazingly disgusting ingredients that slither into the pot (which really isn't a pot, but a hole in the ground leading to other horrible depths that we can only imagine (Director Tresnjak also designs the sets).

That scenic design becomes part of the storytelling, with nifty changing panels cut into a black backdrop to create among other things, the encroaching Birnam Wood. Raw graphic visuals drive the scenes where Macduff's wife and children are slain and the final closing shot on Macbeth, in full glory as he reaps the rewards of his treachery. I don't want to give away too many details, but I will say that whether or not you are a fan of Shakespeare, or of this story -- which already is one of the bard's darkest tragedies any way -- you won't forget this production. It's quite possible it will give you nightmares and cause you to "sleep no more." Jane Shaw's sound designs, complete with unsettling noises, adds to the atmosphere.

Heading the cast are Matthew Rauch as Macbeth, a Scottish General who kills King Duncan  (David Manis) and Kate Forbes as Lady Macbeth, his conniving, greedy wife whose ambition fuels the murders necessary for her husband to take the throne as foretold by the three witches. Rauch seems a little too graceful in the part and moves so lightly that it's hard to imagine his being weighed down by crushing guilt, or physically forcing his wife to do anything (there's a sort of rape scene?)

Forbes is a strong Lady Macbeth, particularly when she is haunted to madness by the deeds she and her husband have done, but a lot of her dialogue gets lost and cannot be heard or understood clearly.

Standing out is Robert Eli as Macduff. He lights up the stage whenever he is on it and is truly moving in the scene where he is told his family has been wiped out. MacCluggage doubles as Lady McDuff in a role that keeps the talented actress too briefly on stage.

Kaliswa Brewster, Kate MacCluggage and Mahira Kakkar. Photo: T. Charles Erickson
What's really nice about this production (as disturbing as it is to watch) is that Tresnjak interprets, rather than reinvents. Too often directors these days thing Shakespeare is a template to be changed and updated at will. After all, it's not like the family or estate is around to complain, and there are no royalties to pay so directors just have at it under the guise of being creative. Hence we get Hamlets fighting in World War II or Macbeths dealing with post traumatic stress disorder in Viet Nam or Romeo showing up in red biker boots on a motorcycle (as is the case in Romeo and Juliet currently playing on Broadway).

Here, instead, we get Macbeth, a general in 11th-Century Scotland, wearing black boots, chain mail and a sword. Everyone is costumed by Suttirat Anne Larlarb (who worked on the opening ceremony for the London Olympics Ceremony and the film "Slumdog Millionaire" among other things) in dark, muted colors appropriate for the somber tones of the production. The fight scenes with the swords and an ax, choreographed by J. David Brimmer, seem staged and aren't believable, however, given the very realistic violence of the rest of the production.

This powerful (and yes, very dark and creepy) rendition of Macbeth runs in repertory with La Dispute through Nov. 10. (Now I understand why Tresnjak chose a rather silly, uncomplicated play to pair with the Shakespeare offering -- the cast probably needs to divest themselves of the dark, psychological oppression that consumes them in Macbeth and enjoy a little light).

Tickets are $25 to $95:  860-527-5151 or visit www.hartfordstage.org.

Special events connected with this show:
  • Following the matinee on Sunday, Oct. 20, dramaturg Elizabeth Williamson will interview Professor Arthur Kinney of UMass Amherst about Shakespeare's Macbeth from a historical perspective.
  • Williamson and guests will explore the themes of La Dispute and Macbeth  noon Wednesday, Oct. 9 at the Hartford Public Library Atrium next to the new Billings Forge Café, 500 Main St., Hartford.
  • Join members of the Costume, Scenery and Technical Departments for a catered pre-show dinner, get an up-close look at costumes sketches from each show and discuss the design and production.
    6 pm. Tuesday, Oct. 15. Reservations required. Tickets are $25. Cash bar.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Theater Review: The Jungle Book -- Huntington Theatre Company, Boston

Timothy Wilson (ensemble), Thomas Derrah (Kaa), and Akash Chopra (Mowgli) in Tony Award winner Mary Zimmerman’s new musical adaption of The Jungle Book. Photo: Liz Lauren

Lush New Musical Adaption of The Jungle Book Excites, Entertains
By Lauren Yarger
Spectacular flora and fauna bursting with color and size spring to life as a young boy is enticed away from his storybook by a giant peacock (Nikka Graff Lanzarone. So begins The Jungle Book in its newly adapted musical staging at Huntington Theater Company, winner of the 2013 Regional Tony Award, in Boston.

Huntington has partnered with the Goodman Theatre in Chicago, where the show ran prior to Boston, to bring Director Mary Zimmerman’s vision to life. The show is presented by special arrangement with Disney Theatricals.

Fans of Disney's animated film and of Rudyard Kipling's book on which it is based, will find favorite elements intact amid the amazing theatrical costumes and sets (Mara Blumenfeld and Daniel Osling, designers) that enhance the tale of a "man cub" named Mowgli (portrayed first by a puppet, then by Roni Akurati or Akash Chopra who share the role) who is raised by wolves in the deep jungle of India (lighting is by T.J. Gerckens).

As he grows, Mowgli leaves his wolf mother, Raksha (Anjal Bhimani) and the pack and makes other friends as he learns whom he can trust while avoiding ferocious tiger Sher Khan (Larry Yando), who wants to have Mowgli for dinner. Helping him along the way are black panther Bagheera (Usman Ally), who thinks Mowgli would be better off among his own kind, and Baloo (Kevin Carolan), an easy-going bear who helps keep an eye on the young boy and keep him safe from the likes of python Kaa (part puppet and part man played by Thomas Derrah) and a band of hyper monkeys and their leader, King Louie (a very amusing Andre DeShields).

Original music and lyrics by Richard M. Sherman and Robert B. Sherman ( the film) and Terry Gilkyson ("The Bare Necessities") is supplemented with additional jazzy music and lyrics by Lorraine Feather and Paul Grabowsky, Gilkyson and Robert Sherman. Musicians come right up out of the pit (in costume) to play for certain numbers, and a couple even fly in on a sort of tree-top platform to play Indian instruments.Doug Peck is the music director, orchestrator and conductor for the 14-member orchestra. Sound is designed by Joshua Horvath, Ray Nardelli and Andre J. Pluess.

And if the movement of the orchestra, along with cast members bounding up the aisles, Choreographer Christopher Gattelli (of the gymnastic Newsies and Godspell on Broadway) puts the large ensemble through its paces. Gattelli works with Indian dance consultant Hema Rajagopalan to combine elements of classical Indian dance forms with jazz and tap. One particularly fun number is an elephant march, with a bunch of ear-flopping, hornblowing pachyderms led in drill by Colonel Hathi (Ed Kross) and Lt. George (Geoff Packard). Some twirling butterflies are fun too, though a male insect, who I think is supposed to be a bee, also wears a skirt and is the only question mark of the evening.

Ticket demand has forced a second extension of the run of The Jungle Book at Huntington Theatre Company, 264 Huntington Ave., Boston, through Oct. 20. Tickets: huntingtontheatre.org; 617-266-0800; Avenue of the Arts / BU Theatre and South End / Calderwood Pavilion box offices.
Monique Haley (Elephant), Akash Chopra (Mowgli), Ed Kross (Colonel Hathi), and Anjali Bhimani (Baby Elephant) with the rest of Colonel Hathi’s elephant army. Photo: Liz Lauren





Monday, September 23, 2013

Theater Review: La Dispute -- Hartford Stage



La Real Dispute Could be Why This Play is the Second Repertory Piece with Hartford Stage's Macbeth
By Lauren Yarger
Just who was unfaithful first: Man or Woman? If that’s a burning philosophical question you can’t wait to have answered, then Marivaux’ 18th century play La Dispute, opening Hartford Stage’s 50th anniversary season, is just the ticket for you.

A prince (Grant Goodman) and his mistress, Hermianne, (Kate MacCluggage), have gotten into a dispute about just that subject while frolicking in the countryside (depicted by Set Designer Jedediah Ike by a swirly mesh of white, wrought-iron-like trees surrounding a sort of courtyard). Fortunately, the prince’s father also had gotten into the same discussion about 18 years ago and to solve the mystery, he ordered that two infant boys and two infant girls be raised in isolation, separate from the rest of the world, cared for only by servants Carise and Mesrou (Kate Forbes and David Manis). The idea is to recreate a Garden of Eden environment when they are grown to find out what they do naturally when they meet. The children are now grown and the prince orders the experiment to begin.

The court retreats to the treetops to observe the drama unfold below. Églé is released into this new world and immediately becomes enraptured by the first sight she ever has had of her own image in a stream. Also exciting her is the look of Azor (Jeffrey Omura) who bursts onto the scene, equally delighted by Églé, especially by her hands, which he can’t stop kissing.

Separately, Adine (Mahira Kakkar) and Mesrin (Philippe Bowgen) are united and the couples are “in love.” The trouble starts, however, when Églé and Adine stumble upon each other. Jealousy immediately flares between the women who try to get each other to admit the superior beauty of the other. When Mesrin spies Églé and is willing to forsake Adine’s beauty and Azor’s friendship to possess her, Églé suddenly finds Azor’s hand kissing irritating. Testosterone starts surging as the men compete (with the help of bouncy fight choreography by J. David Brimmer) to the amusement of the onlooking courtiers.

The play comes from a time during the court of Louis XV and the Great Enlightenment when grand fetes and debates about science and philosophy were all the rage (there is a helpful write up in the program by Hartford Stage’s Senior Dramaturg and Director of New Play Development Elizabeth Williamson, who translated the play and co-adapted it with Director Darko Tresnjak.) The question it raises in the 21st Century, however, is why present it now – especially in repertory with Macbeth? Hartford Stage is boasting a return to its classical roots by presenting both plays in repertory (the same cast performs in both), but there must be more interesting second pieces to offer.

The means to which this group goes to try to find the answer to a question that really is irrelevant seems outrageous. Four infants are deprived of a normal life so they can be objects in an experiment for the amusement of very wealthy courtiers who apparently have nothing better to do with their time? And even with a run time clocking in at just a little over an hour, the dispute seems stretched. Églé, for example, mistakes Azor for a “she” for a while until corrected by Mesrou, who raised her. He obviously is a “he” paired with the “she” of Carise, so the girl’s inability to understand the existence of another sex is confusing and exists only to pad out the ridiculous premise.

There are a few funny moments, to be sure, the most amusing of which come from Églé’s constant delight in her appearance in all forms – in the stream, in a portrait, in a mirror -- and her belief that everyone else in the world (all five of them) surely must be as smitten with her beauty too.

It’s interesting to get a glimpse of the era: we hear a few strains of music on the harpsichord (Jane Shaw, sound design), Joshua Pearson creates the costumes, complete with a panier hoop skirt for Hermianne and elegant court apparel for the men, and Brittany Hartman designs the period wigs and hair. The piece seems a waste of the talents of Forbes, Manis and MacCluggage, however. Hopefully they get a little more to do when they play Lady Macbeth, Duncan and Lady MacDuff in the other repertory piece, Shakespeare’s Macbeth, which opens Wednesday, Sept. 25. (Even the trees seem to be chomping at the bit to transform themselves into Birnam Wood).

La Dispute runs through Nov. 10 with a varied performance schedule. Check the calendar. Tickets $25-$85 (860) 527-5151; www.hartfordstage.org.
Front: Kate MacCluggage, Grant Goodman; Back: Tom Foran, Noble Shropshire, Robert Eli, Jake, Loewenthal. Photo: T. Charles Erickson

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Janine Nabers is Newest Aetna New Voices Fellow at Hartford Stage

Janine Nabers 
Playwright Janine Nabers will be the 2013-14 Aetna New Voices Fellow at Hartford Stage.

A season-long engagement, the Aetna New Voices Fellowship provides an artistic home for important playwrights to develop work and become involved in the ongoing life of Greater Hartford. The residency includes working with Hartford Stage's education department, advancing community development, and the commissioning of a new play, as well as a series of readings and workshops throughout the year.

The 2012-13 Aetna New Voices Fellow Matthew Lopez's Somewhere is making its East Coast premiere at Hartford Stage this spring. Breath and Imagination by 2007-08 Fellow Daniel Beaty premieredlast season. Quiara Alegria Hudes, the 2008-09 Aetna New Voices Fellow, won the 2012 Pulitzer Prize for Drama for Water by the Spoonful, also produced at Hartford Stage. Poet and playwright Marcus Gardley, whose play The House That Will Not Stand runs this spring at Yale Rep, served as the 2011-12 Fellow. Fetch Clay, Make Man, by2010-11 Fellow Will Power, will run through October at the New York Theatre Workshop.

A native of Houston, TX, Nabers is a 2013 graduate of the Lila Acheson Wallace Playwriting Fellowship at Juilliard. Her play Annie Bosh is Missing premiered in August 2013 at Chicago's Steppenwolf Theatre Company. A 2012-2013 New York Theatre Workshop Playwriting Fellow, she is also a member of the MCC Playwrights Coalition and the Dorothy Strelsin New American Writers Group at Primary Stages. She was Page 73's 2011 Playwriting Fellow and is an alumna of the Ars Nova Playgroup, the Soho Rep Writer/Director Lab, the Dramatists Guild Playwriting Fellowship, the MacDowell Colony Fellowship, and the 2010 and 2011 Sundance Theatre Labs.

She is working on commissions from Playwrights Horizons and Berkeley Rep. 

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Theater Review: Miss Saigon -- The Bushnell

The cast of Miss Saigon. Photo: Bob Compton
Miss Saigon Gets a New Tour Produced by The Bushnell 
By Lauren Yarger
In 1991, Claude-Michel Schonberg and Alain Boublil (the team that brought us Les Mis) took Broadway by storm with their story of war, love and sacrifice in Miss Saigon, based on Puccini’s opera, Madame Butterfly. That show gets another update updated version in the latest tour, making just four stops including the one in Hartford, at the Bushnell, one of the production’s producers.

Fred Hanson directs (Nicholas Hytner directed the original London and Broadway productions) with Musical Direction by Kevin Stites and Choreography by Baayork Lee, who was in the house opening night Tuesday. Towering sets (Michael Ananaia, design) featuring barbed wire, Asian accents and even a helicopter that hovers create War-torn Saigon just before the fall of Saigon and the pull-out of American troops in 1975.

Disillusioned Chris (Charlie Brady) accompanies his buddy, John (Nkrumah Gatling), to Dreamland, a sleazy bar/brothel where The Engineer (Orville Mendoza), a French-Vietnamese opportunist sells booze and girls (played by Rona Figueroa, Jessica Wu, Anna-Lee Wright and Minami Yusui) in his quest to make big bucks and buy a Visa to America.

His most lucrative gimmick: The Miss Saigon contest where GIs buy raffle tickets for a free night with the winner. When the Engineer presents his newest contestant, young, virginal Kim (Manna Nichols), Chris protects her from the advances of the other men and spends the night with her himself.

She touches his wounded heart and the couple finds love for two weeks, even going through a marriage ceremony of sorts, before some things get in the way of their romance. First, Kim’s cousin, Thuy (Johnny Hsu Lee), an Army officer, returns to claim her. Their fathers had promised them in marriage when they were 13. Second, the city falls and Kim and Chris are separated during the evacuation when the troops pull out.

Three years later, Kim and the Engineer find their way out of Viet Nam and the engineer starts another club in Bangkok while continuing his quest for a US visa. He connects with John, now working to help displaced refugees and orphans, who reunites them with Chris, but some surprises are in store.

Chris has married Ellen (Meggie Cansler), who doesn’t know anything about Kim, except that her husband still calls out that name when he is tortured by nightmares. And Chris doesn’t know that he and Kim have a son, Tam (Daphne Zhang Valenta and Arianna L. Yi share the role. I saw Li who is the cutest little button of a kid you’ll ever see on stage). Kim is determined that Chris should take their son back to the states where he can have the future she has always wanted for him. He and Ellen aren’t sure that’s a great idea.

This is a crisply choreographed production with a strong vocal cast. Nichols has a lovely voice (“I’d Give My Life for You” is lovely) and gives depth to Kim. We feel her shame, hope and despair. Brady lends a nice tenor to Chris and the duets with Kim (“Last Night of the World,” "Sun and Moon”) are nicely executed. Let’s face it, anything from this score is a pleasure to hear (it’s an operetta with original lyrics and added material by Richard Maltby, Jr.). Gatling and Cansler have their moments with solos as well. Even the rather repulsive character of the Engineer is made watchable by Mendoza’s playful take.

Interrupting the flow are some rough changes between scenes and some flaws in the presentation of the book which doesn’t make it clear at first why Chris left Kim behind or that years have passed. We also never really understand where Ellen entered the picture and why Chris seems so unmoved by seeing Kim again. The production feels long at two hours and 40 minutes with an intermission.

Miss Saigon runs at The Bushnel, 166 Capitol Ave., Hartford, through Sept. 22, Performances are Wednesday and Thursday: 7:30 pm; Fridays and Saturdays: 8 pm; Saturday at 2 pm; Sunday 1 and 6 pm. Tickets $29.50-$105.50. 860-987-5900; www.bushnell.org.




Thursday, September 12, 2013

This Week's Connecticut Arts Connections

The interior of the beautiful Palace Theater in Waterbury. Photo: © Louis Belloisy
Dust-off the scrapbooks and help the Palace Theater take a stroll down memory lane as the organization begins gathering memorabilia for an historical exhibit scheduled to debut in the Fall of 2014, in honor of the performing art center’s 10th anniversary.

To commemorate the milestone event, the theater is asking the public to take part in an historical exhibit celebrating the theater’s rich history by donating or lending any Palace memorabilia collected since its official opening in 1922. Playbills, posters, ticket stubs, movie promotional items, business records, ledgers from previous employees and photos of good times spent in the theater are all welcome.

To donate memorabilia for the exhibit, contact Marketing and Public Relations Officer Sheree Marcucci at 203-346-2008 or marcucci@palacetheaterct.org.

  • The Harriet Beecher Stowe Center will receive $150,000 from the Museums for America program at the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) to preserve the Stowe Center's collections. The Stowe Center grant will support acquisition of climate control and fire suppression systems for the Stowe House as well as architect/engineer and conservator fees. The work is part of phase two of a multi-year Collections Preservation project to renovate and restore Stowe's home, recently named a National Historic Landmark. Upgrades will include state of the art climate control and fire suppression, interior renovations and collections conservation. 
  • In honor of the 40th anniversary of the Center for the Arts, "The Alumni Show II" will be on view in Wesleyan University’s Ezra and Cecile Zilkha Gallery through Dec. 8. Organized by guest curator John Ravenal '81, P'15, the Sydney and Frances Lewis Family Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts in Richmond, the exhibition features work that spans a broad range of contemporary practice and media, including painting, sculpture, drawing, installation art, video art, performance, and films. THe gallery is located at 283 Washington Terrace on the Wesleyan campus in Middletown. Hours are Tuesday through Sunday from Noon to 5pm. Gallery admission is free. 
  • Special gallery hours on Nov. 2 will be from noon to 6 pm, with the free event "We Buy White Albums" by Rutherford Chang '02 taking place from 2 to 6 pm. The public will be able to browse a collection of over 750 first-pressings of The Beatles’ "The White Album" (1968), and sell copies to Mr. Chang. He usually pays up to $20 per copy, and also happily accepts donations of copies of the album. He has also created a new version of the album—which visitors can play in the gallery—by layering recordings from 100 albums in his collection over one anotherThe exhibition will be closed from Wednesday, Nov. 20 through Monday, Nov. 25 for the Thanksgiving holiday. (860) 685-3355, or visit http://www.wesleyan.edu/cfa.
  • Wendy C. Goldberg, Artistic Director of the National Playwrights Conference (NPC), has renewed her contract to continue at the head of the center's founding program. The Eugene O'Neill Theater Center will celebrate its 50th Anniversary next summer, which will also mark Goldberg's 10th season as Artistic Director of the Playwrights Conference.
  • Lisa O'Hare, Lauren Worsham, Jane Carr, Pamela Bob, Joanna Glushak, Eddie Korbich, Jeff Kready, Mark Ledbetter, Jennifer Smith, Don Stephenson, Price Waldman,and Catherine Walker will join the previously announced stars, Jefferson Mays and Bryce Pinkham, in Broadway's  A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder. Following critically acclaimed, smash-hit runs at Hartford Stage and San Diego’s Old Globe Theatre, A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder will begin performances on Tuesday, Oct. 22 at Broadway’s Walter Kerr Theatre, and officially open on Sunday, Nov.17. Darko Tresnjak directs.
  • The UConn Torrington ARTS Project presents an exhibit of Richard Heys’ work. "What’s in there? Exploring the beauty and energy within trees through woodturning." It features decorative and utilitarian wooden bowls, vases, lidded boxes and sculptural objects. The exhibition runs from Sept. 16 through Nov. 8 at the campus’ Brick Wall Space Gallery and Whitson Gallery. Richard Heys will give an artist’s talk in the Whitson Gallery on Oct. 10 at 7 pm.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Some Happy Fellas (and Gals) are Cast at Goodspeed

Casting is set for Goodspeed Musicals' The Most Happy Fella Sept. 20 – Dec. 1.

Leading the cast in the role of Tony will be Bill Nolte, whose numerous Broadway credits include La Cage aux Folles, The Producers, Amour, Jane Eyre, 1776, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, The Secret Garden, Me and My Girl and Cats. He previously appeared at Goodspeed in Man of La Mancha and Sweeney Todd. Mamie Parris will play opposite Nolte as Rosabella. She has appeared on Broadway in Ragtime, 110 in the Shade and The Drowsy Chaperone. 
Other casting: Ann Arvia (Marie), Daniel Berryman (Ciccio), Doug Carpenter (Joey), Natalie Hill (Cleo), Greg Roderick (Guiseppe), Martín Solá (Pasquale), Kevin Vortmann (Herman).

Rob Ruggiero directs; Parker Esse choreographs.

Tickets: 860-873-8668; goodspeed.org,

Special Events:

Girls’ Night Out: Friday, September 20, 7:00 pm. Celebrate Opening Night in style! Gather the girls for glitz and glamour Broadway-style with our Ticket ‘n’ ‘Tini special. Package includes one ticket to the 8 pm performanceand a specialty martini. A hot deal at $46 per person.

Wine TastingSunday, September 22, 5:00 pm. Treat yourself to a sampling of fine wines, compliments of Shore Discount Liquors of Deep River, and hors d’oeuvres provided by the Gelston House of East Haddam. Only $12 with your ticket to the 6:30 pm performance. Reserve in advance through the Box Office.

Teen Nights: September 25 & 26, 7:30 pm; September 27, 8 pm. Introduce your favorite young person to the magic of musical theatre. Each adult who buys a regular-priced ticket on the specified dates may purchase a $15 ticket for a youth age 12 to 18. Meet the cast after the September  27th performance for autographs.

Lady Katharine Lunch Cruise: Enjoy Fall foliage on the Connecticut River. Add a leisurely cruise and sumptuous buffet aboard the Lady Katharine to your theatre ticket. Available on Wednesdays, October 2 & 23. Cruises depart at 11:30 a.m. $40 with your ticket to the 2 p.m. performance.

Trick-or-‘Tini Package: Thursday, October 31, 7:00 pm. This frightfully good Halloween special includes a ticket to the evening show and a specialty martini for only $46 per person!

Food Drive / Buy-One-Get-One Free Tickets: Monday, November 25. Two-for-one tickets for select seats to the 2:00 and 7:30 p.m. performances with a generous non-perishable food donation to benefit the East Haddam Food Bank.

Meet the Cast: Take part in a lively discussion with the cast after the Thursday evening performances on October 17 & 31 and November 14. Meet the Cast events are free with a ticket to that evening’s performance.

Friday Dinner Theatre Package:  Includes dinner at the Gelston House (located next door to the Opera House) and a ticket to the 8:00 pm performance. Only $76!

Priests Play the Palace

Fathers Martin O'Hagan, Eugene O'Hagan and David Delargy, Photo: Courtesy of the Palace
Fathers Martin O'Hagan, Eugene O'Hagan and David Delargy, better known to their millions of fans as The Priests, will perform selections from their classical music repertoire at the Palace Theater in Waterbury on Friday, Nov. 22 at 8 pm. 

Tickets for the concert are $55 and $35. 

Since the release of their debut CD in 2008, the internationally-acclaimed trio of Roman Catholic clergymen has sold more than 3 million recordings, signed a $2 million dollar contract with Sony/BMG, and has been featured in a popular PBS performance special. Their eponymous album sold at such a frantic pace that it secured them a place in the Guinness Book of World Records as the fastest-selling classical debut of all time, and since then they have performed to sold-out audiences in major cities all around the world.

Hailing from the Diocese of Down and Connor in Belfast, Ireland, The Priest are among the most recognized and successful acts in both the religious and secular worlds. Their audiences have included the British Royal Family and the Irish President, as well as the Pope and a crowd of 80,000 people in Hyde Park, England in September 2010. No ordinary superstars, these three humble men remain first and foremost committed to the cloth and donate the vast majority of their royalties to their charitable fund, which helps build schools in places like Cambodia, Uganda and Thailand, and looks after retiredpriests and the homeless.

Tickets for the Palace Theater’s presentation of The Priests are available online at www.palacetheaterct.org, by phone at 203-346-2000 or in person at the box office, 100 East Main Street in Waterbury. For more information, visit www.thepriests.com.

HSO Fall Events at a Glance

Carolyn Kuan conducting the 2011 Talcott Mountain Music Festival. Photo:Steven Laschever
HSO AT A GLANCE: SEPTEMBER-NOVEMBER 2013
Editors: Please update calendar listings to include the upcoming Hartford Symphony Orchestra events listed below. For more information about any particular event, please contact Katie Bonner Russo at kbonner@hartfordsymphony.org.

MASTERWORKS SERIES & SPECIAL EVENT: 70TH ANNIVERSARY OPENING NIGHT!
October 11 & 12, 2013
Friday & Saturday, 8:00 p.m.
Mortensen Hall│ The Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts
Carolyn Kuan, conductor; Wu Man, pipa; Edward Clark, organ; Connecticut Youth Symphony, Daniel D’Addio, music director
Program: Saint-Saëns: Symphony No. 3, “Organ;” Bach: Toccata and Fugue in D minor; Harrison: Concerto for Pipa and String Orchestra
We’re rolling out the red carpet for Opening Night! Two of the most famous works in the organ repertoire, Saint-Saëns’ massive Symphony No. 3 and Bach’s glorious Toccata and Fugue, will be played on The Bushnell’s historic, Hartford-made Austin pipe organ. Matched with the delicacy of the pipa – a Chinese lute – played by virtuoso Wu Man, recently named Musical America’s 2013 Instrumentalist of the Year.
Concert Benefactor: Hartford Hospital
To mark this special season opener, the HSO will host a special opening night celebration before the concert, including cocktails, hors d’oeuvres and food stations; a dessert reception with Carolyn Kuan and the guest artists will conclude the evening following the concert. Tickets for the Opening Night Celebration are $170 per person for subscribers and $225 for non-subscribers, which include preferred concert seating. Call (860)246-8742 ext. 326 for more information and to purchase tickets.

POPS! SERIES: DISNEY’S FANTASIA – LIVE IN CONCERT
Saturday, October 26, 2013, 7:30 p.m.
Mortensen Hall│ The Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts
Carolyn Kuan, conductor
Join us for a thrilling performance of Disney's groundbreaking marriage of symphonic music and animation, Fantasia. Magnificent repertoire from the original 1940 version and Fantasia 2000, including The Sorcerer's Apprentice, Beethoven's Fifth Symphony and The Nutcracker Suite, will be performed by the HSO while Disney's stunning footage is shown on the big screen. Experience iconic moments and childhood favorites as you never have before!
Presentation licensed by Disney Concert Library © Disney.

MASTERWORKS SERIES: BEETHOVEN & BERNSTEIN
November 7 – 10, 2013
Thursday 7:30pm | Friday & Saturday 8:00 p.m. | Sunday 3:00 p.m.
Belding Theater│ The Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts
Carolyn Kuan, conductor; Peter Winograd, violin
Program: Beethoven: Symphony No. 7; Piazzolla: Four Seasons of Buenos Aires; Bernstein: Fancy Free
Beethoven’s Seventh Symphony is paired with Piazzolla’s tango-inspired Four Seasons of Buenos Aires, featuring violinist Peter Winograd, son of HSO’s esteemed former music director Arthur Winograd. Plus, hear the ballet score Fancy Free – the first work in the HSO’s season-long tribute to composer Leonard Bernstein.
Concert Sponsor: The Katharine K. McLane and Henry R. McLane Charitable Trust

POPS! SERIES: SYMPHONIC SONDHEIM – A TRIBUTE TO THE COMPOSER’S CLASSICS
Saturday, November 23, 2013
Mortensen Hall│ The Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts
Tim Stella conductor; Florence Lacey, Hugh Panaro, Ron Raines, and Lisa Vroman, vocal soloists
Experience the splendor of the HSO and singers performing the music of Pulitzer Prize, Tony Award, Academy Award, and Grammy Award–winning composer Stephen Sondheim. This legendary composer's greatest melodies include works such as Follies, A Little Night Music, Company, Into the Woods, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, Sunday in the Park with George, and Sweeney Todd.
Premier concert sponsor: Richard P. Garmany Fund at Hartford Foundation for Public Giving

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Ticket Information: To purchase tickets or for more information, please contact HSO ticket services at (860)244-2999 or visit www.hartfordsymphony.org. Single tickets go on sale August 19.
-Single tickets to the 2013-2014 Masterworks Series range in price from $35.50-$70.50.
-Single tickets to the 2013-2014 Pops! Series range in price from $20-$67.50.
-A limited number of $25 tickets are available for patrons age 40 and under at the Masterworks and Pops! Series’ Saturday performances.
-Student and children tickets, available for Masterworks and Pops! concerts, are $10.
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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