Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Pippin, Once, Kinky Boots on Tap for Next Bushnell Broadway Season


The Bushnell's 2014-2015 Broadway Series season brings a mix of old and new shows.

Series titles are Broadway classics EVITA, JOSEPH AND THE AMAZING TECHNICOLOR DREAMCOAT, and CAMELOT,last year’s Tony-winning Best Musical Revival, PIPPIN, Gershwin tuner NICE WORK IF YOU CAN GET IT, and back-to-back Tony Award-winning Best Musicals ONCE and KINKY BOOTS. The phenomenal crowd-pleaser WICKED was also announced to return to Hartford for three weeks in November as a special off-subscription offering.

EVITA, September 23-28, 2014

Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Weber’s landmark Tony Award-winning musical returns at last! Eva Perón used her smarts and charisma to rise meteorically from the slums of Argentina to the presidential mansion as First Lady. Adored by her people as a champion of the poor, she became one of the most powerful women in the world – while her greed, outsized ambition and fragile health made her one of the most tragic. EVITA tells Eva’s passionate and unforgettable true story and features some of the theater’s most beautiful songs, including “Don’t Cry for Me Argentina,” “Another Suitcase in Another Hall,” and “High Flying, Adored.”

JOSEPH AND THE AMAZING TECHNICOLOR DREAMCOAT, October 14-19, 2014

One of the most enduring shows of all time, Tim Rice & Andrew Lloyd Webber’s JOSEPH AND THE AMAZING TECHNICOLOR DREAMCOAT is the irresistible family musical about the trials and triumphs of Joseph, Israel’s favorite son. Directed and choreographed by Tony Award winner Andy Blankenbuehler, this new production will feature Broadway/television star Diana DeGarmo (Hairspray, Hair) as The Narrator and Broadway star Ace Young (Grease, Hair) as Joseph. Retelling the Biblical story of Joseph, his eleven brothers and the coat of many colors, this magical musical is full of unforgettable songs including “Those Canaan Days,” “Any Dream Will Do” and “Close Every Door.”



WICKED, November 5-23, 2014

Off-subscription, not part of the Broadway Series

Back by “Popular” demand! Winner of over 50 major awards, including a Grammy and three Tony Awards, WICKED is “Broadway’s biggest blockbuster” (The New York Times). Long before that girl from Kansas arrives in Munchkinland, two girls meet in the land of Oz. One - born with emerald green skin - is smart, fiery and misunderstood. The other is beautiful, ambitious and very popular. How these two grow to become the Wicked Witch of the West and Glinda the Good makes for "the most complete - and completely satisfying - musical in a long time" (USA Today).



PIPPIN, January 6-11, 2015

PIPPIN returns to Broadway for the first time since it thrilled audiences 40 years ago! With a beloved score by Tony Award nominee Stephen Schwartz, PIPPIN tells the story of a young prince on a death-defying journey to find meaning in his existence. This captivating production is directed by Diane Paulus. It features sizzling choreography in the style of Bob Fosse and breathtaking acrobatics by the creative force behind the nationwide sensationTraces.



NICE WORK IF YOU CAN GET IT, February 3-8, 2015

Get ready for this 1920s-era feel-good musical, complete with extravagant dance numbers, glittering costumes and an unlikely love story between a wealthy playboy and a rough and tumble lady bootlegger. This lighthearted crowd pleaser is set against the backdrop of classic Gershwin hits like “Let’s Call the Whole Thing Off,” “Someone to Watch Over Me” and “Fascinating Rhythm.” NICE WORK IF YOU CAN GET IT is a sparkling, madcap tale that combines laughter, romance and high-stepping Broadway magic for an evening bursting with girls, glamour and the glorious songs of Gershwin!





CAMELOT, April 21-26, 2015

Experience Camelot’s “one brief shining moment” as Lerner and Loewe envisioned it in one of theatre’s most legendary musicals. Intimate and fresh, never has this story of passion, pageantry and betrayal been more captivating. Recount the time-honored legend of King Arthur, Guenevere, Lancelot, and the Knights of the Round Table in an enchanting fable of chivalry, majesty, and brotherhood. The celebrated score includes the classics “If Ever I Would Leave You,” “The Simple Joys of Maidenhood,” and the title song, “Camelot.”



ONCE, May 19-24, 2015

ONCE is the celebrated new musical based on the Academy Award-winning film. It tells the story of an Irish musician and a Czech immigrant drawn together by their shared love of music. Over the course of one fateful week, their unexpected friendship and collaboration evolves into a powerful but complicated romance, heightened by the raw emotion of the songs they create together. Brought to the stage by an award-winning team of visionary artists and featuring an ensemble cast of gifted actor/musicians, ONCE is a musical celebration of life and love: thrilling in its originality, daring in its honesty, and unforgettable in every way.





KINKY BOOTS, June 23-28, 2015

Charlie Price has suddenly inherited his father’s shoe factory, which is on the verge of bankruptcy. Trying to live up to his father’s legacy and save his family business, Charlie finds inspiration in the form of Lola. A fabulous entertainer in need of some sturdy stilettos, Lola turns out to be the one person who can help Charlie become the man he’s meant to be. As they work to turn the factory around, this unlikely pair finds that they have more in common than they ever dreamed possible… and discovers that when you change your mind about someone, you can change your whole world. KINKY BOOTS is the must-see new musical that proves that sometimes, the best way to fit in is to stand out!


Ticket Information

· Current season ticket holders will receive their renewal packages in the mail in March.

· If you wish to become a season ticket holder, please call The Bushnell Box Office at 860-987-5900. In early summer, new season ticket orders will be processed on a first-come, first-served basis after all renewing patrons have been accommodated.

· On-sale dates for individual tickets will be announced soon.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Theater Review: Peter and the Starcatcher -- The Bushnell

The Peter and the Starcatcher Tour Company; Photo by Jenny Anderson

The Beginnings of Neverland Brought to Life in a Prequel for Grownups
By Lauren Yarger
Why didn’t Peter Pan want to grow up? How did Wendy end up with the lost boys and how did Captain Hook lose his hand?

The answers to those and other questions are explored in Peter and the Starcatcher, a witty, intelligent play by Rick Elice, based on the novel by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson (which of course was based on the characters created by J.M. Barrie.) The tour of the show, which won a number of Tonys for scenic, costume and technical design among other awards, gets a run this week at The Bushnell.

Looming sets and a golden proscenium set the stage (Donyale Werle, design) for the adventures of Peter (Joey deBettencourt), known at first only as Boy, his orphan friends Prentiss (Carl Howell) and Ted (Edward Tournier) and Molly (Megan Stern, who is, well, very stern), a girl who can catch “starstuff” and harness its magical powers.

As a starcatcher in training, Molly and her father, Lord Aster (Nathan Hosner), a full-fledged starcatcher, must protect the stuff from evil people who would wish to use its power to rule the world, so they split up, Lord Aster traveling with the real trunk of starstuff aboard the ship Wasp, under the command of his friend, Captain Scott (Ian Michael Stuart), and Molly and her nanny, Mrs. Bumbrake (Benjamin Schrader), sailing with a decoy trunk aboard the Neverland. Thanks to the starstuff they wear in amulets around their necks, father and daughter are able to communicate long distance. Dodo bird is their language of choice.

The Neverland’s captain Slank (Jimonn Cole) switches the trunks so that the starstuff ends up aboard his ship, which is transferring the three orphan boys into slavery (and maybe worse).

Various adventures ensue, include a romance for Mrs. Bumbrake with flatulent sailor Alf (Harter Clingman), capture by a band of Mullusk island natives led by Fighting Prawn (Lee Zarrett), a chase by a crocodile and battles with pirates, led by the poetic, malapropism-spewing Black Stache (John Sanders, who energizes this tour production), and his grammar-correcting first mate, Smee (Luke Smith).

Ropes become rooms and oceans, people become doors, gloves become birds and some very clever staging, directed by Roger Rees and Alex Timbers, with movement by Steven Hoggett magically unfolds, enhanced by Wayne Barker’s music and sound effects contributed by two musicians housed upper stage right and left in a sort of crow’s-nest setting. Bushnell CEO David Fay comments in the show’s program about the “green” nature of the scenic design and the use of recycled elements in it and in the costume design by Paloma Young. The lighting designed by Jeff Croiter also plays an important role in setting the atmosphere.

The script contains lots of humor (though for adults, not kids) and gives Sanders, who already was shining amidst the starstuff with his physical comedy, a chance to bring down the house with a scene that answers the question about how Captain Hook loses his hand (though people not comfortable with taking God’s name in vain might not find it amusing). Sanders also received a round of applause for an ad lib about a fire alarm that forced an evacuation of the Bushnell shortly after the show began Tuesday night. (Haze and smoke effects form the show set it off, according to Paul Marte, communications manager at The Bushnell. Unfortunately a lot of people on their way out of the building were talking about not understanding the plot and left. The house, already fairly small, shrunk after intermission as well).

The script also can be dark (not recommended for little ones, despite the Peter Pan theme) and very insightful:

“It’s supposed to hurt,” Molly tells us. “That’s how you know it meant something.”

It’s just a little on the long side clocking in at about two hours and 45 minutes with an intermission. And it takes some brain power to follow the plot and some knowledge of the Peter Pan story to get the references. Surprisingly, some audience members admitted they had no familiarity with Peter Pan. Their questions about why Mrs. Bumbrake is played by a man were left answered, however, since there seems to be no real reason, especially in a play (like most these days) where a another female actor amidst the testosterone would be welcome.

Peter and the Starcatcher sprinkles starstuff at The Bushnell, 166 Capitol Ave., Hartford, through Feb. 23. Performances are Through Feb. 23: Wednesdays and Thursdays: 7:30 pm; Fridays and Saturdays: 8 pm; Saturdays at 2 pm; Sundays 1 and 6:30 pm. Tickets are $26-$76: 860-987-5900; www.bushnell.org.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Tony Bennett Will Play the Bushnell

Grammy and Emmy Award-winning musical legend Tony Bennett will play the Bushnell for one performance only on May 30.

Curtain is at 8 pm Friday, May 30.  Tickets prices are $59 - $129 and go on sale Friday, Feb. 14 at 10 am: www.bushnell.org860-987-5900; box office, 166 Capitol Ave., Hartford.  

Bennett has received 17 Grammy Awards -- including a 1995 Grammy for Record of the Year for his “MTV Unplugged” CD which introduced this American master to a whole new generation -- and the Grammy Lifetime Award. His 2007 prime-time special, "Tony Bennett: An American Classic," won seven Emmy Awards.  His initial successes came via a string of Columbia singles in the early 1950’s, including such chart-toppers as “Because of You," "Rags to Riches," and a remake of Hank Williams “Cold, Cold Heart.”  He had 24 songs in the Top 40, including “I Wanna Be Around," “The Good Life," “Who Can I Turn to (When Nobody Needs Me)” and his signature song,” I Left My Heart in San Francisco,” which garnered him two Grammy Awards.

Bennett is one of a handful of artists to have new albums charting in each decade since the '50s and has introduced a multitude of songs into the Great American Songbook that have since become standards for pop music. 

Coming Up at the HSO

POPS! SERIES: THE MUSIC OF BILLY JOEL & MORE
Saturday, March 8, 2014| 7:30 p.m.
Mortensen Hall│ The Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts 
Michael Cavanaugh, guest artist
Glen Adsit, guest conductor
Hand-picked by Billy Joel for the show’s starring role in the hit Broadway musical, Movin’ Out, Michael Cavanaugh won the hearts of audiences and critics night after night. His accolades included both Tony and Grammy award nominations. Catch this rising star performing the hits of the “Piano Man,” plus rock ‘n’ roll classics from the 1950s through the current day, such as Elvis Presley, Buddy Holly, Jerry Lee Lewis, The Beatles, The Who and Elton John.

MASTERWORKS SERIES: MICHAEL LANKESTER CONDUCTS ENIGMA VARIATIONS
March 20-23, 2014
Thursday 7:30pm | Friday & Saturday 8:00 p.m. | Sunday 3:00 p.m.
Belding Theater│ The Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts 
Michael Lankester, guest conductor, HSO music director from 1985-2000
Program: Elgar: Enigma Variations; Bruckner: Symphony No. 3
Michael Lankester makes a triumphant return to the Hartford Symphony Orchestra to lead two pieces of expressive personality.  Lankester’s fellow Englishman Edward Elgar dedicated hisEnigma Variations to “my friends pictured within” – and made each variation an affectionate portrayal.  This is followed by Bruckner’s grand, dramatic, and brassy Third Symphony.
Concert Benefactor: Cly-Del Manufacturing Company 

Friday, February 7, 2014

Quick Hit Theater Review: God of Carnage -- Music Theatre of CT

Jim Schilling, John Flaherty, Marty Bongfeldt and Cynthia Hannah. Photo: Joe Landry


God of Carnage
By Yasmina Reza
Directed by Mark Torres
Translated by Christopher Hampton
Music Theatre of Connecticut

What's It All About?
It's the riotously play about a fight on a school playground -- and so much more -- that won the 2009 Tony for Best Play. Two couples get together to "politely" discuss the mishap between their sons and end up acting like a bunch of schoolchildren themselves. It's really funny stuff as hosts Veronica and Michael (Cynthia Hannah and Jim Schilling) serve clafouti (check out what that is here) while trying not to pass judgment on the parenting skills of their guests, Annette and Alan (Marty Bongfeldt and John Flaherty), the parents of the boy who knocked their son's teeth out during the playground altercation. Meanwhile, attorney Alan, who readily admits his son is a savage, barely participates in the conversation as he keeps taking cell phone calls about a possible lawsuit against a drug company he represents. When things get sticky, the group turns to alcohol, which loosens the tongues and insults even more.

What are the Highlights?
A very funny script. One of those rare, laugh-all-the-way through pieces. Besides being funny, it's deep and the characters develop nicely despite a 90-minute, no intermission time frame. Flaherty stands out as the uncaring, preoccupied father and Bonfeldt compliments him nicely as the neglected, unhappy mother with an upset stomach.

What Are The Lowlights?
The direction here is uneven, with a pace too slow to sharpen the barbs. Actors stay in yell mode and some of the more subtle jokes, often intended to be mumbled under the breath or as asides, are lost. Flaherty's character is supposed to be the least engaged, but he's the most comfortable in his role and stands out. Hannah and Schilling seem miscast in the roles and with each other. Lines don't roll off the tongue naturally. And what are these women wearing (Costumes designed by Diane Vanderkroef)? Veronica's African print skirt might pass, since her career takes her on that cultural path, but Annette's animal print design seems a blatant attempt to say "playground jungle."

More Information:
God of Carnage runs through Feb. 16 at Music Theatre of Connecticut, 246 Post Road East in Colonial Green (lower level) in Westport (click here for information about MTC's new home for next season). Performances are Fridays at 8 pm, Saturdays at 4 and 8 pm, Sundays at 2 pm. Tickets  $25-$45 ($5 off for seniors/students, subject to availability). Reservations suggested. Call 203.454.3883 or visit www.musictheatreofct.com.


Theater Review: The Fairytale Lives of Russian Girls -- Yale Rep

Emily Walton and Felicity Jones.Photo: © Joan Marcus 2014
Clashes Between Fantasy and Reality, Old Russia and New Abound in Odd Play at Yale Rep
By Lauren Yarger
Once upon a time we could go to the theater and enjoy a play that made sense, challenged our thinking, moved our hearts and made us feel enlightened when the curtain fell.

Today, a “cool” play requires weird settings, odd plot, loud music and outlandish costumes to catch our attention.

Such is the case of Meg Miroshnik’s The Fairytale Lives of Russian Girls getting a run at Yale Rep, famous for not being afraid to stage an odd play or two. Old versus new isn’t out of place here, as the play itself pits Old Russia against New Russia and fantasy against reality.

Annie (a perky Emily Watson) was born in the Soviet Union but grew up in America after her mother, Olga, (Jessica Jelliffe), fled hardship and sought a better life here. Now, the former mathematician who has not been able to find fulfilling work, is not so sure she made the right decision and she sends her 20-year-old daughter back to the Motherland to study Russian and lose her American accent. She packs her off with an old fur coat and warnings to watch out for Baba Yaga (Felicity Jones), the “not-really-aunt” who will be her host.

“Watch out for witches,” he mother says. “Wicked witches is crazy bitches.”

And off the naïve girl goes into Moscow 2005, the Trice-Nine Tsardom in the Trice-Ten Country (the dark set is designed by Christopher Ash) to blaring rock music played by cast members stage right dressed in a combination that looks like it was borrowed from the closets of the GoGos. Miley Cyrus and Kinky Boots (Chad Raines provides the composition as well as Sound and Musical Direction and KJ Kim is the Costume Designer). Rachel Chavkin, who staged the very fun and quirky musical Natasha, Pierre, and the Great Comet of 1812 in New York, directs.

What she finds is a surreal place, where bears and magic dwell, and where a number of familiar fairytale themes get cameos amidst sexual innuendo and explorations of topics like sex trafficking, the economy and mindlessly doing what you’re told. There also is a lot of language. And a lot of bras.

Annie’s naiveté evaporates, however, as she begins to understand the true nature of the bear plaguing her friend, Masha (Sofiya Akilova), what Baba Yaga really wants to get between her iron teeth and why her mother left Russia. (Celeste Arias completes the ensemble.)

There are a few laughs (and I do mean about three), but overall Miroshnik, who was a finalist for the 2012 Susan Smith Blackburn Prize for this play, tries to put so much into the script that it ends up feeling like a great big old ogre that needs to be slayed.

This is the kind of play that causes us to start to have an overwhelming desire to look at our watches. The part of me that believes in fairytales wants to see magic and a watch that says the time is 9:35 and that there are only five minutes to go, but my realistic side knows that if I look, I will discover that it’s really 8:15, meaning only a quarter of an hour has passed, even though it has seemed like several hours. When I finally couldn’t resist any more and looked, the fairytale fractured. 8:30. An hour and 10 to go.

In view of the recent reports of the horrible conditions reporters covering the Olympics in Russia have found in their hotels and bathrooms, I snorted when Masha described the luxurious surroundings her friend had landed by sleeping with a married guy: “You should see the toilets in this place: 24-karat gold.”

But I gave up completely when Annie had a battle to the death with a potato (Rick Sordelet is Fight Director).

Jones deserves note for her creepy, gnarled, voraciously-appetited Baba Yaga, who grows older every time she is asked a question. She skillfully does convey that phenomenon (with the aid of a sound effect) and I registered surprise at her more youthful appearance at the curtain call.

The Fairytale Lives of Russian Girls continues happily ever after at Yale Repertory Theatre, 1120 Chapel St., New Haven, until Feb. 22. Tickets $20-$98: (203) 432-1234; www.yalerep.org.

Se a clip for yourself:
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Thursday, February 6, 2014

Connecticut Arts Connections

THE PALACE
The Slask Polish Song and Dance Ensemble have cancelled their 2014 tour, including their Feb. 8, 2014, performance scheduled at the Palace Theater in Waterbury. Ticket holders are being contacted by the Palace Theater Box Office and will receive a full refund or theater credit for another performance. For more information, contact the Box Office at 203-346-2000.

HARTFORD STAGE
Applications for Project: Transform are due by Friday, Feb. 7, 2014. For more information, visit www.hartfordstage.org/project-transform, or contact Chelsea Caplan at ccaplan@hartfordstage.org or 860-520-7244.

WESLEYAN
The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation has awarded Wesleyan University’s Center for the Artsa grant of $750,000 to be used over 3 1/2 years in continued support of the development of new work by a range of diverse artists, interdisciplinary collaborations, co-teaching initiatives and arts-based campus-wide projects of theCreative Campus Initiative, as well as the Institute for Curatorial Practice in Performance (ICPP), the University's post-graduate program. $500,000 of the award will be matched by $1 million to be raised to build a dedicated endowment to sustain continued innovative cross-disciplinary Creative Campus activities, ensuring that the performing arts continue to be organically integrated into non-arts areas at Wesleyan. With support from Wesleyan alumni, the fundraising campaign to meet this challenge is being launched on the occasion of the 40th anniversary of the Center for the Arts during the 2013-2014 season.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Feb.5, 2014 Weather Closings


HARTFORD STAGE offices, including Box Office, are closed today, Wednesday, February 5, due to inclement weather. Updates: www.hartfordstage.org.

LONG WHARF Due to the impending winter storm, the Wednesday, Feb. 5, performances of The Consultant at 2 and 7 pm have been cancelled. Our box office will contact all ticketed patrons to reschedule. If you have any questions please call (203) 787-4282.

MARK TWAIN HOUSE Due the the inclement weather on Wednesday February 5th, the Museum will be closed. We expect to reopen on Thursday at our normal time, but please check back here in case of a delayed opening.
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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