Tuesday, June 24, 2014

CT Critics Circle Awards Announced

Goodspeed's Michael Price with Eli Baker who was in the theater's production of Mame! 
The CT Critics Circle Awards were announced at a ceremony and reception Monday at Westport Country Playhouse. Goodspeed's Executive Director Michael Price, who has produced more than 200 shows (19 of them going on to Broadway) and who will retire at the end of this season, also was honored.

In a moving speech, he said he never didn't want to go to work and never thought of what he did as work, really.

The evening was hosted by actor and Playhouse Board Member Jake Robards. Laurie Wells and Bill the Bard (a.k.a. Steven DeRosa), currently in Sing for Your Shakespeare at Westport Country Playhouse entertained the crowd of critics, nominees and art lovers on hand. Sing's co-conceiver and musical director accompanied.

Special awards were given to Bill Joe Armstrong for his songs written for These Paper Bullets! at Yale Reportory Theatre, A Broken Umbrella Theatre in New Haven and playwright Athol Fugard, who received the Killen Award, for his impact on Connecticut, American and world theater.

Here are the nominees and winners (in bold):

2013-2014 Connecticut Critics Circle Awards

Outstanding Production of a Play

**Tie
Macbeth Hartford Stage
The House That Will Not Stand Yale Repertory Theatre
The Other Place TheaterWorks
These Paper Bullets! Yale Repertory Theatre
Time Stands Still TheaterWorks
Somewhere Hartford Stage

Outstanding Production of a Musical
Dreamgirls Ivoryton Playhouse
Hello, Dolly! Goodspeed
The Drowsy Chaperone Connecticut Repertory Theatre
The Last Five Years Long Wharf
The Most Happy Fella Goodspeed

Outstanding Director of a Play
Kevin Connors - Master Class Music Theatre of CT
Jackson Gay - These Paper Bullets! Yale Repertory Theatre
Patrick McGregor - The House That... Yale Repertory Theatre
Rob Ruggiero - Time Stands Still TheaterWorks
Rob Ruggiero - The Other Place TheaterWorks
Darko Tresnjak - Macbeth Hartford Stage

Outstanding Director of a Musical
Gordon Edelstein - Last Five Years Long Wharf Theatre
Daniel Goldstein - Hello, Dolly! Goodspeed
Rob Ruggiero - The Most Happy Fella Goodspeed

Outstanding Leading Actor in a Play
Julius Ahn - Stuck Elevator New Haven International Festival of Arts andIdeas
David Wilson Barnes - These Paper Bullets! Yale Repertory Theatre
Steven Epp -- ...Anarchist Yale Repertory Theatre
Mark Nelson - Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike Hartford Stage
Matthew Rauch - Macbeth Hartford Stage
Michael Rosen - Somewhere Hartford Stage

Outstanding Leading Actress in a Play
Kate Forbes - Macbeth Hartford Stage
Irene Glezos - Master Class Music Theatre of  CT
Jayne Houdyshell - The Show-Off Westport Country Playhouse
Kate Levy - The Other Place TheaterWorks
Priscilla Lopez - Somewhere Hartford Stage
Debra Jo Rupp - Dr. Ruth TheaterWorks
Jeanine Serralles - These Paper Bullets! Yale Repertory Theatre

Outstanding Leading Actress in a Musical
Klea Blackhurst - Hello, Dolly! Goodspeed
Katie Rose Clarke - Last Five Years Long WharfCarissa Massaro - The Fantasticks Music Theatre of CT
Mamie Parris - The Most Happy Fella Goodspeed

Outstanding Leading Actor in a Musical
Bill Nolte - The Most Happy Fella Goodspeed
Adam Halpin - The Last Five Years Long Wharf
Tony Lawson - The Fantasticks Music Theatre of CT
Stephen Mark Lukas - Damn Yankees Goodspeed

Outstanding Featured Actress in a Play
Didi Conn - The Underpants Hartford Stage/Long Wharf
Mia Dillon - A Song at Twilight Hartford Stage/Westport Country Playhouse
Siobhan Fitzgerald - I Ought to be in Pictures Ivoryton Playhouse
Harriett D. Foy - The House... Yale Repertory Theatre
Stacey Sargeant - Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike Hartford Stage
Caryn West - Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike Hartford Stage

Outstanding Featured Actor in a Play
**Tie
Robert Eli - Macbeth Hartford Stage
David Gregory - Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike Hartford Stage
David Manis - Loot Westport Country Playhouse
Jared McNeil - Fences Long Wharf
Steve Routman - The Underpants Hartford Stage/Long Wharf
Frank Vlastnik - Room Service Westport Country Playhouse

Outstanding Featured Actress in a Musical
Ann Arvia - Damn Yankees Goodspeed
Ashley Brown - Hello, Dolly! Goodspeed
Natalie Hill - The Most Happy Fella Goodspeed
Janelle Robinson - South Pacific Summer Theatre of New Canaan
Kristine Zbornik - Damn Yankees Goodspeed

Outstanding Featured Actor in a Musical
Doug Carpenter - The Most Happy Fella Goodspeed
Tony Sheldon - Hello, Dolly! Goodspeed
Kevin Vortmann - The Most Happy Fella Goodspeed
Ron Wisniski - Damn Yankees Goodspeed

Outstanding Ensemble
I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Change Ivoryton Playhouse
Sheila E. Coyle
Michael Brian Dunn
Holly Holcombe
Christopher Sutton
Greg Sutton

Love/Sick TheaterWorks
Pascale Arnand
Bruch Reed
Chris Thorn
Laura Woodward

Christmas on the Rocks TheaterWorks
Harry Bouvy
Ronn Carroll
Christine Pedi

Outstanding CT Debut
Sheniqua Denise Trotman - Dreamgirls Ivoryton Playhouse

Outstanding Choreography
Cassia Abate - The Music Man Connecticut Repertory Theatre
Dan DeLange - Hello, Dolly! Goodspeed
Greg Graham - Somewhere Hartford Stage
Doug Shankman - Grease Summer Theatre of New Canaan

Outstanding Set Design
Antje Ellermann - The House That Will Not Stand
Yale Repertory Theatre
Kate Noll -- ...Anarchist Yale Repertory Theatre
Alexander Dodge - The Show-off Westport Country Playhouse
Michael Yeargan - These Paper Bullets! Yale Repertory Theatre
Darko Tresnjak - Macbeth Hartford Stage

Outstanding Costume DesignJessica Ford - These Paper Bullets! Yale Repertory Theatre
Jess Goldstein - The Underpants Hartford Stage/Long Wharf
Wade Laboissonniere - Hello, Dolly! Goodspeed
Katherine O'Neill - The House That Will Not Stand Yale Repertory Theatre
Joshua Peterson - La Dispute Hartford Stage
K. J. Kim - The Fairytale Life of Russian Girls Yale Repertory Theatre

Outstanding Sound Design
Charles Coles/Nathan Roberts --Accidental Death of an Anarchist Yale Repertory Theatre
Broken Chord - These Paper Bullets! Yale Repertory Theatre
Jason Crystal - Somewhere Hartford Stage
Jane Shaw - Macbeth Hartford Stage
Chad Raines - The Fairytale Life of Russian GirlsYale Repertory Theatre

Outstanding Lighting Design
John Lasiter - The Most Happy Fella Goodspeed Opera House
Matthew Richards - Macbeth Hartford Stage
Philip S. Rosenberg - Somewhere Hartford Stage
Ben Stanton - Last Five Years Long Wharf Theatre
Paul Whitaker - These Paper Bullets! Yale Repertory Theatre
Bradley King - The Fairytale Life of Russian GirlsYale Repertory Theatre

With Darko Tresnjak and Susan Granger
With The Hartford Courant's Frank Rizzo, who wrote the script for the evening.
Host Jake Robards
With fellow critic Bonnie Goldberg, right, and friend Marie Reynolds, one of the producers for Shakespeare on the Sound.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Theater Review: Endurance -- Long Wharf

Greg Webster, Jason Bohon, Andrew Grusetskie, Michael Toomey. Photo:Dan Rousseau
Bold, Exciting Exploration on Leading During Crisis (and on How to Tell a Story)
By Lauren Yarger
A bold and exciting method of storytelling whisks us through leadership lessons learned and the triumph of the human spirit during adversity, regardless of the time, in Endurance at Long Wharf Theatre.

Split Knuckle Theatres dual tale of a modern insurance manager trying to weather the current economic downturn and of a turn-of-the-20th-century ship captain encouraging his men trapped by ice on their way to Antarctica, offers some of the cleverest and innovative storytelling we have seen on stage.

The show began at UConn and begins the summer season at Long Wharf and the theater group plans to make New Haven its home. Jason Bohon, Andrew Grusetskie, Christopher Hirsch and Slit Knuckle Artistic Director Greg Webster play all of the roles and tell the tales using a minimal number of props that are repurposed in effective and amusing ways.

At the fictional BMI Insurance Company in Hartford, Walter Spivey (Hirsch) and his coworkers dread the cutbacks they know are coming. In an unexpected twist, Walter gets promoted instead of being laid off, but feels unprepared to lead the team through the unrealistic goals set for them by upper management in the face of a hiring freeze and lack of resources available to complete a growing number of tasks.

In desperation, he turns to the business management section of the library, where he stumbles upon Endurance, a leadership manual (this part is true) by Ernest Shackleton who is credited with saving the lives of 27 men stranded with him on an Antarctic ice floe for almost two years. It was a different kind of freeze, but Walter finds some parallels for helping him lead his team.

Songs, precision movement and quick-change props, aided by exceptional lighting by Dan Rousseau, tell the two stories, which look for ways the human spirit can survive, even in the hardest of circumstances.

The ensemble members are all trained in method of collaboration and creation of French theatrical artist Jacques Lecoq, whose physical techniques inspired works like The 39 Steps, Peter and the Starcatcher  and War Horse. A table becomes part of a ship, a bucket being hoisted aboard The Endurance suddenly is a trash receptacle in the office. Ice threatening to sink the ship is conveyed in some movement and sharply designed sounds (uncredited, though Ken Clark designs the music). It’s ingenious as well as economical.

Amazing to me was the fact that 100 years and setting could be changed in the blink of an eye by a subtle lighting change or the flick of wrist.  The performers play characters as well as inanimate objects like a bathroom sink, an elevator or an alarm clock. The story is engaging and humorous – it’s part "Office Space," part National Geographic -- all amazingly staged into a thrilling 90 minutes without intermission.

The piece, devised and performed by Bohon, Grusetskie, Michael Toomey and Greg Webster, according to press information, has traveled the world. Split Knuckle formed in 2005 in London, beginning with an adaptation of John Steinbecks “The Pearl,” which received a 5 Star review from the Scotsman at  Edinburgh festival. Since that time they have traveled and performed in 19 different counties and across the United States.

Webster, a New Haven resident and University of Connecticut professor in Movement Theatre said Endurance was inspired by two things: a dream in which he saw a business man being swallowed by a photocopier, and his long admiration of the unique heroics of explorer Ernest Shackleton. These two ideas taken in tandem prompted a series of improvisations and exploration that resulted in the play’s beginnings at UConn. 

Working at a residency at UConn in 2008, Webster encouraged actors, musicians and writers to all be together in the rehearsal room at the same time, exploring different ideas using their respective disciplines. They would then improvise based on a theme, and writers would create scenes based on their improvisations. Playwriting here is credited to Nick Ryan.

The company is creating two new devised pieces, which will be released in the spring of 2015. For more information about Split Knuckle Theatre, visit www.splitknuckletheatre.org.

Endurance runs through June 29 at Long Wharf, 222 Sargent Drive, New Haven. Tickets are $55 with student discounts available. 203-787-4282; www.longwharf.org. 

Theater Review: The Sunshine Boys -- CT Repertory Nutmeg Series

 Sara Andreas, Richard Kline and Jerry Adler. Photo: Gerry Goodstein
On-stage Rapport Shines in Sunshine Boys
By Lauren Yarger
Director Vincent J. Cardinal finds a wonderful onstage rapport among veteran actors Jerry Adler and Richard Kline and UConn alum Richard Ruiz to propel CT Repertory Theater’s fine production of Neil Simon’s 1972 comedy The Sunshine Boys, the second of this season’s Nutmeg Summer Series offerings.

The comedy team of Lewis and Clark (Kline, TV’s “Three’s Company,” City of Angels, first national  tour Wicked and Adler, “The Sopranos,” “Rescue Me,” “The Good Wife,” CRT’s “I’m Connecticut”) once dominated vaudeville, but a falling out broke them up after 43 years in show business. Now, Clark sits alone watching TV in his rundown hotel room (designed by Tim Brown) waiting for his nephew/manager Ben Silverman (Ruiz) to get him a gig doing commercials. Ben tries his best, but Willie has trouble remembering his lines.

Meanwhile, Al, who has retired from the business, is dealing with health issues while living with his daughter and her family over in dreaded New Jersey.

One day, Ben has good news. A television special about the history of comedy is being produced and wouldn’t be complete without including Lewis and Clark. But can the estranged entertainers stand being in the same room with each other long enough to recreate their famous doctor sketch?

Ben doesn’t give Willie much of a choice. How would it look to the network if he couldn’t even arrange a booking with his own uncle? Not to mention that the gig will pay them each $10,000. Willie agrees, despite his reluctance to reunite with the partner who mercilessly poked him in the chest and spit in his face when delivering his lines all those years…

Hostilities surface during the initial meeting and escalate during the taping of the special with Sandra Andreas playing the buxom and provocatively costumed nurse (Lisa Loen, design) who is the catalyst for many of the team’s jokes, which often get interrupted by the actors’ feud, all to the consternation of the director (Thomas Brazzle, a recent student at UConn and a noticeable nonEquity member of the cast).

The ordeal brings on a heart attack for Willie and lands him in the care of a registered nurse (Tina Fabrique, Ella) who doesn’t take any grief from the old man who needs to make some decisions about where to live and whether or not to see Al again.

Simon’s comedy (which has a few updates to make it a little more modern) still is funny and the humor here is made sharper by that rapport among the three main actors. Willie and Al exude a natural loathing and marvelous timing, especially when the men go into their characters’ oft-performed doctor sketch. At one point, on the night I attended, one of the jokes tickled the actors’ funny bone for real, proving that the actors, as well as the characters, are a good comedy team. It also was fun to watch Adler expertly wait for the laugh before timing his next line. A real treat to see these actors on stage
Gerry Goodstein photo
.

More impressive than two good actors doing what they do best, however, is how Ruiz, pictured right with Kline,  fits perfectly in to the mix. He has stood out in roles at CT Rep’s My Fair Lady, The Music Man and Man of LaMancha as well as in Yale Rep’s American Night, but really shines here. He conveys real affection for his uncle, admiration for Al and somehow manages to be engaging without getting in the way of the veterans.


The two-hour comedy with an intermission is the second offering in the Nutmeg series. Next up: Gypsy, starring Leslie Uggams, June 19-29.

The Sunshine Boys plays through June 29 at Jorgensen Auditorium on the UConn Storrs campus. Showitimes vary. Tickets are $10-$43: 860-486-2113; www.crt.uconn.edu; box office at the Nafe Katter Theatre, 820 Bolton Rd.

Monday, June 16, 2014

The Killer, Directed by Darko Tresnjak

Michael Shannon. Photo: Gerry Goodstein
For a review of The Killer, directed by Darko Tresnjak at the Theatre for a New Audience in Brooklyn, click here.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

HSO Kicks Off Talcott Mountain with Midsummer Mozart

Music Director Carolyn Kuan conducting at the Talcott Mountain Music Festival. Photo: Courtesy of the HSO
HARTFORD SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA TALCOTT MOUNTAIN MUSIC FESTIVAL:
MIDSUMMER MOZART

with the Hartford Symphony Orchestra; Carolyn Kuan, conductor; Robert Blocker, piano; Barbara Hopkins, flute; Suzanne Lis, soprano

Friday, June 27, 2014 │ 7:30 p.m.
Performing Arts Center at Simsbury Meadows 

Program: Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: Symphony No. 36 in C Major, K. 425, “Linz;” Concerto No. 23 in A Major for Piano; Adolphe Adam: Bravour – Variationen uber ein Thema von Mozart 

Ticket Information: Subscriptions to the 2014 Talcott Mountain Music Festival range in price from $100-$1420; single tickets range in price from $20-$45; and lawn tickets for kids 12 and under are $5. Discounts are available for tickets purchased in advance. For more ticketing information, please contact HSO ticket services at (860) 244-2999 or visitwww.hartfordsymphony.org

Additional Information: Gates open at 6:00 p.m. for all Talcott Mountain Music Festival concerts. Open to all ticket holders, the HSO Education Tent is open from 6:00 p.m. to 7:15 p.m.; families can enjoy free activities such as music-themed games and crafts, the “Instrument Zoo,” and youth performances. In the case of severe weather, this concert will be performed the following night (June 28) at the same time.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Theater Review: Ghost -- The Bushnell

Steven Grant Douglas. Photo: Joan Marcus..
Bad Guys, Some Illusions Highlight Tour of Ghost, the Musical
By Lauren Yarger
We’re not supposed to like Carl Bruner. He’s the bad guy. But in the tour of Ghost, the musical, stopping to close out the Broadway season at the Bushnell, we just can’t help ourselves.

And we kind of like Willie Lopez, the other bad guy who does Carl’s bidding too. Loyalties are messed up here, because Robby Haltiwanger (Carl) and Fernando Contreras (Willie) are so good at being bad – and they stand out in an otherwise mediocre film-to-stage rendition of the beloved film starring Demi Moore, Patrick Swayze and Whoopi Goldberg.

Come to think of it, we also bond with the story’s other less-than-reputable character, Oda Mae Brown, a con artist, fake psychic who discovers, to her amazement, that she really does have the gift, played here with sarcastic humor by Carla R. Stewart.

Haltiwanger commands the stage and expertly conveys the lust for wealth and success that leads the banker to hire Willie to rob his friend Sam Wheat so he can obtain passwords to accounts holding money he is laundering for the mob. Haltiwanger also brings energy and a talented singing voice to the tunes written by Grammy Award-winners Dave Stewart (half of the Eurythmics) and Glen Ballard (Man In The Mirror, Jagged Little Pill).

Contreras’s role is minor, but he stands out with a menacing drive that has us fearing for Molly (Kate Postotnik) when Willie breaks into her loft to find the passwords he didn’t get when he murdered the love of her life, Sam (Stephen Grant Douglas). We also fear for Molly when evil Carl starts making moves on her, urging her to move on and forget Sam.

But Sam is there in the form of a ghost (thanks to illusions by Paul Kieve, Video and Projection Design by Jon Driscoll, lighting design by Hugh Vanstone and sound design by Bobby Aitken) and as he discovers the truth about his murder, he concocts a plan with Oda Mae, who is the only one able to hear him, to thwart Carl.

Also standing out in minor parts are Oda Mae’s sisters, Clara and Louise (Evette Marie Whit and Lydia Warr), and the subway ghost (Brandon Curry), who gives Sam lessons on how to turn poltergeist. The other ghosts who show up to sing really dumb lyrics and do really dumb choreography (by Ashley Wallen) should be sent to purgatory, however, or at least to a documentary on why film movies don’t always work well as stage musicals.

For fans of the movie, a lot of the key elements survive. Bruce Joel Rubin (“The Time Traveler’s Wife” and “Jacob’s Ladder”) recreates his Academy-Award-winning screenplay for the stage, so the pottery scene, “ditto,” and “Unchained Melody,” written by Hy Zaret and Alex North, are in there.

What doesn’t materialize, besides Demi Moore’s cute little haircut (why did Director Matthew Warchus insist Molly have long, blonde curls when we all want to see that short, brunette bouncy do?) is a love story we can get teary about. Postotnik is believable, but Douglas is totally miscast in a part that’s too big for him, and both performers at times appear to struggle with the singing. It’s hard to tell though, because the sound mix isn’t good and solos often are drowned out by the musicians or chorus.

We also don’t see a bond develop between Sam and Oda Mae. Worse, there is no chemistry between Sam and Molly and we don’t buy them as a couple whose love is so strong that it transcends worlds. Without that, and the neat magic tricks (the  ones which aren't totally obvious), this telling of Ghost would be rather transparent if it weren’t for those really good villains.

Ghost plays at The Bushnell, 166 Capitol Ave., Hartford, through June 15; Thursday at 7:30 pm; Friday at 8 pm; Saturday at 2 pm and 8 pm; Sunday at 1 pm and 6 pm. Tickets $22-$85 (860) 860-987-5900; www.bushnell.org.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Connecticut High School Musical Theater Awards Presented

Congratulations to the winners announced at the sixth annual Connecticut High School Musical Theater Awards June 2 at the Palace Theater in Waterbury:

Outstanding Performance by a Leading Actress
Jillian Caillouette
A Little Princess
St. Paul Catholic

Outstanding Performance by a Leading Actor
Michael Hudak
Les Miserables
Immaculate High School

Outstanding Performance by a Supporting Actress
Caleigh Lozito 
A Little Princess 
St. Paul Catholic High School

Outstanding Performance by a Supporting Actor
Michael Lepore 
RENT: School Edition
Trumbull High School

Ort Pengue Award for Outstanding Costume Design
Joanne Nyerick & Patricia O'Hagan
A Little Princess
St. Paul High School

Outstanding Hair & Make-up Achievement
Linda Hurst and Shannon-Courtney Denihan
Thoroughly Modern Millie
New Canaan High School

Outstanding Lighting Achievement
Alicia Richards (Lighting), Shown Boyle (Projections)
Carrie: The Musical
Regional Center For The Arts

Outstanding Set Design
Kirsten Reynolds & Mark Foster The Secret Garden
Valley Regional High School

Outstanding Direction (tie)
Mark Mazzarella
A Little Princess
St. Paul Catholic High School

Ingrid Walsh
The Secret Garden
Valley Regional High School

Outstanding Sound DesignTom "Ivan" Ivanovich 
In The Heights
Amity Regional High School

Outstanding Musical Direction
Emmett Drake
A Little Princess
St, Paul Catholic High School

Outstanding Choreography
Ashley Simone Kirchner 
Carrie: The Musical
Regional Center For The Arts

Outstanding Orchestra
Thoroughly Modern Millie
New Canaan High School

Outstanding Featured Performer
Kahari Blue 
In The Heights
Amity Regional High School

Outstanding Featured Ensemble Group
Marisa Mastrio, Chiara Ciampietro, Caroline Cianci, Annie Jarner, Amy Urso, Olivia Kilbourne
A Little Princess (Boarding House Girls)
St. Paul Catholic High School

Outstanding Graphic Design 
St. Paul Catholic High School
A Little Princess

Outstanding Chorus
Regional Center For The Arts
Carrie: The Musical

Outstanding Lobby Design
In The Heights
Amity Regional High School

Student Achievement Award
Jack Houtz
Urinetown
Westhill High School

Student Achievement Award
Emily Ciancimino, Gabrielle Tropp, Rachel Tropp
RENT: School Edition
Trumbull High School

Student Achievement Award
Andrew Albert & Claire Gaudette
Into The Woods
Waterbury Arts Magnet School

President Award for Administrative Leadership
Larissa Marks
Trumbull High School

Outstanding Production of the Year St. Paul Catholic High School
A Little Princess

Arts In Education Award
Nanacy Freedman Westhill High School
Urinetown

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Gentleman's Guide Wins Tony for Best Musical

Courtesy of Hartford Stage
2014 Tony Awards for:

Best Musical

Best Direction of a Musical -- Darko Tresnjak

Best Book of a Musical -- Robert L Freedman

Best Costume Design Musical -- Linda Cho

It's a Darko Night!

Congratulations to Hartford Stage's Darko Tresnjak, winner of the Tony for Best Director for Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder.

Friday, June 6, 2014

Shubert Announces Anniversary Season

The Shubert Theatre in New Haven has announced the lineup of Broadway shows for its 2014-2015 Centennial Season which will celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Shubert Theatre’s original opening back in December 1914. 

As part of the Shubert’s Centennial Plan, the Shubert has begun a multi-year project that will improve the theatre’s physical and financial future. In the fall the Shubert will “raise the curtain” on new, improved and expanded public spaces and facilities that will make the patron’s theatre-going experience all the more enjoyable. In addition to the Broadway Series, the Shubert is planning a season of special centennial events to Celebrate the Shubert’s Past and Build the Theatre’s Future.

Current Shubert Season Ticket-holders will be receiving their Broadway Series renewals by mail and have the opportunity to renew their current Season Ticket Seats. Season Tickets to the Shubert Theatre’s 2014–2015 Broadway Series are available at the Shubert Box Office and by phone at 203-562-5666 or 888-736-2663 Mondays thru Fridays 10 am to 5:30 pm and Saturdays 10 am to 3 pm. For additional information visit shubert.com.

The season:

Irving Berlin’s White Christmas
December 30, 2014–January 4, 2015

Tuesday 7:30pm
Wednesday (New Year’s Eve) 8:00pm
Thursday (New Year’s Day) 1:00 & 6:30pm
Friday 7:30pm
Saturday 2:00 & 8:00pm
Sunday 2:00pm

Irving Berlin's White Christmas, the stage adaptation of the beloved classic film, is coming to the Shubert stage this holiday season! The memorable story of two showbiz buddies putting on a show in a magical Vermont inn shines with such Berlin hits as “Count Your Blessings Instead of Sheep,” “Happy Holiday,” “Sisters,” “Blue Skies,” and the unforgettable title song. Full of dancing, romance, laughter and some of the greatest songs ever written, this holiday musical promises a merry and bright theatrical experience for the whole family!
“This cozy trip down memory lane should be put on your wish list.” - The New York Times


Peter and the Starcatcher
January 29–February 1, 2015

Thursday 7:30pm
Friday 8:00pm
Saturday 2:00 & 8:00pm
Sunday 2:00pm

Winner of 5 Tony Awards, this grownup’s prequel to Peter Pan will have you hooked from the moment you let your imagination take flight. PETER AND THE STARCATCHER, the innovative and imaginative musical play based on the best-selling novel by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson, takes a hilarious romp through the Neverland you never knew. The actors play more than a hundred unforgettable characters, all on a journey to answer the century-old question: How did Peter Pan become The Boy Who Never Grew Up? This epic origin story of popular culture’s most enduring and beloved character proves that your imagination is the most captivating place in the world.

Disney’s Beauty and the Beast
March 5–8, 2015

Thursday 7:30pm
Friday 7:30pm
Saturday 2:00 & 7:30pm
Sunday 2:00pm

Based on the Academy Award-winning animated feature film, Disney’s Beauty and the Beast has won the hearts of millions of people worldwide. This eye-popping spectacle is filled with unforgettable characters, lavish sets and costumes, and dazzling production numbers including “Be Our Guest” and the beloved title song. Share this smash-hit Broadway musical with your family!

MATILDA THE MUSICAL
May 16–23, 2015

Saturday (May 16) 8:00pm
Sunday 2:00pm
Tuesday 7:30pm
Wednesday 7:30pm
Thursday 7:30pm
Friday 8:00pm
Saturday (May 23) 2:00 & 8:00pm

The Tony Award-winning MATILDA THE MUSICAL is the story of an extraordinary girl who dreams of a better life. Armed with a vivid imagination and a sharp mind, Matilda dares to take a stand and change her own destiny. Based on the beloved novel by Roald Dahl, Matilda has won 47 international awards, and continues to thrill sold-out audiences of all ages on Broadway and in London’s West End. The Wall Street Journal says, “The makers of MATILDA have done the impossible – triumphantly! It is smart, sweet, zany and stupendous fun.”
“MATILDA is the best musical since the Lion King!” - TIME Magazine

Million Dollar Quartet
June 11–14, 2015

Thursday 7:30pm
Friday 8:00pm
Saturday 2:00 & 8:00pm
Sunday 1:00 & 6:30pm

MILLION DOLLAR QUARTET is the smash-hit musical inspired by the famed recording session that brought together rock ‘n’ roll icons Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis and Carl Perkins for the first and only time. On December 4, 1956, these four young musicians were gathered together by Sam Phillips, the “Father of Rock ’n’ Roll” at Sun Records in Memphis for what would be one of the greatest jam sessions of all time. This Tony Award-winning musical brings that legendary night to life with a tale of broken promises, secrets, betrayal and celebrations featuring timeless hits including “Blue Suede Shoes,” “Fever,” “That’s All Right,” “Sixteen Tons,” “Great Balls of Fire,” “I Walk the Line,” “Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On,” “Who Do You Love?,” “Matchbox,” “Folsom Prison Blues,” “Hound Dog” and more. This thrilling musical brings you inside the recording studio with four major talents who came together as a red-hot rock ‘n’ roll band for one unforgettable night.

CT Critics Circle Announces Theater Awards Nominations

The CT Critics Circle has announced nominations for its 2013-2014 theater awards. The winners will be announced at a ceremony Monday, June 23 at Westport Country Playhouse. 

A reception at 6:30 precedes the ceremony, which will begin at 7:30. All are welcome to attend the free event, which is fast becoming the theater-networking event in the state. RSVPs to pblaufuss@westportplayhouse.org.

Nominations

2013-2014 Connecticut Critics Circle Awards

Outstanding Production of a Play

Macbeth                                                                    Hartford Stage
The House That Will Not Stand                                 Yale Repertory Theatre
The Other Place                                                         TheaterWorks
These Paper Bullets!                                                  Yale Repertory Theatre
Time Stands Still                                                         TheaterWorks
Somewhere                                                                Hartford Stage

Outstanding Production of a Musical

Dreamgirls                                                                  Ivoryton Playhouse
Hello, Dolly!                                                               Goodspeed 
The Drowsy Chaperone                                              Connecticut Repertory Theatre
The Last Five Years                                                    Long Wharf 
The Most Happy Fella                                                Goodspeed 

Outstanding Director of a Play

Kevin Connors – Master Class                                    Music Theatre of CT
Jackson Gay – These Paper Bullets!                            Yale Repertory Theatre
Patrick McGregor – The House That…                       Yale Repertory Theatre
Rob Ruggiero – Time Stands Still                                 TheaterWorks
Rob Ruggiero – The Other Place                                 TheaterWorks
Darko Tresnjak – Macbeth                                          Hartford Stage

Outstanding Director of a Musical

Gordon Edelstein – Last Five Years                             Long Wharf Theatre
Daniel Goldstein – Hello, Dolly!                                   Goodspeed 
Rob Ruggiero – The Most Happy Fella                        Goodspeed 

Outstanding Leading Actor in a Play

Julius Ahn – Stuck Elevator                                          New Haven International Festival of Arts & Ideas
David Wilson Barnes – These Paper Bullets!                Yale Repertory Theatre
Steven Epp -- …Anarchist                                           Yale Repertory Theatre
Mark Nelson – Vanya and Sonia 
        and Masha and Spike                                           Hartford Stage
Matthew Rauch – Macbeth                                          Hartford Stage
Michael Rosen – Somewhere                                       Hartford Stage

Outstanding Leading Actress in a Play

Kate Forbes – Macbeth                                                Hartford Stage
Irene Glezos – Master Class                                          Music Theatre of CT
Jayne Houdyshell – The Show-Off                                 Westport Country Playhouse
Kate Levy – The Other Place                                        TheaterWorks
Priscilla Lopez – Somewhere                                         Hartford Stage
Debra Jo Rupp – Dr. Ruth                                             TheaterWorks
Jeanine Serralles – These Paper Bullets!                         Yale Repertory Theatre

Outstanding Leading Actress in a Musical

Klea Blackhurst – Hello, Dolly!                                     Goodspeed 
Katie Rose Clarke – Last Five Years                             Long Wharf 
Carissa Massaro – The Fantasticks                                Music Theatre of CT
Mamie Parris – The Most Happy Fella                           Goodspeed 

Outstanding Leading Actor in a Musical

Bill Nolte – The Most Happy Fella                                Goodspeed 
Adam Halpin – The Last Five Years                              Long Wharf 
Tony Lawson – The Fantasticks                                    Music Theatre of CT
Stephen Mark Lukas – Damn Yankees                         Goodspeed 

Outstanding Featured Actress in a Play

Didi Conn – The Underpants                                        Hartford Stage/Long Wharf 
Mia Dillon – A Song at Twilight                                    Hartford Stage/Westport Country Playhouse
Siobhan Fitzgerald – I Ought to be in Pictures               Ivoryton Playhouse
Harriett D. Foy – The House…                                    Yale Repertory Theatre
Stacey Sargeant – Vanya and Sonia 
        and Masha and Spike                                           Hartford Stage
Caryn West – Vanya and Sonia 
        and Masha and Spike                                           Hartford Stage

Outstanding Featured Actor in a Play

Robert Eli – Macbeth                                                   Hartford Stage
David Gregory – Vanya and Sonia 
        and Masha and Spike                                           Hartford Stage
David Manis – Loot                                                     Westport Country Playhouse
Jared McNeil – Fences                                                Long Wharf 
Steve Routman – The Underpants                                Hartford Stage/Long Wharf 
Frank Vlastnik – Room Service                                    Westport Country Playhouse

Outstanding Featured Actress in a Musical

Ann Arvia – Damn Yankees                                        Goodspeed 
Ashley Brown – Hello, Dolly!                                      Goodspeed 
Natalie Hill – The Most Happy Fella                            Goodspeed 
Janelle Robinson – South Pacific                                  Summer Theatre of New Canaan
Kristine Zbornik – Damn Yankees                               Goodspeed 

Outstanding Featured Actor in a Musical

Doug Carpenter – The Most Happy Fella                     Goodspeed 
Tony Sheldon – Hello, Dolly!                                        Goodspeed 
Kevin Vortmann – The Most Happy Fella                     Goodspeed 
Ron Wisniski – Damn Yankees                                     Goodspeed 

Outstanding Ensemble

I Love You, You’re Perfect…                                      Ivoryton Playhouse
   Sheila E. Coyle
   Michael Brian Dunn
   Holly Holcombe
   Christopher Sutton
   Greg Sutton
Love/Sick                                                                     TheaterWorks
   Pascale Arnand
   Bruch Reed
   Chris Thorn
   Laura Woodward
Christmas on the Rocks                                                TheaterWorks
   Harry Bouvy
   Ronn Carroll
   Christine Pedi

Outstanding Debut

Sheniqua Denise Trotman – Dreamgirls                         Ivoryton Playhouse

Outstanding Choreography

Cassia Abate – The Music Man                                    Connecticut Repertory Theatre
Dan DeLange – Hello, Dolly!                                        Goodspeed 
Greg Graham – Somewhere                                          Hartford Stage
Doug Shankman – Grease                                             Summer Theatre of New Canaan

Outstanding Set Design

Antje Ellermann – The House That Will Not Stand        Yale Repertory Theatre
Kate Noll -- …Anarchist                                              Yale Repertory Theatre
Alexander Dodge – The Show-off                                 Westport Country Playhouse
Michael Yeargan – These Paper Bullets!                        Yale Repertory Theatre
Darko Tresnjak – Macbeth                                            Hartford Stage

Outstanding Costume Design

Jessica Ford – These Paper Bullets!                               Yale Repertory Theatre
Jess Goldstein – The Underpants                                    Hartford Stage/Long Wharf 
Wade Laboissonniere – Hello, Dolly!                              Goodspeed 
Katherine O’Neill – The House That Will Not Stand       Yale Repertory Theatre
Joshua Peterson – La Dispute                                          Hartford Stage
K. J. Kim – The Fairytale Life of Russian Girls                Yale Repertory Theatre

Outstanding Sound Design

Charles Coles/Nathan Roberts -- 
Accidental Death of an Anarchist                                                     Yale Repertory Theatre
Broken Chord – These Paper Bullets!                             Yale Repertory Theatre
Jason Crystal – Somewhere                                             Hartford Stage
Jane Shaw – Macbeth                                                     Hartford Stage
Chad Raines – The Fairytale Life of Russian Girls            Yale Repertory Theatre

Outstanding Lighting Design

John Lasiter – The Most Happy Fella                              Goodspeed Opera House
Matthew Richards – Macbeth                                         Hartford Stage
Philip S. Rosenberg – Somewhere                                  Hartford Stage
Ben Stanton – Last Five Years                                        Long Wharf Theatre
Paul Whitaker – These Paper Bullets!                             Yale Repertory Theatre
Bradley King – The Fairytale Life of Russian Girls           Yale Repertory Theatre


Special Awards
Billie Joe Armstrong – Songs for These Paper Bullets!      Yale Repertory Theatre
A Broken Umbrella Theatre

The Tom Killen Award
Athol Fugard

Vanya and Sonia and Masha & Spike -- Hartford Stage

Caryn West and Leslie Hendrix. Photo: T. Charles Erickson
    
Thoughts on Life, Siblings and a Cherry Orchard Don't Always Mean That There Won't Be Lots of Laughs
By Lauren Yarger
Christopher Durang's Tony Award-winning comedy Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike with its dark and contagious humor wraps up the 50th anniversary season at Hartford Stage.

Maxwell Williams directs a talented ensemble to tell the story of three very different siblings gathering at their home, where quoting Chekhov, throwing coffee cups at the wall and channeling Maggie Smith are not considered strange. 

This is a very funny, tongue-in-cheek send-up of some of Chekhov's themes (the siblings, Vanya, Sonya and Masha all have been named after the playwright's characters), but Durang doesn't waste time trying to parody the classics. He just skilfully pokes smart fun at them -- and at relationships and global warming to boot.

The three siblings, named by parents who apparently were too involved in community theater, have traces of The Seagull, Three Sisters, Uncle Vanya and Chekhov themes in their lives, but these folks are way funnier. Vanya (a droll Mark Nelson) and Sonia (Caryn West) live uneventful lives in their Bucks County, PA farmhouse. They gaze out at a few cherry trees, which Sonia insists is an orchard, and at the lake where a heron lands every day and wonder what their lives might have been like if they hadn't missed out by having to care for their elderly parents until their death. Their vivacious sister, Masha (Leslie Hendrix), paid the bills, but escaped to a more glamorous life as a successful Hollywood actress. 

To Vanya and Sonia's horror, Masha considers selling the expensive home (a combination of the interior and exterior of the house designed by Jeff Cowie.) She arrives for a visit with much younger, amazingly fit, but dimwitted actor boyfriend, Spike (David Gregory) in tow. The two share a sexual attraction, but the perfectly coiffed and attired Masha (Tricia Barsamian, costume design) worries about the age difference, especially when Spike takes an interest in Nina (a delightfully innocent Andrea Lynn Green), a nymph-like, beautiful and young wanna-be actress he meets on the beach next door.

Adding more humor to the mix is Cassandra (Stacey Sargeant), the family's housekeeper who is gripped with strong clairvoyant visions, not unlike her Greek goddess namesake, urging everyone to "Beware!' -- of just about everything and anything. And as it turns out, the voodoo-practicing woman is right most of the time even if her warnings do get off track. Sargeant is very entertaining and has the audience in stitches.

Kudos to Durang for a sharp, humor-filled script that has depth with regards to the Chekhov themes layered in there. Each character has a moment in the the spotlight from a "reverse striptease" by Spike to a phone conversation for Sonia with a potential  love interest to a tour-de-force soliloquy by Vanya lamenting on the loss of simpler times. And all that happens woven into a plot that has Masha in a Snow White costume with the others in tow as dwarfs and the beautiful queen before she turned evil as channeled by Maggie Smith playing her role in the film "California Suite." Delightful!

The pace here could use some sharpening as the two-hour-45-minute run time (with an intermission) felt long. Maxwell also compartmentalizes Vanya's powerhouse rant instead of letting Nelson deliver it in one breathless exercise in frustration. I also couldn't help think, that since West reminds us of Sigourney Weaver (who played the role on Broadway) in elegant looks and demeanor and since Hendrix takes Masha to a maniacal level more in character with Sonia's persona, the play might have gone to another level by switching the roles.
Vanya and Sonia and Masha & Spike runs through June 16 at Hartford Stage, 50 Church St., Hartford. Performances are Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday at 7:30 pm; Friday and Saturday at 8 pm; Matinees Sunday and select Wednesdays and Saturdays at 2 pm. Tickets $20-$85  (860) 527-5151; www.hartfordstage.org.More information:

AfterWords Discussion

June 10, 11 and 18
Join members
 of the cast and the artistic staff  for a free discussion, immediately following select 7:30 pm performances on Tuesday or 2 pm Wednesday matinees. 
C O N N E C T I C U T
--- A R T S ---
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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