Monday, December 28, 2015

Preview of What's Hot on Connecticut Stages in 2016

Love Letters at the Bushnell -- Ali MacGraw and Ryan ONeal. Photo: Austin Hargrave

Top Connecticut Theater Picks for 2016
By Lauren Yarger
As a new year begins, Connecticut’s professional theater scene offers many exciting viewing opportunities including premieres of new shows as well as some old some old favorites. What shows am I most looking forward to? Here are some tops picks for 2016:

HARTFORD STAGE

Dark Tresnjak directs a new musical adaptation of Anastasia, inspired by the 1956 and 1997 (animated) films May 12-June 12. The project has received a $10,000 National Endowment for the Arts award and reunites Ragtime creatives Terrence McNally (book), Stephen Flaherty (music), and Lynn Ahrens (lyrics). Joshua Bergasse will choreograph.
Flaherty and Ahrens also co-wrote On the Town Once on This Island, Seussical, My Favorite Year and Rocky. The songwriting team was nominated for the Academy Award for “Journey to the Past” from the animated film Anastasia. I wouldn’t be surprised to hear that Anastasia will make a transfer to Broadway and put Tresnjak in the running for another shot at the Tony Award for Best Direction of a Musical (he won the Tony, Drama Desk and Outer Critics awards for A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder, which also premiered at Hartford Stage).

Also on stage at Hartford Stage:
The Body of an American
Jan. 7- 31
Romeo and Juliet
Feb. 11- March 20
Having Our Say
March 31 - April 24

Info/tickets: (860) 527-5151; hartfordstage.org

THEATERWORKS
One of my favorite Off-Broadway experiences gets a staging at TheaterWorks Jan.8- Feb. 14. Buyer and Cellar by Jonathan Tolins is a riotous story of a wannabe actor who gets hired for an unusual acting job: he portrays a variety of salespeople in a mall built under the Malibu home of Barbra Streisand. She houses a number of collections in make-believe stores in her cellar where she pretends to shop. It’s bizarre and even funnier because there’s some truth poking through – Streisand really does have some shops at home as she tells in her book, “My Passion for Design,” which plays a role in the script. I laughed all the way through this show in New York and still enjoy Streisand’s book, which I received as a gift from my theater companion who was inspired to buy it for us following the show. Tom Lenk, best known for his work on TV’s “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” stars.
Also on stage at TheaterWorks:
Sex With Strangers
March 11- April 17
The Call
May 13- June 19
Midsummer (A Play with Songs)
July 15-  Aug. 21
Info and tickets: (860) 527-7838;  theaterworkshartford.org

YALE REPERTORY

The Moors by Jen Silverman and directed by Jackson Gay, gets its world premiere Jan. 29–Feb. 20. Two spinster sisters—one desperately unhappy, the other resolutely miserable—live with their elder brother and their dog in a gloomy, old mansion on the moors (sound familiar?)  Gothic romance, a governess and even a little dark comedy are on tap.  The play received a 2015 Edgerton Foundation New American Plays Award. 

Also on stage at Yale Rep:
Cymbeline
March 25–April 16
Samuel Becket’s Happy Days (starring  two-time Academy Award winner  Dianne Wiest)
April 29–May 21

Info and tickets: (203) 432-1234; yalerep.org

LONG WHARF THEATRE

The Lion, one of last season’s most talked about shows Off-Broadway  -- it won the Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Solo Performance -- makes a tour stop in New Haven Jan. 6-Feb. 7. Written and performed by Benjamin Scheuer, it is one man’s gripping coming-of-age story (to the tune of six guitars).
I also am looking forward to a new musical, My Paris, about the life of Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec with music and lyrics by Charles Aznavour. The book is by Pulitzer-Prize winner Alfred Uhry (Driving Miss Daisy) with English Lyrics and Musical Adaptation by Jason Robert Brown (The Last Five Years, The Bridges of Madison County). Directed and Choreographed by Kathleen Marshall, this musical replaces the previously announced Shining City May 4 – 29.

Also on stage at Long Wharf: 
Having Our Say
Feb. 17-March 13
Lewiston
April 6-May 1, 2016

Info and tickets: (203) 787-4282; www.longwharf.org

GOODSPEED OPERA HOUSE

Be on the cutting edge and experience what might be tomorrow’s big hit today. The 11th annual Goodspeed Festival of New Musicals offers three days of brand-new works Jan. 15-17. Highlights include a staged reading of 
a new Southern Gothic musical, We Foxes, by Ryan Scott Oliver, the musical comedy Milo at the Movies by Tom Diggs and Mark Gaylord and Only Anne by John Dietrich and Will Buck. Special guests include Alfred Uhry, Michael Riedel, Rick Miramontez, Michael Weiner, Alan Zachary and Colin McEnroe.

As always, Goodspeed also offers some old musical favorites at the Opera House, as well as some shows in development over at the Norma Terris (I am excited to see listed Roar of the Greasepaint, the Smell of the Crowd, a show I always have wanted to see, May 19-June 26.)

Also on stage at Goodspeed:
Anything Goes
April 8-June 16
Bye Bye Birdie
June 24-Sept 24
Chasing Rainbows: The Road to Oz
Sept. 16-Nov. 27
A Sign of the Times
July 27-Sept. 4 (over at the Norma Terris)

Info and tickets: (860) 873-8668; goodspeed.org

Back Home Again at Ivoryton -- David Lutken. Photo: Tony Duvall
IVORYTON PLAYHOUSE

I’ll admit it. While everyone else was attending Queen concerts back in the 1970s, I was singing “Take Me Home Country Roads,” with John Denver. Home Again: On the Road with John Denver by Randal Mylar and Dan Wheetman offers a show of Denver’s music along with some of his life story. Ivoryton presents the Connecticut premiere April 6-24. David Lutken (who dazzled in Woody Sez at TheaterWorks), stars. Far out! I’ll be there feeling “Rocky Mountain High.”

Also on stage at Ivoryton:
Six Dance Lessons in Six Weeks
May 4-22
The 39 Steps
June 1-19
Chicago
June 29-July 24
Rent
Aug. 3-28
Man of LaMancha
Sept. 7-Oct. 2
Tenderly: The Rosemary Clooney Story
Oct. 26-Nov. 13

Info and tickets: (860) 767-7318; ivorytonplayhouse.org

CT REPERTORY

A new adaptation of Jane Austen’s first published novel, Sense and Sensibility, will take the stage at UConn Feb. 25-March 6. The penniless Dashwood sisters, one sensible, one full of passion, find love and happiness via different paths. This version is co-written by Joseph Hanreddy and J.R. Sullivan, the same writing team behind CRT’s Pride and Prejudice in 2012.  

Also on stage at CT Rep:
Monty Python’s Spamalot 
April 21-May 1
MFA Puppet Arts Festival
March 24-April 3

Info and tickets: (860) 486-2213; www.crt.uconn.edu


PLAYHOUSE ON PARK

Coming off a fabulous production of Passing Strange, this up-and-coming theater company presents an interesting-sounding show called I Hate Hamlet by Paul Rudnick. Directed by Vince Tycer,
Feb. 24-March 13. A successful TV actor is offered the role of Hamlet on stage.  A couple of problems present themselves, however: he hates Hamlet and John Barrymore’s ghost is haunting him.

Also on stage at Playhouse on Park:
The Chosen
Jan. 27-Feb. 14
stop/time dance theater
March 30-April 10
Wit
April 20-May 8
A Chorus Line
June 15-July 24

Info and tickets: (860) 523-5900 Ext. 10; playhouseonpark.org

THE BUSHNELL

Love Letters (starring Ali McGraw and Ryan O'Neal)
Feb. 9-14
A.R. Gurney's romance about first loves and second chances makes a tour stop here and reunited “Love Story film stars Ryan O’Neal and Ali MacGraw as two long-time friends and pen pals
take very different paths in life. It plays Feb. 9-14. Before you think Valentine’s Date, though, you might want to know that sort of like “Love Story,” Love Letters can be kind of sad…

Also on stage at the Bushnell:

Rodgers and Hammerstein's Cinderella
Jan 12-17
HSO and Goodspeed Celebrate Broadway
Feb. 20
Motown
March 22-27
Matilda
April 26-May 1
Dirty Dancing
May 24-29

Info and tickets: (860) 987-5900; bushnell.org

WESTPORT COUNTRY PLAYHOUSE

From Ayad Akhtar, the Pulitzer Prize winning playwright of Disgraced, comes The Invisible Hand July 19 - Aug 6.When an American futures trader is kidnapped and held hostage in Pakistan, he knows the only way to get home is to do what he does best: play the market like his life depends on it. David Kennedy directs.

The Playhouse opens its season with two plays about art presented in repertory: Art/Red, May 3-29

Also on stage at the Playhouse:
Buyer and Cellar
June 14-July 2
What the Butler Saw
Aug. 23-Sept. 10
Camelot
Oct. 4-22

Info and tickets:

(888) 927-7529; westportplayhouse.org

MUSIC THEATER OF CONNECTICUT


A favorite (and I am not alone -- it won the Tony for Best Play -- ), Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike, by Christopher Durang gets a run Feb. 26-March 13. It's a send up of Chekhov, but this play is actually entertaining (sorry, not a Chekhov fan).... A brother and sister get a visit form their famous movie-star sister who arrives with her boy-toy, Spike, Lots of heavy thinking, angst,  birds and laughs ensue.

Also on stage at MTC:
The Last Five Years
April 8-24


Info and tickets: (203) 454-3883; musictheatreofct.com


SEVEN ANGELS THEATER
Two world premieres are coming up at this Waterbury theater. Local playwright Jacques Lamarre's Born Fat about Waterbury author Elizabeth Petruccione gets a world premiere staging Jan. 15-31. April Woodall stars; Steve Ginsburg directs. Burning Desire (Feb. 18-March 13) stars Lou Diamond Phillips ("La Bamba," "Stand and Deliver," "The 33") in a story about the devil and a modern-day Adam and Eve.

Also on stage at Seven Angels:

Taffetas
March 31-April 24
Legally Blonde
May 12-June 12

Info and tickets: (203) 757-4676; sevenangelstheatre.org


THE PALACE THEATER

Another pleasant trip back to the 1970s will spin BeeGees tunes and if I'm not mistaken, some disco ball refelctions in a musical version of Saturday Night Fever Feb. 19-20.

The story (made famous in the 1977 movie starring John Travolta) of a kid who loves to dance and the girl who loves to dance whom he loves...... is iconic. Theatergoers will be able to have an interactive experience as well with a Post-Show Disco Dance Party at the theater's Poli Club following the Friday and Saturday evening performances of the show.

Also on stage at The Palace:
Let It Be: A Celebration Of The Music Of The Beatles
Apr. 15-16

Info and tickets: (203) 346-2000; palacetheaterct.org


HARTBEAT ENSEMBLE

Asylum Hill (Neighborhood Project)
Feb. 5-7
Gross Domestic Product
April 7-May 1
Neighborhood (TBD) Project
June 17-19

Info and tickets: hartbeatensemble.org

SHUBERT THEATRE (New Haven)

Once
Jan. 28-31
Stomp
March 11-13
Annie
March 28-April 3
Jersey Boys
May 3-8
Kinky Boots
June 8-12

Tickets and info: shubert.com/

DOWNTOWN CABARET 

The Great Gatsby
Feb 12 - 21
Evita
Mar 11 - 26
American Idiot
Apr 29 - May 15

Info and tickets: dtcab.com


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

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