Monday, January 26, 2015

Connecticut Arts Snow Cancellations and Updates

HARTFORD STAGE
Cancelling 7:30 pm production of Private Lives for Tuesday, Jan. 27. Added performance at 7:30 pm Thursday, Feb. 5 to best accommodate all theater goers. Current Tuesday ticket holders and subscribers may exchange their tickets into any remaining performance. Performances expected to resume with the 7:30 pm show Wednesday, Jan. 28. For information, contact the Hartford Stage Box Office at 860-527-5151.

LONG WHARF
The Tuesday, 7 pm, and Wednesday, 2 pm, performances of Forever have been cancelled. The box office will contact you if you have tickets to either of these performances. The theater offices will be closed from 3 pm Monday until 11 am Wednesday.

GOODSPEED
Offices closed today and all day Tuesday, Jan. 27. Plan to reopen Wednesday. Check back for details.

IVORYTON PLAYHOUSE
Offices closed today and will remain closed all of Tuesday, Jan. 27.  Call 860-767-9520 to confirm an opening time for Wednesday, Jan. 28.

THE BUSHNELL
Administrative Offices and Box Office closed through Tuesday, Jan. 27.

WESTPORT COUNTRY PLAYHOUSE
Offics closed through Tuesday, Jan. 27.





ALERTS:
MetroNorth: Extra trains will depart Grand Central Terminal between 1 and 4 pm with regular schedules between 4 and 5 pm and fewer trains than a regular rush hour between 5 and 8 pm.
Because of reduced ridership, some trains will be cancelled or combined. Check schedules at http://bit.ly/1arccwk and listen for announcements. Because of the expected severity of the storm, evening and overnight service may be further curtailed or suspended. For complete details and service updates during the storm, visit http://alert.mta.info/status/3,

All Broadway Shows Cancelled Tonight (Jan. 26) Due to Storm

As a result of the travel restrictions put in place by government authorities and additional safety precautions implemented due to severe weather, all Broadway performances tonight will be cancelled. 

Charlotte St. Martin, Executive Director of The Broadway League, stated, “Now that the storm has arrived, I’d like to reiterate that the safety and security of theatregoers and employees is everyone's primary concern. As a result of the 11 pm travel ban and other travel restrictions and safety precautions implemented by government authorities on behalf of the winter storm, evening performances will be cancelled tonight.  We will send out an official notice with information about tomorrow’s performances as soon as possible, or no later than 6 pm today.”

For information about exchanges, theatregoers should contact their point of purchase. Check Broadway.org for updates.

Theater Review: Proof -- Playhouse on Park

Marty Scanlon and Dana Brooke. Photo: Rich Wagner 
Proof that Mathematics and Genius Can Make for Gripping Drama
By Lauren Yarger
It’s about math and prime numbers and proofs of mathematical theories, but don’t let bad memories of sophomore geometry keep you from seeing David Auburn’s Proof at Playhouse on Park. Because it’s not boring and it’s really about so much more.

On top of that, Dawn Loveland directs a tight production of the Pulitzer-Prize-winning play and gets top-notch performances from the ensemble offering her own proof that small theater companies can produce fine work.

Dana Brooke starts as Catherine, a troubled young woman trying to figure out what to do after caring for her math professor/genius father, Robert (Damian Buzzerio) whose brilliance was lost for the past seven years as his mind slipped away. Catherine gave up school and her own hopes at a career in mathematics to stay at their Chicago home and care for her father. The action takes place on the home’s back porch, designed by Christopher Hoyt.

Robert spends his time forgetting to eat, looking for codes in library books and scribbling nonsense in 103 notebooks trying to recapture his ability to prove mathematic theories. Except for a lucid period of nine months (now four years ago), Catherine wasn’t able to connect.

After his death, his former teaching assistant, Hal (Marty Scanlon) shows up at the house asking to go through Robert’s work. Even though the notebooks seem to contain nothing but gibberish, Hal feels an obligation to see whether anything actually makes sense. Catherine doesn’t miss the fact that if Hal does find something, it just might be his ticket to his own fame in the mathematics community.

Eventually Hal wins Catherine’s trust, and she shows him a notebook hidden away, one that holds a proof of a prime-number theory that has long eluded scholars. There’s one problem, however. Catherine, not Robert, might be the author.

Can Hal believe that the untrained Catherine could write such a complex proof? Can her estranged sister, Claire (Melissa Macleod Herion)? While Claire readily admits that Catherine inherited their father’s gift for math, she also is concerned that she might also share some traits of the mental illness that caused delusions – perhaps like the ones her sister now is experiencing. Claire wants to sell the house and force her sister to move with her to New York where she can keep an eye on her – and obtain the services of some of the best mental health specialists if needed….

This play, which won the Tony, the Pulitzer and just about every other major theater award in 2001, looks at the themes of genius vs madness, family vs loneliness and the complexity of relationships – between people as well as numbers. It’s intelligent and absorbing – much more so than Auburn’s latest play, Lost Lake, which didn’t excite me in its recent Off-Broadway run.

Brooke, in her Playhouse on Park debut, gives a solid, layered performance of the young woman struggling to be comfortable in her own skin. She is so immersed in the role, that in a scene where we observe a flashback of Catherine with Robert, she looks visibly brighter, her voice sounding lighter and happier. The transformation is subtle (aided with less toned-down textures in her clothes designed by Erin Payne), yet noticeable as it silently speaks volumes.

There is good rapport among the actors and each is able to portray his or her character fully without stepping on the others, despite the different personalities represented: Claire the uptight, controlling, not-so-smart sister, Robert the frustrated genius, lost in his own world save for his favorite daughter and Hal, the ambitious, yet caring friend. A fine piece of theater.


A talk back with the cast will take place immediately following all Sunday performances. This production is recommended for ages 13 and up as it contains strong language and mild adult content.

Proof runs at Playhouse on Park, 244 Park Rd, West Hartford, through Feb. 8. Performances are Wednesday-Sunday from January 21-February 8. Wednesdays and Thursdays at 7:30 pm, Fridays and Saturdays at 8 pm, Sundays at 2 pm. Tickets $25-$35 for adults, students, seniors www.playhouseonpark.org; 860-523-5900 x10.

Three New Musicals Announced for Norma Terris

Goodspeed will produce three new musicals at The Norma Terris Theatre in 2015. 

THE THEORY OF RELATIVITY:
Music & Lyrics by Neil Bartram
Book by Brian Hill
Directed by Brian Hill
May 7 - May 31

This unconventional new musical is a look at our surprisingly interconnected lives. Through a seemingly unrelated collection of songs, scenes and monologues, The Theory of Relativity introduces a compelling array of characters experiencing the joys and heartbreaks, the liaisons and losses, the inevitability and the wonder of human connection. Whether you're allergic to cats, in love for the first or 10th time, a child of divorce, a germaphobe, or simply a unique individual, you’re sure to find yourself in this fresh new musical.

MY PARIS:
Music and Lyrics by Charles Aznavour
Book by Alfred Uhry
English lyrics and arrangements by Jason Robert Brown
Directed and Choreographed by Kathleen Marshall 
July 23 – Aug 16

A new musical about the life and times of Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, the artist who captured the gaiety, color and heartbreak of Montmartre, Le Can-Can, and the world of Le Moulin Rouge. Inhabited by the colorful people he painted, it’s the story of a great artist who loved a world that never quite loved him back.

INDIAN JOE:
Music and Lyrics by Elizabeth A. Davis
Book by Elizabeth A. Davis and Christine Henry
Directed by Kim Wield
Oct. 22 – Nov. 15

This musical tells the unlikely story of a homeless Native American man and a Texas beauty queen who never should have been friends. He’s looking for a fight. She’s looking for a cause. As they stumble toward friendship, both ultimately discover that the look of a family is not always what you think. Inspired by true events, it’s a uniquely American story with an Americana beat.

The Norma Terris Theatre is located at 33 North Main Street in Chester. Season tickets are on sale now through the Goodspeed Box Office. Single tickets will be available starting March 29, 2015. For more information: 860-873-8668; www.goodspeed.org.

Winter Puppet Slam Set at UConn

James Godwin in performance. Photo: Jim Moore.

The Ballard Institute and Museum of Puppetry and the UConn Puppet Arts Program will present the 2015 UConn Winter Puppet Slam Friday, Feb. 6 at 8 pm. in the Dramatic Arts Department’s Studio Theatre. 

The UConn Winter Puppet Slam will feature short works by professional puppeteers, including famed New York City performer James Godwin, and the Semi-Upright Puppet Theater (UConn Puppet Arts graduate Joe Therrien and Bread and Puppet Theater veteran Jason Hicks), as well as new works by talented students from UConn’s Puppet Arts, Digital Media and Design, and Art Programs. 

James Godwin is renowned in New York’s prolific downtown performance scene, writing and performing in such popular productions as Uncle Jimmy’s Dirty Basement; but also works regularly with the Muppets, Julie Taymor, and such musical acts as David Bowie and Aerosmith.  At the UConn Winter Puppet Slam Godwin will present Rooty, the story of a lonely plant who finds itself in a battle to save his sanity in the face of solitary confinement; and Simulation Theory, a poetic visual narrative that explores identity, reality and possession in the American workplace.  

Jason Hicks and Joe Therrien’s Semi-Upright Puppet Theater, also based in New York City, will return to UConn with their own lively brand of activist “cheap art” puppetry that brings the iconoclastic spirit of Punch and Judy into the 21st century with such popular favorites as their super-hero serial Weasel.  In addition to new works by UConn’s acclaimed Puppet Arts Program students, the UConn Winter Puppet Slam will also feature new works for film animation by Art and Digital Media students.

The UConn Winter Puppet Slam is free and open to the public; donations are greatly appreciated. The event will take place in the Studio Theatre located at 820 Bolton Rd, Storrs, For directions to the Studio Theatre, visit crt.uconn.edu/directions/. For more information, call the Ballard Institute at 860)-486-8580, bimp.uconn.edu; bimp@uconn.edu.

Connecticut Arts Connections

Info and tickets: 860-527-7838

PLAYHOUSE ON PARK
Applications are currently being accepted for the Summer 2015 Internship Program. This program allows students and graduates to have a hands-on experience working in a professional theatre.

Internships are available in the following departments: Performance, Administration, and Production. Interns generally work full-time, which is six days a week for a 10-week period. A $100 stipend is included. The start and end date is flexible: exact dates are determined by the intern's school schedule and other previous commitments. Performance interns must begin on or before May 19, 2015. Each intern is assigned a staff member as a mentor. That mentor is ultimately responsible for overseeing the intern's work, giving suggestions and guidance, and being available to answer questions. Each mentor will have a scheduled meeting with their intern at the midpoint and the end of their internship to review what is going well and where the intern needs to concentrate on improvement.

All applicants must be 18 years of age and must submit the following: a completed application form, a resume or CV, two letters of recommendation, a personal statement, and work samples for Costume, Stage Management, and Production positions (photocopies/digital images/DVDs encouraged). The deadline for applications is March 1, 2015. For more information, visit this webpage: http://www.playhouseonpark.org/pop/20132014Season/education_internships.html.

PALACE THEATER
Explore nine decades of Palace Theater history and backstage mystique during the Waterbury performing art center’s upcoming guided tours scheduled for Friday, Feb. 6 and Saturday, Feb. 28 from 11 am to 12:15 pm.

Each Palace Theater tour is approximately one hour and fifteen minutes and is led by a team of Palace Theater Ambassadors, a specially trained group of engaging volunteers well-versed in the theater’s rich history, architectural design and entertaining anecdotal information. In addition to exploring the theater, Poli Club and lobby spaces, patrons will also have the opportunity to walk across the stage, visit the star dressing rooms, and view the venue’s hidden, backstage murals -- artwork painted and signed on the theater walls by past performers and Broadway touring companies. Reservations are required in advance. Each tour is $5 per person and single tickets for individuals or groups of 10 or less can be purchased online at www.palacetheaterct.org. Larger groups are asked to contact the Box Office at 203-346-2000 to book their reservations. A special boxed lunch and tour package prepared by Riverhouse Catering is also available for groups of 15 or more and cost $17 per person. Reservations for the lunch package need to be made at least three days in advance of the desired tour date.

THE KATE
Event: Met in HD Encore:  Les Contes d’Hoffmann
The magnetic tenor Vittorio Grigolo takes on the tortured poet and unwitting adventurer of the title of Offenbach's operatic masterpiece, in the Met's wild, kaleidoscopic production. Soprano Hibla Gerzmava faces the operatic hurdle of singing all three heroines-each an idealized embodiment of some aspect of Hoffmann's desire.
Date: Tuesday, February 3
Time: 12:55 p.m.
Price: $25
Katharine Hepburn Cultural Arts Center
300 Main Street
Old Saybrook, CT 06475
Phone: 877-503-1286
Website: www.thekate.org

MARK TWAIN HOUSE
The Mark Twain House and Museum's "The Trouble Begins at 5:30" lecture series opens its spring lineup with a special program of readings and conversation on the subject of Mark Twain's international travels, presented by the curators of the upcoming exhibition, 'Travel Is Fatal to Prejudice': Mark Twain's Journeys Abroad.

The spring "Troubles" focus on Twain and travel, and on two women who have been romantically linked with Twain - one before his marriage to his beloved Livy, and another after her death. (The tale of his early courtship will in fact be breaking news: The indefatigable Twain scholar Kevin Mac Donnell of Austin, TX has discovered hitherto-unknown evidence of this relationship.)

Other travel-themed Troubles will include an exploration of Twain, travel and prejudice, and the story of his encounter with a group of Americans from a failed utopian project in what is now Israel.

February's program, on Wednesday, Feb. 11, at 5:30 pm (following a 5 pm reception) will be led by Interim Chief Curator Mallory Howard and Guest Curator Dr. Kerry A. Driscoll. Steve Courtney, Interim Curatorial Assistant and organizer of the Trouble Begins series, will also cause Trouble.

The 'Travel Is Fatal to Prejudice' exhibit will open with a special free reception on Thursday, March 19, at 5:30 pm.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Palace Theater Turns 50 Shades of Grey

Photo: Matthew Murray
50 Shades! The Musical Parody returns to the Palace Theater in Waterbury for night Wednesday, Feb. 4, at 7:30. 

50 Shades, a parody of the best-selling book series, is a stage satire that explores the steamy relationship between Christian Grey and Anastasia Steele, as seen through the eyes of a trio of girlfriends at a book club meeting. As the women devour the novel "50 Shades of grey," the characters’affair comes to life before their eyes. After all, who needs staid book club fare when a book like this can be so stimulating. This comedy musical features an original score, including such songs as "Open Your Book," "I Don't Make Love," and "There Is A Hole Inside Of Me."

The book trilogy has shattered sales records around the globe with more than 100 million copies sold worldwide and a Universal Pictures feature film set to be released on Valentine’s Day 2015.

Tickets are $38: 203-346-2000 www.palacetheaterct.org; box office, 100 East Main St., Waterbury.
More info: www.50ShadesTheMusical.com or www.palacetheaterct.org.

Write Fanfare for the Hartford Woman

The Hartford Symphony Orchestra (HSO) is proud to announce a unique opportunity for composers to create a companion piece to Aaron Copland’s iconic Fanfare for the Common Man.  Fanfare for the Hartford Woman will be a short composition inspired by the Copland masterpiece, utilizing a similar instrumentation and duration.  Applicants are invited to submit an original composition for consideration by the HSO’s Music Director, Carolyn Kuan, and artistic staff.  Following are the winning prize, rules and eligibility, and application procedures, which can also be found on hartfordsymphony.org/fanfare. Submission deadline is noon on April 1, 2015. Any questions about the application process should be directed to Steve Collins, HSO Director of Artistic Operations and Administration:  scollins@hartfordsymphony.org

WINNING PRIZE INCLUDES:
·         Five performances of the winning composition as follows:
o   Discovery Concert:  Heroes!  May 20, 2015, 10:30 am, Mortensen Hall, The Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts, Hartford, CT
Conducted by Glen Adsit, The Hartt School Director of Bands
For more concert information:
o   Masterworks Concert:  Mahler’s Fourth  May 28-May 31, 2015, performance times vary, Belding Theater, The Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts, Hartford, CT
Conducted by Carolyn Kuan, HSO Music Director

·         Travel and accommodations to attend rehearsals and concerts.
·         $1,000 Cash Award

RULES AND ELIGIBILITY:
Only US citizens, permanent residents, and current foreign students at American schools may apply.
There is no minimum age for eligible composers.
Works with a performance history are not eligible.
Only one work may be submitted by each composer.
Instrumentation may not exceed 4 French Horns, 3 Trumpets, 3 Trombones, 1 Tuba and 3 Percussion including Timpani.
Duration should be no more than 4 minutes.
The winning composer must provide 2 full scores and a full set of parts printed on high quality paper.
Scores must be of a legibility suitable for efficient rehearsal and performance. Parts must be carefully proofread, and of a legibility suitable for efficient rehearsal and performance, with good page turns, and ample rehearsal numbers and cues. We recommend that all entrants consult our guidelines for preparing score and parts. You can download a copy in pdf format from hartfordsymphony.org.
The winning composer may be asked to participate in education, community engagement and public relations activities during the performance weeks.
The Hartford Symphony Orchestra retains unlimited rights to future performance opportunities.  Printed scores and instrumental parts remain the property of the Hartford Symphony Orchestra.

HOW TO APPLY:
Send ONE email to fanfarecompetition@hartfordsymphony.org containing the following items as attachments:
·         A one page resume
·         Completed entry form, available at hartfordsymphony.org
·         One pdf score of your composition
·         One pdf sample instrumental part
·         One mp3 sound file for your composition (computer realizations are welcome)

Theater Review: Private Lives -- Hartford Stage

Ken Barnett and Rachel Pickup. Photos: T. Charles Erickson

Too Bad These Couples’ Private Lives Are Played Out in Public
By Lauren Yarger
It’s supposed to be a gay (in the old-fashioned sense of the word) comedy about relationships and marriage, but Noel Coward’s Private Lives, getting a run at Hartford Stage, ends up making us feel like we wish these guests would go home and keep their weird relationships private.

The honeymoon is over for Amanda (Rachel Pickup) and Victor (Henry Clarke) Prynne -- and it just started. When new bride Amanda steps out onto the terrace of her French hotel room, she discovers her ex, Elyot Chase (Ken Barnett) next door. He is staying there with his new wife, Sibyl (Jenni Barber), but sparks soon are reigniting between the former lovers and the new marriages are doomed.

Soon, Amanda and Elyot are wondering (and so are we) how they ever thought the new relationships could ever satisfy them. Victor (Clarke is delightful and engaging) is a cheerful, ever-solicitous bloke who is a start contrast to the cruelty he feels Amanda suffered at the hands of her first husband; Sibyl is a whiny (and I do mean high-pitched) blonde obsessed with her husband’s first wife. It never is clear why their dynamic spouses would have been attracted in the first place.

Soon, Amanda and Elyot can contain their passion no more and they run off, leaving their new spouses behind. Hey eventually turn up in blissful domestic harmony at Amanda’s flat in Paris (the real star of this production – a fabulous deco set designed by Alexander Dodge). But bliss can be deceptive. . .

The couple clearly enjoys sex, but their personalities aren’t compatible. While they can’t live without each other, it’s clear they can’t live with each other either. They agree to take a break  and to refrain from interacting for a cool-off period any time they start one of their fights – which is often. The love-hate cycle continues until Victor and Sibyl finally figure out where they are and crash the love nest a few days later. Will Amanda and Elyot find happiness together or with their new spouses? With each other? Do we care? Not really.

The play is weak and bits that were supposed to be funny back in 1931 when it first appeared on Broadway aren’t any more. Verbal and physical abuse (so much of it that the services of Fight Director J. Allen Suddeth are needed) aren’t funny. Verbal and physical abuse with the husband saying that women should be struck regularly and the wife virtually saying “I love it. Give me more” are even less funny.  Hitting a spouse with objects, threatening to cut off a head with an ax? Just not funny.

I am a bit perplexed why Director Darko Tresnjak would assemble such a talented team of actors and creatives for this piece when there are so many other plays out there that are actually funny, not to mention less offensive. Many would lend themselves to actors strutting about on a beautiful set or dressing elegantly (costumes are designed here by Joshua Pearson, though the gown -- pictured above-- showing off Pickup’s very thin, toned physique proved a bit cumbersome for climbing over and on railings of the balconies.)

In addition to problems with the action, Coward doesn’t develop the characters. A superfluous maid named Louise (Carine Montbertrand) suddenly appears for no reason to mutter some comments in a heavy French accent, most of which can’t be understood – as is the case with much of Barber’s squeaky, whiny discourses too – (dialogue coaching is by Gillian Lane-Plescia).

Fortunately this “comedy” clocks in at 95 minutes without intermission.

Here's the great set::

Private Lives plays at Hartford Stage, 50 Church St., Hartford, through Feb. 8. Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Sunday at 7:30 pm; Friday and Saturday at  8 pm; Matinee and weekly schedules can vary. Wednesday matinee Jan. 21 at 2 pm.  Tickets $25-$95 (860) 527-5151; www.hartfordstage.org.

Friday, January 9, 2015

Theater Review: Forever -- Long Wharf

Dael Orlandersmith. Photo: Craig Schwartz.
Making it from a House of Darkness to a City of Light
By Lauren Yarger
In her fourth piece produced by Long Wharf Theatre, playwright Dael Orlandersmith creates an intense character trying to survive and reinvent herself in the world premiere of Forever, directed by Neel Keller.

Orlandersmith herself performs the one-woman play, which was inspired after a visit to Pere Lechaise Cemetery in Paris, home of the graves of Jim Morrison, Oscar Wilde and Chopin, among others. After viewing a documentary about the cemetery and a conversation with Keller, she adapted part of it into this play, incorporating some of her own thoughts and ended up with a memoir-like piece about the journey of a woman growing up in Harlem.

Life in a pest-infected house, cleaned up weekly for her alcoholic mother’s booze parties is difficult, to say the least. The young girl is forced to meet all of her mother’s needs, playing the roles of father, husband, lover -- and most importantly for her mother -- the role of the ugly, no-talent daughter upon whom her mother enjoys lavishing verbal and physical abuse. The memories haunt her, even after her mother’s death, as the woman rejoices at having gotten herself to Paris.

“In my head I hear laughter, background laughter and a background voice ‘What are you doing there, there in Paris? You don’t belong there. And within the laughter and in beyond the laughter, I can see eyes. I can see the background eyes and above the background eyes there are thick penciled in brows and eyes . . . The eyes that look at me are blinking very slowly, they are red, blurry eyes, red blurry, inebriated eyes and I suddenly smell scotch. The smell of scotch is strong and I realize it’s her.”

She escapes into music and education and enjoys one brief afternoon of friendship with a similarly abused girl next door, but her world consists mostly of hopelessness and domination by a mother who has hated her since the moment she arrived via Cesarean section – the scar from which the mother repeatedly shows her daughter as proof of her ugly creation.

When her daughter recounts a brutal rape -- possibly at the hands of one of the many men invited to the weekly booze parties where the mother forces her daughter to dance for entertainment – her mother cries and reacts as though she is the one who has been harmed. She offers little comfort to her daughter who fantasizes about running away with a police officer who shows her some kindness.

It’s tough (and mature) subject matter,  and hard to sit through (thankfully, the play clocks in at 80 minutes with no intermission), but Olandersmith’s lyrical prose and riveting performance compel us to listen how this woman realizes that she will be haunted by her mother “forever” but works her way out of hate.

“That young girl who had that baby – my sister, and how that baby was taken away – I wonder what that day was like for you. Did you fight to hold on to her? I wonder, did you think by having me you’d forget it and finally get it right? I wonder if we, any of us, ever get it right.”

Orlandersmith previously wrote and appeared in The Gimmick, Yellowman and The Blue Album at Long Wharf.

“I often write about people having to invent themselves,” she said. “People who have to reinvent themselves. People who have to parent themselves and be their own person. The outsider people. I want to convey a truth. I hope I’ve given people permission to be uncomfortable and comfortable. I hope I’ve told them an interesting story and I hope I’ve told it well.”

Forever runs through Feb. 1 at Long Wharf Theatre, 222 Sargent Drive, New Haven (Stage II). Performance times vary. Tickets $74.50. www.longwharf.org 203-787-4282.


An excerpt form the play:

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Theater Review: Pippin -- The Bushnell

Sasha Allen and cast. Photo: Terry Shapiro.
Leave Your Cheese to Sour for This Exciting 'Cirque du' Pippin
By Lauren Yarger
“Join us,” sings the Leading Player (Sasha Allen). “Leave your cheese to sour . . . for an hour or two.”

And so you should.

The tour of the 2013 Tony-award winning revival of Stephen Schwartz’s Pippin flies into the Bushnell this week, and it’s definitely worth dropping whatever you’re doing to get over to the box office and see it.

There’s a reason why this production, directed by Diane Paulus with Choreography by Chet Walker in the style of Bob Fosse and Circus themed activity designed by Gypsy Snider of the Montreal-based circus company “Les 7 Doigts de la Main” won four Tonys that year (including one for Paulus): it’s fabulous.

The circus motif, designed by Scott Pask, complete with trapeze, flame throwers and balancing acts is an update from the original vaudeville flavor and works perfectly with magical tricks and colorful costuming (designed by Dominique Lemieux) to tell the story, presented as though a troupe of players is bringing it to life on the stage. Just looking at it and listening to Schwartz’s familiar score, which includes the opening “Magic to Do and a number of other tunes we have been singing ever since this musical burst on to Broadway in 1973.

If that weren’t enough, there are some exciting performances in this production. Kyle Dean Massey (who assumed the title role in the Broadway revival and whose rock-style voice finds it best match in the beautifully executed “Love Song”) plays Prince Pippin, eldest son of Emperor Charlemagne, who knows he has been born to live and extraordinary life, but who can’t figure out exactly how to do that now that he has finished his formal education. What will bring him fulfillment?

Helping him try new experiences is the enigmatic Leading Player who steers him to “Glory”  “On the Right Track”

Broadway’s original Pippin, John Rubenstein, takes a turn here as King Charles, a.k.a. Charlemagne. Rubenstein gives a humorous, electrifying performance as the beleaguered emperor, doing battle with the pope, leading his men into holy battle and dealing with spendthrift, sexpot second wife Fastrada  I saw understudy Bradley Benjamin, in for Sabrina Harper, who understudied the role in the Broadway revival company) and their son, vain, war-loving Lewis (Callan Bergmann), who can’t wait to sit on the throne ahead of Pippin.

He almost gets his chance when Pippin decides that he should become a soldier. When the bloody experiences of “War” leave him still looking for purpose, Pippin turns to other means of satisfaction like sex, religion and politics.

His grandmother, Berthe (a fabulous Lucie Arnaz who stops the show), gives him some advice about living in the moment, which will be gone in “No Time at All.” Eventually he tastes true happiness with a widow, Catherine (an engaging Kristine Reese – the rapport between her and Massey is visible), and her young son and his pet duck when he lives a simple, ordinary life on their farm. Can that truly satisfy a man who knows he is “Extraordinary,” though?

Choreographer Chet Walker pays homage to Bob Fosse’s original moves, especially a sequence made famous in a then-rare television commercial for a Broadway show featuring original Leading Player Ben Vereen and two scantily clad dancers in armor performing Fosse isolations. It propelled sales at the box office – I still remember it. The sequence here has two male chorus members performing with Allen, who was a finalist on the fourth season of TV’s “The Voice.” But who seems stiff in some of the show’s choreography.

Not stiff, and not looking anywhere near Berthe’s 66 years (a grey wig would help), is Arnaz who dazzles the audience with her effervescent stage presence and fit form, revealed in a trapeze number – and a costume designed by Lemieux. Arnaz, the daughter of Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz, is no newcomer to musical theater, having performed on Broadway in They’re Playing Our Song, Lost in Yonkers and Dirty Rotten Scoundrels.

This hot production of Pippin -- even the expert lighting by Kenneth Posner deserves a nod -- definitely is the way to warm up as frigid temperatures descend on the region through this weekend. One note, though, if you are planning on bringing the kids – Pippin’s experimentations to find satisfaction take him from “sex presented pastorally”  to debauchery.

Catch the magic (with illusions designed by Paul Kieve) through Jan. 11 at The Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts, 166 Capitol Ave., Hartford. Performances are Wednesday, Thursday at 7:30 pm; Friday at 8 pm; Saturday at 2 and 8 pm; Sunday at 1 and 6:30 pm. Tickets $21-$85:  (860) 987-5900; www.bushnell.org.

Editor's note: the original review posted here did not list Bradley Benjamin in the role of Fastrada, because the show never announced an understudy would be playing the part for Sabrina Harper, who was listed in the program and press releases. Bushnell Communications Manager Paul Marte confirmed that Benjamin played the role and that the company had not provided stuffers for the program or made an announcement at curtain (usual Equity moves), but had put her name on the cast board (never saw the board and wouldn't have known an understudy was included unless it was the name of a star-billed player was missing). I apologize for any confusion.

Connecticut Arts Connections and News

Westport Country Playhouse presents Stella, Queen of the SnowPhoto: Margo Ellen Gesser
WESTPORT COUNTRY PLAYHOUSE

The Family Festivities Series will present Stella, Queen of the Snow, based on the book by Marie-Louie Gay, the award-winning creator of “Stella and Sam,” Sunday, Jan. 18, at 1 and 4 pm. Produced by Mermaid Theatre of Nova Scotia, the show is recommended for ages 3 to 7. Running time is approximately one hour. Tickets are $20.

Using puppetry, original music, and scenic effects, Stella, Queen of the Snow tells the story of an endearing sister and her younger brother as they spend the day playing in the snow. The forest, snowballs, snow angels, and the mysterious white stuff itself provide fuel for Sam’s questions and Stella’s answers as they embrace the world of winter. 

Pre-show activities will begin one hour before each performance, at noon and 3 pm. Children will play a series of environmental theater games, using their imaginations to create a winter wonderland. Through acting games, they will explore their newly created world. 

The Playhouse’s Family Festivities Series is presented on selected Sundays  through March. At each performance, the playhouse hosts a book collection for Read to Grow, Inc. Bins will be located in the Playhouse lobby for donations of gently used and new children’s books which will be given to families with limited access and to community resources that serve them in the greater Fairfield County area.

Everyone in the audience requires a ticket: 203-227-4177, 1-888-927-7529, box office 25 Powers Court, Westport, www.westportplayhouse.org



MARK TWAIN HOUSE

B.J. Novak, writer and co-executive producer of the "The Office," in which he also starred, is coming to Hartford to do a benefit evening for the Mark Twain House and Museum. 
B. J. Novak
Novak will talk about his life, career, and about his recently published book "One More Thing: Stories and Other Stories," which includes the short story "The Ghost of Mark Twain." The event will be followed by a book sale and signing. A VIP reception also is set.

Thursday, Feb. 12, 7 pm in the auditorium at Aetna in Hartford. Tickets are are $30 ($25 for Mark Twain House Members). The VIP Reception at 5:30 pm is $75 and includes the reception, premium seats for the talk, and also a copy of the book. 860-280-3130; or click here.

PALACE THEATER

The new Australian Bee Gees Show keeps the legendary music of the Gibb brothers “Stayin’ Alive” with a special one night only performance at the Palace Theater in Waterbury Tuesday, Feb. 3 at 7:30 pm. Tickets for the multimedia stage show are $55, $45, and $35: 203-346-2000; www.palacetheaterct.org; box office, 100 East Main St.


HARTFORD STAGE

The Education Department at Hartford Stage has announced its full roster of Winter Studio Classes. Registration is currently under way for a variety of classes designed to introduce basic theatre skills, build confidence, and give students opportunities to perform.

The popular Saturday Sampler classes return with Stories on Stage: Animal Tales (Ages 5-7),Young Actors Toolbox (Ages 7-9), and Accents & Dialects (Ages 10+). Children ages 5 to 8 can register for Musical Theatre Cabaret Jr., while those ages 10 and older can choose to arrange an audition for the Advanced Performance Troupe: Musical Theatre Cabaret.

Other featured classes include Production Class: Jungle Book (Ages 5-8), Production Class:Baker Street Irregulars (Ages 9+), and Mini-Production: The Emperor’s New Clothes (Ages 5-8). Private acting coaching and voice lessons are also available by appointment only for students ages 8 and older.

Classes focusing on monologue building, improvisation and comedy are also part of the Winter Studio Class roster.

Classes are available for all experience levels. Winter Studio Classes are held at Classical Magnet School at 85 Woodland Street in Hartford. Early registration is encouraged.

For more information, contact Erin Frederick, Education Enrollment and Marketing Coordinator, at 860-520-7244 or efrederick@hartfordstage.org. To view the roster of classes with descriptions, costs and dates – or to register online – visithttp://www.hartfordstage.org/education/youth/studio-classes/winter-studio/
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)

Blog Archive

Copyright Notice

All contents are copyrighted © Lauren Yarger 2009-2016. All rights reserved.