Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Finding Neverland, Something Rotten! Among Bushnell Broadway Offerings Next Season

Matthew Morrison (center) and Kelsey Grammer (Captain Hook, front right) with the Broadway production of Finding Neverland. Photo: Carol Rosegg
Hamilton's Coming in the 2018-2019 Season

The Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts has announced its 2017-2018 Broadway Series season including the hit musicals Finding Neverland, School of Rock, Something Rotten! The Color Purple and On Your Feet!.

Musicals that haven't hit the Great White Way also are coming, including The Bodyguard and Love Never Dies.  So what about Broadway's biggest hit? Hamilton is scheduled take its shot here in Hartford during the 2018-2019 season, it was announced.

Also on the slate are some returning favorites: Les Miserables, Stomp, The Illusionists and A Christmas Story.  The Wizard of Oz and Disenchanted also will be presented as well as the stage version of the holiday classic A Charlie Brown Christmas.

Current season ticket holders will receive their renewal packages in the coming weeks, and new subscription packages will be available in early summer; new patrons interested in season tickets may call the box office now to have their name placed on a waiting list. Single tickets will go on sale this summer. All dates, titles, and artists are subject to change.

The 2017-2018 Broadway Series


The winner of Broadway.com’s Audience Choice Award for Best Musical. Directed by Tony winner Diane Paulus and based on the critically-acclaimed Academy Award winning film, FINDING NEVERLAND tells the incredible story behind one of the world’s most beloved characters: Peter Pan. Playwright J.M. Barrie struggles to find inspiration until he meets four young brothers and their beautiful widowed mother. Spellbound by the boys’ enchanting make-believe adventures, he sets out to write a play that will astound London theatergoers. With a little bit of pixie dust and a lot of faith, Barrie takes this monumental leap, leaving his old world behind for Neverland, where nothing is impossible and the wonder of childhood lasts forever. The magic of Barrie’s classic tale springs spectacularly to life in this heartwarming theatrical event.

Note from Lauren -- this was one of my favorite musicals on Broadway in 2015. Read the review here.

SCHOOL OF ROCK The Musical, Oct. 24-29

Based on the hit film, this musical follows Dewey Finn, a wannabe rock star posing as a substitute teacher who turns a class of straight-A students into a guitar-shredding, bass-slapping, mind-blowing rock band. This high-octane smash features 14 new songs from Andrew Lloyd Webber, all the original songs from the movie and musical theater’s first-ever kids rock band playing their instruments live on stage.

Note from Lauren -- Another favorite, this one is still rocking them out at Broadway's Winter Garden. Read the review.


The 2016 Tony Award winner for Best Musical Revival -- it was really good and Cynthia Erivo blew my socks off. This re-conceived production, directed by Tony winner John Doyle, has a score that features jazz, gospel, ragtime and blues. Based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning story about a young woman’s journey through abuse and devastation to love and triumph in the American South. Read the review.

SOMETHING ROTTEN!, Jan. 30 – Feb. 4, 2018

Something's rotten in the '90s – the 1590s, that is. Nick and Nigel Bottom are two brothers who are desperate to write their own hit play while the "rock star" Shakespeare keeps getting all the hits. When a local soothsayer foretells that the future of theater involves singing, dancing and acting at the same time, Nick and Nigel set out to write the world’s very first musical.

Note from Lauren -- Laughed myself silly in the Broadway theater. It is a hoot for theater buffs. Read the review.

THE BODYGUARD The Musical, Feb. 20 – 25, 2018

Based on the smash hit film, the award-winning musical will star Grammy Award-nominee superstar Deborah Cox. Former Secret Service agent turned bodyguard Frank Farmer is hired to protect superstar Rachel Marron from an unknown stalker. Each expects to be in charge; what they don’t expect is to fall in love. Songs include "Queen of the Night," "So Emotional," "One Moment in Time," "Saving All My Love," "Run to You," "I Have Nothing," and "I Will Always Love You." Based on Lawrence Kasdan’s film and adapted by Academy Award winner Alexander Dinelaris, THE BODYGUARD had its world premiere in London’s West End where it was nominated for four Laurence Olivier Awards including Best New Musical and won Best New Musical at the Whatsonstage Awards.

Note from Lauren Haven't seen it. Looking forward to this first look.

LOVE NEVER DIES – The Phantom Returns May 29 – June 3, 2018

The ultimate love story continues in LOVE NEVER DIES, Andrew Lloyd Webber’s spell-binding sequel to The Phantom of the Opera. LOVE NEVER DIES is a dazzling new production, which takes audiences on a thrilling rollercoaster ride of intrigue, obsession and romance. Be seduced by the beautiful, sometimes magical and poetic, sometimes joyful, and occasionally melancholic score in this magnificent continuation of one of the world’s greatest love stories.

Note from Lauren -- have been waiting to see this for years!

Ana Villafañe in the Broadway production of On Your Feet! Photo: Matthew Murphy
ON YOUR FEET! – The Story of Emilio and Gloria Estefan, June 19-24, 2018

From their humble beginnings in Cuba, Emilio and Gloria Estefan came to America and broke through all barriers to become a crossover sensation at the very top of the pop music world. But just when they thought they had it all, they almost lost everything. From international superstardom to life-threatening tragedy, ON YOUR FEET takes you behind the music and inside the real story of this record-making and groundbreaking couple who, in the face of adversity, found a way to end up on their feet.

The audience can't help but join the conga line through the house.... Read the review.

Ticket Information

Current season ticket holders will receive their renewal packages in the mail by the end of March. New subscriptions: 860-987-5900. In early May, new season ticket orders will be processed on a first-come, first-served basis after all renewing patrons have been accommodated.· On-sale dates for individual tickets will be announced soon.

New Parking:
Effective immediately, the UPPER PARKING LOT, adjacent to the State Office Building (165 Capitol Avenue, Hartford) is closed and NO LONGER available to patrons when parking for Bushnell events. Lower State lots with entrances off Capitol Avenue and Buckingham Street will continue to be available. Bushnell.org.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Bill Berloni to Receive Special Recognition from Drama League

The Drama League will honor Connecticut's Bill Berloni as one of two outstanding stage luminaries at this year’s 83rd annual Drama League Awards Friday May 19 at the Marriott Marquis Times Square.

Berloni will receive the Unique Contribution to the Theater Award and Michael Greif, represented this season on Broadway by Dear Evan Hansen and War Paint, will receive The Founders Award for Excellence in Directing. A third honoree for Distinguished Achievement in Musical Theater will be announced shortly.

These Special Recognition Honors are in addition to the five competitive categories. The 2017 Drama League Nominees for Outstanding Play, Outstanding Revival of a Play, Outstanding Musical, Outstanding Revival of a Musical, and the much-coveted Distinguished Performance Award will be announced on Wednesday, April 19 at 11 am (watch the live stream via BroadwayWorld.com). 

Berloni, trainer to many of theater's pet stars, received a 2011 Tony® for Excellence in Theatre and 2014 Outer Critics Circle award for Special Achievement. For more information, visit www.theatricalanimals.com. For a feature on Bill on the CT Arts Connection, click here.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

CT Theater Review: Napoli, Brooklyn -- Long Wharf

Christina Pumariega, Carolyn Braver and Jordyn DiNatale. Photo: T. Charles Erickson
Napoli, Brooklyn
By Meghan Kennedy
Directed by Gordon Edelstein
Long Wharf Theatre
Through March 12
Then at Roundabout Theatre Company in New York June 9-Sept. 3

By Lauren Yarger
What's It All About?
The world premiere of Meghan Kennedy's drama about family relations in 1960 Brooklyn (the house and neighborhood are one in Eugene Lee's set design, which also includes props to create a church on either side of it. It's a little crammed up there, but Director Gordon Edelstein makes it work).

Three sisters grow up in the dysfunctional Muscolino family where displeasing patriarch Nic (Jason Kolotouros) means physical consequences. Rebellious Vita (Carolyn Braver) has been sent away to a convent where the nuns are charged with correcting a disposition that would allow her to attack her father. Boyish Francesa (Jordyn DiNatale) is wise enough to hide her romantic feelings for bubbly Irish friend Connie Duffy (Ryann Shane), but the two make plans to run away to France where they believe their lifestyle won't raise eyebrows. Francesca enlists the help of her awkward and "stupid" -- because she dropped out of school to work -- sister, Tina (Christina Pumariega), to make her get-away. Trying to hold the family together while making her delicious Italian menus and expressing her frustrations to an onion instead of God is their mother, Luda (Alyssa Bresnahan)

Everything changes, however, when a plane crashes in the neighborhood.  Feeling that God has given him a second chance, Nic apparently turns over a new leaf. Vita returns home and he even allows Tina's African-American friend Celia Jones (Shirine Babb) to move in after her home is destroyed in the crash which also claimed her husband. When Connie's father, Albert (Graham Winton), is invited to dinner, his obvious caring for Luda is a contrast to the type of relationship she has had with Nic and emotions crash, maybe with more casualty than the plane.

What Are the Highlights?
Pumariega's performance stands out as she works wonders with a simple line or an expressed emotion. The quiet sister in the background suddenly becomes the one from whom we want to hear. Babb creates Celia as a nice complement to Tina and the friendship between the two women is the highlight of the play.

The plane crash is effectively portrayed with effects from lighting and sound designers Ben Stanton and Fitz Patton

What Are the Lowlights?
The script isn't always clear. We spend a great deal of time wondering why Vita has been sent away and why she is injured before that becomes apparent. We can't quite understand why Luda allows abuse of her children and herself (depicted in rather brutal fashion) and then suddenly has a change of heart. For some reason Albert thinks it is a good idea to leave his daughter alone for the holidays to visit the Muscolinos even though she just lost a brother in the plane crash? There are too many head scratchers and most of the characters are so flawed that we find it hard to warm up to them.

Most of the characters adopt one tone: yelling.

More information:
Napoli, Brooklyn runs through March 12 at Long Wharf, 222 Sargent Drive, New Haven. Tickets start at $29: longwharf.org; 203-787-4282. For information about the run at Roundabout in New York, click here.
--- A R T S ---

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

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