Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Age of Innocence, Rags Top CT Critics Circle Awards

Photo: Marie Reynolds
The world premiere of Hartford Stage’s The Age of Innocence and a revised version of the musical Rags from Goodspeed Musicals took top honors at the Connecticut Critics Circle Awards Monday.

The event, which celebrated the ’17-’18 theter season, was held at Westport Country Playhouse.

Awards for outstanding actors in a musical went to Samantha Massell in Goodspeed’s Rags and Jamie LaVerdiere in  Connecticut Repertory Theatre’s production of 1776.

Awards for outstanding actors in a play went to Reg Rogers in Yale Repertory Theatre’s production of An Enemy of the People and Isabelle Barbier in Playhouse on Park’s production of The Diary of Anne Frank.

Top directing awards went to Terrence Mann for CT Repertory’s 1776 and Ezra Barnes for Playhouse on Park’s The Diary of Anne Frank.

Outstanding ensemble award went to TheaterWorks’ production of The Wolves;  The debut award went to Megan O’Callaghan  for The Bridges of Madison County and Fun Home, both at Music Theatre of Connecticut. The outstanding solo honor was awarded to Elizabeth Stahlmann for Westport Country Playhouse's Grounded. Kelli Barclay won for her choreography for Goodspeed Musicals’ The Will Rogers Follies.

Michael O’Flaherty, longtime music director for Goodspeed Musicals, received the Tom Killen Award for lifetime service to the theater from Donna Lynn Cooper Hilton, a producer at Goodspeed.

Receiving special awards were New London’s Flock Theatre for its production of Long Day’s Journey Into Night at the Monte Cristo Cottage; the Broadway Method Academy of Fairfield; and Billy Bivona, who composed and performed original music for TheaterWork’s production of Constellations.

The outstanding featured actress award in a musical award went to Jodi Stevens for Summer Theatre of New Canaan’s Singin’ in the Rain. There was a tie for outstanding featured actor in a musical, with honors going to Matt Faucher for Goodspeed Musicals’ Oklahoma! and to Cory Candelet for Ivoryton Playhouse’s The Fantasticks.

The award for outstanding featured actors in a play went to Peter Francis James for Westport Country Playhouse’s production of Romeo and Juliet, and to Judith Ivey for Long Wharf Theatre’s world premiere of Fireflies.

Design awards went to Fitz Patton for sound and Matthew Richards for lighting for Westport Country Playhouse’s Appropriate; Linda Cho for costumes for Hartford Stage’s The Age of Innocence; Yana Birykova for projections for Westport Country Playhouse’s Grounded and David Lewis, for set design for Playhouse on Park’s The Diary of Anne Frank.

Jenn Harris and Matthew Wilkas, stars of TheaterWorks’ Christmas on the Rocks, presided over the event.

Friday, June 8, 2018

CT Theater Review: Flyin' West -- Westport Country Playhouse

L-R:  Brittany Bradford, Michael Chenevert, Keona Welch, Edward O’Blenis, Brenda Pressley, and Nikiya Mathis. Photo: Carol Rosegg
Flyin' West
By Pearl Cleage
Directed by Seret Scott
Westport Country Playhouse
Through June 16

By Lauren Yarger
What's It All About?
A wonderfully written play by Pearl Cleage, which debuted more than a quarter of a century ago and is set in set in 1898, but contains a message of the human spirit that is right at home in 2018.

A group of close-knit women has embraced a new life in the all-black community of Nicodemus, Kansas. Fanny Dove (Brittany Bradford), Sophie Washington (Nikiya Mathis) and Minnie Dove Charles (Keona Welch) are all sisters, bound by their trip to freedom in Kansas after suffering hardship and prejudice in Memphis. For their matriarch, Miss Leah (Brenda Pressley) the concept of freedom is one she has acquired. The memories and cruelty of being a slave, where she was used for breeding and saw 10 children sold into bondage, are still fresh. The group is reunited when Minnie and her husband, Frank (Michael Chenevert) arrive from London for a visit. They also welcome Will Parish (Edward O'Blenis), their neighbor and Fannie's suitor,  to their fold. Happiness turns to alarm, however, when the harsh realities of Minnie and Frank's relationship emerge and when he threatens to sell the couple's portion of the homestead to white land speculators.

What Are the Highlights?
It's an excellent play with excellent performances, lovingly directed by Seret Scott. The women are developed and distinct: Sophie's follow-the-rules attitude is a contrast to Fannie's sweet optimism. Their fierce love for Minnie is evident and Miss Leah applies a wisdom acquired through the years to affect a solution. Frank and Will are contrasts as well: the former a selfish, abusive man and the latter who makes the object of his affection feel loved and honored.

What Are the Lowlights?
None for the production itself, which is one of the best I have seen at Westport. The violence and prejudice these women have experienced is hard to take, however, especially when they refer to them as matter-of-factly as one might in recounting a trip to the grocery store. Something that is part if life and expected. It's chilling, but written is such a moving way that the audience feels a part of the women's story. Let's just say that there is mirth and support when Frank gets what is coming to him.

More information:
Flyin’ West" plants itself in our hearts at Westport Country Playhouse, 20 Powers Court, Westport, through June 16. Performances are Tuesday at 7 pm, Wednesday at 2 and 8 pm., Thursday and Friday at 8 pm, Saturday at 3 and 8 pm. and Sunday at 3 pm. Single tickets start at $30: westportplayhouse.org, 203-227-4177.

Cleage is an Atlanta-based writer whose work has won commercial acceptance and critical praise in several genres. She is an award-winning playwright of a dozen works including Blues for an Alabama Sky. She is also a bestselling author whose first novel, “What Looks Like Crazy on an Ordinary Day,” was an Oprah Book Club pick and spent nine weeks on The New York Times bestseller list.

The design team includes Marjorie Bradley Kellogg, scenic design; Heidi Leigh Hanson, costume design; Stephen Strawbridge, lighting design; and Frederick Kennedy, sound design.

Open Captions (June 10), Backstage Pass (June 13), Playhouse Happy Hour (June 14), and Thursday TalkBack (June 14). 

CT Repertory Offers Sign Language Performances for Nutmeg Series Productions

Seth Rudetsky in DISASTER! Photo by Gerry Goodstein.
Connecticut Repertory Theatre (CRT) announces that each show of its 2018 Nutmeg Summer Series -- Disaster!, Sweeney Todd: A Musical Thriller in Concert, and Jesus Christ Superstar, will have performances interpreted in American Sign Language (ASL) through a partnership with UConn’s Center for Students (CSD) with Disabilities. 

ASL interpreted performances will take place during the Saturday matinee performances on June 16 for Disaster!, June 30 for Sweeney Todd: A Musical Thriller in Concert, and July 21 Jesus Christ Superstar.

The first show of the series, Disaster! (through June 16), is created by Seth Rudetsky and Jack Plotnick, with musical arrangements and scoring by Joseph Joubert and song arrangements by Seth Rudetsky. 

It’s 1979 and what begins as a night of boogie fever at the floating casino and discotheque quickly changes to a panic as the ship succumbs to multiple disasters, including earthquakes, tidal waves and infernos. This comedic homage to the disaster movies of the 70s features creator Rudetsky alongside Connecticut native Maggie McDowell, who appeared in Disaster in both of its New York runs, Ange Schworer and Anne L. Nathan.

Peter Flynn directs Sweeney Todd: A Musical Thriller in Concert (June 21 – July 1), the Tony-Award winning tale of love, murder, and revenge set against the backdrop of 19th century London. CRT Artistic Director Terrence Mann performs as the title character alongside Broadway Veterans Liz Larsen (Nellie Lovett) of Broadway’s Beautiful: The Carole King Musical, The Most Happy Fella, and Hairspray, and Andrea Burns (Beggar Woman) of Broadway’s On Your Feet and In The Heights.

The Summer Series will close with Jesus Christ Superstar (July 12 – 22). A timeless work with an incredible score, set against the backdrop of an extraordinary and universally-known series of events but seen, unusually, through the eyes of Judas Iscariot, gets a fresh new vision from Artistic Director Terrence Mann and choreography Tony Award-nominee Christopher d’Amboise (CRT’s Newsies). This electric musical stars CRT debut Alex Prakken (Jesus), Broadway star Ryan Vona (Judas), and CRT Nutmeg Summer Series returner Jonathan Cobrda (Pontius Pilate), previously from Les Miserables: A Musical Celebration and Peter and the Starcatcher.

Evening performances start at 7:30 on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays, and at 9 on Fridays and Saturdays. Matinee performances start at 2  on Saturdays and Sundays. Subscription package options range from $84 to $117. Single tickets prices start at $48. Discounts are available for seniors and students. crt.uconn.edu

The Harriet S. Jorgensen Theatre is located on the campus of the University of Connecticut, in Storrs, CT.

Summer Sounds with the HSO Start Tonight

Lisa Wiliamson.
Photo: Courtesy of HSO
Hartford Symphony Orchestra Masterworks Series 
Carmina Burana: Festival of Fate
Friday – Sunday, June 8-10, 2018
Belding Theater at The Bushnell
Friday & Saturday 8pm│Sunday 3pm

Ticket Information: Tickets begin at $38. Student tickets are $10 and $25 tickets are available on Saturday evening for patrons age 40 and under. To purchase tickets or for more information, please call 860-987-5900 or visit www.hartfordsymphony.org

FeaturingCarolyn Kuan conductor
Hartford Chorale Richard Coffey, music director
Connecticut Children’s Chorus 
Meredith Neumann, director
Lisa Williamson 
soprano
David Guzman 
tenor
Tyler Duncan 
baritone

Clyne Masquerade
Barber 
Knoxville: Summer of 1915
Orff 
Carmina Burana

Ticket holders are invited to attend a free Festival of Fate two hours prior to each performance and during intermission. This event will include performers from Sea Tea Improv, a prize wheel, a fortune teller, a Tarot card reader, a photo booth, and specialty drinks. Grand Prize Sponsor is Foxwoods Resort Casino. 

Carmina Burana: Festival of Fate is sponsored by the United Bank Foundation. 

Celebrate Juneteenth!



Juneteenth Gala

"The Evolution of Emancipation"

Friday, June 15, 2018  
Premier Reception - 7 pm | Gala - 8 pm to Midnight

Guest Emcee
Lorenzo Hall
Fox 61
Music Spun By
DJ Ronn P & DJ Dane

2018 Spirit of Juneteenth Honoring

Connecticut State Treasurer
Denise L. Nappier

Arts Advocate & Administrator
Jonathan Bruce

Musician & Producer
Alvin B. Carter, Jr.

For a full listing of events visit

New Paradigm Theatre's Hunchback will Benefit Burn Foundation



Riding on the heels of New Paradigm Theatre’s (NPT) sold-out, multi-ethnic production of Oliver-Reinvented, in 2016 and Peter Pan in 2017 at Fairfield Theatre’s Warehouse space, NPT will continue its “collective impact” productions, bridging the gap between the arts and the local community, with the musical The Hunchback of Notre Dame Aug. 18-19.

Young people of all abilities will participate side-by-side with Broadway pros to create this production. Emmy and Oscar winner Paul Bogaev will again be the musical producer as well as playing a leading role. TV and Stage veterans Scott Bryce and Jodi Stevens will co-direct.

New Paradigm, a company well-known for its inventive productions that are presented with multi-cultural, multi- generational and multi-gendered casting, has chosen Connecticut Burns Care Foundation as its unity “partner non profit.” For 40 years, CBCF has worked to support burn survivors as well as to present programs for education and advocacy to prevent burn injuries.

For more info and ticket information, visit www.nptheatre.org.

Wiliamstown Theatre Festival LineUp Set

Coming up at the Williamstown Theatre Festival:

Main Stage
WORLD PREMIERE COMEDY

The Closet | June 26 - July 14
By Douglas Carter Beane

Inspired by Francis Veber’s play Le Placard
Directed by Mark Brokaw
with Ben Ahlers, Brooks Ashmanskas, Raymond Bokhour, Matthew Broderick, Will Cobbs, Ann Harada, and Jessica Hecht


Tony Award winner and Golden Globe and Emmy nominee Matthew Broderick stars in this world premiere comedy by Douglas Carter Beane, inspired by Le Placard, the French comedy by Academy Award nominee Francis Veber. Martin O’Reilly (Broderick) is stuck in Scranton in a dead-end job, his marriage is over, and his son won’t return his calls. His only friend is his eternally optimistic co-worker (Tony nominee Jessica Hecht), who can’t bake enough muffins to stave off her romantic longings. When a stranger (Tony nominee Brooks Ashmanskas) sashays into their world, he drags Martin—and everyone around him—out of their respective closets. Helmed by Mark Brokaw, this contemporary satire breaks the chains of political correctness and celebrates the possibility of finding authenticity and love (and show tunes) in unexpected places.

By special arrangement with Simon Friend, Burnt Umber Productions and Scott Landis


WORLD PREMIERE MUSICAL

Lempicka | July 19 - August 1
Book and lyrics by Carson Kreitzer Music by Matt Gould

Choreographed by Raja Feather Kelly

Directed by Rachel Chavkin
with Carmen Cusack, Eden Espinosa, Natalie Joy Johnson, Justin Gregory Lopez, Azudi Onyejekwe, Steven Rattazzi, Michael McCorry Rose, Andrew Samonsky, Nathaniel Stampley, Kay Trinidad, and Rachel Tucker


Featuring Tony nominee Carmen Cusack and Eden Espinosa, this world premiere musical is directed by Tony nominee Rachel Chavkin, with music by Matt Gould and book and lyrics by Carson Kreitzer. Fleeing the Russian revolution and leaving behind a world of opulence and wealth, aristocrat Tamara de Lempicka (Espinosa) and her beloved husband Tadeusz (Andrew Samonsky) are forced to make a new life. In the rising tide of fascism, Tamara takes to painting to survive, and when she meets the free-spirited Rafaela (Cusack), a prostitute on the fringes of Parisian society, she's torn between the life she cherishes with her husband and the passion, ambition, and possibility awoken in her by her new muse. Inspired by the life of the artist who transformed herself from penniless refugee to star of the art world when the world itself teetered on chaos, Lempicka looks at the beauty and danger of one painter pursuing it all.

By special arrangement with Seaview Productions and Marathon Live Entertainment

The Member of the Wedding | August 5 - August 19
By Carson McCullers

Directed by Gaye Taylor Upchurch

With Ben Ahlers, Leon Addison Brown, Vinie Burrows, Will Cobbs, Tavi Gevinson, Louisa Jacobson, Tom Pecinka, Liv Rooth, Roslyn Ruff, Logan Schuyler Smith, and James Waterston.


Gaye Taylor Upchurch directs this revival of Carson McCullers' beloved play. On the eve of a family wedding in 1945, housekeeper Berenice Sadie Brown (Roslyn Ruff) can’t calm the nerves of her 12-year-old charge, Frankie (Tavi Gevinson). Berenice has raised Frankie and her cousin John Henry (Logan Schuyler Smith) as though they are her own children. But as their companion, playfellow, and mother figure, Berenice is suddenly struggling to protect them from the harsh, racially motivated injustices lurking just outside their Southern home. This cherished American work explores the complicated reality of a thoughtful and hard-working woman caught between two worlds.

The Member of the Wedding is presented by special arrangement with Samuel French, Inc.

Nikos Stage
WORLD PREMIERE DRAMA

The Sound Inside | June 27 - July 8
By Adam Rapp
Directed by David Cromer

with Will Hochman and Mary-Louise Parker

Emmy, Golden Globe, and Tony Award winner Mary-Louise Parker stars in this world premiere play by Pulitzer Prize finalist Adam Rapp, directed by David Cromer. Bella Baird (Parker) is an accomplished professor at an Ivy League university who prizes her solitude. But when she faces a challenge she cannot tackle alone, she allies herself with a brilliant and mysterious student, Christopher (Will Hochman). Intensely intimate and deeply moving, this haunting play probes the question of what one person can do for another.

WORLD PREMIERE COMEDY
Artney Jackson | July 11 - July 22
By James Anthony Tyler
Directed by Laura Savia

with Joshua Boone, Alfie Fuller, Christopher Livingston, Portia, and Ray Anthony Thomas

In this world premiere play by James Anthony Tyler, Artney Jackson (Ray Anthony Thomas) is a devoted mentor, a respected employee at the local cable company, and an enthusiastic teller of “dad jokes.” After twenty-five years, he is finally up for promotion: he can almost taste the possibility of becoming a manager. Over the course of one week, Artney’s decades-old routine is shattered when his son makes plans to move out of their home, the higher-ups test his resolve to lead, and co-workers show their true colors. Will Artney Jackson overcome the turmoil and rise up? Directed by WTF Associate Artistic Director Laura Savia, this funny and touching play examines what it really means to give it your all at the office!


NEW COMEDY
Seared | July 25 - August 4
By Theresa Rebeck
Directed by Moritz von Stuelpnagel

with Tré Davis, Michael Esper, Steven Pasquale, and Krysta Rodriguez

Chef Harry (Steven Pasquale) is a genius in the kitchen; his scallops are the “it” dish in Brooklyn. His business partner, Mike (Michael Esper), wants to expand their restaurant, but Harry sees that as selling out. When a shrewd consultant (Krysta Rodriguez) is brought in to make the case for expansion, Harry boils over. Can their most devoted employee (Tré Davis) help to put the lid back on? Tony nominee Moritz von Stuelpnagel directs this new fit-for-foodies comedy by critically acclaimed playwright Theresa Rebeck, which grapples with the intersection of creativity and commerce.

NEW PLAY
Dangerous House | August 8 - August 19
By Jen Silverman
Directed by Saheem Ali

with Phillip James Brannon, Michael Braun, Alfie Fuller, and Samira Wiley

Noxolo (Alfie Fuller) is an aspiring footballer from Cape Town who moved to London for a fresh start. With the World Cup coming to South Africa and the mounting sense that her ex-lover, Pretty (Emmy nominee Samira Wiley), is in peril, she is pulled back. Will Noxolo risk her safety to unravel the secrets of a life she swore to leave behind? Saheem Ali directs Jen Silverman's new play that asks what one woman can do for her people, for her nation, and for the love of her life.

TICKETS AND SCHEDULE

The WTF Box Office is now open. Tickets may be purchased online at www.wtfestival.org, by phone, or in person at the ’62 Center for Theatre and Dance Box Office at 1000 Main St (Route 2), Williamstown, MA 01267. The WTF Box Office phone number is 413.458.3253.

WILLIAMSTOWN THEATRE FESTIVAL
For over six decades, Williamstown Theatre Festival, recipient of the Tony Award for Outstanding Regional Theatre and the Commonwealth Award for Achievement, has brought emerging and professional theatre artists together to create a thrilling summer festival of premiere work alongside fresh, new productions of the western canon, and offers a rich array of accompanying cultural events including COMMUNITY WORKS, Late-Night Cabarets, along with readings and workshops of new plays. Under artistic director Mandy Greenfield, the Festival launched a New Play and Musical Commissioning Program through which theatre artists including Nathan Alan Davis, Halley Feiffer, Justine Levine, Matthew Lopez, Marsha Norman, Jiehae Park, Zoe Sarnak and Benjamin Scheuer, among others, are creating new work year-round. The Festival runs unmatched training programs for new generations of theatre talent, and artists and productions shaped at the Festival fill theatres in New York, London, and around the country each season. Williamstown Theatre Festival’s productions of Bridges of Madison County, The Elephant Man, Fool for Love, Living on Love, and The Visit enjoyed critically acclaimed runs on Broadway, with The Elephant Man and The Visit receiving Tony Award nominations for Best Revival of a Play and Musical, respectively. In addition, the Festival’s world premiere productions of Cost of Living (2018 Pulitzer Prize Winner in Drama) and Actually played acclaimed Off-Broadway runs at Manhattan Theatre Club, and the 2015 production of Paradise Blue is currently playing at Signature Theatre in New York.

Thursday, May 31, 2018

CT Critics Circle Announces Award Nominations


For information about the awards, which will be held Monday, June 11 at Westport Country Playhouse, visit ctcritics.org/awards/
Outstanding Production – Musical
Oklahoma! – Goodspeed Musicals
Million Dollar Quartet – Seven Angels
Rags – Goodspeed Musicals
1776 – Connecticut Repertory Theatre
Fun Home – Music Theatre of Connecticut

Outstanding Production – Play
An Enemy of the People – Yale Repertory Theatre
The Diary of Anne Frank – Playhouse on Park
The Chosen – Long Wharf Theatre
Fireflies – Long Wharf Theatre
Father Comes Home from the Wars, Parts 1, 2 & 3 – Yale Repertory Theatre
The Age of Innocence – Hartford Stage

Outstanding Debut
Shannon Keegan (The Wolves) – TheaterWorks
Megan O’Callaghan (The Bridges of Madison County and Fun Home) – Music Theatre of Connecticut
Noah Kierserman (Newsies) – Connecticut Repertory Theatre
Outstanding Ensemble
Cast of Avenue Q – Playhouse on Park
Cast of The Wolves – TheaterWorks
Cast of The Chosen – Long Wharf Theatre
Cast of The Game’s Afoot – Ivoryton Playhouse

Outstanding Projections
Yana Birykova (Grounded) – Westport Country Playhouse
Luke Cantarella (Rags) – Goodspeed Musicals
Lucas Clopton & Darron Alley (A Midsummer Night’s Dream) – Hartford Stage
Wladimiro A. Woyno R. (Kiss) – Yale Repertory Theatre

Outstanding Sound
Frederick Kennedy (Native Son) – Repertory Theatre
Kate Marvin (Grounded) – Westport Country Playhouse
Fitz Patton (Appropriate) – Westport Country Playhouse
Jane Shaw (A Lesson from Aloes) – Hartford Stage
Robert Kaplowitz (Office Hour) – Long Wharf Theatre

Outstanding Costume Design
Linda Cho (Rags) – Goodspeed Musicals
Linda Cho (The Age of Innocence) – Hartford Stage
Joshua Pearson (A Midsummer Night’s Dream) – Hartford Stage
Fabian Fidel Aguilar (Romeo & Juliet) – Westport Country Playhouse
Leon Dobkowski (The Legend of Georgia McBride) – TheaterWorks

Outstanding Lighting
Ben Stanton (The Age of Innocence) – Hartford Stage
Michael Chybowski (1776) – Connecticut Repertory Theatre
Stephen Strawbridge (Native Son) – Yale Repertory Theatre
Matthew Richards (Appropriate) – Westport Country Playhouse
Yi Zhao (Father Comes Home from the Wars, Parts 1, 2 and 3) – Yale Repertory Theatre

Outstanding Set Design
Emona Stoykova (An Enemy of the People) – Yale Repertory Theatre
Alexander Dodge (A Midsummer Night’s Dream) – Hartford Stage
Andrew Boyce (Appropriate) – Westport Country Playhouse
David Lewis (The Diary of Anne Frank) – Playhouse on Park
Martin Scott Marchitto (The Fantasticks) – Ivoryton Playhouse

Outstanding Choreography
Katie Spelman (Oklahoma!) – Goodspeed Musicals
Christopher d’Amboise (Newsies) – Connecticut Repertory Theatre
Kelli Barclay (The Will Rogers Follies) – Goodspeed Musicals
Todd L. Underwood (Saturday Night Fever) – Ivoryton Playhouse

Outstanding Featured Actor – Musical
Matt Faucher (Oklahoma) – Goodspeed Musicals
Joe Callahan (Million Dollar Quartet) Ivoryton Playhouse
Sean MacLaughlin (Rags) – Goodspeed Musicals
David Garrison (The Will Rogers Follies) – Goodspeed Musicals
Cory Candelet (The Fantasticks) – Ivoryton Playhouse

Outstanding Featured Actress – Musical
Jodi Stevens (Singin’ in the Rain) – Summer Theater of New Canaan
Gizel Jimenez (Oklahoma!) – Goodspeed Musicals
Nora Fox (Saturday Night Fever) – Ivoryton Playhouse
Megan O’Callaghan (Fun Home) – Music Theatre of Connecticut
Kimberly Immanuel (The Fantasticks) – Ivoryton Playhouse

Outstanding Featured Actress – Play
Judith Ivy (Fireflies) – Long Wharf Theatre
Darrie Lawrence (The Age of Innocence) – Hartford Stage
Carly Polistina (The Crucible) – Connecticut Repertory Theatre
Sierra Boggess (The Age of Innocence) – Hartford Stage
Helen Cespedes (The Age of Innocence) – Hartford Stage

Outstanding Featured Actor – Play
James Cusati-Moyer (Kiss) – Yale Repertory Theatre
Peter Francis James (Romeo & Juliet) – Westport Country Playhouse
Tom Pecinka (Father Comes Home from the Wars, Parts 1, 2 & 3) – Yale Repertory
David Hiatt (Father Comes Home from the Wars, Parts 1, 2 & 3) – Yale Repertory
Jason Bowen (Native Son) – Yale Repertory Theatre

Outstanding Director – Musical
Terrence Mann (1776 ) – Connecticut Repertory Theatre
Jenn Thompson (Oklahoma!) – Goodspeed Musicals
Kevin Connors (Fun Home) – Music Theatre of Connecticut
Rob Ruggiero (Rags) – Goodspeed Musicals
Brian Feehan (The Fantasticks) – Ivoryton Playhouse

Outstanding Director – Play
James Bundy (An Enemy of the People) – Yale Repertory Theatre
Seret Scott (Native Son ) – Yale Repertory Theatre
Ezra Barnes (The Diary of Anne Frank) – Playhouse on Park
Eric Ort (The Wolves) – TheaterWorks
Doug Hughes (The Age of Innocence) – Hartford Stage

Outstanding Actor – Musical
Jamie LaVerdiere (1776) – Connecticut Repertory Theatre
Rhett Guter (Oklahoma!) – Goodspeed Musicals
Jim Schubin (Newsies) – Connecticut Repertory Theatre
David Pittsinger (The Fantasticks) – Ivoryton Playhouse
Michael Notardonato (Saturday Night Fever) – Ivoryton Playhouse

Outstanding Actress – Musical
Samantha Massell (Rags) – Goodspeed Musicals
Mia Pinero (West Side Story) – Ivoryton Playhouse
Juliet Lambert Pratt (The Bridges of Madison County) – Music Theatre of Connecticut
Samantha Bruce (Oklahoma!) – Goodspeed Musicals
Annabelle Fox (Singin’ in the Rain) – Summer Theatre of New Canaan

Outstanding Actor – Play
Reg Rogers (An Enemy of the People) – Yale Repertory Theatre
Jerod Haynes (Native Son) – Yale Repertory Theatre
Jamison Stern (The Legend of Georgia McBride) – TheaterWorks
Boyd Gaines (The Age of Innocence) – Hartford Stage
Daniel Chung (Office Hour) – Long Wharf Theatre

Outstanding Actress – Play
Jackie Chung (Office Hour) – Long Wharf Theatre
Isabelle Barbier (The Diary of Anne Frank) – Playhouse on Park
Mia Dillon (Seder) – Hartford Stage
Jane Alexander (Fireflies) – Long Wharf Theatre
Cecelia Riddett (The Revisionist) – Playhouse on Park

Tom Killen Award
Michael O’Flaherty

Outstanding Solo Performance
Elizabeth Stahlmann (Grounded) – Westport Country Playhouse

Special Awards
To Be Announced

CT Theater Review: The Will Rogers Follies -- Goodspeed

David M. Lutken. Photo: Diane Sobolewski
The Will Rogers Follies: A Life in Review
Book by Peter Stone
Music Composed and Arranged by Cy Coleman
Lyrics by Betty Comden and Adolph Green
Directed by Don Stephenson
Choreographed by Kelli Barclay
Goodspeed Opera House
Through June 21

By Lauren Yarger
What's It All About?
It's a light-hearted romp through the thoughts and musings of Will Rogers (the multi-talented David M Lutken, who delighted here in Connecticut and Off-Broadway in Woody Sez.)

This show, which offers some insight in to the entertainer's life, including his marriage to Betty Blake (Catherine Walker) opened on Broadway in 1991 and features music by Cy Coleman, Lyrics by Betty Comden and Adolph Green and a book by Peter Stone. The Zigfeld Follies provide the backdrop (designed by Walt Spangler) for the story as well as costuming by Ilona Somogyi and Choreography by Kelli Barclay, who provides lots of tap dancing..

What Are the Highlights?
Lutken is always a delight. He's completely likable and entertains with his soft, comforting voice, often accompanying himself on any number of instruments. He and Walker have good rapport. Rogers quotes are projected (design by Michael Clark) and the Lighting Design by Rob Denton is superb.One number with moonlight and starlight also offers spotlights on characters and colors to help set the mood. Well done!

What Are the Lowlights?
Besides a draggy pace, the material seems dated. Even though Will comments on newspaper headlines and tell s us "nothing can hurt more than telling the truth," somehow the dialogue doesn't feel contemporary and jokes fall flat. Political digs don't rally the audience. Lutken manages to carry the show, however, sometimes chiding the audience for not getting a joke right away. Don Stephenson's staging seems to want to over compensate.

More Information:
The Will Rogers Follies plays at Goodspeed's Opera House,  6 Main Street, East Haddam, CT, through June 21. Performances are Wednesday at 2 and 7:30 pm; Thursday at 7:30 pm (with select performances at 2pm); Friday at 8 pm; Saturday at 3 and 8 pm; Sunday at 2 pm (with select performances at 6:30 pm). Tickets: goodspeed.org; 860.873.8668.

Additional casting:
David Garrison (Clem Rogers), Brooke Lacy (Ziegfeld’s Favorite), Dewey Caddell (Wiley Post),
Ben Stone-Zelman (Will Rogers Jr.), Riley Briggs (Mary Rogers), Brendan Reilly Harris (Jimmy Rogers), Nathan Horne (Freddy Rogers), James Naughton (Voice of Ziegfeld)
Ensemble: Michael Biren; Aaron Burr; Sarah Fagan; Kaitlyn Frank; Brad Frenette; Emily Jeanne Phillips; Kelly Sheehan; Karilyn Ashley Surratt; Caitlin Wilayto; Borris York; Mallory Davis;
Patrick Heffernan

Additional Credits:
Sound Designer: Jay Hilton; Music Director: Michael O’Flaherty; Assistant Music Director: William J. Thomas; Orchestrations: Dan DeLange



CT Theater Review: Love Never Dies -- The Bushnell

Meghan Picerno and Gardar Thor Cortes, Photo: Joan Marcus

Love Never Dies
Music by Andrew Lloyd Webber
Lyrics by Glenn Slater
Additional Lyrics by Charles Hart
Choreography by Graeme Murphy AO
Directed by Simon Phillips

By Lauren Yarger
What's It All About?
The sequel to Andrew Lloyd-Webber's long running, multi-award winning Phantom of the Opera (still playing in New York after more than 30 years). It's 1907, 10 years after the tragic events in the labyrinth beneath the Paris Opera House when the Phantom (Gardar Thor Cortes) vanished. The young soprano, Chritine Daae (Meghan Picerno) was finally free of the mentor who tormented her soul with operatic compositions and she married her childhood sweetheart, Raoul, vicomte de Chagny (Christian Harmston). But all is not as it seems. The phantom escaped, thanks to his ally, Madame Giry (Karen Mason) and her daughter, Meg (Mary Michael Batterson), and has relocated to New York's Coney Island, where he blends in with a bunch of circus freaks as part of a vaudevillian circus show. 

In need of money, because an unhappy Raoul has hit hard times (after hitting the bottle pretty hard), Christine accepts an invitation from Oscar Hammerstein to sing in New York. When the couple and their young son, Gustave (Jake Heston Miller) arrive in the USA, however, they discover that the phantom has re-entered their lives. He uses threats against her son to get Christine to agree to sing his music and his attention for his old flame sets off thoughts of jealousy and revenge for Madame Giry and Meg.

What Are the Highlights?
Very strong vocals and a pleasing score from Sir Webber, even if it doesn't come close to matching the original. Still, some songs contain exquisite melodies and odd and haunting notes (the title song will create an ear worm). The stand-out performance comes from young Miller, who is about as perfect a child actor as I ever have seen. He has an angelic voice and an easy, natural way on stage. I kind of wish this story could have been all about him.

The sound (Mick Potter, design), notoriously a problem at the Bushnell, this time is perfection.

What Are the Lowlights?
The book. What a poor sequel. What a poor form of storytelling. If the first act has you feeling dissatisfied (and weak, predictable lyrics by Glenn Slater contribute to this state), the second act is min=blowingly bad. I felt like my brain exploded from all of the re-write possibilities that filled it. Any one of them would have created a more satisfying story and given characters more development. As it is, we have no idea why anyone does anything. Some action is so ridiculous (and looks so with Simon Phillip's direction) that it is laughable, including what is supposed to be a very dramatic ending. Gaston Leroux (who wrote the novel on which the original was based), we're wishing you were somehow here again.

To avoid spoilers, I don't feel I can fill in details, but if you are a fan of Phantom, which I definitely am, having seen it numerous times since it took Broadway by storm in 1988, I can't help but warn you that you probably will be disappointed. One mystery can be revealed, however: why this show has toured nationally and internationally, but never come to Broadway. The answer: because in its present state it would be massacred by the critics. Instead, the show can benefit from fans (there are more than 40 million who have seen Phantom) who will venture out to see a sequel to a favorite. Just remember. You have been warmed.

More Information:
Love Never Dies (but maybe it should. . . ) at the Bushnell, 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; bushnell.org.

Additional casting:
Katarina Kemp (Fleck), Steven Petrovich (Gangle), Richard Koons (Squelch)
Ensemble: Chelsey Arce, Erin Chupinsky, Diana DiMarzio, Tyler Donahue, Yesy Garcia, Alyssa Giannetti, Michael Gillis, Tamar Greene, Natalia Lepore Hagan, Lauren Lukacek, Alyssa McAnany, Rachel Anne Moore, Bronson Norris Murphy, Dave Schoonover, Adam Soniak, John Swapshire IV, Kelly Swint, Lucas John Thompson, Correy West and Arthur Wise. 

The new touring production reflects an extensive re-working of the material by an Australian creative team for the original Australian premiere in 2011. New set and costume designs by Gabriela Tylesova, choreography by Graeme Murphy, lighting design by Nick Schlieper.
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Lauren Yarger with playwright Alfred Uhry at the Mark Twain House. Photo: Jacques Lamarre)

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