Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Hartford Stage Breaks Ground on Phase I of Expansion Project

By Lauren Yarger
I've been blown away many times by what takes place at Hartford Stage, but this is the first time the stage itself was blown away too....

In a dramatic groundbreaking with special effects that blew a hole in the stage, Hartford Stage began phase I of construction on a two-phase expansion program that will increase staging options and expand dressing room, rest rooms and the lobby at the 33-year-old facility at 50 Church St. in Hartford.

Gov. M. Jodi Rell and Hartford Mayor Eddie Perez were among the dignitares on hand May 26 for the ceremony. Rell said the expansion, for which helped secure state funding (a $2 million commitment from the State Department of Economic and Community Development was announced in February, 2008), is an investment that will pay dividends not only for the theater and Hartford, but for the state as well. Phase I has been budgeted at $4 million. An "audition project" resulted in the selection of Mitchell Kurtz as the project's architecht, Artistic Director Michael Wilson quipped.

While the construction is taking place, Hartford Stage's summer Broadway series and the first show of the 2010-2011 season will be presented at Kingswood Oxford School in West Hartford. The renovation is expected to be complete by mid September, with the season's second show, Antony and Cleopatra, starring Kate Mulgrew and John Douglas Thompson, reopening the theater Oct. 7.

Here is some more information about the project:
The first phase of construction taking place this summer will primarily address four priority areas:
-- Improvements to the theatre's accessibility for both audience and actors. The stage floor will be raised to make handicap seating more accessible; ramps will no longer be necessary to reach seats. A backstage dressing room will be constructed at stage level to allow improved accessibility for actors.
-- Audience amenities. This will include relocating and expanding the public restroom facilities. Restrooms will expand into space in the MAT garage, which in turn will allow enlarged space in the theatre's lower lobby to alleviate congestion. The new, accessible, restroom facilities will more than double the number of stalls in both the ladies' and men's rooms.
-- Infrastructure improvements. This will include new HVAC Equipment to improve comfort for patrons and actors, electrical systems will be cleaned and refurbished, and the roof will be repaired.
-- Production enhancements. This includes new theatre lighting equipment, a new theatre Audio system, and an expanded trap room which will allow trap openings any where on the stage. The new trap system will allow for easy conversion from thrust to proscenium houses, allowing for greater flexibility and more artistic opportunities, and improved sightlines for the audience.

The entire project is slated for completion by the fall of 2013, prior to the celebration of the theatre's 50th Anniversary. Critical campaign milestones must be achieved before a firm timeline can be developed.

The scope of Phase II includes:
== Expansion and renovation of the lower and upper lobbies, which will significantly improve the patron experience and provide space for receptions and meetings, as well as provide a more animated entrance to the facility and improve the Church Street streetscape.
--Renovation to the theatre's interior, including new walls to improve acoustics, new theatre seats, and a new house light system.
--Installation of an elevator to allow accessibility for handicapped patrons and access to seats in the upper level of the theatre.
--New interior finishes throughout the lower and upper lobbies.

Monday, May 24, 2010

CT Critics Circle Award Nominations Announced

Hartford Stage's Orphans' Home Cycle, The O'Neill Theater Center Win Special Awards

Awards Ceremony is June 14 at Westport Country Playhouse

The best of Connecticut's professional theater will be honored at the Connecticut Critics Circle's annual awards ceremony, scheduled this year for 7:30 pm Monday, June 14, at the Westport Country Playhouse.

The public is invited to attend this event. RSVP with number of guests to by Monday, June 7.

Nominations are as follows:

Eclipsed– Yale Rep
Holiday – Elm Shakespeare
The Miracle Worker – Ivoryton Playhouse
No Child” – Long Wharf
Shakespeare’s R&J – TheaterWorks

Annie Get Your Gun – Goodspeed
Camelot – Goodspeed
Pop – Yale Rep
She Loves Me – Westport
Song Man, Dance Man – Seven Angels

Charlotte Booker in The Lady With All the Answers – TheaterWorks
Liza Colón-Zayas in Have You Seen Us? – Long Wharf
Lynette R. Freeman in Doubt – Music Theatre of Connecticut
Erica Sullivan in Sylvia – Long Wharf
Nilaja Sun in No Child – Long Wharf

Bill Heck in The Orphans’ Home Cycle – Hartford Stage
Will Lebow in Mistakes Were Made – Hartford Stage
Mandy Patinkin in Compulsion – Yale Rep
Sam Waterston in Have You Seen Us?” – Long Wharf

Nancy Anderson in She Loves Me – Westport
Jenn Gambatese in Annie Get Your Gun – Goodspeed
Jessica Grové in She Loves Me – Westport

Kevin Earley in Annie Get Your Gun - Goodspeed
Randy Harrison in Pop – Yale Rep
Jeremy Peter Johnson in She Loves Me at Westport
Jon Peterson in Song Man, Dance Man – Seven Angels
Brian Charles Rooney in Pop” – Yale Rep

Jacqueline Hubbard for The Miracle Worker – Ivoryton
Rob Ruggiero for Shakespeare’s R&J – TheaterWorks
Hana S. Sharif for Gee’s Bend – Hartford Stage
Liesl Tommy for Eclipsed – Yale Rep
Michael Wilson for The Orphans’ Home Cycle – Hartford Stage

Mark Brokaw for Pop – Yale Rep
Mark Lamos for She Loves Me – Westport
Rob Ruggiero for Annie Get Your Gun – Goodspeed
Rob Ruggiero for Camelot – Goodspeed

Jonathan Butterell for She Loves Me – Westport
Denis Jones for Pop – Yale Rep
Ted Pappas for A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum – Goodspeed
Noah Racey for Annie Get Your Gun – Goodspeed

Valérie Thérèse Bart for Pop – Yale Rep
Timothy Brown for The Master Builder – Yale Rep
Germán Cardenás for Eclipsed – Yale Rep
Jeff Cowie and David Barber for The Orphans’ Home Cycle – Hartford Stage
Riccardo Hernandez for She Loves Me – Westport

Kevin Adams for Pop – Yale Rep
Marcus Doshi for Eclipsed – Yale Rep
Rui Rita for The Orphans’ Home Cycle – Hartford Stage
Robert Wierzel for The Adventures of Tom Sawyer – Hartford Stage

Candice Donnelly for She Loves Me – Westport
Ying Song for Pop – Yale Rep
David C. Woolard for The Orphans’ Home Cycle – Hartford Stage

David Budries for Pop – Yale Rep
John Gromada for The Orphans’ Home Cycle – Hartford Stage
Jay Hilton for Annie Get Your Gun – Goodspeed
Chad Raines for Battle of Black and Dogs – Yale Rep

-- Pascal Armand, Zainab Jah, Adepero Oduye, Stacey Sargeant, Shona Tucker in Eclipsed – Yale Rep
-- Tamela Aldridge, Teagle F. Bougere, Miche Braden,Kimberly Hébert Gregory in Gee’s Bend – Hartford Stage
-- Randy Graff, Any Irving, James Lecesne, April Yvette Thomson in Motherhood Out Loud – Hartford Stage
-- Devon Abner, Mike Boland, Pat Bowie, Leon Addison Brown, James DeMarse, Hallie Foote, Justin Fuller, Jasmine Harrison, Bell Heck, Henry Hodges, Georgi James, Annalee Jefferies, Virginia Kull, Maggie Lacey, Gilbert Owuor, Jenny Dare Paulin, Pamela Payton-Wright, Bryce Pinkham, Stephen Plunkett, Lucas Caleb Rooney, Dylan Riley Snyder, Charles Turner in
The Orphans’ Home Cycle – Hartford Stage
-- Adam Barrie, TJ Linnard, Ashley Robinson, Paul Terzenbach in Shakespeare’s R&J – TheaterWorks

In the Heights – The Bushnell
Ivanov – The International Festival of Arts and Ideas

DEBUT AWARD (first CT performance)
Adam Barrie in Shakespeare’s R&J – TheaterWorks
Jenilee Simons Marques in The Miracle Worker – Ivoryton
Tim McKiernan in The Adventures of Tom Sawyer – Hartford Stage
Casey Predovic in The Adventures of Tom Sawyer – Hartford Stage

Horton Foote’s The Orphans’ Home Cycle – Hartford Stage


The Eugene O’Neill Theater Center, Watertown

Magulies Receives CT Press Club Award

Pulitzer-Prize-winning playwright Donald Margulies was this year's recipient of the Mark Twain Award of Distinction at the 9th annual awards banquet of the Connecticut Press Club. A reading from Margulies' play, Collected Stories, was presented to the gathering at Quattro Pazzi, Norwalk. For more infomration about the CT Press Club, visit

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Carol Burnett at the Palace, Waterbury

Carol Burnett. Photo: Randy St. Nicholas

A Chance to Be in the Audience
When Carol Burnett ‘Bumps Up the Lights’
By Lauren Yarger
One of my fondest childhood memories is of being allowed to stay up and watch "The Carol Burnett Show," a mainstay for 11 years on CBS TV Sunday nights.

That the show would be funny was guaranteed (Burnett won six Emmys during the show’s 11-year run), but the real anticipation was wondering which familiar characters might be featured that night. My favorites were the spoofs of big Hollywood films, and I especially loved the “Nora Desmond" takeoff on “Sunset Boulevard” with Carol as the mad, forgotten film star falling down the stairs of her mansion while calling for her servant, Max (Harvey Korman). Regulars Vicky Lawrence, handsome Lyle Waggoner and the guest star of the week could be counted on the round out the casts in the sketches or to sing a song with Carol.

The biggest treat was when Tim Conway would guest star (before he became a regular in the ninth season) and we all would take bets in our family about how long into a sketch they would be before Tim would crack Harvey up. Usually, it wasn’t too long. If you’ve never seen the famous “dentist sketch” you don’t know the meaning of side-splitting comedy. No matter how many times I see it, I laugh until I cry as Harvey painfully tries to contain his laughter while watching Tim, the dentist, incapacitate himself with Novocaine.

The other famous sketch was a spoof of the classic film “Gone with the Wind.” It was perfectly timed as the movie had just had its television premier -- I think the night before -- and everyone had watched it (these were the days when you didn’t have thousands of choices on cable and cell phones, "on demand" and DVDs hadn’t been invented, so when a movie premiered, you watched it).
Carol, of course, was “Starlett” with Harvey as "Rat" Butler and guest star Dinah Shore as Melanie. Vicky was the “Prissy” character getting slapped every time she went into hysterics about anything. That parody was perfection and when Carol showed up wearing the green, yellow-tassel-trimmed drapes, still hanging on their rod across her shoulders,” America laughed. Rat complemented the dress and Starlett replied she’d seen it in the window and just couldn’t resist it. America split a gut.

They just don’t write them like that any more, and that’s a shame, because I’m writing this some 30 years plus after having seen those sketches and they’re fresh in my memory and still make me laugh. Carol Burnett and that show were more than just entertainment for me. They were like good friends with whom I visited once a week.

Another highlight was that at the beginning of the show, some of the pre-show warm-up when Carol would go out, ask the crew to “bump up the lights” in the house would be aired and she woud take questions from the audience. These segments, though short, were often just as funny as the written sketches. People would ask bizarre questions that triggered funny responses from Carol. Some would ask her to do her Tarzan yell; others would ask for a kiss. I often wondered what question I would ask if I ever were in the studio audience for a taping.

Now, I get to do the next best thing. I’ll be in the audience for Laughter and Reflection: A Conversation with Carol this Saturday at 8 pm at the Palace Theater in Waterbury. Patrons are encouraged to come with questions and participate in the evening’s intimate audience-interactive format

Burnett’s US stage tour comes on the heels of her new release “This Time Together: Laughter and Reflection,” a book in which the 76-year old actress-comedian recounts some of her favorite Hollywood memories. She provides behind-the-scenes insight into some of her career highlights, including her trademark Tarzan yell, but also gets serious when writing about the death of her daughter Carrie Hamilton, who died of cancer in 2002, at age 38.

My question for Carol isn’t really a question for the session with the audience, because it’s more of a statement than a question. I wonder whether she has any idea how much happiness she has brought to so many lives for so many years and that mine is one of them.

The International Performing Artist Association must have some idea, though, as the organization has awarded its 2010 George Burns Lifetime Achievement Award to Burnett.

Tickets for Laughter and Reflection sponsored by the Bank of America Celebrity Series and WTNH/MyTV9 are $125, $75, $65 and $45 and may be purchased by phone at 203-346-2000, online at, or in person at the Palace Theater Box Office, 100 East Main St. in Waterbury. Groups of 20 or more qualify for discounted rates and should call the Group Sales hotline at 203-345-2002.

Before the show, a 6 pm dinner will be held in the Poli Club, located on the theater’s mezzanine level. Dinner is $40 per member and $50 for non-members (including tax, gratuity, coffee and tea). A cash bar is also available. Seating is limited, and reservations may be made when purchasing tickets through the Box Office.

Check back after the show. I'll write about the experience, probably being so glad we've had this time together. After I stop laughing.
POST SHOW NOTES: It really was a fun show. Carol looks great and still is as funny as ever. She took questions from the packed audience at Waterbury's Palace (many of them a little bizzare, focusing on hardship, given the comedic theme of the night) and showed clips from the show, including the dentist and and "Went with the Wind" sketches (if you could hear anything -- some of the worst sound design I've ever witnessed in a professional performance with problems on Carol's mike, the audience mikes and the video all night long. Fortunately my seats were close enough to hear Carol directly from the stage. Overall, one for the theater memories. It isn't often that you get to relive part of your childhood.

Is Mark Twain in Heaven?

Mark Twain wrestled with God and the great issues of life, death and eternity in a way only revealed when his suppressed writings were published many decades after his death.

As he evolved from pious suitor, when he first came to Hartford in the 1860s, to semi-respectable churchgoer while he lived here, to bitter cynic at the end of his life, Twain’s attitude toward Creation and any Creator who happened to be around ebbed and flowed. In agonies at the death of beloved wife, Livy, in 1904, he declared God “only a grotesque & brutal dream.”

Now the writer Susan Campbell, who has brilliantly described her own evolution from devout, Bible-studying fundamentalist to devout, Bible-studying feminist in her memoir "Dating Jesus" takes on her famous fellow Missourian at a talk at the Mark Twain House & Museum.

“Is Mark Twain in Heaven?” asks Campbell. “If not, why am I trying to get there?”

On Wednesday, May 26, at 5:30 pm, in “God, Fundamentalism and Mark Twain,” Campbell will explore these issues from the perspective of a woman bred in similar soil to that of the famous author – though she came from the Baptist part of the state, and he was a Presbyterian.

The event is free, and continues “The Trouble Begins at 5:30,” a new series of after-work talks on Twainian topics for general audiences with a taste for fun, adventure and the stories spawned by the great writer’s life in Hartford. The talks will take place in the Lincoln Financial Auditorium in the Mark Twain Museum Center. Wine, nibbles and conversation will precede the talk.

Murder and Mayhem in Ivoryton

Joseph Kesselring’s Arsenic & Old Lace opens the summer season at Ivoryton Playhouse on June 9th.

Arsenic & Old Lace is a classic comedy about the sweet old Brewster sisters, Abbie and Martha, beloved in their genteel Brooklyn neighborhood for their many charitable acts. One charity which the ladies don't advertise is their ongoing effort to permit lonely bachelors to die with smiles on their faces--by serving said bachelors elderberry wine spiked with arsenic!

Julia Kiley directs this production with Dan Whelton as Mortimer; Courtney Shaw as his girlfriend, Elaine; Tom Libonate as Teddy; Robert Boardman as the sinister Jonathan; R. Bruce Connelly as his sidekick Dr. Einstein and Alden Murphy and Susan Pynn as the delightful Brewster sisters. Set design by Rachel Reynolds, lighting by Aaron Bresky, and costumes by Pam Puente complete the production.

Arsenic & Old Lace opens on June 9 and runs thru June 27. Performance times are Wednesday and Sunday matinees at 2 pm. Evening performances are Wednesday and Thursday at 7:30, Friday and Saturday at 8 pm. Tickets are $38 for adults, $33 for seniors, $20 for students and $15 for children and are available by calling the Playhouse box office at 860-767-7318 or by visiting our website at (Group rates are available by calling the box office for information.) The Playhouse is located at 103 Main St., Ivoryton.

Robinson wins Prize for Dramatic Criticism

Lauren Yarger photo

Marc Robinson, left, professor of English and theater stduies at Yale University School of Drama is the 2010 winner of the George Jean Nathan Award for Dramatic Criticism. He won for his book "The American Play 1787-2000."

The presentation was made Monday by Ellis Hanson, chair of the Cornell University English Department, at the 50th anniversary celebration of the award at the Yale Club in New York. Lauren Yarger, David Rosenberg and Irene Backalenick, members of the Connecticut Critics Circle, were in attedance.

The award, which includes a $10,000 prize, is given annually to the "best piece of drama criticism during the theatrical year (July 1 to June 30), whether it is an article, an essay, treatise or book."

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Song Man, Dance Man -- Seven Angels

Archive Review --

Multi-talented Jon Peterson returns to Seven Angels in Waterbury with a foot-tapping (quite literally), good old-fashioned, entertaining night at the theater with his tribute to some of his favorite Hollywood legends in Song Man, Dance Man.

Peterson, who starred in the Seven Angels’ acclaimed 2007 production of George M. Cohan, returns in a show he conceived, wrote and choreographed. It is co-directed by the theater’s artistic director Semina De Laurents.

Peterson wows with his tapping ability while singing all or part of more than 25 songs made famous by legends George M. Chan, Fred Astaire, Gene Kelly, Donald O’Connor, Sammy Davis, Jr., Bobby Darrin and Anthony Newley.

What makes the show really stand out, however, is the terrific writing, which combines the song and dance with tidbits about the careers of the Hollywood stars as well as how they relate to parts of Peterson’s life. Each of the tidbits about the lives of the performers segue naturally into the next song. It’s just the right blend to keep the evening on target without becoming a boring documentary and the two hours slip by. The only weak spot in the show at all, are some Vaudeville-style jokes that, budda bum, bum, fall flat.

The sound by Isaac Mandel is particularly good and we can hear every tap as well as the music played by the fine three-piece band directed by Richard DeRosa.

The Gene Kelly classic “Singin’ in the Rain,” is nicely recreated (sans the rain) and Peterson’s passion translates “What Kind of Fool am I?” into one of the best renditions I’ve seen since Newley.

Song man, Dance Man is one of the don’t-miss shows of the season. It runs through Nov. 29

Sunday, May 16, 2010

A Doll's House -- Long Wharf

A Doll's House. Photo: T. Charles Erickson

Everyone and everything inside set designer Michael Yeargan’s house doesn’t quite belong in Gordon Edelstein’s modern adaptation of Henrik Ibsen’s A Doll’s House running through May 23 at Long Wharf Theatre.

Nora Helmer (Ana Reeder) forged a signature on a loan agreement with sleezy Nils Krogstad (Mark Nelson) who is blackmailing her to keep her husband from finding out. Her husband, Torvald (Adam Trese), doesn’t think his “little bluebird” should worry her head about anything, especially money and encourages her to focus on practicing a Tarantella dance for an upcoming costume party.

She seeks advice from and old schoolmate, Christine (Linda Powell), and considers turning to fatally ill Peter (Tim Hopper), Torvald’s wealthy old friend who secretly is in love with Nora, for help. All of that might seem plausible in the original Victorian setting, but it doesn’t fit in the modern house with people dressed in modern clothes (Jessica Ford, costume design). Nora’s dialogue is more modern, complete with some expletives, but the men continue to talk in stilted formal language.

Reeder, with a strong and boisterous presence, is completely miscast. She’s hardly the frail, frazzled dainty “bluebird” who needs help. She struggles all through the performance trying to nail any of her character’s emotions. To make matters worse, the awful Tarantella costume is too short and too tight and makes her look even more awkward. A Doll’s House has been produced continually since it was penned in 1879 and has consistently provided a meaty woman’ role for its star (Julie Harris and Jane Fonda are among those who have played Nora). If it’s not broken, maybe it doesn’t need to be fixed?

Performance Schedule: Tuesdays at 7 pm, Wednesdays, 2 pm and 7 pm, Thursdays and Fridays at 8 pm. Saturdays at 3 and 8 pm, and Sundays at 2 and 7 pm. Tickets: $35-$65. Box office: 203-787-4282 203-787-4282 ; Website:
--Lauren Yarger

Annie Get Your Gun at Goodspeed

Kevin Earley and Jenn Gambatese as Frank and Annie (Photo: Diane Sobolewski) in Goodspeed's Annie Get Your Gun, directed by Rob Ruggiero. For the review, visit

Friday, May 14, 2010

The Miracle Worker -- Ivoryton

An engaging battle of the wills, as well as physical blows rages, as Annie Sullivan (Andrea Maulella) struggles to reach blind and deaf Helen Keller (Jenilee Lea Simons Marques) in Ivoryton Playhouse’s production of The Miracle Worker by William Gibson. Playhouse Artistic Director Jacqueline Hubbard directs a fine cast including Bill Carrington as Helen’s father, who resists getting his daughter the help she needs, Elizabeth Erwin as her mother, who just as determined to give Annie a chance, and Michael Raver as the spoiled and cruel half-brother who’s jealous of all the attention Helen receives. The production is well staged on a set by Cully Long that expertly uses the small stage to create a number of different rooms. Marques, who is deaf in real life, delivers a powerful performance and doesn’t miss a beat, even though she can’t hear the dialogue.The Miracle Worker runs through Oct. 11. Evening performances are Wednesday and Thursday at 7:30, Friday and Saturday at 8. Wednesday and Sunday matinees at 2 pm. Tickets $15 to $35 and are available by calling 860-767-7318 or by visiting A production of Jerry’s Girls, a two-hour musical celebration of the women of Jerry Herman’s musicals follows at the playhouse Oct. 29-Nov. 15.

American Buffalo -- TheaterWorks

Archive Review --

Don’t miss Andrew Benator’s performance as the repulsively racist, misogynistic sleazebag Teach in David Mamet’s American Buffalo, running through Oct. 18 at TheaterWorks, Hartford. Benator delivers laughs as the not-so-wise wiseguy Walter Cole (a.k.a. Teach) who tries to mastermind a rare-coin heist with two other inept boobs, Donny Dubrow (John Ahlin), a kind, naïve junk shop owner who realized the value of the targeted coins and the somewhat mentally-challenged younger boy Bobby (Zachary Spicer) for whom Danny looks out. "You people make my flesh crawl," the disgusting Teach yells at Donny and Bobby when they won’t follow his leadership. You can hardly help but laugh at the irony. The three are expertly guided by director Steve Campo through Mamet’s trademark fast paced, foul-language-laced dialogue. The junk shop set by Adrian W. Jones is the epitome of shabby chaos meets clutter and when it gets trashed toward the end of the play, you really feel for the stage manager who needs to put the mélange back together for the next show. In fact, all of the items in “Don’s Resale Shop” will be auctioned off on the last day of the run as a fundraiser for TheaterWorks. Some more valuable items will be hidden among them. The production design team also includes Adrian W. Jones (sets) and Matthew Richards (lighting). Production Manager is Michael Lenaghan. Performances are Tuesday through Thursday at 7:30 pm; Friday and Saturday at 8 pm and Sunday at 2:30 pm. Tickets are $38-$60 and can be purchased by calling (860) 527-7838 or online at

The Fantasticks -- Long Wharf

Archive Review--

Long Wharf Theater opens the 2009-2010 season with a charming production of the musical The Fantasticks, directed by Amanda Dehnert, from Oct. 7 through Nov. 1 on the Mainstage.
Jessica Grove (who looks a little older than the 16 we keep hearing she is) and David Nathan Perlow star as the lovers united, driven apart and reunited set this time, in an amusement park (if you don’t think about the practicality of the setting too much, it works). They set out to find something more to life. “Please, God,” Luisa prays, “Don’t let me be normal,” but find they had what they wanted all along. Lending a find singing voice to the role of El Gallo, who gets to sing the classic “Try to Remember,” is Michael Sharon and standing out as his mute sidekick and magician’s assistant is Jonathan Randell Silver. Curtain times are Tuesdays at 7 pm., Wednesdays at 2 and 7 pm., Thursdays and Fridays at 8 pm, Saturdays at 3 and 8 pm and Sundays at 2 and 7 pm. Tickets are $30-$70. Rounding out the cast are Ray DeMattis (Bellomy), a wonderfully hammy William Parry (The Old actor), Dan Sharkey (Hucklebee), and Joseph Tisa (Mortimer). The creative team is comprised of Eugene Lee (sets), Jessica Ford (costumes), Nancy Schertler (lighting), David Budries (sound), Sharon Jenkins (choreographer), Bill Corcoran (musical director), and Lori Lundquist (stage manager). For more information or to purchase tickets, call the box office at (203) 787-4282 or visit the theatre’s website at

Galileo -- CT Repertory Theater (UCONN)

Archive Review--

Puppets and masks highlight Connecticut Repertory Theatre’s presentation of Bertolt Brecht’s Galileo, running through Dec 12 in the Harriet S. Jorgensen Theatre on the Storrs campus. The cartoonish treatment of some of the characters questioning Galileo’s theories lightens up the otherwise dry two hours and 45 minutes about the scientist whose discovery that the earth rotates around the sun set off years of battle between science and the church and resulted in his appearing before the Inquisition. Also providing some pizzazz to the production are very cool video projections onto a backdrop that make you feel like you’re in a planetarium. Dudley Knight, a founding member of New Haven’s Long Wharf Theatre and professor emeritus at the University of California’s School of Drama, gives a solid performance as Galileo. Rounding out the cast are Bonnie Black as Mrs. Sarti and Kurt Zischke as Cardinal Barberini/Pope Urban VIII. The dramatic team includes Gary English, Director, Rachel Levy, Scenic Designer; David Smith, Lighting Designer; Marti Simmons, Costume Designer, Ed Weingart, Sound Design; Joe Therrien, Puppet Designer; and Dassia Posner, Dramaturg. Evening performances are 7:30 pm Wednesdays and Thursdays and 8 pm Fridays and Saturdays. Matinee performances also are scheduled. Ticket prices range from $11- $29.For tickets and information, call 860-486-4226 or visit

Jerry's Girls -- Ivoryton

Archive Review--

A production of Jerry’s Girls, a two-hour musical celebration of the women of Jerry Herman’s musicals completes a run at the Ivoryton Playhouse Nov. 15. Amy D, Forbes, Julia Kiley, Mary Anne Piccolo, Jackie Sidle and Elizabeth Talbot belt out more than 30 tunes from ballads to showstoppers (Sidle’s rendition of "”Before the Parade Passes By”" is the highlight). The belting by some average voices get a little tiresome, but the audience enjoys as trip down Memory Lane (a couple nearby were sharing their experiences about being in the audience for the original production of Mame on Broadway. Standing out in the production are Pam Puente’s nicely crafted and unbelievably numerous costumes (new ones are worn for almost all of the numbers). Evening performances are Wednesday and Thursday at 7:30, Friday and Saturday at 8. Wednesday and Sunday matinees at 2 pm. Tickets $15 to $35 and are available by calling 860-767-7318 or by visiting

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Ivoryton Holds Auditions

The Ivoryton Playhouse will be holding non-Equity and Equity auditions for all roles (adult male and female) for July and August musicals on Tuesday, May 18 and Wednesday May 19 from 6 to 9 pm at the Rehearsal Studio, 24 Main St., Centerbrook.

The shows run from July 7 to Aug. 1 and Aug. 11-Sept. 5. Singers and musicians who can sing are sought. Be prepared to sing a song in the style of the show and/or play instrument. Bring a picture and resume, stapled together.

Call 860-767-7318 for appointment. More information at

HSO Closes Masterworks Series with Firebird

Karina Canellakis. Photo: Steve Laschever
The Hartford Symphony Orchestra will close the 2009-2010 Masterworks Series with a program of “Orchestral Fireworks!” including Igor Stravinsky’s bewitching "Firebird Suite" Thursday, May 20 through Saturday, May 22 at 8 pm and Sunday, May 23 at 3 pm in the Belding Theater at the Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts.

The program will feature violinist Karina Canellakis in a world premiere performance of a new arrangement of Connecticut composer Charles Ives’ "Violin Sonatas," as arranged for orchestra by Music Director Edward Cumming. In addition, Canellakis will perform Saint-Saëns blistering "Introduction and Rondo Capriccioso for Violin and Orchestra."

Opening the program will be a short musical appetizer by Bohuslav Martinu entitled "La Revue de Cuisine" (The Kitchen Review). Featuring only one clarinet, bassoon, trumpet, piano, violin, and cello, this quirky ballet suite portrays the imaginary drama of a group of kitchen utensils.

Tickets are $30-$70; $10 with a student ID and are available in person Monday through Friday 10 am t 5 pm at Hartford Symphony Orchestra Ticket Services, 99 Pratt St., Suite 500, Hartford, by calling 860-244-2999, or online at

Baldacci, Grisham, Picoult Event to Benefit Mark Twain House

Among them, they have more than 400 million copies of their books in print. David Baldacci’s tales of Washington intrigue and corruption, John Grisham’s blockbuster legal thrillers, and Jodi Picoult’s moving tales of the extremes of human emotion have gripped many, many millions of readers over the years.
In a major event this fall, these three authors will be jointly discussing their work and considering the legacy of another immensely popular American author, one whose work has inspired each of them individually: Mark Twain. All proceeds from the event support The Mark Twain House & Museum in Hartford.
The three authors will take on the issues of writing, the publishing industry – and yes, their debt to Mark Twain – in “Between the Pages – An Evening with David Baldacci, John Grisham (top left) and Jodi Picoult" Wednesday, Sept. 22, at 8 pm at the MGM Grand Theater at Foxwoods Resort Casino in Mashantucket, CT.

Tickets are $50-$125 and may be purchased online at, by calling the MGM Grand Box Office at 866-646-0609 or in person at the MGM Grand Box Office.

Photos: Grisham, top, Picoult center, Baldacci at left by Joe Fazzino.

Doug Wright Joins Yale School of Drama

Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award winner Doug Wright will join the Yale School of Drama faculty as a Lecturer in Playwriting for the fall 2010 semester. His primary responsibilities for the semester will be to lead the weekly Playwriting Workshop and to mentor students in the program.

Paula Vogel, the Eugene O’Neill Chair of the Playwriting Department, will take a one-semester leave of absence in the fall to work on a new play commissioned by Yale Rep through the Yale Center for New Theatre. Associate Chair of the department, Kenneth Prestininzi, will serve as acting chair during her leave.

In 2004 Wright was awarded the Pulitzer Prize, a Tony Award for Best Play, the Drama Desk Award, a GLAAD Media Award, an Outer Critics Circle Award, a Drama League Award, and a Lucille Lortel Award for his play I Am My Own Wife. In 2006, he received Tony and Drama Desk nominations for his book for the Broadway musical Grey Gardens. Most recently he was represented on Broadway by Disney’s The Little Mermaid.

Rent, Smokey Joe's on Tap for CT Rep's Nutmeg Summer Series

Connecticut Repertory Theatre (CRT), the professional producing arm of the Department of Dramatic Arts at the University of Connecticut in Storrs, is offering four productions in the Nutmeg Summer Series between May 27 and July 4, 2010 – its first full summer season since 2002.

Rent and Smokey Joe’s Café, are matched with All in the Timing, a comedic collection of six one-act plays, and these three productions are available as a subscription. The fourth production is a world premiere play presented by movement theatre artists, Split Knuckle Theatre, and is available as an “add on” to the subscription package.

Performances are 7:30 pm on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays, 8 pm on Fridays and Saturdays with matinees at 2 pm Saturdays and Sundays. Subscription package options range from $36- $84. Single ticket prices range from $6 to $37.

Call 860-486-4226 for tickets and additional information or visit

Here is some information about the shows:

Book, Music and Lyrics by Jonathan Larson
May 27 – June 6
Harriet S. Jorgensen Theatre

Its unforgettable songs, including “Seasons of Love,” “No Day but Today” and “One Song Glory,” propelled Rent to become one of the ten longest running shows on Broadway. Winner of the Pulitzer Prize and four Tony Awards, including Best Musical, this rock opera is the story of struggling young artists – based on Puccini’s La Boheme but set in modern-day New York City.

All in the Timing
By David Ives
June 10 – 20
Nafe Katter Theatre

Six one-act comedic plays.

Smokey Joe’s Café
Words & Music by Jerry Leiber & Mike Stoller
June 24 – July 4
Harriet S. Jorgensen Theatre

Featuring the legendary songs of Leiber and Stoller, Smokey Joe’s Café features stunning song and dance performances of show-stopping tunes such as “Yakkety Yak,” “Charlie Brown,” “Hound Dog,” “Love Potion #9,” “Jailhouse Rock” and many more.

Written by Nick Ryan in Collaboration with Split Knuckle Theatre
June 24 – 27
Nafe Katter Theatre

Office gymnastics meets daring Antarctic exploration in the unlikely setting of a Hartford insurance office.

Palace Plans KISS, Beatles, Carol Burnett Events, More

The Palace Theater in Waterbury has a number of events planned through May:

ALIVE! (KISS Tribute – New England) with guest RUSH TRIBUTE “LOTUS-LAND”
Saturday, May 15 – 8 pm
ALIVE! KISS Tribute (New England) accurately recreates KISS' legendary "Alive" 1975 live show, complete with full costume, make-up, boots, and stage production. Opening for the show is Rush Tribute Lotus Land, a three piece band dedicated to being the closest thing musically to the original band.

CT Beatles Tribute Band: Abbey Road
Thursday May 20 - 7:30 pm
From Ed Sullivan to Sgt. Pepper, Abbey Road is the complete Beatles Tribute show filled with great musicians, cool costumes and tight harmonies. A portion of the event’s ticket sales will benefit the Are You Dense? organization, committed to the early detection and prevention of Breast Cancer.

LAUGHTER & REFLECTION WITH Carol Burnett (photo above, credit Randee St. Nicholas)
A Conversation with Carol where the Audience Asks the Questions
Saturday, May 22 – 8 pm
In this intimate audience-interactive format, patrons are afforded a rare opportunity to partake in off-the-cuff banter with six-time Emmy Award entertainer Carol Burnett. Bring your questions and share in the fun with one of America’s most loved and respected performers.
TICKETS: $45-$125

CT Virtuosi Chamber Orchestra & Adrian Sylveen present “Pagliacci” and “Gianni Schicchi”
Sunday, May 23 - 7:30 pm
The CT Virtuosi Chamber Orchestra and an international cast directed by Adrian Sylveen perform an operatic double feature of Leoncavallo’s “Pagliacci” and Puccini’s “Gianni Schicchi” TICKETS: $34-$60

Nate the The Great
Thursday, May 27 – 9:30 am and 11:30 am
This pint-size young detective has found lost balloons, books, slippers, chickens, and even a lost goldfish. But when his neighbor Annie asks for help in locating her missing painting, it takes all of Nate's derring-do to solve the toughest case of his career, in this entertaining new musical. Part of the ShopRite Education Series.

CT Rep Theater Gets New Artistic Director

Vincent J. Cardinal, the current Associate Dean of Performing Arts at Adelphi University, and formerly the Artistic Director of Miami’s Jerry Herman Ring Theatre and Associate Artist with Circle Repertory Company, will begin as both Artistic Director of Connecticut Repertory Theatre and head of the Department of Dramatic Arts beginning August 23, 2010.

“I’m honored to join the company of theatre artists and educators who have built this nationally respected Regional Theatre and Department of Drama,” Cardinal said. “I look forward to extending the tradition of robust production and dynamic education at UConn.”

Cardinal replaces Gary M. English, the founding Artistic Director of Connecticut Repertory Theatre who served in the position for 15 years. English continues at the University of Connecticut as a Professor of Drama.

Monday, May 3, 2010

O'Neill Center Wins 2010 Regional Tony Award

The Eugene O’Neill Theatre Center in Waterford, CT will receive the 2010 Regional Theatre Tony Award, presented on the recommendation of the American Theatre Critics’ Association.

The award will be formally bestowed at the 64th Annual Tony Awards ceremony on June 13. The American Theatre Wing’s Tony Awards®, which are presented by The Broadway League and the American Theatre Wing will air live on CBS on June 13 from 8 to 11 pm (ET) from Radio City Music Hall in New York

The O'Neill is home to six distinct programs: the O'Neill Playwrights Conference, Music Theater Conference, Puppetry Conference, National Theater Institute, Critics Institute and the Monte Cristo Cottage, O'Neill's childhood home located in neighboring New London.

The O’Neill was founded in 1964 by George C. White and named in honor of America's only Nobel Prize-winning playwright. The organization previously received a special tony award in 1979.

The work of The O'Neill focuses on the script as it begins its journey to the stage. The actors work with minimal props and no sets or costumes, holding scripts in their hands, revealing for the first time the magic of a new play or musical, puppetry piece or cabaret act. Work first performed at The O'Neill has gone on to regional theaters, Broadway, movies and television. Students and professionals who have honed their skills at The O'Neill can be seen in these venues every day across the country. Others work behind the scenes as playwrights, directors, in stage management, publicity and a hundred other roles that the public never sees but are nonetheless essential to every production.

Among the 700 plays and musicals developed and premiered at The O'Neill are such notable works as John Guare's The House of Blue Leaves, Brian Crawley and Jeanine Tesori's Violet, Wendy Wasserstein's Uncommon Women and Others, Lee Blessing's A Walk in the Woods, and the Tony Award-winning Best Musicals Nine, Avenue Q and In the Heights.

Many works of August Wilson were developed at The O’Neill, including Ma Rainey's Black Bottom, The Piano Lesson, and Fences, which won the 1987 Tony Award as Best Play and is currently in revival on Broadway starring Denzel Washington and Viola Davis.

Orphans' Home Cycle Keeps Winning Awards

Horton Foote's the Orphans' Home Cycle, directed by Michael Wilson, artistic director at Hartford Stage where the epic saga premiered prior to its run at Signature Theatre in New York, has been named Outstanding Play by the New York Drama Critics Circle and won this year's Lucille Lortel Award for best play of 2010 as well.

In addition, a special Drama Desk Award will be presented to the cast, creative team and producers of the play to salute the breadth of vision which inspired the exceptional direction, performances, sets, lighting, costumes, music and sound that made it the theatrical event of this season.

In addition, Bill Heck (at left Photo by T. Charles Erickson)has received a Drama Desk nomination for Outstanding Actor in a Play along with Jude Law, Hamlet; Alfred Molina, Red; Eddie Redmayne, Red; Liev Schreiber, A View from the Bridge; John Douglas Thompson, The Emperor Jones; Christopher Walken, A Behanding in Spokane.

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