Thursday, June 24, 2010

Michael Wilson To Leave Hartford Stage

Artistic Director Michael Wilson is leaving Hartford Stage to pursue freelance directing opportunities in New York. A national search will be conducted to find his replacement.

Wilson, the company’s fourth artistic director in its 47 year history, will step down at the end of next season. He is scheduled to direct a revival of Tennessee Williams' Night of the Iguana on Broadway. Wilson will have led the Tony Award winning theatre for 13 years.

Perhaps the crowning achievement of Wilson’s tenure at Hartford Stage is last season’s three-part, nine-hour production of Horton Foote’s The Orphans’ Home Cycle, which received its world premiere in Hartford in 2009 before moving on to a celebrated and extended sold out run at New York’s Signature Theatre Company Off-Broadway. Wilson commissioned Foote, his long time collaborator, in 2007 to adapt his nine play cycle into a singular theatrical event, and worked closely with the playwright and his daughter Hallie in developing the work that won the New York Drama Critics Circle, Outer Critics Circle and Lucille Lortel Awards for Best Play of the 2009-10 season; special Drama Desk and Connecticut Critics Circle citations as the Theatrical Event of the 2009-2010 Season; as well as a Best Director Award for Wilson from the Outer Critics Circle.

The development of new work has been a hallmark of Wilson’s tenure as artistic director. At the end of his first season, he launched the Brand:New Festival of New Work – an annual festival of readings, workshops and productions of new plays. He has also greatly expanded Hartford Stage’s commissioning programs. In addition to Foote, Wilson commissioned plays by Edward Albee, Luis Alfaro, Daniel Beaty, Jorge Ignacio Cortinas, Laura Eason, Elizabeth Egloff, David Grimm, Quiara Alegria Hudes, Theresa Rebeck, Christopher Shinn and Craig Wright among others. In total, 25 world premieres have been produced by the theatre during Wilson’s tenure.

A signature achievement of Wilson’s artistic leadership was the 10-year Tennessee Williams Marathon. From 1998 to 2008, Wilson directed The Glass Menagerie, A Streetcar Named Desire, Summer and Smoke, Camino Real, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, The Night of the Iguana, The Milk Train Doesn’t Stop Here Anymore, A Lovely Sunday for Creve Coeur, and 8 By Tenn, a four-hour, two-part evening of plays which included three world premieres by Williams. Wilson will direct Milk Train for Roundabout Theatre Company in January 2011, reuniting with Academy Award winner Olympia Dukakis, who starred in the 2008 Hartford Stage production. Also next season, Wilson will direct the premiere of Michael Kramer’s Divine Rivalry at Hartford Stage.

Wilson also expanded Hartford Stage’s reach to family audiences when he launched in 1998 the annual production of A Christmas Carol -- A Ghost Story of Christmas.

Jill Adams, vice president of the Board of Directors, will chair the search committee for Hartford Stage’s fifth Artistic Director.

Here's the full test of Wilson's letter to Hartford Stage supporters:

Tennessee Williams wrote in Camino Real: "Make Voyages. Attempt them. There's nothing else." I am writing to let you know after twelve seasons as artistic director of Hartford Stage, I will pass the reins to a new leader at the end of our voyage together this upcoming season on June 30, 2011.

This is a decision I have arrived at after much soul searching. It is not without conflict, however, and some sadness, as I have loved calling Hartford Stage home, and making our theatre a home for audiences, staff and other artists whose collaboration has given me immense joy. Though I hope Hartford Stage will always be my home, I feel that now is the time for me to venture into uncharted waters, and for our theatre to have a new artistic director as it approaches its sixth decade of creating distinctive works for the American theatre.

We have all been on a great quest together: each season, each project, each performance, each rehearsal has been an opportunity to continue that quest, towards sometimes improbable, unlikely, and yes seemingly impossible to achieve destinations. But we have always been on a journey to enrich ourselves and our community. It has been the greatest privilege for me to serve as the leader of our quest. I am proud that our company's capacity to quest has been increased during my tenure, and that Hartford Stage is bound on a course that is not only promising, but also bold.

I am so grateful to the Board of Directors who hired me to be our company's fourth artistic director, and who have supported me so generously and tenaciously throughout my tenure. Twelve years ago, they expressed their desire for a program that would enable our community to collectively dream. It has been the highest honor for me to put that desire into motion, and for us together to become the stuff that dreams are made on.

I am thankful to the incredible staff of Hartford Stage. From the first day I arrived, they put their passion, heart and soul into each project. They are led by our devoted and unflappable Managing Director Michael Stotts, who has decided to renew his contract through the 2013-2014 season, our company's 50th anniversary.

My deepest gratitude goes to you for your unending support. You have been my extended family. I am honored we have shared this adventure, and I trust you will continue this journey with Hartford Stage long into the future.

So the stage is set. And now, like Brother Vaughn at the end of Horton Foote's The Orphans' Home Cycle, I prepare to leave my home. Speaking about Brother, Mary Vaughn says "He loves this place. He loves his home." Though Horton ends his cycle on the cautionary note that we can't "be too sure about anything in this world", this orphan is sure of one thing: I love my home. I love Hartford Stage.

I look forward to seeing you many times at the theatre over the next year ... and please don't miss any of our shows at Kingswood-Oxford in West Hartford this summer!
Michael Wilson
Artistic Director

Review: 'Chita Rivera: My Broadway' at Hartford Stage

A Little Nostalgia, A Little Heaven;
It was Great, Grand and Swell
By Lauren Yarger
I did some time traveling last night and along the way, found myself stopping in heaven for a bit as Chita Rivera performed songs she helped make famous in numerous shows in Chita Rivera: My Broadway, the second installment of the summer Broadway Legends Series at Hartford Stage.

Chita has been a favorite since I saw her and Gwen Verdon in the original Chicago on Broadway in 1975 (I know, I know, I’m dating myself). It was one of those theater experiences you don’t forget. I’ve enjoyed the revival on Broadway, but it doesn't have the same magic as the original, and as for the movie with Catherine Zeta-Jones in the part of Thelma, I’ve never been able to wrap my mind around that combination enough to watch it, despite her Oscar.

So what a thrill it was to hear Rivera perform “Class,” “Nowadays: and “All That Jazz” from the show. I swear, I was transported back to 1975 and the thrill of seeing it for the first time. I could almost imagine Gwen up there too with a top hat and cane. A little bit of heaven right there in West Hartford.

Oh, and I almost forgot while basking in the glow of revisiting Chicago: she performs a lot of other songs and tells humorous stories too in the fast-paced, entertaining 85 minutes too. The show runs through Sunday with performances tonight at 7:30, Friday and Saturday at 8 pm and Sunday at 2 pm.

The series wraps with An Evening with Ben Vereen July 6-11, a unique blend of artistry combining a tribute to Broadway, Frank Sinatra, and a very special homage to Sammy Davis, Jr., An Evening With Ben Vereen is a contemporary and timeless journey through the Broadway songbook featuring such hit songs as “Defying Gravity,” “Being Alive,” “Something's Coming,” and “Life is Just a Bowl of Cherries.”

The first concert in the series was Elaine Stritch: Singin’ Sondheim One Song at a Time, For the review, click here.

The Broadway Legends series is presented at Kingswood Oxford in West Hartford while Hartford Stage undergoes renovation. Call the box office at 860-527-5151 or visit for more information.

Kate Baldwin, Lewis Cleale Headline Westport's Production of 'I Do! I Do!'

Kate Baldwin and Lewis Cleale will star in the musical, “I Do! I Do!,” Aug. 10 - 28, as part of the 80th Anniversary Season at Westport Country Playhouse.

Written by Tom Jones and Harvey Schmidt, composers of The Fantasticks the endearing story spanning 50 years in the marriage of Agnes and Michael will be directed by Susan H. Schulman.

Kate Baldwin was in Broadway’s Finian's Rainbow for which she received nominations for a 2010 Tony Award and an Outer Critics Circle Award. Other Broadway credits are Wonderful Town, Thoroughly Modern Millie and The Full Monty.

Cleale was in Westport Country Playhouse’s 2008 production of Hot ‘n Cole. On Broadway he was seen in Spamalot, Amour, Once Upon a Mattress and Swinging on a Star for which he earned a Drama Desk Award nomination.

For more information or ticket purchases, call the box office at (203) 227-4177, or toll-free at 1-888-927-7529, or visit 25 Powers Court, off Route 1, Westport. Tickets may be purchased online at

Spamalot, Jersey Boys Cast, Comedy Tour, Tower of Power Head to the Palace

Tickets for a new season of programs including Spamalot and the Last Comic Standing Tour go on sale to the general public Monday, July 26, at 10 am.

In addition to tickets for the October presentation of NBC’s Last Comic Standing Tour, which went on sale June 14, four new performances have been added to the theater’s Fall line-up and will be available for purchase on July 26. Monty Python's Spamalot, the outrageous musical comedy lovingly ripped off from the film classic "Monty Python and The Holy Grail,” kicks off the Webster Broadway Series on Sept. 24 and 25, and on Oct. 2, the original cast of Broadway’s Jersey Boys reunite to sing hits from the show, as well as a variety of Motown classics, during “The Boys in Concert.”

Fan favorites Tower of Power return for an encore performance on Oct. 22, and internationally-acclaimed “People’s Tenor,” Michael Amante, sings alongside Connecticut’s very own Soprano Marissa Famiglietti for a memorable night of music on Oct. 23.

EPASS and subscriber pre-sale tickets for these Fall performances will be available starting Thursday, July 22, at 10 am. For $75, a Palace EPASS membership gives patrons the opportunity to buy tickets to all shows featured in the 2010-2011 season, before they go on sale to the general public. For more information on becoming an EPASS member, contact the Box Office at 203-346-2000.

In addition to these new shows, the Box Office will also be hosting new summer hours. Effective July 1, the Box Office’s hours of operation will be Mondays, from 10 am to 5 pm; Tuesdays and Wednesday, from 10 am to 3 pm; and Thursdays and Fridays, from noon to 5pm. The Box Office will be closed on weekends, except when there is a performance. Tickets can also be purchased online at

Groups of 20 or more qualify for discounted rates and should call the Group Sales hotline at 203-346-2002.

Circus Fire Documentary To Show at Twain House

Famed circus clown Emmett Kelly carries water during the fatal July 6, 1944,
Hartford Circus Fire. (Photo courtesy of Craig Hotchkiss.)

Mark Twain’s Tom Sawyer would doubtless have welcomed the fanfare of a circus coming to town, but in Hartford during the darkest days of the Second World War, the anxiously awaited arrival of the “Greatest Show on Earth” turned from celebration to tragedy.

The Mark Twain House & Museum will mark the anniversary of Hartford’s 1944 circus fire on Tuesday, July 6, at 6:30 pm with an airing of the CPTV documentary on the Big Top tragedy, followed at 7:30 by a panel discussion between four authors whose recent work has focused on that terrible day. The evening will be free.

The panel for "Telling a Tragic Tale: Writers on the Hartford Circus Fire" includes novelist Mary-Ann Tirone Smith (Masters of Illusion); poet Paul Janeczko (Worlds Afire); and non-fiction authors Don Massey and Rick Davey, who traced the mystery of “Little Miss 1565,” a girl whose body had never been identified, in A Matter of Degree. The program moderator will be Kathy Maher, Executive Director of the Barnum Museum in Bridgeport. There will be a book signing after the program.

The Hartford Circus Fire of 1944, a production of Connecticut Public Television, uses original footage, photographs, and witness interviews that recall the horrors of the fire, the search for its cause, and the impact of the tragedy on the community and the circus industry.

An exhibition of circus memorabilia, presented by Curatorial Assistant Jeff Mainville, will also be on display in the Great Hall during the program and through July.

The entire evening will be free to the public as part of a collaboration with the Barnum Museum in Bridgeport, Conn., that jointly commemorates the Centennial of Mark Twain’s death and the Bicentennial of P. T. Barnum’s birth. The collaboration is funded by a grant from the Connecticut Commission on Culture & Tourism.

The event is one in the museum’s continuing series of Mark Twain 2010 Centennial Celebration events . The Hartford Financial Group, Inc., is the Mark Twain House & Museum’s Centennial Sponsor.

Fashion Event Supports Westport Country Playhouse

Westport Country Playhouse and Doncaster, a woman’s apparel collection, will team up to celebrate their mutual 80th anniversaries with a “Sample Sale Extravaganza,” on Tuesday, June 29, 6 to 9 pm and Wednesday, June 30 from 10 am to 8 pm in the Playhouse’s Smilow Lounge on the mezzanine level.

More than 600 samples of the current Doncaster spring/summer collection will be on sale at 40 to 50 percent off retail. Ten percent of the proceeds will benefit the Playhouse. Admission is free on Wednesday.

Tuesday’s opening night trunk show will feature first access to the sample sale selections, light appetizers provided by The Epicurean Caterers, wines selected by local wine expert Sandra Muller and door prizes. Admission on Tuesday is $20. For reservations, call the Playhouse box office at 203-227-4177.

Designed by Patricia Clyne, formerly design director for Oscar de la Renta, the Doncaster line is available in sizes 2 to 24, including petites and women’s sizes, and includes apparel and accessories for business, casual and special occasions. Doncaster style consultants will be available to assist in making selections. The Doncaster apparel collection is only available through special trunk shows such as the Playhouse events or by private appointments.

African-American Actors Sought for Finian

The Ivoryton Playhouse is looking for African American singers/actors for an August production of "Finian's Rainbow:"

Age range 16 and up.
First rehearsal - July 27; First preview - Aug. 11; Closing - Sept. 5.
Performances: Wednesday and Sunday at 2 pm; Wednesday and Thursday at 7:30 pm; Friday and Saturday at 8 pm.

There is a stipend available for these roles.

Email submissions to

Monday, June 21, 2010

Elaine Stritch at Hartford Stage.

Elaine Stritch Singing Sondheim One Song
-- and Sometimes One Lyric -- at a time
By Lauren Yarger
Hartford Stage kicked off its summer “Broadway Legends” Series last weekend with Elaine Stritch “Singin’ Sondheim One Song at a Time.”

Sometimes it was more like one forgotten thought, or one forgotten lyric at a time, however, in strangely unsettling, yet satisfying concert.

Stritch, a legendary interpreter of the lyrics of Stephen Sondheim, still has great insight, depth and trademark humor when discussing or singing the lyrics to songs like “I Feel Pretty,” “The Ladies Who Lunch” “Love is Going Around” and ”Broadway Baby” among other classics included in the concert. She just doesn’t always remember where she is in the song she's singing or the story she is telling. It’s sad, but made less uncomfortable by the fact that Stritch knows that the lapses are happening and pokes fun at them throughout the concert.

She relies on her Music Director Rob Bowman on piano to feed her lyrics or to give her clues about what she’s supposed to do next. Bowman gets huge kudos for seeming to know when to prompt and when to be quiet while conducting the rest of the five-member band who perform flawlessly, despite probably having no idea which songs -- or which parts of songs -- Stritch will be performing from minute to minute.

The rambling, forgetful commentary seemed almost endearing at first, especially since Stritch is looking fabulous at 85, and told us she’d been in rehearsal that afternoon (Saturday) with director Trevor Nunn for her upcoming role as Madame Armfeldt in the Broadway revival of A Little Night Music. She kidded that she’d probably scared him off from remaining for the Hartford Stage performance. It might be good that he missed it, though. The continued forgotten lyrics might have given him cause for concern, even though Madame Armfeldt sings only one solo in the show.

Stritch movingly performed A Little Night Music's “Send in the Clowns” during the concert, but her stumbling around for the words gave sad new meaning to its lyrics "sure of my lines” and “losing my timing this late in my career.” She also spoke the lyrics from the show’s “Every Day a Little Death.” It was moving, and so insightful, but frustrating as those of us who know the lyrics struggled not to whisper them to her while she waited for them to come.

Even tinged with its sadness, the evening was more than worth it, and resulted in two standing ovations with calls for encores. Let’s face it. Elaine Stritch in concert is Elaine Stritch in concert. Not much tops that – especially when she shows you what she could have done with the role of Rose in Gypsy. It’s worth the wait.

The Broadway Legends series continues with Chita Rivera and Ben Vereen.
Chita Rivera: My Broadway, runs June 22-27, and features the two-time Tony Award winner performing songs from her legendary Broadway career. Rivera will perform selections from her most celebrated musicals, including numbers from West Side Story (“America”), Sweet Charity (“Where Am I Going?” and “Big Spender”), Chicago (“All That Jazz” and “Nowadays”), Kiss of the Spider Woman, Bye Bye Birdie, and The Rink.
The series wraps with An Evening with Ben Vereen July 6-11, a unique blend of artistry combining a tribute to Broadway, Frank Sinatra, and a very special homage to Sammy Davis, Jr., An Evening With Ben Vereen is a contemporary and timeless journey through the Broadway songbook featuring such hit songs as “Defying Gravity,” “Being Alive,” “Something's Coming,” and “Life is Just a Bowl of Cherries.”

The Broadway Legends series is presented at Kingswood Oxford in West Hartford while Hartford Stage undergoes renovation. Performances are Tuesday-Thursday at 7:30 pm, Friday and Saturday at 8 pm, Sundays at 2 pm and 7:30 pm, Saturdays at 2 pm and some Wednesdays at 2 pm. Call the box office at 860-527-5151 or visit

Creative Teams Set for Yale's Music Theater Institute

The Yale Institute for Music Theatre has announced the full creative teams and casting for The Daughters and Stuck Elevator, the original music theatre works receiving two-week workshops in New Haven through June 27.

The two-week workshops culminate with two readings of each open to the public held at the Off-Broadway Theatre (41 Broadway, New Haven) on June 25 and 26. A reception follows each reading. Dates and times for each reading are included below.

Tickets for the readings and receptions are $15 each, and can be purchased online at, by phone at (203) 562-5666, and in person at the International Festival of Arts & Ideas Box Office (Shubert Theater, 247 Chapel St.). Arts & Ideas Members and Yale Repertory Theatre subscribers may purchase tickets for $10 each by phone or in person only.

Music and libretto by Shaina Taub
Directed by Mark Brokaw
Musical Direction by Jesse Vargas

Cast: Emily Jenda (Grace, Orion), Jo Lampert (Aphrodite), Carrie Manolakos (Athena), Christina Robinson (Grace), Sarah Sokolovic (Grace), Rachel Stern (Artemis), Aisha de Haas (Zeus)

Readings: Friday, June 25, 4 pm; Saturday, June 26, 4 pm

In a work infused with an eclectic and exhilarating blend of soul, jazz and pop, we follow the three daughters of Zeus as they embark on separate and intersecting journeys of self-discovery: the child prodigy Athena grows up, the iconic vixen Aphrodite gets knocked up, and the reclusive rocker Artemis opens up. The Daughters is a timeless, and timely, story of three women coming of age in the very public eye.

Shaina Taub received her BFA from NYU's Tisch School of the Arts in 2009. Her other credits include Stuff: The Musical (music, lyrics), Post Secret: A New Play (music), The Reality Show (contributing songwriter), and the ten-minute musical Lord of the Flies, Chapter Eight.

Music by Byron Au Yong
Libretto by Aaron Jafferis
Directed by Chay Yew
Conducted by Perry So
Sound Design by Hillary Charnas

Cast: Francis Jue (Kuang)
Readings: Friday, June 25, 7 pm; Saturday, June 26, 1 pm

Stuck Elevator is a hallucinogenic roller-coaster ride through the swirling and claustrophobic mind of an illegal immigrant Chinese food delivery man. Trapped in an elevator, he is terrified the authorities will discover his status if he pushes the call button for help and deport him back to China.

Byron Au Yong received his MFA in Musical Theatre Writing from NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts. His other projects include Kidnapping Water: Bottled Operas, Surrender: A T'ai Qi Cantata, Tzu Lho: Simmering Songs, Salt Lips Touching, and Forbidden Circles. He has been honored with awards from the American Composers Forum, Creative Capital, Ford Foundation, and Meet the Composer.

Aaron Jafferis received his MFA in Musical Theatre Writing from NYU's Tisch School of the Arts. His other works include the hip hop musicals Kingdom (with music by Ian Williams; Richard Rodgers Award; Most Promising New Musical Award, New York Musical Theatre Festival), Shakespeare: The Remix (music by Gihieh Lee), and The Weird Sisters (music by Ian Williams).

Established by Yale School of Drama (James Bundy, Dean) and Yale School of Music (Robert Blocker, Dean), the institute eeks to identify distinctive and original music theatre works by emerging writers and composers, and to serve those writers by matching them with collaborators such as directors, music directors, and actors/singers who can help them further develop their work. By limiting production resources and values, the workshop will keep the focus on the creative process of the artistic team.

Comedian Gabriel Iglesias Will Entertain at Palace

Comedy Central’s Gabriel Iglesias will teach audiences the difference between “fat” and “fluffy” when Bill Blumenreich presents the “Fluffy Shop Tour” at the Palace Theater in Waterbury on Saturday, Aug. 14, at 8 pm.

Gabriel “Picachu” Iglesias’ high-octane show is a hilarious mixture of storytelling, parodies, characters and sound effects that bring all his personal issues to life with a clean animated comedy style that has earned national cross-over appeal. Known as the "fluffy" comic in a Hawaiian shirt, the 33-year-old funny man often riffs about his girthy middle. Whether it's talking about how little dancing it takes for him to work up a sweat at the night club, or how hearing his girlfriend coo the words "chocolate cake" over the telephone works for him like phone sex, he evokes laughter.

In 2000, he won a Kid's Choice Award for the Nickelodean TV show "All That" and, in 2003, won the Comedy Central & Comcast Cable's “Comedy Special of the Year.” Iglesias has been one of top 25 most requested comics in Comedy Central's Standup Showdown, and in 2007, he released his first one-hour triple platinum special, "Hot & Fluffy."

Tickets for Iglesias are $39.75 and $35.75 and can 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 203-346-2002.

Nutmeg Summer Series Continues with Smokey Joe's Cafe

At left, Rachel Rosado and James Frisby. Photo by Bob Copley.

Connecticut Repertory Theatre (CRT), the professional producing arm of the Department of Dramatic Arts at the University of Connecticut in Storrs, continues its Nutmeg Summer Series with the Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller musical revue, Smokey Joe’s Café, playing June 24 through July 4, 2010 in the Harriet S. Jorgensen Theatre.

One of Broadway’s smash hits, Smokey Joe’s Café is full of show-stopping tunes such as “Yakkety Yak,” “Charlie Brown,” “Hound Dog,” “Love Potion #9,” “Jailhouse Rock” and many more.

Smokey Joe's Cafe is a musical revue showcasing 39 pop standards, including rock and roll, and rhythm and blues songs – all written by songwriters Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller. After a Los Angeles tryout, the production opened on Broadway in 1995, running for 2,036 performances, and had a London run in 1996. The Original Broadway cast recording won a Grammy award in 1995.

For tickets and information call 860-486-4226 or visit

Young Professionals Socialize at Mark Twain

The Mark Twain House & Museum invites all Young Professionals – Twainiacs and Twain-novices alike — to Sam’s Summer Social, a celebration of summer that will be sure to make your moustache turn up at the corners.

For $10 ($5 for members), guests will be invited to wet their whiskers with ice cream from the University of Connecticut’s world-famous Dairy Bar and a refreshing 44North Huckleberry Vodka Lemonade. The popular Hartford area band String Theorie will play live music on the porch of the author’s historic home.

The event will take place Wednesday, July 14, at 5:30 pm.

Also in the spirit of sociability, the neighborly Harriet Beecher Stowe Center is providing its lawn between the historic homes in order for partygoers to play badminton, croquet, and Frisbee. Picnic blankets are highly encouraged. In the event of in-Clemens weather, Sam’s Summer Social will move inside with other fun activities.

Idaho’s 44 North Vodka is providing its Huckleberry Vodka, which the Twain House will mix with the Huckleberry Lemonade it sells in its Museum Store. Guests will receive one free drink and a cash bar will also be available.

Catie Talarski, producer of Where We Live on WNPR and moustache enthusiast, will select the best real and fake moustaches by the end of the evening. Winners will receive moustache-themed prizes from the Museum Store. Moustaches are not required to enjoy the evening!

String Theorie is a neo-classical indie world folk jazz band from Central Connecticut that brings together finger-style acoustic guitar, modern bass technique, and a wide variety of world percussion to forge a sound that can’t really be described in words.

For more information, call 860-247-0998 or visit

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Porgy & Bess -- The Bushnell

Photo:Sarah Shatz
Archive Review--
The 75th anniversary tour of George Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess plays The Bushnell through June 13. Approved by the Gershwin Estate, produced by veteran opera impresario Michael Capasso, General Manager of New York’s Dicapo Opera Theatre, and in association with producer Willette Murphy Klausner, (Three Mo’ Tenors). Porgy is directed by the Charles Randolph-Wright (Mama I Want To Sing). It’s an uneven production, with some good and some not-so-good elements. Among the highlights are Phillip Boykin as evil Crown, who demands Bess (Donita Volkwijn) leave crippled Porgy (Frederick Jackson) and come away with him. Also shining are Gwendolyn Brown as the straight-talking, humorous Maria, Heather Hill, in a noticeable, if brief, stint as the Strawberry woman, the versatile set designed by John Farrell which brings 1930s South Carolina to life and the fabulous George Gershwin score of course, with classics like “Summertime,” “I Got Plenty of Nuttin’,” Oh I Can’t Sit Down,” It Ain’t Necessarily So” and “Bess You’re My Woman Now.” Note: many of the roles are shared, so you might not see the same actor mentioned at another performance. Some of the low-lights: weak vocals, mediocre choreography by Keith Lamelle Thomas and almost two and a half hours of unintelligible singing, a real hinderance for anyone not already familiar with the story and lyrics written by DuBose and Dorothy Heyward and Ira Gershwin . A projection of the libretto above the proscenium as one might expect for an opera in another language is provided, but the words often aren’t exactly the same as those sung, are often behind the words actually being sung and sometimes don’t appear at all as though the transcriber isn’t sure what they’re singing either. It is a rare opportunity, however, to see the entire opera staged. Performances are Thursday and Sunday at 7:30 pm, Friday and Saturday at 8pm and Saturday and Sunday at 2 pm. Tickets are $15-$72. Visit

Theater Review: Arsenic & Old Lace -- Ivoryton

Pictured: Courtney Shaw, Dan Whelton, Sue Pynn, Alden Murphy
Julia Kiley directs a fun Ivoryton Playhouse adaptation of Joseph Kesselring’s 1939 classic comedy Arsenic & Old Lace, about the sweet old Brewster sisters, Martha (a delightful Susan Gayle Pynn) and Abby (Alden Rockwell Murphy) who poison lonely bachelors, then bury them in the basement of their Brooklyn home.
Their nephew, drama critic Mortimer (Dan Whelton who’s affable, but a little off on his timing), tries to hide their crimes from his fiancée, Elaine (Courtney Shaw who relies on a high, clipped voice striking poses to create her character), his serial-killer brother Jonathan (Robert Boardman, in character as a creepy Boris Karlof lookalike). Jonathan brings along his plastic surgeon and partner in crime Dr. Einstein (R. Bruce Connelly, who nicely brings to mind Peter Lorrey who starred in the 1944 movie with Cary Grant), and a dead body of his won to bury in the basement.
Adding to the craziness is Mortimer’s other brother, Teddy (Tom Libonate), who thinks he’s President Teddy Roosevelt. Libonate steals the show and is a hoot leading the charge up San Juan Hill or preparing to bury “yellow fever victims” in “locks” in the basement. Kevin Spedding and Jamison Daniels also give nice turns as two inept police officers unaware of any of the above.
The play, reportedly based on a real-life crime right here in Windsor, CT, runs through June 27. Performances are Wednesday and Sunday matinees at 2 pm; Wednesday and Thursday evenings at 7:30; Friday and Saturday evenings at 8. Tickets range from $15 to $38 and are available by calling 860-767-7318 or on-line at The theater is located at 103 Main St, Ivoryton.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Rock 'n' Roll with the HSO at Talcott Mountain

It’ll be “Time to Rock” at the Talcott Mountain Music Festival when music industry legend Victor Vanacore (left) kicks off the Hartford Symohony Orchestra's summer series 7:30 pm Wednesday, July 14 at the Performing Arts Center at Simsbury Meadows.

Starting with the fabulous sounds of '50s classic rock, the HSO will take a musical tour through rock and roll’s greatest hits, including songs by Marvin Gaye, The BeeGees, Michael Jackson, Diana Ross, The Beach Boys, Gloria Estefan, The Beatles, and more. Joining Vanacore and the HSO will be vocalists Tony Galla and Alexx Daye.

A native of New Haven, Grammy Award-winner Vanacore has had a long history of collaborations with the biggest names in the entertainment industry, including the Jackson Five, Johnny Mathis and Barry Manilow. Vanacore served as the musical director, arranger, and opening act for Ray Charles, whose only platinum album, “Genius Loves Company,” features Vanacore’s orchestral arrangements, including the Grammy-winning “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.”

As a composer/arranger, Vanacore’s recent work has included original music for the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, New Jersey Public Television Network, Berklee College of Music, and music based on the texts of Pope John Paul II, composed at the request of Placido Domingo. His television credits include music for “Survivor,” the 2005 Academy Awards show, Donald Trump’s “The Apprentice,” and “American Idol.”

Internationally acclaimed singer-songwriter Galla was discovered while recording his first hit single, “In Love” (Swan Records), which became a national cult hit in the US and throughout Europe. As lead singer of the blues band Raven, he can be heard on their two albums "Live at the Inferno" and "Raven" as well on the single, “Feeling Good.” He has performed for the soundtracks of "The X Files," "The L Word," "La Dolce Vita," "The Tonight Show" with Jay Leno, "My Blue Heaven," "The Wedding Planner," "Mambo Kings," "Naked Gun 1," "Seventh Heaven," "China Beach" and "Phineas and Ferb."

A native of St. Louis, Daye has shared the stage with many artists including Patti LaBelle, Vesta Williams, Peabo Bryson, Seal, Jonathan Butler, and Brian Culbertson. She has been the featured artist at jazz concerts nation wide such as the Newport Jazz Festival and the international Guitars and Saxes

Tickets range in price from $150-$1420 (subscriptions for the series); $20-$45 (single ticket). Lawn tickets for kids 12 and under are $5. Discounts are available for tickets purchased in advance. For more ticketing information, call 860-244-2999 or visit

Festival Information: Gates open at 6 pm for all Talcott Mountain Music Festival concerts. In the case of severe weather, rain dates for each concert will be the night after the scheduled concert at the same time. Open to all ticket holders, the HSO Education Tent is open from 6 to 7:15 pm; kids can enjoy free activities such as face-painting, crafts, games, and the “Instrument Zoo.”

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Children's Theatre Announces 'Pure Imagination'

Hartford Children's Theatre has announced its 2010-2011 Family Main Stage Series, "Pure Imagination."

With stories as diverse as a world-famous candy man's quest for an heir, a plucky orphan's tale of hope and optimism and a 13-year-old boy's struggle to fit in, "Pure Imagination" is sure to delight and entertain the entire family.

HCT's 21st Family Main Stage Series, "Pure Imagination" will feature a delicious new production of Roald Dahl's Willy Wonka, Sept. 24 through Oct. 3 followed by the classic family favorite Annie Jan. 7-16 and 13, a musical coming-of-age story by Tony Award-winning composer Jason Robert Brown April 29-May 15.

The shows will be performed at the Bruyette Athenaeum's Hoffman Auditorium on the campus of Saint Joseph College, 1678 Asylum Ave., West Hartford.

In addition to HCT's Main Stage Series, the organization will launch a new touring division entitled HCT on the Road. The new program will tour productions directly to schools within Greater Hartford and beyond, furthering HCT's mission of providing access and exposure to high quality theatre to young audiences. HCT on the Road will begin in November 2010 with a touring production of School House Rock Live! based on the 1970's educational animated series by ABC TV.

March 2011 will see the premiere of Class Clown, a new play commissioned by HCT from children's author Johanna Hurwitz, author of more than 60 children's novels.

For more information, call 860.249.7970 or visit

Heidi Rodewald Joins Stew to Create Music for Shakespeare on the Sound's Othello

Shakespeare on the Sound, presenting free Shakespeare in the park, announced that Obie award-winning composer Heidi Rodewald will join forces with her writing partner Stew to compose the original music and songs that will be a part of the company’s upcoming production of Othello, under the direction of Joanna Settle.

Rodewald and Stew are perhaps best known for co-writing the musical Passing Strange, for which Stew won the Tony for Best Book of a Musical and which was nominated for seven Tony Awards and won the New York Drama Critics' Circle Award for Best Musical and the 2008 Obie Award for Best New American Theater Piece. Currently in its 15th Season, Shakespeare on the Sound will present Settle’s all-new production at two locations on Long Island Sound. The show will play Pinkney Park, Rowayton June 15 – 26, and Baldwin Park, Greenwich July 2 – 11.

Audiences are invited to arrive early and picnic in the park before the performance. There is no admission fee, but a donation of $20 ($10 for students and seniors) is suggested. In Rowayton, parking is limited and early arrival is suggested. In Greenwich, the production is a five minute walk from the Greenwich Metro-North stop. Ample parking is available.

For rail and road directions, visit

Grand Dame of Ivoryton Theater Performs

Ivoryton Playhouse welcomes back the Grande Dame of the Ivoryton stage, Joan Shepard, for one night only, Monday, June 21 at 7 pm.

Shepard will perform her one-woman show Confessions of Old Lady #2, a wise, funny and wonderfully touching piece about her life on stage. Beginning when she was a child evacuated from England at the start of the war, the show charts Shepard's fascinating career as a child actor on Broadway to her recent starring role as a grandmother.

With some hilarious musical moments as well as some poignant melodies, this intimate look at a venerable show business career is sure to entertain. The show will be followed by a talk-back with Shepard and a reception.

Tickets are $20. Call 860-767-7318.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

RENT at CT Repertory

Roger Davis (Kyle Szen) and Mimi Marquez (Kaitlin Monte)

Timothy Ware’s beautiful singing voice highlights his performance as Tom Collins in CT Repertory Theater’s Nutmeg Summer Series production of Rent which runs through June 6. His smoky rendition of “I’ll Cover You” is delightful.

Also turning in a solid performance with good energy is Joshua Wright as Mark Cohen. Rounding out the musical by Jonathan Larson are Kyle Szen (Roger), John Shuler Quentermous (Angel), Corey Bradley (Benjmin Coffin), Kaitlin Monte (Mimi), Lauretta Pope (Joanne) and a miscast Rachel Leigh Rosado (Maureen).

Watch out for a rather vulgar, milk-squirting rendition of “Over the Moon.” The show is directed and choreographed by Art Manke who makes use of the house aisles as well as Michael Anania’s nicely designed set. For tickets and information visit or call 860-486-4226.

--Lauren Yarger

Winners of the CT Critics Circle Awards

The Connecticut Critics Circle has announced winners for the 2009-2010 season. Awards will be presented at a ceremony Monday, June 14 at Westport Country Playhouse. The public is invited. RSVP to

“Eclipsed” – Yale Rep

“POP!” – Yale Rep

Nilaja Sun in “No Child” – Long Wharf

Bill Heck in “The Orphans’ Home Cycle” – Hartford Stage

Jenn Gambatese in “Annie Get Your Gun” – Goodspeed Musicals

Brian Charles Rooney in “POP!” – Yale Rep

Michael Wilson for “The Orphans’ Home Cycle” – Hartford Stage

Mark Lamos for “She Loves Me” – Westport Country Playhouse

Noah Racey for “Annie Get Your Gun” – Goodspeed Musicals

Jeff Cowie and David Barber for “The Orphans’ Home Cycle” – Hartford Stage

Kevin Adams for “POP!” – Yale Rep
Robert Wierzel for “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer” – Hartford Stage

Candice Donnelly for “She Loves Me” – Westport Country Playhouse

OUTSTANDING SOUND DESIGNChad Raines for “Battle of Black and Dogs” – Yale Rep

Tamela Aldridge, Teagle F. Bougere, Miche Braden and Kimberly Hébert Gregory in
“Gee’s Bend” – Hartford Stage

“In the Heights” at the Bushnell

Jenilee Simons Marques in “The Miracle Worker" – Ivoryton Playhouse

The Eugene O’Neill Theater Center, Waterford

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

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