Tuesday, January 31, 2012

The Palace is Alive, With the Sound of Music

Artwork courtesy of the Palace.
The Palace Theater will come alive with the ‘Sound of Music’ when the performing arts center presents the launch of the national tour of Rodgers & Hammerstein's Sing-A-Long Sound of Music on Saturday, Feb. 25 at 4 pm. 

An interactive event for the entire family, Sing-a-Long-a Sound of Music is a screening of the classic Julie Andrews film in full-screen Technicolor presented with subtitles so that the audience can sing along. The show starts with a vocal warm-up led by the evening’s host, who also takes the audience through their complimentary ‘magic moments pack,’ which contains various props to be used at strategic points throughout the film. 

The evening will also feature a fancy-dress competition in which everyone who has arrived in costume is invited onto the stage to show off their fantastic tailoring skills. Previous entries have included nuns of bother genders, lonely goatherds, girls in white dresses with blue satin sashes and other famous items listed among Maria’s ‘favorite things.”

For the ultimate Sound of Music fan, the Palace Theater is offering a limited $50 VIP ticket package, which includes prime loge/box seating to the show and a post-show dessert reception by Sweet Maria's Bakery, which will include a “meet-and-greet” with the show’s host.

Regular tickets are $15, $25, and $35, and can be purchased by phone at 203-346-2000, online at www.palacetheaterct.org, and in person at the box office, 100 East Main St., Waterbury. Groups of 15 or more qualify for discounted rates and should call the group sales hotline at 203-346-2011.

Sing-a-Long-a Sound of Music began running at the Prince Charles Cinema in London’s West End in 1999, and has remained there ever since. Today, the show is considered a worldwide hit, playing to packed houses across the globe with more than 10,000 performances in nine different countries. To date, celebrity fans include Dan Ackroyd, Carrie Fisher, Elton John (who held a private birthday screening), Debbie Reynolds, Hugh Grant and Joan Collins. 

The Palace Theater’s presentation of Sing-a-Long-a Sound of Music is sponsored in by Naugatuck Savings Bank and WATR Radio.

Musical Amazing Grace to Get Developmental Run at NormaTerris Theatre

Christopher Smith
The musical Amazing Grace based on the life of John Newton, the former slave trader who wrote the world's most recognized hymn, will get a run at Goodspeed Musical's Norma Terris Theatre this spring.

Composer Christopher Smith also wrote the lyrics and co-wrote the book with Arthur Giron. Gabriel Barre is attached to direct. Kimberly Grigsby served as music director for a recent reading in new York. Rehearsals are scheduled to begin in April, according to a casting notice. Details for the run through June 10 on the developmental Norma Terris Stage, 33 North Main St. in Chester, CT have not been released officially yet. Check back here for information when it becomes available.

Amazing Grace tells the love story based on the life and trials of Newton, told from the point of view of his childhood friend Mary Catlett. She  never loses faith in him and her love, courage and unshakable conviction help to transform his life. Their journey to find the meaning of their own existence will lead them to love, heartbreak and an epic quest to end the scourge of slavery.

Produced by veteran Broadway producer Carolyn Rossi Copeland (The Scarlet Pimpernel, Smoke on the Mountain, Children's Letters to God) Amazing Grace encompasses everything from triumphant anthems to heart rending ballads all set within a love story which transcends time and distance. Copeland was the founding artistic producing director of the former Lamb’s Theatre Company in Times Square.

To listen to the music, visit http://agmusical.com/concept_recordings.html. For more information about the musical, visit http://agmusical.com/index.html.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Theater Review: Boeing Boeing -- Hartford Stage

Ryan Farley. Photo by T. Charles Erickson.
Farce Fails to Take Off, but a Couple of Performances Land Safely
By Lauren Yarger
To fully enjoy Marc Camoletti's farcical play Boeing Boeing, you have to be willing to check a lot of reality baggage at the gate.
First, you have to get on board with the idea that a guy stringing along three airline stewardess fiancées at the same time is funny rather than offensive. A friend, in a pimp-like sort of way, refers lonely stewardesses, who already have been checked out by the airlines, for Bernard's romantic pleasure, apparently. All the work's already been done for him, he exclaims. . .

Then you have to pretend that while the women are in other parts of the house they can't hear major turbulence taking place with the other stewardesses in the living room, or that they are too stupid to figure out that not all is top flight in the Paris, France apartment (set in bland grays by designer David M. Barber, unfortunately reflecting the bland humor that falls flat).

Once you complete this pre-flight check and get past the unpleasant thoughts (sort of like a TSA screening), your logic will go on auto pilot and you won't ask simple questions like why does this 1960s throwback keep getting revived and why didn't translators Beverly Cross and Francis Evans at least call it Boeing Boeing Boeing, since three, not two, stewardesses get bounced around (in uniforms design by Thomas Charles Legalley)?
Providing entertainment for commitment-avoiding Bernard (Vince Nappo) in the Hartford Stage production are perky American TWA flight attendant Gloria (Kelly D. Felthouse), Sexy Italian Alitalia hostess Gabriella (Kathleen McElfresh) and Brunhilde-like Lufthansa employee Gretchen (Claire Brownell). Bernard keeps track of their flight schedules and juggles when they will arrive at the apartment with the help of his brusk, reluctant housekeeper Berthe (Denny Dillon), who helps him make sure the right fiancée's photograph is hung on the wall at the right time.

When a cancelled flight shuts down regular operations, Robert (Ryan Farley), a friend who drops in unexpectedly, finds some flight attendant romance of his own while helping Bernard try to keep the women from discovering each other.

In the 2009 Broadway production (directed by Matthew Warchus), Boeing Boeing was given a little propulsion by its cast. Mark Rylance won the Tony Award for supporting actor for his very funny portrayal of the hapless Robert. Making a lot of fun on stage with him were Bradley Whitford (showing a lot of physical comedy talent as Bernard), Christine Baranski as Berthe and Mary McCormack as Gretchen. This ridiculous play won the Tony for best revival and since, a lot of regional theaters have attempted to repeat its success.

Here, the cast, directed by Maxwell Williams, isn't able to overcome the weak material, however. Nappo doesn't infuse Bernard with a lot of appeal and delivers his lines in a projected monotone. Most of his physical comedy seems delayed as well. Dillon brings some much needed comic chops to the beleaguered Berthe. In fact, she wakes things up like the sound of the drink cart being wheeled down the aisle of a long flight. Even so, some variety in tone, like muttering some lines under the breath for example, would enhance the humor. The three women play their stereotypes well. Farley succeeds in bringing some fun to a character in way over his head, even though the script only gives him one liners or repetition of Bernard's dialogue with which to work.

Overall, the humor in this one needs some flotation devices.

Boeing Boeing runs through Feb. 12 at Hartford Stage, 50 Church St., Hartford. For information and tickets, call 860-527-5151 or visit www.hartfordstage.org.
Meanwhile, don't miss an excellent exhibit of costumes celebrating draper Barry Seller's 30 years of creative work at Hartford Stage. It runs in the lobby areas through April 29.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Lary Bloom, Suzanne Levine Will Help You Tell Your Own Tale with Memoir Class

March 7-April 25; Registration Deadline Feb. 15   
  Bloom and Levine will offer A Class in Memoir from 5:30 to 7:30 pm in the Mark Twain Museum Center, 351 Farmington Ave., Hartford. One session will be held in Mark Twain's library in the historic house. 

To participate, a serious interest in the memoir form is the only requirement; beginners are welcome. To register, please send a brief letter or email of interest to Steve Courtney at steve.courtney@marktwainhouse.org or call 860-247-0998, Ext. 243. Registrants will be limited to 14. The tuition fee of $600 must be paid in full by the registration deadline of Feb. 15.

Bloom is a legendary figure in the Connecticut literary world, known nationally as a pioneer of the New Journalism. For 20 years, he edited Northeast magazine at The Hartford Courant, fostering a new kind of work that used the tools of fiction to tell the stories of ordinary people -- while maintaining strict truthtelling. He nurtured writers from Wally Lamb to Cindy Brown Austin (both of whom first pubished in Northeast), and turned the magazine into a Connecticut literary incubator for nurturing creativity of all types. His much-read weekly column -- unusual and unpredictable takes on unsung Connecticut characters and their achievements -- today finds a home in the pages of Connecticut Magazine.

During his two decades at Northeast he wrote essay collections and The Writer Within, which provides lessons in nonfiction writing learned from his years as a Sunday magazine editor. He produced the Twain's World series, essays on Hartford's cultural heritage that were collected in a book of that name. But many achievements took the magazine outside its traditional boundaries of its cover.

He was a founder of the Sunken Garden Poetry Festival, which featured many of America's greatest poets, including Stanley Kunitz, Sharon Olds, James Merrill and Lucille Clifton; Art For All, a public art project featuring work by Katharine Hepburn, Dave Brubeck, and many visual artists; and Mark Twain Days, a citywide celebration that featured the music of Ray Charles and the Kingston Trio, and the comedy of the Smothers Brothers, as well as activities such as jousts and Gilded Age baseball games. Another major public project was Connecticut Voices, during which 50 distinguished state authors (including Arthur Miller, William Styron, and Annie Dillard) were profiled, and then read from their books on public radio.

Since leaving Northeast, he has collaborated with former Secretary of Homeland Security Tom Ridge on his controversial memoir, "The Test of Our Times," and wrote, with Senator Christopher J. Dodd, "Letters from Nuremberg." The teaching he did as an editor has continued in tandem with Levine: classes at The Mark Twain House & Museum, at the Florence Griswold Museum, and the renowned literary bookstore R.J. Julia in Madison, Connecticut. He is on the faculty of Fairfield University's MFA writing program.

Levine, a noted poet, is the author of "Haberdasher's Daughter," a book which makes clear the connections between the worlds of poetry and memoir. It was a finalist for the Eric Hoffer Award. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in California Quarterly, Passages North, Interpoesia, Permafrost Quiddity International Literary Journal, Southern California Review, The Chaffin Journal, Stand Magazine UK and Whiskey Island Magazine among others. A Pushcart nominee, she was a finalist in the 2009 Midnight Sun Chapbook Competition and a contributor to the anthology Forty Fathers (2009). She holds an MFA from Vermont College.

Downtown Cabaret Reads Thoughts for a Fun Show: The Amazing Kreskin

Saturday, Feb. 18 at 7:30 pm
Sunday, Feb. 19 at 5 pm
With a showman’s flair, a comedian’s wit and the capacities of a mentalist or thought reader, The Amazing Kreskin has dramatized the unique facets of the human mind…his own!
IMPORTANT NOTICE: Due to the nature of The Amazing Kreskin’s show, all drinking and eating must be done prior to the beginning of the performance. The Amazing needs your undivided attention! (90 minute show performed without an intermission).
The Downtown Cabaret Theatre is located at 263 Golden Hill Street in Bridgeport.
Reserved tickets for performances: $29 - $39
Tickets may be reserved in person at the Boc Office, b y Phone: 203-576-1636; Online at downtowncabaret.org or by US Mail: The Amazing Kreskin, c/o Downtown Cabaret Theatre. 263 Golden Hill St., Bridgeport, Ct. 06604.

Julie Andrews to Direct at Goodspeed

Goodspeed Musicals has announced plans for the production of a new musical, The Great American Mousical, to be directed by Julie Andrews. The musical is based on the best-selling book authored by Ms. Andrews and her daughter Emma Walton Hamilton, with illustrations by Tony Walton. This developmental production will run November 8 - December 2, 2012 at The Norma Terris Theatre in Chester.

The Great American Mousical features a new score by Zina Goldrich and Lyrics by Marcy Heisler, a book by Tony nominee Hunter Bell, choreography by Tony nominee Christopher Gattelli, and sets and costumes designed by Oscar, Emmy and Tony-Award winner Walton.

Season tickets are on sale now. Individual tickets will go on sale to the general public March 25. For more information call the Goodspeed Box Office at 860-873-8668 or visit www.goodspeed.org.
Downtown Caba

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Theater Review: Defending the Caveman -- Downtown Cabaret

Paul Perroni. Photo: courtesy of Downtown Cabaret Theatre.

Caveman Conquers Downtown Cabaret                                        By Tom Holehan
Somehow I’ve managed to miss the numerous productions of Defending the Caveman, Rob Becker’s one-man money machine that opened in San Francisco in 1991 and proceeded to run two and a half years on Broadway (a record for solo plays).  Becker clearly struck a nerve in his sweetly comic ode to American male slob-hood and a new incarnation of his work can currently be enjoyed in a limited engagement at Bridgeport’s Downtown Cabaret Theatre.

Only by the most casual of definitions could Defending the Caveman be considered a “play.” Becker’s observations about the distinct differences between men and women are very much in the tradition of stand-up comedy going all the way back to Henny Youngman’s “take my wife” routine. It is to Becker’s credit that he has parlayed some very familiar observations about the battle-of-the-sexes into such a crowd-pleasing evening of entertainment. A debate about the correct way to install a roll of toilet paper would not be out of place in Defending the Caveman.

And, yet, it is probably this universal knowledge about a man’s behavior when he takes up living quarters with the opposite sex that makes Caveman such innocent and affectionate fun. The role, as written, apparently fit Becker like a catcher’s mitt. Subsequent performers in the role like Michael Chiklis and Jim Belushi were of the same physical type -- guys who look very comfortable with a beer in one hand and the TV remote control in another. 

At the Cabaret Paul Perroni holds court in the role and given that the actor is young, trim and attractive one might think he had a disadvantage playing the slob-in-residence. But Perroni wisely uses his charisma the best way possible: he’s attractive to women but non-threatening to men. With his slight southern accent and melodious baritone, Perroni lays out his personal battle-of-the-sexes in winning style. Utilizing just a few Fred Flintstone-style props on stage – a caveman spear, his beloved television – the actor gives an agreeable and accomplished performance. He is also an expert pantomime never funnier or more on-target then when he’s demonstrating the precise action of how women check out a rack of clothes.

And while Caveman offers absolutely nothing new and relies almost entirely on the most basic of familiar man vs. woman observations, it doesn’t mean that it still isn’t funny. Or true. The division of the sexes into “hunters and gatherers” categories has been dissected with both heart and humor in Caveman and as Becker explores what it really means to be a man, the play even achieves a kind of crazy wisdom and bittersweet insight by final curtain.

Defending the Caveman continues at the Downtown Cabaret Theatre in Bridgeport through Sunday, Jan. 22. For further information and ticket reservations call the theatre box office at 203-576-1636 or visit: www.downtowncabaret.org.

Tom Holehan is Co-chairman of the Connecticut Critics Circle and Artistic Director of Stratford’s Square One Theatre Company. He welcomes comments at: tholehan@yahoo.com. His reviews and other theatre information can be found on the Connecticut Critics Circle website: www.ctcritics.org

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Long Wharf Co-Produces 'February House' with New York's Public Theatre

Long Wharf Theatre will present the world premiere of February House, directed by Davis McCallum, with music and lyrics by Gabriel Kahane and book by Seth Bockley in a co-production with the Public Theater in New York.

The musical will run on Long Wharf's Stage II Feb. 15 through March 18 and at the Public May 8 through June 10.

The cast includes Stanley Bahorek (Benjamin Britten), Ken Barnett (Peter Pears), Ken Clark (Reeves McCullers), Julian Fleisher (George Davis), Stephanie Hayes (Erika Mann), Erik Lochtefeld (W.H. Auden), Kacie Sheik (Gypsy Rose Lee), A.J. Shively (Chester Kallman), and Kristen Sieh (Carson McCullers). The creative team is comprised of Riccardo Hernandez (sets), Jess Goldstein (costumes), Mark Barton (lights), Leon Rothenberg (sound), Andy Boroson (musical director) and Cole Bonenberger (production stage manager.)

Bringing together some of the greatest and most colorful minds of a generation, including W.H. Auden, Carson McCullers, Benjamin Britten, and Gypsy Rose Lee, George Davis tries to create his own utopia in a small house in Brooklyn Heights in the 1940s. The artists discover new ideas exploding at every turn as they find love, friendship and their own artistic voices in a time of war.  

Kahane's score mixes elements of classical operetta, jazz, and musical comedy with modern folk-pop. The musical is based on Sherill Tippins’ literary biography “February House: The Story of W.H. Auden, Carson McCullers, Jane and Paul Bowles, Benjamin Britten and Gypsy Rose Lee, Under One Roof in Wartime America.”

For more information, call 203-787-4282 or visit

Palace Goes Green This February -- with Everyone's Favorite Ogre

The Palace Theater will be going green this February when everyone’s favorite ogre comes to Waterbury for three performances of the Shrek the Musical national Broadway tour on Feb. 10 and 11.

Tickets are on sale now and can be purchased by phone at 203-346-2000, online at www.palacetheaterct.org or at the box office,100 East Main St., Waterbury. Groups of 15 or more qualify for discounted ticket prices and should call the group sales hotline at 203-346-2011.

An entirely new musical which opened on Broadway in December 2009, Shrek the Musical is based on the story and characters from William Steig’s book, as well as the first chapter of the DreamWorks Animation Shrek film series. Set in a faraway kingdom turned upside down, the musical tells the story of a swamp-dwelling ogre, who goes on a life-changing adventure to reclaim the deed to his land. Joined by a wise-cracking donkey, this unlikely hero fights a fearsome dragon, rescues a feisty princess and learns that real friendship and true love aren’t only found in fairy tales. Featuring an original score of 19 all-new songs, big laughs, great dancing and breathtaking scenery, Shrek the Musical is “far, far and away” a play the whole family will love.
Photo courtesy of the Palace.
As a special promotion, the Palace Theater is offering a 50-percent discount on family four packs of tickets purchased for the Friday and Saturday evening performances of the show. The offer is valid on select mezzanine seating and only availably by phone at 203-346-2000, or in person at the Box Office.
Shrek the Musical isthe third presentation in the Palace’s 2011-2012 Webster Broadway Series, and is sponsored in part by WTNH/MyTV9 and Adam Broderick Salon & Spa. For more information visit www.palacetheaterct.org.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Feature: Play With Your Food -- Fairfield County

Joanna Keylock, Nick Sadler and Wendy Long. Photo: Phyllis Groner
Play Reading Series Celebrates 10 Years
By Lauren Yarger
Disregard all of that advice your mother gave you about not playing with your food and get down to Fairfield County for the 10th anniversary of Play With Your Food, a popular lunchtime play-reading series.

Local restaurants serve up delicious fare before a trio of one-act plays in Westport, Fairfield and Greenwich.

An audience of about 80, mostly women, arrived at Toquet Hall in Wesport for the event I attended Tuesday. A buffet lunch of assorted sandwiches and salads was served beginning at noon. Folks ate and chatted while lunching at high-top tables toward the rear of the hall, or sitting on the edge of the stage or in the theater-style seat setup. Carole Schweid, artistic director and co-founder of the series, introduced the readings beginning about a half an hour later.

“Our plays tend to reflect, in some ways, where we are in our lives,” Schweid said. “Arizona Anniversaries (by John Bishop) was chosen before it dawned on us that January marks the beginning of our 10th season of Play With Your Food. How interesting is that!”

“We’re excited to start our season with Agatha Christie’s short play The Rats,” said Executive Producer Nancy Diamond, “complete with adulterous lovers, a locked room, and of course, a murder.”

In addition to the mystery and the thoughtful drama, Tuesday's Westport audience was treated to Airborne, a comedy by Gib Johnson about an airline ticketing agent who has some interesting ideas about how to get people to the right destination. Playing the assortment of characters were actors Heather Corrington, Joanna Kelock, Wendy Long, Tim Ruddy, Nick Sadler and Caroline Winterson.

Among the highlights in the 2012 season:
-- a selection of love letters and music from the Broadway show 1776
-- The Loop, originally played by "Desperate Housewives" star Edie Falco and written by Pulitzer Prize winner Warren Leight, a fun comedy about a married man caught, literally, with his pants down.
-- An excerpt from George Bernard Shaw’s Pygmalion, featuring British born West End and Broadway actor Norman Allen as the irascible Doolittle.  

Schweid, who enthusiastically provided the reading of stage directions for the presentation of Rats also led a post-reading Q&A session with the actors and audience. Lunch, readings and Q&A efficiently concluded shortly after 1:30 making this a perfect work-day break.

The series moves to the Fairfield Theatre Company on Tuesday, Jan. 17, Feb. 14, March 13 and April 3 and to the Greenwich Arts Council on Wednesday, Jan. 18 March 14, 15 and April 19 and 20. Westport performances at Toquet Hall continue Tuesdays through Thursdays: Feb. 7, 8, 9; March 6, 7, 8 and April 10, 11 and 12.

Tickets cost $43 and can be ordered online at www.jibproductions.org or by calling the box office at 203-293-8831 (weekdays 10 am to 4 pm). Advanced reservations are required.

The detailed schedule with availability is as follows:
Fairfield- Fairfield Theatre Company, 70 Sanford Street, FairfieldTuesday, Jan. 17
Arizona Anniversaries (John Bishop)
Airborne (Gib Johnson)
The Rats (Agatha Christie)
lunch by The Dressing Room

Tuesday, Feb. 14
The Kiss (Mark Harvey Levine)
In the Trap (Carl L. Williams)
John & Abigail  (Adapted for the theatre by William Gibson)
Song from 1776
lunch by Layla’s
Tuesday, March 13
Mexico City (Hannah Moscovitz)
The Loop (Warren Leight)
I Know (Jacquelyn Reingold)
lunch by Tuckers

Tuesday, April 3
Pygmalion (George Bernard Shaw)
other plays TBA
lunch by The Pantry

Westport- Toquet Hall, 62 Post Road East, Westport-Tuesdays, Wednesdays and ThursdaysFebruary 7, 8 (sold out). 9
The Kiss (Mark Harvey Levine)
In the Trap (Carl L. Williams)
John & Abigail  (Adapted for the theatre by William Gibson)
Song from 1776
lunch by DaPietro’s Restaurant

March 6, 7 (sold out), 8
Mexico City (Hannah Moscovitz)
The Loop (Warren Leight)
I Know (Jacquelyn Reingold)
lunch by Matsu Sushi

April 10, 11 (sold out), 12
Pygmalion (George Bernard Shaw)
Other plays TBA
lunch by Garelick and Herbs

Greenwich-Greenwich Arts Council, 299 Greenwich Ave., GreenwichWednesday and Thursday, March 14, 15
The Loop (Warren Leight)
Arizona Anniversaries (John Bishop)
The Rats (Agatha Christie)
Lunch by Le Pain Quotidien

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Theater Review: Memphis -- The Bushnell

Felicia Boswell, Rhett George, Bryan Fenkart Will Mann. Photo by Paul Kolnik
Hockadoo! This Tour Spins a Fantastical Reproduction of the Original
By Lauren Yarger
Tours come and tours go – some of them more memorably than others, but the national tour of Tony-Award-winning Memphis playing at the Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts might just be one of the closest to the Broadway originals you’ll ever see.

Top-notch performances by leads Felicia Boswell, Bryan Fenkart and a triple-threat ensemble propel the show with music and lyrics by David Bryan (formerly of Bon Jovi) and a cohesive book by Joe DiPietro (who co-wrote lyrics with Bryan) into contention for the title “best tour to come through Hartford” (and if you read my reviews regularly, you know that means something).

The story involves an interracial romance in a races-don't-mix 1950s Memphis at the birth of rock and roll. Huey (Fenkart) finds his niche, and the music of his soul, in the rhythm and blues of black clubs in the city like the one owned by Delray (Quentin Earl Darrington), where his sister Felicia (Boswell) sings. The free-spirited white man, with a bizarre taste in clothes (Paul Tazewell, costume design), is given a cautious welcome by the club’s regulars including shy singer Bobby (Will Mann) and Gator (Rhett George), who has been mute since seeing his father lynched. 
Local radio station owner Mr. Simmons (William Parry) gives Huey his big chance as an on-air host where he spins the "fantastical" black music he loves. Simmons is horrified, but it turns out white teenagers love the stuff too and the station, its advertisers and Huey head toward big profits. Huey becomes a local celebrity booking concerts and rising to host his own “American Bandstand”-like TV show with a shot to go national. His impromptu cry of “hockadoo!” excites the teens, turning them into gyrating and dancers and worrying their parents that the word means something “dirty.”
Hidden from the public, however, is his romantic relationship with Felicia.  Huey’s mother (a sensational Julie Johnson) objects, as does Delray, the former because of prejudice, the latter because he fears for his sister’s safety. Delray’s fears prove to be justified, but Huey is convinced that times are changing and that the couple can be happy together -- openly -- in Memphis. The chance for Felicia to break out as a star, and to feel safe, might only happen if she leaves for New York, however. 

Bryan’s bouncy, catchy tunes are put to action-packed choreography by Sergio Trujillo (it’s a real work out for the ensemble, which executes the dance numbers perfectly). Fenkart and Boswell’s vocal cords get a work out as well as they satisfy by nailing tune after tune (Fenkart sounds amazingly like Chad Kimball, who starred in the Broadway production, where he was the standby for Huey).
“The Music of My Soul,” “Everybody Wants to Be Black on Saturday Night,” "Someday,” Love Will Stand,” Memphis Lives in Me” and “Steal Your Rock ‘n’ Roll” have the audience bopping along. Christopher Jahnke is the Music Producer/Supervisor. Alvin Hough, Jr. conducts the excellent nine-member band. Memphis is one of those rare shows where each song stands on its own and there is enough variety between ballad and hop to keep it interesting before DiPietro's humor-laced script.

The tour, ably directed by Christopher Ashley, seems tighter than his Broadway production, for which he received a Tony nomination. Sets, designed by David Gallo are scaled back some here for travel, but don’t lose any of their appeal (recording artists appearing in the label of 45 records above the radio station is nicely done) and lighting throughout (designed by Howell Binkley) enhances the story. A scene depicting the sudden appearance of Rev. Hobson (Kent Overshown), the pastor of a black church with a gospel choir that Huey recommends to his teen audience and where his mother discovers the truth of her prejudice, is expertly done. 

Spin on over to The Bushnell, 166 Capitol Ave, Hartford, and catch this fantastical one before it's off the charts. The show runs through Sunday. For ticket and performance information, call 860- 987-5900.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

CT Arts News Updates Jan. 9-15, 2012

Hartford Children's Theatre Wins BroadwayWorld.com Awards
Hartford Children’s Theatre has won four 2011 BroadwayWorld.com Connecticut Theatre Awards including “Best Community Theatre.” Additionally, HCT’s production of Pinkalicious received the honor of “Best Musical,” Tori Mooney of West Hartford was named “Best Actress in a Musical” for her performance in the title role and 13-year-old West Hartford resident Hollis Long received the
“Best Actress Under 25” award for her performances in HCT’s Annie and Willy Wonka.

HCT presents Little Women as part of the 2011-2012 Family Main Stage Series. Louisa May Alcott’s classic American novel comes to life with music by Jason Howland, lyrics by Mindi Dickstein and a book by Allan Knee. Directed by HCT Artistic Director Ryan Ratelle with musical direction
by Louise Fauteux, Little Women opens on Friday, Jan. 13 at the Carriage House Theatre, 360 Farmington Ave., Hartford where it will continue through Sunday, Jan. 29.Tickets are $22 for adults, $17 for children (17 and under) and senior citizens and are available online at www.hartfordchildrenstheatre.org. For more information, call the Box Office on 860.249.7970.

Auditions for UConn Production
CT Rep Theater (UConn) is Seeking actor (boys only) aged 6-9 years of age for The Winter's Tale.  Mamillius is the young prince who is filled with imagination and is wise for his years.  Scenes include some dialogue to prepare.  Scenes sides will be provided once an audition is confirmed. Child actors perform as volunteers.  Rehearsals will take place in the evenings and Saturdays beginning Feb. 6 and performances will run from March 22 to April 1, 2012.  The show will be presented in the Studio Theatre.

Auditions will be held: Friday, Jan. 13 beginning at 4 pm in the Drama/Music Building on the Storrs campus. Deadline to schedule an audition appointment: Thursday, Jan. 12 at 4 pm. Parents interested in having their kids audition must confirm an appointment in advance, no later than the deadline above by calling 860-486-1629 or by sending an email to mary.hurley@uconn.edu

Auditions are scheduled on a first-come, first-served basis.  Parents will receive an audition time and a detailed rehearsal/performance schedule when their time is confirmed.

Quick Center Performances
The Fred Garbo Inflatable Theater Co. performs 1 pm Sunday, Jan. 22 at Fairfield University’s Regina A. Quick Center for the Arts. Tickets are $15 adults, $12 children.Quick Center Box Office: 203-254-4010, or toll-free 1-877-ARTS-396.  (1-877-278-7396).  Tickets can also be purchased online at www.quickcenter.com. The Quick Center is located on campus at 1073 North Benson Road, Fairfield.

Also a new exhibition opens: Sylvia Wald: Seven Decades Jan. 19 – March 18 in the Thomas J. Walsh Art Gallery. Free and open to the public. Hours: Tuesday through Saturday, 11 am to 5 pm, Sundays from noon to 4 pm and approximately one hour prior to curtain and during intermission at all Quick Center events.

M6 Ensemble at Trinity College
The M6, an ensemble dedicated to learning and interpreting works of the contemporary American composer, singer, and director-choreographer Meredith Monk, will perform at Trinity College’s Austin Arts Center on Friday, February 3 at 7:30 p.m.

The concert will feature “Tablet” (1976), a composition for three female voices, piano (four hands) and two soprano recorders, and “Dolmen Music” (1979), for six voices, cello, and percussion. The M6 will also perform selections from “Book of Days” (1985), “Facing North” (1990), and “ATLAS” (1991).

General admission tickets are $15, $10 for seniors and non-Trinity students with ID, free with Trinity ID. Tickets may be purchased at the Austin Arts Center box office, or by calling 860-297-2199. For directions, please visit http://www.trincoll.edu.

Stinky Cheese Man Visits Westport
Westport Country Playhouse kicks off its 2012 Family Festivities Series with a new twist on classic fairytales, “The Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Tales,” on Sunday, Jan. 29 at 1 and 4 pm. Tickets are $18. Birthday party rental facilities may be scheduled in advance. Pre-show children’s activities begin one hour before each performance. Everyone in the audience requires a ticket. For more information or tickets, call the box office at 203-227-4177, or toll-free at 1-888-927-7529, or visit Westport Country Playhouse, 25 Powers Court, off Route 1, Westport. Tickets are available online at www.westportplayhouse.org.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Mamma Mia! Returns to the Palace

Benny Andersson and Björn Ulvaeus’ Mamma Mia!, the smash hit musical based on the songs of ABBA, returns to the Palace Theater in Waterbury for five performances, Jan. 20-22.

Inspired by the storytelling magic of ABBA’s songs from “Dancing Queen” and “S.O.S.” to “Money, Money, Money” and “Take a Chance on Me,” Mamma Mia! is a celebration of mothers and daughters, old friends and new family found.
Donna, an independent, single mother who owns a small hotel on an idyllic Greek island, is about to let go of Sophie, the spirited daughter she’s raised alone. For Sophie’s wedding, Donna has invited her two lifelong best girlfriends from her one-time band, Donna and the Dynamos, but Sophie has secretly invited three guests of her own. On a quest to find the identity of her father to walk her down the aisle, Sophie brings back three men from Donna’s past to the Mediterranean paradise they visited 20 years earlier. Over 24 chaotic, magical hours, new love will bloom and old romances will be rekindled on this lush island full of possibilities.

Tickets range in price from $50-$70 and are available online at www.palacetheaterct.org by phone at 203-346-2000, or in person at the box office,100 East Main St.

Special Women's events Jan. 22:
Before the 1 pm matinee, the Palace will host an 11am pre-show brunch in the theater’s Poli Club dining hall featuring farm fresh scramble eggs, Belgian waffles, home fries potatoes, winter salad, gourmet coffee and more, prepared by Emily’s Catering Group. The brunch package is $75 per person, which includes orchestra seating to the matinee performance. Space is limited and reservations should be made in advance by calling the box office at 203-346-2000.

Before the Sunday evening performance, the Palace will also present a “GlaMARous Girl’s Night Out” pre-show party at 5:30 pm hosted by FoxCT “North East Living” host Mar Jennings. Guests are encouraged to wear their feather boas and tiaras, as they let out their inner “Dancing Queen” to everyone’s favorite ABBA tunes spun by ACTJams Productions mix master Al “DJ ACT” Taylor.

Patrons will also enjoy hors d’ouerves by Emily’s Catering Group and a cash bar featuring a selection of wines and martini specials before going in to see the show. The pre-show party is free with the purchase of a ticket to the 6:30pm Sunday evening performance.
 The Cathedral’s Soli Deo Orchestra and Choir.
 The Cathedral of Saint Joseph in Hartford will celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the sanctuary’s 1962 constuction with Sacred Sounds performances.

Sacred Sounds Artistic Director Ezequiel Menéndez says, “This is an exciting year for the Cathedral, which we wanted to honor with a series of concerts that demonstrate the diverse musical offerings we give through the Sacred Sounds Concert Series.”

Concert Descriptions:
Friday, January 27, 2012, 7:30pm
Sacred Sounds will celebrate the New Year with two rising stars of organ performance: 18-year-old Mary Pan of Burlington, CT and 17-year-old Monica Czausz of Chicopee, MA. These first and second place winners of the 2011 L. Cameron Johnson Memorial Organ Competition for High School Students come to showcase their talents on Cathedral of Saint Joseph’s renowned Austin Organ.

DUBOIS A L’ORGUE: Friday, February 24, 2012, 8:00pm
LA VOIX du DUBOIS: Sunday, February 26, 2012, 10:00am
As part of the International Festival Dubois honoring the life and works of composer Théodore Dubois, Sacred Sounds will host two concerts featuring the composer’s music: 
The first concert, DUBOIS a l’ORGUE, will feature noted Argentinean-born organist and Dubois scholar Diego Innocenzi performing an organ recital of the music of Dubois and his French contemporaries: Saint-Saëns, Franck, and Batiste.
The second concert, LA VOIX du DUBOIS will feature the Cathedral Choir, Cathedral Organist Ezequiel Menéndez, and organist and scholar Diego Inncocenzi performing French sacred music written for two organs and choir by Dubois and Vierne.

Sunday, March 11, 2012, 7:30pm
Sacred Sounds will continue its renowned partnership with The Hartt School in an instrumental concert led by Edward Cumming and featuring Dr. Ezequiel Menéndez in Saint-Saëns “Organ” Symphony No. 3 and Richard Strauss’ tone poem, Also sprach Zarathustra (familiar to anyone who has seen Stanley Kubrick’s film 2001: A Space Odyssey).

Friday, March 16, 2012, 7:30pm
Dr. Edward Bolkovac returns to lead the massive combined forces of the Hartford Symphony, the Hartt School Choirs, the Hartford Chorale, the New Haven Chorale, and the Cathedral Choir in an unforgettable performance of Giuseppe Verdi’s incomparable Requiem.
Sacred Sounds Music Director Dr. Ezequiel Menendez says, “This concert undoubtedly will be the largest scale production that has ever been performed in the Cathedral of Saint Joseph. We are bringing together the greatest musical forces in Connecticut for this epic piece of music- this is going to be the concert of the year.”

Sunday, April 8, 2012, 10:00am
To celebrate the most important holiday of the Christian calendar, organist Dr. Ezequiel Menendez, the Soli Deo Gloria Orchestra, Houghton College Choir and Cathedral Choir will perform a special concert on Easter Sunday.

Friday, April 27, 2012, 8:00pm
Morten Lauridsen’s transcendent Lux Aeterna (Eternal Light) is an introspective, serene work that will leave a lasting impression on the ears and the soul. For its debut performance on the Sacred Sounds Concert Series, Joe D’Eugenio will conduct the Middletown Chorale with Allan Conway on organ. This concert also will include works by Connecticut composers Peter Niedmann and Gwyneth Walker.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012, 7:30pm
Since 1985, Philippe Lefebvre has been the tenured organist of the Great Organ of Notre-Dame de Paris. For the Sacred Sounds Concert Series, he will perform a menu of French music, both traditional and modern. Maestro Lefebvre is considered to be one of the most archetypal performers and improvisers in the French style of organ playing, a tradition he shares with the world through his concert tours.

Sunday, May 6, 2012, 10:00am
Sunday, May 13, 2012, 10:00 am
Sunday, May 27, 2012, 10:00 am
To celebrate the Cathedral of Saint of Joseph’s 50th Anniversary year, the Cathedral’s professional choir, Schola Cantorum, organist Dr. Ezequiel Menendez and pianist Colin Britt will perform three concerts showcasing their many talents on Sunday mornings between the 8:30am and 11:00am Masses. 
The first concert on May 6 will feature Bonnie Pepper, Judy Bowers, Wayne Rivera, and Kevin J. Andersen performing their favorite pieces from the sacred repertoire.
The second concert on May 13 will combine the subtle beauty of the violin with the luscious sound of the human voice in performances by violinist Janet Boughton and vocalists Sarah Asmar, Heather Bell, Joshua Kohl, and Corey Gaudreau.
Finally, on May 27, vocalists Alice Matteson, Louise Fauteux, Sarah Chasse, Katherine Griswold, and Steven Fasano will come together with organist Dr. Ezequiel Menendez and pianist Colin Britt for popular solos from the sacred vocal repertoire.

TE DEUM: Mozart, Britten & More
Wednesday, May 23, 2012, 7:30pm
The Sacred Sounds Concert Series celebration of the Cathedral building’s 50th Anniversary will culminate with a performance of three contrasting settings of the “Te Deum” (“Oh God, We Praise Thee”) text by three very different composers - Arvo Pärt, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, and Benjamin Britten. Come hear this joyful music in the space that continues to be a physical symbol of spirituality in Hartford.

Location: Sacred Sounds Concert Series performances are held in the Cathedral of Saint Joseph at 140 Farmington Avenue in Hartford, CT.

Admission: There is no admission charge for concerts at the Cathedral, but a free-will offering will be accepted. For more information, visit www.cathedralofsaintjoseph.com/music-sacredsounds.

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