Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Bobby Steggert Heads Cast of Westport's 'Harbor'

Bobby Steggert
Westport Country Playhouse will stage the world premiere of a new comedy, Harbor, written by two-time Tony Award nominee Chad Beguelin and directed by Playhouse artistic director Mark Lamos, Aug. 28 – Sept. 15. The cast includes Tony Award nominee Bobby Steggert (Broadway’s Ragtime), Emmy Award nominee Paul Anthony Stewart (“Guiding Light”), Kate Nowlin and Alexis Molnar.
Harbor opens with Ted and Kevin, who have been together for 10 years, in their picture-perfect house in Sag Harbor. When Kevin's ne'er-do-well sister Donna, whom he hasn’t seen in years, and her 15-year-old daughter arrive out of the blue, the pair's idyllic life changes and tensions quickly bubble to the surface. in this new comedy about the constantly shifting nature of the meaning of family.

Playwright Chad Beguelin is a two-time Tony Award nominee for his work on the Broadway musical The Wedding Singer (Tony Award nomination for Best Book and Best Original Score, Drama Desk Award nomination for Outstanding Lyrics).

The comedy is recommended for ages 16 and up.
For more information or tickets: 203-227-4177, toll-free at 1-888-927-7529, in persona at 25 Powers Court, off Route 1, Westport, or www.westportplayhouse.org.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Sheryl Lee Ralph Will Inspire at the Palace

Waterbury native and award-winning actress, singer, activist, and author Sheryl Lee Ralph returns to her hometown for an inspirational speaking engagement and book signing at the Palace Theater in Waterbury on Friday, Aug. 3, from 6 to 9 pm.

Tickets for the event, which is presented by Stardom Productions, are $35 and can be purchased by phone at 203-346-2000, online at www.palacetheaterct.org, or in person at the Palace Theater Box Office, 100 East Main St., Waterbury.

Staged in the Palace’s orchestra lobby, the event will feature a motivational speaking program and musical performance by Ralph, as well as entertainment by world-renowned pianist Philip Weatherspoon and ACTjamsproduction.com’s mix master Al “DJ ACT” Taylor. In addition to performing, Ralph will also sign copies of her book "Redefining DIVA," an enthusiastic memoir chronicling her role as one of Broadway’s original DREAMGIRLS, as well as her longtime Hollywood career, various humanitarian projects and inspirational message regarding the redefinition and embracement of the label “D.I.V.A.” (Divinely Inspired Victoriously Anointed).

An acclaimed veteran of film, television and the Broadway stage, Ralph’s award-winning body of work includes creating and originating the role of “Deena Jones” in Broadway’s landmark musical DREAMGIRLS, which earned her both a Tony and Drama Desk Award Nomination for “Best Actress.”

On television, she has starred in her own series “New Attitude,” the George Foreman series “George,” the hit comedy “Designing Women,” and the number-one rated series “Moesha.” Ralph’s extensive film credits includeSister Act II, The Flintstones, The Mighty Quinn with Denzel Washington,Mistress with Robert De Niro, Eddie Murphy'sDistinguished Gentleman, and her Independent Spirit Award-winning “Best Supporting Actress” performance inTo Sleep with Anger.

As a national speaker, Ralph consistently creates a contagious, positive energy with her spontaneous humor and quick wit, which has made her a much sought-after speaker, guest-host and celebrity expert. Proceeds from her Palace Theater appearance will benefit the DIVA foundation, a non-profit organization founded by Ralph in 1990 that focuses on generating resources and producing events that raise awareness and educate people around the world affected and infected by HIV/AIDS. For more information, visit www.sherylleeralph.com.

Cabaret Conference Kicks Off at O'Neil Aug. 1

Performances Feature Marilyn Maye, Steve Blanchard, Amanda McBroom, Jeremiah James, Veanne Cox, Gretchen Cryer, Loni Ackerman, Christine Andreas

The Eugene O’Neill Theater Center’s 2012 Cabaret & Performance Conference runs Aug. 1- 11.

It re-examines, redefines, and revitalizes the cabaret art form for the 21st Century. Over an intense two-week period, the Conference provides hands-on guidance and instruction to a select group chosen by application and invitation, as well as the development of special “Cabaret Theater” projects with the top names in theater today.  This year’s conference will be highlighted by a special mainstage event on Friday, Aug. 3 with “AC-CENT-TCHU-ATE THE POSITIVE”, a  Johnny Mercer Celebration, created with the support of the Johnny Mercer Foundation, featuring performances from all the Conference artists.

This year’s featured guest artists include solo acts by the timeless and resurgent Marilyn Maye, whose performance venues have ranged from the renowned Rose Hall at The Lincoln Center to more than 70 appearances on the Johnny Carson Show; Loni Ackerman, one of Andrew Lloyd Webber's great leading ladies, having starred on Broadway in the original productions of Evita, CATS, and Sunset Boulevard; and Christine Andreas, fresh off her year-long tour starring as Jacqueline in the Tony & Olivier Award-winning Production of La Cage aux Folles starring Kelsey Grammer and Douglas Hodge.

Other special guests include the O’Neill’s own Penny Fuller, a Tony and Drama Desk Award-nominated actress, who also returns for her eighth season as Artistic Associate; Jeremiah James, recently cast as the mysterious El Gallo in the Off-Broadway production of The Fantasticks; playwright, lyricist, and actress Gretchen Cryer in a sequel to 2011’s Off Broadway hit I’m Getting My Act Together and Taking It on the Road; Amanda McBroom, performer and lyricist whose international appearances include Carnegie Hall, FORD Amphitheatre in L.A, The Kennedy Center, Angel Recital Hall in Sydney, and Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall in Taiwan; and Steve Blanchard, who starred as the Beast in Beauty and the Beast for a ten-year run on Broadway; and stage and screen actress and Tony Award nominee together with Veanne Cox, whose stage credits include Company, SMILE, and Caroline, or Change, in 40 Naked Women, A Monkey, and Me - In concert.

Joining Artistic Director Michael Bush and Fuller in guiding the Conference are Artistic Associates Barry Kleinbort and Donna Trinkoff. Kleinbort is a composer, director and lyricist who has received the prestigious Edward Kleban Foundation Award and ten Manhattan Association of Cabaret (MAC) Awards, among many others; Trinkoff is Artistic Director of Amas Musical Theatre and a producer of the Off-Broadway hit Silence! The Musical.

2012 Cabaret & Performance Conference Lineup
(Schedule and artists subject to change)

Wednesday, August 1
8:00 pm – Cabaret Opening Night Ceremonies
Michael Bush, Artistic Director, hosts a very special opening night complete with sneak previews of special guest artists.
General Admission: FREE

Thursday, August 2

8:00 pm – Marilyn Maye - Special Guest Artist Performance!

“She can belt, and sing ballads with the kind of warmth that makes your heart smile. She has a theatrical flair that captivates and enthralls.”

-Rex Reed, New York Observer

General Admission: $35; $30 (members)

Friday, August 3
8:00 pm – “AC-CENT-TCHU-ATE THE POSITIVE” - A Johnny Mercer Celebration
An evening celebrating the legendary Johnny Mercer, featuring Penny Fuller, Marilyn Maye, Amanda McBroom, and more. Made possible with support from the Johnny Mercer Foundation. Admission: $40; $35 (members)

Saturday, August 4
8:00 pm – Still Getting My Act Together - In concert
Written by Gretchen Cryer & Nancy Ford
The sequel to the Off Broadway hit, I’m Getting My Act Together and Taking It on the Road, starring the fantastic Gretchen Cryer and Sheri Sanders.
General Admission: $40; $35 (members)

Sunday, August 5
6:00 pm – 2012 O’Neill Follies
An endlessly entertaining, two-act evening featuring new cabaret sets from the best and brightest, including Leanne Borghesi, Jeremiah James, Susan Winter, and the O’Neill’s own Penny Fuller. General Admission: $35; $30 (members)

Tuesday, August 7
8:00 pm – Loni Ackerman in Next to Ab-normal
In this new cabaret show, Next to Ab-Normal, Broadway regular Loni Ackerman recalls personal stories of her unusual New York upbringing and revisits songs she sang in New York hits like “Starting Here, Starting Now.”
General Admission: $35; $30 (members)

Wednesday, August 8

8:00 pm – Christine Andreas - In Concert

Featuring 2012 Cabaret Junior Fellows

Enjoy sights and sounds from the O’Neill’s young cabaret stars, together with the talented Christine Andreas.

General Admission: $40; $35 (members)

Thursday, August 9
8:00 pm – 2012 Cabaret Fellows
Join the talented class of 2012 Cabaret Fellows for an evening of exciting new cabaret and other special projects.
General Admission: $35; $30 (members)

Friday, August 10
8:00 pm – 40 Naked Women, A Monkey, and Me - In Concert
Written by Jonathan Brielle
Come see the phenomenal Veanne Cox in this stirring musical extravaganza, written by Jonathan Brielle, featuring a guest eight-piece orchestra.
General Admission: $35; $30 (members)

Saturday, August 11
Join our Cabaret Conference Fellows and Guest Artists for a final gala evening that caps off a wonderful week, featuring a little bit of everything and a little bit of everyone! Post-show reception to follow.
General Admission: $45; $40 (members)
Table seating for two: $60; $50 (members)
Table seating for four: $220; $180 (members)

Table seating, including a bottle of wine, is available for each show. Cabaret tables for two are $50; $40 for members. Cabaret tables for four are $180; $140 for members. Most evenings close with a public “Open Mic” at Blue Gene’s Pub, featuring performances by Conference fellows, special guest artists, and O’Neill artistic and production staff.

All performances take place in the Dina Merrill Theater. Please call the O’Neill Box Office at 860-443-1238 or visit www.theoneill.org for reservations.

Long Wharf Youth Shake Up Shakespeare

Fairy Queen Titania (played by Nina Dicker of Old Saybrook) sleeps in her bower as her fairy Peaseblossom (played by Dawn Williams of Trumbull), stand watch.
William Shakespeare’s classic tale of love and magic gets a fun new twist in this summer’s Shake-it-up-Shakespeare Youth Ensemble production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
The play is adapted and directed by Long Wharf Theatre’s Director of Education Annie DiMartino. Musical direction is by Carol Taubl. Twenty-three local actors, ranging in age from 15 to 21 and from all over southern Connecticut, are performing the play.
The show will take place on Stage II from Thursday through Saturday, Aug. 23 -25 at 8 pm, and Sunday, Aug. 26 at 3 pm. Tickets are $10, general admission, and can be purchased by calling 203-787-4282.
Lovers jump and jive their way through the magic of Shakespeare’s language while incorporating classic songs from the 1950s, including “Rock Around The Clock” and “Hound Dog.” Fairies slither and crawl their way through their animal kingdom while singing contemporary rock music featuring artists like Florence and The Machine and Christina Perri.
The cast, comprised of students aged 15 to 21, includes Lauren Buonasora (North Haven), Chloe Chappa (Middletown), Nina Dicker (Old Saybrook,) Gabriel DiMartino (Middletown), Matthew Johnson (Trumbull), Bowen Kirwood (Easton), Jane Logan (Branford), Alex Luft (Middletown), Celine Montaudy (Norwalk), Tommy Ordway (Easton), Ethan Pierson (Milford,) Ryan Ronan (West Haven), Maya Rose (Bethany), Rachel Skalka (Woodbridge), Jack Taubl (New Haven), James Taubl (New Haven), Jeremiah Taubl (New Haven), Sam Taubl (New Haven), Henry Tobelman (Branford), Kira Topalian (Milford), Erik Van Eck (Ivoryton), Emily Walters (Woodbridge), Dawn Williams (Trumbull).
For more information, visit www.longwharf.org or call 203-787-4282.

Reservations Open for TheaterWorks' Tryst

TheaterWorks presents Tryst, an Edwardian romance/ psychological thriller. It's the story of a handsome con-man who preys on well-off women, wooing them, marrying them, and leaving them penniless … that is, until he meets his match. This taut period thriller is compellingly modern and intelligent with a startling climax.

Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays - 7:30 pm
Fridays and Saturdays - 8 pm
Weekend Matinees - 2:30 pm

For tickets, call CALL 860 527-7838 or visit www.theaterworkshartford.org.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Theater Review: Tartuffe -- Westport

Marc Kudisch (Tartuffe) and Jeanine Serralles (Dorine). Photo by T. Charles Erickson
Deception Takes a Darker Tone in Updated Tartuffe
By Lauren Yarger
Comedy in rhyme is no easy feat, especially if you are trying to stage a 17th-century classic in the 21st century and director David Kennedy's tact at the Westport Country Playhouse, where Moliere's classic Tartuffe is getting a run, is to give us a darker, more sinister  protagonist -- and modern clothes.

In some ways, it works. The language (translated into English by Richard Wilbur) still rhymes, but isn't bogged down by more reminders of its antiquity by period fashions (the costumes are designed by Ilona Somogyi). Even the set  (Wilson Chin, design) is sparse (minus a gigantic cross and an anachronistic appearance by the Sun King, Louis XIV) so attention remains with the story.

A transient named Tartuffe (Marc Kudish) has ingratiated himself into the Paris home of Orgon (Mark Nelson). He has charmed Orgon and his mother, Madame Parnelle (Patricia Connolly) with his supposed devotion to God, but other members of the household aren't fooled. When Organo's son, Damis (Justin Adams), reveals that the house guest has made unwelcome and ungentlemanly advances toward Organo's wife, Elmire (Nadia Bowers), Orgon refuses to believe it and disinherits Damis. So taken in by Tartuffe is Orgon, that he also orders his daughter, Mariane (Charies Castro Smith) to break her engagement to her true love, Valere (Matthew Amenot), and make the pious houseguest his son-in-law instead. He also signs a deed giving all of his estate to Tartuffe, who quickly acts to have Orgon and his family evicted.

It's one of those stories that might have seemed really funny in 1664, but loses something over the centuries. Fortunately, this version has a shining flash -- and no, it's not that odd appearance by Louis XIV (lighting design by Matthew Richards). It's Jeanine Serralles in the role of Dorine, the free-speaking maid, who comes to Mariane's aid in trying to get the girl's father to relent in his plans to marry her off to Tartuffe. Serralles takes command of the rhyming verse and somehow makes it contemporary and very funny. Her every gesture is in perfect harmony with the words and her performance really is a triumph -- a blend of old and new, of wit and lyric. She eats the scenery whenever she is on stage and in truth, interest wanes whenever she is absent from a scene. With the notable exception of Tyrone Mitchell Henderson who plays Cleante, Elmire's brother, the cast delivers the metered verse ably, but none of them get it to sing like Serralles. (Rounding out the ensemble are Chrissy Albanese, Jeremy Lawrence and William Peden).
Kudish focuses on the sinister side of Tartuffe -- the lust-filled, manipulative impostor who takes advantage of his prey's weakness and seeks to take whatever he can before the kill. It's a different take than we usually see in the staging of this Moliere work and Tartuffe lacks charm -- as well as humor. He leaves us confused about why Orgon and his mother were ever so taken with him in the first place.
The play runs about two and a half hours with one intermission. Performances are Tuesday at 8 pm, Wednesday at 2 and 8 pm, Thursday and Friday at 8 pm, Saturday at 3 and 8 pm and Sunday at 3 pm.  An open-captioned performance for the hearing impaired is planned for Sunday, July 29 at 3 pm. For more information or tickets, call 203-227-4177, toll-free 1-888-927-7529, visit the box office at Westport Country Playhouse, 25 Powers Court, off Route 1, Westport; or visit www.westportplayhouse.org.

Tartuffe has been extended with an extra performance added on Sunday, August 5, at 3 pm.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Pirates of Penzance Wraps Up Nutmeg Series at CT Rep

Sean Martin Hingston (left, Pirate King) with Ryan N. Phillips (Frederic) and Diane Phelan (Mabel) in Connecticut Repertory Theatre’s Nutmeg Summer Series production of Gilbert & Sullivan’s The Pirates of Penzance, playing in the Harriet S. Jorgensen Theatre, UConn, Storrs, July 12 – 22.  For tickets and information call 860-486-2113 and visit www.crt.uconn.edu.  Photo by Bob Copley.
Don't miss the conclusion of the Nutmeg Summer Series for CT Rep at the UConn campus with an enjoyable Pirates of Penzance wrapping up this weekend at the Jorgenson Theatre.

Gilbert & Sullivan’s comic operetta, directed by Broadway veteran Terrence Mann, stars Seán Martin Hingston as the Pirate King, Steven Hayes as the Major-General and Connecticut native Diane Phelan as Mabel. Cassie Abate choreographsvid Williams is Music Director (the five musicians. on stage, wear pirate garb).

The Design team includes: Michael Anania, Scenic Designer; Olivera Gajic, Costume Designer; Greg Purnell, Lighting Designer and Nathan Leigh, Sound Designer.

The tap-dancing cops alone are worth the trip up to Storrs.


Evening performances tonight at 8 and tomorrow at 2 pm. Single ticket prices range from $10 to $42. Free parking is in Lot 9 across from the Jorgensen Center; paid parking is available in the North Garage). Call 860-486-2113 or visit www.crt.uconn.edu for tickets and additional information.
-- Lauren Yarger

Book Discussion Highlights Exhibit on Racial Separation at Stowe Center

The free Nook Farm Book Talks series presents a bonus summer event, Them: A Novel by Nathan McCall, on Thursday, Aug. 9 from 5:30 to 7 pm at the Harriet Beecher Stowe Center.  The discussion will be led by Michelle McFarland from the Hartford Public Library.  Participants may arrive at 4:30 pm for free admission to the exhibit, THEM: Images of Separation, on loan from the Jim Crow Museum of Racist Memorabilia.

In McCall’s story, ‘Them’ refers to both the black residents of an inner-city Atlanta community and the young white families who buy properties and move in, changing the character of the neighborhood.  Through characters that capture the country’s struggles with the realities of gentrification, the book tackles the complex interplay of class, race and economics in urban America. 
Both the book and the Stowe Center’s exhibit show how groups of people can be marginalized for being “different”.  While McCall’s book focuses on the separation of blacks and whites, THEM: Images of Separation shows artifacts that target Asian-Americans, African Americans, Hispanics, Jews, poor whites, women, and people marked as “different” because of how they look, their body type or sexual orientation. 
According to Katherine Kane, Stowe Center Executive Director, the book discussion and exhibit are designed to call attention to intolerance, promote discussion and encourage action. 
“We use Stowe’s story to inspire positive change,” says Kane.  “We hope to encourage tolerance and promote social justice.”
The evening’s schedule:4:30 – 5:30       View exhibit and enjoy refreshments in the Katharine Day House5:30 – 7:00       Discussion in the air conditioned Visitor CenterNote that the exhibit is appropriate for ages 13+.  Registration is suggested:  Call 860-522-9258 ext. 317 or e-mail Info@StoweCenter.org 
The book is available for purchase in the Stowe Visitor Center.  Free, secure parking is available at the Stowe Center , 77 Forest St., Hartford, and The Mark Twain House & Museum, 351 Farmington Ave., parking lots.
The Nook Farm Book Talks is a collaboration between the Stowe Center and The Mark Twain House & Museum, made possible in part by the Connecticut Humanities Council.  Nook Farm Book Talks continue Sept. 13 with a discussion of The Help by Katherine Stockett at the Stowe Center.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Youngsters Perform High School Musical 2 at New Canaan

Cast of the Summer Theatre of New Canaan Junior Company’s production of Disney’s High School Musical 2. Photo courtesy of STONC.
Disney’s High School Musical 2will be performed on Friday, July 27 at 4pm at the Summer Theatre of New Canaan Festival Theatre Tent in Waveny Park New Canaan.
The show features Summer Theatre of New Canaan Junior Company young actors in 5th – 8th grades who have rehearsed for three weeks along side the Summer Theatre’s actors, choreographer Doug Shankman and directors Melody Meitrott Libonati and Jodi Stevens Bryce. The Junior Company performance is open to all and admission is free to the public. 
Featured in the company are Alexandra Allen: Sharpay Evans, Mallory Bennhoff: Jenny Scott Claire Brunner: Peaches (Sharpette), Allison Demers: Gabriella Montez, Caitlin Golynker: Martha Cox, Halley Jeffrey: Violet (Sharpette), Caitlin Golynker: Martha Cox, Halley Jeffrey: Violet (Sharpette), Caroline Kelly: Lily (Sharpette), Claire Leville: Blossom (Sharpette), Johnny Renda: Ryan Evans, Grace Rucci: Kelsi Nielsen, Chase Jansen: Troy Bolton, Johann George: Chad Danforth.
The Junior Company is part of the Summer Theatre educational outreach and pre-school through young adult programs. These programs include:
Theatre for a Young Audience series based on popular culture professionally presented to provide a rich in quality theatre experience for pre- and early school age children.
TheJunior Company for middle school students learn fundamentals in acting and performance as well a presenting a show working alongside theater professionals.
The High School Apprentice Theatre Intensive which is a pre-college acting/theatre program and The DramaRamas Special Kids acting company for children 8-18 and the Professional College Internship program.
More info about the Summer Theatre of New Canaan can be found by visiting www.stonc.org
or calling 203-966-4634.

Weather Postpones Tonight's Talcott Mountain Concert

The Hartford Symphony Orchestra’s performance of Big Country at the Talcott Mountain Music Festival has been postponed due to a forecast of rain for this evening.  Friday concert tickets will be honored tomorrow evening at the Saturday, July 21 at the 7:30 pm Rain Date performance.  Please check the website for further weather updates tomorrow (www.hartfordsymphony.org).

Patrons who have already purchased tickets for tonight and are unable to attend on Saturday can call HSO Ticket Services at (860) 244-2999 between Monday, July 23 and Friday, July 27 for exchange options.
Extended Box Office hours: The HSO’s Box Office at the Simsbury Performing Arts Center will open Saturday starting at 11 am and tickets will also be available to purchase by phone at 860-244-2999 from 11 am to 3 pm. Additionally, tickets are available for purchase online at www.hartfordsymphony.org. until 5 pm.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Get Social with Some Ice Cream at the Mark Twain House

 The Clemens family on the porch, 1885. Credit: The Mark Twain House & Museum. Photo courtesy of MTH&M
Lawn games, live music, hot dogs, discounted tours and ice cream donated by the UConn Dairy Bar, Shady Glenn, and Royal Ice Cream await visitors at this year's annual Ice Cream Social at the Mark Twain House & Museum Thursday, July 26, from 5 to 7 pm.

After the social, a preview screening of the documentary "Linotype: The Film," a look at the unusual way printing technology changed in Mark Twain's day and after will be offered (admission is by donation).

Also being scooped up:
-- Discounted tours of the first floor of the historic Mark Twain House, available for $5 from 5 to 7:15 pm. All the exhibits in the Museum Center, including the featured exhibit "Race, Rage, and Redemption," also will be free.

-- The renowned Phil Rosenthal Duo will present its lively program of traditional and original folk, bluegrass and country music on the patio, featuring two-part harmony vocals and toe-tapping instrumental work.

-- Woody's Hot Dog Cart will have its famed hot dogs available for purchase.

-- Croquet and other lawn games will be tearing up the Great Lawn for the enjoyment of all ages.

Arts Connections

Riverfront Recapture Hartford Pops Concert
Part of the Olmsted Summer Concert Series.  Come hear your favorite American Musical highlights in this spectacular outdoor setting. This concert is guaranteed to encourage you to sing along with the tunes you know and love. (Humming will be allowed) With a smattering of other outdoor concert favorites, Gary Partridge will lead the band in a concert not to be missed. Food and beverages including beer and wine will be available for purchase.
7 pm at Great River Park.

The Ivoryton Playhouse continues the tradition of Friday morning children’s shows with some familiar stories and some new: Little Red Riding Hood, The Emperor’s New Clothes, The Princess and the Pea and Hans Christian Anderson’s All’s Well That Ends WellNominated for an Emmy for its two primetime specials on CBS, Pushcart Players is celebrating its 37th year as a touring ensemble. July 27 at 11 am. Tickets are $12 and are available by calling the Playhouse box office at 860-767-7318 or by visiting our website at www.ivorytonplayhouse.org. (Group rates are available by calling the box office forinformation.) The Playhouse is located at 103 Main Street in Ivoryton.

Ivoryton also is holding local Equity and non-Equity auditions for the musical production Breaking Up Is Hard To Do: featuring the music of Neil Sedaka. Auditions are Friday , July 27 from 10 am to 6 pm at the Rehearsal Studio, 24 Main St., Centerbrook, CT. Auditions are by appointment and actors should bring a picture and resume and prepare a song in the style of the show. Sides are available on the website – www.ivorytonplayhouse.org. First rehearsal: Sept. 11. Runs: Sept. 26 – Oct. 14. Matinees: Wednesday, Sunday. Evenings: Wednesday through Saturday. For appointment call 860-767-7318.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Theater Review: Harispray -- Ivoryton

Michael Barra and Jill Sullivan. Photo courtesy of The Ivoryton Playhouse
1962 Baltimore Comes to Life at Ivoryton
By Lauren Yarger
Jill Sullivan turns on the charm as hair-teasing, new-dance-craze-loving, lovesick Tracy Turnblad in Ivoryton Playhouse's production of Hairspray, running through July 29.

It's 1962 Baltimore, where racial tension and segregation provide a backdrop for teen angst and lots of catchy tunes by Marc Shaiman (lyrics by Shaiman and Scott Wittman) performed to stage-defying choreography by JR Bruno who manages to get some 15 ensemble members bopping around  at times without crashing into each other on the small stage. Vivianna Lamb designs era-evoking costumes that also help set the stage with the help of some fun wigs designed by Joel Silvestro.

Tracy gets the chance of a lifetime -- to dance on the popular Corny Collins (Sam Schrader) TV show (think American Bandstand) -- and to meet her heartthrob, dancer Link Larkin (Justin Gerard). Amber Von Tussle (Bethany Fitzgerald), whose mother, Velma (Tara Michelle Gesling), just happens to be the show's producer, isn't happy about the sudden competition Tracy represents, both for Amber's dance partner, Link, or for the title Miss Hairspray being touted by the show's sponsor, Mr. Spritzer (R. Bruce Connelly, who plays a few different roles).

Tracy's mom, Edna (Michael Barra), isn't thrilled either, afraid that her daughter will be mocked because of her larger size. Tracy is encouraged, however, by her dad, Wilbur (a very engaging Neal Mayer), her best friend, Penny Pingleton (Abby Hart) and her new friend from detention/special ed and dance inspiration, Seaweed J. Stubbs (a delightfully smooth-voiced Gregory Lawrence Gardner). When Tracy decides that her black friends should be allowed to dance with her and the white dancers on the TV show, race tension, jail time and interracial romance all ensue.

Director Jacqueline Hubbard does a nice job casting and staging this production (assisted by Bruno), though it lacks a cohesiveness. Individual performers, especially Sullivan with her really good singing voice, are impressive, but we don't feel group energy.

Cully Long creates a set that looks like it might have decorated a high school gym for prom and incorporates video screen for enhancement of the musical numbers and a "working" TV that brings the Corny Collins show into the Turnblads' living room. John Sebastian DeNicola ably music directs the familiar tunes including "Good Morning, Baltimore," "I Can Hear the Bells," and "You Can't Stop the Beat" (the show won eight Tony awards including best musical and score) and conducts the eight-member band.

Standing out among the really talented ensemble are "The Dynamites," (Kimberly Morgan, Shereen Macklin and Alana Cauthen) and Karen Anderson as Motormouth Maybelle. Her rendition of "I Know Where I've Been" with a video/still shot montage of images from the Civil Rights movement is very moving. In fact, the use of  '60's era images throughout the show is exceptional. Keep an eye on them, as its easy to get caught up in the fun taking place on the stage and miss them.

While the show might have snagged a bunch of Tonys, there are some puzzles about that. First, the book by Mark O'Donnell and Thomas Meehan is pretty shallow, relying on stereotype and easy laughs while not allowing for a whole lot of character development in a story that really begs some when difficult issues such as obesity, racial segregation and parental abuse are in play.

Harvey Fierstein won the Tony for his performance as Edna, and the role is always played by a man. Why? I don't know. There's no reason a woman couldn't play the fun role -- and might actually bring more depth to it. Lines like, "No, I'm not her father," when Edna answers the phone might be funnier if someone seriously couldn't mistake the deep male voice answering for Tracy's dad. Here, Barra doesn't attempt to be a female Edna. He just performs the role, which is what it is -- an overweight person who does other people's laundry, regretting the loss of the dream of one day designing a line of clothing. Edna is protective of her daughter and in love with her husband, who loves her unconditionally. (Hear anything in that description that says, "must be played by a man?")

There were some technical issues, but I saw a preview, so let's hope the kinks were worked out by the opening. (One note to Link --  heart throbs don't wear feminine looking hair clips -- to hold the microphone cord).

Performance times are Wednesday and Sunday matinees at 2 pm. Evening performances are Wednesday and Thursday at 7:30 pm, Friday and Saturday at 8 pm. Tickets are $40 for adults, $35 for seniors, $20 for students and $15 for children and are available by calling 860-767-7318 or by visiting www.ivorytonplayhouse.org (Group rates are available by calling the box office for information.) The Playhouse is located at 103 Main  Street in Ivoryton.

Seven Angels Announces Mainstage Lineup

Seven Angels Theatre, Waterbury has announced its 22nd Mainstage Series. For information and tickets, visit http://sevenangelstheatre.org.

THE LAST ROMANCE by Joe DiPietro October 18-November 11
Joe DiPietro (Playwright – Over the River and Through The Woods, and Book – Memphis, All Shook Up and I Love You Your Perfect, Now Change) comes his romantic comedy THE LAST ROMANCE. A crush can make anyone feel young again—even a widower named Ralph. On an ordinary day in a routine life, Ralph decides to take a different path on his daily walk—one that leads him to an unexpected second chance at love. Relying on a renewed boyish charm, Ralph attempts to woo the elegant, but distant, Carol. Defying Carol’s reticence—and his lonely sister’s jealousy—Ralph embarks on the trip of a lifetime and regains a happiness that seemed all but lost. A heart-warming comedy about the transformative power of love. You’re sure to fall in love with this tale that mixes heartbreak with humor and opera with laughter.

MIRACLE ON 34TH STREET November 29-December 23
Music, Book and Lyrics by Meridith Wilson
From Meridith Wilson, the composer of The Music Man, comes the delightful musical adaptation of the classic holiday movie MIRACLE ON 34TH STREET
Kris Kringle takes on the cynics among us in this holiday favorite spreading a wave of love throughout New York City, fostering camaraderie between Macy’s and Gimbel’s Department Stores, and convincing a divorced, cynical single mother, her somber daughter and the entire state of New York that Santa Claus is no myth. Filled with humor and such beloved songs as “It’s Beginning To Look A Lot Like Christmas” this joyous, heart-warming musical is pure family entertainment and the perfect holiday theatrical treat!

SAY GOODNIGHT, GRACIE by Rupert Holmes February 14-March 10
This Tony Award nominated play is based on the relationship between George Burns and Gracie Allen. George Burns, whose career spanned over 90 years of American entertainment history, laughingly lived and loved each day for all it had to offer. A solo tour de force and a tender, funny, life-affirming love story.
Tony Award nomination Best Play 2003 and 2003-04 National Broadway
Theatre Award Best Play.

THE IMMIGRANT March 21-April 21
Book by Mark Harelik. Lyrics by Sarah Knapp. Music by Steven M. Alper
The Immigrant is the biographical story of the author’s grandfather, a young Jew who fled the pogroms of Czarist Russia in 1909 and pushed his banana cart into the tiny Baptist community of Hamilton, Texas. A true story of parents and children, newcomers and natives, Christians and Jews, and the realization of the American Dream. The Immigrant received two Drama Desk nominations: Outstanding Book of a Musical and Outstanding Orchestrations. “

Music by Tom Kitt Book and Lyrics by Brian Yorkey
The acclaimed, groundbreaking musical that took Broadway by storm. Winner of 3 Tony Awards and the 2010 Pulitzer Prize. With a thrilling contemporary score, NEXT TO NORMAL is an emotional powerhouse about a family trying to take care of themselves and each other.

Tickets on Sale for O'Neill Center Gala

Connecticut Arts Connection News Briefs

John Meilleur and John Regan in a performance of The Music of Elton John.
  • The Hartford Symphony Orchestra will pay tribute to this living legend at Rocket Man: The Music of Elton John at the Talcott Mountain Music Festival on Friday, July 13, 2012 at 7:30 p.m. at the Performing Arts Center at Simsbury Meadows.  Led by guest conductor Bradley Thachuk, this concert will feature Sir Elton’s greatest hits, including Your Song, I Guess That’s Why They Call It The Blues, Rocket Man, Daniel, Tiny Dancer, and Circle of Life, as performed by vocalist John Meilleur, pianist and vocalist John Regan, bassist Mitch Tyler, drummer Jeff Christmas, and, of course, the Hartford Symphony Orchestra. Ticket Information: Subscriptions to the 2012 Talcott Mountain Music Festival range in price from $100-$1420; single tickets range in price from $20-$45; and lawn tickets for kids 12 and under are $5. Discounts are available for tickets purchased in advance. For more ticketing information, please contact HSO ticket services at (860)244-2999 or visit www.hartfordsymphony.org.
  • YALE SCHOOL OF DRAMA (James Bundy, Dean;Victoria Nolan, Deputy Dean) has appointed Michael Yeargan as Co-Chair of the Design Department, alongside current Co-ChairStephen Strawbridge, effective July 1. He will succeed Donald M. Oenslager ProfessorMing Cho Lee who will continue to teach full-time in the Design Department at Yale School of Drama, where he has taught since 1969 and has chaired or co-chaired the Department since 1993.
  • Premier Concerts and Manic Productions proudly present MORRISSEY live in concert in his onlyConnecticut appearance, Saturday, October 6, at 8p.m. at the Palace Theater inWaterbury.  Tickets are $62, $52, and $42, plus service charges, 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 Street in Waterbury.
  • Wesleyan University’s Center for the Arts presents two performances by the New York-based dance company Brian Brooks Moving Company, featuring the New England premiere of the work "Big City" (2012), onThursday, July 12 and Friday, July 13, 2012 at 8pm in the CFA Theater, located at 271 Washington Terrace on the Wesleyan campus in Middletown.
    Click here to watch a video about the creation of Brian Brooks Moving Company's "Big City" in Santa Barbara on YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M-ICHEGOafo&feature=player_embedded. Admission for the performance by Brian Brooks Moving Company is $22 for the general public; $19 for senior citizens and Wesleyan faculty/staff; and $10 for students. Tickets are available online at http://www.wesleyan.edu/cfa, by phone at (860) 685-3355, or in person at the Wesleyan University Box Office, located in the Usdan University Center, 45 Wyllys Avenue, Middletown. Tickets may also be purchased at the door beginning one hour prior to the performance, subject to availability. The Center for the Arts accepts cash, checks written to “Wesleyan University”, and all major credit cards. Groups of ten or more may receive a discount – please call (860) 685-3355 for details. No refunds, cancellations, or exchanges. All programs, artists and dates are subject to change. All Center for the Arts facilities are air-conditioned.
The Mark Twain House:
  • On the anniversary -- Friday, July 6, at 5:30 pm -- author Michael Downs will speak on the Hartford Circus Fire, describe his literary take on it, and read from the book at The Mark Twain House & Museum. A reception at 5 pm will precede the talk, and a booksigning will follow. The event is free.
  • The Hartford has awarded a $75,000 gift to The Mark Twain House & Museum to help with important museum initiatives, including writing and literacy programs, public programs and events.
  • The Connecticut Film Festival (www.ctfilmfest.com) continues its occasional series of important films at The Mark Twain House & Museum on Friday, July 27, at 7:30 p.m.with Black Tulip, a 2010 film set in Afghanistan directed by Sonia Nassery Cole.
  • The Mark Twain House & Museum's Sunday Jazz Brunches, presented by Japanalia Music, continue on Sunday, July 22, with "Romance Tropical"  -- an appearance by Hartford's acclaimed guitarist, bassist and band leader Carlos Hernández Chávez. Carlos Hernández Chávez appears Sunday, July 22, at 11:30 a.m. and 1:15 a.m., at the Murasaki Cafe at The Mark Twain House & Museum. The $35 admission includes the performance, full brunch, soft drinks and hot beverages. Alcoholic beverages are available at an additional charge. Call 860-280-3130 for reservations.
  • Harold: The Boy Who Became Mark Twain is the July selection for Nook Farm Book Talk, The Mark Twain House & Museum's book club-style collaboration with the Harriet Beecher Stowe Center next door. Participants in the free event will read and discuss Holbrook's affecting memoir of growing up behind disguises, and his lifelong search for himself. The discussion will be held at The Mark Twain House & Museum, 351 Farmington Avenue, Hartford, Conn., on Thursday, June 12. A 5:00 p.m. reception will be followed by the 5:30 pm discussion. The event is free, but registration is encouraged at 860-522-9258, Ext. 317.
  • In a parody inspired by the great original game, a full-fledged murder mystery will be laid out for visitors to solve during The Mark Twain House & Museum's "Get a Clue" Tour, Friday, July 13, and Saturday, July 14. The one-hour experience provoked fun, intrigue and hilarity among visitors fortunate enough to take part in the tours when they debuted last winter. Moving from room to room in the mysterious gloom of evening, probing dark corners of the house (magnifying glasses optional), visitors will get clues to help them in their detection and make their guesses. Finally, in a stunning reveal, all will become clear and the perpetrator unmasked. Members of Hartford's Sea Tea Improv comedy troupe portray the suspects, who are based on famous literary characters Twain created in the very house where the mystery unfolds. The "Get a Clue" tours will be held Friday, July 13, and Saturday, July 14, from 7 to 10 pm. Tickets are $20 ($16 for members); $13 for children 16 and under. The hour-long tours step off every 15 minutes. Reservartions are required! Call 860-280-3130.

Star-Crossed Lovers Under the Stars

Erin Scanlon as Juliet in 2003 production. Photo by Sebastian Paczynski
William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet will be performed under the stars this summer at three unique venues in Bridgeport and Stratford: The Peacock Pavilion at CT’s Beardsley Zoo, historic McLevy Green in Bridgeport’s flourishing downtown area; and on the grounds of The American Shakespeare Festival Theater in Stratford as part of Festival! Stratford. The performances are produced by Connecticut Free Shakespeare (CFS), now in its thirteenth season. As the name implies, admission is free.
As crafted by Producing Artistic Director, Ellen Lieberman, modern day audiences can easily relate to the play’s timeless themes of first love, rebellion, hate, and loyalty to family. Ms. Lieberman’s productions are true to Shakespeare’s language and intentions and are held in high esteem by die-hard Shakespeare lovers, as well as by people who never thought they’d like Shakespearean plays. Performances take place from 8-10:30 pm; July 13-15 and July 18-22 at the zoo; July 25-29 at McLevy Green; and August 1, 2, 4 and 5 at Festival! Stratford. There is a 10 pm performance on August 3 at Festival! Stratford. Audiences should bring chairs or blankets for seating and are encouraged to come early to picnic. The zoo reopens at 6:30 pm for picnickers. Cancelled, if rainy.

Romeo is played by Mark Friedlander, and Erin Scanlon is cast as Juliet. Eric Nyquist plays Mercutio; Tom Evans is Paris and the Apothecary; Stephen Humes plays Tybalt; Ian Eaton is Benvolio; Liliane Klein is The Nurse; Jamil Mangan is Friar Laurence; Alejandro Lopez is Friar John; Jerrial Young is Lord Montague; Lila Smith is Lady Montague; Jonathan Holtzman is Lord Capulet; Virginia Bartholomew is Lady Capulet; Tomike Ogugua is The Prince; and Gabriel Aprea is Balthazar. The ensemble cast are Maximillian Baron, Siena D’Addario, Austin DiBari, Julia Estrada, Adam Schneemann, Hannah Dubner and nine year old, Christopher McGoldrick.

There are other talents behind the scenes that make this production of Romeo and Juliet extraordinary. Sword play is coached by fight choreographer, Jacob Grigolia-Rosenbaum. Grigolia-Rosenbaum fenced at Yale while studying theater, then trained in swordplay. He is fight director for Peter and the Starcatcher on Broadway. Eric Nyquist, a local talent from Trumbull, not only acts, but is Director of Music and Choreography. Fred Santore of Hamden directs Sound. Sebastian Paczynski of New Jersey is Lighting Designer. Christine Mallardi and Solveig Pflueger are the company’s Costumers.

Info line (203) 393-3213 www.ctfreeshakespeare.org, www.facebook.com/ctfreeshakespeare, https://twitter.com/#!/CFShakespeare.

Free Concert Tonight at Wesleyan

Alma Moyo
Location: CFA Courtyard, 283 Washington Terrace, Middletown, Connecticut
Rain Location: Crowell Concert Hall, 50 Wyllys Avenue, Middletown, Connecticut
Date: Thursday, July 5, 2012 at 7pm
Fee: FREE!
Phone: 860-685-3355
Website: www.wesleyan.edu/cfa

Description: Founded 10 years ago in the South Bronx by lead singer and percussionistAlex LaSalle, the intergenerational band Alma Moyo performs Afro-Puerto Rican bomba folk music featuring dynamic drumming, dancing, and rich vocals. 

New Canaan Goes Pink

Caitlin White. Photo courtesy of STONC
Summer Theatre of New Canaan (STONC) continues its season of Theatre for Young Audiences with a deliciously scrumptious and frothy production of Pinkalicious The Musical as part of the theatre’s 2012 Theatre Festival in Waveny Park.

Pinkalicious The Musical is about learning the power of self-control and the importance of moderation. Pinkalicious is obsessed with pink cupcakes and she can't stop eating them despite warnings from her parents. Her dream is to radiate pink, and when she eats one too many pink cupcakes, her pink indulgence lands her at the doctor's office with Pinkititis, an affliction that turns her pink from head to toe.

But when her hue goes too far, only Pinkalicious can figure out a way to get out of this Pink predicament. She bravely follows the doctor’s order to eat green foods only. Due to her new resolve, Pinkalicious is eventually transformed back to normal and realizes that she needs to be careful about what you wish for.

The book and lyrics are by Victoria and Elizabeth Kann. Victoria is an award-winning illustrator and author of the picture book series featuring the whimsical and effervescent character, Pinkalicious. Elizabeth, co-author of the text of Pinkalicious with her sister, is a doctor who has yet to see an actual case of Pinkititis.

 John Gregor is the composer and co-lyricist.

Friday, July 6 at 10 am
Saturday, July 7 at 10 am
Sunday, July 15 at 12:30 pm
Friday, July 20 at 10:30 am
Saturday, July 21 at 1pm
Sunday, July 22 at 12:30 pm
Saturday, July 28 at 1 pm
Sunday, July 29 at 12:30 pm
Saturday, August 4 at 1 pm
Sunday, August 5 at 12:30 pm (final performance)

Reserved tickets are $16 for child or adult single tickets. Single tickets and Stage-Side or Orchestra tables may be purchased: by phone: 203-966-4634 (10 am to 5 pm M-F); at: stonc.org; in person: at box office 60 minutes prior to each performance.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Maxwell Williams is Hartford Stage's New Associate Artistic Director

Hartford Stage Artistic Director Darko Tresnjak has promoted Resident Director Maxwell Williams, an artistic presence at the Tony Award-winning theatre for more than a decade, to the post of associate artistic director.
Williams has directed the company's productions of Boeing-Boeing, The 39 Steps and Dying City and has helped develop new plays by Horton Foote, Bekah Brunstetter, Christopher Shinn, Wayne Lemon, and Tennessee Williams, among others. He served as associate director on the Broadway production of Horton Foote's Dividing the Estate, as well as for Foote's nine-play Orphans' Home Cycle at Hartford Stage and New York's Signature Theatre. He initially joined Hartford Stage in the 2000-2001 season as the assistant director on Macbeth.

"I'm so excited to continue my relationship with Hartford Stage, which has been my artistic home for over a decade now," said Williams. "My craft and my life have been deeply affected by this theatre, first being inspired as an audience member by the productions of Mark Lamos and Bart Sher, and then through the profound friendship and excellent example set by my mentor, Michael Wilson, with whom I was lucky enough to collaborate on some 20 plays over the last ten years. It's clear to me that the vision Darko has for Hartford Stage will bring great things for the company and for the city, and I'm thrilled and humbled to serve as his Associate."
A member of the inaugural class of the Hartt School's theatre program, he has directed plays across the country at such acclaimed theatres as Cleveland Playhouse, 59E59 Theatres, and Houston's Alley Theatre. He has also served as Assistant Director on Broadway, and at major institutions, including Roundabout Theatre Company, Manhattan Theater Club, Lincoln Center Theater, Philadelphia Theatre Company, and American Repertory Theatre.

Director Leaves Mark Twain for Thomas Jefferson

Photo: John Groo for The Mark Twain House & Museum
Jeffrey L. Nichols has resigned as executive director of the Mark Twain House & Museum to take the position of president and CEO of Poplar Forest, Thomas Jefferson's plantation retreat near Lynchburg, Va.

"I will always cherish my time at The Mark Twain House & Museum," Nichols said. It's been an honor to lead the museum over the past five years, and I know that the future is very bright for the organization. I can't thank the board, our donors, and the wonderful staff of the museum enough for their hard work and dedication to the organization. I will miss everyone in Hartford, but I'm also thrilled to begin the next chapter in my career."
During Nichols' tenure as Executive Director, The Mark Twain House & Museum achieved record attendance and was named a Top Workplace. The budget has been balanced for the past four years and the program events and exhibits have increased, including a community writing program and new programs for local students.
Patti Philippon, who is Beatrice Fox Auerbach Chief Curator of the museum, will serve as interim director while a search is conducted to find Nichols' replacement.
The 577-acre Poplar Forest, run by the nonprofit Corporation for Jefferson's Poplar Forest, is a National Historic Landmark recently added to the United States nominations list to become a World Heritage Site.
Thomas Jefferson and his wife Martha inherited the plantation from her father in 1773. The couple took refuge there in 1781 when they left Monticello, about 60 miles away, to elude British capture. In 1806, President Jefferson traveled from Washington to supervise the laying of the foundation for the octagonal brick Palladian house he designed for the site, and which still stands.
After Jefferson retired from public life, Poplar Forest provided him with significant income and the perfect setting to pursue his passions for reading, writing, studying and gardening. The property was sold after his death, and in the late 20th century it fell into disrepair. A citizen effort rescued it.
Today the property is regarded as an important example of state-of-the-art historic restoration and archaeological research, and is open for tours, events and school outreach programs.

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