Monday, March 28, 2016

Check Out Upcoming Events at New Haven's Festival of Arts and Ideas

The International Festival of Arts and Ideas has announced highlights of the 2016 season, June 10-25, featuring the US premiere of Our Ladies of Perpetual Succour, a critically and audience-acclaimed production from the National Theatre of Scotland.

The annual two-week festival in downtown New Haven celebrates the arts, ideas, and community with groundbreaking performances and provocative conversations with leading artists, thought-leaders, and innovators from around the world. The events take place in a variety of venues, including on the Green,  80 percent of them with free admission. 

Performers include some of the most influential and innovative theater arts, classical, jazz, and dance figures of our time. Additional 2016 programming will be announced as dates and venues are confirmed.


US Premiere of Our Ladies of Perpetual Succour
Yale Repertory Theatre, 1120 Chapel Street, New Haven, June 10-25, 2016

Our Ladies of Perpetual Succour is produced by the National Theatre of Scotland and adapted by Lee Hall (Billy Elliot) from the cult novel "The Sopranos" by Alan Warner. It will receive its London West End premiere in early August.

It is about six schoolgirls on the cusp of change. Love, lust, pregnancy, and death all spiral out of control in a single day when they venture to Edinburgh for a singing competition. With a soundtrack of classical music and '70s pop rock featuring music by Handel, Bach, Bob Marley and Electric Light Orchestra, Our Ladies is a life-affirming piece of musical theater.

Directed by Vicky Featherstone with Music Supervisor Martin Lowe (Grammy, Tony, and Olivier award winner for Once)." Hall won a Tony, Drama Desk, and Olivier award for his work on Billy Elliot.

Advance tickets :
Recommended for ages 16 and over; contains strong language and adult themes.

World Premiere of new work by Wendy Whelan and Brian Brooks with Brooklyn Rider
Shubert Theatre, 247 College Street, New Haven, June 23-24, 2016

Co-commissioned by International Festival of Arts and Ideas, The Joyce Theater and Modlin Center 
for the Arts at University of Richmond, this new full-length work was created by Wendy Whelan, former New York City Ballet principal, and dancer and choreographer Brian Brooks. Whelan and Brooks previously collaborated on the duet "First Fall" for "Restless Creature," each taking creative risks in unfamiliar territory; classical and contemporary dance, respectively. This new work of solos and duets represents a continuation and extension of their exploration. Brooklyn Rider, the New York City-based string quartet, will perform live.

U.S. Premiere of The Money
Quinnipiac Club, 221 Church Street, New Haven, June 18-25, 2016

In this immersive theater experience, audience members opt to buy in to participate as a benefactor or observe among silent witnesses. As the clock ticks, the benefactors have 90 minutes to decide unanimously how to spend a pot of money. If they don't agree, the money rolls over to the next audience. A Kaleider production, every outcome of The Money is unique. "The Live Music Program"
University Theatre, 222 York Street, New Haven, June 14-16, 2016

Kyle Abraham, Bessie award-winning choreographer and MacArthur Fellow, and his company will present works that combine refined movement with compelling themes of identity and race. "The Gettin'"features live music (a first for Abraham) with Grammy-winning jazz artist Robert Glasper and his trio re-imagining "We Insist! Max Roach's Freedom Now Suite." "Absent Matter" is a new work created in collaboration with Blue Note recording artistOtis Brown III, multimedia artist Tahir Hemphill, and costume designer Karen Young.

Steel Hammer
Long Wharf Theatre, 222 Sargent Drive, New Haven, June 16-18, 2016

Steel Hammer is the latest collaboration from acclaimed composer Julia Wolfe, Obie-winning SITI Company and the celebrated ensemble Bang on a Can All-Stars

The play inventively examines key contemporary social issues through the folk song "John Henry," the legendary steel-driver who challenged a steam drill in a man versus machine contest. It serves as a potent vehicle for examining the African American experience and the malleability of myth and fact. Music and the spoken word woven with movement, dance, and percussion on a variety of surfaces, including the performers' bodies, create a highly original theatrical experience.

Air Play
University Theatre, 222 York Street, New Haven, June 21-25, 2016

Air Play is a comic adventure of an epic scale for audiences of all ages. It follows the surreal journey of a brother and a sister as they encounter flying umbrellas, massive balloons, kites, and a monumental snow globe. 

Created by Acrobuffos and performed by the comedy duo Seth Bloom and Christina Gelsone, Air Play uses spectacular sets featuring Daniel Wurtzel's air sculptures. The show also spins the radio dial to create auditory air play, including Balkan gypsy music, Nordic boys' choirs, symphony orchestras, Italian avant-garde, and Appalachian ballads.

Ticket Information

Advance tickets for Our Ladies of Perpetual Succour are currently available at

Tickets for The Money,, The Live Music Program, Steel Hammer and Air Play go on sale to the public April 19. 

More info and complete schedule: 

2016 Summer Series at Sharon Playhouse

Sharon Playhouse has announced its 2016 summer season of musicals and plays 

Gypsy kicks off the Mainstage season June 16 – July 3, directed and choreographed by Richard Stafford (In My Life). Based loosely on the 1957 memoirs of Gypsy Rose Lee and often referred to as the perfect American musical, Gypsy follows Rose, the ultimate show business mother, and her dreams to raise two daughters to perform on the stage. Gypsy was created by the legendary musical theater team of Jule Styne (music), Stephen Sondheim (lyrics), and Arthur Laurents (book).

John Simpkins directs the seven-time Tony Award-winning Big River: The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn July 21 – 31. Based on Mark Twain’s classic novel, Big River moves down the mighty Mississippi as Huck helps his friend Jim, a slave, escape to freedom. Their adventures are set to an award-winning score by country music artist Roger Miller and book by William Hauptman. Jennifer Werner (The Book of Mormon) choreographs.

Quartet, a play by Academy Award-winner Ronald Harwood ("The Pianist"), runs Aug. 18 - 28. Four elderly opera-singers have ended up in the same retirement home for artists. A concert is about to take place to celebrate Verdi’s birthday. Will these four singers be able to recreate their youth and perform their acclaimed quartet from Rigoletto?  John Simpkins directs.

The new musical Judge Jackie: Disorder in the Court kicks off the Stage 2 Season July 7 - 17. With music by Michael Kooman and book and lyrics by Christopher Dimond, Judge Jackie rules over her reality television courtroom with an iron fist, presiding over a three-ring circus of America's most chaotic civil cases. But, when a drop in ratings brings her face to face with the liability of her own love life, the judge must learn to navigate the ludicrous laws of love in this over-the-top courtroom comedy. Judge Jackie premiered at Pittsburgh C.L.O. and is based on a concept by Van Kaplan. Simpkins directs.

The second longest running Off-Broadway musical in history, I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change, plays Stage 2 Aug. 4 - 14. The celebration of the relationship takes center stage in this hilarious revue that pays tribute to those who have loved, lost, and dared to ask “What are you doing Saturday night?” Werner directs and choreographs the show, with book and lyrics by Joe DiPietro and music by Jimmy Roberts.

Additional Sharon Playhouse artists-in-residence for 2016 include Music Directors James Cunningham and Joshua Zecher-Ross; Scenic Designers Michael Schweikardt, Jack Mehler and Josh Smith; Lighting Designers Jack Mehler and Chris Dallos; and Costume Designer Michelle Humphrey. Geoff Josselson is Casting Director.

Season subscriptions ($90-$180) are on sale; Single tickets ($15-$47) available online Box Office opens April 15  (860) 364-7469 x100.

The Sharon Playhouse (49 Amenia Rd.) is located at the foot of the Berkshires in Sharon, CT,

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Theater Review: Motown, the Musical-- The Bushnell

Reed L.Shannon as Michael Jackson, center, with the Jackson 5 in from the first national tour (photos from the current tour were nt available). Photo: Joan Marcus
A Foot-Stomping, Hand-Clapping Trip Down Memory Lane
By Lauren Yarger
Featuring classic hits such as “I Heard It Through the Grapevine” and “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough,” the musical Motown, making a tour stop at The Bushnell, tells the story behind the hits of the legendary record label.

The 25th anniversary of Motown, the brainchild of Berry Gordy (Chester Gregory), provides the catalyst for this collection of nearly 60 songs performed by a large ensemble cast under the direction of Charles Randolph-Wright. Music Direction and Conducting is by Darryl Archibald with Music Supervision, Arrangements and Orchestrations by Ethan Popp, Co-orchestrations and Additional Arrangements by Bryan Crook and Dance Arrangements by Zane Mark.

Gordy isn’t excited about the anniversary reunion of Motown’s artists, many of whom left the label for more lucrative deals, and isn’t sure he wants to attend the celebration concert. In a sort of flashback, we see how the company started and follow Gordy through its success from 1938 to 1983. Some of the stars owing their careers to Motown are Diana Ross (Allison Semmes), Smoky Robinson (Jesse Nager), Marvin Gaye (Jarran Muse, though I saw understudy Rodney Earl Jackson, Jr. opening night along with several other understudies) and Michael Jackson (the role is shared by J.J. Batteast  and Leon Outlaw Jr. who also portray the young Berry and young Stevie Wonder--  I saw Outlaw opening night).

There's also some story in there amongst all of the tunes including the business and romantic relationship between Berry and Ross. The musical's book is based on Gordy's autobiography “To Be Loved: The Music, The Magic, The Music, The Moments of Motown;” 

Projections (by Daniel Brodie) show pictures and images on the set by David Korins to remind us of the racial tension of the times. The mood shifts in the second act as the music starts reflecting protests against war and racial injustice. Director Charles Randolph-Wright skillfully blends the elements and keeps us entertained for the more than two hours and 45 minutes running time (those 8 pm starts mean a late night).

Many of the songs are truncated, so we hear just enough of our favorites without being overwhelmed. The vocals are good with Semmes and Gregory standing out. Some of the ensemble stand out in roles like Stevie Wonder and Ed Sullivan, but they are uncredited in the program so I am unable to give a shout out to those specific actors.)

Patricia Wilcox and Warren Adams add choreography that is easily recognizable for groups like the Jackson Five, The Marvelettes or The Temptations. The vocals are good. (Standing out is a very funny Ed Sullivan who is uncredited in the program.) The sound mix (designed by
Peter Hylenski) could use an adjustment with percussion often overshadowing vocals.

The full house sang along at times and sometimes burst into applause for favorite numbers. An interactive bit with the audience did not play well, however, as members were sought to join Diana Ross for her first solo engagement.  Costumes advance the decades (design by Esosa with hair and wig design by Charles G. LaPointe).

Overall, a fun and entertaining show. If you miss it here at the Bushnell, or if you want to enjoy this legendary music again, the show will play Broadway again for a limited run with previews beginning in July

 Motown runs through March 37 at The Bushnell, 166 Capitol Ave., Hartford. Performances are Wednesday and Thursday at 7:30 pm; Friday and Saturday: 8 pm; Saturday at 2 pm; Sunday 1 and 6:30 pm Tickets $34.50-$121.50: (860) 987-5900;

Other credits:
Lighting Design by Natasha Katz, Script Consulting by David Goldsmith and Dick Scanlan, Creative Consulting by Christine Burton

Erick Buckley, Nik Alexander, ChadaƩ, Chante Carmel, Stephen Cerf, Darius Crenshaw, Lynorris Evans, Anissa Felix, Talya Groves, Rod Harrelson, Robert Hartwell, Dana Marie Ingraham, Rodney Earl Jackson, Jr., Trisha Jeffrey, Loren Lott, Jarvis B. Manning Jr., Krisha Marcano, Marq Moss, Rashad Naylor, Ramone Owens, Olivia Puckett, Nicholas Ryan, Jamison Scott, Joey Stone, Doug Storm, Martina Sykes, Nik Walker, Galen J. Williams

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Theater Review: Sex With Strangers -- TheaterWorks

Courtney Rackley and Patrick Ball 
How Far Are You Willing to Seduce, Be Seduced to Get What You Want?
By Lauren Yarger
Just how well do you know that person with whom you are having sex?

If you are Ethan (Patrick Ball) and Olivia (Courtney Rackley) in Laura Eason’s play Sex With Strangers, the answer could be “not at all,” or maybe “better than you think.” Not at all because they just met at a weekend writer’s bed-and-breakfast getaway in Michigan. Better than you’d think because both are willing to blindly place trust in a complete stranger as well as to take advantage of that trust to advance a career.

When they meet, Olivia is tentatively editing a book she never intends to publish. Discouraged by some positive reviews, but few sales of her first book, she considers herself a hobbyist and doesn’t expect her latest work to be published. Ethan, meanwhile, hasn’t had to look hard to find fame. Ethan's popular blog “Sex With Strangers” chronicles his one-night stands with women – some of whom go out of their way to meet him so they can be mentioned on the site which gets millions of hits.

His fans triggered the notice of a publisher who compiled the posts into NY Times bestsellers and now, Hollywood wants to turn them into a film. There’s just one problem. Ethan doesn’t like his image from a “memoir based on the robotic actions of a drunken asshole” and wants to try something a little more respectable – a website that launches great literary works.

As fate would have it – though it seems the couple’s meeting may not be as serendipitous as he’d like her to think: Ethan and Olivia have a mutual friend who has highly recommended her work. He would love to launch her new manuscript on his site after running installments of her first, little-known book. He is lining up well known authors as well.

The two enter into a bizarre partnership, both professionally and personally (both for no really good reason to the script’s detriment). She allows her first book to be published on the site – all before she even does a google search on Ethan. She also jumps into a sexual relationship with the younger man, then begins to have some doubts about both decisions when she starts to learn about him. What he wrote on his blog about having sex with all those women wasn’t very nice. In fact, it’s rather pornographic and even a little scary when it comes to his treatment of some of the women.

Olivia’s work on the new literary site starts to attract interest and soon she has a coveted offer from a big publishing house for her new book. When he arrives at her Chicago apartment (Brian Prather gives us both nicely appointed sets) Ethan feels betrayed since he is the one who convinced her to put her work out there in the first place and recommended her to his agent. He wonders whether Olivia has been using their relationship all along to further her career, because after all, he doesn’t really know her very well either…

Eason’s goal is to explore how well anyone really knows or can trust anyone, including him or herself. What would you be willing to do if you thought it might benefit your career – and it wouldn’t cost you much emotionally? How well do you need to know someone for them to be able to help turn your life around – for better or worse?

A question, probably unintended, that also comes up is why these two seem so surprised that sleeping with a stranger might not be a good idea and brings unexpected complications. Seems like a no-brainer to me, but I am from an older generation that believes in the benefits of knowing and trusting someone first. These two are an interesting case study, but probably not the ideal pair from whom to draw conclusions about human behavior as they aren’t very smart about most of their choices.

What writer would arrive past deadline at a remote location without internet access to send off his screenplay? What author would agree to let her work be published online without first signing a contract to protect her rights – or at least checking out the publisher’s reputation first? What smart woman refuses to see red flags when a guy has treated other women cruelly and steals from her? Perhaps they are as surprised by their decisions as we are, but it all seems to point toward making a case against having sex with strangers. Can they find a way to be friends?

Rob Ruggiero tightly stages the interactions and tastefully lands on the side of “less is more” when it comes to the couple’s sexual encounters. We see enough to know what is happening and the attraction (though not overwhelming between the actors) driving the relationship between the two without having to be voyeurs. Music and lighting (Sound and Lighting Design by Fitz Patton and John Lasiter, respectively) ease us out of scenes and sexual encounters. Costume designer Amy Clark provides easy-to-get-out-of clothes that also are attractive and help define passage of time.

Sex With Strangers heats up the TheaterWorks stage at 233 Pearl St., Hartford through April 17. Performances are Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays: 7:30 pm; Fridays and Saturdays: 8 pm; Saturday and Sunday Matinees at 2:30 pm. Tickets $15-$65; 860-527-7838;

Monday, March 7, 2016

Music Theatre of Connecticut Continues Performances of Tony Winner


Danicing in the Streets for Autism Speaks

National Tour Photo courtesy of the Palace Theater

Direct from London’s West End, Dancing in the Streets, the original hit stage production celebrating Motown’s greatest hits, makes its North American debut with a nation-wide tour scheduled to stop at the Palace Theater in Waterbury.for one night only on Saturday, April 2 at 8 pm.

The show invites theatergoers to experience the energy and electricity of the Motor City in a production packed with hit after hit made famous by The Four Tops, Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye, The Supremes, The Temptations, Lionel Ritchie, Smokey Robinson and The Miracles, Martha Reeves and the Vandellas, and more. The production’s cast and band bring to life these infectious, foot-tapping melodies with a touch of soul and style guaranteed to have audience members singing along and dancing in the aisles.

Following the performance, patrons are invited to “Dance in the Streets for Autism Speaks,” by joining members of the cast for a post-show dance party in the orchestra lobby to celebrate World Autism Awareness Day. Music for the dance party will be provided by Al Taylor of ACT Jams Productions, and a portion of all ticket sales purchased to the show with the promo code “PUZZLE” will be donated to support the Western Connecticut Autism Speaks Walk on Saturday, May 7, 2016 at Library Park in Waterbury.

Tickets range from $33 to $58:; 203-346-2000; Box Office, 100 East Main St., Waterbury. For more information, visit or

Connecticut Repertory Theatre presents MFA Puppet Arts Festival

Connecticut Repertory Theatre will present the world premiere of three puppetry works onstage in one innovative evening under the banner of The MFA Puppet Arts Festival.  
For 50 years, UConn’s Puppet Arts program defined the cutting edge of new theater, and this dynamic evening will be no exception. MFA Puppet Arts Festival will be held in the Studio Theatre from March 24 – April 3, 2016. For tickets and information:; 860- 486 2113.
The three one-act plays range in topic and style.  Ana Craciun-Lambru presents Dust, a piece inspired by the 1911 Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire in New York City. Dust incorporates shadow and object puppetry.  Gavin Cummins has created a one-person play entitled Ok, I Love You, Bye, incorporating different styles of shadow and object puppetry.  Kalob Martinez molds Macbeth into, El Beto, a story of lust and blood set in the midst the Mexican Drug cartel.
Dust, is a one-woman performance where movement, shadow, puppet and object theatre techniques are blended together.  Craciun-Lambru, a native Romanian, was inspired by her own personal story, and explores the journey of an immigrant woman who came to America, and began to work at the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory.   Ok, Love You, Bye is about the process of an individual’s grief after a tragedy.  In a series of episodes, Gavin Cummins tells the story of the struggle to forge a new life in our old world.  Finally, El Beto, explores the present day Mexican drug cartel and the worship of the world’s fastest growing religion, Santa Muerte.  Through a combination of shadow puppetry and hand puppetry, Martinez explores the story of El Beto, a man at a crossroads, as blood begets blood. 
In conjunction with The MFA Puppet Arts Festival, additional performances of a fourth play, ECHO by Christopher Mullens is taking place at the Ballard Institute and Museum of Puppetry from March 24 – April 3, 2016.  ECHO is a multi-media immersive spectacle combining puppets, digital projection and original music in the re-telling of a classic Greek myth.
The production team includes: Ana Craciun-Lambru, Gavin Cummins, Kalob Martinez (Creators, Directors, Puppeteers and Performers), Danielle Verkennes (Lighting Design), Jelena Antanasijevic (Costume Design), Daniel Bria (Sound Design), and Tim Brown and John Parmalee (Scenic Design).

Evening performances start at 7:30 on Wednesdays and Thursdays, and at 8 on Fridays and Saturdays. Select matinee performances start at 2 pm on Saturdays and Sundays. Season subscriptions and single tickets are available now.  Single tickets range from $7 to $30.  All student tickets are $7. 
Children must be at least 4 years old to attend CRT productions. For additional ticket information or to charge tickets by phone, call 860-486.-113. 
The Harriet S. Jorgenson Theatre is located on the campus of the University of Connecticut in Storrs, CT.  

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