Monday, January 30, 2017

Connelly, De Laurentis Reunite for George and Gracie at Seven Angels

Seven Angels Theatre offers a nostalgic and hilarious look back at favorite show business couple with George and Gracie: the Early Years Feb. 9 to March 5. 
Semina DeLaurentis
The show stars R. Bruce Connelly (Say Goodnight Gracie) and Seven Angels's Artistic Director 
Semina De Laurentis (the original Sr. Mary Amnesia – Nunsense) as George Burns and Gracie Allen.

Meet George and Gracie, their neighbors Blanche and Harry, and other memorable guests as the cast pays homage to the comedic idols who influenced and inspired them with their impeccable comic timing and zaniness. The production will benefit Seven Angels Theatre educational and the High School HALO Awards programs.

Julia Kiley directs. Rounding out the cast are Sarah Knapp, John Swanson, Tom Chute, Mandy 
Thompson, John Fabbiani and Tom Libonate.

Tickets range from $39-$57 depending on performance. Those 25 and younger, tickets are only
$25:; 203-757-4676, box office, 1 Plank Road, Waterbury.

CT Theater Review: Sunset Baby -- TheaterWorks

Photo: Lanny Nagler
Sunset Baby
By Dominique Morrisseau
Directed by Reginald L. Douglas
Through Feb. 19

By Lauren Yarger
What's It All About?
The estranged relationship between Nina (Brittany Bellizeare) and her political activist father, Kenyatta (Tony Todd.) Nina's mother has left her a series of love letters written to her by Kenyatta and publishers are offering big bucks to put them into book form. Kenyatta wants them too, but for more sentimental reasons. She avoids having to deal with her father, but her lover Damon (Carlton Byrd) may have his own motives for trying to bring the two together. Reality is blurred as the perspectives of the characters overlap.

What Are the Highlights?
Excellent performances and tight direction by Reginald L. Douglas keep our attention. Morriseau mixes raw and strong language with poetic thought and varies technique by having Kenyatta step out of the action to deliver soliloquies, but more to himself than to the audience.

What Are the Lowlights?
We never quite warm up to any of the characters. They are flawed in relationships with each other, but we never are convinced they really want to make them work and aren't looking out for their own best interests. The play bypasses at least two natural ending spots and seems to not know how to wrap itself up.

Additional Information:
Todd is from Hartford and is a graduated of UConn. 

Additional credits:
Alexander Woodward (Set Design), Karen Perry (Costume Design), Rob Denton (Lighting Design), and Julian Evans (Sound Design).

Sunset Baby runs through Feb. 19 at TheaterWorks, 233 Pearl St., Hartford. Performances are Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday at 7:30 pm; Friday and Saturday at 8 pm; Saturday and Sunday at 2:30 pm. Tickets are $15-$65:; 860-527-7838.

Friday, January 20, 2017

CT Theater Review: Endgame -- Long Wharf

Brian Dennehy and Reg E. Cathey. Photo: T. Charles Erickson
By Samuel Beckett
Directed by Gordon Edelstein
Long Wharf Theatre
Through Feb. 5

By Lauren Yarger

What's It All About?
Samuel Beckett's exploration of the meaning of life.
Hamm (Brian Dennehy) is blind and confined to a wheeling chair since he can't stand. He is attended by by a servant, Clove (Reg E. Cathey) who can't sit down. The characters have a sort of adversarial relationship even while being dependent on each other. There is no life outside of the gray, bleak room littered with debris (set design by Eugene Lee). The only other characters are Hamm's legless parents, Nagg (Joe Grifasi) and Nell (Lynn Cohen) who dwell in large hampers -- think trash bins -- and only pop up occasionally to take some abuse form Hamm., directed by Edelstein.

What Are the Highlights?

Brian Dennehy on stage in anything is a highlight. The actor, who has starred in Love Letters (with Mia Farrow), Krapp’s Last Tape, and Hughie gives an excellent performance as usual. Cathey (“The Wire,” “Oz,” and “House of Cards.” ) is a worthy foil. The direction is tight and if I heard Hamm blow that whistle or Cloy slam that door one more time, I was going to scream (the mood was accentuated by blaring music tones at breaks in the action). All of the performances are solid with a special shout out to Cohen for making us remember Nell even though she only appears for a short stint in the already thankfully short 90 minute production.

The fake dog is pretty amusing.

What Are the Lowlights?
It's dark, confusing and a bummer. Typical Beckett, but not my cup of tea.

"Why do you stay with me?" Hamm asks.
"Why do you keep me?" Cloy replies.
"There's no one else."
"There is no where else."
"You're leaving me all the same," Hamm says.
"I'm trying," Clov replies.

Shoot me now. -- That is my despair, not the characters'.

More Information:
End Game runs through Feb. 6 at Long Wharf's Stage II, 222 Sargent Drive, New Haven. Tickets are very limited at $99.50. Check with the box office about stand-by options.; (203) 787-4282.

Additional credits: Kaye Voyce (costumes), Jennifer Tipton (lighting).

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Connecticut Theater Review: [title of show] -- Playhouse on Park

Peej Mele, Miles Jacoby, Ashley Brooke, Amanda Forker, Austin Cook. Photo: Meredith Atkinson.

[title of show]
Music and Lyrics by Jeff Bowen
Book by Hunter Bell
Directed by David Edwards
Through Jan. 29
Playhouse on Park

By Lauren Yarger
What's It All About? 
It's about two guys writing a musical about writing a musical. It's a fun, quirky look into the creative minds of composer and lyricist Jeff Bowen (Miles Jacoby) and book writing partner Hunter Bell (Peej Mele) who scheme to come up with an original musical to submit in three weeks to the NY Musical Theater Festival. They solicit the help of friends Heidi (Amanda Forker), who keeps landing the unsatisfying role of understudy on Broadway and Susan (Ashley Brooke), who focuses on a good-paying day job when she fears her voice isn't good enough for the Great White Way. Together they collaborate on what becomes a test for all of their skills. All of their conversations about what the musical should be like, what kinds of songs should be included and even dream sequences and a number of voice mail messages all merge to become the musical itself. It's a fun show, even if you don't catch all of the inside jokes, about the angst of the creative process.

What Are the Highlights?
Jacoby, the lone Equity member of the cast, gives a strong performance and is a good counter to the over-the-top portrayal of Bell as a sort of neurotic gay guy. Austin Cook plays Larry, the group's pianist friend, who provides the only accompaniment on stage for the show's songs that chronicle the group's experience with titles like "Two Nobodies in New York," "I am Playing Me," "Filling Out the Form" and "Nine People's Favorite Thing."

What Are the Lowlights?
The dialogue doesn't snap and the show is missing the familiar repartee that made the show a hit on Broadway. As a result the pace drags and the show clocks in about 1:45 instead of the expected hour and  a half without intermission.

More Information: [title of show] runs through Jan. 29 at Playhouse on Park, 244 Park Road, West Hartford. Tickets are $40-$50:; 860-523-5900 x10.

CT Theater Review: Beautiful -- The Bushnell

Curt Bouril, Liam Tobin, Julia Knitnel, Ben Fankhauser and Erika Olson,. Photo: Joan Marcus
Words and Music by Gerry Goffin and Carole King and Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil
Book by Douglas McGrath
Directed by Marc Bruni
The Bushnell
Through Jan. 22

By Lauren Yarger
What's It All About?
The story of music legend Carole King (Julia Knitel).  Book writer Douglas McGrath does a superb job of linking the highlights of King's life and the up-and-down relationship with husband  Gerry Goffin (Liam Tobin) with the music. Also featured is the couple's friendship with their songwriting competition team of Barry Mann (Ben Franhauser) and Cynthia Weil (Erika Olsen) and choreography by Josh Prince. This is not your ordinary jukebox musical.

What Are the highlights?
This is a top notch tour featuring a terrific Knitel, who understudied the role for a year on Broadway, where Jesse Meuller won a Tony for her portrayal and where the show still runs. Strong vocals across the board and a great sense of timing that makes all of the jokes hit just right. If you are a fan of the music of these artists, don't miss this show. You might be amazed, like I was, to discover how many rock and roll standards King composed.

What Are the Lowlights?
As usual, the mix in Mortensen Hall isn't quite right (either too loud or masking solos) and for small ensemble numbers, particularly. We don't get all the pleasure we should out of the Drifters or the Shirelles.

More information:
Beautiful runs through Jan. 22 at The Bushnell, 166 Capitol Ave., Hartford. Shows are Thursday at 7:30 pm; Friday at 8 pm, Saturday at 2 and 8 pm and Sunday at 1:30 and 6 pm. Tickets are $44.50 to $132.50; 860-987-5900.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Kiefer Sutherland to Appear in concert at The Kate

Kiefer Sutherland, courtesy of The Kate
Actor Kiefer Sutherland takes the stage to showcase his debut album Down In A Hole Sunday, Feb. 19 with a 7:30 pm show at the Katharine Hepburn Cultural Center in New Haven.Sutherland has starred in movies like "Flatliners," "A Few Good Men"’, "A Time to Kill" and is known to many as counter terrorist agent Jack Bauer on the long-running TV series "24."

But unknown to many during the course of his career, he has taken on other vocations with the same kind of dedication and commitment. The first one, beginning around 1992, was that of a cattle rancher and competitive cowboy (roper) in the USTRC team roping circuit. He ran a successful ranch with partner John English for almost a decade. During that time, Sutherland won numerous roping events around the country including Phoenix, Indio and the Los Angeles Open.

In 2002, Sutherland, with his music partner and best friend Jude Cole, began a small record label called Ironworks. The goal of this label was to record local musicians and distribute their music at a time when the music industry was going through a monumental shift. Some of their artists included Rocco DeLuca and the Burden, HoneyHoney and Billy Boy On Poison. In 2009, Sutherland left the label to recharge and figure out what he was going to do next.

In early 2015 Sutherland played Cole two songs he had written and wanted to record as demos for other artists to record. Cole responded positively to the songs and the album grew organically from those recordings. Two songs became four and four grew into six, until Cole suggested that they make a record. Their collaboration resulted in Kiefer Sutherland’s upcoming debut album: ‘Down In A Hole’.

Sutherland says of the 11 tracks that make up the album, “It’s the closest thing I’ve ever had to a journal or diary. All of these songs are pulled from my own personal experiences. There is something very satisfying about being able to look back on my own life, good times and bad, and express those sentiments in music. As much as I have enjoyed the writing and recording process, I am experiencing great joy now being able to play these songs to a live audience, which was something I hadn’t counted on”.

This show is being filmed live for the CPTV series ‘The Kate.’ Patrons are requested to arrive early. By purchasing any ticket, you agree to arrive prior to the time printed on ticket and will forfeit your seat if you don't.  You also might appear on screen. Click here for tickets which are $75.

MLK Celebrations at Westport Country Playhouse

Keynote speaker Dr. Tricia Rose of Brown University on  “WWMD – “What Would Martin Do in the Era of Post-Race Racism?” All photos by Photos by David Vita.

Students from Trumbull’s Regional Center for the Arts present a spoken-word piece, “A World That Listens,” based on Dr. King’s “Letter from Birmingham Jail.”  From left, Sarah Williams, Christina Boyle, Jahmelia Jarrett, Kaitlyn Oliva
Rev. Ed Horne of United Methodist Church of Westport and Weston and chair of the Celebration’s organizing committee welcomes audience.
 Audience in Westport Country Playhouse for Martin Luther King Day Celebration Jan. 15.
Harold Bailey, chair of TEAM (Together Effectively Achieving Multiculturalism) Westport and trustee of Westport Country Playhouse, addresses crowd of 350

 The Men's Community Gospel Choir of Norwalk, led by Greg Detroy, sang gospel and civil rights selections. Pictured is Greg Thornewell, with members of the choir.

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