Friday, March 23, 2018

Calling All Old Theater Lovers!

Centennial Memorial Temple

You are invited to an open house to see an art deco theater now available for rental in New York.

The Centennial Memorial Temple on 14th Street is a step back into the past. Built in 1929 at the Salvation Army's headquarters at 120 W. 14th St. between Sixth and Seventh avenues to honor the 100th anniversary of its founder, William Booth, this state-of-the-art performance hall was designated a New York City landmark in 2017.

The theater is available for all kinds of events including  film shoots, concerts, corporate meetings, movie screenings, fundraisers, graduations and town hall meetings. The theater seats 1,347 while Railton Hall, located under the auditorium, can host up to 100 guests and Mumford Hall, right below Railton, is available for groups of up to 220 for an intimate luncheon, corporate meeting or staff training.

CMT’s technical staff members have won Grammy Awards, worked on the Oscars, served on crews for top recording artists like Sting and the Foo Fighters, toured with Broadway shows and staffed production crews at major TV studios. All proceeds from the rental of our spaces are used to support The Salvation Army’s more than 100 programs and services in the Greater New York area, which serve more than a million at-risk adults, children, and families each year.

If you are unable to attend the open house April 10 from 10 am to noon, you may arrange a private tour. To RSVP for the open house, to arrange a tour or for more information, call 212-337-7339 or visit

All proceeds from the rental of our spaces are used to support The Salvation Army’s more than 100 programs and services in the Greater New York area, which serve more than a million at-risk adults, children, and families each year.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

CT Theater Review: Baskerville -- Long Wharf

Owen, Pearce, Moggridge, Livingston
By Ken Ludwig
Directed by Brendon Fox
Long Wharf Theatre
Through March 25

By Lauren Yarger
What's It All About?
It's Ken Ludwig's comic twist on the Sherlock Holmes (Alex Moggridge) mystery "The Hound of the Baskervilles."  Holmes and his trusty assistant, Dr. Watson (Daniel Pearce) offer their assistance to unravel a mystery around a fatal heart attack might actually be murder and a hideous, huge hound who may be the culprit. Think "The 39 Steps," with it's silly humor and gags, only not quite as engaging.

What Are the Highlights?
An able supporting cast doubling, tripling and more to bring to life numerous characters. The cast includes Kelly Hutchinson (Actress 1), Christopher Livingston (Actor 2), Brian Owen (Actor 1).

What Are the Lowlights?
It's a fun time at the theater, but the most annoying thing for me was that the actor playing Watson resembled what I expect Watson to look like and vice versa. I had to stop and re-gear my thoughts several times because I kept getting them confused.

More information:
Baskerville is elementary at Long Wharf Theatre, 222 Sargent Drive, New Haven, through March 25.

The creative team includes Tim Mackabee (set design), Lex Liang (costume design), Robert Wierzel (lighting design), Victoria Deiorio (sound design)

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

The Show Must Not Go On!

The following events have been cancelled today (Wednesday, March 7) due to the snowstorm. Check with the bx office at the theater to exchange tickets.

LONG WHARF 7:30 performance of Baskerville

HARTFORD STAGE 7:30 performance of Murder on the Orient Express

THE BUSHNELL Box Office will be closed Wednesday, March 7.

Hamilton Releases New Cast Photos

Mandy Gonzalez, Lexi Lawson and Joanna A. Jones. Photo: Joan Marcus
Michael Luwoye. Photo: Joan Marcus

James Monroe Iglehart and Thayne Jasperson.
Photo Joan Marcus
And before you ask (and many of you do quite regularly), no I have not reviewed these folks. I was invited to review the show Off-Broadway at the Public Theater with the original cast, but have not had the pleasure of seeing it on Broadway. Read that review, which put the show in our Top Picks category, here.  There still is a very long wait for tickets. Try the lottery here.

For more information about the show, visit For information about whether a tour is coming to your city, visit,673. The show is scheduled to come to The Bushnell in Hartford next season. Look for more information Monday, following the Bushnell's 2018-2019 Broadway season announcement.

Opportunities to Work for Connecticut Arts Organizations

The Connecticut Office of the Arts has launched its 2018 Arts Workforce Initiative designed to provide internship opportunities for Connecticut college students, emerging professionals and military veterans at Connecticut not-for-profit arts and cultural organizations. 

A total of 28 individuals will be placed with selected host organizations for a 10-week, paid internship June 4-Aug. 17, 2018.

To be eligible for an AWI Internship, individuals must:
Be a Connecticut resident 
Demonstrate a financial need 
Align with the Office of the Arts' READI Framework
Have availability to successfully complete the program
Specialize in or wish to grow professionally in the following categories: arts administration, arts presenting/curating, media arts, performing arts, visual arts, arts education, and literary arts
Be enrolled in an accredited college or university or be an emerging arts professional (for the "40 and Under" Category)
Be a veteran of the US Armed Forces (for the "Veterans in the Arts" Category)
Apply here. Applications must be received no later than midnight Sunday, April 8, 2018.

To be eligible as an AWI Host Organization, an organization must:
  • Be a not-for-profit Connecticut arts/cultural organization
  • Be able to provide an internship opportunity within the following categories: arts administration, arts presenting/curating, media arts, performing arts, visual arts, arts education, and literary arts
  • Be able to provide a hands-on and engaging internship opportunity 
  • Be in alignment with and display an understanding of COA's READI Framework
  • Be able to accommodate an intern or interns from June 4, 2018 through August 17, 2018
  • Be committed to ensuring that the intern or interns complete(s) the required 250 hours
Apply here to be a host organization. Applications must be received no later than midnight Sunday, April 8, 2018.

For more information:
Contact Adriane Jefferson at 860-500-2328 or via email

Due to the enormous success of the AWI pilot program in FY17, COA has committed to expanding the Arts Workforce Initiative in 2018. The number of interns has more than doubled from 12 to 28 and the application process is now open to all Connecticut not-for-profit arts and cultural organizations that can provide a hands-on and engaging internship opportunity in the arts.

Last year, during the pilot phase of the Arts Workforce Initiative, 12 individuals successfully completed internships with the following organizations:
Hartbeat Ensemble, Hartford
TheaterWorks, Hartford
Neighborhood Studios, Bridgeport
The Mark Twain House and Museum, Hartford
The Writer's Block Ink, New London
The International Festival of Arts and Ideas, New Haven
Expressiones, New London
The Amistad Center for Arts and Culture, Hartford
City Lights Gallery, Bridgeport
The Judy Dworin Performance Project, Hartford
The Autorino Center at St. Joseph’s College, West Hartford

The Workforce Initiative is funded by the Connecticut Office of the Arts and the National Endowment for the Arts.

CT Theater Review: Murder on the Orient Express -- Hartford Stage

David Pittu. Photo: T. Chalres Erickson
Julie Halston. Photo: T. Charles Erickson

Murder on the Orient Express
Adapted by Ken Ludwig, based on the novel by Agatha Christie
Directed by Emily Mann
Hartford Stage
Extended through March 25

By Lauren Yarger
What's It All About?
The McCarter Theatre's production of the who-done-it. David Pittu stars as Agatha Christie's Belgian detective Hercule Poirot, who tries to solve the murder of a mysterious Mr. Ratchett  (Ian Bedford) aboard the Orient Express. There's no shortage of suspects. Who could it be?

  • Princess Dragomiroff (an engaging Veanne Cox)
  • Col. Abruthnot (Ian Bedford)
  • Helen Hubbard (a riotous Julie Halston), who might have seen the murderer
  • Countess Andrenyi (Leigh Ann Larkin)
  • Michel (Maboud Ebrahimzadeh), the train's conductor
  • governess Mary Debenham (Susannah Hoffman)
  • an army officer (Charles Paul Mihaliak)
  • Hector MacQueen (Juha Sorola), Ratchett's personal secretary
  • Greta Ohlsson (Samantha Steinmetz)
  • Monsieur Bouc (Evan Zes), a friend of Poirot's and owner of the railroad
And what is the connection between the murder and the kidnapping/murder of little Daisy Armstrong (Jordyn Elizabeth Schmidt of Glastonbury) some years before? 

What Are the Highlights?
Halston, with her comedic charms in high gear, finds ways to keep us laughing throughout as usual. She's a theater gem.
Beowulf Boritt's deco train set is the other star of the show. It sparkles and moves and provides visual stimulation for the various compartments on the train.

What Are the Lowlights?
This Christie story is slow moving and I realized somewhere in the middle of attending the show that I never had made it through the book (first published in 1934) or the film versions based on it. I had grown bored and given up each time. Ludwig adds some humor, but my interest still waned during the two hours with intermission (it felt longer, but not sure what Director Emily Mann could have done about it). The upside was that I finally found out who done it. And I didn't correctly guess ahead of time like I usually do in murder mysteries, so that says something for the plot after all.

More information:
Murder on the Orient Express chugs along at Hartford Stage, 50 Church St., Hartford through March 25. Performances are Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Sunday at 7:30 pm; Friday and Saturday at 8 pm; Sunday at 2 pm. Audio Described Performance—Saturday, March 10 at 2 pm, Tickets are $18-$95:; 860-527-5151.

Additional credits:
Costume Designer William Ivey Long; Lighting Designer Ken Billington; Sound Designer Darron L. West; Fight Consultant Greg Webster; Dialect Coach Thom Jones

March Top Theater Picks for Broadway World

Click here to see this months picks.

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Meet Sharon McNight Starring as Sophie Tucker at Seven Angels Theatre

Sharon McNight stars at Seven Angels Theatre in the show she wrote about Sophie Tucker, Connecticut’s own Red Hot Mama, who enjoyed fame from her Burlesque days to Broadway and beyond.
We asked her to discuss the star and this role of a lifetime.
CTAC: How were you first drawn to write this show about Sophie Tucker?
SM: The man who first signed me to a recording contract had a dream that he saw me playing her on the Broadway stage.    I believe in omens and dreams
CTAC: Do you see similarities between her performance and your cabaret shows?
SM: They’re both live, real, old-time entertainment.    Nightclub shows.  We both make you laugh and cry.   “Come to our party.  You’ll have a good time”
CTAC: What's your favorite story about Sophie?
SM: Her father switching papers with a dead Italian man on the boat on the way over to America, the fear of religious persecution being so strong. And she didn’t sing in Yiddish, but her writer refused to let her record “My Yiddishe Mama” unless she did.  She learned the phonetics, and it was the first million record seller in history. 
CTAC: What are your favorite songs form her repertoire and why?
SM: I’ve got 60 years of music to choose from:  Irving Berlin, the Gershwins, Cole  Porter.   Music from 1906 to 1966.  Jack Yellen wrote all her special material, unique to her personality. 
CTAC: How much of her personal life shaped her performances and career success?
SM: Every aspect of her life was an integral part for her success.  She was motivated by her childhood poverty and took care of her family all her life.
CTAC: How has performing this show helped you grow as a performer?
SM: First, since Ii wrote it, it encouraged me to start writing again.  I’ve been performing for over 40 years.   I think my growth has come from the challenge of making something fresh every performance.   Actually it’s easy with great material.
CTAC: How can modern audiences relate to this show, about a performer who was most popular in the ‘20s and ‘30s?
SM: You have your dates wrong.   From the ‘20s until the day she died in 1966, she was very popular.  Men loved her because she was risqué and woman loved her because she was liberated.  She was booked at the Latin Quarter in Times Square for 28 weeks when she died.
CTAC: And finally, tell us a bit about your time at Yale Cabaret and the Eugene O'Neill -- and developing the next generation of performers.
SM: I teach what I sing, and I sing what I teach.  Vocal contests on TV have taught singers some bad habits, but worse than that, have taught audiences incorrect responses to the music -vocal gymnastics or clapping when there is a key change – wrong!!!   Why??  Because music instruction in our schools has been eliminated.  Rhythm is an innate human response.  We took the music away and were left with rap.  Music teaches you mathematics and discipline. It brings joy to the spirit of anyone involved in it.   Think of the countries or religions that don’t allow music in their culture. 

Red Hot Mama: The Sophie Tucker Story plays at Seven Angels Theatre, 1 Plank Road, Waterbury, through March 11. Performances are Thursday, Friday and Saturday at 8 pm; Saturday and Sunday at 2 and select Thursday at 2 pm. Tickets are $40-$55:

It is the story of a woman - her professional triumphs and personal sacrifices during sixty years of survival in show business.  Illustrating the contrast between Sophie’s on-stage persona, “The Last of the Red Hot Mamas”, and the real behind-the-scenes woman, it encompasses six decades of entertainment utilizing the original musical material that made Tucker famous. Stan Freeman Music Directs. Songs include “Some of These Days,”“After You’ve Gone,”and her so-called “naughty songs:” “There’s Company in the Parlor,” “Girls” and “Come on Down." 

Sharon McNight Bio:
Sharon McNight made her Broadway debut in 1989 in Starmites, creating the role of Diva, and receiving a Tony award nomination as “Best Leading Actress in a Musical” for her performance.
The singer/comedienne’s regional credits include Amanda McBroom’s Heartbeats at the Pasadena Playhouse, and an award winning Dolly in Hello, Dolly! at the Peninsula Civic Light Opera. Sharon was Sister Hubert in Nunsense in Los Angeles and San Francisco, where she received the Bay Area Critics Circle award for her performance.

McNight began her career in San Francisco where she received her Master of Arts degree in directing from San Francisco State. She taught a City College of S.F., has been a master teacher at the Eugene O’Neill Theater Center, and is on the faculty of the Cabaret Conference at Yale University. She has served as honorary chair of the San Francisco AIDS Emergency Fund.

Miller's The Crucible Begins Tonight at CT Repertory Theatre

Carly Polistina as Mary Warren and Mauricio Miranda as John Proctor in THE CRUCIBLE by Arthur Miller, directed by Paul Mullins, onstage in the Nafe Katter Theatre at Connecticut Repertory Theatre through March 4, 2018.  Tickets at or 860-486-2113.  Photo by Gerry Goodstein.
Connecticut Repertory Theatre (CRT) begins the second half of the 2017-18 season with the Tony Award-winning classic The Crucible by Arthur MillerPaul Mullins will direct. Performances will be held in the Nafe Katter Theatre Feb. 22 through March 4.

When the daughter of the local reverend falls into a mysterious coma, the town of Salem, MA finds itself plunged into a state of suspicion and fear. The young women accuse citizens in the town of witchcraft. The lies spread like wildfire until it is too late to admit the truth. Written in 1952 in the wake of Senator Joseph McCarthy and the House Un-American Activities Committee, Miller’s classic tale of persecution and fear remains poignant and relevant today. Whose voices are heard in society now and whose are silenced? How does fear used as a political tool? When do lies have more power than the truth?

Evening performances start at 7:30 on Wednesdays and Thursdays, and at 8 on Fridays and Saturdays. Select matinee performances are at 2 pm on Saturdays and Sundays. Tickets are $10-  $33:; 860-486-2113.

CT Theater Review: The Bodyguard -- The Bushnell

Deborah Cox and Judson Mills. Photo: Joan Marcus 

The Bodyguard
Adapted by Alexander Dinelaris from the film by Lawrence Kasdan
Choreography by Karen Bruce
Directed by Thea Sharrock

By Lauren Yarger
What's It All About?
The Olivier-winning musical based on the 1992 film starring Whitney Houston, whose catalog of songs highlight the story of bodyguard Frank Farmer (Judson Mills), hired to protect superstar singer Rachel Marron, who is being stalked by a threatening fan (a very creepy Jorge Paniagua). The night I attended Jasmin Richardson filled in for Deborah Cox in the role of Rachel. Richardson plays the role regularly at Saturday matinees and Sunday evening performances. You won't miss the star. Richardson is sensational.

In the book, adapted by Alexander Dinelaris,, based on Lawrence Kasdan’s screenplay, Frank gets involved on a personal level with Rachel and her young son, Fletcher (the role is share by Kevelin B. Jones III and Sebastian Maynard-Palmer), which complicates the bodyguard's ability to protect the singer. Actually, the plot is rather weak and Frank seems like the worst bodyguard ever. Besides getting personally involved with his client, the stalker somehow manages to threaten Fletcher in his bedroom, attack Rachel's sister, Nikki (also an understudy the night I attended, DeQuina Moore) who has her own feelings for Frank and jealousy issues with Rachel. Oh, and the stalker also manages to trail the bodyguard and her family to what Frank believes is a safe house. And, oh yeah, Frank doesn't notice when a hard-to-get backstage pass goes missing. Hire me another bodyguard, please.

The story, really, is just a mechanism for performing some great Whitney Houston songs under the Musical Direction of Matthew Smedal with vibrant choreography by Karen Bruce. The music fits naturally into the story of a musical legend performing concerts and in night club settings designed by Tim Hatley, who also designs the costumes. Duncan McLean's projection design, Mark Henderson's hard-to-take flashing lights and  Richard Brooker's very loud sound (you will jump out of your seat at one point. . .) help the audience feel the concert atmosphere.

What Are the Highlights?
Richardson's soaring voice and songs like "How Will I Know?," Greatest Love of All," "I Wanna Dance with Somebody." and "I Will Always Love You."

Mills' karaoke rendition of "I Will Always Love You" is a hoot.

What are the Lowlights?
Covered above.

More information:
The Bodyguard plays at The Bushnell, 166 Capitol Ave., Hartford, through Feb. 25. Performances are Thursday at 7:30 pm; Friday at 8 pm.; Saturday at 2and 8 pm; Sunday at 1 and 6:30 pm. Ticket ar $43-$119:; 860-987-5900.

Additional casting:
Adam Barabáš, Elyssa Jo Brown, Henry Byalikov, Megan Elyse Fulmer, Devinn Harris, Alex Jackson, Megan Melville, Kevin Mylrea, Stefan Raulston, Matthew Schmidt, Amber Snow, Lauren Tanner, and Naomi C. Walley.

Additional credits:
Orchestrations by Chris Egan, Musical Supervision by Richard Beadle, Production Musical Supervision by Mike Dixon.

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

CT Theater Review: Something Rotten! -- The Bushnell

Adam Pascal and the cast of the Something Rotten! National Tour. Photo: Jeremy Daniel
Something Rotten!
Music and Lyrics by Wayne Kirkpatrick and Karey Kirkpatrick
Book by Karey Kirkpatrick and John O’Farre
Directed and Choreographed by Casey Nicholaw
The Bushnell
Through Feb. 4

By Lauren Yarger
Something Rotten! is really something quite wonderful -- especially if you are a fan of musical theater.
The musical, which was nominated for 10 Tony Awards, brings the Renaissance to Hartford with a run at the Bushnell through Feb. 4. It's 1590 England and William Shakespeare (Adam Pascal) is a rock star. Everything he does is a success since starting his own theater after Nick Bottom (Rob McClure) kicked him out of the theater troupe he runs with his brother Nigel (Josh Grisetti), from whom Shakespeare likes to steal ideas. 

When Nick's wife, Bea (Maggie Lakis), decides she needs to go to work to help support the family -- even though it's the "'90s," equal opportunities aren't available for women workers --  Nick feels he must take some desperate action to make sure he and Nigel will have the next hit show and be a financial success. He takes on a money-lending Jew named Shylock (Jeff Brooks) as a producer, even though it's against the law, and seeks out soothsayer Nostradamus (a very funny Blake Hammond) to give him the scoop on what the greatest theater production will be so he can have Nigel write it first.

Startlingly, Nostradamus predicts that theater in the future will take on a strange new form called a musical, where actors suddenly stop in the middle of speaking to sing and dance. While he gets that part right, some of the details about the show get jumbled and what the troupe ends up presenting, "Omelette the Musical," is truly one of the most rotten -- and funny -- musicals you'll ever see. Pieces of just about every musical you ever have seen on stage are scrambled into the plot. Silly costumes by Gregg Barnes and choreography by Casey Nicholaw, who also directs, add to the hilarity. 

Pleasing music and lyrics by Wayne Kirkpatrick and Karey Kirkpatrick, with a humorous book by Karey Kirkpatrick and John O’Farre, make this a very entertaining show. This tour is especially strong, with polished performances from Pascal, McClure and Grisetti, who all performed in the Broadway production. Grisetti is charming as the geeky poet and is excellently paired as a star-crossed lover with Portia (an effervescent Autumn Hurlbert), whose puritan father, Brother Jeremiah (Scott Cote), opposes the match.

Something Rotten! shakes up your thoughts of iambic pentameter at the Bushnell, 166 Capitol Avenue, Hartford, through Feb. 4. Performances are Tuesday through Thursday at 7:30 pm.; Friday at 8 pm.; Saturday at 2 and 8 pm; Sunday at 1 and 6:30 pm. Ticket prices start at $22.50:; 860-987-5900.

Additional casting:
Lucy Anders, Kyle Nicholas Anderson, Kate Bailey, Daniel Beeman, Brandon Bieber, Mandie Black, Nick Rashad Burroughs, Ian Campayno, Drew Franklin, Luke Hamilton, Cameron Hobbs, Patrick John Moran, Joel Newsome, Con O’Shea-Creal, David Rossetti, Kaylin Seckel, Sarah Quinn Taylor, Tonya Thompson and Emily Trumble. 

Additional credits: 
Scott Pask (scenic design), Jeff Croiter (lighting design), Peter Hylenski (sound design), Josh Marquette (hair design), Phil Reno (music direction / conductor), Glen Kelly (arrangements), Larry Hochman (orchestrations), Steve Bebout (associate director)
--- A R T S ---

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

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