Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Age of Innocence, Rags Top CT Critics Circle Awards

Photo: Marie Reynolds
The world premiere of Hartford Stage’s The Age of Innocence and a revised version of the musical Rags from Goodspeed Musicals took top honors at the Connecticut Critics Circle Awards Monday.

The event, which celebrated the ’17-’18 theater season, was held at Westport Country Playhouse.

Awards for outstanding actors in a musical went to Samantha Massell in Goodspeed’s Rags and Jamie LaVerdiere in  Connecticut Repertory Theatre’s production of 1776.

Awards for outstanding actors in a play went to Reg Rogers in Yale Repertory Theatre’s production of An Enemy of the People and Isabelle Barbier in Playhouse on Park’s production of The Diary of Anne Frank.

Top directing awards went to Terrence Mann for CT Repertory’s 1776 and Ezra Barnes for Playhouse on Park’s The Diary of Anne Frank.

Outstanding ensemble award went to TheaterWorks’ production of The Wolves;  The debut award went to Megan O’Callaghan  for The Bridges of Madison County and Fun Home, both at Music Theatre of Connecticut. The outstanding solo honor was awarded to Elizabeth Stahlmann for Westport Country Playhouse's Grounded. Kelli Barclay won for her choreography for Goodspeed Musicals’ The Will Rogers Follies.

Michael O’Flaherty, longtime music director for Goodspeed Musicals, received the Tom Killen Award for lifetime service to the theater from Donna Lynn Cooper Hilton, a producer at Goodspeed.

Receiving special awards were New London’s Flock Theatre for its production of Long Day’s Journey Into Night at the Monte Cristo Cottage; the Broadway Method Academy of Fairfield; and Billy Bivona, who composed and performed original music for TheaterWork’s production of Constellations.

The outstanding featured actress award in a musical award went to Jodi Stevens for Summer Theatre of New Canaan’s Singin’ in the Rain. There was a tie for outstanding featured actor in a musical, with honors going to Matt Faucher for Goodspeed Musicals’ Oklahoma! and to Cory Candelet for Ivoryton Playhouse’s The Fantasticks.

The award for outstanding featured actors in a play went to Peter Francis James for Westport Country Playhouse’s production of Romeo and Juliet, and to Judith Ivey for Long Wharf Theatre’s world premiere of Fireflies.

Design awards went to Fitz Patton for sound and Matthew Richards for lighting for Westport Country Playhouse’s Appropriate; Linda Cho for costumes for Hartford Stage’s The Age of Innocence; Yana Birykova for projections for Westport Country Playhouse’s Grounded and David Lewis, for set design for Playhouse on Park’s The Diary of Anne Frank.

Jenn Harris and Matthew Wilkas, stars of TheaterWorks’ Christmas on the Rocks, presided over the event.

Friday, June 8, 2018

CT Theater Review: Flyin' West -- Westport Country Playhouse

L-R:  Brittany Bradford, Michael Chenevert, Keona Welch, Edward O’Blenis, Brenda Pressley, and Nikiya Mathis. Photo: Carol Rosegg
Flyin' West
By Pearl Cleage
Directed by Seret Scott
Westport Country Playhouse
Through June 16

By Lauren Yarger
What's It All About?
A wonderfully written play by Pearl Cleage, which debuted more than a quarter of a century ago and is set in set in 1898, but contains a message of the human spirit that is right at home in 2018.

A group of close-knit women has embraced a new life in the all-black community of Nicodemus, Kansas. Fanny Dove (Brittany Bradford), Sophie Washington (Nikiya Mathis) and Minnie Dove Charles (Keona Welch) are all sisters, bound by their trip to freedom in Kansas after suffering hardship and prejudice in Memphis. For their matriarch, Miss Leah (Brenda Pressley) the concept of freedom is one she has acquired. The memories and cruelty of being a slave, where she was used for breeding and saw 10 children sold into bondage, are still fresh. The group is reunited when Minnie and her husband, Frank (Michael Chenevert) arrive from London for a visit. They also welcome Will Parish (Edward O'Blenis), their neighbor and Fannie's suitor,  to their fold. Happiness turns to alarm, however, when the harsh realities of Minnie and Frank's relationship emerge and when he threatens to sell the couple's portion of the homestead to white land speculators.

What Are the Highlights?
It's an excellent play with excellent performances, lovingly directed by Seret Scott. The women are developed and distinct: Sophie's follow-the-rules attitude is a contrast to Fannie's sweet optimism. Their fierce love for Minnie is evident and Miss Leah applies a wisdom acquired through the years to affect a solution. Frank and Will are contrasts as well: the former a selfish, abusive man and the latter who makes the object of his affection feel loved and honored.

What Are the Lowlights?
None for the production itself, which is one of the best I have seen at Westport. The violence and prejudice these women have experienced is hard to take, however, especially when they refer to them as matter-of-factly as one might in recounting a trip to the grocery store. Something that is part if life and expected. It's chilling, but written is such a moving way that the audience feels a part of the women's story. Let's just say that there is mirth and support when Frank gets what is coming to him.

More information:
Flyin’ West" plants itself in our hearts at Westport Country Playhouse, 20 Powers Court, Westport, through June 16. Performances are Tuesday at 7 pm, Wednesday at 2 and 8 pm., Thursday and Friday at 8 pm, Saturday at 3 and 8 pm. and Sunday at 3 pm. Single tickets start at $30:, 203-227-4177.

Cleage is an Atlanta-based writer whose work has won commercial acceptance and critical praise in several genres. She is an award-winning playwright of a dozen works including Blues for an Alabama Sky. She is also a bestselling author whose first novel, “What Looks Like Crazy on an Ordinary Day,” was an Oprah Book Club pick and spent nine weeks on The New York Times bestseller list.

The design team includes Marjorie Bradley Kellogg, scenic design; Heidi Leigh Hanson, costume design; Stephen Strawbridge, lighting design; and Frederick Kennedy, sound design.

Open Captions (June 10), Backstage Pass (June 13), Playhouse Happy Hour (June 14), and Thursday TalkBack (June 14). 

CT Repertory Offers Sign Language Performances for Nutmeg Series Productions

Seth Rudetsky in DISASTER! Photo by Gerry Goodstein.
Connecticut Repertory Theatre (CRT) announces that each show of its 2018 Nutmeg Summer Series -- Disaster!, Sweeney Todd: A Musical Thriller in Concert, and Jesus Christ Superstar, will have performances interpreted in American Sign Language (ASL) through a partnership with UConn’s Center for Students (CSD) with Disabilities. 

ASL interpreted performances will take place during the Saturday matinee performances on June 16 for Disaster!, June 30 for Sweeney Todd: A Musical Thriller in Concert, and July 21 Jesus Christ Superstar.

The first show of the series, Disaster! (through June 16), is created by Seth Rudetsky and Jack Plotnick, with musical arrangements and scoring by Joseph Joubert and song arrangements by Seth Rudetsky. 

It’s 1979 and what begins as a night of boogie fever at the floating casino and discotheque quickly changes to a panic as the ship succumbs to multiple disasters, including earthquakes, tidal waves and infernos. This comedic homage to the disaster movies of the 70s features creator Rudetsky alongside Connecticut native Maggie McDowell, who appeared in Disaster in both of its New York runs, Ange Schworer and Anne L. Nathan.

Peter Flynn directs Sweeney Todd: A Musical Thriller in Concert (June 21 – July 1), the Tony-Award winning tale of love, murder, and revenge set against the backdrop of 19th century London. CRT Artistic Director Terrence Mann performs as the title character alongside Broadway Veterans Liz Larsen (Nellie Lovett) of Broadway’s Beautiful: The Carole King Musical, The Most Happy Fella, and Hairspray, and Andrea Burns (Beggar Woman) of Broadway’s On Your Feet and In The Heights.

The Summer Series will close with Jesus Christ Superstar (July 12 – 22). A timeless work with an incredible score, set against the backdrop of an extraordinary and universally-known series of events but seen, unusually, through the eyes of Judas Iscariot, gets a fresh new vision from Artistic Director Terrence Mann and choreography Tony Award-nominee Christopher d’Amboise (CRT’s Newsies). This electric musical stars CRT debut Alex Prakken (Jesus), Broadway star Ryan Vona (Judas), and CRT Nutmeg Summer Series returner Jonathan Cobrda (Pontius Pilate), previously from Les Miserables: A Musical Celebration and Peter and the Starcatcher.

Evening performances start at 7:30 on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays, and at 9 on Fridays and Saturdays. Matinee performances start at 2  on Saturdays and Sundays. Subscription package options range from $84 to $117. Single tickets prices start at $48. Discounts are available for seniors and students.

The Harriet S. Jorgensen Theatre is located on the campus of the University of Connecticut, in Storrs, CT.

Summer Sounds with the HSO Start Tonight

Lisa Wiliamson.
Photo: Courtesy of HSO
Hartford Symphony Orchestra Masterworks Series 
Carmina Burana: Festival of Fate
Friday – Sunday, June 8-10, 2018
Belding Theater at The Bushnell
Friday & Saturday 8pm│Sunday 3pm

Ticket Information: Tickets begin at $38. Student tickets are $10 and $25 tickets are available on Saturday evening for patrons age 40 and under. To purchase tickets or for more information, please call 860-987-5900 or visit

FeaturingCarolyn Kuan conductor
Hartford Chorale Richard Coffey, music director
Connecticut Children’s Chorus 
Meredith Neumann, director
Lisa Williamson 
David Guzman 
Tyler Duncan 

Clyne Masquerade
Knoxville: Summer of 1915
Carmina Burana

Ticket holders are invited to attend a free Festival of Fate two hours prior to each performance and during intermission. This event will include performers from Sea Tea Improv, a prize wheel, a fortune teller, a Tarot card reader, a photo booth, and specialty drinks. Grand Prize Sponsor is Foxwoods Resort Casino. 

Carmina Burana: Festival of Fate is sponsored by the United Bank Foundation. 

Celebrate Juneteenth!

Juneteenth Gala

"The Evolution of Emancipation"

Friday, June 15, 2018  
Premier Reception - 7 pm | Gala - 8 pm to Midnight

Guest Emcee
Lorenzo Hall
Fox 61
Music Spun By
DJ Ronn P & DJ Dane

2018 Spirit of Juneteenth Honoring

Connecticut State Treasurer
Denise L. Nappier

Arts Advocate & Administrator
Jonathan Bruce

Musician & Producer
Alvin B. Carter, Jr.

For a full listing of events visit

New Paradigm Theatre's Hunchback will Benefit Burn Foundation

Riding on the heels of New Paradigm Theatre’s (NPT) sold-out, multi-ethnic production of Oliver-Reinvented, in 2016 and Peter Pan in 2017 at Fairfield Theatre’s Warehouse space, NPT will continue its “collective impact” productions, bridging the gap between the arts and the local community, with the musical The Hunchback of Notre Dame Aug. 18-19.

Young people of all abilities will participate side-by-side with Broadway pros to create this production. Emmy and Oscar winner Paul Bogaev will again be the musical producer as well as playing a leading role. TV and Stage veterans Scott Bryce and Jodi Stevens will co-direct.

New Paradigm, a company well-known for its inventive productions that are presented with multi-cultural, multi- generational and multi-gendered casting, has chosen Connecticut Burns Care Foundation as its unity “partner non profit.” For 40 years, CBCF has worked to support burn survivors as well as to present programs for education and advocacy to prevent burn injuries.

For more info and ticket information, visit

Wiliamstown Theatre Festival LineUp Set

Coming up at the Williamstown Theatre Festival:

Main Stage

The Closet | June 26 - July 14
By Douglas Carter Beane

Inspired by Francis Veber’s play Le Placard
Directed by Mark Brokaw
with Ben Ahlers, Brooks Ashmanskas, Raymond Bokhour, Matthew Broderick, Will Cobbs, Ann Harada, and Jessica Hecht

Tony Award winner and Golden Globe and Emmy nominee Matthew Broderick stars in this world premiere comedy by Douglas Carter Beane, inspired by Le Placard, the French comedy by Academy Award nominee Francis Veber. Martin O’Reilly (Broderick) is stuck in Scranton in a dead-end job, his marriage is over, and his son won’t return his calls. His only friend is his eternally optimistic co-worker (Tony nominee Jessica Hecht), who can’t bake enough muffins to stave off her romantic longings. When a stranger (Tony nominee Brooks Ashmanskas) sashays into their world, he drags Martin—and everyone around him—out of their respective closets. Helmed by Mark Brokaw, this contemporary satire breaks the chains of political correctness and celebrates the possibility of finding authenticity and love (and show tunes) in unexpected places.

By special arrangement with Simon Friend, Burnt Umber Productions and Scott Landis


Lempicka | July 19 - August 1
Book and lyrics by Carson Kreitzer Music by Matt Gould

Choreographed by Raja Feather Kelly

Directed by Rachel Chavkin
with Carmen Cusack, Eden Espinosa, Natalie Joy Johnson, Justin Gregory Lopez, Azudi Onyejekwe, Steven Rattazzi, Michael McCorry Rose, Andrew Samonsky, Nathaniel Stampley, Kay Trinidad, and Rachel Tucker

Featuring Tony nominee Carmen Cusack and Eden Espinosa, this world premiere musical is directed by Tony nominee Rachel Chavkin, with music by Matt Gould and book and lyrics by Carson Kreitzer. Fleeing the Russian revolution and leaving behind a world of opulence and wealth, aristocrat Tamara de Lempicka (Espinosa) and her beloved husband Tadeusz (Andrew Samonsky) are forced to make a new life. In the rising tide of fascism, Tamara takes to painting to survive, and when she meets the free-spirited Rafaela (Cusack), a prostitute on the fringes of Parisian society, she's torn between the life she cherishes with her husband and the passion, ambition, and possibility awoken in her by her new muse. Inspired by the life of the artist who transformed herself from penniless refugee to star of the art world when the world itself teetered on chaos, Lempicka looks at the beauty and danger of one painter pursuing it all.

By special arrangement with Seaview Productions and Marathon Live Entertainment

The Member of the Wedding | August 5 - August 19
By Carson McCullers

Directed by Gaye Taylor Upchurch

With Ben Ahlers, Leon Addison Brown, Vinie Burrows, Will Cobbs, Tavi Gevinson, Louisa Jacobson, Tom Pecinka, Liv Rooth, Roslyn Ruff, Logan Schuyler Smith, and James Waterston.

Gaye Taylor Upchurch directs this revival of Carson McCullers' beloved play. On the eve of a family wedding in 1945, housekeeper Berenice Sadie Brown (Roslyn Ruff) can’t calm the nerves of her 12-year-old charge, Frankie (Tavi Gevinson). Berenice has raised Frankie and her cousin John Henry (Logan Schuyler Smith) as though they are her own children. But as their companion, playfellow, and mother figure, Berenice is suddenly struggling to protect them from the harsh, racially motivated injustices lurking just outside their Southern home. This cherished American work explores the complicated reality of a thoughtful and hard-working woman caught between two worlds.

The Member of the Wedding is presented by special arrangement with Samuel French, Inc.

Nikos Stage

The Sound Inside | June 27 - July 8
By Adam Rapp
Directed by David Cromer

with Will Hochman and Mary-Louise Parker

Emmy, Golden Globe, and Tony Award winner Mary-Louise Parker stars in this world premiere play by Pulitzer Prize finalist Adam Rapp, directed by David Cromer. Bella Baird (Parker) is an accomplished professor at an Ivy League university who prizes her solitude. But when she faces a challenge she cannot tackle alone, she allies herself with a brilliant and mysterious student, Christopher (Will Hochman). Intensely intimate and deeply moving, this haunting play probes the question of what one person can do for another.

Artney Jackson | July 11 - July 22
By James Anthony Tyler
Directed by Laura Savia

with Joshua Boone, Alfie Fuller, Christopher Livingston, Portia, and Ray Anthony Thomas

In this world premiere play by James Anthony Tyler, Artney Jackson (Ray Anthony Thomas) is a devoted mentor, a respected employee at the local cable company, and an enthusiastic teller of “dad jokes.” After twenty-five years, he is finally up for promotion: he can almost taste the possibility of becoming a manager. Over the course of one week, Artney’s decades-old routine is shattered when his son makes plans to move out of their home, the higher-ups test his resolve to lead, and co-workers show their true colors. Will Artney Jackson overcome the turmoil and rise up? Directed by WTF Associate Artistic Director Laura Savia, this funny and touching play examines what it really means to give it your all at the office!

Seared | July 25 - August 4
By Theresa Rebeck
Directed by Moritz von Stuelpnagel

with Tré Davis, Michael Esper, Steven Pasquale, and Krysta Rodriguez

Chef Harry (Steven Pasquale) is a genius in the kitchen; his scallops are the “it” dish in Brooklyn. His business partner, Mike (Michael Esper), wants to expand their restaurant, but Harry sees that as selling out. When a shrewd consultant (Krysta Rodriguez) is brought in to make the case for expansion, Harry boils over. Can their most devoted employee (Tré Davis) help to put the lid back on? Tony nominee Moritz von Stuelpnagel directs this new fit-for-foodies comedy by critically acclaimed playwright Theresa Rebeck, which grapples with the intersection of creativity and commerce.

Dangerous House | August 8 - August 19
By Jen Silverman
Directed by Saheem Ali

with Phillip James Brannon, Michael Braun, Alfie Fuller, and Samira Wiley

Noxolo (Alfie Fuller) is an aspiring footballer from Cape Town who moved to London for a fresh start. With the World Cup coming to South Africa and the mounting sense that her ex-lover, Pretty (Emmy nominee Samira Wiley), is in peril, she is pulled back. Will Noxolo risk her safety to unravel the secrets of a life she swore to leave behind? Saheem Ali directs Jen Silverman's new play that asks what one woman can do for her people, for her nation, and for the love of her life.


The WTF Box Office is now open. Tickets may be purchased online at, by phone, or in person at the ’62 Center for Theatre and Dance Box Office at 1000 Main St (Route 2), Williamstown, MA 01267. The WTF Box Office phone number is 413.458.3253.

For over six decades, Williamstown Theatre Festival, recipient of the Tony Award for Outstanding Regional Theatre and the Commonwealth Award for Achievement, has brought emerging and professional theatre artists together to create a thrilling summer festival of premiere work alongside fresh, new productions of the western canon, and offers a rich array of accompanying cultural events including COMMUNITY WORKS, Late-Night Cabarets, along with readings and workshops of new plays. Under artistic director Mandy Greenfield, the Festival launched a New Play and Musical Commissioning Program through which theatre artists including Nathan Alan Davis, Halley Feiffer, Justine Levine, Matthew Lopez, Marsha Norman, Jiehae Park, Zoe Sarnak and Benjamin Scheuer, among others, are creating new work year-round. The Festival runs unmatched training programs for new generations of theatre talent, and artists and productions shaped at the Festival fill theatres in New York, London, and around the country each season. Williamstown Theatre Festival’s productions of Bridges of Madison County, The Elephant Man, Fool for Love, Living on Love, and The Visit enjoyed critically acclaimed runs on Broadway, with The Elephant Man and The Visit receiving Tony Award nominations for Best Revival of a Play and Musical, respectively. In addition, the Festival’s world premiere productions of Cost of Living (2018 Pulitzer Prize Winner in Drama) and Actually played acclaimed Off-Broadway runs at Manhattan Theatre Club, and the 2015 production of Paradise Blue is currently playing at Signature Theatre in New York.

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