Hartford History, Update on ‘Amazing Grace’ and Ackybourn at Westport

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Inside notes and comments about Connecticut and New York Professional Theater

By Karen Isaacs

From Chester to Chicago to Broadway: Friends who saw Amazing Grace about the man who wrote the classic song at Goodspeed at Chester during it initial development, raved about it. Now Amazing Grace is preparing for Broadway with a production in Chicago.  It opens there in the fall and then plans to move to NYC.  Josh Young stars as the composer John Newton.

Hartford History: Ether Dome, the play which opens the Hartford Stage season (Sept. 11 to Nov. 5), tells a bit of Hartford history.  The new play, which is currently at La Jolla Playhouse in California, is set in Hartford in 1846, when Dr. Horace Wells discovered anesthesia.  The press materials describe the plot: “when a new treatment promises to eradicate pain, a doctor and his student play out an epic battle between altruism and financial gain… Ether Dome is a psychological thriller that explores the pain that afflicts humankind, our attempts to find relief, and the beginning of healthcare as big business.” Michael Wilson, former artistic director at Hartford Stage, directs. For tickets visit http://www.hartfordstage.org or call 860-527-5151.

Comedy in Westport: Things We Do for Love  is next up at Westport Country Playhouse, running from Aug. 19 to Sept. 7. Alan Ayckbourn, the well-known and prolific British playwright is the author and John Tillinger directs. According to the press materials, “in Things We Do for Love, fastidious Barbara’s orderly, but solitary world is thrown into chaos when the arrival of her longtime friend Nikki and her fiancé ignites unexpected and violent passions.”  I am fond of Ayckbourn’s work; in the US, he is sometimes referred to as the British Neil Simon, but in fact, he is very different.  Tillinger is very experienced at directing Aycknourn’s work. For tickets visit http://www.westportplayhouse.org or call 888-927-7529.

 Aetna Playwright: Aetna supports the work of a young playwright through its New Voices Fellow at Hartford Stage.  This year’s fellow is Kimber Lee whose play brownsville song (b-side for tray)  will be produced at Long Wharf this season. As the New Voices Fellow, Lee will be developing works while also engaging with the Greater Hartford community.  The Fellow program is designed to provide an artistic home for important playwrights of color.  Previous fellows — whose works have also been staged at Hartford Stage — include Matthew Lopez and Quiara Alegr Hudes.

 City Center Encores: New York’s City Center Theater is known for its Encores series of semi-staged, one weekend runs of older musicals.  Several have gone on to Broadway revivals — most notably Chicago. This fall,  two special events are planned; the usual season is in the Spring.  On Oct. 27 the annual gala will be Enocres! Sings Rodgers, Hart and Hammerstein. In November (Nov.6 -16), Brian Stokes Mitchell will star in The Bandwagon billed as an Encores Special Event.  This production is based on the 1953 film that starred Fred Astaire, Cyd Charisse, Oscar Levant, Nanette Fabray and Jack Buchanan among others.  The original script written by Comden and Green is being revised by Douglas Carter Beane. Music is by Howard Dietz and Arthur Schwartz. Originally a 1931 review (also starring Astaire), it features such songs as “Dancing in the Dark,” “By Myself,”  “I Guess I’ll Have to Change My Plans” and others. Tickets go on sale Sept. 2 by visiting http://www.NYCityCenter.org or calling 22-581-1212. This is one show, that is MUST see for me.  I would not be surprised if this production is a possible transfer to Broadway IF all goes well.

Interesting Casting: When the revival of Pippin! comes to the Bushnell in Hartford, Jan. 6-11, at least one member of the cast will be very familiar with the musical.  John Rubenstein, who was the original Pippin in the Broadway cast in 1972 will this time play Charlemagne.  Luci Arnez will play Berthe (the grandmother).  It definitely makes me feel old.


This content is courtesy of Shore Publications and http://www.zip06.com.

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