By Karen Isaacs
It’s the year of Hamilton arriving in Connecticut. That’s the big news.
As ever year, certain productions planned for Connecticut theaters pique my interest. I circle their dates on my calendar in anticipation. Here’s my list for this year.
Connecticut is blessed with an abundance of fine professional theaters – from the major regional companies (Yale Rep, Long Wharf, Hartford Stage, Goodspeed, TheaterWorks, Westport Playhouse) to more locally oriented theaters (Ivoryton Playhouse, Playhouse on Park in West Hartford, Connecticut Repertory Theater at UConn, Sharon Playhouse, Seven Angels in Waterbury, MTC in Norwalk and ACT-CT in Ridgefield). Plus there are the major presenting house that bring in national tours – the Bushnell in Hartford, Shubert in New Haven and the Palace in Waterbury.
One thing I have noticed in the last few years: more and more new plays are being produced while fewer classic works are done. Why? Sometimes it’s easier to get financial support or new works. New works allow theaters to reach out to more diverse audiences and present works by diverse playwrights. Even length may play a role; classic plays tend to be full-length (two plus hours) while modern audiences seems to prefer the 90+ minute play.
So what have I circled for this up-coming year?
(One caveat: Goodspeed, Ivoryton and Westport have not announced their productions for the first half of 2019. I’m sure some of those would have made my list).
Yet, looking back over a similar list I made last summer, some of them did not live up to my expectations and some that I had not circled, were outstanding.
Now Here Are My Most Anticipated Shows
A Chorus Line at Ivoryton closed Sept 2. It is a great show and I hoped they would do it well. They did.
Drowsy Chaperone at Goodspeed (Sept. 21-Nov. 25). This is just a delightful show; it won’t go down in the history of musicals as one of the best, but it is so much fun.
Man of La Mancha at Westport Country Playhouse (Sept. 25 –Oct. 13). It’s not my favorite musical (in fact it wouldn’t make my top 25), BUT Marco Lamos is directing and so that puts it on my list.
The Flamingo Kid at Hartford Stage (May 9 –June 2). This is the last show Darko Tresnjak will direct as artistic director. The brand new musical is aiming for Broadway just as A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder and Anastasia.
Henry V at Hartford Stage (Oct. 11 – Nov. 4). Hartford Stage has a track record of excellent Shakespeare and the play can be interpreted in so many ways. Plus, I like Shakespeare.
Flea in Her Ear at Westport (closed July 28) – I’m a sucker for Feydeau; I knew Mark Lamos would do a bang-up job directing it and I was right on all counts. This was overall a fabulous production.
Dramas & Comedies (New, Familiar & Rare)
Hand to God at TheaterWorks (closed Aug. 26). It was on my list out of curiosity. I didn’t see the show on Broadway and wanted to see why so many critics raved about it. I am not sure I would have.
The Prisoner at Yale Rep (Nov. 2-17). Why? It’s a US Premiere and it’s directed by Peter Brook. Need I say more?
Ripcord at Seven Angels (Nov. 8 – Dec. 2). This comedy about elderly roommates is on my list primarily because playwright David Lindsay-Abaire has written such interesting plays including Rabbit Hole which I loved.
Good Faith at Yale Rep (Feb. 1-23). I’m ambivalent about this world premiere which is based on the case some New Haven firefighters brought claiming civil rights violations. It could be just talking heads, but I hope playwright Karen Hartman can make it much more.
The Touring Shows
Hamilton at the Bushnell (Dec. 11-30). Who wouldn’t circle this show in RED???
Come from Away at the Bushnell (April 30-May 5). It would have won the Tony except for Dear Evan Hansen, it began at the Goodspeed Festival of New Musicals and it is well done. I enjoy the music and the story.
Lion King at the Bushnell (closed Aug. 16) – Amazingly I had never seen it. The concept and execution was terrific, but once is enough.
These selections are just the tip of the iceberg. Many of the other scheduled productions, sound very interesting. So check them all out. Connecticut has amazing theater!