Inside notes and comments about Connecticut and New York Professional Theater
By Karen Isaacs
Oscar Winner in Hartford: Richard Dreyfuss, who won an Oscar and has performed before in Connecticut at Long Wharf, has joined the cast of Relativity, at TheaterWorks. The new play by Mark St. Germain is about a mystery in Einstein’s life: the birth of a daughter in 1902 who was never heard about after 1904. Years later, Einstein is questioned about it by a young reporter. Dreyfuss will play Einstein. Artistic Director Rob Ruggiero directs. The play runs to Nov. 13. For tickets visit TheatreWorks.
Bank Ad Causes Controversy: Wells Fargo Bank probably thought the ad series for the Teen Financial Education Day (Saturday, Sept. 17) was just clever. But the ad series raised the ire of the artistic community, so much so that the company issued an apology and withdrew the ads. The headlines in the ads featured phrase such as “a ballerina yesterday. An engineer today.” These headlines were interpreted as implying that artists would be better served by going into the sciences. Social media is awash in variations on the idea, such as “Bob Newhart – an accountant yesterday, a comedian and star today.”
Theater’s Loss: The death of Edward Albee at the age of 88 is an enormous loss for not just American theater but the world. While he is best known for his biting but humorous look at marriage in Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? his other works often shocked and puzzled audiences while exploring important issues about relationships. Connecticut audiences were blessed to see fine productions throughout the state: Mark Lamos directed several excellent productions at Hartford Stage, as did Michael Wilson. Long Wharf had a memorable production of Virginia Woolf starring Mike Nichols and Elaine May.
Tickets on Sale: Tickets are on salefor the new musical Anastasia which had its premiere at Hartford Stage last spring. Tickets are available at Telecharge.com. Also going on sale are tickets for the musical Charlie and the Chocolate Factory which will star two-time Tony winner Christian Borle which opens in April. It’s also available at Telecharge.
Broadway Notes: Tony nominees Kate Baldwin will play Irene Molloy and Gavin Ceel will play Corneilus Hackl in the Bette Middler – David Hyde Pierce revival of Hello, Dolly! which opens this spring. The first day that tickets were on sale via Telecharge, sales exceeded $9 million. Something Rotten! closes on January 1 after an almost two year run; Jersey Boys will also end it’s 11-year run on Jan. 15. Following it into the August Wilson Theater will be the musical, Groundhog Day which won raves in London. Andy Karl stars. There’s some talk that Colin Firth may star as Professor Higgins in a revival of My Fair Lady; we can only hope. If you can’t get tickets to Hamilton you may be able to get tickets to the parody Spamilton which was developed by the creator of Forbidden Broadway. Lin-Manuel Miranda has apparently given his approval. It runs through Oct. 30, off-Broadway. Tickets are available at triad.nyc.com/buy-tickets.
Goodspeed Next Year: Goodspeed next year will present two revivals and a new version of musical flop PLUS three new musicals at The Terris Theater. The season opens with the Tony-winning Thoroughly Modern Millie (April 21-July2), followed by the classic Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Oklahoma1 (July 14 –Sept. 28) and the season concludes with a revision of the Charles Strouse (Annie) and Stephen Schwartz (Wicked) musical Rags (Oct. 6-Dec. 10). At The Terris Theatre are the new musicals Deathless (June 2- July2), Darling Grenadine (Aug. 18-Sept. 17) and A Connecticut Christmas Carol (Nov. 17-Dec. 24). Season tickets are now on sale at 860-873-8668. Tickets for individual productions go on sale Feb. 19th.
Off-Broadway Notes: The Classic Stage Company is presenting the world premiere of Dead Poets Society directed by Tony winner John Doyle based on the film. Jason Suderikis stars in the Robin Williams role. It begins previews Oct. 27. For tickets call 212-352-3101 or visit Classic Stage. The Signature Theatre Off-Broadway is presenting Athol Fugard’s “Master Harold” …. and the Boys began on Oct. 18. The play had its world premiere at Yale Rep. Fugard will direct the work. For tickets call 212-244-7529 or Signature Theatreg.
What Kind of Fool? Seven Angels Theater in Waterbury is continuing the Anthony Newley trend in Connecticut with He Wrote Good Songs. Earlier this year there was a concert of his music at the Madison Library, and then a reimagined production of his musical (with Leslie Bricusse) The Roar of the Greasepaint, the Smell of the Crowd at the Goodspeed’s Terris Theater. Newley was a British actor, singer, songwriter and more who wrote musicals and hit songs: “Goldfinger,” “The Candy Man,” “What Kind of Fool Am I?’ and “Who Can I Turn To? among others. Jon Peterson has conceived, written and will perform the show. He has done similar work with a show on George M. Cohan. The one man show runs Nov. 3 to Nov. 27. For tickets, call 203-757-4676 or visit Seven Angels.
New Musical: Ivoryton is presenting the Connecticut premiere of Tenderly: The Rosemary Clooney Musical from Oct. 26 to Nov. 13. Clooney started as a band singer, moving on to recording a number of pop hits in the ‘50s and developing a movie career. Later in life she was a respected jazz and cabaret artist. The musical is described as a biography with her signature songs woven into her story – both her professional life and her struggles in her personal life which included marriage to actor Jose Ferrer and five children. For tickets call 860-767-7318 or visit Ivoryton.
Suspense: MTC in Norwalk is presenting the Tony-winning thriller, Sleuth from Nov. 4 to Nov. 20. The play which also had a successful film that starred Sir Laurence Olivier and Michael Caine, is a cat-and-mouse thriller about a celebrated mystery writer and the younger hairdresser who is his wife’s lover. For tickets call 203-354-3883 or visit MTC
Starting the Holidays: The Palace Theater in Waterbury is presenting the excellent A Christmas Story: The Musical on Nov. 18 and Nov. 19. The musical is based on the classic Jean Shepherd story and subsequent film. The show itself was nominated for several Tony awards during its Broadway run. For tickets call 203-346-2000 or visit Palace Theaterg.
Five More Years: In a somewhat unprecedented move, James Bundy has been reappointed as Dean of Yale School of Drama and artistic director of the Yale Repertory Theater. This,his fourth term, will begin July 1, 2017. It’s unprecedented because previously Yale has limited most Deans – including the Drama School to two terms (10 years) though some served an extra year while the search for a successor was on-going. During his tenure the Yale Rep has produced numerous world and American premieres two of which have been Pulitzer Prize finalists. Congratulations.
Helping the Area Economy: The International Festival of Arts & Ideas which ran June 10-25 generated an economic impact exceeding $15.4 million for the region’s economy. The study was done by Quinnipiac University. It is based on attendance and ticket sales and reported visitor behavior. Other figures: visitors reported spending an average of $140 on food, retail, lodging and transportation. The Festival employed 213 full and season staff. Local vendors, venues and rental companies were hired to help. In addition the 855 artists and speakers required 766 hotel nights in the greater New Haven area.
Election Drama: I don’t usually write about community theater productions though many are excellent. Just too many shows, but I will make an exception for Now or Later at Square One Theatre in Stratford. Why? The play, which I’m unfamiliar with, is written by Christopher Shinn a Connecticut native (An Opening in Time, Dying City) and it is very relevant. The play, which runs Nov. 3 to Nov. 20 is about a presidential election and what happens’ when controversial photos of the candidate’s college age son go viral, potentially sparking an international incident. For information visitSquare One; for tickets call 203-375-8778.
Inside notes and comments about Connecticut and New York Professional Theater
By Karen Isaacs
New York Notes: Tickets are now on sale for the revival of the Pulitzer Prize winning The Gin Game starring James Earl Jones and Cicely Tyson which begins previews Sept. 18. Contact Telecharge.com. The show began its life at Long Wharf Theater. Roundabout’s revival of She Loves Me has added Tony winners Jane Krakowski as Ilona and Michael McGarth as Sipos. Laura Benanti and Josh Radnor star. Others in the cast are René Auberjonois and Gavin Creel. Performances begin Feb. 5. The national tour of Love Letters which stars the pair who starred in the film Love Story – Ali MacGraw and Ryan O’Neal – is on the road. The production will play the Bushnell in Hartford, Feb. 9-14, just in time for Valentine’s Day. The Broadway debut of the off-Broadway spoof Dames at Sea will feature Mara Davi who is now performing in My Paris at Goodspeed at Chester. The musical spoofs the 1930s musical films. It begins Sept. 24 and open Oct. 22. Tickets are available through Telecharge.
Continuing a Tradition: Westport Country Playhouse has in recent seasons made it a very rewarding tradition to present plays by Alan Ayckbourn, usually directed by John Tillinger who has a special infinity for these British comedies. The tradition continues this year with Bedroom Farce running to Sept. 13. According to the press materials, “Bedroom Farce takes place over the course of one intense Saturday evening. In three separate bedrooms, the roles and relationships of four couples are laid bare, complete with squabbles, bothers, a few bruises, and a touching epiphany. ‘Ayckbourn’s greatness as a writer has always depended on the interaction of a group of people in situations that crackle with comic conflict,’ said (Artistic Director Mark) Lamos. ‘In Ayckbourn, disparate people, unlikely bedfellows, mismatched lovers, men and women—young, old, and usually middle-class—present for our delectation an array of humanity that relies on the constant interplay of each against the other.’” For tickets or information, visit www.westportplayhouse.org or call 888-927-7529.
Connecticut Rep: The Connecticut Rep at UConn in Storrs season opens with The Laramie Project, (Oct. 8 to 18), a docudrama about the killing of Matthew Shepherd, a gay teenager in Laramie, Wyoming. During the holiday season, Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night will take the stage, Dec. 3 to 13. In spring 2016, the two productions are Sense and Sensibility, an adaptation of Jane Austen’s novel, Feb. 25 to March 6 and the season concludes with Spamalot:The Musical, April 21 to May 1. For tickets visit crt.uconn.edu or call 860-486-2113.
New York Notes 1:The songwriting team of Frozen has a new musical now being produced at California’s La Jolla Playhouse. Up Here is about an introverted computer technician and his relationship with an extroverted woman. Many shows have started their lives at La Jolla and eventually made it to Broadway. Who knows? Shuffle Along, Or, The Making of the Musical Sensation of 1921 and All That Followed , the new musical about the all-African American musicals of the 1920s which opens in spring 2016 has an all star cast. Already signed are Audra McDonald, Brian Stokes Mitchell, Billy Porter and Joshua Henry with direction and book by George C. Wolfe and choreography by Savion Glover.
Next Year at Westport: Westport Country Playhouse has announced its 2016 season which includes a pair of plays in repertory. The season opens with Art by Yazmin Reza and Red by Christopher Hampton running in repertory from May 3 to 29; both plays deal with contemporary art. Following those, the off-Broadway hit Buyer and Cellar runs June 14 to July 2; then The Invisible Hand from July 19 to August 6; next is Joe Orton’s black comedy What the Butler Saw from Aug. 23 to Sept. 10. The season concludes with a “reimagined” version of Lerner & Loewe’s Camelot, Oct. 4 to 22. Subscriptions are now on sale, at 888-927-7529 or westportplayhouse.org. Tickets for individual performances go on sale in March.
Connecticut Inspiration: Christopher Shinn’s new play, An Opening in Time, inspired by his home town, Wethersfield, is getting its world premier at Hartford Stage, Sept. 17 to Oct. 11. According to the press materials, “a retired schoolteacher moves back to the suburban town in central Connecticut which she left years before. She finds a number of things have been changed. Dunkin’ Donuts franchises are everywhere; the local high school is putting on a production of Rent; and a long-lost friendship suddenly appears in a new guise.” Shinn has been a Pulitzer Prize finalist and recipient of numerous awards. For tickets contact hartfordstage.org or call 860-527-5151.
Another Hartford Note: Kevin Bacon will star in Hartford Stage’s world premier production of Rear Window, Oct. 22 to Nov. 15. The show is already supposedly sold out.
New York Notes 2: Oscar winner Marlee Matlin will make her Broadway debut in the revival of the musical Spring Awakening which combines hearing performers with those from Deaf West Theater. This revival has generated lots of positive comment during its west coast production which uses American Sign Language and spoken language. The show begins previews on opens officially on Sunday, Sept. 27. Tickets are now sale at ticketmaster.com. Tony winner Nina Arianda is joined by Sam Rockwell and Emmy winner Tom Pelphrey in the Manhattan Theater Club’s production of Fool for Love by Sam Shepherd. The play begins previews on Sept. 15 and opens official on Oct. 8. Tickets are available at telecharge.com. The box office is open for Gloria Estefan’s musical On Your Feet! which is based on the lives of Estefan and her husband, Emilio. Of course, it features the music she made famous. The show begins previews Oct. 5 and opens officially Nov. 5. Tickets are available through ticketmaster.com.
Don’t Miss These on TV: PBS is broadcasting a number of Broadway shows and concerts this fall. Though air dates may vary depending the PBS station, the tentative schedule includes Show Boat in Concert on Oct. 16; Billy Elliot the Musical on Oct. 23; Chita Rivera:A Lot of Livin’ To Do on Nov. 6; Act One on Nov. 13; and First You Dream – The Music of Kander & Ebb on Nov. 20. The Lifetime channel will spotlight the tours of Cinderella, Kinky Boots, If/Then, The Wizard of Oz and The Sound of Music on its morning show The Balancing Act. For information about what is being shown and dates, visit Broadwaybalancesamerica.com