Tag Archives: Connecticut Repertory Theater

“Noises Off” at the Connecticut Rep Is a Laughfest

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Photo by Gerry Goodstein

By Karen Isaacs

 Timing is everything with farce and the cast of Noises Off now at the Connecticut Repertory Theater in Storrs through June 26 has it down pat.

Credit must be given to director Vincent J. Cardinal who has molded his cast of seasoned professionals and aspiring ones into a well-oiled machine. He has also added some creative directorial touches.

The show moves quickly and the laughter keeps on coming.

Noises Off is a backstage farce written by Michael Frayn. A group of actors are rehearsing “Nothing On” a typical British farce that involves many doors (8), props (particularly a plate of sardines) and too many people coming and going and trying not to be seen by others. The show is to tour for a few months.

Dotty Otley is the actress behind the tour; she hopes makes some money and cash in on some measure of fame. Act one takes place at the final rehearsal before the opening. The actors

So let’s see what is going on.  Lloyd, the director, is apparently having affairs with both the assistant stage manager, Poppy, and Brooke Ashton, a very voluptuous young actress, though her acting skills are negligible.  Dotty, the leading lady, is having an affair with Garry Lejune, an actor in the company who is substantially younger than Dotty.  Then there is Selsdon Mowbray, an elderly actor known to drink who has a minor role and appears to be hard of hearing.  Dotty has encouraged Lloyd to give Selsdon a role. Rounding out the group is Belinda, an actress who seems to know all about the various relationships among the cast, Tim Allgood, the stage manager, and Frederick Fellowes, an actor whose wife has just left him.

Act one sets this all up; we see parts of the first act of the play which is not going at all smoothly in the technical rehearsal (the rehearsal aimed at smoothing out entrances, exits, lights, the set, props, etc.)  Doors don’t open or shut properly, Dotty has trouble remembering which props to enter or exit with, etc. Tim has been awake for 48 hours putting up the set and is dead on his feet. Adding to Lloyd’s exasperation is that Garry starts questioning the motivation for carrying a box off-stage in an extremely inarticulate way, Brooke stops the action frequently when she loses a contact lens, and Frederick also stops the rehearsal for inane reasons, but always apologetically

Act two shows us backstage during a performance a month later.  Lloyd is making a surprise visit to see Brooke who is threatening to leave the cast, Poppy has some important news to share with Lloyd, and Dotty is locked in her dressing room because Garry thinks she is cheating on him when in reality she had been trying to cheer up Frederick. Plus they all think Selsden is drinking again.  Due to all of this, various sabotages occur that make the on-stage performances (which we don’t see) even less comprehensible.

The shorter third act, shows the closing performance, where all pretense of doing the play seems to have disappeared.  The cast and plot are in shambles.

First of all, Tim Brown has created a terrific set of both the stage and the backstage.  It has the English country house look and feel.

Then we can look at the cast. While initially I had a few negative thoughts – that Jennifer Cody looked too young for Dotty Otley as did Gavin McNicholl as Frederick Fellowes, the actor whose wife has just left him, and I was unsure about the long hair of Curtis Longfellow as Garry, within minutes my uncertainties evaporated.

This troupe of actors were all terrific. Each one creates a real person both as the actor and as the character the actor is playing on stage.  The four Equity performers – John Bixler as the director Lloyd, Jennifer Cody as Dotty, Steve Hayes as Selsdon and Michael Doherty as the stage manager, Tim are great. Each achieves every laugh that is built into the script. But the others – all young aspiring performers are also good. It’s hard to single out just one.  Curtis Longfellow plays the inarticulate and jealous Garry to perfection. Jayne Ng is terrific as the dim Brooke while Gavin McNicholl is a slightly woe-begone Frederck. Arlen Bozich brings out the motherly aspects of Belinda and Grace Allyn is down-to-earth as Poppy. She clearly lets you see her infatuation with Lloyd.

Cardinal has directed most of the second act – the backstage part – as mime. The actors mouth words but don’t speak loudly which is necessary backstage; plus you can clearly hear the play going on out front. He is assisted in making this work by a window in the set which allows us to see the actors (and the lighting) of parts of the actual performance.

If you enjoy farce, and want to see it well done, make the trip to the Connecticut Repertory Theater. For tickets call 860-486-2113 or visit crt.uconn.edu.

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Photo by Gerry Goodstein

“Next To Normal,” “The Invisible Hand” Tops Connecticut Theater Critics Nominations

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Next to Normal. Photo by T. Charles Erickson

TheaterWork’s production of the musical “Next to Normal” led the nominations for the 27th annual Connecticut Critics Circle Awards event to be held Monday, June 26 at 7:30 p.m. at Sacred Heart University’s Edgerton Center for the Performing Arts in Fairfield.

The show received a total of 10 nominations, including best musical. Westport Country Playhouse’s production of Ayad Akhtar’s play “The Invisible Hand” led the non-musicals, receiving seven nominations, including outstanding play.

Other outstanding play nominees are: “The Comedy of Errors” at Hartford Stage; “Mary Jane” at Yale Repertory Theatre; “Scenes From Court Life” at Yale Repertory Theatre and “Midsummer” at TheaterWorks.

Also nominated for outstanding musical are: “Assassins” at Yale Repertory Theatre; “Bye Bye Birdie” at Goodspeed Opera House, “Man of La Mancha” at Ivoryton Playhouse and “West Side Story” at Summer Theatre of New Canaan.

The awards show, which celebrates the best in professional theater in the state, is free and open to the public.

Three-time Tony Award-nominee Terrence Mann will be the master of ceremonies for the event. Mann joined the Connecticut theater community this year as artistic director of Connecticut Repertory Theatre’s Nutmeg Summer Series at the University of Connecticut at Storrs.

Last year’s top honorees — Yale Repertory Theatre’s play “Indecent” and Hartford Stage’s musical “Anastasia” — are currently on Broadway.

Also receiving special awards this year are James Lecesne for his work using theater as a way to connect with LGBT youths in works such as his solo show “The Absolute Brightness off Leonard Pelkey,” which was presented this spring at Hartford Stage, and Paxton Whitehead, for his longtime career in theater, especially in Connecticut

Receiving the Tom Killen Award for lifetime achievement is Paulette Haupt, who is stepping down after 40 years from her position as founding artistic director of the National Music Theater Conference at Waterford’s Eugene O’Neill Theater Center

Other nominees are:

Actor in a play: Jordan Lage, “Other People’s Money,” Long Wharf Theatre; Tom Pecinka, “Cloud Nine,” Hartford Stage; Michael Doherty, “Peter and the Starcatcher,” Connecticut Repertory Theatre’s Nutmeg Summer Series; Eric Bryant, “The Invisible Hand,” Westport Country Playhouse; M. Scott McLean, “Midsummer,” TheaterWorks.

Actress in a play: Semina DeLaurentis, “George & Gracie,” Seven Angels Theatre; Emily Donahoe, “Mary Jane,” Yale Repertory Theatre; Ashlie Atkinson, “Imogen Says Nothing,” Yale Repertory Theatre; Vanessa R. Butler, “Queens for a Year,” Hartford Stage; Rebecca Hart, “Midsummer,” TheaterWorks

Actor in a musical: Robert Sean Leonard, “Camelot,” Westport Playhouse; Riley Costello, “How To Succeed In Business Without Really Trying,” Connecticut Repertory Theatre’s Nutmeg Summer Series; David Harris, “Next To Normal,” TheaterWorks; David Pittsinger, “Man of La Mancha,” Ivoryton Playhouse; Zach Schanne, “West Side Story,” Summer Theatre of New Canaan.

Actress in a musical: Ruby Rakos, “Chasing Rainbows,” Goodspeed Opera House; Christiane Noll, “Next to Normal,” TheaterWorks; Julia Paladino, “West Side Story.” Karen Ziemba, “Gypsy, Sharon Playhouse; Talia Thiesfield, “Man of La Mancha,” Ivoryton Playhouse.

Director of a play: Darko Tresnjak, “The Comedy of Errors,” Hartford Stage; David Kennedy, “The Invisible Hand,” Westport Country Playhouse; Marc Bruni, “Other People’s Money,” Long Wharf Theatre; Tracy Brigden, “Midsummer,” TheaterWorks; Gordon Edelstein, “Meteor Shower,” Long Wharf Theatre.

Director of a musical: Rob Ruggiero, “Next to Normal,” TheaterWorks; David Edwards, “Man of La Mancha,” Ivoryton Playhouse; Melody Meitrott Libonati, “West Side Story,” Summer Theatre of New Canaan; Jenn Thompson, “Bye Bye Birdie,” Goodspeed Opera House; Kevin Connors, “Gypsy,” Music Theater of Connecticut in Norwalk.

Choreography:  Denis Jones, “Thoroughly Modern Millie,” Goodspeed Opera House; Chris Bailey, “Chasing Rainbows,” Goodspeed Opera House; Doug Shankman, West Side Story,” Summer Theatre of New Canaan; Patricia Wilcox, “Bye Bye Birdie,” Goodspeed Opera House; Darlene Zoller, “Rockin’ the Forest,” Playhouse on Park.

Ensemble: Cast of “Smart People,” Long Wharf Theatre; Cast of “Trav’lin’ ” at Seven Angels Theatre; cast of “Meteor Shower,” Long Wharf Theatre; cast of “Assassins,” Yale Repertory Theatre; cast of “The 39 Steps” at Ivoryton Playhouse.

Debut performance: Maya Keleher, “Next to Normal,” TheaterWorks; Dylan Frederick, “Assassins,” Yale Repertory Theatre; Nick Sacks, “Next to Normal, TheaterWorks.

Solo Performance: Jodi Stevens, “I’ll Eat You Last,” Music Theater of Connecticut; Jon Peterson, “He Wrote Good Songs,” Seven Angels Theatre.

Featured actor in a play: Jameal Ali, “The Invisible Hand,” Westport Country Playhouse; Andre De Shields, “Seven Guitars,” Yale Repertory Theatre; Cleavant Derricks, “The Piano Lesson,” Hartford Stage; Steve Routman, “Other People’s Money,” Long Wharf Theatre; Paxton Whitehead, “What the Butler Saw,” Westport Country Playhouse

Featured actress in a play: Miriam Silverman, “Mary Jane,” Yale Repertory Theatre; Rachel Leslie, “Seven Guitars,” Yale Repertory Theatre; Antoinette Crowe-Legacy, “Seven Guitars,” Yale Repertory Theatre; Mia Dillon, “Cloud Nine,” Hartford Stage; Christina Pumariega, “Napoli, Brooklyn,” Long Wharf Theatre

Featured actor in a musical: Mark Nelson, “The Most Beautiful Room in New York,” Long Wharf Theatre; Edward Watts, “Thoroughly Modern Millie,” Goodspeed Opera House; John Cardoza, “Next to Normal,” TheaterWorks; Jonny Wexler, “West Side Story,” Summer Theater of New Canaan; Rhett Guter, “Bye Bye Birdie,” Goodspeed Opera House; Michael Wartella, “Chasing Rainbows,” Goodspeed Opera House

Featured actress in a musical: Maya Keleher, “Next to Normal,” TheaterWorks; Jodi Stevens, “Gypsy,” “Music Theater of Connecticut; Katie Stewart, “West Side Story,” Summer Theater of New Canaan; Kristine Zbornik, “Bye Bye Birdie,” Goodspeed Opera House; Kate Simone, “Gypsy,” Music Theater of Connecticut.

Set design: Colin McGurk, “Heartbreak House,” Hartford Stage; Michael Yeargan, “The Most Beautiful Room in New York,” Long Wharf Theater; Wilson Chin, “Next to Normal,” TheaterWorks; Adam Rigg, “The Invisible Hand,” “Westport Country Playhouse; Darko Tresnjak, “The Comedy of Errors,” Hartford Stage.

Costume design: Ilona Somogyi, “Heartbreak House,” Hartford Stage; Marina Draghici, “Scenes from Court Life,” Yale Repertory Theater; Fabio Toblini, “The Comedy of Errors,” Hartford Stage; Gregory Gale, “Thorough Modern Millie,” Goodspeed Opera House; Lisa Steier, “Rockin’ the Forest,” Playhouse on Park.

Lighting design: Matthew Richards, “The Invisible Hand,” Westport Country Playhouse; Yi Zhao, “Assassins,” Yale Repertory Theatre; John Lasiter, “Next to Normal,” TheaterWorks; Matthew Richards, “Comedy of Errors,” Hartford Stage; Christopher Bell, “A Moon for the Misbegotten,” Playhouse on Park, Hartford.

Sound design: Jane Shaw, “The Comedy of Errors,” Hartford Stage; Fan Zhang, “Seven Guitars,” Yale Repertory Theatre; Shane Rettig, “Scenes from Court Life,” Yale Repertory Theatre; Karen Graybash, “The Piano Lesson,” Hartford Stage; Fitz Patton, “The Invisible Hand,” Westport Country Playhouse.

2017 Nominations List

 

Outstanding Solo Performance

Jodi Stevens                I’ll Eat You Last                     MTC

Jon Peterson                He Wrote Good Songs           7 Angels

Outstanding Debut

Maya Kelcher (Natalie)           Next to Normal           TheaterWorks

Dylan Frederick                      Assassins                     Yale Rep

Nick Sacks                              Next to Normal           TheaterWorks

Outstanding Ensemble

Cast of…                                Smart People                           Long Wharf

Cast of…                                Trav’lin                                    7 Angels

Cast of…                                Meteor Shower                       Long Wharf

Cast of…                                Assassins                                 Yale

Cast of…                                The 39 Steps                           Ivoryton

Outstanding Projections

 Michael Commendatore          Assassins                                 Yale

Outstanding Sound

Jane Shaw                               Comedy of Errors                   Hartford Stage

Fan Zhang                               Seven Guitars                          Yale

Shane Retig                             Scenes From Court Life          Yale

Karin Graybash                       Piano Lesson                           Hartford Stage

Fitz Patton                              Invisible Hand                        Westport

Outstanding Costume Design

Ilona Somogyi                         Heartbreak House                   Hartford Stage

Marina Draghici                      Scenes from Court Life          Yale

Lisa Steier                               Rockin’ the Forest                  Playhouse on Park

Fabio Toblini                           Comedy of Errors                   Hartford Stage

Gregory Gale                          Modern Millie                         Goodspeed

Outstanding Lighting

Matthew Richards                  Invisible Hand                        Westport

Yi Zhao                                   Assassins                                 Yale

John Lasiter                             Next to Normal                       TheaterWorks

Matthew Richards                  Comedy of Errors                   Hartford Stage

Christopher Bell                      A Moon for the Misbegotten  Playhouse on Park

Outstanding Set Design

Colin McGurk                         Heartbreak House                   Hartford Stage
Michael Yeargan                     Most Beautiful Room…         Long Wharf

Wilson Chin                            Next to Normal                       TheaterWorks

Adam Rigg                             The Invisible Hand                 Westport

Darko Tresnjak                        The Comedy of Errors            Hartford Stage

Outstanding Choreography

Denis Jones                             Modern Millie                         Goodspeed

Chris Bailey                            Chasing Rainbows                  Goodspeed

Doug Shankman                     West Side Story                      STONC

Patricia Wilcox                        Bye Bye Birdie                       Goodspeed

Darlene Zoller                         Rockin’ the Forest                  Playhouse on Park

Outstanding Featured Actor – Musical

Mark Nelson (Carlo)               Most Beautiful Room….        Long Wharf

Edward Watts (Trevor)           Modern Millie                         Goodspeed

John Cardoza (Gabe)              Next to Normal                       TheaterWorks

Jonny Wexler (Action)            West Side Story                      STONC

Rhett Guter (Birdie)               Bye Bye Birdie                       Goodspeed

Michael Wartella                     Chasing Rainbows                  Goodspeed

Outstanding Featured Actress – Musical

Maya Keleher (Natalie)           Next to Normal                       TheaterWorks

Jodi Stevens (Secretary/Mazeppa)      Gypsy                          MTC

Katie Stewart (Anita)             West Side Story                      STONC

Kristine Zbornik (Mother)      Bye, Bye Birdie                      Goodspeed

Kate Simone (Louise)             Gypsy                                      MTC

Outstanding Featured Actress – Play

Miriam Silverman (Brianne/Chaya)    Mary Jane                    Yale

Rachel Leslie (Vera)               Seven Guitars                          Yale

Antoinette Crowe-Legacy (Ruby) Seven Guitars                  Yale

Mia Dillon                               Cloud 9                                   Hartford Stage

Christina Pumariega (Tina)     Napoli, Brooklyn                    Long Wharf

Outstanding Featured Actor – Play

Jameal Ali (Dar)                      The Invisible Hand                 Westport

Andre De Shields Headley)    Seven Guitars                          Yale

Cleavant Derricks                   Piano lesson                            Hartford Stage

Steve Routman (Coles)           Other People’s Money            Long Wharf

Paxton Whitehead (Dr. Rance)  What the Butler Saw           Westport

 Outstanding Director – Musical

Rob Ruggiero                          Next to Normal                       TheaterWorks

David Edwards                       Man of La Mancha                 Ivoryton

Melody Libonati                     West Side Story                      STONC

Jenn Thompson                       Bye Bye Birdie                       Goodspeed

Kevin Connors                        Gypsy                                      MTC

Outstanding Director – Play

Darko Tresnjak                        The Comedy of Errors            Hartford Stage

David Kennedy                      The Invisible Hand                 Westport

Marc Bruni                              Other People’s Money            Long Wharf

Tracy Brigden                         Midsummer                             TheaterWorks

Gordon Edelstein                    Meteor Shower                       Long Wharf

Outstanding Actor – Musical

Robert Sean Leonard (Arthur)  Camelot                                Westport

Riley Costello (Finch)             How to Succeed…                 CRT

David Harris (Dan)                 Next to Normal                       TheaterWorks

David Pittsinger (Don Q)       Man of La Mancha                 Ivoryton

Zach Schanne (Tony)              West Side Story                      STONC

Outstanding Actress – Musical

Ruby Rakos (Judy)                 Chasing Rainbows                  Goodspeed

Christiane Noll (Diana)           Next to Normal                       TheaterWorks

Julia Paladino (Maria)             West Side Story                      STONC

Karen Ziemba (Rose)              Gypsy                                      Sharon Playhouse

Talia Thiesfield (Aldonza)      Man of La Mancha                 Ivoryton

Outstanding Actor – Play

Tom Pecinka (Betty/Edward) Cloud 9                                   Hartford Stage

Michael Doherty (Black Stache) Peter and the…                  CRT

Eric Bryant (prisoner) Invisible Hand                        Westport

Jordan Lage (Garfinkle)          Other People’s Money            Long Wharf

Scott McLean (Bob) Midsummer… TheaterWorks

Outstanding Actress – Play

Emily Donohe                         Mary Jane                                Yale

Semina DeLaurentis (Gracie)  George & Gracie                     7 Angels

Ashlie Atkinson (Imogen)      Imogen Says Nothing             Yale

Vanessa R. Butler (Solinas)    Queens for a Year                   Hartford Stage

Rebecca Hart (Helena)            Midsummer                             TheaterWorks

Outstanding Production – Musical

Assassins                                 Yale

Next to Normal                       TheaterWorks

Man of La Mancha                 Ivoryton

West Side Story                      STONC

Bye Bye Birdie                       Goodspeed

Outstanding Production – Play

The Comedy of Errors            Hartford Stage

Midsummer (a play with songs) TheaterWorks

Scenes From Court Life          Yale

The Invisible Hand                 Westport

Mary Jane                                Yale

Casting, Controversy, Season Schedules

By Karen Isaacs

Bierko Comes to Long Wharf: Craig Bierko, who was nominated for a Tony for his performance as Harold Hill in the Broadway revival of The Music Man and is now on UnREAL on Lifetime, has joined the cast of Meteor Shower by Steve Martin which opens the Long Wharf season. The show runs Wednesday, Sept. 28 to Sunday, Oct. 23. For tickets visit Long Wharf or call 203-787-4282

Auditions for Kids: Hartford Stage will be auditioning children 5-13 for its annual production of A Christmas Carol – A Ghost Story of Christmas from Tuesday, Sept. 20 to Thursday, Sept. 22. Auditions are by appointment only.  For information about preparation and requirements or appointments email Auditions.

This Year in Waterbury: The season at Seven Angels Theatre has been finalized. It opens with A Room of My Own, a semi-autobiographical comedy about a writer in a wacky family; it runs Thursday, Sept. 22 to Sunday, Oct. 16. Next is the return of Jon Peterson with a one man show about Anthony Newley: He Wrote Good Songs from Nov. 3 to 27. From Feb. 9 to March 3 is George and Gracie: The Early Years about the early life of George Burns and Gracie Allen. R. Bruce Connelly and Semina De Laurentis star. Jesus Christ Superstar, the Andrew Lloyd Webber/Tim Rice musical runs from March 23 to April 23. The season concludes with Trav’lin –The 1930s Harlem Musical which recalls the period and features the music and lyrics of Harlem Renaissance composer J. C. Johnson. It runs May 11 to June 11. Tickets are available at 203-757-4676.

King Arthur:  Robert Sean Leonard will be King Arthur in Westport Country Playhouse’s production of Camelot which runs Tuesday, Oct. 4 to Sunday, Oct. 30. It is billed as a “reimagined” production directed by Mark Lamos. While Leonard may be known for his work in the TV series House, he has numerous Broadway credits and received a Tony Award and another Tony nomination. For tickets – which are going fast – visit Westport or call 888-927-7529.

Chasing Rainbows:  Goodspeed’s new musical, Chasing Rainbows: The Road to Oz which is how Judy Garland became a young star, is in rehearsals preparing for its opening Friday, Sept. 16. Of course, the show features many of the songs she made famous and also includes the making of The Wizard of Oz film which was supposed to star Shirley Temple. Goodspeed has a number of special evenings scheduled including a Saturday wine tasting (Sept. 17), teen nights, meet the cast, and others. For information and tickets visit Goodspeed or call 860-873-8668.

 Classic to Contemporary:  Westport Country Playhouse has announced its 2017 season, its 87th.  It opens (May 30 to June 17) with the British comedy Lettice and Lovage which was a 1990 Tony nominee. Following is the 2014-15 Obie (off—Broadway) Award winner for Best New American Play, Appropriate which runs July 11 to 29.  Grounded, a solo production that won the 2016 Lucille Lortel Award in that category and an award at the Edinburg Fringe Festival runs Aug. 15 to Sept. 2. Sex with Strangers, which runs Sept. 26 to Oct. 14 is about a modern relationship in the digital age. The season concludes with Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet (Oct. 31 to Nov. 19), directed by Mark Lamos, who is well known for his fine Shakespeare production. I still remember his production at Hartford Stage starring a young Calista Flockhart. For information and tickets contact Westport or call 888-927-7529.

Curtain Up: MTC (Music Theatre of Connecticut) in Norwalk opens its season with Gypsy from Friday, Sept. 9 to Sunday, Sept. 25. The iconic show features a cast of solid Broadway professionals. For tickets visit MTC or call 203-454-3883.

Investors Hard to Find: Even Barbra Streisand has problems finding investors. The most recent rumor is that the planned film version of Gypsy that has been talked about for years, is now in doubt again due to the withdrawal of an investor and distributor.

Controversy: Bay Street Theater on Long Island, had planned a concert reading of the new Stephen Schwartz and Phillip LaZenik musical Prince of Egypt, which is based on a film about an Egyptian prince who learns his true identity. Schwartz’ song for the film,“When You Believe” won an Oscar. That was the plan and the concert was cast with some high powered Broadway veterans. But the concert was cancelled after complaints that the cast was not diverse. Apparently there were not just complaints but comments on social media and online which the director termed “harassment” and “bullying.”  This is not the first time recently that a controversy has erupted over casting.

New York Notes:  The Berkshire Theatre Group is transferring its well-received production of Fiorello! to Off-Broadway this fall. It begins previews Sun., Sept. 4 at the East 13th Street Theater. For tickets visit Fiorello or call 800-833-3006. The Pearl Theatre is reviving A Taste of Honey, last seen 35 years ago. Austin Pendleton directs. It runs Tues., Sept 6 to Sun., Oct. 16q. For tickets visit pearltheatre.org or call 212-563-9261. Another off-Broadway Theater – Primary Stages is opening its season with Horton Foote’s The Roads to Home directed by Michael Wilson, former artistic director of Hartford Stage. The production stars Harriet Harris, Devon Abner and Haille Foot. It begins performances Tues., Sept. 13. For tickets visit Primary Stages or call 212-352-3101

New York Notes: Tickets are now on sale for Heisenberg which stars Mary Louis Parker at the Samuel J. Friedman Theater. It begins previews on Tuesday, Sept. 20. Tickets are available through Telecharge.  Jenn Gambatese who starred at Goodspeed in Annie Get Your Gun and has numerous Broadway credits is replacing Sierra Boggess in School of Rock on Broadway. Tickets are also on sale for the revival of Falsettos starring Christian Borle, Andrew Rannells and Stephanie J. Block. The William Finn/James Lapine musical begins previews Thursday, Sept. 29 for a limited run. Ticketmaster is handling tickets.

CRT Season:  The Connecticut Repertory Theater which performs on the UConn campus in Storrs is the last of the Connecticut theaters to announce its 2016-17 schedule. It begins with an ambitious play: Shakespeare’s King Lear from Thurs., Oct. 6 to Sun., Oct. 16. This coincides with the exhibition of a rare Shakespeare first folio to the campus (Thur., Sept 1 to Sun., Sept. 25) via the Folger Shakespeare Library’s tour.  Changing gears, the second show if a translation of the Feydeau farce Le Dindon, called An Absolute Turkey, from Dec. 1 to 10. In 2017, Clifford Odets’ Waiting for Lefty will play Feb. 23 to March 5 followed by Shrek: The Musical from April 20 to 30. Please call 860-486-2113 for information and subscriptions. Tickets for individual performances go on sale Sept. 1. Information is available at CRT.

Broadway People: He’s hot! Lin-Manuel Miranda has left his show Hamilton but he won’t be resting anytime soon. He’s working on the film version of his first hit, In the Heights, which is now a “go” because of the Hamilton success. He’s also signed to co-star in the 2018 Disney film that will be a sequel, Mary Poppins Returns. Emily Blunt will play Poppins. It’s a new story (set in London in the 1930s) and a new score. Angela Lansbury is not retiring; she’s returning to Broadway in 2017-18 in a revival of The Chalk Garden. She’ll be over 90 when it opens. Joe Mantello has been directing more than acting recently; he had two well received shows on Broadway last season. But he’s pulling out his acting talents to co-star with Sally Fields in a revival of The Glass Menagerie that begins previews next February. Sam Gold will direct.

On the Road to Broadway: Lots of shows have Broadway aspirations, but few make it and even fewer succeed. Among the shows that are supposedly enroute is Josephine, about the legendary American performer Josephine Baker who was a major star in Paris. It just played in Florida and producers say the next stop in Broadway.  Grammy nominee Deborah Cox starred. The musical version of From Here to Eternity with lyrics by Tim Rice has played London, but made its US debut at the Finger Lakes Musical Theater Festival this summer. Who knows if it makes it to Broadway; if you’re interested, there is a London cast album. Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty will have Anastasia on Broadway next spring and their other new musical, The Little Dancer is also continuing development. After a production at the Kennedy Center in 2014, extensive revisions were done on the book. It’s inspired by a sculpture by Edgar Degas.

From East Haddam to Broadway:  A musical that began life at the Goodspeed Festival of New Musicals in 2013 will make it to Broadway. Come From Away tells the inspiring story of the residents in the Gander, Newfoundland area who hosted thousands of stranded air travelers when their flights were diverted to Gander on Sept. 11, 2001. From Goodspeed’s Festival, the show has more recently had successful runs at the La Jolla Playhouse, the Seattle Repertory Theater and will soon open at Ford’s Theater in Washington, DC before going on to Toronto and then Broadway. It’s scheduled to open in February.

 

CRT’s ”West Side Story” Soars

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Photo by Gerry Goodstein

By Karen Isaacs

Something must be in the Connecticut air. Hartford Stage presented Romeo & Juliet this spring and this summer two theaters at opposite ends of the state are presenting West Side Story.

 The Connecticut Repertory Theater’s production in Storrs runs through July 17.

Overall this is a very good production. It is blessed with excellent production values and many fine performances.

I’m sure that everyone knows the basic outline of the plot: it is NYC in the 1950s and on the west side (think about where Lincoln Center is now), gangs patrol the streets. The division is not so much race as ethnicity: the recently arrived Puerto Ricans verssus the Italians, Polish and other who were born in the US though their parents immigrated. Into this mix, Leonard Bernstein (composer), Stephen Sondheim (lyricst) and Arthur Laurents (book) with the help of director Jerome Robbins created a compelling story.

Tony helped found the Jets but he is beginning to pull away; he is maturing but his best friend, Riff, and the others call on his loyalty for one last “rumble” against the Sharks, led by Bernardo. The complication is that at a dance designed to bring the warring groups together, Tony sees Bernardo’s sister, Maria, who has just arrived and the two fall instantly in love. Despite peace-making efforts, the road to tragedy cannot be detoured.

west side story - crt 1

Photo by Gerry Goodstein

Bernstein and Sondheim created a glorious jazz inspired score with haunting melodies from “Tonight” and “Maria” to “One Hand, One Heart,” ‘Somewhere,” and “I Have a Love.” They have also created some humorous numbers.  Robbins created dance that mixed ballet with modern dance and jazz to make the hatred and fights almost beautiful.

With what has been going on in the last months, some dialogue made me very uncomfortable. The police Lieutenant openly expresses his dislike (bordering on hatred) for the Puerto Ricans and encourages the Jets to “get rid of them” even offering to help. Yet at the same time, “Doc” the owner of the corner drugstore  tries to talk sense into the groups.

Kudos should go to scenic designer Tim Brown, and music direct N David Williams and the 12-piece orchestra.  Michael Vincent Skinner, the sound designer let the sound go a little too loud; when that happens soprano voices often sound screetchy.

But lighting designer Michael Chubowki created some terrific lighting effects particularly at the finale.

Christina Lorraine Bullard, the costume designer did a good job recreating the late ‘50s look, though she did better with the girls than the men. At times the men looked too much like Pat Boone to be believable as Jets.

Cassie Abate, a regular at CRT, has both directed and choreographed. She has channeled the Robbins choreography but added her own touches.

As the doomed lovers, Julia Estrada and Luke Hamilton make an attractive pair. Estrada has a lovely voice and shows us Maria’s vulnerability but also her strength. While Hamilton’s voice is also good, he needed more personality in the role; he looked and acted like any fresh faced kid.

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Anita and Bernardo. Photo by Gerry Goodstein

Yuriel Echezarreta as Bernardo and Cassidy Stoner as Anita both give strong performances. Echezarreta may look a little old for the role, but the book can justify that Bernardo is older than the teenage Jets. He projects confidence and sexuality; no wonder the boyish Jets want him out. Stoner really delivers as Anita, particularly in “A Boy like That” and in the simulated rape scene.

The three adults have stereotypical roles: the cynical police officer (John Bixler), the ineffective beat cop (Nick Lawson) and the shop owner (Dale AJ Rose). Each makes the most of his role, but all are unable to get through to the young men.

Since the cast is uniformly good, it is hard to pick out other very good performances, but I did like both Bentley Black as Riff and TJ Newton as Chino.

Go see this production; it will entertain you but it may unsettle you. Are we still repeating the past?

West Side Story is at the Harriet S. Jorgensen Theater on the UConn campus in Storrs through July 17. For tickets call 860-486-2113 or crt.uconn.edu.

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Photo by Gerry Goodstein

 

“Chicago,” Two “West Side Stories,” and Closings on Broadway

Inside notes and comments about Connecticut and New York Professional Theater

By Karen Isaacs

 “All that Jazz”: The long-running musical Chicago by Kander and Ebb hits the Ivoryton Playhouse stage, Sun. July 24. Todd Underwood is directing and choreographing the musical which features several performers familiar to Ivoryton audiences: Christopher Sutton as Billy Flynn, Lynn Philistine as Roxie Hart and Sheniqua Trotman as Mama Morton.  For tickets visit ivorytonplayhouse.org or call 860-767-7318 for tickets.

On Sale Now: Tickets are now sale for the Palace Theater, Waterbury’s presentation of Dirty Dancing – The Classic Story on Stage scheduled for Oct. 7-9. For tickets call 203-346-2000 or visit palacetheaterct.org.

 Nostalgic Music at Long Wharf: If you are looking for a light-weight but enjoyable entertainment on a hot summer night, Long Wharf is bringing back the production of The Bikinis from Wed., July 13 to Sun., July 31. The excuse for stringing together lots of great songs from the ‘60s and beyond is the story of a hit girls group from the Jersey shore who, 20 years later are trying to raise money to preserve the Sandy Shores Mobile Home Beach Resorts. For tickets visit longwharf.org or call 203-787-4282.

Seven for Next Season: Playhouse on Park in West Harford is planning seven productions for its 2016-17 season. Three musicals are included: Little Shop of Horrors (Sept.14-Oct. 16), [title of show] from Jan. 11 to 29, and Rockin’ the Forest (March 29–April 9)) by stop/time dance theater. The Playhouse will also present: Unnecessary Farce (Nov. 2-20), Eugene O’Neill’s A Moon for the Misbegotten (Feb. 15 –March 5), Last Train to Nibroc (April 26-May 14); and concludes with The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged) – Revised Edition, June 28-July 30. For subscriptions or information contact playhouseonpark.org or call 860-523-5900 ext. 10. Tickets for individual productions go on sale Aug. 1.

Midsummer (a play with songs) in Hartford: TheaterWorks is presenting an aptly titled play, Thursday, July 14 to Sunday, Aug. 21. According to the press materials, “It’s a midsummer weekend in Edinburgh and it’s raining. Bob’s a failing car salesman on the fringes of the city’s underworld. Helena’s a high-powered divorce lawyer with a taste for other people’s husbands. She’s totally out of his league; he’s not her type at all. They absolutely should not sleep together. Which is, of course, why they do. Midsummer is the story of a great-lost weekend of bridge-burning, car chases, wedding bust-ups, bondage miscalculations, midnight trysts and self-loathing hangovers.” It was written by Scottish articsts indie rocker Gordon McIntyre and playwright David Gried. For tickets, call 860-527-7838 or visit theaterworkshartford.org.

One Musical, Two Productions: West Side Story will be at opposite ends of the state this summer. The Connecticut Repertory Theater at UConn in Storrs production runs through Sunday, July 17. Several Broadway performers are starring in the production directed and choreographed by Cassie Abate: Yurel Echezarreta (whose credits include Broadway’s Matilda, Aladdin, La Cage aux Folles and the 2009 West Side Story revival) plays Bernardo.  Jose Lucas of (A Christmas Story) plays Indio; Luke Hamilton plays Tony and Julia Estrada is Maria. For tickets call 860-486-2113 or visit crt.uconn.edu.

The second production, at Summer Theater of New Canaan, runs through Sunday, July 31. Casting was not available at press time; STONC performs at Waverly Park under an all-weather, open-air tent theater. Seating is provided. For tickets or information call 203-966-4634 or visit stonc.org.

New Artistic Director: With the departure to the University of Michigan of Vincent J. Cardinal who has served as artistic director for many years, The Connecticut Repertory Theater which is part of the UConn’s theater program has named Michael Bradford as its new artistic director. Bradford has been at UConn since 2001 and is an accomplished playwright. Congratulations; I look forward to seeing in what direction he will take CRT in the coming years.

New York Notes: Tickets are now on sale for the Broadway run of Dear Evan Hansen, the off-Broadway musical that garnered many awards this past year. It opens Oct. 3 at the Belasco Theater with Ben Platt of Pitch Perfect starring as the teen struggling for identity amidst chaos. Tickets are available at telecharge.com. Telecharge is also now selling tickets for the revival of Les Liasions Dangereuses starring Janet Mcteer and Liev Shreiber. It begins previews on Oct. 8 and runs through Jan. 22. The all-star revival of the antic comedy Front Page begins previews Sept. 20 with a cast that includes Nathan Lane, John Goodman, Jefferson Mays, Rosemary Harris, Sherie Rene Scott and Robert Morse. Tickets are at Telecharge.

Did you know that CBS censored the signing in the performance of Spring Awakening broadcast on the Tonys? Some of the American Sign Language was changed; the last time the show was on the Tonys for the original production, CBS had them change some lyrics; this time the lyrics were OK but the signing wasn’t!

 What Will Be Open? If you are planning Broadway theater-going in August or early September, it may easier to figure what IS playing rather than what has closed. Lots of theaters will be available for fall productions.  Already closed are shows that won Tony awards for acting:  Eclipsed, The Father, Long Day’s Journey into Night; all were limited runs. Also closed are the long-running revival of The King and I as well as the new musical Bright Star.  In July the revivals of She Loves Me, The Crucible and Fully Committed will close. In a surprise, the producers of the new musical Shuffle Along, or… will close when Audra MacDonald goes on maternity leave. Late August and early September mark the closings of Finding Neverland, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, Les Miserables, Fun Home and An Act of God. Plus, earlier closings included American Psycho, Disaster, Tuck Everlasting, and the limited run of Blackbird. The only shows opening during the summer are the revival of Cats and the limited run return of Motown: the Musical.

 

A Glittery Night for Connecticut Theater

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By Karen Isaacs

 The night after the Tony Awards, Monday, June 13, Connecticut theater celebrated its best and brightest achievements at the Connecticut Critics Circle Awards program at Hartford Stage. Indecent which had its world premiere at Yale Rep last fall was named Outstanding Production of a Play and Anastasia which has just concluded its world premiere at Hartford Stage was named Outstanding Production of a Musical. Indecent is currently playing off-Broadway where it has received rave reviews.

the audience

Photo by Mara Lavitt.

While there was no red carpet – maybe next year – the 26th annual awards program sponsored by the organization that represents many of Connecticut’s print, radio, and other media theater critics – was an exciting event.

Hartford Stage and TheaterWorks co-hosted the event on the Hartford Stage with the set of Anasatsia as background. Tina Fabrique, who has performed throughout the state and just completed a run at Connecticut Repertory Theater, served as emcee.

Throughout the evening, many presenters and winners referred to the shooting in Orlando that had occurred just two days before. All stressed how inclusive, welcoming and supportive the arts and theater are and hoped that they could serve as a model for all the world.

While some winners were working away from Connecticut and could not attend (Darko

Bill Bertone by Mara Lavitt

 Presenter and legendary theatrical animal trainer Bill Berloni with two of his current animal actors Frankie, left, and Trixie, right. Photo by Mara Lavitt.

Tresnjak was in Los Angeles directing an opera), those present not only expressed their gratitude for the awards but also for the supportive environment that Connecticut’s theaters provide and the responsive and welcoming nature of the audiences.

Teren Carter who received the award for Outstanding Featured Actor in a Musical for Memphis at Ivoryton deeply moved the audience as he dedicated the award to a young relative who had just recently been shot and killed in Baltimore. He said that his involvement with theater beginning at 13 may have saved him from a similar end.

In his opening remarks, TheaterWorks Producing Artistic Director Rob Ruggiero, said that while the Tonys were all about Hamilton – the Broadway smash, the evening was going to be all about Anastasia, the Broadway-bound musical that just premiered at Hartford Stage. But while he was correct, if you count the number of nominations and awards it won, many awards and nominations went to other theaters both large and small.

Mohit Gautam debut award by Mara Lavitt

Mohit Gautam – Debut Award.Photo by Mara Lavitt .

In fact, Ivoryton Playhouse was nominated was for 10 awards split between two shows: South Pacific and Memphis. The small Playhouse on Park in West Hartford received five nominations, for Hair and Wit. Music Theater of Connecticut in Norwalk was nominated for Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike and Evita. Co-host TheaterWorks was nominated five times for three different productions: Good People, Third, and The Call.

Yet the “major” theaters were also well-represented.  Goodspeed received five nominations for Anything Goes and La Cage aux Folles. It should also have “reflected glory” for the nominations Long Wharf received for My Paris, which had its first major workshop at the Norma Terris Theater last summer.  Westport Country Playhouse received 10 nominations: Red (5), And a Nightingale Sang (2), Broken Glass (1), Art (1).

But Yale Rep, Long Wharf and Hartford Stage led the way in both nominations and awards.

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Rajesh Bose – Outstanding Actor in a Play. Photo by Mara Lavitt.

Yale had 15 nominations for Indecent (7), The Moors (5), Happy Days (2) and Cymbeline (1). Long Wharf garnered 17 nominations; the most for My Paris (11), with Disgraced (5) and Measure for Measure (1). Eighteen nominations went to Hartford Stage productions: Anastasia (11), Rear Window (4), Body of an American (2), and Romeo & Juliet (2).

The Tom Killen Award for outstanding contribution to Connecticut Theater was presented to Annie O’Keefe.  During her long career she has served as Long Wharf and Westport Country Playhouse, as stage manager, production manager, Artistic Director and more. During the presentation letters were read from actor John Lithgow, former Long Wharf Artistic Director Arvin Brown and Darko Tresjnak,

Anne Keefe by Mara Lavitt

 The 2016 Connecticut Critics Circle Awards. Tom Killen Award recipient Anne Keefe. Photo by Mara Lavitt.

Hartford Stage’s artistic director.

Other award recipients are:

Outstanding director of a play: Rebecca Taichman for Indecent.

Outstanding director of a musical: Darko Tresnjak for Anastasia.

Outstanding actor in a play: Rajesh Bose for Disgraced at Long Wharf Theatre

Outstanding actor in a musical: Bobby Steggert for My Paris at Long Wharf Theatre. Steggert has received several Tony nominations.

Outstanding actress in a play: Erika Rolfsrud for Good People at Hartford’s TheaterWorks.

Outstanding actress in a musical: Christy Altomare for Anastasia.

Outstanding choreography: Peggy Hickey for Anastasia.”

Outstanding ensemble: Indecent.

Outstanding featured actor in a play: Charles Janasz for Romeo and Juliet at Hartford Stage.

Outstanding featured actress in a play: Birgit Huppuch for The Moors at Yale Repertory Theatre.

Teren Carter by Mara Lavitt

Teren Carter, Outstanding Featured Actor in a Musical.Photo by Mara Lavitt.

Outstanding featured actor in a musical: Teren Carter for Memphis at Ivoryton Playhouse.

Outstanding featured actress in a musical: Mara Davi for My Paris.

Outstanding debut: Mohit Gautman for Disgraced” at Long Wharf Theatre

Outsanding set design: Alexander Dodge for Rear Window at Hartford Stage.

Oustanding costume design: (a tie) Linda Cho for Anastasia and Paul Tazewell for My Paris at Long Wharf Theatre. Tazwell had won a Tony Award for his costumes for Hamilton the previous evening.

Outstanding lighting design:  Donald Holder for Anastasia.

alexander Dodge  by Mara Lavitt

 Outstanding Set Design winner Alexander Dodge. Photo by Mara Lavitt.

Outstanding sound design: Darron L. West for Body of an American for Hartford Stage.

Outstanding projection design: Aaron Rhyne for Anastasia. at Hartford Stage

Special awards were presented to Lisa Gutkin and Aaron Halva, co-composers and co-music directors who created the Klezmer music for Yale Rep’s world premiere of Indecent. A special “Shout Out” was given to Vincent Cardinal who has been artistic director of the Connecticut Rep and department chair at UConn. He is leaving to go to University of Michigan where he will head the Department of Musical Theater.

Among the award presenters were Gov. Dannel F. Malloy and Cathy Malloy, CEO of the Greater Hartford Arts Council, O’Neill Theater Center founder George White, animal trainer Bill Berloni and Tony Award nominee (and Connecticut Critics Circle Award winner) Tony Sheldon, just completing a run at Goodspeed’s Norma Terris Theater in The Roar of the Geasepaint, the Smell of the Crowd.

Musical selections were performed by Tina Fabrique and nominee for South Pacific at Ivoryton (and Connecticut resident and opera star) David Pittsinger. He will be starring in Man of La Mancha at Ivoryton later this summer.

All Connecticut theaters with contracts with Equity, the major stage acting union, are eligible, over 14 theaters from Norwalk New Canaan to Storrs, and East Haddam.

This content is courtesy of Shore Publications and zip06.com

CRT’s How to Succeed Blessed with Terrific Hero

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Riley Costello and Fred Grandy. Photo by Gerry Goostein

By Karen Isaacs

 How to Succeed in Business without Really Trying is one of those classic musicals that requires just the right cast.  Luckily for the Connecticut Repertory Theater on the UConn campus in Storrs, they have an almost perfect leading man: Riley Costello.

In case you don’t remember, this 1961 musical has music and lyrics by the incomparable Frank Loesser and book by Abe Burrows, Jack Weinstock and Willie Gilbert. It won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 1962.

The plot is about how a young man, J. Pierpont Finch, using a book of the same title as the musical, his wits and charm plus a certain ruthlessness rises from a window washer to the Chairman of the Board of the World Wide Widget Corporation with remarkable speed.

The show satirizes all aspects of the corporate world and its politics and back-stabbing. Though a few aspects of the show are dated and reflect the reality of the 1960s, particularly regarding the role of women, today’s audiences will find that nothing much has truly changed.

You need a special performer to play Finch. It helps if he looks barely out of his teens and traditionally the actor has been shorter. He must embody enthusiasm and charm; his machinations to succeed must come across as endearing and clever, not manipulative. The original role on Broadway (and in the rather good film of the musical) was Robert Morse. Later Broadway revivals featured Matthew Broderick and Daniel Radcliffe (Harry Potter).

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Riley Costello and Steven Hayes. Photo by Gerry Goostein.

Riley Costello fits the mold perfectly. Last summer his portrayal of Peter Pan at UConn won him critical and audience acclaim. Here he balances the ruthlessness and the charm with sometimes boyish hesitancy. In addition, he dances and sings terrifically.

The other major roles in the show include the President of the company, J. B. Biggley, his wife’s nephew Bud Frump, and the head of the mailroom where Finch starts out, Twimble. The women’s roles are more stereotypical: Biggley’s no-nonsense secretary, Miss Jones; the love interest, Rosemary; and Biggley’s “playmate” Hedy LaRue, plus Rosemary’s friend Smitty.

In addition to the satiric plot, the show features a great score; the two most familiar are “I Believe in You,” and “Brotherhood of Man” but there is also “Coffee Break,” “The Company Way,” “Happy to Keep His Dinner Warm,” and, my favorite, “Grand Old Ivy” that ridicules all college fight songs and alumni.

Costello handles both the scenes of his rise with the right degree of ruthlessness and his scenes with Rosemary with the perfect lack of confidence. He makes the most of his scenes with Mr. Biggley, played delightfully by Fred Gandy.

Grandy, who years ago played Finch in a tour of the show, minimizes some of the

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Sarah Schenkkan, Adria Swan and Riley Costello. Photo by Gerry Goostein.

pompousness of Biggley, the company’s president.  But he does a fine job in the scenes with his girlfriend, Hedy.

Robert Fritz could be more humorously evil as Frump, the incompetent and whinny nephew-in-law of Biggley.

Sarah Schenkkan has a lovely voice as Rosemary, who is almost as driven as Finch but her drive is to marry an executive and once she has decided on Finch she is just as determined. The role is a difficult one; Rosemary is supposed to be sweet and driven yet she has none of the humor that Finch has. Schenkkan acquits herself well. Adria Swan is fine as Rosemary’s friend Smitty.

Ariana Shore plays Hedy LaRue, the stereotypical “bimbo.” She does the burlesque style walk well and does project a mixture of vulnerability and determination.  Over the years, this role has focused more on the burlesque aspects of the character which I’m not sure is wise though it does garner laughs.

Finally we have Tina Fabrique as Miss Jones, the down-to-earth, older secretary to Mr. Biggley.  We suspect that she is really the one who should run the company.  Fabrique has a terrific voice, yet for whatever reason (sound design?) she is hard to hear in her big number, “The Brotherhood of Man.” I was looking forward to hearing her nail the number but it was hard to find her voice among the others.

Vincent J. Cardinal has directed the show briskly but he is let down by some of his production teams. I’ve already mentioned the sound balance on “The Brotherhood of Man” but also the spotlights that need to highlight Finch at times, aren’t as perfectly placed as they should be.  Cassie Abate did a very nice job choreographing the show.

This is a good – though not great – production of this terrific show. You’ll have a good time.

How to Succeed in Business without Really Trying is at the Harriet S. Jorgensen Theater on the UConn campus in Storrs through June 12. For tickets call 860-486-2113 or crt.uconn.edu.

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Riley Costello and the other executives. Photo by Gerry Goostein.

CT Critics Announce Award Nominations

By Karen Isaacs

Anastasia (Hartford Stage), My Paris (Long Wharf), La Cage aux Folles (Goodspeed Musicals), Hair (Playhouse on Park), South Pacific and Memphis (Ivoryton Playhouse) were among the top nominees in the musical and production categories for the Connecticut Critics Circles.

The plays receiving multiple nominations included Disgraced (Long Wharf), Good People (TheaterWorks), Indecent (Yale Rep), Red (Westport Country Playhouse), Happy Days (Yale Rep), The Moors (Yale Rep) and Broken Glass (Westport Country Playhouse.

The award recipients will be announced at the ceremony at Hartford Stage on Monday, June 13 at 7:30 p.m. The ceremony is free and open to the public; the general public can RSVP at hartfordstage.org. For information on the Connecticut Critics Circle Awards, visit ctcritics.org.

The awards recognize outstanding achievements from the state’s 2015-’16 professional theater season by the group comprised of theater critics and writers from the state’s print, radio and on-line media.

Connecticut Critics Circle Awards Nominations 2015-16 Season

Outstanding Production of a Play
Disgraced – Long Wharf Theatre
Good People – TheaterWorks
Happy Days – Yale Rep
Indecent – Yale Rep
Red – Westport Country Playhouse
Outstanding Production of a Musical
Anastasia – Hartford Stage
Hair – Playhouse of Park
La Cage aux Folles – Goodspeed Musicals
My Paris – Long Wharf Theatre
South Pacific – Ivoryton Playhouse
Outstanding Ensemble
Cast of Art – Westport Country Playhouse
Cast of Hair – Playhouse on Park
Cast of Indecent – Yale Repertory Theatre
Cast of Measure for Measure – Long Wharf Theater
Cast of Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike – Music Theatre of Connecticut
Outstanding Director of a Play
Gordon Edelstein – Disgraced – Long Wharf Theatre
Jackson Gay – The Moors – Yale Repertory Theatre
Mark Lamos – Red – Westport Country Playhouse
Rob Ruggiero – Good People – TheaterWorks
Rebecca Taichman – Indecent – Yale Repertory Theatre
Outstanding Director of a Musical
David Edwards – South Pacific – Ivoryton Playhouse
Sean Harris – Hair – Playhouse on Park
Kathleen Marshall – My Paris – Long Wharf Theatre
Rob Ruggiero – La Cage aux Folles – Goodspeed Musicals
Darko Tresnjak – Anastasia – Hartford Stage

Outstanding Actor in a Play
Rajesh Bose – Disgraced – Long Wharf Theatre
Ward Duffy – Good People – TheaterWorks
Conor Hamill – Third – TheaterWorks
Stephen Rowe – Red – Westport Country Playhouse
Steven Skybell – Broken Glass – Westport Country Playhouse

Outstanding Actress in a Play
Felicity Jones – Broken Glass – Westport Country Playhouse
Brenda Meaney – And a Nightingale Sang – Westport Country Playhouse
Elizabeth Lande – Wit – Playhouse on Park
Erika Rolfsrud – Good People – TheaterWorks
Dianne Wiest – Happy Days – Yale Repertory Theatre.
Outstanding Actor in a Musical
Riley Costello – Peter Pan – Connecticut Repertory Theater
Carson Higgins – Memphis – Ivoryton Playhouse
David Pittsinger – South Pacific – Ivoryton Playhouse
Bobby Steggert – My Paris – Long Wharf Theatre
Jamieson Stern – La Cage aux Folles – Goodspeed Musicals

Outstanding Actress in a Musical
Christy Altomare – Anastasia – Hartford Stage
Adrianne Hicks – South Pacific – Ivoryton Playhouse
Renee Jackson – Memphis – Ivoryton Playhouse
Katerina Papacostas – Evita – Music Theatre of Connecticut
Rashidra Scott – Anything Goes – Goodspeed Musicals
Outstanding Featured Actor in a Play
Benim Foster – Disgraced – Long Wharf Theatre
Charles Janasz – Romeo & Juliet – Hartford Stage
Richard Kline – And a Nightingale Sang – Westport Country Playhouse
Michael Rogers – The Call — TheaterWorks
Richard Topol – Indecent – Yale Repertory Theatre
Outstanding Featured Actress in a Play
Shirine Babb – Disgraced – Long Wharf Theatre
Megan Byrne – Good People – TheaterWorks
Kandis Chappell – Romeo & Juliet – Hartford Stage
Birgit Huppuch – The Moors – Yale Repertory Theatre
Jodi Stevens – Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike – Music Theater of Connecticut
Outstanding Featured Actor in a Musical
John Bolton – Anastasia – Hartford Stage
Teren Carter – Memphis – Ivoryton Playhouse
Christopher DeRosa – Evita  – Music Theater of Connecticut
Tom Hewitt – My Paris – Long Wharf Theatre
William Selby – South Pacific – Ivoryton Playhouse

Outstanding Featured Actress in a Musical
Mara Davi – My Paris – Long Wharf Theatre
Caroline O’Connor – Anastasia – Hartford Stage
Mary Beth Peil – Anastasia – Hartford Stage
Patricia Schumann – South Pacific – Ivoryton Playhouse
Jodi Stevens – Legally Blonde – Summer Theatre of New Canaan.
Outstanding Choreography
David Dorfman – Indecent
Peggy Hickey – Anastasia
Kathleen Marshall – My Paris
Todd Underwood – Memphis
Darlene Zoller – Hair
Outstanding Scenic Design
Alexander Dodge – Rear Window
Alexander Dodge – Anastasia
Derek McLane – My Paris
Allen Moyer – Red
Alexander Woodward – The Moors
Outstanding Costume Design
Fabian Fidel Aguilar – The Moors
Linda Cho – Anastasia
Michael McDonald – La Cage aux Folles
Paul Tazewell – My Paris
Outstanding Light Design
Christopher Akerlind – Indecent
Andrew F. Griffin – The Moors
Donald Holder – My Paris
Donald Holder – Anastasia
York Kennedy – Rear Window
Outstanding Sound Design
David Budries – Red
Peter Hylenski – Anastasia
Brian Ronan – My Paris
Jane Shaw – Rear Window
Darron L. West – Body of an American
Outstanding Projection Design
Rasean Davonte Johnson – Cymbeline
Alex Basco Koch – The Body of an American
Sean Nieuwenhuis – Rear Window
Aaron Rhyne – Anastasia
Olivia Sebesky – My Paris

 

Holiday Season Delights Are on Stages throughout the State

A Wonderful Life

It’s a Wonderful Life at Goodspeed.

By Karen Isaacs
The holiday theatrical and musical mice are scurrying all over Connecticut to bring us wonderful gifts of performances that will delight children of all ages as well as those who prefer a little cynicism or humor in their holiday diets.

The Classics

Hartford Stage’s classic production of A Christmas Carol-A Ghost Story of Christmas makes its 18th annual appearance through Sunday, Dec. 27. The production, which was brought by former artistic director Michael Wilson from Texas when he came to Hartford, has become a Connecticut tradition. The production is completing a three-year refurbishing project

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This classic production always sells out.

with new costumes, more flying, and a larger cast among other enhancements. Once again Bill Raymond returns as Scrooge as well as local area children, acting students from the Hartt School at the University of Hartford, and a slew of professional actors, many of whom have played their roles for multiple years. In addition, the ghosts soar through the air. This production may not be appropriate for younger children. For tickets, visit hartfordstage.org/christmas-carol or call 860-527-5151.

Goodspeed is still running the musical version of one of the classic holiday films, It’s a Wonderful Life. This story of a honorable man who despairs, but learns how much he has contributed and meant to everyone in his small town, seems to embody so much of what the holiday means. The production, which has music and lyrics by Joe Reposo and Sheldon Harnick, runs through Sunday, Dec. 6. There are two performances on Wednesday, Dec. 2 and Saturday, Dec. 5. I love the gentle holiday song, “Christmas Gifts.” This is a show that will make you feel hopeful. For tickets, visit goodspeed.org or call 860-873-8668.

Each holiday season the Ivoryton Playhouse and its executive director Jacqui Hubbard put together an original holiday production. This year, it’s I’ll Be Home for Christmas, which runs from Thursday, Dec. 10 to Sunday, Dec. 20. It is described as a “holiday potpourri of songs and carols and Christmas fun.” It’s centered on the Evans family as it prepares for the holiday season and needs to find time to remember the meaning of the season while doing the multiple tasks that seem to be required. It’s billed as family friendly. For tickets, call 860-767-7318 or visit ivorytonplayhouse.org.

Shakespeare wrote one play whose title, Twelfth Night, refers to the elaborate Elizabethan celebrations that occurred between Christmas and Epiphany. The Connecticut Repertory Theatre, which performs at the Nafe Katter Theatre on the UConn campus in Storrs, has decided to infuse its 12th Night PR_editedproduction of the comedy with holiday seasoning. They promise carols and mistletoe in the comedy that as the press materials says “is a paean to the restorative power of love and the uproarious joy of the holidays. The plot revolves around a shipwrecked young woman who pretends to be a man working for a handsome nobleman who is in love with the Lady Olivia who scorns him. Both the nobleman and the Lady find the young page very attractive.” It runs Thursday, Dec. 3 to Sunday, Dec. 13. This is a good show to introduce teens to Shakespeare. For tickets, call 860-486-2113 or visit crt.uconn.edu.

For the Music-Minded

The New Haven Symphony performs two different holiday programs in locations throughout the area. Holiday Extravaganza features the entire symphony under the direction of Chelsea Tipton, who conducts the Pops concerts. The program includes classics from The NutcrackerThe Messiah, and excerpts from classical favorites as well as such popular hits as “Sleigh Ride,” “Have a Holly Jolly Christmas,” and others. Joshua Jeremiah is the baritone soloist. The concerts are on Saturday, Dec. 12 at Hamden Middle School; Sunday, Dec. 13 at Shelton Intermediate School; Thursday, Dec. 17 at Woolsey Hall in New Haven; and Sunday, Dec. 20 at Middletown High School.

The symphony’s Brass Quintet is combining with organ for its holiday concerts of favorites. The concerts are Saturday, Dec. 5 at Elim Park in Cheshire; Friday, Dec. 18 at Sacred Heart University; and Saturday, Dec. 19 at the First Congregational Church, Madison. For tickets, visit newhavensymphony.org or call 203-865-0831 x20.

Ho- Ho- Holiday Entertainment

For those who appreciate humor or cynicism as part of their holiday festivities, Connecticut theaters are offering some excellent choices.

The Palace in Waterbury is presenting ‘Twas a Girls Night Before Christmas: The Musical on Thursday, Dec. 10. It is about five women gathering for a night of laughs, tears, and gossip during the holiday season complete with both traditional and contemporary holiday songs. For tickets, visit palacetheaterct.org or call 203-346-2000.

christmas on the rocks 2TheaterWorks is bringing backs its popular Christmas on the Rocks, which features a parade of now-adult characters who were kids in popular holiday books, films, and TV shows. Among the characters we get to see in a rundown local bar on Christmas Eve are Charlie Brown, Cindy Lou Who, Tiny Tim, and others. Each skit is written by a different popular playwright. There are laughs and more; it runs through Wednesday, Dec. 23. This is best for older teens who will appreciate the twisted tales. For tickets, call 860-527-7838; for information, visit theaterworkshartford.org.

If you’ve ever wondered what it is like to be an elf in a Santaland, David santaland8x10hires_editedSedaris’s The Santaland Diaries lets you in on the experience of one such elf, an aspiring writer working at the Macy’s Santaland in New York City. MTC (Music Theater of Connecticut) presents the one person show from Friday, Dec. 11 to Sunday, Dec. 20. For tickets, visit musictheatreofct.com or call 203-454-3883. Again this is great for teens who will appreciate the humor.

Long Wharf is bringing back Sister’s Christmas Catechism: The Mystery of the Magi’s Gold, on Stage II from Tuesday, Dec. 8 through Sunday, Dec. 20. As the press materials says, “In this holiday mystery extravaganza, Sister takes on the mystery that has Sisters christmas catch long wharfintrigued historians throughout the ages—whatever happened to the Magi’s gold? Employing her own scientific tools and assisted by local choirs as well as a gaggle of audience members, Sister creates a living nativity unlike any ever seen.” For tickets, visit longwharf.org or call 203-787-4282.

Looking for something for younger children? The Bushnell is hosting a return visit of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer: The Musical, which is faithful to the classic animated TV show that runs every year. All RUDOLPH_Rudolph_and_Clarice_The_cast_of_Rudolph_The_Red-Nosed_Reindeer_The_Musicalthe characters from the show—Hermey the elf, Yukon Cornelius, and the Abominable Snow Monster are on stage. It runs Friday, Dec. 11 to Monday, Dec 14 for five performances. For tickets, visit bushnell.org or call 860-987-5900.

And winding up the holiday shows is Westport Country Playhouse’s Fancy Nancy Splendiferous Christmas for two performances on Sunday, Dec. 20. This is geared to very young audiences, ages 2 to 7. For tickets or information, visit westportplayhouse.org or call 203-227-4177.

So this holiday season, take some time away from the chores to enjoy a theatrical or musical experience with family and friends.

This content courtesy of Shore Publications and zip06.com.

Next Year at Goodspeed, What’s New in NYC, Coming to 7 Angels and More News

Inside notes and comments about Connecticut and New York Professional Theater

By Karen Isaacs

New Musical at Chester: Goodspeed is concluding its season of new musicals at the Norma Terris Theater in Chester with Indian Joe to, Nov. 15.  The musical, inspired by true events, tells the story of a Texas beauty queen, a homeless Native American, and their blossoming friendship. Elizabeth A. Davis, who received a Tony nomination for Once, plays the beauty queen and Gary Farmer, an actor, musician and cultural activist plays Joe.  Davis wrote the book with Chris Henry and the music with Luke Holloway and the Jason Michael Webb and the lyrics. For tickets call 860-873-8668 or visit goodspeed.org.

Next Year at Goodspeed: The 2016 season at Goodspeed is the first one planned with the new executive director Michael Gennaro’s input.  The season will feature two revivals plus a new musical.  The Cole Porter show, Anything Goes, opens the season running from April 8 to June 16.  Following will be what is billed as a fresh-take on the 1960 musical, Bye, Bye Birdie from June 24 to Sept. 4.  The Goodspeed Opera House season concludes with Chasing Rainbows: The Road to Oz, a new musical inspired by the making of the classic film, The Wizard of Oz, from Sept. 16 to Nov. 27.  At the Norma Terris Theater in Chester, Goodspeed will present two new musicals.  Actually the first production is brand new version of the 1960s show The Roar of the Greasepaint – The Smell of the Crowd from May 19 to June 26. The original show introduced the song “Who Can I Turn To?”  Next up is a musical set in 1965 and using the songs of Petula Clark and others from the period, A Sign of the Times from July 28 to Sept. 4.  Season ticket packages are now on sale at 860-873-8668. For more information visit goodspeed.org.

An Opera Diva and Her Husband: When an opera diva nearing the end of her career suspects her husband, a prominent conductor, is enamored of the young woman hired to ghost-write his biography, you can expect a lot of drama and maybe some revenge in the form of an attractive male ghostwriter for her memoirs. That is the basis of the rather 1950s style drawing comedy, Living on Love which is next up at Seven Angels Theater in Waterbury. The play by Joe DiPietro will star Stephanie Zymbalist as the aging diva. The show originated at Williamstown Theater Festival in 2014 and had a brief run on Broadway last spring with Renee Fleming – a real opera star – in the lead. It runs Nov. 12 to, Dec. 6. For tickets call 203-757-7676 or visit sevenangelstheatre.org.

The Pearly Whites: For those who grew up in the 1950s, you may remember Liberace and his amazingly pearly white smile.  The pianist had his own popular TV show and was known for his flamboyance at the keyboard and in his many sequined costumes.  For those who are younger, Liberace may be best known for the made-for-TV movie a few years ago that starred Michael Douglas as Liberace.  Ivoryton Playhouse is presenting Liberace! to, Nov. 15. The play is billed as loving tribute to the classically trained pianist. Just like the Liberace, it features music from classical to popular.  Daryl Wagner plays Liberace; he’s played the man for more 20 years in a variety of shows.  For tickets call 860-767-7318 or visit ivorytonplayhouse.org.

A Refuge Throughout Time: Anon(ymous) is being staged by the Connecticut Repertory Theater on the UConn campus in Storrs, to  , Nov. 8.  The play by Naomi Izuka is part of the theater’s Studio Series. An adaptation of Homer’s classic Odyssey, it tells the story of a young refugee (Anon) who travels throughout the history of the US meeting a wide variety of people. For tickets call 860-486-2113 or visit crt.uconn.edu.

An Early Christmas:  The Shubert Theater in New Haven is not the only theater in Connecticut that is serving as a rehearsal and first performance venue for theatrical tours.  The Palace in Waterbury has also served that function.  This year, it will debut the 2015 tour of Irving Berlin’s White Christmas, the stage musical version of the classic holiday film favorite. The show runs, Nov. 6 to, Nov. 8 before heading out to various locales. For tickets, call 203-346-2000 or visit placetheaterct.org.

 New York Notes: Fiddler on the Roof will now begin previews on, Nov. 20 and open officially on, Dec. 20. Tickets are available at telecharge.com.  You can get tickets through telecharge.com for the British play, King Charles III which opens officially on Nov. 19.  Yes, it imagines the reign of the current Prince of Wales.

While the national tour has just begun, the Broadway run of A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder, which began life at Hartford Stage, will end Jan. 17.

Kathleen Chalfant, who is well known to Connecticut theater goers (she starred in the original production of Wit at Long Wharf among other appearances), will play Rose Kennedy in Rose, off-Broadway beginning, Nov. 21.

September 12 marked the 5773rd and last Broadway performance of Mamma Mia!

Richard Thomas, who also has performed frequently in Connecticut, will head the cast of Incident in Vichy, the Arthur Miller play about the Nazi occupation of France. It’s at the Signature Theater and begun previews.  Former Hartford Stage artistic director Michael Wilson directs. Tickets are available at signaturetheatre.org

A Chorus Line opened on Broadway 40 years ago, and it has a re-release of the original cast album with bonus tracks: two never-before-heard songs and alternate versions of some of the well-known songs. It is on the Sony label. Some of the bonus tracks are from the workshops that developed the show.  It also features expanded liner notes.

Telecharge now has tickets for the revival of The Color Purple starring Jennifer Hudson that begins previews, Nov. 10 and opens officially, Dec. 10.

Dear Elizabeth, which was produced at Yale Rep in 2012 will be staged off-Broadway by the Women’s Project Theater through, Dec. 5. The play by Sarah Ruhl is constructed from the letters that poets Elizabeth Bishop and Robert Lowell exchanged. It will feature a rotating cast beginning with Kathleen Chalfant and Harris Yulin followed by J. Smith-Cameron and John Douglas Thompson, then Cherry Jones and David Aaron Baker. Information and tickets are available at wpt.org or 212-765-1706.

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