Sylvia: a very funny and thought provoking play at the Music Theatre of Norwalk

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A very funny and poignant play is now on stage at Music Theatre of Connecticut in Norwalk. Sylvia by A. R. Gurney was first produced off Broadway in 1995 and starred Sarah Jessica Parker and Blythe Danner. That production received Drama Desk Award nominations for Outstanding Play, Outstanding Actress in a Play (Parker), and Outstanding Costume Design.   In 2015 the it opened on Broadway and featured Matthew Broderick, Annaleigh Ashford and Julie White as cast members.

The plot of the play involves an older couple Greg (Dennis Holland) and Kate                  ( Carole Dell’Aquila) who after raising their children in the suburbs have decided to move back to New York City.  Liberated from child rearing, school schedules, yard work and other suburban chores, the couple look forward to this new phase of their life.  Kate has returned to work as a teacher and is energized by her new role, new friends and new life.  Greg however feels quite the opposite.  He begins to lose interest in his job as well as his new life.  Leaving work early he wanders through the park only to discover a dog who like himself seems lost and alone in the big city.  The only clue to identity of the dog is her collar with her name, Sylvia.   Sylvia the dog is played by a human, Bethany Fitzgerald, whom he takes home.

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Kate, Greg and Sylvia the dog

Kate is not pleased with Greg bringing the dog home, but relents and allows the dog to stay a few days until they can find it a new home.   Kate sees Sylvia as a hindrance to her new found freedom in the city.   Over the next few days Greg and Sylvia bond and it seems to Kate that Greg is having a mid life crises and Sylvia is quickly replacing her in their marriage.   There are some very funny scenes as Sylvia bounds around the stage, gnaws on Kate’s shoe, climbs on furniture and cuddles with Greg.

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Sylvia and Kate at odds

Greg discusses his plight with his new found friend and fellow dog lover (Jim Schilling)  and Kate seeks out a therapist (also played by Jim Schilling) for help in saving her marriage and dealing with Greg and Sylvia.  But saving their marriage and new found life will come with compromises.

Though the play is a comedy and the physical comedy of Bethany Fitzgerald as Sylvia bring many laughs to the audience, the play too is filled with many thought provoking moments.  The subjects of love, mid life crises, and alienation in the modern world are all touched and leave a lasting impression on the audience.  Sylvia is just one of the many fine productions we have seen at this gem of a local theater.   The play is wonderfully directed by Kevin Connors who always brings out the best in his actors.

Sylvia will be at MTC through February 23, 2020

For tickets and information:  https://www.musictheatreofct.com/

Music Theatre of Connecticut

509 Westport Ave, Norwalk, CT, 06851

 

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Godspell: A theatrical tour de force now on stage at ACT in Ridgefield

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A total modernized and powerful version of the 1970s classic musical Godspell is now on stage at ACT ( A Contemporary Theatre of Connecticut) in Ridgefield Ct.  It was our first time seeing a play  at this theater and we spellbound by this  incredible production.  If you see only one play this year, make it Godspell at ACT.

The original production of Godspell which opened in 1971 off-Broadway and the 1973 film of the same name was a lighter play with the characters dressed in colorful period clothing.   The story features Jesus in a modern setting with his disciples (though given different names), and the story follows parables from the New Testament which teach the lessons of forgiveness, charity, kindness to all,  and that man must worship God and not money.  These lessons can be appreciated by anyone of any faith or background, and seem even more relevant today.

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Artistic Director Daniel C. Levine was given permission by the show’s creator, Stephen Schwartz to revise Godspell and cast it in a new light.  Levine has brought Godspell from 1971 to 2020 and in the process created a powerful and moving production.   The play opens in an abandoned church in Manhattan that where some homeless have taken refuge.   Enter the developers and realtors who reveal that this old magnificent structure will be demolished to build high priced condos for the wealthy.  They care not for the church nor its purpose as they discuss the price of these condos to be built and brag about how the building is 90% sold.  Suddenly from the ruins of the church, Jesus appears to transform the greedy and to open their eyes to his lessons.   The stage design of the abandoned church is magnificent with its Gothic pillars, and stained glass windows  which creates the perfect mood for the play.   Levine was inspired to set the musical in an abandoned church after witnessing the fire at Notre-Dame in Paris.  Reid Thompson who is the scenic designer helped bring a Broadway quality set to our backyard and in doing do brought Levine’s vision to fruition.

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The score from Godspell is memorable and includes such favorites “Day By Day”,  “All the Best”. “Light of the World”, and from the film, “Beautiful City”.   The sound is professional and some of the best and clearest we have heard at any theater.  Credit goes to Sound Designer John Salutz and his talented team.  The vocals are outstanding with great performances from the entire cast.

The story is not all heavy, as lighter comedic moments are part of the show including satirical references to the President  as well to Harvey Weinstein.    The cast also interacts with the audience playfully, and even leaves the stage to move about the theater.  During the intermission the actors appear and begin to mingle with the audience while still in character.  This was effective in really allowing the attendees to feel immersed in the story and not a passive observer.

The cast was brilliant and even included an ensemble of children actors who make brief appearances as they represent the innocent and the future of us all.   The cast of actors have numerous Broadway, off Broadway, National Tour and regional credits.   It was an evening of wonderful performances with Trent Saunders (Jesus), Jaime Cepero (John the Baptist), Shalen Harger, Jacob Hoffman, Katie Ladner, Alex Lugo, Andrew Poston, Monica Ramirez, Phil Sloves, Morgan Billings Smith , Emma Tattenbaum-Fine, and Cameron Nies.

We were totally mesmerized by this stunning new interpretation of  Godspell.  It is a show for us all and so relevant today.  The show runs through March 8, 2020 and it has to be on your must see list.

ACT    A  Contemporary Theatre of Connecticut

36 Old Quarry Road

Ridgefield, CT 06877

Box Office: (475) 215 5433

web  >>>https://www.actofct.org/

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Ragtime the Musical: a powerful story and great performances take the stage at the Music Theatre of Connecticut

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A moving and very relevant production of  Ragtime the Musical is now on stage at the Music Theatre of Connecticut (MTC).  Ragtime relates the story of three different groups of people in the United States at the turn of the 20th Century.    The three groups are  African Americans, an  upper class white family from  New Rochelle in Westchester County and Eastern European immigrants. These groups aver very different but their lives will become intertwined.

The story adapted for the stage by Terrence McNally also weaves actual historical figures of the period along with the fictional characters.  We see appearances from Henry Ford, Booker T. Washington, Admiral Peary (polar explorer), Harry Houdini,  Emma Goldman (writer and anarchist), Stanford White (famous architect- Penn Station NYC) and Evelyn Nesbit (actress, model and lover of Stanford White).   The historical figures bring a dose or reality into this otherwise fictional story.    The tale explores the world of early 20th Century America where African Americans represented by Coalhouse Walker Jr. a musician, (Ezekiel Andrew), a white upper class family represented by Mother (Juliet Lambert Pratt) and Father(Dennis Holland) , and the immigrants represented by Tateh (Frank Mastrone) all tell their stories of life in America.   Their worlds are very different, but their world start to collide in unexpected ways as the new century transforms the nation.

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Ari Frimmer and Juliet Lambert Pratt

When Father leaves on a polar expedition he is quite surprised by meeting Matthew Henson, an African American explorer who ventured to the arctic many times. At home Mother discovers an African American baby left in her yard and decides to care for him and his mother Sarah (Soara-Joye Ross) who moves into Mother’s home.   We soon find out that the father is the famous Harlem musician Coalhouse Walker Jr. who comes to Mother’s home in New Rochelle to reunite with his family.  His fine clothes and new Model T are met with resentment and racism by whites in the area.   When Father returns and finds that Mother has taken in the baby and his mother, he realizes that the safe world he knew is changing just as America was changing.  He laments that nothing would ever be the same, but his wife welcomes the changes.image00001

Meanwhile  Teteh and his daughter cannot scratch out a living on the streets of the lower East Side selling drawings, so they move to a factory town in New England where Teteh finds long hours and exploitation.  Still believing in the dream of a better life he moves again to Philadelphia.  Later he crosses paths with Mother in Atlantic City where his artistic abilities have landed him a job as a director of silent films.    The three worlds of very different people cross, and are all transformed as was the nation during this period.

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Jessica Molly Schwartz as Evelyn Nesbit

The music written  by Stephen Flaherty with Lyrics by Lynn Ahrens is woven with period correct ragtime piano pieces that are performed by two pianists on stage. The score is moving and dramatic with lighter songs woven in to break the dramatic tension.  This is a big production for MTC to undertake with 20 songs alone in Act One and 12 in Act Two.  In the end the performance was brilliant. The cast of 16 actors is large for the small size of the theater but credit goes to director Kevin Connors for guiding these wonderful actors so well through a complex production.  This musical does not have the usual dance routines seen in musicals but rather leans on the story, the music and the actors to tell the story.  If you have not been to this theater then you are missing a special experience.  It is a small intimate space with seating for the small audience on three sides.  The effect is that the guests feel as if they are being drawn into the play itself.

The play includes actors with Broadway, Off-Broadway, National Tours and Regional experience.  Standout performances abound and we loved Juliet Lambert Pratt as Mother.  We last saw her at MTC in Bridges of Madison County. A wonderful acting and vocal performance.   Soara-Joye Ross as Sarah, Brian Demar Jones as Booker T. Washington, Mia Scarpa as Emma Goldman (previously at MTC in Always…..Patsy Cline), Ezekiel Andrew as Coalhouse Walker, Jr. Dennis Holland as Father, and Jessica Molly Schwartz  as Evelyn Nesbit and the rest of the cast  all gave wonderful performances and brought the opening night audience to their feet.

With a moving musical score, relevant story and tremendous performances, you should add Ragtime the Musical on your must see list.   But hurry the show runs through October 13th 2019.

For tickets and information:  https://www.musictheatreofct.com/

Music Theatre Of Connecticut

509 Westport Ave, Norwalk, CT, 06851

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Last of The Red Hot Lovers: Neil Simon’s classic comedy now at the Ridgefield Theater Barn

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The classic Neil Simon play “Last of the Red Hot Lovers” is now playing at the Ridgefield Theater Barn through September 28th.   This comedy which was first staged on Broadway in 1969 was the recipient of four Tony Award nominations.

 

The play is in three acts with each act  featuring Barney Cashman, (Duane Lanham) a  married forty something  year-old owner of a seafood restaurant.  Barney is afraid he is missing out on the sexual revolution of the 1960’s . In the space of several months, he invites three different women to his mother’s Manhattan apartment in an attempt to have an afternoon of extramarital fun.  Each scene involves a different woman, and the Barney learns quickly that the sexual revolution may not be his cup of tea.

His first encounter is with Elaine Navazio (Paulette Layton) who he meets in his restaurant.  Elaine we find is in an open marriage and is quite comfortable with having extramarital affairs.  Elaine is put off by Barney’s sexual  ineptness and his inexperience with affairs as well as his  desire for a meaningful encounter.  The exchange between the two is  quite comical as his inexperience is represented by not having cigarettes or the right alcohol on hand.    Barney decides this lifestyle is not for him.

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Paulette Layton and Duane Lanham

In Act Two, we are back in the apartment months later and Barney has now met a young actress Bobbi Michele (Kate Patton) in the park.  He soon finds his young friend is really not what he expected.  Even though he is now prepared with booze and packs of cigarettes, young Bobbi just wants to talk about herself, her career and smoke pot, which she encourages Barney to try.   She is quite the contrast to the amorous Elaine from Act One.

In Act Three the tone of the play turns a bit darker and deeper as it probes into morality.  Here we meet Jeanette Fisher (Linda Seay) who is the wife of a good friend.  Barney has learned that Jeanette’s husband has been carrying on an affair for some time and convinces her that her own affair will even the score.  But from the moment she walks into the apartment it is clear that Barney’s plan of an afternoon of sex is not what he imagined.  Jeanette does not know why she really is there, does not want cigarettes or alcohol and her exaggerated body language and running away from Barney is not only comedic but lets the audience and Barney know that this is not what she wants.  She does want to find people that are kind and who are “decent”.   It is in this dialogue which is so different from the previous Acts that Barney comes to an awakening that everything he really needs is waiting at home.

Duane Lanham was wonderful as Barney and we love his physical style of comedy and his hysterical facial expressions.  He is one of our favorite actors at the Barn, having seen him in Wreck the Halls, Rumors, and the hysterical  Dirty Rotten Scoundrels.  We loved  Paulette Layton, Kate Patton, and Linda Seay, and they are  all very funny actors playing very different roles.  Well done ladies.   The opening night crowd agreed with rousing applause for the cast and crew.

The play was directed by Michael Ferrara  who as a young boy acted in Neil Simon’s  The Gingerbread Lady.  Though the play is now 50 years old, it subject of morality and truth is still relevant today.

The Ridgefield Theater Barn is a small intimate space.  Theater goers are encouraged to bring food and drink to the theater to enjoy prior to the performance.

for tickets and information:

https://ridgefieldtheaterbarn.org/tickets/

Ridgefield Theater Barn

37 Halpin Lane
Ridgefield CT 06877

tel. 203.431.9850

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Boca Oyster Bar: the newest waterfront dining destination in Fairfield County

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Fair weather makes one want to enjoy the outdoors.  Finding that perfect dining spot where you can take in the sun can be challenging.  With so few waterfront dining spots in our area, we were pleased to dine recently at Boca Oyster Bar.

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The Outdoor Bar overlooking the water

Located in the newly developed coastal neighborhood at Bridgeport’s Steelpointe Harbor, Boca Oyster Bar takes its place as the anchor restaurant and event venue within this urban multi-use destination.  Sitting right on the waterfront this restaurant is but a minute drive from Exit 28 on Interstate 95, so getting there is a snap. The entire Steelpoint Harbor area is being redeveloped with all new dining and shopping.

With a seafood inspired food concept, which fits in perfect on the New England waterfront, spirited beverage program, and waterside location Boca’s location in city of Bridgeport makes this unique restaurant a true standout within Fairfield County’s constantly evolving restaurant scene.

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Great cocktails are just one reason to head to Boca

The restaurant located on the first floor of a brand new building is quite large.  Indoors features a large rectangular bar, a wall of windows facing out to the outside deck and marina,  antique maps of the harbor, as well as a mast from a 1870 schooner that once plied the waters of Long Island Sound.   There is plenty of seating in this space with  ash wood tables, and nautical rope globe lights that soften the look of this modern space.

On our early August visit we elected to dine outside in the late afternoon sun.  The deck of Boca is very large and composed of brick pavers and flanked by a metal railing much like a sailing vessel.  The view is a mix of the new marina,  industries across the water as well a view directly out into Long Island Sound.  There are plenty of tables outside, a lounge area of comfy outdoor couches, and a beautiful four corner bar that would be right at home in a Caribbean resort.

The bar has a list of wines, local craft brews and some excellent tropical cocktails to put you in the mood.  Appetizers are plentiful as is a fine selection from the raw bar.  Feeling in a seafood mood, then grab a few like minded friends and try to conquer the three tiered Boca  Raw Bar Platter with east and west coast oysters, clams, ceviche, jumbo shrimp cocktail and topped with a 10 oz. lobster tail.  Bring your appetite.

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Other starters include the delicious Grilled Octopus served hot in an iron skillet, and the wonderful Crab Cakes.  If seafood is not your passion, the Marinated Flank Steak Tacos and the Chicken Avocado Flatbread was the perfect appetizer for one or to share.

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Flatbread

Salads include the Sashimi Tuna Salad, a perfect blend pan-seared sushi grade ahi tuna, mango, avocado, mixed greens,  and a cilantro ginger vinaigrette.  The Boca Salad was another hit perpared with burrata, seasonal fruit jam, heirloom tomato, bruschetta, red roasted peppers, crostini, evoo, balsamic glaze, and fresh basil.  There is even a Vegetable Tower.

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Sashimi Tuna Salad

Main dishes range from steaks, to roasted chicken, Chicken Milanese Stack, and  French Cut Porkchops.  Plenty of seafood options also and we recommend the delicious Chilean Sea Bass with Mussels and the Blackened Salmon.

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Sea Bass with Mussels

Boca Oyster Bar has something for everyone on the menu.  There are happy hour specials and check the website for live music events.  So get out into the sun and enjoy the latest addition to the waterfront dining scene.

 

Boca Oyster Bar

10 East Main Street Bridgeport Ct

web  https://www.bocaoysterbar.com

 

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