From The Mississippi Delta: a powerful drama now at the Westport Country Playhouse

The Westport Country Playhouse is now presenting on stage the drama “From the Mississippi Delta”.  This tale is based on the true life story of the author, Endesha Ida Mae Holland, Ph.D.  It follows her incredible struggles from a poor black girl living  in segregated  Mississippi in the 1950s to the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s, to her relocation to Minnesota where she attends college and graduate school.  It is a tale of the human spirit and the ability to finally overcome the seemingly impossible  challenges of poverty and a  cruel racist society.  The play was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize and has been produced in theaters across the country including Off-Broadway.

There are three actors in the play, all who play multiple roles. The main characters are the mother and daughter, with the third actor also taking on the role as narrator.   They weave the true story of the author and her family.  The main character, Phelia  is inspired by her mother Ida (also called Aint Baby), to work hard and strive for a better life.  Her mother has left the long days of the cotton fields behind as has become a midwife in her rural community.  Her talents and dedication earn her the name,  “Second Doctor Lady”.   She owns her own modest home and rents out rooms to support her children.   The play turns dark when her daughter, Phelia at age 11 is raped by a local white man.  Soon Phelia is caught up the seediness of a local carnival and becomes a prostitute at age 12.  She eventually will drop out of school. 

Fate will change the life of young Phelia when she meets with a civil rights group that comes to town, the  Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee.   They convince her to join their movement .   Her mother is against her involvement, and in time their house is firebombed.  Her mother, Aint Baby perishes is the fire which is blamed on Klansmen.    Despite this tragedy, Phelia struggles onward and we follow her remarkable journey as she  moves north to Minnesota and attends college.   It is an incredible story of the human spirit that will remind you of the struggles so many have endured on the road to equality.  The play has all the elements of a compelling drama:  struggle, tragedy, hope, inspiration and finally redemption. 

Westport Country Playhouse will stage from October 18 – 30th. So make plans to see this fascinating drama.

The three-member cast includes Claudia Logan as Woman 1. She is from Detroit, a graduate of SUNY Purchase, and now lives in Brooklyn. Credits include Westport Country Playhouse’s “Don Juan” (2019), Dallas Theater Center’s “Penny Candy,” HBO’s “Random Acts of Flyness” and “The Deuce,” and Netflix’s “Tales of the City.” Tameishia Peterson portrays Woman 2. Born in Dayton and raised in Memphis, she is a graduate of The Ohio State University, Michael Howard Studios, and Fiasco Conservatory. She now lives in New York. Credits include Starz’s ““Power Book II: Ghost,” Hulu’s “WuTang: An American Saga,” and Netflix’s “The Perfect Find.” Erin Margaret Pettigrew plays Woman 3. She is a first generation Los Angeles native after having roots in Belize and the American South. Her artist-journey has been shaped with many communities and creators such as Manhattan Theatre Club, Page 73 Productions, JAG Productions, and more, while facilitating and learning alongside institutions such as UCSB, NYU, and CUNY.

Playwright Endesha Ida Mae Holland, Ph.D. was born in Green­wood, Mississippi. During the 1940s and 1950s, Greenwood was an impoverished Delta community where Black people lived in fear of their lives. It is her life story that is the basis for this play.

Goldie E. Patrick. is the director of this production. The Detroit native is an proud alumna of Howard University where she is currently a professor of hip-hop theater. Based in New York City, for over 20 years she has passionately worked in and built artistic collaborations in Black theater as a playwright, director, and producer.

The creative team includes Jason Ardizzone-West, scenic design; Heidi Hanson, costume design; John Alexander, lighting design; Michael Keck, sound design; Ann James, intimacy coach; Dawn-Elin Fraser, voice and speech coach; Sean Sanford, props supervisor; Melissa Sparks, production stage manager; and Tré Wheeler, assistant stage manager.

The play is recommended for age 15 and up. Running time is approximately 90 minutes with one intermission. For the Playhouse’s 2022 season only, plays are consolidated to a two-week performance schedule instead of the usual three-week run.  Please support great local theater, and come see professional performance at the Westport Country Playhouse.

Westport Country Playhouse

25 Powers Court Westport Ct

http://www.westportportpayhouse.org

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Sunset Blvd., the Tony Award winning musical now on stage in Norwalk at the Music Theatre of Connecticut

Sunset Blvd. the Tony Award winning musical is now live on stage at the Music Theatre of Connecticut  (MTC) in Norwalk .  The music is by Andrew Lloyd Webber and book and lyrics by Don Black and Christopher Hampton.  The musical based on the 1949 movie by director Billy Wilder and opened  in London’s West End  in 1993 with Patti Lapone as the lead actress.  In 1994 it opened on Broadway and with Glenn Close as lead actress and the play won Tony’s for Best Original Score, Best Book and Lyrics, Best Actress as well as other accolades.  

MTC is a small theater that consistently produces top quality performances featuring actors with Broadway, off-Broadway, and National Tour experience.  This is all produced in an intimate black-box theater setting where the audience sits on three sides of the stage and is so close, you feel  you are in the performance itself.  It is quite the experience.  Sunset Blvd which runs through October 2nd  is a Broadway quality musical right in our backyard.

The setting is Hollywood in 1949-1950.  Our main character is silent movie star Norma Desmond (Elizabeth Ward Land) who like so many silent movie era stars was cast aside by the Hollywood studios when sound replaced silent movies.  Her desire is to return to the big screen and has even written her own screenplay, but she is shunned by the studios.   By fortune, she crosses paths with Joe Gillis (Trevor Martin), who is down on his luck screen writer who spends more time dodging bill collectors then writing for the studios.   Norma sees an opportunity and hires Joe to edit and improve her screenplay.  But he must move into her house and work exclusively for her.  Seduced by her stardom and wealthy lifestyle, Joe is persuaded to take on the work.  He soon finds himself  longing for the world outside Norma’s estate.  He had promised a young studio assistant, Betty to collaborate on a script together.  But this they must do in secrecy without Norma or her ever present and loyal butler, Max(James Patterson) finding out. 

There is sadness in the story as Norma has grand delusions of returning to the silver screen and the studios that cast her aside at the end of the silent movie era.  As the new year approaches with the optimism of her return and is echoed by the songs, “The Perfect Year” and “This Time Next Year”.

However despite these dreams, the story spirals downward to its dramatic conclusion. 

Sunset Blvd is a first rate production.  Since this is a large 12 member cast and a small stage, set design is limited but clever.  Costumes, especially those worn by Norma evoke the era of Hollywood in its glamour era.   You will walk away from the show impressed by the vocal performances.  Elizabeth Ward Land as Norma amazed the audience with an award winning performance.  Her vocals were powerful, emotional and mesmerizing.   She has performed on Broadway no less than 6 times and she thrilled the theater the evening we attended.   We were also very impressed with the vocals of Max the Butler played by James Patterson.  At first limited to a talking role, Mr. Patterson impressed the audience with his  deep and moving rendition of “The Greatest Star of All”. As always Kevin Connors delivers yet another directing triumph.

MTC’s revival of Sunset Blvd. delivers everything you expect from a Broadway show.  The evening is filled with emotion, power, tragedy, the glamour of bygone Hollywood all wrapped in a beautiful musical performance. With Broadway talent and first rate production, why travel all the way to Manhattan when you can see great theatre so close?

 Sunset Boulevard stars Elizabeth Ward Land (B’way- Amazing Grace, Memphis) as Norma Desmond and Trevor Martin (Wolfbane Prod.- Sweeney Todd, Sharon PH- Beauty & the Beast) and Joe Gillis. The cast also includes James Patterson (B’way- Beauty & The Beast, Gigi) as Max von Mayerling, Sandra Marante (Radio City Christmas Spectacular, Westport Country PH- In The Heights) as Betty Shaefer, Jacob Sundlie (MTC- Ragtime, Shawnee PH- Addams Family) as Artie Green, and in multiple roles is Philip Callen (Legacy Theatre Deathtrap, Urban Stages- Honky), Jeff Gurner (B’way- The Lion King, MTC- Falsettoland), Paul Aguirre (Nat’l Tour- Billy Elliot, Seussial), Matt Grasso (MTC- It’s A Wonderful Life, ACT of CT- Joseph…Dreamcoat), Helen Clare (SToNC- YAGM Charlie Brown, Honky Tonk Angels), Emily Solo (Charlottesville Opera- Sound of Music, New Camerata Opera- Infinite Energy), and Leigh Klinger (Sharon PH- Beauty & the Beast, Mac-Haydn Theatre- Sunset Blvd.)

Sunset Boulevard is directed by Kevin Connors with musical direction by David John Madore and choreography by Corinne C. Broadbent. Abbey Murray stage manages alongside the creative team which includes scenic design by Lindsay Fuori, lighting design by RJ Romeo, costume design by Diane Vanderkroef, prop design by Sean Sanford, and sound design by Will Atkin.

Ticket prices range from $40-$65 plus fees and can be purchased online.

MTC   Music Theatre of Connecticut

phone (203-454-3883). MTC MainStage is located at 509 Westport Ave. in Norwalk, Ct

http://www.musictheatreofct.com

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The Exonerated: a powerful, moving drama now at the Ridgefield Theater Barn

“Powerful”, “Raw” and “Intense”.  These are just a few adjectives that went through my mind as I watched The Exonerated, now on stage at the Ridgefield Theater Barn in Ridgefield Ct.   The play is about 6 inmates on death row and how they were wrongfully accused, and after decades they were exonerated.

The Exonerated is a 2000 play by Jessica Blank and Erik Jensen that debuted Off-Broadway in 2000 at 45 Bleecker Theater and ran for over 600 performances. It won numerous awards including the Lucille Lortel Award for Unique Theatrical Experience, the Drama Desk Award for Unique Theatrical Experience, and the Outer Critics Circle Award for Outstanding Off-Broadway Play.   It is indeed a unique theater experience.

The stage design for this production is stark and bleak.  The walls are dark prison gray, there is a bench in the front of the stage and 10 wooden chairs line the three walls where the actors all sit silently until they stand up to tell their story to the audience.  On the back wall is a single window with prison bars.  The front of the stage is lit with a spot light but the rest of the stage where the actors sit is cast in shadows as if they are forgotten.

During the performance we meet each of the prisoners, 5 men and 1 woman.  One of the men is Delbert who is a self described poet and he tells not only his own story, but serves as the narrator.  He focuses the audience on the injustice of each of the prisoner’s arrests and convictions.   Each of the prisoners rise from their chair to tell the audience a brief part of their story before returning in silence to their chair.  We learn about their arrest, the pressure to make a confession, false testimony and other tactics which cast a poor light on the justice system.  Several of the prisoners are African American and all have low incomes which results in shoddy legal representation.  All are convicted and sent to death row.  Also are on the stage are two women who portray the wives of the convicted.  Two other male actors play multiple roles of police officers, prosecutors, and defense attorneys.

There is no music, and only one actor speaks at a time.  The theater is silent and you can hear the audience members reaction as they gasp in disbelief and anger at the mistreatment of these people at the hands of the justice system.

The stories are real and based on true events.  The actors are all first rate and as each tells their story the audience has their eyes riveted to the stage as they hang on every word.  The performances are compelling and heart wrenching.  But all is not darkness in this story as the convicted are finally exonerated though they are scarred and have lost decades of their lives.   There is an uplifting feeling of hope as the play concludes.   The full house at the Theater Barn gave the cast a well deserved standing ovation.

This is certainly a play you should see, and we were very impressed by the direction and brilliant performances.   Due to mature subject matter, the play is not recommended for audience members under 18.  The play runs just over 90 minutes with no intermission.

The wonderful cast includes Kevin Knight as Delbert, Priscilla Squiers as Sunny, George Croom as Robert, Kendall Driffin as Georgia / Female Ensemble #1, David Fritsch as Gary, Chris Cooney as Kerry, David Tate as David, Paulette Layton as Sue/Sandra/Female Ensemble #2,Timothy Huber as Male Ensemble #1,Matt Pagliaro as Male Ensemble #2.   Directed by Elizabeth Young who has crafted a powerful moving play.

The play runs through September 25th 2022 and is  presented without intermission Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays at 8pm; Sundays at 5pm.

Doors open one hour prior to curtain; Cabaret Seating; Bring Food & Drink; Snacks are available in the lobby.  The Ridgefield Theater Barn is a unique venue and a local treasure.

Ridgefield Theater Barn

for tickets and information http://www.ridgefieldtheaterbarn.org

photo credits: Pippa Walton

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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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Lend Me A Tenor: the Tony award winning comedy will have you laughing all night

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A hilarious mad cap comedy is now on stage at the Westchester Broadway Theatre. Lend Me A Tenor is a departure from the main stage musicals that have made the WBT famous.   Lend me a Tenor was first produced on the  West End (London) in 1986  and on Broadway  in 1989.  The play was nominated for nine Tony awards, and won two.    It also was nominated for six Drama Desk awards and won four.  Now this comedy is on stage until January 24th.  It is truly in the style of modern British comedy with exaggerated acting, physical comedy, over the top characters and a clever set that is a vital part of the story.

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Buckle your seat belts as you may just fall out of your seat from laughing too hard!   The play is set in a hotel suite in Cleveland Ohio in 1934.  An internationally famous opera tenor, Tito Merelli is coming to Cleveland to perform the famous role of Pagliacci the clown.   His anticipated arrival is a huge event for the local theater which is betting their season on this perfomance.  Merelli is quite the ladies man and when he arrives we discover that the women in the play are all trying to seduce him.   Act One soon gets turned on his head as Merelli mixes too many sleeping pills and wine.  The theater manager  fearing that his star is dead asks his assistant Max to don the make up and costume of Pagliacci and assume his role that very evening on stage.

The stage is an integral part of the comedy.  The stage is one large hotel suite with a partial wall that divides the bedroom from the sitting area.  The audience can see all the action in both rooms but the characters cannot.   There are also 5 doors that exit the room, two to closets, one to the bathroom and two to the corridor.  These doors are part of this very over the top physical comedy as the actors race in and out of the doors.   Act Two turns the whole story on its head.  Is Merelli the tenor really dead?  Or just in a deep sleep.  Is there room for two operatic  clowns in this comedy?  You will have to see to find out.

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Starring: Joey Sorge as Tito, J.D. Daw as Max, Molly McCaskill as Maggie, Hannah Jane McMurray as Diana, Sam Seferian as the Bellhop, Tregoney Shepherd as Julia and Kathy Voytko as Maria

Excellent direction by Harry Bouvy, Set Design by Steve Loftus, Lighting by Andrew Gmoser, Sound by Mark Zuckerman, Costumes by Keith Nielsen, Wigs by Gerard Kelly, Victor Lukas is the PSM, Duane McDevitt is the ASM/male standby. Lisa Tiso is the Producer.

The play runs through January 26th 2020 and is a must see.    WBT is running a special for this production that you can access by calling the theater.  Buy a ticket and WBT  will  treat you to their delicious 3-course served dinner with a selection of entrees for FREE!

Enjoy the show, with dinner, for the regular show-only price of $57
Valid for performances on Thursday, Friday & Saturday evenings and Sunday Matinees.

Call the Box Office at 914-592-2222  and ask for the DINNER DEAL!

WESTCHESTER BROADWAY THEATER

One Broadway Plaza Elmsford NY

https://www.broadwaytheatre.com

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The Marvelous Wonderettes: the off Broadway hit now at the Ridgefield Theater Barn

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The fun musical comedy “The Marvelous  Wonderettes” is now on stage at the Ridgefield Theater Barn.  The musical which was written and created by Roger Bean first opened off Broadway in 2008 and was revived in 2016 and has been produced in cities all over the U.S. and in Canada.   The  show uses  well known pop songs from the 1950s and 1960s as a way to tell its story.  The songs are recognizable pop hits from that era to which the audience can easily relate.

Act One takes place in 1958 where we meet our cast, Cindy Lou, Missy,Betty Jean and Suzy.  At the last moment they are called upon to perform at their senior prom as a replacement. The girls save the day and entertain their classmates in four-part harmony.  The songs are fun, light and instantly recognizable as the girls deliver their own versions of “Mr. Sandman”, “Lollipop”, “Sugartime”, “Dream Lover” “Stupid Cupid” and many more.   The play becomes interactive as the audience themselves is asked to pick the prom queen and ballots are collected from audience members.  Costume design by Brenda D. Renfroe really capture clothing style of the period.

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Act Two is 10 years later in 1968 and the world of the Marvelous Wonderettes has changed.  They are back at their high school for their reunion.  Though the girls are back on stage we find their relationship to each other has changed over the years.  Again the cast entertains the reunion with a list of 1960s classic hits including “Heatwave”, “It’s In His Kiss”, “Son of a Preacher Man”, “Leader of the Pack” and more.  The songs are woven into the story and help tell the tale.

The show is fun and light hearted and entertained the audience without a slow moment. The talented cast includes  Rena Gavigan (Missy), Sarah Giggar (Cindy Lou), Lauren Nicole Sherwood (Suzy), and Tarah Margaret Vega (Betty Jean).  Music is live and provided by a band on stage including Benjamin McCormack (musical director), Nathan Huvard, Sabrina Mason, Jordan Tulley, and Kyle Camerato.    The production is directed by Foster Evans Reese who starred in “Fences” at the Barn back in 2018.

The production runs through January 4, 2020.  The Barn is an intimate small setting and the audience sits at tables.  Doors open at  6 and attendees can bring their own food and drink to enjoy prior to showtime.  A small bar is also open in the theater lobby.

for tickets and information:

https://ridgefieldtheaterbarn.org/

Ridgefield Theater Barn

37 Halpin Lane
Ridgefield CT 06877

For information, call 203.431.9850

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Don Juan: a modern and relevant telling of this classic play now at the Westport Country Playhouse

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The classic story of Don Juan is now on stage at the famous Westport Country Playhouse.  Most of us have heard about the legendary lover and seducer, Don Juan, but his tale written by the  Playwright Molière (1622-1673) is very different.  This translation by Brendan Pelsue, and adaptation and direction by David Kennedy will forever change the way you think about the character Don Juan

This is a thoroughly modern and avant garde production of this classic tale.  In a world where more value is put on the cult of personality and moral integrity is cast aside, this staging of Don Juan is both relevant and compelling.

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You have never seen Don Juan like this before in this modern-dress production of the satirical, classic comic tale. As he moves through the play  the notorious seducer leaves behind a trail of broken hearts,unpaid bills, and scandals.  He cares little for the destruction he brings on his debtors, or the women he leaves behind.  He allows Sganarelle, his loyal servant  to clean up his messes.  During the play Don Juan seduces one woman after another.  He cares not for them or their feeling as long as he can satisfy his own ego and personal cravings.  He wears a light suit of gold indicating though he is a “noble” it is all gilded and beneath the veneer he is a shallow narcissist.  He even wears a shirt of black and gold that spells out “Narcissist” but only backward so only he can be read in a mirror.

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His man servant Sganarelle acts not only as his fixer and his buffer from all that is unpleasant, but serves as his moral conscience.  It is Sganarelle that implores him to see the damage he does by his behavior and to repent.  Don Juan ignores his pleas and reminds him he has years to live before he will even consider changing his immoral ways.

“When I originally proposed that we produce ‘Don Juan,’ I thought 2019 was the perfect time to revive this acerbically comic tale of an undisciplined, thin-skinned narcissist who blazes a path of destruction through the world, upending institutions and social norms, destabilizing everything, offending all decency and morality, and leaving a trail of wreckage in his wake. I can’t ever imagine why,” said  David Kennedy, the director.

In Act Two Don Juan has an encounter with the ghost from his wicked past in the form of a statue of a man he once killed.  It is here we find Don Juan, dressed not as a playboy but more like a modern politician that he must finally confront his own lack of morality.  You must wait to the dramatic conclusion to see his fate.

Don Juan is  played by Nick Westrate (2012 Drama Desk award winner, numerous Broadway, Off-Broadway roles),  Sganarelle, Don Juan’s sidekick, played by Bhavesh Patel (Broadway’s “The Nap,” “Present Laughter” opposite Kevin Klein; Lincoln Center Theater’s “War Horse”). Philip Goodwin portrays Don Juan’s father Don Louis (Broadway’s “Tartuffe,” “The School for Scandal,” “The Diary of Anne Frank”).

Other cast members are Jordan Bellow as Don Carlos (New York theater’s “Interior”; regional theater’s “A Raisin in the Sun”; television’s “Gotham”); Paul DeBoy as Mr. Gusman/Statue  (Broadway’s “Mamma Mia!”; television’s ““Leviathan”); Carson Elrod as Pierrot/Dimanche (Westport Country Playhouse’s “Bedroom Farce,” “How the Other Half Loves,” and others; Broadway’s “Peter and the Starcatcher”); Suzy Jane Hunt as Dona Elvira (Broadways’ “Dear Evan Hansen,” “Dead Accounts”; television’s “The Americans”); Bobby Roman as Don Alonzo (film credits “The Challenger,” “Tapestry,” “One Night in Brooklyn”); Ariana Venturi as Charlotte (five seasons at Berkshire Theatre Festival; Alya Feinburg in season two of “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel”); and Claudia Logan as Mathurine/The Ghost (HBO’s “Random Acts of Flyness,” “The Deuce”; Netflix’s “Tales of the City”).

The creative team includes Marsha Ginsberg, scenic design, and Sam Vawter, associate scenic design; Katherine Roth, costume design; Matthew Richards, lighting design; Fitz Patton, original music and sound design; Michael Rossmy, fight director and intimacy coach ; Karin White, props supervisor; Dana Tanner-Kennedy,  Tara Rubin Casting, Laura Schutzel  and Claire Burke, CSA; and Shane Schnetzler, production stage manager.

This is a thought provoking and finely crafted production that will have you discussing the performance long after the curtain has come down.  See Don Juan now through November 23rd.

for tickets and information >>>>>https://www.westportplayhouse.org

Westport Country Playhouse

25 Powers Court  Westport Ct

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Steel Magnolias: a funny and touching play now on stage at Music Theatre of Connecticut

 

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The play Steel Magnolias is now on stage at the Music Theatre of Connecticut (MTC).  This touching comedy/drama is based on the real life experience of Robert Harling whose sister Susan died from complications of Type 1 diabetes.  Hoping to cope with his loss he wrote a short story about the event which later he transformed into a play in 1987.  The play was adapted into a successful film in 1989 with an all star cast.    MTC has now brought this warm play to its stage in Norwalk, Ct.

Steel Magnolias is set in a small town in Louisiana in the  late 1980s.  The play takes place entirely in the beauty salon owned by Truvy (Raissa Katona Bennett).   As in many small towns the salon is the center of life and gossip in town.  It is also where a small group of good friends gather each week to talk and to support each other.   Here we find this group of strong women on the eve of Shelby’s( Andrea Lynn Green ) wedding.  We are introduced to Annelle (Rachel Rival) the newcomer to town with a unknown past who is hired to work in the salon.  We see her morph from quiet stranger, to born again Christian.  M’Lynn (Kaia Monroe) is Shelby’s mother who is preparing for the wedding, Cynthia Hannah is Clariee who is the widow of the former town mayor, and she trades good natured barbs with Ouiser  (Kristi Carnahan).

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As Act One leads up to the wedding, we learn about these strong characters and their relationship with each other.  The dialogue is fast and funny as the women exchange sarcastic one liners with each other and keep the pace of the play moving along briskly.

These six women are the “steel magnolias”.   Southern women  who seemingly pretty and petty on the outside but strong enough inside to survive the challenges they face.  Although a comedy for most of the play, the sadness of Shelby’s illness as a result of her diabetes and pregnancy brings these strong characters even closer despite their differences.  Act Two deals more with Shelby’s illness and her decline and how these women deal with the situation.   Humor still prevails in Act Two despite the sadness.

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Raissa Katona Bennett and Andrea Lynn Green

It is the powerful bonds of friendship and family that the audience takes away from this play.  It is funny and entertaining, but touching and heart warming as well.   Director Pamela Hill has done a wonderful job in bringing these characters to  life.  She has done  great work with the actors in this ensemble.

Steel Magnolias runs November 8th -24th 2019.  Show times are Friday evenings at 8pm, Saturdays at 4pm and 8pm , Sundays at 2pm.  Tickets are $35-65 .

As with all the productions at MTC, the acting and directing is first rate, and this is yet another performance you should not miss.

Music Theater of Connecticut

509 Westport Avenue   Norwalk Ct     

https://www.musictheatreofct.com/steelmagnolias

 

 

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“An American in Paris” dances into the Westchester Broadway Theater

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An outstanding score, intricate dance routines, authentic costumes and great acting all add up to a sensational  show right here in Westchester.  The musical,  An American in Paris has danced its way onto the Westchester Broadway Theatre stage. The Broadway musical adapted from the 1951 film of the same name and starred Gene Kelly, was the winner of numerous awards including 4  Tony Awards.  With numerous dance numbers, fine direction, and music score by the legendary  Gershwin brothers, An American in Paris is a hit.

The story takes place immediately after World War II and Jerry Mulligan (Brandon Haagenson), an American G.I. who meets a beautiful French girl on the streets of Paris.  From this chance encounter he decides he will stay in Paris after the war to pursue his dreams of being an artist.  He makes his way to a cafe where he meets Adam Hochberg, another American  veteran and pianist, whose becomes the narrator of the story.. Trying to assist a fellow countryman, Adam helps Jerry find a place to live and helps him get started in Paris. Henri Baurel, the son of wealthy French industrialists, enters to rehearse the nightclub act he is putting together with Adam.  Henri is practicing in secret because his dreams of being an entertainer would be frowned upon by his successful parents.

ParisBallelet (1480x1182)

Adam takes Jerry to the ballet where he decides to sketch the dancers in auditions.  Here he meets Milo Davenport, a rich American who is smitten by Jerry and wants to help his budding artistic career.  At the audition, Adam meets the mystery girl Lise Dassin (Deanna Doyle) and so taken by her that he wants to compose ballet music for her.   It is the money and persuasion of Milo Davenport that leads to Adam being hired to compose the score to a ballet, Lise to be its principal dancer and for Jerry to be art director.

But as the group works together we find there is a love triangle occurring between Jerry, Lise and Henri. Indeed Lise herself is hiding a deep secret about her past from both Adam and Jerry that will not be revealed until Act Two.  It is a play about love, passion, self discovery  and following your heart whether it be romance or your art.

An American In Paris has all the components of a great musical.  A fine story with a compelling plot and interesting characters, memorable music from two icons of American music, and great dance numbers. If you love dance, then this play is for you.  While the set is very basic  for such a big production, yet  it allows the performers and choreographed dance sequences to command the stage.  The evening is filled with dance numbers including tap, jazz, ball room and even ballet.  The cast for this production is huge with 25 actors on stage.  A brilliant job by Director and Choreographer Richard Stafford.  With only a short rehearsal time prior to opening night, the stage was filled with swirling dancers who dazzled the audience with carefully crafted and synchronized steps.  The score is memorable and familiar with both classical music pieces as well as such famous tunes as “I’ve got Rhythym”, and “An American in Paris”.

There were great performances all around from this talented cast, many who have Broadway, Off-Broadway, Regional and National Tours.   Bandon Haagenson takes on the role made famous by the great dancer, Gene Kelly and his performance is fantastic including but not certainly not limited to his amazing tap dancing.   Deanna Doyle gives a wonderful perfomance as Lise, the French girl and ballet dancer and she is quite charming.  Her versatility on stage in her numerous dance routines was very impressive.  Rounding out the excellent cast is Erika Amato playing Madame Baurel,  Tommaso Antico as Adam , and Jonathan Young as Henri.  Lauren Sprague last seen at WBT in A Chorus Line, was superb as Milo.   Credit goes to the wonderful ensemble cast of singers and dancers who lit up the WBT stage with their lively performance.

Keith Nielsen, the Costume Designer for the production, truly captured  the unique and stylish look of 1940s fashion.

If you can’t visit Paris this fall, let the City of Light come to you with this finely crafted production of “An American in Paris”.  Now through November 24th 2019.

For Tickets and information https://www.broadwaytheatre.com

Westchester Broadway Theater

One Broadway Plaza  Elmsford NY

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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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