Monday, August 29, 2016

A Forced Farce

What the Butler Saw -- Westport Country Playhouse -- Thru Sept. 10

Chris Ghaffari and Julian Gamble
Photo by Carol Rosegg

Farce and agendas are strange bedfellows. Farce is, by its very nature, silly, a lighthearted romp, but when you also “have something to say,” as the playwright Joe Orton did when he penned What the Butler Saw in the late 60s, you run the risk of working, or writing, at cross purposes. The inclusion of “messages” in farce is not a problem if they deal with eternal verities, but Orton’s concerns – the taking of Freudian psychology to unsupportable conclusions and the repressed nature of British society – now are covered in cobwebs. Thus, we have the “slamming door” elements of farce bearing a burden they shouldn’t be asked to carry. Those not cued into what was on Orton’s mind as he wrote What the Butler Saw may find themselves scratching their heads, mumbling “Really?”

That there is an agenda is manifest in the play’s title, for there is no butler in the play. The title refers to a device called a mutoscope, a precursor of motion pictures. As soon as it was invented (late 19th century) it was put to pornographic use. Those voyeuristically inclined could, after dropping a coin in a slot, view a succession of pictures. In the case of “What the Butler Saw,” it’s a keyhole view of the lady of the house stripping down to her underwear. Not surprisingly, this particular offering was extremely successful and profitable.

Then there’s the Freudian slant. From Orton’s diary (parts of which are reprinted in the program): “I thought how fashionable madness is at the moment…” Not just madness, however, but the whole concept of repressed desires and the sexuality of children (real and imagined) that lurks in the subconscious of their adult selves.

So, what’s the problem? Well, the characters in a farce, as in all plays, must have believable motivations if the audience is to “buy in.” In the case of Butler, that motivation is suspect right from the start, for the early actions of one of the lead characters serves Orton’s agenda rather than being intrinsic to the character. As the curtain rises, we are in the office of Dr. Prentice (Robert Stanton), a psychiatrist who runs a mental institution (again from Orton’s diary: “…there isn’t a lunatic in sight – just the doctors and nurses.”). A door opens and in walks Geraldine (Sarah Manton), an applicant for a secretarial job. It soon becomes evident that she is woefully under-qualified, so the good doctor’s reaction is to ask her to take off her clothes so he can “examine” her. Surprisingly, Geraldine complies with this odd request…and we are off to the races…and the head-scratching.

Of course, the good doctor’s wife, Mrs. Prentice (Patricia Kalember) walks in on the proceedings, followed by a bell hop, Nicholas (Chris Ghaffari) who has had a recent sexual encounter with the doctor’s wife (and has pictures to prove it – ah, sweet blackmail). Next appears Dr. Rance (Paxton Whitehead), a government official charged with evaluating Prentice’s institute, and finally a police officer, Sergeant Match (Julian Gamble), who is investigating claims that Nicholas has dallied with a group of schoolgirls. What follows is a lot of cross-dressing and Freudian babble, mostly delivered by the incomparable Whitehead, and a wrap-up that is part Dickens, part Shakespeare with a bit of deus ex machina thrown in for good measure and, oh yes, the idea that sex in a closet can save a marriage.

This was all heady, even scandalous, stuff when it first appeared – the rattling of the skeletons (and other items – or people) in the British closet. Five decades on it seems, at best, inane. The production, directed by John Tillinger, does have its moments, most of them compliments of Whitehead, who has the unique ability to be both pompous and befuddled at the same time. The rest of the cast members, many in various states of undress, do their best to make what is going on believable, but it’s an up-hill battle. Kalember, who for much of the evening is dressed as a dominatrix, has to fight against her costuming to be taken seriously, while Manton has to sell that she willingly disrobes for the doctor and then, with equal willingness, goes along with Prentice’s desperate attempts to hide the fact that he tried to seduce her. Why should she?

As the bell boy, Ghaffari has to sell that what he really wants is to become Prentice’s secretary (go figure) or maybe he’s just into blackmail, or…, Gamble is required to be oblivious to what is happening, and Stanton must be the engine that drives this ill-conceived train as it rattles and wobbles down the track.

All in all, Butler probably reads better than it plays, because with a reading you can ponder and savor much of Orton’s jabs at British society and Freudian excessiveness circa 1970 (if you care to), but a play is meant to be staged. Though there was much laughter on opening night, it was not uproarious, and looking around at the audience there were many who were silent, because much of what is happening up on the stage is simply no longer funny, if it ever was.

What the Butler Saw runs through Sept. 10. For tickets or more information call 203-227-4177 or go to

Monday, August 22, 2016

Four Characters in Search of a Plot

Quartet -- Sharon Playhouse -- Thru Aug. 28

  Greg Mullavey (Wilfred), Elizabeth Franz (Jean), 
Joseph Hindy (Reginald), and Patricia McAneny
(Cecily). Photo by Randy O'Rourke
You know how it is when you visit the old folks. They tend to ramble a bit as they weave past achievements and present problems together into a pastiche that has meaning primarily for them. You listen dutifully, for they deserve respect and attention, but there’s no avoiding a certain disconnect. Such is the case with Quartet, which recently opened at the Sharon Playhouse. You understand that what the four characters in the play are talking about is important to them, but you can’t help but wonder why it should be important to you. Perhaps this is because Ronald Harwood, the playwright, wrote a play where what is at stake seems to be little more than the pot in a penny-ante poker game.

The setting for what is essentially a drawing room play (or parlor or salon play) is a music room, pleasingly designed by Michael Schweikardt, in a retirement home for aging artists who have fallen on hard times. As the play opens we meet Reginald (Joseph Hindy), Cecily (a.k.a. “Sissy” – Patricia McAneny) and Wilfred (Greg Mullavey), all former opera singers who are fixated on an upcoming celebration at the home scheduled for Oct. 10, Giuseppe Verdi’s birthday (Sissy refers to him as “Joe Green”). The residents of the home will perform in “Joe’s” honor.

Each of the characters has minor quirks: Reginald is aloof as he seeks to find a satisfactory definition for “art”; Sissy drifts in and out of reality and often welcomes people home from Karachi, though they have not travelled beyond the confines of the home; and Wilfred strives to maintain a faux randiness that his age precludes. Into this mix comes Jean (Elizabeth Franz), a true diva who was once married (very briefly) to Reginald. Her appearance allows the three residents to consider the possibility of them performing the quartet from Verdi’s Rigoletto. Jean will initially have nothing to do with it.

Of course, there are back stories and reveals, but the back stories are not very interesting and the reveals can only elicit polite yawns, for there is nothing truly dark or devastating lurking in the background, thus there is nothing up for grabs. Hence, what director John Simpkins has to work with are four character studies of people who, in the long run, are simply not very interesting.

This is unfortunate, for the cast members have distinguished pedigrees and work hard to bring their characters to life. McAneny is engagingly ditzy as Sissy, Hindy gives us a troubled persona who maintains a fa├žade of intellectuality, Mullavey is a wonderful “dirty old man” and Franz is an ideal diva who clings to her former glory as a drowning sailor might to a life raft. Fine performances all. Thus, the enjoyment to be found in watching Quartet emanates from style and thespian talent rather than content.

Quartet runs through Aug. 28. For tickets call (860) 364-7469 (ext. 201 in the summer/ext. 100 in the winter) or go to

Saturday, August 6, 2016

A Bifurcated "Rent"

Rent -- Ivoryton Playhouse -- Thru August 28

There’s something strange going on out at Ivoryton Playhouse. No, it’s not that the venerable establishment is boarding Jonathan Larson’s “Rent,” although the choice is a bit daring for Ivoryton. Rather, it’s that there are actually two shows up there on the stage: with the first act often unintelligible with regards to relationships and exactly what is going on, and the second act a clear, engaging exploration of relationships in extremis.

“Rent” is essentially a sung-through musical, which means there is minimum dialogue. Hence, you absolutely need to hear what is being sung by the various characters to understand what is going on (unless you’ve Googled the musical and are prepared). This seems to be the major problem in the first act – the characters are singing and interacting but, well, you often really can’t understand what they are saying, or singing. Obviously, a big problem, and it’s not one that just one person experienced.

“Rent” is, admittedly, a “loud” musical, but director Jacqueline Hubbard has done a lot to tone down the overall impact – the six-member orchestra is hidden below the stage rather than featured upper stage, as is often the case in productions of this musical (normally with stacks of amps and speakers to blow you out of your seats). Still, there’s a problem, mainly that a lot of the lyrics seem to mesh together into a “mush” of sound. Perhaps it has to do with Tate Burmeister’s sound design, or maybe everything should just be slowed down a beat or two to allow for the sung “dialogue” to register – perhaps this will happen once the production settles in.

And then, magically, the second act begins and the verbal “fog” disappears and everything becomes crystal clear and the pathos inherent in the show comes to the fore. Given the aforementioned challenges, there are a lot of fine performances up there on the stage as the cast presents an updated version of Puccini’s La Boheme, now set on the Lower East Side of Manhattan as the AIDs virus rears its ugly head.

Of special note is Alyssa Gomez’s Mimi, the doomed courtesan (if that’s what she is) who asks Roger (Johnny Newcomb) if he will light her candle as she attempts to make a human connection. Also prominent is Stephanie Genito as Maureen (her performance exudes sensuality), the lady who is sung about by her former lover, Mark (Tim Russell), and current lover, Joanne (Maritza Bostic) in “Tango: Maureen.”

One doesn’t know how long the cast and crew had for technical rehearsals, but there are some lighting problems – when the cast is arranged across the front of the stage (especially in the signature “Seasons of Love” number), those positioned extreme stage right and left are almost in the dark (perhaps they are meant to be), and often the follow spots seem to be chasing the actors rather than anticipating their movements. It’s also not obvious if some of the actors are missing their marks or the specials (instruments meant to illuminate a specific character) are not precisely positioned.

As mentioned, the second act magically comes alive. Unfortunately, on opening night, technology failed to do its job. Some in the audience might have been a bit confused as to why projections were running extreme stage right while the entire cast was gathered stage center for the moving finale. Bad directing choice? No, the computer froze and there was no way to reboot it unless the show was stopped, so the projections kept on running. Thus are the vagaries and vicissitudes of live theater.

Staging Rent is a roll of the dice for Ivoryton, given the theater’s demographics and location. In speaking with Hubbard prior to the opening night performance (after several previews), she said that she has received several e-mail protests, including one from a minister who, she said, hadn’t even seen the show. Thus, kudos to Ivoryton and Hubbard for even considering the musical, and if some first-act problems can be ironed out, the evening will be the engaging, heartfelt experience it is supposed to be. 

Rent runs through August 28. For tickets or more information call 860-767-7318 or go to    

Sunday, July 24, 2016

The Visible Hand

The Invisible Hand -- Westport Country Playhouse -- Thru August 6

Rajesh Bose, Fajer Kaisi, Eric Bryant and Jameal Ali
Photo by Carol Rosegg

Power corrupts. Money is the root of all evil. “Political power grows out of the barrel of a gun.” Alas, these are all too familiar concepts, trite but true. Oh, yes, there’s another concept one might want to consider: for a play to work you have to care about what happens to the characters, and although Ayad Akhtar’s The Invisible Hand, which recently opened at the Westport Country Playhouse, certainly deals with the first three concepts, it doesn’t embrace the fourth. Thus, at least one member of the audience was left with a “So what?” feeling at the final curtain.

Set in modern day Pakistan and directed by David Kennedy, this exercise in the plight of an American banker being held hostage offers few dramatic moments and a lot of mini-scenes punctuated by blackouts that become tiresome, if for no other reason than they create the feeling that you are watching snippets of film rather than a play.

Upon entering the theater you are confronted by a blue wall jutting out at an odd angle. What, pray tell, might that be, or signify? Perhaps it has some metaphoric meaning, much as the black monolith does in 2001: A Space Odyssey. Maybe, but what it appears to represent is the fourth wall, i.e., a physical manifestation of the invisible wall that allows the audience to look into the parlor or hotel room or…well, wherever the action of the play is occurring. In this case, it disappears to reveal the room in the building where Citibank executive Nick Bright (Eric Bryant) is being held for ransom, a cool ten million dollars. Actually, his boss was the one who was supposed to be abducted, but Bashir (Fajer Kaisi) made a slight mistake so, well, when handed lemons make lemonade. Imam Saleem (Rajesh Bose) believes that Nick can, in one way or another, come up with the money that will free him. After all, Nick gave Dar (Jameal Ali), his guard, some profitable guidance on how to corner the local market on potatoes.

Yes, Nick represents the great Satan, America, and as a banker he is at the root of most of the world’s problems, initiated, as Akhtar would have it, by the Breton Woods system that made the American dollar king of currency. Yet greed is not bound by race, color or creed, for “Money makes the world go around, the world go around.” So, when Nick, charged with coming up with his ransom, starts to tutor Bashir on the intricacies of banking, stock trading, futures and currency manipulation, and the money starts rolling in, the serpent slides easily into paradise and everyone becomes tainted. So what else is new?

Akhtar has a lot to say about economics, geo-political realities and the uses and abuses of power, but in this case it probably would have been better if he had chosen to write an essay or an Op-Ed piece rather than a play, for then he wouldn’t have been tasked with the pesky necessity of creating engaging, flesh-and-blood characters that generate an emotional response from the audience, something he is perfectly capable of doing given the gripping nature of his Disgraced, which won a Pulitzer Prize and was boarded last season at Long Wharf Theatre.

The Invisible Hand is a problem play, and as such the characters deal with social issues and enter into contentious debates with each other. All well and good, but you never lose sight of the fact that the characters are puppets and that Akhtar is the puppet-master, the all but visible hand in The Invisible Hand.

The Invisible Hand runs through August 6. For tickets or more information call 203-227-4177 or go to 

Saturday, July 23, 2016

A Delightful "Midsummer"

Midsummer -- Hartford Theaterworks -- Thru August 21

M. Scott McLean and Rebecca Hart

I didn’t want to leave the theater.

This review should probably end with its first sentence, but one is called upon to say more, so I shall. The subject is Midsummer, a marvelous two-hander that recently opened at Theaterworks up in Hartford, co-written by David Greig and Gordon McIntyre and directed with flair and humor by Tracy Brigden. Billed as “a play with songs,” this magical, quirky exploration of a mismatched couple’s weekend in Edinburgh offers just about everything a playgoer could ask for: humor, a bit of pathos, engaging interaction between its two stars…and a happy ending.

Those who were lucky enough to attend the recent production of The Strange Undoing of Prudencia Hart, part of this year’s International Festival of Arts and Ideas in New Haven, will be familiar with Greig’s work. He has a vivid imagination and relies on the actors who will portray his characters to not only set the scene but create entire worlds. Prudencia was a revelation, as is Midsummer. His writing is witty, urbane, yet tinged with romanticism.

So, what is Midsummer about? Well, Helena (Rebecca Hart), a lawyer, and Bob (M. Scott McLean) – that’s “Medium Bob,” for in the criminal netherworld he inhabits he has no prepossessing features – meet quasi-cute in a wine bar. He’s waiting to meet a contact; she’s waiting to meet a lover. Helena is jilted and looks across the room to see Bob, who’s reading Dostoevsky’s “Dead Souls” to make him feel better. She makes an overture. He responds. And so begins a weekend that will be filled with wonderful “adventures” that include bondage, a chase scene, an angst-filled first tryst, botched commitments, a lot of self-analysis and great swaths of glee for the audience as these two superb actors create multiple characters and work the “When Harry Met Sally” formula to perfection.

Midsummer is essentially meta-theater, for from the start there are comments and asides that draw attention to the play as play. Lines are delivered and then interpreted to reveal what is really being said (which allows for the smile-inducing last line of the play). The play wouldn’t work if there wasn’t chemistry between Hart and McLean, but that’s not a problem. These two actors engage each other from the moment they walk onto the stage and their characters’ week-end romance is totally believable.

Greig gives each of the actors several monologues that allow them to show their stuff, the most memorable one being Bob’s intensive discussion with…well, not his conscience. It’s a play on the idea of what, some say, men think with, and it’s hilarious.

Brigden, who directed the play previously at City Theatre in Pittsburgh, shows a deft directorial hand in multiple scenes that effortlessly flow into each other, and she, along with the two actors, shows a sensitive awareness of the importance of nuance and body language. This is enhanced by Andrew Ostrowski’s subtle yet very effective lighting and the eclectic set by Narelle Sissons that resembles the back of a barn where unwanted items have been stored, items that Hart and McLean pull out to create characters that demand the audience involve itself in theater of the mind. A tacky tiara becomes the prop that allows Helena to create the confusion of missing her sister’s wedding, and a single leather glove serves to manifest a criminal kingpin.

Midsummer is a delight from start to finish, a wonderful exercise in creative theater that demands a lot from its audience but, if the demands are met, the satisfaction is palpable. If you love theater, and if you enjoy watching two actors ply their craft with style, flair and depth, then you owe it to yourself to see Midsummer. The evening will stay with you long after the lights go down.

Midsummer runs through August 21. For tickets or more information call 860-527-7838 or go to

Floating Down the "Big River"

Big River -- Sharon Playhouse -- Thru July 31

Joseph Allen and Nicholas Ward. Photo by Randy O'Rourke

How do you respond to an impressively talented cast charged with bringing to life a mediocre musical? Well, I guess you just sit back and enjoy what’s there to be enjoyed. Yes, Big River won numerous Tonys when it opened on Broadway in 1985 (the competition was Grind, Leader of the Pack and Quilters, so…) and has had many revivals, but that doesn’t preclude the fact that it is a patchwork piece with a book by William Hauptman that is mostly monologue, based on Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn, and songs by Roger Miller that often do little to move the plot forward and sometimes seem to be inserted just for the hell of it. Up at the Sharon Playhouse, director John Simpkins has done what he can to make this three-wheeled wagon roll along as entertainingly as possible. The audience was appreciative on opening night, the cast was superb, and the social issues were out there for all to see and ponder.

Okay, as you traveled through the American education system you were probably introduced to Twain’s novel, much esteemed and often vilified for, among other things, its use of the “N” word (whether you actually read the novel remains to be seen). So, you know about Huck, a barely “civilized” lad, and Jim, a runaway slave, and their trip down the Mississippi River on a raft (the river being a metaphor for being free from civilization, while what awaits on the shore is human perfidy, racism and skullduggery). It’s essentially a coming of age story, with Huck opting to defy social mores and “go to Hell” to help Jim.

The novel was written in the first person – hence the monologue form used by Hauptman. Yes, Huck tells his story, but often what might be dramatized is simply described, which leads to the musical often floating into some backwaters. Then there are the songs. The rousing “Do You Wanna Go to Heaven?” utilizes the entire cast in the opening number, and it’s a real foot-stomper, backed by a nine-piece orchestra that sounds bigger than it is. It frames Huck’s dilemma: does he accept being “civilized” or revolt? All well and good, as are the wonderful “Royal Nonesuch” number, the haunting “River in the Rain” and the risible “Guv-ment,” all of which develop character and move the plot along, but then there are the throw-aways: “Hand for the Hog,” “Arkansas,” and the totally show-stopping (the phrase used in the pejorative sense) “You Oughta Be Here with Me.”

So, the musical is flawed, but the cast is excellent. Joseph Allen, as Huck, is sprightly and ingenuous, and tells his story with just the right amount of pluck. Playing against him, Nicholas Ward, with his marvelous bass voice, is a sensitive, world-wise Jim. Yes, he plays a slave, but the essence of the musical, and the novel, is that Huck comes to realize that Jim is not property to be bought or sold but a human being, a man, and Ward ably allows for this transformation in Huck’s thinking.

Doing double duty, Travis Mitchell plays Pap, Huck’s father, with just the right amount of inebriated evil (the cabin scene is both disturbing and frightening) and the King, the purported lost son of Louis XIV, a huckster in cahoots with the Duke, Thomas Cannizzaro, who nails the fractured Hamlet soliloquy. The two cavorting in “The Royal Nonesuch” is a delight. The agile Alex Dorf creates a believable Tom Sawyer, though he might pull back a bit on the “corn-pone” delivery of lines, and Carrie Lyn Brandon is delightful as the grieving Mary Jane Wilkes. All are supported by a talented cast that brings to life the story of Huck and Jim and their journey towards friendship and understanding.

The staging, by and large, captures the feel of the period, as does the costuming by Michelle Eden Humphrey. There is, however, one head-scratcher, and that’s the use by scenic designer Josh Smith of trees (really branches) on rolling platforms to signify the land bordering the Mississippi. Each is rolled about by a cast member and is awkwardly worked into several scenes, more a distraction than anything else…and totally unnecessary. One might also have expected some projections to enhance the feel of the raft floating down the river, but perhaps it just wasn’t in the budget.

All in all, Big River is a case of a cast overcoming the limitations of the material it has to work with to deliver an enjoyable if not gripping evening of musical theater. If you don’t question some of the decisions made – like dance hall girls in full regalia suddenly appearing in a backwater Arkansas town -- and don’t mind that many of the songs, as tuneful as they are, simply don’t make much sense -- then you’ll have a good time in the lovely northwest corner of Connecticut.

Big River runs through July 31. For tickets call (860) 364-7469 (ext. 201 in the summer/ext. 100 in the winter) or go to

Saturday, July 16, 2016

The No-Name Show

[title of show] -- TheatreWorks New Milford -- Weekends thru July 31

Ashley McLeod, Mike L'Altrella, Carey Van Hollen,
and Rob Bassett. All photos by Richard Pettibone

Over the years there have been a lot of shows about…well…putting on a show, perhaps the most famous being Forty-Second Street, but there’s Kiss Me, Kate, A Chorus Line, Babes in Arms, Summer Stock, and we can’t forget The Producers, Noises Off and Lend Me a Tenor. Broadway (and Hollywood) often likes to look at itself in the mirror and the audience likes the feel of being behind the scenes. Well, [title of show], which recently opened at TheatreWorks New Milford, takes the premise one step further, for the musical is a chronicle of its own gestation, with the character names -- Jeff, Hunter, Susan and Heidi – the first names of the people who originally created and starred in the show. Laden with show business inside jokes and references, it may not be everyone’s cup of tea, especially for those who stopped thinking about musicals about the time The King and I opened, but under the perceptive direction of Alicia Dempster, this is a delightful evening of musical theater with four talented actors who easily give the impression that it is they who are creating the show.

Why the odd name: [title of show]? Well, that refers to the line on the application for submission of an original musical to the New York Musical Theatre Festival, which authors Jeff Bowen and Hunter Bell received three weeks before submission deadline. They couldn’t come up with a premise, so they decided to write a musical about writing a musical – they couldn’t come up with a title, so they just wrote in the words on the application’s line. Such is art imitating life, or vice-versa – it’s a fluid proposition.

So Jeff (Michael L’Altrella) and Hunter (Rob Bassett) set about chronicling their efforts to create a musical with the help of two actresses, Susan (Carey Van Hollen) and Heidi (Ashley McLeod). Somewhat at a loss, they appropriately title the first number in the show “Untitled Opening Number,” which details the standard requirements for an opening number in a Broadway musical. This having you cake and eating it to pervades the evening – many songs deal with accepted musical standards while, at the same time, capture the emotions of those who are creating the musical. It’s an intriguing conceit that works, and includes some Brechtian moments when the characters question whether they should be on stage since lines haven’t yet been written for them.

The musical also deals with the angst and anxiety inherent in the acting profession: the roles you accept just to get on stage, the endless casting calls, the self-doubts that haunt, the questioning of the ‘persona’ you are projecting, the envy and petty jealousies that arise when you are constantly being judged, often by standards that are, at best, arbitrary.

Set in what appears to be a rehearsal hall (set designed by Richard Pettibone), with musical director Steven Oliveri at the electronic keyboard (impassive throughout most of the evening until he questions why he isn’t being included in publicity photographs), the musical is dialogue-dense – you have to pay attention to the banter between the four actors to “get” what this is all about.

This is a show where there is no place for the actors to hide – they are out there in a minimal set with limited props – it’s all on them, and they deliver. Yes, timing of lines was, at certain moments, a bit questionable, but this was opening night – one can assume that it will become more fluid as the run progresses – but there’s no denying that these four actors know what they are doing, and do it quite well.

The bitchy chemistry between Jeff and Hunter is made manifest early on by L’Altrella and Bassett (Basset being the ‘bitchier’ of the two). Their interaction smartly captures the tensions and disagreements inherent in the joint creation of a work of art. The two actresses, each creating a distinct character, also function as something of a Greek chorus, commenting on the two men’s efforts. There are no “big” numbers in the show, but there are memorable musical moments, chief among them “Die Vampire, Die!” led by the luminous Van Hollen as she details the various ‘vampires’ that seek to suck away an artist’s creativity. Then there’s Heidi’s “A Way Back to Then,” which evokes the “At the Ballet” number from A Chorus Line, as it deals with young dreams and aspirations unfulfilled.

Carey Van Hollen explains about vampires

For those who occasionally drop by a theater to take in a road show of a mega-hit, the goings on in [title of show] may be a bit mystifying, but for those who are devotees of this uniquely American art form, [title of show] is a feast and an inventive, engaging evening of theater enhanced by four actors who create memorable characters. You either get the “Secondary Characters” song in the Montage medley, or you don’t. You may scratch your head at the “Monkeys and Playbills” number or revel in its absurdity (and the inherent rolling of the dice whenever a musical is boarded on Broadway). If you love musical theater then you will find that you are one of the nine people out of a hundred  who find [title of show] your “favorite thing.”

[title of show] runs weekends through July 31. For tickets or more information call 860-350-6863 or go online to

Next up at TheatreWorks is The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance. One can only wonder how the 1962 film starring John Wayne and Jimmy Stewart will be translated to the stage.