Sunday, March 29, 2020

From the Desk of Jim R, Take 2, Column 238, Enjoying Theatre At Home While Theaters Everywhere Are Dark




By James V. Ruocco

As Equity theaters everywhere - Broadway, London, Regional, National Tour - are completely shut down with no sign of reopening anytime soon, it's not all gloom and doom. You can still enjoy the arts by bringing "theatre" home to you while being stuck indoors during these very troubling times.

It can be fun.
It can be productive.
It can be interesting.
It can be exhilarating.
It can be wild and wacky.
It can be a helluva good time.


Simply work your magic.
Be creative.
Take a chance.
Go crazy.
And indulge!

To help you get started, here are 10 carefully-picked theatrical ideas to fuel your senses, get you excited and keep you happily entertained for hours on end.


Listen to Broadway show music


"Evita." "Company." "My Fair Lady." "Billy Elliot." "Carousel." "She Loves Me." "From Here to Eternity." "Les Miserables." "Aspects of Love," "South Pacific." "West Side Story." "Rent." "Come From Away."
The list goes on and on and on. So pick your favorite musical soundtrack and give it a spin.
When you're done, gives things a rethink.
Since show music is pretty much everywhere, jump in and take a chance. Try something new. Try something different. Explore. Pick something you've never heard before. Or journey back to the past for a much-ballyhooed classic.



Check out YouTube for highlights from Broadway's past or present


You won't believe what's out there. Past, present, rare or almost forgotten. There are clips. There are highlights. There are showstoppers. There are the Tony Awards. There are the Olivier Awards. There are treasured moments from Broadway's past on "The Ed Sullivan Show."
There are moments that will send shivers up and down your spine. There are also full shows from all over the world. And not just in English.
Just hit "search," make your selection, hit play and you're on your way.


Read a play or musical



"Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?" by Edward Albee. "Death of a Salesman" by Arthur Miller. "A Streetcar Named Desire" by Tennessee Williams. "Angels in America" by Tony Kushner. "West Side Story" by Arthur Laurents. "Long Day's Journey into Night" by Eugene O'Neill. "Master Class" by Terrence McNally." "Company" by George Furth." "A Raisin in the Sun" by Lorraine Hansberry." "A Chorus Line" by James Kirkwood, Jr and Nicholas Dante. "Fifth of July" by Lanford Wilson." "Mrs. Warren's Profession" by George Bernard Shaw."
Your choice. Your call. Your time. Your taste.
Just sit back, relax, pour a glass of wine and let the play reading journey begin.


Do a staged reading


Pick a play that's fun and accessible. Cast it using members of your family. Give them pointers on what to do and what not to do. Head toward the living room and start acting out the play using simple basics and theatrical cues.
If it's just you at home, even better. You can play all the parts, both male and female, just by changing your voice, line delivery and body language. If acting out the entire play is far too much for you, pick a scene, pick a part and run with it. It's as simple as that. 



Explore the works of William Shakespeare


The Bard's 37 plays are divided into four categories: the comedies, the romances, the histories and the tragedies. Which category you choose first, however, is your call. Just delve into the Shakespearean archive, look around, read a plot summary or two and then make your selection.
The plays include: "Romeo and Juliet." "As You Like It." "Macbeth." "Much Ado About Nothing." "Richard III," "Hamlet," "Two Gentlemen of Verona,""Taming of the Shrew," "Twelfth Night," "The Comedy of Errors," "The Merchant of Venice," and so much more. 



Put together a flash drive of your favorite Broadway shows or showtunes


A flash drive containing your favorite shows and showtunes is an absolute must. You design it. You put it together. You are in complete control. It's all based on what you like and what you want to hear. "Les Miserables" and "Rent," perhaps. "Evita" and "The Phantom of the Opera." Or maybe, something along the lines of "Candide," "The Most Happy Fella," "Kiss Me, Kate" and "Next to Normal."
It's time consuming, yes. It takes a lot of patience. It can be tedious. You also need to make sure everything falls into place accordingly. But in the long run, it's well worth it.


Read a classic play


"A Doll's House," "Peer Gynt" and "Hedda Gabler" by Henrik Ibsen. "Miss Julie" and "A Dream Play" by August Strindberg. "The Seagull" and "Uncle Vanya" by Anton Chekhov. "Tartuffe," "The Miser" and "The Misanthrope" by Moliere. "The Rivals" by Richard Brinsley Sheridan. "The Importance of Being Earnest," "An Ideal Husband" and "A Woman of No Importance" by Oscar Wilde.
These and other plays stand the test of time and are well worth reading. Just give them a shot and succumb to their invigorating potential.



Sing out loud from the show or show(s) of your choice


Admit it.
This is something you've always wanted to do.
You're at home.
You're alone.
It's just you.
The urge to sing out loud is working you into a lathered frenzy.
So go for it.
Pick the song of your choice.
Grab the lyrics or sing out from memory.
Kick some ass. Go crazy. And have the time of your life.



Research the life and times of your favorite composer and lyricist



Stephen Sondheim, is the obvious choice here.
But if you're not a Sondheim fan, plenty of other names come to mind: Cole Porter, Andrew Lloyd Webber, Tim Rice, George and Ira Gershwin, Richard Rodgers, Oscar Hammerstein II, Irving Berlin, Leonard Bernstein, Jerry Herman, Cy Coleman, Alan Jay Lerner, Frederick Loewe, Jule Styne, Fred Ebb, John Kander and Jonathan Larson.
Again, it's all a matter of choice. And the choice is yours.



Grab a biography of one of your favorite performers and read it from cover to cover.


Intimate. Personal. Candid.
Whatever!
There's lots and lots of books and biographies about everyone out there from Julie Andrews and Anthony Rapp to Maggie Smith, Glenda Jackson, Uta Hagen, Aaron Tveit, Ian McKellen, Gwen Verdon, Laurence Olivier, Patti LuPone and Elaine Paige.
The list is endless. But it's chock full of names from A to Z.

It all depends on who you want to read about first and who interests you the most. 



Monday, December 30, 2019

From the Desk of Jim R, Take 2, Column 237, "The Best Musicals of 2019 (Equity)"




By James V. Ruocco

Playbills.
Opening Nights.
Ticket Stubs.
Reviews.
Notes.
Great Orchestra Seats.
Praiseworthy Adverts.
Twelve Months at a Glance.

It was yet another great year for Equity-based musical theatre with productions of every size, shape and color - "Come From Away," "Hello, Dolly!" "The Music Man," "Billy Elliot," "Cabaret," "An American in Paris," to name a few - coming at you day by day, week by week, month by month.
It was also well worth the drive (thank you, OnStar), the traffic, the ice, the snow, the rain and oh, yes, the heat.

What worked?
What didn't?
What stood out?
What tanked?
What deserved a standing ovation or two?

After about a three or four days of quiet deliberation and scanning through an endless variety of content, from reviews and playbills to columns and specially marked reminder notes, things fell neatly into place, one by one, line by line.

Difficult?
Not, really.
Pros and Cons?
Almost, always.
An open mind?
Most definitely.
Time consuming?
You betcha.
Fun?
Oh, yes.
Personal favorites?
It comes with the territory.

My choices are as follows:

Please note: "Come From Away" and two very different productions of "Hello, Dolly!" - one starring  Betty Buckley; the other with Carolee Carmello - are tied for first place honors in this year's round-up.  

The Best Musicals of 2019

"Come From Away" (The Bushnell)
director: Christopher Ashley

"Hello, Dolly!" (The Bushnell)
director: Jerry Zaks

"Hello, Dolly!" (Citizens Bank Opera House)
director: Jerry Zaks







"Beautiful: The Carole King Story" (The Bushnell)
director: Mark Bruni








"Rent" (The Bushnell)
director: Evan Ensign



"Billy Elliot: The Musical" (Goodspeed Musicals)
director: Gabriel Barre

"The Music Man" (Goodspeed Musicals)
director: Jenn Thompson










"An American in Paris" (Westchester Broadway Theatre)
director: Richard Stafford







"Cabaret" (Music Theatre of Connecticut)
director: Kevin Connors


"Cabaret" (Ivoryton Playhouse)
director: Todd Underwood

"The Mystery of Edwin Drood" (Connecticut Repertory Theatre)
director: Paul Mullins







"Godspell" (Ivoryton Playhouse)
director: Jacqueline Hubbard










"Annie" (Broadway Method Academy")
director: Connor Deane


"Little Shop of Horrors" (ACT of CT)
director: Jason A. Sparks

"Mamma Mia!"  (Connecticut Repertory Theatre)
director: Terrence Mann









"Ragtime" (Music Theatre of Connecticut)
director: Kevin Connors




"Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat" (Sharon Playhouse)
director: Russell Garrett


"Beauty and the Beast" (Sharon Playhouse)
director: Alan Wager

"Always...Patsy Cline" (Music Theatre of Connecticut)
director: Pamela Hill




"The SpongeBob Musical" (The Bushnell)
director: Tina Landau










"Working" (ACT of CT)
director: Daniel C. Levine
"Crazy For You" (Sharon Playhouse)
director: Sarah Combs

"Bye, Bye Birdie" (New Paradigm Theatre Company)
director: Courtney Laine Self

"The Flamingo Kid" (Hartford Stage)
director: Darko Tresnjak







"In the Heights" (Westport Country Playhouse)
director: Marcos Santana







"The Scottsboro Boys" (Playhouse on Park)
director: Sean Harris


"Nunsense" (Playhouse on Park)
director: Darlene Zoller

"The Book of Mormon" (The Bushnell)
directors: Trey Parker and Casey Nicholaw










"On Your Feet" (Westchester Broadway Theatre)
director: Donna Drake










"Girlfriend" (TheaterWorks of Hartford)
director: Rob Ruggiero

"Murder For Two" (Playhouse on Park)
director: Kyle Metzger

"Cabaret" (Connecticut Repertory Theatre)
director: Scott LaFeber






"The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee" (ACT of CT)
director: Michelle Tattenbaum







"Ain't Misbehavin' " (Westchester Broadway Theatre)
director: Richard Maltby, Jr.

"Mamma Mia!" (Ivoryton Playhouse)
director: JR Bruno

"Newsies" (Westchester Broadway Theatre)
director: Mark Martino

"Spamilton: An American Parody" (Playhouse on Park/The Bushnell)
director: Gerard Alessandrini