Monday, October 19, 2015

From the Desk of Jim R, Take Two, Column 5: Marissa Perry (Naugatuck Teen Theater: "Guys and Dolls" )

 By James V. Ruocco
Broadway found out what Marissa Perry was all about when the tremendously talented Waterbury-born actress was cast as Tracy Turnblad in the Tony Award-winning musical "Hairspray" back in 2008. Magnetic, sassy, energetic, bouncy and delightful,  Perry took center stage at the Neil Simon Theatre  and gave a performance.....night after night....that garnered rave reviews, standing ovations and passionate, glorious commentary from her "Hairspray" co-stars and the entire Broadway musical theatre community.

And why not?
She's a natural.
Glancing back, Perry's love of performance and commitment to the arts was obvious when she first performed locally as a youngster and teenager in several community theater and high school productions. No matter what she did, you noticed her and quickly applauded  her prodigious talent and enthusiasm, which, not surprisingly, moved her out of the community and into the ranks of regional theater ("Princesses," "Wild Mushrooms") and subsequently Broadway theater ("Hairspray," "Sister Act").

Today, however, Perry is temporarily wearing a different theatrical hat.
Since early September, she has been doubling as director/choreographer for Naugatuck Teen Theater's upcoming production of Frank Loesser's "Guys and Dolls." The musical, first performed on Broadway in 1951, is based on two short stories by Damon Runyon ("The Idyll of Miss Sarah Brown" and "Blood Pressure.") It features the popular Broadway show tunes "Sit Down, You're Rockin' the Boat," "I've Never Been in Love Before," "Take Back Your Mink" and "I'll Know."

The two-act musical, now in rehearsal, for an early November opening, is a classic in itself, which, in turn, accounts for its subsequent longevity and revival status.
"I think it is a perfect musical comedy, complete with hilarious and real relationships between men and women, men and other men and women and other women," explains Perry. "I think the audience that sees this particular show is able to relax into the story because it's full of potential for entertainment.
"Every song is jam packed with amazing moments and every scene has a joke or five. It's so perfect, people are never ever going to ever get tired of it."

Auditions for the Naugatuck Teen Theater production were held during the final weeks of August at St. Michael's Episcopal Church in Naugatuck. It was quite the turnout with plenty of excited and anxious teenagers vying for lead, supporting and chorus roles.

"I tried to give a talk before the beginning of each audition night," recalls Perry. "But I can't give away all of my audition secrets or else I would be out of my 'Master Class' jobs.
"But audition technique is something I teach often and I am extremely passionate about," she adds. "I always hope to pass on my tips to my kids that I teach or direct."

Naugatuck Teen Theater was first launched in 1995 under the directorial guidance of the late Jim Fritch who staged its first musical "Fiddler on the Roof." Subsequent productions included "Our Town," "Grease," "Chicago," "Bye, Bye Birdie," "Footloose" and "Annie Get Your Gun."
Among its directors: Sharon Wilcox, Katherine Ray, Ian Diedrich and the late Mary Reilly.
"I remember my friends being involved with NTT when I was growing up," says Perry. "I think I was always doing a show when they were doing their shows so I never got to audition for them.
"With 'Guys and Dolls,' I knew that I would be able to pull kids out to audition with my name, but I never expected to pull the amount of talent I have in this cast."

The Cast:
Nathan - Alex Niatopsky,
Adelaide - Lauren Stango
Sky - Alex Tinbrink
Sarah - Kristen Vanderlyn
Nicely - Josh Viltrakis
Benny - Billy Nicol
Rusty - Christian Janis

Casting the show was pretty simple. Things quickly fell into place.
"It was incredibly easy to cast the show," says Perry. "It was like all of my prayers were answered with this cast. I  kept praying I would receive amazing guys to play the gamblers and they are AMAZING and my girls are just the best. I am in love."

Rehearsals for "Guys and Dolls" are being held three times a week, a process that excites and challenges Perry. She is joined by musical director Jeremy Hutchins.

"Mondays is mostly focused on the music," she explains. "Thursdays have been designated for me to work specifically on character development and scene work. It was really important to me that I had ample time with the kids to develop these 'people' they are playing.
"Sundays are for putting everything together: scenes, choreography and music. Not to jinx anything but we are really ahead of the game already!"

Perry is quick to point out that her work ethic is insane.
"I have to remind myself to relax a little," she muses. "And understand that not everyone works like me.
"Still, I an a very, VERY passionate person, especially about theater. I can not help it."

Not surprisingly, Perry is having the time of her life. With each rehearsal, she gets to stand back, watch, listen, observe and tweak bit and pieces with additional direction and commentary before opening night.
"It's the coolest experience of my life watching them grow as actors," Perry adds. "But to watch them grow as people is even better.
"My specific hope for them is that they become better actors than they were when they started. Like I always say, there's no point in being a great dancer or being a great singer if you aren't a great actor. You need to act in order to really and truly be a performer."

"Guys and Dolls" is being staged  Nov.7-15  at St. Michael's Parish Hall (210 Church St., Naugatuck, CT)
Performances are 8 p.m. Nov. 7, 8, 13 and 14 and 2 p.m. Nov. 15.
Tickets are $15 (adults) and $5 (students).

Perry hopes that theatergoers everywhere will come out and show their support for Naugatuck Teen Theater and her production of "Guys and Dolls."
"I want people to see a group of teens who have been pushed to be better than they were before they were cast. Lots of them, of course, have seen the show done before and they want to emulate the people they have seen do it before.
"And though that is very flattering, I am looking for them to do this work themselves and not try to be who they have seen before. But release what they had expected to be and become better and MORE."

(Jim Ruocco welcomes your comments. You can contact him at


From the Desk of Jim R, Take 2, Column 4

By James V. Ruocco

I'm the first to admit it... I have connections....I can even get fifth row center seats to "Hamilton" on Broadway. But that's another story.
Oddly enough, I didn't have to use "any connections" to get third row center seats for Hartford Stage's upcoming production of "Rear Window" starring Kevin Bacon. And yes, I'm one of the lucky ones, because unless you're living under a rock (maybe, some of you actually do), this world premiere production is completely "SOLD OUT. "

Per box-office management, the theater has had the biggest and highest advance sales explosion in its 52-year history. It seems everyone wanted to get close too....or grab a piece of the Bacon...himself.
Bravo, Hartford Stage!
It's a casting coup that has everybody talking, waiting and counting the days until they get to see the enigmatic actor LIVE doing what he loves best.....acting.

The Hartford Stage production of "Rear Window" has been adapted by Keith Reddin from the original short story that inspired Alfred Hitchcock's 1954 classic film classic. Bacon plays L.B. "Jeff" Jeffries, a man confined to his claustrophobic Greenwich Village apartment (a broken leg has him using a wheelchair while he recuperates) who actually believes he may have witnessed a horrible murder.
In the play (as in the film version), Jeffries' apartment overlooks the actual courtyard, a place where he can actually watch the coming and goings of his neighbors. And yes, in true voyeuristic fashion....gaze into their windows...when night falls.

Joining Bacon is Melinda Page Hamilton, best known to television viewers as Odessa Burakov on "Devious Maids" and Anna Draper, the real wife of the real Don Draper on AMC's "Mad Men." In "Rear Window," the actress plays Gloria, a character quite different from the role of Lisa, portrayed by Grace Kelly in the film version.
Additional cast members are John Bedford Lloyd as Boyne, McKinley Belcher III as Sam and  Robert Stanton as Thorwald. Comprising the ensemble are Dan Bender, Erik Bloomquist, Ashley Croce, Roy Donnelly, Barbara Gallow, Jon Garrity, Caitlin Harrity, William Squier and Quinn Warren.

"Rear Window," directed by Darko Tresnjak, runs October 22 through Nov. 15 at Hartford Stage (50 Church St., Hartford, CT). It marks my fifth time seeing Bacon on stage. Caught him previously in the Broadway/off-Broadway productions of "Slab Boys, " "An Almost Holy Picture," "Album" and Loot."

For those of you lucky enough to get tickets, hold on to them tightly. Lots of Bacon groupies will probably descend upon you like vultures outside Hartford Stage or in the adjacent parking garage (a nightmare to get out of following any "sold out" performance) offering "top dollars" for your "Rear Window" seats.

One final warning: Please beware of outside vendors or any other company (online or off) that offers to sell you tickets to "Rear Window" with high mark ups. Hartford Stage does not sell or distribute tickets for resale. If you have purchased tickets from outside vendors, the theater box-office cannot help you.

Where are my tickets you ask?
In my bank's safety deposit box, alongside by dad's very expensive Tiffany & Co. watch, my parents' wedding bands and my first-class boarding pass for R.M.S. "Titanic," circa April 10, 1912. (P.S, not all of what you read here is true).

(Shopping for Fall and Winter...Let Me Be Your Guide)

Quick, get out your American Express card.
Take a day off from work.
And pamper yourself with a day-long shopping spree.

But before you do, here's a few "fashion tips" to make your experience fun, exciting and profitable.
Just follow my advice, ignore your friends, your family, your wives, husbands, partners and your gay, lesbian and transgender confidantes.
Shop alone. Trust your instincts. And have your charge card ready.

The key to dressing right is... not how much you spend on clothing, but how you wear it, how you feel when you wear it  and knowing exactly what looks right on you. First and foremost, fashion is an extension of yourself, your personality, your lifestyle and the statement you choose to make. That's it, in a nutshell.


Therefore, when buying clothes, one must be aware that what looks good in the adverts, in magazines or in store windows, may not work for you, depending on your body type. So take notice...Just look in the mirror....and go from there. It's all fairly easy when you put your mind to it.
To start, find the right color and the ideal color combination that fits the entire picture, from top to bottom. Experiment. Try clothes on. Never buy from a catalogue. And don't go overboard. You don't want to look like a clown or something out of a freak show. Think smart, not trendy. Trends almost always, never last.

Essential to your look is the right tailoring. If you buy something off the rack, make sure it fits properly. Adjustments are often necessary, even the subtle ones. For the best look, however, pick a store like Brooks Brothers or Ralph Lauren that has an in-house tailor. It makes all the difference in the world.

Lastly, make sure the salesperson you're working with knows exactly what he or she is talking about.
In the long run, it's all about you....not the sales commission.
Recommended stores: Brooks Brothers, Ralph Lauren, Nordstrom, J. Crew, Abercrombie & Fitch, Giorgio Armani,  Bergdorf Goodman, Gieves and Hawkes, Paul Stuart, Ascot Chang,  Eddie Bauer,  to name a few


What current concert is sexy, hot, crazy, sentimental and fun?
What current concert has both men and women drooling?
What current concert has fans jumping out of their seats salsa-ing?

It's none other than the man himself.....the one and only....Ricky Martin, who crash lands his "One World Tour" in Uncasville on Oct. 18th much to the delight of music fans everywhere.
True to form, Martin will "Wow!" his audience with yet another frenzied LIVE event that puts the slick and sexy entertainer center stage backed by blazing stage lights, enormous video screens, pelvic thrusts and gorgeous dancers night's end...will blow the roof off the Mohegan Sun Casino.

After all, this is Ricky Martin we're talking about.


The actual concert, a well-packaged mix of hard rock, pop, salsa, tropical rhythms, tear-stained ballads and heartache, is scheduled to include "She's All I Ever Had," "She Bangs," "Mr. Put it Down," "Shake Your Bon-Bon," "Livin' la Vida Loca," "Dejate  Llevar," "Adios," "Adrenalina," "Por Arriba, Por Abajo" and "La Mordidita." And, much, much more.
Showtime is 7:30 p.m. Oct. 18.
Tickets are $46-$66.
For more information, call 888-226-7711.

(Veronica, Veronica, Is There a Dead Body in Your Room?)

Some years ago, I had the pleasure of working at a prestigious Connecticut Theater as a scene technician for Ira Levin's quirky thriller "Veronica's Room." Going in, I knew absolutely nothing about the play or the characters of John and Maureen Mackey, their son "Boy" and their invited house guests Susan and Larry. But as I sat down with the director and cast for a first-day rehearsal reading, I slowly discovered the play's many secrets, lies, deceptions and oh, yes, what really was behind the locked door of Veronica's room.

But first, a few clues, to pique you interest: Susan resembles a dead woman named Veronica. As the play evolves, the  Mackey's suddenly switch appearances and personalities once they convince Susan to dress up as Veronica. And oh yes, it's suddenly, 1935.... not 1973. 

To say anything more, however, would ruin the play's enjoyment, its pacing and a climax that is sure to toss you right our of your orchestra or balcony seating.

This revival of Levin's 1973 play, co-directed by Colleen Renzullo and Ingrid Smith,  stars Lucia Dressel, Wes Baldwin, Erin Shaughnessy and Ryan Wantroba. It is being staged at the Landmark Community Theatre/Thomaston Opera House (158 Main St., Thomaston, CT.)
It runs Oct. 16 through 18. Performances are 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday. Tickets are $20 (students and seniors) and $24 (adults). For more information, call (860) 282-8558.

(Playwrights Gather in Torrington to Showcase Their New Works)

Is it that time of year?
You bet it is.

For the fourth consecutive year in a row, the Warner Stage Company will present it eagerly-awaited "International Playwrights Festival," a choice selection of new works submitted by playwrights all around the world.
Per theater notes, more than 200 plays were submitted from the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom and Australia. After careful consideration, 12 winners were selected.

Sorry, folks. But my play "Come Morning, Come Night," wasn't selected. Not because it wasn't any good. It's because I have no clue where the hell it is. It's somewhere. And yes, I will find it sometime soon. And yes, it will get produced.

In the meantime, the "International Playwrights Festival" (Oct. 15-17) awaits your presence.

Here is a complete breakdown of the one acts:

Thursday, October 15, 2015 – PASTICHE

QUOTA by James Hutchison – Alberta, Canada
CAFÉ UNIQUE by Michèle Raper Rittenhouse – New York
KITTY & TOY by Julie Weinberg – New York
WHAT IS GAINED: A Muse on Consequence by Evan Guilford-Blake – Georgia

Friday, October 16, 2015 – MOMENTS
GOLDEN YEARS by Cynthia Chapman – Massachusetts
FAMILY MARKERS by Faye Sholiton – Ohio
FACING BACKWARDS by George W. Kelly – New Hampshire
THE SOOTHSAYER by Steven Young – Texas

Saturday, October 17, 2015 – DUET
JOANIE & FREDDIE ON VALENTINES DAY by Charlene Donaghy – Connecticut
ONE THREE TWO by Michael Weems – Texas
DAD’S VISION by Benjamin V. Marshall – New Jersey
NOT ENOUGH by Chip Bolcik – California
TWO by Eugenie Carabatsos – New York

Performances are 8 p.m. in the Nancy Marine Studio Theatre (82 Main St, Torrington, CT). Tickets are $15.
For more information, call   (860) 489-7180.

(Jim Ruocco welcomes your comments. You can contact him at

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

From the Desk of Jim R, Take 2, Column 3: A Review: Stephen Sondheim's "Assassins," presented by The Warner Stage Company

By James V. Ruocco

Every squeeze of the trigger, every bullet fired, every alarming effect emitted by the sound of a gunshot or multiple gunshots is deployed with such brilliant, side-show effect by director  Katherine Ray in the Warner Stage Company's dazzling, potent revival of Stephen Sondheim's "Assassins," the show's imposing, bizarre concept lingers long after the stage lights fade to black and the house lights come up, quickly transporting you back to the 21st century.
"Did I just spend two hours in the murky world of  political assassination and love every minute of it?" you ask yourself over and over again.
The answer is "YES."
All that, and more.

Welcome to "Assassins."
Mind you, this is not the world of "A Little Night Music," "Company," "Sunday in the Park with George" or "Follies." Instead, this dark and gloomy tale of and women, who have killed to tried to kill American presidents... unravels with such theatrical aplomb, you're not likely to take your eyes off the stage or the actors for any single moment, for dreaded fear of missing something important.
If "Assassins" comes up trumps, an ovation of sorts, is a must, for the visionary Ms. Ray. As director, she completely loses herself in the material; she completely understands the theatrical evolution of "Assassins" from script to stage; and revels in its marvelous, in-your-face oddities and perversity.
But she doesn't stop there.
As the assassins assemble, one by one, in pairs, or in groups, she brings disturbing and disquieting shading and nuance to the proceedings, which, by no means, is an easy task to master, considering the show's twisty concept. An added bonus comes from her choice of playing ground: an imposing carnival setting, reminiscent of Broadway's "Side Show" and Ryan Murphy's "American Horror Story: Freak Show."

It not only works to full advantage, but allows Ray to successfully juggle the show's intermingling flights of  slapstick, vaudeville, documentary, tabloid sensationalism, confessions, and oh yes, the gunshots (some aimed at the Presidents; others, aimed directly at the audience) without ever missing a beat.
She even treats the script's candid and amusing banter about bullshit, fucking and blow jobs with the right amount of cleverly-orchestrated brashness. You can't help but laugh. Is it shocking? Hardly. Is it funny? Hell, yes.
Finally, there is the casting.
An actress herself, Ray thrusts her audience into the hallucinatory world of "Assassins" using an exciting ensemble cast completely attuned to the freakish carnival world that surrounds them. As they seek to change history, make themselves front-page villains or simply cry out for help, she always knows what buttons to push or have her actors push (script wise, musically or improvisational), whether they appear in group scenes or others that find them dead stage...wondering whether or not they will be swallowed up whole right before our very eyes.
Aided by the Warner Stage Company's intimate theater space (a small-scale version of Broadway's Studio 54), Ray is able to communicate that one-on-one intimacy between actor and audience that is both aggressive, unsettling, taunting and commanding.  Jameson H. Willey's atmospheric Broadway-like set design only furthers that notion.

(The Actors, Front, Center, Sideways and Upside Down)

Ian Diedrich, as John Wilkes Booth, creates a polished, superbly etched portrait of an unhinged assassin and lost soul torn between an obsession to become front-page news or run blindly into the night from the pandemonium he created after shooting President Abraham Lincoln in the presidential box at Ford's Theater. This is not an easy role to pull off, but Diedrich grabs hold of it, pulls it apart from limb to limb, making us completely believe and understand the why's and why not's of his character's rage, both musically and dramatically. Bravo!

Noel Roberge, doubling as both Balladeer and Lee Harvey Oswald, is a magnetic young performer who easily communicates the narrator's unbridled optimism, soulful musicality and mockery of certain cold-blooded killers. Vocally, he is in such fine voice, if anyone is doing "Into the Woods" or "Sweeney Todd" (yes, more Sondheim musicals, folks!), Roberge would be perfect for both Jack and Tobias.
As Oswald, the now-famous assassin, who, in "Assassins" seems deeply troubled and tormented by his plan to shoot and kill JFK from the Dallas Book Depository window, the actor completely loses himself in the part and the material, a compliment of the highest order.

Lynette "Squeaky" Fromme, played with ripe, inviting gusto, by Michelle Funaro, deftly communicates her character's giddy, over-the-moon love for Charles Manson like a late 1960's flower-child happily hooked on acid. She is so believable, dramatically, comically and musically, one wonders if she actually was yanked from that time period and plunked dead center into Ray's mesmerizing production

The casting of Suzanne Powers as the dithery, confused and manic Sara Jane Moore, a woman who realizes she once knew Manson in high school, is an absolute joy in itself to watch. The actress is wonderfully charismatic, off-balance, moody, edgy and bonkers (she reminds one of a young Lily Tomlin) and so much more. She never misses a beat. She is complete control and has great fun bringing her respective character to life. I can't wait to see what play or musical she does next.

There is a sheer brilliance to the commanding, crafty, freakish and disturbing performances of John Farias (Giuseppe Zangara),  Matt Cornish (Samuel Byck), Joe Harding (Charles Guiteau) and John Newey (John Hinckley) that completely gets under your skin, which, when you think about it, is exactly, what the material calls for. Watching each of them completely unravel and disconnect to the point where they completely lose their grip on reality (Ray's direction of each actor in these very frenzied on-stage moments is amazing) is worthy of a standing ovation.

The always-wonderful Keith Paul (President James Garfield/Ensemble) offers yet another dramatic and comedic turn, rich in the high energy and high spirit he is famous for. He plays a variety of roles, each to perfection. And yes, his take on every one of them is decidedly different, a sign of yet another dedicated and nuanced actor who connects with everything that's put before him.

(The Music, The Lyrics, the Musical Director)

Stephen Sondheim's score, a quirky mix of parodies, individual numbers, anthems, melodies and tattered confessions, springs vividly to life in the more-than-capable hands of music director Dan Koch. It should be noted that "Assassins" is not your typical Sondheim score. Here, the music is undeniably different....carefully reflect the era and the characters who populate it. It is not something you'd hum in the shower, sing madly behind the wheel of your car or study madly for your next musical theater audition. Nonetheless, the songs...."Everybody's Got the Right," "The Ballad of Booth," "Gun Song," "Another National Anthem," to name a few....fascinate and compliment the progression of the carnival-themed proceedings.

The finale, titled "November, 22, 1963," finds the assassins singly wildly about the power and control that comes from taking a president's life. Here, they urge Oswald to act quickly, kill JFK and then, join their ranks. It's a justified conclusion to "Assassins" (boldly stated by both Ray and Koch) and one that lingers long after the musical ends. That, coupled with the fact that there is absolutely no curtain call (a wise decision dictated by the cast), heightens the final momentum of this dramatically different, cruelly funny Sondheim musical about reckless individuals, condemned forever in our minds and the freakish playground they once populated.

The Warner Stage Company of "Assassins" is being staged at the Nancy Marine Studio Theater ( 82 Main Street, Torrington, Ct.) The production runs through Oct. 4.
Performances are 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday. Tickets are $29. For reservations, call (860) 489-7180.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

From the Desk of Jim R, Take 2, Column 2

By James V. Ruocco

The top source for Connecticut Cabaret Theatre's new stage production of "Rowan and Martin's Laugh In" is the irreverent and brash humor of Ed Friendly and George Schlatter, the creators of the popular 1960's NBC sketch comedy. It was there that millions of television viewers first heard the catch phrase "sock it to me" and "you bet your sweet bippy" or nearly fell off their sofas and recliners as the cast drifted merrily through the infamous "Cocktail Party" sequence or completely lost control of themselves and the material during the show's closing "Joke Wall" buffoonery.

No matter how you look it, is was that sheer zaniness that kept "Laugh In" going for six full seasons.
" 'Laugh In' is an iconic television show," says director Kris McMurray, who happily welcomed the opportunity to present the stage adaptation at his intimate cabaret space. "When I read the script, I knew we just had to do it. It was brilliant and contained all of the famous characters we had seen on  TV including those created by Ruth Buzzi, Judy Carne, Goldie Hawn, Jo Anne Worley and Arte Johnson.
Among them: the little old lady with the umbrella; the German soldier who kept muttering "very interesting;" the very, very dumb blonde whose body was covered in pithy wordplay; and the dirty old man on the park bench.

"I plan to take my audience on a very nostalgic journey," offers McMurray. "That is, a time when television and all Americana was beginning to be very controversial and played with us innocents."
True to form, "Rowan and Martin's Laugh In" includes plenty of sexual innuendo and politically incorrect jokes from that era plus the typical short sketches, one-shot sight gags, black outs, variety skits and comedic caricatures the show was famous for.           
" 'Laugh In' is for all ages," adds McMurray. "People who have actually grown up with the television show or for the new generation who want to take a peek at what was really the very first 'Saturday Night Live' for television."

The production stars Chris Brooks, Meagan Bomar, James J. Moran, Bobby Schultz, Brianna Zuk, Sue Emond, Abby Brooks, Russell Fish, Barbara Horan, Maria Pompile, Will Dayton, Carleigh Schultz, Dave Wall, Grace Rizzuto, Linda Kelly, Nancy Ferenc and George Lombardo.
"Rowan and Martin's Laugh In" runs Sept. 18 through Oct. 24 at the Connecticut Cabaret Theatre (31 Webster Square Rd., Berlin, CT).
Performances are 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays. Doors open at 7:15 p.m.
Tickets are $30. For more information, call (860) 829-1248.

(The Great and Wonderful Wizard....I Mean Melissa....Comes to Ridgefield)

If you want to get up close and personal with Melissa Etheridge.....lots of lesbian women do...then, put on your best flannels and blue jeans, jump into your SUV and head over to Ridgefield this October for an edgy and exuberant concert guaranteed...and I mean, guaranteed.... to leave you breathless.
If you know me, then you already know that I'm a big Etheridge fan. I've seen her five or six times in concert. And, I'm not even a lesbian. Maybe, in my next life. Who knows? It's either that or poster child for Burberry or Ralph Lauren.

As evidenced in previous Etheridge concerts, this one allows the singer to entertain her audience with many powerhouse vocals (don't you just love her edgy, raspy sound) about life, sex, hope, romance, doomed relationships, confessions and survival.
She will perform several songs from her edgy 2014 album "This is M.E.," including "Ain't that Bad," "Who Are You Waiting For," "Do It Again" and "Take My Number."
"This is music that I love," she says. "There's more R&B and soulful feeling to it because that's always been inside of me and I think rock and roll and soul and R&B are brother and sister and those collaborations are probably my favorite."
Fans can also expect to hear many of her greatest hits: "Come to My Window," "I'm the Only One,"  "Breathe," "Bring Me Some Water," "Fearless Love," "Angels Would Fall" and "I Want to Come Over."
While some of the songs are two decades old or older, Etheridge isn't really bothered. Then, now, always, she finds new ways to whip her crowd into a frenzy and make them think they're hearing each song for the very first time.

"The emotion doesn’t cut like it used to," Etheridge explains. “But rather than coming from a place that is desperate it comes from place where it’s fun to sing a fist-raised-in-the-air song that has become more of an anthem.”
I couldn't agree more.
Performances are 8 p.m. Oct. 5 and 6 at the Ridgefield Playhouse (80 East Ridge, Ridgefield, CT). Tickets are $125. For more information, call (203) 438-5795.

(No Empty Chairs or Empty Tables at This Groban Concert)

International singing sensation Josh Groban is coming to Toyota's Oakdale Theater (good God, what an awful name for a venue) on Sept. 26th to promote his new Broadway show music album "Stages" and happily entertain and seduce audiences with the same charm, sparkle and vocal savvy that has kept him in the limelight for years and years.

Am I a big Groban fan, you ask?
Oddly enough, I'm a newbie....eight days and counting.
Yes, really.
So let's backtrack.
While perusing "You Tube" last week (my taste in music changes as often as my mood swings), I decided to track down some videos from the West End and Broadway productions of "Les Miserables" and who should pop up first, but Groban singing "Empty Chairs at Empty Tables," my favorite song from that show. I hit play and was immediately hooked. Five minutes later, I decided to give Groban's "Bring Him Home," also from "Les Miz," a quick spin.
I was so impressed, I clicked on and ordered Groban's new album "Stages," which, is the centerpiece of his new 2015 concert.

"Nothing has inspired me more in my life than the energy that is shared in a theatre when great songs and great art are on the stage," Groban said in a press statement for "Stages." "I wanted this album to pay tribute to those inspirations and memories.
"Having lived in New York City the last few years, seeing as much theater as I could see, and having so many great friends in the theater community, it became really inspiring to take this on. It was time."
Time is also on Groban's side.
"Stages," the actual album, is timely, inventive, stylish and sung magnificently. So it's easy to see why Groban decided to include most of this theatrical repertoire in his tour.
I, for, one, can't wait to hear these songs performed LIVE.
Included in the concert songbook are "What I Did For Love" ("A Chorus Line"),"Pure Imagination" ("Charlie and the Chocolate Factory"), "Bring Him Home" and "Empty Chairs at Empty Tables" ("Les Miserables"), "Over the Rainbow" ("The Wizard of Oz"), "Children Will Listen"/"Not While I'm Around" ("Into the Woods," "Sweeney Todd'), "You'll Never Walk Alone" ("Carousel"), "Finishing the Hat" ("Sunday in the Park With George") and "Anthem" ("Chess")

Showtime is 8 p.m. Tickets are $75 to $465.
For more information, call  (203) 265-1501.
Toyota Oakdale Theatre is located at 95 South Turnpike Road, Wallingford, CT)

(Wendy Wasserstein's Final Play "Third" is Set to Open at TheaterWorks)

With its upcoming production of Wendy Wasserstein's "Third," Hartford's prestigious "TheaterWorks kicks off its 30th season.
Wow, how time flies!
Then, as now, this critically-acclaimed Equity showcase will continue to offer theatergoers a fine assortment of contemporary works designed to entertain, challenge, entice and surprise its audience. And it doesn't get any better than Wasserstein, the late American playwright whose works include "The Heidi Chronicles," "The Sisters Rosensweig" and "An American Daughter."

"Wasserstein has a gift for dissecting the emotional and intellectual struggles of women," says "Third" director Rob Ruggiero. " Funny and biting, this is Wendy's last, and perhaps best, play."
Set during an academic year at a very small New England college, "Third" charts the emotional upheaval that erupts once Laurie Jameson, a female college professor accuses her student Woodson Bull III (in the play, he is nicknamed "Third") of plagiarism. He, of course, denies this, but she believes his essay on "King Lear" is not his work and reports him to the college's Committee of Academic Standards.

Is this action justified? Or is Jameson guilty of using the accused to fuel her inner torment with academics, relationships, age and identity politics?
You'll have to see the play to find out.
The production stars Kate Levy, Andrea Gallo, Edmond Genest, Conor Hamil and Olivia Hoffman.
"This is an exciting time for TheaterWorks," adds Ruggiero. "Together with you, we have grown into Hartford's best contemporary theater. We've stayed focused on sharing great stories, because we know that great stories make the best theater."

"Third" runs Oct 1 through Nov. 8.
Performances are 7:30 p.m. Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays and 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays. Matinees are 2:30 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays.
Tickets are $15-$50. For more information, call (860) 527-7838.

(Tom Chute's Morning Show is Always First in My Book)

WATR's Tom Chute knows a thing or two about talk radio.
Originally, he planned on staying at 1320/AM for "just five years," but luckily for us, he's now in his 30th year at the popular Waterbury-based radio station. Even better, he has no intention of slowing down at any given moment.

Chute, first and foremost, is an entertainer. He has charm, personality, wit, compassion, warmth and about 101 other traits that keep WATR listeners merrily entertained weekday mornings whenever they tune in to "Tom Chute and You." He is the very definition of a media celebrity, and truly, one of the most likeable people on the planet.
Whenever I listen to this long-running radio program, I am always impressed with Chute's high-energy, his feel-good savvy, his professionalism and his ability to communicate his thoughts without ever missing a beat.
What is his secret, you ask?
How does he keep things fresh and spontaneous?
It's all fairly, simple.
"I basically plan on having different features and different conversations every half hour, after every news break," he explains. "That's why you hear fresh stories whenever you tune in."
How does Chute pick and choose what material to use, day after day, week after week?
"Some of it is lifestyle from my very own life," he says. "I also search the web and various publications for stories that I feel would be fun for our morning show.
"I always look for lighter stories because we try to entertain and bring people up with our morning show. We don't want to be depressing."
"Tom Chute and You" is broadcast Mondays through Fridays from 6:00 a.m. to 9:30 a.m.

So check things out. You won't be disappointed.
And if you listen to WATR from your car while driving to work, taking the kids to school or running "early morning" errands, you may, if you're like me, miss your exit, find your gas tank almost "on empty" or simply pull over, grab a cup of Starbucks, relax and let Chute do all the talking.

(They Like Me......They Really, Really Like Me)

I am truly humbled.
In just less than a week, "From the Desk of Jim R, Take 2"  has skyrocketed on Facebook, Twitter, Google, Bing, etc. The stats are well beyond amazing. And I mean, amazing. I had no idea that
"Take 2" would actually surpass my national/international column "From the Desk of Jim R," in hits and views during the first few days it was posted online.
And not just in Connecticut, but all across the USA and overseas in over 30 countries including Sweden, Slovakia, Denmark, France, England, Australia, Switzerland and Canada.
I guess it's safe to assume that "they like me.......They really, really like me."


Here's is just a smattering of what they've been saying:

"Jim! I can't thank you enough for writing this article and how excited I am for you to return to writing. You piece was wonderful! I love the fluidity and grace with which you use words. You truly have a gift. Every word draws you farther into the piece. And it's so flattering! I can't thank you enough!! I may not be performing for a while but I will be following you! " (Sybil Haggard Chamberlin)

"Jim, we loved the review. You are an excellent writer. I almost felt we were watching the play. Thank you for all the wonderful praise for Sybil and the whole production. You are so gifted and we are blessed to have you in our lives... If you are ever down North Carolina way, you are welcome. " (Dora Haggard)

"Absolutely loved it, Jim. There were so many interesting topics that kept me entertained. It's well written and informative. The play 'Gidion's Knot' has made me want to see it (even though I'm an 18 hr. flight away) which goes to show what a brilliant writer you are. Well done, my friend. Looking forward to the next one " (Rose Imbrogno)

"Jim,  thanks for the wonderful write up. If you had said anything more about the company I might have gotten a swelled head. Glad to see you writing again. It's alway a joy to read writing that is entertaining yet meaningful and has depth."  (Donato D' Albis)

"I met Jim for the first time at 'Gidion's Knot' and his passion for theater is apparent in the first moments of talking with him. Thank you for this wonderfully written article! "(Kailee Donovan)

"Yes! Jim did a wonderful job reviewing the play" (Teddi Therkildsen)

"I wholeheartedly agree. It was a special night at the theater." (Susan Pople)

"Loved reading this. Thanks for sharing. I know you are one proud Mama, Dora! I'd love to see Sissy in a play-- any play!" (Brenda Scott)

"Wow, Kailee and Sybil...what a great article and review of  'Gideon's Knot.' I could not have said it better!"  (Keith Donovan)

"You are a very witty writer with many enlightening things to say about entertainment and other matters, and I look forward to reading each and every one of your new works!"  (Lana Forrester)

"Great article on the Connecticut Cabaret!!! And the "infamous" and talented producer / director/ actor and, of course,  my friend, Kris McMurray....I love all your Facebook posts. Your blogs, etc. You're SO accomplished!!!!" (Melinda Learned)

"This is an awesome endeavor. I love the personalization and the much more interesting and user-friendly than a run-of-the-mill review. CONGRATS!!! " (Valerie Vitalo)

"Jim, båda versionerna av 'Från skrivbordet av Jim R' visar en mycket hängiven, begåvad och fokuserade writer.You göra orden hoppa rätt off sidan. Vi kan inte vänta och se vad du ska göra härnäst." (Bjarne Sjoner)

"It's so nice to have you back writing again." (Barbara Davitt)

"Congrats! Welcome back, Jim." (Barry Hughson)

" We hope you enjoy the show (and hope we enjoy the review" "('Rear Window") (Hartford Stage)

"What a great blog....wonderful Jim!" (Thomas Chute)

"Jim, loved the blog. Even though I get the Hartford Courant, I really don't take much notice. I found your blog much more informative and fun. Look forward to the next one. Thanks." (Linda Hodson

"Great stuff Jim! Thank you! I look forward to re-reading this a few times today! Welcome back!! " (Keith Paul)

"This makes me very happy!" (Sharon Wilcox)

"Jim, votre écriture est tout simplement magnifique. Nous attendons avec impatience votre prochaine colonne." (Gautier Fournier)

"Wow! You're back. How great!" (Donna Bonasera)

 "I've enjoyed your writings!" (David Stephen Irvin)

"Nous avons adoré votre écriture. Il est très frais, coloré et personnel." (Stephane Vallart)

"Fabulous. Loved every story! You certainly were busy!"  (Matthew Valenti)

"Congrats Jim! So glad to see you back doing what you love best." (Marianne Schmitt McKenna)

"Writing is your forte. So glad you are doing this again." (Linda Salerno)

"Nice to see local theatre coming back."  (Patricia Emily Rimkunas)

"Congratulations!"  (Janice Luise-Lutkus)

(The Big E.......No Way in Hell)

It's a question I get asked every year at this time.
"Are you going to 'The Big E?' "
"No," I reply.
Again, the same question, "Are you going to 'The Big E?' "
"No," I explain, "I AM NOT GOING TO 'THE BIG E.' "

In actuality, I absolutely hate (such harsh words there, Jimmy Boy) "The Big E," the crowds, the bumper-to-bumper traffic, the parking, the long lines for food, the ridiculous overpricing and all those people who think 'The Big E" is equivalent to Queen Elizabeth's Golden Jubilee or Christmas in Rockefeller Center.
I want no part of it.
But first, let's backtrack.
My first and only time at "The Big E" was when I was a wee boy of 9 or ten. My parents James-Vincent and Frances had never been before and thought it might be fun and interesting. A half- hour after we arrived, I could tell they wanted to bolt, especially after checking out the livestock on display or wandering through a CT pavilion of prize-winning vegetables.
"Oh, look, Jim," my mother said to my dad. "An entire pavilion with rows and rows of tomatoes and blue ribbons. I've seen enough. Let's go."

Thus, ended our first and only experience with "The Big E." Out of the gates we went, never, never ever to return.
By now, you're all probably saying, "Christ, what a bunch of snobs? How could anyone hate "The Big E?"
In defense of my parents, it just wasn't their thing? Or mine.
I have nothing against sheep, horses, cows or chickens, but I'd rather see them romping about the English countryside in Dorset, Wiltshire or Bibury than in West Springfield, Massachusetts.

What about the food and the refreshments?
My parents (and I) loved the fried dough, the hot dogs, the hamburgers, the cotton candy, the snow cones and the candied apples.....just like everyone else....But we could get that anywhere. Or make it ourselves.

As for "The Big E," it remains....and will continue to remain, a very distant memory. It is not on my list of things to do in 2015 or any year after. But in their defense,  they do make, a very mean fried dough.
End of story. Fade to black.