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