Wednesday, March 27, 2019

From the Desk of Jim R, Take 2, Column 149, A Review: "Beautiful: The Carole King Musical" (The Bushnell)

By James V. Ruocco

It's true.
You can go home again.
In "Beautiful: The Carole King Musical," fans of the popular singer-songwriter anxious for a replay of her greatest hits get that and so much more in this glorious, snappy Broadway musical that celebrates her showbiz ladder climb to the top in much the same way as "Jersey Boys" did for Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons.


This is one of those feel-good jukebox musicals that dreams big, celebrates pop royalty in grand, traditional style and finds the catchiest songs to replay and replay much to the delight of everyone on stage and in the audience.

"One Fine Day"
"Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow."
"Some Kind of Wonderful."
"You've Got a Friend."
 The list goes on and on.

What's especially gratifying about this national touring production is its buoyant and breezy packaging. Even better, its got a sharp, fast-paced book by Douglas McGrath that is fun, cheeky, personable and very intimate.
A chronological biography of sorts, fascinatingly told, using bits and pieces of King's real life and those around her, including her stormy relationship with husband Gerry Goffin and her work relationship/friendship with award-winning songwriting duo Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil, "Beautiful" possesses a gritty honesty, warmth and shine that serves the material well. It's not all lollipops and roses as it sings and dances through the years. And that's a good thing. Instead, it's pretty much straightforward without any hiccups, overkill or melodrama.

Staging "Beautiful," director Mark Bruni adapts a fast, fluid, cinematic style that delivers its emotional wallop...and then some. Technically and directorially, this is a very well-thought out show that knows what it is, where it is going, when to pause and take a breath, when to freeze frame an important moment, how to mix dialogue with song and dance unobtrusively and how to signal the passage of time convincingly without any fancy tricks, dumbness or obvious cliches.

Structurally, Bruni keeps McGrath's narrative flowing smoothly as set pieces and scenery move quickly into place, light cues work their necessary magic, actors exit the stage drifting into the wings completely in character and song acts smartly materialize right before our eyes in glorious 1950's and 1960's fashion and eye-popping Technicolor. Bruni also makes the musical bio genre look especially sweet and easy as "Beautiful" deftly traces Carole King's story and her bumpy trek to official stardom.

Musically, "Beautiful" comes gift wrapped with a list of wonderful songs and "Billboard" hits that offer a melancholy meander into yesteryear. All of them are performed with exceptional flair, naturalness and pop-happy assurance. They include "One Fine Day," "So Far Away," "On Broadway," "The Locomotion," "Walking in the Rain," "(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman," "Beautiful," "Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow" and  "He's Sure the Boy I Love."

Musical direction is provided by Susan Draus who takes her cue from Gerry Goffin, Carole King, Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil (words and music), Steve Sidwell (orchestrations, vocal and music arrangements) and Jason Howland (music supervision and additional music arrangements). As shaped and dictated by Draus, the show's varying musical sounds are upbeat, melodic, jukebox driven and the perfect fit for "Beautiful's" journey down memory lane. Like "Jersey Boys," everything is strategically placed for story purposes and used for dramatic effect to thrust the story forward, heighten character interaction and provide the necessary personal growth and spirit of the central characters as time marches forward. Nothing is thrown in just to give a lead or supporting character an extra song or two to sing. And never once does "Beautiful" drift into the unwanted territory of a tribute show. You'll find none of that here.

Draus and her 12-piece orchestral team, which includes Aaron Benham, Larry Steppler, Oscar Bautista and several local musicians, are at the top of their game. No one misses a beat. Things snap, crackle and pop in true Broadway fashion. Every one of the musical numbers reflects the tension, angst, heartache, sentiment, sweetness and rise to the top conceit set forth by the show's creators. All of the music is delivered with high fidelity pulse and rhythm indicative of the period itself, its musical evolution, its novelty numbers and its chart busters. It's also full of heart, soul and humanity and it's completely respectful of the sights and sounds of its originators.

Choreography for "Beautiful" is provided by Josh Prince. As with "Jersey Boys" and "Dreamgirls," all of the dance moves, pairings and ensemble numbers are firmly rooted in the period from whence they came. There is style. There is passion. There is sparkle. There is color. There is uniqueness. There is individuality. There is fluidity. There is dazzle. There is synchronization. Everything throughout "Beautiful" is fresh and crafty, maintaining a marvelous flourish, zest and Broadway theatricality that explodes and explodes and keeps right on coming.

In a brilliant, showstopping performance that will soon be on display at Broadway's Sondheim Theatre from April 9 thru May 5, Sarah Bockel's refreshing portrayal of Carole King unfolds with confidence, humility, passion and personality. Her connection to the character and her eventual emotional growth from scene to scene and act to act is natural, distinctive and tender-hearted. Her vocals are absolutely sensational as is her pitch-perfect song style, spirit and individuality, which lovingly reflects King's era-defining sound and complexity ever-so-beautifully.
Whatever she sings, the power of her voice reflects the true meaning of the piece, its varying emotions and contained musicality. Watching her come alive and revel in the spectacle that is "Beautiful" is well worth the price of admission. She also sheds real tears, not acted tears, but real ones that flow gently down her cheeks during certain musical moments. Amazing. Oh, yes. 

As King's unstable, insecure young husband and songwriting partner Gerry Goffin, Dylan S. Wallach is boyishly cute, sexy and charismatic in typical Broadway fashion. That said, he offers a multi-dimensional performance that's executed with real purpose and snap devoid of anything one-note or cliche. From start to finish, it's a full-bodied part that the actor tackles with just the right amount of drive, pathos, sentiment and heart.
Vocally, the actor is dynamic and perfectly in sync with the music, beat and song style of the 50's and 60's. He also clicks with Bockel as actor, scene partner and character.You really do believe they are a married couple. And when things start to fall apart in their marriage and they eventually go their separate ways, it hits you hard, real hard.

Exceptional performances are also delivered by Alison Whitehurst as Cynthia Weil, Jacob Heimer as Barry Mann, James Clow as Don Kirshner, Suzanne Grodner as Genie Klein, Danielle J. Summons as Janelle Woods, Alexis Tidwell as Little Eva and a very thrilling, dynamic ensemble cast.

Slick, witty and invigorating, "Beautiful: The Carole King Musical" is not only a showcase for the catchy music of Carole King, and others, but a big. grand Broadway musical with a nostalgic story that is both heartfelt and personal. The music is thrilling. The direction is slick and driven. The cast is expertly channeled and excited by the pulse-racing material The creative team never once makes a false move. Technically, the show is absolutely gorgeous to look at on the big Bushnell stage. And when it all ends following a rousing, sweet-sounding finale, led by Bockel and her exceptionally talented cast mates, you'll not only embrace it, but like most people in the audience, you'll probably want to see it again. 

Photos of "Beautiful: The Carol King Musical" by Joan Marcus

"Beautiful: The Carole King Musical" is being staged at the Bushnell (166 Capitol Ave., Hartford, CT), now through March 31.
For tickets or more information, call (860) 987-5900

Monday, March 25, 2019

From the Desk of Jim R, Take 2, Column 148, A Review: "Burt & Me" (Ivoryton Playhouse)

By James V. Ruocco

"Do You Know the Way to San Jose?"
"Walk on By"
"I Say a Little Prayer for You"
"The Look of Love"
"A House is Not a Home"
"What the World Needs Now"
"Promises, Promises"
"Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head"
"I'll Never Fall in Love Again."
"She Likes Basketball."

Is there anyone out there who hasn't been seduced by the breezy, sweet-sounding music of Burt Bacharach?

I think not.

From tales of love to songs of hope and heartbreak, Bacharach's memorable parade of classic songs (many of them co-written with lyricist Hal David), not only reveal his genius for melody, but his flair for complex, smooth arrangements dispensed with plenty of heart, soul, passion and gentleness.

Larry McKenna's "Burt & Me," a coming of age/boy-meets-girl story, played out against the backdrop of Bacharach's playful song repertoire, fondly remembers the composer and his music at the peak of his career. It is fun. It is cute. It is corny. It is entertaining. It is also, on occasion, flat-footed, gooey, dull and boring.

Not to worry, though.
If you're on the market for something that's pure candy floss and infused with just the right amount of good cheer and sentiment, "Burt & Me" more than delivers. It's not "Jersey Boys," "All Shook Up," "Mamma Mia" or "Beautiful: The Carole King Musical," by no means. Then again, that was never the intention. It exists mainly to bring Burt Bacharach's music to the stage...and nothing more.

"Burt & Me" is being directed by Brian Feehan who staged last season's exhilarating production of "The Fantasticks" at Ivoryton. For this go-round, Feehan is faced with material that isn't as savvy or as creative, but he makes the most of the show's flimsy, feckless story board by injecting plenty of feel-good fun and whimsy into the proceedings. He also keeps the two-act musical afloat with breakneck pacing and pulse that is good medicine for the show's outdated moments, its one-note cliches and it antiquated, stereotypical character bits.

This being a book musical that utilizes the talents of seven different people, Feehan's staging of the non-musical moments finds cast members casually moving set pieces into place from scene to scene, pouring drinks, changing costumes, making champagne toasts, sitting or standing attentively listening to others speak or readying themselves for solos, duets and ensemble numbers. Timing is everything here and Feehan knows exactly what he wants, where and when to shift the action into high gear, when to take a breath and let the material breathe and when to enlighten or enliven the mood when a line of dialogue signals the next musical cue. He succeeds swimmingly.

At Ivoryton Playhouse, Michael Morris has served as musical director for eleven different productions including "Rent," "Dreamgirls," "West Side Story" and last season's "A Night With Janis Joplin" and "A Chorus Line." Here, he is faced with the challenge of recreating the magic and charm of 22 Bacharach songs in a jukebox musical format. The songs - there's a lot of them - flesh out the story as best they can and never once seem out of place, contrived or tossed into the mix because they happen to be a favorite of the show's creator. The audience, in turn, happily goes along for the ride, often humming, singly softly or tapping their feet to the beat of the music.

That said, "Burt & Me" isn't actually a concert, which means that Morris (on piano) and his talented orchestral team (Mark Gehret (bass), Michael Raposo (woodwinds) and Gus Gustamachio (drums/percussion) serve up songs like "Close to You," "What the World Needs Now," "Always Something There to Remind Me," among others, in typical Broadway musical style. It's a conceit that works, but often doesn't give certain songs the drive, pulse and command they once had in a concert performance format.

Vocally, the cast, under Morris' tutelage, put their best foot forward as they warmly embrace the feel-good musicality of Bacharach's harmonic songbook. Happy memories ensue, as does frothy, pop-tinged interpretations of "Walk on By," "The Look of Love" and the effervescent "Turkey Lurkey Time" and "Knowing When to Leave" from the 1968 Broadway musical "Promises, Promises." As "Burt & Me" evolves, Morris and company also embrace the chords of memory that come from these well-known songs and others using concentrated determination, flowing pulses and effective pacing.

"Burt & Me" stars Andy Christopher as Joe, Lauren Gire as Lacey, Neal Mayer as Alex, Josh Powell as Jerry, Adrianne Hick as Sally, Nathan Richardson as Nick and Katie Luke as Rebecca. As a whole, the cast is energized and well versed in the history of all things Bacharach. As Joe, the geeky teenager who discovers Bacharach's music via his piano teacher, Christopher has the right mindset for his character, his passion for music, his love of Lacey and his familial bond with his dad. Vocally, he sings the songs as written for a non-concert format, but oddly, lacks the confidence and vocal oomph needed to sell a song the way it was envisioned by Bacharach or find the intended meaning behind each lyric. Elsewhere, Christopher gets laughs in all the right places (his comic timing and dry line delivery is impeccable) whenever he tells the audience about his huge boyhood crush on Angie Dickinson, the very sexy film and television star who, at one time, was Mrs. Burt Bacharach.

Nathan Richardson has the appropriate charisma, spark, looks, personality and vocal chops necessary to play the the part of Joe, but instead, he has been cast as Nick, a character who remains off to the sidelines, which, makes absolutely no sense whatsoever. He can sing. He can act. His expressions, reactions and interactions with the other cast members are completely natural. They are also in sync with the story's nostalgic waves and memories. So why isn't he given two or three solos of his own?  "Only Love Can Break a Heart," "Come and Get Me" and "Lost Horizon" quickly come to mind. A quick call to Larry McKenna is suggested. Today, that is.

Lauren Gire, as Lacey, the young girl who captures Joe's heart, is lovely, charming and overflowing with well-intentioned spirit. Vocally, she nails every song she sings as does Adrianne Hick who plays Lacey's flirty, boy-crazy pal Sally. Neal Mayer, who portrays Joe's father Alex, among other roles including a priest and vocal coach, offers three winning, well-acted character turns. As Jerry, Josh Powell hams it up most agreeably as Joe's sidekick and best mate. Kate Luke, as Rebecca, doesn't get to do much, but when she does, she makes her presence known. Like Richardson, she too is in need of a strong solo or two to showcase her obvious strong vocal talents.

For anyone looking for a fun night out of musical theatre, "Burt & Me" is a very sweet, intimate
show with a very big heart. It entertains. It enlightens. It sings. It channels wonderfully wistful bits of nostalgia. Its everyday story of young love brings a smile to your face. Its celebration of all things Bacharach, however,  may have been better served by a more fluent, driven script, the mandatory addition of missing songs like "Alfie," "Anyone Who Had a Heart" and "What's New Pussycat?" and a reworked story board/song rotation that gives each and every cast member on stage his or her big moment to shine, not once, but twice using that expertly timed vocal showmanship set forth a long time ago by Cilla Black, Dionne Warwick, B. J. Thomas, Dusty Springfield, Tom Jones, Jackie De Shannon and so many others.

Photos of "Burt & Me" by Jonathan Steele

"Burt & Me" is being staged at Ivoryton Playhouse (104 Main St., Ivoryton, CT), now thrugh April 7.
For tickets or more information, call (860) 767-7318.

Saturday, March 23, 2019

From the Desk of Jim R, Take 2, Column 147, A Review: "Twelfth Night" (Yale Repertory Theatre)

By James V. Ruocco

Mischievous and merry.
Vibrant and polished.
Good-humored and funky.
Party-colored and festive.
Carnivalesque and tropical.
Refreshing and sexy.
Lush and keen.

Those sweat realities are a thing of beauty in Yale Rep's sunny, colorfully-dressed and re-imagined interpretation of William Shakespeare's "Twelfth Night," a sassy, insanely flavorful work that's especially fun to watch (and I mean, FUN) thanks to the company's effervescent cast of 16 energetic performers who happily jaunt through Shakespeare's 17th century verse with such free-range buzz, spunk and knockabout abandonment it's impossible not to be gobsmacked by the sheer exhilaration of it all.

It is also fitting to note that this is not Yale Rep's first foray into the free-for-all world of "Twelfth Night." Back in 1995, director Mark Rucker offered theatergoers a gleeful, decadent reworking of the Bard's popular comedy, using a 1960's setting, complete with an over sized swimming pool of fresh water, an Italian cabana nightclub and an oddly-mirrored penthouse, offset by playful dashes of Federico Fellini, Bob Fosse, Kurt Weill, the Marx Brothers, bongo drums, sun screen, oversized beach towels and LSD simulations. The cast, headed by Suzanne Cryer, Nathan Hinton, Sanaa Lathan, James Hallett, John Bland and Trevor Anthony, were in top form, reveling in Rucker's lusty, over-the-top flamboyance, whilst remaining faithful to the lightweight Shakespearean text. For most, a second or third visit was mandatory.

The current "Twelfth Night" evokes that same FUN feeling and revisit aura as it uses a futuristic mindset of tropical Caribbean, Afro-funk, Afro-American stereotypes, pumped-up, navigated technology, R&B, hip-hop frivolity, gay-inducing merriment and Hollywood/"Queer Eye" dazzle, glitz and fashion to make its point. There's also a healthy amount of "Black Panther," " The Lion Ling" and "Star Wars" fantasy thrown into the proceedings for added measure, all of which succeeds, no pun intended, quite swimmingly.

Here, as in other Shakespearean comedies, "Twelfth Night" takes its cue from mistaken identities, role reversals, cross dressing, shattered hearts, mass confusion, practical jokes, misconstrued, hand-written letters of affection that fall into the wrong hands of others and  romantic triangles that end happily for all. At the center of this story are Viola and Sebastian, two twins who are separated by a shipwreck. As the story unfolds, Viola, disguised as a man named Cesario, falls in love with the narcissistic Duke Orsino, who, in turn, is madly in love with the regal Countess Olivia. Olivia, however, upon meeting Viola, finds herself smitten with her thinking that she is a man. More merriment ensues when Viola's long lost twin Sebastian miraculously shows up (remember, he was presumed dead by his sister) and quickly welcomes Olivia's amorous advances, not knowing exactly why she is so taken with him.

At Yale Rep, "Twelfth Night"is being directed by Carl Cofield, a master wizard of sorts whose directorial credits include "The Mountaintop," "A Raisin in the Sun," "Antigone," "The Tempest," "Macbeth," "One Night in Miami" and "Dutchman." The perfect fit for all things Shakespeare, Cofield's re-thought view of the Bard's oft-revived comedy is instinctive, playful, cunning, delicious and passionate.

Holding his audience in the palm of his hand, from start to finish, he crafts an eye-popping production that achieves a perfect poise between high camp, an acid trip and a futuristic gabble, centralized by an energetic whirlwind of grandeur, abundance and surprise that's both majestic, intimate and befitting of Shakespeare's writing, his characters and oft-played scenario. Even if you're familiar with "Twelfth Night" ("Is there anyone out there who isn't?"), what's fun about Cofield's take on Shakespeare is that you're never quite sure what he's going to do next, what he has up his sleeve, who's going to do what to whom, what's going to rise up out of the stage floor, who's going to sing, who's going to dance or who's going to unashamedly overact for the sake of huge belly laughs by poking fun at black stereotypes in music, in film, in plays or on television.  And therein, lies the key to "Twelfth Night's" unparalleled enjoyment.

Well versed in the machinations of Shakespeare's world and its populace, Cofield also enjoys taking chances, a conceit which works to full advantage in this production. From the outset, he gets the Bard. He likes the Bard. He understands the Bard. He appreciates the Bard. But at the same time, he opts for a much more loose and crazy interpretation, adding imagined bits of inspiration from the black experience, the black culture, the black lingo, the black history, the black community and the black perspective of the future. Here, the recurring theme of what is life in Illyria, as populated by persons of color, is what keeps this "Twelfth Night" afloat. It is beautiful. It is rich. It is tantalizing. It is seductive. It is insane. It is homoerotic. It is significant. And finally, it is awash with music (gloriously created and configured by composer Frederick Kennedy) and poetry that is both hypnotic, abstract and expressive.

"Twelfth Night" stars Tiffany Denise Hobbs as Olivia, Moses Ingram as Viola, Abubakr Ali as Sir Andrew Aguecheek, William DeMeritt as Orsinio, Ilia Isorelys Paulino as Maria, Jakeem Dante Powell as Sebastian, Allen Gilmore as Malvolio, Manu Kumasi as Antonio, Chivas Michael as Sir Toby, Erron Crawford as Feste and Raffeal A. Sears as Fabian. Every one of these performers is well versed in the language of the Bard which they recite with assurance, efficiency and intelligence, thus, giving it the unifying grace, lift, eloquence, spirit and intimacy it requires to make it soar, pop and resonate. They have fun. We have fun. They are excited. We are excited. They know Shakespeare inside out, forward, front and center. And yes, we willingly go along for the ride.

As actors, they each bring a wonderful, uniquely eclectic collection of expressions, emotions, personalities and acting styles to their individual roles. They take hold of them, shape them to their liking and make them their own (no two actors are alike), which in a production as intimate and refreshing as this one, makes all the difference in the world. Elsewhere, they nicely succumb to the atmospheric feel of the production, its futuristic conceit, its idyllic setting, its comedy, its drama, its music, its novelty, its dances and its music.

Technically, "Twelfth Night" overflows with pungent creativity. Set designer Riw Rakkulchon's idyllic milieu immediately conjures up fond memories of Broadway's "The Lion King," which, of course, is meant entirely as a compliment. It is beautiful. It is vast. It is breathtaking. It is original. It also complements the sweet-natured antiquity and raw beauty that is Illyria and its bold, futuristic mix of African intensity, royal intrigue and mystery. Samuel Kwan Chi Chan's savvy lighting design also taps smartly into the proceedings as does Brittany Bland's wildly creative projection designs.

The applause, gasps and cheers from both straight and gay members of the audience in response to Mika H. Eubanks' stunning costume designs is entirely justified. This third year MFA candidate from the Yale School of Drama is a major talent whose spectacular design work for "Twelfth Night" is dazzling, unique and completely original. Every one of her creations is a complete labor of love (the workmanship alone will knock your socks off), that compliments the actors who wear them, the "Twelfth Night" characters they portray and their evolution in the story. These designs are so flawlessly executed, don't be surprised if someday (that is, someday very soon), you find Eubanks creating and designing costumes for both Broadway and West End shows. That's how gifted she is.

Joyous, dazzling and colorful, "Twelfth Night" celebrates William Shakespeare's gender-bending tale of unrequited love and mistaken identities with extraordinary wit, enchantment and flair. Executed with lively, freewheeling blissfulness and enthusiasm, it is an amazing piece of theater that is stylishly staged and marvelously acted. It also employs that daring, acutely truthful abstract spirit that Yale Rep is famous for. But in this go-round, as dictated by director Carl Cofield , it explodes in glorious, fruity 3-D Technicolor that is as freshly minted as the imagined land of Illyria itself with a welcoming pulse and invite that is simply irresistible.

"Foolery sir, does walk about the orb like the sun, it shines everywhere." 
("Feste, "Twelfth Night" by William Shakespeare)

Indeed, it does.

Photos of "Twelfth Night" by Joan Marcus. 

"Twelfth Night" is being staged at Yale Repertory Theatre (University Theatre, 222 York St., New Haven, CT), now through April 6.
For tickets or more information, call (203) 432-1234.

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

From the Desk of Jim R, Take 2, Column 146, A Review: "Rent" (The Bushnell)

By James V. Ruocco

The lyrics for "Rent" are unmistakably familiar, catchy, inspiring, and still relevant, 23 years later.

"There's only us, there's only this.
Forget regret, or life is your's to miss.
No other path, no other way.
No day but today"

"How do you document real life
When real life's getting more like fiction each day?
Headlines, bread-lines blow my mind
And now this deadline, eviction or pay rent"

"Five hundred twenty-five thousand Six hundred minutes
Five hundred twenty-five thousand
Moments so dear
Five hundred twenty-five thousand
Six hundred minutes
How do you measure - measure a year?
In daylights - in sunsets
In midnights - in cups of coffee
In inches - in miles
In laughter - in strife"

And well, they should be....

"Rent" was...."Rent" is...."Rent" remains the celebrated, iconic work of  Jonathan Larson, the 35-year-old composer/lyricist and author who died of an aortic aneurysm on January, 25, 1996, just days before his exhilarating, ground-breaking rock opera made its official big debut off-Broadway to heightened fanfare and subsequently, was later transferred to Broadway in April of the same year, where, it became the "Hamilton" of its day.

Of course, this came as no surprise to anyone in the cast, in the audience, in the producer's chair or on the creative team.

Back then, the two-act musical, which won the 1996 Tony Award for Best Musical and Best Musical Score, among others, transformed the face of musical theater with its unexpectedly catchy, musical score of salsa, reggae, opera, electric rock, pop and Sondheim-tinged eclecticism. Its complicated, angst-filled story of gay and straight characters fighting for life and survival in N.Y's bohemian milieu of St. Mark's Place, was fueled with grit, hope, pulse, desire and unabashed vitality. And when the "Rent" cast stood on the edge of the proscenium stage facing the audience at the start of Act II and sang the soul-searching "Seasons of Love," a tearful reminder of living and measuring life on borrowed time, your heart just about broke and broke....and broke.

I remember it well
Sitting there on the aisle, fifth row orchestra center at the Nederlander Theatre, just two days after its big Broadway bow, I remember thinking, "How lucky am I to be sitting here watching this musical event unfold" and..."How lucky are those people on stage ...Anthony Rapp, Adam Pascal, Idina Menzel, Wilson Jermaine Heredia, Daphne Rubin-Vega, Fredi Walker, Taye Diggs, Jesse L. get to do something as wonderful and exciting as this eight times a week."

Twenty-three years later, "Rent" still works and reworks that same theatrical magic on today's adrenaline-fueled audience as it did for first-nighter's on 79 East Fourth St in the East Village and at the Nederlander Theatre on Broadway. The cast is new. The production is new. The sets, the sound and the lighting are new. The costumes are new.
But make no mistake, this is "Rent" the way it was meant to be all its colorful, gritty, heartfelt, cinematic-like glory. It snaps. It pops. It entices. It invigorates. It gets the pulses racing.

One major difference, however.

This time around, however, the audience.....well, at least 85 percent of them, anyway... come to "Rent" knowing every song and lyric, every line of dialogue, every characterization, every plot twist, every heartbreak, every revelation, every drum roll, every tick, every kick, every beat, every nuance, every dance move, every shock and every surprise. They also know all the inhabitants of Larson's colorful East Village bohemia (artists, drag queens, drug addicts, homosexuals, lesbians, songwriters, dancers, filmmakers, homeless people and those living with HIV) and how they evolve during both Act I and II.
But it doesn't really matter. When the house lights dim, they are ready to take hold of "Rent" lock, stock and barrel. They applaud all their entrances and exits. They sing out loud. They laugh, they cry, they jump out of their seats. They shout the names of the characters. They lose control when their favorite moment comes. They go absolutely crazy when a song starts or finishes.

Some are actors, Broadway groupies, college students, homosexuals, high school students, drag queens, transgenders, pink-haired lesbians, business executives, fresh-scrubbed kids or just die hard theater buffs who live, eat and breathe theatre. And let's not forget those mad but merry RENT-heads, who still follow the show from city to city and have seen "Rent" more than 500 times (the stage musical, the 2005 film adaptation and the recent-not-so-live "Rent Live!" on Fox Television). They set the tone for the entire LIVE performance. They encourage the on-stage actors to pump things up and get ready to go. And then, it happens. "Rent" begins. "Rent" entices.  "Rent" explodes. And, what an explosion it is.


At the Bushnell, the 2019 National Touring edition of  "Rent" more than delivers its emotional wallop of snap, dazzle, crackle and pop. It works everyone on stage and off into a fervent, often playful lather of invigoration and delirium, which, when you think about it, is probably what Larson envisioned all along. It stands the testament of time as it deals openly and creatively with stories about addiction, eviction, materialism, struggle, legacy, sexual identity, transgender activism, death, poverty, individualism, urban redevelopment and AIDS. Its raw adult language ( "fucking weird," "fucking bitch," "dildo," "clit club," for example)  hits hard and home without hesitation. The characters are full-bodied and reflective of their East Village milieu. Nothing is taken for granted or thrown in to knock the audience off balance or on its ass. It is full of life...and then some.

The actual Bushnell space, which houses 3,707 people, is big, grand and splendid. Here, "Rent" is larger-than-life and thrusts itself forward in a 3-D cinematic style not found in smaller theaters where the two-act musical has played before. For this go-round, "Rent" swirls and twirls in glorious Technicolor. It's still the same story, but the lights, the sound, the scene changes, the songs and the individual scenes are so stunning to watch (think spectacle), there are times when you wish you could hit "rewind" and watch them again and again..

That said, this "Rent" is not a copycat, paint-by-numbers incarnation of the original 1996 Broadway musical conceived by Michael Greif or its 1998 London/West End counterpart. Here, "Rent" director Evan Ensign isn't interested in dusting off the blueprints of those two works to the point where his version of "Rent" is nothing more than a nostalgic, affectionate tribute to times long gone by. Instead, he puts his own thrilling, unique stamp on the new production without resorting to overkill or updating any of the dialogue, which every RENT-head in the audience could recite verbatim. He changes some of the original stage movement because  this is 2019 and not 1996, so that's to be expected. He thrusts the action forward at a much brisker pace. He brings some of the upstage action downstage, a directorial conceit that makes it much more effective for both actor and audience. He also respects and understands each of the characterizations that Jonathan Larson created and only fleetingly, makes a minor tweak or two with some of the core characters.

Elsewhere, he lovingly preserves some of the original staging created by Greif, most noticeable in the pulsating opening "Rent" production number, the "Light My Candle" exchanges, the wickedly feverish "La Vie Boheme," which closes Act I and "What You Own," a catchy character-driven duet  between Mark and Roger in the middle of Act II.
Marlies Yearby's crazed and frenzied dance movement and choreography ("Tango Maureen," "Today 4 U," "Out Tonight," "La Vie Boheme") provides the necessary pulse, momentum and spirit to get the juices flowing. It is energetic. It is modern. It  fits perfectly into the dramatic spine of the story. Now and then, things are purposely amped up keep "Rent" fresh and exciting, but Yearby's choices, nonetheless, reflect the intentions and concept thrust forward by the show's originators.

Directorially, Ensign also brings an unabashed playfulness and zesty spin to "Rent's" many verbal and musical voice mails, phone calls and celebratory pronouncements, all of which are effectively staged and performed by members of the ensemble cast who tackle many, many different roles (waiters, parents, cops, bohemians, life support members, squatters, to name a few) and costume changes with the creative genius and passion of those who originally created the roles or played them in other productions of "Rent" all around the world. They have fun. We have fun. No one flips through their playbills, checks their watches or looks confused by the onstage action. Ensign, as director, is at the top of his game, and it shows.

Then and now, the heart, drive and defining pulse of the show is Larson's inventive, intricate, character-driven musical score. His creative, definitive mix of anthems, duets, ballads, rock songs, plot-driven laments and lively showstoppers is unbeatable. "Rent," "One Song Glory," "Out Tonight," "I'll Cover You," "Take Me or Leave Me," "Another Day," "Without You," "Santa Fe," "Over the Moon," "What Your Own," "Tango Maureen," "Seasons of Love." The list goes on and on and on. And nothing gets lost in the translation. Larson's recurring themes: living on the edge, taking chances, fighting for survival, shielding loved ones from danger in the face of death and adversity are emotionally and melodically revisited by musical supervisor Tim Weil whose expert handling of the "Rent" material unfolds like great art that would make Larson ever-so-proud.

As "Rent" moves from scene to scene, Weil and his orchestral team are scrupulously attentive to Larson's music, the singers, the story and its rapid evolution. Here and there, they take risks with the tempos to give them a more contemporary feel. When necessary, they squeeze a little bit of extra pulp out of certain single phrases to make them more palpable. They also target certain songs with additional depth, beauty, confidence and flexibility. And, despite the show's familiarity, in everyone's more than capable hands, this incarnation of "Rent" sounds fresh, spunky, witty and surprisingly new.

Casting for the 2019 national tour is exceptional. For many "Rent" cast members, this is their first "on the road" experience. So yes, they want to thrill and electrify the audience, offer their own individual take on each of the now-iconic characters and when permissible, perhaps change a line of two to deliver uniquely different interpretations all together. At the Bushnell, the principal, supporting and ensemble cast members connect seamlessly.  They are young, intuitive, charismatic and diverse. They also represent the "Rent" milieu set forth by Jonathan Larson in terms of size, shape, gender, color and sexuality. They get "Rent." They understand "Rent." They are "Rent."

No one could play the part of relentless Jewish filmmaker Mark Cohen from Scarsdale like Anthony Rapp who created the role in the original 1996 Broadway production. That was a once-in-a-lifetime performance that has withstood the test of time. The good news about this "Rent" is that the very charismatic and personable Logan Marks opts not to copycat his predecessor. Like Danny Harris Kornfeld who played the part in the 2017 national touring company of "Rent," Marks steers clear of all things Rapp.  Instead, he offers his own take on Mark, his role in the evolution of the "Rent" story and his interaction with all of the other characters. It's a real, raw and energetic performance fraught with appropriate passion and emotion. He nails all of the familiar character traits that Larson set forth for Mark. He takes chances and runs with them. Vocally, he's pitch-perfect. His portrayal of Mark is so invigorating (he doesn't just play the part, he owns it), you are never once reminded that this iconic character was once played by Anthony Rapp in the original Broadway production and the 2005 film adaptation.

Is Javon King's sassy, sparkly and colorful portrayal of Angel, the young gay drag queen who is dying of AIDS as sensational as Wilson Jermaine Heredia who originated the role on Broadway and David Merino who played the same role in the 2017 touring edition of 'Rent?" You bet it is. As shaped and molded by King, it's a showstopping performance of high kicks, sentiment, individuality and transgender allure that the actor invests with dizzying dazzle, spirit and flamboyance. It's also a refreshingly unique conceit that King uses to full advantage throughout "Rent" and in his showstopping musical turns "Today 4 You" and "I'll Cover You." And yes, the audience is with him every step of the way. It's impossible not to love Angel.

A Jonathan Jackson type with a powerhouse singing voice that earns him thunderous applause
whenever he cuts loose vocally, Joshua Bess is the perfect fit for the part of the troubled singer/ songwriter Roger whose previous girlfriend committed suicide once she learned of her AIDS diagnosis. His anguished, emotional ballad "One Song Glory" is rendered with appropriate pain and pathos as is "What You Own," his big, fiery, harmonious duet with Mark in the middle of Act II.  Vocally, he's as dynamic as Adam Pascal was in the original 1996 Broadway production, using a crisp, polished musicality and confidence to sell every one of his songs. And just in case he should take a tumble down a stairwell or trip over a pile of props, understudies Chase McCall and Sean Ryan are waiting in the wings to fill his shoes as this is a LIVE production. Nothing pre-recorded here.

As Mimi, the drug stoked dancer with a heroin habit, Deri' Andrea Tucker is sexy, lively, slippery, sensuous and alluring. Dancing wise, she cuts all the right moves liked a skilled acrobat. Her singing, however, lacks an emotional depth and verve that is particularly noticeable in her wildly erotic solo "Out Tonight," which is designed solely to turn the head of every straight male in the audience, But sadly, it doesn't quite deliver. It's good, but not great. Elsewhere, she redeems herself much later with "Without You," a savvy duet with Roger that catches fire and melts your heart, the way it was intended. Her performance, as a whole, however, lacks the spunk, frenzy and hotness that Daphne Rubin-Vega and Renee Elise Goldsberry brought to the Broadway production and Skyler Volpe kept ablaze in the 2017 national tour.

Lencia Kebede and Lyndie Moe create all the right sparks as the touchy-feely lesbian couple Joanne and Maureen. They have plenty of earthy, sexually charged energy, power and charisma. Their big duet "Take Me or Leave Me" unfolds with enough sizzle and snap (kissing, ass-grabbing, breast-touching and simulated cunnilingus, to boot) to cause a power outage. "Over the Moon," Maureen's wonderfully wicked protest number is so unbelievably timed, both comically and vocally, it deserves a standing ovation in itself. And perhaps, an encore of sorts.
Devinre Adams, as Tom Collins, is both heartfelt and endearing as Angel's newfound boyfriend and lover. He plays the part with a sweet sincerity that works especially well. And when it comes time for him to sing his character's big Act II showstopper "I'll Cover You (Reprise)," Adams stops the show with this tear-drenched rendition. His serious vocal heft makes this particular song soar and wound with chilling resonance.  

Theatergoers, new to "Rent" will easily embrace this peppy, sensuous, hyperactive touring edition of the celebrated musical, which, in 2019 and long before that, has become its very own brand name. And why not? Its inspired enthusiasm extends far beyond the proscenium wall of the Bushnell stage with a sparkling urgency and command that's pretty hard to resist. The familiar story of East Village bohemia is inhabited by a new group of excited and energetic performers who live, eat, sleep and breathe "Rent." The musical score by the late Jonathan Larson is smooth, ragged, raw and emotional. It gets the juices flowing. It seduces and invigorates. It gets you thinking. It also makes you happy that you bought a ticket.
No broken foot or sound glitches here either (i.e., "Rent Live!"). First time, second time, 100th time, "Rent" still electrifies. What fun! What joy! What a resurrection! Bohemia, thank the Lord, is not dead. It's alive and well in Hartford, CT.

"There's only now, there's only here.
Give in to love or live in fear.
No other path, No other way
No day but today"

"Rent" is being staged at the Bushnell (166 Capitol Ave., Hartford, CT), now through March 17.
For tickets or more information, call (860) 987-5900.

Saturday, March 9, 2019

From the Desk of Jim R, Take 2, Column 145, A Review: "The Merchant of Venice" ( Valley Shakespeare Festival)

By James V. Ruocco

Joe Penczak
Katie Zaffrann
Brian Ott
Zak Risinger
Josh Johnston
Andie Lerner
Kendall Segovia
Daniel Rios, Jr
Killian Meehan

These nine actors are the heart, soul and pulse of Valley Shakespeare Festival's "The Merchant of Venice," a thrillingly adventurous, slick retelling of the Bard's popular comedy about multiple romances, uncomfortable couples and complicated relationships that are playfully bandied about from beginning to end in grand, over-the-top, wickedly inventive staging that heightens the comic veracity and crackle of this oft-performed work.


This is one of the most charming, resourceful plays on the theater leader board this month, or any month, for that matter. It soars. It hops. It dances. It delights. It skips. It sings. It enlightens.
It not only celebrates all things Shakespeare, but also finds new ways to replay the comic mayhem and conflict of the story (the love-test casket lottery, for example) by injecting just the right amount of well-orchestrated camp, modernity, kitsch, sincerity and surprise to the proceedings without any form of overkill or calculation. Here, everything is perfectly timed and played out with little sprinkles of improvisation here and there along with the breaking of the actor's fourth wall, a pleasurable conceit that occurs only when it's entirely plausible to drop character and tease, taunt or cajole the audience. It all works, quite splendidly.

The story, in a nutshell, goes something like this.
Antonio, the over-anxious bisexual merchant of the play's title, agrees to loan money to his friend, the magnetic Bassanio, so that he can woo the beautiful wealthy heiress Portia. But since Antonio's money is tied up in his shipping industry, he is forced to seek the help of the Jewish moneylender Shylock to acquire the necessary funds.
Shylock, of course, dislikes Antonio (that's obvious) but nonetheless, lends him the money on the condition that if he defaults, Shylock is entitled to a pound of Antonio's flesh (bloody hell). Ultimately, Shylock can't collect on his end of the deal (clever disguises, deceit and legal poppycock ensue) because of the harm it would cause Antonio, and a very happy Bassanio marries his beloved Portia.
The mismatched lovers scenario also involves Jessica, Shylock's daughter, a lovely young woman  who finds herself enamored with Lorenzo, a penniless Christian and Gratiano, a garrulous young man who ends up completely smitten with Nerissa, Portia's confidante and lady-in-waiting.

"The Merchant of Venice" finds its strength in Tom Simonetti's swift and steadied exploration of the play, its colorful patches of whimsy and craziness, its playful romanticism, its power, its heartache, its shattered dilemmas, its mercenary actions and its grab bag of characters, many of whom bear a strong resemblance to those found in "As You Like It," "Twelfth Night" and "A Midsummer night's Dream," among others.

What's fun about Simonetti's take on the Bard's comedy is that you never quite know what's up his sleeve. As director, he is inventive, stylish, compassionate, caring and well versed in the machinations of Shakespeare's world and its populace. He gets the Bard. He likes the Bard. He understands the Bard. He appreciates the Bard. He is also full of surprises, all of which catch you off guard, knock you off balance, prompt giddy laughter and applause in all the right places and bring a smile to your face when you least expect it.

Not your usual incarnation of the play, Simonetti's edition opts for 21st century modernity with costuming that suggests the 1960's and 1970's of Soho, Carnaby Street, Camden Town and Greenwich Village. Housing the play on the second floor space of a reconverted 1890's garment factory with brick walls, hardwood floors, shadowy lighting and shiny glass windows reminiscent of loft spaces in both New York and London heightens the play's allure, mindset, drama, romantic nature and charm.

The closeness of actor to audience also provides a marvelous intimacy to the piece, which Simonetti utilizes to full advantage, from actors speaking directing to certain members of the audience, taking a seat among them, asking them to recite Shakespearean passages from cue cards on strategically placed gift boxes or having his cast of nine enter and exit from up and down the center aisle, the left aisle or the right. It's all carefully envisioned with an air of crisp spontaneity that keeps the action moving forward at a steady, brisk pace that never once looks rehearsed or manufactured.

For this go-round, Simonetti also looks to Italian filmmaker Federico Fellini ("La Dolce Vita," "Casanova," "8 1/2," "Juliet of the Spirits") for inspiration. In particular, the maestro's overt flamboyance and melodrama, his decadent sexuality and fantasies, his timely artistic expressions and his vibrant, personal eccentricities. Mixing Fellini with the Bard not only fascinates and stimulates, but gives "The Merchant of Venice" a visual, carnival-like kick (the gondola sequences, up and down the center aisles, for example) and snap that is wonderfully imagined throughout Simonett's colorful presentation.

"The Merchant of Venice" stars Joe Penczak as Shylock, Katie Zaffrann as Portia, Brian Ott as Lorenzo/Prince of Aragon, Zak Risinger as Antonio/Prince of Morocco, Josh Johnston as Bassanio/Tubal, Andie Lerner as Jessica, Kendall Segovia as Nerissa/Solanio, Daniel Rios, Gratiano and Killian Meehan as Launcelot/Salerio/Jailer/The Duke. All nine performers are well versed in the language of the Bard which they recite with assurance and intelligence, thus, giving the material its unifying grace, lift, eloquence, spirit and intimacy. They have fun. We have fun. They know Shakespeare inside out, backwards and forward, front and center.
Everyone brings a wonderful collection of expressions, emotions and acting styles to their individual or multiple roles. Moreover, they take hold of them, shape them to their liking and make them their own (no two actors are alike), which in a production as intimate as this one, makes all the difference in the world.

Joe Penczak's portrayal of Shylock is both fascinating and passionate. His recitation of the Bard's words is fluid, intelligent and original. There's also a sense of stratified victim, avenger and survivor to his characterization, which is very exciting to watch. As Portia, the young woman who longs for love and all its impossibilities, Kate Zaffrann offers a full-bodied portrayal that is rich in conversation, character, discovery and impetuosity.

Zack Risinger, in the role of the brash Antonio, delivers Shakespeare's lines with a deep, heartfelt emotion that is natural, enduring and always compelling. As his beloved friend Bassanio, Josh Johnston naturally fits the part of gentleman, kinsman and lastly, the worthy suitor who masterfully identifies the casket that contains Portia's portrait. It's a well-rounded performance chock full of good-natured ambition and smack-dab attitude.

Kendall Segovia brings plenty of charm and personality to the part of Nerissa. It's a richly amusing performance that blazes brightly whenever she's on stage. Andie Lerner's portrayal of Jessica, the daughter of Shylock who flees her father's control and runs off with Lorenzo, is inspired, nuanced and completely enjoyable. Both she and Segovia share an obvious passion and understanding for Shakespeare that heightens their attention-grabbing work whenever they are on stage.

As Lorenzo, the young man who eventually elopes with Jessica to Belmont, Brian Ott conjures up a performance that is bright, silly, inventive and perfectly in sync with the mindset of Shakespeare's popular comic tale. Daniel Rios, Jr. has a fine grasp on the part of the garrulous Gratiano, which he plays most advantageously with thrilling snap, vigor and vitality.

Killian Meehan, a dead ringer for a very youngish Tom Cruise (long before Nicole Kidman, Katie Holmes, Scientology and daughter Suri), pops in and out of "The Merchant of Venice," playing a quartet of different roles - Launcelot, Salerio, the Jailer, the Duke. A free-spirited talent, so real and refreshingly compassionate, he toggles intuitively between his many characters with an RSC craftsmanship and control that comes completely and directly from the heart. His recitation of Shakespeare bursts with boldness and a swell of zigzag intellect and pulse, but never once do you sense the actor's tools at work. And therein, lies the brilliance that is Meehan.

Effective, pleasurable and thoroughly engaging, "The Merchant of Venice" is a Shakespearean treat that celebrates the Bard and his popular story, his raucous characters, his inspired language and his deeply moving, plot advancing conversations. The cast has great fun running merrily through the play's light, zany and darker elements. And with director Tom Simonetti effectively pulling the strings,  much to the delight of everyone in the audience, VSF is at the very top of its game....and then some.

Photos by Paula Murphy Meehan

"The Merchant of Venice" is being staged by Valley Shakespeare Festival (The Conti Building, 132 West Canal St. East, Door 6, Shelton, CT), now through March 17.
For tickets or more information, call (203) 513-9446.

Tuesday, March 5, 2019

From the Desk of Jim R, Take 2, Column 144, A Review: "Race" (TheatreWorks/NewMilford)

By James V. Ruocco

"Race is the most incendiary topic in our history. And the moment it comes out, you cannot close the lid on that box. That may change. But not for a long time while."
David Mamet, Playwright, "Race"

The impeccable head-on swagger and urgency of playwright David Mamet's writing gives "Race" an emotional flourish and depth that creates the necessary sparks in TheatreWorks/New Milford's compelling presentation of his controversial 2009 play.


This is one of those plays that demands and commands your attention from start to finish as it exposes the uncomfortable truths, realities, power games and prejudices behind the pending court case of a well-known, white American male accused of raping a young, black woman in a hotel room.

Is he guilty?
Is he innocent?
Is the case too impossible to win?
Well, that depends.

As with "Speed-the-Plow," "Oleanna" and "Glengarry Glen Ross," " Mamet's provocative, edgy, hot-topic play is anything but ordinary.
It presents testy debates designed to challenge its audience.
Its questions and answers are surprising.
Its strategies are savory and controversial.
Its blunt rage and exaggerated expletives are full on.
And when it's over, there's plenty to think and argue about.
Mamet wouldn't have it any other way.

"Do you know what you can say to a black man on the subject of race?" the black lawyer asks the white defendant. "Nothing."

Enter Francis A. Daley.

There's always an acutely truthful resonance at the heart of any David Mamet play and director Francis A. Daley finds that pulse and runs with it while staging "Race." The focus, of course, is on the acting, but Daley, as director, finds the heartbeat and conscience of the piece and creates a taut, verbally intense theatrical work that ignites the playwright's talky soundscape, its piercing certainties, its contrasting arguments and its lawyer/client lingo and resolve.

But that's not the only selling point in Daley's nuanced, theatrically intense production. His fascination with Mamet's writing, the play's conceit, the power play of the individual characters, their observations, their thoughts, their confidence and their obvious fight for survival, is addressed with extraordinary tension, depth and creativity. In turn, the play's dialogue, its words and actions, some of which are misunderstood, taken out of context or simply just raw, real and shocking, hit home with piercing, studied impact.

The entire 85-minute play is set against the backdrop of Leif Smith's handsome, functional set design, which in "Race," is an attorney's spacious conference room that houses fake plants, a big meeting table, four chairs, a central glass window covered with brown, closed blinds and a bookcase. The trick, of course, is to keep things moving and centered, with just the right amount of necessary movement and conversation to keep "Race" flowing without any form of hesitation, unnecessary stage blocking or claustrophobic maneuvering.

That said, Daley's staging is fast, fluid and involved. There's only minimal movement when needed or necessary. This, directorial process, in turn, works most advantageously. It also allows the audience, as a voyeur of sorts, to focus solely on the story, the playwright's language and the verbal ping pong match between the four central characters. You believe every moment here, and, willingly go along for the ride, often examining and re-examining your own personal beliefs and prejudices. Then again, that's also the point of the piece and one that Daley makes quite relevantly.

"Race" stars Francis A. Daley as Charles Strickland, Kevin Knight as Henry Brown, Aaron Kaplan as Jack Lawson and Danique Ashley as Susan. As Strickland, a famous, wealthy white billionaire accused of raping a young black woman, Daley, with script in hand (more on this, later), is cunning, focused, indignant and clever, which is exactly what the part calls for. It's a stirring performance and one that Daley attacks with profound professionalism.

As Susan, the newbie African-American legal associate who questions the mind-bending maneuvers and confrontational arguments of her co-workers, Ashley is the real deal. She's genuine. She's professional. She's articulate. She's honest. She gets Mamet. She understands Mamet. And she loves being part of this production. Just watch her. Her gestures, her inflections, her expressions and her line delivery, only further that notion. But who is Susan really? There's a mystery to the character  which Ashley downplays in the beginning of the play. But as "Race" evolves, the set up for who Susan really is, is finally revealed.

As Brown and Lawson, Knight and Kaplan, both outspoken and cynical, work tirelessly to carefully expose the many layers of Mamet's dicey story, its "who's scamming whom" undercurrents, its outspoken conversations about race and its fueled, believable desperation. Throughout "Race," they are completely in sync with the play's barbed intelligence, its dressed-up legal distractions, its professional lingo, it's cynicism and its topical conscience. They succeed on all levels. As actors, they are savvy, personable, excited and grounded. Moreover, you believe everything they say and do without hesitation.

"Race," as written by David Mamet, is a shrewd, entertaining, intelligently written play that delivers lots of arguments about race, law, discrimination, guilt and innocence. It gets the pulses racing. It gets you thinking. It packs an emotional wallop. It is well directed by Francis A. Daley. And the cast, with Daley taking center stage for an ailing actor, delivers smart, sharp-witted performances that heighten the play's allure, its argumentative dialogue and its stinging after effects.

Photos of "Race" by Ghostlight Photography 

"Race is being staged at TheatreWorks/New Milford (5 Brookside Ave., New Milford, CT), now through March 16.
For tickets or more information, call (860) 350-6853