Monday, March 27, 2023

From the Desk of Jim R, Take 2, Column 385, A Review: "The Rocky Horror Show" (Music Theatre of Connecticut)

By James V. Ruocco

They must be doing something right.
Fifty years on and showing no sign of slowing down, "The Rocky Horror Show" - first performed in 1973 at London's Royal Court Theatre - is as crazy and iconic as things can get - with a faultless storyline of perversion, corruption, camp, charm and recognizable queerness that is dished out with such brilliant, maddening thrill and spill, one easily succumbs to its over-the-top craziness much to the delight of everyone on stage and in the audience.
The book - the brainchild of Richard O'Brien - who also wrote the catchy music and lyrics including the quick-witted, cheeky showstopper "The Time Warp," is not for the faint of heart oy anyone who buys a ticket thinking this musical is G-rated, sweet and syrupy hokum where boy-meet-girl, homosexuality is taboo and everyone lives happily ever after.
You'll find none of that here.
O'Brien's blueprint for "The Rocky Horror Show" dishes up schlock-horror bits involving transvestitism, homosexuality, oral sex, masturbation, ejaculation, all-American sweethearts, sci-fi lunacy, 1950's rock and roll, Steve Reeves muscle films, flying saucers, rainstorms, gothic mansions, fishnet stockings, 1970's glam, ruby red lipstick, party anthems and tight-fitting underwear.
It's dated, spatted, diced and sliced with Halloween embedding and a breezy, often crazy pop culture musical score vying for audience participation, which, depending on the performance, and the crowd itself, can blow the roof off the venue on which the musical is housed.

Time-warping its way into the immersive stomping grounds of Music Theatre of Connecticut, "The Rocky Horror Show" - performed entirely in flashy, moody, living Technicolor by an entire Equity cast of performers - crash, bangs and wallops across the MTC stage with such wild, rip-roaring abandon, its carnival like atmosphere harkens moments that recall the B-movie kitsch of Roger Corman, Roy Del Ruth and Edward Bernds, the avant-garde fantasy of Italian filmmaker Federico Fellini and the crypto cheesiness of television's "Flash Gordon," "Space Patrol" and "Atom Squad."
Then again, that's the point of this cultish musical, isn't it?.
There's nothing time warped about it.
As lensed through the eyes of director Kevin Connors, it is upfront, salacious and sexual and so much more than simply "just another show."
It's an experience - all in good fun - coming from an era where sexual liberation and sexual orientation were bubbling over in mostly R-rated and X-rated ways.

The story - which, pretty much everyone knows including devoted audience members who turn up dressed in costume or in drag as their favorite characters, goes something like this.
Following the show's opening musical number "Science Fiction Double Feature," all-American boy-girl couple Brad Majors and Janet Weiss seek refuge in the middle of nowhere (their car breaks down during a rainstorm) at the Transylvanian castle of  Frank-'N' Furter, a mad scientist and transvestite from the planet Transsexual whose lust for both handsome men and attractive women finds him back in the laboratory where he creates a muscle-bound hunk named Rocky for use as his own companion, bedmate and sexual plaything. 
That's not all.
As penned by the thrill-seeking O'Brien, the story overflows with plenty of other crazies that include Frank 'N' Furter's trusty, live-in butler Riff Raff; his oversexed sister Magenta; a shapely and sexy groupie named Columbia; and perplexed, put-upon, overbearing Eddie, the unfortunate victim of a botched-up delivery that leads to some very troubled circumstances via a wielding chainsaw.
In short, blood and guts everywhere.
Also, along for the ride are a smiling and smarmy Narrator who addresses the audience with playful tidbits and remarks about the pending action; two usherettes and two phantoms who pop in and out of the story; and the wheelchair bound Dr. Everett Scott, the paraplegic science tutor Brad and Janet had hoped to visit at the start of the story. 

Puzzling out and comprehending the very meaning of "The Rocky Horror Show" and its absurd, sci-fi/horror bouts of fantasia, gay sex, imagined incident, cross-dressing, alluring musicality and unapologetic traditions and values, director Kevin Connors comes to the project with a deeply visceral connection and commitment that allows the two-act musical to soar and resonate with full-orbit conviction, gallop and time-honored idiosyncrasy.
As director, his incarnation of the popular musical hits the stage with plenty of 
buzz, bite, zing, swathe, tilt and snap.  It's daring. It's dirty. It's obscene. It's devious. It's taboo. It's queer. It's orgasmic. It playful. Moreover, Connors lets it run wild without any form of censorship or hesitation.
No sugar-coating. No pandering. No tricks. No games. No pauses. No sarcasm. No sweetness. Here, strangeness and beauty go hand and hand alongside egged on frivolity, drag and double act bubble and brew. It's also mixed flavorfully with paint-brush glitter and gleam and absolutely no shortage of ideas and gallop.
In its favor, the immersive intimacy of MTC's playing space gives the musical a voyeuristic closeness between actor and audience that provides a three-dimensional thrust and dimension that would be impossible to replicate on a large proscenium stage. That concept played out to full advantage by Connors brings additional energy and sneer to the project, enlivened by in-the-moment infusion, weirdness, over exaggeration and retro charm and entrapment. 

Musically, "The Rocky Horror Show" makes its mark with a liberating, enthusiastic, frenzied musical score designed to showcase the impressive voices of the stellar cast, their commanding turns throughout the page-turning story and the production's giddy, over-the-top sci-fi/horror movie conceit.
As penned by O'Brien, there are sixteen musical numbers - witty, wacky, character defining - all carefully synced and interspersed throughout the ongoing story, which in this go-round is fueled by lots of rattle, roar and vigilant, crisp, musicality and efficiency.
They are: "Science Fiction, Double Feature," "Dammit Janet," "Over at the Frankenstein Place," "The Time Warp," "Sweet Transvestite," "The Sword of Damocles," "I Can Make You a Man," "Hot Patootie," "I Can Make You a Man (reprise)," "Touch-A, Touch-A, Touch Me," "Once in a While," "Eddie's Teddy," "Planet Schmanet-Wise Up Janet Weiss," "Floorshow/Rose Tint My World," "I'm Going Home, "Superheroes" and "Science Fiction/Double Feature (reprise)."

For this MTC production, the kitschy, tongue-in-cheek, underground-inspired music composed and conceived by O'Brien is brought vividly to life by musical director Tony Bellomy (conductor/keyboard 1) and the orchestral team of Max Caserta (guitar), Rodney Loren (keyboard 2), Nick Devito (woodwinds), Alan Lounsbury (bass guitar) and Michael Blancaflor (percussion). Well attuned to the musical's craziness and reinforced, oozy, wild abandonment, Bellomy and company deftly illustrate the score's emotional snap and intensity, its quirky connections, its contoured floating and its playful, rhythmic energy and B-movie thrust and coherence.
As "The Rocky Horror Show" evolves, there's also a lot of refreshing, earthy spontaneity at hand completely in sync with the musical's topsy-turvy machinations, its tilt and spin exuberance, its butter popcorned melody and its harmonic sprite and twinkle. Elsewhere, there's a newness to the melodic shape and color of the material, which, in turn, heightens the score's uncanny sense of high camp, its orchestral dizziness and its naughty, persuasive, sexual overtones, ethos and its drug-induced euphoria.

Casting is key to the success of any "Rocky Horror Show" production and at MTC, Connor fills that stage of his intimate venue with a dream cast of performers, all of whom are well-suited for each of the particular roles they are asked to portray. All eleven gleefully embrace the show's flashy, B-movie plotting, its sci-fi stylization, its campiness, its full-throttle sexuality, its infamous one-liners, its songs, its dialogue, its dances and its welcomed enthusiasm from the audience.

In the lead role of the cross-dressing, oversexed, full-on transvestite Frank 'N' Furter, Justin Johnston is incredibly impressive and iconic bringing lots of drag show swirl and twirl to the part but never once copycatting others who have played the role before him including Tim Curry, David Arquette and Tom Hewitt. It's a fresh, raw, invigorating spin that never falters for a moment. Cast in the role of the show's Narrator, Jim Schilling is absolutely "spot on," filling the shoes of the musical's storyteller with a "Harry Potter" like flair, magic and a real sense of belonging. Jeff Raab's scene-stealing, crazed portrayal of Riff Raff, a strange and spooky Transylvanian, based, in part on "Frankenstein's" servant Igor, is outrageously campy, wicked and hugely entertaining. As Rocky, the muscle-bound Herculean creation of Frank 'N' Furter's creation, Domenic Servido is body beautiful perfect for a role steeped in narcissistic B-movie kitsch and gleam designed to make everyone on stage drool uncontrollably along with every housewife, homosexual and horny teenager in the audience. John Treacy Egan is a powerhouse of talent, song and characterization in the dual roles of Eddie and Dr. Everett Scott. 

As Brad Majors, Michael Luongo offers a standout turn as the all-American innocent whose sweetness is immediately corrupted once Frank 'N' Furter, pretending to be Janet, seduces him with sexual acts that he admittingly seems to enjoy. It's a role he plays to perfection, matched by a polished vocal range that reveals a melodious pop fusion and range that turns every one of Brad's songs into genuine showstoppers. Skye Gillespie, in the role of the naïve Janet Weiss, brings happy-ending sparkle and personality to her ingenue role along with a strong sense of commitment and confidence that makes every one of her scenes stand out whenever she's on stage. Musically, her vocal ability and charm is beautifully layered with thrilling emotional inspiration and uplifting pop and groove. There's also a knockabout vitality and honesty to her characterization which adds a certain freshness and dynamic to her on-stage romance with Luongo's Brad.
Leigh Martha Klinger, cast in the role of Riff Raff's crazy sister Magenta, commands the MTC stage with a wildly entertaining, sci-fi appropriate performance of dash, humor, sexiness and sugar rush adrenaline. As Columbia, a groupie with a flair for the dramatic (her big revelatory moment in Act II is a bona fide showstopper), Hillary Ekwall, sizzles and snaps with decided purpose and inspired gamboling. Dressed in drag queen garb reflective of "Cabaret's" Liza Minnelli, Stephen Petrovich's Phantom 2 oozes plenty of Kit Kat Klub electricity and 1950's sci-fi allure. 

Brianna Bauch, as "Rocky Horror Show's" welcoming usherette (she starts the show with a dazzling superstar rendition of "Science Fiction Double Feature," shared with the equally dynamic Leigh Martha Klinger) pushes positivity to sheer delight with a celebrated musical turn that will no doubt lead to starring roles in several musicals including "Cinderella," "My Fair Lady," "Frozen," "Carousel," "Fiddler on the Roof" and "Hello, Dolly!"
Quite a contribution - and one that bespeaks real authenticity.

Photos of "The Rocky Horror Show" courtesy of Joe Landry.

"The Rocky Horror Show" is being staged at Music Theatre of Connecticut (509 Westport Ave., Norwalk, CT), now through April 8, 2023.
For tickets or more information, call (203) 454-3883.

Sunday, March 26, 2023

From the Desk of Jim R, Take 2, Column 384, A Review: "Stop Time Dance Machine" (Playhouse on Park)

By James V. Ruocco

It's an explosion of ideas and merriment like no other.
A clever, mesmerizing vision of sound, dance, movement and style between artist, choreographer and dancer, "Stop Time Dance Machine" comes alive through a series of fascinating, invigorating, hand-picked musical numbers that are a delight to watch for fans of musical theatre, dance performance and great - that is, GREAT- choreography.
This is a production that gives audiences a wild dance ride of color and interpretation launched into orbit by dynamo and speed that's stamped with wonder, enchantment, sparkle, nostalgia and dancer-lover's mantra.
It pops.
It stirs.
It glides.
It hops.
It tilts.
It explores.
It excites.
It pays homage to dance influence and technique from the past.
It is dance art that is warm and friendly.
It is pushed to the max with exploratory precision and detail.
It is disciplined, self-layered and toe tapping.
It also comes giftwrapped with a special kind of artist, interpreter and ensemble who blend together as one to create an astonishing work of beauty, harmony and aesthetic.

Conceived, directed and choreographed by Darlene Zoller, this Playhouse on Park production takes its cue from sci-fi, time travel, B-movies of the past that finds its characters misplaced in time prompting mandatory rescue by trained crews of space travelers united for a daredevil mission masked in danger, excitement and surprise.
For plot purposes, "Stop Time Dance Machine" find Zoller zapped into orbit only minutes into her exhilarating, voltage-charged dance odyssey.
Where is she?
Past? Future? A.D? B.C?
Is she gone for good?
Spoiler alert: Hell, no.
Zoller's rescue - led by the very talented Victoria (Tori) Mooney, Rick Fountain and Amanda Forker - prompts a series of song-and-dance numbers featuring the remarkable "Stop Time Dance Machine" dancers, all amped and ready to time travel to places unknown, backed by sexy, spirited, timely, athletic dance movement strategically placed, programmed and readied by DZ herself.
The numbers, in order of performance are: "Veloce," "The Journey Begins," As It Was," "Back in Time," "Five Foot Two," "King of Manhattan," "Ragtime," "In the Good Old Summertime," "By the Sea," "Prehistoric Drum Dance," "Let Me Sing I'm Happy," "Sing, Sing, Sing," "Baby One More Time," "MTV Theme," "Smooth Criminal," "We Are Never Getting Back Together," "Dance Apocalyptic," "In the Mood," "King Swing," "The Twist," "Earth, Wind and Fire Megamix" and "Permission to Dance." 

Zoller, as director, crafts a seasoned, whimsical dance fest that travels through time - 1900s, 1920s, 1940s, 1960s, 1970s, to name a few - with connection, action, homage and melodrama, punctuated by well-timed comic bits, dialogue, one-liners and remembrances, all tallied up through hyper-energetic action, romp and breezy display. It's all in good fun that's highly monitored, quasi-scientific, pacy and flavorful and brought to life in segmented unison, candy-coated exaggeration and "Queen of Outer Space" spill and thrill.

Dance wise, "Stop Time Dance Machine" is spectacular.
The work itself graciously nods to rhythmic, movement, tradition and stylization of the past with steps, pairings, formations and break aways that celebrate each dancer's grace, athleticism, drive and versatility. 
As choreographed by Zoller, everything is punctuated with poise, snap, elegance and dazzle. Bodies gyrate. Shoulders shimmy. Hands clasp. Heads tilt. Toes tap. Dancer's smile. They also fuse into a joyful showcase of dance moves and styles that Zoller addresses with steadfast adrenaline, zing and swing that never once falters.

"Stop Time Dance Machine" stars Victoria (Tori) Mooney, Rick Fountain, Amanda Forker, Meredith Longo, Lisa Caffyn, Courtney Woods, Ali Forman, Erica Misenti, Jennifer Checovetes, Amelia Flater, Shannon L'Heureaux, Lauri Misenti, Sheri Righi, Melissa B. Shannon and Alicia Voukides.
Everyone, individually or working as a group, projects the sheer vigor of dance intoxication through performance effortlessly moving across the Playhouse on Park stage with thrilling pace, seamless musicality, unity of purpose and raw, splayed individuality. 
All of this is amped to perfection by Lisa Steier's colorful, draw-dropping, impeccably designed costumes which lend themselves nicely and imaginatively to the different time travel elements prevalent in the sci-fi story and Zoller's shimmering earthbound choreography.
Upon rescue, Zoller takes the center stage spotlight for a solo turn that is sublime, stand-out, emotional and absolutely flawless. It's a gift she not only shares with her appreciative, ovation-worthy audience but one that comes directly from the heart. 

"Stop Time Dance Machine" is being staged at Playhouse on Park (244 Park Rd, West Hartford, CT), now through April 2, 2023.
For tickets or more information, call (860) 523-5900.

Thursday, March 23, 2023

From the Desk of Jim R, Take 2, Column 383, A Review: "Mojada: A Medea in Los Angeles" (Yale Repertory Theatre)

By James V. Ruocco

"If you're going to have a life in the theater, you have to be willing to accept how things move and change."
Luis Alfaro (playwright)

In "Mojada: A Medea in Los Angeles," an edgy, harrowing, riveting character drama, now being showcased at Yale Repertory Theatre, Alfaro reworks the classic Greek tragedy of Euripides' "Medea" - a troubled woman who, in an act of vengeance against her husband Jason, murders his new wife as well her own two sons - into a modern-day telling of consequence, significance, complication and redemption.
Using the Mexican American barrio of Los Angeles as the background of his thrilling tale of migration, escape and rebirth, he tells the important story of one family's desire to find a new life in America while struggling for acceptance, financial gain, job satisfaction and power within the confines of their oppressive, marginalized, constrained environment.
As playwright, Alfaro crafts a fascinating piece of theatre - raw, real, remarkable - using words, dialogue, characters, situations and back story that erupt and sizzle with waves of excitement, surprise and exhilaration.
To keep his audience on edge, "Mojada" rumbles, tilts, roars, humors, breaks and teases. It keeps theatergoers nervously lit not only wondering how things will play out, but what wheels Alfaro will turn throughout - updates, flashbacks, monologues, ancient spirituality - as this drama spins and continually recharges its batteries while inching toward its descent into madness, darkness, violence and self-satisfied determination.
Mixing the elements of Greek tragedy with contemporary storytelling, Alfaro wisely retains the backbone of the original Euripides' story, but lets his version speak volumes through modern day observation, reaction and commentary.

Not to be undone, Yale Repertory Theatre, rises to the occasion, thus, producing a powerful drama that fully envelops its audience, spatters blood, mystifies, shocks and lets its heart bleed openly, figuratively and formidably.

Staging "Mojada: A Medea in Los Angeles," director Laurie Woolery ("El Huracan," "As You Like It," "The Tempest," "Promenade") dispenses Alfaro's work with a triggered balance and impassion that captures the complexity, the shatter, the force and the agonizing countdown of the actual story.  Directorially, she brings great strength and detail to the piece, greatly establishing its significance, its aura, its invocations, its sounds, its bluntness, its sexuality and its voice.
As with the original work, first performed in 431 B.C., she shows that the impact of that play, reworked for "Mojada," has not lessened over time. Nor has it lost any of its relevance, its blaze, its cry for help or its Euripidean authority. Here, the parallels, the experiences, the waves and the dystopian nightmares framed accordingly and dramatically by Woolery mirror the same evolution of "Medea" beat by beat, bathed in narrative swatches of angst, wonder, purpose, revenge and entrapment.

"Mojada: A Medea in Los Angeles" stars Camillo Moreno as Medea, Alma Martinez as Tita, Alejandro Hernandez as Hason, Nancy Rodriguez as Josefina and Monica Sanchez as Armida.
Moreno delivers a commanding, articulate performance that embodies the chilling maze of emotions indicative of the playwright's modern-day take on the Medea character and her story. Martinez, as housekeeper and Greek chorus, is fluent in the play's machinations, movement, language, conflict and wide range of emotions. Hernandez sharply modulates the key changes in his character with natural charm, ease and determination. Rodriques brings gossipy alure and comedy to her portrayal of the neighborhood vendor. Sanchez plays the "other woman" in Hason's life with sly, forceful, seductive abandon.

"Mojada: A Medea in Los Angeles" is being staged at Yale Repertory Theatre (University Theatre, 222 York St., New Haven, CT), now through April 1, 2023.
For tickets or more information, call (203) 432-1234.

Tuesday, March 21, 2023

From the Desk of Jim R, Take 2, Column 382, A Review: "Spring Awakening" (Connecticut Theatre Company)

By James V. Ruocco

Teenage sexuality, self-expression, heartbreaking laments, teen angst and illicit, erotic charge is the centerpiece of Duncan Sheik's enveloping musical drama "Spring Awakening" which, with its cast of 13 plus a seven-member band, is given an emotional, bruising, effective Bohemian-like treatment by Connecticut Theatre Company. It's a creative concept that elevates this passionate revival of the 2009 Broadway smash to an astonishing level of pure poetry and euphoria, bathed in immersive swatches of color, beauty, longing, abandonment and sonorous commitment.
On paper, it's a musical about schoolchildren - dark, intense, constant, explosive, deadening - but, in actuality, "Spring Awakening" plays more like an edgy, sophisticated and moody teen composition designed primarily for adults looking for something raw, dangerous and imaginative.
On that level, it succeeds.
It is gusty, surreal and mind-blowing.
It rings an alarm that fascinates, stirs and beguiles.
It grapples with the mind with anxious structure and psychological intricacy.
It is sharp, jagged and persuasive.
It is raw and dangerous.
It is startling and cynical.
It is anachronistic in expression.
It is urgent and vital.
It floors you with its honesty.
It leaves you breathless.
Exploring issues, themes and subject matter that are both timely and universal, the Connecticut Theatre Company interpretation of Spring Awakening" is addressed with purpose, challenge, stylization, exploration and engrossing lyricism.
This is theatre - captivating musical theatre that jumps, rocks, tilts, bends, segues, spins, haunts and entices. Everyone involved - onstage and behind-the-scenes' - is not only on the same page, but infuse the production with an honesty and thrill reflective of the musical's original conceit and direction. 

Written for the stage by Steven Sater, "Spring Awakening" takes its inspiration from Frank Wedekind's intimate, explicit, controversial 1891 German play of the same name that was subsequently banned in Germany for its blatant, descriptive portrayal of sexual copulation, masturbation, rape, abortion, father-daughter incest, suicide, rape, teen pregnancy, homosexuality, fantasy, communal ejaculation, self-flagellation and blatant acts of self-inflicted masochism amongst 19th century teenagers discovering the intimacies of their inner and outer sexuality amidst a backdrop of strict bourgeois practice and morality.
As playwright, Sater (he also wrote the lyrics) digs deep with words, conversations, story arcs and characters that intuitively respect the original source material, its intentions, its details, its intensity and its dramatic seriousness.
Offset by a carefully modulated blend of lyrics, paired carefully and creatively with Duncan Sheik's potent, driven orchestrations, the duo's blend of catchy pseudo-pop, folk-infusion and alternative rock music transform this tale of sexual awakening into a hypnotic, voltage-charged piece of American musical theatre. It's all dotted and inked with affecting interrogation, scope, identity and voyeuristic probing, thrust and explosion. 

In the directorial chair at Connecticut Theatre Company, co-directors Erin Campbell and Becky McLean come to "Spring Awakening" with a fresh, invigorating mindset and keen, observant directorial style that lets the musical and its rock-based score fuse together with detail, conviction, strength and illumination. Given the seriousness of the subject matter, its tragedies and hardships, the duo accept the challenge of the musical's many story-driven elements and justify every moment, expression and movement with a freshness and vulnerability that allows the production to fly, click, breathe and resonate without missing a single beat, tick or nuance. 
As "Spring Awakening" evolves, they unite creatively and 
deftly mirror the gutsy, intense emotions, conversations and exchanges that define the original 19th century story and its reworked telling by Sater. As storytellers, they take chances. They experiment. They try things differently. They move to their own decided beat. They also push and pull with moody elan and control, thus, creating an impassioned, disturbing and raw portrait of teen angst and sexual awakening that gets you thinking, numbs the senses and sparks moments of rattle and roar which they use most advantageously throughout the production.
It's all here: flat-out truths, bared souls, consensual sex, back-street abortions, masturbatory fantasy, Lutheranism, homosexual couplings, scholastic challenges, depression, experimentation, pain and confusion.
No tricks. No games. No gimmicks. No pandering.
Just real, justified, revolutionary storytelling that under the directorial tutelage of Campbell and McLean is bold, brazen, passionate, grief-laden and bleeding.
Scene after scene, song after song, line after line, there's a marvelous sense of dedication and craftsmanship here feted with quaking honesty, gutting entanglement and cohesive expression and rhythmic, propulsive spontaneity. The lighting palate they create furthers that notion with moody, atmospheric, surreal nuance, shading and character. 

Musically, "Spring Awakening" is richly partnered in a solid tableau of creativity that serves the score admirably and collectively with obvious commodity, matter, sweep and knowingness. It unfolds naturally and intuitively with an expressed mix of humor, lightness, seriousness, spirit and drama concurrent with the musical's coming-of-age storyline, the rise and fall of its central characters, its grounding experiences, its values, its traditions, its tragedies and its weighty repercussions.
The songs, by Sater and Sheik, are well-placed and positioned throughout the musical story. 
They are: "Mama Who Bore Me," "Mama Who Bore Me (reprise)," "All That's Known," "The Bitch of Living," "My Junk," "Touch Me," "The Word of Your Body," "The Dark I Know So Well," "And Then There Were None," "The Mirror-Blue Night," "I Believe," "The Guilty Ones," "Don't Do Sadness/ Blue Wind," "Left Behind," "Totally Fucked," "The World of Your Body (reprise)," "Whispering," "Those You've Known" and "The Song of Purple Summer."
For this incarnation of the Broadway musical, Connecticut Theatre Company is represented by a driven, inspirational and talented team of musicians led by music director Nick Stanford (also at the piano), featuring the orchestral teamwork of Nicholas Zavaglia (guitar), Phoebe Suzuki (violin), Tyler Gauruder (viola), Sarah Barrett (cello), Matt McCauley (bass), and Bob Kogut/Nate Dobas (drums). In sync with Sater and Sheik's involved, emotional vision for "Spring Awakening," Stanford and his orchestral company address the duo's frenzied musical landscape with purpose, intensity and precision, reveling in the musicality of the score's arousing, adrenalized beats, its fiery, animated rhythms, its contoured, floating poetry, its shimmers of bittersweet humanity and its theatrical pitch and balance.
As the musical evolves, there's real dedication here - straightforward, vivid, mobile, tender, mood shifting. The orchestral sound is both passionate and intense. There's a richness and edge that is wildly consistent. Control and climax are powerfully executed. The combination of instruments is fulsome. Every musical number is played with great sensitivity and showmanship.
This fission of musicality is also prevalent in the vocals of the principals, the supporting cast and the ensemble all of whom connect with the uplifting, affecting music they are asked to bring to life with confession-like voice and discovery and its varying, rooted blends of melancholy, lust, sensibility, protest, anger, apathy, passion, desire and hope.

For example, "I Believe," which augments the passionate, hayloft lovemaking of Melchior and Wendla, is rife with plenty of sensual, moody, pulsating harmonies. "The Dark I Know Well," sung by Martha and Ilse, portrays the confusion, the horror, the humiliation and the torment of the pair, who sing openly about the parental physical and sexual abuse they have experienced and hopefully have escaped. "The Bitch of Living" finds Moritz, Melchior and the other boys – Ernst, Hanschen, Otto and Georg – hilariously sharing their very own sexually frustrated thoughts and desires with pumped-up, crazed vocal adrenaline. When Melchior is brought before the school's discerning governors for his written, explicit and disseminating information about the act of sexual intercourse, "Totally Fucked" is transformed into a feverish anthem and rousing cry of protest that rings loud and clear across the immersive Connecticut Theatre Company stage.

 Another plus of this "Spring Awakening" mounting is the insightful, athletic, raw and free-flowing choreography by Kim Saltzman who comes to the project with a vision and artistic elan that is addressed and realized with interpretative engineering and engagement that gives the two-act musical its mind-bending, dreamlike, transporting, surrealistic allure and liberating abandonment.
It's confident. It's energetic. It's voyeuristic. It's abstract. It's hyper-specific.
It's conveyed by Saltzman with touchstone celebration, continuity and artistic balance, reinforced by the story's themes, ideas, conflicts, revelations and hard facts. It is also very different in style and tone from both the Broadway and West End staging, a concept that gives it a fresh, exuberant life of its own mixed with emotive expressionism, organic thrust, lustful interplay and full fraught waves of intoxication and coordinated invention. 

Casting is key to the success of any "Spring Awakening" production and Campbell and McLean have assembled a talented group of performers - young and old - to address the plot, themes, tragedy and repercussions of German playwright Frank Wedekind's original story through staging, songs, dialogue and dance that bruises the heart, floors you with its beauty and pulsates with both potential and raw, natural honesty.

Galen Donovan, as the troubled, inquisitive, impulsive Melchior, naturally projects the image of a sexually awakened teenager whose ideals, beliefs and values often challenge those around him. It's an emotionally charged, sensitive performance that channels and portrays the emotions and curiosity of a 19th century student and dreamer, matched by pitch-perfect vocals - "All That's Known," "The Word of Your Body," "Left Behind," "Totally Fucked" - that heighten the musical's dramatic evolution, its shifts in time and place and its romantic, often dangerous allure.
In the role of the troubled, suicidal Moritz Stiefel, a young man tortured by anxiety and the day-to-day fears of failing his classes and disappointing his father and fellow classmates, Javen Levesque crafts a haunting, angst-ridden performance that he owns and inhabits with sheer magnetism, force, charisma and vocal chops that heighten and cement his important musical numbers - "The Bitch of Living," "And Then There Were None" and "Don't Do Sadness/Blue Wind." 
As Wendla, the sensitive, innocent young girl who captures and wins Melchior's heart, Montana Telman imbues her sweet-natured characterization with an instinctive confidence, curiosity and incentive that easily reflects both Sater and Wedekind's depiction of the character, her role in the drama, the tragedy of her innocent mistakes and her innermost thoughts about love, intimacy and belonging.
Vocally, she brings real drama, sweetness and pulse to her character's vocals, which include "Mama Who Bore Me," "Whispering," "The Word of Your Body" and "The Guilty Ones." She also shares a believable, tender-hearted and spirited connection with Donovan which makes their many scenes together bristle with excitement, sexual energy and sparked compassion and desire.

The always watchable Kerrie Maguire freely and intuitively immerses herself in the role of the bohemian Ilse, a troubled teenager who escapes an abusive home to live freely in the environs of an artist's colony where pretty much can happen and does with willing, consensual partnership. It's a deeply moving, in-the-moment performance that benefits greatly from Maguire's deep, visceral connection, her invention and inspiration and her quick, intuitive grasp of the "Spring Awakening" material. 
Musically, her dramatic take on "The Dark I Know Well," a pivotal, disturbing musical number which she shares with Martha, played in this production by the personable and engaging Krystina Diaz, is performed with stark, slick, jagged abandon that eerily portrays the evil in humanity that comes from a father's recurring sexual abuse of his daughters.
Much later, Maguire takes center stage to sing the lilting, heartfelt "The Song of Purple Summer" (the entire cast eventually joins in), a revelatory musical anthem about the emotional growth and birth of a new generation, who eagerly await a very liberated future. Her rendition of this Act II showstopper reveals a fiery, rock-solid intensity, matched by exceptional phrasing, technique and interpretation. Well aware of her vocal talents, Campbell, McLean and Stanford have expanded the role of Ilsa in "Spring Awakening" so that Maguire could be featured in other important musical numbers that originally didn't feature her character. 

Cindy Maher and Stephen Maher fill the shoes of the various adult characters they are asked to play - mother, father, teacher, doctor, abortionist, priest, piano coach, etc.  - with strict, rigid, conversative registry, manner, impulse and societal representation. Given the musical's 1891 setting, they effectively humanize their many characterizations with style, purpose, attitude and moral take-charge concurrent with the society of their times, their provincial, judgmental backgrounds and the hypocrisy associated with their strong religious Lutheran upbringing.
The supporting cast - Sarah Ford, Kevin Kiley, Faith Fernandes, Greg Mahoney, Tiernan Shea, Maxwell Dittmar, Krystina Diaz - offer real, honest, dangerous, driven performances that transform their individual classmate characters into seismic interpreters of the times, the story and the poetry that is "Spring Awakening." 
As actors, they go the extra mile. They offer up useful, important information about their role in the ongoing story. They click. They interact. They game change. They achieve. They are also a true ensemble of players, bound together by song, dialogue, dance and movement which they toss off with considerable ease, determination, humor, chat and remarkable musicality.
And that, in a nutshell, is a staggering achievement in itself.

"Spring Awakening" is being staged at Connecticut Theatre Company (23 Norden St., New Britain, CT), now through April 2, 2023.
For tickets or more information, call (860) 223-3147.

Monday, March 20, 2023

From the Desk of Jim R, Take 2, Column 381, A Review: "Moon Over Buffalo" (Sacred Heart University)

By James V. Ruocco 

What is farce?
In theater, farce is a silly, very giddy entertainment featuring characters, situations and dialogue that are purposely exaggerated, absurd, ridiculous, improbable and over-the-top.
Laughs, of course, are plentiful as farce relies heavily on physical humor, double entendres, deliberate nonsense, parody, choreographed confusion, mockery, lies, deception, swift action and broadly stylized performances to get the point across - all for the sake of humor.
Quick comebacks, tart witticisms, crude one liners, politically incorrect dialogue and misunderstood sexual repartee also play a key role in the ongoing buffoonery at hand.

Not one to disappoint, playwright Ken Ludwig ("Lend Me a Tenor," "Baskerville," "The Games Afoot") fills "Moon Over Buffalo" - a 1995 Broadway comedy that originally starred Carol Burnett and Philp Bosco - with enough slapstick humor, sexual innuendo and high energy to keep the two-act face fueled and ready for non-stop, door-banging fun reminiscent of "Noises Off," "Run for Your Wife" and "No Sex Please, We're British."

Here, George and Charlotte Hay, two fading, narcissistic, egotistical stars of the 1950s find themselves moonlighting at a theater in Buffalo, New York performing Noel Coward's "Private Lives" and Edmond Rostand's "Cyrano de Bergerac" in repertory alongside five other performers.
However, once they learn that filmmaker Frank Capra ("It's a Wonderful Life," "It Happened One Night") is coming to town to catch them in a matinee performance, all hell breaks loose. Rumor has it that Capra is scouting talent for his big-budget movie "The Twilight of the Scarlet Pimpernel," a period costume drama which, if he likes what he sees, could find the duo playing the principal roles of Sir Percy Blakeney and Marguerite St. Just.
This being a farce, Capra's arrival in Buffalo doesn't quite go as planned. There's also plenty of backstage confusion involving who's who, who's mistaken for somebody else, who's in the wrong costume and what play is actually going to be performed once a switcheroo is made on the repertory performance callboard.

As corny as this sounds, "Moon Over Buffalo" - as staged and performed by members of the Sacred Heart Performing Arts Theatre Arts Program - is tossed and bandied about with gleeful abandon, laugh-a-minute chutzpah, ceaseless energy and double-trouble thrill and spill.
Doors slam or open in rapid succession.
Costumes are accidentally ripped in two.
A lead male character is overcome by too much alcohol.
Someone accidentally falls offstage and into the pit.
An illicit affair with a co-star comes with a pregnancy announcement.
Pratfalls, sidesteps and drunken behavior are misconstrued as homosexual acts.
And oh, yes, where the hell is Franck Capra? And when, exactly, does he show up?

As farce, this production of "Moon Over Buffalo" is off-the-wall, precision-drilled mayhem tossed off by a cast of eight with well-sustained fun, frolic and dangerously silly roar and delight.
It's inked and dotted with farcical color.
It's dizzying and playful.
It's knockabout silly.
It teases and cajoles with immersive, hot-on-the-heels engagement.

Staging "Moon Over Buffalo" at Sacred Heart University, director Jerry Goehring (a Tony-nominated producer with credits on Broadway, off-Broadway and in London's West End) grabs hold of Ludwig's farce, kicks it into high gear, lets it breathe and resonate and fulfill its duties as an eight-character comedy knee deep in absurdity, improbable situations and patently silly giddyap.
The horseplay that ensues is matched boldly and confidently by Goehring's keen directorial stokes (at SHU, he has staged more than 40 different productions), all of which take their cue from the farce handbook - fast, furious, ridiculous, exaggerated - and hilariously accentuate the wit, gait and eccentricity prevalent in Ludwig's playscript. Here, comic timing is everything. One false beat, one wrong move or one missed cue, and it's over.
Not to worry, though.
Directorially, "Moon Over Buffalo" moves seamlessly from one scene to the next with everyone on stage perfectly in sync with the mechanics, mindset and melodrama of farce and how it is to be portrayed and reenacted through a live performance with push-and-pull momentum and frenzy. In turn, the rewards are boundless, thus, signaling a landscape of viable comic language, comfy acquaintanceship, actor-audience collaboration and zing and snap fulfillment.

"Moon Over Buffalo" stars Jordan Pita as George Hay, Abigail Palmer as Charlotte Hay, Maggie Devlin as Ethel, Maggie Ives as Rosalind, Graig McMenamin as Howard, Nora Delehanty as Eileen, Samuele Deluise as Paul and Samuel Easton as Richard.
Silliness, of course, is the key here, matched by alertness, inventiveness and movement pivotal to the story, its focus, its pacing, its timing, its mass confusion, its misunderstandings and its characterizations.
With Goehring pulling the strings, so to speak, all eight actors come to the Little Theatre stage with a full understanding of how to play physical comedy, how to articulate it, how to set up jokes, how to make sense out of every outrageous situation and more importantly, how to make the action flow seamlessly without missing a beat, a tick, a pulse, a pause or a rhythm.
It's a feat they pull off swimmingly, never once wasting an opportunity to make "Moon Over Buffalo" spark and shine or wear out its welcome before happily fading to black leaving plenty of room for applause, achievement, gratification and a healthy smile or two.

"Moon Over Buffalo" is being staged at Sacred Heart University (The Little Theatre at the Edgerton Performing Arts Center, 5151 Park Ave., Fairfield, CT), now through March 26, 2023.
For tickets or more information, call (203) 371-7908.

Friday, March 17, 2023

From the Desk of Jim R, Take 2, Column 380, A Review: "The Art of Burning" (Hartford Stage)

By James V. Ruocco

In "The Art of Burning," playwright Kate Snodgrass uses her complex, upfront and talky narrative to pinpoint the disintegration of a marriage, a bitter custody battle, a divorce, a proposed arson, a possible murder, sexism, infidelity, mediation, artistic freedom and creation, assault and parental control.
Lots of words.
Lots of choices.
Lot of arguments.
Lots of lashing out.
Lots of details.
Lots of bite.
Lots of anger.
Lots of flip flopping between time and space.
Lots of parallels between modem day life and the ancient Greek tragedy of "Medea" by Euripides.

What's real?
What isn't?
Who's lying?
Who's cheating?
Who's struggling?
What is the back story of the six principal characters and their role in the evolution of Snodgrass's emotional, edgy, often satiric play?

Suffice to say, the Hartford Stage production of "The Art of Burning" generates plenty of heat, excitement, conversation and conflict, offset by identifiable toxicity, confrontation, roar and mystery. It gets under your skin. It slaps you in the face. It empathizes and instructs. It baffles. It complicates. It stuns. It surprises.
And like "Medea," the Greek play in which the title character murders her children in a bloody act of revenge, it too declares that sometimes you have to kill the things you love in this world in order to save them. Or do you?

As playwright, Snodgrass creates an interesting work that mixes comedy and drama theatrically by pushing buttons, escalating scene shifts, story arcs, monologues and brief moments with gallop, pace, assertation and smock and smear. Some of it is well defined. Some it is alert and offbeat. Some of it is broken and idiosyncratic. Some of it makes complete sense or no sense at all as it toys with your emotions.

Staging "The Art of Burning," director Melia Bensussen takes hold of Snodgrass's play text, amps up the heat, adds alarm to the storm, elevates the important, driven dialogue with conscience and guidance and when necessary, accentuates the humor and acidity of the piece with apt reflection, entrapment and momentum.
As director, she receives able assist with her stirring interpretation from set designer Luciana Stecconi, lighting designer Aja M. Jackson and Jane Shaw (original music and sound design). Moving the actors across the chessboard-like set which lights up or incorporates moody, edgy illumination in the stage floor's carefully etched and enhanced grid system (reminiscent of the original London staging of Tim Rice's "Chess"), she creates a pivotal point of significance in the subject matter, its flashbacks, its pairings, its push-and pull tug-of-war, its underscoring, its surprise and its ever-shifting atmosphere of time and space.

"The Art of Burning" stars Adrienne Krstansky as Patricia, Rom Barkhordar as Jason, Michael Kaye as Mark, Vivia Font as Katya, Clio Contogenis as Beth and Laura Latrelle as Charlene.
The cast, all well chosen for the respective roles, bring plenty of emotion, angst, twist and confidence to the piece, which, in turn, heightens the play's attitude, footing, excitement, outrage and amusement. As a result, things are primed, ready, eerie and full of potential - aimed directly at the heart.

Photos of "The Art of Burning" courtesy of T. Charles Erickson.

"The Art of Burning" is being performed at Hartford Stage (50 Church St., Hartford, CT), now through March 26, 2023.
For tickets or more information, call (860) 527-5151.
website: hartfordstage,org.

Thursday, March 16, 2023

From the Desk of Jim R, Take 2, Column 379, A Review: "The Sound of Music" (Black Rock Theater/Broadway Method Academy Studio Theater)

By James V. Ruocco

A captain.
A governess.
A convent.
A love story.
Seven well-schooled children.
Singing nuns.
A daring escape.
A happy ending.

"The Sound of Music" - replete with its skillfully crafted music and lyrics by Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II - transports theatergoers back to the Austrian mountains of yesterday backed by a rapturous, melodic score of popular showtunes including "Do-Re-Mi," "My Favorite Things," "Sixteen Going on Seventeen," "Edelweiss" and lastly, the title song itself draped in abundant swatches of heart, emotion and genuine harmony.
It's beautiful.
It's sweet.
It's tuneful.
It's affectionate.
It's nostalgic.
Moreover, every word, every phrase and every song is lodged in the memory of pretty much every single person in the audience who bought a ticket to this oft-produced musical.

The iconic 1965 film aside, the two-act musical, backed by a talented, confident and equally delightful cast of performers - all ages; all sizes - transforms Broadway Method Academy's sweet-sounding revival into a ceremonious good time for fans of the Oscar-winning film, the original 1959 Broadway production that starred Mary Martin, Theodore Bikel, Marian Marlowe and Patricia Neway and the musical's many incarnations throughout the years.
This is wholesome, feelgood entertainment with catchy songs, adorable children and ready-made escapism. 
It's milk chocolate, candy-coated fun with homespun dazzle, radiance and demand.
It warms the heart. It lives up to its expectations.
It's singalong ready with perky, loveable enthusiasm.
It's spontaneous and respectful and despite its familiarity, it builds and sustains interest marvelously without rarely missing a beat.
Moreover, it doesn't tamper with history or the musical's original conceit as envisioned by Richard Rodgers (music), Oscar Hammerstein II (lyrics) and Howard Lindsay and Russell Crouse, who wrote the book. 
Set in 1938, "The Sound of Music" takes its cue from Maria von Trapp's 1949 memoir "The Story of the Trapp Family Singers" and the popular 1956 German films "The Trapp Family" and its 1958 sequel "The Trapp Family in America" which starred Ruth Leuwerik as Maria von Trapp and Hans Holt as Baron Von Trapp.
Then and now, it musically portrays the family story of a young novitiate who becomes governess to seven children, falls in love their father, marries him and becomes stepmother to his two sons and five daughters. For story purposes, some of the real-life events of the von Trapp family have been altered for dramatic purposes including the names of the children and the family's escape from the Nazis over the Austrian mountains in Saltzberg to Switzerland on foot. 

In its musical form, BMA's revival features all the songs from the original 1959 stage musical including two numbers that were cut from the film but nonetheless, essential to the story - "How Can Love Survive?" and "No Way to Stop It," sung here with melodic dash, spirit and panache by Brenna Donahue (Elsa Schraeder), Martin Giannini (Captain von Trapp) and Sam David Cohen (Max Detweiler). Here, as sung by the trio, both songs heighten the dramatic momentum of the story, its references to society and position, its politics, its compromises and the imminent arrival of the "Anschluss."
For this production, musical director Matt Moisey brings energy, contrast, mood, tone and great warmth to the original Rodgers and Hammerstein score, carefully conveying the intended meaning of every song, its sense of line and purpose, its story progression and its signature theatricality.

Staging "The Sound of Music," director Connor Deane ("Annie," "Evita," "Carousel," "The Addams Family") brings a memorable, breezy spin to the story, reinforced by a strong sense of clarity, eloquence, sweetness and coloring that heightens the musical's evolving narrative, its nostalgia, its optimism and its built-in cheeriness.
It's an inspiring, cheered-up approach, built around playful, important musical numbers, daft conversations, familiar characters, a smart mix of performers of all ages and more importantly, fresh, invigorating pacing of high expression, delicate simplicity, lightness of touch, controlled dynamic and smooth, straightforward confidence.

Emily Fink, as Maria, comes to "The Sound of Music" with a crisp, clear, beautiful soprano voice that brings a fresh excitement and musicality to every song she is asked to sing including the showstopping title song, "Do-Re-Mi" and "The Lonely Goatherd." Martin Giannini, as Captain von Trapp has a rich baritone voice reminiscent of opera stars at the MET. He is also well matched opposite his charismatic leady lady which makes their on-stage romance relatable and plausible throughout the musical story. As Mother Abbess, Michele Jennings delivers one of the production's most memorable musical numbers, the anthem-like "Climb Every Mountain" with an operatic mezzo soprano voice well worthy of a standing ovation. As Gretl, the youngest member of the von Trapp family, Marcela Perkins radiates the same charm and innocence that Kym Karath brought to 1965 film adaptation and Ashley Rose Orr playfully reenacted in the 1998 Broadway revival starring Rebecca Luker.

"The Sound of Music" is being staged at Black Rock Theater/Broadway Method Academy Theater (1935 Black Rock Turnpike, Fairfield, CT), now through March 19, 2023.
For tickets or more information, call (203) 675-3526.

Wednesday, March 15, 2023

From the Desk of Jim R, Take 2, Column 378, A Review: "Bed, Breakfast, and Broadway" (The Arts at Angeloria's)

By James V. Ruocco

A bed and breakfast.
A play.
A group of actors.
A complete mix up of facts.
A set of mistaken identities.
Mass confusion of the highest order.

According to playwright Dennis Reece, the idea for "Bed, Breakfast, and Broadway" sprang from a real-life experience involving his wife, a regional theater and their association with a director who actually owns and operates a cozy bed and breakfast that houses actors-in-residence.
Watching them run lines, slip in and out of character and ready themselves for opening night, Reece (assisted by co-writer Arlen Daleske) thought it would be funny to create a play within a bed and breakfast setting that not only poked fun at theater but gained mileage from unsuspecting visitors who didn't know the actor's rehearsing their lines were actual performers or that one of the guests was actually a Broadway producer scouting talent for an upcoming production.
In typical farce fashion, a newly arrived guest is mistaken for the actual producer while the real producer is forced to assume the guise of a hotel maid.
Who's who? Who's acting?
What's real? What isn't?

Suffice to say, "Bed, Breakfast, and Broadway" - now being showcased at The Arts at Angeloria's - whips up a mouth-watering souffle of giggles, chaos and nuttiness as a cast of nine brings balance and aching ridiculousness to Reece and Daleske's nonstop skewering of the theater world, its actorly populace and its promise of fame and fortune (i.e., overnight stardom) for one lucky individual.
It's corny.
It's dumb.
It's funny.
It's lightweight. 
It's over-the-top.
It's community theater send-up with flutter, batter, dry ice and grab.
Nothing more. Nothing less.

Staging "Bed, Breakfast, and Broadway," director Ed Rosenblatt is well aware that this two-act comedy has jokes galore, happily mixed with slapstick, lunacy, chaos, mistaken identity and exaggerated physical comedy. As director, his job is to make it erupt hilariously, which he does. And never once run out of stream, another directorial tick which he pulls off swimmingly.
Here, there's lots of ham - cut, diced, sliced and honey-baked - with intentionally cheesy aplomb, mug and egg, twitter and shake and exhausting farcical effect.

The cast, all in sync with Rosenblatt's comic vision, have great fun with both plot and characterization, portraying the hilarious opportunities they are given with rendered mayhem, reaction, amusement and sustained silliness. Each and every one of them are right for their respective roles and the chosen cartwheel of emotions they are asked to portray throughout the two-act comedy.
They are: Kevin Pelkey as John Cunningham, Dave Walton as Pat O'Brien, Kate Simpson as Sally Hendrickson, Suzanne Thorner Robertson as Marge Cunningham, Joe Passaretti as Fred Atkins, Kuhlken Corman as Jack Hudson, Peter Weidt as Bob Oliver, Mary Lou Mao as Olivia O'Brien and Patrick Cassidy as Patrick Olivier Bryant.

This production of "Bed, Breakfast, and Broadway" also comes packaged with a select, hand-picked, dine-in menu of delicious, treats, starters, drinks, desserts and a main course courtesy of Carmela Marie and Tops Market. Patrons move from room to room at the stunning Victorian-fused venue, guided by The Arts at Angeloria's charming, professional and courteous wait staff.  
The all-inclusive menu is as follows:
Pre-Show Welcome Course: Mixed field greens with smoked salmon, goat cheese, hard-boiled eggs, baguette toast and tomato/avocado salsa.
Intermission Main Course: Breakfast quiche, spring hash and savory bacon strips.
Post-Show Dessert Course: Waffles with whipped cream and berry medley.
Unlimited Drinks: Virgin mango mimosas, seltzer water, coffee, tea.
There's plenty to feast on and enjoy. Everything is made fresh and the portions at every course are generous, filling and quite pleasing to the palate. 
The smoked salmon is foodie delicious and bang-tang savory. The fresh greens salad is absolutely perfect as is the tomato/avocado salsa. The brunch-like quiche will please everyone at the table as will the richly flavored, smokey bacon. The waffle and berry medley is succinct and syrupy and doused with a heap of fresh and tasty whipped cream paired perfectly with your choice of freshly brewed coffee and tea.
There's also a meet-and-greet with the entire cast of "Bed, Breakfast, and Broadway" following the performance. 

"Bed, Breakfast, and Broadway" is being staged at The Arts of Angeloria's ( 223 Meriden Waterbury Turnpike, Southington, CT), now through March 19, 2023.
For tickets or more information, call (860) 426-9690.