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Stage Notes Connecticut Theater News & Reviews

Goodspeed's Announces 2018 New Musicals Fest; Idina Menzel Performing At Hartford Hospital Gala

Goodspeed Musicals has announced the three musicals-in-progress that will get hearings (in lightly staged concert versions) at the 13th Annual Goodspeed Festival of New Musicals. The weekend event, a major gathering of musical theater professionals and that special breed of composers and theater writers known as “emerging artists,” takes place Jan. 12 to 14 at the Goodspeed Opera House.

The shows are “Five Points” by Harrison David Rivers (book), Ethan Pakchar (music) and Douglas Lyons (music and lyrics), “Sweetwater” by Patricia Noonan (book and lyrics) and Sean Mahoney (music) and “Passing Through” by Eric Ulloa (book) and Brett Ryback (music and lyrics).

“Five Points” (performed 7:30 p.m. Jan. 12) is described as “the journeys of two men — Willie Lane, a young black performer at the famed Almack’s Dance Hall, and John Diamond, an Irish immigrant and former jig champion” in mid-19th century New York City. “Sweetwater” (7:30 p.m. Jan. 13) is a World War II tale of Beth and Frankie, who fly with the Women Airforce Service Pilots. “Passing Through” (1 p.m. Jan. 14) is based on Andrew Forsthoefel’s book “Walking to Listen: 4,000 Miles Across America, One Story at a Time.”

“Five Points” co-creator Douglas Lyons grew up in New Haven. He conceived, and wrote music and lyrics for, “Polkadots: The Cool Kids Musical.” That educational show for kids was staged at the Ivoryton Playhouse in 2016 and will be at Playhouse on Park in May.

The Festival of New Musicals weekend also features a symposium on “the role of the theater critic in the modern age” moderated by Colin McEnroe, several yet-to-be-announced seminars, a preview of the musicals coming to the Goodspeed’s Norma Terris Theatre for the 2018 season, cabaret performances at the Gelston House (next door to the Opera House) with Jenny Giering on Friday and Zoe Sarnak on Saturday, a “Meet the Writers” gaggle and the Saturday night festival dinner. There will be an exhibit about Noël Coward at the Goodspeed’s Scherer Library. The library will also be screening a video of the Goodspeed’s 1993 production of “On the Town.”

Single tickets to the musical readings are $25; $15 for students. Festival packages, with various combinations of the many events, are $80 (Silver Package) and $139 (Gold). Details of the 13th Annual Goodspeed Festival of New Musicals are at goodspeed.org.

Idina Menzel To Perform At Black & Red Gala

Idina Menzel — who was in the original Broadway casts of “Rent” and “Wicked” and who sang “Let It Go” as Elsa in the Disney movie “Frozen” — will perform at Hartford Hospital’s 2018 Black & Red Gala. The event, which will benefit the hospital’s Hartford Healthcare Heart & Vascular Institute, is scheduled for Jan. 27 at The Bushnell.

Menzel starred in the musical “Summer of ’42” at Goodspeed Musicals’ Norma Terris Theatre in 2000. Her most recent Broadway triumph was in “If/Then,” the national tour of which was at The Bushnell last year. Menzel will star in the new Joshua Harmon play “Skintight” at New York’s Roundabout Theatre Company in May.

Menzel was infamously misintroduced, as “Adele Bazeem,” by John Travolta when she performed “Let It Go” at the televised Academy Awards ceremony in 2014.

The Black & Red Gala, an unparalleled Hartford social soiree, has been around for more than a quarter of a century and has raised millions of dollars. Guests, of course, wear black and red formal attire. The 2017 Black & Red headliner was Fitz and the Tantrums. In 2016 the band Chicago performed. Tickets for the 2018 Black & Red Gala are $500. Details at giving.harthosp.org/blackandredtickets

A Broadway Rebirth Of ‘My Fair Lady’

Lots of Connecticut connections in the forthcoming Broadway revival of “My Fair Lady,” slated to begin performances at the Vivian Beaumont Theater March 15.

Liza Doolittle is being played by New Haven native Lauren Ambrose. Linda Mugleston, the accomplished character actress who was in the musical “Tintypes” at Hartford Stage back in 1998 and has been in “Hello, Dolly!” on Broadway this year, will play Mrs. Pearce. Other cast members include Harry Haden-Paton as Henry Higgins, Norbert Leo Butz as Alfred Doolittle, Jordan Donica as Freddy and Diana Rigg as Mrs. Higgins.

“My Fair Lady” had its historic first performance ever on Feb. 4, 1956, at the Shubert in New Haven, starring Rex Harrison and Julie Andrews.

The revival is directed by Bartlett Sher, who was the associate artistic director at Hartford Stage in the 1990s. Sher’s last big Broadway musical revival, of “The King and I,” came to The Bushnell on tour this year. “My Fair Lady”’s sets will be designed by Michael Yeargan, the Yale School of Drama faculty member who frequently designs for the Yale Rep, Long Wharf and Westport Playhouse. Christopher Gattelli (“The Great American Mousical” for Goodspeed Musicals) is the choreographer and Donald Holder (“Anastasia” at Hartford Stage, “Meteor Shower” at Long Wharf) is the lighting designer.

Barnum On The Big Screen

The movie musical “The Greatest Showman” hits cinemas Dec. 20. It has songs by Westport resident Justin Paul and his longtime writing partner Benj Pasek. Pasek and Paul’s hits include “Dear Evan Hansen,” “A Christmas Story — the Musical” and the movie “La La Land.”

“The Greatest Showman” is the story of P.T. Barnum, the circus showman who served Connecticut as a member of the Connecticut House of Representatives from 1865-69 and as the mayor of Bridgeport from 1875-76. In the movie, Barnum is played and sung by Hugh Jackman.

This is the first time P.T. Barnum has gotten the musical treatment. “Barnum,” starring Jim Dale and created by Cy Coleman and Michael Stewart, gave melody to the phrase “There is a sucker born every minute” on Broadway in 1980.

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