You can’t tell the players without a scorecard. Here are the (large) casts of a few upcoming Connecticut shows.
When it decided to remount Emily Mann’s McCarter Theatre Center production of the new Ken Ludwig adaptation of “Murder on the Orient Express,” Hartford Stage was determined to keep as many of the original cast members as possible. They did pretty well, though the actors who played Hercule Poirot, Countess Andrenyi and the dual role of Colonel Arbuthnot/Samuel Ratchett in New Jersey could not make the trip to Hartford. (The McCarter’s Arbuthnot/Ratchett guy, Max von Essen, just became the new Gleb in Broadway’s “Anastasia.”)
Here are the new passengers on the Orient Express: David Pittu (Broadway’s “LoveMusik” and “Is He Dead?”) is the mustachioed sleuth Poirot; Ian Bedford (who’s worked with director Les Waters, Michael Attenborough and Mark Rucker) is Arbuthnot; and Ratchett and Leigh Ann Larkin is the Countess.
Back for a return trip on this comical murderous train are Veanne Cox (Broadway’s “An American in Paris,” “La Cage Aux Folles” and “Caroline or Change”) as Princess Dragomiroff. Maboud Ebrahimzadeh as Michel/Marcel, Broadway and cabaret star Julie Halston as Helen Hubbard, Susannah Hoffman as Mary Debenham, Juha Sorola as Hector MacQueen, Samantha Steinmetz as Greta Ohlsson and Evan Zes as Monsieur Bouc.
“Murder on the Orient Express” is of course based on the 1934 Agatha Christie novel. This play is a comical take on the book, differing drastically in tone from the recent Kenneth Branagh film version of the same mystery. Details at hartfordstage.org.
The Long Wharf in New Haven is also doing a comic mystery by Ken Ludwig. This one’s more economical: “Baskerville,” based on the Sherlock Holmes adventure “The Hound of the Baskervilles” has a cast of five playing dozens of roles. The show runs Feb. 28 through March 25. The casting of Sherlock is inspired: It’s Alex Moggridge, who got the Jimmy Stewart role when the Long Wharf did “It’s a Wonderful Life,” also was in “Clybourne Park” there, and in Sarah Ruhl’s reworking of “Three Sisters” at Yale Rep. Daniel Pearce (from “Arms and the Man” at the Long Wharf in 2001) is Dr. Watson. Kelly Hutchinson, Brian Owen and Christopher Livingston play everyone else. Director Brendon Fox did the play last year at Cleveland Playhouse; Brian Owen was in that production as well. Details at longwharf.org.
“The Crucible,” Arthur Miller’s witch-hunting drama, will be at Connecticut Repertory Theatre Feb. 22 through March 4. As is its custom, CT Rep will mingle a couple of professional actors amid the otherwise student-based cast. The pros are Broadway and regional theater vets James Sutorius (who’ll play Danforth, the Deputy Governor at the Salem Witch Trials) and Michael Rudko (who’ll be Giles Corey, who with his wife Martha was accused of witchcraft). Student actors from UConn’s MFA acting program are Mauricio Miranda (John Proctor), Erin Cessna (Elizabeth Proctor), Tristan Rewald (Reverend Hale), Rob Barnes (Reverend Parris), Sierra Kane (Ann Putnam), and Angela Hunt (Tituba). Undergraduate UConn acting students in the cast include Nick Nudler (Judge Hawthorne), Zack Dictakis (Thomas Putnam), Elizabeth Jebran (Rebecca Nurse), Justin Jager (Francis Nurse), Rebekah Berger (Abigail Williams), Carly Polistina (Mary Warren), Gillian Pardi (Betty Parris), Tabatha Gayle (Susanna Walcott), Pearl Matteson (Mercy Lewis), Aidan Marchetti (Cheever), Ryan Rudewicz (Herrick), and Hunter Monroe (Hopkins). The director is Paul Mullins, who’s directed regularly at CT Rep (including “Hairspray,” “I’m Connecticut” and “The Comedy of Errors”) and is an associate artist at the Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey.
Lion In Wait
Everybody sing "Hakuna Matata!” The national tour of “The Lion King” is returning to The Bushnell for a three-week run in August. Tickets go on sale to the general public on April 5. The booking is a stand-alone event and not part of either the 2017-18 or 2018-19 season subscription packages.
“The Lion King,” directed by Julie Taymor with songs by Elton John and Tim Rice and a book by Roger Allers and Irene Mecchi (based on the 1994 Disney film), celebrated its 20th anniversary on Broadway last year. The national tour previously played The Bushnell in 2006 and 2010. Details at bushnell.org.
Long Wharf’s Next Moves
In case you don’t read the front page news, The Long Wharf has fired Gordon Edelstein as artistic director in the wake of allegations of sexual misconduct and inappropriate behavior.
When Eric Ting left a few seasons ago, the Long Wharf made the intriguing decision not to hire a new associate artistic director to replace him. Ordinarily, that would be the person who’d assume control of the creative side of a theater if the artistic director left. On Jan. 23, the Long Wharf board of trustees therefore “voted to consolidate artistic and administrative leadership under Managing Director Joshua Borenstein.”
I’ve known Josh since he was promoting student shows at Yale. He joined the Long Wharf initially as an associate managing director from 2003-08. He came back in April 2011 as interim managing director, becoming managing director for real that November. In a post for my old blog New Haven Theater Jerk on April 29, 2011, I wrote: “Even before he was at Long Wharf, Borenstein was knowledgeable about theatergoing trends in the area as a theater management student at the Yale School of Drama. He’s worked at the Yale Rep, Boston’s Huntington Theatre Company and Providence’s Trinity Rep. He’s been a guest lecturer at Yale and served on the board (as both president and treasurer) of the Yale Summer Cabaret. Can you ask for a better background?”
Borenstein works well with artists. I know from interviewing him over the years that he doesn’t shy away from tough issues. Plus he’s weathered transitions at the Long Wharf before.
This is the time of year when regional theaters are finalizing plans for their next seasons. According to several people I talked to at Long Wharf, much of next season has already been planned, and apparently doesn’t need much tweaking despite Edelstein no longer being part of the equation.
A Boyd Void
A few weeks ago in this space, I raved about the work of Gregory Boyd, who abruptly retired from his longtime post as artistic director of the Alley Theatre in Houston. A few days after Boyd left the theater, the Houston Chronicle ran a story alleging numerous incidents of bullying, inappropriate comments and other egregious behavior on Boyd’s part. Suffice to say that Long Wharf should not be putting Boyd on its list when it starts a search committee to find a new artistic director.
The Boyd revelations have soured my opinion of his work.
One wants to believe that great theater is the result of glorious collaborations, alchemical meetings of minds and talent in the service of grand illusions and enlightenments. When some shows are shown to be the product of raw intimidation, rudeness, ruthlessness or selfishness, the magic dissipates.