“A Christmas Carol” is on the stage — and in the windows — of Hartford Stage. An elaborate diorama-style display that originally graced the storefront of the landmark Marshall Field & Company department store in Chicago in 1939 has been given to the theater. It’s a Victorian London street scene from Dickens’ “Christmas Carol” story, populated with gentlemen, wastrels, musicians and ragamuffins.
The display was given to the theater by Joy and Bill Kelleher of the Special Joys Doll and Toy shop in Coventry. It had previously resided in the now-defunct Yesteryears museum in Sandwich, Mass. Hartford Stage’s props and electrical teams restored the artwork to its former glory.
The 20th anniversary performances of “A Christmas Carol — A Ghost Story of Christmas” are at Hartford Stage through Dec. 30. The window display will be up through Dec. 31. Details at hartfordstage.org.
Arts & Ideas Leadership
The International Festival of Arts & Ideas’s search for a new executive director seems to have led to a new form of leadership for the 22-year-old New Haven-based cultural institution.
When Mary Lou Aleskie, the festival’s longest serving executive director announced last year that she was leaving Arts & Ideas after 12 years at the helm, a three-person “interim co-director” team was formed. That triumverate — longtime Managing Director Liz Fisher, Director of Development Tom Griggs and relative newcomer Director of Programming Chad Herzog — will no longer have “interim” attached to those “co-director” titles. Fisher, Griggs and Herzog are the official new leaders of the festival.
In a statement, Arts & Ideas board chair Gordon Geballe says “I believe their successful creative approach to shared leadership will serve as a model for institutions across the field.” Arts & Ideas also announced seven new board members, among them the presidents of Southern Connecticut State University and Gateway Community College and the vice president for student life at Yale. Details at artidea.org.
One month before they begin a 12-day run of “Woody Sez” at Westport Country Playhouse, David Lutken and other members of the show’s cast will lead a hootenanny. The public is invited to bring acoustic instruments to the “informal, unamplified jam session” Dec. 8 at the Lucille Lortel White Barn Center adjacent to the playhouse. Not only is the hootenanny free of charge, there will be opportunities to buy discounted tickets for the Jan. 9 to 20 run of “Woody Sez.” Lutken will return to Connecticut after “Woody Sez” to star in “Will Rogers Follies” at the Goodspeed Opera House. Details at 203-227-4177, westportplayhouse.org.
In a similar before-the-show-opens event, Peej Mele, in his role of “Elf on the Shelf’ from the saucy “Mama D’s Christmas Stocking” modern burlesque shows at Playhouse on Park, will host a “holiday greeting card craft night fundraiser” at that theater Dec. 7 from 7 to 9 p.m. Tickets are $25. I saw Mele (a playhouse regular, seen in “Avenue Q,” “[title of show]” and “A Chorus Line”) play the Elf in last year’s edition of Mama D’s Christmas Stocking”; it’s a creepily comical portrayal that has to be seen to be believed. Details at 860-523-5900 x10, playhouseonpark.org.
Of all the shows that opened on Broadway during the 2016-17 season, only a handful are still running. A couple of those (“Miss Saigon,” Charlie and the Chocolate Factory”) have announced that they’ll be closing in January. That leaves “Come From Away,” “Dear Evan Hansen,” “A Bronx Tale — The Musical,” “Hello, Dolly,” the non-musical “The Play That Goes Wrong”… and “Anastasia,” which had its premiere at Hartford Stage in 2016 and has been running on Broadway since April.
“Anastasia” outlasted “Groundhog Day,” “Bandstand” and several other highly hyped musicals that opened in the spring of 2017. The show — directed by Hartford Stage Artistic Director Darko Tresnjak, with a book by Terrence McNally and music and lyrics by Stephen Flaherty and Lynn Ahrens, has just put a new block of tickets on sale that suggests it expects to run through at least January of 2019.
“Anastasia” currently has the same main cast that it did when it was in Hartford, with the exception of Ramin Karimloo, who joined the show as Gleb only when it began on Broadway. He is leaving the cast on Dec. 3. His replacement will be Max von Essen, whose Broadway credits include “An American in Paris” and “Les Miserables.” Von Essen also has some long-ago Connecticut theater credits: “Blood Brothers” at Downtown Cabaret in 2001 and “Jesus Christ Superstar” at Connecticut Repertory Theatre in 1999. Details at anastasiabroadway.com.
Good For Goodall
There’s a new musical trying out in Washington, D.C., that features a Connecticut-based composer, a Connecticut-friendly choreographer, a director and playwright that currently has one of his other adaptations running in New Haven and a cartoonist whose work has run in the Courant for decades.
The musical is “Me…Jane: The Dreams & Adventures of Young Jane Goodall.” It’s playing through Dec. 10 at the Kennedy Center, which commissioned it as part of its “JFKC: A Centennial Celebration of John F. Kennedy” series. The show is based on a children’s book about anthropologist and activist Dr. Jane Goodall.
The book was co-adapted for the stage by its author Patrick McDonnell (creator of the “Mutts” comic strip), its director Aaron Posner (whose adaptation of “The Chosen” is currently at the Long Wharf) and its composer/lyricist Andy Mitton (who lives in Madison). The choreographer is Christopher d’Amboise, who staged “Newsies” at Connecticut Repertory Theatre this past summer. Even the show’s subject has a local connection: there’s the Jane Goodall Center for Excellence in Environmental Studies at Western Connecticut State University. Sounds like a show that really deserves to be seen hereabouts.