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Stage Notes Connecticut Theater News & Reviews

Mary Bridget Davies To Re-Create Janis Joplin Role In Rock Musical

Tony Nominated singer stars in Broadway show about Janis Joplin. Tour heads to Connecticut.

Mary Bridget Davies re-creates her critically acclaimed starring role in Broadway's "A Night with Janis Joplin" when the show hits the road early next year, playing at the Ridgefield Playhouse starting Feb. 24.

The tour of the rock musical is directed by Randy Johnson, with choreography by Patricia Wilcox and musical direction by Tyler Evans.

The show is "a musical journey celebrating Joplin and her biggest musical influences — trailblazers like Aretha Franklin, Etta James, Odetta, Nina Simone and Bessie Smith, all of whom inspired Joplin to become one of rock 'n' roll's greatest legends." Among the many songs featured are Joplin's "Piece of My Heart," "Cry Baby" and "Me and Bobby McGee."

Davies received a best musical actress Tony Award nomination when the show played Broadway in 2013.

Ridgefield may be a destination town for theater fans this season. Upcoming show, films and "conversation" evenings are: Joel Grey on Feb. 19 at 8 p.m.; Mario Cantone on Feb. 26 at 8 p.m.; "An Evening with Groucho" with Frank Ferrante March 19 at 7:30 p.m.; An evening with composer Stephen Schwartz ("Wicked," "Pippin") April 2 at 8 p.m.; Alan Safier in the solo show about George Burns, "Say Goodnight, Gracie" April 29; and Betty Buckley May 7.

The theater also will be one of the sites for screenings (live and "encore" presentations) of the National Theatre Live! series of shows broadcast from its London stages to HD screens worldwide. "Jane Eyre" is set for Dec. 10 at 2 p.m.; Shakespeare's "Coriolanus" on Jan. 8 at 6:30 p.m.; "Les Liaisons Dangereuses" live on Jan. 28 at 2 p.m.; and Shakespeare's "As You Like It" Feb. 28 at 5 p.m. Information: ridgefieldplayhouse.org and 203-438-5795.

'Rocks' On the Road

"Christmas on the Rocks" is having a life beyond the stage at Hartford's TheaterWorks.

The show, which was conceived and directed by Rob Ruggiero, the artistic producing director at the theater, has seven notable playwrights envisioning what it would be like if children characters from classic Christmas stories and films were grown up with adult issues.

The work was such a hit when it premiered here two years ago that it returned last year. This year, a third edition will star Matthew Wilkas, Jenn Harris and Ronn Carroll. The show features short plays written by John Cariani, Jeffrey Hatcher, Jacques Lamarre, Matthew Lombardo, Theresa Rebeck, Edwin Sanchez and Jonathan Tolins

But now there will also be productions by the Triangle Players in Richmond, Va., and the Warehouse Theatre in Greenville, S.C. starting this month and next. Ruggiero says several other theaters are eyeing the show for next year.

Crane, Cumpsty To Star

Michael Crane (TV's "Kings") and Michael Cumpsty (Tony Award nominee for "End of the Rainbow") will star in the Hartford Stage production of Dan O'Brien's "The Body of an American," based on a true story.

The show will run Jan. 7 to 31, directed by Jo Bonney.

The play won the inaugural Edward M. Kennedy Prize, the Horton Foote Prize for Outstanding New American Play and the PEN Center USA Award for Drama.

It is a co-production with off-Broadway's Primary Stages, which will present the play in New York following its Hartford run.

Crane's most recent credits include "Father Comes Home from the Wars (Parts 1, 2 & 3)" at American Repertory Theatre, and "Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson," "King Lear" and "Richard III."

Cumpsty's Broadway credits include "La Bête," "The Heiress," "Copenhagen," "1776" and "Sunday in the Park with George."

Ruiz Returns To CT Rep

Richard Ruiz will play Sir Toby in "Twelfth Night" at Connecticut Repertory Theatre Dec. 3 to 13 in the Nafe Katter Theatre on the UConn campus in Storrs. Among Ruiz's credits (he is a UConn grad) are "My Fair Lady" and "Man of La Mancha" at the Rep.

Also cast is Andrew Ramcharan Guilarte as Malvolio. Guilarte, a Yale School of Drama grad, most recently had co-starring roles on the TV shows "Elementary" and "Madame Secretary."

The rest of cast includes acting MFA candidates Darren Brown, Arlene Bozich, Curtis Longfellow and Jeff DeSisto, BFA actors Juliana Bearse, Madison Coppola, Chester Martin, Brian Sullivan, Kevin Hilversum and Joon Ho Oh, BA Theatre Studies majors Olivia Benson and Max Helfand, and puppetry MFA candidate Mark Blashford.

Victor Maog directs. He is the artistic director of Second Generation Productions, as well as the vice-president of the board of directors of the Consortium of Asian American Theatres and Artists. He was recognized in October by American Theatre magazine as one of "20 Theatre Professionals to Watch." Information: 860-486-2113 or crt.uconn.edu.

Short Takes

>>Save the date: The kickoff for the Greater Hartford Arts Council annual arts drive "Big Red" will be March 10 at The Hartford Club.

>>Remember the world premiere of the musical "Southern Comfort" we reviewed at Barrington Stage in the Massachusetts Berkshires in 2014? The show will now make it's New York bow at off-Broadway's Public Theatre in the spring. From my review: "Based on Kate Davis' 2001 documentary of the same title about a group of transgender friends living in rural Georgia, the folk/bluegrass musical is sensitively drawn, melodically rich and tenderly performed. It also has a remarkable and memorable performance by Annette O'Toole as Robert Eads, the proud female-to-male hero." Directed by Thomas Caruso, the show has a book and lyrics by Dan Collins and music by Julianne Wick Davis and was conceived for the stage by Robert DuSold and Caruso. The show runs Feb. 23 to March 27.

>>Long Wharf Theatre's education department will partner with the New Haven Free Public Library to create Theatre Haven, a series of monthly theater classes from November to June at the Ives Main Library located at 133 Elm St. The classes, lead by Long Wharf's Director of Education Beth Milles and teaching artist Elizabeth Nearing, are free and open to all high school students. They will take place from 3 to 5 p.m. the second Wednesday of every month. To register for the classes, e-mail elizabeth.nearing@longwharf.org.

>>Yale School of Drama presents Aeschylus' 2,500-year-old trilogy of plays, "The Oresteia," Dec. 12-18 at the Iseman Theater in New Haven. Yagil Eliraz, a third-year MFA candidate, directs the show, which has a translation by Ted Hughes and original music by Matthew Suttor. Featured are Sebastian Arboleda, Andrew Burnap, Anna Crivelli, Ricardo Dávila, Edmund Donovan, Melanie Field, Jonathan Higginbotham, Annelise Lawson, Sydney Lemmon, Jonathan Majors and Elizabeth Stahlmann. Tickets, $15 to $25. Information: 203-432-1234 and drama.yale.edu.

>>New Britain's Hole in the Wall Theater goes Greek with Aristophanes' "Lysistrata," with a sexy new translation by Sarah Ruden, now through Dec. 5 at 8 p.m. with one Sunday 2 p.m. matinee on Nov. Rachel Teagle directs.

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