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Stage Notes Connecticut Theater News & Reviews

Hartford Stage Names 'Anastasia' Cast; Additions To Arts & Ideas Festival

Stage Notes: Hartford Stage has cast its musical adaptation of 'Anastasia'

Hartford Stage has cast its musical adaptation of "Anastasia," which plays the theater May 12 through June 12 and is likely to be Broadway-bound. The Hartford production will star Christy Altomare (Broadway's "Mamma Mia") in the title role of a woman suspected of being the last surviving child of Tsar Nicholas II of Russian, and Derek Klena (Broadway's "Bridges of Madison County" and "Wicked") as her love interest Dmitry.

The Dowager Empress Maria Feodorovna will be played by Mary Beth Peil, who plays the governor's mom on TV's "The Good Wife" and was in another Connecticut pre-Broadway musical try-out, "Triumph of Love" at the Yale Rep back in 1997.

The supporting cast is filled with Broadway veterans: Manoel Felciano as Gleb, John Bolton as Vlad, Caroline O'Connor as Lily and Nicole Scimeca as Young Anya. The ensemble, also brimming with New York talent, includes Lauren Blackman, James Brown III, Max Clayton, Janet Dickinson, Constantine Germanacos, Rayanne Gonzales, Ken Krugman, Kevin Ligon, Alida Michal, Shina Ann Morris, Kevin Munhall, Molly Rushing, Johnny Stellard and Samantha Sturm, plus swing performers Maxwell Carmel, Katherine McLellan and Riley Briggs.

"Anastasia" is based on the 1997 animated film of the same name (which featured the voices of Meg Ryan, John Cusack and Angela Lansbury), as well as a different, live-action, non-musical "Anastasia" film from 1956 (starring Ingrid Bergman, Yul Brynner and Helen Hayes). The musical's book is by Terrence McNally, reunited with the "Ragtime" songwriting team of Stephen Flaherty and Lynn Ahrens. Alexander Dodge is designing the sets. And, of course, Hartford Stage Artistic Director Darko Tresnjak is directing.

More Arts, More Ideas

The International Festival of Arts & Ideas has revealed several more highlights of its 21st annual fest, which runs June 10 to 25 in and around downtown New Haven.

>>"Steel Hammer," composer Julia Wolfe's post-modern deconstruction of the song "John Henry," staged by the SITI Company June 16-18 at the Long Wharf Theatre.

>>The world premiere of a new (as yet untitled) collaboration among world-renowned ballet dancer Wendy Whelan, choreographer Brian Brooks and the edgy string quartet Brooklyn Rider, June 23 and 24 at the Shubert.

>>The U.S. premiere of "The Money," a performance project in which audience members pool real money and then decide how to spend it, June 18-25 at the Quinnipiac Club.

>>The return of dancer/choreographer Kyle Abraham and his Abraham.In.Motion company, with "The Live Music Program," June 14-16 at the Yale University Theatre. It features a live score by pianist Robert Glasper's jazz trio.

>>Another creative clowning show from Acrobuffos, who performed on New Haven Green for the festival in 2013 but will now do their musically diverse, Odyssean "Air Play" show, with "air sculptures" by Daniel Wurtzel, inside Yale University Theatre June 21 to 25.

>>Arts & Ideas previously announced that it will present the U.S. premiere of the saucy, coming-of-age musical play "Our Lady of Perpetual Succour" June 10 to 25. The Lee Hall-scripted show is produced by National Theatre of Scotland.

NTS is also bringing back its pub-set "The Strange Undoing of Prudencia Hart" for a pre-festival run March 30 through April 3 at Yale's GPSCY Bar. "It's not as superficial as 'We're 21, let's do a show in a bar,'" laughs the festival's Executive Director Mary Lou Aleskie. "Prudencia Hart" had its U.S. premiere at Arts & Ideas in 2012 (at the Russian Lady) and has been on an international tour ever since. Since Arts & Ideas was "instrumental in launching this project," Aleskie says, it made sense to host one of its last stops as well.

The rest of the Arts & Ideas season will be announced in late March. For tickets and other details, see artidea.org

No Newsies Is Regional Newsies

"Newsies," we hardly knew ye. The Disney musical, which played the Palace in Waterbury in October 2014 and came to the Bushnell a year later, will end its national tour in October 2016. The next phase for the show is a slew of separate productions at regional theaters throughout the country, starting in the summer of 2017.

Wilsonmania

Those who witnessed the great theatermaker Robert Wilson's March 10 lecture/performance at the University of Hartford will be pleased to learn that Rufus Wainwright has adapted his score for Wilson's 2009 show "Shakespeare's Sonnets" into a new album set to be released by the Deutsche Grammophon classical label in April. Titled "Take All My Loves," the album will contain nine sonnets, with guest vocals by Helena Bonham Carter, William Shatner, Carrie Fisher and others. Three Wainright arrangements of Shakespeare sonnets previously appeared on the pop star's 2010 album "All Days Are Nights: Songs for Lulu." As for Robert Wilson, he's performing his production of Beckett's "Krapp's Last Tape" March 17-20 at Montclair State University in New Jersey. Wilson has been doing the show since 2009, but this is its U.S. premiere.

'Cymbeline' Ensemble

Jeffrey Carlson, who played the title role in Evan Yionoulis' production of "Richard II" at the Yale Rep back in 2007, will play Iachimo and Mother in Yionoulis' "Cymbeline," at the Rep March 25 through April 16.

Kathryn Meisle — who was Kate in "She Stoops to Conquer" at the Long Wharf Theater in 1997 and has since amassed a fine list of New York credits — plays Cymbeline, King of Britain. Also in the cast: Anthony Cochrane ("Owners" at the Rep, "War Horse" on Broadway, a previous "Cymbeline" at Lincoln Center) as Philario/Belarius; recent Yale School of Drama grads Christopher Geary ("These Paper Bullets!") and Monique Barbee (who was in "The Liar" at Westport Country Playhouse) as Second Lord and First Brother; Robert David Grant (from the Paul Giamatti "Hamlet" at the Rep) as Guiderus/Frenchman; Miriam A. Hyman as Posthumus Leonatus; Sheria Irving as Imogen; longer-ago YSD grads Christopher Michael McFarland (also from Yionoulis' "Richard II") as Pisanio and Sicilius; Sofia Jean Gomez (who was in "Safe in Hell" at the Rep over a decade ago) as First Lord; Tony Manna (whose previous four Rep shows include "Taming of the Shrew" and "Black Snow") as Cornelius and Roman Captain; Michael Manuel (from early '90s Rep productions of "Edward II" and "Search and Destroy") as The Queen and Jupiter; and two current School of Drama students, Jonathan Higginbotham as Caius Lucius and Chalia LaTour as Arviragus and Helen.

That's 14 actors in 24 roles, plus you might have noticed that there's some serious gender-switching going on.

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