Stage Notes Connecticut Theater News & Reviews

Cathey Joins 'Endgame'; Full 'Christmas Carol' Cast Revealed

Reg E. Cathey will co-star with Brian Dennehy in the Long Wharf Theatre's production of Samuel Beckett's "Endgame," Jan. 5 through Feb. 5 in the theater's smaller Stage II space. He replaces the previously announced John Douglas Thompson.

Cathey's well-known for his TV work as ribs chef Freddy Hayes on "House of Cards" and mayoral campaign manager Norman Wilson on "The Wire." Last year in the movie superhero universe, he was Professor Franklin Storm, mentor and/or father of "The Fantastic Four."

But Connecticut theatergoers might recall Cathey's heroic stance as Philoctetes in Seamus Heaney's Sophocles adaptation "The Cure at Troy" at the Yale Rep in 1998, or his comic turn in Charles Ludlam's Moliere rewrite "Le Bourgeois Avant-Garde" in 1995.

Cathey attended the Yale School of Drama, graduating in 1981; that year, he was found in the very first of the Rep's Winterfest new-plays series, appearing in the OyamO drama "The Resurrection of Lady Lester." More than a decade later, he was in two plays at the final Winterfest in 1992: Suzan-Lori Parks' "The Death of the Last Black Man in the Whole Entire World" and Colette Brooks and Travis Preston's "Democracy in America."

Cathey also took part in a reading of Will Power's "Fetch Clay/Make Man" at Hartford Stage in 2010. He's maintained his live theater chops while keeping busy on the large and small screens. Recent New York performances include "White Rabbit Red Rabbit" in June and a free performance of "Antigone in Ferguson" last month. "Endgame" details are at longwharf.org.

Tammy Grimes R.I.P.

Actress Tammy Grimes died Oct. 30 at the age of 82. An endearingly outspoken and energetic actress, she was adored by Noel Coward, Anita Loos, Tennessee Williams and other writers who personally asked her to be in their plays. She won a Tony for the musical "The Unsinkable Molly Brown."

Grimes served in the apprentice program at Westport Country Playhouse in 1954. In Richard Somerset-Ward's history of the playhouse, "An American Theater," the actress recalled "I was appointed to press Richard Kiley's pants to his approval for each performance. This made me happy."

At the curtain call following her triumphant rendition of "They Call the Wind Mariah" at an Apprentice Night showcase, Grimes says she tripped over a raccoon coat she was wearing and "rolled down the stairs, giving myself a concussion." A year later Grimes was back at the playhouse as the hostess in its Player's Tavern restaurant. Besides a walk-on role in the legal drama "Libel" in '54, she first performed on the WCP stage in 1956 in Joseph Julian's comedy "The Gimmick." She returned there four more times, last playing the theater in 1978 in Samuel Taylor's "Gracious Living."

Grimes appeared in the premiere of "High Spirits" (the musical version of Coward's "Blithe Spirit") at New Haven's Shubert theater in 1964. Later New Haven appearances are not as warmly remembered. Grimes was dismissed from a 1996 production of Coward's "A Song at Twilight" because she could not remember her lines. She had the same affliction when appearing as Lady Bracknell in "The Importance of Being Earnest" at the Yale Repertory Theatre in 1986. Also in 1986, she appeared at the University of Hartford in the U.S. premiere of Michel Tremblay's "Albertine, in Five Times."

Another Connecticut connection is her 1956-60 marriage to longtime Weston resident Christopher Plummer.

When Grimes was doing "Earnest" at Yale Rep, I worked at a bookshop a block from the theater. She stopped in to chat nearly every day. Yale has apartments to house visiting actors, but whenever Grimes was in New Haven she would insist on staying at the Duncan, an old-fashioned hotel on Chapel Street. Charles Nelson Reilly and James Earl Jones (who also frequented that same bookshop when in town) both told me that Grimes had urged them to stay at the Duncan. She loved the old joints, the old traditions. She'll be missed.

'Anastasia' Already Being Honored

Stephen Flaherty and Lynn Ahrens, the composer and lyricist of "Anastasia" (not to mention "Ragtime," "Seussical — The Musical" and "Rocky — The Musical") are being presented with Broadway Dreams' inaugural Arts Advancement Award Nov. 21 at a gala event in New York City. The evening will include Christy Altomare and Derek Klena — who starred in "Anastasia" at Hartford Stage last season and who will reprise their roles when the show opens on Broadway in April — singing "In a Crowd of Thousands" from the show. Broadway Dreams is a decade-old organization that "seeks to empower aspiring young artists through performance arts training."

'Christmas Carol' Cast Announced

We learned last month that this season will be Bill Raymond's last as Scrooge in "A Christmas Carol — A Ghost Story of Christmas" at Hartford Stage. Who will he be sharing the stage with in his last journey with the spirits? Familiar names (some of whom have been with the show for many years) are Noble Shropshire (Jacob Marley); Robert Hannon Davis (Bob Cratchit); Johanna Morrison (Bettye Pidgeon/Old Josie/Spirit of Christmas Past); Alan Rust (Spirit of Christmas Present); Terrell Donnell Sledge (Fred/Young Scrooge); Michael Preston (Mr. Marvel); and Charlie Tirrell (First Solicitor/Mr. Fezziwig/Undertaker). Buzz Roddy will again play Scrooge at student matinees and on Dec. 26.

New faces include Vanessa R. Butler (who starred in "Queens for a Year" at Hartford Stage this fall) as a Ghostly Apparition/Weird Sister; Rebecka Jones (Mrs. Cratchit/Mrs. Fezziwig); Flor De Liz Perez (Mrs. Feed/Belle); and Hartt School students Troyer Coultas, Hannah Dalessio, Jillian Frankel, Nate Healey, Joey Heimbach, Spencer S. Lawson, Margaret Anne Murphy, Cara Rashkin, Eve Rosenthal, Billy Saunders, Greg Seage, Daniel Shea and Madeline Stevens.

There's also always a fresh pack of "Christmas Carol" kiddies: 6-year-old Charlize Calcagno and 7-year-old Hunter Cruz will alternate in the adorable role of Tiny Tim. Other young cast members (aged 7 to 13) are Ella Bernarduci, Atticus Burrello, Luciana Calcagno, Celine Cardona, Miguel Cardona Jr., Fred Faulkner, Sophie Friedman, Lily Girard, Norah Girard, Nicholas Glowacki, Brendan Reilly Harris, Emma Kindl, Max McGowan, Timothy McGuire, Aidan McMillan, Dermot McMillan, Andrew Michaels, Addison Pancoast, Ethan Pancoast, Ankit Roy, Fred Thornley IV, Sophia Rose Tomko, Ava Vercellone, Jack Wenz, Julia Weston and Tilden Wilder.

The show also has a new director this season, charged with maintaining the quality of a production that has been essentially the same since it debuted in 1998. It's Rachel Alderman, who assisted Maxwell Williams last year. Details at hartfordstage.org.

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