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Stage Notes Connecticut Theater News & Reviews

Hartford Stage Schedules Cast Talkbacks For Bill Raymond

The Alliance Theatre in Atlanta recently challenged Hartford Stage to a "mannequin challenge." That's the new online sensation in which participants remain frozen in place while a camera pans around their environments. The cast and crew of "A Christmas Carol" and assorted Hartford Stage staffers — some 60 people in total — stood stock still for three solid minutes as a camera swooped around the stage, backstage and lobby of the theater.

In the video, Hartford Stage Managing Director Michael Stotts can be seen pouring drinks in the lobby bar. Techies are shown assaulting the sound board with a saw and a mallet. A skeletal ghost confronts Scrooge (Bill Raymond) in his bed. Children make cute faces while holding Christmas presents, pieces of fruit and a giant turkey.

The video was filmed by Allison Gold. She and "A Christmas Carol" new director Rachel Alderman were in charge of the staging. (There's a sly visual reference to Alderman's New Haven-based theater company A Broken Umbrella in the video.) Audio/visual supervisor Lucas Clopton helped with production.

Having completed the mannequin challenge, Hartford Stage in turn challenged other regional theater companies that stage the Michael Wilson adaptation of "A Christmas Carol." This includes Ford's Theatre in Washington, D.C., and The Alley Theatre in Houston.

Hartford Stage's video can be found on the theater's Facebook page, or on YouTube at youtu.be/3ipKUYUMzes

Haupt Leaves The O'Neill

Paulette Haupt, who founded the National Music Theater Conference at the Eugene O'Neill Theater Center and has been its artistic director for the past 40 years, is stepping down after the 2017 summer season. Musicals developed at the conference include "Nine," "In the Heights," "Avenue Q," "In Transit" and over 180 others. The first show selected for the conference, in 1978, was a folk opera based on a Eugene O'Neill play, "Desire Under the Elms." The musical "Martin Guerre," developed at the conference at 1988, was given a full production at Hartford Stage in 1993. "The Gig" and "Captains Courageous" went from the O'Neill to the Goodspeed.

A national search for Haupt's successor will begin soon, and the musicals-in-progress selected for her final season at the O'Neill will be announced in the spring.

Theater Collecting For Coats For Connecticut

The Goodspeed Opera House, which just completed a Thanksgiving-themed food drive, continues its charitable works this month by becoming a drop-off spot for Coats for Connecticut. The organization collects winter coats, mittens, hats and scarves, which may be dropped off in the Goodspeed Opera House lobby from Dec. 1-23. Best Cleaners will clean the offerings and help deliver them to those in need. Details at coatsforct.org.

Talkbacks To Honor Bill Raymond

Hartford Stage added special "cast talkbacks" for "A Christmas Carol." According to the theater's director of marketing David Henderson, "We do not usually do talkbacks on 'A Christmas Carol,' but we have had so many folks asking for ways to communicate with Bill Raymond, to hear from him and to wish him well."

This is Raymond's final year portraying Scrooge, a role he has performed at Hartford Stage for all but two seasons since "A Christmas Carol" began in 1998.

The talkbacks were scheduled to follow the 7:30 p.m. Wednesday performances on Dec. 7 and 14, and the 2 p.m. Saturday matinee on Dec. 10.

The theater has also created another way for audience members to communicate with the beloved Bill Raymond: a "Letters to Bill" area of the theater lobby, where notes and postcards can be left for him. Hundreds were already penned during the first few performances of the show, which runs through Dec. 30. Details on "A Christmas Carol" at hartfordstage.org.

Frogs Across The Pond

Stephen Sondheim and Burt Shevelove's "The Frogs" is getting its U.K. premiere this spring. That's 42 years after the musical, based on the Aristophanes comedy, had its premiere at Yale — in the university swimming pool, with a cast that featured Larry Blyden as Dionysus and Yale School of Drama students Meryl Streep, Sigourney Weaver and Christopher Durang in the chorus. In 2004, Nathan Lane adapted the show and starred in it on Broadway. It's the Lane version that's being done March 14 through April 8 at London's Jermyn Street Theatre.

Sondheim and Shevelove's other major musical collaboration also had New Haven roots. "A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum" had its pre-Broadway try-out at the Shubert in New Haven, where it was realized that a rousing opening number was needed to clue the audience that this was a comedy. That song, "Comedy Tonight," changed the show's fortunes.

Lin-Manuel Miranda Update

The storied Wesleyan grad and Eugene O'Neill Theater Center alum saw the release of two major non-theater projects in the past few weeks. The Disney animated feature "Moana," for which Miranda co-wrote the songs, was released Nov. 23 and remains the No. 1 film in the country. Miranda can be heard on the song "We Know the Way" in the movie, but if you buy the deluxe edition of the soundtrack you can hear him sing demos and outtakes of "You're Welcome," "Shiny," "Warrior Face" and other tunes.

"The Hamilton Mixtape," a 23-track CD of songs from Miranda's musical "Hamilton" redone by big-deal recording artists, was released Dec. 2. It was celebrated with a live-streamed concert Dec. 1 at the Richard Rodgers Theatre in New York (where "Hamilton" has been playing since August 2015) and in a special segment on "The Tonight Show" Dec. 5. (Jimmy Fallon sings King George's song "You'll Be Back" on the album, and the show's house band The Roots plays on many tracks.) YouTube has ample evidence of both broadcasts.

The album itself has many magical moments, among them Regina Spektor and Ben Folds' pop-smart "Dear Theodosia," Andra Day roaring through "Burn," John Legend's soulful "History Has Its Eyes on You" and the rewritten contemporized raps on "My Shot" (performed by Busta Rhymes, Joell Ortiz and Nate Ruess) and "Washingtons By Your Side" (Wiz Khalifia).

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