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Stage Notes Connecticut Theater News & Reviews

Goodspeed Announces 'Rags' Cast; Yale Cabaret Announces 50th Season

Goodspeed Musicals much-anticipated revival — and revision of —the musical "Rags" has announced its cast. Samantha Massell, who played Hodel in the 2015 Broadway revival of "Fiddler on the Roof," will play the immigrant heroine Rebecca Hershkowitz. Rebecca's son David will be played by Connecticut-born young actor Christian Michael Camporin, who was in the Broadway casts of "Finding Neverland" and "Matilda." Sean MacLaughlin (Raoul in Broadway's "Phantom of the Opera) will be Sal Russo and Sarah Kapner ("Twisted Sister" and "The Murder Pact" on Lifetime TV) will be Bella Cohen.

Some actors who've starred in past Goodspeed musicals can be found in some of the show's many stand-out supporting roles. Max Bronfman will be played by David Harris, who was Billy Crocker in the Goodspeed's "Anything Goes" in 2016 and co-starred in "Rags" director Rob Ruggiero's production of "Next to Normal" at TheaterWorks last season.

Another person from that "Next to Normal" cast, JD Daw, will be in "Rags"'s noteworthy Quintet, alongside Ellie Fishman, Sarah Solie and Goodspeed regular Danny Lindgren (who most recently was Clark Gable in "Chasing Rainbows").

Adam Heller, who starred in "Fiddler on the Roof" and "A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum" at the Goodspeed, will play Avram Cohen.

Also involved: Nathan Salstone as Ben, Mitch Greenberg as Jack Blumberg, Emily Zacharias as Anna Blumberg, and Lori Wilner as Rachel Brodsky. The choreographer is Parker Esse, the set designer is Michael Schweikardt and the lighting desiner is John Lasiter; all three of those guys worked on Ruggiero's Goodspeed productions of "Carousel" and "Fiddler on the Roof." Costumes are by Linda Cho (Hartford Stage's "Anastasia").

"Rags" has music by Charles Strouse and lyrics by Stephen Schwartz. The show's book was originally written by Joseph Stein and has been revised by David Thompson. Details at 860-873-8668, goodspeed.org.

Yale Cabaret

The ever-audacious Yale Cabaret is opening its 50th anniversary season with these four shows: the immigrant drama "One Big Breath" written by one of this year's co-artistic directors, Josh Wilder, directed by Jeremy O. Harris (Sept. 14 to 16); "The Diary of Adam and Eve" (the Mark Twain riff from the Sheldon Harnick/Jerry Bock musical "The Apple Tree"), directed by Associate Artistic Director Rory Pelsue (Sept. 21 to 23); Canadian playwright Sean Devine's tale of political protest "Re:Union" directed by Jecamiah Ybanez and Wladimiro Woyno Rodriguez (Oct. 5 to 7); and "This American Wife," a multimedia "Real Housewives"-inspired "investigation into … obsession, queerness, performance" and fabulousness by Michael Breslin and Patrick Foley (Oct. 12 to 14).

The other co-artistic director of the Cabaret this school year is Francesca Fernandez McKenzie and the managing director is Jaime Totti. Everyone involved is a student at the Yale School of Drama — the Cabaret is a quasi-extracurricular opportunity where experiments and pet projects are indulged. The Cabaret does nine shows each semester, for six performances each. The space also serves beer, wine and food — the full menu has been changed this year to just small plates, desserts and snacks. Details at 203-432-1566 and yalecabaret.org.

Yale School Of Drama

Some of the same folks you'll see at the Yale Cabaret will be involved with the three main Yale School of Drama productions this year. Those, too, have just been announced. They are the thesis projects for the three people who will graduate next spring from the school's directing program, and are acted and designed by fellow YSD students. (I've seen over 70 of these productions over the years, and quality-wise rank them with any of the big regional theaters in the state.)

First up is David Edgar's socioreligious ensemble play "Pentecost" directed by Lucie Dawkins Oct. 3 to 7 in the same space where the play happened to have its U.S. premiere in 1995, the Yale Repertory Theatre. From Dec. 5 to 9, Shadi Ghaheri (who did some masterful work at the Yale Summer Cabaret this summer) directs Bahram Beyzaie's17th century Iranian drama "Death of Yazdgerd" at Yale's Iseman Theater. The third show is the Sondheim/Lapine musical "Passion," directed by Rory Pelsue (also busy at the Yale Cabaret this semester) Feb. 3 through 9 at the Yale University Theatre. Details at 203-432-1234 and drama.yale.edu.

Autumn's Theater Reading

A few books for your fall reading list:

"Up in the Cheap Seats: A Historical Memoir of Broadway" by Ron Fassler (Griffith Moon): New York theater anecdotes from a steadily working actor and writer who's not a star but has known a few. It's a great perspective from which to observe this small intense community. Fassler's "heroes of the stage" include Joseph Maher, John McMartin and Maureen Stapleton. He augments his own fanboy gushing with solid research and fresh interviews with other actors, then ends the book with a list of the first 200 Broadway shows he ever saw.

"What Playwrights Talk About When They Talk About Writing" by Jeffrey Sweet (Yale University Press): One thing Jane ("The Baby Dance") Anderson talks about is the "assiness" of David Mamet's dialogue. Marsha Norman discusses seeing her play "night, Mother" performed in Helsinki "on a block of ice." Among the nearly 20 writers represented here: New Haven's Donald Margulies, Roxbury's A.R. Gurney and long-ago Wesleyan University playwright-in-residence Arthur Kopit.

"Shakespeare for Freedom: Why the Plays Matter" by Ewan Fernie (Cambridge University Press): An overstated, overblown argument that's redeemed by some fascinating scholarly tangents. This book exists on a plane with those of Harold Bloom and other literary critics for whom it's not enough that Shakespeare's plays are good; they have to represent all of humanity. Still, the "freedom" theme is a welcome one in this day and age.

A.R. Gurney Remembered

There's a memorial service for A.R. Gurney at 1:30 p.m. Sept. 12 at a Broadway theater, the Music Box on 45th Street.

Gurney, who died June 13 at the age of 86, did have four plays run on Broadway but his real legacy was at regional and off Broadway theaters. Among the dozens of Connecticut productions of Gurney's WASP-friendly works: "Children" and "The Snow Ball" at Hartford Stage; "Let's Do It" and "The Cocktail Hour" and "Sylvia" at the Long Wharf; and a whopping 14 different shows at Westport Country Playhouse. The memorial will feature actors who worked with Gurney, including members of The Flea Theater's Bat Theater troupe.

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