Casting For 'Native Son' At Yale Rep, 'Christmas Story' At Bushnell

When "A Christmas Story — The Musical" comes to The Bushnell Nov. 24 to 26 it will feature two of the lead players from when the show was at the Palace in Waterbury last year.

The twinkle-eyed Chris Carsten will again be the show's genial narrator Jean Shepherd, and Angelica Richie will return as the (mostly) straight-laced schoolteacher Miss Shields. New cast members include Tristan Klaphake and Edward Turner alternating in the starring role of Young Ralphie Parker, Paul Nobrega as The Old Man (i.e. Ralphie's dad) and Sara Budnik as Mother. Returning members of the show's 18-strong ensemble are Matthew Brennan, Brooke Martino and Wyatt Oswald. Details at bushnell.org.

The Nonie Newton-Riley Habit

Saints be praised! New Haven's Long Wharf Theatre is bringing back "Sister's Christmas Catechism: The Mystery of the Magi's Gold" for 16 performances Dec. 5 to 17.

The bizarre holiday adventure — a one-woman show with rampant audience participation that devolves into a Christmas pageant parody of CSI-type TV detective shows — was last at the Long Wharf in 2015. When booking the show, and others in the "Late Nite Catechism" series, Long Wharf always tries to get Nonie Newton-Riley (previously known as Nonie Newton-Breen) to star, and has nabbed her again this year.

Newton-Riley's an alumna of Chicago's Second City troupe and has played "Sister" for decades. Among the distinctions she brings to the role: an encyclopedic knowledge of Catholic saints, which adds greatly to her comic interplay with audience members (whom the nun treats as students in her catechism class). 203-787-4282 and longwharf.org.

Native To Connecticut

Several cast members in the new stage adaptation of "Native Son," Nov. 24 through Dec. 16 at Yale Repertory Theatre, have previous Connecticut stage credits.

Carmen Roman, who plays Mrs. Dalton, was Clytemnestra in "Electra" at Hartford Stage in 2003. The show's Dialect Coach, Ron Dalton, also coached dialects for "The Piano Lesson" at Hartford Stage last season. Director Seret Scott helmed "The Joy Luck Club" and "The Amen Corner" at Long Wharf, and back in the 1970s acted in "My Sister, My Sister" and "The Estate" at Hartford Stage; she'll direct "Flyin' West" at Westport Playhouse in the spring.

As for prior Yale Rep credits, Rosalyn Coleman (who plays Mrs. Dalton) was in "Miss Julie," "Troilus and Cressida" and "Starting Monday" (all back in the late 1980s) and Joby Earle (who plays Jan Erlone) was in "Owners" at the Rep in 2013. Most of the designers for "Native Son" are current Yale School of Drama students.

"Native Son" stars Jerod Haynes as Bigger Thomas; Haynes played the role in the play's premiere at Chicago's Court Theatre in 2014 and again at the Marin Theatre Company in California earlier this year. The cast also features Jessica Frances Dukes as Bessie Mears, Louisa Jacobson as Mary Dalton, Michael Pemberton as Mr. Britten, Jasai Chase-Owens as Buddy and Jason Bowen as Black Rat. The script is by Nambi E. Kelley, based on the Richard Wright novel. yalerep.org.

Where Are They Now?

George Salazar — DJ Skillit in "Raging Skillet" last season at TheaterWorks — will be half of a two-man cabaret show, "Two-Player Game," with songwriter Joe Iconis (TV's "Smash") at the New York club Feinstein's/54 Below for three nights in March and April.

When "Jersey Boys" begins a new New York run, off Broadway this time, on Nov. 22, its Frankie Valli will be Aaron De Jesus, who played the role in a national tour of "Jersey Boys" that visited both Hartford's Bushnell this past May and New Haven's Shubert in 2016.

Stephen DeRosa ("Anything Goes" at Goodspeed; "Assassins" and "These Paper Bullets!" at Yale Rep) will be in "An Act of God" at George Street Playhouse in New Jersey Nov. 28 through Dec. 23. The show stars Kathleen Turner (who did "High" at TheaterWorks in 2010).

Taub Gets The Ebb

Shaina Taub has won the 2017 Fred Ebb Award, given annually for "excellence in musical theatre songwriting, by a songwriter or songwriting team that has not yet achieved significant commercial success." Earlier this month, Taub won the Billie Burke Ziegfeld Award, a $10,000 prize meant to "celebrate an emerging female composer."

Taub's musical "Daughters" had a public reading in 2010 at the now-defunct Yale Institute for Music Theatre, and she returned to the Institute in 2015 to develop "Robin," which had a book by Jen Silverman. Taub is also a singer-songwriter who regularly performs at Joe's Pub in New York City's Public Theater.

Hand Cast

The religious comedy "Hand to God" won't be at TheaterWorks for another eight months, running July 20 through Aug. 19, but one of the leading roles has been preordained.

Tyrone, the evil hand puppet, will reportedly be played by the same hand puppet that is depicted in photos in the TheaterWorks season brochure and on the theater's website. The puppet previously appeared in the show at City Theater in Pittsburgh in the fall of 2016. The director of that production, Tracy Brigden, is also doing the TheaterWorks, and has opted to use the same Tyrone.

Brigden's last show at TheaterWorks was "Midsummer" in 2015. She first directed there in 2000, while she was also working as associate artistic director of Hartford Stage.

Tig Twice

Tig Notaro has been added to the "Laughter, Anyone? An Evening With Comedians" forum Nov. 18 at The Bushnell. The funny forum already features Marc Maron, Fred Armisen and moderator Colin McEnroe. Notaro will be back in Connecticut just a few weeks later, performing Dec. 10 at New Haven's College Street Music Hall. She first played that venue shortly after it opened in the spring of 2015.

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