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'Next To Normal' At TheaterWorks,' 'Eurydice' At CT Rep

Sarah Ruhl's feminist reworking of the ancient Greek myth "Eurydice" is set in the present day and gives its heroine a firmer hand in deciding her own fate — something she's been denied for centuries. This is the tale of how a smart and attractive woman is lured into the underworld by a character Ruhl dubs "The Nasty Interesting Man/Lord of the Underworld," and how her lover Orpheus tries to get her back.

The play had a major production in 2006 at the Yale Repertory Theatre, which featured cascades of water and other impressive effects. But Ruhl's script is sensational enough even when there aren't fancy designs involved. The play has found favor at college theaters, where its re-imagining of ancient themes has something for both academics who have studied the classic and young collegians in their first real romantic relationships.

At Connecticut Repertory Theatre's Studio Theatre, 802 Bolton Road, in Storrs (on the UConn campus) from March 23 through April 2, Ruhl's "Eurydice" is directed by Helene Kvale and stars Elizabeth Jensen as Eurydice and Zack Dictakis as Orpheus, with Coleman Churchill, Kent Coleman, Vivienne James, Jennifer Sapozhnikov, and Kristen Wolfe also in the cast.

Performances are Wednesday and Thursday at 7:30 p.m. and Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m., with 2 p.m. matinees on April 1 and 2. Tickets cost $7 to $36. 860-486-2113, crt.uconn.edu.

Situation 'Normal'

Brian Yorkey and Tom Kitt write sad, touching musicals about real-life problems. "If/Then," which toured through The Bushnell last year, involves divorce, death and despondency. "Next to Normal," which came to The Bushnell in 2011 after winning the Pulitzer Prize and several Tony Awards, concerns bipolar depression, grief and despair.

But Yorkey and Kitt shows are also life and love and family and community. The lyrics are clever, the scores are catchy and the plots have plenty of surprises.

When TheaterWorks decided to do its own fresh production of "Next to Normal" this year, it meant a level of production that the theater has seldom attempted in its 30-year history. TheaterWorks has done musicals before, but those have generally involved a couple of actors strumming guitars and singing pop tunes.

"Next to Normal" has musicians, all the technical support that requires, and a couple of accomplished Broadway actors in the lead roles. Christiane Noll (from the Broadway revival of "Ragtime," not to mention "Mack and Mabel" and "The Baker's Wife" at Goodspeed Musicals in Connecticut) plays Diana, who suffers from bipolar disorder, and David Harris (from "Anything Goes" at Goodspeed last year and "Les Mis" at Connecticut Repertory Theatre) is her husband Dan.

The gamble is paying off. Many performances of the show are already sold out. "Next to Normal" runs March 24 through April 30 at TheaterWorks, 233 Pearl St., Hartford. Performances are Tuesday through Thursday at 7:30 p.m., Friday at 8 p.m., Saturday at 2:30 and 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2:30 p.m. Tickets are $60 to $75. 860-527-7838, theaterworkshartford.org.

What's The Buzz?

Brace yourself for a slew of "Jesus Christ Superstar" productions. Sure, it's Easter and all, but the Christian savior is everywhere, with at least four productions of the Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice rock musical happening between now and mid-May.

First one out of the pearly gates is March 23 through April 23 at Seven Angels Theatre, 1 Plank Road, Waterbury. It's a full production, not a concert version, with a cast of 30 led by Christopher Faison as Judas, Aaron LaVigne as Jesus and Chelsey Alfredo as Mary.

Performances are Thursday and Friday at 8 p.m., Saturday at 2 and 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m., with added Thursday matinees on March 30 and April 6 at 2 p.m. There are no performances Easter weekend, April 13 to 16. Tickets are $42.50 to $57.50, only $25 for patrons under 25 years old. 203-757-4676, sevenangelstheatre.org.

Cuisine and Confessions

Even since "circus theater" first became an acrobatic, energetic, flipping and juggling genre of its own in the 1980s and '90s, Connecticut theaters have welcomed it with open arms. All the great touring circus theater troupes — many from Canada, some from Europe, some from New York — have visited the state.

The troupe 7 doigts de la main, based in Montreal, has been at the forefront of a new wave of circus theater that brings realism, raw emotions and a rough physical energy to their thrilling acrobatic, balancing, juggling and hurtling routines. The troupe has visited New Haven's International Festival of Arts & Ideas twice and also had a hand in the magic-filled Broadway revival of "Pippin" that toured to The Bushnell.

Its "Cuisine and Confessions" is set in a large kitchen. Dishes are involved. There is just one performance, 8 p.m. on Saturday, March 25, at the Jorgensen Center for the Performing Arts, 2132 Hillside Road, on the University of Connecticut campus in Storrs. Tickets are $34 to $40. 860-486-4226, jorgensen.uconn.edu.

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