The actor James Colby died on Feb. 23. He was just 56 years old.
Colby was inescapable during the Michael Wilson regime at Hartford Stage in the 1990s. He appeared in several Tennessee Williams plays that were part of the Wilson’s multi-year “Williams Marathon.” He was Stanley in “A Streetcar Named Desire” — Wilson’s first show as artistic director — and Rev. Shannon in “Night of the Iguana.” The actress who would become his wife, Alyssa Breshnahan, appeared in both shows.
I was greatly impressed by Colby’s Kilroy in “Camino Real,” a difficult role in a difficult play. He brought a boyish energy to the role, and many of his Hartford Stage turns were marked by physical strength and endurance. It could be exhausting just to watch him.
In 2005, Colby appeared with Breshnahan and Bill Raymond in Eugene O’Neill’s “A Moon for the Misbegotten.” It was a tricky gig. The show was a co-production with the Long Wharf Theatre, but with one big variable: John Procaccino played the sozzled James Tyrone Jr. in New Haven, then Colby took on the role in Hartford. He and Procaccino had very different takes on the characters, which rendered comparisons moot. Again, Colby brought a handsomeness and hardiness to the character, in this case a drunken has-been. It was illuminating.
Colby’s last role was Stan the bartender in the New York production of Lynn Nottage’s Pulitzer-winning drama “Sweat.” He’ll be missed.
Cirque Du Soleil
Cirque du Soleil’s “Corteo” will be at Bridgeport’s Webster Bank Arena July 18 to 22. The show dates to 2005, when it was performed under the company’s own bigtop tent. It has since been reformatted for stadiums and arenas.
Tickets have already gone on sale to the arena’s Cirque Club members. General ticket sales begin March 9.
Cirque du Soleil’s “Toruk” played Hartford’s XL Center about a year ago, and set an attendance record for a Cirque show at that venue (despite a blizzard). Cirque du Soleil has nearly a dozen different shows on tour right now internationally. “Corteo” details are at websterbankarena.com.
Alice Cooper is performing at Mohegan Sun Arena on March 8. Less than a month after that, on April 1, he can be seen as Herod on the NBC TV special “Jesus Christ Superstar Live!” Bonus tracks on his latest album “Paranormal” feature a reunion with the founding members of the Alice Cooper band, some of who are longtime Connecticut residents. The album itself boasts some fun throwback rock and roll, like “Rats” and “Fallen in Love (And I Can’t Get Up).”
Cooper’s theatrical legacy is profound. He cites “West Side Story” as an influence on his evil stage persona and covered that musical’s “Jet Song” on the “School’s Out” album. If you’ve never seen an Alice Cooper stage show, they are the modern version of such theater staples as Grand Guignol, morality plays and decadent cabaret shows. Can’t wait to see Alice’s Herod. (Much of “JCS Live!”’s supporting cast are reliable theater types such as Brandon Victor Dixon of “Hamilton,” Sara Bareilles of “Waitress,” Norm Lewis of “Phantom of the Opera.” John Legend plays the title role.) Details at mohegansun.com and nbc.com/jesus-christ-superstar?nbc=1.
Where Are They Now?
Remember the Long Wharf’s 2016 premiere of Samuel D. Hunter’s intense Northwestern family drama “Lewiston”? The play had a companion piece, “Clarkston,” which premiered a few months earlier at the Dallas Theater Center in Texas. “Lewiston” and “Clarkston” are finally being joined together in a single program this fall, as the season-opening event at New York’s Rattlestick Playwrights Theater. Both shows will be directed by Davis McCallum. Details at rattlestick.org.
Caroline O’Connor isn’t the only original “Anastasia” cast member leaving the Broadway production of the show next month. Derek Klena, who’s played the lead romantic role of Dmitry since “Anastasia” premiered at Hartford Stage in 2016, will spread his last “Rumor in St. Petersburg” March 25. Details at anastasiabroadway.com.
Long Wharf Theater Update
The Long Wharf, which let its longtime artistic director Gordon Edelstein go in January following sexual-harassment allegations, will be announcing its 2018-19 season any day now.
In a phone chat this week, the theater’s Managing Director Josh Borenstein (who has assumed Edelstein’s duties for the time being) told me that the theater will be continuing its play-development collaboration with the White Heron Theatre on Cape Cod. For several years now, Long Wharf has brought new scripts to White Heron for weeklong workshops that result in public readings. Long Wharf premieres of “Napoli, Brooklyn” and “Fireflies” resulted from that relationship. Edelstein had been directing the readings, but will no longer be involved. Long Wharf Associate Producer Drew Gray will be among those representing the theater at the readings.
As for new leadership at Long Wharf, Borenstein says that the theater has put together a Transition Committee, a precursor to a Search Committee that will select the new artistic director.
Only one member of the cast of “The Legend of Georgia McBride,” the Matthew Lopez comedy at TheaterWorks March 16 through April 22, has trod that theater’s stage before. And that one guy, J. Tucker Smith (who plays Eddie in the self-affirming comedy) hasn’t been at TheaterWorks in a decade, since “Blackbirds.” You’ll know a couple of the other players from other venues in the state. Jamison Stern, who plays the seasoned drag queen Tracy Mills, played the seasoned drag queen Zaza at Goodspeed Opera House in “La Cage Aux Folles” a few seasons back. The show stars Austin Thomas, a young actor with a bunch of New York credits, as Casey. Nik Alexander was in the ensemble of “Motown the Musical” when it played The Bushnell on tour. (That cast later went to Broadway.) Samaria Nixon-Fleming is Jo. Details at theaterworks.org.
The U.S. tour of the Steve Martin/Edie Brickell musical “Bright Star” has announced its new cast, which is who you’ll see when the show plays the Shubert in New Haven April 2 to 29. After starring in the show since its premiere at the Old Globe in San Diego in 2014, including Broadway and early West Coast tour stops, Carmen Cusack has relinguished the role of journalist Alice Murphy to Audrey Cardwell, whom Bushnell audiences saw in the ensemble of “Cinderella” in early 2016. (Cardwell, who understudied the title role of that tour, is also married in real life to its Prince Charming, Andy Jones.)
Jeff Blumenkrantz, who’s been with “Bright Star” since a pre-Broadway Washington D.C. run in 2015, is still playing Daryl Ames. Those who were with the show in its initial tour stops with Carmen Cusack and still remain are Jeff Austin as Josiah Dobbs, Patrick Cummings as Jimmy Ray Dobbs, David Atkinson as Daddy Cane and Allison Briner-Dardenne. New to this leg of the tour are Liana Hunt as Margo Crawford, Henry Gottfried as Billy Cane, John Leslie Wolfe as Daddy Murphy and Kaitlyn Davidson as Lucy Grant.
“Bright Star” is a bluegrass musical set in North Carolina in the mid-1940s. The tour only has half a dozen stops. Besides the Shubert, it’s playing the Hanover Theatre in Worcester, Mass. from April 12-15. Details at brightstarmusical.com.
Editor’s note: This item has been updated to correct the actor Caroline O’Connor’s name, and to correct attribution in the Long Wharf update to Managing Director Josh Borenstein.