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Stage Notes Connecticut Theater News & Reviews

Tresnjak's Opera On The Big Screen; Drinks On Dickens; Hartt Shows

Coming to a cinema near you: “Samson et Dalila.” Darko Tresnjak’s directorial debut for New York’s Metropolitan Opera Company, will not only open the Met season Sept. 24, that Saint-Saëns opera will also be broadcast live in movie theaters Oct. 20 at 12:55 p.m. as part of the series “The Met: Live in HD.” Numerous Connecticut cinemas, including Buckland Hills 18, Bloomfield 8 and the Warner Theatre in Torrington, offer the Met operas.

Onstage “Samson et Dalila” will premiere Sept. 24 at the Metropolitan Opera House in New York City, where it will also be performed Sept. 28, Oct. 1, 5, 9, 13, 16 and 20, then March 13, 16, 19, 23 and 28.

Tresnjak (whose Hartford Stage productions of “A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder” and “Anastasia” transferred to New York) is one of several directors of Broadway musicals who are directing operas for the Met this season. Michael Mayer (“Triumph of Love” at Yale Rep in 1997, “ “American Idiot,” “Spring Awakening” and “Head Over Heels” on Broadway) will direct Nico Muhly’s “Marnie” for the Met in October and Verdi’s “La Traviata” in December. Also in December: the return of the Met’s Julie Taymor production of Mozart’s “The Magic Flute.”

Tickets On Sale For Met Live Opera Season That Includes Darko Tresnjak Debut »

Several Met operas directed in recent seasons by Bartlett Sher — the former Hartford Stage associate artistic director now known for his Broadway revivals of Rodgers and Hammerstein musicals — are being screened in New York’s Lincoln Center Plaza in August as part of the Met’s free outdoor Summer HD Festival: Gounod’s “Roméo et Juliette” Aug. 25, Rossini’s “Il Barbiere di Siviglia” Aug. 28 and “L’Elisir D’Amore” Aug. 31. Details at metopera.org.

Hana Sharif Heads To St. Louis

Hana Sharif, former associate artistic director and director of new play development (not to mention the director of plays such as “Gem of the Ocean” and “The Whipping Man”) at Hartford Stage, has been named the new artistic director of the Repertory Theatre of St. Louis. Between her time in Connecticut (which she left in 2012) and her impending move to Missouri, Sharif has been the program manager for ArtsEmerson in Boston and associate artistic director of Baltimore Center Stage.

Sounds like it will be a smooth transition in St. Louis: the Rep’s longtime artistic director Steven Woolf announced his retirement a year ago, has already announced the 2018-19 season, and will not retire until that season is done. That will give Sharif an entire year to get to know the theater and the community before she takes the Rep reins.

Drinks On Dickens

“What is the cause of his red shiny nose? Could it be Oom-Pah-Pah?”

— Nancy, in “Oliver!”

One of the best traditions at the historic Goodspeed Opera House is the special cocktails that the theater’s bar concocts for each show. For “Oliver!” there’s “The Oom-Pah-Pah” (beer and lemonade, garnished with lemon) and “The Oliver Twist (gin, lemonade and club soda, garnished with lemon). Lionel Bart’s musical, and the Charles Dickens’ novel it’s based on, contain multiple mentions of gin and beer, though I can’t find a single reference to lemons.

In the musical, gin is said to be served to children, but at the Goodspeed bar there are separate drinks for kids: Shirley Temple has been renamed “The Artful Dodger” and Roy Rogers has become “The Pickpocket.”

Review: 'Oliver!' At Goodspeed »

The best way to enjoy a cocktail at the Goodspeed is to order it in advance for intermission. You will find your drink on a little shelf in the downstairs lobby. Then you can take it out on the balcony and stargaze as you sip.

Goodspeed’s “Oliver!” run has been extended through Sept. 13. The show, directed by Rob Ruggiero, was originally set to close Sept. 8. Details at goodspeed.org.

Square One’s Three For 2018-19

Stratford’s Square One Theatre Company has named the three shows in its 2018-19 season: the political/religious drama “The God Game” by Suzanne Bradbeer, directed by Square One founder Tom Holehan, Nov. 1-18; Joe (“Memphis”) DiPietro’s marital comedy “Clever Little Lies” Feb. 28 through March 17 and Duncan Macmillan’s relationship drama “Lungs” May 2-19. These scripts are all of recent vintage — “Lungs,” which premiered in 2011, is the oldest. (You can find a different production of “Clever Little Lies” at the Connecticut Cabaret Theatre in Berlin in November.) Details at squareonetheatre.com

The Hartt Curriculum

Student performances at the renowned Hartt School for the 2018-19 school year include the plays “The Rimers of Eldritch” by Lanford Wilson (Oct. 4-7), “Our Country’s Good” by Timberlake Wertenbaker (Oct. 11-14), Chekhov’s “The Cherry Orchard” (Nov. 8-11), Shakespeare’s “Twelfth Night” (Feb. 21-24) and Euripides’ “Medea” (April 4-7); the musicals “Sweet Charity” (Oct. 18-21), “Nunsense” (Dec. 6-9) and “All Shook Up” (March 7-10); plus the annual Christmas treat “The Nutcracker” (Dec. 14-23). Now that’s what we call an education. Can’t wait to see what they do with “Nunsense.” Details at 860-768-4100, hartford.edu/hartt.

We Went Again

Saw “Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again” at my local cineplex last weekend. The major realization, from a theater-geek perspective, is that, unlike with “The Greatest Showman” or “Once,” it’s hard to see anybody contemplating retrofitting this film into a stage show. “Here We Go Again” is even more dependent on Greek islands and the water surrounding them than was the original “Mamma Mia” movie. (The first film was, of course, based on an internationally popular stage musical. Ol Parker, who did fine film adaptations of Oscar Wilde’s “An Ideal Husband” (1999) and “The Importance of Being Earnest” (2002), turned out to be a good choice to write and direct this combo prequel/sequel, jumping right in with an insane graduating-students-on-bicycles routine for “I Kissed the Teacher.” It made me giddy, as did Young Harry (Hugh Skinner) cavorting through “Waterloo” in a French restaurant.

Catherine Johnson (who wrote the book for the “Mamma Mia” musical) and Richard Curtis (“Love, Actually”) get “story by” credits alongside Parker.

I recognized ABBA members Benny Andersson and Bjorn Ulvaeus right off; their cameos may be fleeting, but they’re incredibly obvious.

My main nitpick: with so few ABBA hits left unused from the first film, and so many phones calls happening throughout this sequel, couldn’t’ve they have found a place for the underrated early ABBA single “Ring Ring”?

Rumors are already rife about a third “Mamma Mia” movie. Meanwhile, the original musical’s last national tour ended last year, so the rights have trickled down to small theaters and that show is now ubiquitous.

I’d rather talk about Andersson and Ulvaeus’ other Broadway musical. “Chess” (with book and lyrics by Tim Rice) had a brief Broadway run in 1980 and came back in a big way this year, with a London revival, a Danish tour… and a major reworking in Washington D.C. that may bring the show back to Broadway. That’s the ABBA project I’m most looking forward to.

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