Julie Andrews To Present Goodspeed Award

Hartford TheaterWorks' Rob Ruggiero has returned from staging “Fiddler on the Roof” in Greece.

Goodspeed Musicals gala fundraising event will have star power this year.

Julie Andrews will present the Goodspeed Award for Outstanding Contribution to Musical Theater to set and costume designer and director Tony Walton, Andrews' former husband and good friend. The event will be held June 6 at The Riverhouse in Haddam, across the river from its main theater.

Andrews, a former recipient of the award, has worked at Goodspeed directing "The Boyfriend" in 2005 at its East Haddam theater and staging "The Great American Mousical" in 2012 at its Chester theater. The Tony-, Emmy-, and Oscar-winning Walton did the designs for both productions.

Walton directed and designed "Where's Charley?" at the Opera House.

Noah Racey, who starred in "Where's Charley?" and "Irving Berlin's Holiday Inn," will be master of ceremonies.

Greek Theater

Rob Ruggiero, producing artistic director of Hartford's TheaterWorks, has returned from his month away in Greece, where he staged "Fiddler on the Roof" at the 2,500-seat Badminton Theatre in Athens.

Ruggiero, who staged "Fiddler" at Goodspeed Opera House last summer, brought an American musical theater sensibility to the Athens production, which was performed in Greek with English subtitles. The show, which starred Grigoris Valtinos, runs through the end of May, then will play Thessaloniki in early June and subsequently tour other cities in Greece during the summer.

Ruggiero says Goodspeed Musicals received a full promotional page in the Greek program, calling it "the home of the American musical."

Ruggiero is currently staging "Good People," which begins previews May 22 at TheaterWorks, then he's off to direct the musical "La Cage Aux Folles" at the Goodspeed Opera House in East Haddam.

(Ruggiero is casting the leads younger than usually cast — with men in their early to mid-40s — and the show's book writer Harvey Fierstein supports this approach.) Later this summer Ruggiero will stage "Oklahoma!" at St. Louis' 11,000-seat Muny Theater with Tony Award-winner Beth Leavel as Aunt Eller and Ben Davis (Goodspeed's "Show Boat") as Curly. That production, says Ruggiero, is the first time Susan Stroman's widely praised choreography from the 2002 Broadway revival will be replicated.

Tony Thoughts

Broadway's "An American in Paris" — which tied for the most Tony Award nominations with the musical "Fun Home" — will launch a national tour in the fall of 2016. No word yet if Hartford's Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts will be part of that first leg of the tour.

One would hope the theater would have a leg up because it's part of the producing partnership of the show through Elephant Eye Theatricals. But its previous producing involvement with "The Addams Family" didn't help the early routing of that musical towards Connecticut. Still, David Fay, CEO of the Bushnell, is thrilled with the success of the Broadway production, saying right now the immediate plans for Elephant Eye is keeping the momentum going in New York and developing the tour.

Also among the Nutmeggers receiving Tony nominations was Michael Yeargan co-chair of design at the Yale School of Drama for his design of "The King & I." Other Yale School of Drama nominees are: Joey Parnes (faculty) nominated twice as a producer of "Skylight" and "This Is Our Youth;" Patricia Clarkson (class of '85) for featured actress role in "The Elephant Man;" Jane Greenwood (faculty), for the costume design of the revival of the play "You Can't Take It With You;" William Ivey Long (Class of '75) for his costume design for "On the Twentieth Century;" Catherine Zuber (class of '84,) for her costume design for "The King and I;" Donald Holder (class of '86) for his lighting design of "The King and I."

Ruth Hendel of New London is one of the producers of "This Is Our Youth," nominated for best play revival.

The bad news is that the play "Living On Love" starring Renee Fleming posted its closing notice after being shut out of any Tony Award nominations, not to mention negative reviews and disappointing box office. The good news is that the play's prolific playwright Joe DiPietro (who has a few Tonys for "Memphis" on his mantle) has a world premiere at New Haven's Long Wharf Theatre: "The Second Mrs. Wilson." An earlier play by DiPietro – "The Last Romance" — is having a run at the Ivoryton Playhouse, too.

Two theaters in the Massachusetts Berkshires did well. Theatergoers could have seen two Tony-nominated musicals if they headed to the hills last summer. This latest production of "The Visit" starring Chita Rivera premiered at the Williamstown Theatre Festival. (They also could have seen Bradley Cooper in "The Elephant Man" the previous year. Cooper is nominated for best actor in a play.)

Over at Barrington Stage Company in Pittsfield, there was "On the Town," which was nominated for best musical revival, Tony Yazbek for leading musical actor, John Rando for his direction and Joshua Bergasse for his choreography.

Micah Stock, who was so good in Long Wharf Theatre's "4,000 Miles" a few seasons back, received a nomination in the best featured actor in a play category for the comedy "It's Only a Play." (All the other "star" names in the show were shut out.)

And composer Stephen Schwartz of Ridgefield will receive the Isabelle Stevenson Tony Award for charitable service.

Mac's Cycle

Taylor Mac is premiering "The '90s" at New Haven's International Festival of Arts & Ideas June 12 and 13. It is part of his decade-by-decade look at American popular music from 1776 to present day. Mac says the complete 24-hour cycle will be presented in New York in the fall of 2016. Audience members will have to pledge to stay for the duration, along with him.

As if the 24-decade cycle isn't enough to keep him busy, Mac and Mandy Patinkin is performing the two-hander "The Last Two People On Earth: An Apocalyptic Vaudeville" at American Repertory Theatre in Cambridge, Mass. Tony Award-winner Susan Stroman directs and choreographs the show that was also created with music director Paul Ford. The musical runs May 12 to 31. For more information, visit americanrepertorytheater.org.

Tony-nominated songwriters Justin Paul and Benj Pasek and playwright Timothy Allen McDonald are releasing the cast recording of the musical "James and the Giant Peach," based on Roald Dahl's children's book. You can get the free download at jatgp.com. The show, which recently played Atlanta's Alliance Theatre, received a workshop production at Goodspeed Musicals' Norma Terris Theatre in 2010.

The album features performances by stars from the stage and screen: Megan Hilty as Ladybug ("Smash," "Wicked") ; Christian Borle as Grasshopper ("Something Rotten," "Peter and the Starcatcher''); Brian d'Arcy James as Centipede ("Hamilton!," "Something Rotten"); Jackie Hoffman as Spiker ("Hairspray," "On the Town"); Mary Testa as Sponge ("On The Town," "42nd Street"); Luca Padovan as James ("Newsies"); Marc Kudisch as Ladahlord ("Thoroughly Modern Millie, "Beauty and the Beast); Daniel Breaker as Earthworm ("Shrek the Musical," "The Book of Mormon''); and Sarah Stiles (Avenue Q, off-Broadway) as Spider, with bonus tracks by Skylar Astin ("Middle of a Moment") and Megan Hilty ("Everywhere That You Are").

Short Takes

You might have wondered about the anonymous audience quotes in marketing for "The Theory of Relativity," especially since the workshop of a new musical has not yet opened at Goodspeed's Norma Terris Theatre. Well, we called and the main mystery quote — "This is 'A Chorus Line' for the 21st Century' — came from someone in the audience — no one knows who — at a staged reading of the show held a while back at Goodspeed's Festival of New Musicals. Goodspeed isn't the first theater in the state to quote anonymous theatergoers. Hartford's TheaterWorks and Hartford Stage has done it for online marketing in the past. Now, audience reactions are terrific ways to sell a show, but a real name gives the quotes credibility. Without it, one suspects that those quotes could be from anyone ranging from the director to the marketing intern to the playwright's mother. Now they wouldn't do that. Would they?

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