TheatreWorks New Milford Announces 2015 Season

On Saturday, November 23rd, TheatreWorks New Milford provided an invited audience with a sneak peek of their forthcoming production of Ken Ludwig’s The Game’s Afoot. Following the preview, the beautifully appointed holiday-themed set served as a backdrop for various announcements from the Board at TheatreWorks.

President Glenn Couture took the stage, thanking the audience for making TheatreWorks Connecticut Magazine’s 2014 winner for Best Community Theatre. He then acknowledged the passing of some of our community’s most beloved fixtures, including Jude Callirgos Robinson and Nancy Camp, both longtime friends of TheatreWorks. Couture then announced that the passing of one of TheatreWorks founding members, Hope Meinhardt, would be commemorated with the naming of the performance space as The Hope Meinhardt Memorial Auditorium.

Board Member Jill Fay Pace then announced the upcoming children’s programs, including the two TWKids productions for 2015: Dear Edwina Jr. and Shrek Jr. Continuing the tradition of bringing lesser known or more complex pieces to the stage, Secretary Joseph Russo announced the Page2Stage selections for the next season, which include Tom Eyen’s Women Behind Bars, Terrence McNally’s Master Class, Israel Horovitz’s My Old Lady and the return of Jeff Goode’s The Eight: Reindeer Monologues, which was produced on the TheatreWorks stage in 1998. Russo also informed the audience that in the summer, TheatreWorks will be introducing a Workshop Series for Connecticut Playwrights.

TheatreWorks President Glenn Couture announces the 2015 season.

TheatreWorks President Glenn Couture announces the 2015 season.

President Glenn Couture then announced the forthcoming productions that will be mounted by the theatre. Kicking off the season will be Nicky Lyon’s comedy/drama, The Lyons, directed by Matt Austin. The Lyons centers on the passing of patriarch Ben Lyons as his wife and children face the prospect of a future without him. The Lyons will open on February 20th and will run through March 13th.

Priscilla Squiers will reprise the role of Florence Foster Jenkins in Stephen Temperley’s play two-character play Souvenir. Joined by pianist Greg Chrzczon, Squiers will portray the wealthy socialite whose fame was achieved through the performance of notoriously off-key recitals, including a sold-out recital at Carnegie Hall. Souvenir will open on May 1st and will run through May 23rd.

Following Souvenir, Pulitzer Prize winner Donald Margulies’ Time Stands Still will take the stage under the direction of Sonnie Osborne. The play revolves around Sarah, a photojournalist injured in a roadside bombing in Iraq, and her reported boyfriend James as they navigate the emotional aftermath of an event that alters not only their relationship but the way they will live their life going forward. Time Stands Still will open on July 1st and will run through August 1st.

In the fourth slot will be Ken Ludwig’s farce Leading Ladies about two down-on-their-luck Shakespearean actors who are looking to get a piece of an ailing woman multi-million dollar inheritance through whatever means necessary. Mistaken identity and unexpected twists will leave audiences rolling in the aisle. At this time, the director is to be determined. Leading Ladies will open on September 18th and will run through October 10th.

The 2015 season will wrap up with a production of John Van Druten’s classic Bell, Book and Candle under the direction of Joseph Russo. The romantic comedy introduces us to Gillian Holroyd, a witch who casts a love spell on her unsuspecting neighbor, Shep Henderson. Bell, Book and Candle will open on December 4th and will run through January 9th.

For more information about auditions, tickets and other events at TheatreWorks New Milford, visit their web site at www.theatreworks.us.

TheatreWorks Charms With ‘Avenue Q’

AvenueQ Picture

Avenue Q, the unconventional tuner touted as the “Sesame Street for adults” by Robert Lopez, Jeff Marx and Jeff Whitty, is truly the little show that could. It is the musical that snatched the 2004 Tony “Triple Crown” for Best Musical, Best Score and Best Book from Broadway juggernaut Wicked. It is the production that set the trend for downsizing Broadway shows to smaller Off-Broadway houses, allowing it continued life. It is the show that launched the career of Robert Lopez, the 12th person to win an Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony and the first to win all four within the span of a decade. It also boasts being the 23rd longest running musical on Broadway.

Under the meticulous direction of Bradford Blake, TheatreWorks New Milford’s production of Avenue Q is fresh, entertaining and lovable. The musical, whose primary audience grew up learning from puppets and Schoolhouse Rock, employs the conventions of educational television to impart wisdom of a different sort. Who knew in 2003 how timeless the themes addressed in Avenue Q would be? Underemployment, romantic entanglements, accepting differences and over-idealized expectations of our life’s purpose remain at the forefront of so many of our lives, no matter our age. While the subject matter doesn’t sound like fodder for a musical comedy, with the help of clever songs, raunchy humor and those adorable puppets, we find our funny bone is being tickled while our heartstrings are being tugged.

For those not familiar with Avenue Q, the story follows the recently graduated Princeton as he takes up residence in a neighborhood in an outer-outer borough of New York City. With his B.A. in English proudly displayed on his wall, Princeton befriends the humans and monsters of Avenue Q, who share similar uncertainties, challenges, successes and failures in post-college life. Lopez and Marx provide a witty soundtrack that explores the challenges of political correctness with “Everyone’s A Little Bit Racist,” or reminds us that the “Internet Is For Porn.”

Arguably, the stars of the show are the ones covered in felt and fur, and they are manipulated and voiced by a top-notch assembly of talent. As protagonist Princeton and closeted Republican Rod, Mike L’Atrella masterfully synergizes puppet and actor. There are times the movement of puppet and puppeteer are so synchronized that you don’t feel you are watching two separate entities but instead are watching one single character. L’Atrella’s facial expressions expertly animated the otherwize immobile faces of the puppets.

As the altruistic Kate Monster, Patricia McCarthy is sweet, sassy and soulful. Her expressive eyes and childlike pout bring Kate an innocence that makes the X-rated tryst with Princeton during “You Can Be as Loud as the Hell You Want” all the more riotous. Conversely, McCarthy’s rendition of the melodic “There’s A Fine, Fine Line” is memorable and heartbreaking.

Carey Van Hollen and Jamison Daniels expertly manipulate the two-person puppets of Nicky and Trekkie Monster. Moving hands and mouths in concert is a challenge that the actors rise to without missing a beat. As Lucy the Slut, Van Hollen pulls of the right blend of Mae West vocals and Marilyn Monroe sashay. Jamison’s characterization of the lewd Trekkie Monster and good-natured Nicky are perfect. After they introduce their humorous timing as the Bad Idea Bears urging the characters to have just one more Long Island Iced Tea, their mere appearance illicit a chuckle from the audience.

Rounding out the cast are the humans. Glenn Couture brings a nice sarcastic tone to wannabe comedian Brian. As Christmas Eve, Bo Mi Yim masters her one-liners with aplomb and Jasmin Love Barbosa lends the right amount of snark and eye-rolling to child-actor-turned-building-super Gary Coleman.

Musical director Charles Smith leads a stellar five-person band and mention should be made of one of the most musically poignant moments of the evening when L’Atrella, McCarthy and Daniels navigated the tight harmonies of “I Wish I Could Go Back To College.” The band, however, is located in the back of the house and the volume levels sometimes overwhelmed the actors onstage, making it difficult to hear them.

TheatreWorks consistently raises the bar when it comes to the technical aspect of their shows and this production is no exception. Richard Pettibone and Glenn Couture’s homage to that familiar street we know so well is spot on. What appears at first to be a simple apartment building fa├žade effectively transforms into the interior of several apartments, a strip bar, the top of the Empire State Building and a bedroom. Mr. Pettibone and Scott Wyshynski’s lighting design and Suzi Pettibone’s costume design are simple, yet effective. A word of praise should also be mentioned for the stage management crew who helped the actors with what, at times, can be three or four versions of the same puppet character.

In a time when musicals tend to be selected by theatres based on their timelessness, Avenue Q is becoming a permanent fixture in the musical theatre canon. With a bright score and a humorous and heartfelt book, Avenue Q provides an excellent evening of entertainment and it is flawlessly executed by TheatreWorks, proving that they deserved their recognition as the Best Community Theatre in Connecticut.

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AVENUE Q runs September 19, 20, 26, 27, 28, October 3, 4, 5, 10, 11, 12, 17 and 18. Curtain time is 8:00pm Friday and Saturday, with 2:00pm Sunday matinees on September 28, October 5 and October 12. Tickets for all shows are $28 for reserved seating. Students and Military personnel with ID will be admitted for $25. Tickets available at www.theatreworks.us or by calling the box office at (860) 350-6863.