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Monday, August 11, 2008

The Unsinkable Carrie Fisher performs "Wishful Drinking" at the HSC

HARTFORD - "Born to simple folk," Carrie Fisher jokes about life in her one-woman show "Wishful Drinking" at the Hartford Stage Company.

Any way you look at it, Carrie Fisher has had quite a life. She is the daughter of singer Eddie Fisher and film icon Debbie Reynolds.

Her mother may have starred in the movie "The Unsinkable Molly Brown," among many other films, but that title just as aptly sums up Carrie Fisher’s life and her will to not only survive, but thrive with her sense of humor intact.

Her show is a walk down memory lane - her recollections as a celebrity child, singing in the chorus in one of her mother’s shows on Broadway (Isn’t that what all children do? she asks), to her own iconic performance as Princess Leia in “Star Wars," all while tossing out clever, witty one-liners at light-saber speed.

The set, by Alexander V. Nichols, who also is the lighting and production designer, is a cozy living room, with an asymmetrical backdrop that neatly serves as a projection screen, with images of her famous parents and many other well-known visages, including the woman her Eddie left Debbie for Elizabeth Taylor, who subsequently left Eddie Fisher for Richard Burton, and on and on.

Think of the love-triangle as Jennifer Aniston, Brad Pitt, and Anjelina Jolie of the 1960s, she says.

When her father started having an affair with Taylor, Fisher understates: "It made marriage to my mother awkward."

Carrie Fisher has had some extreme experiences, like when a gay pal of hers, R. Gregory Stevens, died in bed next to her in 2005 - a traumatic experience she goes into great detail about.

She speaks also of her relationship with the singer and songwriter Paul Simon, with whom she felt "the secret handshake of shared sensibility." They were together for years, but eventually parted. The director Mike Nichols said she and Simon "were two flowers without a garden."

She talks a lot about her struggle with substance abuse, as well as the bipolar diagnosis that she carries with her like an extra appendage. Being bipolar and manic she says makes her feel that "instant gratification takes too long."

While Carl Marx may have believed that "religion is the opiate of the masses," Fisher says, she took "masses of opiates religiously."

But for a couple of memory lapses, due she says to her recently receiving electroshock therapy, her light banter and quick, sardonic wit is best showcased when the house lights go up and she engages the audience in a question-and-answer repartee. She gently teases, cajoles, and wins the hearts of the audience members with her charm, grace, and desire to please.

Her insider experiences starring in "Star Wars" are funny. She says these days she is tracked "by a small band of stalkers," and has seen her "Princess Leia" likeness with that kooky ear muff wig, in the form of shampoo bottles where her head twists off, soap, a doll, and even a Pez candy dispenser.

She revealed that the "Star Wars" creator and director, George Lucas, told her she couldn’t wear a bra in the films. When she asked why, Lucas said: "Because there are no bras in space."

Fisher says her life makes a good anecdote, but a bad reality. Lucky for the audience, they get to reap the reward of her many trials and travails. Hopefully she gets some joy out of sharing her life too - She sure deserves it.

3 1/2 Stars
Theater: Hartford Stage Company
Location: 50 Church Street, Hartford, Conn.
Production: Written and performed by Carrie Fisher. Directed by Tony Taccone. Scenic design, lighting design, and production design by Alexander V. Nichols.
Running time: 2 hours, plus one 15-minute intermission
Show Times: Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday at 7:30 p.m., Friday and Saturday performances at 8 p.m., with matinee performances Saturday and Sunday at 2 p.m. through August 17. There will be no Sunday evening performance.
Tickets: $26 to $55. For further information call their box office at 860-527-5151, or visit their website a

Carrie Fisher...Herself

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Perky, lively "Half a Sixpence" at Goodspeed

EAST HADDAM - If entertainment is what you’re looking for, then "Half a Sixpence" the perky, lively, perfectly cast musical at the Goodspeed Opera House is for you.
Based on a novel written by H.G. Wells, best known for his science fiction, the musical is set in 1900 Folkestone, England. It traces the rise and fall and rise of Arthur Kipps, played with impish verve and perpetual charm by Jon Peterson.
Kipps is a shop apprentice who inherits 300,000 pounds, leaves his long-time girlfriend, the maid Ann, played by Sara Gettelfinger, sees the world and falls for a wealthy young woman, Helen, played by Julia Osborne, only to lose his fortune, and then get it back, having invested in a play before he loses his fortune, which turns into a run-away hit.
Peterson, who will be 46 on Saturday, has the look of perpetual youth, with a head of hair that defies gravity. Trained from the age of 9 as a classical ballet dancer at the Royal Ballet School, Peterson is a lithesome dancer who more than keeps up with fellow dancers half his age.
"Half a Sixpence" was written as a vehicle for the English entertainer, Tommy Steele, who starred in the show in England and then in 1965 on Broadway. It was later made into a film starring Steele.
The musical looses some momentum during the two scenes without music in the middle of the first act, but thankfully picks up once the songs return.
Once again, the Goodspeed does what they do best - squeeze a bunch of sparkling talent on a tiny stage - highlighting lesser-known but fine musical treasures.
On a proscenium stage only 28 feet wide and 19 feet deep, with barely any room in the wings, the terrific dancers and singers perform precise ensemble numbers, choreographed by Patti Colombo.
The period costumes by David C. Wollard are as numerous as they are gorgeous - especially outstanding are the candy-colored striped party outfits at the Ragata at the end of Act One, and the rich jewel-toned satin gowns in the solarium scene at the start of Act Two.
There is no lip-synching here - although how they can dance as strenuously as they do and belt out the numerous songs is difficult to fathom.
The songs, by David Heneker, are a fine mix of rousing upbeat ensemble numbers, like "Money to Burn" where they do amazing rhythmic beats with beer mugs in a beer hall, to sweet ballads, such as "I Know What I Am," by Sara Gettelfinger’s Ann and the winsome duet "Long Ago," sung by Gettelfinger and Peterson.
Gettelfinger has a fine powerful voice, as does Donna English who plays Mrs. Walingham. Also notable are Jeff Skowron as the overacting playwright Chitterlow, the uptight Young Walshingham played by Carrington Vilmont, and Cheryl McMahon as the silly Mrs. Botting.
All and all "Half a Sixpence" is a rollicking, ripping good time - proving once again that the American Musical is alive and well and living at the Goodspeed Opera House.


Three stars
Location: Goodspeed Opera House, Route 82, East Haddam, Conn.
Production: Music and lyrics by David Heneker. Book by Beverley Cross. Directed by Gordon Greenberg. Choreographed by Patti Colombo. Music direction by Michael O’Flaherty. Scenery design by Rob Bissinger. Costume design by David C. Wollard. Lighting design by Jeff Croiter. Sound by Jay Hilton.
Running time: 2 hours including one intermission
Show Times: Performances are Wednesdays at 2 and 7:30 p.m.; Thursdays at 7:30 p.m.; Fridays at 8 p.m.; Saturdays at 3 and 8 p.m.; and Sundays at 2 p.m. There will be performances on select Thursdays at 2 p.m. and Sundays at 6:30 p.m. through Sept. 9.
Tickets: $26 - $63. Call the box office at 860-873-8668 or visit their Web site at
Jon Peterson...Arthur Kipps
Danny Gardner ... Sid
Cameron Henderson ... Buggins
Wes Hart ... Pearce
Kate Marilley ... Flo
Elise Kinnon ... Victoria
Caroline Massagee ... Kate
James Judy ... Shalford
Rod Roberts ... Carshot
Sara Gettelfinger ... Ann
Donna English ... Mrs. Walsingham
Julia Osborne ... Helen Walsingham
Carrington Vilmont ... Young Walsingham
Jeff Skowron ... Chitterlow
Cheryl McMahon ... Mrs. Botting