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Monday, April 26, 2010

CRT’s rock opera “The Who’s Tommy” a psychedelic sensation

STORRS — The Connecticut Repertory Theatre’s multi-media production of “The Who’s Tommy,” melds the best of musical theater with a full-blown rock concert, creating an enticing, living, breathing event.
Directed by Gabriel Barre, who is becoming a CRT favorite, having directed last year’s “HAIR” and the imaginative “Loves Labour’s Lost,” really outdoes himself with this stunning show.
CRT takes the best of all worlds by blending equity actors and directors with students in their graduate and undergraduate program to create an amazing blend of amateur enthusiasm with confident professionalism.
Jon Conver, a professional actor, plays both the narrator and the adult Tommy. There aren’t many who have the over-sized rock star charisma, energy, and talent to pull of this role, but the diminutive and fit Conver does.
Anyone who has turned on the radio in the last 20 years would be familiar with the “Pinball Wizard” and other fabulous pop songs including the celebratory “Sensation,” the moving “See Me, Touch Me, Feel Me,” the exhilarating “I’m Free,” and the epic “Listening to You.”
“Tommy” was originally conceived as an album by The Who’s Pete Townsend based on his not-so fabulous childhood filled with abuse and mistreatment to his spiritual awakening and growth. Some might have seen the 1975 classic film starring The Who’s Roger Daltry with Elton John, Ann Margaret and the stunning Tina Turner as the Acid Queen.
Tommy loses all sense of feeling, seeing, and hearing after witnessing a horrific incident involving his parents, and enters a world of his own where no one can touch him.
How many sensitive abused children choose something like that desperate choice as the only recourse to psychic survival? And what a price they pay for that choice, which is one of the reasons for this show’s universal appeal.
There are no weak links in the show, from the creepy Uncle Ernie, played by the excellent Robert Thompson Jr. to Mrs. Walker played by Laura Beth Wells, to the outstanding Brian Patrick Williams as Capt. Walker.
Also super are the younger versions of Tommy played by brothers J.J. and Aemi Mullin. All dressed in white, as is adult Tommy, they are mesmerizing and give the show its grounding power.
Nastily and enthusiastically bullying and thug-like is Noah Winetraub as Cousin Kevin, while Rachel Leigh Rosado is glorious as the psychedelic Goddess The Acid Queen.
The costumes by the talented designer Arthur Oliver cover the spectrum from The Acid Queen’s wild ribbon infested garb with matching dreadlocks and mile high-heels, to the authentically dressed 1960’s cast, complete with pill-box hats.
The seemingly simple sets by scenic designer Cassandra Ireland Beaver are solid and functional. Especially fine is the rolling two-tier metal mini-stage which is used in a variety of scenes, and to notably fine visual effect when The Acid Queen, et al, saunter up the stairs while the rolling stage is wheeled counter-clockwise.
The choreography by Matthew Neff is a compendium of modern dance angular movements, with the 1960s jerk, along with classic rock kicks that flow.
This production goes beyond the basics and has a companion show of screen projections that add so much, from the live feed interviews of the Walkers, to the remarkably well timed and choreographed Javanese shadow play behind a stage-sized screen. Projection design by David O. Smith.
Inspired and horrific is the shadow scene where they operate on little Tommy and removing and reassembling his limbs. Like a train wreck you can’t look away.
This along with a puppet parade lead by puppet designer Michael Truman Cavanaugh, reminiscent of Julie Taymor’s puppetry.
The only downside to this sensational “The Who’s Tommy” is that so few are going to get the privilege to see the short-running production that closes on Saturday.


4 Stars
Location: Harriet S. Jorgensen Theatre, Jorgensen Road, Storrs.
Production: Music and lyrics by Pete Townshend. Book by Pete Townshend and Des McAnuff. Additional music and lyrics by John Entwistle and Keith Moon. Directed by Gabriel Barre. Choreography by Matthew Neff. Musical direction by Ken Clark. Scenic design by Cassandra Ireland Beaver. Costume design by Arthur Oliver. Lighting design by Mark Novick. Sound design by Stefan Koniarz and Emily Tritsch. Puppet design by Michael Truman Cavanaugh. Projection design by David O. Smith.
Running time: 2 hours with one 15-minute intermission.
Show Times: Wednesday, and Thursday at 7:30 p.m., Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m., and Saturday matinee at 2 p.m. through May 1.
Tickets: $13 to $35. Call the box office at 860-486-4266 of visit their website at
Jon Conver … Narrator, Tommy
Capt. Walker … Brian Patrick Williams
Mrs. Walker … Laura Beth Wells
J.J. Mullin … 4-year-old Tommy
Aemi Mullin … 10-year-old Tommy
Robert Thompson Jr. … Uncle Ernie
Noah Weintraub … Cousin Kevin
Zak Kamin … Lover
Rachel Leigh Rosado … The Acid Queen
Michelle Goodman … Sally Simpson
Ryan Guess … Minister
Philip A.J. Smithey … Hawker
TheaterWorks’ “Souvenir” a love song to music

HARTFORD — There’s that old saying that if you are poor and you do something odd, you are crazy, but if you are rich and you do something odd, you’re eccentric.
Certainly that later definition would fit the real life phenomenon that swept the New York imagination for a decade in the 1930s in the remarkable and unique person of society matron Florence Foster Jenkins.
Jenkins considered herself a prima donna opera soprano of the first rank, but actually never met a note she couldn’t massacre. Notes were more of a suggestion in her estimation than the rule, but her lack of rhythm, tempo, and diction were all equally bad.
Still, she became a ‘cause celebre’ in her own right, more for her complete lack of self awareness and delusional single-mindedness that she was as good if not better than the other professional soprano of her day.
The play is narrated from the perspective of her long time and long suffering accompanist, Cosme McMoon, here played by the talented Edwin Cahill, who is both good as a pianist and an actor.
He takes the audience through the journey of his remembrances of his working with Foster Jenkins, from his derision and embarrassment, through to his eventual admiration of and caring for this remarkable woman.
It takes a talented singer to sing as consistently awful as she does, and Neva Rae Powers is up to the challenge. She is so painfully bad that it is similar to watching a train wreck — you want to look away, but just can’t.
Powers is masterful as the optimistic and endlessly resilient and sweet woman who lived her dream. How many people can say they do what makes them most fulfilled and happy?
“What matters most is the music that you hear in your head,” says McMoon. “It is the music that must come before all.”
McMoon says that often, audience members would have to leave the room to gather themselves from sudden fits of convulsive laughter that Foster Jenkins attributed to being seriously moved by her music. “People had tears in their eyes,” McMoon says, well aware of the reason for their crying.
He also says that the seasoned audience members would coach the newcomers on “how to pace themselves,” to get through a performance.
He says that the crowds were like the people you see at boxing matches, “with gasps and shrieks, and doors banging.”
She knew that some derided her, but she chalked that up to ‘professional jealousy,’ and even said that during a recording it was the piano that was out of tune, not her, since she believed she had perfect pitch.
"The piano is not quite with the voice,” she informs the exasperated McMoon.
Her most famous song is her rendition, well beyond her technical ability, of Mozart’s “Queen of the Night,” “The Laughing Song,” from Johann Strauss II “Die Fledermaus,” and more, all the while delighting in her efforts.
Some of the other songs peppered into the show, thankfully sung and played by Cahill’s McMoon, are the jazzy “One for My Baby,” “Violets for Your Furs,” and “Crazy Rhythm.”
There were many fantastic costumes by Theresa Ham in this show, all donned by our diva, culminated in the white winged angel outfit she wears when she singing the show-stopping “Ave Maria,” at an unforgettable performance at Carnegie Hall and recaptured here.
The small, intimate theater at TheaterWorks is well suited to smaller casts such as the two folks in this show, and, with smooth direction by Michael Evan Haney, “Souvenirs” captures the enthusiasm of and gentle joking towards this unique woman.
McMoon says in astonishment, “She was never unhappy and only got happier. I found myself admiring her.”
You will too in this delightful and loving peek into the life of a woman who followed her dream and lived it.


3 Stars
Theater: TheaterWorks
Location: 233 Pearl St. Hartford.
Production: Written by Stephen Temperley. Directed by Michael Evan Haney. Set design by Adrian W. Jones. Lights by Matthew Richards. Sound design by Fitz Patton. Costumes by Theresa Ham.
Running time: 2 hours with one intermission.
Show Times: Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays at 7:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. Matinees on Saturdays and Sundays - 2:30 p.m. The show will run through May 23.
Tickets: Unassigned seating is $39; $49 on Friday and Saturday nights. Center reserved seats $12 extra. $12 student rush tickets at showtime with valid ID (subject to availability). Season tickets are $129 for five shows. For tickets call 860-527-7838 or visit their website at
Neva Rae Powers … Florence Foster Jenkins
Edwin Cahill … Cosme McMoon

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Come Away to the Bushnell’s “South Pacific”

HARTFORD — Has there ever been a better musical than Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein’s “South Pacific?” It is a show that has just about everything one dreams of in a musical — a compelling story, a secondary love story, strife, death, heartache, second chances, and practically every song in the whole show at hit.
From the glorious “Younger than Springtime,” to the mature and dazzling “Some Enchanted Evening” to the perky “Happy Talkie Talk” to the powerful, “You’ve Got to be Carefully Taught,” and more, the show has it all.
Set in the South Pacific during World War II, the show follows the life of Nellie Forbush, she of the cock-eyed optimistic bent, from Arkansas, played by the spunky Carmen Cusack. She could not be better suited for the role of a slightly naïve, hopeful, but confused woman falling in love with an older Frenchman, Emile de Becque, played with stolid authority and a beautiful baritone voice by Rod Gilfry, especially when he sings “This Nearly Was Mine.”
The subplot follows a pair of young lovers, the fresh-faced Lt. Joseph Cable, played with youthful vigor by Anderson Davis and the Tonkanese girl, Liat, played by Sumie Maeda.
Her mother, the opportunistic Bloody Mary, played by the powerful Keala Settle, does what she can to throw her child into the arms of Cable, in an aggressive and slightly creepy manner. Still, the songs are endlessly seductive, like the mesmerizing and hypnotic “Bali-hai.”
Luther Billis is the enterprising wise guy enlisted man with a big heart, played by the rough-and-ready Matthew Saldivar who gets to sing the silly “There is Nothin’ Like a Dame” and the fun “Honey Bun” with Nellie and the crew.
The crew, with a large ensemble cast of male sailors and wacks, give depth and breadth to the music and movement, with dance and incidental music arrangements by Trude Rittmann.
The commanding officer William Harbison is played by Peter Becker a little too much for the laughs from the start, making his nickname of “Old Ironsides” not so amusing as it could be.
The sets, by Michael Yeargan work well, with the slated bamboo-like screens that fill the enormous Bushnell stage completely, and give an exotic and tropical feel.
The period costumes, right down to the women’s bathing suits, have an authentic feel and looked liked they were made for the long haul of a big tour, with costume design by Catherine Zuber.
The background lighting, first of the island and then of the clouds after sunset in the second act, are realistic without being overpowering, with lighting design by David Holder. However, the spot lights, and there were many spots, missed their mark more often than not and need more rehearsing or else a wider light.
This solid and entertaining production of “South Pacific” delivers everything one could hope for in one of the best musicals ever.


3 ½ Stars
Theater: The William H. Mortensen Hall at the Bushnell Memorial Center
Location: 166 Capitol Ave., Hartford
Production: Music by Richard Rodgers. Lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II. Directed by Bartlett Sher. Music direction by Ted Sperling. Musical staging by Christopher Gattelli. Set by Michael Yeargan. Costumes by Catherine Zuber. Lighten by Donald Holder. Sound by Schott Lehrer. Orchestration by Robert Russell Bennett. Dance and incidental music arrangements by Trude Rittmann.
Running time: 3 hours with one 15-minute intermission
Show Times: Thursday, and Sunday at 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m., with matinee performances Saturday and Sunday at 2 p.m., through Sunday.
Tickets: From $15 to $282. Call 860-987-5900 or visit their website at
Carmen Cusack … Ensign Nellie Forbush
Rod Gilfry … Emile de Becque
Keala Settle … Bloody Mary
Anderson Davis … Lt. Joseph Cable
Matthew Saldivar … Luther Billis
Peter Rini … Cmdr. William Harbison
Gerry Becker … Capt. George Brackett

Monday, April 19, 2010

Ivoryton Playhouse’s “Some Enchanted Evening” a Rodgers and Hammerstein celebration

IVORYTON — It’s a musical-lovers night of “Name that Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein Tune” at the Ivoryton Playhouse in their musical review of “Some Enchanted Evening,” with many song you’ll likely recognize from the first few notes, while others might be unfamiliar, except for the most ardent musical buffs.
Some familiar songs include “I Can’t Say No” from “Oklahoma” and “Maria” from “The Sound of Music.”
Other Rodgers and Hammerstein favorites are there too, including many from “South Pacific” like “I Gotta Wash that Man Right Out-A My Hair,” “There is Nothing Like a Dame,” and the melancholy love song, “If I Loved You,” from “Carousel.”
“Some Enchanted Evening” was conceived by Jefferey B. Moss, with solid direction and spiffy choreography by Leslie Unger, and under the musical direction by John Sebastian DeNicola, who also does the heavy-lifting of playing the accompaniment to the entire show.
The performers are youthful and energetic, with strong voices performing some interesting arrangements of the classic tunes, such as the female duet with Jennifer Lauren Brown and Jenna Sisson singing “Sixteen Going on Seventeen” from “The Sound of Music.”
There are also songs from less popular musicals, such as the amusing and unexpectedly bluesy number, “The Gentleman is a Dope,” from “Allegro,” which is sung by the earthy Patryce Williams.
The guys are strong performers, with Allan Snyder singing some powerful show tunes, such as “Lonely Room” from “Oklahoma,” and “Soliloquy” from “Carousel.”
Kyle Metzger gives expressive renditions of the beautiful “South Pacific” tune, “Younger than Springtime,” but his green goofy glasses in Act II along with that cone head knit hat don’t make a lot of sense.
Uncomplimentary and distracting are the projection screen images behind the singers, by Tiffany Hopkins, that abruptly change from song to song, with some weird images, like elephants with spindly stork legs, and hand-painted images that look strange, like bad imitations of impressionism.
At other times a video images of clouds on the move and then waves crashing serve only to distract from the singers.
The stage design by Daniel Nischan is less than inspired too, with a plastic golden bust of a woman on a pedestal, and empty frames on the walls.
Also odd is Sisson’s business with a paintbrush, sticking out of her boot and then her top as it does when she isn’t using it to pretend paint.
There is some unnecessary and thick is the stage smoke that is piped in, too, perhaps meant to give a sense of a night club scene.
It is probably not necessary to tell those who read this, but in addition to turning off cell phones, texting during any performance is definitely and emphatically wrong.
A woman behind me was texting away in the second act, oblivious to the world around her, and had to be asked to stop. She was also guilty of eating candy from a noisy container. It’s amazing how those sounds cut through the air.
The group’s ensemble numbers are imaginatively choreographed and arranged, and the singers all blend beautifully, and are strongest when they perform as a group.
The music is the thing here. It’s 90 minutes of show tunes, from happy to sad, corny to poignant, and all Rodgers and Hammerstein.


3 Stars
Location: Ivoryton Playhouse, 103 Main Street, Ivoryton, Conn.
Production: Music by Richard Rodgers. Lyrics by Oscar Hammertein II. Concept by Jefferey B. Moss. Direction and choreography by Leslie Unger. Musical direction by John Sebastian DeNicola. Scenic design by Daniel Nischan. Lighting by Doug Harry. Costume design by Pam Puente. Projection design by Tiffany Hopkins.
Running time: 90 minutes including one 15-minute intermission.
Show Times: Wednesday and Thursdays at 7:30 p.m., Friday and Saturdays at 8 p.m., with Wednesday and Sunday matinees at 2 p.m. through May 2.
Tickets: $38 for adults, $33 for seniors, $20 for students, and $15 for children 12 and under. Call the box office at 860-767-7318, or visit their website at
Allan Snyder … Billy
Kyle Metzger … Will
Jennifer Lauren Brown … Julie
Patryce Williams … Anna
Jenna Sisson … Nellie
Village Players’ “Over the Checkerboard” over-the-top entertainment

SOMERS — It’s progress against preservation in the witty shell game of a farce “Over the Checkerboard” written by Fred Carmichael and produced by the Somers Village Players.
Although set in the fictional town of bucolic River’s Corners, Vermont, this play could easily take place right in the quaint village of Somers.
Here a nasty developer, Benjamin Inchscape, played with oleaginous aggression by Doug Stoyer, plans on tearing down the town and replacing the small family-owned businesses, like the bookstore, the tea shop, and antique shop with franchises and chain outlet stores.
The locals, lead by lawyer John Hyde, played by an energetic Ron Blanchette, dream up an idea of selling the manuscript of a former famous author, Oliver Foxworthy, to a book publisher and buying the land before the developer does.
However, terms of Oliver’s will forbid them to open the sealed envelope containing the manuscript until it is delivered to an editor. They all know that the book is a steamy tale, supposedly based on the town folks’ real lives.
Their plan is to personify the characters in the book so that the editor thinks they really exist, like a real life Peyton Place, thereby guaranteeing them all a huge advance.
In order to read the manuscript, John tells the group that he is going to switch the real copy for another after it is opened, and find out who they are supposed to be.
As a result, no one is who he or she really is. Ida McGuire, played by the flirty Nancy J. Emonds, owns the antique shop, but pretends to be a southern housemaid.
Although dead now, Ida says that when Oliver was alive, “He was a chipper as a moose in mating season.”
Joyce Benson plays the constantly tardy and slightly spacey Molly Wrigley, who owns the bookstore. (Benson looks and acts an awful lot like sweet Georgia Engel from “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” and “Everybody Loves Raymond.”)
Then there’s Sherry Samborski who plays the ditzy Betty Lightfoot who owns the tea shoppe, with a “pe” at the end. Samborski is quirky and funny, especially when she theatrically reveals her character’s supposed secret.
Rounding out the well-rehearsed ensemble cast of town’s folk is John Lepore as the dramatic community theater actor, Albert Swenson.
A New York book publisher, Carlton Press, sends an editor, TT Wilkinson, played with easy and command by Angela Taylor Sonnenreich, to Rivers Corners. Here she meets the group at the makeshift historical society. She brings a new assistant, the sarcastic Mark Lindsey, played by Edwin R. Lewis III, who says he’s related to the famous screenwriter, Roger Foreman.
How they all managed to keep track of the real manuscript is beyond me, because, like the old shell game, each of the townsfolk switches the real manuscript with a fake one.
The costumes by Michelle Tyler, while simple, are thoughtfully color-coordinated for the town’s people, while the city folk are sophisticated by contrast in black.
The set, while small, designed by Franc Aguas, who also designed the décor, is tastefully functional. Lighting and sound, often overlooked, is timely and prompt. Designed by Justin Martin and operated by Ben Bugden. The sound track from the “Newhart” during intermission and before the show, is a nice touch and sets the mood.
At a dinner theatre, unlike a regular theater venue, you get to sit around the table for a couple of hours before the show and socialize. My friend and I had the chance to meet a feisty group of gals who came to see their friend, the excellent Taylor Sonnenreich, perform.
Her biography says that this is Taylor Sonnenreich’s first time back on stage in five years. Here’s hoping she doesn’t take another long hiatus. She is one of the best actresses I have seen on any stage.
Another nice touch at the Valley Players is the raffle they hold for $1 a ticket. The winners get to take home decadent homemade goods and the proceeds go to a Somer’s high school scholarship fund.
The buffet dinner of roast beef with salad, potatoes, vegetable, pasta, dessert, all prepared by Joanne’s Café and Banquet House, is consistently delicious.
For a fun and entertaining evening out, be sure to see “Over the Checkerboard” running through Saturday.


3 stars
Theater: The Somers Village Players, Inc.
Location: Joanne’s Café and Banquet House, 145 Main Street, Somers
Production: Written by Fred Carmichael. Directed by David Crowell. Technical direction, lighting and sound design by Justin Martin. Produced by Diane Preble. Stage manager Sue Moak. Set design and décor by Franc Aguas. Props by Betty Domer. Costumes by Michelle Tyler. Lighting and sound run by Ben Bugden. Stage crew Trish Urso and Sue Moak.
Running time: 2 hours with one intermission.
Show Times: Friday and Saturday through April 24. Social hour starting at 6 p.m. Dinner at 7 p.m. Show at 8 p.m.
Tickets: $33, including dinner, with cash bar. Call 860-749-0245 for reservations.
Actor …. Character
Angela Taylor Sonnenreich … T.T. Wilkinson
Edwin R. Lewis III … Mark Lindsey
Ron Blanchette … John Hyde
Nancy J. Emonds … Ida McGuire
Joyce Benson … Molly Wrigley
Sherry Samborski … Betty Lightfoot
John Lepore … Albert Swenson
Doug Stoyer … Benjamin Inchscape

Monday, April 12, 2010

MMP’s “The Secret Garden” enchanting

MANCHESTER — Springtime is the perfect time of year for the Manchester Musical Players’ production of the musical “The Secret Garden,” just when the cold and seemingly dead earth jumpstarts back into life.
This delightful and fanciful show is based on the cherished Victorian children’s novel written by Frances Hodgson Burnett, and it stays very close to the original, which is a blessing, because the story is such a fanciful one.
A young girl, Mary Lennox, (Catherine McElaney) is living in India during British rule, when her parents and just about every adult she knows dies suddenly from cholera. She is shipped back to England to live with her uncle, the widowed Archibald Craven (Michel Baron) in his gothic manor. Craven’s young son, Colin, (Aaron Bogin) is bedridden and treated as if he is going to die by the household led by the dastardly Dr. Neville Craven, Archie’s jealous younger brother, played by John-Michael Whitney.
Visions of ghosts, here called dreamers, from both Mary’s and Archie’s past are ever present and add an otherworldly quality to the production.
Leading this large cast is the feisty McElaney as Mary. Casting is everything in a show like this, and director Jane Cerosky could not have picked a better lead. Outstanding are the consistently fine English accents and dialects, which are often touch-and-go in non-professional productions, but are superior here.
McElaney’s Mary is petulant when she should be, and hits just the right note of indignation at the mistreatment she receives from Dr. Neville Craven (John-Michael Whitney) and the fine, bossy housekeeper Mrs. Medlock, played with rigid propriety by Dawne Robinson Gagnon.
From the moment she meets the spoiled young Colin Craven, both McElaney and Bogin are natural and easy, squabbling and real as kids truly behave. Even to the end when they are wrestling with the secret garden key, they stay in character.
The orchestra, expertly led by musical director Kim Aliczi, is a joy from the first note to the last. However, as sometimes is the case, they are so strong they often overpower the vocalists, who are stronger actors than singers, despite being miked.
The one exception is the Kristin Chabot-Gauld, who plays Archie’s dead wife and Mary’s Aunt Lily. Her voice is simply gorgeous, and is a pleasure to hear each time she sings.
Also riveting and charismatic is Tim Russell as Dickon. Although a bit old to play the young country lad, it’s clear why he is cast in the role. He invests every moment on stage with action, movement, and energy.
Rounding out the solid and large cast is the old gardener Ben Weatherstaff, played by the earthly Art Bradbury, and the kind and knowing chambermaid, Martha, with a spot-on Yorkshire accent, played by Marissa Giglio.
It’s an ambitious production, with many scene changes, cleverly realized with a model of the gothic manor offset stage right, with lighted rooms to indicate where the action on the stage is occurring — set design by Gregg Cerosky.
The numerous and varied period costumes designed by Lisa Ann Steier are all well constructed and beautifully detailed from the sari worn by the Indian servant Ayah played by Sarah Hayes, to the lace collar on Mary’s frocks.
The Manchester Musical Players have much to be pleased about with this winsome, enchanting production of “The Secret Garden.”


3 Stars
Theater: The Manchester Musical Players, Inc.
Location: Cheney Hall, 177 Hartford Road, Manchester
Production: Directed by Jane Cerosky. Musical direction by Kim Aliczi. Book and lyrics by Marsha Norman. Music by Lucy Simon. Stage manager Heidi Bengraff. Produced by Marge Kelly. Set design by Gregg Cerosky. Costume design by Lisa Ann Steier. Lighting design by Vince Ponce. Props by Linda Lydon.
Running time: 2 1/2 hours, plus one 15-minute intermission
Show Times: Friday, and Saturday at 8 p.m., with Sunday matinees at 2 p.m. through April 18.
Tickets: $20 general admission, $17 for seniors and students. Call the box office at 860-875-1727, or visit their website at
Catherine McElaney … Mary Lennox
Kristin Chabot-Gauld … Lily
Michael Baron … Archibald Craven
John-Michael Whitney … Dr. Neville Craven
Dawne Robinson Gagnon … Mrs. Medlock
Marissa Giglio … Martha
Tim Russell … Dickon
Aaron Bogin … Colin Craven
Art Bradbury … Ben Weatherstaff
Jenna R. Levitt … Rose Lennox
Chris Rataic … Capt. Albert Lennox
Ric Plamenco … Fakir
Sarah Hayes … Ayah
Jim Metzler … Lt. Peter Wright
Michael May … Lt. Ian Shaw
Michael Metsack … Major Holmes
Marge Kelly … Claire Holmes
Lisa Garofalo … Alice
Fran Kriegenhofer … Mrs. Winthrop and the nurse
Meg Clifton … Jane the Maid
“The Adventures of Tom Sawyer” at HSC classic Twain hijinks

HARTFORD — Good old Tom Sawyer, the perennial “pet of the old and envy of the young” as one of the characters say in this new adaptation by Laura Eason of our own Mark Twain’s “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer,” at the Hartford Stage Company running through May 9.
Set in the 1840’s in St. Louis, Missouri, the first thing you are greeted with in this minimalist set by Daniel Ostling, is that famous white picket fence that dear old Aunt Polly (Nancy Lemenager) sets our hero Tom, played with comfortable assuredness by the tousle-headed Tim McKiernan, to white-washing.
There are few surprises here, but why should there be? Who would mess with perfection?
Huckleberry Finn is played with sweet innocence and tons of energy by Casey Predovic, and Louisa Krause’s Becky Thatcher is perky and charming. The three seem to be in their early 20s, which is a touch old for their respective roles, but they all capture the enthusiasm of discovery and adventure of youth.
In what must be one of his first attempts at courtship, Tom flirts with Becky asking her, “Do you like rats?” When she emphatically says no, he says, “I mean dead ones.”
Becky is charmed none-the-less, and lets Tom chew her gum from her mouth for a while — “but you must give it back to me,” she insists.
When she becomes jealous and throws a fit after hearing that he has used his charming ways with another girl, he offers her his prized brass doorknob as appeasement.
Huck is not too pleased with these female interruptions that get in the way of their adventures, but they manage to have a fun anyway, playing pirates and basically treating life like an imaginative, dramatic, never ending adventure.
One of the enchanting aspects of Mark Twain’s Tom Sawyer, that comes through in this faithful adaptation, is his real heroic nature, taking a beating so Becky won’t suffer is a truly kind act.
Another is that even when his life is at serious risk by the very bad Injun Joe, played with fine menace by Teddy Canez, McKiernan’s Tom doesn’t hate or judge him. He just naturally, unconditionally loves everybody, and has no time or need for holding grudges.
Tom’s nightmare dream sequence at the start of Act II is well-realized and really brings you into his dilemma — should he let Muff Potter, the innocent town drunkard, played by the excellent Erik Lochtefeld, hang for something he didn’t do, and protect himself? Or should he tell the truth of the murder he witnessed by Injun Joe, and risk being murdered himself?
The scene when he and Becky get lost in McDougall’s cave is high adventure at its best, and once again shows what an iconic hero Tom really is.
Even if you’ve read the original, it’s worth seeing this energetic, good-natured production. Be sure to bring the kids to see Tom and company at the Hartford Stage.


3½ Stars
Location: Hartford Stage Company, 50 Church Street, Hartford.
Production: Adapted for the stage by Laura Eason. Directed by Jeremy B. Cohen. Scenic design by Daniel Ostling. Costume design by Ilona Somogyi. Lighting design by Robert Wierzel. Original music and sound design by Broken Chord Collective.
Running time: 2 ½ hours with one intermission.
Show Times: Selected Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Sundays at 7:30 p.m., Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m., with matinees performances Sundays and selected Wednesdays and Saturdays at 2 p.m. through May 9.
Tickets: $23- $66. Call 860-527-5151 or visit their website at
Tim McKiernan … Tom Sawyer
Casey Predovic … Huckleberry Finn
Louisa Krause … Becky Thatcher
Nancy Lemenager … Aunt Polly, Judge, Widow Douglas
Chris Bowyer … Sid Sawyer, Doc Robinson, Lawyer
Joe Paulik … Joe Harper, Lawyer, Accomplice
Teddy Canez … Injun Joe, School Master, Minister
Erik Lochtefeld … Muff Potter, Widow Douglas’ brother