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Monday, July 19, 2010

Ivoryton’s “Buddy-The Buddy Holly Story” good ol’ Rock ‘n’ Roll

IVORYTON — “Buddy, The Buddy Holly Story” at the Ivoryton Playhouse is a musical tribute to a man whose career tragically ended just as it was starting.
The late 1950s was the beginning of a musical and social revolution in the United States so dramatic and extreme that it is difficult to comprehend today.
For those early rock music pioneers, like Holly, it was a dramatic break from the good old standard country music and the romantic crooners, to the wild and raucous sound of rock ‘n’ roll. Some referred to the music as a “communicable disease,” and many thought it was the devil incarnate. Some still do.
Holly wasn’t the gorgeous bad boy, sticking as he did with his nerdy look with geeky glasses, and to his music-writing skills, coming up with an amazing amount of music in a short time that is still well-known today.
His songs include classics such as “Peggy Sue” (which we learn was originally “Cindy Lou” but changed so the drummer could get with a girl) “That’ll Be The Day,” “Why Do Fools,” “A Teenager In Love,” and “Maybe Baby.”
Gregg Hammer does an excellent job as the young Holly, who died in an airplane crash in a blizzard along with Ritchie Havens and “The Big Bopper” (J.P. Richardson), on Feb. 3, 1959 at the age of 22.
The show feels more like a musical concert with dialog inserted now and again than a musical.
They sing mostly Holly songs, of course, but also include a whole range of music from pure country, to a melodic acapella tune, and plenty of early rock.
They perform The Big Bopper’s rousing rendition of the novelty song, “Chantilly Lace,” sung by the robust Robert W. Schultz Jr., to “La Bomba” by the hip-swinging Ritchie Havens played by the kinesthetic Khalid Rivera.
They also travel to the Apollo Theater, with fine performances by Apollo performers Antoine L. Smith and Patryce Williams, where the all-white band is eventually embraced.
The costumes, by Pam Puente, are period perfect, with ties for the rock ‘n’ roll band members and poofy skirts for the gals. The backup singers’ fancy dresses in Act II look a little like shiny, pastel shower curtains in the lights though, and one of the dresses is too long for the most petite singer.
Danielle Erin Rhodes is a real standout as Vi Petty, the wife of the band’s manager, Norman Petty, played by Steve Gagliastro. Rhodes makes the most out of her part as the spunky wife who can tear it up on the keyboards.
Directed by Jacqueline Hubbard, with excellent musical direction by John S. DeNicola, they manage to create coherence and a fast-paced production with a large cast playing multiple roles.
The set, by Cully Long, is seemingly simple, with the center being the music stage, and the sides being the sound studios and back stage scenes, which work well. They use a technical overhead projection that lists where Holly et al are at in any given moment, which is helpful for orientation, and works smoothly.
That twirling disco ball spins relentlessly for the entire second act, which is head ache-producing and far too long. Best to use it briefly during the encore only.
The show is a real crowd-pleaser, with audience participation neatly rolled in with a summer raffle to help pay for the Ivoryton Playhouse’s summer intern program.
It’s a full night of early rock ‘n’ roll at the Ivoryton Playhouse the “Buddy, The Buddy Holly Story,” running through Sunday, Aug. 1.


Location: Ivoryton Playhouse, 103 Main Street, Ivoryton, CT
Production: Written by Alan Janes and Rob Bettinson. Directed by Jacqueline Hubbard. Musical direction by John S. DeNicola. Scenic design by Cully Long. Stage manager Johanna K. Levai. Lighting design by Doug Harry. Costume design by Pam Puente
Running time: 2 ½ hours 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 Aug. 1.
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
Gregg Hammer … Buddy Holly
Daniel Orion Glynn … Joe Maudlin, musician
John Rochette … Jerry Allison, musician
Jason Naylor … Hipockets Duncan
Samantha Joy Pearlman … Maria Elena, jingle and backup singer
Robert W. Schultz Jr. … The Big Bopper, Decca producer
Steve Gagliastro … Norman Petty, musician
Khalid Rivera … Ritchie Valens, Radio DJ
Danielle Erin Rhodes … Vi Petty, musician
Antoine L. Smith … Apollo performer
Patryce Williams … Apollo performer
John S. DeNicola … Murray Deutch, English DJ, musician
Joe Petrowski … Radio engineer
Charles Everett Crocco … DJ, Decca engineer, Hayrider
Justin Boudreau … MC at Clearlake, Hayrider, radio DJ
Amaris Montoya … Shirley, backup singer
Logan Whaley … 4th Cricket, Tommy Alsop
Alanna Burke … Mary Lou Sokolof, jingle and backup singer, Hayrider
Brandon Clark … Radio DJ, Hayrider
Gayle Elizabeth LaBrec … Jingle and backup singer, Peggy Sue

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

ArtFarm’s “As You Like It” bucolic Shakespeare at its best

MIDDLETOWN — Perhaps it is because Shakespeare plays were originally produced before the days of indoor plumbing and electricity, outdoor shows suit the Bard’s plays beautifully.
That’s certainly the case in the glorious Shakespearean comedy “As You Like It,” the fifth ArtFarm summer production at Shakespeare in the Grove at the Middlesex Community College.
The setting, with its backdrop of arborvitae with the sun setting to the west and birds gently competing with the actors and musicians, is nothing short of magical.
Director Dic Wheeler uses professional with amateur actors to fine effect, with Andrew Lincoln leading the cast as Orlando, the second brother of Oliver, played by John Johmann.
The story is set in the mid-1800s in a fictional European village, although it feels a century earlier than that. Oliver is in charge after his father dies, and fears his younger sibling, Orlando, and plots to kill him, causing Orlando to flee to the forest of Arden.
In another village Duke Frederick has banished his older sister, Duchess Senior to the woods of Arden, where she dwells with some followers. Both the Duke and Duchess are played by the versatile and energetic Anitra Brooks.
The Duchess’ daughter, Rosalind, played by the forthright Jackie Coleman, along with the Duke’s daughter Celia, played with affection by Annie Dimartino, also go to the Arden woods, with Rosalind dressed as a boy named Ganymede.
In fact, it is terrific that so many of the women and a few men in this play, play multiple male and female roles, including Brooks, and the fine, comic Joni Weisfeld who plays the fan-flapping Madame Le Beau, lord-in-exile Amiens, and the fabulous and kooky shepherdess Phoebe.
Also terrific is Mara Lieberman who plays the old servant Adam and the nubile country goatherd Audrey.
The flamboyant and excellent David McCarnish plays Touchstone, the court fool, who joins Rosalind and Celia in the woods.
Rounding out the cast is the melancholic courtier Jaques, played by the stately Brian Jennings who is unrecognizable when he also plays the lovelorn William, a country lad in love with Audrey.
The beauty of this play is that it performs like a spoken opera, with quartets, trios, duets, and solos, as foursomes, threesomes, twosomes, and soliloquies. They are accentuated with excellent original musical accompaniment by Music Director Joseph Getter on woodwinds, along with Mick Bolduc on Guitars and Tim Gaylord on percussion.
Getter and the band created all the music and sound effects, except for “A Lover and His Lass” with music by Thomas Morley, and “Under a Greenwood Tree,” and “Blow, Blow Thou Winter Wind” with music by Eric Kuhn.
This is an exceedingly physical show from the very start, when Orlando and Charles the wrestler played by Kuhn go at it in a convincing and tumble-filled wrestling match, with fight choreography by David Chandler.
The actors run and cavort in the woods with excellent timing and quick exits and entrances. The simple set, designed by David Schulz, is nothing more than a few stairs and a chair in the first scene that turn into flowers as the chair floats into the tree — a playful idea.
The whole show is playful and fun, because it is all about the most easily mocked of emotions, romantic love.
Orlando and Rosalind meet at his wrestling match before they head for the woods separately. It’s love at first sight for them both.
Once in the woods, Rosalind learns that Orlando is nuts about her and convinces Orlando, who thinks she is the boy Ganymede, to pretend that she is Rosalind. Its all pretty silly stuff, but delightful as it unfolds.
It is helpful to know what’s in store, because some of the plot twists and turns are a little confusing, and the language can be a bit daunting.
Some of the dialog should be familiar to all, including Jacques’ glorious monologue: “All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players.”
Under Wheeler’s strong direction they exhibit a light, vaudevillian sensibility that accentuates the bawdy jokes to their fullest, and there are plenty of those to go around in “As You Like It.”
The costumes hit the mark for the most part, but the shiny ball gowns that Rosalind and Celia wear are unflattering to both women. They could have worn something that at least looked like natural fibers, such as lace or silk in rich colors to differentiate them from the country outfits that are all terrific. The multicolored coat worn by Touchstone and the peasant garb of Audrey are especially fine.
Each performance has a different musical artist starting at 6 p.m. The grassy slope of the natural amphitheater is ideal for an early evening picnic before the show, but make sure to pack up your things before the show begins. There is no intermission and they turn off the lights quickly when the show ends.
It is a perfect show too for ArtFarm, which is dedicated to living and eating simply, with as little impact on the planet as possible, since this show is set in the magical woods of Arden, where people live simply and good things happen in the woods.
Be sure not to miss this comic delight of ArtFarm’s “As You Like It” at the bucolic Shakespeare in the Grove, playing through Sunday.


4 Stars
Location: Middlesex Community College, 100 Training Hill Rd., Middletown
Production: By William Shakespeare. Directed by Dic Wheeler. Music direction by Joseph Getter. Set design by David Schulz. Assistant direction by Katherine DeMezzo. Costume design by Pat Sloan. Sound design by Michael Miceli. Fight choreography by David Chandler. Dance choreography by Marcella Trowbridge. Technical director and lighting designer Ayla Kapiloff.
Running time: 2 ¼ hours with no intermission.
Show Times: Thursday through Sunday at 7 p.m. Musical performances at 6 p.m.
Tickets: $20 suggested donation. For more information call 860-346-4390 or visit their website at
Andrew Lincoln … Orlando
Jackie Coleman … Rosalind
Annie Dimartino … Celia
David McCarnish … Touchstone
John Johmann … Oliver
Anitra Brooks … Duchess Senior, Duke Frederick
Joni Weisfeld … Phoebe, Madame LeBeau, Amiens
Brian Jennings … Jacques, William
Mara Lieberman … Audrey, Adam
Eric Kuhn … Charles
Allan Church … Lord
Bill Earls … Corin, Lord
Michael Brislin … Silvius, Dennis