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Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Schticky "Ain't Misbehavin'" at Longwharf a muscial revue

by Kory Loucks

NEW HAVEN - Think of the heydays of The Cotton Club in Harlem with Duke Ellington, Cab Caloway, and the hep cat jazz musician and entertainer Fats Waller.

That’s the era of the award-winning musical "Ain’t Misbehavin’, The Fats Waller Musical Show" - a revival that is cutting the rug and having a ball at the Long Wharf theatre through Nov. 20.

Waller was one of the greatest jazz pianists of the 1920s and 1930s, according to the helpful and informative playbill, and wrote and recorded many of the many songs in this musical revue.

The show is really more of a cabaret revue than a musical, since it’s based jazz pianist and musician Waller’s songs, without a plot.

Some of the more familiar of these old numbers would be the title song "Ain’t Misbehavin’." along with "T’Ain’t Nobody’s Business if I Do," "I Can’t Give You Anything But Love," and "Honeysuckle Rose."

The playbill also includes an informative glossary of jive talk, which is very useful. For example, the word "Viper" means drug dealer, while "woofing" is aimless talk, "bust one’s conk" is to work hard, and "July Jam" is something really hot.

This is a show of originals, with Richard Maltby Jr. directing the same show that garnered him a 1978 Tony Award, along with the choreographer Arthur Faria, returning to recreate the original dances that are so much a part of this production.

For those interested in meeting the show’s creator, Maltby is going to speak after the 2 p.m. matinee performance on Sunday, Nov. 13.

All the talented performers are also "Ain’t Misbehavin’" veterans. They know this music well and clearly have a great time doing their bits alone and together.

Eugene Barry-Hill is suave and silky as Andre, although all the character names are superfluous. He dances like a cloud, and is especially magnetic when he sings and dances the sultry, smooth "The Viper Drag," also known as "The Reefer Song."

Barry-Hill and Doug Eskew as Ken sing the rousing "Fat and Greasy" at the beginning of the second act that really got the crowd going on opening night Wednesday.

Many in the audience must have seen this show before, because they treated it like a concert and were singing loudly to many of the songs and were even giving audible running commentaries about how they liked the performances.

Eskew has a smile as big as all outdoors and he turns up those pearly whites to great affect at every opportunity. His comic song "Your Feet’s Too Big" is silly and delightful.

Cynthia Thomas plays Armelia with a sassy, vampy charm. Sometimes she sings in an annoying cutesy voice, but I think that’s intentional and part of the 1920s style.
Kecia Lewis-Evans, who understudied for Nell Carter in the original 1978 Broadway production, has a hearty, stunning voice that is a pleasure to hear.

Both Thomas and Lewis-Evans are full figured gals and they make the most of their cleavage - a schtick that gets tiresome by the middle of the first act.

Debra Walton plays Charlayne with kewpie doll charm. The diminutive performer, along with Barry-Hill, are both strongest when they dance. Her singing was tight at the start, Wednesday, but as the show progressed it improved, and by the end it was excellent.

The five also make a lovely ensemble, blending together in beautiful harmony and backed by a strong, tuneful band.

The single set designed by John Lee Beatty has a large arch in the back and rounded Art Deco railings on the bandstand. It’s functional and looks much like a cabaret or nightclub space.

Costume Designer Gail Baldoni has the actors decked out in bright, sparkly, snazzy outfits, with three-piece suits for the men and numerous flowing, low-cut dresses for the women. I particularly like the color-coordinated broad-brim hats for the gals that cleverly transform into cloche hats.

At one point in the show Thomas as Armelia mentions that Waller would sell his songs along Tin Pan Alley but write and play a whole different style of music in Harlem.
I only wish that the whole show had been interspersed with more colorful anecdotes about the fascinating Waller and his interesting life story. It would make the show much more compelling and cohesive, and fulfilling.

That observation aside, “Ain’t Misbehavin’” is a rollicking, rolling, feisty, and fun night full of solid songs and swell dancing from an jazzy era long gone but not forgotten.

3 ½ Stars
Theater: Long Wharf Theatre
Location: 222 Sargent Drive, New Haven
Production: Conceived by Richard Maltby Jr. and Murray Horwitz. Created and directed by Maltby. Choreographed by Arthur Faria. Musical adaptations, orchestrations, and arrangements by Luther Henderson. Vocal and musical concepts by Jeffrey Gutcheon, with musical arrangements by Gutcheon and William Elliott. Set design by John Lee Beatty. Costume design by Gail Baldoni. Lighting design by Pat Collins. Sound design by Tom Morse.
Running time: 2 ½ hours plus one 15-minute intermission.
Show Times: Tuesdays through Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday matinees at 2 p.m. through Nov. 20.
Tickets: $40 to $70. For more information call their box office at 203-787-4282, or visit their website at

Euegene Barry-Hill ... Andre
Doug Eskew ... Ken
Kecia Lewis-Evans ... Nell
Cynthia Thomas ... Armelia
Debra Walton ... Charlayne

Monday, November 21, 2011

Ian Lowe, left, and Steven L. Barron in "The Woman in Black" at the Ivoryton Playhouse, running through Nov. 20

‘The Woman in Black’ a scary ghost story at Ivoryton

by Kory Loucks

IVORYTON — If you feel at a loss because you missed out on Halloween this year because of power outages, the Ivoryton Playhouse has the perfect solution with its spooky, truly frightening production of “The Woman in Black.”

The play, written by Stephen Mallatratt, based on Susan Hill’s novel, is a ghost story about a man named Kipps who years ago traveled to the north of England on business after a woman died, to review her myriad of papers and close out the estate for his company.

Once at the strange and gloomy mansion on a remote island that is only accessible at low tide, Kipps discovers odd sounds and endures terrifying experiences.

He also meets the town’s bleak and morose inhabitants, who fill him with even more trepidation and dread. One of the town folk tells him that “those that have seen the most say the least.”

The story is the retelling of his horrendous tale. But Kipps is no storyteller, so he hires an actor to bring his story to life for the family members he wants to share his life-altering event with, and thereby purge him of the horror he lives with every day.

The two meet in an old gothic Victorian theater in England where Kipps first reads his story. At first Kipps is stilted, dull, and extremely awkward as he speaks, just as one might expect someone who isn’t used to public speaking to sound. But as he practices, with the help of the actor, he improves, to the point of miraculousness; the sudden transition is a huge relief for those in the audience.

The actor (Ian Lowe) suggests that he play the part of Kipps while Kipps (Steven L. Barron) assumes all the other characters. In retrospect, it would make more sense for the inexperienced Kipp to play himself, but for plot reasons that I won’t expose here, that wouldn’t do.

Barron plays Kipps with the convincing demeanor of a haunted man desperate to exorcise his demons. He handles the transition from stodgy solicitor to polished and confident actor with grace and skill. A dusty, gray pin-stripped suit makes him appear even more dull and bland — with fine costumes by Vickie Blake.

Lowe plays the actor with enthusiasm and energy. It seems for a while that he has grander plans for this story other than just presenting it to Kipp’s relations, when he says that he would also like to invite a theater manager or two to the presentation.

Both Barron and Lowe have excellent British accents, complete with dialects, which are essential to this tale, sprightly directed by Maggie McGlone Jennings.

Gloomy lighting and accurate timing are essential for the fright factor, and they don’t disappoint, with lighting by Doug Harry.

The occasional rolling fog that we are told is caused by “sea frets” adds beautifully to the murky, mysterious atmosphere.

The set, by Tony Andrea, is basic but effective, with dusty old pieces of furniture piled on the sides of the stage, and a gothic curtain swag over the top in front.

Across the back of the stage there is a gauzy cloth through which a graveyard and, later, a child’s nursery can be vaguely and mysteriously seen.

The cloth is also used as a projection screen onto which the vision of the large gothic mansion is projected, to excellent effect.

The sound by Tate R. Burmeister adds much to the eerie mood, with extremely loud screams at key moments that made me jump on more than one occasion.

I don’t like the feeling of being scared out of my wits, but for those who love a scary ghost story, “The Lady in Black” more than delivers.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Andrew Small as Prince Christopher and Caitlin Fahey as Cinderella in the Opera House Players production of Oscar and Hammerstein's "Cinderella" running through Nov. 27 in East Windsor. photo by Bob Lyke.

Opera House Players’ ‘Cinderella’ romantic and beautiful

EAST WINDSOR — Some might say that putting on a production after a week without electricity might verge on the impossible, but not for first-time Opera House Players Director Barbara M. Washer and her extremely capable cast.

They might have been thinking about those marvelous lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II and the terrific music by Richard Rodgers from the song “Impossible,” that Cinderella and the fairy Godmother sing, to carry them through.

“Impossible things are happening every day,” the lyrics say.

The Cinderella fairytale is well-known: A poor girl, treated terribly by her stepmother and her daughters, gets to go to the Prince’s ball, where he falls in love with her at first sight.

Caitin Fahey plays Cinderella with understated conviction. She is believable as the abused stepdaughter and simply marvelous as the transformed beauty. How she completes her costume change in seconds flat including the hairpiece is amazing.

Fahey has a lovely, strong, and lyrical voice and is animated and charming when she sings “In My Own Little Corner.”

Even though this musical clearly appeals to young girls, there’s some grown-up humor, too.

King Maximillian, played by the robust and hearty David Climo, has some amusing lines, and he makes the most of them, such as when they sing the rousing “The Prince is Giving a Ball,” where he protests that it’s the king who is paying for it.

They want to have wines from around the world, but the king insists they have the wine from his country. “And the wine of my country, is beer,” he states.

Possibly one of the most beautiful love songs ever written, “Do I Love You Because You’re Beautiful,” is sung by Prince Christopher, played by Andrew Small, and Cinderella.

Oscar and Hammerstein must have liked the song too, because they have Queen Constantina and the Prince sing it again, and again at the end of the show.

Small has a natural sound and carries himself with the brooding confidence of a prince.

Julie M. Martini plays the queen with a sweet sense of playfulness and a clear strong voice.

Reva Kleppel has the perfect supercilious sneer as the haughty stepmother and does a lovely turn bossing Cinderella around.

Sara Steiner plays the Fairy Godmother with a irreverent and saucy persona that works well.

Megan Graul plays the ignorant Portia and Khara Hoyer plays dour Joy, the two stepsisters. Graul has the ditsy, dippy airhead attitude pegged, while Hoyer is equally fine with a constant scowl on her face.

The two sing one of the most delightful comic duets, the “Stepsisters Lament,” with hysterical lyrics like “She’s a frosty little bubble, with a flimsy kind of charm, and with very little trouble, I could break her little arm.”

It’s really wonderful stuff and they are wonderfully wicked. Their oversized Marie Antoinette wigs with bows and feathers, along with the stepmother’s white wig are ridiculous and funny too, with hair and makeup design by Erica Romeo.

The glorious period costumes, with costume design by the dependable Moonyean Field, help this show immensely.

Walker also adds a light touch by employing a sprite and a pixie, played by the delightful Jessica Turgeon and sweet Christine Zdebski.

The two play different characters throughout, and even have a marionette rat puppet that works well — nicely done by puppet and mask creator Robin Hillary McCahill.

The set by Jill Abele Butcher, who also is the scenic artist, is simple but works well, with many fast scene changes. And that pumpkin coach is everything a fairytale coach should be.

The orchestra, led by Music Director Deborah Curylo, was lyrical with a light touch and thankfully never overwhelmed the performers.

As they say, the show must go on, and it certainly does, in the romantic, beautiful production of “Cinderella” at the Opera House Players, running though Sunday, Nov. 27.

Stage review

4 stars


Theater: Opera House Players

Location: 107 Main St., Broad Brook section of East Windsor.

Production: Music by Richard Rodgers. Book and lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II. Directed by Barbara M. Washer. Music direction by Deborah Curylo. Choreography by Bryna Kearney. Costumes by Moonyean Field. Set design by Jill Abele Butcher. Lighting operation by Diane St. Amand. Stage Manager Lauren Grottole. Hair and make up by Erica Romeo. Sound operation by Dylan Fields.

Show times: Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m., Sundays at 2 p.m. through Nov. 27.

Running time: 2 hours plus a 15-minute intermission

Tickets: $21, $17 for seniors over 60 and children 12 and under. Call 860-292-6068 or visit their website at

Caitlin Fahey ................................… Cinderella
Andrew Small ..............… Prince Christopher
David Climo ......................… King Maximillian
Julie M. Martini ….......... Queen Constantina
Reva Kleppel …............................ Stepmother
Megan Graul …........................................ Portia
Khara Hoyer …............................................. Joy
Sara Steiner .....................… Fairy Godmother
Aaron Gilberto ..................................... Herald
Deb Brigada …................................ Royal Chef
Patrick O’Konis …............................... Steward
Jessica Turgeon ..................................… Sprite
Christine Zdebski ..................................… Pixie
Brett Gottheimer …................... Clumsy Man
Katie Bianchi, Liz Hoffman, Brett Gottheimer, Eliza Polukhin, Aidan Gillies ..... …...................................................... Ensemble

4 stars Excellent 3 stars Good 2 stars Fair 1 star Poor

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

From left, Michael Lomenda, Joseph Leo Bwarie, Preston Truman Boyd, and John Gardiner play Nick Massi, Frankie Valli, Bob Gaudio, and Tommy DeVito in the musical "Jersey Boys" at the Bushnell through Nov. 6. (Photo by Joan Marcus)

‘Jersey Boys’ sensational at the Bushnell

HARTFORD — What could be better than a bunch of fantastic songs and a terrific, true story all wrapped up in one amazing musical?

“Jersey Boys” is back at the Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts, and it’s once again rocking the house with the pop songs that made The Four Seasons with Frankie Valli a music sensation of the ’50s and ’60s.

Not much has changed since the cast was here in 2009, including the fabulous Joseph Leo Bwarie, who practically channels Frankie Valli and is a star in his own right.

Bwarie isn’t in every show during the run at the Bushnell, and although the other Frankies are probably very good, try to see Bwarie if you can. He has the voice of an angel.

The fine Joseph Siravo also makes a return appearance as Gyp DeCarlo, the Mafia boss with a soft spot, and other characters.

Joseph Handley is back playing a number of characters, including producer Bob Crewe, with panache.

Des McAnuff, director, added a hip-hop number that started the show with The Four Seasons’ hit “Oh What a Night,” with Donald Webber Jr. playing a French Rap star, showing how well their music holds up today.

The story follows the lives of the four men from their rough and tumble beginnings in New Jersey and their struggles to find a way to break into the big time.

The leader of the band is Tommy DeVito, played by John Gardiner, a fast talking hood who got them into deep financial trouble with the Mafia and the IRS.

DeVito is good, but sometimes he talks too fast and rushes his lines, to the point where the audience missed some of the jokes.

All the actors are also musicians, or else they play air guitar very well.

Preston Truman Boyd doesn’t look at all like the real life Bob Gaudio, but he is excellent as the youth who wrote hit after hit, including his first, “Who Wears Short Shorts.”

It’s interesting that the man who introduced Gaudio to The Four Seasons was Joe Pesci, who was a lowly punk back then, eventually becoming the famous film actor we all know. Pesci is played with hyper squeakiness by Courter Simmons.

Michael Lomenda plays the curmudgeon Nick Massi, who is always complaining, and not without reason, about his sloppy roommate, DeVito.

Kara Tremel is notably strong as Valli’s first wife, Mary, who got Valli to add an “i” to his last name rather than a “y.” Her explanation for the “i” is very funny but not printable.

In fact, most of the characters use profanity in about every sentence they speak, and there are some sexy scenes, making the show not so good for children.

The book by Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice is solid, giving different recollections of the four through time. As with any past memories, people have different perceptions of what actually happened and their stories gives each character depth.

The play mixes the past well, with projected video of different television shows The Four Seasons were on, including “American Bandstand” and “The Ed Sullivan Show,” and then project the stage actors singing, dressed all in black and white.

But the music is the thing, and here there are 20 of the songs by The Four Seasons, including “Sherry,” “Big Girls Don’t Cry,” “Can’t Take My Eyes Off Of You,” “Walk Like a Man,” and “Bye Bye Baby”; and the list of hits goes on.

On opening night, the audience was ecstatic, but some treated the show like it was a music concert and were loudly singing along to the hits. If you feel you can’t hold back, please remember that as much as you love the music, others pay to hear the singers on stage.

“Jersey Boys” is a hit musical that has it all, playing through Sunday, Nov. 6.

Stage review

4 stars

"Jersey Boys"

Theater: The William H. Mortensen Hall at the Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts.

Location:166 Capitol Ave. Hartford.

Production: Directed by Des McAnuff. Book by Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice. Music by Bob Gaudio. Music directin, vocal arrangements, and incidental music by Ron Melrose. Lyrics by Bob Crewe. Choreography by Sergio Trujillo. Scenic design by Klara Zieglerova. Costume design by Jess Goldstein. Lighting design by Howell Binkley. Sound design by Steven Canyon Kennedy.

Running time: 2½ hours plus one 15-minute intermission.

Show times: Tuesday, Wednesday, 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 Nov 6.

Tickets: Start at $25. Call 860-987-5900 or visit:

Joseph Leo Bwarie ..... Frankie Valli
John Gardiner ......... Tommy DeVito
Preston Truman Boyd ... Bob Gaudio
Michael Lomenda ....... Nick Massi
Jonathan Hadley ....... Bob Crewe and others
Courter Simmons ....... Joey and others
Joseph Siravo ......... Gyp DeCarlo and others
Kara Tremel ........... Mary Delgado, Angel, and others

4 stars Excellent; 3 stars Good; 2 stars Fair; 1 star Poor

Photo of Al Jarreau and me back stage on Nov. 11.

Al Jarreau still has that "fire in the belly"

For Al Jarreau, life is a joyous, excellent adventure.

The legendary singer continues to tour, and is bringing his signature smooth jazz sound to the Jorgensen Cabaret at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, Nov. 11 and 12.

“I’m really so blessed with a joy in the music that just spills over,” Jarreau, 71, said in a telephone interview from his home in Los Angeles. “When I am standing there and singing, something special happens. It is very precious stuff.”

The world-renowned, gifted star is one of the few artists to have won seven Grammy Awards in three separate categories — jazz, pop, and rhythm and blues — over four decades.

Jarreau possesses a voice that feels safe, warm, and reassuring. His band, which has been with him for 15 years, perfectly complements his enduring sound that never goes out of style.

A natural baritone, Jarreau said he often stretches to the top end of his range, observing that as he has aged, his voice has naturally deepened.

Familiar songs

His latest CD, “The Very Best of Al Jarreau: An Excellent Adventure,” includes many of his hits, such as “After All” and “We’re In This Love Together,” which he will include on this weekend’s playlist.

It is more than just his singing, though, that makes Jarreau such a consummate performer.

Much of his set is improvisational and inspired by the moment — interspersing the songs with spontaneous conversation with the audience.

“Being in the moment and having fun, that’s the thing, and just forgetting your problems for a while,” Jarreau said.

Where does he get the energy to continue touring?

“It is the music,” Jarreau responded. “It is a deep-seated love that comes with that fire in the belly that spills over into other areas of your life.”

Jarreau grew up in Wisconsin where he started singing in public with his mother, a church pianist, when he was 5 years old.

As a youth he was also a cross-country runner, where he learned endurance and perseverance.

“You have teammates, but you learn to suffer in silence,” Jarreau said. “I had a lot of conversations with myself.”

Jarreau earned a master’s degree in vocational rehabilitation and worked in that career for a while in San Francisco, but through it all he always continued singing.

“If I had the smarts I would have gone into medicine,” Jarreau said. “But the smiles I get from the people I sing to are better than being a social worker and better than being a physician.”

Returning to Connecticut

Jarreau was last in Connecticut in 1989, where he saw the Welterweight Championship fight with Marlin Starling at the Hartford Civic Center, now the XL Center.

“I made some good friends in Hartford,” Jarreau said. “I am sorry I’ve been away so long.”

When he learned that he was returning to Connecticut after all these years he was delighted.

“I am tickled about doing this music to have a platform to say something to people,” Jarreau said. “There is fun to be had.”

Aches and pain are all a part of life, he observed, but it is a joyous life. “The journey is learning how to live it,” Jarreau said. “You’ve got to work.”

And although performing and touring is a lot of work, it’s meaningful work for Jarreau.

“Music is one of those magical things,” he said. “You smile a lot and you find joy in a lot of things. It makes for better lives, and makes you a better neighbor and citizen of the community. Finding music is a great thing.”

Ticket prices range from $10 to $55. For tickets call 860-486-4226 or visit:

Sarah Hayes, left, as Trix in The Little Theatre of Manchester's production of "The Drowsy Chaperone," through Nov. 20. (Photo by Chris Heustis.)

"The Drowsy Chaperone" a grand, luscious musical at Little Theatre of Manchester

MANCHESTER — Don’t feel bad if you missed “The Drowsy Chaperone” on Broadway, because you can see the rousing, raucous, rambunctious production of this delightful musical right here at the Little Theatre of Manchester.

This show has everything you could ask for in a musical — fun, frolicsome songs, a lighthearted story, talented performers, dynamic dancing (by director Todd Santa Maria), vibrant costumes (Christopher Clark), and a solid set (Joe Russo).

It’s really a show within a show, with book by Bob Martin and Don McKellarson, and music and lyrics by Lisa Lambert and Greg Morrison.

The narrator, played with sweet sensitivity by Chad Shipley, is going through a bitter divorce and tries to cheer himself up by playing the soundtrack to a fictional 1928 musical called “The Drowsy Chaperone.”

He says he hates the modern theater and doesn’t like intermissions, but adores this old musical.

He takes the audience with him through the record he has listened to many times, playing it on an old-fashioned record player.

“There’s a mixup, some mayhem, and a gay wedding,” says the narrator, referring to a time when “gay” had a different connotation.

Janet (a terrific Kristen Shaw), the glamorous star performer in a Feldzieg Follies show, decides to marry oil tycoon Robert (a dapper Ric Plamenco) and leave the theater forever.

Producer Feldzieg (played with panache by Mike Zizka) is in trouble with some thugs for losing his leading lady and does his best to end the wedding.

He gets leading man Adolpho (played with flourish by John-Michael Whitney) to seduce Janet and break up the impending wedding, but Adolpho seduces her chaperone instead.

Nicole Giguere is at her theatrical best playing the chaperone — who is drowsy because she is drunk most of the time.

This was set during prohibition, so they call vodka “ice water.”

Giguere’s role is that of a Broadway star who gets to sing anthems in the middle of shows, even if they have little to do with the musical, the narrator explains.

The dancing is wonderful too, with excellent tap dancing by Plamenco and George (Rick Fountain), who dance and sing to “Cold Feets,” with direction from tap choreographer Sheila Waters Fucci.

The athletic Plamenco is Gene Kelly to graceful Fountain’s Fred Astaire. They were both fantastic, as was Plamenco when he roller-skated while blindfolded.

Mike King and Jimmy Donohue are a fantastic comic duo as the punny, harmless gangsters who become stars thanks to Feldzieg. They sing “Toledo Surprise” and are joined by the rest of the company, which is one of the best of many songs in the show.

Other strong performances include Jillian Holt as the ditzy starlet Kitty, Kathy Cook as the wealthy matron Tottendale, and David Lally as the unflappable servant Underling.

The band was strong, but often too strong, and competed with all but the most powerful vocalists, even though they were miked. Either crank up those mikes or tone down the musicians, or both.

Although there’s no intermission, there is a second act that starts with a bizarre Chinese number, until we learn that it is the wrong record playing.

It is a whimsical touch to this delicious musical, and they really took it to the limit.

The costumes, by first-time costume designer Clark are as numerous as they are gorgeous, especially Janet’s brilliant red gown that was only seen momentarily. The costumes were funny too, including the hysterically silly hats with paper lanterns in the Chinese sequence.

Kudos also to Russo for that spectacular biplane that Trix (a high flying Sarah Hayes) lands on the stage.

The show is a loving homage to the days of old time musical extravaganzas, and LTM really lived up to all that this show demands.

Come have a grand time celebrating the luscious musical “The Drowsy Chaperone,” playing through Nov. 20.

Stage review

4 stars

"The Drowsy Chaperone"
Theater: Little Theatre of Manchester
Location: Cheney Hall, 177 Hartford Road, Manchester.
Production: Music and lyrics by Lisa Lambert and Greg Morrison. Book by Bob Martin and Don McKellarson. Directed and choreographed by Todd Santa Maria. Music direction by Angela Klimaytis. Tap choreographer Sheila Waters Fucci. Technical direction by Glen Aliczi. Costume design by Christopher Clark. Stage Manager Gretchen Wiedie. Set design by Joe Russo. Lighting design by Meg Ryan.
Running time: 1 hour 45 minutes with no intermission
Show times: Today, Nov. 10, and Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m., with Sunday matinees at 2 p.m., through Nov. 20.
Tickets: $22-$29. Call the box office at 860-647-9824, or visit:

Chad Shipley.............Man in Chair
Kristen Shaw.............Janet
Nicole Giguere...........Drowsy Chaperone
Ric Plamenco.............Robert
Rick Fountain............George
John-Michael Whitney.....Adolpho
David Lally..............Underling
Kathy Cook...............Tottendale
Mike Zizka...............Feldzieg
Jillian Holt.............Kitty
Sarah Hayes..............Trix
Mike King................Gangster #1
Jimmy Donohue............Gangster #2
Superintendent...Joe Lucenti
Christine Noble, Diane AmEnde, Susan Melnick, Debbie Gustafson, and Joe Lucenti..................Ensemble

4 stars Excellent 3 stars Good 2 stars Fair 1 star Poor

Maria Dizzia as Abby, and Gilbert Owuor as Alioune in a scene from "Belleville." (Photo by Joan Marcus.)

"Belleville" a compelling, dynamic play

NEW HAVEN — Not all is as it appears in the world premiere of Amy Herzog’s play “Belleville” — a fine contemporary drama with unexpected twists and turns.

Newlyweds Abby and Zack, a recent medical school graduate, are living in the funky Belleville district of Paris where he has accepted a position as a pediatric AIDS researcher.

Abby has many neurotic issues including an over-attachment to her father, and Zack is doing all he can to manage her, to the point of withholding her cell phone from her.

She is something of a lost soul, taking French lessons then giving them up saying that it is unnecessary because everyone speaks English, and teaching a little yoga.

She arrives home early one afternoon and finds Zack unexpectedly there. As the play continues, the landlord and his wife, Alioune and Amina, enter, and it becomes evident that something is not right in this dimly lit corner of the City of Light.

Maria Dizzia plays Abby, a sarcastic woman who is drifting through life, opting to have her primary identity be that of a doctor’s wife, a role for the 32 year old that is far too narrow for her, but one that she thinks she wants.

Abby’s sister back in the United States is having a difficult pregnancy, but they can’t go home because of Visa problems, we learn.

I had some problem believing that Abby was talking with anyone on the other end of the phone. Zack was more convincing.

In France, the Belleville district is an area where few tourists visit, but where a richly diverse population lives and works.

The impressive set is the one bedroom flat where Zack and Abby have been living for the past four months. Designed by Julia C. Lee, it is one of the best, most detailed sets I have seen in a long time, with even the rooftop view of the chimneys.

I wondered about the broken restaurant sign visible out their apartment window, however. Granted, it’s supposed to be a lower income area, but it looks like something one would see in a war zone.

Still, the overall set looks like a work of art, and was fully utilized by director Anne Kauffman.

Kauffman showed courage allowing some scenes to be completely silent for what felt like an almost excruciatingly long time, but at the same time the silence felt completely appropriate and compelling.

It was the same, too, at the end of the play, where little is said but so much is communicated.

The French immigrant’s accents of Alioune and Amina, played by Gilbert Owuor and Pascale Armand, were believable and necessary to give the play its sense of foreignness. Fine work by vocal and dialect coach Beth McGuire.

There are some genuinely frightening and disturbing moments where the unstable characters reveal their long-kept secrets.

This underlying and increasing tension holds “Belleville” together and sweeps the audience along, even when logic says that the secrets probably would have been discovered long before they saw the light of day.

The combination of dynamic acting, confident direction, and strong writing make “Belleville” an excellent, compelling play.

Stage review

3 1/2 stars


Theater: Yale Repertory Theatre

Location: University Theatre, 1120 Chapel St., New Haven.

Production: Written by Amy Herzog. Directed by Anne Kauffman. Scenic design by Julia C. Lee. Costume design by Mark Nagle. Lighting design by Nina Hyun Seung Lee. Sound Designer and Composer Robert Kaplowitz. Production dramaturgs Amy Boratko and Alex Ripp. Vocal and dialect coach Beth McGuire. Fight directors Rick Sordelet and Jeff Barry.

Running time: 1 hour and 45 minutes with no intermission.

Show times: Tuesday through Saturday at 8 p.m. with Saturday matinees as 2 p.m., through Nov. 12.

Tickets: $25-$54. Call 203-432-1234 or visit:

Greg Keller.........Zack
Maria Dizzia........Abby
Gilbert Owuor.......Alioune
Pascale Armand......Amina

4 stars Excellent 3 stars Good 2 stars Fair 1 star Poor. 1/2 star designates half-rating higher