“Welcome to Katz Reviews. This is Ed Katz of Katnip Marketing- marketing consultant by day; theater critic by night- with my weekly review segment, Katz Reviews, here for you on WICC 600.
As 2017 draws to a close I wanted to review some of the theater highlights that took place on stages in Southern Connecticut this past year, as we were blessed locally with several terrific productions.
This isn’t a complete list as I can’t see everything. As I have mentioned, I have a full time job where I do marketing work for my clients. But I am happy to share some highlights of what I did see with you as there were quite a few exciting surprises.
One I must mention is the production of ‘Rags’ which just closed at Goodspeed Opera House. This was the musical surprise of the season! Goodspeed actually had a season that was off their usual top-shelf game but ‘Rags,’ their season closer, was terrific on many levels- as I noted in my review several weeks ago.
And if Goodspeed did have a bit of a down year it is only in comparison to how high they set the bar the past couple of seasons with classics like ‘Anything Goes,’ ‘La Cage Aux Folles,’ ‘Holiday Inn,’ ‘Fiddler on the Roof’ and a sensational new musical- now bound for Broadway- called ‘Chasing Rainbows,’ about young Judy Garland up to the point she gets the lead in ‘The Wizard of Oz’- as well as other quality new works like ‘The Theory of Relativity,’ a Petula Clark musical ‘A Sign of the Times,’ and a Toulouse Lautrec musical, ‘My Paris.’
STONC’s ‘Singin’ in the Rain’
Runner-up for “best surprise musical” would be Summer Theater of New Cannan’s production of ‘Singin’ in the Rain’- with several great dance scenes- yes, including the big one, with rain on the stage.
DTC’s ‘Hunchback of Notre Dame’
Another musical of note was from Bridgeport’s own Downtown Cabaret and their production of ‘The Hunchback of Notre Dame.’ It certainly wasn’t perfect but Ben McCormack, as Quasimodo, was perfect! A fantastic voice and the best male performance of the year in a musical! Clay Zambo’s music direction was also excellent.
And Samantha Massell and Sean MacLaughlin were wonderful as the leads in Goodspeed’s ‘Rags’- both performances were Broadway caliber. Two other sensational musical performances were from Ruby Rakos and Michael Wartella- as young Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney- in Goodspeed’s ‘Chasing Rainbows.’
And Matthew Tiberi and Annabelle Fox were great in ‘Singin’ in the Rain,’ too.
WCT’s ‘A View From the Bridge’
Turning from musicals to plays now, the surprise treasure of the season was easily Westport Community Theatre’s production of Arthur Miller’s ‘A View From the Bridge,’ along with Rich Masotti’s stunning personification of Eddie Carbone and John Atkin’s smart direction.
WCT’s ‘Diary of Anne Frank’- Katelyn Ferrari
Westport Community Theatre scored again with their recent ‘The Diary of Anne Frank’- a terrific production featuring, as Anne Frank, the incredible young actress Katelyn Ferrari, who is a sophomore at Stratford High School.
WCP’s ‘Grounded’- Elizabeth Stahlmann
I also have to mention Westport Country Playhouse’s riveting one woman show, ‘Grounded,’ which starred recent Yale Drama school graduate Elizabeth Stahlmann as an ace U.S. military pilot battling to retain her sanity. Remember those names: Katelyn Ferrari and Elizabeth Stahlmann.
A couple of shows that didn’t quite connect were Westport Playhouse’s ‘Appropriate’- a well intentioned dramedy about grappling with racial prejudice- but it ultimately produced more of a “Huh?” reaction than an “A-ha!”
And Goodspeed’s ‘Thoroughly Modern Millie’ was hampered by a less than dynamic lead performance and a story that actually pokes fun at white slavery, which made the audience noticeably uncomfortable- and not in a clever, thoughtful way, unfortunately. But more good surprises than bad- and I look forward to seeing what 2018 will bring us!
Catch my reviews right here this time each week and on my Facebook page and website, Katz Reviews dot com, where you will find all my WICC 600 reviews.
This is Ed Katz talking theater for WICC 600!”