Hartford Stage Introduces a New Scrooge

By Karen Isaacs, Two on the Aisle

How do you take over a part that for 20 years has been play almost exclusively by one actor? Michael Preston is facing that dilemma as the new Scrooge in the Hartford Stage production of A Christmas Carol – A Ghost Story of Christmas, which runs through Sunday, Dec. 30.

 Preston admitted that Bill Raymond, the former Scrooge who retired from the role last year, had been a hero of his. “It was great to work with him,” Preston said, referring to playing Mr. Marvel for several years in the production. But he admits it is a “little strange” taking over the part.

“I see Scrooge as a man who has turned away from any comfort and shut himself off,” Preston said. “It’s about loss and disappointment, which are human traits.”

“It’s the journey he (Scrooge) takes to reach a point of celebrating life and touching people,” he added.  “At any moment one of the ghosts could send him down.”

For both Preston and director Rachel Alderman, this adaptation by Michael Wilson (former Artistic Director at Hartford Stage) gets to the heart of the story and focuses on the dynamic relationships.

“Everyone is trying to get him (Scrooge) to change and reaching out to him,” Alderman said. This adaptation is so reflective of the heart and warmth of Michael Wilson; it just infuses the entire story, she added.

Preston views the role as “tremendously entertaining” which requires “great clowning,” “You have to prepare the audience for the ending; Scrooge is has very human traits that are unpleasant, but there is a small spark within him, that the ghosts and his associates manage to fan,” Preston said. “You have to find the moment when he changes.”

One of Alderman’s responsibilities is adapting the staging to the new cast members – not only are there three new performers in major roles, but three others are switching roles. Plus there are the students from Hartt School of the University of Hartford which comprise the ensemble and the numerous children in the cast.

In the space of just six weeks, the cast will perform the show almost 50 times – 34 regular performances and 14 school group performances. For those, Buzz Roddy plays Scrooge.

“The audiences are so enthusiastic that energizes the cast,” Alderman said. “For some it is an annual event, some have never seen live theater, and each year there are grandparents bringing their grandchildren to the show.”  The cast, she says, feels that and responds to it.

It’s the audience as well as the students and children who help keep the whole show renewed and alive, she said.

Once again, a sensory-friendly performance will be available at reduced prices on Saturday, Dec. 2. This is geared for families with autism or other sensory sensitivities. A variety of accommodations to the production are made. For information on this, contact hartfordstage.org/sensory-friendly.

Local craftspeople will fill the lobby of the theater on “Market Days” that begin Sunday, Dec. 3 and continue the following two weekends. It’s been a popular event for audience members who can shop the unique offerings and local businesses.

For tickets or information, visit Hartford Stage.

The Musical Holiday — Carols, Pop Holiday Songs and Classical – Something for Everyone

By Karen Isaacs, Two on the Aisle

 It’s a long standing tradition – the Saturday after Thanksgiving, Orchestra New England starts the holiday season with its Colonial Concert. Audience members are transported back to the colonial era where maestro James Sinclair will introduce them to the “latest” European music. This year’s concert, held at United Church on the Green, New Haven is on Saturday, Nov. 25. It will feature a “recent” symphony by Mr. Hayden, as well as a popular French song by Jean-Paul-Egide Maitini. Organist Walden Moor of Trinity Church on the Green is a guest artist. The audience also gets a visit from the wife of the President of the Continental Congress. For tickets visit orchestranewengland.org or call 800-595-4849.

Two ensembles of the New Haven Symphony have planned concerts this season. Holiday Extravaganza features the Pops under the baton of Chelsea Tipton. Guest soloist is Connor Bogart and it always includes a sing-along. Performances are Saturday, Dec. 16 at Hamden Middle School, Sunday, Dec. 17 at Shelton High School and Thursday, Dec. 21 at Woolsey Hall.

The NHSO Brass Quintet will perform with Tony and Grammy Award-nominated Bryce Pinkham on Friday, Dec. 15 at Sacred Heart University and Saturday, Dec. 16 at the First Congregational Church in Madison. Among the selections will be “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,” “My Favorite Things,” and Leroy Anderson’s “Sleigh Ride.” For tickets to any of the concerts visit newhavensymphony.org or call 203-865-0831. For the Sacred Heart concert, visit Edgertoncenter.org.

The Hartford Symphony gets into the holiday mood with its Holiday Cirque Spectacular on Saturday, Dec. 18. You enjoy the music by the symphony as you watch the aerialists, contortionists and gymnasts of the world-famous Cirque de la Symphonie. It’s on Saturday, Dec. 16.  On Friday, Dec. 8 to Sunday, Dec. 10, the Symphony presents December Dreams which will feature selections from The Nutcracker and William Henry Fry’s Santa Claus (A Christmas Symphony) among other selections. For information and tickets visit hartfordsymphony.org or call 860-987-5900.

Three Bridgeport events are on the calendar. The Vienna Boys Choir is presenting a concert in Bridgeport on Saturday, Dec. 2. For tickets visit theKlein.org or call 800-524-0160.  Believe presented by Cirque Musica Holiday with the Greater Bridgeport Symphony is Tuesday, Dec. 12 at the Webster Bank area. Tickets are available at websterbankarena.com. The Symphony is also presenting Holiday Interlude on  Saturday, Dec. 16 at the Klein. Selections from The Nutcracker as well as Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 5 and holiday music are on the bill. Tickets are at theKlein.org.

Popular Music

Opera singers and local residents David Pittsinger and Patricia Shuman are in concert at Ivoryton Playhouse, Thursday, Dec. 21 and Friday, Dec. 22. Billed as The Ivoryton Playhouse Christmas Hour with David Pittsinger and Friends, it will feature both classical and popular holiday music. Joining Pittsinger and Shuman are Carly Callahan, Charlie Widmer and Katie Weiser. For ticket visit ivorytonplayhouse.org or call 860-767-7318.

 The Kate in Old Saybrook is presenting three holiday themed concerts. On Saturday, Dec. 2 it’s The Drifters – Holiday Magic. The concert includes “Rudolph” as well as their iconic version of “Silent Night.”  Elisabeth Von Trapp – granddaughter of the legendary Maria of Sound of Music fame, performs on Sunday, Dec. 3.

The Connecticut Gay Men’s Chorus performs their concert, Twinkle – A Celestial Celebration­ on Sunday, Dec. 10. It includes the area premier of James Eakin’s “Stargazing.” The group will also present the concert of Saturday, Dec. 16 and Sunday, Dec. 17 at the High School of Performing Arts at 177 College Street, New Haven. Tickets for those shows are available at ctgmc.org or 203-777-2923. For any concert at The Kate, visit katherinhepburntheater.org or call 877-503-1286.

The Blind Boys of Alabama are bringing their Christmas Show featuring the Preservation Hall Legacy Horns on Saturday, Dec. 2. This group has earned five Grammy Awards plus a Lifetime Achievement Award. For ticket visit Shubert.com or call 203-562-5666.

From Tinseltown to Times Square: A Holiday Adventure is the title for the concert by the Hartford Gay Men’s Chorus on Friday to Sunday, Dec. 8 – 10 at the Wadsworth Atheneum’s Aetna Theatre. The concert will feature holiday songs from Broadway and films including How the Grinch Stole Christmas and Elf the Musical. Tickets are at www.tickets.hgmc.org.

In addition, numerous church choirs and community choruses present holiday concerts. You can also expect several performances of The Messiah either in concert or as “sing-alongs”. This includes the sing-along at The Kate on Saturday, Dec. 17.

Triney Sandoval Takes A Break From Shakespeare’s Romeo And Juliet To Talk To CTLatinoNews

Triney Sandoval will be performing the role of Capulet in the new production of Romeo & Juliet at Westport Country Playhouse in Westport, CT. (WCP) The play is directed by Mark Lamos, who has served as the artistic director of WCP since 2009. Lamos’ has become one of the most admired and respected theatrical directors in his interpretation and presentation of works by Shakespeare.  I still remember many of the scenes of the productions of plays by Shakespeare, he directed during the 17 years in which he was the Artistic Director at Hartford Stage. The news that Lamos will direct a Shakespeare play always generates great excitement and interest among the theater-loving audience. To have both Lamos directing a play and Latino actor Triney Sandoval in the cast, peaked my interest and I reached out to  Pat Blaufuss, Public Relations Manager at WCP. I want to thank her for introducing me to Mr. Sandoval and facilitating this interview.
BESSY REYNA: Where are your parents from? Did they speak Spanish at home?
TRINEY SANDOVAL: For as long as anyone can remember, both sides of my family come from the Colorado/ New Mexico region – before they were states. As the saying goes.  We didn’t cross the border, the border crossed us.  Both of my parents were born in New Mexico (my father in Las a Vegas and my mother in Santa Fe) but they met and lived in San Diego. My father grew up speaking both Spanish and English. My mother grew up in a household where they used Spanish as a secret language when they didn’t want the children to know what was going on, so she never learned it. As a result, almost the only time I heard the language was when my father would chat with my maternal grandmother, and I, like my mother, don’t speak a word.
BR: A day in the life of your family, what was it like?
TS: My dad worked as a machinist, my mom stayed home to take care of my brother and me, we had a pool and dogs and ate dinner together every night. I thought I lived the same life that everybody in America lived. It wasn’t until I got older that I realized that not everybody in America had at least 40 people over on birthdays and for every major holiday – and for each gathering had a full ham, a turkey, tamales, and beans with chile. I had no idea that not all of America sent family members to Hatch, New Mexico every 4 or 5 years to pick up 40 bushels of green chile, and then get together over a long weekend (and over several barbecues) to roast, package, freeze, and distribute it throughout the family to carry everyone until the next trip. So while it turns out that it wasn’t necessarily what everyone thinks of as an American childhood, it was a very American childhood.
BR: When did you become interested in acting/singing?
TS: High school was the first time I was on stage. I took a drama class as an elective, and as a relatively quiet kid I found an outlet that I was pretty good at. It was intriguing to be someone else. Adolescence is a time when you’re figuring out who you are, and for me there was no better way to do that than a socially sanctioned avenue of trying on other personalities.
BR: Your first play or concert? Memories about it?
TS: When I was in the 6th grade I saw a production of Sinbad at the local Junior college. I remember lots of smoke and green lights and darkness, but the big thing I walked away with, was seeing actors in one scene as one character and then in the next scene as completely different characters. I was fascinated by not only the change of character but of the change of costume and makeup, and how quickly it could happen. I went home and practiced quick changes in my bedroom. It was more than a fascination with being someone else it was being multiple someone “elses”
BR: Favorite composer, music?
TS: If you’re asking what I listen to and who consistently moves me, I have to confess I’m a pop music fella and I’m a bit stuck in the 70’s and 80’s. I listen to a lot of Paul Simon, Peter Gabriel and everything from Billy Joel.
BR: You have participated in so many different plays all over the country, do you have a favorite theater?
TS: I love working in an outdoor space, but I don’t have a favorite theater, per se. There have been some beautiful ones, but for me, theater is really about the people.
BR: You were part of the cast of “Frost/Nixon” by Peter Morgan, which is serious and political, and “The Underpants” which was adapted by Steve Martin, do you prefer drama to comedy?
TS: I love them both! And more than that, I love to mix them as much as I can. The great thing about Shakespeare is that all his plays incorporate both.  Maybe that’s because he was an actor and knew that laughter will open an audience to and emotional experience. One thing I love about comedy is the high wire element. You know immediately when you’re successful and when you’ve failed.
BR: you also worked on TV? Elementary and Law &Order, The Sopranos, which are very popular, how was that experience?  Which roles did you play?
TS: Usually just one or two scene roles; an FBI agent in The Sopranos, a postman on The Blacklist, but both Law and Order and Law and Order SVU afforded me the opportunity to do recurring roles. In the former, I was a coroner, and in the latter, a computer tech. The wonderful thing about those experiences was that I was able to spend some time getting to know what it was like to be on a set and how that world, which is very different from theater, works.
BR: Do you have a preference as to the type of work you do TV or theater?
TS: Well, my pocketbook loves, loves, loves television, but I’m so much more comfortable in a rehearsal hall and on a stage theater.
BR: Your next project?
TS:  There’s nothing on the horizon, but then there rarely is. I tend to start looking for the next job a few weeks before the current one ends.
BR: What do you do for fun?
TS: One of the things I love about theater is the collaborative nature of it. But when it comes to having fun outside of work I look for things that are decidedly un- collaborative. Most of it has to do with constructing things. I’ve built almost every piece of furniture in our house, I sew most of my clothes and I’ve just recently taken up welding. I can’t wait to see what I can make with this new hobby.
BR: Gracias Triney for taking the time to chat with us.
Romeo & Juliet will be at Westport Country Playhouse, 25 Powers Court, Wesport, CT from  October 31 to November 19. For more information visit  www.westportplayhouse.org  or call 203-227-5137.
Bessy Reyna is a member of the Board of Directors of CT Critics’ Circle