We asked members of the CT Critics Circle to talk about their most memorable night in a Connecticut theatre and what production of a play or musical they remember best. Below are the edited responses.
What was the most memorable night in a Connecticut theater for you? Why was it so memorable?
Stuart Brown: 1996 Goodspeed production of Sweeney Todd. When Sweeney Todd opened on Broadway to commercial and critical success, it had, I believe, the largest set every to grace a Broadway stage. How, then, could this show go from mammoth staging to the picture postcard sized performing space at Goodspeed? By focusing on the essence of the musical – the characters and great Stephen Sondheim score – and the creative re-imagining by director Gabriel Barre the venerable institution on the Connecticut River was able to pull off an incredible and memorable night at the theater.
Frank Rizzo: 1993 Yale Rep production of Children of Paradise: Shooting a Dream was one of the best coup de theatre’s I’ve ever witnessed. Created by Minneapolis’ Theatre de la Jeune Lune it was about the making of the classic French film “Children of Paradise” during occupied France in WWII. It was a transcendental evening in the theater where the art of filmmaking, blended with the art of theater making in a stunning stylized way that was fresh, challenging and heartfelt.
Bonnie K. Goldberg: A….My Name is Alice. The memorable ones are too numerous to mention but the one that comes immediately to mind is a simple and unpretentious and delightful series of sketches about women penned almost 40 years ago by Joan Micklin and Julianne Boyd. Done by women, five in fact, the stories or vignettes view women as mothers, friends, daughters, sex objects, sisters and are alternately funny and poignant. A….My Name is Alice reminds us of a childhood game. The show was so wonderful that when I recommended it to friends, they insisted that I go with them so I “bought” a ticket and paid to see it again, I loved it even more the second time around.
Karen Isaacs: Master Harold and the Boys at the Yale Rep in March 1983. I could name many but probably the most memorable was the official opening of this Athol Fugard play. It was the world premiere of this new play and starred Źeilko Ivanek, Zakes Mokae and Danny Glover, directed by Fugard. As the play ended, some of the audience sat stunned in their seats and the rest rose as if as one applauding and crying. Those sitting soon joined, wiping tears from their eyes. It is production and evening I will always remember.
Tom Holehan: The American premiere of The Madness Of King George at Stamford’s Rich Forum really slayed me. It was a magnificent production with stellar acting and production values. I can still see that opening scene as the royal court slowly came into view.
Tim Leininger: As an audience member, it’d probably be seeing Darko Tresjnak and Hartford Stage’s production of William Shakespeare’s Hamlet. I’ve read and seen Hamlet more than any other play and I loved the staging with the cross stage illuminated from underneath. The simple, stark imagery, along with a great performance by an age appropriate Hamlet with Zach Appelman made for one of the best interpretations of Shakespeare I’ve ever seen.
Zander Opper: I think that my most amazing experience in a Connecticut theater was seeing Anastasia at Hartford Stage. What made it so especially memorable was the feeling that I was seeing a brand new musical that was ready for Broadway. I remember at the end of the first act, when Christy Altomare delivered the big song, “Journey to the Past,” the moment was absolutely stunning. When the lights came up for the intermission, I was pinned to my seat, really overwhelmed by the show. I remember the man sitting in front of me turned to me and asked me if the show was going to Broadway. All I could do was nod to him, “yes.” Seeing Anastasia at Hartford Stage was also major for me as a theater critic: I suddenly realized that my review of the show was going to help determine if it would make the leap to Broadway. I was now one of those “out-of-town” critics that I had always read about in books, a distinction I never thought I would ever attain!
Nancy Sasso Janis: Hello, Dolly! at the Warner Theatre (Torrington, CT) in May 2015. During the number ironically entitled “Dancing,” the tall actor playing Cornelius, Eric Lindblom, took what I thought was a preplanned fall when something went wrong. With what looked to be a severely injured knee, he kept on going as best he could but was unable to dance. After an extended intermission to care for him (thankfully a PA was among the cast members backstage,) he reappeared with a cane, supported by his costar Kate Brophy (as Irene Molloy,) to huge applause. My heart went out to him as he made it through the second act; his acting and singing did not suffer one bit but he had to be in tremendous pain. The rest of the cast did an amazing job of making some quick minor changes.
Dolly Curtis: In our last active year of live theatre….the most memorable play for me was The Plot by playwright William Eno at Yale Rep in December 2019. I was so taken with this drama I went back to see it again. I tried to reach the playwright; I was trying to set up a radio interview. It never happened. I came back to see it again and hear the script again. I remember being more intrigued on the second time even more so. I left unsure of what really happened with the lead parts that made this play even better for me.
Marlene Gaylinn: Showboat at Darien Dinner Theatre. The stage was rather small and the set, a huge replica of a steamboat moved slowly forward during the second act. All that was left was a narrow strip of space for the performers. As a result, when the dance soloist began his traditional “Cake Walk,” he high-stepped his way right off the stage and onto the cellist in the orchestra below. The music stopped, the audience gasped, and the house was in silent shock until both men emerged unscathed (along with the cello) and the performance immediately resumed where it left off. This unusual accident and a cup of coffee led to a professional, writing career and membership in Connecticut Critics Circle. Naturally, Showboat became my favorite musical!