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Entertainment, redemption, and happy endings on stage this fall

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Connecticut theaters still struggling but cautiously optimistic about fall’s full slate of musicals, comedies and dramas

Carpenters build sets, actors learn lines, dancers rehearse routines, and front of house folks prepare to welcome audiences into the fall season.

For some of Connecticut’s professional theaters, the fall season marks the beginning of the new year, while others mean ending a season that began in the spring.

This year’s offerings include everything from intense drama to Who is Virginia Woolf afraid of? Tony Award-winning musicals including 42nd Street, Fun Home: A Family Tragicomedy, sunset boulevard, and everything in between. two works, great gatsby When Who is Virginia Woolf afraid of? I am getting two productions each.

Theaters and their leaders have learned a lot from the turmoil of the past few years as we enter the fall season. Most of them sound cautiously optimistic about next season. During the pandemic, theaters have been closely monitoring and listening to subscribers and ticket-buyers before planning their next move. .

Missing the Magic

A year ago, when the likes of TheaterWorks Hartford and MTC (Music Theater of Connecticut) started their seasons, ticket sales plummeted. At the same time, they had heard that audiences were missing out on the magic of live theater.

TheaterWorks Hartford Artistic Director Rob Ruggiero said: The comment was echoed by others, including Ivoryton Playhouse executive his director, Jackie Hubbard, who said the audience was “thankful to be back.”

Some theaters estimate that between 20% and 50% of regular audiences were hesitant to return last fall. But as concerns about the pandemic wane throughout his 2022, ticket sales are slowly rising. Some theatergoers may still be uncomfortable being in public with large groups, but at the same time, established protocols have evolved and theaters are taking precautions to keep patrons safe. They are adept at following and implementing the latest science. Some still check their vaccination records, others need masks. In response to the latest COVID trends and the concerns of certain customers in theaters, some have made masks optional and not checked vaccinations.

Scheduling and production adjustments will continue. Both TheaterWorks and Westport reduced production run times. But for many theaters, decisions and even contracts he made were made in 2019, making it more difficult to correct course during the pandemic. This is the case at the Westport Country Playhouse. Managing Director Michael Barker says his just-announced 2023 season will be the first without any artist or production commitments before 2020.

The Hartford Stage, Goodspeed and MTC kick off with well-known and proven shows that appeal to audiences. Also, the tone is lighter. In the case of the Hartford Stage, it is an Agatha Christie mystery, mousetrap, from Thursday 13th October to Sunday 6th November. The mystery continued for decades in London.

MTC Artistic Director Kevin Connors is in rehearsals. sunset boulevard, the hit Andrew Lloyd Webber musical based on the famous film. He chose a show that hasn’t been done in Connecticut for years because it combines two elements of him that he loves: old Hollywood glamour, and film noir. Of course, it is also attractive that it was a big hit.

“I thought people wanted to see something a little lighter to remind them of what they loved about theater,” says Connors.

find joy together

That sentiment was echoed by Westport’s Artistic Director, Mark Ramos.

“Inspired by our audience, we decided to lift everything we love about theater and find joy together,” he says.

Hubbard’s next Ivoryton work great gatsbyher audience said they were “looking for entertainment…. redemption and a happy ending. They’ve had enough in the last two years.” ring of fire, It was good that it closed recently.

We all agree that some audience members could be lost for a few more years, or perhaps completely. Theaterworks estimates it will take two to four years to return to pre-COVID numbers for subscriptions and ticket sales. is. Westport hit hard with their first live production last fall. doubtopened when the second wave began.

The exception to this is Goodspeed. Artistic director Donna Lynn Hilton said the theater had returned to pre-pandemic capacity, which she was surprised to admit. But Goodspeed is what we miss the most,” she told us.

good speed open 42nd Street It runs from September 16th to November 16th. It should please your audience. His ACT-CT in Ridgefield presents another classic musical. Guys & Dolls October 27th (Thursday) to November 20th (Sunday)

innovative, thoughtful

But that doesn’t mean all products are light and fun. TheaterWorks Hartford kicks off with Tony Award-winning musical fun home Based on a graphic novel. The story of a family with secrets is innovative and thoughtful. From Saturday 8th October he will be held until Sunday 30th October. About the production his Ruggiero said:

playing with music, Last day at Emerson’s Bar & Grill The season kicks off at the Playhouse on Park in West Hartford. In this one-man show, Billie will feature the songs her Holliday made famous and tell the story of her breakdown during her performance at The Emmersons. From Wednesday 28th September he will be held until Sunday 16th October.

There are two works based on novels by F. Scott Fitzgerald. great gatsby, And they are different. From Thursday, September 15th through her Saturday, October 1st, her Legacy Theater in Branford will present the novel as a radio play. From Thursday, September 29th through Sunday, October 23rd, the Ivoryton Playhouse will be performing his version of Play.

The play is the same, but Who is Virginia Woolf afraid of? It should be quite different. The first to open is the Madison Lyric Stage Production in the new tent. The small theater saw an increase in attendance this year with the addition of a large fully enclosed tent. In fact, according to artistic director Mark Deaton, their audience is bigger than ever.this who are you afraid of It will be held until September 25th.

The production of the Yale representative play, directed by Artistic Director and Dean James Bundy, runs from Thursday, October 6 through Saturday, October 29.

Westport wraps up season from the Mississippi Delta, the touching story of a young woman who went to college in the North while picking cotton. From Tuesday 18th October she will be held until Saturday 5th November.

musicals, dramas, etc.

At the Upper Connecticut Theater – Bushnell and Schubert – it’s become a musical meal on Broadway these days. mean girls (September 27 (Tue) – October 2 (Sun)), Aladdin It will be in Bushnell during Schubert’s presentation from Tuesday, November 8th through Sunday, November 13th. dear woman From Wednesday October 19th to Saturday October 22nd at Schubert.

Perhaps the most difficult task fell to Ed Wilhelms, who had just opened the Dramaworks Theater Company in Old Saybrook last year. In a small 40-seat theater, he managed to put on seven shows. this fall, painting church (Friday, October 21st to Sunday, October 23rd) and Housekeeper (Scheduled from November 11 (Friday) to November 19 (Saturday)). Wilhelms said he chose stories that viewers could talk about and discuss later. Something that leaves an impression.

“I want a theater that artistically moves people and reveals the truth, but as a new theater, we need to build an audience.

As early as mid-November, just before the holiday shows begin, the Playhouse on Park hosts an August Wilson show. fence (Wednesday, November 2nd through Sunday, November 20th), Yale University will the brightest thing in the room (November 25th (Friday) – December 17th (Saturday)) and MTC will perform comedy Lend Me A Tenor (Friday, November 4th to Sunday, November 20th)

TheaterWorks will continue with virtual content wherever possible, and Westport will continue to stream the Script-in Hand series and collaborate with WSHU. Both Ruggiero and Barker said they depended on union permits. According to Barker, many of the companies that license the work do not license the streaming rights with the live stage rights.

Hubbard may have best summed up all the theaters in two comments. she said: She is also very grateful to her supporters who have helped us survive.

She mentioned the challenges affecting many companies. That is the difficulty of securing enough staff. “The hardest thing for us right now is finding staff to help us move forward. We have big plans for next year.”

All theaters expect this year to be stronger than last year. But they all expect to adapt to the new “normal” of audience tastes. Ultimately, Barker said: It will take much longer than anyone expected. ”

First day of rehearsals for Sunset Boulevard at the Connecticut Music Theater in Norwalk. Photo courtesy of MTC

First day of rehearsals for Sunset Boulevard at the Connecticut Music Theater in Norwalk. Photo courtesy of MTC

Bushnell plans to offer performances of Aladdin in the fall.Photo credit: Bushnell

Kate Baldwin and Max von Essen rehearse for the 42nd StreetGoodspeed musical with music director Adam Sousa in East Hadham. Photo credit: Goodspeed Musicals

The cast of 42nd Street rehearsing at the Goodspeed Musical in East Hadham. Photo credit: Goodspeed Musicals

Susan Culp and Jon Jorman during a rehearsal for What a Scary Virginia Woolf performed on the Madison Lyric Stage.Photo credit: Madison Lyric Stage

The Madison Lyric Stage is seeing a larger audience as they play in a larger space under a semi-permanent tent on the grounds of Madison’s Deacon John Grave House. Here, John Jorman and Susan Krupp rehearse for their current production. Who’s Scared of Virginia Woolf? Photo Credit: Madison Lyric Stage

42nd StreetGoodspeed MusicalsEast Haddam, CT 06423(860)873-8664

42nd StreetGoodspeed MusicalsEast Haddam, CT 06423(860)873-8664