Best of Connecticut Theater 2010 - If You Ask Me

The Connecticut theatre season probably had more lows than highs in 2010, but the high points are definitely worth remembering. In alphabetical order, my personal favorite theatre events of 2010:

“Carnival”: Who would have thought so much charm remained in Bob Merrill and Michael Stewart’s 1960s musical chestnut? Under the canny direction of Darko Tresnjak, this Goodspeed highlight had a rousing cast of singers, actors and circus performers, a clever scenic design by David P. Gordon and fabulous French costuming from Fabio Toblini. Love Makes the World Go ‘Round…indeed!

“Diary of Anne Frank”: At the Westport Country Playhouse, a solid, well-acted production of the classic Holocaust drama showcased a lovely central performance by Molly Ephraim as Anne given able support from a first-rate supporting cast. Director Gerald Freedman, working from a new adaptation of the play by Wendy Kesselman, found subtleties within the relationships making this “Anne” as fresh as the latest Broadway release.

“Everything the Traffic Will Allow”: Klea Blackhurst became Ethel Merman in this fond tribute to the legendary Broadway star. At the intimate Music Theatre of Connecticut in Westport, Blackhurst connected with every audience member in the house thrilling them with terrific renditions of such Merman classics as “Blow, Gabriel Blow!”, “Everything’s Coming Up Roses” and “There’s No Business Like Show Business”. Ninety minutes of sheer bliss.

“Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat”: Bridgeport’s Downtown Cabaret Theatre came back strong with an unpretentious and totally entertaining revival of the Andrew Lloyd Webber/Tim Rice standard with knockout lead performances by Kris Stock as Joseph and especially Jodi Langel as the Narrator.

“No Child …”: A powerhouse one-woman show written and performed by Nilaja Sun, based on her experiences as an inner-city high school teacher. Sun easily won the Connecticut Critics Circle “Outstanding Actress” award last year for the role, one she brought to thrilling life along with a variety of other characters, male and female. Drama like this is why I go to the theatre.

“She Loves Me”: Glorious, feel-good revival at the Westport Country Playhouse found its Artistic Director Mark Lamos firing on all cylinders essaying the delightful music of Jerry Bock and Sheldon Harnick and a pitch-perfect company of actors. More, more!

“Shirley Valentine”: Yes, Willy Russell’s feminist friendly script has seen better days, but what a great vehicle for actresses “of a certain age” who have still got a few miles left in the tank. Hell, Judith Ivey can make several more round trips given her all-embracing, life-affirming performance as the title character, a frumpy Liverpudlian housewife suddenly finding her true self. Her act two transformation was a thing of beauty.

Tom Holehan is Co-chairman of the Connecticut Critics Circle and Artistic Director of Stratford’s Square One Theatre Company. He welcomes comments at: