Stu Brown, host of the Broadway music radio program “On Broadway,” and his staff review New York and Connecticut stage offerings as well as ruminating about other theatrical matters.

Review of “Little Shop of Horrors”

Before the composing team of Howard Ashman and Alan Menken wrote the music and lyrics to such Disney blockbusters as The Little Mermaid and Beauty and the Beast they wrote the score for the musical comedy Little Shop of Horrors. The original 1982 production, based on Director Roger Corman’s 1960 low-budget movie, became one of the longest running shows in Off-Broadway history. Always an audience favorite the sci-fi spoof, centering on a rather large man-eating plant, is receiving an entertaining, animated production at the Ivoryton Playhouse through October 11th.

The plot of the musical is simple. Seymour (Nicholas Park), a nebbish of sorts, works at a flower shop on New York’s Skid Row. His co-worker Audrey (Laura Woyasz), a beauty with low self-esteem and a sadistic boyfriend (Carson Higgins) employed as a dentist, toil away at Mushnik’s (David Conaway) storefront awaiting any type of customer. One day Seymour unveils a plant purchased under mysterious circumstances that soon attracts shoppers because of its uniqueness. The trouble is regular plant food won’t suffice and as its true diet is revealed the lives of everyone in the Skid Row shop become topsy-turvy with unsettling consequences.

The strength of the show is the casting. All the principle actors perfectly fit into their roles delivering two hours of merriment, mayhem and tunefulness. Nicholas Park as Seymour is nerdy and plain without being pathetic. Laura Woyasz as Audrey may emulate the original actress, Ellen Greene, a bit too closely, but she does manage to put her own spin on the wistful, heart-of-gold character. David Conaway is thoroughly convincing as the downtrodden Mr. Mushnik. Carson Higgins, a standout from the previous Ivoryton Playhouse production of Memphis, infuses Orin the dentist with just the amount of degenerate fiendishness without being too over-the-top. The threesome of Azarria White (Chiffon), La’Nette Wallace (Crystal), and Denielle Marie Gray (Ronnette) form a winning mini Greek chorus along with their supporting roles. Even with a superior acting group Little Shop of Horrors would not work without a colorful, boisterous Audrey II. Thankfully, the team of Steve Sabol and puppeteer Austin Costello form a dynamic union that gives the growing plant a believability that is both engaging and somewhat scary.

The score by Howard Ashman and Alan Menken is witty, playful, melodic and can be very funny. The songs include do-wop, yearning ballads, comedic gems, and unusual duets. You can see why Disney plucked them from the theatrical ranks to reinvigorate their moribund animated film division.

Director Lawrence Thelen lets the material speak for itself without adding any unnecessary flourishes. He has an excellent feel for the characters and the actors portraying them. Along with choreographer Apollo Smile, who adds some solid incidental dance routines, Thelen keeps the production moving to its fulfilling conclusion.

Martin Scott Marchitto’s rotating set design is seedy and decrepit, perfectly embodying this battered, broken-down area of New York City. The small and confined space of the small Playhouse stage only adds to this run-down vibe.

Little Shop of Horrors, a rollicking good time at the Ivoryton Playhouse through October 11th.


Seems We Never Get Tired of Hearing Audrey II Say, “Feed Me!”
By Lauren Yarger

Yes, there’s another production of Little Shop of Horrors you can enjoy, this one at Ivoryton Playhouse. I say “another” because it seems that there’s always a production of this Alan Menken/Howard Ashman musical playing somewhere every season.

The rock musical, based on the 1960 dark comedy film of the same name directed by Roger Corman and written by Charles Griffith, has been the darling of regional, community and student theaters since it premiered Off-Broadway in 1982.

It features, Audrey II, a human-flesh-eating, venus-fly-trap sort of plant puppet (designed by Martin P. Robinson), manipulated at Ivoryton by Austin Costello, a recent graduate of UConn’s recent UConn puppetry program, and a crowd-pleasing score from Menken (The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, and Aladdin) that includes “Suddenly Seymour,” “Somewhere That’s Green” and “Skid Row.”

The book (also written by lyricist Ashman) tells the odd story of nerdy Seymour (Nicholas Park), who creates a hybrid plant that starts bringing attention to the Skid Row flower shop owned by Mr. Mushnik (David Conaway). He names the plant Audrey II, after shop co-worker Audrey (Laura Woyasz), who doesn’t realize at first that Seymour’s in love with her. She’s lived a hard life and doesn’t think she deserves a nice, sweet guy like Seymour. Instead, she continues in an abusive relationship with a sadistic dentist, Orin Srivello (Carson Higgins).

While Seymour’s fame — and Audrey II’s size — grow enormously, Seymour tries to hide  the secret to Audrey II’s success: the plant lives on human blood. “Feed Me!” the plant demands as it grows and sings (voiced here by Steve Sabol) while Seymour sacrifices first his own blood, then others’ to satiate Audrey II’s hunger.

You can try to read all kinds of philosophical themes into the plot about greed, the drive for fame and success or even concern for the environment, but take my advice and just sit back and enjoy that fabulous score (with orchestrations by Robert Merkin) featuring a really great trio of neighborhood girls (played by La’Nette Wallace, a vocal power house, Azarria White  and Denielle Marie Gray) who hang out by the shop and sing some terrific harmonies while wearing nifty costumes and excellent wigs (designed by Vickie Blake and Elizabeth Cipollina, respectively).

When they aren’t sitting on the steps or dancing out Apollo Smile’s campy choreography in front of the shop, the trio can be seen upstairs, next door to the shop through windows incorporated in Martin Scott Marchitto’s impressive, quick-changing set. Artistic Director Jacqueline Hubbard referred to some technical glitches with the set during previews, but everything seemed in perfect working order when I saw the show opening night. The sound mix (designed by Tate R. Burmeister) needs adjustment, however, as some of the vocals in group numbers are overwhelmed by the chorus. Vocals are arranged by Robert Billing.

Laughter proved that the audience members seemed to be taking my advice and were enjoying the show – many probably for the first time based on gasps heard when the larger Audrey II made its appearance or in response to other plot points that wouldn’t surprise a veteran like me who has seen the show numerous times. One woman near me chortled every time the dentist was on the stage. I was enjoying her as much as the show.

A disappointment from the veteran perspective, however: Director Larry Thelen, who helmed the recent La Cage Aux Folles and the really terrific production of Dreamgirls at Ivoryton, allows Woyasz and Higgins to take their characters too far. They go over the top when it’s unnecessary. We’re going to laugh when Audrey alludes to the classiness of her gaudy outfit (designed by Vickie Blake) and we’re going to cringe when Orin gets pleasure out of using a power drill on his own teeth. It doesn’t require extra effort by the actors to try to be funny. In addition, Thelen fails to coax dialogue from Conaway at anything but a constant yell. I’d say, relax everybody. You don’t have to work so hard.

Park, who starred last year in Ivoryton’s All Shook Up, turns in another engaging performance, this time nailing the nerdy Seymour. He seems to be enjoying himself, and we enjoy watching him.

Robert James Tomasulo directs the terrific-sounding, six-man band housed off-stage.

Little Shop of Horrors runs through Oct. 11 at Ivoryton Playhouse, 103 Main St., Ivoryton, CT. Performnces are Wednesday and Sunday matinees at 2 pm. Wednesday and Thursday at 7:30 pm; Friday and Saturday at 8 pm.  Tickets are $42 for adults, $37 for seniors, $20 for students and $15 for children. (860) 767-7318;


“Little Shop of Horrors” Flowers at Ivoryton
By Geary Danihy

There’s something deadly growing out in Ivoryton. It’s big and green and mean — imagine the venus fly trap cross-bred with kudzu and then pumped full of steroids and you get the picture. This voracious creature goes by the innocuous name of Audrey II, but don’t be fooled — it will eat you as soon as look at you, but you may wish to look at it, at least from the safety of a seat at the Ivoryton Playhouse, where Little Shop of Horrors, a delightful, black-comedy spoof of 1950s creature-feature movies is currently enjoying a run. Following on the heels of Ivoryton’s successful productions of South Pacific and Memphis, this exploration of botanical Grand Guignol, briskly directed by Lawrence Thelen, is, by and large, a treat for the eyes and ears.

Graced by a highly adaptable, turn-table set designed by Martin Scott Marchitto, this sci-fi spoof opens with a Greek chorus of sorts: Chiffon (Azarria White), Crystal (La’Nette Wallace) and Ronnette (Denielle Marie Gray), grade-school dropouts, set the scene for the horrors that will ensue. They are denizens of Skid Row, where Mushnik’s florist shop is dying on the vine. Mr. Mushnik (David Conaway) is close to despair because business is so bad. In fact, he’s ready to fire his two assistants, the meek, amateur botanist Seymour (Nicholas Park) and the much abused Audrey (Laura Woyasz), a young lady working on exceedingly low wattage who is dating Orin (Carson Higgins), a demented dentist who grooves on pain.

Salvation arrives in the form of a small plant that Seymour came across during a total eclipse of the sun, a plant he has lovingly cared for and named Audrey II (animated by Austin Costello and voiced by Steve Sabol). As soon as the plant is put on display business starts to pick up, but every silver lining has a cloud attached — the plant is a persnickety eater: it desires only blood. At first this is supplied by Seymour, but soon the plant craves more and Seymour is forced to become murderously creative. The plant grows, Seymour becomes a success, in the process winning the fair hand of the ditzy Audrey, but there is a price to be paid when you sell your soul to a devil-plant.

Based on the cult film classic of the same name directed by Roger Corman, with book and lyrics by Howard Ashman and music by Alan Menken, Little Shop is not only a skewed take on the paranoid “scare” films of the 50s, it is a modernized Greek tragedy complete with characters with out-sized fatal flaws. It is also tuneful and energetic, although the energy takes a while to be generated.

Perhaps it’s the initially uneven sound, designed by Tate R. Burmeister, or the less than innovative and somewhat stilted opening choreography crafted by Apollo Smile, but the musical’s initial scenes seem somewhat muted. The “Downtown” number, which should feature the voices of the two leads — Audrey and Seymour — is more of a mushy melange. In fact, Woyasz’s voice seems to get lost in the vocal crowd (she’s blocked extreme stage right for much of the number and dimly lit) and Seymour, stage center inside the florist shop, is oddly distant. Matters aren’t helped by Conaway delivering his opening lines so big that he really has nowhere to go dramatically for the rest of the show.

These problems aside, the production quickly brightens and sharpens as Audrey II begins to grow and Woyasz, Park and Higgins take control. Anyone familiar with Little Shop, either in its Broadway or Hollywood iterations, has Ellen Greene’s performance as Audrey etched in his mind. To Woyasz’s credit, she creates an Audrey that’s all her own, using a walk that reminds one of a strutting turkey, plus dips, cringes and other mannerisms, as well as subtle body-language reactions. Once her voice is allowed to be heard, she delivers a poignant “Somewhere That’s Green” and a moving duet with Park in “Suddenly, Seymour.”

Park is sufficiently meek and gawky as Seymour, and he’s able to generate real angst as he begins to deal with the moral ambiguity presented by the continued existence of Audrey II. Higgins, who shined in Ivoryton’s Memphis, does the sadistic-dentist turn to a fault, especially in the “Dentist!” number, pulls off a great death-by-nitrous-oxide scene with Park, and shows his ability as a quick-change artist when he is called upon to play three different characters (including a female editor) all seeking to get Seymour to sign contracts.

The finale finds most of the cast having been devoured by the insatiable plant, only to reappear as its tendrils singing a final warning about the danger of feeding plants. The only problem here is the use of a smoke machine, which belches out so much smoke as the finale begins that it’s difficult to see what is happening on stage. The smoke envelops the actors and wafts out into the audience – a bit of atmospheric overkill that is totally unnecessary.

Quibbles and smoke screens aside, Ivoryton’s Little Shop is a sprightly production that consistently entertains. Artfully staged (actually amazingly so, given the size of Ivoryton’s stage) and nicely paced, with excellent lighting effects by Marcus Abbott, the show, which runs just under two hours with a 15-minute intermission, is well worth the drive out to scenic Ivoryton.

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Thanks, Outthink, for another great video!



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IPH Golf LogoCome and golf at one of the highest rated courses in the US!

Monday, October 12, 2015
Registration:  11:00am
Tee Off:  12:00noon

Voted #1 College Golf Course in America
Ranked #45 of the Top 100 Classical Golf Courses in America

Tournament Sponsor $2,500
Four golfers with preferential tee placement
Eight Ivoryton Playhouse tickets for the show of your choice
Acknowledgment as a tournament sponsor during opening night of fall show and in playbill
Recognition as a tournament sponsor in all press releases and event literature (Exposure 70,000+)
Company name listed on all golf carts used during event
Two additional invitations to BBQ after the tournament and VIP recognition during program
Acknowledgment on the Ivoryton Playhouse website

Supporting Sponsor $1,500
Four golfers with preferential tee placement
Four Ivoryton Playhouse tickets to the show of your choice
Acknowledgment as a supporting sponsor during opening night of fall show and in playbill
Recognition as a supporting sponsor in all press releases and event literature (Exposure 70,000+)
Company name listed on all golf carts used during event
Two additional invitations to BBQ after the tournament and VIP recognition during program

Gold Sponsor $1,000
Four golfers with preferential tee placement
Recognition as a gold sponsor in all press releases and event literature (Exposure 70,000+)
Company name listed on all golf carts used during event

Silver Sponsor $750
Two golfers with preferential tee placement
Recognition as a silver sponsor in all press releases and event literature (Exposure 70,000+)
Company name listed on all golf carts used during event

Green and Tee Sponsor $250 (does not include golfers)
Company name on a sign on one tee and one green

Green or Tee Sponsor $150 (does not include golfers)
Company name on a sign located on one tee.

Just Golf!
Foursome – $600
Twosome – $300
Single – $150

Book early, this event will sell out soon.  Registrations forms available here:  Ivoryton Playhouse Sponsorship packet

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Yet another sighting!!!!

Audrey brushing up on her lines


“Finally found someone to help me read lines…..his performance is a little wooden, though and he’s a bit of a sap…..”

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Another sighting……..

Audrey at Blue Hound “Fried Green Tomatoes!  Man, I’m gonna like eating this Blue Hound….I mean eating AT The Blue Hound….”

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Audrey outside in bushes

We found this in the bushes outside the Playhouse this morning.  Not sure what it is – but it sure is hungry!


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Runs December 10th-20th

The Ivoryton Playhouse will be holding local auditions for non Equity actors for I’LL BE HOME FOR CHRISTMAS – a Christmas musical by Tony Javed and David Edwards on Thursday, September 17th from 5pm – 9pm at Rehearsal Studio, 22 Main Street, Centerbrook, CT 06409.

Looking for strong singers:

Debbie – the Mom – plays 30s-40s, soprano mix

Ray – the Dad – plays 30s-40s, baritone

Grandma – plays 60s-80s, mezzo/mix

Shirley – Mom’s friend, plays 30s-40s, mezzo/belt

Jay – Dad’s  school chum, plays 30s-40s, baritone/tenor

Jenna – the college-age Daughter, soprano/belt

Jeffrey  –  Son -plays early 20s, bari/tenor

Celine  – child, middle-school age, treble

James – child, plays grade school, treble

All auditions are by appointment and actors should bring a picture and resume.

For audition appointments, call 860-767-9520, ext.203

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MEMPHIS the Musical at Ivoryton Playhouse in Ivoryton CT
By Don Church and Tony Schillaci, Critics On The Aisle™

The Ivoryton Playhouse in sleepy Ivoryton, Connecticut has had a winning season of musical hits this year, beginning with Stand By Your Man, continuing with South Pacific and now -not to be outdone by previous successes – continues with the 50’s birthplace of rock and roll – MEMPHIS.

Carson Higgins as Huey Calhoun and the cast of Ivoryton Playhouse’s MEMPHIS sing “Steal Your Rock ‘N Roll”

Set in the seedy, underground dance clubs, radio stations and recording studios in 1950s Memphis, Tennessee, and inspired by true events, this big joyful high-energy musical centers on Huey Calhoun, an entrepreneurial white disc jockey who falls in love with a beautiful Negro singer and battles racism and cultural divides as he tries to promote her career in records and on the radio.

An irrepressible and vastly likeable Carson Higgins plays Huey with boundless energy that’s s big as his voice. The object of his affection, club singer Felicia Farrell, is sung with glamorous verve by the supreme Renee Jackson. As Felicia’s brother, Delray, Teren Carter opens the show on a note that sets the pace and style of what’s to come with his strutting “Underground.” Melodie Wolford, playing Huey’s mama, waits till the second act to blow the audience away with her number “Change Don’t Come Easy” – a rousing anthem for the troubled times in which we are still living today.

Equity actors all, these four talents are joined on stage by fellow Actor’s Equity members Beau Allen, as the frustrated radio station owner Mr. Simmons; David Robbins as Bobby Dupree (who wails in the number “Big Love”) and Jamal Shuiah as the silent Gator who surprisingly finds his voice and closes the first act with “Say A Prayer.” This show for all ages has a large and vastly talented ensemble of actor/singer/dancers that have been put through their paces and buoyantly choreographed by a director-to-be-watched, Todd L. Underwood

On a local note, Old Lyme resident Sue Frost and her production company’s MEMPHIS won a Tony Award for Best Musical in 2010. The show was written by Joe DiPietro (All Shook Up) with electrifying blues, rock, ballads and gospel music created by Bon Jovi’s David Bryan. Musical Director Michael Morris, who doubles on piano, makes the wonderful songs, dance numbers and ensemble chorus rock and roar with his orchestra’s eight brilliant musicians. They appear in silhouette behind a sheer curtain onstage to great effect.

Martin Scott Marchitto’s minimalist sets allowed the actors to easily move the scenery from nightclub to radio studio to Huey’s kitchen with the mere suggestion of a doorway or table to represent place. Elizabeth Cipollina’s costumes and wigs had some of the audience members around us whispering ‘….do you remember when WE dressed like that?”

This terrific and energizing show will have you clapping, shaking your booty and feeling uplifted with joyful numbers like “Everybody Wants to be Black on a Saturday Night” and “Steal Your Rock and Roll” while at the same time, you’ll go away thinking “the more things change, the more they remain the same.” There’s a message in the music.

If you love early rock n’ roll, rhythm and blues, soul, Motown and gospel then this is the musical treat you’ve been waiting for all summer.

Running only through August 30th, performance times are Wednesday and Sunday matinees at 2 p.m. Evening performances are Wednesday and Thursday at 7:30 p.m, Friday and Saturday at 8. There will be two additional Saturday matinees on August 22nd and 29th at 2 p.m.


In The Heat of the Music
By Geary Danihy
For CT Theater News and Reviews and Ct Critics Circle.

The Ivoryton Playhouse is following up its stellar production of South Pacific with another musical that deals with racial tension. Memphis, winner of the 2010 Tony for Best Musical, is based on the life of Dewey Phillips, a Memphis disc jockey who was one of the first white DJs to play “black” music. The production (with Dream Girls in its DNA and Show Boat in its family tree), here directed and choreographed by Todd Underwood, boasts music by David Bryan (Bon Jovi’s keyboardist) and book and lyrics by Joe DiPietro (who also penned I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change and All Shook Up). In its current manifestation, the Ivoryton production is an entertaining, deftly staged two hours of ballads, Gospel and Rock ‘N Roll, framed by an inter-racial love story and the burgeoning civil rights movement of the 1950s. Given some minor technical problems that will be ironed out, it is sure to please audiences as much as South Pacific did.

Memphis opens with two DJs, one white, one black (on balconies stage right and left, compliments of scenic designer Martin Scott Marchitto), introducing music that illustrates the divide that existed in the early 50s: there is mainstream “white” music that fills the airways (think Perry Como and Patti Page) and then there is what is politely termed “racial” music (there are other, more pejorative terms for it). The white DJ is broadcasting on a station located “in the middle of the dial,” while the black DJ is on a station whose frequency puts it at the end of the dial (If you ask “What dial?” talk with your grandparents).

In essence, racial music is segregated, for, to borrow from Meredith Wilson’s The Music Man, there’s a fear that what is being purveyed will “grab your son and your daughter / With the arms of a jungle animal instink! / Mass-staria!” The lyrics and the pulsing beat of “racial” music often speak to sexual desires and fulfillment (versus Page’s cooing about the cost of a “doggie in the window”). There’s a need to “Scratch my Itch,” and in mid-century Memphis “itches” were seldom spoken of and the scratching of same in an inter-racial relationship was anathema.

As a side-bar, audience members of a certain age (I’m thinking here primarily of Millennials) may find some of the implied tensions and allusions in Memphis a bit confusing or opaque. It’s not that racial problems have disappeared, (current headlines put the lie to that supposition), but things have changed, and the sight of an inter-racial couple walking hand-in-hand down the street no longer has the visceral impact it once did, nor are there laws on the books that ban miscegenation. DiPietro has chosen, and wisely so, not to turn Memphis into a polemic, thus leaving many things not fully explained (either emotionally or intellectually) for those who have no memory of Selma, Rosa Parks or “White Only” water fountains. Again, if you are of a certain age and are planning to attend, you would do well to do so with your grandparents, then take them out to dinner and ask a lot of questions. You might be surprised at their answers.

The DJ lead-in is followed by a night at “Delray’s,” a black bar owned by Delray (Terren Carter) that features “racial” music, much of it sung by Delray’s sister, Felicia (Renee Jackson) as lead singer. The crowd goes suddenly silent as a door opens and Huey (the charismatic Carson Higgins) enters, the silence engendered because Huey is white. Patrons scramble to leave, but Huey rushes to a piano to explain that their music is “The Music of My Soul.” Thus, the conflict is established early: Delray doesn’t buy “Whitey’s” protestations and senses only trouble brewing, while Huey is attracted not only to the music but also to Felicia.

Huey has been something of a non-entity, but his attraction to “racial” music becomes his ticket to a certain amount of local fame and fortune, for he parlays his proclivities into, first, a job selling records, and then a spot as a DJ on one of the local “white” radio stations owned by Mr. Simmons (Beau Allen), a pragmatic businessman. He spins rock ‘n roll platters rather than schmaltz, and the response, especially amongst the youth of Memphis, is overwhelmingly positive. Soon, Huey has his own TV dance show (with black dancers) and is deep in a relationship with Felicia, much to the initial consternation of his mother Gladys (Melodie Wolford). Huey and Felicia are, of course, star-crossed lovers, and while Felicia goes on to fame, fortune and a national tour, Huey’s star fades, while that of Richard (i.e. “Dick) Clark rises. (Who’s Dick Clark? Ask your grandparents). Yet, there is a final recognition of what Huey has accomplished when Felicia, back in Memphis on tour, asks him to share the stage with her, leading to the rousing “Steal Your Rock ‘N Roll” finale.

That all of this works, and works so well, is, first, a credit to Underwood, who keeps things moving and has managed to utilize every inch of the somewhat limited Ivoryton stage space. It all seems bigger than it really is, and this is because Underwood understands how best to utilize tight space. In an interview a year ago, when Underwood was choreographing La Cage aux Folles for Ivoryton, he explained that the key is to build “from being just mid-stage to using the entire stage and that will give the illusion the theater is bigger. Of course, lighting helps and costumes help, and keeping the number building and moving, making sure that it doesn’t become stagnant.” His philosophy is apparent in the many ensemble numbers in Memphis, no more so than in the finale, which has multiple “builds.”

One of the director’s jobs is to focus the audience’s attention, to basically tell them what to look at, and proof of Underwood’s skill in doing this is a dance scene that takes place at the television studio. The dancers are center stage, with the TV camera lower stage right, but the script calls for a minor dramatic interaction between some of the major characters. This could have been visually confusing, but what Underwood does is have the camera shift up stage, drawing the dancers away to form a diagonal line with their backs to the audience as other actors move into the center stage area. It’s a nifty piece of blocking that continues the dance while manipulating focus.

As good as Underwood is, Ivoryton’s Memphis lives or dies with the talent up there on the stage, and it is, across the board, excellent, starting with Higgins as Huey. He’s awkward when necessary, geeky, and often self-deprecating, yet Higgins gives Huey an essential joie de vivre that is entrancing and engaging, an unbridled enthusiasm for life and the music that allows him to overcome put-downs, violence and prejudice. There may be some in the audience who may not, initially, buy the character’s apparent cluelessness about the nature of race relations in mid-century Memphis (or his illiteracy), and it does take a little suspension of disbelief to accept that his guilelessness is not feigned, but Higgins, with his “Aw, shucks” manner, manages to pull it off.

As Huey’s love interest, Jackson is both sensual and restrained, ably conveying the frustrations of a black woman even considering a relationship with a white man in the mid-century culture of the South. The only problem with her performance is a technical one – it’s a sound problem. Often her dialogue is a bit mushy, and it’s often difficult to understand the lyrics when she is singing (also true for many of the other actors) – and many of the lyrics are intrinsic to an understanding of what is going on. This is not the fault of the actor but rather that of the technical staff which, most likely, is aware of the problem and will resolve same (this was just the second preview and, from what I understand, tech rehearsals never got to run through the entire show). There are also some problems with projected images (which seem superfluous) – meant to present visual reminders of the era, many look more like gray blobs.

Supporting cast members add style and flair to the production, and many have their moments in the spotlight. There’s Bobby (David Robbins), an erstwhile janitor who is thrust onto the stage of Huey’s TV show and delivers a powerful and moving “Big Love.” Then there’s Gator (Jamal Shuriah), who plays a mute (going silent as a child after seeing his father being lynched) who finally bursts into song with the heartfelt “Say a Prayer.” And not to be missed is Wolford as Huey’s mom, a lady who is changed by her son’s advocacy and the fervor of the parishioners of a local black church, which leads her to the rousing “Change Don’t Come Easy.”

Finally, Carter, as Felicia’s brother, is the whetstone against which Huey must sharpen his sensitivities about what he is doing and the realities of race relations circa 1950. Carter gives us a Delray that is a strong mixture of controlled rage and compassion, and basically stops the show near the end of Act One with his rendition of “She’s My Sister.”

Yes, there are stereotypes and the plot seldom rises above that of a soap opera, but this isn’t supposed to be Ibsen or Williams, it’s a musical, and as such it deals with racial tensions and discrimination in a format that, while thought-provoking, seeks to entertain. And, yes, there’s a message, but DiPietro isn’t didactic, and Underwood has opted to let the book speak for itself without feeling compelled to drive home a point.

What he has done, with the help of some very effective lighting by Doug Harry and Marchitto’s versatile, fluid set (which evokes a dance club, several radio stations, a kitchen, an apartment and a TV station), is give us a basic story line punctuated by musical set-pieces that capture an era and all of its inherent tensions, delights and frustrations, and as for build, besides the aforementioned finale, all you have to do is sit back and watch Act Two’s multi-layered “Tear Down the House” to enjoy how a musical number can entertain, advance the plot and play on your emotions all at the same time. It’s a fine piece of work by all involved, as is Memphis.

Memphis runs through Aug.30. For tickets or more information call 860-767-7318 or go to




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Our thanks to Outthink for producing another great video for us!

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6_little_shop_of_horrorsLittle Shop of Horrors
by Alan Menken and Howard Ashman

– Auditions for the role of:

ORIN SCRIVELLO An egotistical dentist with a passion for leather and sadistic tendencies. Audrey’s abusive boyfriend, who is targeted by Seymour.
Male, 30-40 yrs old
Range: G2 – G4

Director: Larry Thelen
Musical Director: Robert Tomasulo
First rehearsal: September 8th;
First performance: September 23rd;
Close: October 11th, 2015

Auditions by appointment:

Monday, August 17th, Pearl Studios
11am – 4:00pm 500 Eighth Ave, Room 1205
New York, NY 10018

Prepare a song from the show or in the style of.

Please bring a picture and resume, stapled together. Call 860-767-9520 ext 203 for appointment

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