Regional Reviews by Zander Opper


By Geary Danihy
For CT Theater News and Reviews and CT Critics Circle

This seems to be the season for rock and roll nostalgia. There’s “Hairspray” at the Summer Theatre of New Canaan, “The Bikinis” playing at Long Wharf, and now “All Shook Up” out at the Ivoryton Playhouse. The good news is, you’ll have an enjoyable evening of theater no matter which of the three you attend, but if you opt for the Ivoryton show, you’re in for a special treat in the form of the two delightful leads, Danielle Bowen and Preston Ellis, two fine young actors whom you will have absolutely no trouble watching.

The musical, with book by Joe DiPietro, is a mash-up of “Footloose” and Shakespeare’s “Twelfth Night,” channeled through Elvis Presley. Directed and choreographed by Richard Amelius, “All Shook Up” is a lighthearted, tongue-in-cheek romp through much of the Presley songbook that follows a young grease monkey named Natalie (Bowen) who falls for a motorcycling roustabout named Chad (Ellis) when he rolls into a town that is more straight-laced than your great-aunt Mabel’s corset. Chad, a fun-loving guy who has a way with women and juke boxes, feels it his mission to bring some life to the repressed citizenry. His charisma is such that soon many of the townsfolk start falling in love, with all of the wrong people, a game of amorous Twister that is, literally, spotlighted in the finale to the first act, a quite moving rendition of “Can’t Help Falling in Love.”

Complications abound, exacerbated by the obligatory disguise of a young lady posing as a young man named Ed who attempts to woo the sensuous Miss Sandra (a delightfully lustful Mara Jill Herman) for Chad. Miss Sandra is also being pursued by Natalie’s father, Jim (R. Bruce Connelly), while Dennis is pursuing Natalie, while Sylvia (Onyie) is pursuing Jim, while the taciturn Sherriff Earl (Larry Lewis) is silently pining for Mayor Matilda Hyde (Melissa McLean) and the mayor’s son, Dean (Logan Scott Mitchell) is tentatively making overture’s to Sylvia’s daughter, Lorraine (Danielle Famble). Well, you get the picture. Of course, it all works out in the end with multiple marriages and everyone proclaiming their “Burning Love” for their new mates.

Backed by seven musicians ensconced in a pit hidden below the stage, the entire cast, including the male and female ensembles, nails one Presley song after another, with “One Night With You” used as a recurring, comedic theme. However, as noted above, it’s the two leads that give the extra juice to this production.

Ellis, a seasoned pro, gives his character just the right mix of sneer, bravado and joie de vivre – think Marlon Brandon with manners. He also has great timing and a strong comedic sense about him. Playing against him is Bowen who, amazingly enough, is only a rising senior at Emerson College. Based on her performance you certainly couldn’t tell that she hasn’t yet graduated. Whether she is playing the grease monkey, or Ed with a two-day-old beard as a disguise or, finally, the lovely Natalie, she is a delight. She may not steal the show – that crown goes to Herman – but she doesn’t have to, because from the moment she walks on stage she steals the audience’s heart. One can only hope that once she graduates she will find her way back to Connecticut to grace one of its many stages…before Broadway grabs her up and doesn’t let her go.

So, if you’re an Elvis fan, or just want to enjoy an all-smiles evening of summer theater, get yourself out to Ivoryton. Yes, you’ll be “All Shook Up,” and will sense “The Power of Love.” You’ll have to pledge to “Don’t Be Cruel” and be challenged to “Follow That Dream,” question why “Fools Fall in Love” and, once again, acknowledge that we all, at one time or another, “Can’t Help Falling in Love.” In other words, you’ll have a good time.

“All Shook Up” runs through July 27. For tickets or more information call 860-767-7318 or go to

For CT Theater News and Reviews and CT Critics Circle




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The Ivoryton Playhouse continues a summer full of fun with a series of educational programs all geared towards children!

The Playhouse is proud to present new and exciting live performances featuring some of Connecticut’s most popular, professional artists.  Performances are for children of all ages.  Help your child discover the magic of theatre this summer at the Ivoryton Playhouse.  All performances take place on Fridays at 11:00am.  All tickets $12.00.

new-pirate-ship-princess-mapOn Friday, July 11th, come meet the zany characters of the Crabgrass Puppet Theatre in a swashbuckling pirate and princess adventure called The Pirate, The Princess and the Pea!  A pirate’s life isn’t all “yo-ho-ho and a bottle of grog,” ya know. It’s hard work searchin’ for treasure, avoidin’ the sea monsters, keepin’ the crabs from eatin’ your nose, and fallin’ overboard just in time to meet a giant octopus. But it’s worth it when ya haul in that treasure chest . . . but the treasure in this chest happens to be a princess . . . a princess who doesn’t even believe you’re a pirate! And how do you prove you’re a real pirate? Arrgh. Well, ya start with a whole lot o’ mattresses!

Come early and get a glitter tattoo!  Z’s Face and Body Art will be at the Playhouse from 10:15am ready to give you a little sparkle!  Tattoos are very reasonably priced and last for ages!  Many designs available.

144_caseycarle_cdavis-300x222Other performances include Goowin’s Balloowins on July 18th, The Magic of Danny Diamond on July 25th, the Ivoryton Playhouse Intern Company presents Cucumber Phil on August 15th and finally, back by popular demand, always a sell out show, Casey Carle’s Bubblemania is on stage August 22nd.

Call 860.767.7318 or click here to book your tickets online.
Our Summer Children’s Theatre Series is generously sponsored by:


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June 30th, 2014


joyce-dewritt-couch-photo-theater-debut-07-02-2011FULLNew York/Ivoryton –Joyce DeWitt has just been confirmed to play opposite Micky Dolenz in  Mike Reiss’ new play Comedy Is Hard!, premiering Wednesday, September 24, at The Ivoryton Playhouse in Ivoryton, Connecticut.

Ms. DeWitt is most widely known to audiences for her starring role as “Janet Wood” in the ABC Television hit series Three’s Company but she has an extensive theatrical background, working both as actress and director in a stage career which spans over fifty years.

In those fifty years, Ms. DeWitt has starred in theatrical productions of every genre including Moliere’s Tartuffe, Shakespeare’s Macbeth and Euripides’ Medea as well as the popular comedies Sam Bobrick’s Remember Me, Neil Simons’s Star Spangled Girl, as well as the hilarious British farce Noises Off among many others.

Her long list of starring roles in musicals includes South Pacific, Damn Yankees, Sweet Charity, Oklahoma, Married Alive, Leader of the Pack, They’re Playing Our Song, Hats, All Shook Up, revivals of Cole Porter’s Reno Sweeney in Anything Goes, Mama Rose in Gypsy, and the mythical Olympus on My Mind for which she completed the cast recording – her first Broadway Album.

HIRESDOLENZBLUE2Reiss’ play is set in a home for retired actors and the play takes an affectionate look at the relationship and rivalry between a retired stand-up comedian and a classical actress.

Reiss, who is writer and producer for the long running TV show, The Simpsons, also created the animated series The Critic; the webtoon Queer Duck and worked on the screenplays for Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs; Horton Hears a Who!; The Simpsons: The Movies; and, My Life In Ruins. Ivoryton audiences turned out in droves in the June 2013 for his hilarious play, I’m Connecticut, which was a huge popular and critical success.

Comedy is Hard!opens at the Ivoryton Playhouse on September 24 and runs through October 12, 2014. Directed by Playhouse Artistic Director, Jacqueline Hubbard, the rest of the cast is not yet announced.

Performance times are Wednesday and Sunday matinees at 2pm. Evening performances are Wednesday and Thursday at 7:30pm, Friday and Saturday at 8pm. Tickets are $42 for adults, $37 for seniors, $20 for students and $15 for children and are available by calling the Playhouse box office at 860-767-7318 or by visiting our website at  (Group rates are available by calling the box office for information.) The Playhouse is located at 103 Main Street in Ivoryton

Members of the press are welcome at any performance. Please call ahead for tickets.

Generously sponsored by Hamilton Connections and Middle Oak.

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DSC05012With less than a week until opening night, crew of All Shook Up is working hard at getting the sets build and painted. Getting the look and feel of a small town in America’s mid-west involves quite a lot of paint. Featured here is one of the Ivoryton Playhouse interns, Gaylen Ferstand, painting on wood texture to an interior wall. This process gives the illusion of wood grain without there actually being any.


Typically there would be a dark shade applied evenly on the wall first, this is the color that will show through in the end product. This color doesn’t have to be brown like it is here. It could be a deep plum or a green, this would create something a little funkier than what we are looking for.




DSC05022Next, a lighter shade is applied. Before it dries, a wood grained stencil is run along the paint in a single stroke. This creates the effect. The painter has to be sure to use even strokes with the stencil, otherwise the grain will look blotched.  This process has to be repeated until the whole desired area is covered.
DSC05034Once it’s dry, the wall will have a neat texture to it. Depending on your color choices it can be more natural, or as mentioned before, really funky.



To see all the different techniques used on the sets, check out All Shook Up, running through the month of July at the Ivoryton Playhouse.


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We are so excited to announce a brand new program at the Ivoryton Playhouse starting in July. The Ivoryton Players is an opportunity for adults who love the theatre to have fun, meet new friends and put on a show!

You will learn about professional theater while preparing and rehearsing for a staged reading with the performance on 12/09/14 on the Ivoryton Playhouse Stage!  All levels of experience or no experience are welcome.  Here comes the fun …  NO MEMORIZING!

If you are interested in performing again in your life or it is on your bucket list to see what it’s like to be “in the theater”, here’s your chance.

Sign up now for the very first meeting of The Ivoryton Players.  Meetings begin Monday, July 21st from 1:00pm to 3:30pm (time flexible according to membership needs) at the Ivoryton Playhouse Office and Rehearsal Studio located at 24 Main Street, Centerbrook.  The group will meet every Monday leading up to the show.

If you want to be a part of this fun group but would prefer to be involved in the backstage work essential to a great show, there are props, costumes, set design, stage managing, publicity, understudies and more – something for everyone who wants to participate.

The group will be performing a riotous comedy to be announced.  The first meeting will include a welcome packet for all, an overview of the club and some hilarious get-acquainted improvisations.  We will then start the rehearsal process in the next meetings.

Joyce BeauvaisThe Ivoryton Players director is Joyce Beauvais.  Joyce, after settling in CT, currently runs this program in Old Saybrook and also starting in East Lyme.  Ms Beauvais brings with her a lifetime in the theater performing her first professional role at age seven.  She lived in NYC for over 25 years as an actress in stage, TV and film, also a Broadway and Off-Broadway producer and 5 years as owner and operator of Chez Beauvais, Restaurant and Cabaret.  Chez Beauvais was a boite on Tenth Ave., NYC offering fine cuisine and the best of New York City jazz.  She partnered with uber agent Jack Rollins and Jane Rollins.  After moving to FL she continued to perform as an actress but also developed this program that today will be the Ivoryton Players.  “The mix of people and experience”, Joyce finds, “turns into the magic one only finds in theater”.  Joyce promises this will be one of the times of your life!

There is limited enrollment and only a $5 charge per class (funding available for those who need it), so come and join us.  After one meeting you’ll be hooked!.

Please call to register:  860.767.9520 x 205.  

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NEW!  Follow us on Pinterest for images from our latest productions including sets and costumes as well as historical pictures. Click on this link to go to Pinterest:

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Check out our latest video clips on our own YouTube channel – find it by following this link

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Let’s get social!

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Press Release

C’mon everybody!
All Shook Up
at The Ivoryton Playhouse

4_all_shook_upIvoryton:  Time to dust off your blue suede shoes: The Ivoryton Playhouse is preparing for its latest summer musical, ALL SHOOK UP by Joe Di Pietro, inspired by and featuring the songs of the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll, Elvis Presley.

The show had its first staging on the shoreline in 2004 at the Norma Terris Theatre in Chester and later ran for 213 performances on Broadway.

Like a play by Shakespeare seen through a fun house mirror, ALL SHOOK UP tips its hat to the Bard, especially his magical comedies Twelfth Night and A Midsummer Night’s Dream, with themes of unrequited love, humorous confusion, and an ultimately happy ending.

It’s 1955 and into a square little town in a square little state rides a guitar playing roustabout who changes everything and everyone he meets in this hip swiveling, lip-curling musical fantasy. ALL SHOOK UP features 24 Presley classics, such as “Jailhouse Rock” and “Heartbreak Hotel.”

Appropriate for all ages, this one is sure to be an instant hit. Playhouse Artistic Director, Jacqueline Hubbard says “We were looking for a summer musical that would appeal to people of all ages and this show certainly fits the bill. It is high energy and really funny with great music but it also deals with themes of inequality and challenging the status quo. And of course, a love story – what would summer be without a good old fashioned love story!”

Directed and choreographed by Richard Amelius and musical directed by Logan Medland, the show features Preston Ellis as Chad and Danielle

Will true love prevail? Will the power of music win in the end? Tickets are available online and at the box office.

ALL SHOOK UP opens in Ivoryton on July 2nd   and runs through July 27th . Performance times are Wednesday and Sunday matinees at 2pm. Evening performances are Wednesday and Thursday at 7:30pm, Friday and Saturday at 8pm. There are 2 extra matinees for this show on Saturday July 19th and 26th at 2pm.

Tickets are $42 for adults, $37 for seniors, $20 for students and $15 for children and are available by calling the Playhouse box office at 860-767-7318 or by visiting our website at  (Group rates are available by calling the box office for information.) The Playhouse is located at 103 Main Street in Ivoryton.

Generously sponsored by:  Pasta Vita

Members of the press are welcome at any performance.  Please call ahead for tickets.

*member of Actors Equity


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Now open thru October – every Saturday from 10am – 1:30pm.  Music every Saturday from 11:00am.  Lots of vendors selling fresh fruits, vegetables, bread, Italian ice, flowers, garlic, meat and more.  Shop local and support local farmers.  Great family fun, too!







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Thanks, Outthink, for producing this great video piece.  Fingers & Toes now open and wowing audiences!  Get your tickets today!

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