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The Broadway sensation comes to Ivoryton!

MAMMA MIA!
At the Ivoryton Playhouse

Ivoryton – On June 26th, the Ivoryton Playhouse will transform from an historic New England theatre to a Mediterranean island, filled with the music we have loved for over 40 years! Over 60 million people worldwide have fallen in love with the characters, the story and the music that make Mamma Mia! the ultimate feel-good show!  Set on a Greek island paradise, the story-telling magic of ABBA’s timeless songs propels this enchanting tale of love, laughter and friendship, creating an unforgettable show.

On the eve of her wedding, Sophie reads her mom’s diary, only to discover that the father she has never met, could be one of three men! The wedding invitation brings Sophie’s three dads to the Greek Isles in search of the life that could have been with Sophie’s mother, Donna. Filled laughter, heart and 22 hit songs including “Super Trouper”, “Lay All Your Love on Me”, “Dancing Queen”, “Knowing Me, Knowing You”, “Take a Chance on Me”, “Thank You for the Music”, “Money, Money, Money”, “The Winner Takes It All”, “Voulez-Vous”, “SOS” and the title track.

As of 2018, the show has productions in London’s West End, where it is the seventh longest-running show in West End history, as well as various international productions. Its Broadway incarnation closed in September 2015 after a 14-year run, making it the ninth longest-running show in Broadway history.

Prepare to have the time of your life at Mamma Mia! and take a trip down the aisle you’ll never forget!

Get swept away by the infectious music, uplifting story, and dazzling dance numbers that have made Mamma Mia! a worldwide phenomenon.

Laiona Michelle*

The production stars Laiona Michelle* as Donna. Laiona was seen on Broadway as Nanna in Amazing Grace and in The First National Tour of The Book of Mormon.  Most recently she starred as the legendary jazz icon in the world premiere of Little Girl Blue – The Nina Simone Musical.  Joining her as her best buddies and the other 2 members of the band are Jessie Alagna* as Rosie and Carly Callahan as Tanya. Carly was last seen here in THE FANTASTICKS and THE IVORYTON PLAYHOUSE CHRISTMAS HOUR. This is Jessie’s debut in Ivoryton. Cooper Grodin*, Dane Agonistas and Billy Clark Taylor* take on the roles of the dads and Stephanie Gomerez and Jack Kay play the young lovers, Sophie and Sky. Evan Benjamin, Kelley Davies, Nico DiPrimio, Mark Gilchrist, Nicholas Gonzalez, Nigel Hall, Aliah James, Amanda Lupacchino, Melissa McLean, Ana Yi Puig, Carolina Santos Read*, Nathan Russo, Cameron Khalil Stokes, and Audrey Wilson complete this talented and energetic cast.

Cooper Grodin*

The production is directed and choreographed by J.R. Bruno and musical directed by David Madore with set design by Glenn Bassett, lighting design by Marcus Abbott and costume design by Elizabeth Saylor.

MAMMA MIA opens at the Ivoryton Playhouse on June 26th and runs through July 28, 2019. Performance times are Wednesday and Sunday matinees at 2pm. Evening performances are Wednesday and Thursday at 7:30pm, Friday and Saturday at 8pm.

Additional matinee performances are on Saturday, July 6th and July 20th at 2pm.

Tickets are $55 for adults; $50 for seniors; $25 for students and $20 for children and are available by calling the Playhouse box office at 860-767-7318 or by visiting our website at www.ivorytonplayhouse.org

(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 after July 5, 2018

*denotes member of Actors Equity

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elephant_circle-right-150x150-DDJoin us for a summer filled with theatre performances for children of all ages!

The Ivoryton Playhouse brings you another summer full of fun and educational programs all geared towards children! The Playhouse is proud to present some 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. All tickets $14.00.

For more information, please call 860.767.7318. To purchase tickets on line, please follow this link.

 

July 12th – 11:00am
* NEW * Pumpernickel Puppets Presents
Sir George and the Dragon

Join an adventurous princess as she journeys to Mystery Mountain to visit the Great Green Dragon. Along the way you’ll meet Zelda the babysitter, a silly bat, Sir George and his clumsy dog, and of course the lovable dragon. Will Sir George slay the dragon? Not to worry, everything ends happily in this fun show. Presented with large colorful hand puppets and live voices and sound effects.

 

August 16th – 11:00am
Casey Carle’s
Bubblemania

Back by popular demand! Casey Carle performs tricky undulations, manipulations and juggling with bubbles. An extremely unique program combining high energy entertainment with artistic achievement, BubbleMania is loaded with visual comedy, quick wit, big band swing music and the untamed, often unbelievable qualities and beauty of spherical liquids. Casey’s creations grow from intricate and imaginative bubble artforms to “trapping” people inside bubbles! This is a bubble show to keep the 5 to 75 year-olds mesmerized.

 

August 23rd
Paper Heart Puppets presents:

11:00am – * NEW * I LOVE TACOS!

There is joy in the world, and it comes wrapped in a tortilla!

Join White Nosed Coati and a cast of amazing Mexican wildlife in three original stories celebrating tacos and the place they were created. Each story is packed with exuberant humor, and colorful characters. So get ready for magical Qeutzal birds, taco monsters and the mystery of the volcano rabbit and his ultimate salsa!


2:00pm CARDBOARD EXPLOSION!

With a simple snip of the scissors, adventures unfold for a one-of-a-kind puppetry experience! “Cardboard Explosion’” brings five original stories to life using nothing but cardboard and the power of your imagination. In each story audience members help puppeteer, Brad Shur, transform simple cardboard shapes into elaborate puppet characters right before your eyes.

 

 

 

Get ready to outsmart dragons, choose-your-own superpower, and train adorable animal sidekicks in this fun, energetic, participatory show. Recommended for ages 4 and up

TWO SHOW SPECIAL: buy tickets for both Paper Heart Puppet shows for $25. Bring your lunch to have on our patio between shows and enjoy complimentary lemonade.

 

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Boogie in July and Céilí in August!

MONDAY NIGHT CABARET EVENTS THIS SUMMER!

Tickets for all cabaret events: $25 adults; $20 students. After show music and cash bar in the tent.

Call the box office (860.767.7318), book tickets online or visit the theatre to secure your seats.

 

Monday, July 15th
BOOGIE NIGHTS –
SOUNDS OF THE ’70s

Put on your leisure suits, halter tops, and platform shoes and get ready to boogie down through 10 years of ground-breaking music! Boogie Nights is a fast-paced musical cabaret featuring the music of Gloria Gaynor, The Carpenters, The Village People, The Doobie Brothers, The Bee Gees, Helen Reddy, and more! A Baby Boomer’s dream come true – play that funky music!

 

 

Monday, August 12th
A Summer Of Tall Tales and Music – A Night of Irish Music and Stories!

From Ireland’s Greatest Hero Fionn Mac Cumhaill, to the Magic Of Ireland’s Shamrocks. Take a journey with us as we sing such great songs as, “The Rocky Road To Dublin”, “That’s An Irish Lullaby”, “Star Of The County Down”, “Kerry Dance”, “Danny Boy” and many more!

Let the mischievous Pookas and Stories Of Fairies carry us into the last of the long days of summer!

Featuring:
Billy Bivona – Guitarist
Celeste Cumming – Cellist
David Jarkey – Pianist
Michael McDermott – Vocalist
Kathleen Mulready – Vocalist
Andrew Thomson – Bodhran and Ullieann Pipes
Victoria Wepler – Violinist/Fiddler

 

 

 

 

 

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PASSION POWER PROSE 2020

Our mission is to Inspire, Empower, Validate, and Celebrate women playwrights.

The Ivoryton Playhouse Women Playwrights Initiative (WPI) develops new one-act plays by and about women, and the issues that shape their lives. Friendship, political and economic advocacy, sexual satisfaction, aging, gender equality, racial issues, marriage, singlehood, motherhood, careers, and power. The Initiative provides a safe, nurturing environment for play development, including a week of intensive rehearsal with the playwrights, directors, and actors. The workshopping week culminates in a staged reading festival, featuring interactive talkbacks with the playwrights, directors, actors, and audience.

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CALL FOR SCRIPTS (06/01/19):

Fourth annual Ivoryton Playhouse Women Playwrights Initiative: PASSION POWER PROSE 2020.

Our mission is to Inspire, Empower, Validate, and Celebrate women playwrights.

Please read the submission policy carefully

PLAYWRIGHTS

  1. Starting June 15, 2019 women playwrights are invited to submit one-act plays written solely by women. Scripts must be in standard Samuel French playwriting format: 12 point font, character name centered, 1” margin all around. Email scripts to info@ivorytonplayhouse.org.
  2. We are specifically looking for TWO ten-fifteen minute plays, and TWO longer plays up to one hour—approximately 50 pages. Plays running longer than one hour will not be considered. Each play will have one staged reading on either Saturday afternoon or Saturday evening on February 22, 2020.
  3. No one-person plays or musicals will be accepted.
  4. Only one submission per playwright will be accepted. Scripts will not be returned.
  5. Submissions are limited to the first 150 scripts received. No play will be accepted before June 15.
  6. These are blind submissions. The title page must include ONLY the name of the play, the characters, and the setting. DO NOT include a synopsis. A separate file is required with the playwright’s name, email address, mailing address, telephone number, and the name of the submitted play. Please also include a resume as a separate file and NOT included in the PDF file of the play.
  7. The call is open from June 15 to August 15, 2019 OR until we receive 150 plays. Playwrights will be notified if their play was received after receipt of 150 plays or the deadline and thus, not considered.
  8. Submissions will be acknowledged by email. Playwrights will be notified in the fall of 2019 by email if their play is selected. Playwrights whose plays were not selected will also be notified.
  9. All ethnicities and all ages are strongly encouraged to apply.
  10. The four selected playwrights will be invited to stay for the week of workshopping beginning the arrival day, Sunday, February 16, 2020 through to the staged readings on Saturday February 22, (performance inclement weather date and/or departure day on Sunday, February 23, 2020.)
  11. The WPI is a workshop and playwrights are encouraged and should be prepared to work on their play, including rewrites, as needed.
  12. Stipend: PLAYWRIGHTS: $500, plus travel from your nearest airport or train station to Ivoryton, CT on Sunday, February 16, 2020 and from Ivoryton on Sunday, February 23, 2020. Housing is provided.
  13. DIRECTORS: The WPI also seeks resumes from women directors. Stipend: $300 and housing is provided, if needed. All ethnicities and ages strongly encouraged to apply.
  14. READERS: We also seek resumes from male and female readers to evaluate the plays and to email feedback on a form provided. All readers will receive free admission to the staged readings. All ethnicities and ages are strongly encouraged to apply.

To download a pdf copy of these instructions, please follow this link:  WPI 2020 CALL FOR SCRIPTS

Play submissions, and Director and Reader resumes should be mailed to WPI Submissions, Ivoryton Playhouse, PO Box 458, Ivoryton, CT  06442  or emailed to:  info@ivorytonplayhouse.org

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CALL FOR READERS OF ONE-ACT PLAYS!

The Ivoryton Playhouse WPI 2020 seeks READERS for one-act plays. Male and female, all ethnicities and ages are encouraged to apply.

Readers will receive by email at least 5 one-act plays to evaluate and email feedback on a form provided. Eligible one-act plays are 10-15 minutes, or up to one hour. The submission call begins on June 15, 2019 and runs to August 15, 2019, or until 150 plays are received.

All readers will receive free admission to the staged readings, which will take place at the Ivoryton Playhouse on Saturday, February 22, 2020.

Please email your resume to WPI Readers, Ivoryton Playhouse, PO Box 458, Ivoryton, CT  06442  or email to:  info@ivorytonplayhouse.org

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 “Godspell” returns to  the Ivoryton Playhouse

May 22nd – June 16th

Book by John Michael Tebelak,  Music & Lyrics by Stephen Schwartz

Sam Sherwood

Ivoryton, CT:  Opening on Wednesday, May 22 and running through June 16, Ivoryton Playhouse presents the beautiful and uplifting musical, GODSPELL.  GODSPELL began as John Michael Tebelak’s master thesis at Carnegie Mellon University with lyrics taken directly from the Episcopal Hymnal. Stephen Schwartz, also from Carnegie Mellon, was hired to write a new score, adding original songs to the modernized hymns.

The show opened off-Broadway in 1971 where it ran for 2,214 performances. After transferring to Broadway in 1976, GODSPELL continued its run for an additional 527 performances and became a popular movie in 1973.

GODSPELL is an important show in the history of the Ivoryton Playhouse. It was first performed here in 1974 starring Bruce Connelly as Jesus. Bruce has remained a dear member of the playhouse family and can currently be seen in GUESS WHO’S COMING TO DINNER which runs through May 12.

Larry Thelen directed a beautiful production of GODSPELL in 2009 and ten years later we are proud to include it in our summer season. This production is based on the 2012 Broadway revival – a masterful retelling of the original sensation, injected with contemporary references and dazzling new arrangements.

Loosely based on the Gospel of St. Matthew, GODSPELL is a delightful romp, full of humor and love and glorious music, with several classics (“Day by Day” was actually a Billboard hit in 1972). This upbeat retelling of biblical parables is punctuated and amplified by a simple, melodic score by Stephen Schwartz. Director Jacqui Hubbard said, “It is one of the most significant off- Broadway musicals written by one of the most significant writers of musical theatre today. The themes are timeless and the piece is as relevant, if not more relevant today as it was 47 years ago. Because of its energy and broad appeal it crosses generational lines and children both young and old love the music and the story. It is a big part of the Playhouse mission to be a theatre for all people and GODSPELL helps spread the word”

Carson Higgins

The cast features Playhouse alums Sam Sherwood* (ONCE; THE ROAD – JOHN DENVER) as Jesus, Carson Higgins* (MEMPHIS; LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS) as Judas, Sam Given* (I HATE MUSICALS; CHORUS LINE), Morgan Morse (ONCE) adn Lilly Tobin* (STAND BY YOUR MAN), with Jerica Exum, Kedrick Falk, Kaileah Hankerson, Gabriella Saramago, and Josh Walker*.

The play is directed by Playhouse Artistic Director, Jacqui Hubbard, musical directed by Michael M. Morris, choreographed by Todd L. Underwood, set design by Martin Marchitto, costumes by Cully Long and lighting design by Marcus Abbott.

GODSPELL opens on May 22 and runs thru June 16 for 4 weeks. Performance times are Wednesday and Sunday matinees at 2pm. Evening performances are Wednesday and Thursday at 7:30pm, Friday and Saturday at 8pm. There will be one Thursday matinee on May 23rd and two Saturday matinees on June 1st and June 15th.

Tickets are $55 adult / $50 senior / $25 student / $20 children 12 and are available by calling the Playhouse box office at 860-767-7318 or by visiting our website at www.ivorytonplayhouse.org  (Group rates and subscriptions are available by calling the box office for information.) The Playhouse is located at 103 Main Street in Ivoryton.

*denotes member of Actors Equity

Photos courtesy of Anne Hudson.

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Reviews for GODSPELL

From the Desk of Jim R, Take 2
By James V. Ruocco

This amazing cast of ten bring real rock concert pulse and vibe to Ivoryton Playhouse’s impassioned retelling of “Godspell,” the 1971 Stephen Schwartz musical that takes its cue from a random series of accessible parables, freely adapted from “The Gospel According to Matthew.”

Vibrant.
Wonderfully Captivating.
Truthful.
Quick Witted and Emotional.
Powerful.

This “Godspell” not only has a beautiful, enriched harmony about it, but it is accompanied by a clear-sighted, modern-day vision that is assertive, commanding, visionary and palpable. And that is exactly what sets it apart from other productions of the same name.

If this incarnation is altogether more endearing and trail blazing in execution, that’s because it has been directed by Jacqueline Hubbard, the award-winning executive/artistic director of Ivoryton Playhouse. Celebrating 25 years at the theater, she brings a savvy, intuitive mindset to every play or musical she has directed along with a directorial dynamic, rich in execution, invention, illumination and rediscovery.

So who better than Hubbard to direct “Godspell?”

For this interpretation, she uses the reworked, licensed 2012 version of the show, which includes the stirring ballad “Beautiful City” from the 1973 film and better yet, she opens the show with “Tower of Babble,” a weighty, important musical number almost always omitted from every production of “Godspell,” but lovingly restored here at Ivoryton. That song, a ground-breaker of sorts, immediately sets the tone for what’s to follow, using some some very intricate, imaginative staging by Hubbard that not only makes the first 10 minutes of the musical sizzle and resonate, but also introduces the very different, colorful characters who play a key role in the recognizable Jesus/ Judas story and the many parables conceived and re-imagined by playwright John-Michael Tebelak who also wrote for the book for the original 1971 production of “Godspell.”

Staging “Godspell,” Hubbard breathes new life into the oft-produced musical, using a refreshing honesty and unified vibrancy that other productions seem to miss. Mind you, this is not just any romp through the gospels. With Hubbard as its interpreter, the show’s message of love and acceptance in a much darker world hits home significantly and carries lots of well-orchestrated humor, joy, pathos and tears with it. Alas, her observations, depiction and treatment of the material are specific, detailed, and performed without any whiff of calculation.

Using the refitted 2012 play script, Hubbard gives the musical a rapid-fire eagerness that works especially well, now that “Godspell” has been given a much-needed makeover. Moreover, she doesn’t clutter the production with unnecessary shtick or silly, contrived, slightly improvised staging that detracts from the show’s strung-together parables and Schwartz’s breezy “Godspell” musical score. This conceit is applied to scene after scene and song after song. Mind you, there is some playful vaudevillian humor interspersed here and there, but it’s straightforward and direct without that annoying overkill that made other “Godspell” revivals tiresome, clunky and amateurish. Hubbard’s vision is well thought out, well timed and smartly crafted. She knows exactly what she wants. Her cast follows her cue and runs with it. And the energy level of everyone involved, is completely and honestly refreshing.

For “Godspell,” Hubbard has enlisted the talents of choreographer Todd Underwood whose Ivoryton Playhouse credits include “Rent,” “West Side Story,” “Saturday Night Fever” and last season’s “A Chorus Line” and “Grease.” The perfect candidate to bring the “Godspell” story to life in terms of dance, Underwood’s playful choreography is both appealing, intuitive and stylish. Given Schwartz’s trademark score, he crafts potent, powerfully performed staging that makes every choreographed number, vivid and individual.

Banish all thoughts of overkill or hotshot extravagance with Underwood at the helm. Whereas other choreographers tend to overemphasize the “Godspell” material to the point of sheer ridiculousness using doodlebug flourishes and rattling movements and tableaux’s that have absolutely nothing to do with the story at hand, Underwood’s showman’s chutzpah is vaudevillian, respectful, controlled and perfectly in sync with Schwartz’s conceit for “Godspell” and the choices dictated by the music and the characters who populate the parabalstic story.

As “Godspell” unfolds, Underwood lets his talented ensemble cast swim and frolic through “Tower of Babble,” “Turn Back, O Man,” “Prepare Ye,” “Light of the World” and “Learn Your Lessons Well,” among others, with optimistic, powerful and creative abandon. Bodies blend, embrace and support, creating unified movements, prances and jaunty feats that dazzle or stand alone individually. Or they simply groove with ease, swirl, dip or twirl, spin and jump depending on the number at hand or the music’s percussive prompting. It’s all very versatile, unique and completely in harmony with the show’s gospel parables and teachings of important lessons through song, dance, speech and movement.

With music and lyrics by Stephen Schwartz, “Godspell” contains 18 musical numbers. They are “Prologue,” “Tower of Babble,” “Prepare Ye,” “Save the People,” “Day By Day,” “Learn Your Lessons Well,” “Bless the Lord,” “All For the Best,” “All Good Gifts,” “Light of the World,” “Learn Your Lessons Well (Reprise),” “Turn Back, O Man,” “Alas For You,” “”By My Side,” “We Beseech Thee,” “Beautiful City,” “On the Willows” and “Finale.”
Then and now, Schwartz knows how to craft songs that are well worth listening to. His gift for melody and lyrical representation is effective and seasoned. There’s also a truthfulness to his musicality, most noticeable in how a song functions in a show, how it is positioned and how it drives the storytelling forward unobtrusively.

At Ivoryton, musical direction for “Godspell” is provided by Michael Morris whose previous work at the Playhouse includes “Dreamgirls,” “Rent,” “A Night with Janis Joplin” and “A Chorus Line.” Doubling at the keyboards and as conductor, he creates a shimmering aura of melody and rhythmic melodrama that is lucid, sweet, endlessly colorful and often pillow-soft. The pop-rock charm of Schwartz’s popular musical score is revitalized with youthful exuberance and connective eagerness. There’s also a raw eclecticism to the music that is funky, folksy, glam and marshmallow fluffy.

Working alongside his trio of handpicked, talented musicians – Billy Bivona on guitars, David Uhl on bass and Alex Giosa on percussion and drums – Morris makes every moment of the “Godspell” musical songbook uplifting and memorable. Its coruscating energy is fueled by festive glitter and sheen, ripe piquancy, heartfelt shivers and waves and nicely layered imaginative rhythms, beats and tonalities. This musical quartet also brings a freshly minted sound to such such hummable treats as “Day By Day,” “Turn Back, O Man,” “Beautiful City” “Save the People” and “By My Side.” There’s so much to marvel at, the audience happily sits there transfixed, quietly enjoying and savoring the impressive power of the “Godspell” orchestral sound and its tremendous vitality.

“Godspell” stars Sam Sherwood as Jesus and Carson Higgins as John the Baptist/Judas. Sam Given, Lilly Tobin, Jerica Exum, Josh Walker, Morgan Morse, Gabriella Saramago, Kedrick Faulk and Kaileah Hankerson represent the followers.

Sam Sherwood, in the role of Jesus, is handsome, smiley-faced, passionate and three-dimensional, which is exactly what the part calls for. Here, as in last season’s “Once,” he oozes plenty of innate charm and warmth and works hard to get everything right, which he does. Vocally, he impresses with a pitch-perfect sound, most noticeable in “Beautiful City,” “Save the People” and “Alas For You.” He also naturally connects with everyone in the cast, which, in order for “Godspell” to work its magic, is mandatory. In the dual role of Judas and John the Baptist, Carson Higgins is strong voiced and commanding. There’s lots of edge and angst to his interpretation along with an obvious vulnerability and complexity. His vocal rendition of “Prepare Ye” is both honest and dynamic, as is his well-delivered “All For the Best” duet with Sherwood.

From “A Chorus Line” to “Godspell,” Sam Given takes you on a supercharged journey into make-believe that’s full-throttle, fast-paced, beautifully persuasive, sweet and honeyed and supremely confident. From his first entrance in the show to his powerhouse Act II solo turn “Turn Back, O Man,” which he performs with wild abandon, Given delivers the goods – and then some – with a determined to conquer persona that’s fantastically entertaining, full of sparkle, rich in character and clearly inspired.
What’s especially gratifying about Given is that he’s completely genuine, comically and dramatically expressive and entertainingly electrifying. At the same time, he dances to his own tune as he dons his signature Millie Grams wig, costuming, make-up and glitter to build and solidify a female characterization of attitude, spunk, polish and soulful passion guaranteed to drive any audience wild.

Given, in drag, is a brilliant dance off between appearance and reality, fraught with resilience, emotion, diversity and glitter ball magic. It’s so wonderfully balanced and enacted, if anyone is doing “Mame,” Sam is your man. Just think of the possibilities. The pose, the look, the performance, the songs, the character. Given can do it blindfolded.

Rounding out the “Godspell” cast are Lily Tobin, Jerica Exum, Morgan Morse, Kedrick Faulk, Kalieah Hankerson, Josh Walker and Gabriella Saramago. They also contribute greatly to the musical’s greatness as both ensemble players and soloists, all of whom get their moment to shine in musical numbers ranging from “Day By Day” and “Light of the World” to “Learn Your Lessons Well” and “Bless the Lord.” All seven bring a bit of brilliance, elan and peppy vibe to “Godspell.” They also seem to be enjoying themselves, which in a musical of this nature, goes a very long way.

The only theater to get “Godspell’ right in the last decade or so, this Ivoryton Playhouse presentation is timeless, spiritual, lively and original. It turns the story of Jesus and his followers into something both earnest and meaningful. The music is rich and melodic. The atmospheric set design by Martin Scott Marchitto is outstanding. Cully Long’s costumes are both imaginative and colorful. Hubbard, Underwood and Morris are the perfect creative trifecta. The cast is sensational. And the show’s reworked once-over and radical kick, allows it to pulse and resonate with today’s audience. That said, you haven’t seen “Godspell” until you see it at Ivoryton.

“Godspell” is being staged at Ivoryton Playhouse (103 Main St., Ivoryton, CT), now through June 16.  For tickets or more information, call (860) 767-7318
website: ivorytonplayhouse.org

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Noah Golden, Associate Connecticut Critic

Unfortunately, shake-ups in the critic’s roster at OnStage meant I hadn’t visited The Ivoryton Playhouse for a quite a while. But as my ’18-’19 theatergoing season comes to a close, it felt important to check up on Ivoryton, a company that has been a Connecticut mainstay since its opening in 1930. I’ve seen many shows there over the years, both as critic and audience member, and they’ve always produced consistently polished, top-notch work that seems to focus more on maintaining high standards for classic shows and presenting professional versions of sunny modern favorites rather than mounting works that make political statements or that reimagine the source material. Even their decision a few years back to stage “Rent” – a rock musical that last felt controversial in the Reagan era – was met with grumbles from a portion of their subscriber base.

But I’m happy to report that their thoroughly winning “Godspell” not just keeps the Playhouse’s high standards but infuses it with a youthful and slyly political edge. There is nothing dusty or recreated in Jacqueline Hubbard’s joyous and spritely production of the 1971 Stephen Schwartz/John-Michael Tebelak musical. A community theater staple and oft-revived favorite, “Godspell’s” chameleon-like structure allows for each director and cast to put their own stamp on the show, so the success largely rests on a strong creative concept. Ivoryton’s “Godspell” (thankfully) does away with the hippy-clown shtick that often suffocates the play and sets the show in some version of the present. When the disparate group that will eventually gel into the apostles enters onto Martin Marchitto’s urban decay set, they wear contemporary outfits (by Cully Long) that wouldn’t seem out of place outside the proscenium. Morgan Morse is decked out in Brooklynite hipster attire while Jerica Exum looks on her way to a yoga class. Kaileah Hankerson and Gabriella Saramago don security guard and maid uniforms, respectively, while Sam Givens appears in stylish drag. The others – Kendrick Faulk, Lily Tobin, Josh Walker and Carson Higgins (John/Judas) – although less stylized, follow suit.

Once Jesus (Sam Sherwood) appears, crawling out of a sewer grate in ratty, beggar attire before being made over by John The Baptist’s holy water and some American Eagle-like apparel, the succession of song and parable begins. While not every joke lands (there are a few corny clunkers in the 50-year-old book), the cast is so energetic and spirited you don’t really notice. Attention was clearly made to make each new parable stylistically different and fresh, including some pop-culture-heavy underscoring (the “Law and Order” theme, as well as some Queen, made an aural appearance) while varied props and pieces like a sawhorse, wooden beams, a plunger, and an old umbrella were used in inventive, fun ways. For a show that can sometimes feel scattershot, this one was incredibly tight and brisk without a wasted moment. Hubbard and lighting designer Marcus Abbott also do wonders in using every inch of the set – from abandoned stoops to trash piles to a fire escape and even an ingenious bit with a fire hydrant – to constantly create new stage pictures that never feel too polished or manicured. If one can find fault with the wordier parts of this “Godspell,” it would be that the ensemble – as enthusiastic and charming as they are – occasionally veer into unnecessary mugging, leaving the emotional balance a bit lopsided. If the apostles toned down the funny voices and rubbery-faced antics by ten percent, the change from happy-go-lucky communal tribe to the eventual grief over Jesus’ betrayal and death would feel smoother and more organic. Both the silly and serious parts of “Godspell” are handled well, but there’s a noticeable tonal whiplash between them.

But the real success of this or any “Godspell” rests in the music, and there Ivoryton doesn’t disappoint. Using the fabulous, updated orchestrations from the 2011 Broadway revival and played by a rocking four-piece band (lead by Michael Morris), Stephen Schwartz’s eclectic score still feels unbelievably fresh and engaging. Each number is well delivered, with Faulk’s stirring “All Good Gifts,” Exum’s jubilant “Bless The Lord” and Morse’s rocking “Light Of The World” standing out. Then again, how can you leave out Given’s saucy, spirited “Turn Back, O Man,” hilarious ad-libs to the (mostly geriatric and somewhat uncomfortable) men in the aisle included? Sherwood, endearingly at ease and friendly as Jesus, also beautifully delivers “Beautiful City” and the haunting finale with a tightly coiled vibrato and occasional rasp that brought to mind a young Raul Esparza. When the whole company is singing together, playing their own instruments and performing Todd Underwood’s suitably freeform choreographer, it’s unabashedly fun and joyous.

Yes, “Godspell” is an enjoyable and silly showcase, but under all the merriment Hubbard’s production is smart and thoughtful in the ways it makes the show feel like a piece that belongs in 2019. The show opens to news reports about global warming, North Korea and immigration. One parable includes mention of equal pay for equal work, and there are a few prerequisite Trump jabs. But the most politically-minded thing isn’t the new soundbites and jokes, it’s the seamlessly diverse group Hubbard has assembled to retell these timeless biblical messages of inclusion and peace. When Jesus gathers his devoted followers – black, brown and white, queer and straight, short and tall – and tells them “so be devoted to one another and rejoice in hope. Give with simplicity. Show mercy with cheerfulness. Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with love,” he’s talking to all of us, no matter how different we may look and how varied our backgrounds might be. It’s a message we need more now than ever.

“Godspell” runs at Ivoryton Playhouse through June 16. “Godspell,” originally conceived and directed by John-Michael Tebelak with music and new lyrics by Stephen Schwartz, is directed by Playhouse Artistic Director Jacqui Hubbard and features musical directed by Michael M. Morris, choreographed by Todd L. Underwood, set design by Martin Marchitto, costumes by Cully Long and lighting design by Marcus Abbott. The cast includes: Sam Sherwood (Jesus), Carson Higgins (Judas), Sam Given, Morgan Morse, Lilly Tobin, Jerica Exum, Kedrick Falk, Kaileah

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GODSPELL

Reviewed by Tony Annicone

Ivoryton Playhouse’s current show is “Godspell.” Based on the Gospel of St. Matthew and featuring a score by Stephen Scwartz, “Godspell” brings the parables of Jesus Christ to life. The show draws on various theatrical traditions, such as clowning, pantomime, charades, acrobatics and vaudeville. It is a groundbreaking and unique reflection on the life of Jesus, with a message of kindness, tolerance and love. “Godspell’s” timeless message has always been about finding your quiet, unshakeable faith amid a very cold and very shallow modern world. The comic and poignant moments are blended together splendidly by director Jacqui Hubbard with many current topical references in it. She assembles a 10 member cast to fit all these roles while Michael Morris taught the music to them with his topnotch 4 piece orchestra. The choreography by Todd L. Underwood contains many different styles of dance including soft shoe, modern and jazz. The show is rewarded with a resounding standing ovation at the curtain call.

The unique thing about this production is that it is a more intimate musical to tug on your heartstrings as well as make you laugh at all the right moments. The second act is much stronger than the first act. Sam Sherwood stars as Jesus and is perfectly cast in this role and has a terrific voice. One of his dramatic numbers is “Alas for You” where the words still resonate to this very day. “This nation, this generation will bear the guilt of it all! Alas, Alas, Alas for you! Blind Fools.” It rings true in 2019 as it did back in biblical times as well as in the 1970’s when this show was first written. Sam’s first song is “Save the People” where the cast dances around him. He also has some light and funny moments during the parables and during “All For the Best” duet with Judas. However it is during the Last Supper tableau and the death scene that strike a chord with the audience, leaving not a dry eye in the house including mine. A new song written for the updated show is “Beautiful City”, a beautiful ballad which is rendered marvelously by Sam. It’s his best and most dramatic song in the show. He made me cry the minute he started singing it as well as making many others around me to cry, too. Sam and the whole cast give heartfelt performances in this production.

Two minor points are the opening Philosophers section needs to be tighter with the harmonies and “By My Side” needs more oomph to it. Hubbard gives each of her performers their moments to shine in the show. The first act is more vaudevillian then the second which turns more somber after “Turn Back O Man.” Carson Higgins sings the role of John the Baptist with his powerful gospel voice as he walks through the audience and also does a dynamic job as Judas who betrays Jesus later in the show. Sherwood and Higgins stop the show with their comic “All For the Best” number while they sing in counterpoint with each other. Higgins is comical while doing tricks with the audience but it’s his “On the Willows” that will leave you crying buckets of tears as each character says their goodbyes to Jesus. I last reviewed him as the Dentist in “Little Shop of Horrors” at Ivoryton.

“Day by Day” is given a lovely rendition by Lily Tobin with her lovely voice while the Apostles learn to share with each other. Josh Walker does a couple of rousing numbers. His first is at the opening of Act 2 when he plays keyboards on stage leading the chorus in “Learn Your Lessons Well” and the second is “We Beseech Thee” with a dynamite dance. A group dance occurs as Jerica Exum sings out “Bless the Lord” with her soprano voice.The betrayal scene is a stunning moment, too as Judas kisses Jesus during a rendition of “By My Side” by Kaileah Hankerson. She plays a boss firing people ala the Apprentice TV show. Gabriella Saramago belts out “Learn Your Lessons Well” with her strong gospel voice. She also plays the ukulele during it. Sherwood sings the middle section of the song while the cast does a dance to it.

The most dramatic moment comes with the tear jerking “On The Willows” during The Last Supper as Jesus says goodbye to each of his Apostles. My favorite comic song in the show is “Turn Back O Man.” It’s a show stopping number rendered splendidly by Sam Given in drag. He enters through the crowd while interacting with them. Given is splendid in this gender bending role and does a marvelous Carol Channing impression during the show. He also did a dynamite job in “A Chorus Line” as Bobby last year. Another comic performer is Morgan Morse who also sings “You Are the Light of the World” to end Act 1. He does the Prodigal Son parable with a variety of voices. Morse has one of the best singing voices in the show while Kedrick Faulk’s voice soars off the charts in “All Good Gifts.” The whole cast sings the poignant “Long Live God” and “Prepare Ye” in counterpoint to close this version of the show as well as the meaningful “Beautiful City”, too. Another heart wrenching scene is “The Crucifixion.” The ending of the show will leave you emotionally drained at its intensity but uplifted because Jesus left us hope for the future. In these trying and tumultuous times who could ask for anything better for this world.

So for a splendid production of “Godspell” be sure to catch it performed wonderfully at the historic lvoryton Playhouse.

GODSPELL (22 May to 16 June)
Ivoryton Playhouse, 103 Main Street, Ivoryton, CT
1(860)767-9520 or www.ivorytonplayhouse.org

 

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SOUTH COURSE – MONDAY, OCTOBER 14, 2019

 

The Fifth Annual Ivoryton Playhouse Fall Golf Classic at Lake of Isles – South Course
a private club of distinction for an elevated golf experience
In memory of Mark C. Yellin

Registration: 10:00am
Putting Contest following registration
Shot Gun Start: 12:00noon

This is a unique golfing opportunity. The South Course at Lake of Isles is a members only course and not open to the public.

Since opening in 2005, Lake of Isles has consistently been ranked as one of the top golf facilities in the country. The Rees Jones designed layout gives guests the ultimate golf experience. Guests will enjoy exclusive access to the challenging, private South Course which features rolling terrain, island greens and tees and extraordinary views from every hole.

Lake of Isles is in picturesque southeastern Connecticut, adjacent to Foxwoods Resort Casino.

 

Owned by the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation, two courses North (public) and South (members only), wind their way through 900 acres of wooded Connecticut countryside and around a 90-acre lake. Managed by Troon, the worldwide leader in upscale golf course management, Lake of Isles offers the ultimate golf experience. In addition to superior service and impeccable course conditions, amenities include a 50,000 sq. ft. clubhouse.

Funds raised benefit the community and educational programs of the Ivoryton Playhouse. Funds also support Ivoryton Village Alliance projects.

Sponsorship packages are available here: Fifth Annual IPH Golf Sponsorship

Just Golf! registration forms are available here: Fifth Annual IPH Just Golf Registration form

Just Golf! reservations include a round of golf on the exclusive, private, members only South Course at Lake of Isles, carts, box lunch in carts at start of play, a buffet dinner and awards ceremony at the end of play and a chance to win raffle and silent auction items.

 

Tournament limited to 88 golfers. Call 860.767.9520 x 205 to book your foursome today.

Sponsorship packages are available here: Fifth Annual IPH Golf Sponsorship

Tournament Sponsor $5,000
Four golfers with preferential tee placement
Two tickets to a show at Ivoryton Playhouse for each of your golfers (subject to availability)
Recognition as a Tournament Sponsor in all press releases and color logo on all event literature, etc. (Exposure 70,000+)
Color logo on event banner hung on the day of the tournament
Company logo or name listed on all golf carts used during event
Two additional invitations to Buffet Dinner after tournament and half page ad in tournament program
Acknowledgment on the Ivoryton Playhouse website with link to your company

Gold Sponsor $2,000
Four golfers with preferential tee placement
Recognition as a Gold Sponsor in all press releases and event literature (Exposure 70,000+)
Color logo or name on event banner hung on the day of the tournament
Company logo or name listed on all golf carts used during event

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

Tee Sponsor $250 (does not include golf)
Company name on a sign located on one tee

Tournament, Gold and Silver sponsorship reservations include a round of golf on the exclusive, private, members only South Course at Lake of Isles, carts, box lunch in carts at start of play, a buffet dinner and awards ceremony at the end of play and a chance to win raffle and silent auction items.

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To view the list of shows for our 2019 season please click here: 2019 Season

Single ticket prices for all shows:
$55 adult / $50 senior / $25 student / $20 children 12 and under.

Call, click or drop by to get tickets:

To purchase tickets by telephone, please call:  860.767.7318

To purchase tickets online please follow this link.

To purchase tickets in person, the theatre box office at 103 Main Street, Ivoryton, 06442 is open Wednesday, Feb 20th until 5pm.  Or visit the Admin Office at 22 Main Street, Centerbrook, 06409 open Monday – Friday from 10am – 4pm.

Ticket Service Fees:
Tickets purchased online: $3 per ticket
Tickets purchased over the phone: $5 per order regardless of number of tickets
There is no fee for tickets purchased in person at the Playhouse Box Office (103 Main Street, Ivoryton, 06442) or our Business Office (22 Main Street, Centerbrook, CT  06409).

Subscriptions cannot be purchased on line. Please call Sue McCann, Box Office Manager, 860.767.9520 x 203 to book a 7-play, 5-play subscription or a 3-play subscription.

Full 7-play subscriptions are $295
5-play series subscriptions are $225
3-play series subscriptions are $145

 

 

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Artistic / Executive Director Jacqui Hubbard lead the proceedings

The Ivoryton Playhouse held it’s Annual Meeting of the membership on Tuesday, April 2nd.  Over 120 people attended the event where the membership voted on the 2019 slate of officers and awards were presented:

Board President Al Jaffe

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2019 Slate of Officers:

Al Jaffe – President
Bonnie Stone – Vice President
Norm Needleman – Treasurer
Susan Oirglia – Secretary

Awards:

Volunteer of the year:  Doris Simoneau
Community Partner of the year:  Chris Shane, Ivoryton Village Alliance
Presidents Award:  Noah Rice

The staff and crew of the Playhouse did their best

The great volunteers of the Membership Committee

Doris Simoneau

Chris Shane

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

To view a copy of the 2018 Ivoryton Playhouse Annual Report please click here.

 

 

 

Our thanks to the members of the Membership Committee:

Chair:  Bonnie Stone

Ann Bates
David Carey
Maggie Faulkner
Kim Galvin
Jacqui Hubbard
Joan Hurworth
Dick Katz
Carol MacElwee
Heather Martin
Krista May
Diane Miezejeski
Holly Price
Doris Simoneau
Fred Szufnarowski
Peggy Tuttle
Claudia Volano

 

 

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Check out our video clip for Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner. Our thanks to Overabove for producing this for us!!

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The story that broke all the rules –

Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner
by Todd Kriedler
April 24 – May 12, 2019

Ivoryton – When the movie, GUESS WHO’S COMING TO DINNER, began filming in March 1967, it was still illegal for interracial couples to marry in fourteen states, mostly in the South. Changing attitudes in the country and the landmark case Loving v. Virginia coincided with the production of the movie and by the end of the year, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of Mr. and Mrs. Loving, ruling that marriage is a fundamental human right and effectively ending all anti-miscegenation marriage laws in America.

The Ivoryton Playhouse is thrilled to present this adaptation of the movie by Todd Kriedler, opening on April 24. Set in San Francisco in 1967, the play focuses on Matt and Christina Drayton, a progressive couple whose daughter, Joanna arrives home unexpectedly with her fiancé, Dr. John Prentice, an African American doctor 11 years her senior. They’re in love and they want the Draytons’ blessing for their marriage – today.  Blindsided by their daughter’s whirlwind romance and fearful for her future, Matt and Christina quickly come to realize the difference between reading about and supporting a mixed-race couple in your newspaper and welcoming one into your family. It’s not long before a multi-family clash of racial and generational difference erupts.  At the end of the day, will love prevail?

This thought-provoking comedy classic is a witty and insightful reflection on two families confronted by their prejudices.

Taking on the iconic role of Matt Drayton, made famous by Spencer Tracy, is Gordon Clapp*, best known as the Emmy-winning, Tony-nominated actor who played Det. Greg Medavoy on NYPD Blue (1993) and as Dave Moss in the 2005 Tony Award-winning Broadway revival of Glengarry Glen Ross (1992). Kaia Monroe*, who is an Associate Professor and Chair of Theatre at SCSU will play his wife, Christina and the rest of the cast include Richarda Abrams*, Cedric Cannon*, R. Bruce Connelly*, Krista Lucas, Marc D. Lyons, Kimberlee Monroe* and Katelyn Nichols.

The play is directed by Kathryn Markey, set design by Daniel Nischan, lighting design by Marcus Abbott and costumes by Elizabeth Saylor.

GUESS WHO’S COMING TO DINNER opens at the Ivoryton Playhouse on April 24 and runs through May 12, 2019. Performance times are Wednesday and Sunday matinees at 2pm. Evening performances are Wednesday and Thursday at 7:30pm, Friday and Saturday at 8pm. There will be one Thursday matinee on April 25th.

Tickets are $55 adult / $50 senior / $25 student / $20 children 12 and are available by calling the Playhouse box office at 860-767-7318 or by visiting our website at www.ivorytonplayhouse.org  (Group rates and subscriptions are available by calling the box office for information.) The Playhouse is located at 103 Main Street in Ivoryton.

Photos courtesy of Jonathan Steele.

*denotes member of Actors Equity

Members of the press are welcome at any performance after April 25th.  Please call ahead for tickets.

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