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Monthly Archives: August 2016

David Pittsinger and Talia ThiesfieldThe Ivoryton Playhouse will open MAN OF LA MANCHA on September 7th and the timing could not be more appropriate. The media fueled fear and divisiveness; the circus that is the current political situation and the general instability of the world at large make dreaming impossible dreams an inviting and desperately needed antidote.

One of the world’s most popular musicals, MAN OF LA MANCHA, is based on Cervantes’ masterpiece Don Quixote, and tells of the adventures of a mad, aging nobleman who embarrasses his respectable family by his adventures.  Backed by his faithful sidekick Sancho Panza, he duels windmills and defends his perfect lady, Dulcinea.

The show itself has Connecticut roots. It was the Goodspeed Opera House, which took a TV adaptation of “Don Quixote” by Dale Wasserman and turned it into “MAN OF LA MANCHA” the musical with music by Mitch Leigh and lyrics by Joe Darion, back in 1965.

Winner of 5 Tony Awards, including Best Musical, MAN OF LA MANCHA is a remarkable show and one of the great theatre successes of our time. This is a play-within-a-play – a poignant story of a dying old man whose impossible dream takes over his mind. It’s All the Same, Dulcinea, I’m Only Thinking of Him, The Impossible Dream, I Really Like Him and Little Bird remain in your thoughts and in your soul well after you see the show.

Cast of Man of La Mancha at windmillDavid Pittsinger*, who performed here last year to great critical acclaim as Emile de Becque in SOUTH PACIFIC,  will be playing Don Quixote.  He will be joined by Talia Thiesfield* as Aldonza, Brian Michael Hoffman* as Sancho Panza, Jimmy Van Treuren* as the Innkeeper, Amy Buckley as Antonia, Melissa McLean as the Housekeeper and Matthew Krob as the Padre. The motley crew of prisoners and muleteers include Brian Binion, Ryan Cavanaugh*, AJ Hunsucker, James Ludlum, Conor McGiffin and Stephen Mir.

The show is directed by David Edwards who is doing double duty by also appearing on stage as Carasco. Choreographed by Todd Underwood, the set is designed by Daniel Nischan, lighting by Marcus Abbott and costumes by Elizabeth Cipollina. Musical direction is by Paul Feyer.

MAN OF LA MANCHA opens at the Ivoryton Playhouse on September 7th and runs through October 2nd, 2016. 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 two additional Saturday matinees on September 24th and October 1st at 2pm.

Tickets are $50 for adults, $45 for seniors, $22 for students and $17 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.

Photograph by Anne Hudson
Picured – David Pittsinger* and Thalia Thiesfield*

*denotes member of Actors Equity

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

Generously sponsored by Middlesex Hospital, Essex Meadows and Guilford Savings Bank

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cropped-lia-chang_photo-by-garth-kravits-r1Backstage Pass with Lia Chang

Chatting with Talia Thiesfield, Aldonza in The Ivoryton Playhouse’s Production of MAN OF LA MANCHA, September 7 – October 2

Talia Thiesfield

Talia Thiesfield

Talia Thiesfield is starring as Aldonza opposite David Pittsinger as Don Quixote in The Ivoryton Playhouse’s production of MAN OF LA MANCHA, Wednesday, September 7th – Sunday, October 2th. Opening night is Friday, September 9th.

MAN OF LA MANCHA will be helmed by David Edwards, choreographed by Todd Underwood and will feature musical direction by Paul Feyer.

Written by Dale Wasserman, with music by Mitch Leigh and lyrics by Joe Darion, MAN OF LA MANCHA is the Winner of 5 Tony Awards, including Best Musical, and is based on Cervantes’ masterpiece Don Quixote, The musical tells of the adventures of a delusional Spanish knight who sallies forth on a quest to restore chivalry to the world, and to claim his lady love.

Ms. Thiesfield has appeared Off-Broadway in Marie Christine;  regionally in LMNOP (Goodspeed Musicals), Venice (Center Theatre Group), Smokey Joe’s Café, Violet & Measure For Measure (CT Rep), Romeo & Juliet, Nine, Seven Guitars; and in Los Angeles in Denis Leary’s Rescue Me Comedy TourCoachella Music Festival (w/ The Kills), and Stephen Schwartz – Making Good (Ford Amphitheatre, dir. Billy Porter). She has appeared on the TV shows “Limitless,” “Veep,” “Manhattan Love Story,” and  “The Following”. She has a BFA in Acting from the University of Connecticut, and an MFA from the University of California Irvine.

Below is my interview with Talia.

Lia: You are starring as Aldonza, a major role in a classic musical. How do you feel about that responsibility and tackling such iconic material?
Talia: It truly is an honor. As cliché as that may sound, it’s true! Roles like Aldonza, Evita, Fantine…these iconic female roles are so special to us because they represent the strength and perseverance inherent in all women.  They tell stories of women who endure and thrive through harrowing struggles and find dignity in their brokenness.  That resonates a lot with me, so I think this is going to be a very cathartic experience.  My intention is to move the audience with Aldonza’s story more so than with just a pretty song.

Lia: What does it mean to you to be playing on your home turf?
Talia: Oh, I love going back to Connecticut. I grew up there, my family is still there…it’s great. And I couldn’t be going back at a better time. I love CT in the Fall.

Lia: How do you plan on balancing your studying for the role, and your usual inclination to socialize with your cast mates?
Talia: I’ve actually been stressing out about this! I’m such a social person and I love hanging out and laughing into the wee hours.  But that definitely needs to be kept to a minimum this time around.  Taking on a heavy role such as this will require me to spend more nights in with a cup of tea, and fewer nights out with a glass of wine!  Once we get into our run and in the swing of things, I’m sure I’ll be more comfortable hanging out, but during the rehearsal process I’ll probably be a bit of a hermit.

Lia: What else have you been working on?
Talia: While rehearsing and performing in Man of La Mancha, I will simultaneously be participating in this year’s NBC Diversity Showcase where I will have the opportunity to perform for major network and industry executives.

I recently had the pleasure of working on some of my favorite TV shows like HBO’s VEEP and LIMTLESS on CBS.  I also recently recorded the Sony Masterworks world premiere soundtrack for Polkadots: The Cool Kids Musical (by Douglas Lyons, Melvin Tundstall III, and Greg Borowsky) after originating the role for the preliminary workshops, demos, and presentations. Coincidentally, Polkadots premiered an educational run of the show with Ivoryton Playhouse only four months ago!

UCONN Today: All the World’s a Stage for Alumna Talia Thiesfield

The cast of MAN OF LA MANCHA also features Amy Buckley as Antonia, David Edwards as Dr. Carrasco, Brian Michael Hoffman as Sancho, Matthew Krob as Padre, Melissa McLean as Housekeeper/Maria and James Van Treuren as Governor/Innkeeper. Brian Binion, Ryan Cavanaugh, AJ Hunsucker, James Ludlum, Conor McGiffin, Stephen Mir round out the ensemble.

The creative team includes scenic design by Daniel Nischan, lighting design by Marcus Abbott, sound design by Tate Burmeister and costume design by Liz Cipollina, with James Joseph Clark as Stage Manager.

Performance times for MAN OF LA MANCHA are Wednesday and Sunday matinees at 2pm; evening performances are Wednesday and Thursday at 7:30pm, Friday and Saturday at 8pm.

Tickets are $50 for adults, $45 for seniors, $22 for students and $17 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.

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Read RENT Reviews here!

The Reviews are in – run don’t walk to get tickets to see RENT!

Tony’s Corner
Reviewed by Tony Annicone

The summer show of Ivoryton Playhouse is the 20th Anniversary production of “Rent”, a Tony Award and Pulitzer Prize winning rock musical with music and lyrics by Jonathan Larson. It opened on Broadway on April 29, 1996 and is based on Giacomo Puccini’s opera “La Boheme” which premiered in 1896. This musical centers on a group of impoverished young artists and musicians struggling to create and survive in New York’s Alphabet City in the last days of the Bohemian East Village, under the shadow of AIDS. The show is considered revolutionary for bringing controversial topics and counterculture to a traditionally conservative medium, and is credited with increasing the popularity of musical theater in the younger generation like the musical “Hair” spoke to the young people of the 1960’s. “Rent” begins as Mark, a filmmaker and narrator of the show, decides to begin shooting an unscripted documentary about his friends on Christmas Eve. The show follows their lives for a whole year, mixing comic and poignant moments together into a rousing musical masterpiece about life, acceptance and the joy of creating things together. Its powerful message resonates to this day and is not only touching but joyous and life affirming, too. Director Jacqui Hubbard picks the best 15 member cast to play these roles. She is aided in this huge task by music director Michael Morris and choreographer Todd Underwood. The film delivers a strong close to the show. If you have one show to catch this summer season, it should be “Rent” at Ivoryton Playhouse.

Jacqui blocks each scene excellently and elicits fabulous performances from her 15 member cast. Michael Morris taught the cast over 40 musical numbers in this show. The harmonic blend and balance of the voices is outstanding with the group numbers “Rent”, “Another Day”, “Santa Fe”, “La Vie Boheme” and “Seasons of Love” leading the way. He also plays lead keyboards while directing his five piece combo. Todd Underwood supplies the marvelous dance numbers which include modern, jazz, tango with the “Santa Fe”, “La Vie Boheme” and 1960’s style dance as the standouts. The two story set is by Martin Scott Marchitto while the costumes are by Lisa Bebey.

The two leading men in this show are multitalented with Johnny Newcomb as Roger Davis and Tim Russell as Mark Cohen. Roger is an HIV-positive musician who is recovering from heroin addiction and is Mark’s roommate. Johnny is a fabulous actor with a terrific tenor voice which soars in his many musical solos, duets and group numbers. Some of them include “One Song Glory” about Roger’s desperate need to write one great song before he dies of AIDS, “Your Eyes” is Roger’s song as he thinks Mimi is dying in Act 2, “Light My Candle”, “I Should Tell You” and “Without You”, the show stopping duet he sings with Mimi as Angel dies onstage. There isn’t a dry eye left in the entire audience at the end of their rendition. Mark Cohen is a struggling filmmaker who creates a final movie which details his friends lives and their journeys during the show. Tim has an phenomenal baritone voice which grips the audience with its power in his many numbers and is a fantastic actor as he narrates the many scenes poignantly. Tim’s numerous songs include group numbers “Tune Up”, “Rent”, “La Vie Boheme”, “Happy New Year”, “Halloween” and the powerhouse duet that stops the show with its intensity. That number is “What You Own” where Roger and Mark have an epiphany as Roger finally finds his song in Mimi and Mark finds his film in Angel’s memory. has a comic song “Tango Maureen” with his ex-girlfriend’s lesbian lover while they execute a perfect tango during it. Bravo to both these performers on doing a superb job in these demanding roles.

The villainous landlord, Benjamin Collins III who turns off the heat and electricity trying to turn Alphabet City from an artistic community into a technical based one is portrayed by Collin L. Howard. He plays this smarmy character beautifully, displaying his tenor voice in “Tune Up”, “Rent” and “Goodbye Love.” Ilast reviewed Collin in “Showboat” at the Shubert Theatre in Boston in July. Patrick Clanton as Tom Collins and Jonny Cortes as Angel Dumott Schunard are marvelous in their roles. Tom is a professor of computer science and is an anarchist with AIDS who finds love with Angel, a street drummer who strives to spread his surprising optimism amongst his friends. Patrick uses his magnificent bass voice to tug at your heartstrings in “I’ll Cover You” which he sings at Angel’s funeral. He sings this duet with Angel earlier in the show and they also sing “You Okay Honey?” He also sings lead in “Santa Fe” with a mellow sound and I last reviewed Patrick in “Sister Act” at NSMT. The character of Angel is a drag queen and is one of the most likeable characters in this show. Jonny is fantastic in this role especially in the death scene which tears your heart out at its dramatic impact. Angel also bumps off Benny’s dog which is a funny moment in this dramatic musical. All of his interactions with the rest of the cast are topnotch and his vocal prowess especially a fabulous falsetto are heard in his solos, duets and in the group numbers, too.

Alyssa Gomez is dynamite as Mimi, an HIV positive S&M dancer and heroin junkie who used to date Benny but is now Roger’s love interest. She is sexy as hell as Mimi and she knocks your socks off with her two duets with Johnny especially the poignant “Without You.” Alyssa’s solo “Out Tonight” stops the show with her powerful rendition and she dances up a storm during it. She is excellent as this drug addicted character. The two lesbian characters, Joanne, a Harvard educated lawyer and Maureen, a performance artist who is also Mark’s ex-girlfriend are excellently played by Maritza Bostic and Stephanie Genito. Maritza makes Joanne, a brassy broad who takes no crap from anyone especially Mark and Maureen. Her duet with Tim is hilarious while her duet with Stephanie, “Take Me or Leave Me”, is gut wrenching. I last reviewed Maritza as Red Riding Hood in “Into the Woods” at Lyric Company in Boston in 2014. Stephanie has many dramatic moments especially in Angel’s death scene but she is a hoot in her solo “Over the Moon” which is a thinly veiled criticism of Benny, using a metaphor involving a cow and a bulldog which is taken from Hey Diddle Diddle. Maureen has the audience yell Moo at the end of it. At the end of Act 1 during the closing number, she moons Benny which lightens up the mood for the somber events of Act 2. The most well known song of the show “Seasons of Love” opens the second act with the harmonies of the chorus soaring to the rafters of the theatre. Sheniqua Trotman’s powerful voice solos during this song. I last reviewed her in “Chicago” here as Mama Morton. The whole show is powerful and breathtaking with its impact on the audience.

Run do not walk to the box office for this sensational musical. Tell them Tony sent you. This review marks my 1500th review and what a terrific way to celebrate it with this powerhouse version of “Rent” at the historic Ivoryton Playhouse.

RENT (3 to 28 August)
Ivoryton Playhouse, 103 Main Street, Ivoryton, CT
1(860)767-7318 or


logoRENT review by Erica

RENT, on its 20th anniversary, has stood the test of time. It’s as relevant and fresh today as it was at its Broadway debut in 1996. Loosely based on Puccini’s La Boheme, this story of a group of young, starving artists living in the East Village tells the harsh realities of the era of AIDS, through the eyes of a tight knit bunch of friends, most of whom are HIV positive. Facing a nightmarish future, they still manage to find love, hope and moments of happiness. The Ivoryton has gathered an exceptional cast for this show…standouts vocally are Maureen (Stephanie Genito, perfectly cast), Mimi (Alyssa Gomez) and Tom Collins (Patrick Clanton), but the entire company delivers an exuberant performance. My husband had to shush me, as it was impossible NOT to sing along to the familiar score. We saw the show on the second night, and were awed by the polish of the young performers. It will only get better. This is an important work, lest we ever forget those harrowing days. If you haven’t seen RENT, or even if you have, go see it at the Ivoryton through August 28.


Talkin’ Broadway
Ivoryton Playhouse
Review by Zander Opper


Pillow Talking’s Review of RENT


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Sandra W. Lee, U.S. Army veteran of the Iraq war, plays Mrs. Cohen and others in the Ivoryton Playhouse production of Rent. She talks about how theater can bring people together and make them feel connected, and how Rent, with its themes of community, love and compassion, reflects that potential.

After Sandra W. Lee completed her tour of duty in Iraq, where she sustained an injury, she said that she now tries to tie her roles back to her experience there. She describes Rent as having a level of complexity and emotion that she wouldn’t have been able to portray with her time in the service. Loosely based on Puccini’s La Boheme, the musical is set in Manhattan’s East Village and follows a group of friends struggling to build the lives of their dreams. Pennilessness, drug abuse, HIV/AIDS and other hardships challenge the friends physically and emotionally. Along the way the find what really matters in life. Rent won the 1996 Tony Award for Best Musical and the 1996 Pulitzer Prize for Drama. Don’t miss this exuberant, passionate and joyous production.

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


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RENTOur community is very important to us – we may not have the visible signs of poverty in front of us every day as RENT writer Jonathan Larson did, but we know that in our family of audience members and cast members, there are people whose daily struggles would put us to shame.

To make theatre accessible to all, and in the spirit of Jonathan Larson, the Playhouse is holding 20 seats for every performance of RENT (August 3-28) at a $25 price. These seats will be available at the box office after 6pm every show day (after 1pm for matinees).

Tickets cannot be reserved in advance and are available from the box office only after 6pm for an evening show and 1pm for a matinee.  Limit of 4 per person.  Seats will be given from an allocation in the balcony already determined.  Promotion does not apply to tickets already purchased and will not be exchanged for seats already purchased.  Please, no phone calls.


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On Stage Now….RENT


Five hundred, twenty five thousand, six hundred minutes
By Jonathan Larson
At the Ivoryton Playhouse

The cast of RENT

The cast of RENT

Ivoryton – Jonathan Larson’s Pulitzer Prize winning Broadway musical RENT opens at the Ivoryton Playhouse on Wednesday, August 3rd running until August 28th.

Loosely based on Puccini’s opera, La Boheme, RENT details one year in the life of seven artists & musicians, living in New York’s run down “Alphabet City” in the late 1980s.  As this circle of friends struggle with life, love, infidelity, and the usual hopes & fears of modern day life, they must also cope with drug addiction and the rising specter of AIDS.  In the midst of all this, one of them attempts to capture all of their lives on film, hoping to make artistic sense of it all.

Jonathan Larson died in 1996, the day before his musical opened in New York. He never witnessed its phenomenal success. RENT opened on Broadway on April 29, 1996. It went on to win every major best musical award, including the Tony Award, as well as the Pulitzer Prize for drama.  RENT closed after 5,124 performances and is the seventh longest running show in Broadway history.  Over the course of its groundbreaking 12-year New York run, RENT transformed the definition of musical theater – and changed Broadway forever.  The musical has been translated into every major language and been performed on six continents.

The Ivoryton Playhouse welcomes back returning actors Jamal Shuriah*, Sheniquah Trotman*, Collin Howard*, Tim Russell and Grant Benedict as well as Johnny Newcomb*, Alyssa Gomez*, Patrick Clanton*, Jonny Cortes, Maritza Bostic, Stephanie Genito, Ronnie S. Bowman, Jr, Mac Cherny, Sandra Lee, Josephine Gottfried.

This production is directed by Ivoryton Playhouse Artistic / Executive Director Jacqueline Hubbard and is choreographed by Todd Underwood.  Musical director is Michael Morris, with set design by Martin Scott Marchitto, lighting design by Marcus Abbott and costume design by Lisa Bebey.

After Larson’s death and the amazing success of his musical, his friends wanted to honor his commitment to his community of people whose lives are a daily struggle for survival. They set aside the first two rows at each performance as $20 seats so that the people the show was about could afford to see it. These special tickets would go on sale at 6:00 p.m. each night and the line usually formed by noon on weekdays and often twenty-four hours in advance on weekends. In honor of Jonathan Larson and the community that we serve, the Ivoryton Playhouse will save 20 seats for every performance at a $25 price.  Those seats will be available at the box office after 6pm every show day (after 1pm for matinees)*.

If you are interested in helping support this program or our Little Wonder program that provides a free night at the theatre for patients and their families dealing with the nightmare of cancer, please give Krista a call at 860 767 9520 ext 205.

RENT opens at the Ivoryton Playhouse on August 3rd and runs for four weeks through August 28th, 2016. Performance times are Wednesday and Sunday matinees at 2pm. Evening performances are Wednesday and Thursday at 7:30pm, Friday and Saturday at 8pm.  Due to popular demand, two additional Saturday matinee performances have been added on August 20th and 27th – both at 2pm.

Tickets are $50 for adults; $45 for seniors; $22 for students and $17 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.

*denotes member of Actors Equity

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

Generously sponsored by Pasta Vita, Sennheiser and Webster Bank

* tickets cannot be reserved in advance and are available from the box office only after 6pm for an evening show and 1pm for a matinee.  Limit of 4 per person.  Seats will be given from an allocation already determined.  Promotion does not apply to tickets already purchased and will not be exchanged for seats already purchased.  Please, no phone calls.

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Thank you to Joe Amarante and the New Haven Register for this great piece on RENT and interview with director Jacqueline Hubbard:

Amid another challenging time, Ivoryton Playhouse readies its August ‘Rent’
By Joe Amarante, New Haven Register
Posted: 07/29/16

 “All we can do in our little world here is try and show healing and community through music, song, whatever. That there is a way; it might be an idealized way, but we’re trying to do our bit so that people feel, ‘OK, people can live together, people can get along.’”      — RENT Director, Jacqueline Hubbard


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