August 19, 2019

Connecticut’s Own Dr. Henry Lee Speaks at Valley Regional High School

Dr. Henry Lee Speaking at Valley Regional High School (photo by Jenny Tripp)

On April 28, the Essex Library Association hosted world-renowned forensic scientist and former Chief of State Police, Dr. Henry Lee.  He intrigued the audience with his knowledge, entertained with his sense of humor while encouraging audience participation (handing out plastic badges and flashlights at one stage!)

The presentation comprised two sections: first, his road to becoming a forensic scientist and then, his cases.

Lee said that he was the youngest police captain in his province in China.  In 1976, he came to the University of New Haven and later endowed the College of Forensic Science at the University of New Haven.  Lee’s inspiring quote to the audience was, “Make the impossible possible.” 

Lee’s own such moment was creating the crime laboratory at the University of New Haven.  He then followed up that achievement by becoming Chief of Connecticut State Police in 1998.

Lee compared and contrasted what he dubbed, “The CSI Effect,” spawned by the popular TV series, “CSI” — an abbreviation for Crime Scene Investigation — and what “CSI” is like in real life.  While most characters in TV’s “CSI” work in pairs or alone, in reality, Lee stated that it is teamwork that is most important.

He explained to the audience what the important steps are in investigating a crime scene.  The first 24 hours are the most important but sometimes, there are exceptions to rules, for example in one case when a blizzard preventing the CSI team arriving on time so Lee put a hold on the garbage past the 24-hour deadline as he believed it might hold evidence the team had not had time to review.  Lee stressed it is important to, “Observe everything,” and, “Take pictures,” of the crime scene.

Saying that he was always an extra pair of eyes on cases, Lee stressed that even the smallest piece of evidence can exonerate or confirm someone’s guilt.

Lee said that the job of the forensic scientist is to, “Speak for the (dead) victim,” noting, “Forensic science is a secret language.  The victim has all of the clues to tell us what happened.”

Lee also worked on the John F. Kennedy assassination reinvestigation.  The bullet from Kennedy’s body was wiped clean after the assassination and there was no way to tell if some of then Texas Governor Connelly’s DNA was on the bullet.

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Con Brio’s Spring Performance is “Exceptional”

This past Sunday, Con Brio Choral (pictured above) presented Ken Jenkins’ “L’Homme Armé” : A Mass for Peace (The Armed Man)  at Christ the King Church.  Act I consisted of the title mass by Karl Jenkins, while Act II focused on songs for peace.  Patricia Schuman was the guest soprano.

The church’s open room and wooden cathedral ceilings gave this concert crystal clear acoustics.

There were 13 songs in Act I.  The chorus sang the title song (performed in French), which had a militaristic feel complete with a piccolo and drums.  Then Patricia Schuman sang “Kyrie Elesion”, which was written in Latin.  Her voice brought out the sadness and seriousness in the song.  In contrast, Sanctus Dominus (sung by the choir) was performed forte and delivered an epic sound. 

The song “Charge!” really sounded like an army “charging” toward the enemy  (the dissonance at the end depicted an unfortunate outcome).  Schuman showed her rich soprano voice in “The Angry Flames,” and at the end of that song, chimes depicted a church bell at a funeral — a unique touch.

“Benedictus” started out slow and sad, then soared with a crescendo evoking a feeling of optimism.  Finally, at the end of Act I, a lighter reprise of “L’Homme Armé” was sung by the choir.

 Act II featured lighter pieces.  Schuman’s bittersweet voice echoed through the church when she sang “Marietta’s Lied” by German composer Erich Wolfgang Korngold, while Beethoven’s “Meeresstille und Glück Fahrt” depicted calm water and an upbeat voyage.

The jazzy “Down by the Riverside” included audience participation coupled by a memorable tune.  The Simon and Garfunkel classic, “Bridge Over Troubled Water,” was very moving and to conclude the concert, Schuman and the choir sang Magnani’s Easter Hymn, which hinted at a glimmer of hope for spring.

Throughout this exceptional concert during which she sang sharply contrasting types of music, Schuman consistently  displayed her tremendous voice versatility.

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The Man Behind the Curtain: An Interview with Goodspeed’s Enduring—and Endearing—Executive Producer Michael Price

Michael Price - Executive Producer of the Goodspeed Opera House and Vice President of the American Theatre Wing. He has been overseeing the Goodspeed musical productions since 1968 (Photo courtesy of Ira Lewis)

Michael Price is the Executive Producer of the Goodspeed Opera House and Vice President of the American Theatre Wing.  He has been overseeing the Goodspeed musical productions since 1968.

Old Saybrook High School senior Rachel Berliner and Shoreline Web News LLC intern (… and Broadway aficionado) sat down with Price to talk about the upcoming 2011-2012 theatrical season.

As Rachel walked through the door into Price’s office, she found herself spellbound.  The walls were adorned with theatre memorabilia from Price’s numerous Goodspeed seasons (he has been in charge there since 1968) and also Broadway itself.  Quickly composing herself, she posed a series of questions to Price as follows:

Q:  How do you choose the shows in general for the seasons at Goodspeed and the Norma Terris Theatre?

A: : Each theatre has its own separate process for choosing shows.  The Goodspeed season is a balance between dance and drama.  We work from a list of about 30 musicals we have an interest in doing.  We add and subtract from that list every year.  In October or earlier (September), we start looking at what we would like to do the following year.  We are even doing some work on what we would like to do a year from now.

I do this along with two other producers.  The music director is also involved in it.  And the marketing director who needs to ensure we can sell all of our tickets.  We look at: “Do we like the show?”, “Do we have the right talent?”, “Do we have a director to do it?, “Do all the shows look alike so they are not all tap dance musicals?”  We try to balance it out for the season.  They have to tell a good story and have good tunes.  For some musicals, there are certain limitations and they are too broad for us to do.  There are some musicals that are too small for us to do.  Our audience expects a certain production value.

The Chester season (Norma Terris Theatre) has all new shows and it’s just as exciting as what we do upstairs in this theatre.  We see hundreds and hundreds of auditions of new musicals a year.  The two producing members of the staff read several hundred scripts a year and out of that, we come up with three that we would like to do.

Q: Where do you hold the auditions?

A: We do most of our auditions in New York.  Once a year we do local auditions here (East Haddam).  Basically, all of our actors come from New York.

Q: Since you have been at Goodspeed since 1968, do you have a favorite production or season?

A: Well, no.  I have a lot of musicals I like.  You can’t pick one.  Out of the several hundred musicals we have produced from the time I’ve been here, I don’t think I could pick one.

Q: What are your goals for the future of Goodspeed?

A: Goodspeed will continue to produce three musicals a year: three old and three new.  We are running a vast educational program during the off-season.  We teach musical directors how to be musical directors, we teach scenic artists how to paint, and high school students how to audition for conservatories.  There is a lot of work that we do to make shows, make new theatre personnel, and to educate them.  Every season we set the bar a little bit higher.

Q: Annie will be celebrating its 35th anniversary next year and had its pre-Broadway run at Goodspeed.  What was your role behind the scenes during the production?  Did you think that it would go as far as it did?

A: I was the producer.  I put together the designers and choreographer (Peter Gennaro) with the cast.  I never thought that it would be alive and well and exciting as it is today.  The Broadway revival will be exciting.

Q: What are you thoughts about the planned “Annie” Broadway revival to be directed by James Lapine (librettist for the Stephen Sondheim musicals “Sunday in the Park with George” and “Into the Woods)?

A: Just the same way we (Goodspeed) take a look at an old musical 35 years later, it’s time to take a new look at Annie.  We know it is still relevant today, but how relevant?  What changes might we make to make it even more so (relevant)?

Editor’s Note: We are indebted to Mr. Price for giving up his valuable time to meet with Rachel.

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Winter Carnivale Warms up the Weather in Chester

Chester Carnivale held yesterday. Despite the bitterly cold temperatures, the streets were crowded with tourists and locals alike (photos by Rachel Berliner)

Chester held its 21st annual Winter Carnivale yesterday.  Despite the bitterly cold temperatures, the streets were crowded with tourists and locals alike.   There was a parade on Main Street and Mardi Gras beads were passed out to add to the festivities.

Theatre fans gathered at the Goodspeed at Chester’s Norma Terris Theatre annual tag sale.  There were props from last season’s shows as well as previous seasons on sale.  Other items included signed posters, various costumes, records, and theatre books. 

In keeping with the spirit of “Carnivale”, the life-sized puppet theatre used by the character Lili in the recent musical, “Carnival!” was also for sale.  Any takers?

The Pattaconk 1850 Bar & Grille served hamburgers and chowder outside its doors.  Simon’s Marketplace offered mouthwatering cookies (especially the chocolate chip- peanut butter ones!), brownies, cupcakes, and breads.  And the Chester Hose Company featured different types of chili at their “Chilly Chili Cook-Off”, which certainly … and forgive the pun … spiced up the day. 

Other fun attractions at the Carnivale included the ice sculpture competition and various street performers roaming the streets.

We can’t wait until next year to see more surprises in store!

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“Getting to Know” the Hammerstein Dynasty

Oscar Hammerstein III recalls his family’s theatrical legacy 

A smiling Oscar Hammerstein III entertained a large audience at RJ Julia Booksellers in Madison in early January (Photo by Rachel Berliner)

It was a cold night in early January yet the room at the delightful RJ Julia bookstore in Madison was filled with fans of musical theatre of all ages.  The draw was the name of the presenter – Oscar Hammerstein III.

Everyone has heard that name in the context of Rodgers and Hammerstein, the highly successful duo who wrote the words and music for some of the most famous musicals of all time … The Sound of Music, South Pacific, carousel … and so many more.

Here at RJ Julia’s was Oscar Hammerstein II’s grandson – Oscar Hammerstein III – talking about about his fascinating family based on his recent book “The Hammersteins: A Musical Theatre Family.”  It was enough to attract even snow-birds back to Madison!

With a powerpoint presentation at hand, Hammerstein spoke passionately and proudly of his family’s theatrical history.  He mentioned that “not many people knew about his grandfather’s operatic roots.”

He recalled those roots as being, “deep in opera” since the first Oscar Hammerstein was a proud supporter and owner of many opera houses in New York City.  He created Hammerstein’s Ballroom, which is still standing today.

Before writing well-known works like “South Pacific” and “Oklahoma”, Oscar Hammerstein II wrote many operettas.  With Jerome Kern, he helped compose the popular, “Showboat,” (due to be revived at Goodspeed Opera House this summer) in 1927.

Richard Rodgers was “the man who invited himself to lunch” one day and that was the beginning of the Rodgers and Hammerstein partnership.  Interestingly, Hammerstein III described Rodgers and Hammerstein’s partnership as professional, not a “friendship.”

The audience learned about many behind-the-scenes facts of the Rodgers and Hammerstein shows.  For example, after Yul Brynner’s audition, Rodgers and Hammerstein rewrote the musical “King and I” around him.

Cinderella was originally broadcast for television because there “wasn’t enough interest in the theatre.”

And amazingly, Rodgers and Hammerstein turned down many projects like “My Fair Lady”, “Peter Pan”, “Guys and Dolls”, and “Fiddler on the Roof.” 

Oscar Hammerstein II taught Stephen Sondheim about lyric-writing and playwriting and therefore, Sondheim became his “protégé.”  Sondheim was encouraged by Hammerstein II to be a composer.
Hammerstein also influenced Sondheim’s choice of projects like “West Side Story” and “Gypsy”, in which Sondheim only wrote the lyrics, despite wishing to be involved with musicals where could write both music and lyrics. 

These respective projects made Sondheim famous and Hammerstein III noted, “When (Stephen Sondheim) asked if Oscar Hammerstein II was his idol, Sondheim replied, “He’s not my idol, he’s my hero.”

When asked which of his grandfather’s musicals was his personal favorite, Hammerstein III answered, “Carousel.”  “Soliloquy” from “Carousel” is the most important [song] of them all.  It is what links Oscar back to all of the generations before him.  It is the sung story.  “Soliloquy” is like a beautiful oak tree. Admiring its robust height and heft, one may forget how deep its operatic roots go … or when that tree’s seed was planted. This book aims to remind.”

According to Oscar Hammerstein III, it was a “masterpiece.”

Even today, the Hammerstein family is still involved in theatre.  Oscar III is a professor of theatre history at Columbia University.  His late father, James, was a director and he also had an uncle who was a producer.

Hammerstein III said he wanted to keep his, “family’s history alive with the sound of music,” and without doubt, the impact of three Hammerstein generations continues. 

Hammerstein III cheerfully signed numerous books after his presentation at the bookstore (Photo by Rachel Berliner).

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Sunday in the Kitchen with Dorie Greenspan

Dorie Greenspan at the podium during her presentation at Congregation Beth Shalom in Chester.

Rachel Berliner, who is an intern with Shoreline Web News LLC from Old Saybrook High School, had the opportunity to meet a very special lady recently. Rachel attended a presentation by nationally acclaimed cookbook writer Dorie Greenspan and then after the presentation, Ms. Greenspan graciously agreed to be interviewed by Rachel.

Dorie Greenspan is a James Beard award-winning cookbook author.  On Sunday, Jan. 16, “foodies” had the opportunity to savor her experiences of Parisian life and food at Congregation Beth Shalom Rodfe Zedek’s “Books and Bagels” event held at the Chester synagogue.  Greenspan inspired the large audience with her stories of Parisian “joie de vivre” and food prepared in a myriad of ways.

I was honored to have the opportunity to interview Ms. Greenspan after her presentation.  I asked her about the famous chefs she has worked with and the inspiration for her newest book “Around my French Table.”

RB: How long did it take you to put “Around my French Table” together?

DS: I teasingly say it took me 30 years because it’s really a record of my experience in France.  I worked on the book for four years.

RB: What was it like for you to work with Julia Child? What are your favorite memories and/or recipes of that time?

DG: I have so many ‘Julia’ recipes.  She was extraordinary.  She was the same person as she was on television.  She was always warm and encouraging.  Julia wanted women in the kitchen.  She counseled people to go to college and finish school.  She thought it was really important.  I was so lucky to work with her.

Ms. Greenspan is a very expressive lady!

RB: What was it like to work with Daniel Boulud?  What is your favorite memory of that time?

DG: The “memory” was how we put “the book” together (“Café Boulud Cookbook: French-American Recipes for the Home Cook”).  He (Daniel) had closed his restaurant and was rebuilding it.  It was August and all of the cooks were off.  He called about eight cooks [back to the restaurant] and said, “Okay, we’re going to work.  We’re going to come into the kitchen and create this book in teams.”  The whole restaurant was a construction site, but the kitchen was still usable.  He put together teams of two, about 10 teams.  Every morning, we would come in and there was a list of recipes we would have to create.  He would be around telling us what to do and how he wanted it done.  We would cook all day and as a dish would finish, everybody would stop and we would all taste it together.  Daniel has a great way of being a leader.

RB: Would you like to have your own show on PBS/Food Network?

DG: I like working on television, but I don’t know if I would have a show.

RB: How did you choose the recipes for the book?

DG: It’s interesting.  A lot of my recipes essentially come from three places: the food that I cook, food my friends cook, and food my friends who are chefs serve in their restaurants.  I wanted to show “a snapshot” of what food is like in France today.  I wanted to have the food you would “nibble” before you eat … things you would have as an “hors d’oeuvres.”  I knew what I wanted my chapters to be.   The great fun was saying, “I have these chapters.  All of my favorite recipes are going to go in there.” You get to put in (the cookbook) what you love most.  You also have to balance it so you don’t have a hundred chicken recipes and two for beef.  It’s that balance: what would make the most interesting recipes for readers and home cooks.

The audience was captivated by Ms. Greenspan's tales.

RB: Which region of France do you prefer?

DG: There are so many regions.  They “hold on” to their cuisine.  It’s wonderful that the traditions remain.  I liked the hearty food of the southwest of France.  I love the pastries from Alsace.  It’s hard to say.  I love the salted butter from Brittany … Bretagne.  I love gougères (cheese puff pastries) from Burgundy.

It was a pleasure talking to Ms. Greenspan.  She was such a kind and gracious lady.  I just have two more things that I want to say to her now — “Merci,” and “Bon Appétit!”

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Last Chance to See “Barnum” Before the Circus Leaves Town!

R. Bruce Connelly (member of Actors Equity) as Barnum and Beverley Galpin as his wife, Chairy. (Picture by Anne Hudson)

A wonderful revival of “Barnum” is currently playing at the Ivoryton Playhouse.  This “heartwarming” circus musical was composed by Cy Coleman of “Sweet Charity” fame and the lyrics were written by Michael Stewart.  The original 1980 Broadway production starred Glenn Close and Jim Dale.

This show is geared toward the family and the whimsical mood set during the pre-show.  As soon as you enter the theater, adults and children alike were treated to laughing clowns, entertaining and interacting with the audience.  Even Scott Wasserman (Ringmaster/Bailey) is making balloon animals for the kids.

The stage has a red circus “big-top” backdrop.  A five-piece band plays in the background and all of the musicians wear circus outfits to fit in with the mood of the show.  

Michael Viao and Sarah Stelzer in the Ivoryton Playhouse production of Barnum

In “There’s a Sucker Born” every minute, Barnum persuades the crowd on the stage to come to his “Greatest Show on Earth.”

R. Bruce Connelly’s energy commands the stage as P.T. Barnum, who he portrays as a dreamer.

Beverly Galpin plays Barnum’s wife, Charity “Chairy” Barnum, who is Barnum’s stubborn, New England-bred wife.  Chairy is often against her husband’s dreams.  How amusing it is when Chairy flips a one-sided coin to make a decision and, “Fate was always on her side.”  Galpin sings the nostalgic “The Colors of My Life,” beautifully. 

Scott Wasserman plays the Ringmaster/Bailey and also serves as the announcer/narrator for Barnum’s actions in a circus-style format  

Justin Boudreau stood out as Tom Thumb.  His rendition of, “Bigger Isn’t Better,” was an entertaining number.
Danielle Cohen was a delight as the Swedish soprano and diva, Jenny Lind while the ensemble consisted of multi-talented clowns, gymnasts, bystanders, and acrobats.

Two of the most enjoyable numbers were, “Come Follow the Band,” (which certainly had the audience tapping their shoes) and, “Join the Circus.”

This show is such fun that you should definitely, “Join the circus” before it packs up the tent and leaves town for good after this Sunday’s evening performance!

Performance times are Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday matinees at 2 p.m. Evening performances are Thursday, Friday and Saturday at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $30 for adults, $28 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 www.ivorytonplayhouse.org  (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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“Carnival” at Goodspeed Offers a Magical Ride

Lili (Lauren Worsham) and the ensemble in "Yes, My Heart."

The “Carnival” is back in town.  No, not the typical country fair carnival.  “Carnival,” the 1961 musical by famed “Funny Girl” composer Bob Merrill, is onstage entertaining audiences night after night at the Goodspeed Opera House.  The original Broadway production starred Anna Maria Alberghetti and Jerry Orbach.

Based on the 1953 Leslie Caron movie “Lili”, “Carnival” tells the story of a young French orphan, who goes off to the circus and finds herself caught in a love triangle.

During the pre-show, the open set is darkly lit, but provides an old world charm.  There is a backdrop of a pier with a cloudy sky (by the show’s end, this cloudy sky will turn into a golden sunset).  A brick wall frames the backdrop, along with metal beams that will later hold up the circus tent.  Lights are strung throughout the stage and into the balcony areas of the audience.  This production is set in the aftermath and shadow of World War II.

“Carnival” is entertaining from the moment the metaphorical curtain goes up — unfortunately, there is no traditional curtain.  This version has also cut the overture. 

“Direct from Vienna”, sung by the entire cast (with the exception of Lili), introduces the audience to the circus and its  different types of performers.  The tune is memorable.

Lauren Worsham portrays Lili, who at first is giggly and naïve, but eventually grows up and finds out the realities of true love.  She finds herself in a world above her head: the grand Cirque de Paris.  Lili tries very hard to assimilate herself into the circus world, but she fails.  The other circus performers see her as a nuisance.

Lili meets Paul's puppets.

Worsham’s sweet soprano is delightful, especially in the songs, “Mira,” (the name of the town where Lili grew up, first sung with happiness and its reprise with nostalgic sadness) and, “Yes, My Heart,” (in which she learns she received a job at the circus. A wonderful touch is when Lili is thrust up on a trapeze by one of the circus performers.)  The most memorable song of Lili’s is, “Love Makes the World Go ‘Round,” which she sings to comfort one of Paul’s puppets.  Lili is delightful during the puppet show (“Yum Ticky Ticky Tum Tum”, “Beautiful Candy”, “And We’re Rich”).

Lili (Lauren Worsham) teaches Paul (Adam Monley) that "Love Makes the World Go Round" in Carnival! at Goodspeed.

Adam Monley portrays Paul, the troubled puppeteer. He is a former World War II veteran and a dancer, who had to stop due to his leg injury.  Paul took up a job at the circus as a puppeteer.  His act is often accompanied by his optimistic and dreamer friend, Jacquot (played by Nathan Klau, whose song, “Cirque de Paris,” showed how much the character really is a dreamer).

Paul uses his act to attract Lili to him.  He hides behind the curtain of the puppet show and does not want to reveal his true personality.  Monley is very talented, especially when voicing each of the different puppets (especially Carrot Top, the  red-headed clown and Henry, a walrus who doesn’t want to be called a “seal.”).

Monley’s strong tenor voice suits the role, especially in the songs, “I’ve Got to Find a Reason,” (he doesn’t want to stay in the circus anymore) and, “Her Face.” 

There is another song titled, “Everybody likes You,”, in which Paul sings about how no one likes him and everyone loves the puppets. This was also very well done because Paul makes the puppet “comfort him.”

Paul’s monologue song in Act II, “Her Face, shows longing and Monley uses his hands to outline Lili’s face in the air.  Paul’s love for Lili was tangible, but he isn’t sure how to show it.  Lili knew more about Paul from his puppets than Paul himself.

One wishes that Paul and Lili would have more stage time together, but Paul has a dual personality as himself and the puppets. At the end of the show, Paul shows his kindness to Lili and tells her that his sense of humor and personality he shows with the puppets is his true self (and the person he wants to be).

Like a fairytale, they walk off into the sunset together.

Marco the Magnificent iis portrayed by David Engel. Marco is an arrogant, womanizing magician who tries to lure Lili to him (and his act). Paul sees Marco’s insincere ways. Marco is accompanied by his “incomparable” assistant, Rosalie, an aging, but beautiful diva who will marry someone in “Zurick”, Switzerland (played by Michelle Blakely, whose sung “Humming”, gives the audience a huge laugh).

Lili (on trapeze) and ensemble in "Beautiful Candy."

The small, but talented ensemble of circus performers and trapeze artists makes the show fun to watch, especially during the real “carnival” (a show within a show). They provide the backbone of the show. Real life acrobats were suspended above the stage, entertaining the audience. Jacqot’s number “Cirque de Paris Ballet” included many Moulin Rouge-esque dances from the cast.

“Carnival” is a gem of a musical that should be performed more often.  Like a real “carnival”, this show is not in town forever, so catch it quick … it before it closes! 

Editor’s Note:  All photos by Diane Sobolewski.  “Carnival” will be performed nightly at Goodspeed Opera House through Sept. 18.  For tickets and information, call 860-873-8668 or visit www.goodspeed.org.

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