After an Extended Intermission, Theaters Look Ahead
By Paul Whitman
It’s time to rediscover the performing arts.
Over the last year, life’s been very dull and you’ve kept a low profile for too long. In recent months, out of desperation for some kind of stimulation, you’ve maybe even thought about volunteering to go to the Department of Motor Vehicles for a friend! That’s sad indeed.
Stop! Sit down. Relax. Now with loosening COVID restrictions, see what’s been going on with the performing arts scene around the state. It’s been revamped, reimagined and reinvented for enjoyable and safe entertainment.
The pandemic has been particularly trying for the theater industry. Since March 2020, many theaters have had to get creative and adapt to the pandemic. They’re offering their patrons virtual performances as well as some live entertainment with proper social distancing.
Here’s a look at what’s happening in the arts scene throughout the state. Due to the shifting COVID guidelines, please check dates and times of all performances presented here before making any plans.
The Bushnell Performing Arts Center, Hartford
An architectural gem and one of the most important cultural institutions in the Hartford area, the Bushnell is looking forward to reopening later this fall. They’re kicking things off in October with Escape to Margaritaville, a musical based on the songs of Jimmy Buffet. It has been described by Newsday as “a delightful, energetic frothy drink of a show.”
Looking ahead, notable productions include Hamilton which sold out its entire run the first time it played at the Bushnell in 2018. It returns for a three-week run in June 2022. For more information, visit bushnell.org.
Capital Classics Theatre Company
Celebrating its 30th anniversary, and the return of outdoor theatre, Capital Classics is staging As You Like It, one of Shakespeare’s most popular romantic comedic tales. The Greater Hartford Shakespeare Festival runs Thursdays through Sundays for three weekends (July 29 – August 15), under the stars and on the lawn of the University of Saint Joseph’s Autorino Center for the Arts, at 1678 Asylum Ave. in West Hartford. Audience members are encouraged bring blankets, lawn chairs, and dinners, and COVID-19 safety protocols will be in effect. Tickets and information at HartfordShakespeare.org.
College Street Music Hall
Located in the center of downtown New Haven’s arts and entertainment district, College Street Music Hall has become an important venue for live music performances and stand–up comedy. While COVID restrictions have eased, protocols don’t make it practical to reopen just yet. However, upcoming shows this fall include comic Mike Birbiglia on Oct. 1. He is a regular contributor to This American Life and The Moth, and has also released several albums and television shows. On Nov. 4, stand-up comedian Fortune Feimster performs. Feimster, a lesbian, came into her own on Chelsea Lately. After this show, the venue is planning regular live performances well into 2022, including The Moth Mainstage on Sept 22, 2022. For more information, visit collegestreetmusichall.com.
Foxwoods Resort Casino
Last fall, for a second time, Foxwoods was named “the best casino in the country” outside of Las Vegas. This title was bestowed on them by USA Today’s readers’ choice awards. So it’s no surprise that for entertainment, major acts kick off the summer months, including internationally recognized comedic legend Dave Chappelle. He will bring his sharp wit and irreverent social commentary to Foxwoods for five performances on June 24, 25 and 26. Funnyman Tim Dillion will take center stage with his laugh-out-loud set on July 24. For more information, visit foxwoods.com/entertainment.
Garde Arts Center
Built as a grand movie palace in the 1920s, the Garde had a masterful reincarnation over 30 years ago. Today, it is recognized not only for its innovative mix of programming but its atmospheric Moroccan interiors. Hoping to open at 100% capacity this fall, upcoming shows include Melissa Etheridge Sept. 5, The High Kings Oct. 9, Rosanne Cash Nov. 5, Tusk and The Breakers Nov. 6 and Chazz Palminteri in A Bronx Tale Nov. 12. For more information, visit gardearts.org.
Known for its classic Broadway productions and other plays on its main stage in East Haddam, the theater was originally a charming opera house in a wedding-cake design. Goodspeed also runs the smaller Norma Terris Theatre in nearby Chester, featuring new musicals and actors. Due to COVID concerns, South Pacific has been rescheduled from this June to September 2021, and Anne of Green Gables to next year.
While productions have been delayed indoors, there will be summer outdoor entertainment again this year, on the lawn at the Opera House. An exact program has not been finalized, but it will be a mix of show tunes and light-hearted fun. For more information, visit goodspeed.org.
The Hartford Symphony Orchestra
For more than 75 years, the Hartford Symphony Orchestra has been one of America’s leading orchestras and one of Connecticut’s premier musical organizations. Their outdoor chamber concert series, Spring Splash!, takes place at various locations in and around Hartford through June 16. HSO’s Talcott Mountain Music Festival (July 2-30) kicks off with Celebrate America on July 2 at Simsbury Meadows Performing Arts Center. It’s like Tanglewood in Connecticut. All concerts will require masking and social distancing, with limited capacities. For more information, visit hartfordsymphony.org.
Hartford Healthcare Amphitheater
This is the new kid on the block this season. Together with Live Nation Entertainment and the City of Bridgeport, the HHC Amphitheater will be bringing exciting change for the neighborhood and the cultural scene in Fairfield County. Formerly a ballpark and now a state-of-the-art amphitheater, its first concerts are scheduled for June. Organizers plan to host more than 75 annual events, in spring through fall, under its immense tensile membrane roof. At press time, a precise schedule of events had not as yet been released. For more information, visit hartfordhealthcareamp.com.
This restored Cass Gilbert Jr.-designed theater in Ridgefield hosts local and national acts – from musicians to comedians to Broadway legends, speakers, dance, opera and more. It also features classic films on-site and live streaming events for viewing at home. As a finale to Pride Month, on June 30, The Playhouse presents the 25th anniversary of the classic gay comedy The Birdcage, starring Nathan Lane, Robin Williams and Gene Hackman, on the big screen. Later in the season, the gayest of gay performers, comedian and satirist Randy Rainbow appears for two nights, October 27 and 28. Enjoy, too, an evening of conversation with cultural icon Fran Lebowitz on Nov. 7, David Sedaris on Oct. 11 and much more. For more information, visit ridgefieldplayhouse.org.
Stamford Center for the Performing Arts/The Palace Theatre
A center for music and theater for decades, The Palace offers one of the broadest ranges of entertainment in the state. Patrons enjoy performances by well-known comedians, pop music stars as well as symphonic music and opera. Following all pandemic protocols, The Palace is planning a return presenting shows in October. On Oct. 8, Stayin’ Alive brings the timeless classics of the Bee Gees. Rising star comedian Anthony Rodia is live Oct. 9, American folk-rock icons The Indigo Girls return on Oct. 16 and family fun Cirque-tacular’s Spooktacular entertains Oct. 29. The Palace’s season schedule of live performances continues through the holidays and well into 2022. For more information, visit palacestamford.org.
A small, intimate venue in downtown Hartford, TheaterWorks is known for producing important contemporary works in New England. Now in its 35th season, it offers annual memberships, monthly memberships and single ticket sales. New shows stream online monthly and will continue until it’s safe to return to live performances. On-demand through June 25, a reading of a new play in development, Moonlighters: it’s a love story set in a futuristic workplace by Hartford’s own Cin Martinez. Walden by Amy Berryman makes its North American premiere in July; dates to be announced soon. For more information, visit twhartford.org.
Westport Country Playhouse
A local tradition since 1931, the Playhouse is a national theatrical institution. Responding to the pandemic, they have reinvented theater for a virtual world. For the 2021 season, all Playhouse experiences will be presented online, with single tickets and packages available. New productions include Tiny House and Doubt: A Parable. Add-on events including LGBT Night Out. From the archives, Man of La Mancha and a second to-be-determined gem will be presented. The Script in Hand play-reading series continues. And free for the community: New Works/New Voices, Concept to Curtain, and Playhouse Radio Theater with WSHU. The theater is planning to be back in person in 2022. For more information, visit westportplayhouse.org.