By Frank Rizzo
What a fab Fall 2022 season! How can we choose from the wealth of theater, music and dance events throughout the state? Let us help with a highly opinionated and very user-friendly guide to the best performance events of the coming season. In our guide, we delve into what each event is about, what makes it special, facts you may not have known and the ideal audience for the event. Look for the highlighted excitement meter next to each entry to see the rating we give each show.
“My Fair Lady”
Shubert Theatre, New Haven
This is a tour of the acclaimed Lincoln Center production, but not starring New Haven’s Lauren Ambrose, who played Eliza in the 2018-19 revival. The show returns to the theater that had the famously troubled world premiere in 1956. Did you know that the premiere happened in the middle of a blizzard and a terrified Rex Harrison refused to come out of his dressing room? Yet he finally did, and the night ended in triumph. This is for classic Broadway musical fans—though in this version Eliza is decidedly more independent.
My take: This is one of the season’s highlights for theatergoers.
Also at the theater: The national tour of the Tony Award-winning drama “A Soldier’s Play,” starring Norm Lewis on Dec. 8 to 11
Info: shubert.com, 203-624-1825
This is a classic stand-up from the classy comic of his generation. Since “Seinfeld” ended years ago, this is the only way to get your “Jerry fix,” unless he asks you to go out for coffee. Did you know that he was the bat mitzvah guest in a 1982 episode of “Square Pegs?” This is for those who think nothing is funny.
My take: This is one of the best stand-up comedians ever and, at 68, he’s still on top of his game.
Also at the venue: Bill Maher on Nov. 13
Info: foxwoods.com, 1-800-Foxwoods
“Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf”
Yale Repertory Theatre, New Haven
This is Edward Albee’s searing drama with George, Martha, Nick, Honey and plenty of alcohol. At press time, the actors have not yet been announced. James Bundy directs and, as dean of the Yale School of Drama, he should know well the faculty world that Albee has created. This is for theater fans who like characters, dialogue and conflicts at full throttle. When Albee spoke at Yale in 2010, this is what he said about arts coverage in America: “The sound bite now is all-important. I would rather read a long, intelligent essay about a play of mine than a blog which says, ‘You must see this’.”
My take: You must see this.
Also at the theater: World premiere of Leah Nanako Winkler’s “The Brightest Thing in the World,” running Nov. 25 to Dec. 17 (season has been diminished from five to now four plays)
Info: yalerep.org, 203-432-1234
Garth Fagan Dance
Jorgensen at UConn, Storrs
This is the latest work from acclaimed Jamaican modern dance choreographer, inspired by an eclectic blend of jazz, African, modern and classical music. There are not many big name, founder-led companies coming through Connecticut’s presenting houses, and this is one of the best. This is for modern dance fans. Did you know that Fagan choreographed Broadway’s “The Lion King?”
My take: Fagan is now 82, and it is high time he receives a Kennedy Center honor.
Also at the theater: Mummenschanz on Oct. 20
Info: jorgensen.uconn.edu, 860-486-4226
“Christmas in Connecticut”
Goodspeed Opera House, East Haddam
This is the world premiere of the musical based on 1945 American Christmas romantic comedy film starring Barbara Stanwyck. It has a local tie with Connecticut in the title. Did you know that Bette Davis was originally slated for the lead in the film? This is for fans of new musicals, the film and any holiday show that’s not been done to death.
My take: It will be interesting to see how modern audiences take to the retro theme. As film critic Emanuel Levy noted, “…if [the story] has a conservative slant of glorifying housewives, it’s due to the zeitgeist: it was made in 1945, at the end of WWII, when men were coming home and women sent back to the kitchen.”
Also at the theater: “42nd Street” from Sept. 16-Nov. 6
Info: goodspeed.org, 860-873-8668
Daryl Hall and John Oates
This is the return of one of the hottest rock/pop groups of the ‘70s and ‘80s. What makes it special is seeing the hitmakers at another stage of their lives. After all, they have sold more albums than any other duo in music history. Did you know that Daryl Hall and John Oates were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2014? This is for fans of classic rock, with an R&B edge.
My take: They are still sexy after all these years.
Also at the venue: Smashing Pumpkins on Oct. 13
Info: mohegansun.com, 888-226-7711
“From the Mississippi Delta”
Westport Country Playhouse
Oct. 18 to 30
This is a 1987 play by Dr. Endesha Ida Mae Holland that traces the story of one woman’s triumphant journey out of a difficult childhood in Mississippi through the civil rights movement. Though it is frequently produced, it’s not been presented at a major Connecticut theatre since 1991 at Hartford Stage. You may not know that this play was performed by the Negro Ensemble Company, also off-Broadway’s Circle in the Square, Chicago’s Goodman Theatre and the Young Vic in London. She also wrote a 1997 memoir of the same name. This is for those who are drawn to stories of the civil rights movement.
My take: Revisiting late 20th century works with African American themes by 2022 audiences should result in great conversations.
Info: westportplayhouse.org, 203-227-4177
This is the latest show from the internet sensation and fabulous musical satirist. It is the perfect show for a week or so before the mid-term elections with new original songs written by Rainbow with Marc Shaiman (“Hairspray”) and Alan Menken (“Beauty and the Beast”). It is for fans of clever comedy with a blue state and LGBTQ+ perspective. Did you know that Randy Rainbow is his real name? Stephen Sondheim was a big fan of his as well.
My take: Everyone feels that they “discovered” him first. I know I did.
Also at the venue: Billy Bragg on Oct. 5
Info: ridgefieldplayhouse.org, 203-438-5795
This work is the winner of five Tony Awards, including best musical, based on Alison Bechdel’s best-selling graphic memoir. It is a sophisticated musical presented in an intimate 190-seat space. Fans of the graphic novel, composer Jeanine Tesori and smart family funeral home shows may like it. Did you know that Christiane Noll, who starred in “Next to Normal,” will be in this production?
My take: TheaterWorks’ forays into musicals have been impressive, especially the aforementioned “Next to Normal.” This show seems like a perfect fit.
Also at the theater: “Christmas on the Rocks” returns from Nov. 30-Dec. 23 (for the 10th annual production, with some new additions)
Info: twhartford.org, 860-527-7838
Loudon Wainwright III
The Kate, Old Saybrook
This is a concert by the legendary folk singer and Rufus’ dad. The show celebrates turning 75 in a concert that embraces work from his 50-year career. Wainwright’s son, Rufus, was the inspiration behind two of his songs: “Rufus is a Tit Man” (referring to his breastfeeding) and “A Father and a Son,” a retrospective. This concert is for fans of anyone named Wainwright, Roche or McGarrigle.
My take: Same as my favorite blurb of the season, which is: “His singular talent as our foremost six-string analyst and tragi-comedian extraordinaire.”
Also at the venue: Stand-up Jesus on Oct. 27
Info: katharinehepburntheater.org, 860-510-0453
Oct. 13-Nov. 6
This is a stage adaptation of the Agatha Christie murder mystery. It is special that a major regional theatre is doing this community theater staple, which is for fans of Christie, whodunits and lightweight entertainment. Did you know that it’s the longest run of any play in the world, with more than 28,000 performances in London’s West End since 1952.
My take: Hopefully director Jackson Gay will have an interesting take on this very old chestnut.
Also at the theater: ‘It’s a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play’ from Nov. 25-Dec. 24
Info: hartfordstage.org, 860-527-5151
“Flying Bird’s Diary”
Long Wharf Theatre, New Haven
This is a reading of a new play by Melissa Tantquidgeon Zobel. It is one of the last events at the New Haven Food Terminal before Long Wharf Theatre begins its transition to an all-itinerant schedule. This show is for fans of new plays at their earliest stage. You may not know that the story is based on a true Connecticut hero, Flying Bird, aka Fidelia Fielding/Jeets Bodernashor, a Mohegan who lived from 1827 to 1908.
My take: Finding new heroes in overlooked places is always inspiring.
Also at the theater: In late October, there will be a farewell event for the Food Terminal theater space, which Long Wharf Theatre has called home for 57 years.
Info: longwharf.org, 203-693-1486
“Wheel of Fortune” Live
Palace Theatre, Stamford
This popular television game show comes to Connecticut. It is interactive entertainment at its most personal—and lucrative. This is, of course, for game show enthusiasts, puzzle solvers and vowel lovers. You may not know that the show has aired continuously since January 1975 but Pat Sajak and Vanna White were not the original host and letter turner. They were Chuck Woolery and Susan Stafford.
My take: Always say yes to a mystery wedge.
Also at the theater: Disney Concerts presents Deck the Halls with Disney featuring DCappella on Dec. 10
Info: palacestamford.org, 203-325-4466
The Bushnell, Hartford
This is a national tour of the Broadway hit, which opened in 2014. It is the first time the tour is hitting the state. Did you know that Hartt School grad Juwan Crawley has been the understudy for Genie on Broadway and has gone on frequently in the role? This is for kids of all ages, and their parents too.
My take: I took my nephew to the Broadway show and I had a ball as well. The flying carpet is very cool.
Also at the theater: “Mean Girls” musical, Sept. 27-Oct. 2
Info: bushnell.org, 860-987-5900
This is a tour of the popular revival of the musical that will be celebrating its 26th year on Broadway, but still, it’s no “Mousetrap.” It is not special so much but more like a fun visit from an old friend. It’s comforting to know that “Chicago” rather than “Cats” is forever (though “Cats” will play the theatre in March). Fans of Bob Fosse’s choreography, William Ivey Long’s sexy costumes, and that killer-diller Kander and Ebb score will like this event. You may not know that the musical goes back to the 1926 play by Maurine Dallas Watkins.
My take: As long as you have swell performers, a kick-ass orchestra, and the right shimmy and slinks, the show will do just fine. Even Pamela Anderson was in it and the show survived.
Also at the theater: Lee Greenwood on Oct. 27
Info: palacetheatrect.org, 203-346-2000
“Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar & Grill”
Playhouse on Park, West Hartford
Sept 28-Oct. 16
The time is 1959. The place is a seedy bar in Philadelphia. The audience is about to witness one of Billie Holiday’s last performances, given four months before her death. This is a tier de force for any actor who plays Holiday. It is for fans of Holiday and soulful singing as well as an awesome repertoire including “Strange Fruit,” “God Bless the Child” and “Ain’t Nobody’s Business if I Do.” You may not know that Audra McDonald performed the role on Broadway and got another Tony in 2014.
My take: The funky, divey Playhouse setting is perfect for the show.
Also at the theater: August Wilson’s “Fences” from Nov. 2-20
Info: playhouseonpark.org, 860-523-5900, ext. 10
Celebrating David Bowie
College Street Music Hall, New Haven
This is a celebration of the music of Bowie by a variety of veteran and new artists, including Todd Rundgren, Adrian Belew, Scrote, Angelo Moore, Royston Langdon and others. This concert is especially for Bowie fans and those of the participating artists. Did you know that this tribute has been an ongoing celebration since its first ad-hoc version shortly after Bowie died in 2016?
My take: Todd Rundgren rules.
Also at the venue: Hippo Campus on Oct. 18
Info: collegestreetmusichall.com, 203-867-2000
“The Great Gatsby”
Ivoryton Playhouse, Westport
Sept. 29-Oct. 23
This is Simon Levy’s adaptation of the F. Scott Fitzgerald novel. Now that the book is in public domain, it’s Gatsby-arama time! It will be interesting to see how Ivoryton adapts to this Jazz Age-era saga. The show is for Fitzgeraldphiles, “one percenters” and fans of the Roaring ‘20s (20th-century version, that is).
The New York Times ran a story that speculated that Gatsby’s Long Island setting may have been inspired by the early marriage home of Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald and the area they lived in Westport.
My take: Can a straight-forward adaptation of the book find life in stage? Numerous film and TV versions met with mixed success. It’s not so easy to crack that West Egg.
Also at the theater: “Winter Wonderettes” from Nov. 17-Dec. 18
Info: ivorytonplayhouse.org, 860-767-7318
“Lend Me a Tenor”
Music Theatre of Connecticut
This is a Ken Ludwig farce. It is just a good time with some high notes and low comedy. But with a revised 2019 script that switches the opera at the center of the plot from “Otello” to “Pagliacci,” and the mistaken identity gags from blackface to clown white. Fans of farce, slapstick and any old schtick will like this. Did you know that Ludwig wrote a sequel titled “Comedy of Tenors?”
My take: Sometimes things just begin when the fat lady sings.
Also at the theater: “Holiday on Broadway” from Dec. 9-18
Info: musictheatreofct.com, 203-454-3883
Hartford Symphony “Breaking Beethoven”
Bushnell’s Belding Theatre, Hartford
This is a masterworks concert by the symphony. Guests will be the Minnesota-based breakdance group BRKFST. The concert is for classical music fans, breakdance fans and classical breakdance musicians. You may not know that Beethoven was a breakdance champion in Vienna.
My take: A round of applause for injecting a cross-cultural element to the Hartford Symphony Orchestra.
Also at the venue: Debussy and Ravel concerts from Nov. 4-6
Info: hartfordsymphony.com, 860-987-5900
Warner Theatre, Torrington
This comedian is set to be in high rant mode. The year has given Black plenty of material. The event is for fans of Black, lovers of high-octane comedy and those with Ativan prescriptions. Did you know that Black is a graduate of the Yale School of Drama?
My take: Black vents so we won’t have to.
Also at the theater: Country music singer Trace Adkins on Oct. 9
Info: warnertheatre.org, 860-489-7180
“Guys and Dolls”
A Contemporary Theatre of Connecticut
Oct. 27-Nov. 20
This is a classic musical from Broadway’s golden age. Director Daniel C. Levine promises to make this production a fresh look at the musical perennial. Who may like it? Guys. Dolls. You may not know that Frank Sinatra coveted the role in the film that went to Marlon Brando. Studio heads wanted Grace Kelly for the female lead, then Deborah Kerr, but the role went to third choice Jean Simmons. Betty Grable wasn’t available to play Miss Adelaide so the part went to Vivian Blaine, who originated the role on Broadway.
My take: Sometimes you just gotta rock the boat.
Also at the theater: “Broadway Unplugged” with Bryan Perri on Dec. 12
Info: actofct.org, 475-215-5497
Garde Theatre, New London
This is a concert by this singer, guitarist, songwriter, producer and the musical visionary of Fleetwood Mac, as well as a solo artist. It’s an up close and personal show that features a wide range of materials over an impressive career. This concert is for Fleetwood and Buckingham fans. You may not know that he wrote and produced several Top Ten hits, including “Go Your Own Way” and “Big Love.”
My take: Yet another chance to see a master musician who, at 72, is still rocking strong.
Also at the theater: Eastern Connecticut Symphony Orchestra on Oct. 22
New Haven Symphony Orchestra
SCSU’s Lyman Center for the Performing Arts
This is the New Haven Symphony Orchestra’s (NHSO) gala celebration happening at Southern Connecticut State University (SCSU). This concert is especially for fans of Brahms and Rachmaninoff, whose works will be featured under the baton of Alasdair Neale and guest artist and pianist Joyce Yang. You may not know that NHSO just received its largest multi-million-dollar gift in its 128-year history.
My take: Got to show some class with the classics now and then.
Also at the venue: Holiday show on Dec. 17 at SCSU and Dec. 18 at Shelton High School
Info: newhavensymphony.org, 203-865-0831
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