Playwright Mfoniso Udofia will be in residence at Hartford Stage, Liz Larsen and Terrence Mann will head the cast of "Sweeney Todd" at CT Rep, and other theater news from Connecticut and elsewhere.
Mfoniso Udofia is the latest playwright who’s been named as an Aetna New Voices Fellow at Hartford Stage. The fellowship is a one-year residency for “important playwrights of diversity and color to develop work and become involved in the ongoing life of Greater Hartford.”
Earlier this year, Udofia was the mentor for Hartford Stage’s annual Write On playwriting competition for high school students. She is best known for her nine-part cycle of plays about the Ufot family of Nigeria immigrants, including “Sojourners” and “Her Portmanteau.” (The playwright herself is a first-generation American with Nigerian parents.) Udofia held a similar residency this past theater season at the Playwright’s Center in Minneapolis.
The previous Aetna New Voices Fellows have been Jorge Ignacio Cortinas, Luis Alfaro, Daniel Beaty, Quiara Alegriá Hudes, Hana Sharif, Will Power, Marcus Gardley, Matthew Lopez, Janine Nabers, Kimber Lee, Christina Anderson and Kaneza Schaal — quite an impressive group, working in a range of theatrical styles. Some of these fellows have had their works produced at Hartford Stage, including Beaty’s “Resurrection” and “Breath and Imagination,” Hudes’ “Water by the Spoonful” Lopez’s “The Whipping Man,” “Somewhere” and “Reverberation.”
Swing your razor wide! Connecticut Repertory Theatre has announced the cast for “Sweeney Todd: A Musical Thriller in Concert,” which opens the theater’s Nutmeg Summer Series at the Harriet S. Jorgensen Theatre on the UConn campus in Storrs, June 21 through July 1.
Nutmeg Series Artistic Director Terrence Mann, fresh from starring in “Jerry Springer The Opera” off Broadway, will play the title role of the demon barber of Fleet Street.
Liz Larsen, who has played Carole King’s mother Genie for four years in “Beautiful” on Broadway and was heard earlier this month in the Hartford Symphony Orchestra “Love on Broadway” concert, will be Nellie Lovett. Andréa Burns (Broadway’s “On Your Feet”) is Beggar Woman, Ed Dixon (the recent Broadway revivals of “Anything Goes” and “Sunday in the Park with George”) is Judge Turpin, Lu DeJesus is Beadle Bamford, Hugh Entrekin is Anthony Hope, Kenneth Galm is Tobias Ragg, Nicholas Gonzalez plays both Pirelli and Daniel O’Higgins and Emilie Kouatchou is Johanna Barker. The ensemble consists of Ryan Albinus, Alex Campbell, Cydney Clark, Olivia Fenton, Lauryn Hobbs, Kelley McCarty, Charlie Patterson, Gregory Rodriguez, and Brandon Wolfe. You’ll recognize the names of a few current or recent UConn acting students in there. Alex Campbell is a current UConn MFA acting student who played Rosalind in “As You Like It” last month.
Mann and Larsen were both in a previous CT Rep concert-style musical, “Les Miserables” in 2015. Nutmeg Summer Series details are at crt.uconn.edu.
“Cyrano” Sets Sales Record
“Cyrano,” the new musical based on Edmond Rostand’s late-19th century romantic swashbuckler “Cyrano de Bergerac,” set a new box office record at Goodspeed Musicals. Tickets went on sale to the general public May 21, and a Goodspeed spokesperson says “We sold the most in one day for any show in our 55 year history — nearly double the old record!”
“Cyrano” stars Peter Dinklage and Haley Bennett, and features music by three members of the band The National: Aaron Dessner, Bryce Dessner and Matt Berninger. The musical is directed by Erica Schmidt, who also wrote its book.
“Cyrano” runs Aug. 3 through Sept. 2 at the Norma Terris Theatre in Chester, where the Goodspeed workshops new musicals. Sales are brisk, but apparently there are still tickets to be had. Details at 860-873-8668, goodspeed.org.
Back in Black
The Shubert in New Haven has added a couple of one-nighters to its fall schedule: “Sister’s Back to School Catechism: The Holy Ghost and Other Terrifying Tales” Oct. 13 and comedian Lewis Black’s “The Joke’s on US” tour Nov. 11.
“Back to School” is part of the “Late Nite Catechism” series of comic lectures by a stern nun. New Haven’s Long Wharf Theatre has hosted many editions of the series, but not this one.
Black, the venerable TV comedy-news monologist, is also a prolific playwright who studied at the Yale School of Drama and has had many of his works staged at the Williamstown Theatre Festival. He’s brought his one-man comedy concerts to Connecticut many times.
Details at 203-562-5666, shubert.com.
Ramping Up in Ridgefield
Summer and fall attractions at the Ridgefield Playhouse include an outdoor 90-minute Shakespeare on the Green production of “Hamlet” July 22 and a slew of concerts by Broadway theater stars: Cynthia Erivo Sept. 16, Ed Asner in Ed Weinberger’s one-man play “A Man and His Prostate” Sept. 30, Tony Danza’s solo act “Standards & Stories” Oct. 27, Bebe Neuwirth’s “Stories and Song with Piano” Nov. 10 and Ben Vereen in “Steppin’ Out for the Holidays” Dec. 2. There are also two vocal quartet shows tailor-made for “Jersey Boys” fans: “Under the Streetlamp,” which features former members of the Four Seasons musical’s Broadway cast, Oct. 5, and “The Jersey Tenors,” a pop-operatic thing, Sept. 22.
The playhouse also screens the National Theatre Live series and other filmed-theater events. Next up are “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time” June 15, “Bandstand: The Broadway Musical on Screen” June 25.
The Obie Awards, for distinguished work off Broadway, were presented May 21 in New York. Among the many honorees was Amy Herzog’s drama “Mary Jane,” which premiered at Yale Rep last year before moving to Broadway with the same director (Anne Kauffman) but a different cast. “Mary Jane” earned awards for Herzog, Kauffman and its New York star Carrie Coon.
Composer Stephen Trask, who grew up in New London and went to Wesleyan University, performed the song “Wig in a Box” to mark the 20th anniversary of the original off Broadway production of the musical “Hedwig and the Angry Inch.” Trask was living in New Haven at the time of “Hedwig”’s initial success.
In Case You’ve Forgotten…
The Steve Martin and Martin Short special “An Evening You Will Forget for the Rest of Your Life” debuted May 25 on Netflix. The theater concert played The Bushnell in February, a few months after the special was filmed at an earlier tour stop in Greenville, S.C. Watch it for Short’s nudie rock musical parody “Step-Brother to Jesus.”