“Something for everyone” might be the theme of the Ivoryton Playhouse season – starting with the story of country music legend and international superstar, Tammy Wynette, in the musical Stand by Your Man, which begins performances on March 18.
This lady with the big hair stood by a lot of men – she was married five times and was romantically linked to actor Burt Reynolds. Tammy charted 23 No.1 songs, and the Ivoryton production will tear at your broken heartstrings with a whopping 26 Wynette ditties. Fans of the country sound will hear “D-I-V-O-R-C-E,” “Til I Can Make It On My Own” and “Golden Ring” in the mix. Y’all come, ya hear, and enjoy this musical biography by Mark St. Germain before its final Ivoryton Playhouse performance on April 5th.
Back to that ‘something for everyone’ idea: this season offers variety in seven productions offering comedy, varied musical styles, and what only can be described as “heartwarming sentimentality.”
Take, for instance, the second offering of the season, The Last Romance, by Joe DiPietro, which focuses on a crush by an 80-year-old widower for an over-65 ‘younger’ woman that he meets in a dog park. Ralph, the widower, had visions of being an opera singer in his younger days, but got married instead and abandoned his dream, and now lives with his bitter, controlling sister Rose. Will Ralph and his crush, the lovely opera-loving Carol get together…or will Rose thwart their plans? All will be revealed when you visit the Ivoryton Playhouse from April 22-May 10.
Time for a change of pace from June 3-June 21 with one of the best-selling plays in British theater history making its US premiere – Calendar Girls by Tim Firth. Described by UK critic Lloyd Evans as “dazzlingly funny and shamelessly sentimental” it’s based on the true story of eleven charitable Women’s Institute members who posed nude for a calendar to raise money for the Leukemia Research Fund –as a result of their successful ‘naughty’ photos – hoards of press descend upon their small village. Winner of the What’s On Stage Award for Best New Comedy of 2010, we suspect that hoards will be descending upon the small, lovely village of Ivoryton, Connecticut to see this funny show.
And now for a crowd-pleaser alert…one of the finest musicals ever written, by Josh Logan, Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein, South Pacific, arrives with Bloody Mary singing “Bali Ha’i” on July 1 and plays until July 26. Chock full of well-loved show tunes “A Wonderful Guy”, Younger Than Springtime” and “There Is Nothing Like A Dame”, this story portrays Americans stationed in the South Pacific during WWII and their interaction with a new culture – and with people who are different in color and culture from the folks back home. It’s as relevant today as it was in 1949 when it opened on Broadway, became a huge hit, won the 1950 Tony Award for Best Musical and a Pulitzer Prize for playwrighting.
Another Tony Award winner – this one for 2010 – is Memphis by Joe DiPietro (again!) and David Bryan. Memphis opens at the Ivoryton Playhouse on August 5 and rock and rolls the house through August 30. Set in the seedy nighclubs, radio stations and recording studios of the 1950’s, the story is loosely based on Dewey Phillips, a Memphis disc jockey who was one of the first white DJ’s to play black music over the radio. Memphis opened to reviews like this one from John Simon of Bloomberg News who praised the show with; “I guarantee you a rambunctious good time, highlighted by rousing music and singing, spectacular dancing, and a witty, moving story.” With an original score, Memphis promises a great time in the theater, from the first notes of its electrifying opening number, right up to a rousing finale. (Due to the small size of the Ivoryton Playhouse, dancing in the aisles is not blatantly encouraged, nor is it discouraged.)
OK, next up we have a show by Alan Menken and Howard Ashman – the sensational team that gave us Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin and The Little Mermaid. At Ivoryton, from September 23 until October 12, the deliciously mad musical Little Shop of Horrors, the 1986 Off-Broadway hit will give Broadway, Hollywood and sci-fi fans something to cheer about. One of the stars of the show is a carnivorous plant named Audrey II, who is always hungry and needs to be fed human blood. Audrey even sings “Feed Me” and “Suppertime.” The human Audrey, for whom the plant is named, works with the plant’s inventor, Seymour, in Skid Row’s Mushnik’s Flower Shop. Human Audrey sings the anthem “Suddenly Seymour” which is kind of the show’s signature love song. Nutty and over-the-top, this musical is sure to please Venus Fly Trap owners of all ages.
And finally, without further ado, arriving for your musical pleasure on October 28, and tinkling the ivories through November 15 is the musical tribute Liberace!
Written by Brent Hazelton, this promises to be a highly entertaining show in which Liberace, famous for his charm, glitz, and glamour, relives moments of his life, with a piano score spanning classical and popular music from Chopin to “Chopsticks,” and Rachmaninoff to Ragtime. Blue haired ladies (in fashion at the time) swooned for this master showman, and no one ever imagined that the feathers, furs, sequins and candelabra represented anything more than just an act during those seemingly innocent days.
The 2015 at the Ivoryton Playhouse looks like a candidate for a series of standing ovations. This historic theater, where Katharine Hepburn lit up the stage in 1930’s and Marlon Brando gave his very last stage performance, has become a vibrant community center – there are special evenings on the lawn-side patio under a big tent, first-night galas, children’s programs and even the local Farmer’s Market plies its organic fruits and veggies during the growing season.
Go to www.ivorytonplayhouse.org for ticket and subscription information along with special night descriptions or call 860-767-7318. Performances of the first show, Stand By Your Man are Wednesday, Saturday & Sunday matinees at 2 p.m.; Wednesday & Thursday evenings at 7:30 p.m., and Friday & Saturday evenings at 8:00 p.m. The playhouse is located at 103 Main Street in Ivoryton, Connecticut.
By Don Church and Tony Schillaci, Critics On The Aisle