Following ‘The Following’ and Connecticut’s Bacon

“I’m so bored of you. I’m so bored of you and Edgar Allen Poe.”

When Ryan Hardy (Kevin Bacon) says those lines to his nemesis Joe Carroll (James Purefoy), a cult leader and serial killer, in the final chapter of Season 1 of FOX’s cult crime series “The Following,” they could be viewed as cliche and predictable. But we are are bored of Joe Carroll. We are bored of his obsession with Edgar Allen Poe and his quest to write the perfect ending to his book.

However, we aren’t bored with Hardy, an alcoholic, emotionally damaged retired FBI agent who is brought in as a law enforcement consultant to help investigate killings that an imprisoned Carroll’s cult has been planning for years. From the moment Carroll’s ex-wife, Claire (Natalie Zea) asks to speak with Hardy and only Hardy, we know he plays a bigger role than a washed up ex-agent.

Bacon, who has a house in Sharon, Conn. with his wife, Kyra Sedgewick, has come a long way from a foot-tapping teen in “Footloose,” but continues to do a dance with his enemy in “The Following” and playing the role of the tenacious underdog who won’t stop fighting. But the dance sometimes clouds his judgment, leaving us constantly asking who is one step ahead, Hardy or Carroll? Bacon’s rugged charm gives us doubts and confidence at the same time that the hero will be the victor.

Would his triumph be a predictable television ending or will the show go in the direction of a heroic tragedy?

No character is really safe in this series and many if our favorite leads die in Season 1 alone. We can trust no one, as Carroll’s followers infiltrate society from neighbors to law enforcement.

The question is whether Hardy is safe or fair game. Is Joe’s following so deep that our protagonists are in danger even if he loses?

That’s the suspense that Carroll’s literary motives and dark Poe symbology do provide to his credit. But we think we know better than his followers and their misguided cult psychology.

Yet we follow the story and hang on its every word. Bacon is why we watched the show in the first place and why we keep watching.

We are bored of Carroll, his evil and his false hope of reuniting with his ex-wife and son. We are bored of the stretch of weaving Poe’s writing into the philosophies behind his cult. We are bored of the Poe masks the cult hides behind. But we never bore of the hero trying to defeat the villain. That story never gets old.

While “The Following” isn’t as addicting as “Breaking Bad,” “Dexter,” or “House of Cards,” all very different series, I can’t wait to start watching Season 2 now that I’ve finished my Netflix binge of Season 1.

“The Following” airs on Mondays at 9/8 Central Time on FOX (Channel 6 in Connecticut).


‘A Song at Twilight’ Secret Letters Sing Hugo’s Dirges and Symphonies

When Hugo Latymer’s (Brian Murphy) old flame, Carlotta Gray (Gordana Rashovich) resurfaces, threatening to publish incriminating letters she possesses, she gives him a choice.

Which letters would he rather hide from public knowledge – scandalous love letters or correspondence that exposes his cruelty?

The content of the letters and brief nudity (in a tableau behind a scrim) may surprise the audience in Hartford Stage’s A Song at Twilight, opening to the general public this weekend. But it is Hugo’s reaction and deep contemplation about the significance of the letters in a societal context that proves most intriguing.

Broadway veteran Murray – a three-time Tony Award nominee for his work in Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead (1968), The Little Foxes (1997) and The Crucible (2002) on Broadway – plays a famous, aged writer waiting for a visit from a former lover at his fancy Swiss hotel room, where he is staying with his wife, Hilde (Mia Dillon, who won the Tony in 1982 for Best Featured Actress in a Play for Crimes of the Heart and who has appeared in Broadway shows like Our Town).

Just as Hugo wishes to control adaptations of his writing to film, he desperately grasps to control the information about himself, especially his past, guarding a shocking secret that would change his life and legacy. Or would it?

Sir Noël Coward, an English playwright, is known for writing witty and flamboyant works and A Song at Twilight carries notes of both. It is a play with little action and few characters (four), so the words drive the story and you have to follow the dialogue to pick up on its humor, intrigue and drama. It is a play for the intellectual. The strong acting carries if you ever drift off from the words.

Hugo seems to be a blend of Hugh Hefner – holding onto sex appeal at an old age – and Mary Poppins author P.L. Travers – greatly protective of his work and personal life. Murray delivers humor exquisitely beneath his character’s grumpy persona.

The tongue and cheek relationship between Hugo and Dillon’s Hilde gave me the most laughs with their dry and not so dry humor. It took me several scenes to realize they were supposed to be husband and wife instead of writer and personal assistant. Dillon’s accent seemed to waiver between British and German, so it took me a little while to place her character’s German heritage, but I enjoyed her sarcasm and strength in the role.

Rashovich, a Hartford Stage veteran with Broadway credits in Conversations with My FatherCymbeline and Old Acquaintances, plays the most dynamic character of the bunch as Hugo’s former lover. She holds the key to up the ante in the story and holds all the cards –  and letters. While she poses a threat to Hugo’s life as the world knows it, she is no villain. Blackmail and extortion are options for her, but she is ultimately a purveyor of truth.

Felix (Nicholas Carrière) is the friendly waiter we all hope to get.

The only moments in the play that seemed to relate to the title were tableaus of Hugo’s past love affair, with traces of nudity, as he reflects on perhaps one of the most meaningful relationships in his life. A string symphony plays in the background, as though Hugo is listening to a record play as he winds down for the evening.

The black out at the end leaves you to do nothing but think yourself about the implications of the secret exposed and whether it is really an indiscretion worth causing Hugo shame. It is unclear what he thinks himself, but that is the nature of this contemplative play. It’s meant to make you think.

A Song at Twilight opens Friday, Feb. 28 and runs through April 29th. The play, directed by Mark Lamos, is an hour and a half long without intermission and is an elegant addition to the Hartford Stage’s lineup for its 50th anniversary season. The Hartford Stage is located at 50 Church St. in Hartford. For ticket information, visit the stage company’s website or call the Box Office at 860-527-5151.

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Suffield Players Breathe Comedic Life into ‘A Year in the Death of Eddie Jester’

Credit:  Larry Bilansky. Zach Gray plays the consciousness of Eddie Jester, the stand-up comedian, as he recovers (or doesn't) from a coma.

Credit: Courtesy of The Suffield Players.
Zach Gray plays the consciousness of Eddie Jester, the stand-up comedian, as he recovers (or doesn’t) from a coma.

Under most circumstances a dying man in a coma is not a laughing matter.

Unless that man is Eddie Jester (Zach Gray), a stand-up comedian.

I came 15 minutes late to A Year in the Death of Eddie Jester at Mapleton Hall in Suffield, so I missed the introduction. The Suffield Players were gracious enough to let me and some others attend the pick-up rehearsal because I couldn’t make the closing shows this weekend. Disclaimer: I’ve performed with the community theater group before in The Shot Heard ‘Round for New Faces and will be one of the Angels in the theater company’s production of Anything Goes in May.

Even without seeing the beginning, it didn’t take me long to understand that Gray’s narrator represented the consciousness of the patient in a coma (Tim Glynn).

The storytelling is very clear in its minimal black box style but is not without surprises. Who knew Eddie’s wife, Susan (Karen Balaska) and girlfriend, Jennifer (Amanda Marschall) would get along so well even though he was cheating on both of them? Oh, baby!

The scenes are broken up into the months of Jester’s recovery after he is mugged, though the title tells us that this year might be his last.

Watching Gray pace the lower stage while humorously commentating on the upstage scenes almost instantly read as a stand-up comedy act, picking apart his own life and the people around him. His audience interaction and connection added a very real flavor to the story, better enabling us to empathize with him.

The chemistry of Balaska, a Suffield Players veteran, and my friend, Marschall, who has many impressive credits like previously working with actor Alec Baldwin. They both bring physicality to the roles and we learn the most about Eddie through their dialogues.

I first saw Marschall as Celia in Suffield Players’ As You Like It. I admire her ability to own a role and make you believe she really is that character. As someone who is usually in the ensemble, I often find myself watching what the actors are doing when they’re not speaking. Marschall’s expressions and reactions almost speak louder than words. Her knack for smart, interactive comedy is noticeable, such as a couple of occasions where she mimes a story about something Eddie once said as Gray vocalizes the lines.

Then there’s Max (Danny Viets), Jester’s haphazard, nervous agent who is an emotional roller coaster, ridden with guilt over his plan to cash in on the insurance policy he took out for his talent in the event of his death. Viets masterfully crafts a comically neurotic, fidgety and even flamboyant character who always seems to be thrown for a loop – literally. This slapstick comedy is something we see often from Viets on and off stage. In a scene where Susan and Jennifer need his help as they experience the labors of life, Viets is not afraid to go airborne and take a heavy fall or two for comedic effect. Ouch!

While Gray occasionally stumbled over his diction in lengthy paragraphs of lines – granted it was a rehearsal – his strongest moments came when he moved and gestured more, helping to pace and energize his monologues. When Jester tries to communicate with the other characters who can’t see or hear him, those are emotional high points because you feel his frustration and distance from the people right in front of him. One scene that comes to mind is when he attempts to convince Max to go to the washroom to catch the doctor (Shaun O’Keefe) in the act of a fling with his nurse (Jessica Burkavage).

Nicole Murray plays the other nurse who takes nonsense from no one.

Pick-up rehearsals, sometimes called brush-up rehearsals, are an opportunity for actors and crew to refresh their memories and practice another run-through after a week off from rehearsals in between show weekends. Actors (and sometimes the technical crew) are often notorious for goofing off in pick-up rehearsals and inserting jokes, though some directors prefer to keep the brush-up serious with business as usual. With this production of Eddie Jester it was hard to tell what kind of pick-up it was because the show is already so outrageously funny that I don’t know what other gags they could add.

Either way, you could tell that the cast had fun with each other and the book. When the actors are having fun, it percolates out into the audience, as well.

A Year in the Death of Eddie Jester, directed by Roger A. Ochs, closes this weekend, with final shows on Friday, Feb. 21 and Saturday, Feb. 22 at 8 p.m. AM Johansen is the assistant director, Ron Balaska produces the comedy, Chelsea Viets, recently married to Danny Viets, stage manages, and Jerry Zalewski is the technical director.

T. Gregory Hall, the playwright, will be in attendance at Saturday’s show and is making himself available for a 15-minute question and answer session.

Mapleton Hall is located at 1305 Mapleton Avenue in Suffield, easily accessible from I-91.

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What’s In the Cards for ‘House of Cards’ Season 2?

Valentine’s Day is often referred to as a Hallmark holiday, but many other couples had different cards in mind on Feb. 14, 2014.

House of Cards, that is.

Netflix released the second season of its Emmy-winning political thriller on Friday, helping to spearhead the newly forming trend of exclusive web series. Netflix original prison drama, Orange Is the New Black is another fine example. The reboot of Arrested Development with Netflix’s Season 4 was also a long-awaited hit that kept fans of the previously canceled series happy.

Francis Underwood (Kevin Spacey), our relentless, sociopathic narrator, returns in the second season of House of Cards, a rung up from where we left the Congressman in Season 1.

Connecticut Resident Appears in Season 2

Speaking of the House, WFSB’s Dennis House (Face the State) informed readers on his blog that Watertown, Conn. native Brian Flaherty, a frequent Republican analyst on his show, has landed a role as an extra in Season 2 of House of Cards. He even has a small speaking part toward the end of the season, according to House. Flaherty, the current vice president of public policy and external affairs for Nestlé Waters North America, is also well-versed in politics, so he should make a nice addition to the series set in Washington D.C. He served as a state representative in the Connecticut General Assembly for Watertown, Middlebury and Woodbury from 1989 to 2003 and as the Deputy House Republican Leader for nine years, according to his LinkedIn profile.

Netflix Vs. Networks

On television networks, you wait week by week for new episodes and sometimes longer for mid-season breaks, but Netflix releases the entire season of each of its original dramas all at once. Doing so cuts out that waiting period. You would think that would reduce the suspense, but it actually may heighten it as viewers keep watching more right away. That also enables them to stay fully engrossed in the storyline.

I watched all five and a half seasons of Breaking Bad after the series ended in a month. I had the world of Walter White in my head for that period. It helped me remember details from the earlier season that I likely wouldn’t have otherwise and it doesn’t allow you to think about much else in between episodes. I also just completed all eight seasons of Dexter and waited a couple weeks to watch the series finale until my roommate caught up. My thoughts of the series finales for those two shows are another story, but let’s get back to House of Cards.

I’d be interested in seeing a statistic on how many episodes people watched in a row and the time lapse between watching each episode. Did people watch all episodes in a row or did they spread out their viewing? I’m avoiding reading too much about Season 2 until I complete the series because I imagine that many people finished it in the first weekend.

So, I will return the favor to others who may not have even started the series yet and hold off on any spoilers for now. But I will say this:  if you thought Season 1 was intense, it only took watching the Season 2 opener to understand that Francis Underwood will stop at nothing on his power-hungry, calculated climb in politics. He will push anyone out of the way who is blocking his path to get to that finish line. No one is really safe, not even the principal characters.

Frank and Zoe

Coming into Season 2, I was most interested in seeing where the directing and acting team took the relationship between Underwood and fearless, young reporter Zoe Barnes (Kate Mara). Barnes, who engages in questionable activity at a different level than Underwood to get the scoop, has a steep character arc with a moral element buried deep down that Frank lacks. Of the two main leads, she is seemingly our protagonist despite Underwood’s exclusive asides to the camera that break down the imaginary fourth wall between actors and audience.

To say the least, fans were shocked by the storyline of those two characters that made the Season 2 opener arrive with a bang.

How Does the American House of Cards Compare to the British Version?

I’ve seen the 1990 three-part BBC television miniseries, also called House of Cards, which is based on the same book, House of Cards by Michael Dobbs, as the Netflix adaptation. Dobbs is credited as producer for the American version. The BBC version is also on Netflix with each part, or “season,” divided into four episodes, giving us 12 total. One season of the American version alone is 13 episodes a piece, expanding the story.

Dissecting Francis

In the British version, the Francis Underwood character is called Francis Urquhart (Ian Richardson), still having the initials F.U., as a wink at the audience. Urquhart is the chief whip of the Conservative party in the House of Commons serving under the Prime Minister whereas Underwood is the chief whip for the Democrats in the House of Representatives, buzzing his ideas into the ears of the President. In both, Francis manipulates almost everyone about him.

The only difference so far is that Francis is not the lone string-puller in the British version, whereas the American Frank seems to have absolute control. He hasn’t faltered yet, though, based on watching the trailer for Season 2, this season might be the first time we see him rattled as the rose-colored glasses begin to lift for those around him. Frank’s wife is also devious in both  versions – called Elizabeth Urquhart (Diane Fletcher) in the British version and Claire Underwood (Robin Wright) in the American take – but is more heartless in the British miniseries and more human in the American one. Kevin Spacey’s Francis is much more charismatic, albeit not much more likable for the audience given his horrendous deeds. All the while, both tell us not to judge them for their actions as they share their thoughts directly to the camera rather than through a Dexter voiceover and stare us in the eyes.

I’ve always been a Spacey fan since seeing him as Eugene Simonet, a teacher who is rough-around-the edges yet vulnerable and sensitive, in Pay It Forward in 2000. So, it really speaks to his acting to say I have a hard time liking his character in House of Cards and think of him as Francis Underwood when I see his picture. But I like Spacey for the role and can’t imagine anyone else in it who could pour  the perfect balance of charm and evil into the character as him. It’s difficult to make the bad guy the lead character and it isn’t often done. You hate Francis Underwood, but he also allures you.

The Scoop on Zoe Barnes Vs. Mattie Storin

The Zoe Barnes reporter character, named Mattie Storin in the British version, is only a small part of the miniseries, but the American rendition holds onto her for longer. The newer Zoe is more manipulative and cunning than in the British version of the character who is more innocent yet intelligent. The British version brings genuine love into the Francis-reporter romance a bit more and the age gap is larger as the production shamelessly plays up the “Daddy” references more. Mara gives the character a fresh take and makes her more impulsive. She said in an interview with HuffPost TV that she, as advised by Excutive Producer David Fincher, did not watch the British House of Cards before taking on the role to keep it new and distinct.

Mara’s great-grandfather Timothy Mara is the founder of the New York Giants and her great-grandfather Art Rooney is the founder of the Pittsburgh Steelers, according to Her sister, Rooney Mara has also worked with Fincher, playing the complex Lisbeth Salander in the American remake of the The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2011), which he directed.

While there are similarities in the direction of the storyline between the American and British adaptations of House of Cards, the Netflix original series adds more layers and makes a lot of changes. If you want to be surprised in the American version, I would wait to watch the British version just in case.

I’m still in shock from the first episode of Season 2 and am excited to see where it goes from here. And I’m also excited to look for any Connecticut talent in the series and see how they fit in.

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‘How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying’? Come See At Avon Old Farms!

Finch (Sinha, right) dances to "Grand Old Ivy," following World Wide Wickets Company president J.B. Biggley's (Jas Spearman, left) lead.
Finch (Sinha, right) dances to “Grand Old Ivy,” following World Wide Wickets Company president J.B. Biggley’s (Jas Spearman, left) lead.

What if a book could teach you how to succeed in business without, well, really trying?

The men of Avon probably wouldn’t find a cheat book like that in a class at Avon Old Farms School, but the students will show you how J. Pierrepont Finch (Saagar Sinha) climbs the corporate ladder quickly in How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying. AOF teams up with actresses from Miss Porter’s School and Farmington High School for its winter musical. View the full photo album on our Facebook page.

Finch (Sinha), a window washer, reads a book about how to succeed in business without really trying.

Finch (Sinha), a window washer, reads a book about how to succeed in business without really trying.

Rebekah Hawkinson, an Avon resident, directs her second winter musical at AOF (last year, she directed Damn Yankees). She was first involved in the productions as a choreographer and grew up on the AOF campus as the daughter of a faculty member.

Sinha plays the role most recently made famous by Daniel Radcliffe – who you might know as a little wizard named Harry Potter – as well as Nick Jonas of the Jonas Brothers and Glee‘s Darren Criss. On Finch’s shortcut route from window washer to the top, Sinha gives us a duplicitous, cunning protagonist, who seems innocent and naive to his coworkers but who we also see as a conniving, but friendly, opportunist. He’s really pulling all the strings. Sinha said he watched clips of all three in the role, which taught him the mood of the character and comedic moments. All in all, he wanted to bring out how sneaky Finch can be.

“I’m not as sneaky as Finch,” Sinha said after Wednesday’s dress rehearsal. “Finch likes to go ahead quickly while I like to go one step at a time.”

I was lucky enough to see Radcliffe as the energetic, charismatic Finch – that’s F-I-N-C-H! – and Broadway veteran John Larroquette as J.B. Biggley, the president of the World Wide Wickets Company, in Broadway’s How to Succeed.  So, my expectations for the show were already pretty unfairly high. While AOF’s production is no Broadway – sequel idea: how to make a Broadway caliber show without really trying – it shouldn’t be. The beauty of theater is that you can take the same book and each production adds it’s own flavor and texture for something new.

What I remember most about the Broadway version is the dynamic duo of Finch and Biggley once our window washer weasels his way into the executive circle, leading into Grand Old Ivy, the most energetic number of the show. Finch, who coincidentally “attended the same college” as Biggley, bonds with him over the Groundhogs’ (what an appropriate mascot for a February show) rivalry with the Chipmunks by singing (and dancing to) the alma mater’s fight song – that he “knows” and “loves” – for the first time. It’s reminiscent of the annual Yale Bulldogs-Harvard Crimson football rivalry.

On Broadway, the number is grand. Radcliffe leaps and flips, trying to keep up with Larroquette as he learns the dance and song on the fly. Football players flow into the office for a choreographed football game routine. I wondered how AOF would tackle this one.

As it turns out, it’s not a big dance number in this version. But that was intentional. Choreographer Olivia Wilcox said she gave the Sinha and Jas Spearman (Biggley) very few dance moves for the scene and let them play with it. The rest was all them. As Sinha put it, he basically followed whatever Spearman did, which keeps the dance fresh. He goes from learning the song and dance for the first time to taking it over and making it his own.

At first, I was looking for the flashy dance football choreography, but the simplicity of keeping it to Finch  and Biggley in the scene exemplified the intimacy of the moment and further focused on Finch’s power of observation and manipulation tactics. Sinha and Spearman learned how to knit for the show to highlight Biggley’s flamboyant feminine side and Finch’s efforts to develop a tight-knit relationship with the boss as he knits at the top of the scene.

Saagar Sinha learned how to knit for his role as J. Pierrepont Finch in "How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying" at Avon Old Farms School.

Saagar Sinha learned how to knit for his role as J. Pierrepont Finch in “How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying” at Avon Old Farms School.


Jas Spearman learned how to knit for his role as J.B. Biggley in "How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying" at Avon Old Farms School.

Jas Spearman learned how to knit for his role as J.B. Biggley in “How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying” at Avon Old Farms School.

Finch describes the company as a “brotherhood of man” and that is also an apt description of his AOF cast. More accurately, the show is a family. It wasn’t about one star or just the leads. Everyone is part of the team.

Not to mention the outstanding actresses that always enhance AOF productions. Kaitlyn Kabbash (you might recognize her as Adelaide from Guys and Dolls at AOF) comes from Miss Porter’s in Farmington to play office temptress, Hedy LaRue.

Recognize her? Kaitlyn Kabbash of Miss Porter's School returns to the Avon Old Farms stage after playing Adelaide in "Guys and Dolls" to play the role of office seductress Hedy LaRue.

Recognize her? Kaitlyn Kabbash of Miss Porter’s School returns to the Avon Old Farms stage after playing Adelaide in “Guys and Dolls” to play the role of office seductress Hedy LaRue.

Hawkinson recruited two of her dance students at Evjen Academy of Performing Arts in Farmington to join the show – Larkin Meehan (Smitty) and Liz Hammond (Rosemary) of Farmington High School. Meehan plays Smitty as a wise, sassy senior office secretary with moments of ditziness and female empowerment when it comes to giving Rosemary dating advice about pursuing Finch. Her instincts for movement are impressive, whether bobbling with delight at Rosemary’s love prospect or dancing gracefully while singing powerfully.

Farmington High School student Larkin Meehan plays Smitty.

Farmington High School student Larkin Meehan plays Smitty.

Hammond’s sweet soprano shines and the vocals are all-around strong under the musical direction of Bryan Zaros. A live band backs the performers and brings energy and pacing to the numbers.

Liz Hammond, a Farmington High School student, plays Rosemary in "How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying" at Avon Old Farms School.

Liz Hammond, a Farmington High School student, plays Rosemary in “How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying” at Avon Old Farms School.

The production features the ensemble very prominently. The actors who play the office workers sit and stand in two levels of cubicles – in a set that Technical Director James Kassel fashioned after elements of the Broadway structure – for the first few scenes. Sometimes being in the ensemble can be challenging because you often have to come up with what to do in the background without much direction. These office workers were each very convincingly focused on their job and were part of the scenery. They were eye-catching and blended into the background at the same time, giving the office a pulse while reinforcing Finch’s desire to slip in without anyone noticing and stand out as the ideal candidate for multiple promotions. Their reactions to Finch also guide our own perceptions of his character.

Finch isn’t the only one who tries to rise quickly in the company. There’s LaRue who uses connections and seduction.

And there’s one name that lingers as much as Finch. Bud Frump (Seamus Donovan). Donovan was typecast into the role of the “class clown of the musical,” Hawkinson said, and you’ll want to listen closely for every punchline he mutters under his breath. As Biggley tries to avoid nepotism, Frump tries to use his family connections to catapult him to management promotions.

Seamus Donovan plays Bud Frump in "How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying" at Avon Old Farms School.

Seamus Donovan plays Bud Frump in “How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying” at Avon Old Farms School.

So, Finch is not alone.

Would you use Finch’s methods to get the top? It’s ethically questionable and you could get caught.

But regardless, it sure is entertaining and casts slapstick scrutiny on the corporate world.

Finch's (Sinha) big idea.

Finch’s (Sinha) big idea.


J. Peirrepont Finch – Saagar Sinha

Mr. Gatch – Jackie Chen

Mr. Jenkins – Alex Papadopoulos

Mr. Tackaberry – Jamie Thorington

J.B. Biggley – Jas Spearman

Rosemary Pilkington – Liz Hammond

Mr. Bratt – Carty Caruso

Smitty – Larkin Meehan

Bud Frump – Seamus Donovan

Miss Jones – Allie Andrade

Mr. Twimble – Terence Durrant

Hedy LaRue – Kaitlyn Kabbash

Kathy (Scrubwoman 1) – Margaret Kassel

Meredith (Scrubwoman 2) – Persephone Tsebelis

Miss Krumholtz – Arielle Shternfeld

Mr. Davis – Zach Sweedler

Mr. Ovington & Mr. Chu – Jacky Chu

T.V. Announcer – Jake Rochford

Wally Womper – Jamie Thorington

Cop – Giuseppe Reese-Mellone

Miss Grabowski – Amatullah Shaw

Lily – Morgan Reid

Nancy – Lauren Abbott

Wicket Girl 1 – Mary Rose Mallozzi

Wicket Girl 2 – Susanna Schuler

Dance Captain & Jolly Wickette – Tia Jones

Book Voice – Mr. Bill Mella

Male Dance Leads – Terence Durrant, Alex Papadopoulos, Jamie Thorington & Seamus Donovan

Female Dance Leads – Tia Jones, Larkin Meehan, Lauren Abbott & Amatullah Shaw

Ensemble & Dancers – Maddie Young, Brianna Gambacini, Sung-Min Kim & Zipporah Diaz


Piano – Diana Lawler

Saxophone/Clarinet – Chip Fenney

Saxophone/Flute – Amy Eisenstadt Trumpet – Larry Gareau

Trombone – Robert Volo

Bass – Dave Raposo

Violin – Carin Wiesner

Drums – Dan Volpe


Director – Rebekah Hawkinson

Music Director – Bryan Zaros

Choreographer – Olivia Wilcox

Technical Director, Set Design & Construction – James Kassel

Assistant Director – Giuseppe Reese-Mellone

Stage Managers – Mohammed Meraay &Tristan Garland

Light Design & Operation- Devin McKenna Sound Technician – Charles Carpenter

Tech Crew – Jason Filipe, Michael Fischer, Michael Gianci, Julia Kassel, Alex Lusins Costumes – Norcostco, Modcloth, Unique Vintage Costume coordinator – Olivia Wilcox Make-Up and Hair Design – Olivia Wilcox, Naomi Lemire, Marnee Miceli

Programs and Poster – Michael Dembicer

Photography – Seshu Badrinath

Additional Technical Support and Design – Harvey Ricard & Michael Hunter

The show opens this weekend at Adams Theatre toward the front of the Avon Old Farms campus (500 Old Farms Rd.). It runs Friday, Saturday and Sunday at 7 p.m. Doors open at 6:30 p.m. and admission is free. The public is welcome to come to any performance, but Saturday is the recommended date, as there will be many students at the others. 

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Welcome to Entertainment CONNeCT!

You can’t spell Connecticut without “connect” and that’s what I hope to do with my new entertainment blog – connect you to our state’s entertainment scene and the people in the industry who have Connecticut connections.

My name’s Jessie Sawyer, a writer at heart. Previously, I was the editor of more than three years and additionally edited for the last year with Patch Media Corporation.  I started my professional journalism career at the Register Citizen in Torrington in 2010. I also interned for the Hartford Courant in 2007 and was a news editor for the Exception Magazine in Maine in 2009.

I’ve always been a features writer at heart, taking my first and only journalism class at Farmington High School as editor of the arts section for our school newspaper, The Voice my senior year. At Bates College, I started off as a sportswriter and then assistant sports editor for the Bates Student, our student-run newspaper. From 2008 to 2009, I worked as the arts and living managing editor, doing the writing I love to do best.

In journalism, I’ve covered the the gamut – news, police, courts, fires, government, politics, sports, business, real estate. But the genre I thrive in is arts and entertainment.

I’ve interviewed actor Patrick Dempsey (Grey’s Anatomy) , Farmington natives and siblings Chion Wolf (WNPR producer for The Colin McEnroe Show) and Michael Gladis (Mad Men), Pete Francis and Braddigan from Dispatch, Doug Gray from The Marshall Tucker Band, Farmington singer James Chappell (contestant on NBC’s The Winner Is), author Elizabeth Strout (Olive Kitteridge), Gary Burghoff (the Connecticut native who played Radar in M.A.S.H.) Ben Sands (a Farmington native who was a contestant on The Bachelorette), and many talented local entertainers.

As a member of the theater community and a singer, I particularly enjoy writing about local plays and bands. I  most recently reviewed Steve Martin’s stage adaptation, The Underpants at the Hartford Stage. As performers, we always find value in the reviews and features written about our work (and gets people to come to our shows). Entertainment gives us culture and escape. It also preserves history and teaches us something.

I’d like to keep our communities informed about plays, concerts and entertainment events that they might want to attend and educate readers about local people in the industry from actors and musicians to authors and artists. I’ll highlight nationally and internationally recognized artists with Connecticut ties, but I also want to introduce you to Connecticut’s rising stars in their early days. I’ll also include some movie reviews of films shown in Connecticut, as well as features on films with Connecticut ties.

Now that I’m looking for my next job, I wanted to start this project to focus on the type of writing I do best. On the way, I’ll be piecing together the mosaic of the Connecticut entertainment world so that you can live in it too.

Have a story idea or entertainment tip? Email me at