Connecticut Community Theatre's Top 10 Shows of 2015
2015 was truly a benchmark year for local theaters in CT. We saw not only fabulous performances, but also theaters take risks when it came to material selection. With bold choices, smart casting/direction and incredible design, many theaters in the state hit new highs with their productions.
While we would love to praise every show we've seen this past year, here are 10 that really stood out. The selections, listed in no particular order, are based on the reviews as well as comments of the OnStage Critics.
'Steel Magnolias' at The Brookfield Theatre for the Arts
Filled with a tremendously talent cast. This production hit all the right notes. Nancy Sasso Janis said in her review, "The Brookfield Theatre for the Arts, a venue that never fails to put on a full-fledged production and this wonderfully directed version of ‘Steel Magnolias’ that featured an outstanding cast of ladies in Truvy’s hair salon is no exception."
In his especially beautiful director’s note, Tom Sheehan explained that he chose this piece because of the story: the setting of the slower pace of a small Southern town, the strongly drawn six characters, “a play about women so carefully and lovingly crafted...by a man.” I would add that Mr. Sheehan directed this amazing collection of actresses with the same care and love, bringing the audience this “touching, funny, honest story of love, friendship, of joy and sorrow, but mostly...of hope.”
'ENRON' at Hole in the Wall Theater
In her review, Tara Kennedy praised not only the cast but the direction as well.
"Emily Trudeau’s direction should not be overlooked, as this is an ambitious show to put on at any theater. At a running time of nearly three hours, this show did not feel like it at all. The momentum of the story moved with alacrity from scene to scene effortlessly, and that is a credit to Trudeau and her hard-working team.
What is so great about this production is that it strikes a wonderful harmonious blend: a riveting lesson in the dangers of creative free market economics combined with strong performances, smart direction, and uproarious humor. It is off-the-wall, on-the-ball, not-to-be-missed theatre."
Anthony Piccione added, "this production proves to be emotionally powerful, intellectually stimulating and one of the boldest productions that I’ve seen from a community theatre group here in Connecticut."
'Time Stands Still' at TheatreWorks New Milford
Even with everything that has occurred lately, that doesn't prevent us of recognizing that great work is still great work and Theatreworks' production of 'Time Stands Still' was excellent.
Nancy Sasso Janis said in her review, of Alicia Dempster's performance as Sarah, "She had the ability to make the audience aware of her character’s emotions with a look and navigated the physical healing that Sarah goes through during the play with believability....I recommend this beautifully written play that is both smart and moving; I immediately cared about the well-drawn characters and wanted to know what would happen to them."
'1984' at Sherman Playhouse
"The Sherman Playhouse's production of 1984 is splendid because it brings together all of the elements of a well-produced show. The combination of an outstanding cast, superior direction and impressive technical elements make this play worth the trip to the historical theatre, nestled in the hills of Connecticut. " - Alicia Dempster
She also had much praise for 2015 OnStage Critics Award Winner, Kevin Sosbe for his work as well. "At the helm of this exceptional cast is Kevin Sosbe, an accomplished theatre artist who has been far too long out of the director's chair. Known for his outstanding scenic work at the Westport Country Playhouse, Sosbe's direction is insightful and subtle, sending a chill up your spine when a particular point is being made."
'The Miracle Worker' at Westport Community Theatre
"Hands down, one of the best plays I've seen in the past couple of years." These were the words that came from OnStage critic William Goldberg, who was extremely thrilled about Westport's production. Citing the outstanding performances of the two leads, Emma LaPlace and Nora Watson, as Annie Sullivan and Helen Keller, this production will not be forgotten anytime soon.
'Bonnie & Clyde' at Curtain Call
Amanda Christine stated about this show, "It might be the best thing Curtain Call has ever done." Selecting this piece was certainly a risk on the part of Curtain Call, but it seemed to have paid off with the numerous praise we heard about this production. With strong performances from their two leads, William Bednar and Arielle Boutin, as well as a fantastic ensemble, this marked a new high for the Stamford theatre group.
'Thoroughly Modern Millie' at Bridgeport Theatre Company
For their last musical under their former name, the Bridgeport Theatre Company(Now Downtown Cabaret Main Stage Theatre) went out with a bang with their production of 'Thoroughly Modern Millie'. Our review said,
"Bridgeport Theatre Company's 'Thoroughly Modern Millie' is the best performance by a community theatre I've seen this year. Let's just get that out of the way first. It's very rare to see a performance where talent, energy and chemistry combine in such an infectious way, it's impossible for the audience not to acknowledge that they have seen something truly spectacular."
'Chicago' at Landmark Community Theatre
Winner of two OnStage Critics Awards for Outstanding Choreography and Outstanding Ensemble in a Musical, Landmark's 'Chicago' earned some well deserved praise. Nancy Sass Janis said,
"The quality of the dancing, the look of the show and the talented cast members made me appreciate this show more than I have in the past. Mr. Reese made some excellent choices in his staging, especially during Roxie's trial scene. Paul Revaz designed the simple set of a black staircase that separated the halves of the onstage orchestra under the direction of TJ Thompson. The talented music director became a part of the action a couple of times and this orchestra was one of the best he has ever assembled."
'American Idiot' at Warner Stage Company
One of most heavily praised shows of the summer was 'American Idiot' at the Warner Stage Company. Nancy Sasso Janis said,
"The Warner Stage Company is the first community theater in Connecticut to present this punk rock opera that is loud, brash, vulgar, exhausting, uplifting...and loud. The dancing is hard and fast, the vocals are rocking and the band could easily go out on tour. I loved every single earsplitting, rage and love filled minute of the seamless 90 minute show.....and will be one of the favorite shows of the year."
'She Loves Me' at the Broad Brook Opera House
"In the age of online dating, the idea of a “lonely hearts club” via snail mail seems like an old-fashioned premise for a musical for today. However, the cast and crew of Broad Brook Opera House’s production of She Loves Me does an excellent job in creating a sweet, romantic tale, woven with excellent performances, stellar singing, and great design....In all, She Loves Me is not to be missed: an entertaining, well-produced musical filled with romance and humor, coupled with fantastic vocals and performances." - Tara Kennedy.
Thumbnail photo: JANINA GOZALEZ (CENTER) WITH MEMBERS OF THE CAST OF LandMark Community Theatre's 'CHICAGO' PHOTO BY ERIN DREW