By MIKE CHAIKEN EDITIONS EDITOR The band Toto likes performing in Connecticut. After all, the Nutmeg State is in the group’s genes. As David Paich, the band’s keyboardist and one of several vocalists in band, explained it, when Toto comes…
Foxwoods® Resort Casino unveiled formal plans to further enhance the resort by introducing ecotourism, beginning with the launch of the Foxwoods HighFlyer Zipline opening this summer. The HighFlyer Zipline is the first phase of Foxwoods’ long-term development plans to provide…
By MIKE CHAIKEN
The key to any movie, television show, book… or stage play is the main character should be likeable and relatable.
And the cast of “Thoroughly Modern Millie,” which is now being performed by Connecticut Theatre Company,” says the title character fits the bill.
The show takes place in the 1920s and tells the story of a young woman who leaves her smalltown in Kansas in the dust as she hoofs it to New York City to be a star on the stage.
“She’s very strong and she’s unapologetic about herself, which is very admirable for someone in 1922 ,” said Jackie DeMaio, who has the title role for the CTC. “Right off the bat, she comes off really strong. Your first interaction with her is she trips some random guy because no one was helping her,” said DeMaio. “She immediately grabs your attention. She says this is what I want, this is what I need from you, and how can you help me. When you get to know her better, she has a sweet side, a softer side. (But) she’s very strong, fun, and funny.”
“She’s independent,” said Jenna Levitt, who plays Muzzy Van Hossmere in the show. “She came from a tiny little town and wanted to make something of herself so she picked herself up and left to pursue her dream… She’s sweet and fun and innocent.”
“I like her confidence,” said Kristi Yurko of Bristol, who plays Alice. “She’s a very confident woman.”
Yurko continued, “She moves away from home to go to New York to pursue her dream of being an actor. I think that’s very brave of her to do.”
“I like her modernism,” said Zach Cote of Bristol, who plays Bun Foo. “I know it’s a little cliché but it’s a very important part of the show. Times are always changing, even though it’s the 1920s, it easily could apply to 2017. People always are constantly changing the way the look, how they’re styling their hair, the way they dress. That is what Millie is all about. She wants everyone to realize the times are changing and they should keep up with the times.”
“She’s so bubbly,” said Tullio Milani, who plays Millie’s love interest Jimmy. “She has a personality that when she enters the room, she just lights it up.”
“She’s out there to leave her mark and she makes sure everyone knows that,” said Milani.
As someone who was a raised a country girl and now finds herself in a city environment, Erin Frechette of Bristol, who is a member of the ensemble, said she can definitely relate to the character.
If she were in Millie’s shoes, Yurko said, “I would definitely be nervous because moving to a new city is very nerve-racking but I feel after a while I’d get used to all of my new surroundings and it would be really fun.”
Moving from a small town to the big city is about “going for your dreams. If you don’t go for it, how do you know if it is actually going to happen unless you put yourself out there,” said Cote. “And that’s what Millie does.”
However, Millie is no meek country girl moving into the city, said DeMaio. “She’s like a city girl who’s stuck in the country… it’s a spin on that archetype, which I like.”
In addition to Millie, the cast also enjoys the array of characters that accompany the lead.
“Every character is complex, with their own story,” said Milani. “It’s beautifully written.”
“I think it’s a great combination of different personalities and how they mix together. Sometimes it’s funny. Sometime’s it’s more drama,” said Frechette.
The show flaunts its humor.
“It’s classic comedy,” said DeMaio. “It’s clean comedy. It’s family friendly, which is always nice. It’s got something for everyone.”
“It’s subtle comedy,” said Milani. “A little bit goes a long way. It’s not dirty. It’s humor that gives you a chuckle.”
The cast also is in love with the music of “Thoroughly Modern Millie.
“The music is very upbeat and exciting, which is always entertaining, which goes along with the dancing, which is very upbeat and entertaining, too.”
“The music is outstanding. It’s my favorite, honestly,’ said Cote. “The jazz is what gets you going. It makes you want to move your body.”
“The ‘20s style is always fun and the dancing is great. It’s got really beautiful lyrics and all the characters have great stories. The music is beautiful, fun, and it captures your attention,” said DeMaio.
“I love every song in this show,” said Levitt. “It’s different from the modern musical. I love that it’s a dance show. Even if you’re not a dancer, you want to start dancing.”
“The music is so fantastic,’ said Frechette. “It’s such a dance-oriented show. I’m a dancer that’s what drew me to it.”
“The songs just make you happy,” said Milani.
As for why audiences should make a trip out to New Britain this weekend or next, Yurko said “all of the cast members are very into character and they very entertaining and the music is wonderful.”
“We have such a diverse array of talent that’s amazing,” said Frechette.
“There’s a huge amount of talent,” said Milani. “It’s a community theater but it’s really professional grade.”
“We worked really hard to put on a really tight show,” said Levitt. “There’s a lot of talent and it’s a lot of fun.”
“It makes you want to get up and dance,” said Cote. “It’s a feel good musical, drama, comedy— you have it all.”
“You’ll laugh, you’ll cry It’s a great story. It’s really fun. It has something for everyone,” said DeMaio.
“Thoroughly Modern Millie” runs through May 21. Friday and Saturday performances begin at 7 p.m. and Sunday matinees at 2 p.m. Tickets are $25 for adults and $23 for students and seniors. Tickets can be purchased online at www.connecticuttheatrecompany.org or bought at the door. All performances are held at the Repertory Theatre, 23 Norden St. in New Britain.
by MIKE CHAIKEN
If their tour dubbed Soul2Soul is any indication of reality, country stars Tim McGraw and Faith Hill have the perfect marriage.
Everything about the sold out show at the Mohegan Sun Arena on May 5 was balanced and equal.
Each was given their time to shine on stage. Each had a slew of familiar tunes that got the crowd on the feet. And each time they sang a duet, the affection between the two was palpable.
It was a show about love and family and the audience ate up every minute of it.
The show was structured in a way that gave the couple the opportunity to perform together as well as separately. To start the show, the pair rose from beneath the stage singing Aretha Franklin’s “I Knew You Were Waiting.” Than they worked a couple of duets (in keeping with their next album, which is full of duets from the couple.) And then Hill took her solo turn before McGraw returned to hold the stage for a couple of more duets before he took the spotlight for himself for a bit. Then they returned for a couple of songs as a pair, including a foray that found them popping up in the audience and singing as they worked their way across the arena’s floor.
It was exciting to see Hill on stage after a decade away raising her and McGraw’s children. (Their oldest is now 20.)
It would have been understandable if Hill was a little rusty and tentative after her long lay-off. However, if anything, Hill’s voice was even stronger than before she took some time off. This was most evident when she tackled Janis Joplin’s “A Piece of My Heart.” She showed consider vocal chops in a song that demands the vocals be full of passion. It was one of the highlights of her set. Other hits such as “Breathe,” “This Kiss,” and “Wild One” also thrilled the crowd glad to see her return to the stage.
Hill’s stage presence was filled with confidence. She clearly was having fun. It was as if she had never been away for so long.
Tim McGraw has been a constant presence on stage. So he clearly has the confidence and command thing down pat. He showed even though country is his genre of choice, he knows how to make country rock with such rousing tracks as “Real Good Man.” He also had probably one of the touching moments of the night with his anthem to YOLA (you only live once), “Live Like You Were Dying.” “Angry All the Time” also pulled at your heart.
McGraw and Hill also clearly know how to put on a show. The production values of the show—with video screens, trick doors, rising platforms, laser lights, and all manner of stage trickery—was probably one of the most complex I’ve seen, giving many arena rockers a run for their money.
The Soul2Soul tour with Tim McGraw and Faith Hill proved to be a match made in heaven, both musically and romantically.
I give the Soul2Soul tour with Faith Hill and Tim McGraw at the Mohegan Sun Arena four out of four stars.
by MIKE CHAIKEN
It’s become a yearly tradition of fun and creativity.
But Trashion Fashion, which will be presented Sunday, is about more than just letting artists and fashion designers put their creativity to the test.
“Our main mission is to contribute to a global reduction of waste through creative solutions,” explained Amy Merli, the founder of Trashion Fashion. “I believe that through creativity we can reach people to begin to have an honest conversation about our waste streams.”
“After someone sees an elaborate design made from, let’s say K-cups, we can start to talk about that one item,” said Merli.
“On average,” she explained, “a person in the U.S. produces 4 ½ pound ofa trash a day. Many of the items we use everyday are designed for single use,” said Merli.
“I would like people who see Trashion Fashion through our shows, exhibits, social media or attends a workshop or lecture, to leave thinking about how much waste they produce daily and how they can reduce it,” said Merli.
Even though it’s 2017, and Trashion Fashion has long been a staple on the Connecticut (and local arts) event calendar, Merli said it’s message is still necessary.
“We have a lot more to do,” Merli said in an email interview. “We hope that someday we can’t produce a Trashion Fashion event because there isn’t anymore trash. But, we are not in that place. Our recycling rate in the U.S., according to the EPA was at 34.6 percent in 2014, that’s much higher than it’s ever been but it’s not great.”
There has been some improvement since the first Trashion Fashion event in Connecticut
“I feel like there is more awareness of what can be done,” said Merli. “I’ve seen more plastic bag bans in towns throughout the U.S., while other countries have done bans as well like India, France, Bangladesh, and Rwanda. I’ve seen more grassroots initiatives but I’ve also seen more businesses popup that don’t have a care for humans or the planet.”
In recent years, Merli has staged Trashion Fashion events in other communities, such as New York City.
But do these other communities “get” the message?
“Trashion Fashion has a global impact,” said Merli. “We feature designs in our events and exhibits from all over the world because trash is a global issue. When looking for a partner for a venue, sponsorship or to create a custom design we make sure they align with our values. It’s essential to not negate all the efforts we put into carefully researching facts and curating designs based on how materials were sourced.”
With seven years of Trashion Fashion under her belt, Merli said her favorite designs “are always the ones that don’t look like trash. I was teaching a workshop in Guilford the other week and while I was showing photos of past designs one of the students said ‘That doesn’t look like trash’ and that’s the point.”
With the show this weekend, Merli said all of the designers have been picked. About half of the designers are returning participants, said Merli.
One of the big changes this year is the change in location for the event. Last year, the show was staged at Hartford City Hall.
“This year, we’ll be at Infinity Hall… in Hartford,” said Merli. “We’re very excited to partner with the great local venue. We also will have music accompanying the runway from a group from the Hartt School that will be using all found objects.”
The seventh annual Trashion Fashion Show will be held on Sunday, April 30 at 6:30 p.m. at Infinity Hall, 32 Front St., Hartford. General admission is $20 in advance, $25 at the door. There also are $50 premier seats, which guarantees a front row or aisle set for the show. Afterward, you can have a meet and greet with the designers with complimentary champagne. Premiere seats are not available at the door.
by MIKE CHAIKEN
The temptation exists that every time the name of The Beatles, in the past tense, is invoked, someone is going to get serious.
Music aficionados will speak about how The Beatles changed the face of rock ‘n’ roll. They’ll talk about the band’s compositional skills. They’ll speak about the group’s expansion of the capabilities of the recording studio. They’ll talk about The Beatles’ cultural significance, transforming the youth of the nation.
But in the midst of all that serious conversation, we sometimes forget one of the most important dimensions of The Beatles.
They were fun.
That’s where a group like Rain, which performed at the Fox Theater at Foxwoods Resort Casino on April 22, helps redirect the focus on The Beatles. They remind us that one of the reasons The Beatles were so popular when they arrived on the American shores was they were fun.
After all, there were other bands of that period that pushed boundaries of music. The Pretty Things, their British peers, are credited with writing the first rock opera with “S.F. Sorrow.” Procol Harum invoked classical melodies in songs like “A White Shade of Pale.” The Kinks set the stage for heavy metal and provided social commentary.
But The Beatles made us smile.
And that’s what Rain did.
Even when they played The Beatles’ magnum opus, “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band,” from beginning to end, they did not approach it like an orchestra tackling Bach. They provided the same smiles and smirks the Beatles clearly had when they wrote such fun tracks as, “When I’m 64,” “For the Benefit of Mr. Kite,” and “Good Morning.”
Rain clearly has reverence for the accomplishments of The Beatles. After all, rather than reworking the songs with new arrangements, it’s clear that their arrangements are as close to possible to the originals. The technology of the 21st century clearly has aided in their ability to perform “Sgt. Pepper” as the band intended. “A Day in the Life” and “Within and Without You” clearly are songs the Beatles could never do on the stage of Shea Stadium with just two guitars, a bass, and a drum.
But even when Rain took us back to the early British invasion days, the group reminded us why we had so much fun hearing the Fab Four croon, “She loves you, yeah, yeah, yeah” and “I wanna hold your hand… woooh!”
Also what makes Rain more exciting then some tribute shows is that it is a “Show.” They were just four guys (well actually five) on a stage in costume. The group effectively uses LED projection screens to provide context and color to the music of The Beatles. They also provide a banter that is reminiscent of the Beatles, without feeling scripted.
Whether or not you were watching when The Beatles stepped onto the stage at “The Ed Sullivan Show” or you discovered The Beatles in your grandparents’ record collection, Rain provided a great lesson in why the music of the Fab Four lives on and on and on.
I give Rain at the Fox Theater at Foxwoods Resort Casino on April 22 four out of four stars.
by MIKE CHAIKEN
MASHANTUCKET– Surrounded by a rainbow of candy of all shapes and sugar content, entertainer Nick Cannon couldn’t resist the temptation.
Cannon was on hand for the grand opening of Sugar Factory at Foxwoods Resort Casino on Saturday, April 1. Sports Illustrated and Maxim model Nina Agdal was there as well for the red carpet walk and ribbon cutting.
Sugar Factory, which has locations around the globe, now has an 8,000-square-foot location consisting of a full service café and confectionary shop, retail shop, indoor dining room, and full service bar at the Connecticut casino.
For most passers-by, the brightly colored candy shop with huge, ceiling-high glass tubes filled with everything from gummies to sugary-bursts in the shape of yellow rubber ducks (the icon for the chain) was the main attraction.
And even Cannon—who is known for his music, as well as a multitude of movie and television gigs—took advantage of his press availabilities in the store to do a little candy shopping on his own.
In a quick interview, Cannon said he loves candy.
Jawbreakers were his candy of choice at the opening, Cannon said, as he held up a plastic baggie filled to the brim with the mouth-filling sized candies. “I’m already stocked up,” he said.
Why jawbreakers? Cannon said it was “it’s the heaviest candy in the building.” Sugar Factory sells candy by the pound and jawbreakers “last the longest,” said Cannon.
Other than jawbreakers, Cannon said his favorite candy is licorice. “It’s what my family grew up on, going to the movie theater. Watching movies, it was licorice and popcorn. It was always the thing to do.”
Besides photographs, ribbons, and candy, Cannon was on hand to play a special DJ set for the VIPs at the opening
Last year, Cannon released a remix album, “The Gospel of Ike Turn Up: My Side of the Story.”
Talking about the genesis of the effort, Cannon said, “It’s been really cool. You release projects based on how you’re feeling. That was just one project. We have another project coming out soon called ‘Model Music’ and after that one is ‘The Summer School’ project.
“The way the music industry has shifted, you don’t have the time to wait to release a whole album,” said Cannon. “You have to put out a body of work by streaming. So, it’s been outstanding.”
For “The Gospel of Ike Turn Up…,” Cannon has told the press he was inspired by the music of the ‘90s.
“Specifically, ‘90s R&B was really at a time where a lot of classic, golden music was made. Now this [current] generation is kind of just beginning to open their eyes and ears to it a little more. It’s kind of cool,” said Cannon.
For his next release, “Model Music,” Cannon said he’s influenced by “more vibes. More chill. It will make every woman feel like a supermodel. It gives everybody that cool chill vibe when they get ready and stuff to get going.
Noting that the opening of Sugar Factory coincided with the 25th anniversary of Foxwoods, Cannon said, “I love celebrating people’s 25th birthdays. It’s good times. Twenty-five is a good year.”
Nina Agdal was making her first ever visit to Foxwoods for the event at Sugar Factory. “It’s so pretty,” she told press. “All these streets and everything. I want to come back.”
“This was kind of just an in and out experience,” said Agdal of her visit to Foxwoods and Sugar Factory. “I got the call last night (in New York while I was hanging with friends) and said, ‘Let’s do it.’… We only have an hour to check out stuff.”
The previous weekend to her visit to Foxwoods, Agdal had celebrated her birthday, she said. And inside Sugar Factory, Agdal got to continue the birthday celebration as she was photographed with Sugar Factory’s trademark “Lollipop Passion” 60 ounce cocktail served up in a huge goblet with dry ice so the ice vapor cascaded over the sides as the waiter delivered it.
Agdal also was served The Signature Sugar Factory burger, one of Sugar Factory’s “Insane Milkshakes,” and a humongous sundae delivered with sparklers shooting off—an appropriate sweet delicacy for the birthday girl.
Sugar Factory Foxwoods is located at the Foxwoods Resort Casino, 350 Trolley Line Boulevard, Mashantucket, Conn. Sugar Factory American Brasserie is open for lunch and dinner Monday to Thursday starting at 11 a.m. Breakfast, lunch and dinner will be served on Saturdays and Sundays starting at 9 a.m. The restaurant will remain open until 2 a.m. Fridays through Sunday. The café is open daily starting at 7 a.m. Reservations and large-group bookings are available by calling (860)312–SUGR, directly at the Foxwoods concierge desk or through OpenTable.com. The restaurant is
located in the main concourse of the Grand Pequot Tower on the casino level. Parking is available in the Grand Pequot Garage.
by MIKE CHAIKEN
Audiences celebrated the 10th anniversary of SWAN (Support Women Artists Now) Day on March 25 with a good dose of music, art, crafts, body painting, live painting, and burlesque.
The event organized by Bristol native Jennifer Hill was held at Trinity-on-Main in New Britain.
Here are some images from this year’s event.
PHOTOS by MIKE CHAIKEN
by MIKE CHAIKEN
Ten years have passed since Jennifer Hill launched the first SWAN Day.
And what started out as an arts festival designed to not only pay tribute to film and music but include other art forms created by women has continued as a tradition that tears away the spotlight from male artists and puts the focus on creative women.
This year’s SWAN (Support Women Artists Now) Day is March 25 in New Britain.
In press materials, SWAN Day explained, “While searching for grants for both her music and her students, (musician) Jennifer Hill found a non- profit organization called Women Arts…Just as Hill was exploring ideas to produce a show, Women Arts wanted to start a holiday to celebrate women in the arts…. ‘I wrote to (the organization and said) I love what you’re are doing. Would it still be a SWAN event if we featured bands, burlesque, and art. And (they) said ‘Yes! we’ve never thought of doing that.we are just starting out.’ So Hill ran with her idea and started producing a SWAN DAY for Connecticut and called it SWAN DAY CT. The first one was in 2008.”
Artist Kerry Kennedy, who paints a canvas live, was one of the first performers in SWAN Day when it was started 10 years ago and she hasn’t missed one first.
“SWAN Day was the catalyst for my first live painting, which has become a signature of my portfolio and had expanded the breadth of my work over the years,” said Kerry.
As one of the first creatives to sign on with SWAN Day, Kerry said she was attracted to an event that celebrated women because, “Gender bias is a reality in the visual arts world as much as it is in any profession. As a freelancer, it has worked in my favor that I have a gender-neutral name. My advisor in art school only used her initials to sign artwork for the same reason.”
“Female artists are often pigeon-holed into certain styles of work,” said Kerry. “Art museums feature more paintings of naked women than they do paintings BY women,” said Kerry.
“I was hungry for a dedicated event showcasing the diversity of styles and broad range of talents that artistic women possess,” said Kerry.
Singer Gracie Day of Bristol came across SWAN Day more recently.
“I was thrilled when I found out about SWAN Day because the music scene is mostly full of men, so it’s exciting to be a part of an event led by females,” said Gracie. “Last year was my first time in SWAN Day and the most valuable thing I personally took away from it, was making connections with other female artists. There was a camaraderie and support system all about raising each other up.”
“As a women in the music industry, I unfortunately experience sexual harassment,” said Gracie. “And because it’s not a regulated industry—especially for independent musicians— there is no (human resources department) to report to or anything.”
“SWAN Day (which is an international movement as well as local) is particularly significant for women in developing countries, whose talent and crafts have been historically undervalued and unappreciated,” said Kerry. “Giving these women a platform to celebrate their skills can enable them to establish income from their work in a way previously not explored.”
“Here in Connecticut, SWAN Day enables all the women at the venue to support each other for one night without worrying about how they will ensure their work gets noticed in an industry that still favors men,” said Kerry.
“SWAN Day is needed especially in this current political climate where women’s rights seem to be threatened,” said Gracie. “I think in this third-wave feminist movement, especially in the creative arts, there has been a focus on eliminating competition amongst one another. SWAN Day has that spirit.”
“We are sisters who have suffered in the same ways and who have soared in the same way,” said Gracie. “We are there for each other.”
Have things gotten better for women since the first SWAN Day?
Gracie replied, “I think once these questions stop being asked it will be indicative of equality.”
Beyond events like SWAN Day, to make things better, Kerry said, “It will take successful artists of all sexes and genders holding each other up and lending their influence and power to those women who need it. Artists need advocates, just as women need advocates in the corporate realm to break that glass ceiling.”
“SWAN Day is not just about women and feminism,” said Gracie, “It’s also just a chance to shine the spotlight on women in charge in the male-dominated music scene.”
The SWAN Day musical line up is Murderous Chanteuse, Tiny Ocean, Nan Roy, Parlor Walls, Elizabeth Dellinger, Nikki Mathi, Patti Rothberg, Canyon, Scarlett, That Virginia, Gracie Day,Terri Gladwell,Sarah Golley, and Jen Taylor. Hosts are Ryan Kristafer from WTNH’s “CT Style” and artist/designer Ebony Amber Parish. Dj Breakdown will fill in the musical voids and Cupcake Wars winners, Hardcore Cupcakes, will be on hand for your sweet tooth. Burlesque acts will be performed by Mistress Leona Star, Vivienne LaFlamme and Harley Foxx. Live painting onstage will be offered by Kerry Kennedy. Both stages run separately so everyone can catch all the happenings of the evening. The show is for everyone 18-plus or all ages if accompanied by an adult. Tickets are $18 resale online and $20 at the door. Tickets can be found at www.showclix.com/event/SWANDAYCT2017
The doors open at Trinity on Main, 60 Main St., New Britain at 4:30 p.m., www.trinityonmain.org