Category: Features

The assistant takes up the baton at symphony’s evening of Masterworks

By MIKE CHAIKEN EDITIONS EDITOR The assistant is becoming the chief this weekend at Hartford Symphony Orchestra. Adam Boyles, the assistant conductor at HSO, is taking up the baton this weekend to lead the ensemble through “Choral Fantasy and Mystical…

‘The King and I’ demonstrates the timeless quality of Rodgers and Hammerstein

By MIKE CHAIKEN EDITIONS EDITOR There are American composers who create classical music in a European tradition. But often when we think of classical music, the Germans and Russians tend to loom much larger than the Yankees. America’s largest, most…

CT troubadour takes stage in area

By MIKE CHAIKEN EDITIONS EDITOR Plainville will be home to a performance by Connecticut’s official troubadour. Kate Callahan, who has long been a staple on Connecticut’s acoustic music scene, recently was presented the title, state troubadour. It was an honor…

Everybody loves ‘Millie’



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 or bought at the door. All performances are held at the Repertory Theatre, 23 Norden St. in New Britain.

Tim McGraw, Faith Hill: A perfect marriage at Mohegan Sun



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.


The circus is not dead. ‘Circus 1903’ proves that as it reflects on the past

Whether or not it was deliberate or coincidence, it was apropos that “Circus 1903” arrived at Hartford’s Bushnell the same week that Barnum & Bailey and Ringling Bros. circus took up a residency at the XL Center down the road.…

That trash is pretty pretty… and fashionable



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 designsare 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.

Rain provides the smile behind The Beatles



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.

Comedian speaks about resurgence of humor as commentary: Paul Mecurio brings stand-up act to Mohegan

By MIKE CHAIKEN EDITIONS EDITOR Social media is the new water cooler. And comedy and comedians suddenly have surged forward to become the new talk around the water cooler. When comedian Melissa McCarthy transforms herself into White House spokesperson Sean…