Category: Features

Miss Connecticut was living her dream at Miss America



ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. — One day into the competition to see who would be the next Miss America, Eliza Kanner—the current Miss Connecticut—was upbeat and positive what was to come at Boardwalk Hall, Atlantic City, N.J.

(Kanner eventually lost the crown to Miss North Dakota Cara Mund.)

“This has been such an incredible week being at Miss America,” said Kanner during a press opportunity during the contestants lunch break. “I’ve been involved in the organization for 17 years. “I started when I was 4 years old as a (Miss Connecticut) Princess than as (an Outstanding Teen, including Miss Milldale’s Outstanding Teen), now Miss Connecticut. I’m representing my home state here. So I’ve just been collecting all the little moments and putting them in my journal so I can remember for them for years to come.”

As far as the moments that loom largest about the past week (contestants had arrived a week earlier prior to the competition to make public appearances and rehearse), Kanner said, “Last night (Sept. 6), I had the opportunity to perform my talent on the Miss America stage. It was really quite incredible because I was performing my talent. I would have these little moments where I was like ‘Oh my gosh, I’m on the Miss America stage. So it was kind of weird to have these moments where you have those moments on the Miss America stage and (remember) I have to sing; I have to perform my talent. But it was incredible. Everything I wished for.”

Before she went on stage to make her first introduction at Miss America, Kanner said she was thinking, “I’m so proud. I’m so proud to be here to introduce myself to America as Miss Connecticut. It was a dream of mine for years. Now to have the opportunity to be Miss America, it doesn’t get much cooler than that.”

Before performing her talent (she sang “Memories” in Italian) before the judges, Kanner said, “I get so excited. I really don’t have too many nerves before I perform. I’m just excited to get out there. I have an adrenaline rush, Ten seconds before they announce my name, and I walk out, a moment of calmness comes right before my music starts and I’m just ready to show them, what I worked so hard for.”

The morning after her performance, Kanner said, “I’m just happy I felt the whole performance. I wasn’t thinking about I’m getting scored on the high note or did I have enough vibrato. I was proud of myself for feeling the song, feeling the music, and really giving a great performance.”

Asked about the other 50 women on stage, Kanner said, “These women are truly the most accomplished smart, funny, intelligent, mission-driven women I’ve ever met in my entire life. We’re such a great group, so supportive of one another. I’ve made some great friends. I know I’ll have them forever.”

Forty years from now, Kanner said she will tell her children and grandchildren, “It’s a dream come true. I get asked, what are you going to tell young girls as Miss Connecticut or for years to come. ‘Just follow your dreams.’ I’m a big dreamer, but I don’t believe dreams work unless you do. Break those dreams down into goals, attainable goals, that you can reach in order to achieve those dreams.”

To her friends and family in Connecticut, Kanner (who did much of her preparation for Miss America in Bristol) said, “I’m so thankful for the amount of love and support that I’ve been showered with during my time in Miss America— but also throughout my year so far competing and when I won Miss Connecicut. It’s been so awesome. So many people said that when I won Miss Connecticut they felt they were winning too because they have been part of my journey. But thank you to everybody who has sent me so much love this week. I’m so thankful for you all.”

On the first night of competition, when Kanner performed her talent, Miss Utah JessiKate Riley won talent with a solo violin performance and Miss Texas Margana Wood won lifestyle and fitness (swimsuit).

On the second night, when Kanner took part in the onstage interview, Miss Louisiana Laryssa Bonacquisti won lifestyle and fitness and Miss Minnesota Brianna Drevlow won talent.

On the third night, Miss Louisiana Laryssa Bonacquisti won the preliminary talent award with a ventriloquist vocal performance and Miss Florida Sara Zeng won lifestyle and fitness.


Miss Connecticut Eliza Kanner during the evening gown preliminaries at Miss America in Atlantic City, N.J. on Sept. 8.

Miss Connecticut Eliza Kanner enters the stage of Miss America on Sept. 6.

Miss Connecticut Eliza Kanner sings ‘Memories’ at Miss America in Atlantic City on Sept. 6 during preliminary competitions.

TLC loves the live experience

By MIKE CHAIKEN EDITIONS EDITOR Although a decade plus has passed between albums for TLC, the best-selling group never lost its love for the stage. Performing live, said Rozonda “Chilli” Thomas, is “like a rush or something. It’s a combination…

Airing out the fairy tales’ dirty laundry



The musical “Into the Woods” takes audiences into the world of fairy tales.

But the characters find themselves in a much darker corner of the forest than the original story tellers had pondered.

The musical by Stephen Sondheim weaves together the tales of “Jack and the Beanstalk,” “The Baker’s Wife,” “Cinderella,” “Little Red Riding Hood,” and “Rapunzel” and tosses in a few Prince Charmings for good measure.

Get Up Stage Company, with its cast of teen actors, performs the musical at Trinity-On-Main Aug. 10 to 12.

Bristol’s Kevin Michaud, who plays one of Cinderella’s stepsisters, said Sondheim’s show tells audiences, “You have to go into the woods to get what you need or what you want— such as in life when you must venture out into the world to find something. Every time you leave your house, you head into the woods.”

Michaud said, “I like that this message because it runs parallel to real life. Life can be scary and unknown.”

Southington’s Katerina Belales said the creators of “Into the Woods” are trying to show “there is more to the story after ‘happily ever after.’”

“All of act 2 is about the events and struggles that the characters face after receiving their happy endings,” said Belales. “Throughout this act, you realize that ‘happy endings’ are just small events that come and go throughout our lifetime, and that we will always face and overcome struggles as life goes on.”

“It’s very reassuring to the audience members that everyone, even ‘perfect’ fairy tale characters, will go through and overcome many struggles and important lessons in their lives,” said Belales.

Cassidee Knapik of Bristol, who plays Jack’s mother said,  “The message that stands out is finding your happy ending through your struggles.”

“In the show,” said Knapik, “the woods that the characters enter represents the challenges you may encounter in life. ‘The way is dark, the light is dim,’ according to the lyrics. But no one is alone. In the end you will find your ever after.”

“‘Into the Woods’ has taken my perspective of these fairy tale characters and flipped it. The characters like Cinderella and Rapunzel, actually had miserable existences and the fairy tales are actually quite dark and form a total contrast of the way we’ve come to know these characters from the Disney movies we knew as kids,” said Michaud.

“Growing up, I always believed these fairy tale characters to be absolutely perfect and have no flaws to them whatsoever,” said Belales. “Once I discovered this show a few years back, I realized that these characters were just ordinary people who face challenges in their lives — as we all do nowadays). They’re also not completely good or completely evil. There is a sense of complexity and realness to every character in the show.”

“The show brings out the different personalities of each character,” said Knapik. “You see something a little more than you would read in the classic fairy tales. My character is Jack’s Mother, who isn’t really shown a light on too much as a fairy tale character. In the show, however, you can see the comedy of her character and over all love for her son. Even Little Red Riding Hood, isn’t really the sweet character she is seen as in the books. She is sassy and spunky, while still showing her child-like personality.”

Sondheim, the composer, is known for pushing the boundaries of musical theater composition.

“The music has challenged me as a performer because Sondheim has a very specific style of writing music and uses unconventional rhythms and methods of composition that challenge performers and dumbfound those who have no previous experience with Sondheim,” said Michaud. “This is my first experience with Sondheim and it is difficult to adjust to his specific style of music.”

“I’ve always been a fan of Sondheim’s score for this show,” said Belales. “The complexity of the music and lyrics makes the score very unique and fun to listen to, but it also gives the audience and the performers themselves a lesson to learn and a challenge to think about what is being said.  Vocally, I’d say that it has definitely been one of the most challenging pieces of musical theater that I’ve worked with

“This music is incredibly difficult, and has helped me grow as a musician immensely,” said Knapik. There are so many difficult words and rhythms in the music, not to mention the crazy amount of key changes. It is a huge challenge to get out every word clearly and accurately…. When everything comes together the sound is beautiful in more ways than one.”

“Into the Woods” by the GetUp Stage company runs from  Aug. 10 to Aug. 12 with performances at 8 p.m. at Trinity-on-Main, 69 Main St., New Britain.

Dashboard Confessional resets its journey with upcoming release

By MIKE CHAIKEN EDITIONS EDITOR Over seven years have passed since Dashboard Confessional released its last studio album, 2009’s “After the Ending.” However, Chris Carrabba, who essentially is Dashboard Confessional, hasn’t exactly been a hermit during that time. Dashboard Confessional…

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…