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Ivoryton Playhouse is lifting the spirits with musicals and comedies this season

'SHOUT! The Mod Musical' is the first show this season at the Ivoryton Playhouse  in CT. The girls of the British Invasion will sing 'To Sir, With Love' and 'Goldfinger' - as well as favorites from Petula Clark and Dusty Springfield.
'SHOUT! The Mod Musical' is the first show this season at the Ivoryton Playhouse in CT. The girls of the British Invasion will sing 'To Sir, With Love' and 'Goldfinger' - as well as favorites from Petula Clark and Dusty Springfield.Courtesy Ivoryton Playhouse

This year the theatrical revelry gets under way early with a musical tribute to London’s swinging sixties - SHOUT! The Mod Musical - chock full of that era’s groovy hit songs. The show in on March 19th through April 6th.

Artistic Director Jacqui Hubbard and Company Manager Beverley Taylor at the Ivoryton Playhouse
Artistic Director Jacqui Hubbard and Company Manager Beverley Taylor at the Ivoryton PlayhousePhoto by Don Church and Tony Schillaci, Critics On The AIsle

Shout! follows five young females who read a fictional periodical called “Shout!" – a magazine for the modern woman.” They come of age during the liberating 1960s that made England swing

with the dazzling Dusty Springfield, Petula Clark, Cilla Black and Lulu: independent women who went on to major careers.

It was a time that English and American women were redefining themselves in tune with evolving sensibilities. Shout! has an all-female cast reflecting that change through the unforgettable music of the era. Classic pop anthems include “Downtown”, “Son of a Preacher Man”, “Goldfinger”, “I Only Wanna Be With You”, “To Sir With Love” and of course, the raucous title tune, “Shout!.”

‘Feeling groovy’ songs and each girl's own unfolding story are tied together by hilarious sound bytes from the period. As the girls are becoming increasingly independent and strong, the Shout! Magazine’s advice columnist still thinks that their problems can all be solved with a "fetching new hairstyle and a new shade of lipstick". How backwardly 50’s is that?

SHOUT! is directed by Jacqueline Hubbard, with musical direction by Kyle Norris and choreography by Cait Collazzo. Set design by Dan Nischan, lighting design by Marcus Abbott and costumes by Kari Crowther promise the mod look and sound of a bygone era.

The second show of the season is I Ought To Be In Pictures, April 23rd – May 11th. This play highlights wonderfully dysfunctional family relationships with hilarity, honesty, and heart. Always amusing, sometimes poignant, this Neil Simon play had its premiere at the Ahmanson Theatre in Los Angeles in 1979, with Tony Curtis as Herb, a screenwriter, and was later filmed starring Walter Matthau. Herb’s long-lost and forgotten daughter arrives in Hollywood determined to have her father help her to become an actress. Need we say more?

Next is a brand new work by Logan Medland – Fingers And Toes, June 4th – June 22nd. It’s the tale of tap dancer “Toes” MacGrath, and pianist “Fingers” St. Claire who have managed to talk a major Broadway producer into coming to see their show: a boy meets girl tap dance spectacular. This entertaining production sizzles with exhilarating music, delightful witticisms, and high-energy tap routines that promise to evoke the magic of the incomparable Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers.

From July 2nd – July 27th Elvis fans will love All Shook Up inspired by and featuring Presley songs. The theatrical teams at Ivoryton tell us that the show takes place in 1955 when “into a square little town in a square little state rides a guitar-playing roustabout who changes everything and everyone he meets in this hip-swiveling, lip-curling musical fantasy that’ll have you jumpin’ out of your blue suede shoes with such classics as ‘Heartbreak Hotel,’ ‘Jailhouse Rock’ and ‘Don’t Be Cruel.’ ” If you can find an authentic pair of blue suede shoes leave them untied so you can jump out of them during the show.

In a mad, mad ‘what a drag’ moment, Ivoryton producers decided that from August 6th – August 31st it would be a hot time at the air-conditioned theater to mount La Cage Aux Folles by Harvey Fierstein, Jean Poiret and Jerry Herman. This Tony award-winning musical remains one of Broadway’s all-time biggest hits. It’s the story of Georges and Albin, two men partnered for 20 better-or-worse years, who get a bit of both when Georges’ son announces his impending marriage to the daughter of a narrow minded right-wing politician. (Aren’t they all?) Albin tries to help by faking a perfect family setting with hilarious results. Sure to be a hot ticket!

Connecticut’s own Mike Reiss is up next with the world premiere of his brand new play, Comedy is Hard! which runs September 24th – October 12th. This critically acclaimed writer of I’m Connecticut has chosen the Ivoryton Playhouse to debut a story set in a home for retired actors. The play takes an affectionate look at the relationship and rivalry between a former stand-up comedian and a classical actress. Called ‘hilarious and bittersweet,’ this play promises to connect with audiences of all ages.

The 2014 season comes to a big finish with Gracie: The Life, Laughter and Love of George Burns & Gracie Allen, October 29th – November 16th. This hit Broadway play by Rupert Holmes invites you to spend a hilarious, heart-warming evening in the uplifting company of the world’s most entertaining centenarian. George Burns, whose remarkable career in vaudeville, radio, movies and television spanned one hundred years of American entertainment history, is now miraculously alive and kicking in a stunning tour de force.

Say Goodnight, Gracie was Broadway’s third longest running solo-performance show and was nominated for a 2003 Tony Award for BEST PLAY and won the 2003-04 National Broadway Theatre Award for BEST PLAY. For a truly laugh-filled time, George will be saying ‘say hello, Gracie’ before he says ‘say goodnight, Gracie.’

The Ivoryton show schedule is Wednesday and Sunday matinees at 2 pm. Evening performances on Wednesday and Thursday at 7:30 pm. Friday and Saturday at 8 pm.

Tickets: adults, $42. Seniors, $37. Student, $20. Children, $15. For individual, season or group tickets call 860-767-7318. The box office is at 103 Main Street in Ivoryton, Conn. For directions and other details visit www.ivorytonplayhouse.org.

Compiled and written by Don Church and Tony Schillaci, Critics On The Aisle.