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August 14, 2007

Julia Hirsch as the beauty.

‘Beauty and the Beast’

Michael Enright as the beast.

Story and images by Sharon Bass

The singing is glorious.

The sets are glorious.

The costumes are glorious.

The acting is glorious.

Grand finale of "Beauty and the Beast."

Welcome to the Whitney Players Theater Company’s musical production of “Beauty and the Beast.” The story that implores folks not to judge a book by its cover was performed at the Hamden Middle School last night in dress rehearsal. And it was pure delight.

Director Cindy Simell-Devoe has an uncanny knack for casting the right actors in the right parts and turning out professional theater. In this case she handled 86 thespians, from an infant (so cute) to an elderly gentleman.

The beauty and the beast dine together in his castle.

Julia Hirsch (Belle) was last seen in the Whitney Players’ “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.” Her enchanting voice, her grace and her delicate beauty make her a natural for the starring role in “Beauty.” Hirsch is a gift to the Hamden stage.

The beast saves Belle from hungry wolves.

Afterwards, Belle tends to the beast's wounds as Rick Hribko (Lumiere, the chandelier) looks on.

Michael Enright delivers a fabulous prince-turned-beast-turned-prince again. He has a wonderfully strong singing voice. And his interpretation of the beast is so realistic, I got lost in his performance, forgetting at times that I was watching an actor and not a real-life troubled, angry “beast” learning how to become truly human.

Paul Falzone (Gaston) with the Silly Girls.

Paul Falzone also puts out a terrific performance as the uber-egotistical Gaston, who’s intent on making Belle his bride. She has other plans. Falzone is equally gifted with a voice that melts.

Chris D’Amato (Cogsworth, the clock) and Rick Hribko (Lumiere, the chandelier) make a sharp comedic duo. The two play off each other in perfect timing and are laugh-out-loud funny.

Behind-the-scenes credits go to choreographers Joan Christensen and David Christensen; David Christensen for musical direction; and Harvey from Connecticut Stage and Movie Supply for set construction, as well as a host of others.

The Hamden Arts Commission co-sponsored the play. Performances run Aug. 15-18 at 7:30 p.m. at the new middle school. Tickets/$15 general admission; $12/students, seniors. FMI, call 248.8766.

Gaston (Paul Falzone) proposes to Belle (Julia Hirsch).

August 4-6, 2007

Peaceful, Pleasant Ending

The Moonlight Seranaders provide vocals to the heavily instrumental sounds of the orchestra.

Words and pictures by Betsy Driebeek

With class and serenity, the Glenn Miller Orchestra brought the Hamden Arts Commission's summer concert series to a close last night. Some pieces were so peacefully performed, one could actually hear the low murmer of people conversing with one another around them.

According to the group's Web site, Miller formed his orchestra in 1938 with an emphasis on the reed section sound. However, his time with the band was short lived as he went missing after boarding a plane for Paris in 1944, while in the service and doing his duty with The Glenn Miller Army Air Force Band.

The current orchestra was founded in 1956 and has seen a number of directors over the years. Friday night's concert was led by Larry O'Brien, who was big on the sounds of the five trombones. A trombone player himself, O'Brien has been with the group since 1988.

The orchestra inspired couples to get up and swing or swoon in the balmy cool breeze to such Miller classics as "Chattanooga Choo Choo," "In The Mood" and "String Of Pearls."

On Aug. 24, the Arts Commission invites everyone back to Town Center Park at Meadowbrook for a showing of the movie, "Night At The Museum."

July 30, 2007

'Hot Fun'

The Stone gang last Friday.

Words and visuals by Betsy Driebeek

The Original Family Stone sizzled Hamden with some "Hot Fun In The Summer Time" July 27. Original "Sly and The Family Stone" members and Rock and Roll Hall of Famers Jerry Martini and Rose Stone -- Sly's sister -- plus six other musicians had concert-goers on their feet dancing to the music at Town Center Park, thanks to the Hamden Arts Commission and Quinnipiac University.

Dancing to the music with the Family.

The brass section: founding Stone member Jerry Martini on sax and Frankie J. Thompson on trombone.

Hamden sings with the Family.

Original Stone belt out one of their goodies, "I Want to Take You Higher."

July 23, 2007

Oy, What a Character

Jay Black entertains a packed park.

Words and pictures by Betsy Driebeek

With the New York accent, the shtick, the stories and the music, you'd think you were in the Catskills last Friday eve. But it was in Hamden where Jay Black -- on his own without "the Americans" -- provided the entertainment, at Town Center Park.

With rain threatening every Friday performance so far of the Hamden Arts Commission's 2007 free summer concert series, by 5 p.m. there was no question the weather would cooperate for show No. 3 and folks were already staking out sites.

The local band 101 opened the night. Jim Baldoni and Don Langella, both of Spring Glen, Paul Fioretti of Putnam Avenue and Jens Hauland of Trumbull sang "The DMV." One line went something like this: " ... rather have a colonoscopy than stand in line at the DMV."

Not sure if Black spent more time talking or singing, but the crowd seemed to love it all. He got a standing O when he proved he could still hit the high notes in "Cara Mia."  

Claiming a little chest discomfort, Black took it easy and had concert-goers sing the chorus of "Come A Little Bit Closer." At first he said they would replace the missing "Americans."  In the next breath he named them "The Hamden Ham Hocks," which solicited some groans from the audience but didn't stop them from singing out with gusto.

July 20, 2007

A Touch Of India

Children create Indian friendship bands at Brundage. Photo/Betsy Driebeek

By Betsy Driebeek

In its ongoing effort to expose Hamden kids to other cultures, PACK (Parents and Communities for Kids) and the Brundage Community Library shared stories, crafts and snacks of India Thursday afternoon.

In India the first Sunday in August is Friendship Day, when people exchange friendship bands. Learning about the tradition, the Brundage kids made their own bands to give away.

Becky Cuevas, PACK outreach coordinator, read a tale from India entitled "The Road To Mumbai" by Ruth Jeyaveeran, which highlighted the treats offered to the kids: gulab jamun -- round spongy balls made from milk, fried then covered in honey and coconut; and jelabees -- pretzel-shaped sweets dipped in syrup. The treats disappeared quickly.

Italy comes to Brundage on Aug. 16, when participants will make mini pizzas. FMI, please call the library at 287.2675.

July 14, 2007

The Doctor Is In

Dr. John wows the audience last night.

Words and pictures by Betsy Driebeek

New Orleans musician Dr. John medicated the Meadowbrook crowd with his rhythm and blues Friday night for over two hours. It was week two of the Hamden Arts Commission's 2007 free summer concert series.

Hamden High School graduate Blessing Offor (at keyboard in above photo) and friends from New Haven's Educational Center for the Arts warmed up the audience.

Dr. John walked off the stage at 9:50 p.m. but the audience -- on its feet -- begged for more. Returning for an encore, the doctor requested a few dancing ladies from the audience to grace his stage.

July 7, 2007

Concert Reigns

Herb Reed (left) and The Platters.

Words and pictures by Betsy Driebeek

At 4 o'clock Friday afternoon -- just before the imminent thunderstorm -- town Arts Coordinator Mimsie Coleman said, "This happens to us every Friday afternoon [before our concerts]."  But she said she was determined to see Herb Reed and The Platters and Fred Parris and The Five Satins perform at Meadowbrook as planned for later in the evening.

At 8 p.m., shortly after the music started, Coleman said had there not been a storm, more people would have turned out for the inaugural show of the 2007 Summer Concert Series. But she was nonetheless shocked at the turnout -- estimated at 4,500 by a cop who worked the crowd.

Hamden's own Fred Parris, flanked by state Sen. Joe Crisco and Town Clerk Vera Morrison.

Democratic state Sen. Joe Crisco presented a plaque from the General Assembly congratulating Parris for his outstanding contribution to American Pop Music and his penning of "In The Still Of The Night."  

Morrison read a proclamation from Mayor Craig Henrici announcing July 6, 2007, as "Fred Parris Day in the Land of the Sleeping Giant." "We are proud to call him our own," she read.

"I never expected that," Parris said. "I'm honored and pleased to be here tonight. Fred Parris Day, huh? Wow. Little did I expect to be standing here, 57 years ago."

Not the usual hefty crowd, but 4,500 ain't bad considering the soggy weather.


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