Arts Beat

By Mark G. Auerbach

Goodspeed expands Goodspeed by the River Concerts

Goodspeed by The River Concerts will continue this fall, with the foot-stomping music of their Will Rogers Follies star David Lutken and The Seat Of The Pants Band. These newly-added concerts will be held on Thursdays through Sundays, Sept. 10 – 27 at 5:30 p.m. on the lawn of The Goodspeed. Folks can bring picnics and lawn chairs or blankets to this green space on the shores of The Connecticut River.

Will Rogers Follies
Goodspeed Musicals
East Haddam, CT 06423

David Lutken and The Seat of the Pants Band offer up something for everyone!  Sing along to American melodies from all across the country.  From Traditional American and Irish tunes to’50’s and 60’s Folk, mixed with the flavors of New Orleans Jazz, Bluegrass, Rock & Roll, Gospel, and of course beloved show tunes – it’s a guitar strummin’, harmonica playin’ all-American celebration of song!

David Lutken has performed at Goodspeed and on Broadway as a musician and actor. He is known to Goodspeed audiences for his performances in The Will Rogers Follies, Big River and Finian’s Rainbow. Around Connecticut, David has performed his original show Woody Sez: The Life & Music of Woody Guthrie  at TheaterWorks Hartford; he has done concerts at Barrington Stage.

For details: www.goodspeed.org

Book Review: JL Homan’s Out Here in The Stars

You’ve still got time to savor JL Homan’s memoir Out Here in The Stars, a poignant recollection of Homan (now a Westfield resident) and his journey from Broadway chorus dancer to executive assistant; to partner and caregiver to Harold, his longtime spouse, who died of a brain tumor, after they had been together for over 15 years.

This story hit home for me. As serendipity would have it, James was in the chorus of the Houston Grand Opera revival of Hello, Dolly, with Carol Channing recreating her iconic role in a long national tour, which ended up on Broadway in 1978. I was at Houston Grand Opera assigned to the musical’s sales team. We were at numerous events together in Houston, on tour, and in New York, but we hadn’t met. When Hello, Dolly’s Broadway run ended, James lived in a strange New York theatre world, where AIDS was wiping out a large percentage of the community. I moved to New York a couple of years later, frequented the same restaurants and clubs, and knew similar people, but had never met. When I returned to Springfield to work at the Springfield Symphony and StageWest, I met Bob Plasse (Homan’s current spouse), and wasn’t until a couple of years ago, that James and I sat in the late Press Room cafe at The Westfield News and connected the dots in our parallel journeys.

James’ recollections of his life with Harold, struggling with brain cancer, reminded my of a required high school reading, John Gunther’s 1949 memoir, Death Be Not Proud. Gunther, a well-regarded journalist of the day, had a teenage son, Johnny, who developed a similar brain tumor, while a student at Deerfield Academy. Homan’s spouse, Harold, had the advantage of almost a half decade of advancements in thew treatment of these kinds of brain cancers, which killed Ted Kennedy, John McCain, and my fellow StageWest colleague Pat Ford Yurkunas.

James is a good storyteller, and he lists, in intricate details, the many chemo therapy treatments and drug protocols alongside Harold’s favorite operas and ballets and theatre. Yhe story isn’t as much about Harold’s finally journey as it is the story of a caregiver, who brings together his partyner’s dfiscordant family, and a myriad of friends, connections, and healthcare providers to build a team. I think that Harold, who had enjoyed a filled and fulfilling life, was given that fulfillment to the end of his life, because of James.

There are numerous stories of good people who are sick and dying and the people who stood by them and for them. In the time period where Out Here in The Stars is set, so many of the stories of patient/caregiver, like Longtime Companion, As Is, and The Normal Heart are set against the tableau of AIDS. James’ and Harold’s story does not involve HIV nor AIDS but is set in the backdrop of a pandemic which killed thousands. This makes their story poignant with different shadings. Out Here in The Stars is not a downer. It’s filled with inspiration and love, and testimony to caring people. I’m so glad I had the opportunity to read it.

Out Here in The Stars, by JL Homan, is available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble sites. For additional information: https://jlhwma.biz/rawd

Of Note…

The Tony Awards will happen digitally sometime this fall, according to officials. 18 of the plays and musicals that opened before Feb. 19, will be eligible for awards. Two shows, a revival of West Side Story and Girl From The North Country, which opened after that date, will be eligible in 2021, because not enough Tony Award nominators had seen the productions, before Broadway shut down on March 12. Broadway remains dark until, at the earliest, January. For details: https://www.tonyawards.com/news/74th-annual-tony-awards-will-take-place-digitally-fall-2020/.

Smash, the much-loved TV series about the backstory of the fictional Bombshell, a Broadway musical about Marilyn Monroe, is now available to stream on Amazon Prime Video. The series included Katherine McPhee, Debra Messing, Jack Davenport, Christian Borle, Megan Hilty, Jeremy Jordan, and Anjelica Huston. Its choreographer, Josh Bergasse, created the choreography for Barrington Stage’s On The Town, which moved to Broadway. For details: https://www.amazon.com/Smash-Season-1/dp/B006Y5EDRG

Keep in Mind…


Eleanor, a new play about First Lady and global ambassador Eleanor Roosevelt, will be streamed from Barrington Stage on Sept. 4-5 (when it was originally intended to be performed live). Harriet Harris, Tony Award winner, and Berkshires regular, stars. Mark St. Germain, acclaimed author who is a member of The Barrington Stage Company’s artistic team, wrote the premiere. Ticketholders to the original performances will be sent a link for the streaming. Others interested in viewing the play can get tickets atwww.barringtonstageco.org.


Playhouse on Park, which has brought several events to Farmington’s Hill-Stead Museum, will return with an in-person dance party, led by Playhouse Co-Founder and Co-Artistic Director Darlene Zoller. This outdoors and socially-distanced event will be held Sept. 16 (rain date Sept. 17). Casual dancing/warm-ups will begin at 6:30pm followed by dancer/non dancer choreography taught to the song “Before I Let Go” by Beyoncé. It is guaranteed fun for dancers of any skill level and suggested for ages tweens and up. Bring your water bottle, sweat towel, and a chair or blanket if you might want to sit at any time. Food and drink are permitted. For details:www.playhouseonpark.org.

Mark G. Auerbach studied theatre at American University and the Yale School of Drama. He’s worked for arts organizations and reported on theatre for newspapers and radio. Mark produces and hosts ArtsBeat TV/Radio for WCPC15 and 89.5fm/WSKB, and is a contributor to Pioneer Valley Radio.


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