Tag Archives: Music Theatre of Connecticut

COVID Roundup: Winged Monkey; Thermometers; Playhouse; MTC’s Voice; More


New York’s WABC-TV sent an Eyewitness News team to Westport yesterday, to preview today’s retail reopening.

The report showed empty downtown streets, but offered an upbeat message from Winged Monkey’s Jenny Vogel.

“We’re very excited excited to see our customers,” she said. “Don’t know how it’s going to go. Customers that we talk to all the time, they’re really looking forward to getting out of the house, shopping, going into stores again.

“We do a huge prom, graduation, so obviously we lost a lot of that. Hopefully, even though summer is usually our slowest time, this year maybe it will be a little busier since people haven’t been shopping the last couple of months.”

Jenny was excited to be on the tri-state news. As for Channel 7: They’re not yet back to pre-COVID mode.

They called 1st Selectman Jim Marpe our “mayor.” And they misspelled “Winged Monkey” in the chyron (below). Click here for the full report.


First came toilet paper. Then masks.

The next hot item: infrared thermometers.

Small businesses (between 2 and 100 employees), non-profits and places of worship can request 1 thermometer per physical address. The state will deliver them to Westport; town officials will let recipients know when and where they can be picked up. The deadline for submission is “early afternoon” tomorrow (Thursday, May 21).

To request an infrared thermometer: Small businesses should click here. Non-profits, click here. (Social services and direct care nonprofits should click on this memo). Places of worship should click here.


This distribution will continue while supplies last.

The Westport Country Playhouse doors are closed this summer. But their online presence is as robust as ever. And anyone, anywhere, can join in.

In an effort to “share experiences, exchange ideas, entertain each other, and engage our hearts, minds and souls from our own homes,” they offer “Coffee Breaks” on Thursdays at 4 p.m. Th0se 30-minute conversations begin tomorrow (May 21) with Paola Hernandez of “Man of La Mancha.” Next Thursday (May 28): Rodolfo Soto from “In the Heights.” Click here for details.

There are “Post-Watch Dialogues” too — panels with artists, scholars and community members discussing films that can be streamed at home. This Saturday (May 23, 7 p.m.), Mina Hartong hosts a panel exploring “A Secret Love.” Click here for details.


Music Theatre of Connecticut’s kids’ Voice competition is tomorrow (Thursday, May 21, 7 p.m.). It’s a fundraiser for their scholarship and programming efforts — but they give 10% of each contestant’s proceeds to a charity of their choice.

Bedford Middle School 7th grader Ryan Ryan has selected RoomToRead. An avid reader, she credits books with propelling her into theater. She wants girls around the world to experience the joy of stories, and believes that education can propel them to success.

A dancer who has performed in several Westport Country Playhouse “Nutcracker”s, with the Westport Community Theatre and at Art About Town and the Westport Library rededication, she has studied voice and acting at MTC since 2017.

To sponsor Ryan — and vote for her in the Voice competition tomorrow – click here.

Ryan Ryan


And finally … who doesn’t love a little Melissa Ehteridge?!

COVID Roundup: Grocery Delivery; Justin Paul; Little Barn; NUTmeg Run; More


Weeks ago, in another world where kids and teenagers actually had to be driven somewhere, VanGo was gold.

The cleverly named app was an uber-Uber. It eased parents’ worries about sketchy drivers, because VanGo’s drivers were nannies, teachers, babysitters — and most of all, mothers.

In the COVID crisis, that market dried up. People still need to market, of course. But they can’t always get out. Or they don’t want to.

So VanGo pivoted. It’s now a grocery shopping and delivery service. Once again, those moms come in handy.

While many grocery service providers are staffed by a bunch of randoms, VanGo’s shoppers “shop like you would,” says founder Marta Jamrozik. And they guarantee next day delivery for orders placed before 3 p.m..

Shoppers text families if an item is out of stock. Drivers wear masks and gloves while shopping, and when dropping off groceries.

VanGo Grocery is available in Westport and across Fairfield County. To log on and order, click here.


Arts organizations everywhere have been hammered by the coronavirus. Plays, concerts, ballets — all are on hold, as theater companies, symphonies and other institutions struggle to survive.

A tiny silver lining has been the realization that the arts are helping us get through this time. Drama, shows, music — they help sustain and nurture us.

Justin Paul understands that. The Staples High School graduate and award-winning composer/lyricist (“Dear Evan Hansen,” “La La Land,” “The Greatest Showman”) articulates it wonderfully. And he does so in a great, insightful online interview with Music Theatre of Connecticut’s co-founder and executive artistic director Kevin Connors.

The 2 sat down yesterday (in their respective homes) for an MTC Live! webcast. You can watch it below.

I guess that’s one more slim silver lining: The pandemic has led to all sorts of intriguing online discussions like this. Click here for more on MTC.


Little Barn is back! They’ve reopened, and now provide contact-less take out 7 days a week (4 to 8 p.m.; Fridays and Saturdays until 9). Order online through our website www.littlebarnct.com or 203-557-8501; then call again when you arrive.


Four decades ago, Westporter Peter Gambaccini ran from Thompson (in the northeast corner of the state) to Greenwich. A writer as well as a runner, he took less than a week to cover the 155 miles, then wrote about it for Connecticut magazine.

The 40th anniversary of the run is being celebrated with a NUTmeg Challenge. Running “nuts” of Connecticut — and anywhere else — can duplicate the former Staples High School track star’s run. There’s also the opportunity to raise money for local charities that desperately need help: Mercy Learning Center, Bridgeport Rescue Mission and the Connecticut Food Bank.

The virtual online challenge — because, of course, we’re still mindful of COVID-19, so you just run in your neighborhood, wherever in the world it is — takes places between Memorial Day (May 25) and Bastille Day (July 14).

There are 3 “routes”:

  • The Gambaccini Gambol (original route across the state; 155 miles, average a little over 3 miles a day)
  • The Shoreline Scamper (Greenwich to Stonington along the coast, 253 miles, a little under 5 miles a day)
  • The Border Boundaround (along the New York, Massachusetts and Rhode Island borders, 328 miles, 6 1/2 miles a day).

T-shirts and medals will be mailed at the conclusion of the Challenge. (Everyone registering by June 1 is guaranteed a medal.) For more information and to register, click here. (Hat tip: MaryAnn Meyer)


Every day, it seems, someone sends me a photo of a rock. All across town, people are discovering them. They (the rocks) make them (the people) feel special.

Doris Ghitelman sums up the feeling well (and gathered them all in a nice collage):

“I’ve come across these rocks on my walks around the library, Compo and Grace Salmon Park. I’m not sure who’s leaving them. My guess is, different artists 😉

“Whoever it is or they are, I would like to thank them. Whenever I see one, I stop and smile. Sometimes they make me think. Some are in plain sight, others hidden.

“It reminds me that if we take the time to look, really look around us, we might just be rewarded with something good. This space in time is giving us the opportunity to do just that. Let’s enjoy it!”


When the Shubert Theatre planned Monday’s “Next Stop: New Haven at Home!” virtual celebration (Monday, May 18, 7:30 p.m.), it did not have to look far for one star.

Westport native and Staples High School grad Adam Kaplan will take center stage. He’s a Broadway veteran (“Newsies,” “A Bronx Tale”), was part of the New York Philharmonic’s “Show Boat,” and toured the US and Japan in “Kinky Boots.”

A $75 Next Stop: New Haven ticket includes a box of goodies (serving up to 2 people) from several of Shubert’s restaurant partners, and the 75-minute live program with musical entertainment, a cocktail-making class (supplies included), cheeseboard-making class, Broadway trivia, and a peek at the Shubert’s 2020-2021 Broadway Series,

The ticket supports the Shubert Theatre, its restaurant partners, and Frontline Foods New Haven, which feeds teams at Yale New Haven and the VA Hospitals.

Tickets are available through 5 p.m. today. For more information and to purchase, click here.

Adam Kaplan


And finally … one of my favorite movies of all time is “Stand By Me.” One of my favorite songs of all time is “Stand By Me.” These 3 minutes say it all:

Tyler Paul: From God To Children’s Theatre

Once you’ve been God, there’s not much else to do.

That might be why Tyler Paul — who played that coveted role in Staples Players‘ production of “Children of Eden” — has retired from the stage.

These days, the 2007 Staples grad is on the other side of the footlights. Armed with a theater management degree from Marymount Manhattan College, and with work experience at the world’s largest licensing agency, he’s co-founded an innovative children’s theater company.

His aim is to introduce the magic of acting to new generations of kids. Some may be inspired to a life in the theater; others may simply open their eyes and imaginations.

Whatever happens, Tyler wants youngsters to have fun.

Tyler Paul (right) and Morgan Weitz, co-founders of the Northeast Children’s Theatre Company.

The native Westporter got his own start at Music Theatre of Connecticut. He spent 2 years each at Coleytown and Bedford Middle Schools, where he was influenced by Ben Frimmer and Karen McCormick.

At Staples, David Roth’s theater program provided a great home for Tyler. In addition to acting, he directed shows and worked on music.

Tyler also worked for MTC as vocal director and camp director. That brought him full circle — and planted the seed for his current involvement in arts education.

Gradually, his interest morphed into the business, producing and management side of theater. While still in college, he founded the Northeast Children’s Theatre Company.

“Fairfield County is an incredible area for the arts, but no organization does what we do: professional theater for young audiences, with year-round programming,” Tyler says.

A scene from NCTC’s first show, “The Tortoise and the Hare.”

NCTC also provides arts education and outreach. Last month, the organization launched 2 programs in  Bridgeport. Another follows in January in South Norwalk.

Because of the arts education he received in Westport, Tyler says, “I’m passionate about it. Kids who are exposed to theater and the arts have been shown to do well in school.”

Despite Fairfield County’s well-earned reputation for supporting the arts, Tyler says, it’s tough finding affordable, age-appropriate entertainment for kindergartners through 8th graders.

“Nickelodeon and Disney are great,” he notes. “But kids need live performances.”

Tyler is moving forward, fast. Last month, NCTC announced a partnership with the Fairfield Theatre Company. A fundraising program is underway. New shows are in the works.

That’s a lot for any man to handle. But Tyler Paul — now that he’s no longer God — seems up for the task.

Love Letters

Like many dual-career couples, Scott Bryce and Jodi Stevens lead hectic lives.  Their professions — both are actors — complicate things further.  They usually work different schedules, in different theaters.  When one is rehearsing, the other may be in mid-production.  When one is opening a show, the other is closing one down.

But for the next 3 weeks, they’ll work together.  And they’ll do it right here in Westport.

The show is “Love Letters” — A.R. Gurney’s evocative, touching yet humorous play about a 50-year love affair carried on primarily through letters.

It debuts at MTC MainStage in Colonial Green this Friday (Feb. 4), and runs weekends through Feb. 20.

Scott Bryce and Jodi Stevens

Working together — on a play about love, right in their back yard — was serendipitous, says Bryce, a Staples Players (Class of 1975) alum who earned 2 Emmy nominations for “As the World Turns.”

The couple had been onstage only in “On Golden Pond” (Bryce’s mother Dorothy, a noted actress, was in the show too).  But when Stevens’ most recent show — she played the female lead in “Dietrich and Chevalier:  The Musical” — was closing, they talked casually about the possibility.

A couple of days later, at a Christmas party, Music Theatre of Connecticut MainStage co-founder Kevin Connors mentioned “Love Letters.”

The show is appealing on many levels — including its setting in this area.  There are references to local institutions, like I-95 and Silver Hill.

Bryce also welcomes the chance to perform in the small MTC theater.  “It’s such an intimate space,” he says.  “There’s not a bad seat in the house.  It’s really sweet.”

“It’s a beautiful script,” Bryce adds.  “What better way to spend Valentine’s month than on stage with my wife?”

And, as Jodi says:  “There’s no commute!”

(“Love Letters will be performed Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m., with matinees Saturdays at 4 p.m. and Sundays at 3 p.m., at MTC MainStage Theatre on the lower level of Colonial Green.  For tickets, click here or call 203-454-3883.  Each performance is followed by a wine and cheese receptions, where the audience can meet the actors and production team.)