It's the time of year for audacious new musicals. Even before the Eugene O'Neill Theater Center in Waterford gets going with its slate of readings of brand new musicals at the 2013 National Music Theater Conference, and even before the International Festival of Arts & Ideas kicks off with the world premiere of Stuck Elevator June 21-29 at the Long Wharf Theatre (www.artidea.org), New Britain's Hole in the Wall Theater is hosting a one-night 8 p.m. June 8 showcase of the new rock opera A Wall Street Odyssey. This is a full production, with live music and costumes, of a new self-described "multi-media rock opera inspired by Tommy, Quadrophenia, The Wall and the 'Back to the Land' movement." Samples of the songs are at http://www.epigenemusic.com, the website of the band Epigene, who created the show. "Hello," the first song begins, "My name is Yossarian. The day has come early for me again." Yes, it's the Yossarian from Joseph Heller's Catch 22, thrust into 21st century socioeconomic absurdities. Epigene is the Catskills-based progressive rock husband/wife duo of Sean Bigler and Bonnie Lykes. The band's been around for over a decade and has been working on this show for several years. Tickets are $15, $10 for students. (860) 229-3049, http://hitw.org
Another theater in the same town, the New Britain Repertory Theatre (http://www.nbrep.org/), is readying a June 14-29 production of one of the landmark quirky Off Broadway musicals, Little Shop of Horrors, directed by Tim Phillips with music direction by Matthew Durland. Based on Roger Corman's cult B-movie horror comedy, the 1986 musical version of Little Shop jumpstarted numerous careers, not least those of Alan Menken and Howard Ashman, who went on to create the Disney classics Beauty and the Beast and The Little Mermaid.
Which brings us back to the Eugene O'Neill Theatre Center. This week, the center is consumed with its intensive National Puppetry Conference, in which students work alongside seasoned puppeteers on new works and techniques. On June 14 & 15, the same weekend that Little Shop of Horrors opens in New Britain, the O'Neill Puppetry Conference will hold its annual public showcase performances. One of the regular instructors at the conference, and a major contributor to the performance nights, is Marty Robinson, who manipulated the people-eating alien flower puppet Audrey II in the original production of the Little Shop of Horrors musical over a quarter-century ago. (860) 443-1238, theoneill.org
Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun